ZAKARIA: Today on the show, a new cold war. U.S.-China relations are at their lowest point in many decades. What will it take to get back to some kind of normal?

And an ugly week in America as it passes 150,000 COVID deaths and records its worst economic quarter ever. I’ll talk to an all-star panel about it all.

Then casting doubt on mail-in ballots. (INAUDIBLE) on accepting election results.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I have to say — I’m not just going to say yes. I’m not going to say and I didn’t last time either.

ZAKARIA: And now suggesting postponing the elections entirely. Donald Trump is setting up a dangerous November. Could America really become authoritarian? I’ll ask Anne Applebaum, who has written a timely new book.

Also, the U.S., in some measures the world’s richest country, has struggled with COVID. So how are the world’s poorest faring? For the most part, not well. I will talk to the former British Foreign secretary David Miliband.ZAKARIA: But first here’s my take. We’re used to thinking about the American presidency as a position of moral leadership, a bully pulpit in Theodore Roosevelt’s words, and many occupants of the White House have used that function well. But the modern American president also has a core managerial aspect as the CEO of the federal government. And this dimension of power is crucial in a national crisis. Donald Trump has never understood or mastered that role, and that is

the central reason why America’s COVID-19 outbreak has turned into a catastrophe.

The American presidency has become a symbol of super power status with pictures of the White House recognizable around the globe, but the Constitution actually makes the office weak by design, giving it among the most limited set of powers of any head of government in the world.

Preeminent scholar Richard Neustadt noted that to get anything done, the president has to use whatever influence he does possess on Congress, agencies, the media, state governments, private interests, foreign allies and public opinion abroad as well as at home. Compared to all the oppositions, even a strong president is weak.

Some argue that the accumulation of presidential power through executive actions has been vast and dangerous. Others note that this expansion is mostly in the realm of international affairs, arguing that there are really two presidencies, a strong one in foreign policy and a weak one in domestic matters.

In any case, when compared with most parliamentary systems where the head of government essentially controls both the executive and legislative branch, the American presidency is, indeed, weak. That’s why a national crisis has always required a heroic exertion of presidential power.

It was Herbert Hoover’s failure to use his office to tackle the Great Depression that led to Franklin Roosevelt’s victory, and it was FDR’s effective and creative use of the White House that rescued the economy. Ever since then, presidents have understood that when facing a real challenge, they must use all their talents and efforts to mobilize the government’s resources.

Now the COVID-19 pandemic is just such a challenge, one of the biggest the country has ever faced, but tackling it requires that the president take charge, coordinating and overseeing the actions of dozens of federal agencies, making sure they’re working in concert. It means close cooperation with the states, allowing for some variation and experimentation but still ensuring that core national standards and objectives are met.

And it requires a clear, consistent message that educates and leads the public. In other words, it’s hard work. A comparison with Germany’s instructive, that country also has a weak central government and its chancellor has limited powers, partly because of the Nazi past and partly because of a long tradition of decentralization.As a result, when COVID-19 struck, Berlin, too, faced the problem of multiple sources of authority but the central government managed to coordinate its public health agency successfully, steering the national response while exercising a light touch that allowed for some local experimentation, and the quick rollout of testing by private companies and labs. The Chancellor Angela Merkel acted as the national guide, presenting

the public with clear scientific criteria for government decisions, at one point explaining the concept of R-naught, the rate of spread, and why it was crucial to keep that number under one. The result is that Germany today has 110 deaths per million people compared with America’s 470 deaths per million people.

Trump actually handles the bully pulpit aspect of the White House effectively. I don’t like the ideas he puts forward often, but he does so in an innovative way, using all of the tools of social media to amplify his voice and get out his message. Unfortunately, during the pandemic, he used this platform to promote unproven treatments, discourage mask wearing, and stoke anti-lockdown sentiment.

Worse still, Trump seems to think that public relations is the essence of his job. As COVID-19 hit, he made bold announcements about convenient testing at Walmart and CVS, tests with near instant results, and massive new supplies. For the most part, he failed to deliver.

This is how Trump has handled most of his presidency, from the travel bans to repealing Obamacare. Half-baked policies are summarily announced, often on Twitter. They then amended by federal agencies or struck down by courts or reversed by Congress. The initial chaos dies down but little actually gets accomplished.

The point of policy for Trump is political theater, not execution. Even when he uses presidential powers, like sending federal troops ostensibly to restore law and order in cities, it’s really to make a polemical statement, not to solve an actual problem.

Trump has turned the American presidency into a reality television show. But the COVID-19 pandemic has painfully demonstrated that you cannot solve a national crisis with ratings and tweetsSo, when you look at that history and you look at where we are with China today, it seems as though on both sides of the aisle there is this view now that American diplomacy toward China failed and we need something very different and much tougher in response. So, how do you react to that?

ROBERT ZOELLICK, FORMER PRESIDENT, WORLD BANK: Well, first, thanks for having me on the show. And in a way, your opening is a nice segue into what I was trying to cover in the book, which is the challenge of actually pragmatically trying to address and solve problems and using all the different instruments of U.S. power from the presidency on down.

Now, as for China in particular, I’m afraid the relationship appears to be in freefall. And I don’t quite know where the bottom is going to be. This is a responsibility of both sides, from China’s and some of the changes under Xi and certainly under the Trump administration. And I think the starting point is where you ended, which is that for any administration, it’s important to have a sense of what do you want to accomplish?

We know what you can complain about, but what results and how do you want to try to achieve them? In the past, another theme in the book, is over the past 70 years the U.S. reliance on the alliance system and the economic network that are created to be more successful and bring other powers to bear.

That’s not what this administration has done. Its approach to China in the first three years is really a focus on trying to do bilateral trade package which would weaken its conclusions and frankly is only being half executed.ZAKARIA: Anne-Marie Slaughter, how would you respond to what Bob was describing, and keep in mind this, on both sides of the aisle in Washington, I noticed we’re back in a kind of cold war dynamic by which I mean it is always safer to be a hawk than a dove. It is always safer to claim you’re being tough, you’re standing up for America, and it’s happening on both sides, also the U.S. and China. You know, the hawks are, in a sense, reinforcing each other.

ANNE-MARIE SLAUGHTER, CEO, NEW AMERICA: Fareed, I think you’re exactly right. And this return to a new — to a cold war, a new cold war, is easy and bipartisan and wrong. To begin with, you know, Bob Zoellick himself coined the responsible stakeholder idea where we engage China to make it a responsible stakeholder in the world. And it’s certainly true that that approach had its limits and we needed to get tougher with China. But it wasn’t a total failure.

China — you know, China’s rise was good for the global economy. It raised hundreds of millions of people out of poverty in China and elsewhere. And China is a player in the global system. It is also true that China is pushing its military power, its technological power in ways that we need to stand up to. But it shouldn’t be a new cold war. That’s looking backwards. Furthermore, it’s letting China set the agenda.

China pushes and we try to block, and now we’re pushing it at every turn to almost try to deliberately create a crisis. But the point is, China has a vision. It has a vision of what China is going to be, technologically advanced by 2025 and by 2049, 100 years after the revolution, it wants to be a high-income country. It has a vision for itself in the world.KISHORE MAHBUBANI, FORMER SENIOR SINGAPOREAN DIPLOMAT: Well, I would make quickly two points. The first one I agree with the points that Bob and Anne-Marie have made, and I also agree the term cold war is actually very dangerous because it creates a deep sense of complacency on the part of the United States that oh, we defeated the Soviet Union, we can also defeat China.

By this time you’re taking on a 4,000-year-old civilization that is now enjoying its most energetic streak ever in 4,000 years. So take the long view. The second point is that right now if the four of us, Bob, Anne-Marie, you and I were caught on a boat that was on fire, the stupidest thing the four of us could do is argue about who started the fire.

We should all come together and put out the fire. And so the simplest thing the United States and China could do is to agree to put a complete pause on the geopolitical contest, focus on putting out the fire, which is COVID-19, declare an end to the trade war, and say, let’s stop all that. And guess what, I bet you the markets will bounce as soon as we do that.ZAKARIA: And we are back on GPS with Robert Zoellick, Anne-Marie Slaughter, and Kishore Mahbubani.

Kishore, let me ask you. What does it look like from East Asia? You see the richest country in the world, the country that 50 years ago put a man on the moon, and, you know, it is clearly floundering with this crisis and the East Asian countries have handled it extraordinarily well.

I mean, you look at a country like Taiwan and it has, you know, under a dozen deaths. You look at Singapore, where you come from, and the number of deaths is, you know, miniscule compared to the United States per capita. What are people saying about America?

MAHBUBANI: Well, I mean, I hope you don’t mind if I’m a bit frank in my reply. The East Asian who, as you know, admire the United States a great deal, and it’s important to emphasize that the East Asian elites were all trained in American universities.Bob Zoellick, let me ask you, as a longtime Republican and a man with a reputation for extreme efficiency in government, do you think that the anti-government rhetoric of Reagan and Thatcher created — and the defunding of many federal agencies over the years, has it caused a circumstance where it is much more difficult to coordinate a robust public health response that requires government in the United States?

ZOELLICK: Well, under both the Bush 43 administration and the Obama administration, they both focused on pandemic issues, and so I don’t believe that the constant debate to and fro about the nature of government in the United States prevents an effective response. I think the problem is where you pointed your finger at the top. But what I want to add on this is the White House is not all of the

United States. So probably most people haven’t focused as much, but the Federal Reserve, which is an important U.S. institution, did a fantastic job not only for the U.S. economy but the global economy. I bet as we go forward that the private sector working with government on vaccines will be a critical part of sort of getting out of this hole.

So the next real question from an international side will be, how will the U.S. take those advantages, our financial and economic power and frankly what I think will probably be the critical medical and health solution, and deal with it internationally?

So I’ll give you an example from another Republican administration. President Bush 43 had an HIV-AIDS initiative that probably did more for African health that anything in the history of U.S. relations with Africa. That will be the challenge for the next U.S. administration.When Donald Trump and his allies withheld aid from a foreign country in hopes of getting dirt on a political rival, many people cried foul. This, they said, doesn’t happen in a democracy. When federal agents cleared the park next to the White House for Trump photo up, people cried foul, this they said, doesn’t happen in a democracy.

When President Trump this week raised the idea of postponing the elections, people cried foul saying again, this doesn’t happen in a democracy. So what is the state of American democracy and is it sliding towards something more sinister?

Anne Applebaum has a brilliantly timed new book, “Twilight of Democracy: The Seductive Lure of Authoritarianism.” Welcome Anne. I want to ask you about the central question to start, because I think that has been a tendency in the United States, certainly, I shared to say, yes, the Trump is a circus. He’s vulgar. He clearly doesn’t believe in some of these democratic norms. But the country is strong, the institutions are strong, this will be a blip. This will be temporary.

But you have lived in Poland, right next to Hungary, and you’ve watched a different trajectory. So is the book meant to sort of warn us against complacency?

ANNE APPLEBAUM, AUTHOR, “TWILIGHT OF DEMOCRACY”: Yes, that is one of the points of the book. I feel that over the last 30, 40, 50 years even we’ve all become convinced that democracy is something automatic, we don’t have to worry about it. It’s just how our systems work. And once you have democracy, you’ve had free elections a few times, you can’t backslide.APPLEBAUM: So in both countries what happened was that authoritarian minded parties came to power. And once they did come to power, they began destroying and undermining the institutions that keep democracy in balance.

I mean, if you think about it, democracy asks a lot of politicians and asked them once they win an election, to keep the system going so that their political enemies can beat them again in four years’ time. It also asked people who are out of power to accept that their political enemies have the right to rule for four years.

And what we’ve seen happening, not just in Eastern Europe but elsewhere in the world, is parties coming to power and changing the rules and altering the way the system works. Look, there are elements of the Republican Party now in the United States who are afraid that because their party is becoming a minority party, because it doesn’t – it hasn’t won – it has more trouble winning national elections, winning the popular vote than it used to.

They are worried about will they be able to continue and they’re looking at changing the rules. Do we need to undermine people’s trust in the media by calling it fake news?

Do we need to do gerrymander electoral districts, so that it’s harder for Democrats to win? Do we need to do voter suppression? Do we need to warn people in advance or tease people with the idea that the election might not be legitimate in order to scare them off voting?

I mean, all of these are tactics that Americans may find new, but actually they’ve been tried and used elsewhere all over the world.

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