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Brian, you've made it, never mind being Washington correspondent, you got a blue tick on Twitter and so did you, Jackie Fox.
Oh, momentous moment in recent weeks, you and I both got our blue tickets on Twitter. And for people who don't know what we're talking about, the blue tick means you're a verified account on Twitter years ago.
I think you could just apply for it and then give it to you if you were a journalist or a celebrity. But they've tightened up on it in recent years. It's been very hard to get a blue tick and then randomly out of the blue.
You and I both got ours last week or the week before. But it wasn't it wasn't all good news was it?
Seems we go no longer do we have as we weren't allowed to tweet. Where are we?
Yeah, there was a hack, as everybody knows, a very high profile hack on big high profile accounts like Joe Biden's and Barack Obama's accounts. And then Twitter suspended all tweets from verified accounts. So it was cast your ballot, but only for a few hours and then all resumed.
But an interesting sign of the power, the influence, the effectiveness and how easy it can be clearly to hack these high-Profile Twitter accounts at a crucial time right now as we approach the election.
But it's interesting as well, people getting that blue tick during this time surrounding, you know, conversations about misinformation and fake news. I think it's a larger part of a movement by Twitter to give context on why people would be tweeting certain things or that they are who they say they are, or even a reliable source of information. For example, with Alysse, whenever she tweets now, it's tagged with U.S. House candidate NY 14 to show that if she's commenting or giving her opinion about an issue, that people can keep this in mind, that she is running for office, which I think is really important, very important, particularly now we are less than four months out from election 2020.
So I think more than ever it is important to make sure that the information is coming from a reliable source and that what's contained in that message is fact based from or TV news.
This is state of mind.
This American carnage fired back with rubber bullets, stops right here and stops right now.
I do not believe we're the dark, angry nation that Donald Trump sees in his tweets in the middle of the night.
Your US Election 20/20 podcast with Brian O'Donovan in Washington and Jackie Fox in Dublin.
Today, the Russian government meddled in the 2016 presidential election. When you look at some of Donald Trump's tweets, do you sometimes kind of roll your eyes or do you pretty much agree with what he says? I don't always like what he says, but I like what he does.
But again but again, we didn't have much. But we had to come up with a game plan in the early part of twenty nineteen to kind of make him become more well known.
It's not just the case for the United States, but around the world after the 2016 U.S. presidential election. Most people in society look at social media differently. We saw the power of it, the manipulation of it, how we can fracture trust and question what to believe. Every political campaign sees its fair share of spin and misdirection. But with this one, it has been concluded by many that it challenged online ethics and democracy. And critically, almost half of Americans used social media during that time in 2016 as news sources.
Yeah, and one of the big scandals from the 2016 election involves the company, Cambridge Analytica. Now, this scandal erupted in March 2018 when it emerged that that company had misused data from millions of Facebook accounts. The breach was thought to affect around 87 million users worldwide.
Group of thirty seven state attorneys general sent a letter to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg demanding answers about the company's user protections.
And our weekly watch, the Cambridge Analytica whistleblowers.
Latest claims start to warp the perception of voters without their consent or knowledge. That is a fundamental denial of their agency and autonomy to make a free, free choice in when they're voting.
Here's how it happened. In 2014, a company called Global Science Research used Facebook to distribute a personality quiz to analyze whether users were extroverted or neurotic. The company said it was doing it just for research purposes, but it actually harvested the psychological data from all the users and with permission, got access to some of the data on their Facebook friends. It then sold the data to Cambridge Analytica, which used it to create targeted political advertising.
Cambridge Analytica worked to develop what they called psychographic profiles for every voter in the U.S. and then they began experimenting with ways to stoke paranoia or bigotry by exploiting certain personality traits.
Facebook was with a five billion dollar fine in July 2019 following the investigation into Cambridge Analytica, and it's thought that in particular, Russia's expansive influence operation touched the feeds of more than 100 million users on Facebook alone.
New evidence of Russia's determination to interfere in our election. A bipartisan report from the Senate Intelligence Committee details how Russia targeted voting systems in all 50 states over the past two years.
Special Counsel Robert Mueller's team have demonstrated one clear fact the Russian government meddled in the 2016 presidential election.
Facebook found 80000 Russian posts reach up to 126 million users and were shared by millions more.
Yeah, and that whole Russian influence and manipulation on social media back in 2016. It wasn't so much about introducing new ideas or controversy, but it was about furthering racial and political divides that already existed in the U.S., stoking up old paranoia, stoking up old prejudices. A Russian agency employed fake accounts on major social media, networking sites, discussion boards, online newspaper sites, that kind of thing. And more than a thousand employees reportedly worked in a single building of this agency in Russia back in 2015.
Another key component as well of the 2016 election was the Trump campaign, which also capitalized on social media in a way that we have never seen before, pumping extraordinary amounts of money. Facebook proved to be a powerful way for Trump's team to hone in on particular people and particular sample sizes to get the campaign's message across. And that's something that you can't get with traditional polling.
No, and a lot of people look back to 2008 to Barack Obama's first campaign as one of the first big campaigns that harnessed the whole concept of social media and did it in a very effective way. They used it to spread their message, to drum up support and crucially, to raise money from donors. But yes, eight years on, in 2016, the Trump campaign took that to a whole other level. And Facebook was hugely influential in that presidential election.
The Trump campaign embraced it as a key advertising channel in a way that no what the president had before, including Hillary Clinton's campaign. So from June to November in 2016, the Trump campaign had five point nine million ads on Facebook, while Hillary Clinton only ran about 66000.
One Facebook executive claimed that the company was responsible for Donald Trump being elected as U.S. president.
There was a knock on effect from all of this that we've been talking about, the chaos to understand what just happened, but also the response from social media companies. They promised to do better after it all and rolled out a flurry of reforms and new policies.
One of my greatest regrets in running the company is that we were slow in identifying the Russian information operations in 2016, but online usage has increased.
Since 2016, probably even more from the pandemic as people were stuck at home looking at their phones, you know, we can all admit to that and that increased usage may be felt in the 2012 election, not just in the amount of false information being seen and shared, but how polarized the American public is during the campaign cycle. People are reading and sharing what they want to see and read. So have people learned from what happened in 2016? Brian, you've been speaking to people there in D.C..
Yeah, I wanted to talk to some voters. I went to the National Mall in Washington, D.C. It's a good place to go to get a cross-section. Washington, D.C., as I've said to before, a very democratic city. You could struggle to find a Trump supporter out on the street. But if you go to somewhere more touristy, like the National Mall, which is where all the monuments are, you will get tourists coming from other parts of the U.S. And that's what happened the other day when I went up to speak to some of them.
I met Trump supporters, I met Biden supporters, and I asked them, were they more wary of social media, given what went on in 2016? Do they take with a grain of salt what they read online? And we got a good variety of responses.
I'm very skeptical about some things I read, which is why I read a lot of sources to get the truth during the last election, 2016, a lot of focus on fake news messages being distributed on social media, maybe by Russia or people interfering. Has it made you more wary this time around in 2020? Absolutely. I mean, I think it's scandalous what Facebook and Twitter have refused to do in terms of absolutely making sure that everything on their platform is credible and honest and true.
They haven't done that for us to kind of sort things out. I am not particularly involved with social media. I don't have a Twitter, I don't have an Instagram, I have Facebook. But even then, there are so many different sites that I can appreciate. People have differing opinions, but it's so easy with how social media is these days that you can easily go just hide behind a keyboard and say things that you would never, ever say to anybody, to their faces.
If I see my friends posting things on Facebook, if it's something that they're all in agreement with Trump, I try to look at it. But I take with a grain of salt because I definitely have ideas that are definitely opposed to Trump. When you look at your social media, are you wary about where the information might be coming from? Definitely, because I think there's a lot of propaganda. And you never know.
During the last election, 2016, you'll recall there was a lot of talk of fake news accounts and Russian hackers and this kind of thing. Has that made you maybe more wary of this election when you look at your social media? I don't think I'm more wary. I'm just aware I try to remember that our country was founded on and look at actions versus what people are saying, because I think actions speak louder than words. I really like what this president has done with closing our borders.
I think it's important to retain our nationality to do that.
When you look at some of Donald Trump's tweets, do you sometimes kind of roll your eyes or do you pretty much agree with what he says? I don't always like what he says, but I like what he does. So I try not to watch him because it bothers me.
And I've seen this a lot with the Trump supporters out there. They might be critical of something that he has tweeted, but then they take a step back and they say in the bigger picture and in the grand scheme of things, we are very, very happy with them and we will be voting for him again come November's election.
And as we were talking about just before that Fox that, you know, the usage of social media has only increased, especially as a result of the pandemic and has become for some, like that woman, a primary source of information. Candidates aren't out knocking on doors and campaigns have been online. It's only a matter of time before the focus shifts back away from the coronavirus to the presidential election. So what are the worries coming into this election with all of that in mind?
Well, there's lots of warnings out there that nothing much has changed and that there's still a big threat out there and the social media can still be manipulated to the chairman of the House Select Intelligence Committee, Adam Schiff, said that while social media companies had made efforts to address these concerns since the 2016 election, he could not say with any confidence that the 2020 election would be free of interference from malicious actors, foreign or domestic. Now, after the last election, we saw lots of social media coming out, going into damage control.
There was hearings up on Capitol Hill. New policies were being rolled out. Twitter said it was taking down more than a million suspicious and fake accounts a day. In June, Facebook told US lawmakers that it had more than 3500 people working on the issue of safety and security, with 40 teams specifically focused on election integrity.
But there have been contrasting elements between Facebook and Twitter, too, and their whole approach to this election.
Yet a husband like Mark Zuckerberg said at the start of the year that candidates would be allowed to continue running false ads on Facebook. Commercial advertisers, by contrast, are subject to fact checking.
But he argued that his company shouldn't be responsible for arbitrating political speech because political ads have already received the scrutiny. To choose to lie would be held accountable by journalists watchdog, the wider public, and it's a different contrasting approach that we see Twitter very much banning political ads. Facebook repeatedly saying, Jacki, we are not responsible for what goes up. We are merely the platform that people posts. But we will not be the censor. We will not be the editor.
People will put it up and then it's up to the wider public to decide what to do with that information.
Do we know how much the Trump campaign is putting into the online world and social media for campaigning in terms of money and resources?
Yeah, they put out figures every couple of weeks. So the most recent set of figures I could see was for the last week. In June, the Trump campaign spent two point one million dollars on Facebook ads. Now that spending was split between two entities, the Donald J. Trump for president company, and that the Make America Great Again committee. And in the two year period since May 2018, the Trump re-election team has spent forty seven point five million on Facebook ads.
The ads then typically are fundraisers. It's appealing to supporters to donate money to the campaign.
How does Joe Biden compare to that? He spends less, quite a bit less in that week, that last week of June, I mentioned there where the Trump campaign had spent two point one million. The Biden campaign actually spent half. They only spent one million on Facebook ads.
And then over the course of that two year period, 25 million dollars being spent by the Biden campaign, again, roughly half what the Trump campaign is spending. And then the messaging and the type of advertising is different as well. It's some calls for donation, but also a lot of attack ads criticizing Donald Trump's response to the coronavirus.
Brian, have you noticed on any of your social media accounts, political election advertising, obviously, since your location now is in the United States, has that changed since you moved over there?
Yeah, I must confess, I live on Twitter. I'm on Twitter all the time. And as we know, there's not that many political ads on Twitter anymore. I'm on Facebook less.
But I have noticed as I scroll through Facebook now, I'm particularly targeted with Biden ads.
And, you know, you're sort of scrolling through your feed and then it says very targeted and it sort of says, I'll stop your scrolling there for a moment with this important message.
And as we discussed earlier, it's usually either an attack against Donald Trump or an appeal for money for the Biden campaign.
Is it something that kind of grabs you? You're like, oh, what's this?
No, it very addae to me, so I don't know about you, but I typically think through it all. Yeah, I mean, yes, absolutely.
I mean, it's very obvious. If it was a news article about Joe Biden, I would pause and read it. Being a political junkie and wanting to read the article, it looks very addae though. So I typically scroll past it very fast anyway.
And I'm not I'm not I'm not planning on donating anything to the Biden campaign any time soon or the Trump campaign, for that matter.
Spoken like a true, impartial and unbiased journalist, Brian. So to get an inside track, I suppose, on what it's like to run a campaign, particularly from that social media side of things, we're joined now by Mike Schmuel, who was campaign manager for people to judge the Democratic presidential candidate. Mike, thank you for joining us. I suppose, first off, Mike, two years ago, nobody had heard the name people to judge. Nobody could pronounce the name people to judge.
He's a skinny guy with a funny name.
But again, Budha get booed again. South Bend Mayor Boo Boo Boo Boo. To Jack, Indiana mayor that age, but again got a gig.
Mayor Pete Gedge, Pete Boutet Edge LGBT people booed a judge two years on.
He's one of the most recognizable names in U.S. politics. How did you do it? What was the drive to get him out there and to take somebody who nobody heard of and put him right to the top really of the stage here in the U.S.? Yeah, well, you're right.
I mean, at the very beginning, we didn't have much, Bryan, but we had a really good candidate. And I think that we had a really good message a couple of years ago. You know, Pete was in his second term as mayor of South Bend, which is our hometown, which is about 100000 people in northern Indiana. But what he had, I think, really, really matched the moment. You know, he was a younger person when a lot of people were arguing that that younger people needed to be more involved in politics.
He was and is a veteran when a lot of people are talking about foreign policy and all the wars that the U.S. has been engaged in for most of our lives, especially post post 9/11. He's a local official. When a lot of people look at our our problems at the federal level and see kind of the sticky situation in Washington and the in the hyper partisanship, local officials and mayors and councillors and commissioners really are innovative and getting things done with much less.
Well, life has changed just a little.
Yeah, a year ago, I was you know, I was mayor, but but it's just different. Life was driving my Chevy to work. You know, most of my meals now are in vehicles. It's just a different life.
And so he had all of these these sort of traits that that we thought really matched the moment. And we didn't have much, but we had to come up with a game plan in the early part of twenty nineteen to kind of make him become more well known.
You mentioned him being young and the importance of him being young. We look at the field of candidates back at the very start of all this. Gay, straight, black, white, young, old. No, I'm sure you're going to say you fully support Joe Biden.
You think he's great and as I'm sure you would as a Democrat. But on any level, do you look at the fact that you ended up with a white man in his 70s? Compare that to the diverse field of candidates at the start.
And is there a disappointment there that the end candidates, as I say, wasn't the most diverse in the world at all?
Yeah, I mean, we had I think when all is said and done. Twenty nine Democrats vied for the nomination of our party, the largest field in our party's history. And I think that that exercise in and of itself strengthened our party. A lot of people ran. A lot of people had different approaches and personalities and backgrounds and visions for the country. But I think that hearty exchange I mean, we went through 10 debates. I think when all is said and done, starting with two stages, two nights, and then whittling down to, you know, a handful of of people as we got to actual voting, I think that that hearty exchange really helped our party and I think it helped our nominee.
I think that Joe Biden is in really strong standing because all of the people who ran for president, Bernie Sanders included, coalesced around him as the person to defeat Donald Trump. It's interesting, you know, our party typically goes for kind of upstarts and newcomers and and people who are a fresh face, which was a big part of our campaign. You think of John Kennedy, you think of Jimmy Carter, Barack Obama, Bill Clinton, you know, and this is the first time, I think, since maybe Martin Van Buren, if I'm correct, that we've gone with kind of an older standard bearer, somebody who was was vice president now seeking to become president.
So it's a little different for our party. But I also think that we're in a different world now. I think that you look at, you know, economic shocks and a global pandemic and calls for racial justice in the United States. A lot of those things feed into, you know, an older sort of a statesman type figure taking over and taking charge and fixing things and. I think that that's what we need to do to defeat Trump and get past Trump ism.
Mike, can you give us an insight? You know, how was wrangling a campaign in the era of social media where there isn't really a playbook for that in 2020?
It's a necessary presence for a campaign, but it also could be very disastrous if you went viral for the wrong reasons?
Yeah, I mean, social media is a huge is a huge, huge factor in any campaign in any organization. Um, today, you know, 10 years ago, I ran my first, um, my first campaign for a good Irish Democrat, Joe Donnelly, in northern Indiana. And, you know, updating our website was a big technological shift. Now, in a campaign, you have full teams that are collecting video editing video, putting things up on social media, raising money, organizing communities across the country through mobile phones and computers and tablets, texting programs, you know, innovative things that allow people from the comfort of their own homes to kind of create their own little mini campaigns to tell people about the candidate that they support.
Does the majority go into that now, Mike? You know, does the majority of the money go into social media and most of your resources?
I think it does at this stage, and it depends on who you're trying to reach. Television is still, I would say, king in in the U.S. But you also have the proliferation of streaming services and streaming radio that did a lot of people are investing in. You know, a lot of there's been a lot of commentary about Trump and how he really used social media sort of in a twisted way to get more and more coverage of his campaign and to kind of be provocative, you know, every single day and every single news cycle.
So Republicans over the last few years have been pretty heavy on digital, particularly the Trump campaign. But you're seeing Democratic campaigns, I think, across the country start to to balance out the two TV being being the big one with broadcast television, cable, you know, national coverage in media markets and stuff like that with the social media, digital ads, Facebook ads, other things you can get in front of people's eyeballs.
You mentioned Donald Trump's use of social media. We know he's on Twitter constantly. There's a big debate now about the policing of UN fact checked, uncorroborated, fake news, fake claims, false claims we've seen in recent weeks.
Twitter starting to flag Donald Trump tweets saying this isn't necessarily true and we don't believe this. We believe this violates our rules for X, Y and Z reason. On the other side, we see Facebook coming under pressure for not releasing more disinformation. As someone who worked in the campaigns. What's your own view of the policing of social media? No, I.
I applaud what Twitter has done to put some restrictions around. Excuse me, what what Trump has been has been saying. I think that that's important.
And I think that, you know, you think of a TV station or a radio station or a newspaper, you know, most cases they would have controls in place to make sure that information that gets out to their readership or their or the viewership is factual and real. So I applaud what Twitter has been doing on that front. That being said, I think I think that Trump's sort of power in using these tools comes from the magnification of just how provocative they are.
You know, it's one thing to tweet to your your audience and the people who are online most of the day and who consume this stuff so much and might be his fans or might be his detractors. And it's sort of a race to the bottom. What I think Trump benefits from is just the magnified coverage then on television, on radio and commentary about what he said online. That becomes that becomes dangerous. It sort of spreads it spreads like wildfire, you know, and, you know, in a campaign in any campaign and the one that I read, you know, we had to we had to be forceful kind of when we responded to to certain things that were not true.
You have to play defense and offense online these days because it's changing every single, every single minute, every single.
Our attention has focused on managing the more negative viral moments. How did you troll through all the noise and at any point did it get nasty? I know there was a fake newspaper clipping with the photo of a very young mayor piece circulating online reporting that he was arrested in 1998 for killing five dogs.
And the person who posted it said it was a joke, but it shows how things can spread so rapidly. Yeah, yeah.
No, it does. And it's it's dangerous. I mean, some of the things that that give me solace when I when I think about social media. Well, number one, I'm not on Twitter, so I'm sort of stress free on that front. And the staff would always kind of joke with me about that.
But when you break down the numbers, Jacki, it is very, very few people who are actually sort of undecided voters or are there for the, you know, strong political discourse are really there. A lot of it is, you know, a lot of it is is fabricated. A lot of it is hyper partisan people who live in areas that they know where they stand and all that kind of stuff. And when you when you break down all the numbers, it actually doesn't matter that much for, you know, the outcome of an election.
And when I'm a campaign manager, you know, the job is to win an election or a series of elections. And so it's a sort of flippant way to think about it. But just because of the sheer fact of the numbers breaking down, it doesn't actually matter. What matters then is the magnification and the pickup through sort of trusted and established sources that sort of put fuel on the fire to do something that may have started online. And that's when it gets a little unruly.
And that's when I think you need to you know, you need to dive in and kind of push back and say that that's not true. And here's a statement. Here's here's other things. Here's proof. Here's another story that that refutes that. That's when it becomes really important to push back and push back hard.
What is Mayor Pete doing now? Are we going to see him over the next four months campaigning on the campaign trail with Joe Biden?
And would he be banking on a cabinet position if Joe Biden gets in while he is actively campaigning for Joe Biden from the comfort of his own home? Like many people, I think he also is writing a book. And so that will come out in October, a month before the general election. And it relates to the conversation that we are having now. It's a book on trust and a book on truth. You know, basically, the premise is Americans have lost a lot of faith in a lot of trust.
Institutions and public figures in the media, in news and other things like that, and that we need to rebuild that sense of trust in order to rebuild our country.
Looking at your time as a campaign manager as a whole, because I'm sure you've had plenty of time for reflection during lockdown and a pandemic, what was it's probably easier to identify maybe the best thing from the campaign, but I'm sure it's a really difficult ruling and relentless process.
What was the hardest thing as well about that campaign?
I think that the hardest part it's interesting. I think that in in one sense, the the best news and the worst news maybe happened on the same night, which would have been the Iowa caucuses in February of this year. You know, we had put a lot into the state and we wanted to win the state to then kind of have a catapult effect into the later contests because we wanted everybody the day after the caucuses to wake up and say, who is this guy?
And, you know, who just beat Joe Biden, Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren in Iowa to have a similar kind of launching pad to to previous Democratic nominees. And because of the reporting glitches that we had that night, that really didn't happen.
We've just gotten a statement in from the Iowa Democratic Party. I want to read you the statement. The integrity of the results is paramount. We have experienced a delay in the results due to quality checks and the fact that the AP is reporting out three data sets for the first time since the Iowa Democratic Party.
We took it took a while to come out, but we did win Iowa, but we didn't have that sort of instant rush of attention, you know, media resources, all of that to to put us into the next level. That just didn't come at the sort of rate that we expected that it would. So to me, that was probably one of the more frustrating things.
And actually now with Coronavirus, we're seeing that kind of play out in a very different way across the country. You know, you're seeing state by state that we go through with primaries. And when they have their election nights because of vote by mail or changes to in-person voting, it's really all over the map.
It's something that also gives me great pause for the future, because state by state, county by county, sort of local area by local area, we're going to have to come up with ways to to have people vote and to have people vote safely and to count those votes in an appropriate manner.
Now, Mike, before we let you go, you are Mike Schmuel, and our listeners will be thinking that name is familiar.
Your dad, Bob Schmuel, a very highly respected politics professor there in the U.S., political analyst who's on Irish radio, on talk radio, Choiseul. And we all enjoy his insights. How is your dad and what does he make of the current election playing out in the most unusual campaign we've seen ever here in the U.S. with the pandemic and all of that?
Yeah, he's he's doing well. He's doing very, very well. So we you know, we first got associated with Ireland back in 2000. So he was a visiting professor at UCD and I was a visiting student then at Catholic University School of Law, the street of the green. And I have red hair. And so I fit right in. And I had to tell all the lads that I was from Indiana, which was, you know, a little strange.
But but we've had a long sort of affiliation and admiration for for Ireland and try to get back there as often as we can. He's doing well, you know, he reads, writes, hangs out at home and takes a walk and observes the political scene much like me at the moment. And we talk about it and have our social distance dinners and chats at the house. I have to go on the back door and set a coffee table and keep our distance.
But yeah, we have a hearty exchange every now and then and certain things. Brilliant. You know, he's the the seasoned academic and observer and I'm the, you know, roll up my sleeves and dive into a campaign. So it's fun. But he's doing well and he's in he's in good spirits and he's he's writing another book as well. So I'm surrounded by authors and must be feeling the pressure because time books being written around some days.
Please send him all of our best because he holds such a place in Ortiz heart, especially over the last couple of decades.
Yes, absolutely. I well, for sure. Well, listen, Mike, thank you so much for joining us on State of Mind. And I hope we can have you back sometime soon.
Sounds great. Thank you for having me. Thanks, Mike. Every interview I see and hear in Washington at the moment, they are complaining about the heat, it is roasting here right now.
We've got a heat warning in recent days on our phones saying that the heat temperature was going to rise to 115 degrees Fahrenheit and an old money in Celsius that is 46 degrees Celsius, folks.
And then you couple that with humidity and mosquitoes and everything else that Washington can throw at you. So it's not a very pleasant time to go outside the door right now, but thank goodness for good air conditioning. But what I found is that one forgets, oh, it's so lovely and cool inside. You go outside, you get whacked with this belt of heat like it's coming from a sauna. But it is hot here right now. I would send a few degrees your way if I could, because I know that you haven't had the best summer so far.
I know the one year we are asked to stay at home in Ireland. Do you think the weather would behave itself a little bit better? But we're we're not that lucky just yet. But the summer isn't finished.
We have a lot of hope. We will remain optimistic.
Chatting next week, starting next week, Brian.