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The Democrats' Problem is Not the Economy, Stupid; Interview with Senator Mark Warner; Legalizing Marijuana and America's War on Drugs; Trump Presidency So Far; Aspen Ideas Festival Explored. Aired 10-11a ET

Aired July 2, 2017 - 10:00   ET


[10:00:17] FAREED ZAKARIA, CNN ANCHOR: This is GPS, the GLOBAL PUBLIC SQUARE. Welcome to all of you in the United States and around the world. I'm Fareed Zakaria coming to you today from the Aspen Ideas Festival in Colorado's majestic Rocky Mountains.

Today on the show, Senator Mark Warner joins me. He is the man in the spotlight, the vice chair of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, co-leading that key panel's investigation into collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russian government.

How deep will the investigation go into the White House? How deeply involved was Russia's president? All that and the rest of the world's hot spots with Senator Mark Warner.

Also, the United States in the age of Trump.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It's going to be only America first.


ZAKARIA: How will history judge the president's first 150 days? What conclusions can we draw? How is the world reacting to this new America? I have a great panel to discuss.

Also, Rocky Mountain high. Almost five years ago this state voted to legalize recreational marijuana. What lessons about lighting up does Colorado have for the rest of America and the world?

But first, here's my take. The Democratic Party has reacted to its series of recent election losses by once again concluding it needs a better economic message. As Senate minority leader Chuck Schumer said last Sunday --


SEN. CHARLES SCHUMER (D-NY), MINORITY LEADER: Democrats need a strong, bold, sharp-edged and commonsense economic agenda.


ZAKARIA: The only disagreement within the party is about how sharp- edged and left-wing that message should be. But it is increasingly clear that the problems for Democrats has little to do with economics, and much more to do with the cluster of issues they would rather not revisit. About culture, social mores, and national identity.

The Democratic economic agenda is broadly popular with the public. More people prefer the party's views to those of Republicans on taxes, poverty reduction, health care, government benefits, and even climate change and energy policy.

The Democracy Fund commissioned a comprehensive study of voters in the 2016 presidential election and one scholar, (INAUDIBLE), set out its first key finding.

"The primary conflict structuring the two parties involves questions of national identity, race and morality."

Focusing in on the people who voted for Obama in 2012 and then Trump in 2016, (INAUDIBLE) found they were remarkably close to the Democratic Party on economic issues. But they were far to the right on their attitudes toward immigrants, blacks and Muslims. And much more likely to feel, quote, "people like me are in decline," unquote.

The Public Religion Research Institute and the "Atlantic" also conducted an important study to analyze the most powerful predictors of whether a white working class voter would vote for Donald Trump. After party identification the two best predictors were, quote, "fears about cultural displacement," unquote, and support for deporting undocumented immigrants.

Those who felt their economic conditions were poor or fair were actually slightly more likely to vote for Hillary Clinton.

It's worth considering how much the Democratic Party has changed over the last 25 years on cultural issues. Bill Clinton's party was careful to come across as moderate on many social issues, like immigration, and gay rights. The Democrats eventually moved boldly leftward in some of these areas, like gay rights, out of an admirable sense of principle. On others like immigration, they did so largely to court a growing segment of Democratic voters.

But in a broader cultural sense, the Democratic Party moved left because it became a party dominated by urban college-educated professionals.

The party's defense of minorities and celebration of diversity are genuine and genuinely praiseworthy. But they have created great distance between itself and a broad swath of middle America. This is a cultural gulf and it can't be bridged by advocating smarter policies on tax credits, retraining and early childhood education.

The Democrats need to talk about America's national identity in a way that stresses the common elements that bind not the particular ones that divide. [10:05:06] For example, the party should take a position on

immigration that is less absolutist and recognizes both the cultural and economic costs of large-scale immigration.

The more I study the subject, the more I'm convinced that people cast their votes mostly based on an emotional bond with the candidate. A sense that they get each other. Democrats have to recognize this. They should always stay true to their ideals, of course. But yet they have to convey to a broad section of Americans -- rural, less educated, older, whiter -- that they understand and respect their lives, their values, their worth.

It's a much harder balancing act than one more push to raise the minimum wage. But this cultural, social realm is the crossroads of American politics today.

For more go to and read my "Washington Post" column this week. And let's get started.

Senator Mark Warner has emerged as one of the most powerful Democrats on Capitol Hill. Part of that power comes from his key role on the key Senate committee investigating Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.

Warner is vice chair of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence. That committee is also of course looking into whether members of the Trump campaign might have colluded with Russia.

Senator Warner, thanks for joining me.


ZAKARIA: Let's talk about the investigation into the Russian matter. There are a lot of people, Republicans, who say, look, this thing has now been investigated. You have the press looking at it. You've had various committees looking at it. And really there's nothing. There's clearly the Russians -- this line of argument is clearly the Russians did try to interfere, but there is absolutely no evidence that the Trump campaign colluded. What do you say to that?

WARNER: First of all, let's take a step back, and really go through what we know are facts. One, that Russians intervened in our election in a way where they both stole e-mails, released those e-mails to try to help Mr. Trump and hurt Hillary Clinton. Second, in a way that was unprecedented, they had a massive use of fake news and false information where Internet trolls created bots that in effect flooded the zone with fake news that was harmful to Hillary Clinton.

We'd never seen that use of the Internet, and it raises a whole series of policy questions about the Internet platform companies like Facebook and Google and Twitter, what will their responsibility be going forward. I would point out in the French elections, Facebook actually took down 30,000 sites. They were totally unprepared for this kind of activity in the American elections. And third, we've seen that Russia has attacked 21 states electoral

systems. We still need to get that information out more so we're better prepared in 2018.

We know all of those facts, the intelligence community agrees, and frankly all of the senators agree. The one individual in Washington that does not accept those facts is Donald Trump. And the question is, why? And also, his failure to accept those facts means that we do not have a whole of government approach in how we prepare ourselves for future Russian attacks.

ZAKARIA: But maybe he's being defensive. Maybe he's you know --

WARNER: His job is to make sure that we protect our country and he's not doing that in terms of how we prepare against future cyber attacks. Let's not go --


WARNER: Let's go to the investigation. I thought we would be further along in this investigation by July 4th. But I also never anticipated the fact that the president would fire the FBI director. That he would have his National Security adviser have to resign because of contacts with the Russians. His attorney general have to recuse himself because of undisclosed contacts with the Russians. And we have been in the basically information gathering phase.

We've been subpoenaing a lot of information. We've got just received enormous more than 2,000 pages of information from the Treasury about financial interests. We are now at the stage of starting to talk to some of the individuals who are affiliated with the Trump campaign that at least in the press have been mentioned that they might have had contacts with the Russians.

So we -- I would not expect us to have those answers because we've not talked to any of those Trump affiliates and Trump associates. Ask me that same question in a couple of months, and I think we'll have much more clarity.

ZAKARIA: Do you think you have seen either intelligence leads or financial data that tell you that this investigation is serious and real and needs to be pursued?

[10:10:03] WARNER: It is obviously serious in terms of the Russian intervention in our elections and the fact that they will be back. And unfortunately the president's failure to take that seriously I don't believe we have a whole of government approach on how we're going to prevent it.

In terms of contacts and collusions, I've never seen so much smoke and so many possible threads. At the end of the day, if there is no fire, I will be the first to say, there's nothing there. But it is way too early to make that conclusion right now and while we have only limited contact with the special counsel, Bob Mueller, if you look at the level and quality of lawyers that he is hiring, senior lawyers with huge expertise, I'm not sure that they would be leaving their jobs to go into that investigation if Mr. Mueller didn't believe that there was something that he had to actively pursue.

ZAKARIA: When do you think you will have enough information that you can start sharing with the public some of the, you know, tentative conclusions or witnesses?

WARNER: I think in many ways the first path was to review the intelligence community's report. The unanimous report that the Russians intervened. I think we're well down that path, and again we have acceptance from senators on both sides of the aisle. We have every expert comes in and reconfirms that fact. We've seen again Russian intervention in the Dutch elections, the French elections. We're going to see Russian intervention in the German elections.

And I would point out, if you add up the money that the Russians have spent in America, France, the Netherlands, and Germany, and double it, that's still less than 5 percent of the cost of a new aircraft carrier. So it raises a whole host of questions about how we think about cyber warfare in the 21st century.

In terms of the questions about collusion, I believe it will take us, the chairman of the committee, Richard Burr, said he thought we might be done by the end of the year. I think that would be an aspirational goal.

I want to get this done because the American public deserves to know the truth. And it would be -- we would be helped in this matter if we didn't have the president constantly saying the whole thing is a witch-hunt, it's fake news, if we had an administration that was actually collaborating with us.

ZAKARIA: Do you think that the Obama administration choked and should have done more when it knew that the Russians were interfering?

WARNER: With the value of hindsight, yes. But I also know that most of the information, there were so many threads coming in from both signals in intelligence, from human intelligence, from actions of the FBI, but no one really put the whole -- all the pieces together until after the election.

ZAKARIA: And there was this fear which you think was justified that it would seem partisan?

WARNER: Again, I feel since the American government knew even in the summer, and as former Director Comey has reported, he started criminal investigations in July, again with the value of hindsight I think, if in an early indication that Russians were trying to intervene in ways that were unprecedented. Particularly using the bots to create fake news that would then appear on your Twitter or Facebook newsfeed as the top story and oftentimes stories that were not true, and earlier warnings to the American people would have perhaps put them more on guard. But again that's what the value of Monday morning quarterbacking.

ZAKARIA: Stay with us, next on GPS I will ask Senator Warner about what the Democrats need to do to start winning elections again and about his efforts to bring back jobs to middle America. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[10:18:09] ZAKARIA: Back now in Aspen, Colorado, with Senator Mark Warner, the vice chair of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, and of course a senior Democratic senator.

So people are talking about a Warner-Warren fight in the Democratic Party, over the future of the party. How to win elections. How to become the majority party. And the argument is that you represent the pro-business, pro, you know, growth, some would say, wing of the party and Senator Warren represents the Bernie Sanders wing of the party.

WARNER: Well, first of all, Elizabeth and I actually work together on a lot of issues. We sit together on the Banking Committee. And I don't think there are -- the differences are as great as some have represented. But I do feel, and I say this as somebody who spent longer in business, I was an entrepreneur, CEO of a major enterprise, I do feel that many Americans are actually giving up on our system.

And I would argue, as somebody who's been blessed to do well, that modern American capitalism, with its focus on short-termism, quarterly earnings over long-term value creation is not working for enough people. And I think, as your column pointed out, the country is actually very supportive of Democratic positions around increasing the minimum wage and more investments in workforce training.

I believe, though, we need to think about framing these issues differently. I would argue, how can we think about the business cycle that would actually value companies that create long-term value, invest in human capital, invest in R&D rather than simply chase quarterly profits. I think we need to recognize, as well, nobody's going to work -- my dad worked for the same company for 38 years. That's not the way the workforce is going to be.

The whole nature of work is changing. We have a social contract that was created in the 20th century that would basically fit around the idea that if you worked long term for a company, the government's going to give you benefits like unemployment, workman's comp, disability, health, retirement.

[10:20:09] That's all changing. So I think we need to change with the system.


WARNER: We need to think about portable benefit system, for example.

ZAKARIA: You think you'll get back middle America? I mean this is all very wonky, it's very -- how do you get people's hearts and guts --

WARNER: think we have to say there needs to be a new social contract. I think we have to say there is a role for business to play in not only short-term value for shareholders, but there is also a responsibility the business has to other shareholders such as employees. And we clearly got massive change coming, if we even think about artificial intelligence, and machine learning that will be totally transformative.

We need to be ahead of these issues in terms of how we make sure, particularly that low and moderate income Americans have some sense that the system is actually going to work for them, and that they need to continue to participate. Right now I feel like many people feel like they're being left out, that turns them to the extremes whether it's on the left or on the right.

ZAKARIA: Do you think Donald Trump will be able to bring the jobs back for the people he promised?

WARNER: I think Mr. Trump has made a series of broad-based promises. I don't think he's going to be able to keep them. Look, on health care he promised nobody was going to lose their health insurance. Nobody would pay more. The bill that came forward showed that his promises were not worth anything. The idea that he's going to be able to flip a switch and bring back jobs in textiles, or in the coal industry or certain manufacturing, I just don't believe that's going to come to pass.

But it is going to take a new social contract. It is going to take a new sense that gets us out of the tit-for-tat issues that we have argued about for the last 25 years. We need a new framework so that we can actually reach some of that bipartisan consensus.

I'm not sure whether portable benefits or a worker investment training credit or making businesses think and invest over the long-term rather than just for short-term profits, I'm not sure those are Democrat versus Republican ideas. I do think they are future versus past, and as a Democrat I think the Democratic Party has always been at its best when we've been leaning in to the future.

Donald Trump has this idealized version of an America in maybe the '50s and '60s that might have been great for white men, but frankly was not working for a lot of other Americans. I don't think even for white men he's going to be able to create that old '50s and '60s type environment.

ZAKARIA: Mark Warner, pleasure to have you on, sir.

WARNER: Thank you, Fareed.

ZAKARIA: Next on GPS, the Rocky Mountain state has been getting high legally for almost five years now and a good portion of the rest of the country has followed suit. But there is a looming problem. One that could take us back to the failed war on drugs. What is it?

I'll explain when we come back.


[10:27:08] ZAKARIA: Now for our "What in the World" segment. Back in 2012, I said in my take that the United States should legalize marijuana. I argued that the nation's war on drugs was a total failure and it led to mass incarceration. It is now five years later, and marijuana is legal to some extent in

29 states and the District of Columbia. Pot has also become a big business with revenues in the U.S. topping $5.8 billion in 2016. And it isn't the U.S. alone either with several other nations essentially legalizing pot with some restrictions.

Back in the United States, most people are in favor of legalization. Making it more popular, say, than Donald Trump. Actually by a lot. And according to Gallup, even the number of Republicans in favor of legalization has more than doubled since the early 2000s. It's now at 42 percent.

At a campaign rally back in 2015, Donald Trump had this to say on the topic.


TRUMP: Marijuana thing, it's such a big -- such a big thing. I think medical should happen, right? Don't we agree? I mean I think so. And then I really believe you should leave it up to the states. It should be a state situation.


ZAKARIA: Yet in the American legal system, there exists a fundamental contradiction about the legalization of pot. On a federal level the sale, possession or trafficking marijuana still could be a Schedule 1 felony with maximum penalties that could reach lifetime imprisonment for certain offenses.

Now as more states have legalized marijuana the number of federal trafficking charges has plummeted down 50 percent from 2012 to 2015. However, with the arrival of the Trump administration to Washington, there has been growing trepidation among pot activists and marijuana businesses. That's because the nation's chief law enforcement officer, Attorney General Jeff Sessions, has let it be known that he thinks marijuana is only slightly less awful than heroin.

At the weekly meeting of the National Association of Attorneys General, he said this.


JEFF SESSIONS, ATTORNEY GENERAL: And my best view is that we don't need to be legalizing marijuana.


ZAKARIA: Many conservatives also say marijuana is a dangerous gateway drug to opioids.

Now this is where they get the argument dead wrong. The steep rise in deaths due to opioid overdose is certainly a cause for great alarm. But the DEA, the Drug Enforcement Administration, said last year in a report clearly little evidence supports the hypothesis that initiation of marijuana use leads to an abuse disorder with other illicit substances.

And a study in the prestigious Journal of the American Medical Association found that from 1999 to 2010, states that passed medical marijuana laws actually saw 25 percent fewer opioid related deaths than expected had they not passed those laws.


ZAKARIA: So when it comes to the opioid epidemic, the science, the data, is all telling us that criminalizing pot is not the way to go. And if the Trump administration is so concerned with drug abuse, why does it propose slashing the budget of the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration by $400 million?

As Politico notes, that same budget does increase the Department of Justice's funding to prosecute drug-related crimes by $103 million. In the middle of a devastating opioid epidemic, the administration seems intent to bring us back to the bad old days of the drug war and locking up pot smokers and throwing away the keys. When seen against the science and the emerging will of the American public, this is an idea that should go up in smoke.

Next on "GPS," the altitude here in Aspen is about 8,000 feet. But we're going to have a discussion that takes us maybe 30,000 feet up. Some of the smartest people here at the Aspen Ideas Festival will gaze down and tell us how they see America and the world today.


ZAKARIA: Welcome back to "GPS," coming to you today from the campus of the Aspen Institute in Colorado. We are now five months into the Trump presidency. There has been a lot of noise surrounding him, from his supporters, himself, his opponents, but what is the signal within this noise? What are the trends that will stand out and stand out in history?

Joining me now are some smart strategists, big thinkers and brilliant historians. Walter Isaacson is president of the Aspen Institute but also the best-selling biographer of Steve Jobs, Albert Einstein, Benjamin Franklin and Henry Kissinger. Nancy Gibbs is the editor of Time magazine and has co-authored a great book on former presidents. Jeffrey Goldberg is the editor-in-chief of The Atlantic. And Dan Senor is an author, investor and former foreign policy adviser to Mitt Romney, Paul Ryan and Marco Rubio.

Welcome to you all.

So when we look at this presidency, at some level, we've never seen anything like it, right -- the freak shows, the -- the tweets. Does any of that matter, Walter?

I mean, you've looked at a lot of colorful characters. Is that just going to get chalked up to, well, he was a weird, strange personality, or is this something consequential?

ISAACSON: I think it's consequential. It's demeaned the office of the presidency. It also makes it harder for him to get stuff done. We don't see a great strategic coherence in the foreign policy. So far it's been trouble passing legislation. And even things like the immigration restrictions, I'll call them, that have come to pass seem, sort of, partly weirdly personal tweeted policy, as opposed to a well- thought-out policy.

ZAKARIA: What do you think of the tweets?

GOLDBERG: I think they're highly interesting tweets. I also think they're very important. I'm not in this camp of people who say they're just tweets. These are presidential statements. Because everything a president says or writes is a presidential statement. And they are a unique window into his actual thought process. And -- and it's an interesting window, and what we're seeing through the window is some pretty disconcerting stuff.

And I think we have to take them maximally serious. What his spokespeople say doesn't matter compared to what he says himself. And -- and so we have to pay attention.

ZAKARIA: You know, Nancy, what I'm struck by is I don't think there's ever been a president this obsessed with media coverage, with how he's covered, with who covers him. I mean, you look at The New Yorker, it is a spoof on the fact that we have now learned that, in five Trump golf courses, there are made-up -- there's a made-up cover of Time magazine that was created to inflate his -- his sense of himself.

GIBBS: Well, he -- he has clearly said he cares a lot about being on the cover of Time, because he has said he's been on more than any other person in history, which is wildly not true. I'm not sure he wants to take that record away from Richard Nixon, who holds it.


But, you know, the...

GOLDBERG: He can always get there, right?



GIBBS: There's time. No, what's fascinating is that, even in the midst of this war against "fake news" and "the failing New York Times" and all of the epithets that he's leveled at media organizations, there is also a greater focus and arguably accessibility to the media, both through the tweets, where everyone, not just reporters but everyone, gets to see straight into the psyche, but the willingness to -- to engage.

This was true during the campaign, where he was extraordinarily accessible. And in a way it continues to be true even as we have these fights over White House briefings and are they on camera or not? The relationship is, on the one hand, more hostile than anything that we have seen and, on the other hand, more, arguably, you know, enabling on each side, and co-dependent on each side, because the audience engagement in this presidency is unprecedented.

ZAKARIA: Dan, when you look at this as a Republican strategist, what are the lessons you're getting?

You watch the health care; you watch how the Senate has reacted. What are the takeaways you're -- what are the trend lines here?

SENOR: Well, first of all, the tweets are both reprehensible and probably just noise. Because, if you strip the rhetoric and the noise away, you have conventional Republicans like Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell trying to get a conventional, conservative health care reform passed. Then they're going to work on a pretty conventional conservative tax reform plan. You know, we've got Judge Gorsuch confirmed. You know, conservatives are happy with that. He may get another seat on the court to literally reshape the court -- taking action in Syria.

So, I mean, you just look at all these things, despite all the chaos and the noise, you have a pretty conventional Republican agenda moving through Congress.

One thing that is clear, though, that the noise is causing is making the president less effective in terms of getting an agenda passed, if he can do it, is Republicans are less concerned about being on the wrong side of him now.

So you're seeing this now with health care. Now, I think McConnell still, you know, may be able to pull a rabbit out of a hat and get something passed in the Senate like Ryan did in the House. But it's complicated. And one of the reasons it's complicated is because Republican senators and House members now, much more so than in January, they now suddenly say, "If I'm on the wrong side of Trump, it's going to be OK; there's really no price to pay."

ZAKARIA: Do you think, Walter, that a president -- you know, in those first few months, you have this power that, you know, people are looking up to you, that awe, that admiration, part of that is with the country; part of it is with your own party. It must be -- he must be eroding that base of support, that kind of psychological heft of the Oval Office.

ISAACSON: He could have been an historically transformational president had he come in and said "I'm independent; I think everybody in Washington, all the establishments, have let us down, and I'm going to come in and I'm going to have a very clear tax cut plan; I'm going to have a, you know -- and I'm going to govern..."

ZAKARIA: Infrastructure...

ISAACSON: "I'm going to have" -- I would have started with infrastructure. The concept of starting with health care made no sense to me, and then starting with health care and doing it on a purely partisan basis makes even less sense.

So if he'd come in and said "I'm going to do infrastructure; we are going to make America great again; we're going to build an incredibly -- and I'm going to call in Chuck Schumer and I'm going to transcend all this ridiculousness we've had in Washington," he would have been historically transformational as being an independent president and easily would have captured the agenda.

ZAKARIA: But in fact what we ended up with -- I think Dan Senor is right -- is a pretty conventional Republican. You toss away a lot of this stuff, or no?

GOLDBERG: Pretty conventional on the domestic front; on foreign policy, truly innovative. And I don't mean innovative in the sense of bringing a new set of ideas to the way that America should conduct its foreign policy or the role that America should play in the world. I mean that he has no ideas about how America should behave in the world other than that we are in a series of mercantile one-on-one relationships with other countries and we make our decisions, not based on American history, American values, even sometimes American -- broad-scale American interests. He makes this decisions on purely mercantile -- and I think the tweets, you know, contrary to what Dan is saying, I think the tweets, especially on foreign policy, those are the truest window into where we are heading.

I'm going to listen to a Donald Trump tweet about China's failure to rein in North Korea more than I'm going to listen to 100 statements from Rex Tillerson -- not that Rex Tillerson makes 100 statements...


... but I'm going to listen to -- if there was a secretary of state who made statements, it doesn't matter compared to what the president is saying.

ZAKARIA: We're going to have to take a break. When we come back, what does the world think of Donald Trump? Well, the data is in. It's pretty grim. We will talk about it and what it means.


ZAKARIA: I want to turn our attention now to America's place in the world today. It is at a place it's never been before. The Pew Research Center released results this week from a survey of 37 nations, and it gets right to the point.

At the end of the Obama presidency, 64 percent of global respondents had confidence in the U.S. president. Today that number is 22 percent. The only countries that had more confidence in Trump than in Obama were Russia and Israel.

We are back for a special edition of "GPS" in Aspen, Colorado, with Walter Isaacson, Nancy Gibbs, Jeffrey Goldberg and Dan Senor.

Dan, the last time we saw such low numbers was when your president, the man you worked for, George Bush...

SENOR: They're all my presidents.

ZAKARIA: ... George Bush was... SENOR: Yes.


ZAKARIA: ... but it was really more about the Iraq War. And it was about the sense that the war had gone horribly and alienated the world. What's striking about this is he's barely done anything and he has numbers that -- that -- that it took Bush six years of a badly prosecuted Iraq War to get to.

SENOR: I feel like much of the world is embarrassed for us, embarrassed watching -- watching what this man has -- is doing so far to the presidency, on the one hand. That's the population, but these populations globally. But I think it's important to draw a distinction between them and their governments. And if you spend time with, you know, officials in Sunni Gulf governments, they say they'll take Trump any day over the Obama administration. That's certainly the Israeli government's view.

Now, it's certainly not Europe's view. So I think it's important to draw a distinction here with the governments...

ZAKARIA: Say, China, for example. They have a good working relationship with him?

SENOR: Right. Now, they're not exactly sure where things are going. And you say, "Look, we have great meetings; he says all the right things behind closed doors; we're not sure what the follow-up is going to be." But they do like the change.

ZAKARIA: I've got to ask you, because we have two great experts on this. What sense did it make for Jared Kushner to go to the Middle East to suddenly, heroically, and in 12 hours, produce peace between the Israelis and Palestinians?

GOLDBERG: I'm going to -- I'm going to go a little contrary on this one, which is to say the following. Well, baseline, there's no reason for any president to even try to pursue this right now. It's not possible. Peace is -- peace is possible, but it's not available right now, so it's no point in wasting your time.

That said, there's nothing more absurd about sending your son-in-law to the Middle East to try this than sending a series of ineffective secretaries of state. There is some value in the president sending a personal family emissary to a country where those kind of connections are -- are valued. So...

ZAKARIA: But, I mean, at this point, at this time...

SENOR (?): For 12 hours...

ISAACSON (?): Twelve hours, in and out.

GOLDBERG: The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is about the fifth most important conflict in the Middle East right now. I would prefer this administration to be focused on the conflicts that are tearing apart the world, namely Syria, Iraq, Yemen. So it doesn't make any sense. It's a little bit of a vanity project, obviously.

ZAKARIA: What I'm struck by, Walter, is, you know, the way in which he's ratcheted up everywhere, because I guess the generals tell him, "Give us a few more troops in Afghanistan; give us bigger bombs in -- or more bombing in Syria." But -- you know, "Let's do more to support the Saudis in Yemen." Well, what is the strategy?

ISAACSON: Well, I do think that Donald Trump is somebody who, inside, really doesn't want to get us involved with more troops in more places. So as we slide into Afghanistan more and more, that seems odd to me, that he hasn't stopped that. The strategy could be -- I'm not sure -- but it seems like he's decided to have a Sunni coalition of Saudi Arabia and the Gulf States, which, you know, means he's going to try to isolate Qatar, which has some drawbacks.

If that were part of a coherent, thought-out strategy, you could argue, OK, that might be the way to approach it, if you think Iran is the biggest threat in the region. But my problem with this administration is I'm not sure this is a clearly thought-out strategy of "Let's have a Sunni alliance with the United States, with Saudi Arabia and the UAE and the League," or whether it's just something that got stumbled upon.

ZAKARIA: Nancy, what a lot of people point out is that, if you have these high disapproval ratings that Trump has in all of these countries, the problem is, you know, it's not a popularity contest, international relations, but do you think that he cares about this -- I mean, he's somebody so obsessed with his -- his image.

GIBBS: I think one way in which he cares is that -- is that his focus on the comparison between him and President Obama is intense. You -- you -- you almost never hear him talking about other former presidents, but -- but Obama comes up all the time. And -- and so to the extent that Obama was seen as a much more globalist figure who was welcomed with these enormous crowds, particularly, I mean, won the Nobel Peace Prize after he'd been in office for an hour and a half, I think that is the comparison that -- that this president finds haunting.

ZAKARIA: I've got to -- before we go, I want to ask Dan, to come back to this issue of the rifts within the Republican Party, where do you think the Republican Party is on this issue of engagement with the world, leading the world, bombing the -- the hell out of the world, you know, and just ignoring it?

SENOR: They -- you know, Republicans historically have followed the lead on these things of their commander in chief. If their commander in chief is quasi-isolationist, which is, sort of, how George W. Bush ran in 2000. He changed after September 11th. Republicans were on board with that campaign in 2000, and then after September 11th, they were all in on the Bush doctrine.

I think most Republicans, members of Congress today -- I mean, you saw when Obama tried to do something in Syria, most Republican members of Congress didn't want to do anything. That would be their inclination now, if that's where Trump is. But if Trump is deferring and delegating to Mattis and McMaster, which he clearly is doing with what he did in Syria and what he did with his troop increase in Afghanistan...

ZAKARIA: They're pretty aggressive.

SENOR: They're very aggressive. And, you know, I think a lot of Republicans say, "Well, two generals, they served in Afghanistan, both of them, they know something; if Trump is willing to get behind them, we'll get behind them."

And so I just think they'll -- they'll follow Trump's lead. Congressional Republicans are not going to try to, by and large -- there are exceptions, but by and large, they are not going to lead on foreign policy. They are going to follow Trump.

ZAKARIA: Fascinating conversation. We've got to stop. We'll have to come back to Aspen to discuss this. It's the only place we can do it.

Next on "GPS," America may be losing soft power, but it is about to gain some real hard power. I will show you the most expensive ship ever built, when we come back.


ZAKARIA: This week marked the 20th anniversary of the publication of the first "Harry Potter" book. The series has sold over 450 million copies and has inspired a generation of readers. It brings me to my question. What is widely considered to be the best-selling novel of all time: "The Catcher in the Rye," "Don Quixote," "David Copperfield" or "Les Miserables"?

Stay tuned and we'll tell you the correct answer.


ZAKARIA (voice over): This week's book of the week is actually a movie. I just got around to seeing last year's documentary "I Am Not Your Negro." It is a fascinating window into America's problem with race told through the story and the words of James Baldwin, one of the most gifted of modern American writers.

Baldwin's courage, his passion, his elegance, all come through in this short, compelling movie. You can rent it at most of the usual places.

And now for the last look, or rather a first look at the United States' newest aircraft carrier. This is the Gerald Ford, the first of a new class of super-carriers. After 12 years in the making, the ship was delivered to the Navy just over a month ago. What makes this new class special? Well, at almost $13 billion, it is the single most expensive warship ever built and is much more powerful than the old Nimitz class in use since 1975.

Critics of the USS Gerald Ford say the ship is too costly, with too many delays and a lot of questionable technology. But, as President Trump said from the deck... PRESIDENT DONALD J. TRUMP: This ship will make an extraordinary addition to the fleet, like no other -- like no other; anywhere in the world, there's nothing like this.

ZAKARIA: When it comes to aircraft carriers, America's might is not exactly challenged. No nation in the world has more than one aircraft carrier that is active, except of course the U.S. When the Gerald Ford is commissioned later this month, it will have 11. So if the old adage that he who controls the sea controls everything holds true, American military dominance will likely be safe for decades to come.

The answer to my "GPS" challenge is B. "Don Quixote" by Miguel de Cervantes is widely considered to be the best-selling novel of all time. "Don Quixote" enjoyed a big head start on just about every other novel because many consider it to be the first modern novel. Part one of the book was published in 1605 and it was translated from Spanish to English just seven years later. Today some estimates put the book's total cumulative sales at 500 million copies, affirming that the knight errant achieved the everlasting glory he so desperately sought.

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