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FAREED ZAKARIA GPS
China Relaxes One-Child Policy, Abolishes Labor Camps; Negotiations With Iran; Kennedy Assassination: 50 Years Later
Aired November 17, 2013 - 10:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
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'm Fareed Zakaria. We have a terrific show for you today, starting with China's important announcements. Beijing says it's one-child policy will be relaxed after more than 30 years, and it says it will abolish its infamous labor camps. What's behind these decisions and others? What do they mean? I have two great experts. And five decades after shots rang out in Dealey Plaza, killing President John F. Kennedy, the great historian, Robert Caro, will tell us about that day and how it changed America and the world.
Also, a GPS checklist for how to ruin a national economy. One country has managed to check off all the boxes and it's not the United States. I'll explain.
But, first, here's my take: On Wednesday, diplomats from the United States, France, Germany, the United Kingdom, Russia and China, the P5-plus-1, will sit down to once again try to hammer out a deal with Iran over its nuclear program.
It's a tough challenge made even tougher by the breakdown of talks in Geneva eight days ago. In diplomacy, transparency is often the enemy of progress. Negotiations are best conducted secretly until there is an agreement.
When carried out in full public view, the diplomatic process simply allows opponents to attack every concession made to one side, paying little attention to the concessions on the other side.
Even imagined concessions get attacked. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu furiously protested against the proposed deal with Iran even though, as Kerry, the Secretary of State, suggested, he didn't actually know what was in it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BENJAMIN NETANYAHU, PRIME MINISTER OF ISRAEL: A very bad deal.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
One party that did know what was in the proposed agreement was France. The French took the unusual step of breaking ranks with their Western colleagues to publicly denounce the deal. This has led some to wonder whether France's strategy was simply to demonstrate its hard-line credentials to the most anti-Iranian states in the Middle East, Saudi Arabia, in particular-and thus gain favor.
France has signed a multibillion-dollar defense deal with Riyadh in recent months. In addition, of course, distancing itself from American is a reflex action for the French, especially for a Socialist president.
But whatever France's motives, its concerns have some merit. They seem to center on Iran's nuclear reactor in Iraq, which is under construction and if completed, could easily produce enough weapons- grade plutonium for one or two bombs every year.
However, the deal being proposed would have stopped the process from going forward. If France's objections can be assuaged, those of some of the other opponents cannot.
Bibi Netanyahu wants Iran to have no enrichment capacity at all. Now, for Iran, that's a red line. It's not entirely clear whether Netanyahu's demand is a bargaining position or whether he will, in fact, denounce any deal that allows the Iranians to enrich uranium.
Saudi Arabia is also not going to accept any deal not matter what is in it. Saudi objections to the Islamic Republic of Iran are existential. The Saudis regard Tehran as heretical, Shiite, Persian enemy that must be opposed relentlessly and unequivocally.
It's antipathy predates Iran's nuclear program and will persist whatever the resolution of it.
And, then, there are the Republicans in the United States, some of whom have serious objections and others who see this as an easy avenue to outflank President Obama on the right, placing him in the familiar spot of a liberal Democrat show is soft on America's foes.
Many of us had assumed that the greatest obstacle to a deal would come from Iran. Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and the Revolutionary Guard remain deeply anti-American.
They may well oppose the concessions that President Rouhani and Foreign Minister Zarif would have to make to get a deal. But it's now clear that the greater obstacles might lie in the path of the negotiators on the other side.
The minute any deal is announced, Saudi Arabia and Israel will denounce it and many Republicans will join in. Given that Congress would have to pass laws to lift any of the major sanctions against Iran, this could prove to be an obstacle that cannot be overcome.
So Obama faces two major challenges: First, he has to get a deal that hard-liners in Tehran can live with. Then, he has to get one that hard-liners in Washington and Jerusalem and Riyadh can abide.
If he can do both, maybe he will deserve his Nobel Peace Prize after all.
For more, go to cnn.com/fareed and read my Time column this week and let's get started.
China's new leaders held a mysterious gathering this week called the Third Plenum. In the past, historic announcements have come out of these meetings.
The big headline out of this meeting was a relaxation of China's infamous or famous, three-decades-old one-child policy. Beijing also announced the end of its notorious so-called "reeducation" through labor camps.
Joining me to explain all this: Nicholas Kristof is a columnist for the New York Times who won one of this two Pulitzer Prizes for his coverage of Tiananmen Square in 1990 and Elizabeth Economy is a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations.
NICHOLAS KRISTOF, PULITZER PRIZE-WINNING COLUMNIST, NEW YORK TIMES: Thank you.
ZAKARIA: So, first the one-child policy, Nick. Is this as big a deal as, you know, it sounds like?
KRISTOF: Well -- the one-child policy is a bit of a misnomer because a lot of people have had the chance to have more than one and, on average, a Chinese has one-and-a-half children right now.
But it is a real relaxation. Now, most people will have a chance to have at least a second child and that is a real step forward. And it's a promising sign. This is something that has been talked forever by the Chinese government and it's interesting that Xi Jinping, the leader, was able to push this through.
ZAKARIA: Liz, this is presumably because they look at the demographic future and lots of people have pointed this out that, you know, within five or seven years, they start to face a labor shortfall, they start to have lots of old people and not enough younger workers.
ELIZABETH ECONOMY, SENIOR FELLOW, COUNCIL ON FOREIGN RELATIONS: Right. I mean they're looking at a situation right now where by 2050 a third of the population is going to be over 65 years old and so they're quite concerned.
But the truth is is this relaxation is unlikely to produce a transformation, right, in the population. Really it's just going to be a slight bump if anything.
We're looking at maybe a million or two more children born per year and it's really not going to take effect for another 17 or 18 years if you stop to think about it in terms of its impact on the labor force. So I think it's -- it is a positive step. I think a liberalization of social policy from a regime that has not been terribly liberal, but I don't think that it's a really dramatic transformation in policy.
ZAKARIA: And one of the things that strikes me is that in Asia, as people get -- as women get more educated and as people get rich, the fertility rates really drop off. They really stop having babies. I mean, South Korea, Japan, Singapore. The drop-off is dramatic.
KRISTOF: Singapore went from having a policy of discouraging women from having more children to overnight switching to encouraging them to have more children.
And I mean, in China, they've -- as Elizabeth says, I think they've reached the point where there are a lot of forces that are reducing fertility other than government policy.
So this will lead to more children, but many people, you know, especially in the cities just know that the cost of educating your child is such they don't want to have necessarily everyone have a second child, especially if the first is a boy.
ZAKARIA: So China might still face that demographic challenge.
Liz, what do we -- first of all, what are labor through reeducation camps and what does it mean that they're closing.
ECONOMY: Well, these labor through reeducation camps, you know, have been around since the late 1950s and what they've basically turned into is an opportunity for local officials to detain, arrest people without trial for up to four years.
And it's been a mechanism by which not only sort of petty thieves and others can be put away, but also political dissidents, right, and people who complain, petitioners who complain too loudly and cause problems for local officials.
So they've, you know, had at least, you know, somewhere maybe 310,000 reportedly have been in these labor through reeducation camps. I mean sometimes they say as many as 2 million have been detained.
ZAKARIA: So a step forward again that this is being worn down?
KRISTOF: It's indeed a step forward in the sense that this is something that reformers have been calling on for a long time.
The question though is whether the government simply takes these people who had been sent to reeducation through labor camps and sends them to more mundane prisons and jails instead and we just don't know the answer to that yet.
ZAKARIA: The big news that was supposed to come out of this conference was -- and was being signaled was comprehensive economic reform, legal reform. There was a -- there were lots of hints that Xi Jinping was going to do something like Deng Xiaoping did at his Third Plenum in 1978 or even Jiang Zemin did at his Third Plenum in 1993 which was a big burst of economic reforms to get the Chinese economy on the next big growth trajectory.
Didn't quite -- there was some announcement, but not quite the drama that people had been expecting.
ECONOMY: Well, I think what we've seen really is, in a number of cases, the reforms that are announced are really sort of an affirmation of experiments that are already underway.
So, you know, land tenure reform, the Hukou residency permit reform, you know, holding officials accountable for pollution; all of these things are already experiments underway.
I think what President Xi Jinping and the Chinese leadership what they've really done is simply to say we're going to push forward with these reforms. You know, a number of the reforms that have been suggested for the Shanghai Free Trade Zone, interest rate liberalization, you know, a negative investment list.
All of these things, again, are things that were put into this reform -- this Plenum document, sort of announced as though they were new and big, but really it's, again, just an affirmation of things moving forward.
ZAKARIA: But this is the Chinese way. They kind of do it incrementally. They don't do as much of the kind of big announced bang.
KRISTOF: That's true, but this was a case where there had been a lot of anticipation that there might be a bang. And so, instead, there was a little bit of a kind of a fizzle.
You know, we'll see where it goes, but, you know ...
ZAKARIA: You were disappointed.
KRISTOF: I was disappointed and especially there's been a fight on the state-owned companies. And there was a real attempt here, I think, to slap them down on the part of the reformers. I'd say that it looks as if that failed.
ZAKARIA: Very quickly, I need a final thought from both you. Many people argue that for China to grow at the pace it needs to, it needed this big burst of reforms.
Do you worry that there's going to be a significant drop-off in Chinese growth without significant reforms.
ECONOMY: I think that's likely to happen, but it may show up in, you know, one to three years, not over the next six months.
ZAKARIA: What do you think? KRISTOF: Yes. The existing model for the Chinese economy needs to be restructured, but that can happen through various ways and not just through a dramatic Plenum announcement.
ZAKARIA: So we still will have China to contend with for many, many decades.
KRISTOF: It'll be a place to watch.
ZAKARIA: Up next, Typhoon Haiyan. Why did it hurt the Philippines so badly? Could anything have been to lesson it's impact? I have two great experts to explain.
ZAKARIA: The aftermath from Typhoon Haiyan continues to unfold. Beyond the death toll, more than 10 million Filipinos have been either displaced or rendered homeless by Typhoon Haiyan. Why was the impact so bad, and why was the response so slow?
In many ways, I suppose this was a perfect storm. In any event, I have two great guests joining me to delve into all this.
Stephen Flynn is the founding director of the Center for Resilient Studies at Northeastern University. He's advised both of the last two presidents on Homeland Security.
And Laurie Garrett is a Pulitzer Prize winning journalist and senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations.
Steve, first to you, what part of this surprised you in terms of its severity, in terms of the force. What took you by surprise?
STEPHEN FLYNN, FOUNDING DIRECTOR, CENTER FOR RESILIENT STUDIES, NORTHEASTERN UNIVERSITY: Well, to some extent, what took me by surprise was how slow we were to realize what a tremendous storm this was. It got very little coverage.
In fact, I learned about it from a German friend on Friday morning last week who shared me the images of this incoming storm. Right there it was clear that this was going to be a monumental event with the kinds of winds that were being predicated, 190 Knots.
What they probably came in is close to 150 Knots of wind. That's a tremendous amount of wind that was going to absolutely ensure devastation in its wake.
ZAKARIA: So we should have realized that this was going to be pretty massive and we didn't do enough preparation in advance.
FLYNN: Well, to an extraordinary extent, you know, when it comes to disasters, before they hit time is your friend and after they hit it becomes your enemy really quick. And it seems like we need visuals that there's actually destruction before we kick into high gear. We have to much more front-loaded. The fact is, I would argue, the Department of Defense should have been mobilizing on Friday last week once we knew what was going to happen.
We shouldn't have had to wait the two days it took to get the images of the destruction to realize there was real destruction here. When there's that much wind and a storm of that scale, you are going to have devastation.
ZAKARIA: Do you think the fact -- do you think there's anything about the Philippine response that makes it different from some of the other countries you've see that have handled natural calamities and disasters like this?
FLYNN: I mean we really have to put into context that this is one of the largest storms to hit a land mass in recorded history. So anybody is going to be overwhelmed by it.
It's an archipelago which makes things really hard when it comes to moving things around. You have to move by plane, you have to move by boat. And when you have basically the major transportation areas affected as they were in this case, logistics becomes a nightmare.
So the challenge here is that if we haven't built in advance the infrastructure to withstand these kinds of events, when it fails, it fails very badly.
Little things though like the air traffic control obviously are going to fail when an airport is destroyed. You need to move that in very quickly otherwise the aid can't move.
But getting it at the airport doesn't do much good if you can't push it out quickly. And roads, debris, all of these are challenges that are monumental. They would be for a first world country not only a developing country.
ZAKARIA: Laurie, when you look at this, the next phase I assume the Philippines is hot, there's a lot of water, do you start worrying about water-born diseases and things like that. What do you think about?
LAURIE GARRETT, PULITZER PRIZE-WINNING JOURNALIST, SENIOR FELLOW, COUNCIL ON FOREIGN RELATIONS: Well, the first thing I think about is all the traumatic injuries and people who are going to have terrible infections because of the lack of appropriate treatment of everything from a broken bone to scratches and lacerations and all sorts of terrible things.
Then, you add to that that they're exposed to the elements. They don't have shelter in a normally very hot climate mixed with a lot of rainfall and, then, they don't have clean water to drink, they don't have a steady supply of food and nutrients to -- especially for the children. All of this puts people at tremendous risk regardless. Now, you add to it the possibility of a Haiti-like scenario where people coming in to try and do good actually end up bringing microbes as their hitchhikers with them and causing outbreaks.
In the case of Haiti, it was cholera which was persistent ...
ZAKARIA: And that cholera, Laurie, you were telling me, was brought by the Nepalese peacekeepers to Haiti and has resulted in an explosion of cholera in the entire region, right?
GARRETT: Oh it's not just Haiti. It's now endemic which means it's become a permanent feature in Haiti. It's also spread to nearby Dominican Republic, then, via their own humanitarian responders took it back to Cuba.
And, then, from Cuba, it's gone to Mexico where now there's 180 cases reported so far in Mexico and at least five Mexican states. So you're seeing how a calamity can become a second calamity, a third calamity, a fourth calamity if you don't get appropriate responses right in the beginning.
Now, the good news, and I think we have to admit there is some good news in this picture, is that we are the learning curve as a global community to how we respond to these catastrophic events.
We have a lot less back-biting and squabbles between the responders. We have better coordination going on and I think each time, each episode, each horror seems to find the international community trying, grappling with ways to coordinate better.
And less suspicion, for example, of military responders such as Steve as referring to, having the U.S. military go in. And, hopefully, all of this is going to mean we're going to have less errors made by the responders.
The problem now is just simply logistics. I mean you don't have functioning hospitals. You don't have electricity for your operating rooms. You don't have the ability to purify water supplies. All of the basics has been devastated.
ZAKARIA: Thank you, both, very much.
The point you made, Steve Flynn, that stuck with me was if we knew about this looking at the data, looking at the maps, could we have mobilized a better response up front or do we need to see the devastation, see these terrible images before we muster the political will to put out resources.
It's a terrible (inaudible) because we're going to get better and better information from computers and from all kinds of technology, but we still need to move and if the only things that move us are these horrible images, we end up waiting for the disaster.
Anyway, thank you very much. Up next, What in the World. I have a great checklist for you. It's called "How Not to Run an Economy." It turns out to be an actual real country that seems to be following every disastrous step. I'll explain.
ZAKARIA: Now, for our What in the World segment. Some startling images caught my eye this week. A shopping free-for-all at a major electronics chain, the equivalent of America's Best Buy. People making off with flat-screen TVs and all kinds of appliances at bargain basement prices.
It's not the holidays yet. This is what happened when the government of Venezuela decided to play Robin Hood: the army took over the privately owned chain and slashed prices.
The incident got me thinking. We often talk about best practices for economies. Perhaps there should also be a list of things to avoid. A checklist titled maybe, "How to Ruin Your Economy."
This isn't just a theoretical list. Venezuela is actually ticking each of those boxes in practice.
So let's go to rule #1, nationalize business. That's effectively what we saw Venezuela do this week with "Daka," the electronics chain. President Nicolas Maduro claims that TVs were so expensive because the United States is trying to bring down the Venezuelan economy.
It's not clear how it solution to take over the company will actually fix anything.
That brings me to rule #2, create hyperinflation. The truth is the overall price of goods has risen 54 percent in Venezuela this year. So, if your household groceries cost $100 a week in January, they'll now cost $154.
The ripple effect is clear. Prices go up, so eventually salaries have to go up, and, in the long run, anything you produce costs more. Savings lose value. The middle class loses it's standard of living and the entire economy suffers.
Rule #3, induce a currency crisis. What does rampant inflation do? It devalues your currency. The official exchange rate is 6.3 Bolivars for every greenback.
In reality, the black market rate is 7 to 10 times that amount. For a country that imports 70 percent of its basic goods, this is a huge problem. You may remember recently that Venezuela ran out of toilet paper. Why? Well, it is now running out of a different kind of paper, the money to pay for it.
Which brings me to rule #4. subsidize, subsidize, subsidize. If Caracas is running out of money, the government doesn't seem to care. It's been lavishing subsidies for housing, food, health care. There have been two recent elections and, at each one, came a fresh set of promises. And, remember, gas is essentially free. In fact, Venezuela not only subsidizes gas for its own people, it also gives heavily discounted oil to Cuba. All the while, it is running out of money.
I could go on and on, but I'll point out just one more rule. Number #5, which is become a dictatorship. President Nicholas Maduro won a vote this week to get what is known as "decree powers," the ability to pass laws without consulting Congress.
He says he needs these powers to fix the economy and tackle corruption. After all, Venezuela is ranked 181st of 189 countries for ease of doing business. It ranks 165th for transparency.
It took years for Hugo Chavez to take Venezuela down to this point. Maduro seems to believe that by doubling down on those very policies, he's somehow going to get a different outcome.
So, on points 1 through 5, Venezuela is on a fast-track to ruin. The world saw this coming under Chavez. We hoped for change, but in his dying days Chavez handpicked a "mini-me" to stay the course.
The only reason Venezuela has been able to survive given this record of ruinous policies, has been its oil well which has given the government the revenues that cushion it from the effects of all its disasters.
The sad reality is that Venezuela is wasting the world's largest oil reserves. It could have been as wealthy as Saudi Arabia or Qatar. It could easily outstripped Mexico or Brazil. Instead, it is beginning to look more and more like North Korea.
Up next, I have one of my favorite historians on the show, Robert Caro. He takes us back to one of the most important moments in the 20th century, the assassination of John F. Kennedy. When we come back.
CANDY CROWLEY, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Candy Crowley in Washington with a check of the headlines. Talks are set to resume this week on a proposal to ease sanctions against Iran in exchange for the country curbing its nuclear program. Earlier today on "State of the Union" Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he's opposed to any such deal and he supports a move in Congress to tighten sanctions against Iran even though the Obama administration is warning that action could derail negotiations.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BENJAMIN NETANYAHU, ISRAELI PRIME MINISTER: Friends, and the best of friends, can have different opinions. We agree on a lot of things. There are some things we disagree on. And by the way, I don't think this is -- from what I gather, is not a partisan issue either. There are Democrats who are calling for tougher sanctions and there are Republicans who are saying to keep the sanctions as they are. I'm speaking not from a partisan issue except one. I'm the prime minister of Israel. And I have to care for the survival of my country and Iran maintaining its nuclear weapons capability, that is the capacity to produce nuclear weapons, threatens directly the future of the Jewish state.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CROWLEY: Secretary of state John Kerry travels to Israel Friday to discuss the Iran negotiation with Netanyahu.
The Navy says two sailors were injured when a drone malfunctioned and crashed into a ship during a training exercise. The incident occurred Saturday off the southern California coast. The ship is headed back to its base where there will be an investigation into what caused the drone to malfunction.
The upper Midwestern United States is under a severe weather threat. The National Weather Service says tornadoes with widespread damaging winds could develop today across Illinois, Indiana and Michigan and stretch as far south as Tennessee. Those are your top stories. "Reliable Sources" is at the top of the hour but now back to "Fareed Zakaria GPS."
ZAKARIA: The assassination of John F. Kennedy on November 22nd, 1963, in Dealey Plaza, Dallas. After all of the commissions, books, movies, conspiracy theories, studies, TV shows and investigations, is it possible to have a unique take on the day and its aftermath? I would argue that my next guest does. Robert Caro is a Pulitzer Prize winning writer, biographer and historian. He has a new eBook on the topic. It's called Dallas, November 22, 1963. We have links to it on our website. Welcome back to the show.
ROBERT CARO, AUTHOR, "DALLAS, NOVEMBER 22, 1963": Glad to be back.
ZAKARIA: So, when you looked at this and you looked at it for your great, great biography of Lyndon Johnson, what I'm struck by is you begin a section of the book by saying it was going to be a Kennedy day ...
ZAKARIA: ... meaning
CARO: That Kennedys had this tradition whenever there was a big event, the sun came out. So, in the morning, Kennedy is in Fort Worth, it's raining. As the plane is flying to Dallas, sun comes out, and Larry O'Brien, one of his aids says Kennedy weather.
ZAKARIA: And what was the Kennedy presidency looking like at that moment?
CARO: Well, it depends on what angle you were looking at it. His popularity for '64 election was high. But all his legislation was stalled in Congress. Civil rights - you know, civil rights was boiling up in the South. It needed a legislative release, it needed to pay us a bill. His bill was going nowhere. It was bottled up with the southern Democrats who controlled Congress. It was going nowhere. He needed a tax that was important, a tax cut bill because unemployment was rising toward a totally unacceptable five percent. And tax rates had to come down. Everyone agreed that Congress wouldn't let this bill through. All his major legislation was stalled. So at that moment you say his presidency had two sides. At the same time, his personal glamour and popularity ad Jackie's was making him more and more popular.
ZAKARIA: But he hadn't really - he had the Bay of Pigs. Had he had anything significant that he had accomplished. The Cuban missile crisis would have been the one thing where he triumphed in a very complicated test of wills.
CARO: Yes. But The Cuban missile crisis, no matter how much attention you pay to it, it's not enough. I mean we were on the verge of nuclear war with Russia. When you listen to the tapes of the execom -his executive committee, you sometimes feel like almost everybody in that room was arguing for an invasion or a bombing strike. And every time things got heated, you say - he says something like, gentlemen, let's take a break, let's have dinner and then we'll come back and talk. And so he's pulling - it's like ...
ZAKARIA: Pulling them back.
CARO: He's pulling them back. You know, he said he's going to stop this - destroy - any Soviet warship that passes the quarantine line, we're going to abort, which would have been an act coming very close to war. And Russian ship does cross the line. You know what he says? Let's give them one more day. It's like he was saying let's give peace one more day. He'd just finished reading Barbara Tuchman's book, "The Guns of August". You know what he says to Ted (inaudible)? He says ...
ZAKARIA: That book is a book about the ...
CARO: It's about how world - how the nation stumbled into World War I by just one little escalation after another. Unintended. He said if I make a mistake here, you know what? The title of the book about the Cuban missile crisis is going to be, "The Missiles of October." He knew the world was on the verge of nuclear war and at he had to give Khrushchev enough time to be - accept the plan for peace. And, you know, when Khrushchev accepted, and no one writes this, Fareed. The letter that he sends to Kennedy saying we should not both be pulling tighter the knot of war. He signs (ph) it in a very unusual way "With respect, Khrushchev."
ZAKARIA: When we come back, I'm going to ask Bob Caro something I don't know if people have asked him before, which what he thinks of all of the conspiracy theories. When we come back.
ZAKARIA: And we are back with Robert Caro, the great American historian, biographer of Lyndon Johnson talking about John F. Kennedy and the assassination.
So, you know there are people who look at where Johnson was dead in the water, a "Life" magazine article was about to come out. You describe, you know which was an investigative story that would have further undermined him. People look at all that and say boy, this assassination really not only made Johnson president, but saved him from what might have been a complete collapse and is it possible that had the assassination not happened, Johnson would have been so humiliated he would have had to resign?
CARO: Well, Johnson to answer that part of your question, Johnson himself felt that whether he had a second term or not, he was finished. That's the word he used. I'm finished. And, you know how we know that he really felt that way, he told several of his key aides who if he had further ambitions, he would have won (ph) to keep with him, he said I'm done. That one of them once is asking him can I go to work for somebody else? He says go with him. I'm finished. So you say that Johnson really felt that his career might be over. On the other hand, nothing that I ever found -- I've been doing research on Lyndon Johnson for a lot of years. And I have to say that nothing that I found in writing or in interviews led me to believe that whatever the story of the assassination really is, that Lyndon Johnson had anything to do with it. I never found anything that led me to believe that.
ZAKARIA: What do you think explains both the conspiracy theories and the sense of why this assassination loomed so large in American imagination?
CARO: Well, you know, it's almost like myth. Homeric myth. Young, handsome, the athlete, you know, dying young at the height of his glory. You know, you say beautiful man really. Charming. Handsome. Idealistic. Murder. Blood. Violence. Horror. You know, it's - you say here has this crack of the gunshot and in an instant this man is lying across his wife's lap basically in the back seat of a car with his head blown apart. Blood all over her. Do you know, you say, for that reason alone it has all of the qualities of the mythic drama in the highest terms. Then you also say, you know, there is the whole thing that happened that you may be too young to remember, the four days of television that wherever you know, all the networks is only one broadcast. There is a pool broadcast. The Nielsen Ratings show that for those four days, the television set in the average American home was on for 31.6 hours. That's eight hours a day that America is watching the same words said by the same people and you say, I wrote in my book, you know, the funeral procession. You think of the triumphs of Rome. The triumphal processions of Rome. This is the closest that a Republic ever came to it. A procession marching up to the Capitol with the great dome of the Capitol columns, the top columns in the sky marching toward at first you have the generals, the joint chiefs of staff, the priests in their flowing robes and then you have the matched gray horses, the caisson. Behind it, you know, a single sailor holding a flag. Kennedy had been a Naval hero, a Navy lieutenant. That's the president's personal flag. The great black horse prancing there. You say where has - if you just said, forget politics. Forget tragedy. This is a drama such as you have very few -- you have very few comparison to this in all of history and drumming it into history and drumming it into the American people is television. Everybody is watching. The nation is united in a way, united in watching this in a way you say when did this ever happen?
ZAKARIA: And it feels to me that it's also about where America was in 1963. America was literally on top of the world. It was - it accounted for 35 percent of global GDP. It had not had a major stumble, I mean if you think about the '40s and '50s it had rebuilt Europe, it had rebuilt Japan. It was starting things like the Peace Corps and I think, you know, in a sense what comes after is Vietnam. It's the civil rights struggles. It's the violence in almost every major American city. So in a strange sense it is this great divide where people can look back and say, you know, metaphorically in a sense, if Kennedy had lived, maybe America would have had a different trajectory.
CARO: The great divide, as you just said, that's a great phrase. I have it a little - I'll give you another word. Watershed. You know, the real meaning of the watershed is this top of a mountain divide. On one side the waters run one way, on the other side the waters run another way. America was a different place on November 21st 1963 than it was five years later when Lyndon Johnson left the presidency.
As we just said, the Kennedy funeral procession is the height of the majesty of the republic in Washington. Five years later, when you stepped out the front door of the White House, you could see the fires burning from the looters just a few blocks away. You talk to Johnson's wife and say what can you remember? She said I remember walking to work and there were troops in jeeps on every corner.
ZAKARIA: Protesters everywhere.
CARO: And protesters everywhere. And people outside the White House -- I mean, imagine the poignancy of a president living with his family, his wife, and two daughters in the White House and in parts of the White House you could hear -- because Pennsylvania Avenue was not then closed off, protesters could come up to the fence -- inside the White House you could hear them chanting, "hey, hey, LBJ, how many kids did you kill today?" I mean, what you said is exactly right. A Kennedy assassination when you look back on the 20TH century, is the great divide in American history.
ZAKARIA: Robert Caro, pleasure, as always. CNN has a great new documentary from executive producer Tom Hanks on the subject of that dark day in November 50 years ago. It's called "The Assassination of President Kennedy," and it airs for North American viewers tonight at 9:00 p.m. and 11:00 p.m. Eastern. Don't miss it.
Up next on "GPS " which nations have opened their wallets for the Philippines after disaster struck there last weekend, and which have not been so generous? It's an interesting list when we get back.
ZAKARIA: The 50TH anniversary of John F. Kennedy's assassination brings me to my question of the week. Who was the only U.S. president to escape two assassination attempts in the same month? Was it Ulysses S. Grant, Andrew Jackson, Harold Ford, or Harry Truman? Stay tuned and we'll tell you the correct answer.
This week's book of the week is "The Man He Became" by James Tobin. The author looks at just one aspect of Franklin Roosevelt's life: his struggle with polio, and he sheds remarkable light on the man who became America's greatest modern president. Tobin persuasively shows that it was FDR's battle to overcome this disability that most profoundly turned him into the man he became and the president he became.
Now for the last look. Death. Destruction. Hunger. Fear. Shattering images continue to come out of the Philippines following Typhoon Haiyan, and before and after maps like those from Digital Globe show the true impact of the devastation. Dozens of countries of course have pledged to help. The United States pledged $20 million in aid, not to mention Navy ships and an aircraft carrier. Britain pledged 16 million and promised to match the first 8 million in UK public donations. The U.N. pledged 25 million. Australia, 9 million. The Vatican, 4 million.
What about China, the world's second largest economy and emerging superpower? Its government initially pledged $100,000 to the Philippines for disaster relief. Now, relations are frayed between the two nations following tensions over island disputes in the South China Sea. But that might well have been a reason to provide an especially large donation so that China could show it is upset with the Filipino government and not its government.
In any event, this measly aid promise did not go unnoticed. Even tiny Taiwan, with 20 million people, pledged $200,000, double China's initial pledge. Following harsh criticism, the Beijing government increased its pledge, but as of a week after the storm, had only added 1.6 million in relief supplies.
China's main media agency, Xinhua, has called for a de- Americanized world, urging Washington to play a more constructive role in global affairs. What could be more constructive than humanitarian disaster relief?
The correct answer to our question is c, President Gerald Ford. On September 5th, 1975, Lynette "Squeaky" Fromme, a Charles Manson devotee, pointed a gun at Ford but was tackled by the Secret Service before pulling the trigger. 17 days later, Sarah Jane Moore fired her gun at the president, but a bystander grabbed her arm and she missed Ford. Ford is the only American president to have bee n shot at by a woman.
Thanks to all of you for being part of my program this week. I'll see you next week. Stay tuned for "Reliable Sources."