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S3: Hello and welcome to Slate Political Gabfest for July 2nd, 2020. Open the Damn Schools edition. I’m David Plotz at Business Insider. I’m in Washington, D.C.. Last time in the hidy hole, I moved today. So I want to do this show. Quick, quick, quick, quick, quick. Guys, I got to go get the moving truck. All right. So talk fast. But but precisely.
S4: I am joined from New Haven, Connecticut, by Emily Bazelon of New York Times Magazine. Yale University Law School. Hello, Emily. Hello. David. You can be a little more you know, you can be more expansive than that just because I laugh at me this morning.
S5: I was just thinking about you moving, and that’s such a big deal. I’m very glad to see you in your closet. And positive waves.
S4: A new closet awaits. I don’t. My new closet. My new place. The cloth is aren’t big enough to. To record a podcast. So I have to find somewhere else. John Dickerson of CBS 60 Minutes and author of The Hardest Job in the World joins us from somewhere, not his house. He’s got something on somewhere else. But hello, John.
S6: Hello, David. Yeah, I’ve gone somewhere where there are more birds for for a temporary period of time.
S5: And it’s still in the northeast where cove. It is low.
S7: Yeah. Well, I can’t go too far. I have to be close to the city. But it’s lovely to see both of you.
S4: The cat is in danger. And my my tape recorder again. Cat, come on. Cat on today’s gabfest. John Roberts makes the Roberts court his very, very own Roberts court with an interesting abortion rights ruling, among other things, and a bunch of other rulings that have dismayed conservatives and sometimes delighted conservatives. But all of which he has played a key role in. And then the covered catastrophe deepens. We have record cases every day. We have an outbreak sweeping through the south and west. And most importantly, we have literally no plan to deal with the most important issue, which is kids returning to school. We will be joined by the economist Emily Oster to talk about that burgeoning national disaster. Then, Trump and the Russian Taliban bounty’s. What did he know? When did he know it? Why is the administration done nothing about it? Plus, of course, we will have cocktail chatter. The Supreme Court is wrapping up an adventurous and weird term with John Roberts playing the starring role. He’s in the majority, I think, in all of the five to four decisions. Emily’s crazy.
S5: Yeah. It’s amazing, right? Yes.
S7: Yeah. Is that is that an historic achievement?
S5: It’s like since the thirties or something like he is at the center of the court in a way that has not been seen since. I think it’s 1937.
S4: So bring it. What happened? What’s going on with Roberts? How did he emerge as this figure in the center? And I think what’s interesting is that he’s a centrist figure in some ways in this way.
S5: I do not think that Chief Justice John Roberts has become a centrist being at the center of this court, given how far to the right half of it is, does not make you at the center of anything in terms of like the Supreme Court’s history or tradition or what we think of, as, you know, its jurisprudence since the 1960s and the Warren Court. However, it is also true that Roberts casts three votes this term that have made him just anathema to conservatives and especially social conservatives. And I’m talking about the Dacca case, the LGBT case, and now this Louisiana abortion restriction. One way to think about this is that all three of these cases had kind of defective lawyering behind them and that troubled Roberts and he wasn’t willing to go along with it. So what I’m talking about in the abortion case is that Louisiana passed a law that was identical to one that the Supreme Court struck down four years ago from Texas. And so there was a kind of defiance both in passing that law and then in the 5th Circuit, the appeals court upholding it. And when you read Roberts’ concurrence in June, medical services, the abortion case, it’s very narrow. And a lot of feminists have attacked it because it has also kind of pulled back on the test for overturning other abortion restrictions that came out of Justice Breyer’s decision four years ago. So to back up a step. That case is called a whole woman’s health. And what Justice Breyer said is that if the court is evaluating an abortion restriction, it should look at the burden it places on women who are seeking an abortion and also consider whether it has any medical benefits, like basically, is this just there to obstruct or does it achieve something? And Roberts said in his concurrence this week, I don’t care about the benefits. That part doesn’t matter. I’m only going to look at whether an abortion restriction poses a substantial obstacle. So going forward, there’s nothing to stop him from upholding a different kind of abortion restriction. And that looks to some people like Melissa Murray at NYU and Linda Greenhouse in The Times this week, like a kind of Trojan horse. Another way to think about this whole a more positive spin, which is in a piece by Jeff Toobin and other people have been bandying about, is that Roberts had a chance here to get rid of two of the three existing clinics in Louisiana and strike a blow for the anti-abortion movement. And he didn’t take it. And when you read the dissents, which range from kind of furious like Justice Thomas to more mild Justice Kavanaugh, you see these various paths that he could have taken and he didn’t take. And so Jeff Toobin is responsive. This is like, look, he had a chance. He’s supposed to be a committed social conservative. And like abortion clinics, lived to see another day. So that’s the kind of mixed response to this decision and to Roberts in his role.
S6: Emily, can you sort through for me the analysis that says what Roberts was really doing was taking a stand for precedent? And then what’s interesting here is, as all the rest of our institutions become totally overloaded with politics and standards are just created in the moment to post hoc come up with a rationale for something, he was actually making a stand on precedent. And then the important and necessary part of that in the larger scheme is that how much of that is a part of what he was deciding?
S5: Yeah, I mean, when you read his opinion in the abortion decision, it’s big. He starts with the idea of precedent being important because stari decisis is a Latin phrase. And he says, you know, it doesn’t always rule the day, but like, it has a lot going for it. And four years ago, we struck down this Texas restriction. We’re not going to now suddenly turn around and uphold this Louisiana law. And if you think of the very cynical or realist take on the court, which is just it’s all about the personnel, you can see that the idea that Kennedy was swapped for Kavanaugh being the distinguishing feature here, offending Roberts like he doesn’t want the idea of like the court has a new person and now we just reach a. Different decision and exactly the same case again. That doesn’t tell us what he’s going to do about future abortion restrictions.
S4: What? Why was starry decisis uninteresting to the conservative justices? They could have not taken this case. I presume what happened is that four of the conservative justices said we should take this case workers, because because presumably at the appeals court level, this was this law was struck down.
S5: No. The Fifth Circuit upheld this law. That was the problem. Isn’t slowly possible gathered. The Fifth Circuit was like here, all the reasons why Louisiana is different from Texas. And we don’t really believe these doctors tried hard enough to get admitting privileges. I should have said this law is all about abortion, providing doctors being forced to get admitting privileges in hospitals. So, yes, the 5th Circuit upheld the law. It’s entirely possible that it was actually the liberal justices on the Supreme Court who were right. We did not realize that. Yeah, no. But, like, I’m good to clarify.
S4: What what is it? Emily, what is the strategy? The strategy of of the pro-life movement in the recent years has been not so much a frontal assault on Roe, although I’m sure there are definitely parts of it that want to do a frontal assault on Roe. But much more LED’s gum up the works of abortion. Let’s simply delay and block, you know, with permissions, with speech regulations, with sonogram requirements, admitting privileges. You know, your car doors have to be wide enough. And each each one of these not only at four. It forces the abortion clinics have to fight legal battles. But they you know, they they kind of a road and a road and a road. They just make it harder and harder for people to carry about their business. These are folks who generally, in their other political beliefs, don’t believe in any government regulation but believe in this case. Let’s regulate the speech of private citizens and doctors and let’s regulate the heck out of these clinics. But that’s a separate issue. So given that Roberts has signaled, hey, I’m only going to look at an undue burden. Does this strategy go away or is it just now like it has to take a different form? We have to find that to find a different place to gum up the works.
S5: I think the. So you’re totally right. I mean, there’s basically a split in the anti-abortion movement between these six week bans on abortion, which several states have passed or talked about passing. And these more incremental restrictions, which are generally referred to as Trappe laws, targeted restrictions on abortion providers. The trap law camp tends to be the lawyers there, like incremental chip away. The court doesn’t want to have some huge headline. We’ve overturned Roe vs. Wade and abortion is now not constantly protected. Let’s take smaller steps. This decision struck a blow to that strategy. Now it’s because Roberts left the door open. It’s entirely possible that they will still win the day. And it’s honestly really up to the Supreme Court, which case it takes next, because these challenges are all out there. So what you might hope for, he were an abortion rights supporter. Is that actually the Supreme Court doesn’t take another case for a while because the lower courts abide by this decision and they strike down laws that pose a substantial obstacle. And so there’s just nothing for this court to do. And there’s no basis in the Supreme Court’s jurisprudence for a lower court to uphold a six week ban like that really is illegal, unconstitutional, whatever you want to call it. And so in some theoretical universe, the Supreme Court just sort of sits quietly and the lower courts now don’t do what the Fifth Circuit did. And I pulled a law like this. We’ll see. I mean, the problem is that, as I was saying, there’s this wiggle room. So one thing I’m really interested in are bans on telemedicine or in this moment now with Cauvin, where one way to deal with the problem of access to health care is to provide medical abortions. The abortion pills over the phone or in video conference. There’s been lots of experimenting with that in the United Kingdom and in Canada. But in America, where you have states that ban telemedicine, abortion, you can’t cross state lines, or at least it’s hard to figure out how to do that with telemedicine providing of abortion. Are those bans gonna be upheld like that? You could imagine that being the next Supreme Court case, though, perhaps would be better for abortion rights if it was not.
S4: Is there a federal ban on that? There’s just a state states ban.
S5: Yeah, it’s like 18 or 19 states at this point.
S4: John, I want to go to the politics of this because I am confounded about it. Who if you in your in your infinite wisdom, who does this help? Politically? We have seen how much conservatives have been galvanized by court issues. I think there’s a pretty strong case that that the Supreme Court won Donald Trump the election, that that there were a lot of Republicans who were uncomfortable about voting for Trump, but who decided, you know what? I want to make sure that the Supreme Court remains dominated by conservative justices. What do you think this does politically? And is this is this an issue that continues to animate Republicans in the way it did four years ago when there was an open Supreme Court seat or not? Really? Does that animate liberals even more? Because, in fact, you have several. They’re quite old liberal justices. And it’d be a shame for liberals if they weren’t able to replace them with people sympathetic.
S7: I think that. And Emily, you know this better than I do. But I think in general, in terms of who’s more animated, my feeling is the liberals are more and animated because still of the hangover of of Merrick Garland and and Trump’s election and the notion that the conservatives in his notion’s been around for some time. But I think it’s there’s a more popular accepted view of it, which is that the conservatives care a lot more about the court and and liberals need to care beyond just the hothouse of liberal legal academics and obsessives that liberals need to care a lot more about the court because it matters even more in a time of hyper partisanship where everything gets locked up or where the court’s ruling on a lot of things that are done by the administrative power of the president. And we can talk about the decision on Thursday about the powers of the president. So so liberals need to start caring more about it. On the Republican side, I’m I’m interested in in what it means. I think so. So the obsessives on the conservative side are still going to be obsessed by the court, because while they may be disappointed in Roberts, part of the disappointment is acting out in order to keep this issue in the forefront. I mean, it’s a way to raise money. It’s a way to show that you are 100 percent pure. So when Tom Cotton and Ted Cruz are fulminating about how John Roberts is this awful person, they’re doing a lot of it’s a lot of signaling to important constituent groups in the in the conservative movement. So some portion of it may actually be to actually be a disappointment. But I think there are still people who will be focusing more than ever on the courts. And so they’re fine. I think the camps of those who voted for Donald Trump because the Supreme Court there seems to me to be two different kinds. One is the kind who have abandoned Trump. The voters I talked to who did care about the court in 2016. But now, having seen the president and the way he behaves and worries and concerns about the way he would behave if re-elected, the court doesn’t swamp that. I think those voters are are gone. In other words, those were newly fed people who are sort of newly interested in the court, not lifelong Federalist Society people. Those guys are all still on the team. The Trump team. But people who use the Supreme Court to justify their vote. I think that group has been is is leaving the president in droves because of the way he’s been in office and the court. I don’t think we’ll rescue them into being Trump voters again unless something insane happens between now and Election Day.
S5: Can I just add one thing, which is that Gorsuch and Kavanaugh, Trump’s picks for the court have performed as true. Conservatives, with the big exception of Gorsuch is majority opinion in the LGBT case. So especially with Cabinet, you see social conservatives and the Federalist Society getting exactly what it wanted. And you could see this as super affirming if you care about those reasons. If you are a person who believed Senator Susan Collins of Maine when she said, oh, you know, Cavanaugh is going to respect precedent and not vote to uphold abortion restrictions. Well, that turned out not to be the case. And so I think in that particular Senate race, KAVANAUGH, the votes he’s casting suggests that all of the covering that Collins was doing for him like, oh, don’t worry, he’s going to respect precedent. That is a harder argument to make now.
S7: Yes. Now, where does it exactly where it does matter for Collinses re-election is among liberals who will say this is a this is who are animated by the court’s decisions. And the fear of future court decisions will say this is why she’s more than just this is why she’s actually dangerous. Mitch McConnell can go around to conservatives and say, I know you may not like Susan Collins because she did X, Y and Z. But remember, she got us. She helped us get Cavanaugh. And that really matters. So he’s using it from that standpoint. But so those are big. Those are arguments to base level people. I’m trying to think of the people in the middle. And my guess is they’re animated by by the other larger problem in politics, which for Republicans is that there is a deeply unpopular president.
S5: Yeah. I mean, I guess what I basically think is that this term makes it clear that the next appointments matter. And of course, that’s true. But if Roberts had voted the other way on DOCA. An abortion then you would have seen. OK. Well, there’s already this strong conservative five justice majority in these, you know, social hot button cases except for the LGBT case. And that would look different. I should also say, though, that the court’s not done. We have eight decisions remaining for next week. The cases involving who has access, Congress or the district attorney in York to Trump’s tax returns. A case about the Obamacare contraceptive mandate. And if it applies to religious organizations. So there’s a lot left. And I should also say that there were some really important victories this week for conservatives. So the court said that the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, which has this provision in it, that the director may not be fired without cause that part of its structure. The court said in a John Roberts opinion, is unconstitutional. So the agency as a whole does not fall because there was a seven justice majority for severing that. But this protection that people like Elizabeth Warren tried to put in for the head of the agency to try to buffer that, insulate that person from political pressure is now gone. And another, you know, huge case this week is out of Montana saying that states that provide tax credits for private schools have to include religious schools in those kinds of benefits programs. And there is I mean, this doesn’t matter as like law. But there is an incredible opinion by Justice Thomas, joined by Gorsuch, in which Thomas says that states can pick a religion and favor it and that the establishment clause, which we all thought applied to the states, does not apply to the states. One of my children, again, when he heard about this, started saying, like, how should Connecticut become a Satanist state or a wickedness state? Like, which one should we choose? So anyway, the court was still having its extremely right wing moments just on the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau case.
S4: Briefly, Emily, just to wrap us up, is the theory of the unitary executive now dominant and and prevailing? Because it’s so unfathomable to me that anyone could look at the government we have, especially in the president we have and think that, wow, what we really need is to invest more power in the executive and less in somewhat independent experts. It’s just perplexing to me that that would be the legal conclusion you would you would reach after looking at the actual functioning government, the only functioning government agency that we have is the Federal Reserve. The only one that’s working well is the Federal Reserve. And it’s working because it’s basically staffed by experts and it’s somewhat protected from politics.
S5: Yes, I think that is an excellent observation. And we are seeing from the court this year and last. This kind of march toward more power for the presidency and less tolerance or interest in these alternative forms of federal authority that are more insulated from politics and outside of the president’s immediate grasp. You know, at the court, the justices who are going in this direction would say, well, that’s just what the Constitution mandates. And if you don’t like it, go change the Constitution. But I would argue, as the liberal justices have, that there is a lot more wiggle room here. And this is not really a healthy development for our democracy.
S7: I mean, it is part of the reason I started the book with the protests in Washington over the Reorganization Act in 1937, which is there was a time when even the suggestion it’s also because, John, that’s all anyone ever talks about.
S8: Well, sure they should. I mean, that’s all.
S4: But it’s I mean, those protests, 68 are they are all like they’re just like run together in people’s head.
S7: And plus, any time anybody can dress up as Paul Revere, it’s a reason to. But I mean, just the the the way in which power has shifted, the idea that it was a move of dictatorship for a president to ask for any help at all. And they had been in the running of his office. Now, this is we have completely come to the other side of that slate plus members.
S4: You get bonus segments on the gabfests, another Slate podcast. We also really appreciate your membership. And in appreciation, we will talk about something interesting and the thing we’re talking about today. And I was like this segment is that John Dickerson topic? I think John was stoned when he suggested it. And we will discover if he is stoned when he discusses it. It is. Should we teach history backwards? I don’t have any idea what it means. I’m really looking forward to this discussion because I sat down to think about it last night was like, I don’t know it, John talking about. So I can’t wait to hear him talk about it. Go to Slaked complex gabfests, plus to become a member and listen to that bonus segment. The covered pandemic has continued to spread appallingly, with new infections topping 50000 per day, mostly a. Cross the south and west, Republican leaders who had been scoffing at maths are now urging Americans to wear them. Although Trump isn’t. And meanwhile, meanwhile, the country is facing an appalling prospect, which is no real school in the fall. We are joined to talk about the school covered crisis with Emily Auster, who’s a professor of economics at Brown. She’s also the author of the beloved book Crib Sheet, a data driven guide to Better, More Relaxed Parenting from birth to Preschool. Emily, welcome to the Gabfest. I want to start with this fact. There are 32 million American households with school aged children. Fifty million kids in public schools. And then another handful of millions in private schools. There is no economic recovery without kids and school. You cannot send people back to work without plan for schools. And yet, here we are.
S9: Yeah. Getting kids out of our houses and into their schools is like probably the most important thing that we’re going to need to do in the fall to get parents back to work. And yet I don’t see much in the way of efforts to try to do that. I mean, there are efforts, but I don’t think that they are coming to fruition fast enough to me.
S10: What is so upsetting about all of this is how low a priority. Kids have been. And yes, it’s important for parents are turning to the workforce. It’s also just really important for children. And one of the things that’s been so valuable to me about following you on Twitter is I feel like you figured out a way to talk about that from the beginning at a time in which there is a lot of shaming of anyone liberal ish for thinking of anything involving reopening. Now we’re starting to see from the American Academy of Pediatrics exactly the kind of balancing of harms that I think. I mean, I certainly wanted from the beginning and thinking that we cannot make going back to school a perfectly zero risk for Colvert transmission. But what we’ve learned about kids and their level of risk, the risk they present to other people, suggests that sending them back to school is really worth the potential cost. And I wonder how you think about that. Like trajectory from the beginning of the crisis until now.
S9: Early on, there was this feeling of like in order to be a good person about this, you have to just stay in your house and not leave and not leave at all. And there were some reasons, I think, to do that to try to arrest the pandemic. But it evolved into a kind of shaming space in some sense, where suggesting that there might be something to think about other than not having people acquire coalbed meant that you were not taking the viral risk seriously. What I started trying to do a little, I think people are now doing a bit a bit more up is to say, you know, hey, actually when kids aren’t in school, there are some things that happen that are that are bad. So, for example, a lot of kids don’t learn. And those kids are the kids that we are most worried about. Those are your low income students, students of color, who are like disproportionately falling behind on learning as a result of not being in school there. If they don’t have good Internet, if they don’t have, you know, good supervision, because it’s a complicated thing to supervise and their lives are more or are more unstable. These are all reasons that kids are being hurt by not being in school. There is even some very basic stuff like food. Right. So at some point early on, somebody pointed out, hey, a lot of kids are getting food from the school lunch program. And, you know, a lot more kids are being hungry now than they are than they were before. And I think that we need to recognize those things on the other side of the coin, because if we don’t, then it feels like, well, we’re going to open schools just so everyone can get the coronavirus. Look, no, no, we’re not. It’s not just to give people the corona virus. It’s because there is good reasons to open schools that is important for children and for their parents and for everybody else.
S4: Actually, Emily, can you dig into this this sort of lost learning question? Because I think this is a this is a thing where you your future, you your future, your future child is important to understand, because it’s not like people say, oh, they can miss it. You know, you miss your school. It’s OK. I’ll make it if you miss your school.
S9: What happens to you later if you miss a year of school? What happens to you later is that you are less likely to complete high school. You’re less likely to complete college. You’re going to make less money later. You are going to die sooner. You are going to be more at risk for illness later. So even if we said our goal is to have people be healthy, it is still not obvious. I tell you, there are still losses tonight not being in school. And I think that’s kind of like the the peace. And you somebody said something this morning on Twitter. They said, you know, I you know, should people really have to get corvids so your kid can learn algebra? And, you know, it’s like, well, first of all, I don’t I think that you’re you know, you’re misunderstanding like where people are in terms of their of their their learning and what is being lost here. But also, you could equally well say, you know, should this. You’d have to die sooner or later. So somebody else doesn’t get sick now. I mean, that’s the tradeoff there. We’re talking.
S7: It feels like, Emily, there were there was a problem and there continues to be a problem with what the timelines were on because because when during the major lockdown portion, everybody was focused on that.
S6: And we didn’t quite have a handle on the disease as much. But but what you were arguing and others were arguing it was, OK, we may have to do what we have to do today, but come the fall, which is many, many months away. We need to start planning and thinking about this because what school age children seemed to me hit on here and college age is a little different, though. I’m interested in your ideas on that, too. Is that it’s this marrying up. It’s both the liberal concern about children and their psychological Bennett health. But then there’s also the economic piece, the David pointed out, which is the economy doesn’t get started again unless people feel confident enough to send their kids back to school. And so everybody could have been agreed that let’s shoot for four months from now policies that make this happen and that there was just a total failure of future thinking on this crucial issue, which both sides care about, maybe for different reasons, but which could have been the basis for actual long term thinking.
S8: Yeah. I mean, I think that there was a there was a moment of opportunity there and a place that we could have come together, because, as you say, I think this is something basically everybody everybody wants, maybe not all for the same reasons. But I think that somehow what happened is that when one person started to say we should do this because of the economy, there was automatically the kind of back reaction of, oh, well, because because you want people to die. And then when people said, you know, we will we you know, we only you only care about health. You don’t care about this. And somehow that got very politicized in a way that I think meant that we were not thinking about all the pieces together. And and like everything in this conversation, there are tradeoffs. I think somehow we’ve gotten to a place where people would like to have no coronavirus. I would like to have no coat on. We would all like to have no coronavirus. But the fact is, we’re going to need to move forward with the recognition that we’re in the middle of of a viral pandemic. And that’s going to mean the first best is really not available.
S10: So what do you think is going to happen? I mean, and is this just an impossible question to given national answer for? So there are some states, including my state of Connecticut, where there are some guidelines emerging, but also a lot of deference to individual school districts to make decisions. There are other states or districts that have already announced we’re only doing two days a week of school. I don’t know, maybe there are places that have already decided school is going to be entirely remote. Are you just seeing this patchwork across the country? And do you think that there maybe still have two months left, right, or least two months till September? Like, is there enough time to get more school into place? And what do you see as these substantial obstacles?
S8: The substantial obstacles are that I think many places have decided to just say we’re opening and it’s you know, it’s it’s going to it’ll be it’ll be great. And you say we have two months, but actually a lot of places are opening like August 3rd. So in Florida, which is not doing great. They basically said schools open August 10th and everyone back in school August 10th. And I don’t, you know, like what that’s going to look like. I have I have no idea what I worry about as some of those early openings will be kind of very chaotic and and maybe will happen in places like Florida, which are having large outbreaks. And then, you know, a lot of bad things are going to happen. And that’s going to mean that other places maybe which were in a position to be more thoughtful and maybe in a better viral position to open will will kind of pull back on those on those plans. So I think that’s a little bit hard to predict. My guess is we will see, like we have with everything else, just a huge variety of what different states do, some of which will be better organized than others do.
S4: Do you think there is a obvious list of things to do? I mean, I’ve seen Michelle Goldberg’s column in the in The Times had some of these things, but it was, you know, hiring a whole bunch of aides so you can break up into a little pods. It was leasing a ton more classroom space so that you can distribute the kids more broadly. It was thinking about outdoor classrooms mostly was just this idea. We need kind of a Manhattan project for schools because it’s the most urgent issue we have. But do you think there’s there’s sort of like here are the three things that we should probably try that would get a 70 percent of the way.
S8: So I think the first thing is, is all of these things that we’re going need to do are going to have to focus around the resistance and the risks to teachers and staff. So I think early on in this, we spent a lot of time talking about kids and kids and kids. And let’s worry about kids, which we should we should worry about kids. But I think increasingly the evidence suggests that kids are not actually are actually quite a low risk group. When we think about schools reopening, I would like people to start focusing on how we are going to protect teachers and other staff, but also how we’re gonna convince them to come to school. How are we going to get teachers to be willing to be back in the classrooms to feel safe enough to do that and to be bought into that? To the fact that actually this is something that that we need to do as a society so we can serve the vulnerable people and and so we can move forward. So I would like to see us thinking about things like, you know, routine testing for teachers. We can’t do routine testing for everybody. It’s too expensive. It’s not it’s not widely enough available. But I’ll think it’s insane to do it for teachers. And I think the other really obvious thing is to just try to get people to not come to school when they’re sick. I mean, that seems like a totally trend. Transparent, perhaps. But, you know, I think a lot of people go to school like a little bit sick. And particularly since kids tend to have mild viral infections, we we need to make sure that people are keeping their kids home. That’s the main thing. I would ask my kids school that I will ask my kid school.
S10: What about letting high risk teachers teach remotely and concentrate on the kids who live with grandparents who are themselves have health conditions that might make them more vulnerable? Because I feel like these higher risk, you know, older teachers or teachers who have the conditions that make you more susceptible are really being put into a tough position.
S8: I guess. I really like that. I haven’t thought about that. But I like the thing is that I think is very creative about ideas. The idea of matching to basically say there are some kids who aren’t gonna be able to come back for either their own reasons or for family reasons and some teachers who can’t who can’t come back. So let’s match those people up. That is. I like that, Emily. But I think that’s also an example of the kind of thing that I don’t think we’re thinking about. Right. So instead, people are saying, OK, well, if there’s a high risk teacher, let’s just zoom them into their classroom as if they were their regular. And if we have a high risk kid, let’s just zoom them into their classroom. But that’s like we just have to try to do exactly the thing we did before. Instead of saying we’re in a different situation, let’s try to think about how we can use our resources and reallocate our resources to make this possible. Even though this situation is going to be very different.
S4: I mean, also the point to make is like if your teacher is remote, that’s still remote learning. It’s not quite as catastrophic for family life to have your child at school, remote learning. But it’s still the it’s still a really shitty, bad, misbegotten educational experience. And so you don’t want teachers zooming into classrooms.
S1: Well, what if you can avoid it? And also, it depends on the age of the kids, too. Like how much? I think it depends on the edge of the kids.
S8: But I also think we don’t want to I don’t want to, like, understate the importance of physically having kids at school. I think this this gets into some of what Michelle was suggesting. You know, there with kind of AIDS and, you know, actually having kids working on laptops in a place where they’re supervised by somebody, even if it’s a relatively low, you know, low level person that actually is delivering some of the benefits of of school. You know, if they’re going to do like online learning, but at least they have good Internet connection and at least they have somebody, you know, who can help them with their fractions if they get if they get stuck. I think that’s pretty good that that is that that’s not as good as regular school. But it’s it’s better than being at home by yourself.
S7: Right. And you get the benefits of socialization. And so, Emily, as you think through the economic effects of this, there’s what do you think about. I mean, so it’s obviously getting the kids out of the house so the parents can do work or even physically go to work.
S6: But then also, is there a psychological piece, which is if if schools are open and it feels like as a society, we’ve managed enough to be able to get the kids into the school. Can you talk a little bit about the psychological piece that’s going to be required to get economic activity going again?
S7: Because people have to feel a certain level of safety to feel like they can plan and they can think in the future about their economic behavior. Just how do you think about that?
S8: Yeah, I mean, I think for many people with children’s school, the routine of school, that is what is delivering a sense of normalcy and a sense that you are kind of having your regular life. Once we have that, I think it will be easier for people to think about other aspects of their life that they’re that they’re trying to move and, you know, trying to move to move forward on. There’s going to be a lot of variation and in the kinds of reopening that we that we want to do. And so I think there’s a there’s a kind of downside to what you say, which is once we get our kids back in school. We’re just going to feel like we can kind of do everything just just exactly the same. And, you know, I think that’s not there. There’s many activities which are riskier than sending your kids to school. Notably bars, but also other things. We’re all going to sort of stumble towards normalcy, normalcy a little bit.
S10: I mean, it seems like part of what we’re talking about is that individuals have like risk budgets and communities also have risk budgets. And this week, the conversation about school turned into closed the bars, open the schools, which I actually thought was useful just in terms of thinking of priorities. And I do worry that some states and cities are spending their risk budgets on bars. And then as the numbers go up, making schools look impossible to open in the fall. And it seems like these are choices that are local or state specific. Since we have no federal leadership and there’s this vacuum of federal authority. Yeah, I think that’s right.
S8: I think the other thing that’s happened is so if you know, for example, people are you know, Texas is as reopened a lot and a lot of people are becoming sick and they’re becoming sick in a variety of settings, probably some of which are bars. And then they’re publishing data on, you know, some people who work at child care centers have have covered, of course, some people who work in child care centers have covered because there’s so much community spread. Right. Exactly. So. So people who work at all jobs have have covered. And so within it, you know, people get very, very scared. That’s going to happen in in sort of school settings is as well. But I think we’re sort of seeing there, like you’re kind of punishing, you’re making people feel like, well, this is a really unsafe thing to do. But in fact, what happened is you used, as you said, you use your risk budget to make a lot of other choices. And that kind of made this less safe in the sense that now your kids more likely to be in daycare with a teacher who’s who. Who has covered but not because of the daycare, but because of these other choices that you that you made.
S4: I mean, on the budget, I know this budget is a different sort of budget, but one of the other issues we have here is that money, real budget education is funded at a local level and local governments are completely hosed right now. And it’s not easy. The federal government could step in in the way they have with small businesses and provide and should billions and billions and billions and billions of dollars. But that because local governments are so strapped, what they are ending up with is these terrible tradeoffs and choices. And one of them is not let’s double are the size of our classrooms or let’s hire a thousand new aides for our school district, because that that it’s just not tenable for a local government budget right now. And that’s that’s a problem of how we fund schools.
S8: Yeah. And I think this is you know, I mean, one of the things they said and something I wrote recently was like where it like where it where the foundations here. Like what? You know, unfortunately, I don’t think we can rely on governments to to do this because they don’t have the local governments have no money. And the federal government doesn’t seem to think that this is a priority and we’re going to need money to come from somewhere from somewhere else.
S1: So I’m not willing to give up on the federal government and Congress. I just feel like it’s their responsibility. I love your optimism. Thank you. You could feel like that. But I don’t think they’re coming for you. But maybe. Yeah.
S10: So, Emily, one thing we’ve seen in some European countries and in Israel is that the schools open and then there are cases of covered and they have to shut again. What do you think should be the planning in the United States? Should we have a rule where if there’s one case of cover, the school closes, or do we need to have more tolerance than that in order to make this happen realistically?
S8: Yeah, I think where they to have more tolerance than that. And I think individual places are going to need to think about, you know, what is their level of tolerance. And I think we want to be thinking about clusters rather than cases. So if there’s a case, there’s two cases, you know, three cases that may be if you start having a lot of spread or like large clusters, then we’re going need to shut down for a while. But I think the most important thing is to have an ex ante plan for that is for places to say this is what we’re going to do. If there’s one case, this is what we’re going to do. If there’s two, you know, this is our threshold. That’s the piece that we need to outline in advance, not in a kind of panicked moment where we’ve assumed there won’t be any cases. And then it’s like, oh, my gosh, we have a case. We have to do something like we need to take his debate that and have a concrete plan.
S4: Emily Oster, thanks for joining us. Emily is a professor of economics at Brown University and also a great Twitter follow.
S1: I also want to put in a plug for her second book called Expecting Better, which our researcher printed. Dunlap particularly flagged for us. Thank you guys for having me.
S4: The Russians, the Taliban bounty’s. There’s evidence that’s been reported in The New York Times and elsewhere from the intelligence community that Russia has been attempting to disrupt our war in Afghanistan by paying bounties to the Taliban for the murder of American and other coalition troops. This evidence comes from interrogations, also from financial transfers. The Times on Thursday seems to have even identified a person who they say is an intermediary whose bank account was suddenly flush, who may have been the person paying off Taliban who had succeeded in performing acts of violence against coalition forces there. There are indications that particular killings of Americans may have been tied to these bounties. The issue that we’re going to discuss is not really whether it’s not really the fact that Russia is doing this. Russia is an enemy of the United States. In many ways. It’s engaged in geopolitical conflict with us. The Afghanistan has been a theater of that conflict for 50 years. In 1970s and 1980s, the United States was arming people who are now Taliban to fight the Russians. And so there’s there’s a lot of the same things have been going on for many years. The issue is. How is it that the president, United States seems either not to have known about this, knowing about it and done nothing about it or or even sort of completely looked away and tried not to know about it. And it’s pretty shocking. So, John, I want to start with you. What do you what do we what do we know at the moment? Keeping in mind, this is all under the kind of veil of secrecy which covers so much of what we do militarily. What do we know about what the president might or might not have known about these bounty’s?
S7: Well, and then you’re so right to talk about the veil of secrecy, because we know, I mean, two big things that should be asterisks. Well, there are three things that are big and asterisks around the story. The first is that we have an unprecedented situation in which the intelligence briefers don’t trust the president. The president doesn’t doesn’t trust them, and that this is a constant source of conversation in public in which the president has repeatedly undermined the credibility and veracity of his intelligence operatives. Unlike any other president before. And so we have lots of reason to distrust. Basically everything we hear it A, if your support of the president, cause he’s taught you to. And B, if you’re skeptical of the president, because there’s so many instances in which the president has been at odds with his briefers and been on bin and been wrong. So that’s the overarching problem. Then, even if you had a normal functioning White House, you’d have the problem that a lot of this covert stuff, which I have recently had some association with, something that happened in the past and I went now that I know having interviewed people involved in it, I look at the coverage at the time and it’s directly the opposite of what was happening, in part because the agency was was leaking stories to cover up what was really happening with the total opposite of what was happening. So. So as I look at it, I’m not talking about the facts of the case here, but it’s always in these kinds of stories, you know, likely to be some big piece of it is missing. So this is really hard. But what we have is a situation with an idiosyncratic president who gets briefings verbally and and by all accounts, numerous, multiple constant accounts, including most recently from from John Bolton, doesn’t really pay that much attention, spends his time talking instead of listening, doesn’t read the material, prefers verbal briefings. FDR did, too. That’s OK. More complicated world now, of course, than it was for FDR. But never mind.
S4: Oh, man. I mean, FDR with fighting the Nazis. He was trying to win World War Two. That’s pretty complicated.
S6: True enough. True enough. But he didn’t. You have today you have cyber different kinds of terrorism. And you have North Korea, which has old fashioned conventional weaponry. So FDR had one big target to worry about it. It was relatively slow moving. This is all, you know, super, hyper fast and can cripple the global economy in a second if something goes wrong. So it’s a lot of well. There’s just more on the to do list. But but anyway, I guess what what strikes me is that you basically had a situation here. There was another option that you could have included on your list, which is that intelligence briefers didn’t tell the president because the president’s involvement would be a net reduction in American safety. That either he would do something to get in the way of what they were trying to do or having told him he would do not.
S7: He would do nothing. And therefore, they couldn’t move forward because they would then be contravening the president as opposed to just dog acting independently. There’s obviously and then I’ll shut up of a disconnect between what we’re hearing in the way they talk about what happened here and what the Times has reported, which is not only in the Times has basically all the different verification methods used by the intelligence community to follow this trail of evidence. The fight there is that half a million dollars in cash. Then there’s the actual paper trail of the wire transfers which demonstrate the cash. They know the name of the guy, the the sort of the the bad actor in Afghanistan who is distributing the cash. Like, it seems like the Times has it pretty wired, which makes the administration claims that this was all unverified, seem seem hollow.
S4: Yeah. I mean, that was briefed to the British. It was published in a CIA kind of internal report, the. Yeah. So it’s either you have a president who was told forgot. They didn’t tell him because they were afraid of his reaction. They were afraid it would trigger him in some way or they didn’t tell him because he they thought it would be, as you say, a net reduction in American safety. And. And I think it’s important to couple this story with the remarkable. Carl Bernstein story on CNN this week about the president’s phone calls with other world leaders. This is a, you know, a very hearsay kind of story that Bernstein reported. But it’s got a lot of sources and and it essentially says that Trump has all these calls with world leaders and he doesn’t prepare at all for them. He talks endlessly and he says things like, you know, Tels and Angela Merkel, who’s manifestly one of the smartest people in the world, that she’s stupid. And also also gets played and gulled by her Taiwan and Putin and others who who know how to push his buttons and how to get him to take to kind of come to their side. Emily, I think that the frame for me is if you had a colleague, if you had a boss that behaved like Trump did, who didn’t do the didn’t prep, got on the phone with your biggest partners and called them stupid, got on the phone with your your companies you’re competing with and you got Buddy Buddy with him and got played by them. And, you know, it’s presented with an absolute life and death issue where the, you know, people under people, the workers for, for his organization are being murdered and does nothing about it. Doesn’t bother. No. Or that his own deputies don’t want to tell him because they don’t think he’ll do anything about it. Like, that’s a completely unacceptable behavior for somebody who runs anything in the world. Any other person who ran something would have been fired and been sued by shareholders and, you know, probably prosecuted for behavior like this. It’s shocking.
S5: The other thing about this story that gets me is like, OK, so now we see the breadcrumbs and it really looks like the Russians paid this bounty to the Taliban to kill our soldiers. And Trump still isn’t responding in any proportionate sense to it. Right. Like, we still, as far as I know, have invited Putin to the G8, like it’s all public and there still are no repercussions. And I just don’t want to forget that part of this, because there’s both this question of like what he knew, what should he have known and the kind of dereliction of duty you are talking about. But also like this ongoing question of like, OK, so there are no consequences and Putin is still going to be our honored guest.
S4: Like, how come it is not just and I mean, this Taliban one is sort of hidden in secret. We also have all the stuff that we know publicly that we’ve seen publicly, which is Russian jets testing American air defenses, clear Russians interference in the run up to the election. There are huge cyber attacks on Americans which are coming from Russia. So it is it’s not even just that this is one sole example of Russia meddling in something happing Afghanistan. I mean, in Afghanistan, everyone’s always meddling here and there. But it’s that Russia is engaged in that kind of massive campaign. And and as Susan Rice put it in a I think a Times op ed, like, why does Trump always put Russia first? Like, why does he give them the benefit of the doubt? Why does he credit them? Why does he do nothing when there’s this, you know, drumbeat of Russian malfeasance directed at America?
S7: You know, going back, David, to your point about the CNN report on how he behaves on foreign leader phone calls, as you say, the piece has some has some elasticity in the waistband on on the sourcing. However, there is nothing in the account of those phone calls that it is it is at all at odds with our public perception of the president. You know, if this were a functioning White House, I you can make a case. And I do that that that having a very high threshold for information you raise to the presidential level makes sense. If everybody’s agreed that this is the way you’re going to run the show and everybody at the various levels is competent and acting on the basis, facts and information and reason and not impulsivity that you want, basically because a president is constantly overwhelmed and needs to focus on other important things. You want to wait to tell and bring this to the president at the moment, they need a presidential decision or, you know, there may be other things at play that that too often we think about the president as a case officer. As for one former deputy director of the CIA, put it, and instead you should think of them more as the sort of chairman of the board. I’m not saying in this particular instance, I’m just trying to to to pull it out a little bit and say there is if you can make a case for raising the threshold in a fully functioning White House, that’s not what we’re seeing in this case.
S4: Sure. Yeah, definitely. You could definitely make that argument. But where does this leave us, Emily? Like what? You know, we have a Congress that doesn’t seem to be willing to hold the president to account for this. You have quite possibly there are American soldiers, the soldiers that the. Present sends off to war his his most sacred duty. We’re always told us to be the commander in chief and to and to, you know, look out for the national security interests, the United States, and to look out for the health and safety of these Americans who bravely are serving to protect the national security, the United States and a president who who’s who’s kind of looking a wanis or whose indifference or whose ignorance may have just sort of cost the lives and emboldened our enemies with Benghazi. We went through, I can’t even remember thirty seven thousand rounds of hearings about those deaths. And there was no sense of maliciousness or malevolence on the part of the Hillary Clinton or the part of the Obama administration there. I don’t think anyone even accused them of that. They accuse them of incompetence. Here we have a we have something which looks much worse and we have a president who appears indifferent to it. And yet. What will happen? Nothing will happen, right?
S5: Well, it leaves us with an election in November. I mean, that’s the remedy that the American people have.
S4: Can’t be the only remedy. It can’t be. There has to be other remedies. I mean, that’s why we have a. That’s why Congress exists, that’s why the Senate exists. That’s why there should be generals resigning over this.
S5: I mean, I think the House could hold hearings. The House has been trying to stick up for its prerogatives. But when you have senators, Republican senators so willing to take the president’s line, there is no unified congressional response that really provides a remedy.
S4: Let’s go to cocktail chatter, John, when you’re ignoring the Dickason daily briefing and instead sitting and having a drink with your family. What? You know, chatter about with him.
S7: I tried to chatter about this with my family in a car ride where they could get knocked out of the car and therefore, we’re going to a captive audience. And they are you.
S4: You’re till you’re about to give us the chatter that your family wouldn’t listen to in a car.
S6: Mike, my family back to us to pay attention. Yes. Because my family wouldn’t listen to me. Basically on any account. So I’m but I’m just saying that this is more than just something that I am prospectively going to roll out. It’s been it’s been field tested and and failed. But damn them, I’m going to plow ahead anyway. It’s a mental floss piece by own Madeline Lengel by Jen Doll is the writer. And the headline is How a Wrinkle in Time Changed Sci Fi Forever. It’s basically a piece about Madeline Lengel and it’s very well written and just the the pounding she took from publishers who just repeatedly turned her down. And the very lumpy reception that A Wrinkle in Time received. And yet, J. Yeah, she persisted. Exactly. There’s a great line in it when when she gets turned down at one of the many times where it’s it says the blow felt like an obvious sign from heaven, an unmistakable command. Stop this foolishness and learn to make cherry pie. That’s a quote from the Crosswalks journals, which are Lingle’s journals that are just great, too. You can either read them or you can listen to the audio books. They are. They’re just about the creative process and uncertainty and doubt and perseverance, all things that I enjoy.
S4: Emily, when you’re ignoring the Basilone daily briefing, will you be chattering about it?
S1: Try to ignore that briefing as much as possible.
S5: So I’m obsessed with the prospects, the importance of a free and fair election in November. And thus was dismayed in the last week by a couple of stories out of Wisconsin. So, first of all, there is a troubling leadership poll and the election commission in the city of Milwaukee, a city that is important for the swing state of Wisconsin. The well regarded head of the election commission, Neil Albrecht, stepped down. His successor, whose name is Claire Woodall, all VoG was supposed to take over, but ended up withdrawing after her appointment got snarled. And some kind of. It looks like power struggle between the mayor and the city council and the walky Milwaukee needs to have a fully functioning election commission. We just had Wisconsin had in April a disastrous primary, as listeners may remember, because I’m sure I went on about it at length with terrible lines at the polls during Cauvin and thousands of absentee ballots that were not delivered in time for people to vote. So please, Milwaukee got it together. So your folks are enfranchised.
S10: And then also in Wisconsin, the federal court of Appeals, the 7th Circuit, issued a ruling about a bunch of challenges to Wisconsin voting restrictions and ruled in most cases that these voting restrictions were okay. This is a ruling that took three years, which is really weird. I have not heard an explanation for why it took so long. It’s from Judge Frank Easterbrook, who basically said, you know what? Like, these things are constitutional. The plaintiffs didn’t prove that black voters were being targeted for disenfranchisement. So Wisconsin can do things like pull back on early voting and not send absentee ballots by fax or e-mail to certain people who can’t get them in the mail.
S5: None of this bodes especially well for lots of access to the ballot in Wisconsin in November, which is very important.
S4: Emily, you remind me of this. So it is very clear you couldn’t you you can no longer, although you could in this country for a long time, you could not set up a system which said if you are a black person, you can’t vote or you have to only vote at Sunday at nine, 30 p.m. in this one location 500 miles from your house.
S5: You can’t do that if you’re a black person, like we have Voting Rights Act. Yeah, yeah.
S4: Yeah, but could you say Demick only Democrats like it, could you. Could you make a law which which which explicitly targeted Democrats like Democrats? You can only do blank.
S1: I would like to think that would go too far.
S5: But you are right that the Supreme Court has said it’s OK to redraw district lines to gerrymander based on political preference as opposed to for the purpose of diluting the influence of black or Latino voters. So that does, I suppose, open up the idea that you could explicitly discriminate against Democrats in such a fashion. I think, though, that what happens instead is you just like close a bunch of polling places in Democratic cities as the state election commission, and then it becomes hard to prove that you’re deliberately targeting black and Latino voters as opposed to Democrats. And I mean, that has happened like we see a pattern across the South in particular of disproportionate closure and limiting of hours at polling places that affect largely urban, mostly democratic areas that also tend to have a lot of black and Latino voters.
S4: I saw some statistic, and you probably know this, that if you’re black or Latino, you wait online 45 minutes longer to vote than if you’re white.
S1: Yeah. I don’t know if that’s a natural step, but I think that is true in certain parts of the country, or at least I’m not sure about the forty five minutes, but like the longer wait. Yes. I have seen that study too. Yeah. Which is just shameful.
S4: That’s what that is. My chatter is I have fallen into a television show which I had not heard of until this week called Call My Agent Orange Show. It’s a French show and it’s about a talent agency in Paris that represents top French actors and singers. And it’s about the the four agents who run the agency. It’s very charming and funny. It has it apparently has a lot of famous French actors playing themselves in the show. But since I don’t know any French actors that these people who are being represented on screen, who to French audiences will be as familiar as, you know, I don’t know. It’s maybe not. George Clooney, as Ryan is familiar, as Ryan Reynolds are unfamiliar to me. But it’s the show is it’s just like super charming and fun. My French is really rusty, so it’s very nice to listen to a lot of French, too. So if you’re French, somebody wants to hear something in French that it’s fun just to listen to. People speaking French. Beautiful. Hilarious. Quick. Not taxing at all.
S5: That sounds good. Is it as good as the dairy girls? My very favorite David Plotz television recommendation, which I really would like a new season of Dairy Girl.
S4: I know. I know her producers. I think one of the the number one Google searches in certain demographics is. Is there another new season of Dairy Girls?
S5: The idea that like kov, it would be so like if I wasn’t more. Isn’t the dairy girls, by the way?
S7: Have I boosted money heist? Was that good? I beat it just to watch it. Yes, it is very good. And if you want to brush up on your Spanish, you can you can do that without it. It’s very good. It’s you know, the tension is high. So so we sometimes we have to decide whether or not to watch an episode based on how close we are to going to sleep because it can rally up a little.
S4: Right. Another quick chatter is just I asked last week for movie advice. As I said, I’m moving today. You guys came through. I’ve never gotten so much response to a chatter ever. I got so many e-mails from you all with excellent movie advice. So many, in fact, that I think what I will eventually do is I will once I have gotten through this move, which is just so difficult and long lasting. Once they’ve gotten through this move, I will consolidate all of your advice and publish it so that other people can get useful moving advice because there were so many helpful things, man. You guys have a lot of advice about Art Japheth listeners apparently own a lot of art, move a lot of art all the time. Rehanging their art. I’m challa out of art advice. Yeah.
S6: Did you find the number of submissions emotionally powerful and therefore moving?
S4: Yes. Well, I just it was interesting, it’s that so many. I think it is moving is one of those experiences that most people go through. It is difficult for you. No matter when you do it, at what point you do it. And so people really want to they want to share their lessons learned. They aren’t. They want other people not to suffer as much or to to, in fact, get some pleasure out of the experience.
S7: I’m so glad you’re going to publish it, because I could really use that advice for our next move, whenever that is, which probably won’t be in the too distant future. I mean, just across the city, we’re not moving in. It’s such an exhausting.
S4: It like brings you out and thing listeners. You also have sent us great chatters in addition to great movie advice. You’ve tweeted them to us at Slate Gabfest Mercy for that Mansi Rich Komati book.
S8: Better than that Mercy Boake, both of us.
S4: I was most of what they say is like mail.
S11: Putin could now, now think, which is some kind of vile insult.
S4: I’ve forgotten. What a day. Don’t ask me. And there’s actually well, forget it and get to the French of it. So the great listener, Chad. I want to cite this comes from a randy cone at noon in 66. And it is a a quote, tweet of a Twitter thread for Matthew Rosenberg, who told a Carl Reiner story.
S1: My God, I love this thread. I am so glad we are talking about it. It was.
S4: Yeah. It’s an amazing thread. It’s about. It’s about Matthew Rosenberg’s father’s encounter with Carl Reiner, who the comedic legend who died this week, and then ultimately his encounter with Carl Reiner. Carl Reiner, Mel Brooks and Sid Caesar. It’s an amazing story. So just check out the Twitter thread. We will link to it. If you enjoy the gap as please subscribe. That way, you’ll get new episodes the second they are published.
S3: That is our show for today. The Gabfest is produced by Jocelin Frank, magnificent team of Frank and Dunlap. Our researcher is Bridget Dunlap. Gabriel Roth is the editorial director. Thomas managing producer. Alicia Montgomery. Executive producer of the Slate podcast Empire for Emily Bazelon. John Dickerson and David Plotz. Thank you for listening. We will talk to you next week.
S4: Hello, Slate plus. Almost over. So I’m just going to hand it over to John. John. John. Every like every two days. John sends an e-mail. We have to do a slate plus segment where we. What would happen if we taught history backwards? And I just don’t understand what’s going on. And no brain. So just take it away.
S6: You know, the idea here would be do we?
S7: Well, I guess it’s a great game to be in two different ways. One is that that in American history classes, everybody starts at the beginning and then you run out of the year. By the time you get maybe to, you know, we’re war two or you rush through certain periods so you can get places. So. And I wonder what the contemporary benefit of that is. In other words, shouldn’t you go backwards and therefore spend less time on some portions of of prehistory which are less important than modern history? So that’s one proposition. And you can argue about obviously, it depends on how you choose to frame the way you teach this history. But the other is, if you begin with the end in mind, then you elevate voices along the way who were sublimated in their time. And so I would think of good old Gouverneur Morris at the Constitutional Convention who stands up and gives an incredibly eloquent denunciation of those who would seek to write a liberty document based on the enslavement of other human beings. And this is important because it is possible in the moment to stand up and say and do the right thing and have the right view. That’s in keeping with the values at the time. So that that’s another way to think about this. On the other hand, the danger would be that by knowing the end in mind, you only think about the events that led to the end. And you don’t spend as much time on the cul de sacs and the and the missed chances. And because it seems to me one of the important things of context, and I just did an episode of this day, an esoteric political history. Jodi Avidan. Yeah. Jodi Arigon and Nicole Hemmer. And we talked about John Dickinson because they had to have somebody on the show whose name was two letters off of the person they were talking about.
S4: My ex mother in law always calls you John Dickinson.
S7: Oh, by the way. OK. Well, there we go. And what struck me about John Dickinson in doing additional reading for the episode is that Dickinson basically is a part of making the case for the colonies in the constant tug of war with Great Britain over basically whether the colonies can be taxed. And the and the notion of taxation without representation and did so is on the one hand is a kind of revolutionary. And it plays an important role in standing up for the colonists at this important time. And yet does not, on the 2nd of July signed the Declaration of Independence. He’s basically a moderate and thinks the country isn’t well, such as the colonies aren’t ready to become a country, because his assumption is that once they kick off the British style, I’ll just go. They’ll just all fight with each other. And it’ll be a total catastrophe because revolutionaries have a historic failure in doing very being very good at setting up governments. They’re good at revolutions, but terrible at governments. And he’s also worried that the French will, you know, that they don’t that there would be no alliances and international cooperation with this new country and government.
S6: And what struck me in reading about Dickinson was was spending some time in the way it’s sort of painted with the Declaration of Independence is because we know the end. Everybody thinks, oh, well, the colonists and the Patriots were the good guys and it was all guys at the time and everybody who was against declaring independence. We’re all just like captives of the monarchy or Dom. And what Dickinson suggested for me was that there was a it’s perfectly reasonable to think the things he thought and that if you taught a little more about that, maybe not in that specific instance, but all the way through American history, it would give you better insight into our current moments where people may have reasonable reasons for not being revolutionaries and perhaps should be ignored anyway.
S7: But but we would help us in classifying and classification of lines of thinking as we address current problems if we understood the gradations of those in the past better.
S4: I don’t think that had anything to do with the actual topic he proposed in the very eloquent, though lovely disquisition. I definitely would have been. What did they call the people who sided with the British during the loyalest? I definitely would’ve been a loyalist or in the American Revolution.
S5: Yeah. Because you’re like a status quo small significative like Ray. Yeah.
S4: You would have the. Well, this is all I mean. I feel like what you’re arguing for, John, if I. Danu is basically that Hamilton, the musical, which will now be on Disney plus starting Friday night. It’s a very useful is a very useful historical object that Hamilton, the musical movie, that’s not what you’re arguing. I don’t even I don’t understand how this is teaching history backwards. You didn’t talk about you. You you immediately jumped backwards. Right. Started in the place and said, oh, look how. Being in the old place can contextualize will can help us understand.
S1: Also saying if you think through if you start with now, like if you start with 9/11 and then you go backward and try to look at like the history of American responses to terrorism, that telescope makes you look at the people who were correct along the way, leading to 9/11.
S10: Right. As opposed to like all the other paths and all the other views, which might have been more dominant at the time, but which do not lead inexorably to the current event. Right. Like there again, starting to be these courses called the history of now, where you start with the current event and then you go backwards to understand it. But I think that John’s reservations about what you can possibly lose are are totally apt to that model. And then there also are these things to gain from that, which is that you see the Cassandras who maybe at the time were ignored because that’s the whole point of being Cassandra.
S7: Emily has made it perfectly stayed, but it came if you as always.
S4: If you start at 9/11 and say, like, let’s let’s go back. And then you identify the Cassandras who identify who said like, oh, look, we see the rise of Islamism. We see the rise of of, you know, this Osama bin Laden. We see the legitimization of terror as a kind of tactic. And here’s where it comes from. Look at these people who identified it. Is that like is it is that a truer. Is that a more useful way of looking at history than to look at a history where you in fact, 9/11 comes as as an enormous surprise to the world? Because we didn’t listen. We didn’t know. And that surprise. In fact, the surprise is what’s so. So critical about it is that, in fact, we didn’t see it coming. And to and to look back and sort of say, oh, we could have seen it coming, we should have seen it coming. Is to miss the point, which is that is that you’re you’re always going to miss the things that are the things that are surprising. That’s why they’re surprising.
S7: Here’s. Well, I guess there are two different ways of looking at it. I think if you know anything about history at all, you would be you would expect the surprise because, you know, as David Blight says, you forget history and then all of a sudden history comes and bites you in the ass. I mean, that’s the whole point of history, which is like, oh, my God, big surprising things happen out of nowhere. And they completely change the course of of awe. And sometimes they’re slow moving, surprising things. But I guess if you were thinking of 9/11, let’s think about it on the Iraq war front, that if you’re teaching if you’re teaching American history, you basically get a series of, you know, heroic tales of American military might. So you have the Revolutionary War, which is, you know, big victorious George Washington. Then you have the civil war, you know, where, as David Blight beautifully puts it in, in his civil war lectures, you know, has become this kind of strange. This is change now in the last couple of years.
S6: But but where people would rush up to him and say, oh, I love studying the civil war. You know, it’s been drained of its gore and bloodiness. And is this, you know, heroic, heroic story of the union and you get the Second World War. If you were teaching military history in reverse, you would you would go into the Iraq war and you would think, OK, perhaps the first Iraq war was a was a victory, but victory of limited because it was limited in scope. But then you would look at Vietnam and Korea and your more recent memory would be of military action.
S7: That was a failure or was not is not a glowing success with ticker tape parades. And would that change the way you thought of military American military power compared to the narrative of the greatest generation and saving the world for democracy?
S1: Well, I really liked both what David said about the possible disadvantages and that gloss on the sunnier idea of the advantages.
S10: I had another thing I was thinking about this week, watching statues get pulled down around the country. So that is only the history of now in the sense that, like the pulling down of the statues is now.
S1: But one of the things I’m the most interested in is when people understand that history and like, get it either because it’s obvious, like you’re pulling down a Confederate general good riddance, or when they miss the history and thus risk misunderstanding the memorial. So I’m gonna go invoke David Blight again. Oh, what were you gonna say about Ross?
S4: I was gonna say I thought Ross’s piece about Woodrow Wilson at Princeton was brilliant on this. Go ahead.
S1: So you’re talking about Ross Douthat, Ross Douthat.
S10: I will confess that I did not read that, but I was going to invoke David Blight again because he wrote a piece in The Washington Post about the Friedmans memorial in Washington, which really changed my understanding of it. I mean, I had zero understanding of it. And looking at the statue, you see what David Crackly calls this racist image of Lincoln appearing in this very benevolent way to be granting the freedom of this black man who’s looking up at him. In fact, however, it was black people who raised the money for creating this memorial and who saw it as this black person, at least in some ways, emancipating himself like the chains are broken. I think at his feet in the statue.
S1: And then David also talks about how when the statue was unveiled, Frederick Douglass gave a speech and it was this moment of everyone gathering in Washington to hear Douglass, this incredible intellect of his time, give the speech. And then David says that no African-American speaker had ever faced this kind of captive audience of the full government and none would do so again until Barack Obama’s inauguration as president in 2009. That is just crazy. And it totally changed my understanding of the whole memorial. What I wish for, though, and I think David says this is the end of his piece. You want some kind of exhibit on site that conveys the richness and poignancy of that history so that you would not simply looking at this this this statue that seems so racist and troubling as you’re staring at it 100 percent and just on that statue, which we we’ve actually come back to before, because it’s it’s in that speech that Douglass gives the statement about Lincoln that you and I like so much.
S7: Emily, viewed from the genuine abolition grand, Mr. Lincoln seemed tardy, cold, dull and indifferent. But measuring him by the sentiment of his country, a sentiment he was bound to, as a statement statesman to consult. He was swift, zealous, radical and determined, which is a which is my favorite in terms of trying to get at the complexity of any individual in history. But what Douglass did in that speech, too, was he wasn’t sort of buying anybody’s frame on that moment. And so it’s this amazing audience that he has and also his presence of mind and sense of self that he’s able to deliver this amazing speech. But what’s great about having this context for that statue is not only a fuller and complete understanding of the statue and its time, but also reinforces what we’re all pointing at here, which is what’s the proper way to both think about history and use history to get not only a sense of what really actually happened in the moment, but also a sense of the complexities of things than the necessity of context in things, the changing nature of certain ideas, which is itself a kind of second lesson that’s given by interaction with those kinds of monuments. There should be an app that just loads this stuff. The minute you walk near a monument like those apps, you can check out the night sky. You know, you hold it up and it shows you where the not what’s happening with the night sky when you look at it. That’s what there should be for monuments. There we go.
S1: John Dickerson circled around the memorial hack fix to John’s app, Augmented Reality.
S4: I think Jocelin is suggesting becalled real history. Roll Stree. We’ll get rid of all the vowels. All right, Byfleet plus.