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Fareed Zakaria GPS
How They See Us, a Global View of Trump's America. Aired 10-11a ET
Aired August 30, 2020 - 10:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
BASH: The news continues right now.
FAREED ZAKARIA, CNN ANCHOR: It's has been a bad summer for the United States.
The superpower and leader of the free world has fumbled its response to COVID-19. Now America leads the world in COVID cases and deaths. Then there was the brutal killing caught on camera of another black man at the hands of police.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED PROTESTER: Hands up.
UNIDENTIFIED PROTESTER: Don't shoot.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ZAKARIA: The death inspired thousands and thousands of angry Americans to take to the streets. Meanwhile, the ugly political partisanship and deadlock in the U.S. gets worse by the day.
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DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: These people are clowns.
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ZAKARIA: On the world stage, President Trump has been running roughshod over the old rules just about every moment of this presidency.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: Many trade deals will soon be under renegotiation.
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ZAKARIA: Moving to pull America out of the climate change agreement, the Iran nuclear accord, and most recently the World Health Organization. He's upset traditional allies, though he has made some interesting new friends. So how does the world see us at this critical junction? Just two
months before presidential elections that will either keep Donald Trump in office for another four years or kick him out.
That is what we will explore this hour in HOW THEY SEE US: A GLOBAL VIEW OF TRUMP'S AMERICA.
We'll start the show with Tony Blair, the former British prime minister has been a loyal friend to America. How does he see the U.S. and the Trump era?
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TONY BLAIR, FORMER BRITISH PRIME MINISTER: What is it that America could do if it wanted to?
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ZAKARIA: Then relations between the U.S. and China are chilly at best. China's people have loved American fast food and Hollywood movies and technology. But how do they feel about America itself, its people and its president now?
Also, only six countries had confidence in Trump in a recent Pew Global survey. I will talk to an analyst in the country that gave the president the highest marks. Which nation is it and what is behind their trust in Trump? Then --
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: They're bringing drugs.
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ZAKARIA: Donald Trump has shown little love for Mexico.
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TRUMP: You really mean finish that wall because we built a lot of it.
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ZAKARIA: But the Mexican president was in Washington weeks ago, meeting and greeting and smiling. So just what does Mexico see when it looks at its neighbor to the north?
And the truly global perspective, U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet, will tell me why she's got her eye fixed on America.
Finally, I will offer my thoughts at this important juncture in America's story. Will the U.S. learn from the lessons of the pandemic or will the world witness a painful decline?
Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair has always been an indefatigable booster of America and an extoller of the world's need for America's presence. So how does he feel about America today?
Blair is the executive chairman of his eponymous Institute for Global Change.
Tony Blair, welcome. Good to have you.
BLAIR: Thank you, Fareed.
ZAKARIA: What is your sense of how people are looking at America and it's, less face it, hapless response to COVID, and thinking about this country that has always been thought of as the world's leading country, the most advanced country, the country which is able to tackle these kind of crises the best?
BLAIR: Look, I think most people around the world are sort of scratching their heads a bit at what has gone on in America and are surprised at how savagely it has been hit by COVID-19, by the response. You know, then obviously there's been a huge amount of coverage of the -- some of the disagreements and divisions within American society. And all of that is clear and true.
The only thing I think is important is always to emphasize is that whatever the issues are around American leadership on this or that issue, or particular American leaders, the general respect and admiration for America as a whole is still pretty strong for all sorts of reasons. America is going through a period of deep internal introspection.
But the capability of America to offer world leadership has not declined. You can argue about the will to offer it, but the capability still remains. And that capability I believe at some point will reassert itself because it's in America's interest to do so.
ZAKARIA: So then is this, to a certain extent the nature of, you know, the current leadership? And I ask you this question in the sense -- in a sense because Britain also has not done well on COVID. It also is currently headed by a populist leader from the party opposite to yours. And, you know, seemed to be skeptical about some of the scientific advice being given.
Is it as simple as just new leadership and America gets a new image?
BLAIR: Well, I think you have got to work out what you want to do as America at this point in time. But if you take a step back and think, what is it that America could do if it wanted to, it could rally the Western world, Europe, Japan, it could add to that India, much of Southeast Asia in saying we need a proper strategic response to the emerging power and more aggressive position of China and we need to rally together in order to provide that.
And we should do that not just in the basis of our interest, but in the basis of certain values, America could do that. It could say what this global pandemic has taught us is that we need to be prepared as a world for the next pandemic, and we have to create the capability and institutional capability, globally in order to do that. It could probably say in relation so climate change, we've got as good a chance as any in America and certainly in conjunction with our allies of developing the technology and science that will allow us to consume sustainably.
And it could probably be the leader of the process of modernization in the Middle East. So it's not that America couldn't do these things, the fundamentals of American power are still very strong. It's a question of whether America decides even as it looks at itself and tries to solve its internal problems whether it can then find the space and the bandwidth to also be able to offer leadership to the world.
ZAKARIA: What about American values and particularly in comparison to China. Is China -- does China pose a kind of ideological threat? You lived through the Cold War and people forget, young people particularly, that many people around the world saw the Soviet Union as representing a kind of ideological alternative to the United States and the West.
Do you think China presents that kind of an ideological alternative?
BLAIR: It is a really interesting question. I think it doesn't ultimately. I tell you what I think China does pose a challenge to, and that is what I think is the central challenge of democracy today, Western democracy, which is in my view essentially a challenge of efficacy. It is that our systems seem incapable of providing change in an area where the world is undergoing very rapid change, particularly the technology revolution, and we don't -- we don't seem to be able to master it and grip this process of change and make the changes within our society necessary.
One challenge the Chinese system does pose is the challenge of efficacy, you know, because of the nature of their -- the way their country is run, they take decisions, they implement them, and they implement them at speed. And usually with a fair degree of effectiveness. I'm not sure that amounts to an ideological challenge, and I think that in the end for all the thoughts in America or the U.K. and Western society, I think the basic values system that underpins that duty of Christian value system that underpins our societies is still very strong and very attractive to people.
You know, I always say to people that when I was prime minister going back now say 12, 15 years ago, and I would go to a country that wasn't a democracy, you would always have this conversation. The leader would say, well, you guys don't understand, you know, we're just not ready for democracy. I mean, but in time we will be. The assumption of the conversation at that point was eventually that's the gold standard and we got to get there.
What happens now when you go to countries that aren't democratic around the world is that they don't say that. Well, they don't say it in the same way. They say, yes, well, I know, you know, but, look at you guys. So that's what we got to fix at the moment. That's what we got to fix.
ZAKARIA: Is there an easy fix?
BLAIR: I think it's very difficult when your politics become as polarized as ours has become. And it's polarized to a degree that, you know, if you're not careful, you divide into two tribes the people who don't talk to each other, listen to each other, or much like each other.
Now, I -- you know, I always think the first thing you should do in politics is understand -- particularly if you've lost an election, understand why your opponent won. Whereas today, we, as I say, it's partly because of this relationship now between conventional media, social media, you know, denunciation is like the first thing you do and, you know, I -- when I listen to some of the debate around issues or people in politics, there is no sense of sort of how do we sit down and resolve our differences together.
I think it's really important always to remember that democracy has a spirit and not just a form. The form is you go to vote in an election or in local elections, national elections. The spirit is give and take. The spirit is not disrespecting people who disagree with you. The spirit is not denouncing someone who happens to hold a different opinion. And if we don't recover some of that spirit, well, that worries me. And I'm -- you know, I'm by nature an optimistic person and at the moment I'm mildly pessimistic about Western democracy.
ZAKARIA: On that somber note, Tony Blair, always a pleasure.
BLAIR: Thanks. Thanks very much, Fareed.
ZAKARIA: Next on GPS, the view of America from its main competitor. How does China see the United States after more than 1300 days of Donald Trump? That story when we come back.
ZAKARIA: Relations between China and the United States are worse than they have been in decades. Some say there is a new Cold War between the world's largest economies. It goes beyond Donald Trump. 73 percent of Americans have a negative view of China while only 22 percent have a positive view.
So what is China's view of America?
Let's get a perspective from Keyu Jin, a Chines economist who teaches at the London School of Economics. She joins us from Beijing.
Keyu Jin, Pleasure to have you on.
KEYU JIN, PROFESSOR OF ECONOMICS, LONDON SCHOOL OF ECONOMICS: Great to be here. Thanks.
ZAKARIA: So let me ask you, what was the image of the United States in China when you were growing up? You know, I realize that's a big generalization but from your sense in your -- in the world you inhabited, what was the image of the United States?
JIN: Well, first of all, I should say that the Chinese people were very impressed with things American. McDonald's that opened first in the '80s to Hollywood to American technology and innovation, and they would be giving a thumbs up to tourists, American tourists, showing up in China. So they knew they had a lot to learn from America at that time.
ZAKARIA: And as you know, in the United States, the views and mood toward China have darkened considerably in the last few years. Has there been a similar shift in China toward Americans?
JIN: Yes, there has been, and largely as a reaction to what they perceive as U.S. American truculence, mostly represented by the current administration. They are expressing their anger and frustration at the moment. They are incensed by the fact that the U.S. is uprooting their prized businesses like Huawei, who just made a splash at global markets, and they believe that there is a return of this McCarthyism, almost a political witch hunt to anything Chinese, whether it's students, individuals, companies or investment, and they are incensed by that. And that's the general public view. So there has been a radical shift with the current administration in the U.S.
ZAKARIA: What about the Chinese leadership?
JIN: That's different. Chinese leadership is understanding that it's important to be kind of rather composed, less emotional than the general public. They initially thought that making a deal with Trump was going to be not as difficult as it turned out to be. But right now they've written off the current administration, they're seeing beyond the present one. So what they're reacting now, their behavior, is more of a signal to the next administration than the current one.
There is absolutely no illusion that anybody harbors that the trial of strength between these two countries is go to be a long lasting one, so we hear of the words protracted war, a war of endurance kind of pulling out the revolutionary rhetoric, you know, of Mao, so they're standing ready to engage. They're standing ready to be more independent. But they do want to have dialogue and so that is the message, the signal they want to send.
ZAKARIA: Do you think that given the difference between these two systems, the United States, this big open messy democracy, China does have a one-party state, one that has become tougher in some ways over the last few years, is conflict inevitable?
JIN: No, actually, the Chinese people is very much against a potential man-made deliberate construction of Cold War.
This is not something that the Chinese people, nor the Chinese leadership wants. The Chinese leadership wants, if not collaboration, at least co-existence. If not a friendly relationship, at least mutual respect. And what they want to see is acceptance. Far more important acceptance that China as a big country and an important country is going to be an inevitable reality. So they want dialogue. They want to -- they want the acceptance that there are differences around the world, not just between the U.S. and China in terms of values, in terms of political system and cultural preferences, but differences around the world.
They want acceptance, and it's very interesting that as a student, the greatest thing that I learned in America is openness and tolerance. So some of us start to wonder, where is that in the spectrum of, you know, what we're facing now.
ZAKARIA: And talk personally about what it was like for you. You went to Harvard, you went to Harvard for under-graduation, you got your PhD there. Did you ever experience any sense of anti-Chinese sentiment while you were in the U.S.? I realized this is now, you know, a while ago.
JIN: Absolutely not. I along with others were the great beneficiary of American generosity that gave us full scholarships from high school to post graduate without expecting any service. So we were amazed at what kind of country is able to do that. And there were many students going to America at that time wanting to settle down, wanting to find opportunities there, and many of them had returned to China, bring back a wealth of knowledge and wisdom.
ZAKARIA: If you had to sum up your views about America in one word, is it anger? Is it disappointment?
ZAKARIA: All right. We will leave it at that. Keyu Jin, pleasure to have you on.
JIN: Great to be with you, Fareed. Thanks.
ZAKARIA: Next on GPS, only six of the 32 countries that Pew surveyed view Trump favorably. Can you guess which countries they are? I'll tell you when you come back and we'll hear from a journalist and analyst from the nation with the most positive views of America's president.
ZAKARIA: In January, the Pew Research Center released a series of polls that studied how the world views Donald Trump and America. While the majority of respondents from more than 30 countries viewed America favorably, less than a third had confidence in Trump. There were six countries, however, where the majority did express confidence in the current occupant of the Oval Office. Those were Poland, India, Nigeria, Kenya, Israel and the Philippines. That Asian island nation had the highest percentage of Trump admirers at 77 percent.
Joining me now is a Filipino political scientist and policy adviser, Richard Heydarian.
Richard, explain to us why does the Philippines topped this list of admiration for Donald Trump?
RICHARD HEYDARIAN, FILIPINO ACADEMIC COLUMNIST AND POLICY ADVISER: Well, the first element is, let's not forget, the Philippines was a former American colony and throughout the past six or seven decades the United States has been a pillar of the Philippines national security. In fact, the post war leadership of the Philippines essentially outsourced the Philippines' external security concerns to the United States and in fact time and again during one natural crisis after the other, including during the Yolanda or Hainan super storm in 2013, we saw America deploying thousands of its troops to help Filipinos in desperate need.
So back in 2013, there were more Filipinos who approved of America's role in the world than Americans themselves. So I think that has been carried over into the Trump administration. But to be clear, America's number also slightly went down under the Trump administration.
ZAKARIA: It mirrors a place like Vietnam, where now there is greater support for the United States because they want a positive role in the region. But what about Trump personally? Is Trump personally popular in the Philippines?
HEYDARIAN: Right. As you correctly pointed out, actually Vietnam is the other country that has a relatively high approval rating of President Trump and the U.S. in the region, and that's where we see anxieties about the rise of China and concerns about having the right balance to the rise of China and making sure that smaller countries in the region have some wiggle room and some room to defend our sovereignty. That's a major factor.
The other factor in the Philippines is that, well, this is a former American colony as I always joke, the leaf doesn't fall too far from the tree. And when it comes to the Philippines and the United States, I think both countries we see a significant amount of people having this kind of enthusiasm about strong man populist or right-wing populist. There's also this element of, let's say, being enamored with leaders like President Trump and President Duterte.
And by the way, President Duterte and President Trump also have a very good convivial relationship, and I think that contributes also to his relatively good numbers in this part of the world.
ZAKARIA: So do people when they look at Duterte, do they describe him as the -- you know, the Filipino Trump? Do people make this comparison in Philippine political commentary?
HEYDARIAN: Yes, that comparison has been a lot made, although, of course, people would joke that chronologically Duterte was elected ahead of Trump, so perhaps Trump is the Duterte of the West. But of course there is significant differences between the two individuals. Yes, both of them are political outsiders, but President Duterte actually had a long string of experience in Philippine politics in ways that President Trump never had in the case of the United States. But both of them have represented significant shocks to the country's foreign policy and democratic institutions, and I think that's where we see a certain degree of overlap.
ZAKARIA: And your mind this geopolitical issue which underlies how the Philippines is feeling about, Trump's tough stand on China, producing a greater sense of pro-Americanism or support for America in the Philippines and Vietnam. Do you think it's likely to grow in - with other countries, because the Vietnam and the Philippines have had issues, have had tussles with China in naval areas? Is this likely to continue?
HEYDARIAN: Yes, this is where things get a little bit more interesting. So, in fact, in the Philippines, you have people are critical of President Duterte, but actually like President Trump.
And one reason for that is, if you look at the U.S.-Philippine alliance from the Nixon administration to the Obama administration, there was tremendous amount of strategic equivocation on how far the United States is willing to go to assist the Philippines and apply the mutual defense treaty between the two countries in an event of conflict between Philippines and let's say, China or Vietnam in the South China Sea.
But under the Trump administration, we're finally seeing more clarity and more enthusiastic support, in fact, for Philippine claims, and Philippines's efforts to defend its territorial claims and maritime claims in the area.
In fact, last year, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo during his visit to Manila, he became the first ever high level American official, in fact, a highest level diplomat from the United States to say for the very first time that the mutual defense treaty between the Philippines and United States will apply to the South China Sea, specifically in an event that Filipino troops or aircraft or vessels come under attack in the South China Sea.
And that's where, ironically, the Trump administration is seen much more positively even by people who are critical of President Duterte and populism in general,
ZAKARIA: Fascinating, complicated part of the world. Thank you so much for helping us understand it.
ZAKARIA: Next on GPS, Donald Trump's 2016 campaign was strongly anti- Mexico and anti-Mexican. How do Mexicans view America and Trump after almost 2 million minutes of his presidency? The answer when we come back.
[10:35:00] DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I will build a great, great wall on our Southern border and I will have Mexico pay for that wall. Mark my words.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ZAKARIA: Well, we did indeed mark Donald Trump's words from his speech when he announced his candidacy in 2015. And neither of those promises have come true. About 300 miles of border wall have been built since he's been in office, but most of these miles just been replacements of sections that weren't up to par.
Only five miles of new border wall have been built, and Mexico hasn't paid for any of it. So how do our neighbors to the South feel about Donald Trump and America? Let us get the perspective of the former Mexican Foreign Minister Jorge Castaneda, a great intellectual who is also the author of a new book, "America Through Foreign Eyes."
Welcome Jorge. First, tell me we know that Mexicans don't like Trump. That part is easy and obvious. But do they make a distinction between Trump and America, and what do they think of America these days?
JORGE CASTANEDA: Well, I think first of all, Fareed, yes, Mexicans do make a distinction from Americans from the United States. Former President Obama had very high approval ratings in Mexico like almost everywhere else in the world, even though he did deport a significant number of Mexicans from the United States. So the distinction is absolutely there and I think it continues.
What Mexicans are disconcerted about the U.S. today is that it's attitudes on the pandemic, on the economic contraction, on immigration, on security, on international institutions are not really the attitudes, answers, that Mexico has become used to coming from the United States over the last 30 or 40 years.
ZAKARIA: What do you make of where the world is in terms of looking at America? I want to ask you this broader question, because, of course, you've written a book about "America Through Foreign Eyes," looking at people like you know Tocqueville and Charles Dickens and very famous writers who came to America. How do you think, someone Tocqueville or a Dickens coming to America today would view it and how different is it?
CASTANEDA: Well, what I can say how I view it, because I've lived in the U.S. for a very long time Fareed and worked on in part in the U.S. and I think my views are similar to others. That United States is more and more like other rich countries. That American exceptionalism is, for large extent, a thing of the past.
United States faces the same challenges, whether it's the COVID pandemic, or now the economic recession or contraction, whether its challenges having to do with violence, with addressing issues of race that have continued to plague the United States now for 400 years.
In a sense, you have a leader in the United States who looks a lot or acts a lot like Jair Bolsonaro in Brazil, or Erdogan in Turkey or Duterte in the Philippines. Well, that American exceptionalism of the past is sort of over. And I think that is something that a lot of people all over the world are really noticing for the first time perhaps today with the pandemic.
ZAKARIA: I was wondering how the current discussions that have centered around, not just Black Lives Matter, but the but the condition and treatment of the original Native Americans, how is that playing in Latin America? Because of course, Latin America itself has those issues of white European settlers and indigenous society, issues of justice and retribution.
So how is the issue of, for example, reckoning with Christopher Columbus or reckoning with the man like Woodrow Wilson, how is that playing in Latin America?
CASTANEDA: This is a country, the United States which for many, many decades, if not centuries, did not really have a sense of history, because it didn't have a history common to all of its inhabitants. Each sector of the society has its own history.
All of a sudden Americans are arguing, debating, sometimes fighting over a statue of Robert E. Lee, over the name of the Woodrow Wilson School at Princeton University where I studied and taught. Americans are arguing about Christopher Columbus and Columbus Circle. Americans all of a sudden are realizing that history is actually worth fighting over or fighting for.
ZAKARIA: And you see this kind of questioning and reexamination and renaming even as a sign of strength and confidence, not weakness and then decay?
CASTANEDA: Absolutely, as a sign of strength of American infinite capacity for reinventing itself. America reinvents itself every so many years and does so with enormous success, which inspires the admiration and respect that so many people have for the United States today in the world. But the last 200 years also we go back to history again.
What happened last week or weeks ago, and whether people feel that Trump's response to the pandemic has been the right one we can argue about. We can't argue about the enormous capacity for reinvention that America has, the enormous capacity for absorption of the best things the world has to offer. And then the United States transforms them and sends them back to the rest of the world. No country - for the moment at least, no other country in the world can do that, at least for now.
ZAKARIA: Jorge Castaneda, always a pleasure to have you on.
CASTANEDA: Thank you, as always.
ZAKARIA: Next on GPS, how U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet views the United States under Trump. She will join me when we come back
ZAKARIA: In the wake of the killing of George Floyd at the hands of the Minneapolis police, the U.N. Human Rights Council adopted a resolution calling on Michelle Bachelet, the former president of Chile, and current U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights to produce a report on systemic racism and violations of international human rights law against Africans and people of African descent by law enforcement agencies. I wanted to know how the High Commissioner was sees America's racial problems today.
ZAKARIA: Michelle Bachelet, pleasure to have you on.
MICHELLE BACHELET, U.N. HIGH COMMISSIONER FOR HUMAN RIGHTS: Yes. Happy to be with you, and have this opportunity, Fareed, to talk to you.
ZAKARIA: You spoke out on the issue of George Floyd's murder. And you talked about how it was important that the United States take serious action to address that kind of police brutality toward Black people. Do you think this has tarnished America's image in the world?
BACHELET: Well, first of all, I have to say that there's no country who is free of human rights violations. Every country has problems. And some - and many countries sometimes do have institutionalized racism or xenophobia and so other. So the real important thing is how the country deals with the issue when it arises.
And I think, of course, it's not a new thing. I think it was a minute for the American people, but also throughout the world to say, enough is enough and we need to do something real now to stop this from happening.
So I think if it brought an issue on something that was happening in the U.S., but I also think - and I think this is also very valuable - that in many other countries, they started looking at themselves and saying, do we also have race? Do we also are sort of celebrating former people who were becoming rich because of slavery, and so on.
So I think it's a big - it has become an issue that the world will be looking at how the U.S. solve his problems. And whatever the U.S. does, if it does it then goes in the right direction, it will also be leading the way for the rest of the countries to be doing things right.
ZAKARIA: So do you think the U.S. still can play that role of sort of agenda setting for the world? Because there are people who feel that this discussion in the United States, if it continues, and if it gets deeper, will broaden the conversation on all the kinds of issues you've been talking about - slavery, colonialism, the treatment of minorities and indigenous people. You've called for reparations, for example, not just in the United States, but as a kind of global thing to consider in all these kinds of circumstances. Do you believe that the U.S. can play a positive role in that respect?
BACHELET: I hope it does. You know, we will be pushing very strongly for the U.S. to go in the direction that needs to go. The Human Rights Council has given us the mandate to write the report and to present oral and written reports on what it's going on racism, to stop racism, why it's doing to stop police brutality. But I think on one hand, you still see people who are starting saying why their lives matter. And you have seen also, white supremacy groups.
But on the other hand, I'm hopeful that there's so many, many people on the streets, demonstrate and this is not acceptable, that I hope the U.S. and not only the U.S. government, the U.S. people will respond in a way that we can really end this racism, this discrimination forever.
ZAKARIA: Michelle Bachelet, thank you so much.
BACHELET: Thank you, Fareed.
ZAKARIA: And we will be back in a moment with my thoughts.
ZAKARIA: I want to conclude the special by giving you my thoughts. America is a strange country, at once amazingly dynamic and yet utterly chaotic. It can be an inspiration to the world for its values, but also a constant reminder of its own unresolved tragedies like racism. It has shocked the world with its generosity and broad mindedness, and also with its selfishness and isolation.
The quintessentially American poet Walt Whitman wrote, "Do I contradict myself? Very well, then I contradict myself. I am large, I contain multitudes." This has been the story of America and the world, sometimes a beacon of hope, at other times a picture of arrogance and aggression.
But what is going on now is something different from that age old tale. People are not shocked today, so much by what America does around the world, but by what America is. They are stunned not so much by the country's maligned qualities like racism, but rather its dysfunction.
The Irish writer Fintan O'Toole described the situation thus, "Over more than two centuries, the United States has stirred a very wide range of feelings in the rest of the world; love and hatred, fear and hope, envy and contempt, awe and anger. But there is one emotion that has never been directed towards the U.S. until now, pity."
Before we start shedding tears for America's weakness, let's keep in mind that the United States remains extraordinarily powerful along many dimensions. Its best companies dominate the world of technology. Its universities are the envy of the world. It's movies, television and music still set the standard for global popular culture. The world of social media is shaped and given force by Americans. But America is now crippled along one crucial dimension, it's government and politics are an international laughingstock. The country that could land men on the moon and bring them back safely, cannot put together a testing and tracing program that would compare with those in Vietnam or New Zealand.
Its political system is now so polarized and paralyzed that many of us fear the November election will ultimately be resolved in court, though with the real possibility that the losing side will still contest the legitimacy of the winner, and street violence could ensue.
What has happened? As with any complex historical phenomenon, there is no one answer. But ever since Vietnam and Watergate, America has lost faith in Washington. Ronald Reagan celebrated the idea that Washington was responsible for all America's woes. It somehow became the definition of patriotism, to love the country and yet hate its government, and that created a self-fulfilling prophecy.
As government was defunded and delegitimized, it became more dysfunctional. Then confirming the views of antigovernment activists. But beyond America, there's also a story here about the rise of the rest.
For a long time, America had a huge advantage. There were very few countries on the planet that had gotten their acts together. The United States, a handful in Western Europe and in East Asia that defined the advanced world. But over the last three decades, other countries, lots of other countries have become savvy at economics and politics and government.
Places like Singapore rival the best in the world for government. South Korea and Taiwan, once corrupt autocracies, have handled the pandemic with extraordinary skill. Canada and Australia have managed to combine an Anglo-Saxon cultural freedom with a caring and efficient welfare state.
Suddenly, America faces competition and goes well beyond China. The U.S. faces a choice now, it can either consider the pandemic awakened call, learn from its mistakes and other's successes and get to work and reform.
Or it can delude itself that it is still number one, that it's testing is the best, it's response has been amazing, its numbers are phenomenal. That latter attitude, of course, is the road to decay and decline. You see, once upon a time, the world needed to learn from America. Now, America needs to learn from the world.
Thanks to all of you for being part of this special edition of GPS, and I will see you next week.