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Fareed Zakaria GPS

Zelenskyy Fires Ukraine's Military Chief; Netanyahu Defies U.S. Pressure on Gaza; Outcry in Iraq Over U.S. Strike on Militia Chief; If The Economy Is Improving, Why Isn't Biden's Polling?; Who Will Be The Deciding Votes In The 2024 Election?; How Former Presidents Find Purpose After Power. Aired 10-11a ET

Aired February 11, 2024 - 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 Zacaria.


ZAKARIA: Today on the program, a major shakeup in the biggest war in Europe since World War II. As Ukraine's President Zelenskyy fires his commander in chief and installs a new one. The key question is, will it change the state of battle? I ask the "Wall Street Journal's" chief foreign affairs correspondent Yaroslav Trofimov.

Then, it's been more than four months since the October 7th attack and around 100 hostages are believed to remain in Hamas' custody. I will talk to the editor-in-chief of "Haaretz" about the sentiment on the ground in Israel as the war wages on.

Then, the U.S. Military killed a militia commander on the streets of Baghdad this week in retaliation for the three troops killed in Jordan. Now Iraqis are again clamoring for America to get out. I ask an expert about the politics at play.


ZAKARIA: First, here's "My Take."

I've been arguing for a long time that the Democratic Party needs to recognize that the crisis at the southern border is real, that it is the result of a totally broken asylum system, and that it needs to be fixed urgently. I got lots of pushback from people telling me I was wrong and cruel and that I was buying into Republican rhetoric. But this week, the Biden administration and Senate Democrats finally acted to fix the system along the lines Republicans have been pushing for.

Only to find Republicans have now changed their minds. A new Republican argument is, that there's no need for any change in laws relating to asylum, that President Biden can simply use executive authority to solve the problem. This is the view now articulated by Donald Trump, House Speaker Mike Johnson, Texas Governor Greg Abbott, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, as well as Elon Musk among other influential figures.

This is a complete turnaround for Republicans. In 2019, Representative Steve Scalise specifically argued it takes congressional action. You need to change the law. That same year Donald Trump also said you have to change the loopholes. You have to change asylum. Not anymore. The arch conservative Oklahoma Senator James Lankford, who was the Republican negotiator of the Senate bill, noted in amazement. "A year they said we need a change in the law. Now, the conversation is just kidding, we don't need a change in the law."

Trump was right in 2019. In fact he knows it because he tried to use executive authority when he was president but it either didn't work or was altered or blocked by courts. He was able to turn away people once he could invoke Title 42 during the COVID-19 pandemic which allows for that action during a public health emergency. Biden did allow that authority to lapse. But were he to try to invoke it today, courts would almost certainly rule that there is no public health emergency right now.

America is still a country of laws and the president cannot misuse his authority without being checked. The conservative commentator David Frum explained the situation cogently on this program last Sunday. Most people have an image of the problem that comes from the 1990s and 2000s. Hordes of undocumented immigrants crossing the border and evading law enforcement authorities.

But that is not what is happening now. Today people come to the border and rather than running away from the law, run toward it. Many have figured out that if they apply for asylum, they are legally allowed to enter the country and go through an adjudication process that lasts from five to seven years. During that time, they slip into the country and start working. Frum told me, telling the president to enforce the laws misses the point. He is enforcing the laws. The problem is that the laws need to change.

It's not just the laws. The reality is that border authorities are totally overwhelmed with about five times as many apprehensions on the southwest border in fiscal year 2023 as there were a decade earlier.


Even deporting them requires people and funds. ICE, the agency that actually does the deportations is so low on funds that it would start cutting back on its activities within a few weeks.

The Senate bill was a serious effort to solve many problems. It would have provided funding for large increase in staff. 4,300 additional asylum officers and support staff and thousands of other new hires in immigration and security. It would have given them much greater authority to make quick determinations about people's status. Crucially, it would have shortened the five-year to seven-year adjudication process to a first hearing within a target of 90 days and a final determination in another 90 days.

It would have given the government the authority to declare an emergency, if the number of arrivals rose beyond certain thresholds, allowing it to turn people away, if the numbers rose to an average of 5,000 people a day over a week, that authority would have kicked in automatically.

It's not perfect. The basic standard to determine whether someone qualifies for asylum is still too low. It has been raised a notch, a senior White House official told me, and conceded that the Democratic left had resisted raising it more. House Republicans could play a useful role by raising it even higher. But again, that requires changes to asylum laws.

The most obvious proof that Trump realizes that this bill would give the administration powerful tools to address this crisis is that he is so dead-set that it should not pass. Were it to pass, it might well solve large parts of the border problem, which would not serve him politically. He wrote on social media, "This bill is a great gift to the Democrats."

The rest of the West is facing a similar challenge and is grappling with how to adjust immigration and asylum laws. Many countries have taken significant steps. Yet in America, one of its major political parties is determined to enflame the crisis rather than douse it. Fiddling while the country burns, hoping that at least it can inherit the smoldering ruins.

Go to for a link to my column this week, and let's get started.

On Thursday, Ukraine's President Zelenskyy fired his top general, Valerii Zaluzhnyi, in the most shakeup in Kyiv since the war began. It came at a pivotal time for Ukraine as Western benefactors worry about a stalemate and increasingly look toward a negotiated peace.

Joining me now is Yaroslav Trofimov, born in Ukraine. Yugoslav is now the "Wall Street Journal's" chief foreign affairs correspondent. His new book, "Our Enemies Will Vanish," is a gripping account of that country's fight for survival.

Yaroslav, let me ask you your reaction to the news that Zelenskyy fired General Zaluzhnyi? What does it tell you about what is happening in Ukraine that Zelenskyy fired a man who's told by many accounts was a good general. You know, he was the guy who repulsed the original Russian invasion, but also a very popular man, who often ranked about as high as Zelenskyy in his popularity. What's going on?

YAROSLAV TROFIMOV, CHIEF FOREIGN AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT, WALL STREET JOURNAL: Thank you, Fareed. You know, there was tension between President Zelenskyy and General Zaluzhnyi for many, many months, for more than a year. And it's true that General Zaluzhnyi played a pivotal role in the first months of the war. He organized this nimble mobile defense that allowed the much smaller and weaker Ukrainian army to beat back the Russians around Kyiv in the first months, saving the country.

But as Zelenskyy said, the new approach requires new blood. People who believe in victory. And the actual nature of the disagreements between the two of them has never been clarified. But what Ukrainian commanders in the field say is that Zelenskyy was pushing to keep fighting for the city of Mahmoud last year when Zaluzhnyi was proposing to pull back and save lives.

ZAKARIA: So is it fair to say that there is now a debate, a division in Ukraine between people who say, look, let's consolidate what we have, let's make ourselves impregnable, and, you know, if we end up with 84 percent of the Ukraine that we had in 1991, that's fine. And there are others who say, no, we have to keep fighting until we get everything, including Crimea.

TROFIMOV: I think there is no division on the strategy. Also because Russia still wants it all.


It's not that Russia is happy with the current lines of control. Second, the debate is about what to do this year. And this year is a very difficult year. Ukraine has had suffered tremendous losses in the counteroffensive last year. There is a shortage of ammunition, of men, of material, and Russia is on offensive, taking advantage of the fact that American funding for Ukraine has dried up.

And so I think there is agreement universally that this is a year to consolidate, to try to hold off the Russians, and to prepare for a new push, maybe next year once the Ukrainians get the F-16s. You know, the modern air force than it does until now, and maybe other technological advances that would allow it to beat back Russian superiority in numbers and material.

ZAKARIA: But isn't it fair to say that the Russians are really just hoping for a Trump victory in the election, a deal that they can cut with Trump, and that's -- you know, the Russians are expecting or hoping that that will be the big change in dynamic?

TROFIMOV: Absolutely. And if you watch Russian television, that is the strategic hope they have. Once Trump comes, then the Western resolve will falter and Ukraine will be left to its own devices. But, you know, it doesn't Ukraine will collapse. First of all, the European countries had a much more direct stake in Ukraine's survival. And Ukraine is already seeing an increase in European military and civilian economic assistance.

The European Union just a few days ago passed $50 billion in aid for Ukraine. And at the same time, Ukrainians just don't have a choice but to keep fighting. So it's hard to see what kind of deal President Trump, if he is reelected to the White House in November, could really impose in Ukraine if the Ukrainians are not willing to surrender.

ZAKARIA: What do you think explains the delays in weaponry that have been -- you know, that have been part of the whole story that you tell in your book so well? You know, it seems to me that the United States, when I talk to American officials, they say, look, we're getting them what they need as fast as we can get it to them. You know, there are stuff that they can't -- they need to be trained to use. There are stuff that we don't have and supplies that we can get to them. That's their story of what the delay is, but you've reported this in a

very detailed way. You point out that it's cost Ukraine a lot, these delays. What do you think the story is? Why was -- was Washington reluctant to give the military stuff past and if so why?

TROFIMOV: I think there are several reasons. One of them of course it seems at the very beginning Ukraine was underestimated. Nobody believed that it could use these weapons efficiently or it could really survive. You know, Ukraine was predicted to collapse in a few days by Western intelligence as well as by Russian intelligence. But I think the biggest reason is the fear of Russia's response, of Russia's so-called red lines.

And I think even though these nuclear threats have failed to completely deter American resistance to Ukraine, Putin's nuclear brinksmanship has succeeded in throttling that assistance. So I think there's sort of self-imposed self-deterrence if you will, self-imposed red lines were a major factor in why so many capabilities came to Ukraine too late. And things that were considered to be provocative, unacceptable, like Western tanks, like the F-16s, were only deemed to be OK a year or so later.

ZAKARIA: Yaroslav, pleasure to have you on. It's a really excellent book and your reporting has been superb. Thank you.

Next on GPS, this week Israel marked four months since the October 7th attack. I'll talk to the editor-in-chief of the Israeli newspaper "Haaretz" about why he thinks the war is deeply self-destructive for Israel, when we come back.



ZAKARIA: This week, Israel marked four months since the October 7th attack. It's also been four months of captivity for what are believed to be more than 100 hostages and four months of war.

My next guest wrote a powerful piece for "Foreign Affairs" on the war and Prime Minister Netanyahu's execution of it. It's called "Israel's Self-Destruction."

Aluf Benn is the editor-in-chief of the left-leaning Israeli newspaper "Haaretz."

Welcome, Aluf. Let me begin by asking you what do you see the state of play right now? Because you have Bibi Netanyahu's government pushing further into Gaza and now asking for plans to enter Rafah. The secretary of state is openly saying he thinks this is a bad idea. President Biden is now talking about how Israel is engaging in indiscriminate bombing and how hard he is trying to get a cease-fire.

Why does Prime Minister Netanyahu think he can so openly defy American pressure?

ALUF BENN, EDITOR-IN-CHIEF, HAARETZ: Well, I think he looks at the American electoral calendar and even more so, he looks inwards towards his political base. And Israeli right-wing always loves the clash with the American government, especially with the Democrats in power. Be it Bill Clinton or Barack Obama and now Joe Biden.

I don't think that any American president in history has been so supportive of Israel and gave such strong backing to Israel than Joe Biden. But still, for political expediency, it's good for Netanyahu to campaign as if he is standing up against the pressure to build a Palestinian state in Gaza, or to bring the Palestinian Authority there.


And it's good for him politically. And by the way, it's good also for Biden politically, vis-a-vis some positive Democratic Party to show that is not the patsy of Netanyahu in Israel.

ZAKARIA: And do you think that the coalition that is holding Netanyahu together, is it stable? Is it entirely behind him? Give us a sense of, you know, what is the state of the Israeli government?

BENN: No coalition in Israel is ever stable. And this coalition has been more stable than others because it's unified ideologically by the right-wing and the Ultraorthodox parties. And Likud, Netanyahu's party, at the center. The beginning of the way, Benny Gantz, the centrist party, joined the cabinet without any operational portfolios, only executive jobs, only to be part of the handling of the war.

So, Netanyahu can play. He has one cabinet with the far-right ministers, a different War Cabinet with only the centrist ministers and his own party. So he is playing between both. His main risk is from the far-right ditching the coalition. If they disagree with what they might see as too far-reaching ceasefire, compromise with Hamas, they support fighting the war to the end. And they threaten to leave the coalition if Netanyahu stops.

ZAKARIA: And why do you, Aluf, describe in that "Foreign Affairs" essay the situation is Israel is self-destruction? Explain what you mean.

BENN: The main argument in this article is that if you want to keep living peacefully and prosper, we need to come to terms with understanding that the Palestinians live with us and that we have to share the land with them in some way and to strive for better -- much better co-existence, rather than what Netanyahu tried to do is to play Gaza against Ramallah, to play the different rival part of Palestinian society against each other, by cooperating to some extent with Mahmoud Abbas with the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank, while fighting them diplomatically elsewhere.

And with Hamas, that is aimed at destroying Israel, Netanyahu allowed them -- although they were under siege, allowed Qatar to fund the Hamas government with Israeli support, with Israeli acquiescence, in order to -- and he bolstered that. By doing that, he is standing up to the international pressure for Palestinian statehood. So he told his right-wing members of Knesset, if we keep Hamas in power in Gaza, then we can hold the Palestinian Authority in check and prevent the peace process that we don't like.

ZAKARIA: But the view that Israel needs --you know, to make a deal with the Palestinians, is today even more of a minority view than it was, right? What you're describing is -- I mean, I don't want to call you a voice in the wilderness. But this is not a popular position in Israel right now.

BENN: No. In Israel right now, even people in parties who in the past supported a two-state solution would not say it now. Would not even say that the Palestinian Authority as an autonomy, not as a state, should be returned to Gaza. And there's a strong fear in Israel, which, you know, you cannot underestimate that any territory given to the Palestinians will just be the launching pad for the next October 7th, which is the main Netanyahu argument.

That's the worst calamity in Israel's history. It's going to take very long years to understand what exactly happened. How we were taken by surprise. How the idea failed to respond in the critical first hours. How to bring back the Israeli population to the villages, to the abandoned villages in the south and in the north where they escaped fearing the Hezbollah attack, that is still imminent, it still might happen.

ZAKARIA: Aluf Benn, thank you for helping us.

BENN: Thank you.

ZAKARIA: Next, on GPS, anger in Iraq after the U.S.'s brazen strike in Baghdad on a senior militia leader who U.S. officials say was responsible for the attack that killed three American troops in Jordan. We'll take a close look at the situation when we return.



ZAKARIA: This week, a U.S. drone attack struck a car in a residential neighborhood in Baghdad, killing a senior leader of the Iranian-backed militia Kataib Hezbollah. The U.S. said the targeted man was responsible for last month's attack in Jordan that killed three American troops. The strike in Iraq's capital prompted angry reactions from the country, from top officials to people in the street.

And the Iraqi military said it is more compelled than ever to terminate the United States' mission in Iraq. It may surprise you to learn that there's 2,500 American troops still stationed in that country.

I want to bring in around Randa Slim, she is the director of the Conflict Resolution and Track 2 Dialogues Program at the Middle East Institute.

Randa, welcome. First, just tell us, what is this group Kataib Hezbollah?

RANDA SLIM, DIRECTOR OF CONFLICT RESOLUTIONS PROGRAM, MIDDLE EAST INSTITUTE: They are Kataib brigades. They were founded in 2003 by al- Muhandis, who was killed with Qassam Suleiman in a U.S. drone attack in January 2020.


And their objective at the time was to fight the U.S. forces who were present in Iraq between 2003 to 2011. Their agenda is to advance, protect Iranian interests in Iraq, in the region. They were involved in quelling the citizen uprising against Bashar al-Assad in Syria. They were involved in upending citizen protest in Iraq in 2019, killing, you know, a lot of Iraqi youth protesters.

And since the Gaza war in October -- in October of last year, they have been upping the ante of their attacks on the U.S. forces, claiming that they are doing so in support of the Palestinians. So, their objective of expelling U.S. forces from Iraq and Syria predates the Gaza war.

ZAKARIA: So -- just so that people understand, this militia also supports the Shia's -- Shia political parties in Iraq, right? So, they have -- they have close ties with the Iraqi government.

SLIM: The Iraqi government right now is ruled by a governing coalition, that includes people that are, you know, leaders of some of these militias. Kataib Hezbollah is one of four big paramilitary groups, Shia groups. And one of these militias their leader is in the governing coalition.

But also, the Iraqi governing coalitions headed by Mr. al-Sudani who's a prime minister includes other people, Shia, you know, leaders of political factions who do not necessarily share the objective of Kataib Hezbollah in terms of expelling U.S. forces from Iraq or prompt withdrawal of U.S. forces from Iraq.

ZAKARIA: So, to explain the dynamic that you just were describing, what this militia Kataib Hezbollah is doing is it is attacking American troops almost designed to bait them, to get America to attack its forces, which then places the Iraqi government in an awkward position because the United States is attacking Iraqi soil, it is attacking allies of the government. And there will be greater popular calls and there will be calls within Iraqi Shiite elite circles to say, get these Americans out. Has the U.S. fallen for an Iranian trap by responding?

SLIM: Exactly. I think what -- what -- you know, what Iraq prime minister is trying to do now, he is really trying to carry a very difficult balancing act between these hard-liners and his governing coalitions who want the withdraw of U.S. forces. And between these other members of the governing coalition who do not want to see a hasty withdrawal, who like do not see a ruptured U.S.-Iraq relationship.

So, what he is trying to do right now and what the U.S. is trying to do is to, you know, get engaged in a political dialogue or military dialogue between security forces -- Iraqi security forces and U.S. military called Higher Joint Military Commission, to start examining how to transition, orderly transition, of the mission of the U.S. forces in Iraq. However, if we have more attacks from this militias, if we have more counterattacks from the U.S., then that balancing act becomes almost unsustainable.

ZAKARIA: And the Iranian goal is to be able to say, we dislodged the United States from Iraq. U.S. thought it had influence with this major Arab country, and look, that Arab country, Iraq, is now asking, demanding that American forces leave and the expulsion of American forces will be the kind of symbolic end of America's influence in Iraq and the complete takeover of Iraq by Iranian forces. That is the Iranian goal.

SLIM: I think -- I think definitely. That's the Iranian goal. But the Iranians also know, if you have a quick withdrawal of U.S. forces, there will be a security vacuum. And the parties that are best positioned to occupy the security vacuum and strengthen their footprint, strengthen their hold on the country's politics, security, dynamics are going to be these pro-Iran militias, including Kataib Hezbollah. And that's what you see, for example, major segments of the Iraqi public, Kurd Sunnis but also Shias who do not want to see this quick withdrawal happen, you know, because -- although they see it as inevitable.

But they would like to see an orderly transition, an orderly withdrawal, and a longer timetable. Because they are hoping that in the interim, the Iraqi security forces become more capable, more equipped, the political dynamics on the ground change in order to prevent that scenario of more pro-Iran forces strengthening their hold on the country's politics.


ZAKARIA: Thank you so much. That is a very helpful guide to a very complicated situation. Thanks again.

SLIM: Thank you.

ZAKARIA: Next on GPS, as inflation comes down, the unemployment numbers look great, the economy looks strong. Will all of that help Joe Biden? We'll ask Nate Cohn of "The New York Times."


ZAKARIA: The stock market is high, unemployment is low, and inflation is low. So, why do President Biden's poll numbers look so bad? Joining me to explain is Nate Cohn, chief political analyst for "The New York Times."

So, Nate, let's start with the question the economy is clearly better, inflation is clearly down, is this just a time lag? Or why is it that people don't seem to feel that when they are asked that question, do you think the economy is good?


NATE COHN, CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST, NEW YORK TIMES: I think that the Biden campaign has to hope it's a time lag. It's certainly possible it's a time lag given just how recently all of these economic storylines have come together to sort of unequivocally point towards a soft landing.

It's worth remembering that just back in October, Fareed, the stock market was 20 percent lower than it is today. Just four months ago, the federal reserve was not ready to signal that rates are going to come down next year. All of that added up, to a tremendous amount of uncertainty about where the direction of the economy is going.

It's really only over the last 45 days or so that those questions have begun to ease. And now, people are looking towards sustained lower levels of inflation, higher stock markets, lower interest rates and so on. Given that, they can hope for things to get better from here. But if they don't, then obviously there's some tougher questions for Joe Biden about what is really holding back his ratings.

ZAKARIA: Over the last three presidencies, Obama, Trump, and Biden, there has been a disconnect between one of the most closely connected couplings in American history. If you go back in polling, economy is doing well, people feel the economy is doing well, always translated into high approval ratings for the president. Ever since Obama and the recovery from the '08 crisis, that has not been true. What is happening?

COHN: It's tough to say, Fareed. I mean, there are two basic theories of the case. One theory is that the economy just hasn't been that strong for most of the period since the end of the financial crisis, that Obama's ratings were sort of appropriately low, given the tepid rate of economic growth. And that Donald Trump is really the only exception here. That, yes, in 2019, the economy started to get strong, but by then, you know, Donald Trump was sort of this uniquely polarizing figure who was probably not going to be especially popular, given his penchant to offend large segments of the electorate. Then, Joe Biden becomes president, inflation takes hold. So, that's theory number one is that for most of the last, you know, 15 years since the financial crisis the economy has been bad, and there isn't as much of a disconnect as it looks.

Theory number two, is that this is about partisan polarization. That we no longer live in a country where 65 percent of Americans will have a favorable view of the president as they did during the 1990s when Bill Clinton was really the last president to ride a sustained economic boom to board levels of popularity.

I think that next year is really going to put to the test because Joe Biden, while he may not be popular, he's not Donald Trump. The country doesn't hate him. He has not offended huge swaths of the electorate. This is the kind of president that, in theory, might be able to ride broad economic prosperity to broad support in the polls.

ZAKARIA: Do you think there are people in the middle -- because for the second theory to work, you have to have people in the middle who are slowly going to gravitate to Biden because of generally better times economic times. Or is the country really divided at this point? And I would argue divided largely on non-economic issues, cultural issues, identity issues. And so, there really -- you know, people talk about independence. But independence really -- are basically they just like to call themselves independents. They tend to be the left-wing independents or right-wing independents.

COHN: I think that there are more persuadable voters, Fareed, than people give credit for. For one, millions of Americans are not part of deeply polarized partisan politics. They don't vote in most elections. The turnout rate in even a midterm election is less than 50 percent.

There's a huge chunk of people who are on the sidelines of these big cultural fights who have the opportunity to swing one way or another. And also know that even though the electorate as a whole, looks really stable, that we consistently have close elections. We often see a lot of movement under the surface.

We've seen White working-class voters in the Midwest swing decisively one way. We've seen college-educated voters in the suburbs swing the other. We've seen Trump make gains among Latino voters and now perhaps Black and young voters as well. There are a lot of voters who are sort of up for grabs in this political moment, even though the country is as partisan as it is. And so, I think that at least on paper the opportunity to be broadly appealing ought to exist.

ZAKARIA: When you look at polls where Trump is leading and he's leading in the swing states and things like that, do you view that as -- you know, should Democrats feel like this is a five-alarm fire? Or you know, Romney was leading Obama a year before and these things don't necessarily reflect what is going to happen in the voting booth in November?

COHN: Still a long way from the election. So, it's hard for it to be a true five-alarm fire. There's a lot of presidents. You alluded to some of them for the race to change over the next 10 months. But I have to say that on paper the conditions for Joe Biden ought to be pretty good here.

We've talked about the growing economy. We haven't talked very much about Donald Trump who's just isn't popular as he was four years ago and now faces a litany of criminal indictments. On paper, a president running for re-election with this kind of economy against this kind of opponent, ought to lead in the polls right now.

So, if that doesn't start to change quickly with the economic news then I do think that there will be a lot of Democrats thinking about this as something of a five-alarm fire and beginning to ask serious questions about the source of Joe Biden's weakness.


And, I think, Joe Biden's age would rank number one on that list. And that would be a huge problem for the Democrats if true. There's just not much Joe Biden can do about that concern if that's what is holding him back. And the other possibilities, you know, are almost even bleaker, in a sense. It's the possibility that the country is just so deeper divided, that no Democrat, regardless of what they do and how they handle the office, is going to be able to build a broad coalition in this kind of partisan political environment that we've been talking about. And that would suggest that Donald Trump still has a very real chance to win this election, even though by all accounts, he shouldn't.

ZAKARIA: Nate Cohn, always a pleasure to talk to you.

COHN: Always great to be here, Fareed. Thanks.

ZAKARIA: Next on GPS, how do American presidents adjust to life after that exalted office? Jared Cohen will join me to talk about his new book on seven men whose lives after the White House were arguably just as remarkable as tenures inside of it.



ZAKARIA: How do you move on after holding the most powerful office in the world? Donald Trump, of course, seems to be shuttling between campaign events and courtrooms these days. But what about less anomalous examples?

Thomas Jefferson founded the University of Virginia. William Howard Taft became the chief justice of the Supreme Court. Herbert Hoover whose single term presidency is considered a resounding failure had, according to my next quest, one of the most influential post presidencies in history.

Joining me now is Jared Cohen, author of the new book "Life After Power: Seven Presidents and Their Search for Purpose Beyond the White House." Jared, welcome.


ZAKARIA: This is a terrific book. I've read the whole thing. And what I love about it is, you're asking a question that kind of applies to everybody. You know, which is what happens after some moment of triumph, of climax? And I'm wondering, given the size of this job is there a common theme which is, do all of them at some level get depressed?

COHEN: So, look, it's the most traumatic transition in the world, going from president of the United States back down -- back down to earth. And I picked seven presidents that each found a greater sense of purpose following a totally different model. The common thread across all of them is each of them exuded something that they were deeply principled about. And while they may not have realized it until after they were president, they doubled down on it. And what they ended up doing after the White House was a reflection of something that they were disciplined and dogmatic about. ZAKARIA: So, when I think about -- when I think about post presidencies, the one that, you know, suddenly the public seems to have been the most successful in our memory, is Jimmy Carter. Why do you think that one was so successful?

COHN: Look, Jimmy Carter basically is the father of the modern post presidency. What Jimmy Carter actually wanted was to have a never- ending presidency. And when he is voted out of office in 1980 after he deals with the fact that he's a million dollars in debt from his peanut farm, he basically creates an entire post presidential administration. And 42-plus years into his post presidency, he's been both a partner and a nuisance to his successors on both sides of the aisle.

ZAKARIA: The other person you -- I think, you argue really had a successful post presidency, is John Quincy Adams. And what is striking about both Carter and Adams to me at least is, they had this deep sense of mission and the sense of purpose. Neither was interested at all in making money after -- you know, that seems to have been a pattern that post presidencies have. So, that sense of having something that animates you seems to be very powerful.

COHEN: After he served, basically, every single job in the public sector except the House of Representatives, he gets elected as an ex- president to the House really because there's no other public sector jobs. It's the only thing he knows how to do. And he doesn't know what his purpose is there.

And over time in his nine terms in a much lower station, he finds a much higher calling and finds himself becoming the leader of what at the time was a fringe abolitionist movement and he essentially mainstreams it. Adams dies in 1848. You know, the man appointed in his first public sector job serving for George Washington dies in 1848, serving alongside a freshman congressman from Illinois named Abraham Lincoln.

ZAKARIA: And Lincoln revered him, right?

COHEN: I'm convinced that Abraham Lincoln had he not born witness to this like very sort of fragile strange looking, you know, John Quincy Adams in the House, I'm convinced that it may have actually delayed the sort of inspiration that ignited his political career and made him a champion of the abolitionist cause.

ZAKARIA: One of the ones that I thought was fascinating was William Howard Taft. Because in a sense you put out this is a guy who actually never really wanted to be president. The post president job, the chief justice, was the he had always one wanted.

COHEN: So, William Howard Taft is a great example, for anybody who had always had a dream job and they couldn't take it because the circumstances weren't right, the timing wasn't right. Maybe they had, you know, an issue with their family.

All William Howard Taft ever wanted was to serve on the Supreme Court. But his brothers and his mentor and friend, Theodore Roosevelt and his wife Nellie, wanted him to be president. And so he turns down the Supreme Court three times.

As president of the United States, he appoints a record six justices including a chief justice, in a single term. And there is this joke, you know, that William Howard Taft's son gets asked the question, you know, is he going to be president or is he going to serve on the Supreme Court?

And he son basically tells the reporter, ma wants him to be president. But he is persistent, right? It shows who had a dream, you know, deferred can still be a dream that's achieved. And his last decade of life is his happiest where he finally becomes chief justice of the Supreme Court. And at the end of his life, he says, I hardly remember I was ever president.

ZAKARIA: Jared Cohen, a really -- such a fun book. But as I say, it makes us all -- it makes me a mortal think about, you know, what happens when the lights go off and the crowd stops cheering. Thank you for writing it.


COHEN: Thank you, Fareed.

ZAKARIA: Before we go, I have something exciting to share. My new book "Age of Revolutions: Progress and Backlash from 1600 to the Present" will be published on March 26th. I am extremely proud of this book. It has taken me almost 10 years to complete.

In it I lay out the revolutions in technology, in economics, and politics, and identity that are shaping the world today. And how revolutions throughout history shed light on our present moment. It's a deeply researched book about the changes we are living through. It's full of great stories and lighter moments that I think you will find very accessible.

You can preorder a copy now in hard cover, e-book or audio book read by me. There are links on my Web site, I'll be posting on social media with updates on book tour events. Please order now, and tune in on Sunday, March 24th, when I'll have a lot more to say about my book in a special segment.

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