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Interview With Author David Gelles; Interview With Ed Yong; January 6 Committee Holds Public Hearing; Interview with "The Man Who Broke Capitalism" Author David Gelles; Interview with ABBA Member Bjorn Ulvaeus. Aired 1-2p ET
Aired June 13, 2022 - 13:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
BIANNA GOLODRYGA, CNN INTERNATIONAL HOST: Hello, everyone, and welcome to AMANPOUR.
Here's what's coming up.
REP. ZOE LOFGREN (D-CA): The big lie was also a big ripoff.
GOLODRYGA (voice-over): Brand-new evidence, as the January 6 public hearings continue. I get analysis and reaction from law and ethics expert
Norm Eisen and ex-FBI Special Agent Asha Rangappa.
Then: the secret sensory superpowers of animals. Pulitzer Prize-winning writer Ed Yong reveals the hidden realms of an immense world.
DAVID GELLES, AUTHOR, "THE MAN WHO BROKE CAPITALISM": I think this focus on short-term profits has had a cascading long-term effect.
GOLODRYGA: Author David Gelles talks to Walter Isaacson about the lasting impact of GE's former CEO Jack Welch, the man who broke capitalism.
And, finally, ABBA member Bjorn Ulvaeus takes us into the future with a look at the group's groundbreaking virtual concert.
GOLODRYGA: Welcome to the program, everyone. I'm Bianna Golodryga in New York, sitting in for Christiane Amanpour.
Donald Trump knew he lost the election, yet conned millions of Americans into thinking there was fraud and that he was the rightful Victor anyway.
That's the allegation laid out publicly today by the January 6 Committee. The proof put forward? Well, Trump's own advisers and the attorney general,
who said that they told Trump they did not see any evidence of fraud that could change the election outcome.
What's more, Trump's campaign manager says that he warned the former president that the ballots on Election Day would take days to come in and
that he should not prematurely declare victory on election night.
But according to other team members around that night, an apparently inebriated Rudy Giuliani convinced Trump otherwise.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BILL STEPIEN, TRUMP 2020 CAMPAIGN MANAGER: My recommendation was to say that votes were still being counted. It's too early to tell, too early to
call the race, but we are proud of the race we run -- we ran. And we think we're -- think we're in good position.
The president disagreed with that. I don't recall the particular words. He thought I was wrong. He told me so, and that they were going to go in -- he
was going to go in a different direction.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GOLODRYGA: Norm Eisen is an attorney and senior fellow at Brookings who recently authored a guide to the hearings called "Trump on Trial." And Asha
Rangappa is also a lawyer and a former FBI special agent.
Welcome, both of you.
Norm, let me begin with you and get your thoughts on what we heard today and how it stands relative to what we heard Thursday. Obviously, we know
that was the first night of hearings aired in prime time with some 20 million audience tuning in.
NORM EISEN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Bianna, thanks for having me back.
And I thought today was a very successful follow-up to the blockbuster prime-time hearings in the U.S. commenced last Thursday. The committee had
laid out a seven-part conspiracy that they say led to the terrible violence, the insurrection of January 6. And, today, they began where you
must, at the beginning, the first stage of that conspiracy, that Trump lost the election, that he knew it, and he persisted in attacking the election
And it was a devastating stream of testimony on video and in person from conservatives, as far as we know, almost all Republicans and former Trump
allies, for the most part, perhaps the most devastating, his former Attorney General Bill Barr, who made clear over and over again that he told
the ex-president there simply was no basis, the president's campaign manager, and many others.
A very effective follow-up today.
And, Asha, I want to focus more on what we heard from the former Attorney General Bill Barr, because it was interesting to hear Congresswoman Zoe
Lofgren suggest and allude to the lengthy amount of testimony that they had from him. But she would just air excerpts of it.
Makes you wonder just how much more he has to say and how much more we will continue to hear from him throughout these hearings.
Let me play a clip from you -- for you -- from what we heard from Bill Barr about how demoralized the situation was, to the point leading up to his
resignation, and how he felt that he just couldn't break through to the president on this very issue. Let's play it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAM BARR, FORMER U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL: They were made in such a sensational way that they obviously were influencing a lot of people,
members of the public, that there was this systemic corruption in the system, and that their votes didn't count and that these machines
controlled by somebody else, were actually determining it, which was complete nonsense.
And it was being laid out there. And I told them that it was -- it was crazy stuff, and they were wasting their time on that. And it was doing a
great, grave disservice to the country.
I was somewhat demoralized, because I thought, boy, if he really believes this stuff, he has lost contact with -- he has become detached from
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GOLODRYGA: Asha, the former attorney general went on to say that, in the past, he was able to break through to the president on certain issues, even
if it took some additional persuasion.
This was an issue that he could not break through to the president on, and thus led to his own resignation. What did you make of his comments, the
fact that the president was -- quote -- "detached from reality?"
ASHA RANGAPPA, CNN LEGAL AND NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Bianna, I don't think the president was detached from reality. I think he understood the
maxim that a lie can get halfway around the world before the truth can get its boots on.
And so his interest was in promoting a narrative as soon as he could, whether or not it was true. So we look at not just the testimony that was
presented today, but also what we know about Trump's actions. He told the DOJ, just say that the election was corrupt and leave the rest to me.
He asked the secretary of state of Georgia to find 11,870 votes, exactly what more than he needed. So he is trying to craft the narrative and get it
out there not because he's interested in actual fraud, but he wants to create the perception of fraud.
And we have seen this before, Bianna. It's very much like when he wanted President Volodymyr Zelenskyy to announce an investigation into Joe Biden,
to create the perception that there was corruption or something askew about the election.
GOLODRYGA: And, Norm, the committee's real intent here was to build a case showing that this all -- there was buildup here before election night, that
going back to the spring of 2020 was when the president had come out.
And they played clips with the president saying that if he in any way lost, it would be due to fraud, that the election would be stolen from him.
How effective was that buildup, especially given that it was married to sound from his own advisers and staffers, who were telling the committee,
and thus us, the audience, Americans, that they were telling the president otherwise, that mail-in ballots were the way many Democrats voted in the
past and that, in fact, the red mirage was something to anticipate, and that, in fact, that he should stop knocking mail-in balloting, especially
given that we were in the midst of a pandemic?
EISEN: Bianna, I thought it was a very effective buildup.
As Asha rightly points out, in the person of Donald Trump, you have someone who was found by "The Washington Post" to have lied over 30,000 times. And
his judgments, before there was -- there could possibly be any evidence to substantiate them, that, if he lost it was because of fraud, show the
And then the payoff, Bianna, they had that, by now, patented video, Twitter, audio montage to start. And then the payoff was their first
witness, Mr. Stepien, the campaign manager, a Trump ally. Bianna, he's still a Trump ally. He's the campaign manager for the candidate who's
running, Trump-endorsed, against the vice chair of this committee, Liz Cheney, but so matter of fact, calmly explaining, no, he told the president
that was not so.
Then you have the little details like the inebriated Rudy Giuliani. I thought it was very powerful in getting to the key question, intent. Did
Trump know this was false? And I believe he did after today's presentation.
GOLODRYGA: Asha, what is your take? Because we didn't hear, I mean, once from all of these -- from all of these witnesses. We heard that Trump
wasn't hearing what he wanted to hear and that the election was stolen.
So he went from -- quote, unquote -- using "team normal," which Bill Stepien was part of -- and, Norm, I'm glad that you brought that up, that
Bill Stepien made a point of saying just morally and ethically he had to leave, and yet he's still advising candidates who believe in the big
election lie. That was an interesting point.
But, Asha, we don't hear yet that the president, from his own words, knew himself that the election was not stolen, and yet continued to go down this
rabbit hole. Does that protect him in any way, shape or form?
RANGAPPA: You know, it leaves a very small sliver, I suppose, of some deniability.
But this is not -- this would not be a reasonable belief, Bianna. I mean, the president has made a big deal about his own cognitive genius, the fact
that he can say, man, woman, person, camera, TV, and his doctor has attested to that. This is not someone who is not -- is so detached from
reality that can't see the facts.
And I think his preemptive move, as Norm mentioned, the fact that there was no meaningful -- that he was willing to do this narrative before there was
any meaningful investigation of anything belies the fact that this was a good-faith belief that he had.
But I will add, Bianna, the reason that we're focusing on intent is because this goes to his criminal exposure. The corrupt intent is necessary to
prove things like an intent to defraud the United States. One thing that also counts against him in this is the fact that he continued to fund-raise
on the big lie, even though it was no longer being used for litigation.
So I think that there was a monetary benefit coming his way as well that will go to his intent.
And Zoe Lofgren pointed that out at the close there, that, in a way, in a sense, he duped the American public and his supporters by fund-raising off
Norm, does this -- obviously, we know that this isn't a criminal investigation. Will -- in your opinion, will it lead to one? Will the DOJ
step in, given any of the evidence that you have seen laid out thus far? Because, as you know, there is a lot of pressure on them to do just that.
EISEN: Bianna, I think we have to look both at the federal and the state prosecutors.
That's why it was so significant in the second panel today -- and Asha alluded to this -- that we had the U.S. attorney from Atlanta, Georgia, who
definitively debunked the idea that there was any evidence of fraud in Georgia. And then you have that January 2 call.
And I think this is going to be prosecuted first by the Georgia authorities, who have a special grand jury open. That January 2 call to
Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger from Trump to -- quote -- "find" just 11,780 votes, one more than necessary, to defeat Biden, the reason that is
so important is because, even if Trump had this, as Barr said, crazy state of mind -- and I agree with Asha.
He didn't. He knew exactly what he was doing. But even if he did, he can't take the law into his own hands. And he was sufficiently compos mentis to
know that those 11,000-plus votes were not there in Georgia.
So, no more than any other form of vigilantism, in a sense, doing self-help election fraud doesn't -- the intent doesn't matter. And we have the tape.
We have the tape.
So I think a prosecution is quite likely first in Georgia state, and then we will see about the feds.
GOLODRYGA: Asha, what did you make of the witnesses that we heard from today? Their testimony was rather brief.
I want to get your thoughts, particularly on Ben Ginsberg, the Republican election lawyer who has worked on many Republican campaigns and elections,
most famously the 2000 election. And Zoe Lofgren asked him how this campaign's actions and behavior was different from past actions.
That question really stood out to me, because, clearly, every campaign has the right to pursue the investigations, right, and go to take their claims
to court. This campaign did just that, but then did a lot more. How effective was that questioning and his response?
RANGAPPA: Yes, I think it's going to the fact that Trump was willing to completely steamroll over all of our agreed-upon democratic norms.
I mean, there are venues for trying to pursue disagreements with outcomes, like election outcomes. But in a rule of law society, we accept what a
court decides. We decide that that's going to be the final say. That's what happened in 2000 with Bush v. Gore.
And the fact that Trump and his team, Giuliani and Jenna Ellis and Sidney Powell, were unwilling to accept court decisions that didn't go in their
favor, is really just emblematic of the fact that this is not a person who respects the rule of law, who is going to respect the democratic process,
obviously even the congressional process.
RANGAPPA: And we saw that on January 6.
GOLODRYGA: Asha Rangappa, Norm Eisen, we're going to have to leave it there.
More days of hearings ahead. Obviously, we want to hear your thoughts on those, and we will turn to you in the future. Thank you so much for joining
us. We appreciate it.
Well, we're going to turn now to something entirely different, the magic and majesty of our natural world.
Journalist Ed Yong is a Pulitzer Prize winner for his writing on COVID for "The Atlantic." And now he's turning his reporter's eye to animals and
their secret sensory superpowers. The book is called "An Immense World."
And Ed Yong joins me now from Washington, D.C.
Finally, Ed, this day has come. We have teased this book in our past conversations during the depths of the pandemic. And it is here. So,
congratulations. I'm really stunned that you were able to do all of this while at the same time guiding us through some of the darkest days of
COVID is still here. So let me begin with that. As you, an expert on this field, continue to hear more people talk about a post-pandemic world, how
does that make you feel? Obviously, this isn't 2020. This isn't 2021. But we still see new cases, many, many on a daily basis.
ED YONG, AUTHOR, "AN IMMENSE WORLD: HOW ANIMAL SENSES REVEAL THE HIDDEN REALMS AROUND US": We do.
And many of the communities that have borne the biggest brunt of COVID thus far are still facing greater risks. People of color are still dying at
higher rates than white people, despite false claims to the contrary. Immunocompromised people are still more likely to get infected and severely
ill. People who are grieving their loved ones are still in the throes of grief and loss.
There's still much to do. And, as you -- as we know, the political will to take necessary action has all but evaporated. I think that leaves us in a
difficult place. Data systems mean that we have a very patchy view of the pandemic as it continues to unfold.
The will to put in measures that will protect people has dissipated. And I think that makes this, to me, quite an uncomfortable phase of the pandemic.
I am reporting for a piece to be published later this week at "The Atlantic" about how folks in public health and other areas, how activists
are trying to continue fighting this long defeat, how they're trying to keep on pushing for policies and actions from the bottom up that will
continue to protect the most vulnerable groups among us when the top-down actions on there.
GOLODRYGA: And we will definitely read that new piece.
But what we are reading right now is your new book, "An Immense World." What drew you to the subject, the super sensory powers of animals?
YONG: I have always been fascinated in thinking about the ways animals perceive the world, because they're so different from ours.
Each species has its own particular sensory bubble, its own set of sights and smells and sounds and textures that it is privy to, but that other
species are not. So I cannot send to the ultraviolet light that actually most other animals that see color can sense. I can't send electric fields,
the way an electric fish might.
I can't sense the magnetic field of the Earth, the way a songbird or a sea turtle might. To think about these other sensory worlds is a uniquely human
thing to do. And I think it is profoundly magical. It changes the way we appreciate the world around us and makes even familiar and mundane things
seem extraordinary all over again.
By thinking about the way my dog Typo smells the world around him, the walks that we go on around the neighborhood I see thousands of times over
take on new meaning. I appreciate the world around me in new ways because I try and perceive it through his senses.
GOLODRYGA: So what I believe you just described is a new word that I have just learned from your book, and that is umwelt.
And each animal has their own bubble of umwelt, in having their own superpower sensories. And something that we as humans have is the ability
to be cognizant of others' umwelts and animals' umwelts. Correct me if I'm wrong here.
But you're also making a point that we have interfered in their super sensory bubbles, and to a detrimental way. Talk about some of the ways that
we have done that.
YONG: Yes, in the last chapter of the book, and in the cover story that's just published "The Atlantic," I talk about this problem of sensory
That's light and noise that we have pumped out into the environment, and that's just distracting and driving away the other animals around us. And
it's called sensory pollution. Now, we don't think of light and noise as pollutants. We don't see them in the same way as plastics washing up on a
beach or chemicals pouring out of a smokestack, but they very much are.
They should be -- they should be obvious to us, very perceptible, but we neglect them because we don't think of them as things that are bad. But it
can be bad when we put them into places where they don't belong. Light at night waylays migrating birds, sometimes fatally. It distracts baby turtles
from reaching the ocean, again, sometimes with fatal results.
It pushes insects away from the plants that they need to pollinate. Noise, similarly, from roads, from our industry, from our buildings drives animals
away from areas that might otherwise be pristine for them. It shrinks the worlds that they know, drowning out alarm calls and mating rituals.
GOLODRYGA: And there are ways in which in terms of light interfering with animal communities can have a lesser or greater impact. And that has to do
with the color of the light.
And there was a real case study that you worked with an expert on the difference between bright white light at night vs. red. And it's
interesting to hear that blue and white are the worst. Explain why.
YONG: They are. They're problematic, just because of the ways different -- so every wavelength of light, every color is -- everything is bad for
something, but white and blue seem to be particularly obnoxious to a wide range of animals, distracting them, driving them out of areas where they
would normally inhabit.
Red seems to do quite well. So I went to visit a group of scientists who were studying this in the Grand Tetons, where they were doing an experiment
switching the normal white LEDs of a parking lot to red. When they did that, it was really shocking to me how much more I saw and how clear
everything was, how disquieting it felt.
Red is a color of danger to us, but then how much wider the world seem. And just looking up, I could see the Milky Way. I could see the stripe of our
own galaxy, which is an achingly beautiful site that I have never been able to see before in the Northern Hemisphere.
To me, sensory pollution is the pollution of disconnection. It severs us from our relationships with other animals. It severs their relationships to
each other, and it disconnects us from the world and from the entire cosmos.
Because of that, we come to think of nature as this -- as wilderness, as this far-off space that most of us can't -- can't have access to. But
nature is in our own backyards. It exists in the umwelts of the other animals that we happen to coexist with.
In the early days of the pandemic, when people stayed at home more, the world got quieter, and people were shocked to suddenly hear birds that they
couldn't hear before. They suddenly heard over wider distances. That's what I mean by the pollution of disconnection.
By reducing noise, by saving the quiet and preserving the dark, we gain, I think, a better appreciation of the world around us and the creatures we
share that world with.
GOLODRYGA: And, finally, you point out that it doesn't require a pandemic to make us more aware of the sensory pollutions and pollutants that we're
putting into the environment, and that we can -- we can tailor how we're impacting animals around the world by actions that you have come to find
with some of the experts that you have worked with that can be quite effective.
YONG: Absolutely, just things like switching off lights or switching colors, the colors of LEDs from white and blue to things like red.
Slowing down the speed of ships can greatly reduced the amount of noise pollution in the sea. There are so many things we can do. And, actually, in
the main, this problem is very, very fixable. This isn't unlike -- this isn't like things like plastics or pollutants like DDT and other pesticides
that are going to linger in the environment long after we stop production of them.
All it takes often is a flip of a switch or the downshifting of an engine to greatly reduce the impact of light and noise pollution in the world. And
I think, to really do that, we need political will and we need to be aware that it is a problem.
And to do that, we need to be aware of how light and noise pollution affects the animals around us. And we need to care. By putting the stuff
into the world, we are forcing other animals to live in our sensory worlds, to their detriment. And I think that is something that we can stop with
actually relative ease, and that we should.
GOLODRYGA: Yes. And you acknowledge that many animals adapt to our behavior. But many can't. And you do so much with this book. You show that
you care. You lay out some facts, many facts, and some solutions.
So it's another wonderful piece of work from you. Congratulations. I know you have been working on this for quite a few years. Thank you so much, Ed
Yong. We appreciate it.
YONG: Thank you.
GOLODRYGA: And up next: The ruthless world of corporate America is being traced back to one businessman.
Former General Electric CEO Jack Welch is the man who broke capitalism and David Gelles's new book. And Walter Isaacson joins David to discuss the
legacy of America's first celebrity CEO.
WALTER ISAACSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: David Gelles, welcome to the show.
GELLES: Thanks so much for having me.
ISAACSON: Your book is about Jack Welch, the legendary CEO of General Electric for two decades.
But it's also about something larger. And I want to talk about that, which is, it's about the destruction of American capitalism. Explain that to me.
GELLES: Well, for the decades really after World War II, companies went about their business with a real sense of civic engagement, a real sense
that when a company like Johnson & Johnson, for example, was making its products and delivering it services, it was doing so, yes, in the interest
of its stockholders, but also for so many other stakeholders, which men like those who ran Johnson & Johnson and General Electric at the time
identified and called out in their annual report, saying that they were in it for their employees, for their consumers, for the men and women working
in their supply chain, and even for the government.
They were proud to pay their taxes at the time. Something changed right around 1981. And this change was embodied by men like Jack Welch. And it
has led to a world in which very few of those stakeholders are getting the attention that they need.
And the wealth from the companies that for so long float to that large group of stakeholders is largely concentrated now in the shareholders and
the executives. So, I identify Welch as the man who helped transform this arrangement and gave us the world we have today.
ISAACSON: You say, in the 1950s, corporations cared more about other stakeholders.
I was struck in your book that -- I think it's 1953. You quote the GE, annual report. And what is it saying the mission of GE is?
GELLES: Well, GE was among many companies during this era that, again, proudly identified the fact that they were running their corporation, yes,
for investors, and they were proud to deliver a modest return, but, really, they saw their success as the country's success, their success as the
success of the men and women working in their factories.
And they were even proud. They announced that year that it was their biggest payday ever. They were spending more on the cost of labor than ever
before. And that was a good thing to them. And I don't need to tell you that's not the world we live in today.
These days, executives at so many companies are focused on reducing labor costs, on reducing the amount of money they pay in taxes, and really
amplifying profits for institutional investors and largely for executives, who, of course, are compensated in stock these days.
ISAACSON: So, Jack Welch pretty much focused only on shareholder value.
Was that the main transformation?
GELLES: Well, it's not just the focus but it was how he did it. When he arrived at GE in 1981 as CEO, he unleashed a wave of factory closures and
mass layoffs that fundamentally destabilized the American middle class. Up until that point, you couldn't point to major American employers using
layoffs as a tool to improve profit margins. But all of a sudden, he made it the norm at GE. And what was so important to recognize is that GE was
really the standard-bearer for corporate America. So, what he did at GE became common practice everywhere else. So, he did it with downsizing. He
did it with financialization as well.
He turned GE from an industrial company that, of course, made light bulbs and aircraft engines, to a financial company that was making most of its
money, towards the end of his career, from financial products. Things like high-interest credit cards, commercial real estate deals. And that mirrored
and helped fuel this transformation of the American economy. And during his tenure, we saw Wall Street become a bigger and bigger part of the American
ISAACSON: It gets to the heart of a debate we still have, which is, is a corporation supposed to focus really just on shareholder value? Making a
profit? Return on investment? It comes out of the Milton Friedman school, as you discussed in your book, or is a corporation supposed to do that but
also look after other stakeholders such as its community, its country, its workers, and its customers? How did Jack Welch help change the way we look
at that divide?
GELLES: We are absolutely right to call out Milton Friedman who, of course, in 1970 wrote in the "New York Times" magazine that the social
responsibility of business is to increase its profits. But that was really a theory. Not only in 1970 but right up until 1981. No one until Welch had
the command of a large enough company. The gumption. And frankly just the will to make that a reality.
And there's such a difference, as you know, Walter, between theory and practice. And Jack was the one that put it into practice. But more broadly,
I do think you are right to note that there has been this long-running debate. And it's -- I think of it as a pendulum swinging back and forth.
And in the years after World War II, that golden age of capitalism, which is what some people call it, there was really a stakeholder focus. Even if
we didn't call it stakeholder capitalism, which is a term that's invoked today. But it has swung so far in this other direction of shareholder
primacy. And I think we're at the beginning of a reassessment, a real re- engagement with that debate of what is the purpose of a corporation.
ISAACSON: Well -- wait, explain to me why Jack Welch and, for that matter, Milton Friedman are wrong. I mean, isn't it mainly the responsibility of a
company to say, you invest in us and we're going to give you the biggest profit possible?
GELLES: Well, it's important to know that there is no law that specifically outlines what the purpose of a company is. There's no law in
the constitution. The FCC doesn't say that companies have to maximize profit --
ISAACSON: But can shareholders sue if you're violating a fiduciary duty to give them as much profit as possible?
GELLES: No, there's actually a huge misconception that there is some law to maximize short-term profits. There's a fiduciary duty, of course, but
they don't specify exactly what form that takes and importantly, on what time horizons we're talking about. And Jack Welch, no doubt, was a master
of maximizing short-term returns. And he did so, so effectively that GE became the largest, most valuable company in the world during his tenure.
And we can't take that away from him. But he did it to an extreme.
And in doing so, in being so myopically focused on quarterly results, on short-term results, he essentially hollowed up the company. Research and
development withered. They started getting into short-term financial instruments that ultimately came back to haunt them when the financial
crisis hit. And this is what so much of our company -- our economy, excuse me, looks like. Decision after decision to maximize short-term quarterly
profits at the expense of the long-term well-being, not only of the corporation but of communities, of individual employees, and of -- I would
argue, our society.
I think this focus on short-term profits has had a cascading long-term effect not only on the companies themselves but really on the fabric of our
nation which, of course, is in pretty sorry shape these days.
ISAACSON: So, you think that this focus on short-term profits.
Sort of undermine job security, the notion of a prosperous middle class in this country, and in some ways, I think you write it leads to Donald Trump
and other things.
GELLES: When you look at some of the disaffected pockets across the middle of the United States of America, these are towns where factories and GE
factories, in particular, once thrived. One of the things Welch did was not just go about downsizing with layoffs, but he embraced offshoring and
outsourcing to the extreme.
He was really one of the first CEOs to famously say, if he could, he would have every factory on a barge. So, it would just be a floating, stateless
entity that could chase cheap labor and favorable exchange rates all over the world wherever it -- he could go. That speaks to his real lack of
interest in the communities in which GE operated its factories. And when you look across the country and see the erosion of good, high-quality jobs
in town after town, the erosion of the tax base that those, kind of, factories supported, it's not hard to understand just how damaging this has
been over the long term.
I even asked Jeff Immelt, Jack Welch's successor about this when I interviewed him for the book. And he understood it. He said, listen. I get
it. When someone is making $35 something an hour at a GE factory and they lose their job for whatever reason and they wind up making $13 an hour at a
contractor, that not only has a damaging effect on that individual and that individual's family and community, but it erodes a sense of trust in
business. And so, when people ask, why doesn't, you know, business have more credibility with everyday Americans these days? It's decisions like
this compounded over decades that, I think, we can fairly point to and say, this is a part of the problem.
ISAACSON: After Jack Welch left, GE collapsed, pretty much. Was it because Jack Welch left or was it because of what he did before he left?
GELLES: A lot of things happened right when Jack Welch left. So, that was a combination of, I would argue, underinvestment in some of the core
research and development that made GE great for so much of the 20th century. But also, it's important to know, he -- his last day on the job
was September 8th, 2001. Three days later, the world changed in all sorts of ways that we know and had a cascading effect on GE that Jeff Immelt, his
successor, had to deal with.
But it's important to note that Jeff Immelt himself, several years after taking over, candidly reflected and took a hard look at the company he had
inherited. And I can't use the words he used on this program, but he said, he did not like what he saw at all and understood that the company was not
as strong as it appeared from those quarter-after-quarter results.
In fact, it was a lot of short-term focus that was making the stock look really good. But in the long run, as Jeff Immelt found out, the company had
real fatal problems that he had to deal with. And that a succession of CEOs have tried and failed to fix since. And just last year, it was announced
that General Electric, founded in the 1800s, was finally going to be broken up once and for all.
ISAACSON: There are half as many manufacturing jobs in America as there were when Jack Welch took over GE. To what extent does he bear some
responsibility for that and for the type of CEO that is doing things like that?
GELLES: Well, globalization was coming for the United States, no doubt about it, right? Whether Jack went on his terror of downsizing and
offshoring and outsourcing that gave him the name Neutron Jack, this was a moment in the early '80s when the industrialized economies of Japan and
Germany were coming back, you know, roaring back after World War II in their rebuilding processes.
So, there was going to be more competition on the global stage, no doubt about it. Welch, however, reacted in the extreme. It's a counterfactual to
imagine what it would have looked like had he found ways to double down on American manufacturing. To resist the temptation to just chase cheap labor.
We won't know. We can't know the answers to that. But what's clear is that there are plenty of other prosperous countries that have strong
So, it's impossible to know exactly, to what extent, he could have done things differently. But there is no doubt in my mind and no doubt from the
data that he was a driving force in letting American jobs move overseas, especially in the 1980s.
To your second question. To what extent is he responsible for other CEOs behavior? I think it's impossible to underestimate his influence on other
CEOs. As I mentioned, GE was one of the most influential companies for decades. It was the place other companies, other boards went to, not just
to get a sense of how they ought to behave, but it was a place they went to to recruit other CEOs.
And more than two dozen of Jack Welch's direct protegees went on to run other major American companies. Companies like 3M, Boeing, Home Depot,
Chrysler. And time and again, when his protegees went to those companies, they followed the same playbook of using downsizing, finance, and a deal-
making to prop up the stock in the short term often leaving the country and the companies poorer for it in the long run.
ISAACSON: When he worked at Time Incorporated, we -- our mandate came from the will of Henry Luce, that was the founder, who said that the company
should be operated both in the public interest and in the interest of shareholders. And he said that good executives would have to balance the
Then when it merged with Time Warner, suddenly, they were imitating Jack Welch and asking managers, like me, to fire 10 percent of the workforce
each year by trying to identify the lowest-performing 10 percent. It was also a company that got financialized, as you say. So, do you think this
was a trend coming after Jack Welch?
GELLES: It's just so powerful to hear you have had your own personal experience. In the week or so since the book has been published, I keep
hearing stories about this over and over. And I hadn't heard it turning up in Time Warner, but there it is. And that is absolutely the legacy of Jack
What you just mentioned, that bottom 10 percent notion, that was an innovation, I would argue a rather dark one, that he pioneered in the
1980s. He called it the vicavity (ph) curve, which is, the sort of, euphemistic term for firing the bottom 10 percent of your workers every
single year. Other people called stacked ranking or, I think, most accurately, rank and yank. Managers had to put their employees into three
categories, 20 percent in the top, 70 percent in the middle, 10 percent in the bottom, and that bottom 10 percent got shown the door ruthlessly and
relentlessly year after year.
But it wasn't just Jack and it wasn't just GE. He started it, but it didn't end there. It continued at so many other countries -- companies, excuse me,
including Microsoft under Steve Belmar. And even more recently, it was showing up at places like Uber and WeWork in just the past few years.
ISAACSON: The era of Jack Welch in the 1980s and 1990s coincided with the end of manufacturing in the United States as a major force, a
deindustrialization of the United States. Do you think that manufacturing and industrial production can come back to the United States now?
GELLES: It's going to be different, of course, but we're starting to see it come back. We're seeing even companies like Apple invest in real
manufacturing operations in the United States. And what's exciting to me about this is that these are not low-quality manufacturing jobs. These are
incredibly high-quality, high techs, sophisticated manufacturing jobs.
And it tells me that there is an opportunity right here for CEOs who want to invest in their people, who want to invest in the United States, and who
want to help share the massive wealth created by these corporations with some of the people of this country. There is a golden opportunity to do it
right now. And I think given the state of the world, it's becoming all the more clear that between supply chains and rapidly shifting strategic
relationships, there's also just a national security imperative to try to make sure that America can be a strong manufacturing economy in addition to
all the other amazing things that we're able to do.
ISAACSON: David Gelles, thank you so much for joining us.
GELLES: Thank you so much for having me.
GOLODRYGA: And finally, for us tonight, in 1974, the Swedish pop group ABBA won the Eurovision song contest and forever changed the course of
popular music. Well now, 42 years after their last live concert, ABBA has come back to life with ABBA Voyage. A spectacular concert event running at
a purpose-built theater in East London. The production showcases four avatars, digital renditions of the real ABBA stars with the look of the
band in its 1970s heyday.
1,000 visual effects artists spent over a billion computing hours animating the band. In a concert that is in ABBA's own words, now and then combined.
Take a look.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ABBA, Music Band: The love you gave me, nothing else can save me, S.O.S. When you're gone, how can I even try to go on? When you're gone, though I
try, how can I carry on?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GOLODRYGA: It's incredible. Bjorn Ulvaeus is a singer, songwriter, and co- founder of ABBA. And he joins me now from Stockholm.
Welcome to the program, Bjorn. It's such an honor to have you on.
BJORN ULVAEUS, ABBA MEMBER: Thank you.
GOLODRYGA: So, we should note, there is a slight delay here. But let me just read to you some of the reviews from your tour.
Needs to be seen to be lead -- to be believed. Why the ABBA Voyage made me cry with joy. A jaw-dropping avatar act that is destined to be copied.
That's just four reviews. I have been blown away by many others -- excuse me. And I was actually watching a friend of mine, who I don't even know if
this was allowed, was at the concert and recorded it so I saw quite a bit of it.
And it's just an incredible display of obviously ageless music and talent together with technology. And this all came about some six years ago. Tell
ULVAEUS: Well, there was an idea that we could go on tour as holograms, that was the first idea. And we thought that sounded interesting. But we
soon found out that hologram technology is old-fashioned and is not suited for touring, at all. And then ILM is a Disney company who does "Star Wars"
and stuff like that came into the picture.
And we started working on ABBA Voyage as it is now. And we decided early on that we wanted to make it a concert. And as such, it was very, very
important to us that the -- that there would be an emotional connection between the avatars and the audience and a musical experience, of course,
at the same time. And it was, in fact, not until the first preview -- I mean, we worked with this for five years. And then 10 days, before the
opening, we had the first preview with an audience and that's when we learned that it actually worked. That people, you know, feel as though
they're at a concert and that those four avatars, they kind of unemotionally connect to them. It's marvelous. It's absolutely mind-
GOLODRYGA: And how did it make you feel to see that? To see your younger self there in person, live, as if you are standing before a mirror, you
know, with maybe perhaps a few more gray hairs and wrinkle or two, much wiser though, on the other side of it?
ULVAEUS: Well, of course, it was kind of weird in the beginning seeing those first, you know, sketches of avatars and seeing myself kind of grow
and become what I -- something like what I was in the 70s. But I kind of think now that I look at him and when I look at him it's almost as though -
- although he is me and I have infused all of my personality and life into him, it's as though he has kind of his own personality at the same time.
It's -- I know it sounds weird, but that is the way it is.
ULVAEUS: Listen, this is sort of -- this is the future. I mean, you read about these things in science fiction. It's quite one thing to see it play
out on stage so magnificently with some of your favorite music from the past. I'm just curious to get your response, you know, you're one of four.
What was the reaction among your other bandmates when this idea was first approached to you all? They -- all into it as much as you are?
ULVAEUS: Well, I would say that we were all very, very attracted to the idea. And I think we all had kind of a vague vision of what it could be.
And it was -- I thought for me it was quite irresistible and I had to pursue it.
And I think the others felt, you know, the same way. I mean, who wouldn't want to see that kind of vision become reality? And, you know, we were
there. We are in our 70s, but we're still around and we could do motion capture. We could kind of make these avatars come alive. And I mean, we
couldn't say no to that possibility.
GOLODRYGA: Right. And we should note that while you're not there physically right there performing for the audience, you were heavily
involved throughout this process. You spent five weeks together at the ILM Studio in London to create these avatars, performed in front of 75 people
with computers, hundreds of cameras, to really create a manifestation of yourselves, your actions, your dances, your smiles. Was that like for you?
GOLODRYGA: And how was it performing before such a smaller, more intimate audience of just 75?
ULVAEUS: It -- just 75. Yes, it was a very nice experience. I didn't think it would be from the beginning. But then we were, you know -- like going to
work in the morning and putting our leotards, like black tight costumes with dots on them. Dots on our faces and helmets on our heads. And we would
go on a stage just like we did in the '70s when we would go to promote our songs, you know, on a TV show. We stood in front of cameras again and did
"Dancing Queen" the way we had done it in the '70s.
And all these -- every -- everything -- every movement, every little, you know, mannerism or whatever, was captured. And then, after that, there were
four body doubles who were our age at -- in the '70s, and they did the same thing. And they studied our movements and they learned what we did and they
imitate that. And those are the bodies that we see on the avatars.
GOLODRYGA: You know, you and your band are the definition of international stars. I mean, I moved to this country as an immigrant from the former
Soviet Union. I remember my parents still had the A-track cassette listening to it. I mean, you were their favorite band. So, in a sense, you
then became my favorite band and one of the first bands I got to know when we moved to this country.
You look at some of those people in the audience there and, I'm not saying all of your fans are just of one generation, but it is surprising to see
more younger people there participating in the audience. I'm curious to get your thoughts on that and perhaps this new technology and this tour opening
the doors to new listeners and new fans?
ULVAEUS: I am pretty sure it will. The same way -- actually, that "Mama Mia", the musical and movies have opened doors for young people. But it's a
constant to me the fact that you and I are having this conversation now that somehow these songs have managed to stay relevant in some way, you
know, for the past 40 years. Because I thought when we split up in 1982, I thought that was the end of it. I really did. But here we are now, it's
GOLODRYGA: You're never going away. It's never the end of it. We were just talking with our group meeting this morning and you can't go to a wedding.
You can't go to a bar mitzvah. You can't -- I mean, listen, bath time for my kids, it puts us in this great lively mood. There's just something about
your music that transcends time, I would say, and musical eras. Do you think that this is a new technology and a new theme that we could see other
bands, other musicians copy? And would they do it successfully, in your opinion?
ULVAEUS: Well, I can see -- you know, I can imagine some of my contemporaries thinking right now, maybe I could do that, too. Maybe we
could do something similar. So, that's one thing. So, I'm sure that's going to happen. But also, I think there will be a lot of talented people,
producers, and other people coming to see Voyage and getting completely new ideas from it. So, it's certainly something completely new. Something that
nobody has seen before.
And things like that always manage to give birth to new ideas. So, it's going to be very exciting to see what's next. Because the technology is
going to become cheaper and easier to use. That's going to happen very quickly, I think.
ULVAEUS: And we have to get used to avatars, definitely.
GOLODRYGA: Yes, the technology may be more available but the music, that's really the talent and that's really what people are turning for in the
performance. And I'm going to read it for you one more time, Bjorn, just so you can be left with this review. Why the ABBA Voyage made me cry with joy.
If that's not a great review, I don't know what is.
Bjorn Ulvaeus, thank you so much. And congratulations on the tour.
ULVAEUS: Thank you, Bianna. Thank you.
GOLODRYGA: And that is it for now. Remember, you can always catch us online. Thank you so much for watching and goodbye from New York.