Return to Transcripts main page
Fareed Zakaria GPS
Interview with Peter Beinart, Bret Stephens; Interview with Richard Muller; Interview with Jonathan Haidt
Aired August 05, 2012 - 10:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
FAREED ZAKARIA, CNN HOST: This is GPS, the Global Public Square. Welcome to all of you in the United States and around the world. I'm Fareed Zakaria.
We have a great show for you today. We'll start with Israel, the most talked about stop on Mitt Romney's foreign tour. We'll talk about the trip, the situation on the ground, Iran and American Jews. We have Brett Stephens and Peter Beinart who will surely have different perspectives on this.
Later in the show, I'll talk to a famous scientist, a global warming skeptic who became a believer. He'll tell us why.
Also, if you're a liberal, you probably find it impossible to understand a conservative's mindset. Why? I have a fascinating conversation about political beliefs.
And China is infamous for stamping out any and all protests, but recently they relented and gave these protestors everything they asked for. What in the World?
First, here's my take. "Culture makes all the difference," said Mitt Romney at a fundraiser in Israel last week. He was comparing the country's economic vitality with Palestinian poverty. Certainly, there is a pedigree for this idea about culture.
Romney cited David Landes, an economics historian. He could have cited Max Weber, the great German scholar who first made this claim 100 years ago in his book, "The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism,"
The problem is that Weber singled out two cultures as being particularly prone to poverty and stagnation. They were China and Japan. But these have been the world's fastest-growing two large economies over the past five decades.
Over the past two decades, the other powerhouse has been India, which was also described for years as having a culture totally incompatible with economic success, hence the phrase "the Hindu rate of growth," to describe the country's once-moribund state.
Remember, China was stagnant for centuries and then suddenly and seemingly miraculously, in the 1980s, began to grow industrialize three times the rate that the West did. What changed was not China's culture, which presumably was the same in the 1970s as it was in the 1980s. What changed, starting in 1979, were China's economic policies. The same is true for Japan and India.
Had Romney spent more time reading Milton Friedman, he would have realized that historically the key driver for economic growth has been the adoption of capitalism and its related institutions and policies across diverse cultures.
The link between economic policy and performance can be seen even in the country on which Romney was lavishing praise. Israel had many admirable traits in its early decades, but no one would have called it an economic miracle. Its economy was highly statist, even socialist.
Things changed in the 1990s with market-oriented reforms, initiated by Netanyahu, and also sound monetary policies. As a result, Israel's economy grew much faster in the 1990s than it had in the 1980s. The miracle Romney was praising had to do with new policies rather than deep culture.
Despite all this evidence, most people still believe that two cultures in particular, Islamic and African, inhibit economic development. But the two countries that will next achieve a gross domestic product of $1 trillion are both Muslim democracies, Turkey and Indonesia.
And Of the 10 fastest-growing economies in the world right now, seven are in Africa. The world is changing, and holding on to fixed views of culture means you miss its changing dynamics.
Culture is important. It is the shared historical experience of people that is reflected in institutions and practices, but culture changes. German culture, by 1955, was very different from what it was in 1935.
Europe was once a hotbed of violence, nationalism and war. Today it is postmodern and almost pacifist. The United States was once an isolationist, agrarian republic with a deep suspicion of standing armies. Today, it has half of the world's military power.
Daniel Patrick Moynihan, the foreign Senator, once observed, "The central conservative truth is that it is culture, not politics that determines the success of a society. The central liberal truth is that politics can change culture and save it from itself."
That remains the wisest statement made about this complicated problem, probably too wise to ever be uttered in an American political campaign.
Let's get started.
So let's delve more deeply into Governor Romney's remarks, his trip, Middle Eastern peace, Iran's nuclear ambitions, the American Jewish vote. No, we don't have three hours, but we are going to have a stimulating conversation with our guests. Peter Beinart, the editor of the "Daily Beast's Open Zion Blog" and the author of, "The Crisis of Zionism" and Bret Stephens, Bret is the foreign affairs columnist for the "Wall Street Journal."
Peter, let me start with you and ask you to tell me what you thought of the trip. And I'm going to guess that you're going to agree with this column from Tom Friedman, from a couple of days ago, where he says, "Much of what is wrong with U.S. relationships today can be found in this Romney trip."
"In recent years, the Republican Party has decided to make Israel a wedge issue. In order to garnish more Jewish and Evangelical votes and money, the GOP has decided to out pro-Israel the Democrats by being even more unquestioning of Israel."
And he ends by saying, "Stop using this conflict as a backdrop for campaign photo ops and fundraisers. Stop making things worse by telling the most hard-line Israelis everything that they want to hear just to grovel for Jewish votes and money while blatantly ignoring the other side. There are real lives at stake out there."
I take it you agree?
BEINART: Yes. Look, I don't even think the Romney trip was mostly about American Jewish votes, frankly. I mean the polling shows that a very small percentage of American Jews actually make Israel their number one voting issue.
It was 4 percent according to a poll this year and of those 4 percent, most of them already support Romney. I think it was really -- as Thomas Friedman mentioned, it was really donor maintenance. It was basically -- Romney has a small number of very rich, American Jewish donors, who are very far to the right.
Sheldon Adelson was in the front row and Sheldon Adelson is someone who opposes a Palestinian state, believes the Palestinians are an invented people and has said that all terrorists are Islamic.
And what Romney did was he went and catered to Sheldon Adelson, never mentioned the word Palestinian state, never even mentioned the word "Palestinian" and said America should never publicly criticize Israeli policy which would put him at odds with even all past Republican presidents since Israel began building the settlement.
So I thought, on foreign policy terms, it was simply absurd.
ZAKARIA: Bret, you said that this trip actually made you warm to Mitt Romney for the first time.
STEPHENS: Yes, I think, for one thing, there seemed to be an aspect of sincerity and conviction in what the governor was saying, which you don't always hear from him on many other issues. I think he actually really believed what he was saying and perhaps we ought to give him the benefit of the doubt.
Going to what Peter just said, I'm not sure that what was in play here was the Jewish vote in the United States, although that might have been part of the political calculation.
I think Israel has become a hugely important issue to tens of millions of American Christians and that's an aspect in which Romney can distinguish himself, in terms of his foreign policy credentials, from the president.
ZAKARIA: Bret, you say, "We live in a time where being pro- Israel has become a key test of a candidate's presidential fitness and rightly so." Explain that. Why is that rightly so?
STEPHENS: Well, you look at the people in the American sort of political universe who are openly anti-Israel from David Duke on the right to some very fringe voices on the left, sometimes infecting some of our intelligence bureaucracies or diplomatic bureaucracies.
And you sense that to understand that there's a key not only strategic relationship between the two countries, but a values-based relationship, expresses something of -- you know it's part of an American consensus.
I think it would be equally sort of strange to have an American presidential candidate come out and say I'm for getting out of NATO or I don't think that we should have any foreign military presence in Korea.
I think it's one of those values or points of view that kind of establishes that you are in the zone of acceptable presidential candidates and that was true, by the way, not only for Romney or George W. Bush. It was true for Barack Obama. It was true for Bill Clinton.
This is emerging as part of a sort of consensus view of American foreign policy and I think, in general, it's a very healthy view.
BEINART: Well, I think the real question not whether we support Israel's right to exist. I agree. On that question, Bret is right. There is a pretty wide consensus.
The question is whether we want Israel to remain a democracy, an Israel that makes permanent its occupation over millions of Palestinians who don't have citizenship, don't have the right to vote, live under military law, is a profound violation of the democratic commitment in Israel's own declaration of independence.
And if you're not committed to the idea of a Palestinian state, I'm not saying that getting there is easy, but unless you're committed to the idea of a democratic -- of a Palestinian state, you are essentially in favor of Israel sacrificing its democratic character.
And I think the struggle in the Republican Party -- and Bret mentioned Evangelical Christians. What he didn't mention is that many of their Evangelical Christian leaders are explicitly in favor of Israel controlling, permanently, the West Bank and, therefore, essentially becoming, in many senses, a non-democratic Jewish state. The question for Mitt Romney is does he support that view, which is also Sheldon Adelson's view, or does he support the view that, in fact, for America's own security interests and given the spirit of Israel's own declaration of independence, we should actually be opposed to Israeli settlement growth and in favor of the two-state solution.
And he basically ducked that question when he was forced to confront his biggest -- Sheldon Adelson in the front row of that speech, which I thought was really an act of a kind of political cowardice.
STEPHENS: You know there's so much caricature, I think, in what Peter just said. I mean here I'm supposed to lead on the right side of this debate. I would very happily say that I'm all for a two-state solution. I look forward to a Palestinian state.
BEINART: I was talking about Romney not you.
STEPHENS: No, hold on. And I think I speak for a lot of people who are on this side of the issue. I don't think Mitt Romney has offered a view one way or the other.
But the important point is not whether you're for a democratic Israel or you're for a Palestinian state. The important question is how that Palestinian state is going to come into being, whether it's going to be a -- it's going to come into being in a negotiated and peaceful way and, also, what the character of that state is going to be in the future.
Is that state going to be a progressive, forward-looking, liberal-minded state that really wants to live in peace with Israel or is it going to be another miniature of Lebanon or Iran or another state the sort of remains irredeemably intent on destroying what remains of Israel.
That's the issue. It's like needing an operation. Just because you need an operation, I think both Peter and I can agree that, at some point, Israel might need an operation, doesn't mean that you just take out the hack saw and cut off your leg because otherwise you're faced with the possibility of the cancer spreading.
BEINART: Sure, but if you know you're going to need the operation sooner or later, then continuing to do the behavior which is making you sicker and sicker and sicker with massive settlement subsidies. And there was just a report in the Israeli press last week that the seven cities which get the most government subsidies are all in the West Bank.
Making yourself sicker and sicker -- I agree with Bret. The operation is not going to be easy. There are serious risks to the creation of a Palestinian state.
But further entrenching Israel in the West Bank only will make that ultimate struggle much, much more difficult and push Palestinians into the arms of Hamas and Hezbollah and those who want a one-state solution.
ZAKARIA: All right, now. As you can see, we could go on for another three hours on this, but we're going to come back and we're going to talk about Iran, but we're also going to talk about Obama and his foreign policy.
ZAKARIA: And we are back with Peter Beinart, the author of, "The Crisis of Zionism" and Bret Stephens of the "Wall Street Journal." We're talking about Israel, Palestine, Iran.
On Iran, Bret, I wanted to ask you -- Ehud Barak, the Defense Minister of Israel, former Prime Minister, said to CNN that he though President Obama had done, in terms of actual military assistance and intelligence assistance, "more for Israel than any previous administration."
In that context, do you think it's fair for Romney, Republicans to suggest that President Obama is soft on the Iran issue?
STEPHENS: Look, what is Ehud Barak supposed to say? That the president has not met the test of what he requires? Those comments are a little bit -- should be treated as purely political comments.
Look, the worrying thing about the Obama administration's attitude toward Iran is that it has gone through a succession of measures, the attempt at diplomatic engagement, attempt at covert activity, ratcheting up, rather slowly, sanctions.
And the effect, from the point of view of Iran's nuclear programs, has been relatively negligible.
ZAKARIA: Peter Beinart, you think that the Obama administration could do more?
BEINART: Well, in terms of sanctions, the Obama administration has been much more effective than the Bush administration was in putting really, really tough sanctions. And even the Iranians have acknowledged that these sanctions are really hurting the Iranian economy a great deal.
We don't know. I want to be clear. I'm not saying that the sanctions will ultimately lead the Iranians to make the kind of deal that we would need to get. We simply don't know.
But the toughest sanctions haven't been in effect that long and given the fact that virtually the entire Israeli permanent security establishment thinks that military action would be disastrous, I think it's worth giving them and diplomacy at least a little bit of time to try to see whether we have an alternative.
STEPHENS: Well, hang on. What the Israeli military establishment or at last some leading ex-figures have said is that Israeli military action would be disastrous and I appreciate that view.
I don't think it ought to rest on Israel's shoulders the task of taking care of a problem that is ultimately not only an American problem, but a global problem.
So I am heartened by listening to Secretary Panetta really starting to talk in what seems to be a serious and substantive way about a U.S. military option against Iran.
Ultimately, Iran's -- Iran is a country that would have blow up a restaurant in Washington, D.C., without the benefit of a nuclear umbrella. American should worry about what its capable of doing with the benefit of that umbrella.
BEINART: Yes, I think American should worry about the prospect of a nuclear Iran, absolutely. But we should also worry about the prospect of what war with Iran - this would be war with Iran - would mean for our ongoing war in Afghanistan, for our troops who would be at risk in the Gulf, to our citizens through the possibility of terrorism, to the international economy.
I mean we are a country that has had ten years now of very, very painful experience with wars that, in many cases, we were told were actually going to go relatively easily.
So if we're going to into a third Middle Eastern war, and that's what it will be since we have no idea what the consequences would be and, in fact, our own military leaders have said that the consequences could be a regional war that would be really quite terrifying.
And, then, I think we have to a really open and honest conversation with the American people about whether they want to go through with that.
ZAKARIA: Peter, I want to switch gears for a second and talk to you about something that's at the heart of your book and is, of course, going to be something people will care about with this impending election in the United States.
Do you think that President Obama will get the same percentage of the Jewish vote that he could the last time around?
BEINART: The key thing to understand about the American Jewish vote is American Jews don't primarily vote on Israel. They vote on domestic issues and they're very tied to the Democratic Party. Why? Because they're very secular.
This is the key thing you have to understand. American politics today is largely a division between the religious and the secular. Within every religious group, the religious are more Republican, the secular are more Democratic.
But because Jews are much more secular than American Christians, the divide which cuts through Christian denominations roughly 50/50 cuts through American Jews roughly 75/25. So the Israel issue is not going to make a big difference. Barack Obama may get a little bit lower, but I think it's very unlikely that he will get less than 70 percent.
ZAKARIA: Bret, would you agree with both the prediction, but also the analysis behind it that it is really about secular versus religious issues for Jews not the issue of the support for Israel.
STEPHENS: I think that's largely right, but, then again, this is an election that is going to be determined on the margins and, on the margins, I do think there is some percentage of secular-minded Jews who have been turned off by the president's foreign policy. I think they've probably been turned off by the failure of the economy and various other hopes and changes that were never quite met.
But I think that Romney does have a fighting chance to peel off some percentage of the American Jewish vote that previously went for Barack Obama and that can prove decisive in a state like Florida or other places where Jews could provide the margin between electoral victory or defeat.
ZAKARIA: Bret Stephens, Peter Beinart, thank you very much.
Up next, 23 years after Tiananmen, most of the protesters' demands have still not been met, but is China actually beginning to give in to people power? We'll explain when we get back.
ZAKARIA: This past week, an unusual state of affairs caught my eye. I expect protests in China to be stamped out pretty quickly. Instead, not only did the government recently allow a large group of protesters to run amok, it also apologized and caved in to their demands. What in the world?
Let's begin in the town of Qidong, about an hour north of Shanghai. Thousands assembled to protest against the construction of an industrial waste pipeline. And then something rarely seen in China took place. Despite the presence of scores of policemen, the protesters went wild.
Hundreds entered and took over an entire government building. Computers were smashed. Outside, cars were overturned. At least two police officers were beaten up. I would have expected Beijing to retaliate with great force. Instead, it caved. The waste disposal project was abandoned. And the state-run "People's Daily" applauded the decision, writing that a responsible government should create an inclusive environment for public opinion."
Here's what's even more surprising. The same thing happened a few weeks earlier. Tens of thousands of citizens of Shifang in Sichuan Province staged a protest against a smelting plant. It was met with anti-riot police and tear gas, but later, the government relented, doing a u-turn and shutting down the $1.6 billion project. The two protests, despite being about 2,000 miles apart, are actually connected. Residents of Qidong said they were inspired by the news of the successful demonstration in Shifang.
There's another connection. The protesters in both cities mobilized on Weibo, China's version of Twitter, where as many as 300 million users share news, photos, and discuss politics.
According to the consulting firm McKinsey, China has "by far the world's most active" social media population. Ninety-one percent of its surveyed internet users visited a social media website in the last six months, compared with 70 percent in South Korea, 67 percent in the U.S. and 30 percent in Japan.
The internet, despite Beijing's best efforts at censorship, has empowered and connected China's people in a way that could not have been envisioned even a few years ago.
So, are the events of Qidong and Shifang part of a larger trend? Will it spread? For now, it seems not. From years of watching China, one thing is apparent, Beijing picks its battles.
If people complain about pollution or the environment, it increasingly has begun to make some concessions, but protests over economic policy produce less change. And demands for political liberalization are met with a very different kind of response.
Also, many of these decisions are actually taking place at the local and provincial levels, where governors have significant powers and independence. So sometimes these provinces will tolerate demonstrations as a pressure valve to let off steam.
In other cases, most cases they crack down. The key is whether protests in one place build momentum to a regional or national level, and that's what Beijing works very hard to prevent. But about four in ten Chinese now have access to the Internet. As China advances, that ratio will grow and grow. In the past, Beijing could contain the flow of information from one part of the country to another. But that might prove increasingly difficult as the Chinese people get more and more connected. The Internet will not make China free. That will take actual Chinese reformers and revolutionaries and organized movements. But technology does in some ways help the cause of individual liberty here.
Up next, that rarest of turnarounds. A global warming skeptic who is now a believer. Don't miss it.
CANDY CROWLEY, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Candy Crowley in Washington. "Fareed Zakaria GPS" returns in a moment. But first, a check of the top stories. There are reports that Jared Loughner will plead guilty to the January, 2011, Tucson, Arizona, shooting that killed six people and wounded 13 others, including former Congresswoman Gabby Giffords. The "Los Angeles Times" and the "Wall Street Journal" report that Loughner has been judged mentally competent to understand the charges against him and will enter a plea Tuesday. The U.S. Attorney's office is not confirming or denying those reports.
More than a dozen wildfires are burning in Oklahoma. The drought, strong winds, and extreme heat have made conditions in the state critical. So far, more than 120 homes and buildings have been destroyed.
A prominent NASA scientist is linking the extreme weather to climate change. James Hansen says it's no longer enough to say that no individual weather event can be linked to global warming. In a "Washington post" opinion piece today, Hansen says, "For the extreme hot weather of the recent past, there is virtually no explanation other than climate change."
Those are your top stories. "Reliable Sources" is at the top of the hour. But now back to "Fareed Zakaria GPS."
ZAKARIA: There is broad scientific agreement that global warming is happening and that we humans are at least partially to blame. But there are some very important scientific skeptics. Last week in the opinion pages of "The New York Times," one of the most important of those skeptics did a public about-face. Richard Muller is a physicist at the University of California at Berkeley who until recently doubted the existence of global warming. Now he says it's real, and humans are almost entirely to blame. How he came to this change of heart or mind and why it's fascinating. Welcome, professor Muller.
RICHARD MULLER, PROFESSOR OF PHYSICS, UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA, BERKELEY: Thank you.
ZAKARIA: You -- you say in that piece that all scientists should be skeptics. And I think you're right. I remember Niels Bohr once said that every statement should be taken by a scientist as a provisional hypothesis that has to be tested. So, what made you start doubting your original skepticism? What made you look at -- what evidence convinced you that something real was happening here?
MULLER: The issues were so large that about 2 1/2 years ago, my daughter and I began a major scientific research effort in which we recruited a dozen of some of the top scientists in the world, including Saul Perlmutter, who won the Nobel Prize last year well after he joined our team. So, we felt there were questions that were valid. Questions about data reliability, about data adjustment. About the choice of the stations which had been used. These demanded attention, and I couldn't get the answers. Only way to do it is to do the study ourselves. So after a great deal of work, largely done by Robert Rohde, who I can't compliment enough. His superb work in data analysis which we all carefully participated in. About a year ago, maybe nine months, we came -- I came to the conclusion that, yes, global warming was real. Then over the last three to six months, Rohde was able to extend the record back to 1753. We now had a really long record beginning before the American revolution when Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Jefferson were the ones taking the data. With this long record, we could look for the signatures of the various possible causes. We're able to rule out solar variability, able to rule out volcanoes. They had an effect, but it was short-lived. When we tried fitting it to see whether it looked like carbon dioxide, it was right on. It was a shock to me that how well that carbon dioxide curve fit our new temperature data set.
ZAKARIA: So when you look at the historical data now, is it fair to characterize the situation thus, that ever since the industrial revolution human beings have been pumping more carbon dioxide into the atmosphere and that that increase in CO2 has been having the effect that we call global warming?
MULLER: That is my viewpoint on this. You can't prove it. It's always possible that something random is happening that just happens to match the carbon dioxide data. But it leads me to conclude that essentially all of this warming over the last 250, 260 years has been caused by greenhouse gases emitted by humans.
ZAKARIA: Now, do you also worry about the potential effects that this will have on life on earth - because a lot of people talk about global warming and then they say if it gets to a certain point, the higher end of the U.N. estimates, you could have very significant coastal flooding. You could have - and you could have kind of unintended consequences, sort of follow-on effects that could be even more damaging to life on earth.
MULLER: Well, I am deeply worried about it. The coastal flooding, of U.N. estimate is something like between two and three feet. That's not huge. But I am concerned. I think rising temperatures soon will be in a realm that's higher than we, homo sapiens have ever experienced. I do not personally believe that's good for our civilization. I think we really do need to do something about it.
ZAKARIA: And what do you think, you know, when you look at the issue of what to do about it, there are people who say, look, the only thing we can do is -- what's called adaptation. We should rotate crops, we should build dikes, we should do those kinds of things, and then there are people who say, no, the problem is so serious, you have to actually get at the root cause and slow down the emission of CO2.
MULLER: I believe in the latter. And you -- adaptation, we're very adaptable species. But adaptation is always disruptive, and it hurts. Let's see what we can do. And the biggest thing we have to do -- we have to recognize that the reason the carbon dioxide is shooting up is not because of the U.S. Ours have actually been going down over the last few years as we switch from coal to natural gas. Natural gas emits only one third the carbon dioxide that does coal. If we are going to do something about this, there are two things we have to do. One is energy conservation efficiency, that's really important. A huge amount we can do there. Number two is we've got to switch the world, China, India, and particularly the developing world away from coal and on to natural gas. But that's a solution that a lot of my environmentalist friends don't like because they have decided they have to oppose hydraulic fracturing known as fracking. But in fact that is one of the two biggest things we can do. Energy conservation and the switch to natural gas from coal.
ZAKARIA: Your funding -- some of your funding came from the Koch brothers who are famously anti-global warming or believe that it isn't happening. How did that play out? Were they disappointed by the results of your research? Have they asked for their money back?
MULLER: I'm actually -- I find it amusing how many people think they know what the Koch brothers are thinking. It's a caricature of these people who -- and I did speak with them. And they made it clear to me from the very beginning that they recognized that there were serious issues raised about prior estimates to global warming. Everything from global - from urban heat islands to data selection bias to other things. And they knew that I wanted to look into that. That our team would do a good, unbiased job, and all they were asking for was scientific objectivity. So I was very pleased with their fundings. I really sensed they wanted to have this problem solved. And they never gave me any suggestion, any hint of a suggestion about which side they were hoping we would come out on.
ZAKARIA: And you haven't heard from them since you've gone public on these issues?
MULLER: Oh, I actually have talked to them, and they appear to be very pleased.
ZAKARIA: Professor Muller, pleasure to have you on. Thank you so much.
If you want to learn more about Dr. Muller's ideas, he has a new book out, "Energy for Future Presidents," from Norton. We'll be right back in just a moment with a conversation you won't want to miss. There's a reason your mother told you never to talk about politics in mixed company. I'll explain.
ZAKARIA: Given how polarized politics can be, I imagine you often stare at pundits on the TV screen and wonder what on earth are they thinking. Not me, of course. Other people. It's a good question. We often wonder why the other side doesn't get it, why they don't agree with our reasoning. Well, my next guest set out to explore this from a scientific perspective. Jonathan Haidt is the author of "The Righteous Mind: Why Good People Are Divided by Politics and Religion." He is also a professor at the NYU Stern School of Business. He joins me now. Welcome.
JONATHAN HAIDT, PROFESSOR NYU STERN SCHOOL OF BUSINESS: Thank you, Fareed.
ZAKARIA: So, the first thing I'm struck by in your work is you don't think that people adopt political positions entirely because of reason, because of rational reasons. They -- why do we end up being liberal or conservative?
HAIDT: Well, I'm a social psychologist. And the view from social psychology is that our principal goal isn't to go out and get as much stuff for ourselves as possible. Our obsession is that people around us like us, respect us, trust us, take us into their team. And so our political beliefs turn out to be largely badges and bumper stickers and things we do and say to impress certain constituencies, the people that we want to impress. They're not really based on any sort of careful calculation of what's best for the world or what's best for me even. We become quite tribal, and we adopt the signs of our tribe.
ZAKARIA: So we want to be sort of emotionally almost in sync with the people whom we hang out with, respect, admire?
HAIDT: That's a perfect way to say it. It's based largely on feeling.
ZAKARIA: Why is it that liberals don't get conservatives, but conservatives understand liberals?
HAIDT: There are a couple of reasons. One, as you and I know, if you grow up through Ivy League-type schools, you're exposed to liberal ideas constantly. I never really read anything by a conservative until I was in my late 30s. You have to actually seek it out. The other, the more psychological reason, is that if conservatives build on all these five foundations including loyalty, authority and sanctity and liberals kind of reject those, well, there aren't really moral foundations or psychological systems that liberals have that conservatives just lack, just can't understand. But liberals have a lot of trouble understanding like what -- what's going on with gay marriage, what could possibly be wrong with gay marriage? I just don't get it. You don't hear conservatives saying what could possibly be wrong with racial discrimination, I just don't get it. So, again ...
ZAKARIA: But they do seem to be utterly uncomprehending of a desire for more government regulation or some, you know, don't conservatives ...
HAIDT: It's not that they can't understand the desire, they disagree with this. So, there is a big difference between I understand what you are saying, but I disagree versus I can't even grasp what you think the issue is here.
ZAKARIA: And do you think that that gives conservatives some kind of an advantage?
HAIDT: In terms of elections it definitely does. Many people have argued, George
Lakoff, Drew Western and many people have argued that the Democrats tend to make appeals that are more cerebral, more based on sort of arguments. And we saw that very recently with Obama's story about how -- well, if you have a business, you didn't build that yourself. And you sort of trot out a sort of a story about how everybody - lots of other people contributed to it. That's a kind of an argument that doesn't connect closely with these -- visceral moral foundations that I'm talking about. And I read a lot of right wing stuff. They're just - they're having a field day with it because their arguments about fairness and independence and hard work, those resonate - those resonate viscerally. The Democrats' argument is more cerebral. Yeah, you can kind of follow the logic of it.
ZAKARIA: Do you think that going forward, you know, doing - kind of whirlwind moving into -- do the Democrats have an advantage, do the Republicans have an advantage? How do you see the landscape?
HAIDT: Well, once thing I've learned from talking with political scientists is that, whatever my common sense views about elections are from reading the newspaper are wrong. And issues like the economy and the jobless rate, those are the most important factors. As a psychologist, I'm trying to contribute some other factors that matter. And I do think that in the older culture war about gay marriage and abortion, all that stuff, I think the Republicans did have an advantage. In the newer one about capitalism and fairness, I think -- I don't see a clear advantage on either side. Mitt Romney could make a very inspiring case for capitalism. I think one can be an aid. But I think he's making a bad case for it. And Obama's making a -- kind of a poor case - not exactly against it. I don't see a clear advantage to either side on these financial issues.
ZAKARIA: And -- you yourself are a liberal.
HAIDT: Well, I'm a liberal by temperament. And if you looked at my genes and my friends and all of that, yes. But in terms of policies and philosophy, I'm actually a centrist. In doing the research for this book, I really came to see that, you know what, both sides are right about the things they care most about. And they're right about the big issues they fought for in history. And if you just are a member of one team and you say, look, our side is right about, you know, gender equality, or our side was right about communism, I mean you see the things that your side was right about, and you're just blind. You don't see that there's all these other threats and problems and solutions that the other side is talking about. And that's where we are. The two sides just saying, we're right, no, we're right. Bang.
ZAKARIA: Jonathan Haidt, pleasure to have you on.
HAIDT: Thank you, Fareed.
ZAKARIA: I will be back.
ZAKARIA: A blackout in India this week left some 600 million people without electricity. After calling my mom to make sure she was OK, it got me wondering -- what percent of the people in the world don't have electricity. That's our question of the week. Is it A, six percent? B, 16 percent? C, 26 percent? Or D, 36 percent? Stay tuned, we'll tell you the correct answer.
If you like the "GPS Challenge," go to cnn.com/fareed for more. You can follow us on Twitter and on Facebook. Also remember if you miss a show or a special, you can get them on iTunes. The audio podcast is free. You can buy the video version. Go to iTunes.com/fareed. This week's book of the week is "The Book of Joe." It's a well-written comic novel with a twist. People sometimes tell me the books I recommend aren't exactly beach reading. Well, this one is.
Now for "The Last Look." If you were this guy in the pink shirt, you might think that this was your last look at life. He's on a tourist bus in Egypt, and ...
[ screams ]
ZAKARIA: Who's that knocking? Terrorists. In short order, they blindfold him, and pulled him off the bus. Only to reveal -- surprise -- it's a reality show for Egyptian TV.
This was just a prank, and his fellow tourists on the bus were in on it. Really funny, huh? Not so much. Especially when Americans and others are kidnapped with some regularity there these days. Pair that with this ad created by the Egyptian military that ran earlier this summer on state TV.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: [ speaking foreign language ]
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ZAKARIA: It warns Egyptians to beware of foreigners. They might be spies. This English-speaking guy is the heavy here. Now Egypt gets more than ten percent of its GDP from tourism. Tourism revenues are down almost a quarter since before the revolution. And this is the welcome mat being laid down by the Egyptians?
The correct answer to our "GPS Challenge" question was c, 26 percent of the world's population does not have regular access to electricity, according to the World Bank. Most of those people are in sub-Saharan Africa and the poorer, more rural parts of Asia.
Thanks to all of you for being part of my program this week. I will see you next week. Stay tuned for "Reliable Sources."