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Fareed Zakaria GPS

Gaza Hospitals Failing Under Weight of War; Interview with Antonio Guterres; Election Polls Spell Bad News for Biden. Aired 10- 11a ET

Aired November 12, 2023 - 10:00   ET



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


ZAKARIA: Today on the program, an exclusive interview with the United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres. Guterres is the man on the hot seat right now. He's been on the receiving end of much anger from Israel. Meanwhile, many are looking to the U.N. to do something to help diffuse the situation.

ANTONIO GUTERRES, U.N. SECRETARY-GENERAL: Gaza is becoming a graveyard for children.

ZAKARIA: What can he do? I will ask him.

And the Democrats overperformed in this week's elections. But President Biden's poll numbers hover near record lows for next year's presidential race. I'll ask pollster Kristen Soltis Anderson to read the tea leaves.


ZAKARIA: But first here's "My Take."

Hamas's terrorist attacks against Israel and Israel's military actions in Gaza have unleashed a firestorm of controversy in the United States and Europe. Watching it all, I do wonder, does anyone believe in free speech any more.

Now to note, I have strongly condemned the attacks of October 7th and I think those that praise Hamas in any way are blind to the reality that it has been the principal opponent of a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian question.

But the question to grapple with is how to handle views that either side finds deeply offensive. And, of course, speech and assembly are not the same as physical intimidation and harassment, which prevent civil discourse.

Until very recently, most concerns about free speech on college campuses were related to conservative speakers from Ben Shapiro to Condoleezza Rice being protested or disinvited. Conservative state legislators introduced dozens of laws to protect campus free speech. In 2021 House Republicans started a campus free speech caucus to protect free expression and free association. In January of 2021 Florida Governor Ron DeSantis said the most important legislative issue to get right in the next couple of years was the protection of controversial speech.

Not anymore. Late last month, DeSantis reversed course directing Florida State University's chancellor to close down campus chapters of Students for Justice in Palestinian. DeSantis accused of group of giving material support to terrorism but as far as I can tell these groups have only organized protests and rallies.

As the GOP presidential candidate, Vivek Ramaswamy has pointed out, courts have made clear that verbal support for extremist groups is very different and constitutionally protected from sending money, material, or arms.

Other conservatives have tried to publicly identify and shame students belonging to groups that voice support for Hamas. A hedge fund manager proposed circulating lists of these students to ensure that they don't get jobs. Many donors have demanded that universities issue statements either condemning Hamas or supporting Israel. Some even insisting that certain rallies and speakers be banned.

Many college presidents issued follow-up statements when their original responses were not seen as sufficiently strong and said their support of Israel or denunciation of Hamas. This is all a far cry from where universities used to be.

In 1967 in the midst of the passions of the Vietnam War and the Civil Rights Movement, a report by a University of Chicago committee chaired by the eminent legal scholar Harry Calvin, eloquently argue that the mission of the university could not be fulfilled if the institution formally took positions on controversial political issues of the day.

The committee wrote, "A university, if it's to be true to its faith in intellectual inquiry, must embrace, be hospitable to, and encourage the widest diversity of views within its own community. It is only a community but only for the limited or the great purposes of teaching and research.

It is not a club. It is not a trade association. It is not a lobby. Simply put, the university is the home and sponsor of critics. It is not itself the critic.


The basic argument for free speech espoused by the Calvin report is that it is better to hear those who you violently disagree with than to ban them or silence them. That way debate happens out in the open, points are matched with counterpoints, the alternative is to drive discourse into the shadows and gutters of political life where it festers, turns into conspiracy theories, and often erupts into violence. Growing up in India, I read with wonder about the United States's

commitment to freedom of speech which was so strong that in 1977 a court ruled that a group of Nazis should be allowed to march in Skokie, Illinois, a Chicago suburb. In the 1970s, the Harvard Crimson- ran editorials praising Pol Pot's takeover in Cambodia.

I went to college in the early '80s and I ran, which was not unusual to hear incendiary views on campus, from communist revolutionaries to the Nobel Prize-winning scientist, William Shockley, who made crude arguments about the racial inferiority of black people.

In this century, I recalled very few colleges making official statements about the Iraq war or even the terrorists attacks of 9/11. We are now in a different world. In recent years the pressure on universities to take political positions has grown. A turning point might have been the murder of George Floyd.

When many institutions decided to demonstrate their sensitivity and issue statements, once they took a stand on one political issue, it is perfectly understandable that they've been also asked to condemn Hamas's attack last month. But where will it end? A pandora's box has been opened with every major political event, university administrators will have to decide whether to condemn or support it.

Will they find some standard by which they can explain why they denounced one terrorist attack or human rights abuse but not another.

I'm not sure what it signifies that many of us find the embrace of free speech outlined in the Calvin report to be too cold in its neutrality. We want our institutions to endorse our own passions and points of view. But can they do that in a diverse society in which people disagree so strongly on so much? I fear that far from bringing us together, the path we are on will drive us further apart.

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

There is an intense focus on the hospitals of Gaza as the International Red Cross warns that the health care system there has passed the point of no return. The situation at the largest hospital in Gaza, Al Shifa, is dire. The IDF says there is intense fighting in the vicinity and the director of the Hamas-controlled Ministry of Health tells CNN the hospital has no electricity and is surrounded now by Israeli troops.

Joining me with more is CNN's Nada Bashir.

Nada, Prime Minister Netanyahu just on CNN said that his suggestion and the Israeli government's proposal is that the patients in all these hospitals move, be evacuated to field hospitals that would have to be set up, I assume. There's I think the French have sent a floating hospital.

On the ground, how feasible is this? I mean, are there -- is there a capacity to take hundreds, perhaps thousands of patients quickly to places that can be set up? What are you seeing on the ground? NADA BASHIR, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, look, Fareed,

we've been hearing from health officials and doctors on the ground for some time now saying that it is absolutely impossible to evacuate some of these patients despite the fact that as you mentioned there quite rightly hospitals are either at the point of collapse or nearing collapse particularly across northern and central Gaza.

Now we have today heard from the IDF focusing in particular on the Al Shifa Hospital which is the largest hospital in Gaza. They have said that they have opened an evacuation route on the eastern side of the hospital. As we know some 600 patients are currently still at the hospital including more than 30 newborn babies and thousands of other civilians who have flocked to its hospital, hoping that this will be some sort of sanctuary for them where they could take shelter from the relentless bombardment.

But we have heard from the International Committee for the Red Cross. We have spoken to them directly. They say that cannot confirm that any evacuations have indeed taken place, and in fact we've been hearing from health officials and doctors on the ground who have described the situation as being dire.


They said that the hospital has faced near constant bombardment, have even described people around the outskirts of the vicinity of the hospital being targeted by live fire if they try to move between hospitals buildings.

Now the IDF has denied this claim but we have heard from other doctors saying that they haven't been able to even reach the bodies of people who have been killed outside the hospital because of that fear of fighting on the outskirts of this hospital complex. This is a large hospital complex with multiple buildings.

The IDF has acknowledged that fighting with Hamas is taking place in the vicinity. And as we know, as we've been hearing from doctors on ground, it's not just the ongoing bombardment that is a point of concern, that as you said the primary concern. Doctors from Doctors Without Borders again describing this as a constant barrage of bombardment focused on this hospital. But of course the situation in the hospital is dire to say the least.

This hospital was entirely run out of supplies and medication and we've heard from doctors say that they performing surgery without anesthesia. Just overnight they've had to move a number of babies, premature babies from the neonatal unit because they ran out of oxygen supplies in this unit.

This is a hospital that is most certainly near the point of collapse. But as we know, the vast majority of Gaza's hospitals have now completely closed down, are not operational. We have now learned of course in the last 24 hours that the Al Quds Hospital, which is the second largest hospital in Gaza is now completely out of service.

The IDF, Israeli government has continued to call on civilians to evacuate northern Gaza to move southward. But as we've heard from the U.N.'s own human rights chief saying that there is simply nowhere safe for civilians in Gaza to turn to. And so these evacuation orders, really are quite impossible for many, particularly those who are reliant on hospital care, who cannot move because they are dependent on the care they are receiving in these besieged hospitals -- Fareed.

ZAKARIA: Nada Bashir, in Jerusalem, I misspoke not in Gaza. Thank you so much. Stay safe.

Coming up next on GPS, my exclusive interview with the United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres. We will be back.



ZAKARIA: A graveyard for children. That is how Gaza was described this week by my guest, the United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres. He is just one of the U.N. officials sounding the alarm on the humanitarian crisis in Gaza. The human rights chief called it a living nightmare. The head of the U.N.'s relief agency has said hell is settling in there, and the leader of the World Health Organization told the Security Council on Friday that in the strip nowhere and no one is safe.

So what can the U.N. do to stop it? Secretary-General Guterres joins me now.

Thank you, Mr. Secretary.

ANTONIO GUTERRES, U.N. SECRETARY-GENERAL: It's a pleasure to be here.

ZAKARIA: Let me ask you to begin with, Bibi Netanyahu, the prime minister of Israel, was on just on CNN and he said, quote, "I'd like to see the U.N., the U.N. secretary-general who basically laid the blame on Israel, laid the blame on these savages to demand that they obey international law because Israel is fighting according to international law."

What is your reaction?

GUTERRES: Well, that's simply not true. I mean, in the U.N., if you face a situation that is as horrible and as messy as this is, you must stick to principles. And since the very beginning, I have condemned Hamas. What Hamas did is horrific. Terror attacks, slaughtering women and children, and I've been very clear in the condemnation of Hamas.

But there is a basic principle for me is that Hamas is not the Palestinian people. And you need to be able to distinguish Hamas from the Palestinian people. And so you cannot use the horrific things that Hamas did as a reason for collective punishment of the Palestinian people.

And then there is a second that I mentioned that I believe is very important. And what I've been saying has been completely distorted. And I've been saying, there are grievances of the Palestinian people. Of course, there are.

ZAKARIA: You said -- let me quote you. You said, "It's important to recognize the attacks by Hamas did not happen in a vacuum." So tell us what is the context --

GUTERRES: Of course there are grievances. Grievances related to 56 years of occupation and settlements being constructed. The evictions. The progressive lack of vote of the Palestinian people that there will be a two-state solution. But in the same sentence, I said, but none of these grievances justify the barbaric attack of Hamas.

And it's very interesting because when this is commented by the Israeli government or the ambassador, whatever, they put the first part of the sentence but they take out the second part of the sentence. And obviously, the barbaric attacks of Hamas do not justify the collective punishment of the Israeli people, and the grievances of the Palestinian people do not justify the barbaric attacks of Hamas.

We must stick to principles.

ZAKARIA: Do you believe --

GUTERRES: And another principle, if I may.

ZAKARIA: Yes, yes, yes.

GUTERRES: I mean, in the face of God, the life of any person has the same value, be it American, Portuguese, Israeli, or Palestinian.

ZAKARIA: Do you believe that the siege of cutting off food, electricity, fuel, and these bombardments, this is effectively collective punishment of 2.2 million people?


GUTERRES: Well, the truth is that we have witnessed in the Israeli response in Gaza and relentless bombardment and we are seeing a dramatic number of civilian casualties. And the international humanitarian law is clear. International humanitarian law forbids to take hostages, and I strongly, strongly appeal for the immediate and unconditional release of hostages by Hamas. And I've always been very clear on that.

International humanitarian law says that human shields should not be used by parties and I strongly condemn the fact that Hamas uses human shields. But international humanitarian law also gives a primacy to the protection of civilians, and this is what is not ethnic. You mentioned the graveyard of children that I -- that expression that I used.

Now as you probably know, every year I publish a report about children killed and maimed and used -- victims of conflict. And the countries that do it are listed. And this usually generates a polemic. Remember the past situations of Saudi Arabia, of Israel, of Russia, et cetera.

Now, in the seven years I've been secretary-general, in the reports that have been presented, the maximum number of children killed during one year by any party to the conflict was about 600. Six hundred by the Taliban in one of the years. 600 by the Syrian government and their allies in another of the years. If you remember, the polemics about the uproar about the Saudi bombardments in Yemen. 600 people in one year.

Now I'm not going to enter into this discussions about the accuracy of the numbers provided by the de facto authorities that exist this Gaza but it is clear that the number of children killed in a few weeks in Gaza is in the thousands.

Now it is clear that the protection of civilians, that is paramount in international humanitarian law is not paramount in the strategy that is being applied by the military operations in Gaza.

ZAKARIA: Why do you think the Israelis are not protecting -- are not making that a primary objective?

GUTERRES: I mean, because the logic has been in many situations to raise neighborhoods and I presume it is to facilitate the movement of troops or for any other reason. But the question is the protection of civilians that is required is not there. And then the second aspect, and it's not humanitarian law, is that you must guarantee (INAUDIBLE) access of humanitarian aid to all areas where the conflict is taking place.

And what we have seen until now is a drop by drop in the increase of humanitarian aid. After today we have about 900 trucks in this 22 days. 930-something trucks. Before, in the past, there were 500 trucks every day supplying Gaza. You can imagine what this means. In addition to water, in addition to medicine, in addition to food. And fuel is not authorized. And that is why in many hospitals you have problems with incubators, you have problems with dialysis, you have lack of anesthesia, and many other things that transform the situation into an extremely horrendous situation for the people of Gaza.

And as I said, you cannot make a confusion between Hamas, that you must condemn, and the people of Gaza that you must protect.

ZAKARIA: Stay with us, Mr. Secretary-General.

When we come back, I'm going to ask the secretary-general what the solutions are. How do we get out of this? How do we create some degree of peace and stability in the area? When I come back.



ZAKARIA: And we are back with U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres.

Mr. Secretary-General, when this Israeli campaign is over, first of all, let me ask you, how long has the -- has the Israeli government given any indication of how long this will go on? At what point will they feel that they have cleared out the space enough to feel like they've rooted out Hamas? GUTERRES: The only honest answer is I have no idea.

ZAKARIA: And when it -- when it gets done, presumably there will be the question of who governs Gaza. A lot of people want the U.N. to get involved at that point.

GUTERRES: Well, I think we need to look for what could be a best-case scenario. I mean, usually, politicians transform opportunities into problems. I hope that it will be possible to transform this problem into an opportunity.

The best-case scenario would be that reinvigorated Palestinian Authority would be able to assume the leadership also in Gaza. And then that Israel would accept to seriously negotiate a two-state solution with the support of the international community. That is the best-case scenario.

For the best-case scenario to be possible, the question of how does the military operation ends and how is the establishment of an authority by the Palestinian Authority is the complex one. And that is where a transition is necessary. I understand it will be very difficult for Palestinian Authority or for a group of Arab countries to come to assume responsibilities in Gaza in the presence of an Israeli army.


I understand the difficulty, politically to be very sensitive. So to organize the transition is something that is very important. And I have to say that there is a country that in my opinion has particular capacity and particular responsibility to contribute to it, and that is the United States of America. And I have to pay tribute independently of many other aspects, in relation to putting pressure on Israel for humanitarian aid to be delivered in Gaza, the U.S. has been consistently in support of that.

ZAKARIA: Do you think, though, the U.N. could play a part in that transition? Because you're right, I can't imagine that the Palestinian Authority or Arab countries would be willing to as if it were going on the back of Israeli tanks and say we are now the government of Gaza? Is there a role for the U.N. in a transition? Would you be willing to do something like that?

GUTERRES: I mean, I don't see a U.N. protector in Gaza. But the international community needs to come together, and the U.N. can play a part on that. The international community needs to come together to find a transition that is acceptable to Israel from the point of view of the guarantee of security of Israel. And I understand the concerns of security of the state of Israel. But at the same time, that allows for the transfer to an effective Palestinian Authority.

How this transition is organized, it's our problem at the present moment. I think it will have to involve the whole of the international community, of course the countries of the region, the U.N., the U.S. But it is essential to make it happen. And it is essential to take profit of this situation to finally create the possibility of a two- state solution. I don't believe there is any other solution. What will be a one-state solution with such a large number of Palestinian people inside that state without any rights?

That would be inconceivable. So the two-state solution is in my opinion the only way out. To build the two-state solution, Israel must understand that they have to accept it, which is not obvious at the present moment. But at the same time we need to create the conditions of a transition that gives Israel the guarantees that their security will not be put into question.

Now the models of our CNDH (ph) is complex. We have not a solution here just in the pocket. But I am ready to put the U.N. at the service of the international community for what needs to be a multi- stakeholder involvement to allow for the best-case scenario to be possible because the worst-case scenario, we need to avoid at all cost. And the worst-case scenario will be Gaza to be transformed into a permanent nightmare, the two-state solution to be buried, and the peace in the Middle East to be lost forever.

ZAKARIA: Do you worry about an escalation in Lebanon, in other places?

GUTERRES: I'm very worried. First of all, in the West Bank, where things are getting worse by the day and we are witnessing levels of violence that are extremely dangerous. But, of course, the most complex situation that we face is in relation to Lebanon. We have been very active in doing everything we can with those that can have influence over the parties, both Hezbollah and Israel. To make sure that having the level of --

ZAKARIA: Have you spoken to Iran? Because they have a lot of influence.

GUTERRES: I have spoken to Iran. And I've asked two things to Iran. One is to put pressure on Hamas, to have the immediate and unconditional release of hostages, and second, to tell Hezbollah you cannot create a situation in which Lebanon will be completely engulfed by this conflict because if Hezbollah will launch a massive attack on Israel, it might create I don't know what kind of impact. But one thing I'm sure Lebanon would not survive.

ZAKARIA: Do the Iranians seem responsive to that?

GUTERRES: I do not know.

ZAKARIA: They did not --

GUTERRES: They said always that they have nothing to do with what is happening but they say publicly there is a risk of this conflict to be extended. So, I mean, it is always very mysterious, the position of Iran. But we have talked to Hezbollah and we are in close contact with the Lebanon authorities. And as I said, we must do everything to avoid to an escalation of the confrontation that would be a massive offensive of Hezbollah with a massive response of Israel in which Lebanon would be completely destroyed.

[10:35:10] ZAKARIA: Final thought on -- you have lost 100 U.N. employees in Gaza.



GUTERRES: As of today.

ZAKARIA: Is it your sense that now U.N. personnel are out of harm's way?

GUTERRES: No, on the contrary. The numbers are growing by the day. You can't imagine what it is to run an organization in which 101 people that was working purely to help address the humanitarian needs of the people, 101 people being killed. And some of them killed with their families in their houses by bombardment. So this is very difficult for us. We will have across the organization, next Monday, one minute of silence, our flags will be at half-mast.

But, of course, I mean, I mourn all the Israelis that were killed by Hamas. I mourn all the Palestinians that are dying. But as you can imagine, I mean, we are a family. And we feel very dramatically those of our family that die and you can't imagine how difficult it is for me to tell our colleagues that they must go on in this very dangerous situation.

ZAKARIA: Antonio Guterres, thank you so much for joining us.

GUTERRES: It was a pleasure.

ZAKARIA: Next on GPS, we will talk to the former U.S. official and author Dan Senor about Israeli-American relations. How long can the United States continue to support Israel's actions in Gaza?



ZAKARIA: I'm joined now by Dan Senor. He's the co-author of a new book called "The Genius of Israel: The Surprising Resilience of a Divided Nation in a Turbulent World." Dan, welcome.


ZAKARIA: And in some ways the book is prescient because at a time when everybody was talking about how divided Israel was during those protests about the court, you point out that there's a very strong common bonds and things like that that hold it together. And we're going to get to that.


ZAKARIA: But I got to ask you, do you think -- how important is America's support to Israel right now? Because when you look at these U.N. votes, it is basically the United States and occasionally Canada.

SENOR: Maybe the U.K.

ZAKARIA: But even the U.K. on the last vote on the occupation was -- U.K. and France and Germany voted against Israel. How crucial is America's support?

SENOR: It is everything. At the end of the day, the U.S. is the only country in the world, the only government in the world that Israel can really rely on. The U.S. is the only country that has deployed serious military assets in the region. The U.S. is the only country whose president said to the other actors in the region, don't step in, don't capitalize on this.

The U.S. is the only country whose commander-in-chief flew to Israel in the days after this war, the days after this massacre, met with the war cabinet, said very clearly, went on "60 Minutes" and said, I have total confidence that Israel will not -- would do its best to avoid civilian casualties of Palestinians. Israel has a right to defend itself. So, I think U.S. support is instrumental.

It is basically the U.S. and the U.K. standing with Israel in the U.N. -- the U.N. General Assembly. It's like all on the other side. And what is chilling for me, I got to say, as a Jewish American, watching Nasrallah Hassan -- Hassan Nasrallah, the head of Hezbollah, the other day when he was beamed into this conference in Riyadh, he cited the anti-Semitic protests on the streets of New York and on the streets of Washington and London and Paris. As though part of their strategy is ginning up, you know, opposition within the U.S. against the U.S. government -- against the U.S. administration. So, it is very important that the U.S. stay strong here.

ZAKARIA: So that is the second part I want to ask you, because you're also a political guy. You advised Mitt Romney during his campaign. You were principal foreign policy adviser. Does Biden face domestic political pressure? Does this -- should this worry the Biden political people, all of these protests, Arab Americans in places like Michigan and Pennsylvania?

SENOR: I think he's got pressure from the hard progressive left. I think the impact of the Muslim American votes in places like Dearborn, Michigan, are less consequential because it is less than one percent of the vote in Michigan. If Biden is that close in Michigan he's been probably losing in a lot of places. So, I think, it's more the progressive left being demoralized and that is the challenge for him politically.

You want your base to be enthusiastic. I think, ultimately, though among independent voters in a general election, Biden standing forcefully with the forces of civilization against the forces of barbarism, which is really what it comes down to, Israel versus Hamas, I think could bode well for his politically in a general election.

ZAKARIA: How long -- if this campaign goes on for another month or two, more and more civilian casualties, will -- you know, the memory of the Hamas attack fades and the reality of pictures of Palestinians dying increases, how long do you think he has? SENOR: It depends how he frames this. If President Biden frames this accurately that Hamas is responsible for Israeli civilian casualties and Palestinian civilian casualties, that the reason Palestinians are being killed is because Hamas has chosen to wage its offensive military capabilities in hospitals, in U.N. run schools, near mosques.


Israel doesn't get to choose and the U.S. doesn't get to choose where Hamas fights. Hamas chooses where it wants to fight and is deliberately choosing it. It would be like -- the analogy I recommend President Biden give is it would be as though Russia located a missile launcher next to a Russian orphanage and was firing at Ukraine, and Ukraine responded and accidentally killed the -- they took out the Ukrainian orphanage.

The U.S. wouldn't blame Ukraine for that. It would obviously be Putin's decision. It was a strategic decision. And, I think, President Biden needs to start framing things in those terms and -- then I think the American public's tolerance for the images coming out of Gaza will be, you know, higher.

ZAKARIA: I have got to quickly ask you about the book. When you -- given what has happened now with the war, does it make you feel there are things about the book that you got wrong, that you got particularly right, reflect on -- give me an afterward after the war.

SENOR: Yes. When we wrote the book, Israel was at depth of division. Israeli society was tearing -- it looked like it was tearing itself apart between secular, religious, and left and right, and people from, you know, Tel Aviv versus the struggling towns of periphery. And we explained in the book is there are building blocks in Israeli society that no matter how divided the country gets the country ultimately holds together, which feels a little different than many other western affluent democracies like our own where you sometimes feel, will the country really hold together?

And the reason we felt that way is because at end of the day Israel has built into its cultural system like these societal shock absorbers that people don't view each other as the other. That whether it is national military service, compulsory military service, whether it is other rituals in Israeli society, it holds the country together. It gives it a communal feel and, I think, that is what is happening right now. The solidarity of the country has come together. It is quite inspiring.

ZAKARIA: When you come back, I will ask -- I have to ask you whether that rested on having a Palestinian other. But we will have to come back to that because we are right out of time. We will be back.



ZAKARIA: State elections in the U.S. this week brought some good news for Democrats. But one year out from the presidential election, polls are flashing warning signs for Joe Biden. A new poll by the "New York Times" and Siena College found Biden trailing Donald Trump in several key battleground states.

How to make sense of these two data points, the elections and the poll? Joining me is Kristen Soltis Anderson, Republican strategist, pollster, and CNN contributor. Kristen, I'm really anxious to hear from you about what do you make of the two polls? You know, the election seems to have gone well for Democrats and yet you have this startling poll where Biden is basically behind in all but one of the crucial swing states.

KRISTEN SOLTIS ANDERSON, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, we can start with the poll and see that there is a lot of evidence that voters are very frustrated with President Biden. They think that his policies have not made the economy better for them and they are as a result considering putting Donald Trump back in the White House.

But the other thing that happened this week with voter going to the polls, those were actually about a different kind of set of issues -- set of issues including things like abortion, which is a real political hot button, but at the moment has felt separate from this 2024 Donald Trump versus Joe Biden contest.

But as we approach next year, I think these two debates are going to converge and you'll wind up seeing this overall political environment start to settle in a bit more with that really big activism and engagement from Democratic voters who may not love Joe Biden, but they're very motivated to stop Donald Trump and very motivated to protect abortion rights.

ZAKARIA: So, as you say, it does seem to center around Joe Biden. Because in that Times-Siena poll, what was striking was how much better an unnamed generic Democrat did against Trump. The unnamed generic Democrat was beating Trump, I think, everywhere. Kamala Harris did better than Biden. So, it does feel like this is about Joe Biden. What do you think it is?

SOLTIS ANDERSON: Very much so. For instance, if you look at the cross tabs, how different demographic groups break out, in a Trump-Biden match-up, they show young voters splitting pretty evenly between these two candidates. As someone who has studied young American voters for a long time, it would surprise me enormously if young voters actually voted in large numbers for Donald Trump. But at the same time, as you mentioned, as soon as it is not Joe Biden who is the opponent, as soon as it is just generic Democrat, suddenly young voters say, oh, yes, I would choose that candidate by over a 20-point margin.

Now, the flipside is also true. When it is say Joe Biden against a generic Republican, that generic Republican wins in a landslide. We're hearing voters right now just tell us, please, don't stick us with Donald Trump versus Joe Biden. And yet it seems increasingly likely that that is just what they're going to get.

ZAKARIA: So, Biden is underperforming among young voters but also Black voters and Hispanic voters. It does feel like certainly with the young voters, it has a lot to do with the fact that they just think he's too old.

SOLTIS ANDERSON: Very much so. The age is a huge piece of this. And that is why I think separating out young voters from other demographic groups that Biden is also struggling with is really important. For younger voters it is in some ways a sense that he's perhaps not progressive enough, or he hasn't delivered enough on key priorities that they care about.

The Biden team will be very eager to talk to young voters about things like, for instance, climate change or student loan debt in hopes of reversing those fortunes as they head to next November. But when it comes to groups like say voters of color or Latino voters, I think, Democrats have really missed that these voters are very frustrated with rising crime.


They are frustrated with what they see at the border and the economy is not delivering for them. And those were the sorts of things that will have to turn around before next November or else those voters are going to be reluctant to turn out for Joe Biden.

ZAKARIA: News of the week, do you think there are enough Arab Americans in crucial swing states, or people sympathetic to Palestinian causes that that could be a deciding factor? Or is it just too small, a sliver of the electorate?

SOLTIS ANDERSON: I'm skeptical that this will have a huge effect a year from now but this is entirely dependent on how this conflict unfolds. Right now, you have lotas of young voters who are much more likely than older voters to say be sympathetic to the Palestinian cause in this case but they are also the most likely to be checked out of the news and not paying as close attention. So, there is a lot of moving pieces here.

I do think ultimately when it becomes a choice, between Joe Biden and Donald Trump, even if you're someone who is say, not enthused with Joe Biden's policies on these issues, he will be very eager to point out, well, what do you think Donald Trump would do if he was president and try to draw that contrast in order to take voters who are unenthused now and make them enthused as the election approaches.

ZAKARIA: Kristen, thank you so much for putting this all in perspective for us. That was really great. Thanks to Kristen and thanks to all of you for being part of my program this week. I will see you next week.