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Fareed Zakaria GPS

U.S. Accused Of Betraying Kurdish Allies In Syria; Other Countries Fill In Vacuum As U.S. Withdraws From Northern Syria; Trump's Ukraine Policy Draws Fire from Current and Former Officials; Parliament Put Off Brexit Once Again. Aired 10-11a ET

Aired October 20, 2019 - 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 coming to you live from New York.

On today's show, will President Trump's Syria decision end up giving ISIS a new lease on life?


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We'll be able to have control of ISIS, total.


ZAKARIA: Former secretary of defense, Ash Carter, will join me. He created the military campaign designed to destroy terror group.

Also --




ZAKARIA: The White House says get over it amidst mounting concern about political influence in foreign policy.

And British Parliament meets on a Saturday for only the fourth time since World War II to render a verdict on Brexit. I'll talk about it all with two former National Security advisers for President George W. Bush.

Then, America's elite colleges and universities have long been the envy of the world. But now they face a scandal about corruption.

What went wrong with America's meritocracy? A preview of my new documentary, "SCHEME AND SCANDAL: INSIDE THE COLLEGE ADMISSIONS CRISIS."

But first, here's my take. Has there ever been a foreign policy move that has produced more crisis more quickly? Regardless of whether the current cease-fire holds, President Trump has allowed Turkey no unleash its forces on Syria, resulting in the abandonment of the Syrian Kurds and the empowerment of Bashar al-Assad, Vladimir Putin, and the Islamic Republic of Iran.

Trump was apparently acceding to Turkey's wishes, but now he has also poisoned America's relations with that country. He has hit Ankara with sanctions and threatened to totally destroy and obliterate its economy. The U.S. Military had to bomb its open weapon stockpiles to prevent them from falling into the wrong hands and airlifted troops as the forces of Turkey, a NATO ally, moved in.

Trump's moves in Syria are part of a Middle Eastern policy that, as Martin Indyk explains in "Foreign Affairs," is in total disarray. Indyk describes how in case after case the Trump administration dispensed with regional experts, reversed long-standing policy and assume that its knowledge-free approach would yield innovative new results.

In fact, Indyk writes, "The administration understands so little about how the Middle East actually works that it's bungling efforts have been a failure across the board. As so often in the past, the cynical locals are manipulating a clueless outsider, advancing their personal agendas, at the naive Americans' expense."

Indyk continues, "Almost three years into his term, Trump has nothing to show for his efforts to counter Iran or promote peace in the Middle East. Instead, his policies have fueled the conflict between Iran and Israel, alienated the Palestinians, supported an unending war, and a humanitarian crisis in Yemen, and split the Gulf Cooperation Council possibly permanently."

The policy towards Syria does seem particularly unhinged, but it's actually part of a pattern of erratic moves elsewhere. Remember, Trump's initial approach to North Korea was to dispatch three aircraft carriers close to its borders and threaten --


TRUMP: Fire and fury, like the world has never seen.


ZAKARIA: Within months, he was summiting with Kim Jong-un, whom he praised lavishly and announced --


TRUMP: We fell in love.


ZAKARIA: Since North Korea never really offered policy concessions, the love affair seems on hold.

The hallmark of Trump's foreign policy is a disdain for professionals and a lack of interest in history or past policy. When asked during the campaign to name a few experts whom he consulted with on foreign policy, he replied, "My primary consultant is myself."

The policies we are witnessing from Ukraine to the Middle East are a direct consequence of the triumph of gut over brain, of emotion over intelligence, and of personal ambition over national interests. And some of the pushback in recent weeks has been the revolt of experts finally fed up with the mess.


Watching the Syria debacle, one cannot help but think of F. Scott Fitzgerald's description of two rich, arrogant, and intellectually uncurious characters in "The Great Gatsby." "They were careless people, Tom and Daisy," he wrote. "They smashed up things and creatures and then retreated back into their money or their vast carelessness or whatever it was that kept them together, and let other people clean up the mess they had made."

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

The U.S. secretary of Defense, Mark Esper, says the cease-fire that was put in place in Syria on Thursday generally seems to be holding. This despite the Kurds claiming that Turkey has violated it many times and the Turks claiming the same about the Kurds. Regardless, the cease-fire is set to end Tuesday.

What happens then?

Let me bring in former Defense Secretary, Ash Carter, to talk more about the situation. He's served in and out of government in many roles over the decades. Most recently, as President Obama's secretary of Defense.

Ash, was this inevitable, this U.S. withdrawal? What was it taking to maintain the structure in place where the Turks and the Kurds, in a sense, each respected their own zones, and peace was maintained?

ASH CARTER, FORMER U.S. DEFENSE SECRETARY: Well, it took very little. And it has taken very little from the beginning. When we first recruited the Kurds, this is now back in 2015, Fareed, when ISIS was, remember, trying to attack and kill our people. We had to protect ourselves. We had to destroy them. Not only in Iraq, but we had to destroy them in Syria. And we could have done it all ourselves.

But a better way is not to have the U.S. troops do the tough infantry, town-by-town, building-by-building fighting. That's not our comparative advantage. We'd rather -- that's the enemy's advantage. So, we would rather have ground forces that are local, who can speak the language and know the area, and then we bring down on top of them the great whirlwind of American and coalition military power. Air power, intelligence, logistics, advising.

And that is the path that we set out in 2015 to take Raqqah, which, remember, it was the place they called the capital of the ISIS caliphate. And if we hadn't done that, our troops would have had to do it all by themselves, which they could have done, but then some of the local people probably wouldn't have joined us, but instead, fought against us, imagining we were somehow of occupiers.

And then third, if we did it all by ourselves, we'd be owning that territory now. And as you know, our experience occupying conquered territory in the Middle East has been a challenge for us. So, for all of those reasons, we worked with the YPG, and we knew the Kurds wouldn't like it, but we said to the Kurds, and I did personally, we're going to have to disagree about -- agree to disagree about this.

We'll help you protect your interests, we'll keep the Kurds that we're supporting away from you, but we need to protect ourselves. This is an enemy of our people and they need to go. That worked. For all the years I was there. That was the kind of balancing act. We did it every day. Everybody stayed in their lane because they both needed us in their own way.

Now, I'm afraid, Fareed, that ISIS will come back. Victory will be sacrificed. They'll come back and next time we'll have to do it all by ourselves.

ZAKARIA: How do you feel, Ash, about the situation with the Kurds? Because in a sense, you representing the United States, representing the Department of Defense, must have made certain assurances, whether they were ironclad, whether they were on paper or not, you, in a sense, gave them the word of the United States that we had their back.

The Kurds, as I understand it, destroyed some of their defensive capacity against Turkey in order to, you know, to make this operation work. And now they are at the mercy of Turkey and the Assad regime, two of their most bitter enemies.

CARTER: Well, we told them we'd help them fight ISIS. We wouldn't help them fight Turkey. And they kept their word and we kept our word. Now we haven't kept our word on our side. And we don't have them in that same containment anymore.


Fareed, I'm concerned also, elsewhere, within that region and around the world, of the ripple effects of this. If we can so quickly abandon a security partner who's been fighting a fight with us, that takes away one of the ways we force multiply ourselves. It self- isolates us, leaves us on our own. Now, we've got a great military and we can do a lot, but it's better, we have fewer casualties, faster victory when we work through others. And this suggests that we are not capable of remembering and keeping track of who has helped us and who continues to help us.

And as I said that we'll pay the price, I'm sorry to say, because ISIS will come back. We won't be able to fight them from right there with a partner. We're going to have to do it ourselves. And we're going to have to do it, because this is a group that tries to kill Americans. And the job of the Department of Defense, certainly my job when I was secretary of Defense, is above all, first and foremost, to protect our people, so you can't allow that.

ZAKARIA: Talk a little bit more about your worries about ISIS because the situation is one now that we're sort of familiar with these ungoverned spaces in the Middle East, where there are radicals, where there is a terrorist presence. Presumably, that is what exists now in parts of Syria. The only problem is we're absent. The Turks are there, the Russians are there, in a sense. The Iranians are there. The Syrian government is there. But we are no longer there, right?

CARTER: Well, that's right. But remember where we were. We had U.S.-enabled forces that had taken Mosul and taken Raqqah, the two principal cities of the so-called Islamic State caliphate. The state was destroyed for everyone to see, including the most deranged loser who might have gotten excited by it on the Internet. And they were busy trying to stay alive. They said they'd fight to the death.

And in some ways, I wish they had because there are still some of them who are in detention and a few others who are drifting down the lower Euphrates Valley. But I was confident that we would keep them suppressed. So, defeat was all but complete, really, early in 2017. And now they will, in the chaos that will ensue, as the Turks and the Kurds go at each other and the Russians move in and Assad moves in and the whole thing becomes much more scrambled in that environment, ISIS will return.

They'll also, therefore, have a base from which to operate and try to renew ISIS in Iraq. And we'll have somewhere and some way, those same barbarians trying to set up their so-called Islamic State again. And when they threaten our people, which they do, that's part of their agenda, we're going to have to defend ourselves. But next time we won't have anybody go with us, I'm afraid to say.

ZAKARIA: Ash Carter, fascinating conversation. Thank you so much.

CARTER: Thanks for having me, Fareed.

ZAKARIA: Next on GPS, the rest of the week's developments, Brexit, Ukraine, senior National Security officials now speaking out against the president and his foreign policy with two top National Security advisers.



ZAKARIA: Let's get deeper into what happens next with Syria, Iran, Turkey, and American policy. Stephen Hadley was President George W. Bush's National Security adviser in his second term. He's now a principal of the strategic consulting firm, Rice Hadley Gates. Meghan O'Sullivan with a deputy national security adviser for President Bush. She's now a professor at Harvard's Kennedy School.

Meghan, you handled the Middle East a great deal. Let me ask you, what do you think this means at the end of the day? Because, you know, I hear people talk about Russia and Turkey, but it does seem like the principal beneficiary of all of this is Iran. After all, Iran has been the principal supporter of the Assad regime. Assad is now in greater control of that country. They continue to have influence in Iraq. How do you see it?

MEGHAN O'SULLIVAN, FORMER U.S. DEPUTY NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER FOR IRAQ AND AFGHANISTAN: Sure. Thank you, Fareed. I would say that the Middle East got even more dangerous in this very short period of time. Basically, if we look at the events in Syria of the last week and we couple it with the attack on Saudi Arabia just last month, the fact that the United States has not -- or has been unwilling to use military force to protect two of its very direct interests, the Saudis and the Kurds, really sends the message to the rest of the region and the world that the U.S. is unlikely to use military force to protect its interests.

And that will invite more provocations. And I think the most likely invitee will be Iran. But it will also encourage those to make provocations thinking that the U.S. won't use any military force, when in some cases the U.S. will be forced to use military force. So, I think there's an increased chance of provocations and there's an increased chance of very unwelcome and unwanted military conflict between the United States and some forces in the Middle East and perhaps even elsewhere in the world.

ZAKARIA: Steve Hadley, what do you think this does to U.S. relations with Turkey? After all, those are also now pretty bad. And Turkey -- and some of this is the Turks, obviously, exercising their own kind of unilateralism. But they are a NATO ally. The United States has, what, 50 nuclear weapons housed in that air base in Turkey. Are you worried about this relationship?

STEPHEN HADLEY, FORMER. NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: This has been a difficult relationship, really, for some time. And the strain of us being allied with the Syrian Kurds, who the Turks views affiliated with the PKK, a terrorist group that has killed tens of thousands of Turks, it has been a problem for years.


Ash Carter talked about that. I think the best that we can hope for out of this situation is that some kind of a deal gets worked out. The United States, I think, by giving a certain -- achieving a period of cease-fire may be provide the context for a deal, whereby Turkey is allowed to establish this security zone in the northern 10 miles of Syria. The Syrian troops come in and make sure it does not go further.

There is some arrangement between the Syrian Kurds and the Assad regime that gives them some kind of autonomy and hopefully allows the United States to continue to do what it needs to do to ensure that ISIS does not come back. And at some point, the Turks then move out of that northern security zone. I think that's the best that really can be achieved out of this situation. And hopefully the United States working with Russia and Turkey and the Syrian Kurds is trying to seek that kind of arrangement. But it's a tough situation.

ZAKARIA: Meghan, what would you say to people who say, look, why the hell are we there in the first place? The United States is now producing enormous amounts of oil and natural gas. Why do we need to have any involvement with the Middle East?

O'SULLIVAN: Well, I think there are several responses to that. The first would be that our interest in the Middle East are so much broader than oil. And when we look at Syria in particular, Syria was a modest producer and exporter of oil. Actually, their oil resources are in this Kurdish area, but the influence of the United States and the interest of others in Syria really has nothing to do with oil. It has much more to do with security interests.

Whether it's the Turks being concerned about the Kurds, the U.S., and others being concerned about ISIS, or concerns about the Assad regime. In the Middle East, as a whole, however, we are producing more oil. There's no question about that. So, we don't have the same need to import Middle Eastern oil.

But we're all connected to a global market. And that means, if there's instability in that part of the world and something happens that takes the oil of the Middle East offline, that is still going to affect the American consumer, who is tied to the global market, and so global supply and demand meets in the place where global price is. Now, we have seen that oil markets haven't really reacted to all of this instability very sharply in the last few weeks.

And my personal sense is that the markets are really undervaluing the geopolitical risk here. And that we are at a risk of having a spike in price if something goes very badly awry in this region, as the chances of it have gone up pretty substantially in the last several weeks.

ZAKARIA: Fascinating. Stay with me, both of you. Next up, what to make of a foreign policy that seems geared to a president's personal agenda. Where does that leave Ukraine in the battle against Russia? I will ask my two distinguished guests.



ZAKARIA: And we are back with Stephen Hadley and Meghan O'Sullivan.

Steve, I want to ask you something, and I think it's very important that you convey to Americans and to the world what the reality and the history has been here. Mick Mulvaney says we do it all the time, we use pressure on foreign governments to get them to do what we want. But the "what we want" has traditionally been American foreign policy goals, not personal political advantage for the president.

There's a story about George Bush Sr., for whom you also worked in a very senior capacity, when Republican congressman came in suggested that Jim Baker, the secretary of State, ask Russia to help get some dirt on Bill Clinton, and it was actually just factual, not even dirt, but Clinton had visited Russia, the Soviet Union, and essentially Baker threw him out of the office, he thought it was such an inappropriate demand. Have you ever, in the administrations you've worked with, applied

foreign pressure -- pressure on a foreign government to try to provide political information or advantage for your president?

HADLEY: You know, in the two presidents I served, both President George H.W. Bush and President George W. Bush, their mantra was, we're going to keep domestic politics out of foreign policy. I remember, when Karl Rove wanted to attend the NSC meetings on foreign policy matters, I thought it was fine. President Bush, George W. Bush said, absolutely not. I want to make it absolutely clear to the American people that domestic politics don't intrude on foreign policy.

So, this is something that shouldn't have been done. It is not the norm. It was a mistake. You know, the House of Representatives in the Senate will have to decide whether it is an impeachable offense or not. But it is not the kind of things that should have been done. And I think the administration and the president are rightly paying a political price for it.

ZAKARIA: Meghan, when you use the State Department machinery, these ambassadors, deputy assistant secretaries of State, what does it do to American diplomacy? What does it do not moral of the foreign service officers?

O'SULLIVAN: Well, certainly, the firing of the U.S. ambassador to Ukraine or her removal over these kinds of disputes is very demoralizing to our diplomatic corps. And especially when you're reading the transcript of President Trump's conversation with Ukrainian president, where our president actually criticizes his own ambassador, saying that she's bad news, and that they're going -- she's going to have to go through some things.


This is unheard of, in my mind. This ambassador and all of the ambassadors around the world get their power, their influence, their ability to do their jobs by projecting the power of the president and by having his back on any occasion. So I think this not only degrades our relationship with Ukraine but I think it calls into question how effective our ambassadors can be around the world. the Turks.

ZAKARIA: Now, both of you are Republicans. And, Steve, I want to ask you, that the larger question here, it seems to me, is that President Trump is pursuing a foreign policy that while is raising some eyebrows in Congress, among traditional Republican foreign policy hands, like yourself, it does seem popular with his base, the idea of just, get out of the Middle East, get out of the world, really.

HADLEY: I think that's right, Fareed, and we have to put this in context. President Trump was elected in 2016, in large part by a group of people who felt victimized by globalization and threatened by immigration, abandoned by their politicians and betrayed by foreign policy elites.

And President Trump is reflecting that view during the campaign and after, when he has said that we shouldn't have been in the Middle East, we've got to get out of these endless wars and bring our people home. I disagree with that. But he is reflecting a view in the American people and the process, if you will, for three years has kept President Trump from actually implementing that policy with respect to Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan.

But finally, when President Erdogan said, I'm going in to Northern Syria, the president finally had had enough and he decided the U.S. troops should come out of Syria. So, you know, elections have consequences.

And, again, while I disagree with the policy, it is very much a result, I think, of what happened in the election in 2016.

ZAKARIA: Stephen Hadley, Meghan O'Sullivan, a pleasure to have you both on. Thank you.

HADLEY: Nice to be with you.

O'SULLIVAN: Thank you.

ZAKARIA: Next on GPS, organizers say about a million people marched in London yesterday. Chants of no Brexit were heard as the protesters made their way to parliament. Did the politicians inside heed their words? What actually happened on Saturday? We will explain with the editor-in-chief of The Economist when we come back.



ZAKARIA: Yesterday, the British parliament met on a Saturday for only the fourth time since World War II. Many believed that Boris Johnson had the votes to pass his new Brexit deal. That did not happen.

I want to bring in Zanny Minton Beddoes to explain what did happen. She is the editor-in-chief of The Economist. She joins us from London.

Zanny, just -- we're all so very tired of this, but we have to explain it. I'm going to very briefly characterize what I think happened and you tell me why it happened.

So it seems that what parliament passed was an amendment that says, we're not going to give you carte blanche to just do Brexit. You've got to bring us details. We're going to pass each individual piece of it and then we'll decide whether or not we're going to do it, clearly a blow to Boris Johnson.

But I guess the big question everyone is asking is, does this make Brexit more or less likely?

ZANNY MINTON BEDDOES, EDITOR-IN-CHIEF, THE ECONOMIST: Well, you're right. It was another cliff-hanger, another twist in the endless soap opera that is Brexit, and a soap opera, as you say, that everyone is heartily sick of. But what it basically did was that, in short, the reason people passed this amendment yesterday, there were a coalition of different types that came together. But one group wants extra time for parliament to scrutinize the Boris Johnson deal, to make sure that they agree with it. And perhaps even some of them want to attach riders to it, like asking for a second referendum.

Another group just wanted to make absolutely sure that there was no way Boris Johnson's government could crash out of the European Union without a deal on the 31st of October. And the reason that they worried about that was was that current rule right now in the U.K. said that if there had been no meaningful vote by the 19th of October, i.e., by Saturday, then the prime minister had to send a letter to the European Union requesting an extension. And he duly did, last night, send a letter. But he didn't sign that letter. And he sent another letter saying that he thought it was a very bad idea to have an extension.

But right now, I think we have several possibilities. One is -- and I wouldn't count this out. One is that the prime minister gets through his deal formally by the 31st of October and we leave with the prime minister's deal.

The second is that it takes longer and we have to have an extension and perhaps even the people who want a second referendum are hoping that a rider, an amendment will be attached calling for a second referendum. The third possibility is that we could still crash out if the Europeans don't give us an extension. Though I think the odds of that are probably extremely small.

ZAKARIA: So give us the odds on the first two. What's the most likely outcome?

BEDDOES: You know, right now, as you said, it looked yesterday as if the prime minister had the votes to get the meaningful vote through. And I think it still looks as though he may have the votes to get his deal through. But what I think is that the longer people look at this deal, the more scrutiny it is under, the more people may waiver, particularly those rebels in the labor party who are going to vote with him yesterday.

And it's worth remembering that right now, everyone is impatient to get a deal done, but nobody has really had time to scrutinize this deal. And the Boris Johnson deal is significantly different to the deal that Theresa May tried three times to get through the Houses of Parliament and failed. And it's different in two main ways. Firstly, it involves a kind of harder Brexit than Theresa May's deal. The impact on the U.K. economy would be a bigger hit than with Theresa May's deal.

And secondly, and I think perhaps even more importantly, the changes that Boris Johnson made, which were basically to agree to a border, a customs border across Irish Sea, when Northern Ireland is legally in the same legal status as the rest of Great Britain but practically is in the customs union with the E.U., that to me makes down the road a unified Ireland much more likely.

[10:40:01] And that's why the unionists didn't vote for it, why they have been -- they feel they've been sold down the river.

And the other thing that I think people have paid less attention to is that Scotland, which voted to stay in the European Union, which is very pro-remain, is now being effectively under Boris' deal, dragged into a harder Brexit than it would want by being part of the United Kingdom. And so I think the momentum for Scottish independence will increase. And recent polls suggest that 50 percent of Scotts would be in favor of independence.

So this deal, if it goes through, is likely to involve a harder Brexit than even Theresa May's deal did, so worse for the economy, and it's also putting the union at risk. So this is a big deal, and frankly, therefore, so more scrutiny over it. Fed up, as we all are with Brexit, we all want it to be over with. More scrutiny of it is important. Because as you and I have discussed before on this program, even once a deal is passed, there are still going to be months and years of negotiating what the long-term arrangement looks like.

So while I would love this soap opera to be over, I fear that Brexit is going to be on the agenda in this country and dominating politics for quite some time.

ZAKARIA: Zanny, we have a minute, but I just want to ask you about the political dynamic here, because it is reminiscent of something going on in the United States. You have Boris Johnson presenting this kind of right-wing populism Brexit.

And while it's not super popular, there is still the reality that it is, in some ways, helped by the unpopularity of a very far-left labor leader. How much is the fact that labor is not represented by somebody who is, you know, popular, attractive, and has a clear pro- European position helping Boris Johnson?

BEDDOES: Oh, hugely. If we had a different labor party leader and a different labor party, the last three years would have looked completely different. But I think a bigger political question is when will the next election be?

And it looks increasingly likely, I think, that it will be before the end of the year. Because if Boris Johnson gets this deal through, he is doing extremely well in the polls, the labor party is doing very badly, he will want an election as soon as possible to try to get a much bigger majority and then govern for the rest of his agenda.

And if he is forced to have this extension, then he may want to go to the polls in order to get a bigger majority for his Brexit deal, because he is actually reasonably popular. And a lot of Britons, even if they wanted -- even if they were remainers, just want to get this stuff behind them.

ZAKARIA: Zanny Minton Beddoes, a pleasure to have you on.

And we will be back. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)


ZAKARIA: America's colleges are among the finest in the world. Names like Yale, Georgetown and Stanford are famous for offering outstanding educations. But now each of these schools and many more are wrapped up in a scandal.

Can admissions at these universities really be bought? Whatever happened to the idea of a meritocracy, of the smartest outshining the wealthiest? These are some of the issues I explore in my most recent documentary which premieres tonight at 9:00 P.M. Eastern. It's called Scheme and Scandal, Inside the College Admissions Crisis. Here's a preview.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What do you want to say to your former players? Do you have any remorse, Mr. Meredith, your former player who trusted you?

ZAKARIA: Yale soccer coach took over $400,000.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: John Vandemoer pleaded guilty to taking hundreds of thousands of dollars in bribes.

ZAKARIA: Stanford's sailing coach agreed to take over $600,000 for the sailing team.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The FBI believes that the U.T. tennis head coach was paid more than $90,000.

ZAKARIA: In all, ten coaches and athletic officials were accused in Rick Singer's scheme. Five have pleaded guilty and five not guilty.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Of all the students that were qualifying were cheated out of this fund.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Students were kept out of schools because of what you did. What's your --

ZAKARIA: It's no coincidence that college sports is at the heart of the biggest college admissions scandal in history.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Singer worked with the parents to fabricate impressive athletic profiles for their kids.

ZAKARIA: Singer knew that the recruitment of athletes was a weak link in the admissions process.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The students' athletic credentials had been fabricated.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Charging documents say Ernst accepted millions of dollars in bribes. ZAKARIA: Coaches had enormous power to choose their recruits.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What made you want to plead guilty?

ZAKARIA: It was tough to bribe a whole committee, but you could bribe one person.

Schools say they are addressing the problem, stressing that they were victims in Rick Singer's scheme. But the system they created lives on where some kids get huge advantages in admissions through the side door of athletics.

DANIEL GOLDEN, AUTHOR, THE PRICE OF ADMISSION: They weren't the victims. I mean, that's ludicrous. They set up a system that favors wealthy people and that made this scandal possible.

ZAKARIA: When people think of college sports, they often think of all-American favorites like football and basketball, sports with lots of publicity and many low-income and minority students. But there is also rowing and lacrosse and water polo and other sports that a lot of rich white kids play, and that many college applicants can't afford.

The elite colleges reserve a huge number of slots for all athletes, more than 30 percent of the class in some schools, and they dramatically lower admission standards to let the athletes in.

GOLDEN: From all the preferences, the preference for recruited athletes is the biggest in terms of how much it helps candidates.

ZAKARIA: Take Harvard, for example. Every applicant's academic record is ranked on a scale from one to six, with one being the highest. Those who scored a four, who were not athletes, got in less than 1 percent of the time. But the athletes who scored a four got in around 70 percent of the time. Harvard claims that no one is admitted based on one single trait.


Still, admissions at elite schools for athletes like lacrosse players is often effectively affirmative action for rich, white kids.

MALCOLM GLADWELL, AUTHOR, TALKING TO STRANGERS: You can't play this absurd game where you have affirmative action program for rich, white people, because you have a backdoor for these sports.

ZAKARIA: Rich parents spend loads of money to help their kids become recruit-worthy athletes, paying hefty sums for coaching and camps. Meanwhile, of course, many public school kids don't even have access to posh sports like golf and sailing.

GOLDEN: There's only certain families that can afford to have their kids play some of these sports.


ZAKARIA: Scheme and Scandal, Inside the College Admissions Crisis, airs tonight at 9:00 P.M. Eastern. Don't miss it. And we will be back.


ZAKARIA: On the stage at the Democratic debates this week, candidates took a break from bashing Donald Trump to debate how taxation can help ease inequality.


Meanwhile, new Census Bureau data finds that the country's median household income in recent years was higher than ever before.

That brings me to my question. What was the approximate median income for an American household iIn 2018? Was it $41,000, $63,000, $83,000 or $90,000?

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

My book of the week is Impeachment, an American History. With impeachment on everyone's mind, this is a clear and intelligent account of the three previous examples in American history and, of course, the current one, by Jon Meacham, Tim Naftali, Peter Baker, and Jeffrey Engel. It will help you make up your own mind as you watch the news unfold.

The answer to my GPS challenge this week is B, the combined income of all adults in the median American household was $63,179 in 2018. This means that half of the households in the United States earned more than that number and half earned less. But this single number hides how much income disparity there is across the country. For example, the median Asian household earns over $87,000, while for black individuals, that number is just around $41,000.

The average income is much higher at $90,000, because incomes at the top in America are sky-high. The report reveals that inequality in America in 2018 is the highest recorded in 50 years.

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