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S2: Hello and welcome to the Slate Political Gabfest for March 12th, 2020. Flatten the Curve edition. I’m David Plotz. David Plotz of My Own House.
S3: I am joined in his own house by John DICKERSON of CBS 60 Minutes. Hello, John. Hello, David. I’m not technically in my own house. I should point out, I just no longer have employer. So I feel like I’m at my house. And also joining us from a studio in New Haven, Connecticut, on the campus of Yale, which is shut, though, is Emily Bazelon of The New York Times and Yale.
S4: Hey, David. Not shot entirely because here I am. But the students are coming back from spring break, at least not in the near future.
S5: I know. I’m so sad for our children who are Yale students who will lose the rest their semester. But you know what? It’s a time of sacrifice in a time of social distancing. On today’s gabfest, will America respond vigorously enough and quickly enough to the Corona virus pandemic and the enormous ripple effects that will be felt in the economy and how we live in everything then? Joe Biden, all that wraps up the Democratic nomination. What should he be doing between now and the general election or between now and the convention? And what should Bernie Sanders be doing? Then what can the Iran contra crisis teach us about the Donald Trump crisis? We’ll talk to Leon Neyfakh, who’s got a great new podcast about Iran Contra and its lessons for today. Plus, we’ll have a cocktail chatter. So the good news is listener Charlotte, plenty of time to catch up on your podcasts. The slow motion catastrophe of coronavirus. I don’t need to tell you you’re reading all the headlines. It inexorably approaches us as we’re taping on Thursday morning. It feels like we’re probably maybe a week away from a crisis of Italian proportions. That looks like the measures that United States has taken to keep the virus out and to contain it probably will not be sufficient to actually contain it. That will we will have severe outbreaks of the disease. And the there’s strong advice to all of us to keep social distancing, to avoid large gatherings, to stop holding large gatherings. We see the NBA has shut down its season. March Madness, the NCAA tournament will be held without fans. It’s an extraordinary moment. The stock market stopped trading again this morning after it fell seven percent on the opening bell in the wake of President Trump’s bizarre speech last night. On Wednesday night, there is little agreement between the parties about what the federal government should be doing. The Democrats have one vision. Republicans seem to have another. And the shutdown of major aspects of American life continues. Schools, colleges, everything is is narrowing down. And we are we are bunkering in. So, Emily, does it feel to you like as a nation, we’re prepared for the social change, for the public health change and for the economic consequences of what we’re about to face or what we are facing?
S4: No, I don’t think we’re fully prepared. I think it’s starting to dawn on people. And, you know, there are some challenges to the realization. One is the lack of unity you just described and particularly the fact that right wing media has been discussing the virus very differently from mainstream media, which is not helpful. And of course, President Trump’s making rather light of the virus, at least until his speech on Wednesday night. And I think even including that is also not helpful at all.
S6: I think also there’s just something really difficult about contemplating risk that increases by multiples before it has happened. Like I find myself, even though I’ve been reading quite a bit and I am taking this very seriously, I resist even what you just said, which was all true about the likely hood of things getting much worse and not because they understand that’s likely, but because I want to hold out for the possibility that it just won’t happen yet.
S4: And I don’t know, I wonder if there’s something about the human brain.
S6: Maybe it’s just my brain then that if you’re not someone who tends to consider long tail risk a lot, if that’s part of what we’re having trouble with.
S7: John, so there’s this phrase that we’ve all learned flatten the curve, which is to slow the rate of infection, to accept that the virus is here. Lots people are going to get it and they’re probably huge percentage of us are gonna get it over time. But that we want to slow the rate at which we get it to the health care system is not overwhelmed. And the best way to do that, according to the experts, is kinds of restrictive measures that limit our social interaction, limit time we’re spending together. And we’ve seen that that has worked enormously well in China, which through very draconian dictatorial methods has reduced its infection rate, seems to work pretty well in South Korea and we’re going to see whether it works. And in Italy and in Europe generally. But the United States is a very people are very protective of their liberty. They like together. They like mass events. They’re resistant to calls from government there. We’re not a government loving country in general. And we’re we’re tend not to be drawn together around things the government wants us to do. So there’s this tension between the need for social distancing and the way that Americans tend to live. Can that be reconciled or are we moving in that direction just because, you know, people are going to face the reality of it? But are they going to face it soon enough?
S8: Well, we have two problems. I think there’s a there’s what you talk about, which is our lack of cultural comfort with these issues. But then I think we face the first problem, which is that the message is not clear even. I mean, certainly, obviously from the president, it has been a failure of basically signature and single saying a president and that government should do, which is be clear about public information that’s in the public. Good. Secondly, you have some. I mean, even reading in the papers on Thursday morning, the question of one’s own personal health and then the health of the community. And it’s all getting mixed. So when you ask should you travel, should go on vacation, should go on spring break, for example. People are sorting it through the prism of, well, am I going to get sick? The other big part is, might I make other people sick? And therefore, somebody should come forward and say, hey, maybe we shouldn’t you shouldn’t travel unless it’s absolutely vital. So far, businesses have made decisions saying only, you know, vital travel that’s been about the health of their employees, not necessarily on this other larger public good front. So getting a clear message integrated if official and and some who are not government officials have come out and said this would be great if somebody said, you know what, you should just stay put unless it’s an absolute emergency. Then we get to your question, which is will anybody listen? And that’s one of the big questions of our times. Go back to what Emily’s saying. Ah, do we take action in the short term? That’s painful. That has had a long term benefit, and that’s true. But rhinovirus, climate change and basically anything else that’s a public good that requires some shared sacrifice.
S9: There a really great piece that Robert Wright wrote probably more than 20 years ago, which was that it was in the early ages, early times of the partisan divide that is now so deep in this country, which was about how what we really need is an alien invasion to unite us. That the best thing that that we could have that would bring Americans together and even bring the world together is some form of alien invasion. We’ve got the alien invasion. We’ve got it. We have a we have a thing that’s happening to us. It’s it is a it’s a small virus that is against all of us if humanity and that we’re all in it together.
S10: And it’s not really. I mean, President Trump did this thing where he banned travel from Europe as though Europe is Europe is the enemy of Europe isn’t the enemy. The enemy is. It is a virus which is spreading and is already. Right to this country and banning travel from Europe makes, you know, doesn’t change it. And there was I feel like there was not to speak of this this crisis in political terms because it’s it’s not a political crisis, but there’s a political element which is there. Had President Trump seen this as a moment to marshal the country together, to to bring us together around it, to sort of say this is a this is a crisis we all face together, we’re going to tackle it together, we’re gonna beat it together. And because we’re Americans or because you know where the world is gonna world is going to unite. We have this power of technology, the power of community, the power of all these ways that we can we can work together to defeat this.
S7: I think it would have been it would have been the right way. It would’ve been the right thing to do. And B, John’s holding his hand up. I don’t know why you’re holding your hand up, but it would be the right thing to do and it would have been politically great for him to end his any because he has such a narrow, selfish, narcissistic, stupid mind. He completely missed this opportunity. And now we’re we’re in a much worse condition than we would’ve been.
S11: I was just holding out my hand to signify to you on our little video chat here that I wanted to just briefly jump on that, which is that this is why we hire presidents. This is the moment. This is the challenge. You know, presidents are defined by how they do, but also the times in which they live. And this is a moment. And and as you pointed out, David, it’s a chance for greatness for some public official. They have not seized it.
S4: Can I just say a moment from Trump’s speech on Wednesday night that was troubling me the most. So he talked about he compared yet again coronavirus to the flu. Not helpful because the flu is endemic. And this is a pandemic. And that means that we don’t know what will happen. That there’s this unpredictable, possibly disastrous scenario.
S12: And then he said this is only really a big risk for old people. Young people have more to fear from the flu. And never did he say the responsibility of young people, of middle age people right now is to protect all the people who are at risk. We need to stay home and be really careful so that we don’t accidentally transmit this virus to people who really could die from it.
S4: That’s our job right now. And nothing about that came from him. And as I was watching, I was texting with a friend who doesn’t she’s not like a big newsperson. And she was saying to me, like, should I be worried? And I was trying to say to her what I just articulated and realizing that Trump was giving none of this information. And then I watched HANNITY afterwards and it just continued in the same vein. And it’s just such a missed opportunity. I mean, only the latest whiff. And at this point, you know, we’re weeks past where we should have been, but it was really striking.
S7: So, John, there is this we have a we have a public health crisis. We have a social behavior crisis, and then we have what is going to be an absolutely catastrophic economic crisis that we’re only beginning to get a sense of. As Jason Furman, former top adviser to President Obama, now professor at Harvard, was tweeting about today. This is also very different than the financial crisis and the financial crisis. There were a huge number of people who were very badly affected, but most people kept on spending. They kept on having jobs. They kept on moving forward. This is a moment where basically everybody has shut down their economic activity. It’s not simply the people who’ve been hit by the financial crisis. It’s everyone except for by panic buying, you know, dried beans. Economic activity has frozen to a halt. And what do you think the the what are the tools that the government has and what are the ways in which psychically the country can can rev itself back up from this? And can we do it? I think we can. I mean, just to answer my quote one question before I throw it to you, the. Until we have a sense, a more certain sense of what the path of this this pandemic is going to be and what the outlines of it are going to be, I don’t think we can expect people to return to any kind of normal economic activity.
S13: Well, right. And I mean, I think the the hope is.
S11: But unlike the financial. The Great Recession of 0 7 0 9, what happened was 7 0 9. Is that confidence dropped about the systemic stability of the financial markets.
S14: And so everybody became risk averse, which not only crippled finance, but also crippled lending that was necessary for the basic business of operations, because small businesses that take loans to meet payroll, knowing that they were going to have economic activity that will then pay off those loans that was crippled.
S8: The housing market was crippled. There was there were there were structural problems within the economy. In this case, as at the moment, we’re talking about a severe stop in economic activity. But once this sorts itself, however, that may end up happening, whether they find anti-virals that work at some period of time or the social distancing works. And this burns itself out. We’re in it with a combination perhaps of warmer weather, which helps with that, which won’t get rid of it, but might help reduce the number of cases the economy, then pick back up again. There will be nervousness. People will be risk averse, but it won’t be the structural functioning of the economy that is that is hurt the way it was the previous financial crisis.
S14: So I think that’s the best the best outcome in terms of short term. You know, the president apparently has been yelling at the Fed to try to lower rates more. I’m not sure how much that does other than help him with a news cycle and help look like he’s taking action. And maybe that has some effect on the market, although I don’t I don’t think so. He’s talked about a payroll tax holiday. There are other things that certainly private industry could do. One of the things that was extraordinary about the president’s speech is that he claimed that the insurance companies were going to help those who were affected with coronavirus and in their co-pays and didn’t treatment for the Corona virus, which turned out not to be true. So it was one of three errors in his pre-written teleprompter speech from the Oval Office, which is which is an amazing thing. But private industry could do some things to take the economic bite. Mark Cuban is apparently trying to do something for the hourly workers, since the NBA is not playing, at least those with respect to the Mavericks might get some relief. So private industry could do something, but it’s all patchwork, you know, until we get clear of this. The economy is going to take a major hit.
S7: So, Emily, there is this, I think, almost sick contradiction between what the moment calls for and what we’ve seen from the Trump administration around public policy. So we saw, of course, in there the president eliminated the pandemic team and the National Security Council. The White House even today is calling for a billion dollar in cuts to the CDC. You have some other examples of policies that the administration is pursuing that will be devastating for the people who are most likely to be most affected by the corona crisis. Looks like Democrats in the House have there have some set of measures around unemployment insurance, around sick leave and relief for people who are most likely to to be affected by Corona. Not clear that the president, Republicans will go for it. How should this resolve itself?
S4: Well, I mean, the Democrats are talking about trying to help vulnerable people with Yaffe paid sick leave, increased access to unemployment insurance, food assistance, and then the kinds of loans to small businesses that John was talking about. So that is both getting money and benefits into the hands of people who need them and also stimulating the economy, because those are people who are likely to spend that money quickly. That seems to make a lot of sense. On Wednesday, the agricultural secretary for the Trump administration, Sonny Perdue, said they were going ahead with new restrictions to food stamps that are going that are expected to kick off 700000 people from the rolls for SNAP for food assistance on April 1st. And I just that piece of heartlessness and it’s just it so flies in the face of common sense because it’s the opposite of everything. I was just talking about like even in this moment for this administration, I find that unbelievable. And I deeply hope that they reverse that move and that the kind of legislation that would provide the sort of quick assistance to people are going to need it go through.
S9: Emily, just sorry, this is a different point. And this is, I guess, what you were getting at earlier. When it comes to a disease like this, we’re all in it together. Really, you cannot you cannot separate yourself from all the other people who are affected and people who are affected and who are poor and are unhealthy. Or, you know what? They they may come clean your house if you’re a rich person, they may be on the street and. Passing by. And, you know, they may be near your your elderly parents and affect affect them and pass this disease on. The only way we beat this is if we treat ourselves as a single as a single entity where we all are responsible for each other. And that is a much more of a world. It’s a view that’s much more associated with liberals and Democrats than does with the probably concerned conservatives who have a kind of individual, a much more individualistic approach to the world and a sense of personal responsibility. But personal responsibility only gets you so far against something that is invisible and incredibly good at spreading.
S7: And it’s it is a it’s a worldview crisis that is one that. That is, I think, really affecting us. I actually think this is a I think much more than it is like a policy crisis. It’s a sense about what how you approach problems in the world. And that’s a that that’s hard to overcome.
S8: It’s a problem also or it’s a crisis. Also, with the way you approach what this job is, because when. Because this is what emergencies happen. It’s like any of us in our lives. We are supposed to save a little money or put things in place when we have people to protect ourselves or our children that allow for emergencies because emergencies happen in life. And, you know, there should be space in the way you behave yourself as a politician for when the emergency comes and all that space. And that space is created by public trust. It’s created by putting politics aside now and again to show at least that you can do it at its end. That way you spend your money, too, is so that you have a budget. That’s an order that can handle some of these shocks, none of which has been the case. Some other things that could be taken care of, by the way, in the short term, David, which wouldn’t help the economy, but would at least mitigate some of the troubles here, would be making testing free for everybody, paid emergency medical leave, extending unemployment insurance, food assistance, and then also help for all the health care workers who are making decisions right now that their own families while trying to take care of sick people. You know, there should be something that gives them some relief or sense of relief that they can keep doing their jobs without the catastrophic effects it might have on their own personal lives.
S6: Yeah. I mean, just to pick up, you know, obviously we’ve talked before about the failures by the government with regards to testing. But the idea this week that Bill Gates and I think MasterCard are stepping forward to provide home testing kits in the Seattle area. That is the government’s job.
S4: Like we can’t keep having this kind of weird Band-Aids from billionaires and their foundations as our way of addressing these deep social needs. And if this was ever a moment for the progressive vision of a government that functions and that makes people’s lives better. This is it.
S9: Emily, I want to close the segment with a little swing into Italy. It’s always nice to go visit Italy, but not now. There’s been really jarring and unsettling reporting coming out of Italy where because of a shortage of ICU units and because of a quick spread of the virus in Italy, the hospital systems are overwhelmed. They are just simply not enough ventilators, not enough oxygen, not enough beds to take care of all the people who need to be taken care of in northern Italy right now. And so doctors are making kind of like a wartime decisions. They’re making the decisions that that if you’re you’re on a battlefield, the Battle of the bulge in 1945 and and you only have this much morphine, you’ve got to make this decision who’s who lives and who dies.
S15: And and it’s, you know, these Italian doctors who seemed to have handled it with enormous grace and integrity. But it may be the kind of thing that the United States has to face. What what lessons can we draw from the experience there of rationing and of making decisions which caused people to die?
S4: It’s really harrowing to imagine. And it all comes back to what you said earlier about flattening the curve of the epidemic. If we can make it, we can spread out the rate of transmission and the rate of people’s medical needs. Then it’s much more likely that our health care system will have the capacity to treat everyone. What’s happening in Italy right now is just an acute moment of a spike in which the system is overwhelmed. And, you know, the United States, with its incredibly porous failures of health insurance and its division between rich and poor in terms of the kind of care we provide. Seems to me like it could be very vulnerable to what Italy is experiencing right now. And we just have to do everything we can in the next period of time to avoid that. And it’s about prevention.
S13: And this goes back to David’s original point, which is that in conversations that we’ve had with family members and in what you see online, people say, well, this isn’t as bad as the flu and wasn’t as bad as H1N1. And there’s all this other madness.
S8: And this is where a moment exists for the president or the vice president or somebody to come out and say those comparisons are unhelpful. What we’re talking about here is trying to stop this catastrophe that would happen if the health system got overloaded. And that’s the focus. And that’s why we would like you to behave in this way, because if that catastrophe happens, we’re already experienced something that pre-planning would have mitigated and made less bad. We are in the throes of learning about how if you plan beforehand, it doesn’t go as poorly as it’s going. Right. Now, let’s try to avoid an even more catastrophic version of that exact same calamity that we are going through right now. Let’s try to avoid that by doing the right thing now, even though we didn’t do the right thing in the previous stage of this and the fact that nobody is able to come and get on a high enough scale top to make that case is really it’s a signature failure of leadership.
S14: I don’t know how you can take it, but otherwise.
S15: Slate Plus members, you get bonus segments on the gab fest, another Slate podcast and you can go to Slate dot com such gaffes. Plus to become a member today, we’ll get you extra podcast listening, which maybe if you’re if you’re preoccupied, you need some extra podcast with meantime. So today we are going to continue the theme. And on our Slate Plus segment, we’re to talk about things to do when you’re being socially distant. What are ways that you can make this a more pleasant time for you and those around you and the society you live in when you’re being socially distant? So go to slate.com slash gabfests plus. You know, there is a campaign going on here is a campaign. I kind of forgot. But Joe Biden won big on Tuesday night in Democratic primaries. He took Mississippi, Missouri and especially Michigan. Michigan was the biggest prize of the evening. And it’s a state that Bernie Sanders had won in 2016. Sanders won North Dakota, right, John? And I think Washington, he probably will win Washington, although it is that I’m not sure that’s been called. But it is pretty clear that barring some catastrophic failure of his campaign in the coming months, Biden will win the Democratic nomination. Sanders will not and there will not be a contested convention. There’s not going to be even much of a fight since Sanders yesterday on Wednesday essentially said we’re not really. This is not really going to be a fight. You know, I’m going to question Joe Biden on the issues. But Sanders made it clear this isn’t going to be a brutal campaign of the sort that there was in 2016. So, Emily, why why has Biden been able to wrap this up so quickly? Does Corona have anything to do with it? Does it have to do with the clearing of the field? Does it have to do with simply suburban and more moderate voters being like, hey, we need to we need to lock this down and beat Trump?
S6: You know, I mean, the dominoes start to fall before Carano got going.
S4: And I’m thinking now of, you know, South Carolina and the decisions that Amy Klobuchar and people to judge made to get behind Biden, followed by other folks in the field. I do think the virus is helping Joe Biden. I think it’s a sobering moment in which people want stability, and he represents that. I also really liked Bernie Sanders speech on Wednesday. I liked the questions that he said he was kind to put to Biden in their debate, which I think is still on for Sunday. And I think it’s good for Biden to be challenged from the progressive side. I am on the the side of the commentators have been arguing that Sanders candidacy and Elizabeth Warren’s candidacy has been a victory for progressives in terms of pulling the party in their direction and pulling Biden that way.
S6: And I think he’s kind of a malleable sort of Democrat, for better or worse, that he’s going to want to stand where the center of the party is. So if the party moves to the left, you know, as it has on health care issues, for example, which are so much in the spotlight right now, I think he’ll go for that. But I also think that there is going to need to be a lot of holding him accountable, because there are also plenty of things in his record that suggest that he’s willing to accommodate corporate interests, that, you know, he holds on to this faith in bipartisan cooperation, which there is so little evidence for. So I kind of see this as like a healthy dynamic of Sanders trying to push Biden, but also not have like a burn everything to the ground phase of the campaign.
S9: John, do you think it is going to be a challenge for Biden to pull those Sanders voters back into the fold? Do you think that they they will be disillusioned in the way a lot of them may have been in 2016, or do you think that that it’s a lower temperature environment? Biden is not as repellent a candidate to them as Hillary Clinton might have been. They now have had the Trump experience and the ones who are really, you know, the ones who adult who would have been gettable are now going to be very easily gettable. Or do you think he’s going to have hard time?
S14: Well, I think it’s a combination of things. I think all those things you mentioned are are right. I think that there are not as many negative feelings about Joe Biden as there were about Hillary Clinton. I think one of the things that will be interesting to see as we go through and look at the data and and sort through people’s thinking and look at 2016 and think through how things might have changed, is that some portion of the Sanders movement in 2016 may have been negative partisanship about Hillary Clinton, not negative partisanship, but just negative feelings about Hillary Clinton that aren’t as manifest with Joe Biden. Also Bernie Sanders. Apparently the relationship between them is better than it was with Hillary Clinton. Biden This has in previous, before they became a two man race, had treated him with a little more respect, or at least that sort of kindness that Biden is hoping will work to reanimate bipartisan cooperation in Washington. I think younger voters who are so overwhelmingly in support of Bernie Sanders, I mean, the exit polls are are profound. And it’s one of the disconnects when people talk about Biden bringing back together the Obama coalition. He obviously doesn’t have younger voters on Tuesday by Sanders won that between age 18 and 29 by fifty seven points. Now, the upside for Biden is that those younger voters are not turning out. And I’ll have the assault stream for candidates for a long time so they don’t have to punch in the electorate that some other groups have. So that and in the end, you have Donald Trump that you’re running against.
S8: The question to me is if you are a Sanders believer and a supporter of his ideas, one of the best ways to get promises from Joe Biden, if you think he’s on his way to the nomination and to get promises from the party is by making yourself seem like a threat. Biden might make some concessions to the more liberal part of the party, but he won’t make them strongly enough unless he really thinks there’s a threat. So you kind of have to amp up the danger to get what you want. Now, on the other hand, when you amp up the danger, you get these fights inside the party that can be quite bloody and irrevocable because people believe all the stuff they are fighting for and don’t want capitulation. So that’ll be a difficult thing to navigate in the coming days.
S5: Sorry I lost the thread there because your dog John delightfully jumped on the couch behind you and it’s such a cute way.
S16: Oh ho, George. Emily, you missed it. I know. I’m sad.
S8: Yeah. He’s now looking at me like I’m bonkers, by the way. Can we just say that it seems to me. Back to your question, Emily. When you look at the exit polls again this week, which are identical to the ones after Super Tuesday and are matched by the polling that’s been done in the interregnum that that Biden wins among those who prefer a candidate who can beat Donald Trump, he won by thirty two points on this last Tuesday. California was a notable exception to that. Sanders won among voters who wanted to beat Donald Trump, which represents that that split between. Do you know how you beat Trump?
S14: But in the in the match, the majority of the instances and seemingly in the bulk of the party, Biden has been able to convince them on this key question of who can beat Donald Trump, that he is the one who can do it right.
S5: And I think there’s that other data from the not from the polls, but from the actual voting that in Michigan, North Carolina and Virginia, which are three swing states, Virginia, maybe less so, but three states would have been great for a Democrat to win if they want the presidency. Biden really turned out suburban voters who pushed up turnout in those states. And that’s a great sign.
S6: If you are a Democrat looking to November, I wanted to say something about the youth vote, which as usual, as you said, John, didn’t show up, which is that if you look at voter participation rates going back 50 years, they’re remarkably consistent over time among different age groups. That is to say, the oldest people come out with the highest turnout, the youngest people with the lowest turnout. And so, yeah, we can maybe blame Bernie Sanders for this mobilization. That didn’t happen. But I feel like the much more logical lesson is that if we really want to change this, we have to do something structurally. When young people are asked why didn’t you vote, the top two reasons they give is that they were out of town or they had registration problems. And I actually think those two things are connected because sometimes being out of town means like you don’t live in the place where you’re registered to vote or where your car is registered or you clearly have what is called your domicile, like the place where you’re supposed to think you’re supposed to vote. We kind of put up with this low rate of voting across the country without thinking about measures that could really address that. And that is part of the frustration here.
S5: One of the things that Biden I think, faces going towards the general is it seems to me that given what’s happening with coronavirus and with the economy, there’s going to be a real and with Trump’s own erratic and unreliable and mendacious behavior, there’s gonna be a real desire for a safe pair of hands. Let’s just get something back to some kind of normalcy. And I think Biden clearly represents that. We can represent that. There’s also, though, the the Joe Untrammeled that we’ve seen, the Joe Biden, you know, taken it to that, taking it to that person who’s challenging him on gun, the Joe Biden kherson and being a little bit feisty and peppery.
S7: Does he need to pick, pick, pick one of those, Emily, or can he be be both?
S6: Oh, I think he can be both. I like the lesson of the moment is like both. I think right now being sober and professional and steady hands is super important.
S4: So I think it was smart of Biden’s team to release a list of very prominent health care folks who he would put in charge of a corona virus pandemic to demonstrate that he’s thinking about those issues and what it would take. I also think it would be really smart for Biden and Sanders to come out in favor of free testing for everybody, making sure that the government covers the cost of treatment that, you know, false statement or weird elision in Trump’s speech on Wednesday night about how the cost of that is going to fall. I mean. This is the moment for Democrats to make their pitch that health care should be more protected and we could start with a kind of beachhead where the government helps people with the medical costs that are going to be associated with this pandemic.
S13: On Thursday, Joe Biden is supposed to give a.
S11: Speech addressing this pandemic and picking up on what you said, Emily. It is the opportunity for him to basically. Show what a presidential response looks like, it’s about scope the problem. Here’s the issue.
S14: Two boats show that he has a list of people sitting there in the wings ready to go, which is true of his presidency as well. We elect presidents, but what we’re really electing is an organization. And he has the resume ace and knows who the people are. And turns out Ron Klain, an advisor to his campaign and former chief of staff when he was vice president, is the guy who ran the Ebola response. And that’s one of the things that when we think of talk about his kind of stability and return to normalcy. What we’re really talking about here is a bench of people. There’s good and bad sides to this. But the good side is, you know, they know they know where the bathroom is down the hallway. The downside is, as Elizabeth Warren and others have argued quite effectively, when you hire people who have ties, say, to Wall Street, as many of those people do, they have certain habits of mind and instincts that tend to be pro finance and that their solutions then are in a narrow range and that that exacerbates the existing income inequality and so forth, which is a separate debate. And there is merit to it. But in a moment of crisis, you want people who know how to kind of all grow in the same direction to keep the metaphor course piling up.
S8: And the third thing you can do, in addition to scoping the problem, showing he knows the people who can handle it is then because this is what politicians used to have to do when they used to have to make a pitch that that appeal to the whole country when there were swing voters in life and you weren’t just pitching to your team is they had to kind of be in touch with the transcendental American ideas that knit people together. And they did it for their self-interest in politics. But it also had this benefit for governing. It goes back to what David was saying, which is, hey, we’re all in this together. And when you make it all in it together, pitch about the future, about where you’re going to get to and how it’s gonna be okay. You give people faith and security in the moment, which they want for their heart, but they also need to be able to do the shared sacrifice, things that get you to the future and the promised land, which was not in evidence. And what the president did in his speech, but which Biden has in his bones, because you’ve been doing this forever. He saw Obama do it and has that opportunity to do on Thursday.
S15: How should Biden campaign literally physically, how should he campaign in the coming weeks, a month? Should he and Sanders actually call a moratorium on on in-person campaigning? Yes, they should.
S17: Yeah, no large gatherings.
S4: They shouldn’t be having campaign events until this is calm down and they shouldn’t be touching anybody. They shouldn’t be holding hands. They should be here shaking hands. They should be modeling all of the behavior that we all should start doing.
S8: If if I were Joe Biden, I would say we’re not going to campaign because this is part of taking this seriously. And one of the things you have to do to take it seriously is worry about community spread. He could say that would say Bernie Sanders has raised some important questions that are important to a large number of people in this party. And when the time comes and we can get past this moment, it’s important that I give you those answers and that the senator and I get to discuss them nabob up, up, up, up, so that he shows that he cares about what Sanders is talking about, but he delays having to answer it until after, you know, a long time has passed, only solidifying his frontrunner status. And then, you know, goes on to the convention, but shows in being kind of an adult about all of this that he well, is the adult.
S6: I like it. But he can, John. I mean, they can still do the debate to an empty audience. He can still take interviews. I’m not I’m not imagining that he would just, like, disappear or stop being held accountable, just that the public nature of the events change.
S13: Yeah. Well, that’s fine, too. Yeah, you can do. Keep it. Stay. Do the debate and for it. And then just take that riff about listening to the important questions Senator Sanders have but basically turn into a general election candidate.
S5: Leon Neyfakh created this slow burn podcast for Slate a couple of years ago. Now a TV show, by the way. And then he took his talents to South Beach and to luminary where he hosts Fiasco, which is like his former show, Slow Bernie, a visit to a critical, important, huge moment in American history, a revisit to it and return to it and a- a- exploration of the characters that populated it and the way it still echoes are still shadows our world today. So at slow burn, of course, he did Watergate and then the Clinton sex scandal and then at the ASCO with luminary he’s done Bush v. Gore and now fiasco. Season 2, Iran-Contra. So, Leon, welcome to the gab fest. Why do Iran-Contra. What is it about that scandal that tells us something about the world today?
S18: Well, the honest answer is there was just the one we hadn’t done. It’s like the other big one, 20, that, you know, presidential scandal, the 20th century. What has happened a couple of times now with these with these shows is once we start making them events around us develop and we find there are residencies to the president that we didn’t expect or appreciate when we started. And so with with Iran-Contra, you know, the Ukraine story, which sort of came out of nowhere and became kind of like this, this capper on the Russia investigation that no one could have predicted ended up, I think, introducing, you know, various parallels to Iran-Contra that we obviously weren’t aware of when we when we when we started working on it.
S19: So one thing that strikes me listening, Leon, and I’m really enjoying it and digging into it is the portrayal of Ronald Reagan and the differences between Reagan and Trump. And yet there’s still resonance. Right. So I’m thinking of the part of the show where you say that because Reagan was in some ways such a bleeding heart president, the people around him were worried about his preoccupation with the hostages in Iran and trying to get him not to focus on that because they felt like it was distorting American policy and might lead him to break America’s promise, never to negotiate with people who take hostages. There’s just a way in which Reagan’s particular persona is driving his political appointees and in some ways, the bureaucracy. And I wonder if that resonances, if you’ve been thinking about that.
S20: Yeah. I think the line that I remember Jane Mayer saying she wrote a great book about Iran-Contra called Landslide. We interviewed her for the show. And she she she made this comment that Reagan wanted solutions, not problem, not problems or even options in this area. Like he was sort of content to communicate his top line priorities to his aides and advisers and then was sort of very easygoing when it came to approving their proposed solutions. What you see with Reagan later on, once the scandal breaks, is he gets in front of the country and in various forums, initially just press conferences and public appearances and later on the stand when he’s testifying at his former national security advisers trial. And he seems to just really fuzzy on the details. I think initially people read that as like obfuscation. But then it becomes clear that he wasn’t just read in that that that precisely to get to the particulars of of the plans that were set in motion by his. Again, like these sort of top line priorities like fighting communism in the Western Hemisphere, getting the hostages back. And so he becomes this semlor absentee president. Right. Where he’d, like his aides, are really the ones doing the work and making the decisions. And he can say at the end, like, I just don’t remember that. You know, exactly who said what and when I learned this or that. And I I just know what I remember.
S21: And that’s not that much. The interesting thing about Reagan is that at his best. And I remember having people in the Obama administration talking about President Obama, and they would say, you know, on any given issue, he might be in any given place. And it’s all very considered and thoughtful. And but that’s a lotta there’s a lot of activity that goes on to figure out where he is with Reagan.
S22: You kind of knew what he wanted to do. He had his big focus and he had these big, blunt kind of views. And that gave everybody their marching orders. And they can operate without the president having to be involved in every single thing. And so that’s where it works at its best, because a president can’t be involved in everything. Where it works at its worst, it seems to me, is. And I think the terror commission said this is that easy in Iran Contra. So was it that what broke down? Was it that they they went beyond their brief, the whether it’s North or Poindexter or whoever they went beyond what Reagan would ever have approved of or was Reagan because he was kind of slipping at that or slipping further in the later in his second term? You know, did he. Is it more centered on Reagan himself?
S20: One of the main players in the story, John Poindexter, he testified in front of Congress about specifically the diversion of funds from the weapons sales to Iran into the contra war. Basically, like they they were generating all these profits by selling these weapons. It was money they weren’t really supposed to have. And so they’ve spent it on something they weren’t supposed to spend money on, which was this war in Nicaragua. And the big question that became sort of the central focus of the congressional hearings was did Ronald Reagan know that this diversion of profits was happening? And John Poindexter, his national security adviser, had approved the diversion when Oliver North, this lieutenant colonel who worked on the National Security Council staff, came up with the idea because he had Oliver North was of running both up. Relations or was very intimately involved of both. And he brought the idea of the diversion to John Poindexter and Point Extra approved it and said that. That sounds great. Let’s do it. Poindexter’s testimony was that he never advised Reagan that this diversion was happening, that he never brought it to him and that he did so in order to give the president deniability, because he knew the controversial he knew the Democrats would would attack the administration over it. But he thought it was legal. He thought it was right. And your question, sorry to be long winded. He was confident that the president would have approved it if he had if he had known about it. You know, he says there’s no question my mind that Reagan would’ve been enthusiastic about it. And I think you hear an echo of that in a lot of the other testimonies, including from Oliver North, who says, I never did anything. I thought my superiors didn’t want me to like everything I did. I did because I was fulfilling my my marching orders.
S23: David Plotz Little historical tidbit here. I was called for the Poindexter jury, so I was in I was in college now and and I almost took a semester off because I was like, maybe I’ll just go take a semester off and go be in that pool. Oh, my God. And then I was like, Hey, you know what? It’s not gonna happen. MESERVE Did you get to the point where they, like, asked you questions about your view?
S24: No, no, I did. I did. I did a begged off of it, but which is a shame.
S10: So, Leon, one of your great gifts is finding these peripheral characters who may not even have been peripheral at the time, but who, because of history, we’ve forgotten so memorably. You began your first season of Slow Burn with Martha Mitchell, the wife of of the attorney general, Attorney General John Mitchell. And I’m wondering, in the course of your Iran-Contra peregrinations, who is a favorite character you came across who may have been well-known at the time, but who who we’ve forgotten or we’ve forgotten the true richness of their life?
S25: Yeah. One preface to this answer is that with Iran-Contra, there’s not that many famous capital f famous people. You know, there are people who are at the center of it, like John Poindexter, Oliver North. But McFarlane, who is who is also a national security visor under Reagan. These were famous people and they are still with certain circles. But like we can’t assume a whole lot of knowledge on the part of our listeners. And so we had to wait. We wanted to do the very thing you’re describing, which is like find people who are off to the sides.
S20: But we realized that like we can present Bud McFarlane almost in the same way, like he he. But McFarlane can be described as the person who brought the idea of the Iran weapons sales to Reagan, came to really hate the initiative. He came to think that it was a very risky deal. He didn’t want to be trading arms for hostages. And he he he left the administration thinking that perhaps he had conveyed this forcefully enough to the president that the initiative would stop, but it didn’t. And he sort of knew that it wouldn’t. You know, in his heart, he knew that Reagan was too sort of obsessed with the hostages to let it go. And we interviewed him for a long time. And he was very emotional about about what he perceives as sort of his you know, his life’s great failure was not sticking around at Reagan’s side and making sure that this initiative with Iran stopped. I said I felt like I’m sitting across from someone who is reckoning with his legacy. But, you know, I think a lot of people would laugh if I if they said, oh, but McFarlane, the peripheral character in Iran-Contra, that’s obviously not not not accurate. But to the extent that like he’ll be new to a lot of our listeners, he he does sort of check that box.
S6: I loved the tape with mcfarlin because he’s being so thoughtful and willing to implicate himself. It really was powerful. I haven’t listened to this part of the show yet, but I wonder how you think about presidential pardons having, you know, I’m sure covered this Sillitoe later that part of the show Emily because we haven’t finished that part of the show.
S16: OK. But you do it again today. I actually think that we’re almost done with it. Right.
S6: It’s especially interesting to me because Bill Barr was the attorney general for George H.W. Bush and supported the idea of pardons for a defense secretary, Caspar Weinberger. And I think like five or six other people. So I just wonder, having dug into this yourself in your reporting and research, what you’ve what you found, what you think the implications are for pardons right now.
S20: It’s an amazing story. I didn’t really. And I as well as with this entire Iran-Contra saga, I didn’t know the particulars before we started working on it. But like the. So Caspar Weinberger had not yet been tried when he was pardoned. His trial was coming up in like in a matter of days on charges brought by the independent counsel, Lawrence Walsh, who’d been working on it for years at that point. Caspar Weinberger was was accused of concealing his notes from from the independent counsel and from other investigators. He repeatedly said that he did not keep diaries. He repeatedly said he did not take contemporaneous notes on meetings. It turned out that he did and was meticulous about it. And Weinberger’s distinction was that he had opposed the Iran arms sales very strenuously and forcefully and in meetings. But he still got caught up in the in the investigation. Because of what Walsh described as like his his efforts to to cover it all up. And so the pardon. It stopped the trial from happening. And there is, I think, a feeling among some of the prosecutors that the reason Bush was motivated, George W. Bush was motivated to pardon him was that he didn’t want to have that trial happen. He didn’t want to testify at that trial. George W. Bush had his own problems with concealing documents. He had also kept a diary that he didn’t hand over to the investigators in response to their documents.
S19: So this was the head of the CIA. Is that the relevance?
S25: Was no show. He was V.P., but he was in all these meetings. He was in all these meetings, not all of them, but a lot of them, at least five. And he wrote about them. And, you know, he wrote about them in his diary. In retrospect, he was. You started keeping the diary the day the Iran weapons sale story broke, which can tell if it’s a coincidence or not. But but that’s how it happened. And but yet he just he he documented a lot of the meetings that took place after that scandal was out in the open. And so those were definitely relevant notes. And he just didn’t hand them over to the prosecutor. And so there was a question after the pardons came down on Christmas and in 92 that Walsh might go after Bush himself on criminal charges for the same reasons he went had gone after Weinberger, but he didn’t ultimately. But it was it was a very, very dramatic sequence of events. And I think a lot of prosecutors interpret the pardons as being quite self-interested on Bush’s part because he went on to testify and he did want his diary to become a matter of, you know, cross-examination.
S21: And I think and Bush famously said he was out of the loop right on some of this when he he clearly wasn’t. And John Meacham’s book, basically, Bush basically comes closer to admitting that he was not straight with people about what he knew and particularly what he knew about what Reagan knew about the diversion of funds. You don’t put it. How much is this scandal encased in time? I mean, so like the Contras, there are lots of people for whom a president obsessed with the Contras would seem very strange and remote. And and and even hostage taking isn’t so much a part of our current conversation as it used to be. How much did you find when you were doing this work that you really felt like you were even also in media time where 24 hour cable is just kind of starting? And how much is it? Is it a function of its time?
S25: One of the first things I realized as we’ve started work on the series is that people really, really took the Cold War very seriously and personally in a way that’s like unrelatable. Now, the fact that we invaded Grenada because there was a socialist government on this island of 100000 people like who cares? Like, how can that possibly be a compelling, you know, foreign policy initiative or a priority, rather? And what I realized was that we what we needed to sort of communicate to our listeners who are, you know, in many cases going to be people who didn’t who don’t remember viscerally the sense of living in the Cold War, how much of an obsession communism was. And so that actually was one of the ways in which I broke through to John Poindexter when we were first talking about the possibility of sitting down together. I told him, like, I think one of the things you can really help help us with is giving people a sense of how, well, how and why the Cold War and the threat of communism felt so urgent to you guys. And so I think that part is certainly a product of its time. It’s possible that what you’re saying, John, is like an explanation or an answer to a question that we’ve been trying to answer, which is why has Iran-Contra not sort of survived more intact in the collective memory? Like why is Watergate so ubiquitous, sort of when people are talking about political scandal, when Iran-Contra? You know, it comes up every once in a while. And people, obviously, who are interested in political history know about it, but it just doesn’t have the same profile. I don’t know if you guys agree, but it seems more forgotten that other scandals are.
S21: And what’s also amazing about that is that. And I I’d even forgotten and even though I was alive at the time and pay some attention, this is what a moment the Oliver North testimony was. As a national television and political moment, not just the spectacle that everybody’s paying attention to, but also how he split the country. Some people saw him as an absolute hero in that fight against communism that you’re talking about. Yeah.
S25: Mean, that’s what’s so weird about the fact that Oliver North, you know, that Iran-Contra doesn’t have a bigger footprint or whatever you want to call it, because it wasn’t total national obsession at the time. I think I think the hearings got, you know, higher ratings than Watergate hearings did. The country was utterly split on Oliver North, whether he was, you know, a rogue cowboy operative or whether whether he was a patriot. Hollywood was just like trying to produce an adaptation of the Iran-Contra story. And in a movie and the movie that got made was based on Ben Bradlee. jr.’s book about Oliver North Guts and Glory was a TV movie that aired on CBS and. There is this amazing subplot that we learned about where the director of the film was pretty anti-North and his star, the guy who played all over Northe that an actor named David Keith was extremely pro-North. And so on the set of the movie, they were constantly like arguing about how North is being portrayed because the actor wanted to portray him as a hero and the director didn’t.
S5: I actually think the reason why this scandal maybe hasn’t sat as well is that it was motivated by idealism in a way that Clinton Lewinsky wasn’t in a way that Watergate wasn’t in a way that Bush v. Gore wasn’t. You can argue about whether crimes were committed. They probably were, whether they were impeachable, whether the president was culpable, whether the national security ministration, you know, apparatus distorted what Congress wished. But they weren’t people acting from venal, selfish reasons. For the most part. They were acting because they they were trying to do something that was that they believed to be noble and that a lot of the country believed to be noble. And so I think that makes a difference.
S25: I think that’s right. And we talked to John Nields, who is the lawyer for the Democrats during the during the hearings. And he said, you know, I asked him, like, what was impeachment like on the table? Was it something you guys were thinking about? And he said, look, it was obviously was possible that it would go that way. The only scenario that anyone could really picture was if we could prove that Reagan personally approved the diversion of funds from the Iran weapons sales to the contra war. Short of that, it wasn’t going to happen. And one of the reasons was that, you know, whatever Reagan did, whatever Reagan knew, it was clear that he hadn’t acted out of venality or or corrupt intent.
S20: He seems like the worst thing you could say about him was that his judgment was clouded by his by his desire to get these hostages back and that he delegated way too much to people that he shouldn’t have, you know, trusted quite as much as he did. It’s a fundamentally not self-interested scheme.
S5: Leon Neyfakh is the host of Fiasco Season 2, Iran-Contra on Luminary, a great podcast. Check it out.
S9: Let us go to cocktail chatter. When you are having a teleconference with somebody, each of you having a cocktail at your end, but in no sense touching the other person or being near them or being gathered in a bar. But just tippling at home. What will you chatter across teleconference with them about, Emily?
S6: OK. So this is going to seem like a downer of a chatter, but it’s going to. It’s going to end on an up note, I promise.
S19: So there’s a story this week about a man named Lucio Delgado, who was initially denied his citizenship because the federal government could not give him a Braille reading test. He is blind. He explained to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services that he needed a different way with Braille to take the reading test. And they didn’t give it to him. And so they just denied his citizenship.
S6: The reason this story hit me really hard was that around 20 years ago, one of my law school classmates, Tal Clement, was told that he could not finish his citizenship application because he couldn’t give a complete set of 10 fingerprints because he didn’t have 10 fingers. Exactly. And I wrote about that for The Washington Post. And quickly Tolle was ushered into what was then, you know, puts the old word, the I.N.S. office in San Francisco. And his citizenship application was processed. And it seems like the Times query about Mr. Delgado’s case is going to have a similar effect and he’s going to be given a second chance. So, I mean, this is a story about government bureaucracy gone completely awry, as if we needed another example of that, but also about the good that can happen when someone’s individual individual plate gets attention. And it’s just so ludicrous and illogical that even our immigration services will still respond. So I hope Lucille Delgado receives his Braille version of the reading test as soon as possible and gets his application process like everybody else.
S23: John, what’s your tell? A cocktail chatter, mind tell you.
S8: Cocktail chatter is is is a poem that everybody should go read. And it came to me through the retweeting or tweet from Jason Isbell, the fantastic singer and an amazing songwriter. Really just you can find new little sayings in each song and lyric about what he was boosting was a poem by Maggie Smith called Good Bones, which I recommend everybody go find. So first line is life is short, though. I keep this from my children. It’s a very short column setting its subject, but it is a poem. It’s just really fantastic. So everybody go find it. Good Bones by Maggie Smith and then go listen to Jason Isbell.
S14: To Maggie Smith, the actress. No, not the not Maggie Smith, the actress. Maggie Smith, the poet.
S5: I mean, you could be an actress and a poet. I suppose my chatter much hunters is really not a specific item. It’s more an exhortation and exhortation to those of you who work in government and those of you who watch government, especially those of you who report on government in Washington.
S15: And it’s a kind of like a keep your eyes open, friends, because this administration, as Emily even touched on earlier, has been very effective, most terrifyingly effective at ramming massive policy changes through the bureaucracy, especially places like the EPA and the department, the interior, when no one is looking. And right now, the world is not looking. The world is preoccupied by a global pandemic. But I because I am a dark, suspicious person, I suspect there’s some Trump officials who are recognizing that this may be a great moment to sneak through some controversial policy changes that they would be afraid to make when people are paying attention. So like, watch out. Like, are they getting some union? Union regulations? Are they putting mercury in everything? Pay attention. Pay attention. Reporters pay attention. Bureaucrats don’t don’t let the fact that the world is only you know, the world needs to grapple with the global health crisis and economic crisis, distract you from the possibility that this administration may do things because they think no one’s looking at them. So that’s my chatter. Listeners, you have also sent us chatters. Thankfully, you’ve sent us some good ones. It seems like you’re using your time of social distancing to find amazing things and share them. The chatter that I really like that was tweeted to us, that’s like Gabfest came from Kevin Collins at at Kevin k.w. C and Kevin points us to something which I feel like I’ve seen before and maybe even we’ve talked about before. But you’ve seen it again was so delightful. It is a set of films that was taken in 1911 by Swedish film company in Black and White in that halting, herky jerky way. That film was in 1911 and through some miracle of technology. These these wizards have. Added color and sound and smoothed out in the way that that World War One movie did last year that took the World War 1 documentary footage. And so it’s this footage of New York Street Life in 1911 looking like almost like life today or almost smooth as a film of life today would be. And it’s great. Check it out. It’s a twisted sifter link. It was a mesmerizing way to spend eight minutes. It’s very brief. If you enjoy the gap as please subscribe to our show, you will get new episodes. The second they’re published on whatever app or format you’re listening to us on now.
S26: That is our show for today, the gap that has produced this week under very difficult circumstances. Bye, beloved Joslyn Frank. Bridget Dunlap, socially distant in the Midwest is our researcher, Rosie Bellson and I. Not socially distant, but we’re in different rooms here in the D.C. studio. Thank you, Rosie. John DICKERSON produced himself. Who produced you, Emily?
S27: Dan Cody and Doug for Bush also helped, I think. Thank you.
S3: Thank you. You and they came into a studio, which is great. Thank you all so much for doing that. For Emily Bazelon and John DICKERSON, I’m David Plotz. Thank you for listening. We will talk to you next week. And we hope that it’s a good week for you and that your new not too unsettling and difficult because this is an unsettling and difficult time for everyone.
S9: Hello. Slate Plus, how are you? Here is your bonus segment for you. Slate Plus listener and your bonus segment today is what to do when you’re socially distancing. What did you when you’re trying to flatten the curve? So there are a lot of things that we know that ways that you can make your life more tolerable and more tolerable and enjoyable for those around you. And and so how can you manage not to murder your children, for example, if you were a parent of small children?
S16: Or how could they manage not to murder you, Adam? Actually, that’s interesting. Teenagers. Yeah, I think you’re right. There’s a point. If it’s a point, I have one of my children that I might want to murder and one who might want to murder me. Go. It’s good that you’re spanning from both polls there.
S9: So how. Yes. How have not to murder or be murdered by your children. So I you know, I like I have various thoughts about things to cook, things to watch, things to do. Emily, what and what what are your what where you bought your head out with this?
S17: So, I mean, I feel like let’s share specific ideas in a minute. I also in thinking about this really is I mean, this is such a personal question because really what you want to do are take the interests you have that are intriguing but slightly dormant and go for them. So like I’m a failed gardener, but if I was the least bit good at gardening, maybe I’ll try. Even though I’m a failed gardener, I mean, it’s gonna be spring. Like this would be a great time to think about planting new things or picking up an old hobby that you dropped. Like I used to be a huge knitter. And then I stopped and I feel like now I’m gonna go back and do that again. Anyway, that’s sort of where my I sort of I for me, it’s like about a mindset like what are the things that will just like give you pleasure, calm you just give yourself little treats as much as you can.
S5: That is a really good framing. Emily, the the thing that you’ve Flett dormant or that you’re that you only do when you have a bit of free time and like suddenly you’re given it to take advantage. Are, John some specifics from you or generalities?
S13: Yeah. So. Well, the specifics are embarrassing, but. But here we go. One is I have collected things in Evernote. Lo these many in the course of the last many years. Yeah.
S8: Articles, quotes, interesting figures that I just over time have not always been able to get it back to snippets of speeches that I gave or didn’t give. And just going through that all that stuff and sorting it and putting it into some form has been something I’ve wanted to do forever. So I’ll do some of that and I will do my taxes, or at least my wife hopes I will. But I think that what Emily’s talking about, particularly dorment things that give you joy that are dormant, whereas a hurdle is, you know. To to have begun is to be half done, which is to say just starting is the is the hurdle. This interregnum, if you’re stuck at home, might actually make you get over that hurdle of just starting whatever it may be, whether it’s practicing, finally practicing guitar or gardening or like some game that you wished. The question, though, is whether you can get your family to do it. And we’ve just cancelled our spring break plans so we will not be flying and and forcing ourselves to stay in a place together as a family during the kids’ spring break. So what will we be able to convince them to do together as a family without without the constraint of being in a in a house for a week? We can’t because we’re just in our apartment. That will be interesting to see what the what they’re willing to tolerate.
S7: I see. That’s all good, I think. Just a few specifics is obviously a ton of entertainment and this is a golden age of electronic entertainment, so if you end up with time and when you watch TV, there’s going to be so much good stuff you could watch on TV if you have any of these streaming services. So I’m going to talk about that. There’s so many great podcasts. Again, not really talk about that. I’d bet this is this is this is not. But there’s not me being specific to me. I’d just point this out. Sorry. Is there always a lot of storm babies? I bet there a lot of quarantine babies. I bet people have a lot of sex there. Lots of little, little Coronas and Hana’s who were born because of because of people cuddling up with the small number of people and being bored and not have anything else to do. One thing I want to exhort people to do is walk in nature. Social distancing doesn’t mean you’ve to sit in a tiny, airless place. In fact, being out in the world and wandering through beautiful spaces in where there’s fresh air and wind blowing things away, a great to do so. Get out. Sneeze into the daffodils rather than sneezing into the person you’re sharing your home with. I plan to cook a bunch of things that take a long time, so there’s a lot of cooking. I like to cook. I love to cook. And I do it less these days for a variety of reasons. But there are things that I love to cook that take huge amounts of time to bread. Like you can’t you can’t do bread in the course of a regular just work day.
S16: A lot of you can if you stop and start and you’re working from home, I totally. What? You’re working from home? Yes.
S7: If you’re working from home now, people are working from home like people weren’t working from home. So if you’re working from home, you can do a bread. That’s perfect. Yes. You can do all sorts of things with soups and briskets and brisket.
S28: Look slow plus meat.
S13: I was just saying brisket and also a shank. And you put the shank in. There is a shank. Yeah. My God.
S7: I did a I did a brisket and I did a I did a bean soup with a low and slow this weekend. Holy moly. That was a good bean soup.
S13: That was also a healing tube. Yes. I’m so down with what you’re saying, David. I in fact, I think that might be something where we could get the kids to join in a lot of chopping of vegetables to throw in that soup. Yeah.
S15: Yeah, chopping vegetables. I wish I had. I dont really have any hobbies that I want to. There’s a lot of stuff I want to clean. Have any hobbies?
S6: A good moment for cleaning. You know, also, David, picking up on your like long, slow cooking ideas, some friends of ours went clamming last weekend with their kids and then they brought the clams home and they made this big meal and we just got to come and eat it. But it was such a it was like the whole having the time because they had canceled their spring break trip to have like a whole production. That’s just around one thing in the end that normally you might like just rush to get toward. Like we all could have a little more time to do things like that right now.
S15: Yeah, let’s do it.
S12: And when you were talking about getting out into the into nature, I was also thinking about bike riding. Maybe there will be right now in New Haven, at least there are fewer cars on the road. And it’s actually like kind of an opportunity for taking longer bike rides.
S7: Right. Good point. And bike bike, the answer to that. Yeah, it’s it’s a way of having transportation that is that is extremely socially distant but very useful doesn’t it. Doesn’t crowd people together. Yeah.
S12: You know what else I was thinking about that with things like church and synagogue and mosque canceled and outlets for people who might have fewer social opportunities in their lives and might be feeling really isolated and lonely. If there’s a way that you can safely reach out to people like that. Invite them in. Have small gatherings where you’re just sort of keeping an eye out for people in your community who may have fewer opportunities to interact like social distancing. Also is going to increase people’s loneliness and depression. And that is like a real harm that we could all do a little bit to try to avoid you, aren’t you?
S9: Good. That’s smart.
S13: Emily thought, well, here’s a question. I thought the groupwhich, without making it sound like we’re all at home for a snow day and being too frivolous about what is an obvious cause. It’s obviously you’ve got to reach this balance where everybody is sufficiently concerned that they’re willing to take some financial aid to to you know, they’ve got to take it seriously and do that. But but there should also, if everybody stuck at home, be something, something that kind of has a group levity in it. I mean, you you you have an amazing opportunity here to have a national social experiment, given that every many people are connected online. And you could imagine, you know, I mean, not hands across America.
S28: But, you know, some know that like what? Amazing disease transfer. Yeah.
S8: But, you know, the technological equivalent that where everybody sort of gets online at the same time and does some collective saying in the spirit of what David was talking about during the regular show, which was, you know, the fact that we’re all in this together and I don’t know what that is or who the author of that collective moment is, but it would be. There seems to be an opportunity there for somebody with great creativity.
S15: All right, Slate plus that. As a font of ideas and hope that your social distance goes tolerably well, talk to you next week.