The “Read My Letter” Edition

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S1: This ad free podcast is part of your slate plus membership. Enjoy.

S2: Hello and welcome to the Slate Political Gabfest for December 19th twenty nineteen, read my letter, Ed.. I am David Plott Battle Obscura. So happy. Me, John and Emily. That is John DICKERSON of CBS 60 Minutes and Emily Bazelon of Yale University Law School and The New York Times Magazine.

S3: We are all together. We are gathered in Skyline Studios in Oakland, California. Hello. It’s so nice to be with you.

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S4: You are so lucky. I love it. I know. It’s really we should do it anyway. Yes, it’s wonderful. So we should seek to make this happen more.

S5: Absolutely. We are together on Wednesday and it’s Wednesday afternoon Eastern. And so the House is still debating the articles of impeachment that they’re considering for the president. So by the time you listen to this, the House may have impeach. The president probably will have impeach the president.

S6: You’ll know the vote count. Joe?

S7: Yeah, we don’t know the vote count because we’re preparing before we have a live show in Oakland tonight. So just heads up that we are talking about events that are ongoing for us, but are history for you. On today’s gabfest, the House impeaches the president. Then what is with the young left’s deep, deep unhappiness with Mayor Pete Boobage Edge? And then what were the most important stories of the year? Actually, we went back and looked and thought about what really happened in 2019 that mattered. And we will tell you what really mattered. We will. Emily’s nodding. We’re gonna do it. Yeah. Plus, we’ll have cocktail chatter. As I said, we’re taping as the impeachment debate is happening. The president will almost certainly be impeached by the end of Wednesday, only the third time in American history that will have happened. Fun fact if you had a baby. On the day Bill Clinton was impeached. Today is the day that that baby would be able to drink legally.

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S6: Wow. Turned 21. That turned 21 on 21 December 19th, 1998.

S7: President Clinton was impeached. And December 18th, President Trump will be impeached. But December 19th, when you listen to this. Right. When he. First birthday.

S1: Yeah. Excellent. So there’s something about the pre-Christmas rush that gets the impeachment forces moving.

S8: Yeah. Why would I start with that?

S7: Why did they. Why are they rushing this through before Christmas?

S9: Well, I have very mixed feelings about the rushing part. And what I mean by that is that the Democrats obviously decided to go ahead based on the evidence they have on and exclusively on the grounds of Trump’s conduct regarding Ukraine. The other choice was to leave this open, see what various court proceedings down the line might bring in terms of additional witness testimony. And then separately from that is this question of having decided to concentrate only on these two articles that are Ukraine related. I think the problem with having held impeachment open was that it would have meant if nothing dramatic emerged in the next several months, then they would just have sort of petered out and the energy behind impeachment would dissipate. But it it does feel like they really narrowed these grounds down a lot.

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S10: Yeah. I wonder if a middle ground could have been could have been reached to achieve the various objectives Democrats were trying to achieve, which is go through the impeachment process, which which surfaced a lot of kind of just the facts, ma’am, testimony about all of the issues, but not enough. Ambassador Bolton didn’t testify. Mick Mulvaney didn’t testify because the president did not want them to testify. And in Bolton’s case, he was going to fight it if it went to the courts. So they made a decision not to wait till the courts decide because that would have taken forever. Could you, Emily, have decided if you were the Democrats, we will impeach on this, but then say we can’t. We’re not going to take. We’re not going to send it to the Senate because we were blocked by the president and not allowed to have these people test.

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S5: Can I say. Answer that. Yes. Well, that is certainly there. There are members of the Democratic left in the House that are proposing that that these articles, impeachment of the impeached impeachment articles, which will be approved, not get sent to the Senate. So no trial starts. Yes. I think that looks that looks weaselly and weird.

S6: You don’t have the curtain Kerger convictions and they’re not going to get a better deal like the Senate on his defense.

S1: Right. It means like we’ve just impugned you and you don’t get to go back.

S6: It looks right. It looks very unfair. Yeah, procedurally due process. And plus, I keep coming back.

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S3: So also, it leaves this thing hanging out unresolved and the polling is not changing in anyone’s favor.

S6: And I think I come back to. Sure, that’s true. Oh, good. Get to that in a second.

S3: But but but before you get to that guess, I want to come back to a point that I think you made last week, John, which was just that you don’t need to investigate and impeach and try him. For his outrageousness and his misbehavior to be in front of the voters, we’re all pretty sure that he’s not going to be removed from office before the election. He may be removed by losing the election. He’s not going to be removed by conviction from the Senate. That is fairly clear now. And and so you. The point is to keep attention on him. And if you’re if you’re trying to get political gain for your Democrat, it’s to have president’s wrongdoing exposed to the American public, because they’re not going to get that. They’re not gonna get this legislative impeachment solution. They’re only going to get sort of a public solution by the election. And Trump does, as you pointed out, Trump does such a good job of of kind of creating outrage and drawing attention to himself. And he will be doing that in March and April and May and June and October. And they don’t need an investigation that’s held open for that to happen.

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S11: And no amount of evidence is going to change anything in the Senate. So if you waited for Boldon or Mulvany or something, it wouldn’t change. It wouldn’t change the nature of the dynamic in the Senate anyway. So. So why wait?

S1: I’m also deeply skeptical that we would really hear from Mulvaney and Bolton before the election, because what has to happen is that trumps this initial posture of blanket immunity. I don’t have to let anyone these like really unlikely and extreme claims he’s making for executive privilege that needs to get litigated through the Supreme Court. And then it comes back, assuming the court does inside with him, which like I’m pretty sure that those extreme claims would not win out. But then it comes back and you have to negotiate all the specifics. And for sure, some of these communications are going to be protected by executive privilege. It doesn’t have zero executive privilege. And that could turn into this long. Yeah, I feel really, really uncertain that we would have gotten any court based resolution before November.

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S7: All right. Let’s. I want to actually go to John’s polling point. So I noted I saw on Twitter somebody else said this. So if I’m wrong, blame Twitter that when President Clinton was impeached in 1998, his approval rating was at its highest point ever. It was at 73 percent.

S4: No, isn’t that amazing? Yes, Chris, that is not true today. It is not true today. And what’s amazing, although. Well, OK, is that a sympathy approval rating?

S10: Well, I haven’t I haven’t looked at the trend. I mean, so first of all, it’s amazing any president serious would ever have an approval rating. I mean, Eisenhower didn’t. So what we think of our modern age of partisanship.

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S6: But but George W. Bush had the post 9/11, George W. Bush and the Iraq war special case.

S10: There was no war that that Clinton was coming back from. There was no rallying around the flag for national security emergency in glutens case. But I was I had to double check that figure when I came across it. That’s not the case with Donald Trump. His his numbers have not massively cratered, but that’s been true of all the things that have challenged his numbers. So they are still historically bad for an approval rating. I think his net favorable is at negative 14.

S1: In the last poll, I saw that his approval is generally in the low 40s, right?

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S10: Mid for low, mid 40s. What I was interested in is the Washington Post poll that had a question about should the president should his. Should he let his people testify? And sixty four percent of Republicans said, yes, they should let them testify. I thought, wow, that’s really high for Republicans. And then. And so I posted that on on the Twitter machine. And Chris Hayes pointed out that that’s probably very likely that there are a number that Republicans who think he should let them testify because it will be exculpatory. And I went looked inside the post numbers and indeed, the two segments he would that are most pro-Trump in that are conservatives, self-identified conservatives and white non-college. And those are the two groups with who have the highest percentage in the close to 70 percent who want the aides to testify. So it’s a reminder that numbers don’t always show you what they write.

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S7: I mean, they’re not.

S10: So that the implication of that is what is that that those who are most in support of Donald Trump, who most think it’s wrong for him to be impeached, want. Mulvaney and Bolten to testify because they think they will get up on the stand and say the president did nothing wrong.

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S1: I wonder what they make of the fact that it is, in fact, the president who is blocking their testimony. Perhaps that reality hasn’t quite sunk in. I don’t know.

S10: I don’t know. Not there. But I think it’s still the case that a majority of the country hour a plurality excuse me, a plurality is in favor of impeachment. It’s not by a huge margin, but it’s still a plurality. Emily, not the case in Clinton’s case at all.

S7: Emily, the Senate trial we’re getting sniffs about what it’s gonna be and it is clearly shaping up to be brief and superficial. Mitch McConnell has said it’s gonna be fast. It’s gonna be in January. There will not be witnesses or maybe he hasn’t said that. But that’s the word that leaks out of the McConnell camp. Republicans have rejected Minority Leader Schumer’s proposal that witnesses be called politically Mulvaney and Bolton and a couple of their aides. They won’t have heard from the key people. So it is a truism that it can’t be good for everybody. For the trial to be short and without evidence. But I’m not sure that it’s actually better for Republicans and Democrats that the trial be shorter, may be good for Democrats. Maybe that McConnell is in fact, making a bad choice. If his goal is to advance the political.

S1: And why is it bad for Democrats? Because it was long.

S6: It would seem more distracting and would seem more of a drag.

S5: And yet it would just it wouldn’t they wouldn’t still wouldn’t win at the end. It would be distracting and be confusing. The public is kind of like, let’s keep going forward.

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S10: Right. And there would be no new fact. So it would just be like constipation for months.

S1: Well, also, there is this specter of calling Joe Biden or Hunter Biden and trying to basically turn the tables and make this proceeding about their wrongdoing alleged. And McConnell does not seem to be planning on that. Yeah, I think McConnell is making the safe choice, the kind of long odds choice. I would do it. He was doing if I was him, because you just if you let it mushroom, you don’t. You could lose control over it pretty quickly. He does have to get 51 votes to approve calling witnesses. I assume that’s not going to be a problem for him and that people are basically going to go along. There are some interesting to prove Domme calling witnesses. Yeah. Leahy needs 51 Republicans on board for the major procedural moves he makes. As I understand it, you know, people like Susan Collins, Mitt Romney. You might imagine could have some doubts about some aspects of trying to really truncate this proceeding. And for Collins impeachments, pretty popular in Maine the last time I looked. And she’s not popular. So that would seem to have some electoral implications for her in particular. But that’s only one person. It just seems so unlikely that enough Republicans are going to see it in their political interest. And look, frankly, when you see that Republican voters have they have not budged on impeachment. I looked at this last week and they started it September 24th when the hearing started. They had 9.7 percent approval rating for impeachment. And now I think it’s at 9.4.

S4: Right. That’s huge. Can I. Can we talk about the letter the president wrote? Yes. Funston, NC politely, Letha, because I think prize. And while I thought it was a masterstroke on the president’s part.

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S10: Yes. So when it first came out, many, many people said this is completely unhinged, ithad. It was basically like a rally, but in a letter. Right.

S4: So it had all of the disconnect making line exclamation points.

S12: Lots of deliberate falsehoods told with for the purpose of misleading people. Lots of deliberate falsehoods told for the purposes of confusing people. All of the kind of bags of tricks were all collected, all collected in one special gift package for the holiday season. And a lot of people like this is bonkers. Oh my God. It’s evidence that he should be impeached for me. Would it read like was a read like a rally in in the in letter form? And so what’s the purpose of those rallies? It’s to keep the Republican based on his side. But more to the point, it’s to first disseminate the information which was disseminated, as everybody said, oh, my gosh, the letter so crazy. President says, thank you very much now. Twice as many people know about it. Second thing is any senator who is wavering now has constituents in his state who have been informed by this letter. If it had been a dry discussion of the legal points, they would not be enraged. They are now enraged. And so he has put more adhesion between and, you know, he and the Republican senators are more stuck together as a result of that letter than if it had been an actual legal letter, which apparently his lawyers didn’t look at until it was done.

S1: I totally agree. And the other thing I thought was really well-crafted about it is there is falsity and wild exaggeration in it. But you have to know something to know what’s false and misleading. It’s really very canny, I think, in taking quotes out of context, making various moves like once you see the fact-checked version of it that’s up on The New York Times website, you can see through it. But you have to read it through that filter. If you just repeat it verbatim, it seems like he’s got a bunch of really good points.

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S10: And and we should say that none of us in discussing it in this way are for a second. Trying to normalize what it is, which is an abrogation of the duties of the office, which are to have some respect for truth and for the process and for your role in the constitutional system. So all of those things are are confronted by this letter and it breaks with all of those traditions and it breaks with honest and good doing. But as a political matter, it’s quite effective.

S1: Well, I think the fact that we’re actually responding to the theater of it means that in some ways this is a really successful breaking of norms. Right. Like if you. And both admire the political craft of it and then say, well, wait a second. Like the wait a second becomes less powerful.

S12: Well, let me ask you this question. If it’s a court of law, let’s say Johnnie Cochran, when he defended O.J. Simpson, you know, he said if it doesn’t fit, you must acquit. Right. He used rhyme to bring it up, down. And one thing that was very clever. Right. It wasn’t great legal genius citing previous case law, blah, blah, blah. So in defense of of your client, theatricality sometimes is a big deal. It’s not within the normal lines, but it does get the guy off the hook. So it’s heartfelt, consistent with that, which is not you know, which is not just about politics. It’s a way court courts work, too.

S5: All right. Let’s finish up with this point. My point. So between the impeachment of Andrew Johnson and the impeachment. Well, Richard Nixon was not a peach, but would have been impeached on an account that was an empty resignation is ninety two years. It’s an order between Nixon’s resignation and the Clinton impeachment, 24 years ‘tween. The Clinton impeachment today is 21 years. How long until there’s another impeachment? I say it. We will not get another 10 years without impeachment.

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S1: Oh, really? I hope you’re wrong. So, I mean, I find unnerving the argument that we are on our way to normalizing impeachment. That’s going to just become another tool in the toolbox. I take comfort in the fact that if you were going to make that argument, I feel like the Clinton impeachment was a more powerful example, because though wrong, doing the, you know, perjury or alleged perjury by Bill Clinton had to do with his private conduct because of his high approval rating at the time. They’re just factors about that proceeding that seemed more specific and more trivializing of the procedure that the process couldn’t we. That’s a good point.

S10: Sure. I you know, remember that before this impeachment, the conventional wisdom was if you go impeaching a president, it’s dead disaster for you because you remember, you know, how it basically led to the losses in 1998, despite Newt Gingrich’s predictions that Republicans would pick up seats. And then when he was wrong about Republicans picking up seat seats in an impeachment, not being a problem, he was then booted basically out of his out of the speakership. So it was seen as toxic. So in this case, if the conventional wisdom it’s going to is that it’s maybe going to be get easier, maybe we should just say, actually, no, it won’t. Also, this this affects the case here. So, so different. The president is is very unpopular and super unpopular relative to how well the economy is doing. So, yes, it’s a special case.

S7: Withdrawn, Mayor Pete, or as he is now hashtagged and never Pete has become a strange bugaboo to a set of voters. Are those voters Republicans who don’t like a Democrat? No, they’re not. Are they homophobes who don’t want a gay candidate? They are not. Are they old people who are grumpy at a young, successful presidential kind of? No, they are young white progressives, people who are not unlike Mayor Pete himself. And they’re agitated at the prospect of Pete Boobage topping Bernie Sanders or topping Elizabeth Warren to become the Democratic nominee. So, Emily, where do this backlash against Bridgette’s come from? What is its source? Why now?

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S1: I mean, it seems like it’s sort of the liberal Twitter, liberal millennial Twitter. As far as I can tell. I mean, I just can’t tell how extensive it is or if it’s just loud, which is true about everything.

S13: And I.

S1: So I guess the what I can understand about it is this feeling of like, who is this guy? Especially, I think if he’s sort of a peer of yours, you might be more irritated by that. Right. Like mayor of fourth largest city in Indiana, not someone who in previous elections would be top tier presidential material. And then I think for people on the left, there’s the sense that but Adjudge is moderating his positions, is positioning himself as an alternative to Biden. And they don’t want that wing of the party to triumph. Whether it’s the old version or the young version. And so they’re going after him for that reason.

S10: I think everything that Emily says is right. Derek Thompson, I thought, wrote a great piece in the Atlantic kind of going through the four reasons. Just it was really wonderful and I recommend it to everybody to read it. But I just picking up on your point, Emily. So he embodies a certain kind of behavior they don’t like and he embodies a certain kind of politics. And if the central debate for me has always been in the Democratic race, you know, do we go bold because that’s the only way we’re going to win. Then he is it symptomatic of the triangulation of the Clinton years? But without. Well, which they never liked, even when Bill Clinton was winning.

S4: And it is not even a senator. Right. Right. Well, and I meant even Bill Clinton. They didn’t like his triangulation. And he came in. I’m not even a governor.

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S12: He’s kind of been a governor. And so it means even if he wins, as bad as Donald Trump may be, it means that he’s going to win by having Santa kind of moderate signal, which means that the results will be inevitably moderate.

S14: But why does he get that vitriol? And Joe Biden, who is what much more likely to defeat Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders, to name the two most progressive candidates does not get that vitriol from the TV content because beauty judges and riding rising in the polls.

S1: And it’s kind of his turn to take a beating in that just sort of like cycle of campaigns and which, like you, no one really notices you and you’re on the rise and you’re like the new flavor of the month. And then the press starts taking some whacks at you and people start finding you worth irritation. I think that’s the cycle only could come out of the cycle and the judge could still have a good poll numbers. He could still win Iowa.

S12: And I think back to Emily’s point, as he’s doing in real time what they don’t like, which is slightly tweaking his positions, kind of being all things to all people.

S1: And the McKinsey background is getting more attention in a way that, if you’re on the left, starts to seem disappointing. Right. McKinsey is tarnished right now based on news reporting about its government contracts, its work abroad, deservedly tarnished. I would argue it’s not a great moment to be like, hey, look at me, I’m a former management consultant.

S7: I mean, there is this quality of him being in. Derek Thompson gets it, this traitor to a generation that his generation is a generation that seeks to upend a system. And it’s a system that he in, you know, so join so avidly. You know, it’s a as a as a soldier, as a Rhodes Scholar, Ivy League graduate. You know, he’s somebody who believed in that system. The millennial grind is an unattractive type, I guess.

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S9: He’s sort of an old soul. Well, anyway, that might get annoying if you’re his age. Not that I can imagine such a thing.

S3: Do you remember there was this line about Al Gore which stuck to him that he was an old person’s idea of a young person?

S6: Michael Kinsley came up with that line that Mike. I think I now gonna stick that onto people. Well, pick up some of that same quote.

S10: Yeah, I had this feeling as I was reading the pieces about this phenomenon. I had this it just kind of immediately hit me, which is how my daughter reacts when my wife tells her she’s well, she should wear a coat when it’s cold outside, which is Bhuta judges the olds version of what you youngsters should be like and should and and should like for the party. I mean, because this is the debate about what’s gonna be successful for the party, and that gets to this question of where is the election going to take place? And if it’s really about hundred thousand votes in eight states, the pro booted JEJ argument is those hundred thousand votes in those more conservative states are places he can play and Bernie and Elizabeth Warren.

S1: But I mean, the biggest difference to me between Jim Biden is one of them has the support of African-American voters. One of them does not always African-American voters matter. And those dates, they matter at large.

S7: Right. That this is the Twitter objections to bridges are not nearly as important to the fact that he cannot so far as attract anybody.

S12: Now, play that out for me, though. Why does that matter?

S1: Why do black voters matter? Well, no matter because they’re in there such a loyal heart and soul component of the party, and they matter because they’re depress turnout in places like Detroit were, you know, dizzily torrio in North Carolina.

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S8: That’s the positive. The reason I ask that you’re the lawyer.

S10: The reason I ask that question is that a lot of what the Democratic Party is going through, the the Republican Party went through. And so people would say, but wait a minute, where are diehard, you know, religious voters going to go if they they’re not going to black a vote for Hillary Clinton. They have their baok so they can stay home. Now, here’s the argument that’s interesting to me about African-Americans is what have they heard about Donald Trump from all of the leaders of the Democratic Party, which is that he’s a stone cold racist. So is it the case that they wouldn’t turn out if if that were if that were so that I’m interested in how that plays out?

S6: This is a big question. It’s a really it’s a risky thing.

S1: You have a sense that Trump is a threat because of racism and still want your the alternative to feel like they’re really your person. Right. And I think that’s what’s lacking with boudica.

S10: Yeah. Yeah. Yeah, yeah. No, I totally get that. I’m just wondering if your choice in the end of the day is between Donald Trump and Pete Pudi, judge and ID and Donald Trump has been associated by your party for months and months and months with this attack on your identity.

S1: Maybe you come out in the same numbers, maybe you know, but but you a small dip is a big deal and maybe shirkers stay home. And, you know, people feel like voting is futile for reasonable reasons. Right. Like they feel like their lives aren’t changing enough, that things haven’t improved. It’s hard to motivate total vote.

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S10: And such is why you usually try and get people to vote on identity grounds, because then they’re voting for it as a piece of personal agency, not having to do with the presidency necessarily. But how dare you try and take this away from me? And I guess what I’m wondering then is really whether the constant drumbeat from Democrats about the president being a racist is actually not that powerful or maybe it’s not enough.

S5: Yeah, I want to finish on another question I have about being a judge. One of the things that I think distinguishes him, particularly in the field from. Certainly from Sanders and Biden, he is preternaturally calm, his calmness is really striking when you listen to him talk and you just watch him interact with people, it’s it’s kind of astonishing. Is that a strength or weakness? I mean, I think it’s clearly it’s a characterological strength in general. But as a politician, is that calmness help him or hurt him?

S1: I think in many moments it helps. And. On the debate stage, it’s been a strength. But when you watch the footage of him dealing with people are unhappy with him in South Bend in the black community, it became a weakness. It was so cerebral. He seemed a little robotic in that setting. And if you think of the part of the president where you want someone in a difficult moment to kind of come through for the nation and embody, you know, like a big we’ve had this with these terrible mass shootings, you want someone who feels like they’re giving you heart and some emotional centering. I wonder he probably would be able to figure out how to do it. I don’t think it’s like impossible to generate that. But he doesn’t seem to be natural at that part of the job.

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S10: What’s interesting is, you know, that was the charge against Obama, a little bit too cerebral to Spock like. I think for the eulogising part of the of the job where you are the consoler in chief. I think he could do that. It would be, you know, in the tradition of Clinton’s eulogies and and Obama’s and Reagan’s when everything goes to hell.

S12: I think the communist is good where it doesn’t.

S10: And what’s an important part of the job is you need to be a little crazy in the job and relentless about your ideas and crazy when everybody saying, no, you can’t do that. You have to put grind the screw driver in regardless of everybody telling you it’s going to blow up the machine because as you only way you get the machine to work and so does he have that quality. And that’s what people argue. I think with Sanders and Warm, which is, you know, stop telling me about how this isn’t going to work. They are going to be so have the courage of their convictions coming out of every pore and somehow they’re gonna make away. I don’t you know, we can ask a question whether that really is the way things work or not. But he hasn’t shown that yet. And that’s the way you get to the extent you get anything done. You get you get it done.

S5: Slate plus members, you know who you are. You get bonus segments on the gabfest and other Slate podcasts and today’s Slate Plus segment, real special one, very special slate plus segment. We’re going to read you poetry. Actually, I’m not going to be poetry when I read something else. But we’re gonna read to you some favorite passages of ours were poems of ours. You go to Slate.com, Flush Gabfests plus to become a member today. If you look back at the year 2013, the end of year, we’re all looking back. What happened? What are the big stories? What do we miss? What are the most important things that happened? So we’re gonna try to do that. We now have the perspective of the year. There’ve been there were tons of different stories. Amazing things happen this year, some of which were really important, some of which were trivial. And I’m I’m interested in us having a conversation about when we look back when each of us looks back. What are the things that stick out most as really representing big themes of history or big themes of what’s happening in the world?

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S14: And I mean, I have I have for myself. But oh, my God, you wait for I have four. All right. But but I’m looking elsewhere for Emily. Why don’t you start? Yeah.

S8: So to take a step back, like really to 20000 feet, I feel like the big question, people go to forty thousand thirty five, 20000 feet high, very low plane that you will. It’s very they try to get higher than that. You’re not really above the weather.

S13: I don’t know what I just portrayed about myself. I’m skipping the treetops if you want real perspective.

S9: Astronaut David, if you take a step back, that to me, the biggest issues in the world, which are not just this year, maybe there are like of the decade, are the intersection between immigration and climate change and how mass migration, which I think we’ve only are just beginning to imagine is going to affect how countries see themselves, how people feel about citizenship and about the way the world’s population is presumably going to move. So with that as my own backdrop, the stories that we’re about, both how immigrants are moving their reception in the United States, you know, in particular are a family separation policy, the distress about that. But then in the end, we haven’t really walked that back. We’ve basically the Trump administration has really tried with some blocking from the courts to move the country away from a traditional understanding of asylum. And then I think you also see in Europe a lot of nervousness and reaction to immigrants that we’re gonna continue to trace their own is going to matter. And I will stop there, though. I have other ideas as well.

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S7: So I think they’re one of the things we saw and we talked about it in segments about the chaos voters. We talked about it in just throughout impeachment, talking about the influence of Fox News on the White House, talking about with Brexit, talking about it with Israel. Is this phenomenon of.

S3: The chaos voters and the polarization and the loss of effectiveness and coherence in political systems and the loss of effectiveness and coherence in the U.S. political system. It’s complete polarization, which again we see in the impeachment we just talked about and the development of totally separate narratives that people have. We see that in the United States. We see it in Great Britain with Brexit. We see it in Europe. We see it in in India. We see see that as a piece of it. In India, sort of this nationalism and tribalism, separate narratives and a kind of loss of faith in the basic democratic political systems that have developed in many countries. And that’s that to me seems to be the big one of the big real themes of the year.

S11: So mine was one of those, although they’re connected because the liberal order that used to care about refugees and migrants was kept in part by the United States or other democracies who believe that. And you remember when Theresa May and President Trump had that joint press conference together and there was a question about migrants and immigration. And she referred back to our values. And she meant the, you know, the kind of liberal Western order. Freedom House does a survey every year about the march of democracy. And it is at its third. It is at its lowest point in a decline of the last 13 years. So it continues to go down. And it’s not just in fledgling democracies or, you know, countries that were struggling with it, but in the main old timey actors known no actor larger than the United States, which used to feel it was invested in. And it’s amazing when you go back and read Ronald Reagan’s speech to the British parliament. It was invested in promoting democracy, not like promoting democracy in countries like Afghanistan and Iraq and the Bush project, but just the idea of doing everything you can to foster freedom and democracy because it was healthy on it on its own terms and that that’s going away.

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S1: One thing, this Segways, too, I think, is the sense in the United States and in some other countries, among white people, especially less educated white people, that their status, their lives are shrinking, that their sense of decline, that we actually have statistics in the United States that life span is declining for this particular group. That’s a big thing. Opioid crisis is linked to this, this just sense of loss of power, the the fear that immigrants are coming and taking things from you, that it was one thing to live in a country where there were like some people of color. But now in the next, you know, 50 years, we’re gonna be asking white Americans to really give up their majority status in this country without violence and without trying to cling to it so desperately that they destroy the democratic order. And that, I don’t think is a phenomenon we’ve really seen a country accomplish. So when you think of it in those terms, I don’t mean to excuse the racism that the sense of threat can engender and perpetuate, but in some ways it’s a tall order and I feel like we are seeing these symptoms of it.

S11: You mean it’s a tall order to manage how to be a leader or how to have a government that works when diversity is happening and changing so fast?

S1: Yeah. I mean, when you were quoting Reagan a minute ago, I was thinking that he was speaking to a kind of largely white country in which people had, you know, America’s always had heterogeneity. It’s one of our most celebrated facets. I totally believe that we are stronger for all our immigrants. But I think for a lot of white Americans, there was a more sense of social fabric and commonality then than they feel now.

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S10: Well, that’s right. I mean, one of the challenges for our presidents and our next one who have whether it’s in four or eight in four years or one year, is is to live in a world of all of the diversity that’s happening in America, how to manage it. And at both in terms of policy, but then also in how to talk about it. And this is one of the obviously big debates with Donald Trump, is that he is his he’s not as interested in how to manage it. He’s interested in using it successfully, which when I said to Bob Corker when he was leaving the Senate and I’ve said this a few times in the interviews for the book, I’ve I’ve said, you mean, you know, like you think that’s what he does. And everybody looks at me like I’m crazy. They’re like that. He says that’s what he does. You know, in other words, driving those divisions as a way to win political power.

S5: Let’s move on to other themes of the year. So I want to identify another theme that I saw this year, and that is that I think we are in the middle of a period of enormous that if you look back at 1968, 1969, late 60s, early 70s, it was a period of mass protest chaos, political instability, which I think people recognized at the time. I think we are in the middle of that. We haven’t quite recognized it. I would say we haven’t had the same level of rioting. But this year we had the proud boys in Portland. We had these political mass shootings like the El Paso mass murder, the mass shootings in Jersey City, the three blocks in a guy you think might have been an 18. But. But it’s all it’s linked. It’s a theme that I think we’re in it. Think there is this one thing I see in this year is that that there is this political instability, political chaos, fear that is that is pervading the country. And I think it’s just gonna get worse. So that’s another theme that I saw this year.

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S10: This isn’t a theme, but it is. The Afghanistan papers are something that we talked about last week, but that are the more you read them and the more you look at all the decision making that went into them that still exists and all the mind, it’s it’s a story that just everybody blew past and that everybody should spend a lot more time thinking about.

S1: I want to bring up I think this is the year that the country and perhaps the world finally realized that the promises of social media companies and technology companies in general that they’re making the world better is just hollow and in a lot of cases just completely wrong. And there was just much more willingness to reckon with the bad consequences of Facebook and YouTube and and even Amazon, which I think is like a really healthy, good development that we’re really thinking in a more complex way about the implications of what these companies do.

S10: Do you think you’ll look back at social media in Teekay number of years the way you did your heaviest period of drinking in high school or college and think like, man, I can’t believe it. I used to do shots of liquor and, you know, and then at midnight. Thought that was a good idea. And you just feel so distant and so dissipated and harmful.

S1: I mean, I kind of hope we think about that, because then it would mean that like tweets, we’re not driving television coverage and people’s awareness in a way that I think has been so problematic. Right. It’s not. I mean, there are so many different facets to this. One is the way in which governments have figured out how to manipulate social media in a way that perpetuates disinformation campaigns and makes elections less fair. That’s like a big problem in itself. Then there is the link between social media and legacy media and the way in which someone’s tweeting will drive television coverage. Super lazy way of going about covering anything much to look at what’s happening on Twitter implicitly and explicitly.

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S4: Yeah. In other words, they will literally say, I saw this on Twitter and know and the president knows it that uses that and uses it brilliantly, brilliantly from the Senate, from the sort of Machiavellian sense there.

S1: All the privacy implications. Right. Which are with us all the time as well and are another kind of theme. And people have consumers have not figured out a way to really mobilize and fight back. It’s been too confusing, too unclear what’s really at stake. But I hope that there a Ryan rising awareness about all of those problems.

S7: I have one more theme, which is I think this was the year that we recognized there’s been great concern about the Trump presidency from lots of different quarters. This is the year I think we realized the way in which his undermining the institutions of government for his own corrupt and personal purposes is so dangerous. And I think we look at this with the the entire Ukraine issue with one Bill Barr’s emergence and the use of Bill Barr to take the weaponry of the justice system and apply it in sinister ways. The National Emergency Declaration to build the wall. There was this year the purge of the Homeland Security Department, the census case. These are all examples where the kind of basic the attacks on the State Department, on the on the ambassadors, these are all cases where the institution of government, which we’ve been relied on, the kind of steadiness of that is being eroded and very strongly by President Trump. But I think that this is a year we really saw a ton of that and it’s been possible.

S15: I think there are different categories of that. I think the wall I think you could argue the wall and going around specific congressional intent on the wall, separate part from Ukraine, which was also a denial of specific congressional intent and a law he signed.

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S10: But I think the wall in for me is in a category of this. What I campaigned on, this is what I was voted for and use. I’m in a push, the executive branch. Absolutely to its breaking point to do what my people who elected me to do as a. Which is slight, which is what Democrats wanted Bill Barack Obama to do, which is slightly different than those other categories, which are feel like much more norm threatening. But I would add, if I may, just very quickly, is the complete and total ownership of the Republican Party from Donald Trump, which I think really I mean, on every possible issue, whether it’s trade deficits, the party in Russia, I mean, the Republican Party did very well for 50, 60 years as being the party that was more anti-Russia and here. And and he has now basically flipped Republican sentiment completely on that. So on these key policy issue areas, at least rhetorically, some people would say, well, they never really believe those things. Whatever. We don’t see that kind of rhetorical flip in politics. A short period time, then also on values, morality, but then also when you look at some of the Republican senators who are now some of his strongest defenders, by which I mean they’re willing to to act ways that used to be outside of what even, you know, what even senators used to do. I’m thinking of Lindsey Graham, Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz. They haven’t just quietly gone along. They have risen to his defense and said things that are implausible or that are embarrassing relative to things they said before. These are men that he mocked, belittled and over whose bones he ascended to greatness. And so they would have all these reasons for not rising up in his defense. And yet they’re doing kind of best in class performance in. And why are they doing that? It’s because of his extraordinary power in the party. And they, like all politicians and before them, are attracted to power.

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S16: OK, let’s go to cocktail chatter. We’re gonna have some cocktails tonight. We are gonna have cocktails tonight. What are we to be chattering about with each other as we have our cocktails?

S1: Emily Cocktails before my red eye flight home. I have a super local chapter. I’m going to hopefully make it relevant more than just my neighborhood. Although maybe not so. I live on a street in which on the corner there is this wonderful Italian grocery store that’s been there for 30 Jack True called Romulans. Azari is really just called Romeos and it is closing around Christmas this year, which is a tragedy for our neighborhood. So I have just like a huge feeling of appreciation for Romeo’s Simeon, who owns the store, and his daughter, Francesca. So now I’m going to try to save this with. I was thinking, why do I appreciate the store so much? And I feel like the store I’m about to tell is not one that you could tell about most grocery stores. But, man, it would be great if we lived in a world where everyone had this. So years ago, when my younger son was littler, we sent him with some money to buy something at Romeo’s one day and he came home with what we said goodbye.

S13: And all the money. Were like, you need to go and pay for that. And he was like, oh, like. He really basically thought of this door as like his kitchen cupboard. Yeah. Yes. Now it was not his kitchen. And we did send him back. He did pay for it. But I mentioned this recently to Fran, Romeo’s daughter, who often works the cash register. And she was like, oh, of course, we understood. Of course, we would never have a right had your child arrested for shoplifting. And like it would just be a better world if every nine year old boy could go to the corner store and accidentally take something without paying for it, get sent back to pay for it. But like not pay any repercussions for it. So thank you, Romeo and Fran.

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S14: Emily, the door thing, larceny.

S8: Yes, exactly. John, just don’t call it what crime are you going to endorse it?

S10: Why? So I have two very short chapters. One is an amazing piece that the in The Times about and we’re in Oakland and it just happens to be about an Oakland homeless encampment. The it’s an amazing collection of pictures and interviews with the people who live there. It’s by Thomas Fuller and Josh Hanner, I guess is how you pronounce it. And Thomas wrote about this guy, Gilbert Gilberto Gonzalez ariha, who just go read it. And the pictures are amazing. And then they went to Mexico City and compared the homeless in came in Oakland with the shanty town of Mexico City. It’s it’s just it’s there anyway. It’s I mean, it’s really, really well done. My other chatter is about fifty seven hundred year old human genome, an oral microbiome that was found from Chewed Bertsch pitch. So basically this looks like a piece of bubble gum. This young girl was found. They found this Bertsch pitch and they were able to determine all of this. First of all, check out her whole DNA and basically figure out what she’d eaten. And now they are. This article in the journal Nature thinks that Bertsch pitch might be which they chewed for medicinal benefits, basically, that it might have all of this old DNA and allow studies to go back and study more than just this random one, one girl.

S11: So it’s not only an amazing discovery in its own right, but it might be the key to opening up further discoveries about DNA and how we came to be humans.

S14: Cool. My chatter, people who know me well know that I am a bubble tea addict. I have bubble tea every day that I’m allowed to. Some days I can’t find a bubble tea place, but I will find it on those sad day. There are very sad days when I can’t findability impact on me at a public event.

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S9: I was gonna say I don’t think you’ve had one to know.

S14: I’m going to get one after after have lunch. And there’s a great during the Washington Post about the Taiwan bubble. Tea wars. Taiwan is the ground zero bubble. Tea was invented there. And there’s a tremendous innovation in bubble tea that’s coming out of Taiwan. And most of the very successful chains internationally, including in the U.S., are actually Taiwanese chains. But what’s happened is that these chains are also doing business and in addition, doing business in Taiwan and the U.S. are doing a lot of business in China. And they have to toe the party line in China and say things that that comport with what the Chinese government wants said about Hong Kong and about Tibet and about Taiwan even. And and so they have ended up sort of supporting the Chinese government over Hong Kong, for example, and that has made Taiwanese in Taiwan extremely unhappy. And so now there’s a boycott of a lot of the Taiwanese grown bubble tea places that are doing business in China and people aren’t going to them in Taiwan. So even though they’re thriving in China, they’re doing poorly in Taiwan because people are like, why are you supporting the Chinese government, which is not a government we agree with? And so now there’s a flourishing of independent Taiwanese bubble tea shop. People are frequenting very farseeing. For those of us in the bubble, teno very fascinating issue. It’s called the bubble tea. Good. Or you’re not sure? Well, the Taiwanese bubble tea places are great and they are so innovative. There’s just so much stuff going on.

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S4: What’s the what is the avenue of innovation?

S3: There’s this thing called cheese tea, which sounds gross, but it’s a it’s kind of a creamy layer on top of your bubble tea. There’s different things you put in them besides Bubb Boba did with other form like pudding and kind of jelly that are in them.

S6: Dessert. But they’re on dessert. Yeah, sure. Dessert.

S12: Let me ask you this question. If it’s bubble tea without the boba, how aren’t you taking the butter?

S6: You have the bubble too. You can’t have it, but you cannot just.

S3: Yeah. And then there are different forms of fruit tea. There are there’s these tiger milk ones which are like have some weird brown sugary concoction which I’ve never had because the lines are way too long at those places and they seem very sweet anyway.

S4: Lot of a lot of balti innovation in one. When you bite into the tapioca a a metal spike shoots through your jaw. That’s so good at all. Some of the some of our listeners will get where that came from.

S14: All right. Superhero reference anyway. Don’t don’t ask, don’t ask. Let’s leave it in mystery. So, listeners, you’ve also been giving us great chatters. Are really good chatters this week. You tweet them to us. That’s like Gabfest. And this one is so epic. It’s from ionic tonic at Ionic Tonic. And it’s pointing us to a Twitter account from at Greenly.

S3: J.W., who goes by surprised eel historian. And it’s a series of tweets and actually investigate who Greenly J.W. is. It’s a series of tweets about the importance of eels in the mediæval and and kind of renaissance British economy. That eels were often paid used to pay rent. The Eels would be John Years a Catholic. They were. They were. What is it? You can’t. They were not fish. They were not counted as fish.

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S6: You could have them on Friday. You could have them during Lent. You could have them during. And he was doing whatever it is that you’re supposed to eat fish on Friday.

S3: Yet notan land sales count or eels counted as fish, but they also count it because they ace. They didn’t understand. Had they reproduced? They didn’t. They had no CARNEL quality. And so that you were allowed to eat them at all kinds of occasions where you couldn’t eat other things. And there all these rules about, you know, particular ponds.

S7: There’s a there’s a an example of of an eleven seventy nine King Henry. The second gave his best otter hunter some property in Aylesbury with a condition the king could stop by up to three times a year and get a meal of three eels. There was a King Henry the first, the King Henry the first died after eating a meal of eels. Oh, there you pay. You know the feast where one hundred thousand eels will be ordered anyway. Fascinating Twitter account about eels, which are disgusting, incidentally. So don’t they? I once saw an eel in the real world. It was gross. But the Twitter account. Amazing.

S2: That is our show for today. The gabfest is produced by Josslyn. Frank is here with us in Oakland at Skyline Studios. Brian Matheson and Anne Marie Pelo. Gabriel Roth is the editorial director of Slate podcast. Jan Thomas is the managing producer of Slate podcast. You should follow us on Twitter and at Slate Gabfests and tweet your chatter to us there for Emily Bazelon and John DICKERSON.

S17: I’m David Plotz. Thanks for listening. We will talk to you next week with our Conundrum Show.

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S18: This is the you about your box of chocolates entitled Quality of food. Yes.

S6: If I maybe get Monty Python that through a Monty Python sketch, the crunchy frog sketch. Oh, no.

S16: Hello. Slate plus. How are you? Good. Nice. Good idea. That’s funny. Oh, you shopping was difficult. Yes, I know. Well, maybe you should do it online. I don’t know. I don’t go to the malls any more socially. Plus, today, we’re going to talk about we’re not really and talk about anything.

S7: We had an idea a few weeks ago that we would read poems and we never got around to it. But then we were like, well, let’s do it. We’re here together. And I’m actually not going to read a poem.

S6: I think we should do this at the end of every year. Yeah, I knew. Annual tradition is an annual tradition. Have we done it before? We did it once before. I’m afraid I read the bone that I’m about to read. I have the fear that I’ve read the thing I’m in. You know, this is a new book. It’s a new poll. All right.

S14: Let’s start with Labadee. Then we know it’s new material.

S9: So I chatted about my friend Dwayne Betts, his new book of poetry, which is called Felon. And this is a poem from that book called Blood History. The things that abandoned you get remembered different as precise as the English language can be with words like penultimate and perceiver aid. There is not a combination of sounds that describe old me that leaving once drinking and smoking with buddies. A friend asked if I’d longed for a father. How do you said wanted? I would have dismissed him in the way that youngins dismiss it all. A shrug. Sarcasm. A jab to his stomach. Laughter. But he said, longing. And in a different place. I might have wept, said once. My father lived with us. And then he didn’t. And it fucked me up so much that I never thought about his leaving until I held my own son in my arms. And only now speak on it. A man who drank Boon’s farm and Mad Dog like water once told me and some friends that there is no word for father where he comes from. Not like we know it there. The word father is the same as the word for. Listen, the blends we passed around, let us forget our tongues. Not that much, though. But what if the old had knew something? And if you have no father, you can’t hear straight. Years later, another friend wondered why I named my son after my father. You know, that’s a thing. Turn your life to a prayer that no dead man gonna answer.

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S10: JOHNS Good. What’s your poem? Mine, and I apologize if I’ve read this before to the listeners, the gab fest. But it bears repeating. It’s sorting it out by Philip Booth at the table she used to sew at. He uses his brass desk scissors to cut up his shirt. Not that the shirt was that far gone. One ragged cuff, one elbow through. But here he is, cutting away the collar sheet long since turned. What gets to him? Finally using the scissors like a bright claw is prying button’s off after they’ve lapped spinning on the floor. He bends to retrieve both sizes. He intends to save them in some small box. He knows he has a reason to save. If only he knew where a small box used to be kept.

S7: I do not have a home. I have my favorite writing in English is by Lytton Strachey, the book called Eminent Victorian and in particular its Piz. It’s a series of short biographies, short, very acidic biographies of Victorian characters, and one of them the profiles as Florence NIGHTINGALE. I love the beginning of his essay about Florence NIGHTINGALE. Everyone knows the popular conception of Florence NIGHTINGALE, the saintly, self-sacrificing woman, the delicate maiden of high degree who threw aside the pleasures of a life of ease to succor the afflicted. The lady with the lamp gliding through the horrors of the hospital, Scutari and consecrating with the radiance of her goodness, the dying soldier’s couch. The vision is familiar to all, but the truth was different. The Miss NIGHTINGALE, a fact was not a facile fancy, painted her. She worked in another fashion, and towards another end. She moved under the stress of an impetus which finds no place in the popular imagination. Demon possessed her, no demons, whatever else they may be, or full of interest. And so it happens that in the real Miss NIGHTINGALE, there was more that was interesting than in the legendary one. There was also less that was agreeable. That’s the first paragraph. It just goes on and on and on. So God love the ending of that. All right. Slate plus. We’ll talk to you next week. But by.