The “Two Stents” Edition

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S1: This ad free podcast is part of your slate plus membership. This episode of the gabfest contains explicit language.

S2: Hello and welcome to the Slate Political Gabfest for February 20th, 2020.

S3: The two stents addition. I am David Plotz of Atlas Obscura. I have zero stance at the moment, I’m sure at some time in Washington, D.C.. Joining me from New Haven from the campus of Yale University is Emily Bazelon of New York Times magazine. Hello, Emily. Not going to ask you how many stents you have.

S4: I could use some stents at that.

S5: No, I hope not. No, no stents for Emily. I feel like I don’t know. Of course. Heart.

S6: This week, I’m just having a hard week at work. But guess now I don’t need a new stent. Oh, thank you.

S5: Sara, no nuts dance. Just just caffeine and good wishes. People send good wishes that you that. No, of course, was from. John DICKERSON of CBS 60 Minutes from New York. Hello, John. Hi. I’m not going to ask how many stents you have or how long ago you got them put in. No, I don’t have any, but I’m. Anyway. Anyway, got you.

S7: On today’s gabfest, the extraordinary debate that livened up the Democratic primary. What is going on and is Bernie Sanders about to run away with it? And is Michael Bloomberg done, though, already then the president’s obscene pardons of. Rich white people. And his general efforts to warp American justice, then we are joined by the authors of Very Stable Genius to discuss their alarming book about the Trump presidency. Plus, of course, we have cocktail chatter last night. What a debate, man. The debates earlier in this Democratic presidential campaign have been kind of. Last night had it all. It had. It was fantastic.

S8: Can I just say that your description of them as one is still one that really just put the finger right on it?

S5: You think putting the finger, man?

S9: COOPER But it was great. It was like finally. Okay. And you know what, I think, John, maybe you tweeted this this this idea that, oh, if you have these contentious debates, it endangers you for the general election. No. Has nothing to do with it. Have the great debates. Fight it out. Like really go after each other. The general actual take care of itself. It doesn’t matter. That has nothing to do with it. You just want people to get fired up and enthusiastic. And my goodness, man. Klobuchar. Going after Mayor Pete beat. Mayor Pete. Going after Bernie Sanders. Everybody going after Bloomberg. Elizabeth Warren killing. I mean, just committing homicide after homicide on the debate stage. It was it was great. Did you ever get a chance to watch it? I hope you had a chance to watch it, because it was it really was. It was worth it.

S10: I did watch part of it. I agreed that it was spicy.

S9: I definitely watched it. So let’s talk let’s start with Michael Bloomberg. My dear Michael Bloomberg showed up at the debate. Probably a mistake for him to show up. He certainly got his head handed to him. He spent 400 million dollars in a few months. The ads are everywhere. He’s not even contesting Nevada. And Emily, Elizabeth Warren, among others, just really hammered him, hammered the hell out of him. And he seemed unprepared.

S4: Right. That was what was surprising was that all the analysis before the debate said Michael Bloomberg, kind of thin skin, not used to being challenged for Shermanesque faced questions about his record on stop and frisk as mayor of New York. Probably will face questions about all the nondisclosure agreements that women who worked for his company have signed. That was what happened. He seemed flummoxed and insulted that he was being asked to be accountable for both of those actions which are important to his record. I mean, did you guys think it was sort of political malpractice that he just didn’t have like a polished answer at the ready that he’d practiced?

S11: Well, I thought what what was you know, David talked about the carnage and there was plenty of it. It was a kind of. But in general, there was a Game of Thrones feeling about to it.

S12: And then Elizabeth Warren, I mean, every time you thought, oh, she just has brass knuckles, it turns out no, she has a baseball bat with a bunch of nails sticking out of it. And oh, look at this. She’s found a way to sharpen a spoon. I mean, she just was pulling out like one weapon after another. And it wasn’t just Bloomberg whose Achilles tendon she was sawing through. It was she was delivering blows to everyone. And then then she decided to be incredibly generous to close, which I think she was right about when they got into that sort of pop quiz question about who was the president of Mexico. But there was substance underneath. Says into your question, Emily, the substance that she highlighted, I thought, gets to your point about political malpractice. If you have blemishes on your record and you’re a newcomer, you. There’s one play in the play goes like this. You take the blemish you been given. You diffuse it quickly and then show how you’ve learned from it. Crucial. And then drive it to your, you know, your ultimate point. That’s the that’s the reason and rationale for your candidacy. And there wasn’t an avenue open in stop and frisk for Michael Bloomberg. I mean, it is a blemish. She can’t get rid of that. It is. It is history. But then in his answer, he failed the lessons test, which then Warren’s effectively outlined, which is it’s not just that this didn’t turn out the way you wanted, it’s that this was failed in its inception and design and that and that the design is immoral. And that’s the lesson you should have learned. So he in real time showed that he hadn’t read it, learned the lesson, and then she jumped in to highlight that, which is why her her aggressive approach was not just performative, but it also had a substantive element to it. And to your point, Emily. Yes, it was it was an awful answer, both on stop and frisks and end and days. And you knew those were coming. You could see them miles and miles and miles away.

S7: I do not understand, having watched this debate, how Elizabeth Warren is not the front runner. She is she is so good at that at the debate piece of it, which is one piece of it. She’s a really good retail campaigner. She is obviously the smartest person running. And there bunch of smart people. She has great personnel choices. She has all the capacity to be an excellent executive. I don’t understand it. It doesn’t it makes it doesn’t track to me at all except maybe sexism. It it really she is so in. Credibly good at the things you think you need to be good at. To be elected. And yet it isn’t getting her anywhere.

S12: Well, does it matter outside of her in the debates, though, before?

S6: Yeah, I don’t think she has.

S13: I. Maybe she hasn’t shown it nearly as much. No. Maybe. Maybe so.

S4: I mean, I also thought she was excellent. David. I wonder what will happen to her poll numbers, because sometimes when you go after other candidates aggressively. Right, John, don’t you take them down. But also kind of take yourself down by making yourself seem like you are the slayer of the dragons, i.e. less likeable.

S12: Why, Emily? You’re talking about the old murder suicide. Yes. Where you are.

S8: When Gephardt went after Dean in 2004, John Kerry was the beneficiary. And so Gephardt killed Dean and killed himself. I think in this case, the primary target of Warren’s ire was Bloomberg. And she can gain collective joy in the much of the Democratic Party at his embarrassing Bloomberg. The question is whether a couple of things I think that are close to what you’re saying, Emily, which is, one, does she just give a sugar high to people? In other words, if you’re not already for Warren, you love to see her take on Bloomberg. But that’s a kind of a discrete thing. You don’t take the next step, which is, hey, she could be president and she could be president. Argument, if you want to make it for Elizabeth Warren, is as dumb and stupid as debates can be and as weird as campaigns can be. There is a pressure it puts on a candidate that says you’re behind. You better do something to make your own weather. You better do something to find a lane for yourself and create a moment that puts you at your best advantage in front of voters. And that’s what she did. She seized the moment, which is a crucial thing to do in the presidency. Now, the question is whether people saw that took it as a sugar high and moved on or said, hey, let me give her another look. The fundraising numbers for her were good overnight. That, again, may just be people who already were predisposed to liking her. So it’ll be fascinating to see how this all plays out. The final thing I would say is one of the things that, again, it may not matter with voters, but that she is quite skilled at is in this in the kind of silly top-line debates you have about words like socialism and capitalism, blah, blah, blah. She is very good at taking issues and saying this is what this is what we’re really debating this. And and so making something more concrete, not just with a story about someone she met in line, but specifically with why debates about socialism versus capitalism and managed capitalism have a real effect on wealth tax, have a real effect in a way that voters understand. And that’ll be the crucial test for any a general election candidate who wants to take a lot of buzzwords that people throw around in Twitter and in the press and turn those buzzwords into component parts that people really can latch on to when they’re making decisions about their presidents.

S13: I want to John, this is maybe an end up in a question posed to you. I’ll give you the question and then I’ll have a speech. The question is, it’s going to be, does the debate matter for Bloomberg? Actually, given the amount of money he she seems to be willing to spend and given historically how little debates really seem to make a difference in terms of poll numbers. But I’ll frame it by saying, look, everyone knows I’m in the tank for Bloomberg. I think he was the great mayor. I think he’s an amazing philanthropist and I think he a great business leader. I think he has extraordinary executive capacity proved over a whole lifetime and, you know, made great choices in who he hires to work for him and how he organizes his work, how he accomplishes his work. And I think where he in the White House, he would be an excellent president. And also, I think he has single handedly done as much to change the debate on climate change and redress climate change, slow down climate change of any person on the planet. So if you care about that as an existential issue, I think he is. He’s your person. That said, he obviously had an incredibly bad debate, was ill prepared, was unable to articulate why his policies were good, was unable to offer a kind of cogent defense of his call. Clearly not great personal behavior when he was running his company or ways that created an atmosphere that made made it made women in particular who worked for him file complaints and make settlements with them. And I’m not saying that that should disqualify him at all. But his inability to answer it was pretty poor that you know. But but we know that his he’s an executive. We know that he has the capacity to do the job. We know that he has experienced job. We know he’s he’s he’s successful in and gets things done. And so should Democrats try to look past the debate, which isn’t totally artificial format, which doesn’t really have anything to do with what you do as the executive of the country? You don’t sit around having debates with with seven random people where you’re trying to score TV points and and, you know, continue to look at him, look at him through a different lens.

S10: Wait, didn’t you just say about Elisabeth? Lauren, that her skill at debating showed like that she should be way ahead. And what a great president shooting.

S13: I said that was one piece of it. She’s clearly very good at that piece of it. And it’s delightful. And I said, she also has she’s really smart. She’s good at the retail politician politics piece of it. She’s a great policy person and she has a history of making great personnel choices, too. So it’s like all together she has that. She has a lot of what Bloomberg has without the kind of executive record. But she also has the retail piece in a much stronger way.

S4: OK, so here’s what I came away with about Bloomberg. It’s not that he doesn’t have good debating skills. It’s that he conveyed the impression that he has deeply not reckoned with these problems. Like I thought that the reason he didn’t have a good answer was that he just really hasn’t like sat down, learned about how terrible stop and frisk was for young African-American and Latino men in New York City considered the other ways that crime can be reduced, that are less harmful and really like how to sort of come to Jesus moment, though I know that’s not the right term to use for him. And I felt the same way listening to him to talk about, you know, sexual harassment, nondisclosure agreements in his office. The reason that matters to me is that, yes, a competent executive is great, but I don’t want someone who’s bloodless, like who doesn’t learn deep moral lessons, who doesn’t have that kind of other dimension of his thinking that you want in the president, which is someone who like has really good values and cares about people, not just about making trains run on time. And I was left feeling like, whoa, the sky really still has so much to prove on that front. Fair, unfair.

S8: I mean, obviously, you want. You want those characteristics. There’s a both a moral reason you want them, which you articulated, and then there’s a tactical reason you want them because he’s got to get through a primary in which he’s got to show at least some level of understanding, which is what I was saying about Elizabeth Warren, highlighting the fact that he didn’t have the basic first building block of what would be necessary just from purely tactical, removing all of it, removing of its moral component, a purely tactical requirement to show that he’d learn something he didn’t even have, that which is the prerequisite for then him making the case which he then didn’t make, which is the one David is making, which is it seems to me that his argument is I may be a son of a bitch, but I’m your son of a bitch, and I can both take on Trump. And then when I get an office, I’ll have all of this experience that I’ve used, both as a sexy, successful person and private enterprise philanthropist and and at least mayor of a big city. And I’ll put that to use for your for your goals. So he’s he has to get people to make a kind of devil’s bargain with him. He’s never gonna win. He’s never gonna be more virtuous than the other candidates. But he has to at least cross a threshold which he didn’t even. I don’t think cross in in that case. Does it matter? kluber Charb rose after the New Hampshire debate. Early voting is already taking place in Nevada and California, so that some of that is baked in already. Although my guess is that the early voting taking place is theroom highly organized candidates like Sanders, on the other hand. Bloomberg has a lot of money and might be organized in those states. Undoubtedly is in California. So will it really matter? Also, I guess we should also discount a lot of the grave dancing that’s going on with Bloomberg is by people who were predisposed to hate him anyway. So he he played a tough hand badly. And so people are going to go going to enjoy that. So I think it’s some he had a shot to introduce himself in this and he blew it. And if one of the arguments for his campaign is he’s got these skills and attributes from the private sector, one of those, presumably, is when you go into an unfamiliar environment, you learn whatever you need to do to succeed in that environment. And he did not do that.

S7: So I want to turn to a couple other candidates, in particular people to judge who interestingly decided that he was going to focus on the facts, not really on Bloomberg, although he threw a few shots in that direction, but on Bernie Sanders. And I think with trying to position this, that that there there’s a Bernie Sanders alternative and then there’s the moderate alternative. And I am the best moderate alternative. I thought he was really you know, he’s so calm and cheery and unflappable in a way that seems very winning to me. But I want Jon to tell me why that is wrong.

S11: Well, I think he’s trying to basically get the not Bernie Lane to himself. He’s trying to build his authority on the debate stage, both by weakening those with existing authority, like basically saying Biden’s to all these yesterdays man with club. He’s trying to say you don’t have the authority from Washington, that you think you do so diminish everybody else’s authority. And then by performative Lee having an answer for everything, doing probably better than anybody else. Although Warren is quite good at it, too, taking an answer quickly, defining it in new terms that are most favorable to him and then attacking those terms, which is basically what any successful debater does. And he’s quite good at it in his debate performances. He’s building authority for himself because he is you know, he does have a thin resume. And so I think going after Sanders being the only one to do that. And I’m. And why Elizabeth Elizabeth Warren did make a little little attack on Sanders, which actually is a useful lane for her to take, which is basically that his ideas about revolution are totally unrealistic. She didn’t press the case very hard. He has to press the case A to be the leader of the anti Bernie wing. And B, also just because he has to choose, I think, tough assignments for himself to keep elevating his stature, which is implicitly an answer to the question that he’s who’s he’s too young and too inexperienced.

S9: Let’s let’s bring this to a close on Joe Biden, who. Was there and was not in no sense shamed himself. He did not. He did not spit up over himself or anything like that, but it didn’t feel like that he was there, too, to run away with the race or to stake a claim that that he was going to be the destined anti Bernie candidate. It felt like he was sitting there in the pack with everybody else. And that does not seem good enough unless his organization is masterful in some of these coming up states.

S11: I think that’s right. I mean, he would. He just wasn’t a part of the conversation much. And for somebody who’s who’s had taken a devastating blow in the first two contests, there were opportunities where he could have where. I mean, he’s got to make his central case, which is I had the experience and the reflexes of successfully advocating for the values of this party in my bones. That’s his argument. And in this particularly perilous moment for him, it didn’t come flying through the television screen, as you quite rightly point out, unless he’s got an amazing organization in these states. He just seems to be not in the conversation. And if you’re if one of the things that was propelling you, I mean, one of the things that’s at issue with his drop is that his sense of inevitability has been punctured. So if that goes away, what’s the what’s the rationale for his candidacy? And the only way to rebuild inevitability is to look big, bad and inevitable. And I don’t think he did that on the debate stage.

S9: Big, bad and inevitable if my WWE pay didn’t know that.

S7: All right. Well, we’ll see on Saturday at the Nevada caucuses, a wrap up and we get closer to Super Tuesday. Slate Plus members, you get bonus segments on the gab fest and other Slate podcast. And today on our bonus segment, we’re going to design the perfect news source. You are overwhelmed with news, overwhelmed with information, overwhelmed with Instagram and Twitter and Facebook. And we’re going to simplify and tell you what the perfect news source should be, although one exists. I made that won’t even help you, but it’ll allow you to imagine a world with a perfect new source. Go to slash gabfests plus to become a member. Today.

S14: As we are recording the show, Judge Jackson is sentencing Roger Stone in a Washington courtroom. The Roger Stone case, of course, has captured the imagination because of the enormous upset in the Department of Justice over some perceived interference in that case by Bill Bar, potentially by the president. What is clear is that the president continues to upend the fair administration justice in ways that are disturbing, unpleasant, horrible for the country. He this week issued a series of pardons and commutations that are baffling and in a way tragic given what the power of commutation can be used for. He relieved the sentences or lifted the convictions of people like Michael Milken, Bernie Kerik, the former New York City police commissioner, Eddie debartolo Junior, the former owner of the Forty nine years he commuted. Rod Blagojevich, the governor of Illinois, who tried to sell a Senate seat, commuted his sentence. He commuted the sense of a Jack Abramoff crony. He seems to have given a break to somebody who gave a huge amount of money to trump associated PACs and organizations in recent months or his family did. A lot of these people who got pardons were people who went on Fox News or were associated with Fox News characters and and use that platform to get the president’s attention. So, Emily, what do you make of the pardons and the general interference in the process of a fair justice that the president engaged in?

S15: So I think Trump is determined to show that he is at the top of the Justice Department. He is the chief of American federal law enforcement. He has been repeating that clearly he wants to feel like that’s his role. And I think these pardons play right into that. They don’t cause a constitutional crisis or a direct conflict with the bar. Anyone else at the Department of Justice, because the president has this pretty unlimited, not unlimited, but very wide discretion over his pardoning power. And so he picked a bunch of people who his friends had been whispering in his ear about. I mean, it’s just such a great example of executive largesse, like someone somebody else likes has been in jail. And so then they go on this list. And it doesn’t matter that there’s been in the past this incredibly or neat, intricate way, way too encumbered process for applying for a federal pardon. Like if Trump is sympathetic to you, out you go. And you know, the cast of characters is a kind of like who a privilege list, a kind of motley crew of corruption, at least in terms of people like Rod Blagojevich. And does it matter to Trump because he’s just like inserting himself. And I think he figures and he may well be right that what ever the political disadvantages are, they’ll be long forgotten by the time November 2020 rolls around. So that’s how I read all of this. And I think there is a link to the Roger Stone trial. But, John, what’s your thoughts about the pardons?

S16: I mean, I have I have two thoughts. The first is that the president is. We know is kind of expert at using the kerfuffle to his ends. So he does things to bait the press or to his critics, and he does it for a reason, which is that in the kerfuffle, some benefit happens.

S12: So what do I mean by this? So when he says that his the economy is the strongest it’s ever been, he is hoping that somebody will fact check him and say, no, it’s not it’s not the strongest ever. And what he’s done is he’s doubled the amount of time being spent talking about how good the economy is. He doesn’t care of the people that four people somewhere might think, oh, he wasn’t keeping his facts straight about the economy. He’s just happy to have the extra conversation, the kerfuffle over the fact check two and a tick lift up, the fact that the economy is good. And that’s true. Millions and millions and millions of different times that he blows through fact checks in order to to have the conversation continue on the topic he wants to. So what is the benefit of the kerfuffle here? I don’t know. The second thing is, the other thing on my mind is for the president. Clearly, his his interest in view is that the normal norms of Washington traditions are an impediment to what he wants. So the question is, do you break those norms? Quietly, you know, or slowly without people noticing? Or is it important to have a public back and forth the way he did with with Attorney General Barr this week in which he destroys the norm right before people’s eyes in real time to show you how basically useless they are. So Barr drew a line in the state, the sand, and said, don’t you talk about these judges or these cases? And the and the president leapt over the line repeatedly and instantaneously and just hopped back over and back and forth over it a million different times and nothing happened to him. And so is that the president’s strategy, which is to not just defy traditions, norms, but actively do it in public, to encourage the view basically that these things really are toothless and which is even more powerful than simply ignoring them and they’re toothless.

S7: Of course, going back to the theme of the decade of the century, because the teeth that could could bite into him, which are legislative teeth, will not bite because the Congress and the Senate in particular refuses to act in any way to constrain it and to enforce its rights and privileges. And just to tell him that he can’t do these things which are against norms and against against practice and against the law even. And so if if the president believes that he can do these things and and there is no mechanism to stop him because legislature won’t act, then he will continue to do them. There was a very good piece, and I have now forgotten where I think it was in the post of the times, pointing out that Trump is pardoning people. Of course, they’re his cronies in many cases. And there are people who who are Fox News called celebs, but they’re also people who are very much like him in certain ways. So he pardoned Dinesh D’Souza for some campaign finance crimes, the campaign finance crimes, which are in themselves similar to Trump’s own campaign finance chicanery. But D’Souza was a birther like Trump. He pardoned Joe Arpaio, the Arizona politician who, like Trump, has been an absolute should. Yes. Sheriff Joe Arpaio, scourge of immigrants. Blagojevich, who got this commutation is somebody, a politician who used a shady telephone call to try to get favors, political favors done in a way that Trump has been known to use a shady phone call to get political favors done. He’s pardoned now three old white billionaires for various kinds of corruption. So so he he is I’m sure he’s trying to make a larger point, but he’s also clearly clearing his own name as he does this here. He’s wiping the slate clean because these are people who are people like himself. That’s one point. The second point I want to make is what an incredible, sad, lost opportunity there so that if I were the president, I would use this power. If I were the president and our president, like Trump, who has a appalling ratings with poor people, with African-Americans, with or with Hispanic Americans, with people from generally disadvantaged people. Man, I would use this I would use this power of commutation and pardon generously and vigorously in the way that he. He got so much credit for pardoning that woman who came Cardassian West had brought to his attention. He could just just do do some of those and and bask in the attention and bask in the in the favor that that would do. But instead, he pardons a bunch of like old white guys who are corrupt like him.

S17: I’m not a wizard. I’m not sure that’s not the second beat here. You think he’ll do that? So. So, yeah. So I.

S10: I think he already did this because the Alice Johnson pardon. She’s the African-American woman who is serving a life sentence. Who Kim Cardassian asked Trump to pardon.

S15: She was the subject of his Super Bowl ad. And, you know, like different America, African-American politicians and figures were like, wait a second. You’re trying to, you know, con people into thinking that, like, you really care about this community. So I feel like he’s operating on all cylinders already in the Roger Stone instance. I don’t think there’s a political benefit I can see for Trump’s going on and on about stone. But one does wonder why he is just so adamant about Stone not going to jail. Is it because he knows that stone, if he ever did talk, could really cause a lot of trouble? And is it because he is hoping not to have to use his pardon power, but also lining up the base to get behind that next step?

S7: Good questions.

S6: Yes, we will find out. Or not.

S18: I mean, I’m struck by how this pardon power again just shows how Trump can be doing different kinds of things and different times. And the inconsistencies don’t seem to really stick to him. And we’re all just sort of left like following the news and insisting on these norms that mostly work. But, you know, might have had some problems with them. I mean, David, I think you’re absolutely right. Like the president could use his or her power and power to such a greater degree than they actually do. And so that makes you think like, OK, well, opening the door to pardons has some benefit to it, even if it seems to be in the most sort of cynical, undeserved way. And maybe John’s right. Like there’ll be a group of pardons to come. There’s just this sense constantly of like this drama we’re watching unfold that doesn’t totally make sense, but has these new like entertaining figures kind of walking onto the stage for a minute?

S16: Can I just jump on very quickly and say what’s at heart here? Right. Emily Crick’s have wrong. What we’re talking about here with respect to pardons is the president, the United States, using his office for ways that are personally aggrandizing either directly or indirectly, but it’s essentially misusing the office, which is the thing that he was supposed to be chastened about after impeachment. It’s not likely that a lot of people are putting as the first reason he’s doing this. The fact that he thinks that there are inequities and imbalances in the in the criminal justice system.

S18: Right. I mean, he is just refusing to color in the lines. Right. And other presidents, when they have had these kind of brushes with impeachment and lots of criticism, they retreat to this like very sober place of trying to stay as far away as possible from anyone who smacks of corruption like, oh, Roger Stone, you know, he used to be my friend. But now, you know, he like there’s some retribution. Do you do here? And I would never have anything to do with trying to help someone like that, because I’m very different from that person distancing itself from them. And with Trump, it’s just totally the opposite.

S19: One of the great divides in cultures between comedy and horror.

S20: What seems funny under some circumstances can be pure nightmare under others. And I think just look at clowns. Clowns, which are. Stand for humor. And then can so easily be transmogrified into into horror. And I feel that way about our guests. New book, A Very Stable Genius.

S14: Phil Rucker and Carolyn Egg have written huge bestseller about the Trump presidency, a book that I think if you heard about in 2016 and some of the details in it, you would’ve thought never that could not happen. No way. And now it just feels like it’s true and horrible. Its report reporting that has revealed yet again the Trump presidency and its sick, narcissistic cruelty. So welcome to the gabfest. Carol, start with you. What? Of all the tales that you guys have told in this book and the amazing reporting, this book. What do you think has struck most with readers? What story in particular?

S21: I think that the piece that has made people the most upset and distraught is the moment where the president is dressing down his generals and his military officers, many of whom have have offered to give their lives and have literally given the lives of their children to protect the country. And that moment in July, twenty seventeen, when three of his senior advisers, his secretary of defense, his secretary of state and his national economic adviser, bring him into a sacred space in the Pentagon to try to educate him a little bit about what does keep America safe. Because he doesn’t seem to understand that. And his recoil at their Schoolhouse Rock turns into a bellowing fest where he calls them dopes and babies and tells them he wouldn’t have gone to war with them. Perhaps the worst curse word they could ever hear. That has really resonated with readers, in part because many people in America have a military in their own family and found that upsetting.

S15: You know, in some ways this book is confirming an impression that’s been building about Trump since the election. And it falls in the wake of other books that are pretty shocking in their kind of inside details. And I wonder, you know, having thought so much about this, what insight you bring, like what where you landed in terms of how you think about not Trump’s character so much as the kind of administration he runs, the kind of president he would be if the country re-elect him?

S22: Yeah. So there have been. You’re right. There have been so many books about the Trump presidency so far. And I feel like Carol and I were lucky because we had three almost three full years of the presidency to consider when writing this narrative. And because of that time and the depth of the reporting, we could find patterns that weren’t immediately clear in the early months of the presidency, for example, we find that the North Star for Trump is the perpetuation of his own power and self image and survival from day to day crisis to crisis. And we’ve seen we saw, rather, after the end of the Russia investigation, the Mueller investigation, the president got off without any sort of legal consequences for his actions, his, you know, documented attempts of obstructing justice and then became more emboldened and more empowered and and more unrestrained. If it were, we saw him get rid of the adults in the room, the Rex Tillerson, the Jim Mattis as the H.R. McMaster’s, the John Keli’s, and replace them with the team of enablers, a secretary of state. Mike Pompeo, who allowed for Rudy Giuliani to do this shadow diplomacy with Ukraine. A chief of staff, Mick Mulvaney, acting chief of staff, by the way, who enabled the delay of the military aid for Ukraine. And the president got into more and more trouble there. And so these patterns emerged over the three years. And with the benefit of time, we can see more of it.

S12: Carol-Lynn Fili, when when you presented going back to that to the story about being at the Pentagon, you show there two possible responses from defenders of the presidents. One is, you know, that’s his tough style. You know, that’s that’s see, he’s a disruptor and that’s. And then there’s a second slightly more precise argument, which is, you know, when presidents come in, there is a bit there’s a kind of accepted wisdom. And, you know, we’ve been fighting for 18 years in Afghanistan. And The Washington Post printed the amazing Afghanistan papers, which show basically administration after administration has lied and deceived the public. And so a new president coming in against that kind of calcified thinking perhaps has to be engaged in a bellow fest.

S17: If people mount those counter arguments against that scene, how do you then say what?

S8: What would the response be to explain the difference between being, well, what would the response be?

S21: You know, this scene does have the president challenging very openly and very bellicose way. The Afghanistan war calling it a loser war. And I completely after, you know, experiencing the the Afghan paper papers, I see exactly why folks would view the president as rightly challenging the wisdom of that many years in what he calls a piece of sand. However, that scene is not just a moment in which he’s accusing his generals of being losers for pursuing that war. He’s also challenging their decision to have troops and bases in places that protect us. He’s challenging fundamental assumptions that actually have been really beneficial for the country for decades. The NATO alliance, for example. This is a moment in which the president is taking the snow globe of the way we’ve been running the country’s national security apparatus and shakes it in the air and throws it up and throws it on the ground. He isn’t just challenging the Afghanistan war, and it is an ad hominem attack as well. Right. He’s calling them dopes and babies. He’s threatening to fire Gen. Nicholson for being a loser until Dunford and Mattis and much more senior folks, the the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the secretary of defense remind him that Nicholson is simply doing exactly what was in the national security plan that the president had authorized when he came into office. He is following the orders that he’s been given.

S8: So it’s disruption for disruption sake as opposed to disruption in the cause of a virtuous end.

S23: You know, it’s one thing to call people names in a room. It’s another to come up with your plan. And in the many things that the president attacks that have been proven to safeguard us was just as worrisome as the ad hominem element of the way he went at them.

S14: Did you guys in your reporting find any episodes where something could have gone even more darkly there? Something could have gone, taking even more horrific turn and somebody stepped in and did stop it. And what’s a particular episode like that if you did come across something like that?

S22: Well, one thing, that theme that came through in our interviews with all of these administration officials who worked with the president is how lucky this president has been three years in. There’s not been a 9/11. We’ve not had a terror attack on our country. There’s not been a calamitous global event that has required his sort of intervention and leadership that we’ve seen with some previous presidents. And, you know, the people who are concerned about Trump’s fitness for office and his decision making are relieved every day that America has not been tested in that way. Surely things could have been worse. But part of it is just the luck of the situation that Trump is in right now.

S4: What? You know, it’s sort of amazing as political reporters and investigative reporters to be writing a book called A Very Stable Genius about a current president. And I wonder if, you know, obviously your investigative skills and your analysis are on great display in this work. But is it particularly challenging with the presidency that has this much kind of fodder for criticism to be writing something that you’re also still covering and to feel like you’re presenting a factual, truthful picture? But it’s also just like incredibly negative. I just wonder if there were other moments in history would’ve been easier to say. Well, and also here are these here are these good things happening, whether the facts themselves are so imbalanced that that presents a challenge for you.

S21: You know, this presidency that Phil and I’ve been covering for the last three plus years is unprecedented in every way. And part of the reason we decided. Hit the pause button and do this book was because history was literally unfolding in front of our eyes. And as to your smart point, Emily, about how negative some of the events may may feel to many of our readers. We apply the same standards we applied as reporters, which was rigorous vetting of the information, trying to capture what really happened in the room, checking and rechecking and rechecking those events. But another sort of central guiding principle for this book and the anecdotes we used was how do they reveal the portrait of Donald J. Trump? A question we kept asking ourselves was what motivates him? OK. We write about a lot of chaos. We write about how many times have you, as The Washington Post published a story that says chaos yesterday. We wanted to really see what is he like in these rooms and what is pressing his buttons and and what keeps him excited. What makes him angry? And those were the scenes we gravitated towards. Without judgment.

S24: In this. World of chaos. What? What keeps people around?

S16: I mean, there are obviously lots and lots and lots of people who’ve been kicked to the curb or who’ve fled. But why does Mick Mulvaney stay? Why does hope Hicks come back?

S5: Hope is back. No, no, you felt too depressing.

S22: I mean, to your good question, John. I think a couple things motivated have motivated these people to stay in New York a bit, despite that in some cases, the abuse they received from their boss. One power. They want to be a decision maker. They want to be close to the action. They want to be a part of the action. They see long term career benefits from serving in the government at a high level.

S25: They can go on and give speeches or or be lobbyists or get bigger corporate jobs or what have you. And so they’re they’re sort of making an investment in their careers by serving a president who they see a lot of fault with. But the other thing to keep in mind is the people and Trump’s close orbit view him as an incredibly kind of magnetic force. Like, it’s exciting to be around him. Hope Hicks spent hours of every day at his side when she was working in the White House. And then she left the White House and went to L.A. to work for the new Fox Company under Lachlan Murdoch. And, you know, by all accounts, that’s a more boring job. It’s a corporate job. She is dealing with investors and earning them and all sorts of corporate issues. You’re not with the president of the United States every day putting out brush fires every hour. And so there’s an appeal to people who want to be a part of that action to just being there. Despite all the flaws that Trump may have.

S20: I remember once I was hanging out with a very rich and successful person who had had a public more public career, too, and he was just sitting there bemoaning how boring money is. Money is boring and power is interesting.

S22: So maybe that’s part and Trump is not boring. I mean, give him that. He makes it exciting.

S14: I’m curious how much of the regular order of the White House goes on in the Trump administration. So historically, there’s always so much made of the president’s daily briefing. You know, the gatekeepers, the everything starts on time, how how meetings are held, the protocol of it. Is any of that still in place? Or is it all 100 percent gone?

S23: A lot of that is tossed out the window. I I found it really interesting to go through some records of the president’s schedule. As Phil and I were reporting on this, we we were pretty fastidious about looking at the actual contemporaneous records. And when you look at the schedule, you can see that the president’s day, like Obama’s day when he was president, pretty much started like crack dawn, 6:30, 7, 7:30, this kind of timeframe. Come have a presidential daily brief the night before. Obama is to read it on his on his iPod and and then have a briefer come in and discuss things with him as the days went on. Of the of President Trump’s presidency after inauguration, those hours kept shifting back. Executive time kept absorbing more of his morning. He stayed up in the residence. They tried at first to impose this idea of him coming in at 9:00 into the Oval Office. That didn’t work. Then it was 10 that it was 11:00. So he doesn’t do much in the morning other than watch a lot of television, some of which he’s TiVoed, make a zillion phone calls to friends, especially Fox folks who he’s just seen on TV to congratulate them on what he’s just heard them say in real time. The order of decision making. That’s the morning. How different it is in this White House. The order of decision making is another way in which this presidency is so unusual. People talk about how there should have been a process for how decisions are made. H.R. McMaster, the national security adviser, was big on process. There’d be these documents provided the president would look at them. Then he’d be at be able to ask questions or be sessions where other people would come in to answer those questions. And then there would be a group of people to suss out the best options. There’d be recommendations. There’d be a final decision. It doesn’t happen that way in this White House. People come in as as H.R. McMaster once said to aides, sideways, crossways, long ways. They’re coming in at all different junctures. There is no formal and consistent review process. Some people call the president on his cell phone and tell him, I think this is a good idea. As we say in the book, Lou Dobbs used to call him and say, here’s what you should do about the border. His DHS secretary at the time, here’s Nielsen, was getting on the other end of the phone call this berating from the president. Why aren’t you doing what Lou says? And she said, well, some of those things are illegal and a few of them were already doing so. Lots of differences in this White House.

S15: So one of the things that we keep talking about is power. And just like the search for power. And I think if I understand correctly, that what you’ve decided really does motivate Trump is this thirst for more power. And obviously a. The service of particular goals, and he’s harnessed himself to the Republican Party and also changed its agenda somewhat. So when you imagine a second term Trump presidency especially fell. Given what you were saying about how what we’ve seen is a kind of Trump becoming more unbound, getting rid of the people who are constraining him, feeling like he’s more confident, knows how to do this job the way he wants to do. I mean, maybe he feels like his mornings are spent really well because he’s shoring up his base and getting the advice of the people he trusts the most. So what would you anticipate, do you think?

S4: I guess I’m just sort of it feels sometimes like it couldn’t go much further in that direction and yet it still continues to to move.

S26: Yeah, I think you’re right, it can still move and it is still moving, just look at the the couple of weeks after the impeachment acquittal by the Senate. The president has exercised his power in extraordinary ways to try to protect his friends, to punish his foes, to root out perceived enemies from the bureaucracy and the national security apparatus. His intervention, at least publicly on Twitter to support a lighter sentence recommendation for Roger Stone, a longtime friend and former campaign adviser. And then just this week, he announced that he was going to appoint as the acting director of national intelligence, one of the most important jobs in the government. The person who runs all of the intelligence agencies and funnels the nation’s secrets to the commander in chief. He’s appointing Rick Grenell, the ambassador to Germany. But more notably, a fierce loyalist to the president and to his family and a friend of Donald Trump, juniors and yes, at a Twitter troll. At times he’s gonna be the new acting DNI. So Trump is looking for ways to perpetuate his power to expand the reach of of loyalty to him personally within the government. And I assume if if he gets re-elected, that a second term will look very much like the last few weeks have.

S17: And Grenell’s going to stay, stay. Ambassador to Germany, right? I saw that. I don’t know if that’s true, but I’m not sure about that.

S26: It’s like two difficult jobs to do at one.

S16: Well, exactly. And the DNI was created after 9/11 because of the, you know, catastrophic lack of connecting the dots. I mean, this is you know, this was a job created for our modern terrorist moment. So it’s not something you can kind of load share. But anyway, it is. Did either of you find instances in which since there is no process and there’s all kinds of reasons that’s a disaster, was there was there any efficiency or any way in which people basically who the president didn’t care about what they were up to?

S12: They had certain freedoms to move because unlike other White Houses, where everything is vetted 58 times and the president has to weigh in that because this president is disinterested in most of the operations of government, that there were any that it’s actually operating in an in a more efficient manner in any possible way.

S21: Well, certainly with the president not keeping tabs in the White House, not keeping very good tabs on other agencies. There’s been a lot of ways in which secretaries and and sub secretaries and principal deputies have been able to push things through rather quickly. But that isn’t the focus of our book. There have been many instances reported in The Washington Post, at the EPA, at Interior, at State under Pompeo, in which things have been moving with some alacrity in a way that wouldn’t that would get probably more review. You’ve probably also noticed that at EPA, particularly, there’s the idea that the public gets to have a comment period on certain decisions is kind of get tossed off by the wayside. So in addition to the president not keeping tabs on it, the public’s previous role in being able to keep tabs on it is reduced as well.

S16: So is it possible to because you guys have have put your finger on his personal power about which he tends and cares a great deal and makes all of these very focused moves to to accumulate and protect and grow. In the past, presidents have tried to move things in from cabinet agencies inside the White House to accumulate power in his presidency. It looks like he hasn’t chosen to do any of that because he doesn’t see it as a particularly helpful to his main project, which is the accumulation of his personal and specially designed view of power. Is that. Is that a way to think about it?

S21: I think you see right in front of your face every day what Donald Trump considers important in the hinterlands of his agencies, the wall, making sure people understand that he is going to build it one way or another. And so the Department of Homeland Security, as you rightly point out, John, which was a part of the apparatus created after 9/11 to protect us from a future terrorist attack. The folks that are engaged in protecting us from from terror plots are almost not on his radar at all. The DHS has become the Wall Agency. It’s the only thing he’s really focused on in that department. So much so that the department is now willing to consider all then they’re excited about it giving up the Secret Service, which used to be part of their agency. But feels like a red headed stepchild there and wants to move out and back to Treasury.

S20: A very stable genius from Phil Rucker in Carolina. It’s a bestseller. It’s amazing. And it’s filled with details that will make your jaw drop and your hair fall out. You’re red headed stepchild. Hair fallout, possibly. Thank you guys for coming in.

S19: Thanks, Dave. How much? OK.

S7: Let’s go to cocktail chatter. When you are finished reading your copy of a very stable genius and you’re like, man, I need a drink. I want to talk about something else.

S16: John DICKERSON What do you me chattering about my chatters about a comment, a burst of candor from Mick Mulvaney, the acting chief of staff of the White House, in which he said, My party is very interested in deficits when there is a Democrat in the White House. The worst thing in the whole world is deficits. When Barack Obama was the president, then Donald Trump became president. And we’re a lot less interested. So this is Mick Mulvaney saying something out loud that’s demonstrably true and extraordinarily true. Deficits have have mushroomed under Donald Trump. But you wouldn’t expect the chief of staff of the White House, of the current sitting president to say to say it out loud. And it was particularly striking to me because I’m rereading the long game, which is Mitch McConnell’s book about the Senate and his career. And in it, the central focus of the Obama years is how profligate and the Obama administration is, how awful it is that the deficit is going up and how that tells you something is deeply flawed about the president.

S17: So seeing that this statement and that and then reading that at the same time and the fact that he pays no heed to whatever a thing that used to be one of the driving it has been for the last, you know, 40, 50 years of the Republican Party was, I thought, nicely encapsulated in Mulvaney’s quote there.

S14: Charlie and John, I would point out that Mick Mulvaney is not merely the acting chief of staff. He’s also the director of the Office of Management Budget. His job is budgets and budget deficits.

S16: Yes. Although in the exciting way that the Trump administration works, he is both the acting of OMB. But then there is MERS. He is the director of OMB. But then there is also an acting director. Roosevelt. I think his name is of OMB. So he’s acting Mulvaney’s acting chief of staff. But an actual director of a thing that he doesn’t run, which is run by an acting director.

S6: On paper, though, it would appear that he might have some authority to do something about attending to budget deficits. If you so choose. Right.

S7: Emily, what is your chatter?

S10: I was working on a piece last week about labor law, which I had took a crash course in. That was what it felt like. And I read a book along the way called A Collective Bargain by a labor organizer named Jane Mackey Leavy. And she is really arguing that, first of all, it just is a book with some really interesting history and great examples of her own organizing. She just sounds like she’s just like very committed and determined and gets the job done. And she’s basically saying, look, the conditions for labor right now in America are terrible. The reason that, you know, union membership is declining is partly because of these structural flaws in the way our labor law is set up. But her response is to basically say, like, get over it and let’s look at the places where unions are still able to win. She’s particularly interested in teachers’ strikes.

S18: And in the health care sector, and it’s just a really bracing account that, you know, after reading a lot about how terrible things are for unions. It was interesting and a relief to read about someone who feels like you can still succeed and who is providing a kind of map for doing that. So Jane McKelvie, a collective bargain.

S14: My chapter is just a photo that I saw on Twitter. It was tweeted by Marina Armorel, who I think I’ve chatted about before. She is a brilliant artist. She’s a Brazilian who colors photos. So she looks at old photos, usually portraits of people taken an early 20th century, 19th century and colors them. These black and white photos that they are fully rich realized color photos and they she brings human beings to life. And this just absolutely astonishing way with her work that has nothing to do with her tweet. She tweeted a photo from the opening of King Tut’s tomb in 1923. So this week in 1923, Howard Carter, the archaeologist, the Egyptologist, opened King Tut’s tomb. And it’s simply a photo of the seal on the tomb, which is wrapped in a hemp rope with a very elaborate and quite beautiful knot. And that not a seal at the end. And you can see that it’s unbroken and that the tweet is just that. Here is this thing that has been untouched for three thousand two hundred and forty five years. And so the photos really it’s not a great photo or anything. It’s just the active imagination to think about something which has literally been preserved in this perfect state for most of recorded human history. And then, of course, that opened and disturbed by by Howard Carter bringing the mummy’s curse upon all of us. But it’s it’s a great photo. Listeners, you to have sent us excellent chatters this week, as in all weeks, and you have tweeted them to us at at Slate Gabfests or or sent them in other ways, but mostly tweeted them to us. That’s like FSD. And this week’s chatter comes from Andrea, who imagination was captured by story in The Independent. I think the Irish Independent about a ship that ran aground. You’ve heard about this, John.

S11: He had some made of the ghost ship.

S14: The ghost ship. A ghost ship that ran aground has been a series of very violent storms in the in Ireland and the UK the last couple of weeks. And a ship was tossed onto the rocks and on the coast of Cork County. And it’s a huge ship and it’s a ghost ship. And it turns out and they’re trying to prevent people from clambering the rocks to explorer because it’s very dangerous. And goodness gracious, who knows what could happen to you. But as a ship that had had been abandoned in the middle of the ocean three or four years ago. It had engine trouble. The crew couldn’t fix it. The crew was, you know, worried they were gonna be stra. In fact, the crew was stranded for three weeks without food and water at sea and finally were rescued and they were rescued. And then the ship was just left. And the ship has been floating around the ocean and and now has ended up tossed up on the Irish coast. So it’s quite vivid and and magical story. And there are not a few ships that just are floating around that end up abandoned, the huge ships that just vanish every year. And I guess some of them wash aground in Ireland. So check that out if you enjoy the gab fest. Please subscribe to the gabfest on this app that you’re listening to us on or wherever you listen to us. I’m sure there’s a way to subscribe. Please subscribe to us. It helps us and you will get new episodes the second they are published.

S3: That is our show for today. Gabfests is produced by Jocelyn Frank, our researchers Bridget Dunlap. Ryan McEvoy helped out Emily in New Haven. Melissa Kaplan helped me in D.C. Who is with you, John? Justin jubei. Dustin javé with John in New York. You should follow us on Twitter. That’s like gabfests tweet chatter to us there. Gabriel Roth is the editorial director, Slate podcast. June Thomas is the managing producer of Late Podcast. And Emily Bazelon and John DICKERSON and I are the hosts of this Lake FSD and we will be back with you next week.

S27: Thanks for listening.

S7: Hello. Slate Plus, what’s up? How are you? Good to see you. Nice to see you again. We are going to talk about a John DICKERSON proposed idea, John. Frame it up for us.

S16: My idea was, if you could design your perfect news, either outlet or diet, how would you do it? I guess if I’d thought of it from the production end.

S17: So you’ve been given all the money in the world. Maybe not that anyway. You’ve been given money to design your news organ. What do you what do you do? What’s your mix? How do you deliver it? And what’s your purpose? David?

S7: It’s funny, it’s for me, it’s really. I guess I don’t feel that I’m suffering from an absence of it. I find that The New York Times. The New York Times and The Washington Post meet. Ninety seven percent of my news needs on a daily basis.

S5: And and The New York Times, I was going to say it’s mostly New York Times, Emily, The New York Times even barely eating a cent on its own. And the bits that aren’t met are mostly things around around British soccer, which I pick up from The Guardian and ESPN.

S7: So I I guess I don’t live in a world of dissatisfaction that my I get. I happen to live in a city, Washington, where there’s a strong local newspaper. And so The Post is both a great national newspaper and it’s an okay. Local newspaper.

S14: The new the newspaper is the even not the paper itself, but the kind of the collective project of the newspaper. The way it is gathered and presented online is the very effective way to collect most of the important news of the day. So and then I look at Twitter, I look at Twitter. And so I don’t I don’t think there’s a lot that I want to improve. The only thing I would want to improve is that I don’t like to watch video and I do like to listen to audio. And I think what I would like is I do like to look at pictures. I would like there to be a curated maybe 10 pictures a day that I could look at. That would be the that. So in The New York Times, along with the A1 stories, there’d be there’d be 10 photos that you could just look at, which would have really good National Geographic style captions. That would almost be news, some reason of themselves in themself. And to be able to look at that and then similarly like a if I wanted it and probably wouldn’t listen to this every day, kind of audio of the world, not not just a not just somebody reading reading the news, but audio that is captured audio snippets of that condensed five minutes.

S20: You could listen to what happened in the news in five minutes by listening to people, the real voices of human beings, not not reporters and pundits, but of the actors in those events. Those are the two things I would add.

S4: Are you defining news kind of narrowly to really be about news consumption as opposed to analysis or other kinds of long-form reading or listening or watching you might be doing?

S14: Well, I guess there’s the news function as much of it. But no, I actually think that the the times in particular has is a whole universe of rich, wonderful stories by the likes of you, in addition to the contextualizes things and offers opinion about things too. So no, I don’t just mean the facts.

S20: I mean the analysis and I mean the rich tapestry of human endeavor and feature stories and and longer form things as well. And I certainly read things like The New Yorker and The Atlantic and lots of other longform that gets sent to me. But but in terms of would I be set what what is necessary and sufficient? But the sources I just identified, plus those two supplementary things would be great.

S15: So I guess I would say my favorite thing about using Twitter to carry news and analysis consumption is having lots of people whose views I don’t agree with front and centers on constantly being reminded of how people see the world differently than I do, that it’s a slight and the the links, but also the kind of bite sized responses. Those are both good ways for me to try to get into other people’s heads. What I haven’t done and should do is have some kind of similar curation for foreign affairs and foreign news. And what I would love I don’t really think this is well, I don’t know, maybe it’s possible. I would love to have a daily podcast like The Daily, which I’m a huge fan of. That was solely about stories from abroad and just the idea that you could treat the whole world the way the daily treats mostly United States with bits of the whole world. I don’t know. Maybe that’s like a fallacy in itself, but that’s what I feel like I really lack is enough insight into what’s happening in other places. And I don’t read those things naturally enough on my own. So I would love to have it that delivered to me in an entertaining, smart audio form.

S16: I would like either an audio form or in print form. On the foreign front, this is true of other pieces of news, but I’ll start with foreign, which is that often with foreign news you’re dipping into his stream that’s already been running. And the contextualization often I find so difficult to find. We see any individual stories and it would be great if you could take a brief detour if it’s on the web, if it’s on the screen, literally without changing the going to opening a new tab, but that would catch you up with and set the stakes for whatever it is you’re reading at the moment, because sometimes it can all feel very either slight because you don’t know why. This is a crucial incremental development, a larger story or just detached from. Really big moving and important events. And so. And I feel that more broadly, my problem is I agree with everything you said, David, about the Times and the Post and many other wonderful news organs out there. But there is so much that the tyranny of choice overwhelms me. And so what I would like is a self arranging front page for my day that that rearranges itself based on what I’ve already read for the day. So if I’ve read three articles about whatever the latest gnashing event is in Washington, the front page will redesign too, based on a set of parameters that I’ve given it to have a slightly larger than share of stories that provoke wonder and joy and fascination that the Irish goes chip would be a perfect example that that would float to the top. If he had seen that I had spent a great deal of time in in a kind of more vinegary set of subjects, or even not just sort of more entertaining like that one. But any stories from sports or business that are just diversionary from whatever dark black ink I will have just been soaking in so that something that would have a kind of self arranging quality that would in the end give me a broader understanding of the world. I would like that a lot. And. And also I would like just more more explaining the why of things, not the what of things. I read a story during impeachment in which the whole conceit of the story was about how Democrats were gonna get four senators to flip on the question of witnesses that never explained why, for it was the magic number in the entire piece. Like like that’s that’s a happens more often than not. That’s right. And that’s very disturbing.

S15: So you just feel like that’s totally lacking, because what that is doing is assuming that you know something about the composition of the Senate and you can kind of get to it later. That’s how many votes they need. Right. Right, right.

S16: So and that you could keep you could handle that in a sentence. So it’s just it’s whenever you write a story, it should be. What’s the. You’ve told me the what? That’s great. But why is this important? And what I’d love for particularly stories of it in areas that I’m not disposed to read about, like David’s argument about David chattered about soccer the other day and was able to say why this was particularly interesting, this thing he was suggesting. I would love that with stories in areas that I’m not like health stories where every health story I see feels like, you know, fat is good for you. Fat is not good for you. You know, lift weights, don’t lift weights, meditate, don’t meditate all those things. You know, smoking is good for you. I would like some some trusted voice. That said, I know you think this is the 98 story you’ve read about battery operated cars, but this one is actually really interesting because it says this to kind of get me over the initial hump of my skepticism.

S15: Yeah. Like critics. I mean, critics are all about the particular voice and judgment of the person.

S24: Yeah. And I don’t need the whole bundle.

S16: I just need I just need to cure the curatorial function so that I know that I’m not wasting my time. I feel like, wait, you reading a bad article has such an opportunity cost.

S7: Well, it’s two minutes. That is the opportunity cost. All right. I feel that John DICKERSON, when John DICKERSON speaks on subjects like this, it’s kind of the last word in.

S6: John does have that feeling.

S10: So if John F why all this is curation, I shouldn’t say solves his creation problems if he ever fills his curation appetite. I want access to all of those things because they’re going to be so well-done.

S7: I wish I thought about anything ism as methodically as John thinks about questions like this. There’s nothing like a man in need except maybe how to get from one place to another. I’m really good at that that I can think method loudmouth methodically about. All right. Slate plus, we’ll talk to you later.