Softball Stupidity

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S1: The following program may contain language that is explicit and by explicit, I mean implicitly Nottie words. It’s Wednesday, July 15th, 2020, from Slate, it’s the gist. I’m Mike Pesca.

S2: Hey, newsmedia, listen to me, 24 hour hold on all.

S3: Ruth Bader Ginsburg, health updates. OK. Because last night around 6:00 p.m. Eastern, Ruth Bader Ginsburg was in the hospital just in Supreme Court. Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg hospitalized. Her new health scare, Lester Holt.

S4: NBC colleague Chuck Todd added some details. We are following some breaking news that I told you about before the break. We have just learned that Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg is recovering from a medical procedure, is expected to be in the hospital for the next few days. She was taken to the hospital last night after experiencing fever and chills. And twenty two hours after that initial announcement. Ginsburg did.

S2: We need 22 hours of Verrone fever and chills that less than a leap day of fretting important to everyone. Was the public interest served by having the phrase Ruth Bader Ginsburg and, quote, clean out a bile duct stent in close proximity within any of our brains, the cleanliness or lack thereof of any of the ducts, arteries, sinews, tubes or veins within an 87 year old jurist? Seems very, very much to be between her and her doctor. Perhaps her lord. I understand the interest. I understand the concern. But may I suggest a different mindset, even among those so very appreciative of this major author of the notion that a woman’s body belongs to that particular woman? You know what? I’m going to say that the mind set should be right. I just said it. Sharp reporting on Supreme Court health exceptions for if you’re found dead in your bed on a hunting trip, basically any Supreme Court justice or vice president involved in any way in a death or a shooting or even a deep disturbance in the quail community on a hunting trip, that does need to be reported. I also am noting, I think with the lack of anything cohering coming out of the White House, I am noting an interest in other federal updates. Senate races. Ex allburn coach beats ex attorney general. There’s more interest in the health of other Supreme Court Justices Ginsburg’s ducks.

S4: John Roberts should have actually Roberts concussion, which he was in the hospital for, wasn’t from getting whacked in the head, wasn’t smacking himself in the head. And I should have ruled against Obamacare kind of way. Poor guy fell on a dock in Maine after what was described as a benign idiopathic seizure. Well, there is a phrase that goes from hopeful to not in a hurry. I don’t know, maybe all this obsession with other people who live and work in Washington or could is because are Dupee dhobi president is just full of beans. Oh, don’t get me wrong, he’s also full of shit. But at this particular, he’s a complete liar. But at this particular point, he is obsessed with beans after the CEO of Goya said something nice about him. So now he and his family members are posing all over social media with Goya. Brand products of Vanka treats her beans with all and reverence bordering on the religious. And by that, I mean she’s struck the same unnatural pose with a can of beans as the president did with a Bible a few weeks back. Another Trump family photo op that’s really working out for them. Did you see I mean, did you see the picture of Vanka Trump holding those beans? She was exactly like a model from The Price is Right, asking you to guess the price on the display floor. OK, here’s the new question for the Trump administration. In a new Quinnipiac poll, by how much does President Trump trailed Joe Biden nationally?

S5: What’s a three? I’ve got three points. Is that right?

S6: Well, let’s see how much you’re off, Bob. No, it’s more than Hillary’s margin of victory. It’s more than Obama v. Romney. More than Obama McCain. It’s a bigger margin than FDR won by after the U.S. won the Battle of Normandy. What?

S2: Yes, he’s 15 points down in that poll. It’s no wonder we’re looking for some other news, but it’s still no good that we’re reporting out late octogenarian hospital stays in order to get our fix of federal intrigue on the show today. I spiel about an interview Donald Trump did agree to. It also was not good.

S7: But first, Curtis Sittenfeld returns. She’s here to talk about her book. Wadham, a fictionalized account of the life of Hillary Rodham, none. That’s up next.

S2: Curtis Sittenfeld is here. She joined me yesterday. We talked about her new book, Rodham, about Hillary Clinton or Hillary Rodham if she was never Hillary Rodham Clinton. So there are two critiques in the book. There are a bunch. But the ones I want to talk about with Curtis Sittenfeld are these one. The very idea of the book is just teasing out what would happen if she never married Bill Clinton. I think you can say fairly and she does, that her life would be very different. And maybe the decision to marry Bill necessarily compromised her. But then in the novel, and I won’t give away the specifics, five pages from the end, the Hillary of the book does something bold and daring and off script and throws caution into the wind in an important way. And it redounds very much to her benefit in the book. And so I ask her to sit and felt if she agreed that the criticism that Hillary Clinton has gotten her life by being too on script, is that more or less a fair criticism?

S8: I think it’s legitimate enough to explore other actually on this subject. My sympathy is with the real Hillary because I feel like she’s really damned if she does and damned if she doesn’t. And in terms of, like, showing her, quote unquote, real self, I think she talks about in the Hulu documentary when she was coming of age professionally, that it was appropriate to be guarded and, you know, like not let it all hang out. And then we fast forward 35 or 40 years. And there is this expectation that you’re going to be sort of showing your authenticity all over social media. I mean, I guess we can set aside the issue of, like, in some ways, showing your authenticity on social media is almost an oxymoron unto itself. But I feel like. And I’m you know, I’m a generation younger than she is, but. I don’t I think that if you are likely to be criticized for being perhaps overly professional or you’re likely to be criticized for being insufficiently professional, I too would air on the side of overly professional if I were running for public office. So, yeah. So I don’t. And yeah.

S4: Oh, I agree with that.

S1: But here’s here’s the one of the interesting things that I thought about that in the book, she does a little bit of letting it all hang out or speaking a little bit from the heart and maybe giving an incautious answer. And it helps her think about this, as I’m sure you have in the book, the book Hillary, she becomes a person of prominence, a person who is scrutinized and she has a lot of attention paid to her, just like the real life Hillary for different reasons. Think about how much. So, in fact, in the book, you get the impression that you would you would you might believe in the book. She becomes something like the most scrutinized woman in the world. OK. In real life, her level of scrutiny was, what, 10 times that, 20 times that? Because for everything else that she was in the book, she also was this first lady. She also was this lightning rod. And she also had to answer for everything that Bill Clinton had to answer for. So maybe in the book you’re not exactly saying that if Hillary was would just be honest, she’d have delivered herself from some of the criticism. Maybe you’re also pointing out that it’s so much harder for the real Hillary to get past those guardrails that she has had to put off just because what her life has really been like.

S8: I agree completely with everything you’re saying. I mean, and even to be specific, like you remember, there is that moment in the 2008 campaign when I might be getting this like the specifics slightly wrong. But it was like someone asked her on the campaign trail, like you essentially if it was difficult for her. And I think like her eyes filled with tears. And then there was. Yes, all this conversation about like, was she really crying? She felt cry.

S1: Is this is this was this was when she was predicted to lose the New Hampshire primary and she had this emotional moment of welling up. And in fact, it shocked the polls. She won that race. People retroactively credited that moment of human emotion and some people, again, saved it. But it is so telling that the thing that almost made that the race that she won was that one moment of her eyes welling up after that question. Yeah.

S8: But here’s the thing. I think I think everything you’re saying, which is you can summon with much greater clarity than I can, is. I think that’s so much more about like voters and cynicism and media and news cycles than it does about Hillary. Like, that’s a bonkers story, really, when you start to unpack it. And and the idea that she won New Hampshire because her eyes welled up with tears and it showed she’s human like one. She is indisputably human. Who is she? She won New Hampshire because it like this, you know, like career that sort of preceded that for like 25 five. Something so weird, which I know you are not singlehandedly responsible. But there is something so weird about the way we talk about all of this and like and something that I believe this is in what happened to her 2017 sort of memoir recounting of the election that she talks about, you know, people sort of you know, that she’s always encouraged to show that she’s human. But it’s actually strangely difficult to prove that you are something you are, which I I really, like, sympathize with that. We’d like sometimes I like telling the truth, but I think to myself, like like I almost am glad when if I like the fact that I’m telling the truth, it’s like affirmed by a third party or or like I don’t know. I mean, it’s just it’s such a weird thing that we ask. I would say not just of her, but I mean of politicians and particularly a female female politicians.

S1: So throughout this book, we’re inside Hillary’s mind, and she often lays on us observations about the world and men and women dynamics, gender dynamics and speaking and perception. And quite convincingly, you’d think Hillary would have these thoughts. They’re incredibly insightful and adroit. At one point, she says something that I will never forget, which is a little useful tip for me for the rest of my life, is if you have pessimistic news and optimistic news, if you end with the pessimistic, that’s all that people will come away from. But if you emond with the optimism, it will go down much better. I said to myself, if that is true, that is insightful. So here’s my question. I don’t. When you were writing this book, was it a joy or a thrill to be able to express in your character? What would be the height of your own insight about these things? You didn’t have to say, well, I don’t think Hillary would ever realize that or say it.

S8: I feel like it’s writing fiction is such a strange thing where like on a good day, it’s almost like, you know, entering like a fugue state or something where like, I don’t like it. It’s almost just writing stuff that’s been influenced by a lot of different you know, it could’ve been influenced by reading Hillary’s books, by reading books like Rebecca Traister is Good and Mad. It could have been influenced by like a conversation I had with, you know, various professional women I know of different ages. It could have come from my own imagination. And it’s there’s something I have always felt like writing a novel is sort of like a bird. Building a nest. And you’ll sort of shamelessly take whatever you can from wherever. Just to sort of serve your larger purpose. And so I think in the moment of writing, there is something irreducible about fiction. And so it’s it’s not like trying to make a nonfictional argument in an essay. It’s really actually I think that the number one objective for me is always creating a convincing, believable scene. And then it’s kind of a bonus, if I can add on some observation about gender fields or Ganek, because if it doesn’t feel organic, then then it will feel like propaganda or like like it belongs in an op ed is writing this kind of novel where you embody a real character.

S1: Does the fact that it takes a large part of the novelist task of character development a little bit off the plate and also in a book like this, which follows the contours of political races. It does take some of the plotting aspects away, just like if you’re if you’re writing a murder trial. The structure is there for you. Does that free you up to really explore or concentrate on dialogue and scenes? Is that freeing at all? It’s my question.

S8: Oh, it’s funny. I think I think it might be the opposite of freedom. Like, I felt really conscious of me. So I think this is not too much of a spoiler to say that my my Hillary or fictional Hillary, you know, goes into politics. And I really wanted to get the political details right. And like, whether it’s, you know, she’s in a van riding to an event or she’s having an off the record conversation with a journalist or an on the record conversation with a journalist. Like, I wouldn’t think that my goal in all of my fiction is if somebody has specific knowledge of a subject and that subject is in my book, I want the person to not to think like this is laughable. And I know that, like, you know, Curtis just sits in her house in Minnesota all the time, like doesn’t do anything that this book describes. Like, I want them to think. How did Curtis know that? Like, you know, this seems so real. And so. So I definitely felt pressure to get details which are sort of publicly verifiable in some cases. Correct. And and even though, you know, like political campaigns, as you’re saying, do have a kind of external structure. I still had to decide what happened. So I would say I found this the most challenging. This is now my sixth novel, and I find it the most challenging of any of them. And it was also it was interesting because, again, I wrote hundreds of pages before I showed them to anyone. And then when I did start to show them to people is very interesting because a lot of people would say this novel is wild or this novel is mind blowing. And the thing they were almost always referring to was how it blends history and fiction or fact and fiction. And it almost made me retroactively understand why I found it challenging that like I was doing a weird thing that most novels don’t do.

S1: Right. Yeah. I guess it was like when Zemeckis directed Forrest Gump and the technology was new. And the fact that he could trick everyone. You come out of that movie, whatever else you say about far gonna be like, oh, my God, it was like he was really there watching Kennedy and people would have that reaction. You’ve done something, right?

S8: Yeah, yeah, yeah. It’s the first to compare Rotten’s and Forrest Gump, but perhaps not the last in that in that very specific way.

S1: There are no references to box of chocolates and rotten. I don’t know. Here’s the last thing I want to get into. I don’t know. Do you? You live in American 20-20, so comic books and comic book movies do have any relationship.

S8: Why do I have any relationship to you? Yeah.

S1: You ever read comic books or like. Know who the heroes are?

S8: Probably not, unless they existed in my youth. Like I. Or like I saw it isn’t what you mean. I thought the first half of the Wonder Woman movie.

S1: That’s. Wow. That’s not to brag. Yeah. Oh, my God. I can’t believe you got all high handed without one. So here’s the reason I bring it up. I think that mostly they’ve come to dominate our culture for economic reasons and there’s a lot of downside to it. So I like the good comic book movies, but I’ve always thought, well, they do serve this like function. This this, I don’t know, innate function, essentially like the gods of Greek or Norse myths do, in that they are vessels that we can tell our stories. And when we reinvent them, as the Romans did with the Greeks and shape them a little, where this is a means by which storytellers can use these familiar non-fixed but recognizable characters to tell us stories. And I think that’s what this is doing. And do you think that some mega celebrities or some politicians actually inherently are able to serve that role or brag if you want? Do you think that it’s just something that you managed to pull off because of the quality and execution of this book?

S8: And I’m very intrigued by this question. So so is the thing that I would be pulling off here, like, you know, like sort of. Yeah. What’s what’s the thing that I’d be calling.

S1: All right, good. OK, so if you watched this HBO series, The Watchmen, it takes a familiar comic book, but then flips it a little and updates it and it’s like, OK. And by sneaking in through it, not necessarily sneaking, it’s respectful of the text, but by using this these familiar characters and telling a new story, it does something it’s almost like an an exponent, a multiplier of what that would be if the material weren’t told through the story of familiar people. And I think that that’s the way that stories of the gods work, too. So my observation is that’s how the book Rodham works. And the question is, is there something inherent about either a politician that can do that, a mega celebrity that can do that? Or the third possibility is the answer to those two is no. It’s just that, you know, you happen to do that in this book.

S8: Well, I do so. So I feel like I was talking to someone about the book and like, almost somehow the comparison came up of like, if you’re giving your dog bites man and you wrap it in cheese that like I mean, there is a part of me and this is like the opposite of selling the book. There’s a part of me that’s like filled with feminist rage, you know, after 2016. Or, you know, maybe for my entire life since nineteen seventy five. But but I think that if I was like I have written a manifesto about my feminist rage, I think there’d be very few takers for that. And if I say, OK, I’m going to create this this like elaborate plot and there’s going to be and it’s going to be sincere, like it’s not, you know, like it’s like every scene is meant to be a scene that, like, feels like real life and has emotional stakes. And so if I and there’s going to be kissing and then there’s going to be like tears and there’s going to be, you know, family and romance and long friendships and, you know, political like high stakes like Amber’s and my feminist rage is also going to be inside there. Like, I think a lot more people will say, like, OK, I’m on board. And so so, yeah, I do. I do think that, like, a story and a novel can be very elastic or very capacious. And, you know, people people who wouldn’t maybe even read like I like to read like the the memoirs or the autobiographies of female senators are like I’m listening to the audio of Stacy Abrams new book right now. But they’re they’re probably people who would not seek out those nonfiction explicit conversations about politics, who would read Rodham?

S1: The name of the book is Rodham. The author is Curtis Sittenfeld. And it was a lot of fun to read and it was a lot of fun to talk to Curtis. Thank you, Curtis.

S5: Thank you so much. This is super fun.

S4: And now the spiel yesterday, Donald Trump was interviewed by CBS is Catherine Herridge at the White House. It was a fast paced interview, but not hard hitting. Rapid fire volleys softly thudding into the sloshy marsh. That is Donald Trump’s brain. It wasn’t Ratatat. It wasn’t even being being being being you know, you’re not going to get anything thoughtful, insightful, possibly even true when you talk to the president. But that doesn’t mean you can’t get something revealing. And when asked about black deaths at the hands of police, Trump was to some extent revealing.

S5: Let’s talk about George Clooney. You said George Floyds death was a terrible thing. Terrible. Why are African-American still dying at the hands of law enforcement in this country?

S9: And so are white people. Some are white people. What a terrible question to ask. So are white people more white people, by the way? More white people.

S2: Actually, that was a terrible answer to give. No, of course, he’s not wrong. It’s just that it’s misleading to the point of being useless to say that more white people are killed by police, which is why the interviewer needs to say, well, yeah, of course, in absolute numbers. But the country’s 60 percent white and about 14 percent black and black people, according to the Washington Post database, are 2.8 times as likely as a white person to be killed by a police officer. That is the concern. There are a couple ways you could phrase what would be the follow up? You could use the word disproportionately. You can get a little tricky and say, OK, yes, Mr. President. But in terms of their percentage representation in the population, are you saying that it’s fair and just that black people are almost three times as likely to get killed by a police officer as a white person? Are you saying that’s entirely on the black population? Let’s hear what Catherine Herridge did say.

S5: More white people. It’s phase two of the trade talks with China.

S4: Nothing. Nothing. There was no follow up, though, after the segment, Herridge did note.

S5: And we looked into the president’s claims about law enforcement as researchers suggest that black people are about three times more likely to be killed by police. But the overall number of white people killed is higher because whites represent a larger percentage of the population. Nora?

S2: Well, that’s some Cracker Jack research. But shouldn’t you have had it at your fingertips or in your brain during the conversation? Furthermore, today, Herridge retweeted a CBS This Morning tweet because they played some of the interview on CBS This Morning in a CBS News exclusive interview. President Trump insisted to CBS Herridge that his Corona virus response is working. He also claimed more white people are killed by police than black Americans. Well, that is one horribly erroneous claim and one actually accurate claim. I don’t know what the purpose of highlighting the accurate claim of the president’s is. I think the implication might be that it’s not accurate, even if it’s not. But by doing that and by saying that I’m not asking a follow up, it certainly opens the door to Trump and right wing media to go out there and say, look at CBS finding fault with an accurate statement. It’s just bad journalism not to have followed up. That’s kind of weird journalism. Let’s also note this. Catherine Herridge has been at CBS for less than a year. For 24 years. She worked at Fox. I can think of many, many CBS reporters who would have done a very good job in interviewing the president and O’Keefe. Margaret Brennan, Gayle King, John Dickerson, Major Garrett, to name a few.

S4: They would not have botched the needed follow up question. There are no follow ups are hard. People like me will nit pick and say everything can be followed up on and press him hard and make him look bad. It’s not what I’m saying. I think every so often there is one that just calls out for a follow up. And I think the proof that this is one of those questions is the fact that someone at CBS felt the need to insert the context. I just played at the end of the report. Whites are a larger part of the population. Norah show someone an editorial. Thought it was important to say someone thought at least a few seconds of that report needed to be dedicated to that context. White Houses often try to shop for the friendliest interviewer within the network. Networks often try not to give in, but sometimes they do. Sometimes they say, look, his conditions are. He wants Catherine one or David. It’s better to have that interview on our network than to have no interview at all. Then again, sometimes it’s not. In a way, this interview with an interviewer the White House clearly wanted is the real piece of political maneuvering that the Trump communications shop did well. And still, for the president, it was a disaster. It’s not like he gave good answers that advanced his agenda or informed the public. I mean, Trump doesn’t even answer questions well when they are rhetorical questions within his own commercials.

S9: Who will be there to answer the call when your children are safe? I’m Donald J. Trump, and I approve this message.

S4: Donald Trump. There he is, manning the. Your children aren’t safe. Hotline. And with that, I think no follow ups are needed.

S3: And that’s it for today’s show, the gist was produced by Daniel Schrader was really hoping that I would have lots to say about Barry Weiss, especially after reading a resignation letter. Unfortunately, I spent all my time reading a fawning profile of her in Vanity Fair. And I’m just overwhelmed with warm feelings, by the way, that just has also produced by Margaret Kelly, who stocked up before the pandemic and now has her parents warning her that her food is going to go bad. She says that her father has been urging her to freeze her eggs. The gist? I try to take copious notes of all the good faith and bad faith arguments out there. And then at the end of the day, this happens. I have pen marks on my boob. You put a desperate trip through. And thanks for listening.