Return to Transcripts main page


North Korea's Propaganda Machine Gets A Makeover; Rick Perry's Scandal-Free Tenure As Energy Secretary; 'Colin Quinn: Comedian Colin Quinn On Social Media's Political Impact. Aired 8-9p

Aired May 25, 2019 - 20:00   ET


[20:00:00] ANA CABRERA, CNN ANCHOR: Swampman Joe Biden, a low IQ individual, and worse. Perhaps that's sending me signal?"

CNN's Pamela Brown joins us from Tokyo with more now.

Pamela, the list of people who were likely disturbed by these missile tests include his host, Shinzo Abe, and his own National Security adviser John Bolton. Do you think Bolton is the real target here? He and the president have recently sparred over Iran policy.

PAMELA BROWN, SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, the timing makes you think that this was in response to John Bolton. He was here in Tokyo recently, saying -- going further than anyone else in the Trump administration, that the short range missile testing by North Korea violated the U.N. Security Council resolutions. So it seems as though this tweet was intended to undercut John Bolton but it's also a slap in the face to Prime Minister Abe, this tweet expressing confidence in Kim Jong-un, and downplaying the short range missile testing.

Of course those short range missiles are of great concern to the Japanese. And what the president said flies in the face of what Prime Minister Abe has said, which is what John Bolton said, that it is a violation of the U.N. Security Resolution. The Japanese view that testing by North Korea as simply unacceptable. So while the president has said that before, shortly after the testing happened, the timing is what is so surprising, just before he goes golfing with Prime Minister Abe near where I am here in Tokyo, and during this state visit to Japan, where Abe is really rolling out the red carpet for the president.

So the big question moving forward is, what are the discussions going to be like moving forward on trade and defense? Those are the big items that the two leaders are expected to discuss. So will this impact that at all? Will Abe be offended by the president's tweet? It remains to be seen. At the same time, the administration is really downplaying any expectations to come out of the talks between the two leaders, saying this visit really is more about a ceremony than substance.

And of course later today, Ana, the president will be going to a sumo wrestling match where he's going to be handing over the president's cup to the winner. I'm told it's 54 inches tall, 60 to 70 pounds. So you have this state visit here where there's a lot of pomp and circumstance, the president meeting with the newly-crowned emperor, the first foreign leader to do so. But at the same time he sends out this tweet and it was really unexpected because it's something that really as I said earlier could offend Prime Minister Abe, Ana.

CABRERA: Let me ask you about that, Pam, but I do want to let our viewers know what they're looking at as you were speaking, which was at the golf course, we believe the president and the prime minister are expected to play a round here any moment. We didn't see the president. I was watching closely there, getting off the chopper. It appeared to just be staff but we'll keep an eye on that.

In the meantime, it does seem that Abe has gone out of his way to make sure the president feels important. He will be the first foreign leader to visit since the new emperor assumed the throne. As you mentioned he's getting special recognition at that sumo wrestling event where he gets to present the winner with the President's Cup. A lot of special preparation and planning has gone into this.

Does it seem like President Trump is just thumbing his nose at Mr. Abe? How are Japanese officials reacting to this tweet?

BROWN: Well, certainly it could bring more scrutiny to Prime Minister Abe because there are some of his political rivals, those in the media who have criticized Abe for going too far in embracing President Trump without any big deliverable in return, without any big payoff. Of course the president hasn't adopted the Japanese view as it pertains to North Korea, the president pulled out of TPP. But what I think you're seeing from Prime Minister Abe is a view of the long game, trying to convince President Trump that actually the short term -- the short range missiles are very serious and trying to work with the president when it comes to trade.

Of course the U.S. is one of Japan's biggest trading partners, and Abe so far has successfully staved off those auto tariffs. Now the administration did put a six-month deadline on that to work out a potential deal. And so it is true that this tweet from the president kind of set the tone moving forward, and it will be interesting to see, Ana, what this first face-to-face meeting will be like between President Trump and Abe right there on the golf course.

CABRERA: All right. Pamela Brown in Tokyo, thank you.

I want to bring in Washington correspondent for "New York" magazine Olivia Nuzzi and CNN senior political analyst Ryan Lizza.

Guys, let's start with this bizarre tweet from the president just as he's about to go golfing with the prime minister, as he's expressing confidence in Kim Jong-un, downplaying their short-range missile tests.

What do you think the strategy here, Olivia?

OLIVIA NUZZI, WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT, NEW YORK MAGAZINE: Well, as always, I don't know if there is a strategy because it is Donald Trump. I have to say it is a nice break from his re-tweets of Jon Voight which has pretty much monopolized his Twitter account for the last couple -- last day. I don't think that there is much of a strategy, and I'm sure that the people around the president, you know, were not expecting this. Sometimes he tweets things and it's an utter surprise to even his closest advisers.

[20:05:10] CABRERA: If I'm Abe, I think I would be angry to see, after everything we've done for you, this is how you treat me?

RYAN LIZZA, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: There are so many weird things going on in this tweet, it's like, where do you start? From Abe's perspective, it's, well, what happened to our united front against North Korea, right? From John Bolton, his top, you know, National Security adviser, it's wait a second, Mr. President, I believe these missile launches violate U.N. Security Council resolutions, why are you giving the North Koreans a pass on this? And frankly, to me, the strangest part of the whole episode is him siding with the dictator of North Korea in this bizarre, you know -- but really not bizarre for the North Koreans, right. This is kind of par for the course, the things that they write about Joe Biden.

There was a time in American politics that the idea that an American president would praise or at least tacitly be on the side of someone like the leader of North Korea, who is making fun of and mocking an American former vice president, no matter what party, that people would be absolutely outraged, from both parties.

So like, I just say we need to take a moment and think about how strange that is, that after all that's gone on with Russia and Trump and this tacitly sort of endorsing the Russian campaign of assistance in 2016, that he's taken this a step further and is giving a signal to a regime like North Korea that if you attack a leading American politician, I don't have any problem with it.

CABRERA: As we look at these live pictures, we do see the prime minister there on the golf course and a whole bunch of other people, aides presumably, members of his entourage, still waiting on the president.

Olivia, given that the president is going after Biden in this tweet, taking sides with the North Korean dictator, praising him for slamming the former vice president and misspelling Biden's last name, but as he's saying he hasn't but Biden has a low IQ.

LIZZA: Maybe it was a different Biden.

CABRERA: But he says, you know, maybe the North Korean leader is sending me a signal. What do you think it means?

NUZZI: Right. Well, I think that Donald Trump would side with anybody no matter how abhorrent, if they were supporting him or if he believed that they were supporting him. I don't think that he thinks very analytically about whether or not it is good for the country, good for our legacy, good for our standing in the world, if he does something like this. I think he thinks what's good for me, and in a split second decision, sending a tweet or telling one of his aides to fire off a tweet, I think that's probably the calculation. I don't think it goes much deeper than that. But I -- CABRERA: What signal is he indicating that --

LIZZA: Right. That's -

CABRERA: -- the North Korean leader is sending him?

LIZZA: That he likes Trump over Biden if it comes to the two of them.

NUZZI: Right. That they have some kind of secret language that the rest of us are not picking up on. I think it's very unusual. But I think it's also Donald Trump wants us to believe that he -- don't worry, whatever North Korea is doing, he knows what the real intentions are, right? And I think that this is another way of him to try to convey that, however not tethered to reality it is.

CABRERA: Guys, you're looking at live pictures right now of the golf course where Trump and the prime minister are about to play a round of golf. And as you can see Trump and Abe have arrived. These two have played multiple rounds of golf before in Japan and in Florida. This one comes again hours after Trump downplayed the threat of short-range missile tests from North Korea in a tweet.

The area where the men would play playing golf was the epicenter of a strong earthquake in fact on Saturday. Of course it's already Sunday there in Tokyo, and in Japan, where they're playing this golf round. But the tremor, we're told, did not cause any damage. So here they go on their golf course journey.

Ryan, you know, this week Tillerson said Trump was underprepared for the meeting with Vladimir Putin at the G-20 summit. And then yesterday we had some reporting here on CNN about how Trump spends his time on Air Force One. So as he is heading to Japan, think about this, they say he's, you know, really not sleeping, but he is spending time watching hours on TV, and calling friends back home. He also tweets about Joe Biden, apparently.

What should Trump be doing in order to prepare to tackle this trip?

LIZZA: I mean, traditionally what presidents do in the run-up to one of these trips, and different presidents have, you know, done it in different ways, but at the very least they have, you know, pretty substantial briefing books where they're learning -- they might be learning about the psychological nature of their -- of the people they're going to meet with. They're learning about the differences and then -- that they have on important policy issues. They're learning about the goals of the meeting, right? I mean, all the stuff of foreign policy that an American president needs to prepare for.

[20:10:01] We didn't see any of that in that great report by Kaitlan Collins about what the president does on Air Force One in these trips. We pretty much got a view of what he's like in the White House, right?

NUZZI: Right. Which is easily bored, wants constant stimulation and wants people sort of to play with him whenever he feels like he's got nothing to do, right, waking people up. I mean, the details in that story were pretty staggering, even if they weren't quite surprising. LIZZA: Yes.

CABRERA: What would a win, Olivia, look like for the president at the end of this trip?

NUZZI: Well, I think what would it look like for him in his eyes, I don't know. I think if they were to come away with some kind of progress on a deal that would perhaps be a win for everybody. But it doesn't seem, based on the reporting, like that's going to happen. It seems like now he may be waiting until July, right, until after the elections in Japan. So --

LIZZA: And it's not -- it doesn't seem like -- they seem like they've kept expectations for the trip.

NUZZI: Right.

LIZZA: Really low.

NUZZI: I think they've learned a lesson from the last summit with Kim Jong-un, perhaps, not that they learned a lot of lessons over there, but it does seem like maybe instead of walking away empty-handed, they've decided to make everyone think that they won't be walking away with anything at all.


LIZZA: Yes. Yes.

CABRERA: And Abe is pulling out all the stops. We kind of listed them earlier.


CABRERA: What do you think he's trying to get out of this?

LIZZA: Well, look, Abe has been one of the most sophisticated foreign leaders when it comes to building a relationship with Donald Trump. Remember he met with Trump in his apartment at Trump Tower during the transition. He built a relationship very early on. And, you know, from what I've seen, he has a pretty sophisticated understanding of how to make Trump your friend, and that is to -- it's actually pretty simple actually. You have to flatter him, treat him like a -- you know, like a very, very important person, invite him to the big sumo wrestling match.

CABRERA: Let him deliver the trophy.

LIZZA: Trophy, maybe --

NUZZI: Very relatable, when you think about it.

LIZZA: But he -- I mean, he -- I mean, he's got Trump's number. Now I don't know how much he's gotten out of the relationship so far because they still have some differences, especially on how to deal with North Korea. But Trump's never attacked him certainly. And, you know, there are a lot of trade issues that Trump -- important trade imbalances in the Japanese-American relationship. Trump has never -- he's always been very gentle in dealing with that issue.

So, you know, Abe was the first one to sort of, you know, write this sort of roadmap on how a foreign leader can, you know, co-opt Trump in a sense and, you know, he's got a trip here that's mostly about golf, having a good time, and showing -- you know, and showing off the president, putting him in a good light, all things that Trump wants to do. Not a trip where there's a lot that either said has said there's going to be big substantive, you know, policy breakthroughs.

NUZZI: It seems a bit like a vacation.

CABRERA: Yes. Well, I was also thinking, you know, given everything that went on here in the U.S. before this trip, this must be a welcome relief from the court rulings that didn't go in his favor, including the most recent one that had to do with his border wall, which a judge said no, you can't, you know, put defense funds toward that, that's something Congress has to appropriate. And then of course the rulings related to his financial documents and -- that Congress had subpoenaed, and the two different judges that ruled in the Congress' favor.

Do you think that he saw this as a reset?

NUZZI: I think any change of scenery is a reset. And I think he knows that. He's pretty savvy about that type of stuff. He's gone to great lengths in the past to change the conversation, as we call it, when a news cycle is not going his way. And it frequently is not in this White House. And that's when he's most likely to fire off a tweet, to pick a fight with a member of the media or a celebrity or god knows who else. And I think he probably is welcoming this change of scenery for those reasons. And he loves to play golf so.

CABRERA: Both of you, thank you so much.

LIZZA: Thanks, Ana.

NUZZI: Thank you.

CABRERA: Ryan Lizza, Olivia Nuzzi, good to see you guys.

LIZZA: Thank you.

CABRERA: She was injured and alone in a remote Hawaii forest. Coming up, the remarkable story of how a missing hiker was found alive after 17 days.


[20:17:50] CABRERA: Welcome back. We have an amazing story for you. This is from Hawaii. Amanda Eller went on what was supposed to be a day hike in Maui and vanished. Friend scoured the forest for more than two weeks until finally they looked down from a helicopter and they saw the 35-year-old yoga instructor walking barefoot in a mountain ravine and waving her arms. It turns out Eller had gotten lost in these woods and over the course

of 17 days, she ate fruit, she found water from the river. But she also suffered severe sunburn. She fractured her lower leg. She got a skin infection.

You're looking at a video right now that shows the dramatic moment Eller was airlifted to safety.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And there she goes.


CABRERA: The last hour I spoke to two of the men who helped rescue Amanda Eller. One of them you see there. They told us about the scramble just to get to her in rough terrain. Watch this.


TROY HELMER, HELPED RESCUE AMANDA ELLER: We were trying to get there, whoever could run over each other first trying to get there. It was awesome.

CHRIS BERQUIST, COORDINATED SEARCH FOR AMANDA ELLER: Yes. Javier would lay down in the grass and we'd run over Javier. And the next person would lay down because (INAUDIBLE). We were trying to run, trying not to cry, trying not to scream too much, but get there, get there, get there, slow down, we're going to make it, it's OK. It's amazing. Absolutely amazing.


CABRERA: A short time ago Eller herself spoke from her hospital bed, talking about her scary experience.


AMANDA ELLER, RESCUED HIKER: In the last 17 days of my life, it's been the toughest days of my life. And it's been a really significant spiritual journey that I was guided on. And there were times of total fear and loss and wanting to give up. And it did come down to life and death and I had to choose. And I chose life. I wasn't going to take the easy way out. Even though that meant more suffering and pain for myself. But this is just like a tiny little book of my story and my life.


[20:20:11] CABRERA: Wilderness survival expert Tim MacWelch, the founder and head instructor at Advance Survival Training School, joins us now.

Tim, first your reaction to this woman's survival after being lost in the wilderness for more than two weeks. TIM MACWELCH, WILDERNESS SURVIVAL EXPERT: Hi, Ana. You know, I'm

thrilled, I'm so happy for her. I've been writing stories for "Outdoor Life" magazine for over a decade and a lot of them have been sad stories with unhappy endings. But to see somebody like Miss Eller who can show us exactly what we are capable of, it makes me so happy.

CABRERA: Amanda's mom spoke earlier about some of the things her daughter has learned and how that may have helped her during this ordeal. Let's listen.


JULIA ELLER, MOTHER OF RESCUED HIKER: And I'm very thankful that Amanda, through her friends, had all these survival skills under her belt. You know, she knew what to look for. She knew what kind of plants she could eat and what to do to nourish her body. She knew that water was important. She did actually work on her knee while she was there, she's a physical therapist, a doctor of physical therapy, and so she used those skills to do what she could with her knee injury, to allow her to continue going, you know.

And she lost her shoes, you know, through the flash flooding that happened a while back. You know, she was out there in that. She had taken her shoes off to try out and unfortunately they were swept away in the flash flood. So not only was she injured, she had no shoes as well. So it was -- she's a trouper, man. She's a real warrior. And I had no doubt if anybody could make it through it, it was her.


CABRERA: Her mom also spoke about how Amanda's yoga background may have helped her stay grounded and calm. How much of a difference do you think these things made?

MACWELCH: They make all the difference, Ana. It's such an important thing for people right off the bat, when they realize they're in trouble, to not panic. You cannot panic when you realize you're in a situation that's scary, that's frightening, that's beyond your control. And so had she panicked early on, we may not have the outcome, we may not have the happy ending that we have in this story. But her background, her training, her expedience, her confidence in the outdoors, her confidence through her profession, these are all assets that she was able to take advantage of in this pretty grim ordeal.

CABRERA: Yes. I mean, 17 days, how much longer do you think Amanda could have survived?

MACWELCH: With the photos I saw from the infections on her ankles and feet, that's -- you know, I'm no physician, but that's something that the body can't tolerate for long. She may have had a couple of more weeks out there, but I don't know.

CABRERA: Let's talk bigger picture, what are some of the common mistakes people make in these scenarios? MACWELCH: A lot of stories start out with someone going out by

themselves. And that's something that's kind of strike number one in this story and a lot of other stories like this. So by embracing the buddy system, by taking someone with you when you go into the great outdoors, even if it's just a short little hike in a familiar place, by taking someone else with you, you have strength in numbers. You have somebody there to watch your back, somebody there to go for help in case you become immobilized.

CABRERA: And what would you say, beyond taking somebody with you, should you find yourself lost in the wilderness, hopefully it never happens to any of us, but what should we do? What's the number one thing?

MACWELCH: The number one thing is what this young lady did day after day and night after night. She did not panic. She remained calm. She did whatever she had to do through her yoga practice, through her breathing. Focusing on some small task is all we really need to take our mind away from a panicked state and into a more relaxed and more productive state of mind. It's all going to fall back to positive mental attitude. If somebody can remain positive in a crisis, they're going to have a better outcome.

CABRERA: Right. Tim MacWelch, I appreciate your time. Thanks so much for joining us.

MACWELCH: Thank you.

CABRERA: Coming up, a deadly week on the world's tallest mountain as a human traffic jam near the summit leaves climbers waiting in perilous conditions.


[20:28:04] CABRERA: Multiple climbers have died on Mount Everest amid reports of overcrowding, where climbers are stuck waiting in a death zone for hours before they can summit the world's tallest mountain.

CNN's Alexandra Field has more.


ALEXANDRA FIELD, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): For Donald Cash, it was the final frontier, the summit of Mount Everest, the crowning achievement for the 55-year-old from Utah who had met his lifelong goal, reaching the top of the highest mountain on every continent. But his few minutes on top of the world's highest mountain would be a few of his last. His expedition group says Cash died of high altitude sickness.

SKYLER PEARSON, DONALD CASH'S FRIEND: He fell on the way down just below the summit and then they kind of carried him down, helped him down a little ways and then he kind of take his last breaths.

FIELD: On the same day during her descent, Anjali Kulkarni took her final breaths. She had trained to summit Everest for six years. She had trekked for 25 years and she was an avid marathoner. Kulkarni's son tells CNN she collapsed and died while caught in a human traffic jam coming down the mountain.

A picture taken on the day of Cash and Kulkarni's deaths, May 22nd, shows a long line of trekkers on the ridge of Everest's summit in an area known as the death zone. It has raised concerns about the possible dangers of congestion on Everest among mountaineers.

KENTON COOL, VETERAN CLIMBER: And I think you would have to be foolish to say that queue in or that waiting at such high altitude isn't having some impact on the numbers of deaths that we've seen this year.

FIELD: Nepal's tourism board says more than 200 mountaineers ascended Everest on May 22nd after a bad patch of weather cleared, giving climbers a key opening to reach for a dream. But the tourism board says claims that congestion contributed to deaths are baseless. There were five deaths on the mountain last year, six deaths the year before that, and one before that.

The site of Cash's final climb will likely be his final resting place. It's where the bodies of most who died trying to scale Everest remains. Climbers who continue to inspire others to dare to try to reach that height.

[20:30:11] UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He did make it. He actually summited.

FIELD: Alexandra Field, CNN, New York.

ANA CABRERA, CNN ANCHOR: Coming up, sprucing up, state T.V. North Korea looks to the West to give its propaganda machine a makeover.


CABRERA: President Trump in Japan right now. In just a few minutes ago, he and his host, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, stepped onto the golf course. But before he did, the president tweeted something that contradicts his own national security advisor, and downplay something that regularly puts the people of Japan on edge.

Here is the tweet. "North Korea fired off some small weapons which disturbed some of my people and others, but not me." Let's pause for a moment and look at why Japan has good reason to be disturbed when North Korea test fires missiles.

This shows the most recent test launched from North Korea. Those missiles landed in the sea, not always so close. Some of North Korea's test missiles have actually flown over Japanese territory in the past.

Now, in the meantime, North Korea's propaganda machine is getting a makeover. As the pink lady who was the T.V. face of the regime for decades gives way to a new generation and new techniques. CNN's Brian Todd reports.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: She is called the pink lady. North Korean state televisions version of Walter Cronkite. For decades, Ri Chun-hee delivered North Korea's most grand announcements with breathless energy.

Once even donning all black and crying openly as she announced the death of Kim Jong-un's father. But now, it appears North Korean state television is looking to refresh its image. Putting Ri Chun-hee into semi-retirement.

The pink lady's traditional dress and artistic backdrop have been replaced with younger anchors and a sleeker T.V. studio look for its propaganda filled newscasts. While it's all still propaganda, it looks decidedly Western with reporters out into the field covering regular North Korean citizens, and fancy graphics, drone footage, and even time-lapse video.

[20:35:46] JEAN LEE, FORMER BUREAU CHIEF, ASSOCIATED PRESS IN PYONGYANG: This is something that they want to tell their people. We are modernizing under our young leader, and with his youth comes, a whole new level of technology.

TODD: In one instance, they even staged an interruption on set. A presenter walks in and hands the anchor papers with a breaking news update on how a steel factory is doing. Analysts who study the regime's media and propaganda machines say the change in North Korean state T.V.'s broadcasts could be influenced by more content coming in from outside North Korea.

LEE: They do also have the ability to go to the local DVD shop and buy Russian, Romanian, Chinese, T.V. soap operas and movies. And so they are aware of foreign content. And some of that is certainly seeping into how they present their T.V.

TODD: Analysts, say this is also part of Kim Jong-un's broader makeover. A retooling of North Korea's image. From that of a stodgy Cold War-era hermit kingdom to a portrayal of a modern vigorous country with a young leadership.

Part of that effort, analysts say, involves Kim promoting his younger sister Kim Yo-jong to powerful positions. Even putting her front and center at international events such as the Winter Olympics.

Cameras are even allowed to capture Kim at pop concerts with his glamorous wife, Ri Sol-ju, a former orchestra singer.

BALBINA HWANG, VISITING PROFESSOR, GEORGETOWN UNIVERSITY: Kim Jong- un is trying to show his audience that he is the young leader, he's dynamic, that he's actually the younger generation, that he's in touch with pop culture.

TODD: Kim has learned to combine modern style including wearing a Western suit at a key address with the nostalgia that he knows his citizens embrace. Crafting his appearance to look very much like his beloved grandfather, North Korea's founder Kim Il-sung.

As for those sleeker propaganda casts, experts believe they are part of Kim's plan to keep younger North Koreans in line with the regime.

LEE: His wants to get his kids hooked on drones, on devices, on technology, on cell phones. He dangles them as enticements for what their future may hold, what kind of creature comforts may lie in store for them if they're loyal to the regime.

TODD: Analysts say there is a danger with this technology and propaganda makeover for Kim's regime that with faster paced newscasts, still not airing live, but turned around much more quickly than before, and with the technology moving faster than the regime can sometimes keep up with, there's a risk that Kim and his circle could lose some control of their message. Brian Todd, CNN, Washington.


CABRERA: In the Trump Cabinet, one man stands out by not having any controversy. How Rick Perry flies under the radar at the Department of Energy? Next.


[20:42:26] CABRERA: Energy Secretary Rick Perry appears to be an exception in the scandal-plagued Trump cabinet unlike many of his colleagues. The former Texas governor has been relatively free from controversy. Here is Alex Marquardt.


ALEX MARQUARDT, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: In the Trump Cabinet, fortunes rise and fall with alarming speed. One day you're the top dog like General James Mattis.


MARQUARDT: Then, you're out.

TRUMP: What's he done for me?

MARQUARDT: Few Cabinet officials have been able to fly under the presidents and the media's radar for the past 2-1/2 years, with one significant exception, Rick Perry.

RICK PERRY, UNITED STATES SECRETARY OF ENERGY: This is the coolest job I've ever had.

MARQUARDT: The former Texas governor and presidential candidate was plucked from retirement to lead the Department of Energy, a department he'd campaigned on getting rid of and famously forgot at a debate.

PERRY: The third one I can't, sorry. Oops.

MARQUARDT: When chosen for the job, the New York Times reported that Perry didn't realize that the department maintained thousands of nuclear warheads. Yet, observers say that with an affable personality and political skills honed as a governor, Perry has managed to navigate the choppy political waters of Washington with a relatively few ripples.

SEN. JOHN KENNEDY (R-LA): Rick understands that in our business, particularly when you're working for someone else, you keep your head and your rear end down. So that neither one of them gets shot off.

MARQUARDT: Perry has largely steered clear of the scandals and gaffes of fellow Cabinet members. Avoiding the extravagance of Tom Price and Scott Pruitt are moments like this from Ben Carson.

REP. KATIE PORTER (D-CA): Do you know what an REO is?



PORTER: R -- no, not an Oreo. An R, E, O. R, E, O.

MARQUARDT: He's had some controversial headlines, but nothing that has really stuck.

AMANDA CARPENTER, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Rick Perry has the benefit that he has an agency that doesn't come under a ton of congressional pressure. There hasn't been any epic fights related to the energy department between Congress and the White House. So, that's a big benefit.

MARQUARDT: It's not that the Dancing with the Stars alum shuns the limelight. But after hanging up his dancing shoes, he came to Washington and started traveling the world promoting U.S. energy interests.

PERRY: It is very, very important for the world, for the Middle East, for the United States to be the partner. And as many of this development of civil nuclear energy programs as we can be.

[20:45:02] MARQUARDT: Aides have said he's been planning his exit. If he does leave, Perry seems determined to not join the long list of officials who have left unceremoniously.

KENNEDY: I think the secretary is smart, but he's also savvy. He understands human nature, human relations, and politics.


CABRERA: That is Alex Marquardt, reporting.

Coming up, comedian Colin Quinn, talks the absurdities, the hypocrisies, the calamities on both sides of the political divide.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is comedian Colin Quinn. You know hi, from SNL's "Weekend Update", MTV's "Remote Control", and Comedy Central's "Tough Crowd". And now, he is coming to CNN with "RED STATE BLUE STATE". COLIN QUINN, ANCHOR, SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE: Anybody, can grow up and become president of the United States. Maybe he said anybody, they won't kidding on that one.

ANNOUNCER: The comedy special based on his hit of broadway show. Their critics were impressed. Colin takes aim at both sides of a political divide.

QUINN: Russia played history perfectly. From day one, they go (INAUDIBLE).

ANNOUNCER: With his signature mix of history, social commentary and pop culture.

QUINN: If you getting 20 great speeches since our country began, I'm wrong, but you can't. This been like five. The one with the king's speech, the John F. Kennedy speech, and the next three were ended the season monologues on the bachelor.

ANNOUNCER: Colin Quinn, "RED STATE BLUE STATE", CNN's first comedy special, premier's Memorial Day, at 9:00.


[20:50:14] CABRERA: This is a big moment for CNN. Our first ever comedy special. It's happening on Memorial Day, and "COLIN QUINN: RED STATE BLUE STATE" is the name, created by and starring comedian Colin Quinn. He takes a look at the sometimes nasty rhetoric creating so much division in America today. And he wonders if the United States should actually stay united after all. Here is a preview.


QUINN: And I understand it's sad breaking up the United States, but we're already broken up. This would just be acknowledging it. We're already tribal. We're broken into tribes already, it's over. Liberal, Conservative, White, Black, Latino, Asian, Wall Street, Main Street, the working poor, the forgotten middle class, feminists, soccer moms, Bernie bros, Dodd bods, man tips, mom jeans, muffin tops, unibrows the paleo, cardio, kido, intersexual, and transvegans. We are more tribal than 18th century Afghanistan. Yes. Admit it. Yes.


CABRERA: Colin Quinn, the man is here with me right now. Colin, for somebody like you who is really always searching for the odd and the absurd, and really the unprecedented nature of things when it comes to politics, this must be the gravy days for you.

I mean, it must be like a stack just drops right in front of you every day.

QUINN: Well, because of Trump, do you mean?


QUINN: Yes, but remember, every --


CABRERA: Well, just not Trump, but the politics in general that we're seeing right now.

QUINN: Well, yes. I mean, it's -- you know, it's first of all, Trump is a blessing and a curse because everybody is talking about him all the time. So, with comedy, when you say something that every -- is in the news on every comedies, you have to be -- you know, I mean you have to be very spare with it. You have to try to find out. And like I said --


CABRERA: Like almost like overstimulation?

QUINN: Yes. So, you know, you say it never was like, I said that joke yesterday, March, March until it said attacking women in module these years. But yes, but also, like I say in the show, the problem began before Trump, and it's going to be after Trump.

Trump is just a symptom of what goes on in this country, which is that people of different opinions and they don't get along.

CABRERA: I want to play another clip from "RED STATE BLUE STATE". This is your take on the American two-party system. Let's watch.


QUINN: John Adam, said the two-party system is a greatest political evil under our Constitution. George Washington cautioned in his farewell address against excessive political party spirits and geographical distinction. Wise words. They tell us what to do about it? They did not. They just said it and they died. Now, he left us to figure it out.

Real geniuses. America, two-party still, all these years later, two parties. There's 350 million people, and there's two-party. There's 15 genders and its two party. As four bathrooms on his appointees.


CABRERA: So, what do you think is the solution, Colin? More parties may need. We've seen Libertarians --


QUINN: More parties would probably move seen it work else -- or not work elsewhere.

CABRERA: It hasn't worked here, though?

QUINN: Right. But what about this? What about a radical idea, we have a constitutional convention once a year where everybody says what they want without any blowback, any social media feedback -- any feedback whatsoever.

You had all the great minds for one month a year but nobody's allowed to comment, nobody's allowed to have them fired for whatever they say and try to get people to speak really brutally honestly.

CABRERA: But what would you think social media as a big problem?

QUINN: Well, yes. I mean, I talked about in the show it's like -- you know, it's one of those things that sounded like a great idea. It sounded like the ultimate democracy we became drunks at a wedding, grabbing the microphone out of the best man's hand in the middle of his speech -- you know.

What people just -- everybody just feels like they have to speak all the time. There's -- right now they're tweeting about this. Everywhere you go, people like, I got to make sure I weigh in on everything, you know.

CABRERA: Yes, and it gives everybody a voice.

QUINN: It gives every -- a voice.

CABRERA: What do you think -- what do you think Trump will tweet after the special?

QUINN: I mean, the worst thing he tweet is, "Great special, fantastic."

CABRERA: Why is that the worst that he could tweet?

QUINN: (INAUDIBLE). That's like -- that's box office. That's like the producers.

CABRERA: But they say, all publicity is good publicity, right?

QUINN: Yes, that's what they say. Yes. I guess, oh, yes.

CABRERA: I want to play another clip from the show, another great moment. Here is where you imagine what a civil war would look like today and it's not pretty.


QUINN: So, the problem is not out there, problem is in here. We have met the enemy and is us. And now, we're at risk of a civil war. And you don't want to see a civil war in this country. This country is not built for another civil war. It's going to be the first time in history that you see fat refugees. That's not going to be a good look.

Refugees in jorts and flip-flops and Dunder Mifflin t-shirts, pulling coolers towards the Canadian border. It's been look like a giant cattle drive. There's nothing glamorous, 50 years from now, kids are in history class, reading about the battle of six flags, the siege of Dave & Busters.


[20:55:32] CABRERA: All right, let me put you on the spot. Name a person who could leave this country right now and unify the country, bring everybody back together without becoming a dictator. Who is that person?

QUINN: Caitlyn Jenner. No, I don't know. I mean, I'm -- I don't know right now, it's hard to say if there's one person that could do that. Like I said, we're so divided and so tribal that you would almost -- I feel like you have to break it up to bring it back together. I feel like it's like one of those marriages where it's over just constant bickering, everybody's just had each other's throats.

CABRERA: How would breaking it up bring it back together?

QUINN: Well, because then, I think people would say, oh, you know what, maybe I was just too focused on a little problem. You know, I mean --


CABRERA: And that's what you took for granted.

QUINN: Yes, exactly.

CABRERA: Interesting. I'm excited to see the special, it sounds very thought-provoking.

QUINN: Thanks.

CABRERA: Colin Quinn, good to have you with us.

QUINN: Thanks, Ana.

CABRERA: Thank you very much for coming in.

QUINN: Thank you so much.

CABRERA: And be sure to tune in to CNN original series special presentation, "COLIN QUINN: RED STATE BLUE STATE" that premiers Memorial Day, at 9:00 p.m. Eastern. Watch it as it airs or set your DVR now. Again, Monday 9:00 p.m. only on CNN.

That does it for me, I'm Ana Cabrera. "UNITED STATES OF AMERICA" is next.