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Fareed Zakaria GPS

Interview with Tony Blinken about Joe Biden's Foreign Policy; Interview with KT McFarland about Donald Trump's Foreign Policy. Aired 10-11a ET

Aired October 18, 2020 - 10:00   ET



FAREED ZAKARIA, CNN ANCHOR: This is GPS, the GLOBAL PUBLIC SQUARE. We; come to all of you in the United States and around the world. I'm Fareed Zakaria, coming to you live from New York.


ZAKARIA: On today's show the American election is just 16 days away. And one of the biggest divides between Biden and Trump is on foreign policy. And yet it has hardly been mentioned on the campaign trail.

I'll ask Tony Blinken, long-time adviser to Vice President Biden and former Trump official KT McFarland what their respective candidates would do in the next four years.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: If Biden wins, China wins, all these other countries win. We get ripped off by everybody.

ZAKARIA: Also, millions of Americans have fallen below the poverty line in a matter of months and there is no new stimulus in sight. Meanwhile, many big companies are booming. If you thought American inequality was bad before, you ain't seen nothing yet. I'll talk to the former Treasury secretary Larry Summers about the problem and the solution.

Finally, what, if anything, did we really learn from the Amy Coney Barrett hearings? Noah Feldman and Emily Bazelon are back with me to share their views.


ZAKARIA: But first, here's my take.

Pandemics should be the great equalizer. They affect everyone, rich and poor, black and white, urban and rural, after all even the president of the United States contracted the virus. But COVID-19 has actually had the opposite effect. Early indications suggest the virus is ushering in the greatest rise in economic inequality in decades, both globally and within the United States.

Despite all the concern about inequality within America, it's worth noting that global inequality, the gap between the richest and poorest around the world, had declined over the last few decades. Thanks to the rise of China, India and other countries. The share of people living in abject poverty, under $2 a day, is less than a quarter of what it was in 1990.

But an astonishing set of statistics compiled by The Economist shows how years of progress are being undone in months. The World Bank estimates that about 100 million people are fallen back into extreme poverty this year. Sub-Saharan Africa, which had enjoyed positive economic growth every year for the last 25 years, will enter negative territory in 2020.

The World Food Program, recipient of this year's Nobel Peace Prize, estimates that the numbers facing acute hunger will double this year to 265 million people. The Gates Foundation warns that vaccination rates for children are as low as they were more than two decades ago.

Behind all these statistics are individual human beings who are starving or sick. Their children wasting away, desperate and deprived of hope.

The divide between rich and poor is stark even in the United States. Two new studies estimate that between 6 million and 8 million people have been pushed into poverty over the last few months as federal relief has dried up. Millions of Americans cannot pay their electric bills or are skipping meals to save cash.

A recent survey found that almost 40 percent of those who have lost work due to COVID don't have even a month's worth of savings.

I put up some graphs a few weeks ago that I want to put up again because they really capture the economic hardship and divide. Job losses in the previous three recessions were pretty even between the top 25 percent of income earners in green and the bottom 25 percent in pink. But in the current recession the top 25 percent have bounced back completely while the bottom 25 percent have cratered.

Look that line. We can see how this has happened. For those whose jobs can be done remotely, bankers, consultants, lawyers, executives, academics, life goes on with just a few hiccups. For many of those who worked in restaurants, hotels, cruise ships, theme parks, shopping malls, work has simply disappeared.

The tragedy is that we know what needs to be done. In March, Congress and the administration acted swiftly and boldly to pass a massive relief and stimulus package which was so successful that it seems to have made many in Washington complacent.


It has now largely expired and the two parties are back to their partisan warfare. The Democrats are right to want a much larger relief package than the administration is offering. Cities and states should not be punished for the collapse in tax revenues that resulted from the pandemic. But surely the best path for the country is for the Democrats to accept the concessions they have extracted from Republicans and then push for more after election day. This week Wolf Blitzer pressed Speaker Pelosi on why she would not

take the administration's offer of $1.8 trillion in spending. Her response was defensive and combative. She unfairly accused Wolf of being an apologist for the Republican Party and she said the fundamental problem is --


REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA): They do not share our values.


ZAKARIA: But of course they don't. That's why there are two parties and you have to make compromises. None of this added up to a coherent position in a time of natural emergency. Senate Republicans, by the way, might well block what the Trump administration itself has offered. They've signaled great displeasure with the size of the package. But then why not pass the bill and put the pressure on Mitch McConnell and the Republicans?

I cannot help but wonder if the relative normalcy of life for elites has prevented us from understanding the true severity of the problem. Look, for those of us using Zoom, things have been a bit disruptive and strange, but for tens of millions of people in America and hundreds of millions around the world this is the great depression.

Can we please help them?

Go to for a link to my Washington Post column this week. You can also find a link to buy my book, Ten Lessons for a Post- Pandemic World, which I have drawn on for this commentary.

Let's get started.

We'll start today with what the next four years of America's foreign affairs would look like under a second term of President Trump or the first term of President Biden.

Let me bring in Tony Blinken, he has been a foreign policy adviser to Joe Biden for almost two decades. He's on the Biden campaign team. Tony served in the Obama administration as deputy secretary of State and deputy National Security adviser.

Welcome. Let me ask you first, Tony, we know what animates Donald Trump. He thinks that the world has screwed America, that it has gotten the short end of the stick from all these alliances and trade deals. What animates Joe Biden? What is at the heart of his foreign policy world view?

TONY BLINKEN, FOREIGN POLICY ADVISER TO JOE BIDEN: Fareed, Vice President Biden starts from this proposition. Whether we like it or not, the world simply doesn't organize itself. And until the Trump administration, the United States had played a lead role in doing a lot of that organizing, in helping to write the rules and shape the norms and animate the institutions that governed the ways nations interact. We made our share of mistakes along the way for sure, but we were better off for it.

What's happened now is that President Trump has abdicated that responsibility. He's put us in full retreat from our allies and partners, from international organizations, from hard-won agreements. And here's the problem. When we're not engaged, when we're not leading, then one of two things. Either some other country tries to take our place, but probably not in a way that advances our own interests and values, or maybe just as bad, no one does and then you tend to have a vacuum that's filled by chaos or bad things before it's filled by good things.

Either way, that's bad for us. So Joe Biden starts with the proposition that we need to reassert American engagement and American leadership. We would actually show up again day in and day out leading with diplomacy. And not to address the world as it was in 2009 or 2017 when we left office, but as it is and as we anticipate it will become with all sorts of rising powers and new actors. Many of them super empowered by technology and information that we have to bring along if we are going to make progress.

And two quick things here. And they're flipsides of the same coin for Joe Biden. On the one hand, a dose of humility. Most of the world's problems are not in the first instance about us, even though they affect us and we can't just flip a switch and solve them. But also confidence because he believes that America acting at its best still has a greater ability than any other country on earth to move others in positive collective action.

ZAKARIA: There is one area where it seems as though President Biden might be a lot like President Trump, and that is China. I know Trump keeps accusing Biden of being too pro-Chinese. But Vice President Biden has made very tough statements about China. It sounds like he basically wants to follow a very similar policy, just with allies and pointing out that if you use allies, you'd be more successful.


Is that fundamental divide you just described also true with what is likely to be the most important foreign policy issue which is U.S. policy for China?

BLINKEN: Fareed. there is a profound difference on their approach to China. But let's state this at the outset. China does pose a growing challenge. And arguably, it's the biggest challenge we face from another nation state. Economically, technologically, militarily, even diplomatically. But we've got to avoid simplistic labels and self- fulfilling prophecies. The relationship has adversarial aspects, it has competitive aspects, it has cooperative ones, too.

So the question is, how do we put ourselves in a position of strength from which to engage China so the relationship moves forward more on our terms than on theirs? And here's the problem. Right now by every key metric China's strategic position is stronger and ours is weaker as a result of President Trump's leadership. And Chinese leaders believe that four years of the Trump administration has basically accelerated what they call our inevitable decline. They're dead wrong about inevitability but they're right about

President Trump. He's helped them advance key strategic goals, weakening American alliances, pulling back from the world and so leaving a vacuum for China to fill, abdicating our values and letting China act with impunity in Xinjiang or Hong Kong. And maybe worst of all, debasing our own democracy by attacking its institutions, its people, its values every day and so reducing its appeal to the world.

So in many ways, as Joe Biden sees this, and the big difference is this, the China challenge is less about their strength, rising though it is, and more about our self-inflicted weaknesses. And so what he would do that's so profoundly different from President Trump is invest in ourselves, in our workers, renew our own democracy, work with our allies and partners and actually assert our values. And that that's how you engage China from a position of strength.

But the bottom line is this, Fareed, America and liberal democracy remain the system of choice for people who can choose and I think if anything what the last four years have shown is not their failure but rather how important they are to the strength of our democracy and the vitality of our leadership is to our own country and to the world. That's what we have to recapture and it starts with how we deal with China.

ZAKARIA: Vice President Biden, you were probably his adviser at the time, opposed the surge of troops in Afghanistan. If he was right then, isn't Trump right now to say let's withdraw American troops and get out? What is wrong with Trump's argument that we have been there for 20 years, at some point Afghanistan has to find a way to defend itself?

BLINKEN: Well, you're right that Vice President Biden opposed the surge during our own administration and he supports the diplomatic effort to bring this conflict to an end, to forge some kind of durable lasting peace that brings Afghans together. And he would pursue a draw down in that context. But he's also been clear that he would try to keep a small residual force in Afghanistan to make sure we have a place from which we can operate if al Qaeda or ISIS gain the capacity to strike us again.

But there's a, you know, big difference between ending forever wars what he wants to do responsibly and what seems to be President Trump's rather itchy Twitter finger that typed an all-out order by which Christmas to give himself a political boost before the election. That caught our own military by surprise. The chairman of the Joint Chiefs refused to endorse it. The folks who did endorse it were of course the Taliban.

One of them said that we hope President Trump will win election and wind up the U.S. military presence in Afghanistan. So that's the difference. We have to do this responsibly. We have to do it effectively.

ZAKARIA: Tony Blinken, always a pleasure to have you on. Thank you.

BLINKEN: Thanks, Fareed. Great to be with you. ZAKARIA: When we come back, a former Trump official on what happens if

Donald Trump is re-elected.



ZAKARIA: The Trump administration has affirmed that a second term of foreign policy under Trump would like his term be ruled by two words. America first. We invited President Trump's National Security adviser, Robert O'Brien, to appear on GPS today, but the White House declined our offer.

Joining me now is KT McFarland. She served as deputy national security adviser at the start of Donald Trump's term in office.

Welcome. Let me ask you a question about, you know, what to me is the kind of the biggest argument Trump has always made for his foreign policy, which is the world has been ripping off the United States and the symbol of that failure Trump always argued during the campaign in 2016 was the trade deficit.

Well, the trade deficit in 2016 when Donald Trump took office was $735 billion. It has gone up, not down, every quarter of the Trump administration's term in office. It is now $854 billion. So, I guess my question is, either by his own key metric Donald Trump has failed in his foreign policy, or he doesn't understand how the international economy and how the world works. Which is it?

KT MCFARLAND, FORMER DEPUTY NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: Neither. Look, I think it's important right now to correct a number of misconceptions. You know, Donald Trump and the people who work for him view the world in a very different way. It is really a tectonic change. And from what you and what other people have said, the impression is that there is no rationale to it, it's just all impulsive.

No, I think that's actually wrong. There are three motivating points that drive Donald Trump's foreign policy and the first one is you call it America first, but it's the notion that in the last -- since the post-war period and even the post-Cold War period that the United States has underwritten the global order because of our superior economy, our superior military, and that we should keep doing it.


Well, it's the understanding that that's no longer feasible with a trillion-dollar deficit a year and with allies who no longer need American support. These agreements, whether it's NATO or with Japan or with Korea, the security agreements or even the trade agreements, they were never meant to be permanent. They were never meant that the United States would pay for everybody forever. And now that these countries have succeeded beyond anyone's, you know, amazing beliefs that they might do, it's time for them to do their fair share.

And so that was the impression that President Trump took at his NATO alliance negotiations and with the Asian countries as well. That we would no longer subsidize or underwrite the security or trade agreements with our allies.

The second part of it, though, Fareed, is in the Middle East.

ZAKARIA: So then why is our trade deficit -- why does our trade deficit keep growing then if he's -- if he's succeeding at what he's doing --

MCFARLAND: But the trade deficit --


ZAKARIA: I don't understand. He said the trade deficit was a symbol of these bad deals. It keeps going up under him.

MCFARLAND: I don't think the trade deficit is the only metric by which you judge these things. I mean, we already have new trade agreements with Japan, with Korea, with Canada, with Mexico. We're negotiating with the British right now and the rest of the Europeans. And --


ZAKARIA: Right. And under those agreements the deficit keeps going up.

MCFARLAND: Well, I think you're -- you know, you've got a scab that you're picking, and that's the deficit. I'm trying to make a bigger point, which is that there are three motivating points to the Trump foreign policy and the first one is economic and the first one is the idea that other countries would contribute. I mean, for example, in NATO, our NATO allies are now going to contribute half a trillion dollars more to our common defense.

But the second point of this is the Middle East, that we have been for 20 years, and even since the 1970s, we have been in the middle of Middle East tribal ethnic conflicts because we needed access to oil, we wanted to protect the right of Israel to exist. Well, President Trump looks at that and says --

ZAKARIA: Tell me -- tell me the third one.

MCFARLAND: -- what if we have our own energy?

ZAKARIA: Tell me the third one because I want to get to a few other things.


ZAKARIA: Yes. China. So let's talk about China.


ZAKARIA: What is Donald Trump's view on China? Because he's sometimes sounds very tough on it, but 25 times in the early part of this year he lavished praise on China, on President Xi in particular for his handling of the coronavirus, in particular for his transparency. He said, I thank you on behalf of the American people.

What is going on? What is Donald Trump's view of China?

MCFARLAND: You know, I think the important thing about Donald Trump is don't always listen to what he says. He tweets a lot of stuff. He says a lot of stuff. Always watch what he does. And what he has done with regard to China is he's been the first American president to stand up to China in decades. You know, when Joe Biden was -- chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee when he was vice president, we could have stood up to China, we could have demanded a better trade relationship, and investment opportunities, but we never did.

And now -- and that would have been easy to do then. Now it's hard to do. And President Trump has stood up to them. I mean, he stood up to them for -- and called them out for unfair trade practices, for intellectual property theft. He's negotiated hard for a first trade agreement, a phase one presumably would be followed by a phase two after we're through the election and through a pandemic.

But I think the other thing is that President Trump has increased American defense spending. I mean, look what the Chinese have done in the South China Sea. They've claimed it as an internal Chinese lake, or you look at their own writings and their own -- they're quite open about it. They plan to replace the United States by mid-century as the dominant world power, dominant in trade, with the Eurasian trade route land base and maritime base route. They plan to replace the United States as the dominant communications power with a 5g network.

ZAKARIA: Can I -- can I --

MCFARLAND: And they plan to replace the United States as the dominant technology power. Your turn.

ZAKARIA: Can I get one quick response from you on Russia? In 2016 during the transition --


ZAKARIA: -- you wrote an e-mail that said, it's going to be tough to have a coherent Russia policy because Russia threw the election to Donald Trump. Do you still believe that?

MCFARLAND: I think you're quoting that a little bit out of context. I don't know what your sources are. But the e-mail that I wrote was that it would be very difficult to improve relations with the Russians if the country perceived that we had -- that they had thrown the election to Donald Trump. And I think that's been borne out.

Look, I don't know where you've gotten your quotes from. I have got the original e-mail, the FBI has. So, you know, that is taken out of context. And it's not what --

ZAKARIA: All right.

MCFARLAND: You're making it sound like the opposite of what I intended it for, and it was the opposite of how it was perceived by the Trump transition officials.


ZAKARIA: All right. Well, people can look it up and draw their own conclusions. But I want to thank you for coming on. It's been a fascinating conversation.

MCFARLAND: Thank you.

ZAKARIA: Next on GPS, the former Treasury secretary Larry Summers says COVID could end up costing the United States $16 trillion when we come back.


ZAKARIA: 2020 has been a tough year economically. But not for Amazon, which has seen its market capitalization increase by $750 billion to around $1.7 trillion. That has taken Jeff Bezos's net worth to around $200 billion. Meanwhile, vast swathes of the American economic landscape have been devastated by the pandemic.

How to make sense of it all and what to do about it. Joining me now is Larry Summers. He was treasury secretary under President Clinton, later served as president of Harvard University where he is still a professor.

Welcome, Larry.

Let me ask you first about this new study you've put out in the Journal of the American Medical Association where you estimate that the cost of this pandemic will be four times larger for America than the global financial crisis in '08, '09. And the number you put is $16 trillion. That is staggering.

LARRY SUMMERS, FMR. U.S. TREASURY SECRETARY, PROFESSOR, HARVARD UNIVERSITY: It is. And it's because the fatalities are a part of it. The disturbed, almost destroyed in some sectors, economy is part of it.

The fact is that for a lot of people who get COVID there are going to be serious follow-on consequences and there's a tremendous amount of anxiety and depression. And if you put a dollar figure on that, as best economists do, you get to a quite extraordinary sum.

And it points up the insane folly when this is costing us dozens of billions of dollars a week that we are investing so little in having a supply of PPE, and in having a competent testing regimen.

The cost of incompetence here dwarfs the human cost of the Vietnam War in terms of fatalities that could have been avoided, in terms of financial costs.

If we had run this as well as the average country has run it -- heck, if we had run it as well Pakistan ran the response, we would have saved in the neighborhood of $10 trillion. ZAKARIA: And do you think at this point it is still important to try

to get that testing and tracing system in place even if it involves spending a lot of money? It feels like there is still this follow-on cost that we are facing as these waves of COVID continue --

SUMMERS: The sums --

ZAKARIA: -- to course through the country.

SUMMERS: The sums of money in testing, Fareed, are trivial compared to the sums, compared to the cost of premature fatalities by the tens of thousands. It should be a matter of the utmost urgency.

You should, in America, be able to walk in, get a test, and get an answer the next day that's reliable. No matter who you are, no matter where you are. The cost of that is not one percent of the $16 trillion that this whole thing cost us, not close to one percent.

Our failure is almost unimaginable as a country.

ZAKARIA: Now, describe what we should do in terms of the relief. It feels like what you're describing is something that will need the expenditure not just right now but over the next year or two of trillions and trillions of dollars more. Are you comfortable with that kind of expenditure?

SUMMERS: Look, Fareed, to be an economist for a second. The fact that we've got an interest rate that's essentially zero is telling us that the funds are available and they're not going to crowd out anything important. Instead, they're going to push the economy forward. All of the dangers are on the side of spending too little right now rather than spending too much.

What we should do right now is beyond any question. We should be starting a process of renewing our infrastructure with maintenance projects that can operate quickly. We should be supporting state and local governments so they can do things like health and education and protecting security on the streets.

And, yes, we should be helping the unemployed and we should be helping lower income families.

It cannot be that the highest priority in the United States today is lending money to credit-worthy corporations.

ZAKARIA: Explain why you think that we have this leeway because of low interest rates? Because there are people look at it and say yes, but still won't the interest rates change and we'll end up with a huge debt-to-GDP ratio. There are still lots of people who worry about can we really add $5 trillion to our debt.


SUMMERS: Fareed, it's always right to worry. But think about the situation of a person buying a house. You can buy a much bigger house on your income when the mortgage rate is 3 percent than you can when the mortgage rate is 13 percent as it was when I bought my first house.

And the same logic applies to the government. The government can afford to borrow more when the debt service is going to be so much cheaper.

ZAKARIA: Do you worry that this will cause the dollar to collapse? I'm now, again, giving you all the arguments against big spending that people are making. This will plummet the dollar.

SUMMERS: Fareed, you worry about everything if you're an economic policymaker. But for the dollar to collapse, it has to collapse against something. And I heard a wise guy say that Europe was a museum, Japan was a nursing home, China was a jail and bitcoin was an experiment.

That may not be exactly fair, but it captures a real truth. Which is for all our problems and all its problems, the dollar is the world's safe haven. It's the place that money moves into when people get nervous about the state of the world.

And as long as we don't screw up our political system even worse and there's certainly been people trying in the last -- including the president of the United States -- in the last few months, as long as we don't screw it up worse, the dollar's going to be okay.

ZAKARIA: Larry Summers, always a pleasure.

Coming up in a moment on GPS, the nomination of Amy Coney Barrett to be the next associate justice of the supreme court. After four long days of hearings this week, the senate judiciary committee will vote on Thursday.

Noah Feldman and Emily Bazelon will tell me what they learnt from the hearings when we come back.



ZAKARIA: The senate judiciary committee held some 30 hours of hearings this week regarding the nomination of Amy Coney Barrett to the supreme court.

What did we learn from them? Back with us are Noah Feldman and Emily Bazelon.

Noah is a professor of the Harvard Law School where he teaches constitutional law, Emily is a staff writer at The New York Times magazine where she also focuses on legal issue.

Noah, my question to you is what is the point of these hearings where the judge or to be justice never answers any questions? Essentially, says I can't opine on anything that might potentially come up before the court, tries to be as bland as possible. What is the point of it all? NOAH FELDMAN, PROFESSOR, HARVARD LAW SCHOOL, COLUMNIST BLOOMBERG

OPINION: Not much. It's a kind of kabuki theater. And it evolved slowly with the key point when Judge Robert Bork in 1987 actually answered the questions honestly and directly and so conservatively that he was rejected by the senate overwhelmingly.

And then the confirmation of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg where she said she would not only not answer questions but she wouldn't give hints in her answers or previews of what she might do. And that sort of enabled her not even to answer general questions about how she thought about certain kinds of cases. And since then there's no upside for the nominee in answering the questions.

And the senate hasn't had the guts to say well, if you don't answer these questions we won't confirm you. So we're in a kind of standoff and nobody learns very much.

ZAKARIA: Emily, in listening to these vague non-answers, were there tea leaves that you were able to read or that you drew from those 30 hours of hearings?

EMILY BAZELON, STAFF WRITER, THE NEW YORK TIMES MAGAZINE: Well, I think Noah is right. And we're at the point where I felt like I learned more from what Judge Barrett refused to answer than from what she did answer.

So, for example, she was asked whether there is a federal law that bars voter intimidation and she said she couldn't answer that. Well, there is clearly such a statute.

She was also asked whether the president has the power to unilaterally delay the election. And, again, she refused to say that the answer is clearly that he does not have that power both based on the constitution and on acts of congress.

And the second answer in particular troubled me in terms of just making me wonder if she is truly independent from President Trump. Because obviously, before this election this particular question about the president's power to delay the election just would have been completely uncontroversial.

ZAKARIA: Noah, have we gone down the right path? I'm trying to think about -- Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Scalia were both confirmed by the senate roughly 95 to two or three, or something like that.

In other words, the old model was if you're a distinguished jurist and if the president nominates you, whatever your views, you get on the court. That has not always been true but over the last decades. But that changed, as you say, roughly around Bork and the ten years after.

What's the better system? To have the senate vote on the basis of partisanship as it is now, or to simply have distinguished scholars of all kinds on the court?

FELDMAN: My own view is that we're much better served in a circumstance where one party in any case can't block the nomination by something other than a gotcha game. And I think that's reflected in the points that Emily was making.

The reason that Judge Barrett didn't answer those questions is that she is genuinely concerned that a case will come to the court about whether voters have been intimidated in this election or whether Donald Trump can or can't try to delay the election.

And she doesn't want anybody saying you can't vote on that case, you must recuse yourself because you expressed an opinion.


So the excess of caution that she was engaged in is not a product of her not knowing the answers to the question or not even of her somehow having some radically conservative view on those, it's a product of the fact that in this game she can't answer any questions at all.

And we're definitely not served by that.

So to my mind, the Bork precedent, though it kept a very, very conservative justice off the court and got us Justice Anthony Kennedy who turned out to be pretty liberal on some questions and in that sense it served the interest of liberalism and perhaps even the interests of the republic and the interests of the people who were benefitted by his liberal judgment, it didn't serve the system well.

It didn't give us a situation in which we get the justices confirmed who are going to do the best job.

ZAKARIA: Emily, talk about the new court. Because it does appear -- we know from her writings where she stands, and we know from some of Gorsuch and Aledo's writings, these are pretty conservative people for example, who have questioned the very idea that the president has the power to administer something like the EPA, the Environmental Protection Agency.

Arguing a very originalist argument that says this is -- you're stealing powers from congress. How radical is this new court going to be?

BAZELON: We're going to find out. I think you're right about the strikingly conservative strength of the composition of this new majority.

In the past in American history when the supreme court goes completely out of step with the American public, there's a lot of trouble. It really strains our constitutional system.

So in the 1860s you saw congress strip jurisdiction from the supreme court to hear cases about reconstruction and change the number of justices on the supreme court.

And then, of course, when FDR was president and the court was refusing to affirm parts of the New Deal, you saw FDR threaten to change the number of justices. And then the court itself, the conservative majority, pulled itself back from the brink. And so the question will be does this conservative court really take

free rein to radically change American law or do they see that if they're really out of step where with where the country is going -- because the country, demographically, looks like it's becoming more liberal, does the court pull itself back?

Because if it doesn't, then the elected branches will step in and we will see a real change to the way the court functions and its role potentially in our democracy.

ZAKARIA: Noah, I've got 30 seconds left. So I just want to quickly ask you. You know that famous line, the supreme court follows the election returns. There was a cartoon.

Do you believe that? Do you believe Emily's point that they might rein themselves in because of the political climate they see?

FELDMAN: I think if they were faced, for example, with a democratic president, a democratic senate and house they would think long and hard before issuing a decision that, for example, flatly overturned Roe V. Wade. Because they would know that that would be enough to put huge pressure

on the system to pack the court.

And that would not only flip the rulings they had made, it would rob the court of any power and legitimacy. So to that extent, yes, they're going to be clearly away of the way the election comes out.

And I think you will see that framing their judgments in the caution with which they reach them rather than the content of their decisions.

ZAKARIA: Terrific conversation. I should point out Noah Feldman has a great podcast, talks about the federalist society and all these judges. Please listen to that.

Emily Bazelon, Noah Feldman, thank you so much.

When we come back. Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu finds himself in a new political pickle since the signing of those Abraham Accords. We'll explain.



ZAKARIA: And now for the last look. This week, Israel's parliament overwhelmingly approved the peace deal with the United Arab Emirates formalizing that part of the Abraham Accord signed by the Israel, the UAE and Bahrain in a September ceremony at the White House.

The agreement was called a coup for Israel. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu can tout his expansion of Israel's diplomatic relations while also reveling in a new strategic nightmare for the UAE and Israel's shared enemy, Iran.

Plus the deal is expected to create economic opportunities and technology and tourism, fossil fuels and fighter jets.

But the deal has created complications for Netanyahu. After all, over the past eight months he halted the promise to annexation of the West Bank, an appeasing gesture to two Arab nations who have long demanded a path to Palestinian sovereignty before establishing relations with Israel. But Netanyahu had promised his supporters that very same West Bank annexation.

So as Israel's talks with the Gulf States drew to a close, leaders of Israel's West Bank settler community began to call the prime minister a liar, saying he betrayed them to reach a peace deal. Suddenly, he was stuck between promises made abroad and promises made at home. Netanyahu chose to appease his conservative base in Israel. He needed to keep them on his side. After all, he already faces three separate corruption cases though Netanyahu has insisted he is innocent and called the investigations an attempted coup by the left and the media.

Weekly street protests called for his resignation over these cases, his mismanagement of the coronavirus pandemic and high unemployment in Israel.

So while the UAE treaty was moving through parliament Israel moved forward with plans for nearly 5,000 new units in the West Bank according to the settlement watch group Peace Now.

The Palestinian leadership had always opposed the deal worried that any Arab conciliation would take pressure off Israel to work toward peace with them.


Every one of the nays in the 80 to 13 vote for the Abraham Accords came from Israel's coalition of Arab parties, the so-called Joint List. That group's leader declared that the peace deal amounts to merely a historic arms deal and one that accepts the Palestinian status quo.

Only time will tell whether Israel's new partners in the Gulf will have sway on this thorny issue, but those new settlements do suggest the path that Bibi Netanyahu, at least, intends to take.

Before you go, I want to remind you about my new book, Ten Lessons for a Post-Pandemic World. you can find a link to order it at

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