Emily Bazelon: This Ad free podcast is part of your slate plus membership. Enjoy.
David David, David Plotz: Hello and welcome to the Slate Political Gabfest.
David David, David Plotz: For June 16th, 2022.
David David, David Plotz: It’s the drunk as Rudy Giuliani edition. I’m David Plotz of City Cast. I’m in Washington, D.C., not yet as drunk as Rudy Giuliani. I’m joined, of course, by John DICKERSON of CBS Sunday Morning from New York City. Hello, John.
John Dickerson: Hello, David. I’m not in New York City. I’m in Washington, D.C. Let me paint the picture. It’s so muggy outside that the window of the hotel is almost completely fogged as the air conditioning, the window and the outside air compete for supremacy.
David David, David Plotz: Why aren’t we seeing each other? I didn’t even know you were in D.C..
John Dickerson: I know. It’s a good point. Well, you know, the hearings and and then I happen to be accompanied by my lovely wife. And so I’ve been spending some time with her.
Emily Bazelon: I compete, David.
David David, David Plotz: No way. No one can compete with an Dickerson. That was Emily Bazelon of the New York Times Magazine and Yale University Law School from I Hope, New Haven, Connecticut. I hope not. Washington, D.C. That would be.
Emily Bazelon: No, you’re not in Washington, D.C..
John Dickerson: Yes. We’re all sitting outside your door.
David David, David Plotz: On this week’s show, what the January six commission has revealed and what that means for the country. Then we will talk to the former chair of the Council of Economic Advisers, Jason Furman, about the economy, the Fed, inflation and the crypto crash. Then Emily’s fascinating article about the fight over gender therapy for trans kids. We will discuss it with Emily herself. Plus, of course, we’ll have cocktail chatter. And speaking of Washington, D.C., and gathering in Washington, D.C., a reminder that on June 29th, less than two weeks away, we will be live for our first show in more than two years at sixth and i historic synagogue here in washington, d.c. first live Gabfest on wednesday, June 29th. You can get tickets at Slate.com. Slash Gabfest live, slate.com. Slash Gabfest live. There’s still tickets. You can also stream this show if you would like to stream it live. And you can get tickets for that as well at slate.com.
David David, David Plotz: Slash gaffes, lies. Please Gabfest live. Please come and join us. It’s going to be a really fun evening. Please join us there on June 29th. It’s going to.
John Dickerson: Be a time of fellowship.
David David, David Plotz: The January 6th committee postponed the hearing it had scheduled for Wednesday, but is slated to hold its third hearing Thursday afternoon after we tape. Probably also before you have heard this, John will be there. This comes after two blockbuster televised hearings, a Thursday night hearing last week that detailed the violence of the insurrectionists and the planning by the proud boys and Oath Keepers, among others, to do real violence. The second, detailing how definitively and certainly and repeatedly Trump’s team knew that they had lost the election, told them they had lost the election, and yet failed to prevent him from ginning up the big lie. Also comes news today that John Eastman, the shady lawyer at the center of a lot of Trump legal chicanery, may have been getting fed inside dope about Supreme Court discussions plausibly from Ginni Thomas. Ginni Thomas, who is the center of all I’m going to put on my John DICKERSON cap here for a second. My John DICKERSON fedora.
John Dickerson: It’s a sharp.
David David, David Plotz: So you think of hearings as having multiple purposes with this hearing. It could be to record what happened for history to that we are simply documenting this threat to the country and and the world has that on on notice it has a record for it. The second would be to to reach a TV reading and listening audience so that they hold officials to account. That is another reason. The more immediate reason there could be a reason, which is really to build up a legal case which is even separate from reaching the TV audience just to present the evidence so that the potential prosecutors can can have the evidence to array against those those accused of potential crimes, and then finally to gin up voter enthusiasm and influence voters for potential election or potential political gain.
David David, David Plotz: So, John, how are they doing on each of those four counts and am I missing an important other thing that they’re doing?
John Dickerson: I would add one other thing, which is that in a rules based society, in a government that’s formed around the ideas, the idea of peaceful resolution, of claims, that is based on an idea that everybody has to salute and that that idea loses its value if people just blow it off. That’s what this is. The idea that you elections are the peaceful resolution of competing claims. And when you lose an election, you can’t just say, no, I won. And by power and force, I’m going to stay in power. Because if you do that, the idea that you can peacefully resolve competing claims is ruined, it’s over, it’s done. And that’s at the center of the ongoing question of of American democracy.
John Dickerson: And even if you don’t control the mob and you don’t control the presidency, there are other ways in which you can undermine the system, which is all of the behaviors and habits that President Trump employed and that are being employed by his party in response to the hearings, which is to claim things are true that aren’t true. It’s a real time examination and opportunity for everybody to sign up and say, We believe in these things. That have been a part of democracy. And implicitly, if you don’t stand up and say this is wrong, you can’t just decide an outcome. When you lose, then you’re implicitly embracing the undermining of democracy.
John Dickerson: I think the committee is doing a good job because what they’ve done is they’ve teed up all of these members of the Trump administration. There was rare unanimity in the Trump administration after the election that the election was not stolen. It’s hard to get the Trump administration to agree on anything, but it turns out they agree to the fact that the election wasn’t stolen. It’s just President Trump didn’t didn’t want to believe it or had another plan in mind. But I thought the use of voices from inside the president’s campaign has been effective in trying to convince an audience that isn’t already convinced that he was willfully destroying democracy to stay in power.
David David, David Plotz: Emily, what moments from the first set of hearings, first two sets of hearings have really stood out to you?
Emily Bazelon: I mean, I thought Bill Barr’s testimony was pretty riveting. And I think generally one thing I’ve noticed is that you have these lawyers, there’s White House lawyer, other Trump administration lawyer. I’m thinking of Alex Cannon in that second role and then Barr. And it’s like they reached the limit of their partisan selves, right? They wanted Trump to win. I mean, this is even true about Trump’s campaign manager, Bill Stepien. They were going to fight like hell for him to win. If there was an opening, they would have taken it. But there wasn’t. And in the end, the rule of law for their values mattered to them. And so they weren’t willing to go along with what seemed to them like a just delusional scheme.
Emily Bazelon: I mean, it is a lot to remember how quiet they were as this was all unfolding. They didn’t give us any clue that they all felt this way. I mean, Barr resigned, but he didn’t speak out in any way. It could have made a real difference to how the country absorbed all of Trump’s flailing if we had known that they all held these views. And so that seems like a real act of cowardice.
Emily Bazelon: But as they’re coming forward now, I mean, to me, it seems like that’s important to get on the record for the reasons John said. What’s harder is whether, you know, you think there should be a higher bar for the committee to clear, namely, that there are real political consequences for Trump, that the party, his party distances itself from him, that he loses power or that he gets charged criminally. And I am not sure how I feel about the second one. I mean, it’s so complicated or just there’s so many different considerations. There’s whether he actually broke the law, whether we should ever charge a former president. You know, all of those things. And then this question of him losing political power, it still seems pretty unlikely to me.
John Dickerson: Well, not only that, he he he has gained political power since January six. I mean, he’s the he’s the likely nominee of the party at the moment, and he’s the most powerful person in the party. He’s continuing to sell the lie, not just publicly, but to raise money, which the committee also pointed out was a total grift, that the money raised for his, quote unquote defense fund is going to all kinds of things other than his defense. And there are 100 The Washington Post in an analysis, 100 Republicans who won in primaries who believe this lie, that even Trump’s most inside people. And as you mentioned, Emily, it’s the lawyers, including Eric Hirschmann, who was one of his defense lawyers in the first impeachment. I mean, these are you couldn’t be any more on Team Trump and yet his White House lawyers, multiple ones, his vice president, his vice president staff, the Department of Justice, they all his attorney general, they all said campaign manager. They all said there was nothing there.
David David, David Plotz: On the prosecution question, it’s really interesting because there is this notion that it’s obviously going to be incredibly it would be incredibly hard to prosecute Trump. And he was pitched twice and not convicted. And and it’s difficult to imagine there’s a jury of 12 people in this country that you could you could find that would convict. I don’t know. Maybe that’s not true. I suppose if you pick them in the right way, you might find it. But it’s pretty clear that he he did not honestly believe that he had won. It is not credible for him to say that he honestly believe that he won. Now, he will undoubtedly say that, and he he acts like he believes it. But when you are presented with endless evidence that the world is round and the world is around and the world is round, and you just declined to say and you’re like, I just really believe the world is flat. I just that’s just what I believe. It is not it is not credible for you to say that.
David David, David Plotz: And therefore, his state of mind about whether he was corruptly influencing an official proceeding is not really relevant. It does seem pretty clear that he has committed a crime and not just a crime. Like almost the highest crime that can be committed in this country. And the idea that he can’t be prosecuted for that. I’m somebody who’s very you know, I’m not like a legalistic person. I don’t really want a lot of people prosecuted for a lot of things. But it is really problematic that that we certainly won’t get him to have political consequences, but also that the Justice Department may decide this is not a winnable case and therefore not a bring a whole case.
John Dickerson: Emily, building on what David said is if the defense is, oh, well, you know, he wasn’t willfully doing this, he was just delusional. Do you do you support the delusional case by maintaining the delusion? Even like you have to maintain the delusion for the rest of your life in order to create the doubt that you weren’t willfully destroying democracy just to stay in power.
Emily Bazelon: I mean, I don’t know how hard that would be for Trump to do because he is you know, if you buy into this idea that he really believed the election was stolen, he’s willing to continue perpetuating that. Right. You know, for white collar cases, this comes up all the time because you have to prove a certain level of what’s called mens rea, a state of mind in order to get a conviction. And rarely do you have a smoking gun in which someone admits like, oh, yes, I knew I was defrauding the company and bilking them of millions of dollars. And so there’s a concept in the law called willful blindness, which is like if there’s all kinds of evidence that you should have known and were blinding yourself to the facts, that’s not a defense. And I thought when I was listening to Bill Barr in particular, that I was absolutely hearing for that.
David David, David Plotz: Right. Bill Barr called it bullshit. He literally said it was bullshit.
Speaker 4: I told him that the stuff that his people were shoveling out to the public or both was bullshit. I mean, that the claims of fraud were bullshit. And, you know, he was indignant about that and. I reiterated that they’ve wasted a whole month on these claims on the Dominion voting machines and they were idiotic claims.
John Dickerson: And I think one of the important things that comes out of the hearing that I think they could make a make clear is these are called the January six hearings. But really, this was not about one day. This was about a 78 day effort on the president to try every possible door, you know, if he’s a burglar trying to break into the house. He didn’t just try some kind of fancy way to break in the front door. He tried the front door. He tried all the windows on the first level. He got a ladder and tried all the second wood windows. He tried to climb in through the mail slot. He was trying every possible way to do this over the course of 78 days, you know, in addition to being willfully blind, he was also actively searching for any barista at the local Starbucks who could give him a new possible way to take back the election.
David David, David Plotz: So it is pretty clear to me that it is not just me, that it is entirely likely that we’re going to have another Trump presidency, that in January 2025 there may well be a President Trump returning to the presidency. There’s this really interesting piece by Michael Dorf that we read where you he talked about the difference between the the sort of the collaborators, the collaborators, patriots and scoundrels and people like Rudy Giuliani, clearly a scoundrel, like stuck with this, pushed all these lies. Terrible. The patriots, the people who stood up to Trump and rejected Trump from at various points, including, I would say, like Mike Pence at a moment of extreme duress. Mike Pence did something extremely patriotic and brave. And I hope I hope history remembers that history should also remember all the terrible things he did. But that was that was no joke. What Mike Pence did, though.
Emily Bazelon: He really had no choice. But well.
John Dickerson: But he had no choice. But like.
David David, David Plotz: It’s it it is incredibly hard. Like the Brad Raffensperger when you were under so much pressure from your own people to do something that is that so breaks the social bonds with the people you care most about, with the people who’ve supported you most, with the source of your income, the source of your fame, the source of your success, and to willfully reject it in a high profile way, knowing there could be terrible consequences for it. That is that’s really, really brave. And I know Mike Pence was not brave on every moment, but that was that matter.
John Dickerson: And I also think the idea you have no choice. You do have a choice in this weird world, which is just make up something that isn’t true. And instead of being out in the cold, naked, believing something that’s delusional, you’ll get a whole team that will come, give you a warm blanket and tell you it’s all just fine. So there actually was a choice in this wacky world.
David David, David Plotz: I just worry that they’re going into 20 potential 20, 25. There are not enough there certainly are not enough patriots left and there may not be enough collaborators left to run a government that doesn’t do the worse things. Just to close this out, there are going to be six or maybe seven hearings the January six commission is going to do and that are going to be televised. I suspect we’re all jaded and kind of worn down enough to know that it’s not going to change the fundamental political dynamics of this country. There’s no chance of it. And I personally was just very depressed and sobered by a David Brooks column just saying that it’s not that this stuff doesn’t matter exactly.
David David, David Plotz: It’s important to record it for history, but that we have a future which looks to be a civil war. We have all the conditions for political violence developing around us. We have lost trust in institutions. There are just the elements that that are going to come bust are all in place. And there’s nothing that the January six commission is doing that is likely to fundamentally change that dynamic. And there’s nothing in fact at all happening in the country that’s likely to fundamentally change that dynamic. And it’s it’s so depressing to me.
John Dickerson: But the way out of that depression, which is a founded one, is, if you is, I think, to do what what Brooks suggested, which is to see this threat as a present one. This isn’t some story about Donald Trump. This is a story about and I’m not saying this, this is the only I think it may not work, but is that this is a story that results from a series of habits and those habits are still intact and they are, in fact, more virulent among these hundred Republicans who were elected believing in something that isn’t true or pushing something we know not to be true. And if you keep a light on the fact that people who don’t believe in the basic democratic principle of the will of the people, and you keep in mind that this is still alive threat for the various reasons we’ve talked about that at least makes it something that’s clear and present in the moment rather than just, oh, this is another examination of. Of Donald Trump’s greatest idiosyncrasy that happened on a single day. And can’t we move on?
David David, David Plotz: The Fed on Wednesday raised its core interest rate three quarters of a point in an effort to choke off to stifle inflation, which continues at a rate of more than 8%. It’s the biggest rate hike since 1994, I think. And we’re at what feels like an amazingly complex economic moment. We have inflation surging because of continued supply chain disruptions, because of geopolitical disruptions, because of consumer demand, general enthusiastic consumer demand. The Biden administration seems to be planning to lift various tariffs. Unemployment is still low. The stock market is in bear market territory, and most delightedly, for bad people like me, the crypto economy is crashing.
David David, David Plotz: So we’re glad to be joined by Jason Furman Gabfest Irregular I suppose, professor at Harvard and former chair of the Council of Economic Advisers under President Obama. So, Jason, all these various things are happening all at once. What what is the one thing that we really should keep an eye on if we have to pay attention to only one of the things that’s happening in the economy, what should we pay attention to?
Speaker 5: I pay attention to consumer spending, which is 70% of the economy. And it’s one of the weirdest things right now. Consumers are more pessimistic than they’ve ever been. This is in surveys going back 60 years, but consumers so far at least are increasing their spending at a decent pace. And that disconnect is of all of the weird things in the economy, to me, the weirdest.
John Dickerson: You mentioned something when you talked to Ezra Klein that I think is in this same basket, which was that people were spending in crazy areas like hobbies that that that their behavior was the purchasing behavior was not just on everyday stuff but also in weird hobbies that might not be part of the central part of their life. Is, is that what you’re talking about here? And also when retail sales fall, is that a good thing to look at consistent with the point you just made?
Speaker 5: Yeah. So what you see is incredibly elevated spending on just about every type of goods with the exception of cars, which no one can get, but everything other than cars, people are still spending ten, 15, 20% more than normal. But then service spending continues to increase. Every month people are traveling, more people are going to restaurants more and the like. And so that combination is continuing to prop consumer spending up.
Speaker 5: Your second question implicitly brought up another weird thing in the economy right now. Normally you’re rooting for the more of anything good, the better. But there is such a thing as too much of a good thing right now. I think if policymakers could choose economic growth over the next year of 2.7% or 1.7%, I think most of them would be a lot happier with 1.7% than 2.7, which is something that rarely would be the case. The concern is that right now the economy’s overheating and that’s driving up inflation. And it’s pretty generally acknowledged that you’re going to need at least somewhat slower growth to cool things down so that some of the price pressures diminish. And so if the economy grew at 2.7% over the next year, probably at that same time, you’d have higher rising inflation. If it grew at 1.7, you’d at least have a fighting shot at that inflation rate coming down. So just an overheating economy, too much growth can make the problem worse.
David David, David Plotz: But why? Why is it, do you think maybe you don’t know that people are so slap happy in their spending?
Speaker 5: I mean, part is they got a lot of money in in three rounds of checks in 2020 and 2021. They spent a year and a half spending much, much less than normal. And that both gives you some extra money. But also, some people are taking their first vacation that they’ve taken in two and a half years. I mean, some people have been traveling for the last you know, for for a while now, but some people it’s their first one. And so that both extra saving and pent up demand has meant the American consumer is just sort of detached from from all of the swirl going around us.
Emily Bazelon: So, I mean, we see these rate hikes from the Fed this week, this effort to cool the economy down. I fastened in our reading on a point that Derek Thompson made in the Atlantic about how to have unemployment so low and inflation so high that it’s in the past. When that same dynamic has been in place, it’s been very hard to avoid a recession. What do you make of the moves the Fed is making? Do you feel like this is kind of hopeless, that we’re staring into a recession?
Speaker 5: The Fed doesn’t have absolute control over anything. They can control sort of balances of risks. And right now they are taking steps that increase the risk of a recession in the next year. They are not trying to, you know, minimize that chance. They’re increasing that. Risk. They are also increasing the chance chances. Inflation comes down over the next year. And it’s the first time in decades really that they’ve been in that position where they are sort of willing to risk a recession. Now, the rate hikes we’ve seen so far, interest rates aren’t that high at 1.5 to 1.75, they’re expected to get somewhat high. They’re expected to rise to about four. But even that isn’t crazy high. But it’s just been this disc, you know, this sort of whiplash effect of going from zero forever to, oh, my God, it might be, you know, two or even four numbers that used to be pretty normal, but no one is used to anymore.
David David, David Plotz: Give the 32nd explanation for Gabfest listeners. When the Fed raises interest rates, how does that potentially choke off inflation and raise unemployment?
Speaker 5: Yet when interest rates go up, it makes it harder for people to get mortgages. So they buy fewer houses and there’s less construction jobs. It makes it harder for businesses to borrow money to expand, and so they hire fewer workers. And all of that means less jobs than you’d otherwise have and less wage and price pressure than you’d otherwise have. And listening to that explanation and that bare form, that’s not pretty. But the reason they’re doing it is they think the alternative is even less pretty.
Emily Bazelon: It seems like the obvious political implications of this are very bad for the Biden administration and the Democrats. Is that your view or is there some other way of looking at it?
Speaker 5: If you’re asking me to use a crystal ball to look at the next five months, that’s really easy. Nothing is going to dramatically change in the economy, in inflation and any of these dynamics. People are going to go to the polls pretty grumpy this November. If you’re asking two years and five months from now, yeah, I’d be pretty worried about the set of data. But look, Ronald Reagan had incredibly high inflation. He had a really deep recession. And by the time he was running for reelection, the economy was roaring out of it and people thought it was morning in America. So it’s not too late or impossible for the recession to come almost sooner and be coming out of it by the time of the next election.
David David, David Plotz: Because I don’t own any crypto and because I’m old and mean, I’ve been enjoying some of these stories about the contraction in the crypto economy, about how like one crypto product went into a death spiral, how the crypto bank Celsius is paralyzed. And I know that I’m wrong to be gleeful about this, but is the crypto economy useful or good? And what should we make of the kind of convulsion in it right now?
Speaker 5: But David, my my thinking on this isn’t that different from yours. I try to be nuanced, balanced and fair on most economic topics. I find that absolutely impossible to do on crypto. And if you wanted to rationalize your horrible, horrible feelings, you’re actually a really good person, too. You know, the alternative was crypto went up to $30 trillion and then back to one and a half trillion. So people saved $28 trillion of losses they would have had if this bubble got much, much worse before it popped.
David David, David Plotz: But explain it. Why? Well, why why are you you’re like a world class economist. Why? Why are you is just petty, vindictive?
Speaker 5: Great. No, I mean, there actually is some truth to that. I mean, part of when stocks go down, they you know, they’re in the middle of a bubble. The bubble could have gotten worse and the crash could have been even larger. And the thing about crypto is it doesn’t really have any use. It’s just an asset class. It’s not really a way to pay for things or to store value and all that. And as an asset class it has some really bad properties, which is that its inherent value is zero because there’s an unlimited supply of it, you know, not an unlimited supply of Bitcoin. There’s some algorithm that limits that, but not unlimited supply of cryptocurrencies because you could always invent new ones. And so in some sense, you know, it’s an asset whose fundamental value is zero and whose side effects are quite bad. And, you know, I’m glad we’re seeing a reckoning. I wish it had happened sooner, but it’s better than it happening later.
John Dickerson: How much murkier is the current economic moment than the normal murkiness that public policymakers have to deal with all the time in in thinking about how things are going to work? And is that does that murkiness affect the way or the humility we should have about policy and policy outcomes?
Speaker 5: It’s much murkier. You know, we tend to treat Bernanke and the financial crisis, Powell and the COVID crisis as enormous heroes. A lot of that’s justified. They did great things to get us out of those crises. But in some ways it’s easy when you know that you just need to put the pedal to the metal and you need to be creative. About like what exactly that means, because it’s not just as simple as pressing one pedal, but like you just pushing everything in one direction. Now you have these cross-currents you’re trying to balance. These cross currents are just enormous inflation, the highest in 40 years. Consumers the most pessimistic in 60 years. It’s just a much harder job now than it was for Bernanke in the crisis or Powell in the crisis.
David David, David Plotz: Jason Furman is professor of economics at Harvard. Jason, thanks for joining us.
Speaker 5: Thank you.
David David, David Plotz: It’s a big day here in Gab Land because there is a new Emily Bazelon opus long in gestation, about one of the most contentious issues on the planet. Her New York Times Magazine article, The Battle over Gender Therapy. More teenagers than ever are seeking transitions, but the medical community that treats them is deeply divided about why and what to do to help them. Oh, boy. Emily, this is a complicated issue. It does not lend itself to tweets. So I hope you’re not tweeting, at least not much. So it seems that lots of children at different ages are expressing the belief or knowledge that they are not the gender they’ve been assigned. And more and more of this is happening in the U.S. than has happened ever before. What is happening when those children start to express that?
Emily Bazelon: Well, it depends a lot what age they are and what kind of history they have. But, you know, in general, in the United States right now, a major medical organization support what’s called gender affirming care. And one thing that was interesting about this piece was about just trying to come up with a quick description or definition of what that is. I actually think it’s kind of impossible, but at least it’s the idea that you’re supporting kids when they come out as transgender or nonbinary or another gender identity and that you’re trying to embrace them.
Emily Bazelon: And then the question becomes what follows from that? So for younger children at this point, there is pretty much a consensus that if they express an interest in changing their name and pronouns, in addition to, you know, changing the way that they dress or have their haircut, that you support, that that’s called social transition. And the much thornier questions arise for teenagers when these questions come up about whether you should suppress puberty as a way of, you know, allowing them not to go through developmental changes that they may really not want. And then later on, but also for teenagers, whether they should take gender affirming hormone treatments that change their secondary sex characteristics.
Emily Bazelon: So the kind of spine of my piece is a new set of recommendations that are coming out soon from the World Professional Association for Transgender Health. It’s called W Path for Short. It’s been existence since 1979, and it’s become an organization that has lots of transgender and non-binary people in leadership roles and helping to write these new guidelines.
Emily Bazelon: And at the same time, the drafting process for this adolescent chapter, the separate chapter about teenagers was really hard because the people who are writing it, they’re all gender affirming providers. They included a transgender psychologist, and they’re confronting these questions about why the population of teenagers is rising and whether when to say that medical treatments are appropriate, what kind of guardrails to set in place for kids and families. And these are just really tricky questions. There is some evidence that the authors of the chapter relied on, but then there’s also just some unknowns. And that’s really the the extremely difficult topic I was trying to write about.
John Dickerson: Because unless you can figure out what the Y is, you can’t figure out how to provide the necessary gender affirming care at the right time and in the right amplitude. And history is a little confused, right? Because the the the kinds of people who are feeling like they aren’t the gender they were assigned at birth is different from that in the past. Right.
Emily Bazelon: Yeah. So, you know, when you look at and talk about transgender adults, it’s really important to recognize that the benefits of being able to medically transition are very well-established and that the rates of regret are very low. And so what we know from that historical population is these are people who really, really often had to struggle a great deal to get the kinds of medical interventions they wanted and they thrive. This is like something there’s lots of evidence for when you have a big rise specific to the adolescent population and you’re not totally sure exactly why that’s all happening, you might wonder whether those teenagers are the same as the adults from the past. And that’s like one of the really hard questions here.
Emily Bazelon: So we know that visibility among for transgender people, you know, in culture, in popular media has risen a lot. And that is certainly one reason why we’re seeing this rise. And it’s super liberating for a lot of kids and teenagers, and they’re also being playful and creative and just freer about gender expression than I think our generation and previous ones have been.
Emily Bazelon: But the authors of this adolescent chapter for W Path were also mentioning and and I think acknowledging that there’s a potential role here for social influence. And what they mean by that is, you know, peer to peer Internet. And then that raises a question for a lot of kids. Again, those can be really valuable ways of learning about a different way of being in the world. And then there are some kids and I talked to some of them for whom, you know, they’re kind of on a quest. And it’s not clear that in the long run this is going to be the answer for them. And that’s totally fine. But it does make complicated, more complicated these questions of medical interventions.
David David, David Plotz: To Emily, you’re writing this piece. And again, I would advise you not to look on Twitter, but it’s at a time when there’s this enormous right wing assault over almost all services to transgender people and especially to transgender children. And and, of course, most grotesquely, this this push to criminalize some of the treatment of children and put child welfare investigators on the path of parents who are allowing therapy for their children. And so there is this notion that how can you question the treatment of children at a moment when these malevolent, baleful forces are trying to criminalize what children are expressing? Feels like some of the doctors and psychologists who you’re writing about, who are seeking the well-being of children, but who maybe are more more they’re more cautious about therapy, are being lumped in with these conservative attacks on trans people.
Emily Bazelon: Yeah, it’s super unfortunate. I mean, when people are trying to ban care, how do you talk about improving it? Right. Because for the people writing this chapter, these psychologists, psychiatrists, medical doctors to acknowledge any kind of weakness or uncertainty in the evidence is to kind of open up the door to this right wing assault on the very care they provide. And that is a real conundrum for them. It was also something I thought a lot about as a journalist, but I am a journalist. In the end, that is my job.
Emily Bazelon: This is a hugely newsworthy story. I had exclusive access to the final version of the standards of care coming out from Pathe. In a lot of ways, that drove the timing of the story. So what I did was to try to weave in the political backdrop, mostly from the point of view of the people writing the chapter so that you could see the kind of pressure that was exerting on them and how hard it is to do science when you’re in this incredibly hostile political environment.
Emily Bazelon: So one of the psychiatrists in my piece, Scott Liebowitz, he works in Ohio. And on the one hand, he’s writing this chapter and trying to sound certain notes of caution, especially about having a kind of comprehensive diagnostic assessment before a medical intervention. And he’s getting a fair amount of flak. The whole chapter is from some other gender affirming providers and activists. And yet, at the same time, there’s a bill to ban what he does in Ohio, and he is personally being absolutely pilloried in front of the Ohio legislature. And that’s just a really hard position to be in.
John Dickerson: Emily, can you give us a sense of some of the tensions involved? So, for example, one thing that came through clearly and was it was helpful in your piece was that for those who don’t believe that they that they were assigned with the correct gender at birth, their body, as it develops, it becomes, you know, a constant reminder of their uncomfortableness. And so there’s a reason to have interventions because of the psychological damage of growing older, and that that’s the reason to move quickly on some people. And yet, on the other hand, you’re talking about medical, in some cases, choices that that have their own lasting effects that you don’t want to rush into. So it’s so I guess if you could just kind of tee up the tension that people of good faith forget the political conflict for a moment, that people of good faith, the tension they’re trying to work out in this.
Emily Bazelon: Yeah. I mean, I talk to lots of parents and lots of teenagers. And, you know, from the teenagers point of view, some of them embrace caution. Like they want to make sure themselves they both were very aware of the physical changes they were undergoing, but also had some sense like, yeah, I want to make sure that I really want this and I want to trust my parents and the therapist I’m talking to to help me through that process. And like, you know, it’s sort of the nature of adolescence to be super impatient.
Emily Bazelon: And I heard a lot of that, but I also heard some kids who really were able to think through the long term consequences and wanting to make sure to trust their own decision making. I think for parents. You know, you they have to consent to treatments for kids who are under the age of 18. And mostly they were trying to kind of pick their way through a landscape where it was pretty difficult to figure out what kind of gender affirming provider was what and whether they would find themselves with a therapist who would, you know, expect them to immediately embrace not just a child coming out as trans, but every medical intervention the child might want.
Emily Bazelon: Or whether there was a sense of like, okay, let’s take a moment here. Let’s process this all together. I talked to one supervisor, transgender herself, therapist in Texas, who said that when a kid in a family comes out as trans, it’s actually going to be a transition and a big event for everybody in the family. And it’s really important to remember that. And that’s unfortunately a quote that didn’t make it into my piece. I interviewed way too many people, but that really stuck with me.
Emily Bazelon: This idea that your family is part of what’s happening and we have really well established research that for LGBT kids, the most important thing is family support, that that is just like hugely protective for them for all kinds of otherwise, you know, outcomes that they’re at higher risk for.
Emily Bazelon: So I think there’s just a lot of still to be worked out about how to make sure that, you know, kids are being listened to, are being embraced or being told that they’re loved no matter what, and that there’s like this path for more kids, which is really been important and beneficial. And at the same time that there’s also a way to acknowledge that parents who have questions and hesitations are not necessarily being bigoted or transphobic. They’re just, like trying to figure stuff out.
David David, David Plotz: Emily, I just super admire you. I know you’ve been working on this piece for a long time and just been. Just thinking so hard about it and working so hard about it. And you talk to every single person in the world, apparently 14 times to do it. So congratulations. People should check out Emily story in The New York Times magazine. It’s already out online. The battle over gender therapy.
John Dickerson: As I was reading it, I was in awe of the amount of work and the care at every turn. It’s really, really amazing.
Emily Bazelon: Thank you, guys. I really appreciate it.
David David, David Plotz: Let’s go to cocktail chatter on the radio when you John Dickerson they’re having a post January six commission cocktail with an Dickerson in Washington, D.C. without me. What are you going to be chattering to? And Dickerson and not to me about.
John Dickerson: So there’s a lot of news going on. So we might have missed that the FDA FDA Advisory Committee unanimously recommended that at least two Moderna and Pfizer vaccines for COVID are now available for those under five, which is the last age group or the last cohort that didn’t yet have access to that vaccination. So it may even be possible by the time you read this, but certainly probably next week that the rollout could start to vaccinate kids under five, which I was walking by a playground the other day here in Washington, and all the kids were outside in the playground going over the jungle gyms, and all of them were masked. So presumably in a couple of weeks, they would no longer be the case.
David David, David Plotz: Emily, what’s your chatter?
Emily Bazelon: I was really interested this week in a piece I read in The Nation by Joan Walsh called The Backlash Against Sex Ed. And it’s about I mean, I’ve gotten totally interested in sex education, which I think is really changing a lot. And, you know, there are these challenges to it. And Joan is is writing about people on the right who are trying to take their kids out of sex ed programs. She starts off in Massachusetts and then moves on to Florida. And it’s just really, I think, this issue, it just feels like it is so ripe for conflict to me. And I thought she did a really interesting job of trying to understand where conservatives are coming from on it.
David David, David Plotz: My chatter to the twofold chatter one just a note to Gabfest listeners. I do this tour of a secret Civil War fort hidden deep in Rock Creek Park on Airbnb. I do it through Airbnb and it’s been sold out for months and months and months, but I just added a few dates and often most of the people who go on this tour, our Gabfest listeners, if you’ve wanted to come explore the secret fort with me in Rock Creek Park. I do it on weekends, added a couple of summer dates and I think a couple of fall dates. So you could look for exploring a secret fort on Airbnb or you can email me at David Plotz gmail.com and I will send you a link to it. That’s number one.
David David, David Plotz: Number two, last week I talked about whether Queen Elizabeth Elizabeth Windsor had with the person who had held the same job for the longest of any longest time of any person in history. And this prompted an outpouring of incredible responses from you guys. And I wanted to run through some of the incredible responses that you sent about other people who’ve held jobs for a really long time. So was a guy named Walter Orthman in Brazil. Walter Earthman, born in 1922. He’s 100 years old. At 15, he got a job as a salesman, a sales manager. And he was he got. Yes, he was didn’t become a sales manager until he was 16. He has been a sales manager for 84 years at the same company. In Brazil. That’s incredible. So this guy, 84 years sales manager in Brazil. Walter Earthman, congratulation.
David David, David Plotz: Here at home in the U.S., there’s a California woman named Mae Lee who as of 2020, she was 100 years old and worked as a financial analyst for the state of California at 100. And she’d been doing this job for 77 years. She had been doing it since before since since World War Two. Amazing. Congratulations.
Emily Bazelon: Is crazy.
David David, David Plotz: It’s crazy. Okay. We still haven’t gotten there. We haven’t. Still haven’t gotten there. There’s a Filipino tattooer, a woman who was born in 1917. So she’s 105. If she is still alive, the last thing I have about her is a couple of years old. She started tattooing when she was about 12 years old. I think it is 13 years old. She’s been tattooing for 90 years. That has been her job. Okay. Now the winner. No longer alive. Is is a barber named Anthony Mancinelli.
David David, David Plotz: Anthony Mancinelli. Anthony Mancinelli was a barber in upstate New York. He started being a barber when he was 12. Back during the presidency of Warren Harding in 1923. He retired at age 108 a few weeks before he died. He was a barber in New York for 96 years.
Emily Bazelon: That’s so amazing. It’s amazing.
David David, David Plotz: Amazing, amazing.
David David, David Plotz: So, listeners, thank you so much for your additions to my, my, my offhand reference to Elizabeth Windsor and I really appreciate you’ve also sent us really good listener chatters. Please keep them coming to us by emailing us at Gabfest at Slate.com or tweeting them to us at at site Gabfest. And this week’s listener chatter comes from Andrew Scarpelli.
Speaker 5: My listener chatter this week, while drinking delicious craft brews from one of the numerous breweries around the great city of Chicago, is about the Biodesign challenge. While most discussions of many of the crises facing the natural world seems to be completely full of doom and gloom, the Biodesign challenge, which happens at the end of June every year, is a wonderful opportunity to see biology and design as the place where solutions can be found. The Biodesign Challenge asks students to learn about both art and design, as well as biology and science to look for creative ways to solve real world problems with sustainable technologies. It’s a great way to see and hear how everyone can get involved in pitching ideas that can help us tackle mounting problems like climate change, the accumulation of plastics and microplastics, invasive species, and so many more in a way that is fun and accessible.
Speaker 5: The summit is streamed every year, and this year the event is happening the entirety of the week of June 20th. It’s a great way to learn about dire problems and hear some creative and hopeful solutions from potentially unlikely sources. I’m going to be rooting for my team of students from Chicago, but there are participants from all over the world, and each will have an amazing project to share with you, to enlighten and give you hope.
David David, David Plotz: That is our show for today. The Gabfest is produced by Shayna Roth, our researcher. Back after a multi-state move is Bridgette Dunlap. Welcome back, Bridget. Our theme music is by they might be Giants get better. John Landsberg. Ben Richmond is senior director for podcast operations. Alisha Montgomery is the executive producer of Slate Podcasts. Please follow us on Twitter at Gabfest and tweet chatter to us there. Please join us for our live show on June 29th in Washington DC at sixth and I Slate.com slash DFS live to get tickets for Emily Bazelon and John Dickerson. I’m David Plotz. Thanks for listening and we’ll talk to you next week. Hello, Slate Plus. How are you?
David David, David Plotz: Summer. Summer is coming in. So we’re going to talk a little bit about our summer, our summer consumption, our summer culture consumption. Today, it’s always great to get some recommendations from the gang and to hear about things we should be watching and things we should be reading. Because the summer is a time for watching and reading and lounging and reading. Anyone want to start? Emily, you always have a lot of good stuff.
Emily Bazelon: A lot. I feel like I never have a lot of anything. I am really looking forward to reading. A debut novel called The Immortal King Rule, which is by Wahine Vara, who I worked with a little bit at the New York Times Magazine, but mostly have just come to super admire as a writer and thinker. And this novel sounds like it’s one of those kind of sprawling future epics. It sounds great. Yeah, it totally sounds up your alley, David.
John Dickerson: What was that noise, David?
David David, David Plotz: That was me.
Emily Bazelon: Salivating.
David David, David Plotz: Salivating. Gasping for breath.
Emily Bazelon: Hyperventilate the top of my list.
David David, David Plotz: Okay. That’s a good start. John. Anything from.
John Dickerson: You? I have for a long time had cloud cuckoo land on my a my stack. This is by Anthony Dorr wrote all the light we cannot see I mean wrote other things too. But that was the last book of his. I wrote Red and I’m saving it for a moment of real, you know, where you could sort of have the next plunge into a book as opposed to everything else I reread, which has to be in shorter periods. So that’s something that’s before me and then I’m quite looking forward to.
John Dickerson: But in, in, in that same context and this is going to sound pretentious, but it’s not because no one would ever accuse me of that. Swann’s Way Proust’s first novel of the search in search of Lost Time. I assigned to myself as a as a an act of not penance, exactly, but to work on the capturing of attention, which is, you know, we’re all bombarded with lots of things that are interrupt us. So I decided to read Swann’s Way as a way to kind of force myself to focus. It’s quite hard because the book is it’s full of long, confusing, discursive passages, sentences that go on for a million years, very hard to kind of stay on it and not get distracted. It almost invites distraction. So maybe it’s a great test of that.
John Dickerson: But what I realized the other day was that it actually if you just read paragraphs of Swann’s Way, just like as you as you pass by the book, not sit down for a long read, but just a little, it is really very rewarding because you can really examine an individual short passage and see all of the beauty inside of it. And and so I was approaching it the wrong way. It shouldn’t be sat down and read in huge gobs, but rather in short bits. But then the problem I found is that I underline like three sentences in a paragraph, and then I come back and read it again later. And then I basically want to underline the sentences that I didn’t underline the first time. So I’m trying to work out that problem also.
Emily Bazelon: I mean, I read Swann’s Way on a kind of languid vacation, and I feel like if I had put it down and just read a little bit and then picked it back up, I would not have been able to keep track of what was happening.
John Dickerson: But the thing is, there’s nothing happening. I mean, nothing happens. I mean, he spends pages and pages and pages describing what reading fiction is like, which is very cool and is a thing happening. And I don’t want to suggest that’s not a deep and important human endeavor. And in fact, Reading Swann’s Way teaches you how deep you can go when just talking about the simple act of reading a book. But you can access that in short in short bits. It’s not like you have to keep track, like in Game of Thrones with who’s doing what to whom. It’s basically, you know, his thoughts and they don’t. You’re mostly inside of his head. And so I found that I don’t really have to keep track of the narrative as much as you would in a book that had a much more propulsive, action oriented narrative.
Emily Bazelon: David, surely it’s time to switch to what people are watching. I mean, I want your book recommendations, too, but I want both.
David David, David Plotz: Okay. Well, I’m reading right now a book that’s giving me huge pleasure, which is Jennifer Egan’s Manhattan Beach.
Emily Bazelon: Oh, so good. That book is great.
David David, David Plotz: I was not I’m not one of these people who is is the visit from the goon squad? Stan It was not a book that really made an impression on me, but I’m loving Manhattan Beach. I also just finished Emily Saint John Mandel’s, I guess, kind of sequel to Station 11, not really Sea of Tranquility, which is actually very like cloud cuckoo land. In some ways. It has it has a lot of DNA in common with cloud cuckoo land. There’s a lot of similar vibe to those books. It’s a glorious, short, little, beautiful book.
Emily Bazelon: Is that her new book or does she have a theory?
David David, David Plotz: That’s her new book. And then I’m actually going to go back and I’m going to double back and read her other book, Glass Hotel, because that sounds my daughter, who’s read all of her book, says it’s also worth reading. And then I just read a book which which will be a Gabfest Reads This Summer by Matt Johnson called Invisible Things, which is an allegorical science fiction novel, which is a lot of fun and wild. It’s just a wild book about race mostly, and oppression.
Emily Bazelon: I love Matt Johnson.
David David, David Plotz: I had not read him. I just saw this book listed.
Emily Bazelon: I love that book you wrote called Loving Day that centers on a house in Philadelphia.
David David, David Plotz: What in terms of watching? Well, I’m watching I’m I’m very old school right now. I’m watching two old series. I’m watching the Americans with my girlfriend and I’m watching Borgen with my son.
Emily Bazelon: Those are good shows, but not new shows.
David David, David Plotz: David Plotz There is a new season of Borgen, but I’m watching the original work and I then I’ll catch up to the new season. No, they’re not new, I. But does everything have to be new?
Emily Bazelon: I guess that’s Swann’s way.
David David, David Plotz: I prefer to be watching Swans where I’m doing a 78 part adaptation of Planes Way.
John Dickerson: Yeah. And it’s and you never. It’s all about just the kiss it. That’s all. Seven episodes are just about that.
David David, David Plotz: It’s actually just a food competition show where people are making madeleines. They’re just going.
John Dickerson: Through battle.
David David, David Plotz: Lines episode after episode.
Emily Bazelon: I want to throw in two more things. A friend of mine really, really is recommending physical this Rose Byrne TV show. It’s now in the second season. I have not watched one minute of it, but I’m looking forward to that. And then Geraldine Brooks, who I think we had on the golf course during the pandemic, has a new novel called Horse, and I’m a huge fan of hers, so I can’t wait for that.
John Dickerson: Let’s not leave out video games to Elden Ring, which I absented myself from for about two months of work, has returned to reward me, and so I’m very happy about that. I also feel slightly like they may have made some of the challenges a little easier. I don’t that’s complete conspiracy thought on my part, but I just recently achieved what for me. And again, this is a crucial point. What for me was an achievement, and it seemed slightly easier than when I was trying to do it two months ago when I was playing.
David David, David Plotz: So maybe you’re just wiser. I do crossword puzzles faster now than I used to do. I do play a lot. Oh.
John Dickerson: That’s interesting.
David David, David Plotz: It’s just practice. Yeah.
John Dickerson: And you get your mind gets into the habit of. Yeah.
David David, David Plotz: All right, bye slate. Plus, send us your recommendations late. Plus, we could use some books besides the immortal King Rule.