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Conservatism Needs to Lighten Up; James Baker on the Debt Ceiling and Shutdown; Where are Africa's Great Leaders?

Aired October 20, 2013 - 10:00   ET


FAREED ZAKARIA, CNN HOST: This is GPS, the Global Public Square. Welcome to all of you in the United States and around the world. I am Fareed Zakaria. We'll start today's show with an exclusive interview with a man who dealt with government shutdowns, threats of default, and partisan politics. James Baker, Ronald Reagan's chief of staff and then secretary of the treasury, on how to fix Washington and the political stories. Then the view from outside of America's borders. I'll ask two of our favorite foreign observers, the Financial Times' Martin Wolf and the Economists's Zanny Minton Beddoes to tell us whether the damage to America's credibility is already done, and can it be repaired? And the story of democracy working. I'll talk to Chile's President Sebastian Pinera about that nation's successes 40 years after a bloody coup d'etat.

But, first, here's my take. The crisis has been resolved, but this respite is temporary. We're bound to have more standoffs and brinkmanship in the months and years ahead. To understand why, you must recognize that, for the tea party, the stakes could not be higher.

Republican Senator Ted Cruz put it plainly at the recent Values Voter Summit in Washington.


SEN. TED CRUZ (R), TEXAS: We're nearing the edge of a cliff, and our window to turn things around, my friends, I don't think it is long. I don't think it's 10 years. We have a couple of years to turn the country around or we go off the cliff to oblivion.


ZAKARIA: Cruz dominated the summit's straw poll, taking 42 percent of the vote, more than three times his nearest rival. Cruz's national approval rating might be an abysmal 14 percent, but to the base of the Republican Party, he's an idol.

The current fear derives from Obamacare and what it will do to America, but that is only the most recent cause for alarm. Modern American conservatism was founded on a diet of despair.

In 1955, William F. Buckley Jr. began the movement with a famous first editorial in National Review declaring that the magazine "stands athwart history, yelling stop." Hardline conservatives have been yelling stop ever since.

John Boehner tries to tie into this tradition of opposition when he says in exasperation repeated, "The federal government has spent more than what it has brought in in 55 of the last 60 years."

But, one might respond, what have been the results over these past 60 years? The United States has grown mightily, destroyed the Soviet Union, spread capitalism across the globe and lifted its citizens to astonishingly high standards of living and income.

At the end of his 1961 speech that launched his political career, Ronald Reagan said,


RONALD REAGAN, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: And if you don't do this and if I don't do it, one of these days you and I are going to spend our sunset years telling our children and our children's children what it once was like in America when men were free.


ZAKARIA: But the menace Reagan warned about, Medicare, was enacted. It's provided security to the elderly. There have been problems regarding cost, but that is hardly the same as killing freedom.

After all, the right-wing Heritage Foundation ranks many countries as "more free" every year. For example, Switzerland and Australia and they all have universal health care.

For many conservatives today, the "rot" to be excoriated is not about economics and health care but about culture. A persistent theme of conservative intellectuals and commentators, in print and on Fox News, is the cultural decay of the country.

But compared with almost any period in U.S. history, we live in bourgeois times, in a culture that values family, religion, work and, above all, private business.

Young people today aspire to become Mark Zuckerberg. They quote the aphorisms of Warren Buffett. They read the Twitter feed of Bill Gates. Even after the worst recession since the Great Depression, there are no obvious radicals, anarchists, Black Panthers or other revolutionary movements except for the tea party.

Now, for some tacticians and consultants, extreme rhetoric is just a way to keep the troops fired up. But rhetoric gives meaning and shape to a political movement.

Over the past six decades, conservatives' language of decay, despair and decline have created a powerful group of Americans who fervently believe in this dark narrative and are determined to stop the country from plunging into what they see is imminent oblivion. They aren't going to give up just yet. The era of crises could end, but only when this group of conservatives makes its peace with today's America. They are misty- eyed in their devotion to a distant republic of myth and memory and yet passionate in their dislike of the messy, multiracial, capitalist and welfare-state democracy that America actually has been for half a century, a fifth of this country's history.

At some point, will they come to recognize that you cannot love America in theory and hate it in fact?

For more on this, go to and you can you read my Washington Post column this week. And let's get started.

James Baker was Ronald Reagan's Chief of Staff, then Treasury Secretary. Then, he was Secretary of State under President George H. W. Bush. He joins me now from the Baker Institute at Rice University in Houston, Texas.

Jim, thank you so much for doing this.


ZAKARIA: Tell me first with your Treasury Secretary and Treasury -- Secretary of State hat on, what damage do you think this whole episode has done to the United States or can we bounce back?

BAKER: Well, we can bounce back and I'm convinced we will bounce back. That's not to say that this was not a harmful episode. And it's not to say that, as far as I can tell, Fareed, there really weren't any real winners here. My party, the Republican Party, I think was a loser.

But I also think that the president and the Democratic Party was a loser because the world saw us in disarray. It really saw a failure of governance and it raised, I think, some serious doubts in the minds of people around the world about our country.

ZAKARIA: The president's argument is he had to do something to end this practice of what he calls holding the government ransom, of "Holding the full faith and credit of the United States ransom."

And, you know, as somebody who's spent a lot of time in the Oval Office, do you think that, from a presidential point of view, it sort of makes sense to maybe to end this process of using the debt ceiling as a negotiating tool?

BAKER: Well, if I -- if I'm wearing my Treasury Secretary's hat, which I wore for four years, I would love to see us do away with the requirement for increasing the debt ceiling.

But, as a taxpayer and as someone who thinks that the greatest threat facing the United States today is this huge, ticking debt bomb out there that has been created by our continuing to spend and borrow without restraint, then I think it's something we pretty much need to keep. I know you're aware and your viewers are probably aware the fact that when he was a Senator from Illinois, President Obama, Senator Obama, voting against increasing the debt ceiling, wasn't willing to increase it, was ready to see us go into default.

So, this is a political exercise that occurs any time there's a necessity of raising the debt ceiling. If you look at it from the chair of the Treasury Secretary, you'd like to get rid of that.

On the other hand, I think it does provide some restraint on the tendency of our government these days to enter into unrestrained spending and incurring additional debt.

ZAKARIA: The president outlined, in his remarks after the crisis, three areas where he thought even though there were big disagreements in the parties and there was polarization, there was a way forward.

He said we can come to some agreement on a budget deal and he's cited some of the things he's already been willing to put on the table. And Paul Ryan, actually in an op-ed, echoed that suggestion.

He talked about immigration and he talked about a farm bill. How likely do you think it is that we'll get a deal on any of these three things.

BAKER: Well, I think there's a good chance we might get a -- some sort of a deal on the farm bill. We need a farm bill. I would hope we would get a deal on immigration because I think that's an issue that needs to be resolved and resolved in a bipartisan way.

I think my party, for instance, needs to understand that the demographics in the country are moving against us and there's no reason on God's green Earth why we should not get a healthy proportion of the Hispanic vote.

Hispanics believe in family. They believe in work. They believe in religion. They believe in some of the same principles and values that Republicans hold dear. And so we used to get a large percentage of that vote and we need to do everything we can to get back to that.

We also need to get the votes of other -- seek the votes of other minorities, particularly Asians, but other minorities as well because we'll need those votes, we're going to continue to need those votes, they're ever-growing voter blocks, if we're going to win elections.

ZAKARIA: On the budget, Jim, the question is is there a deal to be had where the Republicans give in somewhat on some tax increases and the president gives in on both entitlement reform and spending cuts?

BAKER: Right.

ZAKARIA: That seems to be where there is a possible deal.

BAKER: Right. Here's my view of that, Fareed. The biggest problem we have fiscally facing the country today is this huge debt bomb which has been created as a result of ever more government spending.

And much of that spending, of course, is not legislated by the Congress. It happens automatically. The entitlement programs keep spending automatically. We have got to get a handle on that somehow. We've got to get a handle on it. That's what we ought to be focusing on.

Yes, I understand the president and the Democrats will be saying well, fine, if we're going to talk about entitlements, then you need to be willing to talk about increasing revenue.

The real way to increase revenue is to increase growth. One of the problems that -- one of the adverse effects of what we've just been through is that it's diminished, to some extent, various numbers are thrown out there, but some people say six-tenths of 1 percent of GDP.

Well, that restrains revenues coming into the government. That's the way to grow revenues, to grow the economy.

Now, you talk about increasing tax rates. We've just been through a great big tax increase in January of this year. We raised taxes, at the president's request and the Republicans went along with it, by $640 billion.

So, the question is how much -- what's the amount? All of that has to be negotiated, but you can't just say that we'll do an equal amount of entitlement restraint for an equal amount of additional tax increases.

We've already raised taxes this year by $640 billion. So, these are all things that need to be negotiated and, yes, hopefully there will be some way to negotiate a budget or a major fiscal reform package.

Paul Ryan has got some terrific ideas. Paul Ryan, frankly, in my view, is one of the upcoming stars of the Republican Party and he's got the right idea. And he's extraordinarily bright and I'm delighted to see that he's the one representing my party at the table.

ZAKARIA: We'll be back in a moment. More with James Baker including his thoughts on his own Senator, who is, of course, Ted Cruz.


SEN. TED CRUZ (R), TEXAS: I do not like green eggs and ham. I do not like them Sam-I-am.



ZAKARIA: And we are back with James Baker, one of the legends of American politics, former Treasury Secretary, former Chief of Staff, former Secretary of State.

What do you think about the man representing your state? The Houston Chronicle just waxed nostalgic in an editorial about Kay Bailey Hutchison almost suggesting they wished they had never endorsed Ted Cruz for that job.

BAKER: Well, you ...

ZAKARIA: Do you think Ted Cruz represents your views in the Republican Party?

BAKER: Well, I'm not sure that he represents my views in the Republican Party, but I'm not going to sit here and dump all over my junior Senator, particularly given the fact that he worked for me in 2000.

He was a very fine lawyer in that recount battle we had in Florida and he was a good Solicitor General for the State of Texas. Was he wrong on this most recent episode, in my view, yes. It hurt us.

It didn't gain us anything. We kicked the can just three months down the road. We didn't accomplish anything. It didn't take a rocket scientist, in my view, to figure out that if you don't have a Senate and you don't have the White House, you're not going to be able to defund Obamacare.

It was a maximalist position, had no chance of being accomplished and, therefore, I think it was a mistake and I think it was Senator John McCain who said it was a fool's errand and I'm not disinclined to disagree with that.

ZAKARIA: What do you think should happen now that the can has been kicked, the next time around this happens?

Mitch McConnell says, you know, two kicks of a mule and you're meant to learn. The second kick you're not meant to learn much meaning by that we shutdown the government once in the mid 90s, didn't work. We shut it down this time, it didn't work.

Do you think those threats should be off the table? How should the Republican Party approach the issue of this next time ...

BAKER: Well, here's what ...

ZAKARIA: This same issue comes up.

BAKER: OK, here's what I think for the next time. First of all, I would hope we would abandon this idea of adopting a maximalist position on defunding Obamacare by shutting down the government.

The way to defund Obamacare is for us to get out there and win elections, win control of the Senate in 2014 and the White House in 2016 and keep the House and then we can repeal Obamacare and we should. It's a horrible law, in my opinion. And, you know, one of the adverse effects of what we've just been through is that we didn't get to see all of the problems that are taking place with respect to trying that implement that law. It's a disaster and -- but that was overshadowed by what we went through.

So, what should we do next time? Don't take a maximalist position on defunding Obamacare, but be tough in terms of fiscal reform. Hang in there tough to get some spending restraint. Not necessarily to shut the government down.

Although I would say this, I don't think there's anything wrong with hanging tough on the debt limit. Every -- a lot of times the party out of power does that. It's customary. It does give you leverage.

If the administration doesn't control the House of Representatives, they ought to expect that they're going to have problems getting the debt limit increased.

And if the president is going to adopt the attitude that he won't negotiate an increase in the debt limit, even though all president's have before and he has himself in 2011, I think he'll pay a political price for that.

That's different than saying I'm not going to negotiate on the defunding of my signature health law.

ZAKARIA: But, as a political matter, you've played this game in Washington more than most, the president does seem to have won. I mean the Republicans dropped, what, 15 points in the polls.

BAKER: I agree with ...

ZAKARIA: The president has dropped a little, the Democrats dropped a little and Obamacare actually edged up a little. Net, it seems to have helped the president.

BAKER: Well, I don't think it's helped the president. When you -- I don't -- the president's numbers have come down, the Democratic Party's numbers have come down and the view or opinion of America has come down.

And, look, he's the leader of the country. Eighty-seven percent today think -- You take a poll, 87 percent say we're on the wrong track. Only a few teens say we're on the right track. That's not good for the leader of the country.

So, I would not argue that this is a win for the president.

ZAKARIA: James Baker, always a pleasure to have you on. I hope we can come back to you very soon.

BAKER: Thank you, Fareed.

ZAKARIA: Up next, What in the World. Why Africa's dictators no longer seem to be worried about good governance. An Asia country is to blame, sort of. I'll explain. Coming up.


ZAKARIA: Now, for our What in the World segment.

The world has welcomed another batch of Nobel Laureates for accomplishments in the sciences, literature, and global peace. But there is another prize, perhaps just as important, for which there was no winner.

I'm talking about the Ibrahim Prize, established by the Sudanese billionaire Mo Ibrahim. The criteria for winning are listed publicly on the prize website: "You need to be a democratically elected African head of state that has left office in the last three years, and demonstrated excellent leadership. If you meet the criteria, you get a $5 million award, plus an annual pension of $200,000 that kicks in after a decade."

The point, of course, is to provide a financial incentive for African leaders to shun corruption. And yet, for the fourth time in its seven-year history, the awards committee was unable to find a winner from any of Africa's 50-plus countries.

Bravo to the Ibrahim prize for holding high standards, even if that means no grand ceremony.

So what happened? Well, for starters, presidents and prime ministers need to actually step down. Africa's leaders are locked in a marathon to see who can reign longest.

The leaders of Equatorial Guinea and Angola have been in power for 34 years. Zimbabwe and Cameroon have had the same men in charge for 33 and 30 years, respectively.

These and a number of other African states are nominal democracies, but they are essentially run by dictators. Elections, if they're held at all, tend to be a sham, pockmarked by intimidation, fraud, and violence.

A number of indicators highlight the region's crisis of governance. On Freedom House's global map of freedom, Africa is the region with the highest number of countries listed "not free." On Transparency International's Corruption Index, most African states are shaded red, denoting graft, instead of yellow, for least corrupt.

Now alongside all of these dismal rankings lie a set of numbers singing a very different tune. Six of the world's ten fastest growing economies from 2001 to 2010 were African.

According to Ventures Africa, the continent now has 55 billionaires. Great strides have been made in creating wealth and expanding development. There have been advances in education, healthcare, and poverty alleviation.

So, despite all of these gains, why is Africa so far behind on good governance? There are, of course, a number of decades-old factors in play, but one of them is new, and it strikes me as an interesting one to highlight, China. For decades, NGO's and Western countries have tied aid money and trade to promises for greater transparency among Africa's countries.

But China has upended the system. Beijing is known to give aid and sign trade deals with no strings attached. Instead, its priority is to extract commodities at the best possible price. And that, in turn, has led to the commodities boom which has fueled growth in Africa.

According to a New York University study, trade between China and Africa has risen from $10 billion in 2000 to $166 billion in 2011, a 16-fold increase. China is now Africa's largest trade partner.

And as I reported last week, China's total aid budget has surged as well, from $1.7 billion in 2001, to more than $189 billion in 2011. A substantial chunk of that aide goes to Africa.

In the short term, Africa's leaders may rejoice at having struck a good deal. They no longer need to listen to Western criticism because China and other countries, like Brazil and India, are willing to trade, no-strings attached.

But Africa's dictators should beware. All they need to do is look north, to the Arab world, and they will see what happens when leaders suppress freedom and stick around too long.

Meanwhile, Africa's young population and it is huge is getting smarter, more connected, and perhaps more likely eventually to rebel against repression.

Up next, counting the damage from Washington's shutdown. I have two smart economists, Martin Wolf and Zanny Minton Beddoes to explain it all.


GLORIA BORGER, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Gloria Borger in Washington with a check of the headlines. The Obama administration says nearly a half million people have applied for Obamacare. The federal website to sign up for healthcare exchanges has been plagued with technical problems since its October First launch. Congressional hearings about the troubled processed are set for later this week.

For the first time since her 2008 presidential run, Hillary Clinton is back in the thick of campaign politics. She appeared at a rally Saturday for her good friend and fellow Democrat Terry McAuliffe who's leading in the Virginia governors' race.


HILLARY CLINTON, FORMER SECRETARY OF STATE: When you think about why people run for office in these times, if it's only about yourself, if it's only about you wanting to get a job and get the perks that go with it and, you know, have people stand up when you come into a room ...


CLINTON: That's not enough anymore because it's hard. Politics is hard.


BORGER: And former president Bill Clinton is also scheduled to stomp for his good friend McAuliffe.

Same-sex couples in New Jersey are a day away from being able to get married. Many are already filing the necessary paperwork, and the New Jersey Supreme Court ruled that the marriages could go forward starting Monday despite Governor Chris Christie's request for a delay. Those are your headlines. "Reliable Sources" is at the top of the hour. Now back to "Fareed Zakaria GPS."

ZAKARIA: After the events of the last few weeks, America could certainly stand to look at itself in the mirror, but how did it all appear to those looking at it through the window? What does it all mean for the economies of the United States and the rest of the world? We have two of our favorite foreigners, favorite people, economic experts joining us in studio today. Martin Wolf is the chief economics commentator at "The Financial Times" and Zanny Minton Beddoes is the economics editor of the economists. Welcome back.

Suzanne, how much damage has already been done? You know, the fact that things are sort of resolved, where do we stand in terms of the damage to America's credibility?

ZANNY MINTON BEDDOES, ECONOMICS EDITOR, THE ECONOMIST: I think you have to kind of break that down into real damage and damage to reputation. And that's slightly separate. The real damage to the world economy comes primarily through the damage that's already been done to the U.S. economy. And it's not negligible. The beginning of the shutdown, it was a lot of hope that oh, week by week it would have a small impact, but already now people are beginning to downgrade that forecasts for the fourth quarter of this year. I think the economic damage is there and it's quite considerable and that is a knockdown effect on the world economy, particularly since the U.S. is expected to - what expected to be the bright light of the world economy next year. So, that's one bit.

The reputational damage, I think it's really quite considerable. I mean around the world people have been looking at the U.S. with the mixture of (inaudible) to use the (inaudible) word, a little bit. What are these guys doing, scratching their heads? There were a lot of emerging economies that sometimes face real debt crisis. They can't believe a country would manufacture one itself. So, there's that and then there's a sense of this is the biggest economy in the world. It's the leader economically of the world. It is playing with fire behaving so erratically, behaving so irresponsibly in the views of the rest of the world and they worry that it could then really hurt them and the rest of the world would suffer along with everyone else. If this - playing by fire actually resulted in a real catastrophe. ZAKARIA: You wrote a column in "The Financial Times" saying, just abolish the debt ceiling. It is an invitation to mischief and crisis. Explain very simply why. Because the United States is almost unique in the world. There are few other countries, but no major economy that has this thing called a debt ceiling.

MARTIN WOLF, CHIEF ECONOMIST COMMENTATOR, FINANCIAL TIMES: Yes, it's a completely absurd device introduced, apparently, in the First World War for obscure reasons. And it's completely absurd because if it's not lifted, it requires the president to break the law and as the president has an Oath of Office to uphold the law, that is an absolutely criminal thing to do because the president is obliged to run the administration in such a way that spending obligations which are legal obligations, whether the Tea Party likes it or not, they're part of the law, that he does implement the spending obligations which Congress and he have duly passed. So, if he doesn't allow - if he hasn't allowed to do that and he would not be allowed if he couldn't borrow in certain circumstances, he would default on something, but I think this - the analysis is quite clear. This restrained potentially invites, forces the president to break the law and that is also a situation that any law should do.

BEDDOES: You know, I think the rest of the world as Martin was just saying, just had a very rapid lesson in American civics. All kinds of details of the American political system that people had no idea about they suddenly learned about. And the debt ceiling does to most people seem completely bizarre if a government or if a Congress agrees on various spending things, the idea that it has to have been separately agree to raise the debt ceiling, to raise the money to pay for them, seems fady and it invites exactly what Martin said which is this sort of internal inconsistency. Congress can say, oh, well, yes, yes, we're going to vote for the spending, but, oh no, we are not going to vote for the debt ceiling.

ZAKARIA: That borrows the money to pay for the spending.


ZAKARIA: Martin, above your piece in the "FT" was a very interesting piece by a Chinese economist whom we all know, David Li, very well respected by the Chinese government, and in which he said, look, it's mystifying how the United States is acting, but it's also mystifying why China continues to buy so much American debt. Why Chinese buy so many treasury? But then he outlines a simple way what the Chinese could diversify into a bunch of things, he points out, that Chinese have so much money they could very easily put a couple - you know, trillion, trillion and a half dollars into other country's bonds, into corporate bonds, which are all very high quality.

Don't you think that people in China and perhaps in other countries are wondering to themselves maybe we should diversify. We don't need those many treasury bills.

WOLF: I think that's perfectly plausible. If they regard these and they did in some ways as the safest assets in the world, and then that must have taken a knock. It's clear that we're going to see this again in a few months. There will be this discussion. We don't know what will happen. But it might be the beginning of an ongoing circus that clearly frightens wealth holders. Now, the treasuries are a very bad long-term wealth holding. They need a higher real returns and David Li is absolutely right, China should be looking at the whole asset composition of its foreign assets and start diversifying away from treasuries.

ZAKARIA: We have to go. But I want to quickly get your sense as to whether or not you would agree with something Zanny began with. Outside of this, the U.S. actually looks remarkably resilient compared with other countries in the world and you have, you know, broad based, slow but very steady recovery. That's the tragedy here, right?

WOLF: I think that the U.S. looks very good. The U.S. economy has survived a massive fiscal tightening. Massive unnecessary, but massive. It looks quite robust.

ZAKARIA: The sequester cuts.

WOLF: But - sequester cuts. And the whole deal.


WOLF: It's about three percent of GDP tightening and now over and so U.S. looks good to me. I'm really quite optimistic about the U.S. in the next year or two.

BEDDOES: I don't know if it will be quite as bullish as that, but I think - I think the U.S. does have the potential to accelerate. But I worry that we've been here again and again and each time things have been messed up, and each time we just haven't got beyond this two percent growth to a bigger acceleration. I hope this time it happens. But I think the answer to the question as always will depend on Washington. It depends on what they do early next year. If we continue this serial uncertainty, I promise you the recovery is not going to be as strong as it could be.

ZAKARIA: Zanny Minton Beddoes, Martin Wolf, pleasure as always.

Up next, remember the Chilean miners who were buried underground for 69 days? Where are they now? Well, I spoke with the president of Chile about that and much more. Right back.



ZAKARIA: This presidency were essential to creating the powerhouse Chilean economy that we now see?

SEBASTIAN PINERA, PRESIDENT OF CHILE: Chile was the poorest Spanish colony and has become the country with the highest per capita income and our target, our goal, our mission is to overcome underdevelopment, and defeat poverty before the end of this decade. That was our main commitment when we came to power. It's true that during the Pinochet regime, many economic reforms were undertaken. We opened up the economy to the world. We introduced a real social market economy. Those things were very valuable. But at the same time there was a huge problem with human rights.

ZAKARIA: So 40 years ago you had the Pinochet coup. 25 years ago you had the no vote, which - referendum, which ended military rule, and as - and it was a peaceful transition. It has been a very successful transition. What advice would you give when you look at places like Egypt? What do you think made the Chilean transition to democracy so successful?

PINERA: I think that the main lesson is that you had to reach a very broad agreement. You have to agree on basic issues. We're going to recover our democracy and all of us are responsible for that. You have to make also the decision with respect to how will you face economic development. In our case, the agreement was very simple (ph). First, recover our democracy. Our democratic system which is a normal way of life for the Chilean people. The military coup was an exception in our democratic history. Second, we made an agreement to follow the path of social market economy integrated in the world and third, we made a very strong agreement that human rights have to be respected always in every place and in any circumstances. And at the same time that we have to reduce and eliminate poverty, those were the pillars of the agreement that was reached 25 years ago and that's why Chile has been very successful since then.

ZAKARIA: Part of Chile's success, maybe, I mean you've had basically 100 years of democracy interrupted by briefly - by this military dictatorship. For the Egyptians, for many of the countries in the Middle East, there's no history of democracy.

PINERA: That's true. In Chile, actually, we had 200 years of democracy interrupted only twice and in Egypt the situation is different. They never have lived in a real democracy, so for them the transition is harder because they know that they want to get rid of the military government, or the authoritarian government, but they have to learn how to live in democracy and that's something, which is not easy.

ZAKARIA: I have to ask you before I let you go. You did something that no president in the world has done, which is you sat in the desk at the Oval Office that Franklin Roosevelt, Ronald Reagan and, of course, Barack Obama has sat in. Did President Obama seem to mind?

PINERA: No, on the contrary. The whole story. He went to Chile and he also sat at my desk. So when I came to the Oval Office and we had all our meetings, our press conference, I told him, look, since you were in my office, can I sit at your desk? And this is a very famous desk. It's called the Resolute, because it was taken from a ship that sank, a British ship. So I sat there. And President Obama came and he stood behind me so he was - he gave me authorization for that.

ZAKARIA: It's a pleasure to have you on, Mr. President.

PINERA: Fareed, it has been my pleasure. (END VIDEO CLIP)

ZAKARIA: That was Sebastian Pinera, the president of Chile.

Up next, out of grim tragedy, some surprising news, some might even call it good news. I'll explain.


ZAKARIA: Exactly two years ago today, Moammar Gadhafi was captured and killed by rebel forces near his hometown of Sirte, Libya. The 69-year old dictator was the longest serving leader in Africa and the Arab world. He came to power in the 1969 coup. Which brings me to my question of the week, what non-royal national leader has run his country the longest? Is it Kim Il-Sung of North Korea, B, Fidel Castro of Cuba, C, Mao Zedong of China or D, Joseph Stalin of the USSR? Stay tuned. We'll tell you the correct answer. Go to for more of the "GPS Challenge" and lots of insight and analysis. You can also follow us on Twitter and Facebook. Remember, if you ever miss a show or a special, you can go to and download them.

This week's book of the week is "The Tea Party and the Remaking of Republican Conservatism" by Theda Skocpol and Vanessa Williamson who was on the show last week. If you want to understand the rise of the Tea Party and understand who these people are, read this book. Very well done. Now for the last look.

In 1999, 10,000 people were killed when a ferocious cyclone hit eastern India. This past weekend, the same region, the state of Odisha, formerly known as Orissa, was once again in the crosshairs. This time it was the region's most powerful storm this century. But there was a much better outcome. A million Odishans were evacuated to shelters ahead of time. Only 21 people seem to have lost their lives. Thousands of others were saved. Extreme climate events may be getting worse, but technology has truly enabled us to save lives. We're now better than ever predicting the scale of storms and cyclones and we're better than ever at getting the message out. Of course you still need a government that manages these situations well and for that all credit to the government of Odisha, which has learned from the mistakes of 1999.

The correct answer to our "GPS Challenge" question was B, Fidel Castro. Castro led Cuba for an astounding 49 years. He outlasted nine U.S. presidents, CIA plots to kill him and decades of economic sanctions. In 2008, Castro finally decided to give up power to another Castro, his brother, Raul.

Thanks to all of you for being part of my program this week. I will see you next week. Stay tuned for "Reliable Sources."