The “Wash Your Hands” Edition

Listen to this episode

S1: Slate Plus members, it’s survey time, which means it’s your chance to tell us what you think about Slate. Slate podcasts and Slate. Plus it’ll only take a few minutes. You can find it at Slate dot com slash survey.

S2: Hello and welcome to the Slate Political Gabfest from March 5th, 2020 to wash your hands. And I’m David Plotz of that obscura.

S3: I have not maintained not maintain center conditions, not maintained corona hygiene, because John DICKERSON is here in the studio with me. Forming and reforming a disease vector, possibly. Hello, John DICKERSON.


S4: Oh, my God. We have the three of us. John is the least likely to catch the virus and the most fastidious. Say you’re in good hands. John, I know, lost more than both of us combined. I’ve my hands a lot. But John’s John’s John is risking himself. I write. I’m the one who should be excited. I should be participating and touching the table right now, which is like touching my face. I think there’s just that other. Hello, John. Hi, David.

S5: Sorry for that graphic image, that other voice over. There was Emily Bazelon of The New York Times Magazine and Yale University Law School from New Haven.

S6: Hello, Emily. Hello. On today’s gabfest, the Democratic Party strikes back, catapulting you and your bureau, Joe Biden, to the front of what remains of the pack.


S5: Thank you, John. Good.

S7: Then the corona virus pandemic, how it will shape the world, how it will shape politics, help shape the economy. And then a wild week at the Supreme Court. Plus, we will have cocktail chatter before we get to our first topic. Just a quick announcement. We talked last week about a live show that we plan to do at South by Southwest in a couple of weeks. Just an update that because of coronavirus concerns, we will not be doing that live show at South by Southwest on March 17th. So we are sorry to miss you. Texas and South SBI, but we will get you later. So dip me in, honey. Invite the flies in to come eat me. How quickly, quickly, quickly. Things have changed. I had, of course, predicted something terrible happening to Joe Biden. And lo and behold, John, here he is. What happened? How would you describe the extremely rapid transformation of this race, the elevation of Joe Biden, the consolidation of the moderates, the revenge of the party?


S8: Well, it’s the pits. I think this is true. I’ve been searching my recollection. As they say, the brisk is the most amazing rags to riches story in politics that I can think of. We’ve had individual moments where people who were left for dead came back, but not the way. I mean, they were giving him last rites. And then he wins South Carolina, anyone’s 10 of 14 on Super Tuesday. The delegate math is Biden and 5:27 to 475. That’s undoubtedly likely to be surpassed by the time you hear these words in your in your ear bones, because California is still counting and they will still be counting delegates in California until 2028. But it goes on. It’s really amazing what happened. And briefly, because we’ll go pore through this in the whole segment. But basically what he did was he not only defeated Bernie Sanders, but he did so with a pretty diverse coalition.


S9: He increased turnout in places as opposed to Bernie Sanders, who’s actually got a turnout issue. And I think the most important thing is that he convinced Democratic voters that he is the more electable and can beat Donald Trump in Virginia, North Carolina and South Carolina, for example. If you look at the exit polls, basically about 60 percent of the voters said they wanted somebody who could beat Donald Trump in those groups. Biden beat Sanders by either 20, 30 or 40 points. And the reason that’s interesting is in national polling, public opinion polling, when you do head heads, Sanders and Trump versus Biden versus Trump, it’s all roughly the same. They beat Trump by a couple of points. So there’s no there’s no numerical evidence that that Biden is more electable than than Sanders. But, boy, has he convinced Democratic voters of that.


S5: So, Emily, as John said, rarely has politics move so fast in one direction. Do you think this was simply the anti-Trump anxiety coalescing or was it part some sense of an establishment? The party actually has control and could could organize people and marshal them into a into orderly voting patterns.

S10: I mean, Biden has a lot more endorsements from people who represent the establishment in the party. So to the degree that voters follow those signals and, you know, time but a judge dropping out was obviously part of that kind of momentum. I think the voters understand on some level something that lies beneath the head to head polls, John.

S11: And I wonder if you agree, which is that Biden’s positions are just more popular. So, you know, on health care, on immigration, on a variety of fronts. If you’re just looking at policy positions. Biden has liberal but well-tested positions and Sanders has positions that are just not shared by a majority of the country. And I wonder if, you know, we’re not going to get to run the experiment of having the both be the nominee. But when I look at them, I think as people really dig into this more and understand what this person’s ideas are, will there be more resistance to Sanders because his ideas are just not right now as well accepted. So you have to both get the country to go for this guy who calls himself a democratic socialist and also to embrace policies like Medicare for all that, you know, whatever you think about the merits. And I happen to think like universal health care is a good idea. But the how you get there are the how realistic it is, how big a departure it is from the status quo. Those are like big ifs for Sanders. And Biden doesn’t have those problems. His other problems, but not those problems.


S5: John. I want to ask you the same question just as Emily is. This was a grassroots movement where voters sort of spontaneously of their own accord were like, ho, whoa, we got to do something about this or was this something that was.

S12: That is the. Because Klobuchar and and but it’s dropped out. Was it was it was a top down or bottom up?

S9: Well, I think it’s a combination of things. And I don’t want to lose your point, Emily, about about policy. So we’ll come back to it. But I think what happened on Tuesday, what we saw in the exit polls and this is across the country, which is interesting, because a lot of times you’ll get pocket results and then it’s hard to extrapolate national messages. But the late deciders and this is particularly true in Virginia, where there was no early voting. The late deciders went went in droves towards Joe Biden. Now, why did they do that? Is it because they were newly afraid of Bernie Sanders over the last couple of weeks as he started to do well? So this was a negative vote against Sanders. Was it that they were reacting to South Carolina? Joe Biden? It did. Well, hey, take a second look at Joe. Or was it this extraordinary event where you had Club Harbor, but a judge and Betto ReWalk all come to Biden support sort of you know, they they got together and built a bandwagon and then everybody jumped on it. What’s interesting about that is that we’ve talked on this show and there’s been discussion in political science about this notion of the party decides after the political parties lost their strength, there was nevertheless this view that there was a kind of a signal that party Puba was sent that ended up picking candidates. Hillary Clinton would be a perfect example. So there was no longer a top down from a party. But the the message got through. Well, Donald Trump destroyed that on the Republican side. And Bernie Sanders was doing a pretty good job, somebody who doesn’t even call himself a Democrat on the Democratic side. But the party decided on Tuesday night. And so I think it was both. I think it was both organic response to Sanders of the kind that Emily was describing. And then also clearly that signal that, you know, people we like by we I’m talking about voters who said, oh, I like these kinds of candidates. They were all rushing behind Joe Biden.

S5: I think it is a mistake for moderate Democrats, for Biden supporters of whom there are not that many. I mean, there are people who are voting for Biden. Are there many Biden supporters? I think it’s a real mistake for them to assume that this is over or even close to over. Not because he’s not in a strong position, but he’s an appalling campaigner. You can imagine like some terrible stumbles. You can imagine him just like really botching stuff. Not I mean, I think there’s a sort of sense like, well, we’re we’re just going to agree. We’re gonna hold our noses, guys. This guy’s the guy won’t settle for. But you something could happen. He could have a health issue. There’s so much. And for me, this is remains the best argument for keeping Warren in the race, for keeping some other some other option. Because because with a 77 year old, a 78 year old fighting it out, you know, and and a disease, a pandemic raging across the country that’s gonna strike down old people. You can you can really see that this is not something a Democrats should be like. Okay. Well, now we can now we can just go back and watch. Love is blind to not worry about anything else.


S8: Two quick reactions and then one is he. He’s not that unpopular. He may not. People may not rush out of bed, although good gracious, they sure did in these polls. That’s what’s amazing is that his turnout numbers are better than Bernie Sanders.

S4: But they’re not for they’re not they’re like, yeah, but it’s not because they’re right. It’s what I love. Biden so much.


S13: It’s sort of I don’t know what there’s more evidence to the contrary. Like, I don’t think I mean, this is true. Unlike left each other. I don’t think it’s true in the world. That’s not lefty Twitter. It’s not lefty Twitter.


S14: It’s just like. But it’s he did he turned out voters better than Hillary Clinton did in 2016 versus Sanders.

S5: I mean, it’s like people don’t show up at his rallies. He’s not. He’s just not that like a.

S4: But they showed up where it mattered at the polling.

S5: They showed up at the bet on Nate because they’re voting, because they are very concerned and they’re voting out of concern, not because they’re like Joe Biden really turns me on the way Obama did or the way Sanders did does or the way. Even Warren does or booted judge does like.

S4: But here I think I reluctantly am voting for him. But he’s fine.


S15: But I think you’ve got it wrong, because if you look at Sanders, there’s enthusiasm at rallies. But his there’s a ceiling. I mean, first time voters in early in Iowa, New Hampshire and Nevada. Yes. Decreased first time voters decrease in those places. So I. And Biden, again, was the one who increased the vote relative to its previous time and relative to Hillary Clinton. So the evidence is because because if you were right, people were like. Yeah, Joe. They don’t get out and vote if they think I. Yeah, Joe, you got to like something’s got to propel you. And it’s not crazy to think that it’s some sort of fear of Trump.


S4: It is the desire to beat Trump so powerful.

S10: I mean, one way I’ve been worrying about this and I’m sure other people have made this point is that if you think of the wave of young people who are so excited about Sanders and I mean, the generational divide in the vote was incredible. Right. I mean, young people really going for Sanders overall and older people going for Biden. The idea that those people have what it takes to like knock on doors and get out there and make it exciting. I mean, that kind of energy, David. I do worry that some of them are just going to, like pull back and then the organizing part will be less. Although I have to say, like Biden won in states where he didn’t even have a field office, he wasn’t even campaigning.

S8: Yeah. And in no state did people younger than 30 account for more than 20 percent of the electorate sat there except for Bernie. You. But there are a few old men. And this is always what happens with younger voters. It’s always what happens. It’s why now. Let’s not take away from Bernie Sanders. He did make real inroads with the Latino community. He had a lot more trouble with African-Americans. But but again, if if Sanders his argument I mean, this is a good night for Biden. But also there’s evidence in all the contests so far as even the ones that Sanders has won, that his idea both for his electability, but then also for his governing strategy, which is that he’s going to creates his argument to make such a move. And I’m an old beat win beat Trump and then change politics in Washington because of the size of the movement. In order for that to work in any of those three instances, you actually have to have a movement that is gobbling up voters and bringing in new voters. And there’s no evidence that that’s happening.


S16: So I want to spend a couple of minutes on Elizabeth Warren, whose apparent defeat to who as it stands now, John, she’s still in the race.

S17: Yes, she is. She’s still on Gore. Gore skipping over Mike Bloomberg. Your guy who will get. No, no, no. Get him.

S5: We’ll get to Mike Bloomberg. Mike Bloomberg. Don’t worry. No. Elizabeth Warren, Elizabeth Warren’s dislocation to third place and and a distant finishes, which makes me incredibly sad and angry. And I just want to register how sad and angry that that it’s that she’s smarter. She’s like incredibly well qualified to be president. And I cannot. She is a victim of a sexism among voters and the fear among voters that they that they don’t want a woman running. And it’s just not fair. It isn’t fair and it’s wrong.

S9: Can I. Including coming in third in Massachusetts. Do you think that holds in her own state as well? So I can I can. Or do you think it.

S5: Yeah, that that’s all that the table and strategic voting, everyone in strategic voting. And she’s a victim of it. And part of part of it is we want to coalesce around somebody who, you know, the candidate who beat Trump. And that means forestalling Sanders and any vote that isn’t for that candidate who’s going to win the nomination, which we now declared Biden is a wasted vote. And therefore, even though I might like more and I know she’s not gonna win, too, I don’t want to, but I don’t want to undermine Biden by taking a vote away from him. That’s part one. And part two is there’s a strategic voting, which is people don’t want to vote for a woman because they’re afraid of what’s going to happen if a woman runs at this time, that they want it in safe hands. They want the safe person. I just it makes me sad. Emily, doesn’t it make you sad?


S11: I know, honey. I sort of I haven’t been feeling a lot of emotions about any of this. I’ve just been sort of watching it because it’s so fascinating. I can’t I don’t know what that says about me, but I think that your your cold, cold and dead cold hearted.

S10: It’s true. I think you’re correct about the influence of sexism. I don’t think it’s the only thing going on with Elizabeth Warren. I think there is a way in which her Harvard identity transcended her Oklahoma roots. There was a piece in the Times about this phenomenon this week. And I think it’s right that the I have a plan for everything, which like got her a ton of love from political writers and pundits and other folks like that. It even though she always tells these Oklahoma BS stories and they are very real and authentic and it is her experience, she, I think, still seem to a lot of voters like she was more in teacher mode than in like that see next door mode. And that that was part of why she didn’t take off.

S5: Why? But why does she not get to do that? Obama gets to do that. A book. Obama got to be that same professorial person and was allowed to be that and also be perceived as warm and exciting. There’s something about being a woman that doesn’t allow you to. UPI both those places at once.

S11: Yeah. I also limit hearing people to Obama is like comparing people to like the God Zoo, like he’s just had such superior political skills to everybody else who isn’t anyway.

S8: Yeah. So I have a couple of questions about Elizabeth Warren. So I think it’s very interesting. I mean, one of the things that happened on Super Tuesday is we is three things that people thought might matter. Didn’t. One is Mike Bloomberg’s money didn’t matter. Tom Steyer’s money didn’t matter either. Field organization didn’t matter either, because there are places that Biden had nothing and where he did very well and plans didn’t particularly didn’t particularly matter, which is which is part of the Warren piece of this. What I wonder is, you know, on the Warren front, what you do seem to be describing, David, was both sexism, straight up sexism and then sort of sexism by proxy, which is I’m not a sexist. I level is with Warren, but everybody else is. And therefore, I’m going to do that. Question then is 33 percent of liberals in Massachusetts voted for Warren. The self-identified liberals, 33 percent self-identified liberals voted for Sanders. Are those libs self-identified liberals who would you would presume would be the most worried about sexism, the most untainted by it? Maybe. What are why are they voting against Elizabeth Warren? Is it all strategic? I’m just I’m trying to find out what, if anything, is else at play here, because I think that while sexism is no doubt huge in poor and probably the biggest knock against her, if it all gets written down to sexism, I think that’s wrong. I think there’s other stuff to identify.


S10: And I just I agree with that. And I don’t think you can fault the Bernie Sanders supporters for sticking with him. I don’t think that the choice between Sanders and Warren is a choice that’s about sexism. Like he stands for something really particular and strong. And he’s been saying it for 40 years and it’s a ceiling. But it also means that people who are with him are really with him.

S5: But for sure and I mean, I’m just thinking about myself. I will probably vote in the D.C. Democratic primary if for some reason as the D.C. Democratic primary approaches and it’s very close between Sanders and Biden and Warren is still in the race. And it’s clear that Biden is going to need a little help to close the deal before the convention, even though I would much rather vote for Elizabeth Warren, I will vote for Bernie Sanders.

S11: About this is where we should go by choice voting so wouldn’t feel a stark choice to you and you’d be able to express multiple preferences.

S18: You know, let’s talk about Mike Bloomberg actually, too. So Emily $500000000, he got nothing out of it? Or did he get nothing out of it? Didn’t did he, in fact, weaken Sanders, who he really wanted to weaken and set up an organization that can battle for voting rights, that can fight for whoever the Democratic nominee is going to be? If as long as it’s Joe Biden, go and fight for swing Senate and House seats.

S10: I mean, certainly he didn’t spend that five hundred million dollars in the most direct way to accomplish things other than getting himself elected. He may have weakened Trump somewhat with some of his ads. He may have weakened Sanders somewhat. He has to be careful in turning over his organization to Joe Biden to not to violate campaign finance laws like there were a lot of election law professors whose response was like, wait a second.


S4: How exactly do you plan to do with campaign finance laws which have really been enforced so well these days? Why not just to provide latently violate that perhaps there might still there’s no FEC quorum. I thought there’s no FEC. There is no there would be a quorum for this. No, no, no. I mean, wouldn’t I guess can’t. I don’t think it literally can’t do anything. They can’t literally can’t do anything. Right.

S10: Yeah. Well still I don’t know. Anyway, I have trouble because I have a visceral feeling of rooting against Mike Bloomberg. So I don’t feel particularly dispassionate in my analysis of this. To me, it seemed like super embarrassing and deserve it because his money was out there, his ads well-produced were out there and he was terrible on the debate stage. And, you know, too bad.

S8: Also, one, the things we found from the exit polls is that the more people got to know him, the less they liked him. He was the least popular candidate in many of these states. And it wasn’t just mild dislike. He was very successful at breeding antipathy for himself. What’s interesting in terms of whose vote he takes in all of the rest of it in the exit polls, it also showed that that Bloomberg almost certainly siphoned more votes from Biden than Warren did from Sanders. So now that he’s out of the race, that’s probably better news for Biden than if Warren got in. The race would be good news for Sanders. And the final thing is he there’s an interesting line, I think, with Michael Bloomberg, which is when he’s not the face of his own movement, it does well, which is what they learned with gun safety. And that when he stopped being the face of it, it started to be quite successful. If he employs all of that organization and the knowledge that comes not just from being in the political space, but also being in the grass. Roots, movement, space on climate and guns towards beating Donald Trump. I think that’s something Democrats who might otherwise not have liked Michael Bloomberg might be might want to reconsider as a useful weapon against a president they don’t like.


S12: That’s a that’s a really interesting point, because he is his. That’s a great point. He’s very effective. And strategically, he’s. He’s used his money incredibly well. That’s what he was telling me. Here’s a kid who is volunteering on the Bloomberg campaign.

S17: Be one volunteering on the Bloomberg campaign. Yeah, that’s what. That was my initial response.

S19: He was just paying people who were then having meetings with local politicos at which they said things like, well, that’s good, too, anyway.

S12: But anyway, apparently the free lunches were in saying that it was like they had this Middle Eastern lunch that was like a feast, a Saudi royal fest.

S20: It was it sounded great.

S5: He’s an American hero. I think if he continues spending his money in this way on these causes and OK.

S13: Well, on his back here, I spent a million dollars on a failed effort to win American Samoa.

S19: And you’re calling him an American hero and saying that he’s spending all his money. Well, like, come on, you’ve got to recognize that this was ridiculous.

S16: It was it was vain. It was an effort. It failed. It was not ridiculous that we’d had this company had this. So we made the last three shows. It’s not hubris. The man was mayor of New York. He’s eminently qualified to be president. And he botched it. He did a bad job.

S8: Also, it’s not crazy. Let’s imagine that Joe Biden didn’t you know that he continued to stumble or things didn’t turn out well. There would be Bloomberg’s viability as the alternative. Sanders would, out of necessity, seem less ridiculous than it does now that he’s out of the race.


S10: John, do you think there are people who never got in? I mean, I know it’s so easy when they never got in, but like there has been this sort of nostalgia or wistfulness about Sherrod Brown, about Mitch Landrieu. I mean, Steve Bullock did try to run like these various. MOORE Well, Sherrod Brown, all of it. I was going to say executive types who seemed like they could have been the alternative to Biden.

S21: Alternative to Sanders, you mean I’m sorry, no alternative to Biden. Like if BYO falls apart. Scenario, right?

S8: Well, alternative to Biden in the slot of alternative to Sanders. Yeah. Yes. Well, I think Sherrod Brown was really interesting because he kind of he the argument people made for him is he could operate kind of in both camps that that he has. And by the way. Wait a minute. One of the things that about Joe Biden’s victory on Tuesday night that is a challenge for Sanders is that in places like Virginia and Minnesota in particular, which is interesting, Biden won with white non-college voters, which is a blue collar voters. Sanders talks all the time about how he’s working class people’s candidate. But if you add black and white to working class, Biden does better. If you look at just white non-college. He does. He gives Sanders an absolute run for his money and sometimes beats him in places. The reason I say that, as I was just thinking about Sherrod Brown, that was his argument, was that he could do well with working class voters. You know, the thing is, for any of those other candidates you mentioned to be an alternative to Biden, they would have to basically have the pain threshold. Biden had I mean, staying in a race when you don’t have much money and you’re getting your ass handed to you across the country when you were supposed to be the electability candidate is actually a really hard thing. Not a lot of people have a lot tolerance for that. So so I don’t know. Biden, you know, suffered through a lot and it’s paying off for him.


S18: I think the candor we missed out on this race with Oprah.

S4: I really out of luck. Palin this is I would have loved it. Ridiculous and tedious. I really just. That is ridiculous. Oprah’s run a lot more than Bernie Sanders ever run a lot. Do not want someone who is and has had a lot more influence over public debate than Bernie Sanders probably. She has lots of influence over public debate. She’s actually more of an executive than Joe Biden has ever been.

S9: Anyway, for prettier America, are you interested in what it takes to really make a good president? How much has celebrity taken over the office?

S21: Oh, my gosh. Available June 9. Available June 9. Job in the world. The hardest job in the world. Thank you. Thank you. All right. John DICKERSON. Oh, yeah. Ryan All right.

S18: Let’s put it together. All right. Now, my actual final question is, is is there, John, a strategy left for Bernie Sanders? He immediately turned to kind of a unification like a towards, you know, showing Obama in his ads start to try to be feel instead of trying to destroy the party, which had been kind of the message of his campaign towards more’. You know, I’m all I’m part of the party. I’m.

S8: Well, he’s got kind of one foot on the gas and one foot on the brake because when he came, he’s been saying and teaching my son to drive.

S17: He wants to do that. It’s so terrifying. You can only put one car brake, but it’s like God could cause it because you’re also saying the signal to the car that it needs to go forward.


S8: So what, you know, he is still running against the establishment. He’s still arguing that everything from the corporate media to the kind of entrenched Washington Democrats and lobbyists are against him. And so he’s pushing away a lot of the a lot of the elites in the party. And then on the other hand, as you say, he’s tawergha. He’s talking about things that the Obama stuff in his ads is an attempt really to get at some of those suburban voters he’s had difficulty with, try to make himself seem a little bit more palatable. But but it’s at odds with his brand, which is Damini am who I am. And that’s why you like me. So and I’m. And I think he’s I mean, he’s going after Biden quite hard on trade, on Iraq, on on Social Security and Medicare. And I think that will do devolve, I think, into something quite much more vinegary. And then we’re going to get into a question of how ugly will it get? And will there be permanent damage?

S14: You know, Hillary Clinton, people are still quite sore that that Sanders waited all the way till July. And so whoever the loser is on this, you know, they can make it. They can make it pretty bloody.

S18: John, I need to. I need a breaking news update.

S22: Did it? Did it? Did it. But it did.

S6: Did while we were just taping the segment. Warren dropped out. Reaction. Emily Bazelon, you know, now I do feel sad that we are not going to have, in all likelihood, a female president in 2020.

S11: And I guess I sort of already thought that. But but now it feels real and that part really does make me sad.


S8: Do you think it says anything about the our politics and its ability to handle the the detailed plans of the country was talking about? You think about Governor Inslee, who ran on a pure global warming platform. He’d got nowhere.

S14: What does this say? Anything larger about the ability to talk about? Policy in detail and whether that really gets you anything in in a campaign.

S6: Right. Yeah, I think its chief values.

S12: It is signaling the idea is not that people actually want to hear what you have to say about policy. They’re like, oh, wow. This is the person who’s capable. But then she did get hung up on the problem within when she went too detailed around Medicare for all. It really put shackles on her and it was a mixed blessing. I think that the the plan this didn’t matter as long as no one was reading the details of the plan. It just signaled this is a really capable person.

S10: So I would be like a lot of momentum last spring, right. I mean, a lot of press coverage, a big push. There was a moment where she was soaring in the polls and then I think it wasn’t enough. And maybe that’s because of her position on Medicare for all. Maybe it’s these other less tangible factors we are talking about or just the fact that Sanders supporters proved to be really, really loyal to him. I’m not sure. But it does signal that like the plan is not the chief thing.

S8: Let me ask you that. But you both this question, which is if you are Elizabeth Warren and or someone who has her interests in mind, what is the route that maximizes your ability to influence the things you care about? Do you go with Bernie Sanders, who’s cared about the same things his whole life, but who also has a lot of his own ideas about that kind of thing and might, if he gets elected, would would be maybe competition with him to get those things done, although it might work hand in hand and go forward with that or sign up with Joe Biden, who wouldn’t mind your support right now for the promise of position X in the in the administration. You’d have to fight against a kind of more moderate, slower group of people. But presumably you’re in a position right now to ask for something you might be able to lock in a position that would give you influence. What do you guys want to do?


S6: Lybian head. resendes heart. Yeah. The second Biden, obviously we just head. I’m not even sure that’s her head. I don’t know. I’m not sure she made her heart. Might be with Biden too.

S10: Oh, I don’t. I don’t know. I don’t think guards with Biden at all. But I do think when I imagine a Biden administration, it would be much better for progressives if Elizabeth Warren had a powerful position in it.

S16: I’m not so sure that we couldn’t have a woman president, 12:21, because I think there’s a non-zero possibility that one of these candidates dies. I’m just saying, like Trump, one of the Democrats and the woman running mate make it the presidency. Just sayin, you are the usual plots. RELIABLE prediction.

S20: We’ll see.

S18: Slate plus you get bonus segments on the gabfest and other Slate podcast. You go to Such gaffes, plus to become a member today and today to talk about pandemic fiction, pandemic fiction that we’d like representation to pandemics in the culture. Speaking of pandemics covered 19, the corona virus threatens to be a global disruption unlike anything the world has seen in our lifetime, I think supply chains have been disoriented. The world economy is grinding, slow gathering’s across the world are stopping. Travel is slowing down. More than 300 million kids are out of school around the world. The pandemic is spread across continents and is now clear with, I think, more than 10 deaths. Ten deaths when I wrote this, that the disease has a strong foothold in the United States and is spreading quietly and probably inexorably through our country. So, Emily, we have talked about containment. That would seem to be the strategy the United States was pursuing, prevent the disease from getting here, make it get here much more slowly, get here only in a controlled fashion. Stop anyone who seems to be showing signs of it from getting in the country, contain them, quarantine them. That containment no longer seems possible. So what does that mean for us?


S10: It means that we really should have had a plan B and we should have been thinking about the alternative strategy of mitigation, which means testing and treatment and quarantine. We should have been thinking about that all along. I hadn’t really read very much coronavirus coverage for about a week. I’m not someone who I was. I resist long tail risk. I’m sort of like President Trump in that way. I would prefer that it all just be minimized. But that seems like a huge mistake. In this case, and it just seems like the combination of the president’s resistance to talking about not even worst case scenarios, just like poor scenarios combined with the fumbling at the CDC where they botched the original testing kits and didn’t send them out and had very narrow criteria for who got tested. Now we are really at much greater risk than we might have been. And I couldn’t help but connect this to a piece that George Packer wrote in The Atlantic that went online this week about the kind of crumbling of the bureaucracy and this feeling that it’s taken a while for Trump to really attack, destroy parts of the bureaucracy. Packer was writing about the Justice Department in the State Department, but I feel like it’s proving to be true about Health and human services and maybe the CDC as well, where you see instead of a sort of science fact based, what’s best for the country response. You see people trying to placate Trump who wanted it all to go away. And you see all this incredible infighting in a way that has made the government’s response much less effective. And I find that really alarming and upsetting.


S16: But Michael Lewis wrote a whole book about this called The Fifth Risk, which is all about the think growing incapacity in government for project management, because when things get politicized and when incompetent people are running things and when science and sort of logic and analytical reasoning are thrown out the window, all those things are lost.

S9: And you know, David, when we have presidential campaigns, we only care about the guy at the top. But it turns out being president means you run an organization and we never talk about that kind of stuff. Emily, available June 9, looks at retailers near you.

S14: You know, the thing about Michael’s Michael’s book, which is it does exactly what you say, David, and what but what has been the case in the Trump administration so far when we’ve talked and talked about systems breaking down or norms breaking down?

S8: The evidence or oftentimes it’s theoretical with the exception of what happened at the border with separate family separation, although that in that case, the family separation was it was an acute policy choice made in the moment. What’s different about this is it is it’s there. It’s a long term thinking that is required in administration about what are the biggest, most important things that can ruin my life. When I interviewed Condi Rice for the book, she said, what you should ask every candidate is what surprising thing is going to hit you and what are you going to do about it? Because that’s what being president is. And if you don’t think about that beforehand, you have this kind of situation. So what happened here is you had not only I mean, before you ever get to the actual way in which the administration responded to this specific challenge, the National Security Council’s Pan Flu Group or their plan for. Handling pandemics was was shrunk was when the staffing was cut and that group was set up basically in the wake of Ebola to try to deal with these kinds of global issues which basically become a national security threat and at least have somebody ready there for this kind of thing when it happens to start all the kind of coordinating that you need to do between all the defense. A very weird way to say coordinating across all the different kinds of agencies.


S14: So you have so you’re weak. The structural stuff you’re supposed to take care of when nothing bad is happening is weak. And then when the when and when it goes bad. This over politicization of the response and the constant weakening of public trust in the president, which is another one of those long term erosions that now has a problem. And the doubt and what happens now is this isn’t just about some norm- that’s been transgressed. This is about, you know, human lives and safety and the economy as well. I mean, there are real things that can be counted for the decisions that were be made.

S12: I want to say that I do think that the Trump administration has has handled this terribly and and all the criticism that is being heaped on them for both the structural bad response and the the particulars of the bad response and the lies and the misleading, all well deserved. There’s a whole other piece of this, which is that we have a health system which seems maximally designed to not deal with this in a strong good way so that all society people don’t have sick leave. So they keep showing up at work even though they don’t feel well, they’re afraid to use their benefits because they have such high deductibles. They show up to get tested for something and discover they are negative for this. But walk out with a gigantic bill, they’re not going to want to go get tested where that’s a non centralized system so the tests don’t get distributed so that information doesn’t get shared very well. I mean, there’s the maximum way that this could go wrong. It’s going to go wrong. I mean, I think it’s in contrast when you look at countries that have highly nationalized top-down health systems are probably going to handle this outbreak a lot better now. There may be other things they don’t handle as well. But but I think there’s a reason why why we should be particularly scared in the U.S. It’s it’s a it’s a health system. That is it isn’t that doesn’t have the resilience and the and the the capacity to deal with this. And in fact, it scares most people are scared to be in it. They don’t want to be in it because it costs them so much money.


S10: Totally. And that compounds all the weaknesses John was talking about. And then on top, you have Trump, you know, Wednesday night going on HANNITY saying that he has a hunch that the death rate is far lower than the World Health Organization believes, suggesting it’s okay for people to with coronavirus to go to work. He, like, mixed it up with the flu at one point. I mean, come on, like this is a real thing that is going to kill people. And it doesn’t matter whether Trump turns out to be right or wrong about the lower death rate. The point is, like right now, you go with caution, you go with the scientists, staying with what Emily’s saying for a moment.

S8: David, your point is exactly right. And there’s a downside to thinking so much of this is a result of Donald Trump, because then what you end up doing is when you assess what went wrong, you just say, oh, it’s the idiosyncrasies of the Trump administration and there are systemic issues. And I mean, and if you want a self-interested reason, reason for universal health coverage, it’s that if other people are in the health system and are habituated to seeing their doctor as a part of some kind of universal health care, it’s easier for them when they feel symptoms to go through whatever their channel is to health care, which therefore presumably mitigates some of the risk.

S14: Whereas if you’ve got 27 million people that haven’t gone, that haven’t had health insurance for a year, you’ve got a system that can’t very quickly manage these kinds of of problems. But to to do your point, Emily, you know, when we we have a hurricane coming. We’ve become used to seeing the president sitting in a room getting briefing. He’s wearing a rain slicker with the presidential seal on it. And the idea there is he’s getting a bunch of new information and that all information is going to help him make decisions or at the very least, turn him into the best public administration officer, public information officer. In this case, you have the president who has been briefed, presumably saying three or four things that are not just factually bonkers compared to the having. I mean, just if you’re a regular person, but also having talked this week to health experts, they’re just totally wrong. And in this case, it’s not just wrong because the way he’s wrong about tariffs and who pays for them. But in this case, he’s spreading information that is actively hurting the efforts that his entire administration and the entire world are moving in a direction a and he is moving in direction Z. It’s it’s kind of extraordinary that that this is happening. And because people have become. Used to it with the Trump administration. We should think about how far this is from what we normally expect from a president in times of crisis.


S16: It’s clear this disease is going to enter our population at scale and will spread. And as I understand it, the the best metaphor I’ve heard, the best description is do we want to flatten the curve so that we do what we want is to make sure that not everyone gets it at once, that rather it gets spread out. It happens over times that the hospitals aren’t overwhelmed. So that that, you know, a certain number of people are getting it. The sickest people can get the hospital care, those of us who don’t get very sick or able to take care of themselves at home. You want to distribute it. And so that it becomes much more like the flu. The seasonal flu is where there will be lots of deaths and lots of people affected. But it isn’t massively overwhelming. The best way to do that is less contact, more hand-washing. You know, no, you know, less large gatherings, people staying home when they’re sick, you know, doing that, doing the hygenic mitigation, you know, not not exposing old people and very young people, but old people especially to lots of interaction with each other. Are we as a society disciplined enough to carry those things out? I mean, you we’ve discussed this. We’ve just canceled a live show that we were gonna do because because of essentially because of this is as a whole. Is the nation ready for this? And capable of it is capable of it.

S10: I mean, I think we’re capable of it. I have some real doubts right now. I don’t want to add to the sense of panic by speculating because I feel like I just don’t really know the answer and we’re just going to have to see.


S8: You know, we lack a channel for modulated response in our lives and particularly in our public lives where where somebody with authority and at this end he should be the president because they’re the most popular person in America or the most well-known, I should say, not the most popular, but they are the most well-known person in America who can distribute useful, informed information in the public good.

S14: That person is not playing that role. And what the the difficulty is both because of the role the president has played in the previous three years, undermining public trust in traditional institutions and also what he’s doing in real time, because now somebody is being told by their H.R. department. You know, if you got if you don’t feel well, don’t come into work and they hear what the president said, it’s fine if I go into work. Well, that’s actively undermining what needs to take place, David, for what you’re talking about. And so I think our capacity is shrunk. And also, by the time we might might go, oh, gee, maybe we really should start listening. I think it’s quite late because it’s incubating. It’s spreading through the community. It’s snowballing. And this is the cost of of having an inability to kind of be measured and say hope for the best, prepare for the worst. And that’s not being panic. That’s just being prudent.

S23: Yes. Touch your face is a lot. I don’t even know if I touch my face.

S21: Oh, my God. I’m not sure. Constantly. Totally. I.

S9: I don’t. I am not a constant face usher. But in this in this moment of heightened mindfulness, I find that I am. I rub my eyes a lot.


S7: Actually, no, no. I think if I do, I wrote my beard.

S8: I have you all been engaged in commerce with other human beings in which the handshake has been.

S16: Yes. Put it all or something on. Elbow, elbow bumps, you know. Yeah. Yeah. I love a fist bump, but I’m not I’m not sure. A fifth month. OK.

S14: I don’t think they are. I mean, they’re not.

S11: And I think petabyte Kamlesh. Right.

S8: If I if I could just get a someone to weigh in on this. We’ve all been taught to wear it, to sneeze and cough in your elbow. But then if we’re all elbow bumping, then, aren’t we?

S4: You don’t covered your outer elbow. Well, I. Do you think it all stays contained into the crook of the elbow? The at the crooked the outer part is very well protected. What I like.

S24: Now the flip kicking. I bet you plowing is not each other because they were spreading all those germs.

S4: Like maybe that’s what Bat didn’t know about. They didn’t know. They didn’t know. They didn’t know. But the germ theory, they sort of did put it so that they. That’s right. You’re out. That is it. But sneezes on you. You might be able to get sick. Oh, my God. Oh, definitely did. No, no, no. They weren’t that. They did not know it.

S15: No. That’s why they would go from the autopsies to the surgery room and kill everyone, you know? Yes. That’s the morgue. Sorry. The more overreach.

S25: They’re leeches.

S8: I like in will on there. They’re kicking. They like touch feet. They like it. It looks basically like they’re kicking an imaginary soccer ball. Oh, I like it. Yeah. If we’re playing like an imaginary game with hacky sack. You do. But I think I think coordination in social space is good. By the way, as somebody who’s been a fan his whole life of social distancing.


S13: I’m you’re in heaven. I mean, I’m with you.

S9: I realize this isn’t this isn’t something to joke about. But I did when that word started, I started to see that word showing up a lot.

S23: I. I. It took me a moment to process it. I’m finding it painful.

S7: There is a lot going on at the United States Supreme Court. Emily, there’s a lot of social distancing there, too. They they took a huge Affordable Care Act case that they’ll hear arguments on in the fall, I guess, before they’ll hear arguments before the election. Right. I think so.

S10: Maybe they are. It’s not scheduled yet.

S7: Yeah. Maybe they’ll schedule so they don’t. That would be typical. And then this week they heard an argument on one of the most contentious important abortion cases we’ve had in a while, a reprise of a case that they already decided a couple of years ago. And then there’s a little rebuke of Chief Justice Roberts. Chief Justice Roberts excuse me, rebuking Democratic Senate Leader Schumer for remarks that he made. Schumer just walked them back. I noticed on my headline feed. Good. When you start with this abortion case, Emily, what what is it? Why did they hear it? And where does it look like it’s going?

S10: This case is called June Medical Services versus rousso. It’s from Louisiana. Louisiana passed a law requiring abortion providers, that is doctors to get admitting privileges at hospitals, went that in 30 miles of their clinics. This is identical effectively to a provision in a Texas law that the Supreme Court struck down in 2016. The reason the Supreme Court struck the Texas law down is that the American Medical Association, the American College of O’Bagy Y ends like everybody says, that there is no health benefit to women from doctors having these admitting privileges. Why? Well, one reason is that if you have a complication from an abortion, you just go to the emergency room. You don’t need your doctor to have admitting privileges like you can get the care you need without them. The second reason is abortion. Statistically speaking, is incredibly safe. So in this Louisiana case, out of the thousands and thousands of women who’ve received abortions at the three existing clinics in Louisiana, only four have ever been admitted to the hospital. And indeed, one of the reasons that abortion providing doctors have trouble getting admitting privileges is that the hospitals have a rule that you have to have a certain number of patients admitted every year to make it worth it to them to extend this to you. And they don’t qualify because their patients don’t go to the hospital. So that’s like a sort of lovely catch 22 in this. The really interesting moments at oral argument on Wednesday involve Chief Justice John Roberts. So Roberts voted with the conservative minority in the Texas case to allow Texas to continue this law. On Wednesday, however, his questions repeatedly to both sides were about whether the benefits of the law could differ from state to state. In other words, if you have all these national health care experts weighing in and saying there are no benefits to women’s health. Could that be different in Louisiana than in Texas? And no, the answer was no. And the Louisiana attorney general and the Trump administration lawyer who were arguing in favor of the law kept trying to assert, yes, but they didn’t have any evidence. And so if Roberts truly cares about that, then he would vote with the Liberals to strike down Louisiana’s law respecting precedent from the Texas case.


S16: So so we’ll see. Sorry. Just just to understand the chain of logic. Logic there is. So the Louisiana law is the same. The benefits this the so-called benefits of the law would be the same. Louisiana and Texas. The Supreme Court has decided those benefits don’t justify the law. In the case of Texas, even though Roberts disagreed, he thought it did justify it. Roberts is simply even though on the merits he believed the Texas law was logit to the merits of the law are not as strong as the fact that the Supreme Court. There’s a Supreme Court precedent. In against the law.

S10: Well, actually, Roberts didn’t exactly say he thought the merits of Texas’s law were okay. He voted to uphold it based on a number of related issues. The other part of the argument is about the impact of the law. Right. So there’s like. Is there any benefit? The answer scientifically is no. But then there’s this question of impact, like will Louisiana’s clinics have to shut down because their providers won’t be able to get these admitting privileges? Two of the three Louisiana clinics say, yes, we will have to shut down. Part of what happened at oral argument that was also interesting was the justices, Sotomayor, Ginsburg, Breyer, they were Kagan and Roberts. I mean, all of them, they were really read up on the record. And so they were asking very specific questions about the particular doctors involved. Had they made sufficient efforts to try to get these admitting privileges? And the Louisiana attorney general seemed like she was not super familiar with the record. She was asserting facts that were actually at odds with that. And that probably did not help Louisiana.


S16: Emily, are there direct assaults on Roe coming that the Supreme Court will hear? We’ll hear because this is not a direct assault. This is the sort of indirect let’s undermine and weaken it.

S10: Yeah. So one of the most interesting aspects of abortion, politics and law right now is a split among pro-lifers. So there are pro-life strategists who for decades have been arguing that this incremental erode Roe tactic is the way to go. Let’s claim that abortion actually hurts women. Let’s try to marshal evidence that will support rapping clinics and red tape like this, admitting privileges law and shut them down that way.

S4: And there seems to be working. It sure seems like a real good strategy.

S10: Well, it seems like, Sanjay, except that it failed in 2016. Justice Kennedy didn’t go for it. If it fails now with Roberts, I think that will be the end of this strategy. And it will be interesting because it’s quite an elite strategy, like it’s the lawyers, the litigation folks, not the grassroots anti-abortion movement.

S26: The grassroots anti-abortion movement is all about the heartbeat bills, which are like that’s make abortion illegal. You know, when women are six weeks pregnant, they don’t even know they’re pregnant yet. Like, that’s the end of Roe. And, you know, there’s some people who think that what Roberts doesn’t like about this Louisiana law and the strategy behind it is it’s all about deception. It’s asking him to say like, oh, don’t look at all this medical evidence and like, look at this pretext we’ve created for you. Isn’t it lovely? If Roberts doesn’t go for that and it’s kind of like how he didn’t go for it in the census case, potentially. I mean, he could still change his mind. Let’s just make that clear. But if he doesn’t, then it’s going to be full on like, OK, well, let’s just present a case to him that says abortion is wrong. This was a terrible mistake. It was always been a mistake all along. And we’re going to try to present the court with a kind of a straight on attack on access to abortion and the constitutional right to abortion.


S27: Is there a useful inconsistency or maybe this is a nit picking, but if you’re if you’re pre-text, is that you’re concerned about the the health of the mother from the abortion doctors medical skills.

S14: Implicit in that is that the process is kind of going forward.

S27: And so you’re you’re you’re you’re you’re choosing to have your argument further down the road for people who are not in support of abortion rights. And therefore, implicit in that is that it’s kind of okay to have gotten that far down the road, that everything would be okay if you just had doctors who were who had admitting privileges and everybody could be safe once this procedure took place if something were to go wrong.

S10: Yeah. I mean, Justice Cabinet sort of took that line of questioning on Wednesday. He said, well, imagine a state where all the doctors have an easy time getting admitting privileges. Wouldn’t this law be constitutional because then it wouldn’t be an undue burden on women’s rights. And that suggests exactly what you were saying. I mean, I think the sort of stealth tactic is that in states where there is hostility to abortion, the local hospitals don’t grant the admitting privileges for a variety of reasons. But yes, you’re right about the indirectness, and that is in some ways a political problem. And I think that’s why the grassroots pro-life movement has been reluctant to sign onto this. It just feels to them like it’s conceding way too much, like, wait a second, this is murdering babies. This is bad. We should leave this up to the states. And you’re I mean, there already are those heartbeat bills passing. And the question will be how to tee up the next case for the Supreme Court.


S16: Are the people not going in? Many admitting privileges, really just doctors who perform abortions or does it actually end up sweeping in a whole other set of doctors who don’t perform abortions? They they do. They really just end up targeting this because they want to stigmatize those doctors.

S11: Oh, it’s targeting these doctors. It’s a requirement for performing abortions. And so part of the. Scientific resistance to this is that there all kinds of riskier procedures that doctors are not required to have admitting privileges for.

S18: Chuck Schumer said, oh, man, I can’t now, I can’t even remember exactly what he said.

S11: He p sort of said said find out about a price to Cavin on grade paper in a individualized way. It was bad.

S9: Yeah, that they reap the whirlwind and now they’re gonna unleash the whirlwind. They’re going to read you something anyway, you know something.

S18: And then you reap the whirlwind in the Bible.

S11: Yeah, I guess. Calvin, something about selling the world with his in his confirmation hearings. But yeah, Schumer went after them personally. It was a I think, a real mistake. I hated to see him do that.

S18: Well, he he has said it was a mistake. He said something like, oh, I misspoke, curve’s misinterpreted, whatever.

S10: I have done it. And, you know, I will say I mean, I think that Chief Justice John Roberts was like well within his role to scold Schumer about it. It also should be said, though, that last week Trump was criticizing Sotomayor and Ginsburg personally, and Robert didn’t stick up for them. Now, Trump’s comment wasn’t the kind of pay a price sort of rhetoric that just seems really dark. But it was hypercritical. So, you know, I’ll let listeners think about whether Roberts should have stepped in in that instance as well.


S18: Let’s go to cocktail chatter. Emily, you have been thinking talking so much about Supreme Court when you’re having a drink. Surely you want to relax and talk about some great TV show you watched or some book that you’re reading or some funny thing your kids said?

S13: What do you going to chatter about today?

S25: I’m going to chatter about another Supreme Court case, because it was what’s really important in my case. Another really important case was argued this week. This one involves the independence of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. This is, of course, the agency created to protect consumers. That is a list of Elizabeth Warren’s baby. Republicans hate it. And they have gone after it by arguing that the way Congress created it was unconstitutional. Congress said in an effort to protect the bureau from politics that the president can only remove its director for cause defined as inefficiency, neglect of duty or malfeasance. And the argument is that this limits the president’s power too much. The argument at the court was noteworthy for two reasons.

S26: One is that there are a lot of other examples of federal entities created with four cores firing. They don’t happen to be single head agencies the way the CFP is. But does that really matter? So given the precedents that have allowed the court to uphold those previous appointment structures, are liberals on the court like Justice Kagan seemed very skeptical of the claim that this one is unconstitutional. However, Justice Gorsuch got, who is a big believer in vast presidential power, got quite testy with Paul Clement, who was defending the structure of the CFP. And this is kind of interesting because Clement is normally like a hard charging lawyer for conservatives. But in this case, because the administration took the Trump administration took the very unusual position of refusing to defend a law that Congress has passed. Clinton was appointed to defend the structure of the CFP, and Gorsuch just got really testy with him.


S10: In a way that seemed kind of surprising and showed that emotions are running high among the conservatives probably against this agency. So, you know, this is a wonky question, but it’s going to have a big impact. If the way that the CFP bees head is appointed as unconstitutional, it’s possible that the Supreme Court could just say like goodbye to this agency, which would be really dramatic expression of judicial power. So we’re going to have to wait to see on this one.

S16: Well, and also just a further step towards the coming executive dictatorship, where the president, the unitary executive, has total control over the executive branch and and all of its agencies and some shockingly unlimited way. And we’re also doesn’t have to answer to Congress. So that’s where we seem to be.

S10: That is very well said. I’m glad you added that.

S6: Thank you. John, what is your chatter?

S8: Well, I have two chatters. The first is a new podcast called LBJ and the Great Society, and particularly as we’re talking about. Well, what’s a presidency for? It’s a really in-depth look at at Johnson and the efforts to expand health care access and fight poverty and basically all the the Great Society programs that were ultimately swamped by Vietnam and also some of their own internal challenges. But it’s it’s hosted by Melody Barnes, who knows something about this. Who is the chief domestic policy adviser under the Obama administration? Anyway, I recommend it to anybody. And the other one is a piece that I read in outside magazine. It’s how a shipwreck crew survived 10 days lost at sea. I always find those kinds of stories deeply fascinating because it’s really when the total veneer of civilization gets pulled off. What do we resort to and how do we behave?

S14: My view is, given the expectation that that might happen, why really go out on seafaring vessels?

S15: One hundred percent. And now, of course, they’re just huge petri dishes. When you do it in a in a in a cruise context. But anyway, it’s a well-written piece. It’s also has a very interesting ending, which I liked some very colorful metaphors or at least descriptions of what happened on this one particular voyage. So Eric Barton is the author. How a Shipwreck Cruise Survived 10 days lost at sea on outside. Online dot com.

S18: Yeah. I do not understand how humanity made it to any of these islands. Why? We’re not just all just living on the continent of Africa. Like, why would we ever have? I guess you could get to you could get to Europe and Eurasia without crossing an ocean. But man, why bother?

S13: Not worth it. Don’t do it, guys. David Plotz does not like the water and never will.

S28: My chatter is alarming story. Thankfully, the kind of the flip side of the story I talked about the other week about a plant that people hoped would be a CO2 sink that you could plant in sub-Saharan Africa. But a story in the Washington Post about rainforest tropical rainforests, which have been long relied upon as huge sponges for carbon dioxide, and that there is this way in which when there’s more carbon dioxide in the air, it prompts growth in tropical rainforests. And and so there’s a more, more lushness, more growth.

S18: And these forests serve to reduce the huge baleful effect we’re having by pouring so much CO2 into the atmosphere. And it turns out that that effect is declining rapidly. So it used to be that rainforests absorb 17 percent of the CO2 we put out. It’s now down to 6 percent and falling.

S28: And the reason is that drought and heat are making it harder for trees in these tropical rainforests to grow as well as they had grown. So even though there’s more CO2 which should help them grow, the drought and heat is counter mending that order. And it’s very alarming. It’s a really alarming and it’s a study that was done under incredibly difficult circumstances in African and Amazonian rainforests. And it’s terrifying listeners. You continue to send us very nice chatters this week. A lot of really good chatters that you tweeted to us at at Slate Gabfest. And I’m going to mention one from Chip. No old who points us to a piece in VOX about Norman Rockwell and Norman Rockwell, who apparently in the 1960s and early 70s went underwent a kind of late life transformation, possibly abetted by a second marriage that he made where he became much more conscious of of. Inequality and racial inequality in the country and became almost more radical in his prison, depictions of American life in ways that also made him unwelcome on the pages of some of the magazines which he’d been famous for doing covers for over many decades. So it’s a really good piece about a person who who came to a change, a political change late in life. Usually people when they get older get more conservative. Norman Rockwell did not. If you enjoy the gap, please subscribe to the show you. You’ll get new episodes the minute they are published, maybe a minute later, maybe two minutes after they’re published. I don’t even know. In any case, you can get that wherever you are listening to our podcast. You can surely subscribe to it there.

S3: Please do that. That is the show for today. The Gafford is produced by Jocelyn Frank. A researcher is Bridget Dunlap. Rosie Bellson helped us here. John joining me here in D.C. and Dan Cody, new new gabfests community team member is helping Emily in New Haven. Welcome, Dan. Gabriel Roth is editorial director of Slate Podcasts and Jim Thomas is managing producer who should follow us on Twitter. That’s like a vest for Emily Bazelon, John DICKERSON. I’m David Plotz. Thanks for listening. We’ll talk to you next week. I just realized I describe myself as being from Atlas Obscura. I’m not from Atlas Obscura anymore, but little leave it in, I think the next week.

S23: Hello. Slate Plus, how are you? Probably lots of time to listen to podcasts.

S7: I hope you’re not sharing your your your pods with anybody. I hope you’re keeping those separate. I hope you’re listening. Alone in a can in a sealed chamber so that you’re not getting the germs of anybody else. But the Corona virus made us think about all this kind of pandemic culture. There’s been a lot of pandemic culture in the world over the past couple generations. Zombies are a form of pandemic culture. If you think of zombification, but there are a lot of been a lot of books, there’s been TV shows, there’s been movies. And I want to talk about favorite bits of pandemic culture and why they spoke to us. Does anyone have one they want to start off with, John?

S8: Well, I knew you all are much more well read than I am. So the road is so natural. It’s well, I just I would just say I was just I’m just off and I’m off in a little room of the. You all are much more. You have a much more breadth. It’s better.

S15: But but now that the book is done, I’m going to be coming in here talking about popular fiction. I won’t be talking about cookbooks.

S4: I’ve read laser show on Disney plus. Yes. I’m going to be so interesting anyway. The though is the road I kill the bird. Is it a pandemic? Think it’s a pandemic ism or something?

S5: Well, I don’t think it’s pandemic because I think the disaster that is described in the road is not a pandemic. I think it’s like a it’s not ever specified, but it seems to be nuclear. It seems to be environmentally destructive to all the plants and animals to it. It’s like I think it’s a description of bombs. I did think about I mean, the book The Road is the like the book that affected me most in my whole life.

S4: I know I can’t I don’t wanna go back and reread it for him to read it. I wonder about first time. Oh, God. I want to I want to now reread it for fear. I don’t want to go back and write for just for pure fear.

S14: You know, there’s something you said, David. 15 years ago, I think when I once said that there was a leak in the house and you said it’s like having a spy in your house, which is you don’t know where these are when these pandemics and in this what I think the propulsive force in this literature, which I haven’t read and am now about to make a big judgment on, is that it can be everywhere in anywhere. And it’s it’s a it’s stealthy and it’s it gives everybody a haunted feeling. But you don’t know where the arrows coming from. And so it reminded me of what you said about having a good metaphor. I don’t know. I don’t ever since that stuck with me. But anyway, so now the guy wrote it.

S12: I mean, the road is the best of those books. It’s so terrible stage.

S13: That was also really hard. I mean, but not so grim.

S10: Yeah, less grim. But in some ways that makes it I mean, I think The Road is an amazing book. But the thing about Station 11 is because it’s more in this grey zone in which people are still trying to live and travel around. It seems more possible, right? Like my response. The road is like I want to be the dead wife. I don’t. I mean, I also don’t want to imagine my children suffering. But like, I have no interest in living in a post-apocalyptic universe. Like zero. Right. Whereas station eleven, it’s more like. Huh? Could you still find some reason to survive here? Because maybe it will be okay in the end.

S16: Station Eleven is a remarkable and beautiful book, and it has so much humanity in it and so much I think so much hope in it, totally.

S10: If listeners if you have not read sation Eleven, that is one of the great books of the past and you could read it right now and not just have like fallen to complete despair.

S28: I think I’ll name a couple other ones which are. There’s a couple of books which are which are pandemic that don’t quite happen.

S18: So The Andromeda Strain. Really? That’s a really good trashy book from our childhood. An Outbreak, which is in a book imagines possible Ebola, an Ebola pandemic. That doesn’t happen. It’s also really it’s a it’s not a that’s not a book. It’s a movie. It’s actually a great movie. But it’s it’s tense. It’s very tense.

S16: There’s a book that I read as a kid that that really struck a chord with me. And maybe it just cause I read a lot of sci fi. John, maybe you. Did you read Sci-Fi as a kid? No, no. Some reason I thought you did. As a book called Emergence, which is a post, imagines a pandemic which wipes out everybody except sort of a small group of people who are essentially new species of human who survive and reform a society. And that’s a that’s a really good book. And then the Margaret Atwood orks and Crake series has a pandemic at the core of it. And that is unsettling as hell and great. But I do think, like, if you’re gonna read one pandemic book, make it station eleven. I think that’s the thing to read.

S29: But if you’re gonna watch one movie. There is a movie I really like from a few years ago, and I can’t decide if it’s the movie that it’s called Pandemic or whether it was a different. Oh, huh.

S4: Well you can’t what you mean you can’t start a Pagani like I was looking at though different.

S10: You go out contagion, which peop other people I think recommend that as Gwyneth Paltrow and and I’ve not seen that movie. I feel certain I’m not talking about that movie, but there’s a movie that’s like about a pandemic slowly moving across the world and the whole thing of it. I don’t think it’s the movie called Patient Zero, though it’s possible it is anyway mixed up about the whole thing.

S6: I think the great pandemic movie is 28 days. I haven’t seen them in days later, which is it’s a zombie movie. The zombies, the phantom zombies are Panamas. Oh, yeah. I don’t know how that one looks, though, the special effects must be, oh, the invasion, the body snatchers is good because it’s it’s it happens to people quietly, right. Yeah. To get taken. And then all of a sudden you discover they’re among us and they’re down in a deep and bitter body.

S8: I mean, I think so. I think so. I I don’t. I realize this this conversation going on that I don’t actually embrace unsettling movies or books. Yeah, I understand. And yet I felt deeply the power of the road.

S6: Well, I him better for having read it, but The Road is the best book about fatherhood that’s ever written. Oh, God.

S13: What about this? So terrible. That was really good. I mean, that was good. Oh, that was good. Except those cute. Those. Yes.

S4: So unsettling. Like, that’s an amazing. Oh, my God. That is good.

S8: Such a great movie.

S17: But there’s it’s it’s it’s so good that I’m having a physical reaction to Hunt’s tentacles quitting now that we’re on this dark path.

S19: That episode of Black Mirror, that’s about the little horrible mechanical things that just go around and like get people. Oh, my God. Really? Really.

S16: I saw that one. Oh, yeah. Not going to watch that. I don’t like yeah, I don’t want her. There’s enough, enough, enough of this. All right. Slate plus that sweet dreams. Good luck.

S17: Yes. Why can’t we just recommend some Jane Austen? Yeah. You know, go read Pride and Prejudice.

S24: Actually, you know, Abby has like, what’s it called? The Spanish flu in it. Right. Downton Abbey has all part where they’re treating people. Yeah. They’re like, oh, you know, me. And it turned into a hospital ward, right? Yeah. Yeah, you’re right.

S8: You think anybody would do that now? Did any do you think characters die? Do you think Jeff Bezos would open up that 168 million dollar house for quarantine facility? Good question.

S11: In Washington state, some county official, they just bought a hotel to repurpose it.

S8: Yeah. And they just Amazon workers have been asked, speaking in Washington state, in Washington state for the next month to work from home.

S18: How can they stuck all those things from home? Are they paying the people who work in the warehouses and deliver? I doubt it, but those people are still there. Warehousing way. I’m not sure if Jeff Bezos is going to open that house, but it might be.

S12: Be nice to go see it. I’ve often wondered this is a separate point, like where all those great houses of of the past which people go and visit. Are the people, the houses that really rich people building today in a century, or are people gonna go visit Jeff Bezos, his house in the way that you visit a Rockefeller estate or Carnegie estate or something like that?

S8: No, because his heirs will be living in the house with guards and anti-tank guns to ward off zombies.

S23: Oh, there you go. Well, the zombies will come visit. All right. Slate plus catch later.