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President Trump compares himself to Abraham Lincoln; Colombia: Leading a country to peace in a time of war
Aired January 24, 2018 - 14:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN HOST, AMANPOUR: Tonight, President Trump prepares to fly into the mouth of the taiga, also known as the progressive economic
global elite at Davos, Switzerland. We get two takes on his current place in history, with the renowned presidential historian Doris Kearns Goodwin
and the Colombian president Juan Manuel Santos at Davos, was waiting to hear for himself Trump's vision of the world a year after his American
carnage, America first inaugural address.
Good evening, everyone, and welcome to the program. I'm Christiane Amanpour in London.
Almost exactly a year since his inauguration, President Trump takes his nationalist vision of America to the annual gathering of nations at Davos.
They modeled themselves on America's liberal economic and political order that America itself established after the World War II.
But a year in office, President Trump's critics say that he's damaging that world order and its democratic underpinnings. President Trump sees himself
as the truest successor to Abraham Lincoln, tweeting and talking about it over and over as a measure of his own success.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: You know who is right up there, honest Abe Lincoln. Can you believe it? He was a regulation
cutter. Can you believe it? Abe Lincoln was a regulation cutter. Who would have known that?
I said, you mean, I beat Abraham Lincoln? That's pretty good.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: So, what would honest Abe think of President Donald Trump. Doris Kearns Goodwin is America's foremost presidential historian,
chronicler of everyone from Lincoln to Teddy Roosevelt to Lyndon Johnson, and she joins me now from Washington DC.
Welcome to the program.
DORIS KEARNS GOODWIN, PRESIDENTIAL HISTORIAN: I'm delighted to be here.
AMANPOUR: So, what do you think of those quotes, those tweets? What do you think of President Trump's comparison to Abraham Lincoln?
GOODWIN: Well, so many things stand out. It's just an astonishing comparison. I mean, Lincoln was known for having a deep-rooted confidence,
but also an extraordinary sense of humility about himself.
When Trump was talking about his own humility, he said that he loved Pope Francis so much because Pope Francis was very, very humble just like him.
I think there's nobody that would imagine that President Trump is humble.
There's also a sense in which one of the great things about Lincoln was that he'd gone through adversity. He had lost time and time again. He
lost his first seat for the state legislature. He lost twice for the US Senate.
And when Trump was asked about his temperament, he said, I have the very, very best temperament of anyone who has ever run for president because I
never ever lose. I always win.
There's just so many things temperamentally that are so different that I'd like him to look up to Lincoln, maybe he can learn from him, but it's very,
very hard to make that comparison.
AMANPOUR: Well, let's give him some time. It's just been one year in office and if he truly holds him up as his model - what about Lincoln's
ability to get over or to pass through the storms and the hurricanes of what he went through without reacting on a daily minute by minute basis?
Obviously, there wasn't Twitter then. There wasn't the kind of communications access the we have today, but what's the difference there,
do you think, in their communications strategy?
GOODWIN: Well, I think there were several things. I mean, one thing that Lincoln understood that there were times when he be really upset with what
was going on, and so he had this ritual where he would write a hot letter to the person, like, for example, General Meade failed to follow up with
General Lee's army after the victory at Gettysburg.
And he wrote him a long letter, saying I'm immeasurably distressed you didn't do what we asked you to do. The war might've been over. Now, it's
going to go on month after month. But then, he knew it would paralyze the general in the field. So, he put the letter aside. It was a hot letter,
hoping he would cool down and never send it.
His papers were opened in the early 20th century. And it was underneath, the notation, never sent and never signed.
Now, obviously, the opposite of that is when President Trump gets angry with somebody, that tweet goes out immediately. I sometimes think if only
he had a hot tweet and a cool tweet, maybe things would be a lot better.
He understood that words mattered. He could speak extemporaneously, Lincoln could, as well as anybody. But he knew, when you're president, you
can't do that. So, even though he was a great debater with Stephen Douglas, he would prepare almost everything he ever said to the public,
fearful that he might say something that would be taken the wrong way.
So, he could certainly learn from that in a different way from tweeting when you get angry in a moment of anger or ire.
And yet, we are talking almost 200 years later. And this is a completely different communications era. And President Trump's supporters would say,
it's the very ability to use the language no matter its shape or form and the medium that has propelled him to this success.
[14:05:10] GOODWIN: No, that's a very fair comment because I think each president uses the media of his moment to an extreme if they are doing it
Lincoln's was the written word. Your speech would be printed in full in the newspaper, so having that extraordinary ability with language helped
When Teddy Roosevelt came along at the turn of the 20th century, his short punchy language was able to get into the mass-market newspapers.
FDR had the voice for radio.
Reagan and JFK had the looks and the ability to talk on television.
And there's no question that President Trump has mastered social media. Everything he says becomes the narrative of that moment, even if it may not
be the right narrative for keeping his agenda going, it puts him in the center of attention.
So, the question is, though, it allowed him to win the election, I think, in a lot of ways, but governing is different from campaigning. And
sometimes, what you are able to win with has to be censored when you finally get - maybe people like the idea that he doesn't have a (INAUDIBLE)
like many politicians have. But I think it's gotten him into a lot of trouble, some of the things he's said offhand.
AMANPOUR: Let's talk about the governing. Obviously, many critics, as I suggested, are concerned about the degradation of democracy. And again,
going back to Lincoln, who apparently at the age of 28 wrote one of his great speeches. And he foreshadowed a sort of Caesar-like figure that
might threaten the United States from within.
And President Trump has quite regularly tweeted, loosely paraphrasing from this speech, saying America will never be destroyed from the outside. If
we falter and lose our freedoms, it will be because we destroyed ourselves.
I mean, that's pretty insightful of him. But is he helping that destruction?
GOODWIN: I agree. I mean, it's fascinating that he called upon that speech to talk about it. And the interesting thing is what Lincoln said at
that time, it was a time of a lot of violence going on, anti-slavery violence, pro-slavery stuff in the south, and he said the only way we're
going to get through this turbulent time is by remembering the values of the founders.
We have to reverence law. We have to use our institutions. And people should be reading about the founders. We shouldn't forget what they did.
And the interesting thing today, when people feel so pessimistic about America, in a lot of ways, the system itself has protections.
We've seen the media, who've been terrorized in some ways by Mr. Trump, and yet the investigative reporting is as good now as it's ever been.
We've seen courts that have come back against his Muslim ban. We've seen members of his own party speaking up against him. So, I think the very
hope that Lincoln had that if we were going to be under siege and somebody who had ambitions other than a democratic leader needs protection from the
system, that's my hope as an historian that the system itself still has lots of power left in it.
AMANPOUR: Well, it's interesting you point to that because in "The New York Times", the conservative commentator, Ross Douthat, has talked
precisely about what you're just saying, and basically saying that you could sort of sum up the presidency maybe as farce rather than tragedy
because none of those things you've said have actually comes true.
And he also says, for all his bragged talk, Trump has done nothing that compares with the power grabs and norm violations of Woodrow Wilson,
Franklin Roosevelt, Lyndon Johnson, Richard Nixon, George W. Bush or even Barack Obama.
So, has one prematurely written the dire history of the Trump administration?
GOODWIN: Well, I wouldn't agree with the idea of the power violations of all those other presidents. I mean, what you judge power by is what is the
purpose for which it is being used.
And in those presidents, many of those, I would say, certainly Franklin Roosevelt and Lyndon Johnson, they were using power for expanding - except
for war in Vietnam, expanding the lives and the opportunities of the ordinary citizen. And that's a very different thing from just using power
But I do feel less pessimistic about the country than I think a lot of other people do. We've seen movements. We saw that Women's March on the
day of the inauguration and now we've seen new marches this year.
And as long as there is still only 35 percent of the people that support President Trump and feel good about what he's doing, and they rightfully
can support him, but that means there's 65 percent of the other people who are not happy with the direction in which his presidency is going, not even
policy wise, but his temperament, then I think we're still safe. We don't have to worry that we're entering into some terrible despotism.
AMANPOUR: So, again, you have examined in minute detail some of the great presidents of the United States. But another historian, Sean Wilentz also
wrote this week that, perhaps, it's not constructive to compare President Trump to the great presidents, but maybe to some of the not-so-great ones.
And he said, some of them performed reasonably well at first, only to slide into disaster later. Might Mr. Trump grow in the job, making us forget his
rookie season bumbling or should we expect more of the same through 2020? What do you think?
[14:10:13] GOODWIN: I think the real question is whether he can learn from mistakes, whether he can be self-reflective.
Look, JFK's first term was marred by the Bay of Pigs, and yet he learned that the way he handled that decision was wrong. He listened to the
experts in the military. He didn't have enough outside advisors and he changed. And the Cuban Missile Crisis was held in a very different way
because of that.
If you can learn from your mistakes, you have to acknowledge them, however. The Battle of Bull Run was terrible for Lincoln, but he stayed up all night
writing a memo, saying why did this go wrong. So, that's what we have to look for in him. You can grow.
It was interesting. On his 100-day marker, President Trump did sound wistful, the first time I had ever really heard him say that. He said the
presidency is harder than I thought. Healthcare is more complicated than I thought. This job is taking more out of me than I thought.
And I was hoping that that allowed him to see some sort of marker. And it's true when the repeal of Obamacare came, he didn't handle that well.
He got the tax bill through.
So, I guess, you have to hope you can learn from your experiences, but you have to have the temperament that allows you to acknowledge mistakes and
not blame others for the mistakes and then you can grow. And certainly, most of our presidents, who have been great, have grown in office.
AMANPOUR: Is it fair to compare the incredible political partisanship today, which people all over the world look at and gasp at, frankly, to the
incredible division that, obviously, Lincoln presided over. I mean, there couldn't have been a greater division than that led to a Civil War?
GOODWIN: No question. I mean, I look at the 1850s and the cultural, political, social, economic notions of the South and the North were so at
war with one another, it was almost like two countries as it seems.
And you had partisan newspapers then. In those days, before mass-market newspapers, for example, if you were a Republican, you were reading about
the debate between Lincoln and Douglas, you would hear that Lincoln was so great that he was carried off on the arms of his achievers. And they'd
thought he'd be so triumphant.
If you read about the Democratic paper from that same debate, you'd say Lincoln was so terrible. He fell on the floor; and they were so
embarrassed, they had to carry him out the hall.
So, we had partisan newspapers then. We had a huge division. The sad thing is, though, it ended in a war where 600,000 people died. It's just
really the last 40 years that we've seen this polarization. That's why it's so hard for us.
We've, obviously, had it in our history. And I think it has to do with the people in Congress not spending time with each other. They're not there on
weekends like they used to be with their wives and their children. They don't know how to have a common mission that combines them.
Many of them, 50 years ago, had been in World War II or the Korean War together. So, they knew how to fight across party lines. They spend so
much time raising money. The gerrymandering is so terrible. All these things are fixable.
We think we're in some sort of inevitable situation of decline. But as Franklin Roosevelt once said, problems created by man can be solved by men.
So, there are ways of thinking about how to make our system better, but it certainly is not a good time in my lifetime to see the broken Washington
the way it is.
AMANPOUR: It makes one wistful really to listen to you. And I just want you to - as President Trump prepares to fly off to Europe, tell us about
the incredible story of Lincoln's renown, how it even reached to Siberia. You have a beautiful anecdote about that.
GOODWIN: Well, Lincoln dreamed from the time he was young of doing something that would stand the test of time, that would be remembered. He
was in a near suicidal depression when he came out and said, I've not yet done anything to make any human being remember that I have lived.
But even Lincoln could never have dreamed of a story that Tolstoy told. The great Russian writer told a story to a New York reporter at the turn of
the 20th century that he'd just come back from a remote area of the Caucuses.
A group of wild barbarians who had never left that part of Russia. They were so excited to have Tolstoy in their midst. They asked him to tell
stories of the great men of history.
So, he said, I told them about Napoleon and Alexander and Julius Caesar. And then, the chief of the barbarians stood up and he said, but wait, you
haven't told us about the greatest ruler of them all. We want to hear about that man who spoke with a voice of thunder, who laughed like the
sunrise, who came from that place called America that is so far from here that if a young man should travel there, he would be an old man when he
arrived. Tell us of that man, tell us of Abraham Lincoln.
Tolstoy was stunned that Lincoln's name had reached this corner. So, he told them everything he could about Lincoln. And then the reporter said,
so what made Lincoln so great after all?
And Tolstoy said, well, he wasn't just great a general as Napoleon, not as great a statesman perhaps as Frederick the Great, but his greatness
consisted in the moral integrity of his character. And in the end, that's what we should judge all of our leaders by.
Lincoln got more than he ever dreamed.
AMANPOUR: It really is a fantastic story. Doris Kearns Goodwin, thank you so much for joining us.
[14:15:00] So, as we just heard, leadership isn't easy. And great leadership is even harder. By any standards, the Colombian President Juan
Manuel Santos has striven mightily to measure up.
If he's only remembered for bringing peace to his country after decades of war, he would go down in the history books. His term ends this summer.
And throughout, he has tirelessly negotiated with the FARC Marxist guerrillas, all the while pushing forward his case to Colombia's skeptical
And it paid off. Colombia is at peace and Santos has won a Nobel Prize. But sharing the same continent gives him a good view of President Trump's
policies. And like all leaders awaiting Trump's arrival in Davos, he tells me that he's eager to see which President Trump turns up. The angry
America first nationalist or the charmer eager to business with his counterparts.
President Santos, welcome from Davos.
JUAN MANUEL SANTOS, PRESIDENT OF COLOMBIA: Thank you for having me.
AMANPOUR: So, I have to ask you, this time last year, there you all were. And in the middle of this conference was President Trump's inauguration
with that American carnage speech, the America first speech and the darkness.
Do you remember what you all were thinking at that time in Davos?
SANTOS: Yes, I remember very well. It was a world upside down. The Chinese Prime Minister was here in Davos and he was promoting free trade,
investment, open economies. And the people were saying why is the Chinese saying that and we're hearing from the US the contrary - protectionism and
controlled trade. So, it was the world upside down. That was the mood last year.
AMANPOUR: And what do you think has changed about the intervening year? I'm hearing that most Davos goers believe that this populist wave is
SANTOS: Well, what I hope that everybody understands is that putting your country, could be the United States, Colombia, or whatever country first,
is not incompatible with free trade, with economic integration.
On the contrary, if you want to protect the interest of your country, you better be a proactive player in a world which is every day smaller, more
AMANPOUR: So, what do you expect? What are all your fellow leaders talking about as President Trump prepares to come and deliver the closing
address on Friday?
SANTOS: I hope that his message will be one of integration with the rest of the world. No economy, however big it might be, can survive by itself
in today's world. And the US or any country will be much better off if they play with the rest of the world.
AMANPOUR: Given President Trump's Twitter diplomacy and the threats from North Korea, and again that region, what would you say to him about
diplomacy if you had the chance?
SANTOS: Well, I am in no position to give advice to President Trump. But what I would not do is to have my foreign relations administered by tweets
because, in a tweet, you only can express your emotions. You cannot argue, you cannot put your state of mind or your reasons in a logical way.
So, I think that the tweet diplomacy is mutually exclusive.
AMANPOUR: And one other thing that, obviously, affects your region vis-a- vis President Trump and the America first doctrine is, of course, NAFTA - the constant threat to either radically change it or even ditch it.
Do you think that that's what's going to happen?
SANTOS: I hope not. Nobody will gain by doing away with NAFTA. Mexico would lose. The United States would lose. Canada would lose. And I think
the whole region would lose.
AMANPOUR: And what would you say to the president who is constantly telling his people, his base, his voters that NAFTA is very bad for
SANTOS: I would say that NAFTA is not bad for the American workers. I think NAFTA is good for everybody. And the United States would be better
in the long run if they open up to the rest of the world.
If they close, the United States will be the one that will hurt the most.
AMANPOUR: Let me ask you about your region now. You are bang next door to Venezuela, which appears to be imploding politically and economically.
[14:20:02] And there are stunning statistics about the number of desperate Venezuelans coming across the border to your country. I think over the
last year, nearly quarter of a million Venezuelans, I mean, those are staggering numbers. How are you dealing with them? Your own economy is
not faring brilliantly.
SANTOS: Yes. This is a major concern to us. And it's something that, every day, it is a matter of discussion. Every day, we have more and more
Venezuelans coming into Colombia. So far, we have been able to absorb them.
But we are very concerned. I talked about this with the secretary general of the United Nations that went to Colombia a few days ago. We're going to
set up a scheme to see how we can deal with this increasing problem because it's like a snowball. It increases every day. And, of course, it's of
great concern to us.
AMANPOUR: So, explain to our viewers, both in the United States and around the world, why they're so desperate? And by the way, apparently, a total
of more than a million Venezuelans have special cards to allow them to come and buy scarce goods in your country.
SANTOS: Unfortunately, the Venezuelan regime has not accepted the help in terms of food or medicine. We have offered them, but they are in a state
of denial. They say, no, we don't have a crisis. And, therefore, they reject not only our offer of help, but the international community, which
People are dying of hunger and lack of medicine and the government simply doesn't accept that there's a crisis. So, it's very difficult to manage,
but the Venezuelans that are coming to Colombia are welcome with open arms and open hearts.
I think it's our duty to do that.
AMANPOUR: So, let's get back to the FARC peace process. Is that sticking? Are the people of Colombia still supporting the fact that you made peace
with these very, very brutal and violent guerillas?
SANTOS: Well, yes, because we have had the most tranquil and the safest year in 50 years last year precisely because the FARC gave up their arms
and are now a political party.
People are now going to regions where they never went because of the war. Of course, this takes time. There's still a lot of discussions about where
you draw the line between peace and justice. Some people are still not in agreement with what we did. That is comprehensible. I understand that.
But the step that we took to finish the war of 50 years with such consequences that we had and now we're leading a new life. This is
something that the Colombians are more and more appreciating.
AMANPOUR: So, how much of a threat is the fact that the other big group, the ELN, another major rebel group, has not solidified any kind of peace
agreement with you despite your efforts? And in fact, they've been attacking security forces, blowing up a pipeline, an oil pipeline.
SANTOS: Well, this is a much smaller group. And we have sat down again. Day before yesterday, I ordered my chief negotiator to go to Quito where
they're meeting with the ELN to negotiate a new ceasefire in order to continue with the negotiations.
We have already agreed an agenda. And, hopefully, if what they say that they are serious about reaching an agreement, if that is true, then from
our part, we have all the will in the world to reach an agreement as soon as possible, and that will be a very important step forward.
But as I say, at this very moment, they're discussing a new ceasefire. And I hope we can reach an agreement soon on that also.
AMANPOUR: In August, your eight-year term comes to an end. What do you think was the biggest challenge, the most difficult thing that you had to
do as present and what do you believe and hope your legacy will be?
SANTOS: There's no doubt that the biggest challenge was to finish a war of 54 years. And thank God, we were able to do that. And at the same time,
we started to construct peace.
I say that constructing peace is like constructing a cathedral. You have to have a solid base. And then, brick by brick, and what we have done on
the other areas, on the social area - for example, Colombia has been the country in Latin America that has narrowed more the gap between rich and
[14:25:00] We took out of poverty more than 5 million Colombians. We have made education free for every kid in Colombia in public schools. We now
have universal coverage in health. We have advanced a lot in the social indicators.
We have a stronger economy, with no doubt than what we had eight years ago, a more inclusive economy and a more inclusive democracy, because of the
And I hope that that my successor continues building on what we have built.
AMANPOUR: It's an amazing turnaround.
SANTOS: We have a brighter future. Of course, we still have a long way to go. But, fortunately, what any head of state can say, we advance in the
AMANPOUR: Well, by any standards, it's a success story. President Juan Manuel Santos, thank you for joining us from Davos.
SANTOS: Thank you, Christiane.
AMANPOUR: And that is it for our program tonight.
Remember, you can always listen to our podcast and see us online at amanpour.com and follow me on Facebook and Twitter. Thanks for watching
and goodbye from London.