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FAREED ZAKARIA GPS
Plotters Fail to Overthrow Turkish Government; Who Was Behind the Attempted Turkish Coup?; Terror on the Shores of the Mediterranean; Cleveland to Host Republican National Convention This Week. Aired 10-11a ET
Aired July 17, 2016 - 10:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[10:00:32] 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 coming to you live today.
ZAKARIA: We'll start today's show with terror in France yet again. This time an attack on Bastille Day, an ordinary vehicle, used as an extraordinary weapon of mass murder.
What can the world learn from France's reopened national wounds?
And attempted coup in Turkey. What happened and what is going on on the ground there right now. We will bring you the latest.
Then Donald Trump and the Republican National Convention. It will be the pinnacle of an unprecedented Republican primary.
DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESUMPTIVE PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: We have to bring our party together.
ZAKARIA: But what does history tell us about what we can expect? Will there be violent protests like 1968? Will there be throw fights like 1952? I have a great panel of historians to talk about it all.
ZAKARIA: But first here's my take. Is the failed coup in Turkey a good or a bad thing? Well, it's unquestionably good that an elected government that has been reelected twice was not driven out of office by a bunch of soldiers wielding guns. But Turkey's president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, has himself acted in a highly authoritarian manner in recent years. Jailing journalists, firing generals, backing courts, and using his popularity to accumulate power. The coup appears to have encouraged him to move further in this direction.
We have in Turkey, as in so much of the Middle East, the choice between a repressive dictatorship on one side or in liberal democracy on the other. To complicate things further Turkey's president says the coup was plotted by the 75-year-old Islamic scholar, Fethullah Gulen, who lives in Pennsylvania and who many believe is moderate and democratic, and was once Erdogan's ally. The Turkish government is insisting that the U.S. extradite him to
Turkey so that he can be tried for treason.
What should Washington do?
Now let's take a look at the gruesome barbaric attack in Nice, mowing down dozens of men, women and children. How to detect such a terrorist in the future? What French authorities say that in this case, the man had no prior record of affiliation in Islamist groups like ISIS, he wasn't even apparently religious. Reportedly had no record of attending a mosque or religious institution of any kind, and was not even talked to be a practicing Muslim by those who knew him.
France was already in the state of emergency. Nice had been alert on that particular day and the police were present and armed.
So what would you do differently?
Turkey and Nice present complicated cases where policy will require gathering more information, careful study and good analysis. The best policies will be ones that are wise, workable and well implemented, or we could try Newt's idea.
Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich says that in the wake of the Nice attacks, we should ask all American Muslims whether they believe in Sharia, Islamic law, and if they do deport them. Never mind that such applying religious test violates the First Amendment. Never mind that punishing people for what they believe also violates the First Amendment. Never mind that there's actually no provision to strip American citizens of their citizenship.
Never mind that it's not clear what country would deport American citizens to. Never mind in other words that Gingrich's idea is immoral, illegal, unconstitutional, and unworkable. It's also just stupid.
Let's say the American government were to send FBI agents door-to- door, round up all Muslims and ask them whether they believe in Sharia. I'm going to guess that the ISIS-trained would-be among them, the ones carefully evading scrutiny and plotting future attacks would answer no.
Then what would you do, Mr. Gingrich?
In fact Gingrich's idea is not an actual policy proposal, but rather a way to push emotional buttons.
[10:05:03] People are outraged after the attack in Nice and a string of other attacks, and Gingrich wants to feed and capitalize on that outrage. This is the opposite of leadership. It's demagoguery of the first order.
Look, this is a dangerous and complicated world out there. Let's hope that over the next few days in Cleveland at that Republican National Convention, we hear from some people who actually understand this complexity and can stop the pandering and bigotry and get serious. And let's get started.
So let's get right to two of our big stories today, the coup attempt in Turkey and terror in France. We'll begin with Turkey, a NATO to ally, 75 million people strong, a bridge between Europe and Asia, and for many hours on Friday night it was unclear to many inside and outside Turkey just who was in charge as tanks patrolled the streets and parliament was bombed.
Now President Erdogan seems firmly back in power and state media tells us that 6,000 people have been arrested and around 200 are dead. What to take from all of this?
Joining me now from Istanbul is Mustafa Akyol, an opinion writer for both the "New York Times" and Turkey's own Hurriyet, and in D.C., Steven Cook, who is a senior fellow for Middle East and African studies at the Council on Foreign Relations.
Mustafa, let me begin with you. Tell us what does it look like to you right now in Turkey? Is there a sense that the coup is entirely done and we are now watching a kind of counter coup of purge to all of those who might have participated?
MUSTAFA AKYOL, CONTRIBUTING WRITER, NEW YORK TIMES: Indeed. I mean, the coup is over, Fareed. And I should say that I'm happy that it's over. I mean, Turkey -- Turkish democracy has many flaws as we all know but nothing could justify a bloody military coup against the legitimate government. So it's over. And it was either a very premature attempt or it was not very calculated. Ultimately in just eight hours, it turned out that the clique in the military, it was not the whole military, but the clique -- a clique failed. And unfortunately we have so many losses. I mean, people were killed.
Now life is normal. I mean, if you come to Istanbul, you know, traffic is like it is. You know, restaurants open. So life is normal. But the folks' mood is of course very tense. The government began mass arrests against the people it thinks is behind the coup or allied with them. And I think they have the right to really crack down on the junta and its allies, whoever they are. But of course this should be a very sensitive thing because there's a threat that these things can turn into witch hunts, as it happened to Turkish political history and its history as well.
So yes, we are seeing now the payback by the government against the people who did the coup, but it's a very, very sensitive process. It should be a sensitive process.
ZAKARIA: Steven, many people have written that this is going to be bad for Turkish democracy, even though a coup was averted and even though, as Mustafa says, that is obviously a good thing, Erdogan is going to get more authoritarian. He's going to be reinforced in his -- what many people consider paranoia, about the enemies that encircle him. He's going to become more difficult to deal with.
Do you think that's likely and do you think it's likely particularly in the area of foreign policy, where, for example, on Syria, he has been unpredictable and uncooperative until very recently?
STEVEN COOK, SENIOR FELLOW, COUNCIL ON FOREIGN RELATIONS: I think that's exactly the things that American policymakers and observers of Turkey should be worried about. The quality of the Turkish democracy, as Mustafa pointed out, has many flaws. In fact after years when people believe that Erdogan could lead Turkey into the European Union, confirming it as a liberal democracy, Erdogan has actually overseen the re-authoritarianization, if that's a word, of Turkish politics.
He is a terrific politician and by definition, he's paranoid, as a Turkish Islamist, he has more reason to be paranoid. He always believed another coup was around the corner. So it strikes me that this crackdown will continue for quite some time and he will be able to increase his grip on power. That should be worrying to Turks. To Turks who want to live in a democracy and to American officials who would like to see Turkey move forward and return to that path of reform that it pursued during the early 2000s.
As far as foreign policy goes, you're quite right. Turkey's been somewhat erratic, somewhat unhelpful on the question of Syria. Although over the course of the last six to eight months, they've gotten quite better.
[10:10:02] And the terrorist attacks in Istanbul recently and in fact the terrorist attacks on the course of the last year had focused Turkish minds. Let's hope that this coup and the -- what's obviously going to be a lot of attention to Turkish domestic politics does not turn Turkey away from working with its partners against the Islamic State in Syria and in Iraq.
ZAKARIA: Mustafa, can you explain to a global audience, why it is that Erdogan has this strange relationship on terrorism? He first led in a lot of jihadis into Syria apparently because he wanted to get rid of Assad, and you know, his feeling was anyone who wants to go and fight Assad is good, but then in more recent months he has still been very conflicted about whether to support the anti-ISIS forces because there is -- Turkey has its own internal problem of Kurdish separatism.
What is going on there now? Do you think that the government has a clear policy toward groups like ISIS?
AKYOL: Of course, Fareed, first of all, but let me say one more thing, I am among the people who called later the Erdogan narrative as paranoia. Erdogan was speaking of conspiracies all the time. But yesterday it turned out that there is some conspiracy. You know, the saying goes, the fact that you're paranoid does not mean that somebody is not after you. So yesterday in terms of a parallel state in the state, I think Erdogan's arguments turned out to be true. We should give him that. But there's a lot of course other -- like propaganda that I have not shared lately.
To come back to your question, Turkey has made big mistakes regarding the Middle East. With Syria, Turkey was only obsessed about toppling Assad from the beginning, for a long time, they thought every jihadi who fights Assad is a good guy and it costs Turkey. And that's why they were -- the government was very blind to the threat coming from ISIS and al-Nusra and similar groups for a very long time. However, we are seeing a change in that lately. And as belated as it is, Turkey joined the anti-ISIS coalition. That's why actually ISIS began hitting Turkey. So I think with regards to Turkish foreign policy we are in an era of restoration.
Turkey made relations with Russia and Israel better. I mean, that was a big reconciliation. That's fine. What should happen, though, is that Erdogan should use this coup as an opportunity for a reconciliation inside Turkey as well. Of course the coup people -- the plotters should be brought to justice, but also Erdogan should reach out to the secular side of Turkey's society which sided with him on the coup night. And I think that was a very important thing.
Turkey's secular media, secular position, they said we are not with Erdogan on many issues, but against the coup we are with him. And actually they helped him work the coup. So Erdogan should see that. And while focusing on this narrow problem of a cabal, a network within the state, which knew these things. He should reach out to the social segments that he has demonized in the past three years, and if he's wise enough, he can do restoration in foreign policy and some restoration at home as well. At least we have to hope that.
ZAKARIA: Mustafa, Steven, pleasure to have you on. We'll get back to you soon.
Next on GPS, we will dig into just why the Turkish government thinks Fethullah Gulen, the 75-year-old imam, living in a small town in Pennsylvania, is responsible for the coup.
I'll talk to the American lawyer who is working on behalf of President Erdogan trying to extradite Fethullah Gulen to Turkey.
ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.
[10:18:07] ZAKARIA: President Erdogan made a very direct demand of his American counterpart, Barack Obama. He said, "Dear Mr. President, I told you this before, either arrest Fethullah Gulen or return him back to Turkey."
The man Erdogan wants sent back to Turkey is a 75-year-old imam living in a small town in Pennsylvania. Gulen for his part told reporters he does not take Erdogan's accusations seriously and went on to claim that the coup may have been faked.
Why the fuss around an elderly man who lives so far away from Ankara?
To explain it all, joining me now is the American lawyer charged with trying to extradite Gulen from the United States to Turkey, Robert Amsterdam.
Thanks for joining me, Robert. I have to ask you, about 15 years ago, in 2001, I met President Erdogan, who's then not president, along with some leaders of the AK party, his party. They were praising Gulen to the skies, they regarded Gulen as an ally, they talked about how democratic he was, he represented a moderate, new kind of Islam. The accusations I have seen about him that have been put out by -- in part by your team are about the fact that his schools may have been engaged in h1b visa fraud, that there may be more of them, that they may be promoting him.
None of which remotely seems to be something that would suggest somebody was involved in a coup.
ROBERT AMSTERDAM, LAWYER FOR THE TURKISH GOVERNMENT: Well, I think, Fareed, you're right about the fraud. You're right, our papers make it very clear, he's been engaged in massive criminal conduct in the U.S. Over $500 million he's managing in terms of 150 charter schools. But you've missed the attempted coup of 2013. You've missed the attempt to remove Hakan Fidan. You've the Ergenekon trial in 2008 when Gulen basically helped stage a trial against the military which has now been shown to be a false trial, a political trial. He's been involved --
[10:20:06] ZAKARIA: There's no evidence that any independent authorities have found that links him to them.
AMSTERDAM: Well, actually --
ZAKARIA: I know that President Erdogan has made that claim.
AMSTERDAM: I would actually refer you to the Web site of a leading professor here in the United States, Dany Roddick who makes it very clear that Fethullah Gulen was directly involved. And Mr. Roddick has tremendous incontrovertible computer evidence linking the Gulenist to it. So I disagree with your position.
ZAKARIA: Let me ask you about the extradition claim. I was at an event, I was chairing an event at the Council on Foreign Relations a few years ago when President Erdogan came and spoke. He devoted a third of his speech to demanding that Gulen be extradited. I was therefore surprised to learn that the Turkish government has never made a formal extradition request. So if this is all true, you know, it does appear to me as though this was being used as a kind of rhetorical talking point if there had never actually been a formal request made. Secretary Kerry just said on "STATE OF THE UNION," they had never received a formal extradition request.
If all this is true and has been proved for years and you have all this documentation, why has it not happened?
AMSTERDAM: Well, I think there are a number of reasons for it. And firstly, you need to be clear that the extradition matter is actually a government-to-government matter. Our firm's been retained to deal with Gulen's crimes inside the United States which we have been actually fairly thorough in documenting. So in terms of the extradition, that's a question for the Foreign Ministry in terms of making sure they got all their evidence. I understand there's over 1,000 pages of documentation connected to the extradition. In fact far more. But that's more rightly a question for the Foreign Affairs Ministry and the Justice Ministry.
ZAKARIA: Well, Robert, we're going to have to leave it there. We will -- naturally the story will continue and we will -- we will continue to follow it and perhaps have you back on.
AMSTERDAM: Thank you.
ZAKARIA: I should mention we have invited Fethullah Gulen to appear on GPS for an interview. We hope he will accept in the coming weeks.
Next on GPS, we will turn our attention to the terror attacks in Nice, where a truck was turned into a mass killing device. The lessons from this terrible tale when we come back.
[10:26:21] ZAKARIA: Bring more weapons. That was the chilling text message the attacker in Nice sent just before he began his murderous truck rampage along the shores of the Mediterranean, striking right after a Bastille Day fireworks display ended. He killed more than 80 people before he was stopped about a mile after he began.
How can we protect ourselves from future attacks like this?
Joining me now are Peter Bergen, CNN's national security analyst and a vice president at New America, and from Normandy, Nathalie Goulet is a member of the French Senate and the vice chairwoman of that body's Foreign Affairs Committee.
Madam Goulet, can you explain what are the lessons that France, that French authorities, are drawing from what happened in Nice?
NATHALIE GOULET, FRENCH SENATOR: Well, I think that the main point in that -- we cannot predict everything. And you know, what happened in Nice was not predictable at all. And I think that's it's a very challenging time for the politicians. And we have to keep our head on our shoulders and try to weigh the investigation. And it's very, very difficult because the people now, they are very angry and very sad. And it's a very, very difficult time that we are crossing.
ZAKARIA: Peter, when Jake Tapper asked John Kerry about ISIS, they got into an exchange where John Kerry said, look, ISIS is on the retreat, it is losing territory, it is losing finances, and Jake Tapper said yes, but it doesn't appear that way to the public because of these terrorist attacks, and Kerry says well, you can't, these are lone wolf attacks.
Who's right here? How do we think about these issues? We do see ISIS on the retreat in the Middle East and yet we see these kind of sporadic attacks.
PETER BERGEN, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Look, they're both right because both things have simultaneously happened. We have seen ISIS lose after 50 percent of its territory in Iraq and 20 percent in Syria, and yet at the same time, ISIS has directed or inspired attacks across the west. And these things are happening simultaneously and will continue to happen.
ZAKARIA: Madame Goulet, when we think of France, we think of the French counter intelligence has always been very good and very tough. They have, you know, people in American intelligence community always praise French counter intelligence.
Do you think anything more can be done when you look at something like this to make sure that it doesn't happen in the future?
GOULET: No, no. I think that of course crossing intelligence, you know, as -- the murderer from Nice was not on the watch list. He was not known. He was just -- it's kind of an ice pick radicalization, which is a new way, and I'm not sure -- sorry, it was so much connected with ISIL, unless via social network. And I read, while your other guest wrote, and 10 things that we have to do. I think that we have to work a lot on the social media, that is really important because this propaganda is a nightmare, because this guy was just unstable. You know, and it was a madman and then he catch some of these propaganda and here we are.
So I think that we have to disconnect a little bit of what happened in ISIL in Iraq and Syria, and what happened on the -- especially because we have a lot of people radicalized in France, more than 10,000. You know we have more than 10,000 young people on the verge of radicalization including 40 percent of converts.
[10:30:00] We have 40 percent of the 10,000 Christian converts into Muslim for the sake of radicalization and fighting with ISIL. So, you know, we have to think about all these issues.
ZAKARIA: Peter, why do you think this is happening in France?
You know, not to single it out, but there do seem to have been a series of attacks in France, and it does seem more prone to have these radicalized loners than, say, Germany, Italy. You know, one doesn't know for sure, but certainly the evidence of the last five years suggests that there -- that France may have a special problem?
BERGEN: And I would add Belgium. And it seems to be a Francophone problem. I mean, Belgium has had the highest proportion of foreign fighters by population going to Syria. France has had the largest number of Western -- any Western country -- of going to Syria and joining ISIS and other militant groups.
And the fact that something like 60 percent of the French prison population is Muslim, and yet only around 8 percent of the entire population is Muslim, reflects the kind of marginalization and criminal nature of -- of this problem.
And if you look at all these attacks, Fareed, one thing that invariably ties them together, including the Nice attack, is that they've either been involved in petty crime or have spent significant time for serious crime in French or Belgian prisons.
ZAKARIA: Madame Goulet, does that -- how do you solve that problem of alienation or marginalization, you know, not ever to say that it justifies any kind of terrorism. But is it part -- is part of the solution to deal with this alienation?
GOULET: Oh, absolutely, because, you know, we have a breach of the citizen link. Those those people are not feeling themselves as French citizens. They don't recognize the republic. And the problem we have is that they are children of the republic. We are not talking about the (inaudible) of yesterday, because the (inaudible) of yesterday are not a problem. You cannot put in on the -- you cannot put all those people on the watch list. I mean, they have no previous link with terrorism before the day before yesterday. And that is a -- is a real problem.
But for the other ones, the people on the verge of radicalization, and also the people who are going to be back from Syria and Iraq, we are going to have a serious problem, and we have to work on it. It's also a question of discrimination. It's also a problem of international policy, how they felt. And it's also problematic of the secularism in France, you know. We are, let's say, military secularists, and that may create the feeling for the Muslims that the French law is against Muslim -- or against Islam, and that is also a problem.
ZAKARIA: Peter, that's a very important, interesting point, and I'm -- I'm fascinated to hear Madame Goulet make it. France has this very aggressive form of secularism, far more aggressive than the United States. In the United States, for example, a woman can wear whatever she wants, but in France, certain kinds of religious garb, a Muslim veil, are not allowed.
Is it your sense that that provokes -- that makes this kind of alienation worse?
BERGEN: Well, you know, this is an idea that's been around since the French Revolution, the idea of what the French call laicite, which is a sort of secularized society and state.
But I would add to, I think, to that point that there is no French dream; there is no British dream; there's no German dream; there's certainly no E.U. dream. And there isn't the ideological apparatus in any of these European countries to encourage large-scale immigrants to feel that they're part of their nation. And that's not particular to France; that's true across Europe. And in the United States, the American dream has been something of a firewall against these radical ideas amongst the Muslim-American population, who are, on average, as well-educated, as well-integrated into American society as any other immigrant group that has preceded them.
ZAKARIA: Madame Goulet, Peter Bergen, great pleasure to have you on. I hope we can have you on under less tragic circumstances next.
We will be back with a great historians' panel on the Republican Convention.
ZAKARIA: All eyes will be on Ohio's second biggest city as Cleveland hosts the Republican National Convention starting Monday. There are still many unknowns about how it will all play out, but the GOP's presumptive nominee is certainly ensuring that this convention will be unique. But the saying goes, "History doesn't repeat itself, though it does rhyme."
So to explain those rhythms of history, joining me now are four distinguished historians. Nell Irvin Painter and Sean Wilentz are both Princetonians. Nell is an American history professor emerita at the university and Sean Wilentz is a current professor of American history there. Rick Perlstein is a foremost historian of conservatism in America and is covering the convention for The New Republic magazine. And joining us from Toronto is Conrad Black, the former media tycoon, who's also an accomplished author, historian and biographer, including biographies of FDR and Nixon.
Sean, when you look at this convention, which, you know, all of us are wondering what the hell is it going to look like?
SEAN WILENTZ, AMERICAN HISTORY PROFESSOR, PRINCETON UNIVERSITY: Yeah.
ZAKARIA: Are there precedents in history?
WILENTZ: We'll find out, won't we?
I mean, I...
... I'm in the dark as to what's going to happen. It's -- there's never been a candidate like Donald Trump before. so let's start with that.
ZAKARIA: In what sense? In what sense, do you think?
WILENTZ: Well, we've never had a reality TV show mogul run for president of the United States. But also, he brings to the presidency, or he brings to the campaign, rather -- he would bring -- you know, a degree of racial and ethnic discord that very rarely gets that far in presidential politics, except, perhaps, in the likes of George Wallace. So it's different.
ZAKARIA: Rick Perlstein, when you look at this, you -- you talk a lot about the '60s in your books.
RICK PERLSTEIN, "THE NEW REPUBLIC": I do, yeah.
ZAKARIA: Goldwater in 1964 -- there is some analogy here?
PERLSTEIN: The analogy is -- would be the party backing away from this candidate who's seen as radioactive, although I think that the Republicans have proved themselves a more craven organization than they were in 1964. In 1964, no one spoke on Goldwater's behalf in the general election, except for Richard Nixon, because he, kind of, calculated that the Goldwater forces had taken over the party. But here we see Republicans lining up, I mean just really being, you
know, like joining the bandwagon -- "he's the guy with the power, and we're going to follow the power." So I think the discontinuity is the willingness of the Republicans -- the unwillingness of the Republican party to, kind of, draw a line like they did in 1964.
ZAKARIA: Conrad, do you, as a conservative and a supporter of the Republican establishment, think you can -- you can imagine this all working well?
CONRAD BLACK, FORMER MEDIA TYCOON: Yes. In fairness, Fareed, I am also a very admiring, though not uncritically so, biographer of Franklin D. Roosevelt. I'm not that conservative.
And I'm bipartisan in American matters. I have often supported Democrats, not that I've ever had a vote in that country or been a resident of it. But I do clearly, I think, take a slightly different view from the two men who have preceded me in this -- in this talk. I would say that the Republicans shouldn't necessarily be accused of cravenness for attempting to support their apparent nominee.
Obviously, I think, if Trump says completely outlandish things, replicating some of the ill-considered reflections he's had up to now, than there will be a lot of problems. But I don't think we should chastise that party for not simply throwing their candidate out like a J-cloth and delivering a huge majority to the other side.
ZAKARIA: Nell, one of the other things that, of course, is in play here is this issue of race and the divergence, and that goes back -- I mean, the 1948 Democratic convention was almost riven apart by this.
NELL IRVIN PAINTER, AMERICAN HISTORY PROFESSOR EMERITA, PRINCETON UNIVERSITY: It was riven apart by the question of black civil rights. The Democratic nominee, President Truman, came out and ran on a platform for black civil rights, and that -- that really outraged the Southern senators and representatives who were at the convention. They walked out; they nominated their own candidate, Governor Strom Thurmond of South Carolina. But that's, kind of, for me, the template of what we're seeing now, which is this kind of underlying racial animosity and a backlash against black empowerment in this -- in '48, black civil rights and in our moment, our president, who is African- American. I don't think we would have Donald Trump without President Barack Obama.
ZAKARIA: Conrad, where does conservatism go?
Because it does seems as though -- I mean, you had 17 candidates running for the Republican nomination. The least conservative, by most normal measures, won. That is, you know, the other ones were advocating tax cuts, entitlement cuts, de-regulation, and Trump was talking about Mexicans, Muslims, Chinese. What happens to conservatism after Trump?
BLACK: Well, first of all, I think we're going too far, despite his infelicitous statements at times, in assimilating him to racists like George Wallace, prior to Governor Wallace succumbing to the grace of conversion. He did say "Segregation today, segregation tomorrow, segregation forever," but stood in the schoolhouse door.
Donald Trump has been an equal-opportunity employer. He -- I think we have to make a distinction between grievances, however flamboyantly or demagogically presented, about illegal immigration, and -- and racism in the sense of discriminating against or disparaging anyone who isn't...
PAINTER: You don't have to choose.
PAINTER: You don't have to choose.
BLACK: ... his pigmentation.
PAINTER: Mr. Black, Trump has proposed...
PAINTER: ... the largest ethnic cleansing in the history of humankind. This isn't just a cherry on top; this is the whole sundae. It's a colossal human rights obscenity. How could you defend that?
BLACK: He's -- I'm not defending it. I think his comments...
PAINTER: You just did.
BLACK: ... about expelling all illegal -- I did not; I said you make a distinction between segregating black and white American citizens and opposing the illegal entry of 12 million people into the country. That's what I said, and I don't wish to be misrepresented.
ZAKARIA: But, Conrad...
BLACK: There is a distinction. That doesn't mean I white-wash what he did or what he says. But there's a distinction, and I think we should make it.
ZAKARIA: But, Conrad, the question, I guess, I'm trying to get at it is, he's still not very conservative. I mean, when he was asked about...
BLACK: No, you're absolutely right.
ZAKARIA: So what happens to the Paul Ryan...
BLACK: He isn't very conservative.
ZAKARIA: What happens to the Paul Ryan wing of the party that, sort of, touts itself as the -- as the agenda-setter for the Republican Party? The Republican ideas were about tax cuts, entitlement reform, de-regulation. BLACK: A very good question, and I think this is one of the ironies
of it. I don't understand why Moveon.org and these far-left groups are so hostile to Donald Trump. He's the closest they've had to a Rockefeller Republican as the nominee of that party since Eisenhower.
ZAKARIA: The panel will stay right here. Viewers, please stay right there. We will be back with much more.
ZAKARIA: We are back here on GPS talking about the upcoming Republican National Convention, which kicks off Monday in Cleveland. With me to discuss it, a great panel of historians, Nell Irvin Painter, Sean Wilentz, Rick Perlstein and, from Toronto, Conrad Black.
Nell, when you look at it, there have been many contested conventions in various forms.
PAINTER: There have been.
ZAKARIA: This one, actually -- it's not going to be contested, in that sense. Trump is clearly the nominee.
PAINTER: That's right. That's right.
ZAKARIA: But do you expect that, on the platform, or something like that, anything will -- will happen of note?
PAINTER: We already have the platform, pretty much, and it seems to be pretty far-right. And the nominee seems to be OK with it. So that is not going to be a very exciting discussion. So we'll have to wait for the Democrats to have the big fight.
PERLSTEIN: It's going to be the whole spectrum, from right to far- right, I think.
ZAKARIA: Conrad, do you agree that, at the end of the day, the convention might be more orderly? And is that because Republicans are, you know, kind of, more hierarchical, rule-based and less -- less willing to go to the streets of Chicago and -- and scream?
BLACK: Look, traditionally, at least in the lifetimes of all of us here, they have been a more contented group than the Democrats. And, you know, Will Rogers said that the -- famously -- of the Democrats, his party, were not -- were not an organized party. And they do tend to be more fractious and in that sense more interesting.
If I may, I just want to take issue, on behalf of the great American public, that the majority of Americans, or even a significant number of them, in my opinion, are not racists. And I think that some of the other...
PAINTER: Nobody says that. Nobody says that.
BLACK: No, no, but I...
PAINTER: If you want to talk about racism, you need to talk about institutional racism, not personal racism.
BLACK: No, I -- all I want to do is defend the millions of people who are supporting Trump or might vote for him from the charge of being cheaply motivated by a disparagement of other racial groups than they themselves...
PAINTER: Just look at when he has prospered.
ZAKARIA: But let me -- since we have brought this up...
ZAKARIA: Guys, just one second. Since we've brought this up, Conrad, I have to ask you, since it is in the news, the issue of whether the American criminal justice system is unfair and, you know, in many ways gives too much leeway and license to police and prosecutors is something you have both written eloquently about and have been subjected to.
So on that issue, do you find yourself more sympathetic to some of the views of people who say the criminal justice system is unfair?
BLACK: Yes, I thought Bernie Sanders was the best of the candidates on that issue. And I am deeply disappointed that the Republicans are so relaxed about it. I think the -- I hate to say this, but I have seen it from all sides and the American criminal justice system, and I'm not particularly speaking of the police; I'm speaking of the prosecutors, although there are obviously some problems with the police. But it is an evil, rotten system, and it is a cancer in this country, and it is going to morally destroy the country if you don't do something about it. You have six to twelve times as many incarcerated people per capita as -- as other advanced prosperous democracies such as Canada.
ZAKARIA: What strikes me about this is -- but this is, you know -- we've opened up a possibility of a real conversation about these issues, when you have a Conrad Black saying things like this, where Bernie Sanders talks about them. But, frankly, I wouldn't be surprised if -- if you found more and more Republicans willing to have this conversation.
WILENTZ: There's a possibility for all sorts of discussions about these things, sure, although, you know, Conrad Black is not the typical conservative. He does write about Franklin Delano Roosevelt very well. So I hope that there will be more people like him.
But, sure, the criminal justice system is one of the places where there is agreement in the Congress. You can see it.
ZAKARIA: Do you think that the shooting of these policemen, Nell, has retarded a discussion that we thought was going to move forward -- in other words, this one guy has certainly upended the conversation? There was a long piece in the Times about that?
PAINTER: Right. Right. I want to say two things. One is that, to make -- to merge the assassin in Dallas with Black Lives Matter is just plain wrong. Black Lives Matter doesn't say "Oh, kill the pigs," or that other people's lives don't matter. It talks about lives that have been discounted. So they're not the same thing.
The second thing is that we have this awful history of bloodshed of people who are angry, of men who are angry and well-armed and go out and shoot people. And this guy falls into that unsavory tradition.
PERLSTEIN: Yeah, I mean, I think, if anything, this awful man was trying to subvert Black Lives Matter, which, in many respects is...
PAINTER: He didn't care. He didn't care.
PERLSTEIN: ... or he didn't care, or he was just crazy. But, you know, we talk about historical parallels, and all of us are, you know, aghast and frightened about what's going on, but, you know, I study the late '60s and early '70s, and there were lots and lots of militants shooting police. I mean, there was the Black Liberation Army that literally would train in camps, you know, to ambush police, you know. And there were so many that they barely made the news. I'm just, kind of, here to say we can all, kind of, breathe a little easier and say we've gotten through much worse as a country.
ZAKARIA: And we will definitely get through much worse than the Republican National Convention...
... which I think will be very interesting and very exciting. And, remember, you can watch all of it right here on CNN.
Next, on GPS, this image has ricocheted around the world in recent days, highlighting for some the asymmetry of some encounters between the police and the public. But can images like this one change the perception of police and change their interactions with the public?
ZAKARIA: Thanks to all of you for being part of my program this week. I will see you next week.