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Will Saletan: The New Nikki

January 29, 2024
Notes
Transcript
Haley has taken a hard turn against Trump, and is calling on him to ‘man-up’ and explain why he grew the debt and why he praises President Xi. Meanwhile, most Senate Republicans are doing Trump’s bidding on the border bill. Will Saletan is back with Charlie Sykes for 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. I’m Charlie Sykes. It is Monday, and of course that means I am joined by my colleague, Will Saletan, Will, how are you? You had a football hangover at all? Neither of the outcomes I wanted happened, Charlie.
  • Speaker 2
    0:00:21

    I was rooting for the lions You know, and if not, the Ravens’s, and I got nothing. How about you?
  • Speaker 1
    0:00:28

    At least it’s entertaining, and since the packers weren’t in, whatever, you know, what can I say? Know what’s funny, you and I were talking right before we started this, that we just assumed that today’s podcast would be consumed by the Jean Carol verdict, and I do wanna spend some time Jonathan Last in this news cycle, so much is happening. It’s Monday morning. That happened Friday. It almost seems like we’ve moved on, but I do wanna at least pause.
  • Speaker 1
    0:00:51

    Because I think this is something that we just have to consciously do now and then, which is to slow it down and remark on something truly remarkable. Which is that a federal jury came back on Friday and delivered an eighty three million dollar verdict against the former president of the United States for lying again about the woman he raped. This is on top of the five million dollar earlier verdict. So we’re at to eighty eight million dollars. Now, again, you know, in the next couple of weeks, there’s gonna be a multi million dollar award handed down in another New York court for Donald Trump’s lies.
  • Speaker 1
    0:01:31

    We’ve seen the price of lies is, you know, the cumulative price is rising. Ask Fox News, infowars, Alex Jones. I don’t know if he’s ever gonna pay it. Your thoughts on all of this, that here we have the leading presidential candidate who has created this environment where he is lied so egregiously shows up in court. Obviously, for every minute, he sat in front of that jury, it probably cost him another million dollars.
  • Speaker 1
    0:01:58

    So your thoughts on the Gene Carol verdict? Well, thank goodness that there is some punishment in this world for committing crimes and lying about some I mean, accountability
  • Speaker 2
    0:02:08

    is what we so desperately need. So every time there is a verdict, this was not the verdict on what he actually did. We already have that. This is the money, but the money matters Charlie Sykes matters in the same way that a jail sentence matters for a criminal offense. Right?
  • Speaker 2
    0:02:22

    It needs to hurt. It needs to there needs to be some consequence for Trump. I don’t believe Charlie. I
  • Speaker 1
    0:02:27

    don’t know about you. I don’t believe this is gonna stop Donald Trump from continuing to defame Jean Carroll and and everyone else that, you know, but at least there’s a consequence. It’s also just a reminder that maybe when you’re in a case like this, you ought to bring your lawyer a team as opposed to whatever. She’s gonna get into the whole Alina Haba thing, but that didn’t work out that well. I posted that clip where she was, would you rather be pretty or smart She said, I would rather be pretty because you can fake being smart.
  • Speaker 1
    0:02:57

    Well, apparently not. Apparently not.
  • Speaker 2
    0:03:00

    I find Elena have fascinating. She comes out. She’s just been smoked. She just got smoked in this trial. She blew the case.
  • Speaker 2
    0:03:07

    Charlie, she didn’t just blow the case. She blew the appeal. She’s out there saying, we’re gonna appeal. So the thing about it is she comes out and she does what all the Trump flunkies do, which is I don’t really care about the legal aspect of this. Right?
  • Speaker 2
    0:03:18

    Let’s just talk the politics My client is leading in the polls, and he’s gonna stand. She makes a bunch of political points. That’s not her job. She was literally hired to be the lawyer, and she blew the part of the job that she was supposed to do. Right?
  • Speaker 2
    0:03:32

    He’s got lots of other flunkies who can go out and do political spin for him. But she’s terrible and he doesn’t know any more than he knew who was doing a good or bad job in his administration.
  • Speaker 1
    0:03:42

    Okay. By the way, I just got a text message. Hey, Charlie. It’s Nikki again. I wanna talk about this because I’m getting these about every two hours now.
  • Speaker 1
    0:03:49

    And mo most of them are about hey. Did you see that that if you give money to me, Donald Trump says you’re going to be exiled from She is really leaning into this. I have to say I’m a little bit surprised. I wanna get your take on all of this. And yesterday, Nikki always is sort of like It’s a half glass full, half empty kind of thing.
  • Speaker 1
    0:04:05

    But she did, according to, you know, Benjie Charlie Sykes from summer four. His take was that she crossed the Rubicon by really taking the jury verdict seriously against Donald Trump. She’s not saying it’s disqualifying, but she said she respected the jury verdict This is Nikki Haley on meet the press talking about this verdict.
  • Speaker 3
    0:04:23

    And what is unique about this case is that the jury has now ruled. They have found him liable of sexual abuse. Do you not trust the jury and their findings, ambassador? I absolutely trust the jury. And I think that they made their decision based on the evidence.
  • Speaker 3
    0:04:41

    I just don’t think that should take him off the ballot. I think the American people will take him off the ballot. I think that’s the best way to go forward is not let him play the victim. Let him play the loser. That’s what we want him to do at the end of the day.
  • Speaker 3
    0:04:53

    Just to be clear, do you think it’s disqualifying investor? I don’t think he should be taken off the ballot. I think the American people will decide if he’s disqualifying or not.
  • Speaker 1
    0:05:05

    Your take on on all of that. Because, you know, again, it’s Nikki Haley. Let’s put this in context. Nikki Haley says that She will support him even if he’s a convicted felon. She would pardon him if she is elected.
  • Speaker 1
    0:05:16

    But on the other hand, she did say those magic four words about the jury verdict. Now she doesn’t think he should be kicked off the ballot for it, but it’s like she’s not backing away from this. She’s not pretending that this is, you know, a weaponized criminal justice system. Will, what do you think?
  • Speaker 2
    0:05:32

    I find this fascinating the way she’s trying to straddle this line. Right? She doesn’t want to offend all the Trump voters in the Republican Party because it is the Trump party. Right? So she won’t say it’s morally disqualifying.
  • Speaker 2
    0:05:43

    She keeps interpreting it as should he be taken off the ballot? And she says, no. That’s a procedural question. Kristen Welker is asking her, do you think it’s disqualifying? And Haley won’t answer that question.
  • Speaker 2
    0:05:54

    But but I Will Saletan then grab the pony, Here’s pony number one for today. She said Nikki Haley said I trust the jury, and she said they made their decision based on the evidence. Charlie, I’m gonna just take that and run with it. I’m happy that Nikki Haley affirmed that there is such a thing as objective reality that a jury weighed the evidence, and they found that Donald Trump did commit a sexual assault. I I think the term was sexual abuse, but the judge later said it was amounted to rape.
  • Speaker 2
    0:06:23

    And that that Donald Trump defamed this woman. That’s a jury verdict, and Nikki Haley says it’s based on evidence. It really happened. I’m just gonna take that as the upside of what she has to say in that interview?
  • Speaker 1
    0:06:34

    No. And I I said four words. Actually, it’s five words. I absolutely trust the jury. This is what Benjie Charlie Sykes writes.
  • Speaker 1
    0:06:41

    He says, Haley’s remarks on Sunday fit into an emerging message that answers Trump’s New Hampshire riddle more directly and is already forcing a more pointed response. She’s unambiguously saying that Trump’s a loser. Her attacks on his age, honesty, unhinged rants and mental fitness all relate to this as well. So before we move on to the tougher Haley, I just wanna contrast her answer, I absolutely trust the jury verdict with Tim Scott, who is continuing to audition for VP, and he’s on with Martha Radets. And she asked him about this.
  • Speaker 1
    0:07:18

    And I have to say that if you’re looking for the most pathetic Soundbite of the weekend. And there’s a lot of competition here. Listen to Tim Scott who thinks he’s somehow finesseing the answer to this question. Let’s play Martha Radets and Tim Scott.
  • Speaker 4
    0:07:32

    I wanna start with the breaking news on Friday. And that was that your candidate, former president Trump was ordered by a jury to pay eighty three million dollars for defaming writer, Eugene Carroll. He was also found before, as you know, liable for sexual abuse. Does that give you any pause in your
  • Speaker 5
    0:07:53

    Iself and all the voters that support Donald Trump supports a return to normalcy as it relates to what affects their kitchen table. The average person in our country, Martha, isn’t they’re not talking about losses. As a matter of fact, what I have seen, however, is that the perception that the legal system is being weaponized against Donald Trump is actually increasing his poll numbers.
  • Speaker 4
    0:08:16

    I I I understand that, but this was they were jury trials. They were jury trials. They started, when Donald Trump was president. You that does that gives you no pause whatsoever.
  • Speaker 5
    0:08:27

    I don’t have a the Democrats don’t pause when I think about Hunter Biden and the challenges that he brings to his father.
  • Speaker 1
    0:08:36

    Mean, it’s like it’s like he’s got all these, dear my talking points, and I’m just gonna go down the list, and I’m gonna check them all, kitchen table. They don’t care about this. They wanna return to normalcy because normalcy is a guy who is defaming a woman he raped. Because Americans just don’t care about paying off porn stars, the espionage act, sedition, They care about I don’t know. I’m sorry.
  • Speaker 1
    0:09:03

    I can’t even do it. And then, of course, the what about is, which which we’re gonna hear a lot of this year. Right?
  • Speaker 2
    0:09:09

    Yeah. Normal C is the perfect word here because it I mean, what’s going on here, of course, is that Tim Scott, who is one of the many Republicans who used present themselves, and still will, by the way, as sort of good Christians who stand for values and all this stuff, are basically saying values don’t Right? When he says kitchen table, what he means is no moral question matters. Right? What matters is do they make the trains run on time?
  • Speaker 2
    0:09:32

    Right? How is the economy doing? Will it do whether Donald Trump? Now setting aside whether Donald Trump’s economy was as good as he said and whether he was responsible for that and all the other stuff. This is just a complete evacuation of the Republican Party.
  • Speaker 2
    0:09:44

    Tim Scott is not alone in this. Not alone. I’m trying to remember Charlie. What was it? So there was Daniel Patrick Moynihan in all defining DVNC down.
  • Speaker 2
    0:09:51

    Right? What we’ve what we’ve defined down now is normalcy. Right. Normal, as you say, used to involve more than your body. Pretty good.
  • Speaker 2
    0:10:00

    Right? The term normality has been renormed. So that it now includes rape is fine.
  • Speaker 1
    0:10:07

    Is it too wonky to point out that the word normalcy was actually kinda just made up by Warren harding and it seems funny? I mean, I what was it?
  • Speaker 2
    0:10:14

    You’re one of those normality guys. Okay.
  • Speaker 1
    0:10:16

    Yeah. But norm normalcy, that that’s a great line that we’ve defined normalcy down. Like, you look at all this stuff that’s going on here. Yeah. It’s just That’s why people want Donald Trump because they want things to go back to normal.
  • Speaker 1
    0:10:29

    Seriously, feel like the cartoon of, you know, the the guy with everything blowing up behind him and the fires and everything going, yeah, this is fine.
  • Speaker 2
    0:10:37

    Right. Just on this question of sort of the Carol verdict, because we absolutely should go to Nikki Haley on this. But there was also an interview with James Langford, who’s good on the border and some other issues, Republican Center, He was also interviewed on this subject and said, about the jury verdict. He’s asked about this. And he says, Trump has already said he’s gonna challenge it.
  • Speaker 2
    0:10:54

    So I’m not gonna and so what we see is Tim Scott saying it doesn’t matter. All that matters is the economy. And James Langford and others saying, Trump is gonna challenge it. Now The point of this is, there is no point in this legal process at which Republicans are going to say, He’s guilty. We accept that.
  • Speaker 2
    0:11:13

    He’s responsible. Right? No. Because there’s always an appeal. There’s always some appeal, and they’re gonna extend this.
  • Speaker 2
    0:11:18

    Remember, even if Trump loses one of these cases, the four cases before the election, he’s still gonna be appealing. So presumably, that appeal might might be in the works at that point. They will always fall back on the appeal. And after the appeal, they’ll fall back on what Tim Scott said about, well, it’s all weaponization of the justice system, weaponization of the courts.
  • Speaker 1
    0:11:38

    They have to, to the extent that, you know, if they wanna stay in the good graces, they wanna sit at the table. Right? They cannot say Yeah. I jury has found credibly that the former president of the United States, the Republican candidate for president of the United States, is a lying rapist. And I still support it.
  • Speaker 1
    0:11:55

    Because it’s very difficult to say that I think what America really wants is a lying rapist in the White House. So they have to find some way to either not address it or to rationalize it in that particular way. Okay. So let’s talk about this new Nikki. Is it fair to say it’s a new Nikki or it or are we just grasping for straws here?
  • Speaker 1
    0:12:14

    Because, again, this is still the same Nikki Haley that is going back and forth on all of this. Right? This is the same Nikki Haley who raised your hand and said, I will vote for him. You know, even if he’s convicted, I Will Saletan him. But I have to say that she is surprising me somewhat.
  • Speaker 1
    0:12:28

    She is leaning into it. I I’ve saved all of her text messages because I get them and I feel personal. You know, it’s like, hey, Charlie Sykes Haley here. Should I read you this one? Oh, and she’s selling me a t shirt.
  • Speaker 1
    0:12:41

    She wants me to buy this t shirt, and the t shirt says barred permanently. Hey, Charlie Sykes Haley here. Donald Trump said that if you support me, he will permanently bar you from the Magit Camp. I will not be intimidated, and I know you won’t either Charles Charlie Sykes in five dollars or more, and we’ll send you a barred permanently. Sure.
  • Speaker 1
    0:13:07

    Okay. So a lot of us thought that Nikki would fold up after New Hampshire that she would get in line She’s not only getting in line, but she basically has decided, you know what? I’m not really gonna have a seat at the Maga table, so screw it. What’s going on here? What is your take on this, Will?
  • Speaker 2
    0:13:24

    And you have some sound bites too. So let me start with what I believe is the grand template for the whole election, which is the Chris Christie hot mic moment. We’ve been through this before. But now we’re gonna pick a different piece of this hot mic moment. Remember he said about Nikki Haley, she’s not up to it.
  • Speaker 2
    0:13:40

    She’s gonna get smoked. Right? Yeah. She’s not up to it. Right.
  • Speaker 2
    0:13:43

    That was his assessment. He was Jersey strong. He was gonna hit Trump. She was Right? Let’s give Nikki Haley credit.
  • Speaker 2
    0:13:49

    She’s coming out now and she’s hitting hard. Because remember, it was all a bunch of other people and Donald Trump. Then the field gets cleared, and it’s just Nikki Haley against Donald Trump. Her job at this new stage of the election is to be the anti trump candidate. Right?
  • Speaker 2
    0:14:05

    We weren’t sure whether she was up to this. Chris Christie didn’t think so. Right?
  • Speaker 1
    0:14:08

    I’m still not totally sold, but go on.
  • Speaker 2
    0:14:11

    Yeah. Right. But she’s beginning to do the job is a pony that one of our members gave me. I’m supposed to brush the hair of this pony. It’s a very feminine pony.
  • Speaker 2
    0:14:19

    I want this pony to put on armor. I want, like, a warrior with an axe riding it. I think Nikki Haley is coming out fighting now. That’s my pony for today. She’s been on the campaign trail.
  • Speaker 2
    0:14:30

    I can we can talk a little bit about that. Can we play a clip from Nikki Haley on meet the press?
  • Speaker 3
    0:14:35

    Kristen, look at what happened just in the forty eight hours after the election. Here, he went on a he was totally unhinged, went on a rampage election night, talking about revenge. Then the next day, he goes and says anybody who supports me is not gonna be allowed to be part of Magga. Well, that means those people that voted for me in Iowa and New Hampshire and those people who’ve donated to me really, you’re gonna go and say they’re not in your club. You’re supposed to be president presenting everyone.
  • Speaker 3
    0:15:02

    Yeah. Then he goes and pushes the Republican Party to make him the nominee. I mean, look, he’s insecure. He’s threatened. He sees what’s happening.
  • Speaker 3
    0:15:09

    And he knows these court cases are gonna him further and further away from the campaign trail. And that’s what he’s worried about.
  • Speaker 1
    0:15:16

    Okay. So what are you hearing on the campaign trail? Was that a one off that interview? What is she doing now that she’s campaigning in, South Carolina? What’s her message?
  • Speaker 2
    0:15:25

    So I have been watching Nikki Haley the entire campaign. She has been the most boring candidate. She has the same stump speech all the time, and she does the thing, you know, her line on Donald Trump has been the one that annoys both of us. Rightly or wrongly, chaos follows him. Right?
  • Speaker 2
    0:15:42

    It’s a passive description. It’s not directly text. That has changed Charlie Sykes the last two speeches I’ve seen of her in South Sarah Longwell, this weekend. She is going right at Donald Trump. And she’s attacking his character.
  • Speaker 2
    0:15:54

    She has gone after him for first of all, for the stuff that she described in that meet the press interview, his performance in New Hampshire on election, I and threatening, you know, her supporters and trying to strong-arm, the RNC and all that stuff.
  • Speaker 1
    0:16:07

    Yeah.
  • Speaker 2
    0:16:07

    But she’s also gone after some of the people who have endorsed him. She actually went after our friend, Lindsey Graham, So just a little background on this. Right? Nikki Hilly’s problem, her problem has been the entire congressional leadership of the Republican party, the entire Republican membership of Congress is endorsing Donald Trump, including the governor of South Carolina, Henry Mcmaster, and both senators Lindsey Graham and as we just played Tim Scott. And this is her response.
  • Speaker 3
    0:16:33

    You’re gonna sit there and have Lindsey Graham stand up next to you, and we’re to say, oh, that’s what we need to be doing?
  • Speaker 1
    0:16:43

    What what was she getting?
  • Speaker 3
    0:16:47

    And I’m just gonna let the one on Tim Scott go. That’s up to y’all. I’m not gonna say anything about it. We have to live with our decisions.
  • Speaker 1
    0:16:57

    Okay. I just she’s name checking these guys. Give me another sound bite from her going after Trump that you you think is the new tone.
  • Speaker 2
    0:17:05

    This is Nikki Haley going after Trump. She went after him on the gas tax and some stuff, but she threw in this stuff about Trump and foreign policy.
  • Speaker 3
    0:17:12

    Don’t you think it’s time that he answered why he praised China’s president Xi a dozen times after China gave the world COVID?
  • Speaker 1
    0:17:22

    Good.
  • Speaker 3
    0:17:22

    Don’t you think it’s time that we ask him why he praised Tesla after they did that horrific killings on October seventh?
  • Speaker 2
    0:17:31

    Good.
  • Speaker 3
    0:17:32

    America deserves answers, and Donald Trump won’t give them to you.
  • Speaker 1
    0:17:38

    So what do you think is going on? I mean, she knows that she’s not gonna win the nomination. What is the mission she’s on right now? And I and I guess I could be more enthusiastic about this if I didn’t have the image of knowing that she’s going to support him after the primary zero. And I am trying to imagine given the things that she’s saying about him now and that he’s saying about her, how incredibly awkward that’s going to be, but We’ve lived through the last eight years of people swallowing as much humiliation as possible.
  • Speaker 1
    0:18:09

    I’m thinking Ted Cruz. And so you know what’s going to happen. But tell me what do you think she’s thinking right now, is how this is gonna play out?
  • Speaker 2
    0:18:17

    I’m not gonna bring the pony out again, accept it. We know Charlie Sykes. You and I are in agreement. I think everyone at the board is in agreement on this that Nikki Haley will endorse Donald Trump. She will lose Yeah.
  • Speaker 2
    0:18:28

    And she will endorse Trump for president. Right? Yeah. But here’s how I wanna look at it. That’s like death.
  • Speaker 2
    0:18:35

    We know that we’re going to die. But we still should live. Right? Let’s live. She is at least saying part of the truth about Donald Trump.
  • Speaker 2
    0:18:43

    And these are important parts of the truth. She is calling him out on his anti American foreign policy, his love of dictators. She’s beginning to at least be the anti trump candidate in the public and party. Now I think she’s gonna lose, and you think she’s gonna lose. And what are the odds of that ninety nine plus percent?
  • Speaker 1
    0:19:02

    Right.
  • Speaker 2
    0:19:02

    But you’re saying there’s a chance look, I really believe that those of us who recognize Donald Trump as an existential threat to American democracy should stay in the Republican primary until it’s mathematically over in the hope that this woman cannot came off. She is what’s left, Charlie Sykes
  • Speaker 1
    0:19:22

    don’t disagree. If I lived in South Carolina, which clearly I do not, I would vote for her. If she’s still about when she gets here to Wisconsin, I will vote for her without any problem whatsoever. It’s just that, you know, I feel like I’ve kinda seen the play before. Although, I will also acknowledge that she is pleasantly surprising me with this post New Hampshire rhetoric.
  • Speaker 1
    0:19:44

    Everything seems repetitious, but it’s one thing for you and I to say these things about Donald Trump, or the Bulwark to say things about Donald Trump. But to hear, you know, republicans saying it to Republican audiences. It does matter on the margins. It’s not going to convert Maga But I think that’s why Chris Christie was valuable in this campaign. I think Acea Hutchenson was valuable in this campaign.
  • Speaker 1
    0:20:07

    I think Will hurdle was valuable in this campaign. And I think that right now, for the moment, Nikki Haley’s valuable in this campaign.
  • Speaker 2
    0:20:13

    Let me ask you a question about that, though. Yeah. So let’s assume Haley loses. She goes at Trump hard. Remember, South Carolina is how far away now of, like, a month or weeks away.
  • Speaker 2
    0:20:23

    She’s gonna at least go through there. She probably will go through super Tuesday. Maybe she gets out of point. So for some time, she is going to speak the truth about Donald Trump. Then she’s gonna lose, and she’s gonna endorse him.
  • Speaker 2
    0:20:34

    So she has groomed now this audio of people inside the Republican Party, and she’s told them what’s wrong with Trump. And having heard that they’re voting for her, then she endorses him. What do you think the net effect of that will be. Will she by endorsing him bring those people back into the fold and they will vote for Trump in the general, or will she have find the case against Trump in a way that a lot of those people will say, I can’t vote for Trump and maybe some of them even vote for Biden.
  • Speaker 1
    0:20:57

    Well, my honest answer is I don’t know. I worry that she’s going to provide the permission for people who share her views of Trump to the people who go, okay. Trump is completely loathsome. You know, he’s done all these things. But in the end, you have to vote for him because he’s better than the Democrats.
  • Speaker 1
    0:21:14

    I mean, that’s a very powerful sort of binary choice rationalization. Republicans voters make And people like her, people like Chris Sununu, are going to make that easier for those voters. On the other hand, You know, there are some sort of indelible marks. And I’m not sure how many people actually pay attention to endorsements because if you agree with her right now, It’s going to be a hard sell. But again, the people who agree with her right now, they’re gonna be the votes that are gonna be in play in twenty twenty four.
  • Speaker 1
    0:21:44

    These are the people who I think are ultimately gonna decide this election. The people who, in fact, know who Donald Trump is and are sort of having to decide now you know, how much do they trim their sales? Are can they hold their nose and vote for him again? What do you think?
  • Speaker 2
    0:21:59

    It’s a mystery to me except twenty twenty. I believe in twenty twenty, you can look at the exit polling. You can look at the post election polling, and you can see the effects in key states of suburbanites, people who used to vote Republican, turning away and voting for Joe Biden. And I
  • Speaker 1
    0:22:14

    don’t see them coming back.
  • Speaker 2
    0:22:15

    We know those people can be split away from Trump because they did it before. And I think there are enough of them to win this election. I think it’s gonna be close, but I agree that constituency is key. And we’ve seen them do it before, and I think they can do it again.
  • Speaker 1
    0:22:30

    Okay. So let’s talk about, I think, one of the most interesting developments over the last few days, which is the the bipartisan deal on the border. Joe Biden’s willingness to sign it. And then Donald Trump coming out and saying, I’m gonna tube this thing. I’m gonna tank this whole thing.
  • Speaker 1
    0:22:44

    If you wanna blame me, it’s all on me, So here we have this extraordinary moment where Republicans have been saying this is urgent, imminent, existential threat. This is the worst crisis America faces right now. Your children are dying because of the border. Conservative Republicans have come up with this deal that gives them almost everything that they have when wanting. And Republicans have decided in the end they go, Yeah.
  • Speaker 1
    0:23:12

    We’d actually rather have this as an issue than solve the problem. Now if you think that that is an unfair analysis, Listen to Oklahoma Senator James Langford, who is a quite conservative Republican senator who is one of the negotiators on this, And he’s on Fox yesterday, and he goes through a list of all of the things that are in this bill that would be on any Republican wish list, things they push for. So let’s just play him talk about this legislation and the way that Republicans have decided that, yeah, we don’t really wanna fix the problem. Let’s play Langford.
  • Speaker 6
    0:23:50

    So a lot of Republicans are saying He has things he could use now, executive powers, and laws that are not being enforced. So why give him this in an election year? The cover of this deal that you know, critics say it’s still gonna let a lot of people in, but he gets to take a victory lap that he’s gotten something done.
  • Speaker 7
    0:24:08

    Yeah. Well, it’s definitely not gonna let a bunch of people in. It’s focused on actually turning people around on it. It is interesting. Republicans four months ago would not give funding for Ukraine for Israel and for our southern border because we demanded changes in policy.
  • Speaker 7
    0:24:22

    So we actually locked arms together and said we’re not gonna give you money for this. We wanna change in law. And now it’s interesting a few months later when we’re filing it at the end, they’re like, oh, just kidding. I actually don’t wanna change in law because of presidential election year. We all have an oath to the constitution, and we have a commitment to say we’re gonna do whatever we can to be able to secure the border.
  • Speaker 1
    0:24:42

    Or not. So, he says it’s interesting that, yep, we basically two day to Ukraine, two to aid to Israel because we were so adamant that we had to have this legislation right now, and now we’re saying just kidding. And this coming from a conservative Republican senator calling out his colleagues. So will.
  • Speaker 2
    0:25:04

    Look, all my friends are Democrats, basically. They think Republicans are all evil. And one of the points that I wanna to them Okay. Is is there do exist principled Republicans. And at the same time, the principles Charlie Sykes very selective.
  • Speaker 2
    0:25:17

    So We just said James Langford is one of the many Republicans who are waving away the Carol verdict, and still saying vote for Donald Trump. And you can say, okay. So they’re all empty. These Republicans, they’re all gonna support Trump in the end, and that hugely matters. But but it is true at the same time.
  • Speaker 2
    0:25:34

    That on various issues, some of these Republicans are significantly more principled than serious than others. Right? So Nikki Haley, we may despise her for many things. But if Nikki Haley becomes president, she is out there on the campaign trail defending support for Ukraine Mhmm. When her party is abandoning them.
  • Speaker 2
    0:25:52

    That matters. It matters a lot.
  • Speaker 1
    0:25:53

    It does.
  • Speaker 2
    0:25:53

    And James Langford is out there. James Langford is out there. He negotiated this border deal, and he is out there correcting all
  • Speaker 1
    0:26:01

    the bullshit that Republicans are throwing up about the deal, and he is out there saying, look, are we serious about solving the problem or not? He is serious, and he’s calling out his colleagues who aren’t. Right? He’s saying what you and I are saying, but he has credibility where we won’t. With a lot of conservatives.
  • Speaker 1
    0:26:17

    Right? Well, yes, credibility for now because, in this new Magified Republican party, the Oklahoma Republican committee, whatever, voted to censor him for actually trying to come up with a deal, trying to come up with a solution. What is interesting is that I don’t know how this all plays out because, you know, we’re saying this is, you know, naked cynicism and people are gonna see right through it. They’re just calculating that the worst things get, the worst it is for Joe Biden. Right?
  • Speaker 1
    0:26:43

    But you do have kind of an upside down world, don’t you? You have Joe Biden saying, you give me this bill and I will shut down the border. Let’s listen to Biden because Biden is taking him a much harder line on this, and I’m wanna get your reaction on the other side how progressives are gonna react to this. So here’s Biden.
  • Speaker 8
    0:26:58

    It’ll also give me as president. The emergency authorities shut down the border until it could get back under control. If that bill were the law today, I’d shut down the border right now and fix it quickly. By partisan bill would be good for America and help fix our broken immigration system and allow speedy access for those who deserve to be here. Yeah.
  • Speaker 8
    0:27:20

    And Congress needs to get it done.
  • Speaker 1
    0:27:23

    Okay. First of all, what do you think about that? I mean, here’s Joe Biden saying that he’s gonna shut down the border if this blog that’s I think safely it
  • Speaker 2
    0:27:31

    can be described as new tone, new message. I’ve been begging for this for some time. Look, I don’t know how to say this nicely to my friends who are progressive. This is not racist to believe in a serious border. The asylum system in this country has become a joke.
  • Speaker 2
    0:27:47

    A very small percentage of the people who walk into America say I’m applying for asylum, actually end up qualifying for asylum. Right? Meanwhile, we just say, hey, come on in. We give you a work permit or whatever. And we’re just waiting people in who will eventually either have to deport or won’t.
  • Speaker 2
    0:28:03

    Right? But meanwhile, there’s all these people waiting to get in legally And they’re not coming in. So Biden is right that the border needs to be sealed from people abusing the system. Right? And what this bill does is just so everybody clear on it.
  • Speaker 2
    0:28:17

    There’s a quota in there. Right? When you get, like, more than five thousand people coming in, I think it’s the course of a week. We pause. Right?
  • Speaker 2
    0:28:23

    It’s just to stanch the flow of this stuff, which is uncontrolled. Yeah. Not exactly illegal, but I don’t know what to call it, extra legal immigration. People who are abusing the asylum system. And so I love that Biden is getting out there because this is the most damaging issue for Democrats.
  • Speaker 2
    0:28:40

    What this issue says to a lot of voters is the Democrats won’t solve this problem for you because they think it’s racist to have a border. Right? Or they believe in open borders. Right? And so it’s important for the Democratic Party to say we believe in order.
  • Speaker 2
    0:28:54

    We don’t believe in racist order, but we believe in order. Mhmm. And so I’m very happy that Biden is out there taking position.
  • Speaker 1
    0:29:02

    I just wanna go back to what’s in this bill and how conservative it is. I mean, this is Langford’s point. And this is the bill that Donald Trump and the Republicans are killing right now. Okay? Increasing the number of border patrol agents, increases asylum officers, increases detention beds so that we can quickly detain and then deport individuals.
  • Speaker 1
    0:29:22

    It ends catch and release. It focuses on additional deportation flights out It changes our asylum process so that people can get a fast asylum screening at a higher standard and they get returned back to their home country. So here’s the question. You know, and politico asked this, could this sort of cynical tanking of this bill while they’re saying it’s so crucial that we’re willing sacrificed Ukraine now saying just kidding. Can Democrats actually flip the script on all of this?
  • Speaker 1
    0:29:49

    Let me just read you. I’ve I’ve quoted this in morning shots. There’s a real opportunity here where Democrats around the country can raise their hand and be like, it turns out they were bluffing. They weren’t serious. It was a sound bite for them.
  • Speaker 1
    0:30:01

    One plugged in Democratic campaign operative told playbook last night. They’ve been talking about it highlighting and freaking everyone out. Then when there’s a bipartisan deal with a lot of Democrat compromised in it then went running for the hills. So is that inside baseball, or can they turn this around? I mean, I’m thinking that If I’m Joe Biden, I make the do nothing Congress a centerpiece of my state of the union address and maybe even the campaign.
  • Speaker 1
    0:30:28

    This is all a flashback to nineteen forty eight as everybody remembers, Dewey versus Truman. Everybody assumed that Truman was dead man walking that Dewey was going to, you know, the election was gonna be a coronation. And Perry Truman went out there and gave him a hell and ran against the do nothing Congress. Is that an option for Joe Biden?
  • Speaker 2
    0:30:46

    Yes. The answer is yes, particularly how you framed it, Charlie. On the border itself and on immigration, it very difficult for Democrats to rebrand themselves. They’re the party that says, you know, Republican border proposals. Republican immigration proposals are too mean.
  • Speaker 2
    0:31:01

    And we’re the nice party. We’re gonna welcome people. Right? And welcoming is fine as long as it’s done that we’re in an orderly way. But anyway, the Democrats are branded that way.
  • Speaker 2
    0:31:08

    I think it’s gonna be very difficult on the border in particular for Democrats to rebrand. But but you raise a broader question about governing and solving problems. And there, on the general thing, I think Republicans have a serious problem. Hakim Jeffries, the Democratic leader in the house, is always saying We are the party that believes in solving problems. They’re the party that just tears things down, that just, you know, tries to create issues and wedges and stuff.
  • Speaker 2
    0:31:34

    And that is true. And here is a living example of it, right, on an issue where Republicans claim on their terms. In fact, not just that we offered something on their terms. They negotiated something. Langford and the other Republicans who were serious about this, even Lindsey Graham, They said, let’s put these issues together.
  • Speaker 2
    0:31:51

    We’re with you on Israel, on Ukraine, on Taiwan, on the border. Right? We put this together, and then you walk away from that because Donald Trump wants an election issue, I think that Democrats can run on we’re for solving problems, and they connect this to what Biden has done on infrastructure or on, you know, the veterans or a a bunch of other things where Biden has actually passed legislation, and they run against the party that just wants to have issues. And this is one of those issues.
  • Speaker 1
    0:32:18

    It’s also interesting. You know, part of the dynamic that’s coming back again is, you know, whether or not the speaker Mike Johnson, actually is in charge of his own caucus. I think he has a majority of what? Two votes right now. Right.
  • Speaker 1
    0:32:32

    Yep. So, I mean, if there was ever a moment when we would have the need for sort of bipartisan compromise on crucial issues, particularly involving the border and international relations, it would seem to be now. I mean, the fact that we’re already having discussions of whether or not Democrats should rescue him, if there’s a vacate the chair motion the fact that we’re even talking about that let’s not go there at the moment. But he’s made it very clear that he’s not gonna do anything that Donald Trump does not allow him to do. There’s no secret there.
  • Speaker 1
    0:33:01

    And, again, in the context of where we are right now, so we wake up this morning, and we’re faced with the possibility of a wider war in the Middle East. The Iranian backed militants have killed three Americans. Now this is not the first attack on Americans. I was hearing this morning the number a hundred and sixty a lot. There have been a hundred and sixty attacks against American bases or forces This was the, you know, the first one where you’ve had fatalities.
  • Speaker 1
    0:33:28

    You’ve had the Houthis who’ve been attacking shipping. And there’s no secret that, you know, Iran has been at least bankrolling these folks. So we’re at the point now where there’s a possibility of a wider and bloodier conflict I see your your good friend Lindsey Graham is leading by tweet saying that we need to bomb Iran right now. By the way, One of one of these distinctions, how much easier it is to bomb a country on Twitter than it is to be the commander in chief and to decide what the targets are and send people into harm’s way. But but Lindsey is the it’s kind of the perfect, you know, armchair thumb quarterback out there You know, saying we gotta bomb Iran.
  • Speaker 1
    0:34:11

    So what kind of pressure does this put on Joe Biden? Where do you think this goes, Will? Look, this is really serious. What’s going on?
  • Speaker 2
    0:34:18

    Remember, Hamasas attacks Israel, Israel then goes, attacks Hamas in Gaza. So it’s a contained war. Then there’s fighting on the northern border of Israel. Right? The Habalaz, like, firing rockets into it.
  • Speaker 2
    0:34:30

    Biden sends the aircraft carrier in there. What we are trying to do is minimize the conflict. Right? Because this is bad for Israel. If Israel has to fight wars on multiple fronts, you know, if Iran goes in also.
  • Speaker 1
    0:34:41

    Right.
  • Speaker 2
    0:34:42

    So the whole point is to deescalate. Meanwhile, of course, the Houthis and everybody else, the the all these Iranian proxies are attacking us, trying to provoke us. Right? So we wanna deter them, but we actually don’t want a giant war. So this is a very difficult line.
  • Speaker 2
    0:34:57

    Biden is trying to walk, and the problem he has domestically is that the Republican Party, the party running against Joe Biden, has both factions in it. Right? It has, like, the lentigrams and the Tom Cottons. Like, Tom Cottons out there saying, literally, I think his term was Biden is a coward. President Biden is a coward.
  • Speaker 2
    0:35:14

    If he doesn’t hit Iran, I believe, was what cotton demanded. These guys are saying directly hit Iran. You talk about escalation? That would be massive. Right?
  • Speaker 2
    0:35:24

    So you have these hawks in the Republican party saying Biden is soft. He’s a coward. He’s gotta do more. Meanwhile, you have the increasingly isolationist part of the Republican Party led by guess who Donald Trump, which The last time that Biden fired some missiles, I think it was at the Houthis, who who had been attacking us, Trump said Biden’s trying to bomb, you know, his way through the Middle East again, you know, with the war mongers. So the two wings of the Republican Party are conducting fight with each other through Joe Biden.
  • Speaker 2
    0:35:54

    They’re attacking him from both sides. No matter what he does, he’ll be attacked.
  • Speaker 1
    0:35:59

    Right. And that’s the through line that whatever he does is going to be wrong. I’m torn on all of this. I mean, I I think that weakness can be provocative that if there is no response, There will be more attacks. And the fact that there have been a hundred and sixty attacks without any serious retaliation.
  • Speaker 1
    0:36:15

    I’m just I’m putting an asterisk on on that is a question. I mean, Biden was asked last week. Is it retaliation against the Houthis? Is it working? Is it deterring them?
  • Speaker 1
    0:36:25

    And he said, no, it’s not. Then the question is if it’s not working, what are we gonna do next? But again, the mindless escalation that is so easy to do on Twitter I hope they’re cautious about it. I was listening to, admiral Debritus this morning, who used to be the NATO commander, and he was talking kinds of option the Pentagon might be giving Joe Biden for striking at Iran, and he thought that the best option might be to pick out maritime assets. Because they’d be easier to target.
  • Speaker 1
    0:36:53

    Very clear. No collateral civilian damages necessarily. But again, there’s not a no risk option. You know, you start blowing up warships, things happen. So I guess my major point here though is that we live in very, very dangerous times with incredibly high stakes the world is burning, you know, in the Middle East with Ukraine.
  • Speaker 1
    0:37:14

    You know, you have listened to Republicans. The border is absolutely on fire. And right now, it’s just the fiddling of cynical politics. That’s all we get.
  • Speaker 2
    0:37:25

    Right. I’m with you on deterrence and walking a careful line here. What we have to remember about what’s just happened Jonathan Last three months since the Hamas Israel were. The Houthis have been attacking us. We have tried on a couple of occasions to send messages of deterrence.
  • Speaker 2
    0:37:41

    We’ve fired back at them. We’ve hit some of their stuff and said, get the message, Right? And instead, they’ve just escalated. So the deterrence while I agree with it in principle, if it’s not working, then you have to do something more and you have to
  • Speaker 1
    0:37:53

    not Within a message then.
  • Speaker 2
    0:37:55

    Right. More than a message, and here’s the problem. Remember as bad as things are at any given moment, and this is true for any issue. Remember that they can always get worse. And in this case, they can get a lot worse.
  • Speaker 2
    0:38:09

    Okay? Remember, in Afghanistan, people were very upset. We lost thirteen servicemen. We pulled out. It was ignominious.
  • Speaker 2
    0:38:15

    You know, the terrible things happened in the pullout. Think about how much worse it could have been. We stay there. We could have had a hundreds of Americans killed. Lots of things could have gotten worse in the alternate scenario.
  • Speaker 2
    0:38:26

    Here, think about If we follow the Lindsey Graham, Tom Cotton thing, and we say, look, we’re gonna hit them a little bit harder. And we escalate let’s say hezbollah then dumps more of its rocket, starts firing more of its massive arsenal into Israel. Right? Think about a giant war with Israel in the middle of it. Do we really want that?
  • Speaker 2
    0:38:47

    That’s the debate that they’re having to have right here. And so the question is, you
  • Speaker 1
    0:38:51

    know, will the calmer determined voices be the ones that that make the decision here. I mean, you you certainly hope that because what you are getting is the demagoguery, but I you have just highlighted something that is, like, the the cognitive dissonance of the Republican Party, where Donald Trump is the leader of of a neo isolationist wing of this party that will attack any use of force. At the same time, there is this, you know, visceral, you know, hawk wing of the party which wants Joe Biden to be dropping bombs right now. And they’re not really at war with one another. It is this weird pincer movement on Joe Biden And there is cognitive dissonance, and it would be interesting to have somebody in the media have, you know, people from the various swings have, you know, a Donald Trump next to a Tom Cotton or a Lindsey Graham and say, okay.
  • Speaker 1
    0:39:41

    Which is it? You know, is bombing World War three or is the failure to bomb World War three? Would you guys make up your mind, on all of this? But so far, They haven’t really been pressed on that. Have they?
  • Speaker 1
    0:39:54

    Except that we all hate Joe Biden, and and it’s an election year and whatever we have to say to get through the election year
  • Speaker 2
    0:39:59

    and blah blah blah blah blah. Right? Right. And throughout the situation in the Middle East, Biden has been hit from both sides, not just from both sides, Charlie, from both sides, by some of the same people. So No.
  • Speaker 2
    0:40:10

    Donald Trump, we can safely predict that Donald Trump will attack Joe Biden continue to attack him from both sides. He’s weak. He failed to deter this. He’s a war monger. He’s getting us into a war.
  • Speaker 2
    0:40:22

    Right? And we can safely predict based on the behavior of Republicans that they will defend Donald Trump on both sides of this issue each time he says something on one side and then the other.
  • Speaker 1
    0:40:33

    Alright. So what are you gonna keep an eye on this week? There’s so much going on here. Anything particular that’s caught your eye?
  • Speaker 2
    0:40:39

    Charlie, I feel like those of us who recognize Donald Trump as a mortal threat. We wanted someone to oppose him. We’ve loved some of us liked Chris Christie. Chris Christie gets out in says, okay. I can’t do this.
  • Speaker 2
    0:40:50

    Nikki Haley is the person who has left. And a lot of us have said, what Chris Christie said, she’s not up to it. She’s not tough enough. She doesn’t satisfy us morally. There’s things she excuses.
  • Speaker 2
    0:40:59

    I feel like we must not let go of this. There is still a candidate in the race who is not Donald Okay. Nikki Haley is out there saying there’s twelve hundred delegates that you need to win this thing. Right? He’s got thirty two.
  • Speaker 2
    0:41:10

    I’ve got seventeen. Yes. Donald Trump is leading her in South Carolina will almost certainly beat her in South Carolina. Right? He’s leading her in all these other states, but there’s a lot of variables still out there.
  • Speaker 2
    0:41:20

    There’s issue things with the court cases and whatnot. God knows what Donald Trump is going to say. He had a crazy night after New Hampshire. He’ll have more crazy nights. Maybe the Republican party is so far in the tank that nothing can change, but there is still this candidate.
  • Speaker 2
    0:41:32

    And I don’t think we should abandon her. As long as she is viable in any way, I think that we need to be covering her and reporting on what she says about him.
  • Speaker 1
    0:41:40

    I don’t disagree with you on all of this. In fact, I’m struck by your analogy, which is basically, like, yes, the sun will go dark, and we will all be dead someday. But we ought to do the right thing in the meantime. Right? Yes.
  • Speaker 1
    0:41:51

    We need to live in the time that we have allotted because otherwise, we sit around going Why bother because the sun’s gonna go dark at some point. Right? Yeah. Donald Trump’s gonna win. She’s gonna drop out.
  • Speaker 1
    0:42:03

    He’s gonna she’s gonna lose. But you’re right. We can’t control that. Right? This is, I think, one of the most important things in life.
  • Speaker 1
    0:42:10

    Make a list of things that you can control and the things that you can’t control. And care less and worry less about the things you cannot control. Focus on what you can control. We cannot control what crazy Republican voters do. What we can control is what we say, what we pay attention to.
  • Speaker 1
    0:42:26

    And when somebody does something that’s right, we ought to encourage them. As opposed to prematurely decide that since we’re all gonna be dead sooner or later, we might as well just lie down. So this is the deep philosophy of will related to Nikki Haley. Right?
  • Speaker 2
    0:42:43

    And this gets to a larger problem that those people in the media have. The less so Yeah. The Bulwark people, less so never trumpers, but media in general. I see so much horse race obsession Can you win? Should they say to her?
  • Speaker 2
    0:42:55

    You know, you’re the polls are bad for you. Yes. The polls are bad. You know, the polls were bad for people running against Hitler. I’m sure.
  • Speaker 2
    0:43:01

    The point is you do what the you do the right thing. Okay? Don’t fuss so much. Don’t psych yourself out. Like, she can’t win and therefore, you can ignore this.
  • Speaker 2
    0:43:09

    So I think we should set aside the horse race to some extent and talk about what she is saying about him substantively.
  • Speaker 1
    0:43:14

    With you with you on this with you on this. Yeah.
  • Speaker 2
    0:43:17

    Okay. And just a reminder, Nikki Haley, she’s a sellout on a hundred things. She’s going to pardon Donald Trump if she becomes president. But Charlie Sykes Trump, this would have been true of Ron DeSantis and most of the people running on the Republican primary. If Donald Trump wins, he’s gotta cut Ukraine’s throat.
  • Speaker 2
    0:43:35

    He’s absolutely gonna turn off the spigot to Ukraine. His party is with him in that. Nikki Haley, whatever you wanna say about her, she is against the polling in the Republican Party, she’s saying, we need to stand with our friends. We need to stand with our allies. She is making the case for Ukraine.
  • Speaker 2
    0:43:50

    If she were somehow to become president, no. She wouldn’t be Joe Biden. Of Democrats are gonna be like, whoa, we don’t like her Supreme Court appointments. Okay. Valid issue, but it matters.
  • Speaker 2
    0:43:58

    The difference between Nikihili and Donald Trump matters in a hundred ways. She’ll respect democracy. I believe. She’ll respect the rule of law. Right?
  • Speaker 2
    0:44:05

    That’s my case for Nikki Haley.
  • Speaker 1
    0:44:07

    No. If people were tuning in because they wanted to see you and I disagree about all this. I am sorry. Get used to appointment because, I think that was a, compelling. And will an eloquent case that you made, and I appreciate it.
  • Speaker 1
    0:44:20

    So thank you, and we’ll do this again next week.
  • Speaker 2
    0:44:22

    Okay? Alright, man. See you then.
  • Speaker 1
    0:44:24

    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 over again. Bolebrook podcast is produced by Katie Cooper, and engineered and edited by Jason Brown.
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