TF 29: The Republican Opposition
Harry Litman [00:00:07] Welcome back to Talking Feds, a prosecutors roundtable that brings together prominent former federal officials for a dynamic discussion of the most important legal topics of the day. I'm Harry Litman. I'm a former United States Attorney and Deputy Assistant Attorney General and a current Washington Post columnist. We're here in Washington D.C. to tape a series of podcast episodes in front of a live audience -- live and robust -- at the Georgetown University Law Center just blocks from the Capitol dome. This is our third episode. All this week we're talking about what happens after Mueller. What are the challenges and prospects for our democratic institutions? And we're going to be talking today about principles and outcomes and Republicans for the rule of law.
Harry Litman [00:01:03] So as the title suggests, today we're surveying the dangers and aberrations of Trump rule from the, perhaps surprising, vantage point of three prominent members of the president's own party. I would say strongly identified Republicans, dyed in the wool Republicans who, nevertheless, have found it important to express some opposition to the administration's conduct, which I think makes their views particularly compelling and interesting and courageous. So, those three Republicans: First, Bill Kristol. Bill Kristol is a political author and commentator. He's worked in many Republican administrations. He was the chief of staff to the U.S. Secretary of Education William Bennett. He was chief of staff to the Vice President Dan Quayle. He founded The Weekly Standard which had a great run as a sort of conservative standard bearer until recently. He's been fluidly in and out of government as much as anyone I know. So Bill, first, thank you very much for being here. And you've gone back and forth. Do you miss being in government? Will you return to it? Do you have a sense of which you prefer? Or is it the ability to go back and forth that most attracts you.
William Kristol [00:02:29] Thank you, it's good to be with you. I can't say the phone's ringing off the hook here the last two years. They're desperate to have me back in. And actually, I haven't been in in quite a while. I'm not quite an "in and out-er." I came here to Washington to work in government and did so with the Reagan and first Bush administrations and haven't been in since. Though I've known people in, oh. I guess both Republican and Democratic administrations, particularly the George W. Bush administration. I don't, uh, one of the good pieces of advice I got after we lost in 1992, I remember talking to someone who had been older who had been in earlier administrations saying, "You know, live your life, do what you want to do, try to make a contribution but don't be one of those people always sitting around hoping that your party is going to win, waiting for the call." It's a way to drive yourself a little crazy. A) You're party won't win all the time. That's certainly been true since the end of the Cold War. And B.) If it does, maybe it will be someone you don't quite agree with or you won't get the job offer you want and then you'll be very frustrated and better to try to do something that you like to do.
Harry Litman [00:03:25] Well I have to say, what you're doing, I mean, you are very much the pilot of your own ship. Next, Peter Keisler who's a partner at Sidley and Austin. He was the former Assistant Attorney General for the civil division and the former Acting Attorney General of the United States. He ran the whole Justice Department at the very end of the George W. Bush administration. Correct?
Peter Keisler [00:03:51] Not quite the very end. It was in between the departure of Al Gonzalez and the confirmation of Mike Mukasey.
Harry Litman [00:03:58] I see. What office did you use? Did you go up to the fifth floor or stay in the third floor when you were--.
Peter Keisler [00:04:04] You know, my original plan was to stay in the third floor, but there is a skiff, for listeners who don't know what that means -- a secure facility in the whole Attorney General suite -- which was, it was really necessary for me to reside there and it would have inconvenienced a whole lot of people if I had decided to play it humble.
Harry Litman [00:04:22] Gotcha. And the curtains you put in were just part of the--.
Peter Keisler [00:04:25] That's right. And third, Carrie Cordero. She is the Robert M. Gates Senior Fellow and general counsel at the Center for a New American Security. She's the former counsel to the Assistant Attorney General for national security and the former senior associate general counsel at the Office of the Director of National Intelligence. Carrie, thanks for being here and welcome. What is the Center for a New American Security?
Carrie Cordero [00:04:53] So Center for New American Security is a bipartisan, national security and defense think tank here in Washington. We are a think tank, primarily, of futures versus formers. So we have a really strong emphasis on growing the next generation of national security leadership and the organization was founded on the premise that there is a national security consensus. That individuals, regardless of which party they have affiliated with in the past or future, can work together collaboratively on national security issues in the best interests of the country. So, I've been there throughout the course of the last year. Just launched a new project yesterday. It's a terrific organization.
Harry Litman [00:05:35] All right, so let's dive into this topic. I want to talk a little bit about your decision to be sort of public and out front in commentary on the Trump administration but mainly move ahead to sort of present and future of assessing where we are and prospects for going forward. And let me try to set this up with a devil's advocate question. I'm always very interested when I meet friends or people I know who support the administration and here's an argument that I've heard by some people I respect. And it goes something like this: "Yes, look, he is quite obviously, is the president, a deplorable, even wicked man. And he, in fact, is no friend of the Constitution or of democratic institutions. But you elect not just a person but a party, a whole set of policy makers. I like Brett Kavanaugh and Neil Gorsuch on the Supreme Court. Maybe I like reduced taxes or whatever you think Trump stands for there. I think our democratic institutions will withstand his assault, as much as he might like it otherwise. So I stay with my brand. That's not the choice you guys have made. Why not? What's wrong with that argument?
William Kristol [00:07:01] I mean, I guess I would say there's a version of it that I somewhat sympathize with which is, you know, should people go to work in the Trump White House or the Trump administration? And I've been asked that question by lots of young people, especially looking for advice. But also that conversation pretty seriously with peers, a few of them. And I've always been not dogmatic on that. That is, I defend, I've defended actually, H.R. McMaster and Jim Mattis and a lot of other people working in the Trump administration for the country. He's president. He's likely to be, more likely than maybe even we thought six months ago, to be president for the entire four year term.
Harry Litman [00:07:34] Some people have said four five, six ,or seven. He may not leave.
William Kristol [00:07:36] Now that they shouldn't help him do. But he is carrying out the duties that he's constitutionally required to carry out. You know, he is President of the United States. So having people there who can help steer the ship a little better than it would otherwise be steered, who can sort of put up barriers to certain things, I think is important. So I'm not sort of one of those that I have friends who do take the position that just no one should go near the place. No one should work for him it's ok it will ruin your career it's a corrupt enterprise. But I don't quite take that position. Having said that, I also think that whatever harms can be ameliorated should be and whatever good can be done should be. But, at the end of the day, having a president who is so reckless about constitutional norms about the rule of law who so disregards sort of basic democratic procedures and has the character and judgment he has is bad for the country. And I think fundamentally therefore I've always been in opposition to him even though as I say I don't think you know that everything the administration does of course is necessarily wrong. Carrie, do you have thoughts on this.?
Carrie Cordero [00:08:39] Well, my original objections to his candidacy--.
Harry Litman [00:08:44] So this goes back before the election. All three of you were before the lection, you were--.
William Kristol [00:08:46] Yes.
Peter Keisler [00:08:47] Yes.
Carrie Cordero [00:08:47] It was primarily based from a national security perspective. So having been a national security lawyer in government, nonpartisan at the time, so career civil service, I objected to his candidacy and continue to feel the same way throughout his presidency that he is personally unfit. His his characteristics are unfit to be Commander in Chief. And that he presents a vision of foreign policy that's not in America's security interests--.
Harry Litman [00:09:17] And not just a vision, right? Actual forays that probably, well, would you say have made us less safe?
Carrie Cordero [00:09:22] Well, I do think the country is less safe on a variety of fronts. So if you look at the administration of the instruments of government, his refusal to fill important national security, homeland security--.
Harry Litman [00:09:33] Amazing,right?.
Carrie Cordero [00:09:34] -- cabinet positions, Acting Secretary of Defense, Acting Secretary of Homeland Security, revolving door in senior positions in the White House, no counterterrorism director in the White House, no cybersecurity director in the White House. I mean, I can go on and on.
Harry Litman [00:09:46] And do you take that to be strategic--So, so for people who don't know what that means "acting," there are some very high up acting officials in the administration, so they haven't gone through the sort of crucible and political check of confirmation and they're just there and they're also less secure in their own jobs. They could be yanked the next day. There are many more than that in past administrations. Is it your sense that it's sort of part of the chaos of the White House or a purposeful strategy? The profusion of acting people?
Harry Litman [00:10:14] My view is that it's intended to concentrate power in the White House and in a small cadre of close advisers, including the President's family, which is completely inappropriate. In addition, on the national security front, he's really presented a view of national security and foreign policy, especially, that is values free. The refusal to acknowledge, for example, the Saudi complicitness in murdering Jamal Khashoggi. In the outreach to North Korea and the embrace of dictators and authoritarians. All of that was previewed on the campaign and all of that he has continued to do throughout his presidency. I think all of that, taken together, in addition to the poor management of the government -- just sort of not paying attention to the functions of government -- makes everyone less safe in a variety of fronts.
Harry Litman [00:11:00] Yeah, that's a really good. I mean, you can see why that would be much more important than a justice or outcomes. And I would also add to that, you're a much more sophisticated observer, but there's also the sense of his erraticness and, sort of ego, and whimsical foreign policy decisions and then a desire to, sort of, stand behind them, all of which are inimical to basic national security goals, it seems to me.
Carrie Cordero [00:11:26] Well, it's impossible to discern what the strategy is and whether or not the President and some of his close advisors are working in America's security interests. I mean, we're in a position now, and this was previewed that he was going to do this and he has, where he has alienated allies, traditional allies. The rest of the world, the Western world, our allies are wondering what in the world is going on in the United States of America. And yet, he hasn't articulated a vision that is in America's interests. Layer on top of that, the willingness to receive foreign assistance in an election, and maybe we'll talk a little bit more about that, and you have somebody who doesn't seem to be acting in America's interests on many fronts.
Harry Litman [00:12:06] Ironic for a guy who, you know, is "Make America Great Again." Peter, I wondered if you have thoughts about this position, which I'm sure many friends of yours must take sort of sotto voce.
Peter Keisler [00:12:15] Well yeah, and I think it's telling that you said sotto voce because, imagine for a moment, that someone said what you described in your first question on television. So I went on television was asked why they support the president. And they said, "Well look, I agree that he's dishonest and narcissistic. That he welcomed foreign interference in the election and then obstructed justice and then lied about the obstruction and has a strange affinity for authoritarian strongmen and separated children from their parents at the border. But I like the judges and the deregulation and I think that outweighs the other stuff. They couldn't say that because it's so obviously not compelling. So what people do say is they minimize or rationalize or completely dismiss all those bad things and that's how, kind of, the norms of politics and culture shift when you have a significant body of people who are thought leaders or political leaders who feel compelled in order to be taken seriously, to treat things that we all used to think of as terrible and beyond the pale as if they're, kind of, within the range of toleration.
William Kristol [00:13:22] And Peter used the word rationalize and I -- we haven't discussed this before but I absolutely agree with that and want to just emphasize that point a minute. I knew many many people early on who did say what you said Harry at the beginning: "Look, he's a jerk and he's gonna screw up a million thing. And the foreign policy stuff's bad. But maybe we'll get people in there who can help. And I have good relations with him. I could even help get people in there who will be better. Like a Mattis or MacMaster and others, you know Gary Cohn, and lawyers can go in and maybe prevent him from obstructing justice and so forth.
Harry Litman [00:13:50] Ha ha.
William Kristol [00:13:51] And what struck me so much over the last couple of years is the process of rationalization. As people, leaving aside people on TV, it's very hard for people to hold that position. It's a hard psychological thing to tell yourself over and over. He's really bad but a little bit the lesser of two evils. And you start to rationalize and you start to say, "Well maybe he's not really that bad. And some of the things I thought were distasteful, you know maybe they're necessary these days in politics. And then three or six months later, the media's really being unfair and anyway the Democrats did it. We're just as bad And three or six months after that. You know what, I think we need this kind of change.
Harry Litman [00:14:22] He's a change agent.
William Kristol [00:14:23] -- Because, you know, what happened before that and he seems to be sort of succeeding. I mean, I generally dislike slippery slope metaphors. They're overused. But in this case, watching so many personal friends and acquaintances slide down the slippery slope from, let's say, December/January 2016. Before the administration would be gone it wasn't crazy to think that maybe he'd be better than we thought, maybe he would sort of rise to the occasion. I think I lost that thought pretty quickly, especially the day after Inauguration Day and the day after when he went to the CIA, but still even then some people were hopeful but watching people slide down the slope till now, people we all know, who I think at least my case I never would have expected are writing articles giving speeches making donations endorsing a-- a kind of full throated support -- not just of Trump but of Trump ism. Changing their views on foreign policy. All the issues that Carrie mentioned. They suddenly have decided that they were wrong, we were wrong for 70 years in upholding the international liberal order and we need this kind of America First stuff. And this is true in other issues as well. Pro immigration people. This is just walking away from that. I mean, that has been a real lesson for me. You know, I just had never really quite seen this, personally, I think, the kind of the way in which one moves from grudging acceptance to full- throated endorsement, especially as the whole party's with him and he looks like he has a shot at getting re-elected so it looks like you're not necessarily on a sinking ship. So what's the choice? If you want to be on a ship, that's the ship you have to be on etc.
Harry Litman [00:15:45] The USS Trump. I mean, it's a really good point and as a sort of inveterate critic Democrat I wouldn't have been expected to support him. I have had a similar process where he first presented as a kind of buffoon to me, a dangerous buffoon, maybe, at least in his own mind. And then he, you know, measures of -- I don't know about success but just this kind of acceptance. So I mean, Peter mentioned something that nobody talks about anymore. I wonder whether it was at all a central aspect of your own reflexive division from him. The guy lies every day. We take that as a nothing burger now. It's not even mentioned, and yet, it seems to me in previous administrations -- You kmow, Clinton told one or two and it was a huge deal and understandably -- but it's the actual incredible indifference to the truth and that on any kind of bill of particulars against Trump is quite low, it seems to me. But I remember when I was first absorbing it thinking, like, the sense of people's becoming domesticated to that habit I found really unnerving.
Peter Keisler [00:16:59] Well, I was going to say, I mean, people do become domesticated to it, but there are instances where, you know, there are crises, national security crises in particular, where it's important for the President to be able to say things to the country and to allies and be believed. And back to our childhood, the boy who cried wolf is a fable that lasted a long time because people really understand that if you constantly lie, then even when you tell the truth, people won't believe you. And I think even most of the president's supporters know that he lies. A lot.
Harry Litman [00:17:30] I would think so. I mean, we're at this--.
William Kristol [00:17:32] They don't think it's that serious. I mean, I think this is where the change of the political culture should say from the kind of occasional lie, the shading of the campaign exaggeration. You campaign with exaggerations but then you try to govern more responsibly. Fine. The whole, culture of , not just exaggeration and not just dissimulation but just flat out lying, the degree to which that's utterly normalized is really shocking. Garry Kasparov the great Russian dissident chess champion and human rights activist, I think maybe quoting, though, Havel or someone else like that, the point -- you're not supposed to believe the lies, you're supposed to not believe that there is a truth or you're supposed to sort of become just a kind of relativist.
Harry Litman [00:18:09] Well that's the thing, right? From Republicans, no less.
William Kristol [00:18:10] And that he's had a lot of success on, he's had a lot of success--.
Harry Litman [00:18:13] Totally.
William Kristol [00:18:13] -- In our political culture. "Who knows? I mean, you know, some people say this is up and people say this. Robert Mueller and his team have this 400 and X page report that says X, but some other guy on cable TV says Y." And I have this personally, again, I'm sure you two do as well, Peter and Carrie, conversations with people where they're not really going to stake out the position that Mueller is, you know, a deep state agent who's making things up--.
Harry Litman [00:18:36] Just a master tactition--
William Kristol [00:18:36] "It's confusing, it's complicated, and there's some good arguments on the other side and who's to say." And so, the degree to which he succeeded --I don't know if this is a kind of weird genius of his or just he stumbled into it because he lies all the time -- but he's succeeded in muddying the waters in a way that's been, unfortunately, sort of successful. When I say successful, I don't mean he's been . succesful as president--.
Harry Litman [00:18:55] No, no, no, I understand.
William Kristol [00:18:58] --but I mean that, in a certain way, he hasn't paid the price we would have expected. For all the kinds of failures in governance and failures of character that are so evident to us I think.
Harry Litman [00:19:08] And for that as well like that wel. I'll just say one thing quick. Muddying the waters really is the apt metaphor. As a former DOJ person, you know, the aspect, the sort of stunning aspect of recasting law enforcement and the FBI as, you know, the deep state jackbooted thugs. It's not the first time that law enforcement has fallen into criticism, but you certainly chafe at it as a former fed. And then again, I'm astonished under the current administration. I had first been very hopeful about Bill Barr, but no attempt to defend, the extent to which, really what I would have taken to be responsible members of the party, have either been cowed or have somehow acquiesced to the attitudes, is really alarming to me.
Carrie Cordero [00:20:01] Here's one of the areas where the lying that he does as a person, I think we need to be concerned is spilling into the instruments of government. So one of the questions that, you know, we're all always asking is -- and you mentioned this at the outset of the program -- is: "Are the institutions holding up?" You know, is it okay that he tells a lie -- however many times it is, nine times a day or whatever is the latest statistic-- is it okay that he tells a lie as long as the institutions hold up? And what I'm concerned about what we're seeing in the actual policymaking, and now we're starting to see this I think in DOJ litigation, is his use of pretextual reasons or made up reasons for a particular policy, that then are becoming defended as if they were legitimate, by the instruments of government. So we could go back to the original travel ban, which was a Muslim ban and they tried to implement it and they wrote a shoddy executive order and then, through the process of going through some litigation, it got weeded back. But that was the original point of it. If we look at the emergency on the border, the use of emergency though authorities on the border, it's a pretextual use of the emergency authority in order to achieve his political objective which is money for the wall. We're seeing it now on the census issue play out where you have the President saying, tweeting, acknowledging that there's one reason for the question to be inserted and now there's a, you know, how is the Justice Department going to actually defend that? And so when you start to have lawyers and government having to defend things that the President is saying are reasons for policies that are pretextual, we're starting to see, sort of, the institutional recognition of his lies being implemented.
Harry Litman [00:21:52] Right. Well, I mean, in a couple ways. First, we're seeing, perhaps, the consequences come home to roost in what's happening. The census I think is a very good example. But then within the department. Peter was the head of the whole Civil Division. The most stunning and unprecedented aspect of that to me was they weren't simply removing one conscientious objector but an entire root and branch. They took it from federal programs to another, presumably, because the entire structure up to high supervisory levels wouldn't countenance it. And now, they've had to go in front of a court and basically say, we're coming up with something, we'll tell you soon. You know, this is an impossible position to be in. I wonder if you think, you do hear whispers, I hear more than whispers. I mean, from the people I know in DOJ, the real erosion of morale, the sense that, you know, you're not, you're not wearing the the good guy hat any more. The feeling that, you know, institutional interests that are really the main kind of coin of the realm for the Department attorney are disintegrating. That's something you hear on a daily basis. You have people leaving, you have people really completely disconsolate about their work they used to feel very proud of that. And if you trace that, that's many steps from wanton, kind of, lies that a president might tell. But it infects now, you know, at the real level of career attorneys in front of a court.
Peter Keisler [00:23:28] Well, yes. And, you know, Carrie's point about the reaction on the court side, you know, was absolutely telling because, you know, in administrative law cases and the census cases, an administrative law case, you virtually never ask yourself as a court, "What was the motive of the decision maker.?" It's you look at the written record. The reason--.
Harry Litman [00:23:49] Especially if the decision maker is a government entity.
Peter Keisler [00:23:51] That's right. There's a presumption of regularity and it requires an extraordinary moment for a court to say, "We're going to say the reason you articulated in your written papers, we think was contrived and pretextual was not the real reason. And obviously, that was an argument that was made in the travel ban case, but only two of the nine justices were willing to go there. It's also an argument that's being made in the congressional subpoena cases by the President's private lawyers when they say, "Oh Congress doesn't have a legitimate purpose here because it's really political." And what the district court there said was, "I'm not going to look at Congress's purposes. They've stated a plausible reason that's as far as a court should go." And so the fact that five members of the court in a census case--
Harry Litman [00:24:32] Including the Chief.
Peter Keisler [00:24:33] Yeah, crossed that line and said we're going to talk about the motive of the decision maker, you know, it is a step that indicates a loss of credibility by the administration before the courts that I think is unprecedented.
William Kristol [00:24:48] This discussion, for me, brings on one thing I've noticed over the couple of years of this. People I know -- So we've all been in government. You three in justice and legal positions and me not a lawyer -- I'd say people I know who have been in government on the Republican conservative side have been more hostile, generally speaking, to Trump than, sort of, academics who are just in favor of, you know, cutting back administrators state, which is fine to me. Or in favor of, you know, less government and market based solutions or what other things they can talk themselves into thinking Trump is pursuing. And I do think that's because, if I had to guess -- I think this discussion probably exemplifies that -- We sort of, maybe, have a little more of a sense of how government works and it's a little bit more fragile than people realize, the norms and the habits and the institutions and we're more alarmed by what's happening internally. I've been very struck on the outside, we've used the word consequences here a couple of times, outside I have this argument with friends and it's: What are the consequences? Economic goes to 3 percent. We're not at war. Got some pretty good justices, judges. Big picture, you know, this is all kind of inside baseball and some things that you find distasteful, Bill, or vulgar or maybe he shouldn't do those things, but it can be fixed, you know, when he's out. And I think those friends of mine, I do think wildly underestimate these consequences we're talking about. The consequences for democracy, for governance, for constitutionalism, for the rule of law. As opposed to the sort of, I think eventually we'll pay a price in the real world of foreign policy. We already are. Same with economics and same with other things. But I'm very struck by that too. I think it's one thing that has kept Trump's support higher. People like us look at it I and just can't believe it almost.
Harry Litman [00:26:25] Right.
William Kristol [00:26:25] But If you're out there: The economy's okay. We're not at war. America is a very strong country and society with very layered deep institutions and civil society and in state and local government and in the federal government and in the private sector and the charitable sector and so forth and so things are chugging along. And it's not like the state of Virginia isn't functioning as well as it was, partly, mostly as well--(LAUGHTER).
William Kristol [00:26:49] I used to use Virginia since I live there.
Carrie Cordero [00:26:50] I know, so do I.
William Kristol [00:26:50] I used to use that as an example of how things are okay.
William Kristol [00:26:50] Okay, state of Ohio or something. I don't know. But, you know, things function. And that does make it actually easier to tell yourself all the Trump stuff is kind of -- people like, you know, Keisler and Carrie and me, we're just too upset about some of the stuff that we find distasteful but it's not kind of real. I think it's hard to bring home to people. I've thought about this a fair amount, why they should be as alarmed as we are. Thy haven't been as close to it as we are, frankly.
Harry Litman [00:27:19] Yeah, I mean, I think about this all the time and I'm just -- befuddled would be a soft word -- but, you know, deeply frustrated at what seems to be the indifference. I mean, you guys probably don't consider yourselves experts in this question and you're not necessarily your party's keeper but to the extent, you know, let's just talk for a couple of minutes. Why are you relatively few? What's the basic reason, you think, that these, really, elementary challenges to its core values. I mean, that in general there's an incomentsurateness of what's being weighed here. You know, when you try to get judges versus core American values. But, you know, with your erstwhile colleagues, what's the basic reason why he's been successful. I mean, again, when I first encountered him, I was for that guy because I thought he was -- I was Democrat because, you know, he was going to get mowed down. Hahaha -- But even election aside, what's your sense about the general quiescence of the party and especially, I guess you could say, elected representatives of the party.
William Kristol [00:28:26] I'll say a word, then you guys -- Presidents are powerful. Presidents who win, politicians win the presidency, especially if their party's lost a couple of the last couple of times or for the last six, are very powerful. And, as I say, nothing has gone so visible. Not that many things have gone so visibly wrong as to force congressmen and senators to sort of break from him because, you know, the way they might have if, I don't know, if there were a recession or a war--.
Harry Litman [00:28:54] Although, you know that right there, there are people behind the scenes ,I'm told, they don't talk to me, they grumble about what a tyrant and idiot he is--.
William Kristol [00:28:57] They grumble about this, they grumble about that, but then also he's powerful within the party and once he realized that he could throw his weight around in primaries and intimidate people, the combination of intimidation, go along get along, let's just suck it up, it'll be over in four years probably, what's the point of being a martyr, I think there's a fair amount of that. They're elected officials, they're not like us. You know, who are supposed to stand up and make our statements. They've got things to do. To be fair, I'd say on the more generous side to them, they are elected officials. They represent their constituents. They have important interests for the federal government. I don't mean, it's not interest in a bad way but, I mean, actually, if you're the Senator from Colorado, you have a million things you want to make a case for for Coloradans to the Interior Department, to the Agriculture Department, to the White House. And you want to have decent relations. If the whole point of having a president of your own party is that you're likely to have better luck than when there was a president of another party. People got elected in 2010, 2014. They were dealing with the Obama administration, they were very frustrated. Here's a chance to actually get policies, I mean, to be fair they honestly believe will be good policies forward. And the Trump administration is pretty clever in that way, I would say. My sense is, you guys might have better sense of this, but at the operational level they've been pretty good at, sort of, trying to help the congressmen and senators who who have been helpful to them, get some practical things done, so that these people can sort of be very annoyed: "How could he say that ? Oh my god, I'm getting critical questions from the press in the halls of the Congress and from my local editorial boards." But then I get to go out and say but we got this decision on , I don't know, a dam or something that's helped us. I'm not excusing this, but I think this is a characteristic of elected officials. They have a certain blind spots about the whole. They represent their state and their constituency. They're not thinking about the norms of the Justice Department. Some of them should be should be. You'd think the Chairman of the Judiciary Committee or something but--.
Harry Litman [00:30:46] Well we might be at such a constitutional moment. But, I mean, to refine it a little. My sense is that the elected leaders are really differently positioned from their constituents. And there is just more of a general, again this is just, you know, armchair political analysis. But general sort of indifference, economy's doing OK, etc. But, I mean, do you see the overall -- look he's not he's not at 70 percent but there's a certain stability to his base and to the leadership -- Do you see it as home grown and responsive to the electorate or do you do you see the electorate as as being fundamentally motivated differently from the elected representatives?Does that make sense. It might be -- It's not not your expertise.
Peter Keisler [00:31:32] I mean, look, at the end of the day I would say this. He has support, virtually unanimously, within the Republican caucuses in Congress because of job security concerns. Because he can mobilize their primary voters against them and we've seen that several times. So really, the question is why does he have such support out there that gives him that power and leverage. And this is not my area of expertise, but I would say this, which is that some of the things that we so strongly disapprove of, I think I may have underestimated the degree of cynicism that most people hold about how everybody in political life they think acts. You know, when when the president--.
Harry Litman [00:32:14] Which is way increased since he's been in office, by the way.
Peter Keisler [00:32:17] Yes, but he plays into that. So just recently when he was being interviewed by George Stephanopoulos and he was asked if he would let the FBI know if he received opposition research or other help from a foreign power, he kind of screwed up his face like what kind of an idiot are you. And he said said, "Give me a break. Nobody does that." Or when he said, you know, in trying to defend what he was pressing Jeff Sessions to do as Attorney General to protect him he said, "You don't think Holder did that for Obama?" So there is this appeal to this notion that I think it's probably very current among most people that what we're seeing so visibly in him is not materially different from what all political leaders and all presidents do. And the thing is it is.
Harry Litman [00:33:01] And I just want to repeat, "The thing is it is." That's really how I--
William Kristol [00:33:04] But the combination of polarization and cynicism is very powerful. So the polarization leads you to want to rally to your side and against the other. And that seems to be the choice, combined with a general cynicism. And then he makes both even more prevalent or stronger. So it is a vicious cycle right. I mean, you start off with that. But once he does this is -- this is where I've always thought his being president is extremely important and bad,really, for the country -- because it's one thing to have this free floating, a lot of polarization, free floating cynicism and a lot of that. But usually our presidents have slightly pushed against that. You know, they're not demagogues. They're willing to play partisan politics but there's also a sense of which they try to rise above it a fair amount of the time. To have a president who himself is increasing the polarization, increasing the cynicism speeches -- we haven't really had that that often and that is very dangerous. And it's one thing again to have a president who does that for two and a half years, another thing for four years. We haven't gone through a re-election campaign. What's the country gonna look like after three or six months of that kind of rhetoric. And it'll be really another thing to have a President doing that for eight years. So that's where I think the strains on our institutions, and really on the civic and the body politic, get really serious.
Harry Litman [00:34:13] And do you think that there's a strain of, and again, we're really outside of our element but of nativism to what he's doing and to his appeal or -- again I I'm puzzling over the particular entrenched enthusiasm that the base has and I don't think of this as, certainly, the better angels of the Republican Party. But here they are really, very solid.
Carrie Cordero [00:34:37] I tend to think that the economy is a big driver and I think there's a difference in terms of the opposition or support of him. If we talk about within the beltway in Washington area versus a lot of other parts of the country, I think--.
Harry Litman [00:34:52] Can you elaborate?
Carrie Cordero [00:34:53] I think in a lot of other parts of the country, I think people are hurting and they really believed that this was an accomplished business person who understood the economy and who would make their lives better. And I really believe that there are a lot of people in the country who believed that and believed that that's how he would be president. I don't think people saw what I think others of us saw which is that he's a con and that he's very good at marketing and his family is very good at marketing. That is a real skill that they have--
Harry Litman [00:35:34] Wait, let's not get started on the family.
[00:35:34] -- but that in terms of his actual expertise of the economy and how to run it and how to run a government, he really has no idea and he hasn't learned much. Early on, maybe he had some people serving in advisory capacities in the White House who were able to help him manage things a little bit or his first round of cabinet officials. But he's blown through all of those knowledgeable competent people and now we're just left with what's left, in terms of managing the government. So I think there's a difference between people who, maybe within the beltway, have supported him for political, sort of, career reasons or political expediency if we're talking about members of Congress. I tend to think that people really do look to their representatives for leadership and maybe that sounds quaint. But I think that people look to who is already their elected leadership and see what they're doing and so I think the fact that so many elected leaders--.
Harry Litman [00:36:43] Right.
Carrie Cordero [00:36:44] -- early on were unwilling to reject Trumpism and reject the direction that he was taking the party, in terms of appealing to the racist side of things -- nationalist that, you know, sort of at the exclusion of partnering with other countries are productive international relationships anti globalist tariffs, you know -- all these things that were not part of the Republican Party at all.
Harry Litman [00:37:12] Right.
Carrie Cordero [00:37:12] And all of a sudden they are. I think the fact that elected representatives did not push back on that, sort of, made people who are voters, your everyday voters, go along with it and say,"Well, if my elected representatives going along with it, then, then it must be oaky. Right?
Harry Litman [00:37:29] Yeah, well, so what about that? When the history of this is written, or now as we sit here, where is Mitch McConnell? I mean, you know, how big, you know, a cause of the whole Trump phenomenon is the the slumber of the party and especially the leaders of the party, the people who in other crises, you know, you think of this, arguably, as as a constitutional failure in the sense that, you know, we don't seem to be up to actually deploying the response that maybe the framers left for us and I've thought about that for a few reasons and why that might be. But I do come back frequently to the people who I feel certainly know better. Trump is a very interesting and odd psychological person. But, you know, McConnell and Lindsey Graham and all the, you know, what are they thinking? Do you have thoughts about that?
William Kristol [00:38:25] Well, partisanship I think is Trump and the Framers did not expect the parties--.
Harry Litman [00:38:29] Well, I mean, that's a big thing, right?
William Kristol [00:38:29] And then we had political parties and that was a reasonable thing to have, given the nature modern democracies, I believe. But the parties we had had a complex complex structure and now they've been, over the last 20, 30, 40 years, so presidentialized -- our whole public discourse has been so presidentialized.
Harry Litman [00:38:46] Right.
William Kristol [00:38:46] The parties themselves have become much more top down and then the primary system has increased the power of certain elements within both parties, I would say. And the combination of all that, I do think is meant that ambition does not counteract ambition in the way that the founders quite expected. People don't have as much of an interest in standing up for Congress. I mean, when I got to Washington in '85, the stuff that Trump is routinely doing would have been met with and was met with opposition, really powerful opposition and successful opposition, and somewhat to our frustration in the Reagan administration, even from Republican senators and congressmen. From men and women ,not just from Democrats.
Harry Litman [00:39:20] Like, this is against the D.N.A. but now there's no D.N.A..
William Kristol [00:39:20] Some appropriations committee, subcommittee chair ,would have a heart attack if you were trying to move some money around. Especially if we thought you were doing it for some not -- we at the Education Department, we would literally move eight million dollars from, we would ask permission of the Appropriations Committee this is how it works. You know, if you were between budgets, right? They used to have budgets then too, a real budget process -- you know, from one research center to another because literally the old research center didn't have the researchers anymore and the new one was doing important research on what helps kids learn -- It was utterly UN political it was based on a recommendation of a panel of experts, it was totally legit. Even so, you had to go to the Hill and make a case and they were suspicious and they, you know, "Congress appropriates money, Mr. Secretary." They would tell my boss Bill Veda, you know, not you. But then they would usually sign off if it was something more political or if you were moving the research center from the home state or home district of the chairman or ranking member on the Appropriations Subcommittee, you wouldn't get sign off. I mean, there was a degree of interest in Congress keeping its power which is self-interest but was very important. And, if you ask me, I think institutions of America I've worked pretty well, honestly, over the last two enough years.
Harry Litman [00:40:31] You would say that.
William Kristol [00:40:31] Yes, but the one that's failed. the most, well, the two that have failed the most are Congress and the Republican Party. Obviously, those two are intimately involved with each other and that is, that is worrisome.
Peter Keisler [00:40:43] And the point that, you know, I think just needs to be made is that what's at issue here are things that really should transcend politics and partisanship. I's hard to find any single incident that's a microcosm of what's wrong. But if I had to pick one, it was the story that the former Secretary of Homeland Security was warned that you really couldn't bring up with the President, the issue of what steps needed to be taken to safeguard the election infrastructure against foreign interference or other types of attacks because he was incapable of hearing the subject without thinking of it as an attack on the legitimacy of his own election. So you have an area which is important, which would be very much helped by presidential leadership within the executive branch, but he is psychologically incapable or unwilling of seeing it in any terms other than extremely narrow narcissistic ones. And you know, every president we've had, I think, including some very bad ones, including ones from both parties. You generally get the sense that they've understood that they're part of something bigger than themselves and that they're stewards of institutions that stand for really deep values. And he doesn't convey that he even comprehends what that could be about or why anyone other than the biggest loser and sucker in the world would even think of something that way. Because life is just a personal quest for dominance, I think, in his perspective. And so, to have someone as president who doesn't, as Carrie said, think in terms of the national interest but thinks instead of his own personal interests in so many different ways that he cannot even listen to a presentation about the need to safeguard our election infrastructure, that is different from anything we've seen before.
William Kristol [00:42:36] You know, that's extremely well said.
Harry Litman [00:42:37] It was, Pete.
William Kristol [00:42:37] I would certainly second that. And speaking of the framers and the founders though they're more famous for Federalist 10 and 51, and ambition, countering ambition, but if you actually read the papers, especially the papers 67 to 77 on the Executive, there's an awful lot of thought that was given to the president and, personally, to his personal character and judgement because the founders were not foolish and they knew that, at the end of the day, if you're gonna have one president and they very much believed in having only one presiden, a unitary executive as we say these days, that a lot depended on that president being a person of decent character ,good judgment, quality they care -- this was the idea behind the Electoral College that quickly went away--.
Harry Litman [00:43:19] Right.
William Kristol [00:43:19] The party establishments, in some ways, became, you know, a sort of more democratic echo, you might say of the Electoral College, where presumably the party bosses would try to make sure that at least someone, not someone too responsible got in there. Not someone who's totally a narcissist. There were other checks within the system, within the culture, I would say. But it's hard. I mean, you can have all institutional checks you want. All the balances. All the capable law cases, ,you know legal cases being brought. But if you have a president who is, as you both said very well, genuinely just doesn't have any real concern for the national well-being or for institutions just beyond himself, it's hard, that has real the potential of doing real damage.
Harry Litman [00:44:05] I mean, somewhere in the 10, I don't know which one, is an actual prospect of the people's coming to elect a celebrated figure. Now which is the equivalent of, like, a reality TV star.
William Kristol [00:44:16] No, but I think that explicitly Hamilton says that that could happen at the state level. You know the states, they're small, they're subject to demagoguery--.
Harry Litman [00:44:24] Factions.
William Kristol [00:44:24] We have this electoral college, I mean, this is why it's surprising a percentage of the pages on the executive are about the Electoral College--.
Harry Litman [00:44:30] Which they thought would control most elections, actually--.
William Kristol [00:44:30] Becuase they thought it was extremely important. What's that about? That's not about the internal structure exactly, the executive or the veto or the nomination of justices, It's about the actual character of the person who's going to become president. They knew that was something that mattered. And it is really striking. I mean, we have had presidents who were of mixed qualities in many ways. We have never really had a flat out demagogue as president. We've had people use some demagoguery to get to the presidency, who every Democratic politician does, I suppose, every politician does. But typically as president, they haven't too much. Let's just put it that way. We have a president who, literally, hasn't cut back at all. I mean, if anything it's even more than it used to be. And that's a rough experiment for a democracy to go through. A president, the most powerful person of the country, constantly demagoguing, constantly inciting, constantly dividing--.
Harry Litman [00:45:21] Constantly lying.
William Kristol [00:45:23] You know, it's one thing to have a Joe McCarthy. He was a Senator. He did a lot of damage for three or four years, but he's a senator and he ended up getting overtaken by events and by his own party. George Wallace was a governor or presidential candidate, won five states. That's very different from having an actual President of the United States.
Carrie Cordero [00:45:41] Well, this is the difference between 2016 and 2020. I mean, why in the world is this person going to be the nominee again? I mean, because there are so many people--.
Harry Litman [00:45:50] I'm with you, Carrie.
Carrie Cordero [00:45:50] -- there were plenty of people, some of, Peter, our Checks and Balances colleagues even, who have, you know, formed it with us now but who during the campaign held out hope that despite his inexperience in government that once he got in office he would A) Surround himself with knowledgeable and experienced advisers and, B) Rise to the role and understand the gravity of the importance of the institutional role of president. He's done neither and he's done all of the other things that we've seen now, continues to lie, according to the Mueller Report has engaged in anywhere from four to six to ten evidenced based acts of obstruction of justice. And yet, this is going to be the nominee again. I mean, how is that even possible?
Harry Litman [00:46:39] Yeah. In fact, so, you know, I thought that the very last consideration or discussion would be forward looking in this way. So I started our discussion with a kind of counterpoint to where you might be and where some friends might actually occupy. Let me try to end things with a Checks and Balances Republicans For the Rule of Law on steroids. You know, take it to the other side and say, let's say he's reelected and it's 2024. What are the prospects for historians actually marking the Trump administration as a time when the American Republic took, sort of, a giant step, you know, where a kind of failure began and we became more like a Turkey or a Greece. You know, whatever you want to say, but something that where obviously the failure of institutions have led to a kind of reconfiguration, ongoing, of the republic. Now that's a very grim prognosis. Maybe you don't want to go that far. But, you know, what are your thoughts about, you know, putting it in it's, sort of, darkest terms.
William Kristol [00:47:48] I mean, eight years is much more dangerous than four years. We know that for a -- presidents who were re-elected have a kind of impact on American history that one term presidents don't and in this particular case, given everything he's done, as Carrie suggested, that I think it would be pretty startling -- It's very disappointing that he could be re-nominated, but it would be pretty startling and worrisome if he were re-elected. I think the damage that can be done to the international orde would, at first, be greater almost than to the domestic order because it's more fragile. And because I've talked personally to foreign leaders and ambassadors and so forth, you know, four years, we're kind of gonna work this out. We're going to work around him. We'll be nice to him, you know, we'll figure out how to keep the alliance structure together, despite him. You can do that for four years. Eight years? Not so much. At eight years, you start to think to yourself, "Where is the American public on this?" It's not as if we can count on, you know, things coming back to "quote" normalcy. The other dark thing, if we're going to close on a dark note, I would say is he could lose, the next Democratic administration, if it we're democratic. I mean,assume the Democratic Party administration, you know, could easily have troubles in Libya, recession finally will hit or we'll pay price for some of these foreign policy challenges. Then, I'm not confident, I will work hard for this, but I'm not confident the Republican Party goes back to normalcy at that point. Who knows if it doesn't go to a Trumpier--.
Harry Litman [00:49:04] Rght.
William Kristol [00:49:05] "The problem with Trump is that he was kind of a feckless, you know, authoritarian nativist and what we need is a much more hard nosed one." You know, they're historical examples of that, actually. So I think there's a lot to worry about. Ultimately, I'm not despairing, but there's a lot to worry about in terms of the health of the system here, whether he wins or loses, though I think much more particularly if he wins.
Carrie Cordero [00:49:26] Well I'm not willing to entertain yet what, sort of, the post 2020 second term Trump administration is because I think so much of the work of anyone of any political persuasion, no matter what party people affiliate with, the goal should be over the next 18 months, to stand up for rule of law issues, continue to say that it's not okay for the president to attack judges, verbally attack judges, go after prosecutors, try to influence prosecutions, obstruct justice. I mean, all of these things are not okay. And so, I am hopeful that there are those who are on the extremes of the political process will not prevail in 2020 and that the bulk of America, which I think does want a values based foreign policy, a steady hand on the economy, respect for our judges and our prosecutors and our system of justice, that that will prevail somehow in the middle. But we'll see.
Peter Keisler [00:50:35] Yeah and I agree with all that. You know, Harry, you've asked a lot about history and how it will look back. I mean, I think if the president is repudiated at the polls in the next election, then there will be an opportunity for there to be an understanding and a narrative that he was repudiated because of, among other things, some of the things that we've been talking about and that could create an opportunity to re-establish and reaffirm some norms. If he is not repudiated, you know, people develop their understandings of what's appropriate and what's acceptable a lot by just looking around them and seeing what cues the larger culture gives them. And if he gets re-elected that would be a big big cue in the wrong direction.
Harry Litman [00:51:19] It's been a really great discussion. Bill, Carrie, Peter thank you very much for for coming and for engaging and I might say for all the work you're doing and continue to do. Would you join me please in thanking our panel?
Carrie Cordero [00:51:32] Thank you.
Questioner 1 [00:51:36] So you've talked about how Trump is the candidate again. Is there even the slightest possibility that another Republican candidate could become the Republican candidate in 2020 and, if so,, like how would that even happen?
William Kristol [00:51:57] So there will be a challenger to Trump, at least one, I think more than one and we've all -- some of us have been working hard on this, a little disappointing so far in a couple of people choosing not to run. But we'll see how serious the challenges are, how much they are more nuisance challengers but nuisances can still be nuisances and useful in framing certain issues. I mean, you know, the way you would have to be defeated would be -- it doesn't happen that often in modern American politics and has happened in the past. Lyndon Johnson wanted to be re-elected president and renominated by the Democrats and wasn't. Withdrew from the race in 68. I think you'd probably need, honestly though, you know, an external shock to the system. A manifest failure. The trouble right now is people can tell themselves too easily, as we've been saying, you know, the economy is okay . No obvious, no wars. So, you know, what's the huge huge crisis here. You know, I think I think a challenger would get more votes than people think but not enough to win the nomination. So, if the economy slowed down, the economy is just a huge wind under Trump's sails or wings or whatever the metaphor is. I mean, there is a hardcore Trump base and that's what the media is most interested in. Carrie was kind of touching on this, but there are a lot of reluctant Trump supporters. There are a lot of people who don't like him, they kind of suspect he's doing some of the damage we've been talking about. But, you know, "What's the alternative and the Democrats look like they might go left and they're terrible, even worse. We'll just have to suck it up and accept him." A lot of that is based on the economy being pretty good and I do think if we had a recession, which we might, there's still a business cycle, presumably. Then, suddenly, all that rationalization maybe gets a little less strong and people get a little more alert to the other problems. You know, we joke always, famous cliche you know the trains run on time and Mussolini the trains run on time.
Harry Litman [00:53:38] They're not running on time anymore.
William Kristol [00:53:38] I went back and looked at this for five minutes. I don't, I think I'm right about this. It was important to the success of Mussolini, I mean, in the real world in the 20s, in fascist Italy that it did work pretty well. Who knows if it really worked well but it seemed to work well and it was really important for the Germans under Hitler, not to use the Hitler comparison, which I don't like, which we've managed to avoid so far, that his economy did better in the 34, 35, 36 than America and Britain and so fascism had a certain kind of common sense--
Harry Litman [00:54:04] Oh, not just Weimar, it did better than the U.S. economy--.
William Kristol [00:54:04] No, Weimer was terrible-- Yes-- They had a huge Keynesian--.
Harry Litman [00:54:04] It's like a Keyesian thing, right?
William Kristol [00:54:04] No, they did--.
Harry Litman [00:54:04] Public works.
William Kristol [00:54:04] Public works, armamements, all the stuff that took us out of the Depression--.
Harry Litman [00:54:04] Free labor.
William Kristol [00:54:04] One doesn't want to even joke about this but -- all I'm saying is that he's been helped a lot by by the economy and if he had a recession, I think is the one thing, or terrible foreign policy crisis -- which none of us is rooting for -- would be necessary. Like Johnson, I would think of that metaphor that analogy to really deny him the -- or maybe things spinning out of control so much here, him seeming so manifestly out of control, that people just kind of get horrified by it. But, I don't know ,Carrie's shking herr head. I mean, we've seen an awful lot of out of control behavior that people have managed to not be as horrified as they should be.
Carrie Cordero [00:54:56] Tweeting about nuclear weapons.
Questioner 2 [00:54:58] Yes. I have a question. Your producer has a question. So the Republican Party of my youth was very much a national security focused party. And now there seems to be, it seems like we have a national security threat in the White House, right? So let alone any decisions or any cooperation with the foreign party. How about just the ability to be influenced by your previous misdeeds as a national security threat. You know, like there's many many people that weren't able to fill out their paperwork, right? So to get the right amount of clearance, so what are we talking about in terms of a party that was so focused on the rule of law and so focused on security. Just turning an eye and saying, "Meh."
Carrie Cordero [00:55:45] Well, I think that's been, certainly, a surprise to many who work in national security. I mean, I think most voters in the country are not necessarily making their voting decision based on national security issues. That's a smaller subset of people, but within the professional national security community in Washington there's been a huge surprise at the shift of, at least, where Trump has taken Republican Party positions as it relates to world affairs and foreign policy and America First and nationalism and, as I said, what I view as as a values free foreign policy. That's been a change and so there's that, I think that's one of the reasons why the national security community the Republican part of the national security community has been some of the most outspoken, in addition to lawyers, people who have worked in the justice system have worked in the Justice Department. I mean, it's not an accident that those of us who have worked in either or, for my part, both of those worlds and Peter as well are some of the most vocal opponents to Trumpism.
Peter Keisler [00:56:58] I would also say that I think the Republican Party of our youth was unified on foreign policy by opposition to the Soviet Union and communism. And that may have papered over some of the fractures that may have always existed with some strong elements of isolationism and what the president calls America firstism, which isn't, obviously, new to him. And so I think, to some extent, in the post-Soviet world there was a lot more room for those inherent differences to come to the surface.
Questioner 3 [00:57:36] So everyone kind of talked about Trump's persona and, you know, that could be harmful to the the social climate, the political climate versus Trump's actual policies or the judges installed through through the Trump administration. And so, my question would be how do we go about, you know, as attorneys or people with political knowledge, I mean, that's one thing right. But how do you go about explaining that to the general public, the distinction there, the distinction, that you know, Trump's politics and the institutional harm that could be caused by the norms that are being or, I guess, the behavior has been normalized by the administration.
William Kristol [00:58:09] Yeah. I mean. People can tune out a lot of things if they want to and if and I do think the degree to which Trump has corrupted public opinion, to some degree. I mean, people didn't vote for Trump, necessarily, for terrible reasons. They felt, you know, they had wage stagnation. They felt that the elites were out of touch. The party seemed to be giving them Jeb Bush. The Democrats gave them Hillary. Oh my God, we want change and we're gonna get another Bush and another Clinton and so forth. But then they do have also resentments and prejudices, honestly, and we all do, I suppose, and if a president seems to harp on them and legitimize them and use them as explanations for why people are unhappy with other things, then people, sort of, start to enjoy indulging their prejudices. I do think that's one of the most worrisome things that Trump has done. I mean, people have made this point that the cruelty is not a bug it's a feature, in some respect, that it's liberating. People like it. It's fun to go to the Trump -- I gather, from people who do -- to go to the Trump rallies and say things that you kind of didn't think you were supposed to say. You sort of half thought them, but you wouldn't say it in polite company. Maybe you wouldn't say in any company three years ago. Maybe you didn't really think it three years ago but you sort of thought you shouldn't think it but that's how the world works. People then decide, okay, you know what, this prejudice seems like it's legit to say. The President of the states is sort of saying it. We're chanting it together at the rallies. Lock him up. I mean, the degree to which -- people are complicated and the people who say, 'Well, that was always there and the Republican Party it was under the surface." Well, yeah, that's always there in people period, in some respects. Some of it was there more strongly one party, some in another. But once it sort of legitimized and rewarded in some ways and seems like it's the wave of the future, it can get very, sort of, enticing to people. So I think that's the flipside of your question, which is why the resistance to, "Jeez, this is America and we're separating parents and children at the border and these children are being kept in terrible conditions and, like, no one thinks we should just that this is just terrible, regardless of your position, ultimately, on asylum policy or refugee policy or immigration policy and arm in arm with this brutal horrible North Korean dictator" -- again, regardless of whether, ultimately, you're an interventionist or a non-interventionist or you want a very values based or only moderately values based foreign policy. This is, like, unbelievable that he's saying these things about Kim. But somehow, that stuff just slides off, it seems like. Compared to people having a chance to indulge their, I don't know what exactly, anxieties and prejudices. And,I would say, this is where I come back to the economy though and doing so in a way that is cost free. It's one thing, I think, if people would think twice, if the price, so to speak, of indulging in a politics of anxiety and prejudice and a certain amount of bigotry and so forth, if the price of that was like, Jeez, suddenly the standard of living is collapsing, you know. But that hasn't really happened yet. So they get the best of all worlds. They get to be totally irresponsible and, sort of, indulge, enjoy the demagogic politics in which we're now living, without paying much of a price because enough of the responsible politics still exists that it keeps things on course. They're not actually pulled over by secret police at 2 a.m. and taken away, you know, that would sort of wake you up pretty quickly to the as to the dangers of this kind of politics.
Harry Litman [01:01:17] Thank you very much to Bill, Peter, and Carrie. And thank you very much, listeners, for tuning in to Talking Feds. If you like what you've heard, please tell a friend to subscribe to us on Apple Podcasts or wherever they get their podcasts and please take a moment to rate and review this podcast. You can follow us on Twitter @talkingfedspod pod to find out about future episodes and other Feds related content. And you can also check us out on the web at talkingfeds.com where we have full episode transcripts.
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