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Fareed Zakaria GPS
Trump Warning Countries about Trade with Iran; Robert Caro Discusses hHis New Book; A Week of Violence and Volatility in Venezuela; ISIS in Resurgence?; The Immense Importance of Immunization. Aired 10-11a ET
Aired May 05, 2019 - 10:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[10:00:20] 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.
Today on the show, regime change. The Trump administration has encouraged Venezuelans to top their leader.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MIKE PENCE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Nicolas Maduro must go.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ZAKARIA: This week the opposition tried and failed. What's next for Juan Guaido? I'll talk to his U.S. representative.
And the rumors of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi's death were greatly exaggerated. The ISIS leader seems this week to be very much alive and the terror group claims it is alive with the Sri Lanka attacks. Is ISIS new, improved and deadly?
Also, measles, mumps, rubella and polio all were supposed to have effectively been vanquished in the West. But now measles outbreaks abound right here in New York City. What explains this? I'll tell you.
But first, here's my take. Understanding Donald Trump's foreign policy is a bit of a challenge since the president has written and spoken little on the subject for most of his life.
So how do make sense of his world view? Is there a Trump doctrine?
Michael Anton, a former Trump national security official, believes there is, and he explains it in a new essay on "Foreign Policy."
"Let's all put our own countries first and be candid about it and recognize that it's nothing to be ashamed of."
But as Daniel Larison responds in the "American Conservative," this isn't a doctrine. It's a banality. What country has not put its own interests first? What president has argued to give preference to global interests over American ones? Anton does outline a certain kind of nationalist conservatism that
seems at the heart of Donald Trump's world view. More important since Trump is rarely consistent and could change his mind tomorrow, it reflects the views of the man who's gotten closest to him on foreign policy, National Security adviser John Bolton. Bolton has been variously described as a neoconservative, a paleoconservative, a conservative hawk. In fact he is simply a conservative in the oldest most classical sense, someone who has a dark view of human kind.
As a former U.S. official told the "New Yorker," Bolton believes that Thomas Hobbes's famous description applies precisely to international life, that it is nasty, brutish and short. Bolton believes that to protect itself and project its power, the U.S. must be aggressive, unilateral and militant.
Bolton seems to share the world view that animated Dick Cheney who after 9/11 spoke openly about the need to work the dark side and use any means at our disposable basically to achieve our objectives.
There are some in the foreign policy establishment who believe that a revanchist Russia poses a grave threat to America. Others worry about a rising China or an ideological Iran. For Bolton, it's all of the above and more. He has at various points warned darkly about the mortal threat posed to the United States by Cuba, Libya, Syria and of course Iraq.
A longtime fan of regime change, he recently labeled Cuba, Venezuela and Nicaragua a "triangle of terror" and said the U.S. looks forward to watching each corner of the triangle fall. It seems he wants them to fall not to usher in an era of democracy, but because they resist American power and influence. "The Monroe Doctrine is alive and well," Bolton said to the "New Yorker's" Dexter Filkins. "It's our hemisphere."
Now this kind of conservatism believes that national interests are worth pursuing not because they are virtuous about democracy or freedom, but because they are ours. This view originates in a kind of cultural chauvinism that can easily morph into racism.
The more practical problem with the Cheney-Bolton worldview, though, is that it is profoundly inaccurate. The world is not nasty, brutish and short. Life has improved immeasurably over the last 100 years. Political violence, deaths from wars, civil wars and yes, terrorism, has plummeted. And this has happened in large part because human beings also have the genes to cooperate, to compete peacefully, and to weigh the costs of war against their benefits.
Bolton says that he might well invoke the "Roosevelt Corollary" to the Monroe Doctrine, which asserts that the United States can use force unilaterally anywhere in the Western hemisphere.
[10:05:10] If he does, what is the argument against Russia doing the same in Ukraine, China in the South China Seas, Iran in Yemen? Without rules and norms, the U.S. would have to militarily thwart every such effort or else accept a world of war and anarchy. You see, nationalist assertiveness works as long as only you get to practice it.
For more go to CNN.com/Fareed and read my "Washington Post" column this week. And let's get started.
"Operation Freedom" has begun. That was Juan Guaido's message to his supporters earlier this week. He's the opposition leader and president of Venezuela's National Assembly who launched an active uprising against the Maduro government on Tuesday.
Today Maduro still has the power despite the U.S.'s strong backing of Guaido. Trump and leaders of dozens of other countries recognize Guaido as Venezuela's interim leader.
Joining me now from Miami is Carlos Vecchio, Juan Guaido's representative to the United States.
Mr. Vecchio, explain to us what happened on Tuesday because as I saw it after much fanfare, this video comes out, nothing really happened that day. There were meant to be -- I presume there were meant to be defections of key military leaders. There was meant to be a crack in the regime by the end of the day. It seemed as though Maduro was in power and Leonardo -- Leopoldo, the opposition leader, had to run to the Spanish embassy to seek asylum.
CARLOS VECCHIO, VENEZUELAN OPPOSITION'S ENVOY TO THE U.S.: Hello, Fareed. Thank you very much for this opportunity. As you said, this week interim president Juan Guaido has activated the Operation Libertad, Freedom Operation, is the final stage in order to put an end to the usurpation of power of Nicolas Maduro. And this is not a single event. This is only the beginning of this phase. And this is an ongoing process, so if you put it in that way, we have been taking, you know, important steps in order to put the end of the usurpation of power of Nicolas Maduro.
The most important thing for me is the following, Fareed. One, Juan Guaido is free. He's on the street leading this process. Leopoldo Lopez, the most prominent prisoner of the regime, was released by the intelligence forces of Maduro, that supposedly were supporting Maduro. And also the people of Venezuela had to remain on the street across the country.
And the most important one, Fareed, member, members of the inner circle of Maduro, including civilians and military officers, were negotiating the exit of Maduro. So this is a process. This is an ongoing process. It's not a single event. So we are moving forward in order to conquer freedom.
ZAKARIA: Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said that in that negotiation Maduro was about to get on the plane and leave but the Russians told him not to and backed him to stay in power. Is that accurate?
VECCHIO: I cannot comment on that, Fareed. I don't have those details. But what I can tell you is that inner circle of Maduro, we're negotiating the exit of Maduro, and this tells you that this regime is collapsing. That Maduro doesn't go anywhere, that Maduro cannot trust anyone. And this is a matter of time that it will -- ZAKARIA: But, Carlos, it's --
VECCHIO: -- be able to resolve any problem of the Venezuelans.
ZAKARIA: It's important to understand, President Trump says that he accepts Putin's claim that Russia has no involvement in Venezuela and no interest. Mike Pompeo says the Russians have hundreds if not more people and that they are the outside power that is propping up the regime. Who is right?
VECCHIO: Well, just the Venezuela situation has become more complex, Fareed, due to the presence of Cubans and Russians. We have sent clear messages to all of them. I mean, that this is a process led by Venezuelans and that we will conquer freedom and they should facilitate the transition in Venezuela.
And also, the Lima Group, you know, the most important Latin American countries, have passed some resolutions calling to the Russians and Cubans saying this is the position that the region has. And you need to facilitate the transition because this is impacting not only Venezuelan, but also the entire region. So I think we have that clear position. We will continue, you know, on the streets, increasing the pressure or --
ZAKARIA: But don't you need --
VECCHIO: -- our national assembly.
ZAKARIA: Don't you need some --
ZAKARIA: Defections of key military leaders?
[10:10:02] I think that was the expectation on Tuesday. Surely you are disappointed that there were no defections.
VECCHIO: No, listen, the most important thing is the -- this is a process. It's not a single event. We were not expecting everything that specific day, but the other part is that important members of the army were supporting this operation. Just to give you that example, Leopoldo. Leopoldo was surrounding for the intelligence forces of Maduro and he was released. And he has spent more than eight hours just walking with the people of -- in Venezuela.
The only way to do that is because part of the military force are supporting what we are doing in Venezuela. So this is a matter of time. This is collapsing.
ZAKARIA: But then he had to run into the Spanish embassy because he was worried that he would get rearrested, I assume. VECCHIO: Yes, but he will keep, you know, operating from that, you
know, facility, from that place. He has all connections not only with the military officers but also with the inner circle of Maduro and also with people from the opposition, mainly with interim president Juan Guaido. So he's -- now he would be in a better position to continue doing what he was doing in his house arrest. So I think we are just moving forward, Fareed.
This is like you climb like a mountain and we are just moving forward. We are pretty close to the peak. And just we need to keep our determination until we achieve what we want, which is the end of the usurpation of power of Maduro.
ZAKARIA: Carlos Vecchio, always a pleasure to talk to you. Thank you.
VECCHIO: Thank you very much. Appreciate it.
ZAKARIA: Next on GPS, is ISIS back? I will ask the experts.
[10:15:28] ZAKARIA: On Monday ISIS released what it said were a new video message from its leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. He hasn't been seen since the speech at the great mosque in Mosul almost five years ago. Since that time the rumors of his death have abounded. The man in the video praises the Easter Sunday bombings in Sri Lanka, which ISIS had of course earlier taken credit for.
All this brings about the question, is ISIS back? Did it ever go away?
Let's discuss all this with Farah Pandith and Jessica Stern. Jessica literally wrote the book on ISIS. She co-authored "ISIS: The State of Terror." She's a professor at BU's Pardee School of Global Studies. Farah was the Obama State Department's special representative to Muslim communities. Her recent book is "How We Win."
So, Jessica, what was your reaction on seeing this video?
JESSICA STERN, PROFESSOR, BOSTON UNIVERSITY: Well, it's clearly an attempt by Baghdadi to show not only that he's still alive. As you point out there were many rumors that he was dead or severely wounded. But also that he's in charge. I mean noticed he's wearing this jihadi sheik vest that I've seen before. He's not just posing as a scholar but actually looking like a warrior and looking like he's in charge.
So to me that's a really big part of what this was about. It's marketing, to show that ISIS is still strong, still the most significant terrorist group in the world right now and that he is still strong and in charge.
ZAKARIA: But, Farah, what was striking is, this was -- ISIS had developed a very sophisticated media strategy. You think about the beheading videos. You know, very, very slickly produced. This was almost a throwback to the old al Qaeda videos with guy, preacher, you know, fairly simple straight-to-camera monologue.
FARAH PANDITH, FORMER U.S. SPECIAL REPRESENTATIVE TO MUSLIM COMMUNITIES: So what's interesting about this is that, you know, here's the guy, he's alive and he's kicking. He's poking Trump in the eye, saying, you said that we're defeated. We're not defeated. Jessica is correct when she says that he's trying to be powerful, but he went old school. He went old school. He used a video. He is a roly-poly middle aged guy who is speaking in a very old school way.
For two reasons, in my view. First to tell governments, you're wrong. I'm here. I'm powerful. I'm the supreme extremist around the world. But also to say to his adherence, look at me. I'm in charge of the gravitas here, and also to say to al Qaeda and others, if you thought you were going to compete with us, you're wrong.
ZAKARIA: Jessica, what is the difference between al Qaeda and ISIS? You know, both were at various points considered kind of down. Al Qaeda had dwindled and withered. Is ISIS in that same situation, whatever Baghdadi may say?
STERN: ISIS came out of a split in one of the branches of al Qaeda. And what we see with jihadi organizations is that they're constantly splitting when there's competition between leaders or potential leaders who are fighting for control and merging. This is just the nature of these organizations. So I don't really see ISIS as dramatically different from al Qaeda. It's --
ZAKARIA: It does seem to have one thing, correct me if I'm wrong.
ZAKARIA: It has many more people.
ZAKARIA: It had so many people on the ground in Syria. I keep wondering, where are all of them?
STERN: You're absolutely right. So one of the really -- I mean, now we realize, very clever move on the part of ISIS was to declare a caliphate and thousands, about 40,000 foreign fighters came. And according to my colleague Bruce Hoffman, up to 30,000 of them escaped. So some of the foreign fighters are now in -- well, all over the world but also in the provinces that ISIS has declared. And also, according to the U.S. Military, tens of thousands are still in Iraq and Syria hiding.
ZAKARIA: Farah, one of the things that strike me is the Sri Lanka attacks, regardless of how much ISIS had to do with it, and a lot of people think they did help them because they were very sophisticated attacks that the Sri Lankan group didn't seem able to do, but it does seem to come as part of a process that you have described earlier where if you look at what happened to Sri Lanka over the last 10 or 15 years, a very moderate kind of Islam, got radicalized because a lot of Sri Lankans went to the Gulf, worked in Saudi Arabia and the Emirates, heard the Wahhabi preachers. [10:20:06] Meanwhile Gulf money was going in every new Islamic center
with Saudi funded. That same process that has radicalized Islam in so many places seemed at work.
PANDITH: You're absolutely right. And it's a global ideology, isn't it? And we saw that with the adherence that came from all over the world. They've won over young millennials and generation Z not just from the Middle East or in fact in South Asia. Bu you can look to South America, you can look to Central Asia and Africa, and you can see the bat signal has gone out to say, in this video, in fact, we're still here. The things that we stood for are still alive. We can regroup and reform ourselves at any time. And we're ready to go.
ZAKARIA: So, Jessica, for most people, they are wondering, so should we keep worrying about Islamic terrorism? With -- you know, we thought that was yesterday's story. Does the Sri Lankan bombing tell you, no, this is a threat that's very much alive?
STERN: It is a threat that's very much alive. I don't think that we're going to see a 9/11 type attack any time soon. And I -- General Mattis said to the United States, China and Russia are the big threats now. Terrorism is no longer the number one threat to U.S. national security. And I think that's true, but nonetheless, it does still -- it's still there. It's very much still there. And I -- this group poses the threat more to countries that are -- where there's a sectarian conflict of some kind or a civil war or some kind of incomplete or illiberal democracy, to use your term. That's where we see terrorist organizations really making headway.
ZAKARIA: Jessica Stern, Farah Pandith, pleasure to have you on.
PANDITH: Thank you.
STERN: Thank you very much.
ZAKARIA: Next on GPS, in the 21st century, why in the world are we having outbreaks in America of a disease that was long thought to have been essentially erased? We'll take a close look when we come back.
[10:25:37] ZAKARIA: Now for our "What in the World" segment. It's something you might expect in war-torn nations or failed states. An outbreak of disease that is widely perceived as easy to control. But the United States is experiencing what the CDC says is its biggest outbreak of measles in 25 years. More than 700 people have been infected this year alone. And a lot of these cases are coming from a surprising place, Williamsburg, Brooklyn. Last month the city declared a state of emergency and ordered mandatory vaccinations in certain Brooklyn zip codes.
How can the biggest, most cosmopolitan city in the country have an outbreak of a disease that was supposed to be eliminated in the Western hemisphere?
Immunization in the United States is high for measles, 92 percent of children between 12 and 23 months are vaccinated. But for the Orthodox Jewish community, many of whom who live in pockets of Brooklyn, vaccinations rates are relatively low. And this community is an epicenter of the recent measles outbreak.
Measles can still occur in the United States when unvaccinated people travel to other countries experiencing outbreaks. The problem compounds when those infected then come back to insular communities sprinkled throughout the country with low vaccination rates.
According to Vox, in recent years, measles outbreaks have sit hit Somali Americans in Minnesota, the Amish in Ohio and Russian-speaking immigrants in Washington state. In all these communities, vaccination rates are low, sometimes because of the difficulties of access, in other cases because of a wariness about vaccines.
Despite overwhelming scientific evidence proving their effectiveness, anti-vaxx sentiment still runs high among certain communities in America. It hinges on misinformation that has been almost impossible to completely dispel. A modern turning point was in 1998 when an erroneous study published in the Lancet linked the measles vaccine to autism. The link was conclusively disproved years later but the damage was done.
In 2004 Somali American children in Minnesota where fears of the autism link ran high had a 92 percent immunization rate for measles. By 2014 child immunization in the community had fallen to just 42 percent, according to the Minnesota Department of Health.
Today anti-vaccine activists are targeting the Hasidic community in Brooklyn with literature that highlights what they say are non-kosher vaccine ingredients, cells deriving from pigs and rats. These misinformation appears to be working even though many rabbinical authorities have dismissed claims that vaccines are forbidden on religious grounds.
The Shiva-attending children in the Williamsburg in borough park neighborhood of Brooklyn are nine times likelier to be unvaccinated from measles than their counterparts at public schools.
What makes this all worse is America's vaccination policy. There is none nationally. Vaccination in the U.S. is a state issue. According to Vox, most states offer exemptions from mandatory vaccines for school age children on religious ground. More than a dozen also offer philosophical or personal belief exemptions.
One doctor quoted in the "Economist" called these misinformed parent exemptions and there's long been a debate about whether or not to scrap them.
Donald Trump himself has long parroted the false link between autism and vaccinations, though last month he changed his tune and urged parents vaccinate their children.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: They have to get their shots.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ZAKARIA: Mandatory vaccinations is a delicate issue in the U.S. where such efforts tend to provoke outcry about personal liberties. But as Noah Feldman notes in a column in Bloomberg, vaccination isn't just about individual liberty, it is about public safety.
Let's hope we don't need a pandemic affecting thousands, maybe more, before people start accepting the scientific evidence.
Next on GPS, Donald Trump demanded that the whole world stop buying oil from Iran by Thursday or face American sanctions. It's a powerful squeeze. Will it work? When we come back.
ZAKARIA: Thursday was deadline day. That's when the Trump administration required all countries to stop importing oil from Iran, or else those importers would face sanctions themselves.
Why? Well, they haven't been shy about it. The White House has said it wants to deny the Iranian regime its principal source of revenue. Mike Pompeo said that, before sanctions, Iran's oil income was as much as $50 billion a year. Countries like India, China, South Korea, Japan, all had been importing large amounts of oil from Iran.
So what happens to Iran and what happens to those importers? Meghan O'Sullivan joins us from Harvard's Kennedy School, where she is a professor of International Affairs and director of the Geopolitics of Energy Project.
Meghan, will this work? Will countries stop importing oil from Iran?
O'SULLIVAN: Hello, Fareed. I would say those are two different questions. Will countries stop on importing oil?
We've already seen that the first effort to get countries to stop importing Iranian oil was very effective and actually cut Iranian exports in about half.
The question is, will this next go-to-zero round get things down even further?
I don't think they'll go to zero, but they will come down significantly from where they are right now, at 1.5 million barrels of oil a day.
A lot of it depends on China. But this, again, is very different from then will the policy work?
Getting Iran under greater economic pressure is not the end-all of the policy, or at least not as articulated by the Trump administration. The question is, will this pressure deliver political changes and real negotiations?
ZAKARIA: And what is the effect, do you think, it will have on Iran?
O'SULLIVAN: Well, we've already seen -- I think there were some big questions when the U.S. unilaterally pulled out of the agreement with Iran. A lot of people speculated that, on its own, the United States would not be able to bring a lot of economic pressure on the Iranian economy.
We've seen that's just not the case. The Iranian economy is under severe pressure. The American unilateral sanctions, because they are secondary sanctions, they're also threatening sanctions against Iran's consumers, or customers, rather.
We've seen that the Iranian economy is really, really suffering. The IMF says it's going to contract by 6 percent this year, meaning that Iran's economy is going to be the worst performer in the world, apart from Venezuela and Zimbabwe.
Then, so the question is, can the Trump administration take that economic pressure and convince the Iranian regime to come to the table and negotiate a deal?
I would say that this -- the components of a strategy that would work are not in place because economic pressure is the only thing that we're really seeing. We're not seeing that coupled with a really credible argument for sincere negotiations.
I think the Iranian regime, and frankly a lot of the world, have questions about whether the Trump administration really wants a negotiation or they're really much more interested in creating an economic collapse and potentially a regime change.
As long as the Iranians have that question, they're unlikely to come to the table to negotiate with the Trump administration or anyone else.
ZAKARIA: All this works, Meghan, because of the central role of the dollar. In order to do international currency transactions today, you have to price it in dollars, which means effectively you need the Federal Reserve's involvement.
Is it possible that this move will get the Europeans, the Iranians, the Chinese, the Russians to do what they have kept saying they want to do, which is create some kind of alternative to the dollar?
O'SULLIVAN: Well, this is a great question, and it's really been a slow-moving effort. We've been hearing about people creating alternatives for many years. I would say we now see evidence of not just our adversaries looking for ways to circumvent sanctions by creating alternatives to the dollar but also our allies.
So you've noted on your show before how the Europeans have created a special purpose vehicle with the objective of trying to be able to have some trade with Iran without bringing sanctions into effect.
Turkey's talking about creating a new mechanism. Iran is interested in creating new mechanisms. China and India probably will look into this. I think they will find limited success in these mechanisms, but I do think we're seeing real movement in that direction and that those of us who are worried about the overuse of sanctions have real cause for concern and tangible things to point at.
It could be that this particular episode where the U.S. is so alone in creating this pressure on Iran, that this is -- you know, this appears to, maybe in retrospect, to be the tipping point where the U.S. has really overplayed its hand on sanctions.
ZAKARIA: Meghan O'Sullivan, pleasure to have you on, fascinating conversation.
O'SULLIVAN: Great, thanks very much.
ZAKARIA: Next on "GPS," I have the great good fortune of talking to Robert Caro, the man who last week I called America's greatest biographer -- his fascinating stories, when we come back.
ZAKARIA: The two-time Pulitzer-Prize-winning biographer Robert Caro has an amazingly thorough writing and research process. It is like no other. He thought he would complete his first book "The Power Broker" in nine months. It took seven years.
Now he has spent the last 42 years working on a five-book series that will, when finished, be the absolute definitive biography of Lyndon Baines Johnson.
When he wanted to understand the future president's upbringing, he uprooted his own life from New York City to the Texas hill country where Johnson grew up. Caro and his wife ended up spending three years there.
Then there's the writing. He painstakingly writes all of his first drafts by hand on notepads. The ensuing drafts are typed not on a computer but on a Smith Corona Electra 210. Those machines are out of production, but Caro has 10 spares that he keeps just for the parts.
He briefly paused work on his fifth volume of the Johnson biography to write a mini-memoir of sorts called "Working: Researching, Interviewing, Writing." It explains his glorious process.
Robert Caro, welcome back to the show.
CARO: Thanks for the "glorious."
ZAKARIA: I have to tell you, for me the pleasure of this book has been that, for the first time, I was able to hear it in your voice. It's the only book you've read.
CARO: Yes. Because my New York accent, as you can hear, is so strong, that when I went to ask my agent if I could record my other books, she said, "Then the price will go down."
(LAUGHTER) ZAKARIA: When you were writing the -- the first book you wrote, "The Power Broker," you talk about how you literally ran out of money.
And because, as you say, you meant it to be nine months and then it ended up being three years and four years and -- how did you get by?
I mean, I guess what I mean by that is, what made you keep persisting?
CARO: Good question. You know, I was writing about political power. I got more and more interested in that and how it really works, because political power can shape our lives.
Here was this guy, Robert Moses, that I had started out to write a book about. We live in a democracy. Political power is supposed to come from being elected, from our votes at the ballot box. Here's a guy who was never elect to anything. He had more power than anyone who was elected, more power than any mayor, more power than any governor.
He held this power for 44 years, almost half a century, and shaped the whole New York region. And neither I nor anyone else knew where he got this power. I came to feel this book was important and, although, as you say, we were just broke most of the time, I kept going on it.
ZAKARIA: So tell me about the moving to the hill country of Texas. Why did you do it?
And some people might look at that and say that's, sort of, a -- either an affectation or an obsession?
CARO: Yeah. Well, I didn't think I was going to do that. There had been previous books published on Lyndon Johnson. They always had a chapter or two on his youth, Fareed, and I said, "All I need is some more details."
So I do a few interviews with the people with whom he grew up. You know, he died so young, at the age of 64. When I came along, he would have been only 67, so all of his friends were still there.
But when I'm talking -- the hill country is a land -- I grew up in New York. The hill country is a place so lonely, so isolated, so remote from the rest of the world. And these people weren't like the people of New York with whom I had spent my life. And I said to Ina one day, "You know, I'm just not understanding them and I'm not understanding this country and I'm not understanding Lyndon Johnson. We'll have to move there for a while."
ZAKARIA: And one of the things you talk about is, when you moved there, you realized how their lives -- these people's lives had been transformed by electricity, which of course Lyndon Johnson brought to the hill country.
ZAKARIA: And you talk specifically about the kind of work that the women used to do and how it took a long time before they would reveal that to you, talk to you about that.
CARO: Yes. They were women who were not used to talking to strangers. And when they started trying to tell -- I heard all these stories about how ruthless Lyndon Johnson was as a young man, as a young congressman. But at the same time, I would hear the same phrase over and over again, "No matter what Lyndon was like, we loved him because he brought the lights."
Now, I knew "brought the lights" meant he brought electricity to the hill country. It seemed miraculous. No one could do it because there was no dam to provide the power. Thousands and tens of thousands of miles of electric wire would have to be laid.
But the women finally said, "You don't know how hard life was before electricity; we had to bring up every bucket of water from these rather deep wells." Because in the hill country the water level was 75 feet.
So one of these women said to me, "You're a city boy; you don't know how heavy a bucket of water is, do you?"
She said, "Here's my water bucket." It still had a length of frayed rope. We went out to her well. She pushed the boards aside.
I dropped it in and I said, "It is heavy." Then they had to carry it to the house on yokes like cattle wore so they could carry two buckets at a time.
I learned that they -- before Lyndon Johnson came along, they were living like peasants out of the Middle Ages.
When he ran for Congress, he was only 28. No one knew who he was. The women of the hill country were bent and stooped from their labor.
You know what his line was? Lyndon Johnson was a political genius. He said, "If you elect me, I'll bring electricity and then you won't look like your mother looks."
And do you -- did Johnson, did that part of Johnson seem the same Lyndon Johnson that then essentially stole his first important Senate election, another very pivotal moment in your book?
CARO: He's a very complex -- both those strands in Johnson, a ruthlessness and a desperate ambition to get ahead, and the desire to help poor people, particularly, as it happens, poor people of color -- both those things were equally strong inside him.
ZAKARIA: Looking at all this, do you have a kind of philosophy of power?
If somebody were to say to you, Bob Caro, you've been studying power your whole life; what is the answer?
CARO: Well, you know, we're taught at school Lord Acton's axiom "All power corrupts." If I've learned anything, it's that power doesn't always corrupt. Power can cleanse, as in Lyndon Johnson's passing the Voting Rights and Civil Rights Act.
What power always does, if I've come to believe anything, is that power always reveals. When you get power, people can see what you wanted to do all along because now you have the power to do it.
ZAKARIA: Robert Caro, honor to have you on.
CARO: Thank you.
ZAKARIA: And we will be back.
ZAKARIA: We all remember Donald Trump's made-up birther crusade questioning President Obama's citizenship and demanding to see documentation.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD J. TRUMP: Barack Obama should give his birth certificate.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ZAKARIA: Well, birtherism apparently isn't unique to the U.S. anymore. It brings me to my question this week. Which nation's government officially questioned the citizenship of its main opposition leader, India, Italy, Chile or Liberia?
Stay tuned and we'll tell you the correct answer.
My book of the week is George Packer's "Our Man." Richard Holbrooke's career as an American diplomat spanned much of the American century. This beautifully written book tells a fascinating story of him and the human beings behind America's foreign policy triumphs and tragedies.
And now for the last look. Ebola is on the move again, this time in the Democratic Republic of Congo. The WHO says there have been 1,500 cases of the virus since August. Two-thirds of those infected have been killed by the disease. And it has recently been picking up speed.
Why? Well, this outbreak is centered in the war-torn and isolated eastern part of Congo. The security situation on the ground stymies the reach of aid organizations, as does distrust of international responders, whom the locals view as players in the area's strife.
Gunmen have reportedly attacked treatment centers and crisis response teams, even killing a WHO doctor. Treatment efforts are further hampered by misinformation. A study published in the Lancet medical journal found that a month into this outbreak, a quarter of those surveyed in the affected area doubted that the disease was even real.
Despite all this, active interventions are under way and more than 100,000 people in the country have already been vaccinated. But remember this, when the only Ebola outbreak bigger than today's was finally tamed three years ago, it was largely due to unusual international collaboration from global humanitarian efforts to local health workers, according to the National Institutes of Health.
Much of that was spearheaded by the Obama administration. And with Trump's America first posture, one wonders if that kind of cooperation will be possible this time around.
The answer to my "GPS" challenge is A. The Indian Home Affairs Ministry this week demanded Rahul Gahndi, president of the opposition Indian National Congress Party clarify whether he is a British citizen. A ruling party MP complained Mr. Gandhi listed his nationality as British on corporate paperwork filed in the U.K. years earlier which could preclude him from holding office, as India does not recognize duel citizenship.
In turn, Rahul Gahndi's party denied the allegation and accused Prime Minister Modi's party of ginning up a pathetic stunt as India's epic elections enter their fifth week of voting.
Thank you for being part of my program this week. I will see you next week.