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Hi, folks, it's Rick Wilson and welcome to The Daily Beast, 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.
Molly, John, first, how are you?
I'm good. What have not much happened. Slow news weekend.
Really, really slow news weekend. I slept, I think, Friday like, I don't know, 12 hours, Saturday, 10 hours than Sunday. I was in bed almost all day just lounging.
Taking it easy in your undisclosed location. In my undisclosed location.
And by those numbers, folks, I mean, those are the amount of sleep I've actually had in the last three months when your soul principle of governance is detonate one ship show to get to the next ship show, and suddenly you find yourself a victim of your own stupidity. You end up with weekends like this weekend. And there's Donald Trump hospitalized for the disease I was reliably told was a hoax.
So here's a question. We have the president on Friday, he went from asymptomatic to mild symptoms to hospitalized. Right. On Saturday, his osteopath told us that he was completely fine and that the abundance of caution, by the way, when this administration says they're doing something in the abundance of caution, watch out. Right.
Because if this is an abundance of caution, it's essentially the equivalent of like a nuclear weapon going off somewhere. These people have the least probity of any administration in modern history.
Right. They have no interest in operating in an abundance of anything, let alone caution.
Listen, I could release 50 chimpanzees in the White House and they would behave with more care than has gone on in the last couple of weeks. Folks, I got to get this out of the way. Will you indulge me now? Never. Please, please, please, please. I beg of you, I wrote a piece of the beast today, which I would encourage you all to read about the lack of pity parties happening for the president. It is very much upset his cheerleaders on the right.
They can't believe that the same people who screamed out that Hillary had Parkinson's, that Hillary had had a stroke, that Hillary was dying. They can't believe that America isn't silently weeping over a guy who knew he was doing all the things he possibly could. I be sure they're going to lick a doorknob at Sturgis. He was doing everything he could to get covid. And of course, what did he get?
covid Diamond and Silk actually tweeted out. And I would just like to point out that this is kind of an amazing tweet. It shows a certain lack of insight, perhaps a way.
I haven't seen this, but can I make a guess? Yeah. Are they saying the Biden campaign deliberately infected Donald Trump with covid now better?
Oh, go on, do tell. Was the White House targeted dog dog who?
You know, who targeted the marlink? Do you know him selves too far? I mean, the idea that Trump getting a virus at two hundred and ten thousand people have died from as conspiracy is pretty is pretty impressive.
Well, the the idea from the very beginning that this was a biological warfare agent and not just a virus that does what viruses do has been a sort of subtext. There is a growing little rumble in Russian propaganda channels, Artie, and elsewhere in the info farms that feed the American right wing media. Now that this was a deliberate bio attack on our president. And, of course, the again, the bio attack was not from some malevolent external force, but rather from a malevolent internal force inside Donald Trump's broken brain.
But, Molly, you know, when you go to the hospital and it's just fine, you're OK. It's all good. You got to be up the next day. You're on record as a very general dexamethasone, supplemental, little oxygen, zinc, vitamin D, amount of time, melatonin and aspirin, all those things. That's what always happens when I'm fine. I don't know about you.
I mean, there was so much lying about the president's condition. And then my favorite moment was when they said he's totally fine, but we've given him this experimental drug that has only a compassionate use approval and also steroids and also dat dat dat dat dat. Now we're definitely being lied to. Being lied to about the president's health is like a time honored tradition. But I think that this group has really done it with the kind of zeal and flair and incompetence that we have never seen before.
They do have a certain verve to their liking. And I'm just going to say this. You know, I know we're supposed to be very, very civilized now and never, ever, ever, ever roll our eyes and say, but let's be real here.
Kayleigh McEnany up on that podium for months on end, lying about covid lying and lying and lying again and again and again and again, only to get covered, only to get covered.
It proves to you that karma is a real and very bad. Deficit bitch on Friday night, Steve Schmidt, who is one of your people in the Lincoln Project, tweeted out a sort of call to arms just for context.
We've had visibility in the White House for months. Several people inside the White House who've been very hopeful. We've had more visibility in the campaign, even because these are both dysfunctional organizations, good organizations like on purpose, bad organizations and other organizations. But Friday night, he put that out and then I followed it up and said, listen to me for your signal. We'll protect you. We protected everybody else. This became a little bit more of an effort than we thought because there are so many people in the White House right now who are absolutely furious.
So whenever you do a White House event, you notice all the seats are always full. Well, there's only usually about twenty, twenty five guest seats, about one hundred more. And they use staff to fill seats. AIMCO we have two people. There were just like White House staff people, we're told, show up at this event, sit down and clap politely and don't wear a mask, don't wear masks, don't wear a mask.
We don't wear masks. And there are a lot of these people who are now infected. We're hearing from different people inside the White House that between 40 and seventy five people may be infected. They've also been told don't go to the White House clinic, go to a private clinic. So there's no record. These people are absolutely amoral. They're willing to kill people. They're willing to expose people. I already have a fairly low opinion of Donald Trump, as you may have heard.
Tell me more like him or you don't like. I have a fairly low opinion of the president to begin with, but here's the fact. He knew he was exposing his wife and probably his kid to this disease. He knew he was exposing his staff. He knew he is exposing his large adult sons to this disease. Now, that may have been deliberate, but he did this deliberately. He chose to do this. He knew maybe as early as Monday that there was a problem.
And the White House is, of course, lying and lying and lying and lying like crazy.
What do you think the real number is? Because remember, the doctor said on Saturday that he had been diagnosed seventy two hours ago and then he walked that path. Right.
Listen, so one thing we're picking up from inside the White House is there was a gigantic struggle, fight, power, struggle, whatever you want to call it, over the weekend by Jared in a Volke to essentially have Mark Meadows never speak again and spend the rest of his time in Siberia because they want to control this. They're trying desperately to control this. All the indications are that he was sick Wednesday, that he knew Monday was sick. Wednesday went and still did everything he did this week to expose people to this disease.
It is an astounding, astounding level of malfeasance on his part, I'll say.
So he exposed his donors?
Oh, yes. He exposed a bunch of very wealthy people at Bedminster. Well, not very wealthy. Trump is have any real wealthy friends, right? Definitely not our kind here.
So how do you get those people to donate to the RNC now?
Well, they're still going to donate. Many of them are still going to donate and they're going to donate because they're in the Matrix with Trump. Well, they're telling people not to talk. The president himself is OK. Don't tell people. Don't let people know this is a scandal.
This is an ugly, weird moment in our political history and it's happening in front of our face.
Did you see Hugh Hewitt, professional Trump sycophant, tweeted that it was so that Mark Meadows was so loyal that he had exposed himself to coronavirus this weekend.
Know, let's let's get real here for a second. The idea of exposing yourself to the plague for the master, it sounds like medieval Chinese court culture, not America. Twenty, twenty. And I'm sorry, but these people are collaborators now with this. They are co-conspirators with this.
They are causing more people to get infected because remember, this was the culture that mocked wearing a mask that mocked any sort of social distancing at these events. Look at the last couple of months, the White House look at the RNC speech and look at the Amy Komy Barrett speech. And those were largely mass clips. They were assholes and elbows right up next to each other. They were collegial. They were back slapping, handshaking, hugging, kissing. Well, I'm sorry.
Can I tell you why this happened to them, aside from the fact the presence of weapons grade moron, it's happening because the virus doesn't watch Fox News. The virus is not on the team. Trump, Eagle, Patriot, Magga. Fourth hundred Facebook group. The virus doesn't care about Donald Trump's Twitter feed. It's a virus that does what it does. And so they have done everything they could to open up their people to exposure. I call bullshit on this entire right wing media complex that for months has been out there seizing on every single absurdity.
Oh, hydrochloric one cure's oh, bleach cures. It's tremolite. Roll up your ass. That'll cure it. We've got a vaccine coming in a week or a month, the two days, all these things. And they've spent all this time and you've got Infowars and Ben Shapiro and Bing Bong and all these. They're idiots on their various channels and platforms saying, well, nobody really died of coke, but it's only nine thousand people. It's the flu.
Nobody gets kids. Don't get it. Elbrus, it's not a big deal. It oh, the only people who die have a Coke rabidity, all this other stuff. They have spent nine months, almost ten months now on this same track. They are also responsible for the. Oh, yeah, no question. And look, we don't even have a clue about the contact tracing, if any, and I doubt there's any at these Trump rallies.
Oh, yeah, forget it. There's no way of contact.
They do keep track of everybody that goes these rallies because they have an email ticketing system. So they know who went, but they're not tracking them. I promise you, they're not tracking them.
They just can't. They could, but they want it. Right.
I presume we're going to be able to map an overlay of covid deaths and covid infection rates increasing to various rallies and various Trump events in the last couple of weeks. Sturgis right.
We saw that with Sturgis, a huge bump after Sturgis. A lot of people are concerned he's going to pull the thing. It seems he's starting to roll out, which is I understand the virus and now I'm going to give you all what I have. And they are afraid that a vaccine cure is going to tip the election. What are you to think of that?
Well, a lot of people are paranoid now that Donald Trump is going to come out and be more compassionate and understanding and express empathy with people and say, I feel the pain that you have felt. I understand your suffering. But here's the problem with that. Have you met this motherfucker?
Right. He's not going to do that. I mean, that's the thing. People are very worried that he's going to, like, be something that he's not.
He can't he can't sustain anything for longer than about forty eight hours at most. OK, that moment that he had on that video, all I could think of was, you know what Donald Trump is and does what Donald Trump has to do something for campaign purposes or for governmental purposes. It's like a time bomb goes off in his head and a clock starts running. It's like, when am I going to do the next big dickhead thing that I want to do?
In my heart, he is a human oppositional defiant disorder. So he is already thinking, how can I misbehave? What can I do next? What should I do now? I'm going to own the lives. So what does he do? He makes that video where he sounds for a moment, rational, and then he goes on this batshit tweet storm today and he will not be able to resist the behaviors that define him.
Yeah, that tweet storm was something he will not be able to resist the behaviors that defined him like, I don't know, forcing four Secret Service agents into a vehicle with him at close proximity while he is in the maximal spreading phase of the vid. Those guys sign up to protect the president of the United States, no matter who he is, whether it's Donald Trump or Barack Obama or George Bush or Bill Clinton or whoever, they sign up to take any risk from an external force.
They don't sign up to possibly be infected and die because the president is a reckless, juvenile, narcissistic child who demands to have his ego stripped. He drove up around that block. It was like a combination of Mike Dukakis in the tank and Matthew McConaughey in Dazed and Confused, circling the parking lot in his Camaro, looking for chicks five years after he graduated from high school. It was just pathetic. No hate on the former governor. OK, but let's be honest, the tank ride did not work well for him.
This tank ride did not work well for Donald Trump. In fact, some of the people we're hearing from now are Secret Service folks who basically said the same thing to me I just told you, which was I signed up to die if al-Qaida attacked him or if some crazy lunatic comes in with a gun or somebody tries to take him. I didn't sign up to get a disease from him because he wants to get his campaign numbers back up. This is not going over like he thought it would go over, although there was a quote from one of his followers on site who said, I will die for Trump, I will die for him.
Of course, there was this fascinating article by Dan Zak in The Washington Post where he talked about his supporters are out there with flags and cardboard cutouts saying eight more years long live Trump.
You know, they want a lifetime appointment.
And by the way, just to just to make you feel even more confident, Donald Trump today announced the Trump Army. You can go online to Army for Trump Dotcom. I'm not saying if you go on there like the teenagers with tech talk and enter a bunch of bogus data that would cause them any trouble, I would never suggest anything like that. That would be so wrong.
And also just petty in a way that we know you're not.
You know, I am not a petty bitch in any way whatsoever, except except I'm just saying if others went on there to, like, enlist, as they say, we never encourage at that.
The irony of the Army for Trump is that Trump has always avoided the army for the United States because of his bone spurs. Call me call me crazy. But look, this moment is a moment of maximum peril for Trump. It has broken the idea that Donald Trump is the God head and cannot be touched. That's why they're going to make up elaborate conspiracies. Joe Biden had a sneeze raid that sprayed covid on to Trump. They're going to come up with all this crazy bullshit in the next few days.
Mark my words. We have people that monitor this stuff now. They are already seeing it that Trump was deliberately infected. They're going to say it over and over again.
OK, wait, what the you got to talk me through this insanity here. So we monitor a lot of the overseas Russian troll traffic and media traffic now, and we've discovered a pattern. You can always spot it now, about two days, three days after it pops up over there in. Up on Gateway Pundit, then it metastasizes to Breitbart, then the Federalist writes something to make it respectable, and then Fox covers it and then Trump tweets it.
So they're going to say in the next few days, Trump was infected deliberately and now he survived that he is the hero of our time. The problem is his campaign is in rebellion. The kids in the campaign are pissed off. There's a lot of infection spreading there. A bunch of the debate staff and advanced stuff for the campaign or positive. Bill Stepien, the campaign manager, is positive, leaving Jason Miller, Dr. Love in charge.
I don't think his name is Dr. Love, but we'll go with that for now. Continue. Yes.
And the campaign is still having financial troubles. They're off the air and in many, many, many swing states. Now, I know this weekend they spent some time wondering what the hell to do about Texas because it's now showing in their polling that they're losing white working class voters, even in Texas. Yeah, they're not upside down yet, but they need to hold their number. They need to get five, 70 percent of the white working class voters and they're not getting it.
It's falling off. So they are scared everywhere. They're running scared. The only thing that can save them is, of course, the Democrats fucking up because they never miss a chance to seize defeat from the jaws of victory. So, of course, Joe Biden has pulled down his negative ads. Now, I'm not allowed to talk to the Biden campaign because of federal law. And since I look terrible in an orange jumpsuit, trust me, I know I can't directly contact the Biden campaign and say, put your negative ads back on the air.
But if I were with the Biden campaign right now, I would say something to the effect of put your fucking negative ads back on the air.
Why? Because the Trump campaign is still running all their negative ads, all their negative social media, all their negative digital advertising, all their negative earned media efforts are still firing away at one hundred percent. So Joe Biden is falling victim to this asymmetric bullshit civility. Fuck that noise. Get on it. Get back on the negatives. Do it now. He's attacking you. He's attacked your family. He's attacked your campaign over and over again. Do not hesitate.
Go at this guy. Finish him. So, Mãe, I know that you've been paying a lot of attention to your good friend, Amy Koney. Barrett Oh, always.
And her potential for a successful and swift nomination. But there may have been a speed bump this weekend, although I don't think it's as big as people think it is.
Really. Tell me more.
Well, look, McConnell is holding the Senate out of session, but the Judiciary Committee is coming in so that they can process the nomination. I think a lot of people on the left this weekend got a little bit of hope in their hearts that they could stop it. I am here to be your array of pouring cold, icy rain.
Mitch McConnell will bring Chuck Grassley in dead on a slab and hold his hand behind Chuck Grassley s jaw to flap it open and say I when the time comes, they will bring in every infected senator in a goddamn hazmat suit to vote if they have to witness this less than is going to sink in. No matter how low you think Mitch McConnell will go. He's already planned out, got the roadmap. GPS coordinates are in there and he's ready to roll.
How many senators have the virus right now? How many Republican senators have it? There are three who have tested positive. There are two others who are currently self isolating. We don't know. And it's probably more than we are being told.
Right? Dr. Howard Forman is a professor of public health and a practicing physician at Yale. He's going to talk us through some thoughts about the president, the coronavirus and where we are with the vaccine. Howie, first, before we talk about the president of the United States, you and I are both in this coronavirus vaccine study together in New Haven Hospital.
Right. And we both have now had our second shot. Correct. And we both think we got the placebo.
Well, I think I think it more strongly than you do. But I agree that I've certainly had no side effects that I can notice.
Now, our study doctor, the amazing doctor, says that everybody thinks they're in the placebo group, right?
That's correct. The data really shows that the majority of people have no symptoms. And as you get older, you have fewer symptoms. So I'm considerably older than the young on fast. So I it is more likely that I would have less symptoms even if we both got the vaccine.
Oh, that is so interesting. So we'll see. We don't know, though, when do you think we're going to find out whether we got the vaccine or the placebo?
I would have a hard time believing that we'll know before the end of the year. But I'm hopeful that the vaccine will be proven to be so highly effective that it would be considered unethical to continue the trial any further, much past the early part of next year. And they will unblind at that point to make sure that the placebo group gets treated.
Or if thirty six people in the placebo group get the virus, that's less likely. I mean, I think that there is a lot of room to continue doing the trial with blinding if there's a difference between the groups. But it's not so substantial as to make it unethical to keep it going. I think we've got to get to that fine point where you have enough information that you can unblind, even if you continue to track each individual right.
That makes sense. All right. So let's talk about what is going on with the president of the United States.
Yeah, I think the most important thing for people to recognize is we're at a new high of lack of transparency, a new high incapacity in understanding what's going on with the president. This is not, by the way, this is one of those rare things that you can honestly say is not unique to this president or one party. This is something that presidents have historically done particularly well, that is hiding their own health information when it suits them.
Now, one of the things you and I have talked about is the timetable of this whole thing. So the White House told us that he got diagnosed on Friday night. But the president osteopath, not that there's anything wrong with that told on Saturday that he had been diagnosed seventy two hours prior.
So, first of all, it almost doesn't matter what Dr. Connelly said. What we know to be sure is that they were already double checking the president on Thursday. So he's either test positive Thursday. He's almost certainly symptomatic. By Thursday, they've said that he was feeling fatigued. There's some evidence that he may have been symptomatic on Wednesday based on, I think, one of the events that he attended. But it's hard to say that for sure. He did have a debate the night before.
But somewhere between Wednesday and Thursday, he developed some symptoms.
So that means that he's only on day five now, right.
Day five of symptoms. But I would say that what we know about it is that symptoms present in the average person somewhere between three and five days, and then a person of his age, sometime between seven and nine or even 11 days on average. So what you do is you start by saying, like, when did he have symptoms and then track back seven days or so and you're starting to talk about the window when he was first infected.
But what I don't understand is so he definitely knew he had the virus when he went to the club on Thursday, or at least they suspected that way. So there's like a moral question here. But I don't understand, like most people I know who get coronavirus, they get really sick at like a day for ten or twenty one. So what do you think is happening here? Because this is just a very speedy recovery for a 74 year old coronavirus.
I'm convinced, based on both circumstantial as well as actual fact based evidence, that his timeline indicates an infection that probably occurred almost two weeks ago now that he was infected. That is probably somewhere around eight, 12, 13, maybe even 14 by now, just based on his age, based on the symptoms he's had, based on the treatments they've chosen for him. It's really hard to imagine that he's only on day nine, which would presume he was infected at the Rose Garden event.
It's not impossible. It's just becoming harder. Hard to believe that, so do you think that what happened with him is and this is just anecdotal, right? We don't know anything. We don't know the doctors. We only know what we see. Is this a case for the monoclonal antibodies? And can you explain what they are?
Yeah. So they're basically synthetic antibodies, antibodies that have been created that would replicate the antibodies you would make in your own body. The idea is that it prevents the virus from actually getting into your cells so it could be used even to prevent infection. But more likely, it could be used with somebody who's very, very early on in the infection to prevent a continued replication of the virus inside their cells in the earliest studies that have been done on it.
So far, the phase two studies, what they have found is they have more effective in groups that have not already made their own antibodies, which makes sense, and for whom they have very high viral titers, which also sort of makes sense if you're trying to get to people that have a high infection and have not had a normal response to it yet, have not created their own antibodies. What we don't know about the president, which certainly should be available to him, this matter to us is did they check his antibody titers before they gave him the monoclonal antibody cocktail?
Because that would matter if if he already had his own antibodies by then. It would also tell us that he was further along, but it would also tell us that this was not going to be as effective. On the other hand, if he had very high viral load and no antibody titers and less far along. And this is more likely to help him.
Can we explain what viral load is to the viral load is, is how many viral particles there are in a milliliter or a micro liter of blood? I mean, it's just a measure of how many viruses are circulating. Gives you a sense of how infected somebody is at that time. And the antibody titers refers to the fact need your body already start to fight this by generating antibodies that attack this specific virus. And those are the two things that we're trying to measure here and trying to figure out what phase of the illness is.
This is in. This seems to work best early on. It does not seem to help.
Once you've started to create your own antibodies, does it have to be made specifically for each person? Now, I'm not sure about that. I don't think so, but I'm not sure so.
And then he had the steroids and then he had he's basically been treated with all the things.
Yes. But in fairness, all three things act by different mechanisms. So the rest of year stops the virus from replicating. Presumably we think that's how it works. And the dexamethasone works much more late in the illness because what it does is, if anything, it reduces the body's ability to fight the virus. But what it tries to do is block the body's active immune response, which creates changes both in the lungs as well as in other parts of the body that are counterproductive.
The so-called cytokine storm is what is used as the best example.
Do you think you had it before the Rose Garden? I believe that it's very hard for me to piece this together and this is speculative. So I'm not sure that I believe this because there's absolute evidence. But once you start thinking through the sort of the detective work and the epidemiology of it, you have to ask yourself, who could have spread this to so many people that attended one event? And there's a relatively limited set of people. I mean, and I'm not going to say their names, but there probably are some other campaign operatives who would have gone around and had one on one conversations with all these people that we know to have been infected.
By the way, we certainly believe that there are many, many, many more people at that event who were infected and we just don't know who they are at this point, either because of their own privacy concerns or because they haven't been tested. But presumably there were people at the Rose Garden event who are infected. But then the question is, how could they have transmitted it to so many people to be a super spreader? You can't just be infected and sitting quietly in your seat or standing off to the side.
You have to be somebody who's actively engaging with people. And that's the piece that we need you to think, who is that small set of individuals? And President Trump is at the top of that list. And then add to that with that, we do as though he is much further along in his disease. And the fact that they almost want to discharge from already makes me think more and more that he's not a day nine or 10, but rather he's at a 12 hour day 13 or even maybe later than that in his infection.
It's fascinating how he can you explain to us a little bit more about the technology and the advancements around this? Sure.
I mean, I think one thing that we've learned because of the president's experience is he got a compassionate use waiver for using this monoclonal antibody. It's caused a lot. All of us to pay a lot of attention to what it was, we have learned a lot about the use of this monoclonal antibody from Regeneron. It does seem to have promise. It does seem to have promise in patients that are relatively early on in their course but have already been diagnosed.
My guess is that it has more promise, if used earlier than it was used for the president. But at this time, it was used on the president with the compassionate use authorization, not an emergency use authorization, which is different. And it would be nice to see the data analyzed by the FDA. And if they think it's appropriate for an emergency use authorization, that would add one more tool in our armamentarium of treatment options to help reduce the liability and mortality associated with this virus.
So that's one new thing we have.
Do you think that worked really well? I don't think it worked well for the president, but it does seem to have had the early evidence is that it works reasonably well and people that are very early on in their course.
But how is he OK? He's 74. He never looks while he is overweight and he's feeding this thing. Like, I'm just curious to know what you think. I'm sort of surprised.
First of all, he is on dexamethasone, which will reduce symptoms dramatically and does not mean that it is curative. It does not mean that there aren't other factors going on in his body that are causing changes. You're more confident of how well he's doing than I am at this point. We have very limited information about how well he's doing. I haven't listened to the last two hours if there's been another press conference. There may be information that I don't know, but I would want to look at his CAT scan.
I want to look at his x rays. I want to know really what percent saturation he has in his blood with oxygen over the last 12, 18 hours and how much that varies by time of day. He's on three different drugs. He continues to need two of them. And there's a he's going to continue to need an infusion of and the dexamethasone is typically, I believe, a 10 day course. He remains, in my opinion, a very sick man until this is all resolved.
So I'm waiting to see that. I wish him well. I want to see him have a full recovery. But I think it's way too soon to say that he's beating this.
It's interesting to me because I was watching Fareed Zakaria on Sunday, and this woman, who was a friend of Orissa's who writes for The Economist, was saying that Boris has never been the same after having coronavirus.
We have seen dramatic variability in outcomes for individuals. My nephew had a fairly long course of it. He's not what I'd call a long hauler, but he had about four weeks of being fairly ill, including two different hospitalizations. And he's only, I think, thirty five years old. There are numerous, very young people that have had devastating outcomes and there are some elderly people that have seemingly had mild courses. I've known people in their 80s to be treated at home.
So I think we have to respect how little we know about this to know the factors that influence it. The president has the best care available to him.
Does he, though, don't you think that his serial lying about his health has affected the people who will take care of him are now?
Well, I was very purposeful in how I phrase that he has the best care available to him. I do not know that he's receiving the best care. There is a lot of concern that VIP's in general either get too much care or care, that it's influenced by their VIP status. I am not sure, for instance, that if I were making the best decision for a patient that I would have made the choices they've made for the president. They seem to have made choices for the president that may have been influenced by the president's understanding of what the options are available to him, perhaps even biased by his relationships with the different CEOs and different people that he speaks.
So I don't know that the president is receiving the best care. I believe the president has the best care available to him.
That's fascinating. 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. Susan Glasser is a columnist for The New Yorker and her husband, Peter Baker is the chief White House correspondent for The New York Times. Together, they have just written the book, The Man Who Ran Washington The Life and Times of James A. Baker. Can we talk about the book a little bit, please? How'd you guys decide to write this? Tell me the whole story. Peter is the one who got us into this.
Oh, under the bus straight of the box. No, no. We're lucky. He had just finished his previous book, Days of Fire, which is about Bush and Cheney in the White House. And a fortuitous trip to Texas led to this one.
Yeah, we have been talking about wanting to do a book together. We had done one in Russia together in two thousand five. We've been talking about ideas of who might be an interesting subject. And Baker's name had been one, the ones we talked about. And while I was having lunch in Texas with Mark up to grow, it was the time held at the LBJ Library and also historian and writer. I said that and he said, well, you know what?
Baker's actually been interested in finding somebody who would work with him on a biography. He'd written two of his own memoirs, but he understood, I think, that if you're really a historic figure, somebody else has to write your book and has to be independent. And so we approached him and found him very open. Yeah. And the other thing I think for us was we saw right away that it was an opportunity to write both about Baker, but also about Washington at this moment in time, our original title for the book.
But it was too long. The man who ran Washington when Washington ran the world for a period of time that was over from the end of Watergate to the end of the Cold War.
What do you think happened? Why do you think Washington doesn't run the world anymore?
Well, you know, it's it's the economy, stupid, right? Truth is, is that the time when we all grew up was the exception, not the rule that in reality, the American century was not even really a century and was a real outlier in terms of Washington and America's artificial dominance of the world economy. We had such a high percentage of the world's GDP in the years after World War Two and such an enormous advantage coming out of that and through the period of the Cold War, that was always probably not destined to last.
When you look at our population and our relative size, we have enormous assets which we still have today. But the unique kind of power moment I think was never destined to last.
I'm so curious to know, because I see in your writings, Susan, because I know The New Yorker is a little bit different than the Times, but what must be like the seismic shift you have witnessed over the last four years?
Well, that's right. My image is, is that Peter and I, with a couple of tours as foreign correspondents excepted, have spent our careers as journalists in Washington. And the disruption of the cable really is the big theme of the last few years. And another reason, by the way, where we were interested in doing the book, I think there was a sense that it's important to have a baseline for what American politics was as it's being blown up and what was a White House that was functional.
And obviously, Jim Baker remains sort of the gold standard of White House chiefs of staff, which he did for both Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush and no one else has ever done for two presidents. And that was actually the approach I've had. And I think, Peter, two different ways to covering the Trump administration was trying to isolate and understand for people and in our writing what is truly unique to Trump and what represents sort of perhaps a very partisan Republican presidency.
Which part of this would be happening possibly anyways, even if it was a president, Marco Rubio or Ted Cruz versus what can we attribute directly to the president is character, his management flaws? And I think that that was also, in a way, the kind of clinical approach to the book, too, is trying to understand how do we get here.
Peter, have you had that same feeling? It must be just so wild.
Yeah, it's absolutely this is my fourth White House fourth president. I had actually got to the point before Trump came in thinking that presidents and White Houses were much more alike than we thought, that Democrat or Republican, obviously the different ideologies. But there were so many factors and dynamic narratives and incentives and so forth that were familiar across White House lines, that they had the same relatively same narrow set of options in various cases, and they would respond at a certain number of ways to different challenges.
And then Trump comes along and throws everything out. Everything I had thought I had learned about a White House, everything I thought I had understood about how presidents lead turn out to be completely different. And that does go back to Baker, because I think Baker and his generation sort of set the measure for how Washington worked in the Post Watergate era. Everybody was judged against that generation to some extent. And then Trump comes along and says, we're not following any traditions here.
We're going to make up everything as we feel like we're going to war.
It's amazing. What did you guys think of this weekend's wackiness? Just when you think you can't get any nuttier, it's here. We are 30 days from an election and the president comes down with the deadly illness whose deadliness he's been downplaying for six months. Then his White House botches the handling. It lies to the American people repeatedly gets doctors to misrepresent things to the American public that president endangers further people's lives by going on a joyride in his limousine. I mean, it just it's like everything.
It's mind blowing. Shocking and not at all surprising. So true.
What I was thinking about was, first of all, Susan, you were on an amazing panel this weekend, unreliable words, Margaret Sullivan and Masha Gessen. I mean, that panel, I thought was like sometimes television news is incredible. Well, it was so newsy exactly on yesterday. And then right after that came the latest Walter Reed doctors press conference and then going back on the air and listening to the real time analysis that was so helpful from the TV doctors, really, I found it invaluable.
And this is an example of journalism in action. If you and I were correspondents across the former Soviet Union for four years and the idea of being labeled the enemy of the people for the last few years by the president of the United States, that is the Russian phrase for enemies of the people. And it is literally the specific term that was used by Joseph Stalin to condemn millions of people to the gulag and death. And of course, Trump has been told many times by now the connotation of this phrase and that they've continued to use it.
I mean, that is a signal aspect of this era, sustained, politicized attack on journalists in order to I think it does two things for Trump. Right. Number one is to be able to say you have a built in enemy here and to undermine the credibility of those who seek to hold you accountable. And also the idea that maybe the Democrats weren't sufficient of an enemy. The other thing, of course, is to assault a rival centre of power.
I mean, there's a reason authoritarian leaders tend to launch sustained attacks very first in their playbooks on independent journalists. And we've seen that in Turkey. You saw that when we lived in Russia at the beginning of Vladimir Putin's presidency, the first thing they did was go after the only independent television network in Russia's history.
What do you guys think? It seems to me, and I can't tell where this starts and where this ends, but this is true on both the left and the right. It seems like people don't totally understand straight journalism totally.
A lot of people on Twitter anyway, who seem to think that a straight reporter, a beat reporter, is supposed to be on their side. And how come you haven't denounced this or come out against that? Well, that's not what I do. That's not what we do. It's not our job with that. And by the way, you shouldn't want us to do that. There are plenty of columnists, plenty of opinion people. There's lots of voices in the marketplace of ideas.
And that's a wonderful and healthy thing. But it's also good to have people who are not part of that, who are at least supposed to give you the facts in a neutral, detached way with some analysis. And I admit that there's a hard line find between analysis and opinion. But my job as a beat reporter is not to take sides and not to sit there and call out people, per say is to report the news. If I've done that, well, then everybody else can come up with their own conclusions without me telling me what to think.
Do you think it's possible to do that? I know it is because you guys are doing it, but how hard must it be to do that in a world where you have a White House that's really an autocracy?
I do find it's harder with this White House than it has been in previous White Houses. I think that's true because I think everything is so polarized. Everybody is so, so strongly in their camp that there is less recognition or appreciation of a neutral reporter's voice anymore. People feel very strongly, understandably, that this is incredibly important. These times are so consequential that you can't be on the sidelines when it one way or the other. And I get that.
But again, I think that most important time then to have reporters rather than having everybody just simply take sides. I mean, we've had partisan press in the past and there's there's nothing wrong with that per say. But I think there's a lot of value to having at least starting point of our conversations in an article, let's say that we can all rely on, hopefully as a provider of the basic facts and then we can argue what they mean and why we should care about it this way or that way.
I mean, I totally agree, but it does feel like the reading public is not educated on the differences.
True. And in some ways, maybe the media is at fault. Maybe we should do a better job of sort of explanation of how we see our role and the differences we have. Blur the lines so much. And I'm guilty of this because reporters now sit on panels, on TV with columnists, with partisan operatives, with people with a point of view. And so it's not surprising that our viewers and our readers find it hard to make a distinction between us because we're not making enough of a distinction.
The old fashioned newspaper segregates the news from the op ed pages in a definable and relatively easy to understand way. But on the website, they're all kind of mix and match a little bit and we try to label on this and this is news. But the truth is, if you're just picking stuff that from a phone or from a Twitter link or something like that, you don't see it categorized in the same way that we used to categorize things. It's not surprising that people find it hard to make the distinction because we're not making it as much.
How hard is it to report from this White House? Because truth. Is not a goal here with sources. I mean, the sources do not have truth as their goal. I think there is a certain benefit actually to standing outside of it for that reason, actually. Actually, Molly, I mean, when you're dealing with people whose relationship the truth is so distant at times, all White House is like Peter can speak to this, but few have used it as the core strategy of White House.
And the president himself seems to have embraced not just misspeaking, but disinformation as his political strategy. So in a way, it changes fundamentally how you view these things. I mean, there's no question that the White House press secretary of previous eras in Democratic and Republican administrations did see themselves as a representative to the American people and to journalists in a way that has been excluded. And certainly they were aggressive advocates for their president. Certainly they put strong spin on the ball.
And yet I don't think I can't really think of any of them who use their podiums as as a conscious spreader of lies and disinformation. No. Is that right? Yeah, I think that's right. In fact, he used to be that when a press secretary got caught out saying something wasn't true, even if it wasn't intentional, it was a big deal. It was a big deal. It affected their credibility going forward for years. Sometimes they ended up not quitting, but they think it hurt them.
Like I remember, Larry Speakes misled the reporters about the Grenada invasion. It wasn't his fault. He was given this information from his own NSC, but it just was a big deal. And Scott McClellan provided for George W. Bush an inaccurate account of the CIA leak because he was misled. It drove a big wedge inside that White House between him and Karl Rove for the rest of that presidency. So it used to be that saying something wrong from the podium had consequences.
It was sort of a big deal. And today it happens every single day.
A White House covering for a sick president is pretty Dirigo, right every time this happens. But the sort of North Korea stuff with the videos and the photos and the drive feels different to me.
Well, look, I think that's right. Look, you're right. The history is filled with presidents who hid their health problems and lied to the American public. Woodrow Wilson was debilitated for a year while his wife was sort of stiff arm in cabinet members who wanted to see him. Obviously, FDR and JFK never fully owned up to the public just how difficult their medical challenges were. The most famous or not the most actually not famous incident, but maybe should be with Grover Cleveland, who had cancer in his jaw.
They put him on a boat so he could have an operation to remove it and kept him on the boat there. People couldn't see. The reporters could figure it out in order to hide it for years in our building and keep him on the boat for, you know. That's right. They kept I was ready to come back on shore when people wouldn't know what had happened. But, you know, in our book on James Baker, the Reagan assassination attempt in 1981 is a classic example.
He was in much worse shape than Baker's White House let on. But the difference was that Baker, I think, perfectly willing not to tell reporters the full truth and perfectly willing to spin to his advantage or his presidency made point of not lying like in fact, it was really important to him as a lesson from his original experience in national politics when he ran Ford's campaign in 1976, that not lying to reporters was a form of power because it meant you had credibility.
And so he didn't exaggerate the delegate count, for instance, at the Republican convention in 1976, whereas the Reagan team did and reporters came to understand who was telling the truth and who was with Trump. And we've seen the last few days is a natural extension of four years of a White House that has peddled falsehoods repeatedly to our friends in The Washington Post of kind of twenty thousand false or misleading statements by the president as of July. Not surprising that that trickles down and you get completely false or at least very misleading briefings from doctors and aides.
And it's really something I mean, the doctor was so caught out as he was so obviously trying to satisfy an audience of one, but everybody walked away. Even the average viewer who doesn't pay a lot of attention to this, walked away, realizing he was not leveling with the American public.
I mean, I guess we can't ask questions about what it's going to be like if this ever ends. But do you think ultimately and this is again, a very open question, but before we were in this coronavirus, Trump has coronavirus Newscycle. We were in the Trump committed tax fraud Newscycle. And before we were in that news cycle, we were in the Trump won't accept the election results news cycle. Can we go back to the Trump won't accept the election results news cycle for a minute.
I have questions for you. A what do you guys think about the way that question was asked to him? What do you mean in the debate?
I'll jump in since I remember the question. A lot of people were mad that we even asked Trump if he would accept the results of the election because that enables him to do more of his goalpost moving and allows him to break another norm by even saying that it's a possibility.
Here's what I would say about this. Donald Trump has attacked the election process every two years like clockwork since he entered public life. And I was shocked a couple of months ago before this latest bout, I asked that people at fact base, you've been sort of compiling a database of all Trump's public statements. Well, tell me how many times he's questioned election results or talked about. A rigged election, and they came up with more than seven hundred examples, and this was a couple of months ago, so before he really escalated and he did it of course, in twenty sixteen and he did it in twenty eighteen, and now he's doing it in twenty twenty and in twenty sixteen.
The difference was a we didn't think he would win. And I have to say I was editor of Politico at the time. I did not even take it that seriously. Perhaps I should have taken it more seriously. But then he won and of course he wanted to stay president. So although he questioned his own election, which was insane, he really do that now. So flash forward to twenty twenty where he's been behind in the polls of all time.
All year long he's been talking, but with increasingly high decibel levels about the rigged election.
The difference from now to twenty sixteen is he seems to be overtly encouraging violence. He actually not once but now twice suggested delaying the election. So he has escalated, which is the thing about Trump. He has the same playbook, it seems to me, and doesn't have much variety in it. But what often is now being forced to do is to escalate and to amplify his rhetoric because the shock value of the original shock has diminished.
Hey, Molly, who's your fuck that got my fuck, that guy is Bill ba ba ba ba. Do tell. Well, Bill ba is a a lot. Yeah.
And too sexy for a shirt. Also hates democracy and the rule of law is so sexy it hurts but hides behind it. You really, you really push through that very well.
I have to tell you, I am very good at it.
Quite talented at the spill bar refused to quarantine even though he's been exposed. We know that the incubation period I mean, Kelly McCann, Nina recently got diagnosed this morning. It's pronounced Munchhausen Munchausen by proxy.
She got diagnosed this morning. So we know that the and the incubation is for fourteen days by far. This weekend was like, I will not quarantine. I will continue on with the Amy call me Barett. I have to say this idea that this is the curse of Ruth Bader Ginsburg. I'm just saying there are some people who think this is a curse of Ruth Bader Ginsburg. She said not to fill her seat. So Bilborough, you are my fuck that guy.
Well, folks, you're going to be shocked by my fuck that guy this week. I know this is going to come out of left field. You're not going to believe it. You're going to say, oh my God, Wilson, you've gone that my fuck. That guy this week is returning champion Donald John Trump, sometime president of the United States. Fuck that guy. He has lied about this disease, about this plague sweeping our country for nine months.
He lied this week about when and how he was exposed. And he chose to continue circulating because his political desperation is so powerful and his ego need is so powerful that he doesn't care who he infects. He was willing to infect his wife, his kid, his family members. Eric, the slow I think he probably thought that John Jr. wouldn't be affected because he has a load of various antivirals in his system. And by antivirals, I don't mean antivirals.
But this guy is a reckless, careless, unbelievable example of depravity. This guy is a God damned degenerate who doesn't care about the lives of anyone around him. He knew he was infected and still went to Bedminster. He knew he may have known as early as Monday there was a problem. And he has built a culture where mask wearing and social distancing was mocked and reviled. He has built a White House where the policies of this White House have been lie piled upon, lie piled upon lie.
We have two hundred and ten thousand dead Americans. Seven million people have been infected. We're in the middle of a resurgence of COGAT because they fucked up the response the first time out and have done nothing to fix it and are insisting that their minions reopen everything immediately. And they have sacked HHS and CDC with political hacks like Michael Caputo. And this country is watching this president right now infected with this disease, still not changing his behavior because he gets and makes the Secret Service drive him around to feed his little hurt feels so he gets a little ego bump.
It is the most richly deserved fuck that guy that I think I've ever done before.
Yeah, I think you're right. We have many more words. I have some words, but I think I'm better.
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'll subscribe to us on your favorite 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 Historic Wealth, and thanks so much for listening. And we'll see you again on the next episode.