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Dotcom cricket. Welcome to Party of America, I'm John Favreau, I'm John Lovett and Tommy Vietor on today's part, I talk to Will Smith. Yes, that Will Smith about his new docu series on the 14th Amendment. And before that, we'll talk about the next steps. Uncovered relief now that a 15 dollar minimum wage may not be included in the final legislation.
We'll also talk about what went down at CPAC over the weekend, including Donald Trump's first speech since leaving office and his threat to run again. But first, a few quick housekeeping notes. Lovett, tell us about the show this weekend. Look, I've said it before. But this is really a barnburner episode. All right, Eik Barenholtz, Shey Sorano Lobi, Fran Lebowitz, why would you burn the barn?
I don't know why a barn burner is good. I don't either, but it was. Fran Lebowitz tolerated me. She made some headlines. Yeah, she did, she did, she did not know what Star Wars was about based on the title when she saw it in the theaters, so something but it was great to check it out, check it out.
Be sure to also check out the latest episode of Rubicon, where Brian Beutler and Matt Yglesias have a thoughtful, informative discussion and debate over President Biden's promise to forgive student loan debt. And over on our YouTube channel, check out a fantastic new video featuring our political director, Shaniqua McLinden. She interviewed Representatives James Clyburn, her former boss, Alma Adams, and Cory Bush about their experiences at historically black colleges and universities, shaped their perspectives and impacted their careers.
Check it out.
Can I just say that Schneekloth video is fantastic? I found Brian's conversation about student debt to be informative and eye opening. But can we just talk about interviewing Will Smith? Like, I don't know that I could be normal, like someone. I feel like I've known him so well for decades on TV. I don't know that I would be able to get past it.
It was hard because I felt the same way. I was actually talking with Tony about this before, right after the interview. Like, I feel like so much of our childhood just where that h was was Will Smith, Fresh Prince. All right. Movies like Famous.
Then there's like Will Smith famous, which is Welcome to Earth Friend.
Yeah. Yeah, fantastic movie. Anyway, I tried not to be too starstruck and just stick to the word just means I am a serious I'm a serious reporter, journalist, serious reporter or journalist, journalist. I'm sure three journalists tried to play it, John. But, you know, John had him citing the Harper's letter by the end. It was good conversation.
Look, we have the same job as Jake Tapper and Barack Obama. That's just the reality of our experience.
Boy, if we don't hear from Jake, it'll prove he doesn't listen. Right.
Please don't snitch tag. Thank you. Let's get to the news.
Early Saturday morning, the House of Representatives approved President Biden's one point nine trillion dollar American rescue plan.
It includes fourteen hundred dollar direct payments, an extra four hundred dollars per week, and unemployment benefits through the fall, a tax credit that would cut child poverty in half and hundreds of billions of dollars for vaccinations, schools and state and local governments. The bill passed two hundred and nineteen to two hundred and twelve with zero Republican votes and two Democratic defections. Were you guys surprised that not a single House Republican voted for a piece of legislation supported by nearly 70 percent of Americans, not even the Republicans who represent districts that Biden won love?
But what do you think the calculation was there?
I was a little surprised. I didn't expect some massive influx of Republican support. But I figured if there's, you know, a couple of votes for removing a criminal president, there might be a couple votes for helping people during the pandemic. We talked about this last week as the Republican message changed from kind of arguments against the bill writ large and more arguments seemed designed to keep Republicans in line. And I guess it worked. I you know, I was surprised that there weren't a couple of defections.
Tell me, what do you think the calculation was there for, like someone in a moderate district that Joe Biden, one of your Republican, voted no?
I suspect what happened here is the Republican Party has decided that their strategy is just going to be opposing everything Biden does. They're running the exact same play that they ran in 2009 against Obama. And I also imagine there are a bunch of Republicans who would tell you off the record that they wanted to be for this bill, because we know that there are Republicans in states who vocally support the legislation. Right.
Like the the Republican governor of liberal West Virginia supports this plan and actually criticized the Republican version. There was a letter signed by thirty one Republican mayors urging approval of the bill. I believe it was led by the mayor of liberal Oklahoma City. Right.
So the Republican base isn't even worked up about the covert relief package.
So it wasn't like a CPAC conversation. So I think what happened was in Washington, you have a bunch of members of Congress who get whipped really hard by Republican leadership and they're scared to go against those leaders because they can be punished in a variety of ways. And they're all just making this big long term bet that blocking Biden from getting anything done is the way to run against him in twenty, twenty two. And I don't know, maybe that's a smart bet, but, you know, I bet it creeped up on them how popular this bill has become because as we've gone on, you're seeing numbers in the 70s all of a sudden when you talk about the approval and I wouldn't want to be against anything with 70 percent approval personally.
I think you're right on the obstruct, Biden, no matter what strategy, which is, of course, the same strategy, they ran against Barack Obama in 2009. And you can argue with some success, of course, in the 2010 midterms. I think on this legislation specifically, they're thinking if things don't improve by twenty twenty two, if like the vaccination rollout does not go smoothly, if the pandemic is still around, if the economy is still bad, then if you voted no, you can blame Biden and this bill and say that you had no part on it.
If things do improve, then you can just pretend the bill never happened and you can fight on other issues that are more politically favorable to you, like some of the issues that we're going to talk about that were raised at CPAC. That seems to me the the calculation there.
So the 15 dollar minimum wage was included in the version of the bill that passed the House, but it may not survive now that Senate parliamentarian Elizabeth McDonough has advised that the provision does not have a big enough effect on the federal budget to qualify for the reconciliation process, which allows legislation to pass with 51 votes instead of a filibuster proof 60. Love it. Why would Democrats, especially Budget Committee Chairman Bernie Sanders, cautiously optimistic that the parliamentarian would rule in their favor on this?
So one big reason was that the parliamentarian had previously ruled that drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge was a measure that wasn't incidental to the budget but actually impacted the budget. And a minimum wage increase has a much bigger impact on the budget is much less incidental in the sense that when you raise the minimum wage, people that make the minimum wage pay more in taxes. And more importantly, companies no longer get subsidized by taxpayers to underpay their workers while they get public benefits.
So there were some hope that given the big impact this would have on the budget and how much that's been part of the message actually that that the parliamentarian will get it through.
Yeah, I mean, even you know, more specifically, the Congressional Budget Office concluded that raising the minimum wage to fifteen dollars an hour would increase the budget deficit by fifty four billion dollars over 10 years. So I just I guess I am baffled by how these parliamentarians make decisions if fifty four billion dollars is seen as is merely incidental in terms of its impact on the budget.
I just the more I learn about this process, the more nothing makes sense. It's like everything's got to pass these birdbaths provisions unless they don't, in which case you just ignore them. It's like, what are we talking about?
You have to know Bernie's mind. You have to know Bernie's mind. He was yes, there was a big budget impact, but that wasn't his goal in his mind in the provision. We had the CBO on our side, we will we'll see your Senate procedural nerd and we'll raise you a CBO, CBO score, Congressional Budget Office, also a nonpartisan scorekeeper, as we used to say in our speeches for Barack Obama, the nonpartisan scorekeeper at the CBO.
And then you'd be like, oh, yeah, well, everyone has to pay attention to that person. Republicans were like, fuck that. We don't care, but not us, not as Democrats when the Senate parliamentarian speaks.
OK, that's a rule for sure.
Yeah, she she came down from the she came down from the mountain with the tablet and it said it does not qualify Democrats, not a fan of the take some money when you're on a free parking monopoly rules. They really they go by the book. So the question is, what happens now, Democrats have a few options. One, Vice President Kamala Harris, in her role as the Senate's presiding officer, overrules the parliamentarian, which Democrats and Republicans have both done in the past.
As recently as 2013 to Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer can replace the parliamentarian with someone who will give Democrats a favorable ruling, which Republicans did to pass George Bush's tax cuts in 2001. Three Senate Democrats can vote to eliminate the filibuster and just pass the whole bill.
That way for Democrats can try Ron Wyden and Bernie Sanders idea to tax big companies that don't pay a 15 dollar minimum wage and incentivize small businesses that do, though they have now reportedly abandoned this plan. Or five, they can all give up and try to do this some other time. Tommy, what do you think? What are the pros and cons of some of these options and what do you think they should do? We should say that right now it looks like they have chosen five yet to give up and try again.
I mean, look, I think the guiding principle should be do things that help people and then stop caring about the process for how they get done. Right. I mean, one of the biggest process failures in recent history was Mitch McConnell stealing a Supreme Court seat from Barack Obama. And not only did he not pay a political cost for it personally, but the Republican Party benefited enormously and in the long run, by getting another justice on the Supreme Court.
So like all things being equal, if I were to start this minimum wage process from scratch, I would say get rid of the filibuster first, because that is one process change that unlocks the minimum wage increase. And then a whole bunch of other stuff that you really want to do creates this one big explosive moment for Republicans to complain about in the press to report on. And then going forward, you just do stuff. But since we're debating this right now, I am intrigued by this option of having Vice President Harris just ignore the parliamentarian again.
I this to me underscores how stupid this whole process is.
Like you can only pass things through reconciliation if they're ruled in order with the Byrd Rule, unless you just ignore the Byrd Rule. It's it's absurd to me. I guess the challenge becomes, can you get all 50 Senate Democrats to vote for it? In that case? I'm not sure about cinema. I'm not sure about Joe Manchin.
Now, the data for progress polling on the minimum minimum wage increase found you can get up to like sixty one or sixty two percent approval when you describe all the things that it does. So it's quite popular. But they also found that that support dips into the high 40s. If you do it through reconciliation, I assume because it's perceived as more of a partisan effort, I just think the most likely outcome is that 90 plus percent of the country never knows or never cares about how this thing is passed.
And they just see that in five years, the minimum wage is is maybe we're closer to where it should be and that people really ultimately just care about the outcomes, not how you got there, but that those will be my recommendations right now. Love it, here's what I don't understand. So I think that on the option where you either fire the parliamentarian or overrule the parliamentarian from the Biden administration's perspective, they're thinking, OK, we can do that, but we're still we still have to face Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema.
And even if we can get it in the final package, what if those to say we're going to take this whole bill because you overrule the parliamentarian or fired the parliamentarian?
We don't think you know where we're trying to uphold norms here. That's what they're big on the norms.
But so I get that.
But why not try and then sort of just put the ball on their court?
Yeah, I mean, like, you know you know, you have to do that because to me it seems like, you know, and Jen Psaki at the briefing today said, we don't intend to overrule the parliamentarian, which I guess firing the parliamentarian would not be the right administration. Schumer can do that on his own. Again, these things have been done before by Democrats and Republicans in recent history. Twenty, thirteen, twenty, seventeen, two, one for firing a parliamentarian, George Bush.
To that. The world didn't end. Everything was fine. Things got passed. We all moved on. No one remembers the great firing of the parliamentarian or the overruling of the parliamentarian. So why not just try it and then let mansion and cinema take the heat?
So I don't care at all about any of this real stuff, like we should do whatever we like. None of it's real. Like the rule is you need 50 votes to pass things in the Senate. Everything else is culture and pretend that's it. It's 50 votes. That's in the Constitution. Those are the rules to me.
It's I think the only argument and I'm for trying and doing everything we can and having as many conversations about the minimum wage as we possibly can until we've raised it. The argument against it would be the problem right now is not the parliamentarian.
The problem isn't the filibuster. The problem isn't anything having to do with Kamala Harris, his role as presiding officer of the Senate. The problem is there aren't 50 votes to abolish the filibuster. There aren't 50 votes to violate the parliamentarian's ruling. And there aren't 50 votes, most importantly, to raise the minimum wage to 15 dollars. We don't have those votes. And so the argument against doing it is you create a controversy and a tough vote for two people.
You are going to need on a host of things. It doesn't happen. It raises the salience of the failure on the minimum wage. You jeopardize a giant covid relief package which and you end up where you would have been had you not pushed that vote in the first place, which is a big covid relief package that will help tens of millions of Americans that does a host of things we need to do without a minimum wage increase, because, you know, to me, like, where do we want to be in a year and a half?
We want to pass this big covid relief bill. There's another big economic bill that could be through reconciliation around infrastructure and a host of other economic policies. We want to pass H.R. one. We want to pass along those Voting Rights Act. Among immigration, there's a host of other really important steps. We need this Congress to be in a position to take, and that is going to require unanimity amongst Democrats in the Senate. That's going to require mention, that's going to require cinema.
And so we need to strike this balance between putting a ton of pressure on them to understand the stakes around the filibuster and around the minimum wage, while not making it harder to pass things without actually getting anything done because of votes, votes to kind of, I don't know, teach the controversy, create the argument. And I think that's why even people like AOC have said if this if the minimum wage is not in the bill because Democrats were weak and Democrats gave up, that's one thing.
But if it's not in the bill because the parliamentarian, we might need to support this bill and go for a standalone minimum wage fight after. And then you can have that fight. You can make it about the filibuster. You can make it about the minimum wage exclusively and kind of do it until it's done. I guess.
I guess what I don't understand is you're right that there's just not the votes for a 15 dollar minimum wage. No matter how many parliamentarians you fire, overrule or do whatever, you're not going to get a fifty dollar minimum wage because Joe Manchin said he's against it. Therefore, that's it. But Joe Manchin did say he would possibly be for raising the minimum wage from around seven dollars, what it is now to 11 dollars, I believe.
So I sort of wondered why the Biden administration and progressives just didn't sort of sit down with Manchin and cinema and be like, OK, what level of minimum wage would you be comfortable with? And then like, how can we all get there together? Right. Because I'd rather take it. I take an eleven dollar over what it is now, even though I want fifteen.
I think that's better than nothing. Some sort of unless unless they're just going to live to fight another day. But you're right that all of this comes down to like unfortunately the system we have right now, it's like what Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema and possibly any other Democratic senator want.
They get like if it's indexed to inflation, I think that's a very important step over the long term.
Here's my question like. Do we want to call their bluff right? Are you really going to vote against a one point nine trillion dollar code relief bill over a minimum wage provision? That's a very tough vote now. That's usually the kind of vote you would force on your opponent, not your ally. What I don't understand is why Chuck Schumer can't sit down with Joe Manchin and Kirsten Sinema and say, OK, both of you need two things you need to deliver for your constituents and you need to look like you're bucking the Democratic Party every once in a while.
So you look independent. We can engineer a process that does both of these things and gets all of us what we want here, which is this big covid relief package, a minimum wage increase, all of the above, some sort of future promise on filibuster reform so the Senate can be unbroken and they can actually legislate and not jam everything, the budget reconciliation and chart a path forward. I'm hoping that's happening behind the scenes. We're just not privy to it.
It's not in the press. But like that seems like the path that needs to happen for the next four years, not just for this bill.
The other thing Joe Manchin wants is to not give up the power that he has on the very first time he would have to use it. Right. Putting Joe Manchin in a position to say, yeah, you'll talk a big game and then vote with the Democrats no matter what on a big covid bill. Look, I guess I don't know what happens in brinksmanship over this bill to test Joe Manchin, to test Kyrsten Sinema on this when we have till mid-March when unemployment benefits expire to get this done.
So, like, I don't know what happens if you end up in a situation where Sinema and Manchin are voting against this. The bill is thrown into doubt. Maybe you go right again. You can pass it without the minimum wage increase right away or delays it. I don't totally understand what happens next, but I think what is clear is they're trying to avoid that kind of a Democratic infighting set of votes before passing this sort of emergency measure.
What I find persuasive from some of the progressives in the House is it always seems to be the progressives who have to back down and compromise and sort of get in line.
But they have power here, like Nancy Pelosi lost to Democrats on the first bill, not progressive Democrats, but to more moderate Democrats, moderate to conservative Democrats. But she doesn't have that many votes to spare.
So if a couple progressives in the House get together and say, if you don't try to overrule the parliamentarian or you don't try to put some kind of minimum wage increase in this bill, we're not going to vote for the final bill then it's not just caring about what Manchin and cinema want and the more moderate to conservative Democrats. It's saying like, OK, we've got to keep the progressives happy and we got to keep Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema happy. Now, I love it.
I do agree that, like, is it helpful and productive for all of this to play out in public? Probably not. But like everyone can get in a room or getting on a zoo and, you know, all the Democrats in the House and the Senate and work it out and try to figure this out, because I do like I do think at some point and maybe it's not this bill for some of the reasons you cite, love it, because there's a lot more.
There's another reconciliation bill that will happen. There's other non reconciliation bills that will happen. So maybe progressives want to sort of hold their fire for next time. But at some point, progressives will probably exercise as much of their power as Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema will exercise their power.
Yeah, and they should. Yeah. I mean, the covert relief part of the bill is extremely urgent for obvious reasons. The minimum wage increase is also critical and important, but it is less urgent because it is phased in over time. So you could pass it another bill and there might be no actual impact on people's lives when they actually get this increase. But yeah, but, you know, I think we all worry about delaying delaying policy successes because anything can happen.
We could lose a member of the Senate like there's a million ways this could go badly.
The confrontation over the filibuster is coming. It is coming. It's going to happen now. It can happen in a few weeks. It could happen in a few months. But fundamentally, there are really important things we need to do. They cannot happen as the rules of the Senate currently stand. And that is a confrontation that is going to happen with cinema. It's going to happen with Manchin, and it's going to require incredible, I think, progressive solidarity.
It's going to require a lot of Democratic infighting and, you know, Democrats in disarray. And it's coming. I just don't know if right now is the best way to get to the outcomes we want, which is not just this covid bill, not just minimum wage, but a host of other piece of legislation.
And I should say, you know, we're all 50 million minimum wage supporters and I'm going to be very disappointed if it doesn't end up in the final bill. But it's a great bill. I mean, it is a recovery package that is double the one that we passed in 2009, cutting child poverty in half the expanded unemployment benefits through the fall. I mean, this is a really, really progressive, ambitious bill. Even without the minimum wage, it's going to help a lot of people and and it's going to hopefully get done really fast.
So that that is something to think about as well. Of America is brought to by super coffee, super coffee is the healthy, delicious alternative to sugary coffee drinks like Starbucks Frappuccino and other iced coffee energy drinks, super coffee combines the caffeine from two cups of coffee with protein and healthy fats to give you hours of focused energy with no jitters or crash riff about funny reasons, you need more energy. Late night Bridgton. Benja, Tommy.
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Does it take getting to season three? I need them to grab me right away. No, it's good. It's three episodes in. You'll be hooked. Look, I'm sorry.
You know, I look, I just I don't know what to me, you need some caption to put on the closed captions because they are.
Well, you know what they're saying while you listen to Lovett's take on Peaky Blinders, just be thinking I got to get some super coffee.
OK, so here's the thing. I'm making coffee. Very violent and and budgeters hard to follow. Not a lot of people I root for. So tell it's you fucking blindest. Yeah. And once I put the subtitles on, it made it a bit easier to follow. But something happened where I just didn't come back. I think it was after. I don't want to spoil it. But there was something that I'll just say that something bla bla bla bla.
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For details, let's talk about this weekend's Conservative Political Action Conference in Orlando, where Donald Trump delivered his first speech since leaving office. Even before the former president showed up, CPAC was nuttier than usual. The pandemic relief bill was barely mentioned. The pandemic itself was barely mentioned at the indoor event. The theme of the conference was America UNcancel. And as the Washington Post's Dave Weigel pointed out, quote, The Republican Party on display at CPAC was Antimonopoly A. Freetrade, skeptical of foreign wars, girded for economic conflict with China and frequently invested in things that aren't true.
Specifically, most speakers continue to spread the big lie that Donald Trump actually won an election that was rigged and stolen from him by Democrats just two months after that led a mob of Trump supporters to launch a terrorist attack on Congress. And of course, the speeches were mostly filled with your crazy uncles. Facebook memes come to life. Here's a sample.
We love President Trump. And I'll tell you, I will confidently say that President Trump from his desk at Mar a Lago will accomplish more for America in the next four years than Joe Biden and Kamala Harris could ever dream of.
Speaking of bombing the Middle East, have you seen Liz Cheney's poll numbers? This month alone, they've banned the Muppets, right, and then if there's things that you thought were sort of above cancellation, you would be wrong. Look out, Mr. Potato Head. You're next. I'm sorry. I think now he's going by Potato X can be Mr. Potato. And see to me the whole concept of the Mr. Potato Head was he could move the parts around.
Mr. Potato Head was America's first transgender doll and even he got canceled. Orlando is awesome.
It's not as nice as Cancun. But it's nice, in the immortal words of William Wallace, Freida, that was Ted Cruz doing his best Howard Dean impression from his horrible head, also making a joke about Cainkar.
You have to be so far in the weeds to even get some of the references. I don't even get the whole Muppet thing. What I don't know what I have with the Muppets.
Oh, you don't want to know? No, no, I don't. I don't know if I want to know.
It doesn't matter what happened with the Muppets. Here's the. But but but they continue. The Muppets exist and they have not been canceled to talk about.
That's all I wanted to know. Before we get to Trump, Tommy, what do you think about the rest of CPAC and particularly what it said about the message Republicans intend to run on in twenty to twenty four and beyond? You know, look, the Muppets, the Mr. Potato Head fights that we just heard are absurd. But I think the most important takeaway from CPAC and for most of these Republican events is that these these cancel culture wars that they think they are fighting.
Are everything to these guys like it is the party. This is their base. Like Donald Trump Jr. carved out time in his 12 minute speech to complain about the Muppets and Mr. Potato Head. We progressives hear this stuff. We see it on Twitter. We see them on Fox complaining about it. We think it's absurd that this is what, you know, Tucker Carlson is focused on every night on his show. But it is what animates the Republican base.
A lot of it is also just complaining about the media and whining about being treated unfairly or silenced by social media platforms.
But I think that I sort of jumped out at me is that Trump is you know, he's taken over the Republican Party. CPAC is the most Magga version of the Republican Party. Like this event itself is literally rigged for Trump by this scummy lobbyist named Matt Schlapp. Matt Schleps wife worked in the Trump White House.
And the whole event becomes about kissing the Trump ring, which is why some of the polling we'll talk about later actually probably isn't great news for Donald Trump, but we'll get into that later. The two policy areas that got some attention were immigration and then anti China rhetoric. I saw that there were six panels at CPAC about how China is really bad. There was only one panel about the Middle East called dealing with the threat of Iran. So some of the usual demagoguing of radical Islam and terrorism has all been shifted to China.
Everybody hates big tech, but I don't know that that's really policy as much as just complaining about losing Twitter followers. There was a lot of that happening on stage as well. But, you know, to me, it was like these culture wars are going to be the whole thing for four years. Love it. My view was we'll talk about Trump in a second, but whether or not he leads the party, it's his party, it's his issues.
It's 100 percent culture wars, identity wars, anti elite grievance politics, anti-democratic to the core. Like if you are pissed about something, no matter what the issue is, it's Democrats fault. That is the. But there's the hold the party of like Paul Ryan and Mitt Romney that cared about, like, you know, no regulations and tax cuts. That is fucking God. That is way, way God. There's none of that shit that animates that party anymore.
Well, and maybe it never did. Maybe it really it never did, because that was what is striking about CPAC is so Zeybek. I think CPAC has gained dark significance since Donald Trump became president, but it has existed very similarly for a very long time. I think it has moved it has gotten even more radical and racist and unhinged and it's more openly embracing of conspiracy theories and white supremacy. But what is striking about Donald Trump, it's not that Donald Trump remade CPAC in its image is that there was a Donald Trump shaped hole in CPAC for a very, very long time that he felt.
And, you know, Trump thinks like Rush Limbaugh thinks Rush Limbaugh and heaven.
And you see like, oh, you know, Republicans like Paul Ryan were deluding themselves for so long about what their party actually was. This was it. This is the Republican National Convention. This is who controls this party.
This is where you have to go to to to grovel and supplicate before the fringe. And the base like this is this is where where Josh, Holly and Tom Cotton and Ted Cruz all have to go to audition and dance on stage and pretend to be the next Trump to win the approval of these people. So I think it is I think it is striking how little honestly Trump has to do with it. These people have been there. This is what Trump figured it out.
Trump cracked it. Yeah, but but but this was their Rush Limbaugh made this happen as much as Trump did. It was there.
But Mitt Romney won the the CPAC straw poll four times back in the day like it is.
It is. I think that has gotten more, more and more Trump and more racist. And then.
Yeah, kultury, over time, I mean, there was a there was a there was a golden statue of Trump that they were hauling around the place. It was, it was pretty trumpy.
I mean it's like a Koonce which I found insulting to, to art is a reference.
That was the second reference that you did wrong in our ads the other week.
You really get to kind of cover it.
So we're going to talk about the remember that with the polling time mentioned with Trump in it, but they also did one version of their twenty twenty four straw poll without Trump. And the big winner was Florida Governor Ronda Santos with forty three percent. South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem had 11 percent. Don Junior had eight percent. Mike Pompeo seven percent. Ted Cruz seven percent. Tucker Carlson, three percent. What was your reaction to those results and what they say about sort of where the party is going?
What would you think?
Well, first of all, they're in Florida, so I'm not like I don't know. I don't I don't know. I don't know if there's a lot of Santa stands out there or if this is just sort of name ID and the governor that they like because it's stuck to the Libs and uncovered.
But, you know, no being on that list, one of the most disastrous covid policies she runs around like she's some successful governor, one of the one of the worst impacted states, South Dakota.
You see Don Jr., Don Junior, just by having the name Trump, like all of those, like wheedling and working and fighting to be this sort of base guy. Same with Ted Cruz. They can't they can't crack down, Jr.. They can't be Don Junior. So I would say it's chilling to the core, John.
So, I mean, I thought it was almost as interesting who wasn't on that list? Who didn't make the cut? Yeah, Nikki Haley. Marco Rubio, Mike Pence.
I wondered about the de Santos home court advantage question, too, but that didn't help Rick Scott or Marco Rubio, who got like less than one percent. But, yeah, I mean, the big takeaway to me was there is no love. There is no loyalty for Josh Haley or for Nikki Haley or for the former vice president. I mean, I guess we should have known that when a mob of fascists were chanting about hanging him.
But, yeah, I mean, all of these Republicans like the people that are doing well, like Christie on the path to success remains constant. Fox News hits and preening about culture war stuff. It has nothing to do with your record of success. There's nothing to do with the number of people who got covid in your state. It is all this complaining about social media. Cancel culture whining bullshit. No, it's essentially an inverse relationship with how many people got covered in your state.
More, more covid cases, the better to the citizen. You know, look, it just crushed. In fairness to the Republicans, we Democrats have idolized some jackass governors who have had lots of covid patients in their state. So, you know, maybe it cuts both ways here. Like the guy in New York. Yeah, that that that really terrible guy in New York. Tommy no longer identifying as a homosexual. The never, never did, never did never do the same thing that Trump seems to have unleashed.
Who is this like permission to not have to care about the boring stuff? Like we don't care about economics. We don't care about the stuff that makes us uncomfortable, like the pandemic. We can just talk about the fun stuff. We can just talk about cancer, culture and liberals and muppets and we're fine. This is a party and we don't need a policy platform.
We just need to complain about the fact that they're voting illegally and be voting, owning the lips.
We said this, owning the Libs is the platform that's the driving force of the party. We just own the lives. They don't care about policy outcomes at this point. Trump himself took the stage on Sunday night to deliver a 90 minute speech that was somehow boring, terrifying and enraging all at once. First, 45 minutes or so, we're focused on attacking President Biden, Democrats, the media, immigrants and transgender Americans to whom he was particularly cruel. And that was the on message, part of the speech that his advisers reportedly wanted him to deliver.
Things really went off the rails when he repeated the lie that the election was stolen, attacked the Supreme Court, attacked every Republican who voted to impeach him by name, and then announced that he may run again in 2024. Here is here's a compilation from Trump speech.
We can never let this or other abuses of the 2020 election be repeated or happen again can never let that happen again. We need election integrity and election reform immediately. Republicans should be the party of honest elections.
They didn't have the courage. The Supreme Court, they didn't have the courage to act. They should be ashamed of themselves for what they've done to our country. They didn't have the guts, the courage to make the right decision. They didn't want to talk about it.
Democrats don't have grandstanders like Mitt Romney, little Ben Sasse, Richard Burr, Bill Cassidy, Susan Collins, Lisa Murkowski, Pat Toomey. And in the House, Tom Rice, South Carolina, Adam Kinzinger, Dan Newhouse, Anthony Gonzalez, that's another beauty. Fred Upton, Jami Herrera Butler, Peter Meyer, John Katka, David Valadao and of course, the war monger, a person that loves seeing our troops fighting Liz Cheney. How about that?
Who knows? I may even decide to beat them for a third time.
OK. Wolf, general reactions to that tour de force of lunacy, love it, I'll say, first of all, I first time I'm hearing it at one point of speed, because as has been my rule for many years, which continues now that he is no longer president, is I wait for these things to be over while you two are live tweeting. And I then watch it at two x speed so that I can get through it faster. But even at 2x speed, it took me forty five fucking minutes.
Forty five. He was up there for 90 minutes. Did not mention. I mean I think the most important thing honestly is what he didn't mention is that he did not mention the covid relief bill, didn't mention it didn't come up. Nothing having to do with anything. It was all just the kind of the old hits and the big lie. But in general, it was just, you know, same shit, same shit analysis like, what do you want?
I don't know.
So, yeah, I, I to me was like I watched it a bit. I thought to myself, OK, what is he supposed to talk about versus what does he want to talk about. And you could see in the beginning that he's reading all this carefully scripted language about, you know, this really vicious anti-immigrant rant here, this cruel, bizarre attack on transgender athletes that I think we're going to hear a lot about going forward.
There was a bunch of criticism of Joe Biden, right? This argument that the country is like kind of shit in a month.
But what he really wanted to talk about were the lies about the election, that it was stolen from him and he wanted to rage at these Republicans. And to me, the big news that came out of the event was he's going to leave these primary challenges against all these people who oppose them. And he wants to siphon donor money away from Republican campaign committees to his own PAC into his own organization. So he got up there and announced that he's not starting a third party.
And it was all fake news. But he's he's trying to husband all the power within the party and just fully read it himself. And that's no surprise. It's been a Trump cult for a long time. But, you know, you guys, all the Republicans in the Senate could have ended this by voting for impeachment. But this is this is it's going to be now. There is so far, and we have a long way to go, there is zero indication that this man is going to skip the twenty twenty four election and bow out of this.
This is like this is his party. This is what animates him. And it's like you said, love it because he doesn't have to and the party doesn't have to talk about the boring issues, the serious issues, the serious issues that may be unpopular for them, like the covid relief bill.
All they have to do is it's all about talking about the fun stuff, talking about the grievances. Right. And I do think to myself as I watch this, you can sort of see why Joe Biden and his administration is focused solely on, you know, fixing the pandemic and fixing the economy. Right. Because things go well, things get better over the next couple of years. Then all of this grievance from Trump doesn't really matter as much. It's not as powerful because people are just feeling that life is back to normal and their lives are better.
But things don't go as well. The economy doesn't improve as quickly. Then Trump's best shtick is I'm the outsider, just fucking throwing bombs and saying that everything that's fucked up in the country is the president's fault and Washington's fault, the establishment's fault and the elites fault. And I'm going to be your champion against all the people who are screwing you over. That's what he does. Well, he's better as an outsider out of office than he was defending himself when he was president of the administration.
And basically, his bet is if things aren't going great in the country, I'm your guy.
The I like the the immigration rhetoric where he basically says, you know, Joe Biden is keeping your kids out of school, but educating migrant kids gives you a sense of like the kind of the place he's going to go for a while. You know, he's he's given that he wants your kids from because he's giving everything away to the teachers union. The attack on transgender people is another version of this is just going to be this kind of like the Biden has sided with the radicals who sided with these people.
He's putting immigrants ahead of you. He's putting, you know, lefties and communists ahead of you. He's putting transgender people ahead of you. And he will. And so it's like, OK, well, if if we can pass this bill and schools are open, not going to have much. If schools are open, you can't complain that schools are closed. And so it really does hinge on on on how much it gets done, on the big stuff and on that like just vicious, bizarre, like diatribe.
He went on about women's sports and transgender athletes. There was just a vote in the House on the Equality Act that would add protections on the basis of sex and sexual orientation and gender identity to the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which banned discrimination on race and religion. Eight Republicans voted for a very similar bill to the Equality Act in twenty nineteen. A whole bunch of them switched their vote, including like Elise Stefanik. Right. Someone who was seen as some sort of moderate Republican who decided to go all.
So you can see the way that Trump's rhetoric is not only describing how he views the base and what they want to hear, but also the direction the party has been pulled in over the last couple of years. All of it is very, very depressing. It's very depressing, though, on that issue, too, I would say that is an issue that is absolutely going to animate the like Fox News loving base and pulls people like Stefanic towards Trump's position on that.
That is not an issue, I think that you, like, go into the suburbs with as a winning issue for Republicans who are like trying to win back some of these moderate districts. And that's just going to be a thing that like, you know, it's like the canceled culture. Stuff like this is if you're if you're just mainlining Fox News, this is what gets you. I hope that's right.
But like, you know, Trump has taken actions previously to discriminate against transgender people. But this he made it a focus of this speech. It is become something the Republicans are talking about more and more as an attempted wedge issue. So they're going to bigotry in all its forms to animate their base these days.
I think they are going to use they're going to use trans people the way that the Republican Party under George W. Bush used. Gay people are going to try to find ways to find wedge issues there and try to find a ways to pass legislation or ballot measures at the state level to target trans people. And I do think that's coming. And I do think it's very dangerous.
It's very dangerous. It's very dangerous. It has backfired on them before, most notably in North Carolina. But they're going to do it for sure. So in addition to repeating the big lie, Trump specifically attacked H.R. one the for the people act on me. I saw you tweeted about this. Why do you think he singled out a piece of legislation that is both extremely popular and largely unknown?
Yeah, I thought it was it showed concern among the Republican Party about what H.R. one could do to their electoral prospects. I mean, the way the Republican Party is going to stay in power if they can is by using the big lie around the presidential election and all these ridiculous claims that votes were stolen from Donald Trump to pass voter suppression bills in state legislatures and to gerrymander the hell out of the districts so that they can win back the House in twenty, twenty two.
If we Democrats can get rid of the filibuster and pass H.R. one and make it easier to vote in this country and block some of these voter suppression bills from being passed, I think that we will win. I think Democrats will increase their power in the House and will be able to do more things and get more voters out. But it's clear that the Republican Party, including Donald Trump, is worried about any effort to keep them from voter suppressing their way to minority rule.
So that should tell us something about what they think is important, should be what we think is important here.
Well, and, you know, we've been talking about sort of what animates the Republican Party now and its grievance, and it's a lot of these cultural issues. But CPAC also polled their attendees about what issues are most important to them. Election integrity top the list at sixty two percent, beating issues like immigration, reopening the economy, Second Amendment taxes and abortion by 30 to 50 percent. It was a landslide. So this is why they don't want to have a debate on a lot of these issues, because their whole thing is like we just want to make it so that, you know, it's harder for people to vote.
They just want to overturn an election. That's what's animating them. So like and again, progressives understand how important H.R. one is and for the People Act and people who paid close attention to it. But again, you know, we've said this before. Our biggest challenge here is like we've got to get more people to know what this what what what the stakes are, what this bill is, what's in it. And, of course, like the only way it's going to get passed is if the filibuster is removed.
Republicans are not going to vote for this bill. So this is going to be the Titanic fight over the next year.
Yeah, I mean, look, we even in how he he talks about it like we saw in our own polling, the polling data for progress. Republicans on issues like and voting specifically have been radicalized by Trump. Right. This is going to we know where this base where the Republican voters will be on this issue by the time H.R. one comes up for a vote, they have been radicalized against democracy. And everything about we're saying about like how that politics for them is about grievance.
It's about feeling everything in Trump's rhetoric around the big lie beyond just the the just the made up, the you know, the lie is this notion he's telling them, which is how could I possibly have lost? Didn't it feel like we won? Shouldn't didn't it feel like we were going to win? That feeling is all that matters. Like the feeling that you want to have about your country is the only thing that matters. And if you don't feel good, something is wrong.
Right. Well, and that goes to I mean, Tommy, you mentioned this polling earlier, so the straw poll with Trump in it, first of all, he had a ninety seven percent approval rating among the thousand or so attendees at CPAC. Not really a surprise there. Sixty eight percent said they wanted him to run again. Fifty five percent said they'd vote for him again in the primaries. Given a list of other choices. You think those numbers are good or bad for Trump?
The thing that jumped out at me was getting sixty eight percent of the most diehard Trump fans on the planet I actually don't think is great, especially when ninety five percent said they wanted to vote for the Trump agenda. So what that suggests to me is that even among the hardest of hard magga people, you could find a lane where you are running to continue the Trump agenda. You continue the culture wars, all his divisive stuff, but you argue for giving someone else a chance to execute on it because he failed last time like it.
It suggested to me there was like a sliver of space in there for someone who is Trump like. But maybe you can make a pitch that they could be better at the job.
Well, so I had the same thought as you and I saw the numbers and then I was like, the key. You just said this. The key is because he failed at it or he didn't do as well or better. And what I'm trying to figure out is, like I say, it's wrong to Santa say it's Kristi Noem.
What is the eventually they're going to have to make an argument against Trump and the primary. And what is that argument? If according to according to every Republican and the official edict from Fox News and the right wing media, Trump rightfully won the last election. So he wasn't a failure. Like, how do you make an argument against him?
I just don't know that they've they've created a real problem for themselves by going going along with this big lie. I mean, it's the same exact collective action problem we saw in the twenty sixteen Republican primary. No one wanted to attack him. You know, Ted Cruz would say you're trying to drive a wedge between me and Donald, but I think Donald is terrific. And then, you know, when Trump accused his father of killing JFK and said his wife was ugly, decided it was time to stand up for himself and it was way too late.
It feels like we're set up for the exact same kind of path. It seems to me that the way that you would have to do that is by being an extraordinarily adept, charming and charismatic politician with the ability to carefully walk this delicate line between defeating Trump and embracing what Trump stands for. You know, let's see how Pompeo does. Well, look, who knows?
But by the way, one of the thing is, you know, we got up to James Martun, Donald Trump down Fifth Avenue in handcuffs. There's a lot of things that can happen between now and then.
I do think it's maybe it's set up for Don Junior, who can be like, look, you like the you like the Trump agenda. You like the Trump name.
I do think it's I think the numbers are fascinating because it like the fact that he only got fifty five percent in the poll does mean that there's forty five percent that are like, you know, I like Donald Trump.
I'm I'm on the Trump train. Yeah, he won the election. Great. But I would try something else and I would love to know from those people, what is it about you that you didn't like, because that's the message for another Republican to use, even if it's subtle.
It's a poll conducted by Trump's pollster of people who are so in such intense fans of Donald Trump that they're willing to go to an indoor event in Orlando during a pandemic. Like you got to be a fan.
Got to assume, though, got to assume, based on just the demographics alone, we got a lot of people in the in the vaccinated groups getting to that ballroom.
That's true. But regardless, it doesn't. What you learned from CPAC is it may be some of it may be Trump, it may be someone like Trump. The point is you can't get to the end of this process without being a monster. It's a monster is only it's a monster is only primary.
Yeah, everyone who's got all these people who are like, I'm going to run to be the non Trump and to take back the Republican Party and save it like good for you, I wish you well, but you're not going to do.
Nikki Haley sounded so reasonable in Politico. Guess who doesn't care? Republican voters. Yeah.
Guess who. Guess who immediately histocompatibility walks it back after his speech. Nikki Haley. Great job, Nikki Haley. The people not.
Do you think the people, the Tea Party didn't get to the bottom of that Tim Elberta piece? You think they didn't get all the way to Section three?
Nikki Haley just put on a master class and self sabotage. You're telling me that the at CPAC didn't see the kicker?
I got to not see the Mike Pompeo try to tell a couple of jokes that landed so flat. I cannot wait to clip all of them for parts of the world tomorrow. He is just the worst. He's the worst of the worst. All right, enough about CPAC. When we come back, my interview with Will Smith. I think America is brought to you by Jane Jane, hard kombucha is the most insanely delicious better for you alcohol. It's made with real organic ingredients.
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Will Smith is host and executive producer of Amend the Fight for America, a docu series which is now available on Netflix. Welcome to Positive America. Hey man, thanks for having me.
I'm very excited to be here. So I'll admit when our producer first said that Will Smith is doing press for his new project, my reaction was why the hell would he want to talk to a couple of political dorks like us? And then and then he told me it was all about the Fourteenth Amendment and I started watching and it is moving and insightful and beautifully produced.
What attracted you to the project and and how did it come together? You know, a big part of it was, you know, I was like everyone else sitting home on on lockdown when the George Floyd situation happened. And, you know, at that moment, I just I felt like I wanted to be a part of the healing and the the future of America. I was feeling the the change that was happening in our country at that moment. And there's a friend of mine who was he is a constitutional scholar.
And we have been talking about the issues and he mentioned that the 14th Amendment was the most cited amendment in American law. And I found that hard to believe because I didn't know what it was. So if I don't know what something is, it can't be the most anything. But I was I was I was shocked and appalled by my ignorance around the 14th Amendment. And, you know, he began to educate me that the 14th Amendment is essentially the center of what we think of when we think of ourselves as Americans.
You know, the the Fourteenth Amendment is like the all inclusive amendment that makes clear that all Americans are equal under the the law. And and I was really blown away when I started getting educated about the history. And I thought it was going to be a really critical thing for the healing of our country to retrace the steps of the second founding of America and the 14th Amendment. What did you learn about the full history and reach of the 14th Amendment that most surprised you, that you didn't know before the series?
The idea that in the fight for equality, almost every marginalized group in, you know, in the almost the history of this country from the late 18th 60s with its ratification, has used the 14th Amendment to fight for equal protection under the law. And, you know, from you know, it started with with the former slaves and then the striking down of the Chinese Exclusion Act, you know, Native Americans, women, women's rights, back through the civil rights movement, like literally every marginalized group has fought and won using the 14th Amendment.
The 14th Amendment is like this magical amendment of the American constitution.
That doesn't lose a lot. Right.
So the first episode is interesting and that it rightly centers Frederick Douglass as the American most instrumental in fighting for abolition and freedom and ultimately the 14th Amendment. You know, you point out that that Lincoln's belated embrace of the Emancipation Proclamation was more pragmatic than anything else.
How did you all think about telling America's history in a way that was honest, even if it didn't always comport with the airbrushed version that's been taught in a lot of schools over the years?
Right. One of the major things for me and and I came at this project and I commend all projects. Where I want to sit in the world is no attack, right? No one responds well to attack, right? If somebody attacks you, you don't care if you're right or wrong, you want to hit them back. So the thing that that was really critical to me was a multi cultural, multiracial group of people taking an honest look at the history of America and being able to say honestly that this is a country that was established by white men for white men.
And that's that's that's how the Treasury was established.
It was it was established by white men for white men. And now on the back of the 14th Amendment, America is becoming the world's greatest, almost only multiracial, multiethnic democracy.
So that's a really critical adjustment. And I just wanted to lay out the the patterns of what happens in that kind of adjustment, establishing and clarifying the patterns so we can all relax a little bit and recognize even while things are not perfect, we're we're finding ourselves in really familiar patterns so we can make different decisions to have America recognize the promise in our practice of being Americans.
Yeah, it's always been fascinating to me is that even though we have consistently failed to live up to the ideals embedded in the Constitution, they are embedded in the Constitution and specifically in the 14th Amendment.
So even we don't live up to them. There are these documents saying, well, this is the North Star, which is which is quite valuable.
How did how did the last four years of politics affect your perspective on the 14th Amendment and debates around citizenship and equal protection under the law?
You know, the last four years. Was was difficult for me in in that the. The truth became harder to discern for some reason in the last four years. Yeah, you know, it you know, there there's always been misinformation, but some part technology, some part intention of negative doers.
But for for the most part, the truth became more difficult to discern.
So as a part of Ammend and a part of being able to put this into the world, I really wanted to be able to. Stable, stabilized rationality in discerning the truth as as much as I possibly could, I really wanted to do my part in that. And Buddha had a great quote. He said, good people have to wake up every day and try to empty the ocean with a little you know what?
If that's what it feels like, man, especially over the last four years, big ocean and a small little prayer.
You are you are one of the biggest, most successful celebrities in the world. You've also lived the experience of growing up as a black man in America. How how have your personal experiences with racism and prejudice and discrimination sort of shaped your worldview? I always you know, I'm writing my book right now, so these things are fresh in my mind, you know, so I've been called nigger to my face probably five or six times.
And fortunately for my psyche of I've never been called nigger by a smart person, so I grew up with the impression that racists and racism were stupid and they were easy to get around. I just had to be smarter while now, while they were very dangerous, I had never looked into the eyes of a racist and saw anything that I perceived as intellect. So. You know, as I got older, I saw that was less and less true, and as I went into Hollywood, I started seeing the ideas of systemic racism.
But at the core of it, I noticed a difference between ignorance and evil. You know, now they're they're they're they're twins for sure. You know, they are twins for sure, but ignorance can be educated and evil is a much more difficult problem. And fortunately, ignorance is more prevalent than, you know, blatant evil. So I've always been encouraged that the process of education and understanding could alleviate some of the more dangerous and difficult aspects of racism that have unfortunately been embedded in the very fibers of our country.
I mean, I want to talk about that process. You know, you mentioned this earlier, but, you know, you spoke up during the protests, after the murders of George Floyd and Brianna Taylor about how the world was finally paying attention to racial injustice in a way you hadn't seen before.
What would you say to young activists who, you know, might be frustrated and angry at the pace of progress since even the summer when the protests took place? You know, that was one of the the major hopes that I had and still have for Ammend, right? It's like you have to see the patterns. You have to recognize the patterns. Right. So, you know, Barack Obama becomes the the first black president and then the next president is Donald Trump, arguably as as polar opposite as possible.
That's what happens, that's that's if you just watch the patterns, that's what has happened historically with the 14th Amendment after Lincoln was Johnson, right.
So that's how the pendulum swings around these things and around these issues. What I would also say to young activists is that we are in an unprecedented place in American history right now that really demands delicate attention to the movements of what's happening. The you know, the the over the summer, the entire globe stood up in a way that they never have before and agreed that Black Lives Matter. That's that's never happened before. Activists, you know, in the late eighteen hundreds and early nineteen hundreds would have to get on boats and go and give speeches in English.
And Frederick Douglass had to to travel to try to make these speeches, to get people understand, to understand.
And we are in and we're in an unprecedented place with many dangers, but also a lot of new possibilities. You sound fairly hopeful about where we might end up at this at this moment, is that right?
The. I am wildly hopeful in my study of the patterns we are beyond the tipping point, right? Black black lives aren't going to go back to not mattering right. You know, there is a momentum, there is a momentum behind this movement and not just for for black lives, for in terms of equality for all individuals under the 14th Amendment. And in America, you know, the the the lessons of reconstruction, I think, have been learned sufficiently and significantly enough that those mistakes aren't going to be made again in the same way, at least I'm just I'm very hopeful, not just for blacks in America, but I'm very hopeful for America as a whole, as an idea, as a country.
I'm very hopeful for our future. You've talked before about potentially getting into politics, sometimes talk, sometimes joked. What has made you think about entering politics and running and what so far has prevented you from taking the leap? I think for now, I'ma let that office get cleaned up a little bit and then I'll I'll get the good, the deep clean and the vaccination that are I'll consider that at some point down the line. I don't know. It's like I absolutely have an opinion.
I'm optimistic. I'm hopeful. I believe in understanding between people. I believe in the possibility of harmony.
So I will certainly do my part, whether it remain artistic or or at some point ventures into the political arena.
OK, OK, so I have to ask, what was the conversation between you and my old boss, Barack Obama, like where he gave you the OK to play him in a biopic?
Yeah, he you know, the idea came up and we kicked it around and he looked me up and down and he said, well, you've certainly got the ears for it.
Well, that I mean, that is the seal of approval right there.
You know, the the docu series is Amend the Fight for America. Will Smith, you the host and executive producer, thank you so much for coming on to save America and and take care. Thanks for having me.
I hope to see you again. I love your energy.
Thanks to Will Smith for joining us today. Come back any time Will Smith can co-host the pot. Yeah, when? When one of us are out. How's that? That's great. We'll bring him on the road next.
This is Will Smith, the pollster, not the actor. There's a pollster.
We fit in with our thing. All right. All right. I'll see you later. Show him I. Party of America is a crooked media production, the executive producer is Michael Martinez, our associate producer is Jordan Waller. It's mixed and edited by Andrew Chadwick.
Kyle Soglin is our sound engineer, thanks to Tanya. So Katie Lang, Roman Papadimitriou, Caroline Ruston and Justin Howe for production support into our digital team, Elijah Cohn, Na Melkonian, Yael Friede and Milo Kim, who film and upload these episodes as videos every week.