Support The Bulwark and subscribe today.
  Join Now

Will Saletan: The Guts to Tell the Truth

January 2, 2024
Notes
Transcript
Chris Christie makes clear he’s not dropping out, because Nikki Haley is not the one we’ve been waiting for. Plus, with House Republicans signaling they may pull the plug on Ukraine aid, the war there is escalating. Will Saletan is back with Charlie Sykes for a new year of Charlie and Will Monday.
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
    0:00:08

    Welcome to the Bulwark podcast. Actually, welcome to two thousand twenty four. So, Will, are are are you ready for twenty twenty four? Because I’m not I’m not sure anybody is.
  • Speaker 2
    0:00:18

    Well, you know, we got to New Year’s Eve twenty twenty three, and what I realized was I didn’t really give a damn about twenty twenty three. I didn’t have no strong feelings for it. And twenty twenty four is gonna be at least exciting, maybe scary?
  • Speaker 1
    0:00:27

    You know, somebody asked me to write a piece about, you know, pricking some black swan events for twenty twenty four. And, you know, there are the obvious ones, you know, assassinations, heart attacks, strokes, things like that. But the fact is that the whole of twenty twenty four is a Bulwark swan event. Right? You have a former president of the United States who might be elected as a convicted felon.
  • Speaker 1
    0:00:48

    I mean, so what’s your definition of black swan other than what we’re about to see? Trials, the summer, the conventions, the election. Who knows what’s gonna happen to Ukraine? Who knows what’s gonna happen in Taiwan? Who knows what’s gonna happen?
  • Speaker 1
    0:01:01

    I mean, just You keep running it through. The game I like to play sometimes is to imagine that you were making predictions on January first of some other sequential year, like, nineteen sixty eight. Did anybody see nineteen sixty eight coming, really? Twenty sixteen? I guarantee you, nobody saw what was gonna happen in twenty sixteen.
  • Speaker 1
    0:01:19

    Twenty twenty, January first, we couldn’t have predicted this global pandemic, which would change absolutely everything. So what we don’t know we have no idea what’s going to happen as your accept that it’s going to be pretty important. I quoted in my newsletter Ben Will Saletan. He said by this time next year, American democracy will either be ending or we will have dealt a dramatic blow to its foes.
  • Speaker 2
    0:01:44

    Right.
  • Speaker 1
    0:01:44

    I’m gonna quibble on democracy, but Yep, a year from now. We’re gonna live in a different world than we do now. Right? And you sometimes don’t know that at the beginning of the year, but we know that this year.
  • Speaker 2
    0:01:54

    Don’t we? Wasn’t sure what theme there was for twenty twenty four, but I can already tell from what you just said. We’re gonna be playing defense the whole year. This is not a year of offense. This is protect American democracy from Donald Trump, but it’s also prevent the Middle East war from escalating of into multiple fronts.
  • Speaker 2
    0:02:11

    It’s prevent further, you know, Russian missile attacks on Ukraine, basins of Europe, Taiwan, it’s defense. The whole thing is preventing the worst.
  • Speaker 1
    0:02:19

    And everything’s on a razor’s edge. I mean, everything, the Western Alliance, you know, the fate of the rule of law, I mean, a year from now, We have a whole year to talk about this. Okay?
  • Speaker 2
    0:02:30

    My family over the holidays, we just watched a marathon of Lord of The Rings movies. Good. And it really is a good scenesetter for for, you know, saving middle earth from the Orcs. Yeah.
  • Speaker 1
    0:02:40

    Are you saying that we are living in Mordor right now that we are that we are we trusty little band of Hobbits is heading toward Mortler.
  • Speaker 2
    0:02:50

    We are the Hobbits. Yes.
  • Speaker 1
    0:02:52

    I do sometimes feel that way. I did, disconnect as much as possible over the holidays. My French grandson, who had been living with us for the last semester, was collected by his family and left. I had a chance spend time with all of them, which was outstanding, a great experience. Also, one of those reset moments where you kind of remember what it’s all about, that not everything is politics, which is going to be something we need to come back to throughout twenty twenty four.
  • Speaker 1
    0:03:18

    Right. Because I have a specific feeling we’re all gonna be overwhelmed. We’re gonna be overwhelmed by so much of it. And so I think it is important to step back from that sort of daily hamster wheel of doom, to kind of remember what matters, which is why, you know, the holidays, why we have holidays. Right?
  • Speaker 2
    0:03:34

    Just writing down hamster wheel of doom. Yeah. That’s good.
  • Speaker 1
    0:03:37

    The hamster wheel of doom. Okay. So we have some catching up to do because we haven’t done this in a while. I have mixed feelings about this, but I do think we have to start with Nikki Haley and give a preview of what’s going to happen in a couple of weeks in in the Iowa is, Iowa and and in New Hampshire, where I think we kind of know what’s going to happen, but there’s a little bit of drama. You have two different storylines about Nikki Haley one.
  • Speaker 1
    0:04:00

    There was that one pull showing that she was surging in New Hampshire, and there was that moment. By the way, how many of these moments have it? Like, for five minutes, you thought, is there cause for optimism? Is it possible? That the field will consolidate that to Haley, you know, Nikki Haley is gonna make a run-in New Hampshire.
  • Speaker 1
    0:04:15

    What if Chris Christie drops out and all of that any trump vote goes to Nikki Haley. Oh my goodness. And then, of course, that lasted about five minutes. And then, Nikki Haley goes. Nikki Haley goes to this, town hall meeting in New Hampshire, and she was asked, god, one of the easiest questions on earth.
  • Speaker 1
    0:04:37

    Like, what was the cause of the civil war? You probably heard this, but I wanna talk about it with you because there’s a lot going on here. So Nikki Haley is asked a question that literally every sixth grader in America should know it’s easy. But this is how the former governor of South Sarah Longwell answered it.
  • Speaker 3
    0:04:57

    Well, don’t come with an easy question or anything. I mean, I think the cause of the civil war was basically how government was gonna run. The freedoms and what people could and couldn’t do. What do you think the cause of the civil war was? I’m sorry?
  • Speaker 3
    0:05:11

    I’m not voting for president. I I I I I want to see
  • Speaker 1
    0:05:14

    the proof is a good thing
  • Speaker 3
    0:05:15

    on the cause of the civil war. I mean, I think it always comes down to the role of government. And what the rights of the people are. And we I will always stand by the fact that I think government was intended to secure the rights and freedoms of the people. It was never meant to be all things to all people.
  • Speaker 3
    0:05:34

    Government doesn’t need to tell you how to live your life. They don’t need to tell you what you can and can’t do. They don’t need to be a part of your life. They need to make sure that you have freedom. We need to have capitalism.
  • Speaker 3
    0:05:44

    We need to have economic freedom. We need to make sure that we do all things so that individuals have liberties so that they can have freedom of speech, freedom of religion, freedom to do, or be anything they wanna be without Thank you. And in in the year twenty twenty three, it’s astonishing to me that you answer that question without mentioning the word slavery. What do you want me to say about slavery? Nope.
  • Speaker 3
    0:06:09

    You did answer my question. Thank you. Next question.
  • Speaker 1
    0:06:14

    Oh, Okay. So, well, I know this has been chewed over. And, again, let me just we do a caveat before we dive deep into the all of this. There is the, the phrase. I think is is it Brian Class who came up with?
  • Speaker 1
    0:06:28

    I I’m gonna regret this because I should have this in front of me. Talked about the banality of crazy, the banality of bigotry is that we’ve gotten so used to all the crazy things Trump says. That, you know, we spent news cycle after news cycle emergency podcasts, you know, breaking news by Nikki Haley saying something profoundly stupid. Gobbsmackingly full of gobbledygook. And yet, wait, here’s Donald Trump who says something like his every single day, and that’s not in the news cycle.
  • Speaker 1
    0:06:56

    So let’s just at least acknowledge here that there’s something sort of, like, pre twenty sixteen about thinking that a politician Gaffe actually matters a lot because in comparison with Trump, it’s all white noise. But having said that, Will, what did you think when you heard Nikki Haley answer a question about the cause of the civil war and not even mentioning slavery.
  • Speaker 2
    0:07:22

    Okay. So I think this episode, it says a lot. It says a lot about Nikki Haley. It says a lot about the Republican Party. It may not matter politically.
  • Speaker 2
    0:07:30

    But part of what we’re gonna do this year is we’re gonna talk about the stakes, not just the odds. Of, you know, the horse race. Right. So the stakes here are there’s a pathology in the Republican Party. It doesn’t occur to you to bring up the civil That’s not our issue.
  • Speaker 2
    0:07:43

    That’s the Democrats issue. One of the great evils in our country is this idea of issue ownership. We’re Democrats,
  • Speaker 1
    0:07:48

    so we don’t talk Republicans do own that. Abraham Lincoln was a Republican. I just wanna mention this. I know it’s a little pedantic, but Abraham Lincoln. Okay.
  • Speaker 2
    0:07:56

    Go on. No. Good. You’re you’re exactly right. A point that Chris Chris has made.
  • Speaker 2
    0:08:00

    Yes. We’re the party of Lincoln. This episode shows that they’re not the party of Lincoln anymore. They can’t even talk about what Lincoln fought the war over. K.
  • Speaker 2
    0:08:08

    Nikki Haley is
  • Speaker 1
    0:08:08

    a smart woman. Nikki Haley is from the south. She presided over the removal of the Confederate flag. She knows this. Okay.
  • Speaker 1
    0:08:15

    Why did she give that answer? Let me just start from the easiest. Because she had to, like, a brain freeze and just went back to her talking points. I mean, all politicians have certain talking points, and, like, I don’t wanna answer that question. So I’m going to talk about this is my stump speech that I’ve said a thousand times.
  • Speaker 1
    0:08:31

    I just basically hit, you know, control x. And that’s what you got. Was that it? Right.
  • Speaker 2
    0:08:36

    It is. Now let’s start with the fact that just acknowledging slavery is not a talking point in the Republican Party, talking about race equality, any of that, they’ve yielded that to the Democrats. And it’s deeply pathological that we have a major political party that can’t acknowledge the most obvious egregious form of racial discrimination. Okay. So let’s set that aside.
  • Speaker 2
    0:08:58

    You’re right. Subjectively about why Haley said what she said. She is a canned politician.
  • Speaker 1
    0:09:04

    Yeah.
  • Speaker 2
    0:09:04

    She reverts to her talking points. And Charlie, part of what’s so deliciously awful about her answer is her talking point that she decided to revert to was capitalism was the lesson of the civil wars about government should stay out of your life. So Charlie Sykes provoked me to go back and actually read the whole dred Scott decision, you may recall the the Supreme Court decision as one does that actually precipitated the civil war in a lot of ways. Charlie, that decision was not a decision about the government getting into your life. It was about getting government out of your life.
  • Speaker 2
    0:09:38

    The guy who sued dred Scott was slave. He was asking the courts to intervene on his behalf. The ruling from the United States Supreme Court is you’re not a citizen. You’re a slave. We are not going to intervene.
  • Speaker 2
    0:09:49

    It was an absence of government intervention. The lesson of dred Scott is that getting the government out of the economy I mean, Nikki Kaley says that it’s about capitalism? That was capitalism. That was the ownership that was treating other people as private property. So government intervention part of the point of the civil war.
  • Speaker 2
    0:10:06

    We’re not going to let you own other people. We’re going to have government intervention to preserve, protect, and fulfill the rights of every human being.
  • Speaker 1
    0:10:16

    Okay. I agree with everything you said, but it’s not sufficient to explain the incredible stupidity of that answer. The political tone deafness of it that that here is a woman who is steeped in the traditions of the south. She knows this stuff. And at some level, is afraid or unwilling to address slavery at all?
  • Speaker 1
    0:10:36

    Because, I mean, come on. Do you honestly think that she honestly is she honestly afraid that if she brings up slavery, that that would affect affect her electability in in a place like New Hampshire, I mean, that political calculation let’s take the most cynical possible. On one end of the spectrum, we have the brain freeze. On the other end of the spectrum, it’s that, no, they’ve made this, calculation. That, in the modern republican party, you cannot criticize slavery because x, y, z.
  • Speaker 1
    0:11:04

    That just seems bizarre to me, particularly when you are in New Hampshire, she is used to dealing with, you know, a a multiracial state Is she really that timid? Is she really that much of a lightweight that she basically has decided avoid all possible controversies? I mean, this is one of the reasons why Ron DeSantis has gone absolutely nowhere. Right? Because he’s just afraid to ever take on anything on the right.
  • Speaker 1
    0:11:31

    He’s just like hear all the talking points or that projection that I may not feel this way, but this is what right wingers think. So I’m going to try to parrot them and It comes off as totally inauthentic. I’m genuinely puzzled by how awful that answer was by Nikki Haley.
  • Speaker 2
    0:11:45

    No. I think you’ve captured a lot of it, and I would I wanna pull on a couple of those threads. So these are all cowards. Trump is the villain, but the rest of these guys are cowards. So she’s a coward.
  • Speaker 2
    0:11:56

    What form does her coward take? She will not come out and say at the beginning that this is about the civil war. Now you said she’s from a multiracial state. True, But it was a slave state. Now Chris Christie was the governor of a free state.
  • Speaker 2
    0:12:11

    Nikki Haley was the governor of a former slave state. There are a lot of people in South Carolina. And remember, taking down the confederate flag was a huge controversy. It wouldn’t be a controversy in New Jersey, but it was in South Carolina. So when she had to, you know, agonize over whether I take it down, that’s her trying to be careful about.
  • Speaker 2
    0:12:32

    And Charlie, they’ve gone back and pulled some of her quotes from twenty ten. Yeah. When she was running for governor. Right? And she said, you know, it’s about tradition versus change and the states have a right to secede and all of that.
  • Speaker 2
    0:12:44

    And so way back then, and it’s carried over to today, She has this constituency of confederate sympathizers, nostalgia, whatever it is Yeah. That she is trying to appease. That’s the form that her cowardice is taking.
  • Speaker 1
    0:12:58

    That’s hard to argue with because I was thinking, you know, this will sound unfair, but it’s a little bit like, you know, Mike Pence during that period when he was walking away from the defining moment of his entire political career, which was, to not go along with with Trump’s coup. And he’s come around. I think he’s, you know, Fort destroyed his campaign, I think he was rather blunt about it. But there was a while where he was seeming to back away, say, you know, didn’t wanna talk about it. And so when she’s asked this question, the first thing that came to my mind is, shouldn’t she talk about her decision to remove the Confederate flag and why she did that?
  • Speaker 1
    0:13:31

    I guess part of it is the is the way that she has dumped herself down.
  • Speaker 2
    0:13:34

    I wanna just pull one thing else from that particular clip. That’s really classic Nikki Haley. It’s the questions she asks back to the guy who asked the question. Right? She starts off and then she says, what do you think the Civil War was?
  • Speaker 2
    0:13:47

    She’s like a student asking the teacher. Wait. What do you want
  • Speaker 1
    0:13:50

    me to this is a trick question.
  • Speaker 2
    0:13:52

    Nikki Haley talks about her son and how he always has to, like, write what the professor wants. She’s asking the professor what answer do you want me to give? And then at the end, the end, that question, she asks, he says, hi, you didn’t bring up slavery. She says, what do you want me to say about slavery.
  • Speaker 1
    0:14:04

    I don’t know. Maybe it’s bad. Yeah. What the hell?
  • Speaker 2
    0:14:09

    Like, there is. That three seconds to me encapsulate Nicky Huey. What do you want me to say about slavery?
  • Speaker 1
    0:14:15

    So it’s pivot now to the the other political drama that it’s created, which was there was a lot of speculation that Chris Christie might drop out of the race might even endorse, Nikki Haley. In fact, remember when she was attacked by Vivek Ramaswamy at the debate, Chris Christie came to her defense. So this was not implausible that this was going to happen. And in the hours after this weird gaffe in New Hampshire, Everybody else quickly piled on Nikki Haley, but not Chris Christie. So the question was, what’s he gonna do?
  • Speaker 1
    0:14:43

    And by the way, AB Stoddard has an absolutely fantastic piece in today’s bowl work about this. Where she talks about the implications for Christie’s possibly endorsing Haley that he can’t do it anymore. In any case, here’s Chris Christie responding to Haley’s comments at his own town hall in New Hampshire. This is last Thursday. He’s pretty direct.
  • Speaker 1
    0:15:03

    He he’s responded several times, but here’s a trasting answer to that question from Chris Christie.
  • Speaker 4
    0:15:09

    She said when she’s running for governor in twenty ten, and she was asked this very same question. By what caused the civil war. She said, well, it was a battle between change and tradition, change and tradition. I guess that tradition was enslaving Africans to work for nothing and to have no freedom. Tradition.
  • Speaker 4
    0:15:42

    I’m sure Nikki will see this. So I wanna talk directly to her. K? The civil war was not a choice between change and tradition. It was a choice between right and wrong.
  • Speaker 4
    0:15:56

    And that’s it. And we gotta stand on the side of right.
  • Speaker 1
    0:16:02

    Okay. So Christie went even farther in that town hall meeting, saying that her civil war comments show that she was unwilling to offend anybody by telling the truth. And this is the point you were making will, that this is more of a fundamental critique now in saying that, you know, what this shows, this is not just one gap among many. This is, like, Nikki Haley is not willing to stand up and say what is right, what is wrong, and to tell the truth. Let’s play Chris Christie again.
  • Speaker 4
    0:16:28

    I know her well, and I don’t believe Nikki has a racist bone in her body. But for purposes of this race, The reason she did it is just as bad, if not worse, and she get everybody concerned about her candidacy. She did it because she’s unwilling to offend anyone by telling the truth. And so she isn’t willing to say the same things about abortion in New Hampshire that she says in Iowa. Because she doesn’t want to offend people in Iowa who have a different feeling that people in New Hampshire, but then when she comes to New Hampshire, she doesn’t want to offend them either.
  • Speaker 4
    0:17:11

    And she’s unwilling to tell the truth about Donald Trump. She says he was the right president for the right time. She says that he should have been given a break after January sixth. She says that for some reason, chaos and drama follow him wherever he goes.
  • Speaker 1
    0:17:35

    For some reason, who knows?
  • Speaker 4
    0:17:37

    This is like the arsonist saying, for some reason, burning buildings follow me wherever I go.
  • Speaker 1
    0:17:45

    We’ve talked about that. So I’m I’m thinking Will that the chances that, Chris Christie is gonna drop out and endorse Nikki Haley have a drop financially. That stock has fallen faster than the value of Twitter under Elon Musk. You know what I’m saying here? Alright.
  • Speaker 2
    0:18:00

    I don’t know what Chris Christie’s gonna do if and when he drops out assuming he does. I’m actually not sure he he wouldn’t endorse her at that point. I actually think he’s talking to her and telling her to get her back up his analysis of her character
  • Speaker 1
    0:18:12

    Maybe. Right.
  • Speaker 2
    0:18:12

    Is exactly right. And what he’s doing here is this there’s a political art to this, but it’s also morally important He’s saying, this isn’t just about race. It isn’t just about the civil war. It’s about the general cowardice of the candidate. Right.
  • Speaker 2
    0:18:26

    Part of what you’re doing in an election is you’re seeing a person tested in multiple contexts. And part of what you need to learn is not just about one or another issue. Who is the person as a whole? Cause you don’t know what issues they’re gonna face as president. Right?
  • Speaker 2
    0:18:38

    So this captures he’s linking it the civil war thing to abortion where Haley is absolutely playing it both ways depending on her audience. Right? To the way she talks about Donald Trump, the right president at the right time, and that Charlie Sykes point about how it’s a mystery how a chaos keeps following him. Right? And what I came to listening to Chris Christie’s excellent critique of Nikki Haley was the horrible realization that the reason why I think Christie should drop out and support Haley is because, of course, Haley has a better shot to win the Republican primary, a better long shot than Christie does.
  • Speaker 2
    0:19:13

    But that is because she is a worse person. It is because she is gutless and hasn’t explicitly alienated all of the Trump supporters in the same way that Chris Christie has. That’s why I think she has a better shot, but it’s why she would be in so many ways a worse president than Chris Christie.
  • Speaker 1
    0:19:29

    Was would definitely be a worse president than Chris Christie. I just think that the role that Christie is playing right now. And this is where I agree with AB Stoddard and her, again, I strongly recommend her piece. Basically that his mission now is to tell the truth, is to take down Donald Trump. And at this point, going along with Nikki Haley’s weakness just is feels like letting down his own campaign.
  • Speaker 1
    0:19:52

    Okay. Since this is why I’m Chris Christie here. And back to the cynical explanation for why Nikki Haley answered the way she did, he tells a very interesting anecdote that actually does not necessarily put him in the best delight. Let’s be honest about it. He goes back to twenty sixteen and tells the story about how Donald Trump reacted to the controversy involving David Duke.
  • Speaker 1
    0:20:14

    David Duke being the explicitly racist former head of the k k k who endorsed Donald Trump. And back in the innocent days of the before times, that was considered to be a big thing. Remember, back in the before times, Republicans would actually want to distance themselves from people. But Chris Christie tells a story about maybe one of those pivot points, one of those moments of decision where the norms and the modes of politics were shifting. So this is Chris Christie talking about that David duke endorsement of Donald Trump back in twenty sixteen.
  • Speaker 4
    0:20:47

    I’ll tell you a story from twenty sixteen. After I endorsed Donald Trump, You might remember he got endorsed by David Duke, the former head of the Klook Hux clan, and he was waiting hours and hours and hours repudiate that endorsement. And so finally, writes previous, the chairman of the RNC called me and said, look, Trumpless to you. Would you please get him to say he repudiates that endorsement? Shouldn’t have been honored.
  • Speaker 4
    0:21:15

    Sure. So I called Donald on his cell phone, and he was on the golf course shockingly. But he took my call and I said to him, look, you know, you you got this endorsement for Duke, right? He goes yep yep yep by now. And I said, look, I’ll write the statement for you.
  • Speaker 4
    0:21:31

    Let’s just put a statement out repudiate it. You don’t accept it. And and then we’re we’re past this thing and we move on. And he goes, don’t rush to do that, Chris. Remember, those people vote too.
  • Speaker 1
    0:21:43

    Those people vote too. You wanna talk about an important moment in American politics. I think that Donald Trump has made that calculation. Not just with races, but even with, you know, the right wing, any semites, the Nick Fuentes of the world, you know, the Kanye Wests, all of those folks. One of the reasons why, He’s been so slow in condemning these folks.
  • Speaker 1
    0:22:05

    You know, the proud boys, any of them is because those people vote too, he thinks of them as part of his constituency. And, unfortunately, I think Nikki Haley has learned the absolute wrong lesson here and has decided that, yeah, that if you don’t wanna alienate Maga, those people vote too.
  • Speaker 2
    0:22:23

    The quote that people have replayed from Nikki Haley’s twenty ten run for governor in South Sarah Longwell, The one side was for tradition. You know, that is her version of what Trump said to Christie. That is those people vote too. Right? I I need to be respectful of those people.
  • Speaker 2
    0:22:39

    In Trump’s case, what’s important here is remember when Charlie Sykes Philip and Charlie Sykes said there’s very fine people on both sides. And Biden got all exercised about that. And Trump’s defense, and the defense of many Republicans was When he said verifying people on both sides, he didn’t mean racists, you
  • Speaker 1
    0:22:55

    know? No.
  • Speaker 2
    0:22:55

    That quote that Chris Christie is saying he heard directly from Donald Trump about David Duke. That is explicit racism. Right? Right? That’s trump saying, yeah.
  • Speaker 2
    0:23:05

    The very fine people I meant were David Duke supporters. It’s just important that we nail that down.
  • Speaker 1
    0:23:13

    Okay. So while we’re on on Haley, and and, Christina, I have a couple more here. Because we’re wallowing on this a little bit. This nine year old boy up in New Hampshire. Wait.
  • Speaker 1
    0:23:22

    A lot of stuff happens in New Hampshire. Right? I asked Nikki Haley about her flip flopping and whether she would pardon Trump if she won. Let’s listen to this.
  • Speaker 5
    0:23:30

    Thank you, Nikki. I wanted to ask you. So Chris Christie thinks that you are a flip flopper on the Donald Trump issue. And honestly, I agree with him. And You’re basically the new John Carey on the if you remember John Carey from two thousand four.
  • Speaker 4
    0:23:50

    What’s the question?
  • Speaker 5
    0:23:51

    So my question is, how How can you be how can you change your opinion like that in just eight years and will you pardon Donald Trump?
  • Speaker 1
    0:24:07

    Okay. Now in fairness, god. That that kid, you know, that kid’s gonna be dangerous when when he’s, like, thirteen or fourteen. Here’s Haley’s response to the boy’s question. This is part of her answer.
  • Speaker 3
    0:24:20

    The fact is I’m just telling you the truth like I see it. It’s not personal for me. It’s never been personal for me. I told you I think he was the right president at the right time. I told you that I agree with a lot of his policies.
  • Speaker 3
    0:24:33

    But do I think he’s the right president to go forward? No. We can’t handle the chaos anymore. Chris is obsessed with Trump. I mean, God bless him.
  • Speaker 3
    0:24:45

    He’s a friend. He’s obsessed with Trump. He sleeps, he breathes, and breathes it every day. I’m thinking bigger than that. If we do that, we’re no different than Trump.
  • Speaker 3
    0:24:55

    That’s what we’re trying to get away from. Is that is the idea that we obsess about a person. This is about a country. We’re better than that. We’re bigger than that.
  • Speaker 1
    0:25:04

    You know, that’s one of those those lines that, you know, sound like she’s being profound in earnest, and it’s completely content free. I mean, there’s there’s nothing there. Right? Right. It’s like you’re obsessed with, yes, you’re obsessed with the former president of the United States who wants to be president of the United States.
  • Speaker 1
    0:25:19

    Again, you’re in a presidential campaign running against him. What the hell? Yes. Why would we be talking about Donald Trump? Right?
  • Speaker 2
    0:25:29

    So we didn’t have time to play her whole answer just so everybody knows. So this is a nine year old boy who goes around to these town halls and asks questions like he’s he’s the Sam Donaldson of, you know, at nine years old. So everybody gets this treatment. So Nikki Haley’s, her first response to this kid who asked is asking a very basic question. Why did you switch on Donald Trump?
  • Speaker 2
    0:25:48

    Or you said it was unfit? Her first words out of her mouth were, you know, young man, politics is about distraction. Right? Which is is what? What that she doesn’t answer this kid’s question about why she flipped on Trump.
  • Speaker 2
    0:26:00

    She tells him that politics is a cynical business. She says it’s about distraction. She then tries to distract him by pivoting to her talking point. Right? And her talking point is that this is all about Chris Christie and his obsession with Donald Trump.
  • Speaker 2
    0:26:13

    Charlie, what Christie said about Haley was not about Donald Trump. It was about her answer about slavery. It was about what she says about abortion. The whole point is that Christie is broadening this critique. From his so called Trump obsession to the general phenomenon of gutless cowardice by politicians like Haley.
  • Speaker 2
    0:26:32

    And Christie is saying Tell the freaking truth. He’s a nine year old. Tell him the truth. Why did you change your position? She never answers.
  • Speaker 1
    0:26:38

    I think people in New Hampshire have a really well honed bullshit meter. I think this is why this is landing so badly. But again, you know, she’s got the best chance anywhere in the country of, at least slowing being a speed bump to Donald Trump. She’s got the governor, Chris Sununo, who has, gone back and forth on all of these things. He’s endorsed her.
  • Speaker 1
    0:26:56

    He, of course, is now, defending her, saying, you know, that, okay, you know, nothing to see here people. And urging Chris Christie to drop out and support her. So fast forward to now. I don’t know whether you saw this yet, Will. Chris Christie cut an ad where he it’s just him looking into the camera, and he’s addressing the question about whether or not he should drop out of the race.
  • Speaker 1
    0:27:21

    And it is, as pure a distillation of Christyism as you’re going to get. So for all the people saying, Chris, time for you to go. This is his answer. This is the ad that went up in New Hampshire I believe is it yesterday or maybe even today? Let’s play it.
  • Speaker 4
    0:27:38

    Some people say I should drop out of this race. Really? I’m the only one saying Donald Trump is a liar. He pits Americans against each other. His Christmas message to anyone who disagrees with him, rotten hell.
  • Speaker 4
    0:27:50

    He caused a riot on Capitol Hill, he’ll burn America to the ground to help himself. Yep. Every Republican leader says that in private. Right? I’m the only one saying it in public.
  • Speaker 4
    0:27:59

    Yep. What kind of president do we want? A liar or someone who’s got the guts to tell the truth? New Hampshire. It’s up to you.
  • Speaker 4
    0:28:07

    I’m Chris Christie, and you bet I approve this message.
  • Speaker 1
    0:28:10

    I am sorry, but damn. Damn, that’s that’s just good. Will Okay. For those of us who have been never trump from the get go, you know, and we’ve been saying, you know, when we’re talking about, when a Windwood Republican say x y or z, That is exactly the message that we have been waiting for. Now it may not be a winning message.
  • Speaker 1
    0:28:28

    It is going to antagonize the Magafox, but that was Chris Christie basically saying, I am all out of bleeps to give. This is why I’m in the race. I’m the only one saying if you want me to drop out in favor of this flip flopping woman who cannot make up her mind on abortion, slavery, or Donald Trump No. I’m staying in this race. And so that’s what tells me.
  • Speaker 1
    0:28:53

    He’s not going anywhere. And quite frankly, I’m glad. I was getting a little squishy on this question, but, you know, he’s gotta keep doing what he’s doing because Nikki Haley, she’s not the one we’ve been waiting for. I’m sorry.
  • Speaker 2
    0:29:05

    He’s speaking to New Hampshire voters, but I am one of these never Trump people who I’m looking for an alternative. I’m hoping that Nikki Haley can knock out Donald Trump in the primary, but What Christy is saying reminds me that my hope for Nikki Haley to beat Donald Trump is based on the premise of a deeply pathological Republican party in which a truth teller like Chris Christie can’t win. If you step back from that and look at the objective moral truth, Chris Christie is right. He is the only one telling the truth about all these issues. He’s the only one even saying what he actually thinks.
  • Speaker 2
    0:29:38

    Right? So morally, I should be supporting Chris Christie. I’m a Joe Biden guy in the general election, but absolutely, in this primary, Chris Christie is the guy to vote for. And it’s Nikki Haley who should be getting out of the race and supporting Chris Christie if she had the courage. But, of course, that’s not gonna happen.
  • Speaker 1
    0:29:53

    We do not get the unicorn in pile. We don’t get a pony or any of those things. By the way, the person who sent you the little pony sent me one too. Oh. I don’t this is just very strange.
  • Speaker 1
    0:30:02

    I mean, just showing up at the house. Little little pony.
  • Speaker 2
    0:30:04

    Good. You need that pony. You’re gonna need that pony all year.
  • Speaker 1
    0:30:09

    Alright. So what should we talk about? Because I I do feel that, you know, that in terms of the banality of of crazy, you had the banality of whatever we’re dealing with here. Chris Christie makes a mention of this that in case people missed it, over the holiday, Donald Trump celebrated Christmas by saying that all of his critics should rot in hell. I mean, it’s just sort of like, okay.
  • Speaker 1
    0:30:29

    Yeah. Whatever. You know, he knows that he can say anything. There’s so much else that’s happening. I mean, the world feels like it is teetering.
  • Speaker 1
    0:30:39

    Ukraine is running out of ammunition. The Republicans in the house have blocked aid both Ukraine and Israel. We are eighteen days away. I believe eighteen days away from the possible government shutdown. There is a looming crisis on the border.
  • Speaker 1
    0:30:55

    This is a real thing of that is going to be a crisis for, the Biden administration. So what what do we make of this? You know, the Congress is coming back soon. The razor thin majority becomes more razor thing. They don’t have time to actually support one of our key allies because they’re so busy.
  • Speaker 1
    0:31:14

    I think it was David Frum who said Congress is too busy impeaching Joe Biden for giving a loan to his brother for a truck or something like that. So talk to me about this moment and the dangers because, you know, I was thinking about the bad things that could happen in twenty twenty four, and we we think we know all of them. But, you know, it is possible that our abandonment of Ukraine could lead to a mass of Russian victory, it even worse, even worse, embolden the Chinese to move on Taiwan. And then you and I and the rest of living in a completely different world, aren’t we?
  • Speaker 2
    0:31:46

    So there’s a couple of threads we can pull on. Maybe we should pull on both of them. One is what’s going on in in Ukraine, and the other is what’s going on in Congress. As they try to negotiate a deal. The Ukraine situation for folks who haven’t been following it, there’s now a some serious military back and forth of missiles being fired.
  • Speaker 2
    0:32:01

    The Russians bombarded Kiev, terrible bombardment of, like, a hundred and fifty missiles and drones.
  • Speaker 1
    0:32:06

    Definitely.
  • Speaker 2
    0:32:06

    And the Ukrainians responded by attacking Bulwark out of Russian city, fired a couple missiles and some rockets, and their killed twenty two Russians injured, like, more than a hundred, the Russians retaliator. So there’s an escalation going on over there that we really gotta pay attention to. And just as a reminder, the escalation here, if you’re looking for a precipitating event in the United States, was not us giving Ukrainians more in causing this. It is us our Congress signaling that we’re about to pull the plug on aid to Ukraine. So that to me fortifies the hawk case that weakness invites aggression.
  • Speaker 2
    0:32:40

    So maybe we should wake up from that and support the Ukrainians to deter the Russians. But then there’s the negotiations over the whole package in Congress. Right? Border, Ukraine, Israel. I think Taiwan is part of that package still.
  • Speaker 2
    0:32:55

    And that is really I think that’s gonna be the big story of the next week or so. It’s really important to get that whole deal cut And so the negotiations over changing border policy are what will loosen up enough Republican supporting Congress to get the aid to these countries passed and to get America’s role in the world restored. And I also agree with a lot of conservatives and sort of have conservatives that the board of policy concessions need to be made. We can talk more about that if you want.
  • Speaker 1
    0:33:24

    I agree with you on that. But this also implies the possibility of an legislative compromise, and I guess we have to test the proposition about whether or not this Congress is capable of that in now an election year with a Republican majority that is even narrower than it was five minutes ago. Mhmm. I can’t tell how to be optimistic about these things because It’s all behind closed doors. We don’t legislate in public anymore.
  • Speaker 1
    0:33:49

    You know, it’s all of these negotiations. What happens? Because You could certainly make the case that the Republicans don’t wanna deal. They don’t wanna solve these problems. They want to exploit these problems.
  • Speaker 2
    0:34:01

    Well, okay. Bringing out my pony again, please. The Republicans have a stake in this. Okay. Because Israel’s in this package too, and the Republicans wanna be able to do that.
  • Speaker 2
    0:34:10

    They’re holding the Ukraine money hostage, but they’re it’s not just Ukraine that’s involved. And the Republicans do want concessions on the border. And We do need to change the border policy. There are some very hopeful signals coming from Democrats that they are willing to make policy changes on the border And I think those are gonna be enough to lose because the structure of these negotiations is Democrats are always willing to spend more money. They’re always willing to say, hey, we’ll hire more border patrol will hire more administrative judges.
  • Speaker 2
    0:34:37

    You know, we’ll try to process people faster. But changing the asylum rules, changing the parole rules, Democrats might even agree to a reinstatement of something like Title forty two, not on health grounds, but basically allowing the government to shut down asylum for a time. Because the flood of people coming in is enormous. There are, I believe, in December, it’s gonna turn out that there were more than three hundred thousand of these migrant encounters. These are people like coming and turning themselves in.
  • Speaker 2
    0:35:05

    And the whole world knows you show up at the board of the United States, you turn yourself in, you claim asylum, even if you have, what, a thirteen, fourteen percent chance of ultimately winning, it’s gonna be four or five years till you’re hearing Everybody knows this is the an invitation to walk into the United States. And the magnitude of this three and a half million people a year we’re not equipped to handle that. We’re plainly not equipped. We have people showing up being flown into cities. This is completely out of control.
  • Speaker 2
    0:35:32

    So we do need to change the policy, and it looks like Democrats are yielding on that.
  • Speaker 1
    0:35:38

    Well, I think they need to recognize that there is a problem. The question is how far they yield I don’t think they should cave on it. I think the nature of negotiations as you go back and forth, I think that the Senate is proving that they are the grown up they’re likely to craft some of the questions is whether or not Mike Johnson has the ability to, you know, behave in a remotely rational manner. We probably should have talked about this during the previous segment, but, you know, I I had it on my notes here. And I have mixed feelings about, you know, obsessing about polling.
  • Speaker 1
    0:36:07

    Because it it feels like being in the hospital and, like, being fixated on on your heart rate. You know, you look at that heart rate monitor. I mean, you can drive yourself crazy. But the lead story right now in the in the Washington Post is this new poll. Republican loyalty to Trump comma rioters climbs in three years after the January sixth attack.
  • Speaker 1
    0:36:23

    The thing about that headline that jumps out to me is that it’s not just Republican loyalty to Trump because that’s an old story we got that. But Republican loyalty to the rioters, climbs in the three years. Three years after the January sixth attack, Republicans are more sympathetic to those who swarmed the capital. And more than likely to absolve Donald Trump of responsibility for the attack than they were in twenty twenty one. We know that they’re increasingly loyal to them, but, you know, this is One of the most extraordinary episodes of revisionist history because you and I remember where the world was on January seventh everyone was condemning it.
  • Speaker 1
    0:37:00

    We saw it with our own eyes. It was televised. One Republican after another condemned members of Trump’s cabinet condemned it. Members of his staff resigned in outrage about it. And three years later, people are going Yeah.
  • Speaker 1
    0:37:16

    I don’t really have that much of a problem with that whole attack on the capital thing. I mean, I know that we’ve spent the last eight years talking about information bubbles and alternative realities, but damn, will. I mean, really, we’re not the crazy ones, are we? See, what the hell’s going on here?
  • Speaker 2
    0:37:33

    I’m with you, Charlie. I so I remember during the January sixth hearings, I was thinking, you know, Liz Cheney and these guys, they’re really just
  • Speaker 1
    0:37:41

    right there.
  • Speaker 2
    0:37:41

    They’re beating us over the head with They made their point. You know? It’s so obvious. All this footage do we really need this? The answer is, yeah.
  • Speaker 2
    0:37:50

    We clearly needed it because people are They wanna forget, and they are forgetting, and they’re whitewashing, you know, what happened. This poll is really alarming to me because What it shows is that our country is almost evenly divided on a lot of these very basic questions. So the poll shows that among Republicans, for example, believing that Joe Biden’s election as president was legitimate is down in the last couple of years from thirty nine percent to thirty one only thirty one percent of Republicans now say that. But the scarier part is the numbers among the general electorate among American adults as a whole. Which comes closer to your point of view, the storming of the United States capital on January sixth with an attack on democracy that should never be forgotten or too much is being made at the storming of the capital, and we should move on.
  • Speaker 2
    0:38:37

    Forty three percent of Americans say we should move on.
  • Speaker 1
    0:38:40

    Huge, huge. That’s a lot. Right?
  • Speaker 2
    0:38:41

    That’s a very strong base for Trump to start right. Then do you think that, these actions threaten democracy? Trump telling his supporters to march on the Capitol. Right? Fifty one percent say that’s true.
  • Speaker 2
    0:38:53

    That means forty nine percent didn’t say that that was true. How much responsibility do you think Trump bears for the attack on the capitol? Percent saying a great deal. Used to be sixty percent of Americans as a whole. Now it’s only fifty three.
  • Speaker 2
    0:39:06

    So we’re getting really close. To these numbers where Trump can win the election because half of America doesn’t care about or is whitewashed what happened on January sixth.
  • Speaker 1
    0:39:17

    Okay. So on that bright and cheery note, see, you and I have not had a chance to talk since the rulings in Colorado and Maine, I don’t think. Disqualifying Trump based on the fourteenth amendment, which very explicitly says that if you engage in an insurrection that you are disqualified from office, and, of course, We’ve had guests on this program who have, you know, very, very serious legal scholars who believe that that means that Donald Trump cannot be the president. And I don’t wanna relitigate that, but Part of me is because I am not the legal expert. I mean, I do believe that he engaged in an insurrection.
  • Speaker 1
    0:39:48

    I do believe the fourteenth amendment is is clear. On the other hand, I think that this is sort of a doomed strategy doomed legally and politically. There’s no chance the US Supreme Court is gonna toss Donald Trump out, which means that One of the big legal developments of twenty twenty four, guaranteed is that Donald Trump will win, but will appear to be a huge victory in the US Supreme Court. That is not good news. I also think that there’s a tremendous potential for a backlash, particularly if we are arguing the seat is on the ballot, by the way, I devote my entire newsletter today to a very pedantic discussion of the record.
  • Speaker 1
    0:40:22

    We’re not a democracy or a republic, which most people will be bored by and Will Saletan expect lots of blowback. But if we’re arguing that democracy is on the ballot and that there’s this threat to democracy, Having the courts to throw somebody off the ballot gives it very easy, if misleading, talking point. So I think that it’s one of those things where I’m sympathetic to the argument, but I’m very, very skeptical of the tactic. What do you think?
  • Speaker 2
    0:40:48

    So I don’t have a problem with courts throwing a candidate off the ballot. I think that’s part of their job. I do have a problem with elected partisan officials throwing a candidate off the ballot. So I would distinguish between the Colorado case and the main case. In Colorado, you had a judicial procedure.
  • Speaker 2
    0:41:04

    You had they were in court And it was a week, two weeks. I can’t remember. The facts of January six were extensively debated. Yeah. Then you had this Colorado Supreme Court making the decision.
  • Speaker 2
    0:41:14

    So that’s a court. In Maine, you have this weird procedure where the democratic secretary of state, the main law apparently requires the secretary of state. So you have a one day one day administrative hearing on this case, and then the Secret Podcast state makes this decision. So what’s gonna happen in Maine is it’s gonna go to courts, and that’s where it should be. But I don’t have a problem, Charlie, with courts making this decision, because that’s what they would do in any event.
  • Speaker 1
    0:41:38

    I’m not disagreeing with you on on all of this because we are, as I argue today, we are not a democracy. We are a, you know, a liberal constitutional republic that is based on that is based on the rule of law and that the the majority doesn’t always get what it wants. But in any case, I agree with you on the on the substance just in terms of the politics and the way this is going to play out, it feels like we’ve just given Donald Trump a high lob in the US Supreme Court. Now I could be wrong about this. I should say this by everything.
  • Speaker 1
    0:42:09

    I say, I could be wrong. It is possible that this then provides more elbow room for the Supreme Court to say, okay. We’re gonna rule for Trump on the disqualification issue, but we’re gonna rule against him on the immunity issue. Makes it a little bit easier. And the immunity issue is, of course, I think the big one.
  • Speaker 1
    0:42:26

    I mean, that is the huge one because Donald Trump is essentially claiming that he is completely immune from any sort of legal accountability for his crimes. If the court were to accept that, it would destroy much of the constitutional structure, the checks and balances, the limitations, on the president. It would essentially say the president is, in fact, above the law. I don’t think they’re going to do that. I think the court is gonna slam dunk the fourteenth amendment case, but I I am much more confident that they will say that no, Trump is not immune, which means that all those trials can go ahead So that’s the big enchilada in terms of the stakes in twenty twenty four.
  • Speaker 2
    0:43:02

    Yeah. So I agree with part of that. I am not sure what the Supreme Court is actually gonna do about eligibility for the ballot because they may defer to states on on some of this stuff.
  • Speaker 1
    0:43:10

    Yeah. Right.
  • Speaker 2
    0:43:10

    But setting that aside, I fundamentally agree with you about I mean, the immunity claim, If that gets upheld, big. I mean, there are various thresholds along this process where you or I might say that’s the end of American, the American Republic. I think the immunity one is one of I don’t think you can have that degree of presidential immunity and still have a safe constitutional republic. And, Charlie, by the way, did you get into Mike Lee in this? Because What are the chances that these Republicans who said we’re not a democracy, we’re a republic, are gonna stand by that when they think there are enough voters to reelect their autocrat even if the courts wouldn’t accept it.
  • Speaker 2
    0:43:46

    Well, see,
  • Speaker 1
    0:43:46

    this is part of the problem is that people switch back and forth on which team they’re on depending on whose ox is being gored. Right? I mean, you just change sides. Just ch everybody changes sides in jerseys, you know, depending on the particular circumstances. And Mike Lee, who once pretended that he was this principled, constitutional conservative will do exactly what you’d expect that he will do.
  • Speaker 1
    0:44:05

    Nothing about Mike Lee will surprise you. Just like at this point, nothing that Lindsey Graham does will surprise you anymore because they have made it very clear what they’re going to do in all of those circumstances. Right? So on that note, since we figured all of that out, well, thank you for joining me again, and welcome to twenty twenty four.
  • Speaker 2
    0:44:24

    Thank you, Charlie. It’s gonna be a hell of a year.
  • Speaker 1
    0:44:26

    And thank you all for listening to today’s Bulwark podcast. I’m Charlie Sykes. We will be back tomorrow, and we’ll do this all over again. Secret Podcast is produced by Katie Cooper, and engineered and edited by Jason Brown.
Want to listen without ads? Join Bulwark+ for an exclusive ad-free version of The Bulwark Podcast! Learn more here. Already a Bulwark+ member? Access the premium version here.