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Fareed Zakaria decries the "anti-Americanism" in America's politics today

Fareed Zakaria on "Age of Revolutions"
Fareed Zakaria on "Age of Revolutions" 06:36

As host of "GPS (Global Public Square)" on CNN, 60-year-old Fareed Zakaria says he's teaching international relations to the masses. "I've always thought of journalism as sort of, at some level, public education," he said.

In a digital studio with plasma screen walls, Zakaria dives into global issues with scholars, U.S. presidents, and even the occasional celebrity. No shouting allowed!

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Fareed Zakaria in the studio of CNN's "GPS," with "Sunday Morning" contributor Kelefa Sanneh.  CBS News

Zakaria is an optimist, and he'd like to think of himself as non-partisan, at a time when it's hard for a news anchor to go on TV and not make clear whether they support Donald Trump or not. He said, "The weirdness of the Trump presidency and candidacy and such – being such an assault on traditional American, I would argue, mores and norms – and the lies, the constant lying, so you feel as though you're not actually taking a side when you say that, 'This guy is lying.' But it sounds like you're taking a side, right? And then he attacks you. Now you're in the ring, whether you want to be or not."

Sanneh asked, "Is that uncomfortable for you? I get the sense that you did not get into this in order to become a partisan figure?"

"I don't pretend that I don't have views," Zakaria said. "But it's my analysis rooted in fact, rooted in history."

In terms of his politics, Zakaria said, "I find that on most issues these days, I'm left-of-center. When I was in college, I was a Reaganite. I was more right-of-center."

Born in Mumbai to Rafiq, a politician, and Fatma, a journalist and editor, Fareed came to America to go to college on a scholarship at Yale, which, he said, no one had heard of. "My dad, to his dying day, could never pronounce Yale. He would always call it Ale," Zakaria said. "So he'd be like, 'How are things at Ale?'"

His original plan was to get an education in the United States and then go back to India. "But very quickly, I have to confess, I kinda fell in love with America," he said.

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Fareed Zakaria, host of CNN's "GPS," and author of "Age of Revolutions."  CBS News

He went on to Harvard, getting a Ph.D. in political science in 1993. On the side, he gained a culinary education. "I learned how to cook by watching Jacques Pépin on public television!" he said.

By 28, he was managing editor of Foreign Affairs magazine. In 2000, he joined Newsweek as a columnist. 

He initially supported the Iraq War, which, he says, he later came to regret. "In this case, I think I lost my judgment, because, as somebody who grew up Muslim, I was worried that I was not gonna seem sufficiently, you know, tough on Muslim dysfunction," he said. "So, there was a part of me that, I think, wanted to show my patriotic credentials."

In 2015 he called the Iraq war "a failure and a terrible mistake." "I think the U.S. lost enormous credibility," said Zakaria. "It was, turned out to be, a massive waste of American resources, of American lives."

During those years, Zakaria seemed to be everywhere—a widely-read print columnist, and also a TV host, first on PBS, and then, starting in 2008, on CNN. But in 2012, he was accused of plagiarism. He was briefly suspended by Time magazine (where he was a contributing editor-at-large) and by CNN.

"I've had these setbacks," he said. "And initially, you know, you get defensive, and you say to yourself, Wait a minute… Then, you have to step back and say to yourself, Was this at the level of quality that I would be comfortable with? And the answer is, no. And so I just said to myself, Okay, I'm gonna be three times more careful."

In his new book, "Age of Revolutions" (published March 26 by W.W. Norton), Zakaria writes about how societies embrace change, and resist it, too.

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W.W. Norton

"You have the information revolution which connects everybody. And then, you have, at the same time over the last 30 or 40 years, this identity revolution where, all of a sudden, whether it's your sexual orientation, whether it's your national origin, whether it's the color of your skin, you're saying, you know, 'I want to be able to be me.' And, of course, what has happened is, it has left a lot of people deeply unmoored, anxious, feeling like their world is going away. And now we're living through the backlash. How well you can navigate that backlash is really what determines whether you'll succeed or fail in the end."

He believes the speed of recent changes has unsettled the country.  He said, "We have this group of people in America who feel that they are not benefiting from all the changes in society. And that worries me a lot. There is a kind of anti-Americanism at the heart of this. You can't love your country and hate everything about it."

Zakaria is not just an observer.  He speaks with world leaders regularly both on-air and off-, including President Joe Biden. "He's occasionally called me into the White House to talk about what I think is going on in the world," he said.

Sanneh asked, "Are you reassured by what you hear from him in private, both his ideas, but also his fitness for the office?"

"Yeah. When I have talked to him, one-on-one, or in a small group, he's alert, he's sharp, he's wise, I would say, most importantly," Zakaria said. "I think he is performing his job as president extremely well. Now, can you have the energy to hustle on the campaign trail? That's hard."

Zakaria said he didn't want Biden to run for re-election. Now that the campaign is underway, he thinks the choice is obvious.

But he said it's not easy to be an optimist these days.

"I worry a lot about what is happening in America right now," he said. "There was sort of guidance, there were gatekeepers, and part of this revolutionary age is that's all gone away. And what you're finding is that there's no self-regulatory mechanism, that there's no way that you can somehow say, 'No, this is beyond the pale.'

"I will return to my optimism. We will find a way. But this is a very rocky period."

READ AN EXCERPT: "Age of Revolutions" by Fareed Zakaria

       
For more info:

       
Story produced by Mary Raffalli. Editor: Robert Kaplan.

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