Spotlight on Gun Bill and Insurrection Hearings

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This week’s bipartisan hearings on the January 6 insurrection coincided with the preliminary announcement on a bipartisan gun bill in the Senate. We take a look at what led to this cross-party cooperation – in Congress and in public opinion – by inviting in a US political historian and a Trump official who blew the whistle on the former president’s support of domestic terrorism. Are we making progress or papering over our problems, and what does history tell us is about to happen?

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Andy Slavitt, Julian Zelizer, Kyle, Elizabeth Neumann

Andy Slavitt 

Welcome IN THE BUBBLE. This is your host, Andy Slavitt. It is now Friday, June 17th, 2022. So many things we’ve been talking about here on the show in the last few episodes are in the news this week, interest rates were taken up by the Federal Reserve by three quarters of a percentage point, resulting in more financial fallout. Everything from mortgage rates and credit card rates are going up, the stock market’s dropping. On the other hand, the FDA advisors finally gave the go ahead to Pfizer and Moderna’s vaccines for kids zero to five, talked to a bunch of moms this morning about that. More to come there. And, of course, we finished now our second week of January 6th hearings. Meanwhile, behind it all senators reached a bipartisan agreement on gun safety legislation, or so it appears. So a lot of action, a lot of activity, we’re gonna get to all of it. But today, we’re really gonna focus on unpacking the last two big topics, the Senate’s bipartisan gun package, and the House Select Committee’s investigation into the January 6, insurrection.

Andy Slavitt 

So that’s just a few days of testimony. And we’ve got more to come. I’m joined by two great guests, who have been watching the news closely and could help us interpret it, including someone who has been very much a part of this news. Julian Zelizer is a professor of history in Public Affairs at Princeton University. I think I know Princeton University, and a CNN political analyst. Welcome to the show, Julian.

Julian Zelizer

Thanks for having me.

Andy Slavitt 

And very excited to have Elizabeth Newman. Elizabeth, currently the Chief Strategy Officer at a very interesting startup called Moonshot that works to counter violent extremism. But she’s also former assistant secretary for counterterrorism and threat prevention under President Trump. She resigned from that role in 2020. Warning that the administration was paving the way for domestic terrorism. And she has been very outspoken since then. Thank you for joining, Elizabeth.

Elizabeth Neumann

It’s my pleasure, Andy, thanks for having me.

Andy Slavitt 

Okay, Julian, what a week we’ve had. Let’s begin with the hearings. You know, hearing Americans I think are getting to see a step-by-step look at what happened leading up to, and on January 6th, summarize what we’ve heard for those who haven’t been watching that closely. And for those who have been watching, and paying attention, what new is coming to light that strikes you?

Julian Zelizer

Well, I mean, we’re having these hearings where the overall narrative is known to many people. A lot of this happened in broad daylight, the former president’s comments about the election, and the whole effort was literally in front of our eyes. But I think two things have emerged so far. One, the number of administration officials who were quite aware and even saying privately, that the election was lost, that Biden won the election, that the allegations of fraud were not based on anything. We even heard the former Attorney General, say this at one moment in the hearings where he laughs out loud, when asked about a film, that’s out now, that’s trying to promote this whole idea. So we’re gaining clarity of just how much knowledge there was about what was going on. It wasn’t as if everyone was in on the effort or believed what the former president had to say. And second, how many private conversations there were and efforts to stop and this on Fridays hearings was just being discussed, to stop an effort to overturn the results. That’s how it was being discussed. And the idea that one person such as the vice president could overturn the will of the voters, was the issue on the table. So in terms of intentionality, in terms of the deliberateness about what was taking place with some of Trump’s advisors I think the hearings have really brought that front and center.

Andy Slavitt 

It’s interesting. I think we have a tendency to think that the events that are happening in our lifetime are special and unique. And certainly it felt that way for a while recently. But I’m wondering if as a historian, you can give us some perspective, some context. You know, that obviously, this evokes a number of different potential hearings. The Watergate hearings, the McCarthy hearings in the 50s, Iran-Contra hearings in 1987. I wonder if you could give us a sense of how unusual is what occurred on January 6, relative to those other events? And what can we learn from how those other hearings went down? Will they be dismissed but as a partisan? Is this a fair and objective investigation? Give us a sense on our 250 year old democracy, what are we dealing with? And what can we expect to happen based on what you’ve seen in those other hearings?

Julian Zelizer  06:02

Well, those are two different questions. In terms of the events themselves, I think we don’t have many examples of a deliberate effort to overturn the election, led by the administration, it’s not something you can tell many stories about, and we’re learning how extensive this was. So, some would say even compared to Watergate, the magnitude of the scandal at hand right now is much greater. This isn’t just about a few dirty tricks and a break in during a campaign. It’s not simply about an effort to obstruct justice, as was the case with President Nixon. But we’re talking about a full throated effort to stop what the voters have voted for. So we don’t have cases like this. We have, you know, some people point, for example, to the Jim Crow era, where you have laws put on the books in the South that were meant to dampen the ability of voters to exercise the right to vote. But in terms of a presidential effort, this is pretty unique moment, in terms of the hearings, I don’t know, look, people are of different opinions. It’s hard to imagine these hearings having the impact that the Watergate hearings of 73′ had where they actually influenced public opinion, and kind of shifted the political dialogue away from Nixon, it might be more like Iran-Contra, which also happened while Reagan was in office, in contrast to today, where Trump is no longer in office, where you had hearings, you had a lot of findings, but nothing really changed politically, as a result of it. And given our current polarized era and the way media works and social media works. My guess is this will not be another Watergate style hearing, even if the findings are that dramatic and important on their own. I’m not sure the political winds will shift as a result of this.

Andy Slavitt

Elizabeth, Julian talks about kind of the role the president played in sparking this sort of insurrection fever, I want to play a clip from the hearing, in which some of the insurrectionists are talking about how Trump inspired them to come to the Capitol. So, Elizabeth, when you resigned from the Department of Homeland Security, the Trump administration, you mentioned that you felt like the president at the time was throwing fuel on the fire of domestic extremism? Was this the fire you anticipated?

Elizabeth Neumann  09:16

I testified in February of 2020. That I felt like we were on the precipice of another 9/11, that it wouldn’t necessarily be of the scale and the loss of life of 9/11, but that we were missing, that something big was underfoot. I did not think it was going to be January 6th, which, you know, the experts will tell you is less of a traditional domestic violent extremist movement and more of a mass political violence movement.

Andy Slavitt 

Could you explain the difference between those two things? Yeah.

Elizabeth Neumann

Yeah. So, I’ve been in counterterrorism since just after 911 Some most of the focus of counterterrorism understanding of groups and movements, it really is about organized, violent extremist, Al Qaeda, ISIS. Even if you go back to the 80s, in the 90s, the White supremacist movements, they were, they had a strategy of being decentralized. But there was still an organization to it. And they had group names, and they had hierarchies. And they had propaganda that they intentionally spread. But a lot of the domestic extremist in the country today, you would classify more as a movement more as a not necessarily an organized group. But an increasingly and this started during my tenure, and it has gone wildfire, increasingly, it is really hard to peg, who an individual belongs to because their ideology is increasingly atomized or personalized. It’s like choose your own violent extremist ideology. So pull a little bit of eco-fascism and a little bit of White supremacy and a little bit of anti-government extremism and formed their own identity around the bottom line around it is that it’s extremist and I tend to like JM Burgess definition of extremism, which is, you believe that some outgroup poses a threat to you, the us. And that threat poses a risk to your group’s survival or your success, and therefore hostile action is necessary. We increasingly as a country, our politics is acting from that framework of the other group, the others, those other people out there, they’re posing a threat to my way of life. And the question is, do you think hostile action is necessary? Well, Donald Trump told them, yes, hostile action is necessary. Come on January 6th.

Andy Slavitt  12:09

Do you think Elizabeth, that Trump was just sort of playing with fire? Kind of just stoking the fires and seeing what happened? Or do you think there was something even more significant behind what Trump was trying to do, that he was hoping that there would be the kinds of rhetoric around the news and hanging the Vice-President and that he was really after something far more nefarious than just sort of his sort of flirtation?

Elizabeth Neumann  12:37

I don’t know that Donald Trump’s at planner, I don’t think at the early stages of0 the 2020 campaign, he was thinking, I need to so undermine the election and to sow seeds of doubt, in order to call a mob together on January 6th, I don’t think he’s thinking that in March 2020, but I think he knows enough in March 2020, when he starts to campaign and COVID has hit, and he’s not doing as great in the polls, the economy’s tanking, his advisors are saying it’s gonna be really hard for you to win, you start to see him campaign on this idea that if he loses, it’s because of fraud. There is no way that Joe Biden could beat me. And we joked internally, I was still in government for bit of this and that really kind of came into its own campaign rhetoric in the summer, and I was gone by them. But I was talking to the people working on disinformation. And we were like, well, 2016, that was the Russians and their troll farms. And now it’s coming from inside the house, the Russians don’t even have to plan it, they just amplify it. And they add to it. So, he absolutely was laying groundwork. He absolutely was a sense that he knew that he could end up in a situation where he might lose, and that he might need that stage set so that he could try to find some alternative ways to hold on to power. I don’t think he predicted January 6th, until you end up with guys like John Eastman showing up and saying, Hey, I have a legal theory for us. I think that he heavily relied on the other folks in that orbit that increasingly small, small group of people that he would listen to, because his intent was to maintain power, whatever is possible. And we now have testimony that like he was enjoying the chaos. He was enjoying the violence of January 6th, as he was watching it happen.

Andy Slavitt  14:36

When we come back from the break, let’s talk about what we think these hearings can actually accomplish and can actually change. Okay, so what you guys have laid out and I think what we’re witnessing is a pretty systematic, and as I think you both said, relatively speaking, unprecedented effort to overturn the election, the lawful election. So, Julian, the committee can’t actually charge anyone with a crime. So what are their objectives for this hearing?

Julian Zelizer 

And this has been the question from before the hearing started, the main responsibility is to produce the information and conduct the oversight. And I don’t think that’s insignificant, we talk about, will there be prosecutions, will it affect politics, all of which matter, but at some level, what Congress needs to do, regardless of the outcome is to put the information in front of the nation and let others then make the decision of who will be held accountable and how, and the committee is doing that. And it is a bipartisan committee, even though it’s being called otherwise. And I think that responsibility thus far is being filled. I don’t know if the Department of Justice, what they’re going to do. I mean, I do think from what we’re hearing, the Attorney General is very reluctant to take on a former president and that’s a controversial position. I think his fear is what does this set as a precedent and what might unfold from doing this. And politically, we live in a political environment. We’ve seen this, we live through COVID. And it did almost nothing to the politics.

Andy Slavitt  16:36

I think, you know, Garland’s first calculation, there’s got to be, if I go through all this, and it’s not successful, and it’s another, it looks like another witch hunt, which the Comey pieces were all you could be portrayed as, then, you know, you both take on a difficult precedent and you fail. So let’s just start with Is there likely to be a successful case here,  from what you see?

Julian Zelizer 

I’m not a lawyer. So, I don’t know if Elizabeth has more, it seems from a historian or layman’s person. This is pretty damning. I don’t know legally, constitutionally, there’s no way to look at a president with his inner circle trying to overturn an election he lost as not something the Department of Justice should not be inordinately concerned about. And that person might run again, he might be announcing very soon in fact, that he’s going to be on the ticket in terms of criminality, I’d have to defer to others of how strong how strong the case is, and whether it’s strong enough for Garland to proceed.

Andy Slavitt  17:43

Well, there was a point in the first day, and I think we’ll hear more of this. When co-chair, Cheney described that they had gotten consultation from a judge that there were at least two criminal charges that could be filed against Trump. So she’s planting that seed. We’ll talk about some other things that might be accomplished here. And Elizabeth, I want to do that I want to play from another clip from actually from Liz Cheney, with what she had to say. So she clearly seems to be trying to shame Leader McCarthy among others who have and it should be noted, we’re in felt the grave danger, tried to stop the great danger, pointed the finger directly at Trump and have it to the way she’s put it swept under the rug. So, I think there’s this sense that could these hearings, change hardened positions. And I don’t just mean politicians, but people who identify as Republican do identify perhaps as Trump supporters and live in communities where they might view this as political theater. What do you think Elizabeth? You know, you’re a Republican, you voted Republican, you agreed to serve somewhat reluctantly, the Trump administration. But you saw enough to say political identity be damned. That’s a hard thing to do. Do you think these hearings can accomplish that?

Elizabeth Neumann 

It is a hard thing to do and I actually don’t consider myself a Republican anymore, in part because of who the bulk of the party is. I understand why Liz Cheney still holds on to that label and is fighting a noble fight to try to recover the Republican Party. But the rot is pretty deep. And I think that this is a generational problem on our hands, the Trump administration. And there are several minions involved Steve Bannon and other types laid the groundwork for this moment, a decade ago. And most Republicans, people that will vote Republican or call themselves Republicans are not at all aware of it, they are not at all, what I would consider radicalized or extreme MAGA, most people are busy trying to take care of their kids or their grandkids and bring home food for the table and live good lives. And many of them have disconnected from political discourse, because in the last two years, it’s just too much between fights over masks and fights over vaccines and a polarized election, and you don’t know who to believe it’s just best to step away, like I don’t want to lose my family members over fighting over this, I’m not going to engage. So, I do think there is an opportunity for the fact based hearing, to start to break through to some of those people that have taken a step back. And maybe they’ve had time and space to open have that cognitive opening of realizing I might have made some assumptions that were not correct, and be a little bit more open to the fact that the election might not have been stolen. That would be, even if you can move a couple of percentage points that would be significant when it comes to a 2024 election, and the fact that Trump wants to run again, from a national security perspective, my worst nightmare is for him to be president again. It’s not because he’s a vile person that doesn’t respect the rule of law, like he, I personally believe he will put our country in danger because of his inability to function like a normal, responsible adult functions like that does have national security implications when you’re that incompetent, and that out of control. So for me the best case scenario, can you move those potentially persuadable few percentage points, enough so that they will not re-elect him in the primary. And then, you know, worst case scenario, if he does get nominated in the primary that they don’t vote for him in the general.

Andy Slavitt  22:51

There’s something that I think people get a little bit wrong when they think about this, which is that they are hoping Republicans will observe things like this, and then become Democrats. And I think that’s the wrong framework. And the wrong way to think about this. Because I think what we’re talking about is, are there people that deeply believe in maybe some of the kinds of policies that they believe Trump supports, but can watch this and say, you know, what, enough is enough. And I can’t support something like this. And this crosses a very, very big line. And I think it’s too much to ask for someone who is, you know, I liken it to you know, you grew up Catholic for 35 years, and you saw a priest do something that was inexcusable. And you know, what, I’m not going to be Catholic any longer. Yeah, sure, that happens. But it also so happens to people. So you know, and I’m, you know, this is still who I am. I’m not necessarily going to go fall in love with Hillary Clinton, or Joe Biden or Pete Buttigieg, or […]. But that’s I don’t think that’s the proper ask. The proper question is, are there people that, you know, sitting around in communities that are largely Republican red states going, you know, what, this is too much. And are you seeing that in the circles of people that, you know, Elizabeth?

Elizabeth Neumann  24:11

I’ll just use my family as an example. I have family members that are in that, like, I’ve checked out, it’s too much category, but they’ll see the headlines coming out of the hearing, and they’re like, oh, I didn’t know that. Oh, $250 million raised like, that’s a lot of money. What did they do with that money? So it’s just injecting a little bit of questioning and doubt into their, the whatever they walked away with, but when they disconnected in that January, February timeframe, they had some sort of narrative that they thought was true. They’ve been kind of away from it. And now it’s kind of back in that network news headline, or maybe they’re following some sort of, you know, social media feed, and they’re starting to see these questions raised, and it inserts doubt enough to where they’re like, you know what? I don’t know the truth. I don’t know the truth here. Like there’s too much, I don’t trust the mainstream media, I don’t trust the hill for whatever reason. But this is really messed up. I don’t want this guy; we need to move on. That’s winning in my mind, because he was just so dangerous for our country. It’s not about let the historians I think it’s super important what they’re doing for historical record purposes. That’s really important. There are also some structural fixes that we need to make sure get implemented in our government. So there’s a lot of other value for this committee to do what it’s doing. But if we’re just looking at does it change minds, hearts and minds? Probably not dramatically, but I hope enough to where they just one another option when it comes to 2024.

Andy Slavitt

Okay, one final question on this topic that I want to move on. You have a kind of real time Litmus test, Rorschach test, if you will, as to how the country is reacting in the midterm elections? What are we observing about what’s happening to the Republicans who voted to impeach Trump or who’ve been outspoken against Trump. And what do they tell us about that sort of question that Elizabeth was just talking about that are, is there some movement in the Republican electorate?

Julian Zelizer  26:32

It might be movement in the wrong way. I mean, I think Elizabeth has an optimistic take. There’s ways to read what we already know that the Republicans who stood their ground have either lost, they’ve been marginalized. And I mean, Liz Cheney isn’t even being considered a Republican, by Republicans. It’s being called a partisan hearing. And I don’t think that’s just political theater. I think a lot of younger Republicans feel that way, which is kind of astounding. She’s very conservative, in terms of her policies, and then you have people running on election denialism in many states like the Pennsylvania gubernatorial race, where you have someone involved in what the hearings are about who’s won the nomination and doing well. So I don’t think the midterms so far, we’ll see when the midterms half and indicate as a whole, that it’s really changing the way the Republican party positions itself. In fact, just the opposite that many in the GOP are digging in, on this claim, even if they’re distancing themselves from Trump, personally Trumpism, as it’s called, now has a deep hold on the party. And I think that’s going to continue right through Election Day. The point that you raised that’s good is if there’s kind of marginal changes, and in some races, if it makes an impact in diminishing the vote, or shifting who gets supporting the primary, but if you voted for impeachment, you’re Republican, you’re not sitting pretty right now.

Andy Slavitt  28:05

All right, well, we come back, we’re gonna take on the next big issue of the week. And that’s a potential bipartisan deal on guns. All right, turning to our next topic. It is possible that we may have a deal from a bipartisan group of senators who recently unveiled a framework on gun legislation. It includes funding, it seems like optional funding for states to implement red flag laws, investments in mental health and hardening of schools, addressing the so called boyfriend loophole. Julian, can you summarize a bit about what the Senate is agreed to do here?

Julian Zelizer 

Yeah. It’s an agreement. It’s tightening the background laws. Essentially, Chad has seen some of the bigger reforms that have been on the table, such as bans on assault weapons, or even some of the more stringent regulations. It’s good in that it’s a bipartisan agreement if it gets through the Senate. That’s good news. Any vote is good. And the argument is, don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good. And it’s a first step. It’s like, in 1957, Lyndon Johnson, a Senate Majority Leader, got southerners to let a watered down civil rights bill get through the Senate and he said it’s not a great bill, but at least something have gotten through and it will be the basis for something bigger. The criticism is after all the shootings we have lived through after so many children being killed. That this is what we get. So even if it’s bipartisan, and even if it’s something better than nothing, it raises questions about how much further can we get, we couldn’t even lower the age or increase the age for assault weapons that says a lot after living through the last round of shootings that I think have left most Americans just shaking their head with trauma.

Andy Slavitt  30:22

Elizabeth is sort of both a national security perspective and kind of where you sit, where you’ve been focused on domestic violent extremism. What do you make of the proposed package from senators, does this gives you some sense of optimism, that we’re heading in the direction where we can prevent gun violence?

Elizabeth Neumann 

So, I will start with where Julian left off. But type two extremism, one of the reasons we are seeing increases and people move into that extremist thought necessarily, not necessarily violent action. But that thought, it is because there is no trust in our institutions, there’s a belief that the government is inherently broken. So, anytime we can actually see government do its job, even if it’s not perfect. That is a small step, we need a whole lot more small steps, but it’s a small step to trying to de-escalate some of the grievance and the conversation that is fueling extremism. So it’s helpful in that sense. But there’s also a very practical application when you look at why people radicalize, it tends to not be about the ideology, ideology plays a role, an important role, but it’s usually other underlying factors in an individual’s life that made them susceptible to that ideology. When you and we’ve been studying this now for 20 years, right? And the researchers have started to kind of coalesce around there are, it’s complex, people are, human beings are complex. But there are some basic things. It’s a search for belonging and significance. It’s a trying to make sense out of a very uncertain world, especially if you’ve had some sort of things happen in your life that are unfair, or just very difficult events. A former neo-Nazi Christian Picciolini calls him potholes in life, we all have potholes in life. But some people don’t have the resilience factors in their life to be able to deal with those potholes. And an extremist can take advantage of that, they sewed this narrative in an ideology of here’s how to solve your problem, and that some small portion in-depth radicalized, here’s where I like, what’s in this bill, this bill finds mental health. Now, I do not think that most in fact, the data shows us most people that go and commit terrorism and mass attacks, they are not mentally ill. It’s very important. But if we could intervene with people earlier, before they are radicalized, or while they’re dabbling with some of this ideology, through social services, through mental health professionals, we have the chance to offering them and offer them a better option to deal with their grievance. So mental health is extremely important in solving the prevention problem that are the extremist problem and the violence problem we have in our country. It is not the only solution, right? Like, this is a complex systemic problem. It requires a complex systemic solution. But, funding for mental health, getting that properly addressed is a huge step in the right direction. So when I saw that as part of the package deal, I know there’s criticism around that, because the Republicans like to just have a talking point that it’s, you know, it’s just mentally ill people, it’s not the guns, you know, take the talking points out of it. Having a better mental health care system in this country would help all of us on any number of fronts. So let’s do it.

Andy Slavitt  34:03

My criticism of Republicans in this talk about mental health is that they’ve been pointing to mental health as a problem, and they’ve never been willing to fund it. So, you know, let’s walk our talk. Let’s, you know, we care about children. Let’s prove it, because the one way Congress shows what it believes that it cares is to put dollars in with funding. And I’m wondering kind of Julian maybe got a perspective on this. Is it so shallow? That it goes to the point of being a messaging bill and allows people to check the box? Or is there enough substance here that you think it really can be built on and make a difference? In other words, just progress begets progress, or does a certain kind of progress is so shallow, that people will be able to criticize it and say, you know, nothing’s going to change and in fact, to be able to point to and say, see, we did this and nothing changed.

Julian Zelizer 

Yeah, I mean, that’s a tough question to answer, I still think it’s better historically to get something on the books. And to start from that, as opposed to the alternative right now, given the composition of Congress is nothing. So, if you have to choose, I think it’s getting this, having, you know, tough analysis about the limits of it, and being sure that it’s clear, this is not enough. I mean, we do have a gun problem in the country. And, and it’s, I think, still hard for many people, even, you know, who are fine with hunters hunting, why do we need AR fifteens all over the place. But I think taking this away wouldn’t necessarily improve the politics for those who want to impose stricter controls. And it does create some kind of basis now for going for more. So that’s my take on it. Not perfect, but that’s how I see it.

Andy Slavitt

Yeah, I think you make an interesting point. modeling that there are some even if they’re low common denominator, consensus points with here, you know, it feels like the be able to have a dialogue, which says that there are points, a basis points we can agree with, could be get further dialogue. Let us hope so. Well, on these episodes, I just want to close with a conversation with what we tried to do here, which is to say, as hard as our problems are, and they’re hard, and as many as our problems are, there are solutions, and there are ways forward. And you know, these are these are big, needy challenges that we’ve talked about today. And I’m curious if you could both comment on your sense of what we think we as citizens can be doing to make progress and make these events matter. Whether there’s school shootings, whether it’s an attack in our own government by with some row from our former president. How do we constructively respond as a nation and Elizabeth askew to go first, you’re someone who has watched your talk, you’ve shown a very brave thing you’ve done. I think people say all the time, well, why don’t people just quit, if they don’t let believe in what they say, I’ve been in government. It’s not so easy. It takes a lot of courage, particularly when Trump has kind of rabid supporters that he does help us use that as an inspiration to guide what people ought to be doing to improve our country.

Elizabeth Neumann 

My plea would be, is if you have somebody in your life that you’re concerned about isn’t doing well. They have a grievance, they’re angry, they might be spending a lot of time online, because we know that’s where radicalization takes place. We saw that in particular out of Buffalo, if you have somebody like that in your life, and you have that check in your gut that something’s not right, please say something. If you have the ability to get them help get them help. If you don’t, if you’re in a role that you can’t force somebody to go talk to someone, please call the police. I hope that in the future, there’s other ways, other places you could call to get help. But the data tells us that bystanders by and large, like 80% or 90% of mass attacks, somebody knew that it was going to happen. And while it is going to take a long time for these measures to hopefully they pass and hopefully they get implemented. But it’s going to take a long time for that to take effect. Every one of us if we see something can say something, and it takes courage to do that, especially if it’s a loved one. But get them help, don’t turn a blind eye, you might help us stop the next attack. And let’s be clear, there will be more, it is going to be a devastating summer. So let’s not grow numb to this, let’s stand up and say, this is not how we want to live as a society and that and that leads me to my second ask. We have to learn how to start listening to people we disagree with. And we have to practice kindness in a way that we have really become very poor at, our politicians are bad at it. The people, they get platformed, it is not because they’re kind it’s because they have the best cut at somebody that has a strong trickledown effect and it is leading to the violence that we are seeing. So just because you were unkind to the person in the grocery store does not mean that you’re complicit in the next mass shooting, but believe it or not, you are, you’re contributing to this angry environment that we’re operating in. And if we could all do what we need to do to take care of ourselves have, you know, from a mental health standpoint, you know, always encourage that, but do what you need to do. So that when you’re engaging with the outside world, especially people with whom you disagree, be kind that actually has an impact. And I know it sounds very trite, but that is kind of where we are, as a society, we’ve basically have lost that basic ability to be decent to one another. And to respect one another. Even if we disagree,

Andy Slavitt  40:43

Elizabeth, I’m basically ready to vote for you for office and strongly encourage you to run.

Elizabeth Neumann 

I’m very busy at the moment.

Andy Slavitt 

You’re laughing, but I really hope you think about it seriously. It’s one of the themes of one of our shows we had recently, Julian, other than perhaps co-managing Elizabeth campaign with me. Where would you leave us?

Julian Zelizer 

Reform. I mean, I think voters really need to keep the pressure up on politicians. And one of the things these hearings are showing, how many vulnerabilities there are in our electoral system that we never really paid attention to. And under the wrong hands, they can be used in bad ways. And there are reforms being discussed to the electoral Count Act, which have bipartisan support, or they did a few weeks ago, and I think voters, you know, democracy can work, put pressure on senators, on members to fix this system. So there’s fewer loopholes, fewer ways around the will of the voter. And hopefully next time around whoever’s running whoever’s in power, the system will be stronger than they are, which is exactly what we want in our democracy.

Andy Slavitt

Well, I hear to both of you, you know, I feel like I’m hearing to people who liked me love our country, wanted to only be better. And if you love your country, you’re willing to take on our things and make it better. And if there’s anything we need to learn from this, it’s we got to make it bigger than any one person than any one person who wants to turn over the applecart. Thank you both for your contributions for being in the bubble. Okay, let’s turn to some of the other things that have been going on this week. We’ve had a lot of reaction from listeners, based on what’s been going on and what we should probably give some updates on what’s going on, relative to some of the economic news, the vaccine news. Here to join me is our senior producer Kyle Seeley, who has been monitoring your comments and feedback. Hey, Kyle.

Kyle  42:48

Hey, Andy. Thanks for having me back. I want to remind people to always drop us a line, If you have a comment. A lot of reaction on Monday show Larry Summers, former Treasury Secretary, he was talking to you about inflation, and what it was going to mean for the economy. We saw the interest rate hike with the Fed this week. And people want to know what you think, this is going to mean for them their pocketbooks and going forward.

Andy Slavitt 

Yeah, pretty interesting. You know, I think summers had projected as many had that we’d see a half a point increase in the federal funds rate. And as a reminder, you know, that’s the principal lever that the Federal Reserve has to slow down the economy and bring inflation in check. Unfortunately, what it does, is it also shocks economy it’s a little bit like paddleboarding, you know, someone’s chest when they’ve had a heart attack, I think the principal thing, they go back to, you remember when we had Michelle Singletary on the show, talking about kind of how real people are impacted by the economy?


Yes, I do. It was a great show.

Andy Slavitt 

She was great. And you know, one of the things she reminds me of is, look, there’s a lot of us that can watch the stock market go down by 600 points, and go, Oh, my God, this is like a bad roller coaster ride. But there are also a lot of people who, you know, a slight change in interest rates means that their credit card payments are going up, your mortgage rates are now getting closer and closer to 6%. You know, that takes a big bite out of people. So, you know, I’m always a proponent, and I think Summers was a well of look, stay calm, you know, anticipate this, this is going to happen, you know, some of this stuff is cyclical. The other thing that’s interesting is, you know, Summers has made it made the comment that he doesn’t think gas prices are gonna go down anytime soon. He thinks we’ll see gas prices like this kind of going into next year. And so between higher gas prices, higher interest rates, higher food prices, that’s a lot of stress on the average American family. And so, look, if you’re listening to this, like I am and you’re in a position where you know, this is scary and it’s still fun, but it’s, you know, fundamentally not going to change the major choices of your life to still be able to live in your home. and your kids will still be going to school, then I think it’s really important, we focus on the effect on people to whom this is just enough to kick them over the edge in job loss, and I think the rest of it will come back when stock markets go down, stock markets go up, interest rates go down, interest rates go up. But I worry about the people who read the margin. Yeah, it’s


Yeah, it’s gonna be a thing to watch. We’ll be here to cover it. I’m sure you’ll be talking about it all summer and through the election season. And then Wednesday, of course, the big VRBPAC meeting that we were anticipating, and the authorization for Vaccines for Children five, and under big news for parents out there a lot of celebration. For people that have been worried about that situation, and any surprises for you coming out of the FDA meeting? And what do people need to know what’s gonna be happening next?

Andy Slavitt 

You know, everything that happens gets the next set of questions. So I think we’ve been waiting for so long for this to happen. And I had a conversation this week with a great set of moms who’ve been focused on this. And they were like, what do we do now? And you know, there’s some things we probably ought to be covered on the show. One is just a general erosion in some of the laws around vaccines for kids related to things like MMR and making it more difficult for kids to get vaccinated in school. I think that’s a very important point. But there’s a set of questions parents have and I think, like, for example, Pfizer and Moderna both have vaccines that will be available for kids beginning next week, which one should I take, and there’s some differences their studies were a bit different, the side effect profile was slightly different, the level of confidence is slightly different. And, you know, I think I’d say the following First of all, take either, because either is way better than none. And the differences are pretty incremental. But if I had a kid that was under five, I probably go with Moderna. It’s a two dose vaccine, there’s a little bit more evidence, the differences are kind of on the margin. But you know, the really interesting thing we learned Kyle, is that two doses of Pfizer did absolutely nothing. And that’s one of the reasons why things got so stalled in January, is when they got the data from the first two, I think they freaked out. so it took a third dose from Pfizer, where’s the Moderna gets the job done and to and you know, I don’t know, sticking your baby or your toddler with a needle, you probably want it, you know, two times probably better than three.


I agree. I grew up with a healthy fear of needles. So getting me in their third time would have been a miserable experience for my mom. All right, Andy. Well, I’ve got you here. I want to talk just a little bit about today’s show. And what’s coming up. I think that I really enjoyed this conversation. I’m glad we got to do this today. And I know that when we’re covering two stories, we really went deep on these, but I know you want to go even deeper on both the insurrection and gun legislation and what we’re going to do about these issues. So how are we going to do that? What uh, what do we got coming up?

Andy Slavitt  48:00

Yeah, I thought they were great, too. I mean, I honestly think it was going through my head. And I said at the end of the show, which remember, we did a show a few weeks back on if you want to see a change, you got to run for office, and how there’s not enough women who want who want to run for office? Well, I sat there listening to Elizabeth, particularly what she had to say at the end, when she talked about just common decency and kindness, and kind of even a degree of empathy for people who are getting radicalized. And some of the answers were, she made an awful lot of sense. And so, look, II hope she runs, runs for office. I think both guests did a great job of giving us good perspective. You guys do a great job getting great guests to the show. But I think we got to take it up a notch even further next week. We’re talking about guns and shootings. I think it’s almost nobody I’d rather have on than Beto O’Rourke. And so we’re going to have Beto on Monday, and that we’re gonna talk about, you know, what he experienced in Uvalde, what he thinks of the gun legislation, where he thinks things need to go. And he’s right there, obviously in the political arena. And then we have a show coming up on the January 6th hearings with I think probably as good a guest you could hope for, Dan Pfeiffer, who many of you may know, he does this Pod Save America podcast. He is been doing research and writing a book on the January 6th insurrection and the Big Lie. So we’re gonna go even deeper with him on that. And as we’ve talked about earlier, we’ve got a number of other great shows coming up. Show favorite Michael […] coming up on the show. And I think we’ll just follow these stories where they go. In fact, I’m not we’re not gonna file these stories where they go, we’re gonna lead and get out in front of these stories. So we could just continue to help people make sense of these things. And see around corners. I think that’s what you and Jackie and Catherine, who are the production team here. Help us stay in front of site. I know I appreciate it. Having you on the show gives me a chance to thank you and the team for getting these great shows. together.

Kyle  50:00

Well, Andy, it’s really great to be here with you. And we love the show and it’s been so much fun working on it these last few months. And yeah, I hope people enjoy listening and of course, rate and review it right. That’s what we got to tell people if you like it, tell your friends and get them to listen, rated on Apple and Spotify. All of that helps get the message out and spread this information. And Andy would both greatly appreciate it. Right. Andy?

Andy Slavitt 

Absolutely. Will talk to you on Monday.


Thanks for listening to IN THE BUBBLE. We’re a production of Lemonada Media. Kathryn Barnes, Jackie Harris and Kyle Shiely produced our show, and they’re great. Our mix is by Noah Smith and James Barber, and they’re great, too. Steve Nelson is the vice president of the weekly content, and he’s okay, too. And of course, the ultimate bosses, Jessica Cordova Kramer and Stephanie Wittels Wachs, they executive produced the show, we love them dearly. Our theme was composed by Dan Molad and Oliver Hill, with additional music by Ivan Kuraev. You can find out more about our show on social media at @LemonadaMedia where you’ll also get the transcript of the show. And you can find me at @ASlavitt on Twitter. If you like what you heard today, why don’t you tell your friends to listen as well, and get them to write a review. Thanks so much, talk to you next time.

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