S1: This episode of The Gabfest contains explicit language. This ad free podcast is part of your Slate plus membership. Enjoy.
S2: Hello and welcome to the Slate political gabfest for June 25th, 2020. The Global Pariahs. I’m David Plotz at Business Insider.
S3: At home in the dank, dark cube off my bedroom in Washington, D.C., I’m joined from New York City by John Dickerson of CBS 60 Minutes. Hello, John.
S4: Hello, David.
S3: Jonathan, his guest bedroom, which I called the David Plotz memorial bedroom because I’ve not a memorial. But have you put a man back up the plaque?
S5: Yes, the plaque is up and it’s been newly polished by the team of experts here. Docents, the dose since. Yes.
S6: The five or six days since you have. And then there is Emily Basilone of the New York Times Magazine and Yale University Law School from her home in New Haven. Hello, Emily. That might be a bedroom I’ve stayed in also. Do you have a plan?
S1: I can’t remember if you stayed in this room or a different room that I am working on my plaque and burnishing it.
S6: Okay, good. I just need to pause for one second because I’m in this this hidden room off my bedroom and I’m about to move from my home. And so all this everything’s in disarray. And I discovered the most amazing thing, which I just want to share with you guys. So a few years ago, for reasons I cannot remember and I came across something about that there were these pin up catalogs for fish. And there I ordered something which seems to be called the Capo Nizer, which is carp. It’s women holding huge Karp’s in various states of undress. It’s the craziest thing I’ve ever now seen for listeners.
S5: It’s the is it the women or the carp that are in various stages of undress? Everybody I’ve seen has a rebranding Nattie looking carp and in full kotin tops and tails.
S6: It’s so weird. I like this one. Just. She’s like I struggling to carry this huge carp out of the way.
S7: It’s like mermaids. Except not.
S5: It must be said it can’t uncomfort. The carbs in the pictures that he’s showing us are like the size of a what? Like a pair. They probably weigh 50 pounds. They’re like, I’m bigger than a toddler.
S3: The counter is hilarious, but I digress. On today’s gabfest, the virus is back where it really never left and everything is falling apart in the south and west and everything. It’s also falling apart for the Trump administration, which is pretending that there is no virus. Then the politicization of the Department of Justice. Bill Barr. Roger Stone. Michael Flynn. The cost of what happens when you personalize justice and put it justice in the hands of people who are unwilling to do justice, are only willing to give justice to their friends and not their enemies. Then there’s a new slow burn season about the rise of David Duke. We’ll be joined by host Josh Levine to talk about Duke. The man who set the stage for the white nationalism that plagues us today. It’s a fantastic podcast and can’t wait to talk about it. Plus, of course, we will have a cocktail chatter. If you are hoping to travel to Europe this summer, sorry, Americans, we have become global pariahs because of our inept response to the coronavirus pandemic. While Europe and most of Asia have controlled the spread of the disease of Copan 19, they’ve reduced the are not below one. It is spreading wildly in Texas, Arizona and Florida, among other states. And the administration has simply given up. So, Emily, the most extraordinary part of this. I mean, I think we have two stories happening at once. One is the virus. There was no end of the first wave, the first wave. It simply moved itself elsewhere in the country and is now in full flame. And then the second piece, which is that we have a federal government, at least at the White House level, that is completely absent in a way that is maddening and strange. So talk about those each of those two phenomenon.
S7: I mean, I guess I feel like there’s a split screen, right? Because if you look at the Northeast where the virus was the worst and really out of control earlier in the spring, the curve goes sharply down. We actually look a lot like Europe. And then you look at the Southwest and the parts of the south and you see this spike. And I don’t know if it’s because they are using air conditioning more or their immunity levels were really low or if it’s because they reopen too fast, which lots of public health experts warn them about, but they look very different. It’s only if you look at the country as a whole that it just looks like we’re having one continuous way that I sort of feel like that’s deceptive. And it makes more sense to think of this regionally as if we were quadrants of the country or. And if you think about Europe, there are some European countries that are having different experiences than others. So, again. I mean, yes, they’ve done like so much better than us and they can dunk all over us. And, you know, you are calling the show to the global pariahs at the outset, referring to us. But I just think we seem like pitiable and weak and like we can’t take care of our own in this way. That’s incredibly sad. And I think for people who are skeptical that leaving all of this to individual governors and not having a real coordinated federal strategy for testing and contact tracing and just sort of direction, that has just proved to be a self-inflicted blow that we can’t recover from.
S6: Well, I would add that it’s it you can you can also imagine that we didn’t have a great strategy for testing and contact tracing. And you simply had a leadership which said behave responsibly that said, wear a mask, avoid indoor gatherings. Don’t say hold a massive aiming for 20000 seat indoor gathering in a state with a with a blossoming pandemic in in. As part of your presidential campaign where you discourage people from wearing masks. So the fact that the leadership of the country has also not merely incompetently done the things that it could have done if it were science oriented, but actively discourage people from doing very easy public health mother measures, which would have kept us relatively safer. That is what is so appalling to me.
S8: And so you have not only the president undermining the public health consensus at a moment where he could be helping, but it’s also the consensus that’s required to get the economy moving again. So this isn’t just about keeping people healthy. It’s the precondition to the thing the president says he most desperately wants, which is to return to economic activity. And Austan Goolsbee did a paper on looking at the cell phone data and the and the behavior of people before the shelter in place. And then once the shelter in place started happening and then a period of when they started lifting and what it found was what other studies have found and what we’ve talked about, which is that the precondition for increased economic activity is not a public order so that people can go rushing from their houses to breast close to each other while they go through the clothing rack. The precondition is people feeling like things are safer and they’re not going to get sick. And if you can’t fix that, then you’re not going to have the economic activity that everybody so desperately wants.
S7: I mean, just rewind and imagine a world in which, like all the people who talked about how important it was to reopen the economy, which it is really important, we’re going to have a million more people on the rolls. Imagine those people it’s at. OK, here are the three things we need to do to make sure we can get economic activity going. You know, Governor Abbott in Texas now is talking about a massive outbreak. But when the numbers were ticking up, he was four at first forbidding various mayors from imposing orders that people had to wear masks. And so the fact that masks became so partisan and divisive and that some conservatives have sneered at them as this loss of freedom is just proved enormously costly. And I think you’re I mean, it’s exactly right that like the precaution of the mask and the limits on gatherings are the precondition to being open. But it was it’s as if those dots have not been connected, maybe until now, when it feels like it’s too late for a lot of people, or at least it’s going to be much harder to control the spread of this virus. And that’s going to have ripple effects out into the fall and next year.
S5: The Philadelphia Inquirer did a piece this week and the day. There are fuzzy, but it found that in 80 cases have gone up 84 percent in states that don’t require wearing masks in public. In states where mask wearing is mandatory. Cases have fallen by 25 percent. Just adding and then I’d add one other little piece of data is that a dozen, dozens of Secret Service agents were asked to self quarantine because they’d been with the president on his ralli trip to Tulsa.
S6: With the part with the masking is just so infuriating because you see this masking portrayed by by people who are who really deserve no, they they deserve they deserve extra years. And hell, they deserve imprisonment, saying, oh, it’s an infringement on my liberty. These are people who wear seat. These are people who if they go to a doctor’s office and they’re their doctor, is not wearing a mask as he operates, are not wearing gloves when he operates. They think they would be upset about that. It is an act of. It is an act of. Aggressive. What? You know, if evangelical cruelty to not mask yourself, it’s not about protecting yourself. It’s about protecting these other people. And there’s the some sense that liberty is I don’t have to do anything that impinges on something I want to do. Not that I am responsible to all these other people around me. That is what is this conception of liberty where you’re not responsible to others is is the most disheartening part of this whole thing for me. It’s like a we we are in this together because we just infect each other, so let’s protect each other.
S4: We should also note that there is going to be something interesting to watch as New York, Connecticut, New Jersey announce that they’re going to require states. This is basically a mini American version of what the European Union is is noodling, which is having a quarantine for people traveling from certain high and high case states, keeping them out of New York, Connecticut and New Jersey, which is what Florida originally did with New York many months ago.
S3: I want to talk a little bit about us being barred from Europe for the summer and and and also us barring immigrants, barring H-1B visas and forbidding people from applying for new green cards. And what that signifies. Truthfully, there weren’t a lot of people who are going to travel to Europe for vacation this summer. There weren’t a lot of Americans or probably people who were trying to get back to see family will now not be able to do it. But I don’t think there is there is going to be a huge travel boom that is going to be quashed. So it’s not that significant. From economic terms in Norway, they’re gonna be tons of European travelers who are coming to the U.S. or travelers from anywhere coming to the U.S. for vacations here. And it’s also true that we’re still going to be able to import iPhones that export soybeans and export music. But what’s happening with what the Trump administration is doing and with with our completely incompetent covert response is that the things that make us essential to the rest of the world, our ability to attract the best people, our ability to attract the best ideas, and then then, you know, remix those ideas and share them out in the world. It is completely halted for now. And the rest of the world is going to start to knit back together and we’re going to be out of it. And our ability to to sort of be the central place where it all comes together and then where the best ideas come and the best ideas are germinated and and spread out is stopping and and then we’ll be diminished in the long haul. So our central you know, the central power of the United States is not necessarily that we are the biggest market in the world, but it’s that we are the place which most people wanted to come and where which was the heart of where culture was created, where universities were, where science were, where people want to immigrate, where there’s a huge mix and we are becoming peripheral to that. And that’s tragic for the long run.
S4: We are also included in that evaluation by the European Union with Russia and Brazil, two countries that are have a completely incompetent response to the Koven 19 outbreak.
S5: So it’s sort of the Betty Crocker seal of despair that we have been given by the European Union for our response. Can I just say one more thing about the testing is that the the the message from the president and the vice president as well, who is who has been putting out the message that, you know, in his Wall Street Journal piece that says America is winning the fight. And the president has met over and and he has said that fears of a second wave are overblown, which is sort of true. There is no second right because we’re just waiting on slunk further away. Right.
S8: But this is my point. The increases that are happening and particularly the increases in hospitalization are not just the increase of more testing. There are more cases happening. And there is a there is actual alarm among experts. But when the president, vice president, give people off roads so that they don’t have to engage in the fact that there’s actually an increase in hospitalization or an increase in danger, that’s equally. That’s like another special kind of danger here, which is it keeps the ability to focus on one set of facts. It’s not just to deny those facts. It’s to give people an easy way to not even have to look at them.
S3: Emily, I want to close the segment. The question for you, which is that there was an astonishing poll from your hometown paper, your employer, The New York Times this week about President Trump and Joe Biden, which showed Joe Biden opening up a huge lead on President Trump. And and a key reason for that seems to be people disheartened with the president’s poor response to the pandemic. And and as well as his poor response to the George Floyd protests. What did you make of that evidence that the Biden campaign is doing well or at least the Trump campaign is and is in dire shape?
S1: I mean, I think the question with the Trump presidency has always been, if there was a real crisis, how would he handle it? And if he botched it, would that change his numbers? And the answer right now is yes. I mean, there’s if you look at the approval ratings for Trump over time, you know, Nate Silver is always talking about how they revert to the mean. Right now, they’re not reverting to the mean. They continue to separate. I mean, they still could. We’re five months away, but it’s starting to look like people have are turning on him. I want to add, though, that if you look at the swing states, the numbers are closer. Right. We’re talking about like eight points in Michigan or maybe six points in Pennsylvania. And so if those polls are slightly off, if they just haven’t been done quite right to give Trump supporters enough weight, which is what we saw in 2016, then the race in those states is closer. And so I think that even though it can sound like a lot of just sort of nervous hand-wringing among liberals who were scarred by 2016 to keep worrying, it seems like it’s within striking distance. It could come back. And so Trump could come back. And so I think it’s also important for these campaigns to be conveying a message of urgency and for voters not to get complacent, because if they want a change of leadership, they’re going to have to go and cast a ballot. And the whole challenge of the election remains. Right. Like, the more we worried about the omnipresence of Kovik, the more we need these vote by mail structures to be solid. We need cities and counties out there making sure they have the capacity to actually run this election. And meanwhile, you know, Trump just continues to attack mail in balloting as if it. Some crazy threat, which it really isn’t. And I was dismayed this week to see Bill Barr, the attorney general, join in this attack as if, like these allegations and suspicions of fraud are not just like a fantasy of President Trump’s poll numbers in the battleground states.
S5: They are closer than the 14 point lead that Biden has overall, but he is still relative to how Trump did in 2016. He’s still doing better in those battleground states than than you’d expect. So given that the battleground states have a higher a disproportionate share of of whites with not without college degrees, which is the president’s strongest element of the electorate. What was striking in the Times poll was also was that on the question, say, of masks, the country is basically not with the president on the question of Black Lives Matter. The country is with the protesters and not and not with the president. So you have two major conditions where that will be chronic and ongoing all the way through the election when we think about reverting to the mean. Usually what happens is that the thing that causes the bad poll numbers disappears and then the poll numbers revert to the pandemic and the racial unrest in America will be here. And the president’s response to both seems to be to actively move against public opinion on both. So that that will be one thing to watch. And then there was strange punditry about the president’s ability to rely on the economy if it starts to come back. But if the economy doesn’t come back until people feel confident enough by the response to the pandemic, I’m not sure how he takes advantage of a resurgent economy since he has been against the measures that are the preconditions for that economy to re anime slate plus members.
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S9: The corruption of justice has been a defining element of the Trump years. He’s used the pardon power grotesquely. He’s installed an attorney general, Bill Barr, who’s proven willing to take an obscene view of executive power over fair justice and to literally create a different standard of justice for Trump’s friends than for his enemies. This week, we have seen all those forces colliding first with an effort by Barr to expel the U.S. attorney in Manhattan and replace that U.S. attorney with a bar lapdog. Then by testimony and then in testimony to the House Judiciary Committee, a former DOJ prosecutors that Barr or his lackeys had ordered them to go easy on Roger Stone in sentencing because he was a friend of Trump. Then, with a decision by a panel of appeals court judges to stop another judge from investigating. The DOJ is a really shady decision bar’s really shady decision to drop charges against Michael Flynn. These are just three recent examples. We also have the persecution of former acting FBI director Andrew McCabe. We have his BARRES efforts to hide Trump’s personal finances from investigators. He Berzon attempt to undermine the Mueller investigation. So it’s it’s been a really dismal couple of years of Bill Baras. Probably hasn’t had been a couple of years. Probably only one of those things. There’s only been three months, but it feels like a couple of years. So, Emily, there was a Republican lawyer named Donald Air who testified before the House Judiciary Committee yesterday. I’m here because I believe that William Barr poses the greatest threat in my lifetime to our rule of law and to public trust in it. Is that a fair statement?
S1: Donald Air, I believe, worked with Delbar in the 1980s in the Justice Department and really doesn’t like him. I talked to him a couple of months ago and he has strong memories of Barr being very aggressive in his definition of presidential power back then. And I think we’re still continuing to see that play out. The current version of it has to do with these prosecutions of Stone and Flynn that Trump doesn’t want to have happening. Plus, other investigations in the southern district of New York also presumably disadvantageous to President Trump or people he’s close to, like Rudy Giuliani. And so you see Barr willing to interfere in investigations in a way that is what the president wants him to do. There’s no law against this. I mean, this is a set of norms established after Watergate that was supposed to really protect the Justice Department and invest. Negations from meddling by the president. But if you decide as the attorney general, that you just don’t really care about those things very much, then you can change how that works. And so I think what we’re seeing is all the manifestations of that. And it looks really rotten. It looks like the president’s friends are getting off. And the prosecutor who testified about hearing that they were going to change the sentencing recommendation for Roger Stone, because that was the political interest. That was the way the wind was blowing in the Justice Department. That’s just not how it is supposed to work. There are so many professional lawyers there who depend on it not working that way. And then to me, I think the worst thing this week was the D.C. Circuit’s opinion telling Judge Sullivan in the Flynn case that he can’t even have a hearing to explore the very strange looking decision the Justice Department made to drop these charges against Flynn after he had twice pled guilty. And when you read that opinion by Naomi Rao, who is a recent and much hailed Trump appointee, it’s just really strange legal reasoning about the role of the court at this stage of a case. And there’s a very strong dissent by Judge Wilkins, who is a Clinton appointee. And I assume that Rouse decision is going to be overturned by the D.C. Circuit when they all get together and hear the case again and what’s called en banc review. But in the meantime, it just looks like the courts are also shaky. And we passed a milestone this week that we now have 200 Trump appointees who’ve been confirmed to the bench by the Senate. Zero of whom, by the way, are black.
S3: That was amazing. I saw that. I literally I said me. Can that be possibly be true?
S7: Yes. Shocking.
S1: And these two hundred judges, some of them have a really deeply held set of conservative beliefs that at least appear in this decision to extend to protecting President Trump. I mean, it’s really hard for me not to read Judge Rao’s opinion and think that’s what’s going on. And that’s just just not that is not how it’s supposed to work.
S8: The collection of instances in which the president, who believes the Justice Department works for him and then the Stone Flynn, all of these cases are go right to the heart of something the president campaigned against, which was remember the swamp. What was the idea behind this swamp? It was that people in power would use the levers of power to help themselves or help their friends. Secondarily, that their concern would be disproportionately arrayed towards the things they cared about and not towards the the larger country. So when you think about the president and his things he gets concerned about and the people to whose aid he rushes, it’s people like Flynn and Stone. It goes to something that he was supposedly coming to Washington to change, which is the use of office for the interests and ambitions of those in power.
S3: Right. I mean, the FBI. Law enforcement is amazing when it goes after black people. And when it goes after his friends, they’re the most corrupt people on the planet.
S8: And one other tiny thing, as a management matter, when you look at the president and because he was beating up on John Bolton, perhaps justifiably. But when you look at how he rags on all the people who’ve last left his administration, the people he defends or the person he defends is Michael Flynn, who, regardless of what the courts may say, did in fact lie about what he did to his vice president. And, in fact, didn’t tell the truth about his dealings with Turkey. So separate apart from the judicial part, just in terms of maintaining his duties as a as an official, the president praises the ones with the issues and rags on the ones who didn’t have them.
S3: Emily, I wonder if you get a sense if is the guild ship of lawyers so strong that if we get a new Democratic president. That a lot of this chicanery and this kind of use of the Justice Department as a as your personal law firm will not be permitted.
S7: Or will it, you know, came come in and will the norm snap back into place?
S3: Well, you were or. I actually almost had the question, which was if you really wanted to get the norms solidified, maybe the thing to wish for is for a democratic president to come in and behave exactly the way Trump is so that Republicans and some and then some Democrats will be like, what the hell? This cannot be. And putting in some very strong congressional judicial restraints that that will outlast whatever president it is.
S1: Mm hmm. I mean, I guess there’s sort of two questions here. So to pick up on your thread for a minute, you might think that it’s time to have an independent counsel again, a strong independent counsel statute in which the appointment of that person comes from a three judge panel, as it did after Watergate instead of from within the Justice Department, which is how Mueller was appointed. I totally think there is a case for that. I think I actually made that case about a month ago. And it really has more to do with the court cases involving Trump’s tax returns and how Barr was able to manipulate the roll out of Mueller’s report. So that’s one way of thinking about this, that actually we’re we’re constantly in this country and in other countries wrestling with how to have truly independent investigation removed from the presidency. That does not spiral completely out of control as people think that it did. You know, for example, in the Ken Starr investigation and maybe in the Lawrence Wolves investigation before that, if you are a Republican.
S7: And so that idea that we want to re situate Fermor source of power, like maybe this is cyclical and we had problems with the first independent counsel statute, but now getting away for it from that, we should go back. But the other questions about like these decisions about sentencing and dropping the charges with the stone in the Flyn cases, that you just want some principled attorney general to come back in and empower the career professional lawyers. You know, in these cases, the people who’d worked on them for years refused to sign the briefs and either resigned from the department or left the case. That’s a matter of just like restarting the professional ethos of the department. And you’re gonna have to bring in some more people because there’s been attrition and just like, you know, despair going on internally. I mean, this testimony about the politicization of the stone case this week was incredible at prosecutors. It takes so much for people in that position to make that kind of turn. And so what you really want is just to restore the the office.
S8: And in that in that vein, Emily kind of asking a question about the Flynn case was the where was the appeals court determination about the underlying case or about whether a judge can deny essentially a prosecutor’s motion to dismiss charges?
S7: It’s about the latter. So, yeah, I mean, I thank you for asking, because what what’s happening here is prosecutors have tons of control over charging decisions, but this is no longer a charging decision. This is someone who pled guilty. And so in order to dismiss the charges in that context, you have to have the leave of the court. The judge has to sign off. And so what Judge Sullivan tried to do because he basically thought something fishy was going on was to appoint Judge Gleason, a retired judge, to come in and argue the position for not dismissing the charges that the government was no longer argue. He wants to air all of this and find out what the hell is going on. What the D.C. Circuit opinion this week said is, no, you can’t have a hearing. It was improper for you to appoint Judge Gleason. You can’t try to get to the bottom of this. You just have to sign off on it. And when you read the analysis by Judge Raoh, it’s a very woodin separation of powers, analysis about the judge, the judiciary vs. the prosecutor, the executive branch, even though that is just really not how this it’s called rule 48. That right. That’s just not how it’s worked before, not how other circuits think that it works. But she was very concerned about that. You know, for me, as someone who cares a lot about prosecutorial power in this case, the D.C. Circuit is preventing a judge from not allowing a prosecutor to exercise mercy. Right. At least like without investigating it. But really, it’s just about the idea that judges have no say over the decisions prosecutors make and often prosecutors are going to make more punitive decisions. So there is that kind of aspect, too.
S8: But he was Rao’s decision based on this idea that you that you said at the beginning, which is that executive branch officials and I’m asking about the separation of powers, part that executive branch officials have power to make determinations within their own branch, particularly when it has to do with mistaken prosecution, which you might agree with and which previous readings of. Rule 48 would agree with, but what makes this different is this has leapt over and out of the executive into the judicial because of the guilty plea that that makes. It’s not something that’s not just within the executive.
S7: Yes, it’s a different phase. I mean, it’s also true the judges have to sign off when somebody accepts a plea bargain. Right. So like all of that plea bargaining negotiation happens in the executive branch with the prosecutor’s office. But then a judge has to sign off. This, however, is like a step beyond that where you’ve had the guilty plea. Already the judge has duly accepted it. And now you’re saying to me, I don’t want to do this anymore. And the judge is just saying, you have to explain. I mean, so much of the legal trouble the Trump administration has. And we were talking about this last week and the Dacca case, or I guess we didn’t really get to talk about it because the DOCA case came out right after we taped. But it’s the same problem they give really fishy or shower und shotty, they guess fishy or shoddy reasons for what they’re doing. And there is something that kind of offends the intelligence of some judges. I think that was part of what seemed to be at least be animating Chief Justice Roberts last week in the docket case.
S5: Sullivan before has done this in the Ted Stevens case, a Republican senator in which then Sullivan ultimately undid the ruling against the Republican senator. My point is, if you’re searching for partisan motivation here and what the what ROE and other words say is, you know, is extra judicial process or whatever he is, he doesn’t he use the same process before?
S1: Yeah. I mean, this is a judge that’s a huge case of a a terrible black stain on the Justice Department for prosecutorial misconduct because they hid some of the exculpatory evidence involving senator former Senator Stevens. And that Judge Sullivan was willing to really like look under the rock to find out what had happened.
S7: And it has nothing to do with partisan affiliation. He just wants prosecutors to behave in a regular manner. Right. And he can see that’s what’s or he has a suspicion that’s what happened. What’s happening in front of him in the Flynn case is highly irregular.
S3: I want to just close, actually, just by making a point which I’d like to make periodically, because I think it’s really important, which is that if you are believe in a super expansive view of executive power, as Bill Barr does, and the president can do the various things he does and that the public’s the public mechanism for for constraining that is an election.
S6: That’s a theory. But what happens when the thing that the president does is exercise the pardon power for people like perhaps Roger Stone or Paul Manafort, Michael Flynn, protect his friends. But what he is protecting them from, what he is, what the punishment he is helping them avoid is punishment that would come because they helped him cheat to win the election. And so the idea the election can be the remedy.
S3: For all of this presidential executive, overreach doesn’t work. If what the presidential executive overreach is, is distorting justice, distorting the law to cheat, to win the election. And that’s what’s so unsettling to me. It’s like I, I feel like if you felt like, oh, well, we can have an honest election and that that’s when we’re going to that’s what we’re going to call the president to account.
S6: You know, that’s the thing. I still don’t believe that theory. But that is a theory. But if you can’t have an honest election because the cheating is happening in the Justice Department, is allowing the cheating to happen by administering justice unequally, then the whole thing falls apart. So just a final point. Slow burn season for David Duke. The wonderful Slate podcast series, which takes deep dives into history that we think we remember, we kind of know and Excavates incredible stories that actually be forgotten. So it was done with Watergate, with the Clinton sex sex scandal, with the murders of Biggie and Tupac.
S3: And now we have a new season, season four and a new host, Josh Levine, who is, I think, Slate’s national editor. Right, Josh? That is right, David. And host of Hang Up and Listen. And Josh is digging in to the story of David Duke, who is, of course, the former KKK leader. The I guess you couldn’t even argue Nazi, according to some of Josh’s reporting, who came within a hair’s breadth of becoming governor and then perhaps even senator from Louisiana in the early 1990s. So, hello, Josh, welcome. Congratulations on Slow Burn. It’s fantastic. Thank you so much. So I think people remember, David Duke, that he has this kind of the you know, this handsome Troy Aikman looking guy in the 80s, very, very good looking blond white guy who suddenly emerged. So who was he and and how did he emerge to the world? Maybe not to the narrow streets of of Louisiana, but to the world as a whole.
S10: I have never heard the Troy Aikman comparison before. So I have to give you props for that first. I think it’s kind of apt appearance wise. But he was infamous in the 70s as the face the new face of the new Ku Klux Klan. Duke tried to present the image of the Klan as that kind of suit wearing intellectual racist. And he had some degree of success with that. He got a lot on national television, a lot. And so he had some degree of of renown from that period. And then he sort of went away for a while and reemerged in the late 80s as like a slightly more racist or maybe more than slightly more racist. Ronald Reagan talking about how he wanted to lower taxes, how he was opposed to affirmative action, and one elected office as a Republican in Louisiana won a seat in the state legislature. And he used that as a platform to then run for the Senate and for governor. And that’s kind of when he became really nationally famous.
S1: Josh, I love the opening scene of the podcast where you use this recording that a woman who kind of infiltrated at this moment. Right. She’s at this convention where Duke is. And she doesn’t say that she’s a reporter necessarily, but she has this revealing tape of Duke. That got him into some trouble. And one of the things that I kept thinking about as I was listening was just this like line that Duke keeps crossing. Right? I mean, he’s by affiliating with the Klan by talking about really white power explicitly. He’s saying things that people, white people don’t usually say in polite society. And yet he’s also picking up on these deep grievances that white people around him have. I mean, how did you end up thinking about him on the kind of spectrum? Like, is he giving voice to what lots of white people talk about in the privacy of their own homes? Or is he kind of pulling grievances that could be not necessarily racist in a more racist direction?
S10: So I think his core audience, his base when he was in the Klan, was people who had extraordinarily racist views, who were very prejudiced. And he gave voice to deeply bigoted ideas in order to build a larger base, one that could get him elected to office, one that could, you know, constitute a broad based national kind of movement. He needed to pull people who would say the kind of thing like, I’m not racist, but. And so he would take people who had maybe a little bit of a seed of. I feel like things aren’t really going my way. Maybe I don’t have a job or maybe I think I should have more stature in life. And we’re looking for someone to blame. And David Duke would assign that blame. He would say that it’s people on welfare. He would say it’s women having illegitimate children. And he would say just exactly what you said. I’m brave. I’m authentic. We all know that. Everybody believes everything that I’m saying. We all know that this is what you talk about and what you feel deep in your heart. And I’m the only one with the courage to say it. And so he made his followers feel like they were members of this club, of this tribe. And the idea was like, you know, we are are all being real. We’re being. Honest and everybody else just isn’t acknowledging the truth of the world, and that’s a pretty powerful idea.
S8: That triumph of authenticity.
S10: Yeah, I mean, he’s a totally an authentic individual who’s selling authenticity. I mean, I don’t get into it too much in the podcast, but a lot of people relate the plastic surgery that he had with the way that he changed his his views. And that’s I think it’s fair to make that comparison. It feels a little bit too neat to me to say, look, this guy has a different face and and different views, but he really was somebody who adapted to the Times. I don’t think he ever really changed his truly core anti-Semitic, antiblack views. He would just figure out how to ride the wave and present those ideas in a way that would chime with the time. So, you know, always arguing that he was authentic while at the same time always changing his self presentation.
S8: So that’s one of the things I want to ask you about, George, because George Wallace famously loses in 1958. He’s endorsed by the NAACP. His opponent is endorsed by the KKK. And he basically says in an incredibly vulgar expression, I’m not going to use that. He’s not going to let that happen again.
S5: And he then becomes the the the candidate who says segregation now, segregation I today, tomorrow and forever.
S8: So it was I was always interested me with Wallace as whether he was just deep down a racist and then pretended not to be and then fell back to his first love. If Duke is constantly sculpting his public persona to stay right on top of the line, was this deep in his bones from his birth or what portion of it was just seeing an opportunity in the electorate there? Yeah, well, stop there.
S10: It was deep in his bones. I mean, from what we know about two key first found a kind of sense of community in the White Citizens Council in New Orleans in the 1960s when he was a teenager. These were groups that existed to oppose integration of schools primarily. And so Duke had a difficult home life and he found people there who welcomed him and who saw him as a kind of intellectual prodigy. He had also started at that early age to embrace Naziism, to embrace, you know, Hitler’s ideas as laid out in Mein Kampf and the people in the White Citizens Council. Also, you know, we’re like we’re not we’re not really as into this Hitler stuff when he would stick to, you know, the the regular old American racism. But he would, you know, continue to be fascinated by and pursue these, you know, neo-Nazi beliefs into college and and beyond. And so there’s no indication in anything that I’ve read or heard or seen that there was a calculation on the level of not believing the like really core views that that he starts expressing in the 60s and and, ah, sort of, you know, barely below the surface. I mean, as Emily pointed out, the opening of the series, you know, the intention there that the editorial choice of putting that first is to show that during this period when he’s presenting himself are about to present himself as a conservative politician behind closed doors. He’s saying the Holocaust doesn’t exist. The world is ready for a new Hitler.
S3: I mean, it’s on tape, Josh, at the moment, there is a white nationalist, right, that is poisoning American politics, that it’s it has become a, surprisingly to me, dominant force in conservative politics. And it is certainly animates some of the support for President Trump. And President Trump certainly at least winks at it. Is there a single line that takes us from David Duke to the white nationalist right of today? Is he, in fact, the father of this, the ancestor of this, or is it a different. Is this a different movement with different antecedents?
S10: There are a bunch of direct lines. Eli Saslow is really smart on this. He has a book called Rising Out of Hatred about Derek Black, who’s David Duke’s godson and who is considered the heir. He was actually called the heir by people in the white nationalist movement. Derek eventually broke away from it. But you know, his father, Don Black, who is Duke’s kind of closest friend and ally in the clan, and then who started the racist Web site Stormfront, which is kind of the nerve center of a lot of this this movement. You know, Don and David Duke both were trying to mold Derek to become the new or better version of what Duke was. And Duke was, I think, a. Rational in terms of how far he got and how he was able to bring these ideas to a gubernatorial runoff in Louisiana, how he was able to put a different kind of face on white supremacy and white nationalism. And I think one thing that is so interesting that Eli Saslow told me was that Don Black and David Duke were always primed for failure, that they would have never imagined or hoped or dreamed that their ideas would have the kind of currency that they have today. And that actually people with extreme views like this often see failure perversely as success, that it shows them how resolute they are. It shows that they won’t stop even when they’re told to. And so actually dealing with success is not something that they’re used to.
S1: That’s really interesting. I mean, I guess, A, there’s this predictability to this strain of politics, right? I mean, it’s not just in the United States. Obviously, we’ve seen it arise in Europe at various moments as well. On the far right is also on the upswing in Europe. There’s this part of me that just feels like there’s something kind of boring about always coming up with the same groups to treat as the other and being so unwilling to see a kind of common sense of humanity across racial or religious differences. I’m not exactly sure how I’m bringing this into a question, but when you watch the footage of Duke at the Charlottesville march, which is like a kind of high point in the last few years for this movement, I mean, do you feel like there’s just this? Way that it’s inevitably that people’s distress about their own lives or their feelings about how they’ve suffered or not achieved what they want to. Like that, it’s always going to express itself in these racial and religious terms.
S10: I mean, it always has thus far in human history. I mean, I guess it could change, but I think that’s the pattern that we’ve seen recur in America and throughout the world. And what you just said made me think of the debate between David Duke and Jesse Jackson in 1977. We included some of that in our second episode where Jackson, who at that point was considered kind of the leading voice and in the black civil rights movement, makes a cross racial class based appeal in this debate around shared humanity. You know, he says things that sound very modern to our ear. He talks about, you know, he’s the reason that he’s taking this opportunity to speak with Duke is that he wants to address his constituency directly, because when people feel economic anxiety, they’re prey to demagogues. We didn’t include it. But Jackson also talks about things like universal health care and the importance of that. And so you see this kind of opposing strain. And Jackson, you know, would have a great deal of success in that in the 80s as a presidential candidate with this message. And so there are always these opposing forces at work if you want to put, like, a little bit more optimistic spin on it. It isn’t just like people like David Duke operating in a vacuum. And that’s the only message out there in the world like there have always been and I think will always be people who are trying to sell a different vision.
S5: What’s David Duke’s role in life now, Josh? I, I as Emily mentioned, he was in Charlottesville. He he claimed the march on Donald Trump’s name, deterring, you know, saying that we’re going to fulfill the promise of Donald Trump. And then there was that moment in the campaign when Jake Tapper asked him about him. And and Donald Trump was incapable of answering the question to such an extent that Mitch McConnell said that criticized him for a seeming and build midland’s towards David Duke and the KKK. What’s his role now in in conservative politics?
S10: I would characterize him as kind of like a spent husk at this point. Like his ideas are are his ideas are much more important than he is. I mean, he has a Internet radio show. He’s always trying to inject himself into the national conversation. And even when he has some degree of success with it today, the level of successes is kind of microscopic compared to what it used to be. I mean, he was just personally discredited. He went to prison for income tax issues. He was seen as a perpetual candidate. And I think his message in the state of Louisiana got a little stale as people got tired of the messenger. So I’m not doing this podcast because I think Duke himself personally is an important figure or a force in contemporary politics or American life. But I think the path that he went on is telling an interesting and historically important. And I do think that his ideas and the way he tried to present them, that’s still alive issue in our society today.
S1: So, so Joshes Duke excited about this podcast because of the attention it brings him?
S10: It wouldn’t surprise me. I mean, I haven’t heard him express that either to me or to anyone else. But he loves attention and thrives off of it. And, you know, we heard in that in the second episode a bit of the first interview that gave Duke a national platform on the Tomorrow show with Tom Snyder and Snyder, I think naively figured that it would be kind of edgy and interesting to have this Klan guy on his show. You know, he gave Duke a platform and the ability to define himself in front of millions of people, and that gave Duke oxygen at that time. And so I think that’s a risk. When you are featuring a someone like this, is it worth giving them the attention that they want? And I think you have to be very careful about how you approach that. I hope I have done it appropriately. But it is something that I think you need to ponder when whether it’s somebody like David Duke or Richard Spencer. What are you getting out of highlighting them? I mean, I think that’s why I’ve focused more on the past than on the present with Duke. I want to show what he did rather than who he is now.
S3: Josh Levine is the host of Sloper and Sees. For David Duke. Listen to it now on whatever podcast platform you listen to podcasts on. It’s great. Thanks, Josh.
S10: Thank you, David and Emily and John.
S8: Congratulations, Josh.
S6: Let’s go to cocktail chatter. John, I discovered fros day this past week. Mike. God, I can’t believe I’ve lived my whole life. I’ve lived 50 years for that first day. It’s delicious. Frozen. I feel like I feel like a 35 year old woman. It’s fantastic.
S5: What the hell is frozen? Sounds like something you would find in an old issue of like a haggis.
S6: It’s like a rosé. It’s a rose. A slushy made with it’s like rose. It frozen rosé, berries, some sugar. I think some vodka. And it’s like a slushy. It is delicious. Well, that’s some young good. So when you’re having your frozen day in Dickerson Mance, what you gonna be chatting about, John?
S5: Huh. Okay. Frozen. So I. I’ve got to create a quick chatter’s. The one is a revelation about. I’ve always been frustrated by people who when you when you have kids they say, oh, you know, pay it. Take. Pay attention to every moment because it all goes by so fast because. What the hell does that mean, really? And all it does is bum you out at the beginning of your child’s life by telling you it’s all going to zip by quickly, however, and sometimes it feels like it’s lasting forever. That’s true. But then when you come to the position where they are teenagers and about to leave the house, you feel this acutely that, oh, my gosh, time passed so quickly. But then if you tell people with new children this, all you’re doing is replicating the bad advice you were given. Not bad. It’s not even advice, really. It’s a lamentation anyway. So I do, however, now have two actual concrete things that new parents can do, which are based on my own discoveries in this Kovik period as as we’ve had extra time at home to kind of clean things up. One thing is that and God lover wrote notes about the kids, like at the end of every day when when she could about like just the what they were doing and how they were behaving. And we came across some the other day and oh my God, they were incredibly transporting the things we’d totally forgotten. And the memories were it was quite a bomb to the encroaching feeling of leaving them or having them leave us. The second thing is record their voices, which I guess everybody does now because they have iPhones. We didn’t when our kids were born, but the little voices they have are so extraordinary and you forget it with the passage of time. Those are two concrete things you can do if you are having new kids. Now, the second part of my chatter is a piece called Poker in the Psychology of Uncertainty. It’s in Wired by Maria Konnikova.
S6: She’s at Maria’s. She’s the she’s the best guy.
S5: And you could see it’s an amazing piece in what everything in that it says, which is great about how poker, which I don’t play, but is a great preparation for the complexity of the kinds of decisions you have to make in life. And I wish I’d known this before I’d written my book because it’s a perfect encapsulation of the kind of risk taking leaps you have to take with bad when you’re dealt a bad hand as a president. It’s like and I spend all these chapters talking about that, and this would have been a perfect thing. But it’s also just breezily written light on its feet. Fun to read. So I. I recommend it to everyone.
S3: Emily, what does your chatter I recommend Maria Konnikova, who I love and who she’s a frequent guest, or she used to be at least a frequent guest on the gist, but she’s just she’s so smart and funny and I can’t wait to read her book.
S1: My chatter this week is about the city of Philadelphia.
S7: So you may or may not remember a few weeks ago, at the beginning of the protests, there was a mass protest that went onto the highway outside of Philadelphia are actually right inside of Philadelphia, 676. And there was this mass tear gassing where the police gassed all these protesters and they had to run to get out of the way. It was really scary and upsetting incident. The police said they had no choice. They were under threat. They said that there are people throwing rocks at a cop car, that there was a cop car that was surrounded. So some of the footage of it’s not body cam footage, but it’s the camera footage from a couple of the cop cars that were there has been released. And it doesn’t show anything threatening. You can not tell watching this more than 50 minutes. What prompted the police to let loose with all this tear gas? It is possible that there’s something happening somewhere else on that highway that did provoke this response. But this is all the footage that we’ve gotten. Not clear with all the city and state police who were there why this is it. But so far it is. And it’s just it’s really upsetting.
S1: It makes you feel once again that the police are not telling the truth and just that there was this, like, really scary incident that didn’t need to happen. You know, at a very chaotic moment for the cops, for sure. But distressing, really distressing.
S3: My chatter is about a really unsettling story in the Atlantic by Melissa Fay, green shoots of really good writer reporter. And it is about what happened to those children in the Romanian orphanages in the in the end of last year of communism. So if you remember, 1989, 1990 is Romania as the communist government of Romania fell and Nicolae Ceausescu was was deposed. I think ultimately executed. There was this discovery that tens of thousands of children had been tossed into horribly squalid orphanages across Romania. And that was a horrible experiment, too, because the orphanages featured very little touch and love and attention to the children. And so there are these children, some of whom were severely disabled in various ways, who had just been neglected. And there was an enormous global campaign to try to rescue these. Children and find them homes, and many of them did find homes and many some in America and Mostafaei Greene tries to figure out what happened to these children, what happens when you’re you are raised for the first formative years of your life in an environment without love and touch and care and trusting relationships and bonds. And she finds in particular one young man who’s now 39 years old, who’s the manager of a KFC outside of Denver and talks about what his life has been like. It’s a it’s a really sad story and just makes you feel that the the decisions, the that the Romanian government made and this the way they set these orphanages up was so tragic and cruel and such a crime against these poor children who whose lives have been ruined by it. I also have a very quick other. I need your advice, listeners. So I’m moving into a new apartment. I haven’t lived, you know, lived in the home I’ve been in for most of my adult life. And I haven’t even moved a really long time. And I don’t really know what it’s like to set up a house and like how you deal with all the things of setting up a house. If you have this is like a Dickinsonia and request. If you have life hacks for moving and for setting up a new house and like how you get furniture. Right. Like play places to do shortcuts so you don’t have to endlessly, I don’t know, like but better ways to hang hang pictures or whatever it is, I could welcome them. So please email me at David Plotz at G.M. dot com. If you have great advice I could really use it. Great service, great organization, great. Whatever it is that you’ve had experience with, I’d appreciate it.
S7: Can I give one piece of advice? Is it really obvious? So I always am in a big rush when we move to make everything like set up again. I hate living among boxes. I find it very unsettling. It’s better, however, not to like do it all at once, because if you let yourself, as I never want to live in a place for a little while, you’ll actually end up making better decisions about things like where to hang a picture or what kind of rug you need to buy, etc.. So give yourself a little time to breathe. As my small piece of advice, you’re probably already sane enough to know that.
S5: OK, and good to know. And the corollary to that is to pack one box full of the things that will make you feel most at home, whether it’s your freeze it. What’s a call? Hello. What’s it called you? What’s the drink you’re drinking? They wrote that is a phrase that throws a bottle. Is a salad your thermos of rosé or your favorite tea or your whatever that will make it feel, you know, less destabilising in the in that period than Emily quite rightly puts her finger on. We it took us. I mean, where I’m in I’m now and I’m recording this from a new room because we keep kind of readjusting. So the readjustment takes a long time.
S11: OK, good to know. Thank you, listeners. You have also sent us Wonderful Chatter’s this week. So many good ones. Please continue to tweet them to us at at Slate Gabfest. Whatever it is that is occupying your as a drinking time, please let us know. This week’s chatter actually strangely is comes from my old employer, Atlas Obscura. It’s Frederic heldin at F heldin points to a wonderful video made by a couple of former colleagues of mine or former colleague of mine at Atlas Obscura about an Australian artist named Anton Thomas. And what Anton Thomas did is over the course of five years, he hand drew a map of North America using colored pencil. And it is an extraordinary level of detail. The whole map is, I don’t know, it’s about the size of a person and it’s just gorgeous. And my former colleague, Jessica Hester interviews Anton Thomas and talks to him about making this map and how he puts all these special details in it. And you can now buy a digital reproduction or printed reproduction of this map. And it’s glorious. It’s a glorious little video. He’s incredibly charming and that Aussie way. And the map is spectacular. That’s our show for today. The Gap, that’s produced by Jocelyn Frank, a researcher is Bridget Dunlap. Gabriel Roth is editorial director of Slate podcast. Thomas managing producer, Alicia Montgomery is executive producer of Slate podcasts for Emily Bazelon, John Dickerson and David Plotz.
S2: Please tweet Chatter’s to us at at Slate Gabfest and follow us on Twitter there. We will talk to you next week.
S6: Hello. Slate plus. How are you? Good. Okay. We’ve now had about three months. Bit more than three and a half months of Kofod life. And so we thought we talked about what we actually like about it. And what did we like about it for a while that we’ve stopped liking? I have a lot of thoughts. I’m sure you guys have a lot of thoughts.
S1: I like the pace. I like that things are slow down, that I have fewer things to do. People in my house sleep a little more than they slept before, and we’re all together constantly, which has its moments of intense irritation, especially children toward parents. But also it’s quite lovely and has like, you know, gotten us to have really long conversations, go on long walks, cook a lot of meals. But mostly I just think it’s gonna be actually hard for me to go back to the faster pace that I was used to with so much more travelling and moving around all the time.
S11: Do you guys know what a phoney war is? My mother was talking me about this. So in the period between the Nazi and Soviet invasion of Poland and then the invasion of France, which was maybe six months later, so was late 1939 and then the first few months of 1940. Nothing really much happened in World War Two. And it’s that Piers called the phoney war in Britain because there wasn’t a thing going on and it was famous because it had this glorious weather. And so there was a sense that the world was about to change, but that there was its glorious early spring in England. And people talk about it. And that actually has been one of the things that’s been weird is that at least in Washington, we’ve had the most beautiful spring I can remember. It hasn’t been hot. It’s been like it’s just been beautiful. And and part of it is being out in it much more than normally. But it’s the it’s been glory. I mean, today I was just. It’s it’s summer and I was there. No mosquitoes on my porch. And it’s not unspeakably hot.
S3: And so being able to be out and seen, I’ve used it just to go for different walk. Every day I see a new a new trail or a new street every single day is my goal, something I’ve never been on and seen almost all of Rock Creek Park. Now I’ve seen a great blue heron wrestling a fish. I’ve seen a rattlesnake. I’ve seen cormorants like flying over the Potomac fishing for shad. I’ve seen a woodpecker outside my window, foxes, bunnies, a dead otter. It’s been incredible just to, like, be out in the world and this kind of time of beautiful weather.
S5: I wonder if that’s about. Yeah. Well, that’s also about your your generous perspective of the world around you. Like making hay while the sun. I mean, making good of a bad situation. I feel that I’m as busy as ever, but I don’t miss the. So I don’t feel that kind of diminution in. But it’s also I picked a particularly busy time and 60 Minutes stayed on the air a month longer, which was wonderful and amazing and and incredibly fulfilling. And then the book came out. So it’s been busy. But the lack of plane travel, I mean, even though I went on a massive long driving trip to get down to North Carolina and then through Weinmann, Mary and DC and all of that, which was a lot of driving, it was actually so much more pleasant than plane travel. And I think because you’re you were master of your own fate and also.
S4: Well, that’s mostly it. You’re not being poked around. And and I guess the the routinization of family dinner because nobody’s rushing out to go see their friends or late from coming home from school to something or and the. The lack of debate over the rules and curfews and all that stuff has been pleasing. Without that, I.
S11: Yeah, I love the cooking and being with the kids and cooking with my kids. I never get tired of cooking with my kids. That part is awesome. I have adopted an early to bed, early to rise schedule, which I love also. I’ve realized, like my that’s my natural my natural state is basically go to bed at 10, 30 and get up at 6:00. And like, that’s that seems ideal. I love the way people are trying really hard to be kind. I feel like that people make a very conscious effort. Everyone really. I feel like people are trying harder. The things I miss, I must say. Some things I miss. I miss traveling a lot. I love traveling. I miss it a lot. I miss like like like our live shows.
S3: You know, we had several schedules, like, I love those. But that being in a new city and walking around New City, I miss schmoozing with my colleagues. I like being around the people I work with and just kind of talking trash with them and hanging out. I miss that. I miss sitting in coffee shops. I love city and coffee shops.
S7: I really miss that, too. Yeah, those are all miscible things. I miss being in a gathering of people where you can go from person to person and have individual conversations instead of having one group conversation, whether it’s like some socially distanced backyard small event or on Zoome, like it’s hard to talk to a group the whole time.
S11: Yeah. I miss you know what I miss? I miss. Am ashamed that I have. I remember at the start of this I thought, oh, I’m going to use this time to master things. I haven’t mastered anything. I’ve mastered nothing. I feel embarrassed, like I’m sure, John, during this time, it’s like learn to play the balalaika.
S4: And I haven’t done anything. Now, I had those ambitions, too. That’s what makes me feel like I don’t have I. I mean, the days are just over and I haven’t blown them off in any particular way. And then the day is just over. And it’s been filled up with work. So I had big grand plans, too, to also just be more present in my life than I have been. So and so I feel like it’s actually been a failure here.
S7: Good thing it’s continuing and you have more months in which to go to phase two.
S11: I had I had the thought actually, this this is a really stupid point to make. It’s so obvious. But I was thinking because I’m kind of in this in this situation where I left one job and and then covered happened and now doing with a couple other things. But where I was thinking like, oh, you know, networking like. Why isn’t anyone inviting me to book parties. Like, why. Why not. What. And I was like, oh there are no parties. No. Is having a party.
S6: There’s there are no books. I’m not b I’m, I’m not I’m not not being invited to to the party party and just leave you out of it.
S7: It’s true.
S6: There’s no party like you can’t you can’t be failing right now. Like you can’t be networking badly. There’s no networking to do just right.
S1: And also the fear of missing out is kind of gone. That’s like a nice thing right now, worrying about that. I really miss reporting trips, though. That’s the kind of travel I like the best. And I just think that discovery in person.
S5: I like that. But having gotten somewhere, I hate the travel except for when driving, but having gotten is much better than that and getting to.
S4: But yeah. No I’m is I’m. Is that too. Yeah. Coming back with a notebook full of, of stuff to say is is much more pleasing than doing it on the phone.
S3: All right. Well I and I miss you guys so there’s that to talk to you every week.
S6: Yeah. Byfleet plus I hope you guys are doing well at there. Bye bye.