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Mark Leibovich: DeSantis Is Not the Savior

December 7, 2022
Notes
Transcript

Republicans are big mad about Herschel’s loss, but they won’t name the guy who got this production off the ground. Meanwhile, low-energy Trump is plotting how to take out the charmless but ruthless DeSantis. Mark Leibovich joins Charlie Sykes on today’s podcast.

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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!
  • Speaker 1
    0:00:00

    It is my honor to honor the four most powerful words that have spoken in a democracy. The people have spoken. Oh my. I think it is fair to say that there is no joy in mudville this morning or at least among Republicans or the pundit class. I think that Laura Ingram on Fox News last night sort of summed up the mood on the right.
  • Speaker 1
    0:00:37

    We don’t change anything. We have the same people in place in leadership. Same people in place apparently at the RNC. That’s not perhaps that’s not changing. We just keep doing the same thing over and over again.
  • Speaker 1
    0:00:46

    I’m in TONIGHT, FRANKLY. GO ahead. KAD’S REALLY OFFENSIVE. I’M MAD. FOR REPUBLICAN VOTERS, FOR REPUBLICAN DONORS.
  • Speaker 1
    0:00:53

    YEAH, HOW DID THIS HAPPENED? SO JOINING ON THE PUGGASTS TODAY. Mark Libertch, a staff writer at the Atlantic, his latest book is thank you for your servitude. Donald Trump’s Washington and the price of submission. And Mark’s also the former chief national correspondent for The New York Times magazine and his other books include the classic, this town.
  • Speaker 1
    0:01:13

    So Mark, Lorraine Ingram. And Molly Hemingway, how did this happen? Why does this keep happening to us? We have no idea I mean, there
  • Speaker 2
    0:01:24

    are two letters to that. Right? It is classic Casablanca. I am shocked. Shocked.
  • Speaker 2
    0:01:29

    Now, of course, the text there is that, like, there’s gambling going on here. The text here is that, wow, Laura Ingram is pissed. And basically, what she does shouldn’t lay it out in that clip. But the context was she has pissed at Ronen McAllen, and he obviously has reacquired the Romney in her name. Yeah.
  • Speaker 2
    0:01:46

    Now that she is gonna be scapegoated for this. So yeah. No. They’re pissed at the R and C, pissed at Mitch McConnell. So the subtext, of course, is the ongoing silence among the real powers that be like Laura Ingram to ignore the real culprit of all this who, of course, is Donald Trump.
  • Speaker 2
    0:02:07

    Who I imagine is not the person that Laura Ingram has pissed at or at least whatever say as much about last night?
  • Speaker 1
    0:02:14

    No. I think the Republican elites are, of course, searching their souls. Right? The the as soon as they find them. I guess the real question is, will they learn the lesson from all of this?
  • Speaker 1
    0:02:23

    I’m getting ahead of myself here a little bit. I mean, the lesson seems to be pretty obvious, you know, that Donald Trump is toxic, that crazy can win Republican primaries, but it is death in a general election. I think we’ve we’ve demonstrated this. But the pattern is extraordinary. Your colleague, Ron Brownstein, sort of sums it up, and just get put it’s in context with Warnoch’s victory.
  • Speaker 1
    0:02:47

    Over Hershel Walker. Democrats have defeated every GOP Senate and gubernatorial candidate endorsed by Donald Trump this year In the five states that flipped from supporting him in twenty sixteen to backing Joe Biden in twenty twenty, Michigan Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Georgia, and Arizona. I mean, it’s the the scope of the losing is pretty extraordinary. This is I think this is Peter Baker in the New York Times. Right.
  • Speaker 1
    0:03:15

    The defeat of mister Walker, who was handpicked by mister Trump, culminated a disastrous year for former president who set himself up as a Republican kingmaker only to watch his senate candidates in Nevada, Arizona, Pennsylvania, and New Hampshire, as well as his picks for governor in Arizona, Michigan, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, and Georgia go on to defeat in primaries when last month’s general election Yes. But by all means, that’s by Mohammed McDaniel. Yeah. Mhmm. Mhmm.
  • Speaker 1
    0:03:43

    So is is it is it possible? I just wanna roll this up against the wall, bounce this off you. Is it just possible that it’s dawning on Republicans that Kanye Elon Trump, Hershel, is not a winning formula.
  • Speaker 2
    0:04:01

    I think it’s certainly dawned on them. I think, you know, it is it is sort of self evident. But again, the conversation we’re having now is, of course, a variant of conversation that has been playing out pretty much since November of twenty twenty. Certainly, the Georgia runoff of twenty twenty one January sixth, which was the next day and, you know, go down the list. Right?
  • Speaker 2
    0:04:24

    So, yeah, we’re we’re having another version of this conversation today, but Ultimately, Laura Ingram is the norm. Yeah. It is the same avoidant strain. And what we’re talking about is a a weakness of character. The fact that even, like, the John Corners, the John Thoons, who in recent days have been sort of seen as critical to Donald Trump who have sort of, you know, they’ve played Footsie around the issue of his blowing up the constitution remarks and so forth.
  • Speaker 2
    0:04:54

    I mean, it’s the same mealy mouth stuff. And, yes, Donald Trump is on an extremely pronounced losing streak as many have pointed out. And is very obvious and he’ll probably have a bit of a quiet period over the next few months and, you know, the the amnesia will settle in again and I mean, who knows? But, like, until I see a change of of actual fortitude and character among Republicans, I I don’t think this is going away. I I think avoidance remains the MO here, and people remain terrified of him and his voters.
  • Speaker 1
    0:05:27

    No, I was thinking this morning that you know, you look at the elites, the donor class, the elected officials, the punditocracy, and they are just as disillusioned and as opposed to Donald Trump right now as they were in December of two thousand fifteen. No question. Which is your point. I mean, we have seen this before And and every once in a while, I’ll hear somebody talk about, well, the Republican party will decide to do this or we’ll take this. There is no Republican party is there.
  • Speaker 1
    0:05:55

    I mean, these elites the intellectual base. They are not the Republican party. The Republican party is the base. And that base are the ones that want more Trump and gave us Kerry Lake and Doug Mastriano and Jim Michaels and Tudor Dixon and Blake Masters and Doctor Oz and all of it. And Hershel freaking Walker.
  • Speaker 1
    0:06:19

    So before we get into to Trump a moment, The thing about Hershel Walker and I have mixed feelings about all this. I’m relieved that he’s not going to the senate. It is still stunning to me that this was even remotely close. You’ve watched politics for a long time. Maybe you’ll remind me something.
  • Speaker 1
    0:06:33

    I cannot remember someone who is manifestly unfit for office. Just a truly terrible candidate. Where can you think of somebody who was worse than Hershel Walker in terms of just like, are you serious? You wanna put your sky in the United States in it?
  • Speaker 2
    0:06:51

    Let’s think about this. Well, I mean, there are several categories. I mean, Tommy Tuberville, that
  • Speaker 1
    0:06:55

    mean Yeah. Little
  • Speaker 2
    0:06:56

    different. I mean, with the same basic lineage, you know, sort of completely ill equipped football background, south. Yeah. But no. Not really.
  • Speaker 2
    0:07:04

    Although, I would argue also that Cary Lake in a very different flavor of manifestly unfit. Dan Balduck, you know, Doug Mastriano. I mean, yeah, they didn’t go off on Wearwalls and what was the other thing? Whatever.
  • Speaker 1
    0:07:18

    Wearwalls and vampires.
  • Speaker 2
    0:07:20

    Right. But, I mean, again, the flavors of manifest on fitness, you know, are go pretty deep here. Right? And, I mean, you could argue that Donald Trump is If you wanna deconstruct his public statements, actually, in some ways, is as much of a blithering idiot as Churchill Walker is. You know, with similar malignancies, but on a greater scale.
  • Speaker 2
    0:07:41

    So, I mean, it’s a big philosophical argument. But, yes, the point is extremely unfit for the US Senate one would think. And here we are. Well, I think
  • Speaker 1
    0:07:51

    your point about Donald Trump is in important here because in many ways what happened down in Georgia is a preview of twenty twenty four. I’ve I’ve written that. And by that, I mean, if people are under the impression that Republicans will not completely coalesce around Donald Trump with all of his baggage, with all of the crimes, with all of the corruption. Look, this party came together. They were united behind Hershel Walker.
  • Speaker 1
    0:08:14

    The party was united. They coalesced. They held their nose. They didn’t care about the abortions or the guns of the head or the line. They none of that because it became the binary choice.
  • Speaker 1
    0:08:25

    And it was better Hershel Walker than apparently the the evil, dangerous, satanic, raphael, worn up. Yeah. If you’re willing to rally around Hershel Walker, in what alternative universe do you think that they would not rally around Donald Trump no matter what happens? I
  • Speaker 2
    0:08:41

    guess you’re right. Yeah. No. You’re right. I mean, Georgia maybe has some pretty specific baggage around the loss of the two senate seats.
  • Speaker 2
    0:08:50

    Around his thing with Kemp. You know, maybe that peels off a few percentage points to Trump personally that Walker actually wound up getting. I mean, he came really close. I know you got two, three points probably in the final maybe I don’t know. Maybe it’ll be up to four, but it’s it’s pretty close.
  • Speaker 2
    0:09:04

    And Carrie Lake got really close, and they all got pretty close sort of in the scheme of things except for — Yep. — in a few of the raise, like Pennsylvania governors, things like that. So, yeah, we’re we’re still talking about a jump ball sort of adjacent set of elections and look, this is a scarier thought. I mean, when Trump is on the ballot, Republicans tend to come out more and they over perform. Mhmm.
  • Speaker 2
    0:09:26

    People don’t talk about this, but they ever performed basically in the Senate in twenty twenty until Trump coughed up the two Georgia races. They certainly over performed in the House. And that’s largely because of the turnout machine that Trump drove. So, yeah, I think Trump on the ballot, you know, for a lot of reasons, is a very dangerous and potentially more successful proposition for Republicans that ultimately, you know, because of inertia might sort of drive them towards. So just one note before I
  • Speaker 1
    0:09:55

    we get back to Trump. I do think it’s important to point out that the one on campaign had a very specific strategy. They reached out to independents and soft Republican voters. They did not take their base for granted. I mean, they clearly did not abandon the base.
  • Speaker 1
    0:10:10

    But they did not adopt the the theory that the way to get elected is just to go hard left, go for the base, turn them out, don’t worry about swing voters because if they had done that, they probably would have ended up like Stacey Abrams
  • Speaker 2
    0:10:24

    — Yeah. —
  • Speaker 1
    0:10:25

    in in Georgia. So they actually had a very, very good campaign and a very sound strategy. And I other democrats need to learn a lesson of what worked from Warrnock as well as Republicans running
  • Speaker 2
    0:10:36

    Yeah. I very much agree on that. I I exactly. I very, very much agree with you. And I and I think Look, I think other Democrats have learned that.
  • Speaker 2
    0:10:43

    I mean, I think Federman, you know I mean, they’re they’re very anxious to this. I mean, Federman had more of a rural strategy and if he wanted to sort of drive down the margins a little bit among, you know, barack, you know, conservative Republican areas of Pennsylvania. He was successful there. I think Biden himself had a fairly in twenty twenty, I mean, he he didn’t blow off the centrist Republican moderates. I mean, I think bringing America together, I think unity, you know, and that gets people roll their eyes at that, you know, left and right.
  • Speaker 2
    0:11:16

    But I think that that is still an extremely important message in close elections where you know, there might not be a lot of voters up for grabs, but those who are just loved that talk. I wrote about Ron DeSantis last week, and and we’re gonna talk about that, you know. Right. But I I think if you sort of look at some of the good really good moments, if you can point to some that, like, Warner Cable and his race, I mean, he did this thing with Ted Cruz. Right?
  • Speaker 2
    0:11:44

    Part of a highway plan that they worked together. He worked with Root, you know. I mean, again, you can roll your eyes six ways to Sunday about Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio. But it’s an important message again for maybe suburban Republicans, suburban Democrats, whatever, to hear that this actually took place. This maybe not that scary liberal up here who’s actually worked and has a personal relationship with, you know, scary conservative ex from Texas or wife from Florida.
  • Speaker 2
    0:12:15

    So DeSantis, I thought one of his better moments over the last few years. And again, this may make me sound a little polyamish. But, you know, he had some moments with Biden around that building that collapsed in, I guess, for Lauderdale around the hurricane a couple months ago, they worked together. They had some, you know, whether it’s a photo op or what. I mean, I think voters love that stuff.
  • Speaker 2
    0:12:38

    I think they do. And they can’t
  • Speaker 1
    0:12:42

    warlock was was stressing the the theme of character, which was obvious here, but also competence that let’s get things done. And I was listening to some of the you know, the split ticket voters who voted for the Republican for governor Brian Kemp and then voted for warmock. And and they kept coming back to the We want, you know, people who will actually do things, accomplish things — Right. — actually want to do the job as opposed to whatever the hell the Hershel Walker would have done had he gone to Washington?
  • Speaker 2
    0:13:14

    Right. No. I think, again, that is an important message. And again, it’s very easy in this environment to just turn up your nose at that, but I hope they will keep doing that. I hope Biden will keep doing that.
  • Speaker 2
    0:13:25

    I hope desantis, you know, we’ll do that occasionally. I just you know, it’s funny. I this is I’ve just kinda popped into my mind, but over the last year and a half, you know, the Reagan library does all these speeches with basically every kind of would be Republican leader besides Trump. Has spoken there and, like, Paul Ryan spoke there and Pence spoke there and Liz Cheney and Christie. I mean, I’ve either been to them or have watched video of them for various reasons.
  • Speaker 2
    0:13:50

    And in a very traditional kind of mainstream Republican crowd. I mean, they still actually dress like they did in the
  • Speaker 1
    0:13:56

    Reagan
  • Speaker 2
    0:13:56

    days. I mean, a lot of them are over seventy and show up. And and the biggest nodding always comes when they do the sort of requisite. I mean, we’re all Americans here. Right?
  • Speaker 2
    0:14:06

    You know, we all have Democratic friends. You know, this might be one of the sort of capitals of conservatism, you know, here in Seabee Valley, but we’re all Americans here. And I think it’s important hear that. So that will end the polyamish session of the day for us, Charlie.
  • Speaker 1
    0:14:21

    Well, what wasn’t that the theme that Barack Obama really, really catapulted Barack Obama into the National when he spoke at the Democratic convention, was that two thousand four? And I’m lost track of it.
  • Speaker 2
    0:14:31

    It was
  • Speaker 1
    0:14:32

    we’re not blue states and red states, and people went, okay. Alright. We really like that. And again, you do feel like, you know, am I being naive to say these things, but I think that does land with a lot of voters.
  • Speaker 2
    0:14:43

    And I wanted
  • Speaker 1
    0:14:45

    to talk about Rhonda Sanders because right now throughout the Republican Party, he is the savior at the moment. He’s he’s the great white hope. And he’s one of the he’s the great white hope because every single day something bad is happening with Donald Trump, and I’ve been thinking about just the last twenty four hours for Donald Trump kind of I mean, I don’t know what kind of a day you had yesterday, but it was a hell of a lot better than Donald Trump had. So in one day yeah. I mean, Trump’s family real estate business convicted on Tuesday of tax fraud and other financial crimes, conviction on all seventeen counts.
  • Speaker 1
    0:15:18

    Same thing yesterday. The new special counsel, Jack Smith, is sending grand jury subpoenas to local officials in Arizona, Michigan and Wisconsin, don’t know where that’s going. Also yesterday, Chairman of the House January sixth Committee says the panel is going to make criminal referrals would be kind of expected. And in the House of Representatives, I mean, this this GLP conference, I mean, they have all the the knives out. This is from political.
  • Speaker 1
    0:15:45

    It adds up to a very unmarried GOP conference wracked by anger and worry about a twenty twenty four backlash against their internal squabbles. Okay. So let’s look like a week earlier. Supreme Court lets the House have Trump’s tax returns. Eleven circuit court of appeals dominated by conservative judges slam dunked Trump’s bid for a special master in Mar a Lago.
  • Speaker 1
    0:16:08

    Two of his top lawyers, for the Trump White House are testifying before a federal grand jury, propping the insurrection, and, unless we forget, In the last two weeks, he put out a video declaring solidarity with January six riders, dined with notorious holocaust denying fans of Adolf Hitler, openly called for the termination of the constitution and he’s faced with a backlash and so he lies about lying. And people on the inside are saying this campaign is just they’s non existent. I love this line from CNN. This CNN article. So far, Since he announced he was running for president, he’s gone down from his bedroom, made an announcement, gone back up to his bedroom, and hasn’t been seen since except to have dinner with a white supremacist.
  • Speaker 2
    0:17:00

    Yeah. By the way, your if first of all, if only there was a newsletter to clarify. I know. I’m sorry. No.
  • Speaker 2
    0:17:06

    No. No. No. No. No.
  • Speaker 2
    0:17:07

    No. It’s it’s it’s it’s quite a lineup there. You know, the follow-up is so. Who’s the overwhelming front runner to be the Republican nonprofit?
  • Speaker 1
    0:17:16

    Exactly. Or
  • Speaker 2
    0:17:19

    Where does this leave us? Well,
  • Speaker 1
    0:17:20

    this is where I wanted to go because we we can set aside what the hell is happening with Trump because you can just sense, you know, all of those lonely eyes looking down to Florida and saying, please, Rhonda Santa save us from this. And you poured a little bit of ice water on the tingles running up the legs of Republicans. So tell me it Ronda Santos looks great on paper. Right? He he has great cell sites, but you you basically asked the question, what happens when we get to know him a little better and see him up close and personal?
  • Speaker 1
    0:17:58

    So tell me about that. Yeah. I mean, I had suspected, I mean, based on everything I had heard
  • Speaker 2
    0:18:04

    about Ron DeSantis over the last, really, year and a half. I didn’t really know much about him when he was a back venture, you know, congressman. And then he kind of in this incredibly undignified way, gets Trump’s endorsement in twenty eighteen, upsets Adam Putnam, who’s the overwhelming front runner to be sort of the republican nominee for governor of Florida. And he does it by basically sucking up to Trump in this incredible, probably the most obsequious, you know, Trump and add whatever. We’re just sitting in the wall with his kids and all the walls is crazy.
  • Speaker 2
    0:18:40

    I’ll just look it up. Everybody’s look it up. I can’t even do a justice now. So next thing you know, he’s governor Florida. And people are looking to him, but I don’t think they know him.
  • Speaker 2
    0:18:52

    And the people I know or I’ve talked to who do know him are extremely underwhelmed. And there is this fairly consistent tradition of Republicans and Democrats, but but certainly Republicans falling in love with de facto next big thing. Presumptive nominee, Scott Walker, Jeb Bush, you know,
  • Speaker 1
    0:19:13

    the
  • Speaker 2
    0:19:14

    presumed front runner. Right? Rick Perry was mostly the eight hundred percent Fred Thompson. Fred Thompson. Right.
  • Speaker 2
    0:19:19

    Yep. There are a lot of much awaited figures who come along. And then as soon as you know, they make their debuts. It’s like, oh, is that all there is, Peggy Lee’s song plays in the background and fade to black. Right?
  • Speaker 2
    0:19:33

    So Rhonda Santos is not someone. He’s an empty vessel right now. He is not Trump, and he has the sheen of a lot of press coverage, a big and decisive victory in Florida a couple months ago and or for last month, I guess. And is now the next big thing and he just hasn’t come out in public. And the point I made is and the people have made over and over to me and to others is that this is a extremely awkward guy.
  • Speaker 2
    0:20:01

    He is not someone who necessarily wears well. He is someone who does not think on his feet. He is someone who is fairly easily rattled. In debate situations. And if we’ve sort of seen one thing with Trump, I mean, if he has I don’t know if it’s a superpower, but he certainly a TV presence who can make other people who are not comfortable in their skin look really, really bad.
  • Speaker 2
    0:20:24

    I mean, Ted Bush, Ted Cruz, you know, go down the list, right, from twenty sixteen. I think DeSantis fits into the same category and I don’t think it’s a good match up for him against Trump. And we’ll see. But color me underwhelmed. But you walk
  • Speaker 1
    0:20:37

    through the case for Ron DeSantis that he you know, why he is the GOP’s hottest molecule? I mean, he’s full manga without the drama. He’s terrorizing all the right targets. He’s Trump with a brain. Right?
  • Speaker 1
    0:20:50

    He plays well, you know, as the owner of the Libs, somebody who is, you know, a heartthrob of Fox News. And as you write, he’s fashion kind of GOP utopia in the sunshine state. Florida is where Walt goes to die, and he won this huge victory, so really what’s not to like? If you’re a Republican and you’re worried about, you don’t wanna go squishy. Right?
  • Speaker 1
    0:21:13

    The Republican page doesn’t wanna go squishy, but it also wants somebody that can win big. And so DeSantis checks all those boxes But reading between the lines,
  • Speaker 2
    0:21:25

    he’s got this serious asshole problem. Doesn’t it? He he does. And and look, I mean, but look, Trump — Okay. Trump might be, you know, the Uber asshole.
  • Speaker 2
    0:21:35

    Right? But he people who know him, people who like him, and there are still some people left who swear devotion to him who will spend time around him. You know, when I wrote about him, you know, and that’s been a few years. But I mean, you can see where the charm offensive comes in. I mean, he’s he’s sort of a trip to be around in some ways.
  • Speaker 2
    0:21:53

    He can turn it on. You know, and I think to Santa’s even people who know him or swear some kind of allegiance to him. Just sort of like I mean, he he’s not an easy guy to be with. He’s
  • Speaker 1
    0:22:08

    He does offish. No
  • Speaker 2
    0:22:09

    ice cream. Off his no
  • Speaker 1
    0:22:10

    ice cream.
  • Speaker 2
    0:22:11

    Yes. He is his as I think I spelled his move away from this vehicle vibes are would enter a charm offensive unarmed. Which look does count for a lot. Right? I mean, running for president is an incredibly intimate thing.
  • Speaker 2
    0:22:26

    I mean, it may not be intimate in that, you know, you know, you know, probably not gonna meet most of your voters. But being on TV, being in everyone’s face for a sustained period of time is is an incredibly taxing thing for any relationship. And I think that that tends to be extremely destructive to people who, you know, are not necessarily winning in their personality to begin with.
  • Speaker 1
    0:22:50

    So your your description is consistent with everything that that I have heard about him, particularly from people who served with him in in the house. But I guess the big question I have is, and you quote Carlos Carbello, former Republican congressman from Florida. You know, rolling out the usual big time cliche. Would you wanna have a beer with him, which we’ve been throwing around since the Clinton era? And obviously, you wouldn’t wanna have a beer.
  • Speaker 1
    0:23:14

    But I guess that here’s here’s the the more meta question. Yeah. Do voters want a nice guy anymore?
  • Speaker 2
    0:23:22

    Do they
  • Speaker 1
    0:23:23

    want a nice get where maybe they developed a taste for assholes? You wrote the Republican Party has shown a persistent tolerance even inclination for furnished bastards. Mhmm. And as long as that’s the case,
  • Speaker 2
    0:23:36

    maybe
  • Speaker 1
    0:23:36

    you don’t need to be a nice guy. And if the argument is he’s too much of a jerk, people go, yeah, that’s why we like Trump because he is the right people he’s gonna punch him in the face. I I want I want, you know, this guy. I want a jerk. I want the asshole.
  • Speaker 1
    0:23:52

    Right.
  • Speaker 2
    0:23:53

    Yeah. I I mean, I think yeah. The the nice guy the jerk sort of paradigm is I don’t think that’s we’re talking about that to some degree. But I think the larger point is, is DeSantis the kind of leader that people want, whether he’s nice or not, I mean, I I think he operates in an echo chamber right now. Right?
  • Speaker 2
    0:24:13

    I mean, people in Florida seem to really like them. People on Fox seem to really like them. People you know, in the Trump or Trump adjacent parts of the Republican Party that still our dominance seem to like him. But I mean, I think he has all the right enemies. I don’t think charm is really that important ultimately, but think about it though.
  • Speaker 2
    0:24:34

    I mean, every recent president at least has some claim to charm. I mean, again, even Trump. I mean, Trump was a very compelling figure for people to watch for a while. I mean, I guess it remains to be seen whether the shelf life will go into its eighth year next year, right, or I think we have a few months to go. That Obama, I mean, Biden was seen as a kind of a nice guy, Bush was seen as a nice guy, Clint.
  • Speaker 2
    0:24:57

    I mean, you got on the list. So know, DeSantis would be a real crotchety figure. You know, Democrats are susceptible to that too. I mean, Bernie Sanders was not seen — Right. — the nuts.
  • Speaker 2
    0:25:08

    Guy. And I’ve also wondered sort of this is kind of a thought exercise. I mean, if Democrats had a Trump, someone who was, like, using rhetoric, against certain Republican targets the way Trump does Democratic targets. I mean, would that have an appeal? I’m pretty sure it would.
  • Speaker 2
    0:25:23

    But no, I I just think that the DeSantis is an extremely imperfect and at best untested vehicle for an experiment like this. I
  • Speaker 1
    0:25:33

    have a hard time gaming out what it will be like if he runs against Trump. And and my colleague Jonathan laughs has written about this pretty extensively, and I think he kind of nails it that that if Republicans want the toughest meanest bastard, there’s no way that DeSantis is going to be able to, you know, be crazier than Donald Trump. But also, right now, I think his strategy I I actually get his strategy, and I think it’s kind of smart, is to say nothing. Just step back, let Donald Trump you know, set himself on fire. He’s digging a hole, etcetera.
  • Speaker 1
    0:26:00

    And so strategic silence makes sense, but I can’t figure out how that is sustainable. That if you get into the race you’re running against Donald Trump, at some point, you are going to have to say stuff. Right? You are going to have to say, whether or not, you know, how you feel about the January sixth. So what is your response to the federal indictment?
  • Speaker 1
    0:26:21

    Do you also favor the summary execution of drug dealers? I mean, are you in favor of that? I mean, I think it’s going to be much more difficult than people understand for DeSantis to navigate what an actual clash with Donald Trump will be like and feel
  • Speaker 2
    0:26:39

    like. Right. I mean, you’re right. I mean, time right now, I mean, he he’s in a great place. Right?
  • Speaker 2
    0:26:44

    He can wait. He can enjoy the holidays. He can probably find some new Martha’s vineyard kind of stunts to play early next year or something. But you’re right. I mean, eventually he’s gonna have to come out in play and figure out how to attack Trump.
  • Speaker 2
    0:26:58

    I mean, look, I I think the continued silence around Trump and what he stands for and what he is now going through is a massively big missed opportunity for Republicans right now. I think If some senator or some governor wanted to make a name for his or herself, I mean, I think there is such a case to be made, about Trump’s won lost record now. Certainly, once you know, it’s very safe. Right? It’s very safe for Republicans to say, oh, he’s he’s a loser.
  • Speaker 2
    0:27:29

    Look, we keep losing elections. I mean, that makes you know, that that means you don’t have to reckon with his character, with his statements about the constitution, dining with white supremacists, and what have you. But now, you’re right. I mean, I think DeSantis, I have no conception of him as someone who can take a fight to a big target. And I
  • Speaker 1
    0:27:49

    think,
  • Speaker 2
    0:27:49

    you know, right now, the safest, easiest targets are things like refugees, you guys have transgender teens. I mean, things like that. Right? I mean, easy Republican based targets. But does he know how to, like, go up against the guy that he was completely sucking up to in, like, the most you know, cringey kind of way a couple years ago.
  • Speaker 2
    0:28:09

    Now I I see no evidence of that.
  • Speaker 1
    0:28:11

    No. He he’s really adept at punching down whether he can punch up. We don’t know. So you talk about that debate performance with Charlie Chris. And I I would admit, look, I am the worst person to evaluate debates.
  • Speaker 1
    0:28:22

    I just I I don’t know, because I’m always thinking, you know, what he should say, what he shouldn’t say. I thought he was stiff. I thought he was unlikable. But I I guess I was not as critical as other people, but but you really thought that was an indication of the kinds of weaknesses that Donald Trump we’ll just we’ll exploit and just pummel the shit out of him on. I mean, you quote this this lobbyist of from Tallahassee, was it Mac Stephane
  • Speaker 2
    0:28:49

    of it? Yes.
  • Speaker 1
    0:28:50

    Who says that Trump would gut DeSantis with a dull deer antler? Trump would club DeSantis like a baby seal? Yes.
  • Speaker 2
    0:28:58

    Big into violent animal metaphor. If you’re not in violent animal metaphor, he’s your go to god. Okay.
  • Speaker 1
    0:29:05

    So what makes you think that though? I mean, what makes you think because DeSantis does come off as got that kind of, you know, macho. I’m gonna punch you in the nose vibe. Yeah. But
  • Speaker 2
    0:29:15

    you know what? It’s empty. I mean, Charlie Chris, you know, he’s a seasoned debater from our governor. He’s been around a long time. You know, so he tries to pin down DeSantis you’re gonna serve out your term or not.
  • Speaker 2
    0:29:24

    So he’s essentially saying, you’re gonna run for president or not. And DeSantis could have finesse that in a million different ways. Said, look, I am focused on this election. We’ll talk about I mean, look, everyone knows how you duck a question like that. DeSantis just went completely silent.
  • Speaker 2
    0:29:41

    It was a I wouldn’t say it’s a deer in the headlights look because DeSantis always kinda he just sorta had this I’m not talking, kinda. It it was a weird moment. It was a weird moment. Yeah. And it was an it was emblematic of the kind of unnecessary freeze that someone who doesn’t really know what to say in a moment, doesn’t really carry off that well, you know, could face on a much larger scale in a much harder race.
  • Speaker 2
    0:30:06

    So, I mean, DeSantis probably calculated that he wasn’t gonna lose to Charlie Crist. He could probably suffer the silence for a few seconds. You know, maybe take whatever hit, you know, he got, and it’s not gonna cost him the election, which, of course, it didn’t. So But I do think it was a window into an extremely unnecessary awkward moment that he you know, needs to either work on or or doesn’t have a gift for, which I don’t know. Again, maybe this is just me being a theater critic here and and maybe this won’t amount too much.
  • Speaker 2
    0:30:39

    But to me, a lot of people mentioned that as a moment that was telling and that actually could foreshadow a, you know, less than stellar performance as a presidential team. And this brings
  • Speaker 1
    0:30:49

    back to something we were talking about before that you you mentioned before, is that incredible leap that you have to make from being a nisix successful state level politician into the national scene. And obviously, political history is just littered with folks who look really strong and impressive and just we’re not ready for prime time and that’s a cliche now, but the reality is that you can be a very successful governor of Texas like Rick Perry and look like you’re a complete idiot when you’re running for president or, you know, look what happened to, you know, Wisconsin Scott Walker, who was the flavor of the week and then just absolutely vanished when people heard his one stump speech for the fifteenth time. Right? So but as you point out in your piece, DeSantis isn’t completely defenseless. Trump tried to take some shots at him calling him wrong, descentimonious, and that didn’t land.
  • Speaker 1
    0:31:40

    Did it? And in fact, you did see what DeSendesk is going for him is that there are a lot people in the MAGA base that don’t wanna see Donald Trump attack him. I mean, how does that play? Right. I say
  • Speaker 2
    0:31:53

    that trying
  • Speaker 1
    0:31:53

    to remember twenty fifteen and twenty sixteen, My sense is that DeSantis has deeper roots into Trump’s own base than any of the opponents from twenty sixteen do. So how does that play? What what does the backlash potential for Trump going after
  • Speaker 2
    0:32:09

    him? Yeah. I mean, first of all, this is not mid season Trump. I mean, if if there is such a thing as mid season Trump going forward, I mean, I guess we’ll see. It it isn’t this.
  • Speaker 2
    0:32:16

    I mean, to sanctify it. I mean, kinda low energy. I hate say. I mean, between the announcement for his presidential campaign and and his sort of early offensive against Rhonda Sanchez. And it doesn’t look like his heart really in it just yet.
  • Speaker 2
    0:32:30

    I mean, I think he’s clearly seeding whatever, you know, he’s he’s upset that Brondes Santos is disloyal and getting all his attention. But again, I don’t see this as damaging to DeSantis at all. And in DeSantis, what’s not defenseless about DeSantis is he’s completely shameless. I mean, anyone who would cut the ad to Santas did to — Right. — in Trump’s endorsement in twenty eighteen.
  • Speaker 2
    0:32:50

    I mean, that speaks to a level of shamelessness that can, I guess, serve you well in What’s
  • Speaker 1
    0:32:56

    the superpower? Right? I mean, we found out that it’s a superpower for Donald Trump. It it
  • Speaker 2
    0:33:01

    certainly is. And and look, I mean, I think that they’re I mean, there there’s any number of people who might run for president and the Republican side, you know, Mike Pence, Mike Pompeo, Nicky Haley. I mean, they all have exhibited again different levels of of shamelessness in order to sort of maintain what they see as viability here. So Yeah. I mean, DeSantis is a ruthless character.
  • Speaker 2
    0:33:24

    I mean, to do what he did, you know, just sort of the rounding up of a bunch of you know, refugees
  • Speaker 1
    0:33:30

    and
  • Speaker 2
    0:33:30

    texts. I mean, that whole story, again, it played great on Fox News, played great with the base. It was like, oh, look what he’s done. He’s really you know, this is hand do kind of guide. It’s I mean, I would say it’s cruel.
  • Speaker 2
    0:33:42

    It doesn’t look good. And and also sort of an example of something that politically doesn’t wear terribly well when you sort of sort of start asking the questions. Is this the kind of thing our tax money should be paying for is their legal liability? I mean, the thing kind of fell apart and it didn’t wear particularly well. So, you know, once you have that initial instinct, I mean, you know, time doesn’t stop.
  • Speaker 2
    0:34:06

    I mean, these things do happen, but I also think that he has proven himself to be a ruthless politician, someone who doesn’t care about. Refugees. Someone who is willing to hurt a lot of people even, you know, corporations actually, like Disney, that to some degree are sacred cows, you know, in a free enterprise, you know, based Republican party. So to me, that shows a certain, you know, again, I guess, superpower. I I hate to sort of keep throwing a word around.
  • Speaker 2
    0:34:35

    But yeah. But he’s he’s willing to do what it takes. There’s no question. Well,
  • Speaker 1
    0:34:40

    but also these are vulnerabilities. His attack on Disney was really extraordinary. And I actually had I had a mini debate with Rich Lowery from National Review. I mean, Nash Review becoming the DeSantis fanzine now. But his argument was well, you know, I mean, you know, Trump is terrible, but how can you possibly object to Rhonda DeSantis busy He’s basically a garden variety Republican.
  • Speaker 1
    0:35:00

    And I thought, wait. He’s a garden variety of Republican who is willing to use the power of the state to punish private companies four, same things he disagrees with. I mean, this was extraordinary picking fights with the cruise lines and everything. So I mean, I remember when Republicans actually had some respect for private property, the independence of these entities. And so Rhonda Sandes is, in many ways, an outlier there.
  • Speaker 1
    0:35:26

    Now maybe this authoritarianism appeals to the base I don’t know how it plays nationally. So let me ask you this. I as I’m trying to game
  • Speaker 2
    0:35:38

    this out. Mhmm. Ronda
  • Speaker 1
    0:35:39

    Sanders is sitting down there saying nothing about anything involving Trump. Right? He’s not gonna comment on the neo Nazi dinner, which is interesting. He’s not gonna comment on the terminate the constitution, you know, because he figures there’s no upside for me. At some point though, he’s going to announce.
  • Speaker 1
    0:35:54

    Well, first of all, do before I get ahead of myself, do you think he’s actually going to pull the trigger on this? When he’s a young man, he doesn’t have to run.
  • Speaker 2
    0:36:02

    Yeah. He doesn’t. I mean, I think, you know, the indications are that he thinks this is his moment now. I think this is their moment. He’ll he’ll probably do it.
  • Speaker 2
    0:36:10

    Although, I also think again, as part of the sort of shamelessness thing, I mean, he could very well calculate that, yeah, he doesn’t wanna do this. You know, Trump probably won’t be viable in another four years. Maybe I’ll just go all in with Trump. Hope Trump takes me as his vice president or his running me. And I’ll just set myself up in four years.
  • Speaker 2
    0:36:29

    Yeah. I mean, it sounds bleak, but, I mean, Trump would probably benefit to some degree. I don’t know. But I can see him going that way too. But I know I think I’m assuming he will run.
  • Speaker 1
    0:36:39

    I’m just guessing that that his phone is ringing off the hook. Like, well, that’s an old analogy. Isn’t it with, you know, phone insurance? Well, I I need to I need to update that. Let’s say, you know, that his DM’s are just, you know, on fire from — Yeah.
  • Speaker 1
    0:36:51

    — donors of Republicans all around the country saying, look, are you looking at what’s happening to Donald Trump? You have got to run. You have to do this. This is the moment right now to do this. So the question is, so we announces.
  • Speaker 1
    0:37:05

    At some point he he can’t stay silent. I’m guessing that his announcement will be about the future and will not mention Trump by name at all, will not be full frontal, but — Yeah. — at some point — Yes. — he’s going to have to say something. How will he do that?
  • Speaker 2
    0:37:24

    Well, if you look at I mean, right now, again, the safe stuff and he’s gone there already is is one loss. It’s like, look, you want electability, you know, we can’t win with Trump. We’ve proven it, and he didn’t say this, but, I mean, the subtext is, look at the score. I mean, he actually did say, look at the scoreboard from last November, look how I did, you know, look how everyone else did. And, yeah, you don’t have to fill in the gaps there.
  • Speaker 2
    0:37:48

    Everyone knows what he’s talking about. So Yeah. Trump is extremely vulnerable on the one lost question at this point, the electability question. And to some degree, I was I remember thinking about this. When Biden ran in twenty nineteen, right?
  • Speaker 2
    0:38:03

    He
  • Speaker 1
    0:38:04

    started
  • Speaker 2
    0:38:04

    running. And he was running essentially on electability. Right? I mean, that was always the number one Democratic issue through the Trump years. We just want someone who can win.
  • Speaker 2
    0:38:10

    And you can get a long way by saying, look, we we have to start winning elections, and I’m the guy. And you can make a very clear and safe case that the Trump is not the guy anymore And that’s pretty clear. Again, it’s safe because you don’t have to really attack Trump. You know, you get that remove of just, look, this is just about the pragmatic thought it
  • Speaker 1
    0:38:33

    was. Doesn’t have to have something more than that though. I mean, I mean, all all all all these that
  • Speaker 2
    0:38:36

    gets blown
  • Speaker 1
    0:38:37

    away the first time he loses in a primary or a caucus or there’s a poll showing that Trump could beat Biden. Right? I mean, it’s gone. And if there’s no exceptions to it. Yeah.
  • Speaker 1
    0:38:46

    I
  • Speaker 2
    0:38:47

    think the way you expand out from that and I’ve actually thought a lot about this is you kind of expand the one lost critique to Trump’s presidency itself. You can say, look, they got slaughtered in twenty eighteen, lost the White House in twenty twenty, lost the Senate in twenty twenty one. Lost again in the twenty twenty two midterms. I mean, you can start with that. But you can say, look, Donald Trump didn’t win as president.
  • Speaker 2
    0:39:10

    I mean, think about his top three or four campaign promises in twenty sixteen. I’m gonna build a wall. He didn’t build a wall. I’m gonna end Obamacare. It’s gonna be so easy.
  • Speaker 2
    0:39:19

    He didn’t do that. You know, you didn’t give us infrastructure, you didn’t drain I mean, go down the list. So one lost can go beyond just elections and there are ways to remind Republican voters, even ones who voted twice for Trump, that the Trump years were exhausting, they were not terribly productive, and they were a massive under achievement given the three chambers that Republicans had in twenty sixteen and what Trump, you know, could have done. I mean, the guy had a very losing president see in some ways. And Republicans probably won’t have that chance again in a long, long time.
  • Speaker 2
    0:39:56

    So to me, that’s a very big sort of one loss based policy ish critique that DeSantis could unfurl in a very compelling way. So I’m guessing that that would be sort of After one loss in elections, that would probably be one a in where the critique will sort of go. Well, also, and he
  • Speaker 1
    0:40:14

    he could be the the unindicted candidate who could serve for for eight years rather than just for four. Yes. I don’t know whether that’s really occurred to a lot of the Republican primary voters yet, but eight years is a lot better than an instant lame duck presidency with Donald Trump. Okay. So this is feels like a slight digression, but I and then, of course, everybody’s been talking about, you know, Kevin McCarthy and gonna happen with him.
  • Speaker 1
    0:40:38

    Let’s set that aside. You the moment. What do you sense is going on with Mitch McConnell and the Republican caucus there because Donald Trump has waged complete total scorched earth war. Against Mitch McConnell. Now Mitch McConnell is not the majority leader, but he is still there.
  • Speaker 1
    0:40:56

    Sure. He’s made no secret of the fact of what he thinks of Donald Trump’s How does this play out, do you think? Right. You know,
  • Speaker 2
    0:41:05

    I think McConnell is gonna be in his current job for as long as he wants to. Mhmm. And he might not wanna be very much longer. I mean, look, he’s got he was reelected in twenty twenty, so he’s there till about twenty twenty six. So he’s in a few more years.
  • Speaker 2
    0:41:15

    He’s gonna be what
  • Speaker 1
    0:41:18

    is he? Like, gonna be around eighty. Right? They’ll be in the eighties. And they’re likely to get the majority back in two years?
  • Speaker 1
    0:41:22

    They’re extremely likely, I think, to get
  • Speaker 2
    0:41:24

    the majority back. And so yeah, I I mean, McConnell plays a very, very long game. And, you know, yes, Trump is vocal, but Trump doesn’t have any power in the senate Republican caucus beyond, you know, maybe ten people. And, I mean, yeah, the Rand Pauls, the Ted Cruises, the Tommy Timberville’s, the Josh Hollies. I mean, you know, that there’s gonna be that kind of a scented version of the Freedom caucus I’ve read somewhere today.
  • Speaker 2
    0:41:49

    There’s I guess, there’s Some are trying to yeah. There’s some kind of cold labeling. Right. But they’re not gonna grow. I mean, we’re still this is still, like, forty votes for Mitch McConnell, you know, pretty safely.
  • Speaker 2
    0:42:02

    And I would imagine if he wants I mean, again, looking into the future, if he wants to be reelected, the voters of Kentucky, I’m sure will probably reelect him. And even six years out, I’m guessing if there is a Senate sort of Trump reflect version of the Freedom caucus, you know, on the senate. I I’m guessing what? They have twenty, maybe twenty five at that point, and McConnell could probably sweep by. So I see McConnell is pretty invulnerable.
  • Speaker 2
    0:42:28

    Okay. Yeah. But so I’m I’m trying to imagine the McConnell household
  • Speaker 1
    0:42:34

    and he’s sitting with Elaine. Yes. And they’re having a little bit of bourbon. And this is gone, you know what? I had that fucker.
  • Speaker 1
    0:42:41

    I could have done away. I could have taken him out, and I didn’t. And so he knows that. Right? He knows he was one inch away from just ending Donald Trump.
  • Speaker 1
    0:42:53

    Do you think that’s part of his, you know, thinking that he he he plays the long game. Right? And revenge is a dish served cold. I just wonder what he can do to Donald Trump. I don’t know what he can do.
  • Speaker 1
    0:43:06

    He has no cloud with the base. Right? He has no you know, he’ll be he’ll he’ll be the rhino in chief for the Laura Ingrams of the world. But if I’m Donald Trump, I have to be thinking that to have the leading Republican in the United States senator who hates my guts that that There might be a downside to that. I don’t
  • Speaker 2
    0:43:25

    know. You you would think. But I don’t know. I I don’t think McConnell had a lot of great choices I think he made a terrible choice just on principle and character. But, you know, maybe, again, that’s just me being naive here.
  • Speaker 2
    0:43:40

    But I I think he maybe thinks and probably was right that he took maybe the second worst of a really, really bad set of options. But I don’t know. I mean, it might
  • Speaker 1
    0:43:51

    have been
  • Speaker 2
    0:43:52

    cathartic. I mean, you know, maybe Trump would be more toothless if he couldn’t run for president, but I’m guessing that he’d still have twenty five, thirty percent of people who, you know, if he wanted to challenge that, he’d send it to court. I don’t I mean, you can imagine a number of trumpian scenarios. I can imagine them
  • Speaker 1
    0:44:10

    all. Yep. We can.
  • Speaker 2
    0:44:11

    You know, why waste our time on this? It’s a beautiful actually, it’s a ring. So actually,
  • Speaker 1
    0:44:17

    can we just end on a on a more positive note here? Because we we grasp for good news and feel like there’s I don’t wanna let it become exuberant here, but there’s been a a bit of good news. Time magazine announced this morning they’ve chosen president Zelensky as their person of the year. And which I guess I’m it’s such an obvious choice. I think it’s good.
  • Speaker 1
    0:44:37

    It’s an excellent decision on their part. In part because any other decision would have been horrific. Awful. Yeah. What I
  • Speaker 2
    0:44:45

    think this season will run around, but I that would have been Well, then they had
  • Speaker 1
    0:44:49

    a they had Elon Musk last year.
  • Speaker 2
    0:44:52

    Oh, shit. Yeah. Right. No. I mean, good.
  • Speaker 2
    0:44:53

    I mean, good for time magazine. I mean, good good for the lens. Here is why that is good. Right? And it goes to a pet issue of, I know, of both of ours.
  • Speaker 2
    0:45:03

    Right? And and, you know, maybe it’s self serving in my case because I kinda wrote the whole book about it. But but basically, It goes to character. It goes to resistance. It goes to the idea that Republicans in America today have basically not offered resistance with some exceptions.
  • Speaker 2
    0:45:22

    Right? But they have completely waved the white flag at Donald track for seven and possibly, you know, who knows, much longer years running. Vladimir Zelensky, and the Ukrainian resistance generally is an example of what a character sort of nation saving resistance look like. And you’ve seen flavors of that in other countries, whether it’s the conservatives in England sort of attorney against Boris Johnson. I mean, that’s a few presidents ago.
  • Speaker 2
    0:45:50

    But you saw it there, you see it in states like Brad Ravensburger and Brian Kemp and the sort of ongoing sort of you know, portraits of that, Liz Cheney. I mean, that throughout America, but but again, I mean, Zelensky is kind of the towering example of that. Who is a really inspiring example of someone who just met a moment and who continues to fight and is not looking what was his great line about how I don’t need a ride. I need a I don’t need them. I mean yeah.
  • Speaker 2
    0:46:22

    No. I’d ride that. Yeah. I
  • Speaker 1
    0:46:23

    don’t
  • Speaker 2
    0:46:23

    need a ride. Whatever was.
  • Speaker 1
    0:46:25

    Exactly a bit.
  • Speaker 2
    0:46:25

    I mean, what’s happening in Ukraine is, like, again, let’s not try to sugarcoat. And this is now catastrophic on a daily level. And it’s hideous and you can’t ever forget that. But look, I am again, may be romantic enough to to be inspired by this example. And I think it’s great that
  • Speaker 1
    0:46:43

    it’s being celebrated and it should continue to be. And of course, the contrast between President Zelensky and President Trump could not be starker, especially when when Trump is like, I’m strong man. I want him, you know, greatness and everything. You put these two men side by side as they were when he was trying to extort him. And it is It is remarkable.
  • Speaker 1
    0:47:04

    And of course, Maga is all in in hatred of Floater Beers Zelensky. But again, a clarifying moment. Mark Leverage, Thank you so much for coming back on the podcast. Mark, as a staff writer at The Atlantic, his latest book is thank you for your servitude. Donald Trump’s Washington and the price of submission, and he is the author of a must read piece in the Atlantic, sort of getting to know the real Ron DeSantis and how he’ll wear upon closer inspection.
  • Speaker 1
    0:47:29

    Mark, thanks so much for joining me today. Charlie, great
  • Speaker 2
    0:47:33

    to be here. I’ll come back anytime and love what you do. So thanks and happy well, happy holidays, I guess. Right? And to
  • Speaker 1
    0:47:40

    you as well, to you and your family as well, and thank you all for listening to today’s Bulwark podcast. Charlie Sykes. We will be back tomorrow, and we’ll do this all over again.
  • Speaker 2
    0:47:55

    You’re worried about the
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    0:47:56

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    0:48:13

    Avoid 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. Afford anything wherever you listen.
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