Return to Transcripts main page

Fareed Zakaria GPS

American Exceptionalism In The Coronavirus Crisis; A Plan For Battling The Pandemic; Hong Kong Under China's New National Security Law; China Begins Crackdown On Hong Kong Protests; If The Two-State Solution Is Dead, What Comes Next? Aired 10-11a ET

Aired July 12, 2020 - 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.


ZAKARIA: Today on the show, America is number one in new coronavirus cases. And by far. So how and why did this super power's efforts to contain the pandemic go so wrong?

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We got hit. By the virus that came from China.

ZAKARIA: I'll talk to one of the country's preeminent physicians, Zeke Emanuel. And then the Harvard scholar, Danielle Allen.

And Hong Kong is forever changed after China imposed a draconian new law there. What's next for the protest movement? Can it have a future? I will talk to one of its leaders, Nathan Law, who is now in exile.

Also, Trump's peace plan has put the final nail in the coffin of the two-state solution. Is there a viable alternative that could satisfy Israelis and Palestinians? Peter Beinart tells me about his provocative new idea.


ZAKARIA: But first, here's my take. The United States is in a unique position among the world's most advanced countries. Far from having flattened the COVID-19 curve, it is watching cases spike in several populous states and Dr. Anthony Fauci recommended this week that these places seriously look at shutting down their economies again. Meanwhile, in other rich countries as diverse as Germany, South Korea, and even Spain and Italy, the number of new cases plummeted months ago and has stayed low.

America is still exceptional, but no longer in a good sense. In order to understand why this is happening, let's start by examining something America got right, economic stimulus. In March and April, despite the most polarized climate since the civil war, Congress provided $2.4 trillion in relief and the Federal Reserve provided even more. This adds up to about 25 percent of GDP, one of the largest spending efforts in the world.

That might explain why the stock market has barely noticed that the economy remains in its worst condition since the Great Depression. But the size of the stimulus placed to America's one great strength, sheer heft. The U.S. economy is huge. America's borrowing capacity apparently limitless. The dollar, for now, supreme. It's easy to write checks, or at least it should be. More on that later. But every other sense, American government has failed.

It's not just Donald Trump and the White House which have done a miserable job bringing coherence to the diverse federal agencies and coordinating with the states. Look, the CDC, the FDA, and other arms of Health and Human Services all failed in their own ways, as did state officials.

Americans accepted extensive lockdowns, far more readily than many predicted, but this period of suffering was meant to buy time for the government to set up systems of testing, tracing and isolation, so that once the lockdowns ended, people could return to some semblance of normal life, confident that their government was monitoring and reacting to new outbreaks. In truth, it squandered the time.

Although Trump declared in May we've prevailed on testing, his goal of five million tests a day with testing available at virtually every CVS and Walmart is still just a dream. Most states still don't have comprehensive testing or contact tracing in place.

Is this about money? What federal spending as a percentage of GDP is where it was 40 years ago? But that statistic conceals more than it reveals. Spending on entitlement programs, Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid has gone up massively as the population ages and health care costs soar. But most of the agencies of the federal government have been starved of resources while being given more tasks and mandates.

Even the writing of the checks proved hard this time. Countries like Canada and Germany sent out funds faster and more directly than the U.S. providing quick relief to their citizens, while Americans have to wait anxiously, navigate Web sites that didn't work, and apply again and again to get a response.

The number of federal employees is smaller per capita than in the 1950s, despite the fact that real U.S. GDP is seven times larger.


The government barely hires new recruits anymore. As a Brookings report notes, one-third of the federal workforce will be eligible to retire between now and 2025, and only 6 percent of federal employees are under 30 years old.

You see, for almost half a century, politicians on the right have pursued a strategy of starving the beast. Anti-tax campaigner Grover Norquist explained, "I don't want to abolish government, I simply want to reduce it to the size where I can drag it into the bathroom and drown it in the bathtub." Steve Bannon, the ideologist of the Trump revolution, made clear that

his goal was the deconstruction of the administrative state. Guess what? It was already happening.

Winning the fight against COVID-19 doesn't require a huge bureaucratic apparatus. Hong Kong, Singapore, Taiwan and South Korea have relatively small governments measured by government spending as a shared GDP. On the other hand, Denmark, Norway, and Germany have also done very well and they have relatively large states.

But in all of these cases, government bureaucracies are well funded, enjoyed considerable autonomy, and not burdened with excessive rules and mandates, and they recruit intelligent people who are afforded respect for working in the public sector. In the United States we have a culture set by Ronald Reagan, who as head of the federal bureaucracy joked --


RONALD REAGAN, 40TH PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The nine most terrifying words in the English language are, "I'm from the government and I'm here to help."


ZAKARIA: COVID-19 should be a wake-up call. America needs to rebuild its government capacity. The goal is not a big state or a small state, but a smart state. For now, what we have is just stupid.

Go to for a link to my "Washington Post" column. And let's get started.

I want to bring in one of America's best-known doctors, Zeke Emanuel was a top-level adviser on health policy in the Obama White House. He is now at the University of Pennsylvania where he is a professor and the vice provost for global initiatives. He has a new book out called "Which Country Has the World's Best Health Care?"

Zeke, let me start by asking you, if there's one thing you would focus on to explain America's exceptionally poor response to COVID, I mean, that's such a big set of failures, but if there was one thing, one variable you could change, what would it be?

ZEKE EMANUEL, AUTHOR, "WHICH COUNTRY HAS THE WORLD'S BEST HEALTH CARE?": Leadership. We've got a lack of national leadership and national coordination that you've seen in almost every other country that's done a good job, whether it's Taiwan, or Germany, or even Italy where you've had actually a coordinated program across the whole country. And that allowed a much more rapid response and not one that was haphazard and counterproductive.

ZAKARIA: And when you say leadership, you mean presidential leadership?

EMANUEL: Well, leadership at the White House, yes. It has to be presidential passing on that mantel to people who are going to coordinate whether it's PPE or testing or contact tracing or preparing for a vaccine when we get one. We just haven't had that and you've seen the president say he has the authority but passing responsibility to states that have done it in very different ways and in an uncoordinated way.

ZAKARIA: When we look at testing, explain this failure because, as I say, the whole point was meant to be the lockdown buy time to set up a system. And it feels to me like the American health care system or the public health system doesn't seem to have thought about or planned for a situation like this where you needed a tremendous surge, you know, kind of zero to five million. How would that work and why didn't it work?

EMANUEL: Well, you have -- first of all, you have to get the big testing companies, LabCorp, Quest, and others, to actually invest and think this is a good thing to do. They sat on the sidelines for a long time thinking, oh, this will be a bubble. It won't be worth our capital investment. So the federal government should've come in and make it valuable to them. The CDC, frankly, screwed around and did not get the tests right and sent out bad testing equipment.

We did not secure the supply chain and we didn't bring on our universities rapidly which have a large latent testing capacity. And compared to us, we're at maybe 550,000 or 600,000 testing cases a day, Germany was at 350,000 in early April and Germany has a quarter of our population. So it can be done, it's just that we did not again have a national coordinated effort with authority that was moving all the pieces and had the money to make sure that this was a viable enterprise.


And you're right, we're now four months into this and we're no better off than we were in mid-March.

ZAKARIA: And does it worry you that we're going to get to -- certainly by October and November and people are going to be spending more time indoors? That does seem to correlate with the virus spreading faster.

EMANUEL: Fareed, as I pointed out over and over for four months now, there are four things that lead to spread, enclosed spaces, indoors, as you point out, crowds, prolonged periods of time and force exhalation, sneezing, coughing, singing, yelling. And yes, it's worrisome. Why do we have big outbreaks in the south? They're indoors because of the heat. It's 115 degrees in Phoenix.

It's going to move north. So we just move the cases around. We've also increased them because we've too rapidly opened up bars and restaurants, indoor places with crowds where people are for prolonged period of time. We have not done this in a smart way.

You know, contrast this with Germany or Italy that only opened up early May when the R0, that's the spread, was below one. So actually, the virus was declining consistently. You know, we opened up in many places well before cases were declining and certainly before the R0 was below one. ZAKARIA: Let me ask you about Taiwan because it really seems to be a

country that against all odds has done extraordinarily well. Right next to China, millions of visitors from China. And by the way, as you know because it's in your book, Taiwan spends on health care as a percentage of GDP, I forget the number, it's something like 5 percent. I mean, it's much, much lower --

EMANUEL: Less than 6 percent. Yes.

ZAKARIA: Right. Much lower than us. And yet, it's managed to do this extraordinarily well.

EMANUEL: If there's any -- almost every country's made mistakes except maybe Taiwan. Yes, extraordinarily well. So they were suspicious of China and they prepared since 2004 for this event. Second, they have a face mask wearing culture and everyone was wearing face masks and third, the government used its information through its health card to track people in near real time and their utilization of the health system to identify people who are at risk, make sure they get tested, merge it with their travel history so they know who had been in China and get them tested.

So they identified all the cases rapidly. And to this day they have less than 450 cases among 24 million people, seven deaths. Near- perfect execution and everyone could learn a lot. And their health card has been a secret here, which I think is something we should look at very, very carefully.

ZAKARIA: Explain that very quickly. We have 30 seconds left. What's the health card?

EMANUEL: So you don't -- everyone has a health card. You go to the doctor, they swipe it, the Ministry of Health knows that you're seeing the doctor. When you leave, they get paid, the doctor swipes it again with what they've done. The ministry now knows why people have been in, what's been administered and they have as I said near real time in just a day or two information about what's happening in the health care system.

You know, if you go to our biggest insurers, you go to Medicare, it takes literally three or four months to know what's happened. That -- you can't really act rapidly in a pandemic or other emergency using that kind of information.

So if we actually had a card, we had a trusted, independent agency, not, you know, Facebook or Google and not the federal government, looking at this information and monitoring it and helping manage patients and manning during outbreaks, we could really, really respond much more rapidly, and know who's at risk and be able to advise them and also get them tested.

ZAKARIA: Zeke Emanuel, pleasure to have you on.

EMANUEL: Thank you, Fareed.

ZAKARIA: I will point out, Bill Clinton proposed a version of that card, what is it now, in 1992? Almost 30 years ago.

EMANUEL: 1993, exactly.

ZAKARIA: Next on GPS, if America's COVID response had been so flawed, what can be done to fix it? Harvard's Danielle Allen has a plan.



ZAKARIA: For three days in a row now, the United States has recorded more than 60,000 new cases of COVID, 20,000 more than the next closest country. Something is wrong with American health care and American response to COVID-19 which has been deeply flawed.

Joining me now with a solution, Danielle Allen. She leads an all-star group of social scientist and public health experts who are intensely studying the COVID response and offering recommendations on best practices. Allen is the director of the Edmond Southwest Center for Ethics at Harvard University where she is a professor.

Welcome, Danielle. Let me ask you if I may to start by explaining how do you get around a problem that Bill Gates talked about on this program and others right from the start which is, you need a national lockdown to make this work, you need a national strategy for testing, you need national standards? And yet in the United States, power has devolved. I mean, there's something like 2,500 different units that have some authority over health care, obviously 50 states.

What does one do?

DANIELLE ALLEN, PROFESSOR OF GOVERNMENT, HARVARD UNIVERSITY: Good morning, Fareed. Thank you so much for your important question. So let me start by saying, yes, we need a national strategy, national lockdown, we needed it only in the very beginning when we really didn't know what was hitting.


It's really important that responses be tailored jurisdiction to jurisdiction according to the incidence levels of COVID. So we can now see that there are places that are at near zero incidents and there are more places that are over 25 new daily cases per 100,000 people. Those places that we would call in red zones should be going back to stay-at-home orders. But that's not true for the places that are at near zero case incidents.

So we need a national strategy of suppression. Mitigation is not good enough. Mitigation is what we've been consistently talking about. That just means slowing the spread. Flattening the curve some, that plateau that we saw for a while, that's just flattening the curve. What we need to do is break the chain, get back down to near-zero case incidence for the entire country. That's what every successful country has achieved.

We can do it, but it does require focus on getting to zero, it requires seeing the different incidence levels in different jurisdictions and tailoring policy appropriately.

ZAKARIA: And how do you do that particularly with regard to the testing and tracing? You say in your report that is the key, that the only way you can reopen the economy is by having a testing and tracing system in place.

ALLEN: Exactly. We need what we call a TTSI infrastructure, sort of like building interstates. You've just got to have that infrastructure to deliver the goods and resources that we need as a community. So there are two parts. There's what the states do. And it's not true that we haven't made progress from March as Dr. Emanuel said. In fact, states have made remarkable progress in many instances building that infrastructure. It's not everywhere. We need to get that infrastructure everywhere.

The second thing, we need to solve the testing supply chain problems. We have six categories of lab in this country that could be supporting a full buildout of TTSI infrastructure. We have only maximally activated two of those categories of lab. We have activated state public health labs and we have activated the commercial clinical labs. The LabCorp's and the Quest's and so forth.

We have only partially activated our hospital labs. We have barely activated our university research labs. Our commercial nonclinical labs and our veterinary labs. Germany made great use of veterinary labs. That's often surprising to people. So in order to maximize all of our capacity, we have to scale up beyond the state level. We really do need a solution that's at a higher level than state because it's a scaling problem.

So what we are recommending is interstate compacts. An interstate compact is a coalition of states that's formally blessed by Congress and then Congress can directly fund that compact. The New York, New Jersey port authority is an example of interstate compact. A group of states solving a complex problem that has to be solved at a higher scale level within the state, but the states need the on-the-ground knowledge (INAUDIBLE) kind of problem.

So you use a compact for that. Congress can fund it directly. We also use compacts for emergency management, so every time there's a disaster, a hurricane or an earthquake, the states are in what's called an EMA compact. And that permits the federal government to direct resources and support that empowers the states to deliver on the strategy that the states designed.

So if we can have regional interstate compacts, we would then be able to do bulk orders for testing that could add a whole neighborhood of new testing to our capacity. This is hugely important because testing isn't just about the numbers of tests we do, it's about turnaround time. We can't actually do what we need to do with contact tracing if results take more than ideally 24 hours, 48 hours tops to get back to a person.

Currently with the spikes we're seeing across the southwest, it's taking the LabCorp's and the Quest's six to eight days to get results back. That's almost like not having testing capacity because you can't actually use it for contact tracing and to break the chain once the results are that slow. So we have to activate all of the categories of capacity we have. To do that, we need a scale that's above the level of the state, an interstate compact could help us achieve that.

ZAKARIA: I have to ask you, Danielle, when you lay out this extraordinary plan, how did you come to do this? You are a professor of political philosophy. You're actually trained in classics and ancient Greek and Latin. You sound like somebody who's got a fire in her belly.

ALLEN: Well, there are two things. I mean, the first was, I am very fortunate to be a professor at Harvard, and very early on, February and March, it was very clear to me that there were bodies of knowledge here in our School of Public Health and our School of Medicine, and our labs and so forth, that were not making it into the public conversation.

And this was very frustrating to me. So I've been sort of on a path, I call it liberate the knowledge, OK? We actually do know how to control this disease, we do have the capacity in this country. There are places in this country where people have figured it out. Massachusetts has laid out a really powerful impressive TTSI infrastructure.

ZAKARIA: I can't hear her, guys.

Danielle Allen, pleasure to have you on.

ALLEN: Thank you so much.

ZAKARIA: Next on GPS, China says its new national security law for Hong Kong applies to everyone everywhere. That includes me talking to you here on TV from New York City.


I'm about to interview one of the leaders of Hong Kong's protest movement. Tune in to see what happens when we come back.


ZAKARIA: A poll has been cast over Hong Kong ever since China imposed a new national security law there. Books are being removed from schools. Journalists are concerned that they could be arrested for honest reporting. Protesters have had their DNA swabbed by the police and ordinary people are worried about which of the people they talk to may be spies.


My next guest, Nathan Law, has been a leader of Hong Kong's protest movement and he fled the city after the law was passed.

Nathan, first, what is the atmosphere among the leaders of the protest movement among ordinary Hong Kongers right now?

NATHAN LAW, PRO-DEMOCRACY ACTIVIST: Well, of course people are worried because the national security law basically grants Hong Kong government, a sweeping power to prosecute political activists that they like to because while the law is written in a very thick form.

For example if you trigger hatred towards the central government or the Hong Kong government, you could be prosecuted but they have never defined what so-called creating hatred mean. It would be tailor made cases for a lot of political activists in Hong Kong and provide legal weapons for the government to conduct political persecution.

ZAKARIA: So the Hong Kong government says that the doom and gloom over the law is unfounded and that all nations impose their own national security over their territories so why shouldn't China. It also says the law was made necessary after outside groups inspired protesters to violently push for independence. What is your response to that?

LAW: The National Security Law in Hong Kong specifically talk at freedom of expression which none of the other national security law would restrain. On the very first day of its implementation, there were cases that suspects, they were just carrying flags or stickers that have the slogan of the protest song.

They were already arrested and the next day the government announced that the slogans off the movement are considered to be breaching the National Security Law. So you could you see that it is not targeting those so-called violent protester, but targeting the freedom of expression of people.

And they will prosecute you just because you are exercising your rights to speak so this is a fundamentally different thing in Hong Kong and they're using it as a legal weapon to really target peaceful protesters.

ZAKARIA: So what can you do, I mean the protest movement now, under these new pretty draconian conditions and what do you want the United States and other western countries to do?

LAW: For now, Hong Kong people are really resilient and tenacious. We have just had primary election for the pro-democracy camp and more than 600,000 people came out to vote.

This is actually astonishing figure given that the government has been frightening the people that this is illegal or even a primary election that may breach the National Security law which leads down to years of imprisonment.

So you can see Hong Kong movement is still pretty much still alive. For the western democracies and especially for the U.S., I've actually issued an open letter, urging the western democracies which have signed the extradition treaty with Hong Kong including the U.S. to suspended it in order to show that Hong Kong now we've got no rule of law so while signing this treaty will be inappropriate.

And also targeting, sanctioning and individuals who are responsible for the human rights violation in Hong Kong and also in China would be preferable for us because this is how we hold China accountable.

ZAKARIA: Do you think the world should boycott the Winter Olympics being - being - that will be held in China?

LAW: Yes, definitely. The world should reconsider whether our mechanism to hold China accountable is still effective. We can see for the past decades, China basically circumvented all the well inspection or well, any mechanism that hold China accountable.

So that they have countless and endless human rights violation. In China for an example, the concentration camp in Xinjiang in Tibet, the military intimidation to Taiwan, also what's happening in Hong Kong.

So Winter Olympic, Olympic where it's motto is not allowing such autocratic country to keep abusing its people and I think it is not right for us, for the world to still continuing your support to the Winter Olympics in Beijing in 2022.

ZAKARIA: You are in exile but I can't imagine, it would be very difficult for the Chinese government to track you. Do you worry about your own safety?

LAW: Well, of course. We all know that how extensive China's rich could be but for me my consideration is more than myself because under the National Security law, if we have any progressive international advocacy work that we have been doing for years for example, pushing legislation that could hold China accountable then we are submitted well, years of sentencing which it will actually limit the room for international advocacy work on the ground in Hong Kong.

So my leaving is more than my personal choice. It's a strategic move that I hope that I could keep my voice on the international level alive. So for me yes, indeed, I'm not in an extremely safe position but I will risk it in order to speak the truth to the world.


ZAKARIA: Nathan law, stay safe. Thank you so much.

LAW: Thank you.

ZAKARIA: Next on GPS, if the two-state solution is dead and Peter Beinart says it is then what is the next solution for the Middle East? Beinart has an idea, a controversial one and he will explain it when we come back.


ZAKARIA: Although the Trump administration's Middle East peace plan said its goal was a realistic two-state solution, most who know the region well saw quickly that such a solution wasn't really possible under that plan. For starters, the Palestinians have long said they need a significant amount of sovereignty and a significant amount of land to live in peace.

The plan offers them less of either than previous plans that had fizzled. So if the two-state solution is in trouble, what is the next alternative. Peter Beinart has an idea that was published in Jewish Currents where he is an Editor-at-Large. He's also a contributor at The Atlantic and at CNN.


Peter, let me start by asking you the premise of your - of your argument, is that the two-state solution is dead. And while people might feel like this administration has put forward a bad plan or there are other problems, I think are a lot of people who are still going to say no, the goal is still two states, Israel and Palestine, living separately side by side in peace and security.

Why did you come to the conclusion that that basic idea that you had believed in your whole life is now essentially dead?

PETER BEINART, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Fareed, I've been people say that the two-state solution is on the verge of death my entire adult life. In 1982, the former Deputy Mayor of Jerusalem who knew the situation on the ground better than almost all Israelis said that if there were a 100,000 settlers in the West Bank, it would be impossible to create a viable and contiguous Palestinian state.

There are now 660,000 settlers. Two of these Israel's Supreme Court justices live in the West Bank. It's second most powerful politician arguably, Avigdor Lieberman lives there. Israel built its newest medical school last year in the West Bank.

At a certain point, those of us who have supported the two-state solution and have been saying for years and years, it's on the verge of death as Thomas Friedman did in 2003, as John Kerry did in 2013, have to recognize that the egg cannot be unscramble and the price of continuing to imagine that there can be a two-state solution is in reality the acceptance of the status quo that leaves millions of Palestinians without the most basic of human rights.

ZAKARIA: And - and so the reality or that you're describing is the reality of continued Israeli occupation and settlement of parts of the - of the West Bank and particularly one should note the parts that are habitable, right? There are - there are large parts of the West Bank that are being given but a lot of that is desert.

BEINART: Absolutely. If you look at the Trump plan and even earlier plans, what you essentially imagine is that there would be a kind of archipelago of disconnected Palestinian town that might be connected by you know, tunnels or roads with Israel controlling the land in between.

That doesn't provide the basic dignity and opportunity for security and prosperity, the Palestinians like all people deserve and that's why I reluctantly, I have to say reluctantly after a lot of kind of soul searching, began to think about alternatives and as I read more and more, I began to think that there actually that equality could be a viable and even liberating alternative, not only for Palestinians but for Jews too.

ZAKARIA: So explain how that would work? One state with two - one state that encompasses all of Israel, the West Bank, even Gaza and normal voting for everybody, you know in other words everybody has the same vote in which case, what kind of government do you imagine?

BEINART: Well, it could either be one state that gave a lot of time autonomy to different regions where different groups live or it could be a confederation which would be two states, but allow free movement, a little bit like what you had in the European Union. I know it's hard for many people to imagine that a bi-national state, a state that encompasses two different national identities can work.

But it's important to remember that Israel is already up bi-national state. Israel control all the territory in the West Bank and even in Gaza where Israel controls who comes and who goes and what we know from political science research is that deeply divided societies are more stable and more peaceful when everyone has a voice in government.

That's why the violence in Northern Ireland stop when Catholics gain the to vote in government. It's why violence - the political violence in South Africa from ANC and others stopped when apartheid ended. I think that although a binational state would be messy and complicated and difficult in many ways, it would actually be a more stable and peaceful place for Palestinians and for Jews than one state in which millions of people lack basic rights.

ZAKARIA: So a lot of people would argue with you and have argued with you, the Times of Israel has a very long piece refuting your arguments and sort of one of the central arguments against your - your case is the Palestinians. You assume that the Palestinians would accept this.

You assume that the Palestinians would accept Israel, that they do not seek the destruction of the Jewish people and the Jewish state and you know, people are you there's a lot of evidence to the contrary.

BEINART: I think that the - again, what we know from other conflicts is that oppression produces violence and that justice and equality produces more peace.


And I actually think there's evidence of this is in Israel-Palestine too. Look at the Palestinian citizens of Israel or sometimes called Arab Israelis. They suffer significant discrimination but they have the right to vote. Violence against Jews by Israeli Palestinian citizens even though they have much more access to commit violence against Jews is very, very, very rare.

And I think that's because Palestinians are acting like others human beings. When you give people the right to express themselves in nonviolent ways by voting, by expressing their opinions; very, very few people want to kill or be killed.

And I think it's the dehumanization of Palestinians that unfortunately has affected Jewish discourse so much that prevents us from seeing that that's true about them too.

ZAKARIA: Do you think there are people who say this is kind of a fantasy, this is utopian, that it is just impossible to imagine something like this? How - how unrealistic is this? BEINART: It's unrealistic today but the two-state solution is also

unrealistic. Great moral changes almost always appear unrealistic early on before there is a vast movement for change. Look, at how Black Lives Matter, that movement in a few months has made things that seemed completely unrealistic, seem now politically possible.

The advantage of equality which is same message as the Black Lives Matter movement has brought to the U. S., the same message as the anti-apartheid movement is that it is a message compelling enough to produce a mass movement on the ground and around the world that can changed what is politically possible.

The two-state solution which now means a fragmented Palestinian state under Israeli control is no longer a compelling enough vision to bring about that movement for change.

ZAKARIA: You argue that - that some of the founders of Zionism would have been comfortable with this because you say what they envisioned was not always a Jewish state but always a Jewish home. Explain what you mean?

BEINART: Right. Today, we've come to think of Zionism and Jewish state as synonymous but really up until the 1940s it wasn't. If you look at some of the most important Zionist leaders, from Theodor Herzl to Ze'ev Jabotinsky to Ahad Ha'am, what they were talking about was a Jewish society, a Jewish society that could run its own affairs and be a refuge for Jews and rejuvenate the entire Jewish world, what I call a Jewish home.

I believe that that would be possible with this - with - with equality. Jews would still have enormous power and influence to secure our interests in one equal state. Why South Africans have done fine and they represent 12 percent of the population. Jews represent 50 percent of the population and are far more economically crippled.

I really believe that this Jewish society that continue to enrich Jews around the world, it could be a refuge for those Jews who are in distress and most importantly, it would not require us to oppress another people and deny them basic human rights, which is a system of violence that sooner or later will bring violence on us too.

ZAKARIA: Peter Beinart, pleasure to have you on.

BEINART: Thanks a lot.

ZAKARIA: And we will be back.



ZAKARIA: My book of the week is Toby Ord's 'The Precipice.' This is a startling, well-written book about existential risk. The author argues that we do not pay enough attention to the kinds of risks that could really end or drastically alter human civilization like nuclear weapons and climate change. He takes the reader through these risks and how to tackle them. Ord is

not a pessimist. He thinks human kind could live on for several billion years on this planet, end poverty and disease, invent fantastic new technologies. But to do all that, it has to ensure that we get off the edge of the precipice.

And now for the last look. When Mexico's president Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador visited the White House this week, he and Trump were all smiles. They are unlikely allies, one is a self-described leftist and former indigenous rights activist. The other a self-described billionaire and real estate developer.

But both are anti-establishment populist and it is this similarity that has undermined both their efforts to tackle the biggest crisis they face right now. The pandemic. Day after day, this week, daily Covid-19 infections reach new records in both countries. So how did it get so bad?

What populist governments tend towards cults of personality, viewing external crises as direct indictments on the leader. So Trump downplayed the virus, boasting in early February, we pretty much shut it down. The government of Lopez Obrador or AMLO as he is called, briefly published posters declaring, 'no es grave.'

In other words, 'it's not serious.' Of course, the primary principle of populism is the rejection of elites including experts. In the U.S., Trump has disagreed with his own government's advice on masks, testing and treatment. Similarly AMLO's government was slow to see the need for lockdowns, decried testing as a waste of time, effort and resources.

Brazil's right wing populist Jair Bolsonaro has become the poster child for mismanagement and denial of the virus. That is until he got infected this week. Months ago, Bolsonaro claimed that even if he got Covid-19, he wouldn't suffer much due to his athleticism.

He attended anti-lockdown rallies, challenged supporters to do push ups. Like the others, Bolsonaro dismisses experts and their guidance. The Center for Economic Policy Research found that Bolsonaro supporters have followed his lead in disregarding social distancing. So now Brazil has the second highest number of new infections behind only the United States.


Mass graves populate the countryside, an indication of an overwhelmed infrastructure. Bolsonaro, Trump and Lopez Obrador are seeing their approval ratings drop, causing observers to wonder if the pandemic will mark the beginning of the end of populism.

It's too soon to tell. Keep in mind the pandemic also brings about economic anxiety and polarization, the very climate that populists thrive in. Thanks to all of you for being part of my program this week. I will see you next week.