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Karen Tumulty: Are the Pundits Getting It Wrong?

October 27, 2022
Notes
Transcript

Was John Fetterman’s debate performance a fatal error — or will it inspire voters with empathy and admiration? And did the Jan 6 committee hearings actually change people’s minds? Karen Tumulty joins Charlie Sykes today.

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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!
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  • Speaker 1
    0:00:41

    Welcome to the Bullework Podcast. I’m Charlie Sykes. We are less than two weeks away from the midterm elections and breaking stories this morning. We’re ports of the economy’s death may have been premature. GDP accelerated at a pace of two point six percent in the third quarter better than expected as growth actually turns positive.
  • Speaker 1
    0:01:01

    So there is that. But Pottedocracy is all in on predictions of a red tsunami. This is the new hotness, and quite frankly, given trends that we’re seeing in New York, Pennsylvania, Arizona, and Even Washington State, they might not be wrong. Obviously, one of the big tests of all of this is I wrote in my newsletter this morning, the strength of the wave and whether anything at all matters in this particular environment is Georgia because as you may have heard I’m sure as you have undoubtedly heard, There is a second woman coming forward saying that she was pressured into one abortion by Hershel Walker. And we know the Republicans won’t care.
  • Speaker 1
    0:01:41

    We know the professional pro lifers won’t care. We know that they know that it’s lying. The big question, of course, will voters care very interesting analysis in the Washington Post by data crunching guru David Beiler who says that Hershel Walker has completely recovered. From the first abortion scandal, it’s back to being a tie in Georgia. So the big question is now whether the second allegation will convince voters that didn’t care about the first allegation and That’s, of course, to be determined, but I wouldn’t get my hopes up given the given the world that we live in.
  • Speaker 1
    0:02:16

    So joining me to talk about a lot of things in including what happened this week in Pennsylvania. Karen Tumbley, columnist deputy editorial page editor for the Washington Post, previously a national correspondent for The Post and For Time Magazine, an author of a bestselling book about Nancy Reagan. So welcome back to the podcast, Karen.
  • Speaker 4
    0:02:38

    Thank you so much for having me. It’s great to be here.
  • Speaker 1
    0:02:40

    So, you know, we’ve talked about this before. I I wrestle with the question of does anyone actually know what the rules of politics are anymore? And I I wrote this, so I’m sort of, you know, repeat myself. But, you know, on In in a mythical universe where politics is remotely rational and hypocrisy and dishonesty or anything, this whole Hershel Walker pressuring women to have abortions would be a problem. Right?
  • Speaker 1
    0:03:04

    But we don’t live in that world, do we?
  • Speaker 4
    0:03:06

    No. It did certainly. Well, you don’t see it in the polling numbers, but you know what? Charlie, I do wonder when people actually get into the privacy of the voting booth or whatever is the equivalent of that these days, whether there might be a sort of Roy Moore effect where people just decide not to vote on that line, not that they would go all the you know, that conservatives, that evangelicals, would go all the way over to voting for a Democrat, Rafael Warner. But, you know, there may be a significant enough number of people who just say, I just can’t do it in this race.
  • Speaker 4
    0:03:50

    And, you know, given how tight the polls show, it wouldn’t take a lot of them to make a difference.
  • Speaker 1
    0:03:56

    No. We’re talking about a very small number of voters, but I do see reports and indications of split ticket voting, which is kind of bizarre if you think of politics in any sort of linear sort of way. The people who will vote for Republican governor Kemp, but then also vote for Rafael Warmock or might vote for Democratic candidate Josh Shapiro for governor in Pennsylvania, but then also vote for doctor Oz that might happen in Wisconsin as well. Just a reminder that voters can be idiosyncratic about these things. Yeah.
  • Speaker 4
    0:04:29

    And one thing that is becoming pretty clear already. I I think people overanalyze the early vote numbers in general. But the the thing that is interesting about early vote numbers are Who is showing up? Who didn’t show up before?
  • Speaker 1
    0:04:49

    Yeah.
  • Speaker 4
    0:04:49

    And I talked to somebody yesterday who is looking at them in all of the key states. And he told me that already it’s looking like between ten and twenty percent of the people voting early did not vote in twenty eighteen. Which was a huge turnout year in and of itself. So this does suggest that this election is gonna bring out massive, massive turnout.
  • Speaker 1
    0:05:16

    This is a very interesting point. Actually, I was looking at some some tweets this morning about this from Nevada and from from from Georgia. We know that the pollsters have missed the hidden Trump vote in twenty sixteen and twenty twenty, but I do think it at least worth asking the question whether or not we may be missing that early these the significance of the early votes. So in in Nevada, John Rolston is reporting the democrats to have a huge surge in places like Clark County, which again, you know, seems to be exceeding any of the of the target numbers. Same thing with Georgia, massive.
  • Speaker 1
    0:05:52

    Almost presidential election level early voting in Georgia. And so what what does that mean? Are we actually missing that? Does the do the polls reflect any of that? So I again, there are these question marks.
  • Speaker 4
    0:06:05

    And it may not just be people voting early who would otherwise have shown up on election day. That’s why I’m much more interested in who is voting, who didn’t vote before. Well,
  • Speaker 1
    0:06:16

    yes, exactly. And and, you know, here in, like, in in Wisconsin up until relatively recently, we had two completely different electorates. The electorate that would show in an off year election was much smaller, much more Republican than the electorate that showed up in a general election, which tended to be much larger and much more democratic. So you’d get these bizarre results that I think is is lessening. Alright.
  • Speaker 1
    0:06:40

    So one of the reasons I really, really wanted to talk to you today was I I think you have a different perspective than I had on the Federman Oz debate. And I I I actually asked people if if if you can find the pony, you know, buried inside this pile, please let me know. And perhaps you have. You actually believe there might be a pony in there.
  • Speaker 4
    0:07:01

    Well, for one thing, I have just seen the punditocracy be so long, so many times without debates. And the fact is most people don’t watch them to the degree they see them at all. It is in the brief clips that make their way around TV and the Internet after the debate. But, you know, I think there is the potential at least. That, you know, yeah, Federman struggled, really struggled all the way through that debate.
  • Speaker 4
    0:07:38

    But I was I I just wrote a column this morning about a debate in two thousand eight where Hillary Clinton was struggling all the way through a debate. Everybody declared her the
  • Speaker 1
    0:07:51

    losers. New Hampshire.
  • Speaker 4
    0:07:53

    And people were writing that that was the moment that the end of the Clinton era. And three days later, she comes back and she she wins New Hampshire because the actual normal people who are watching the debate sort of number one kind of empathized with her situation, but also kind of admired her just for being there on the stage and enduring it. Now, Is that what would happen with Federman? I do think there will be potentially at least a number of voters who look at what he’s going through and look at what he has been dealt and empathize with it in kind of admire his courage in actually showing up and putting himself through this. I think
  • Speaker 1
    0:08:43

    this is a very interesting point. And and I noticed this myself that I am a very, very bad judge of debates because I think I look at it with a corner of my brain that is different from the average viewer. Well, the average viewer isn’t watching anyway. But, you know, and and the the story about Hillary Clinton back in New New Hampshire is is a perfect illustration because everybody there was dunking on her. I mean, you know, John Edwards actually put out a, you know, a statement.
  • Speaker 1
    0:09:08

    Get your kids out and put them in front of TV, the Clinton era officially ended at nine thirty five PM when Edwards paired with Obama to Barry Hillary as a non agent of change, And, you know, again, all of the conventional wisdom was she had been annihilated. And as you point out, yeah, but, you know, the average voter who is the the person, the the waitress who looked at her and said, you know, I I I identified with her. I empathized with her. I had a completely different take on all of that and It is one of those cautionary notes that the political professional class has a certain lens. They they they they used to watch these debates that may be different than people in the real world.
  • Speaker 1
    0:09:46

    So let let’s play a little bit of the sound bite because okay. So my instant reaction, I have to say, was was this is really, really bad. This is really excruciating. And that was really captured in this moment where John Federman really struggled with coming up with a coherent answer about fracking. Wanna
  • Speaker 4
    0:10:07

    clarify something. You’re saying tonight that you support fracking, that you’ve always supported fracking. But there is that two thousand eighteen interview that you said, quote, I don’t support fracking at all. So how do you square the
  • Speaker 1
    0:10:20

    two? I
  • Speaker 5
    0:10:25

    I I I do support fracking. And I don’t I don’t
  • Speaker 1
    0:10:31

    I
  • Speaker 5
    0:10:31

    support fracking, and I stand, and I do support fracking.
  • Speaker 1
    0:10:35

    Oh, man. I mean, so as as you point out, Karen, you know, the snap consensus was that he may have done release severe and possibly fatal damage to his candidacy that was was bad, but but he also had different moments. And I guess, you know, I’m thinking through, you know, your your your caution that that maybe people you know, in this day and age shockingly might respond empathetically. He he had a a better moment early on in the debate where we talked about the elephant in the room. Let’s play that.
  • Speaker 1
    0:11:03

    And let’s also talk about the
  • Speaker 5
    0:11:05

    elephant in the room. I had a stroke. He’s never let me forget that. And I might miss some words during this debate, miss two words together, but it knocked me down that I’m gonna keep coming back up. And this campaign is all about to me is about fighting for everyone in Pennsylvania that ever got knocked down, that needs to get back up, AND FIGHTING FOR ALL FORGOTTEN COMMUNITIES ALL ACROSS PENSCENIA THAT ALSO GOT NOT DOWN, THAT NEEDS TO KEEP GET BACK UP.
  • Speaker 1
    0:11:33

    Okay. So that’s a very different John Federman, and this is how he is framing it now. To
  • Speaker 6
    0:11:40

    be honest, doing that debate wasn’t exactly easy.
  • Speaker 1
    0:11:43

    You know?
  • Speaker 6
    0:11:51

    Bill, it wasn’t gonna be easy after, you know, having a stroke after five five months. In fact, In fact in fact, I don’t think that’s ever been done before in American political history before, actually. Now, after that stroke I got knocked, dude, when I got back And
  • Speaker 1
    0:12:21

    he also then turns around about doctor Oz. He said, let me tell you, you know doctor Oz has never let me ever forget having a stroke. And yeah, I guarantee you there are people at least one person here wanting wanting to film this and to get more words that I miss. It’s quite an inspiring campaign to run on that kind of an idea. And let me ask you what kind of doctor that as somebody that was sick wants to stay sick.
  • Speaker 1
    0:12:49

    And so he’s really kind of turning this around. And you write about this that, yeah, Federman had a terrible performance, but Oz did not necessarily do himself any favors, did he? Yeah.
  • Speaker 4
    0:13:01

    And he walked into that debate with a real deficit of goodwill. You know, he’s he’s the his negatives are still very, very high. He is seen as a carpet bagger And, yeah, at one point, he’s he was answering a really kind of benign question about policy and turns to Federman and says, you know, maybe you don’t understand this —
  • Speaker 1
    0:13:30

    Yeah. —
  • Speaker 4
    0:13:30

    which was just kind of gratuitous. Again, I don’t know how an ordinary voter would process all of this, but I do know that so many times in the past, these things are seen very differently than the kind of snap judgment of the political class. And then there’s the biggest factor of all, which is that most people probably made up their minds about this race. It’s one of the highest profile races in the country possibly the highest profile race. It’s very tribal.
  • Speaker 4
    0:14:07

    Politics in general these days. There just aren’t that many persuadables out there, I don’t think. Well,
  • Speaker 1
    0:14:13

    and it has become now very much this binary choice. And so you have Republican voters in Georgia that are just thinking, I just want a Republican. I want a Republican control the Senate. So I’m gonna ignore everything about Hershel Walker. And do you have Democratic voters in Pennsylvania who are basically saying the most important thing is to have a Democrat elected so the Democrats control the Senate, so we’re gonna vote for John Federman.
  • Speaker 1
    0:14:39

    But back back to doctor Oz, I thought you made a really good point, though, that he walked into that debate with with a goodwill deficit. People kind of thought he’s kind of a jerk, and he did seem unnecessarily nasty. And this is something that Federman now after the debate is really pressing. Basically saying that doctor Oz is kind of, you know, rooting against him. And he asked people.
  • Speaker 1
    0:15:00

    He said, okay, I’m gonna ask you a serious question. How many of you? Perhaps any owner of you? Had your own major health challenge. And, you know, and and please speak up about it.
  • Speaker 1
    0:15:09

    And he says, what about your parents? What about a grandparent? You know, God forbid even a child there’s a lot more of us to be rooting against like doctor Oz. And I hope that when you had those challenges with your loved ones, I hope you did not have a dock in your life making fun of it or ridiculing that. So he’s turning that around.
  • Speaker 1
    0:15:29

    And so I still think that that this debate hurt Federman, but I think your point, Karen, is that the average person looking at that going Okay, this is bad, but I really didn’t need to see doctor Oz being a complete asshole about this.
  • Speaker 4
    0:15:44

    Yeah, and there are just so many other things. It play. The airwaves in Pennsylvania are just being flooded that you can’t go on the Internet without being hit by an ad. I just think a debate is a single data point. And generally, they don’t matter all that much.
  • Speaker 4
    0:16:05

    Yeah.
  • Speaker 1
    0:16:05

    They don’t matter all that much, but of course, it’s that post spin that matters a lot. And I and I, you know, I I think in the first twenty far as my sense was that those little sound bites were just devastating to Federman. Now I’m listening to the sound bites from Federman, you know, turning this around, making this kind of rocky comeback story against, you know, you know, the mean doctor. And and I’m and I’m not sure that he’s I’m not sure how that all plays out. And I I so I I appreciate the fact that you raised a red flag.
  • Speaker 1
    0:16:34

    Alright. I’m gonna also talk about another column you
  • Speaker 4
    0:16:37

    raised. And I just before we leave Betterment?
  • Speaker 1
    0:16:39

    Sure. Absolutely. Yes, please. I do
  • Speaker 4
    0:16:41

    think I ought to release his medical records. Oh,
  • Speaker 1
    0:16:44

    that’s a real problem, isn’t it? Yeah. The lack of transparency. Yes. Anyway, but sorry to interrupt.
  • Speaker 1
    0:16:50

    No. No. You’re not. I mean, actually, this is a really important point because that is an ongoing point. And You know, the the thing about showing up for the debate, I mean, I gave him credit for showing up for the debate because I think they made the calculation.
  • Speaker 1
    0:17:01

    They’re watching what’s happening in Arizona. Katie Hobbes is refusing to debate Terry Lake, she is being pounded and pounded and pounded. What do you have to be afraid of? If if if if Federman doesn’t show up, you know, it it does raise that question, what are you hiding? Could you what are you afraid of?
  • Speaker 1
    0:17:17

    Why are you not here? Is it worse than than we thought? So, again, credit frame showing up. On the other hand, then not to release more of the medical records, races the same question. Well, wait, what is it you don’t want us to see?
  • Speaker 1
    0:17:34

    What is it that you are hiding? And that is just not a good look. Yeah.
  • Speaker 4
    0:17:40

    Absolutely. By the way, we’re having so so few debates this year, anyway, in all of these big races, it seems like there’s only one debate. Well, that’s
  • Speaker 1
    0:17:50

    that’s right. And I, by the way, don’t mind that because I I kind of share your your skepticism about the debates, particularly you know, at the state level, you know, here in Wisconsin, it seems like they they always have them on a on a Friday or a Sunday night. They they have on a on a Friday night on public television up against high school football. And then we all have to analyze who won, who lost, when nobody was watching this thing seriously. Can I just stick with the debate?
  • Speaker 1
    0:18:14

    I’m sorry. I wanna get to the January sixth column in a moment. But, you know, you got me thinking about the the way that that that pundits often get these these debates wrong. And I am I wanna just make it clear, I have a hard time evaluating them because in my head, I’m always thinking, well, you should say this. You should say this.
  • Speaker 1
    0:18:32

    And so there’s always that, you know you know, that that that disconnect so that my reaction is often very different from other people’s reaction. I actually watched the debate down in Florida with Ron DeSantis and Charlie Chris. And I’m I’m seeing all of the the pundits saying boy at at the Rhonda Sanders. He he just he came off as stiff. He has no charisma.
  • Speaker 1
    0:18:55

    He’s a black coal of charisma. He looked halting, not good. Donald Trump has to be looking at him and licking his lips. And I have to tell you I had a completely different impression of all of that because Rhonda Santos’ brand is never to be, you know, you know, funny and nice and warm and empathetic. He is what he is.
  • Speaker 1
    0:19:16

    And I think in terms of talking to his own base and hitting his own points, he did just fine. So I I don’t know. I I have learned I have learned to have the same skepticism that you have about the pundits. I don’t know whether you watched that debate or not, but it was it was not as awful for DeSantis as a lot of the talking heads are suggesting. There’s just so
  • Speaker 4
    0:19:39

    much else and so much other noise in the system this year. No.
  • Speaker 1
    0:19:45

    There is. And speaking of noise in the system, let’s do get to this column. You wrote about January sixth, and The headline is where the January sixth committee failed, which I think is more negative than what you actually did say. I just I’ll give you a chance to come on that idea. Yeah.
  • Speaker 1
    0:19:59

    Maybe you wrote your own headline. I don’t know, but
  • Speaker 4
    0:20:02

    No. But it’s web headboards have to fit into seventy characters. So you don’t get a lot a lot of subtlety. Well,
  • Speaker 1
    0:20:09

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  • Speaker 1
    0:21:24

    the heart of your piece is that despite everything they’ve done, the polls would suggest that only thirty six percent of Americans said they believe that Trump was directly responsible for what happened on January sixth, which is six points down from the response they got to that question after the committee began. And it’s slightly more than the thirty three percent in the same survey who said they believe Trump did nothing wrong. So, obviously, Democrats are disappointed about this. So, why has the January sixth committee failed to change the narrative or the trajectory of our politics? Or attitudes towards Donald Trump in in January sixth?
  • Speaker 1
    0:22:02

    And first of all,
  • Speaker 4
    0:22:02

    let me say, I think the committee conducted itself really, really well. And I think that final hearing, at least to my listening, made a pretty open and shut case that Donald Trump was the key instigator of everything that happened. And also that if everything was premeditated, including, you know, even before the election, planning to preemptively declare himself the winner preemptively and falsely. But I do think that I was really surprised by the the polling that showed fewer people thought Trump was responsible after the hearings. Then thought he was responsible before the hearings.
  • Speaker 4
    0:22:52

    That doesn’t mean, you know, maybe it was never gonna happen, maybe things have just gotten so frible that, you know, people kind of retreat to that. I think that in, to some degree, a lot of average voters have decided they they are putting January sixth in the past and they want to move on that they are more concerned about what they’re struggling with right now in their lives, whether it’s, you know, inflation or crime or whatever. But nonetheless, I think what the committee did was very, very important. If, you know, if from no other reason and then laying out a pretty clear historical record of what actually happened.
  • Speaker 1
    0:23:39

    So what really struck me though about your column was, and you you make the point that they did their job. And and obviously, the easiest planation here is that Americans are just so siloed, that it’s impossible to budge them. But then you raise this much larger question, which I’ve been thinking about since I read your piece. That that this problem is is really a lot deeper. You know, that, you know, polls show that Americans think that democracy is imperiled but they’re not actually gonna be voting that way.
  • Speaker 1
    0:24:07

    And then you suggest that the publishers can’t be shocked by any political investigation because that requires a baseline of idealism about the people who run the government. This baseline of idealism. So something has broken here. And I want people to stop because I I thought this was a really interesting insight that, you know, we we talk about tribalism, we talk about the committee and all of this. But in order for people to care, they have to have a certain level of expect and maybe maybe we’ve already crossed this tipping point where Americans just don’t really believe in a lot of the values that we’d taken for granted.
  • Speaker 1
    0:24:48

    Am I pushing this too far? I mean, what what is this baseline of idealism at what we expect? Yeah, I think they
  • Speaker 4
    0:24:54

    don’t believe in their leaders anymore. You know, I’ve read people like Nate Cohn at The New York Times who say that overwhelming majorities of voters believe that democracy is under threat. But if you ask them to describe that threat, it’s not what we talk about. You know, what happened on January sixth or, you know, undermining the electoral system what they mean is just the basic corruption that they believe has long existed in politics and the fact that they don’t believe their leaders have their best interests in mind, that they are working on behalf of special interests, This is a skepticism that goes back way before Donald Trump. Right.
  • Speaker 1
    0:25:44

    And it’s very deeply ingrained, but what do people mean when they say that the system is corrupt? I mean, it it it does feel as if that that there is this this belief that everyone in politics lies. Everybody is is is gone. Therefore, you know, our liar versus your liar it’s really not about any sort of of a standard here. Is is is that the level of of cynicism?
  • Speaker 1
    0:26:09

    I mean, when people say corruption, what are they getting at here?
  • Speaker 4
    0:26:13

    Yeah, I think they basically, you know, have so lost their faith that government will do the right thing. Or that people elected officials will not cut corners and self deal and you know, that given the choice, they will they will act in their own interests or the interests of of their donors rather than the public interest. And again, this is a this is a skepticism that goes way, way back. One or gate possibly earlier, for long earlier, actually, you look at the numbers, you know, back in the fifties, most people would say they trusted government to do the right thing most of the time. And it they don’t believe that anymore.
  • Speaker 4
    0:26:59

    And yet
  • Speaker 1
    0:26:59

    even with with Watergate, there were standards. There was a this baseline of idealism that said, you know, if there is a smoking gun, then president Nixon has to has to go. It feels like we we have shifted rather dramatically since then. Well,
  • Speaker 4
    0:27:15

    I certainly think we have. You know, there it was it was Republicans who went to Richard Nixon and told him he had
  • Speaker 1
    0:27:23

    to resign. Belatedly. So, you know, your point your your last line is, today’s voters might not demand accountability or even pale that much attention, but history we can still hope will not look the other way. And I I share that belief. But again, I wanna keep going back to this that The failure of the January sixth committee is not their failure.
  • Speaker 1
    0:27:42

    It’s it’s perhaps a failure to understand the degree to which this sort of cynicism. I don’t even know if cynicism is the word, but the the way the cynicism has just infected the the country. And I keep coming back to Donald Trump’s main appeal. When he basically stood up and said, I alone can fix this because I’m a liar and cheat and a crook. And so therefore, I know how to deal with liars and cheats and crooks.
  • Speaker 1
    0:28:08

    And I think a lot of people heard it that way, so that when when critics would say, well, hey, you know that he’s a liar and a cheat and a crook. You know, look what he’s done here. People went, yeah, he’s the perfect guy. To
  • Speaker 4
    0:28:21

    go into this.
  • Speaker 1
    0:28:22

    This is his brand. And we need someone like that who knows how to deal with these guys. So you you know, I mean, I am old enough to remember when a story about a billionaire who paid virtually nothing in taxes would be a really big deal. And yet, he’s kinda turned it around saying, see, I know how to manipulate the system. I’m the dumbass.
  • Speaker 1
    0:28:45

    Smarter
  • Speaker 4
    0:28:46

    than you
  • Speaker 1
    0:28:46

    are. Right? And I think that, you know, again, this this was a preexisting condition, but he’s tapped into it. And now it seems to have spread throughout the entire electorate is like, okay. You know, Hershel Walker is is a hypocrite, but they’re all hypocrite.
  • Speaker 1
    0:29:04

    So I’m just gonna go with the hypocrite. Who is gonna vote my way. And and and that’s a that’s a that’s a decision. That’s a life choice. So I’m, you know, The reason why I think this this point is so serious is because a lot of our focus has been on the leadership.
  • Speaker 1
    0:29:20

    You know, at the top of the funnel, the the disinformation campaign. I talked with Robert Draper about his book yesterday that, you know, the weapons of mass delusion and all of that. And and the and the role that people like Donald Trump play, but but that I think that this sort of bottom up lack of of belief that the system actually works or that anyone in the system actually should be held to any sort of moral standard. That strikes me as a much more fundamental problem here. And I and I feel that it’s kind of being exposed in real time.
  • Speaker 1
    0:29:56

    So the January sixth committee comes out with all of this evidence that bring all of the receipts. Every single day, we get more evidence of the degree of of corruption. And yet every day, we get more and more evidence that tens of millions of Americans just don’t care. They just shrug it off.
  • Speaker 4
    0:30:15

    Yeah. And by the way, in the middle of reading Draper’s book, it is very, very good.
  • Speaker 1
    0:30:21

    And
  • Speaker 4
    0:30:21

    it’s not just Trump. I mean, there are so many Trump one of these who are coming into the system, who are playing on that exact same expectation of voter
  • Speaker 1
    0:30:34

    tolerance.
  • Speaker 4
    0:30:35

    And, you know, Kevin McCarthy after January sixth, you know, first, you know, sounding denounces Trump and then ten minutes later, he’s at Mar a Lago, seeking a guarantee that Trump will help him to in this election. You know, under
  • Speaker 1
    0:30:52

    normal circumstances, I mean, that’s that’s a step back from the midterm under normal circumstances, you know, Democrats would face massive headwinds being in an off year election. So that’s really not a surprise. Right? I mean, I think a historian of politics would look at this election and say, well, yeah, of of course, the democrats gonna lose twenty seats Of course, they’re gonna lose, you know, a handful of seats in the Senate. That’s really not unexpected.
  • Speaker 1
    0:31:16

    However, it comes as a shock considering how extreme the Republicans have been, how lacking in an agenda. You know, I was listening to one of the the back and forths, and somebody made the point. What and actually, I think it was Pete Buttigieg. Everyone in the country, Republicans are hammering on inflation. And And Pete said something along the lines of, well, can any of them give five things that they would do as you know, if they take control of congress to stop inflation, do they have any actual proposals, any ideas at all?
  • Speaker 1
    0:31:48

    Can you can anyone name just a single thing And I thought it was an interesting point because literally every single piece of literature that I get every ad I see, a Republican saying, you know, we will vote to bring down inflation and yet none of them explain exactly what they have in mind and yet it doesn’t really matter in and off your election doesn’t. No.
  • Speaker 4
    0:32:09

    And this idea that somehow they’re gonna all turn into fiscal hawks and force a showdown over the debt ceiling their fiscal hoc credentials are pretty ragged given how they behave during the Trump years.
  • Speaker 1
    0:32:27

    So here in Wisconsin like in Pennsylvania, the Republicans have been hammering the issue of crime to great effect and I think it was the Wall Street Journal that made the point, the editorial page, and we don’t necessarily have to agree with him about this. But they said, you know, what, you know, when you’re looking at the the other aspect of the Pennsylvania race, why it is tightening is that the Democrats have nominated a number of of candidates who seemed to be struggling in pushing back against the Republican onslaught on crime. Both Federman and Mandela Barnes in Wisconsin have flirted with, I don’t wanna say, defund police, but it is out there. With with with policies that are deeply toxic among swing voters. You know, the abolition of cash bail expressing sympathy for people who have committed serious crimes, who are in prison, all of that.
  • Speaker 1
    0:33:23

    Democrats seem to really be struggling, not just with inflation in the cost of living. But with a credible response on crime and on immigration. What what are your thoughts? Is that too negative a a take? Well,
  • Speaker 4
    0:33:37

    I think that, you know, they you you don’t wanna bring up defund the police, but let’s face it. That is sticking to the bottom of a lot of people’s shoes. I mean, whoever came up with that slogan, it it just It’s milk. Product based on its phone, had its slogan ever. I mean, especially because The next thing you had to do was explain that it wasn’t what it sounded like.
  • Speaker 4
    0:34:00

    Although in some cases, it it kind of was what it sounded like.
  • Speaker 1
    0:34:04

    Yes. It was what it sounded like. Anytime you’re explaining that what you just said is not what you meant you are definitely losing. I think the part of the historic problem here is that is that after the the murder of George Floyd, there was a a view among Democrats that the country was going to shift rather radically on the whole issue of criminal justice and police. And, you know, there was a moment, but that shift did not actually take place.
  • Speaker 1
    0:34:31

    And and then they did not react as forcefully enough to the to the violence that occurred because I’ll tell you every single conversation that you have with anyone on the right about January sixth will inevitably bring up the burning of Kenosha or the other assaults in Portland or in Seattle the kinds of things that happen, you know, after peaceful BLM marches that turned not peaceful. And I and I think that the failure to confront that is really haunting Democrats this year. As the lawn water issue haunted the liberals in the late sixties and early seventies. Yeah. And
  • Speaker 4
    0:35:08

    it really was it took you know, Bill Clinton essentially to turn that around for the Democratic Party. And in ways that, you know, they later came to regret but
  • Speaker 1
    0:35:18

    that took twenty years for them to come around on on all of that, you know. So Joe Biden has said all the right things about refunding the police funding the police more aggressively, you know, taking stronger the line. But I think one of the things we’ve learned in politics, you have to keep playing the hits over and over again. Right. And and I, you know, and I sense that that the democrats are reluctant to antagonize any member of their base on these issues.
  • Speaker 1
    0:35:43

    Yeah.
  • Speaker 4
    0:35:44

    Because Biden, in fact, you know, did denounce the violence around the the BLM protest. Okay. So
  • Speaker 1
    0:35:50

    speaking of boneheaded political moves, And then I I agree with you completely on the defund of the police. And and every time someone says, well, no. What we really mean is, like, okay, I’m just telling you how it actually plays in the world, particularly when you have rising crime. Alright. So speaking of boneheaded political mood, What do you make of what happened with the progression the congressional progressive caucus and their letter, the thirty signature letter telling Joe Biden he needs to changes approach to Ukraine and engage in vigorous direct negotiations with Russia.
  • Speaker 1
    0:36:22

    I mean, what happened there? I have
  • Speaker 4
    0:36:25

    no idea why they decided to, you know, these first of all, I mean, they they retreated to the oldest, lamest move in the book. Which is blaming it on a staff error. But to release this letter that apparently these members signed months ago when presumably it looked like Ukraine was losing this war. It’s just absurd. And it, you know, they looked like they were making common cause with all the, you know, Republican isolationists who who wanna cut off the money to Ukraine.
  • Speaker 4
    0:37:02

    It was interesting. I I think Jamie Raskin, the congressman from Maryland, I think, hit the statement he put out denouncing the letter that he signed was longer than the letter itself. Well, anytime you
  • Speaker 1
    0:37:16

    have to do that, you know that you dug yourself very, very deep hole. I mean, there were there was two things about this that were equally puzzling, the substance and the timing. And every everybody was, like, seriously two weeks before the the election, you’d decap the Biden administration in this particular way. It certainly looked like, you know, they had they had done this intentionally. No.
  • Speaker 1
    0:37:38

    You’re right. The the the excuse that a Zealous staffer had put this out without vetting it, that didn’t really that you only passed the smell test because, you know, political was reporting that representative Jayapoo, who is the chair of the of the caucus, had approved it on Monday, and she gave your newspaper a statement on Monday that seemed to suggest that she knew exactly what the letter was saying and why they were doing it. Howard Bauchner: Yeah, but, you know, in
  • Speaker 4
    0:38:04

    in a time of crisis, you know, quick, find an interim I
  • Speaker 1
    0:38:09

    mean, it it was like one step ahead of the dog ate my homework, you know, listening to all of these people. I mean, I think the letter was pretty bad in in June as well. I mean, that’s the whole thing is, like, we signed it in June when things were completely different, and then we completely forgot about our our position on all of this. I don’t know. There was never a moment, I think, when it would have made sense for Democrats to to turn on what the divided administration was doing.
  • Speaker 1
    0:38:36

    I mean, that you know, particularly given the war crimes, the evidence of the war crimes, the unprovoked aggression, the nature of the Russian regime Also, I can’t help but notice that there are still progressive organizations out there that are trying to defend the letter that, you know, this is all the elected officials seem to be acknowledging it was a gaffe. But the reality is that there’s always kind of that residual I mean, we are talking about the left. Right? I mean, there’s always kind of residual reluctance about the use of force in this particular way. And you you do have to
  • Speaker 4
    0:39:12

    wonder. I mean, winter is setting in, in Ukraine, and in Europe, and So it is very likely that the war is gonna kind of be frozen in place and people in Europe are going to have high energy bills and there’s going to be an exhaustion that just sort of sets in. And you do wonder if some of the support for Ukraine across the board is gonna start to fray. And so I I think it’s worth watching not only the isolationist wing of the Republican Party, But, you know, what is happening on the left of the Democratic Party as well? Yes.
  • Speaker 4
    0:39:58

    And
  • Speaker 1
    0:39:59

    I I if if there was any piece of good news there, it was the speed with which fellow Democrats in the Biden administration pushed back on that letter. I mean, this was an opportunity for them to say we are not going soft on this. We are not going squishy on all of this. And and there was, you know, obviously, real desire to draw a bright line between the Democrats and what Kevin McCarthy is going to do. How worried are you about a Republican congress not continuing support for Ukraine?
  • Speaker 1
    0:40:27

    I think it’s a
  • Speaker 4
    0:40:30

    real possibility because I think on the last big aid vote, there were already more than seventy House Republicans voting against it. You know, every single vote against it came from the Republicans. Well, and, you know,
  • Speaker 1
    0:40:44

    Mitch McConnell seemed to break with McCarthy by saying that there was continuing bipartisan support and the Republican senate would continue to push with this, but the reality is that, you know, let’s say that Republicans did have fifty two votes in the the senate. Mitch McConnell doesn’t have fifty two votes to continue to support Ukraine. I mean, think about what that caucus is gonna look like. So he’s going to have to rely on democratic votes, right, to to get anything through. And you know what’s gonna rain down on their heads for Mar a Lago because Trump is going to demand a variety of things that you know, Mitch McConnell and Mike Buck, but Kevin McCarthy will Kevin McCarthy will never defy Donald Trump.
  • Speaker 1
    0:41:30

    Willy? Or am I being cynical? No.
  • Speaker 4
    0:41:34

    Not at all. I just you know, we that was certainly what we learned after January sixth. So
  • Speaker 1
    0:41:41

    it is Thursday right now. Elon Musk is supposed to close the deal on Twitter tomorrow. What should we make of all of this? He posted a picture of himself bringing a kitchen sink into Twitter. I’ve been reports that he’s gonna slash the staff by seventy five percent he is notoriously I suppose the nicest thing I could say is mercurial about all of this.
  • Speaker 1
    0:42:04

    Given everything that’s happening in American culture and politics, how should we be thinking about Elon Musk? Now becoming the sole owner of one of the major social media sites. I think that
  • Speaker 4
    0:42:20

    Elon Musk is in some ways, the almost like the William Randolph first, the citizen Cain of the twenty first century. And, you know, just his impulsiveness, his, you know, basically, his mode of operation is is very, you know, concerned. I mean, he’s got the potential to basically you know, drive his own foreign policy practically. It’s also not reassuring
  • Speaker 1
    0:42:52

    that the House judiciary committee Republicans still have that tweet up Elon Kanye Trump. Again, you know, trying to get into the minds of of of these people that, you know, who are these iconic leaders of the right now? Elon freaking Musk, Kanye West, who has just completely lost his mind as he’s send it into this rabbit any sentimentism and, of course, Donald Trump. And, you know, we’re asking about what was going on with the the progressive caucus. What the hell is going on with the judiciary committee?
  • Speaker 1
    0:43:25

    Republicans. Yeah. They still have Kanye West. Kanye. Well, I I think it also shows
  • Speaker 4
    0:43:29

    the way people use Twitter these days. I mean, people that you would normally think were coming from some, you know, responsible place. They think use it to be provocateurs. And Musk owning Twitter is not gonna reduce that problem. Howard Bauchner: No, and
  • Speaker 1
    0:43:47

    it’s not gonna reduce misinformation. It’s not going to reduce hate speech. Now, with all the discussions we’ve had, like, how do we deal with this information? How do we deal with, you know, the spread of toxic hate speech? And here you can have Elon Musk and whatever Twitter has done up until now, I think we’ll be undone.
  • Speaker 1
    0:44:06

    So do you think Donald Trump comes back to Twitter? Yeah. Oh, yeah. Well, he says he won’t because he’s got his own thing, which has been shambolic and is falling apart. But if Donald Trump leaves true social and goes back to Twitter, he’s basically blown up his own thing.
  • Speaker 1
    0:44:21

    Oh,
  • Speaker 4
    0:44:22

    he will say that it’s because so many of his fans and supporters have demanded an effort? I think
  • Speaker 1
    0:44:30

    you’re absolutely right. I don’t think he can help himself. And also, what is the one through line for Donald Trump? It’s whatever is best for him. If it means that his investors and his staffers and everything are completely screwed, that’s not going to be a problem.
  • Speaker 1
    0:44:45

    Is it? Oh, not at all. He he will not blink or blush one bit. Now, whatever he says about, you know, his loyalty to truth social and how he’s not coming back, he just will not be able to resist. So I think that’s a pretty safe prediction.
  • Speaker 1
    0:45:04

    By the way, I am out of the prediction business generally, particularly when it comes to elections. And know you do this as well that we absorb all of this punditry and all of the polling. And I feel like we’ve been caught in sort of this this groundhog day loop of I feel like I’ve been here before and I just don’t know that anyone knows what’s going to happen. I don’t know what do you think.
  • Speaker 4
    0:45:25

    I think that’s precisely why politics is so interesting because the electorate has the capacity to surprise you. Okay. So let me ask you this. You said,
  • Speaker 1
    0:45:35

    why it’s so interesting? It also makes it so exhausting. Do you get exhausted by this Oh,
  • Speaker 4
    0:45:44

    yeah. I mean that mean
  • Speaker 1
    0:45:45

    on the continuum, I am excited and I am interested versus I am completely exhausted and disillusioned away from the spectrum. Well, and I I
  • Speaker 4
    0:45:55

    must say as a columnist you you kinda have to sometimes you feel like you’re it’s Groundhog Day because every column is just, like, remember how crazy I told you it was last week. It’s even more crazy this week. I
  • Speaker 1
    0:46:11

    feel this is my life. It’s like Remember, I told you it was really going to get bad. Okay? It it actually has gotten bad, and it’s going to get worse. And I’m going to tell you the same thing next week.
  • Speaker 1
    0:46:20

    So wow. I mean, that’s that that is part of the problem. And I mean, we do this for a living. I just wonder what percentage of the electorate is just utterly exhausted by this because there are people who can turn it off. Of course, if you’re watching television here in Wisconsin, you can never turn it off.
  • Speaker 1
    0:46:39

    But there are people who I think are just gonna say, you know, there’s just too much crazy pills. I just don’t even know what the moorings are anymore. And I I think that that’s going to be a major factor in our politics, unfortunately, going ahead, is the exhausted minority, which may become the exhausted majority which means that normal people will be seeding the the platforms to the crazies, the grifters, the dishonest, the the yellows and the showers, and I worry about that, do
  • Speaker 4
    0:47:06

    you? Yeah. But and especially because you know, some of the platforms, then the other thing is they become very, very siloed. I mean, you’ve got an algorithm deciding what what you’re gonna see on your Facebook feed. And the algorithm is just seeking to reinforce what it is you already suspect or believe.
  • Speaker 4
    0:47:28

    Well, that’s the
  • Speaker 1
    0:47:29

    world that we live in Karen Tumbley, columnist and deputy editorial page for the Washington Post. Thank you so much for coming back on the podcast today. Always enjoy talking with you. Well, thank you so much
  • Speaker 4
    0:47:39

    for having me. And, boy, let’s fasten our seatbelts for the next couple of weeks. Oh, I think it’s gonna last
  • Speaker 1
    0:47:45

    a little bit the next couple of weeks. So, actually, I had a con I’m sorry, we’re we’re done with the podcast, but I had a conversation with somebody the other day, and we were both saying, you know, we have been doing this you know, they, you know, trying to push back against Trump and Trumpism for seven years now. Uh-huh. We’re we’re sort of looking at each other and going, you know, that I used to tell myself, okay, I can get through twenty twenty because that’s we’ve been doing this longer at that point. Doing this longer than the than the duration of World War two.
  • Speaker 1
    0:48:17

    You know what I mean? It’s longer than and he said, yeah. We’re now in Vietnam War
  • Speaker 4
    0:48:22

    territory. Go ahead. Yes.
  • Speaker 1
    0:48:23

    It’s like the duration of the Vietnam war, and we’ve been fighting in the Meekong Delta for the whole time. It’s like the siege of Keesan forever every day. This is the world we’re we’re living in. And the only question is now will we be talking about? We’ve been doing this as long as the Vietnam war and somebody will say, no.
  • Speaker 1
    0:48:43

    Actually, it’s as long as the war in Afghanistan. Oh, gosh. And and we know how that ended. Okay. So on that bright and shiny node, Karen.
  • Speaker 1
    0:48:52

    I appreciate it. Thanks again for
  • Speaker 4
    0:48:54

    inviting me on because it’s always such a treat. While
  • Speaker 1
    0:48:57

    anytime. The bowler podcast is produced by Katie Cooper with audio production by Jonathan Siri. I’m Charlie Sykes, Thank you for listening to today’s Bulwark podcast. We’ll be back tomorrow. We’ll do this all over again.
  • Speaker 1
    0:49:14

    You’re worried about
  • Speaker 4
    0:49:15

    the economy. Inflation is high. Your paycheck doesn’t cover as much as it used to, and we live under the threat of a looming recession. And sure you’re doing okay, but you could be doing better. The afford
  • Speaker 1
    0:49:26

    anything podcast explains the economy and the market detailing how to make wise choices on the way you spend and invest Avoid
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    0:49:33

    anything talks about how to avoid common pitfalls, how to refine your mental models, and how to think about how to think Make smarter choices and build a better life. Avoid anything wherever you listen.
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