August 7, 2011 -- (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR (voice-over): This week, will the nightmare on Wall Street kill the recovery?
(UNKNOWN): There goes my 401(k).
AMANPOUR: Stocks plunge and America's credit rating is downgraded for the first time in history, and that comes with a stern warning for Washington to shape up.
OBAMA: Voters may have chosen divided government, but they sure didn't vote for dysfunctional government.
AMANPOUR: We'll ask Standard & Poor's how the U.S. can get its AAA back, and the top Republican on the Senate Budget Committee square off with the head of the Democratic Governors Association on how to drag the parties out of their corners.
Then, will the damage done mean longer unemployment lines?
MCCONNELL: The biggest concern the American people have is jobs.
PELOSI: Jobs, jobs, jobs, jobs, jobs.
AMANPOUR: The roundtable on the policy and the politics required to turn this country around. Steve Rattner, mastermind of the auto industry bailout; Mellody Hobson, investment fund manager; and Tea Party Congressman Jason Chaffetz join George Will and Cokie Roberts.
Plus, the longest war and the deadliest day yet for Americans in Afghanistan. Thirty U.S. troops perish as the Taliban shoots down a U.S. helicopter.
ANNOUNCER: Live from the Newseum in Washington, "This Week" with Christiane Amanpour starts right now.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: Welcome to the program. We have lots to get to today. But first, some news since your morning papers.
The Pentagon is starting to paint a fuller picture of what exactly happened in the deadliest attack on American forces since the start of the war in Afghanistan nearly 10 years ago. Thirty Americans and eight Afghans were killed yesterday when the Taliban shot down their Chinook helicopter. Among the dead are 22 elite Navy SEALs.
ABC's senior foreign affairs correspondent Martha Raddatz joins me now with the very latest.
And, Martha, first, what about that community, the forces and their families?
RADDATZ: This is such a small community. There are only 300 SEALs on SEAL Team 6, the most elite of the SEAL teams, so that is such a small group. And when you think about those families and 22 notices going out to those families -- I got an e-mail last night from someone who I said I was so worried about that community. And he said, look, this is a community that will smother one another with love.
AMANPOUR: What do we know about the attack? Any more details coming out?
RADDATZ: There are more details this morning. What actually happened is this SEAL team was going in to help another team that was after Taliban insurgents. Apparently these Taliban insurgents had been implanting IEDs in the area, so this SEAL team was coming in to help the others who had come under fire. And just as they were approaching the area, they got hit by what they believed was a rocket-propelled grenade.
AMANPOUR: And, Martha, this comes while the U.S. is pulling back surge troops and going to be relying much more on these airborne special forces, plus a rash of assassinations of pro-American officials in Kandahar, which America thought it had really secured. What does this say about where it is?
RADDATZ: Well, this -- this area, Wardak province, Logar province, I went there years ago when the surge forces just started coming in, and they made a real difference. But lately, the insurgents have started to return; the Taliban has started to return. It is really going downhill in some areas. Of course, the president doesn't talk about the war very much. I do think this drawdown will continue on pace.
AMANPOUR: Martha, thank you so much. And we will keep watching it precisely for that reason.
And now we turn to the other big story, the economic crisis here, as Wall Street braces for the unknown just hours from now. International markets will begin to register reaction to the first-ever downgrade of America's AAA credit rating. Standard & Poor's handed down its verdict late Friday evening, and the White House has been pushing back hard ever since.
S&P managing director John Chambers joins me now from New York.
Thank you for being with me.
CHAMBERS: Thanks for having me.
AMANPOUR: I hate to say, but you must be in some quarters at least the most disliked man in America right now. And let me tell you what the White House is saying. Gene Sperling, the economic adviser, has put out a statement to say the magnitude of their error -- your error -- and the amateurism it displayed, combined with their willingness to simply change on the spot their lead rationale in their press release, once the error was pointed out, was breathtaking. It smacked of an institution starting with a conclusion and shaping any arguments to fit it.
Of course, that's all about the $2 trillion mathematical accounting error. What do you say to that? It's pretty blistering, isn't it?
CHAMBERS: Well, you know, we've been saying for some time that the fiscal trajectory of the United States was on a bad path and that the political gridlock in Washington leads us to conclude that policymakers don't have the ability to proactively, you know, put the public finances of the U.S. on a -- on a sustainable footing.
We said that in April. We said that again in July. We think our message has been pretty consistent. And we also think that the numbers speak for themselves.
AMANPOUR: So do you think, since you've also -- also said that there is potentially a further downgrade, it's still on a watch list, could it -- could you downgrade again?
CHAMBERS: Well, it's not technically on watch. We have a negative outlook, which is -- leads to a longer timeframe, from 6 months to 24 months. And if the fiscal position of the United States deteriorates further or if the political gridlock becomes more entrenched, then that could lead to a downgrade. The outlook indicates at least a 1 in 3 chance of a downgrade over that period.
AMANPOUR: Wow. So what is it going to take, then, for the AAA to come back? What can America do now to bring it back? And how long would that take?
CHAMBERS: Well, if history is a guide, it could take a while. We've had five governments that lost their AAA that got it back. The amount of time that it took for those five range from 9 years to 18 years, so it takes a while.
Our concerns are centered on the political side and on the fiscal side. So it would take a stabilization of the debt as a share of the economy and eventual decline. And it would take, I think, more ability to reach consensus in Washington than what we're observing now.
AMANPOUR: Well, so you know that there's going to be a bipartisan committee to look at cutting more and getting the debt more in line, 12 people sort of split down the middle between two houses of Congress. Do you have faith that that is going to work?
CHAMBERS: No, I think that they'll deliver. And if they don't deliver, then you'll have this sequestration mechanism that'll come into play. But, remember, we had a bipartisan commission, the Bowles-Simpson Commission, that also came up with a majority -- it wasn't a supermajority, but it was a majority -- that had plenty of sensible recommendations, and it was a pity that those really weren't followed through on.
AMANPOUR: And, again, I'm hearing a lot of pushback not just from the United States, but around the world, as well, people saying, how could America, the biggest economy, the most stable, the reserve currency, have its credit rating downgraded? And people, of course, are saying that Standard & Poor's is trying to redeem its reputation after the catastrophic sort of record during the fiscal crisis, the mortgage situation. How do you answer that?
CHAMBERS: Well, you know, we have a set of criteria that we apply to all 126 central governments that we rate. It rests on five pillars: the political side, the real economy, the fiscal side, the monetary side, the external side. We have a committee of -- of -- that's international committee of -- that applies this criteria. You know, 10 years ago, we lowered Japan's rating. They're the second-largest economy. They also have a reserve currency. It's not the number-one reserve currency, but it is a reserve currency. And, you know, I think most people agree with that downgrade.
I think as time passes, people will come to see that the United States' credit standing is really not quite the same level as -- as the ones that we rate AAA.
AMANPOUR: All right. John Chambers, thank you very much, indeed, for joining us.
AMANPOUR: And so a clear lack of faith in Washington's political ability to make real economic progress. With me to discuss whether the parties can come together on anything, Maryland Governor Martin O'Malley, who chairs the Democratic Governors Association, and in Alabama, Senator Jeff Sessions, the top Republican on the Budget Committee.
Gentlemen, thank you very much, indeed, for joining me. Let me first ask you, you heard from John Chambers now, still categoric that this downgrade should happen. Do you think it's justified? And how do you think the parties -- you and, for instance, Senator Sessions, in terms of parties -- are going to get together to solve this?
O'MALLEY: I don't think it's justified, in terms of when you look at the math here. They made a $2 trillion mistake. The other rating agencies did not downgrade the U.S. debt because they did not make that $2 trillion mistake.
But one has to find understandable their pessimism about our inability to come together on the most important issue facing our country, which is, how do we create jobs? We need a balanced approach. And the extremism, the Tea Party obstructionism here in Washington, is keeping us from restoring that balanced approach that America has always used of investing in the future, investing in job creation, and also being fiscally responsible at the same time.
AMANPOUR: Senator Sessions, do you think that there can be now sort of a wake-up call, as some people have suggested, for both parties to really come together? I've heard people say, this is serious. We don't want to see political parties sniping at each other right now. We want leaders to be as big as the crisis that they have to tackle.
SESSIONS: Well, look, we do have a big, big crisis. I've been warning all year, every expert before the Budget Committee has told us we're heading to fiscal crisis. We're on an unsustainable path. We're borrowing 40 cents of every dollar we spend. This year, the interest on our debt is $240 billion. It's projected in 10 years to go to $940 billion in interest in one year. This is unsustainable. And sooner or later, if we don't change, this kind of ratings are going to continue.
But when you have a Democratic Senate that will not produce a budget -- and 900 -- 830 days without a budget, a president who submitted the most irresponsible budget in history, who's continuing to talk about spending more, investing more, whose secretary of education was demanding a 13 percent increase in the Department of Education next fiscal year, beginning October 1st, you know we're in denial. We're not understanding the threat.
The president is going to have to look the American people in the eye and tell them, "We are on an unsustainable course." He's got to do that. And if he asks us to reduce spending by 10 percent across the board, all these departments and agencies, Congress would rally to him, you know -- you know, in a bipartisan way.
SESSIONS: But if he's going to deny we have a crisis, he's not going to have bipartisan support.
AMANPOUR: Just quickly, while I still have you there, the S&P also talked about -- you're talking about cutting spending. They also talked about raising more revenue. They talked about the Bowles-Simpson, which puts that in. Do you think that, for instance, when the bipartisan committee gets stood up, that there will be a chance for both sides to give on some of their sacred cows? Would you, on -- on tax loopholes, for instance, and tax reform?
SESSIONS: Well, raising taxes is what balanced plan means. That's plain to every American by now. The administration wants to raise taxes so they can permanently implant a larger level of spending. They've increased domestic discretionary spending 24 percent in two years. This is unthinkable.
AMANPOUR: All right.
SESSIONS: And so we've got a problem that we've got to bring that spending down, not increase the burden on the private sector.
O'MALLEY: In all of that, Christiane, I never once heard the distinguished senator say the word "jobs." What we have right now are moms and dads in Maryland, moms and dads in Alabama who are looking for work and have been looking for work for a long, long time.
Senator Sessions voted for the largest deficit increases under George Bush, and he, like others in his party, worship at -- worships at the altar of the false god of tax cuts. We need to be about creating jobs. And there's good people in the Republican Party that want our country's economy to improve. And that's what we need to allow space to emerge.
AMANPOUR: So I asked Senator Sessions about tax loopholes...
SESSIONS: Well, Governor, let me just say this. The highest debt President Bush ever had was $450 billion. This president is averaging $1,300 billion.
O'MALLEY: And every single time -- and, Senator, you voted to increase the debt limit...
SESSIONS: And the debt already, according to expert testimony...
O'MALLEY: ... three or four times under George Bush.
SESSIONS: ... is pulling down growth and costing us jobs.
O'MALLEY: Oh, good, you said "jobs," Senator.
SESSIONS: The debt is 100 percent of GDP, is hammering our economy, and that's why we're not having the growth. That's why we're having the unexpected decline in growth that we've seen the first half of this year.
AMANPOUR: All right. You've both laid out the parameters that we've heard over and over again. I want to ask you, Senator Sessions, do you have faith that this debt committee will be able to come to the agreements and make the cuts and savings and also do what needs to be done to tackle the debt?
SESSIONS: Christiane, I do believe that committee can function and be successful in the limited goal we've given them. What S&P is saying, it's not enough. It's only about $2 trillion, a little over, when we're going to increase our debt in the next 10 years $13 trillion. So that's why they're concerned. Even the plan is insufficient, if -- if successful.
AMANPOUR: And, Governor O'Malley, do you have faith that the debt committee can actually tackle this?
O'MALLEY: I do, because when you look at -- when you ask the public if they believe a balanced approach is required, almost 50 percent of registered Republicans agree that a balanced approach is required.
Millionaires and billionaires should be playing their fair share. We all need to pull together and create jobs and to make this new economy ours. And I believe that we can come together around that. Look, it's not a Democratic or Republican idea. It's a historic economic fact that a modern economy requires modern investments to create jobs. And that's what we need to be about.
AMANPOUR: Governor O'Malley, Senator Sessions, thank you very much, indeed, for joining us.
And coming up, as Congress battles the debt and the president struggles with the jobs crisis, Texas Governor Rick Perry prays for them all. The could-be White House candidate ministered to thousands of Christians at a Houston religious rally yesterday. The roundtable tackles jobs, Jesus, and politics next.
AMANPOUR: This week, the headline said it all. Stocks nose dive. Grim week. Debt bomb. And on the cover of Time magazine, George Washington with a black eye. Now, all eyes are on Wall Street, waiting for the market's response to Friday's credit rating shocker.
Here with me to sort it out, ABC's George Will, Steve Rattner, former counselor to the treasury secretary and President Obama's one-time car czar, Cokie Roberts, and Republican Congressman Jason Chaffetz of Utah. And from Chicago, we're joined by financial adviser Mellody Hobson, president of Ariel Investments.
Thank you all for being here. George, let me ask you first: How bad is this downgrade? How much will it affect basic economy here?
WILL: Not very, and not much, is my estimate.
WILL: You called this a shocker. If Standard...
AMANPOUR: Me and the rest of the world.
WILL: Standard & Poor's would have forfeited its good reputation if it had a good reputation to forfeit these days, it having missed the entire mortgage-backed securities problem right under its nose.
If you read what they actually said, it's a kind of half-baked political analysis criticizing the American system of government and how it works now. Now, they're entitled to their opinion on our politics, but their opinion isn't entitled to any particular respect.
What did we learn from what they said that we didn't know already? We know that, from Athens in Greece to Sacramento, California, with stops in Rome, Lisbon, Madrid, Brussels, Dublin, and Springfield, Illinois, an entire system of governance is under attack and actually collapsing under the weight of its contradictions. We've learned nothing from Standard & Poor's.
AMANPOUR: All right. Steve?
ROBERTS: He's -- I agree with George in the sense that what they said was unremarkable, to put it mildly, and that they really are not particularly qualified to be making those judgments.
But I disagree that it will not have an impact. I think it's already having an impact. It's likely to have an impact, in the sense of our interest rates, which, of course, will hurt the economy even more.
And it has a huge political impact. Look, this is bumper sticker material, you know? "He's the first president in history" -- blah, blah, blah. And George Washington with the black eye. That's bumper sticker talk. And so it does -- yes, they shouldn't have done it. I was on their conference call yesterday. It was absurd. But they at the same time are -- are going to have an effect.
AMANPOUR: Let me get you gentlemen in just a second. I want to ask Mellody Hobson. We've talked about a potential effect. What will it do, do you think, to individuals, to the consumer, to people who are sitting here watching this sort of tumble down around their ears?
HOBSON: Well, before I even get to that, I have to agree with George on this one, that, you know, S&P's credibility is seriously in question here. I mean, these are the guys who gave the clean bill of health to the mortgage securities that were toxic, not to mention the fact -- let's just enter a basic question. Do we actually believe that America is less creditworthy than it was three years ago in the middle of the financial crisis? No one would say yes to that question.
As it relates to the individual, I think it will be marginal, in terms of the effects. I don't think we're going to see a huge rate spike here. I don't think individuals are going to be dramatically harmed by this. The markets may be rocky, as they digest this and reset, but I think, longer term, the individual will actually be OK.
AMANPOUR: Mellody, stand by a second. I hear you all, but on the other hand, you saw with my interview with Senator Sessions and the governor, this kind of -- sort of sticking to their points and sort of not being conciliatory is precisely what S&P was talking about. Do you think, Steve, that this was -- no matter the effect it may or may not have -- some kind of political wake-up call. Was it necessary?
RATTNER: Well, first of all, it would be great if it were a political wake-up call, because, as we all know, the system isn't really functioning now. We did get a budget deal. It was inadequate, no matter how you want to judge it. We do have a massive fiscal problem. All of that is correct.
Whether this will serve as any kind of a trigger, I'm more doubtful about, because as you heard from other members of the panel, S&P's credibility is not all it might be. I agree with George and Mellody. I don't think the impact of this, after perhaps a little bit of volatility, is going to be all that great on the average American.
But I would also say that it is a really embarrassing day, whether you like S&P or not, for America to not be AAA anymore, when places like France and the U.K. are. And if you talk to S&P -- as everybody has sort of indicated, but let me underscore it -- their biggest issue between us and a place like the U.K., which put in place an austerity program, is whether we have the political will to put in place an austerity program that will turn, as you heard from the S&P fellow, the long-term curve down in the out-years, and we have not done that yet.
AMANPOUR: As we show some of the other countries that are still AAA, I just wanted to ask you, Congressman Chaffetz, you know, people are saying that what is really an issue is leadership. They're seeing this huge economic crisis and markets are looking for safe havens and they're not finding leadership to match the big economic challenges ahead, and they're also saying that, look, let's face it, the Tea Party successfully used default as a weapon, publicly bringing us to the brink of catastrophe before pulling back, plus politicians have shown a willingness to gamble with the nation's economy. Is there, do you think, an overstepping of -- of the boundaries? And how can one trust politicians to pull it back?
CHAFFETZ: No, I -- well, I think we're exemplifying the idea that Washington, D.C., doesn't understand that we have a debt crisis. This wasn't about the debt ceiling. It's the fact that we have a debt crisis.
I argued back in 2007 that if we're going to continue to be the world's economic and military superpower, we're going to have to change the way we do business. It's about fiscal discipline, limited government, accountability and a strong national defense.
And I wasn't the only one who got here because we espoused those principles. So in many ways, we're going to try to vilify those that are pointing out what those of us in the heartland already know. We're spending too much money...
AMANPOUR: And debt is now established as a conversation. People do know that you have a debt crisis and you have to deal with it. The question is -- and you, I think -- I don't know whether you want to say this, but you called the congressman an economic terrorist.
RATTNER: Not -- not the congressman personally. I did say -- I did say that I thought those who essentially were tried to hold up and bring the U.S. to the brink of default without being reasonable in their compromise -- look, the president was willing to go more than halfway. He was willing to go 75 percent of the way in a package that would have both revenues...
CHAFFETZ: No, we...
RATTNER: ... wait a minute, let me finish -- and spending cuts that would have achieved this $4 trillion grand bargain and would have perhaps averted this downgrade or certainly put us on a better path for fiscal responsibility. But you do have one group of people who are saying no tax increases, never, no how, when, in fact, the tax -- tax decreases under President Bush partly got us in this problem. If you take today's $1.5 trillion -- if you take today's $1.5 trillion deficit, a trillion of it is from excess spending, $400 billion of it is from the Bush tax cuts.
ROBERTS: The Standard & Poor's report -- which, again, I would like to disassociate myself from -- but it does say that one of the reasons that they think that the fiscal house will not be in order is because they think the Bush tax cuts will stay in forever and that they think that the intransigence of Republicans on this line is one of the reasons that they have downgraded the credit rating.
CHAFFETZ: But we have all...
WILL: All the people -- all the people comparing the Tea Party to suicide bombers, one of whom is Steve here...
AMANPOUR: I don't think you said that, did he?
ROBERTS: Well, terrorists are suicide bombers.
WILL: I can read you the transcript from the morning show.
RATTNER: Well, I was there. I was there.
WILL: I understand, but I was watching.
WILL: Anyway, what you -- you do know that 95 House Democrats voted against raising the debt ceiling as compared to only 66 House Republicans. You do know that 26 Democratic senators voted against raising the debt ceiling.
AMANPOUR: What does this mean, then, for cutting the big things like entitlements and dealing with that kind of stuff? I mean, both sides have to deal on their sacred cows.
CHAFFETZ: That is -- that is the point. Both sides have to be willing to come to the table and do things they don't want to do for there to be a compromise. That's what happens in divided government. And what didn't happen before was that willingness.
AMANPOUR: But you and the Tea Party don't like compromise, right?
CHAFFETZ: We have actually done a lot of compromising. Remember, it was the Tea Party that really spurred -- I was the primary sponsor of "cut, cap and balance."
AMANPOUR: So there are principle compromises that you can see going forward?
CHAFFETZ: Oh, absolutely. In our Republican budget...
AMANPOUR: Did you think the debt committee will have any...
RATTNER: Wait a minute. "Cut, cap and balance" was not a compromise.
CHAFFETZ: Yes, it was. It was a raising of the debt ceiling by $2.4 trillion. And what -- what -- what is wrong in this country is that we aren't willing to have the discussion about a balanced budget amendment. What we said -- what we said with "cut, cap and balance" is that we want to actually send this to the states, a balanced budget amendment. We sent it over to Harry Reid, they tabled it. They didn't even have the discussion. And that's fundamentally wrong.
ROBERTS: This -- this -- this group of people in New York is actually talking about more government, rather than less government, Congressman. In fact, the reason they like France and Great Britain is because they're parliamentary systems, where they do -- the majority just gets what it wants, no matter what. And -- and the problem that we have here is the Constitution of the United States of America, which actually does require people to come together from different perspectives, rather -- whether it's divided government or not. We have divided branches of government under any circumstances.
AMANPOUR: I want to bring in Mellody again in Chicago. And I want to put up some poll numbers, because I want to ask you about -- about jobs. Look, right now, it looks like the Congress is at historic lows in terms of approval. There are something like 82 percent of people who disapprove, 14 percent who approve.
What are people saying, not just about a downgrade in the debt ceiling crisis, but about what affects them, jobs? Do they have faith that this Congress, this presidency can deal with the very real issue of jobs?
HOBSON: So, first of all, I have to say, I don't think the average person is thinking about the U.S. downgrade. I want to be very specific about that. I think the average person is thinking about their own bank account, their own wallet. And for that reason, the average person is thinking about jobs. If they have a job, they want to make sure it's safe. If they don't have a job, they desperately want one.
So to me, jobs is job one, both for the administration, as well as both parties. And if that isn't front and center -- and I actually do believe that it is -- you know, nothing else matters. Sovereign issues don't matter. What's going on in Europe, Middle East, what have you, everything is local, as that old saying goes. And in this case, it's local in terms of their own pocketbook.
RATTNER: Can I just say one thing about this? Look, we all agree jobs is very, very important, at least as important, more important. But the thing that bothers me -- and I'm in favor of fiscal restraint, I'm in favor of dealing with the budget, not in favor of a balanced budget amendment -- we can debate that separately -- but what Senator Sessions said and what some of the other folks who are on the other side of this say, that cutting the budget deficit, reducing spending is going to create jobs is just fundamentally wrong. It's the right fiscal policy; it's not the right jobs policy.
AMANPOUR: Can we talk about, perhaps, an engine? Because obviously we've talked about the politics of all of this, including the politics of jobs. But what about the structural issues? I mean, how does one really kick-start an economy and actually get people out onto the payrolls again? The FCC, for instance, is doing some big sort of on-shoring, in terms of call centers. That's one idea, 100,000 new call center jobs they proposed. One of the president's jobs council members is talking about getting a lot more engineers, you know, educated and into the American economy.
ROBERTS: That will take many years.
AMANPOUR: OK, so where do we go?
WILL: It's not clear what will work. It's pretty clear what won't work. We've had a stimulus. There are now 2 million more people unemployed than there were when the stimulus was passed. We now have a record 1 in 7 American households on food stamps. We have wagered this economy on a mistaken view of the multiplier effect, the federal dollars spent to create jobs. It didn't work. Let's try something else.
AMANPOUR: Let me just quickly ask...
ROBERTS: ... except that right now the jobs -- the unemployment numbers are very much boosted by state and local governments laying off people because they no longer have the stimulus to pay them with. So there is a problem there.
AMANPOUR: Mellody? Mellody?
HOBSON: Yeah, so we have to put more -- you know, one of the things that people don't want to talk about is corporate incentives. Right now, no one wants to give the corporations any extra help, but there are corporate incentives out there that could move the job story.
So, one, giving the corporations the ability to repatriate all this money that they have all over the world without a huge amount of taxation. If you tied it to job creation and investment spending, that would help this country.
I heard a great idea from Alan Khazei, who's running for Senate in Massachusetts, who talked about the 99ers, the people who are getting 99 weeks of unemployment insurance. Give the corporations a sponsorship for those 99ers. Tell them, we will give you a voucher for 99 weeks of compensation with the hope that you will bring these people on full time, not to mention how it affects people's psychology that they can get up and go to work every day. Talk about affecting sentiment in this country.
CHAFFETZ: Well, we're not just one good tax increase away from prosperity. That's not the way that we're going to actually grow the economy and grow jobs in this country. We need stability in our government. We need predictability.
If you look at all the new regulations that have been -- health care, the EPA, in my state of Utah, energy is a huge -- in fact, that's where the best jobs are. We don't have an energy policy in this country. So there are lots of things we can do to grow jobs, but stability is part of it.
ROBERTS: But, Congressman, stability and predictability went out the window over the debt ceiling debate. And that's one of the reasons that we're in the mess that we're in right now.
RATTNER: Look, I think there's no question that a loss of confidence in the government is affecting behavior. If you look at consumer confidence numbers, they're down. If you look at business activity, it's down. All of that is absolutely true.
The second thing that I believe is absolutely true is that the steps that were taken both by President Bush and by President Obama to save the economy did help. It's a counterfactual, but I would argue that things would be a lot worse but for what we did. And then lastly, I do think that the solution to this is a series of probably small-bore kinds of approaches, like some of what you heard.
AMANPOUR: Let's quickly turn to politics and who may or may not jump into the race. Let's just take a look at Rick Perry, the governor of Texas, and his religious preaching, actually, yesterday.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PERRY: I sincerely pray that our willingness to stand in the public square, to acknowledge the God who made us will inspire others to open their minds and their hearts to his love.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: George, where does this put him in the presidential stakes? And do you think he's still going to jump in?
WILL: I do. And when he jumps in, he will campaign on the theme of Texas exceptionalism. It's one of only three states that today has more jobs than it had before the recession; 37 percent of all the jobs created in this country since the recovery began, what we smilingly call the recovery, were created in Texas.
AMANPOUR: And what do you think of his move there in Houston? Do you think that was wise for a presidential candidate, potential candidate?
WILL: At this stage in the nominating process, very.
AMANPOUR: Do you?
AMANPOUR: Is he a candidate you'll get behind?
CHAFFETZ: People getting closer to God and praying is a good thing. I happen to think that Mitt Romney is the more -- most formidable. He would be the best person at this -- at this job. He understands the economy, capital formation, and jobs. And that's why I support Mitt Romney.
AMANPOUR: And there will be a lot more of this conversation in the green room. The roundtable does continue there at abcnews.com/thisweek.
And still to come, the United States gradually dials up the pressure on Syria, as Bashar Assad's crackdown on dissent grows increasingly brutal. My exclusive interview with America's ambassador, Robert Ford, just before he headed back to the heart of the conflict. Stay with us.
AMANPOUR: America struggles to respond to President Bashar Assad's expanding crackdown on anti-government pro-democracy dissenters. Assad is fighting to survive a protest movement which has been growing since March, and this week, his government tanks and troops essentially flattened the city of Hama, an epicenter of the protest movement.
AMANPOUR (voice-over): Having banned the international press, Syrian state media ended the week by showing these images, a devastated Hama, empty streets strewn with rubble, burned buildings. Human rights activists say at least 300 people were killed in the last week alone, men, women and children.
For decades, Syria has traded on its strategic position in the Middle East. Next door to Israel, it's a key player in any peace negotiation. It's Iran's only ally in the region and a supporter of extremist groups, like Hezbollah and Hamas.
Assad is trying to avoid this fate: former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak went on trial this week, charged with ordering the shooting of anti-government demonstrators back in January. He stepped down after 18 days of protests that he had allowed to be televised around the world.
Not so Assad. A self-styled reformer, he refuses to hear his people or international condemnation. His brutal crackdown is happening behind closed doors. The foreign press is banned, and the world depends on brave Syrian civilians, using cell phones and social media, to get word of their plight out.
Into this has stepped an unlikely champion: the U.S. ambassador to Syria, Robert Ford.
Last month, he traveled to Hama and was surrounded by flowers, olive branches, and people yelling that the Americans have come. His pointed moral support naturally infuriated the Syrian government, which immediately set its thugs upon the U.S. embassy in Damascus. Ford told me that he had to threaten to get U.S. Marine guards to shoot the intruders before the regime would pull them off.
But then, Assad stepped up his crackdown on Hama, sending in tanks, besieging the city, cutting water and electricity, and shooting people apparently at random, bodies simply left in the streets or buried in backyards by terrified residents.
These Syrian TV pictures by the end of the week claimed that the rebellion in this city has been crushed, but residents say that now a humanitarian crisis is underway, with growing shortages of food and medical supplies.
AMANPOUR: And this morning, news that Assad's forces are trampling another Syrian town. The best response the world has come up with so far is a United Nations statement condemning the violence and the U.S. trying to ratchet up sanctions.
America's ambassador to Syria, Robert Ford, has been sent back there, having been drawn back here for urgent consultations. I met him at the State Department just before he left.
AMANPOUR: Do they consider you an enemy of the state in Syria?
FORD: They're certainly angry with my trip to Hama. They were very angry about that. I don't particularly care, because we have to show our solidarity with peaceful protesters. I'd do it again tomorrow if I have to. I'm going to keep moving around the country. I can't stop.
AMANPOUR: Do you fear, given that Hama in 1982 was the site of tens of thousands of deaths there by the regime, are you worried that that could happen now and that is happening now?
FORD: Yes. Yeah, I mean, literally, dozens of people have been killed in the last week. I'm personally very nervous about the fate of some of the people I met. I fear that they're either now under arrest or maybe dead.
AMANPOUR (voice-over): The violence continues, despite the U.S. sanctions and the statement by the U.N. this week. So I asked the ambassador, will Assad really feel the pressure from these moves?
(on-screen): How much leverage, though, does the United States have? It doesn't have many industries there. Unlike we Egypt, you don't have military-to-military or security cooperation.
FORD: First of all, there is just the power, the reputation of the United States. When I visited Hama, that was a statement, and it got international attention that the American ambassador would go there. That's leverage.
In addition, because we have targeted specific individuals and worked with partners, especially in Europe, we are seeing some of those individuals and other people who fear being named on sanctions list coming to us and saying, "Maybe I need to rethink what I have been doing."
AMANPOUR: Well, let me ask you about that strategy. You're clearly bypassing the Syrian government, in that you're not speaking to state television. You're using social media, Facebook. You and your spokespeople have used very harsh -- one might say undiplomatic language to condemn the violence. What is your strategy?
FORD: I'd like to call it frank talk, Christiane.
AMANPOUR: What is your strategy?
FORD: My whole purpose in being in Syria is to be able to communicate not only with the Syrian government, but with the Syrian people more generally. I will be very frank again: The Syrian television, operated by the state, operated by the dictatorship, is not credible and tells all kinds of lies.
So we are looking for ways to reach out to the Syrian public through social media, through things like Facebook, and by going out and about in the country.
AMANPOUR: So you're going to keep tweaking them, you're going to keep waving sort of the red flag in front of the bull in the way you can?
FORD: It's important to bear witness to what the Syrian government is doing. In that kind of environment, where the international press, international television can't move around freely, it is really important for diplomats to be able to move around, to understand what the Syrian government is doing on the ground.
The Syrian government does not tell the truth. They said there were armed gangs in Hama. Well, the only weapon I saw was a slingshot. So it's important to bear witness, and it's important to relay a message of support.
AMANPOUR: You want change on ground. Do you want Assad out?
FORD: We have said he has lost his legitimacy. But in the end, Christiane, it doesn't really matter as much what we say or what the international community says as what the Syrian people say and what the Syrian people do.
AMANPOUR: It seems obvious what the Syrian people want. They want a democratic transition, and they want the fall of this regime. The president of the United States, Barack Obama, called on a long-time U.S. ally, Hosni Mubarak, to leave. He's not doing that to not such an ally and somebody who's committing much more violence, Bashar Assad. Should the president of the United States say that it is time for Bashar al-Assad to step down?
FORD: Well, you're absolutely right that Bashar al-Assad is using a great deal more violence than was used in Egypt. We have said -- and we've been very clear on this -- we do not view Bashar al-Assad as indispensable. We do not view his continuation in power as important to American interests. We have said we view him and his government as the source of instability and the source of violence in Syria.
I think our views are very clear. The president has said his government will be left in the past. The meaning is clear, Christiane.
AMANPOUR: Many Americans watching this unfolding say, well, look, the United States joined a coalition of a no-fly zone, a military intervention in Libya, for instance. There's no such thing on the horizon for Syria. Can you explain that?
FORD: The Libyan situation is very different from what we have in Syria. Probably the first and foremost thing, in my discussions, moving around the country and talking to people, even in Hama, where there's this atrocity going on right now, even in Hama, when I talk to people there, what do you think about what the Americans should do, the international community? They were very clear, Christiane, they did not want American military intervention. I want to underline that: They did not want American military intervention.
AMANPOUR: What is the United States going to do to ratchet up the pressure to try to influence what's happening there?
FORD: Well, we are going to try to ratchet up the pressure. The violence that the Syrian government is inflicting on Syrian protesters, from our point of view, is grotesque. It's abhorrent, not just from our point of view, from the point of view of the entire international community. And so we are looking at additional unilateral measures, but also measures that we can work with partners to get the Syrian government to stop shooting protesters, to release political prisoners, and to stop these arrest campaigns.
AMANPOUR: Ambassador, thank you very much for joining us.
FORD: My pleasure.
AMANPOUR: And you can hear more of what Ambassador Ford had say about American's attempts to ramp up that pressure on Syria online at abcnews.com/thisweek.
And up next, Gloria Steinem on the cracks in the political glass ceiling. The feminist icon on women and politics in the age of Sarah Palin and Michele Bachmann. Stay with us.
AMANPOUR: Gloria Steinem began her career as a journalist, relegated, as many women were, to writing fluffy features. But in 1963, Steinem decided to take on Playboy, and that's when everything began to change. She tells a story in a new HBO documentary, "Gloria: In Her Own Words," premiering August 15th. Watch this clip.
STEINEM: I did this bunny assignment.
HEFNER: My name is Hugh Hefner, and I'm editor-publisher of Playboy magazine.
STEINEM: I worked as a Playboy bunny in order to write an expose of what the working conditions were.
HEFNER: I started with a personal investment of $600. In eight years, I've built an empire worth $20 million.
STEINEM: It was being presented as a glamorous place. It was not the glamorous place that Hugh Hefner was trying to sell it as.
(UNKNOWN): You were a bunny girl for a while, an undercover bunny girl?
STEINEM: Yeah, yeah. To write a story, I changed my name, and went -- I thought I would get through, you know, a few auditions and write about the auditions, but they were so desperate for people that I kept going on and on, and I ended up working off and on for about a month.
I read all the ads, you know, that you were supposed to get $300 a week and it was this, you know, wonderful job. I was hired, but I had to go through the training course, which is at your own expense.
(UNKNOWN): Reverse. There you go. Fast, fast. OK, then a real high carry (ph). Oh, there you go. Whoa.
STEINEM: It was horrible. There was nothing fun about it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: Gloria Steinem joins me now.
Thank you for being with us.
STEINEM: No, thank you.
AMANPOUR: That clip, has it dogged you or your career, if you like, or were you the dogged investigative reporter?
STEINEM: Well, I thought I was the dogged investigative reporter. And I was really glad that the working conditions changed somewhat and you no longer had to have an internal exam and a venereal disease test to be a waitress, excuse me? That's what they were telling...
AMANPOUR: That's what was going on?
STEINEM: ... these -- right. So, you know, I'm glad basically about it. But it was a professional error of gigantic proportions, because I was just beginning to be assigned serious pieces, and suddenly I was a bunny. And now, you know, it's -- it's followed me all these years, and I am always confronted with a kind of moral dilemma. Should I stop people who introduce me as an ex-bunny and say, "But I was doing it as a journalist"? No, because I've kind of deserted those women who were having such a hard time, you know? So I go through this, you know, kind of indecision.
AMANPOUR: But it was sort of the launch of your activism, of your feminism. And we all know so much about what you were campaigning for, along with many, many women of that time. Fast-forward now so many years later. Where are women in terms of not just economic opportunity, but let's say politics, since this is a political show?
STEINEM: Well, as you know, we're number 70, 7-0, among the countries of the world in terms of representation of women in our national legislature. We have 17 senators. We have 17 percent of Congress. I mean, we...
AMANPOUR: ... 76 women in the House of Representatives.
STEINEM: Right. But, you know, American exceptionalism, I think, conceals to women the fact -- because we're always being told how lucky we are -- that we are way, way down the list in political representation, and child care, health care, equal pay. You know, by almost any measure, we're way down the list.
AMANPOUR: When will, do you think -- in your lifetime? -- this ultimate glass ceiling be shattered? You remember Hillary Clinton talking about the 18 million cracks in the glass ceiling after the primaries. When will it shatter?
STEINEM: Well, you know, I really thought it was too soon. I thought Hillary Clinton was an ideal candidate, but I didn't myself believe that she could win. I just think it's too soon.
AMANPOUR: But how can it be too soon? What do you mean by that, or any women, for that matter?
STEINEM: I think because we are still raised far more by women than by men, we associate female power with childhood. And some people, especially men, feel regressed when they -- the last time they saw a powerful woman, they were 8. You know, so...
AMANPOUR: Their mother.
AMANPOUR: Well, let me ask you...
STEINEM: So it's going to take quite a long time, but it will happen. It will definitely happen.
AMANPOUR: And what do you make of the fact that so many of the current crop of female rising stars are actually conservative women, people like Michele Bachmann, people like Michele Bachmann, who's now a candidate for the president, Nikki Haley, the governor of South Carolina, and on and on?
STEINEM: Well, because we always had Phyllis Schlafly. This is -- this is not a new phenomenon. If you have a big political movement, you have people who look like you who behave like them, you know, who sort of sell it out, more or less. Those women all are elected by some women, yes. But by an electorate, their votes come more from men than from women. Democratic women, you know, not because -- it's just because of the issues.
AMANPOUR: But people will say, Gloria, are you saying that women, feminists are OK if they're Democrats, and if they're -- if they're Republicans, they're suspect?
STEINEM: No. The Republican Party used to be more feminist than the Democratic Party. It's that it has become so extremist and so taken over by people who used to be Democrats, a lot of them, like Jesse Helms and so on.
So it -- it now finds itself in a position of having in its platform issues which are not supported by a majority of women, indeed, are -- are opposed by most.
So it's -- they -- you know, as soon as Hillary Clinton won so many votes, I said there's going to be a Republican female vice president, you know, because, you know, they are not -- they don't seem to understand it's not about biology, that it's about issues.
AMANPOUR: And what about the struggle -- I mean, I looked at the HBO documentary and I saw that encounter you had with Larry King on CNN, where a woman called in and said, "May Gloria Steinem rot in Hell." Do you still find sort of a hostility to the principles, to the activism?
STEINEM: No, not really. I mean, it's very rare. I mean, you just have to...
AMANPOUR: Were you shocked by that, then?
STEINEM: Yes, I was surprised by that then, yeah. But then, of course, there was somebody sifting the calls to make sure they had a controversial caller, you know, as I discovered later. But...
AMANPOUR: But, you know, there are a lot of people who get through.
STEINEM: Right. But -- no, no, I mean, there are -- the point is to be able to choose, to have the power to make a choice, right? And the reason that social justice movements win is because they support choice, not one point of view. The reason that the current Republican issues, and so on, especially on reproductive freedom, lose is because they're forbidding one point of view. They're saying you have to behave like us.
AMANPOUR: Gloria Steinem, thank you very much for being with us. And her documentary, "Gloria Steinem: In Her Own Words," on HBO.
And we'll be right back with the Sunday funnies.
AMANPOUR: And now, the Sunday funnies.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
FALLON: Man, it's been a tough time for the economy, but this week, President Obama declared that, quote, "Things will get better." And then he opened his eyes and blew out the candles on his birthday cake. It was...
COLBERT: ... completely inappropriate for the president to turn a year older when the nation is in crisis. It's not the first time Obama has pulled this stunt. I have learned that Barack Obama has selfishly celebrated a birthday during every crisis for the last 50 years.
O'BRIEN: This is crazy. Several Fox News hosts criticized Spongebob Squarepants -- yeah -- for pushing a, quote, "global warming agenda." Yeah. Yeah, then things got really ugly when they demanded to see Dora the Explorer's immigration papers.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: We'll be right back.
AMANPOUR: And now, "In Memoriam."
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
(UNKNOWN): That's good, Hightower.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: And we remember all of those who died in war this week. The Pentagon has yet to release the identities of the Americans who were killed yesterday in the single deadliest attack of the war in Afghanistan, but we have learned the names of 17 soldiers and Marines who were killed the days before.
We'll be right back.
AMANPOUR: That's our program this week. Be sure to watch "World News" with David Muir tonight for all the latest. And for all of us here, thanks for watching. We'll see you next week.