What Trump’s Foreign Policy Abuse Cost Us
S1: So today, we have a message for Tulisa Marine and all Americans help is on the way and it is long overdue.
S2: We are able to demonstrate at the end of this chaos that he’s created, that there is a peaceful transfer of power with the competing parties. What I worry about, Jake, more than the impact on the domestic politics, I really worry about the image we’re presenting to the rest of the world.
S3: Hello and welcome to Tramcars Time, Virginia Heffernan. I remember this one finals week in college when I was taking way too many classes and shooting for a double major in English and philosophy with the French minor. Later, I kind of dropped the minor. And just so I don’t sound like a lifelong grind and scholar, I should tell you I was a bust socially at the University of Virginia. So I turned to the only thing left to do in college when you hate the sports and you hate the parties studying. Anyway, I was charging along and all these courses and suddenly I had seven hard finals exams and 13 term papers due in one week. Or at least that’s how I remember it. There was no chance for sleep. It was caffeine all day, every day with high C and Kool-Aid when I needed vitamins. I also remember Starbursts being part of my regime and I felt extreme stress and like hallucinating fatigue. And my spine seemed to splinter as I filled out Bluebox on epistemology and went back to my apple to to write a paper on David Hume or H.G. Wells. Once at 4:00 in the morning, I had such a feeling of mental, physical and spiritual exhaustion that I made a deal with myself. I can remember it exactly, exactly where I was. It was said if this ever ends, if I’m ever in my car driving home for winter break and done with exams, I will never not be grateful and never fail to appreciate the end of this anguish and pain. Amazingly, I kept my promise and I can still call it to mind, especially the tremors from the caffeine and trying to form thoughts about hard things I was having to form thoughts about in the confrontation with the frayed limits of my brain and body. I was also under the conviction at the time that unless I kept pushing myself in this way, I would never be a good person, get A’s and I would fall off the edge of the Earth. So there was that nipping at my heels and the whole thing was the misery I vowed not to forget. Do you see where I’m going? I’m going to Trump during the worst days of this administration when I lay in bed eyes wide open like a cartoon character, terrified that America was gone and that all that was beautiful would be lost forever. And the kids would not just be inevitably deleted in environmental apocalypse, internment camps and mismanaged pandemics, but they’d also be denied the hope that this stupid country is anything but a bunch of greedy jerks like Trump trying to gouge everything out of existence to stuff in their fat, ravenous mouths, gouge out of the earth, gouge out of the Treasury, gouge out of their enemies, then gouge out of their friends, eat it all and die anyway. And if you are miserable now, you’ve got to remember the darkest nights of 2016, 2017, twenty, eighteen and twenty nineteen. And this very year, go back over these nights and go back to that you and inform him or her or them that the screaming of the lambs is over and that particular agony is in the past. The thing you would have been overjoyed to hear that Trump has been voted out as the American president has come to pass, tell that to your younger self and somehow use the magic of the Internet to hand her a newspaper page, a one that says Biden beats Trump and just give her a minute to experience the end of this chapter of horror. Yes, I know there’s plenty of hell ahead. And any time I say something good on this show, everyone reminds me that there’s lots and lots of misery to come. But I don’t want to forget the you and the me that were shivering in our beds after each affront to decency and goodness by Trump and his syndicate. This show on the airwaves as we are a mere six weeks from a Joe Biden presidency, is proof that life is impermanence and that the particular catastrophe of the show was created to Chronicle has come to an end. My guest today is Mika Owyang. She’s a senior vice president for Third Way’s national security program. She’s a contributor at MSNBC. She’s an expert on politics, war, cyber and espionage and has a podcast in the works on this very subject. I’m going to ask her about it in the interview and ask her all kinds of questions that have been brewing in me about foreign policy and national security as we go ahead after Trump. Mika, welcome back to Tramcars. Hi. It’s so good to have you back here. Thanks for having me. And you are in your pro studio suggesting or reminding me that you’ve got a great podcast underway yourself. I want to hear all about it at the end of the episode because I’ve got lots of pressing questions for you first. OK, so we are in wrap up mode because President Trump has now been defeated some thousand times in the 20 presidential election. You and I need to celebrate together a little bit. But I suddenly was wondering actually, let me back up and tell you a story about the the late fighter pilot, Chuck Yeager, who died yesterday of the day before 97. I think this is germane. So ENCOM, Wolfe’s book, The Right Stuff, tells Chuck Yeager as a hero that all the all the fighter pilots and aspiring astronauts are trying to break the speed of sound, but their planes keep kind of going crazy at Mach one. And and they keep some of them, you know, spin erratically into the turn. Some of them spin out of it. They try different pressure things. They push different buttons. And at one point, Chuck Yeager is up there. And as I understand it, he hit his head while he was like losing altitude. And that meant he couldn’t press any buttons. So he just passed out and in doing nothing, came out of the freefall, lived and landed the plane. OK, so it’s sometimes given as an argument for do nothing in an emergency. Now, we’ve just finished a president who after four years did didn’t do nothing. When it comes to your area of expertise, foreign policy and national security, Trump didn’t do nothing. But what he did was so erratic he might as well have been conked on the head. In a macro level, he befriended our enemies and he alienated our allies. And in general, that’s what he’s heavily criticized for by everyone from Jim Mattis to all observers who have brains in their heads. So that’s one thing. But on a micro level, he is policy is completely incoherent. You know, the Republican Party was strongly in favor of the war on terror, he said originally that he wanted to torture people for radical Islamic terrorism. He sort of kept his hands off terrorism mostly, sometimes intervened on behalf of the Kurds, sometimes took some hits in Syria, sometimes didn’t, sometimes seemed like an isolationist. Sometimes I don’t know. I mean, what do you call the foreign policy? He did. What can we learn from it?
S4: And. What do we do now?
S5: Well, that’s a lot of big questions, I don’t know that we’ve got a good name for it, right? It’s certainly chaos, right? It’s chaos. It’s transactional. It’s sort of like, you know, the strongman Mad Men theory, right? Like, I’m going to be so crazy. Don’t mess with me. Yes. Yeah. And and he had to back that up by doing some, like, crazy, erratic things so that people would be like, I don’t know, maybe he is going to go all the way. Who knows? Right. Like, we definitely saw that at the beginning of this year, which is sort of tough to remember now. But we took the nation he took the nation to the brink of war with Iran by assassinating one of his top. Can’t remember. Right. That was January. And like the Iranians, which, you know, when we had a senior person like that assassinated in Franz Ferdinand, it started World War One. And the Iranians were like, oh, I’m not sure what to do here. And like, yeah, because, like, they Trump could have gone nuclear. We don’t know. So, you know, the madman theory kind of paralyzed some people into doing things. But I do think that that sort of erratic stuff sort of too much attention in attention, like it had a mixed bag. And it’s sort of like, you know, your point about Yagur and like not doing anything sometimes works out OK. Yeah. Sometimes the world works out OK for the inattention. And I’m happy to talk about some places where I think Trump’s inattention might have gotten us to a better result.
S3: Tell me those, because that is very counterintuitive for Trump cast. And conversely, only you can only have this conversation now that we he’s been defeated because I don’t want to say I don’t want to do anything to anyone to pursue any Trump ism. Right. Just on our recommendation. But anyway, Mika told me so tell me where his inattention, distraction, neglect.
S5: Yeah. So like where his neglect actually helped. So, like, normally he’s like, I’m the boss. I’m going to tell you what to do. You’re going to do it my way. And that’s really counterproductive. And I think that to a lesser extent, there are a lot of people who perceive America as doing that in certain circumstances around the world. But like and he started out by doing that in North Korea. Right. Like, he was like fire and fury and like, you better do what I say and I’m going to get involved in this and I’m going to negotiate. And then when he realized how hard the negotiations were, he was kind of like, I can’t I’m not actually going to, like, hammer out the details of what a nuclear agreement is going to look like with North Korea. I’m just going to leave it alone. Yeah. And in leaving it alone, he made space for rapprochement between the North Koreans and South Koreans in ways that we hadn’t seen before. Right. The North Koreans and South Koreans had a joint hockey team at the Olympics. There were attempts at trying to reconcile between the Koreans themselves. And I think that there are places where when the U.S. puts itself in the middle of the conversation and tried to make it about themselves, it mutes the voices and possibilities of the other stakeholders in a place to be able to reach solutions and relationships that they can do without us.
S3: They’re amazing. That’s the first time I’ve heard it spelled out that way. And that’s I mean, granted, I’ve been distracted from foreign policy, but I haven’t read foreign affairs in four years. But I but that’s that’s a very, very interesting way of talking about it, is that’s just something that you observe from the outside or where their conversations are in the foreign service about, you know, holy shit, Pyongyang and and Seoul are are talking.
S5: I don’t know that it was deliberate. Right. Because you still had Pompeo running around out there saying we’re pursuing this maximum pressure strategy. We’re trying to get other countries to, like, stick it to North Korea. So I don’t know if it was part of a deliberate strategy to let the two Koreas talk to each other or if it was something that, you know, it just it doesn’t seem on brand for Trump and Pompeo to have done it that way. But it is a consequence of being neglectful that you gave space for some people to work out some things on their own.
S3: It is very interesting because Trump didn’t seem ever to fully take in or take in at all that South Korea is an American ally. And the North Korea, by contrast, is historically an American rival, a hostile foreign power. So by stepping out of that right, by not being a kind of broker that way and making the relationship about, I’m thinking of like, you know, points on a triangle, but making the relationship, everyone has to come through him. Everyone has to come through the United States, the United States. Do we, like you, are not like you. You could put together people who, you know, represent a family, sometimes quite literally, North and South Koreans to establish their own idiom. That’s not about seeking approval or disfavor or threatening the United States. And that is. That is. Very interesting, I mean, I’m just recapitulating what you said, because I’m sort of in awe of its simplicity, I don’t want to say that that’s what should happen everywhere. But forfeiting our moral authority in some ways has got to have upsides for especially for cultural political situations that we’re not very adroit at, that Americans are not very good at handling like Korea.
S5: Yeah. And, you know, I think but the challenge on that is right. Like China will say things like, well, America shouldn’t be involved in Asia because you’re not a Pacific power. And. Right. Like the downside of the neglect is that they’re it’s not like the vacuum. Just create space for everyone to, like, hold hands and get along. There are other powers and other points of view that are trying to assert themselves into that vacuum. And China is the biggest example that they want the U.S. out because the U.S. represents a system that requires accountability from its people. And Xi Jinping, you know, fairly recently passed laws so that there is no more there are no more term limits. There’s no more accountability there. The Chinese people don’t have a right to vote. So they are just you know, we we say they’re under an autocracy that’s not really communist the same way anymore. But they don’t have that accountability cycle that we just got to have in our own elections where we can say we don’t like this way that this is going. We want someone else. Right. They also don’t have the same labor standards that we have. Like we can complain about labor, the U.S., but relative to China and the ways that people live and work, they’re much worse. They don’t have the same environmental standards, drug standards. They don’t have the same commitment to free speech. And so for China. Right. Like being for them to be able to occupy that vacuum means much more restrictions on speech censorship. Right. Putting Chinese interests first. They don’t really care if other countries suppress internal dissent as long as they get financially what they need out of the relationship. Many people on the left criticize the TPP, and I understand the concerns there in the lack of transparency. But the TPP represented a trade agreement and what they thought was a way of working with the other countries in Asia that was trying to bring in some of those American standards on labor environment. It may not have been enough. We can argue about what whether or not it was enough or the right thing. But in the absence of the TPP, which Trump rejected and Hillary rejected, the Chinese have been putting together a trade pact in Asia called Our SAP, which is setting the rules of the road in their model.
S3: Right. Which makes the T makes the TPP look like, you know, some kind of like organic windmill enterprise.
S5: And so, like, I think that there is this question of like, OK, if America withdraws from the world either through intention or neglect. What comes in to fill the space, is that better or worse than what would have happened if we had said this is the way this is the American example that we would like you to join?
S3: The reason that I bring up the Yagur point is that Yagur tried not using the instruments by accident, and it wasn’t like that was a kind of policy decision by him when he was knocked out. And again, this could be a Tom Wolfe fable. I’m not totally sure it happened. But so, I mean, what we have in Trump that we never had before is a president who looked either concussed or asleep or brain damaged while he was kind of to change metaphors, steering the ship of state. And we didn’t have someone so incoherent before. There had been incoherent foreign policy before, but he didn’t feel obliged to kind of stick to make isolationist gestures like he had done with America. First, we knew its focus was on was domestically, but every now and then like so he pulls off this assassination in Iran, which was clearly meant to rival Obama’s and Hillary’s assassination of Osama bin Laden, and then also whined about not getting enough credit for it. But what was that as a policy move? What was that as a provocation to Iran? What are those conversations with Pompeo or with his predecessor, with Tillerson, even like when it comes to I’m going to go to North, I’m going to go to Singapore and meet with Kim Jong un and and and Dennis Rodman will come along for the ride, because my policy following the work of Henry Kissinger and my idea of statecraft is that we need basketball players promoting marijuana, bitcoin side by side with it, with North Korean dictators who have killed their families. I mean, obviously, there’s no philosophy here. But what comes out of having no philosophy?
S5: Right. It’s a little bit like I mean, it’s a little less like Yagur doing nothing because like at the same time, he was totally erratic and doing things in a million different directions. True. It’s a little bit more like a kid who has to grow up with like a parent who’s like, you know, got addiction and bipolar issues, right?
S3: Yes. Yes, it is. Right. Right.
S5: People chaos. It’s like you can’t really rely on things like. And so you learn to figure out a lot of stuff by yourself.
S3: Right. That is Meeka, as usual. You just nailed it because that is exactly what you described in the Koreas. It is so smart. Yes. So just like no one’s really coming to you know, there’s not an EU here, an American EU here building gleaming, you know, centers for Nutrition and Education. So I guess we just got to figure this out. And similarly, there’s no nanny here telling us that we can’t use lead. So let’s hop to it. You know what we wanted to do all along? Yeah. And and that is that’s super interesting.
S5: Right. But like the same time, that kid doesn’t necessarily the kid figures a lot of stuff out by themselves. Is it the best environment to have this, like, chaos in like one day we wear tutus to school, the next day there’s no cereal. Like, no. Yeah, right. But like that that’s not a great environment. But kids like you figure stuff out. Is it better to have a parent not who’s overbearing but who’s like consistently. Right. You pick up your right, pick up your room and do the dishes and make sure you do your homework and eat your vegetables. Right. Like, right. Right. I think that there are better environments.
S3: Right. Do you need a helicopter mom or a tiger mom in charge or do you need or you know or is someone more or less I fair. But the other thing is, just because I think working out this metaphor is very useful actually now that we can catch our breath and there’s not, you know, some imminent disaster, you know, going on abroad with with Trump’s hand on it. I think the suggestion that the US is in loco parentis with the rest of the country, especially a place like Korea, China, like these, are evolved civilizations that hardly need, you know, our resent, understandably, Johnny-Come-Lately America and of course, a president with no experience acting paternalistic in any way toward them. And both left and right seem to agree that the imposition of American cultural standards has backfired many times, whether it’s nation building in Iraq or some of the interventions on behalf of women or lots of the public health initiatives that have backfired, I’m thinking of like those malaria nets that ended up polluting some of the shore African shores rather than eliminating malaria. And, you know, sometimes the story of American intervention is a story of just complete blunders like that. And it’s a chance to reflect on that now that we now that we don’t have either a Condoleezza. Rice or Hillary Clinton telling us this is my policy and this is what’s good for the world.
S5: Yeah, I mean, I think, look, American national security policy and maybe national security policy in any given country, just given the nature of the security sort of philosophies, is is somewhat paternalistic. It’s somewhat like I figured out what to do and like you should do it. And under Trump, you’ve sort of seen that taken to like an absurdist right point of view about like what it should be that and it it works best, I think, when you are listening. Right. Like you’re listening, you’re empathetic. You’re sort of you’re acting with humility and appreciation for shared goals and concerns of the other side, you know, like more like a negotiation or a mediation than, you know, a set of orders. And I think one of the challenges for people who argue that, like American leadership should stop is like we equate American action with military, which does not give credit to the full range of things that America can and should consider doing as it engages in the world. And it mistakes the idea of what happens if America isn’t present on the world stage, because it is true that America is the only country in the world that since its founding has deep within it these assumptions of accountability to the people. And right, that that we regardless of whether or not it was true in the beginning, the stated goals of America were about accountability, about democracy, about speech, about freedom of expression. Not all countries have that right. And there was a lot I think of like you make your own fortune in this world. It’s not decided for you. And that’s not the case in or was not historically the case in Europe, in Asia, which are very different societies. And like we have to think about what it means if we really believe that accountability and self-determination are universal values that we should fight for globally and not necessarily fight for. That implies the military piece of it again. But like stand up for and champion globally. Or we should say, you know, this is us over here. We’re just we’re doing our self-determination, accountability thing and all the rest of you in the world, you do you write like, are we just like are we being champions and evangelists for that? Because if we’re not champions and evangelists for that, like think about what would have happened in South Africa and what it would look like today without American leadership. There are places where it matters a lot.
S3: I think you know, the problem on left and right and I mean the extremes, but not the fringe, you know, Trump fights and Sanders, I say, have decided that the what you say are sort of self-evident universal goods are, in fact, culturally constructed. You know, this far from avocado toast. They’re like affectations. You know, I used to think John Kelly, who we’ve discussed before, you know, when he said torture at Gitmo may not be politically correct, but it gets the job done. I was thinking he means constitutionally correct. He doesn’t mean, you know, that that politically correct and woak and at least dismissive terms that try to make human rights or human or liberties or the Magna Carta seem like an artifact of some particular group or the enlightenment or science, as if, you know, these are like hairstyles and hemlines have managed to reduce these things to a kind of cultural conversation, a culturally relativist conversation that’s like, oh, don’t come forced on us. Your idea that there shouldn’t be illiterate ectomy is in Somalia, right? You know, you with your fancy ideas about the wholeness of female genitalia that just comes from whatever. And, you know, that happened, that slippage happened. I heard at the Doomsday Clock unveiling two years ago, Herbert Lin said one of the greatest threats to the existence of the planet is the death of the Enlightenment. And, you know, we have a lot of people who think the scientific method doesn’t work, that propositions about the world aren’t true, that reason doesn’t exist. And that seems, you know, in some ways to have swept the globe. And that goes to part of the problem of architecting foreign policy is that if we can’t even agree here that that truth is truth, Giuliani disagrees with us, then how are we possibly going to be able ever to agree, get people to agree that like, you know, clean running water is worth having in Myanmar, you know? Right.
S5: And I do think this is something I appreciate that Jake Sullivan, who’s going to be the incoming national security adviser, said it’s like, you know, foreign policy and national security actions are often too distant from people’s lives. And like, we need to think about a foreign policy that matters for the middle class. And I think that’s right. Like, we you know, I’m somebody who sort of sat at that intersection of politics and national security my whole career. And a lot of times the conversation about sort of a post Westphalian world order and international norms feels very like academic and unrelated to what like my next door neighbor is worried about day to day and what could actually disrupt their lives. And like, yeah, there are places where America’s leadership in that matters. Right. And like so I’ve been thinking about this a lot. For example, on my podcast, we’re going to talk a lot about ransomware, which is something that is like sweeping America and like the national security community’s like basically ignoring it as a threat because it’s like not done by Russia or China or they think it’s not done by Russia or China. Not like this is a big problem. But like, I don’t know, it’s not what the Kremlin is doing today or it’s not what al-Qaida is doing today. So, like, that’s somebody else’s problem. But, you know, kids in Baltimore couldn’t go to school because of ransomware and people in Vermont couldn’t get to hospitals because of ransomware. And like that kind of imposition, if it were terrorists standing out front with a gun, we would feel very differently about it. But somebody outside the United States in another country is like disrupting the lives of Americans. But like the national security conversation doesn’t say, hey, this is our problem to fix for America and like we should.
S3: You’re right, this Jake Sullivan thing. And that’s a perfect case in point. Sometimes I think we even as recently as 2016 expected disruptions to the power grid will be one of the main uses of cyber warfare, cyber attacks. And even that might have been more visible and understandable. I mean, we know from past wars what it is to knock out circuitry or highways or you know, and we know what that looks like and Internet interference. You’re right. And that’s what Herbert Lin was talking about, about the Internet. You’re right that that is a vulnerable site, not only a vulnerable place for us, because it’s so consequential to, as you say, ordinary Americans and also so invisible and so hard to hard to wrap your brain around. But it does seem like that is a place for national leadership. And we have all these people in tech who could have worked for the intelligence services but got huge money at Google. And we could have some leadership here if people, like, went back to work for their country. And frankly, and instead of going to Davos.
S5: Right. And like but also. Right. Like it’s part of why I think people. Critique American leadership and American action, because we see it all through this lens of the military riding in on its helicopters to like in order to save the day. And at the end of the day, this ransomware is done by people out to make a buck.
S3: Didn’t, by the way, didn’t trump himself use Apocalypse Now to like didn’t he cite some foreign policy that he had clearly operates in? I mean, I think he was like when they play Bogner anyway. Yeah. So you’re absolutely right. That’s what we know what a war is.
S5: That’s what we know what war is. And that’s what we think should fix our problems overseas. But this problem is not one that should be fixed with like drones dropping bombs on, you know, to talk to bit hackers in like Moldova. This is like the FBI working with Europol to arrest some people. Right. Like how we think about American action, not just through the military lens, which is problematic, but through the full range of things like reinforcing our values of rule of law. Criminal activity is wrong. You shouldn’t hurt people. People deserve self-determination. Right? People should be healthy in the environment. Like there are things that we care about that other countries don’t care about. And like, if we’re not out there advocating for that, we’re sort of in a race to the bottom globally.
S3: You know, we just had Andy Slavitt on the show and he sort of set me straight on the two great sources of optimism in America right now. As miserable as we keep saying we are, I mean, I don’t think there’s ever been like the chance the black and white change that we’re in for, I don’t think we can fully appreciate. One is, of course, that will have a new president and the other is that we’re going to have a vaccine and the vaccine and Andy and he’s the one who let me feel actually optimistic about it, almost triumphalists, like an American triumphalism, like after the polio vaccine. Like I felt patriotic. You know, he was like this this team at Pfizer led, let’s say, let’s face it, by largely by Americans, although the German, Germans, they’re too. But American scientists who made this thing and it is a marvel. It’s not a miracle like the disease is going to lift or use crystals, but it’s a marvel of American ingenuity and and and worldwide ingenuity. And that is the kind of thing that we need to bring to our foreign policy. And in some ways, by disassociating the work on the vaccine from or operation where warp speed from taking it away from Trump and making it a global project, it became in a weird way, a foreign policy initiative because it’s a global disease. And we didn’t treat it as a kind of this is a we’re at war with China now or whatever. Trump would have had us believe. We treated it as a national security issue, but also like world security issue that, you know, no one needs to lose a percentage of their population. And, you know, we’ve done a horrible job, obviously, mitigating the virus, but at least these independent scientists will have a hand in vaccinating the world against it. And that’s something to be proud of.
S5: Yeah, I think there’s a lot that America should be proud of. Right. Like what you were talking about with the Enlightenment and rational thinking scientific method. Like, you know, it’s one of the things that we have to get back to in the U.S. this idea that, like, show me the evidence, we’re going to like America as the laboratory of democracy. We’re going to try stuff. We’re going to see how it goes. We’re going to decide if it’s working or not working, if we want to keep going in that direction or not. And that kind of policymaking requires a certain amount of transparency and commitment to honesty. In fact, in America, the majority of Americans are for that approach. Like, I think it’s easy to get really down on America, but not quite a supermajority. But most Americans voted for Joe Biden. I don’t even know what the numbers are still being counted. And at the end of the day, I don’t think that even the people who voted for Trump or like, you know, universally antiscience. Right. They benefit every day. And so, like, I think it’s important for us to get back to a sense of like, OK, what matters, what can you prove? How do we empower people to live their lives? How do we, you know, not be in a position where we’re just dictating terms to the rest of the world, but listening to them and saying, I hear that and we’re moving forward in the absence of American leadership. Right. The kids are going to figure out how to make dinner by themselves. And like, maybe that means that they’re eating bricks of ramen without cooking them. But like, you know, the they they’re going like, you got to get fed.
S3: Right? Right. I do think that’s interesting. I think periodically you and I have done this, but also everyone has kind of pit and been like, all right. Just to kind of take stock, Trump has represented this kind of constant cortisol spiking machine in the US, but what lasting damage has he done? And a two part question to end this. What lasting damage has he done on the world stage? And second part, what will Biden do to repair it and affirmatively launch a new and actually coherent foreign policy?
S5: A couple of things that Trump has done that are. Really damaging on the world stage know, aside from the obvious breaking of alliances and things like that, the long term damage that Trump has done is that he has laid bare to the rest of the world that you cannot trust America’s word when it makes agreements because the partisan divisions in foreign policy are so big that you might sign a deal with one president and have it reversed the next, you know, within four years by the next president. And that makes it harder for America to solve long term problems if we don’t have consensus domestically about the right way to solve them because the rest of the world would be like, well, why am I signing this agreement with you, especially relative to other countries? When would you sign a promise? They’ll keep the promise. Yeah, that’s that is like a hugely fundamental and problematic consequence, which Joe Biden by himself cannot fix because, like, he could get us back into some agreements, but he can’t promise that his successor will keep those agreements or their successor will keep those agreements. Biden can stop the erratic stuff. He can start rebuilding trust in American government by being not only welcoming and listening, which he is very good at, but also by being more transparent about why America does the things that it does and being more empathetic to the points of view of other countries around the world. And Biden’s team has talked about the importance of depoliticizing intelligence. And I, I think, understands the values of transparency. All of that will be great. But unless he can help enshrine it as a norm in and like. It won’t last, and the other thing that Trump has done that is incredibly damaging is that he shows you how fragile the norms are. Right. So many things that we didn’t ever put in law because we didn’t need to because we trusted that presidents acted in good faith even once we disagreed with security clearances for the president’s family members or divesting of people’s personal financial conflicts, like blackmailing other countries into helping you with your domestic politics. Like we never expected a president would do any of those things. And Biden can stop doing those things. But I don’t know how Biden by himself can prevent a future president from doing those things.
S3: Yeah, I mean, some of that hardening will be need to be done on other levels that can be, you know, need to be done by our beloved deep state, by the administrative state and by Americans, like all of you listening to this podcast right now, like we all have to do this together.
S3: I keep thinking lately because Trump will not clearly congratulate Biden or concede the election or congratulate Biden, but I keep thinking about the little piece of paper signed held up to Trump. Do not congratulate right after Putin had been had been elected, scare quotes for the next, you know, for his own thousand year Reich fake, elected by one hundred percent of the Russian people. And so do not congratulate it was up to him. And you know, Trump barreled ahead and congratulated. But it was it was a reminder that we were once quite cautious about congratulating autocrats on their fake mock elections because it. Right. Because it legitimized them and then, you know, didn’t understand the difference between Taiwan and China early on. Didn’t understand that you’re not going to meet with Kim Jong un, a new, you know, erratic, out of a nuclear power, volatile head of a nuclear power with out terms. Right. Not just like we’re going to, you know. And so those kind of things, some of them seem self-correcting in the sense that these are strategic failures. All right. So, like, if someone’s just acting, as Bennewitz says and Susan Hennessey as an expressive president, if this is some kind of performance art project, then you might not meet your end goals. And it’s also a nice lesson to future presidents that he didn’t get, that he got impeached and be served one term. I mean, it’s not like you have a lot of people saying, got to go do it the way Carter did it because that was such a success, you know?
S5: Yeah. I mean, the danger to me is that, like, it’s not just Trump, right? You haven’t seen the wholesale rejection from the Republican Party of that. Right. The the the vote the other day where they couldn’t even get the inaugural committee and Congress to agree that they should start planning for Biden’s inauguration because the Senate Republican leaders refused to vote. Yes, it’s like the there is a lack of commitment to democratic norms and peaceful transition of power on one side of the aisle, which means that Trump will be that way. And we’ve actually seen signs of this. It’s not just Trump. We saw this actually in the North Carolina gubernatorial race a few years ago where the Republican refused to leave. Yeah, we’ve seen this kind of language from people like Trump will not be the last person who will try extralegal means to hold on to power.
S3: I’ve got to run something by you. And then and then last, I really want to hear about the podcast, but there’s something. So Lindsey Graham said that when Biden is inaugurated that Trump will have so much influence over Republicans that he’ll be something like a shadow president. And there were some appalled conversation. This isn’t the Laura Ingraham. He’ll be a kingmaker on Fox News, but they will have actual influence over policy like at the level of and Republican machinations. And someone said, you know, this is we don’t have shadow figures. That’s a parliamentary system that you have like some crazy Marine Le Pen person who is tugging at the sleeve of, you know, of Macara. You have, you know, all these little private ministers in the Scandinavian countries who are like, you know, saying very radical things on on all sides to to to a president, to a prime minister. So my thought about that is. Maybe that’s how it reads to other countries, maybe we all know that for every Putin, there’s a Navalny nipping at his heels. For every McCrane, there’s Le Pen nipping at his heels. And you always know, because in the U.S., we do a very nice job of sweeping our nut jobs out of sight, like a David Duke, you know. And as David Frum once said about the Republican Party, we usually used to quarantine, you know, those righties like lepers, but maybe basically we aren’t pretending anymore that that voice is gone and that there is a way of of negotiating with a country, knowing that it might be a little. But it has Aquarius rising. You know, something like that. I don’t know. What do you think? I don’t know why. I’m trying to put a good spin on things. I think I’m just happy that Trump was still defeated. So I’m trying to mean it’s all it’s great.
S5: Yeah, right. And it’s sort of like how to write in the return to normal. How do we deal with the fact that he’s still going to be like tweeting and popping off and Republicans are still going to be afraid to like work with Biden because they’re afraid of a Trump tweet, whatever? I mean, I have often thought about this in the context of like other authoritarian regimes, which is that no matter what you do, time brings regime change. Eventually, mortality catches up with everyone and he will not last forever. That’s just a fact. But the damage that he can do on the global stage while that happens is still tremendous. And I think he’s a symptom of something much more fundamental in America, which is that, you know, in the collapse of the middle class in this country, lots of people find themselves adrift economically or culturally, and they are looking for something that rebuilds their sense of pride. And if that means that it’s pride by tearing someone else down or someone who tells them that everything’s fine when it isn’t or whatever it is, like people are looking for all kinds of things. And I think to me, Trump is a sign that there is something really hurting in America today. And like we have to think about how to address that. And I don’t see the Republican Party looking to actually ameliorate the hurt of their voters as opposed to just fanning it for political purposes.
S3: Yeah, I’m not sure where that will lead with foreign policy except to more demands for wall building and deportations and trade wars. But ideally, without the two branches of government not in the hands of the build the wall, deport everyone camp. We will make some progress away from that. That’s my hope. I agree. OK, your podcast, what’s it called and where can listeners tune in to this? Because as you know, we’re in the waning days of tramcars. People need to listen to something. And I know it’s coming up soon.
S5: So we are putting the finishing touches on our podcast, which is called To Catch a Hacker. So good. You cannot listen to it yet because we haven’t released it. But I will let you know when it is released so that you can share it with your listeners via Twitter, etc.. Perfect. And it is a podcast. It’s a true crime podcast about cybercrime and specifically a ransomware attack that occurred four years ago on Donald Trump’s inauguration.
S3: Who so we’re coming up on the inauguration of Trump. And this is the perfect time to look back and see what happened that day with this ransomware thing that, as you say, so consequential and yet so difficult to pass for ordinary people. And so that’s what you are doing with us in to catch a hacker, passing it for us, making it real, surfacing the suspense.
S5: Right. Talking about why these things are hard to solve. You know, it’s the shadowy underbelly of hackers and spies and people on the Internet and Russians and like what is going on here. And so we sort of pull it apart and chase the people down.
S3: Well, that’s excellent, especially if we have a boring presidency ahead. We need a political thriller that reminds us that sometimes Russians and hackers, we’re all in all up in our interaction. Thank you so much for being here, Mika.
S6: Thanks so much for having me. And congratulations on a successful end to Trump cast because we have an end to Trump. Exactly. Thank you. And that’s it for today’s show. What do you think can find us on Twitter? I’m at page eighty eight and the show is at Trump Cast. Our show today was produced by Melissa Kaplan and engineered by Richard Stanislaw. I’m Virginia Heffernan. Thanks for listening to Trump cast.