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America Retreating from World Leadership

December 15, 2023
Notes
Transcript
The GOP House moves toward impeaching Biden and stiff-arms Zelensky. Supreme Court to consider Trump’s “immunity” and poll of Palestinians gives little hope.

highlights / lowlights

Megan McArdle: Shutting a freeway in traffic-clogged L.A. gets attention. But is it effective activism? by Rachel Uranga and Nathan Solis, Los Angeles Times

Damon Linker: Congress approves bill barring any president from unilaterally withdrawing from NATO by Laura Kelly, The Hill

Bill Galston: A five-point plan to save Harvard from itself, by Steven Pinker Boston Globe and In GOP Contest, Trump Supporters Stand Out for Dislike of Compromise, Pew Research Center

Mona Charen: How to Fix the Insurrection Act and a PSA: Be careful about legal marijuana in public regarding your pets!

Linda Chavez: André Braugher Dies: Star Of ‘Homicide: Life On The Street’, ‘Brooklyn Nine-Nine’ & Other Series And Films Was 61, by Mike Fleming, Jr. Deadline… [Buy the box set, Linda suggests!]

This transcript was generated automatically and may contain errors and omissions. Ironically, the transcription service has particular problems with the word “bulwark,” so you may see it mangled as “Bullard,” “Boulart,” or even “bull word.” Enjoy!
  • Speaker 1
    0:00:09
    Welcome to Beg to Differ, the Bulwark weekly roundtable discussion, featuring civil conversation across the political spectrum. We range from center left to center right. I’m Mona Charen, syndicated columnist and policy editor at the Bulwark, and I’m joined by our regulars. Will Saletan of the Bookings institution in the Wall Street Journal. Damon Lincoln, who writes the Substack newsletter notes from the middle ground, and Linda Chavez, of the Nescannon Center.
  • Speaker 1
    0:00:36
    Our special guest this week is Washington Post columnist Megan McArthur. Well, this week may be seen by historians one hopes not, but it may be seen by historians as a turning point when the US made a pivot away from world leadership because the Congress was unsuccessful. The president was unsuccessful rather in getting Congress to agree to funding for Ukraine. Volodymyr Zelensky made a special trip to try to lobby the members, on behalf of his beleaguered country, but it certainly fell on deaf ears with some parts of the Maga right, for example, Senator JD Vance of Ohio who said These are people who would cut Social Security, throw our grandparents into poverty. Why?
  • Speaker 1
    0:01:25
    So that one of Zelensky’s ministers can buy a bigger yacht. Obviously not a serious argument. But first, I want to ask our guest, Megan Mccardle. Do you think Megan that this is a pivot away from world leadership on the part of the United States?
  • Speaker 2
    0:01:43
    I think that’s a risk. You know, I think that Republicans have just kind of reflexively started to say, well, why should US provide leadership why shouldn’t we just sort of stay home and gaze at our naval? But that said, let me qualify that because I think Republicans are are saying that a lot less about Israel. Not none, but less. And I think that that actually sort of highlights the ways in which the very specifics of an individual case can make things look like more of a general problem than they are.
  • Speaker 2
    0:02:19
    And so what do I mean by that? Specifically, this is about you Ukraine. Right? And this is all Russia and Ukraine is tied up with all of the Trump stuff. That Republicans are still mad about.
  • Speaker 2
    0:02:34
    And so I think if this had been a conflict possibly in another area, it’s hard to and what that would be. The response might have been different. And I think that’s actually what we’re seeing with Israel. Is the Republicans are quite gung ho about supporting Israel. Republicans you know, hold three university presidents into Congress in order to yell at them about not suppressing pro Palestinian slogans enough.
  • Speaker 2
    0:02:56
    And so I think there is a risk for Ukraine, and I think there is a risk that that will badly damage us on the global stage. I like to hold that hope that we’re actually gonna do something that we’re actually going to get a border deal that should have been made anyway because I think even though I don’t wanna restrict immigration, I think politically that’s where the United States is heading. And politically, that’s where the Biden administration’s probably gonna have to go before twenty twenty four. And so they might as well get aid for Ukraine and bolster America’s position on the world stage as a trade.
  • Speaker 1
    0:03:31
    Linda, this came up last week. When, Bill Wilson and I, and I don’t remember. Maybe you two were saying, yeah. Biney should cave. He should seek a deal on the border because the border politics are terrible for Biden anyway.
  • Speaker 1
    0:03:46
    And this way, he can just say, well, the Republicans made me do it, and, it would have been a win win. But I don’t know. I mean, do you have a sense that the Republicans were willing to take yes for an answer? I mean
  • Speaker 3
    0:03:57
    No. I okay. They were. And I think that That that is my problem. Look, some of the things that the Republicans are asking for would be really bad.
  • Speaker 3
    0:04:07
    To limit the president’s power to engage in humanitarian parole would be a disaster. That is how we got seventy thousand Afghans into the United States. It is how we allow the Ukrainians who are already here and some who have crossed the border since the war began, to be able to remain. And getting rid of the president’s authority to do that would be bad. And not least because Republicans have been unwilling to pass the Afghan Adjustment Act, which would give Afghans who are here people who helped us during the war.
  • Speaker 3
    0:04:42
    A more permanent solution. So that would be terrible. There do need to be changes in the way we deal with asylum. Clearly some of the people who are coming are not asylees in the sense that they are trying to escape from state persecution on the basis.
  • Speaker 1
    0:05:01
    Yep. Linda, I’m sorry. Can I just ask you to do a quick elevator explanation of the difference between refugees and asylum seekers because I think there’s a lot of confusion about that?
  • Speaker 3
    0:05:13
    A lot of people don’t understand. Revi the refugee program is one that is long established, goes back to, I think, nineteen eighty. Actually, people who come here as refugees have been vetted. Most of them have been in refugee camps or under the supervision of the United Nations high missioner for refugees.
  • Speaker 1
    0:05:32
    And they’re usually fleeing war or natural disaster.
  • Speaker 3
    0:05:35
    Right? Absolutely. And there’s a number set that Congress sets each year. How many people are we going to admit now when Trump was in office, he basically admitted no one, very, very small numbers, but Biden has increased more. And those refugees, by the way, when they come, they get federal aid.
  • Speaker 3
    0:05:52
    They get help with housing. They get, some substance. And they’re allowed to work. And they are allowed to work. So it’s a very different program.
  • Speaker 3
    0:06:00
    Assidelines are people who are in imminent danger in order to claim asylum under the current law, you have to do it from the United States. So you have to set foot except for some changes that the Biden stration made that allows you to begin the application process before you get here, but you can’t actually claim asylum. Until you’re in the United States. And generally what happens is you have to have a credible fear of persecution by the state because of religion, because of your politics, or because you’re a member of some sort of a persecuted group within your home country. And what the bid administration has tried to do is to tighten that up a bit by, first of all, not having everybody just rush and show in.
  • Speaker 3
    0:06:48
    And by the way, you can claim that up to a year after you’ve entered the United States, even if you entered at not a port of entry and without documentation.
  • Speaker 1
    0:06:57
    The asylum system is clearly being abused. I mean, people who don’t have legitimate fear of persecution who are really just economic migrants. Right.
  • Speaker 3
    0:07:04
    Yeah. Okay. Not by the state. Right. That that’s right.
  • Speaker 3
    0:07:07
    Or they’re or they’re being, you know, they’re being hounded by, you know, narcotriffickers or others. You know, that was not what the asylum process was set up. But what they’re trying to do is take away that right and raise the standard. So it’s not just a credible fear, but some of them are pushing for something that would say it’s more likely than not that you’re gonna be persecuted. And all of these things would be judged in front of an immigration court.
  • Speaker 3
    0:07:37
    And this is the real stickler. There are two million cases waiting to be judged, various cases, not all of the asylum cases, but we don’t have enough, immigration judges and the Republicans aren’t willing to put more people in place. So they just wanna be able to have the person who first encounters applicant for asylum to be able to make a yes or no answer and to send them back. Now we have other ways of sending people back, and we send about half or more than half of the people who show up undocumented under title eight of our immigration laws, and they can in fact be removed. But the other thing that the Republicans are asking for is to expand expedited removal where there is absolutely no check to make sure that the person who is is coming across has no claim to be able to be here.
  • Speaker 3
    0:08:29
    And they wanna push the border for that, which right now you have to Expedited removal is only available within about a hundred miles of the border and in a few specified cities like Chicago and and others that have large numbers of immigrant undocumented people who go there. They wanna make it nationwide. And the problem with that is It’s not gonna be abused under Biden, but if Trump is elected and those changes are made, he will use it to deport people some of whom who have been here literally for decades, because it will apply nationwide. And those people will be removed without ever going into an immigration court. And by the way, in twenty twenty one, seventy United States citizens, were deported under expedited removal.
  • Speaker 3
    0:09:17
    So this is open to a lot of abuse, and that’s why, you know, people are not just jumping up and down saying, yes, let’s make this deal.
  • Speaker 1
    0:09:25
    So, Bill Galston, you wrote a column this week saying, you know, Biden should call the leaders to Camp David for the weekend and iron something out. Since you wrote that, do you still feel that way, or do you think that the Republicans really just want the you and don’t want a deal.
  • Speaker 4
    0:09:42
    I don’t know, Mona. All I know is that if the president won’t to save a linchpin of his foreign policy and save our nation’s honor. He should leave no stone unturned. In an effort to come up with a deal. I don’t even understand my own party anymore, let alone the Republicans.
  • Speaker 4
    0:10:04
    What I mean is that, you know, my own party, the Democratic party acts in ways that I find it increasingly difficult to understand. I really don’t understand understand what they were doing with crime and immigration in twenty twenty. I don’t understand what a substantial portion of the Democratic party is now saying about the Middle East. But that’s a different point. What I’m saying is that I think there’s reason to believe that the Republican leadership in the Senate Starting with, but not confined to, Mitch McConnell, is made up of people who may be willing to listen to reason.
  • Speaker 4
    0:10:48
    I think that the president should do everything to test that proposition before he throws up his hands in despair. And frankly, I think president Biden owes it to the country because it’s the White House’s drift on immigration policy that has helped bring us to this moment. I am not a happy camper, and I’ll say one other thing. I agree with many of Linda’s specifics on the defects of Republican proposals. But when I compare that to the prospect of four more years of Donald Trump, it’s a no brainer Yeah.
  • Speaker 4
    0:11:28
    Right? This issue could defeat Joe Biden all by itself. That’s the point. Do we really wanna take that chance? I don’t.
  • Speaker 1
    0:11:38
    Damon, if the United States turns its back on Ukraine, who in the world would be judged the winners and who would be judged the losers?
  • Speaker 5
    0:11:49
    Well, it would be a a really monument whole shift. I mean, I think it would be one that also could be folded into a kind of lack of resolution that we seen going back quite far. And by resolution, I don’t mean by any particular president necessarily. What I mean is basically, ever since, the end of the George w Bush administration, there has been a kind of rather dramatic flip flopping from administration to administration as the president sees handed off from party to party. On foreign policy where, you know, Obama comes in and he’s running as the guy who opposed the Iraq war.
  • Speaker 5
    0:12:37
    And he makes a big speech to the Muslim world and offers an open hand and says he’s going to do all of these things differently, and then it becomes clear he wants to pivot to Asia and kind of get out of the Middle East. So he puts all of his chips on an Iran nuclear deal, and All of that happens. And then Donald Trump comes in, and he cancels the Iran deal, and he pulls out of the paris client accord and completely shifts direction and starts talking about withdrawing from NATO of all things. You know, and also one week he’s threatening to rain nuclear hellfire down on North Korea, and then, you know, know, a few months later, he and Kim Jong Moon are best friends and and exchanging love letters. And then Joe Biden comes in and he reverses a lot of that stuff and starts talking to Iran again to restart that old deal.
  • Speaker 5
    0:13:31
    And Now, you know, now we’re pulling out of Afghanistan after Obama had had a surge in Afghanistan. And now we’ve done all this stuff, like, the August deal in Asia to combat China. And then we come up and we stand up to the line with Ukraine and And now it looks like in the middle of the Biden administration that we might cut off aid to Ukraine in the middle of the Biden administration because Congress isn’t with him on this. And you have Donald Trump saying he has no interest in sticking with Ukraine at all and, is interested in perhaps pulling out of NATO, even more resolutely than he said in the first place. This is bigger than just Ukraine.
  • Speaker 5
    0:14:14
    Ukraine is kind of where I think these wild swings of policy focus are coalescing in the present moment, which is that the United States clearly does not know what it wants to do in the world. And from election to election, and as we’re now seeing within the scope of the four years of the Biden administration, we sort of flip from one thing to another, and we’re not sticking with what we say we’re going to do. And that is a message that I think tells the rest of the world, like, you know, America is checked out. They cannot be relied on. They say they’re gonna do something, and then they sort of slink away because a large enough chunk of the American people.
  • Speaker 5
    0:15:03
    And then the parties that represent and channel that public opinion are deeply divided on these questions. And nothing good can come of this when it comes to the stature of the United States on the world stage. It it’s one thing to say American global leadership is essential, and I agree with that. But it’s also the case that it’s not just what we sometimes say, but it has to be what we do, our follow through, and our sticking with it through rough times, you know, good times and bad. And, of course, the the backdrop to some of this is also the apparent lack of cogency to the Ukraine counter offensive.
  • Speaker 5
    0:15:48
    And, you know, Biden put put a lot of emphasis on the importance of that and it it hasn’t really turned up very much. And there was some reporting this week on, pretty deep disagreements between the Ukrainian military and our advisors about how to proceed there. And that’s a sure sign of backbiting and people in the Pentagon being pretty pissed off that it’s turned out the way it has. And again, not a good sign.
  • Speaker 1
    0:16:16
    Well, that is true. I would just note this is per David French. He notes that Russia has had tremendous losses in this war. Apparently, roughly three hundred and fifteen thousand troops have either been killed or injured. And to put that number in perspective, the entire pre war army, Russia entire pre war army consisted of three hundred and sixty thousand.
  • Speaker 1
    0:16:41
    So that is a tremendous blow to a country that is seen by many as certainly a rival and perhaps an enemy of ours. But also, Damon, I’ll answer the question that I posed to you which is if Ukraine loses, that is a victory for China, which is ironic considering how much Republicans blowviate about how they really are concerned about China’s rise and China’s potential threat to America. You know, obviously, it would also be a victory for Iran for Hamas, for Hezbollah and other bad actors around the world and other aggressors. So anyway, that’s where we are. Let’s turn now to what else the Congress is doing because you know, as they are busily not giving aid to Ukraine and not reforming the asylum system, they have formally begun impeachment proceedings against president Biden, and representative Dave Joyce of Ohio who’s a Republican and a former prosecutor, was asked about this on a TV show, asked about formalizing it, and the, interviewer said, well, you’re a former prosecutor.
  • Speaker 1
    0:17:59
    What exactly is the high crime or misdemeanor that’s being investigated? And he said, well, yeah, that’s a good point. And I haven’t seen any of today, but I’m looking forward to the investigative committees. So, Megan, is this a simple matter of payback Trump wanted to have his two impeachments expunged, which isn’t really a thing. But, there are lots of Republicans who feel that because they, that is the Democrats impeached Trump, that now they should impeach Biden, turn about as fair play.
  • Speaker 2
    0:18:33
    I’m not sure payback is exactly the right way to think about it. Look, the impeachment of Will Saletan, right, was political as well as actual. I’m not justifying what he did, to a young intern who worked for him. That was an appalling abuse of his power. It was grotesque, and then he perjured himself under oath.
  • Speaker 2
    0:18:56
    Right? So to some extent, he deserved to be punished for it. That said, like, the Republicans would not have impeached him, president of their own party who had done the same thing. So fast forward to Trump. And look, I think you guys know I am second to none in my dislike of Donald Trump.
  • Speaker 2
    0:19:11
    I did not support him in twenty sixteen. I did not support him in twenty twenty. I thought he was a terrible, terrible president, possibly the worst president ever. And yet, the first impeachment was kinda garbage. Not because, again, it’s not that I am justifying what he did, but it was it was a little thin.
  • Speaker 2
    0:19:33
    And people were genuinely morally outraged, but that’s not the same thing as proving that someone committed high crimes of misdemeanors. Right? The second impeachment. And I think that actually became a problem because the second impeachment, they absolutely should have re removed him from office and barred him from ever running again because he had obviously committed a high crime demeanor against, the United States government, but that first one created a bad precedent. And now that bad precedent is, I think, going to mean that going forward, it is very likely that whenever the other party controls the lower house, the president can expect to be impeached.
  • Speaker 2
    0:20:12
    There was just a norm violation there that I don’t think you can ring that bell. Think we’re probably heading that way anyway.
  • Speaker 1
    0:20:19
    What is the offense that Biden
  • Speaker 2
    0:20:21
    What was what was Trump’s offense? Being a jerk?
  • Speaker 1
    0:20:24
    No. Attempting to corrupt the twenty twenty election by forcing No.
  • Speaker 2
    0:20:29
    No. That’s the second
  • Speaker 5
    0:20:30
    No.
  • Speaker 1
    0:20:30
    No. It’s the first attempting to corrupt the twenty twenty election by drumming up a false act organization against his chief political opponent.
  • Speaker 2
    0:20:40
    I do not think they had the goods during the first impeachment. They did have the goods during the second impeachment, but didn’t wait.
  • Speaker 1
    0:20:46
    All he wanted was for Zelensky to announce an investigation, and he would do the rest.
  • Speaker 2
    0:20:53
    No. He’s gross. Right? I’m not saying he’s not gross. I’m not saying that he doesn’t defile his office.
  • Speaker 2
    0:20:58
    Yeah.
  • Speaker 3
    0:20:58
    Okay.
  • Speaker 4
    0:20:58
    He
  • Speaker 2
    0:20:59
    abs absolutely did. If you’re actually gonna remove a president, right? I don’t think you should impeach someone unless you were really quite serious about trying to remove him. You need a bright line offense that we all agreed was an offense, and no one else got away with doing before. And do I think that other presidents didn’t maybe get away with putting some pressure on foreign governments in order to help Like, not in the dumb way that Donald Trump did because he’s a moron.
  • Speaker 2
    0:21:24
    It was less of a bright line, and you needed a bright line. They didn’t wait until they could draw a bright line as they could have on January. Sex. And look, I agree. What are you gonna impeach Joe Biden for other than being a Democrat?
  • Speaker 2
    0:21:36
    Nothing. I mean, this is dumb. I think the hundred Biden stuff is sleazy. I don’t know. Like, I’m not entirely clear that Biden is cleared on it, although I think it’s ran.
  • Speaker 2
    0:21:44
    Likely he was in he was involved. But they don’t have any evidence, and they shouldn’t be opening an investigation without evidence. We’re on a an agreement on that. I just think that, like, part of the thing, and this is why Trump was so dangerous, is that maintaining norms means kind of building a wall around the thing you’re trying to protect and not ever even getting near the thing you’re trying to protect. And Democrats did not do that.
  • Speaker 2
    0:22:11
    Republicans, you know, we can argue about whether they did it with Clinton in ninety six, but they were talking about impeaching Obama. Right. I mean, this is this is just how things have been heading. And I think Trump accelerated it, but I think possibly we’re going there anyway. But I I just think that in this case, this is just what we’re looking at going forward.
  • Speaker 2
    0:22:32
    It’s gonna be garbage impeachments all the way down. It’s tremendously unhealthy for the country, but I don’t really see a way back.
  • Speaker 1
    0:22:38
    Okay. Linda, this week, the special counsel at Jack Smith filed a writ of certiorari before judgment to the Supreme Court, asking them to leapfrog over the Court of Appeals and rule on a very important question, namely whether Trump has immunity as he claims for all acts committed while he was president including possible criminal acts. And he also made a another argument. I don’t think this is the one that is also gonna be decided, but he also claimed that to prosecute him would violate the double jeopardy protections of the fifth amendment because he has already been impeached
  • Speaker 3
    0:23:19
    and wasn’t convicted. Right? And and
  • Speaker 1
    0:23:21
    not convicted. So this would be double jeopardy. But anyway, we can talk about that in a minute. What is your sense about this? I have great confidence that the Supreme Court will bat this away.
  • Speaker 3
    0:23:30
    What do you think? I absolutely do. In fact, I would not be surprised if it were an eight to one or a nine to zero vote. It’s not just that the president can’t be prosecuted for something that he did in terms of his official duties, but this is basically saying he’s just immune from criminal prosecution and for life, I guess, for something that he was done during his term in office, including, as he famously said, when he was running the first time, I could walk down Fifth Avenue and shoot somebody, and nothing would happen to me. And, I mean, you know, he could get rid of Ivanka.
  • Speaker 3
    0:24:07
    He could get rid of Melania, in the in
  • Speaker 1
    0:24:11
    the White House and then never be prosecuted for it even after he left office. As David Frumb pointed out on the Bulwark podcast this week, it would also mean that the vice president could walk into the Oval Office and shoot the president and promptly proclaim that he is immune. Yeah. And
  • Speaker 3
    0:24:27
    then part
  • Speaker 1
    0:24:28
    pardon himself claim that he won you or immune from prosecution.
  • Speaker 3
    0:24:32
    It might not. It’s working if he did. Right.
  • Speaker 1
    0:24:34
    Right. Right.
  • Speaker 3
    0:24:34
    Right. Yeah. Berca point is it’s ridiculous. And do I think it was a smart move on Jack miss parts. Absolutely.
  • Speaker 3
    0:24:40
    Look, it is absolutely crucial that there is a trial before the election. At least one trial. And I think that the January sixth charges are very serious. We I don’t we’re not gonna get into the case that’s challenging one of the laws that’s being used one of the indictments against Trump, but also one that is convicted, many of the January six rioters having to do with interrupting an official proceeding, of Congress or having interfered corruptly interfered with an official proceeding. But I think we’re gonna have to have at least a trial.
  • Speaker 3
    0:25:17
    And hopefully there’ll be a conviction. And I am still, you know, praying with, you know, my praying to Saint Jude as a Catholic, you know, Catholics will understand that, the the the patron saint, the hopeless causes. That, you know, that he’ll be convicted and that it will change the hearts of even some mega followers. So I think it was a smart move. I think the Supreme Court shows every evidence of of being willing to take this on you know, an expedited consideration, not even waiting necessarily for the appeals court.
  • Speaker 3
    0:25:52
    And they’ve been doing this more recently, in other cases over the last five years or so.
  • Speaker 1
    0:25:57
    Yeah. And when, Trump argued in, trump the Vance, This is when Cyrus Vance was the prosecutor in New York. He tried to quash a subpoena from Cyrus Vance and said that any criminal process that touched The president was unconstitutional, and the Supreme Court voted, against him on that, and they voted against him on these election cases. And on a number of other, matters.
  • Speaker 3
    0:26:21
    So And by the way, Justice Kavanaugh has written a very long and scholarly law review article that deals with some of these issues having to do with presidential, immunity. Some of which you could just grab from that article and could be issued in in
  • Speaker 1
    0:26:37
    the decision. So, Damon arguably, the judiciary has been the tuition in our society that has, held up the best under the onslaught of our nihilistic age and, you know, the combined effects of trumpism and, you know, extreme partisanship, the courts have done very well. What’s your sense of how they will handle this and how it will affect twenty twenty four.
  • Speaker 5
    0:27:06
    Well, I don’t think we should put too much faith in these proceedings getting rid of our Donald Trump problem because the Donald Trump problem is a political problem. And we can know this by the very fact that we can imagine him convicted in every single trial on every single charge and at least imagine that he would still win the office of the presidency. The outcomes in these trials will affect public opinion, but the question is how much And in the end, it is public opinion that is going to determine the political fate of this man. It certainly will be interesting if he actually gets convicted of some of these major felonies, especially in the January sixth case, and then actually wins the presidency, like, part way toward preparing to serve a sentence. That would be so unprecedented in American history that does Jack Smith take an appeal to the Supreme Court and say there shouldn’t be allowed and on what basis and what I that boggles the mind?
  • Speaker 5
    0:28:13
    And it’s at moments like that that I thank heavens. I’m not a lawyer. It is true. We shouldn’t be surprised that our legal processes have held up well in the sense that, well, what is liberalism? What is liberal democracy as a form of government?
  • Speaker 5
    0:28:28
    If it’s anything It is a commitment to not focusing as much on what the government does as how it does procedure matters. It’s not the whole of liberalism, but it it’s the how. So can we throw the bastard who was president for four years in jail? Well, we can, but if we’re gonna do it, we have to do it carefully. We have to we have an investigation that will take time.
  • Speaker 5
    0:28:57
    It has to be careful We have to make specific charges under the law in light of precedent in all kinds of ways. And its implications. And then there will be those Charlie Sykes. And there will be a judge overseeing the charges and the trial. And there will be a jury called.
  • Speaker 5
    0:29:15
    And there will be opportunities for Trump’s side to question which jurors should be allowed, and there will be a trial. And then there will be a verdict, and then there will be appeals. That’s one reason why, you know, I question, how it’s gonna affect the election because We’re not just waiting for verdicts. Then Trump is going to appeal, and those will take time. And so this isn’t going to be settled, I think, in any of these cases, completely through the process of appeal before next November.
  • Speaker 5
    0:29:46
    But that’s a a side note. The important thing again is that If you’re going to do something best, you do it carefully according to generalizable laws that should apply to any American citizen. All of whom has certain innumerable rights. And that is happening. This potentially my powerful man in the country is now in the midst of multiple, trials and processes.
  • Speaker 5
    0:30:13
    And as long as they are conducted fairly and according to regular rule, then if they are legitimate and should be considered legitimate to any fair minded observer, and we should take some pride in that.
  • Speaker 1
    0:30:25
    Yes. Sometimes these lawyers make arguments that are just laughable on their faces, and one of them is this argument that Because Trump was impeached that it would be double jeopardy for him to face criminal prosecution, here’s the exact language in the impeachment clause. Judgments in cases of impeachment shall not extend further than to removal from office and disqualification to hold and enjoy any office of honor, trust, or profit under the United States. But the party convicted shall nevertheless be liable and subject to indictment trial, judgment, and punishment according to law. Unquote, that’s not even arguable.
  • Speaker 1
    0:31:08
    What that means. It’s as clear as Abel. Alright. Will Saletan, I wanted to ask you all about another subject, which is the war between Israel and Gaza, is provoking a tremendous amount of internal dissent within the Biden administration. Some of the staffers of the White House went so far as to hold a protest outside the White House calling for a ceasefire, which I regard as a firing offense, honestly.
  • Speaker 1
    0:31:38
    I mean, if you disagree with the president’s policy, you should resign and go do something else, protest your own president like that. Don’t know what you think, but I think that’s just beyond the pale. But I wanted to ask you about a survey that was published this week by the Palestine Center for the in survey research. It had some pretty dispiriting numbers. This was a poll of of Palestinians on the West Bank and in God.
  • Speaker 1
    0:32:03
    So a total of sixty percent thought Hamas should stay in charge, but that was seventy five percent of those who live in the West Bank, but only thirty eight percent of those who live in the Gaza strip. Only sixteen percent shows, PA national unity government under Abbas and two percent selected the Israeli army. I wouldn’t sell them life insurance if anybody found out who who they were. But anyway, Bill, you know, You know, in this age of, having the world at your fingertips on your phone, having information available, it seems that, people are No better informed than they ever were, and maybe worse.
  • Speaker 4
    0:32:42
    Well, maybe so. They know what they think.
  • Speaker 1
    0:32:45
    Yeah.
  • Speaker 4
    0:32:46
    And, you know, I follow the Israeli press pretty closely, and I also look at Palestinian public opinion polls, including the one you just cited. And I think I can say without fear of contradiction, that October seventh and its aftermath have radicalized both the Israeli population and the Palestinian. Population.
  • Speaker 1
    0:33:12
    Yeah.
  • Speaker 4
    0:33:13
    And, we are, at least at this moment, farther away from a resolution of this controversy than we have been in decades. Now, I suppose you could have said that in the month after the Jungkapur war, and look what happened after that. And I have no doubt about the fact that once the dust settles on this war, there will be renewed international efforts, and I’m sure renewed American efforts to think more structurally about a resolution to this controversy that has rage since nineteen forty eight in it, and it’s in its current form since nineteen sixty seven. But right now, passions are red hot on both sides or white hot, perhaps it would be better to say. And there was a very interesting exchange just yesterday in the Israeli press having to do with the gaza prisoners who’d been stripped
  • Speaker 2
    0:34:19
    Mhmm.
  • Speaker 4
    0:34:20
    And, by some accounts humiliated, by the IDF, And one commentator said, you don’t understand. For Israelis October seventh was a national humiliation. And part of their response is going to be revenge through humiliation of the other. That’s where we are. I have devoted a lot of my scholarly energies recently to the subject of what I call dark passions.
  • Speaker 4
    0:34:58
    In politics. And we are in a moment certainly in the Middle East, but not only in the Middle East, where dark passions are dominating not only reason, but even self interest rightly understood. All I can do is sit here and pray for a time when passions cool, and we may perhaps be able to make progress on some of these hitherto untractable controversies, but not now.
  • Speaker 1
    0:35:25
    Yeah. It’s a reminder that even when things can look placid on the surface that these roiling passions are never really that far from being expressed. So, you know, just on October, Fifth, let us say. It was looking more likely than not that Israel was about to have a breakthrough following along the Abraham accords, which where Israel made peace with a bunch of, Arab countries, and it had already made peace with Jordan and Egypt and many of its previous adversaries, and then, you know, it looked like Saudi Arabia was going to join that club, and it looked as if the Palestinians would eventually have to make their peace with Israel’s existence and that there would be some resolution to that problem, and, that things were looking up for the region. And then overnight, we got to this horrible pass where nobody can imagine.
  • Speaker 1
    0:36:21
    At least for the present, nobody can imagine a two state solution and where the fierceness and the brutality is off the Charlie Sykes
  • Speaker 4
    0:36:31
    me give way to a moment of of optimism here, Mona.
  • Speaker 1
    0:36:34
    Sure.
  • Speaker 4
    0:36:35
    And that is, I think it’s noteworthy that first none of the Arab Muslim participants in the Abraham accords I repudiated them.
  • Speaker 1
    0:36:46
    That’s true.
  • Speaker 4
    0:36:47
    They must be under enormous pressure to do so. They haven’t. Secondly, I think there are all sorts of signs that the Saudis have not given up on a longer term a reconciliation with the existence of Israel. And that is in the long term interest of both Israel and Saudi Arabia. And, I don’t think the Saudi crown prince is in a mood right now to give up on that prospect, even though clearly the timing and the tone and perhaps even the content of a conceivable agreement with Israel have all been changed by October seventh and its aftermath.
  • Speaker 1
    0:37:33
    Right. Okay. Thank you. Let’s turn now to another topic. Megan, you wrote a piece that, I think it was very stimulating called does the world need more jerks, and the headline doesn’t quite explain what you were talking about.
  • Speaker 1
    0:37:54
    So why don’t you elaborate on what you meant?
  • Speaker 2
    0:37:58
    So I think that we are you would I am gonna get a lot of pushback for this. I know. I think we are in science and journalism often suffering from an epidemic of niceness. And I think that this is a problem because Sometimes you have to ask questions that make people upset if you wanna get it the truth. Because the universe isn’t here to please us, unfortunately.
  • Speaker 2
    0:38:27
    Everything that we would like to be true isn’t. And some of the people who you may upset our marginalized groups. And the example I gave, was that Larry Summers, the economist, who is president of Harvard, in two thousand five, was forced to resign because he was invited to give, talk at a small seminar where he was asked to talk about the shortage of women in elite STEM. And he offered three hypotheses ranked them. He said he thought the biggest reason was just that the tenure clock just does not work with the biology of having kids.
  • Speaker 2
    0:39:06
    And he said, you know, we could think about doing more with childcare or stopping tenure clocks, etcetera. Second reason he offered, however, was a doozy. And he said, look, I think maybe the variance of female ability, mathematical ability, primarily, is lower than that of male ability. But if you look at male and female IQs, they’re they’re equal. And if you look at male and female scores on mathematical tests, the average is not that different.
  • Speaker 2
    0:39:36
    Men’s score on average a little higher than women. But if you look at the tails of the distribution. What you see is that women are more clustered around the middle and men are on both ends. So you have more men who are and this is true of IQ. This is true of a bunch of stuff.
  • Speaker 2
    0:39:53
    Men just tend to be more variable than women on almost everything. So you get a bunch of men, for example, more men suffer from mental retardation. You have more men at the bottom of the mathematical ability distribution. You have more men at the very, very tippy top. And as you get out to the extreme, you know, point o one percent where Harvard is recruiting its math department from, for example, those differences are gonna show up and having a lot fewer available female candidates.
  • Speaker 1
    0:40:22
    And not none. Just fewer.
  • Speaker 2
    0:40:24
    Yeah. Not none. Just fewer. And then he said, and then that there’s the third explanation is discrimination. And I think that is the least of the impacts here.
  • Speaker 2
    0:40:31
    I also think of, for example, when Kevin Will Saletan, the journal. He was often quite pungent. He puts things a little more strong than I. I he ended up getting higher than quickly fired by the Atlantic. Because he had said that he believed in the death penalty for abortion.
  • Speaker 2
    0:40:44
    To be clear, I disagree strenuously with Kevin, but, you know, colleagues at the at the Atlantic were like, how can I say a room with him? I was like, what do you think he’s gonna do? Start erecting a gallows? Like, you know, you’re a journalist. You have to sit and and Jeff Goldberg, who was the editor time.
  • Speaker 2
    0:40:59
    His initial response was kind of like, look, I I’m a Jewish guy who was out interviewing terrorists who literally wanted to kill me for who I was. Rate. I sort of didn’t understand the question, but ultimately had to let go of Kevin under pressure from the staff. And I think this kind of thing of, like, I don’t wanna hear this thing. Therefore, this person can’t be here.
  • Speaker 2
    0:41:21
    That was an early bell weather incident. I think it has shaped behavior of university administrators ever since. And I think we saw that with the the Harvard and and MIT and Penn president hearing. We’re like they could not articulate a forthright no holds barred support for free expression because it’s not where the university is now. And I think it’s showing up in things like papers on sensitive issues of race or gender or sexuality that are getting retracted, not because there’s something wrong with the paper.
  • Speaker 2
    0:41:49
    But because there’s activist pressure. And I should say, you know, there will be, oh, well, there was this little thing or that little thing, but it’s a little thing that if the paper had gone the other way would not in any way have persuaded anyone the paper needed to be retracted. Right. You know, and science papers, they may have small issues, but that doesn’t they don’t get retracted unless basically, your findings are completely false. That stuff, it’s making science bad.
  • Speaker 2
    0:42:13
    People are self censoring. And so the upshot of column was I quoted this recent perspective from the proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences saying that, like, look, censorship, we think of it as this bad thing and therefore something that’s only done from bad motives and is coming from outside authorities like the government. And I think with campus speech, and with other free speech issues, you always hear this. Right? It’s like, well, the government wasn’t doing it.
  • Speaker 2
    0:42:38
    Therefore, it’s fine. And in fact, you know, you can do something from good motives and still have a bad effect. And I think when you have the knowledge seeking industries that are afraid to ask questions or to get certain answers about some of the most sensitive and important questions society has to settle. That’s dangerous. It’s dangerous.
  • Speaker 2
    0:43:02
    First of all, because, you know, you are not getting at the truth. And I think call me an idealist, but I think over time believing in lies just hurts you. It’s dangerous second because it undercuts the credibility of being institution. I think we saw this a lot during the pandemic as the best example. The way that public health institutions have been so clearly politicized And we’re so clearly, for example, you know, it was suicide to go to church.
  • Speaker 2
    0:43:29
    But if you were protesting the death of George Floyd, that was gonna that was good, and you should do that. Right? That that stuff was absolutely devastating for the credibility of institutions that needed all the credibility they could get, and that that attitude over time you know, it’s sort of Ron DeSantis. Even if you get the right answer, no one’s gonna listen to it because they don’t believe in the process anymore. And so what I want is to make journalism and academia, a safer space for the kind of person who just says what they think, even if it’s gonna make people upset.
  • Speaker 2
    0:44:05
    You can’t have the they can’t be made up of all people like that. You need diplomats. It’s chaos if everyone’s like that. But I think that over time, for HR reasons, for, you know, kind of council culture reasons. It’s getting harder and harder to be one of those people at all.
  • Speaker 2
    0:44:20
    And that’s really, really dangerous because groupthink is so easy to fall into. Confirmation bias is so easy to fall into and having that person who’s just like, wait a minute, I think that’s just wrong. They’re incredibly valuable to the process, and we are making it too hard for them to survive in the very areas where we need them most.
  • Speaker 1
    0:44:39
    Hundred percent agree, and think this is, it really is an assault on the whole enlightenment project, right, because the enlightenment and the scientific method were all about being willing to test ideas and get at the truth. And in order to test, You have to be willing to entertain a hypothesis that you don’t like. And, in my book Sex Matters, where I talked about some differences between men and women. I noted that a number of people, a number of scientists who had looked into this research had been warned off it by their superiors saying, you know, this is not good for your career. This is this this can be a career, ender, you know, do something else.
  • Speaker 1
    0:45:23
    Do anything else, but don’t get into sex differences. Nobody wants to hear that. Well, Nobody may wanna hear it, but it happens to be the truth. And if you are at war with the truth, nothing good can come of that, I give the more much more recent example of Carol Hoven, who was an instructor at Harvard, and she wrote a book called tea, which is all about testosterone. She had done research out in in Africa, looking at chimpanzees and their behavior and, Yeah.
  • Speaker 1
    0:45:52
    It’s a very learned book all about the role of testosterone in mammals, including humans. You know, she is very, liberal, and she has very enlightened views about sexuality, about homosexuality, about trans people about all of that, but her sin was to say that some traits are biological and that biologists all agree that there are two sexes and only two sexes. I mean, it’s hard to find a biologist who would make the other case. There are, you know, there are people who fall somewhere in between. That’s true.
  • Speaker 1
    0:46:29
    And but that is very, very rare, and, doesn’t comprise another sex. There are just two sexes, male and female in the mammal world. Anyway, she felt pressured, Carol Hoven. She felt pressured to leave to leave Harvard. She wasn’t fired, but it became an unwelcoming work environment.
  • Speaker 1
    0:46:48
    And that is, that is incredibly illiberal and, and unhelpful for a for a healthy society. Does anybody else wanna weigh in on this?
  • Speaker 3
    0:46:59
    I’m just gonna weigh in and say the only problem I had with Megan’s article is that the people who are jerks are not the people who are willing to speak the truth. The people who are jerks are those who try to insist that their feelings are, are going to get hurt. So I, I, I think you just named the wrong jerks.
  • Speaker 1
    0:47:16
    Yeah. Fair enough.
  • Speaker 4
    0:47:17
    Yep. I should also, if I may. Yeah.
  • Speaker 1
    0:47:20
    Please
  • Speaker 4
    0:47:21
    add that we should not be surprised if you go all the way back to John Stewart Mills on Liberty, You will find there that he is much more afraid of the repressive impact of public opinion on freedom of thought than he is on the impact of the law on freedom of thought. And I think he’s I think, you know, just empirically, he’s absolutely right. If you look at Contemporary America, there are many more people who are afraid of public opinion, including the opinion of their peers than they are of government suppression. Of speech.
  • Speaker 1
    0:48:01
    Yep. Well said. Alright. We will now turn to the highlight or low light of the weekend. We will start with our guest, Megan Mccardle.
  • Speaker 2
    0:48:11
    Low light of the week is another round of protesters blocking blocking traffic and getting filmed, getting into a brawl with the drivers. I think this tactic is so inexpressively dumb. It is literally the equivalent of a toddler tantrum. It gets you attention at the expense of getting what you want. And I think more broadly, looking at various protest tactics that we have seen, you know, I stood up for the right of students at Harvard MIT and Penn to chant.
  • Speaker 2
    0:48:52
    You know, there is only one solution in to fought a revolution and from the river to the sea, they have free speech rights to chant it. But how on earth could anyone with any knowledge of the Holocaust use a slogan with the word solution in it in talking about this issue? It is just insanely tone deaf. And the fact that it rhymes with revolution is the dumbest possible reason to choose a chant. And I think that this speaks to a protest culture that has come to focus entirely on getting attention rather than on getting results.
  • Speaker 1
    0:49:27
    Yes. And they get attention at the expense of getting sympathy.
  • Speaker 2
    0:49:31
    Yes. They they actively alienate the people who they should be trying to persuade. It’s incredibly counterproductive. It is protest for the sake of enjoying yourself. And I know I can I can see the movie that is running in their head, the music swelling as they as they, like, run down the street?
  • Speaker 2
    0:49:51
    But no one else in the country is watching the same movie except for you. And those are the people if you act actually wanna change US foreign policy towards Israel Palestine. It’s the the rest of the country, not the movie in your own head that matters.
  • Speaker 1
    0:50:06
    Thank you. Damon Lincoln.
  • Speaker 5
    0:50:10
    Yes. Politics by slogan. We got a lot of that these days. Well, my my, highlight, and, yes, it’s actually a highlight, everyone, very unusual for me. This week, Congress passed a eight hundred and eighty six billion dollar bill funding the Pentagon.
  • Speaker 5
    0:50:25
    But, a little noted provision within this bill, as actually a dart aimed right in Donald Trump’s eye, and I’m very delighted to hear about it, which is that This provision states that any potential future president who wishes to withdraw the United States from the North Atlantic Treaty Organization must first, inform Congress and then after a specified amount of time, Congress must pass or at least, I guess, the Senate must pass a bill authorizing it by a two thirds majority, which you know, we’ve been through a pretty rocky period in our history and we’re still in the middle of it. So, you know, all bets are off for what could happen in the future. But I will say it would take a a pretty big sea change in Congress for something like that to pass. That’s a very high threshold. It’s as high a threshold as convicting a president for impeachment, and we haven’t seem to accomplish that yet either.
  • Speaker 5
    0:51:27
    So, I mean, this is, I think, a very, an I will give a tip of the hat to, senator Marco Rubio for spearheading this and putting it into this bill, which Biden is expected to sign It’s a very good, example. Well, it’s a it’s a good thing in and of itself to prevent Trump from doing something as catastrophically stupid is trying to unilaterally withdraw from NATO. But, as as, an indication of the kind of things we need to be doing as we face the potential of Trump winning again in eleven or so months, which is kind of stealing ourselves, in all kinds of ways to the damage that he can do. So, good job on that one.
  • Speaker 3
    0:52:12
    Okay. Linda Chavez. Good job, indeed. And, that that really was a highlight. Well, I have an unusual item that’s both a low light and a highlight, and it has nothing to do with politics.
  • Speaker 3
    0:52:25
    I’m going once again to culture this week. We lost one of the great act of our time this week, a man named Andre Brauer, who was the star of, the series homicide life on the streets, which was a David Simon production. Thirty years ago, nineteen ninety three, it appeared. It went for six seasons. It is a tragedy that Andre Brauer, is dead at the age of sixty one.
  • Speaker 3
    0:52:53
    He was a stage actor. I first saw him in nineteen ninety on the Shakespeare Theater, Company stage playing Iago in othello, just a wonderful man. But the highlight is that I would recommend if people are looking for a gift for the season. You could do no better than buying a box set of homicide life on the streets. And if you missed it in the nineteen nineties, it is one of the finest series that was ever on broadcast television and you will get a chance to see Andre Brauer and, his magnificent performance as detective Frank Pemberton, in that series.
  • Speaker 3
    0:53:34
    Thank you. Will Saletan.
  • Speaker 4
    0:53:36
    Well, continuing this upswing in our collective mood, I actually have two highlights. First, just to drop a footnote to the cheerful, note that, Damon introduced into the proceedings, I am not one hundred percent sure that the bill that Damon cited will be found constitutional if it’s challenged. I do expect if Trump is reelected and it becomes an issue that there will be a big legal hoo about this. Now for my two highlights, first of all, I frequently disagree with Stephen Pinker, but in an article that he just published in the Boston Globe entitled How save Harvard from itself. He hit the nail on the head with five recommendations as to see changes that Harvard should make and announce and adhere to that would enable future Harvard presidents and administrators to you a much more consistent and honorable course.
  • Speaker 4
    0:54:45
    My second highlight is a survey that came out from the Pew Research Center while we have been talking. And I think that it sheds a very interesting light on one of the underlying attitudinal issues within the Republican Party. The survey looked at Republicans and divided them into supporters of Trump for the presidential nomination, supporters of Ron DeSantis and supporters of Nikki Haley. And, you know, the party as a whole is split right down the middle on the following question. Do you think that you should pick a Republican candidate who’s interested in finding common ground with Democrats on policies, even if it pings giving up some things Republicans want.
  • Speaker 4
    0:55:34
    Or pushing hard for policies Republicans want, even if it makes it much harder to get some things done. As I said, the party was split down the middle, but sixty three percent of the Trump supporters said that they favored a candidate who would push hard for Republican policy and not focus on finding common ground with Democrats. By contrast, seventy two percent of Nikki Haley’s supporters preferred finding common ground with Democrats even if it meant giving up on pol policies the Republicans favor. And I think there you have it in a way. There are many Republicans who simply want to fight with liberals and with Democrats.
  • Speaker 4
    0:56:22
    They don’t want to give an inch. And there are other Republicans, less numerous, but not inconspicuous who really have an older idea of what’s successfully governing in a diverse constitutional republic requires.
  • Speaker 1
    0:56:38
    Thank you. Alright. So, Damon, you stole my highlight. I was going to mention that too. So I would just add a footnote, but leaving aside, you know, Bill’s question as to whether it might not survive a challenge, but, But I would say next up should be, reforming the insurrection act, which gives the president a lot of, unreviewable authority.
  • Speaker 1
    0:57:00
    That might be something that the Congress and the president should get right on next. But, I did notice that too and thought that was a very healthy development. But since you’ve already mentioned it, I would like to make a public service announcement, but it requires that I tell a short story first. I had friends visiting from out of town a few weekends ago, and we started out our day on Saturday by taking a long walk with my dog. We went to various neighborhoods and parks and let the dog off a leash for a little while so he could get some of his energy out and we brought him back home and We went off to the, a museum in the afternoon.
  • Speaker 1
    0:57:40
    When we got home in the evening, the dog was acting very strange. For one thing, there was water all over the floor of the house, and we couldn’t understand it. And we thought, is it coming from the dog’s water dish? No. Actually, it turned out the dog was having an sort of incontinence.
  • Speaker 1
    0:57:56
    Well, that seemed alarming. We thought does he have some sort of urinary tract infection. We bundled the dog off to the emergency vet And what do we find out? The dog was high. Okay.
  • Speaker 1
    0:58:10
    The dog had somehow picked up a joint. And eating it. And marijuana is toxic to dogs, it turns out, and it gives them a whole series of symptoms, including incontinence, and vomiting. And sure enough later that night, yeah, we we experienced that part of it. So while this was very funny in the moment, we have to say, finding out that your dog is stoned, And, of course, he’s fine.
  • Speaker 1
    0:58:39
    He was fine after twelve hours. He slipped it off, but people should be careful. Like, I know marijuana is legal everywhere now, and people are pretty casual about what they do with their pot when they’re finished smoking it. But anyway, please don’t drop it on the ground because now you know it very harmful to dogs, and I have a huge bill from the emergency vet from that day. So that is my public service announcement.
  • Speaker 1
    0:59:06
    Alright. With that, I would like to thank our guests, Megan McGardell, our regular panel of course, as well as our producer, Jim Swift, our sound engineer, Jonathan Last, and our wonderful listeners. And we will return next week as every week.
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