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S3: Hello and welcome to the Slate Political Gabfest for April 9th, 2020.
S4: It’s easy to talk about lights all Ed.. I’m David Plotz. I’m in Washington, D.C. John DICKERSON of CBS is 60 Minutes, is in his home in New York City. Hello. John DICKERSON Hello, David. And Emily Bazelon of The New York Times Magazine and of Yale University Law School.
S5: Shuttered Yale University Law School is in her home in New Haven, Connecticut. Hi, Emily.
S6: Hello. Hello. Yeah, law school has moved to zoom. It is not shuttered.
S7: I guess I didn’t literally physically shuttered on today’s gabfest. We will visit again with Dr. Amos Adalgisa, the doctor and epidemic expert who talked to us a few weeks ago. How are we doing with Koven 19, compared to where he thought we’d be when we talked to him a few weeks ago then inspectors general. President Trump’s extraordinary, dangerous and dictatorial attacks on inspectors general. Plus, a big fight about the exit of Bernie Sanders from the presidential race. Plus, we will have cocktail chatter. Dr Emerson Soldier is a senior scholar at Johns Hopkins University’s Center for Health Security. He focuses on emerging infectious disease, pandemic preparedness, biosecurity and he’s based in Pittsburgh. We spoke to Dr. Adalgisa three weeks ago as the worst of this pandemic. Began her as it seemed to be starting to accelerate. So, Dr. Adalgisa, when we spoke to three weeks ago, you told us to really watch out for hospitalizations in particular and the strain on hospitals as you look over the past three weeks and as you try to look ahead, how broadly speaking would you assess where we are? There are obviously thousands dead, multiple thousands and thousands upon thousands sickened society shut down. But have we? Are we heading in the right direction, as far as you see?
S8: I do think we are heading in the right direction, because when I spoke to you last, I knew that there was going to be this mountain of case that we were going to have if this was not not a containable virus. And I expected us to get sort of to this place that we are now because of the undetected spread that had been going on and what this virus represented. I do think we’re in a better place now, even though you’re seeing death counts rise, because we knew this was inevitable. But it seems to be that even in our hardest hit areas like New York City, the hospitals were able to increase capacity to a point where they didn’t go into complete crisis mode, where they were rationing care. And we seemed to hit either a plateau or a peak in New York City. And I think that’s the most. That’s kind of the weakest link in our in our systems, pandemic preparedness, because New York City has unique characteristics in terms of its population density, its hospitals kind of always being almost at stress levels on a day to day basis and the fact that it got hit early before resources weren’t in place. So I think the fact that New York was able to survive gives me a sigh, a sigh of relief. And I do think we have tough days ahead of us in places like New Orleans and Detroit and Chicago. But the fact that New York was able to cope with this is really something that this shows that we have the capacity to do this. If we if we actually work hard to make sure that resources are met, how do you feel about the next step?
S6: So if we succeed in flattening the curve and keeping the numbers down, then love presumably created a space in which we could have mass testing, we could have contact tracing, we could take the steps that other countries, particularly in Asia, have successfully used to be able to eventually reduce physical distancing. But there’s a huge mobilization and ramping up involved in those efforts. Do you think that the federal government is effectively getting millions and millions of tests online? It has started to think about the infrastructure we need for contact tracing and also for isolation.
S8: So I do think that we bought ourselves some time of social distancing. And now that there is this place where we can move through another phase where you start to see risk risk, economic restrictions being lifted in some reanimation of the economy, that’s still the primary thing was still not will be not to have hospitals exceed capacity in order to do that. We know they’re going to be cases that are going to occur once you start to reanimate the economy, but you want them to be at a slower clip, one that doesn’t put hospitals into a panic or crisis. And in order to do that, we have to be able to identify cases rapidly, even mild cases, isolate them, do contact tracing and kind of go back to what we should have done way back in January. And that’s going to require a lot of testing. You want these tests to be as ubiquitous as an HIV test, that people can do these very easily, quickly at the point of care. And there are test kits like that that have been developed and that have gotten emergency use authorization by the FDA. The question will be, can you scale them and put them everywhere that they need to be, that the federal government and the state governments are going to have to work aggressively to do that. Now, the other hand, we have to make sure that our health departments are adequately resourced to do the contact tracing. So that’s going to involve a lot of manpower and making sure that they have the money to hire those people and maybe they can actually repurpose people that are not working right now to do contact tracing. I know in the Pittsburgh area, there are medical students that are helping the Health Department do contact tracing. There are ways that to find other people that can learn how to do contact tracing so that we can augment the workforce, because you do need a lot of people to do contact tracing in order for it to be effective. And you don’t want things to slip through the cracks, but it is going to be a major challenge. But I think that’s where we’re going next in this phase of the pandemic response.
S9: Amy, in terms of what the public knows, there is sometimes a feeling that as a Catholic, the cafeteria Catholic picks which portion of the catechism they want to believe in and then orders their life that way with a social distancing. With a lot of these public health rules, people seem to be picking and choosing or then sometimes over picking. One thing they hear I heard from the White House for the first time. I’d heard it anyway yesterday about a 15 kind of 15 minute rule. So stay six feet away. But then something about, you know, if you’re not in the presence of somebody for more than 50 minutes, that that was a new piece of information that seemed to be being put out as public health.
S10: What is durable and what do we really know that we should operationally behave on in our daily lives or in the middle of a pandemic with an emerging infectious disease?
S8: And there’s lots of pieces of public health guidance that are going to fall, not not be known about not that’s going to change. What Dr. Burke said is actually correct. We don’t get transmission of this from person to person without usually some amount of contact for a period of time. It’s not as if you walk by somebody on a trail in the woods and all of a sudden you’re been exposed. No one will be defined as an exposure is no closer contact. That is for a duration of time. It’s not some fleeting contact. So what she said there is correct and it’s been in the guidance. It’s just not something that probably people asked her before, because we do that when we look at health care worker exposures to see who truly was exposed. But I can be very daunting for someone in the public to keep track of all of these things because they do change. You may have different guidance from there’s actually different guidance from certain state health departments versus the CDC. There is there is some room for for variation in how you implement the principles of public health when it comes to this this outbreak.
S5: What is the most encouraging thing you’ve seen in the research, treatment and public behavior? Similarly, what’s the most discouraging thing you’ve learned about the disease or about our behavior?
S8: So I would say that what heartens me is the fact that hospitals have been able to meet the capacity. And it might sound paradoxical for me to say that when we’re seeing record numbers of deaths and. In New York City, but the fact the fact is that we knew this was coming and we’ve been able to avoid the Italy situation, and I think that’s heartening because that was really what was premising many of the actions that were being taking, many of the economic shutdowns were to avoid the Italian situation. When you have a health care system, move very quickly with assistance from federal and state governments to meet capacity to get ventilators to where they need to go to to be able to augment health care workforce in a place like New York City. I think that that tells you you can do it mostly anywhere, because that’s really where you’re going to be hardest hit. And in the fact that we haven’t we’ve hit a plateau phase. It is really heartening to me when I think is bad about this is the fact that this has become politicized on all sides of this. And I’m somebody who goes on all three of the major news networks frequently. And I’ve just noticed that all three of them have have an issue and sometimes makes it much harder to actually get good information out because you get slanted questions from all three and you don’t. You have a soundbite to answer. There’s a lot more nuance to this. So I do think that we expected this pandemic to become politicized by everybody, especially in an election year. And I think that’s made it much worse because you’ve got certain decisions being made and then people second guessing them to wonder if there’s a political motive behind them. And you’ve gotten people going back into their into their tribes. And I think that makes it much harder to to work in a pandemic environment. You know, the science and there’s medicine. And that’s kind of not partisan. And it’s it’s that it’s the truth. So anybody trying to score political points over this has made it much harder for all of us to do our work. It’s created conspiracy theories. It’s created lots of cascading negative effects that we have to waste our time kind of battling back. And I think that’s made it much harder, definitely more difficult than getting the message out was during Ebola, for example.
S11: Have you been following the conversation around that possibility that low dose exposure could lead to less serious milder forms of Kove Ed? And is that another hopeful possibility? Because it suggests that people who have brief exposures might get less sick and then that could help us build herd immunity faster.
S8: So I would say in general there is a dose response relationship, meaning the more you’re infected with, the more likely you are to have severe symptoms. It’s unclear to me though that people who get low exposures are always gonna get mild, mild illness. So I think there’s a little bit more to it than just that. And I don’t think that having a low dose exposure is something that people should desire, should in and of itself desire or try to use as herd immunity. We’re going to get to herd immunity just because this virus is contagious enough that mostly everybody’s gonna get it over time. The low dose or high dose thing really only matters more in the high dose exposure. We’re trying to explain why do sometimes health care workers get more severely ill than it might be because of their dose, which is true with many infectious diseases.
S12: Help people sort then I guess if the idea is that it’s more than just temporary exposure. Are people because are people wrong to be, you know, wiping down their packages that they’re getting or.
S9: And the reason I ask is that when people are in that state of wiping down everything that comes in, it adds to that level of anxiety that then puts pressure on the politicians to make decisions about getting people back to normal or their tolerance for doing the things that actually might be more beneficial from a public health perspective.
S8: So I get lots of questions about can you get this from this? Can you get this from that? And sometimes they can get very, very, very silly. Like when a U.P.S. guy asked you to sign for some thing, how are you going to do that? Because you have to use his electronic. So you get these types of things which are that’s not how it’s not like the virus is thinking, you know, I’m going to exploit these really odd ways of getting it to get around it. I do think that people get very hung up on this because they’re scared. They don’t know they’re shifting information. I’m not somebody that wipes down my packages. I don’t think that that’s a major, major risk. But obviously, if by if I saw some, you know, a little kid walk by my package and seized on it before I picked it up, I probably would. I think this is something that we have to all think about. We are allowed to be proactive about preventing from spreading any further. I really worry about the big things like mass gatherings or or certain congregations that that may get too ill. And it’s going to be important as we start to reanimate the economy that people actually understand how to how to right size their own risk avoidance. And obviously, for people who have other medical conditions or older who are at risk for severe infections, they’re going to have to be much more meticulous about this. But other people are going to have to start to be able to think about how to incorporate avoidance of Corona virus into their into their life.
S11: I have to say, I find some of that confusing. Like, I absolutely would have not taken the electronic pen from the U.P.S. delivery guy. In fact, he hasn’t offered it to me in weeks. I am someone who is desperate to right size my risk avoidance strategies because I hate all of this, but I feel confused about what I’m supposed to be doing. And part of the reason I feel that way is not for myself. It’s the idea that I could expose someone who has. Who is. Much more compromised and vulnerable than I am.
S8: ticketsnow goes back to the basics of washing your hands and not touching your face, and I think if you’re gonna take that pen for the u._p._s person, the delivery person, just wash your hands. I think there’s a lot of common sense that that people aren’t aren’t thinking about in. I think people have real questions about it. And I don’t think that there is not like black and white here. There’s a lot of gray. And you have to look at these risks in your own your own life and decide what the best ways are to avoid it and what what’s what’s becoming too much or what’s becoming compulsive or what’s actually evidence based and warranted. And I think maybe I’m a little bit skewed because I’m in the hospital all the time and I’m thinking that’s my biggest exposure, that I’m around patients that actually have this. So when somebody tells me, you know, can I take a pen from somebody else, I actually find that silly because I’m in a room with a person that’s coughing with coronavirus. So my risk perception is probably I have a very high threshold to worry about something versus versus the general public. And it may be my own bias that’s coming out when I when I kind of laugh off some of these. But. And I think that everybody’s going to come to a different place with this as as we learn to live it, because I’m going to go anywhere. Even when the social distancing ends, this virus is still going to be here. We’re going to have to think about social distancing in our own lives for some time until the vaccine is available.
S5: Dr. and Mrs. δ, thanks for coming back and we’ll talk to you again soon. Anytime. Slate Plus members, you get bonus segments on the Gap as another Slate podcast, ghostlike dot com slash gabfests, plus to become a member today. Today it will be a create your own. We will tell a story in Slate plus if we can manage to get a story together. Not sure that’s feeling like the right vibe right now. But whatever. We’ll do it.
S7: Inspectors general. They are in the news this week because President Trump has decided that the inspector general is his latest avenue of assault on government, on good government. So Michael Atkinson, the intelligence community inspector general who surfaced the whistleblower complaint that led to President Trump’s impeachment, was removed in the dead of night at the end of last week. Glenn Fine, the Pentagon inspector general, who was about to become the chairman of the new Pandemic Responsibility Accountability Committee, the group that was going to police, how the government spends the 2.2 trillion dollars it just allocated for Carano relief was removed from his job as the Pentagon inspector general. And the GAO cannot become chair of that committee. President also attacked the HHS inspector general, Kristi GRIMM, on Twitter because she had criticized the shortages of tests of PPE during the course of the epidemic. And President Trump took that affront personally. Emily, so what are inspectors general? Who are inspectors general and why is President Trump exercised about them right now? I probably left out some inspectors general in there, by the way.
S11: You did leave one part out, but we’ll get to that.
S13: The inspectors general are this vital part of the federal government who are independent within the various agencies, and their job is to investigate waste, fraud and abuse. So they’re the people who have the power to say, wait, wait, wait. That contract is going to some crony of the EPA secretary or. Wait, wait, wait. I went in and talked to a whole bunch of hospitals and they say that they’re not getting the help they need from the federal government. This program is not unrolling the way it was supposed to or the EPA is not informing local communities of an increase in toxins that they have a legal right to know about. And so they’re really important people. If you care about the government functioning properly, they’re the internal watchdogs in each agency, and that makes them the perfect target for President Trump. He does not want independent people within the federal government looking over his shoulder and in any way being able to gainsay his political appointees. And so that’s what you’re seeing this week in the shadow of coronavirus, which has us all distracted for good reason. Trump is using his power to eliminate inspectors general who have shown real independence and pushed back against him. He’s sending a message to all the i.g.’s. Watch out if you do your job aggressively. I’m going to come for you. And he’s making it safer for his administration to operate with minimal, minimal oversight.
S5: I mean, Ebele, let’s be real here. Who can be independent? The federal government. There’s one president. The president has to be responsible for everything that happens in the federal government. And how can there be people who are undermining what the president wants to do?
S14: Surely the president has total authority over personnel within the federal government. Emily, that’s the theory of the unitary executive.
S15: Well, funny. You should go ahead. Go ahead.
S16: Oh, no, I just I just want to note for a moment that that goofy voice that you just you just embraced. But before Emily answers that question, can I just turn it just because David mentioned personnel, which is one challenge. But there’s also just operationally under a more traditional administration, there is a tension between instances in which you want to move quickly and get things done and the proper oversight process, which, you know, wants to make sure that efficiency doesn’t become an excuse for abuse. Even people who believe in the federal government in their bones recognize the tension between speed and action and oversight. But that legitimate tension shouldn’t be mistaken for what’s going on now.
S13: The thing about the I.G. Is the Zhaan is they have nothing to do with speed of action. They come in usually after the fact. Right. And so that’s the point. So it’s no bright. And they’re part of how the executive branch functions. But I mean, one reason that your irony, David, is well taken. Is that yet another thing that President Trump did this week was to nominate Brian Miller, a former White House counsel official, to the job of being the I.G. With the specific role of overseeing all the money that’s going to flow out of Treasury. So they will separate from that pandemic accountability committee you talked about earlier. This is a person, a role that Congress, the Democrats fought really hard for because they didn’t like the idea that Manoogian, our secretary of treasury, was just going to send. All this money out the door to businesses with no idea of like who those businesses were. Right. Of the original legislation said we wouldn’t even know for six months which businesses received the funds. OK.
S5: So the demo file, I kind of just interrupt there for a second, Emily. I just. Sorry. I just think it’s great that we now have an official who’s going to make sure that those funds go to companies connected to President Trump. Yeah. Well, you know, we’ve guaranteed it.
S13: Two problems. One is that Brian Miller is himself a Trump political person. He comes from this job in the White House counsel’s office. Were part of what he was doing, was thwarting access to documents relating to the Mueller investigation. You know, he was the person responding to Michael Horowitz, the Justice Department I.G. And he was blocking access. And he also has, in speeches, embraced the unitary executive theory that you were ironically giving us earlier, which is basically like the president has all the power. And Congress isn’t supposed to question that. And we can’t have inspectors general who answered a Congress rather than to the president. And in that vein and also in his resumé, Miller looks a lot like Bill Barr, someone who seems like a kind of mainstream if Republican official who came up through normal channels and the Justice Department, but who embraces this, what used to be a very fringe on shared theory that really puts so much power at the president that Congress can’t see inside the executive branch. And on top of all of that, President Trump, when he signed the two trillion dollar relief bill, issued a signing statement saying that he thinks he gets to decide which documents Congress gets to see through the inspector general who is now nominated to be Brian Miller. Though the one thing Congress has left the Senate does have to confirm Miller’s appointment.
S7: A Republican majority Senate. John, one of the things that we’ve come to realize so much during the Trump administration, which you were. Deeply familiar with his how much of what we think of has been the rule of law or good government is actually just norms of what of have what how presidents and Congress have behaved in court to behaved. What do you think the remedies are when you have a president who’s so willing to extend executive power in the way that President Trump is and is backed by a whole movement of people who are willing to extend it at least as long as Republicans are in power and the court system and a set of judges who are willing to allow them to do it, and a Congress which essentially has been defanged. What what remedies do we have?
S16: Well, in that I think there are no I mean, under that’s scenario, there are no remedies because people in the people who have power make the rules. I do think it’s important to go back to my previous point. By way of getting to a remedy to recognize the distinction between what the Trump administration is doing both specifically now, but also what they’re doing specifically now comes in a context which is in the context that it comes in is essentially any of these rules, regulations, laws, norms. And by the way, the president has shown, based on what we know from his previous cabinet secretaries and and also from his behavior with respect to Ukraine, he has shown an disinclination, disinterest and sometimes outright dislike of actual laws, forgetting norms for the moment. So that’s what the president is doing and that is outside even of this existing tension. And I think it’s important to understand the existing tension, because what you don’t want is somebody defending what the president’s doing, which requires a whole new classification of defense and is much harder to defend. You don’t want people giving a defense of what the president’s views and doing, using what is a a legitimate area of conflict, which is i.g.’s oversee all laws, regulations, policies within a department.
S10: So they what happens is it’s not only what they actually investigate for the purposes of criminal wrongdoing, they also engage in constant ongoing kind of teeth cleaning of an orbit organization that is kind of looking over the shoulder of the people doing the work. And then and that has both possible tensions in what they’re actually doing. And then it also sets up habits of behavior, which in the best of all worlds represent the perfect habits of behavior that’s in concert with both efficiency and laws, regulations and so forth, but is often in conflict. All that stuff is normal and natural. And I think people in both administrations who would like to make agencies more efficient often say that the I.G. Process is a little too overbearing, maybe not even because of the original I.G. But because so many of these agencies are clotted with red tape and different regulations. So that’s the existing thing. And that needs to be monitored and cleaned up and fixed just for its own, regardless of what administration or what what party you’re in. But to to get to the actual president is to is to not make the mistake of thinking he’s just being more efficient, you know, and this is a business man cutting through the red tape. That’s not what he’s doing. And the reason this is so vital and important is that we’ve seen in the coronavirus case and in several others that if you don’t follow the system of doing things, if you don’t have your act in gear and stuff cleaned up and tight before the emergency hits, you can’t figure it out in the moment. And that’s true with corruption as well. You can’t just like walk the cat back a lot of times because everybody has an interest in fuzzing up the past. So you need an I.G. To be on the case and watching so that people not only behave as good stewards of U.S. money, taxpayer money, but also said they do the right stuff in their job so that they, you know, reach the outcomes the entire agencies were created to bring about.
S17: And then I guess, let’s say something else, maybe I’m just so frustrated right now that we would even be thinking in normal governance terms. But part of what we’re seeing is how Trump has moved the standards so far.
S13: So, you know, when he fired Jim Comey, that was a huge scandal when he talked about firing his former attorney general, Jeff Sessions. That was a scandal. Now, it’s like barely a ripple that he’s firing these career officials in the Justice Department who have this watchdog role. And, you know, look like most people probably don’t know that inspectors general exist, much less what they do. Plus any compound noun where you have the ass on the first word, it’s like a bad idea.
S17: Just sounds kind of stuffy. And the reason that they were able to operate effectively and they have done so in growing numbers since Watergate, is that it? Just like you presidents were not going to fire the person who was supposed to be the watchdog because that just seems so obviously self-interested and corrupt that it would get you into trouble with the whole. Government. Now we have a situation in which Democrats are outspoken in criticizing Trump on this from. We have barely heard a peep from Republicans. The one thing is Grassley talking about murmuring about how he wants a letter in which Trump gives reasons for firing Atkinson, who is the person involved in the whistleblower complaint. And I mean, that is just so little pushback. It’s kind of unreal. And I guess the other thing I want to say about Atkinson is Atkinson’s job in the statute was to four-word a whistleblower complaint to Congress if it was of urgent concern once him. And it was credible once he made that determination. The word in the statute is shall it’s not made for it to Congress. It’s shall. He was just doing his job. And so firing him, you have to buy into Trump’s completely La-La Land narrative that, you know, his call to Ukrainian president was perfect, that there was nothing wrong with the way he was operating. You have to turn Atkinson into the bad guy in the story, which is just so far from reality. And the fact that there cannot be bipartisan strong recognition of that. This is like why we are where we are. And then that, of course, is looking to the past. I mean, who even remembers things like impeachment and the Mueller investigation right now? But because of the pandemic and all of the spending that’s going on and all of the terrible trouble hospitals and states are having and trying to deal with the federal government, it is very relevant going forward that we have these watchdogs and they are being told to like stay on their leash as much as possible in this moment.
S7: Two other points to follow on that. Emily, one is. We have to recognize the first of all, the scale of the money that’s being spent, so we’re talking about two trillion dollars that is being spent and. The possibility of of corruption, of misbehavior, of mismanagement is extraordinary. We’ve already seen with the SBA loan program the $349 billion that’s supposed to go out to help small businesses. An extraordinary amount of mismanagement already and incompetence that, you know, needs to be investigated, needs to be understood. And the Trump administration’s willingness to countenance, to allow, encourage, corruption, self-dealing, dealing to cronies is extraordinary.
S5: And we’re going to it’s going to end up that there’s going to be billions and billions and billions and billions and billions of dollars that are siphoned off, that are delivered to people who are have friends in this administration or friends in among powerful people in Congress. And we may never know about it. Or if we do know about it, nothing is going to happen to those people. And it’s just dispiriting. And it’s obviously it’s not as important as getting the health of the country right and getting the economy right. But a corrupt nation is a weaker nation. And this is encouraging corruption. That’s one point. Just one second point, John. Let me just make one other point, which is I mentioned a few weeks ago on the show that I thought one of the things that was going to happen during this crisis is that the Trump administration was going to sneak through a whole bunch of stuff while we weren’t looking. And that the cashiering of Michael Atkinson was slightly noticed. We’re talking about it on the show. But that is it. That an example of like, let’s just do it at the dead of night on, you know, the end of a day on a Friday. They snuck through a repeal of Obama era fuel economy standards without anyone really noticing, without it making the news in the paper, even though it’s going to cause an unfathomable amount of new CO2 to be dumped into the atmosphere. So they are they are going to sneak stuff by us even as this country is in the midst of the greatest crisis that it’s had in a century.
S16: And one thing I would add to what you’re saying, David, is, first of all, I think the the inspector general behavior in the treatment of them is a part of the lack of faith in an interest in the normal operations of government that actually will make it more difficult to use the government to solve those bigger problems that you talked about in the economy and in the aftermath of this. But, you know, there’s another aspect of this that’s not just corruption, which is has just still has the negative effects, which is somebody gets in there and says, I want this solved quickly. And I know a guy and the guy, you know, is the one you hire because it’s now easier to do. And it’s not because you’re feathering his nest, though that might be the byproduct of this decision. But you’re putting in charge of something, someone who, you know, just stayed at a Holiday Inn Express last night. If it’s if it’s easier to move without oversight to to get your pals to weigh in on things, you’re coming to it fresh and new, which is great. In some cases, you have new, fresh eyes. In other cases, you have no idea how it operates within the context of the federal government and coordinates with the other agencies. And you end up creating more problems than you solve, which then have to be covered up because the person has been brought in in a political track, not a policy track. So he creates mayhem. Even if you’re not trying to feather someone’s nest, even if you’re just trying to do, let’s say, the right thing more efficiently if you don’t follow the the process. You end up causing mayhem.
S18: Emily, take the last word on this.
S11: You know, my deepest fear about this is that it reads to people like the government can’t function. And whenever it’s the government that becomes less legitimate, it’s Democrats who suffer because Democrats want the government to work for them. It’s important to realize that the frame for this is corruption and it’s specific to the Trump administration. It is the Trump administration throwing a wrench into the mechanisms that make government accountable to taxpayers. So I would just stop there. But I feel like we have to talk for a minute about what a disastrous mess this election in Wisconsin was this week and also about the fact that Bernie Sanders has dropped out of the Democratic primary, making Joe Biden the presumptive nominee. John, I need your 1 or 2 minute analysis of the Democratic field and this shift.
S19: Well, I mean, you know, on one hand, it was.
S20: Kind of inevitable.
S21: New Aryana.
S16: We don’t know what what our election looks like. And to the extent that the message and signal beforehand was that Democratic voters and particularly want to kind of return to normalcy rather than another revolution, we are in a moment now where on the one hand there is a strong impulse, I think, to a return to normalcy. IBSA returned from two to the pre coronavirus era. But then also, I think there is a strong possibility that people will look at government and say, I want government to operate efficiently, particularly on these big issues that can only be addressed by the federal government. And the fact that Joe Biden has a very close adviser who gets the highest marks for the Ebola response. Ron Clain is probably good news for Joe Biden for that. So for the message of we will be the people who know how to run a big organization to the extent you can in a federal government, that’s so that’s there’s that message.
S10: Then there is the Sanders message, which is all the inequities in this in current American system will be exacerbated and are being exacerbated by what’s happening right now with coronavirus. They’re therefore potentially creating an even increased appetite for the message that Sanders had, which is a wholesale rethinking of the way America works.
S16: How does that wriggle out at the end of this? I don’t know. So I guess that’s what’s on that’s what’s on my mind. And what’s when does that start? When does that conversation begin in earnest? At a at a level that’s not just hobbyists and obsessives. And I don’t know what the answer to that.
S7: My take on this, Emily. Much more dreary conventional take is the purpose of the Sanders campaign at this point was to bring attention to a set of messages around inequality and the mis shape of the American government in the American economic system. And the nature of the covert crisis means it’s impossible to bring attention to those issues in any meaningful way. This is not a time when Sanders campaigning and his his issues are going to galvanize people, draw attention, be useful to the debate. There will be a time for that. It’s just and it’s unfortunate because it’s such an important set of issues, but it’s it’s very difficult for him to actually do the thing that he is trying to do with this moment. And I think he thinks the most more important thing is to, in the longer term, ensure the election of the Democratic nominee, who will be Joe Biden, which Sanders knew it was going to be Joe Biden, and therefore the the campaign both as a practical matter. He was not going to get the nomination. And as a ideological and sort of psycho-social matter was not useful anymore. He wasn’t gonna be able to do what he’s trying to do. And so it made sense for him to to pull out at this moment.
S6: I completely disagree about his message not being important and not being the moment. I mean, I agree with you about the politics. Like, I think that in the end, Bernie Sanders acted like a loyal Democrat. Right. He stayed in through Wisconsin to get his voters out into this election in which there were lots of state and local elections at stake, including a Wisconsin state Supreme Court seat. And I just have to take a moment to say that seeing those lines of people standing outside to vote, trying to social distance, wearing masks, really taking serious risks with their health. They should never have been put in that position. And it was truly alarming to see how partisan this debate, just to know whether it was safe to vote, became with votes in both the Wisconsin Supreme Court and the U.S. Supreme Court dividing entirely along partisan lines about what this election should go forward. That is all really alarming.
S11: But to go back to Sanders message, I mean, this is a moment in which we are going to see this virus is already playing out in a way that is more harmful to low income people. Right. Like the progressive. The fact we don’t have health care. Sorry, I’m going in my rant before I let you interrupt me. Like the fact that we don’t have good access to healthcare. Any guarantee of free treatment. Living wages, paid sick leave. The fact that so many essential workers are hourly low wage workers in grocery stores, on delivery trucks, all of that. Like that is Sanders is bread and butter. And Biden is going to have to pick up on that if he is going to be a successful Democratic candidate.
S16: But David’s not David’s not saying that those aren’t important issues. He’s saying that as a matter of prioritization and ordering it just you can’t get it right.
S6: Orderly. Don’t buy that. I think that’s completely wrong. I think you have to make that an important part of the conversation right now.
S21: But who?
S16: But his point is that you can try, but you don’t have the willing ears to hear because people are trying to figure out what the hell to do with the fact that the bills are coming in, they haven’t been paid. And yes, there are larger inequities, but they’re just trying to figure out they’re like what’s happening at the end of their block. That that’s right. It’s not that the issues aren’t important. There, as we both said, more important than ever. It’s just a question of whether you have the megaphone and the microphone and the audience that’s sufficiently large beyond hobbyists and obsessives to think it’s a huge mistake for Biden as the candidate.
S6: Now, not to be saying both of these things like, yes, he should talk about Ron Klain and how they would run the show better. But he also should have a vision about how he wants to change things so that we are insulated and protected and have social resilience from a phenomenon like this. And that is a progressive vision. There is absolutely a map for doing that.
S22: And I know you can’t have a vision now, Emily. Nobody’s saying you can’t. I don’t. I’m disagreeing with the idea that it’s not like a Crucell crucial message. I think guess Sanders was losing clingfilm because he was losing. That makes sense. It’s it’s we both it’s so messages, consistent message.
S14: It is in Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, like people can’t. This is not you. Politics is on hold. It’s not the issues are not absolutely important and that they’re not more important than ever. And then, as you say, like the virus in the epidemic of highlighted these things even more starkly and more cruelly than before. It’s simply that the as a practical matter, the message cannot. People are not in a moment where they are able to receive it. They can’t focus on it.
S22: I had hoped to leave. And I think that antispam and I don’t have any evidence for it.
S6: Like when you think about how people are taking in and understanding this, what is the evidence that they can’t see that there are these incredibly important background issues that are feeding into this?
S14: They are important to background issues, but they’re not important background issues which have to do with a person’s presidential campaign, an attempt to win delegates in a primary campaign. That’s true. By all means. Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, Joe Biden. Every single person in the Democratic Party should be crafting a response and being happy, having a vision about this. But it’s not fundamentally a political electoral vision that gets you delegates for convention. It’s somebody who’s not. And running a presidential campaign at this point is a distraction that because a presidential campaign is an attempt to gather people together and get people around, you know, generally physically around something which you can’t even do. And so they can focus on getting the message and getting those getting those bills written so that in twenty, twenty one you get those things passed in Congress.
S11: What I agree with you that the primary was played out fine. What I am deeply, deeply in disagreement about and I feel like now you’re trying to wiggle out of half of what you’ve said before is the idea that this progressive vision doesn’t have a hugely prominent a central place in American politics right now. It is absolutely what we should be talking about leading into November. And Biden needs to figure out how to incorporate that. And he is not doing as effective a job as that right now.
S7: Totally separate point. Biden is it is is vanished. I don’t know what he’s doing. And and I agree that Biden’s Biden’s absence is it is a huge gap in the American political landscape.
S14: But that does that is by not the same thing as getting the message and the messenger.
S11: Like I agree with you, the Bernie Sanders carrying the standard forward. As a Democratic presidential candidate was not the right strategy.
S14: That’s what I’m talking about. But that safe presidential campaign at this moment.
S5: That is.
S11: But inside of politics, it’s about moving to the next stage of the presidential campaign.
S12: So but I think I think we would all agree vegetables are healthy. But right now, it’s really hard to get vegetables in New York. It doesn’t mean that the vegetables aren’t still healthy. I should be eating them every day. More important than ever if you’re not getting exercise and not moving around. Super important. They’re just not there. So that’s the argument he’s making. Now, you can dispute whether they’re there or not, but he’s not arguing about whether vegetables are good. Vegetables are good. The question is, is there the venue and the ability to get through? Is that possible? I think the evidence for the clouded nature of the U.S. market right now for media and understanding is people are just trying to get their head around exactly what’s happening with a the health issue on coronavirus. Wear a mask. Don’t wear a mask. Six feet, not six feet, 15 minutes or not, because there are life and death there really make people agitated. The agitation is carrying a lot of weight in people’s heads. Plus, they’re trying to figure out about the jobs. We got 6.6 million more people filing for unemployment claims this week. So if they can’t get their heads around the things that are at their front doorstep barking at them, it seems less likely that a larger, though very important conversation about the systemic challenges is going to be able to punch through if those immediate, terrifying challenge issues are having a try and get.
S15: Seriously, I’m going to say one more thing. I truly, deeply do not understand why you are both separating these two things or who the people are, who you are talking about. Yes, we are all trying to figure out about physical distancing and the ways in which our lives have been utterly disrupted. It is also true and you were just citing this, we have another 6.6 million people on the jobless rolls. That takes us to sixteen point six million for the last three weeks. Look at the lines of people waiting for food at the food banks.
S11: The people who are going to come out of this with medical bills who don’t know how their treatment is going to get paid for again. It’s not to me. There is nothing separate from that. And the conversation in the progressive movement that Bernie Sanders has been a standard bearer for, it is the same conversation.
S15: And to miss the opportunity to talk about it that way, if the Democrats do that, that will be a huge, huge error.
S16: What’s your guidance for how you think somebody should get that conversation past the ones that people are having in their home?
S15: Now that we’re all having in our homes right now, I don’t really think these homes you’re talking about. I think people who are low income, who are insecure, who are worried about their future, are trying to think about all of those things and will understand it will be intuitive to a lot of them why these things. I’ll go together like the idea that it’s hard for them to understand that maybe they should have a government that cares about whether they have food. That does not seem like some difficult concept for people to grow. Emily, finish it. But it just seems like a misreading of important parts of the American electorate.
S19: Sure. But I think you’re making it seem like it’s some moral failing of our ability to understand it is is wrong. I think it’s possible that people could be more worried about getting food on the table and where they’re going to find the money to do it than some political debate, which is going to seem abstract, which already seems extract even in good times. Like it’s not crazy to think that people who are of even more difficult situations, the people I’ve been talking to all week for this show haven’t any are even turning the news on because it’s so discuss them. I mean, if you’ve got a mother on dialysis and your dad just died, a Cauvin 19 and you’ve got a 16 year old sister who can’t go to school because there aren’t enough laptops at the local school for people to distance learning. You’re not talking about what’s Joe Biden’s progressive vision.
S23: I mean, I just don’t I I do not accept the idea that you like that it’s that the whole war.
S15: First of all, I just that we’re having a conversation based on zero evidence about like one family that you are channeling or like the people I’ve talked to at a food bank yesterday who were like deeply concerned for me and has nothing to do with the fact I don’t care about Joe Biden. I don’t care about the Democratic primaries. Look, I agree with you guys. That is over. I am talking about going forward, like where the country is going to go next. And the idea that people don’t care about that right now just I mean, that is not reflected in my robe.
S14: The discussion is about Bernie Sanders ending a political campaign.
S15: You are both separating politics. I mean, I think part of what we’re arguing about is like what you each mean by politics. And I just don’t accept it. Like, I just don’t agree with it fundamentally. And I think it’s it’s actually like a really bad idea to kind of wall off politics as this like abstract thing that’s only like cable news heads talking is something that’s vital to the way people’s lives unfold that neither of us did that. That is totally how I’m hearing it.
S24: Well, that’s definitely how you’re hearing it.
S5: When you are hopefully having a drink at the end of day or maybe the beginning of the day these days and you want to talk to somebody about something interesting. John DICKERSON, what you be chattering about?
S9: Oh, I don’t know if be actually chattering about it, but just this week, John Prine, the musician, passed away and it was a really hard thing as a fan of his work. And one of the probably one of the greatest pleasures of my professional life was getting to spend a day with him for a piece that I did about a year ago. And an hour and a half of that day is on YouTube. So if you’re John Prine fan, we basically just strung together a lot of the in-between times and put it on YouTube. And it gives you a sense of who he was as a as a person, which, if you liked his music, is maybe something you’ll be interested in now that he’s gone.
S11: Emily? Oh, I just want to say is so sad. And John, your relationship with them was such a lovely part of your professional life. It’s some I’m glad you did that tribute to him. I have a different kind of emotional register chatter, which is really outrage. The Cook County Jail in Chicago has become, according to one study, the biggest vector for coronavirus in the country. The place to which the most cases can be linked. There are somewhere around 240 detainees at the jail who have the virus, along with over 100 staff members. And I think at this point, 17 people are in the hospital. And what’s horrifying about this is how predictable it was. I mean, there are pandemic outbreaks happening in other jails to Rikers in New York has been a particular source of concern. When I was doing reporting in the last few weeks in Chicago, I was talking to a defense lawyer there. Catherine Crawford. And she was urgently trying to get her clients out of jail because they were reporting to her that they didn’t have access to enough soap for a while. There was no hand sanitizer. They said that the guards were not wearing masks and that like they, you know, didn’t really see gloves around either. Just all these things were missing. And when we called the jail to check these facts, they told us that all of them were false and were really adamant about that, that we would be reporting false facts if we reported what the detainees were telling us. Then at the end of last week, twelve corrections officers through their law firm issued a letter confirming all of these facts and saying that they were afraid for their own safety because the jail had not been taking these precautions. So I don’t know what is going on at this jail exactly. Sheriff Tom Dart has continued to say that soap in hand sanitizer were available along with protective gear. But there was some terrible failing here.
S5: And I really hope that somebody gets to the bottom of it in other countries with with the epidemic. Are there jails and prisons as much of a shit show?
S11: I mean, we have so many more people percentage wise incarcerated. So that’s part of the problem. Iran opened the doors and let a lot of people go. And there have also been there was a protest and I think some people broke out of prison in Brazil over Corona virus, too. So this has been a source of unrest elsewhere. I think American jails and prisons, just because there are so many people there and remember, the people in jail are there before a trial. They are presumed innocent. And what was happening in Chicago that Katherine Crawford was dealing with, she had to individually go into court often multiple times to get people out of jail who were being held on bonds, often because of misdemeanor offenses. And the sort of the out of whack sense of that that, you know, you would be holding people for nonviolent offenses they were accused of, not proved guilty of right now is pretty breathtaking.
S2: My chat or two, two quick thing, one, very quick one first. The news came yesterday that Linda Tripp died at 70, and that was something that’s so hard to stay on top of the news that isn’t covered news. But Linda Tripp was a huge figure in the Clinton sex scandal that preoccupied certainly me and John for a couple of years in the late 90s. And she was a really it’s a she’s a really ambivalent figure, verging towards villainous. But she’s, of course, the woman who taped Monica Lewinsky and Monica Lewinsky’s account of the affair that she was having with President Clinton and then ultimately shared those tapes. I don’t know. Nothing more to say. There’s a wonderful interview with Tripp in slow burn season 2 where Leon Neyfakh interviewed Tripp. And it’s it’s quite riveting.
S11: Did you see that Lewinsky before? Chip, I’d sent out a very nice tweet saying, despite the past, I hope that you are OK. I thought that was pretty noticeable, huh?
S2: I did not see that. Yeah, they did not. They never spoke. After 1998, they had not spoken in twenty two years. The other quick chatter is just to draw attention to The Washington Post reporting about the racial disparities in Kobe, 19 deaths and illness and to follow on points that we’ve hit on elsewhere kind of in this conversation. Just this is a disease that is really, really hitting the most vulnerable, vulnerable people in this country hardest. And we see this in the racial disparity of Kobe, 19 deaths. And The Post has reported this out in Milwaukee County, African-Americans are 73 percent of the dead, but just 26 percent of the population in Louisiana. Seventy percent of the dead are African-Americans, although they are just 32 percent of the population in Chicago. Black residents are dying at a rate six times higher than that of white residents. And this is you know, there’s probably a ton of reasons for it. But covered 19 patients seem to be susceptible to diseases which are diseases of poverty, which disproportionately affect African-Americans and African-Americans in cities. So diabetes and asthma being two of them. And it’s unsettling and disturbing and at least the CDC now seems to be starting to track this and paying attention to it. But it’s it’s a alarming, alarming.
S11: I mean, I think also it’s important to recognize the structural inequality of lack of access to health care of our people’s lives and affect that that also has on their health and on them right now.
S25: Because of that, they are already in a bad spot, which makes them more vulnerable. Those pictures in Florida of people lining up to try to get benefits were just awful.
S5: I did not see those pictures lined up to get benefits. What was that?
S16: I mean, it made it made Wisconsin look orderly. You just people just a big mass of people, hundreds of them, to file applications for unemployment at the state office because they Cooktown state website crashed.
S11: Right. The county was me. People come and fill out paper applications and then everybody shut up at once. Yeah.
S25: Yeah. And they’re just standing, you know, all on top of each other in line. I mean, some of them with masks and stuff. But I just, you know, to just to see people that close is additionally unsettling listeners.
S2: You have sent us great chatters this week as in past weeks. Please keep them coming, too. At Slate Gabfest. And this week’s comes from Rachel Johnston at At Reach M. Johnston. She points to a Minneapolis Star Tribune article about a game warden in Wisconsin who last week after a boy ran away and ran off as an extremely cold weather out into a very remote, hard to access and difficult, treacherous, swampy area in Wisconsin. This young game warden who had amazing human tracking skills just without anything but his own mind and his own intelligence, found this boy before something terrible happened to him in a really riveting and touching story that made me cry. So. And it has a happy ending, unlike everything else these days. Check it out. If you enjoyed the as please subscribe, you will get new episodes the second they’re published.
S4: That is our show for today. Gabfest is produced by Josslyn Frank. A researcher is Bridget Dunlop. Gabriel Roth is editorial director of Slate podcast. June Thomas is managing producer. And you should follow us on Twitter at Slate Gabfests and tweet chatter to us there for Emily Bazelon and John DICKERSON and David Plotz. Thank you for listening.
S26: We will talk to you next week. Stay. Safe and healthy. We wish you safety and health. Bye bye.
S5: Hello. Slate plus, how are you this this confinement and this. This period has brought all sorts of old things, new again, old games, brought out board games, jigsaw puzzles. And one game that I used to love and used to play with my children in the car was, I guess it’s called Tell Me a Story. I’m sure there are other versions of it. And the idea is we’re just gonna make up a story right now for the next five minutes. We’re just going to tell a story. So, Emily Bazelon, start us off. You’ve got the first sentence to sentence. Two sentences maybe.
S27: What I have in my head right now is the story of Passover darter. OK. It doesn’t matter.
S23: There was a king and he was he was threatening the health of a whole lot of babies. And there were two midwives and they decided that they were going to fly in the face of the orders of these kings. And a baby was born and they hid the baby and pretended that for you to go through.
S27: It’s not enough to start bogarting is so hard that. Good.
S22: I. Let me think of something.
S12: No, no, that’s fine, and then we go. Someone of us takes the next set. Go ahead. You’re next. But this kid is king, had one great strength and one punishing weakness. The punishing weakness was his vanity. There literally could not be a glass of water on a table that he did not seek his reflection in it. And that that ultimately would be his undoing. But his great strength was that he was hit by completely unpredictable and deep bouts of charity.
S5: His favorite charity, in fact, was a charity that cared for disabled ferrets. Ferrets that had lost a leg, ferrets whose fur was falling out.
S18: Ferrets that for one reason or another, had fallen on hard times. And the most lovable and most challenged and most troubled ferret of all was a ferret named Ellmore Ferret.
S23: LMR Ferret was being raised in the woods. There was a boy who found Ellmore when he was lying under a tree, practically vanquished one day, brought LMR inside, nursed him with the baby bottle, saved his life, but then had to figure out how to link him up with this charity so that Ellmore could could live the thriving life that he deserved to live. So he set off for the King’s Palace one day.
S21: But the enormous obstacle to the young man who we shall call William for that with this for that was fairly his name.
S24: The problem for William, who was ministering to Ellmore the ferret and had otherwise a clear solution delmore as future days in the benevolence of the King was that William? For that was therefore that was verily his name looked identical to the King and William, because he had been a purveyor of local social media, knew of the King’s extreme vanity, and that the King could not countenance another person on the planet who shared his same visage. And so William, for Verilli, that was his name, had to come up with a scheme to present Elmore’s the Benevolent King or the episodically benevolent king without somehow letting the king know that he William for Verilli, that was his name, looked exactly like the king.
S5: Ellmore thought for a second he looked in the mirror and he was so pleased with what he saw. For he was a vain person himself. He was like, wow, what a what a.
S28: Wait, what? Wait, what? That’s where its name is. William. William Dahlmer Ellmore. Yes.
S27: I think what it’s called the Ferencz. It was very vague.
S28: It’s cool. It’s called the Fair Thoughts.
S5: William looked in the mirror and was so pleased with what he saw because he was a vain, vain person. And he said, how could I cut my beautiful hair? How could I possibly change my gorgeous blue eye color? How could I grow a beard and cover up these chin and these dimples? And the ferret said Ellmore said to him, for this world, parrots could talk, although other animals couldn’t. Why don’t you wear me as a beard, huh?
S27: Williams said, well, I’m not exactly sure how to drape you over my face.
S11: Instead, I’m going to go back to my mission of figuring out how to restore your health by bringing you to the cake.
S23: And so he made his way through much trial and tribulation, too, through the woods, through the small towns into the city, and arrived at the King’s Palace with outlaw in tow, who he had taught a series of captivating tricks for.
S24: Williams idea for Verilli that was his name, was to keep the king so occupied with Elmore Elmore’s tricks that the king would not pause to look at William and notice their shared resemblance. And so the set of tricks that the king sorry that William Verilli, that was his name, taught LMR were juggling the Ferencz learn to juggle.
S11: It’s my turn.
S27: It’s my turn. I just couldn’t help it. I was inspired.
S18: The ferret did learn to juggle, but that was not the main trick. The main trick he learned. Was to swallow fire. He had a tiny little torch and he would swallow fire with his little paw and stick the torch, his mouth. But the saddest fact, the saddest thing happened, which is that he swallowed the fire but didn’t do a good job and he burned up and that was the end.
S5: And we have to go.
S23: No, wait. There’s a postscript. The story as the king was gree, as as there’s a postscript to this story, as William was grieving the loss of this ferret. The king realized that William looked a little bit like him and and therefore was sympathetic. William was interested in him and then learned that the midwives had saved William’s life. That was why this lovely, appealing young man who shared his abiding interest and passion for ferrets was standing before him. And we withdrew his decree in which he was herding babies in this kingdom and raised up these midwives so that they were heroines, goddesses.
S29: Goodbye flipflops. I think that that story revealed each of our personalities so deeply.
S27: I can’t believe it’s so reflected.
S29: Each of our particular ticks of personality by slate.
S30: That was fun.