The Thanksgiving Edition
S1: This ad free podcast is part of your slate plus membership. Enjoy.
S2: Bom bom bom bom bom bom, bom bom. Hello and welcome to the Slate Political Gabfest for November 24th, 2021. Thanks, Ed.. Happy Thanksgiving. Dear listeners, I am David Plotz, the city cast. I’m here in Washington, D.C., where my favorite of all holiday is the only holiday that matters. And I am so thankful to be with my dear ones. Emily Bazelon of the New York Times Magazine and Yale University Law School.
S1: Hello, dear Emily. Hello DoerrDavid. The question, though, is did you bake at the pie? Did your mom
S2: gets the pie? My mom is my mom’s all over it. My mom is that pie 15 and counting, and it’s only Tuesday morning.
S3: Can you remind me again what is the marginal pie? In other words, you got your pecan, your apple, your cranberry, your plum, your rhubarb. But I mean, once you get to 15, are, you know, it’s the
S1: Malcolm better crunch.
S2: There’s that. Well, there’s a there’s there’s a there’s a mocha crunch pie, which is not marginal. That’s the first pie of all the queen of pies. Then there’s five. Then there’s the marginal ones. They’ll be like, I can. I can never remember it. Like, there’s one called like that onto feckin pie, which is some, you know, old old Celtic pie of some sort. Echo Feckin Echo Effect echoed confection.
S3: Oh my god, echo fecund. That was, they’ll be
S2: like a kind of like apricot, some apricot custard pie. Or you’ll be like, Wow, I really did this have to happen? My mother went and got passion fruit from some the Kmart out in way out in Virginia so she could make a passionfruit custard pie. And I just thought, that’s not, oh, she’s not a good use of time, so
S3: she’s got something to draw
S2: flavors. Yeah, yeah. That’s John, Dickerson Dear John, Dickerson of TBE Sunday morning. Hello, John.
S3: Hello, David, I’m I’m going to. I’m going to seek out A. Fucking Perfect or weekend or whatever is my new favorite thing. It’s almost like an investment into American Pie.
S2: It is. It is. It actually does. It does have restorative properties and prophylactic properties. That is true. Well, little, little little explored. But but we will be doing some clinical trials at the Plotz house this week on the Gabfest. Will Joe Biden run for president again and what will happen if he doesn’t, then the Acquittal of Kyle Rittenhouse and its implications for everything. And then we will be joined by our favorite Australian former Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull to talk about the increasing tension between China and the democratic world and what to do about it. Plus, we will have cocktail chatter. John, Dickerson only half of Democrats would prefer Joe Biden as the party’s nominee in 2024, according to a recent poll. Biden turns 79 this past weekend. He’d be 82 at the beginning of a second term, 86 at the end of it. My God. Democrats are already facing a terrible 2022 map, and they are wondering what should happen in 2024. So is there always talk of replacing a president or is this unusual, strong talk and early, strong talk?
S3: I think, well, there are real reasons and political reasons. The real reasons the ones you cited is the oldest. And also, I would add that President Biden is not a visible dynamo in the presidency and in a country where we want, you know, one arm push-ups on the Oval Office carpet. As you know, I have deep and long views about the performance, presidency and utility of that. So I’m not necessarily saying that’s a bad thing. But in a country that that evaluates the presidency, the way we look for the keys under the lamp post, that’s a challenge he gets that people associate with his age. There are also the political problems which are liberals are glum. The prospects are bad for 20 22, and so hobbyists and some elites are in a very speculative mood. So, you know, when people speculate there are, you can speculate about how to run in 2022. You can speculate about Donald Trump and you can speculate about that sitting president. And so it’s always more enjoyable to convey fact a fantasy candidate in 2024 than to deal with what you’ve got to deal with. And also, I should add, since the primary system, you know, became the only way to get to the show in 1960, anyone who has ambitions has to pay attention now because you have to start fashioning your public image and appeal to the various factions of the party if you ever want to have any chance in the primary system. Should Biden choose not to run in 2024? And he said things like I’m going to be a bridge to the next generation, which has made some people think that he was only going to run for one term. So I guess I would add one other thing, which is the Democrats have a lot to talk about other than this, but they kind of aren’t very good at it. And remember all the talk during the pandemic about how people were going to be so concerned with ameliorating the deficiencies that had been highlighted by the pandemic. And that’s all getting done or is about to get done or should be getting done. But instead of having the vigorous conversation about that, everybody’s kind of in the political world anyway. Is wants to, you know, sort of have these conversations.
S2: I can’t decide if a new your categorization, we are hobbyists or elitists for speculating about this.
S3: We are hobbyists. We are elitists who play as hobbyists.
S2: So, yeah. Emily Emily. Clearly, if he runs, he will be the nominee. There will not be a challenge and an internal challenge that would knock him out. That has not happened in a very long time. John, you can tell us when the last time that happened to me would be the
S1: nominees of candidate right Lady Carter
S3: Kennedy. Well, but who won? And that’s the argument. Why there won’t be because it just basically so destroyed Carter.
S2: Yes, as you look at this landscape Emily, do you do you see a world in which he backs out, which he
S1: gives up absent real serious health complications? No, I think he is the nominee. I think that part of it is the expectation that the president will run for a second term, even if he is 79. And part of it is the nervousness about Kamala Harris, and I can’t tell if the nervousness about Harris is just like, baked in. She wasn’t the deftness to politicians before she ran for vice president, but she’s also a black woman. And I think there’s a lot of nervousness about the race and gender element of her candidacy, too, and I’m having a lot of trouble separating those two things. And also just I can’t tell if some of the drama around her is just this inevitable successor in waiting that sometimes we have with vice president stories. But CNN ran a big piece, I think last week that was all about the Biden people’s sniping about her off the record, her people saying she hadn’t been given enough opportunities or they weren’t supporting her enough. There was just like all this underlying tension, and I think that that’s going to add to pressure on President Biden to run again.
S2: I mean, I have no particular interest or joy about Kamala Harris, but does feel like she kind of got hosed. I mean, she’s been handed what immigration and voting reforms, which are just dead end issues right now and what is she supposed to do? But on the other hand, she’s it’s a pretty luster list administration, thank God. And she is pretty lackluster, too. So it’s just it’s it doesn’t seem to me that she’s she’s notably botched. Her job is just to be given an impossible task. And it’s a it’s a pretty, pretty sad, miserable time to be a politician in Washington and. A Democratic politician, especially so, and
S1: immigration in particular, is so divisive and polarizing.
S3: And also, what does it mean to botch the I mean, I’m a broken record, obviously on this, but what does it mean really to botch the job? I mean, the problem that that Kamala Harris is in and the vice president. Sorry, President Biden is in. Yeah. Are that they are? They are the leaders of a party that is frustrated and unsettled and is a itchy coalition that I think Jonathan Chait wrote a great piece surveying the series of challenges in the Democratic Party, which you would expect in a diverse party with mob, with lots of different kinds of people in it undergoing change. And in an America that’s undergoing demographic and and changes and changes in, in or continuing challenges in opportunity. So like you would expect all of this, but it is. The president and vice president are the ones who have to eat that lemon all the time because they are the place a lot of people put their frustrations
S1: plus COVID plus inflation, etc..
S3: Right, right. You know what I thought was the sorry to hijack everything. But one of the most interesting things from the Chait article was the basically the argument that if you’re a quote unquote centrist or quote unquote moderate, or anyone who wants to distinguish yourself from the liberal cultural activists in the party that you have jumped on to economic issues like inflation as a not because you’re actually worried about inflation, but that it’s a signaling device not to show your voters that you’re quote unquote moderate or centrist, but basically to show that you’re not culturally aligned with the cultural forces at the very far left part of the Democratic Party, which I thought was an additional layer of of subtlety. That was an interesting part of that piece.
S2: One of the things that is odd that we are here leading our show with this topic and that everyone is talking about this topic is just it’s pretty clear that nothing could possibly happen on this until after 2020 two anyway. It’s not that, but there’s no chance Biden is in March of 2022 going to be like, You know what, guys? I’m out. There’s just no chance he does that if he decides he’s not going to run. That would happen. Well, after the midterms or at some point after the midterms. I mean, it’s good
S1: to have this Thanksgiving topic. It’s like everyone can have an opinion. It’s very thin on facts. I mean, we are totally guilty of this as well. It’s sort of an easy, cheap topic as opposed to like having to dig in and learn a lot about like exactly what might be wrong with, you know, child care policy and the build back better legislation. It just seems like one of those things that is like an evergreen that it’s going to come around the cycle. There’s going to be a moment where there are some news stories and we latch on to it.
S2: But should we just stop now? I think we should stop. OK, listen, I
S1: can say one more thing if
S2: we could just let’s just end this segment right there, John,. No, no. But seriously. No. Go ahead. John fine.
S3: You know, this is the easiest place to land, but it is one of those things. As Amanda Ripley has written in her book about high conflict. You know, the fight about the crock pot is not about the crock pot. So in some ways, this is not just about Biden’s actual age old, as president knows real reasons. You might be talking about this, but it’s about this other thing. So to the extent that it is a signifier of an unresolved tension in the party, it is both. It can be both frivolous and meaningful because it in a way shows how hard it is for the Democratic Party to deal with this moment of politics and also of policy. I mean, the president has actually done a lot. There is much to talk about that isn’t just, Oh gosh, why is in the build back better plan passed? But I just wonder, I guess the here’s where I finally land and shut up is whether these are the kinds of slightly more high-minded conversations can ever take place anymore, or whether we become so addicted to snacking that we’re just going to constantly snack and never more so when there are complicated, unresolved things that are really hard to to talk through.
S2: Do you guys feel better when you’ve? Like at the end of the day, if you’ve had a day where you’ve snacked and then eaten a sort of less ambitious meal or you haven’t snack and then an ambitious meal, I don’t think it’s I think it’s much of a muchness.
S3: I’m very happy to say this. Are you? Are we talking metaphorically eating here?
S2: I think the literal, literally eating.
S3: Literally. I don’t know that I have an opinion on this question.
S1: I think they’re like snacking can make you feel fine if you actually do it in a limited way. But if you really are just grazing through the whole day, I don’t know. Hmm.
S2: Hmm. OK. I think of you as a non snacker Emily that you’re disciplined, that you don’t snack.
S1: Well, when I used to go to an office, I never snapped, but when I work at my house, I snack.
S2: OK, Slate Plus members get bonus segments on the Gabfest. So many good bonus segments that we’ve been thrown at you, and this week we got a really doozy. I’m really looking forward to this conversation. Malcolm Turnbull, who was the Prime Minister of Australia, is going to talk to us about what it’s like to be prime minister. Not the kind of sexy parts, but the mundane aspects of life. As leader of a country like do you ever get to hang out with your real friends or is the food good things like that? So looking forward to learning about what it’s like to be to run a country from a trivial perspective? So go to Slate.com Flash Gabfest Plus. The Acquittal of Kyle Rittenhouse has prompted an extraordinary outpouring from left and right, from the left rage that the law is so lax and in sentiment that it encourages people to act like vigilantes to carry the most dangerous possible weapons everywhere and then excuses deadly violence when that provocation explodes. And that also treats a young white person differently than it might treat somebody else who did the same thing from the right a celebration of Rittenhouse as a hero who protected his community. It wasn’t his community, but whatever took on lawlessness and did positive good in the world. I personally, and I think Emily was not, but I was really moved by something that David French wrote in The Atlantic. That said, the Acquittal might be a legitimate outcome, but quote an Acquittal does not make a foolish man a hero, a political movement that turns a deadly and ineffective vigilante into a role model as a movement that’s causing more violence and encouraging more young men to recklessly brandished weapons in dangerous places and that will spill more blood in America’s streets. We also, of course, have the backdrop of the Amod Arbery case, which has just gone to the jury as we’re talking, or the jury is now deliberating. In that case, another case involving the murder of people who person to person by by people who were believed they were acting in some sort of protective way. I don’t
S1: know. Well, it’s another instance of vigilante justice gone terribly awry.
S2: So Emily just want to start with it was the Rittenhouse verdict legally legitimate? And if it was, does that mean that the law is wrong?
S1: When I read the jury instructions in the Rittenhouse case, I thought he would be acquitted because there is no duty to retreat in Wisconsin. And if you feel like you are being threatened, you can raise the defense of self-defense and you have the right to use proportionate force. If you think that you could be killed or threatened with grave bodily harm and there is no sort of escape clause or other way of thinking about it, if you’re the one who initially provoked what ends up being your feeling of being attacked. And so I think what ended up happening because of the legal constraints was that all of the focus was on the seconds or minutes right before Rittenhouse killed two people and then wounded someone else by shooting him in the shoulder, as opposed to the sort of if you take the lens back, then you see a 17 year old waving around an assault rifle that he wasn’t trained to use, claiming to have shown up at these protests because of the police shooting of Jacob Blake in Kenosha, Wisconsin. And he said he was there to provide, you know, medical help, but he didn’t have any training. And so when you imagine this kid waving around this gun, it seems like that is a provocation that should somehow at least factor into your claim of self-defense. And it kind of didn’t. And so that’s the part of what David French said that I do agree with. I mean, there is something wrong like, I get why self-defense exists. It’s an important legal protection. On the other hand, there’s something incompatible about waving around an assault rifle in this, you know, very fraught kind of chaotic environment and then not being held at all responsible when two people die and another person is injured.
S3: Do you when you say waving around, do you mean that literally? Or do you mean that because isn’t the key crucial distinction that or the argument French is making is even carrying it strapped on you and not touching it is effectively creating or waving around, in other words, effectively creating a condition of of menace that then provokes the kind of situation that destabilizes the existing law about self-defense.
S1: Yeah, you’re right, John. Thanks. That is a helpful clarification. And I think what what troubles me and I assume a lot of people so much about this is that so the first person who sort of ran toward Rittenhouse, you know, maybe that response was had more to do with that person’s mental condition. But after that, once he has killed someone, the other people who are trying to stop him are presumably doing so to protect the people around them. And the idea that you would be in this position where someone has a gun, they have just shot someone and you’re trying to prevent future harm. But then your death or injury does not create any kind of criminal liability for the person who shot you like. That just seems like it cannot be right.
S3: Then that’s the thing that strikes me when I, you know, look through each of the three who were shot and in the successful case that was made that that Rittenhouse had at least a reasonable person, reasonable person’s view that they were in danger. What struck me is the exchange with grass skirts. The fellow who had a. And he had a permit. It was apparently expired, but anyway, he has a gun and the split second encounter. Keeping in mind the narrative that the NRA has put forward for so long that a good guy with a gun beats a bad guy with a gun goes to your point Emily how it can’t possibly be right. And this is a distinct question from whether, given the rules at the time, the verdict was a quote unquote fair one. How do we have a situation in which two people in the heat of it have to adjudicate who gets to fire and who gets to shoot? I mean, and when you hear the back and forth of what happened, it relied basically on the sorting of two highly amped up people. As David French wrote, public piece thus rests in the snap judgments of untrained men and women in times of extreme stress.
S1: It’s not going to work.
S2: The thing that to me is so weird and perverse about this is if Grosskreutz had shot and killed Rittenhouse, he would not be. He wouldn’t be guilty of a crime, either by the standard right he would have been acting in self-defense for him. So you have a situation where basically anyone, anyone involved in this could commit any act of murder and there was no crime to be had anywhere. And that is it’s bizarre that that we’ve reached that point.
S1: Right. And it’s because we have these rules about self-defense and the idea that you’re supposed to be able to respond if you’re threatened. And then we have created a society in which people are carrying guns. And what I take issue with with David French and other people who are advocates for gun rights is they want to imagine a world in which gun rights translate into responsible use, some responsible, caring and bearing of arms. And I mean, I don’t know when you have more guns than human beings in a country, is that ever really possible? And French makes this distinction that’s important to him between concealed carry, where you have a permit, you have the gun on your person, but other people don’t know you have it an open carry which creates more intimidation because other people see the gun and they react to it. But my concern is that even in a world of concealed carry, the more guns there are, the more people think that someone could be carrying a weapon. The more excuse you have for what you claim to be self-defense. And all you have to do is go back to the George Zimmerman trial. Another Acquittal after Zimmerman killed Trayvon Martin to remember what that was like. Martin didn’t have a gun, but you know, Zimmerman claimed he was under threat. And of course, all of the kind of racial bias and concern about young black men factors into who we see as threatening and why. And I just I can’t help thinking that that the more guns there are out in society, the more we’ve created the underlying conditions for these this misapplication of self-defense law.
S2: Yes, the more guns there are. For sure that is true, but I don’t think it’s I don’t think you can just toss away that distinction between open carry and concealed carry. There is something chilling to a free society at the idea of people walking around carrying guns and not really guns like the kind of people who carry these guns openly are often carrying very powerful guns like a AR 15 style guns. And when people walk around with such things, it is not, does not increases anyone’s liberty. It depresses liberty because people, other people are not able to speak. They’re not able to protest, they’re not able to express themselves because you cannot have free speech when someone else has a loaded gun next to you. It’s just not. It doesn’t work. And it’s truly accelerated and heightened the conflict in this country to have lots of armed people walking around publicly armed in a way that concealed carry is problematic. And I hate it, and I don’t like the proliferation of guns, but it doesn’t have the same chilling effect on people’s right to protest and be out and say the things they want to say and sort of conduct themselves as free citizens that that the people who walk into Arby’s, 10 of them carrying a carrying a AR 15 does have a chilling effect.
S1: I mean, that’s fine. I basically agree. I just think that it is the proliferation of weapons, the idea that people could be armed as well as the weapons that you can actually see that are having this deleterious effect. And basically these cases, these killings are one of the costs of all of the weapons that we have in the country. And I have no idea what to do about this. I mean, I, you know, the efforts to legislate to restrict people’s gun ownership have become politically very difficult. Some states still have them. Those states have shown real benefits, especially in reducing the rate of suicide, but also in gun injuries to other people. And it is entirely possible that the Supreme Court, when it rules on this New York case that we talked about a few weeks ago, is going to make it much harder for states to have those kinds of laws. And it just seems like this country is determined right now to put itself on a. Where there is more danger in situations like that,
S2: right, right? Loading it up like we’re expanding, expand the right to carry a gun, expand the notion of self-defense, expand the notion of stand, stand your ground, get rid of a duty to retreat. It’s like every single day. Every single arrow is pointing in one direction, and it’s terrifying
S3: which which will just invite. The other side to come up fully bristling and with arms so that you’ll have these standoffs and standoffs don’t usually result in, you know. Agreements to meet at the next Thanksgiving and join in a hearty meal together, Emily, can I get your view of the of the actual verdict? You mentioned the 36 page instructions. Do you feel like which of it is it that basically justice was done given the holes that could be poked in the three victims, which was about determining whether Rittenhouse had a right to be afraid? Was it that the instructions were written in a way so that that became inevitable? And and well, I guess that’s that’s enough.
S1: I mean, no, I think the instructions basically accurately reflected Wisconsin law. I think the judge made some decisions along the way in the trial that did not help the prosecution. So you can imagine a possible different outcome. But I’m I mean, look, I’m also someone who doesn’t care very much about retribution in general. So it is horrifying to me that Rittenhouse has become a kind of folk hero to me personally, how long he goes to prison for it. Like, I just that’s not something that moves me. So in that sense, like I can live with the result. I just think there is something deeply wrong with the way our self-defense laws interacting with it’s incompatible. And that’s what really bothers me about the case. I do want to also talk about the Ahmaud Arbery case because in some ways it is. The facts of that case are even more frightening. I mean, you have a black man running through a neighborhood and you have these two three in the end, white men just chasing him, going after him, he is running away from them and they shot and killed him. And it was based on this citizen’s arrest law in Georgia, which I’m glad to say has since been revoked or pulled back because I think state officials were kind of horrified at what it had yielded in this situation. But the vigilantism of this incident is, I don’t know. I know I’m like a white woman. And if I was running around a neighborhood, the chances that it would be me are smaller. But it just seems really scary that you have armed people taking the law into their own hands like this. And you know, that’s a case in which we have this jury that has 11 white people and only one black person in it. There’s been very little mention of race in the story, and yet it seems integral. And if that jury fails to convict, then the sort of opening for vigilante justice that I think we see in the Rittenhouse case becomes ever wider.
S2: We are joined now by our favorite Australian listener, former Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull. Malcolm is in the US. He is making his first visit to the US since the pandemic. So welcome Malcolm and thank you. We’re going to talk not about Australia or the United States. Well, we will talk about the Australia, United States, but about China, because Malcolm you as part of your post, prime ministerial life and your prime ministerial life have been thinking a lot about China and its influence on the world and how countries democratic countries like yours and ours can engage successfully with China. So you gave a really good lecture, the digitally lecture about partially about China a few months ago. Talk about what is the what is the fundamental nature of the conflict between China and the U.S. and Australia these days?
S4: It boils down to a difference in values. China is run by the Communist Party. Obviously, it’s the Communist Party is the government. It’s a Leninist party. It is very authoritarian. We’ve seen that both domestically and, of course, increasingly internationally. The reality is that we all assume that as China became more prosperous as it engaged more with the world, as trade increased, it would liberalize. That was the single biggest assumption underpinning all of the China policies. And of course, it turned out to be wrong. China has in fact become more authoritarian under presidency, so that’s that. That is the big difference. And the reality is we’re not going to change China or very unlikely to other than by perhaps offering a better example. So the important thing is to ensure that China doesn’t change us.
S3: Malcolm Why did we we get that wrong? And tell me who we is? Is this a we like? The West got wrong about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, which is to say it’s a collective failure? Or was it a failure of a narrower group in evaluating China that might still be embedded in our evaluations today and that we might need to correct to see China more clearly?
S4: John, I think it was very widespread, certainly in the United States. Certainly, you know, the Clinton administration, which you know, ushered China into the World Trade Organization, certainly took that view. I think I think it was a combination of learning from past experience of other developing countries that had become more liberal in their economic activities and had become more liberal politically. And also, I think, a very, very big dose of wishful thinking.
S2: Do you think Malcolm, there’s any chance that it’s just too early that it’s still to come? Or do you think, no, this is this is the path that China is on and it’s it’s successful this path. And so this liberalization and openness will not ever come or will not ever come in a reasonable timeline.
S4: Well, look it. It’s to quite Joe in lie. It’s too early to tell. So something, he said when asked about the consequences of the French Revolution. The the the reality is, is this that we we don’t know. Back in the early 90s, when I was doing quite a bit of business in China, in the mining sector, so I was getting out into the countryside, you know, talking to geological bureaus, you know, long way away from Beijing. My view was that China would evolve into more of a federal system. The provinces seemed so big. Any number of them with populations bigger than most European countries, for example. And I thought it would become more diverse, more like a federation. I couldn’t have been more wrong. I think what’s happened is that the technologies that we thought would provide greater freedom and which have the internet in particular has enabled the central government to exert much stronger control. So, you know, who knows what the future holds? But in the meantime, we just have to recognize that we have a different view of the world and different values and that we have to. If you like, understand this, there are boundaries of trust, you know? I mean, I don’t think it’s smart to turn this into a monarchy and Cold War evil empire type of thing. I think that’s that’s wrong. We simply need to say that there are areas in which we can. We will work with China in a constructive, you know, productive relationship. Obviously, climate change is one. We’re all in the same boat, that is to say, on the same planet. But there are others where we have to be more circumspect. And that’s why when I was prime minister, I banned Chinese vendors from participating in 5G in Australia. You know, nothing personal. I wasn’t pointing to a smoking gun. I was pointing to a loaded gun. You just have to hedge your risks and recognise there are boundaries of trust within which you have to operate.
S1: So given? Your estimation of the difference in world view and the fact that China is ginormous and Australia is super important, but not huge. What are the costs to Australia? I mean, what kind of economic tradeoffs are there in trying to distance the country from the Chinese? Are there sanctions that then come into play costs? Or is that something that actually is something that the economic industries are able to deflect? Has that played out?
S4: Look, I think one important point I should make is about language. You know, we talk about China and we talk about Chinese when we’re talking about the Chinese government. But the reality is that there are, you know, well over one and a quarter, maybe one and a half million Australians of Chinese heritage. You couldn’t manage. You may imagine modern Australia without them. You know, the people on in Taiwan, the people who are protesting in Hong Kong are Chinese. You know, their problem is with the government of China, the Communist Party. So we’ve always got to draw that distinction between China’s government and Chinese people of whom, you know, there are, you know, many millions all around the world, including in this country and and in mine in terms of the sanctions. What the Chinese government has sought to do is to make an example of Australia. They thought we were presumptuous and impertinent in objecting to their island building in the South China Sea. They resented the fact that we banned Huawei. They resented the fact that we introduced foreign interference and foreign influence laws that required people who were, you know, working on behalf of foreign governments or foreign political parties to actually put their name on a register didn’t seem to me to be an unreasonable thing to do, but they cut up rough about that. Then when my successor, Scott Morrison, suggested there should be an inquiry into the origins of the virus, they went ballistic was a massive overreaction. So we have had trade sanctions imposed on us, you know, on wine and barley on call for a period on beef. Has it had an impact? Yes, it’s had an impact, but not nearly as big as they thought it would economically. And of course, it’s been completely counterproductive. You know, it’s it’s a little bit have their aggressive foreign policy and the systematic overreaction to any slight or discourtesy, real or imagined only serves to confirm people’s negative views. You know, China is less admired and less trusted around the world now than it was a decade ago. They seem to overlook have overlook the fact that foreign policy and diplomacy should be about winning friends and influencing people, not rubbing people up the wrong way, which is what they’ve done.
S3: Picking up on that Malcolm. I made a claim last week that was based on something officials had told me, and I wonder if it’s connected to what you’re saying or if there’s more subtlety to admit that there was there was a other side of the coin with that, which is that China responded to and was nervous about its image in the globe. That that sensitivity allowed some leverage for the West to say, Hey, if you want to be the kind of nation that you seem to think of yourself as, then you must get in line with the following kinds of behaviours. Is that right? Do do they you’ve you’ve talked about how they overreact in the one way? Are they sensitive in a way that might be useful
S4: in terms of China’s image? Look, they do put a big effort into their image, but it’s it’s a little bit it’s a little bit self-contradictory because the the overreaction, you know, the ferocious counter blasts when anyone says or does something that they regard as being disrespectful is, you know, it looks, it looks, it looks counterproductive. I think it is. But it’s designed to intimidate people. So it’s been designed to say, you know, if you say something that we don’t like, if you criticize us, we will be so ferocious that you will in the future not do so because you say, Oh my God, it’s not worth the, you know, the grief, the storm and and trouble. So the bottom line is, look, whether you’re in the playground, at school or in business or in geopolitics, you can’t give in to bullies because if you give in to bullies, once you just get bullied more.
S3: And then finally, can you just remind people why the South China Sea is such an nervous making a bit of activity for the Chinese? I mean, why the West should care?
S4: Well, the South China Sea is the, you know, the body of water between China, Vietnam, the Philippines, Indonesia and the Malay Peninsula. Broadly speaking, a huge percentage of the world’s trade goes through it. It is of vital significance. There are a series of islands and reefs in it that several nations have claimed. But China most recently has been asserting effectively that the whole South China Sea is theirs and have been asserting claims to our islands and reefs and in fact, building islands there in effect, building unsinkable aircraft carriers in the South China Sea in defiance of international law. In fact, the Philippines, under the previous president, took them to the Court of Arbitration in The Hague, and they lost. China lost and will not abide by that. So this is, you know, this has been bully boy tactics. You know, it’s a it’s a vital strategic area, and you can make the case that the United States and its allies should have done more to stop it happening. You know, five or six, seven years ago,
S1: I mean, American businesses have mostly been very reluctant to stand up to China in that way. There’s this story playing out right now with the professional tennis player Peng Shuai, who has made this MeToo accusation of sexual assault against a very important Chinese official. And I should say the accusations that Shuai made against this powerful Chinese official have been erased from the Chinese internet, and there are questions about whether she is freely able to speak right now. We haven’t heard from her directly. And I can’t tell you whether the international sports community is going to stand up for her or not. It seems like the International Olympic Committee is trying to say, Well, she’s OK. Whereas the WTA, the World Tennis Association has been much more concerned and suggesting that since we’re not hearing from her directly, maybe she is really not OK. And I just wonder if you think that that is a story that might be able to change the dynamic and make international business organizations more brave about standing up to China in situations like this?
S4: Well, it could Emily, but of course it’s the money. China is a gigantic market. And so businesses wanting to protect this position there and and all too often, you know, important principles are compromised for the sake of profit. But, you know, really, we’ve got to decide whether we want to be bullied. And I mean, I mean, if you criticize the, you know, the government of the United States, the typical American reaction would be take a take a ticket. It’s a long queue. You know, everyone’s critics are critical of us. I mean, it’s this indignation designed to intimidate people into not criticizing them.
S2: Malcolm Turnbull is the former prime minister of Australia. He’s also going to join us for a Slate Plus segment shortly. Malcolm Thank you. Thanks. Let us go to cocktail chatter when you’re fretting about China. And wanting to drink away your anxiety about China. Emily, what are you going to be chattering about?
S1: I am reading such a delightful novel right now Cloud Cuckoo Land by Anthony Dore. It is transportive. It has all these different time periods and universes in it. I am assured from the book reviews that they will all breed together in the end, but so far they haven’t, and I’m really happy just following them all separately. So if you’re just looking for a good kind of escapist but literary piece of fiction, I really recommend it. Cloud cuckoo land Anthony Dore, he’s the author also of All the Light We cannot see.
S2: Cloud Cloud books are good at braiding time. Cloud Atlas Braided time clouds. If you have clouds in your title, Cloud Atlas is excellent.
S1: Probably writing Typekit. Part of why I like this book is because I associated with and it’s a little bit cloud atlas like actually? Well, not really, but
S2: a little jade. What is your chatter?
S3: My chatter has been slightly delayed because I made the mistake of trying to read something. I tweeted on The Washington Post through Twitter. And every time I do that, it asks me to subscribe. So I now have seven hundred and thirty four subscription to The Washington Post. My chatter is about a Washington Post story, which you can fight through the thicket to get through. If you try to read it through Twitter, or you can go through some other things like a website anyway. It is about the poor story of Wendy Wine, who was on the lookout for a professional killer that she tried to hire to kill her ex-husband. She tried to hire the professional killer on rent, a hit man dot com, a website called Rent a Hitman dot com, which had a hip hop policy which was not hip, which protects the privacy of medical records, but was the Hitman Information Privacy and Protection Act of 1964. There is no such act. This website, which you would think would only be used by the dumbest among us, has had about 650 to 700 people who have contacted the website and 400 who have filled out the form, which requires giving your name, your email address and your phone number and the owner of this for the owner of this website. 54 year old Northern California man named Bob Innes, who who presented himself as Guido Fanelli, basically turns over people like Wendy, who is now serving nine years in prison to the feds and because they’re dumb enough to try to hire a hitman. But their intention is not blocked by their stupidity because their intention is to actually get people killed anyway. Not exactly a Thanksgiving story, but perhaps one that you can talk about at the at the table instead of whatever other political hobbyist thing you might be talking about.
S2: That is amazing. I saw you tweet that and I just didn’t. I didn’t follow the link, and now I will. But I guess 600 to 700 people the dumbest among us, you know, that’s still that’s still pretty low bottom one percent. But where if you were going to try to hire hitmen, what would you do?
S3: Where would you go?
S2: Where would you go? You don’t want to google it. You don’t want to leave. You want to leave internet breadcrumbs for everybody.
S1: Man, I think most of us would be kind of lost in that moment, actually.
S2: Yeah. Well, if
S1: any of us, I hope many of us would be lost.
S2: And if people who successfully hired a hitman, just email us directly using your real name.
S1: Oh, two. No, don’t do that.
S2: No, this is. I’m doing my own rent to hit, man. I’m Jim and I are a hitman thing.
S1: I got nervous about our liability. Their first
S3: Typekit. OK, Emily for saving my chowder.
S2: Actually, is something somebody sent me a Gabfest listener sent me, which is like, it’s an internet game for Thanksgiving called Thank City to a T and X i e t y. And what it is, it’s just a very simple little thing you you can have on your computer. You just press a button and it cycles and gives you questions to talk about at Thanksgiving that have nothing to do with politics and that are meaningful and nice. And so there are some of them are trivial. Like like, you know, what’s your favorite Thanksgiving recipe of all time? Or what obscure item did you beg your parents to buy you when you were younger? You know, what’s a business that you would you would start if you could start any kind of business? Some are more philosophical like, or some are hypotheticals like you’re in England in the year 1500, you decide to sail to the Americas or stay put. What’s something legal that should be illegal or something illegal that should be legalized? And it’s a bunch of nice questions that that, you know, would be I don’t happen to have a Thanksgiving dinner table, which is fraught, but if I did, this would be nice questions to have. So check out. Thanks, Eddie.
S1: This is the best idea of it is.
S3: But but I want to just say that didn’t I e-mailed you guys early? We can say, you know, we should do our chatters about things that people can talk about that are non-political at their at their Thanksgiving in case they have a fraught family. And so here you’ve done it. He couldn’t have done it even though you ignored me.
S1: And we get to have Malcolm Turnbull in our slate plus. So twofer.
S2: There you
S3: go. Mine was going to be a tweet thread by his name, I think is Zach Podrick, which is his question was what bit of historical perspective gives you an existential crisis? And his was that Harriet Tubman was born in Thomas Jefferson’s lifetime and died in Reagan’s.
S2: Harriet Tubman died while Reagan was alive.
S3: She lived a lifetime. Yeah. She really we that’s that’s really the big one that like this. The other one that people do that with is that the samurai could have sent faxes because apparently fax machine technology existed. Basically, that fax machine technology existed in something like 1848.
S1: OK, but John,, she died in 1913.
S2: OK, well, then Ronald Reagan was alive.
S3: Well, he was alive. OK? Yeah, yeah. Yeah, that’s why I said lifetime twice.
S1: Yeah, fine. That’s all fine. I I got mixed up. I thought we were talking about as president.
S3: Here’s my. Here’s the other one that and then I’ll shut up. France conducted its last state gilet guillotine the year Star Wars was released.
S2: Hmm. There’s many people argue that the guillotine is the most humane form of execution, so I knew you were going to anyway. So listeners, you send us your chatters every week. Please keep them coming by tweeting them to us at at Slate Gabfest and our listener chatter this week comes from Keith Watabayashi and it’s amazing.
S5: Hey, political Gabfest. This is Keith, longtime fan. It’s awesome to be here for cocktails. My chatter is from a Twitter account called Hieronymus Burps, which posted about a wired magazine circa 1997 titled The Long Boom, which was a really big story about the utopia that the internet and tech culture and all the great good things that were happening. We’re going to carry the world and society and humanity into this next great phase where everything would be great. But the thrust of the Twitter post is that there’s one section that says the top 10 things that could derail this boom, and it’s essentially 10 warnings or 10 events that could ruin the long boom. And if you look at that, you might recognize all 10 of those events as modern day news headlines. So check it out in case you need a reminder of the fresh hell we are living in.
S2: It’s amazing when you look at those 10 things, you’re like, Oh my God, you know, lists pandemic at list that the the technological tools are deployed are taken over by dictators who use them for different purposes. It it is. It’s just it’s shocking to see that predictive at a moment of kind of full internet popped animism, optimism, craziness that Wired embodied in the mid-nineties, then predicting, Oh, these are the thing. These are the things could possibly be little bumps on the way to the long boom. And it’s like, Oh yeah, now we are living in this, it’s it’s definitely check it out. That is our show for today. The Gabfest is produced by Jocelyn Frank. A researcher is Bridget Dunlap, but this week a researcher is Shayna Elliot. Thank you Shayna for stepping in this Thanksgiving week. Gabriel Roth is Editorial Director of Slate Audio. June Thomas is managing producer and Alicia Montgomery is the executive producer of Slate Podcast. Please follow us on Twitter at Slate Gabfest and Tweet Chat or to us there for Emily Bazelon and John, Dickerson on David Plotz. Thank you for listening. Have a happy Thanksgiving if you celebrate it and we’re we’re all thankful for you. So we are thankful for you, and we are thankful that we’ll got a chance to talk to you next week. Bye bye. Hello, Slate, plus how are you? Happy Thanksgiving to you, too. So Malcolm Turnbull continues with us here, so Malcolm is a private citizen now, but he was the prime minister of Australia and we, he and I saw each other this week in Washington and Malcolm. You and your wife were delightful on the subject of the house that the Australian prime minister lives in, and it made me think about all the mundane details of life as the leader of a country. And we rarely get a chance to talk really as a never get a chance to talk to someone who is the leader of a country. So we want to ask you mundane questions. So number one, how is the food at summits?
S4: It varies. It generally has a national flavor to it. The few speciality de la région in every summit,
S1: when you’re being the prime minister of a country, do you ever feel like you just get to be your normal self like your normal schlubby self if you are at all schlubby? I mean, are you just constantly on that, having that feeling like when you’re at a conference or a treat or something and you’re moving from one thing to the next and you never just get to like, let your guard down and just like, I don’t know. Yeah, whatever the thing is, that makes you feel completely relaxed.
S4: Well, look, I I got into politics when I was 50, and so I didn’t really have as many politicians do a whole lifetime beforehand of being incredibly self-conscious and sort of manufacturing a persona. So it was too late for me to be anything other than myself. So I think I look, I think I was. I was. I was just I honestly just pretty relaxed. The fundamental fundamental lesson, I think in politics is just to be yourself. I mean, authenticity is key. Now the problem is, if you are or if you are authentically a very unpleasant person, then maybe you should choose a different line of work.
S3: Malcolm. It was once a conversation between David Cameron and Barack Obama. It was caught on a hot mic in which they were both basically saying, you know, their calendars got so much filled up, so much they never had time to think. Did you experience that?
S4: Look, it is a real issue, and I used to say to my staff, Rule one, don’t kill the candidate, right? Because I used to say, If you have me on the road, starting off with a breakfast at seven o’clock and ending with a dinner that finishes at 11 pm, I am not going to be performing at my best. I mean, the critical thing about politics is that particularly political leadership is that firstly, you’re making very important decisions. So you’ve got to be rested. You’ve got to, you know, you’ve got to have your brain operating at top capacity. And secondly, in terms of the performative part of it, you’re showbiz, right? If you go out and do interviews, speeches and stuff, when you’re tired, you will make mistakes and you look tired. All of the, you know, the sort of gaffe slips blunders I’ve made in interviews have always been when I’ve been tired. So you know, you’ve got to get your rest and there is no virtue in working ridiculously long hours because, you know, you’re not some trying to be some kind of, you know, junior lawyer and a big law firm. Try to impress the senior partner. You’ve got to bring the best of your intellect to bear for the people whom you serve. And that means, you know, being in top form.
S2: How often did you get to hang out with your real friends?
S4: Quite a bit. It’s a very good bit of advice was given to me. But what? Before I went into parliament, which was hang on to your friends because you’ll never make any new friends in politics? That’s not entirely true in my case, but it’s almost entirely true.
S2: And you worked, but you were able when you even when you were working your prime minister, you’d be like, Hey, you know, Joe, come on over. Come on over to the lodge tonight. Let’s hang out.
S4: Well, yeah, I didn’t spend a lot of time in Canberra, to be honest, but the people I hung out with in Canberra were all in politics. And a few of them, like, you know, Julie Bishop, Christopher Pyne were both good friends and there were some others. But but most of my, you know, old, long standing friends are in Sydney where where Lucy and I live?
S1: Do you end up just having a ton of interactions with people where they clearly want something from you or are awed by you? Or there’s just that weird awkwardness of trying to a little bit put on a performance where you feel like you have to be super nice, but it’s all very artificial. Or do you get protective from that if you’re prime minister?
S4: Look, Australia is a is a much less deferential country than the United States, you know? I mean, nobody, honestly, hardly anyone ever calls me Mr Turnbull, and I’m 67, you know, even even kids in. I see on the train or the ferry, you know, will come up and say, Hi, Malcolm, so it’s not a we’re not we’re not that differential. And I think Australians are fairly relaxed. And so it’s, you know, I never had I didn’t have that problem.
S3: Did you? Malcolm did you ever feel the opposite end of it? Did you ever feel like your staff or the system around you treated you like a baby?
S4: No, no, no. No, I didn’t. I hope not. They may well have thought if you see, does a baby realise he’s being treated as a baby?
S3: Well, exactly. Very well put.
S4: But but I’ll tell you what the big challenge with with leaders political leaders is that there is a real tendency for people to want to tell you what you want to hear. And and so you’ve got to be very careful to make sure that you find out what people really think, you know. And so you get this problem that often to to achieve high political office, you have to be a very self-confident, Type-A type of personality with great self-belief. You know, the ability to weather all sorts of criticism. And on the other hand, that type of personality often intimidates people. So you’ve got to be if you want to get the good advice, you’ve got to make sure that people feel free to tell you what you are. You know what they think. You know, I remember the fact long before I was in politics, when I was a banker, a client of a big bank, another big bank we were advising said, Got cross with me. And he said, I don’t pay investment bankers to tell me what I don’t want to hear. And I said, Well, fair enough, I said, but telling paying them to tell you what you do want to hear is an even worse investment. And so, you know, that’s that is critically important to make sure that you, you encourage people to speak up. The other thing I’d say is reach down into organisations. If you’re dealing with a civil service department, you know, the top person always wants to be in the meeting with the boss, you know, with the prime minister or the president. There will inevitably be a couple of people two or three levels down who actually know what they’re talking about. And they’re the ones you’ve got to get your staff to find out who they are and make sure they come to the meeting, too. And so let the boss, the senior man or woman have their say and then start to interrogate the people with the knowledge
S2: the I have all the trivial questions. John, Emily have really good questions. But if you were surfing the internet when you were prime minister, would you just use a regular old computer and your own phone? Or did you do something that was anonymized so that if you were being tracked, at least no one would know it with you?
S4: Well, I always assumed I was being tracked, and so I behaved accordingly. I think you’ve got to you’ve got to assume that anything you do online is being tracked. I mean, some applications, you know, end to end encrypted messaging applications like Signal or WhatsApp and others are pretty secure. But if somebody can get a bit of software onto your phone, that’s effectively a key logger. They can, you know, see what you’re reading, doing, writing and receiving.
S3: I got one of the last one Malcolm when you were in the thick of it and it was, you know, on your worst day. Was there? What was your what kept you going, I mean, do you have a story or a saying that you went too quickly? That sort of snapped you out of what I could imagine at times got overwhelming.
S4: Lucy, mostly we’re very we’re a very tight team and we’ve been together for about forty four years. You know, Lucy and I are very close and that and that partnership has, you know, continued through. You know, obviously through love and family and marriage, but also in law, you know, when we were kids, really loose was still in her 20s. We did a huge case the spy catcher trial and, you know, beat the British government in a big sort of espionage free speech case. So we’ve had all of that time together. So I would say Lucy was always my, my rock. But I just say one other thing. Oddly enough, when things got really, really bad and they often do in politics for some reason or another, my heart rate slows down and I become very calm. I don’t I mean, I don’t know why, but it’s must be some, you know, sort of inherent thing, you know, survival instinct. But I do get very, very calm when things are looking really grim, you know, and everyone else is tearing their hair out and they’d say, Why are you so calm? And I don’t really know, but that’s the way I am.
S1: That seems very useful.
S3: Yeah, it you should hook our candidates up to EKGs.
S4: Yeah. Well, I think it’s it is, you know, look, you cannot underestimate the role of psychology in government and the pressure of people in politics and the sheer craziness of it and how it impacts on decision making. You know, the you know, the the people debunk the rational market theory long ago in terms of, you know, the stock market. But the idea that political decision making is inherently rational? Well, you hope it is more or less rational over the over the cycle. But but at individual periods and times, people do crazy things. And that’s because human beings are emotional and and often, you know, you can be making decisions that are momentous and affect millions of people. And in some cases, they can be decisions that cannot easily, if at all, be reversed.
S2: I think Obama had that quality of when things are craziest. He seemed calmest. I don’t know if that’s your experience with him, but that’s what it seems like now.
S4: He was very cool. Another leader who I’d put into that category is President Widodo of Indonesia. Joko Widodo has got it. He’s got a kind of a serene calmness around him. Very, very chilled. Great, you know, very you can imagine how easy it is leading a country as diverse and immense as Indonesia. But yeah, it is. It helps to be. It helps to be calm. It really does. And craziness, I mean, one of John’s lines that I have floated many times is talking about, you know, the right wing news media in the United States, fox in particular and how it’s monetized the market for crazy. Well, you know, this is one of the problems. I think that you’re operating in an environment and news environment in politics nowadays, and that is essentially the the sea you’re swimming in, which is increasingly not how you navigate that without being infected, but is is quite a challenge.
S2: Malcolm Turnbull. Thank you so much. Malcolm It’s great.
S4: Thanks, David. Thank you all.