The “Bernie Burns It and Biden Bites It” Edition

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S1: This episode of the gabfest contains explicit language. This ad free podcast is part of your slate plus membership.

S2: Hello and welcome to the Slate Political Gabfest, February 13, 2020. Bernie Burns and Biden fights. In addition, I David Plotz about the obscure. I feel a lot better than I did last week.

S3: Thank you. Thanks for your own good wishes for my recovery. I have recovered. Did you actually get good wishes? Yeah, I did.

S4: Couple, someone wanted to ask my mother.

S5: My mother. Unfortunately, given this illness to my kid who’s now home, six left a race home after this podcast to go sit with my child, that oh, my God.

S6: Came from John DICKERSON of CBS 60 Minutes in New York. Hello, John. Hello, David. And that exclamation of some other sort, which I didn’t catch, came from Emily Bazelon in New Haven on the campus of Yale University and representing The New York Times magazine team. Hello, Emily.

S7: Hi, David. That was so peppy.

S6: You just had such a nice giggle out of you. On today’s gab fest, the collapse of Joe Biden and the continued rise. Like I or not rise, the continued success of Bernie Sanders. Then just a week since the Senate acquitted him in an impeachment trial, the president is unbound. Justice corrupted a vendetta by the president against his enemies and against the executive branch. Then will Corona virus? Will that new coronavirus smash the global economy? Plus, we will have a cocktail chatter. I have been wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong and wrong again about Bernie Sanders. I’ve been wrong so many times.

S4: I don’t know why anyone listens to anything I say know about Bernie Sanders. I thought his campaign was hardtack or anything at all.

S8: It should remind me. You remind me of Joe Biden at the start of the New Hampshire debate, too. He said, yeah, I didn’t do well in Iowa and I won’t do well here. Vote for me.

S9: You’re going to be able later in the conversation to start taking a potential victory lap over the emergence of Michael Bloomberg, which is so frustrating to me. So there’s that.

S5: Well, we’ll see about that, too. In any case, gaffes, listeners probably have my head on a pike. If we do not exalt and extol, praise and huzzah Bernie Sanders victory in New Hampshire, no matter that it was the weakest winning performance in New Hampshire ever, that he underperformed what he did in 2016 in terms of votes.

S4: Still, he’s raking in donations. He’s won the first two. He’s won the first two contests. And he clearly leads this week in Divided Field. Have you really been? Have you really been constantly wrong about Sanders? I noticed you’ve been writing about it.

S5: But today, when I predict that Biden’s campaign is over, it probably heralds his resurgence. In any case. So, Emily, Emily, the Sanders is this.

S6: Is this a grand victory which heralds his march towards inevitable nomination or is this a weak win and suggest, Dean, the field is massively divided and it’s anyone’s game.

S10: It’s not inevitable in the least that Sanders will win the nomination, but it’s entirely plausible, increasingly probable. And I think that he is emerging as quite a strong candidate among Democrats. Now, it’s true that if you still believe in a moderate and a progressive lane and you look at the returns in New Hampshire and maybe in Iowa to accept that I don’t believe in those returns.

S11: Exactly, then you still see that the majority of Democrats, their first choice is one of the moderates. But Sanders supporters are really devoted and sticky. His appeal has been incredibly consistent and I think resonates for a lot of people. One thing that two points in his favor, his favorability rate among Democrats is the highest of all the candidates. It’s like almost 75 percent. That’s a lot. I mean, that’s not the whole rest of the country. But that’s a lot. And another thing I think is important, shit, it’s out of my head to get it back.

S9: Two things and I can’t remember.

S12: I’m so glad to hear you think that you can’t remember. The second thing, though, that happens to me. Yeah, you like. That’s like Bernie Sanders didn’t Sanders.

S5: Sanders was saying there two fundamental things about my campaign, and he said the first and then there was no second that I was reading someone like me.

S13: All right. Well, May 2nd is implied.

S14: And then I’ll remember the second one we should say what what is powerful about Sanders? So he won the popular vote, the first two states he leads in the national polls. He’s raised and still has a great deal of money and he has the most diverse.

S15: Is this right? Well, go ahead. Say it. He has the most diverse coalition of the remaining.

S14: Frontrunners now the question is, wait a minute. Biden has a more diverse coalition. Well, maybe. But is he still a frontrunner? He certainly did not do well enough in Iowa or New Hampshire to meet those categories. And he’s trying to skip over Nevada, which means he’s waiting, he’s trying to place his cherry is placing his chips all the way in South Carolina. So anyway, that those are all the good news items for for Bernie Sanders, the objection about his not the objection, but the fact that Sanders significantly underperformed relative to his 2016 race. Obviously, there were just two people running in 2016. Some people voted for Sanders who were anti-Hillary. But we must also remember and the Trump analogies are both facile and useful, is that there was always a majority of anti-Trump voting in the Republican field in 2016. It’s just that anti-Trump voting or moderate Republican voting or whatever just never coalesced around a single candidate.

S15: And that could certainly happen in this instance.

S10: I remembered you reminded me. Sanders has significantly the highest support among non-college educated men. I’m not sure if that’s white men or men in general. But in any case, those are the people who in general in the country are the most tilted toward Donald Trump. So the idea that he has a way of appealing to them has some political payoff, although race in that instance is a rather crucial question.

S13: Yeah, true. But it was New Hampshire. There it’s like 92 percent white.

S16: So it must be mostly white people that stat so smart is the biggest.

S17: The bigger story in New Hampshire, the bigger story of New Hampshire, really the incredibly poor performance of Joe Biden is is Joe Biden walking dead now because of how poorly he’s done in the first two contests?

S18: And as John said, he’s skipping. He’s skipping Nevada. Is that is it?

S13: He’s walking I think is walking dead. So here’s my question for you, that I really can’t decide what I think about. So if this order were different in South Carolina was first, would we be saying Joe Biden is a weak candidate? He’s had problems on the stump. He’s had problems in debates. He’s not a great talker. He still has all the attributes that made him seem like the person most likely to defeat Trump. The person who was the best positioned to win Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, in Michigan, if you believe the conventional wisdom. So is this simply a matter of the order of the caucuses and primaries?

S14: Not simply, but I think you make a good you make a good case. And I would add one more piece to it, which is either adjacent or central to your claim. You figure out which which is that the larger criticism about Iowa and New Hampshire, which is that they are unrepresentative of the Democratic Party and therefore you have setting the tone for the race. And we know the way in which and we’ve seen as Iowa returns continue to come in, many unhappy returns, the way in which the muddled Iowa start affected the race.

S19: And so we know that these two even when the start is muddled and maybe perhaps especially because the start was muddled, it has affected the race and therefore having two states that are unrepresentative of the Democratic coalition. If people believe that argument in the larger sense, which I think a lot of people do, then it would have to follow what you said about if the start had happened in South Carolina. And then the question put back to either one of you is what then? Should that tell the discerning voter who who sits on this date and seeks to find a candidate they can rally behind?

S16: Well, I don’t, but I guess I would say that it’s that it’s also much larger than just what we order of the states are.

S17: I mean, you also this whole way, I thought John Chait’s piece was really good. Jon Chait has a very insightful piece in, I guess, New York magazine that argued that the real cost to the Biden campaign is that it’s squatted in the center of the party for the last year or so, occupied the Obama space, occupied the Obama Halo space, and thus prevented anybody else from significantly challenging for it. And that’s going to be ruinous for the party because it prevented moderates from from having a chance to spend time coalescing around a Cory Booker or Michael Bennet or even a Bloomberg. And yes, Klobuchar and Bhutto judge are are making a run for that late, but they are making a run into a kind of a weakened area and in a weakened fashion. And I think I think that does nothing do with what the order of the states is. It just has to do with that. Biden, by being who he is, sucked up a bunch of energy and attention that is distorted the field and makes it much less likely that Democrats will get a strong, more moderate candidate and more likely that they’re going to end up with. SANDERS Probably do.

S14: Do moderates coalesce in multi-candidate fields? I’m not sure they do. In other words, moderates are moderate. And so they’re like, oh, I like a little bit about a change or a club cha- or like they they don’t have it seems to me for coalescence to happen. You either need people to be super highly transactional or highly.

S20: And that’s usually. And I think the only thing that makes them do that is I is like you are more ideologically fervent people who actually aren’t transactional either because they’re ideological from fervent. Therefore, they want the ideas. I’m not sure that there would have been a great coalescence if Biden hadn’t been there. I think you would’ve had a chop up the kind of the way you have now with with Bhuta Jejoen and Clubber Shah.

S15: And also isn’t part of the Biden fall the fact that he wasn’t enough of a dominating presence that you could still have a boobage rise to the top?

S19: I mean, he’s a mayor of a tiny town. And yet nevertheless, he’s basically been the giant slayer in the in the moderate lane.

S15: And then you have Klobuchar, who in the space of like six days zooms to the front of the pack, which suggests an underlying weakness. And the fact that Biden couldn’t kind of even hold his own in that place and in the middle of the pack.

S13: Yeah, I I guess I feel like the choice facing the party this so I’ve been thinking about it. On the one hand, you have this idea like run on the popular stuff. Right, which Matt Glaziers at Fox. This is the drum he’s been beating and it’s had an effect on me when you think about what the chances of winning are like Medicare for everybody who wants it. And a path to citizenship is a lot more popular than Medicare for all and like no more ice or whatever. So in that sense, you see people like Klobuchar and Bhuta Judge well positioned. I think the reason nobody’s coalesced is that not they’re not clearly like great candidates. They may be able to beat Trump. They may not, but they are not. They don’t have some evanescent, inevitable, like super exciting, great set of attributes that make them slam dunk. Then you have standards wildly implausible. This is the single analogy to Donald Trump that I buy for Bernie. Doesn’t Bernie Sanders. He’s kind of come out of nowhere. Everyone dismissed him, including David, a million times. And yet he has this really strong message that resonates with people because it’s unexpected, because it’s totally like lefty and revolutionary to use his word. So the normal idea is like, that’s crazy thing for the Democrats to do every time they’ve done it. See George McGovern go all the way back to William Jennings Bryan, as Michael Kazin, the historian, does in a a piece in The Times today. It’s never worked. On the other hand, Donald Trump never worked either. And I guess I feel like those are the polls, at least to me, when I look at this race.

S6: But expecting there to be a world historically evanescent candidate is unreasonable. And it’s. And I think it’s because Democrats have have been lucky enough in their past. Two presidents, Bill Clinton and Barack Obama were in different ways, two of the greatest politicians that America has ever seen. And they had they just believe that there is something there is that there is an evanescent Candide out there, never evanescent politician, whereas in fact, you basically just want a safe, decent pair of hands, somebody who’s going to be capable and and get the job done. In that sense, I think it’s it’s slightly unfair to be constantly looking for somebody who’s gonna be a transcendent candidate, like look for somebody who’s gonna be okay, who’s gonna do the job.

S9: I mean, this this is that is Joe Biden teeing up Michael Bloomberg. Amy Klobuchar or somebody else?

S17: I’m keeping up. Amy Klobuchar or or Pete two-digit, I think Moonpie, either one of Amy Kolb or Bloomberg for sure. But I think Bloomberg comes that there’s so much baggage around Bloomberg.

S21: I think that God, whatever that piece was able say, the Sanders Bloomberg head to head is not going to be a great look for the party.

S17: But Bhuta Jej or Klobuchar have the quality of being like, All right. These are people who are there. They’re competent. They’re smart. They. Bridget certainly seem to have a great temperament, decent on policy no matter where you sit in the party. He’s not terrible in any particular direction. So let’s just wait. John, I think I feel like this is something you were. You’ve been saying for years is that when you have polarizing elections, like what the electorate seems to want to do the next time around is at least the part of the electorate that can be the swing part of the electorate is get back to some moderate to moderate it. And it feels to me like that. That’s where that’s why you want a judge or a club. KLOBUCHAR Because they just are kind of lukewarm water. So like like look at the lukewarm water in there and help me make people feel more or less safe.

S14: Well, it depends. I mean, yes, but we are you know, we’re in this shifting time where so people look at McGovern and withdraw with Donald Trump. They looked at Goldwater and they said, well, this is what happens when you when you nominate somebody with a fervent, passionate electorate behind it. They get they crash and burn. Now they but the counterargument is things have changed and that and that won’t happen this time around. And what I’m what intrigues me. So so the question is, do people want the lukewarm candidate or do they need to go through a Goldwater McGovern moment before they pick? Now, what’s interesting is after McGovern, you get Carter, who’s also a big outsider. So you could although he had kind of was more competent. But I guess what it would what intrigues me is whether you can predict how much of what Donald Trump created is transitive to Bernie Sanders. So we know there are direct ways in which Trump has helped Sanders. He’s he’s sharp in the left right contrast, which makes the party moved more to the left, which is where Bernie has been his whole life. And people like the idea of candidates who have a set of convictions that they run for on their whole life. It goes that goes to this authenticity question. So Trump directly has helped in that regard. He’s also completely shredded the views of pundits and guessing at what and how the electorate will work. And I think that to the extent that that expertise, which a lot of people has argued has never existed, has expertise anyway, but is nevertheless no longer even entertained by a large group of people. All the punditry that was thrown at Bernie Sanders over the last couple of weeks about how he would kill the party bounces off in part because of the conditions of the Trump has created more broadly in the culture. And then indirectly, Trump was able to rise because of the death of parties. He basically took over the Republican Party and has completely turned it into the party of Donald Trump. And the change in in the way we run our elections, where instantaneous authenticity on a television screen is helpful and that certainly works well for Bernie Sanders. So if if all those things in the court and the politics is changed, then then maybe there is a route for Sanders. I mean, you have to if you’re a Sanders supporter and you’re somebody who is coming over to Sanders, maybe there is some possibility in the general election that is a part of this new dynamic that everybody is still trying to figure out.

S22: That’s pretty persuasive.

S18: Emily, word we have not said in this whole segment so far, Warren. Why didn’t they warn of rabbits? And we didn’t say Elizabeth Warren. I was sure Elizabeth Warren was can do so well in New Hampshire. I was so looking forward to it. Why? Why do you think it is that Sanders has consolidated the left and that Warren has just not picked up these other these other groups? Is it was it is it the continuing effect of her Medicare for all fiasco is that this sort of second order prejudice the sense that the people are going to vote. Other people are going to vote for a woman. And so we shouldn’t vote for her. Is it something about the way she’s run her campaign?

S10: I think those first two things have had an impact. I wouldn’t have used the word fiasco, but I do think that in retrospect, it was a mistake not to try to move toward some sort of more pragmatic middle. Medicare for all who wanted people to judge space. And I do think that latent sexism and other people’s fears about latent sexism have something to do with what’s happening with Warren. You know, I also think that Bernie Sanders supporters are just really loyal to Bernie Sanders. She thought she was going to win more of them over because he did seem implausible and they stuck with him and they proved that he’s plausible in some ways.

S13: I feel like, first of all. I mean, I think partly because I wrote about her and spent some time with her. I think she really does feel like the belief she has she’s going to fight for. It’s okay with her. I don’t mean this in like a give up kind of way, but I think she cares more about the outcomes and the principles than she does about it being her who gets to be the president. And I feel like there’s a way in which she’s been incredibly consistent.

S10: And her main appeal was as the unity candidate. And actually the party is not ready to unify or again, like they didn’t see. People don’t see her as all the glove, like glorious glossy things. David, which you just properly said we shouldn’t be so concerned about anyway. I think if people were willing to go the more practical route you were talking about, then her candidacy, would she be getting more votes?

S18: John, so in absolute terms, the turnout in the Democratic primary is quite high with the highest ever, I believe, in absolute terms. And so there was some enthusiasm that, oh, yes, we’ve got a high turnout in this primary. But if you look in relative terms, as a as a percentage of the possible voters, it was lower than it’s been recently. So should Democrats, as it was in Iowa, should Democrats worry that there is a enthusiasm, there’s a lack of enthusiasm, or is it just a function of the it being almost too divided a field? And so they’re not think that people can’t get worked up because it’s too divided that if you had two candidates, in fact, probably you’d get higher turnout.

S20: I don’t quite know.

S14: I mean, I think one thing we always have to keep in mind is just the general fatigue, which works in the benefit in the back benefit of the president, which is I have been operating under the assumption that the president will continue to provide turnout fire for the Democratic Party.

S23: And I think that’s that’s undoubtedly true. But I do feel like the waves and waves of fatigue are going to have are going to play a role in this race. And maybe this is one way in which it’s played. I think you can make a case that if you need enthusiasm, the one candidate who is who can generate enthusiasm and has found a way to. If this if this is just purely your metric you had, then then you’re a Bernie Sanders. Then you’re making a case for Bernie Sanders. Just on just purely on a candidate who can by themselves generate fire. Now, then, you have to ask the question that was asked with Trump, which was does that fire burn the other kinds of candidates? In Trump’s case, it didn’t, because they found a way to basically argued that Hillary Clinton was so objectionable. Even those people who didn’t want to stand next to the burning fire of the Mago voter would nevertheless join the rally because they didn’t want Hillary Clinton to be elected. And so perhaps that happens again with the Democratic side. So I don’t really know what turnout does or doesn’t mean. I think if you’re a Democrat, you probably feel like, well, a few at least the numbers are a little better than they were in Iowa because Iowa is not good. Can I just say one final thing about Joe Biden. If Joe Biden heads off into the sunset as those these two finishes would suggest. Donald Trump was impeached for one of the worst acts of punditry in perhaps American history because Donald Trump thinks Joe Biden is going to be his top contender. He launches this. Whatever you want to call it on Ukraine to diminish his chances and maybe is successful because maybe that had some blowback and splash up effect on on Biden in the primaries, in which case it was a successful piece of punditry and he had medaled in the Democratic primaries and hurt Biden or Biden was never going to do well for a lot of reasons that people had argued for a long time, given his previous behavior in politics, and therefore he would have fallen of his own weight. And and all of Trump’s sideways efforts to get his son investigated were wasted. And oh, by the way, if Feidin disappears, what do we think the enthusiasm will be for all of these investigations that Republicans have said they will launch into? Barry PSMA and Hunter Biden? My guess is that the enthusiasm for them will likely go down.

S6: Slate plus members get bonus segments here on the gabfest and on other Slate podcast. Ghostlike dot coms like Gap s plus join and become a member today. And today we’re gonna have a fun discussion about President Trump’s new plan to stop modern architecture, modernist architecture in its tracks by requiring federal buildings to be built in a neoclassical style. And this is a new executive order that’s being considered. Great topic for Slate Plus Bonus segment. So join today’s Flash Gabfests plus. It was just a week since the president was acquitted by the Senate and clearly chastened. He has only fired his EU ambassador. Sacked. And had escorted out of the White House, a witness against him and the witnesses brother caused an extraordinary intervention in the case of his ally, Roger Stone attacked a federal judge in that case, prompted the entire prosecutorial team at the Justice Department to quit that case, withdrawn the nomination of official who had helped oversee the Roger Stone case. Had his Justice Department set up a special channel to accept seedy back channel information gathered by Rudy Giuliani. Giuliani, he has certainly learned his lesson, hasn’t he, Emily?

S13: You can tell. I mean, he is so contrite. He’s being so careful. He’s so constrained.

S6: Which of these interventions is most shocking? I mean, I know which one you think it is. And I think I agree. But why is the machinations around the stone sentencing, where the Roger Stone sentence was recommended at one level by prosecutors and essentially at the order of someone. But certainly with the support of the president, it has been that recommendation has been slashed, causing prosecutors to quit.

S24: Yeah. I mean, this just goes to the heart of the very tricky. Relationship between the Justice Department and the White House since Watergate. We have worried a lot about the independence of prosecutorial investigations that the president cares about.

S10: And basically we want to have decisions made that are based on the rule of law, independent principles, not political considerations. This intervention was about lightening a sentence for Roger Stone, but other interventions are about investigating the president’s enemies or in the future, we could see greater punishment for the president’s enemies. When you imagine living in a country in which the president can direct prosecutors to go after anyone he doesn’t like and change their decisions according to his whims. That’s scary. Trump is heading in that direction. So I think for me, that’s like the kind of really basic idea why I found this shocking, as have, you know, lawyers across the country are are worried.

S6: I want to get to that, Emily, because usually with these legal things, this legal Farrar, you get in almost as much anger on one side as the other, that that the the conservative legal establishment and the liberal legal establishment, when it comes to sort of process matters, tend to be fairly close. But you don’t see the conservative legal scholars generally being quite as outraged about what’s happening as you would expect. And certainly, you know, the pot, the the lawyers who are politicians, the Lindsey Graham’s are just like, oh, this is no big deal. But but even in the traditional conservative legal establishment, there isn’t hasn’t been quite as much outrage as this because Bill Barr is such a creature of that establishment. Is it because the conservative legal establishment has been co-opted or is it because I’m just listening to the wrong people and actually people are outraged?

S10: Well, I think people are outraged. I mean, the outrage may not be universal. And there are some transactional like I’m just going to be quiet about this and look away always. But, you know, the whole New York City bar just wrote a letter saying like five alarm fire. There are other signs like that. I think if you take just one step away from Trump and Trumpism, this is a five alarm fire.

S18: John, is it politically important? Is there any constituency that is going to be moved by this? This is this or is this just sort of an insider fight that doesn’t spill out into public support or public outrage?

S20: Well, the cynical answer is this will have a strong political effect and that political effect will accrue to the president’s benefit. Because what we’ve seen from his nominee from from the campaign in 2016 when he endorsed the power move of denying Merrick Garland a hearing even then through his presidency and now in his reaction to his acquittal, we’ve seen him increasingly take power moves both through the campaign, of course, and then in his presidency. And each time one of his power moves has crossed a line that was set up through tradition to protect the office of the presidency, recognizing that behavior in a campaign is different than for maybe or in a presidency. The line has been raised and the power move has been applauded. And and we saw that in the impeachment trial and a number of different ways, not just in the acquittal, but say, for example, there was a period when the president said it was fine to receive intelligence information from a foreign country for the purposes of serving your campaign in. A number of Republicans said, no, no, that’s wrong. That’s not right. And then during his impeachment trial, his defense, his lawyers said, oh, it’s fine. And Republicans said, oh, yeah, that’s true. That’s OK. So you saw the norms shift in the space of a few months. Each time the president has made a power move, it has been it’s been applauded and signed up for by the party. So this is another power move.

S15: And so based on all those previous ones, you’d have to say that it will benefit him. Will it hurt him?

S20: My guess is that because there has been an alert to these kinds of things from his critics for a long time, this probably sorts into the existing fear that people have about him, although I’m not saying that it’s not making people more anxious than they were before, but that they were already anxious enough.

S23: So politically, they were already opposed to him.

S18: I mean, again, we get to the I mean, two two points which cannot be made. Often enough, this is exactly the kind of dangerous, corrupt society destroying shit that we see in in countries with executive dictatorships. We thought that there were barriers. We thought that our institutions protected us, that the the tripartite nature of the government protected us, that that the justice system was able to resist it. And it turns out that if if other institutions are unwilling to assert their perogative, if other institutions are fall into the same kind of filth that the president wants to be in, that there is no protection, that you end up with an executive dictatorship. And the cravenness of Senate Republicans who were unwilling to protect the institutions of government that they so, so, so talk so eloquently about that they talk so passionately about, especially when there’s a Democratic president to protect those prerogatives, to protect those principles, to protect the both the laws and then the soft traditions and the customs and their unwillingness to stand up for it is shameful. And and unfortunately, history will not punish them because they’ll probably gonna write history because they’re going to end up on the side of it. But we who are living through this. We were living through this. No. Know that what the republic, Senate Republicans in particular. House Republicans. You know, same thing, same same, but just a lesser body. But the what Senate Republicans are doing is so shameful and the enabling of the president is a disgrace. And it’s it’s probably going to bring about the end of a functioning system of government in the way that we imagined that we had one. And we’re gonna have an executive dictatorship. There will probably be mostly controlled by a party on the right for for a long time to come. That is my prediction.

S12: Can we talk about. But I was wrong about Bernie Sanders, too.

S20: Can I just add one tiny detail in the assembly and then we’ll go and then we’ll move on? Yeah, please. What? In a specific way. What I’ve been thinking about, which is related to what you said, David, is you had a number of Republican senators who said what the president did was wrong, shameful, irresponsible, but not impeachable. Okay. That’s the position they held. You could I think you could argue if you gave everybody sodium pentothal, there would be at least two thirds of the vote in the Senate to fight to sign up to that proposition. Okay. So they thought he should be acquitted. That’s fine. Maybe they think the house really over, went over, did it anywhere as a partisan impeachment. Okay, that’s fine. Now, think of the people like Lieutenant Colonel Venkman or who John Kelly, the former chief of staff on Wednesday night said did precisely what they are trained to do, which is when you see a superior do something wrong, you raise it to the chain of command and you. And so he followed the rules that we have for abuse of power, whether it’s in the executive branch, in the military or whatever. He went by the book as a way to limit abuse of power. Short of impeachment, let’s say you agree the impeachment is too big a hammer for this. One of the questions is OK. But then how? In the things that are short of impeachment, do you ever check power and how do you encourage people to check power? Because we founded our entire system of government and the idea that if you get a little bit of power, you’re always gonna go for maximum power because that’s just the way it works. So how do you what system is left for checking medium or even potential medium abuses of power? Venkman did what he was supposed to and he was smeared from the beginning. The whistleblower did what they were supposed to. And who says that Chuck Grassley is a Republican, former chairman of the Judiciary Committee, said he did exactly what he was supposed to do. He was smeared for doing that. Mitt Romney took a vote based on his conscience and is being attacked for doing that. All of which not only is some people might say is unfair. If you follow the rules, you shouldn’t be punished for it. But then obviously has a chilling effect. How powerful is the chilling effect? Nobody who stands up and says what the president did was irresponsible when they will then say the next sentence, which is and in furtherance of the thing he did, that was your response was also irresponsible to smear those people who followed the rules, rules that we set up, some of them by Congress, followed the rules, did what they were supposed to do. They shouldn’t be smeared for it, not only because of the facts of the case, but B, because we do want to create a climate in which power is completely unchecked at any gradation, whether it’s at the impeachment level or the lower, lower level. And none of that. Nobody’s come forward and said that, which creates more opportunities for excessive use of power in the executive branch.

S5: Well said. Emily, last word on this.

S10: I just want to look at this from the point of view of these four prosecutors, all of whom withdrew from the case, one of whom has resigned his position. Just think what it takes to get a directive from your boss and decide not only can you not go along with it, you have to make what’s called a noisy withdrawal. That’s what lawyers do when they’re asked to do something unethical. And in one case, you decide, you know what? I can’t do this job anymore in these circumstances.

S11: That’s a big decision to make. These are well trained professionals. If there was a way they could have made peace with this directive, one assumes they would have made it. So I think that’s worth thinking about. The other thing that I was struck me yet again is that Trump, by tweeting his outrage over the nine year proposed sentence for Stone and then his congratulations that the Justice Department had done his bidding was doing outloud. What if he’d done by picking up the phone and calling Bill Bar and then got getting caught for it would have seemed wrong. And there is a I should say, if. Okay, if he if he if he had picked up the phone and secretly called Bill Bar and then we’d found out about it, that would somehow seem worse. It’s not. If you signal publicly what you want as the president and then it happens and you thank people for it, you have made your wishes perfectly clear. We don’t need more than that.

S15: What’s that called again? Noisy withdrawal.

S13: Noisy withdrawal. You liked that?

S5: Yeah. Love that. Like. That phrase could be misused.

S7: Oh, my God.

S19: Josslyn, you at least have one edit you can make in the show today, though, do I?

S7: I don’t know if I leave that in. It’s fine. It’s fine. It can make a sexual reference that the world thought about. That wasn’t a sexual reference. Why do you think that was sexual? OK. She’s an everyone. Everyone.

S5: The coronavirus, the new coronavirus epidemic, continues to spread. There are some signs that it’s slowing, others maybe that it’s not. Whatever is happening continues to paralyze China, wreak havoc on the global economy. The epidemic is appears to have a pretty low mortality rate. It has not ravaged China or the U.S. the way the flu does. Every year. The flu kills the regular flu kills hundreds of thousands of people around the world annually, including about somewhere around 50000 in the U.S. alone. But this new coronavirus is it is new. There is not yet a vaccine or treatment for it. It remains mysterious and it is it is paralytic. So I read a lot of post-apocalyptic novels and they always begin with something like this. They always begin with something sweeping out of China, a pandemic world killer.

S9: But honest, really. Oh, it’s not China. Isn’t that a problem? If it’s not always.

S5: But China is China’s where it makes sense because it’s where you have this this kind of confluence of factors that makes sense why it would come from China, which is that huge cities that allow things to spread pretty quickly, these mixing of agricultural and industrial and urban areas that used to be fairly separate populations on the move, huge inflows and outflows of people into the country and animals that didn’t used to co-mingle. Now being co-mingled because of all these same factors which causes these new these new viruses to to move into human populations. There’s all sorts of reasons why China although China just has a huge percent of the world’s population. Why China tends to be the incubator. But that’s not what we’re talking about. It doesn’t feel to me like this. This virus actually is. It’s this virus is not going to be the world killer. It’s it’s it’s not going to kill millions upon millions of people are white, 99 percent of the planet out. It’s OK. It’s not going to.

S25: It’s not that you’re not terrible friends. No, you’re missing that. What’s the difference?

S24: And I am channeling one of my kids global health classes. You’re missing the difference between an endemic illness and an epidemic. So the flu is endemic. We know what it’s going to do every year. It’s predictable. It’s bad, but it just happens every year. And yes, epidemic is unpredictable. And while I mean, I think you’re almost certainly right. This virus does not seem like it’s going to be the pandemic. It could be. And if it is, then the the tail risk that it carries is just enormous. And so that’s why people react so strongly to epidemics. I personally, as an underreact or to everything like this, find it tedious and irritating.

S25: But apparently that is not the rational reaction to have where you find what tedious and irritating the coronavirus or the the huge reaction like I skip things like this. It’s like, OK, well, you know, yes, it’s bad that people are dying.

S11: I feel terrible for the people who have done whatever, but we should have the World Health Organization be making a big deal. Right.

S6: But here here’s the thing, though, that the factors that make things likely to become sort of super dangerous, global pandemics with massive, massive mortality rates are much harder to come about than people I think think because if we can slow down the spread, it just gives scientists time to develop a vaccine. They’re going to develop something fairly quickly. That’s going to be pretty protective against this virus so that it’s going to reduce it to being going to reduce its its transmission rate, reduce the amount that contagion from it. If you start by saying, OK, we just need to slow this down, you need to give it by ourselves a few months. That buys you time to get something developed. Also, people are just healthier than they were in the age when global pandemic spread really quickly and that basic public health measures and sanitation is better so that they’re their drinking clean water. They they have access to antibiotics, so they’re not being killed by the pneumonias and the rate that they used to be killed by the pneumonias. And so I I’m I guess yes, there’s of course, there’s a chance for some global pandemic that is really going to wipe out huge percent of the world’s population. I don’t think that that we’re in that much danger.

S5: I don’t think we’re nearly as much danger from that as we are from other kinds of horrors that we can measure, like all the stuff that’s happening with climate or dangerous from where weapons systems that nuclear weapons and the proliferation of nuclear weapons. So I don’t know.

S25: I mean, that’s not to say or accept this is an immediate risk. And those are medium to long term risks.

S16: But it’s not that. Yeah.

S25: No, it’s not that probable and immediate risk, but it’s like right in staring us, staring at us right in front of us, like the World Health Organization is, like, go mobilize. Let’s make sure this doesn’t spread to Africa and Latin America. Because if it does, really bad.

S6: Right. Yes. And the word the world is both safer and less safe, it is safer because we have better sanitation. We we’re healthy, rip it or water. We have extended biotics. There is public health and infrastructure. Information travels quickly so you can track things better. And it’s much more dangerous because we live cluster together in cities, especially in developing countries, and people are cluster together in cities that are not much more prone to transmitting disease. We travel internationally. And so those two things are fighting against each other. But as long as there’s a reasonable public health infrastructure, a reasonable health and sanitation, I think I, for one, am choosing not to be super worried. However, the world economy is going to get smacked.

S20: Well, let me jump in here with a question about the world economy, if I may. You may do so. Jerome Powell, you might remember him as being the chairman of the Federal Reserve. The president, if I call him Jay, I call Jay Powell. He the president for a tumor is an enemy of the United States because he was flirting with raising interest rates, which he then did not do. But I digress slightly. He noted that the Fed was closely monitoring the emergence of the Corona virus. So which and why were they doing that? Because it would lead to disruptions in China. And that means bad news for the global economy.

S15: And so what interests me about that is two things. One, it reminds us or should remind us that black swan events can happen. And and because we’re all interconnected, have profound economic effects that can happen really quickly. And that disconnect from and unhook from the actual substance of the case. In other words, people can freak out and panic, which has an economic effect but not a health effect. And that that’ll matter because, you know, a substantial amount of what the world produces begins in China and it’s just a huge manufacturing hub and source of materials and so forth. So that really, really matters. But then that leads to what you guys were just talking about, which is if that’s the case, then from a global economic perspective, panic should not be on the menu. You should keep everybody low and slow and we can handle this. And don’t. Don’t worry. If you take that posture for the purposes of saving the economy, then does that screw up your posture that you need to actually be in the right position to handle an outbreak like this from a public health stand?

S26: That is such a good question to ask, John. Huh?

S17: Right. And you see that tension within China right now, whereas there’s this effort to like we’re going to isolate Wu on that. Don’t you just don’t look over there, but we’re going to slow. We’re gonna give everybody else. Let’s start to get back to work, because the world cannot afford to have the entire Chinese economy shut down.

S27: So it’s this tension within China, which is like we we need to be doing all the stuff that we do. And yet we also have to we have this we have this epidemic that we have to control. And it’s it is an interesting tension whether they’re going to be able to do both. I mean, the stories about the way the economy, the world economy is getting squeezed are fascinating and kind of terrifying. The fact that almost all the worlds are almost all the United States is antibiotics are made in China. Didn’t know that. That was interesting. There’s all kinds of things which are basically only made in China. And so if you if you stop being able to bring them out of China or bring things into China to be to be turned into those products, you know, you don’t start you don’t have smartphones, you don’t have antibiotics, you don’t have clothes, you don’t have all kinds of things that we will need.

S24: So does this mean. I mean, I feel like this is the big unanswered question. Is the market going to adjust? Like there are lots of grooves in the market that have caused China to be the place where those things are manufactured. But some of that market has already been moving to countries like Vietnam, where labor is even cheaper. And does this accelerate that diversification of where these goods are produced, which sounds like it would be a good thing? You know, both for the countries that would benefit, but also for guarding against this risk.

S27: Yeah, yeah, I think it will. But of course, that doesn’t get shifted in a moment. It takes a while to change supply chains. And also there is this just the just-in-time supply chain. One of the huge innovations of the world economy is this notion that you don’t have to stockpile all kinds of stuff, that you just count on global transportation systems and networks and and, you know, fast delivery and and reliability of shipping and reliability of air transport to make sure your your raw materials get to you so you can manufacture just when you need it. And if that stops being reliable, then this huge efficiency in the market disappears. And I don’t think anyone wants that. So how do you diversify the world economy and also ensure that these supply chains don’t get really slow where you have to have huge warehouses filled with steel beams each time you need to do something? Do you guys find the Chinese response horrifying or sort of like, oh, effective good that they’re able to isolate this whole. prov.. Nice job. Or is it horrifying because of the way in which this totalitarian control of the state and also the suppression of information so that people are living in a veil of ignorance?

S28: I mean, suppression of information. Horrifying, chilling, bad authoritarian clamp down on Wilhite and profit. Good, bad for people who live there. Like I shouldn’t be laughing bad.

S24: I can’t tell whether it’s necessary for preventing the spread. I mean, it would be really nice if you felt like some nice technocrats from W.H.O. was directing this rather than a government that it’s hard to trust.

S6: Do you think if there was a similar thing happening, the U.S. obviously would be hard to isolate? You know, the state of of Louisiana, but it would it would it be possible to cause people to change their behaviors if you said, like, we have this epidemic happening. Everyone, you have to wash your hands for 20 seconds. Please stay away from each other, please. You know, children, we’re not going to go to school for two weeks. Do you think people we could get voluntary behavior out of this country at scale? I’m not sure that could even happen anymore. I think people are too suspicious.

S20: Well, if we lived in this in a culture where people who live by something beyond their own self-interest. And there was a culture of self-sacrifice and that was raised up and people participated in day to day life in that way. And the advice of experts was not constantly denigrated either by officials or by their own mistakes. Then you would have the preconditions for everybody to say, oh, OK, people, we believe in trust say X, therefore we should engage in this mild bit of self-sacrifice because we have been pattern to believe that if you’d make short term decisions, you can have a long term benefit. All three of those preconditions for that kind of response are under daily assault. So I would say the chances are diminishing.

S18: You know what I learned from this whole thing? I’m never going to get on a cruise ship home.

S12: Yeah. Was a. But I didn’t want to do that. But that was I didn’t want to have to say. Wasn’t that your previous view?

S27: Yeah, but even more so. My God, not just the one that’s where these people are in in this horror movie, which I can’t wait to see that documentary. Wow. That’s going to be a hell of a documentary. I hope all these people on the ship or at least filming with their camera phones so they can gathered up and make it incredible documentary afterwards. But it’s the just the fact that you all these viruses apparently spread. They get tested on these ships. That’s what happens with that. New things end up on ships and get and circulated vibrate and so do you. GROSS And the poor, poor workers who who have none of the protections, even the passengers do, the less titanic it sunk.

S7: Yeah. Plus Titanic. Sorry. Exactly.

S4: They and even have norovirus. Do you think I got norovirus back in the old days of cruise ships? They probably did, but weren’t.

S19: But to your previous point, wasn’t the sudden onset of monsterous and a body shaking physical outrages from just garden variety living a more common thing? And therefore you would have just had always had people, you know, going into convulsions and paroxysms from various different things because we just weren’t as healthy. So would you have given it a special name or could it just have been right? Life as we know it.

S4: And plus, it shouldn’t have. They didn’t Gerrard’s. They also have the boats weren’t stabilized the way the modern boats are. So they all everyone got seasick all the time, too. Yeah, but people don’t really get seasick on modern.

S9: Oh, my God. This is like when I just feel so grateful to my ancestors, like those people who put who survived all of that. A hundred and more years ago. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.

S19: I totally agree. That’s such a great point. A hardy old Mary Ellen Walsh with a potato in her pocket jump at the Dickinson boat.

S18: Does the Dickerson’s come? They Irish the came.

S8: I mean, I know my mom’s side better, but yeah, they were potato famine or potato. Yeah. Yeah. Well, yes. And just generally being born in a family with so many children, they ran out of room in the house and had them kick the eldest out so. Yeah, but they Mary-Ellen Walsh got my great grandmother, got on a boat and came on over my dad’s sides a little less clear because over the years it was the tails were augmented by total fiction. And so Lord Lord knows when we came over her and whether we were really on the lam or people of good standing.

S29: And I viewed as a New Yorker now. John, have you been down to the Irish?

S8: You know? I haven’t, but I would.

S5: You have to go. Go with your family. It is one of the most amazing things in New York City. It’s such a ship. I would walked by it again the other day. It’s such a surprise to the middle financial district, this full square block. And it’s like an Irish potato field in the middle of the financial district. It is beautiful and weird. Well. Oh, great.

S8: And we buy my one of my children just did 23 and me and found lots and lots of Irishness. So more than I even had thought, I thought I was just being, you know, overdoing it. But anyway, so we’re even more Irish than we thought.

S29: Let us go to cocktail chatter. When you discover you’re more Irish than you thought and thus decide let me have a whisky in the pub like Carlton McGregor. What you be chattering about?

S23: John DICKERSON I have two chapters. The first is an article that with that my colleague clarify. He pointed out to me, which I love, which is, um, it’s about a woman named Kate Murphy, wrote a book about listening, and there’s a piece in the Times about when you read it, you think, well, of course it’s so. But she did the investigation and studies to to back it up, which is that the closer you feel towards someone, the less likely you are to actually listen to them. And as Claire said when she sent this to me, this is I’m not throwing shade at you, too. But essentially, what?

S4: Because because, you know, Emily literally was not listening and watching her heartbeat, obviously.

S30: To make sure I say everything correctly.

S15: As you see, I can intuit the when people aren’t listening. Mostly because that’s the permanent state of my life anyway. But it’s just you know, we basically assume what they’re going to say and. And then we’d stop listening.

S23: And this is particularly tricky, of course, because it happens with people, you know, the best and care about the best and therefore can be the grounds for both disagreement and frustration, because you’re just not listening. And it turns out that the information you’re supposed to be listening to is quite important both emotionally and sometimes it’s about what time dinner is because the kids are getting home late from play practice.

S20: Anyway, my second chatter is brief and it’s an audible chatter, which is that they have found a sound in nature which exactly replicates the noise I used to make when we would have special gabfests events. And so now, listeners, I’m going to play the sound for you, and then I will tell you what it is. So Josslyn, hit it.

S1: That is the DICKERSON s now, and what is that sound? That is a piece of ice when a brick of ice dropped down a 450 foot long hole in Antarctica.

S19: And I found this on the Instagram page of Princeton University. These are Princeton University researchers who discovered a 2 million year old ice core in Antarctica. Better go fast because they just had the warmest temperature in Antarctica. I think we’re caught in recorded history last week and they went there to look for old ice. And why are they looking for old ice? Because they use the carbon dioxide to study ancient climate. So apparently they have fun while they’re out there, too. And they they drop ice down big, long holes. And it makes that extremely pleasing sound.

S5: Can you do the DICKERSON version of it, though?

S15: Mine’s more mine. Mine is much shorter intervals between the explosions.

S4: Emily, what’s your chatter?

S28: I have two chatters as well when I’m so late to this, but it made my week.

S10: If anyone has yet to see this wonderful short film, Hair Love that won the Oscar. It’s six minutes long. Just do yourself a favor. Google it. It’s on YouTube. It’s so great. My second chatter is about a new book coming out called The Second Chance Club. The subtitle is Hardship and Hope After Prison. It’s by Jason Hardy, who is a former parole officer. And he’s writing about the experience of supervising people on parole in New Orleans. I’m about halfway through the book. It’s such an unusual perspective. I’ve never read a book or really a long account by a parole officer before. I had one problem with this book, which is that he constantly refers the people he’s supervising as offenders. And I know I’m sure that’s how parole officers talk, but it’s really alienating and dehumanizing. And I wish that I could just sub out offender and write in the word person every time he uses it. But I just think it’s like if you’re interested in this issue. This is such an unusual perspective to hear from in depth and whether you agree or not with his conclusions and how he sees these people.

S22: I think it’s worth grappling with. So the Second Chance Club by Jason Hardy.

S5: My chapter is about a wild story and vice that a tool go on day link to in his Twitter. And the headline is People Born Blind or mysteriously protected from Schizophrenia. I am not going to pretend to really understand what’s going on this article, but it points to a really weird phenomenon, which is that basically if you are congenitally blind, if you’re born blind, you do not develop schizophrenia. And yet people who do develop schizophrenia, there are all kinds of little visual problems and aberrations that they have that are indicated early in life. So if you go back and look at each sort of childhood movies of someone who later becomes schizophrenic, you will notice that they have kinds of tells the visual problems that other people don’t. And the theory is that therefore, schizophrenia may be some failure to integrate visual data. Some failure to like be able to process it correctly leads to schizophrenia. And the people who are born blind never have to integrate this visual data and therefore, to have problems with it. And that’s that’s part of it. But it’s a great story. It’s the dog that didn’t bark story, which is that often you can understand the cause of a disease. You can understand more about a disease or more about anything by looking at the people who don’t get it. Instead, the people who do like what is it that protects you? And so it’s a fascinating, fascinating story. Listeners, you, too, are full of fascinating stories. And you have tweeted them to us at Slate Gabfests with your listener chatters listener Benjamin Thibeault at at Thibeault. Ben tweeted he tweeted the story that I was going to do with my cocktail chatter anyway, which is a story that you must read. It’s a great story, enthralling story in The Washington Post, which is about how the CIA owned the company that sold encryption devices. So from the period basically after World War Two until very recently, most encryption was not done digitally before it was done. You know, now now it’s all done digitally on your phone and so forth. Most encryption was done with that hard core encryption was done with these purpose built devices. And the main company that built those purpose built devices was a Swiss company which was secretly owned by West German intelligence and the CIA. And there. And we had a back channel into these devices. And we’re able to therefore decrypt tons of communications from intelligence services that were allies that bought these devices. Sometimes our enemies bought these devices. And it gave us a huge insight into what was going on the world in a huge amount of of data and and spy material. Fascinating story about about a Trojan horse that really worked.

S25: I want the movie version of that one.

S21: That is the true response to that story. And actually it’s got it has this really interesting Swedish World War 2 refugee at the heart of it. Who builds this company, built these encryption devices for use in World War 2. They’re the devices that are used in the field during World War 2.

S5: And then it becomes this amazing big company after World War 2. And this the Swedish the Swedish guy feels gratitude, balsa one’s money and like ends up in bed with the CIA. And it’s fascinating. It’s great. Great. Incredible story. Check it out. If you enjoyed the gab fest and how could you not enjoy the guy fest today? How could you not have enjoyed it? You’ve already gotten here. You’ve probably enjoyed it as someone like.

S8: Well, it’s like being on a cruise liner without leaving home.

S5: If you think of us as the norovirus that keeps on giving. Please subscribe to the office. You’ll get new episodes the second they’re published. You can subscribe in whatever whatever app you’re using to listen to us. Now I’m sure. Please do subscribe to the app.

S3: That is our show for today, the gabfest produced by Jocelyn Frank. Melissa Kaplan, help me here in D.C. Our researcher is Bridget Dunlap. I assume Ryan MacAvoy helped Emily Bazelon. I assume Allen Pang helped John DICKERSON. You have two seconds. Correct me if I’m wrong. One good. Two good.

S31: Gabriel Roth is editorial director of Slate podcast. June Thomas is managing producer. You should follow some Twitter that’s like gabfests where you will tweet Chatoor to us for Emily Basilone and John DICKERSON and David Plotz. Thanks for listening. We’ll talk to you next week.

S6: Hello. Slate Plus, how are you? Fascinating story for those of us who are especially those those who lived in Washington and have to live with the architecture of the federal government every day that the Trump administration is considering an executive order considering is an open ended verb. I actually really don’t know what it means.

S29: They’re considering an executive order that would require essentially all government buildings being built that costs more than 50 million dollars, which is a lot of them. And even government buildings being refurbished to be designed in classical and other traditional styles and. It’s interesting. So all these courthouses, all these new museums, a big government office buildings, defense complexes will be built in some kind of traditional style as a lot of the buildings in Washington, D.C. are. A lot of federal buildings are, but there are a lot that are not. And some of this I think it’s bills out of President Trump’s justified, correct and well earned hatred of the FBI building, which is probably the one of the most distinctive new buildings in Washington, D.C. Actually, it’s not that new at this point, which is absolutely hideous brutalist building, which is ugly and all fashions. And I think if you look at that, you think, well, they shouldn’t build anything like this ever again.

S25: But but the implications of this are interesting architecture brutalist like that is.

S29: Yeah, that’s turns out there are some nice brutalist buildings, but they’re hard to find. There’s some nice burls buildings at Yale. So is there anything, any virtue in this this proposed order? Because there have been some ugly buildings built not in a traditional or classical or neoclassical style, but also some nice buildings.

S26: I keep thinking about the federal courthouse in Boston, which is not classical at all, but is like lovely. I liked working in it when I was a law clerk. It’s nice from outside. I mean, this seems kind of odd to choose a style, though. I do think it’s a style that a lot of people have good associations with. I don’t know. Am I just extrapolating there from my own taste? Maybe I am. I mean, there’s a reason it’s called neo classical, right? Like we are used to it. I at least have a lot of associations of like big government institutional presence with that style. It just seems strange to decide to prioritize one style of architecture. Like, why is the government taking this position to be an architectural critic?

S25: Is it really clear that most Americans would be happier if this was what their government buildings look like?

S18: All right. I want to talk a little bit about this.

S8: So I’m. John, I’m sorry. No, no, I’m I’m developing my theory here.

S29: So so, John, I would say one of the characters, one of the characteristics of your your bad bullying totalitarian dictatorship is they build in a uniform mind, a maniacal style. And of course, the the plutonic hurdle is that. Well, no, I mean, I think if you look at at what the Nazi the Nazi style is not brutal. The Nazi was monumental.

S25: It was a monumental neoclassical gothic fascist fascist. I just want to say identity, the art historians who are listening to us, because I’m sure I’m getting all this wrong content.

S29: Yeah, you probably were. And probably I am, too. And and there are and in Washington, you had this period mostly kind of New Deal period where they built a whole bunch of things, all in roughly congruent style of neoclassical style. And a lot of those buildings are wonderful. They are really, truly wonderful buildings. Like in the memorial front, you have the Lincoln Memorial, Jefferson Memorial. The capital is I mean, much earlier. But is a very beautiful classical building. There are a lot of the federal buildings are in that style. The Justice Department building I worked in beautiful, beautiful sort of deco classic neoclassical building. And it’s great. And but then what’s wonderful about Washington architecture, which is terrible, that the kind of downtown Washington architecture is terrible because of these restrictions on how you can build in the city. But the federal architecture is really nice because there’s actually this heterodox style. So you have the you have the Vietnam Memorial, which was decried. But as this masterpiece, you have the Smithsonian Castle, which is this red brick gothic building, which is super weird and incongruous and yet is beautiful. You have the Hirshhorn, a circular art museum. It’s gorgeous. And the new African-American History Museum, which is a magnificent building, a credible building just to you see it, you think like, wow, this building really stands out and does this diversity is heterodox ness of it in with all these buildings that are not that they work together. They’re all kind of the same scale, but they don’t all look alike. And it’s it’s great. And so some of those are classical. Some of those are not classical. And in fact, the ones the things that are been built recently that are more in classical style are the worse things. So the Reagan building.

S19: What is it? Do you include the Reagan Building that exacts all its heliosphere sets?

S18: Yeah, yeah. Yeah, right. The Reagan tree down that is crowded. And then the World War 2 Memorial, which was built between between the washing monument with memorials and other window, which is a really bad memorial and has none of the kind of fire and intensity of the World War that the Vietnam War Memorial has. So I’m for. I like the neo-classical there. Great note neoclassical buildings, we can build more of them, but it is for me that the heterodoxy ness of of Washington at least that is that is lovely.

S25: Well, everything you just said totally resonates. But it’s only Washington that you would have the federal buildings in such a multiplicity that their heterodoxy would matter. Right, like everywhere else in the country. There was like one federal building and it can depend on everyone else, especially those. Aren’t these neo classical designs expensive? I mean, I really don’t know what I’m talking about now at all. But like those big columns, that just does not seem like the most cost effective way to have a design.

S29: Well, but you could say that might also argue for saying if you’re just going to have one building, let’s make sure it’s in a style that people like like in D.C., you can afford to have 20 different styles because there’s a whole lot of other buildings and there’s a ton that were built in the neoclassical style that you can always count on. You can count on the capital being there. You can count on the washing monument, being on the White House, being there. So it doesn’t really matter if this museum is built in a slightly different style, but if it’s the only building, then you maybe you want it to reflect a kind of solidity.

S25: And do we know it a first thing? I mean, we know that neo-classical is like not likely to horrify a lot of people, but it doesn’t. Do we know that like a well designed modern building is actually less pleasing?

S29: No. But I mean, I’m just trying to think of federal buildings I’ve seen in other places. And do they? Certainly there. When I think of monumental government buildings and other places, this is not a federal building, but like Boston City Hall with built in a brutal style. And it’s it really makes you want to not pay your taxes to the city of Boston when you see that building. You like why would I ever support a government that could build something this horrible and alienating?

S25: Yeah, I agree. You know, I gave you the example of the federal courthouse, which is not a classical building at all and is like lovely.

S12: John, you’ve been silent. I don’t know. I don’t really know. I don’t think I don’t know that I have a thought on this.

S19: I mean, on the one hand, I was when there were people I don’t know. On the one hand, I sides people are going to get up in their arms about the president, you know, weighing in on architecture. But then again, one of the things people credit John Kennedy for with is reinvigorating the public square on the on ideas of art and architecture and culture. And so therefore, it is that’s fine if a president wants to do that. But the dictum that this is that all federal buildings, you know, seems a little bit like there are other more important priorities in life. Also, I think the Davids heterodox point is the crucial one. But because when we think about the diversity of America and its great strength used to be and still will be, although it’s not in fashion in some quarters now is its diversity that you want. You want Washington to you could imagine making an argument that where you would want Washington to reflect that diversity and not be a city where everything looks the same. And so therefore, you would you wouldn’t want everything to look the same because it wouldn’t reflect what America is. America is not a place where everybody is stamped in this very specific way, but that where everybody through given being given freedom, the most important thing is then able to follow their creative, you know, trails and create beauty and and end in creating real beauty, not stamped out government approved beauty. That’s where real transformation lies. That’s where the real spark of life exists, is when somebody doesn’t just provide you the expected thing, but this new crazy thing. That’s why the Vietnam Memorial is so much more powerful because it doesn’t look like anything you’ve ever seen before. And as you start to come to grips with that, even if at first you offended, you start to feel the power of it and you start to feel what it is making you focus on or not, what is making you focus on, but what you are focusing on in its presence. And that’s a much more transformative and powerful and reverent thing than if it was just the stamped out thing you might have expected that was worth waiting for.

S25: Did you guys read Ross Douthat’s column about this in which he argued that this is actually like a healthy way in which conservatives are taking more cultural power for themselves? And, you know, basically we should liberals should treat like liberals should get.

S9: I mean, if I think many liberals would take this trade more neoclassical architecture in return for the end of the Electoral College and.

S12: Yeah, yeah. Compromise old power, by the way.

S9: Unlikely. And yet.

S8: Also, I think that I should note, and people probably already intuit this, but I’m a huge fan of neoclassical architecture. Except when it’s done in the sort of pleather kind of way, you know, in a way it’s carried off poorly. It’s awful. But but but general art, graduate of the universe. Exactly. So I know.

S18: Anyway, carry on for sure. Well, Ross, his general point is that we have divided we have two power structures in this country of the liberal one a conservative one. The conservative power structure has power over politics and I guess economics and the liberal power structure is power over culture and cultural issues and they need to swap things. I think the problem is that actually these things don’t you can’t actually trade these things in the way that you want. But I but I sympathize with Ross’s point. I do think that that the liberals tend not to get that conservatives feel alienated from the dominant culture at times and and they feel derided and and belittled by it. That’s something that liberals need to recognize, that the kinds of changes that have happened in society are difficult for certain kinds of conservatives. And it’s not enough. I mean, it’s all very well to say, oh, well, they’re racist or oh, they’re you know, they’re behind the times or they just don’t get it. And they they’re you know, they’re they don’t understand. And too bad. But like, it’s a genuine issue. I’m skeptical that what there is is a huge upswell in demand in conservative America for neoclassical buildings and that that’s really something that’s going to help.

S25: Yeah. The point is better take him when you start. I think talking about universities or Hollywood on these like real nodes of cultural power that I think conservatives feel boxed out of.

S16: All right. By Slate plus calculator.