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Fareed Zakaria GPS
Trump Acquitted In Second Impeachment Trial; The Uncertain Future Of The Grand Old Party; COVID Case Rate Continues To Fall, Both In The U.S. And Worldwide. Aired 10-11a ET
Aired February 14, 2021 - 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): Today on the show, another judgment day in the Senate and another acquittal for Donald Trump. The former president's critics say it's yet another sign that American democracy is broken. If so, what can be done to put it back together and make it stronger?
REP. JAMIE RASKIN (D-MD): This cannot be our future. This cannot be the future of America.
ZAKARIA: I'll ask David Frum and Anne Applebaum.
Then the state of the pandemic. Caseloads dropping, new variants surging, meanwhile vaccinations are going slowly but steadily. What to make of it all? I will talk to Tom Frieden, the former head of the CDC.
Then America under attack. In case you forgot, the United States is still recovering from a massive cyberattack. "The New York Times'" Nicole Perlroth tells us why America is so shockingly vulnerable.
ZAKARIA: But first here's my take. Joe Biden has begun his presidency with great success. He's moved to address the central issue facing the country, the pandemic, and proposed big, bold policies to help the country recover. He seems to have learned a key lesson from the Obama years. The Democrats do well when they act with imagination and courage rather than waiting around and watering down proposals in the vain hope of Republican support.
But while the Biden administration has adopted a confident assertive stance on domestic policy, on foreign policy it's taken a somewhat different approach, hesitant and fixated on preemptively mollifying its Republican critics.
Now let me be clear. Biden's foreign policy team is highly intelligent and capable, and these are early days. But I do want to highlight some worrying signs. Ever since Donald Trump pulled out of the Iran deal, Joe Biden and his top advisers have made it clear that the withdrawal was a serious mistake, one that dramatically undermined America's credibility with the world and created a more dangerous Middle East.
The deal had placed Iran in a box imposing strict limits on its nuclear program. Without them, Tehran was moving ever closer to nuclear weapons. So you'd assume that once in office, the Biden administration would be searching for a quick way to return to the deal. No, it turns out. Both the secretary of State and the director of National Intelligence say that rejoining the deal is a long ways away.
They insist that Iran first come back into compliance, but that's largely a tactic to avoid confronting the issue. Diplomats could easily find a method for the two countries to rejoin simultaneously. Many of Biden's officials have negotiated the Iran Accord and argued strenuously it was the best deal that the United States could get.
Have they changed their minds?
On China, the administration has been falling over itself to prove how tough it is. The American read-outs from both Biden's call with Xi Jinping and Secretary of State Blinken's call with his counterpart, Yang Jiechi, sound less like diplomatic documents than pieces of performance art designed for a domestic audience. They're studded with words like coercive and unfair, and have stern vows to hold Beijing accountable for its efforts to threaten stability.
Now the Biden campaign described Trump's trade war with China as an unmitigated disaster that cost Americans money and jobs. When Biden was asked in an August interview whether he would keep Trump's tariffs, he answered no, and offered a wholesale critique of Trump's China policies. But they are not being reversed. It is all under review.
On Cuba, during the campaign Biden attacked Trump's policies and pledged a return to the Obama era effort to relax the embargo and engage with Cuba, arguing that these policies would be more effective in changing the island nation than the decades long policy of isolation and sanctions. But nothing has been reversed. Again, it's all under review.
Now one would have thought Biden and his advisers had already spent the past four years carefully reviewing Trump's policies since they publicly concluded that they were disastrous. I suspect Biden's foreign policy team is trying to play domestic politics, hoping to deflect Republican criticism of being soft on U.S. foes.
It won't work. Already Republicans have sensed weakness, and they are pursuing a campaign to keep the Iran deal from ever being resurrected, which would then be touted as a great Republican victory.
On China, Cliff Simms, a former top Trump official, responded to that tough read-out of the Biden-Xi call by suggesting that it was a lie and that the real story was the Biden selling out the country with Chinese Communist Party business deals. Meanwhile, the same day Mike Pompeo questioned the patriotism of Democrats and accused them of trying to funnel taxpayer dollars to the Chinese Communist Party.
Let me confidently predict that no matter how aggressive Biden's policies, Marco Rubio, Tom Cotton and Mike Pompeo will accuse him of appeasement. Democrats should keep in mind that when they run scared on foreign policy, they never win. Lyndon Johnson sent half a million troops into Vietnam for fear that Republicans would say he was soft on communism.
After 9/11 Democrats eagerly voted for the Patriot Act and the Iraq war. John Kerry was a war hero with three Purple Hearts and like Joe Biden voted to authorize the invasion of Iraq. In return, Republicans smeared him as a coward who had lied about his war record.
If you think about Barack Obama's foreign policy successes, the Paris Climate Accords, the bin Laden raid, the Iran nuclear deal, the opening to Cuba, the Transpacific Partnership, he achieved them because he was an unusual figure willing to question bipartisan group think in Washington, take risks and above all stop conducting foreign policy on Republican terms.
The Biden team is, as I said, highly capable. Many of them helped craft these policies. They should take pride in their achievements and, to quote President Biden, "build back better."
Go to CNN.com/fareed for a link to my "Washington Post" column this week. And let's get started.
The verdict in the second Senate impeachment trial of Donald Trump was as expected. Seven Republican senators joined their Democratic colleagues making the final vote 57 guilty to 43 not guilty, but that was not enough to achieve the necessary two-thirds majority to convict, so Trump was acquitted.
Where does America, its democracy and the Republican Party go from here?
David Frum was a speechwriter for George W. Bush and is now a staff writer at the "Atlantic" and the author of "Trumpocalypse: Restoring American Democracy." Anne Applebaum is a Pulitzer Prize winning historian whose latest book is "Twilight of Democracy: The Seductive Lure of Authoritarianism." She also writes for the "Atlantic."
David, let me start with you. You posted an article in the "Atlantic" last evening in which you said, while Trump is legally acquitted, he is politically condemned and quite badly. Explain what you mean.
DAVID FRUM, STAFF WRITER, THE ATLANTIC: I have a different view from many in the pro-impeachment camp. I think yesterday was as good a day as possibly could have happened. 57 to 43, not only did seven Republicans vote to convict, but so did Joe Manchin, a Democrat from a state that voted almost 70 percent for Trump in 2020. The total number was much higher than most people expected. I think few expected Richard Burr of North Carolina and Cassidy of Louisiana and Sasse and Murkowski and Collins.
By the way, those eight make up as many senators as filled all of John F. Kennedy's profiles in courage. I think it's important to note that this impeachment was consistently popular with the public unlike the Clinton impeachment. Only fewer than 25 percent of Americans say that Donald Trump did nothing wrong, 55 percent to 60 percent want to see him convicted and removed and agree with the impeachment process.
And Republicans face a tough math in 2022. It's not going to be their year. This has been -- was a tough vote for many of the pro-Trump members of the House. Finally, this result lifts the deterrence away from state and federal prosecutors who hesitated to pursue Donald Trump criminally. They now have a political light to go after him should they find evidence of crime. And he also has massive civil responsibility.
There may be some difficulties entering into any court. Senator McConnell's speech saying that Donald Trump was practically and morally responsible for what happened at the Capitol. But if you're an attorney representing a family that suffered harm on that day, you have some powerful evidence that the person you want to sue is the former president of the United States who advertised himself as having very deep pockets.
ZAKARIA: So, Anne, could this be a situation like Watergate? I remember, you know, I was in India growing up, and at the time there was the sense American democracy is broken. But after a while, people began to say, well, you know, the system did hold this guy accountable. It shows that the country can grapple with these issues, or is this too Pollyannish?
ANNE APPLEBAUM, STAFF WRITER, THE ATLANTIC: Remember that what happened on January the 6th was not Republicans attacking Democrats. This was a group of people who were attacking the system itself. They were there to prevent Congress from recognizing the results of the election. They were there to kidnap and maybe worse maybe attack or kill members of Congress. They were looking for the vice president who is himself a Republican.
They now represent an anti-systemic group inside the Republican Party. Not all Republicans are like that. Certainly not all conservatives. But they are a distinct group, and they have enough support, as we saw yesterday, inside the mainstream Republican Party to feel themselves, you know, recognized and to give them the sense that they can continue.
I don't think this was the kind of challenge that we faced during Watergate. We didn't have a part of the Republican Party attacking the very system, the electoral system, electoral officials the way that votes are counted. We didn't have anything like that then. So I do think that this represents something new.
I mean, it's not entirely new in American history. You know, we know it from the civil war and post-civil war eras, nor is it remotely new in democracies. Most democracies over the last 20 or 30 years that have run into trouble have done so not from coup d'etat, you know, from pictures like the ones we saw some days ago in Burma, you know, with tanks on the streets.
Most of them have ended or run into trouble because one or more political parties inside the system has turned itself against the system and has begun to see that or to judge that it can't win using the normal rules and that therefore the rules have to be changed.
ZAKARIA: David, isn't that a valid point, that the Republican Party seems to have become -- the simplest way to put it is anti-democratic because it seems to recognize that if it played by the rules, it does not have a majority so it does extreme gerrymandering, much more than was normal, it does voter suppression? It -- you know, it tries to rely entirely on things like the Senate, the electoral college, judges? You know, what do you think is going on there? You have been a lifelong Republican.
FRUM: Look, I think you are right. I think Anne is right about that point, that that is a corrosion. Donald Trump's plot to overturn the election depended on getting state legislatures to change the vote in their state.
And the legislatures he was looking to, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin, North Carolina, Georgia, look, in Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin, the majority of all the votes cast in state elections were for Democrats but the system converts 45 percent of the vote, which is what Republicans get, into a majority of the vote.
In Wisconsin, Republicans get almost two -- sorry, of the seats Republicans get almost two-thirds of the seats with 45 percent of the vote. And that didn't happen by accident. There was a great gerrymandering in 2011.
So after the Trump success, so I do think of this as a success, the next order of business for 2021 is to make sure that that kind of gerrymandering is rolled back. And here there is, as you said earlier, signs of America correcting itself. The movement for nonpartisan seat allocation is spreading.
Virginia is going to do it. Maryland is going to do it. This depends on state electorates working through the initiative and referendum process saying to the politicians, we want to choose you, not have you choose your own voters. So that's the task ahead.
And there is some other important democratic reforms that have to be done. I think maybe the way I look at the Trump -- without in any way minimizing and I have written a lot about the seriousness of what happened, this is also a tremendous opportunity for the United States.
This is like one of those accidents you have in the road that something snaps your adrenaline back and your focus back to say, you nearly hit a truck. You better pay more attention. But you're alive, you're well, the family is in the backseat, and you can keep driving and do better. ZAKARIA: Stay with us. Next, I'm going to ask David and Anne, what is
the fix? So now we've -- you've got our attention. How do we strengthen American democracy after seeing so many weaknesses?
ZAKARIA: And we are back with David Frum and Anne Applebaum. We are trying to fix American democracy.
Anne, I think I agree with what you are saying, that the core of the problem is that part of the Republican Party has become deeply anti- system, anti-democratic even. And so my question to you would be, how would you fix it? And is the problem -- how would you reform the Republican Party? And is the problem Republican leaders or is the problem really Republican voters, to be blunt?
APPLEBAUM: So those are actually two separate questions, and they require slightly different answers. I would start by looking around the world at other countries that have had far-right movements, sometimes far-right parties develop into powerful forces, and that the leaders who have been successful at beating them back.
There is one example in Austria, another example is Germany, where far-right parties were gaining in momentum and center-right leaders beat back against them by -- you know, sometimes by stealing their issues, by finding alternate ways to talk about immigration or about, you know, or about -- or about, you know, traditionalism in ways that were more centrist and moderate, stealing their voters and also by -- and by aggressively going after them.
In other words, the center right is going to be the main tool for isolating and, you know, isolating the far-right. And they're going to be better at it and more important at it than anyone else. So Democrats, centrists, people outside the Republican Party can say whatever they want. They are not the best messengers to reach Republican voters who might be in between. The best messenger going to be other Republicans.
And so in that sense, it really does depend on leadership. It does depend on, you know, responsible Republicans like the ones who voted to impeach Trump yesterday. Them trying to reach out to the party. And we've seen in other places that this can work. I mean, there is a second way of thinking about it, which is how do the centrists, how does the Democrats, how does Biden, how do they reach Republican voters who might again be on the line?
And the answer there is a little bit counterintuitive. And the answer there is probably to change the subject. So talk to them about the coronavirus. Talk to them about fixing the economy. Talk to them about, you know, locally, talk to them about roads and bridges and infrastructure. Don't talk to them about who won the election. Don't talk to them
about hot button cultural issues, culture war issues. Get them back into focusing on issues that we all share and we can have different opinions about, but at least we're within one single conversation.
That's the lesson from places like Northern Ireland or Colombia, places that have had really violent insurgencies and have had to cope with them, that the way back is not to increase the argument but to focus on issues that we can all argue about without killing one another.
ZAKARIA: David, I wonder about the hollowness of the Republican Party today and whether it dates back to something you described in your first book, "Dead Right." You pointed out that finally Reagan comes into office and this is the opportunity that they have been waiting for since Goldwater to cut government spending.
But it turns out they realized the voters don't actually want them to cut government spending. And that -- you know, at that point the Republican Party leadership realizes that they basically have to fool their voters. And it seems to me that everything that's been going on since then has been this problem, that the Republican leadership knows that deep down its voters want something very different than what they want to propose.
FRUM: And their voters have been shrinking. Republicans have lost a lot of the suburbs. The congressional district that was represented by George H.W. Bush, the district that was represented by Newt Gingrich, the district that was represented by Eric Cantor. All of these districts went Democratic in 2018. These are high earning, well- educated districts.
I think the answer to the question you posed to Anne about the future is to think about it this way. Think of yourself as an ambitious Republican office holder. You have two -- at a state level. There are two paths back to power. The easy way and the hard way.
The easy way is to simply rig the system in such a way that the people who don't want to vote for you, young people, people of color, poor people, that they're not allowed to vote, that they're prevented from voting.
The courts will let you. That's been one of the big changes since 2010. The courts will let you. So if you can do that, that's easy. You don't have to change anything. If we take away that option, if the courts changed, if the system changed, then Republicans have to win power the hard way, which is by winning multiethnic coalitions around the new issues of the 21st century. That takes thinking, that takes innovation. Obviously people don't like to work if they don't have to.
So make them do it. And if they are made to do it, they will discover as right of center parties have discovered in Britain, in Germany, in Canada, in Australia, that, you know what, there are a lot of multiethnic voters for your message. One of the most hopeful things for Republicans in this cycle was the discovery in the state of California. There is a majority in California, one of the most liberal states in the union against racial preferences.
That is what the Republican Party of tomorrow could look like, multiracial, multiethnic, facing new kinds of issues. But first they have to be told the easy way, the way of preventing people from voting. That way is debarred.
ZAKARIA: Anne, I have just a minute left. I just want to ask you your thoughts about a conservative party that has managed it seems to make this transition. Boris Johnson's Tory Party. The conservatives in England are probably the oldest and most successful party in the world at incorporating new trends.
I think you were once Boris Johnson's editor at "The Spectator." So do you think he's managed to pull something off here?
APPLEBAUM: I was his colleague, not his editor. The issues in Britain are a little bit different. I don't think that there was a significant, you know, part of the Tory Party that was ever anti- democratic. We didn't have the anti-systemic problem in quite the same way. But, yes, you're right. What they did was they stole the Brexit issue from the far-right. They put it at the center of the party, and they have -- and they managed to win elections that way partly because their opposition was so weak.
I mean, I do think the verdict is still out. You know, it will be a year or two before we know how people feel about Brexit and how they feel about what the party has done. But you're right, that was the tactic that they chose.
ZAKARIA: All right. We have to leave it at that. Totally fascinating conversation. Thank you both. We will be back. We're talking about COVID vaccines, variants with Tom Frieden.
ZAKARIA: We are in an odd stage of the coronavirus pandemic where there is good news and bad news, all at the same time. On the plus side, many people in many corners of the world are getting vaccinated and the COVID case rate continues to fall, both in the U.S. and worldwide.
On the negative side, vaccine administration is still slow, in many parts of the world, nonexistent. Further, the new variants are causing great concern about the coming months.
To help us make sense of it all, Tom Frieden joins me. He is the former head of the Centers for Disease Control.
Tom, welcome again. As always, a pleasure to have you on. And let me start by asking you about those falling numbers. So you see the death rates, the number of deaths in the U.S. falling. You see the number of cases falling. The R-naught, which is the, kind of, symbol of the rate of spread of
COVID is also now below one. Is this all happening because more and more people, at least in the United States, are getting vaccinated?
Or is there some other explanation?
TOM FRIEDEN, FORMER CDC DIRECTOR: No, I don't think, Fareed, the vaccine is having much of an impact at all on case rates. It's what we're doing right, staying apart, wearing masks, not traveling, not mixing with others indoors. Basically, we're getting over a -- a huge surge around the late year holidays, starting with Thanksgiving and on to the December holidays.
This essentially was an accelerator for the virus. And now cases are plummeting. They're coming down, followed by decreasing hospitalizations, followed by decreasing deaths. But they're still high. Our case numbers are still higher than they were at prior peaks.
So we're nowhere near out of the woods. And, really, Fareed, we've had three surges. Whether or not we have a fourth surge is up to us. And the stakes couldn't be higher, not only in the number of people who could die in a fourth surge but also in the risk that even more dangerous variants will emerge if there's more uncontrolled spread.
ZAKARIA: And what do you make of the -- the vaccination rates?
First of all, can they be ramped up much more now?
We have news that -- that we're going to essentially have 600 million vaccines by the -- by the end of the summer. Can we get to 600 million vaccinations?
And at what point will we see the -- the fact that large parts of the population are -- are vaccinated?
At what point will that start to drive things down, you know, to -- moving closer to herd immunity?
FRIEDEN: I think basically many states and communities are getting the kinks out of what is a really complicated vaccination program that didn't start well. It started with the federal government and the prior administration basically throwing the vaccines at states and saying, "You figure it out."
And now there is a collaboration to try to do this well, especially to address equity issues. What we're seeing is that black Americans are dying at two or three times the rate of white Americans of COVID. And yet they're getting vaccinated at about half the rate.
We need to do much better addressing equity issues in vaccination. The biggest challenge is the lack of supply. Currently, the U.S. is giving an average of a million and a half vaccinations per day, but they're only sending out about 10 million to 12 million per week.
That means nearly all that are getting sent out are now being used in often a chaotic and disorganized way, but they're being used. What we think will happen, if the companies do what they say they're going to do, is a big increase in supply over the coming weeks and months.
In terms of the impact of the vaccination program, what I think will happen is that, within the next few weeks, we'll see substantial decreases in deaths in nursing homes and people over 65. And that is an impact of the vaccines kicking in because they're quite protective.
But in terms of case rates, it will be many months before we have a big impact from vaccination on the number of cases. That's why it's still important to wear a mask and limit the number of people that you share indoor air with who aren't in your household.
ZAKARIA: You said in an interview with The Wall Street Journal that, you know, one of the things we have to do is we have to -- we have to recognize that we are in, kind of, in the five stages of grief. And we need to come to acceptance, and acceptance meaning, you said, life will never be the same again.
We will never go back to the pre-pandemic normal.
Explain what you mean, because that is a slightly ominous statement.
FRIEDEN: Well, I have a new piece out in The Wall Street Journal talking about what we need to do as a world to be safer. COVID has to remind us that we really are all connected, that uncontrolled spread of COVID or other dangerous viruses of bacteria anywhere is a risk to all of us, and therefore it's in all of our self-interest to work together to decrease that risk.
I do think things will be different after this pandemic. People realize that maybe they can work from home more; not all meetings have to be in person; there are things you can do without traveling.
And in East Asia people wear masks when they feel sick. That's a good idea. We have seen the curve of flu cases crushed by efforts to control COVID, and flu sends tens of thousands of Americans to the hospital every year.
So there's a lot we can do to be safer and healthier. But I think the biggest change, I hope, will be that we take much more seriously our global commitment to reduce the risk of epidemics and pandemics.
ZAKARIA: Tom Frieden, pleasure to have you on.
FRIEDEN: Nice speaking with you again, Fareed. All the best.
ZAKARIA: Next on "GPS," America the vulnerable. Why do we keep hearing disturbing news of cyber hack attacks? That story, when we come back.
ZAKARIA: Two months ago, we began to understand the devastating depths of a massive hack of U.S. government and corporate computer systems. American officials say the perpetrator of the so-called SolarWinds hack was Russia.
In recent days news has broken of a cyber intrusion that was much smaller in scale but in some ways more frightening. Somebody got into the water treatment system of a Florida town and attempted to boost the content of lye in the water to a poisonous 100 times its regular level.
My next guest says that the U.S. finds itself incredibly vulnerable to such attacks, especially at a time when many of the country's enemies have highly skilled hacking teams.
Nicole Perlroth reports on cybersecurity for the New York Times and is the author of a new book, "This Is How They Tell Me the World Ends.
Nicole, welcome. First tell us, do we still not know much more about that Florida attack?
NICOLE PERLROTH, CYBERSECURITY REPORTER, NEW YORK TIMES: We don't know much more. We don't know if it was a nation-state or a disgruntled employee or a teenager, even. We just know that someone got into the controls at this water treatment facility on a Friday before Super Bowl weekend just outside Tampa and increased the amount of lye in the water.
And thank God some engineer was sitting at his computer and saw his cursor move around and then saw his cursor eventually get into the controls. And, you know, if he had not been there, there might have been some additional sensors that would have picked it up.
But that is the target that we have worried about for a long time, these smaller municipalities that don't have the big budgets and security resources of a PG&E and have to allow engineers to remote into their systems to be able to monitor the balance of chemicals, make sure everything's running smoothly. But we've known for a long time that that same kind of remote access can be exploited by hackers.
ZAKARIA: What worries you the most about the SolarWinds one, which really is breathtaking in its scope?
What -- you know, what could the Russians do? You know, it seems as though they -- they are still in lots of American computer systems, right?
PERLROTH: That's right. So what worries me most about the SolarWinds attack is just how pervasive it is, the fact that they were in these systems for more than nine months before we learned about them, the fact that we didn't learn about them from the NSA or government; we learned about them from a private company, FireEye, a security company that itself was hacked.
And we discovered that the Russian targets had gotten into the State Department, Justice Department, Treasury, the Department of Energy, some of the nuclear labs and the Department of Homeland Security, the very agency charged with keeping us safe.
Now, they were in there for so long that they basically had nine months to plan additional back doors. And we are just at the very beginning of unwinding this attack. If it is indeed who we believe it is, which is a group of the SVR, Russia's intelligence agency, this group is very good.
About five, six years ago, they actually hacked into the White House and the State Department. And those who were responding to that attack told me that trying to get the Russians out of those systems when they knew they were in and when they'd caught them pretty quickly was the equivalent of hand-to-hand digital combat.
And I think it will be years before we can confidently say that we've kicked them out of our systems.
ZAKARIA: Now, some of this happens in response to our cyber attacks, to American cyber attacks, right?
I mean, the -- the Iranian stuff seems to have begun after the American-Israeli efforts to derail Iran's nuclear program?
PERLROTH: Yes. So, you know, 10, 11 years ago, we discovered the most stunning cyber attack in modern times. And that remains the most sophisticated attack we have ever seen. As you mentioned, the U.S. and Israel broke into an Iranian nuclear facility, used code to essentially decimate a thousand of their centrifuges.
Short term, we set Iran's nuclear ambitions back years. Some argue that even brought Iran to the negotiating table when it came time for the Iran nuclear talks.
Long term, it's been a disaster. Because, really what happened is, once that code escaped, once Iran had a chance to dissect it, once it showed the world the possibility for mayhem and destruction that could be caused with a cyber attack, every other government has tried to get into this scheme.
And Iran has really emerged from this, sort of, digital backwater into one of the most prolific cyber armies in the world.
Now, here I should stop and say the United States, bar none, remains the world's most advanced digital cyber superpower. But we are also its most targeted and its most vulnerable because we are so much more digitally connected and wired up than many of our adversaries like Iran, like North Korea. So they have seen that they have a real asymmetrical advantage when it comes to cyber attacks.
ZAKARIA: I -- I want you to -- to unpack that -- that initial statement. Are you saying that the United States, bar none, does the most cyber hacking of other countries, and then of course it is the most vulnerable as well?
PERLROTH: I don't know about the most. But I just know that it is the most sophisticated. You know, if you read our stories in the Times, we're constantly covering Russian attacks, Iranian attacks, Chinese cyber attacks. But rarely do we cover NSA attacks or attacks from Cyber Command. And it's not because we're avoiding that coverage. It's just because those attacks are so much more difficult to detect.
So just in terms of capabilities, both for espionage and also for the kind of destruction that they wrought at Natanz nuclear facility, the U.S. is the most sophisticated player at this game.
And we have relied for a long time on offense. We thought we could outsmart our enemies so long as we were better than everyone else and were the best at being stealthy and difficult to detect.
The problem is, is that the private sector owns much of our critical infrastructure. And they have been hooking up our water treatment facilities, our transportation, our air traffic control, the grid, our nuclear plants. They have been rolling software into these systems for a long time. And we are much more digitized than countries like Iran and North Korea, which makes us more vulnerable.
ZAKARIA: All right. So it sounds like we're just in for a lot more of this high-stakes cyber warfare.
Nicole, pleasure to have you on. Thank you so much.
PERLROTH: Thank you so much, Fareed.
ZAKARIA: And we'll be back in a moment.
ZAKARIA: My book of the week is "Losing the Long Game: The False Promise of Regime Change in the Middle East" by Philip Gordon. Gordon is a scholar of international relations who now works in the Biden White House.
He details how, over the decades, the United States has tried to effect a change of government in the Middle East from Iran in 1953 to more recent efforts in Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya and even Syria. None of them really worked. He speculates on why.
It's a first-rate work intelligently analyzing a complex issue and learning the right lessons from history.
And now for the last look. I'm about to show you some graphic video. But as difficult as it is to see, I want you to look at this 91-year- old man being brutally shoved and this 84-year-old man who died after being body-checked to the ground.
These two brazen assaults have some things in common. They were both in the San Francisco Bay area and both victims were not only elderly but of Asian descent.
Now, the motivation is not clear for these particular crimes, but they are part of a wider trend. Attacks against Asian-Americans appear to be on the rise since the pandemic, steeply in some places.
The FBI first began warning of a coming surge in anti-Asian hate crimes in March, according to an analysis obtained by ABC News. By the end of the year, more than 2,800 racist incidents, from shouting to spitting to striking, were self-reported to an organization that had been created during the pandemic to track and react to this growing problem. No such nationwide statistics were previously kept.
But according to a Pew research survey, six in 10 Asian Americans say that racism against them increased during COVID.
Now, national crime data has not yet been reported, but take a look at some extreme local examples. In New York City, the NYPD confirmed only one hate crime against an Asian in all of 2019. In 2020 there were 27 incidents. That is a 2,600 percent increase.
In Seattle, anti-Asian hate crimes doubled from 21 in all of 2019 to 42 through September 2020. Activists and law enforcement alike point to the same cause for this spike, the coronavirus -- more specifically, rhetoric that blames COVID-19 on the Chinese, most notably...
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
FORMER PRESIDENT DONALD J. TRUMP: Kung flu.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ZAKARIA: ... then President Trump's repeated references to the "kung flu" and the "Chinese virus."
Here's what the New Yorker staff writer said to me in May.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JIAYANG FAN, NEW YORKER STAFF WRITER: The most egregious incident was one night when I was taking out the trash and being called "a Chinese bitch." And that was actually, I think, hours after President Trump referred to the new coronavirus as the "Chinese virus."
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ZAKARIA: It is not uncommon in times of fear and uncertainty to seek out a scapegoat. Think back to the rise in attacks on Muslims and people who were mistaken for Muslims after 9/11.
But listen to the president and first lady condemning the rising hate crime during the pandemic.
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PRESIDENT JOSEPH R. BIDEN JR.: Our diversity has always been our strength. And I promise you, our administration will be guided by that truth.
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ZAKARIA: I'm glad that now we have a leader who learns the right lessons from history.
Thanks to all of you for being part of my program this week. I will see you next week.