« The Weeds

The story of Trump's swamp


Jane talks to Asawin Suebsaeng and Lachlan Markay about their new book "Sinking in the Swamp" on chaos at the White House and how President Trump differs (and doesn't) from prior administrations.

As a note - this episode was recorded on February 26, 2020.


"Too Many Trump Books Are Like Eagles Records. These Daily Beast Reporters Wanted Theirs to Feel Like a Mudhoney Album" by Andrew Beaujon, Washingtonian

Sinking in the Swamp by Asawin Suebsaeng and Lachlan Markay


Lachlan Markay, (@lachlan) Reporter, Daily Beast

Asawin Suebsaeng, (@swin24) White House Reporter, Daily Beast


Jane Coaston (@cjane87), Senior politics reporter, Vox

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This is an unofficial transcript meant for reference. Accuracy is not guaranteed.
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change our environment and working towards a better future, learn more it INDIGO Ag, Dotcom, Slash, Reechoed,. hello and welcome to the weeds on the VOX media, podcast network, I'm Jane Coston and joining me today are my special guests, Laughlin Marque, and also win sub sang of the daily beast, and we are going to be talking about their new book sinking in the swamp, how Trump's, minions and misfits poison to Washington. But we're also going to be talking about not the book, because one of the things that you talk in the book, you have a lot of of anecdotes of the weirdness of Trump world. But I want to get above that and talk about why writing. This book was important in the first place, and so I actually want to start by there's a moment very
early in the book in which you are detailing the story of a man named Walter Brockington who sued Trump ineffectually because he believed, that Trump had stolen his idea from monopoly, Ask Board game that was called Trump, the game, and so there's this line It's a throwaway line where you're, quoting him. As saying during saying during the twenty sixteen GOP presidential primary, that Trump is a character. And he probably means that in the he's such a character kind of way. But it's interesting because throughout the book there's this idea that there's the idea of Trump there's trump, the amalgamation of what Hollywood means. There's trump, the guy who yells at people all the time, there's trump
weird person who spins around in this chair. When you were working on this book, did you ever get an idea of who you think Donald Trump? Now, president of the United States, actually is, and how much of this is the development of a character? Well, the funny thing is that during two thousand and fifteen and the two thousand and sixteen republican primary it wasn't enough that the game show host comes out and suddenly rockets to the top of the polls for the republican primary. He had to basically be all things to all people which led to him being this gargantuan larger than life rather horrifying. In my, in figure on the right where he couldn't just be the apprentice reality. Tv guy he had to the accused serial sexual assault assaulter. He had to be the guy saying that oh maybe we'll bring about this massive muslim registry
and we have to ban all the Muslims and the Mexicans are rapists and just everything going forth and the little glimpse into his past that you just referenced. There was something where this poor schmo, Walter Brockington Third, was one of the many people who were sort of littered in the graveyard of Donald Trump related legal action, whether initiated by Trump or someone against Trump? And he was just someone who just insisted? The Donald Trump must have stolen my board game, and this was for, as you mentioned, Trump the game, another ill fated from property that just went nowhere and just did not sell well, along with like Trump branded water and from branded stakes. One of the things that I think that this book in some ways, is a stunning indictment of a lot of things, but also a stunning indictment of cable news and I've been thinking a lot about how much ESPN and the sports suffocation of how we think about politics is influenced cable news, but to how
much. The cable news relationship in view of trump is so separate from what every day people think about Trump, and so you get into this with the hosts of mourning Joe. I want to read this quote. I think it's fantastic Trust relationship with Joe in MECCA and is larger relationship with the Pandit presses. The Kindle really bad marriage each party despises the other constantly hurled insults, threatens to means parades and promises that God damn it. This is the last time I swear, I'm gonna leave you, but neither of them leaves because, when it comes down to it there, love and they need each other. Trop needs immediate, hang on as every word and that, if that means they put on an air of outrage and derision, while that's better than being ignored and the Pandit accuracy needs trumpeters, endless stream of sites and outrageous, they provide at another. Fodder for mindless and banal panel discussions inevitably stacked with republican strategist and democratic strategist. Title seemingly devised purely for cable news Kiran with which to
banner. These reliably and enlightening television shout face yet. I was so interested in that, because there is Donald Trump, the actual human being. There is Donald Trump, the present states and then there's trump. The creation and the blank slate in some ways upon which cable news, whether its Fox news or he had an or an embassy has projected their greatest fears and greatest hopes onto this one person. Yeah I mean in, and it goes back your previous question, which is four of who is Donald Trump and obviously ego is wrapped up with his identity and his appeal, but he lost We D finds himself in politics in in, I think did in business in media entertainment is well in opposition,
a lot of his identity is derived from the people that he is opposing and it does not affect that colours a lot of his political support and supporters as well is opposition to. Some perceived enemy or the media or the globalists or the immigrants or the Democrats or whoever it is that happens to be the precise opposition, is sort of the bread butter of political media or political pundit re, it's sort of where the name of this disorder manufactured conflict is why cable news exists or it seems to be seems to be sort of the business model that they've settled on it, and that's why the president? I don't even think he understands just how well he understands media, and you know, I think he just sort of subconsciously- operates on the same wavelength. This idea of baked in Papa's
in an antagonism and offers them for mentality and mean that is fundamentally the character of modern political media, and he just just instinctively understands that and feeds debt and that sort of Back loop is one of the most potent forces behind his political rise. I think right and a for as much as he loved rail against the fake news, enemy of the people whatever, and talk about how much biased they have against Republicans and Donald Trump, and and and so forth. Sort of gives gives away the game when he talks about oftentimes onstage at his political rallies about how much he, at the very least, instinctively gets. The economic incentives for newspapers and tv shows coverage of the news that has nothing to do with Anti trump or ideological bias, or anything like that. He will say all the time
about how oh, when I'm gone to New York Times, even though they might not like me, are really going to miss me, because the readership is going to go down cable news ratings for MS and CNN are going to go down so he understands, Even if it's on a purely instinctive level that so much of the bias that I think so many people wrongly attribute to ideological or partisan bias in political media is actually driven, by economic incentives and what else just like any other major industry, and I think that that's something that you talk about very quickly in the introduction of this book and it's something you've talked about in other interviews and I think we've spoken about it. But I think that there is an idea that you do not get to write this book of Hillary Clinton. This president there's a different version, of this book that exists, and it probably looks more like a team of rivals. It kind of looks more like one of the stage books that's like here are all the
extremely well informed people who will make well informed decisions that will probably still get a lot of people killed, but it will be different and everyone will have gone to college, but I think that there is an idea that In some way, this administration has been Boon, to media or to writers. Even though you are writing about things that you did not think you would ever write about or want to write about that. This is in some way beneficial to you as economic entities, a capitalist system, and it's something that I think about a lot, because in some ways in my focus is on the GOP conservative. From the far right and white nationalism and about like three of those things would be dramatically different in how I covered them or the interests and how I cover, were Hillary Clinton resident or had trump, not not gotten the nomination, a version of this world in which Mark Ruby. I was president.
Having like knock down, drag fights about expanding the earned income tax credit, and we don't have this populist movement. We don't have hillbilly elegy, we don't have any of this and the white Nationalists, who I cover, who have existed all this time. People aren't as interested in, and I don't get the clicks on my article and then it's not as much of a driving force for the work that I do and other people do is something that you thought while writing this book. Yes- and you know my background in sort of passion- is an investigative reporting, and I did what I did a lot of. You obviously come from the world of conservative media, and so I feel a lot on the Obama administration and did sort of investigative dirt digging type work on that that era in our politics and as much as there are in their at the time. Some amazing investigative reporters out there, the competition
was nowhere near what it is today in terms of trying to find those types of like corruption and money in politics stories. Now there are more of those stories out there to be had these days, but you're in this alternate universe will wear Hillary Clinton wins the election in my mind, I'm still covering. I might still be at the Washington Free Beacon Covering the Hilary administration, with an investigative focus, and maybe it me and KEN Vogel, the New York Times and like Meta gold at the Washington Post and we're one like it? Just a handful of reporters doing the type of investigative work that is now ubiquitous the Trump administration, so yeah in that's like in one sense Trump has been really good for us professionally. But in another you know, I would probably be doing roughly the same thing and have allowed less like competition, but more like to the two, your your actual question
I think it's the reason that there is such a strong first person element in the book is because the simple fact that we are covering this White House look like we wouldn't. I dont think we would have been hired as White House reporters in virtually any other like normal administration. So the fact that we were tasked with this and just sort of told to go and basically just have fun with it. And try to find stories where we could is integral with the like underlying the tacit thesis of the book, which is that just this has changed everything and everything is now like the Trump show and has been subsumed by his like unique character and idiosyncrasies? I want to go back to something because you got your
start in conservative media and one fascinating aspect, I differentiate between philosophical conservatism and movement, conservatism, movement, conservatism, being the effort to get philosophical conservatism into practice, but a lot of what conservatism has looked like. Historically, conservatism has been that reactionary element, not reactionary in a negative sense, necessarily or in a positive sense. Just a conservatism is a reaction to something and an effort to stop what that is. William F Buckley is famous quote standing a throat history yelling stop. Yeah. So how do you see tromp you? You mentioned that kind of he is standing in opposition to something and that that is something that his supporters, the supporters who are in basically because of specific elements, say abortion policy or immigration, but that his he is standing in opposition to the same things that they are standing
opposition to how much do you see that as something that come from within the world of movement conservatism, I mean everyone. These kind of has their own idea of what conservatism is, and I still consider myself a conservative in what I sort of understand that you be or what. What my? What I mean by that, when I took up my own political views, is you know we're in this very extremely tumultuous time in the world's technologically and financially and politically and culturally. It's just like, I don't think in human history. Have such momentous changes been just unfolding? as they are right now and that could be a very destabilizing force in like every area of public life so my when I say I'm a conservative, I mean my view. Is the government should be trying to moderate aid or stabilize all of those different factors that are affected by that rapidly changing
a world that we live in order to prevent some sort of extremely like cataclysmic event that could be caused by such rapid change so that's like a really dry and long winded way of sort of explaining where I'm coming from is the reason that Donald Trump? Never really appealed to me and I never really considered really considered conservative candidate because he yes, yes, he is, probably a reactionary force in these certainly stands very clearly in opposition to Dennis viable like political trends, but he is destabilizing influence. I think you know- and I think that's basically anathema to connect Serving things in an era of such like rapid and destabilizing changes when came to daily based from other Jones, and you you ve, talked about this before how you are looking at this administration. As someone one who thinks
that for all of its many many many faults and foibles and evils that this administration does not yet have the death toll or impact of the Georgia, be Bush administration. And it's interesting because I think that you you get at this point a little bit in some of your interviews that you ve done where while the Trump Administration is shambolic that shambolic nature, particularly through two thousand and seventeen and two thousand and eighteen prevented it from doing the things that Trump often talked about as The fact that if you can just if you could distract Trump for a little while you could get him to say not try to kill Bashar, Al Assad or not try to do these things, whereas the George W Bush administration was very much. We are united on the idea that
We should do these things. We should invade Iraq and Afghanistan and we should run a re election campaign based entirely on gay marriage. So when you're thinking about this administration hard for the potentials of this administration, if said, Ministration had been run in the way that the second Bush administration, who had been run or the first Bush administration, depending on your view of the first Iraq war Do you see more inherent risk from this administration? Had it not been shambolic? Oh yeah, no, Thousand percent and something that it reminds me of, is for the first see year or two of the Trump era. something I would routinely say, including publicly during interviews more whatever that RO? Some of my liberal friends crazy? Was that I would say. Ok, look
can be incredibly annoying and some have maybe even destructive. With his constant light, Eric hollering about enemy of the people, this and fake news media that but least, at that very moment in time circa say twenty seventeen he had yet to do anything is damaging for press freedom in this cause. What Obama and Eric holder had done in terms of how they went. The war on legal, blue and whistle blowers in their midst. That obviously ended up wrapping up a good chunk of the press in a very bad way that they then tried to close the door. So I always my caveat was I mean, give Trump time he just got into office and the sad thing about prior administrations, and in this case the Obama administration, edging the door open on stuff like that is when more thuggish people come to the office gives
the opportunity to cite as president and incompletely blow the hinges off the door on something like that: Saddam moment. I was like yes, this stuff can be but so much of his cab and public messaging, like focus on the substance and the actual policies and what Trump's Doj is doing like just because Trump hurts your feet. Thanks and you have to be in political media. I don't let that cloud, your judgment and I didn't get as many tickets as I thought I would for you for this take and then. Finally, when the Jeff Sessions Doj did what it did visa be Ali Watkins and that whole mess. I was like: that plus everything the trumpet his minions and whoever are saying about trying to deal yet miser enemies in the media and so on and so forth. Ok, that cobbled together, you can make the argument that he is worse than Obama was on this issue, but I didn't get the sense that people were in my that far too many people, my profession. What green?
beyond that, simply because their feelings were hurt by the big bad man in the Oval office, Donald Trump. So I think that type of perspective, and look I'm not saying Obama's worse than trump or anything like that, but maintaining a healthy perspective on what is actually happening in the realm of policy. Actual concrete actions, as opposed to just they trumps like dumbest shit messaging, is important in terms of actually evaluating where he stands in recent history? That makes it does I wanna go back as you used the word that I learned about relatively recently, because I came into the understanding of professional rest within the last four months, but it has been a stunning educational experience. You use the term K Abe and that's basically the idea that you have two people in a wrestling competition or more because
You can have apparently nine thousand people in any single one wrestling competition and these two people our position against each other and their supposed to hate each other or love each other or use through of hate each other or used to have loved each other. But all of none of this is real. None of this is this is a worked shoot, so to speak, that this is ill when you ve got someone saying like I love Saddam Hussein and this guy's been standing up for America. This is their plane characters when you talk about and bongino or corollary, endow ski or any of the weird hangers on who take part in this administration in some fashion. How much of that, when you had actual interactions with them- and I know I have experience as well- how much did you get the sense that its cafe, but they want you to write about them, and I want you to hate them, but then what thou meet with you and have drinks with you
and they you you have this realization that this is this is the year of work, shoot that they are trying to do this, that they desperately want than Europe time to write about how terrible they are yeah, it kind of runs. A gamut especially in the early you're. Like twenty seventeen era. There were so really broad sorted mix of people in the White House in terms of their professional back. So like when we started covering the White House together, I knew a lot more of the people came from what they are and see world and recreational republican politics. Basically swing was much better first among people who had been on the campaign because he had covered the campaign I had not in those were to very different types of people, take like Sean Space or, for instance, I think people who had covered republican politics and dealt with John Spacer for years when he was the currency and prior to that, were right
we're the most sort of taken aback by like the character that he put on from the podium like Shawn is pretty. Nice guy in making. I don't know he is I I consider him the sort of like goofy kind of lovable character who got just totally like sucked up in this whirlwind of like trompe in Dixon propaganda. So, like that's a great example of someone who, I don't think was really a true believer, but an EU true believer in the republican political project but like when it came to tramp. He was very quick to like adopt this persona. That people who had known him knew was really not him in that turns out. You have not like suited him very well professionally in the ensuing year or so, but, that's not to say there aren't a ton of like actual true believers in in midst, and I think your folks, like Stephen Beller, for instance the guy who was like preaching nationalist politics years before Trump came on the scene,
and you know he's not gonna like he he's not out there, because he live seeing his name in CNN Chiron's like bashing him, although I bet he does get a kick out of that like he actually has a political project that he's putting into an ideological project, he's out there to put into practice- and you know I think you can find the same on the opposite- that divide that think there are folks in media. Who have found that its very advantageous for them financially and professionally, to be the butt of trumps ire, and certainly we were hoping. We get at least to Haiti. for this book yet come on now. Look so far, and then there are folks who you know who are like really good report. There's an who are. You know who have been like unjustly like targeted by folks in the White House. For that, so you know it's tough, to paint which you broad brush spoke with TIM Carney, his at a eye for the S, reclined show and his book alienated America, and he made the comparison that times we earn a relationship with someone they do
want you to necessarily fix the problem. They don't expect you to, but they want you to listen to whatever they're saying, and he made the point that Trump seemed alone in purporting to be listening to what Americans, specifically working class Americans were saying, and it's interesting how we talk about this, as if his victory was like all consuming entity when he ass, the popular vote and, let's also put heavy bunny years round working class. Exactly exec ethic. Its life feel like a lot of times. I know podcasting is a heavily visual medium, but when I say working class? I mean like a very specific type of working class people when we say working class. We do not think of the service economy, even though that, if you ve ever had a service economy job, you know that's working and that's so
I'm so big lack a class most poor people voted for the Democratic right was actually write em, but I am interested to get both of your thoughts coming from different political persuasions on I keep thinking about how institutional conservatism really didn't know what to do with Trump or with trompe in populism and have sense. I think, in my view, attempt to cut back Phil being like when you actually we're talking about was an idea of nationalism or what you are actually talking about was rural
poverty. What you were actually talking about was this, because chump opened the door to being. I could have been saying this when I set health care for everyone who knows what I might have meant when I said I was going to be the most pro eligibility president, I could have meant anything, including restricting the rights of trans people, but I am interested to hear from both of you. What do you think your respective political side did not listen to that in some ways contributed to people Turning to Trump, I mean the Post war, neoliberal consensus of free trade, free trade of want to say, open borders that, over its it, but like more liberal immigration policies and like these are things that I think they're deleterious effect on the working class had been overstated, but I do think that Republicans didn't really appreciate just how thoroughly embedded. That idea was that
This project had totally failed the years and years and my entire time, coming up through the conservative movement, was like you just can't escape like the the au, the illusions and the appeals to rake in as a fright and rigorous and was very much like a product of that sort of post war, global order and people? Don't really cling to that as much anymore, I, whether out of a tacit or like explicit understanding that that is sort of, if not not a cause, at least a symptom of, like the precise trump's that trumps base was was so upset about. It varies from voter to voter, obviously, but I don't know how much it was. An explicit understanding of this particular trade policy has failed us then this
consensus status quo is clearly not like intended. For me, I am not the target audience of what politicians for the last like three decades, actually recounted a story for me a while ago about basically an anecdote of someone saying- You know these voters who felt like they had live left behind in that post war order, we're looking up on that debate stage with whatever it was eighteen different republican candidates and just in actively, knowing who it was that had screwed them that had gotten them laid off or put them on the government door and they knew that Donald Trump the only one on that stage who was not one of those people and not just an extremely powerful, like implicit appeal for a political Canada, sort of an interesting glimpse into this problem that your time about you makes me it. Finds me of this brief moment. I'm not sure how many of your listeners would remember during the and twelve election when Mitt Romney
an Brok Obama were having they in their campaign team, we're having this back and forth sniping debate over who was the actual, sorcerer team Obama would obviously go after Romney and team Romney for outsourcing jobs in his career and private business and team. It would fire back actually know. Obama is actually the real outsourcer in chief. Look at all these jobs. Though, going overseas. But the little secret was that neither Obama nor Romney were actually against outsourcing, and I remember that happened in real time and to use a term that we have been using on his pike S a little bit over the last few minutes. There was a bit of k, faith to it, those play fighting to it because they were both messaging something that they both new, sounded good route, sourcing, NEA it's like up. It's a positioning MAC,
exactly, and I think that such an important element of how to think about politics or political speech is due actually want to do this thing, or are you saying like? Let's have a study of reparations because that positions you in the right place with the right people right, and it got me thinking the time. It's like. Ok, someone at some point on the left of the right in a really big NASH, platform had away, is come along, exploit that unspoken agreement between the two mainstream parties of the Republicans of the Democrats, and I knew it was going to happen soon? I just had no idea. It was going to be titled Trump, like game show, hosts to come along and make the most forceful and successful pitch to voters that this is. How do the Republicans Republicans want me and Democrats or
Are you on jobs in shipping jobs overseas? Yeah, I mean. Are you ll be the first one was Bernie Sanders right right, yeah anyway, it's the last year's. How does anything it's that we don't know what will happen next, but there's one thing we can all be sure of the only future is one we can all share and leading the charge and build that future is mercy core with over forty years of humanitarian work under its belt building together, mercy course. Dna and as the climate crisis increases their partnering with those on the front lines, making resources more accessible to farmers across the globe, string in community is against escalating natural disasters and ensuring people have the tools they need to thrive mercy course doing the work of matters, but they can't do it alone. That's reunite coming together I'll have the power to reshape the world when it seems like every day brings a new crisis when every news alert makes you want to throw your phone across the room, we may start to feel a little powerless but mercy
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calm, slash, weeds and joined the over one million people who have taken charge of their mental health with the help of an experienced better help. Professional one of my thoughts about this book is that. Pathetically there's a version of this book that could be written about a lot of first term. Presidents, do you remember we decided to re reexamine Foster briefly, because during the higher, yet I thought we are lower. But if you go back to new attempts in Washington, Post reporting from late night should any too early nineteen. Eighty three and the early Clinton administration is just a nonsense. Barge of everyone screaming at each other, pizza boxes everywhere and travel and its people yo a nanny gaining yeah. There are just a host of lake. We just nominated this person for the civil love opposite
it turns out there like paying and undocumented nanny under the table were sound so quaint. I like it, it's it's weird. How quaint a lot of sense, also the idea of people being fired for saying, offensive things Like do you remember when things like that happened or when people got canned for plagiarism? Oh yeah actually happened at the dawn of the Trump Arid yeah Monica Crowley. Who would you like to be on the National Security Council foreign policy issues like You play hide me. Actually. I was one of the people she plagiarize congratulation very much. She is
the back a treasure for the Treasury department. So it's just a matter of time. One of the things that I think is interesting about how this administration is perceived, I think sometimes by people who are more trump adjacent or kind of the anti anti anti trump people. Is that the only reason we know all of this all the details in your book, all the details about rob, port or all of the details about match lap and the specifics of the characters mentioned this book is because people have reported reported on this administration to the in degree and had they done so, for the Obama administration or for the Clinton administration, or I don't know, Jimmy Carter's administration. They could have found a host of these things, and I think it goes to something interesting about this era. Is this idea that actually everyone is kind of terrible and two pretend otherwise is virtue signalling that this administration
is no worse or no more shambolic than others. It's just that the Obama administration got to be put in this beauty, and this hey geography of light and the media doesn't like trumps, of course, is going to report how shambolic things are. I mean the Obama administration famously was granted. I wasn't covering the White us the time, but my understanding was, it was very, was a tight ship. They didn't leak very much. They mostly stayed on message so at least from our past in doing White House reporting like this is one of the Reasons we would have sought did come. He upon a White House is We and many other reporters relied on the very readily available leads that were pouring out of the White House, so I mean were they do being the same thing in terms of problematic conduct as previous white houses, I think worry in a different order of magnitude, but even if you take for granted that the previous white houses acted similarly, it was just
like it's not that your number of reporters they're looking into this stuff or you know. Maybe this is a chicken in the egg scenario, but the material just wasn't there, because you didn't have the the massive dysfunction that allowed these things to be leaking into public view like a lot of this material just would not have been available to us. People just wouldn't have talked to us and also like Loughlin speak for Loughlin. But for me I never dreamed until the moment until the moment the job of the database are being a White House reporter Rainy President or administration at my previous job and Mother Johns magazine at that he bureau, my gig, was covering the intersection of politics and pop caught her in this country and sometimes abroad. So that's why the daily these hide me. They tied me to do exactly that before the daily beast, twenty fourteen a year passes, and then this guide Donald Trump comes along who's running for president, which I ve
And I'm sure many other people the daily, be viewed as the logical conclusion, if not extreme, of pop culture and politics fusing. Here I am having imposed famously put all trump stories in the entertainment section, rise the year and us so that point the Daily be said: ok, go cover from for awhile. However, along this last well, Hillary Clinton ends up failing to secure the job. Title of lead old leader of the free world and once Donald Trump is inaugurated. I just made sense for me to be shuffled over to start covering from world and administration, but before that I had zero interest in covering any White House, and but you know you, we are, as Laughlin pointed out what the tiny symptoms of the era of how best
are in shambolic. It really is, is that the two of us are actually somehow equipped to cover this white. Have cable news hold such a measure is such a massive influence on this president, but also on the people who most opposed this precedent. We have a former CIA head. Who will go on MSNBC or CNN to talk about how about this president is, while being the head of the CIA, which has done some things to some people. Do you think in some ways that cable news has reshaped how both supporters and opponents think about this precedent? I've often joke that it would be fascinating to see a day of a news that did not mention trumpet all, because a lot of times Trump is very clearly trying to make himself the news by tweeting something, and then he came.
This response, because there is an economic incentive to do so, but I have often wondered what, if they just didn't what, if we just right, ok and back to lake, I dont know things happening, a child being handcuffed in a school because she had a temperate tantrum and then picked up by police. I think so I'm interested to see how you think the cable news, suffocation of this event distraction and its opposition has changed it yeah. The the I think, cable news, is a symptom of the problem. I think at its roots is opinion. In its opinion, media political opinion, media and cable news is obviously the most visible example of that and in that Basically all it is these days, so it jumps out at you, but the so I think back to like how media handled the whole, Russia or probe, and particularly how the daily beast handled it and I think the daily beast did a really good job of covering that in the sense of like not getting
over our seas and not sort of falling for some anymore. Spira torial lines of inquiry, but that's not to say that there weren't, like opinion columnist, who were doing just that and sort of indulging in some of the more outlandish theories about Donald Trump and his relationship with Russia, and with mean that happened at virtually every major I'll. Let you know you have the washing posting the your times that are doing like incredible reporting when it comes to their their actual heart news. People and then there are ed pages are running like some pretty crazy stuff that if you dont really as most Americans, don't grasped the the delineation between a newspapers, news and opinion sections, I mean one is polluting. The other so d, the degree to which those sort of opinion platforms are now just taken, as proxies for the entire news industry has
vited a very convenient foible for people who want to discredit for the administration in when it wants to discredit reporting about misdeeds or in draw more whatever Do you know right it off as the work of these loony weathers, like a liberal activists, were a former head of the CIA, so I think that Then that's something that, like the news industry I think needs to grapple with, is the fact that, if something is print in the pages of the New York Times, people are not necessarily making. That too ancient between your reporting sections near opinion sections, and if your opinion, people are saying crazy, outlandish things It's to reflect on your reporters and is so in ways that allows the very targets of your reporting to dismiss or try to discredit the stuff that you're doing and that's extremely damaging. When were already facing dislike crisis of credibility in the news another way. I think this goes to your question about how cable news Just relentlessly means more now than it did during
previous presidential errors, is that so much ink has been spilled, including by us at the daily beast and here in this book about Fox NEWS and Fox businesses hold on President Trump's. I'd and how that translates not just in his messaging or is public rhetoric or is a personal preferences, but into concrete public policy actions we get into. It could have been the book about how, for instance, Lou Dobbs Fox Business host, who in many ways was on a rigid, her of trumpets em, but it really be anti immigration, fervour of an who, Trump adores and just seeks out his private council rather regularly You have been high profile of law office meetings where Trump has brought in cabinet level, officials and a senior administration officials to talk.
The latest on trade policy or immigration policy and suddenly they will find sometimes much to their surprise that Lou Dobbs is patched in it into the meeting on Speaker in the oval office in trouble, cut off a senior official to ask Lou what he thinks and to give his two cents on on the trade Descry discussion or whatever is going on or or taxes, and it is not at all an exaggeration to say the trump would not have granted clemency to those accused and convicted war criminals late last year. Had it not been for the sustained public and also but behind the scenes, efforts of box in friends weekend cohorts PETE Headset, who made it a point for many months to directly and privately lobby personally lobby, the president to get these guys off so in terms of what is unique and genuinely different about the Trump era
in the Fox NEWS and Fox businesses, if occasion of the West Wing is definitely one of those factors, and I can't think of for the life of me an actual one to one comparison upon that if you were to compare trump to his predecessor, Barack Obama, like Rachel mad. I was not on the on the domestic policy council or anything like that, so the degree to which this presidency is policies and his public statements or a direct direct contact Of having his brain hardwired to what's going on on cable news, particularly Fox and Fox business, should not be underestimated at all, and it's it's very evident is public statements tweets. But a big point we were making in the book is that it goes far deeper than that and I think
than than even your average news consumer might believe or want to believe. I think a lot of people who have read this book focus on the first half, which a lot allowed celebrities or celebrity is human beings, but the second half is really focused on the swamp that has come to rise and engulf this White House and the degree to which lobbyists have smartly recognized that, as our quote from Syria, secrecy is turned even Monday in insights into his style of governance and a K street gold. Do you think that at any point, the idea of drain the swap, which I think was enough of an amorphous phrase that again it could be interpreted to mean anything. I think a lot of people who were Trump adjacent, took that to mean getting rid of lobbyists cleaning up, how quote unquote business is done in Washington. Do you think
it is at all it can to what Trump meant. By that. I think what he meant was. You know it goes back to him to finding himself in opposition Oh yeah, I'm the agents of change that is going to abandon this. Failure of status quo by both parties and therefore any one who Supposing my agenda is an agent of that status quo and needs to be removed, and I mean yes, that's what drain the swamp was taken you mean- was this sort of generic kind of anti corruption message that that every politician always promises, obviously trumpet, every politicians, you have to think ok what what? What would he, equally mean by that, and what might his supporters interpret? And I think that I mean it's. It's it's integral to demand self, in the way that you know he's imbued like every other aspect of of his message in his government with his own personal characteristics drain, the swamp means drain like the deep states or the the
hold over the people who are standing in from way essentially right. It's interesting interesting because I was writing something about how conservative think about Bernie Sanders I talk to someone who is raising the point that you, during twenty fifteen or sixteen from spend a lot of time railing against Wall Street and being like I'm the only one who can take on Wall Street and then earlier this year, he's bragging about how he's made Wall Street so much money. So do you think that, moving forward Trump, has changed what the pit sinning mechanisms will look like for Republicans that you'll have to say things like on a drain the swamp and we're going to have to correct EL immigration of all kinds legal and undocumented, and it's interesting, because I feel that there is no, the immigration hawks are still very mad about each one, be visas, which appears to be something that Trump is not very interested in. What do you think that that those positioning mechanisms
change. Now it's really interesting. We were actually just having a conversation week or two ago with a person who is very active in the criminal justice reform space and when we were talking about it, we basically said you know it's kind of understood that this is a smokescreen for Donald. He doesn't really care. If anything he's an old school like Toffania, I'm conservative and He has sort of his name to to recent first step, first Step act and like that, and what this person said is that you, yes, people in that, like activist space, understand the trump doesn't really a lot of the stuff that he's saying, but what it allows is for other Republicans to then say that, yes, they too are for criminal device. We don't all have to be Tom, cotton right and particularly at the state level. We You know now can can go to Republicans who never their allies in the states and say hey the President Trump supports this. Do you
and they'll, go. Oh god of course, present Trump supported. I support it. So it's me seeing the how near that, like the downstream effects of basically any pronouncement by Donald Trump on any policy, the Euro, the Republican Party so much now the Trump Party that, even when we all know that Trump doesn't actually believe it. If he says it, everyone is just going to is going to take at least four right B. Autocratic game show personality or has the occasional glimmer of light, a pleasant side effect? I guess we'll. It's also. I think a lot about this, especially with in relation to criminal justice reform, because I think that one of the big challenges of common justice reform is that Republican conservatives have historically through efforts like right on crime, and others have focused on
you are already in prison. Let's deal with sentencing reform and, let's deal with kind of, I think the Coke brothers have done a ton of work on this on, like let's train people after prison and criminal justice advocates advocates are probably more interested in the front end of that which and this is when I sound like a raging libertarian, but there need to be fewer crimes and the punishment for crimes need to be lessened, and it's been fascinating to see how this administration seems to simultaneously agree with me, but also disagree with me kind of depending on who it is that, like, if you're looking at the Department of Justice right exactly to what is coming out of Trump's mouth, which I think gets to, what
my last question is: is how much did you get a sense of something that I've observed, and this is it's shifting every day, but there has long been a separation between Donald Trump and Donald Trump, the entity and the Trump administration. You saw this on Russia, where Trump like Putin is awesome and the administration would be like. Let's put some more sanctions on this government or you see it even on criminal justice reform, where Trump has Kanye to the White House to talk about the first step, act and me, and Wild Jeff sessions at Department of Justice, like we should absolutely be resting more people in your seeing that from William BAR, essentially of like if communities protest against police Will- be those communities will lose their police, which is a shame, yeah
about all that violence wouldn't be terrible. Something else happens kind of moment. So how much did you see through reporting? How much do you see now? Is that separation still in existence, or are you starting to see a separation close and the Trump Administration and Trump fusing into? entity that divide is definitely endured in many real substance ways among them when you're talking about about subjects, criminal, criminal, justice or immigration, even because probably the most prominent and jarring example of it was certain heavily draconian immigration policies. That Trump was pumping out via his actual administration's policies. First and most in this category family separation policy will, when he started to see on his tv and elsewhere, the dramatic brutal push back He would immediately pawn it off on others saying this is not
I want to happen, it's all Obama's fault and were actually fighting to stop family separation, whereas all of his top lieutenants who had discuss this with him direct he knew exactly what was going on or saying have had at that point been saying for months, if not more than that This is absolutely necessary. Is the right thing to do and we need to do it so so much of this is rooted in as we were discussing about earlier that Trump as a what he would like to as a world class brander or whatever gets in his head. Okay, this is a message or bumper sticker slogan that sounds good. Family separation, bat endless war. Bad and just keep hammering away at it, because he- and he knows at least instinctively that especially low information voters, I got no difference if he said it and I support him in must be true. I support all the more so he can do things like say, I'm ending endless war bushes decision
Vader Iraq was most disastrous, murderous thing of my lifetime and, at the same time s doing things like escalating in Afghanistan. Yet all the while saying publicly I didn't want to do that. I never wanted to do that, but all these other people made me as if he didn't, as commander in chief had a say in the matter and that brings us to the brink of war with the Islamic Republic of IRAN. So there is again as we when we started taking this up, so we were talking about the difference between what is message in was actually happening in terms of substantive policy.
And you can't let trump off the hook for any of it. In a lot of members, the administration short of I mean it did not take long for people who are in charge, you don't say, like high level cabinet officials, to figure out how the president for the functions and how'd you get ahead or the opposite in his administration. Proudly. My favorite chapter in the book is the one about Scott prove it in his top communications age on Wilcox, and I love it because it we I mean. I just thought it was such a great insight into how from like how he operates How that reflects itself in the make up of his administration in ensuring that, like torrents of private scandals, when was like another one coming out every day, basically their strategy to keep him in office was just to get prude on tv talking about like how great tromp was never actually trumps agenda and, like the media was out to get him in it didn't really matter what was actually happening. That was extremely, I mean
prove it was arguably demo scandal, plague of any cabinet secretary cabinet level, official in trumps administration and that kept him in office flick, seven or eight months because they were totally right. They totally rasped. How the president operates in what he responds to, and would he responds to his not what's actually going on in the ground, is what he seen on tv I want to close by bringing up. I thought this is so telling, so you talk about the age to be programme. Yeah brings in temporary laborers to fill positions that the president has used
at resources, made servers, dishwashers, bartenders and landscapers, and he uses a company and the company. The person on the board is Veronica, Birkenstock she's, a ceo of practical employee solution, right and practical, employee solutions needed assistance from K Street Lobbying street, and so it goes through cove strategies and cove strategies. Their principal is match lap and his wife Mercedes clap. If you would like to detail who these two people are. Yes, so they are. I mean they're, basically like a the Trump era power couple so match lap as longtime lobbyist, an republican official. He worked on multiple presidential campaigns, and he now runs code strategies He also runs the American Conservative Union, which of course hosts E pack, conservative political action conference, and his wife Mercedes, is well until
only was a senior White House official. Now on the Trump President RE election campaign, and de I mean I think I have them figured out. Butts but every time I write something about them. They just like free, gout and basically You go back and I went back and looked through lobbying records for co strategies, mats, firm, and he had never actually reported, lobbying the White House Intel his wife joined White House, so you have like a guy with these paying clients, including season or the seasonal employment alliance. This Htv Trade Association and then you do. You have his wife foods. Are you a senior White House official and Bill Beazley, insist up and down, but those are totally unrelated jobs and, of course Mercedes would never use her position to to benefit her husband's lobbying business, but it's just like a very swampy relationship and, as a matter of fact, set off a lot of red flags in the White House and officials, I've talked to there senior folks
like I, don't know how they're they're allowed to get away with this at it. So interesting that it's all about the issue of each to be visas. Russia's bringing in immigrants to for a temporary stand United States to work specific jobs that, to quote many people, jobs. Americans won't do it so interesting as I think that that really shows in some ways that even immigration, which my colleague matter, Galicia, has made the point. That was the issue you, you could talk about political correctness, Sir endless war to something immigration was the the issue but immigration as elsewhere. Positioning mechanism. That, yes, Stephen Miller, cares a lot about immigration very a whole lot about immigration, but Donald Trump in his career has knows it's an effective positioning mechanism
that does not actually care about it and that ports, like hundreds of these, he works every year, and this is something that I'm sure Mark Krikorian and Michelle Malcon are very mad about as we speak, but it's interesting. So much of this is about positioning mechanisms in match lapse. Defense on this, though, that ACU, American Servive Union is actually revised the old by a lot of the anti immigration. Oh yes, they're having a they having their own see. Pack, the America first see back there with such stalwart, some conservatism as Nick went to show more good man. She really who now, when, when young Americans for freedom pushed her out, that was, I was a fascinating that that will think ass. They were that's for another part again and what
we're getting at earlier. I think, is actually the overarching thesis if there is one of our book that as much as the president and his lieutenants as a positioning mechanism have railed against the swamp since two thousand and fifteen and two thousand and sixteen and at least said even if it's just a complete outright lie that we're going to be fighting this form of legal corruption, that you're so sick of hearing about in Washington for Trump all he's done is lied about draining it kept the swamp. All the liberals and conservatives who were making a big old buck off the american people in american industry and in lobbying in Washington. They still exist and they're still doing great, but at the same time he has filled the swamp with his own trumpian, swamp creatures, who themselves or making a killing off of the era, and this presidency, and
the third layer or the second layer that he's put on top of all. That is this in your face over almost almost reality, tv trump in corruption that manifested itself most viscerally in the Hunter Biden and Joe Biden stuff and the Ukraine affair that led directly to Trump's impeachment so, there is no swamp that has been drained is only been filled, refilled and then filled once more by this president and it's one of the most pervasive lies that he has told his supporters. Since the very beginning, but you who's abandon him for that nobody who's currently all in for MAC, and on that note, Swin Lolin. Thank thank you. So much for Thank you.
Transcript generated on 2021-05-19.