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Fareed Zakaria GPS

Interview with David McCullough; Interview with David Ignatius; Samoa's 364-Day Year; Interview With Frank Gehry

Aired December 25, 2011 - 10:00   ET


FAREED ZAKARIA, 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 wonderful show for you today, some of our best interviews of the year. We'll start off with one of the great historians of our age, Pulitzer Prize-winning David McCullough will give us perspective on the present through the lens of the past.

Then "Why in the World?" is a tiny island nation about to skip over an upcoming date, December 30th, entirely? I'll explain.

Next up, a fascinating look inside spy games, both the fictional and non-fictional varieties, with columnist and novelist David Ignatius.

Then, a look at innovation with the master architect Frank Gehry.

Finally, why President Bush might have offended some Italians on Inauguration Day.

But first, here's my take. We hear a lot about leadership these days, mostly in the sense of the failure of leadership, the absence of leadership. Certainly that's the view of many people who oppose President Obama. But there are also many Democrats who believe that President Obama has been a disappointment, a bad manager, an ineffectual leader.

The conventional wisdom is that Obama just doesn't have what it takes to be the kind of leader we need, the kind we have had in the past. Someone, for example, like Bill Clinton, who was just such a gifted leader, a legendary player.

Now, I have a huge admiration for Clinton. I think he was a very good president, and he is almost preternaturally talented as a politician. But let's recall what his first few years looked like.


ZAKARIA (voice-over): He began his presidency with the fiasco of gays in the military, then moved on to two failed nominees for attorney general - remember Zoe Baird? - and then went on to try and failed spectacularly to pass universal health care. Two years into his presidency, the Republican Party won both the Senate and the House of Representatives, gaining control of the latter for the first time since 1952. In his second term, of course, was the impeachment scandal.

I'm not picking on Clinton. As I said, I greatly admire him. But we forget what people thought of leaders at the time.

On the Republican side, the air is so thick with Ronald Reagan nostalgia, you can barely see through it to the actual past. The reality was that Reagan was a shrewd politician, with some strong convictions, who pursued a tough, smart foreign policy -


ZAKARIA: But he was also a president who ran through six National Security Advisers in his eight years, with a lax enough management style that it produced a major scandal - the Iran-contra affair, in which perhaps the most startling fact was that the president really didn't seem to know about a major foreign policy project of questionable legality being run by his own National Security Council.

For all the hero worshipping these days, Reagan was often derided on the Right for his many tax increases, and especially for his dealings with the Soviet Union. Conservative leaders called Reagan a "useful idiot." Commentators like Norman Podhoretz decried the Reagan Road to Detente.

Democrats, by the way, despaired of Jimmy Carter and wanted to run Ted Kennedy against him in the primaries. Republicans despaired of George H.W. Bush and Richard Nixon, seeing both as sellouts and closet liberals.


ZAKARIA: I could go on. My point is, we cannot really tell the quality of a leader judged from the noise of the present. We need time and perspective, which is why one reads history and listens to men like David Mccullough.

So, let's get started.


ZAKARIA: One way to gain some insight into the current mess in Washington is to step back and get some perspective. I tried to do some of that at the top of the show, but I wanted to get some deeper historical perspective on the performance of the president and of Congress.

And few today understand the past and present of this nation better than David McCullough. He is one of the world's most decorated historians, having won two Pulitzer Prizes for his biographies of Harry Truman and John Adams.


ZAKARIA: We have in the White House a president who clearly is interested in history, a writer himself. How do you think about him?

MCCULLOUGH: I admire him very much, and I think that his - his time in office presented him with problems such as very few presidents have ever had to address. And given the complexity and the gravity of those problems, I think he's handled himself very well. My - my hat goes off to him, my heart goes out to him.

Who - who could possibly do that job? No human being is sufficient for that role. It's beyond human capacity. We all ought to want to help him. We all ought to want to help everybody in elective office to do the job the way it ought to be done, to live up to the responsibility.

In the old House of Representatives Chamber in the Capitol, what's now Statuary Hall, over the doorway, there is a figure of Clio, the Goddess of History, and she's riding in her chariot. And on the side of the chariot is a clock, put there way back in the 1830s or earlier. Still runs perfectly.

She's writing in her book of history, and the idea was that the Representatives would look up to see what time it is now, but they should be reminded that that's just present daytime. What really matters is what's being written in the book of history.

I've known, to a greater or lesser degree, I think seven presidents. And I guess what's impressed me most is how different they have been one from another as - as men, as human beings. And some of those that I like best as people weren't necessarily the best presidents. And my - my understanding, I think, of what weighs on their minds is pretty - pretty close.

I don't think I can sleep at night if I knew what they know and had all of that on my shoulders. I don't know how many people could sleep at night.

ZAKARIA: When you look at it, Mr. McCullough, what makes a great president?

MCCULLOUGH: The capacity to move the country to do better than it thinks it can with the use of the English language.

ZAKARIA: Communication is that important?

MCCULLOUGH: The power of the written word, the spoken word, very, very important. An ability to stick to your principles, an ability to work with people with whom you disagree and may dislike.

I try to stress that exceptional presidents are the exception. We can't expect every president to be a great president. It doesn't happen that way. Life isn't like that. And you can't predict - there isn't a type. They come in all shapes and sizes. Who would have ever thought that Harry Truman would be one of our greatest presidents? And there's no question he was. He said, I never forgot where I came - who I was, where I came from, and where I would go back to.

Now, that's a man who knows exactly who he is. He's not craving this adoration and - and limelight in order to feel good about himself. He didn't want the job. It was thrust upon him.

He did not have the gift of moving the country with words the way FDR did or Lincoln did. And he did not have the physical presence that Washington had - and I think Washington is our greatest president.


MCCULLOUGH: He set the standards for behavior, integrity and patriotism of the best kind, not the flag-waving kind, but true love of country. All of our - all of our best presidents, without exception, have had a sense of history, and I don't think that's coincidental. And one of the things that a sense of history gives to a person is not just an appreciation, an understanding of what happened before we came along, but the realization that we, too, are a part of history and we, too, are going to be judged by history.

ZAKARIA: Do you -

MCCULLOUGH: And that's extremely important. Today's polls, today's - tomorrow's headlines, are not going to matter.


MCCULLOUGH: What matters, how will you look? How will this time look in time to come? What are - what cathedrals are we going to build? We don't ask ourselves that much.

ZAKARIA: But you're optimistic at the end of the day?

MCCULLOUGH: Yes, I am. I'm optimistic in the long run, principally because of what I see in the generation of my own children and grandchildren and the students that I meet when I'm lecturing at colleges and universities. I'm distressed, I'm sometimes stunned by how much they don't know about the history of our country, but I know how bright they are, how well meaning they are, that they want to do the right thing.

I agree with you that we're making a grievous error in not accepting these able, talented people who come here for our education opportunities. It's a big mistake. That is the natural resource of all natural resources, the most important of all, what's up here, ideas, ingenuity, foresight, all of that, training.

We ought to be as Canada is being. We ought to be a place they all want to be, and come on over, we need you.

What would we be without immigration? What - think of who would never have become an American without immigration? That's who we are, thank goodness.

ZAKARIA: Powerful words. David McCullough, thank you.

And we will be right back to talk about a time when America and Americans were fascinated by France. David McCullough's new book, when we come back.




ZAKARIA: We are back with the historian David McCullough, whose latest book, "The Greater Journey," is about a wave of 19th Century Americans who migrated to Paris.

We think of Americans as famously uninterested in the world. We think of America today and we don't care what's going on in the rest of the world. We don't want to borrow anything from the rest of the world. The - the Americans you're describing seemed fascinated by - by France. Why?

MCCULLOUGH: They craved, craved France, and they weren't anxious to go there because they were disenchanted with our country. They went to find out if the talent they had was really as strong as people were telling them, and in order to get the training, the experience that they could not get here.

There were no museums with paintings hanging in them then. There was not one school of architecture in the United States. This is in the 1830s.

ZAKARIA: Right. Right.

MCCULLOUGH: And - and no way to train as an artist, to work in an atelier or to get the kind of training that one would need to be a sculptor or a painter, and Paris was the medical capital of the world. So they went for a multitude of - of professions and artistic careers.

If you were a foreign student in France, in Paris, you could go to the Sorbonne. You could go to the L'ecole de Medecine for nothing. Free. Imagine if the students who were coming to Harvard or Yale or Stanford were coming here and going free. It was part of the policy of the - of France at the time. So if they could afford to support themselves, room and board, then they could go to these greatest of institutions.

But American medical training, for example, was woefully behind. Most doctors in the United States in the 1830s, '40s, '50s, really right up through the Civil War, had never been to medical school.

ZAKARIA: The Paris you described is a place that is clearly the center of the world, in a sense, and we forget now because the industrial revolution had just begun when - when you're - so you're describing the last gasp of the great agricultural revolutions. And France was probably the richest country in the world, and Paris certainly the center.

MCCULLOUGH: Well, what most people don't realize is that Paris was the cultural center of the world. And - and we had - this city, New York, has - became the cultural center of the world after World War II.

But Paris was also the center for medical education, medical science, science itself, technology. The - the Brooklyn Bridge, for example, stands on an underwater foundation system called caissons, which was developed by French engineers in Paris. So the engineer of the Brooklyn Bridge, Washington Roebling, went to Paris to find out how they do it. And that's why he was able to do it.

And most Americans don't realize that, how much we owed to France.

ZAKARIA: I've got to just go on a tangent here for a second, because you wrote a book about the Brooklyn Bridge.


ZAKARIA: And here you are talking about the engineer of the Brooklyn Bridge and what he borrowed from France. How does it stay that fresh in your mind?

MCCULLOUGH: To me, the writing of a book is like an experience in life. You never - particularly if it's a powerful experience, you never forget it. And some subjects, once I'm finished with them, that's it. I've gotten it out of my system. But with the Brooklyn Bridge, there's something about it, I'm still involved.

My wife and I take a walk over the bridge every year. We go back and walk through the old neighborhood in Brooklyn where we lived when we were first married.

And I think it's a - it's one of the great accomplishments of our civilization. It's both a work of technology and a work of art, and it stands - it stands the test of time, both visually and technically. It's a magnificent production.

And it also rises up out of what was really a very corrupt time, much like our own. And the idea of this emblem of affirmation can rise up out of that sort of swamp of the gilded age is, to me, reassuring and particularly in our time.

ZAKARIA: Our times, though, do seem more parochial. I mean, the people you discussed in the book, they seemed so interested in the world and in intellectual currents in France, but elsewhere as well. And the people, you know, you -

MCCULLOUGH: It wasn't cool to be cynical then. It wasn't cool to be - to be filled with self pity.

One of the - people often ask me, when I'm starting a book, what's your theme? Particularly some of our academic friends. I have no idea what my theme is. I make up something to calm them down, but I have no idea. It's one of the reasons I'm writing the book.

And one of the themes that I realized is a theme, as I was about halfway through this project, is - is work. We receive such ballyhoo constantly about ease and happiness being synonymous. Again and again, people were saying, on paper, in their diaries and letters, I've never worked harder in my life and this is the happiest time of my life.

And - and they're struggling, as - as Saint August - Augustus Saint-Gaudens, the sculptor, said, "They're struggling with all the realities of life, the mundane, every day chores of life, struggling to soar into the blue," as he says. And I think that's emblematic of that - that generation.

ZAKARIA: Do you think that we have lost some of the optimism and energy that - that you saw in the 19th Century?

MCCULLOUGH: Yes, temporarily. I'm a short range pessimist, long-range optimist. I think we'll get through these troubles. We've been through worse.

When the 9/11 happened, people said, oh, this is the worst thing we've ever been through. Yes, it was terrible, but by no means was it the worst we've ever been through.

The Revolutionary War, the Civil War. Imagine, 600,000 people killed. The influenza epidemic, the Great Depression. These were terrible times.

The dark - I think maybe the darkest time was right after Pearl Harbor. We had no army. Half our navy had been destroyed. The Russians - the Germans were nearly to Moscow. Britain was about finished. And Churchill came across the Atlantic and he gave a speech and he said, "We haven't gone this far because we're made of sugar candy." That's the message we need now.

ZAKARIA: And that's the kind of historical perspective we all need.

David McCullough, thank you very much.

We will be right back.




ZAKARIA: Welcome back.

Come with me now on a long journey to a far off island nation about halfway between Hawaii and New Zealand - Samoa. Its lush volcanic valleys make it a mostly agricultural nation, it has no military whatsoever, and it shouldn't be confused with its neighbor, American Samoa. Now, if you're tempted to visit, do not plan a celebration there on December 30th. Why? Because that day will simply not exist there. The calendar will jump from the 29th of December to the 31st. "What in the World?" right?

Why? It's actually a smart economic decision. You see, Samoa is just 20 miles away from the International Dateline. As the name suggests, it's an imaginary longitude that marks a change in date when we fly or sail or steam over it. That line was created more than a century ago, when it was decided Samoa would be 11 hours behind Greenwich Meantime outside of London, and it's three hours behind Pacific Time in Los Angeles.

The theory went that being on a similar time zone to the Americas would benefit trade and commerce for Samoa, but the times, quite literally, are changing. Samoa now does most of its business with its neighbors.

But Sydney, in Australia, is 10 hours ahead of London, and - bear with me on the math here - that means Samoa has been conducting most of its trade with a country that is 21 hours ahead of it. So when it's Friday morning at a Samoan factory, Australian clients are already at the beach on a sunny Saturday. And when the Aussies go back to work on Monday, the Samoans are still at Sunday church, or whatever Samoans do on Sundays.

Come December 29th, that's all going to change. Samoa will leap forward a day, and it will be just three hours ahead of Sydney.

Samoans already made one historic change to align itself with Australia. In 2009, it switched from driving on the right side of the road, as we do, to the left side of the road. Now Samoans can import cheaper cars from next door.

On the one hand, Samoa's Antipodean shift is a story about how economics dictates policy, but it's also a larger narrative about the quiet success of Australia. Australia's growth rate has averaged nearly four percent for the last two decades, higher than almost every other rich country. It may be on the bottom of the map, but it's on top of almost every livability index. The unemployment rate is low, the deficit is almost negligible, it has strong education, universal health care. One could go on.

So how did it get there? Self deprecating Aussies may put it down to good luck. They had good weather, abundant natural resources, and a billion Chinese hungry to mine Australia's metals and minerals.

But that's not the whole story. Australia's real economic rise dates back to the 1980s and a series of forward-thinking reforms. The government floated its dollar and made the central bank independent, it maintained a budget surplus and kept inflation in check, state owned firms were privatized, industries deregulated.

When the global financial crisis hit in 2008, Australia's banks benefited from a more conservative regulated approach. They were not overleveraged, so they weathered the storm. And robust trade with China soaked up a potential drop in Australian consumer demand.

Australia's been smart on another issue that plagues American lawmakers these days - immigration. It has gone from 98 percent Anglo-Celtic population after the Second World War, to having a quarter of its current population born abroad. Asians make up 10 percent of the population. Much of the real growth in Australia's GDP can be attributed to immigration and population growth.

There's much speculation about a lost decade for the United States economy. All Samoa had to do to rev up its economy is lose a day. I wish we had that option.

We'll be right back.



DAVID IGNATIUS, AUTHOR, "BLOODMONEY": It's been the case that most CIA officers sought what was called official covers, embassy representatives, other official international organizations.



ALINA CHO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I'm Alina Cho at the CNN World Headquarters in Atlanta. Merry Christmas. Here are your headlines this hour.

Deadly bombings at two Christian Churches in Nigeria today during Christmas worship services. State TV reports four people have been arrested in connection with the attacks. And authorities have recovered four devices that did not detonate. An eyewitness to the second explosion said he counted 19 people dead, many others injured. Earlier, a journalist told us what he saw.


HASSAN JOHN, JOURNALIST (via telephone): Yes. It's been a terrible event this morning. We have from my count 19 dead as of the time of this report. We do not know yet how many in the capital that was in Abuja this morning at about 8:00 A.M. But the one in Jos was about 10:30 where a police officer was injured in the multiple bomb blasts inside a church.


CHO: These bombing deaths are reminiscent of last Christmas when suspected Islamic extremist launched similar attacks on churches in Nigeria. Dozens of people were killed in those bombings.

A city under siege. Activists say Syrian Security Forces have surrounded a neighborhood in the Western City of Homs. The activists say there's been relentless shelling and heavy gunfire there. One activist says forces were shooting directly at houses and that people are being targeted if they walk in the streets. There are said to be shortages of medical supplies, fuel, and oil, as well.

Now to Russia where the biggest public protests in decades continued today, some 30,000 people in the streets. Two things are bringing Russians out in large numbers this weekend. They are furious at the current leadership. Vladimir Putin's decision to run again for president. Protesters are also angry at the results of parliamentary elections held earlier this month, widely seen as rigged. The democratic process is still relatively young in Russia. Today marks 20 years since the fall of the USSR.

Pope Benedict prayed for peace in his Annual Christmas Day message. The 84-year-old pontiff presided over his seventh Christmas mass as pope. He urged the faithful to focus on the essence of the holiday, rather than the commercialism. And he stressed the need for finding harmony in an increasingly violent world. The Vatican celebrated midnight mass at 10 P.M. last night to accommodate the aging pontiff.

To politics now, the Newt Gingrich campaign says it's evaluating its options after it failed to get on the Virginia primary ballot. The team announced late Saturday they'd launch an aggressive write-in campaign. Problem here is Virginia law specifically prohibits write- ins for a primary.

That's a look at the headlines this hour. Don't miss my holiday special today. It's at 4:00 P.M. Eastern Time. It's called "Big Stars, Big Giving." My one-on-one interviews with Jennifer Lopez, Tony Bennett, Will Ferrell, and President Clinton. That's at 4:00 P.M. Eastern.

I'm Alina Cho. FAREED ZAKARIA GPS continues next.


ZAKARIA: Spy agencies are the stuff of fantasy and fiction. So it is fitting that one of our best journalists on the spooky world of foreign affairs has used his vast travels and knowledge to write a novel.

"Washington Post" columnist David Ignatius has followed up his book "Body of Lies," which was turned into a Hollywood blockbuster, with a new offering, this one is called "Bloodmoney." It spans the CIA's operations here in the murky world of Pakistan's powerful interservices intelligence. The key really is figuring out where the facts end and where the fiction begins. David Ignatius joins me now.

So I loved this book, as I did, by the way, the other book which was "The Increment," which was about Iran's nuclear program. You really choose these - these topics that jump off the front pages. And when one's reading it, because I know how much you know about the CIA and how much time you spend talking to people, I have to believe lots of it is true.

IGNATIUS: Like, I don't want to play games with you, my friend, or the reader, I - I am painting on a canvas of fiction with - with the colors of life. I have spent lots of time with the ISI. I've traveled with them to South Waziristan. I've met with their Director General, General Pasha. As I said in "Time" Magazine the other week, I even have an e-mail correspondence with ISI officers. So I do know the real-life subject.

And I've tried, in "Bloodmoney," to tell a story that gets at the crazy relationship between the ISI and the CIA, these absolutely fascinating, often mutually destructive two scorpions in a bottle kind of relationship that they have. That said, I do have to say this is a novel. It wouldn't be fun to read if it wasn't reinvented, if it wasn't real life reinvented in the mind of the author.

ZAKARIA: So - but let's start with the CIA, because you've got a CIA operation. And you have these guys often on their own, often in businesses as fronts. You know, I always thought with CIA officers were at the U.S. Embassy. And that while you didn't know who they were, you could kind of make some guesses about them. Is it in fact true that there are lots of CIA officers around who have covers in private business and trading companies and things like that all over the world?

IGNATIUS: It's increasingly true. When you and I were getting started as journalists and for the - for the past decades, it's been the case that most CIA officers sought what was called official covers, embassy representatives, other official international organizations. That was acceptable when the target you were chasing was Soviet diplomats. You'd meet them at cocktail parties, spot them, try to develop them. But the targets are so different now.

And so there's a feeling that you need genuinely clandestine platforms. So there's been a lot of experimentation in the areas that I'm imagining in my book, in the book I invent this goofy entertainment company based in Studio City, California, which is called the Hit Parade, which is a platform for CIA officers to do completely secret operations overseas.

Are they doing that kind of thing? Not to the extent that I write in my book, but I'm sure that they're experimenting with what they call nonofficial cover or N.O.C. operations. The problem is, they're really hard to manage and they're really expensive. And so there's still a big cadre of naysayers at Langley who say don't do this.

ZAKARIA: All right. Now, Pakistan. And so you've painted a picture of the Interservices Intelligence Directory. That, from what I can tell, is very true to life. In this particular sense, they have lots of connections with all these militant groups. They've always had them, and at some level they don't even deny they have them. They say these are elements of Pakistani society. And yet they are quite reluctant to do anything about them, to shut them off in any way. Do you think that that part of the book that you described is true to life?

IGNATIUS: Yes. I think the tragedy of the ISS - ISI and arguably of Pakistan as a whole is that it's caught in a web that it's spun with our help, it must be said, that it now can't escape from. It's a web first of connections with Jihadi organizations. The ISI is above all a paramilitary organization. It doesn't do all that much collection of intelligence. It's not a very good spy agency, but it's good at running covert action.

ZAKARIA: Right. The general framework of the book is that the CIA and the ISI are cooperating. But the CIA is running effectively covert ops against the ISI. And the ISI is at least allowing these Jihadi groups to attack and - and infiltrate the CIA, and that spider's web seems very real.

IGNATIUS: That - that is drawn from life. I mean, the truth is that these intelligence services operate against each other. That happens more in real life, not just with Pakistan. We have a complicated intelligence relationship with France. We have a complicated intelligence relationship with other - with other allies.

But there's a way in which the CIA and ISI both absolutely need each other and absolutely don't trust each other. And it's been a particularly volatile combination because they're always marching in tandem, which you can imagine a situation where one guy is, you know, trying to trip the other or nudging him or, you know, up - up to some kind of horseplay. That's what it's like.

And I used to think, you know, that these two should get a marriage counselor and - and figure it out. I've kind of given up on that. I mean, the reality is, intelligence services lie. That's what their job is. These guys are going to keep lying to each other. They just - they need political control to get them going in the same direction for the national interests of both countries. And if they can do that, I'd have some hope this - this story will turn out excitably.

ZAKARIA: David Ignatius, thank you so much, and a great book. I thoroughly enjoyed it.

IGNATIUS: Thank you, Fareed.

ZAKARIA: And we will be back.




ZAKARIA: Think for a second about the most innovative thing you've seen. I bet whatever comes to mind was probably a technological innovation, a gee-whiz gadget or a joke-cracking robot, something like that.

But the fact is, innovation can and does come in many different areas, from business practices, to the arts, literature, music, painting, design, architecture. The finest artists are often the most innovative. Think of Jackson Pollock's paintings, Charlie Parker's "Bebop."

One of the finest architects in the world fits that model. He's Frank Gehry, perhaps best known for his innovative, undulating waves at the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao amongst many others. He joins me now.

Frank, thank you for joining.


ZAKARIA: How do you come up with an idea? Because so much of what you have done was not conventional, was not the way buildings were build. It was not the way people conceived of things. So where did stuff come to you from?

GEHRY: Well, I'm very thorough, which people probably don't realize. And so I do a lot of research. I spend a lot of time with the clients, with the site, with the program, and invent as I go along ideas that respond to those.

And in that process with - with the client involved and a clear understanding of budget and, you know, engineering and what can go on, we vet some directions together and they're complicit, which I love, because in the end, when it looks strange, it want them - they've been part of it.

ZAKARIA: But the strangeness comes from where?

GEHRY: Well, I don't know these whys, but there's - to me it's not strange. It looks like everything else is strange. And so stuff starts to unfold and little models and ideas and sketches. A lot - there are about 50 to 100 models made in that process.

ZAKARIA: And it's very deliberative.

GEHRY: Yes. And then when I understand it completely, when I think I know, then I kind of put it away and then I call that the candy store. I call that when I know the problem, everything about it that I can imagine. And then I start to make the real design and the ideas.

And so the language comes from - of the curves comes from history. It's not just invented out of whole cloth. If you look at (INAUDIBLE) Marbles and the Elgin (ph) Marbles in Britain, they express motion in the marble. You see the soldiers pushing their - their shields, and it's palpable. You feel it.

If you look at the Indian Sheba figures moving and - and I've studied those and there's movement with inert materials. So it's from history, it's possible.

ZAKARIA: So this - the famous story that you took a piece of paper and crumpled it and looked at it and that was the Disney Hall in L.A.

GEHRY: But that's a famous story because "The Simpsons" had me do that.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) MARGE SIMPSON, "THE SIMPSONS": We asked Frank Gehry to build us a concert hall.


GEHRY: And that's the - everybody thinks I'm going to crumple a paper. Clients come to me and say crumple a piece of paper, we'll give you $100 and then we'll build it.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Frank Gehry, you're a genius.


ZAKARIA: But in fact, it was a long, long -

GEHRY: No, no, no, no. That was just a fun - fun thing. But it has - it has haunted me. People do - who've seen "The Simpson's" believe it.

ZAKARIA: When you design a building, is your principal concern to make something dazzling beautiful? Or is your principal concern to have it so that it functions exactly the way that it's meant to be, an apartment building with all the apartments?

GEHRY: Yes, to function is first and to get it build, it has to be on budget. And so you have to deal with technology and the culture of construction. And that's complicated, and I think it's very important. And then to bring something to it other than just - and it doesn't cost extra. That's the interesting thing. We've proven that over and over again.

So a building should engender some kind of an emotional response. If you go to Disney Hall, the key issue was the relationship between performer and audience. I worked my butt off to make that special. I think it helps the - psychologically, it's psycho acoustic, we call it. If the orchestra feels the audience, and you've experienced this when you give talks, you speak better. You feel it. And that happens in a performance and I think it happens in everything.

ZAKARIA: What about this new building in New York? It's a big apartment building. What did you see as the crucial thing there to get right?

GEHRY: The pro former for the apartments was a T-shaped building. It's a given in New York, it's a New York model. We made it a little bit higher so that - and added the stair steps like the historic buildings in New York. We didn't have to do that. We could have been straight up.

So that was the declaration, if you will. It was my trying to fit a building into New York. And then I added the - the folds. Folds are like when your mother holds you in your arms, it's very basic, I think. It's primitive that people respond to folds. And I think that's why great artists in history focus so much on it. And so I wanted to have that warmth, that feeling in the city that this building was accessible and that it - by adding the folds it was somehow timeless. It wasn't exactly a modernist slab. It had some kind of a thing to it.

ZAKARIA: Do you think that when you look at American architecture, creativity right now, does it feel like, you know, we're still at the top of the world? Does it feel like in the 1950s, abstract expressionism taking the world by storm? Where is America in today's kind of landscape?

GEHRY: Well, I think we've just been through - in architecture, we've just been through a very expressionist period where there's a lot of money, people are doing things, and - and it's coming to a screeching halt by - by the culture around architecture. There's a kind of a backlash and they're saying focus on sustainability, focus on - on the social issues and the architecture should become secondary. And it seems like so thoughtless to eliminate the baby with the bath water kind of - use those other things. It becomes a mantra for less talented people to get their way probably.

ZAKARIA: Frank Gehry, thank you. We will be right back.



ZAKARIA: It is Christmas Day. Merry Christmas to those of you celebrating. And that inspired my "Question of the Week."

It is what percentage of the world's population is Christian? Is it A) 11 percent; B) 22 percent; C) 33 percent; or D) 44 percent?

Stay tuned and we'll tell you the correct answer. Make sure you go to for 10 more questions. And while you're there, make sure you check out our website, the Global Public Square. There's fresh content every day about world affairs, economics, innovation, and much more.

Now our "Book of the Week" happens to be a picture book. So we're going to give you a combo book of the week and "Last Look," two for the price of one which is actually zero.

The book is called "Don't Get Me Wrong: The Global Gestures Guide." And if you're a citizen of the world, which you presumably are, if you're watching this show, you might want to take notes here. The book is all about how different hand gestures mean different things in different places.

For example, here in the United States, if you want two sugars in your coffee, you might make this gesture at the barista. But in many northern European nations, instead of doing that, you would do this to signify two. And that same gesture means "eight" in China. And the same hand signal with a little movement added means "not good" in Italy. Put those fingers on your forehead, and it means "loser" in many parts of the world. But let's go back to Italy for a second. I would suggest being very careful with your gestures there. President George W. Bush and his wife Laura may very well have made enemies out of married Italian men on Inauguration Day in 2005. Why?

Well, they flashed the cameras with the symbol of the Texas longhorns - the hook 'em horns. In some parts of the world, it's the symbol for "Rock On." Unfortunately, in Italy it means, "Your wife is cheating on you."

The correct answer to our "GPS Challenge Question" was C. Approximately 33 percent of the world's population is Christian, and that percentage has been relatively constant for the last 100 years. Go to our website for more questions.

Thank you for being part of my program this week. I will see you next year and next week. Stay tuned for "RELIABLE SOURCES."