Biden Wouldn’t Have Saved Us All

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S1: The following program may contain explicit language and.

S2: It’s Monday, September 14th, twenty twenty from Slate’s The Gist, I’m Mike Pesca.

S1: You know, what can I do? Am I allowed to interfere? OK, I’m going to endorse. Don’t vote for Trump. Really. Don’t do it. I don’t want to be too harsh on the fellow, but I find his stewardship of our nation to be generally lacking. There I said it. And therefore, Joe Biden, the better choice. Now, if that’s all that you want to focus on between now and Election Day, that’s fine. Joe Biden’s election, that’s a goal worth pursuing. Really thinking about and only thinking about. You may not want to hear criticism of Biden. I know I don’t actually don’t have any criticism of Biden here, but I do have this statement that you may not wish to hear either that Joe Biden would have saved us all. Joe Biden, normal human as opposed to abnormal human, would have been the magic elixir. But he is not. You’d have been a lot better on the coronavirus. But he is not a panacea. He is not a cure all. He is a Catholic, but he’s not a Catholic. Non Catholic on. Yeah, Catholic. John, you know what it means by context. You should it means cure all or Penicillium. But when asked would Joe Biden have done it differently, all his people are saying, oh, yes, absolutely. All right. Well well, by it. What do you mean everything? He’d have done everything differently. And he’s just not true. Here’s Biden adviser Simon Sanders on ABC’s This Week.

S3: This week, I saw the op ed the vice president wrote in October. I saw the one he wrote in January, but he didn’t explicitly call for travel bans or social distancing or wearing masks.

S4: Look, George, in January and February, Joe Biden was not being briefed by national security experts who warned him how deadly the virus was in January and February. Joe Biden did not have the knowledge that President Trump did. But I will tell you that if Joe Biden were president in January or February, he would have taken proper precautions. He would have warned the American people. He would have told folks the social distance. He would have model good behavior and wearing a mask.

S1: No, he wouldn’t. Not in January and February. Remember, the scientific consensus as reflected in CDC guidelines were masks were needed by first responders and people in hospitals, but there was little evidence that they could stop you from acquiring the virus. That part is true, by the way. It just that masks can stop you from spreading it, which, because so much spread is by asymptomatic carriers, is importance. But the sentences that Trump is quoted as saying in the Woodward book that we know it’s deadly and we know it’s spread by air, you know what? That would not have logically led to a mass masking, because even if it’s spread by droplets, that advisory that I just talked about would have been in place. There was a cost benefit analysis and maybe we got it wrong. But we all of us, the scientific community, the experts were saying don’t wear masks. Joe Biden would not have proudly strode forward and said, no, I defy you. A mask I shall wear. All right, now this changed, the professor Zeynep Tufekci, was tweeting about mask wearing on March 1st. She wrote a very influential op ed on March, March 17th. We turned around on it, but please don’t go back and think that Joe Biden would have done absolutely everything differently because Donald Trump did absolutely everything wrong. There were just far fewer absolutes in this matter and in all matters than maybe the campaign would lead you to believe. And it’s also a little silly to debate about this. Well, what Biden have worn a mask in January because now today, September, he and his people are wearing masks and Trump and his people aren’t. Biden advisers wearing masks, whereas Trump revels playing in front of Maskell’s crowds. Now, the reason this is more than just a nit pick of a stray statement made by an adviser is that if Donald Trump is defeated, I fear we as a country will have some mighty unrealistic expectations about what Joe Biden or anyone can do to manage the pandemic going forward. However, I acknowledge that if it is so monumental that it’s understandable if it overwhelms all considerations of what happens after the if so, you just go ahead and don’t worry about the flaws of what Biden’s surrogates imply, the retroactive foresight they say he would have had. I will keep an eye on that. And you keep an eye on and a mask on the electoral questions on the show today. I feel about a certain bellicose guest and the CNN host who just can’t quit them until he clearly could. But first Lien, they originator of the slow burn brand is out with a new series on his Fiasco podcast. It’s about the integration of Boston schools in the early 1970s, or I should say, the continued segregation. This came to be known as busing. It’s not really the accurate phrase. Integration works. Busing didn’t. According to The New Yorker, Leon, on fact is like a reality show housewife in that he, quote, has a gift for crafting memorable scenes. But the nutritional value of Leons is so much higher Leon. They fuck up next. Leon, they fok is back, you know, there are a lot of good history podcasts out there I listen to and I put some of them on the show. Josh came on talking about David do great podcast, great discussion, Sloper. And of course, invented by Leon. They fucking for my money. This thing he’s got going on with Fiasco, it’s just the best. His production company is called Prologue Projects, and it’s it’s what he does. It’s these these resonances with today and these topics that you thought you knew or knew a little. And man, does he flesh them out with archive tape and new reporting and narration, deep Deep Throat narration. There’s a pun. Hello, Leon. Welcome back.

S5: Hey, Mike, thanks for having me back on. I guess. I guess I didn’t say it’s the battle for Boston. It’s Boston. School desegregation, I guess would be the way to put it. Yes. Yeah. So why why this one?

S6: The idea to do this as our third season came from our producer, Sam Graham Felson, who is from Boston, unlike me, he wrote a novel called Green about going to an all black school as a white kid in Boston. And he’d always been obsessed with the book. CommonGround James Dean Lucas wrote this very famous book, Common Ground, about the desegregation of Boston’s public schools. And Sam Graham Felton had sort of just been reading it his whole life and wanted to do something with it. And when he heard our show, he thought maybe this could be a podcast. And so then we started sort of reading about it and talking to Sam about it, and we realized that it’s exactly the kind of thing we should be doing, even though, you know, unlike, say, the Clinton scandal or Watergate, the Boston desegregation story is not the most well-known thing in the world, people. It’s a touchstone for many people of a certain age, but it’s less of a situation where we’re sort of revealing to you an unfamiliar dimension of something that you thought you understood.

S1: Right. This was the first slow burn fiasco, Leon Jamm, where I didn’t know. I’m not going to say most of it because I think with Iran-Contra, especially what you unearthed, maybe in the end more than 50 percent of the information, just raw information was new. But with this one, 85 percent of it was new. I knew that there was ugliness in Southie. And if you told me the neighborhood, I could probably come up with Roxbury. And I knew that White was the mayor, but I didn’t even know. I mean, we could start anywhere. But let’s start with Louise Day Hicks. What a character.

S6: Mm hmm. She was a member of the Boston School Committee. She was what I guess people in Southie refer to as a lace curtain Irish, which meant that she was an Irish American, but from a aristocratic ish family. Her father was a famous judge in the area and she ended up becoming as a member of the Boston School Committee, essentially the standard bearer for the opposition to school desegregation in Boston. And in 67, after she she sort of become a national figure and a national sort of vessel, I suppose, for for for anti desegregation sentiment. She ran for mayor in Boston and she came pretty damn close to winning, you know, despite the fact that she had no campaign infrastructure. You know, she she had very little in the way of a sophisticated platform. She really came out of nowhere as what one person we talked to called an emotional happening rather than a real traditional candidate, unlike Kevin White, who was her opponent and who who ended up defeating her. But, you know, he was a very sort of professional politician in a way, bland, I suppose you could say. And she was just totally opposite a complete, like firebrand. And she ends up being a big part of sort of of how Boston kind of got whipped up into this frenzy.

S5: Yeah. And that could be a standalone episode. I would almost suggest people start with episode two, because you find out about this woman. And there are there was literally a time when I went off and it was after MLK criticized her, she came back guns blaring at MLK and I forgot what the exact quote was.

S6: But I said, oh, yeah, he had said something like, it would be a tragedy if she became the mayor. And she said that he was really the tragedy of our times.

S5: Oh, yeah. As you said, she she almost became mayor and she narrowly lost, but she won quite by a large margin in the crowded primary. Is that right?

S6: Yeah, yeah, yeah. The preliminary election where there was, you know, ten candidates or something, and she got way more votes than any of them when it was a runoff between her and Kevin White, she did lose, but just barely.

S5: Right. And that had all the dynamics of, oh, we’ve got to consolidate so that this more radical candidate doesn’t, you know, steal the show. And so that maybe you could say is a resonance with what happened after moderate candidates conspired not to allow Bernie Sanders to win the election, but her entire campaign platform. There was also the dynamic of the QAI Louise Day Hicks voter and the fact that Louise Day Hicks had this slogan that kind of meant nothing or kind of meant everything and let you read into it. And her slogan was What?

S6: You know where I stand, right? You know, where I stand. And so people could say, yeah, I know where you stand. And she didn’t have to say anything further.

S5: Yeah. Just like people could say, yeah, great. Again, I get that. That was a fantastic episode. I think that you had a little bit bigger challenge because it is. It’s not. And you do it well, but when we as humans, we cotton to the story of humans, and when you’re essentially telling the story of a human Louise Day, Hicks and her run for mayor, which has the built in climax of who will win the race, the structure is there. From then on. What you have to do is kind of tell a roiling back and forth story that isn’t as easy as segregation, bad, desegregation, good. So what was your organizational principle?

S6: I mean, in terms of an organizational principle, I won’t lie and just say that we just wanted to tell a story in chronological order. That’s our sort of go to move and the chips fall where they may. In terms of I think the bigger question you’re asking, which is like how do you make a story in which it seems so obvious who was on the right side of history and who was on the wrong side of history to produce something that isn’t didactic or isn’t, you know, frankly, like boring. Because if you know who the good guys are and there’s nothing further to talk about, then you might end up with something a little bit flat. So I think, you know, there was a sort of obvious, you know, ambiguity to mine, which was like was everyone who opposed desegregation or busing, as it was called, were they all racist? Is that why they were opposed to it or were there other reasons? Were there, you know, class related reasons where this was a community of poor whites who felt resentful of the fancy suburban liberals on the federal bench and in the state House who were telling them what to do and where to send their kids to school. The easy answer is those both those a little bit of racism and a little bit of, you know, class resentment. And that’s something we explore. It’s tricky, though, because as we’ve seen a lot over the past couple of years, like there is this impulse to humanize racists and humanize terrorists. If we can convince ourselves that they’re interesting. And I think there is a line there that you shouldn’t cross. I never was of the persuasion that, like, we shouldn’t go as reporters talk to Trump voters and find out what they really think and how they really feel and why they really voted for him. I think those were good stories to do and important stories to do. So I try to take that same perspective here.

S5: Right. I couldn’t agree more with how you look at it, which is that, yes, if you’re inventing a gray area or inventing some sort of nuance that really isn’t there, you’re not doing your job as a journalist. I wouldn’t say you’re humanizing them. You’re showing where their angst and motivation was coming from. And that’s important.

S6: Exactly. And that’s that’s all we ever tried to do. Yeah. Whether we’re talking about, you know, officials in the Reagan administration or people who are part of a social movement that we now consider to be repugnant.

S5: Yeah. So what was the timeline of you being in the middle of this? And when Joe Biden was when his antibusing stances were unearthed and even when Kamala Harris said I was that little girl, essentially about his antibusing stances?

S6: So the exchange you’re talking about between Kamala Harris and Joe Biden, which she sort of asked him to account for his history of opposing desegregation measures and voting for bills that would have made it harder to enforce. That happened before we really started. It gave me, I think, some confidence that this was an issue that people will recognize as relevant. You know, whether or not Biden and Kamala Harris were going to be, you know, on the ticket, it made it clear to me that this was an issue with endless resonance and relevance. It didn’t change the fact that most people would be unfamiliar with the details of the story, but it just meant that the wall would be less hard to scale in terms of selling its its significance.

S5: Right. So when that came out, I, I have to admit, I wasn’t aware that Joe Biden actually had at the early parts of his career, literally an antibusing stance. And I said to myself, doesn’t exactly comport with what I thought of Joe Biden. Was he just that more much more conservative when he started off? I know America was a bit more. And it seems like the answer was the people he served. His constituency was so up in arms about it. He looked at his responsibility as an elected official to represent the concerns of the people he represented. Now, you can argue, of course, there are a lot of black people in Delaware who had the opposite concerns. But, you know, he would go to these town meetings and people would tear his head off about bussing. So he’d come to Washington and have a certain stance. On the other hand, complicating that is the fact that Edward Kennedy, who’s all over your documentary, he was pro school integration and he wanted bought the Boston busing experiment to work. So my question is, was any of that tension trying to understand how someone could have had this stance back then? Was any of that informing the project?

S6: The last episode is about Joe Biden and Massachusetts Senator Ed Brooke, who was the first popularly elected black senator in America. He was a Republican and he was a dedicated civil rights advocate throughout his career. But he was also very, very deliberate about coming across as moderate and also not forgetting his race. He wanted people to be colorblind towards him. He didn’t want to be seen first and foremost as a black politician. And nevertheless, he he was unequivocal in his support for desegregation. He became kind of a leader in the Senate in terms of fighting back the white backlash that you could see in someone like Jesse Helms. Right. Who rode the wave of unrest that followed civil the civil rights movement to to great power. And so, Brooke kind of became a foil for him, along with other liberals in the Senate. But then in 1972, Joe Biden gets elected actually the same year that Jesse Helms did, and at first Biden is kind of wishy washy or not committed on busing or mandatory desegregation. But by 1975, he basically comes round to the position that busing does not work, that integration is good, but doing it through the system of moving white kids from white schools into black schools and moving black kids from black schools into white schools is a is a does more harm than good. Part of the reason he thought that was that he could look at Boston and see how it went there. And so Biden ends up being kind of the much more dangerous foil to Brooke in the sense that when other liberals in the Senate see Biden opposing busing, it makes it safe for them to do the same because all of them are facing these huge backlashes in their home states where court ordered busing is being implemented and their constituents are furious. And so it becomes respectable. This is used by Joe Biden’s own world words. He said, I’ve made it respectable or reasonable to to be against busing as a liberal. And so the final episode of our series sort of about the legacy of the Boston story and sort of how we got to where we are today, where schools are more segregated than ever with this issue.

S5: There are so many examples of there is the ugliness. There is a real villainous side to the argument and then the villainous side is defeated. So Plessy v. Ferguson was essentially a lie that everyone knew was a lie. And then they defeat that idea of separate but equal by declaring it essentially unequal and Brown v. Board of Education. But as you point out, so much doesn’t hinge on Brown. It’s the echo of Brown, the softer echo where all the real work is done and sometimes the real work isn’t done. Sometimes progress is stymied. It’s called Brown, too. Similarly, Louise Day Hicks runs for mayor. She would’ve been a horrible, ugly, villainous mayor and she’s defeated by Kevin White. But it’s after then that the really hard work happens. So I guess I could say maybe comes back to that first thing we were talking about that you can’t just portray life as good and evil because you think once evil is defeated, then goodness rushes in. But I guess you could take this, like I said, in any way you want. Do you think that this shows up as a theme in history? Does this show up specifically in this theme of school integration that you’re talking about for a reason? Or maybe you reject my whole premise?

S6: Yeah, I hadn’t thought about it in that way before. You know, where there’s a pattern of villains being vanquished and then, you know, the problem they were meant to represent kind of finding their way back into society through other means. Sounds right to me and at least in the story of school desegregation. And that’s, I think, why people sort of point to Biden perhaps is even a more consequential villain than a Louise Day Hicks, because the good guy who who provides cover or launders the problems that the villains represented could end up sort of making a problem permanent as opposed to something that we could just get rid of. And I think that for good reason, like we we take pride in the progress we make as a society. We look back at Brown v. Board and celebrate it. So sure. Like, I think there’s obviously a risk of becoming complacent when you get a big win, if you don’t realize that it’s just a beginning.

S1: Fiasco is the name of the podcast. The Battle for Boston is the name of this season, I should say.

S7: Luminary is the name of the podcast network. You could hear it. And Leon, de facto or maybe Fox. But I’m going to say, fact is, the name of the guy who’s been doing them all. Thanks again, Leon. Thanks, Mike.

S1: And now the spiel when we last heard from Peter Navarro on this program, the gist, it was June 22nd, the day after the director of the White House Office on Trade and Manufacturing Policy was on CNN. Here is some of that appearance from two and a half months ago. In it, Novarro spent much of the interview talking about what host Jake Tapper should be asking and Tapper insisting, no, I would like you to answer the questions I actually am asking again, just a flavor.

S3: Hang on, Jake. You should be asking this question. You should be asking this question every day to the Chinese Communist Party.

S8: Well, you know, in an interview, you know, and she gave me an interview. I’d love to. Yeah, but that doesn’t prevent you from. I’m not going to defend the Chinese. Go ahead. I have been asking about the Chinese and we did a whole special on the pandemic. And we have been very critical of the Chinese government for how it handled it. Now, we’ve never said until they created this purposely.

S3: Well, that’s an open question. I did not say it. Roll the tape back. What I said was that virus came out of China. The Chinese Communist Party is responsible for it. And we said they resigned later. Right. Well, Sporn, let us say Sporn.

S1: And on and on it went or didn’t go. Navarro asked to comment on a damaging book by an insider whose revelations were the obsession of Washington and the bane of the administration. Oh, that was then. That was John Bolton. He was the author of that week’s damaging read. Bob Woodward is the author of this week’s Damaging Read. But Navarro is back head of the Office of Manufacturing, to talk for some reason about the virus, the wildfires, the election, but mostly to argue with Jake Tapper once again about the questions that Jake Tapper should be asking him.

S8: Jake, I really I came here to talk about a lot of things. That was the last on my list here. Hang on. Hang on. Let me finish. Because you’re not answering my question, Peter, about what you’re talking about, what you were doing privately, Jake. Let me let’s let’s just right now, hang on. January twenty ninth, you were issuing a warning. You were not saying you’re not constantly interrupting me and you’re not answering my question. I want you to answer why was that so illuminating?

S1: Now, you might be wondering, what is the point of any of that? Why does CNN keep having on this guy whose expertise is in manufacturing, for God’s sake? All he does is get into verbal spats with Jake Tapper over what’s the right question to ask instead of answering the questions right in front of them. Yes, yes, yes. Arguing about the question, clear rhetorical gambit meant to obfuscate. But why? Why? Especially knowing how this went the last time, why did CNN book him again? Why do they play the game? I have an answer. First of all, Peter Navarro is among the universe of possible Trump defenders better than most. He is not stupid. He’s a Harvard graduate. OK, a little bit of an asterisk. He was a professor at UC Irvine. All right. Other people can be that. He ran for office several times as a Democrat. He believes in taxing the rich more. He once decried in a book that Republicans were too enamored with, quote, buffoons, sociopaths and zealots like Rush Limbaugh, Newt Gingrich and Ralph Reed. So beyond this background, even in this White House, Navarro actually has been more right than almost anyone else about the coronavirus. On January 29th, Navarra warned his colleagues about what could be coming, writing in a memo, quote, The lack of immune protection or an existing cure or vaccine would leave Americans defenseless. In the case of a full blown coronavirus outbreak on U.S. soil. This lack of protection elevates the risk of the coronavirus evolving into a full blown pandemic, imperiling the lives of millions of Americans. So you’d see why Jake Tapper would want to talk to him. Just as Trump knew about the true nature of the pandemic, so did Peter Navarro. And Peter Navarro is also on the right side of White House infighting when it came to silencing inconvenient critics. Remember this guy, Rick Bright, the director of the Department of Health and Human Services, Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority. Now there is a title. He was soon stripped of it. He was forced out in April because he kept uttering inconvenient truths, inconvenient to all but Navarro because Bright turned whistleblower and in his 89 page complaint, which was all about the cronyism and the quashing of his opinion, and Jared Kushner having his hands over the bungled response, Bright singled out as an ally. Peter Navarro, according to the complaint, Navarro, quote, shared Dr. Bright sense of urgency, recognized his expertise and was prepared to help. Navarro tried to keep Bright in the loop. He tapped him to draft task force recommendations, but he they brought Navarro lost that battle. So here’s Navarro. He’s got a title that doesn’t quite fit with what he’s on to talk about, but he does more than almost everyone else in that White House. He does know what’s good. Going on, he is not stupid. He called the coronavirus right. He is, in fact, this administration’s version of a reasonable person. Of course, that’s out the window when you get invited on TV because on TV, Novarro knows he has an audience of one and that audience demands that he acts like a pitbull or rather a cuckoo bird, which is a reference to an animal that pushes the mother out of the nest and tries to convince the world her eggs are its own. Neviah doesn’t give an inch, but he also doesn’t give a damn about, say the truth.

S3: And that was a signal from this president that that was this is a serious, serious matter. He’s taking down flights from China. He was called a xenophobe and a racist by Joe Biden.

S8: He was there. Had to apologize. No, he wasn’t. Well, I apologize if I’ve got we’ll do the fact check on that. I watch. I just did. All right. Well, you’re wrong.

S1: Actually, he was right. Biden didn’t call the executive order xenophobic. Biden actually says he supported the flight restriction. But the day he passed that he was giving a speech about Trump, where he said, I think rightly, this is no time for Donald Trump’s record of hysteria and xenophobia, hysterical xenophobia and fear mongering to lead the way instead of science science. That was the entirety of the xenophobic reference. Tapper is right. Navarro is wrong. It was a nice little TV moment. I didn’t mind it. But while a good anchor and Tapper is one has the duty to keep his guests honest and if necessary, to present counterclaims, one doesn’t have on a guest just to argue with them. If one is a real newsman and arguing about the very legitimacy of the question you’re asking, it is so tedious. It is terrible. Television Novarro could be a good guest from rational land if he wanted to be, just doesn’t want to be. Tapper desperately wants to have on his program guests to present the Trump side of things. It is hard if you want to have a program that rebuts aggressive displays of misinformation, but also want to have a program that isn’t one sided. There is a tension with this White House. A good journalist wants to hear from them, but a good journalist doesn’t want to subject his audience to a torrent of propaganda. And also keep this in mind, Tapper knows who the alternatives are, who the White House was offering on other Sunday shows like, say, Jason Miller, who appeared on ABC’s This Week. They’re allowing harvesting, which is about a step above organ harvesting. Yes, killing people for their spleens just a bit better than a campaign worker collecting signed, sealed ballots for drop off at a central location. We all know about the urban myth, about the college kid who, after a night of partying, wakes up in a Tijuana bathtub packed with ice, finds an incision on his side and realize that he just voted for Ned Lamont. So the pickings are slim, the desire for your show to interview all sides is strong, and Tabernas Navarro has it in him to be a normal person, not a truculent talking point wind up doll. But that hope was unrequited because it’s clear that Trump’s TV defenders feel they have to defend him totally, carelessly and belligerently. Oh, I don’t mean that phrase totally carelessly. Totally mortifying carelessly. I mean, they have to defend him totally and carelessly and belligerently. There could be no concession to any indisputable fact. Why does there need to be facts? Aren’t the ground there fighting on? And so in the end, Navarro was gently shown the door.

S8: CNN is not honest with him. OK, CNN, you want to go there? I mean, I say you’re not answering that question here. Thank you. Peter Navarro. We just played to you. Didn’t you? Didn’t answer my question. No, you can’t say that. You didn’t answer the question easily, Jake. OK, Peter Navarro, thank you so much. I appreciate your time today. Thank you so much.

S9: And I would just like to remind the American people watching, I am reminded that the United States has less than five percent of the world’s population and the United States has more than 20 percent of the world’s coronavirus deaths. That is a fact. It does not matter how many times he insults CNN Tapper could have gone with.

S1: Also on Friday, the U.S. had a thousand deaths. Canada had zero he could have gone with. And remember, the US is just about to reach 200000 dead. He could have said that if the American people had begun using masks three months ago, we could have had 33000 fewer deaths, according to the University of Washington. And later today, the president is holding an indoor rally where masks are not required. He could have gone with any of that. He could have not gone with Peter Navarro. But Tapper tried. I doubt that he will try again.

S10: And that’s it for today’s show, Margaret Kelly produces the gist for reals, like hands on the reel to reel tape, wrestling it to the ground, taking a razor blade to it, just producing. Daniel Shrader also produces the gist. He’s less interested in Peter Navarro, more interested in Chucho Navarro, a founding member of triumphalists Poncho’s, who, of course, recorded with Eddie Gourmet. But unlike Ideogram, you cannot blame our current predicament on the passing of Alicia. Montgomery is the executive producer of Slate podcasts. She’s based in Washington, home of football team, which won football game on day of week today. Go football team got the gist. My driver’s license designates me as a ballot donor if I am involved in a terrible wreck driving to a polling site and they can’t save me this, authorize them to give my ballot to a registered voter who otherwise would have gotten disenfranchised. There is a long list for ballot donation, but this is a way to pay it forward, even if your soul is caught up in some purgatory because your ballot was originally for Ned Lamont, for you. And thanks for listening.