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FAREED ZAKARIA GPS
Interview With Peter Galbraith; Panel Discusses Domestic, International Politics
Aired April 11, 2010 - 10:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
FAREED ZAKARIA, HOST: Welcome to GPS, THE GLOBAL PUBLIC SQUARE. I'm Fareed Zakaria.
President Barack Obama has had a good couple of weeks. His health care plan just got through Congress, he concluded a nuclear arms reduction treaty with Russia, and, perhaps the most important, the American economy appears to be on the road to recovery.
But he has a looming problem that could muddy this bright picture - Afghanistan. President Obama has made a huge investment in the war in Afghanistan, having almost tripled the number of U.S. troops in that country. But, over the last few weeks, a central problem has emerged with his Afghan strategy. It's called Hamid Karzai.
Experts and policymakers all agree that the key to a successful strategy in Afghanistan is having a credible local partner. Our local partner is Karzai, and relations between him and the Obama administration are bad.
The administration has privately and at times publicly criticized him for corruption, vote rigging and general ineffectiveness. It threatened to withdraw a White House invitation to him and, even now, it suggests that he's being monitored for his comments.
For his part, Karzai has been attacking the United States vigorously over the last 10 days, amid reports that his private behavior is erratic and sometimes just plain weird. All in all, a bad situation.
My own view, which is somewhat contrarian, is that the Obama administration should grow up and face the facts. It has no alternative to Hamid Karzai, so it should support him rather than undermining him.
Karzai is a Pashtun, the dominant ethnic group in Afghanistan, and he seems willing to work with Washington. He has had troops in his country for eight years. He has significant support in the country, certainly more support than any other political figure in the country at this point. And, finally, there is no path to replacing him short of a military coup or something equally destabilizing.
So, Karzai may be corrupt, inefficient and weird, but does anyone really think that his alternative would be a Jeffersonian Democrat who was also popular with the Pashtuns, effective and honest? This is Afghanistan, a country wrecked by 25 years of war, with one of the lowest levels of income and literacy in the world. What it needs right now is government - good government if we're lucky, Democratic government ideally, but first, government.
In an ideal world we might be able to have it all. In the one we have, it's a choice between Karzai and something that could be a lot worse.
Anyway, that is my view.
You will hear a very important voice express the opposite view now. Peter Galbraith, one of America's most distinguished diplomats over the years, has decided that working with Karzai is impossible, and draws some very striking conclusions on America's mission in Afghanistan, and on Karzai himself.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PETER GALBRAITH, FORMER U.N. REPRESENTATIVE TO AFGHANISTAN: One of the explanation, based on what sources inside the Palace have said, is that he is using - that he may be using drugs. So his behavior is very strange.
ZAKARIA: What you have heard from within the Palace, does it speak of particular drugs?
GALBRAITH: I - well, hashish use or marijuana is really quite common in Afghanistan.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ZAKARIA: And, after that, a panel discussion with, among others, the editor of "TIME" magazine, a Pulitzer Prize-winning historian, and a new columnist for the "New York Times".
You wouldn't want to miss any of this. Let's get started.
ZAKARIA: Peter Galbraith has served for many years as an American diplomat and has had a dramatic impact on American policy. In Croatia, as ambassador, he sounded the alarm that ultimately led to U.S. military involvement in the Balkans. As a private citizen, he helped the Kurds carve out an autonomous republic within Iraq.
His most recent posting was to Afghanistan, where he was sent by U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to monitor last year's presidential election. Galbraith says he saw widespread voter fraud, most of it favoring President Hamid Karzai.
When he spoke out about this, he was fired. Now, he's speaking out about other aspects of Hamid Karzai's administration.
Peter Galbraith joins me now from Bergen, Norway. Welcome.
GALBRAITH: Fareed, good to be with you.
ZAKARIA: Most people would agree, Ambassador Galbraith, that it is crucial for the mission in Afghanistan, for the NATO mission, for the U.N. mission, for the international community's mission, to succeed in Afghanistan, that we have a credible, local partner. That is the - the phrase often used.
Have you come to the conclusion, watching Afghanistan up close, that Hamid Karzai is not - not the credible partner that we need?
GALBRAITH: He is not. He's been in office since 2002. For that period his administration has been characterized by ineffectiveness and corruption.
Last August, there were presidential elections. At least one million of Karzai's three million votes were phony, possibly more, and so most - many Afghans now do not see him as - as legitimate.
So, on top of corruption and ineffectiveness, he now has a crisis of legitimacy. And then, this last week, in a series of really stunning statements in which he admitted that his reelection was fraudulent, he accused me of organizing the fraud that reelected him. He then retracted that in a call with Secretary Clinton. Just immediately thereafter, he then told the Parliament that perhaps he'd go over and join the Taliban.
So, on top of - of corruption, ineffectiveness, illegitimacy, he's also behaving in a very weird fashion.
ZAKARIA: You said something that was - I though very striking. One million of the three million votes that he received were, in your view, fraudulent. You were there. That - that would suggest that he is not actually - he does not command even a popular plurality.
You know, a lot of people have felt, look, he wouldn't have won the election, anyway. He just gave himself a larger margin.
But you are saying, based on what you saw, you don't actually think he would have won the election?
GALBRAITH: What is clear is that he did not win the election.
The Election Commission, his cronies, put his total at 54 percent at the end of the preliminary count. The Electoral Complaints Commission, which was an independent body, eventually eliminated enough of phony ballots, but not all of them, to put him at about 49 percent.
I think most experts believe his real count would have been at about 42 percent, his challenger, Abdullah Abdullah at 35 percent. We don't know what - what have happened in a run-off, but it is true that when an incumbent is - is below 40, you know, below 42 percent in a run-off, he's in trouble.
ZAKARIA: What kind of fraud are we talking about? What was going on in Afghanistan? GALBRAITH: It was what I call wholesale fraud. There were large parts of the south of Afghanistan where no voting took place at all, and yet where hundreds of thousands of votes were recorded.
Just to look at a few key provinces, Kandahar, the second largest province in the country. We estimated that the turnout in Kandahar was in the range of 10 percent, but the votes that were reported suggested a turnout in - in the city of 30 percent, the outer district, 60 percent, and in some districts well over 100 percent. And, in Kandahar, probably 10 times as many votes were recorded as people who cast votes.
ZAKARIA: Now, you also talked about these very belligerent statements that Hamid Karzai is making. Anti-American, anti- occupation, as - as he has termed it, anti-foreign.
There are people who say, look, he is playing to a popular feeling in Afghanistan that is tired of seeing foreign troops on their soil, that he is just being a wily politician, and giving the audience - giving the public what they want. Do you think that's what's going on?
GALBRAITH: No. Karzai's apologist in this country are - are saying that because they're projecting what they think on Afghanistan. But, frankly, Afghans see the same things that we do and - and they're very disturbed by it.
Abdullah Abdullah, Karzai's main challenger and - who's also a physician, he said, look, Karzai is undermining our country by alienating our major backers and, of course, he is doing that. He said - and also, what he says, that I'm a doctor and what he's doing is not normal. And I think that's - that is something that Afghans see.
Karzai's emotional health has been a concern of - to diplomats in Kabul, those who deal with him. They know that he's prone to tirades and outbursts. Some of the very same things that we've seen publicly this week have been going on in private for months or years.
ZAKARIA: You have suggested that he might be using drugs. You're a serious man. You're a diplomat of longstanding. These are very undiplomatic words. You must have come to them carefully.
Are you convinced that Hamid Karzai has a drug problem?
GALBRAITH: I said that one of the explanations, based on what sources inside the Palace have said, is that he is using - that he may be using drugs. I don't know that, but, it - I wouldn't have said it if I hadn't thought there was a significant possibility that that was true. This behavior is very strange.
ZAKARIA: The - what you have heard from within the Palace, does it speak of particular drugs?
GALBRAITH: I - well, hashish use or marijuana is really quite common in Afghanistan. I want to be clear, I haven't heard any indication that he has used opium or heroin.
ZAKARIA: And, in your view, the behavior that he has exhibited would be consistent with some - with some kind of drug problem?
GALBRAITH: What is clear, and I think we should keep the focus on what we know, what is clear is that his behavior is very erratic. It is counterproductive to his country. Here he has 100,000 U.S. troops on the ground, fighting to keep him in power, to support his government, and he announces that he's going to go over to the enemy?
He - he is the beneficiary of one of the most massively fraudulent elections in modern history, and he accuses the United Nations and - and the individual who blew the whistle of the fraud of committing the fraud? I mean, this is not a - a credible or rationale political strategy.
He - he apologizes to the Secretary of State, and then, a few days later, says no, no, it was the United States that committed the fraud that got me re-elected.
ZAKARIA: Do you get the sense that the military is frustrated by Karzai? Do you get the sense that they would like to see a president who was, A) more enthusiastically backing them, who is delivering more effective governance in places? Did you - is that something you heard?
GALBRAITH: Are you referring here to the coalition military or the Afghan military?
ZAKARIA: The coalition military, General McChrystal's troops.
GALBRAITH: Yes. The senior military officers are frustrated. They understand that their strategy is a counterinsurgency strategy, and that depends on having a credible local partner.
Karzai is incapable of being reformed, and if he's incapable of being reformed, then we're not going to accomplish the mission that's behind the surge of troops, and those troops shouldn't be there.
We don't have to debate whether the mission in Afghanistan is important or not if it cannot be accomplished. If the counterinsurgency strategy wouldn't work because we don't have a local partner, then we shouldn't be wasting these military resources on a strategy that isn't working.
ZAKARIA: If that's the case, is there an option between backing Karzai and the rather extreme one that you suggest, which is pulling out the entire mission altogether? Is there an alternative to Karzai? Is there some - somebody and some path to another credible local partner?
GALBRAITH: Well, I want to be clear, I'm not advocating a complete withdrawal. I'm saying we should stop the surge, reduce the number of troops to the numbers that we had at the start of the Obama administration. There are still missions that can be accomplished, counterterrorism, defending Kabul, defending the non-Pashtun parts of - parts of the country.
I - I also think we - it's important that we have a - we take a different approach.
The White House spokesman was right now to call Karzai on his remarks to say that they were untrue and troubling, but he was wrong to say that Karzai was the democratically-elected president of Afghanistan. He is not, and the Afghan people know that. We should send a message that we understand that.
There are going to be Parliamentary elections in the fall in Afghanistan. Karzai has been trying to manipulate the system so that he will appoint not only the Election Commission that managed the fraud, but this - but he's trying to get rid of the Electoral Complaints Commission that - that uncovered the fraud by appointing his own people and by reducing its powers.
The Congress, as it considers the Afghan appropriation, ought to put into law a condition that says no money will be given to Afghanistan for these elections unless there are truly independent Afghan electoral bodies administering them. That is, ones with no Karzai appointees on them at all.
You know, we paid $200 million of U.S. taxpayer money for those August elections and we were cheated. We shouldn't allow that to happen to us with regard to the Parliamentary elections, not only because fraud is wrong, but because if they're fraudulent, they're likely to lead to civil war.
ZAKARIA: Don't go away. We will be right back with Peter Galbraith, the former special representative of the U.N. in Afghanistan, talking about Hamid Karzai and why he thinks the U.S. mission there is doomed.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GALBRAITH: You speak about giving up on the mission. But I - we don't - if the mission can't be accomplished, we don't need to debate whether the mission is important or not.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ZAKARIA: And we are back with Peter Galbraith, American diplomat extraordinaire, who was fired recently from his role as the U.N. Special Representative to the Afghan elections.
Do you think that the Obama administration made a mistake in - in validating the elections?
GALBRAITH: Yes, I do, because the Afghan people knew that those - the results were fraudulent, and it looked like the United States was siding with Karzai for convenience rather than standing up for - for principle.
ZAKARIA: But let me come back to the question of the alternative. If you do say we're going to have to be in Afghanistan, though perhaps in reduced numbers, do we have an alternative to - to Karzai?
As you point out, his - his opponent in the elections was a Tajik, or at least a half Tajik, and therefore is widely regarded by the Pashtuns as an outsider. If we accept that we do need a Pashtun partner, the Pashtuns are 50 percent of Afghanistan or 40 percent of Afghanistan but 100 percent of the insurgency, 100 percent of the Taliban, what alternative do we have to Hamid Karzai?
GALBRAITH: That's a very difficult question, and while I don't think Karzai is the democratically elected leader, he is the leader, and I think it's a very dangerous game for the United States to get into the business of trying to choose an alternative leader. We tried it in Vietnam with - when we orchestrated a coup that got rid of General (INAUDIBLE) and the results were disastrous.
I think we have to accept that Karzai is there, but, since he is there and means - that means we cannot accomplish our goals, in the end, I think we - if we can't accomplish our goals, we need to conserve the lives and - of our troops and - and the money. It's - I think it's wrong to send people to a mission that they cannot actually accomplish.
ZAKARIA: But that means you are, in a sense, giving up hope on creating a - a more stable Afghanistan that would not be dominated by the Taliban or would not have the possibility of being dominated by the Taliban.
You're giving up on the broader mission of Afghanistan and retreating to a very much smaller counterterrorism mission, correct?
GALBRAITH: Yes, as well as preserving the non - the - the stability in the non-Pashtun areas, which is at least half the country.
But we're in a war that we cannot win, and we also cannot lose in the sense that the Taliban cannot retake Kabul. They - they got there in the 1990s, when the whole world had turned away, and with - on - basically on Pakistani tanks. That isn't going to happen again. They can't take the Tajik, Hazara and other non-Pashtun areas.
So, even if we were to reduce our presence, I don't think the situation would look very different from what it is now. You would have a - a separate, basically autonomous Tajik and Hazara regions, and you would have an - a Pashtun region. As it is now, where the countryside's controlled by the Taliban and where, as now, they control large parts of the cities, including large parts of - of Kandahar.
You - you speak about giving up on the mission, but I - we don't - if the mission can't be accomplished, we don't need to debate whether the mission is important or not. Before we commit troops, 100,000 troops and hundreds of millions of dollars, we need to see how it is we're going to succeed.
Everybody says that for counterinsurgency strategy to work, we need a credible local partner, and I think nobody can persuade me, and I suspect most other analysts, that Karzai really is capable of being a - a credible local partner. That's the dilemma we face.
ZAKARIA: On that sobering note, Peter Galbraith, thank you very much.
I should tell our viewers that we have extended an invitation to President Karzai to join us, and in the upcoming weeks I very much hope we will have that opportunity and we will put to him some of the questions that we have just heard answers to.
Thank you, Peter Galbraith, and we will be right back.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHRYSTIA FREELAND, GLOBAL EDITOR-AT-LARGE, REUTERS: At least this is (INAUDIBLE), right, and how many people -
ROSS DOUTHAT, NEW YORK TIMES: I think that that's an -
FREELAND: -- how many people are going to focus on the details versus the -
FREELANS: This the guy - this is a guy who's going to get things done.
No, but if you're dealing with legislation in terms of an actual impact on people's lives, people aren't going to be paying more money by November, and the things they are -
DOUTHAT: But they aren't going to be getting anything by November either, right?
FREELAND: Sure, but - sure, so therefore -
DOUTHAT: So you pass an unpopular bill -
FREELAND: Yes, but -
DOUTHAT: -- and people don't get anything from it -
FREELAND: But will it still be on popular by then?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
(COMMERCIAL BREAK) (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)
ZAKARIA: Now, as we often try to do, I gathered a group of very smart people to talk, debate, agree and hopefully disagree about the most pressing issues of the day, everything from Obama to the economy to the British elections.
Joining me are Richard Stengel, the Managing Editor of "TIME" magazine and the author of a terrific new book called "Mandela's Way", and more about that later; Chrystia Freeland, Global Editor-at-Large for Reuters; Anne Applebaum, a weekly columnist for "The Washington Post" and "Slate" and a Pulitzer Prize-winning historian; and Ross Douthat, the newest and youngest editorial columnist at the "New York Times". Welcome to all of you.
So Rick, you look at what Obama is dealing with now, and it feels so different from two weeks ago. Health care is passed, the economy seems to be doing well, nuclear arms treaty with Russia. Is he on a new - on a new trend upward?
RICHARD STENGEL, TIME MAGAZINE: I think so. I mean, two weeks ago he was Jimmy Carter, and now he seems to be Superman.
I mean, he's done health care. He's doing all of these other things. He, you know, made that surprise trip to Afghanistan. I mean, he - I think he feels this wind at his back. He feels revitalized.
That's not being shown in the polls. There hasn't really been a bump, but I think they feel like that they - they've turned a corner.
FREELAND: I think Rick is absolutely right that Obama feels energized, but I think the only thing that matters right now and the only thing the White House is really focusing on is the economy, and, in particular, jobs. And there, I think, it's sort of tale of two cities.
You know, on the one hand, I do think they are having some success in improving the jobs picture, and I think that we're going to see between now and November, when we have the midterms, significant improvement, partly because they're doing some sneaky things.
The Census employment is really having - I mean, you think, Census, like that seems like too small.
ZAKARIA: But it's - there's -800,000 people.
FREELAND: Right, and that - and that is really moving the numbers. And, you know, this is brilliantly timed.
Medium term, though, sort of looking out to 2011, I think the prospects are a lot iffier.
ZAKARIA: But I think - I think - Ross, let me ask you this. Is this - the Obama administration seems to have recapitalized the banks in a way that credit is now flowing. It stabilized the auto industry in a way that you didn't have massive hemorrhaging of job losses. It stabilized the mortgage market, and now it is doing some more, you know, quiet pump priming.
This is a - this is an economic success story.
DOUTHAT: It is, in a way, but, I mean - I mean, I think, what Chrystia is saying about the unemployment rate, I think there's a real possibility that America is headed into an era of structural long-term unemployment, where the - the economy grows, the stock market does well, but unemployment stays stuck around 8 percent, let's say.
And, I think, for Americans, this would be an extraordinary change. I mean, European nations are accustomed to that kind of long- term structural unemployment issue.
FREELAND: And they have a social safety net that means that people can survive that.
DOUTHAT: And they have - and they have a social safety net built - built around it.
In the United States, there's - you know, you go back - you know, you can go back to the recession of the early '80s, but, really, Americans don't have any kind of long-term experience with unemployment being that high.
And it think it will be very interesting to see both in the midterms and then headed into 2012, if Obama's running for re- election, GDP is growing, but 8 percent of Americans are out of work and 14 percent are out of work, part time, or have stopped looking for work and so on. It's a very difficult political environment for a president, even if he's done all the right things on the economy.
ZAKARIA: Rick, does - do you think that Obama is going to turn a corner on the - on the opinion polls, or is that essentially linked to the unemployment number?
STENGEL: I think it - it's odd why it hasn't, you know, gotten a bump, and I'm - as a former person who worked in politics, I would have thought that he did - would.
But, I have to say, part of it is this economic malaise that we're in. I mean, the changes are, as Ross was saying, I mean, I think they're secular, not cyclical, that there's going to be a very high unemployment rate.
People still don't feel confident - I mean, even when I read the stories, like in the "New York Times" saying, you know, people are starting to spend again, I mean, I don't, even in an anecdotal way, don't get a sense that people feel that way.
Certainly, also with their work, people don't feel secure in their work.
FREELAND: And the unemployment number has not moved yet. Right?
FREELAND: 162,000 jobs created in March, but it's still 9.7 percent unemployment.
STENGEL: And I'm more skeptical than you are about what the government can actually do about unemployment apart--
FREELAND: Even this short-term massage (ph), you don't think that's going to help?
STENGEL: Really, it's much more of a long-term policy. And I think if they are thinking that unemployment is going to stay at this high level, they have to rethink everything that they do.
DOUTHAT: And the other thing to keep in mind is that, yes, the health care bill was a tremendous political success. But, you know, if you look at the polling numbers on health care, you have a political success passing an unpopular bill. I mean, I think a lot of the media coverage of the bill since it's passed has been even in liberal media outlets, sort of, OK, now we are going to focus on some of the problems here and some of the problems there. And here's a reason why the mandate won't work and--
FREELAND: Sure. Btu don't you think, Ross, that overall, you know, the narrative that Rick started with, of at least this is a win, right? And how many people -- how many people are going to focus on the details versus the sense of this is a guy -- this is a guy who will get things done?
FREELAND: But if you are dealing with legislation--
FREELAND: In terms of the actual impact on people's lives, people are not going to be paying more money by November. And the things they are --
DOUTHAT: They aren't going to be getting anything by November either, right?
FREELAND: Sure, so therefore --
DOUTHAT: He passed an unpopular bill and people don't get anything from it.
FREELAND: But will it still be unpopular by then? I think there is definitely a plausible narrative where people are saying, he said he would do it. Actually, he told us before the election he would do it. It wasn't like this was--
DOUTHAT: But this is the George W. Bush theory of leadership, right? Like, at least he's the decider.
DOUTHAT: They did for a while.
STENGEL: --were looking at an abyss, in the sense that if it hadn't happened -- I mean, people were questioning his whole presidency and were saying it was going to go down. The fact that he actually has accomplished something, I think, and even though it's a bill, as you say, which people are very lukewarm about, is better than the alternative.
ZAKARIA: This is where Europe and America are different, right? Europe is used to higher unemployment, more comfortable with it, but in America you feel as thought that would make people think the American motor has stopped running.
APPLEBAUM: Unemployment continues to be an issue. I think Chrystia pointed out that there's a kind of safety net that has been there for a long time--
FREELAND: (inaudible) to be unemployed, but if you have a choice between being unemployed in Germany or unemployed in the United States, it's better to be in Germany --
APPLEBAUM: Of course the -- the side effect is, you know, in a down period, it does seem to ease the pain, or it did in any way in Germany and France. In an up period, it's an economic drag, so you get less growth in these countries, and you also get -- you get a different kind of malaise. You know, you get a malaise -- kind of middle class malaise, that there's very little to be achieved. You get a kind of loss of energy in the country, when people see that growth is impossible and expansion is more difficult. So you won't see a kind of populist movement I don't think any time at least in Western Europe any time soon. But be careful about admiring their safety net too much, because it has a down side, particularly when -- in a period of economic growth.
ZAKARIA: We are going to continue with all this in a bit with Rick Stengel, Anne Applebaum, Chrystia Freeland and Ross Douthat.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DOUTHAT: One way to think about it is that the Tea Parties are clearly an asset for the Republican Party in 2010, which is an off- year election, and it's a base mobilization election.
APPLEBAUM: What about 2012?
DOUTHAT: 2012, it will depend -- I mean, we have been talking about the unemployment, right?
FREELAND: It's the economy, stupid.
DOUTHAT: It's the economy.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ZAKARIA: And we are back with our all-star panel. Anne Applebaum, Pulitzer Prize-winning historian; Rick Stengel, the author of a new book, editor of Time magazine; Chrystia Freeland of Reuters, and Ross Douthat of the New York Times.
Let's talk about another political actor, and another impending election, which is the British elections. And you used to be the deputy editor of the London Spectator.
APPLEBAUM: I was.
ZAKARIA: When you look at David Cameron running against Gordon Brown. This is a Labor government that has been in power 12 years, presiding over the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression, with a lot of assorted scandals. The conservatives still have not been able to establish a commanding lead. What's wrong?
APPLEBAUM: They are working off a very, very bad history and a very bad legacy. You know, the British story really makes an interesting parallel to the American one. Because in fact, you had -- Thatcherism was so triumphant in Britain that it really changed the whole context of British politics. And when Tony Blair came to power in 1997, he simply -- he basically took the best ideas of Thatcherism, and kept going, and pushed them farther. And that left the British conservatives in a very odd place. It left them sort of far to the right, you know, taking eccentric positions on issues. It left them without their big ideas. You know, their big ideas were very often simply the ideas that Tony Blair was pursuing using different language and in some different ways.
And they have essential been a marginal party. You know, in a two-party system, you always have some votes, but they haven't had much influence on British politics for the last 12 years. And recovering from that has been a major trauma. I mean, they have elected -- they now have a leader who -- he's very impressive, he's very young. He has not said very much. We don't know what he thinks about very many things, and this is, I think, deliberate, because the conservatives are so wary of offending people again, are so wary of scaring people again, that they have had to put somebody like that into office.
FREELAND: Actually, Anne, I think that's a narrative which totally ignores the financial crisis, and you could have said that with accuracy about what Labour had done pre-the financial crisis. But post-the financial crisis, there's a tremendous opportunity to attack these guys.
(CROSSTALK) FREELAND: Blair and Brown took on what was good about Thatcherism, but part of what seemed good prior to 2007 turned out to be what has devastated the British economy. Britain actually bought into the whole deregulation of the financial services, the whole notion of we will have the world's premiere financial center more aggressively than the United States. And in relative terms, the British economy has been battered much more profoundly than the U.S. economy.
ZAKARIA: But how does a right-of-center party attack deregulation?
FREELAND: Conservatives can say we believe in rules. Conservatives can say, we are a party that believes you have to have good rules to have a country operate properly.
ZAKARIA: Ross, you're a conservative, can you --
FREELAND: -- these lefty (ph) guys don't actually understand how capitalism works. We are people who --
DOUTHAT: We are the people who understand it.
FREELAND: We believe -- we understand how capitalism works. We believe you should have good, strong central bankers. We believe you should have good, strong regulation--
ZAKARIA: Is she the next Sarah Palin?
DOUTHAT: Well, in this sense, I think, this is a case where actually American conservatives have an advantage over British conservatives, because American conservatism has that populist temper, where, you know, if you look at the Tea Parties right now in the United States, they are against big government, but they are also against big business, and so they say, you know, we're against this corrupt marriage that leads to bailouts and so on. I think British conservatives have a harder time mustering that kind of populism. And you know, David Cameron is many things, but he's not really a populist.
FREELAND: A populist.
APPLEBAUM: But don't you worry that the Tea Parties could force the American conservative party in the direction of -- the American Republican Party in the direction of they might meet the same fate as the British conservatives? It will push them--
DOUTHAT: It's possible.
APPLEBAUM: As they become louder and more aggressive, they will be more and more marginalized?
(CROSSTALK) DOUTHAT: I think one way to think about it is that the Tea Parties are clearly an asset for the Republican Party in 2010, which is an off-year election, and it's a base mobilization election.
APPLEBAUM: What about 2012?
DOUTHAT: 2012, it will depend -- I mean, we have been talking about the unemployment, right?
FREELAND: It's the economy, stupid.
DOUTHAT: It's the economy. And the thing the Tea Parties have going for them is, whatever you think people talk about, there's racism here, and there is extremism there, and they don't have specific policy agendas and so on, but they're talking about the deficit.
ZAKARIA: But do the Tea Parties have the -- is the problem that Anne identified real, which is that the Tea Parties seem vibrant and energetic, and they add a lot of energy to the Republican Party, but they drive it to the right and it loses the middle ground?
STENGEL: Tea Party -- and Ross, I would be curious to see what you think about this -- it represents a historic movement in America of people who really distrust government, who distrust centralized power. You know that old bumper sticker, I love my country but I fear my government. Those are the Tea Partiers. They disproportionately come from Republicans, but in a way they have always existed. Now we kind of have a name for them. They may actually change what happens to Republicans and conservatives, but they've basically been around for, you know, a hundred years. And now they have a rubric that we can understand, but I don't know how much influence they are actually going to have on mainstream Republicans.
DOUTHAT: Well, (inaudible), they are partially hard-core-based conservative voters and they are partially the Ross Perot demographic. But what happened to the Ross Perot demographic in the early 90s was that once the economy bloomed and the deficit stopped -- I mean, you know, in the early 1990s, the deficit seemed to be a huge problem. By the late 1990s, it wasn't. And the Perot demographic, a lot of them, went back to the Republicans, some of them went to the Democrats, and that movement fizzled out. You can imagine the same thing happening if the economy grows at 1990s rates. But I think--
FREELAND: It's not just about economic growth, though. I mean, I think the point that we started on, which is where is unemployment, is the central political issue. If -- one thing that we're seeing, which is really interesting right now, is a Wall Street rebound, which is much, much stronger than the Main Street rebound. And it's really -- we are seeing a really interesting fact, which is American economies are really strong. And American CEOs turn out to have done a really good job. Most people don't see that, because we think about the Wall Street fiasco, but if you look at corporate balance sheets, they are incredibly strong. U.S. companies responded to the crisis really, really swiftly, and they are much, much more productive. But then, being more productive means they don't need that many more workers. So we could see a strong corporate rebound, but structural unemployment being quite high. And if so, then, I think any political platform which speaks to those disaffected people who feel left out by this economy is going to be effective.
ZAKARIA: So if you are looking -- we're talking about character, leadership, and this is really what your book is about, Rick. So when you look at the secular saint, Nelson Mandela, who you begin the book by saying is probably the one guy who is truly universally admired. If you were to summarize so that -- I hope our viewers will buy the book anyway -- but if you were to summarize, what is the key to Mandela's extraordinary ability to have been charismatic and effective and wise?
STENGEL: You know, the key was something that you wouldn't actually have thought. The key was his prison experience. Prison was his great teacher. 27 years in prison. He went in as a hot-headed, tempestuous young man, and he came out steeled, self-controlled, measured, and he understood the power of the media, even though he had been away from it for 27 years. He understood that he had to project tolerance, forgiveness, and that helped prevent a civil war in South Africa. It helped unify that country.
He was media savvy in a way that he learned so fast that he could become this symbol that became for all of us the symbol of unification, of leadership that we all yearn for.
ZAKARIA: Anne Applebaum, Rick Stengel, Chrystia Freeland, Ross Douthat, thank you very much. And we will be back.
ZAKARIA: Now for our "What in the World" segment.
For months now, there's been a great chill across the Pacific. Relations between China and the United States have been filled with unfriendliness. Accusations of disrespect, upset over meetings, threats of tariffs, anger over arms sales. But over the last week, things have begun to warm up.
Close watchers of this show will remember that I recently told you to watch very carefully Chinese President Hu's decision to attend or not the White House's nuclear security summit scheduled for next week. China has been coy about whether it would send a delegation to Mr. Obama's meeting at all, let alone whether the president would head it. And how could the White House hold a global meeting on nukes if only four of the world's five declared nuclear weapon states were there?
But then on April 1st China announced that President Hu himself would indeed attend. Later that day, as President Obama flew on Air Force One, the two presidents, Obama and Hu, spent an hour on the phone together. The call was so long, in fact, the plane sat on the tarmac for 10 minutes waiting for President Obama to finish his conversation.
In short order, the U.S. delayed the release of a report that many expected to admonish China for currency manipulation. Then Treasury Secretary Geithner extended a trip to India to drop in on the vice premiere in Beijing. And after that meeting, China made clear it was now willing to address U.S. concerns on currency.
Zachary Karabell, a frequent guest on this show, has called the U.S./China relationship a marriage of convenience. He says the two nations find themselves in a marriage that neither can fully dissolve and neither fully wants.
Everybody always talks about the U.S. being literally indebted to China for hundreds of billions of dollars. That's true, but it's much more than that. It's a two-way street. We must not forget that China needs the United States, too. It needs America to keep buying, spending and borrowing, which keeps the dollar strong and the Chinese economy strong.
Of course, the balance of power has shifted in recent years, with the United States arguably needing China more than it did in the past, and with China arguably needing the United States less than it did in the past. So why did the formerly crossed couple suddenly kiss and make up? Perhaps, as Karabell suggested to me, the quarrelling couple remembered that even amid such struggles, they still have to go to bed with each other every night. So why not do it with smiles on their faces?
And we will be right back.
ZAKARIA: Now, for our question of the week. Here's what I want to know. Should the United States continue to back Afghanistan's President Karzai? Let me know what you think. And, as always, you can go to our website to see some good answers to last week's question.
Now, as I do every week, I want to recommend a book. This week, it is "Mandela's Way: 15 Lessons on Life, Love and Courage." It's just out from today's guest, Rick Stengel, editor of Time magazine. Rick spent three years reporting on South Africa's political prisoner turned president, Nelson Mandela, in the early 1990s. The two then collaborated on Mandela's autobiography, "Long Walk to Freedom."
For this book, Rick went back to his voluminous notes from the Mandela years and turned it into advice on leadership and reflections on character. It is a short book and well worth reading.
And now for the last look. Behold the monument of African renaissance. The $27 million statue was unveiled this week in Dakar, Senegal, to celebrate the nation's 50 years of independence. This in a country where, at last check, only about half the people are employed. And this is how the government chooses to spend its money.
Dignitaries from around the world took part in the celebration, but many Senegalese are outraged. They held a protest, complete with their own, less expensive version of the monument. But money wasn't the only issue. In a country that is almost entirely Muslim and conservative, the scantily clad figures were a cause of much consternation.
The statue was the pet project of this man, Senegal's president, Abdoulaye Wade. And to add insult to injury, he says that because the statue was his idea, he is entitled to a 35-percent cut of every ticket sold.
Thanks to all of you for being a part of my program this week. I will see you next week. Stay tuned for "Reliable Sources."