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Will Saletan: We Are Not the Crazy Ones

May 15, 2023
Notes
Transcript

DeSantis tries to pretend he’s normal, James Comer can’t find his Biden informants, Republicans are disappointed there’s not a bigger crisis at the border, Trump wants Mike QAnon Flynn back as an adviser, and Lindsey can’t stop rationalizing. Will Saletan is back with Charlie Sykes for Charlie and Will Monday.

https://specialto.old.thebulwark.com/p/the-corruption-of-lindsey-graham?itm_source=parsely-api

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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

    Well, happy Monday. Welcome to the Bulwark podcast. I’m Charlie Sykes. We are actually doing this live from Washington DC where in the Bullwork studios. With my colleague, Will Salatin.
  • Speaker 1
    0:00:19

    Will, how are
  • Speaker 2
    0:00:20

    you doing? Doing great, Charlie. Happy mother’s day. I can’t say happy mother’s day to you, but happy mother’s day to all the mothers out there.
  • Speaker 1
    0:00:25

    Speaking of mother’s day, I spent the weekend with the family and everything. So we could talk about Disney movies and and all of that sort of thing. It’s lovely mother’s day. So I was actually driving in the car when I saw the former president of the United States is really heartfelt mother’s day greeting. Did you see this?
  • Speaker 1
    0:00:43

    This is I’m driving the car reading this, and I’m thinking, okay. This has gotta be a parity. Right? I’m gonna I’m gonna look and I’m gonna find it’s a parity account and everything. But this is what Donald j Trump tweeted out on Mother’s Day.
  • Speaker 1
    0:00:55

    By the way, I don’t think he ever wished Melania, happy Mother’s Day, but believe that is Day. Happy Mother’s Day to All, and all is in caps. In particular, the mothers, wives, and lovers of the radical left, fascist, Marxist and communists who are doing everything within their power to destroy and obliterate our once great country. Please make these complete lunatics and maniacs, kinder, gentler, softer, and most importantly smarter so that we can quickly, all in caps, make America great again, triple exclamation point. I don’t know about you, Will, that brought it here to my eye, the real spirit.
  • Speaker 2
    0:01:33

    That was real? Because I saw that and I thought that was fake. I thought that had to be fake.
  • Speaker 1
    0:01:37

    This is why I put this in the category in my newsletter of, is this real life? I mean, having spent the weekend watching Disney movies, and by the way, you know, they can be kind of dark. I don’t know why people are obsessed about, you know, people kissing other people. You know, there’s a lot of death and destruction there. I mean, do you know what happens in beginning of finding Nexmo, Will?
  • Speaker 2
    0:01:56

    Tell me.
  • Speaker 1
    0:01:56

    The mother is killed along with three hundred and ninety nine brothers and sisters of NEEMO. It is a viciously cruel terrorist attack by a barracuda. And I was like, you’re supposed to wait. Wait. I’m looking at the kids going, did you just see this mass slaughter, this mom?
  • Speaker 1
    0:02:14

    You know, not to mention Bambi, and I we’re not gonna get me to get into what happens in the lion king. So I was dark. So my sense of reality was a little bit blurred, and I’m reading I’m reading this and thinking, there’s no effing way. No. This is it.
  • Speaker 1
    0:02:27

    So happy Monday happy Monday for people wondering, is this real life? Do you want another is this real life moment? Sure. Okay. So Donald Trump blows off a rally in Iowa because of bad weather.
  • Speaker 1
    0:02:42

    This was, like, one of the few sort of slick moves by Ron DeSantis who decides that, well, I’m gonna go to Iowa to show that I can campaign. And I can be a normal human being with normal expressions and everything. But meanwhile, Donald Trump calls into this weird conspiracy you know, seminar run by Michael Flynn. You’ve been keeping up with Michael Flynn, the latest conspiracy.
  • Speaker 2
    0:03:06

    Oh my god.
  • Speaker 1
    0:03:07

    Yeah. Man’s completely lost his mind. Okay. So Donald Trump calls in and Michael Flynn is on stage with the phone. And Trump is just lavishing him and all of his crackpot friends with praise, and then he says this.
  • Speaker 1
    0:03:24

    Okay? Because this is real life. I have to actually play this, because otherwise, Will, you will think I’m making this up. Okay? This is the former president.
  • Speaker 3
    0:03:33

    I will say General Flynn, he’s some general, he’s some man, he took abuse like nobody could have handled, and he came
  • Speaker 4
    0:03:40

    out bigger, better, stronger than ever before. We love him. He’s a leader. And you just stay wealthy and healthy and well and everything. I want you to have great lives in general.
  • Speaker 3
    0:03:51

    You just have to stay healthy because we’re bringing you back. We’re gonna bring you up.
  • Speaker 1
    0:03:57

    Well, that’s that’s that’s something to look forward to. We’re gonna bring Mike Flynn back. Yeah. Something to look forward to. What can I say?
  • Speaker 2
    0:04:06

    Can I just remind everybody a couple of things about Mike Flynn?
  • Speaker 1
    0:04:09

    Please.
  • Speaker 2
    0:04:10

    So Mike Flynn was he was forced out of the administration the beginning of the Trump years because of
  • Speaker 1
    0:04:15

    He fired his ass because he lied.
  • Speaker 2
    0:04:18

    Yeah. He said he lied to the FBI. He lied to vice president Pence about his conversations with the Russians. Right? The Russians just helped Trump.
  • Speaker 2
    0:04:25

    And Flynn has a conversation with the Russian ambassador about how we’re gonna, you know, ease up the sanctions on you guys. So it’s kind of a quid pro quo thing going on. Anyway, he lies to people about it. It’s a crime to lie to the FBI. He gets forced out over this.
  • Speaker 2
    0:04:39

    By the way, Michael Flynn was working for Turkey as a secret agent, basically.
  • Speaker 1
    0:04:44

    And This one does.
  • Speaker 2
    0:04:46

    Right. As one does while he’s, like, advising Trump on national security. Yeah. Right? So let’s remember what happens at the end of the Trump administration.
  • Speaker 2
    0:04:56

    Mike Flynn goes on this is after the electoral college has certified Joe Biden’s victory. Mike Flynn goes on NewsMax, and he says the following about Trump. He could immediately on his order seize every single one of these machines, voting machines, around the country on his order. He could also order within the swing states if he wanted to. He could take military capabilities and he could place them in those states and basically rerun an election in each of those states.
  • Speaker 2
    0:05:24

    Busy normal. Okay. That is a verbatim quote from Mike Flynn. We’re going to take the military, block the peaceful transfer of power, and rerun the election until we get the result we want, basically. We’re gonna bring that guy back.
  • Speaker 1
    0:05:36

    Well and then it got bad. Then it got worse for and and I’m actually not joking because he went down every QAnon rabbit hole you could possibly imagine. I mean, this guy is certifiable. I mean, he’s you name the crazy conspiracy theory. Hey.
  • Speaker 1
    0:05:50

    Biolabs in Ukraine or really what’s well, all this is about. That’s Mike Flynn, that’s the guy that we’re bringing you back. So we’ll put this in the category of is this real life. One more. Is this real life moment to get us going on on a Monday morning?
  • Speaker 1
    0:06:04

    Yeah. Turns out that the the hunt for the great white whale is not going well. The hunt for the Biden crime family huge bombshell smoking gun. The chairman of the House Oversight Committee, James Comer, has been promising this on a regular basis. I got the goods.
  • Speaker 1
    0:06:18

    This is gonna blow you away. He goes on Maria Bartaromo’s show yesterday, which gives you an idea how this is going, first of all. And he has to admit, And I’m not making this up. This is all in the category of none of this is a parody. None of them I’m not making this up.
  • Speaker 1
    0:06:33

    He goes on to admit that he somehow has mislaid his key in informant. Okay. So, basically, he’s going on. So when yeah. You know, Joe Biden leaves this, you know, massively corrupt international business and people are saying, well, where’s the evidence?
  • Speaker 1
    0:06:47

    Well, he doesn’t have any evidence, but the whistleblower showed us all of this stuff, and it’s really, really bad. And People are going okay. So could we see these informants? Could we see these whistle blowers? And Comer goes, kinda lost track of them.
  • Speaker 1
    0:07:02

    Even Maria Bartaroma was going, wait, what? Listen to this.
  • Speaker 5
    0:07:07

    Hold on a second, congressman. Did you just say that the whistleblower or the informant is now missing?
  • Speaker 6
    0:07:15

    Well, we’re hopeful that we can the informer. Now remember, these informants are are kind of in the the spy business, so they don’t make a habit of being seen a lot or being eye profile or anything like that. Nine of the ten people that we’ve identified that have very good knowledge with respect to the Bidens. They’re they’re one of three things. Maria, they’re either currently in court, they’re currently in jail, or they’re currently missing.
  • Speaker 1
    0:07:47

    Okay. Well, I have really, really, really been trying to be my better self, you know, to be better. Right. But Right.
  • Speaker 2
    0:07:54

    What the fuck? I mean, really? So this investigation of the Bidens is kinda first of all, I’m glad that Comer’s doing it because you get to find out what is the evidence against the buy And the answer is there’s a lot of sort of, you know, fishy financial transactions around Hunter Biden. Because Hunter Biden is a fail son who’s, like, lays like Billy Carter, you know, this happens to politicians. And their family members do embarrassing things.
  • Speaker 2
    0:08:17

    But the Republicans have tried to find everything they can on Joe Biden, and they found buck They got nothing on Joe Biden, because Joe Biden’s basically an honest guy. But this whole thing about the whistleblower and the informant, I love this story because This is what Republicans used to call in the case of anything related to Trump hearsay. We got this whistleblower, and the whistleblower told us about this informant. Yeah. And we can’t find the informant, but that’s because something nefarious
  • Speaker 1
    0:08:43

    seems to
  • Speaker 2
    0:08:43

    have happened. Right? And do we have the clip of Maria Bartaromo going nuts about disappearance of the informant? No. No.
  • Speaker 2
    0:08:49

    She goes on to say and it’s it’s with that wonderful Maria Bartero intake of breath She says, it’s astonishing. It’s amazing that this informant has disappeared. And she implies, of course, that the Biden crime family has disappeared this person, whoever it is. Right? And I don’t even know if Homer knows who this has any idea who this is.
  • Speaker 2
    0:09:11

    Right? This third hand connection to some information that they don’t have. But this person has disappeared.
  • Speaker 1
    0:09:17

    My girlfriend’s brother’s cousin knows a guy. Exactly. At the tasty freeze machine, and he thinks that he knows a the sister of his friend who thinks.
  • Speaker 2
    0:09:28

    So the original source can’t be found. So the natural response you would think, Charlie, is okay. This is a fraud. This is a prank or whatever. Somebody told you that they have a source.
  • Speaker 2
    0:09:38

    Yeah. Now you can they can’t produce them. Right? There there’s nothing there. But instead, we get these wild, elaborate conspiracy theories about The whistleblower says the informant isn’t there anymore, and therefore there’s this elaborate, organized crime operation going on to disappear all of our precious bodily fluids.
  • Speaker 1
    0:09:55

    Yeah. The astonishing part about this is that Maria Bartoromo still has a job after the Dominion lawsuit. I mean, can we just, like, put a pin there that they still put her on the air that she still has a job. But, yeah, this is the the perfectly hermetically sealed universe. So Do you have evidence?
  • Speaker 1
    0:10:12

    No. We weren’t able to find any evidence whatsoever. Ah, that proves it because it proves that the deep state is covering it up. So this was this was one of those weekends, and there were some more lucid moments. And it is worth reminding people that you know, all of this stuff has happened less than a week after the jury found that the former president of the United States had sexually assaulted a woman and then maliciously lied about it.
  • Speaker 1
    0:10:40

    And among Republican circles, including even, you know, certain media circles, it doesn’t seem to register. There was just a fantastic interview and meet the press yesterday with Russell Moore, who is is an incredibly courageous leader of the evangelical movement who has just not gone along with all this. He’s now the editor in chief, I believe, of Christianity Today today. And he was on with Chuck Todd just sort of reflecting on how bizarre it is that something like this happens, and the reaction is pretty much zero. This is Russell Moore and meet the press yesterday morning.
  • Speaker 7
    0:11:15

    What’s primarily shocking is the fact that Here we are in a week where a former president of the United States is found liable for sexual abuse and sexual assault and defamation of a woman who survived such abuse and assault, and the country just yawns for the most part. That tells me that something has really, really badly gone awry in this country.
  • Speaker 1
    0:11:39

    Yeah. Something is broken. See, that’s where I thought was so powerful about your piece last week, Will, that is a book and people can actually get it on Amazon about Lindsay Graham, not because Lindsey Graham is so important, but as perfect example of the way an entire movement can be corrupted that the same individuals who just a few years ago would have looked at this and said, this is horrible. This is unacceptable. This is a violation of everything we believe in.
  • Speaker 1
    0:12:07

    Somehow have convinced themselves that it’s okay. And I have to say, you know what’s remarkable as I was as I was reading your piece last week? Actually, I was rereading the piece, is that we have been doing this now for six or seven years, and people thankfully you talk about it every single day. And yet, it still blows our minds. It is still a puzzle how people can look at this and go, yeah, we’re okay with this.
  • Speaker 2
    0:12:33

    Yeah. Okay. But it’s healthy that it blows our minds. It’s healthy because — Yeah.
  • Speaker 1
    0:12:36

  • Speaker 2
    0:12:36

    I mean, Russell Moore says in in that clip, you know, the country is yawning at this. Of course, the country as a whole is not yawning. The Trump supporters, a large portion of our country, is yawning, and that’s scary. But it’s really important that the rest of us don’t get numb to it. So it’s good that you and I are still upset.
  • Speaker 2
    0:12:52

    And it’s good that Russell Moore is speaking. I mean, Russell Moore has established this really clever niche in the media sphere. And that is He is the morally conservative Christian who decided to remain a morally conservative Christian and to apply the principles that he applied against Will Saletan. To Donald Trump when all about him lost their heads, when all about him went over to the Trump side. The point that he makes there in that interview, he talks about character.
  • Speaker 2
    0:13:18

    It reminds the audience that in the case of Bill Clinton, Conservative said character mattered. They said the character of the man will manifest itself If you have a bad president, somebody who does bad things, he will do other bad things. This is just a very basic insight about the way people are. It used to be something conservatives believed in. And one of the things that happened to Republicans over time is that they stopped worrying about character.
  • Speaker 2
    0:13:41

    They nominate and then elect this president Donald Trump who has you know, as I’ve said, one of the worst human beings this country has ever produced. Yeah. When you
  • Speaker 1
    0:13:48

    — I agree. —
  • Speaker 2
    0:13:48

    elect this president such a That’s
  • Speaker 1
    0:13:50

    not hyperbole.
  • Speaker 2
    0:13:51

    Yeah, a genuinely bad man. He will do bad things. And what they fell into was they started to excuse every bad thing he did. Well, okay. He fired the FBI director.
  • Speaker 2
    0:14:01

    That’s bad. You know? He separated families of the border. That’s bad. But, you know, they would find ad hoc excuses for each of these things.
  • Speaker 2
    0:14:08

    They blinded themselves to. They denied the basic reality that he was going to keep doing more and more bad things. Until he tried to overthrow the government. And if he gets back in, of course, there will be a whole series of other bad things.
  • Speaker 1
    0:14:20

    Yeah.
  • Speaker 2
    0:14:21

    That’s the basic insight about character that Russell Moore is to here.
  • Speaker 1
    0:14:25

    And also beyond that though, is then what it does to you, what it does to the observer because it’s not just you accept what Donald Trump, that guy there is doing. It’s what it’s done to your conscience, what it’s done to our culture, and that’s hard to say. So This was a rough weekend. I wrote in my newsletter for the the vestige of normals in the Republican Party who just have to sort of pretend that it’s not crazy, pretend that they have not you know, gone through this, you know, bonfire of sanity. And so here’s Nikki Haley who, at one time, was being thought of as Okay.
  • Speaker 1
    0:14:57

    Here is somebody who is going to move us into the post Trump era, who is every once in a while, she has tiptoed into the waters of holding Trump accountable. She is on yesterday and given a chance to comment on the fact that Donald Trump was just found by a jury to have attacked, injured, sexually assaulted a woman. And I want you to listen to Nikki Haley, the way she dodges saying anything negative about Donald Trump even in the case of sexual assault.
  • Speaker 5
    0:15:30

    Do you think it undermines your party if the Republican front runner is someone who was just found liable, legally liable for sexually abusing a woman.
  • Speaker 8
    0:15:43

    I have always said that anyone that feels like they have been sexually assaulted in any way, should come forward and have their voice heard. I also think anyone that’s been accused should be able to defend themselves. I was not on the jury. I am not the judge. I think that both of them had their voices heard.
  • Speaker 8
    0:16:01

    There has been a verdict, and there’s been an appeal. President Trump was about for Trump to defend, and that’s Trump to decide that.
  • Speaker 5
    0:16:08

    He he gave a deposition, but he didn’t go in to defend himself. And it was a jury that came to this conclusion. Are you drawing into question the legal findings?
  • Speaker 8
    0:16:19

    No. I said there’s a verdict and I think there’s been an appeal. And I think it stands where it stands and I think the American people need to make a decision based on that.
  • Speaker 1
    0:16:27

    Okay. So Will, Nikki Haley’s not really running for president is she. Is she just, like, pivoted, like, maybe I can be his vice president because what? What was that?
  • Speaker 2
    0:16:37

    Okay. She’s not running for leader. Let’s put it that way. Because a leader would withdraw a line here. I kinda love how she says, you know, I wasn’t on the jury.
  • Speaker 2
    0:16:44

    It’s like Remember how, like, the line about climate change is, oh, I’m not a scientist. I can’t write. Oh, I wasn’t on the jerk. I mean, there’s Who
  • Speaker 1
    0:16:50

    am I to say?
  • Speaker 2
    0:16:53

    So she’s trying to duck it that way. She’s also I love how she goes to the fact that it’s been appealed. So remember, ask yourself the question. At what point would Republicans turn against Trump based on any finding of of legal liability or guilt. Right?
  • Speaker 2
    0:17:08

    So when there is a jury verdict, in this case, it is liability, not guilt. Right? It’s preponderance of evidence, I think, is the standard. That is not enough. Because there is still this appeal process.
  • Speaker 2
    0:17:19

    She mentions twice. Oh, he’s appealed it. So there will never be a point at which Nikki Haley and the others acknowledge that Trump is actually did this. And trust me, Charlie, if they run out of appeals, if every appeals court upholds this verdict, then the Trump defenders including Nikki Haley and the others will move on to the fact that this was not a guilt finding. This was liability finding.
  • Speaker 2
    0:17:41

    They’ll always have an excuse.
  • Speaker 1
    0:17:43

    And they’ll come back and say, well but at least he didn’t rape her. At least he’s not a rapist. I should have pushed back on this a little bit. When I was on morning, Joe this morning, they were talking about the Comer investigation and discussing, you know, why are Republicans continue to talk about these investigation? They were talking about the Durham investigation which fell flat on his face, you know, didn’t uncover anything.
  • Speaker 1
    0:18:02

    And the question was, doesn’t it seem like political malpractice that you keep bringing up these investigations to just sort of reminds people. And I thought that missed the point that I I believe it was our colleague Mona Charen, who wrote about how the Hunter Biden investigations and all of this other stuff is psychologically necessary for people in Trump world because at some point, they don’t wanna defend Donald Trump as much as they want to say, well, everyone is corrupt. Everyone does it. See, this is the flex. Is to be able to say, well, what about this?
  • Speaker 1
    0:18:32

    So they need deeply need to have Hunter Biden so that they can claim to have some sort of a moral position and suggest that all of the attacks on Donald Trump, you know, are are motivated by politics. And what about this? So It is essential if you’re going to defend and support the Trump crime family. You must invent the Biden crime family. If you are going to look the other way at the incredibly horrific character of Donald Trump, you have to create something else that is more fearsome and fearful.
  • Speaker 1
    0:19:08

    And so that’s why they are so obsessed and why it is so necessary for them to stick with all of this.
  • Speaker 2
    0:19:13

    Right. That’s an excellent point. That’s absolutely true, and I would add to it. The remarkable double standard that they apply. So in the case of Donald Trump.
  • Speaker 2
    0:19:22

    Right? We have a jury finding of liability based on the presentation of evidence. And that is dismissed. That is, well, there’s still an appeal going on, and people have to make up their own minds, and it’s, you know, liability not guilt. In the case of the Bidens, the standard could not be lower.
  • Speaker 2
    0:19:39

    The standard is we found a bunch of Bidens. We got all their financial transactions. We think there’s something suspicious. We found a second or third hand connection to China. And then one of the things that James Comer says in that interview with Maria Bartaromo is he says, when he’s sort of pressed for what is his evidence against Joe Biden.
  • Speaker 2
    0:19:57

    There is some financial transaction, some folder that just has the name Biden on it. Doesn’t have any specific name on it. Just now remember, he’s been talking what did he say? Nine Bidens? They got every member of the Biden family.
  • Speaker 2
    0:20:09

    But the fact that this just has the name Biden on it clearly means to him that this is about Joe Biden. So there is no standard. The standard is dropped as low as necessary to implicate Joe Biden. But the standard is raised impossibly high in the case of Donald Trump.
  • Speaker 1
    0:20:23

    Well, and you know what? If they do make the decision that they’re going to charge Hunter Biden with tax evasion or whatever, and then fine. Because I believe and I think you believe that no one is above the law, and people are not gonna take to the streets. You know, about underbiden. It won’t be that.
  • Speaker 1
    0:20:38

    Hey, folks. This is Charlie Sykes, host of the Bulwark podcast. We created the Bulwark to provide a platform for pro democracy voices on the center right and the center left, for people who are tired of tribalism and who value truth and vigorous yet civil debate about politics and a lot more. And every day, we remind you folks. You are not the crazy ones.
  • Speaker 1
    0:20:59

    So why not head over to the Bulwark dot com and take a look around. Every day, we produce newsletters and podcasts that will help you make sense of our politics and keep your sanity intact. To get a daily dose of sanity in your inbox, why not try a bulwark plus membership free for the next thirty days to claim this offer Go to the bulwark dot com slash Charlie Sykes. That’s the bulwark dot com forward slash charlie. Gonna get through this together.
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    0:21:29

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    0:23:37

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  • Speaker 1
    0:24:08

    Okay. So speaking of politics, interesting little dance over the weekend with Ron DeSantis going to Iowa, Donald Trump was supposed to have this big rally. There were tornado warnings. I’m going to be agnostic about whether or not the weather was really all that severe because I’m not in Iowa. I wasn’t even in Wisconsin.
  • Speaker 1
    0:24:25

    Rhonda Sanders was, you know, trying to show off his skills. I mean, it was an interesting play. You know, in the back of my mind, I was wondering, and I asked somebody this last week, is it possible that Rhonda Sanders won’t run? He’s still signaling. He understands that he’s running behind.
  • Speaker 1
    0:24:39

    He’s gotta reset the campaign. So what did you make of the fact that he sort of jumped in and said, okay. Donald Trump’s afraid to go to Iowa. I’m gonna go. I’m gonna go and hang out at a pizza place and show that I I am a thorough, normal human being with all of you and not completely phony and stiff.
  • Speaker 1
    0:24:53

    And
  • Speaker 2
    0:24:54

    Well, he’s gotta get out there, right, and try his hand at retail politics. Yeah. You know, in Ron DeSantis defense, I saw him wearing one of those blue shirts that all the consultants tell you to wear.
  • Speaker 1
    0:25:02

    He he looked fine.
  • Speaker 2
    0:25:03

    He started to look a little bit normal, what lesson a suit. He’s wise to get out there and practice dealing with humans because he’s gonna have to do that he’s gonna run. Right? There’s a good reason for him to go to Iowa. And that is Donald Trump is vulnerable in Iowa.
  • Speaker 2
    0:25:15

    Right? So DeSantis needs to jump start his campaign. And if he can get a win in Iowa, which remember, Trump lost Iowa in twenty sixteen. He’s always been weak there.
  • Speaker 1
    0:25:25

    Because it was stolen from him lion tech cruise.
  • Speaker 2
    0:25:30

    Right. Yes. Sorry. That that just drives home the point. Donald Trump didn’t just lose Iowa he lost it to Ted Cruz.
  • Speaker 1
    0:25:36

    So And claimed that it had been stolen from him. I mean, just just wanna make the market that Donald Trump can never lose. Just Right.
  • Speaker 2
    0:25:43

    So I think for a bunch of reasons DeSantis was wise to go there. And three months ago DeSantis didn’t need to jump start his campaign. He was in a better position. Now he needs to jump start it, and everybody knows that his fundamental problem is not connecting with other humans. So I don’t know if it’s remediable Charlie Sykes guessing it’s not, but he’s gotta get out there and practice.
  • Speaker 1
    0:26:03

    The one good piece of news he has was this poll showing that he does relatively well in some of the swing states against Joe Biden while Trump gets annihilated. So in states like Minnesota, Colorado, New Mexico, Ron DeSantis or at least the generic Republican is competitive with Joe Biden, but Donald Trump is not this is the entire rationale of DeSantis campaign. Right? I can win. He’s going to lose.
  • Speaker 1
    0:26:25

    And you’re gonna see this again and again and again. And he has some data points about this. I mean, I think that ultimately, what this comes down to, I was gonna bounce this off of you, you know, that those numbers don’t show how popular DeSantis is. They just show that if there’s any other republican, who’s nominated. The twenty twenty four election will be a referendum on Joe Biden.
  • Speaker 1
    0:26:48

    Mhmm. If Republicans decide to nominate Donald Trump, the twenty twenty four election will be a referendum on Donald Trump. So you get to choose your adventure. Republicans, do you want to have a referendum on Joe Biden? Because then you got a shot.
  • Speaker 1
    0:27:02

    Or do you want it to be a referendum on Donald Trump, which means that you will spend every waking hour from today, May fifteenth two thousand twenty three, to November whatever, twenty twenty four defending, rationalizing, and enabling that guy. And if you wanna know what what that guy is, just spend five minutes reading his truth social posts and think, this is your life. This is the adventure you have chosen.
  • Speaker 2
    0:27:28

    Right. The people around Biden are pretty explicit about this. They do wanna run against Trump. They know they can beat him. They know they have beaten him.
  • Speaker 2
    0:27:35

    Think back to the twenty twenty election. Eighty one million people came out to vote against Donald Trump. They did not come out because they love Joe Biden. Some of them did some of them did. But that was the most amazing turnout in history.
  • Speaker 2
    0:27:48

    And Democrats can count on mobilizing those people again. Without Trump in the picture, I mean, all Ron DeSantis has to do is not be Donald Trump, and a lot of those people will stay home.
  • Speaker 1
    0:27:58

    Right.
  • Speaker 2
    0:27:58

    So there’s a good case to be made for for him or for anyone other than Trump.
  • Speaker 1
    0:28:02

    That assumes that the Republican primary voters, donors, establishment will behave in a rational manner. And, you know, so far, they haven’t obviously got plenty of time to talk about all of that. I wanna get to the border issue because I know you have some things you wanna say about all of that. Can I just comment on Elon Musk and what a complete phony is? And by the way, I don’t think phony is a strong enough word, but in my reformed world, I’m just you know, Elon Musk, who has claimed that he is this free speech champion, that he is this free speech purist over the weekend the authoritarian government of Turkey basically squeezed him and said, Elon, we want you to start censoring tweets in Turkey, you know, in the run up to this, you know, very hard fought very, very close presidential election.
  • Speaker 1
    0:28:47

    And Elon Musk rolled over. I mean, he just rolled over and let Erdogan, you know, scratch his belly. And he’s called on this by lots of people including, you know, Maddie Glazius who tweets out the Turkish government asked Twitter to censor its opponents right before an election, and Elon Musk comply should generate some interesting Twitter files reporting Yeah. Exactly. Because remember, that’s when we were supposed to be really, really concerned that there was political bias going on.
  • Speaker 1
    0:29:17

    This guy just basically says to what authoritarian, yeah, we will absolutely shut down any of your, you know, democratic opponents. And Elon Musk fires back and says, did your brain fall out of your heady Glazius? The choice is to have Twitter throttle in its entirety or limit access to some tweets. Which one do you want? Oh, really?
  • Speaker 1
    0:29:38

    So here’s Elon Musk, champion of free speech, rationalizing how if an authoritarian dictatorial government tells me to shut people up, I’m going to do it because I have to survive. Will, to say that Elon Musk is a hypocrite. Seems kinda mild. But what I also think that it exposes is the fact that this guy has no fundamental understanding of what free speech is about. I mean, his understanding is like is like an uneducated twelve year old when you press him on Okay.
  • Speaker 1
    0:30:09

    So what does free speech mean for you? What are your standards of free speech? Thoughts?
  • Speaker 2
    0:30:14

    Well, free speech means to Elon Musk, what it means to most people, which is I get to say what I want. And you don’t. Or you get to say as much as I feel like letting you say. Can I pause on that choice that he poses to iglesias? Please.
  • Speaker 2
    0:30:26

    So Musk thinks that it’s a no brainer, that if the choice is letting the Turks not see any of Twitter having it shut down there or just censoring the tweets there, Erdogan wants to censor. That you should censor the tweets. Right? So people can have access to the service. That’s wrong.
  • Speaker 2
    0:30:42

    That’s wrong because it deceives the people of Turkey into thinking they’re getting access to all the information that’s out there on Twitter when in fact it’s being screened. If they don’t have access to Twitter, then they know something is up. They know that it’s been shut down. Right? So I think it’s much more insidious to censor the stuff the government wants censored.
  • Speaker 2
    0:31:01

    The difference, of course, for Musk, is if the Turks don’t have access to Twitter, he loses money. So he’s losing audience. So he’s doing what’s good for Elon Musk, not actually what’s good for the Turks.
  • Speaker 1
    0:31:12

    Exactly. And and he will do the same thing when the Chinese squeeze him. He’ll do the same thing if the Russians squeeze him. He’ll do the same thing at the Saudi squeeze him. Any place he has business interests where he has a contract, he will do their bidding.
  • Speaker 1
    0:31:26

    And Medi Hassan had a great point about this. It’s almost too obvious. He said, you cannot crown yourself the grand poobab free speech while also cravenly caving into the demands of foreign autocracies where you also conveniently happen to have other business interests. Mhmm. So I am sure that in his world, continuing to look in the mirror and say, yes, I am a champion of free speech.
  • Speaker 1
    0:31:49

    But just in terms of the weakness and the hypocrisy, But again, this was also predictable. I mean, there were people before he took control of Twitter who said, you know, he is deeply compromised in dealing with Chinese government. Maybe we should raise, you know, some questions about all of that. And so I find it ironic that so many people on the right have decided that, you know, Elon Musk and Kanye and and Trump are their champions. When these guys have basically shown that they are, you know, Vladimir Putin’s bitch, or Erdogan’s bitch — Mhmm.
  • Speaker 1
    0:32:22

    — or the Chinese Communist Government’s bitch. See, I told you I wasn’t gonna be my better self today. I just I just I I knew it was common. I am sorry. I
  • Speaker 2
    0:32:32

    No. No. You’ve been you’ve been very good actually. I mean, we we started off with Mother’s Day and I thought as long as Charlie doesn’t use mother as part of a longer word, we’re in good shape here.
  • Speaker 1
    0:32:41

    I have not done that. Alright. So one of the surprising stories of the week, because I was actually figuring that you and I were gonna really, you know, have at it because was gonna be the week that we had massive chaos at the border and that, you know, this was the gathering storm because you had the expiration of title fourteen. You had these pictures over the last several weeks of thousands of migrants clustering at the border and that this was going to be an disaster. It was gonna be a disaster economically.
  • Speaker 1
    0:33:14

    It would be a disaster for the border communities, and it would not be good for Biden. Now I still think that this is a real problem. I keep coming back to David Fromm’s adage that if Liberals will not enforce the border, then fascists will that if Liberals prove they’re unwilling to or unable or incapable of enforcing the border, then the American people will turn. To people like Donald Trump and maybe even worse, but the undocumented migrant crossings have actually dropped unexpectedly. Give me some sense, will, what’s happening?
  • Speaker 1
    0:33:50

    Why did
  • Speaker 2
    0:33:50

    the gathering storm not explode on us today? This was pretty wild over the last couple of days because you could see in the responses of prominent Republicans how disappointed they are that there hasn’t been a bigger crisis at the border. They’ve been predicting all along. Title forty two goes away. The Biden administration is not prepared.
  • Speaker 2
    0:34:08

    There’s gonna be this enormous flood of people. And largely, it hasn’t materialized. There’s been an an increase, but it hasn’t been what was expected. So that’s kind of a shame on the Republicans that they that they’re openly disappointed about that when we should just be rooting for any solution to the problem. On the democratic side, there’s this curious thing going on where they’re boasting about how Biden has acted to control this and to stop the flow of people.
  • Speaker 2
    0:34:33

    And they list some of the policies that Biden has implemented. And the hilarious thing about these policies I shouldn’t say hilarious because it’s a serious issue. But the ironic thing about is these are Trump policies.
  • Speaker 1
    0:34:44

    So Chris Murphy was on one of the Sunday shows yesterday. Senator Chris Murphy, and he’s making this cake. About all the things that the Biden administration has done. Let’s play a senator Chris Murphy, who is defending the Biden administration against complaints that they have not done enough.
  • Speaker 12
    0:35:00

    The president has not been sitting on his hands like Republicans would allege. The president has actively has been actively engaged in trying to manage this crisis. He has negotiated important agreements with Mexico so that Mexico takes more of these migrants. He has surged thousands of troops and asylum officials and border patrol to the border to handle this emergency, and he’s put in place a really tough new rule that some frankly say goes beyond his authority to say to migrants, if you don’t apply for asylum before you get to the United States, we’re gonna turn you right back around.
  • Speaker 1
    0:35:33

    Okay. So Will, is that the kind of thing you’re talking about?
  • Speaker 2
    0:35:36

    Yeah. That’s he just named three things. They’re they’re all Trump policies. They and the Democrats will never admit this. Look, you and I, Charlie, agree that Donald Trump is a terrible person.
  • Speaker 2
    0:35:46

    But you know what? He cared about the border and because he cared about the border sorry. I should say cared about border security, not about immigration. Right? He implemented some policies that actually were well designed to limit the flow of people.
  • Speaker 2
    0:36:00

    Now you can argue about the rest of immigration. The Republicans have done jack all
  • Speaker 1
    0:36:03

    I’m sort of getting past a sentence that begins Trump cared about. Okay. So I if you could just rework that for me, I get my head around this. Okay. Right.
  • Speaker 2
    0:36:14

    You know, look, it’s really hard for those of us who understand how awful the Trump era has been and how awful Trump is. To keep this in mind. But we have to go where the evidence leads us, even if sometimes it leads us to a Trump policy was correct. Now Not all the Trump policies were correct. Right?
  • Speaker 2
    0:36:31

    Trump policies and lots of issues were terrible. And on immigration, in particular, family separation was a terrible policy. And even Republicans now largely agree that that’s wrong. Right? But this stuff, like, making people apply for asylum in other countries first Ali Maurecus, the homeland security secretary, is on TV these days, saying, few show up here without having gone through the process Right.
  • Speaker 2
    0:36:54

    We’re gonna deport you. We’re gonna give you a five year ban. We we have more flights flying people out. There will be consequences for you. We need to disincentivize people This is all Trump era kind of talk, and there is a logic to it.
  • Speaker 2
    0:37:08

    You have to disincentivize. People being trafficked all the way up the Western hemisphere and into the United States to jump the line to abuse the asylum system when most of them don’t qualify.
  • Speaker 1
    0:37:19

    Okay. So why did the number of undocumented migrants go down? Are you saying that these steps that
  • Speaker 2
    0:37:26

    the by the administration has taken these kind of trumpian steps? Were successful in dissuading people from rushing the border? The administration has been trying to put out the message. The border is not open. And if you come here, without going through the process without using the app or without applying in another country, etcetera.
  • Speaker 2
    0:37:43

    When you get here, this will not go well for you. Right? And we’re going to deport you. I don’t know to what extent that has factored into it, but it’s really important to send that message. And this is a thing that a lot of people don’t understand.
  • Speaker 2
    0:37:55

    When Democrats and Republicans argue about whether the border is open. When Republicans say the border is open, what they mean is people are in fact getting through. A lot of people are getting through. And that is true. When Maurecus and the Democrats say the border is not open, what they’re actually trying to say is our policy is we are trying to close the border.
  • Speaker 2
    0:38:15

    We will not just let you walk in. It’s not okay. You should expect consequences when you get here. And that is a message designed to deter the migration of people who do not have a legitimate asylum claim. It’s a deterrence message.
  • Speaker 2
    0:38:27

    And so there’s a slight difference there. And it’s possible Charlie Sykes that deterrence message is part of why the numbers haven’t gone up.
  • Speaker 1
    0:38:35

    Do you think the Biden administration has done the efficiently good job in dealing with this border crisis because this strikes me as as a real point of vulnerability for them going into the next year’s election.
  • Speaker 2
    0:38:45

    No. No. I don’t think they’ve done enough. But we’ll see. The numbers this past week have already been lower than was expected.
  • Speaker 1
    0:38:51

    Yeah.
  • Speaker 2
    0:38:52

    If that continues, Being able to say the numbers have gone down will be good for them.
  • Speaker 1
    0:38:56

    What kind of blowback has he been getting from the left wing of the party? And has that been a problem in being flexible in the way that you’re describing on the board. What’s going on internally? Is there a breaking point for him on all of this?
  • Speaker 2
    0:39:11

    I don’t think so. Well, first of all, he’s been sued. The ACLU has sued him. Right? So there is a legal action that’s manifesting what you’re talking about, the objection that this is inhumane.
  • Speaker 2
    0:39:21

    Remember, the ACLU said the Trump policies were inhumane. Biden has actually modified them. They’re not as severe as the Trump version. But, yeah, he’s already being attacked by civil libertarians. I think that to go back to your earlier point, if the alternative is Trump, Right.
  • Speaker 2
    0:39:36

    Objections to the left about immigration or any others, you will not be enough to keep people home. I don’t I don’t think.
  • Speaker 1
    0:39:42

    In the time we have left, you published something rather extraordinary for the bulwark last week. It was with about a thirty thousand word examination of Lindsay Graham, which was really also a meditation on the corruption of democracy, how it happens. I mean, you made the point that this was not a biography of Lindsay, it wasn’t a profile of Lindsay. This is how it happens. You got a tremendous amount of attention for this.
  • Speaker 1
    0:40:06

    So talk to me a little bit about the kinds of reaction you got to the piece, which, again, people can go back and beat on the Bulwark, Or if you go to amazon dot com, I think for two ninety nine, you can get it as a book. And by the way, I have ordered your book, Will. So what was the best reaction you got, and tell me what the worst reaction was that you got to that.
  • Speaker 2
    0:40:25

    I have to think about the best and the worst. Part of what I wanted to accomplish here was and I’m very pleased that people picked up this from it is, this is not supposed to be just a story about this one guy. Right. Everybody’s always interested and Lindsey Graham, and what what kind of dirt does Trump buy it on him? And why did he, you know, turn in his weird sort of complex with McCain and Trump I focused on this guy because I could tell the story because there was all this material on him.
  • Speaker 2
    0:40:47

    But the transformation that he went through from twenty fifteen to now, is a transformation that a lot of Republicans went through. Right? And it’s this process of rationalization. So the reactions that I’ve most happy about are people saying, now I understand. I understand how they rationalized embracing this guy and all the dangers he represented.
  • Speaker 2
    0:41:09

    And it’s the gradual process. So it’s it doesn’t happen all at once. There’s a sequence of things that Trump does because he’s an authoritarian. And you rationalize the first step, and then there’s another and there’s another. So you’re excusing the Muslim ban, then you’re excusing him firing the FBI director.
  • Speaker 2
    0:41:26

    Then you’re excusing him seizing powers that are reserved constitutionally to congress. And pretty soon, you find yourself defending authoritarianism. So that when it gets to the point where this guy is literally trying to block the peaceful transfer of power, including by fomenting violence. And trying to intimidate congress. You end up with Lindsey Graham literally justifying this and warning people.
  • Speaker 2
    0:41:51

    Warning congress don’t impeach Trump because then there will be more violence by his supporters. And now you’ve reached this bizarre point you never thought you would get to where you’re justifying political violence in the United States as a United States senator. And how did you get there by this series of gradual steps. So what pleases me most is people who said, now I understand how you can end up there in a series of gradual steps.
  • Speaker 1
    0:42:17

    How much does the phenomenon of sunken costs play into this? That after you have made the first five compromises of your conscience and your principal, you’re in too deep to back out. Is that part of the the rationale for not just Lindsay Graham, but for others that, okay, I bought this. I bought this. I bought this.
  • Speaker 1
    0:42:36

    I bought this. Okay. I’m in. I can’t back out now. Well, the
  • Speaker 2
    0:42:40

    sunk cost idea is a way of describing rationally how someone invested in something and then can’t pull out. But there’s another way to look at it, and it’s the way you talked about earlier, Charlie, about character. When you justify the bad character, when you excuse it, when you look away, when you defend it, it doesn’t just change the world, it changes you, changes you, you become morally weaker. You get in the habit of rationalizing. So that’s a lot of what happened to Graham and these other folks.
  • Speaker 2
    0:43:08

    So we get to the point where we’re seeing it every day. Right? We see it in the Gene Carroll verdict. A jury says that the former president is liable for having committed a sexual assault than defaming the woman he he assaulted. And you have Lindsay Graham and Marco Rubio and Rick Scott and all these other people out coming up with excuses for this.
  • Speaker 2
    0:43:28

    And this is the result of so many years of excusing everything Trump did. And you get the feeling, Charlie, there’s nothing that Trump could do at this point that would turn them away.
  • Speaker 1
    0:43:38

    And also, Lindsey Graham himself has made it clear that he thinks it’s important to stay relevant and in the room because know, if and again, this is what they tell themselves. You know, if I am not in the room, then somebody else is going to do something. There are some things that Lindsey Graham seems to care about. He does seem to care about issues of foreign policy. I mean, to what extent is his belief that I have to keep doing all of this.
  • Speaker 1
    0:44:03

    Otherwise, this guy will pull out of NATO or this guy will betray Ukraine or this guy will do something else that would be so horrendous that all of my suckage is worth it if I can stop this terrible thing because a lot of them have that I must be in the room because otherwise, it’s gonna be Steve Bannon or it’s gonna be Mike Flynn. So okay. Yeah. Humiliate myself. I defend everything, but this is the price I have to pay to play that role.
  • Speaker 1
    0:44:30

    Right.
  • Speaker 2
    0:44:31

    That is a rationalization. They tell
  • Speaker 1
    0:44:32

    me it’s a rationalist.
  • Speaker 2
    0:44:33

    If you read any account of the Trump books and other articles lots of people who worked in the Trump administration, excuse their complicity this way. I had to be in the room. Right? In the case of Lindsey Graham, it’s really clear he was making a transaction between the authoritarians and the United States and stuff going on overseas. Charlie, while he is defending Trump around the Ukraine impeachment, simultaneously, he is fighting tooth and nail to stop Trump from pulling troops out of Syria.
  • Speaker 2
    0:44:59

    So it’s a transaction for Graham, and it was. But Charlie, the thing that really kills me is at the end of this story or later in the story, Trump loses the twenty twenty election. Right? And here’s his opportunity. Here’s Graham’s opportunity to let go, and he knew it.
  • Speaker 2
    0:45:11

    Yeah. Right. So he doesn’t have to be in the room anymore. This guy’s not gonna be president. You can let go of him.
  • Speaker 2
    0:45:17

    But by this point, for cost or for whatever psychological reasons, Graham is so dug in that even though Trump won’t be president anymore, He’s insisting on defending everything Trump did from this point out and on clearing Trump’s path within the Republican Party. Purging this chain, trying to purge Mitch McConnell because the party has to unite around Trump even though it is no longer true. That by being in the room, Graham is influencing foreign policy.
  • Speaker 1
    0:45:45

    This is where you need, I think, to turn to psychology rather than political science — Mhmm. — to understand what’s going on here. Mhmm. Because, I mean, we all remember that moment where Lindsey Graham stands up and says, I’m done. It was a great ride.
  • Speaker 1
    0:46:01

    I’m out of here. Few people yell at them in the airport, and I’m back. So yeah.
  • Speaker 2
    0:46:07

    He never actually left, though.
  • Speaker 1
    0:46:09

    He never
  • Speaker 2
    0:46:09

    People misunderstand that speech. Yeah. I would encourage people. Everyone remembers what Graham said on January sixth. Do you know what that part about I’m out?
  • Speaker 2
    0:46:16

    Go watch Lindsey Graham’s press conference the next day. Lindsey Graham stands in front of reporters, and he says several things. He says, Trump will never accept that he lost the election.
  • Speaker 1
    0:46:27

    Right.
  • Speaker 2
    0:46:28

    He’s asked if Trump will will stop trying to ferment violence and Will Saletan Graham says, I don’t know. I hope so. I mean, this is amazing. And he’s going to bring Trump back to power. Today, Lindsey Graham is trying to bring back to power a man who he says, we’ll never accept that he lost and tried to use violence and might use violence again.
  • Speaker 2
    0:46:48

    That’s amazing.
  • Speaker 1
    0:46:50

    It is amazing, and it is worth remembering. I think earlier, you were saying, you know, that when I said that we still don’t understand it. And you said that’s a good thing because we cannot, I think, step away from the fact that what we are watching is genuinely amazing. It is shocking and amazing and it is not normal. And even though we’ve said this over and over and over again, here we are.
  • Speaker 1
    0:47:12

    This is the world that we live in, and hopefully, the people who listen to this podcast Listen to this podcast because they want us to tell them you are not the crazy ones. Okay? Just because you know, these people have taken crazy pills does not mean that you are the crazy ones, but man, it is disorienting and going to be more disorienting over the next year and a half. And I wish I could have better news the day after mother’s day.
  • Speaker 2
    0:47:39

    Yeah. Well, I’m sorry there isn’t. But you know what? A hundred percent of us don’t have to be sane. We just need fifty five percent of us to be sane
  • Speaker 1
    0:47:46

    and to vote. I’m at the point now where I would settle for fifty five You know? I’ll settle for fifty three percent sane. And I’m afraid I’m gonna be disappointed, Will. It is great talking with you.
  • Speaker 1
    0:47:55

    If you have not yet read Will’s fantastic piece on Lindsay Graham, go look at it on other Bulwark or download the whole book on amazon dot com. Fantastic job will, just a remarkable piece of work.
  • Speaker 2
    0:48:08

    Thank you, Charlie.
  • Speaker 1
    0:48:09

    And thank you all for listening to today’s Bulwark podcast. I’m Charlie Sykes. We will be back tomorrow again from DC, and we’ll do this all over again. The Bulwark podcast is produced by Katie Cooper, and engineered and edited by Jason Brown.
  • Speaker 6
    0:48:38

    Dissecting politics with exclusive interviews, commentary, and humor, useful idiots with Katie Halper and Aaron Mate.
  • Speaker 13
    0:48:45

    I really don’t like sharks, and I think we live in a very shark agandistic world. Quote, one thing to keep in mind is sharks who are not out there trying to eat surfers and swimmers. They’d much rather eat fish, but in many cases they mistake us for their actual prey. When they do bite, they usually move on. That’s supposed to make us feel better?
  • Speaker 6
    0:49:02

    Useful idiots, wherever you listen.
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