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Hi, folks, it's Rick Wilson and welcome to The Daily Beast's The New Abnormal. Hi, I'm Molly John Fast, a left wing pundit and editor at large at The Daily Beast.
I'm also an editor at The Daily Beast, a former Republican political strategist, best selling author and full time troublemaker. We're here to have fun, sharp conversations with some of the smartest people in media, politics, business and science that help make what's happening in the country and the world clearer.
I'll try to keep Rick to the minimum number of F bombs and try to keep our kids, pets and other wildlife sounds from invading our respective bunkers.
Rick Wilson, Molly asks, what the fuck is going on? That's a question that's so broad and professional that I think we have to narrow the narrow the aperture here of our of our inquiry.
Let's talk about the manga. Mussolini, must we? I guess we must. Yes, we must. Just for a minute. Just for a minute.
Just because he is continuing his maniacal quest to be the most embarrassed president to lose Georgia for the fifth time, do you lose torture again today? I think he lost it again today. Or maybe it's tomorrow, but you're doing the final final double's to super secret probation, extra hand counter machine count or whatever it is. But I guess the thing about it is at some point the bullshit stops and there's no more cheers. It's over and no one's going to get out of this thing with some deus ex douchebag Rudy Myracle or he or.
Oh, my God, you see that bat shit bug fucker Ruu event with with you're talking about Rudy Giuliani's magical mystery tour.
Oh, I'm talking about the people that are even crazier. Lin Wood, Lin Wood and Sidney Powell and C.J. Pearson on that stage yesterday.
OK, so that was in Michigan, right? Oh, no, that was Georgia. That was Georgia. That's them trying to ruin Republican's chances to take the Senate.
Would even Breitbart is bashing Lin Wood. It's amazing. And the Trump fucking rapid response dorks are bashing Lin Wood. It's just like serve me more of this delicious schadenfreude.
I just am curious to know.
So in Michigan, Rudy Giuliani, the president's free lawyer and worth twice the price rise. I think the president free lawyer had a hearing where he brought with him a woman who needs no introduction, Ellis. Now he has Kalis, but also the woman, the special witness with the enormous hair.
You mean the Victoria Jackson clone with Michigan's version of Texas high hair? It was amazing. Who was amazing. But you've got to see that catalog of people was so bonkers. It felt like an SNL skit from the very beginning because, you know, the one woman is like they were wearing rhinestones, I think made me feel nervous. Rhinestones. What the fuck are you talking about, lady? And these people were just giving these speeches, and it just shows you there's a possibility that the entire right wing media bubble could be written by, like, fairly primitive artificial intelligence programs that just jam words together.
And so they come out like gay Sharia, abortion.
Pet lovers in Benghazi, they say, thought she was drunk.
Right. Do we have we had any conversations about this? We have not talked about this.
But I believe the technical term the youth use uses Krunk because she was both crazy and drunk. Yeah. I mean, oh, that's himself. Go out in public like that, thinking, wow, this is going to be a successful day for me. I'm going to defend democracy by coming out and acting like I'm twenty seven. Cause most of the women. Yeah well I don't think Rudy noticed. Shockingly, I think Rudy's alcohol cloud may have already she may have got a contract drunk off of the hole.
You know, they say drug doesn't recognize drug. Yeah, that was my take. So Trump is not at all deterred by this.
Deterred. Are you making a joke about Donald Trump's long running set of comments about massive dumps? And welcome to the new abnormal, where we're going to have twelve year old party Uber. I'm trying to keep the here if you have me trying to keep a class Uber. Trump did do a Christmas party where he said crazy shit. Yeah. And said if he doesn't, he'd like to stay in January. But if that doesn't happen, it's not going to happen.
So I don't know how that would happen. He'll be back in four years. And to which I say once again, great to all those young geniuses in the U.S. Senate who believe they're going to be president in twenty, twenty four. Looking at you today, Tom Cotton, Marco Rubio, Ted Cruz, Mike Lee, George. Oh, you come on down. You're all fucked because Donald Trump's gonna run for president again. And when Donald Trump finds that he's not going to be president the next time, he will immediately change.
For the mantle to oldest son, and he will then run for president and all you guys that have been acquainting yourself with the scent of Donald Trump's ass and claiming it smells like huckleberries and rainbows for the last five years will understand that he fucked you. Thank you for coming to my TED talk.
It seems like there is no world in which Trump doesn't. If Trump wants it, he's the nominee. Absolutely.
100 percent, Molly, 100 hundred billion percent.
Unless he's in jail. Unless he's in jail. But then again, you know, Lyndon LaRouche ran for president from jail several times. Right.
And Berlusconi I mean, there is a long and there's a long and storied history of politicians running for jail, running from jail.
Oh, very much so. No one is going to mistake Donald Trump in jail for anything more than a dying force in the political universe, except for all the Republicans who will think he's a political prisoner and it's worse than Gitmo. Donald Trump deserves so much better than this, our greatest president.
So the name is Melissa Calderon Carone. Right. The woman with the enormous hair. And she will ultimately be ultimately be famous.
I have no doubt she's probably already up for her own show on her own.
You don't know how you know it's bad if you just type ABCL. That's the auto complete. That sucks.
Yeah, that's not good. Her hair is amazing. I got to say, her hair is quite fabulous. But yeah, it's also attached to all that crazy stuff. Yes.
Well, there's that Somalia in the list of the most surprising portrayals of Donald Trump. Who would you have put on that list above Bill Bar? I can't think of anybody now.
I mean, Devin Nunes, maybe Eric. I always go back.
Is Eric too dumb to be treasonous to tell us what happened?
Well, look, Bill, Boehner has apparently just gone ahead and refused to throw people in jail randomly or to appoint a special prosecutor to investigate Obama's tan suit or whatever the fuck it is. That's in Trump's wacky brain case every day. And because of that and because he said the fatal flaw now was, as he said, DOJ has not found any evidence of widespread voter fraud or what's really happening here. The reason he's really pissed is not that Barr told the truth, it's that the truth interferes with the current Trump scam around a fundraising operation which has raised one hundred and seventy million dollars not for a legal defense fund, but for a Trump family's super PAC.
You know, bogus, you go. And by the way, my friend, Nigerian Prince, would like to speak to you about a briefcase full of money he has. All you need to do is send your banking information to your Social Security. Right to scare me at Nigeria dot com.
How do you think this keeps going? Well, this is the Spinal Tap line, OK? They're deliberately playing to a smaller and more selected audience. It's a curatorial now performative. They're going to keep shrinking this this pool of people that believe that Trump is going to be president to it'll shrink from well. In fact, let me actually be more serious about this. Initially, it was Republicans who felt, you know, Trump needed a fight. Then it shrank to Republicans who believe that Trump actually won, but their eyes were open.
Then it shrank to the RWB demo, who believes Trump actually won and actually believes it for real, despite all evidence to the contrary. And then it's going to shrink to the conspiratorial people who say it was stolen. Donald was robbed by George Soros and the lesbian robot lizard. People were all there taking the votes, man. And that's where Rudy's clown show is. That's where that's where people like this Melissa Carone woman come into this equation. Now, there's no one who seriously believes this at all.
And Barr saying it, unfortunately, there were a lot of people in the Trump world who had come to believe that Bill Barr was going to be essentially a suicide bomber for Trump at the end and do something miraculous to save him politically. And they also believed that he was going to have John Durham forever pursuing the malfeasance of the deep state cabal.
That little leak about Durham was sort of interesting.
Well, we're in kind of a hybrid reality now where Tom Fitton and Steve Bannon and Breitbart and the Federalist and that Gateway Pundit and all the thuggery on Pearla, they still believe that Durham is going to come out with some report that exonerates Trump for everything and proves Obama did it and undo his presidency by by what I don't know and put Obama and Clinton in jail. This is a fantasy that is pernicious. But it is also broad, this is not something that's just like a little bit of a few people on that in that media space are into this.
They're all into it. You know, it also is going to ratchet back into the, you know, 10000 feet. You're one of the things about about promulgating this was that he had an expectation from the beginning. Remember, I want my Roy Cohn. He wants his Roy Cohn to prosecute his political enemies. The same thing he is claiming falsely, of course, that happened to him. And it speaks volumes about both Trump and the current Republican Party that there are people in that space, you know, Matt Gates and Jim Jordan and dumb ass Nuñez and all these other people who truly think that if only the DOJ had been more corrupt for Trump, that we could have solved these would solve these pesky political problems of people who were investigating Trump's obvious ties to Russia.
It's very telling about who he was as a man and a president, that he believed that the Justice Department, quote unquote, worked for him and should do his political bidding. And now that bahu has done a lot of Trump's political bidding, by the way, I'm not forgiving Bill Barr for any of his shenanigans.
I think it's fair to say that he has really ruined himself for Trump. Someone should write a witty aphorism about it. But there is a there's a degree to which my theory, which is now an iron law of the political universe, certainly applies to Mr. Bulbar.
Right. It'd be curious to see if it applies to his at Trump's children.
Well, I think Trump's children will be hunted down like wild animals for their careers. They will never have a night of rest in terms of being able to run for office or have a business. I think they're going to be hunted down forever.
Explain to me, you don't think they're just going to run for office and take their place?
They are going to run for office. I'm just saying the only path out is for them to run for office and keep up that particular grift. I have said this before. I think you're going to see a Voca move to Florida and Don Junior will move to Montana or Wyoming or somewhere out west where he can run safely or Dakota.
Yeah, Dakota seems right. Exactly. It feels like there's going to be a stimulus bill getting done. Do we think this is possible?
Well, I think Mitch McConnell is playing Stop the Chump once again. I think he is going to let it get to the near the finish line and go, ha ha, fuck you.
Really, that's what I'm hearing, is that this is just one more this is one more negotiating tactic for Mitch McConnell to try to train wreck the economy before Biden takes office.
Right. It seems impossible that Mitch McConnell will go along with this, but it also seems possible that, like Trump will blow it up at the last minute. He very well could. Has a really grim America weeps for young Brad Paskeville.
You know, Friends of Domestic Violence, The Tragedy of Brad Proskauer Jacobean Revenge Play in three acts. Brad Paskeville was doing what Trump World people have learned to do when they fear legal consequences for something. And what they've learned to do is to go on television and abase themselves to Trump and weep and cry about how awful that is, not to be able to see the golden glow of his ethereal glory, not to be able to touch the hem of his robe, but to feel to feel the scrofula and leprosy leaving my body as Donald Trump allowed me to drink hospital in this fucking act that he was doing the day, I was like, dude, have a little fucking dignity.
Have like a shred of microscopic shred of honor and dignity, because going out there, like a little bit of everything. Fuck you, con artist, grifter scumbag.
Tell us how you really feel.
Half naked jackhole getting shoved to the back of a police car. You know what? I've had some shitty times in my life, my some days of my life where I'm like, what the fuck am I doing? But I have never been tackled shirtless in the street by the cops and then shoved into a cop car, was weeping about not getting sex. Never had that day come. Hopefully never will.
And I'm a much more of Florida man than Brad Paskeville ever will be.
Where do we see this Brad Paskowitz interview going? What was the goal there just to get back on television or.
It was twofold. I think it was to get back on television and to get back on Trump's radar screen because of what it happens on television. It's not real for Trump. I think that his desire to signal to the president that he was continuously loyal and would never and would never betray the family was also a little bit of a play to get back on Jared's radar screen, because remember, Jared, he was Gerard's pet.
Right. But it hasn't been like we don't know where all that money went in the Trump campaign. Right. And nobody and that investigation hasn't started yet that I am aware of.
It has not started over the other Investa. With Ivonka and the misappropriation of inaugural funds apparently has started and she has been deposed.
Yes, she's not happy. She seemed very mad that they made her stay for five hours. They don't know how busy she is doing whatever it is she does.
She's very busy being Ivanka Trump. Right.
And not doing anything. So this makes a lot of sense that she was very mad that she had to sit there and be deposed.
She's a person who should acquaint herself with long depositions and legal proceedings. That's just my theory of the case.
Yeah, well. All right. Well, Rick Wolfinger, you're in Georgia. What the fuck is happening in Georgia?
I'm not in Georgia. I could throw a rock to Georgia from my house. You're basically in Georgia. I seriously, I'm not kidding you. If I got in my car right now, it could be in Georgia in about four minutes. It's that close four to six minutes. I could be in Georgia.
I could be in New Jersey in about an hour and a half. That's not true. I'm sorry for the question of purgatories. Yeah, exactly. Well, they're about the same. So what's happening in Georgia besides the fact that every day there's another story about Dave Perdue and Kelly Loffler trading stocks? I mean, the two of them really, they both have, you know, hundreds of stock trades.
He has thousands of stock trades. OK, process that in your head for one minute. He's a goddamn day trader. How does he have time to be a senator? I know, sadly, a lot of corruption, stuff like this in the minds of most voters is now baked in the cake.
Right, because Trump has normalized corruption. Oh, yeah. We're going to drain the swamp. Really worked out well for us. Yeah. And and the idea of saying they're corrupt is is correct and appealing. However, it is also the era we live in. No voter can afford to like, waste too much time thinking, are they corrupt? They think they're all corrupt. And so we're in a situation where there's a I don't mean to say there's an undertone to it, but there's a sort of deeply held belief that every politician is corrupt.
And when you see it exposed, a lot of voters like of course, of course. Of course, is doing so. Of course, she's buying stock in the company with body bags. Of course she is, because they just hate politicians. Can you blame them? No.
I mean, yes, you can blame them, but they've been I mean, I feel like there's a high level of trickery. There is. There's a lot of trickery. Are you seeing anything new in Georgia? Is there a polling or are we just never going to look at polls again? Are you see any movement on the ground right now?
From what from what we're hearing on the ground, the number of absentee ballots that have been requested so far should very much concern the law firm Perdue campaigns. Right. However, it's still heart race. Yeah, it's still Georgia. So everybody's got to have their eyes open on it, which is this is a pure turnout race. And and all the groups are doing turnout in Georgia on the Democratic side. Need to keep that in mind. Little free advice.
They need to focus on a couple of underserved areas. Communications wise, Georgia has 750000 veterans who've retired and said Georgia, two hundred and sixty five thousand approximately. Those are either African-American or Hispanic. They are not pro Trump or pro Republican voters and probably be good to reach out to those people. Just saying it's a little too much of a clue. And as we look at the structure of this race, there's been a ton of money spent. It's going to be a ton more money spent and will probably be three hundred million dollars into this race by the time it's all over, which is crazy town for two special elections in what is now an off cycle.
That is nuts. It also should not surprise you just how passionate and how high the stakes have become.
What's the control of the Senate?
We put out an ad today from from we project that, you know, you won't see Mitch McConnell's name on the ballot, but it's there and it's true. It's there. His name is on the ballot. This is a choice between, you know, do you give Mitch McConnell full control of the Senate and where he has promised to block covid aid and block Biden's appointments and block economic relief and block tuition reform and block every other thing in the world?
And Mitch McConnell is the master of the political cockblock in the Senate. He is the master of it, and he will exploit that to the absolute outer limit of human imagination. Or do you split the Senate, which is tougher and a lot of people are not going to be happy about that. But, you know, that's really where it all comes down to at this point. It's a tough place to be. If you were not acquainted with the fucker of which Mitch McConnell isn't able to achieve this depressing.
Julia Louis-Dreyfus is known for her roles on Veep, Seinfeld and Sarah live, among other things. And our returning guest, Steve Mendell, is the showrunner of Veep. My first question, Julia, maybe you'll go first and then David Vep is real. Yes, Veep is real.
It's a documentary and it's about real life. Were you just shocked that it all came true or now?
Well, you know, we actually from the very beginning, there was a lot of weird overlap with Veep from the get go. I remember, for example, I think it was even in the pilot. I think if I'm remembering this correctly, my character, Selina Meyer, was trying to green up all federal buildings. That was part of her sort of idea of a plan.
And then, of course, she pisses off the plastics industry, etc. and then so it became problematic for her. And then shortly thereafter, if memory serves, it was either Barbara Boxer or Nancy Pelosi tried to do exactly the same thing. This is after we had shot it. And I don't even know at that point if we had actually been on area. And thus it began from the very beginning. The the overlap with what was going on in the real world was true and real and completely strangely coincidental.
Didn't you find that to be the case there?
Yeah, it's also kind of horrifying because what we what we're setting out to do is always, you know, from a VP standpoint, it was always the worst politician and the worst the worst staff possible. And so you're kind of trying to aim for this is possible but shouldn't happen. And then it turned out it was more than possible and it did happen. And then in some cases in the last couple of years, they kind of outdid us. They kind of.
They kind of. Yes. And it's like great improv. They kind of they they took what we did and they added to it on top and just made it worse. I mean, really just kind of incredible. And again, you're starting from a standpoint of like this character is the worst press secretary ever. And then it's like, no, it isn't.
You know, did you ever think that you would see I mean, Kayleigh McEnany, I mean, any of these people, were they beyond satire even four years ago? I just wanted to jump in and say the funniest thing is, is we're only up to Kaili MacInerney now. It's like you remember when we thought it can't get any worse than Sean Spicer was. Like just even within the administration, they keep outdoing themselves. It's kind of it's incredible.
Like you're like when you when you say Sean Spicer, do you mean Dancing with the Stars? Sean Spicer, sorry. Yes. And then soon to be Dancing with the Stars. Kayleigh McEnany. Yeah. I mean, it's just it's just insane. You're like, this guy is the worst. They can't find any worse. Oh, yes, we can. And it's just it keeps going.
So what is the project you guys are doing now when there is an issue about counting ballots and not counting ballots all coming out of the Trump White House? We got, of course, a lot of because it's an episode of Veep, it's an episode of Veep. Yeah, it's an episode from, by the way, the fifth season of Veep. So many years that. Yes. And during the election leading up to the election, Dave and I worked together a number of times raising money for various, you know, the Wisconsin Democrats, the Texas Democrats, various candidates and so on.
But we did these reunions of sorts. We did it with Veep and then we did it with the Seinfeld Friends. And anyway, now we've got this big election coming up in Georgia. And we thought, oh, let's do it again. And what a golden opportunity to read the very script that seemed to become reality the last couple of weeks. Let's read that sort of an uncut version of it and raise funds for America votes in Georgia, which is all about informing, educating voters and encouraging voters to request their mail in ballots, because that's something they have to reregister for for this election.
So they're on the front lines of getting out the vote. And we thought, what if this what? There's no better way to support them. But and by doing this and we'll have a good time at the same time.
Yeah, I was going to say the the Trump administration sort of picked the episode for us. Yes. They helped us choose where like which one should we do? And they were like, how about this one? So we we did that.
And it's been really fun because we've got the entire Web cast back together and then we've thrown in a whole bunch of extra special guests like Mark Hamill and Stephen Colbert, Patton Oswald. A whole bunch of people are jumping in, Kumail Nanjiani. They're all jumping in to kind of play like these small little extra roles just to be a part of the thing. And it's you just go to show up for Georgia Dotcom and you can sign up for it. It's Sunday at eight o'clock Eastern Time, and it's going to just be really fun.
It's just honestly, I think it's. It really amazed people when they actually watch or I guess rehear the whole episode about how much of it did come true because it was really not just the count don't count, but the district or the region that we name in Nevada. It just it got really specific in a really almost creepy way. So it was kind of great. Yeah. Yeah.
I was going to say it has an eerie quality to it, actually, but anyway, yeah, it'll be fun.
Do you think that you guys will do more political satire? I mean, how and also how would you even do it since the real world has sort of eclipsed the satire?
Well, there's always an opportunity for satire. And we're hopeful that with the Obama administration, you know, things will sort of settle down and then we can be the outrageous ones, I guess.
Yeah, it requires a baseline of normalcy. And if we can get back to that, if we can get back to a time where you're not thinking about the president every six minutes, I think maybe we can get back to some some good old fashioned political satire. But, yeah, they they made it difficult. They really they raise the bar on stupidity on a daily basis. So it was very hard to get out stupid, you know what I mean.
Yeah. What are you guys happy with the last episode. Very, because I thought it was so interesting. Like you always as a as an avid television watcher myself, I always want to know what's going to happen. So I was sort of thrilled that you kind of really showed us what happened good.
Last year. But I'm curious to know you don't think you'll ever that it will come back for us, please?
Oh, yeah. Oh, well, I mean, you know, it's something that we've we've certainly discussed it. I don't know, everybody's sort of gone off now and everybody's doing other projects and so on. But I don't I don't rule it out entirely, doing some sort of veep related thing. I mean, there's an area that we could jump back into.
I think Dave and I've talked about it and we left just enough sort of like there's some time jumps in there that you could definitely go back into. Yeah. You could kind of color in and answer a couple of questions. So I think I think anything is possible.
That's amazing. What do you think is going to happen now with politics? Where do you see this universe going now?
It's all going to work out perfectly.
I feel super, super, but I don't know, man.
I mean, I just all I can tell you, actually, from a whole point of view, every time Biden speaks and he just speaking for myself, just hearing him speak like an adult in the room and putting people in his cabinet who seem to actually have a skill set that applies to the job they're they've been given. It makes me feel more calm. And I'm glad he's in charge of this hideous pandemic once he becomes in charge, because that's I mean, obviously the top order of business.
And I don't see Biden running off to play golf in the middle of all of this. I just don't think that that would square with him. So I actually am hopeful, although I realize that there are 70 million people out there who voted for Donald Trump and and that's problematic for us. But hopefully somehow things settle down. That's all I'm good at. Just the most stupid answer ever.
I've been on the Internet a lot lately, and my understanding is that there was a lot of corruption and illegality in this last election. So I'm hoping that Republicans never vote again because these are very illegal elections that, again, I've been told by the president these are illegal, do not vote, do not vote in Georgia especially, and we'll see what happens. But that's that's, I think, what everyone's plan should be, especially if you're a Republican.
You and Lynn would. Yeah. Deep state operative.
Linwood, I was curious if you guys have ever had, like, somebody in politics come up to you and say, make a good suggestion or say you did it go far. Oh, you should do this. Is there ever been a moment where they tried to inception in something to you guys?
It must have been right. Well, I can tell you that we've had people all the time to this day come up to us and say, oh, my God, my boss is Selina Meyer, or that the chief of staff is Dan Egan or what? I mean, they're always identifying a character from the show that they work with. But I don't remember anybody actually pitching to you, Dave, pitching stuff to us about it.
Not a lot of pitching. I mean, it's funny. This is this is the thing I think maybe that's just true about comedy in general is any time you sort of talking to, like a real politician, the stuff that they think is funny is not particularly funny, but they're not shocking. And when they're just telling you the stuff that they don't think is funny, that's when they actually tell you really interesting, funny stuff, you know what I mean?
Like, they'll go on and on, on. This is hilarious. And just like. No. And then they tell you about like some bill they passed and you're like, wait a second. That's the story. You know what I mean? And just just that's how it kind of works. That's amazing.
There have always been rumors that some of the characters are based on like some stories actually happened.
Yeah, we get into a lot of trouble with that one. There was I won't get into names, but we did we did a joke about shaving. Shaving actually seemed to get a lot of people very angry in a very funny way. That's so fascinating.
All right. So the event is will you give us the website and everything so people will go to it? Yes.
It's show up for Georgia Dotcom and you can just go on there and click on it and donate any amount. And then you can be a part of the very exclusive veep uncut reunion table read on Sunday. That is so cool.
Yeah. Sunday, Sunday, 8:00 p.m. Eastern Standard Time. Show up for Georgia dot com and you can literally give a dollar if you want, although we hope you give a little more.
Are you guys going to do it like as a real table read with people all together in a room?
No, we're going to do it all on Zoome everybody in their own spaces, but we're going to but full on table read script top to bottom with a little break in the middle.
But the full table and in fact the reason we're calling it Veep Uncute is I've been going over the original draft that we shot and kind of adding back a couple of little things that got cut for time that were really funny. But just, you know, you're trying to make a half hour show and our shows are rough. Cuts were always, you know, like forty five minutes. So there's there's some extra stuff which will be really fun, too.
So if you know the episode really well, you'll get some bonus stuff.
Oh cool. And it's very cool. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.
Thank you so much guys. It's always really fun. Yeah.
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It's not just a sewing machine for mayor. It's a chance to give her family a better life. It's not just a way to make a living. It's a chance to give her daughter an education. Like thousands of mothers, Maya lives in fear of what the future holds for her little girl. And it's not just this Christmas. Your love can make all the difference. There's a true grit in 1854 made ways to cry until love conquers fear. Before we get into things, we have a fun little treat.
There are so many insane things happening in the world right now and two episodes a week just aren't enough to cover it all. So the new abnormal is going to release a limited run series of bonus interviews over the next few weeks for beast inside members only. We'll release a new one each Sunday. But listen carefully. Only beast inside members will have access to these. So head over to the new abnormal DOT, The Daily Beast dot com to become a beast inside.
No, now that's new abnormal dot the Daily Beast dot com. Matt Turnour is the director of the Showtime Limited series The Reagans. He's also directed documentaries like Where's My Roy Cohn and Valentino The Last Emperor. Hi, Matt. I'm so excited to have you.
So how did you decide to make this documentary on Reagan? Because it feels so apropos.
But it's interesting something that's been on my mind for a long time. I've always thought that Ronald Reagan and Nancy Reagan, that the series is called the Reagan's very purposefully were misunderstood, misinterpreted by the media, got a free ride in the media and were master manipulators and mythmakers. And they were also great salespeople, especially. Reagan was a great salesman. So media star salesman, president, that equation should sound familiar to most of your listeners. So it seemed like an apropos time to look at something that happened in the 80s that I think laid the foundation.
I was really, really surprised at how well Ronald Reagan Jr. came off. Isn't he wonderful? Yeah, we should talk about this for a minute because it's just so interesting to think of, like a kid of a president, like, actually pushing back against them.
I don't think it's ever happened, frankly. You know, Patty Davis, his sister, right.
Was rebellious in the moment, but not in a politically targeted way the way Ron was.
That's right. So we did an eight hour interview in Seattle. That was on the eve of the pandemic. The first cases in Seattle had been heavily reported. And we went up. There was among the last in-person interviews we were able to do and we set up in a hotel and he came and stayed for I think we were sitting in the chairs for eight plus hours. And I just found him astonishing then. And then when we started to cut it in his insight, his candor, his analysis are staggering.
But you're right, I don't think a child or a president has ever been so candid about their parents, but I think his parents are really confusing and I can imagine being their child. He wrote a very good book that gave me some clues as to where he would go with this. It's called My Father at 100, which is kind of the sentimental title. But the book is not that sentimental. And it seemed to me I read this as a compliment to him, that he's had hours and hours of psychotherapy to go through what he experienced and who they were.
And that's really was my mission as well, who they were part. And he gave us the best insight.
Yeah, it was totally fascinating. It's funny because it's like I spent we spent so much time thinking about, like what Trump ism is and then it and it's always Nixon is. So I close this cop. But you really see in this that actually in a lot of ways, Reagan engaged in a lot of fakery.
Yeah, well, you know, Nixon is dealing in a box and the American media loves to pigeonhole and caricature and they love a narrative. And Nixon is turnkey. Obviously, Reagan was everything Nixon was. And in terms of the media president and he was turnkey for the media in that way. He was an experienced movie star, radio star, television star, and he knew how to play to the media. I spend a lot of time in the first part of this going over the fact that he was tutored at the elbow of Jack Warner, the founder of Warner Brothers.
He was a contract player. Then he was taken up. And this is forgotten history by Luella Parsons, who was one of the two most famous powerful gossip columns of the time. And she made him a kind of special project. They were from the same small town in Illinois, and Reagan had a lot of good luck in his life. And that was one stroke of luck. And then Nancy Reagan was out of MGM. She had contracted MGM.
So I called the first part the Hollywood machine, because they were tutored by the either the studio heads or the publicity department or the publicity mavens of Hollywood. At that time, there was no more discipline image factory than that. So they came only packaged for the media and the media was very susceptible to it. In a way, Trump performs the same role. The media cannot stop. They cannot stop it. They cannot figure out how to frame him.
And the Reagans were a much more simpler and less immediately dangerous situation for them. But they definitely flunked. And Lesley Stahl, who is all through this series, I think is quite candid and quite good in her analysis. Yes. What was happening to her at the time. But that's the. Origin of what happened. I do want to add one more thing about the Nixon versus Reagan and the way the media talks about them and really historians talk about it and the context of it all.
It frustrates me still and has for the entire Trump period that Reagan is not called out for his dog whistle racism and or the tendencies that he abetted in the Republican Party toward authoritarianism very much there and also is absolute wreckage of the American economy and the invention of what we now call the one percent that's really on his shoulders.
But it's very, very common for historians and media figures of great authority and impeccable credentials to absolutely pass over Reagan's legacy. And it really baffles me.
And it's absolutely OK still for pop figures in our culture to worship Reagan. Yeah, that's astonishing. It's baffling.
I want to just pay you the compliment for the listeners to hear, too, that the way you illustrated his dog whistle racism in this. I am a very unmoved man. And I stood up and applauded, followed by the group, because you did it so well.
It was truly incredible in his own words. Yes. That's what was so good.
I'm curious to know, I thought Lesley Stahl was really amazing to him and totally fascinating. I know Kitty Kelley for a long time because she was friends with my mom and I thought the use of her was sort of brilliant.
Well, I'm a big fan of hers. You know, I think if Kitty Kelley had been Keith Kelley writing those books, I think she would be venerated. And I think it was part of the sexism of the time. I think she was very ahead of her time in terms of journalism she was doing with Vanity Fair. And now, frankly, The New Yorker does and a lot of long form outlets do where they put the human story and what might be called the good stuff, you know, things that are slightly gossipy but really contribute to the portrait in the book.
Yeah. And it's nothing really that Edmund Morris, who was Reagan's starchy official biographer, did in his own way. So Kitty Kelley speaks wonderfully in this and has incredible insight. And she's the most amazing researcher. If you look at her books, she has because she was under so much fire, I think, and so much criticism for the type of journalism that she was doing, which is really, I think in a form new journalism. But it was it was always pigeonholed as being too gossipy.
But I reject that characterization. Anyway, her books, the footnotes of her books are more voluminous than they are in the David McCullough book. I mean, they're so they're wonderful resources. And she was completely photographic in her memory of all of the insights she had. First to Nancy Reagan, because her biography came out right after the administration and now Lesley Stahl. I don't think a lot of people realize unless they saw such a superstar now, she was already a superstar in the 80s.
But in the record I was looking at in all the footage from the administration, she was in the front row for everything. I mean, she was there every minute of that. And as the lead White House correspondent for CBS News and her analysis, I think is quite candid and very valuable because she admits that they weren't quite realizing what was happening to them at the time. But the manipulation of Reagan and his peculiar talents, which at that time were new, the performer president, the movie star who then transformed into president and was playing the president.
It really was a, I think, kind of fog of war situation for the press. And now she she depicts that so brilliantly related to that.
A lot of people are prescribed that we live in this age of authenticity and that like, you can't have the facade of Reagan anymore, that he was just such absolute acting bullshit. Whereas Trump is this authentic Fox News, GreenPower Rage tweets the television all day. Do you have any feelings about, like, the evolution of that and like what you see with Reagan?
With that, if you want to quickly understand Reagan, look at 30s and 40s Hollywood movies.
That's a really good point you have in the movie.
I think it's essential to understand Americans. No one likes old movies. You know, I love all that. It is the America that was invented in Hollywood in the 30s and 40s is a fake America. But that's Reagan's America. And Reagan is a confounding figure in many ways. And one of the ways he's confounding is that he actually believes this bullshit. And in a certain sense, it's it's rather quaint. But if he had. Stayed in Hollywood as a kind of the little Jimmy Stewart in retirement, the old movie star, TV star whose career slowly faded, who actually believed all the hokum that Jack Warner and Louis B.
there was producing that entertained billions over the years would be a wonderful, quaint little story and became president of the United States. He takes a belief system that's based on Andy Hardy movies and Frank Capra movies and the really bad movies that he was in that were to be versions for the most part of those movies. And he starts applying it to the body politic. This is a terrifying story of what can happen here and what we get and why. I think it's especially fascinating to look at this now through the prism of land and vice versa is someone who's fading media star in the new forms of media, reality TV and the Web and playing a particular part that's obviously much coarser but is absolutely playing into the needs of the media consumer at the time.
So I think in context they're both interesting. I think they're both very influenced by the media industrial complex in which they had to live and operate and succeed.
You grapple with this and I'm curious to know what your take on this is. I always thought that Reagan was just dumb, that question.
How can I beat it, though, that you just said that he believed the bullshit. But there's times when I watched this documentary that I was like, oh, he knows better than this bullshit that this fucking the worst thing the government could do is how can I help you? Thing that he point up in the movie.
You sort of implied that maybe he doesn't that he doesn't totally understand what he's doing. Yeah, that's right. Yeah. We're going to let you talk about. Oh, yeah.
It's interesting. Well, this is this would be a great back and forth to have. First of all, the first question you ask was Reagan yes or no? Have you ever seen the movie being there?
Yes. OK, well, what do you think we are? So, you know, Peter Sellers pay a sort of I don't know what the PC term for it is anymore, but he's a slow man, a special needs person.
I think the proper term is Dan Quayle. I, Peter Sellers as Dan Quayle. That's quite a bit better. But he is an empty person who people read into and eventually they read into him so much that they start to contemplate a run for the presidency. For him, it is a bit of that with Reagan where he knew what he knew. And I think he was of probably average intelligence. And I think he as he got older, he became more and more lazy and uncurious.
So I think that's where his intellect was. But that there's one type of IQ, you know, the emotional intelligence of Reagan, I think was off the charts and the ability to relate where it counts for a important national politician was total so he could make friends with the camera. His technical skills and his delivery was impeccable. And he had 30, 40 years of experience doing that, kind of connecting through the the fish. I learned some of the camera and his marks for that are off the charts.
So, you know, you have to take all the different types of intelligence and put together. I think Reagan had a fixed belief system that was School of Jack L. Warner, and you could not break him out of that. And his own son told me in off camera he or it's not in the film. At least he knew what he knew. But he does. Ron Reagan Jr. does this extraordinary scene, if you will, where he talks about how if you tried to talk sense into your father, Ronald Reagan, he would hold up his hands and kind of push make up, pushing away gesture after listening for way too short a time and say, well, all I know is and he pushes the way physically.
And Ron Jr. says he's trying to push away reality and push away what makes him uncomfortable. And if you look at Reagan through that lens and you look at his belief system, his little world from which he controlled everyone's world, that's the truth of Reagan. Yeah.
Yeah, that's absolutely. I mean, that was just totally fascinating scene and an incredible. Do you have any. Tips on how to avoid how the media sort of failed covering Reagan, you see that in the in the dark? Yeah.
So I think the failure was structural in a lot of ways because the timing of the segments on the evening news now, remember, there are three networks, basically kind of four, if you count emerging CNN at the time and CNN really was in its infancy. So I don't think you can fully count it. The length of the stories on the evening news which captured the attention of almost every viewer in America, became shorter and shorter and shorter throughout the 80s.
And the analysis, the story, the analysis and the quality of the analysts on television, with a few exceptions, became worse and worse and worse. So those people didn't exist anymore. People like Eric Sevareid, who was a, you know, the kind of God head of CBS News, even above Walter Cronkite, you would do a commentary every night on the CBS Evening News that all ended in that period. What you're left with are very short, sound, bite filled evening news segments which bear a relation to what we have now.
But if you look at them in the 80s, they seem interminable. They seem like they're three and a half minutes. Now, a TV news segment is a minute, if you're lucky, for a minute and a half. So this dumbing down of the information finally that went into the right, into the brains of every America played in perfectly to the Reagan media strategy because they were very consciously making pictures and they were cutting in the camera, if you will.
So Mike Deaver and Nancy Reagan and Ronald Reagan himself, we're all determined to package the evening news segment and just let the cameras roll. And by the time the network editors were done, the Reagan message got across and visuals and the televised presidency of Reagan was something that the networks have been waiting for since JFK was shot. The TV was TV news was in its infancy at that time. So Reagan's timing for that was absolutely perfect. And I think that that naiveté and that stage of the development of the network news format helped Reagan enormously.
There's one thing I'd add that I noted, which was this is entirely related to today, that Cronkite did a new segment in eighty one, I think, or very early in the Reagan period, where he said that Reagan lied and that his consistently lied and that his economic figures were lies. Now, they didn't use the word lie, and Cronkite framed it in the term a little short on truth, which was pretty good for the time.
But they let him get away with lying every day. And that should remind you of now as well. So have we not learned how to corral these deceitful figures who rise to the highest levels of our politics?
Fascinating. A lot of people see Trump's embrace of the right and Kuhnen as a new decline. But Bush embraced anti-gay and anti-abortion wackos. And you show Reagan's embrace of the John Birch Society. Could you explain to the audience?
Because, like, I just could not grasp, even though you show it clearly why he did that, I think he was a right wing crazy person.
OK, is your scientific Autechre, and that is my political science take.
I think that's a great question. And again, you know, Gore Vidal, my mentor, used to call this the United States, the so called the United States of Amnesia. And, you know, I work at Vanity Fair for years and Gore Vidal wrote stuff. I edited him about it. And I remember Graydon Carter, Vanity Fair. It's like I hate this United States of issue. Things like get him off that he keeps using it as it gets a little wobbly.
But now I'm thinking by one year, truer words were ever truer. Race was ever coined about the United States.
Now that we're living in the let's hope post fascist corrective era of Trump. But what people must realize as we start to try to grapple with the really dangerous mass hysteria put on is that past is utterly prologue. The John Birch Society was the one point of view, and on it was a right wing fever, a swamp of conspiracy that had captured the soul. Of the conservative rightest movement in this country, much to the horror of a lot of ambitious conservatives at the time, and they there were efforts to drive them out of the party.
And Bill Buckley took a lot of credit for this. But the conservatives who were intent on winning elections always nodded and winked to the John Birch Society. Reagan was one of them. He never renounced the John Birch Society. And footnote, he never renounced the Klu Klux Klan endorsement until at least a month after it. And Trump did the same thing. Now, Reagan was if you think he was stupid, he was, I think on many levels, not intelligent, but he had a great instinct for politics and how to win, which is why Republicans love him, because they love that he knew how to win.
And the way he knew how to win was by playing to the worst instincts of people there, racism and their conspiracy, fever, swamp fantasies, and later on in the 1980s to the right wing religious right to which he pandered utterly and invented the as Ron Reagan, he calls it, unholy alliance between the Moral Majority and the Republican Party. This was all under Reagan. So you have a human on equivalent. You have dog whistle. What we would now in many contexts call foghorn racism, the part you have that type of flirtation with the Klan, all these things that we say are norm shattering under Trump, Reagan with absolutely doing and doing very effectively because he built a new Republican Party coalition that way, which is why the respected pundits on the right I won't name names here, but they know who they are, who became never trump groups and who are wonderful in the media on it.
I mean, they're much better than the Democratic spokesmen.
Right. But they did build that.
Yes, but they embrace it. And they never cite Reagan ever. Right.
As a norm breaker, their shock and awe break and Richard Nixon get dragged through the mud, obviously deservedly so.
But Reagan is so fascinating. Back that guy. Hold on. I will tell you, there's so many good choices. You know, that is the problem.
OK, mine's going to be Newt Gingrich isn't the returning favorite, but always a good one.
Yeah. Newt Gingrich, Newt Gingrich tweeted this morning Lin Wood and Sidney Powell are totally disruptive. Every Georgian conservative who cares about America, which of course, none of them do, must vote in the runoff. There they are. Don't vote strategy will cripple America. This from the man who crippled America, who quite literally crippled America. Right?
Indeed, the Thukral level of Newt Gingrich just never stops. I mean, I love that he's still, like, terrorizing the pope, right? Like, what kind of subversive asshole do you have to be to send Newt Gingrich and his twenty seventh wife to the Vatican like, oh, yeah, let's do that? Yeah.
The wisdom of sending the family Gingrich to the Vatican was, look, I get that Newt played a valuable role for Trump in 2016 by going on Fox and saying why, of course, he's a normal Republican. Why wouldn't he be? Look at me. I'm a perfect judge.
The guy who spent his remaining campaign body to make a hit commercial orbit, Rob did a good Republican right for me.
In some ways, Rick Wilson, I would like to extend a hearty fuck that guy to the clown car of idiots who came out in Michigan yesterday on behest of my former boss, Rudolph Giuliani. But these people are now going to be a group addition to our mandatory formation record, as I look to say, and to your part of it, state and federal law and international treaty to today's fuck that guy, these people. On the one hand, you don't want to discourage civic participation.
On the other hand, civic participation is not going out and screaming crazy shit at the top of your lungs and hoping to make it real. The earth is not flat. Bigfoot is not real. You are, first of all, put probes up your ass. None of these things happen, nor are there wildly lavish and baroque conspiracies to steal votes to have thugs throw people out of county rooms, etc.. And the performative nature of Trump ism is expanding and these people now feel perfectly free to go out in public and say completely batshit crazy things.
And while their First Amendment rights completely cover that, they are absolutely entitled to the freedom to do that, I. Entitled to say, fuck you guys. On that note, we'll wrap up this episode of The New Abnormal for The Daily Beast in future episodes, we'll be talking with smart folks from The Daily Beast and beyond, from media, culture, politics and science to help us understand what's happening to our country and the world.
We hope you subscribe to us on your favourite podcast app and share the show on social media. We're just getting started and don't want you to miss an episode if you'd like to follow us on Twitter. I'm Molly Chang Fast and he is the Rick Wilson. Thanks so much for listening and we'll see you again on the next episode. Introducing the new all electric Mazda makes 30 a compact SUV with enough energy for busy days, it has an incredibly comfortable interior that's made of carbon and designed using sustainable materials.
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