The “When Is The X Date?” Edition

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Speaker A: This ad free podcast is part of.

Speaker B: Your Slate Plus membership.

Speaker B: Hello, and welcome to the Slate political gabfest.

Speaker B: May 25, 2023.

Speaker B: The when is X date edition.

Speaker B: I’m david plotz of citycast I’m in washington DC, peruge.

Speaker B: I’m joined by Emily Basilon of New York Times magazine and Yale University law school from New Haven.

Speaker B: Hello, Emily.

Speaker C: Hey, David.


Speaker B: And from new york city, john dickerson of CBS primetime.

Speaker B: Hello, John.

Speaker A: Hello, David.

Speaker A: Hello, Emily.

Speaker A: I’m a little undone by that expression per use.

Speaker B: Are we going to talk about the elephant in the room?

Speaker B: What everyone object to the word you used last week?

Speaker B: Are we not going to talk about that?

Speaker A: I don’t know if they did they object to it or did they give it a big huge hazard across the land?

Speaker B: I don’t know.

Speaker B: John called me a profanity there’s a profanity laced diatribe from John tickets which.

Speaker C: None of us noticed in the moment.


Speaker B: Literally none of us noticed.

Speaker B: I’m not even sure John noticed.

Speaker A: No, it’s true.

Speaker A: It was so sophomoric and automatic that I don’t know that I recognized it.

Speaker A: Although I don’t think I’ve said that since I probably was a sophomore.


Speaker B: Well, listeners, go back and listen to minute 21 of last week’s episode when John Dickerson calls me a really surprising, surprising word in his irritation.

Speaker B: But let’s move on.

Speaker B: Let’s move on.

Speaker B: Bygones are bygones this week on the Gabfest.

Speaker B: Can the White House and House Republicans strike a debt ceiling deal before the X date?


Speaker B: And have Republicans played Biden through this process?

Speaker B: Then Ron DeSantis launches his presidential campaign.

Speaker B: So does Tim Scott.

Speaker B: Ron DeSantis’s launch, however, was much more funny and interesting then the AI industry wants AI to be regulated.

Speaker B: Will the federal government figure out how to do that?

Speaker B: Plus of course, we’ll have cocktail, chatter and a reminder that we have a live show coming up in Washington DC on Wednesday, June 28 at 07:30 p.m.

Speaker B: At six and I historic synagogue tickets gabfestlive.

Speaker B: There will also be preshow cocktails for some group of audience members and go to gabfest live get tickets can be a great super fun show.


Speaker B: We’re so looking forward to being with you for our first show of 2023.

Speaker B: First live show of 2023 x Date, not to be confused with JDate, is the day the federal government will not be able to meet its obligations to bondholders, to Social Security recipients, to Medicare providers, to soldiers and sailors seeking their pay.

Speaker B: It might come as soon as June 1.

Speaker B: It might come june 8.

Speaker B: There’s an outside chance that Janet Yellen could MacGyver some federal funds until June 15, when there will be a gusher of new tax revenues that will buy her another month.


Speaker B: But it is clear that there is a deadline and that deadline is looming and the possibility of catastrophic default is there.


Speaker B: And that has forced Congress, in the form of House Republicans, I should say, and the White House to get to negotiating table after swearing.

Speaker B: Swearing on every bible on Frederick Douglas’s.

Speaker B: Bible on Abraham Lincoln’s.

Speaker B: Bible on George Washington’s.

Speaker B: Bible that they would not negotiate about the debt ceiling and not be held hostages by Republicans who were willing to tank the economy to get a debt ceiling deal forced through.

Speaker B: The Biden administration is now negotiating.

Speaker B: So, John, before we get to the deal, why has the Biden administration been unable to hold firm to this position that they wouldn’t negotiate on this?


Speaker B: They knew it was coming.

Speaker A: The Republicans in the House have a higher pain threshold.

Speaker A: There’s a group of Republicans in the House who would be okay if the country defaulted on its debt.

Speaker A: Or, put another way, they don’t think it’s as big a deal.

Speaker A: And whether they genuinely, genuinely believe that or they’re just better at bluffing, the White House can’t take that chance.

Speaker A: I think the President correctly assessed the political conditions where he said, whatever the substantive merits, he actually said, on the merits, I’m right.

Speaker A: But let’s excise that portion of what he said and whatever the substantive merits of who’s right or who’s wrong about the way this has been negotiated, if the economy tanks as a result of the debt limit not being increased, the president will be blamed.


Speaker A: Because a president gets blamed, and therefore he’s going to take the political pain.

Speaker A: The House Republicans who are in control of things for a variety of reasons, which we can talk about, even though they are small in number, those who hold this most firm view, they nevertheless Biden has to take them into account.

Speaker A: And so that’s what he’s done.

Speaker A: That’s why he broke on his insistence that he would not negotiate.

Speaker A: And it is why, as the deal emerges, it looks like he’s breaking on some other things and may very well ask Democrats whose vote he will need and whose vote McCarthy will need to vote for stuff that Democrats may really not like.


Speaker B: What are the outlines of the deal looking like?

Speaker B: Or what outlines of the discussion?

Speaker B: I mean, it’s emily, does it seem like there is a clear path to a deal?

Speaker C: Well, what the Republicans want are cuts to the non defense, discretionary parts of the budget, so social programs, all the stuff that’s not the military.

Speaker C: And they want work requirements for food stamps and Medicaid.

Speaker C: And then it seems like there are other things floating around that maybe they’ll not insist on, like taking back some of the green energy subsidies that Congress passed last year.

Speaker C: And then there’s the clawback of the unspent COVID funds.


Speaker C: That seems like the easiest part.

Speaker C: John, am I leaving out some major component of this?

Speaker A: I would just add two things.

Speaker A: One is the work requirements may not be across the board.


Speaker A: It may be work requirements for single, able bodied Americans.

Speaker A: We’ll see how that plays out.

Speaker A: That doesn’t change the position of many progressives who argue that talking about work requirements in any context, stigmatizes federal benefits and unfairly characterizes the people on those benefits as being sort of layabout and lazy even if you’re doing it only to a small portion.

Speaker A: And then the other thing is there’s debate over spending.


Speaker A: Whether it should be fixed at the 2022 levels or 2023 levels, how long it should be capped, and whether it should have some slope amount of growth if you cap this non defense discretionary part of the budget, which, by the way, is this tiny little corner of the budget, which we can talk about later.

Speaker A: And then the other final thing I’d say is there’s a debate about which as of Thursday morning, the reporting suggested that the White House was going to get this while they’re not getting a lot of other things.

Speaker A: And that is how long to lift the debt ceiling?

Speaker A: Do you lift it into next year or do you lift it past the election?

Speaker C: I mean that seems significant to me because one thing that’s so apparent is that the debt ceiling is turning into a second round of budget negotiations with the people in charge who have the highest pain threshold and who represent a minority of Americans.

Speaker C: Right.

Speaker C: I mean, if you think I think if you think of the Republicans in the House, yes, they control the House barely, but they’re only one part of the government.


Speaker C: They’re not the Senate, they’re not the executive branch.

Speaker C: And by throttling the whole government and really taking President Biden hostage, I mean, that’s what they’re boasting about and he’s used that word too.

Speaker C: It’s another form of minority rule that involves just freezing everyone and paralyzing them and forcing them to exceed to demands.

Speaker B: Yes, that has been the Republican strategy for a long time, is finding these choke points for minority rule and using them super effectively.

Speaker B: Yeah, they’ve done a great job with it.

Speaker A: I mean, as a matter of politics, they’ve done a tremendous job of it.

Speaker A: As a matter of intellectual honesty for a party.

Speaker A: It’s funny because here they are being most successful in this spending battle which again, it’s a tiny portion of the budget.

Speaker A: If you were really, really exercised about the budget, you would go for the bigger stuff defense, the rising cost of health care, which has of course been with us for a very long time and how that affects programs like Medicare and Medicaid.

Speaker A: And you would go after Social Security as George Bush tried to do after his victory in 2004, but nobody’s doing that.

Speaker A: In fact, the party is moving quite the other direction.

Speaker A: So as a matter of actual fiscal budgeting, it’s not there.

Speaker A: But as a matter of politics, the Republicans have done so far an amazing job.

Speaker B: I mean, can we just pause for 1 second?

Speaker B: There’s something which almost goes unsaid these days because the Republicans are who they are.


Speaker B: But the Republican congressional policy to never raise taxes, ever that no one will cast a vote to raise taxes is probably the most irresponsible policy position in US.

Speaker B: Legislative history.

Speaker B: It is.

Speaker B: The fact that it is literally impossible to get Republicans to vote for tax increases when there are strong moral, financial, economic efficiency arguments to raise certain kinds of taxes, it’s just outrageous.

Speaker B: It’s outrageous that they won’t do it and we don’t talk about it nearly enough.

Speaker B: It’s just taken as a given.

Speaker B: It’s part of the furniture like, oh, they just don’t can’t talk about it.

Speaker B: It’s not going to happen.

Speaker B: They don’t do it.

Speaker B: Okay, so we’ll cut something else.

Speaker B: It’s very frustrating.

Speaker B: And that they should be held to account on that over and over again.

Speaker B: The way rich people in this country do not pay taxes is incredible.

Speaker A: Two things to add to that.

Speaker A: One is if you look at the tax cuts during the Trump years, they contributed considerably to the fiscal issues that Republicans are some of them are saying they’re concerned about, but they’re not touching those taxes.

Speaker A: And all the promises that the Trump officials made at the time, remember, those taxes were not only supposed to pay for themselves, which they didn’t, but they were also supposed to help with the debt, which they didn’t.

Speaker A: And then secondarily, what you touch on David is one of the criticisms that President Biden gets from progressives, which is that he has not messaged this well enough, that he has not put Republicans on the defensive.


Speaker A: While that may be true, presidents can’t do that, especially this one.

Speaker A: In the current situation he’s in, he just doesn’t have the idea, which we’ve talked about in the past, but which has been borne out by political sciences, is presidents don’t change really the narrative on this kind of thing.

Speaker A: Donald Trump had some ability to control and whipsaw the public conversation.

Speaker A: But when you get to talking about non defense discretionary, harder to do and really harder for Joe Biden to do, both stylistically temperamentally and also given what his polling numbers are.

Speaker A: And it’s a bit of a disconnect between the laudatory things that were said about Biden’s, what people thought was jujitsu, and there was a little of it when he put Republicans on the defensive about Medicare and Social Security during the State of the Union address.

Speaker A: Kind of artfully in that moment of theater in the State of the Union.

Speaker A: But that had a limited kind of run because we now see the problem he faces in these debt limit negotiations, which is a president can’t really win over the public conversation.

Speaker A: It just doesn’t work that way.

Speaker B: Do you think, Emily, that they’re going to get there without tiptoeing closer to the cliff?

Speaker B: Like are they actually going to get a deal done before bad things start to happen or Republicans won’t move until the really bad things start to happen just to get a better deal out of Biden?

Speaker C: I think we’re going to tiptoe closer to the cliff, especially because there are some question as you started off with about whether the X date is June 1 or 8th or 15th.


Speaker C: I mean, the Republicans are kind of scoffing at Janet Yellen like, oh, you don’t really mean it.

Speaker C: You’re going to find some way to patch things over for a while.

Speaker C: And so that suggests to me that this June 1 deadline is not hard and fast in their minds and because the politics are playing in their favor.

Speaker C: I just don’t see them ending this before they absolutely have to.

Speaker B: Right.

Speaker B: John, do you think the Democrats botched the job of getting rid of this issue when they possibly had the chance to do it?

Speaker B: I still find it incredible.

Speaker B: They knew this was coming.

Speaker B: They knew this issue.

Speaker B: They know this issue is what Emily said.

Speaker B: It’s the second chance to negotiate the budget and to do it on really bad terms, to do it to do it with someone who’s playing chicken with an 18 wheeler.

Speaker B: And they were aware of that, and they did have majorities and maybe the argument is that you couldn’t have gotten Mansion or Cinema to vote for it.

Speaker B: But I’ve always felt like if I were president, if I were the leader of the House and Senate, I would have just had a debt ceiling vote that raised the debt ceiling to, as I’ve said, like a Googleplex dollars and then it’s over.

Speaker B: Yes, you have that bad news for that vote, but then at least it’s done.

Speaker A: If you’re doing it just on your own, you could imagine calculating the political risk as like it’s a vote that Democrats are going to eat themselves entirely and vulnerable Democrats in any kind of swing district are going to eat blowing up the budget at a time of high inflation.


Speaker A: And they might feel some defensiveness, particularly with the party doing poorly among voters on the question of the economy, that you don’t want to vote for something that can be potentially tied in in politics to inflation, which people say they care about.

Speaker A: Whereas if you’re in the middle of a fight, there are two ways of reading the Republicans.

Speaker A: One, they’ve got this crazy wing that forced 15 votes for the House speakership, and that’s going to blow up in this huge public spectacle, and we’ll be able to vote for a debt ceiling increase because we’ll be able to say we’re saving the country from these people, cratering the country.

Speaker A: The other way it could go, which is the way it did go, is that those people on the very hard right of the Republican Party end up having this higher pain threshold, which then basically wins the game of chicken.

Speaker A: Like basically Biden is deciding they’re not going to swerve.

Speaker A: We’re driving at each other.

Speaker A: They are not going to swerve.

Speaker A: They are committed to not swerving, and I really believe they’re not going to swerve.

Speaker A: So we have to swerve but it’s not a foregone conclusion that they weren’t going to swerve, because and I think this adds somewhere this is somewhere in the mix.

Speaker A: After 2011, it became a matter of faith that Barack Obama shouldn’t have negotiated at all on the debt ceiling, and then he didn’t do it again, and he won that next round.

Speaker A: And so I think there was some view that if you just hold firm to that, that that’s the way to go.


Speaker A: And that the the problem is the difference between 2013, when Obama didn’t negotiate and now is that Biden can’t risk a breach, because he can’t he can’t basically bet that the Republicans are going to be able to do the right thing by his lights.

Speaker B: Slate plus members, you get so much for your membership, which you can get by going to Gabfest Plus.

Speaker B: And among the things you get is our regular bonus segments.

Speaker B: Every week we do a bonus segment.

Speaker B: And this week, our bonus segment is conversation about the amazing Atlantic piece by Graham Wood about Clarence Thomas benefactor vacation buddy Harlan Crowe.

Speaker B: Two more candidates officially entered the presidential race on the Republican side this week.

Speaker B: Tim Scott, the South Carolina senator, declared his candidacy with a typically sunny, optimistic, faith laced announcement.

Speaker D: And that’s why I’m announcing today that I’m running for President of the United States of America.

Speaker B: Then much more entertainingly, or possibly less entertainingly, was Ron DeSantis, the Florida governor who went on Twitter.

Speaker B: Twitter spaces a platform that no one has ever heard of, to announce his candidacy to Elon Musk.

Speaker B: And it was the announcement on Wednesday night was just marred by glitches.

Speaker B: He lost 75% of his audience before he even spoke.

Speaker B: Here’s a little bit of that delightful fiasco.

Speaker D: All right, I think we’re broadcasting, man.

Speaker D: I think we melted the Internet there.

Speaker D: Yeah, that was insane.

Speaker D: Sorry.

Speaker D: Actually doing this from David Sachs’s Twitter account because it looks like doing it from mine.


Speaker D: Basically broke the Twitter system.

Speaker D: Thanks, everyone, for joining.

Speaker D: Yeah.

Speaker D: Governor Santos, are you there?

Speaker D: Can you hear us?

Speaker D: I know I think you broke the Internet there.

Speaker D: What would you like to tell them?

Speaker A: Well, I am running for President of the United States to lead our great American comeback.

Speaker B: So let us start with DeSantis Emily, who is in much weaker shape than he was three months ago, but much stronger than anyone else in the field besides Trump.

Speaker B: The Republican field.

Speaker B: Besides Trump.

Speaker B: Why has he slumped so much in recent months?

Speaker B: Despite this kind of canon aid of conservative legislation, he has rammed through the Florida legislature and the relative prosperity and vitality of Florida.

Speaker C: The expectations were so high, he was supposed to emerge as the youthful, or at least middle aged challenger to the kind of old, bruised, beaten up former President Trump warrior.

Speaker C: And voters just don’t seem to have really gone for it in the sense of big poll numbers.

Speaker C: And then you have a narrative that he’s disappointing people.

Speaker C: So, yeah, the Florida legislative campaign continues, but he just doesn’t seem like he’s taking off the fight with Disney, which we talked about last week, I think seems at least to me, like a kind of weird self own.

Speaker C: And he’s not a compelling presence, really.

Speaker C: I think his lack of bunname, maybe his lack of charisma, I mean, listen to his speeches.

Speaker C: You just don’t feel like you’re in the presence of some hugely successful, brilliant politician.


Speaker C: I also think you can’t be the main rival to Trump without taking on Trump directly.

Speaker C: And he’s been unwilling to do that.

Speaker C: And it just seems like if you’re supposed to be the alternative, you have to make that really clear.

Speaker C: And so while he is refraining from directly challenging Trump, trump has been belittling him every step of the way.

Speaker C: And that seems to be quite effective.

Speaker B: Yeah.

Speaker B: John, can you sort of dive more into that?

Speaker B: So what does he do need to do to eat into Trump?

Speaker B: Can he get anywhere without making it a kind of mono Amano versus Trump, where he is just attacking Trump?

Speaker B: Can he do it without that?

Speaker B: Or does he need to do that?

Speaker A: Anything is possible, right?

Speaker A: But the problem is you have to act by which I mean this it’s plausible that Trump falls of his own weight, that Trump gets indicted, that he just that the baggage just totals up too much.

Speaker A: And that DeSantis, though.

Speaker A: We had this launch pad failure on Twitter.

Speaker A: That DeSantis.

Speaker A: Just does what you’re supposed to do, which is go to those early states, create an organization in the later states, raise a whole bunch of money, get your sea legs under you, which is a long process.

Speaker A: That it.

Speaker A: Takes every candidate a long time to do, which is the danger of him starting late and then just wait for Trump to wear himself out.

Speaker A: Now, that’s one approach.

Speaker A: The other is he won’t wear himself out.


Speaker A: You have to do it.

Speaker A: In so doing it, you show that you are in fact like Donald Trump in the sense that you are tough.

Speaker A: People want a fighter.

Speaker A: They want you to not talk about the stuff you’ve done.

Speaker A: They want to see you do it.

Speaker A: They want you to replace your claims about Florida, which I think he can make some certainly on COVID.

Speaker A: But what’s more powerful, explaining what you did about COVID or showing them that you are tough in real time in front of an audience at, say, a debate or something like that?

Speaker A: He probably raised a lot of money, which is great, he’s finally in the race, which he needs to be.

Speaker A: But I think we’ve established it as probably a truth on this show that when you have a symbolic moment, you want that symbolic moment not to ratify the rap that is against you.

Speaker A: And if the rap that is against him is that he’s had a kind of lackluster arrival onto the stage in this run up period.

Speaker A: And that basically there’s less than advertised.

Speaker A: You definitely don’t want a symbolic moment that affirms that so strongly as this one.

Speaker A: It may not matter at all in the end, but three weeks down the road, if things aren’t going well for him, this launch will become the shorthand everybody uses for a candidate who just can’t get it done.

Speaker A: It’s like not that many people were there when Jeb Bush said, please clap.

Speaker A: But boy, did that become a symbol for his kind of lackluster campaign.


Speaker A: Not that many people could fit into the Nashville gymnasium when Reagan said, I paid for this microphone.

Speaker A: But it became a moment.

Speaker B: I wanted to know how many more you of those you could do, John, could you have unrolled 27 more of those?

Speaker A: Well, we can go all the way back.

Speaker A: We can go back to James Blaine.

Speaker C: Don’t encourage him.

Speaker B: Okay, so, Emily, do you feel like the Twitter f*** up is on DeSantis, that he owns it for having chosen this weird platform and this weird interlocutor to make his announcement?

Speaker B: Or do you feel like this is on Musk?

Speaker C: I mean, it’s probably on Musk, but it’s going to rebound onto DeSantis because he’s the one who is running for office.

Speaker C: I think the other thing that we’re watching with Twitter, with this announcement, with Tucker Carlson hanging up a shingle there with the conservative commentator Ben Shapiro and some other guy making it their exclusive venue, musk is really turning it in this right word direction.

Speaker C: Charlie Warzell was writing about this for The Atlantic this week.

Speaker C: It feels kind of unmistakable.

Speaker C: So that’s just a secondary point.

Speaker C: The DeSantis part is just the hilarity of all the dead airspace and the hot mic whispering.

Speaker B: I mean, there are a couple of things there.

Speaker B: One is what he wants Carlson to do.

Speaker B: Shapiro this Twitter spaces, this thing with DeSantis, is he’s taking a platform.

Speaker B: The platform exists in one form.

Speaker B: It’s like, what?

Speaker B: It’s really good at one thing, which is these short, kind of quick written exchanges, and he’s trying to turn it into television or some variant of television.


Speaker B: Television exists.

Speaker B: It’s good, the technology works.

Speaker B: They are able to have millions and millions of people watching it without any problems at all times.

Speaker B: And also, by the way, there’s YouTube, which is much, much better as a video platform than Twitter can ever be.

Speaker B: And so it is really odd to me that Musk is betting a future on sort of variegating this platform, which has one strength, which is not that.

Speaker A: Although it could just be a vanity project, too.

Speaker A: I mean, just that feeds his view of a rebalancing of the way the world works.

Speaker A: And it’s not going to make money.

Speaker A: It’s just a place to get this out and speak to the club and have that as a thing to do.

Speaker A: Can I just make a couple more quick points about DeSantis.

Speaker A: The lack of a message, the anti woke thing clearly is something that Republicans and particularly primary voters like, but it’s not their big top issue when you poll them and say, what do you care about?

Speaker A: Wokeness comes in on the Fox poll, it came in at 1%.

Speaker A: Like they care about the economy.

Speaker A: They care about so what’s interesting is DeSantis is essentially saying the same thing now that he was saying before he ran, when his poll numbers were going down.

Speaker A: So that’s not great.

Speaker A: And back to your question, David, about I mean, that’s not great if you’re trying to show people you’ve got this other dimension, which is necessary when you’ve dropped from being only 15 points down to Donald Trump to now being 30 points down.


Speaker A: The second thing is that to your question, David, about taking on Donald Trump, to do so on your own is to basically convince a portion of the party that all the things they forgave Trump for are now fatal flaws and that he’s unfit to be president.

Speaker A: But he’s conditioned people since 2015 to see those fatal flaws not just as excusable, but as signature qualities and what they want in a president.

Speaker A: And so you’ve really got to undo a lot of wiring.

Speaker A: Now, having once caused the Republic, the Republican electorate has changed its views on lots of things very quickly in order to support Donald Trump.

Speaker A: So maybe they can, maybe the adhesive power of those new positions is weak, but that’s not nothing having to convince voters to change their minds of things that they’ve been repeatedly asked to re up, because Donald Trump has tested those norms consistently.

Speaker B: So I feel like DeSantis, there are three kind of places he could play.

Speaker B: One is he’s going hard against Trump and he’s explicitly going against Trump, and he’s doing it in this kind of energetic, vital way, and he’s saying I’m the alternative, and he’s attacking Trump.

Speaker B: And that’s one a second is he isn’t is what he’s doing, which is being this kind of I’m anti woke, I stopped the COVID madness and doesn’t say anything about Trump, and I’m in a kind of more energetic version than somebody else that’s somebody else being Trump, but he won’t say Trump’s name.

Speaker B: The third version is running kind of on the fact that Florida is in really good shape and that he’s been a very energetic executive.


Speaker B: And then economically, Florida is doing great and I’m a great executive and leader.

Speaker B: And that seems to me like the obvious.

Speaker B: I mean, if he’s in a general election candidate, that will definitely be what he’s doing.

Speaker B: But why isn’t he running on that piece of it now?

Speaker B: Why is he running on this?

Speaker B: But it’s so much more about the antique woke stuff than it is about the business stuff.

Speaker A: He is trying to do it, and it seems to me the most obvious and best lane because it allows people to rush into a place that is positive, doesn’t have to be antique trump like, yeah, Trump was great, let’s give him a gold watch.

Speaker A: Now we’ve got this guy who seized Florida and is doing all these amazing things and he’s p****** off the liberals too.

Speaker A: And isn’t that great?

Speaker A: That’s why it’s striking that in his launch pad moment, where you want to take advantage of these things that, as you say, David, that he hasn’t.

Speaker A: But when you listen to him talk, it’s a very and maybe this is super effective in that closed loop environment that he’s, as Axios called it, his safe spaces game plan.

Speaker A: Maybe it works, but he uses a lot of the buzzwords.

Speaker A: I have to look up a lot of the things, and I’ve covered this stuff, pay attention to it pretty closely.

Speaker A: The shorthand he uses to refer to a lot of these issues that he raises and I don’t know whether if you’re outside of the extremely online, you can catch up to him, whereas the argument you’re making, David, is one that seems much more just sort of easily grabbable.


Speaker B: Let’s end this topic by talking a bit about Tim Scott and in contrast to DeSantis, because DeSantis is so far, to my face, my ears, an extremely unappealing retail candidate.

Speaker B: There’s something that seems sort of mean and small about him, not just physically small, although that is a thing too.

Speaker B: But Tim Scott is the only candidate in contrast to Trump, and DeSantis doesn’t appear to be like waiting at dusk for the zombies to attack him.

Speaker B: I mean, he seems like he might actually enjoy himself in life.

Speaker D: I’m living proof that God and a good family and the United States of America can do all things if we believe, will you believe it with me?

Speaker B: But he does have a problem, which that he also appears to be totally uninteresting.

Speaker B: He has no real great strength apart from the fact that he appears to be pretty cheerful about it all.

Speaker C: That seems fair.

Speaker C: I mean, I do think being the major black candidate in this field is significant and kind of brings you a particular kind of attention.

Speaker C: And the idea that you can say things that other people can’t and that you can reassure Republicans with your vision that America is not a racist country that all seems pretty appealing to me.

Speaker C: I think I asked this way too much, but I wonder if he was running for vice president.

Speaker C: And it seemed to me like he could be a really good counterpart to some angry, bare person like Donald Trump.

Speaker A: But I mean, raised by a single mother, totally challenging early life, becomes successful as an insurance agent.


Speaker A: That’s a pretty good story in America to be able to talk about the American Dream fair and say, yeah, yeah, you know, that’s me.

Speaker A: That’s pretty good.

Speaker A: Barack Obama had done some things but did not have the Joe Biden resume.

Speaker A: So people have run for president successfully without vast resumes.

Speaker A: The problem is the optimistic, happy, what used to be called the sort of Jack Kemp wing of the Republican Party kind of doesn’t exist anymore.

Speaker A: I mean, it’s very small, and so you have to rebuild it before you can appeal to it, I think.

Speaker A: Now, having said that, I remember somebody once telling me when Newt Gingrich was running for president and had no chance but had support, a strategist in some state saying, you know, it’s not that people want to vote for Gingrich, they just want him in the race.

Speaker A: And what this person meant is Gingrich was an ideas guy.

Speaker A: He was still considered the author of The Republican Return to Power, which was a rightful title because of taking over the House in 1994, and that this person was arguing that voters want somebody like that just around because it says something good about the party and its ideas and its future orientation, all those kinds of things.

Speaker A: And I think that Tim Scott feels like a candidate, whether people think he can actually go all the way or not.

Speaker A: They really would like republicans would like him to be in the race and for the party to represent all of the things that his life story and the things he says about it, that they’re all true.


Speaker B: That was great.

Speaker B: I withdraw my sideways criticism of Scott.

Speaker B: Maybe he’ll get further than maybe he’ll get further.

Speaker B: Maybe he’ll get somewhere.

Speaker A: As I said, I don’t know if the constituency is there, but there would have been a time where he would have been where you would have said, yes, the constituency is there.

Speaker B: Sam Altman, the CEO of OpenAI, which created the generative AI GPT programs, was given a very warm welcome on Capitol Hill.

Speaker B: Unlike other tech CEOs who’ve come to Washington who’ve gotten savaged recently, altman was bipartisanly, petted and praised and deferred to.

Speaker B: And he came to Congress for an unusual reason.

Speaker B: He came to tell the House and Senate that his industry should be regulated.

Speaker B: So even though I’ve now read about ten articles on this subject, I still don’t actually understand.

Speaker B: I don’t even have the foggiest idea how Altman or anyone else actually proposes that this AI industry be regulated.

Speaker B: So I hope you guys will help me understand that later in this topic.

Speaker B: But Emily, let’s start with why is it that Altman and others believe that generative AI, these large language model AIS, should be regulated?

Speaker B: What problems do they pose for the world or might pose for the world that means they should be regulated?

Speaker C: Well, there are kind of different levels and timelines of danger.

Speaker C: So one danger which is present is misinformation.

Speaker C: The kinds of deep fakes of voice cloning or fake videos that fool people into thinking something’s true that it’s not, and can hugely affect political developments or people’s reputations if they are sustained phony misinformation campaigns.


Speaker C: Another is shift in how people are employed.

Speaker C: When you look at the kind of writing and art that AI can do, how many knowledge workers is it going to displace?

Speaker C: Is it going to be a tool like the Internet or the calculator that makes people more productive?

Speaker C: Or is it just going to push people out of work?

Speaker C: And then there are these more longer term, at least currently and potentially existential risks.

Speaker C: Could a bad actor get hold of AI and have it take down a power grid or mess around with the stock market for some investment purposes?

Speaker C: And then the very greatest risk of all is that AI is going to become smarter than humans and then take control of the planet from us and exterminate us.

Speaker A: I interviewed Mo Gowdot, who was for 30 years at Google, and at his last post was in their project, X, which is their most kind of forward thinking, experimental, innovative part of the company.

Speaker A: And he’s written a book about the dangers of AI.

Speaker A: And his essential argument is that because AI is basically teaching itself how to learn, that it will ultimately come to the conclusion that humans are basically awful and abhorrent, and that that is how it will self educate itself about the danger of humans, that by just looking at our our nature, it will come to that conclusion.

Speaker A: And I said, but there’s lots of joyous, buoyant things about human behavior that it can also draw from as it creates its understanding of humanity.

Speaker A: And he gave this wonderful answer about the divine in the writing of a symphony and in other acts of creation, and he basically said, yes, there is divinity in human interaction with other humans.


Speaker A: It’s just the problem is that there’s so much more of the other from which to draw a sample and to draw a conclusion.

Speaker A: Now, maybe each AI will be smart enough to know about the balance of things.

Speaker B: Do you really believe that?

Speaker B: Do you guys really believe that?

Speaker B: If you look at the balance of the human civilization, the human relationship to each other, to the Earth, that objectively were bad and were destructive or not?

Speaker B: I absolutely do not believe that.

Speaker B: I believe there are problems we have with over taxing resources and there’s an enormous amount of cruelty that comes out.

Speaker B: But my God, the beauty of human relationships and the social world that we create, and the prosperity and the desire for others to have well being is so deeply in us.

Speaker A: I think the question is whether who is who’s driving the bus?

Speaker A: So I think the argument is that while everything you say is true, I think this is what he was essentially saying.

Speaker A: Everything you say is true.

Speaker A: And there is sweetness and beauty of much more powerful in human relationships and in the smallness of our connections.

Speaker A: But that the people driving the bus that are burning through resources that perpetuate a system of massive inequality.

Speaker A: Where your yacht needs a yacht to service it, that they are the ones who have their hands on the wheel.

Speaker A: And that the conclusion can be drawn that while on balance, you may have more sweet, wonderful people than those who care only about their self interest and perpetuating the benefits of their small group, that the folks who are like that are the ones in charge of the wheel.


Speaker A: So as an AI, I’ve got to do things to get them away from the wheel.

Speaker A: I think that’s a possible conclusion.

Speaker C: I mean, another cut on this is that it doesn’t usually go well for the dumber species when another creature comes along that’s smarter, right?

Speaker C: Like we’ve all seen that science fiction movie.

Speaker C: And if AI ends up being smarter than humanity, why won’t humanity be enslaved or in even bigger trouble?

Speaker B: That implies that AI is a species, that it has the qualities of living which to me, I know I’m obsessed with this.

Speaker B: I don’t believe in a mind body distinction.

Speaker B: I don’t think there is a mind that exists that isn’t connected to something which has real sensation in the world.

Speaker B: Like you only know things, you only exist insofar as you have senses interacting with a physical world around you.

Speaker B: There isn’t anything which is a which is a mind.

Speaker B: And AI, until AI steps over that and becomes physically interactive with the world, not just a knowledge, I don’t think it to me, it poses no threat to us.

Speaker B: But I’m an ignorant fool and I’m sure I’m going to be wrong and I’ll be the first person who’s destroyed by the power grid.

Speaker A: Well, it can create incentives that cause people with physical bodies to do things on its behalf, I suppose.

Speaker A: David, to answer your question, I think one way they’re thinking about trying to handle the challenge with AI is the challenge with any fast moving technology, which Franklin Roosevelt figured out back when he was president, is you can’t legislate fast enough with the advances of modernity.


Speaker A: So you have to create a federal agency.

Speaker A: So they’re talking about essentially an FCC for AI that would be filled with sufficient level experts to be able to know what’s going on and regulate or at least raise the red flag when things get dicey.

Speaker C: And to take it one step further, you don’t have to have a separate agency.

Speaker C: You could also have a department in existing agency and then you have to figure out what those regulators are going to do.

Speaker C: And one of the things that Altman was suggesting was a licensing scheme where if you’re going to create or have a large language model that poses some of these risks, you’d have to check off certain safeguards first.

Speaker C: Like the thing can’t self regulate, it can’t do X, Y and Z.

Speaker C: And that there would be guardrails from the government in place, just as there are for a public utility or developing weapons.

Speaker C: Like things that we are all sure can pose huge risks when they go badly.

Speaker B: That’s interesting.

Speaker B: Are there effective models of technological regulation that they point to, that they say, oh, this is analogous?

Speaker B: I mean, I was kind of thinking the CFPB, the Consumer Finance Protection Board, which has been gutted.

Speaker B: Yeah, I was going to say it’s been gutted.

Speaker B: It’s been gutted.

Speaker B: But it was a thing that took something that was highly opaque, highly complicated, totally impenetrable to consumers, was dangerous to consumers.

Speaker B: And consumers lack the intelligence and the tools and the sophistication to deal with these powerful forces around them.


Speaker B: And it put some constraints around that behavior and was oriented to protecting us from those predations.

Speaker C: I mean, there are lots of examples right?

Speaker C: There’s NHTSA, whatever that stands for, that governs auto safety in the national highways.

Speaker C: There are regular old consumer products safety regulators who do their work and protect, right?

Speaker C: And then there’s nuclear weapons treaties and safeguards and international inspectors.

Speaker C: I mean, what Altman and some people who agree with him really want is international regulation of that sort.

Speaker C: So Altman has taken a totally different tact than we’ve seen from previous tech giant executives, right?

Speaker C: They kind of swooned around Silicon Valley, didn’t show up in Washington unless they were called to the carpet, acted defiant, told Congress that they were dumb.

Speaker C: Often Congress deserved it for asking dumb questions.

Speaker C: Alman is totally courting lawmakers, right?

Speaker C: He shows up before he testifies.

Speaker C: He has dinner with 60 of them.

Speaker C: He’s willing to give them private demos.

Speaker C: He’s asking to be regulated.

Speaker C: Is that because he is a kind of Good Samaritan who sees this danger and truly wants to have power taken from him and even money taken from him and his company?

Speaker C: Or is he trying to concentrate power in the hands of a few industry leaders like him?

Speaker C: I mean, take the licensing scheme.

Speaker C: You only get a license if you have lots of investors and lawyers and the other things that would line up to get you the license.

Speaker C: And maybe that’s good.

Speaker C: Maybe we want AI, given all its risks, concentrated in the hands of a few companies that do operate more like public utilities.


Speaker C: But there’s a whole other argument in Washington, and Lena Khan, who’s the head of the STC, is the leading proponent of this, that no, you want anti monopolistic kinds of intervention by the government in this industry.

Speaker C: You want to open it up.

Speaker C: You want to make sure that there can be more options and more creativity and that the companies will be well, they may be self regulating, but also challenging each other in these next developments.

Speaker C: And that’s a kind of fundamental tension here and what kind of regulation, if there is going to be any, that we should have.

Speaker B: I’m reminded of another young hotshot, Sam, who came to Washington asking for regulation, which is Sam bankman, Fried, also came to Washington and asked for crypto to be regulated and asked to kind of to be the conduit of that regulation.

Speaker B: He sought to be the architect and conduit.

Speaker B: That did not go well.

Speaker B: But there are interesting analogies there.

Speaker B: That’s another one where, again, consumers don’t really know what they’re dealing with.

Speaker B: And that same argument was made by other players in crypto, which is, no, we need this to be loose and for there to be creativity and energy and the federal government shouldn’t regulate and lock in, create path dependency around a few lucky folks who happen to get in there early.

Speaker B: And I’m not sophisticated enough to know what the right answer is.

Speaker B: But I don’t know that anyone knows whether the right answer is, oh, they should be licensed, and there should be three of them, or oh, they should.


Speaker B: Be allowed to wildly innovate and be creative because we’re going to get so much more value out of that.

Speaker B: And we won’t just have a few people who got rich off of it.

Speaker C: I agree that the bright answer is really hard to suss out.

Speaker C: And then the problem is, is this enormous ball of risk, like, hurtling toward us that we’re about to be flattened by and we can’t even figure out what to do, or is it much less urgent?

Speaker C: And like, people in charge of this are kind of playing up the dramatic Sci-Fi potential here and actually we have time to figure it out and it’s better not to do the wrong thing quickly and to kind of let it develop one more step.

Speaker C: I think that question of timeline and how much urgency there is factors in a lot along with uncertainty when you’re trying to plot out what the government should be doing here.

Speaker C: And then, of course, there’s China, right?

Speaker C: There’s also this specter of if Americans regulate in the wrong way, then we lose the lead that we currently have in this field and we should be worried about the Chinese developing AI or the next steps of generative intelligence, artificial intelligence, because then they would use it for much more kind of surveillance, big brother purposes.

Speaker C: And so we can’t afford to kind of lose our edge.

Speaker C: Then there are the Europeans who, as usual, seem to be further along the kind of regulatory path than we are.

Speaker C: So maybe they’ll come up with some kind of model.


Speaker C: All these questions.

Speaker B: Let’s go to cocktail chatter.

Speaker B: If you were having a drink, which as far as I know, Bard and Chat GPT cannot have a drink.

Speaker B: Yet if you’re having a drink and talking with a friend, a real life friend or a loved one, which again, I don’t think Bard and Chat GPT have friends and loved ones, what would you be chattering about, John?

Speaker A: Well, I suppose this is in the same vein of that, but the amazing announcement this week that Swiss neuroscientists successfully used a brain spine interface to enable a paralyzed man to walk just using his thoughts.

Speaker A: So there was a 40 year old Dutch man who so he was paralyzed twelve years ago, and he received two brain implants that basically created a digital bridge, jumped over the injured nerves, and then a portable computer decodes his brain signals and relays them to a pulse generator, which then results in the perception that his body is moving voluntarily.

Speaker A: And so he basically can walk and climb stairs with the aid of a walker.

Speaker A: And sometimes he can walk without this digital bridge activated.

Speaker A: So it obviously is the beginning stages, but a pretty extraordinary beginning stage of.

Speaker B: Wait without the digital bridge activated, which is that somehow its body has jumped past the broken nerve.

Speaker A: See, this is why people flock around.

Speaker A: David Plots you’ve exactly put your finger on the most important thing.

Speaker A: Yes.

Speaker A: Which is that by creating this digital bridge, they not only allowed him to walk, but then the body itself was like, oh, okay.


Speaker A: And then it started to build its own essentially new wiring when aided by this, which is the other big part of an important part of this thing, this development job, which I was about to leave out had you not asked about it.

Speaker A: So you’re exactly right.

Speaker A: Anyway, so there you go.

Speaker A: AI once they get in charge in touch with that, watch out.

Speaker B: Emily Bazlon.

Speaker B: What’s your chatter?

Speaker C: I am super taken with a story in the Washington Post by Charlotte Litton about this vast network of Mayan cities that has been discovered in northern Guatemala.

Speaker C: How wild is this?

Speaker C: I mean, it sort of makes sense, right?

Speaker C: The finding here with this amazing sounding technology is that if you look underneath the trees and all their roots, you can see this vast network of highways and roads and smaller communities that was connecting these Mayan pyramids.

Speaker C: And the part of it that makes sense to me is that when you see these amazing giant structures, when you’re looking at Mayan ruins, the idea that it just is in one place, like you just have Machu Picchu or you just have the Ladanta pyramid in Guatemala.

Speaker C: It never really made sense that that could just arise without having all the support of towns and roads and networks that we think of.

Speaker C: So it turned out they were all there.

Speaker C: They were just buried.

Speaker C: And this technology, which is called LiDAR, has an aerial transmitter that bounces millions of infrared laser pulses off the ground and makes 3D images of structures hidden by the jungle.

Speaker C: I was borrowing Charlotte’s line there.


Speaker C: So I just found this enrapturing, this idea that the Mayans had this vast network that we didn’t know about, a much more sophisticated developed civilization than we realized.

Speaker C: And that this part of northern Guatemala called Elmirador isn’t just the cradle of the Mayan civilization but there has all this proof of this complex society that was in place around 1000 BC.

Speaker C: A whole volume of human history that we’ve never known before.

Speaker B: My chatter is so mundane compared to your guys’chatter.

Speaker B: I was thinking, like, what am I actually thinking about this week?

Speaker B: What am I talking about?

Speaker B: And it’s this kind of tomato that I’ve been eating.

Speaker B: It’s called a twilight tomato.

Speaker B: Have you guys had this?

Speaker B: It’s a cherry tomato.

Speaker B: It’s an oval cherry tomato that I guess is made or grown by one company, which I’ve now forgotten the name of.

Speaker B: And it’s a dark red, almost black cherry tomato.

Speaker B: And it has a very thick skin, which sounds gross, that sounds unappealing, but actually it makes it incredibly satisfying to bite into because the explosion when you get through the skin is just incredible.

Speaker B: They’re so delicious.

Speaker B: The flavor is so intense.

Speaker B: I would strongly recommend, if you can shop, probably not at Safeway, but at any kind of gourmet slightly gourmet grocery store, get a Twilight Tomato.

Speaker B: Try it.

Speaker B: They come in little containers and they’re incredible.

Speaker A: Nature Suite.

Speaker A: Is that the brand you buy?

Speaker B: I think it is.


Speaker B: Nature Suite.

Speaker B: Yeah, I think that’s right.

Speaker B: I think that’s right.

Speaker B: Listeners, please keep sending your chatter to us.

Speaker B: Tweet them to us at at slategabfest.

Speaker B: But more usefully, email them to us at

Speaker B: Something that you’re interested in, some article, some work of culture, something you’ve eaten.

Speaker B: We love getting your listener Chatters.

Speaker B: And hilariously, we have another listener Chatter this week about monks.

Speaker B: We had one last week about monks.

Speaker B: We have another one this week about monks.

Speaker B: From Bob Rosner.

Speaker E: This is Bob Rosner from San Francisco.

Speaker E: My cocktail chatter this week is about a cocktail.

Speaker E: One of my favorites is A Last Word, a pre Prohibition cocktail comprised of equal parts gin, lime, marishino, and Green Chartreuse, a lovely herbaceous liqueur made by Carthusian monks.

Speaker E: It is an exquisite cocktail whose construct has more than 40 derivatives, including a paper plain, a bourbon cocktail that is another favorite.

Speaker E: I went shopping for Green Chartreuse last week, only to discover there is none to be had.

Speaker E: Upon investigation, it turns out to be a supply issue.

Speaker E: The monks have cut back on production as they have decided to focus more on their spirituality.

Speaker B: Sounds like, John, from the look on your face, that you think there’s no tragedy in the Green Chartruse not being made anymore.

Speaker A: I had a bad moment with Green Churchruse at a much younger age in which the availability to the full complement of spirits was not within my reach.

Speaker A: And so we reached for whatever was.


Speaker A: And Green Churchrus is not something that should be consumed, maybe at all, but in any quantity more than a little bit.

Speaker B: That is our show for today.

Speaker B: The gappas is produced by Shana Roth.

Speaker B: Our researcher is Julie Huggin.

Speaker B: Our theme music is by they Might Be Giants.

Speaker B: Ben Richmond, Senior Director for Podcast operations.

Speaker B: Alicia Montgomery, VP of Audio of Slate.

Speaker B: Please follow us on Twitter at at slate.

Speaker B: Gabfest, I guess.

Speaker B: Sure.

Speaker A: Fine.

Speaker B: Tweet chatter to us there or email it to us at

Speaker B: For Emily, Basilon and John Dickerson.

Speaker B: I’m David Plots.

Speaker B: Thanks for listening.

Speaker B: We will talk to you next week.

Speaker B: Hello.

Speaker B: Slate plus.

Speaker B: Let’s go visit the Garden of Evil together.

Speaker B: Graham Wood, an Atlantic writer, Atlantic contributor, has a very sympathetic profile of Harlan Crow, the weirdo billionaire benefactor to Clarence Thomas.

Speaker B: He went and visited Crow in Dallas and saw Crow’s incredible collection of statues, his Garden of Evil, the statues that Crow has, which also has non evil people in it, and talk to him about who he is and why he has had this relationship with Thomas and where their friendship came from.

Speaker B: And Emily, start us off.

Speaker B: What did you make of this remarkable profile?

Speaker C: So many weirdnesses here, right?

Speaker C: Okay, so let’s start with the part about Thomas.

Speaker C: I mean, Crow seems to be, or professes himself to be just shocked.

Speaker C: Shocked that anyone could imagine there was anything wrong with this friendship, that anything could besmirch Clarence Thomas’s reputation.


Speaker C: It’s all just completely innocent.

Speaker C: And Crow has lots of friends and treats them to lots of goodies and there’s nothing to see here.

Speaker C: So that just seemed obtuse to me.

Speaker C: I don’t know what other line he is supposed to take on it publicly, but I just couldn’t really buy it at all.

Speaker C: What did you guys think?

Speaker A: Wait.

Speaker A: Because if you’re obtuse, you’re obtuse, which means you don’t know that you’re supposed to be saying something else, that you hold these views that are perhaps you can’t read the room.

Speaker A: And perhaps your vast wealth has cocooned you from the way people might interpret you, particularly in today’s contemporary environment, with which you, as a real estate person, don’t have a lot of interaction, but you’re legitimately clueless, as opposed to a person who creates a false.

Speaker A: You know exactly what’s going on.

Speaker A: And this is the pose you take because it seems to be the one that’s going to extricate you from your predicament.

Speaker C: I mean, I’m not sure.

Speaker C: I kind of thought it was genuine that it was the Cocooned guy.

Speaker C: But it just seemed to me that at this point, having taken in all the criticism and seeing the impact it had, that you might also have some self awareness that there’s another view of this, which is that this is totally, wildly, inappropriate, as behavior for Clarence Thomas to be engaging in.

Speaker B: Let’s outline his explanation.

Speaker B: His explanation, crow’s explanation is that this is not wrong for him to be the friend to Clarence Thomas because he and Thomas are men of integrity.


Speaker B: He has never tried to influence Thomas.

Speaker B: His gifts were gifts.

Speaker B: There was no expectation.

Speaker B: They are not sitting around talking about law.

Speaker B: He’s not interested in law.

Speaker B: And that it is his admiration and friendship of Thomas that causes him to give.

Speaker B: And he is able to, without any real cost to himself, give Thomas these benefits.

Speaker B: And because they are men of integrity, which seems to be a real kind of earmark for him, a real important point for him.

Speaker B: There is nothing to be concerned about.

Speaker B: And that’s his claim.

Speaker B: His claim isn’t that there could never be anything to be concerned about with any relationship.

Speaker B: It’s that because these particular people are men of integrity, it’s all okay, I guess two things.

Speaker A: One, he draws a distinction between them and Donald Trump.

Speaker A: So that it’s.

Speaker A: Which is which raises an interesting question, because to defend Thomas, the integrity argument is a pretty good one in that grouping.

Speaker A: But in order to do that, you have to give weight to the ideas of integrity and character, which to defend Donald Trump, you had to basically cast aside as being useful and predictive and beneficial in any possible way.

Speaker A: So that’s just a larger kind of contradiction.

Speaker A: But I thought Graham also drew nicely the connection between that idea of integrity and Dallas, Texas, which is having grown up there was an interesting side view to it.

Speaker A: I don’t know whether he fully brought home, fully nailed that point for you guys, but I thought this idea of integrity and that norms exist because.


Speaker C: What.

Speaker A: Emerson would have called good men live by them even when nobody is looking.

Speaker A: I mean, that did used to be a pretty big deal in the country, and that seems to be what he’s leaning on.

Speaker A: And also, Emily, for the Supreme Court, isn’t that basically what the self governing nature of the Supreme Court relies on too?

Speaker A: The idea that these are people of integrity and that that’s why they don’t have or need the most strict rules the way you’d have, say, in Congress?

Speaker C: I mean, I guess that they might say that.

Speaker C: I mean, it’s really just like a bad accident of history that they don’t have any codes of conduct that apply to them.

Speaker A: Wait, when you say accident of history, but wasn’t the old history based on that idea that basically, why would you even need these things?

Speaker A: These are good public men of character?

Speaker C: I don’t know.

Speaker C: I’m not sure if that’s actually true or not.

Speaker C: I’ve never really seen anyone give that reason for not having the Code of Judicial conduct apply to the Supreme Court.

Speaker C: I’ve just heard a million times that there’s no one above them, so how do you ever enforce it and there’s no one to make them bind themselves to it.

Speaker C: But maybe underlying it, John, is that conception.

Speaker C: I think the fundamental disconnect here between that let’s just take that notion of integrity and not interrogate it for a minute.

Speaker C: In the context of being a judge, you have to care not just about your actual integrity, but the appearance of it.


Speaker C: And that’s the part that Crow seems to be just like Whiffing on here, that let’s imagine that their interactions are just as innocent as he is professing.

Speaker C: We have no way of knowing.

Speaker C: It still creates questions in people’s minds about what this judge is doing, about the influence he could be under about the idea that he could be trading in some way actual results in order to get his next flight and his next really nice vacation or trip to the Adirondacks.

Speaker C: And Crow’s refusal to reckon with any of that just seems obtuse to me.

Speaker B: I guess I did find it credible.

Speaker B: I mean, Graham, I suppose, found him credible and conveyed his Graham’s own credulousness to us.

Speaker B: And so I absorbed it.

Speaker B: I found Crow to be I thought he was being an honest broker of what he was trying to do, and that I believe him when he says he’s not trying to influence the Court.

Speaker B: And I believe, in fact, that there is no direct influence on what Thomas is ruling and how he’s ruling and where he’s ruling because of these gifts.

Speaker B: I do believe that Kirk Crow doesn’t really have business there.

Speaker B: That’s not, of course, the real issue.

Speaker B: The real issue is that Crow uses money to marinate Thomas in an environment where he’s surrounded by people who think in a certain way, who influence his worldview and he’s acculturated to it.

Speaker B: And by far the most important thing you can ever do to anyone is give them a social network whose approval and kindness people seek and desire.


Speaker B: And if you put someone in that network and you make it really easy to live in that network, and that network just reinforces these ideas around conservative values.

Speaker B: And where your dinner companion is Len Leo, or your dinner companion is some other person who has these conservative views, it just makes a certainty that your thinking will move in a certain direction.

Speaker B: And money is an easier way to do that than the way that liberals tend to do it, which is to put people at universities and surround them with professors at universities.

Speaker B: It’s easier to do it by putting someone on a yacht and surrounding them with delicious food and wine.

Speaker A: But still, the desire to surround people with applause, whether it’s at a fancy place or at a Schlubby club at Harvard, is the same.

Speaker A: I mean, liberal justices get their round of applause, for sure.

Speaker C: Absolutely.

Speaker B: Yeah.

Speaker B: But why is money corrupting?

Speaker B: I think the problem with money is that it is an accelerant.

Speaker B: It makes it much easier.

Speaker B: Like, if you offer someone a nice, great vacation, they’re more likely to take it than they are to go give a talk at Rutgers Law School on a Wednesday afternoon.

Speaker B: One is a lot more fun than the other.

Speaker A: Yeah, I think that was a really interesting point, David.

Speaker A: I think the thing slight disconnect is Crow is answering for himself and his own behavior.

Speaker A: Whereas what’s at issue, as you both put so nicely, is the larger needs of the institution in American life and the obligations of a justice, which Crow flicks at, but mostly is just kind of curious why his cocooned life has been which he admits is cocooned has been.


Speaker A: Kind of upset.

Speaker A: And one thing that struck me, though, is if you were animated by this idea of integrity, if you were stuffed full of integrity, don’t you do things like care about the institution’s appearance and kind of bend over backwards and do self negating things for the purpose of the larger institution?

Speaker A: Isn’t that one of the attributes of integrity and character, that you put ideals that are larger when no one is looking ahead of your own self interest and that that’s why you can be trusted?

Speaker A: Is that in?

Speaker A: And so therefore, what’s at issue here really is an issue of maybe it’s not immediate specific danger that can be identifiable.

Speaker A: But if you were to ask chat GPT to create you a character who is stuffed full of integrity, and then faced with the set of choices that Clarence Thomas was faced with in terms of disclosure, accepting gifts, et cetera, would the AI model come back with exactly the behavior that Thomas followed?

Speaker A: Or would it come back with somebody who filled out all the forms, declined to participate because of the appearance problem, and did other things?

Speaker A: I think that’s one of the most interesting thing that was raised by that article for me.

Speaker C: Can we also talk about the paintings of the N*** memorabilia?

Speaker C: I didn’t feel like the article shed much new light on all the weird statues of Lenin, but there’s this kind of remarkable thing where So Crow has these paintings by Hitler.

Speaker C: They seem to be hidden away.

Speaker C: He says in the article he’s not saying they’ll never see the light of day again, but for now, he understands he can’t show them.


Speaker C: But then he says something about how he says Churchill Roosevelt, Franklin Roosevelt, and Hitler were all painters and that it would be really interesting to exhibit their work together and think about what it meant that they were all painters.

Speaker C: I thought that was crazy.

Speaker C: I mean, I don’t know.

Speaker C: Maybe I just cannot get my mind around the idea of that exhibit and how off, like, so off it seems to me.

Speaker C: Am I wrong about that?

Speaker B: I don’t know.

Speaker B: Collectors are so weird.

Speaker B: This dude is a collector.

Speaker B: He collects people.

Speaker C: No, but talk about, like, humanizing Hitler.

Speaker C: Like, oh, let’s think of the influence on these watercolors and doing this work on Hitler, and let’s have him at the same level, in the same category as Churchill and FDR.

Speaker C: I just really stubbed my toe on that.

Speaker B: Is it that Hitler is this own special character?

Speaker B: If it were, like, the leader of Vichy, Franz, who is a painter, that would not be a problem.

Speaker B: Like, you could have him.

Speaker C: I think there’s just some moment in which when you group world leaders together and you have one fascist dictator and two people who are trying to stop the fascist dictator, and you’re talking about something as benign and supposedly cultured as paintings and watercolors, that that’s just like, off the charts bad and bizarre.

Speaker B: I mean, it’s so bizarre.

Speaker B: It’s so bizarre.

Speaker B: It’s so bizarre that I guess I find it it doesn’t belong in any category of thinking that I deal with any regular way, so I’m almost having a hard time understanding it.

Speaker B: It’s a unique problem, and it’s not even a problem because he’s not going to do it.

Speaker B: I don’t know.

Speaker B: John, do you have anything to say there?

Speaker A: No, I got nothing.

Speaker A: Although I think the Constitutional Convention kicked off today in 1787 in case anybody wanted to celebrate that with a powdered wig.

Speaker B: I mean, collectors are just weird people.

Speaker B: Like, people who collect things are weird.

Speaker C: Okay?

Speaker C: You’re just excusing all of it.

Speaker C: You’re just like, this is weird.

Speaker C: Oh, well, what do you think he’s.

Speaker A: Trying to I think he’s trying to I don’t know.

Speaker B: No, I’m just I’m just confused.

Speaker A: I mean, so what is that character of person here?

Speaker A: He’s clearly but clearly excessive wealth has had a pretty strong tradition of making people go out on the edges of various spectrums.

Speaker A: I mean, collectors or whether you’re collecting humans or Bobbles or whatever, it’s probably only Steve Jobs who got more aesthetic or appeared to anyway.

Speaker A: Maybe I’m totally wrong in my recollection of his life, but, I mean, he wouldn’t be the first person whose extreme wealth has set him apart.

Speaker B: Art, I feel suffocated by a python right now.

Speaker B: I don’t really know how to think about any of this.

Speaker B: Let’s end it.

Speaker B: Goodbye, slate plus.