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Fareed Zakaria GPS

Big Tech: To Regulate or Not to Regulate; U.S. And China Edging Closer To A Trade Deal; Impeachment Inquiry Moves Out Into The Open; The Voters Who Could Decide The Election; Thirty Years After The Fall Of The Berlin Wall. Aired 10-11a ET

Aired November 10, 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.

We'll start today's show with the tour of the globe. French President Macron's claim that NATO is facing brain death in the Trump era.

Ukraine's continued central role in America's impeachment inquiry.

And China, will Xi get a new trade deal with Trump? All that with Niall Ferguson, Richard Haass and Rana Faroohar.

Also 30 years ago this weekend, the Berlin wall cracked. At the time there was much excitement and hope for the future. What happened?

Finally, work, work, work, work, work. The standard five-day workweek began in a New England mill more than 100 years ago. But is four days at your job actually more efficient? We've done the work to help you figure it out.

But first, here's my take. There is an odd growing consensus these days that American democracy needs to be saved by Mark Zuckerberg. People from Elizabeth Warren to Aaron Sorkin are demanding that Facebook stop running obviously false political advertising.

So let me pose a question. Would everyone be as comfortable if the person deciding what constitutes real news versus fake news were not Zuckerberg but Rupert Murdoch?

It's not a fantasy. In 2005 News Corp. bought MySpace, then the leading social network on the planet. Had things worked out differently, it would be Murdoch or a band of FOX News experts who would be determining what counts as legitimate political speech.

Are you still comfortable?

Broadcast networks cannot censor political ads because doing so would be considered an infringement of free speech on their large public platforms. Cable companies like CNN are not regulated the same ways and thus can make their own decisions. Facebook, of course, is a larger platform than all the networks

combined. It now serves as a sort of global public square and surely it should be open to political speech. The criticisms of Facebook are varied and many of them are valid. It has been far too lax in allowing and even promoting incendiary messages that end up provoking violence as in countries like Myanmar and Sri Lanka. It also acts as a quasi-monopoly, snuffing out competition, which is a separate matter.

Many argue that Zuckerberg is being disingenuous when he claims that Facebook is a neutral platform open to all views equally. In fact Facebook's algorithm promotes certain kinds of material over others which can help spread fake news, exaggerations and lies.

Now the algorithm encourages engagement and intensity of belief. That helps, say, stamp collectors and animal lovers get more of the content they crave. It helps Elizabeth Warren supporters see material they like and it helps Trump-leaning voters see the stuff that excites them as well.

Here's the real issue. America has become deeply polarized, and each side wants to believe the worst slander and lies about the other, and the problem is worse on the right than the left. The situation with Facebook is a symptom of this problem. If Facebook didn't exist, Trump supporters would listen to talk radio, watch FOX, go to other Web sites. Facebook accentuates partisanship more than it causes it.

Professor Jeremy Weinstein, who teaches a blockbuster class at Stanford on computers, ethics and public policy, explains that, "It makes very little sense to think that these choices about what speech is allowed and not allowed should be made by unaccountable tech CEOs behind closed doors in a corporate boardroom. Companies are focused on their own bottom line which is best catered for if they maximize engagement, attachment to their platforms."

I don't want Mark Zuckerberg deciding what speech is legitimate in America. I want the government to set parameters for him and other technology companies as to their obligations for what they increasingly are, large news platforms. There are many good ideas out there. Invoke something like the Fairness Doctrine which for decades required broadcast networks to include a range of views in their programs.


Ellen Weintraub, the chair of the Federal Election Commission, has a simple suggestion. Don't allow microtargeting, serving ads to a very specific segment of the population, which stokes division and hostility and is often cloaked in secrecy.

Americans feel overwhelmed in the digital era by the power of the tech giants but Weinstein argues they distrust government even more than they do the tech companies, so they want Facebook to regulate American democracy. What we need is the opposite. American democracy should regulate Facebook.

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

Let's get right into the events of the week with today's terrific panel. Richard Haass is the president of the Council on Foreign Relations and a former director of policy planning at the State Department. Niall Ferguson is an author and historian, he is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution. And Rana Foroohar is a global business columnist for the "Financial Times" and a global economic analyst for CNN, and she has a new book out called "Don't Be Evil: How Big Tech Betrayed its Founding Principles and All of Us."

So, Rana, I have to ask you, what do you think of what I just said about Facebook?

RANA FOROOHAR, CNN GLOBAL ECONOMIC ANALYST: Well, I think it was a provocative position, and I like that part. I think that you can argue the idea of whether Facebook should be policing free speech either way. And I think that you make a strong case that, you know, maybe you don't want Mark Zuckerberg deciding what's truth and what's not, but I think what's really interesting here and what gets lost, one of the reasons that Facebook and Google and the other big tech platforms don't want to deal with political speech is that they don't want the exemptions that they get as being Internet platform companies to be taken away.

There's a wonky provision, CDA 230, which was in 1996 part of the Communications Decency Act. That allows them to be not liable for anything that is done or said on their platforms. Once that goes away, then the black box of algorithms is opened up and you can really see into this targeted advertising business model. And that is something that is under big debate right now not just in the U.S. but in the E.U. Should we be allowing this kind of surveillance capitalism to exist? How should it be regulated if people can --

ZAKARIA: So you think they would resist?

FOROOHAR: I do. I think --

ZAKARIA: The end of microtargeting.

FOROOHAR: I think that that is their whole business model. I mean, if you think about it. These are advertising companies. Facebook and Google get 80 percent, 90 percent of their revenue from advertising. They're giant media and advertising firms. If you take away targeted advertising, they don't really have a business model anymore.

ZAKARIA: Rana, in your book, says we're in a new era. That the crisis of the old order, the old free reign for tech is over. You wrote a book about some of these issues, terrific book.


ZAKARIA: "The Square and the Tower." What do you -- do you think we are in a new age of regulating big tech?

FERGUSON: Well, the question is how. I agree with Rana that Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act is the Achille's heel of the big tech companies. And that is why they would much rather that Washington went down the road of anti-trust because they can win that fight or at least they can protract it. And it's a far less serious a threat than removing or removing Section 230.

Just to be clear, because I think most viewers and certainly most legislators don't get this. The key for Section 230 is it's like the catch 22 of the Internet because it essentially allows them to say, when it suits them, we're not publishers. We're just technology platforms. It's nothing to do with us, what appears in the platform. But when it suits them to curate, edit, remove, then they say oh, we're perfectly within our rights.


FERGUSON: There's no First Amendment that applies here because we're private corporations. So they are publishers when it suits them to be and they're technology when it suits them to be, which is fine when they were tiny, little, weeny startups in the mid-1990s. I can see why that Section 230 was written. But it's a complete anachronism now. And that's where Washington, that's where Congress should be focusing its attention. Not on anti-trust which I actually think is a wild goose chase.

ZAKARIA: All right. We got it -- there's too much to talk about. So China. There seems to be some kind of a deal. Do you think this is -- this means relations between the Trump administration and China have kind of turned a corner?

RICHARD HAASS, PRESIDENT, COUNCIL ON FOREIGN RELATIONS: In a word, no. For two reasons. One is it's a deal, but it's a deal light. This is not a comprehensive omnibus trade deal. It's more significant for what it doesn't really include, questions of state subsidies. The monitoring of technology issues and so forth. Simply to have reciprocal tariff reduction is not the big thing.

Second of all, you've got a host of other issues, whether it's human rights, political control by governments, South China Sea, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Uighurs, what have you.


This relationship has moved more negatively, more quickly than any major foreign policy issue I can think of, Fareed, in years. So this is not going to be a transformational moment at all.

ZAKARIA: So the markets are wrong to celebrate?

FOROOHAR: Absolutely. I mean, the markets are responding to the fact that algorithmic trading programs look for good news about China in the U.S. And they go up and down based on that. It's -- I completely agree, it's false optimism. I mean, this is part of the big tech story as well, though, because the trade war is a tech war, is an existential war about who's going to control the high growth industries of the future. And that gets to the fact that we're not going back to a reset no

matter who is in office in 2020. We're not going to go back to a reset of the '90s. I think that the U.S. and China and potentially Europe are moving in different directions in terms of how to regulate the Internet, how digital trade will be done. What the rules of the road will be. It will be interesting to see where Europe goes because China's "One Belt, One Road" infrastructure plan is also about rolling out 5g and 5g standards into Europe.

ZAKARIA: Very quickly, you've said you think we're the start of a new Cold War with China. You think it's sort of that -- it's that serious?

FERGUSON: Yes. I agree, but I'd go further than Richard and Rana. I think Cold War II has begun and the market's fixation on the trade negotiations is distracting people from the reality that the tech war is much more important. And China's vulnerability is actually in hardware because it imports more high-end semiconductors than it imports oil in terms of dollar values. That's China's vulnerability.

It will take way beyond 2025 for them to be self-sufficient in that area. And that is I think where the U.S. is going to be applying much more pressure in the years to come. Tariffs are a blunt instrument. That's a very precise one.

ZAKARIA: Don't go away. Next on GPS, if you heard the reports this week that Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky was planning to announce here on GPS that he was investigating the Bidens, you might have wondered what was that all about? I will explain when we come back.



ZAKARIA: You may have heard that I was preparing to interview Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky for GPS. It's true and I wanted you to hear it from me. We had been trying to get an interview with Zelensky since shortly after he was elected. He's a fascinating character and his country's struggles with Russia are an important geopolitical story.

Those efforts to talk to Zelensky picked up speed in September. I met him in Kiev in the middle of that month. I asked for an interview and he agreed in principal. The GPS began coordinating with his team and preparing the logistics of taping an interview. Then on September 19th the "Washington Post" reported that the whistleblower's complaint revolved around Ukraine. Shortly thereafter the Ukraine has pulled the plug on the planning.

Of course, none of us were aware of a secret campaign to pressure him nor that Zelensky had agreed to announce an investigation into Joe Biden or his son on GPS as the "New York Times" has suggested. We will reengage with President Zelensky and hope to be able to bring you an interview with him at some point.

Let me bring back, Richard Haass, Niall Ferguson and Rana Foroohar.

So where do we stand in your view with the impeachment? The extraordinary thing it seems to me is you now have five or six senior officials who have pretty much laid out a quid pro quo, that there was pressure on Ukraine, and, you know, the quid was the military aid, the quo was you've got to announce, whether on my show or somewhere else, publicly that there was an investigation into Bidens. Where does that leave us?

FERGUSON: Well, I think we're on track for the House to impeach President Trump. I think it's significant politically because unlike the Mueller report, the Zelensky call and all the fallout that there has been since the partial transcript was released have really moved independence on this issue. If you look at the polling, during the whole Mueller era, only about 30 percent of independents thought that Trump should be impeached and removed. It's now 51 percent on the most recent pollings.

I think that's significant politically. Now, of course, the Senate is not going to find the president guilty and remove him. And that I think is absolutely clear. However, I don't think Mitch McConnell is simply going to kick this into the long grass. I think there will have to be some kind of process in the Senate.

ZAKARIA: So -- so what -- let's assume what Niall is saying is right, impeached, acquitted, he goes into reelection. Net, net, does it hurt him or help him? Because he's going to say I was vindicated, I was acquitted by the Senate. That is the word.

HAASS: He will say that. It's also possible he'll be censured in the Senate. That could become a halfway house between what you'd call acquittal and removing him from office. He'll put positive spin, say it proves it was a witch hunt. The Democratic candidate whoever he or she may ultimately be will obviously say different.

I think the real question is public opinion. Does it turn? And that's the only thing that conceivably moves 20 Republicans away from the president or I think it's a distant shot, and then during the general election. What is public opinion? Does this -- that's what really matters. What are the American people concluded? What does this really lead them to do, whether they give him another four years or not?

ZAKARIA: Do you think -- if I can change subjects quickly, do you think that America needs another billionaire this time, a real one from New York who is worth about 20 times what Donald Trump is purportedly worth to save American democracy?

FOROOHAR: It is a game-changer. You know, I did a column a while back when Howard Schultz was running, and I said, we don't need another billionaire. Michael Bloomberg is a little different. I mean, this is someone who has clearly started from very modest means, made his entire fortune. Has given a lot of it away. Is a proven leader.

I think the real question is, how his background, he is a Jewish billionaire. How does that play in the Midwest, in the south, in red states?

ZAKARIA: Pro-gun control, pro-gay marriage.

FOROOHAR: Pro-gun -- yes. You know, but, boy, it's really -- as they say in the U.K., throwing the cat amongst the pigeons.

ZAKARIA: In the U.K., by the way, you have the choice now between Jeremy Corbyn, who is really a socialist, and a hard Brexit in Boris Johnson. But it seems like Johnson is going to win.

FERGUSON: Well, you used the word seems. Look carefully at this election. And there are all kinds of ways that it can actually go wrong for Boris Johnson. You know, British first passed the post system means that it's all about constituency candidates.

And I worry about how far the Conservatives are going to get where they need to get to, to a majority. They don't have one now. They've been in power nine years. They're going to lose seat in Scotland to the Scottish Nationalists, in England to the Liberal Democrats, and Nigel Farage is running around with his Brexit Party taking votes away from them in other parts of the country.


It's a bigger mountain for Boris Johnson to climb than the national headline opinion polls would lead you to think. And if there's one thing we've learned from recent years, don't base your views on national opinion polls.

ZAKARIA: Meanwhile, our French ally, Emmanuel Macron says NATO is brain dead and it's all Donald Trump's fault.

HAASS: He called the American president unstable. Look, NATO has issues, shall we say? On the other hand, it obviously faces a significant Russian threat. And the problem with President Macron's position reminds me of the health care debate. It's repeal without replace. There's not a serious European alternative to NATO. So the real question is how do you basically keep NATO intact, dealing with Turkey, dealing with Donald Trump, dealing with this Italian government?

Because you need NATO to live, how would I put it, not to fight, but to be ready to fight another day. So I don't think walking away from NATO, if anything, it actually feeds into Donald Trump's argument that we don't have to take it seriously. It's the only thing we still have that ties America to Europe and basically keeps the Russians out. So I think the French president was way off base.

ZAKARIA: We will have to leave it there and reconvene. Fascinating. Thank you, guys.

Next on GPS, what if I told you that a government employee in a relatively obscure central African country had enough money to buy Michael Jackson's famous white glove? What if I also told you he also bought yachts, a Malibu beach house and 100-room Parisian mansion.

"What in the World" coming up next.



ZAKARIA: Now for our "What in the World" segment. When President Trump suggested holding the G7 at his Doral golf resort, many Americans were incredulous. Even the hint that a sitting president might try to derive financial benefit from his office was unthinkable. But in much of the world, that is just the tip of the iceberg.

Take the oil rich and governance poor nation of Equatorial Guinea in Central Africa. The president has been in power for 40 years and is believed to be richer than Queen Elizabeth. The U.S. Department of Justice has said his son, Vice President Teodoro Obiang, amassed more than $300 million by, quote, "relentless embezzlement and extortion," unquote.

Obiang admitted no wrongdoing, but on a government salary, he has amassed an eye-popping array of assets. Some of which have been seized over the years. They include a Malibu beach house, 101-room Parisian mansion, yachts, and Michael Jackson's famous white glove encrusted with Swarovski crystals.

Meanwhile, a majority of the population of Equatorial Guinea lives on less than $2 a day. Across the globe between $20 billion and $40 billion is stolen every year by public officials according to the World Bank. Usually that money is embezzled from poor countries and spirited to rich ones through shell companies.

But corruption at the top has been hard to fight. As the Cambridge scholar Jason Sharman writes in his book, "The Despot's Guide to Wealth Management," holding foreign leaders to account for looting public coffers is actually a revolutionary idea, at odds with centuries of practice.

During the Cold War leaders in the West needed allies in the fight for dominance against the Soviet Union and were happy to look the other way on corrupt dictators. But with the fall of communism and the growing expert consensus that corruption causes poverty, multilateral organizations including the U.N. began to forge a series of agreements to fight it. As Sharman notes, over time, those norms along with a groundswell of popular anger and ardent campaigning by advocacy groups have forced some consequences for corrupt leaders.

And "The Economist" reports some places that have long been havens for ill-gotten wealth are now starting to reform themselves. The "Telegraph" reports that the tiny nation of San Marino seized $21 million from bank accounts connected to the president of the Republic of the Congo, a man who reportedly spent more than $100,000 on crocodile skin shoes. And the FD says the tax havens of Guernsey, Jersey and the Isle of Man have agreed to share information about the true owners of companies after British members of Parliament lambasted them for complicity with money laundering.

The U.K. is now beefing up its investigative muscle, too. The "New York Times" reports that last year Britain began using something called unexplained wealth orders which can force people vulnerable to corruption including foreign officials to account for suspicious purchases.

The U.S. is perhaps the farthest along. It launched a kleptocracy squad in 2010 that later went after billions of dollars allegedly smuggled out of Malaysia's sovereign wealth fund 1MDB. There have been some significant results. The seemingly invincible former prime minister of Malaysia Najib Razak is currently facing trial for his alleged role in that 1MDB scandal. Najib pleaded not guilty to all charges against him.

But as "The Times" reported, authorities seized almost $300 million worth of assets from his homes last year including 12,000 pieces of jewelry, more than 500 luxury handbags, and $29 million in cash in 26 currencies.

The sprawling operation car wash investigation that began in Brazil upended politics across that region, toppling presidents and ensnaring politicians from all over Latin America.


Of course, significant challenges still remain. The vast of majority of embezzled wealth is still undetected. But this is mostly a good news story. Over the last decade, more has changed than in a long time, a cause for some hope.

Up next, the Democrats had some big wins in Tuesday's off-year election, but is that all indicative of what would happen next year in the big decision 2020? I'll talk to The New York Times' Nate Cohn.


ZAKARIA: Democrats are rejoicing this week. They seem to have taken over the governor's mansion in Kentucky, although that race is still contested, and now hold both houses in the Virginia legislature.

But before you decide this may bode poorly for President Trump, I want you to listen to Nate Cohn. He vies (ph) for The Upshot a The New York Times and the reported this week on the largest poll The New York Times has done on the 2020 election so far. It has some stunning findings.

Basically, the president is very competitive in the key states that swung him the Electoral College in 2016. And Elizabeth Warren faces a challenge in those states.

To discuss in detail, welcome, Nate.

So, as I said, the top line, it seems to me, is despite the fact that the president lags behind, when you do the matchups, Warren beats him by 10, sometimes 12, and Biden beats him by more.


And yet, what you're saying is when you look at those states that won him the Electoral College, he's surprisingly competitive.

NATE COHN, DOMESTIC CORRESPONDENT, THE NEW YORK TIMES: Yes, I think that's right. So these states in 2016 were four points better for Donald Trump than the country as a whole. In 2018 midterm election, they were five points better for Republicans in the nation as a whole. We have Joe Biden up two. So I think it would be very easy to go from our numbers to say Biden up seven nationally and yet, still the president would be in a really tight race for re-election despite that kind of national deficit.

ZAKARIA: And what do you think that's fundamentally about?

COHN: These are states where white working class voters represent an above average share of the electorate. In the northern battleground states, like Michigan, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, they're a majority of registered voters. That's the president's strength.

And in our survey, we find that the president is winning most of the white working class voters who backed him last time or even those who went onto back Democrats in the congressional election. So these are states that are demographically favorable for him and we think he's taking advantage of that demographic opportunity, as he did last time.

ZAKARIA: And I think the other surprising finding is the one about Warren. Biden does pretty well though again. But, basically, it's competitive within the margin of error everywhere, but Biden does best, and Warren does poorly. Why do you think that is?

COHN: I think it's useful to break Warren's challenge up into three groups of people. Overall, we think that 6 percent of the respondents that we talk to and support Biden but not Elizabeth Warren against the president. Some of them just say she's too far to the left. They are well educated. They're conservative. They don't like single -- they're logical group of people.

Another group of people, they don't really know who Elizabeth Warren is yet. I think it's a reasonable thing she could make some gains among that group.

And there's a third group, which I also think is interesting. They say that most of the women who run for president just aren't that likable. They don't like Elizabeth Warren but they do like Bernie Sanders and Joe Biden. They're disproportionately young, they're disproportionately less educated, they're disproportionately non- white. I think it's interesting.

ZAKARIA: Arizona, I found that interesting. Explain what you found in Arizona and what conclusion you draw from it.

COHN: Yes. I think Arizona is really interesting. It was the state where Joe Biden and Elizabeth Warren did best among registered voters. And I point that out because Arizona is a state where there are a lot of Hispanic voters who haven't typically turned out in American elections. And, in fact, when you narrow it to likely voters, that Democratic advantage dissipates a bit. But it's interesting to me because that one helps explain the national gap. These are states where, on average, there are fewer Hispanic voters than there are nationwide. And it's also interesting to me because one of the big Democratic hopes right now is the State of Texas. And in our poll, Hillary Clinton is doing rather -- Joe Biden is doing nine points better than Hillary Clinton among registered voters in Arizona than Hillary Clinton's four-point defeat among the actual voters in Arizona. How much did Hillary Clinton lose Texas by? Nine points.

So in the state that we have that's most demographically similar to Texas, we show Democrats making gains, gains that would large enough to keep Democrats competitive among registered voters in a state that -- you know, the state years ago voted for Republicans by nearly 20 points in the 2012 presidential election.

ZAKARIA: Why should anyone listen to you when you got the polls wrong in 2016? New York Times was predicting 90 percent of chance of Hillary Clinton winning.

COHN: We closed at 85 percent. And it's true that most the polls got it wrong. And I think people are totally justified in being skeptical about the polls today, and they should always be skeptical. Polls aren't perfect. I will say in 2016, we were the only live interview poll that had the president leading in battleground states in the final ten days of the race. We did it in Florida and North Carolinas.

And that's part of why we came back and said, okay, maybe we should invest in our own surveys rather than look at other polls. Because a lot of the other polls out there, they are not taking all the steps that I think you need to take in order to properly represent white rural voters who can be hard to reach.

ZAKARIA: The thing I always wonder about with polls is, I can't remember what the response rate is down to now. It's -- but it's 5 percent. I mean, number --

COHN: It's actually low. And even that number is better than it is in reality. They take away broken telephone lines.

ZAKARIA: Yes. So you have to call hundreds before you get one.

COHN: We called hundreds of thousands of people for this survey.

ZAKARIA: To get 5,000?

COHN: Yes.

ZAKARIA: So now my question is there must be some implicit bias, some selection, self-selection problem, which is the kinds of people who are willing to answer a poll are different from the kinds of people who aren't. I've never been willing to answer a poll.

COHN: Me neither.

ZAKARIA: What does that say? COHN: I screen all my unknown calls too. So I totally understand the concern.

What we -- what studies consistently find is that if you control for partisanship, if you control for demographic characteristics like race and education, the people who respond to telephone surveys aren't that different than the people who don't respond.


So if we didn't have the power, for instance, to make sure that we had the right number of registered Democrats or Republicans in this state, or if we didn't have the ability to up-weight less educated voters, our polls would have serious, serious issues. But we think that because we can account for those things, that we think our results are pretty good. They're not perfect. No one can make that promise.

But I think that we can make sure that our poll, in terms of its composition, is accurate and right on the sort of characteristics that are likeliest to predict whether you support the president or one his Democratic opponents.

ZAKARIA: Fascinating stuff. Nate Cohn, come back soon.

COHN: I will. Thanks for having me.

ZAKARIA: Next on GPS, this weekend marks 30 years since the Berlin Wall began to fall. We'll look at Europe three decades later. What happened to that moment of great promise?


ZAKARIA: Thirty years ago this weekend on November 9th, 1989, an East German functionary named Gunther Schabowski altered the course of history by accident. The cold war was still chilly and the Berlin Wall still separated the east from the west. East Berliners could gaze at the west if their apartments or workplaces were on high enough floors but they could not go there.


For most, that was absolutely forbidden.

But Mr. Schabowski announced that night an hour into an otherwise unremarkable press conference, that East Germans could leave the country as they wished. This new policy, he said, mistakenly, was effective immediately. That night, the Berlin Wall began o fall.

Those were heady days. They held much promise for the future. But 30 years later, what does Europe have to show for that promise?

Joining me now is Constanze Stelzenmmuller. She is a Senior Fellow at Brookings and the Kissinger chair on Foreign Policy and International Relations at the Library of Congress.

So, where were you when the Berlin Wall fell? CONSTANZE STELZENMULLER, SENIOR FELLOW, BROOKINGS INSTITUTE: Well, I was on the wrong side of the Atlantic for the action. I was a 27- year-old graduate student at Harvard, and I was sitting in my bedroom at my desk working on a chapter of my doctoral thesis when a friend called and said turn on the T.V. The wall is down. And I thought she was pulling my leg.

And I said you're an idiot. Leave me alone. I'm working. And she just said turn on the T.V. And I, just like an auto pilot, went into the next room and turned on the T.V., saw these people on the wall laughing and cheering and waving sledge hammers and bottles, champagne bottles, and I started crying. I burst into tears. It's incredible.

ZAKARIA: And so when you get there, what did you realize about Germany that you had not really understood?

STELZENMULLER: I got so many things. I sometimes think that, in retrospect, particularly for my generation, which literally grew up with the wall, our feelings about so many things had been in a refrigerator. And we had -- if you didn't have family on the other side of the wall, that you were sending packages to them with jeans or coffee and stuff like that, if you didn't have the possibility of traveling, which I didn't because my father was in the foreign service, and I would have been an intelligence target as a student, then that was -- could have been the other side of the moon.

And so suddenly --

ZAKARIA: So you in the west knew nothing about the east?

STELZENMULLER: I knew certainly much less than anybody who had family there or had been able to travel, which was possible to a limited degree for some westerners. But for me, this was a revelation that a country which, to me, had been emotionally alien, was full of people who essentially wanted many of the same things that we did and who very clearly family.

And this sort of reinforced in me a profound desire to both reconsider my own assumptions and revisit them physically. It's one of the reasons I became a journalist.

ZAKARIA: So you put it very well that people who seemed totally alien turned out to want the same things we did. And that, I think, was the great realization, and I put it in quotes, of '89, that all these people just wanted to drink Coca-Cola, listen to rock and roll, live in democracies, whatever.

30 years later, do you think that that was wrong? Was that assumption we made wrong?

STELZENMULLER: Well, the first point I want to make that all of these three things that you've decided are equally legitimate. It was -- I mean, some people sneered at the easterners for wanting rock and roll and Coca-Cola. And I think that that is a legitimate desire. And it is intimately related to the desire for freedom and democracy. And so they shouldn't have been sneered at by anybody. And I also want to emphasize that the following months and years saw an extraordinary spread of those freedoms and democracy, and prosperity throughout not just reunified Germany but through Eastern Europe. I mean, the standard of living, the political freedoms of many of these countries are incomparable to where they used to be 30 years ago, and yet we're seeing a populous resurgence all through the west, including in this country, and a distrust of representative democracy in ways that I find profoundly concerning because it seems to negate the achievement of those very heady years.

ZAKARIA: But the rise of populism in East Europe as a whole does feel as though it is the ability to -- for one thing, it's authoritarianism disguised because it doesn't come overtly, it comes through democracy after elections. It seems like it appeals to people's fears rather than hopes about immigrants and things. What does that tell you when you go on the ground and you talk to these people because you've done so much good reporting? What conclusions do you draw?

STELZENMULLER: Well, so a part of this, I think, is, of course, a holdover from the period before 1989 that -- and as we West Germans should know, if you have grown up in a dictatorship, you are likely to have had to make -- have made compromises with yourself, and with authority that you don't feel very good about and that you secretly feel guilty about, and that will pursue you all your lives.


West Germans took 40 years to deal with our complicity in World War II and the holocaust. Not all of us were Nazis. Not all the generation of my grandparents were Nazis, but an awful lot of people were, in some way, complicit. And I think there are similar discussions to be had in not just East Germany but in all the other Eastern European countries that lived under communism, and those discussions in our West Germany experience take a generation.

ZAKARIA: A pleasure, fascinating conversation.

STELZENMULLER: Thank you. This is so much fun. Thank you for having me.

ZAKARIA: And we will be right back.


ZAKARIA: Does more time in the office equal more productivity? It's a question that's getting a lot of attention these days. And it brings me to my question this week. What did Microsoft Japan do that massively boosted productivity this past August?


Implement midday siestas, mandate three-day weekends, ban overtime or introduce unlimited time off?

Stay tuned and we'll tell you the correct answer. My book of the week is Rana Foroohar's Don't be evil. This is a fascinating highly engaging account of the rise of big technology companies and how they have betrayed their ideals and endangered American democracy. It will make you think hard about something we tend to simply accept as normal. The way technology now dominates our lives and societies.

The answer to my question this week is B, Microsoft Japan decided to close its offices every Friday this past August in a bid to improve work/life balance and boost office morale. They did a lot more than that, it turns out. Productivity jumped some 40 percent Compared to august 2018. On top of that, employees printed about 60 percent fewer pages and consumed 23 percent less electricity compared to August 2016. And data suggests working less could actually make us all better workers.

Take France, for example. Most full-time employees enjoy a 35-hour week and five weeks of paid leave per year, and yet last year, French workers got more done with each hour than anyone else in the G7, according to OECD.

So prove to your bosses you're a team player, always looking out for the bottom line and show them this clip. The real key to working smarter might just be working less. We'll put a link on our Web site.

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