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No Party for Honest Men

September 15, 2023
Notes
Transcript
David Frum joins the group for a wide ranging discussion including the impeachment investigation, Biden’s trip to the G20, Hunter Biden’s indictment, and Mitt Romney’s lonely stand. Plus, in our Highlights and Lowlights segment, Mona calls out Mike Pence for midwifing our Trumpian politics.

show notes:

McKay Coppins’ piece:
https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2023/11/mitt-romney-retiring-senate-trump-mcconnell/675306/
 
David’s highlight:
https://www.bloomberg.com/graphics/2023-mexico-china-us-trade-opportunity/

Bill’s lowlight:
https://www.brookings.edu/articles/why-so-many-americans-are-unhappy-about-the-economy/
Linda’s highlights:
https://thetriad.old.thebulwark.com/p/terry-eastland-rip-legend
https://www.americanpurpose.com/articles/orbans-tainted-democracy/

Damon’s highlight:
https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2023/09/18/ross-douthats-theories-of-persuasion

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

    Welcome to beg to Beg to Differ, the Bulwark weekly roundtable discussion, featuring civil conversation across the political spectrum. We range from center left to center right. I’m Mona Charen, syndicated columnist and policy editor at the Bulwark, and I’m joined by our regulars, Will Saletan, of the Bookings institution in the Wall Street Journal. Damon Lincoln, who writes the sub stack newsletter, notes from the middle ground, and Linda Chavez of the Nescannon Center. Our special guest this week is the Atlantic David From.
  • Speaker 1
    0:00:41

    David is the author of many books, most recently, trumpocalypse. Welcome one and all, David, I would like to start with you we have recently heard that Hunter Biden has been indicted for his gun crime of not acknowledging that he was a drug user when he applied for a license. So he’s now been formally indicted, and the speaker of the house Kevin McCarthy has announced that this is also related to Hunter Biden that they are initiating an impeachment investigation, not that they haven’t been doing investigations mind you, But this is a formal impeachment investigation of Biden for well, that’s a really good question. What are they saying that he’s going to be impeached for?
  • Speaker 2
    0:01:31

    Right. Well, on the hundred by news, it always comes as something of a relief to me when it turns out there is something you can do in the United States that will cost you your gun rights. So I don’t know that this will stand up and appeal because I think the view of many courts. No. Actually, there’s there’s nothing you can do that will cost you your gun.
  • Speaker 2
    0:01:47

    Right? So the impeachment show, I think, reflects a maneuver or gamble by house speaker, Kevin McCarthy, that if he can throw more impeachment news, another impeachment log onto the fire, that he can somehow mobilize the votes to keep the government open when the funding expires at the end of September. Otherwise, we’re heading to a government shutdown very probably about October first, And that has historically been very bad news for the party that causes the shutdown, usually the Republicans Mcarthy made that point in a caucus meeting on Thursday, September fourteenth with house members, but they are pushing and pushing for the shutdown. And the impeachment, I think he imagines as a distraction The problem is that the impeachment will acquire a logic of its own. But in fairness to McCarthy, of the things that his right flank wants to do, shut down the government, ban abortions, stop aid to Ukraine, starting an impeachment inquiry is arguably the least unpopular of its top priorities.
  • Speaker 1
    0:02:43

    Now, of course, I’m going to turn to you on this, Damon. The former president has been leaning very hard on, mostly on members of the Freedom caucus, to initiate an impeachment of Biden. He also wants his two impeachments expunged, but that’s not really something that the Congress has the power to do, I guess, rewrite history, a la or well, but this is a tried and true trump tactic that alas has been successful. That is he himself is so deeply corrupt that he under stands the necessity of painting others as corrupt. And even if they’re not quite as corrupt as he is, the confused viewer will say, well, you know, they’re both corrupt, so I might as well vote for the one who, you know, gave me lower gas prices.
  • Speaker 3
    0:03:33

    Right. I mean, and that was the dynamic throughout the twenty sixteen campaign where the strategy was not so much defend Trump But continually attack Hillary Clinton calling her crooked all the time and pointing to the FBI investigation of the email server and thereby drive up her negative ratings and the number of Americans who associated her with being crooked and corrupt therefore he’ll level the playing field and Trump, you know, seems bad, but then some voters apparently say, well, but they’re all bad. So really what’s the difference? And that’s been Trump’s approach from the beginning. And then you add in This current issue about impeachment is also something even more just directly tied to Trump’s wounded ego.
  • Speaker 3
    0:04:23

    He’s very angry still that he was impeached not once, but twice. Thanks to Mitt Romney. He’s also the only one who’s had a member of his own party vote against him in both of those impeachments. So that’s quite a humiliation. And so his personal vendetta is to see to it that Biden will now be impeached as kind of come up and so, like, oh, you impeach me now.
  • Speaker 3
    0:04:50

    My party will impeach you. And the whole issue of what high crimes and misdemeanors are being alleged here about Biden is sort of an afterthought. It doesn’t matter because in Trump’s rather twisted view of reality, cause and effect kind of flow in both directions. So you can get impeached if you do something corrupt or engage in a high crime or misdemeanor. But if you get impeached, that must imply that you did do something anyway.
  • Speaker 3
    0:05:20

    So if you can get your party to impeach Biden, That will imply that while Biden obviously did something to warrant this. And therefore, we win because, again, everything is equalized. And as with Trump so much from the very beginning of his political saga, his self interest, in furthering his ego, protecting it, assuaging its demands sometimes coincides with political advantages. And and that’s been one of the flukes of Trump’s political successes to the extent that he’s had them, that his instincts but you’re always narcissistic and always flow from his personal neediness. Sometimes translate into political dynamics that he benefits from and his party benefits from.
  • Speaker 3
    0:06:10

    I don’t even know if he’s thinking that far ahead to think like Well, wait a minute. If I look at the polling, is this really gonna help my party heading into the primaries that we’re now gonna impeach Joe Biden, that’s what a political consultant or analyst would look at. Trump doesn’t do that. He simply has a kind of impulsor instinct. And he’s hoping that this somehow redounds to his benefit and Republicans benefit.
  • Speaker 3
    0:06:36

    I tend to think not unless the Republicans somehow turn up something like a smoking gun showing either direct quid pro close or direct payments to Joe Biden in return for Hunter Biden’s influence peddling. I know of no evidence that they will, but They might. Who knows? And if so, then maybe in the end, it will all have been for the best for Trump and his party heading into the election next year.
  • Speaker 1
    0:07:04

    Will Saletan, some Democrats are saying, bring it on. This is great because when Bill Clinton was impeached, it only strengthened him electorally. And when Trump was impeached, there was a rally round effect for Republicans And so they are anticipating that there will be a rally around Biden effect and will do for him what the previous impeachments did for Other presidents. Do you buy it?
  • Speaker 4
    0:07:32

    Up to a point, but I put all of this in the context of electoral politics. All of the recent surveys have put Biden and Trump in a dead heat. The most popular result is forty six to forty six, which multiple polls in the past week and a half have have found, but almost all of them are within hailing distance of that. And so what really matters is the roughly ten percent of the population that hasn’t always plighted its trust to one of these two candidates. And I am less interested in what a candidate’s base does in response to an impeachment process, then what swing voters do?
  • Speaker 4
    0:08:19

    I have to say I am less confident of their reaction than a lot of my fellow Democrats are. In my judgment, Anything that works to establish some kind of moral equivalence between Donald Trump and Joe Biden works to Biden’s disadvantage. And my fear is that this impeachment effort will be equated to the two very different efforts to impeach and remove Donald Trump from office. I hope I’m wrong about that. But that is my fear.
  • Speaker 4
    0:08:53

    And, I wish my fellow Democrats would pause in their popping of champagne bottles.
  • Speaker 1
    0:09:03

    Linda. Will Saletan makes a good point. Look, Marjorie Taylor Green proposed an impeachment resolution on day two of the Biden administration. And she and, Lauren Bobert, and one of the more amusing things that’s happened in the last couple of years actually got into a real shouting match possibly. Yeah.
  • Speaker 1
    0:09:23

    Cat fight on the floor of the house over somebody stealing somebody else’s impeachment resolution, which would tend to throw a little bit of shade on the idea that this is a good faith investigation of wrongdoing by the Biden administration. That much having been said, look, I mean, there is some smoke. There is the evidence that Hunter behaved badly, Biden senior knew about it, and certainly tolerated it. If not, personally benefited. We don’t know that.
  • Speaker 1
    0:09:58

    And so I guess we will be asking voters to really draw fine distinctions and to say, well, there’s no evidence that by personally profited, and there’s no parison between the abuses of power of president Trump and the possible you know, just normal Washington influence peddling of Hunter Biden. And by the way, Hunter Biden is not in the White House. Whereas Ivanka and Jared very much were and so on and so forth. But, I mean, isn’t it true that that kind of fine grained distinction kinda gets lost in our politics.
  • Speaker 5
    0:10:41

    Of course, whenever your answer is yes, but You’re in trouble. Yeah. I mean, I think this is a blatantly obvious effort to muddy the waters.
  • Speaker 1
    0:10:51

    Mhmm.
  • Speaker 5
    0:10:52

    We have already now had some hearings down in the state case against Trump and his co defendants. There’s a lot of attention being focused on that. There are these other indictments against Trump. And what this is an effort to do is as Bill suggested is to say that there’s some sort of moral equivalence between what the Republicans are going to accuse Joe Biden of doing and what there is ample evidence of enough to get grand juries to indict Donald Trump, not to mention the fact that there was ample evidence in the form of a phone call between, mister Zelensky and Trump when Trump was trying to hold out giving aid that had already been authorized by Congress to Ukraine in advance. This is course long before the invasion and the insurrection on January six.
  • Speaker 5
    0:11:53

    So, you know, even Bill Clinton, there was the blue dress There was the dress with, you know, not to get too crude on here, but with evidence that Bill Clinton had lied. And had lied in a deposition about what took place with Monica Lewinsky. So this is an effort to try to say that, you know, these people are just as dirty as our guys is and therefore that can’t be the basis on which you reject Donald Trump. And frankly, it’s scary because we know Joe Biden is not as Bill suggested. He’s certainly not a popular president.
  • Speaker 5
    0:12:35

    They are running neck and neck now in Donald Trump, who is the presumptive nominee. They’re running neck and neck. There’s not a whole lot of evidence that that’s going to change. And it is going to be not the base, not the base of the Democratic party and not the base of the Republican party that is going to determine this election It is going to be those people who may even have voted for Donald Trump last time Bulwark now sort of fed up. And the one thing I will say that just a little bit different from some of the other views is the indictment of Hunter Biden.
  • Speaker 5
    0:13:15

    I know this is gonna sound, you know, counterintuitive, but I actually think it’s a good thing. I think that it puts lied to the fact that we have two tier justice system and that we have a weaponized department of justice. He has been indicted ironically for a crime. I mean, many of the most rabid gun owner rights people would, you know, allow guns to be in the hands of people who’ve committed crimes and people who are wife beaters. So the fact that Hunter Biden, you know, had a gun purchased a gun when he was still using drugs, you’d sort of think, you know, they this wouldn’t be their best case.
  • Speaker 5
    0:13:54

    But I actually think that it goes to the point that we do not have a politicized Department of Justice that will only bring charges against Democrats. So in that sense, I think it’s good.
  • Speaker 1
    0:14:08

    David, last thought from you, is there a little structural asymmetry here? The Republicans are really great at accusing the other side and sort of muddying the waters or flooding the zone with something, and Trump’s a past master at besmerching everybody in sight The Biden team less so. They tend to get huffy when they’re accused of something rather than go on offense. They They get defensive. And even this week, they were passing out, you know, fact sheets to show that what the Republicans are saying isn’t true.
  • Speaker 1
    0:14:39

    I wonder if that’s gonna be part of the problem here.
  • Speaker 2
    0:14:43

    A cynical tammany Hall Paul once said, it doesn’t matter what damn lie we tell long as we all tell the same damn lie. That has been very much the communication strategy of of the Republican party in in recent years. So that has power because as the way Republicans receive both the Hunter Biden news and the Trump views, what we’ve seen is partisan loyalty plus repetition equals belief. And they have the power of that. But there is a negative here, and and this is a thing to keep in mind because It’s just always true that that consolidated authoritarian blocks look stronger than they are and distributed non authoritarian blocks look weaker than they are.
  • Speaker 2
    0:15:21

    Republicans do have this information system. They do all tell the same damn lie, and they do all believe it. They have the reputation, the party unity plus repetition. But what they have done with this is create a dream palace for themselves to live in, to borrow a phrase of Lawrence of arabias. And dream palaces tend to collapse.
  • Speaker 2
    0:15:39

    And so if you still talk to your friends who are inside the Green Palace, and they really believe that they’ve got a story about Hunter Biden and Joe Biden, And it makes all the complex whirring plates, all the fantasies, all the all the little bits and pieces of a hundred Biden’s drug addled WhatsApp messages that they think are going to be proof in a court of law. It all adds up to them, and it it’s just going to be gibberish and nonsense. To everybody else. And it does remain true. There are more people who live outside the Dream Palace than live inside it.
  • Speaker 2
    0:16:12

    And Meanwhile, the Republicans are going to be going into, the twenty four cycle with probably a government shutdown to their discredit, with probably a national abortion ban. With Donald Trump at the head of the ticket. And the warnings that people like Mitt Romney are trying to sound, which is you have to deliver something that people other than the cool egg chuggers. Not not that people get the thirty two ounce poisonous cool egg, but the sixty four ounce poisonous cool egg. You have to get something else for the rest of the people.
  • Speaker 2
    0:16:40

    They they don’t hear it. It’s all green palace and they’re inside, and the rest of America is outside.
  • Speaker 1
    0:16:46

    It’s also, worth noting that just this week. This dream palace has been suffering from internal divisions and sniping. And on Thursday, you had the speaker of the house saying in a session with his caucus to the recalcitrant or rebellious or whatever you wanna call them, freedom caucus types like Matt Gates, because Matt Gates was threatening the speaker directly with the resolution to vacate the chair and McCarthy in a moment of Pique said, well, then just introduce the effing resolution. Go ahead. So they are at daggers drawn even against one another at the moment.
  • Speaker 1
    0:17:24

    Not sure how much that will penetrate, but it could. Alright. Let’s turn to Mitt Romney. David, you mentioned him. He made a big announcement this week.
  • Speaker 1
    0:17:33

    That he is not going to seek reelection and this comes at, exactly the time when a new biography is going to drop And there was an excerpt in your magazine in the Atlantic as by McKay Copins, with whom, apparently, Romney has been spending his evenings for the last couple of years. Just laying it all out there. I would say they’re eye popping anecdotes, but it’s also it’s things David that we knew, but we didn’t quite see in black and white. Right?
  • Speaker 2
    0:18:02

    Yeah. Well, it’s not just to do a Atlantic quarantoating. It’s not just an Atlantic excerpt. McKay Collins is a staff writer of the Atlantic This is an Atlantic property from beginning to end.
  • Speaker 1
    0:18:11

    So Okay. Duly noted.
  • Speaker 2
    0:18:13

    And and one of many, many stories that McKay has has gotten about Romney because Mckay, for those who don’t know him, is a Mormon by faith and identification, and it has the same kind of decent spirit that, Romney has. You can see why Romney trusted him so thoroughly that they are very much kindred souls.
  • Speaker 3
    0:18:31

    Mhmm.
  • Speaker 2
    0:18:31

    The excerpt is great and the book looks like it’s going to be great, and I ordered my copy, and I hope others do the same. I did too. But I think one one of the things that takes away from this is, you know, Who’s backing Biden? Cindy McCain, the what the widow of the late John McCain, tacitly George w Bush Mitt Romney, certainly Ann Romney. Every living leader of the Republican Party thinks that the present and soon to be next leader of the Republican Party is unworthy of the office and probably as a criminal.
  • Speaker 2
    0:19:01

    Again, it’s kinda hard to imagine a similar situation in any other global Democratic party where every living past leaders has had nothing to do with the present leader. Romney did do those heroic things in the two impeachments. And I just think that when this is all over, that it is going to be amazing how much Ramnie is part of the usable history of the Republican Party and Trump is written out of it.
  • Speaker 1
    0:19:26

    Bill Goldstein. So Romney was the First person in American history to vote to impeach a president of his own party. In the second impeachment, he was joined by a few others. But, you know, no good deed goes unpunished, and, he was made to feel and know, we knew this already, but here it is in the McKee Copins eggs are very poignantly, that, you know, it was almost like he couldn’t get anybody to sit next to him in the lunch room, you know, after that. He was pretty much persona non grata with his fellow Republicans.
  • Speaker 1
    0:20:04

    It’s no wonder that a person who has a conscience and who has integrity would not want to be a member of that club.
  • Speaker 4
    0:20:11

    I’ve read the article. I have to say it’s one of the saddest things that I’ve read in a long time. Because the theme, I think, was loneliness, isolation. And, I’m not going to intervene in family business. But I do think that leaving him alone, you know, for that length of time was not exactly a loving decision.
  • Speaker 4
    0:20:37

    But I’ll just leave it there. I was profoundly shocked to learn that he puts ketchup on salmon that was almost enough to make me revise my opinion of his downward.
  • Speaker 1
    0:20:54

    I think Senator Lisa Murkowski had some comments on this as well.
  • Speaker 4
    0:20:58

    Oh, I didn’t see those, but I I suspect that I would second whatever she asked. Say. And I’ll trust someone from Alaska on the salmon issue more than someone from Utah, but I think I think we’ve probably beaten that fish to death. The story of a man of integrity in a party was none. Is, on the one hand, inspiring, but on the other hand, profoundly depressing, When you reflect it just eleven years ago, this man was the nominee of the Republican Party.
  • Speaker 4
    0:21:35

    I do not share David’s confidence that the Republican party after Trump is going to construct a usable history and come back as it’s as some version of its former self. I hope that David is right about that, but I fear that the genetic material of today’s Republican party has changed. It has mutated and it will continue to reproduce some version of itself. I think we have to face the fact that Donald Trump understood something. About the potential and actual supporters of the Republican Party that Mitt Romney did not.
  • Speaker 4
    0:22:19

    And in a way, That has been the story of the past decade. I don’t see what will turn back the clock at this point. Maybe others have a more optimistic view, but I think that there has been a permanent change in the American Party system. That is leaving honorable Republicans like Mitt Romney, and they will have to decide whether they want to live without a political home, choose the other guy’s home, or build one for themselves. One of the most interesting anecdotes in the article was the discussion, which I’m not sure had been previously disclosed, but I certainly didn’t know anything about it.
  • Speaker 4
    0:23:06

    Between Mitt Romney and Joe Manchin, about the possibility of constructing a home for themselves together that other similarly homeless people might want to join.
  • Speaker 1
    0:23:19

    Linda, I felt a sense of nostalgia too, reading this piece, remembering that Romney arrived in twenty nineteen eager to legislate. Eager to implement some ideas. One of his ideas was a generous child allowance. That was incredibly pro family that would have begun four months into pregnancy and that would have swept away many of the marriage penalties that are embedded in many of our social programs and our tax code and would have been, you know, just a a really big step forward in fighting child poverty. But, you know, he immediately came face to face with the fact that Almost nobody in his party and vanishingly few on the other side either in many instances are really there to legislate
  • Speaker 5
    0:24:08

    Yes. You’re absolutely right. I mean, how quaint that somebody who was elected to the United States Senate thought that it was his business to actually pass laws. I mean, this is, you know, it’s just really striking. And you mentioned his interest in poverty and in child poverty.
  • Speaker 5
    0:24:26

    You know, we had the very depressing news this week that the poverty rate is up in twenty twenty two, particularly for children. It was a big jump. A four point six percent jump, I think, from twenty twenty one to twenty twenty two. And, you know, the pro life party the party that, you know, is very concerned about babies before they’re born, has never been terribly interested in doing a lot targeted at babies after they’re born. So, you know, he was such a decent man.
  • Speaker 5
    0:24:57

    And his whole sense of decency is encapsulated in my view in his decision not to run again. It is not about Mitt Romney. It is not about his power. It’s not about what he’s been able to achieve in his life. And what he might be able to achieve in the future.
  • Speaker 5
    0:25:18

    It is about his sense that He would be eighty during his term. He’s seventy six now exactly my age, that he thinks that the party, both parties need new leadership. It is the kind of selflessness that you used to see. At least in some politicians, and is with his departure from the scene. I can’t point to anybody else who has that kind of moral gravity.
  • Speaker 5
    0:25:48

    That really keeps him grounded. And it’s a very, very sad day for the Republican Party and an even Saturday for America.
  • Speaker 1
    0:25:59

    Damon speaking of Romney’s decency. When he gave his floor speech explaining his vote, in the first impeachment trial. He talked about the importance of the oath, and he said, I am profoundly religious. My faith is at the center of who I am. Then he got a lump in his throat and he had to pause, and then he went on and said, I take an oath before god as enormously consequential.
  • Speaker 1
    0:26:26

    K. And I was thinking of the line from a man for all seasons that as Linda and I have discussed before, used to be sort of a Bible for conservatives. Everybody was was always quoting it. When push came to shove, nobody lived it. But Romney did.
  • Speaker 1
    0:26:41

    Here’s what Moore says in a man for all seasons the Robert Bolt play, quote, when a man takes an oath, He’s holding his own self in his own hands like water. And if he opens his fingers, then he’d needn’t hope to find himself again. So that was Romney at a key moment, but I wanna direct your attention to something else that was in the McKee Copins piece. He is describing the atmosphere in the second impeachment when certain Republican senators were leaning toward conviction. And their colleagues counseled them against it.
  • Speaker 1
    0:27:18

    And someone said, this is Romney relating it. Think of your personal safety. Think of your children, and so that senator backed off. Now, this is evidence for something that we expected, but that we couldn’t prove until now we have it in black and white. Namely that in twenty sixteen and twenty fifteen, twenty sixteen, it required political courage.
  • Speaker 1
    0:27:42

    To oppose Trump and trumpism. But by twenty twenty, it began to require physical courage as well. These people were frightened. Right?
  • Speaker 3
    0:27:53

    Yes. And not just for themselves, but their families. It really is an astonishing turn of events, and like with much in this wonderful piece we’re talking about, much of it was shocking, but not really surprising. Because, you know, we all saw Lindsey Graham shuffling through the Reagan Airport right after January sixth and being accosted by vehemently angry, furious Republican voters screaming at him for failing to adequately defend their tribune Donald Trump. That is a very sad commentary and a scary one as well on the character of the Republican Party and where it’s ended up you’re being goaded, I will now go beyond Trump a little bit and reach all the way back to the early nineties and limbaugh’s radio show leading into then Fox News at its most rabid and then all of the media vehicles it spawned further to the right, and then Trump himself goading Republican voters to become ever angry or more hateful, more viciously indignant at people they disagree with in politics and the end results after a generation or so of this.
  • Speaker 3
    0:29:14

    Is that there is this subset of Republican voters who are literally sometimes foaming at the mouth. And, that’s disturbing. And I actually wanna use that as a transition back to make one further point that actually links up with the way you Mona, we’re starting to talk in your intro to asking me a question and that had to do with the character of Romney’s conservatism. I taught at Bringham Young University, the Mormon University owned by the Church of Jesus Christ of latter day saints, I taught there for two years in the late nineties. It was a wonderful experience.
  • Speaker 3
    0:29:51

    I am not myself a member of this church. Had I converted? I perhaps would still be teaching there, but I was not willing to do that to keep a job. But I was tempted in a way not spiritually, but in the sense that I was so impressed with so many of the faculty and students there, and reading this piece about Romney really reminded me of what it was like to be out there. Now I think that’s changed a lot too because there’s some dotes in the piece about him out in Utah going to a public events and being screened at.
  • Speaker 3
    0:30:28

    By rooms full of Republican voters. I’m sure most of whom were Mormons. But it reminded me of what when I was a young man and considered myself a conservative what I understood conservatism to mean. Yes. It meant in public policy that you tended to support tax cuts and cuts to government regulations and a general constellation of economic policies and foreign and then, of course, cultural conservatism things that we associate with the old Reaganite Republican Party.
  • Speaker 3
    0:31:01

    But underneath those shifting policy commitments was something deeper, which was an attachment to forms and formality order modesty, nobility, moral rectitude, private, and public honor, and really an adherence to standards of right conduct and traditional restraints. Romney in this piece spoke as a man for whom that stuff is in his bones. He simply acts that way as a kind of habit. And then that, it ties conservatism to some of the deepest roots of Western civilization, Aristotle’s moral theories of moral virtue. If it is the case as it does appear to be that the Republican party doesn’t have a home for people like that in it anymore.
  • Speaker 3
    0:31:53

    Not just that there aren’t as many of them around as there used to be, but that they actively must flee the party for their personal safety. That is troubling to an extent that I think even I with all of my gloom and doom that, so often comes to the fore on this podcast was not quite prepared to face. And that piece in the Atlantic I’m McKay Copins really did force me to face it, and it was upsetting in that respect.
  • Speaker 1
    0:32:26

    David, The governor of New Mexico issued an order during the past week saying that people could not carry their guns as a temporary measure because of crime and other problems. And, I cite this because it was interesting that she got blowback from Democrats. Who said, nope, that’s bridge too far. That’s unconstitutional. You can’t really do that.
  • Speaker 1
    0:32:51

    And it struck me that Look, I don’t wanna be naive about the Democratic party at this moment just because the Republicans are so deplorable. To coin a phrase, and yet that did strike me as the way a normal and healthy political party should react that is to be able to police its own. What do you think? And if you want, please also comment on the, anecdotes in the Copins piece about Mitch McConnell and Paul Ryan.
  • Speaker 2
    0:33:24

    Yeah. The Paul Ryan story was, again, one of these things that’s unsurprising and shocking that Orion is sort of the opposite of Romney. He’s got all the outward affect of a man of conscience and none of the inward substance of a man of conscience. Right. There’s always a question when someone talks about morality.
  • Speaker 2
    0:33:40

    Are they a prick? Is this a show or is it on the inside? We all dislike a break, someone who is all hand on heart when people are looking and hand in other people’s pockets when people are not. Rob need by his sacrifices, his risk has proven himself. No.
  • Speaker 2
    0:33:54

    This is he’s he’s solid all the way through. And Ryan has proven the other way. I remember I had back in twenty twelve, I did have some deeper contact with the Republican world than I do these days. And I remember being, bones with people in the Romney camp pleading with them have nothing to do with Ryan because just the part he played was not the man he he was. I think Romney has now seen that for himself.
  • Speaker 2
    0:34:15

    The part Ryan played is not many was. Ryan, by the way, Ron DeSantis script with Fox News that people say to him, hey, you’re on the board of directors of the Murdoch companies. They’re putting on the air the most paranoid, racist, anti Semitic voice since the days of father coughlin in Tucker Carlson, Paul, you give such wonderful speeches about all of these things. Maybe you could do something. And then he gets this look on his face and says, you have no idea how hard I’m working on these.
  • Speaker 2
    0:34:41

    I only wish I could tell you how hard I’m working on the inside. And I was like, you don’t have to tell me. I know exactly that you just don’t have a word I know how exactly how hard you’re working on the inside because you are a phony from phony land.
  • Speaker 1
    0:34:53

    Yes. I
  • Speaker 2
    0:34:54

    think there’s another thing we learned, which is put this together with the stories that are being reported on NBC today, but the level of threat to the prosecutors in the Hunter Biden case because they are merely indicting the Hunter Biden for the things he did and not for the things that people are hearing on News Max that he might have done or in some imaginary universe. We are living with a rising level of political threat. And so far, the level of political violence is not catching up, but it’s it’s just bound to happen. And I think one of the things I look at a lot of the mass shooting is you need to think of them as pre political violence. That is these mass shooters often are not exactly connected or certainly not directed by anybody in the world of but they’re absorbing secondhand ideas and that we’re we’re getting a kind of internal domestic terrorist threat.
  • Speaker 2
    0:35:42

    And I think it’s becoming more articulate, more self conscious and more linked to a world of politics that does have party political connections. Not that anyone in the in any party is directing it, but the information channels are opening up between the talkers and and and the gunmen. And you just have to think that with the level of armament in this society, And the government of New Mexico’s actions are unfortunately not going to do anything because there are laws, and you can’t just set them aside, even if the laws are inhuman and and murderous, that we need to brace ourselves for some really dark potential head as as we run up to twenty twenty four intimidation and may be worse.
  • Speaker 1
    0:36:19

    Yeah. Again, not to not to downplay the violence that has originated on the left, in history, and so forth. And I have been on this throughout my whole career. But right now, it is illuminating, isn’t it? That These prosecutors, and FBI officials and others are receiving threats about the Hunter Biden thing, and you might say, oh, is that enraged Democrats?
  • Speaker 1
    0:36:46

    Thretening the prosecutors because they don’t want to see their guy indicted? No, of course not. It’s the Republicans who want him to be indicted for far more. There aren’t two sides here that are equally to blame. I’m sorry to say.
  • Speaker 1
    0:37:01

    Alright. Let’s move to president Biden’s trip To the g twenty and Hanoi. He did a number of things. He introduced this India, Middle East Europe economic corridor. Traveled eight thousand miles in five days and got very little sleep and did in my judgment, you know, a a perfectly serviceable press conference But the only thing we heard about was the lying dog faced pony soldier.
  • Speaker 1
    0:37:28

    David, what do you think?
  • Speaker 2
    0:37:29

    This is maybe too abstracted a thought, but I really wonder about the point of the g twenty. The g twenty was invented for two reasons. When the original g seven was put together back in the nineteen seventies, seven countries that met there were the seven largest economies in the world, from the United States to Canada and Italy. That over time stopped being true because of the rise of China. So the g seven Russia was briefly in it as the g eight.
  • Speaker 2
    0:37:52

    The g seven were the seven largest democratic economies in the entire world. But with the rise of India, that stopped being true. So a bigger club was put together, the twenty large economics in the world, which can include China, can include India, and can include Brazil and other non Western countries. But as a statistical grouping, the g twenty makes a lot of sense. But as a practical club, I don’t know what it does.
  • Speaker 2
    0:38:15

    The g twenty communique couldn’t take a stand on the Russia Ukraine. Conflict on Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. And we talked about violence in Ukraine, not violence against Ukraine. If you’ve got a club that can’t do things, why fly the president halfway around the world to be a participant in what is a mere statistical artifact? Which is here are the twenty largest economies in the world.
  • Speaker 2
    0:38:36

    Other than that, they don’t have much in common.
  • Speaker 1
    0:38:38

    Yeah. Bill, where did you come down on the was it a success or failure debate? I had a debate with Charlie Sykes about this because I thought his press conference, for example, was fine that he’s not senile. He demonstrated that to my satisfaction. And I think it’s absurd to call him senile.
  • Speaker 1
    0:38:57

    He’s definitely aged and slowed down a bit, but, the accusation that he’s actually suffering from dementia is clearly wrong, but Charlie thinks the only thing that anybody is going to take away from that press conference is the the faulty John Wayne, quote.
  • Speaker 4
    0:39:13

    Well, I agree with what David said about the g twenty as a mechanism. But I disagree with the implication that I shouldn’t have attended because a lot of business got done. Two examples. It’s clear that the Biden administration is pursuing a very deliberate and systematic diplomatic slash military strategy of building up our safeguards against Chinese aggression. And India, which has historic links to Russia, but an historic antipathy to China is a very, very important part of that diplomatic assemblage.
  • Speaker 4
    0:40:00

    And my sense is that that relationship was deepened during this meeting, and that is to the extent that that’s true, all to the good. Now, granted there’s some complexities. Modi’s domestic policies can be quite horrifying, particularly in his conspiring with extremist elements in his own ranks to exacerbate, the tensions between Hindu and Muslims and to ramp up, the oppression of Muslims. And I think that we as a country can’t just sit back without saying anything about that. And I’m sure the president or at least I hope the president did say something about that.
  • Speaker 4
    0:40:44

    Secondly, the trip was an occasion to deepen the relationship with Vietnam. It has been pretty clear for quite some time that Vietnam is much, much more worried about the present of China than the past of the United States. And and the Vietnam war. Vietnam has been moving in our direction, and it is clear that the president’s visit accelerated that movement. So those those two developments in and of themselves, I think would be more than enough to just by the trip, even though I quite agree with David that the communique with such weak tea that it can easily be confused with hot water, perhaps even hot air.
  • Speaker 4
    0:41:32

    On the personal front, I take this as one more piece of evidence in favor of Mona’s proposition that while Joe Biden may not be the man he was, He’s still man enough to serve as president of the United States at least for now. And when you put this trip together with his remarkable trip to Ukraine, which has to be one of the most excruciating and endurance testing trips that a president of the United States has taken for a long time. This is a man who has enough energy and enough focus to do the job. I’m sure a lot people will for reasons of their own reach the opposite conclusion. But like you, Mona, I’m convinced that the truth is pretty evident if you just Look at the evidence squarely and without bias.
  • Speaker 1
    0:42:23

    Linda, the response, though, on social media, and in the press, more broadly, was the opposite. It was like, oh, You know, why are they putting him out there and letting him give press conferences when he’s jet lagged? Then he tells stories about John Wayne that turn out to be wrong. I mean, where where do you come down on this?
  • Speaker 5
    0:42:41

    He’s all priest told stories that turn out to be wrong.
  • Speaker 1
    0:42:44

    That’s
  • Speaker 5
    0:42:44

    true. I mean, that’s just part of who Joe Biden is, look, I think he accomplished something. I think first of all, it probably was necessary for him to go because I think we need to keep Modi close. And, you know, with the history of India and the former Soviet Union, but, you know, you just, you don’t wanna let our relationship, which has taken time to build. To go astray, I think the Vietnam part of the visit was terribly important, but I have a real problem with the staff.
  • Speaker 5
    0:43:14

    Not preparing him with enough rest. He is an old man. And you know, you and I know that Ronald Reagan when he traveled, when he would go overseas, that mean he slept He was well rested and I don’t think the staff protected president Biden as he should have been protected in this. I think the press conference was you know, a disaster as public relations because if you sat and watched the whole thing, you might have been impressed as you were, but Mona, people like us, you know, watch the whole thing, others watch the YouTube clips, and they are not good.
  • Speaker 1
    0:43:53

    What do you think, Damon?
  • Speaker 3
    0:43:55

    Well, I do find myself sort of doing a double take that comes out of being the age I am, which is in my mid fifties. I’m old enough to remember the way presidential foreign trips used to be covered back in the age when there were a few network news broadcasts and PBS and that was about it. And then even when CNN got added, it would be almost entirely about the substance of what was happening on the trip. And hardly anyone would discuss things like Oh, did the president seem sleepy? Did he seem senile?
  • Speaker 3
    0:44:33

    And again, I engage in these debates. Because that’s part of our media ecosystem these days. But it is important, I think, to step back and realize how graded all of this is. I mean, I don’t know if I saw a a single serious news story about what actually was going on on this trip. I mean, I did end up researching to find out.
  • Speaker 3
    0:44:59

    Alright. What is this about India and this deal and the Middle East and Vietnam. Like, you can find all this stuff at your fingertips by using Google in about ten seconds. So it’s not like You can’t find out what happened, but when it just comes to what the media talks about, the entire event passed and it was just an occasion of like a test to see, oh, how old did the presidency?
  • Speaker 1
    0:45:22

    Yeah. The fact that he said, oh, I’m going to bed now. On an international trip. I mean, I do that all the time. I’d say I’m going to bed at strange hours when I’m jet lagged.
  • Speaker 3
    0:45:30

    And the the point is that what that ends up meaning, not only that talking about comparative superficialities or kind of, you know, handicapping the forthcoming presidential race which has its importance, obviously. But what about the actual substance and foreign policy and what is America doing in the world and who are we treating as our friends and who has sort of non friendly training partners and who are our opponents and our adversaries And what is the strategy going on in the Biden administration? What are they trying to accomplish? How does it differ from what Trump tried to accomplish? Are there continuities with what Obama tried to Like, none of that ends up really being talked about.
  • Speaker 3
    0:46:14

    That is not good for our democracy because it means that there’s not any serious civic minded examination of the more serious issues going on. It all ends up being about again, like handicapping the presidential race, which again has its place, but it’s not the only place.
  • Speaker 1
    0:46:34

    Right. Okay. Thank you. And with that, we will turn to our highlight or low light of the week, and we’ll start with Will Saletan.
  • Speaker 4
    0:46:42

    Well, I’m not sure whether it’s a highlight or a low light, but I’ll highlight it any event. I look forward each year to a publication from the commerce department. Actually, three publications, one on income in the United States in the previous year, the second poverty in the United States in the previous year, and the third health care coverage. They all came out on Tuesday, and all of the attention just about in the journalistic coverage was devoted to the abrupt increase in child poverty, which was the direct, and I think almost sole result of the end of the child tax credit We were talking about the Romney child allowance a few minutes ago, and This was another version of that, obviously, a more partisan, less broadly supporting version, but, certainly worth continuing in some form in my judgment. The report that got much less coverage had to do with income in the United states.
  • Speaker 4
    0:47:47

    I’ve posted in the chat a link to the piece that I have just written for bookings on the subject. But it answers the question of why Americans are so unhappy about the economy. And the answer is that household incomes are declining. Between twenty twenty one and twenty twenty two, they declined, by two point three percent, for the households right in the middle, and it was worse than that for some other households. That’s a difference.
  • Speaker 4
    0:48:18

    Plenty big enough for the people to notice. And that was just earned income. If you pile on top of that, the reduction of the kinds subsidies and emergency supports that were put in place in twenty twenty and twenty twenty one to mitigate the effects of the pandemic. Many households suffered double digit decreases in their real incomes last year. And, this is, I think, potentially, a disastrous trend for the Biden Administration if it continues.
  • Speaker 4
    0:48:54

    It would gravly weaken the president’s reelection campaign, not to mention the damage that it’s doing to American households. There’s reason to believe that Things are going to be better in twenty twenty four. The decline in the rate of inflation means that over the past three months for the first time really since the spring of twenty twenty one, that, real incomes, the purchasing power of wages is on the rise. Once again, if that continues, for another twelve months, we could be having quite a different discussion about the twenty twenty four presidential election. But the report that I’ve I’ve just summarized, I think, is a silver bullet explanation for a public attitude that many economic pundits as well as defenders of the Biden administration are scratching their heads about.
  • Speaker 1
    0:49:44

    Bill, I don’t think there’s any debate. That is a low light. Alright. Linda Chavez.
  • Speaker 5
    0:49:50

    Well, I would like to highlight a man who, passed away this week. Who most of our listeners will never have heard of, but like our discussion of Mitt Romney, he was one of the most decent Honest, gentleman, that I ever knew. His name is Terry Eastland. He ended his career as a fellow at the Center opportunity, which I founded. But he spent time in the Reagan administration, was actually fired by Ed Niece because at me, thought he was not, being vigorously defended enough.
  • Speaker 5
    0:50:28

    Terry was the spokesman there, but he’s most known for the work he did on the issue of color blind equal opportunity. His first book counting by race in in nineteen seventy nine, was how I got to know him. He was a newspaper editor, and then he wrote ending affirmative action, the case for color blind justice. He was just a wonderful and decent man, and I wanna highlight that. I do have another piece I’d like to point out, and that appeared in the American purpose.
  • Speaker 5
    0:50:59

    This week, it is a review of a book on Victor Orban. The review is by Arch Puddington, and the book is called tainted Democracy Victor Orban and the subversion of Hungary, Arch lays it out very nicely and and talks about the author and how She was able to really summarize the way in which democracy itself can be undermined even if the leader who is doing the undermining has been elected by the people. So I would point, that piece out and for a piece on Terry Eastland, there was a wonderful piece by Jonathan Last, which I will also link to.
  • Speaker 1
    0:51:42

    Thank you for that. Damon Lincoln.
  • Speaker 3
    0:51:46

    Well, if we hadn’t devoted an entire segment to the Mitt Romney piece by McKiah Copins in the Atlantic, that would have been my highlight of the week because that was by far the most interesting and scintillating read of anything I encountered over the past week. However, there was a strong runner-up, and that is Isaac Chautner’s profile of New York Times columnist Ross. Rosset in the New Yorker. It was a perfect kind of platonic archetype of a New Yorker profile. There’s a real form and an art to doing a New Yorker profile and this perfectly accomplished it and met all those expectations, which means it’s very judicious.
  • Speaker 3
    0:52:31

    Thoughtful, even handed, author talks to everyone you would want him to talk to about Douthat’s work and reputation. And I know some of the people on the podcast probably are not big Ross fans. He definitely has his critics on both the center left and center right, but I like the guy. I don’t agree with him on everything, of course, but I think he’s an interesting guy and writes very well. And I appreciate his attempt as a conservative to engage with liberals.
  • Speaker 3
    0:53:03

    He’s also a devout Catholic and likes to engage with secular readers as well. And then in that respect, I think his way of approaching his job as a columnist is a throwback to an earlier era of opinion journalism that I admire. And so in that respect, I admire Ross’ well. And, it’s a very good profile and worth reading.
  • Speaker 1
    0:53:25

    Okay. Thank you, David from.
  • Speaker 2
    0:53:28

    Another economic report to follow bills, This past week, we got confirmation that over the summer Mexico overtook China as the top trading partner of the United States. Canada, I’m sad to say, has slipped into third place. A bronze for Canada. I think there are a couple of implications to this event that really bear study. The first is it does show the power of China’s continuing economic slowdown there used to be a lot of talk about when would the Chinese economy overtake the United States as the world’s largest in absolute terms?
  • Speaker 2
    0:54:00

    Would that happen in the twenty twenties? Would it be as late as the twenty thirties? It now seems that it will happen never. Part of this is the result of American policy. The Trump tariffs on China now backed and continued by president Biden, but part of his China’s own economic difficulties and its own slowdown on world markets.
  • Speaker 2
    0:54:18

    Meanwhile, Mexico has become a country of always important to the United States, of ever rising importance to the United States, and that makes it all the more shocking that one of the issues on the ballot twenty twenty four, should the United States fight a war inside Mexico? Now the people who propose this plan, I don’t mean to fight a war against Mexico. They just wanna push the Mexican state aside and launch a war against cartels in Northern Mexico, and they think this can be a very limited military action that won’t have profound, profound consequences. But it’s it’s just an insanely dangerous project against what is now America’s largest trading partner. I would suspect that you could stop people in the quarters of Congress and ask them who’s the largest and probably not one out of three of the staffers would get it right.
  • Speaker 2
    0:54:58

    But it is Mexico, and Mexico needs to be at the top of American economic security, trade humanitarian concerns.
  • Speaker 1
    0:55:05

    Thank you. My low light concerns Mike Pence. So, first, by way of throat clearing, let me say, I’ll honor to Mike Pence for his choice on January sixth to pull the constitution. Thank you, Mike Pence, for doing that. But, Mike Pence has now given a speech at saint Anselm college in New Hampshire.
  • Speaker 1
    0:55:27

    He titled it a time for choosing, so he’s wrapping himself in the mantle or attempting to, of Ronald Reagan. And he is warning the party about the dangers of Trumpian populism, which he calls a siren song and the road to ruin. And he says should the new populism of the right, seas, and guide our party The GOP as we have long known it will cease to exist and the fate of American freedom will be in doubt. And he says we’re at this hinge moment where, you know, we have to choose. Well, the fact is that Mike Pence himself was a key figure in making Trump acceptable to the Republican Party rank and file.
  • Speaker 1
    0:56:14

    He made him Kosher, if you don’t mind mixing some religious, imagery here. But, but his role here was critical that he was well thought of among evangelicals And he said, yep. Trump’s character is wonderful. He went beyond that. Let’s just play a few clips of some of the things that Pence said about Trump.
  • Speaker 6
    0:56:36

    I’m deeply humbled as your vice president to be able to be here because of your leadership, mister president, and because of the strong support of leadership in the Congress of the United States. You’re delivering on that middle class mirror. The American people have a right to know whether or not the vice president of the United States or his family, profited from his position. I mean, you look at the video of vice president Biden And and you see there was clearly a quid pro quo. He said, if a prosecutor was not fired, who among other things was investigating the company, his son, out on the border, that he was going to withhold a billion dollars.
  • Speaker 6
    0:57:17

    Contrast that with the president’s the transcript of the president phone call with president Zelensky, where there was no quid pro quo, there was no pressure. And, and, and I think it’s it’s why most Americans wanna get answers. President Trump’s got broad shoulders and a big heart.
  • Speaker 1
    0:57:33

    So that was just a small sampling look. Every vice president defends the president that he serves and, there’s a certain amount of party loyalty that’s understood goes without saying. But Mike Pence as vice president dialed this up to levels of obsequiousness toadying, civility that were just beyond the pale. And so for him now to say that, we are at a time of choosing and that we must reject the very thing, he helped to midwife the trumpian kind of politics, takes Hutzpah. And, by the way, he’s not doing well in the Republican primaries.
  • Speaker 1
    0:58:16

    So it seems that when all else fails, when trying to be the loyal trumpian, has not worked out for him. As a last ditch thing, he’s trying integrity. Sorry. It’s too late. With that, I want to thank our guests David From, and our regular panel.
  • Speaker 1
    0:58:33

    I would also like to thank our producer, Katie Cooper, our Sound Engineer, Jonathan Siri, our editor, Aaron Keene, And of course, our wonderful listeners, we will return next week as every week.
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