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Fareed Zakaria GPS
Biden Wins, Trump Refuses to Concede; The Future of the Republican Party. Aired 10-11a ET
Aired November 29, 2020 - 10:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
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 (voice-over): On today's show --
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We won by historic numbers. We won Pennsylvania by a lot.
ZAKARIA: A president dishonestly denying he lost the election.
TRUMP: I won, by the way. You will find that out.
ZAKARIA: And in doing so, cracking the foundations of so many of democracy's most important norms and institutions. Is there any precedent for these un-presidential acts?
TRUMP: Almost 74 million votes.
ZAKARIA: I have great panel of historians to discuss that, and the legacy of Trump's term in office.
And an eye-opening discovery that may save your life one day. A way to edit the genetic code itself. Newly minted Nobel Laureate Jennifer Doudna tells me about the promise of CRISPR.
ZAKARIA (on camera): But first, here's my take. More than 150 million Americans made their own personal decisions when they voted in this year's election, but it is now the unenviable job of commentators to explain the meaning of those choices.
At the broadest level it's fair to say that the vote was a repudiation of Donald Trump. Presidents rarely lose their bids for re-election. Only five have in the last 125 years and Trump has won as few electoral votes as his nemesis Hillary Clinton did last time. And he lost the popular vote by a larger margin than when Jimmy Carter defeated Gerald Ford in the wake of Watergate. And yet it's obvious that the country remains deeply divided. After an
impeachment, a pandemic, and the worst economic paralysis since the Great Depression, Republicans overwhelmingly voted for their party, and Democrats did the same. Polarization is now deep, tribal and existential, largely unaffected by events or job performance. In fact, as when things get bad in sports, it seems to have become a greater test of loyalty to stay with your team.
Democrats are more disappointed because they had hoped that this election would be one that resoundingly repudiated Trump and realigned politics. Those expectations were fed by their success in 2018 as well as pre-election polls which seemed to have been just about as inaccurate as those in 2016.
The largest disappointment surely should be that in a year in which Democrats fully embraced ideas about multiculturism and movements like Black Lives Matter, Donald Trump appears to have won the second largest share of the minority vote of any Republican since 1976 according to exit polls. He won the largest percentage of the black votes since 1996, but he still only got 12 percent. He won 35 percent of the Muslim vote.
What happened? There are probably many answers. Partly James Carville is still right. It is the economy, stupid. Many of these groups prospered during most of Trump's presidency and they seem unwilling to blame him for the handling of the pandemic and the ensuing economic collapse. To the extent that Democrats got associated with lockdowns and Republicans with reopening the economy, COVID-19 may have actually helped President Trump with some as well.
But my own interpretation of these results is informed by feelings I have always had about the Democratic Party's ideology of multiculturism. It lumps a wide variety of ethnic, racial and religious groups into one minority monolith and approaches them from a perspective that does not fit us all.
The dominant Democratic approach is that minorities face deep systemic discrimination in America and need to be protected with active measures by the government across a series of fronts. This idea is rooted in the experience of blacks for whom it is entirely applicable. America's treatment of blacks has been cruel with policies that have broken their families and treated them either as sub-humans or second- class citizens. Historical structural barriers have left a lasting imprint and discrimination still persists to this day.
Other immigrants to America almost all of whom came voluntary, not bound in chains, have had a very different experience. While we have also encountered discrimination and exclusion, we have found a country that on the whole has been far more open and receptive to foreigners than most other places. That means that an ideology born of the treatment of African-Americans will ring false to American immigrants and their descendants.
For us, harsh treatment by white Americans is not the single searing experience that shapes our politics. Some of us are socially liberal, others conservative, some view themselves as self-reliant entrepreneurs, others demand a more active role for government, and some seek to assimilate by distancing themselves from newer immigrants or blacks. Some of the most racist Americans I know are themselves minorities.
Even blacks vary much more widely on policy than might be imagined. A recent Gallup poll, for instance, found that only 19 percent of blacks want less police presence in their neighborhoods while 61 percent want the same amount and 20 percent actually want more. So slogans like "Defund the Police" pushed by the most woke activists on Twitter might unwittingly turn off mainstream African-Americans.
Let me give you a personal example to explain one minority mindset. Ever since I applied for a scholarship to colleges in the United States 39 years ago, I have almost always left blank the line on the form that asks for my ethnic or racial classification except when it's legally required as in the census. I just don't feel right piggybacking on tragedies that have affected blacks, Native Americans and others who have truly faced discrimination.
But most of you all, to quote a great American, I've always just wanted to be judged by the content of my character, not the color of my skin. The Democratic Party should remember that for many minorities our greatest aspiration is simply to be regular Americans, treated no worse, but no better either.
Go to CNN.com/fareed for a link to my "Washington Post" column, and let's get started.
Tuesday will mark four weeks since the U.S. election and former vice president Biden has passed 80 million in the popular vote and 306 votes in the electoral college which meets on December 14th. Just about every world leader with a few notable exceptions has congratulated Biden on his victory. Just about every legal challenge from the Trump team has crumbled and no credible evidence of widespread fraud has been offered. Yet the man sitting in the Oval Office has yet to concede and few senior Republicans have acknowledged the election's results.
How will history look upon all this?
Well, I am joined by three of the world's most eminent historians. Doris Kearns Goodwin won the Pulitzer Prize in history for "No Ordinary Time," an absolutely fantastic book about Franklin Roosevelt. Jon Meacham won the Pulitzer Prize for his biography of Andrew Jackson, "American Line." Meacham advises Joe Biden occasionally on major speeches and historical matters. Niall Ferguson has written histories of everything, from the Rothchild family to World War I to the British Empire to Henry Kissinger. He is now senior fellow at the Hoover Institution.
Niall, let me start with you and ask you, what do you think is the message in Biden being elected, Trump being denied a second term, but the Senate apparently staying Republican, the Democrats not doing so well in the House. Make sense of that. NIALL FERGUSON, AUTHOR, "THE SQUARE AND THE TOWER": Well, I am going
to disagree with your monologue, Fareed, which I know is very presumptuous of me. But actually what you said seemed to contradict itself. You began by saying the country was deeply divided and then you went on to show that actually when you look at voting, it cut across racial divisions quite clearly. And I'd argue this election has been the victory of the center running against a great deal of media commentary, some of it yours, that foresaw a constitutional crisis if not an outright civil war.
This election wasn't the 1860 election that led to civil war after Lincoln's victory. It wasn't 1876 when a bunch of states sent rival electors to Washington and the whole thing ended up being stitched up in a rather seamy deal. In fact, for me the most surprising thing is that you had highest turnout since 1900, both sides successfully mobilizing voters. But the country collectively voted for the center ground.
Joe Biden, the personification of the political middle, emerged just victorious, but a very narrow victory. In fact, by the standards of the Democratic Party, the narrowest and weakest showing since 1884 because every president since Grover Cleveland on the Democratic side has come into office with both Houses of Congress in Democratic hands and that seems likely not to be the case unless of course the Democrats can pull off a surprise success in the Georgia runoffs.
If you look at the way people voted, there clearly were Republicans who voted for down-ballot Republican candidates but not for Donald Trump. He underperformed the candidates for the Senate and House in a bunch of places. So I think the country actually collectively voted for the middle ground and repudiated Trump's more extreme positions. Ultimately people have had enough of him, at least enough Republicans for him to lose, and they also repudiated the more radical agenda of the progressive or socialist left of the Democratic Party.
So I'm really left in quite a cheerful mood in the wake of this result certainly relative to those people who predicted buy more America and the downfall of the republic.
ZAKARIA: Jon Meacham, do you look at it that way? What I'm struck by is the courts have held up very well. I think they've shot down 38 of Trump's lawsuits. But had it not been for a series of -- a small number of state Republicans who went against what the president was urging them to do, who went against what their party often was telling them to do, and actually chose to certify results or not entertain or indulge arguments of voter fraud, it could have looked somewhat different, or, you know, is it -- is Niall's sort of benign sense that the system worked actually the right way to look at it?
JON MEACHAM, PROFESSOR, VANDERBILT UNIVERSITY: Well, I think both are true, if I may, if I could offer an angle very briefly. I think that Niall's right. And I think the premise of your question is right. The rule of law has held just barely. But that's what human governments do, right? The framers understood that most of what we would want to do would be bad. I am an adherent to the notion that the Constitution is fundamentally a Calvinist document. It assumes that we're sinful and fallen and frail and fallible.
And so we are checking and balancing our appetite and ambitions. And in extremists, which is where many of us, including me, believe we have been in the last three years or so, four years or so, there were people who stood up and followed the rule of law, which is essential. And that, you know, in the line attributed to Churchill, you could always count on the Americans to do the right thing once we've exhausted every other possibility. And we came awfully close there.
I do believe that this was an election that, in my mind, has restored a conversation that dominated American politics between 1933 and 2017. And it was a figurative one between a position largely defined by FDR and by LBJ on one end, and on the other end by Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush. And then every president through Obama governed as part of that conversation.
The last four years have not been a sequential chapter. I believe that a Biden presidency will be a sequential chapter to that historical conversation.
ZAKARIA: Doris, does Joe Biden come in with a mandate? I mean, certainly not a mandate like FDR came in in 1932. But when you look at other ones, what does he come into office with kind of an ideological momentum terms?
DORIS KEARNS GOODWIN, AUTHOR, "LEADERSHIP IN TURBULENT TIMES": Well, I think the crisis provides him with a mandate for a hunger for leadership, number one. I mean, that was the hunger that brought FDR in. At FDR's time it was much easier. They say they forgot to be Democrats and Republicans because they wanted to respond to the crisis. But this is a huge crisis we're facing and I think there was a hunger and still will be for national plans to deal with it.
You know, what it reminds me of in some ways his possibility even more than FDR and the depression because he had a much larger mandate is when Teddy Roosevelt comes in at the turn of the 20th century. The similarities between then and now are so great. The industrial order was shaking up the economy much as globalization and the tech order have today. We had this huge gap between the rich and the poor.
You had people in the city who were being suspicious of people in the country. You had sectionalism. Teddy warned that people in different sections and classes were viewing each other as the other rather than as common American citizens, that kind of tribal politics we're seeing today. But leadership was able to come in at his level and argue for a square deal. And this goes back to what Niall was saying maybe. A square deal for the rich and the poor so long as rich act fairly, so long as the unions act with wisdom.
He was going to deal with the worst aspects of the industrial order and he was able to use public sentiment by mobilizing the press to pressure the congressmen, to do what they wanted to do. So if you take a look at that, and then I think you bring old LBJ in, and he realized you couldn't deal with just the leaders in the party. He brought every single congressman in in groups of 30 to the White House so they had an individual relationship with him.
Joe Biden is the kind of person who could do that. They had dinner then they'd go through the mansion, then they'd skip talking and have drinks.
And then he'd call them up the next day and never stopped calling them, even calling them at 2:00 a.m. So I think somehow the responsibility of the new president, he may not have that mandate out there, he's got to build one, build one through the individual congressmen and senators, below the McConnells, below the leaders who won't deal with him. He's got to make public sentiment force actions on the crisis that we need.
What Lincoln said, with public sentiment, anything is possible. Without it, nothing is possible. So there is movement and they've got to move forward and get that kind of movement from the outside in in order to be able to make a mandate even if it's not given to him right now.
ZAKARIA: Stay with us. We've got more with this terrific panel.
Next up, what happens to Donald Trump and what happens to the Republican Party?
ZAKARIA: We are back with an absolute all-star panel of historians. Doris Kearns Goodwin's latest book is "Leadership in Turbulent Times." Jon Meacham's newest is "His Truth is Marching On: John Lewis and the Power of Hope." Niall Ferguson's most recent is "The Square and The Tower: Networks and Power from the Free Masons to Facebook."
Niall, let me ask you about the Republican Party. And this is why I would persist in saying that the country is polarized. You have now by the latest polls 77 percent of the Republican Party that believes that this election was fraudulent and that Joe Biden stole it. You have a situation where Donald Trump is without any question the dominant figure in the Republican Party, even after having lost an election, which seems to me very unusual.
So in that context, why is it, in your view, if not for this, you know, rather extreme existential polarization, why are Republicans not, you know, acknowledging the results of the election from Mitch McConnell down to, as I say, rank-and-file Republicans who overwhelmingly now think this was a stolen election?
FERGUSON: Well, let's remember, Fareed, that many Democrats felt that way not only about the 2016 election, but about the 2000 election. So it's not like it's the first time that the losers have said the election was stolen. Democrats spent four years trying to find evidence that Vladimir Putin was responsible for Donald Trump's election, and failed to find it. So I think we shouldn't overexaggerate -- we shouldn't exaggerate what we are seeing here.
I think it's important to recognize that Trump was an extraordinarily charismatic political leader who was able to hijack the Republican Party in 2016. But he also was able to do it because he articulated policies that were popular, the anti-immigration policy, the anti-free trade policy, anti-liberal elites. He was able to channel a great deal of frustration in middle America. And it's not like that frustration has entirely gone away.
I think you're also right that the Democrats made the mistake of becoming the lockdown party which allowed Trump to campaign as the make economy great again candidate. But in the end, he lost. I don't think Trumpism is going to go away. I mean, I think the next generation of Republican leaders are going to have to meet the expectations of that extraordinarily mobilized base that Trump has created.
But I think, you know, in the end, and I'll go back here to something that Doris Kearns Goodwin said. I think we can understand all of this in the context of American history without having to look at Central Europe in the 1920s and 1930s. Trump is a populist. In many ways, he echoes the populism of the late 19th century. And if Trump refuses to go away politically, which I suspect he will, it will be a bit like William Jennings Brian who was the populist who refused to go away as far as the Democratic Party was concerned and was an unsuccessful candidate for the presidency three times.
Yes, Trump will doubtless seek to say the election was stolen, he should have another crack in 2024, but my guess is that the Republican Party's leadership, not only at the national level, but at the state level, is quietly planning to make sure that that doesn't happen. Publicly, they cannot denounce him, they can't disown him, because if he -- if they do that, he is going to turn on them just as he's already turned on FOX News. And that will be very damaging for the Republican Party.
A divided party never does well. So I think what we're seeing at the moment is the Republican Party establishment humoring Donald Trump all the way out the White House. And I think they will then make sure that whatever happens, he is not the nominee in 2024.
ZAKARIA: Doris Kearns Goodwin, has any individual ever dominated their party to the extent that Trump seems to now? Again, one thinks of T.R. who went out on his own. One thinks of Roosevelt, who in his fourth nomination didn't even attend the convention.
GOODWIN: Well, what's different today, obviously, is the media and the access to the media and the oxygen that it gives him with these continual Trumps -- these continual tweets by Trump. You know, when he is out of power and that oxygen isn't there day by day, I think there will be a diminution of the power that he holds over the other people in his party. The real question to me is you're going to have a lot of individual Republican legislators in this next section of Congress.
Are they going to feel the responsibility to do something about this crisis, to put people back to work, to produce a safety net under the people that are being hurt, to deal with the way the vaccine is being distributed? I mean, that's what you presumably come in Congress for, to do something to make a difference on behalf of your fellow Americans.
If they feel some sort of hunger to do that, you know, then maybe the desire to just make failure the answer so that two years from now they can win the midterm election will not win. And I think that's what we've got to hope on somehow.
You know, when FDR -- when my guy LBJ, not FDR, was trying to persuade Everett Dirksen to go with him on civil rights because the Democratic Party was split in two, he said to him finally, now, Everett, if you come with me on this bill and you bring Republicans with you to break our filibuster because our party split in two, 200 years from now school children will know only two names -- Abraham Lincoln and Everett Dirksen.
So we've got to hope that somewhere there are people -- some of these younger people coming into Congress who want to be other than just the say no party that they have been so far and government is necessary right now perhaps more than in recent years.
ZAKARIA: Jon, I want to ask something about what Niall said. Niall I thought said two different things. One, he thought Trump would fade away. But a lot of the ideas he represents were very powerful. I actually am more inclined toward that view that Trump's brand of conservative, socially conservative nationalist populism has remade the Republican Party. And that I wonder whether the conversation you were talking about, about sort of essentially less government or more government, is the big conversation.
The Republican Party seems to be now the party of Josh Hawley and Marco Rubio, and these people who are less interested in balancing the budget and cutting government spending, and more about being anti- immigrant, anti-China, anti-trade. Is that the future of the party?
MEACHAM: Well, unfortunately, it may be the future of American politics where culture and identity are at the center as opposed to more rational policy choices about which reasonable people can disagree given their understanding and interpretation of data and circumstance.
I think President Trump is the fullest manifestation of perennial not just American forces, but human forces. Nativism, isolationism, the -- all the isms that George W. Bush talked about in his last State of the Union. The populism that Niall was talking about isn't going away. It never has gone away. It's been with us from the beginning.
We had our first make America great election in 1800 when Thomas Jefferson wanted to return us to the principles of 1776. So that was 24 years in. And I think, as Arthur Schlesinger, our mutual friend, used to say, "The future outwits all of our certitude," I don't really think there is any way to know what's going to happen to President Trump. He could be Joe McCarthy fading away, but he also has done something that no other American politician ever did, which is come in from the outside, take over a party, rise to the pinnacle of power, and govern for four years.
And 74 million people or so looked at the last four years or looked ahead four years in fear of a caricature of the Democratic Party and said, yes, we want more of that. So we are a 51 percent country. Donald Trump understands that intuitively. And I think that we are in a political cultural moment, as Doris was saying, where the independent contractor, the independent actor, the disintermediated figure, as David Von Drehle argued so brilliantly four years ago, Donald Trump is the disintermediation of American politics.
And that's a cultural, economic, political, reality. And I think what you're seeing with the Republican Party right now with the Republican leadership is they are basically all participating in a kind of political hedge fund because they don't know either. They are hedging against Trump's ongoing influence or that of his children or his allies, you know. Trump has always been a franchiser, and so there may be Trump candidates as well as Trump Towers around the country going forward.
ZAKARIA: All right. Stay with us. When we come back, I will ask these great historians, wither the Democrats, what can Joe Biden learn from the past about healing a divided nation.
ZAKARIA: We are back here on "GPS" with our annual post-Thanksgiving panel of historians. Today I am joined by Doris Kearns Goodwin, Jon Meacham and Niall Ferguson.
Before I begin, I just want to do a factual point. Niall mentioned that Democrats also, after 2016, thought the elections were rigged. I just checked it. About 30 percent of Democrats thought the election was rigged or fraudulent. It is now, as I said, about 75 percent to 80 percent of Republicans who believe that. So I do think that is a difference.
But, on to the Democrats more generally, Doris Kearns Goodwin, this challenge that Joe Biden has of keeping the left and the center in line is a very old historical balancing act that -- that Democratic presidents have had to do, is it not?
DORIS KEARNS GOODWIN, AUTHOR: Well, not only Democratic presidents. In a certain sense, what Lincoln did by bringing in that team of rivals was to bring in factions from the different parts of the Republican Party in the north, radical, conservative and moderate, so they'd be around him every day, so he could absorb their understandings and he could reach out to their constituents.
So I think, as President-elect Biden figures out how to fill out his Cabinet, it will be important to have progressives within his inner circle, within his inner ear, so they feel that they are being listened to, and he really, truly can listen to them and try and figure out how to balance what they need, what the moderate needs and what can get through the Congress. You know, it may also be, as LBJ said, "It's better to have your
enemies inside the tent pissing out than outside pissing in."
But these are not his enemies. There's -- there's so much agreement, I think, on the part of the moderates and conservatives -- moderates and progressives -- on what should be done. And he's just got to walk down that progressive middle. And that's where -- that's where progress will be made.
ZAKARIA: Jon Meacham, you have helped Joe Biden craft some of his words. Is it -- you know, is it -- is eloquence enough? We had a very eloquent Democratic president not so long ago, Barack Obama. And Mitch McConnell was pretty obstructionist. Haven't we seen this movie before?
JON MEACHAM, AUTHOR: Well, the thing about history, of course, is we have always seen these movies before. We just...
... do all we can to make the ending happier, right?
There was never a "once upon a time" in American history. There's never going to be a "happily ever after." That's the nature of history.
Rhetoric is about action. That's the original Greek of the word -- Greek meaning of the word. And words matter, but words only go so far. You're exactly right. This is an enormously complicated challenge facing the incoming administration. I'd argue it's as complicated as, and Doris can check me on this, as '32, '33.
The good news, to some extent, is there is a tangible problem which can be addressed, the pandemic, and perhaps a competent, data-driven, reasonable response that manages to put the country back in a slightly more normal place will give him some capital to spend on other issues.
ZAKARIA: Niall, we don't have a lot -- lot of time, but I want to close with -- I want to ask you about your sort of optimism, which is do you think the world will look at this -- this election and America right now and say, "Fundamentally, this was an impressive demonstration that the American system worked, the rule of law prevailed"; or will it say, "Boy, the United States is in a very strange place politically, chaotic, you know, coming apart at the seams?" What do you think?
NIALL FERGUSON, AUTHOR: Well, it depends where you are. By the way, thanks for the fact check, Fareed, but I never said the same proportion of Democrats questioned the legitimacy of the 2016 election. Hillary Clinton did say it had been stolen. And that was a significant intervention.
Look, Europeans will say, "Hooray, the United States is going back to normal and we can go back to trans-Atlantic normality."
But I don't think that's the way it's going to look in the Middle East, where many people, particularly in the Arab world, will worry that the Obama policies with respect to Iran are going to be resuscitated.
I think the key thing to remember here, and it's important in the light of what my colleagues have been saying, is that Biden is not coming into office, as Lyndon Johnson did or Franklin Roosevelt did, with a massive, dominant majority in Congress.
Remember, you know, the Democrats had 68 Senate seats after the 1964 election. The most that Biden can hope for is to scrape a tiny margin out of two runoffs in Georgia and have Kamala Harris cast the deciding vote.
So I think what people are going to have to get used to in the rest of the world is that Joe Biden is not going to be a very powerful president. Indeed, the big danger for him, I think, is that he ends up being as weak as Jimmy Carter ended up being.
Why was that? Because Carter simultaneously had to fight a Cold War -- and I believe we are in a Cold War now with China, even if there's a chance of detente -- and at the same time to satisfy the left of his own party, which constantly snipes at him.
So I think the world is going to have to get used to a very different kind of presidency from Donald Trump's, but also a very different one from LBJ's or FDR's, whose names have been invoked today.
ZAKARIA: And we will have to leave it at that. Fascinating conversation with all three of you. I really appreciate it. Thank you, Niall Ferguson, Jon Meacham, Doris Kearns Goodwin.
We will be back.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GORAN K. HANSSON, SECRETARY GENERAL, ROYAL SWEDISH ACADEMY OF SCIENCES: The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences has today decided to award the 2020 Nobel Prize in Chemistry jointly to Emmanuelle Charpentier and Jennifer Doudna for the development of a method for genome editing.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ZAKARIA: What a moment for those two scientists. It was the first time an all-female team has won a Nobel science prize.
You may have heard of their groundbreaking discovery that brought them the prize. It is called CRISPR. And the easiest way to describe it is "genetic scissors."
CRISPR gives scientists a way to cut out parts of the DNA code, and then that code can be altered. Scientists believe that CRISPR may one day fix almost all genetic defects. It is being tested as a potential cure for cancers. And it might even help us bring back the woolly mammoth.
Nobel laureate Jennifer Doudna, welcome back to the show.
JENNIFER DOUDNA, 2020 NOBEL LAUREATE IN CHEMISTRY: Thank you, Fareed. It's great to be here.
ZAKARIA: So, first, the question you are going to have to get very, very practiced at answering, how would you explain to a lay audience what CRISPR is and why it's so significant?
DOUDNA: Well, I think your introduction was quite good. It -- it -- CRISPR is a technology for changing the code of life, changing DNA and cells in a precise fashion that gives scientists a tool to manipulate genes in ways never before possible.
ZAKARIA: So help us with a few examples. There is something like sickle cell anemia. There seems to be, you know, a -- a single DNA responsible for it. Explain what CRISPR could do.
DOUDNA: Well, sickle cell disease is a great example of where CRISPR technology could be incredibly beneficial because it's a disease that involves a single gene that contains a defective letter in the code.
And CRISPR can be used to correct that code mistake or even change another gene that allows the patient to recover from their disease. And -- and amazingly, this has already been done in a patient, Victoria Gray, whose sickle cell disease has been effectively cured using CRISPR.
ZAKARIA: And when we talk about genetics and, you know, these things that are linked to -- to genes, there are other things that are linked to genes, you know, being blue-eyed, being tall.
Can you imagine CRISPR being used to essentially create a kind of baby or, you know, human that one wants?
DOUDNA: Well, this has been a big topic in the whole world of genome editing and with CRISPR in particular, because of that potential. And so, over the last five years, there has been an active international partnership to ensure responsible use of genome editing, including in human embryos.
And right now that's effectively, certainly in the United States, is not allowed, and in other countries there is a strong regulatory framework that guides the way that it can be developed in the future.
ZAKARIA: But technologically, it is possible, given -- given the...
DOUDNA: It is.
ZAKARIA: ... the -- yeah. Tell me your reaction to what happened in China. A -- a scientist there essentially used CRISPR to create twins who were essentially immune from HIV, as I understand it. And then the Chinese scientific establishment came down very hard on him. And in fact, he's now, I think, serving a three-year jail sentence. Do you think that that is deterrent enough, or, you know, a lot of
people worry, look, this technology, once it's out there, someone is going to do it?
DOUDNA: The announcement was of course quite -- quite shocking to the international community and certainly to me, and -- and I think has really galvanized the effort to ensure that that type of irresponsible use of CRISPR does not happen again. And we have to proceed with caution.
ZAKARIA: If one thinks about the ramifications of your discoveries, I mean, you really -- human beings for the first time are being given the capacity to alter their very nature, their -- you know, their genetic code. There is nothing that seemed more immutable than that. And now it seems we can change it.
I mean, is there -- is this -- it feels like we're on a new path and you could imagine a world where we are -- you know, we are able to create biological supermen. Is that -- or superwomen. Is that too dramatic?
DOUDNA: That's a bit dramatic.
I don't think that's happening anytime soon. But you're right in the sense that it is quite an extraordinary thing to think that we, as human beings, now have in our hands a technology to change the very code that makes us who we are and -- and, for that matter, the code of other organisms that we share the planet with.
So I think it truly is a profound moment for biologists and an exciting opportunity that comes, of course, with great responsibility.
ZAKARIA: Jennifer Doudna, always a pressure to have you on. Thank you so much.
DOUDNA: Thank you, Fareed. Great to be here.
ZAKARIA: And we will be back.
ZAKARIA: And now for the last look. Those of us working remotely during the pandemic can probably all attest to the fact that it's possible to do more online than we ever imagined. The realm of the digital has extended well beyond video conferencing and e-commerce.
COVID-19 has forced us to see doctors online and to go to school remotely. All kinds of businesses have adapted to this reality. Hollywood premieres big-budget films on streaming platforms. Gyms are putting out YouTube videos. Michelin-starred restaurants have begun delivery services.
As I write in my new book "Ten Lessons For a Post-Pandemic World," the pandemic shows us that the technological evolution already started by the rise of smartphones and software is further along than we thought.
The pandemic served as a kind of forced mass product testing for digital life. And for the most part, our technological tools passed muster. When necessity dictated that we must live digitally, we found out that we could. It's unlikely that we'll ever go back to the way things were.
That has led to fears of a post-pandemic future in which people empty out of cities; work is increasingly remote; and human interaction becomes all too infrequent.
But this, too, is unlikely. Technology has many benefits, but we also lose a lot of the texture of human life when we conduct business via Zoom. It's useful in a crisis and it allows us to work well with people we already know in situations that are familiar. But new people, new ideas, accidental discoveries are all much more difficult.
On Zoom we spend social capital rather than building it up. Gone are the spontaneous interactions at the water cooler between colleagues that generate goodwill and morale and good ideas. Gone are the accidental meetings between students, professors and peers that are at the heart of learning.
We will end up with some hybrid model that uses the convenience of technology but also values the power of actual human contact. We all crave that contact.
And while the pandemic might have deepened our understanding of this fact, it's actually an ancient truth. Aristotle wrote in "Politics" that "Man is by nature a social animal." At the heart of his understanding of this term is the idea that human beings are unique creatures and that they are not fully formed at birth. They are shaped by their environment, and their environment is shaped crucially by other humans.
The pandemic, even as it has accelerated the digital revolution, has also highlighted its shortcomings. We need human contact. In other words, Aristotle was right.
For more of the lessons that I write about, go to CNN.com/Fareed and order my book "Ten Lessons For a Post-Pandemic World."
Thanks to all of you for being part of my program this week. And I will see you next week.