Return to Transcripts main page

Fareed Zakaria GPS

Interview with Grover Norquist; Interview with Ed Conard, Nick Hanauer; Interview with Neil deGrasse Tyson; Interview with Bernard Lewis

Aired September 02, 2012 - 10:00   ET


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. On today's show, we'll bring you some of the best interviews of the year. First up, the most powerful man in America. No, not what you're thinking. That's what some people call Grover Norquist. Who? He is behind the GOP pledge never to raise taxes. Then, who really creates jobs in this country? Is it the one percent or the 99 percent? I'll talk to two one percenters who vehemently disagree.

Next up, the politics of outer space: America won the race to the Moon, but that was 40 years ago. The U.S. is essentially sitting on the bench in the current space race. Will that hurt it back here on Earth?

Also, the world's great historian of the Middle East, Bernard Lewis, on the past and the future of that part of the world.

But first, here's my take. So I thought I would take a step away from politics, the conventions and the campaigns and look around the world. You know, the other 95 percent of humanity. I wanted to focus in on a story that does not get enough attention -- Africa. The IMF says that six of the ten fastest growing economies in 2012 are in Africa. Over the past decade, according to the African Development Bank, the number of middle-class consumers in Africa, those who spend between $2 and $20 a day, has expanded 60 percent to 313 million. That's about the same size as the middle classes in China and India. Health is improving, as well. According to the World Bank, one key indicator, the death rate of children under five, is dropping dramatically. Over five percent a year in ten sub-Saharan countries and over eight percent in Kenya, Rwanda, and Senegal.

There are even bright spots in the reduction of graft and corruption. Ghana, South Africa, Namibia, Rwanda, and Botswana each had less corruption, get this, than Italy and Greece according to Transparency International. Governance is improving in many countries. Terrorism by Islamic extremists remains, but there is progress here, as well. Having largely driven the al-Qaeda-linked al- Shabab from Mogadishu, Somalia's capital, that city is experiencing its longest period of relative peace since 1991. Jeff Gettleman, "The New York Times" terrific East Africa Bureau Chief is a frequent visitor to Mogadishu. He told me that visitors to Mogadishu's airport were until recently asked to list on their arrival form the caliber of their weapon. Now they are asked the purpose of their visit, including if it's a holiday.

Behind much of this growth and improvement lies the global demand for commodities. With large shares of the world's oil, gold, and rare minerals, Africa has been an attractive source of raw materials for emerging nations. And none more so than China. While the rest of the world is importing from China, the IMF says sub-Saharan Africa has been going in the other direction. As Chinese premier Wen Jiabao himself noted in a recent speech, Africa's exports to his country have doubled in the last three years alone. China has gotten almost half of its imports of aluminum, copper, iron ore and oil from Africa, according to the "Financial Times." China's arrival has also improved Africa's infrastructure, including funding and building the gleaming new African Union headquarters in Addis-Ababa, Ethiopia.

Today Brazil, Turkey, Malaysia, and India are all following China's lead. But commodities alone will not sustain the kind of growth that African nations need, especially if BRIC countries continue to slow from their breakneck growth. The key will be to use commodity revenue to build up agriculture and industry, invest in education and health, and improve governance. Only through this will Africa be able to further better the lives of the nearly two thirds of its sub-Saharan population that still lives on less than $2 a day or has no access to electricity. But for now, let's step back and take a moment to note that things look much brighter than ever before on the African continent. Let's get started.

My next guest is according to former Senator Alan Simpson, the most powerful man in America today. No, he's not the American president, but if he were to run for that position, Simpson says, his platform would be no taxes under any situation, even if your country goes to hell. I'm talking about Grover Norquist, he's the author of "The Taxpayer Protection Pledge," which seeks to oppose any net tax increases. It has been signed by 95 percent of Republican congressmen and all but one of the original 2012 Republican presidential candidates. Grover Norquist joins me now.


ZAKARIA: So, let me ask you ...


ZAKARIA: ... about the history of the last 20 or 30 years and ask you whether you feel some responsibility for this. Here's how I see it. The Republican Party under Ronald Reagan, subsequently under Gingrich when confronting George Bush Sr. has pushed aggressively for cutting taxes, no new taxes, many of the kinds of things you've argued for. But it has been unable for whatever reason under Republican majorities, under Democratic majorities, under divided or shared government to cut spending. So what we have had is the kind of perfect expression of what the American people seem to want, which is low taxes but lots of government services. And there's only one way to square that circle which is to borrow lots of money, which is what we've done for the last 30 years. So aren't you to blame for that?

NORQUIST: No, because the alternative is to tremendously raise taxes as high as spending has gone. If this is the left's analysis of how to fix the problem. No. Here's ...

ZAKARIA: But isn't that -- but let me ask you, let's look -- you can characterize it as left or right.


ZAKARIA: But if you raise taxes to meet what expenditures you want to make, at least you don't have a debt bomb. At least you don't have a debt crisis. At least you don't have a financial collapse. At least your own fate's the prospect, which I assume you think we are facing of becoming another Greece. In other words, I don't like high taxes, but the question is if you want lots of government services, you have two options. You can either have high taxes, or you can borrow the money.

NORQUIST: But the American people clearly don't want high levels of government spending ...

ZAKARIA: As I said for 30 years they've shown that they don't want to cut spending.

NORQUIST: The congressmen and senators they send to Washington, D.C., are surrounded by spending interests who push them on -- for higher levels of spending and try to push them for higher levels of taxes. When you polled the American people, do you want more government services at a higher cost or fewer government services at a lower cost, two to one. And that is almost unchanged as you got ...

ZAKARIA: In the abstract?

NORQUIST: In the abstract.

ZAKARIA: When you go to a specific program they like ...

NORQUIST: ... and ask are they willing to pay additional taxes for it, the answer's no. Only when ...

ZAKARIA: But do they want cuts in it, they say no either.

NORQUIST: See, if taxes go down, you can get that. The disconnect is when you send people who promise to cut spending and taxes and send them to Washington and they are surrounded. I run a taxpayer group, the most powerful guy in D.C. nonsense, OK. There are buildings with thousands of people in them all lobbying for more spending and higher levels of spending and more government commitments. And there are a handful, a handful of groups that fight for less spending. How do we even the score? That's what the pledge has begun to do. Because we make visible a candidate who says I'm going to Washington, not raising taxes. OK? And then people know exactly what he or she committed to because it's in writing, it's short, it's simple, no net tax increase.

ZAKARIA: So, let me ask you this, we are taxing now at 14 percent of GDP.

NORQUIST: Thanks to the recession. ZAKARIA: We're spending at 23 percent of GDP. Are you telling me that you believe you can get all, you can close that gap entirely by cutting spending, that is by -- by taking something on the range of seven or eight percent of GDP out of government spending? That is cutting $800 billion out of government spending every year?

NORQUIST: You can -- you do two things. You reduce spending, and you have stronger economic growth. This is one of the weakest recoveries we've had ...

ZAKARIA: Yeah, but you can as a practical matter, you can wish, this is again, this is a wish, not a plan. I would like stronger economic growth, too, but your fiscal situation has to be ....

NORQUIST: ... ask you how you get to that. You can't -- you undo the regulatory burdens that Obama has both put in and threatened to put in. You get rid of Obamacare ...

ZAKARIA: But this is all rhetoric, Grover. You've got a plan as a practical matter. Look, as I said, Clinton raised taxes, you got growth. Bush had the biggest tax cuts in a generation and he got the weakest growth in 30 years. You know, you can't -- all I'm saying is as a matter of practical planning for the fiscal future of the United States, your answer can't be, well we'll have more stronger growth. Yeah, if we grow at six percent, we don't need to do anything. Everything is solvent, right? But I can't wish for that. We've got to plan realistically.

NORQUIST: We know that if you reduce capital gains taxes, you actually get more growth. If we go to full expensing for business investment, we'll get more investment. We need to have an immigration policy that brings both talent and numbers to the country. We need to have the territorial tax system so a trillion dollars that's overseas can come back here and create jobs and opportunities here while making the country fiscally stronger ...

ZAKARIA: If you like two or three things, that you could do if you could wave a magic wand for the tax code, what would you do?

NORQUIST: You take corporate and individual rates down to 20 percent. 25 does not make you internationally competitive, because while the European average on the corporate rate is 25 and most Americans work for firms that pay at the individual level, not at the corporate rate, so you got to bring them both down. Obama wants to take the individual small business tax to 44 percent and the corporate rate, he says, down to 28 percent or whatever. But that really damages the small businesses and doesn't make us competitive. You've got to take them both down to 20 because state and local corporate taxes are five percent.

ZAKARIA: And you don't compete with Europe.

NORQUIST: We've got to be at 20 nationally, because -- or (ph) 25 to compete with Europe.

ZAKARIA: And you don't think that bringing taxes down that much at least in the short run will mean that you will lose substantial revenue?

NORQUIST: I think you'd -- you do a number of things at once. Look, we're going to have a Republican House after this next election. We're going to have a Republican Senate after this next election. 23 Democrats up, ten Republicans up. The Democrats, half of them are in very vulnerable seats. Two of the Republicans might lose. So you're going to have a Republican House and Senate. The question is, if you have got a Republican president, all of the things I'm talking about, the issue just a rhetoric, that's not rhetoric, that's the plan.

ZAKARIA: Grover Norquist, good to have you on.

NORQUIST: Good to be with you.

ZAKARIA: And we will be back.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The idea that you have to have a 15 percent capital gains tax rate in order for people to start companies, first of all, reduces people like me and other entrepreneurs to sociopathic money grubbers who only do what we do for a dollar. And that is categorically untrue.


ZAKARIA: With the unemployment rate as high as it still is, a crucial question that must be answered is -- who creates jobs? Is it the one percent or middle-class consumers? That's at the heart of the debate we're going to have today. I'm joined by two business leaders. On my right is Ed Conard, he is the former Bain Capital partner and unabashed member of the so-called one percent. And he says it is he and his colleagues who are largely responsible for job creation. Nick Hanauer is an entrepreneur and venture capitalist, also member of the one percent. He says that when businesspeople take credit for creating jobs, it's like squirrels taking credit for evolution. So let's start, Ed's got a book out. We've had him on the show before ...


ZAKARIA: So, you get the first word. Why is it like squirrels taking credit for evolution?

NICK HANAUER, ENTREPRENEUR & VENTURE CAPITALIST: Look, if investment was the key, then there would be Apple stores in Somalia, and there would be a Bain Capital office in Bangladesh. The thing -- the goose that lays the golden egg is not people like Ed and myself. We are a dime a dozen. The greatest economic achievement of the 20th century has been the creation of the American middle class. It is demand, it is customers that drive all economic activity. Look, the world is awash in capital. American corporations are sitting on $2 trillion worth of cash. Ed's firm alone has raised $35 billion in private equity. I'm in the venture capital business. You can fund any cockamamie idea. The world is awash -- awash ...

CONARD: But tell the people in Africa and India that the world is awash in capital.

HANAUER: It is awash.

CONARD: This is ridiculous.

HANAUER: What we lack today are consumers. The only reason any company invests, the only reason any company hires someone is because they believe they're going to have a customer for that. Look, anyone who's ever run a business knows that a capitalist hires more people only as a course of last resort. When -- when there are no options available other than meeting increasing demand from customers.

ZAKARIA: But at some point presumably this logic does apply. Which is that if the middle class, if the larger -- if the majority, if 80, 90 percent have lower and lower incomes, the fact that they can't -- they don't have much purchasing power will affect demand, will it not?

CONARD: I think there's two problems with the argument. First of all, we know why there's no Apple store in Thailand, OK, because there isn't a lot of capital per worker. There isn't a lot of training per worker, and there isn't a lot of innovation there compared to there is in the U.S. And that has driven incomes way up in the U.S. relative. And that's why we can afford Apple computers and things like that.

So, if you don't have the investment in place, first of all, you don't get the consumption after the fact. Now, you can run the math, and the assumption in the math is that if you lower the incentives for risk taking, if you lower the investment that goes into risk taking, if you lower the capital, the equity that underwrites the risk taking, you will get the kind of growth in the middle class that the U.S. has been able to achieve. Well, we can look at real-world experiments out there. And we don't find one where that's true. We have three great real world experiments, the U.S., Europe, and Japan. OK? Our median incomes are 25 percent higher than Europe's. Our median incomes have grown relative to Europe's and Japan. We have -- we can spread the income over a lot of employees, which we have, because we've grown our employment much faster and much greater than they have grown theirs. Or we can restrict the supply of labor, for example, and drive the wages up to a certain extent. But either way, what matters is how much income you've created. And we are creating way more income at the median than Europe and Japan are creating. And that is because innovation is driving our economy so we can say, hey, we'll take away the incentives. We'll take away the equity. We'll take away the investment. But we'll get the growth anyway. Because got blessed America with entrepreneurial spirits.

HANAUER: So, so you know, Ed and I are in violent agreement that innovation is extraordinarily an important thing. Where we diverge is this idea that we have to lower tax rates to these unbelievably low levels in order to have it. And it's just -- so this is my world. And the idea that you have to have a 15 percent capital gains tax rate in order for people to start companies, first of all, reduces people like me and other entrepreneurs to sociopathic money grubbers who only do what we do for a dollar. And that is categorically untrue. We start companies because we want to change the world, solve a problem, be king of the hill, be our own boss. By this logic, Bill Gates and Steve Jobs made a terrible mistake by starting their companies because tax rates were 2.5 or three times higher than they are now.

ZAKARIA: Let me ask you what you would change. Because even if your argument is true, wouldn't it be fair to say the United States does provide enormous incentives for rich people to invest, and taxes are historically speaking at least, you know, much lower than they were in the 1970s when Microsoft and Apple were founded, marginal tax rates were 75 percent. Capital gains tax rates I think were in the 40s. So, do you think that tax rates need to be further reduced?

CONARD: I would be very, very careful about reducing the incentives for risk takers, and I would be working very hard to lower the spending. And I think there's agreement on the left and the right that we have to -- I mean, we have to substantially reduce the spending over the long run if we want to preserve the growth rates and the benefits that we have been able to provide for the middle class relative to Europe and Japan. If we want to continue that success.

ZAKARIA: You want to invest -- I mean you are -- the spending you're talking about is basically investment in the middle class?

HANAUER: Absolutely. But I just want to address this risk thing for a moment because I find it absurd. I mean, if you think about the iconic so-called risk takers in our economy, Bezos, Zuckerberg, Gates, the Google guys, just imagine their lives, right? So the Google guys -- and God bless them, they've done a great thing. But they've grown up in families where their parents are professors of mathematics and computer science. So far, no risk. They go to Stanford University to get Ph.D.'s in computer science. Other than being born in the British Royal family, no institution on earth more insulates you from risk than a Ph.D. in computer science from Stanford. At the best time in human history in the best place in human history, they go off to live the dream and start an Internet company in Silicon Valley in the mid '90s. So far, no risk. The money that goes into Google comes from venture capitalists. You think maybe they took a risk, but not really because venture capitalists like private equity people make money whether the deal works or not.

The only people who took a risk in this entire chain are the working people whose pension funds the venture capital -- venture capital company invested in Google. Because if Google goes bankrupt, those people will actually lose their money. There's this idea that we owe the so-called risk-takers fealty or special tax treatment is utterly absurd. It's just not true and not fair.

CONARD: You're making a moral argument as opposed to an economic argument. All you really care about is how do you get the risk taking that benefits the middle class at the lowest possible cost?

HANAUER: I would agree with that.

CONARD: Now, Thomas Edison said, you know, success is one percent inspiration, 99 percent perspiration. Business is a team sport, it's not about two guys sitting in their dorm room at Stanford, OK? It's about attracting a lot of talent to that company to make that company successful. Getting those people to walk away from companies like Microsoft and Google and all the other companies that they're walking away from. It doesn't matter whether it's moral or not, it's what's the economic cost to get those guys to walk away, to create the next Google, the next Facebook. And it's not the after the fact payoff of billions of dollars, it's before the fact when they have a one in a million chance. And they recognize that unless they get a little more equity, they have very little chance of producing as much income and wealth as they would as if they just were to stay at their job at Google and Facebook, as opposed to walking away and taking a risk.

And we have been able to do it. And Europe and Japan have been singularly unsuccessful in accomplishing this. Their most talented people go to the beach -- our top 20 percent, and the only people in the high wage economies, because as you get more money you work less. The only pay some high wage economies, where people are working more hours, not less hours. And that is beneficial to the middle class and the working poor throughout the world. The U.S. innovation is what's driving the growth rate.

ZAKARIA: Thank you, gentlemen. Wonderful debate. Maybe you'll have round two in when we come back.


HANAUER: Let's just go.


ZAKARIA: Now for our "What in the World" segment. We tend to think of dictators as all-powerful leaders who act with naked cruelty and impunity.


BASHAR AL-ASSAD: (speaking Arabic)


ZAKARIA: Think of Bashar al-Assad in Syria or for a celluloid reminder, look at this scene from Sacha Baron Cohen's new film.


[ cheers ]


ZAKARIA: But the film "The Dictator" and our imagination of dictators is somewhat outdated. The modern dictator is more evolved and more attuned to how people think. A new book highlights that trend. It's called "The Dictator's Learning Curve," by William Dobson. Dictators have gotten smart, Dobson writes, to keep pace with changes in technology. Old school oppressors like Mao, Pol Pot or Idi Amin, could keep their atrocities relatively secret. That's not possible today. If a dictator tried to orchestrate a mass killing and keep it secret, it would fail. It would end up on YouTube. The crimes of Uganda's Joseph Kony are now an Internet phenomenon and he remains on the run. War criminals cannot act with impunity. Charles Taylor of Liberia was recently found guilty by the U.N. Special Court for Sierra Leone, and Sudan's President Bashir has been indicted by the International Criminal Court.

So, today's cleverest dictators have evolved. They allow a certain amount of dissent as an escape valve. Consider China. There's a study out by three political scientists at Harvard. They've devised a way to analyze millions of social media posts in China. What's special is that they claim to do this before the Chinese government gets to censor them. So, it provides a unique insight not just into what the Chinese people think, but also what the government deems necessary to censor. What did they find? Contrary to what you think, it turns out criticisms of the government are not more likely to get censored. Even vitriolic criticism is allowed. The focus is on stopping mass mobilization. Last year, Beijing blocked Internet searches for Tunisia's Jasmine revolution to prevent discussions about the Arab Spring. Similarly, searches for the number 4/6 were censored. The numbers representing June 4th, the anniversary of the massacre at Tiananmen Square.

The Harvard study shows that Beijing's leaders are making measured concessions. It is said that some 500 protests take place every day across China. But anything that could lead to something larger or more organized is instantly clamped down on.

Another example -- Putin's Russia has usually allowed the print media a great deal of freedom on the theory that what a few tens of thousands of people read in Moscow and St. Petersburg doesn't matter. But the regime has taken over television news completely, so mass opinion is carefully controlled out of the Kremlin.

We're witnessing a trend in China, Russia, Venezuela, and many other countries, even Myanmar. Gone are the days when dictators could completely ignore the demands of their people. As citizens become more exposed to events around the world, more connected to each other on the Internet and social media, dictators will have to make greater concessions. It's a situation that is far better than how things were ten, 20, or 50 years ago. Regimes like those in Syria and North Korea can still act with all-out brutality. But they are outliers. They represent a fading order. The new model is to allow a controlled space for free commerce, for open education, even for dissent. Perhaps people in these countries can use that space to slowly expand the realm of freedom and liberty. We'll be right back.


NEIL DEGRASSE TYSON: All the traditional STEM fields, the science, technology, engineering, and math field are stoked when you dream big in an agency such as NASA. And it's not that much money. Right now it's a half a penny on your tax dollar. I say double it to a penny.



CANDY CROWLEY, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Candy Crowley in Charlotte, site of this year's Democratic National Convention. Before President Obama arrives here, he is touring some must-win battleground states. He made two stops yesterday in Iowa, including this one outside Des Moines. Attended, we are told, by 10,000 people. The president has another big rally planned today in Boulder, Colorado. And that happens to be where we find our Athena Jones. Hey, Athena.

ATHENA JONES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Candy. On day two of what the campaign is calling their road to Charlotte, the president speaks on yet another college campus. Here at the University of Colorado at Boulder. We expect his message to be a lot like what we heard from him yesterday in Iowa. Another key battleground state where he spent part of his speech responding to what we heard from the Republicans at their convention last week. Let's listen to a little bit of what he had to say.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: Despite all the challenges that we face in this new century, what they offered over those three days was more often than not, an agenda that was better suited for the last century.

It was a rerun. We'd seen it before. You might as well have watched this on a black and white TV.


JONES: And another big push we heard from the president yesterday and from campaign staff that we expect to hear again today has to do with early voting and voting by mail. According to the campaign here in Colorado, 77 percent of the vote came in either early or by mail last time around. So it's something that could prove pivotal of the winning this state's nine electoral votes again. And in fact, according to the campaign, the majority of votes came in either early or by mail, not just in Colorado but also in Florida, in North Carolina, and Nevada in 2008. All states that the president won. So this is something we can expect to hear a lot about as we go forward in the states where it's relevant. Candy?

CROWLEY: Thanks, our Athena Jones in Boulder, Colorado. We'll have more on the president's tough road to re-election when I return at noon eastern. Now back to "Fareed Zakaria GPS."

ZAKARIA: Space as "Star Trek" reminds us is the final frontier. But is it the final frontier of earth-bound conflict of a power struggle between the United States and China? That's what my next guest says. Neil deGrasse Tyson, the astrophysicist, spends a lot of time looking and thinking about space. He's the director of the Hayden Planetarium here in New York. Welcome, Neil. NEIL DEGRASSE TYSON: Thanks, thanks, Fareed.

ZAKARIA: So, when you wrote this article in "Foreign Affairs" that I was struck by, in which you ...

DEGRASSE TYSON: It made the cover article.

ZAKARIA: It was the cover essay. And they talked about -- and you talked in this article in "Foreign Affairs" about the fact that we were withdrawing from the -- from space. They are kind of limiting our ambitions at the very moment that China was amping up its program. You worry a lot about the fact that people are getting very cost conscious and very -- and really cutting back. And you tell the story about the Hubble telescope. Explain why it's important and what happened.

DEGRASSE TYSON: Well, in that particular case, it was -- you know, the Hubble telescope, as you may remember, when it was launched, the mirror had the wrong curvature to it. Images were fuzzy. So, it would be a little while before we would get that repaired with corrective optics. So, what do you do?

ZAKARIA: Because it's up there in space.

DEGRASSE TYSON: It's up there in space -- you have got to like mount a mission to go work on it and be clever about how you design the corrective -- because that problem was not anticipated before Hubble was launched. So, you have to be really clever about what you pulled out and what you swapped in. And so, there was some time, down time, if you will, where you could get data but it was kind of fuzzy data. So, what do you do? Well, you don't want to waste it. And so, an algorithm was invented -- -was developed to extract as much information as you possibly can from these fuzzy images of stars. And that exercise, that algorithm was shared with a medical doctor who specialized in breast cancer research. And he noted that finding these dots of light in an otherwise sort of fuzzy environment was exactly what he does visually when he's looking for early detection of breast cancer in the mammograms. And so they take this algorithm, apply it.

Now they're finding -- early detection of breast cancer, doing a better job than the human eye was able to do. You can't script that. And that happens all the time. This cross pollination of fields, the innovation in one stimulating revolutionary changes in another. If you only want to put money to a problem, you can tend to make evolutionary changes, small increments. But the big changes come about when all the -- I'm not saying just in space, you need all the sciences. A quick note, all the machines in a hospital that have an on and off switch brought into the service of diagnosing the condition of the human body without cutting you open, they're all based on a principle of physics discovered by a physicist who had no interest in medicine. From the x-ray machine, the one of the earliest of these diagnostic tools, to the entire department of radiology to ...

ZAKARIA: This one about light waves ... DEGRASSE TYSON: Yeah, that and energy, out of the atom, the -- with MRI, the PET scans, physicists just doing physics. And so if you say I want to be healthier, let's put more money in the medical community, no. You've got to put money everywhere. But in the school system and in the culture of society what drives ambitions? There's nothing that drives ambitions the way NASA does. And today's NASA portfolio taps biologists because we're looking for life on Mars, chemists and physicists and electrical engineers, mechanical engineers, all the traditional STEM fields, the science, technology, engineering, and math field are stoked when you dream big in an agency such as NASA. And it's not that much money. Right now it's a half a penny on your tax dollar. I say double it. To a penny, right? Then we go to Mars in a big way. In short term it becomes a big, visible project. School kids know about it. And who is that first astronaut class? Today, they're -- in middle school today. I got an idea, let's select them now, and then we all could track, see how -- are they eating well, are they getting good grades? That's tomorrow's Mercury 7.

ZAKARIA: What would we learn -- what is your hope about the Mars mission? Because this is -- I mean clearly part of it is symbolic. But part of it is you actually think there's a lot to learn by ...

DEGRASSE TYSON: Well, as a scientist, I want to go to Mars and back to asteroids and the Moon because I'm a scientist. But I can tell you, I'm not so naive a scientist to think that the nation might not have geopolitical reasons for going into space. NASA was created in a geopolitical climate. You know, we were spooked by Sputnik. Sputnik itself was a hollowed out, intercontinental ballistic missile, with the missile removed. Put in a little radio transmitter. So, everyone said, oh, it's going beep. The military knew the implication of this. And so the space station itself, the initial impetus was Russia's building their own space station. So I don't have a problem with geopolitical arguments for going into space. Let all the reasons reveal themselves. Tourism, let the private sector go take care of that. I don't have any problems with that. And as scientist, send me to Mars.

ZAKARIA: Would you go?

DEGRASSE TYSON: I would so go to Mars. Not -- but to low Earth orbit, no. We -- I'm boldly going where hundreds have gone before -- no. But if you are going to go where nobody has gone before, sign me -- I'll bring my whole family. And sign me up.

ZAKARIA: Neil deGrasse Tyson, a pleasure to have you.

DEGRASSE TYSON: Thanks for having me.

ZAKARIA: And we will be back.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The total exports of the entire Arab world other than oil and gas amount to less than those of Finland. One small European country. And that's a staggering statistic. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ZAKARIA: Frank Lloyd Wright was once on a witness stand. The judge asked him to describe who he was. And he said, "I am the world's greatest living architect." The judge was surprised, he said, "Your honor, I am under oath."

If Bernard Lewis were in a similar situation, he could say that he is the world's greatest historian of the Middle East. He has taught at Princeton for many decades and he joins me now.

BERNARD LEWIS, HISTORIAN: Thank you very much.

ZAKARIA: "Notes on a Century: Reflections of a Middle Eastern Historian." So, naturally the first thing anyone would want to know from you, Bernard, is tell us about the Arab Spring. How important is it?

LEWIS: We can't say yet. It could be very important or it may end in disaster. I don't know. Both are possible.

ZAKARIA: But when you look at it, does it strike you as a kind of -- there seems to be an almost a long-suppressed liberation not just from particular rulers, but from foreign domination, which has been so much a part of the Middle East.

LEWIS: Well, I agree that there are good signs. But I don't think foreign domination was the main problem. Foreign domination was brief and ended some time ago, and that didn't make their problems any better. It made them rather worse since there was nobody that they could conveniently blame.

ZAKARIA: When you look at the prospects for democracy in the Middle East, how would assess them?

LEWIS: Depends what you mean by democracy. I think we in the western world have made the great mistake of assuming that our way of doing things is the only right one. And when we use the word -- the word democracy is used in many languages, with many different meanings. When we use it in English, we usually mean the Anglo- American parliamentary system. And that is very suitable for the English speaking peoples, and it has worked fairly well in a small group of others, it's not a law of nature, and it's not the only (inaudible). I think that in the Middle East and more particularly in Islam, they have their own political traditions, they have their own cultural traditions. And one thing I think very important is so there is tradition of having bodies in society where authority comes from within and not from above. And that is the basis of what I would call a democratic society in any meaningful sense of that word.

ZAKARIA: Your first claim to fame was Turkey. You wrote your first book about -- no, it was your first major book about Turkey, the emergence of modern Turkey.

LEWIS: Yes. ZAKARIA: You speak Turkish, you also speak Arabic and Farsi. I mean, you speak many, many languages. Bit lots of people worry about Turkey and say this is an Islamist government that is turning Turkey into an illiberal society. Others say no, no, no, this is the real expression of democracy. You had a military junta that was running it, now you have genuine liberal democracy. How do you look at Turkey?

LEWIS: Well, I think there's something to be said for both of those interpretations. They're not mutually exclusive. I mean, this government did come to power by a free and fair election. No doubt about that. Now, Turkey was the first Muslim country which held genuinely free and fair elections. I was there in 1950 in Turkey, I was spending the year in Turkey. I was there when the first real free and fair election took place. The government lost. The government conducted and controlled the election, it lost the election. It gracefully withdrew from power and handed it over to the opposition. It was a memorable experience.

Since then, democracy has had a rather checkered experience in the region. It's an alien concept. It's taking some time to assimilate. But I think there is progress. And there is two things I think which are important. One is the point that I mentioned before. The existence and presumably development of institutions and bodies where authority comes from inside and not from above. And the provision organizations being probably the most important. The religious organizations, the craft gilds and so on. And the other is the increasing participation of women.

ZAKARIA: You spent your life when you started working on the Middle East, it was all dictatorships. Do you look at it now and think that the middle east is -- it's a more hopeful place than when you began working on it?

LEWIS: I am cautiously optimistic, yes. And the thing one has to bear in mind is this about the Middle East. It was pointed out not long ago by an Arab committee that the total exports of the entire Arab world other than oil and gas amount to less than those of Finland. One small European country. Now that's a staggering statistic. It means, though, the economies depend entirely on oil. And this is true even in the countries which don't have oil because they depend on the others. And sooner or later, oil and gas will either be exhausted or superseded as the world -- the modern world turns to other sources of energy. And when that occurs, they will have nothing left. Now, one possibility is that they may develop alternative forms of economic activity. Another, more likely, is that the region will relapse into insignificance.

ZAKARIA: Do you think that latter is ...

LEWIS: I think the latter is more likely at the moment.

ZAKARIA: Because Americans are losing interest on the Middle East.

LEWIS: Exactly, America is clearly losing interest. Europe has some interest, but is unable to do much about it. And Russia was obviously unable to do much about it. I mean, the -- the superpowers of the second half of the 21st century would be India and China. They will be -- they will be the superpowers of the world contesting for world domination.

ZAKARIA: But it's a good thing you studied the Middle East while you did, when it was the cockpit of history.

LEWIS: And when I was still able to move around freely.

ZAKARIA: Bernard Lewis, a pleasure to have you on.

LEWIS: Thank you very much. Delighted to be with you.

ZAKARIA: And we will be back.


ZAKARIA: The Republican convention is behind us. The Democratic convention is ahead of us. And this convention season brings me to my question. Which party held the first-ever national political convention in the United States in 1831? Was it, a, the Democratic Party? B, the Nullifier Party? C, the Federalist Party? Or D, the Anti-Masonic Party? Stay tuned, and we'll tell you the correct answer. Go to for more of the "GPS Challenge" and follow us on Twitter and Facebook. Remember, if you miss a show or special, go to You can buy episodes there. The audio podcast is free.

This week's book of the week is called "Connectome," and its by MIT professor Sebastian Seung. The author's fascinating thesis is that we are who we are because of how our brains are wired. That the pattern of connections between our brain's neurons is what forms our identities. It's really interesting stuff, and it's very well written.

And now for the "Last Look." Labor Day weekend marks the end of summer here in the United States when people start putting away the sunscreen, the grills, and the beach chairs. And perhaps thinking longingly about next summer. But perhaps by next summer a Chinese trend will catch on here. You see, on some beaches in China like this one in Quindau (ph), they go for full protection. No, I'm not talking about SPF 100. I'm talking about masks. That's right, it's full fashion in parts of China to cover your entire head and part of your neck with a mask to ensure the sun's rays stay away, and also apparently to ward off the jellyfish. Just make sure you don't wear one on your next vacation to Cancun or you might be mistaken for a Mexican wrestler.

The correct answer to our "GPS Challenge" question was D. The long-extinct Anti-Masonic Party was the first party to hold a national political convention. The meeting was held in Baltimore, in September 1831. Their platform, as you might have guessed, was opposition to secret societies like the Free Masons and the power such societies wielded in U.S. politics, real or imagined.

Thanks to all of you for being part of my program this week. I will see you next week. Stay tuned for "Reliable Sources."