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Welcome to parts of America. I'm John Favreau. I'm John Lovett. I'm Tommy Vietor. On today's pot, Lovett talks to positive the people's Caia Henderson, who used to run the D.C. public school system about the debate over reopening schools in the fall. Before that, we'll talk about Trump's commutation of Roger Stone's prison sentence.
The White House effort to publicly discredit Dr. Foushee and the politics around negotiating the next round of economic relief in Congress. But first, love it. How was the show this weekend?
Great episode. Love it or leave it. Josh Gandelman came on for the monologue, who is always a delight. Shay Serrano came by to talk about everything from sports and the pandemic to the best James Bond movies. And Alice Wonderland came and introduced us to an acquaintance of hers with a tell all book. And it was a delight. Fantastic. Also, if you haven't yet heard the final episode of That's the Ticket, Dan and Melissa's bonus series on the vice presidential selection process.
It's right here in the Pods of America feeds.
So check it out. It's an excellent series. I'm sad it's over. And here's something exciting. On Tuesdays, America dissected Abdoul El-Sayed. We'll interview Anthony Foushee himself. I'm sure the White House is thrilled he'll be on a crooked media podcast. So. So don't miss it. We'll be playing a few clips from the interview later on in this show.
Check it out.
Yeah, maybe don't tell him, but guess too late. Well, we'll say. We'll see.
All right. So we're going to talk all about the new White House offensive against the federal government's most trusted public health official in a bit. But first, we got to talk about Trump's decision to commute Roger Stone's entire prison sentence. As you may remember, Stone is Trump's friend and longtime political adviser who was convicted by a jury of seven felonies that included lying to Congress and witness tampering. But on the other hand, Stone refused to provide evidence to federal prosecutors that Trump may have committed perjury.
In his written answers to special counsel Robert Mueller. So as a reward, Trump saw to it that Stone doesn't have to serve a day of his 40 month sentence. And on Friday, the White House released a press statement that ended, quote, Roger Stone is a free man. Exclamation point. Even a few Republican senators criticized this decision with Mitt Romney calling it, quote, unprecedented historic corruption. And Pat Toomey, conservative senator from Pennsylvania, pointing out that Stone was convicted based on an investigation conducted by a Republican led committee.
Tommy, I put this in the category of not surprising, but still shocking. What was your reaction? How big of a deal is this?
Yeah, I mean, I think quoting Dan Fifers, his hero, his mentor, Mitt Romney is right. I mean, it is pretty historic corruption. Roger Stone was convicted of obstructing a congressional investigation, five counts of making false statements to Congress and tampering with a witness. He committed those crimes to hide the truth about a foreign government's efforts to help get his boss, Donald Trump, elected. And then Trump used the power of the presidency to absolve him.
So that's a that's a pretty big deal.
Pretty big corruption of our entire process. As you mentioned, John, specifically we're talking about is the fact that Trump clearly knew about Stone's outreach to WikiLeaks and had no knowledge about the e-mail dumps that were coming. Michael Cohen said he overheard Trump in stone talk about WikiLeaks. Paul Manafort said Trump personally told him to stay in touch with Stone about WikiLeaks. So this was pretty well documented. But when when Trump was asked about this is written, answers to Mueller said, I don't recall any such conversations about it.
Right. He lied.
So from the beginning, the investigation, Stone and Trump were signaling that they would cover up for each other. Stone said something very subtle to the media, like, I will never roll on. Donald Trump is, I believe, one of the quotes.
And then in 2018, Trump returned the favor by tweeting, It's nice to know that some people still have guts. When he refused to cooperate. And so here we are. Trump is not removed from office for impeachment stone as a free man. I'm sure he'll be handsomely rewarded with some book deal or TV contract or a job on the campaign. But broadly speaking, this is also part of a pattern. Jack Goldsmith, he's a professor at Harvard Law, wrote a piece where he argues that 31 of 36 individuals Trump is pardoned or given a commutation, had some sort of perks, personal or political benefit.
So is completely using that process in the justice system for his own personal gain. And that is a big deal, even if we are exhausted by him years into this. Well, what would you think? This is sort of a story, sort of a throwback to all the crimes and corruption of 2017 and 2018 19, I guess.
Yeah. So Roger Stone says quite publicly over and over again, you know, please pardon me. Please keep my sentence. I didn't turn on you and it would have been much easier if I did. He actually says both parts. He hasn't just said and turn on you. Right. There's an interpretation of I didn't turn on you, which is to suggest maybe, you know, there's some defense that's along the lines of there is a witch hunt against you.
And I didn't play along. But when he says it would have been much easier for himself to not turn on you, what he's really saying is if I had admitted what I'd done, I might have been able to to get out of jail time. I might have been able to turn on you and cop to some of the crimes that many, many crimes that were alleged to have committed together. You know, as of this moment, there are multiple conversations, private conversations between Roger Stone and Donald Trump that we don't know what was discussed.
Right. We have implications of our discuss. We have second hand accounts of what might have been discussed. We know what their behaviors were around those calls that Donald Trump talked to Roger Stone and then said, oh, there's going to be a basically like, oh, great crimes coming down the pike. Can't wait, you know.
But this is a successful effort to prevent us from knowing what happened in the relationship between Roger Stone and Donald Trump. It is a successful cover up, and it's it shouldn't be lost on anybody that Michael Cohen is getting getting sent back to jail because a fucking moron who is like, you know, getting tacos and refusing to not get a book deal, truly mind numbing idiocy. But, Roger, you know, Michael Cohen, who turns on Trump in some way, ends up back in jail.
Roger Stone, who held out, is rewarded for it. And that's the message he's sending. And it happens over the course of a few days in which we have a Supreme Court ruling that says while we are entitled to Trump's taxes, in theory, in practice, he's above the law in which Bill Barr has been clearing house in the Eastern District in New York and the Southern District in New York, in in D.C. as well. So, you know, it has been a terrible week for the rule of law.
Terrible. Just Terry.
I mean, look, we we're used to trump using, you know, pardons and commutations to help his friends. Like, that's nothing new at this point, even though it is deeply corrupt. This is the first time he's done it to actually reward someone who's helped cover up one of the president's potential crimes. The judge who sentence stone, Amy Berman Jackson, said this during the sentencing. She said, quote, He was not prosecuted for standing up for the president.
He was prosecuted for covering up for the president. And Jeffrey Toobin noted that this is worse than anything that Nixon did. Even Nixon didn't pardon or commute the sentences of anyone who could have implicated him in the Watergate scandal. He had thought about it and realized that that was too far because it could be politically damaging for him. One reaction to the commutation came from Robert Mueller himself, who broke his silence over the weekend in a Washington Post editorial where he made clear that Stone, quote, remains a convicted felon and rightly so.
So we haven't heard like a word from Mueller since the end of the investigation. Tell me, why do you think he chose to speak up now?
Because, you know, Bob Mueller gets the current media environment. And I think to OP Ed's every two years is the way to combat a president who attacks you and your investigation every day.
I don't know. He's very old. They did a horrible job messaging. This is, you know, fucked up the entire understanding among the country about this process. It's deeply frustrating and it makes me want to scream. I want to offer one quibble with my friend Mitt Romney, who I did quote earlier, that this is unprecedented. People forget that George H.W. Bush pardoned Caspar Weinberger, former secretary defense, for their role in the Iran-Contra scandal. There were five of them, and that probably helped prevent them from testifying against Bush or Reagan.
So this shit has happened before and it's gross. But, yeah, I mean, I read the op ed. I'm glad it's out there. It's just it's so frustrating. It's so devastating. It's up as do nothing. Come on, everybody, stop writing op ed to do nothing.
Robert Mueller got batted around. He got batted around by Bill Barr. He got batted around by Donald Trump. And you know, his op ed, this is this this great defense. He says, you know, well, he was right like he is. If he's he's sort of standing up for the principles of the investigation, standing up for the conclusions of the Mueller report, as if there's some kind of, um, parliamentary debate, some kind of like intellectual exercise over time that's going to determine the effectiveness of his probe.
He's sort of writing for history in some way. Meanwhile, we're left with one recourse, which is the election, because the guardrails around the rule of law have failed. They've just failed. We should stop. They're not failing. They're not letting us down. They have failed. And that's that because this is a successful covered up. This one worked. That's. Yeah.
Here's here's my lesson from 2016 to today, law enforcement and national security. Fish have proven to have catastrophically bad judgment when it comes to political and communications matters.
Leave it to someone else talking to you, James Comey. I mean, yeah.
You know, after the op ed, Lindsey Graham, who had previously rejected requests from Democratic senators to have Möller testify in front of a judiciary, says he will now grant that request. I mean, I don't know what's going on there. I don't know what good it does having Mueller come before the judiciary. I don't know if, like, Graham wants this because now he wants to, you know, cross-examine him and try to discredit the whole Mueller investigation.
And he thinks that's a good move for him. I don't know if, like, Democrats will be able to get him to say whatever, like. The question I have is like, is this. This is obviously a horrible thing that happened over the weekend. We're sort of already moved on to another news story, even though the president basically just commuted the sentence of someone as a reward for not implicating him in a crime like as bad as it gets.
But like, is this an issue that Joe Biden or the Democrats should be talking about on the campaign trail from now to November? Or is this you know, we we should we be just talking about, you know, the pandemic and the recession and sort of the big issues that are affecting people's lives?
I am willing to be like I don't think it's a very tough question. I am sympathetic to those who want an activist Democratic congressional response that is ongoing. In reality, I do think what often the criticism is, is not that things aren't taking place right now, but that there hasn't been a kind of steady drumbeat ongoing, never, you know, basically never letting Trump score a goal, never letting anything by for the past year and a half and their frustrations with the way in which oversight has been conducted, obviously.
But, you know, I look at this and I my view is there's basically three things we have to do. There is one. Defeating Trump in the election. Obviously, there is, too, after he is gone, resisting the very, very powerful urge driven by Republicans and even some Democrats to move forward, not look back. We need to focus on the next midterms, mean to me to focus on meat and potatoes issues. This can be a great pull towards not looking backwards.
We need to be resistant to that and make sure there's a process set up to go back through and investigate the crimes and corruptions and malfeasance and cover ups of the Trump administration. And as part of that three, there's going to need to be a robust effort to look at some of the holes in our system that Trump was able to drive a Mack truck through and start closing them around. Disclosures around the ways in which the president is allowed to intervene in the Justice Department is gonna be a bunch of reforms that are needed.
We need to make sure we pursue those reforms. What we do in the next three to four months before the election. I'm not I'm not totally sure what the best course of action is, but I do think our minds should be completely focused on the politics, completely focused on what it will do to affect our chances.
Yeah. I mean, I wonder if Graham is just tweeting it till I show it to Trump as they're on the golf course together or forwarded to him later. But I feel strongly that Democrats should never, ever again talk about impeachment on a campaign trail. There is considerable evidence that swing voters hate it. They think it's partisan. They don't want to hear about it. It turns them off. It can backfire. I would never use that word again.
I do think you can talk to voters about the fact that Donald Trump pledged to drain the swamp and he's actually made a corrupt system far worse. He's rewarded his family. He's reward his cronies. He's a reward is donors. You can lay out a bunch of evidence that can include pardons and commutations for those people. I agree with Lovett. Post-election, we got to look back at what happened. Scrub it, figure out all the holes and fix them.
But I don't want to hear impeachment ever on the campaign trail. Yeah, I agree.
And I also think that sort of like talking about rule of law sounds a little esoteric to most people. I mean, I think where this fits in the larger sort of campaign message is this is yet another example of Trump only focusing on himself, his interests, his ego, how to take care of him and not focusing on you as the whole country's falling apart. All he cares about is making sure his buddy doesn't go to jail. Meanwhile, there's like, you know, thirteen thousand people applying for clemency for, you know, in jail for nonviolent drug offenses.
And he doesn't give a shit about them. But if you're Roger Stone and you protected Donald Trump, you get a what you get to get out of jail free card. So, you know, it's one small point, but I agree. I don't think it's gonna be the biggest issue. And I think people watching a whole bunch more hearings, Mueller testifying, I think it's going to go sort of like right over people's heads as they're trying to grapple with a once in a lifetime pandemic.
So. Right is the White House was bragging about freeing a convicted criminal who covered up the president's crimes. They were also orchestrating a hit job on the country's most trusted public health official, Dr. Anthony Fauci. That's right.
The White House is anonymously sending reporters opposition research on Foushee. That points out some of his earlier comments about the virus that he made before we knew as much about it as we do now. And the White House is doing this because Fauji has been giving interviews where he tells the truth about the pandemic, like when he said on a 538 podcast that, quote, When you compare this to other countries, I don't think you can say we're doing great. I mean, we're just not Trump reportedly hasn't spoken to folks since June and and said on Hannity last week that he's, quote, a nice man, but he's made a lot of mistakes.
Tommy, why would the president and his team openly attack the country's most trusted public health official in the middle of a pandemic?
The big picture reason is that they're impossibly stupid and it is part of a pattern where they would attack people like Colonel Vind men during impeachment, others who worked for them. But like this specific reason for Foushee is, you know, The New York Times Seanna poll showed that 67 percent of voters trust Foushee for information about the Corona virus. And then a July 10th ABC poll showed a 67 percent disapproval of Trump's handling of the Corona virus. Right. So Trump, despite all evidence that the response is failing, is still pursuing the strategy where they pretend the virus is going away.
And Foushee telling the truth in interviews, even though they've locked those down and installed a Trump crony to make sure he doesn't do a lot of interviews and makes that argument harder. They also just have a personal grudge against him. He's popular. He's respected. And Trump is not. And that upsets Trump personally. And, you know, it's just they're petty people. A touch of media criticism here, like out of context quotes from Foushee in February or January when we knew literally nothing about the virus, the novel coronavirus, because it was brand new.
That's hardly interesting. The news to me is that the White House is doing this. I wouldn't publish some misleading attack like that on background, say it on the record or blow these people like you don't have to take this on background or on or some off the record agreement with these people.
That is the news of this publisher who said it. Tell us who's doing this. That's more interesting. Love it. Obviously, this is dangerous to discredit Foushee in the middle of a pandemic.
It is repugnant, but just from a pure political standpoint, like imagine if Trump decided to hug Foushee and be like this guy is super respected and trusted in the country by people in both parties, by past presidents. People seem to like him. I'm going to stand with him at these briefings and he's going to sort of lead the nation through this. And I'll just shut up. And he's the expert. That would help Trump politically.
Yes, it's pretty self-destructive, which obviously adds insult to injury because he's doing everything for his own benefit. I can only think in kind of 24 hour increments. I mean, we went through in part because the work that is required of a president does not pay dividends even on something like this right away. There could be PR victories.
But whether it's, you know, securing masks and the reagents and whatever you need for testing, building up our capacity to test, building up contact tracing, putting in place plans over time, over the past six months to make sure our schools were ready. None of these produce an immediate news cycle benefit. So he doesn't see the value in doing it for even a second. But what he does see value in doing is we went through a China's to blame news cycle.
It's it's the Wu Han virus. They're the ones responsible. Then we went through a WHL news cycle. Right. We're gonna pull out of the WHL. They're the ones to blame. Now, we're in a foushee news cycle. And I think what's ironic is, you know, you read that quote from Foushee about our response. And, you know, even in that quote, it's this measured language. You know, I would not say we're doing great.
Whatever the kind of measure of tone he take, I think there's a big criticism that you can level against Anthony Foushee. It is that he has been too deferential to the Trump administration in order to maintain his position, in order to continue to be in the place where he thinks he needs to be to do the most good for the country. I mean, even now, he's sort of you know, Tommy pointed out, you know, they've got these goons preventing from doing TV interviews.
You know, I don't think that they're, um, they're not shackled at the wrist. I mean, I think Foushee is starting to kind of bristle at the bridle that the administration has put on him. But I think he should be doing more. I think he should be speaking out even more. And, yeah, you know, this isn't what he should be doing. You can look across the country, governors that have made mistakes. Governors who have done a good job, the ones that I think are in the best political standing are the ones who have simply said from the beginning, I'm going to defer to my experts.
Yeah, I mean, look, it's a good question about like, what if you're Tony Foushee, what do you do now? Right. Because, you know, the White House can jump. I mean, he he does. He's an employee of the federal government. His bosses are in the White House. He is a civil servant. So it's not like Trump can just fire him, though. I'm sure he'd try to find a way.
But, you know, like how do you how do you think you use your voice?
I mean, he he's out there basically telling the truth right now. He's not highly critical of Donald Trump, but he's telling the truth about the state of the pandemic, which is that we're not doing great. This is the big sin to the White House. Right. Because the White House message, Donald Trump's messages, everything's fine. What you're seeing isn't really happening. Everyone who's telling you we shouldn't reopen faster, they're just worrywarts and public health experts and all these liberals.
And they don't want me to win elections. I just want to reopen the country. Everything's gonna be fine. This whole thing is gonna go away. So the fact that Tony Fauji is out there telling the truth, which is that we are screwed right now, is so bad that they want to muzzle him and now attack him. So if you're Foushee, like, what do you what do you do?
I mean, he reportedly wants to see the vaccine process through to the end, which if that's his real motivation here. I'm cool with it, man. Stick around. Shut up when you gotta shut up talk. We need to talk. He's also saying things like, you know, localities might need to lock down again if cases surge locally. That, to me, is an important message. I really do wish people were hearing that because I don't you know, I think a lot there's a lot of resistance at this point.
So I see how hard it is to balance those things. I don't know. I think the story of the corona virus pandemic and the way it's being handled is kind of telling itself when you see like 15000 new cases on Sunday in Florida as they open up fucking Disney World or whatever. So I'm a little less worried about the messaging at this point than I was early on during these task forces. I do really worry about the execution of some of the treatments, the vaccine, all the things happening behind the scenes that we don't hear about.
Yeah, and I do think you're right, Tommy. If he you know, Tony Fauji being there for the vaccine development, the treatment development, the roll out. Like, if he can, from a substantive point of view, forget about the message, helped make that process more effective and safe or whatever. I'm happy with him being there and speaking out when he can.
A bank is about to license the patent for the for the vaccine if we're not careful. So, yeah, we need some.
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We mentioned this earlier, but you can hear Abdul Alcides interview with Dr. Foushee on tomorrow's America dissected podcast. Here's a clip from that conversation.
How do you in the face of politicization by a president? How do you maintain a focus on the public's health? And how do you walk a line that allows you to maintain integrity to the science while also staying away from some of the explicit politics of the moment? I know many of your colleagues haven't done it nearly as well as you have. So, you know, what's the secret? And then the other question is, have you ever just at some point wanted to throw your hands up and walk away and just say, you know what?
At this point, like I'm done with this?
No, not really, because I think that is the issue at hand is so important. I think walking away from it is is not the solution. I think that would just make things worse. Well, what I what I try to do and I and I have really been successful, as you say, I've I've I've now advised six separate presidents, all very different individuals also coming from different perspectives, but also being being an administration or a presidency at different times in our history, which required, you know, different types of approaches.
You know, 9/11 was very different with the anthrax attacks, the pandemic flu and Ebola and Zika and now Cauvin 19. The thing that I've done and been able to successfully navigate sometimes these very choppy waters is stick always to the science. Don't ever let any thing that even smacks slightly of any ideology get in the way. You've got to just stick with the science, present things, advice, recommendations and what have you based on evidence and science. And if that clashes with something that is political, then then don't get involved in any of that.
Just continue to stick with the science and it works. It really does.
So check out more on tomorrow's America dissected of Abdul's interview with with Dr. Foushee. So even though the president was busy trashing Fauji this weekend, he also decided to wear a mask in public for the first time during a trip to Walter Reed Medical Center. Trump told reporters before he left for the trip, quote, I've never been against masks, but I do believe I have a time and a place when you're in a hospital especially. Trump's campaign staff immediately took to Twitter to praise their bosses decision to finally wear a mask, posting the photo with comments like hashtag America First, Joe Biden is finished.
And good night, Joe Biden. Love it. What you think is Joe Biden finished now? That done from foremast.
Look, we know there are many reports that they print out pro Trump tweets for him so that he can see them. So this is a these are tweets for an audience of one. They're going to print them out show which of the post is a real like Nathan Lane and the Bird. Obviously, this is incredibly serious. It's it's it's both on the Foushee front and on this front. The fact that we're debating this is, again, how Trump's ego sort of swallows up our politics.
Right. When will Trump wear a mask? It's such an entry level basic thing he should have done months ago. It's disgusting. But there is this like Nathan Lane in the bird cage thing of like, I'm not going out there looking like this. Look at me. I look ridiculous with this costume on. I'm not gonna put this mask on. What do you mean they're waiting to see me? Well, I'll do it, I guess, but only if the chorus boys are with me.
Beautiful men, military men. Put them in the masks, too. And then then we'll go out there and we'll put on a show for them. And they'll love it. They'll love it. Do they love it? They love it. They love the show I put up with my big brawny military man and our masks.
That's the guy. Did you take appear in tablet to help you prepare for the role?
Took my. I can't. I mean, I just understand how I'm wants to perform under these conditions. I do not appear in tablet, Tommy. Thank you.
That's very good. That's a great, unexpected, underrated movie.
What you guys couldn't see was Foushee blinking. Help me in Morse code throughout the caps and make sure you watch it.
I mean, like I mean, it's so funny. Right. Like, congrats. You did the bare minimum. You walked around a hospital full of wounded troops with a mask on. What a fucking hero. I mean, for his staff to feel obligated to tweet about how cool he looks just speaks to the depth. Of this man's depravity and ego, it's just it's so sad. If he'd done it months ago, things could have been different. It's just it's so frustrating.
It's also frustrating, endlessly frustrating to me that the political world, including politicians and the press, are the ones like shaping the boundaries of this debate, talking about how NASA politicized. They aren't. They shouldn't be. Everyone can wear them. Well, I'll be fine.
It's just the idea that Trump putting a mask on is what's going to end. Joe Biden's campaign is also feels like the his his staffers are a bit out of touch with us right now.
You mean to tell me that you don't think Boris Epstein has his finger on the pulse from his Sinclair recording booth? The word it's just you, right?
Like, I mean, talk. He polarize the electorate with this bullshit three or four months ago by attacking mass and making fun of masks and mocking and doing all that other kind of stuff. And, you know, if he had done it, then what? You know, maybe we wouldn't be having, you know, infections skyrocket. And some of these states right now when instead of, like, having a.. Mask activists out there protesting, putting a piece of fucking cloth over your face.
Thanks to the president.
So it's not just him, though, either, though. It's not just him. Right. Ted Cruz today on an airplane refusing to wear a mask. Jim Jordan refusing to wear a mask. We've seen Republican leaders, Republican politicians across the country at events this weekend, at events this weekend in big rooms crowded with people refusing to wear a mask. You know, it will be an important question that we answer over time why the United States was so vulnerable to this virus when other countries were able to control it.
But, man, it's not just Trump. It is a toxic Republican reaction to just basic decency and courtesy and compassion for fellow human beings. It is a rearguard action against humanity, is what it is. All right.
Let's talk about the not so a V shaped recovery the Trump administration has promised us. It was only a few months ago that Jared Kushner talked about his hope that, quote, by July, the country is really rocking again. Not so much, but we still have double digit unemployment. And over the last week, several major American companies have announced plans to lay off tens of thousands of workers. Some of this due to the pandemic getting worse. Again, according to one estimate by Goldman Sachs, quote, More than 70 percent of the country has either paused or reversed opening plans.
Congress is about to start negotiating this week and next over the next and likely final round of economic relief before the election. And they've got a tight timeline. Unemployment benefits expire at the end of the month. Nancy Pelosi said over the weekend the benefits must be extended. The Republicans in the White House have been opposed to extending the extra six hundred dollars per week benefit that most workers are getting. Mitch McConnell said that his primary objective is liability protections for corporations so that they can't get sued if their employees come back to work and get sick with Kofod.
Tell me how much leverage the Democrats have here in these negotiations and how much room for compromise do you think there should be?
I think Democrats have a lot of leverage, but it's very hard to know what the actual White House position is, because if you read about what Newk and thinks, it seems a little more reasonable. But as we were recording, this tweet ran went around in our slack, where Larry Kudlow is calling for a payroll tax holiday return to work bonuses and a capital gains holiday. So just a pause for a second. No one needs a cap gains holiday.
You don't need to sell your stock now and and just walk away. A return to work bonus seems like the opposite of helpful because it will incentivize going back to work and being around people and getting sick. So that part is frustrating. But look, the response is a disaster. It's getting worse in. The economic pain has been delayed for a lot of families because of the response by Congress. And, you know, now we're at this point where it's about to expire on July 30 first.
And the administration is in the position of mismanaging the virus and then failing to fix the economy for the rest of the year. And that's just untenable for them because obviously the two are are connected. So, you know, the cynical piece of that is you Politico reported that laid off workers in 2020 battleground states may be hurt the most when these six hundred dollar per week unemployment insurance boost expires. States like Pennsylvania, Michigan and Florida, some of the highest unemployment numbers in the country, and they will see a three billion per week reduction when it goes away.
So Democrats should be fighting for that extra money. They should fight for an extended stimulus. I want to see unemployment insurance extensions that are generous and also automatically extended until some, you know, fair target is met. That indicates a recovery is ongoing so that Mitch McConnell can't shut off the spigot. If Joe Biden is elected.
I also think the suggestion that businesses deserve blanket liability until 2024. That's the Mitch McConnell proposal is crazy. We cannot allow businesses to force workers into unsafe environments. We've seen it in factories and, you know, chicken processing plants and all kinds of places already. They can't allow that to happen. We should fight tooth and nail for this stuff. He's like, I think I really think workers will get it. If you make this case, this is pretty obvious stuff.
Love it what you think? Yeah, I agree with that. I think we need to fight to make sure that, look, a lot of our crisis has been borne of the fact that the government is always treating it like it's about to be over in two months. It's not gonna be over in two months. Not gonna be over in six months, Pynacker.
Knock me over in a year. So we should be open to compromise, in part because it is so desperate that we get people relief. We have a bunch of moratoriums on evictions that are about to expire. We have this emergency relief, the extended hours a month that's about to expire. There's a ton of small businesses that were just barely hanging on and are are looking at a year of hardship and pain and probably not going to be able to survive it and may decide to shut their doors.
A lot of this is going to hit all at once, and it's going to be if Joe Biden can become president. An incredible mess that he inherits. So, you know, you look at something like, you know, so, yes, you need like triggers to make sure that relief can continue, even if there's a Democratic president and Republicans all of a sudden decide that they no longer believe in helping people again. But you also need to make sure that we don't do things like capital gains tax holiday, which would not only do nothing except just provide a huge windfall to some of the richest people in our society.
But it will take a huge amount of taxable money out of the system. And we're going to need to raise revenue to kind of do some of the big ticket items that the debt a Democratic administration with a Democratic Senate and Democratic House want to do next year.
So, you know, we have to sort of just hold both the line on anything that will hamstring a Democratic administration or the economy next year.
Yeah, I mean, just from a political standpoint, I think this fight is incredibly important to have over the next few weeks and will shape a lot of the fall campaign, partly because, you know, we have talked many times about how the only thing that's keeping Trump in this race is this perception by the electorate that he is still stronger on the economy, that he can manage the recovery, that he's some fuckin business man that can get us back to where we were and all that kind of stuff.
And we know that what hurts that image is this idea that Trump is for his rich friends and corporations and that Joe Biden and the Democrats are actually fighting for working class, middle class poor Americans.
And this fight has to be sort of depicted as the perfect example of who each side is fighting for.
And I mean, you could have a starker difference between Mitch McConnell, whose top priority is to make sure that companies are protected so that they can force workers to go back to work even if they get sick and not be held accountable if their workers get sick. And the Democrats who want to make sure that workers can continue to get unemployment benefits, plus that six hundred dollar extra benefit if they have to stay home through no fault of their own, they're all talking about getting rid of the six hundred dollar benefit.
You take away six hundred dollars per week from millions and millions of workers who were getting that. What do you think's going to happen to the economy when all these businesses are still closed and more businesses are closing because the virus is taking hold in more states? Money is going to come out of the economy. There's gonna be less money to spend. There's going to be more job loss and the recession is going to deepen. And so, like, I think that, you know, this shouldn't just be a fight in Congress.
I think Joe Biden should be involved in this, too. I think every leader the Democratic Party should make very clear that Democrats are going to stand up for a recovery that helps the middle class. That makes it safe to go to work. That helps workers first. And Republicans are fighting for the corporations who want to force people back to work before it's safe to do so.
It just seems like this is a big, big fight and like it, you know, it's pretty obvious where each side should be.
Yeah. It's like American workers were overpaid before the pandemic. Right. I mean, about half of American home renters before the pandemic were spending more than 30 percent of their income on housing, which puts them at a really scary tipping point.
And it's also not about money because the stock market is rallying in an absurd, irrational way because the Fed is spending trillions of dollars to prop it up. They are literally buying corporate bonds. Apple, G.E., Comcast, they're buying corporate bond ETF that is helping all these stock owners. And now we're offering them a cap gains tax holiday. That is not so.
Our friend, Austan Goolsbee, former colleague, did a study at the University of Chicago that found the fear of infection and not the lockdown is what drove the economic contraction in the spring. That that, I think, is the case that Joe Biden needs to make. You need to tie the pandemic response to the economic response. They're not separate. They can't be separated. And that's not how I think Biden can really chip away at Trump's numbers on sort of business stuff.
The economic, you know, handling of the economy, etc, etc, is by really making that case.
So couple other quick points on this one. There's also just an incredible perverse part of this debate, which is Republicans like McConnell, Lindsey Graham, others saying that the reason they're against this six hundred dollars is because. Disincentive sizes work because in some cases, people might end up with a little bit more and more money than they would have gotten from their jobs, as if right now there's jobs for people to go back to, as if right now we're in this great economy, we're going to lure refused to go back to work sick.
It's a it's perverse because they have no compunction about giving money to all kinds of businesses. So all kinds of rich people. That's a sickness, too. One of the Democratic priorities is around schools. I talked to about this with Kai Henderson today. But, you know, Donald Trump is fighting to reopen schools. We're not talking enough about it. And I think anything Democrats can do to say they're trying to help schools locally, get them resources, get them help, make up for the fact that there's no real plan from the government is really important.
And just one other small piece about all of this is that.
Because this may last such a long time, the companies best able to weather it are going to be some of the biggest corporations in America. And a process that was already happening in slow motion, the kind of shift to big businesses, the shift away from small companies is going to accelerate. That's incredibly dangerous because small companies create the character of our cities. They create the character of our communities. And that kind of sapping of that sort of part of our culture, of that part of our economy is incredibly financially dangerous.
But it's also just something that I think Democrats need to talk about more.
Yeah, and I agree with your point on me that, like, you know, if I'm Joe Biden and I'm putting up my economic plan. Point number one of a five point plan is to help boost the economy, fix the virus, stop the virus. You've got to connect the two.
And by the way, that's what people are doing. The fact that Joe Biden is winning in these polls, even though people still think Trump is better on the economy, is because the main issue for people is the virus. Not just because of their health, but because they know that the virus is also stopping the economy from getting back to normal. So I do. And I think that when the Democrats negotiate this, like I know they're going to try to negotiate in good faith.
And if they get a great deal, it's important to move forward on that deal because that's just going to actually help people who are really hurting. But I would not. They have almost all the leverage here.
I would not give up too much, because if they end up in a fight where Mitch McConnell said, no, I'm just not going to extend that six hundred dollars, that's my final offer. But I will on extend unemployment benefits in general.
Like, I wouldn't take that deal because I would go I would say then I'm going to go to the American people in November and say Republicans would rather give corporations more tax cuts and the ability to make workers go back to work even when it's not safe, then to give six hundred dollars more a week to people who are struggling this economy.
Take that to the voters. Yeah. And also, like, I love it. I'm really glad you did the interview on the question of reopening schools today, because, you know, look, again, people were working full time jobs and couldn't make ends meet way.
What happens if their kids can't go to school? You have to pay extra for child care because the kids are home and schools are closed.
I mean, this is so blind to the reality of what's happening in the country right now. And it is so needlessly cruel that I do think, like not only like not only do we have a political advantage to fight this, but I actually think that we are going to get to an outcome if Mitch McConnell has his way, that's harmful to the country, to the recovery effort, to all of the above. And it's just not worth doing something that is harmful.
All right. When we come back, we will have Lovett's conversation with Pod Save the People's Kaiya Henderson.
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She is the former chancellor of D.C. public schools and co-host of Crooked Media's Pod Save the People with New Episodes every Tuesday. Caia Henderson, welcome to the pod.
Thanks, John. I'm excited to be here. Thank you, sir. Thank you for doing this. I was like, I think a lot of people, myself included, I don't have kids. And lucky for them, that don't exist. But I've been just so overwhelmed by the news about schools. It seems so.
It's so enraging, it is so sad to see this kind of slow motion crisis coming towards us in the fall because, you know, you know better than anyone how much is on the line for these kids, for the teachers, for their parents.
You know, this interview is happening in a week dominated by stories and controversies around reopening. Donald Trump has begun threatening schools to reopen.
You've been somebody that's obviously you're an expert in schools. You have contributed to blueprints for how to reopen schools safely. What does it look like to you to bring students back into schools in a responsible way?
Well, I mean, responsible. The question is who gets to define responsible? I think the challenge here is that this is a situation where everybody's point of view is actually quite valid, whether as a parent you want to send your kid to school or you want to keep your kid home. Both of those are really valid perspectives. If you're a teacher, whether you want to come back to school or you are worried about your safety and would prefer to stay home, or maybe you live with somebody who is immunocompromised and so you're worried about what might both those are valid.
You know, if you are a district leader, for example, on the one hand, you want to keep your young people as safe as possible. And you know that every minute that they are missing, not just instruction, but the socialization that happens in schools, the exposure that's happening in schools is really critical. And we know that we're going to literally lose generations of kids as a result of this. Like all of these are valid viewpoints. And I think that the challenge around responsible opening is there is no perfect answer.
Right. So how do we get it as right as we possibly can? I think the way we do that is making sure that people have protection, making sure that we're thinking about how we maximize space differently. Think about classrooms differently. Think about the deployment of our human capital, our talent, in different ways. I think there's an opportunity to to create different options for young people and families. You might have the option if you want to go 100 percent virtual.
That should be an option for families who want to do that. And we should also have an in school option for for families who need to. I mean, there are some families who literally we're talking about reopening the economy.
They can't go to work if they don't have a place to send their young people. And so I think the problem here is, you know, one of the most perplexing decisions to make as a large urban superintendent, at least in the northeast, is snow days. Right. And snow days are kind of a damned if you do, damned if you don't situation. And this is one of those situations where there is no right answer. And so what can we do that is responsible, that is safe, and that meets the needs of a lot of different stakeholders, I think is a question that we're all wrestling with.
I mean, does he know that that from what I've seen from a number of at least the bigger school districts is that there's this balance between some amount of online learning, some in-person learning, smaller classes, shifts, that sort of thing. But even that, I guess, is sort of two questions. I can. One is, how much do you worry that that solution is inadequate just for the kids to get a good education? Do you do you worry about that?
I mean, even that is not the full education that we want our children to have. Right.
It is absolutely inadequate. I mean, if you think about a regular school year, it's 180 days and it's roughly six to seven hours a day of instruction. Now, I'm not saying to every single moment is absolutely maximized.
But it is far more than what what kids are getting now. In the distance learning environment, because this was an emergency response to a global pandemic, we weren't set up to do this at most. Many of our school districts are only giving kids two or three hours of instruction a day, in some cases not even a day. And so when you think about our young people who are already behind or are little learners who are learning how to read and do math and build foundational skills, there is just no way that a couple of hours a day in an environment that none of us are acculturated really to to to operate in is the right answer for academic success.
It just is not. But we also know that you can't put 3000 kids in a school building or 800 kids in a school building. And so, again, I think people are doing the best they can with what they have. How do we bring as many kids back on a rotational basis as possible? How do we think differently about using our best teachers to reach even more kids? But, you know, one of the challenges is not all of our kids are logging on.
There was an article in the L.A. Times a little bit ago.
About 40 percent of kids in L.A. Unified School District had not logged on since the beginning of distance learning. And so those kids, we don't know where they are. We don't know what is happening to them. And that's not a recipe for academic success.
And it seems like it'd be nice to be able to not dwell on all the ways in which this is terrible. But it is you know, I do think it's horrible. But but, you know, what's what you immediately imagine is OK. You know, parents with two incomes, families with two incomes that have more flexible. Three families with means that have more flexibility, they can figure out ways to make this work, but the kids that need school the absolute most, they need it the most, are the ones that are going to be the least able to do online learning, least able to make it work that they're going two days a week and don't know where they're supposed to go the other three days a week set, you know, five days a week.
That that is absolutely right, John. In all of the ways that America is unequal, this is yet again a situation where the wealthy people will figure it out. They have means, they have flexibility. You know, I see wealthy people who are pulling their kids out of school period and hiring tutors or, you know, paying a college student to common manage not only distance learning, but, you know, other supplemental activities. I see, you know, all kinds of innovative solutions that are happening from people with means.
But the working mother who has three kids or the working parents, you know, in many cases, even dual parent families can't hack this situation.
And we're not doing I mean, we have decided to prioritize a whole bunch of other things before we prioritize America's children and America's families.
So obviously, you know, we've all talked about the lack of leadership or the opposite of leadership that's come from the president. That's coming from. That's he divorced secretary of education. Obviously, a lot of what school districts are dealing with is solving an unsolvable problem because the work wasn't done in advance. The things that could have been done to set make plans, helped schools prepare, just didn't happen. Nobody did it. If you were advising the secretary of education with any kind of competence or compassion for children, who is actually kind of engaged in this fight, who belonged in the job and didn't buy it like it was floor seats at a sporting event that I couldn't name because I don't know what these seats are, if that's the.
You know, I've seen, you know, one of those seats where you can yell at the refs. That's what Betsy Davos wanted. She wanted to see where she could yell at the refs. If you were advising that secretary of education, what would be your ad or if you were that secretary of education would mind that either if you were doing that job, what would you do?
I mean, this is what is so baffling to me, John, is if we like we have decided that bars and restaurants and gyms and tattoo parlors opening are more important than schools opening. And I just don't understand how in good conscience we make that decision as a country. I work in an international education space as well. And other countries, people are prioritizing getting schools open because it's critical to your not just short term economy, but to your long term economy.
And so, you know, I hope if I was secretary of education that I would be working for a president who I didn't have to explain that to that. In fact, our number one priority would be getting schools open, not just getting schools open. And this is I mean, I will tell you, I have experience in this. Right. I was chancellor of D.C. public schools when D.C. Public Schools was and still is under mayoral control. We were no longer governed by an elected school board.
We reported directly to the mayor. And we were able to turn that district around, in part because we reported directly to the mayor. I was able to go to the mayor and say anything from I need help with buildings, I need help with nurses, I need help with whatever. And the mayor would deploy the city's resources to schools first. The mayor took the the architect who was designing the baseball stadium. Right. Which is a boogies million dollar project.
Right. And said and said the baseball stadium is not more important than schools. This guy is crushing it on the baseball stadium. May he rest in peace, Alamo. I'm taking him off the baseball stadium because we should be crushing it in schools. I want the Department of Health to help Khaya. Think about how we provide health services in our schools. I want the Department of Sanitation to go pick up the garbage yesterday. Don't have to worry about that.
I want them to work on teaching and learning and them. And the mayor, I worked for three consecutive mayors and each one of those three mayors prioritized schools in ways that had never happened before. And so we were able to turnaround what was the lowest performing urban school district in the country, in part because the executive, just like the president, should prioritize schools and put the city's resources the same way. We should be putting the country's resources against schools as the number one priority.
Yeah, it's heartbreaking because, you know, the president refuses to wear a mask. Their stories now that he may wear a mask. We have a secretary education complete disconnected from these issues. And, you know, there's all these videos of, you know, people refusing to wear masks. Like Chern of this political battle, we it's July, there's still two months till school, if we had an actual president, actual secretary of education saying, Hey America, we have two months to do everything we can to get our kids back in school.
We have two months to save the fall. That could be really an organizing week, be an optimistic fight up.
I mean, the Mass aren't just about stopping something, right? It's something that could help us protect ourselves, can protect our kids. It makes me crazy. I even have a question or just in rage. I'm enraged. I'm enraged about it.
I'm enraged with you, John. One, though, I will say hats off to governors and mayors who are trying to figure it out. Absent the the federal leadership role, that could be happening right now.
But I want to say that it's not just about what the feds are and aren't doing. Like this is actually a. All of us are responsible for this.
And I think often about something that Arnie Duncan, our former secretary of education, once said that really made me stop in my tracks and made me evaluate what we as Americans really think about our young people.
And he said if we didn't change gun control laws after Sandy Hook like that taught me that we didn't care about America's kids, he will say, I thought America didn't care about black and brown kids because as long as those were the kids who are getting killed. Right. Like, nobody seemed to want to do anything. But when we didn't do anything after white kids in Connecticut were shot down. That made me very clear that we don't care about our children in America.
And every time he says that, it pierces me to my heart because we are making that same exact not just the feds, all of us.
Why aren't citizens, you know, demanding in the streets that we make sure in the same way that in war time we tell companies we need you to do something different, we need you to make this or do that or whatever?
Why aren't we martialing? Why are we telling everybody we need you to do something different to make sure that these schools can accommodate as many young people as possible and that they are doing it safely and that teachers are safe and whatnot. We have to reckon with who we are as Americans and what we believe about our young people.
So thank you for bringing it back to an action oriented and not just me lamenting the situation, but but so so, you know, you've run a district, your. You're involved in these plans. I think a lot of people feel a little bit hopeless. Right. They don't know what to do. They feel this coming. Some have kids and they're worried about their kids and trying to figure it out personally. Some don't. But but are concerned.
What should people hearing this like if they want to do whatever they can now in the next few months, to make sure that the schools in their area are safe, that they have the plans in place? What would you urge people to be doing?
I would urge people to talk to their elected officials. Right. Local elected officials and statewide elected officials have the opportunity to bring whatever resources that they have to bear against this school problem. And I think in lots of places that is happening. I do think that, you know, where, you know, as media is interviewing you, we're talking about all kinds of things in the same way that every time we ask some silly question, we should be asking, why haven't you arrested the police who shot Brianna Taylor?
We should also be asking, what are you doing to make sure that more and more young people can go back to school in a safe way. It is just a drumbeat that we as citizens have got to be prioritizing. Everywhere we go, if you're going to tweet something, tweet about what we need to do to reopen schools, what we need to do to keep teachers safe, what we need to do to keep kids safe. What we need to do to keep parents safe.
That is the question that we should be we it should be a cacophony where there's not room to answer any other question but that one.
Kay Henderson, thank you so much for being here. There's so many other things we should be talking about, but I really I know there's some other important issues, right?
I know we should be talking about this, but but I wanted to focus on this because, you know, it genuinely makes me really upset because I feel like this it's a historic crisis. And, you know, we may get out of the Corona virus in a year, but the kids who don't get the education now will not. They will not. They will be permanently punished by our failure. And I just want to make sure that we keep our attention on that.
Thank you, John. That's absolutely right. Makes Takaya for joining us today. And we'll talk to you guys later. Bye, everybody.
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