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Fareed Zakaria GPS

Interview With Former U.S. Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin; Interview With Multi-Award-Winning Artist David Byrne; Interview With Henry Paulson And Timothy Geithner. Aired 10-11a ET

Aired August 06, 2023 - 10:00   ET



FAREED ZAKARIA, CNN ANCHOR: This is GPS, the GLOBAL PUBLIC SQUARE. Welcome to all of you in the United States and around the world. I'm Fareed Zakaria coming to you from Aspen, Colorado.


ZAKARIA (voice-over): Today, an extra special program with three, yes, three former secretaries of the Treasury. First I'll talk to Henry Paulson and Timothy Geithner about the state of American politics, the downgrade of the U.S. credit ratings and the struggles of the Chinese economy.

Then Robert Rubin talks to me about how to make hard decisions, and what a yellow legal pad has to do with that skill.

Finally, David Byrne came to fame with his new wave band, Talking Heads, some 40 years ago. I talk to him about his latest wave of creativity which includes a musical about former Filipina first lady Imelda Marcos performed in a Broadway theater that's been transformed into a disco.


ZAKARIA: But first, here's my take.

For years now, American politics has been shaped by the idea of the "China shock." The term coined by three economists in a 2016 paper captures the widespread belief that trade with China has resulted in the de-industrialization of significant parts of the U.S. and the loss of huge numbers of manufacturing jobs. It is fueled much of Trump's trade policy and Biden's new industrial policy. All of which is premised on the notion that China presents an existential challenge to America's economic position in the world.

Now there are debates as to whether the China shock was actually as strong as initially suggested. I wonder whether it should really have been called the globalization shock. Many of the Western manufacturing jobs lost had they not gone to China would have gone to other emerging markets. In any event, most agree that the China shock ended about a decade and a half ago. But its political effects remain strong even though the story in China today is completely different. China's economy is in bad shape. The numbers that are being released

all point to a sharp economic slowdown with few bright signs. Economic growth last quarter came in at 0.8 percent putting China at risk of missing the government's target for the year. Prices are close to levels that suggest deflation, which means no one is buying anything. New home sales by China's 100 biggest developers dropped by 33 percent last month compared to a year ago. Youth unemployment is now over 20 percent. Tourism to China has collapsed.

In the first quarter of this year, just 52,000 people from overseas visited China via travel agencies. That compares with 3.7 million in the first quarter of 2019. In an important essay in "Foreign Affairs," Adam Posen, the president for the Petersen Institute for International Economics, argues that the slowdown is not the result of one-offs such as the pandemic or the war in Ukraine. Instead he points out that Xi Jinping's economic strategy which places politics and the communist party above free markets and growth has cost China dearly.

Posen notes that in 2015 the Chinese people began reacting to the increasing political interference in the economy by saving rather than spending. Bank deposits as a share of GDP have grown by 50 percent since then. He writes, "In the face of uncertainty and fear, households and small businesses start to prefer cash savings to illiquid investment." As a result, growth persistently declines.

Posen sees China's slowdown as part of a pattern seen elsewhere in places like Venezuela, Russia, Turkey and Hungary. At the start the government desperately wants growth and pursues market friendly policies.


Then as the leader consolidates power, he seeks political control over the economy and starts cracking down on companies seen as problematic. Soon, politics triumphs over economics and growth slows. He writes, "Once an autocratic regime has lost the confidence of the average household and business, it is difficult to win back." In other words, once you have interfered massively in the economy, it's clear that you could do so again at any time.

I've often noted that American anxiety by China reminds me of similar fears about Japan's dominance in the late 1980s and early 1990s just as the Japanese economy was peaking and would go into a prolonged slowdown. Paul Krugman compares the two countries and concludes that China's future path will not follow Japan's. Quote, "China will do worse," unquote.

He points out that like Japan's at the time, China's economy is similarly unbalanced with weak consumer demand, real estate woes and worrying demographics. And China is ruled by an authoritarian regime that may not be able to cope with social unrest arising from slower growth. Both share one critical problem. When you have a declining working age population, it is very hard to sustain a high growth economy.

Meanwhile, the American economy continues to surprise on the upside. Growth is higher than expected, inflation is dropping faster than predicted and employment numbers continue to be very strong. And yet despite that the country has lost its AAA rating from one of the major credit rating agencies which pointed to high debt and even higher political dysfunction.

The problem for America is not its economic fundamentals which remain very strong. It is that there is a second shock that America has been reeling from. The Trump shock. The United States has seen the rise of a populist demagogue who threatens to destroy any and all American institutions that stand in his way and he has a following like none I have ever seen that is devoted to him no matter what he does or says.

He has captured the Republican Party almost completely and many of the Republicans who stood up to Trump in 2020 have been replaced with loyalists. So if he gets its nomination and runs for the presidency, which seems highly likely, it will lead to much greater turmoil than we saw in the last election.

America has dealt with the China shock, but so far it has no answer to the Trump shock.

Go to for a link to my "Washington Post" column this week. And let's get started.

As I said, the U.S. saw its debt downgraded this week. Fitch lowered the U.S. from the highest AAA rating to AA plus citing a steady deterioration in standards of governance. But there has also been good news for the U.S. economy. Inflation is moderating and this week Bank of America rescinded its projection that the United States would fall into recession next year.

Few people are as qualified to weigh in on the health of the U.S. economy as my guests Hank Paulson who served as Treasury secretary under George W. Bush, and Tim Geithner who held that job under Barack Obama. We met on Friday on the sidelines of the Aspen Economic Strategy Group's annual meeting.

ZAKARIA: Hank Paulson, Tim Geithner, pleasure to have you on.


ZAKARIA: Tim, you've seen this Fitch downgrade, first time in a decade I think. Do you think it makes sense?

TIMOTHY GEITHNER, U.S. TREASURY SECRETARY UNDER BARACK OBAMA: I mean, we obviously have a lot of long-term fiscal challenges and in time we're going to have to confront those challenges. And like any American, the world looks at our political system today and they wonder, is America going to be able to find the will to come together and do this in the sensible way?

I think part of the problem is that it still feels remote and over the horizon. Like any political system, really hard challenges trying to get people to focus on something that seems kind of far away. They don't feel the cost of it today. ZAKARIA: This is the debt index.

GEITHNER: Exactly. But so there is nothing new in the fact that we're living with long-term fiscal challenges. And ultimately it's a judgment about the capacity of the country's political system. We're a very fortunate, rich, resilient economy with a huge amount of strength and we have plenty of ways to deal with this. And it's going to take some time but we can't wait forever.


ZAKARIA: How worried are you about the debt?

PAULSON: Well, like Tim said, I don't have an immediate worry, right. But longer term, it's a major concern. There is no example in history of any major power continuing to be a power where they lose their fiscal strength, and so to me -- as I look at the Fitch downgrade, I look at it and say, you know, it's too bad it came right after we had a bipartisan -- you know, it may be a short-term deal that deal with the debt limit, but it's in some ways a very important wake-up call.

ZAKARIA: When you look at the situation right now, though, as you were saying, what's striking is how much the U.S. economy is surprising on the upside. Is it possible that we will have that rare a thing, a soft landing, because right now it does seem like inflation is going down but unemployment is not going up that much?

GEITHNER: It's certainly possible. And as you said, we've had a meaningful improvement inflation with the economy that's still pretty strong and that's an enviable rare combination. But the risk in this and the challenges are not yet behind us, and the Fed can't yet know whether you're going to get enough moderation without inducing a greater slowdown in the economy. And that's a very fine balance to strike.

But I'd say, you should feel more comfortable today than we would have two years ago or six months ago or three months ago, but it's still a little early to say that the challenge in this are fundamentally behind us.

ZAKARIA: Hank, when you look at Biden's economic policy, it feels like a very different policy than we followed in the past. There is a lot more government involvement, a lot more government subsidies. Some of it for green technology, some of it essentially to compete with China. What do you make of that strategy?

PAULSON: Well, to begin with, the thing that I dislike the most, something to like is something you didn't mention which is protectionism.

ZAKARIA: The tariffs.

PAULSON: The tariffs. I mean, we are working to close markets at the same time that China is, you know, doing business with more and more of the world. Trade and investment. But as I look at the Biden economic policy, you know, I take the climate change so seriously, I was a major proponent of the IRA and I think that has the potential to make a huge difference in terms of accelerating the development of the sorts of technologies we're going to need and really changing the -- you know, the cost curve there.

So I see that, I'm positive about that. But otherwise, I am uncomfortable by and large with industrial policy, all right. That sometimes it makes real sense, where it's targeted and you've got a very, very specific goal, and it's going to be implemented very carefully. I am, you know, cautiously optimistic about the CHIPS bill. But, again, there it comes down to, is bureaucracy going to be able to implement it, right?

So, you know, I'm concerned about the regulation. I'm concerned about immigration. You know, I -- you know, have some concerns about the anti-trust policy and regulation. I think these things are inflationary. But as we -- again, you know, there's -- there is plenty of positive and as Tim said, we've got an economy that sure looks better than many of us had predicted a number of months ago.

But, you know, we're not out of the woods yet in terms of inflation. One thing I would emphasize when we look at the U.S. economy. There's not many countries that I could think of that we would ever trade places with. When you look at the size of our economy, the GDP per capita, the very best run companies in the world, the best technology, energy independent, living in a safe neighborhood. You know, the only -- the real problem the country has right now is dysfunction in Washington, right. But otherwise, it's in a very strong position.

ZAKARIA: We'll take a short break. When we come back, I'm going to ask Hank Paulson and Tim Geithner about U.S. policy toward China. Are we getting it right?



ZAKARIA: And we are back in Aspen with Hank Paulson and Tim Geithner, talking about U.S.-China policy, the perils and the promise.

Let's talk about China because huge subject, but also one that you in particular, Hank, you've written a lot about. You wrote a very important "Foreign Affairs" essay where you basically said America's China policy is not working. Do you want to explain what your biggest concerns are?

PAULSON: Well, first of all, Fareed, let me simply say we need to begin by saying this is a troubled relationship, right. And the Xi Jinping's China is very different from the Jiang Zemin and Zhu Rongji China, militarily, diplomatically, economically, you know, in really every respect.


Here is where the problem comes in. What I was talking about was how we're going -- how we're handling our -- you know, our export controls with China dealing with technology. How much should we sequester. And of course, no one argues that we should not be holding back technologies in the highest technologies that have real military uses and are critical to national security.

My concern was simply this. If we sequester too much technology, what we're doing is essentially isolating U.S. companies from the global economy. China is a major, major competitor. And I think the competition, you know, hopefully we won't stumble into war and this won't be, you know, this is a competition that's not going to be decided on the battlefield. It will be decided on the economic playing field.

And here I think we lose a lot if U.S. companies aren't leading around the world. A big part of this competition is going to be developing and implementing and rolling out the technologies of the future, right. And so here it's very important, I think, that the U.S. companies, you know, are in a leadership position there and setting standards globally.

ZAKARIA: Tim, do you think the administration is getting this balance right? They've sequestered some of the high-end technology. They say it's a small yard of technologies with high fences rather than a big open field as was the metaphor would be, and they're now going to announce restrictions on U.S. investment into China.

How worried are you that this creates an atmosphere where businesses don't know what's permissible, what's not, what's next on the list?

GEITHNER: Yes, that's the challenge. You know, they've said, understandably, they're going to define a limited number of technologies where there is a key core national security imperative and we should limit China's capacity like we've done for decades with many countries to access that technology, and to keep the limitations narrow and calibrated to that objective. That is the challenge because it's hard to define or frame a limiting principle that the world can look at and say, I understand it's going to stop there, and not expand beyond that.

I think part of the challenge for the world in looking at this is that, you know, we're also trying to build more supply chain resilience. We're making these large investments in the climate transition, which we want to make sure benefit American companies and American employment. And there is a bit of this -- Hank used the word protectionist, there is a bit of nationalist protectionist shadow cast over this set of policies and that's making it harder for the world to figure out how to navigate what would be always a tough thing to define.

ZAKARIA: When we take actions against China, we're often doing stuff that is in violation of the kind of open world economy that we've built, that we espouse, and oftentimes we're doing kind of the same things we're accused China of doing, violating the WTO. Is that a problem in terms of building an alliance of like-minded countries.

GEITHNER: You know, I think it is. I think the administration understands that and they're trying to figure out how to preserve and repair and rebuild that part of the rules-based multilateral, relatively open integrated economic system that's been such a huge benefit not just to Americans but to countries around world. And we're trying to preserve that while we're still trying to -- while we're also trying to craft a credible military deterrent and make sure we can reduce the risk to us that come from this more ascendent (INAUDIBLE) China.

And that's a really tough balance to strike. But I think there's no plausible strategy for the United States to preserve our core national security interests without also protecting and preserving that rules- based, multilateral, relatively open economic system.

ZAKARIA: Hank, tell me about the group that you guys headed at Aspen and why did you bring this together?

PAULSON: The reason we brought it here was we had this vision of having a forum where we could -- where we could discuss and debate cutting-edge, really cutting-edge, and evidence-based research and do it in a nonpartisan way, and our theme is building a more resilient U.S. economy. So it's a great topic and we bring together a really interesting group of people.


ZAKARIA: Hank Paulson, Tim Geithner, pleasure to have you on. A rare occurrence to have you individually and completely rare collectively.

GEITHNER: Thanks, Fareed.

PAULSON: Thank you. Thank you.

ZAKARIA: From the great economic minds of the Bush and Obama administrations to one from the Clinton years. Joining me next is former Treasury Secretary Bob Rubin who has advice on how to make all kinds of difficult decisions in life.


ZAKARIA: President Bill Clinton hailed my next guest as the most effective Treasury secretary since Alexander Hamilton. Bob Rubin who was of course Clinton's own Treasury secretary, attributes his success to a significant amount of luck. But also to a unique decision-making process that he describes as probabilistic thinking.

It is the subject of his new book, "The Yellow Pad: Making Better Decisions in an Uncertain World."



ZAKARIA: Bob Rubin, pleasure to have you on.


ZAKARIA: So, when you in your life had to make a decision, you say that you take out a legal pad, I've seen you do this. One of those big yellow legal pads and what do you do?

RUBIN: Well, I take my yellow pad -- this goes back to when I first went to Goldman Sachs where I spent 25 years. I was running an arbitrage department where we would have to decide do we take a position or not take a position.

You take out a yellow pad and then you would write down, OK, if this is my decision, what are all of the possibility benefits, what are all the possible costs, what are the risks. Then you make judgments about probabilities and ultimately you try to make the best decision you can, Fareed.

There are no provable certainties and that, by the way, is the view of modern science as you know. There are no provable certainties and all decisions about probabilities. And I developed a frame -- a probabilistic mindset and I didn't just think about things that way but I deeply internalized it and every decision I've ever made, well, pretty much every decision, I've made, Fareed, I made from that mindset.

ZAKARIA: You have an extraordinary career of decision-making. Goldman Sachs, you ran the arbitrage. You ran Goldman Sachs. You were a very successful treasury secretary.

There is one period in your life where in the book you talk about you felt like you didn't get it right. You didn't see the housing crisis. You didn't see the global financial crisis. You were at Citigroup then.

What lesson did you learn from that? When you look back on that what do you think you got wrong and how do you apply the lessons going forward?

RUBIN: Well, you know, I certainly did not see the housing crisis. I didn't think, you know, I'm thinking about a lot of different things and I thought there were a lot of excesses and I used to give speeches about that actually, but I didn't think of housing as one them. Obviously, I should have.

I don't think it would have made in the difference at Citi particularly because I was a senior counselor and not in a decision- making position. But I think -- and wrote about this in the book because I think the real big lesson to be learned from this is don't assume anything.

Look under the hood, have a questioning mindset, have a constructively skeptical mindset, because almost nobody including the fed and analysts and bank regulators and I mean some -- a few did but very, very few. People saw the excess and virtually nobody saw it coming together the way it did. And so, I think you always have to include in your decision making the possibility that something will happen and nobody has thought of or at least you haven't thought of.

ZAKARIA: When you look at the U.S. economy today, it does look like inflation is coming down, unemployment is not going up, we might get that perfect soft landing or are you skeptical? RUBIN: I think looking at the long-term, Fareed, we have enormous strengths and I think we are far away -- best position in the global economy. I would rather investment here. I would rather do business here. I would rather to be involved in the economic activity here, and then the other major economy.

Now there is an assumption in there which is at some point or another we will meet our policy challenges. It's not terrifically well but at least reasonably well. And even though we have tremendous issues and problems in our political system, I think, over time we will in the last two and a half years we've done quite a bit but there is immense amount more to do.

In terms of the moments, I think there is a certain complacency right now and it may will be that we have a soft landing but it also could be that we have something different than a soft landing. And I think the uncertainty -- I've been around this a long time. Fifty years that I've been involved with this stuff, Fareed. I think that there is -- there is probably as much uncertainty today about the next say year and a half than any that I can recollect in my time.

They may resolve in a soft landing as you say and that's a material chance but the material chance it could resolve in to a slowdown or a recession. Inflation certainly is still there. The question is, does it come down or does it reignite? And I just think that is -- I don't have a view on the probabilities, but I do have a view that these are enormous uncertainties and that uncertainly should be a cautious bias when one thinks about the shorter-term.

ZAKARIA: Final question. When you -- when you think about the way you make decisions with that kind of very careful analysis, do you think you have a bias towards caution? Do you think -- because I think about how venture capitalists make decisions and they are much more risk seeking than you are. Is that partly a personality?

RUBIN: Well, yes. I do have a personality that's probably -- no doubt, I think my psyche causes me to focus on risk. So, I think what you need to do and I write about this in book, I think you try to be self- reflective enough so you recognize what your biases are and then put your biases aside.

And I think my bias is toward over emphasizing risk and decision- making. So, what I try to do is recognize that and put it aside. And I think I've actually done reasonably well with that over time.

ZAKARIA: I think most people would agree. Bob Rubin, pleasure to have you on.

RUBIN: Fareed, it's always good to be with you. Thank you.


ZAKARIA: Next on GPS, David Byrne is best known as the lead singer of Talking Heads but his work outside of the group has earned him an Oscar, a Grammy, and a Tony.


His latest creative endeavor is Broadway musical about former Filipina first lady Imelda Marcos of all people. I talked to Byrne about it after the break.


ZAKARIA: David Byrne's first big break came in the 1970s at the iconic New York music club CBGB's. The band he led Talking Heads went on to fame and acclaim with genre defying hits. They also put out what is often heralded as one of the greatest concert films of all time. "Stop Making Sense." The band split in 1991.


But Byrne, who is often called a polymath, has stayed indulging his artistic and human interests. He has kept making music. He has written books. He has created an immersive theater piece grounded in principles of neuroscience that ran in Denver.

He started a Web site called Reasons to be Cheerful which you should check out when the world is getting you down. And Byrne took home a 2020 Tony Award for his hit musical "American Utopia."

Today he's back on Broadway with a musical he co-wrote. It chronicles the life of former Filipina first lady Imelda Marcos and her love of disco. I spent some time recently talking to Byrne trying to understand what makes this great artist tick.


ZAKARIA: David Byrne, welcome.

DAVID BYRNE, LEAD SINGER, TALKING HEADS: Thank you. Thanks for inviting me on the show.

ZAKARIA: So, you have a very wide-ranging talent. But Imelda Marcos, why?

BYRNE: Why? Yes. OK, it is a little story. I had an idea about that I could maybe do a theater project, a musical, in a disco, in a discotheque. This was, I don't know, 20 years ago. I didn't know what to do. But I thought wouldn't that be fun if people could dance and they were getting a kind of story at the same time.

Then years later I read that she loved going to discos in her heyday. And she had a mirror ball installed in her New York townhouse. I Googled it up at the time. This was some years ago. And I found a video of her dancing under that mirror ball with Khashoggi, the arms dealer.

And I thought, whoa, there is a story here. And it takes place in that world, in the world of dance clubs and discotheques. So, I thought, let me see if I can do some research and see what kind of story there is. ZAKARIA: So, the way you tell that story is fascinating. Because you're fundamentally looking at it from a creative place, where you're looking at the idea of theater, disco, you know, fusing those, and then you happen upon the story. Did the politics of the story attract you?

BYRNE: The more I -- as I did the research, yes. The politics became fascinating. I wondered how I can tell it, how much of it I can tell.

Basically, in a musical like that, you can't get into the all of details of why did this happen or why did that happen. But I decided to focus on, yes, the story of her rise, her marriage with Ferdinand Marcos, his declaring martial law, basically, then becoming a dictator in the Philippines, and them both being ousted peacefully in a demonstration that was called the People Power Revolution, which is just one of the most beautiful things you can read about and there is a lot of pictures and news was there.

ZAKARIA: The thing that most people know about Imelda Marcos, who remember her from the days, you know, I was in college when all of this happened, was her enormous shoe collection. Yet somehow that doesn't -- was that a conscious decision to not go for the obvious?

BYRNE: Yes, we don't mention the shoes at all. Partly because that is baggage that some of the audience members already bring with them. So, we have to tell them things that they don't know.

And the other reason, which maybe is not the best reason, but the shoes were not discovered until the Marcoses were airlifted out of the palace in Manila. And then the people descended on the palace and go, oh, my God, look at this. But by then, our story is over.

ZAKARIA: When you think about art and politics and you think about what you've been talking about, it is very relevant right now with the rise of authoritarians everywhere, Marcos coming back himself in his own way. Do you think that that was part of the background noise that made you -- that drew you to the story?

BYRNE: It certainly seems more relevant now than it did when I was -- when I first conceived the story. When I first conceived the story, it seems like maybe a somewhat inspiring but isolated incident. And then it just seemed to -- now today with the democracy under threat all over the place, it seems very relevant.


The People Power Revolution that ousted the Marcoses back in the day that was an inspiration for Tunisia, Egypt, Ukraine, whatever. Not all of which like the Philippines -- not all of them managed to maintain that idealism or maintain the democracy that they were seeking.

ZAKARIA: And in an odd way Marcos seems a gentler form a dictator where they agreed to be helicoptered out of their -- out of their country and go to Hawaii rather than do what Assad did, or Maduro did, you know, stay there, kill as many people as you can. BYRNE: There were a lot of factors that prevented that from happening. A good number of their troops, they did send troops to surround the demonstrators but the troops often abandoned their tanks. They got out and started mingling with the crowd.

ZAKARIA: They wouldn't fire on their own people.

BYRNE: They wouldn't fire. They refused to fire on their own people. The church -- it is a Catholic country. The church defected as well. The name of the cardinal is Cardinal Sin and he went against the Marcoses as well. So, you have all of these big factors working against them.

ZAKARIA: And it does feel as you say like a different time when -- I mean, that time that was seen at the beginning of a wave of democracy movements and now we're witnessing is, you know, kind of the reversal of many of those including in the Philippines.



ZAKARIA: Next on GPS, I asked Byrne about the confluence of art and politics. What happens when they meet? We'll be back in a moment.



ZAKARIA: More now of my interview with the multi-hyphenated artist David Byrne, musician, filmmaker, author, playwright and more.


ZAKARIA: Do you think that art and politics -- as you say everything is inevitably political, do you think that art should be trying a bit more to be more political?

BYRNE: I think it all -- yes, I think art should reflect the world we live in. But art can fall into a trap when it starts to preach. When it becomes a soap box and people are doing that. But --

ZAKARIA: Why? Because you lose the artist -- you forget your art first.

BYRNE: Yes. You have to do the art part first. And then the other things can be done by inference and I think that audience gets that. And they've -- and it works sometimes. But it is really difficult to do to pull off a very pointed political show.

ZAKARIA: You've done something unusual. Not completely unique but unusual for somebody as celebrated as you. You don't sort of rest on your laurels and go out and do the tour with, you know, playing the great old hits. You are trying projects in neuroscience in Denver. You're trying "American Utopia" here. You're trying to do this new kind of Broadway musical.

You could fail in some of these and sometimes the reviews, you know, some have not been that great. Why do you do it at this point in your life, when you could be, as I say just reliving the glory days and raking it in?

BYRNE: I grew up at a period -- I was in high school in the late '60s and it seemed like that was an ideal that was held up. To explore and be curious and try different things and try different kinds of music and work in different mediums. That seemed to be a possibility. It was held up as this is an ideal.

And I thought, OK, I like that. That sounds like fun. And I never, never gave up on that. It is true some things have failed, gotten reviews that were so bad that basically it was just shut down. But --

ZAKARIA: The thing is it is all new and inventive. You're trying things.

BYRNE: Yes, you try something else and then you go, OK, OK, OK. I don't agree with all of that. But pick yourself up and keep going.

ZAKARIA: Do you think of your work as political? All going back to Talking Heads, do you think that you're trying to convey a political message with your work?

BYRNE: I think everything is political but not in an obvious way. I mean, I don't get up there and preach about issues. I don't write songs about specific issues, really. But it is all in there.

Maybe it is a metaphor for something -- so it might be a metaphor for something else and it does affect how people think and it tells people how I feel about things but not in a direct way. This kind of show, a musical that deals with history and politics and personalities, yes, it does get into politics. But, again, it is in a roundabout way.

We don't talk about all of the connections between the U.S. and the Philippines over the decades. But we have the cast singing about kind of how Americanized it became, how they love American products, and all of the things that Americans do because they were an American colony for a long time.


ZAKARIA: And your artistic vision here, to get back to that, was to have Broadway turn into a disco. Has it succeeded? Do people dance every night?

BYRNE: People dance every night. About not quite half of the audience is on a dance floor and the rest at seats, more conventional seating. But half of them are on the dance floor and the cast mingles with them. And nobody has to do anything embarrassing but it is -- that's what it is.

ZAKARIA: Well, always a pleasure to talk to you. Thank you.

BYRNE: Thank you.


ZAKARIA: Before we go, I want you to know that as far as the staff of GPS can recall, David Byrne is by far the most famous guest of the show to have ridden a bike to our interview. Along with all his other passions he is a huge advocate for two-wheel transport.

Thanks to all of you for being part of my program this week from Aspen. I will see you next week.