Support The Bulwark and subscribe today.
  Join Now

Live from New Orleans with Walter Isaacson

November 5, 2023
Notes
Transcript
Tim interviews Walter Isaacson at The Bulwark’s live event in New Orleans. Listen to the two discuss Walter’s latest book, Elon Musk, and what it was like for the author to interact with the business magnate as he was writing the biography.

This event took place on October 25, 2023.

This transcript was generated automatically and may contain errors and omissions. Ironically, the transcription service has particular problems with the word “bulwark,” so you may see it mangled as “Bullard,” “Boulart,” or even “bull word.” Enjoy!
  • Speaker 1
    0:00:09

    Hello, and welcome to the Bulwark Next Level Sunday Show. I’m your host, Tim Miller. This week, we’re playing my interview with Wall Inter Isaacson, live from New Orleans, it’s a hometown boy. We talked about his Elon Musk book, but he’s talked a lot about his Elon Musk book. Let’s be honest, so I gave him the business a little bit about, yeah, the ways in which, you know, some have thought he was a little, a little too kind, maybe to his subject in this case.
  • Speaker 1
    0:00:34

    I think you can judge that for yourself. He has a lot of criticisms of Elon, and I think he rightly points out a lot of the positives that we all thought about Elon before he took over and became an insane person tweeting weird conspiracy theories about Nancy Pelosi’s husband’s gay lover. So that part of the conversation at the start, but then we have a really interesting broader conversation about what media institutions are supposed to do in the age of Trump, he ran time magazine CNN, and the Aspen Institute. So he’s, you know, had to make a lot of these decisions And so I really enjoyed that part of the conversation. So check it out.
  • Speaker 1
    0:01:11

    If you want your politics fixed, I was on over on the Bulwark flagship podcast, on Friday with Charlie Sykes. If you haven’t listened to it yet, we have a blast. We talked about Steve Bannon’s come retribution. Which, there’s a pretty grody mental image for the weekend. But, you know, we have to give clear to give you all the news that you need.
  • Speaker 1
    0:01:33

    Even if you don’t want it. And that’s what we did on the Secret Podcast. So enjoy this conversation with Walter Isaacson. I’ll be back with Sarah and JBL on Wednesday, but first, our friends at Asset Tong. Peace.
  • Speaker 1
    0:02:00

    Are y’all doing? New Orleans, Louisiana, not too bad, right? Pretty good. French quarter. How many locals we got here tonight?
  • Speaker 1
    0:02:18

    We got some locals on half. Who flew in? Hello. Hello. Happanetta.
  • Speaker 1
    0:02:24

    That’s so great. Thank you for welcoming me to New Orleans locals. You all have been so sweet. This is such a great place. I I’m about to introduce I I think the king in New Orleans.
  • Speaker 1
    0:02:34

    We have with us. You might have heard of him. He wrote a couple books. He wrote one about Steve Jobs. He wrote another one about another guy.
  • Speaker 1
    0:02:39

    I don’t like as much, but we’ll talk about that. And I think he went to Newman High School. Someone like that. We have any Newman people here. I knew we’d have a lot of Newman people here.
  • Speaker 1
    0:02:50

    We’re having McGee people here? Anybody in McGee girls? I write a couple. I love that. My daughter’s a McGee.
  • Speaker 1
    0:02:55

    Alright. Are we ready for this? Walter? Let’s do it. Walter
  • Speaker 2
    0:02:59

    Oh, yeah. I’m glad to know that the newman school gets the most
  • Speaker 1
    0:03:07

    The newman school. Rush it out
  • Speaker 2
    0:03:09

    there. No. Really.
  • Speaker 1
    0:03:10

    Yeah. Luman kids and, all the mannings and Yeah.
  • Speaker 2
    0:03:14

    Now that they’ve had three mannings, me and Michael Lewis were in the Agate type on the also went to Newman. Yeah.
  • Speaker 1
    0:03:20

    That’s a positive. That’s a positive. Okay. Well, let’s earn a start here. Let’s do a little New Orleans.
  • Speaker 1
    0:03:25

    Talk for one second, if you don’t mind. Alright? We had a set. We had some wait. Yeah.
  • Speaker 1
    0:03:29

    Yeah. You’re right. We had a couple people in town from out of town. Know you and your wife go to Gallatois, once a week, you said?
  • Speaker 2
    0:03:37

    Yeah. We were there tonight. Okay. Will Saletan Alright.
  • Speaker 1
    0:03:40

    So let’s put Gallatois aside. Give them one meal to have while they’re in town before they fly back in.
  • Speaker 2
    0:03:45

    But not Gallitize.
  • Speaker 1
    0:03:46

    But not Gallitize. One other one. We’re gonna grant Gallitize.
  • Speaker 2
    0:03:49

    Can I
  • Speaker 1
    0:03:49

    do two? Yeah, two. Great.
  • Speaker 2
    0:03:52

    If you want a nice, wonderful place, go to Herb St.
  • Speaker 1
    0:03:55

    Oh, so good.
  • Speaker 2
    0:03:55

    Yeah. I men have the gumbo. And if you like garlic and adventure, go to Moscow.
  • Speaker 1
    0:04:02

    Well, that’s good. People like Oscar.
  • Speaker 2
    0:04:06

    I don’t. Okay. Alright. A buzz for herbs say? Alright.
  • Speaker 2
    0:04:11

    A boss from Oscar’s.
  • Speaker 1
    0:04:12

    Oh, good. Oscar’s alright. I’m not a lot who’s this man, you know? By the tracks.
  • Speaker 2
    0:04:19

    You do go to the tracks.
  • Speaker 1
    0:04:20

    You know, couldn’t I go to the jazz fest? I’m not a horse man, but not. I don’t know. I mean, it seems okay. I like gambling, but I don’t really like the horses.
  • Speaker 2
    0:04:29

    Well, you you do horse race coverage of the pot.
  • Speaker 1
    0:04:32

    I do do horse race coverage of politics. We’ll do You ought
  • Speaker 2
    0:04:35

    to go to the track. It’s actually nice.
  • Speaker 1
    0:04:37

    Okay. That’s on my list. I, I’m taking all the suggestions from all the all the locals. I have a I have a Google spreadsheet of all the places I need to go now that I live here, and it’s getting longer and longer. But it but, like, each place I go, I add two more.
  • Speaker 1
    0:04:51

    So it’s been nice. We have some other Louisiana news. We have a speaker of the house from Louisiana.
  • Speaker 2
    0:04:56

    Yeah. It’s really interesting because you have two LSU people Okay. I mean, because Scalia Will Saletan you’ve said, the most powerful majority leader and basically have to mentor Mike Johnson, who’s a young daughter. Yeah.
  • Speaker 1
    0:05:15

    The pool boy that came to master.
  • Speaker 2
    0:05:17

    Yeah. Yeah. Exactly.
  • Speaker 1
    0:05:19

    So well, I I’m gonna change your lease man when I’m, like, looking at my LSU folks and a Steve’s lease man, but that’s okay.
  • Speaker 2
    0:05:26

    Well, those of us from two lane have an inordinate fear of LSU people running the country. Alright. That’s fair.
  • Speaker 1
    0:05:36

    Well, as As a transplant, I don’t feel like I have the right to say.
  • Speaker 2
    0:05:40

    Well, that Carmel is coming to have equal time. Yes. For how last year?
  • Speaker 1
    0:05:44

    We will. We will have equal time. As a transplant, I don’t feel like I have the right to do this, but I was hoping you might. So so the new speakers from Shreveport, and I was just thinking Maybe we should just give North Louisiana at Arkansas. Is that okay?
  • Speaker 1
    0:06:00

    Might might might Johnson be a better Mike Johnson from Arkansas sounds a lot better.
  • Speaker 2
    0:06:04

    There’s a wonderful L. B. J line in the Carol book
  • Speaker 1
    0:06:08

    Okay.
  • Speaker 2
    0:06:09

    About Shreveport. Alright. Basically, which is He said, thank god. It’s not part of Texas because that would make Texas even worse. But, on a more serious note, which you don’t wanna be, it’s really a astonishing how this country has divided into cities like Austin or New Orleans or Houston.
  • Speaker 2
    0:06:30

    All of which I think were ninety percent for Biden in the election and ten percent of Trump. And then you’re in the state that it’s totally flipped.
  • Speaker 1
    0:06:40

    Yeah. We’re gonna talk to Carl about the governor’s race here. I’m gonna leave you off the hook on that one. Because I wanna talk about somebody about his unappealing Jeff Landry, which is your book subject. Oh.
  • Speaker 1
    0:06:50

    He loves.
  • Speaker 2
    0:06:51

    Jennifer Daryl.
  • Speaker 1
    0:06:52

    Oh, I know that you’re on list. Well, let’s see. I, I guess, you’ve done a lot of Ylan interviews and, I’ve listened to most of them. And, Cara swisher gave you the business. So if you want if you want somebody to give Walter the business on Elon, just go listen to Cara swisher.
  • Speaker 1
    0:07:04

    We’re we’re having fun. We’re doing well. We’re gonna have some cocktails. It’s not what I wanna do. But, I’m gonna ask you Joe Scarborough a question really quick, which is I’m gonna I’m gonna vamp for about two minutes, and then you can respond.
  • Speaker 1
    0:07:15

    So I like so here’s the thing. I suffer terrible people a lot for the Bulwark audience. I’m happy to do it. Spend a lot of time watching Candice Owens and Steve Bandon’s podcast and just kinda hanging out in the fever swamps, making sure I know what’s happening over there. And despite that, my main question for you is, like, spending two years with Elon Musk makes me wanna, like, rip off my toenails.
  • Speaker 1
    0:07:42

    And so I just, like, what was it like? Like, why did you do it?
  • Speaker 2
    0:07:46

    Well, I won’t When I started this book, about three years ago, he was I think the most popular person in the polls, up there with Oprah. He is person of the year at time, person of the year at financial times, He had just done something astonishing, which has gotten Americans into orbit, which NASA could no longer do, and relanded rockets and reuse them. And he had made a million, electric vehicles when Ford and GM had gotten out of your EV business. So he was bringing us into the aerospace travel. Bringing us into the air of electric vehicles into solar rues, battery packs, and rebuilding the internet in low earth orbit.
  • Speaker 2
    0:08:31

    It was an amazing technological feat. Still, no country, no company has been able to shoot rockets of things in orbit and land them again and quickly reuse them. So he’s reinventing how we do things. Had he not gotten involved in Twitter? He would and by in two ways, first of all, by tweeting, because he has all these impulsive weird Thanks, Eddie.
  • Speaker 2
    0:08:57

    Thanks. But as we were saying backstage, a lot of billionaires have really dumb ideas. It’s just that they don’t have a platform. So had he not been tweeting out his weird theories and then buying Twitter He would still be fine. And I think we’re not very good in this day and age at holding two or three things in our mind.
  • Speaker 2
    0:09:21

    That somebody can be absolutely awesome and do things that nobody else can do in terms of technology and building things, manufacturing things in the United States, but also be totally crazed and somewhat conspiratorial and weird when you buy Twitter. And I think we have to be able not to cast everybody as either a saint or a center. Shakespeare teaches us at the end of the play that nobody ever reads, measure for measure, that even the bastard molded out a fall. Do
  • Speaker 1
    0:09:55

    you read that a new man?
  • Speaker 2
    0:09:57

    No. No. Nobody reads magic. Man used to imagine. I don’t know what he was thinking because he tried to get it by the way, if you get to the end, it’s the best are molded out of their faults and we can keep in our minds.
  • Speaker 2
    0:10:08

    Yeah. And with Musk personally, He he has multiple personalities and almost multiple personality disorder. His father was a Jacqueline Hyde. Yeah. And Musk is bipolar or talks about being so And so he will shift from being a really funny or charming or a deeply scientific you’re drilling down on exactly what material you should use for a valve in the wrapped or engine.
  • Speaker 2
    0:10:39

    And then Grimes, his girlfriend Will Saletan goes into demon mode. Something will click him just like his father. His father may used to make Elon stand in front of him while his father would say, how useless he is, how stupid he is, how he deserved to be beaten up. You know, Musk had no friends as a kid. He was a very, He talks about having asperger’s, but he was really a long
  • Speaker 1
    0:11:02

    Maybe just unlikable. What? Maybe it was just an unlikable kid.
  • Speaker 2
    0:11:05

    Well, I’m gonna say, are we on the record here totally? Wow.
  • Speaker 1
    0:11:10

    We’re the Oh, we’re the
  • Speaker 2
    0:11:12

    We’ll actually won’t, use a name. But somebody you’ve actually mentioned two or three times, I’ve been on and people say, I’ve got a kid with autism or asperger.
  • Speaker 1
    0:11:21

    Yeah, sure.
  • Speaker 2
    0:11:22

    And when I went to the baseball games with them, I put my arm Yeah. I know you you know who I’m talking about. And, or but Andrew Yang did about a couple weeks ago and put it on a podcast as I’ve got a kit. And we cut as Grimes says, a lot of slack to people who are manic depressive or schizophrenic, but when you’re have a deep bad wiring on emotional input, output. We just say you’re an asshole.
  • Speaker 1
    0:11:51

    Yeah.
  • Speaker 2
    0:11:51

    And he is. But it’s a complex thing to get your head on.
  • Speaker 1
    0:11:57

    Yeah. Asoles are just so hard as part of the problem. Like, who wants to hang out with fucking asshole all the time.
  • Speaker 2
    0:12:03

    Well, you know, you have to you could after a year or so, I could tell when demon mode. It was like living here. You can tell when a storm’s gonna come off the Gulf of Mexico. You’d feel it in the air. And I could tell when demon mode was about to come on.
  • Speaker 2
    0:12:21

    And it’s partly his mother said The danger for Elon is that he becomes his father. And his father, even though he doesn’t speak to his father, and his father doesn’t even have his email, his father has that same conspiratorial.
  • Speaker 1
    0:12:36

    Yeah.
  • Speaker 2
    0:12:37

    You know, vaccines are bad. Or So what
  • Speaker 1
    0:12:38

    you’re saying? One of the when I was asked folks what they wanted to know about him that’s not already known since he, like, tweets his thoughts. Has he changed, like, did this Twitter and, like, this resentment that he has, like, fundamentally change him, or is it just kind of like exposed What was behind the
  • Speaker 2
    0:12:53

    scene? No. He, about three years ago, went through a transformation politically, that I take two chapters in the book, so I’ll try to do it real fast here. But certain things happened. Yeah.
  • Speaker 2
    0:13:06

    First of all, a lot of Democrats started to attack them from He paid more tax the three years ago when this was happening. Anybody’s ever paid to any entity ever.
  • Speaker 1
    0:13:16

    He’s got a lot of money for the government. Lot of free money. Nobody nobody’s nobody’s giving the Bulwark any money. I’ll I’ll take a I’ll take some we’ll take some tax credits. Okay.
  • Speaker 2
    0:13:27

    Tax credits for the EVs. Yeah. But he did not take cost plus contracts on SpaceX.
  • Speaker 1
    0:13:32

    That’s true.
  • Speaker 2
    0:13:32

    No. No subsidies there. So he but he gets attacked by Elizabeth Warren, a lot of assembly women in California. Women. Yeah.
  • Speaker 2
    0:13:41

    Well, there were two or three in particular that, went after him. And he had some There are other things that happen, but there’s something very personal that happened, which fits into the mindset we have now, is of his five surviving eldest children. His eldest was named after his favorite character in the X Man comics, love the Webex, David. And at one point, There’s a message. I’m transitioning and my name is now Jenna, but don’t tell my father.
  • Speaker 2
    0:14:18

    And this is about three years ago when Jenna transitions, and Musk gets his head around it, but she becomes extraordinarily outspoken, as a anti capitalist evil, if you have money. Changes her last name refuses to speak to, her father. And he says other than the death of his first child, That was the biggest blow of his life, and he became just overwrought at what he felt was the mindset that it produced that.
  • Speaker 1
    0:14:57

    So I’m sure what you’re saying is that his child changed her name from his favorite x men character, and that’s why we’re all going through the tourments that we’re going through right now.
  • Speaker 2
    0:15:07

    Well, there are many other rumors, I guess.
  • Speaker 1
    0:15:10

    Man. It’s a weird world we’re in. There’s one of the one thing we have talking about, though. And it’s it’s an area where I kind of actually am more on your I I see the two sides of it in a more, in a more nuanced way, but it, but it starts with something that happened about ten blocks from my new house at the football game. So for folks who haven’t heard, I want you to tell the story.
  • Speaker 2
    0:15:35

    No. Oh, you mean a new one.
  • Speaker 1
    0:15:36

    And the new one game when you get a phone as well.
  • Speaker 2
    0:15:38

    It was one of Arches last game. Yeah.
  • Speaker 1
    0:15:39

    You get a phone call from either.
  • Speaker 2
    0:15:41

    Well, you know, when Russian made Ukraine Yeah. They immediately knock out all communications for Ukraine. Yeah. Including with the troops. And Viasat, the military satellites.
  • Speaker 2
    0:15:54

    I’ll get knocked out. The only satellites that still work are SpaceX, starlight. Right. And you have to say, well, how did Musk get so much power? Well, he made these satellites.
  • Speaker 2
    0:16:04

    He’s got five thousand of them that, you know, Bezos has shut up too. So we’re you can see, and, the NASA cannot get communication satellites in the high earth or they have to contract with SpaceX to do it. So he’s gained this power partly legitimately, and he plays superhero. I mean, he’s got this captain Ron DeSantis, quality. So when this happens, Fedarov and others, the vice minister and you kind of say, we’re gonna get crushed.
  • Speaker 2
    0:16:37

    Because we don’t have communication. And he sends over all these starlings. A hundred, the first night, a thousand the next day. And gives them for free, and Ukraine’s able to withstand the invasion. Then flash forward to September, I had find I had been with Musk quite a while and you say it’s kinda grueling.
  • Speaker 2
    0:16:55

    Yeah. So I’m back home watching Newman play football, and tech spent, you know, it’s Musk. And they were using the Ukrainians were doing a sneak attack on the Russian fleet in Crimea. And it would be like a Pearl Harbor, sneaker tech using starling. It was drone submarines connected starling.
  • Speaker 1
    0:17:17

    Well, not exactly like Pearl Harbor because. Ukraine was defending themselves.
  • Speaker 2
    0:17:22

    Right. Right. Well, they
  • Speaker 1
    0:17:23

    were attacking. No. No. I’m trying to sign this. I I’ll just say that.
  • Speaker 1
    0:17:26

    It’s not exactly, like, it was a sneak attack of
  • Speaker 2
    0:17:28

    a fleet in a harbor. Yeah. Right.
  • Speaker 1
    0:17:31

    Okay. Is there someone in that sense?
  • Speaker 2
    0:17:33

    And, he said, I I don’t think this is gonna be good. I mean, that that’s gonna be a nuclear retalii. Who knows what? And I’m very socratic. I don’t give the guy advice.
  • Speaker 2
    0:17:45

    I just said, Hey, have you talked to general Millley? And have you talked to Jake Sullivan? And he does start talking to them. But what he does that night, is they had geofenced it. I’d gotten a little oversimplifying the book, but there’s a geofence that’s movable.
  • Speaker 2
    0:18:00

    And he the Ukrainians don’t know this, but He decides not to allow Starling to work on the Permian coast up to a hundred kilometers. And that means the attack fails, all the drones go. And that’s way too much powerful person I haven’t even he was saying so to me. He said, We created Charlie Sykes people could watch Netflix movies and chill and play video games. Why are we in this war?
  • Speaker 2
    0:18:28

    And he decides then after talking to Millie to sell and
  • Speaker 1
    0:18:32

    give the US government
  • Speaker 2
    0:18:33

    the right to use a certain number of the starlings. So as you’re seeing, they’re now they’re now attacking from a, that are being done, but it’s not up to him to decide that he allowed the military to.
  • Speaker 1
    0:18:50

    Yeah. I mean, the, like, my response was reading your story about this. It was sort of like, this is fucking insane that this is happening. Like, you’re sitting there with our buddy, Jay Mart, at the football game. And, like, Elon’s calling you.
  • Speaker 1
    0:18:59

    And he’s like, I’m trying to save us from world trade.
  • Speaker 2
    0:19:01

    Jonathan Mart is like twee no. Well, he didn’t know who I was on the phone with or whatever, but he has tweets of us with poor Archie Manning, the grandfather like photo bombing us in the back. Yeah.
  • Speaker 1
    0:19:13

    It’s like such a weird world and a situation to be in. But I when I read that story, I on the one hand, I feel like I obviously, I totally agree disagree with Yvonne’s judgment. We should we should not be limiting Ukraine’s ability to defend itself in any way. But, like, that said, it is madness that, like, this, that the government has got themselves in situation where this guy has the power. And they’ve unlimited resources.
  • Speaker 1
    0:19:40

    We have NASA. This has not been an area where there’ve been, like, in government cuts or whatever. It’s it’s like, there’s a massive You sell the public in place. It’s a massive failure of the government to to have let Eilan Appident to be be in that situation and to not have dealt with the situation.
  • Speaker 2
    0:19:58

    Yeah. And now you’re getting your head around the complex cities of a must book. It’s not just some idiot who tweets, it’s how come he’s able. When Boeing can’t, Northrop Grumman can’t, the defense intelligence agency can’t, NASA can’t, get a satellite orbiting system. And I I have chapters that people haven’t read probably carefully, but How did he make StarLink work?
  • Speaker 2
    0:20:24

    Why was he able to keep it so compact? Yeah. How did he get the antenna integrated? All these things that we used to be able to do in the United States. I say we, meaning the US.
  • Speaker 2
    0:20:36

    We used to be able fifty years ago. We got people to the moon. And then we stopped and we haven’t gone back to the moon. You know, we used to have a space shuttle that got people and and satellites in orbit. We got people to the space station.
  • Speaker 2
    0:20:50

    And then NASA grounded it. Yeah. So how come we’ve become so paralyzed in terms of what NASA and the government and even Boeing can do. Boeing can’t even get an airplane much less satellite up. And, and is not a pretty sight how he does it.
  • Speaker 2
    0:21:11

    I mean, he takes far too many risks He believes that we used to be a nation of risk takers, whether you came on the Mayflower or came across a Rio Grande, But now we’re a nation with more regulators and risk takers and more referees and guardrail Bulwark. And So that’s what the book tries to capture, and then tries to capture the complex thing, which is, do you have to be a bit crazy, or do you even to be an asshole a bit in order not to be Boeing or NASA.
  • Speaker 1
    0:21:44

    What do you think?
  • Speaker 2
    0:21:46

    I think it’s not a price you should pay. But, no. I think the reason you have bureaucracies that can’t get rockets in orbit or Americans into space or in YGM and Ford can’t even make it charging stations across America.
  • Speaker 1
    0:22:04

    Right.
  • Speaker 2
    0:22:04

    They end up have why they can’t make electric vehicles. I think and he’s like Steve Jobs. Steve Jobs was that way too. I do do not think you wanna pay the price to be like him, but I do think it’s useful to know how he did it.
  • Speaker 1
    0:22:23

    Did you I’m sorry. I lied. I have one more. Did you ever watch Grimes spaghetti video?
  • Speaker 2
    0:22:27

    Yeah.
  • Speaker 1
    0:22:28

    It’s so good. It’s so good. It’s my favorite video of all time. Last thing on the on, the, Twitter thing is I remember
  • Speaker 2
    0:22:40

    when I met As
  • Speaker 1
    0:22:41

    soon as I first met you, I was like, have you watched this again? Really about grimes. I love grimes.
  • Speaker 2
    0:22:46

    And she’s in Austin. It’s like,
  • Speaker 1
    0:22:47

    I should just Tell me.
  • Speaker 2
    0:22:49

    Come meet her biggest fan.
  • Speaker 1
    0:22:50

    Yeah. You should. Her I would be totally fangirling right now. If I saw Grange, her music is amazing. What she sees in Elon is deeply concerned thing.
  • Speaker 1
    0:22:58

    But, I love crimes. The the anti semitism, I think, is the last thing on this, and now when I talk about your other life. But we’re seeing a lot of this on the left right now. I think we’re gonna talk about that a little bit maybe the next panel. Mhmm.
  • Speaker 1
    0:23:11

    But, man, on his platform, the anti Semitism is like off the is off the charts right now. And like what you’re seeing and the lack of guardrails. So I understand this. We, you know, we have we might look, I’m sympathetic to the notion that we have too much red tape. We have too many guardrail bones.
  • Speaker 1
    0:23:26

    We’re not we’re hampering entrepreneurs. This was why was the Republican in the first But, like, we need some guardrails. Right? And this notion that a crazy person is like, yeah, let’s let people, you know, tweet about, you know, kite and, like, you know, have, have all these insane, you know, reply posters talking about, you know, fake news about Israel and these people you know, Building Road, this guy Jackson Hinkle, who’s gaining a huge following and he’s monetizing his following right now, tweeting all, you know, tweet he’s moneti like, he wants paying him to tweet fake anti Semitic news about Israel. Like, is there, like, does any of that, like, breakthrough?
  • Speaker 1
    0:24:04

    It’s just like, Hey.
  • Speaker 2
    0:24:05

    You know?
  • Speaker 1
    0:24:06

    We have to have some number. I remember
  • Speaker 2
    0:24:07

    in April of last year when he was secretly buying up Twitter shares and was thinking of going hostile. And we were Giga, Texas, the this biggest factory ever made, and it was about to open. And he was saying he was gonna do it. And Ken Howard, you may know of, few are the libertarian test crowd and his, Elon’s son. And he’s saying Elon saying, we need more free speech.
  • Speaker 2
    0:24:33

    We need to open up the aperture. We shouldn’t be censoring Yeah. You know, Jay Patachara, who does the Barrington doctrine against the lockdowns.
  • Speaker 1
    0:24:42

    Or Jay Patty. It’s fine. I mean, it’s not like he has trouble getting his message out. Right.
  • Speaker 2
    0:24:47

    But he had been censored off Twitter.
  • Speaker 1
    0:24:49

    Okay. And A lot of platforms out there, though. It’s not like the old days or if you’re not on the network news.
  • Speaker 2
    0:24:54

    I don’t write a book about him, but I’m just saying He felt and he kept saying more free we have to open the aperture to more free speech. And I tend to be in favor of free speech, but I’ll sort of think about it. Like, Why are we in favor of free speech? So I asked him that because he hadn’t really thought of it. He’s not he’s really good engineer, but he doesn’t have as somebody who has no input, output on emotional human things.
  • Speaker 2
    0:25:18

    He’s not good at, you know, so I said, why is free speech good? And I think it was a bit taken aback. And he said, well, the more free speech you have, the more likely you’re to get to the truth, which is not an I mean, Brandyce said that. Many others did. Yeah.
  • Speaker 2
    0:25:34

    But I’m sure the internet has proven that way. In other words, I’m not sure. That’s why you need free speech. It doesn’t silly get you to the truth. And then and so we talked about I mean, I believe we want free speech because every person has autonomy and should be given as but it’s not because it’s gonna make democracy stronger.
  • Speaker 2
    0:25:54

    It’s almost been proven not to. So I think he got in in a way that all of social media is now
  • Speaker 1
    0:26:01

    a toxic stew
  • Speaker 2
    0:26:01

    and probably very harmful to democracy.
  • Speaker 1
    0:26:08

    Yeah. We could do, like, a whole hour on the free speech thing, but I wanna, like, the thing that I’ve been dying to ask you about I
  • Speaker 2
    0:26:14

    have no answer on free speech. I haven’t figured that know.
  • Speaker 1
    0:26:17

    I mean, look, I’m from a free speech too. My my rant on this is just that, like, there’s this whole cottage industry of Elon and all his friends who are like, like free speech is in threat. And my view is like, that’s not that’s actually not true. We’re in the golden era of free speech. If you were a crank, who has insane views right now.
  • Speaker 1
    0:26:34

    Yeah. You have opportunities to speak on YouTube and TikTok and tw you can get paid now by Twitter to speak. Back in the old days, it tells people to be have a Bulwark on the street. It would be riding the crazy letters to the editor to the top. Uh-huh.
  • Speaker 1
    0:26:46

    You’d be like, I’ll never print that. Those people are famous now. Yeah. I don’t
  • Speaker 2
    0:26:48

    remember this. When I was very young at the Picky UN, I covered David Duke back in class. And I remember in the fringes of rallies. You know what I there would be he would be there, and he’d had mimeographed sheets as he would hand out. And I said, okay.
  • Speaker 2
    0:27:06

    They’re racist, horrible nuts in this world, but The problem with social media is that instead of these people having to memorograph things instead, you know, they can get hundreds of thousands of followers.
  • Speaker 1
    0:27:19

    Yes. We’re in the golden age.
  • Speaker 2
    0:27:20

    And I mean, I I am. I wanna go on the regular and say this very much in favor of free speech. Same. But I think we have to think through that it’s a individual autonomy, Liberty.
  • Speaker 1
    0:27:30

    I’m yeah. No. I’m for free speech too. I’m just saying that that being demonetized from a social a one social media app in a world where you have unlimited social media apps is not really a threat to free speech. And, like, for free speech is doing quite well.
  • Speaker 1
    0:27:45

    Anyway, the thing I’m dying to get your opinion on, so because I just think this is such a hard question. So we’re gonna get serious. We have, like, eight minutes of serious. And then and then Sunny Bunch will come out, and then we’ll just do fun stuff. Is this just very deep question, about in the post trump era, how, like, institutions can protect themselves from just bad actors, liars, grifters, racist.
  • Speaker 1
    0:28:12

    Right? And so you were head of, like, all of these just revered institutions, aspen to CNN time. Right? And all of these places, you, like, tried I think I’m speaking for you, but I think it’s true. Tried to get people from perspectives.
  • Speaker 1
    0:28:26

    Right? I might not agree with what your opinion on. Tax rates are regulated, but we want everybody here, and we can hash it out, and we can discuss, and You’re, you know, we’ll interview people for time, or we’ll interview people on CNN, we’ll invite people to Aspen. Like, that felt a lot easier in the nineties. Like, when there was not that, you know, when the difference between the Bob dole and the Clinton people was pretty it was pretty minor in the Graham’s team of things.
  • Speaker 2
    0:28:48

    Yeah. And Well, you could have to you worked for McCain or Romney.
  • Speaker 1
    0:28:51

    Yeah. Or for both.
  • Speaker 2
    0:28:52

    Both. Both. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah.
  • Speaker 2
    0:28:53

    And you could have a selection of them, Kayne or Omni, you know, whether it be Clinton or then Obama. And say, okay. We’re well within the guardrail.
  • Speaker 1
    0:29:02

    Yeah. Sure. So now I want you to pretend like you’re back in one of those jobs. Like, what do you do with these Maga people? Like, does does Mike Johnson get invited to announcement?
  • Speaker 1
    0:29:12

    Does Lauren Bober get invited to that? Like, they they matter to Steve Bannon. Right? Like, Steve Steve Bannon should maybe be in jail, but, his, his podcast has more influence. Then then then then no offense to some of art, to some of it.
  • Speaker 1
    0:29:27

    Oh, even
  • Speaker 2
    0:29:27

    more than the ball works.
  • Speaker 1
    0:29:28

    Right. Yeah. It does. I’m sorry. It’s just reality.
  • Speaker 1
    0:29:31

    Right? I don’t I wish it wasn’t true, but I love being invited as the token former Republican to speak on the asset panel. It could be like me and Michelle Goldberg, get a bunch of lefties, and could talk about it, but but that’s safe. Right? It’s like, it doesn’t, like, we’re all kind of on the same team now.
  • Speaker 1
    0:29:46

    Like, the question is, how do you deal with the people on the other the team that tried to coup. The team that like wants to criminally
  • Speaker 2
    0:29:52

    I mean, when I was at Aspen, that became a problem, which is You know, where do you draw where is it beyond the pale? To use it literally the way they used to use it in Europe and a century ago. And there was a line. I’m gonna say, I’m gonna think this throughout loud, which is a dangerous thing. You and I, and most people we know.
  • Speaker 2
    0:30:16

    We’re totally in the guardrails. And yes, a, a Mitt Romney could be, you know, friends with, Joe Biden and everything else. I think we, meaning the Aspen time magazine crowd did not fully appreciate how there were so many people who felt they were being left out and screwed by that swampy, guardrailed system, and we missed it. A member driving with Kathy in twenty sixteen or whatever, twenty fifteen, and just seeing trump trump trump signs all over even upstate New York and saying, okay. There’s something happening With those of us who are part of what I would call the Aspen Ron DeSantis, have totally lost touch with the real and understandable resentment of people for whom globalization, free trade, immigration were not a great boon but had, left them behind or screwed them.
  • Speaker 1
    0:31:30

    I agree with that. I I and I wrote about this. Like, I think I go back to the RNC autopsy, and I think that we just totally whiffed like, legitimate.
  • Speaker 2
    0:31:38

    Partly because we were in a circumscribed speech world in which things were beyond the boundaries.
  • Speaker 1
    0:31:45

    So here’s where the question gets hard. I I think that’s I agree. That was hard, but I agree with that. But now now the judgment call gets hard because, okay, Let’s if there was a a genuine conservative populist movement out there, it was a good faith. On our Bulwark sign out there, it says good faith.
  • Speaker 1
    0:32:01

    Right? There was, like, we think that that we should have more protectionism and and less immigration. And and, you know, we also think that we should have Medicaid for working, you know, you know, for right? And we should, help build more factories out here. And that’s what Those are the things we care about, and it’s not the old free market conservative.
  • Speaker 1
    0:32:19

    It’s a different thing. It’s a populist thing. Then, okay. Great. Let’s invite those people to ask them.
  • Speaker 1
    0:32:24

    Let’s have that conversation. Those people don’t exist. Like, all the people that do that are the same people that do VACC teens are fake. The election was fake. The, you know, all all all the, you know, you know, gay people are terrible, trans people are terrible.
  • Speaker 1
    0:32:38

    Right? And so I I how do you deal with that? How do you deal with the election denying vaccine conspiracists? Do they get invited into into the group because we don’t want people to feel left out?
  • Speaker 2
    0:32:50

    No. I’m but, I mean, we have a tent that there are a lot of people not invited in, and what paying the price for that.
  • Speaker 1
    0:32:58

    Yeah. So how But I
  • Speaker 2
    0:32:59

    mean, you’re you had the Bulwark. This is you were trying to create. Right. You know, coming from Louisiana, we had a tradition of populism that was oddly, somewhat of a left wing. I mean, Huey Long and Sherah Wealth Populism And something happened when I was growing up, when there was Earl and Huey Longs and Populous like that, is George Wallace was like that until he lost.
  • Speaker 2
    0:33:31

    And then he decided to play the race card. And then populism in the south, but also in Pennsylvania, upstate New York, whatever. Populism got infected with racism, I think.
  • Speaker 1
    0:33:45

    Yeah. So I I guess the question is in, like, do we need new institutions? Like, how do how do we engage with them? Right? Like, that that’s what I really just don’t That’s what I really just don’t know.
  • Speaker 1
    0:33:56

    Like, and I’m worried that and I think this ties back to the original Twitter session that we get into this world where now Twitter will be this place where it’s accessible for people to make up conspiracies, and sometimes conspiracies are right. One out of twenty times they’re right. They’re kinda right about the mask thing. And you know what I mean? Sometimes they’re right about stuff, but most of the times it’s crazy.
  • Speaker 1
    0:34:13

    Right? And then threads or blue sky will have all the all the Aspen accepted people and and MSNBC and, like, how do how do you how do we break break it?
  • Speaker 2
    0:34:23

    It it would be nice to have certain institutions again, including social I mean, I always thought somebody should create a great social media plaque form. That was reliable and probably not as anonymous and not filled with trolls. And they keep trying to do it. I mean, does blue skies still exist?
  • Speaker 1
    0:34:45

    I don’t know. I don’t know.
  • Speaker 2
    0:34:46

    Yeah. Yeah. And threads I mean, I thought threads would crush.
  • Speaker 1
    0:34:49

    I’m going through it. It’s nice, but it’s everybody everybody agrees with me until I make fun of Hamas. Every once every once in a while, I get some negative.
  • Speaker 2
    0:34:56

    Yeah. I think there’s a deeper problem of the polarization, and it may even not just be in the United States. There’s a populist polarization from Hungary to, you know, we go through Poland just recovered slightly, but you can see it all over. And as a historian, you look back and say, they’re just periods. Like, eighteen forty eight was a period like this, you know, the nineteen sixties.
  • Speaker 2
    0:35:23

    It was even worse now than now in terms of polarization. And we’re going through a period which I think is basically caused by a backlash against globalization, free trade immigration that most of us thought whether whatever, you know, whether we were the McCain or Clinton Ron DeSantis, was that all that was good? And whether it’s Hungary or Brexit or Maga World or anything else, we’re in a backlash.
  • Speaker 1
    0:35:53

    You know what? You know what? One of the influences I had on this who was right about this year, buddy, Michael Lewis. Probably his lease a claim book is called loser about the ninety six campaign and he went out there and he was like, these dole and Clinton people are, like, all the same, and they’re not actually responsive to people. Was like his old book was about how frustrated and how stupid this is.
  • Speaker 1
    0:36:14

    It was actually very influential for me in writing it. Okay. We gotta get to the real panel. Final question. What are we gonna do about the saints?
  • Speaker 2
    0:36:24

    They’ve had such a nice good run with the Drew Breeze and and Sean Peyton And I don’t I do know that after the hurricane
  • Speaker 1
    0:36:35

    Yeah.
  • Speaker 2
    0:36:36

    When the saints finally came back, most of us in this city made our deal with the devil and deal with god or whatever. If you just let us win this Super Bowl, this one year. And we know the city’s gonna come back. And when the saints won that, and you just knew we were back, is like we’ll never ask again, and it was a mistake.
  • Speaker 1
    0:37:02

    Well, try to fix it. Oh, man. I don’t know. I think that his next biography should be about Joe Burrow. Somebody a little less controversial.
Want to listen without ads? Join Bulwark+ for an exclusive ad-free version of The Next Level Podcast! Learn more here. Already a Bulwark+ member? Access the premium version here.