Return to Transcripts main page

Fareed Zakaria GPS

How to Thwart Islamic Terror; A Coming Global Recession?; The Industries of the Future; Harry Belafonte Talks Race and Hollywood; Red Carpet Faux Pas. Aired 10-11a ET

Aired February 14, 2016 - 10:00   ET


[10:00:09] 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'll start with some of the most serious threats facing the world. First off, terror. ISIS will probably try to strike the United States in 2016. That's what a top intel official opined this week.

Does the terror gang have the strength and smarts to do so? I have my Michael Chertoff and Peter Bergen to assess the U.S. government's own threat assessment.

Then money. Just what is going on with the world's markets? Are we headed into another recession? I will talk to Martin Wolf and Rana Faroohar who have slightly different perspectives.

And a very special treat. The great Harry Belafonte. Star of stage and screen, activist and humanitarian on the whiteness of Academy Awards, the blackness of the president and the state of race relations in America today.

And finally, rolling on the red carpet in Egypt and rolling and rolling and rolling. I'll explain.

But first here's my take. It is the line that might have sunk a presidential campaign. It came during last Saturday's debate from Senator Marco Rubio.


SEN. MARCO RUBIO (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: He knows exactly what he's doing. Barack Obama is undertaking a systematic effort to change this country to make America more like the rest of the world.


ZAKARIA: Rubio's sin is said to be stylistic. He repeated the phrasing almost robotically. But what about the substance of what he said?

The charge that President Obama is attempting to change America fundamentally is a staple of right-wing talk shows. As Paul Waldman points out, Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck and others routinely assert that Obama's policies are intentionally designed to transform America and dull its distinctive edge.

This rhetoric does raise an important question. What makes America exceptional? All American politicians including Obama use that word. Most genuflect before it but few actually define it.

Today American exceptionalism is often seen as economic. Many conservatives say that Obamacare, energy policy and the Dodd-Frank financial regulations have all violated a core difference between America and the rest of the world by expanding the role of the stake in the economy.

But how limited is American government comparatively? The conservative Heritage Foundation publishes an annual "Index of Economic Freedom" that ranks countries based on their degree of economic freedom from government. America comes in 11th, behind Canada, Australia, Ireland, New Zealand, Chile, Switzerland and Singapore. That doesn't seem very exceptional.

But from the beginning America was exceptional. So it was obviously about something other than tax policy.

What about freedom? Certainly, liberty was central. But the French Revolution was also fuelled by a similar idea, though never implemented successfully.

What they made America truly exceptional from the start? It was a country founded not on race, ethnicity or religion but on ideas and crucially those ideas were open to all. This openness to people, ideas, cultures and religions created a new person, the American.

The great historian of the American founding Gordon Wood explains his view of American exceptionalism.

"In an important sense," he writes, "we have never been a nation in any traditional meaning of the term. We Americans do not have a nationality the way other peoples do, which of course is why we can absorb immigrants more easily than they can."

Other countries have small states and low taxes. And there are many liberal democracies, even republics in the world today, but no other country from its outset believed in the idea of openness and the mixture of people as central to its founding.

America is a nation created on the basis of diversity, of race, religion, national origin, and there are efforts to change America. There are plans for religious and ethnic test to bar immigrants and even visitors and also to track immigrants and visitors when they are in the U.S. There have been calls to deport people. Even American citizens. There are proposals to monitor houses of worship.

[10:05:04] These ideas would fundamentally change America, tearing at its founding DNA. It would make it much more like the rest of the world becoming one more nation in which certain ethnic groups and religions are privileged and others are outsiders. A country in which diversity is a threat to national character rather than a strength.

And who is proposing these changes? The last time I checked it was not Barack Obama.

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

A series of hearings on Capitol Hill this week were frightening not for their partisanship but their substance about the threats the United States is confronted with today. The director of National Intelligence James Clapper told Congress that there are currently more terrorist safe havens in the world than at any time in history. Clapper called ISIS the number one terror threat.

Lieutenant General Vincent Stewart, the head of the Defense Intelligence Agency, went further saying in 2016 ISIS will probably attempt direct attacks on the United States and more attacks in Europe.

So what should we take from all of this and what is to be done?

Joining me now in Washington is Michael Chertoff, former U.S. secretary of Homeland Security and now the executive chairman of Chertoff Group, a security firm. He is also an adviser to Jeb Bush.

And here with me in New York is Peter Bergen, the CNN national security analyst, and the author of the "United States of Jihad" which was my "Book of the Week" last week.

Michael, tell us what you made of that -- of those hearings because one of the things I worry about is that intelligence agencies these days seem to view it as part of their job to make sure nobody can ever tell them that they missed something. So they have tended to paint pretty gloomy pictures because nobody notices that the bad stuff doesn't happen but God forbid there should be one attack and it turned out you did -- you know, you didn't predict there was going to be an attack. Is there some of that going on or is this really worrying?

MICHAEL CHERTOFF, EXECUTIVE CHAIRMAN AND CO-FOUNDER, THE CHERTOFF GROUP: Well, I think there's always been a little bit of inclination on the part of intelligence agencies to be comprehensive and to make sure they don't get accused of missing something. But that being said, I think what James Clapper said and what General Stewart said was actually pretty much what I would have expected.

The reality is if you look around the world, radical violent jihadism has metastasized. It's not just in South Asia and in the Middle East, but it's in North Africa, it's in East Africa. And we now see evidence of it Europe as well. So I think in the main there was no surprise and I think the gloomy prognosis is one that's warranted by the facts.

ZAKARIA: Peter, why has it happened? Why are we seeing this metastasization? You know, after al Qaeda was, as you very wrote very eloquently and smartly seven years ago that al Qaeda was on -- you know, on its death bed, and then suddenly ISIS was able to come in and spread this fast.

PETER BERGEN, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Well, it goes back to Holms. I mean, the only worse thing than a dictator was anarchy, it turns out. And we've run for the various forms of this political science experiment in Libya where we overthrow the terrible Gadhafi. Now we have a civil war and anarchy into which is ISIS has inserted itself. The Egyptians have chosen a dictator who's worse than Mubarak which is Sisi in terms of his human rights record because that concern about, you know, the chaos that kind of came out of the Arab spring.

So now we're five years out from the Arab spring. It turned into the Arab winter. No end in sight. And I would -- like many others including myself I was very optimistic because al Qaeda didn't play a role in this. They were absent. And suddenly these and other kinds of groups like them have taken advantage of the circumstances.

ZAKARIA: Peter, the other thing James Clapper talked about was the homegrown threat. And you have written this terrific book. Tell us, you know, one of the questions I think on everyone's mind is how does this happen? How does a seemingly normal couple in San Bernardino get radicalized, become foot soldiers in the ISIS war?

BERGEN: Some of the people I profile were tremendously excited American citizens joining al Qaeda in Yemen or joining ISIS, seeing themselves as part of the Islamic utopian experiment. And we've seen that through revolutionary movements throughout history. They tend to attract, you know, idealistic people even if there are crimes involved.

ZAKARIA: Mostly young men, right?

BERGEN: Mostly young men.

ZAKARIA: And mostly alienated young men in some way.

BERGEN: Yes, they're alienated. But you know, the interesting thing is, you know, lots of people have just personal disappointments or alienated, object the American foreign policy. Why do some people were killed innocent civilians is an interesting question and there's no easy answer. There is no -- there is a profile of these people. I mean, the San Bernardino couple, for instance, fits very closely to the profile of most American jihadist. They had kids, they were average age, you know, late 20s.

[10:10:05] They were middle class. He had a good job. You know, these are not the dispossessed and that's been true whether, you know, Baader-Meinhof gang in Germany in the '70s which is a group of bourgeois terrorists, and you know, the anarchists in the late 19th century Russia. So it's not the first time that we're seeing the same sort of profile. If you look at western foreign fighters, whether it's Jihadi John joining ISIS, these are not people who are, you know, terribly impoverished.

ZAKARIA: It takes a certain level of education or literacy to become -- to become radicalized because it's an ideology of violence.

BERGEN: Right.

ZAKARIA: That is not something that somebody who is an illiterate person is going to adopt.

BERGEN: Absolutely. Absolutely.

ZAKARIA: Michael, what to do about this? What to do about this homegrown threat? You must have thought a lot about this when you were at Homeland Security?

CHERTOFF: Of course, what's happened now in the last few years is the rise of social media. And I think you're beginning to see now some of the companies that are platforms for social media, being a little bit more energetic in shutting down some of the Twitter feeds and similar types of communications that are used to recruit. But we also need to have a strategy to enlist the local communities in counter radicalization, and that means religious leaders, it means family members, that means community groups who have to begin to push back against this narrative and also frankly to identify people who are in the early stages of becoming violent or radicalized. Should be making -- having an intervention before they go all the way.

ZAKARIA: There are several Republican candidates, not Jeb Bush, who argued that we should be putting certain special conditions on Muslims, whether in screening immigrants, whether, you know, tracking them. Eavesdropping or spying on mosques. What do you think of that whole set of strategies?

CHERTOFF: You know, a lot of this is based on the kind of foolish idea that you can identify who's a Muslim or that the people who become radicalized will come from an Islamic background, and in fact we've seen historically over the years often you have Christians who become radicalized rather quickly and then become enlistees in this violent jihad. So I think we have to focus on behavior, not on ethnic or religious background.

Obviously, whenever we admit people into the United States we have to be careful in vetting them. And I think there are processes in place now that have been enhanced that give us more information about who comes in. But to generalize groups based on religion is a huge mistake. And I can tell you I remember swearing in as American citizens in Iraq members of our armed forces who are Muslim who actually came from the area and they were willing to put their lives on the line to protect America and we shouldn't be alienating those people.

ZAKARIA: Michael Chertoff, Peter Bergen, pleasure to have you both on.

Next on GPS, another threat. How to make sense of collapsing markets, cheap oil, negative interest rates. What is happening? We have experts who will explain it all to you. Stay with us.


[10:17:30] ZAKARIA: It was another very rough week for investors around the world from New York to London to Hong Kong. But those are just markets. What do they have to do with the overall economy? Well, potentially quite a bit according to no less of an expert than Federal Reserve chair, Janet Yellen. She told Congress on Wednesday that the swiftly dropping stock markets in addition to higher interest rates and the strength of the dollar would weigh on the outlook for the broader U.S. economy.

So what should we be looking for in those markets and in the broader U.S. and global economy in the coming weeks?

Let me bring in Martin Wolf, chief economics commentator for the "Financial Times," who joins us from London. And here on set with me is Rana Faroohar, "TIMES" assistant managing editor for economics and business, and CNN's global economic analyst.

Rana, you have been warning of what you believe is a coming global recession.


ZAKARIA: Explain briefly why you think the time is right.

FAROOHAR: Well, for starters, historically global downturns tend to happen about once every eight years. And so by that measure we're actually sort of on track for where we should be to have another dip. What's worrying me right now is that the market jitters that we've seen in the last few months which are really emanating from China are in some ways the echoes of the 2008 crisis. So back then you had a big subprime bubble in the U.S. It blew up. We stopped spending here in the U.S. and mostly in the Western world.

Developing countries led by China took on the burden. They run up their own debt bubble, that's now bursting and so you've got the same thing happening once again. China's downturn, you've got a capital flight, and I think that the market jitters are going to continue for some time.

ZAKARIA: Martin, when I saw you in Davos, you were somewhat -- I wouldn't say optimistic but sanguine because you said look, the United States is not in recession, Europe is not in recession, and China is not in recession, yes, growth is slow there, and those three collectively account for, you know, something like 75 percent of the global economy. Are you still sanguine?

MARTIN WOLF, CHIEF ECONOMICS COMMENTATOR, THE FINANCIAL TIMES: Well, it depends I suppose a little on what one means by a recession. I think that if Rana is saying that we have a slowdown of the world economy that's clearly true. I expect the world economy to grow below its potential this year. I don't think there's any real doubt about that. But if we mean by a recession an actual shrinkage of global output, I think that's still very, very unlikely.

We're not seeing that happen in the major economies. The world will be astonished if that happened in China.

[10:20:01] And the countries that are in real difficulty aren't big enough to actually give us negative growth for the whole world economy. But it's a -- it's not a happy picture and obviously if you look at the markets, you look at their banks, you look at the geo political risks, of course, you could imagine negative shocks which would tip us into something horrible. But I would be astonished if it was something as bad as 2009.

ZAKARIA: And could you see the kind of spillover that the last leverage bubble bursting had?

FAROOHAR: I don't think this is a 2008 situation but I do think that we've got these two major forces in the economy right now, right? The slowdown in the emerging markets which is being snowballed by the slowdown in commodities and the plunging oil prices. That makes the slowdown in many of these countries worse. At the same time, you got the end of easy money, right? The Fed is not going to pump any more money into the global economy.

A lot of governments are tapped out. So we see that those two forces are creating this very rocky environment that's going to mean more volatility and just could have an unexpected paradigm for investors which coupled with the political issues around falling oil prices but that makes the political situation in a lot of these emerging markets rock here. I think that that presents a pretty tough view for the year ahead for investors.

ZAKARIA: Martin, this week Sweden cut its interest rates into negative territory, negative interest rates. When I talk to businessmen, they still seem very worried by the fact that interest rates so low, they think that central banks should be raising them to normalize so that, you know, we don't have all this cheap money which artificially, you know, keep you and makes asset prices go up. You argue, on the other hand, that not only should central banks be going into negative territory, they might be even essentially take helicopters out and spraying money into the economy. Explain why you think that's important.

WOLF: I think business people are wrong. Fundamentally wrong. I admire greatly their understanding of their businesses but they simply, in my view, don't understand the overall economic system. We are in a very strange place. We've been there -- under that in my most recent book -- for about 15 years in which we suffer from a really big and sustained global savings flop and a really big deficiency in the investment. Real interest rates are naturally very low. Monetary policy is reflecting that.

I was interested and it's a reflection of exactly this, that Rana was saying, it's the end of easy money the Fed has just raised rates to a quarter point. This is the end of easy money but she's right because the Fed tightened too soon. The fundamental problem is the equilibrium rate. The real rate is fantastically low for our economy. We won't solve the problem without solving that problem. But that takes us into a much deeper and bigger discussion than the one we can now have.

ZAKARIA: All right. We're going to have to come back to the subject because it's very complex but this was fascinating. Thank you both. Next on GPS, why did President Obama just ask Congress for lots more

money to counter Russia? A new Cold War? Well, I'll just explain it all when we come back.


[10:27:01] ZAKARIA: Now from our "What in the World" segment.

This weekend his budget proposal, President Obama asked to quadruple spending for U.S. and naval forces in Europe over last year.

Why does the Pentagon need so much more money to send American troops to peaceful, tranquil Europe? Because officials in Washington and many European capitals are increasingly worried about a threat they thought had gone away. Russia.

Now you might think that the danger of a Russian invasion of Europe is farfetched but let's understand what the Pentagon and Europeans might be thinking. Russia has invaded two sovereign countries in just the last eight years. Georgia in 2008 and Ukraine in 2014. Both former Soviet republics on its borders.

Ukraine has a sizable population of ethnic Russians whose dissatisfaction was used to justify the use of force. The Baltic States share -- Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania -- share that characteristic but with one crucial difference. They are all members of NATO.

The alliance including America is treaty bound to regard an attack on them as an attack on all. And here's the worrying part. Were there to be an attack, Russia would win and fast. The Rand Corporation rand a series of war games to see what would happen if Russia invaded the three Baltic States.

The results were shocking. Russian forces crushed NATO's defenses. Vladimir Putin's army was able to reach Estonia and Latvia's capitals in less than three days. NATO's infantry couldn't even retreat for the most part. It was destroyed by the Russian attacks, says Rand.

Why the dramatic defeat for the most powerful military alliance on earth? Rand says Russia has far more firepower and manpower in the region.

In the 1980s there were 300,000 U.S. army soldiers in Europe. Today there are 30,000. Russia has 22 maneuver battalions, according to Rand, while NATO has 12. Seven of which are Baltic battalions that are poorly equipped to fight the Russians.

NATO's secretary general says that Russia has ramped up its military maneuvers to a point unheard of since the Cold War.

So what does NATO need to do to face down this renewed Russian threat?

The Obama administration's budget proposal this week would add one brigade for Europe that rotates in from the United States, bringing the total to three brigades. Rand says there need to be more forces to prevent a quick takeover of the Baltic's. As Rand points out, President Obama made a solemn promise to Baltic nations in 2014.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We'll be here for Estonia, we will be here for Latvia, we will be here for Lithuania. You lost your independence once before. With NATO you will never lose it again.


[10:30:07] ZAKARIA: Attacking the Baltics would be risky for Vladimir Putin, of course, but one way to make it even more risky for Russia is for the United States and NATO to create a realistic force that could actually fight the Russian army. That, after all, is how deterrence works.

Next on GPS, are robots going to take over your job?

My next guest says it's likely, but he also tells us about the opportunities and industries of the future.


ZAKARIA: My next guest says he wishes that, when he graduated from college in 1994, somebody would have told him that the Internet and computers were going to change the world. Well, he's now written a book for the graduates of today, telling them what the next 20 years will bring, which industries will boom, which jobs will grow, which skills will be necessary to compete.

It's a book, though, that all of us should read, not just kids. Alec Ross is the author of "The Industries of the Future." Ross was senior adviser for innovation to then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

Alec Ross, pleasure to have you on.

ALEC ROSS, AUTHOR: Thanks for having me.

ZAKARIA: So this is the question that everybody wants to know because young people want to figure out what industries they want to go into; people want to know what they should know about to retool; and all of us are interested. So, you know, bottom line, what is the biggest trend you notice when thinking about these industries of the future?

ROSS: Well, I think that the story of the last 20 years was the story of digitization. The story of the next 20 years is going to build on that. But what we're going to see are advances in hardware and material sciences and artificial intelligence, creating entirely new trillion-dollar industries.

The world's last trillion-dollar industry was created out of computer code. The world's next trillion-dollar industry is going to be created out of genetic code.

So now, 15 years past the mapping of the human genome, for example, I think we're three or four years away from unleashing the long-hoped- for revolution in life sciences.

ZAKARIA: The other big thing you talk about in the books is the robotics, one of these things that people had imagined would progress more than it has. You know, people thought we would have robots that could clean up the kitchen and, you know, you've got a few vacuum cleaner robots, but what is making it change? What's the new step function?

ROSS: The robots from the cartoons and movies of the 1970s are going to be the reality of the 2020s. And there are really two things driving this. The first is there are things that are historically very difficult for robots, like grasping. It might seem straightforward, but it's actually very complex to model out mathematically and algorithmically. But there have been huge breakthroughs in mathematics in just the last 18 months that are now taking what were once complex robotic tasks and are now making them possible, basically allowing us to take robotic work from being merely routine and manual to cognitive and non-routine.

And the second big development is cloud robotics. So if C-3PO interrupted us right now, Fareed -- if he walked in here and he said, "Oh, my, excuse me," and, you know, walked off -- walked off the set, in the movie version of that, there would be a lot of hardware and software worrying through that gold-gleaming body. In the real C-3PO of, say, 2025, that will be a cloud-connected device. So if he interrupted us here on the set, he would ping the cloud and the intelligence from the cloud would give him instructions, "Excuse yourself" -- "Excuse yourself in English and go find a seat."

What this means as a practical matter is that we don't have to build million-dollar robots to get remarkably sophisticated artificial intelligence. They can be lean machines so long as they're connected to the cloud.

ZAKARIA: Many of the robots, driverless cars, replace people. We had Derek Thompson on for The Atlantic, who pointed out that the single most common occupation of an American male is driving a car, bus or truck. Presumably, you say, "Get used to it; there will be a lot more of this."

ROSS: This is going to continue to happen. But here's the thing people aren't talking about, Fareed, which is going to be a really big deal. In the past, automation and robotics have replaced blue-collar labor, dominantly manual labor, but the combination of artificial intelligence with new automation technologies is going to displace what I would call low-level white-collar work.

Think about my father. I love my father. For 40-some years he's worked as a real-estate lawyer in Hurricane, West Virginia. And what he's done is he's created big stacks of paper for people when they buy and sell a home. That kind of work, which requires cognition but also has a lot of rote work to it, I think, is going to be supplanted by a combination of AI and robotics.

ZAKARIA: So young people listening to this, parents listening to this, will wonder what should we do to prepare for this new world? ROSS: I have a 13-year-old son, an 11-year-old daughter and an 8- year-old son. And I really wrote this book to try to light a little path for them. Sixty-five percent of all jobs for children entering primary school today will go into job titles that don't presently exist.

And so I have a chapter in the book called "The Most Important Job You'll Ever Have," which is parenting, which focuses on the skills and attributes that today's kids will need in tomorrow's world.

And I point out two things, first: interdisciplinary learning. We've got to be able to take science, technology, engineering and mathematics and combine that with skills in the humanities focused on 65 percent of jobs go into jobs that don't exist. this focuses on skills kids need in tomorrow's would recall. I point out two things. first, interdisciplinary learning. We've got to be able to take science, technology, engineering and mathematics and combine that with skills in the humanities focused on persuasion, teaching and other such things.

The second thing I would say is language learning, foreign languages and computer languages. The world is growing more global. People who are prepared to work on a 196-country chessboard are going to be those who are best positioned -- and computer coding because, if you are a competent coder, you basically have a few decades' worth of guaranteed employment in front of you.

ZAKARIA: Alec, pleasure to have you on.

ROSS: Thank you.

ZAKARIA: Up next, the one, the only, the great Harry Belafonte on race, Hollywood and America.





ZAKARIA: Harry Belafonte is one of those guests that really needs no introduction, but I will try to do him justice with a short one.

In his 88 years and 11 months of life, Belafonte has made an indelible mark on popular film, TV, music and theater. But perhaps more importantly, he has changed America and the world. He was a friend, confidante and organizing partner of Martin Luther King Jr. He brought Hollywood to the march on Washington in 1963. He has been a fierce advocate for justice, a tireless activist for civil rights. And that is what the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences awarded him an honorary Oscar for just a year ago. It was a humanitarian award. And in his acceptance speech, Belafonte said he hoped Hollywood would be "civilization's game-changer."

I'm honored now to welcome the great Harry Belafonte.

Thank you for being here.

BELAFONTE: It's very nice to be with you.

ZAKARIA: You talk about the degree to which race permeates so much of culture that we sometimes don't notice it. And you give us an example. The first movie you saw, which was in 1935, right? What was it?

BELAFONTE: It was called "Tarzan and the Apes." And a lot of kids in my neighborhood in Harlem where I was born couldn't wait to go see this. First of all, the whole experience of the picture, the technology, was fairly new. And as the picture opened and played, throughout the course of the picture, I found myself being impacted upon by the way in which Africans were portrayed.

Here there was this large group of people who were in an environment to which they were the indigenous and yet they were stumbling idiots who couldn't find their way through the -- through the forest, and everything they attempted to do could only be guided by the beings of Tarzan, the great white hope.

And I watched that, and when I left there, the one thing that I remembered distinctly was that I did not want to be identified with Africa. I did not want to be an African. The way in which the Africans were depicted was so demeaning, and they represented such stupidity and such absence of intelligence. And I decided the last thing I ever wanted to be was an African and to be referred to as a descendant of Africa. Thank God for my mother, who showed me a better light.

ZAKARIA: It would seem like a lot has changed, when you look at movies like "Twelve Years a Slave" or "Selma" or so many of the other ones, that we've come a long way. Have we?

BELAFONTE: I think there's no question that we have come a long way. But one would assume that, after you've made a very long journey, you're somewhere near the end. But, unfortunately, about the issues of color, we are really just at the beginning. There's much to unravel. There's much -- there have been --perceptions have been put out that need to be changed. And we are slowly, slowly coming to that time when pictures like "Twelve Years a Slave" and -- and, most recently, a number of films that have come out that are, kind of, interfaced with this whole issue of Oscars and black presidents in American culture.

ZAKARIA: Well, what do you think of that?

So I've -- I have friends in the entertainment industry who tell me, "Look, Hollywood is full of liberals. These guys have no problem nominating black people. This is a couple of bad -- this is, you know, two bad years," that this is not indicative of anything deeper.

BELAFONTE: I don't think it's just two bad years. I think, if you look at the spectrum of race relations in this country on a lot of fronts, you know, is a -- a regression; there is a reversal. If you take a look at the way in which the right wing movement in this country has gerrymandered voting districts and you look at employment records; if you look at a lot of practices, black people are once again at the doorstep of a new wave of racist definitions and racist practices.

ZAKARIA: So you think things have gotten worse recently, a kind of a backlash?

BELAFONTE: I think, from what we achieved in the Civil Rights movement to what we're now practicing as a nation, there is a reversal.

ZAKARIA: Do you think that's because there's a black man in the White House?

BELAFONTE: I think the black man in the White House has awakened an awful lot of dichotomies here. I think, on the one hand, America took great pride in the fact that, to a world that saw us as a powerful force but a very reactionary force, the election of Obama sent another signal.

But it also awakens a right-wing energy in this country because nobody really expected that we would ever have elected a black man to be president. And when that reality was established, I think it shocked a lot of racist forces in this country. I think a lot of the hurdles and the problems that have -- that Obama has faced is really very much based upon the fact that there is a force in this country that says, "No black man should ever be at the helm of his country."

ZAKARIA: You know, there are people who would wonder why you have been so politically and socially active. You're a great artist; you're a great singer. Did you worry that, you know, you were turning off some part of your audience, that you were doing things that might not help you just purely as a -- as a great singer?

BELAFONTE: I'm not an artist who became an activist. I was always an activist who happened to become an artist.

When people say, "Well, why did you become an activist?" I became an activist because I was a victim of poverty. I saw the environment in which my mother, as an immigrant woman, came into America. But I -- I have always felt that America -- when people say, "Why do you love America," it's not because of Abe Lincoln; it's not because of George Washington. It's not because of what the founding fathers said, although that's a big part of it. The more important component for me was I saw what black men said in the face of great tyranny. I listened to Dr. DuBois; I listened to Paul Robeson. I read what Frederick Douglass had to say, and Harriet Tubman, and the great warriors who felt that America was worthy of a challenge and changing because it could become a utopia for all people.

And in the spirit of that belief, I joined the campaign to protest against racial oppression and tyranny.

ZAKARIA: A final question: Are you optimistic?

BELAFONTE: Yes. I have no choice. If I were not optimistic; if I didn't have a sense of hope, then I would have to look at all this life, all of these mentors, all of the people who sacrificed greatly, not just black people, because a huge influence in my life was Eleanor Roosevelt. I don't think any one person, black or white, touched me quite as deeply as she did.

I don't think we can become distracted by all that has been thrown at us. We have a task to make this country whole and to have it live up to its -- its promise and what it says it hopes to be.

And Dr. King once said, "We are the only hope that America will realize the better part of its -- its self." And I'm on that mission.

ZAKARIA: Harry Belafonte, fascinating perspective. Thank you so much.

BELAFONTE: Thank you for inviting me.

ZAKARIA: Next on GPS, I'll tell you about one world leader's red- carpet faux pas, plus a new ministry of happiness, all when we come back.


ZAKARIA: This week one country's prime minister took to Twitter to announce interesting new top governmental positions. It brings me to my question: Which government announced the creation of the roles of minister of state for tolerance and minister of state for happiness this week, Denmark, the United Arab Emirates, Bhutan or Thailand?

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

This week's book of the week is Eric Weiner's "The Geography of Genius." This is an easy, breezy read, a romp through various cities in the world that the author believes have that special sauce that encourages genius to flourish. He takes you to ancient Athens, fin de siecle Vienna, and, of course, Silicon Valley today, providing fun facts, amusing anecdotes and genuine insights along the way.

Now for the last look. You've heard of red carpets, but welcome to the red runway. It's a 2.5-mile-long red carpet. No, this is not an image from Hollywood. It's from a developing country, one still plagued by poverty and disease. The carpet was laid out in Egypt to pave the way for its president, Abdel Fattah el-Sisi.

It gets worse. The red runway was placed to get Sisi to a housing complex for the poor to give a talk about austerity measures, among other things. The Egyptian military told the public that the carpet was used in order to give a good impression to the world. I think we can say that backfired.

That very same military that put on such a show has been strengthening its already central role in Egypt's economy, as Foreign Policy pointed out. And that role is one of the crucial reasons why reforms to open up Egypt's economy never quite take place and never succeed. The Egyptian economy continues to be in a slump. What they really need to fix their problems right now is not a red carpet but a magic carpet.

The correct answer to the "GPS Challenge" question is B. The United Arab Emirates announced the new positions of ministers of state for tolerance and for happiness via tweets by the country's PM, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum.

These two positions come as part of what the sheikh called "the largest structural change in the history of our federal government," which includes the eventual outsourcing of government services to the private sector.

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