Editor's Note: Accuracy is not guaranteed; you can help us get better by highlighting mistakes and suggesting edits! Please fill out this survey if you wish to learn more about us and our mission or send me an email.
Hello from the Lincoln Project, I'm Ron Kessler. Welcome back to our weekly roundup, where we bring in a rotating panel of experts to discuss the truth. You need to know behind the most important stories of the week and how they're shaping the political landscape of this election. We have an outstanding panel today, independent political strategist, Lincoln Project co-founder, captain on this ship, Rich Galen. Good morning. Read on Steve Schmidt, a national political strategist and Lincoln Project co-founder who has worked for President George W.
Bush, Senator John McCain and Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger. Steve, it's great to have you back on. Thanks, Ron. Good morning. And CNN political commentator, former Republican communications director on Capitol Hill and a Lincoln Project senior adviser, Tara Set mayor. Tara, good morning and thank you for making the time.
Thank you. Always a pleasure to join you. On today's episode. We are going to take a look at the first presidential debate between Donald Trump and Joe Biden on Tuesday night. The debate has been widely criticized as chaotic and a disaster. Even the moderator, Chris Wallace, said the debate went off the tracks and George Stephanopoulos described it as the worst presidential debate he had ever seen in his life to get us started. I want to start with your reaction to the debate now that we have had time to think about it, Steve.
Let's start with you. Can you talk about what previous candidates like George W. Bush or John McCain tried to do when they went into a presidential debate and how that compares to what we witnessed on Tuesday night?
Well, what they tried to do was to lay out a vision for the country in contrast to their opponents, within the bounds of normalcy in American politics. I mean, we saw last night was a national disgrace and it was a moment of national humiliation, humiliation. Our adversaries in Tehran and Moscow and Beijing or gleeful our friends in Ottawa and London and Berlin and Paris are horrified. And I've been trying to digest what I saw, and the thing I've been thinking about is the last speech that Dr.
Martin Luther King gave and it's a remarkable speech. I think it's one of the three greatest in the history of the country, arguably with the Gettysburg Address, Lincoln's second inaugural. And in that speech, I've been to the mountaintop speech. And in that speech, it was clear, if you listen to it, that Dr. King knows his death is at hand somehow that that that time is running out. And he says in that speech that he'd like to live a long life like anybody, that longevity has its purpose.
But he says none of that, none of that matters now. He talks about going to the mountaintop and what he sees. And what he sees from the mountain top is a country that has fulfilled its high ideals and its perfect idea that all of us are created equal, treated equally, that all of us have a purpose, and that government exists to further that purpose, which is to expand life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. And so, Dr.
King, though, when he talks about that view from the mountaintop, he doesn't he doesn't tell us when we get there. And so fifty two years after his death. Four years after the first black president left office, we're we're still struggling, we're still trying to become a more just society. But I've I've never questioned about whether we're going to get there. I've never had. A lack of optimism about the country's future. Until pretty recently, I'm still on the optimistic side of the equation, but I worry and I'll tell you the emotion that I felt watching that debate for the first time in my life about my country and that and that emotion was shame.
Shame that that did that's the president of the United States, a blustering, lying, bullying buffoon. Whose incompetence and malice and lying have killed over a hundred thousand Americans sitting there talking about what a good job he's done. And it was an appalling spectacle, and I think what we have to understand is that all of the people, they cheerlead this that are for it. What is it that they're celebrating? They're celebrating every anti vertue that there is they have.
Come to worship at an altar of bullying and malice and meanness and lying into basements to the ideals, the symbols, the goodness of the country. That's what they celebrate. And Trump represents that. And Trump had all of those things on full display, and so what is it that his cult of personality cheers? Is it the lying that excites them or the bullying? Is it the incompetence or the malice? What is it that they cheer for? And so we'll never see.
A president, I hope, ever comport themselves like that again and that the American people are on the verge of bringing this tragic error to a close. But what it was to come full circle. For the first time in my life, I'm just speechless. When it comes to people asking what the hell happened in the United States of America, an appalling and low moment, as low as any as we've ever had shameful terror.
I want to go to you next about who are the voters Trump needed to reach out to during this debate and how successful do you think he was? A success? And Donald Trump don't ever belong in the same sentence. He what he was successful at doing, if we're going to use that term, was alienating more voters. He did the complete opposite of what he needed to do. He's been doing nothing but shrinking his support. His base is what it is that he can't he can't win another election with just his base.
So he is right now currently underwater in historic proportions with women, particularly suburban women. These are the same women who went out in 2018 that were tired of Donald Trump's behavior, tired of the Republican Party enabling it and voted a lot of them out. That's why you see a Democratic House now. A recent Washington Post ABC poll came out and showed historic gender gap margins in favor of Joe Biden. Women vote more proportionately, they vote more often than men do, and they have since the 80s.
And I suspect that we will see it in an even bigger increase this time around. Because, you know, you look at Donald Trump's behavior. And any woman who has children would look at that and say, oh, my God, I wouldn't allow my five year old to behave that way. Why would why would you want your president of the United States to behave that way? Why would you be OK with that? That's the question that I would ask most people.
Anyone who's a parent, you don't even have to be a parent. You wouldn't allow your, you know, kids down and down the street to behave that way. You know, it's completely unacceptable. So why are we continuing to allow the office of the presidency to be diminished in such a way with someone like Donald Trump and his antics, besides his obnoxious demeanor, but the lying, the bullying to Steve to Steve's point and his continuation of cozying up to our dictators, shunning our allies, and now a nod and a wink activating white supremacist groups, violent groups in this country weeks before an election.
It's completely unacceptable. And looking at the focus groups and some of the reaction after the debate, it is clear that Donald Trump did was not speaking to some of the voters that he needs now. The Supreme Court battle may energize some of the center right people who were on the, you know, on the borderline about what to do because they're so tired of Trump's antics, but they're happy with the results. You know, hey, we had a great economy.
We had we're getting another Supreme Court justice. That's amazing. And, you know, the pro-life folks that have been rationalizing Donald Trump's behavior, that is so far from Christian orthodoxy and so far from Christian teachings, but they rationalize it because they're getting political winds. I say that that's a dangerous way. You know, you start when you start making excuses at that. Political means justify the ends that never ends well. But those folks, they may say, well, it's OK, we're going to get another Supreme Court justice and cast it aside.
But as far as touching the suburban women and closing that gender gap, I don't think he did that. And I also saw recently that a poll came out that showed that Joe Biden is now leading or tied with labor, labor families, labor households in Ohio. If Donald Trump loses those folks because he gained a lot of those folks in 2016, they didn't vote for Hillary Clinton. If he's losing those people in those places, he's toast.
Read while we're talking about the differences between how the two candidates acted during the debate. I want to get your take on how Americans should be thinking about the two candidates after witnessing that debate. Because Trump is down in the polls, he's lashing out. If there was ever a time he needed to pull himself together and keep his composure in this campaign, it was it was Tuesday night and he seemed to just be incapable. So what are Americans to make of the contrast between these two candidates?
One, was Donald Trump ever accused of having composure and doing the right thing, saying the right thing for the right reasons?
It's you know, it's only when we've talked about this before, the only time he does anything that even resembles the right thing is when it happens to, by coincidence, intersect with his own personal interests. He didn't prepare for that debate and he was not going to because he always had the same plan, which was he was going to go in. He was going to attack Hunter Biden. He was going to say some crazy things about socialism. And he was just going to talk over Vice President Biden and just be as is rude and nasty as he could be.
So like the contrast, like, what do you what else do we need to say? Look at it is Dana Bash, a long time respected reporter and correspondent for CNN, said it was a shit show and it was and it was always going to be. I mean, it was there was never any chance it was going to be anything else. And I think to Steve's point. You know, we used to call the president, United States, the leader of the free world that's now Angela Merkel.
I don't know what Donald Trump is leader of, maybe the proud boys or whatever, but I would say this just to just to just to echo and maybe extend on whatever. So that was not a wink and a nod. That was a call to action for those people to to lock and load, as Steve said on a call we were on this morning. And so what's that? What's the contrast? It's the contrast we've always talked about. It's America or Trump.
There's only two options. And which one are we going to choose? And I think we should be concerned about the outcome of this election. But we should also understand that, like the race, this race is collapsing on Donald Trump. He knows it. And I think that the more he knows it, the more he feels that, the more he's going to act like an even more insane person than he did on Tuesday night. You know, listening to you, I'm listening read.
And I can't help but think about the passage in the art of the Deal, where Trump describes his negotiating style, which is to walk into a room, jab his finger into someone's chest and say, fuck you. Right. And so that's what we got in that job. Right. You want to understand why we have two hundred thousand dead Americans, why we're four percent of the world's population, 20 percent of the deaths, why if we had the same per capita mortality uncovered as the Germans did, we'd have one hundred and fifty thousand more Americans alive.
This is exactly how this guy asks. This was the ass that you saw at a summit. And I'm not sure if it was a NATO summit. G20 summit, I don't remember. But when he when he pushed aside one of the one of the leaders who was an ally, head of Montenegro, where was it?
I think it was Montenegro. It was I think it was the prime minister of Montenegro. We shout, but I think it was one of the G 20 meetings or Davos, one of them.
He's a he's a crude and vulgar person. And the biggest joke in the world is watching Fox News afterwards and the freak show of propagandists over there from Judge GenY and Laura Ingraham describing him as a lion, as a lion tamer. What he what he is, is like an angry drunk at the end of the bar screaming at the television set. I mean, it's conduct is is appalling. Disgraceful. I mean, if you were on an airplane, the captain acted like that.
You know, 40 percent of the plane would have the good sense to jump up in the first two seconds, run for the eggs and blow the hatch and come out of the thing on the slide. I mean, just. What can you say about it? You know, he'll never change, he's completely unfit, and he put on a clinic of unfitness that that's what the country saw.
I mean, the one thing I can tell you is my wife and I and I've heard anecdotally from other people to Tara's point is that my wife was epically, epically pissed off at the end of that debate. I think that most of it was directed at Trump. I think another good chunk of it was directed at the just the spectacle of itself. And then probably some of it was, you know, was Chris Wallace ever going to do anything about it?
I'm not sure he ever could have. But I think my point is, is that like what people saw and we've seen this anecdotally through what we hear here at the Lincoln Project, what we've seen on social media was that there were people who were Trump supporters who would otherwise be Republicans who said, I can't do it anymore. I'm just I can't I can't do. I mean, what else? I mean, that's the question.
Right. And remember, if you remember the The Bourne Identity, the first movie with Jason, you know, Jason Bourne, and he shoots one of the other assassins and the guys laying there in a field dying years. Look what they make you give, right.
Look what make Trump makes you give to be a supporter. It's what he makes you ask.
He makes you give a lot to be one. And it's amazing that anybody still does.
You know, the line that stuck with me right after the debate, I think it was Jake Tapper who just came in with, like the there was a very clear loser in this debate and it was the American people. Mm hmm. And I think that just hits the nail on the head. But let's turn to a couple of the specific moments in the debate. And Tara and Reid, you mentioned proud boy. So let's talk about that one first, which is Donald Trump refusing to denounce white supremacy.
Let's take a listen.
Are you willing tonight to condemn white supremacists and militia groups and to say that they need to stand down and not add to the violence? And a number of the studies, as we saw in Kenosha and as we've seen in Portland.
Are you prepared to do it? Go ahead. I would say almost everything I see is from the left wing, not from the right. So what are you what are you saying? I'm willing to do anything I want to see. And do what, sir? Do it say you want to call them.
What do you want to call them? Give me a name. Give me a white supremacist like me in different voices and right to my face.
Stand back and stand by. But I'll tell you what. I'll tell you what. Somebody's got to do something about Antifa and the left.
Now, just so our listeners are aware, the proud boys are a far right group with a history of violence and ties to white supremacy. They were founded in Twenty Sixteen by Gavin McInnes and described themselves as a men's club for Western chauvinists. The Southern Poverty Law Center has designated the proud boys as a hate group because of their anti-Muslim and misogynistic rhetoric. They appeared along with other hate groups at rallies including the Unite the Right Rally in Charlottesville. Tara, stand back and stand by.
We can't call this a dog whistle anymore. Senator Harris called it a bullhorn. What message was Trump trying to send by telling the proud boys to stand back and stand by? And how have they interpreted it?
This is unacceptable. It's infuriating. It's dangerous. And I think this is ten times worse than Charlottesville in that this is the umpteenth time where he's had an opportunity to denounce these bastards and has not. Why? Because Donald Trump is cut from the same mold. He sees these guys who are a bunch of insecure losers that run around playing law enforcement, playing military. Unfortunately, in some of these groups, there are a bunch of them besides the proud boys.
Some of them are either former military or law enforcement, which is even more alarming because they're trained, but most of them are wannabes. And Donald Trump is a wannabe. You know, he's a coward. That's why he never served in the military. And that's why he puts on this fake this faux bravado like he's some tough guy. No, he's not. Donald Trump is a wimp. And he sees these guys and thinks that they're tough and they're they're part of his group.
But they love me. They like me. Why wouldn't I like them back? You know, they're his people. And it is so un-American and irresponsible of the president of the United States to sit there. I did say a wink and a nod earlier only because he was equivocating on denouncing them. And instead of just saying, you know, I won't denounce them, it was kind of like, well, well, you know, stand back and stand by.
That was worse than anything he's ever said before, because these people, they are a bunch of conspiracy theorists on top of it. They think that Donald Trump is sending them secret messages all the time anyway. It's part of what the Kuhnen wacked doodles believe. So that was their marching orders. Donald Trump threatened America by talking about the, you know, the. And being rigged and being a fraud and telling people to pull watch, which is really a code for intimidate at the polls, and he gave marching orders to these people who interpreted it as such before the lights were even turned off in the auditorium.
They had a patch out there that said stand back and stand by. The Atlantic has another story about another one of these groups called the Oath Keepers, who've been around since 2009 but have gotten more and are energized and more recruitment since Donald Trump has been around. That story is alarming also because it talks about the amount of of law enforcement and military that have been that have signed up to be a part of this thing. Again, they think that it's their job to be patriots and stand up and defend this country against the leftists.
This is insanity, not just them. You have the boogaloo movement. The Boogaloo movement is another domestic terrorist organization that the FBI and DHS has identified. They arrested a bunch of them before this rally in Richmond earlier this year on Martin Luther King Day because their goal is to incite a fucking race war. Like this is real stuff going on. This administration has buried their head in the sand. They refuse to acknowledge it, which means that local police departments are not getting the resources they need in order to track these groups and to stop them potentially from engaging in violent behavior.
This is such a toxic mix of of of violence, of ideology, of well-armed people. And some are trained that Donald Trump is continuing to foment and giving them the green light antifa. As much as I don't agree with what they do, I don't agree with them looting and rioting or whatever nonsense that they do. It's not an organized group. The FBI director who was appointed by Donald Trump, Christopher Wray, said the same thing. Antipas, not a group.
It's an ideology and they are not well organized. These other groups, they're well organized and armed. And the and this administration is continuing to give them a platform. You are they use terms like insurrection. They use terms like a sedition. This amps these people up. They've been sitting in their basements, you know, shining their guns up for years, waiting for this moment. And Donald Trump has given them that green light. And this is completely unacceptable.
And even Fox News recently. John Roberts is a reporter for Fox News, a White House correspondent.
Even he was was indignant. He was pissed off on air complaining about how this White House and the Baghdad bob version of it in a dress. Kayleigh McEnany refused to again denounce white supremacist groups unequivocally. So when you have reporters at Fox even getting upset about it now, those are the reporters, not the opinion people, because they're just as bad. But, you know, now that there were I think that they're starting to have enough because it's dangerous.
Steve, we were talking about extremism this morning. And I want to go to you next on this topic, specifically because the Southern Poverty Law Center reported in March that white nationalist groups have increased by 55 percent since 2017. We've seen attacks like the ones in El Paso and Pittsburgh and Charlottesville all during the Trump presidency. Can you sort of zoom out for us and talk about why these groups and just extremism across the board is thriving during the Trump administration?
Well, let's talk very, very specifically about the about the proud boys and what they are organizations are it's a fascist organization, full stop. And the leader of the organization, Gavin McGuinness, is not a US citizen yet has repeatedly incited violence in this country, specifically political violence. He's a very disturbed and disturbing and dangerous individual. And so the first thing I want to say is this. If his name was, let's just say Adel Al Semir and he was from Egypt, how fast do we think we would deport his ass out of the country?
Gavin McGuinness should be deported out of this country back to either Canada or to the United Kingdom where he holds citizenship. Shouldn't be in this country, No one. Number two. Let's understand how the organizations, the Boogaloo Boys. Who pray for a race war and dream of a second civil war, other fascist militias. We saw some of those militias deployed. Stopping cars outside of Portland. We know that a 17 year old boy. In Illinois was driven to Wisconsin by his mother.
Who's affiliated with these groups?
He killed two people and shot another with his AR 15 incited to violence by this insanity, and his mother was given a standing ovation, by the way, at a Republican organization, which is another disgraceful example of how these people are being lionized.
And now there are t shirts celebrating his image and he's been praised as some type of freedom fighter. So let's understand what Trump said. The Comanche gave to these groups was weapons at the ready. What he said was lock and load. Beretti. Be ready to fight an imaginary threat antifa. So let's let's look at how this is all metastasised. Let's look at how the water boil. Let's go back to two thousand eighteen. Before the midterm elections, Donald Trump invented a tale of a dangerous caravan heading to the southern border in Trump's telling the desperate refugees and.
Immigrants marching north from war torn Central American countries where some type of Panzer division. It was all bullshit. Yet he deployed active duty elements of the United States military to face an invisible threat. We've seen him declare a national emergency fund from whole cloth for political reasons. And now in a moment of chaos in this country. What he said at that debate in the end. Is the only thing that mattered in that debate. Donald Trump. Called to the ready right wing militias that are prepared to do violence in his name to maintain him in power.
Should he lose an election that in the moment he said those things that he is losing? What Trump said with regard to a peaceful transition of power is it is dependent. If I win. Well, what's the evidence? Of an illegitimate election, the evidence will be the result of Trump's loss, we're at a profoundly dangerous moment in this country. And where is the outrage from the United States senators Tim Scott, the only black Republican senator? With Tim Scott says about this as well, I don't think he meant it.
Are you shitting me, Susan Collins? I think there's fault on both sides in the debate.
Are you believable? Unbelievable.
So we have so we have a Senate class that's up for reelection. Every one of these people knew how dangerous covid was, knew Trump was lying to the country about it. Every one of them knew that Trump knew how dangerous it was and that he was lying to the country. Not one of them said a word. Not one of them went to the floor of the Senate. And now when they hear the president intimate violence call white supremacist. Second, civil race war, paramilitaries, proud boys to the line, weapons at the ready, not a fucking word and unreal.
Not a word. Yeah, actually it is believable. It's absolutely believable, as Steve said. Like, remember that when they in when they found him innocent during his impeachment trial, they already knew for sure because the Senate committee, Intelligence Committee knew that they'd been playing footsie with the Russians and they did it anyway. Smiled and nodded. Sprey covid was good economy and they thought, we're going to ride to our coach to ride his coattails to re-election. Then to Steve's point, here comes covid not a word game.
Mr. Floyd is killed. Not a word incites racial violence from that well, always, but in particular, that moment forward, not a word says terrible things about the troops, not a word does what he did Tuesday night vis a vis the proud boys or folks who are fighting drug addiction. Not a word says he. Not sure about the outcome of the election. Not a word. So is this surprising? No. Is it unbelievable? It's not.
We had 53 jellyfish pretending to be human beings in the United States Senate, and the only guiding principle they have is what to wear. The Donald Trump tide is carrying them to finish off a bad metaphor.
And so none of this is unbelievable. None of it's surprising they are fundamentally lost souls in American democracy. And that's ultimately what we talked about. This, I think some of our ads back in the summer, we ended them with the hashtag America or Trump, like we're in the exact same place now. Thirty three days if only one were. And so we're only has one more ask that he can that he can make them cross the final line, that they take explicit action in favor or remain silent and complicit with the maintaining and power of an American president who's been rejected by the popular will of the American people to steal an election from the American people and their will in a fundamentally and the American experiment.
That's his last task coming.
That's what we're facing. It's coming comic look.
And I mean we have I mean, all of us, all of us on this podcast, so many of us that are involved with the Lincoln Project have dozens, hundreds, if not thousands of friends, colleagues, former colleagues, contacts in Washington, D.C. And, you know, it's their time to choose. Are they going to or are they going to stand up for democracy or are they going to be collaborators? Because that's what they are. There's no other word for it now.
Are they going to invite or allow or sit by while sedition occurs at the hands of United States president? I'd like to say the answer is no, but at this point, what have we seen that would let us know otherwise? And look, we'll say, well, it's not really my problem. I've got the business, my family. What what am I going to do? What difference does it make? That's all. Those are all easy ways out.
Those are all ways of saying it's not my problem. Maybe it's not a real big deal. These guys are making too much of it. I mean, what else do we need to say? What else do we need to see? What else do we need to hear from the guy? I mean, what I mean, remember, there are two things we should never forget. One, Donald Trump is not stupid. He's ignorant and he's got bad intentions, but he's not stupid.
So we shouldn't let him off the hook. And to for all of the lies, when he tells you he wants to go do something, he's usually telling you the truth and you should listen to it.
I'm curious about this point read, which is that in Tara, why? Why do you think there's an allergy to taking him both literally and seriously after all this? That's a good question. Why why is it that when he says something in plain English. That people go out of their way, including even some people in opposition, to try to explain that what he just plainly said, in fact, he did not mean, where is that?
Because you're going to have to stand up and fight. Right, it's easier to just acquiesce, they don't have political courage because if he meant it, then you have to condemn it and if you mean it, you can dance around it.
Well, but condemning it is easy. Doing something about it is hard, right? Sure. Well, they can't even be bothered to condemn it most of the time.
So that. Well, that's true. But because that then condemning it takes the next means, the next step has to be taken to Reed's point because OK, well then what are you going to do about it?
Well, because condemning it is then an act of of of like you're a traitor now. Right.
Which but look, I mean, it's like, OK, well, you know, I've got my public affairs firm and I have twenty five people that work for me. And I when I said something and now like, oh well you're not going to get that contract or you know, the campaign I had is gone.
What am I going to do about these.
Twenty five people like the twenty five people are just an excuse. Right. Not only that, as Steve says, to take it a step further, when he asks you to make that final choice this November and you choose to stand with him and let's say for argument's sake, that he wins, you know, I don't think it's going to happen.
But let's say it wins like you have now opened yourself to the understanding that you will say and do anything to maintain yourself within that circle, because authoritarians will always ask more and more and more of you for their favor or for a piece of business or for money or whatever it is. So like in many ways, this is the last step to democracy. But for these folks who won't step up, it's only the first step in their fully being integrated into whatever comes next to Trump remains president.
It's self-preservation, which is what we've said. You know, you learn in Politics 101 that, you know, elected officials are single seekers of reelection because it's in their self-interest to maintain power by staying elected. So they will say and do anything to preserve that. And in Reid's example, it's for people who financially, career wise, are it's to their advantage to stay in line because it could cost them too much if they step out of line. And we've seen this repeatedly, all of us have seen that.
And it's it's selfish. And that level of selfishness has enabled Donald Trump to get away with this. If Republicans from the beginning had stepped up and and proverbially popped him in the mouth when he first started this kind of B.S., he wouldn't have been able to get away with it. But he's been failing up and getting away with this since he was a child. He's never been told. No, he's never paid a price for it, and he's been enabled his entire life.
Mary Trump wrote about that in her book. And we are seeing it play out now as the victims of that of Donald Trump's behavior, his failures and his enabling, because the people who were supposed to tell him, stop it. That's not how we do things. That's not how the Constitution works. That's not how our constitutional republic works. No, you can't run around alienating all of these groups and being a racist and inciting violence and questioning transitions of power and playing footsie or even more with the Russians, our enemies.
You can't do this and we will not allow it. They didn't do that because they were afraid of his little stubby Twitter fingers and his followers who were, you know, who have been a very vocal minority. You know, in 2016, I wrote a piece called The Tyranny of the Minority as a play on de Tocqueville's tyranny of the majority, because that's what that's what we're seeing right now. These people aren't the majority of this country, but they're the loudest right now.
Oh, hopefully not.
But during the Trump presidency. Right. And that is these people who are elected officials are scared to death of losing and that they'll get primaried by some Kuhnen person. Like what happened to that congressman in Colorado. They slept on it. They underestimated it. And now he is he's going to be out of a job and a kuhnen person is running for that or what happened in Georgia. Same thing. This is they've allowed them to come in because they're they don't have the balls to stand up and say, no, stop it.
And that let me just can I can I nerd out on can I know that I'm turned on Hamilton for a second? Remember, at the very beginning when when Aaron Burr tells Hamilton, you know, talk less, smile more, don't like what you're against or what you're for. Like that is the definition of most Republicans in Washington, D.C. right now, maybe in most most of politics in Washington. Let's be clear, like there's a whole bunch of ugliness in Jonah Ryan's running around there.
But great VP reference.
Yeah, but I mean, that's the thing is like if I just smile, ignore it, it'll go away. Just I just have to get through this. Like, don't let them block out the noise, don't watch the TV, don't turn on Facebook or whatever. I'll just go home. My wife's rip shit with me because of my business. She's opposed to me but like, what am I going to do?
Tara mentioned Mary Trump who wrote about this in her book, and she came on the podcast recently. And one of the things she said was when someone lies about you to your face or in public, they own you.
If you don't correct them. If you don't correct them, they own you, and that's exactly what we see playing out here, because the talk less, smile more means that he now owns you. If you don't speak up, if you don't correct him in public, and he'll push it further and further and further. Which is what exactly.
Which is why these comments about the boys are connected to his baseless claims of massive voter fraud due to mail and voting and his claim that there's going to be a rigged election for our listeners. Trump called for his supporters to go to polling locations and watch very carefully. This was days after Donald Trump Jr. took to Facebook and Twitter calling for all able bodied people to join in election security army. And I'm putting that in quotes to serve as poll watchers. Steve, what is his goal in sowing doubt on our election to remain in power?
He said he will not concede the election. He will not concede it. He will not acknowledge defeat. And this is important to understand because he will there will be a transition of power. Right. Trump is intimating it will not be peaceful. And that's an extraordinary thing because the peaceful transition of power in this country, in all of human history is a type of magical event, a miracle, the oldest constitutional republic in the world. This tradition started by George Washington.
His adversary, King George the third asks, what was Washington going to do when he was told that Washington was going to go home? George Washington is going home as they song in Hamilton. He said he'd be the greatest man of his age, the first human being to walk away from power, our friend Stuart Stevens makes the point in a democracy, one side has to be willing to lose. I've been in the inner circle at the highest level of two presidential campaigns.
We won one and we lost one. I'm the guy that placed the call to David Plouffe, who then handed the phone to Barack Obama as I handed the phone to John McCain for John McCain to concede to the will of the American people that they chose Senator Obama and not him. In that act. John McCain continues the process by which the American republic is renewed. The first person to call Barack Obama Mr. President elect to matters is John McCain in that instance.
This is how this works. This is what makes us special. This is what makes us exceptional. This is an extraordinary tradition, and so the only time in the history of the country. Where there was a real legitimate question around whether the transition of power would be peaceful or not was around Abraham Lincoln's inauguration, would he be killed? Would he be sabotaged? As the country teetered on the edge of civil war, there will be a transition of power.
There will not be a Trump coup. There will not be an illegitimate president. There will not be a dictator sitting in the Oval Office. And Joe Biden is right about that. But before we get there, Trump may throw this country into total chaos and there may be violence. That's what he's intimating. That's what he's threatening. But we should understand each and every senator. Every member of Congress, every Republican governor, every Republican staffer, every Republican lobbyist, all of.
The idea that you would stand on the side. Of someone who tries to subvert. The sovereign will of the American people that's been purchased with the blood of Americans from Lexington and Concord to Gettysburg to Antietam. To Normandy. To spell a word to Iwo Jima. To the. North Atlantic in the Pacific Ocean. To the million ghosts who gave us this precious freedom and right. And you would surrender it to Trump, God, it's a disgrace, just a disgrace.
No, I was just going to say, I think we think about Washington, but we should really not overlook John Adams either. Right. Or he was our second president, lost his re-election bid and left. He didn't stick around. He left. I would also say that we were we were talking with Michael Steele, former chairman of the GOP, who's who's a senior adviser of ours as well, who still lives in the D.C. area, as Tara does.
And he said, you know, the thing that most upset him was just how transactional so many of our former colleagues have become that they understand that the Trump is the not only the ultimate projectionist, but for him, everything is transactional, that it doesn't politics doesn't matter. Morals don't matter. Progress doesn't matter. If I can if I can kiss enough ass and say, OK, Jared, I love you too, can I get my earmark? Can I get my bill done?
Can I get this grant or whatever the hell it is so that I can go make more money for my client like it's it doesn't matter anymore. Right. The politics of it is a politics of what what can I do that's going to enrich me or make self aggrandise me. And we're disconnected from the rest of the country and what they think doesn't really matter. And what we do is the most important thing. And if Trump wants to do this, what do we care?
I mean, it's it's not only it's not only it's not only a disgrace, it's it's sad. There's a just an ultimate. You know, what have we lost? You know, it's like the same idea as, you know, Tara and Steve both worked on the Hill and my dad did, too, is always like, why? I didn't like when when a member of Congress, when their chief of staff ran for their office.
Like, I never like that because, like, they already knew how the game was played, like they weren't going to make it the you know, the citizens of Alabama won better. They were doing because they're like, OK, I'm going to do my six terms and I'm going to go be on this committee and I'm going to get this expertise. And then I could be a lobbyist here. And then, you know, I'm going to get vetted at this thing and that thing for the rest of my life.
Like it's not about service, right? There's no service left. Yeah.
And also the issue here with this and why it's so easy for these people to be transactional is because their motivation is not based on principle. It's based on because when it's based on principle, those principles are not convenient. You know, you don't just believe these these beliefs are what they are when they're convenient for you. Yeah. You know, it's like it's like a relationship or friendship. You know, it's marriage. You're not just married, you know, for the through the good times, through the good and the bad.
Right. Yeah. And that's what happens even in politics. And and what I have seen, you can tell the difference between the people who really believe and stand on their principles versus the people who are just there for when it's convenient and beneficial to them. That is not the definition of being a public servant, you know, and to keep the Hamilton show metaphors going, you know, during that bad election when it came down to who Hamilton would support, why did he support Jefferson?
Because he said Jefferson has beliefs. Burr has none. Yeah, right. That's such a good moment in the show.
And also would be even more correct. Yeah, that's right. And that's that. And that is the difference. Huge difference. That is the difference. You know, when I saw Hamilton for the first time, I saw it actually in in London in the West End, while my husband was there in work for work. And I was there by myself and I teared up during Hamilton. This was just in December, by the way, people. It was in December while the you know, the impeachment stuff was going on.
And I was just seeing how this country has just been freed and just being just ripped apart by everything. And so watching Hamilton in that context and watching how our country was was founded and, you know, the passion and the and the the principles that were that it was founded on, it was emotional for me. And that line stood with me because it stayed with me because it reminded me of everything. And this is even before the Lincoln Project existed.
It just it reminded me of what those of us who had been standing on principle in the, quote, never Trump world were doing. You know, we have we have beliefs and they have none, because if they believed in anything that was meaningful, there is no frickin way in the world Donald Trump would be getting away with what he'd been getting away with. And Republicans, it was it all a lie like Stuart Stevens book? Was it all a lie?
Because it makes you wonder, you know, I just you know, I was just you know, as you were talking about Hamilton, I was I was lucky enough. I saw Hamilton on Broadway on opening night. Wow. Oh, SHYMANSKY there four times, and it is it is a work of total genius and absolutely crazy is I was it's a.
And an act of patriotism and great, great love of of country, but but it but it had a different. I think effect for a lot of people, however, however, the human brain works right, whatever its mysteries, like how we process information, how we take a visual cue, it's that when I when I think about the founding fathers, right when I picked her, James Madison, as I was reading the Federalist Papers last week, I guess because I've seen the play four times and I've never seen a video of James Madison, hey, nerd alert.
I've got Federalist 10 on my desk right now.
And that's that's exactly what I was reading. Well played out. The court. I have this I have this picture in my in my mind's eye of James Madison is the character from the play who was a black black man. He's black. And I and I and I think then. In the context of not the hypocrisy of the of the country and the separation between the perfection of the idea that founded it and the reality, it makes me focus more on the perfection of the idea.
And that's the point. The idea of the country has to be perfected and sustained. And the idea of the country like we should all agree on now in 20, 20 years for everybody. Everybody gets a shot at this. No one should be excluded from it doesn't matter. Black, white, Hispanic, gay. An American comes in all shapes and sizes and colors. It's taken us a long time to get there. We don't want to go back, right?
That's what this fight is about. And what Trump is doing with Trump is doing is the worst thing a president could ever do to this country. Well, and look, we should think about this to November 3rd is going to come and go. Trump's going to lose and he's going to leave. But let's be clear, like the fight is not over. The work is just beginning at that point that, you know, the democracy is a hard thing to build.
It's a pretty tough thing to sustain. It's an easy thing to destroy. And so as as we move forward, here will take, you know, groups like ours, folks of both parties, some who are unaffiliated, some who have no desire to be involved in politics, to come together and say, you know, where are we going to go from here?
But none of that can or will happen until we get this guy out of sixteen hundred Pennsylvania Avenue. And so, you know, as we talked about, I think Ron a little bit last week, like we should think about this in the context of, like, our opportunity, not in what happened. That's bad. Which is. Yes. How many people in the history of the world in their own lives have the opportunity to say, I was there and I did my part when my country, my community, my family needed me and we're there.
We're at that moment. Right. And what a great opportunity and great thing to have happen for us.
And so, like, I know I can't speak for you all, but I know it gets me out of bed every morning going thirty four days till this jerk on the right like me, he's going to he's going to wake up.
He's probably not going to go to bed, but he's going to see the returns come in. He's going to lose Florida. He's going to lose North Carolina. And he's probably, you know, he's going to be within a razor's edge in Georgia and Texas and he's going to have to make a decision. And that decision is probably going to be easier than we think it is, which is I don't like these people. I hate this job. I never wanted this job.
I thought Hillary was going to beat me and I'm going to go McCain that since November 8th.
Right. I mean, he doesn't want the job. He hates it. That clip that clip from election night on the look on his face when he won God.
I remember that he was he was he was not happy when the books go back that they wanted to burst into tears because now she's got to move and like shit.
Right. I have to do this job now, right? Yep. I would never do this right.
Because to him it's performative. But he will he will continue his performance as these people, you know, like every good authoritarian who is ultimately turned out, these people don't deserve me. I didn't want this. I'm never coming back. You'll never hear from me again. Which, of course, is a lie. We will never stop hearing from him.
But I mean, let's let's take these photos all the time.
He says it all the time about how he you know, I didn't have to do this. I had a I had a better life before, you know, the reports about the White House, the rest of the House being a dump. Yeah, no kidding. And to continue with our Hamilton metaphor's, what a time to be alive.
We are lucky we are here to be alive right now because we have a role to play.
OK, so just to just to wrap up this conversation about the debate, usually campaigns, political strategists, we write off debates because they don't usually change minds. Right. They're temporary. They exist in a moment of time and then the impact generally fades. And I just want to put this question out on the table to to each of you. Could this debate be different, do you think it was different? I think it was different for sure, yeah.
Because we've never seen anything like this. And the visceral reaction universally outside of the cult is pretty overwhelming.
And, you know, to Reed's point earlier, he said that his wife was you know, she was appalled by it, looking at focus groups and other people who are not as political as all of us. You know, we eat, breathe and shit all this every day. Right. Which is the people who are living their lives looking at that, being repulsed by it, because it is it was an ugly moment in America and it forces people to have to face the fact that this is the choice.
These are the choices we have to make. And a choice is coming up. You don't like it? Well, get out there and change it and they can do that. And I think that that is uniquely different compared to other other campaigns. I hope that it didn't turn people off so much that they they decide not to vote. That's a cop out. But that is but that was also that's also the millennium, right. Is to free people or upset them so much.
Of course, voter suppression is part of the Trump playbook. We've seen this from day one. We just saw a Channel four news on exposé from Channel four News over there in the UK describing how the Trump campaign in connection with Cambridge Analytica, a data firm that micro targeted black voters in various precincts in places like Wisconsin and Michigan for voter suppression efforts to feed them bullshit on Facebook and target these ads and messaging so that they would not go out and vote for Hillary Clinton.
It wasn't about trying to get more votes. It was trying to keep people home and they're doing that again. It was no accident that the talking points coming out of the Trump campaign have been going after Biden, making stuff up about things that he said or, you know, trying to convince black voters that that Joe Biden is somehow the racist and that he's not on their side. OK, you know, we didn't know all that. The Obama administration did know that, you know, they picked a racist to be his vice president.
It's asinine. It's an asinine assertion. But they are trying to do what they did in 2016 to convince enough people to say to hell with it. None of them represent me. So I'm not voting at all.
That is the. Biggest mistake they could ever make, and we need to push back against that every single day because you get the government you deserve if you don't participate.
Steve, were any minds changed because of this debate?
There is this mantra that has come together that the debates don't matter on cable news, and I just disagree with it. I think they matter a lot. I always think they matter. I think you can. I just don't get it right. I don't I don't get why people say that. It's just it's not true. I could argue that all day long. But, yeah, debates don't hurt Trump because it showed how he showed how unfit he is.
I'll say this retard was talking about with and we're remiss in not talking about it earlier, but the targeting of the three and a half million black voters in this country, I'm sure we don't have a functioning civil rights division in the Justice Department, not with no other read.
Clearly, we don't then we don't have a functioning Justice Department under Interior Minister Barr. But but when we do providing that the statute of limitations hasn't run out, I hope that there will be criminal prosecutions under Civil Rights Act, Voting Rights Act, whatever criminal penalties attach to everybody who is involved in trying to franchise black voters in a premeditated, systematic, deliberate way. It's an illegal activity in this country. Can't do that now. So I hope that will be held to account for it.
Well, I would just say on the on the debate front, I agree with Steve. I think that debates do matter, which is why if you are a staunch supporter of of either candidate or if you happen to be on the staff of one of those either watching on television or in the green room, while you understand that it's like once you shove off, it's like it's like a roller coaster with rockets attached to it. Right? Like what? You can't control it once it goes off.
And so you just have to hope that the that the prep you've done in the set pieces you put in place are able to take care of your candidate forward. Of course, Trump is this this whirling dervish of bullshit and distraction, as I called him last week, and he certainly was those things. And so I think that they do matter. And so and I think you're going to see I think Mike Madrid, who's one of our co-founders and runs our political shop, is just sending some stuff around that shows that already it looks like Trump's taking a three or four percent hit nationally on this.
That can't be a surprise. And he can't he can't afford to lose one tenth of one percent, let alone four percent. So I think it shows what can happen.
Now that we have fully dissected the most horrific debate in presidential debate history, let's look at the week ahead, read what do you get your eye on? Sure. So, I mean, obviously, we have the vice presidential debate coming up next week in Salt Lake City with Senator Harris and Vice President Pence. It'll be interesting to see. I assume Pence will go hard on the culture war in his own way, probably focusing on evangelicals. I would expect that, as we saw with with Senator Harris previously in the United States Senate, that it wouldn't surprise me if she takes almost a sort of a prosecutor's role in this deal, which I think Pence will probably not be willing to to accept gladly.
And then I think it's also, you know, more and more Americans are going to be voting every day now. And so what will the long term effects of this debate this week on Donald Trump's prospects be? As I think that more and more Americans specifically, I think we've always thought that the white suburban voter would move away from Trump and that would cost him. But now we're starting to see that white working class men are moving away from him.
And someone smarter than me on the team said, I think you know what? I think it's just like my wife. They were watching this on Tuesday night and said, you're not vote for that guy. You want to live in this House or not vote for that guy again. So it'll be interesting to see how in places like not only Pennsylvania, but also places like Ohio and North Carolina and Florida, as we start to see those. Look, if if this thing's over in Florida on election night, like Trump is lost and that'll be it.
And speaking of debates, there's also another story that the Commission on Presidential Debates is going to make changes to the debate format after this disaster on Tuesday night. In their statement, they said last night's debate made clear that additional structure should be added to the format of the remaining debates to ensure a more orderly discussion of the issues. And, of course, Trump's campaign communications director, Tim Murtaugh, told CNN that the commission shouldn't be moving the goalposts and changing the rules in the middle of the game.
They didn't say what the changes would be, but I'm interested to see how it shapes the other two debates. Steve, what are you looking at going into this week?
I can't wait for this vice presidential debate, and I'm not playing the expectations game. She's going to kick his ass all over that debate stage and it's going to be a wondrous thing to watch. And she is going to crush them. And I lay awake at night sometimes trying to figure out who's more full of shit, Mike Pence or Lindsey Graham, who's more totally principalists and. You know, it's really hard, really hard to like on any given day, right?
You know, who who's who won? It's a photo finish on any given day, but she's gonna annihilate him, humiliate him, embarrass him, because they've done so much damage to the country. There's no there's no case to be to be made. And she is a very, very skillful questioner in which she's so good at like any prosecutor who has who has courtroom experience. She's a great listener. And she's going to she's going to listen to those moments where pense is full of shit and she's going to strike at them.
And, you know, we'll all be right. The whole country will be watching. I know Jerry Falwell Jr. will be watching. We'll be watching and probably watch his most nights, but watching something. But he'll be watching my pants and we'll see the full spectacle of hypocrisy. Steve, without Jerry likes to watch.
We know that's what he likes. Don't worry. It's going to be great. And I'm looking forward and I'm looking forward to the Lincoln Project's activities next week.
And Tara, what are you watching? Well, obviously, I'm looking forward to that vice presidential debate as well. And I never really thought I would say that. But it will certainly be much more interesting than some of the last vice presidential debates, maybe since 2008. I like I never thought that I would say the words I'm ready for a vice presidential debate ever again.
Stevens is scarred for life after the Palin experience.
But besides that, on a little bit of a more serious note, because I think it's important for people to pay attention to because of how poorly Donald Trump did and how well Joe Biden performed and how well we anticipate that Kamala Harris will. I'm looking at what the collective freakout is going to look like on the Trump side, on the Fox News side, what level of disinformation and bullshit that they're going to continue to put out there to try to undermine the election.
This is part of a massive Russian disinformation campaign, the Republican Party, the Trump campaign, Fox News and all of those right wing media outlets are willing co-conspirators in this Russian operation to Dezso. Discord and undermine our democracy. So I'm paying attention to what they're throwing out there. To all of the listeners who have parents that are over 50 and 60 that are on Facebook. Tell them to stop forwarding these memes, stop forwarding information where they don't know who they origin is of that new source.
If it didn't if it did not come from a major, mainstream, reputable news source, stop forwarding it. This is part of the game here. So I'm paying attention to see if we're going to see another ramp up of the of the terms like insurrection and fraud. And, you know, Trump tweeting in all caps about how there's this and that. Don't fall for it. Do not fall for it. Stay focused, keep your eye on the ball and do your best to continue to inform yourself about what's real and what's not, because that's the way you can.
That way, you can help educate others that are that don't know what's happening, because obviously, if you're listening to us, you're paying attention and you're being informed and take that information and spread the word. Don't fall for the okey doke. And I'm paying attention to see how dishonest they're really going to become because that means they're freaking out because they know they're losing. So keep up the momentum. Thank you to Steve, Tara and Reid for being on the show today.
And thanks to all of you for listening. You can find more information about our movement at Lincoln Project at us. If you have any questions, comments or advice for us, you can reach us, as always, a podcast of Lincoln Project US. And please know that even if we don't respond, we read every email we get and we love hearing from you. If you haven't yet, it would really help us if you would subscribe rate and review the show wherever you get your podcast for the Lincoln Project.
I'm Ron Artest. I'll see you in the next episode.