S1: This ad free podcast is part of your slate plus membership. This episode of the Gabfest contains explicit language.
S2: Hello and welcome to the Slate Political Gabfests for January 2nd, 2020, actually wrote January 2nd twenty nineteen in my notes. It’s 2020. Happy New Decade. Yeah.
S3: Gabfests Listeners The Good Trouble Addition. I am David Plotz of Atlas Obscura. I’m so happy to be back in another decade with my dear Emily Bazelon of Yale University Law School, New York Times Magazine. Hello, Emily. Happy New Year. Hello. Happy New Year.
S4: And John DICKERSON, of course, is making New Year’s Day a five day celebration. He’s probably still, still sleeping off his his epic bender from New Year’s Eve. In any case, he’s not here. I’m sure John is not doing that. Just F.Y.I, John. I’m sure doing toplane familial and lovely. But instead, Happy New Year to Jose Duffy, writes President BPL. Joining us from Atlanta. Hello, Jose.
S3: Thanks for having me on today’s gabfest. Will the Senate impeachment trial ever happen? Then, the rising tide of anti-Semitism in the U.S. and the rising tide of weird 50 Semitism in Brett Stevens’s columns. And then the extraordinary life of John Lewis, the civil rights icon who announced this week that he is getting treated for late stage pancreatic cancer. Plus, we will have cocktail chatter. Emily, the president was impeached two weeks ago. Or was he? Well, that was a question.
S6: That’s that’s all you got for me? Does that was the question. Was he actually impeached?
S7: I think he was impeached. There is a kind of minority law professor viewpoint expressed by Noah Feldman in Bloomberg opinion column arguing that you don’t get impeached till the House actually sends the articles over to the Senate.
S1: I don’t really think this is like going to catch on. I do not totally understand the politics of this delay in that I thought the Democrats also wanted this to be over and done. Now they seem less attached to that idea and more attached the idea of, I think, exacting some more pain, because it seems like both President Trump and Mitch McConnell would like to have this over more quickly.
S7: So maybe just the fact that the Senate and the Senate majority leader for the Republicans want it to be done showed Nancy Pelosi that there was some political maneuvering to be done in holding it off. I don’t really know. I’m so tired of this part of the process. Am I losing patients for no reason? Like, was this a good holiday break we got? I can’t tell.
S4: Jose All right. Emily is Emily has already thrown up her hands and exhaustion and exasperation. So it’s your turn. Why do you think House Speaker Pelosi is is delaying forwarding the articles of impeachment to the Senate? She she ostensibly seems to be seeking leverage to call witnesses that she is using delay to try to compel or induce or somehow force Mitch McConnell and the Senate Republicans to agree to a trial where witnesses would be called. Is that really what she’s doing or is it just the delay just simply makes President Trump and McConnell more antsy? And that’s the purpose of it. Or is it there no purpose at all?
S8: I’m assuming that there’s some deeper game here that I am not privy to. That being said, I think it’s worth pointing out that like we all sort of know what this looks like in the end and we’re all just waiting for it to happen. Right. Like we know that this is that if this goes to the Senate, they’re going to vote not to impeach him. This is not going anywhere after it leaves the House. We even know that Doug Jones, like probably is going to vote against impeachment. And we’re faced with. To me, this seems like the long game here is to get the record for posterity. Right. To know that we, like the Democrats, stood up at some point when this president was doing things that we find morally reprehensible enough to to ask him, you know, to to push him out of office. It’s not actually as if he’s going to leave office. It’s not even as if this may even impact his chances at re-election. It’s. So the fact that we’re dragging it out seems unnecessarily exhausting to me among a group of people at a party and a country that is so exhausted as it as it is.
S4: So one of the things that was really striking to me, I’m now going do that thing that is so irritating that journalists do when they come back from vacation, which is they’re like, I came back on vacation and talked to people who are not other journalists or my family. And so, you know, I’ve just spent almost two weeks away from Washington in the real hinterlands of Boston and Vermont. But what was striking to me was that not a single person I spoke to, family, not family, friends, neighbors, acquaintances, talked about impeachment. Nobody that I remember when Bill Clinton was impeached. All anyone talked about was impeachment for months. They liked it. They enjoyed it with a fun conversation. It was exciting. It grabbed people. Nobody was talking about not for not against nothing. And I think that’s a that speaks to what you were getting to, Josie, which is that it is an important thing for posterity to have put this on the record, to have recorded his crimes and sins. But it actually is not winning any political battles and it’s not even engaging the public at the moment. And certainly the polling doesn’t suggest it’s engaging the public in any significant way either. And so the delay to me seems extremely confusing.
S9: It’s a great point about engaging the public because there are two different things at play here. One is, does it change anybody’s mind? And I think, like we all said, probably not. But the second is like, is anybody, even Kerry, is anybody really paying attention, like you said?
S8: Are they talking about it? It’s not even engaging anybody, which is wild when you think about it.
S10: But do you think also we just we’re all desperate for a break? I mean, I’m so tired of paying too much attention to American domestic politics. And I really consciously took a break from that over the holidays. And it wasn’t that hard. There just wasn’t very much domestic news. There was foreign news like our embassy is being attacked in Iraq and and saber rattling from North Korea. But it was actually possible not to think very much about Donald Trump and about Nancy Pelosi. And I, for one, welcomed that respite. And I wonder if you OK. Now we’re back and like, impeachment’s gonna come back and people will get some kind of second wind or at least it will be forced upon them.
S11: Do either of you think this witnesses question is important? And do you think that it’s a battle that the Democrats can win? So. So, as I understand it, Speaker Pelosi and Senate Democrats, including Chuck Schumer, wish to have Mick Mulvaney, John Bolton and several of their aides called to testify at the trial in the Senate. And that is at least superficially, what why Nancy Pelosi is withholding the articles from the Senate. Is that important?
S12: And do you do either of you think that that leverage is real leverage and they’re actually going to get that testimony?
S10: No, I can’t imagine them getting that testimony because I don’t think any of those people on to testify under oath. Right. I think that the Democrats have decided there’s some political payoff in pointing to the fact that those witnesses are missing. And that’s a choice that the Republicans are making.
S8: Yeah, this seems to me like a lost cause. And I also almost think that pushing it to the point where we can even pretend that this is a legitimate process. Right. That you’re getting any good faith engagement from half of Congress is a mistake, a political mistake in itself. Maybe it’s maybe maybe there is some sort of institutional value in this. And, you know, maintaining Norm’s value in this. It’s funny that you brought up Noah Feldman, Emily, because I’m like I never thought that all this law school education that I thought I would never actually need, I somehow need again. But I don’t know that there’s like political it’s useful politically to even keep pushing on this. And even if they got them to agree to testify, I don’t think that means we’re getting an accurate or full story about Trump’s relationship with Ukraine.
S12: Emily, do you think the courts, either at the Supreme Court level or federal appeals court level are going to compel anything from Don McGann or any of the other people who’s who have just defied subpoenas or or asked to for rulings on whether they should testify? The Department of Justice representing President Trump in kind of capacity, is his personal lawyer acting basically on his personal behalf, not really acting on the government’s interest, has been fighting at every turn to prevent any of this testimony from happening. Any documents were being produced, and the impeachment has become a kind of piece of that where Department of Justice is now claiming, well, because impeachment is happening, these Dockley these people don’t need to testify. There’s no reason for them to testify because impeachment already happened. These documents don’t need to be produced. Impeachment already happened, which raises the specter that we could get through the entire Trump administration fact. I’m pretty sure we will get through the entire Trump administration without him or his administration ever having to produce documents or witnesses that they don’t want to produce. So his tax returns, any testimony from anybody who has worked for him at a senior level, even people who didn’t even work in the administration, who are claiming some form of executive privilege for personal conversations they had with him? Or do you think that the courts are ever going to give us a judgment before President Trump leaves office?
S10: I think there are two different tracks. I think in the world of Don McGann, that being the kind of case that’s still alive about witness testimony, that’s going to take a long time. I would expect the courts to reject the administration’s claim of blanket immunity for every one and every single thing related to, you know, the White House. But then there’ll be a set of negotiations about what is actually covered by executive privilege and what’s not. And that will take time and that will get litigated and it will drag out. The tax return cases are on a faster track because the Supreme Court has agreed to hear them. And that presumably will happen before the election and in time for a ruling. So I think that it is possible that the public would learn about what’s in the tax returns before next November won’t necessarily happen, but it’s possible, whereas the other set of litigation seems to me like it’s going much more slowly.
S4: I. I really wish the Democrats would just go ahead and let this trial happen and happen quickly, even though it will be a a mockery of a trial. And we know the result, as Jose said earlier, we know what the outcome is going to be. We know what minds are going to be changed. I don’t I just think this this. Dragging out and this kind of slow motion loss of air to this whole process is not helping anybody and certainly not it’s not helping the country. It’s not helping Democrats, particularly politically, not really helping President Trump either. It’s just it’s just demoralizing. And and so I think we’d be wise both politically and for in order to engage the public in the things that that there is. They can still fight on, which is mainly the election to to shift the focus from this trial, get it done towards the election, towards the kind of enthusiasm that that the Democrats should be trying to build around the election for the House, the Senate and particularly the president. Slate plus members, you know that you get bonus segments on the gab fest and their Slate podcast. It’s a new year. Listeners, if you haven’t joined Slate plus, maybe this is the year to join Slate plus 2020 could be the incredible slate plus year. There could be something that you hear in Slate plus bonus segment that will change your life. Maybe it’s even today. But if you’re not signed up, if you’re not a member of Slate plus, you won’t get that life changing wisdom, that life changing knowledge, that life changing lottery numbers that we give out on every episode. So go to Slate dot coms, slash gap s plus and sign up today. We don’t actually give out lottery numbers. And today we are actually going to revisit some conundrums that we talked about in our live show last week, because at least I have one that I want to revise. I have a new thought. I forgot an answer to one of the questions. I just want to share that maybe Emily has something to add. Maybe Jose has her own conundrum wisdom. So come to slate.com. Such gaffes, plus to become a member to day.
S13: anti-Semitic incidents are becoming alarmingly frequent in the United States. Last week on the next to last night of Hanukkah, there was a savage, savage, brutal knife attack at a Hanukkah celebration in Mansi, an orthodox community outside of New York, apparently carried out by a disturbed man with anti-Semitic views that followed a recent murderous attack at a kosher supermarket. Also in New Jersey, suburb of New York, shootings at synagogues have become not frequent, but certainly not uncommon affairs. So we’re gonna talk about that. We’re also going to talk about the vilo Semitism of Bret Stephens, New York Times columnist, because the anti-Semitism in the fatalism, Semitism seem to go together this week. So, Emily, you and I are the fellow Jews on this podcast. Is the rise of anti-Semitism in the United States important? It’s a very small number of people who are affected.
S1: Yeah. I mean, I’ve come around to the idea that this is a more important issue than I like to think.
S10: I’ve come to that conclusion grudgingly because of the rise in the number of incidents. I mean, I tend to worry about paying too much attention to this as as one I think should worry about paying attention to any kind of violence that’s linked to terrorism because we just like get out. Our imaginations are captured at them. We pay outside it to outsized attention and we forget about all the much more ordinary incidents of violence that, statistically speaking, take more people’s lives. But I do think there’s something unsettling that’s happening here and it doesn’t have an easy explanation. And so then I find myself drawn to the explanations that are like in line with my own political beliefs about white supremacy and the kind of shaky role that Jews have had in so many different societies over centuries. When people get disillusioned and angry, they sometimes turn on Jews because of this like distinctive role that Jews play where they’re both looked down on, but then also accused of being like the global puppet masters of the universe who are controlling everything and Jews economic success. The United States then can become a kind of count against them.
S14: And I do think there is a connection between the kind of weird valorize rising of Jewish achievement that Bret Stephens was doing and that you sometimes see in this bizarre way from the Trump administration, along with, I think, the real evil being perpetuated by particular small number of particular Jews like Steven Miller in the government.
S4: Let me just jump in here and say Emily’s referring to column. Bret Stephens, New York Times columnist, wrote last week, hugely controversial, in which he tried to make an argument for the specialness of Ashkenazi Jews and their accomplishments and explain why Ashkenazi Jews are accomplished. And he was essentially making a genetic claim about Judaism that was hard to defend and that was associated with some extremely unpleasant characters. And he then had to walk back or the times and walked back. Some of the column was very confusing exchange, which ended with this column having a huge editor’s note at the top of it, disavowing a bunch of it.
S14: I mean, the attacker in Montee, New York, was this African-American man who has a pretty clear history of mental illness and might have absolutely nothing to do with any of the phenomenon that are distressing to me. How are you taking off?
S15: Well, I I think the point about mental illness is an interesting one, which is that one when I think there is this way in which when violence becomes license, when violence becomes okay, one of the ways in which it sort of manifests itself in spirals is that people who are mentally ill, who are otherwise kind of fenced in by the normal rules of society and the kind of convention society, because the rhetoric has gotten more heated, because they hear about other incidents, suddenly feel a license that they didn’t before the strictures about around that have been lifted a little bit.
S12: I mean, obviously, when you look at what’s happened, the abuses that immigrants in this country are suffering under the Trump administration and in general, the abuses that Muslims are suffering, both those who seek to come to this country, those who live in this country, the kind of continued abuses that African-Americans in particular have suffered at the hands of a extremely, you know, racist system that the Trump administration seems intent on making more racist. Those those dwarf what’s happened to Jews who remain, you know, in general, incredibly rich, prosperous, safe, accepted in society, valorize in society. But I think your point, Emily, I mean, I, too, have come around to this, that it’s that it is the canary in the coal mine that Jews are kind of a Schenectady Sinek TICKY. Is that how you say it? Sinek TICKY, yeah. For globalism. For for Edgerrin. Haitian for money for success and the attack on that and the attack that’s coming from all kinds of directions. It’s coming not just from white nationals, also coming from Islamists. It’s coming from left. From right. It’s got me some of it’s coming from the far, far left of of the Democratic Party, even in certain ways. And it kind of forms of anti-Zionism which which bleed into anti-Semitism. That the fact that all that’s happening at once is to me a sign of something really deeply rotten and unstable that is worrisome, not necessarily because Jews are being affected, but because it represents a kind of loss of of order and a loss of kind of a loss of order or loss of order. I don’t have a better word, a loss of order in society. Jose, Emily and I have now held forth at enormous length.
S8: Well, I have to say, I found what happened on the second to last day of Hanukkah really affecting because I can you know, I’m not Jewish.
S16: I’m Christian. I’m black. I understand the light like on different axes. People experience different levels of of hatred for their practices or their race or their gender. But it is so difficult for me to imagine being singled out for my religion, and I’m not particularly religious. So that might be part of it. But you know that I find I agree, Emily, that the man who committed the stabbing attack was clearly mentally ill. He had a history of mental illness. And I think the point that that there is a door open. Right, for people who are suffering from some level of paranoia that this sort of stereotype and this sort of attack has become like so much more common and accessible.
S8: And and in a weird way, I find it really disturbing.
S17: I was listening to some of my Jewish friends talk about how it makes them scared, about talking about being Jewish or expressing their own sort of religious preferences in public. And I find any time that that’s happening to any group, regardless of how much it’s actually contributing to the crime rate or like what the actual fatality levels are compared to like other forms, you know, compared to car accidents or whatever it may be, it doesn’t have to be driving all forms of violence for it to really have an effect on entire groups of people in this country. That that’s what I was thinking aloud a lot more than impeachment over the break. What kind of terrifying times we live in.
S10: Yeah. I mean, I think another thing for me about these episodes, because there was this juxtaposition of the attack on Hanukkah and then also at the attempted shooting in a church in Texas where people in the pews were armed and were able to stop the attacker. Like, of course, I’m glad they stopped the attacker. But after the Hanukkah attack and this wave of anti-Semitism, we’re also hearing about upping security at synagogues. And I understand like that that’s people’s natural response. And yet it’s just this more arming of America and diverting of resources toward guards and putting up barriers as opposed to like the things that you do to bring people together and unify them and hopefully prevent episodes like this by increasing understanding. And I whenever we take that go in that direction as a society, it just feels so wearing and counterproductive to me. But it’s like an inevitable aftermath of this kind of incident.
S9: Totally that is and that is the direction we always go in. Right. It’s like make more things illegal.
S16: Are more people put more guards at the door when the reality is, I think to your point, Emily, that like if the only way the attack is stopped is at the door because there’s someone there with a gun, like the problem is so much deeper, we’re not actually. That’s a Band-Aid, right? We’re not actually addressing the societal rot that is driving something like, you know, an increase in anti-Semitism. And it does it is really I find it just so depressing that there’s a lack of imagination among policymakers and decision makers that doesn’t allow us to actually try to even address the the deeper issues at hand.
S4: Can I make a slightly different point? I’ve been trying to get my head around why it is so. President Trump’s Semitism troubles me so much that he has this mix of 50 Semitism and anti-Semitism, which is confusing. And I think where I’ve come in a way, it’s some it’s it’s maybe a weird right wing position. I feel like I’m. I feel like I’m about to say something which would put me. Make me a conservative. In nineteen ninety five or something.
S6: So let’s see what happens. Which is hell.
S12: Which is that there is a. One of the things that I loathe about Trump is his way of seeing people as stereotypes that he absolutely puts people in groups and those groups. Represent a single stereotype, so Jews, whenever he talks about Jews, he talks about them as loving money being so sharp. And he even when it’s 500 Semitic, it’s like a file Semitism, which is just like a grotesque stereotype about what Jews are. He’d absolutely that way about immigrants, about the way he talks about about immigrants from Mexico and Central America. It’s filled with the stereotypes when whenever he talks about really whenever he talks about any group, it’s it’s a stereotype. It’s disgusting. And it’s amassing. It’s seen the group as representing some particular characteristic. That that is a cliché about that group. It’s horrible. And one of the things I always liked about the conservatism, the conservatism of of a generation ago was it was very it was very much let’s see people as individuals. And the problem with that, of course, is there are these structural things that affect people because they are part of a group. And particularly you see this with African-Americans be the number one example where you were so disadvantaged by simply having black skin in this country that you can’t not when you talk about certain issues, issues that you cover, Jose. The fact of blackness is utterly essential and you can’t not think about the group. But there is this way in which the group think of Trump has infected us in all kinds of horrible, horrible, pernicious ways. And one of the ways is that Jews like there’s this acceptance of of these stereotypes around Jews as their acceptance of these stereotypes around immigrants that that Trump puts out and and it be so much healthier if we just never thought of Jews as a group or African-American or African-Americans as a group or, you know, Mexican-Americans as a group, even though you have to in some fashion. And this is also what was so bad about Bret Stephens, his column, or one of the things it was bad about Bret Stephens, this column is this way in which like let’s look at let’s let’s look at a group and ascribe all sorts of things to that group. You know, for for some some purpose, which appears nice, but it actually has a Maleficent purpose. Ultimately, did that make any sense? I don’t know that man.
S14: Yeah, yeah. I do think it makes sense. I mean, I think you also, if you’re disposed to, you can blame the left as well as the right for. Yes. Kind of. Yeah. Emphasis on right. I mean like that’s kind of identity politics. You can ascribe blame across the spectrum and then the problem is what you were getting at. Like sometimes it doesn’t make any sense to ignore group identity, but it can have this kind of like pernicious way that it washes over us. I mean, I really liked that. A couple of tweets that Dalia Yaphe wrote about the Bret Stephens column, which she was citing her family’s experiences, Russian Jews coming to America, that like when you experience that kind of prejudice, you can either decide that you’re gonna spend your time trying to prove that, like you belong at the top of the hierarchy, you’re gonna buy into the notion that some groups are better than others. And then like go around citing this like bullshit race science as a way of justifying it, which was effectively what Stevens was doing. Or you can realize that like this kind of group based hierarchy is pernicious and disastrous and that eventually they’re going to turn on you again. And even if that wasn’t true, that you should be part of the ending of that way of thinking. And I think a lot of Jews have taken that second path. Like if you look at the Jewish liberal tradition in this country and other places, you see that. But we’re kind of making more room for thinking only of one’s self and one’s own group identity right now in America. Like that’s part of Trump ism. I worry that Bebe don’t. Netanyahu is also playing into this way of thinking as he very selfishly tries to get immunity from being prosecuted now that he’s under indictment, but also trying to run again for prime minister. And that that is just like, you know, to me that’s like anathemas the way I think about my own Jewish identity. And to see someone like Bret Stephens kind of play into that is intensely frustrating.
S18: You know, when I was reading Bret Stephens column, it’s it’s not just that it’s like pernicious and and extremely like extremely harmful to be kind of promoting this terrible race science that like bleeds into eugenics.
S16: I mean, it’s really it’s really very disgusting. I think there’s this other thing which is like it’s intellectually lazy, right, to like ascribe to like a group’s genetic trends, something that can obviously be attributed. And it’s complicated by and is attributable to like they place that certain groups have played historically in society, the access they have, they like ways that we measure intelligence, like the roles that different, you know, groups from people like Trump are are given. Historically in this country and sort of through the entire like history of the West, it’s like the idea of even being able to a centralize race and intelligence and the way that Bret Stephens tries to do, he does it poorly. But even in any sort of measure, the goal is so short sighted and so bad that I did not understand it.
S19: I know I was slightly sleep deprived. It didn’t mix, didn’t make any sense. And I’ve been on vacation. But it may knows. I literally didn’t understand it. Really. I read it twice and I just I just didn’t get it up here. I have a.
S15: I would make like a separate point about Bret Stephens, which is the. Bret Stephens is just the great exhibit for why The New York Times columns, in fact, all columns, all columnists need to be term-limited. It is absurd that tenure most eagerly tenured, their life tenured, and it’s terrible. And you end up with with them recycling terrible ideas, running out of ideas. Jack Shafer had a very good column about this. I think for excellent Politico just pointing out that they just run out of ideas and then they then they start saying either stupid things or saying the same things they’ve said 50 times. And they’re they’re basically the number of columnist who can carry out a good column for more than three years is infinitesimally small. Jack cited George Will. I would argue that Ross Douthat, that Ross is just because his mind is so fertile that he may be you know, he’s gone a little bit longer than that. Basically, everybody else, forget it. Just retire them. They get that. You give them be given five years. They get five years. That’s fine. Or maybe they get three years and the publisher can extend them a year. And that’s what they get. But the the idea that Brooks and Krugman and Gail Collins got her, she’s wonderful. And all those folks just sit on that page, which is the most important bit of real estate in an American newspaper. And just kind of say these boring things week after week is a travesty. It term limits. They all want term limits for Supreme Court justices. Make term limits for New York Times columnist, you know.
S4: And I think, Emily, you could have a column and Jose, you could have a column.
S9: Like one of the really amazing things about being a journalist, right, is that you get to be challenged. And if you have good editors, I think, and really a ton of editors and you allow your editors to engage with you. Like that’s where I’ve learned the most in any sort of educational or professional environment in my life is having an editor who says like, well, what about this? Well, you know, have you actually looked this up? Have you question this? Have you pushed yourself? And it seems to me like an extra tragedy that not only is it sort of this tenured position, but it’s also a tenured position. And it doesn’t seem to be challenged internally. And I don’t know the internal politics of the times, obviously. And I know less than probably both the other people on this podcast about the internal politics of the times. But to me, like the mere fear of writing something that’s going to be absorbed by so many people, like you said that such an important piece of real estate. And also that like knowing the influence that you have on that page, I’d be emailing everybody I know every time I publish something and hopes that someone could, you know, make it a more nuanced, richer argument and ask, have you really thought this through?
S8: And that doesn’t seem like historically that Bret Stephens has has chosen to kind of challenge himself that way, which I think has its own tragedy, no matter if every column he was writing was was sort of scientifically and intellectually sound.
S10: Well, also, our Internet culture doesn’t necessarily reward the sweetly earnest way in which you would imagine yourself calling it coming right off. Right. Right. Like, if you are provocative and a little bit Tralee or a lot trolling other people, then things whip around the Internet and you get to get a lot of attention. And I don’t know what kind of effect that has, but it does seem like it’s this part of the equation which is not particularly healthy.
S8: It’s so hard for me to imagine how this sort of failure to to make, you know, to basically do your job doesn’t get old. But I guess to your point, like maybe this is sort of the job, right?
S14: In some ways, just given the kind of culture that we live in, I mean, to me, the hardest thing about being a columnist is that you don’t write when you have something to say. You write because it’s Monday and that’s the day that you write your column. And like that is always just struck me as like a big, big handicap to walk in with the eye. I think that’s really hard and really hard to sustain.
S18: Yeah. My husband writes for New York magazine. He writes, you know, three or four times a week. And I’m always amazed that he has like opinions to still run with, which he does. He doesn’t have as many opinions as me day to day.
S9: So I’m I guess he’s saving them all for work. But I have to say, even when he writes that many times a week, he has not yet fallen back on race science. So it both seems like a hazard of the job. And like maybe some other people, it could be a favor. Yeah, plantains like paper. Right? So I married him another. It’s even the job itself is set up, a kind of set up to fail. But like you don’t have to fail like this.
S20: John Lewis announced this week that he is being treated for stage four pancreatic cancer, those a very terrible disease.
S11: Stage four is the very worst stage you can have of it. Arguably, while he is one of the last living lions, the civil rights movement, he is the last living speaker from the march on Washington. He is also arguably, I would say, the greatest living American. And so he is still very much with us. He hopefully will live many, many years longer. He is clearly suffering now. And it’s a good occasion to think about who he is and why he’s important and and why the passing of his generation is such a loss for America. So, Jose, I’m sure your admirer of John Lewis, everyone’s in March on those. But what what who is he? Why is he so important?
S17: I have to tell you, you know, I guy from Atlanta, I live here again now after being gone for about 15 years. And there has been no bigger hero, kind of in my experience, my like my periphery than John Lewis. Certainly no bigger living hero. I. He is my congressman. He was elected the year before the year before I was born. And he has. So he’s representing me my whole my whole life. And he has been a fixture, not just sort of in American politics, but I think specifically in Atlanta. He has always been so engaged in this community that he has been fighting for, you know, for 80 years now, almost. And I just think back to, gosh, time is hard to measure now. But when was it that Trump was calling Atlanta at Shithole City or whatever he said about us? And kind of just being so disparaging of John Lewis, someone who is the ultimate patriot in my head and has consistently throughout his entire life since he was a teenager, put his life, his comfort and his his health on the line. Right. For this country. It is unfathomable to me that he will that he has to experience this this disease and that he is going through something that is so tenuous and so hard to manage. But I mean, you have to stay hopeful, right? It’s the beginning of the year. We can’t lose hope yet. And I think I found it sort of relieving that he said, you know, they’re more treatment options than there ever have been. I haven’t been given a terminal diagnosis yet. And I’m going to fight this. I mean, if anybody can fight this, I want to make him out to seem a superhuman cause. He’s human like the rest of us. But if. But, you know, he’s he’s fought a lot of battles I could never have fought.
S11: It’s mind boggling what he did. He was as a teenager, he helped integrate the lunch counters of Nashville, a student, I guess, a student at Fisk. Maybe that he was doing that. He was one of the very first or he was an early acolyte of nonviolence and trained in the in Lawsons. James, Lawsons, non-violence workshops. He was on the first bus of Freedom Riders. He led the Mississippi Freedom Summer a couple of years later. He was the national chairman of Snick and was the one of the founders of Snick Organize the March on Washington. He was one of the six organizers of the March on Washington. He spoke at the march on Washington. And I think, you know, the what will probably be the first line in any history of him and first line of his Wikipedia entry. He was the kind of leader. And there are certainly the the public victim of the Selma to Montgomery march, where the attack on him in particular, as he prayed while crossing the Edmund Pettus Bridge by white police was recorded on film. His skull was fractured. The photo of his skull being fractured became an iconic photo of the degradation of what had happened in the American South and led directly to the passing of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. That is just what he did in about six years in the early 60s. It is fucking astonishing. It’s astonishing.
S5: Yeah. You know, and he the legacy that he you know, his his House seat, his congressional seat was formerly held by Andrew Young.
S17: Right. And other civil rights leader who was formerly mayor of a mayor of Atlanta and an ambassador to the U.N. under Jimmy Carter. The people who have kind of played both the inside and outside game in Atlanta, in particular in Georgia, in the south, and I think in the United States writ large have consistently and in every state, on every sort of level and every sort of way fought to ensure that this country lives up to its ideals. Right. And I think it’s John Lewis’s tenure. My grandmother, who also was at the march on Washington, was also at the Freedom Rides, you know, left her three daughters at home when there she was in her 20s to go down to Mississippi. And it makes me particularly despondent about where we are today when we’re talking about an increase in anti-Semitic attacks, when I’m talking about an increase in racism, when we’re talking about sort of the hyper partisan, low integrity nature of our current political system, to see people like my grandmother, people like John Lewis, people like Andrew Young getting older and not being able to see as clearly the fruits of their labor.
S8: It makes us so much sadder to me.
S21: Yeah, I was thinking, let us pray. A lot of other people were about a tweet from Adam, sir, about whether we’re really prepared for the passing of the civil rights generation. And, you know, for people who are younger and grew up with this touchstone, I mean, John Lewis is such an icon. When you hear him speak, there’s something so stirring about it. The history feels very vivid and present. And it’s like we’re not recovered from the ills that led to the civil rights movement. We’re not done. And so it feels like it’s not time to lose that sense of history in our midst. I also wonder about the complicated way of thinking about like what has changed and what hasn’t changed. I feel like sometimes that gets sort of flattened as we just think about this or maybe just me. And I don’t think that’s because of Lewis himself. He is someone who can talk about who’s always talked about the continuing presence of racism, but also celebrate the ways in which, like his presence in Congress, you know, and just the country has shifted like we aren’t where we were. We’re just also hot where. Right. We were supposed to get right or where we need to go. Right. And so it’s like trying to think about that all at once when you’re also just imagining this world where we lose this older generation of people who were like the witnesses and the participants.
S9: Right. It’s not to say that their efforts were for naught. My son’s to his life to is better than my grandmother’s life was at two because of things that she did and people like John Lewis did and, you know, 70, 80 years of a civil rights fight.
S16: But the fact that it feels like you’re on a downward slope almost is the thing that’s particularly scary, right. Because you sort of expect things just continually get better.
S15: What do you guys think is the way to recapture, if it’s even possible, some of that spirit of that? Generation of leaders in that movement and not necessarily would necessarily be around civil rights, it might be around climate. It might be around voting rights. It might be around Colonel Justice. It could be around any number of things. But what are there any micro movements that you see that that are developing along the same lines? And one of the things I would point out is that when you look back at the history of the civil rights movement, what’s interesting is that we tend to in the kind of gauzy, nostalgic film of history, we just sort of lump everybody together. It’s all Dr. King. And then these, you know, lieutenants to Dr. King. And that’s all. You know, like it’s ever in the march on Washington and like that ended history. But of course, it was like a movement. It was filled with a totally huge diversity of ideas and tactics and methodologies and kinds of people and and which didn’t always get along. And what what what happened was that the collective ferment and experimentation and work across different time periods and different places with different tactics was what ultimately kind of made the movement succeed. For the most part. And I wonder if you guys see that developing. And if you don’t see it developing, how could that be developed? And where if you do see developing, what subjects or what areas or what kinds of people do you see it developing in?
S1: Well, quick thing, always a mistake to forget about Malcolm X. He was just such an important strand of that movement then. But I guess one thing I worry about is climate is I think like obviously this enormous challenge confronting humanity.
S22: But it’s so slow rolling, it’s kind of designed to defeat our capacity to act with urgency because we can’t tell exactly what the shape of it is, were much more prone to bailing out people who have these like are bearing the cost now, especially in, you know, our wealthy America, like easier to just rebuild on a coastline than really rethink what we’re doing and try to marshal all of our resources to stop this. It’s that it defeats us and its slowness. And I think that to me, what feels like in this country and and internationally, the issue of immigrants right now feels like it has a lot of that urgency in terms of the way that we’re actually treating people and the lack of humanity from, you know, government actors. But it’s tricky because black Americans in the 60s were facing racism. They were citizens. No one was questioning or should have been questioning their presence here, whereas I don’t think the left has figured out what to do about the fact that, like most people are not just ready to open the borders. And so while it’s easy to rail against the Trump administration for its terrible, inhumane policies, it’s not so easy to figure out like what the boundaries are or what how you’re going to solve the whole global scale of the problem. Maybe I’m being overly romantic and nostalgic, but I look back on the civil rights movement. I think like, OK, there were just some basic principles that were pretty universal. And in the end, like one out, I mean, I think you can see that today with like the gay rights movement, with the movement to give trans people full rights, this kind of sense of shared humanity, that it’s it’s like it’s feels like a more manageable problem that we’re actually like addressing with some success in the United States. But these climate and immigration, which are to me like these enormous challenges, they just both feel vexing in a different way.
S18: Yeah, I think that’s right. I mean, the thing to me in terms of so obviously I work in the criminal justice space.
S5: And I think seeing the changes that we’ve made even within this space in terms of institutional actors in the past five or six years has been such a fast, such a remarkable change in such a short amount of time. It literally feels like whiplash and it does give me hope in the way that people’s sort of basic understandings of other people’s humanity can shift. I still think we’re not there. And that’s the problem we face in the criminal justice movement in some ways. Reminds me of the problem we face in the immigration space. Right, which is essentially well, if you break the law, you get what’s coming to you, which is sort of the narrative of people who are still justifying family separation or justifying jail does or whatever. Whatever kind of inhumane thing people are choosing to say is okay that day. The climate thing to me feels more. I mean, both completely hopeless and that like looking at Australia these past few weeks, it’s just so deeply, deeply depressing and scary. And like that there is a generation, the generation younger than me that call it kids in college right now like are really fighting this right. And are really kind of building coalitions, trying to influence policy, going out there and fighting for real. Climate change focus policy in a way that does give me hope that like even if we can’t do this, maybe the next generation can.
S12: The title I gave this episode with the Good Trouble episode, because it’s a phrase that I think is Lewis’s phrase. I know it’s lose its faith. It’s a great phrase.
S15: But I saw it all over the writing about him and I just want to pay tribute to it. Lewis describes himself or maybe he has been described as getting in good trouble. So he’s a man who was arrested 40 times, 40 times in the late 50s and early 60s. And good trouble, as I understand it, is this idea that you were going to you’re going to mess with the system. You’re going to get you do something that is going to cause you pain. I mean, literally physical pain. In Lewis’s case, he was attacked a number of times. He was beaten badly a number of times and be arrested and charged with crimes and be somebody who is in trouble. But you’re doing it in a way which is obviously noble and right and good. And I and I love that concept of good trouble. And it’s it’s really admirable. And I I wish it on more people that they find ways to get in good trouble.
S20: Let’s go to cocktail chatter.
S15: Emily, when you’re getting in good trouble. Because you’ve had so much to drink and are so valuable that you’re making change in a noble way but causing ruckus and havoc for yourself where you can be chattering about.
S10: So one of the super excellent presents my children received, luckily over this holiday was my sister Dana sent my son Simon a couple of small posters from an organization called Americans Who Tell the Truth. The person behind it is named Robert Shetterly. And it’s these really beautiful illustrations. I think they’re paintings of different figures in American life. It’s like a very eclectic collection. Everyone from like Frances Perkins to John Brown to people who are alive and well and with us today. I like Bryan Stevenson. And they come with quotes that I think Robert Chatterley has picked out that are on the pictures. And it they’re really beautiful. I imagine that they’re designed kind of for classrooms. But my kid really liked the ones he received. And if you’re just looking for art for a kid’s room or a present for a kid who’s interested in American history and curious about not famous people. Simon wanted one of Claudette COLVIN. So anyway, we we really love these posters, these small posters. And the organization, again, is called Americans Who Tell the Truth. If you’re looking for a gift, I love these.
S18: Jose, what is your chatter? So I have been thinking throughout this campaign season about Joe Biden and has the enormous kind of grief that he’s had to manage throughout his life. Right. Losing two kids, one spouse and so many years between these sort of two major incidents in his and his life. And I think, you know, thinking about his son, Beau, who who just died a few years ago, there’s a great essay in The New York Review of Books called The Designated MOURNER. And it’s by fit no tool that I just has stuck with me these past couple days that I really recommend about mourning, grief and Biden’s sort of political ideology and Irish Catholicism. It’s just so beautiful and nuanced and well-done.
S23: What does my chatter you ask? So the holidays are a time when you often have cultural jokes, but juxtapositions because you are perhaps spending time with people you don’t normally spend time with who have different cultural consumption habits than you do. And so you end up watching or listening or doing things you don’t normally do because that’s you’re you’re absorbed in someone else’s culture diet. And I had an interesting episode of this yesterday, which is that I was driving with my parents back from Vermont. I was driving them from Vermont to Washington, D.C., which is a 600 mile drive. And that’s a long time to be in a car with anybody. And my 80 something parents who are lovely people, great company. But, you know, we want to listen to music. And so your choices when listening to music, their natural instinct, when listening to music would be to listen to some boring ass classical music. And we listen to some boring classical music for a while. And Carmen listened to some other stuff. And truthfully, it’s like it does nothing for me. It’s just like a drag, especially to listen to that in a car, which is really noisy. So the musical quality isn’t very good. My choice, of course, would be to listen to like some pop or country or something, and that would not go over well with my parents might make over well with my mom. But but but dear ones, we listen to guys and dolls. I don’t know.
S24: Oh, I didn’t say. I don’t know if you guys have listened to that recently or at all. I’ve seen it a couple of times and I listened to that whole Lee Conolly. Is that an amazing, amazing, amazing set of songs?
S23: It is so good. It’s Frank Loesser. The musical. I don’t even know. Probably early 50s, I guess. I mean, I guess and it’s, you know, this tale of gamblers and and then people who are trying to stop them from gambling and the songs are so good, they are just you know, they will bring delight. They’re so clever. There’s this character, Adelaide. All of them will be very familiar to you because a person. Can you develop a cold? It is. It’s so, so good. So if you get the chance to listen to something that you haven’t listened to in a while, I strongly recommend in Guys and Dolls, it was I took the whole Jersey Turnpike. The Jersey Turnpike with guys and Dolls was the best ride on the Jersey Turnpike I’ve ever had. So check it out. And of course, we have listener chatters. You guys have sent us some over the holidays to thank you for that. You can tweet them to us at Slate Gabfest. Alex Hungerford it at AC Hungerford pointed us to a Washington Post story. Colleges are turning students phones into surveillance machines. Really disturbing story. And we know we’re always being tracked. Everyone’s tracking us. The tech companies are tracking us. Now, it turns out as someone who has a child in college, this disturbs me. I mean, I’m not like a surveillance freak, but it was weird to think that colleges are actually tracking locations and activities of the phones on that. Students are using don’t like that seems unsettling. Not a good thing. So stop doing that. Colleges, of course, they have they’re very virtuous reasons for doing it. They you know, it’s to ensure a safety, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, bullshit, whatever.
S25: Anyway, that is our show for today. The gabfest is produced by Jocelyn Frank. A researcher is, of course, Bridget Dunlap. Melissa Kaplan helped me here in D.C.. Who helped you, Emily in New Haven. Was it Ryan Mafiaboy? It is Ryan Agwai. Josie, did you produce yourself in Atlanta? I produced myself. I produced myself. Thank you to me.
S26: Josie Duffie. Right. Jose Jeffie Rice helped out with Jose Dupree, right.
S25: Gabriel Roth is the editorial director of Flight Audio to Thomas’s Maji producer.
S27: You should follow us on Twitter at at Slate Gabfest for Emily Bazelon and Josie Duffy Rice. I’m David Plotz. Thanks for listening. We will talk to you next week.
S23: Hello. Slate Plus, how are you? Good talk. Long time. Haven’t seen you in a while. Yes, I know. I put on weight over the holidays. What’s it to you, friend?
S13: So here’s the here’s the brief for us today. Jose, I hope you can find a way to participate in this. But I propose that we revisit some of the conundrums. I predict we want to revisit one of the conundrums that we talked about in our Oakland show, because I remembered I have to show that I actually had a much better answer than the one I gave. So I wanted to to do that. But Emily, were there any conundrums that you have in mind to revisit? Revisit?
S14: No. I want to hear yours because you sound like you’ve really been thinking about this.
S12: All right. Well, it’s just that I realized that I had a story. So there was a question, a conundrum that was posed, which is what is the most awkward what is most awkward work situation to have to get yourself out of? And I had talked about being on a conference call and like, you know, being being on a video conference call. I’m forgetting your own video and like doing all sorts of unseemly things while you’re on video, but forgetting that you’re on video, but actually had one that was so much more embarrassing than this. Emily, I probably told you the story. But maybe you’ve forgotten it.
S14: Can’t wait to be reminded.
S28: And Jose, so many seek your guys’s response about what what the way I should’ve extricated myself. So I’m going to blur some of these details so as not to identify and identify the people involved. A few years ago, I had occasion to one of the things I do for Atlas Obscura is that I pitch Atlas Obscura as the CEO. I go out, I raise money or pitch projects to people, and I sort of have to talk about Atlas and try to get somebody who is in a position to do a partnership with us or invest in us or do something else with us to get them excited about this. And so I do a lot of pitching and sometimes good at it. Sometimes I’m bad at it. Sometimes it works. Most the time it doesn’t. In any case, I had a I was I had a pitch that I needed to do. And it was with was with somebody who I didn’t know I’d never met before. A woman who is about my age. And usually I’m pitching guys because in general, the like, one of the dismal facts of certainly a venture capital or investment that the men control the capital. So I’m more often have pitched guys, but this was one of the one of the infrequent occasions where a woman was the decider who I was pitching. And so we were sitting in a conference table at her office. And there are a couple of other people in the room. But it was basically a conversation between me and her. And I was sitting across a conference table that was maybe, I don’t know, three feet wide, two feet wide. I’m a relatively tall person.
S12: And we were having the conversation. I was pitching. It was I was killing it. It was such a good pitch. I was doing so well. She was so on. She was like, engage. She was so excited about this project. We were talking about was definitely going great. I was like, this is I got this aced. And I’m a slightly fidgety person. Like, you could see me now. You could see me sort of gesturing. I’m slightly fidgety, gesturing person. And one of things I do is like kind of tap my legs and tap my feet a little bit. And so I was tapping the table leg throughout this pitch and tap tap, tapping the table, leg.
S3: And, you know, maybe half an hour into the meeting, I realized, oh, shit, that’s not the table leg.
S29: I didn’t see that coming. The question is, how do you go now?
S6: What did you do? Well, I’m just going to ask you. I guess I’ll tell you what I did by what you did, you were you guys to tell me what I should have done. I think so would you have had it? No. Go ahead, go ahead. No, no, no, no, please. I want to hear your thoughts about this. I was just thinking about what I would have done, I’m sure.
S9: I think I would have. I’m sure your face showed the registration of realizing it’s her leg and the horror and then saying, I’m so sorry.
S17: I thought this was the table like this whole time. I mean, what else can you say?
S8: You can’t play it off like this was fine unless that’s what you did. In which case, I guess you can do the.
S14: How do you stop right in the moment or do you feel like you have to wait? So it’s like it’s hard to stop what you’re doing in the moment and in front of sweet. How many people were in the room?
S26: There were two other two other people in the room who were not gay.
S14: Right. So it’s not just you and one other person that makes it, I think, harder to acknowledge. Like in front of everybody what’s happening as opposed to trying to apologize for it later.
S12: But okay, here’s here’s what here’s the whole thing that made it so weird is that obviously what was weird about it was that she was enjoying that she was not bothered by it.
S8: Those are true. If I had been probably a she. Yeah, maybe she didn’t want you to feel.
S28: That’s right. That’s a fair point. That’s a fair point. I guess my read because of how how kind of like lively the conversation was, was that she was like she was totally engaged. And then she was digging my pitch and then digging the fact that I was like weirdly playing footsie with her. I don’t know.
S1: Maybe she wasn’t well and she didn’t pull back, which she did not pull back.
S19: I know she’s not full. Yeah, and she hadn’t called attention to it, but he’d been going on for a long time.
S29: Oh, man. It was, huh? It was so unsettling. It was so. So what did you do?
S6: What I did. Well, you must have stopped. I.
S26: I did exactly what I did exactly what you guys describe, which is that I was what you could see her like a clearly red. My face was like, oh, shit. I think I said, oh, shit. That’s not the table leg. That’s your leg. I’m so sorry. Oh, no.
S6: But, you know, it was good that you just called yourself out.
S15: No, but it’s like. But it drew attention. So I think what the proper move would have been with GIBI just to stop doing it and not draw attention to it, because that that that made it that drew attention to the fact that I was horrified by my own actions, which she had not found horrifying. Right. And so that made it seem like that that it made her seem like made her. Maybe made her feel bad. My drawing attention to it might have made her feel bad.
S29: So what happened with the patch? Yeah, it went totally went south after that. See, that’s interesting.
S19: And there isn’t.
S14: Didn’t know you had that covered. Now your acknowledgement of that awkwardness. You’ll never know what would have happened instead.
S28: Well, I think it’s probably an overreach to say that that was what caused the pitch to go south. I probably had not persuaded her. And she was. She’s a very accomplished person who had, you know, achieved great success in her profession and I think probably had good judgment. So I doubt that she would have kiboshed a deal that made sense to her just because of some awkward, awkward footsie.
S26: But it was definitely it definitely was weird. It definitely was weird. But I came out of the meeting. The person I was with was like, man, the date. That was some weird energy in that meeting.
S19: So I love this stuff. This is a good one. It was the most awkward work situation I’ve ever actually had to extricate myself from it. I don’t. I didn’t do it right.
S14: Can I brought in this? You know, it also makes me think about it’s just all the moments where you have a choice about whether to admit that you’ve screwed something up or to admit there’s some awkwardness. And like sometimes it’s the right thing to do, but not always the right thing to do. Like this happens to me a lot with when I forget someone’s name and I’m trying to get away with having forgotten their name. There’s a moment where you have a choice where you can just say, I’m really sorry, but I forgot your name. If you can make it past that moment without doing that though, and get away with that, it’s so much better.
S1: And I’m always torn about what to do in that split second.
S28: That’s a good question. I don’t know the answer.
S9: I’ve never handled that right. I can probably tell you what not to do. It’s like 30 different levels of what not to do. But I have not yet figured out how to like be smooth in situations where you have, especially when you like, used a slight wrong name. Or you, Paul. God, I hate it. So yeah, it’s so.
S1: Yeah, I don’t think it is. I wonder sometimes if I’m exaggerating how bad it is. Like the other day I ran into someone right near my house. So I’ve met like multiple times. I totally know she has. And I said her name when I said hello. Cause like I just knew it and she had no idea who I was in that second. Like she probably remembered afterward. And I and but you know, she’s just said hi. She didn’t say my name back. And I just could tell I had like caught her unawares out of context. And I thought to myself, like, that’s so nice to see. So like, I should just relax and not think it’s so important to people whether I remember their name.
S14: But right. Because you don’t feel super. How know you don’t feel like super hurt by that.
S7: No. But then you do realize there are moments in which it would be bad. And I do think my awareness of this has become so heightened living in a small city like when I grew up and thought Alpha, I never like whatever was a big city red. You saw people who didn’t know all the time, whereas like New Haven, that just happens.
S4: I don’t care when nobody. When people forget my name. I don’t even care. So I sort of feel like that there should be. That should be a d.m.c like dispensation for everyone on that score.
S12: Yeah. You know, people like whatever, they get flustered. The plane that was playing in one of these speed games with my kids last night and some other kids, which is a game where you have to pull something out of your memory. It’s called a Nomi. It pulls something out of your memory really quickly before somebody else, your kids competitive. And one of the people playing just got so flustered that she could never you know, you’d have to say something like Michael Jordan or up a toilet plunger. And it’s. But would she get flustered? She could just say her own name. Cute.
S26: She just could do is say her name because she got so agitate.
S23: People get flustered and you just have to be forgiving. It’s under all circumstances that had nothing to do with anything. But it was a nice discussion. All the same play.
S6: Plus it’s okay. Yeah.
S20: By Slate plus.