The Directionless are Misleading

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S1: The following podcast contains explicit language and. Friday, February 12th, twenty twenty one from Slate’s The Gist, I’m Mike Pesca and a little bit about me. I’m a guy who delights in mocking risible claims from ridiculous people. I find it enjoyable and I think it is, if I may be so bold, something of a calling. Today was the greatest day of my life, except if you take into account that the risible claims of ridiculous people in question will almost certainly wind up winning the argument. So that does add a negative sheen to the proceedings.

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S2: But Donald Trump’s lawyers were so much worse than anyone I’ve ever heard argue for anything for longer than 12 minutes. And that’s because 12 minutes is the pretty much longest I’ve ever heard Jim Jordan speak for. That’s the longest they let a segment run on Hannity. That’s about, however, much of a Charlie Kirk show episode I can make it through.

S3: But Donald Trump’s lawyers, mostly through repetitive, incessant and almost entirely tendentious, use a video montage sought to make the point that Democrats do it, too. What’s the bad things? All the bad things. They do bad things. And as speakers of English, they often use the same words or word that Donald Trump once used. That’s right, the same words. I did not realize that, for instance, Trump called rioters special people. And you know who found the Special Olympics a penalty? Lawyer Michael Van Der Veen, in his closing arguments, sought to indict the motivations of Democrats by playing tape of them all, answering the question sometimes asked by the liberal media the question, well, what’s the point of this trial if Trump leaves office? This, by the way, is the question you probably thought of and I thought of in my 13 year old asked me, why do this? So let us listen to their ozo self incriminating answers.

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S4: Their goal is to eliminate a political opponent, to substitute their judgment for the will of the voters.

S5: Why bother with a Senate trial of Donald Trump? He’s no longer president. He’ll be out of office anyway. Is it to keep him from ever running again, make sure he can never run for office again, keep him from running for office again? Donald Trump would not be able to run for office again, barring him from running for office again, disqualified from running for office, disqualify him from ever running from office again, disqualified from running for office again. It’s about focusing that he can never run again, remove him from ever running for office again, never be able to run for office again to ban former President Trump from running again.

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S6: If we don’t have this president, he will get re-elected.

S3: Say, see this this trial, the consequence of which could be disqualification, might in the end result in disqualification. That is the word disqualification. That is literally the word that explains the reason for the trial. And Democrats said the word what a defense attorney tactic. Imagine a trial where the prosecution goes, makes an opening argument and the defense attorney says, ladies and gentlemen of the jury, you can’t trust the prosecutor. He says, my client’s guilty. What’s more, he says if he’s found guilty, he should go to jail. I have a montage. Yes, he should go to jail. He should be jailed. That is why imprisonment is demanded in the county jail. Really much of the defense team presentation was misleading, but there’s a difference between misleading and directionless. What in the world is the point of just playing over and over again a factual point that no one disputes, a factual point that every senator in that room totally understands and knows? Defense lawyers only took two of their allotted eight hours, and within the last half hour, they played the tape that I just played for you. And within the first few minutes of lawyer David Jones presentation, he puts on the screen a picture of his counterpart, kind of an insult to Jamie Raskin, his counterpart, Democratic House manager Jamie Raskin. And this picture ran in The New York Times. So in this picture, Raskin is looking at a computer screen and they’re on the computer screen. There’s a tweet and the date under the tweet is 2020, not 2021. As shown himself admits, this incorrect date was never introduced into the testimony, but it was there in a New York Times picture of Jamie Raskin looking at his computer and so shown spends minutes taking us through step by step the fact that Jamie Raskin once looked at a screen with an incorrect date. And yeah, he eventually corrected it. But think about how important it is. And she made a big deal of this that Raskin let The New York Times take a picture of him looking at that screen.

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S2: Your Honor, Mr. Raskin claims to respect the law, but we caught him looking at a video where a lawyer came dressed as a cat. He looked at that video. Your Honor, you got to wonder, what are their lies might he be looking to foist upon you? I can go on and on. And you know what? I will I have a spiel is a rich target environment. It’s a good day for everyone except, you know, people who like justice. But first, Carleen West is an expert in fragile democracies with a specialty in Latin America. But she recognizes that what our country is going through, it’s well within her area of expertise. She is not on the list, however, to talk about her observations from a mere academic remove. I did not encounter her writing in an academic journal. I came across an article she wrote for the Syracuse Post Standard.

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S7: Under the heading. I’ve spent my career studying insurrection. Then my mom was in one. Yes, the Stop the Steel rally on January 6th. That’s what she’s talking about. Carlene West’s observations as an expert and a daughter of next.

S8: Carleen West, a professor of political science and international relations and Latin American studies at SUNY Geneseo, was teaching a class on January 6th name of that class Democratization, which talks about the challenges and threats to democracy throughout the world. And as you know, a threat to democracy was occurring in Washington, D.C. that very day. So that’s an irony. But the deeper familial irony to Professor West was that her mom was not in the capital, but at that demonstration, a supporter of Donald Trump. And then Dr. West started getting calls from her sister about the safety of her mother. She wrote about this, the strange intersection, but maybe not so strange in America today. And I wanted to talk to her about it to get her insights about interfamily dynamics, but also American politics. Hi, welcome to The Gist.

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S9: Oh, thank you so much for having me.

S8: So can you tell me just a little bit about your area of expertise and what you teach about and what you’ve studied?

S9: My focus has always been on Latin America, the region of Latin America, but specifically how democracies function in Latin America. So I’ve studied political parties in Latin America. I’ve studied social movements which one could consider the the Trump movement in the United States, a social movement. And those have really been my my main areas of expertise.

S8: Well, actually, I mean, this is maybe a little digression, but I’ve been thinking more and more that it is a social movement and we’d all be better off separating politics from culture. But was it a social movement that swept up your mom into the movement?

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S9: That’s a great question, because, you know, one of the things that I write about is how I call my I say that my mom was radicalized and that is what took her to Washington, D.C. on that day. There’s a really interesting dynamic happening here, which is that a political party has set aside what we typically think parties are supposed to do. Right. So parties are supposed to have a platform, kind of a set of policies and ideology that they’re grounded in. And that is supposed to be what kind of guides their behavior and politics. Right. Kind of theoretically. But in the case of the Republican Party right now, what we see is them kind of setting aside some of their ideology. They’re setting aside some of those policies that they’ve held on to for a long period of time, all in the favor of a single individual. And that, to me, does feel more like a movement, right? A movement around like a charismatic individual and sort of what he views as important rather than something that’s really kind of grounded both in a very clear platform like parties tend to be. Also, it is you know, it’s putting aside democratic principles and the favor of an individual with your mom, a Republican, before Trump came on the scene. And she was. Yeah, so she was I think, you know, I wrote about this that she was a registered Democrat so that she could vote for Ted Kennedy in the primaries. But it was pretty soon after that, during the Reagan era, that she began to affiliate more with the Republican Party. Did you like Sarah Palin? Oh, yeah. She loved Sarah Palin. Absolutely. You know, I think she was very charmed by Sarah Palin, my mom. I thought a lot about this because my mom is a person that I would say she’s a very strong woman. She was for a long period in my childhood. She was a single mom. Sometimes she worked two jobs to put food on the table. But she is not a feminist. She comes from generations of women that have done really well economically. But that didn’t view education as a kind of pathway to that economic success. On average, Trump supporters tend to have less formal education. And my mom has a high school education. And so I do think, you know, on the one hand, she’s this really strong woman, but on the other hand, she’s not a feminist, you know. So I think it’s sometimes hard for people to say, well, how can women be supportive of Trump when we all know how terribly he has treated women? And I think for a certain type of woman of a woman, my mom being one of them, his actions towards women are not you know, they’re they’re anti feminist, but they’re they don’t necessarily conflict with the kind of female or feminine identity that my mom has. I think Trump really appeals to people’s identities. Yes.

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S3: You know, and just like many of the Latin American dictators there. Correct. How informed a citizen or voter issue in terms of policies and.

S9: Now, the institutions of government actually function, I would say she’s not a very informed voter.

S2: Did you try to talk her out of going to the stop the steel rally on the 6th?

S9: No, my mom and I long ago stopped speaking about politics. Yeah.

S2: So does that mean you’re even there with information about, you know, like basic information that can rebut basic points about something like dead people voted or there are more votes than voters in Detroit or whatever precinct? And it’s not really hard to just show they took a screenshot from an earlier time or whatever. But you’re saying that wouldn’t advance your mother daughter relationship and would also fall on deaf ears if you tried to use some logic to talk her out of this?

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S9: Absolutely. What I have come to understand about at least, you know, I can just speak to my mom’s devotion towards the side of the political spectrum is that logic is not really part of not really much of what they’re responding to. I find that my mom’s attachment to Trump is really kind of an emotional attachment. I think many Trump supporters are activated by by emotions rather than logic. So, yeah, it just what it would have gotten me nowhere to have that conversation with my mom. But what I find is that, you know, family dynamics are really complicated. My relationship with my mother is really complicated in many other ways, you know, in addition to politics. Right. And so it’s like, oh, find some common ground. Well, I have I mean, I’ve lived with my mom for 18 years of my life. What more common ground could I have with her? You know, we have tons of shared life experiences and, you know, love for one another. And yet that doesn’t seem to matter in this kind of political conversation. And I think it’s really important for us to recognize just how challenging it is to have these conversations and that, you know, it might take someone outside of my family to to call my mom’s attention to some of these issues. I just I just can’t seem to see me being that person to do that.

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S8: Was there any time when something that Trump would do ever caused her to express to you something that you said, OK, this is maybe where we’re seeing things in a more similar than dissimilar light?

S9: Unfortunately, no. And I think that this is where, you know, we have to think about the way the role that the media has played and and, you know, in kind of spinning, effectively spinning Trump’s stories, you know, so it’s it saddens me so deeply to say some of these issues, like I mean, parents being separated at the border, it just from their children. As a mother myself, it just ripped my heart into pieces. And yet, you know, the way that the conservative media portrayed those events, I think to a certain extent excused Trump’s behavior, even validated it to a certain extent. And so, yeah, it it’s just it just does feel like an insurmountable divide sometimes.

S8: How much did you ever incorporate her experience into your work, either by explicitly talking about it or just having it inform your opinion of how people, you know, come about their belief systems?

S9: I have never formally incorporated my mom’s perspectives into my work, really maybe for the same reason why I find it so hard to talk to her about these issues. It just felt so close to home that I didn’t have a really great perspective to say, hey, actually my mom’s behavior in this situation might help me understand how people in Latin America are approaching this issue. But, you know, I was like a fish in a fish bowl. It was so close to home I couldn’t see it, you know? But once this January six, insurrection happened and my mom was there, I just couldn’t I couldn’t not write about it, mostly because I realized that I had information from my studies in Latin America that other people didn’t have and that I was able to understand Trump’s behavior and the behavior of the Republican Party in a way that many Americans might not have at their disposal. And so that’s why I wanted to write about it.

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S1: But when you read articles, there are no good Trump voters. The premise being that Trump supporters are really horrible people who have to make some steps to prove themselves on horrible. What’s your reaction to that?

S9: Oh, my my immediate reaction is quite emotional, actually, because, you know, I vehemently disagree with my mom’s politics and with Trump’s behavior. On the other hand, let me tell you an ironic story from. That day, as my mom headed to Washington, D.C. on January 6th, one of the things that she was most excited to share was that when she was in the D.C. airport, a woman who was wearing a headscarf, a traditional Muslim headscarf, came up to her and asked her for help in finding her luggage. And so my mom took her and walked her to the place where the woman could retrieve her suitcase. The woman proceeded to share her story about how she was in the United States for the first time so that she could meet her grandchildren. And my mom responded with the fact that she has grandchildren, too, and how exciting it is to meet them for the first time. Somehow, none of this had any cognitive cognitive dissonance for my mom with the fact that, you know, one of Trump’s earliest efforts was to ban Muslims from traveling to the United States. And just that never you know, that never crossed my mom’s mind. The irony of that situation. She was so happy to meet this woman from Pakistan who had traveled for the first time to the United States. She was so proud that she helped her and yet couldn’t put two and two together that the whole reason she was in D.C. to support this individual was in direct conflict with this woman being able to be in the United States. Now, there there’s this amazing thing that happens between what people are identifying with how they’re identifying to Trump and then their actual interpersonal behavior. I can’t remember which comedian said at one time, but they said liberals love groups of individuals and conservatives love individuals themselves. Right. And I really do see that in my mom. She she can really connect to people on a one on one basis. And yet somehow she’s not troubled when entire groups of people are threatened.

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S2: So I got a couple more questions to ask you, but let’s just inform the listeners what happened with your mom and her safety and your discussion with your sister.

S9: Yeah, that was a really tough day. You know, as you said, I wasn’t necessarily paying attention to the Trump rally until even though I knew my mom was there, I had been dreading that day, but I was like just trying to focus on teaching that day. And then my sister texted me and said, Mom is safe. I immediately, like my heart just dropped. I had like adrenaline surging through my body. And I checked the news and saw what was happening at the Capitol. My sister and I kept touching base. My sister was in more direct contact with my mom and eventually my mom was able to leave the Capitol. She did not get inside. She never did. But and nor did she want to. That wasn’t part of her intention for being there. She really was there just showing her support for her for Trump at the time. And so she was able to leave and and get back to her hotel and safely.

S2: So I’m going to guess she’s against the impeachment effort. She thinks it’s ridiculous to try to disqualify him from further office. Just whatever Josh Haley or Lindsey Graham says about this. I’m going to guess that that’s her line, too. But you tell me if I’m wrong. But my question is, does she have any regrets about her participation, anything Trump said or anything else about that rally?

S9: I wish I could give you insight, but I can’t emphasize enough how taboo this is of a topic. And my family, it just it is so it’s such a part of my mom’s identity right now that it it almost seems like if we were to address this issue, it would be like I was attacking some kind of fundamental core to who she is. And I do think that there are a lot of Trump supporters who are that way. They so strongly identify with whatever you want to call this, a movement or whatever. However we want to define it, that to even call it into question like strikes at the heart of who they are in some capacity. So, yeah, I just have not even been I haven’t even brought it up. I mean, we haven’t talked about it.

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S2: Does she know that your article got a lot of attention that you were on NPR? Please tell her you’re going to be on the gist. But she reacted to any of that.

S9: She doesn’t know about any of it. It will probably not shock you that we get our news sources from very different places. So she’s not even aware of any of this, huh?

S1: Wow, wow, wow, wow. So my last question is this. It’s about what do you think she thinks of your work independent of Trump?

S9: Oh, that’s such a nice question. She’s so proud. You know, she’s so proud that I wrote a book. I had a book come out this year on campaigns and elections in Ecuador. She’s very, very proud of that. She told me that she would read it. But I don’t think I’ve seen my mom read a book in my forty one years of. And so, you know, she she means very well, she’s very proud, but she doesn’t really know the nuances of what I study. I think if you asked her, I don’t think she would even know that I study really democracy, that that’s fundamental to what I to what I study.

S1: And, you know, maybe like her kindness to the Muslim woman, she doesn’t connect it to what, you know, is driving her passions politically at the moment.

S9: Well, I you know, I can say with one hundred percent certainty that my mom’s desire to be there on the 6th was not to undermine American democracy. You know, she loves the United States. She loves America for her. She was there showing support for the American political process. And I think a lot of Trump supporters that day who really believed that, you know, the the accusations that the election was stolen, they believed that those accusations. Right. And so for her, she was there defending American democracy.

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S1: When you say that, that’s a little bit I don’t want to defend Trump. He says a lot of things. And like a lot of politicians, maybe some of them go too far.

S8: I mean, is America really the last hope of democracy and the shining city on a hill? Literally not. So he says a lot of things. He knows the things that get his supporters going. His supporters are people like your mom who have a self-identified love of country. And so the things he was saying were entirely for them, entirely for that section of the audience. And if there are other people who take it in a crazy way or too far, that wasn’t his intention. And since we’re talking about insurrection and incitement, intention does play a part of it.

S9: Absolutely. And tension matters. And I would say I think there is enough evidence going back. Four years ago, I mean, I signed on to a letter written by political scientists four years ago. It was published in The Washington Post about concerns over Trump’s authoritarian behavior. And it’s actually devastating to go back and read that letter because everything that we were concerned about at the time, you know, the fact that he even back then was saying, well, if I don’t win the election, then the election was fraudulent. Right. All of these things, it was very clear what his intentions were even back then. So for me, I don’t I, I, I do believe that he had the intention not just to get his supporters to rally around him, but to actually disrupt the process. I think that that was he was he was pleased that that happened. So I think he he genuinely did have that intention. And you can look back throughout his four years in office, even back to his campaign in 2016, and identify those tendencies.

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S2: For the record, what you just articulated, I think, is the better argument. The Trump.

S9: Oh, thank you. You won me over.

S7: Kaleen West is a professor of political science, international relations and Latin American Studies at SUNY Geneseo. If you’re not from New York, that’s the State University of New York at Geneseo. And she is the author of Candidate Matters and Analysis of Campaigns and Elections in Ecuador. Thanks so much. Thank you so much.

S1: And now the spiel, if you woke up this morning thinking, who knows what the day holds, but I’d really love to see 114 different examples of Democrats saying the word fight. Well, you’re in luck playing this tape took 15 or so minutes of Donald Trump’s defense that Democrats, bunch of different Democrats once used the word fight. So we’ve got to fight for something. And what I’m not going to do because I understand how PTSD works, I’m not going to play that fight tape. But what I am going to play is another tape, a tape that the gist has unearthed. It is once more of the Democrats saying another word repeatedly and wantonly.

S10: Swiss cheese, Swiss cheese layer these layers of Swiss cheese, the Swiss cheese, Swiss cheese, Swiss cheese holes in that Swiss cheese, Swiss cheese, Swiss cheese, Swiss cheese, Swiss cheese with cheese, Swiss cheese, Swiss cheese, Swiss cheese, Swiss cheese. Almost like Swiss cheese. A Swiss cheese. Swiss cheese. Swiss cheese. Swiss cheese.

S1: Yeah, I know, I know. It’s tough to hear that. I don’t know, maybe there is a business of requesting a word and then having some outside service put together a montage of people you don’t like or do like or barely know saying that word. What a joy that would be. What a use of taxpayer resources. So at the risk of repeating the sin, I would like to note that the prosecution’s case was full of holes, like, if you pardon the obvious comparison, the plot to Wonderwoman 84, the fight video, which literally had dozens of clips of Democrats saying the word fight was meant to advance the point that you can punish Trump for urging his crowd on January 6th to fight unless you punish Democrats for urging different crowds or the Senate to fight or engage in a fight or to choose the former of a fight or flight response once adrenaline kicks in. At the very beginning of the presentation, Trump lawyer David Schoen made the case that the Democrats are quite complicit in the sin of incitement as well.

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S4: The House managers position really is that when Republican candidates for office claim an election is stolen or that the winner is illegitimate, it constitutes inciting an insurrection and the candidate should know it. But Democratic Party candidates for public elective office are perfectly entitled to claim the election was stolen or that the winner is illegitimate or to make any other outrageous claim they can. It is their absolute right to do so.

S1: Well, I can help you, my listener, understand the difference. When Democrats say impassioned stuff and there is no insurrection, it’s not indicative that the words have incited an insurrection. But the reason why we can say when Trump says incendiary words, the reason we get tired more plausibly to an insurrection is that there was an insurrection.

S3: Look, a lot of dirty hippies said some wacky things to some drugged out kids in the 60s. Why do we only accuse Charles Manson of inspiring murder and not everyone who played a Woodstock?

S1: There were a couple of points raised by Trump’s lawyers that were proper points for lawyers to raise. I don’t think they were compelling points, but it’s what you’d want your lawyer to do. If you were Trump, you generally would put distance between Trump’s words and the legal definition of incitement. That was a fine bit of lawyering. But all of their tape and all of their points were just to point to Democrats and say, you do it too, you do it, too, over and over, it was Democrats say in the word fight and Democrats say in the word disqualify. And just Democrats talking with the effect being, let’s rouse the emotions of Republicans because we know they hate the Democrats. It works as a trial tactic only if Republicans do get indignant over the supposed hypocrisy and some Republicans will be. But I think if this were really an effort to actually convince Republicans, they wouldn’t say Democrats say fight, too. They would argue you, you, the jurors.

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S10: You say this to you, Senator Graham, to my Republican colleagues out there, we have to fight back or we will accept our fighting for every legal and live vote. You, Senator Holly, tonight, the people of Missouri have said we’re ready to answer the call in this hour. Tonight, the people of Missouri have said we believe in America. We believe that our best days are ahead. We believe in our future and we are ready to fight for it. And I am ready to go to Washington and fight for you.

S1: You even less pugnaciously aggressive Trump defender Marco Rubio.

S11: It’s time for a president who will stand up to runaway government and fight Washington special interests in both parties.

S1: In fact, all of the Republicans, from backbenchers to Mitch McConnell, have uttered some fighting words and the arguments and the argument not that Dems are hypocrites, but the argument you may be next could have gone a long way to convince any wavering Republicans. In truth, I don’t know if there are any wavering Republicans. During the question time between senators and the respective counsels, there weren’t any senators who seemed to break from what I would assume their positions on aquittal would be. It really is a shame, but no more shame than what was the worst public argumentation of a critical issue at an important setting than I have ever seen. I literally mean that this is Donald Trump has said some dumb things, Jim Jordan, Devin Nunes, they say some dumb things. But given the stakes and the setting, these were the dumbest arguments I’ve ever seen put forth. Of course, this was in defense of one of the most shameful incidents in American history, spurred on by the 47th president who infamously knows no shame.

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S7: And that’s it for Today Show, Shayna Roth is the gists producer, she was thinking of playing a clip of Limburger cheese inside that Swiss cheese reference. I mean, she had that clip up on her computer ready to go. That’s pretty. OK, so she didn’t do it. She caught herself or in fact, never even considered it. But, you know, I would say that’s pretty disqualifying. Pretty pretty troubling. Margaret Kelly, just producer, did research potato and purple as potential montages of Democrats to put together, but settled on Swiss cheese due to her lactose tolerance, nay advocacy. Alicia Montgomery is executive producer of Slate podcasts and she agrees with Trump lawyer Vander Veen. His opinions irrelevant, suggest robbing banks is bad. Just wanted to say that that should get me out of any consequences of well, I want to say too much. My weekend plans for Adepero to Peru. And thanks for listening.