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[00:00:00]

Hi, y'all, it's Hannah and Diana from St. Louis, Missouri, we're about to spend our first night in our first home. This show was recorded at Oh, congratulations, that's really great.

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It is 108 Eastern on Friday, August 14th.

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Things may have changed by the time you hear it, but we'll still be paying our mortgage. All right. Here's the show.

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Yeah, that's the least fun part of the show. Yes.

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And then that first, a surprise twist, home repair. But it's still really great. Congratulations. Yes. Hey, hey. There is the NPR Politics podcast. I'm Scott Detro. I cover the presidential campaign. I'm Miles Parks. I cover voting and election security.

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And I'm Aisha Rasco. I cover the White House.

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Yesterday, President Trump said he opposes funding for the U.S. post office for the simple reason it would boost efforts to expand voting by mail later in the day.

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He walked that statement back just a little bit, but it sent up a lot of alarm bells about what the president may be willing to do to gain an edge in an election that he's trailing by wide margins.

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Miles, you're going to talk through all of the the ins and outs of what we know on the voting front.

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But, Isha, let's start with you. What exactly did the president say?

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Yeah, and he kind of touched on this on two occasions, but yesterday he seemed to really crystallize what he said. He was on Fox Business News doing an interview. And he basically said that, you know, the Democrats, they want this money for the post office. But if you don't get the money, if they don't get the funding, then how are they going to do universal mail in voting? And he, of course, has been saying all of these things that are not true about mail, mail in voting causing fraud.

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So he explicitly linked the two ideas and seemed to be saying, I oppose, you know, giving money to the post office because I don't want them to be able to carry out mail in voting.

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And how did he backtrack, if that's the right word, or rather say something slightly different later in the day?

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So so later in the day, he basically said that he would not veto a bill or oppose a bill that had post office funding in it, that he that it's not that he would not sign a bill with post office funding in it. So if you if you kind of consider that a bit of a walk back, that that's what he did.

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Right. And that's still using access to a ballot as a negotiating chip, which we'll talk about in a little bit.

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But, Miles, yeah, you have been doing this all year on election access, on election security, on technology and voting and a whole bunch of different things. I'm going to mention again that one point you said last year, I don't know if anyone's going to care about my focus this year. And now is the most important focus by far.

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Yeah, I mean, I think we thought, yeah, a year ago is going to be cybersecurity or something like that. And I haven't talked about cybersecurity in a long time. Not that it's not important still, but yeah, this is it's just the whole world has changed. Yeah.

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So let's tick through some context and fact checking here. First of all, is voting by mail any different than absentee voting, which the president not only uses himself, but sent in an application for an absentee ballot?

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I think this week there's a lot of debate around this. But the bottom line is, no, not really. And especially when you look at how President Trump uses a lot of voting terms, either slightly misleadingly or slightly incorrectly. And in this situation, he's kind of used this line that people he's not against the concept of people casting ballots by mail, but he thinks that people should have a reason to do so. The problem with that logic is that he's also been very supportive of voting by mail in Florida.

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He had that tweet a few days ago where he said, no, actually voting by mail is great in Florida. You should feel comfortable doing it. Florida calls it voting by mail, doesn't call it absentee voting. And you have not needed an excuse to vote by mail in Florida in almost 20 years. So you're just seeing all of these contradictions here.

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Second point or question, are Democrats trying to make voting by mail universal? That's that's a charge that the president makes over and over again on social media and a lot of appearances, not for the purposes at all of this, Bill.

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You know, a couple of Democratic senators came out earlier this year, right. As the pandemic was kind of taking hold and trying to push that idea that everyone should have an access to mail ballots. But that is not something that this bill has anything to do with voting is I see that I say this. I feel like every time I talk about voting, but you have to remind people voting is a local and a state thing. There's no sort of federal monolithic entity that would even have the ability to institute any sort of universal mail in voting that President Trump seems to be talking about here.

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There are a handful of states that do this, you know, this thing called universal mail in ballots. But it's even different than what President Trump is talking about when he talks about universal mail and voting. What he says is that everyone you know about ballots are going to go out to dog. And people who didn't request and that's just not true. Everyone who's getting a ballot is a registered voter in these handful of states where this is happening, Oregon, Washington, California.

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Now, there's a few others. So it's it's happening in isolated places, but it's still really different than this kind of sending ballots to everyone in the state thing that President Trump kind of references to.

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This is the last quick contextual question for you, Miles. Absentee voting, voting by mail is not rife with the fraud that the president often alleges. What do we need to know about that?

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Yeah, absolutely not. I mean, the bottom line is that we know that voting by mail does slightly increase the amount of fraud that we see in elections. But it's still so small that any election expert you talk to and election officials importantly on both sides of the aisle, this is not democratic election officials saying voting by mail safe some of the loudest voices who argue that there are so many safeguards for voting for mail ballots, barcode signature verification, matching those signatures up with previous signatures on the voter registration list.

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You know, safeguards, some people would argue are almost too strict to to to catch fraud. All of these exist. And the people who are kind of fighting on the front lines of the vote by mail expansion, many of them are Republicans. You know, the secretary of state of Washington is a Republican. And Utah is one of the notable universal vote by mail states that's, you know, mostly Republican led state.

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We should say, too, that this is a really big deal for the president of the United States to be, you know, calling into question elections before they even happen and threatening to cut off money or saying that he would support an institution for the U.S.. Everyone depends on the postal service, especially if you're in rural areas. You're older Americans to have a president threatening to cut off money or not to provide additional money because of concerns that the election that he would be harmed in the election because of this style of voting.

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That's I mean, it's a huge deal, which I think is noticed, you know, on both sides of the aisle, too. There's a lot of Republican senators who have come out and said, no, we really support the post office, like you said, because those rural constituencies really depend on it for things like really important prescriptions and things like that.

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It's an original core function of the federal government, among among many other things. Iesha and you talked about the president has been doing this for a while. He also briefly floated this idea of delaying the elections, something he has no power to do. How is the Biden campaign responding to this latest threat from the president?

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Well, you know, the the Biden campaign is calling what Trump is doing and an assault on democracy. They're saying that, you know, he wants to deprive Americans of their fundamental right to vote safely during a catastrophic public health crisis. So, you know, they're coming out very strongly against this and what President Trump is saying.

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So, Miles, what else do we need to know here? Because there's a lot going on with the post office as well.

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There's a brand new postmaster general and you and Pam Fessler just reported that a lot of secretaries of state want to meet with him and he's not responding.

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Yeah, they asked a bipartisan group of election officials, these are the top election officials in a number of states, sent a letter four days ago asking the new postmaster general to meet to talk about some of these issues. And his office has not responded. They wanted to have that meeting this week. And last we heard that they have not had a response yet. I think there are a lot of struggles with the post office right now. You know, you have the financial side.

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That part has been well reported in hearings to Congress that they need many billions of dollars basically to survive in the next few months or they're going to fall off a financial cliff. So there's the financial aspect of it and then there's the operational side of it. We're already seeing results of some of the new policies that the new postmaster general, Lewis Dejoy, has implemented. We're hearing about voting delays. We're hearing about overtime being cut for letter carriers, which is really important when you think about mail arriving late.

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Normally, letter carriers would stay late and deliver that late arriving mail. There's been policies put in place that basically say no, that mail should be delivered the next day, which when you consider election mail specifically and how strict some of these deadlines are, a lot of people are really worried about that.

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Well, all right. We will, I'm sure, talk about this a few more times over the next few weeks. Miles, thanks for coming on to the podcast, as always. Thanks, Scott. Good to talk to you. You, too. I miss you. I miss you, too.

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Well, that was very sweet. I like that. Oh, I miss you, too. I, I miss I miss all of you guys. Yes.

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All right, Miles, we'll talk to you soon. I used to stick around. And when we get back, we're. To talk to Dominico, who we also miss about a brand new poll that NPR has showing Joe Biden expanding his lead over President Trump support for this podcast.

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And the following message come from the Annie Casey Foundation developing solutions to support strong families and communities to help ensure a brighter future for America's children.

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More information is available at ABC AFG.

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Black voters play a crucial role for any Democrat who seeks to win the White House. But some big divides amongst that bloc and some serious ambivalence could determine who is elected president this November. Listen now on the Code Switch podcast from NPR. And we're back, Domenico Montanaro, I just want to start off by saying we've missed you, too. Hey, you know, Scott missed you as well. Thank you. This is this is tough working from home.

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The worst part of it is I don't get to see my friends.

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We heard you have a mustache now. Is that true? You know, Scruff can be many things. I don't think I can actually grow a mustache to the news.

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Our new NPR PBS NewsHour Marist poll came out today finds that Joe Biden's lead over President Trump has expanded to double digits dominico. What's the big picture? What do we need to know?

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Well, you know, the big picture here is that Biden now leads President Trump 53 to 42. That's an 11 point margin, which is up from an eight point advantage at the end of June.

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And you know, that comes we know that with coronavirus people taking it seriously, more so now than they had in March, we have 71 percent of Americans saying they see it as a real threat. It was just 56 percent in March. And one hundred and sixty seven thousand Americans have died. More than five million have become infected with the virus.

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So, you know, that's where we're at.

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Biden has, you know, coalesced a lot of groups that President Trump, frankly, needs to be re-elected. And that's where we're starting at heading into the fall.

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So I'm going to pause from the poll for a moment here and I'll explain why. But as we walk through the findings, I think this is a good moment to talk about another thing the president did yesterday, because I think you need to think about it in the context that he's trailing to abiding by a lot right now. And that's the fact that Trump gave oxygen yesterday to a false and racist line that Kamala Harris, the new vice presidential candidate on the Democratic ticket, is ineligible to be president or vice president because her parents were immigrants.

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Harris was born in Oakland, so she is eligible to be president.

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There's a lot of response out there that boils down to it's not really a coincidence that the president is creating the first black woman on a national ticket the same way he treated the first black man. And that's the question, whether they're American.

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Yeah, I mean I mean, this is what really and it was that birther rhythm, him questioning Obama's heritage or questioning whether he was American that propelled Trump into the political scene. So this is what he has done. And when you do this for black Americans or, you know, any American of color, you're making it seem as if their connections to this country, their ties to this country are suspect and that it is white Americans who get to decide who is American or not.

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And so that's what that is about.

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Yeah. I mean, look, this is a thing that President Trump, you know, has done before. Obviously, it was really surprising that he started going after Kamala Harris as mean and nasty and disrespectful, you know, when she's been the person who's been probably at the top of the list to be Biden's vice presidential running mate for a year.

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So it's kind of surprising that they didn't have something with a little more substance to go after her on, because, frankly, the people that that is meant to be appealed to with this kind of attack are already probably on board the Trump train, calling a black woman angry and saying that she seems so angry and mad.

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That's a that is a part of stereotyping. And just saying she's a black woman, she's angry. That is a trope.

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Yeah. And this this logic that somebody whose parents weren't born in the United States, you know, is a pretty twisted logic, because if you were to think about it there, Andrew Jackson, for example, would be definitely disqualified from having been president. Both of his parents were born in Ireland. There's like half a dozen other presidents who's had one parent born outside of the United States. And, you know, does that disqualify Mitt Romney from being president?

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His father was born in Mexico. So, you know, this is a rabbit hole.

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You could go far down and included a president on that list. President Trump, his mother was an immigrant from Scotland. The reason I wanted to talk about this at this particular moment, though, of this polling conversation is because we've talked a lot. Susan Davis has reported that a lot of congressional Republican campaign managers feel this way, that when the president does stuff like that, it hurts him even more with suburban voters, with voters of color, two important blocks.

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So, Domenico, what is his standing with those two groups right now? And what does this poll tell us?

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Yeah, I mean, he's, you know, far behind when it comes to suburban voters. He's, you know, 69 percent of suburban voters say that they would prefer Joe Biden to be president. And this is just continuing a trend that we have seen since Trump became president. You know, the elections that we've seen so far. That's why so many of those Republican campaign managers in House races in particular are so concerned and why they really should be able to make gains in the house because so many of those seats.

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Lean right there and right leaning districts, but they're also in suburban places where President Trump is just not doing well and is hurting the Republican brand.

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And Trump is also having issues not that easy with just the white vote in general like Biden right now. We were talking earlier. Is is he tied with Trump when it comes to the white vote?

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It's a shocking number, to be totally blunt. I mean, Trump won white voters by 20 points in 2016, and he's tied with Biden in this poll at 48 percent. And by the way, I saw that number 48 percent. There has not been a Democrat who has gotten 48 percent of the white vote since Jimmy Carter in 1976. You know, Bill Clinton got 44 percent of the white vote in 1996. And if we're looking at 1976 numbers of the white vote, you know, potentially being what Biden wins this time, there are a whole lot more non-white voters now than there were back then.

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And like we've said so many times, and we'll say so many more times, the overarching issue in this election is the the pandemic. Almost 170000 Americans have died at this point. All across the country. Kids are not going back to school in the next few weeks physically because of it. This is the body of the election more than anything else. Dominico there were a lot of really interesting questions about the coronavirus in this poll.

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Yeah, first of all, when it comes to handling of the coronavirus, President Trump, we've seen repeatedly down on that number, he's down 16 points to Biden on who people would trust more to handle coronavirus.

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You know, when it comes to things like what do you think we should be doing right now?

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You know, I thought was really interesting that, you know, talking about going out to restaurants like eating outside is popular, passing a national mandate to require people to wear masks in public. Three quarters of Americans say that's a good idea. Almost six in 10 voters, by the way, say that they think it might be a good idea to have people be able to physically return to work.

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What's not popular?

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Opening restaurants for people to eat inside them have students return to school, which is a huge debate point, and allowing children to take part in local sports or or local activities, you know, and frankly, going to church, religious services, sporting events, that is the most unpopular thing.

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What do people think about vaccines?

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That was what was really something to me. More than a third of the country said that they will not get vaccinated when a vaccine becomes available. 35 percent, 60 percent said that they will get vaccinated. And there are huge splits by education and by party.

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You know, people with a college degree, far more likely, almost 20 points more likely to get to say they would get a vaccine when it comes available.

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And Democrats, you know, far more likely, 23 points more likely than Republicans to say they will get a vaccine.

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Even once you get a vaccine approved. There's going to be a huge issue with getting people to take it right. Like it's not going to be like you get the vaccine in the next day. Everything's great.

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And that is the thing that we have heard.

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Dr. Anthony Fauci, the head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, Dr. Robert Redfield, the head of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, both saying that getting vaccinated is the one of the most important things for overcoming this pandemic. And they're worried that the vaccine, the unfounded vaccine skepticism in the country could slow the process of getting a vaccine that works and having people, you know, be able to get past this.

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All right. We're going to take a quick break before we do one other news story that happened today. A former FBI lawyer has agreed to plead guilty to a charge related to surveillance on former Trump campaign advisor Carter Page. There's more from that story from Carrie Johnson at NPR.

[00:19:39]

Dawg, we're going to take a break and come back with Can't Let It Go support for this NPR podcast and the following message coming from the Ford Foundation, working with visionaries on the frontlines of social change worldwide to address inequality in all its forms. Learn more at Ford Foundation, Doug.

[00:19:57]

I'm Jen White, the new host of NPR's One, a daily show that asks America what it wants to be. Hear from people across the country, listeners like you, with conversations for the relentlessly curious on the issues that matter most. Join me next time on one day from NPR and Ammu. All right, we're back.

[00:20:18]

And it is time to end the show like we do every week with Can't Let It Go, the part of the show where we talk about the things we cannot stop thinking about politics or otherwise. Dominico, you are up first.

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Well, I mean, the thing that I can't let go of and it's just so odd to me is this relationship between Jared Kushner and Kanye West. You know, The New York Times reported earlier in the week that Kanye West and Jared Kushner have met up and talked about the campaign. There was this trip in Colorado where Kanye West was apparently camping there and happened to fly to meet Jared Kushner and Ivanka. And they wound up talking about the presidential campaign, supposedly.

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Right.

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And the fact that Kanye is running or trying to run as a third party candidate in a few states. Right.

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Where, by the way, he's not on enough ballots to actually win this thing. So you have a lot of people scratching their heads and wondering what he's exactly doing, especially considering the fact that he has backed President Trump in in a lot of instances, including going to the White House with a Make America great again hat.

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So there's a lot of, you know, wondering about what is really going on. And Jared Kushner, when he was touting this United Arab Emirates Israeli deal in the White House yesterday, wound up having to take a question about it.

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Can you tell us why you were meeting with Kanye West? Did you discuss the election at all in any capacity? So Kanye has been a friend of mine for, I know, about 10 years. And, you know, we talk every now and then about different things. And we both happened to be in Colorado. And so we got together and we had a great discussion about a lot of things. He has some great ideas for for for for what he'd like to see happen in the country.

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And that's why he has the candidacy that he's been doing.

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Hmm. I love that they both happen to be in Colorado like and not even in the same place.

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Yeah.

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I mean, and Kim Kardashian West Kanye, his wife, I mean, she had to put out a statement, you know, talking about Kanye struggles with, you know, his mental health because he has been tweeting so erratically while he's doing this, quote unquote, run for president.

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So, I mean, this is a person, you know, I have done my Kanye bashing, but he does seem to be going through some things right now.

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And so, like, you know, to be holding up his candidacy as anything that is really legit. Yeah. That, you know, it seems like they look at him maybe as a spoiler. That's what a lot of people were saying, that it looks like they're they're thinking that they could maybe peel a few votes away if you have Kanye on the ballot.

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And when you look at our poll and you look at what's happening with the Postal Service and then you have something like this, people wonder about, you know, what kind of shenanigans might be going on.

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And we actually did. Reporter Barbara Sprunt has looked at the various Republicans helping Kanye West across the country get on the ballot. And you can read that story at NPR, dawg. Isha, what about you?

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OK, so what I cannot let go of this week and I'm going to be careful here because this is a family show.

[00:23:37]

And I'm so curious. I have been warned I got to talk about. That wow. Oh, really? Listen, listen, listen, listen, this is what I'm talking about with it. Look it up on the, you know, the Internet. I'm not going to tell you what it means. I'm looking it up. But there was a masterful. I can't believe we're talking about party B and make the stallion swap W AP. Is it WAP?

[00:24:03]

Is it WAP or why?

[00:24:05]

Because what you know is is also kind of a thing for my people that there's not a nice phrase.

[00:24:11]

Yes, but that's not what this is. That's not what this is about. But in the video, Kylie Jenner makes a cameo in the video and some people felt like someone else could have made a cameo. And that was the Viola Davis. They felt like from, you know, how to get away with murder. They are all, you know, Oscar winning. They felt like she would have made a better guest appearance in this video. And I agree that she would have done a great job.

[00:24:46]

And they actually put her face on Kylie Jenner's body. And then Viola Davis tweeted like, who did this? What a bunch of emojis. And it was really funny. So you should look at so you can see the picture of her face on Caitlyn Jenner's body and like this lingerie thing. But, yeah, I think that she would have done a great job in that. And I think that they should have more. I think Angela Bassett, Viola Davis, all of them would have been great in the WAP video.

[00:25:15]

And I think they should do a remix.

[00:25:16]

That's what I think I got. I got nothing on this. Yeah. Look, you know, I'm fully aware and I got nothing.

[00:25:28]

I don't even want to touch it. You don't even want it. They don't want to engage it. I had literally no idea what you're talking about.

[00:25:36]

Does I like OK, you look at now listen, Scott, do not listen to this, which I look at this on our computer.

[00:25:44]

I'm not sure you know, and I'm so old.

[00:25:46]

I had to look up the lyrics because they were talking too fast. I couldn't follow everything. And then I was OK. I had to figure out what they was talking about. But once I got out, OK.

[00:25:56]

Yeah, you know, I wondered if there's sort of like an intellectual piece of this, which is, you know, the sort of irony where they're just like, you know what?

[00:26:06]

Men have talked this way and said this kind of explicit stuff in their songs for a very long time.

[00:26:13]

Why can't we now? I don't know if that's what Khateeb was actually thinking doing this, but that's how it struck me.

[00:26:18]

Yeah, no, I think that's the thing. It's like this is the way men have talked, and that's why I like it, because I grew up, you know, listen to a lot of rap and you would hear male rappers talking like this all the time. So that's why I love Make The Stallion's City Girls Cardi B top that top. I think that is it's time for women to talk that talk.

[00:26:39]

I'm reading the lyrics now. I'm now up to speed.

[00:26:45]

GOBBI Oh my God. Scott, what can't you let go of like. Oh my gosh.

[00:26:53]

So let's talk about the NBA bubble in Disney World.

[00:26:56]

Yes. Let's let's transition to Disney.

[00:26:59]

Yes. Yeah, sports is back now. Baseball is back. Hockey's back. The NBA is back. I have had, like, honestly, a hard time getting into baseball because of the multiple coronavirus outbreaks, the weirdness of an empty, you know, 50000 person seat baseball stadium, a whole bunch of reasons. But I've actually got a lot more into the NBA bubble, which, first of all, nobody's gotten coronavirus. The NBA players have been really aggressively into kind of taking social action wearing like jerseys that say Black Lives Matter.

[00:27:30]

They've been pretty, like inventive and how they're making this work. But here's what I can't let go of.

[00:27:34]

And I didn't really realize it till this week.

[00:27:36]

So some of the baseball stadiums, they have like cardboard cutouts of fans and some of the sections you see in the stands, the bubble has put up like these big video screens around the court of these digital fans.

[00:27:49]

Those are great.

[00:27:49]

But I didn't realize these are real people watching the game live. Real people. Yeah. Each team they have, like they select a couple hundred fans, they have them pull up some sort of zoom like app.

[00:28:01]

They're watching the game and then they take their real time reactions, impose them on a seat and it's crazy. So it's like virtual fans.

[00:28:10]

It's like some sort of like ready player one situation. But in the NBA in real time, it's crazy.

[00:28:16]

It's kind of great. But these are real life digital people watching the game.

[00:28:20]

And then the funny the funny thing is some people who sit too close to their their laptop camera look like enormous people on the stand.

[00:28:28]

So, like, can I go back to one other thing?

[00:28:32]

Yeah, there is. Having gone through the lyrics now. Oh, no.

[00:28:37]

There's only one line you could even say on the podcast. And it is. Yeah, yeah, yeah. Behind of the entire saw nothing else. And on that note, great news, everybody, we are going to have a special Sunday podcast to kick off the Democratic National Convention, which is happening next week. It's all remote. Hardly anyone will be in Milwaukee, will be mostly covering this from Washington, D.C. and Delaware. Osma Hall and I will probably be up in Delaware a couple of days where Joe Biden and Kamala Harris will be speaking.

[00:29:10]

But we will be covering the entire convention. And on Sunday, we will have a preview podcast for you on what to look for in the most unique political convention maybe in decades ever.

[00:29:24]

It's going to be strange, but we'll be covering it. Our executive producer on this podcast is Shirley Henry. Our editors are Anthony Matari and Eric McDaniel, our producers Berten Girdwood and Chloe Warner, thanks to Lexy's Capitol Hill anymore, Dana Farrington and Brandon Carter. I'm Scott Detro. I cover the presidential campaign. I miss Rasco. I cover the White House.

[00:29:43]

And I'm Domenico Montanaro, senior political editor and correspondent. Thank you for putting up with us and listening to the NPR Politics podcast. Wow, wow, wow. God, I'm so offended.