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founding

On the point of the Republicans speaking up in opposition to Trump, and inviting people like Pence to the White House: I generally agree. However, I do question the net effect of someone like Bolton, whose criticism of Trump is almost always paired with nearly equal criticism of Biden. How effective is the criticism of these people in terms of what we are trying to do if they always pair it by calling Biden a "disaster"?

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Yep. This is the fundamental problem with bill and Sarah’s advice. The campaign will not and can’t control these surrogates. In fact, it’s often in their interest to specifically kick Biden on any given issue. If they want to say Trump is unfit then do it but if somehow they need to be convinced of it by Biden is preposterous.

Also, I know this will hurt a lot of bulwarkers feelings but people don’t vote on fp. Yes some would prefer we help Israel or Gaza or Ukraine or nato (shit most won’t even know what this does) but when they walk into that voting booth most vote for who they voted for before or economics or social issues. Fp isn’t important to most people especially people who live in Pennsylvania, Wisconsin or Michigan.

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I'm afraid you're right.

It's too bad that more of this people can't see that there is only one actual choice for President, IF they want to maintain their Democratic Republic and have that voice to disagree, to peacefully protest, to have individual rights maintained and respected.

But policies and culture war topics that Biden detractors (FOX et al) focus on traditional Democratic values – the same as they've always been and the same divide that has been there between the parties as long as I've been alive. Ideological differences, basically, that don't destroy the country.

What will destroy this country is the intolerant, judgemental determination that only one way is right, only one kind of person, faith or belief is "American". This is MAGA and the far right. The Christian Nationalists.

I'm a little cynical about Mike Johnson at this moment. Why did he finally decide to be a rational adult doing the actual job of speaker? He stood up and reversed his policy and view on almost everything he's said and/or voted on previously.

It's what we've needed to see for a while, of course. Republicans seeing the big picture, understanding compromise and finding a solution best for the country and our allies. Having some bravery in the face of the too loud outliers, giving them too large a voice in our governing.

Is this too little too late? I don't know. But this is what R's needed to be doing since 2016.

Get Trump out of there, get Biden re-elected and go back to the normal R vs D ideological differences. This would be "normal". And understand that they're never going to get everything they want. Their job is to listen to all representatives that (supposedly) speak for the people of this diverse country, and come to conclusions that best serve the majority without harming others.

This might be possible, if there were no FOX and other 4th estate entities with individual agendas geared around influence and wealth.

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I wish/hope the Biden campaign team listens to you guys & implements your recommendations. ( do campaigns listen to commentators?)

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I wonder if a focus group for people who are in debt, from mortgages, healthcare debt, and even student debt would be useful. I know that you all from the Bulwark have a redline regarding student debt....I am curious if for independents/non-Maga Republicans the debt question is a sticking point

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The “Trump is so unpredictable that other world leaders won’t do anything!” will always be one of the most frustrating ideas out there. Trump is extremely predictable - flatter him, and you can commit as many war crimes and human rights violations as you want. If NATO started renting out office space in Trump Tower, he’d all of a sudden love them too.

At least the voters in this podcast largely gave me some hope for November.

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I agree with Bill and Sarah - I would like to see Biden talk more about foreign policy in an effort to appeal to Nikki Haley voters. But I can't see Biden ever doing that. If he were ever going to do it, he would already be doing it. For the past three years, he has declined every opportunity to court us NeverTrumpers because he fears it would tick off the progressive base - the people who think Neocons and the military-industrial complex are greater evils than Putin.

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You mean when he flew to Israel and gave a huge speech in the middle of a war and 2 days after the October 7th attack? Or when he rode a 12 hour train ride into a war zone in Ukraine after giving a massive speech in Poland? Such an unserious hot take.

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I don't do hot takes.

Biden does symbolic things, but he doesn't actually TALK about foreign policy. He STILL has not explained his Ukraine policy. He occasionally says vaguely supportive things, but he has also kept a leash on Ukraine and tried to prevent them from scoring a decisive win against Russia. His people have actually been criticizing Ukraine for being too aggressive on offense! Gaza? More symbolism, but no policy explanation - or even consistent policy.

Biden still doesn't know how to act like a president. He was a successful senator because he could do quiet, collegial back room deals. He's still acting like a senator. He refuses to use the bully pulpit or otherwise to exercise decisive leadership.

Politically, it still appears to me Biden is trying to avoid sounding too decisive because that would invite accusations of being a Neocon from his left wing. But his refusal to take that risk means he is NOT trying to appeal to Haley voters on foreign policy - just like Bill and Sarah said.

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lol. Bruce he isn’t a neocon and he isn’t a republican. You do realize that right? I read what you write. It’s like you expect a democrat president to act like a Republican president. At some point you have to realize that he has other things he cares about.

He has done many speeches on Ukraine. He could give 500 more and you know what would happen? Nothing. The Republican majority would still be against it. Unfortunately your party would rather flush Ukraine down the toilet and you blame Biden for not convincing them to be more supportive of Ukraine. It’s maddening. Absolutely maddening. You expect a democratic president to convince republicans to do what their leader doesn’t want. It’s outlandish expectations. I can’t wait until Nikki is president in 2028 and Russia invades Poland and the democrats tell her they will not support article 5 until she gives in to Medicare for all and you say “well you have to give it to them. You need to negotiate in good faith.”

Come on, man. The bully pulpit doesn’t exist. Obama never used it in his 2nd term because it was so ineffective. He used it 3 times in his first term and the data said it literally did nothing. So you are so convinced about the bully pulpit be analytical please. When did it work for Trump? What did he say that convinced democrat politicians to change their votes and vote on his legislation. How many dems voted for his tax cuts? Or killing Obamacare? When did this happen? When did this happen under bush 2.0? Are you saying that if Biden uses the bully pulpit he can convince republicans to support abortion which is MASSIVELY popular in RED states?!?!

Let’s look at the facts. All dems voted for Ukraine. More than half of republicans voted against Ukraine. You do realize that right? The issue is REPUBLICANS. For 6 months republicans blocked Ukraine aid. you live in a world where when republicans do something wrong it’s dems fault. If dems do something wrong it’s dems fault. The victimization mentality is maddening.

The old Republican Party is gone. At some point you have to make actual decision about what you want. Aid for Ukraine or not. It’s not that hard of a choice. Just make it and stop complaining about the party you never voted for isn’t like the party that died.

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One thing to say to people who don't think we should be funding Ukraine - and I don't understand why this isn't being broadcast repeatedly: most of the funding goes to manufacturers HERE IN THE U.S. So it's creating jobs and paying existing workers FOR US.

You rarely hear this, altho thank goodness WaPo had an article on it a couple of days ago (written by, shockingly, Marc Thiessen).

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Biden is afraid to emphasize that Ukraine funding goes to US manufacturers because he reasonably fears that his party's left wing hates the US military-industrial complex more than it hates foreign dictators.

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When you say "his party's left wing," are you referring to the small minority of extremists? I ask b/c I'm a life-long Dem, and this is news to me. I'm wondering how I missed it???

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I'm talking about the majority of those who describe themselves as progressive. You know - the people who call Dick Cheney the devil and who claim that every US intervention is motivated by oil profits, weapons sales, and maintaining US colonial hegemony over the world. You'll find them on any YouTube comment thread or college campus - especially in the faculty lounge. Biden wants their votes.

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So that's a "yes, the small minority of extremists"?

To be sure, Biden needs to keep the Dem coalition together. And, that includes far-left progressives. But, also to be sure, they ain't calling the shots.

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I would put it at 10% to 20% of Democratic voters - a minority to be sure, but not "small" by any means. And they punch above their weight because they are vocal, organized, and undeservedly respected by more mainstream Democrats, including Biden.

If Biden were concerned only with reelection, he would do what any rational candidate would do - focus on capturing the median voter. Instead, he consistently tends to the Democratic left and pointedly ignores the center-right. I am arguing that he ignores the center-right precisely BECAUSE he knows the Democratic left hates us more than they hate foreign dictators. He feels he has to choose, and he always chooses the illiberal left over the liberal right.

The Democratic left is just like MAGA - they would rather lose elections than have their intra-party influence diluted. They do not regard Trump as an existential threat because they do not care all that much about democracy and the rule of law.

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Apr 23·edited Apr 23

Hmm, I've seen this narrative before (i.e. 'the progressives are the mirror of MAGA'), but I don't think it quite works.

First, the group I think you have in mind is smaller than your SWAG. Pew, for example, pegs the progressive left at 12% of Dem or lean Dem voters. *However*, the block I think you're describing is a more extreme subset. For example, 35% of the Pew block *don't* think the US military needs to be reduced; 40% *don't* like a Dem Socialist leader and don't think outside forces determine life's outcome. (Also, Pew is including "lean Dem" in that 12%.) I'd guess that the Very Online noxious group you have in mind is more like 5% or less of Dems.

But, that doesn't really matter. What matters is influence. Biden and Congressional Dem leaders (e.g. Pelosi) have pushed back routinely on the progressive wing. While there have been some inducements (e.g. student loans - but that's really for a broader segment), it's been a clear mix of holding firm and olive branches. The "net net" being the progressives have been managed and are not in control.

Contrast that with MAGA and GOP. The former are clearly in control of the latter. The GOP is terrified of the MAGA base. Indeed, that Johnson did something reasonable caused such surprise tells the story succinctly. This is why Mitt and Liz are such noteworthy exceptions (and the treatment they receive underscores the point).

"They do not regard Trump as an existential threat because they do not care all that much about democracy" - perhaps a fraction of a fraction (e.g. the anarchists) feel that way, but I haven't seen anything to support the idea that the progressive segment generally feels that way.

"...he ignores the center-right..." - er, but Biden has supported a good chunk of bi-partisan legislation. Much of his program has sent money to red states. Heck, the recent immigration kerfuffle was a GOP-led bi-partisan effort that Biden supported. (We all know why that got tanked.)

Still, one might ask why Biden caters to the progressive segment at all? Answer: because they are (a) highly engaged politically, (b) they donate money at the highest rate (for Pew's Dem segments).

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Thankfully, Sarah and Bill Kristol are "serious, sober" people. Excellent podcast. I found it somewhat encouraging to hear from Trump-to-Biden voters on foreign policy. Too often, I write off Trump voters as incorrigible and low information. There is hope that some who voted for Trump are paying attention and can be persuaded that Trump is a threat to the US' place in the world. Sarah and Bill make an excellent point--Biden needs to reach out to anti-Trump GOP leaders. Sarah has long advocated that Biden needs to get "surrogates" out there. But Democrats, as Biden surrogates, will not appeal to Never Trumpers as would Mattis, Haley, Romney, or Cheney. Even better, replace Harris as VP with Cheney or Haley. That would energize Biden's campaign. Sadly, Biden can not display more vigor because he just doesn't have it in him. He doesn't now and he will not in 5 years. Harris is not a good surrogate for Biden nor is she appealing to Never Trump GOP.

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First, ex-republicans working for Biden become rino cucks who will never be taken serious by republicans. Second, if they know that Trump is manifestly unfit to be president then why do they need to coordinate with Biden to get out their message. Just say it. Third, most of these ex republicans have said that Biden is worse than Trump (bill barr, Chris sununu, Nikki, etc). Why would Biden reach out?

You want a way to alienate Biden’s base (black voters) then fire Kamala and promote a Republican to vp. Just an awful idea. You do realize that Biden is WEAK with dems and independents right now. You really want to blow up the Democratic side of that equation n

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It's so frustrating to hear someone say, "I don't understand why we have to help other countries when we have so many problems here at home we need money for." I agree with Sarah and Bill that Biden needs to be connecting more with voters, communicating facts, presenting himself as a strong leader and advocate. But why aren't these voters looking at their do-nothing representatives? The Republicans consistently vote down bills that would help children and families (EITC, anyone?) That's why we don't help people in need. Because Republicans do not support that kind of aid and support. All that one voter in Sarah's focus group has to do is look for the answer that's right in front of her instead of just whining about it.

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Exactly! How many of these folks voted for people who ended the Child Tax Credit and Medicaid Expansion, and are trying to slash the social safety net?

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Yes! Yes! Yes! Soooooo frustrating!

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I think we should take into consideration that Biden has had to undo a lot of damage Trump did with his limited understanding of foreign policy and diplomacy. I think Biden's calm and understated approach helped enormously. Regarding all the "Biden should..." and "Biden needs to..." suggestions/armchair campaigning from Sarah and Bill: we have months left before November, and as others have stated, most folks don't pay attention until we get closer to the election. And as others have also already said, Trump's nodding off in the courtroom generated more articles than anything Biden was doing of significance for our country. I wonder if Bill would have fewer critiques of Biden's campaign strategies if he really liked Biden.

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Just saw a quote from you in NYT, Sarah!

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We need serious leadership for a serious world—yes! Thanks for sharing that statement. It’s true and matches up with what I disliked about our former president—he was a reality tv show host. He wasn’t serious leadership. He’s what I call an entertainer.

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Bill, it may be your sense Biden isn't reaching out to Romney et al. because there are no photos; but it's my sense, for whatever reason, this just isn't done. Apparently, Clinton and W spoke regularly, but I only know because I read it (in Game Change, I think). LBJ tasked high level members of his Administration to brief Ike. The only reason I know is CSPAN played the tapes. Nor would such knowledge sway anyone IMHO. Those Romney Republicans who haven't already decided to vote for Biden never will, while Haley doesn't have the strength of character to meet with Biden. She thinks he's a greater danger than Trump, remember?

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Also it wouldn’t be good for these people to acknowledge it either. If these politicians were working for Biden and coordinating with his campaign they just become rino cucks. Their message isn’t received then.

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Does anyone believe Trump would have gone to an ally in an active war zone (where the US military has no control) in order to show support? Walk with the country's leader while air raid sirens are going off? Worry about whether his trip would put other people in danger?

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Depends on whether his hair would get rained on or not. ;-)

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Or if it's windy.

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Not in a million years.

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Great show—thanks you guys! Appreciated today’s group as it represents the Republicans I know. Still, it’s been a lesson hearing from all of the groups.

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Let’s take a breath…There’s PLENTY of campaign left (and much more voter attention to gain) in the coming months. Hone the message, use on-going world events to connect with Trump comparisons, etc. Almost no one except us die-hards is paying attention at the moment.

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Does anyone in the Biden communication shop read this? Isn't there an OBVIOUS practical and rhetorical answer to the concerns that "none of this would have happened if Trump were president"? Yes, there is...

Our adversaries become emboldened when they see America divided at home. They have an interest in dividing us, and who has done more to divide us than Trump? It is easy to draw the line from January 6th and election denialism to the instability we see in the world today - "Divide and Conquer", as they say - so why aren't we hearing every Democrat and anti-Trumper say this every day with every chance they get?

To me, it's an obvious answer that needs to be put on blast ASAP.

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And while we're at it, why stop with examples like Jan 6th and election denialism? Trump is SEEN as a divider, so this plays directly into reality, and there are a multitude of examples that you could connect to the idea of America being divided at home, the source being MAGA Extremism, and the need for a moderate middle way.

I feel like the Biden Campaign is missing a huge opportunity here to describe reality in its real terms - no spin needed. Make the campaign about being divided and needing to unite America in common purpose. Literally almost every major problem connects in some way to our division. "There's nothing we can't do when we do it together", right? Well connect the damned dots, Biden Campaign!

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This is far too complicated for people to care about. It’s a triple bank shot.

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Many on the center right, which is who we are mainly trying to appeal, say he said that at time and they don't feel ( rightly or wrongly) that he has done so...

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