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Barack Obama Endorses Emmanuel Macron; "Sweat": A Portrait Of Working-Class America; Playwright Lynn Nottage On Obama's Election; Playwright Lynn Nottage: Writing In Trump Era; Rosa Parks House Saved By Berlin-Based Artist. Aired 5-5:30p ET
Aired May 4, 2017 - 17:00 ET
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[17:00:00] CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN HOST, AMANPOUR: -- behind the words with renowned language expert George Lakoff, and friend of the president,
Also, high-stakes in the French election as Barack Obama throws his weight behind Emmanuel Macron with a message of hope over fear.
Plus, Lynn Nottage foretold that anger and fear. Her Pulitzer Prize winning drama, "Sweat", the play with a view from Donald Trump's forgotten
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LYNN NOTTAGE, PLAYWRIGHT, "SWEAT": What I saw was a great deal of pain as I saw people who felt incredibly marginalized. I saw people who had real
genuine anger at the fact that they were being disappeared or made invisible.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: Good evening, everyone, and welcome to the program. I'm Christiane Amanpour in New York.
President Donald Trump will make his first overseas trip at a breakneck pace. The White House announced today that he will travel to Israel, the
Vatican, Saudi Arabia, ending up at the G7 and NATO summits in Europe at the end of this month.
He's traveling to New York today for his first trip back home. And Republicans in the House of Representatives have passed their bill to
repeal and replace Obamacare, which was Trump's campaign slogan.
After more than 100 days in office, the president has yet to get a major piece of legislation passed, and this bill still has to go to the Senate.
Obama's 2010 healthcare act covered 20 million Americans. Among the protections were guaranteed coverage for their children and anyone with a
pre-existing condition. Republicans have been promising to ditch that since the day it was passed, but that had been a lot harder than they
expected. And it is still unclear what ordinary Americans will be left with.
But more than anything, like many other issues, this effort has been complicated by conflicting messages from the president himself, and real
questions about how much he understands about the process of legislation.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD J. TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I have to tell you, it's an unbelievably complex subject. Nobody knew that healthcare could be so
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: It is the same story of mixed messages and complications on Russia, Syria, North Korea, the war with Mexico. So, here to help
understand how the president communicates are George Lakoff, Professor of Cognitive Science at Berkeley, where he studies political messaging and how
we process the language of public speech.
And also Chris Ruddy. He's CEO of Newsmax Media, which owns several conservative news outlets and he's a long time friend of President Trump.
Gentlemen, welcome to the program. It's getting to be a political art, if you like, trying to diagnose exactly what President Trump means when he
First, let me ask you, George Lakoff, as a student of linguistics. Why you think, for instance, going into this very important second time trying to
get the healthcare bill passed, he gave several interviews in which he sort of said that pre-existing things were included when they weren't and all
sorts of issues like that. Do you believe there's a method to this?
GEORGE LAKOFF, COGNITIVE LINGUIST, U.C. BERKELEY: Yes, there is. And I think Chris got it right. He's a salesman, a super salesman, and he says
what people want to hear, even though it may not be exactly true. And that is what you find all the time.
A salesman is usually trying to increase his own profit, and that means the person he's selling to may decrease their well-being, and that is what
happens when you are dealing with a super salesman.
And moreover, a salesman is always looking for a deal on one issue, not looking at the whole spectrum of issues at once.
So, you're going to get just that kind of thing. What will happen is the president is always trying to maximize his authority. He wants to be the
greatest authority in the world in terms of his power, and he's always trying to maximize that. And one way to do that is to control information,
to control what people believe and to control what the press says, to control the news cycle. That's very important in this. And also, to
destroy any part of the government that would deny him power.
AMANPOUR: You've just heard what George Lakoff said and you've seen the result of some of the president's meanderings and sort of flip flops and U-
turns to the point where Politico was told by White House insider that they have one simple takeaway from his healthcare experience "The president
needs to do less talking, period." Do you agree with that?
[17:05:04] CHRIS RUDDY, FRIEND OF PRESIDENT TRUMP: Well, I think he's had an historic 100 days, Christiane, as president. He's transformed the power
of the presidency, transformed the power of the bully pulpit. I have a column about it on "The New York Times" op-ed section today on this very
I generally agree with George. Donald Trump is the ultimate salesman. I would add that he's the ultimate showbiz guy. Very few people -- I mean,
this is a guy in his 50s that went into entertainment and he had a hit show, not for a few years which is typical, he had a hit show for 14 years.
So, when George says, though, things like he wants to destroy parts of the federal government, he's actually using some of the same language that
Donald Trump uses. But I would -- knowing him for years, I can -- and I think this is the problem many people have. They have a very hard time
figuring out what is figurative that he's talking about when he uses very hyperbolic language or what is literal.
And like when the president says the press is the enemy of the people, I don't really believe that he thinks that in his heart.
AMANPOUR: Well, I really hope he doesn't.
RUDDY: He certainly doesn't think you're the enemy of the people.
AMANPOUR: Well, good. But, Chris, let me ask you -- and it really is a question to both of you. How do you have a very, very successful first 100
days with this kind of messaging that you're both saying is working for him, but actually he hasn't yet had that many successes to rack up if you
look at legislation, if you look at foreign policy, if you look at the backtracks and the whole sort of going around the place that he's doing.
RUDDY: I think it's amazingly successful. Most presidents have very little legislation passed. This is a president that was an apolitical
person his whole life. He's putting together an apolitical team in the cabinet and the White House. So, I think he needs a little more time on
the legislation front.
But if you look out, foreign policy, he's gotten China for the first time that anyone can remember working with us on North Korea, he's getting the
NATO countries like Germany to increase military spending, he's been a traditionalist on the Middle East stuff. I think he's taken a very
realistic view on Russia. I think you would have to agree with that, which is a surprise.
So, I think foreign policy has been good. And I think, domestically, jobs are the number one issue he got elected on and he's championed every
corporate board room in America, Christiane. He's talking about keeping jobs in America. This is a huge turnaround and I credit our president for
AMANPOUR: All right.
RUDDY: I'm not saying he's perfect.
AMANPOUR: OK. You're not saying he's perfect. But we'll wait and see where all that leads to. But can I just play something because, as you may
know, I spoke to Hillary Clinton this week and we talked about some of the foreign policy talk and action.
The invitation to, you know, somebody who most of the Western leaders believe is behind a lot of extrajudicial killings, the president of the
Philippines, the talk about sending armadas or calling, you know, Kim Jong- un of North Korea a smart cookie, saying he'd be honored to sit down with him.
Let me just play this and I'll have you both talk about it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HILLARY CLINTON, FORMER DEMOCRATIC PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: So, negotiations are critical, but they have to be part of a broader strategy,
not just throwing out on a tweet some morning that, hey, let's get together and, you know, see if we can get along and maybe we can, you know, come up
with some sort of a deal. That doesn't work.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: Yes, language. Yes, a salesman. But we're now talking about war and peace. Where does the language lead in this particular sphere?
LAKOFF: It leads only to Trump maximizing whatever his authority is at a given moment. Take, for example, the issue of North Korea and China. He
says, oh, we've gotten China to help, but what did he do?
First, he has said nothing about human rights in China. Chris said that he interviewed people in China, but probably business people. I doubt that he
interviewed very many human rights activists in China. I doubt that he interviewed people who are locked in factories, working, you know,
unscrupulous jobs in China, who are committing suicide because of those jobs.
I don't think that the president has been, you know, very strong about human rights at all in China. He's giving that up -- willing to give that
up in order to gain an advantage on North Korea, which is fine. North Korea needs to be taken care of.
But then, he also -- it's interesting, as Chris pointed out, has threatened to curb China's investments in America, and those are important because
people don't realize that China is investing in America and taking the profits out of America. That is a globular situation, including
investments made by the president's own son-in-law.
[17:10:02] RUDDY: Donald Trump inherited the human rights situation in China that Barack Obama left him. And I don't think it's his purview in
his mind to try to dictate to China.
I think -- I do think it's a weakness of the president that he's not speaking up more on human rights. I happen to be an advocate for democracy
and human rights abroad. I hope President Trump takes more of a grand view on that and a historic view on that.
But I do think that he has moved the needle with China in working with us. I'm not so sure that when they invest, as George says, I think that what
the president is trying to do is when Chinese companies invest in America, then when American companies invest in China, which I think would improve
conditions there, that they not be forced to have a majority Chinese partner, which China has been allowed to have.
AMANPOUR: Well, let me ask you this because he did also -- he gave a whole load of interviews to this fake and dishonest media that he always talks
about, something like 12 or 13 interviews around the 100 days to all of us.
And he did actually say that following about this job. And I'd like to hear your reaction to it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: I loved my previous life. I loved my previous life. I have many things going. I actually -- this is more work than in my previous life. I
thought it would be easier. I thought it was more of a -- I'm a details oriented person. I think you would say that. But I do miss my old life.
I like to work, so that's not a problem. But this is actually more work.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: Are you surprised by what he just said about the job?
RUDDY: One of the things, I think, refreshing about this president is that he's very candid and honest. People like it. You may not like it. The
media elites don't like it. It's his worldview, I think, on things.
Look, a recent national poll showed that 98 percent of the people that voted for him in the last election would vote for him again and still
backup their vote. That's pretty amazing considering the battering he's taken from the media.
And I think -- I talked to a German reporter yesterday. And he said, well, why didn't the president shake the -- you know, he wasn't nice to Merkel.
And I've spoken to the president about it. He really liked Merkel. He respected her. He shook her hands three times and he was asked by a member
of the press to shake her hand and he said he wasn't going to do it on the request of the media. And I pointed out also that Merkel's not a warm and
fuzzy person either.
So, you know, I think the president is getting a bum rap by the media who keep spinning certain stories to make it look like somehow he's the bad guy
when I think he's been really trying. I think we've seen a real improvement in his governing style, even his messaging in the past 100
AMANPOUR: All right, Chris. I'm, obviously, not going to let you have that last word. I don't like the word elite and I don't like being told
that I don't like something. My job is to question.
So, because you've raised an interesting point there, I will give George the last word on -- just again, what do you think he was trying to achieve
by explaining probably from the heart that he really didn't think this was going to be as difficult. What was the communications that he was trying
to put out there?
LAKOFF: The communication was that he's on top of it. He can do anything that needs to be done, which is what he said. And he -- you know, without
having to study anything about foreign policy, without having to study healthcare, without having to study virtually anything about the office,
what he's done is he assumed he could do just as in business.
All he has to do is, as CEO, say what he wants and other people will do it. It doesn't work like that in a democracy where you're supposed to have a
government of, by and for the people. He doesn't have a government for the people.
AMANPOUR: On that note, Georgia Lakoff and Chris Ruddy, thank you very much indeed for joining me to translate Trump.
And today, President Trump's predecessor, Barack Obama, reentered the presidential fray -- the one in France, that is. With three days to go
before the critical second round of elections there, Obama released a video endorsing like-minded candidate Emmanuel Macron.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I want all of my friends in France to know how much I am rooting for your success because of
how important this election is. I also want you to know that I am supporting Emmanuel Macron to lead you forward. En Marche! Vive la
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: Now, the centrist, outward-looking Macron is pitted against the far right nationalist Marine Le Pen. France decides this Sunday.
After a break, Obama inspired the playwright Lynn Nottage, but she is really a writer for these populist times and her "Sweat" has won a Pulitzer
and three Tony Award nominations. Our conversation next.
[17:16:35] AMANPOUR: Welcome back to the program. Everywhere you look, people and politicians are trying to figure out the working-class backlash
that's fanning the flames of populism.
Well, here in New York, a play called "Sweat" is painting a compelling portrait. It is set in the heart of America's Rust Belt -- Reading,
Pennsylvania, and it focuses on the desperate fractures amongst family and friends as factory closures leave the city a shell of its former self.
And the playwright, Lynn Nottage, an African-American, started researching this work six years ago, way before Brexit, Trump or Le Pen. She captures
today's dislocation in America as Arthur Miller did back in the 1950s. Nottage joined me here to discuss her play right after it had received
three Tony Award nominations.
AMANPOUR: Lynn Nottage, welcome to the program.
LYNN NOTTAGE, PLAYWRIGHT, "SWEAT": Thank you.
AMANPOUR: So, your play, just nominated with several Tony Awards, seems to be about the zeitgeist, but you started this a long time ago, didn't you?
You started the research several years ago.
NOTTAGE: Yes, I began researching the play in 2011 after the U.S. census had come out and had said that Reading, Pennsylvania, where I really was
landing, was the poorest city of its size in all of America and I was really interested in the way in which economic stagnation was really
shifting our American narrative.
AMANPOUR: I want to read you one of the many, many good reviews you've had. Basically, it takes place in 2000 and 2008, but it says it's the
first work from a major American playwright to summon with empathy and without judgment the nationwide anxiety that helped put Donald Trump in the
Did you know that anxiety?
NOTTAGE: When I went to Reading, what I saw was a great deal of pain. I saw people who felt incredibly marginalized. I felt people who had real
genuine anger at the fact that they were being disappeared or made invisible because they no longer were working, which is something that I
think happens in this country.
Could I predict that Donald Trump would be the outcome of that rage? No. But I could predict that there was going to be some form of expression of
that rage. And I didn't know how it would manifest itself.
AMANPOUR: Give us a little synopsis of the story. There are the three women characters. There are the two boys. There's a sort of a derelict
father and there's the bar man.
NOTTAGE: The "Sweat" is really about a group of friends who've been working in the same factory, which is a metal tubing factory for 25 to 30
years, and they learn that they're going to be pushed out of the work.
And it's really about the way in which those friendships begin to fracture along racial lines, when suddenly they're faced with this economic
insecurity. And it also tells the story not just of those workers but how their marginalization then impacts their sons in the next generation.
AMANPOUR: And what was really, really interesting was to see these very, very close friendships and, yes, there was a main black character, but the
others were mostly white, there is a Hispanic character who comes up and that's the whole Mexico/NAFTA situation.
The way when the black character manages to get a leg up, manages to get a better job, actually goes for the management job, how that really ruins her
friendship with her white colleagues.
[17:20:00] NOTTAGE: Yes. Well, I think that, in America, we're seeing that when the black aspiration is manifested that there is white backlash
and that certainly was played out in this election, is you had a President Obama, who really was the apotheosis of sort of black aspiration.
And what has been the reaction of the country is to put someone who's not qualified to be leading in office. And I think that really comes out of
sort of backlash.
AMANPOUR: It's often said -- well, tends to be said that African-American artists, playwright, cinema directors, whatever tend to focus on the
African-American experience. But this is a play about the American life, it's not the African-American life. It's American life.
NOTTAGE: Yes. Absolutely. As an American and as an artist who really feels that my responsibility is to keep my eyes open and be socially engaged, I
can't sort of ignore the complexities of the country that I live in. You know, I can't be binary in the way in which I approach my art, which is why
I think I chose to tackle the subject matter of "Sweat", which is how deindustrialization is really re-shifting who we are as Americans.
AMANPOUR: You just talked about President Obama. And, obviously, people have talked about a whitelash and all the rest of it in the aftermath of
this election. As a black woman, as a member of the African-American community, what did his presidency say to you, what did -- the reaction to
him throughout his presidency and the aftermath?
NOTTAGE: I remember the day that President Obama was inaugurated, my brother called me up and he said, your grandmother is not doing well, why
don't you come and we can all watch together. And when I got there, my grandmother wasn't doing well. So, she had to stay in bed.
We watched President Obama get sworn in. And I immediately went to my grandmother to tell her. And I said, grandma, we have a black president.
She looks up at me, her eyes got really wide. She smiled and then she went -- she died.
And in some ways, you talk about what it means to me. I think, for her, she'd been waiting. She'd been clinging to the hope . And once that hope
was realized, she's like my work is done. And, fortunately, she didn't get to see what's happened afterwards, but she could live in that moment.
And I think, for many of us, President Obama -- I should say, not for many, but for me, President Obama finally said that we are part of the fabric of
this country and we're really integral to this narrative. And I clung to that.
And when President Trump was elected, I remember sitting in bed with a quart of ice cream and bursting into tears and feeling like my feelings are
really profoundly hurt because what I'm being told in this moment is that you don't want me to be part of this narrative and we want you to continue
to be marginalized, and that's what it meant to me on a very personal level.
AMANPOUR: And yet, you have said and you've chosen to perform your art non-judgmentally. You've said that, you know, you have to do your research
in a slightly different way these days.
NOTTAGE: Yes. I mean, I think in order for us to be sort of true to ourselves as artists -- and the phrase that I keep clinging to is replace
judgment with curiosity, is that we have to really lean into who we speak to with empathy and understanding rather than closing ourselves off because
I think that, if we don't, we end up where we are, in a place where we're very divided and we're not listening to each other.
AMANPOUR: Lynn Nottage, thanks very much.
NOTTAGE: Thank you.
AMANPOUR: Next, the piece of African-American history that's found a new home in Germany. Imagine the artist who saved Rosa Parks house by bringing
it piece by piece to a Berlin suburb.
[17:25:45] AMANPOUR: And finally tonight, imagine a world where a true American heroine finds a new home in Berlin. Well, it's an old home to be
The civil rights icon Rosa Parks became a legend when she refused to give up her seat on a segregated bus in Montgomery, Alabama. It was 1955 and
she started the bus boycott -- a seminal moment for the advancements of black rights in America.
But now, the home of the immovable figure is moving. One of 80,000 derelict houses in Detroit, it was falling apart and set to be demolished.
Parks' niece worked tirelessly to protect it.
And thanks to a local Detroit TV personality, she met the American Berlin- based artist Ryan Mendoza, who wanted to save it for posterity. He took
the house apart piece by piece and put it back together again in Berlin.
It took 18 days with the help of local volunteers to pull the house down. And from Berlin, Mendoza says the U.S. must earn back this precious part of
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RYAN MENDOZA, ARTIST: This house really belongs in the United States. It doesn't belong here. But because it is here, more people have the
opportunity to think about why it was that the house was put on the demolition list to begin with.
So, America lost this house and America has to do something powerful in order to get it back.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: And that was a powerful question indeed. The house is now rising from the ashes in Mendoza's very own garden and it is just opened up
to the German public.
And that is it for our program tonight. Remember, you can always listen to our podcast. You can see us online at amanpour.com and you can follow me
on Facebook and Twitter. Thanks for watching. And goodbye from New York.