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Robert Draper: The Talented Mr. Meadows

February 15, 2024
Notes
Transcript
The immunity order Mark Meadows has in the election subversion case could be a big problem for Trump. But his habit of lying could be a problem for Jack Smith. Plus, is Sinema finished with politics? And the Tea Party when it was kinda sane. Draper joins Tim Miller.

show notes:

Draper’s piece on Meadows
Draper’s piece on Kyrsten Sinema

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
    0:00:08

    Hello, and welcome to the Secret Podcast. I’m your host Tim Miller. Here with my old friend Robert Draper. He reports on politics with New York Times. He wrote the recent cover story for New York Times magazine, how Mark Meadows became the least trusted man in Washington.
  • Speaker 1
    0:00:23

    It was delicious. I’m excited to talk to him about it. He also wrote weapons of mass delusion, and a couple other books. I wanna do some throwbacks. I wanna talk about some of your older books, Draper.
  • Speaker 1
    0:00:31

    So I hope your memory is fresh this morning.
  • Speaker 2
    0:00:34

    Oh, it is too, but thanks for having me on, having you about.
  • Speaker 1
    0:00:36

    Alright. Happy to happy about that. Before we get to Meadows, I wanna start with a little bit of news. It’s it’s related in a kind of dark way to something your wife, Kirsten Powers recently wrote. Yesterday, we had one dead twenty wounded.
  • Speaker 1
    0:00:48

    Eleven of the wounded were children in Kansas City in a mass shooting at the Chief Super Bowl parade. There was another school shooting at a high school in Georgia, that had four wounded Your wife wrote recently the way we live in the US is not normal as part of a longer kind of meditation on on thinking about to become an expatriate. You know, there’s not much to say about the stuff that hasn’t already been said at this point, and I was just wondering kinda your reaction yesterday about Kansas City and and how that’s impacting your thinking about the state of life here in America.
  • Speaker 2
    0:01:19

    Tim, a couple of things that came to mind after I heard about this horrible shooting and union station in Kansas City, was first that, the sad reality is that every American knows. Absolutely knows there will be zero legislative change as a result of this. So if there wasn’t any substantive change after Sandy Hook or after Yvalde there isn’t gonna be one though at this that leaves, a mere one person did. A mere twenty one people wounded. The question really is is this even gonna be more than a two day story.
  • Speaker 2
    0:01:49

    And as you mentioned, there was, you know, an additional shooting as well taking place here with it, but, it hasn’t changed My thinking, which really began to change in terms of America, maybe ten years ago, when an Italian friend of mine expressed worry about coming to the US saying I’m afraid that I’ll get shot there. And I thought, oh, come on. Don’t be silly. You know? That’s absurd.
  • Speaker 2
    0:02:11

    And I’ve come to realize that, you know, for all of Italy’s imperfections, and there are a few. This is one thing you never have to worry about. You never have to worry about when you hug your child right before they can go off to school that it might last time you see them. And and the notion that you could be caught in the crossfire or just a victim of a mass shooting is not an abstraction anymore in the US. And and as Kirsten, my wife, you know, said, I think very aptly.
  • Speaker 2
    0:02:35

    This is not normal. It should never be normal. I don’t know what people who, you know, support the proliferation of guns would say about what took place in Kansas City, would they really say that what we needed in that parade were morgons? It kind of, you know, stupifies the imagination to think that the that would be the solution.
  • Speaker 1
    0:02:56

    Yeah. I think they would say it because what they were saying about there was another shooting, joel osteen’s church earlier this week over the weekend, and That was exactly what they said because it in that case, it was two off duty police officers that neutralized the shooter. And so you get down this, like, really dark whole you see in right wing media, or I spend a lot of time. I know you spend some quite a bit of time. And, you know, where it’s like, well, the shooter was trans.
  • Speaker 1
    0:03:21

    Like, the real problem is trans ideology turns out shooter wasn’t trans. You know, the good guy with the gun theory did work in this case. And it’s like, well, I mean, there was So Victims. Right. So it didn’t, like, really, really work.
  • Speaker 1
    0:03:33

    It didn’t work in the way that it would work in Italy or Japan, or there are none none of these shootings. So I do think that there is always that and but.
  • Speaker 2
    0:03:41

    There is, although in that particular case, of the Austin attempted shooting, the good guys with the guns were in fact the guys you want to have guns. They were law enforcement officials who happened to be off duty. They weren’t some random dude who had a concealed carrier. So that argument doesn’t speak to the desirability of proliferating weapons. It speaks to the desirability of having law enforcement officers on hand.
  • Speaker 1
    0:04:04

    Hopefully, our, our deep state Pfizer shot hero, Travis Kelseykin. Can keep this in the news a little bit more? Then then you had hoped. Okay. I wanna talk about Mark Meadows.
  • Speaker 1
    0:04:14

    When this landed, Draper, I can’t tell you how happy I was. I was just, like, he was, like, meeting of author and subject. I didn’t even make it out of bed. Immediately turned over and just devoured the entire thing. The Mark Meadows situation, I kind of wanna go through the whole trajectory that you did his life.
  • Speaker 1
    0:04:30

    But at the biggest picture, why he’s relevant now, like, the mystery of Mark Meadows is there is an open question, right, even in Trump world. Even among Meadows’ friends, that how much if at all he’s participating with the investigations against his former boss And so I assume that was what kicked off the interest in the story. So so just talk about that element and the atmosphere around it, and then we’ll kinda run through the the Meadows trajectory.
  • Speaker 2
    0:04:56

    Yeah. Sure, Tim. I mean, early on in my reporting, there came this moment when I just kind of canvassed a number of folks I knew in Trump world, and and in the, you know, the greater megasphere. And I would ask them questions, and I’m talking about really prominent people, not not just activists. And I would ask them what they thought about Meadows and his degree of cooperation.
  • Speaker 2
    0:05:17

    And they would fall into this kind of somber silence and say, you know, that’s the million dollar question. We just don’t know. And I remember one of them saying, look, I mean, our suspicion, and I believe Trump’s suspicion and all these people I was talking with were confidants of Trump’s is that he’s a rat. But we don’t wanna say that. We don’t wanna alienate him further and push him essentially into the open embrace of Jack Smith or hoping perhaps against hope.
  • Speaker 2
    0:05:42

    That he’s doing what he seems to indicate he’s doing, which is just getting by with the absolute minimum by honoring a subpoena. That turns out however not to be the case. If you listen closely to the language of of Meadows’ attorney, George Turilinger, he’ll say, look, there was no deal. There has been no agreement. And that’s true.
  • Speaker 2
    0:06:00

    There was an immunity order that he was granted after apparently a conversation between Trevor Wiliger, a former federal prosecutor himself, and members of Smith’s prosecutorial team. And this order acknowledged that if Metas didn’t get an immunity agreement, you know, permission to to speak freely, without any concern that it would be incriminating against him, then he would just plead the fifth. So this immunity order was given to him. He then did a proper on, I think, March the twenty second of last year, and then the next day testified for six hours before a federal and grand jury. Now let’s just, you know, make clear, Tim, that they don’t hand out these immunity orders for free.
  • Speaker 2
    0:06:40

    Anybody who asks for them. They do it because they’re expecting something in return. Now my suspicion is that Meadows does wanna get by with the minimum though defining minimum here as staying out of federal prison. So he knows he has to be helpful. But I think that that, you know, what he’s tried to do is be helpful in a way that will provide Smith’s team with a road map, but avoid him having to take the witness stand.
  • Speaker 1
    0:07:04

    A man afford level of helpfulness.
  • Speaker 2
    0:07:06

    Yes. Right. Right. Right. But but but but if you’re the chief of staff, if you’re the guy in the room and and men are so often bragged both in his book and to others about he was the one with closest proximity with this unusual amount of FaceTime with Trump, then he’s the guy he uniquely saw things that other people did not.
  • Speaker 2
    0:07:24

    And I’m not sure how you avoid if you’re Jack Smith’s prosecutors putting him on the witness stand. This, however, presents a problem, and this is the larger conundrum in the Meadows narrative, which is this guy is an inveterate liar. And so you put him on the witness stand at your peril.
  • Speaker 1
    0:07:40

    Yeah. Wanna go back to that, but just one other follow-up question on the current day, the current situation. Yeah. It has a job, a pretty lucrative one at the Conservative Partnership Institute. In DC, and as you write, like, he goes to the office.
  • Speaker 1
    0:07:54

    They’re paying him. This is like every grifting group in Washington at this point. It’s like Bulwark at the pleasure of either Donald Trump or one rich person. Is this a job that they’re giving him in the hopes that he stays on side or, like, what’s he doing? Like, what does the day look like for him?
  • Speaker 1
    0:08:12

    Why is he employed?
  • Speaker 2
    0:08:13

    Right. Right. Interesting. Well, for one thing, he was employed one week to the day after Trump left office. At that point, there was a lot of anger on the far right after, Trump lost the election.
  • Speaker 2
    0:08:25

    The challenges did not come out favorably. January the sixth happened. And there need to be a place not only to channel, right wing anger, but also a place where there was still some adjacency to the Trump presidency, and that’s what Meadows had to offer. So that’s why it’s good for conservative partnership in Institute to have Meadows. It’s good for Meadows to have CPI because it is a daily reminder to those in Trump world that, hey, I’m on your side.
  • Speaker 2
    0:08:55

    You know, I haven’t moved over to the dark side. I’m I’m not one of Jackson’s buddies. So he gets paid about nine hundred thousand dollars a year. And, you know, goes and hands up trophies at CPI conferences and and meets with fundraisers and donors either It’s a pretty nice center cure, for him. But I think most of all, it is, as I say, you know, this emblem that he can wear that I am still a Magga guy.
  • Speaker 1
    0:09:20

    Okay. Let’s go back to his origin story because I I knew Mark Meadows of the tea party era, Thorne and John Bainer’s side, that I really, you know, it’s hard to keep track of all four hundred thirty five of these people and they’re origin where they come from. The motley band of our house of representatives, And I was just fascinated by the kind of talented mister ripley esque origin of this guy that moves to Western North Carolina And I guess it kind of finds a sugar mama basically, like, in the community.
  • Speaker 2
    0:09:52

    Yeah. You know, I proceeded with this research. With the view that if you believe what so many people in the Trump White House told me, which was that met was a guy who couldn’t be trusted. He would say one thing to one person, another thing to another, and then heard the same thing about his time as a member of Congress. That he also was this inveterate pleaser, then I had to assume that this pattern wasn’t something that he just learned when he was in Washington.
  • Speaker 2
    0:10:21

    But in fact, was the through line of his adult life. So I went all the way back to nineteen eighty seven when he and his wife, Debbie, rolled into the resort town in Western North Carolina of Highlands where he had previously been the customer service representative for Tampa elect company. You know, he has this kind of quintessential American success story bootstrap his way from starting a little sandwich shop to then, making a lot of money as a realtor and then finally offering himself up as a public servant. It smelled a little too rosy to be true and So, yeah, he showed up to this town and immediately made connections in this very, very right wing church that had broken off from presbyterian church because believe that the presbytery was too tolerant of gay people.
  • Speaker 1
    0:11:10

    Always comes back to the gays, Draper always comes back to the gays.
  • Speaker 2
    0:11:14

    Does. Yeah. I’ve been trying to tell you that too, but you won’t listen. But, and at the community bible church, he met this sweet, elderly Christian lady who’s single, named ginger Glassen, And she really took a liking was even, I think, smitten by Meadows and helped set him up with a person who would lease him property for a sandwich store, then gave him a job at this pizzeria that she opened up then gave him a parcel of land, got into some investment things with him. And ultimately, when he tired of all that put him in touch with the local mayor who had a real estate firm and helped convince that mayor to hire Meadows and that set meadows on his way.
  • Speaker 2
    0:11:58

    She was the first person who I was able to locate who came away feeling, like, she had gotten a short end of the stick with Meadows that he had ingratiated himself with her, but she later, felt like she had been taken for a ride by him. And exactly why they split off as clear she’s been dead for a while now, but according to her friends and her relatives, she felt cheated by Meadows.
  • Speaker 1
    0:12:21

    Wasn’t he, like, in her in her will or something at one point?
  • Speaker 2
    0:12:24

    No. No. But he did. What he did instead was that she had property. She intended to give to her kids, and he convinced her instead to give one tract of land to himself.
  • Speaker 2
    0:12:34

    And to give another tract of land to this guy who he wanted to lure to community bible church as the pastor. But who didn’t have a place to live. So, she felt pretty fleeced by the whole experience, and that marks the beginning of Meadows as this Bulwark mobile individual.
  • Speaker 1
    0:12:51

    Yeah. So the other interesting data point from the come up is as Lee fast forward a little bit, but, yeah, he gets into politics and and he’s doing the precinct chair stuff and then he wins his competitive primary ends up head to Congress, and then he chooses as his chief of staff, an interesting character. Now for people who don’t know the hill, usually, if you’re somebody from West North Carolina, a real estate person and you get to Congress, like, the NRCC and the leadership help you find somebody. You know, usually you bring somebody with you, right, that you can me an adviser, but to run the day to day office, usually I some hire somebody who’s, you know, in legislating in Congress at some level, and, and Mark didn’t do that.
  • Speaker 2
    0:13:28

    Yeah. And steady hired a fellow named Kenny West who had been one of his opponents in a field of a, in the Republican primary when Meto’s first ran, Kenny West came in sixth. So he wasn’t a worthy competitor or anything like that. And yet, at the end of the campaign, after Meadows had already indicated to two different staff aids that he would like either of them to be his chief of staff he then notified them both that now he decided to go in a different direction and hired Kenny West and further retroactively paid West for campaign work that West had not done because he was his political opponent after all. So there was a big mystery as to why you would take on a guy who knew nothing about Washington.
  • Speaker 2
    0:14:11

    We didn’t know that much about politics. Didn’t even know that much about that congressional district and make him the guy in charge. To that question, came to be even more poignant. First, as West proved to be pretty incompetent, frankly, and this is job. But secondly, then, it came to be a serial harasser of the young women who worked in Meadows’s office.
  • Speaker 2
    0:14:33

    Those women came to Meadows complained about it. Meadows at first tried to sweep it under the rug, thought of a way maybe to move him to some other office building, but keep him on the payroll. In other words, it went to extraordinary steps to keep this guy on. And he’s
  • Speaker 1
    0:14:47

    He wants the chief of staff who had no business being a chief of staff, who had harassed his young women’s staffers to stay as chief of staff, but just not come into the office. That doesn’t smell great.
  • Speaker 2
    0:14:57

    No. And finally, when, when one of his colleagues, Trey Gowdy strongly recommended, you you’ve gotta get rid of this guy. He did so first after just kind of demoting him but keeping him on the payroll and then got rid of him, but then paid him a severance pay, which was ethically inappropriate. The house committee on ethics found and in fact made Meadows pay back, forty thousand dollars out of his own pocket. The question that looms overall is this, what was going on here?
  • Speaker 2
    0:15:26

    What did west have that compelled Meadows, against so many reasons not to, to keep him close and make him his highest paid staffer. There had been a lot of rumors in Highlands about Meadows and potentially having an affair. And, I wanna emphasize that I couldn’t find any confirmation of this But those coincided with Kenny West having said on the campaign trail when he ran against Meadows and Meadows had some character defect and then being hired by Meadows. And then being kept on. It’s one of these, you know, enduring, you know, mysteries of Ad Meadows that drives you a little bit crazy.
  • Speaker 2
    0:16:02

    But is a reminder that there’s so much about this guy that has not been on the up and up that people even close to him wonder just why he’s doing what he’s doing.
  • Speaker 1
    0:16:10

    One of the things that I wanna get back to in that that is one of his weaknesses, and I think is as I’ve grown older what I’ve seen in in leadership and any business, one of the worse leadership traits she could have is just to be a pleaser that will tell tells everybody what they wanna hear. And so in this situation, this is also, like, regardless of the a fair story. Like, this is true. Right? He tells Gowity that he’s gonna do it, and he does it.
  • Speaker 1
    0:16:29

    He tells the staffers, he’s gonna do it. He tells other people they’re gonna be the chief of staff, then he doesn’t do it. You know, and this on January six ends up becoming a big problem for Meadows. So then he’s in Congress, and he’s most famous. He starts the freedom caucus with Jim Jordan, But, you know, the most epic meta story is just how he absolutely bombs in an attempt to overthrow John Bainer and then goes into his office and cry.
  • Speaker 1
    0:16:51

    So I I like to hear about adult men crying. So please share that story with me.
  • Speaker 2
    0:16:57

    There’s no one of them. You love the story of Mark Meadows because he himself as one of former staffers told me can turn on the waterworks like nobody else. And it’s and it does appear to be a, not a reflexive thing, but a manipulative thing. A way to convey his own deep sorrow and and, you know, ever so earnestness. But it’s true that if he bridled from the moment he got to Congress at how, a guy like him who described himself as, being very similar to the protagonist in a beautiful mind who could see around corners, who could sell ice to an EscMO also to use as parlance.
  • Speaker 2
    0:17:32

    Wasn’t fully appreciated. It was just a back venture. And so he immediately took it out on leadership. And tried to overthrow speaker, John Bainer. It didn’t Bulwark, like he said.
  • Speaker 2
    0:17:40

    And he, as Tim Alberto, reported at the time in Pluto, got on one knee and, beg forgiveness of Bainer. Only then a couple of years later to go after him again with a motion to vacate that did not sea, but finally made Bainer think, you know what? This asylum is being run by lunatics, and I think I’ve had my fill of it. So I mean Meadows could claim him as a scalpel, but This is the thing about Meadows. It’s not so much chronic people pleasing on Meadows’s part.
  • Speaker 2
    0:18:09

    There is a strategic end to all of this stuff. You know, one member had told me about how Meadows had come to him and said, you know, I gotta say maybe more than any other legislator. I admire you. And that member told me that he had he was smiling, listening to Meadows thinking, you know, just yesterday, I know that Meadows was on a conference call. Trying to get me primary.
  • Speaker 2
    0:18:29

    And so it just became axiomatic that whenever Meadows is saying something nice to you, it means you just stabbed you in the back. But Maybe
  • Speaker 1
    0:18:36

    Apple polish are better than please or a more accurate description.
  • Speaker 2
    0:18:39

    Yeah. Yeah. But in a way what he represents is this kind of Machiavellian advancement that is one of the real touchstones of the trump era, you know, and particularly in the trump white house.
  • Speaker 1
    0:18:52

    Is that right, though, is it Machiavelli or is it Magoo? Is it just that in the Trump era, the, like, the competition isn’t very thick? I always say this. Like, if you’re a twenty three year old sociopath right now, like, the best thing to do if you want to have rapid career advancement is become a mega Republican. Right.
  • Speaker 1
    0:19:08

    You know, if you wanna become a chief of staff for a Democratic house member, there are a lot of people like, went to Ivy Lake schools that want that job, but that’s, like, you wanna be Mack Gates as chief of staff, that’s not as competitive of a category. Right? Right. So maybe is that not that Meadows just kind of found in self in a lane where the competition wasn’t very stiff.
  • Speaker 2
    0:19:25

    I take your point, and I guess my refinement would be that, you know, in the Trump White House the best way to prove your loyalty would be to do it by demonstrating someone else’s lack of loyalty coming to them you know, essentially with evidence that this person leaked, for example. I mean, as soon as Meadows became chief of staff, his new aid, Cassie Hudson was brought into his office, and he said, go find me the leakers. The president wants to know who the leakers are, and Meadows had his own list, and that list didn’t have any factual support to it. But there were lists of people he personally didn’t like and wanted to bump off because he viewed them as competition or people who were sort of on tomato. So Machiavellian, I guess, you know, pre poses of superior cunning that maybe a lot of these guys lacked, but the tactics are largely the same, you know, which is just this ritual of backslapping and followed by backstabbing.
  • Speaker 1
    0:20:15

    And eventually, as we learned with Cassie, that comes back to bite you.
  • Speaker 2
    0:20:17

    Yeah. No. Exactly.
  • Speaker 1
    0:20:21

    Okay. I wanna get to January six one one just point of clarity. I support adult male tears. I just enjoy vulnerable ball, an adult man. There’s nothing wrong with crying, and then listening to the podcast.
  • Speaker 1
    0:20:32

    January sixth. So this is another question compared to the Machiavelli or the Magu. Was Mark Meadows intentionally and actively trying to overthrow the government, or was Mark Meadows just a coward? That was in the middle of Donald Trump and other people’s efforts to overthrow the government, and he never had the balls to say no to anybody.
  • Speaker 2
    0:20:53

    The answer is yes to both. I mean, it’s a or it depends on who you ask because when you look at the twenty three hundred or so text that Metocyst attorneys turned over to the January sixth committee. As I did, it’s a whiplash inducing thing where he says to one person, I’m fighting like crazy. We will not stop into another person. Oh, the president’s gonna gracefully concede any minute now.
  • Speaker 2
    0:21:17

    And for that matter, There were people who were brought before the January sixth committee, like Jason Miller, who were convinced at the time that they sat down to give their testimony that Meadows was on, you know, team normal, you know, as it were only then to be confronted by these texts that Meadows had sent. To various other people and coming to realize, well, no, maybe he was on the other side, or maybe he wasn’t on any side at all, except just, you know, doing whatever taste to get through the day, you know, this desperate succession of acts of, self preservation on his part. What does seem to be the case, Tim, is that he has told Jack Smith people I thought we had lost the election. You know, we went through all the legal challenges, and I’ve tried to impress that point on the president But there are plenty of other people who are completely convinced that Meadows was giving the wrong advice. And these were the team normal people.
  • Speaker 2
    0:22:09

    And they believe that Meadows was bringing into the room individuals who, you know, would talk to Trump about how, you know, some Italian laser or something like that had managed to change election results. I mean, Meadows seem to be on board with that kind of stuff.
  • Speaker 1
    0:22:24

    The one thing that stuck out, I forget if this was in your profile or a different thing I read about Meadows, but it’s just the absurdity of it. It just always stuck in my brain. There’s just so many facts around it all starts to become a blur as somebody who read all the text messages. You can relate. But there was the one, where he asked Jeffrey Rosen to examine the debunked claims of fraud, New Mexico.
  • Speaker 1
    0:22:44

    But somebody, like, it was like a random person had emailed him and said that they had evidence that New Mexico the co actually that there was fraud and and Meadows then goes to the acting attorney general and says, look into this. That’s just an interesting data point to me because that is says that it’s somebody that I I has just totally lost all ability to rational. I I you know, there’s no way that Mark Meadows really thought that New Mexico was stolen. Right? And so what is he doing at that point?
  • Speaker 2
    0:23:12

    How I interpret that, Tim, is, something that Cassidy Hutchenson’s book was really helpful on because Hutchenson in her book describes how meta sister her at certain juncture I really want this for the president. I really wanna show him that I’m doing this for him. So anything he could bring that could at minimum, show that he Meadows was in the center of the fight. If he succeeded, better still, but at minimum to show that he was still on board, was so meaningful to Meadows that he was willing to overlook how absolutely ludicrous some of these scenarios were.
  • Speaker 1
    0:23:49

    My last man was questioned, and I think I know the answer, but I just have to ask it. Like, it’s somebody that obviously was very ambitious. You know, and wanted to be seen as a important person. Right? I do think that at any point in the past three years, he’s looked at Cassidy.
  • Speaker 1
    0:24:07

    And thought, just this deep regret that, like, he is such a weak child to cowardly little man and that she ended up showing actual strength. Although, all of this other stuff, the real estate, and the, emotion of vacate. All of this was about nothing. Right? Like, but when a real chance came to, you know, I, like, it could have been meadow.
  • Speaker 1
    0:24:28

    Like testifying in January six. Right? And he could have had sixty minutes profiles about his courage and how he stood up to Trump. Right? Like, did you talk to anybody that speaks to him that has any sensitive regret about that, or it’s just that not in his character?
  • Speaker 2
    0:24:42

    You know, I I don’t want to sit here and tell you Tim that I think that Meadows has no conscience at all, which would, you know, make him a sociopath. All I can tell you is that I haven’t found any evidence of it and that there have been moments for him to exhibit it, and he has passed on those moments. And and, you know, he is now at this crossroads with the choice of being helpful to the prosecution of Trump knowing full well that he would be exiled from the Magga community once and for all. Or to remain loyal, perhaps at the expense of going to jail. Though, hopefully, in Meadows, this case, somehow avoiding that faith.
  • Speaker 2
    0:25:21

    And it’s clear that He’s not doing anything that suggests the following of conscience. But this is kind of remarkable to see. I mean, this is his guy, you know, even as he’s fighting like crazy on behalf of Trump. He’s preparing for life after Trump and negotiating a book contract, which became finalized on January the ninth. You know, so this has to do his memoirs and it and it goes without saying that if Trump had somehow managed to hang on and have a second term that Meadows wouldn’t be publishing his memoirs in the middle of it.
  • Speaker 2
    0:25:49

    So he he clearly was preparing for life after Trump even as he was absolutely convincing Trump that he was with him to thick and thin. Alright.
  • Speaker 1
    0:25:57

    I wanna get on to just a couple of your other subjects, but I forgot. I said that was the last question, but I have to ask about the quote on Air Force One. Or, dad, if Debbie knows looks at Mark and says that this is gonna be yours someday. I that’s real. Like his one Yeah.
  • Speaker 1
    0:26:13

    Yeah. And Again, that goes to the New Mexico thing. These seems like sociopathic delusional narcissists.
  • Speaker 2
    0:26:17

    One of his top staffers told me that when Meadows first ran twenty twelve and one that, Meadows exalted to this staffer and a few others. Well, boys, We’re gonna do this a few terms, and then we’re gonna see where it leads us. And and the understanding was clear from everyone in the room that that meant, higher off and not just governor. And and there are others close to men who who thought that too. Now he hardly stands alone Tim.
  • Speaker 2
    0:26:41

    I mean, you and I, you know, know tons of people, you know, who have these kinds of delusions.
  • Speaker 1
    0:26:45

    I mean, usually not within your marriage. You’re in private delusions. Like, I mean, on Air Force one, your wife looking at you, but, like, this is gonna be your plane someday. I mean, that’s in in a category of delusional narcissists and ads drivers in Washington, that puts him in a still a pretty elite rarefied terror for it.
  • Speaker 2
    0:27:02

    Well, and also, you know, another subject that we needn’t get into, but, you know, a window onto the mind of his wife, Debbie Meadows, who wanted this at least as much as her husband did.
  • Speaker 1
    0:27:12

    People should read the article for more on Debbie Metas. It’s so good. I just wanna cover a couple of the topics you wrote. Another interesting profile of a Kirsten cinema, I wanna get to you a bit first I was just as I was going through your little bio, Draper, I had to chuckle at this. One of your books, many books I’ve read, when the tea party came to town, Do you remember the subtitle to that book?
  • Speaker 2
    0:27:32

    Let’s see. Inside the US House of Representatives.
  • Speaker 1
    0:27:38

    And infuriating term in modern history.
  • Speaker 2
    0:27:41

    That’s the paperback version. Yeah. Yeah. And of course, what we’re talking about are people who basically could be Hamilton and Madison Right? I mean, this
  • Speaker 1
    0:27:47

    one Right. It’s it’s this book is written in twenty twelve, and you wrote about the most dysfunctional term in modern history. Twenty twelve Eric Cantor was in there, you know, who’s, like, not even Republican anymore. Been thrust out at the party, basically. And we have now the contrast to let me just pull this up.
  • Speaker 1
    0:28:06

    Jake Sherman, a punch bowl. I had this tweet this morning about the disaster that is House Republican Leadership. And I’m not gonna read this all to everybody, but he goes through a, like, eight point threat. And Jake usually tries to at least reflect the republican leadership point of view, in his journalism. I can eight point zero to just about how these guys can’t do anything.
  • Speaker 1
    0:28:27

    The impeachment disaster, the McCarthy And so just talk to us about, you know, you saw that twenty twelve group, that first tea party class up really close. The twenty ten to twenty twelve class, and and now you’re watching this group as well. I just talked about that trajectory. Did you ever imagine it could have gotten to where we are? Like, what elements you see back then?
  • Speaker 2
    0:28:48

    I didn’t imagine it, but, you know, I also plead guilty. The fact, and that there’s a lot that I missed. You know, the tea party cloaked its grievances in, fiscal and economic concerns, you know, about the deficit and all that. When clearly, there were these cultural grievances that if you scratch just a little bit beneath the surface you would find that were no doubt triggered by the election of America’s first Bulwark president. And, you know, the book you’ve just cited has very, very little in there about that.
  • Speaker 2
    0:29:16

    I mean, I I missed a lot of that a complete whiff. Having said that, you know, you look at the tea party class now and what they are today and and, you know, a couple of them like Chrissy Nom and Jeff Landry have gone on to be governors, a couple like, John Langford and Tim Scott or Senator.
  • Speaker 1
    0:29:31

    Langford is, like, the most the responsible senator now. Right? You know, even Ken Buck. I was thinking about the Ken Buck class. At twenty ten, it was Kenduck was gonna was the tea party guy that he runs against Jane Norton.
  • Speaker 1
    0:29:42

    He was the wild eyed insane person in Colorado, my home state, and back then, and now he’s the one that does the response pulls out on my orcas.
  • Speaker 2
    0:29:50

    Alright. Yeah. No. That’s I mean, graves, you know, out of Georgia, was a tea party. Congressman who left because it was getting a little too nutty for him and he was replaced by Marjorie Taylor Green.
  • Speaker 2
    0:30:01

    And and, a lot of those people, I mean, I’m talking to my members of that tea party class that expressed to me chagrin at what they’re seeing now and that this is an ungovernable body from that class, Adam Kinzinger, you know, got tossed out. Jamie Hurra Butler as well. Tossed out Kenzinger was forced to retire because of redistricting, but but was exiled from his own party. I mean, when you look back on that cluster, one person, Alan West, who might have adapted well to this new group because he always had a performance degree. But those people by and large, were willing to be part of a team.
  • Speaker 2
    0:30:36

    And, they did not see fight club as, the real aim, where clearly now it really is about the kabuki.
  • Speaker 1
    0:30:44

    So This is a debate we often have at the Bulwark about, like, how much this is bottom up, how much is it as failure of leadership. Right? But since you are with all of those guys, in that original kind of tea party way, anti establishment wave, do you assess that, like, maybe had they acted more responsibly in certain ways, been more responsive to voters’ demands, done certain things that they could have staved this off, you know, and had a more responsible, kind of populist right wing governing class, or is it like this was an inevitable just disintegration down to nothingness because of the, like, the base ones and what Republican media demands are.
  • Speaker 2
    0:31:24

    It’s a tough question to answer. I mean, I’m tempted to say that it was non inevitable, Tim, that could have been staved off. But the x factor in all of this was something that didn’t really exist in its present form in two thousand eleven. And that was, this, right wing media ecosystem. I mean, you had drudge, you had red state, you know, and then you had other agitating forms like carriage action.
  • Speaker 2
    0:31:47

    But you didn’t have, you know, the Secret Podcast, and you didn’t have Bright Bart in the form that it is now that just basically stenographers for the rides and Ron DeSantis on the left. And and And people
  • Speaker 1
    0:31:59

    still watch nightly news. You know, that’s the other thing. It was not the social media feed. Right? Like, so they might have watched rush and had whatever.
  • Speaker 1
    0:32:06

    Listen to rush sees me and going to drudge, but, like, they still, you know, watch their local news anchor at six o’clock. Right? And that’s different.
  • Speaker 2
    0:32:13

    Yeah. No. I mean, it’s, you know, these guys on the right and the right wing media ecosystem, I mean, it pays for them to roll up the masses, to to constantly be calling for the heads of leadership. Having any kind of legislative end makes no sense to them. It’s not in their financial model.
  • Speaker 2
    0:32:30

    And so it’s really, really difficult for people to come back home. Margie Taylor Green comes back home and says I’m supporting Kevin McCarthy for x number of reasons. And you know, Steve Ban then doesn’t have her on her podcast anymore in LamBacer. And this is the message that you learn coming into Congress now, and it’s also why so many people are leaving. That it really is just about fighting for fighting’s sake and with no substantive end inside.
  • Speaker 1
    0:32:55

    You know, a telling little anecdote about that with the Margate Taylor Green. Right after that abandoned fight, I was at one of these conferences, and it was when her book came out. And the line for her then At the book, it was still there were still people in line for her, but it was markedly smaller than the line for, like, Danny Johnson and some of the T. P. USA care are, like, those media figures are really what is inspiring.
  • Speaker 1
    0:33:16

    No. That’s right. Folks. And and that those are nihilists, really, at this point. Okay.
  • Speaker 1
    0:33:19

    I wanna do one more thing on the right and then get to cinema You had quite a bit of access in the early days, and, like, to the one point o, Trump. It was always motley crew around Trump, but you know, that period before, you know, Ryan sent John Cal. And, you know, before those folks tried to come in and but at least attempted to be moderating forces when it was just pure unadulterated Trump. It’s Lewandowski and Hicks and Scavino and Trump. I kinda feel like we’re headed back there.
  • Speaker 1
    0:33:48

    I mean, this campaign isn’t really like that because he has lots of eden Suzy Wiles, but if you were to get into the White House, like, it feels like we’re headed back closer to that era. So I’m just kind of wondering what your take is on that trajectory. Like, what do you think a reversion to a more unfiltered trump actually means in practice. And if there’s anything you remember from that era that would be relevant.
  • Speaker 2
    0:34:10

    Oh, yeah. Sure. No. I mean, but what I remember is that if you presuppose, you know, that a Dan Scavino comes back and maybe a Corey Lewandowski finds a home there. That Johnny Mackaty who was the head of presidential personnel by the end of it comes back.
  • Speaker 2
    0:34:25

    What you have to remind yourself, Tim, is that they’re not gonna be the same person and they were the they actually have experience now. They actually know how to do some of this stuff. By stuff, I don’t mean policy. I mean, the levers of power They know how to exact revenge. And they know as well that, they’re not gonna be checked by the so called adults in the room.
  • Speaker 2
    0:34:46

    The John Kelly’s and the tillersons and people like that or Ryan’s previous is that instead they’re gonna be the guys running it in a premium that’s placed on loyalty above all. But meanwhile, the Rick Renell’s and the Cash Patel’s who are likely to have jobs and a new administration have their own, you know, side projects that they can indulge in, their own vendettas they can pursue. So I think that while it’s understandable, to be bothered by the prospect of what Trump himself might do if he returns to the White House in a way the eyes really need to be on all the little balls around, not the big ball, you know, that that they need to be around these individuals who might seem, you know, like, you know, crazed pirates or something, but actually have a much more refined sense of how to do what it is they intend to do when they come back in the office.
  • Speaker 1
    0:35:36

    We’re gonna keep talking about that. You’re gonna come back in this podcast later. I’d I wanna close a cinema. You wrote party of one as a profile on her relatively recently. I don’t know when was that.
  • Speaker 2
    0:35:45

    It was the last year. Yeah. The summer of last year. Yeah.
  • Speaker 1
    0:35:47

    Yeah. It’s like, I feel like I’m aging in dog years. Time is a flat circle thing. It’s like, yes. I can’t.
  • Speaker 1
    0:35:53

    Yeah. Each day is long. Each year is short kind of element. Right. The cinema thing though, I just had to ask you about because In one sense, it feels like the bulwark should be her base.
  • Speaker 1
    0:36:03

    It feels like we should love her. Right? Like she is a counter conventional Democrat you know, she’s willing to brock the Democratic party lines and buck Democratic party excesses. And yet, it just it it feels empty to me. Right?
  • Speaker 1
    0:36:16

    And, like, mansion, I can wrap my hand around. Like, I don’t always agree with the ways that he bucks the Democrats, but it seems like it’s a coherent ideology. I know what he’s gonna do. Whereas, cinema, eye corrections have felt inscrutable. And at times, I’ve been like, yeah.
  • Speaker 1
    0:36:32

    You go, girl. And other times, I’ve been like, are you doing? And I not what the fuck you’re doing in the sense that I disagree, but in the sense of, like, I literally cannot understand your logic, and you don’t seem to be willing to explain it. You spent a lot of time with her. Help make her less inscrutable to me.
  • Speaker 1
    0:36:46

    What is motivating her?
  • Speaker 2
    0:36:47

    Well, I mean, that’s I think a number of things are, but I do think that, you know, she likes to demonstrate her intellectual superiority by putting it to the use of getting policy done. I do think that really does animate her, and it sounds So, like, credulous of me not to mention antiquated of her. But the thing is she is inscrutable Tim because she does not like to be scrutinized and she doesn’t do stuff out in public the way mansion goes on the Sunday shows. And and in fact, it was really notable when just the other day, you know, the word leaked that cinema had been calling Lindsey Graham a chaos monster, because she usually is much more disciplined than that. And I would put her legislative accomplishments, you know, up against mansions.
  • Speaker 2
    0:37:30

    It’s very clear that she played an important roles in the gun safety. Biller came out a couple of years ago, and the infrastructure bill that was passed. I mean, people, particularly on the left, are infuriated by her deals that she does with private equity and all that. But back in the LBJ days, that wouldn’t have mattered if you have legislative she wants to show for it. I do think, by the way, that this border bill, which she’s worked on for over a year marks the end of her.
  • Speaker 2
    0:37:57

    Right. Her polls look terrible in the three way race. With, Gallego and and Carrie Lake for Senate. She certainly hasn’t announced whether she’s made up her mind, but I think that now there’s not much incentive for her to come back. I do think she likes some attention.
  • Speaker 2
    0:38:10

    I do think she likes feeling like she’s smarter than everybody else, but she also likes in getting shit done. And when you have a Lindsey Graham, who at one time was an honest actor. I mean, who you could cut deals with him now basically doing this bait and switch. I think she’s realizing now that not a governing body that I wanna be a part of anymore.
  • Speaker 1
    0:38:29

    Yeah. And I guess maybe that was really what it came down to. It was so frustrating about or you said that you’re being credulous about her intentions, and I I would never accuse you of that. But I do think that she was credulous about the Republican’s intentions.
  • Speaker 2
    0:38:41

    Yes.
  • Speaker 1
    0:38:41

    And as somebody that knows these people and knows that they were gonna fuck her over in the end, like, that was the frustrating part. And some people say, well, she had to go on TV and butter them up and buff them up because that’s how she got them to deal. And I understood that on the one hand, but on the other hand, I felt like it was providing cover for their duplicity a lot of times. And that was, I think, the frustrating part.
  • Speaker 2
    0:39:04

    Yeah. I think that the way I’d, express her credulity is that it’s more that she has had this outsized faith in her ability to be the Republican whisperer. And what she failed to recognize was how this party right under her own eyes has been changing so much. It was, you know, as recently as two years ago, the Mitch McConnell Party I mean, and she could deal with Mitch McConnell and did all the time and they had a very, very they’ve had a very chummy relationship. It’s not his Republican party
  • Speaker 1
    0:39:32

    Indeed. Alright, Robert Draper. We have a shared love of the band, the national, and so I will be taking us out with the music of the national. Is there anything in their oeuvre that is speaking to you these days? In this moment.
  • Speaker 2
    0:39:42

    Oh, man. I, you know, from their first step all the way to their most recent, I’m a I’m a big fan.
  • Speaker 1
    0:39:48

    To start a war was the book title was a national shoutout. Yes.
  • Speaker 2
    0:39:52

    Yeah. Yeah. Matt Berninger, the vocalist suggested to me over brunch one day that, that I consider that as a ability about that. Okay. He’s on something as always.
  • Speaker 1
    0:40:01

    Alright. Well, we’re in episode four of my leadership of the Bulwark podcast. You know, we don’t wanna freak people out and change things much, but you never know, there might be new music in the future, so maybe tell if Matt has thoughts, thoughts are always thoughts are always welcome. Robert’s the great Robert Draper. Please, do come back sometime soon.
  • Speaker 1
    0:40:17

    Oh, wait. I meant to say I was texting some friends about the fact that we’re discussing asking for advice I wanted to ask you. And, and one wrote that you are the last great, long form political writer. Well, I don’t know if that’s quite true. You are maybe on a shrinking list though.
  • Speaker 1
    0:40:33

    Do you have any other favorites that you wanna recommend to people?
  • Speaker 2
    0:40:36

    I mentioned earlier, Tim, Alberto, who’s now at the Atlantic, and, you know, profile of Chris Lip who’s really just masterful for sure. He has a kindly Galena plot who used to be at the New York Times magazine who I think is a wonderful storyteller. And and, so, I mean, those are two off the top of my head, but I could name more. It is, however, kind of a, you know, obsolescence at practice. Long form journalism, and and, smart brevity is clearly in.
  • Speaker 2
    0:41:01

    So I’m I’m outside looking in.
  • Speaker 1
    0:41:04

    I’m glad I I remembered asking. I gotta get a lane on I guess. She’s amazing. Robert Draper, we are, you know, together this year in our fake empire, and, we’ll be seeing you around here soon.
  • Speaker 2
    0:41:14

    Alright, man. Thanks for having me.
  • Speaker 1
    0:41:18

    The Secret Podcast is produced by Katie Cooper with audio engineering and editing by Jason Brown. I’d say good now. Everything in mind. Salt, the deep, draggy, falling through the sky.
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