Welcome to the Bulwark podcast. I’m Charlie Sykes. It is the anniversary of nine eleven, and I continue to be just really struck by the fact that, even after twenty two years, we still remember every moment, every hour where we were, what happened on nine eleven. Although, I have to say, Will, will Will Saletan joins me, of course, again. I have to say that, you know, one of the interesting things that, as you grow older is is watching how historical memory changes and puts things into different context.
Do you remember when we thought that nine eleven was this moment of great national unity and national purpose. And we look back now with a completely different lens, don’t we? Right. Right.
Well, you know, it could happen again if some terrible tragedy befalls us that forces us to recognize that we’re actually compatriots.
Yeah. Exactly. We have piece up at the Bulwark today. Really disturbing a piece on nine eleven, we promise to never forget. Will Saletan writes, but too often we forget the post nine eleven combat that’s this is a really, really, really good piece.
I just I just wanna highlight this before we get going here. He starts off with the words that I’ve never read before in this particular context. He writes, I hate nine eleven. I hate the commemorations. The Facebook post blaring, never forget, any empty declarations that we will stand vigilant.
I didn’t always feel this way. I used to religiously watch the annual Sarah Longwell, and I’d rewatch footage of the horrific event itself. Seeing the iconic images again helped steal my resolve and propelled me to stay dialed into the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan they motivated me to fight. But ever since twenty twenty one, when Kabul fell, I have come to despise the public remembrances of nine eleven. Why?
Because almost nobody speaks truthfully about the wars that followed. Now I used the anniversary to take stock of all that happened after that day of terror. I look back on my friendships and see what the wars did to us, the nine eleven generation. Specifically, I look at my two best friends, Mike and Alex and toll these forever wars took on the few who fought them. If we really want to never forget, we must remember not only the events of the day, but also what we lost in the wars followed and what we are still at risk of losing.
It is a great piece. It is a very, very powerful piece. Will Saletan has been one of, I think, most valuable and, eye opening contributors to the bowler. So, Will, we have a lot of ground to cover today, a lot of audio, and I’m sorry to say a lot of heavy lifting. Although, could I start with this?
It is a cold and rainy day in Wisconsin today this morning on a Monday morning. In mid September, and yet there is joy throughout cheese head land. I have to tell you. Yep. Because there is nothing sweeter.
There is nothing more important. There is nothing that eclipses a Green Bay Packer stomping of the Chicago bears in Chicago on opening day with a new quarterback I have to tell you this has lasted more than four hours already, and I I don’t know. And I am not going to seek treatment for this. I’m just telling you right off the bat. And nothing I’m saying is overstating, just the sort of the joy.
I mean, You see these, you know, wet and soggy Wisconsinites, and they’ve all got this sort of beatific smile. All is good. All is good. Spring in our step. Little extra niceness to Wisconsin Nice.
If you follow me.
That’s wonderful for you, Charlie. And I have to say that it with apologies to the the people of New York City. I tuned out the cowboys game when they were up thirty three to nothing, so also a good day for me.
Yeah. Well, I can’t root for the cowboys, but, you know, I’m in a magnanimous mood. I can share the joy. Okay. All of that is kind of a long lead up to doing some heavy lifting.
Alright? And I need you will to provide some perspective. President Biden is on this epic Asian trip at the g twenty. It’s a killing schedule. There’s no question about it.
There are some significant diplomatic, I would say, advances and accomplishments here, but Because we are who we are, there’s also this debate. Should we be focusing on the diplomatic substance, the diplomatic successes, or should we focus on What was a what weasely word can I use here? Problematic press conference by a clearly weary Joe Biden in Hanoi. Can I play a little bit of the sound bite? And then I wanna get your take.
Put it in context. How should we think about this? Okay. Here’s Joe Biden talking about the lying pony soldiers or whatever.
Did you ever think you’d be sitting at a G twenty conference where everyone was preoccupied with the notion of global warming? Not a joke. Did you ever think that?
Not a not a joke.
And there’s a my my brother, loves having There’s famous lines of movies that he always quotes, you know, is and one one one of his, there’s a movie about John Wayne. He’s an Indian scout and they’re trying to get the, I think it was the patch of one of the great tribes of America back on the reservation. And he’s standing with the union. So he’s they’re all on their, and they’re on their horses and their saddles, and there’s three or four engines and headdresses and the union soldiers. The union soldiers is basically saying the unions come with me.
We’ll take care of it. We’ll be everything. We’ll be good. And the Indian scout, the Indian looks at John Wayne’s points of the union, so it says, he’s a lion dog faced pony soldier. What was a lot of lined dog faced pony soldiers out there about about global warming?
But not anymore. All of a sudden, I’ll realize that it’s a problem. And there’s nothing like seeing the light.
Is it a little bit didactic to point out that he’s referring to this John Wayne movie actually the actor playing a Cree in nineteen two’s pony soldiers addressing the character played by Tyrone Power. So here they are, the dog faced soldiers, the regulars, the fifty cents a day nationals, writing the outposts of a nation. Okay. There is a John Wayne film. She wore a yellow ribbon, where Wayne is assigned to get the Cheyenne nations back to the reservation after Custer’s defeat, and there is this final clip in the movie here.
The pony soldier speaks with a tongue of the snake that rattles this. Alright. So what what do we make of all of this? Because this is the headline in the dredge report this morning, and Obviously, it comes the week. There’s all of this concern, all of this panic.
I mean, the here’s the headline in in the drugs report. Mumbling in Hanoi, president’s strange behavior, press conference crazy. They shut him off in mid answer. They had to, you know, whisk him off. What what do you make of a will?
Okay. I just wanna start by putting this in context This is not the most important thing, obviously. The important thing is that it is. Biden went there. And what we are doing, obviously, is we are although Biden said we’re not trying to contain China, we are trying to contain China.
And that’s why we’re upgrading our relationship with Vietnam. We’re meeting with, you know, India, Australia, the Philippines, South Korea, Japan. What do they all have common. They’re all afraid of China. Biden’s going to the g twenty, and he’s building an alliance in Asia.
And it’s great. That’s all great. Which is very important. Extremely important. He says we’re a Pacific nation.
This is we’re setting up in Asia what we had previously set up in in Europe, an alliance of democracies or alliance against an aggressive totalitarian regime. But this particular press conference is obviously bad, and I have to say Charlie that when I watch the press conference. And when I listen again to the clip of that, the word that comes to mind is Grandpa. Right? This is the way Grandpa talk sometimes.
In fact, Biden refers. He mentions one of the reasons why he got this story wrong about the movie is that he heard it from his brother So it’s gone through two grandpa’s now.
Oh, I see. Okay.
He’s told this story before, and he gets it wrong every time. Right? Oh, yeah. And this is what Joe Biden does. He’s storyteller, and a lot of his stories turn out to be full of what what’s that word malarkey?
So he gets this stuff wrong. Here, he’s he’s slurring his words. He’s also It’s just so inappropriate. He’s talking about climate change. Right?
And how we got from that to this movie, and it’s the Indian headdress
— He’s tired. He’s he’s he’s jet lag. Right. So — Okay. —
it’s a it’s from his era, this movie about cowboys and Indians and stuff, and that he gets. Yeah. So it’s not great, but it’s not the headline to my mind.
Is not the headline. But again, it plays into this narrative, which is just dominating. I mean, just dominating the coverage right now, you know, that And again, whether it’s, you know, fair or not, let me just read you the this is the daily mail. A sleepy president Joe Biden saw his rambling Vietnam press conference brought to a sudden end on Sunday night with his mic cut, and jazz music playing him off the stage, like he went on too long. And an award speech, Biden was mid flow and answering questions from journalists when he was interrupted and forced to shuffle away and head backstage.
We talked about stability. We talked about the southern hemisphere has access to change. It wasn’t confrontation at all, Biden said as he rambled on. Okay. So I have a couple of takes on this.
Clearly, he was exhausted. He was tired. But this strikes me again as as a staff failure. How do you put this guy out there, and then why do you humiliate him in this particular way? You know, you know, look, I am not giving advice, and I’m this this may be an insoluble problem.
But we know what Joe Biden’s strengths are and what his weaknesses are. You saw his weakness there. Why not put him mean more stable environments, the set pieces, have him give addresses, have him sit in the oval office, have him sit in, obviously, he’s in Hanoi. He can’t do that. But To throw him out, obviously exhausted, tired, clearly sort of confused in all of this, it’s like, well, And I understand that we’re gonna get people saying, okay, there you go again.
You people with the Bulwark, you’re talking about what? Three hundred million Americans are talking about every day. If you just ignored it, those three hundred million Americans would probably just forget this was an issue, except when it’s reminded. So I guess My concern is how many of these dog faced pony soldier type things are we going to have to endure between now and November? Before people come to grips with either how you deal with this and, you know, leading him off stage or how you package him in such a way that this does not become the dominant issue of twenty twenty four.
Well, it’s Okay. I don’t have any better answer. No. You and I can complain. I certainly have complained.
That we don’t see enough of Joe Biden. Joe Biden isn’t out there selling his message, selling his record yada yada. And, you know, Wizen in his basement, Wizen, And what we’re seeing in this press conference is there’s a reason. There’s a reason he’s not out there more because his staff know They they know that when he is out there and when he’s forced to go on for hours without a nap, this is gonna happen. The guy is on what this is, like, a five day trip.
He’s gone across the world. It’s, like, thirty hours. This is a lot for him. At his age. For anyone at that age.
Yeah. For anybody, you you you think that Trump would do this?
Right. And if there’s the jet lag, there’s all that. It’s it’s exhausting. And When he gets exhausted, it’s pretty clear that he gets I don’t wanna stay disoriented, but, you know, he slurs his words. He was slurring his words here.
He’s telling this old story. They give him the hook. So it’s not him at his best. And in their defense, I think they’re trying to show him being more active. And the price of it is when he’s active this happens.
They could have shown that he was active without putting him out in this particular case. Okay. So let’s leave this aside. The reason why I am so alarmed about this is because of the danger that is lurking out there that we have discussed. I feel endlessly for seven years.
And in case you missed it, Donald Trump went to South Dakota. Okay? And he’s talking about How if he’s president again, what he would do with his attorney general, you know, seeking his attorney general on an opponent. He, obviously, he’s implying the Joe Biden. This, by the way, here’s talk about the the cognitive dissonance on the one hand.
Joe Biden is completely senile, you know, and sleeping in his basement on the other hand. He’s, you know, He’s outgoing around the world doing these diplomatic things, and apparently orchestrating the greatest conspiracy against a political opponent ever. Okay. I mean, he is at the center of this web that would make Machiavelli blood. To listen to Donald Trump.
Okay. So let’s play clip number five about, Donald Trump saying they know how how he’s gonna sick his attorney general on his opponent.
But remember, it’s a It’s a democrat charging his opponent. Nobody’s ever seen anything like it. That means that if I win and somebody wants to run against me, I call my attorney general. I say, listen, indict him. Well, he hasn’t done anything wrong that we know.
I don’t know. Indite him on income tax. Evasion. You’ll figure it out.
Okay. So he he’s not done yet. You know, he’s talking about, you know, the the opponent’s doing well and what he would do.
It does. It allows me to now because this is unthinkable. I’m president, and I call my attorney general. Indict my opponent. He’s doing well.
See Willis is the fantasy world that he lives in, but he’s clearly obsessed with it.
And does anyone think, by the way, that he wouldn’t do that, that he didn’t try to do that in his first term? Right. He did. He tried to abuse justice department, that’s pretty well documented. He told people
shake down Vodor, mister Zelensky,
right, dirt. Right? To remind people, the background here, There’s a reason why Donald Trump has been indicted four times. He is a criminal. He is a criminal.
Yeah. The law is catching up to him, and that distinguishes him from all the other presidents, right, who were not explicitly criminals.
But the problem is Republicans need to sort of equalize this. They need to make Joe Biden seem as bad. So the idea is the law enforcement is going after me, so I will do the same to you. A suggestion. Now when law enforcement goes after a criminal, that’s law enforcement.
When the president says, I’m going to use law enforcement to go after my opponent. He said, like, you’ll figure it out, come up with something. Yeah. That is the definition of the of abuse of power. Right?
It would be an impeachable offense if Republicans were still capable of impeaching one of their own, which they’re not. But the point is that what Donald Trump attributes to his opponent the weaponization of law enforcement, a, they are not doing. And, b, he is explicitly saying he would do.
And I think we’re gonna take him seriously. I mean, you know, just an asterisk there if he’s elected president again, he won’t have an opponent because in theory, he won’t be allowed to run for a third term, but he’s clearly unaware of that particular constitutional provision. Meanwhile, he he got in a dig at Mitch McConnell, And in case there’s any doubt in your mind, there’s no ambiguity about what Trump is asking Congress to do. He wants Congress to defund the police. Oh, no.
No. Actually, defund the entire department of justice and state prosecutors. He wants Congress to defund the entire criminal justice system that is coming after him. Let’s play this.
The House has been working hard, but the Senate under this guy, Mitch McConnell, has been a disaster. And they should immediately defend DOJ and prosecutors who are trying to take conservatives and Republicans out of political races through indictments. And other illegal means. That’s what they’re doing.
Yeah. No ambiguity there is there.
Look, he’s calling on his political allies to abuse their power in Congress to undercut the first of all, undercut the rule of law. And secondly, It drives me nuts Charlie Sykes Democrats have to answer for this rhetoric of defund, the police, which is, yeah, espoused by a tiny fraction of the Democratic party.
But was weaponized by republicans very effectively.
It was weaponized very effectively. And and at the same time, a much much larger percentage of the Republican Party, if not a majority, is behind this idea of defunding federal law enforcement. In this case, Trying, he literally says defund DOJ. Yes. So it’s anyone.
It’s anyone who goes after who investigates a Republican. It’s the state and local prosecutors It’s the federal prosecutors. This is the Republican part. If you’re asking yourself who is trying to defund law enforcement today, It is not the Democratic party. It is the Republican Party.
Can you imagine if there was audio of Joe Biden saying, I think we should defund the police in Portland, Oregon. I mean, okay, whatever. Okay. This is a slight digression, but over the weekend, one of the breaking so there’s had so many major stories including the fact that, you know, Mark Meadows got totally slam dunk by a federal judge in his in his attempt to move his case from state court to federal court, which would suggest that everybody else is gonna have a hard time doing that as well. But the other, like, rather unusual story was the release of the original Fulton County grand jury report.
That had a whole bunch of names of people who the jury recommended for indictment, but who were not, in fact, indicted This generally doesn’t happen. We generally do not see what grand juries are doing, and and we also don’t hear about the people who are investigated, but not certainly indicted, but in this case, because of Georgia law we were, one of the names that popped up was your old friend, Will, your old friend Lindsey Graham, And for anyone who has not listened to Will’s absolutely brilliant podcast, I have yet, or read his book about Lindsey Graham, I wanted to, but just ask you what your thoughts were to see that Lindsey Graham, his name was up before that original, Fulton County grand jury and a majority, not all of the but a majority of the of the members of that jury had recommended indicting Lindsey Graham. Just giving your thoughts on this. And, of course, Lindsey Graham comes out afterwards and said I did nothing wrong. And I’m prepared to do it again in twenty twenty.
Just saying. Okay. A couple things about here. So trump gets indicted and Lindsey Graham doesn’t in the Georgia case. Why?
Okay. So one reason is if you look at the math on the, how the special grand jury voted, the prosecutors went after the people who got, like, twenty out of twenty one votes from the grand jurors. Didn’t go for Lindsey Graham. Lindsey Graham was a was a thirteen, I believe, thirteen, yes, seven. No.
So you’re you’re probably not gonna win that. Twenty mixed. Right. Also, Lindsey Graham was not directly involved in the fake elector scheme, which is central to the Georgia indictment. Right?
So they wisely focused on that in came out of it. The third thing though, Charlie Sykes the phone calls. Right? Lindsey Graham and Donald Trump each had a phone call with Brad Raffensberger, the Republican Secretary of State and George Trump said all I need you to do, Brad, is go find me eleven thousand seven hundred and eighty votes. Right?
Graham said, apparently, wasn’t recorded the same way Trump’s was, so we don’t have the exact details. But he apparently started asking questions about, you know, in these counties where There were a lot of mail in ballots, and we’re not sure if the signatures are valid. We being whoever is on Graham’s side, then maybe you could set aside those ballots and, you know, basically, deem disenfranchise all those people.
Yeah. Just throw out votes.
Right. But he didn’t actually say do it. And Charlie, the funniest thing to me is When Lindsey Graham was asked about I think this was on Friday about him not getting indicted, he said, I never suggested anybody set aside the election. This is a quote from Lindsey Graham. I never said, go find votes.
So Lindsey Graham is saying that he is innocent because he didn’t say what Donald Trump said in a recorded call. Right? Without really intending to, Graham, is incriminating Trump that to say go find votes does mean that you corruptly tried to overthrow the election.
Hey, folks. This is Charlie Sykes, host of the Bulwark podcast We created the Bulwark to provide a platform for pro democracy voices on the center right and the center left for people who are tired of tribalism and who value truth and vigorous yet civil debate about politics and a lot more. And every day, we remind you folks. You are not the crazy ones. So why not head over to the Bulwark dot com and take a look around.
Every day, we produce newsletters and podcasts that will help you make sense of our politics and keep your sanity intact. To get a daily dose of sanity in your inbox, why not try a Bulwark plus membership free for the next thirty days to claim this offer, go to the Bulwark dot com slash Charlie Sykes. That’s the bulwark dot com forward slash Charlie Sykes gonna get through this together. I promise. All of leading up to this conversation that we have to have about, Kamala Harris, because I think with Joe Biden, there are three separable questions.
Number one, you know, has he been a good enough president to deserve second term, and you could make a very strong case. Yes. But a separate question is, but is he up for a reelection campaign? And I think there’s a much bigger question mark over that. But then that leads us to the third question.
And this is where I sort of come up against it, which is like, okay. If you answer no to either one of those questions, what is your plan b? What is the alternative? So let’s say that that you think that Joe Biden is tool. So what what are you gonna do about it?
Because he’s running either the Democrats are stuck with him or they’re going to have a wide open primary in which the vice president, I think, would be a very, very strong favor. This is gonna be a huge theme throughout twenty twenty four, by the way. That if you vote for Joe Biden, you’re really voting for Kamala Harris. Correct? I mean, so she lurks here.
And, you know, and I was on morning, Joe this morning, and they were saying, well, you know, historically, nobody’s ever voted because of a vice presidential nominee. It’s never made a difference. I mean, you know, I think that’s probably largely true, but twenty twenty four is going to be an unusual year. And you know that, you know, Nikki Haley has made it very clear that she’s running against, you know, Joe Biden dead, you know, Kamala Harris a lot. Right?
And she said this over and over and over again of president Kamala Harris. So inevitably, any conversation about Joe Biden and his age has to lead to, okay, plan b, Kamala Harris. Would Kamala Harris be better? Would she be better as a candidate? Would she be better as a president?
How would she play out? Well, she was on with Margaret Brennan on CBS who asked her some really tough questions. And one of the key issues that Democrats will be emphasizing next year will, of course, be the Dodd’s ruling, abortion, the right to life. And this has become now a signature issue of the vice president who has really made this or cause. So Brandon, you know, tries to drill down on her on the question of, okay, do you draw the line anywhere?
Now for those of you that wanna push back on this, This is going to be the Republican line of attack, is that Democrats won’t draw the line anywhere. They support abortion up until birth think Marsha Blackburn is now even saying things like even after birth, but they’re kind of challenging. And this is gonna be something you can hear over and over again. Democrats to say, okay. So first trimester, second trimester, do you draw the line anywhere?
And this is what the vice president pressed on on CBS yesterday morning. Let’s play about two minutes of this back and forth. Okay? And then I wanna get your take on this way.
What is it that you believe? I mean, what week of pregnancy abortion access be cut off.
We need to restore the protections of roe versus wade. Which We’re not trying to do something new.
Well, that was the nebulous because it was about viability, which could be anywhere between twenty to twenty four weeks. And but So now no. No. No. No.
No. No. Let’s let’s let
me let me be very clear.
The women’s health protection act that Let me be very clear.
From day one, the president has been clear. I have been clear. We need to put back the protections that are enrovee weighed into law since the Supreme Court took it, congress has the power and ability to pass legislation put those protections back in law, and Joe Biden will sign that bill. So that is what we want.
But does it need to be specific in terms of defining and where that guarantee goes up to and where it does not. Which week of pregnancy?
We need to put back in place the protections of Roe versus Wayville.
You don’t mind. I’m asking you this question though because We’re not trying to but
we’re not trying to do anything that did not exist before June of last year.
We are saying It wasn’t crafted into law. And that’s why I’m asking you
specifics here because Republicans say the lack of a precise date in cutting it off. You know this. It they say that allows Democrats to perform abortions up until you know, birth
Which is ridiculous — — which is
which is — — not accurate.
but it’s ridiculous. And it’s a mischaracterization. Of the point. Now, the point is,
the point needs to be more precise.
I am being precise. We need to put into law, the protections of Roe versus Wade, and that is about going back to where we were before the DOP’s decision. And this is a very real issue. Our daughter in her twenties is gonna have less rights than my mother-in-law who’s in her eighties.
Alright. Will, have at it. Okay. So this goes on for, like, two minutes as you said. She has plenty of time.
To explain in her answer. At least the basics of what Roe versus Wade said And she doesn’t do it. She doesn’t even begin to address the trimester framework, the idea that Roe drew distinctions between early and late abortions. Right? That in the third trimester, it’s Rose says fine.
States can ban abortion. In the second trimester, Rose says states can pass laws relating to maternal health, And then, of course, Roe was modified by Casey to allow more regulation. The point is there is a lot that Kamala Harris could say here to clarify to the American public that Democrats do not support unrestricted unlimited abortion up to the moment of birth, which is exactly what Donald Trump and all the other Republicans are telegraphing they are going to run on on this issue. They’re gonna say Democrats are extreme. All Kamala Harris has to do here is to say a little bit about the row framework and how it does not allow abortions up to the moment of birth, and she doesn’t do it.
It’s basic communication. And I got so much blowback from people on social media this weekend is saying, you know, their position, these people on the left is everyone should know what Roe versus Wade says. She shouldn’t have to explain it. No. That’s your job.
You’re running for vice president of the United States, whether Donald Trump is president again may hinge on your ability to communicate with the public. Do your job.
Let’s let’s just spread this out just a little bit because this, I think, is a really crucial, crucial point. So you are Kamala Harris. I am asking you a question. So Madame vice president, do you or do you not support third trimester abortions?
You want me to answer that?
Yes. Yeah. You’re you’re you’re a humble aris right now. Okay. I’ll
try to put myself in her shoe. I mean, the answer is no. The answer is no. I mean, the fundamental distinction that I would draw if I were answering this question is at viability, The way we regulate abortion changes. Before viability, the presumption is it should be legal, and we don’t need to know about the reasons or any of that.
After viability, which is when it’s not entirely clear because it varies according to the pregnancy. Yep. But in that range of twenty to twenty, it’s not really twenty but, like, say, twenty two to twenty three, twenty four weeks. In that range, we’re gonna change the state laws about this to say that you need a good reason. Now, in fact, pro choice people are correct that women don’t generally go out there in at twenty three, twenty four weeks, and say I feel like having an abortion.
Correct. These abortions that happen late happen generally for very serious medical reasons. You know, as Pete Buttigieg has said, by this point, you’ve, like, you may have ordered the crib. You’re painting the room. You’re expecting to have a baby.
So you’re not gonna do this for frivolous reasons, but it’s fine for progressives, for Democrats to say that the law should express the moral distinction that people make, including the women who are gonna make that decision, instead of saying the law should have nothing to say about abortion at any stage of But
there’s a reason why they’re not giving that answer.
Okay? So why don’t they?
I mean, what you’re saying makes a lot of sense. So why aren’t they doing it?
A couple of reasons, I would say. I think they’re afraid on the merits that if they open the door to some regulation, that the right wing will take hold of that. Look, we’re already there. The right is already passing laws in all these states taking abortion back to six weeks or zero. Right?
There’s also the political concern that we mustn’t, you know, pick a fight with anyone on the left about any issue. Right? And I guess that’s
I think what you’re seeing here is the is the way that the absolutists dominate this debate. And you do see this in the pro life movement, but you’re also seeing it now in the pro choice movement, which is that that if you are talking to the swing voters, you look at every poll and voters make the distinctions that you are scribing. You ask them how do you feel about abortions after fifteen weeks? They’re strongly opposed. Do you ask them how do you feel about abortions in the first fifteen weeks?
You know, their strong support for the legalization. And so this debate seems to be dominated by people who represent a very small sliver of the electorate who are unwilling to say there’s any limits whatsoever. Right. And I’m just not sure that that smart politics But it’s also, I think, does defy a certain common sense
and a certain moral sensibility among among American voters. And and I’m talking about people all across the political spectrum. And on that point, Charlie, not just the spectrum, but across both genders, okay, both sexes. Look, to every woman who is listening to our conversation and saying, I can’t believe that these two men are presuming to talk about how how to control women’s bodies. Let me tell you.
Okay. This is real because I got a lot of this blowback from people. The problem to you folks who are upset about that, the problem isn’t me and Charlie. Okay. We’re just a couple of guys.
Your problem is with the public of America, including the women of America. And if you are a pro choice woman, and you are an absolute and you think the only people who don’t share your point of view are men trying to control women’s bodies. Let me quote to you some polling data. Okay? This is from The most recent Gallup poll on this issue, which was from May.
This is among American women, not men, women. The percentage of women who believe that abortion should be illegal in the last three months is sixty six percent, two thirds. Okay. But let’s go beyond that. The percentage of American women who think abortion should be illegal in the second trimester, the second three months of pregnancy.
Is fifty two percent. Forty percent say it should be legal. Fifty two percent say in the second trimester, it should be illegal. So if you are a woman who thinks you’re only arguing with men, you need to get out more. You need to talk to other women.
And this goes all the way back through the history of abortion politics. If you read some of the best sociological works about this issue, Kristen Luther, Faye Ginsburg, This is largely a fight among women. Men are heavily involved. Men are in these legislators passing laws, and I understand the complaint that they shouldn’t be speaking the same way women do. But you need to talk to more women and you need to communicate to those women and explain to them that you do recognize moral distinctions between the trimesters, between various weeks of gestation.
Okay. Let’s switch gears a little Let’s talk about the presidential race. Again, the whole dilemma of good Nikki Haley versus bad, Nikki Haley. It feels like it’s every single day that you get leguco. Yeah.
Nikki Haley is really sounding like the normie candidate and then she’ll say something like, you know, no, I will definitely vote for Donald Trump even if he’s in jail because x, y, and z. Over the weekend, we got a little bit of the good Nikki and the bad Nikki. Let’s hear clip number nine when, the good Nikki talks about cutting off funds for Ukraine.
So House Republicans should keep that Ukraine spending in the spending bill and should not separate it and should support it.
Republicans and Democrats should not pull in Afghanistan. Don’t go pulling out now. We Putin is at bottom. We know that because he’s getting drones from Iran and missiles from North Korea. We know that because they’ve raised the draft age in Russia to sixty five.
Then she’s asked about this weird flex in the Republicans right now to to basically invade Mexico. Do you think that’s a fair way of describing what Ron DeSantis and others are talking about sending our military into Mexico. That that sounds like an invasion.
Yeah. There’s the question of consent, but, yeah, we would be sending military forces into another country.
Now we’ve done that before, though. Right? I mean, haven’t we sent special forces to various places in Central America to go after drug dealers I mean, is this really that radical? I’m asking for a friend.
It’s so it depends. It depends Charlie on what happens after we send them in. Do they get shot at? Do start shooting back. Who else gets hurt?
These things can get out of hand that they have in the past.
I mean, you assume you send special forces into a foreign country to go after cartels that there will be shooting. That they will shoot and that people will shoot back. Yeah. Okay. Here’s Nikki Haley asked about that.
And apparently, like all the other Republican candidates, She’s like, nah, all in the mess.
I’ve heard some of your colleagues talk about treating the the drug dealers in Mexico as if they are a a terrorist cell. And having the military in cooperation with the Mexican government, obviously, treat those Mexican drug dealers as a terrorist cell. What do you think of something like that?
Well, first of all, I think we deal with China first because that’s the originator. That’s where it’s coming from. But I actually do think we should send our special operations over. To eliminate the cartels. We can’t wait on Mexico anymore.
We can’t wait on any more Americans to die. We have to be aggressive on this, and we treat them like the terrorists that they are.
Okay. So troops in New Mexico.
Okay. So Jake Tapper sets this up by giving her the caveat that we would do this quote, in cooperation with the Mexican government. First of all, I I haven’t heard that. I don’t know if you have. I haven’t heard Republican candidates specifying that we would do this with Mexico’s cooperation.
And in fact, when Nikki Haley answers the question, she specifically says We can’t wait on Mexico anymore. What the hell does that mean, Charlie? Is she saying she doesn’t care whether the Mexican government Ron DeSantis? Because All of these Republican candidates are telling us, oh, we mustn’t risk American men and women, you know, in harm’s way in Ukraine. Right?
We, you know, we don’t want that. But now they’re talking about sending them into harm’s way in Mexico. And they’re not even taking the offer of this would only happen with Mexico’s consent. It makes me wonder how much of the Republican position on fentanyl and on the border is bluster. And how much of it is really about doing this despite Mexico’s opposition.
Speaking of Bluster, I wrote a piece some time back where I said it used to be the cruelty was the point now, the new test is brutality, is is how much are you willing to embrace in terms of just, you know, killing people, maiming people. And suggested there would probably be a war of words there and sure enough. Ron DeSantis is doubling and tripling and quadrupling down on his, use of term stone cold dead to describe what would happen if somebody crossed the border with a backpack, with fentanyl. Now how they would know that it’s fentanyl before they shot him stone cold dead is a little bit unclear. Okay?
But he’s apparently relishing the idea that we will be killing people coming across the board and not arresting them, not giving them due process, killing them. And apparently, he’s doing this because either pulling or focus grouping or whatever is telling him or crowd reaction that there’s kind of a gonna work. Yeah. Absolutely. We just need more dead people coming across the border.
So there is this escalation in terms of, you know, how much force are we going to use and how many people are we going to kill? I mean, look, there’s no secret about it. Donald Trump is always talking about how much he admires the Chinese approach of executing drug dealers, you know, after a short trial. He’s praised, the former Philippine president Duterte for the extrajudicial murders. He’s got a real fetish for this sort of thing.
But other Republican candidates, he’d be picking this up as well. And without any blowback as far as I can tell,
Right? It’s, I mean, Trump certainly broke the mold in terms of just disregarding human rights. And the the thing about the death penalty and, you know, one day trials and that kind of thing emulating the Chinese. When DeSantis says this stone cold dead thing, you know, this sort of, to me, brings home how unserious this party is. Right?
Sirius strength, including serious military strength, includes not making threats that you don’t actually intend to enforce. It’s not just something you can say in a campaign speech. So when DeSantis says this thing about Stone Cold dead, does he really mean it? My guess is Charlie, he doesn’t mean it. And so it’s all bluster.
It’s all but if he did mean it, of course, that would take America down the road of becoming just another country that disregards human rights. And that really would destroy our country.
Yeah. I mean, the whole idea of a wall and shooting people coming over the wall. I mean, Where did we hear this before? What does this remind me of?
This is a thing that drives me crazy about immigration policy. Right? The Republican message here is we need to defend America, and Trump talks about blood and soil. Right? It’s our land.
People are coming into this territory of ours. Right? But what makes America America isn’t just the Rio Grande. Right? It’s that we have values.
Right? We stand for something. We’re not just another you know, tin pot dictatorship. And so when you hear these Republican candidates say we’re just gonna shoot people. Right?
Or we’re just gonna give people one day trials and execute them. That is destroying America. That is destroying the essence of what makes our country different.
Yeah. And of course, Rhonda Sanders has to be the not to shoot them, but shoot them dead not just dead, but stone cold dead. Okay. So this is a strange thing. And you and I, we’re talking about this off the air.
This big speech that Mike Pence gave up at Saint Anselm’s College in New Hampshire where he drew this bright line between populism and conservatism. I talked about this with Tim a little bit, Tim Miller, on Friday. How weird it is to, you know, listen to Mike Pence who, for four years, sat across from or sat next to or stood behind Donald Trump. Now saying that there are unbridgeable, interreconcilable differences between traditional conservatism, and the kind of populism represented by Donald Trump. This is former vice president Mike Pence.
But today, a populist movement is rising in the Republican Party. The growing faction would substitute our faith in limited government and traditional values with an agenda stitched together. By little else than personal grievances and performative outrage.
Oh, oh, performative outrage.
The Republican pop deals would, the Republican populace would abandon American leadership on the world stage. Embracing a posture of appeasement in the face of rising threats to freedom. Republican populace would blatantly erode our constitutional norms.
the leading candidate for the Republican Jonathan Last year called for the, quote, termination of all rules regulation and articles, even those found in the constitution.
Say his name.
Close quote. While he’s imitators, this primary have demonstrated a willingness to brandish government power to impose their will on opponents.
I’m gonna say their names too. So okay. That’s really kind of extraordinary. It’s kind of a it’s kind of a moment like, you know, long has this been going on that Mike Pence is shocked shocked to find out that this is going on in the Republican Party. And I understand that people would say, Charlie Sykes like, you know, wasn’t that you?
Okay. But I never bought into the trumpian populism and pence was right there where all of that was going on. Still, it is I I guess I have mixed feelings, Will, because Here you have somebody who is who is saying what we have been saying or I have been saying for years now, which is that this is not conservatism. This is an abandonment and repudiation of conservatism. And for Mike Pence to be saying it, I mean, you know, hey, Welcome to the party a little bit late.
I think we have some scraps left around here. I think the cake’s all gone, but know, you’re still welcome to the party. Your thoughts.
This is gonna be my pony. Right? Okay. So, yes, Mike Pence is, you know, eight years late. He’s eight years late.
You could argue he’s fifteen years late in terms of the changes in the Republican Party since the tea party, but still this is the way out. And better late than never. And even if it’s too late for Mike Pence to redeem himself, he did describe in this speech exactly what is wrong with Donald Trump and Trump’s movement from the standpoint of principled conservatism. So progressives out there, I know you have other reasons to be unhappy with pence, you don’t agree with him on abortion or do I, but the point is he is explaining to conservative people who are still of good faith, who believe in conservative principles, why Donald Trump is wrong and what the Republican Party must be in the future if it is to stand for something at all. And I welcome that.
And even if it’s too late for Mike Pence, future conservatives could read this speech. And, Charlie, you know how history Bulwark.
speech of a loser, which Mike Pence is right now, can become a beloved document, a scripture for the future about what the party should stand for. Yeah.
I’m not sure this is gonna become scripture or a beloved document, but he does some interesting points. Oh, here’s where he, in one more clip here, where he kind of slips in the dagger saying that, these populists are starting to sound a little bit like the much dreaded progressives. And he actually kind of lumps in the populist Republicans with with people like Bernie Sanders and Huey Long and William Jennings Brian.
I mean, the truth is Donald Trump along with his imitators.
There’s the name.
Often sound like an echo of the progressives they seek to replace and a choice for the American people. For instance, they argue that we can only end our crises at home by abandoning our allies abroad.
You were there.
Like progressives, Republican populace since this government should dictate how private businesses operate. And in fact, the governor of Florida still justifies using the power of the state to punish a corporation for taking a political stand that he disagreed with.
Okay. So in that clip, he takes a shot at Donald Trump by name, and Ron DeSantis pretty clearly. But you see the way that he’s framing, he’s telling his fellow conservative Republican, who do these guys remind you of? Right. So I don’t know whether that will get any traction.
My guess is it won’t, but it’s that was assigned to me that he is, somewhat in earnest in explain to conservative audiences, look what these guys are doing. Are you old enough to remember when you thought this was terrible? Using the power of the state to punish somebody that you disagreed it, you’ll remember when you thought it was terrible if we ever abandoned our allies out there and, like, look in the mirror, look at these guys now.
Right. And it’s one of the things that Pence says there that’s really important. You’re right. He names Trump, and that’s a big deal. But he goes beyond it and he says, Trump’s imitators.
And and to me, Charlie, this is the problem because Donald Trump actuarially, you know, he will pass from the scene. And the real danger in the long term is that he will have imitators. He already has one Ron DeSantis. And to some extent, many other politicians, And the what happens if the Republican party goes that route in general, and there ceases to be a conservative party? So good for Pence to say that.
And Here’s just a theory. I don’t know how you think about it. Is this happening now because Mike Pence is losing because he’s hanging out at what three percent or some he’s at the bottom of the Republican field practice. And is it the kind of thing that you’ve known in your heart all along? He’s known it for a decade, but he’s kept silent because the Republican Party was doing okay because Trump won the election.
Right? And then they all stuck together. And when they’re losing, losing is what forces you to reflect on, was it really worth it to abandon everything we believed in?
Yes. Yes. I think that’s exactly what’s happening. And I don’t think there’s any other interpretation. And and I do think that Mike Pence has known this all along.
And yet has chosen not to say it. He went along with it. He rationalized it. He enabled it. He was complicit in it all along.
So what turned him around? You would have thought that it was January six, but you can sort of see his gradual evolution where he looks at what happened on January six, and he’s now becoming more outspoken that this wasn’t, you know, terrible day. This was an attack on the constitution. Donald Trump asked him to put his political career ahead of of constitutional norms and the peaceful transfer of power. So, obviously, that was a something of a shock, to Mike Pence, but you can see that he’s now working towards saying Alright.
You know what? I have nothing to lose. I might as well just lay this out and say what I’m actually thinking Although the speech has got a lot of boilerplate in it, and, you know, it’s got a lot of the usual stuff. And there’s a lot of Reagan nostalgia.
me, I have to tell you, Will, I know that he intends it as kind of a clarion call for a restoration of principled conservatism, but it really felt like kind of a eulogy for a party that doesn’t exist anymore. I mean, he’s right in explaining the difference between conservatism and this trumpian populism, but The phrasing of his entire speech was it is a time for choosing, which, of course, is a is an echo of Ronald Reagan from nineteen sixty four. The problem, and this is almost too obvious, is that the time for choosing has come and gone, the party chose Trump, the party chose populism. The party was just not that into conservatism, and it’s obviously not that into Mike Pence. Right?
So the choice has been made.
Well, yes and no. Okay. So, first of all, I do think that we’re gonna look back at this I mean, hopefully, the in the future, we will look back at twenty twenty four, and the Republican race in twenty twenty four as a moment when there was an articulation of what the party used to stand for and should stand for by people who could not in that year end of twenty twenty four win the election. Just to go back to the the Republican debate, Right? The first Republican debate, you got eight candidates on stage, and you see six of them articulating what Mike Pence articulating here, traditional conservative values.
Right? And those six have no chance. Right? Who’s at the top? Donald Trump, who’s behind him?
Ron DeSantis. Vivek, Romaswamy. Right? So the populist are ruling the party. Yeah.
But there’s this minority voice, the losers who are articulating something different. And maybe in the future, things can change I don’t know if they can, but I don’t agree, Charlie, and this is just temperamental with me and you, obviously. I don’t agree that the choice has been made in perpetuity. I think the choice is still open, and I think that’s the message Mike Pence is trying to deliver. And he says, beautifully in this speech, I think.
He says at the end of the speech, if we abandon all of the conservative ideas we used to stand for for this populism, with this pastiche of grievances. Right? He says, we will be Republican in name only. It is a beautiful turn of phrase on Trump’s accusation that everyone’s a rhino who doesn’t support Donald Trump.
Except that I know people who said that seven years ago. You know, seven years ago, eight years ago, six years ago, and they said it five years ago, they said it four years ago. Great to hear Mike Pence saying it now. But I desperately hope that you are right about this. Certainly will.
I mean, let’s let’s end on this note. I am absolutely hopeful that you are right about this. I’m not optimistic about it, but I hope you are right.
I’ll take what I can get.
Making the distinction once again between hope and optimism Will Saletan, and thank you once again for joining me on this anniversary of September eleventh on this Monday. I’m Charlie Sykes. Thank you all for listening to the Bulwark podcast. We’ll back tomorrow, and we will do this all over again. The boat we’re podcast is produced by Katie Cooper, and engineered and edited by Jason Brown.