The GOP: Grand Old Pandemic

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As the Republican National Convention kicks off today, it’s time to take a look at what a Trump re-election might look like with longtime political commentator Bill Kristol. They discuss how the President’s handling of the pandemic will play out in the campaign, if the party is forever changed by his presidency and why Bill thinks the margin of victory  matters almost as much as who wins. Plus, a frank discussion of race and racism in Trump’s Republican party.

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[00:42] Andy Slavitt: Welcome to In the Bubble. This is Andy Slavitt. On the show today, we are focusing on the Republicans with a really great guest, Bill Kristol. Bill is editor-at-large at The Bulwark. He is the founder of The Weekly Standard. Former chief of staff to Education Secretary William Bennett in the Reagan administration. And he was the chief of staff to Dan Quayle in the George H.W. Bush administration. Remember those days? He is also the founding director of something called Defending Democracy Together. Bill and I get really into it on Republican Party politics, and it’s actually quite interesting and quite fun. I start him off with the most challenging question of all. So let’s ring Bill up. 


[01:38] Andy Slavitt: So last week, everybody was treated to the Biden/Harris show, and all the fabulous things Democrats claim they will do if they win, and how they’ll take over managing the pandemic. What about the other scenario? Paint a little picture for us, Bill, about what happens if Trump wins? 


[02:00] Bill Kristol: Yeah, I hadn’t thought too much about that since I don’t want it to happen. And don’t expect it to happen, really. But obviously, one could be surprised. I mean, presidents don’t usually win when the economy has crashed and when there’s a pandemic sweeping across the nation. So it’s a little hard to actually think through, well, what does it look like with a reelected president in this circumstance? I mean, reelection is a vindication, you know, and all of us, critics of Trump will be viewed as discredited. Certainly he will have the political momentum. Obviously, if Trump wins, Republicans will continue to hold the Senate at that point, pick up a few House seats. I think we shouldn’t underestimate how much of a vindication and ratification of his policies it will be. So I think he will go full-ahead in not paying much attention to public health experts. And reopening and treating the virus is just a kind of fact of life and hoping things get better. I mean, I assume that ultimately they would get better anyway just because of science and the vaccine and so forth. But I think in general, the degree to which everything some of us don’t like about a Trump presidency, whether it’s ignoring scientists or scorning the rule of law or a certain type of demagogic and divisive politics, we’ll get that in spades. He will double down if he wins reelection.


[03:25] Andy Slavitt: He feels a sense of momentum and vindication. And of course, he’s not accountable to the voters any longer in that scenario.


[03:33] Bill Kristol: Right. And the Republican Party, I would just say — one of the worst things from my point of view as a Republican, or sort of former Republican, sort of still Republican who knows? But I mean, Trump couldn’t be doing a lot of what he’s doing if he didn’t have an incredibly compliant Republican Party, intimidated Republican Party, whatever you want to call it. Rationalizing and enabling the Republican Party, going along with him. Not always helping him, but certainly not stopping him. Think what it’ll be like if he wins. I mean, at the federal level, there is no opposition to speak of anyway, but there certainly won’t be if he wins reelection, at least not for a while. So the degree to which he will control the executive branch, everything he’s doing in terms of putting people in jobs without getting Senate confirmation, ordering people to do things that are borderline illegal, or in some cases really are illegal. The politicization of everything, the personalization of everything. Ivanka and Jared and all that. I mean, I think the degree to which we are really we will chug down that road probably at an accelerating pace for a while. Now, eventually reality catches up and eventually this may be a reaction. And we can imagine scenarios where it’s different a year from now. But I think the first — he’ll pardon anyone who wants to pardon right away, of course, if he’s reelected. And Democrats will be totally demoralized and divided. Huge amount of sniping about what would have gone wrong. So he will be a pretty dominant figure. He is already the dominant figure in American politics, but he will be even more of a dominant figure in the Republican Party ,and I guess in American politics for at least a while. 


[05:08] Andy Slavitt: You know, I think current poll averages would say that there’s about a 30 percent scenario that that actually happens. As I think with your experience in presidential races, I assume you would say that these things tend to tighten from a variety of forces because the media likes them to tighten, people like a horse race, there’s October surprises. What do you see in the next couple of months really affecting the race from where we are today? 


[05:34] Bill KristolL I mean, of course, it’s hard to say, partly because some of these historical precedents don’t seem to hold that much anymore. I mean, the Trump era is unique. Trump’s election in 2016 was somewhat unique. There’s so much polarization now that all kinds of rules of thumb that held pretty well, actually, when I got to Washington 30, 35 years ago don’t seem to hold anymore. The main thing about the race is how stable it’s been. And if you just look beneath some of the individual poll fluctuations, Biden was up, the virus to tightened it. It looked like Trump had no chance. His failure on that ballooned Biden’s lead to eight to 10, and probably it’s around eight right now. But that’s a very narrow band when you look back to the ‘70s and ‘80s and even the ‘90s, and how much races would change week to week or month to month. So I don’t know, what could change things now? I don’t think the conventions are likely. I think the debates, surely that’s possible. I mean, tens of millions of Americans will watch the two of them on stage. Most of the time in most races, the debates haven’t changed things much  because, you know, they’re two competent candidates usually. They make their cases. They’re the same cases voters have heard for the last few weeks and months and even years from each party. With Trump and Biden, they’re so unusual as candidates, they’re both older. You know, I do think there’s more of a chance of that becoming a big moment. And then external events, including just random events, but also malicious events from foreign actors and things Trump generates as president and as candidate that are unusual. Whether it’s making it hard for people to vote. I’m very concerned. I was even before the recent post office developments, I mean, about the ability of Trump — I think this has been underreported, not just that he’s a demagog, which he is, and not just Fox News and his ability to spew and encourage others to churn out disinformation and the like. But he controls the executive branch. And I worked in the White House, so maybe I’m a little susceptible to this, to seeing maybe exaggerating almost how much of a difference this can make. You were in government, so I don’t know what you think about this. But, you know, he can do a lot of things that previous presidents just didn’t. It almost didn’t occur to them that it would be appropriate to do. Every president tries to generate some good news during an election campaign, and it encourages his cabinet secretaries to tout accomplishments of the administration.


[07:56] Bill Kristol: But the kinds of things Trump would do — we’ve seen this with the post office. We’ve seen it with DHS in Portland. We saw it in the Ukraine scandal. I mean, think of all of those, think of about three or five or 10 other instances. Think of them as sort of warp-speed in September, October. And that makes me very worried. So, I mean, Biden could run a perfectly competent campaign. The polls could be perfectly correct. But a combination of Trump’s misuse of various executive authorities, and making it difficult for some people to vote, and a couple of lucky breaks or two, could certainly make it an even race. 


[08:30] Andy Slavitt: Sure. And certainly with the Electoral College as it shapes up, that gives him some advantages. I think if we took the lens on this, as we try to do on this show, that at the end of the day, it’s hard to think of anything more important in saving human lives. And that there are literally tens of thousands of lives in the balance. You know, presuming that this is, in some respects, if this is a superseding issue, that this is a job interview for how the president has been managing these lives, I’m wondering about the following. You know, his advisers tell him, hey, you’re getting a failing scorecard from the American public on this one issue. He finally hears it. Not to say he agrees with it because I don’t think he ever would, but decides to change course. Do you think that’s even possible? And how do you think about his management of the pandemic and his ability to take it more seriously? 


[09:26] Bill Kristol: I mean, for all the people like me — very much disapproved of the Trump presidency to say the least on a million different grounds — it’s just a fact that if in March — and even if he had messed up January and February and was not serious and not done what he should have done early — if he had gotten serious in March and started say, oh, you know what, this thing caught all of us by surprise. But I’m putting whoever, you know, some very distinguished person in charge, bipartisan group, the best scientists, the best public health officials, former government officials and so forth. And we’re just going to be super serious about this and do our best. We presumably could have followed policies somewhat like those that were followed and European nations. We would have been, I suppose, more like the European nations that got off to a bad start. Italy and Spain, but look where they are now. And I think people would have said, you know what? I had my doubts about it, and I don’t like it personally, and the tweets I could do without. But at the end of the day, there was a crisis and he stepped up. And the economy would have taken a bad hit, but it would be coming back. And presumably deaths will be down. I think there was a moment of opportunity for him that he just, for whatever reason, psychological reasons, I suppose, didn’t seize. I mean, he’s a guy who’s gotten so used to getting away with his cons and his lies and his demagoguery for so long, that he didn’t see that you can’t really con your way out of a pandemic. 


[11:00] Andy Slavitt: Yeah. And, you know, you’re right. The way you put it, the damage that’s been done to the country, to people, but the political malpractice of missing that moment to really look like a leader when, through the lens you described, that doesn’t really take that much political acumen, but it does run against maybe the grain of the kind of person he is. 


[14:22] Andy Slavitt: So how does he run on this pandemic record against Biden, say, in the debate? Does he just continue to kind of say the kind of things he’s been saying, or if he understands that he needs to have some better answer to the public, what does it look like?


[14:39] Bill Kristol: It’s a good question. I mean, on this question of the political opportunity, think of it this way: look at all these different countries in Europe and Asia, almost without exception, certainly countries that are comparable to us, Japan and Germany and the Netherlands and, you know, whatever, and South Korea’s advanced industrial countries, Australia, etc. They have very different governments. Some of them have center-left governments. Some of them have center-right governments. Some of them technocratic governments. Some of them have governments that, you know, have other qualities or backgrounds and prime ministers with different backgrounds. They all ended up basically doing similar things, and basically at a similar place. I’m sure if I were an expert, I could tell you that, you know, this country messed up here for two weeks and as a result, their curve didn’t get flattened just quickly and so forth. But Trump is such an outlier. And I think that’s his greatest weakness. How does he explain that away? How do you explain to the American public that our performance objectively, just looking at those graphs and charts, looks more like Russia and Pakistan and Mexico and Brazil than it does like the countries we’re used to comparing ourselves to in terms of, you know, biomedical infrastructure and public health capabilities and so forth. It is really, I mean, astonishing. I’ve talked to people who you know well, Mark Lipschitz from Harvard said this during a conversation I did with him a couple of weeks ago that if you had said to it before this began that we would be in this situation, you just couldn’t have believed it. I mean, we’ve messed things up and we can sometimes have a kind of unwieldy kind of government in certain ways because of federalism and separation of powers. And so we’re not maybe quite as quick sometimes in reacting. 


[16:19] Bill Kristol: But the idea that we would be not just worse, 10 or 20 percent worse, but an order of magnitude worse, that’s a very hard thing to think and to explain. I think he just needs to throw up a huge amount of dust and say that it came from China and it was very difficult to know what to do. And we had to balance. And anyway, most of the people are dying or, you know, have co-morbidities or something like that. And meanwhile, let’s get back to all the other things he wants to talk about. And I suppose — I mean, that’s why I just don’t believe — it would be very unusual if he could get away with sort of pulling that off. But, you know, he’s a pretty good demagogue. And I am a little unnerved that 40 percent of the public — not 45, which is important — but 38, 40 percent of the public remains supportive of him. And not just the public, and not just people who don’t follow the news. But I mean, I know many people, you know, Republicans, conservatives, well-educated, successful people who remain Trump supporters. And I sort of don’t talk to them as much as I used to, since we don’t really get along anymore. But the amount of rationalization people can indulge in is really an astonishing feat. That’s one of the great psychological lessons of this last two or three or four years. The true believers are one thing. And that’s something that, incidentally, social scientists and psychologists have looked at for decades. Everyone was interested in this in the ‘30s and ‘40s, for obvious reasons. It’s not the true believers that interest me that much — they’re an important phenomenon politically and sociologically — it’s the well-educated rationalizers who don’t like him much and know that he’s crude and silly and they would never run their company the way he runs theirs. They would never live their lives. But still, they sort of talked themselves into accepting — not just accepting him for now and maybe against impeaching him — but accepting the idea of another four years for him. And the degree of tribalism, the degree of I don’t know what exactly is going on here — that is unnerving, I’ve got to say.


[18:16] Andy Slavitt; Yeah, and you’re right. And it’s some of the structural damage to our institutions that I think of conservatives — and I want to talk to you a little bit about conservatism and Republicanism versus Trumpism — that is really — it feels very corollary to kind of some of the the deep principles of, you know, foreign and domestic policy that conservatives have been espousing for a long time. You know, I tried to make a distinction on this on this show before. I don’t know if I will do it successfully. Between Trump and the party. So I’ll give you an example. If Charlie Baker, or Hogan were president right now, or Mitt Romney, or George W. Bush, who took the notion of a pandemic quite seriously, engaged Larry Brilliant, who’s been on the show, and Mike Leavitt. I have at least put forward that I think the response would look very similar to what a response would probably look like under a Biden. Do you agree with that? 


[19:14] Bill Kristol: Yes. Yeah. I mean, a 10 percent, 20 percent difference in terms of how much the public and private sector would do it, a little more deference states, perhaps, and little more difficult choice supposed to top-down control, but no, totally. And you know this well, having served there, I mean, yeah. Yeah. Mike Leavitt, the HHS would not have run this that differently from, you know, civilian HHS, which would have run it that differently from whatever the next one was. The presidents would have been serious about dealing with Fauci. There’s been a lot of those people have been there through Democratic or Republican administrations, you know, beginning with Fauci, but certainly it’s true of a lot of the others. So it’s not as if CDC doesn’t turn over its entire top staff, you know, from one administration to another. So one assumes it would have been — yeah, I very much agree that we would have had a normal response, which would have, incidentally, looked pretty much like the responses of our peer countries. I mean, worst case, Britain, I guess. But better case, Germany or some other country will like that. 


[20:13] Andy Slavitt: And given that, you know, I guess my optimism makes me feel that at heart, Democrats and Republicans, putting Trump aside, do want the same thing. Do think about this approach for your similarly. As a Republican, if you think about Biden as a president, and you know, you’re backed firmly in the mainstream Republican Capitol. How hard will it be for Biden to get the support of the country to unify, which in a pandemic is really the only way to do a good job at it? Because getting 60 percent of the people to do something, and the other 40 percent to, just sub-optimized is your approach.


[20:54] Bill Kristol: No, I think it’s a very important question. I was thinking about it because of a couple other conversations I’ve had in the last week or two. And I mean, I don’t know. There’s a practical question about will Trump voters actually wear masks and behave responsibly? The more governing-level question you might say: what will Governor DeSantis do in Florida if Biden is president? What will Governor Abbott in Texas do? I mean, no governor wants to be the governor of a state that is doing much worse than every other state. So I thought that the self-interest of governors would check how much damage Trump would do. 


[21:29] Bill Kristol: And once it became clear that, hey, you know what? If you want to reopen your economy, you need to do a lot of testing. Is it optimal to do it state by state? No. But are Florida and Texas big enough states that they could actually do their own kind of mini-version of the Defense Production Act, maybe to some degree. Or could their congressional delegations lobby to get the money they needed to do it? Yes. So that’s why I was not quite as alarmed as I might have been. I was pretty alarmed. But for me, that’s the sign of how utterly corrupt — corrupt is not even the right word — but just kind of crazed almost the Republican Party has begun to become. To see that the actual governors against their own interests have pushed their states in this Trump-y direction, which I think then gets to your very good question. So do they change? Do they wake up on November 4th and say, whoa, maybe we still have time to recover our political careers by kind of cooperating a lot with President Biden and they wouldn’t get the whole thing under control? Or is their base sulking and doesn’t want to cooperate? And they themselves are, you know, looking to run in 2024 and picking fights with the new administration. I think thats a huge question. I think somewhat it depends on how big a defeat there is of Trump, assuming there is a defeat of Trump. And a lot depends on just a lot of other things that go on. Biden probably will have to think hard about — I think he’d want to try to get a situation where they would be willing to work with him and make it easier for them, in a sense. But anyway, it wouldn’t be crazy for Biden to have a special task force on obviously the virus, on which Mike Leavitt, the Republican HHS secretary under Bush, is on as co-chairman even. You know, that makes a little easier maybe for these Republicans to then say, OK, you know what? Well, let’s work with them. But it’s a big challenge for Biden, and as you say, could be very bad for the country if this just becomes a kind of mini domestic civil war by February of 2020, if don’t we don’t make the kind of progress we need to make in these states that have had these very bad outbreaks now.


[26:35] Zach Slavitt: Bill, this is Zach. I was just wondering, do you think Trump is the future of the Republican Party, seeing as so many Republicans have supported him and got him elected? Do you think that they’re going to be candidates like him going forward? 


[26:49] Bill Kristol: There will certainly be candidates like him, and they will certainly be people trying to carry forth his mantle. Some of this does depend, I think, on how he does in November. A crushing defeat makes it less likely that people think, hey, that’s a great way forward, than a close victory or defeat, where you can tell yourself, hey, Trump was an imperfect messenger and he messed up certain things, but, you know, Trump-ism, Trumpiness in policy and politics still could work. And I think that’s a huge question. I have friends who are sort of optimistic that the fever breaks, if you want to use that metaphor, and kind of go back to something set sane. And I have friends — and I’m more on this side, honestly — who think there’s been an awful lot of damage has been done. Trump partly exposed some stuff that was already there, but there’s always some bad stuff there in both political parties, obviously. Maybe more in the Republican Party that some of us wanted to acknowledge back in 2000 or 2010, somewhat kept under control by the Bushes and Romneys of the world, McCains. But it exploded. But Trump has been reinforcing that for four years, and reinforcing it as president. And that, I think, is a big deal. So if you look at American history, recent history, you know, the Republican Party snapped back from Goldwater pretty quickly. The Democrats stepped back from McGovern. You can have a big defeat, but they were just candidate. Someone compare this to me to the Labor Party in Great Britain, which had a leader I don’t care much for, Corbyn, very left and anti-Israel and stuff. But he had a big defeat in their general election and got dumped. And now they have a new leader. It looks more like a recognizable Democratic Socialist Party in Britain. But Corbyn was never prime minister. And that for me is the big question. If you’re president for four years, and you have sort of people in the party have gotten accustomed to sucking up to you and claiming to be your favorite and running as your favorite and winning primaries by being even Trumpier than the next person. And the whole party sort of ideological and propaganda apparatus is used to a Trumpy style in terms of denigrating opponents and demagoguery on race and on other such things. How easy is it to shake that? Again, it’s not just a party leader. It’s the President of the United States telling tens of millions of people on Twitter and on Fox and everything else, you know, sort of expressing himself in that way and people listening to him and some percentage of them embracing him. So for me, I’m slightly pessimistic about the liberation of the Republican Party from Trump for that reason. 


[29:25] Andy Slavitt: Yeah. You know, it’s interesting that you say that because in 2018, Trump-ism without Trump wasn’t a very attractive proposition for people. Maybe even moreso than in traditional off-year elections. More interesting to me, Bill, is at the grassroots, like you got six Qanon candidates for Congress. And when you play these things out by decades, you think about, you know, two, three decades after Reagan, how many political candidates who sort of came of age, or came of political thought during that time, and the long-lasting impact that ended up having. Do you disagree with that, and will there be a segment at a minimum of the Republican Party that will be here to stay that looks like this?

[30:18] Bill Kristol: Yeah. This is why the reelection is so fundamentally important. Four years of Trump did a lot of damage to the country, to the party, to conservatism, to people’s lives. But it’s four years, and he’s repudiated if he loses. And so Jimmy Carter, we don’t think of his having a fundamental effect, for better or worse, he’s very decent man. But the Democratic Party, not a lot of people running around in the next five, 10, 20 years saying, hey, I’m a Jimmy Carter Democrat, you know. And George H.W. Bush, really decent man. And more complicated because he was Reagan’s vice president. But again, not that many people say I’m going to carry the — Bush thing is more complicated, with the son and so forth — but still not having the effect of Reagan. Eight-year presidencies, especially if they’re generally regarded as having been successful, the country ends up and comes out of a hole, as we do with Obama, ends up better off than when you began. Same with Reagan. Those have a big, big effect. Four-year  presidencies, you can get beyond, you can rise as someone who says, you know, we can’t go that way. That didn’t really work. So that’s where there is an option, at least a possibility, for a non-Trumpy message going forward. Maybe not in 2022. I mean, this thought experiment is getting back to your previous question, Zach’s question. Let’s say Trump loses by six points. Do we think in 2022 it would be better to be the Trump-endorsed candidate in most congressional or Senate primaries? Or the Trump-opposed candidate? My instinct is to say Trump-endorsed, and I think that gives you a sense of how difficult it’s going to liberate from Trump. But maybe by 2024, it’s different. Maybe other issues come up, etc. New figures come up who aren’t anti-Trump like me, but they’re not pro-Trump. They’re just different. They’re just new. Some governor gets elected in 2020 to somewhere, you know, and it sort of gives you a chance to get beyond Trump. I think that’s the best hope for liberation. But again, it’s why the second term is so fundamentally important, I think, not just because of its immediate effects in 2021 or 2022 on people’s well-being, but also for what it would say about the future of America, of the Republican Party, certainly, and conservatism really, of American politics. 


[32:26] Andy Slavitt: I’m also curious what you think about the role that race and racism plays in all of this. I mean, race, you know, sort of from a demographic standpoint, you know, I doubt you’ll see another white male ticket in the Democratic Party in the history of the country. I mean, it go as far as out as I can imagine. You know, I don’t think given it will be a minority majority country and people have been so underrepresented, both women and people of color, that that party certainly embracing that. The thing that I think I observe and you’re much keener commentator on this than I would be. So you tell me if I have it wrong, is going back forever in this country, one party or another was kind of the racist party. And up through the 50s and 60s, these were Southern Democrats. You couldn’t really win a national election without some unholy alliance there. And you know what? What Johnson did in the 1960s in breaking with that made tremendous progress for the country at a horribly large cost to the party. And now many of those folks in the South, again, might one version of this would be that race is a motivator for them, but racism is a motivator to be just be more blunt about it. And that that has always been, until recently, a quiet undercurrent of the party was a kind of primarily white party that enlarging the tent, you know, to a huge extent. But it wasn’t so blatant that you couldn’t associate yourself with the party and not feel like you were attaching yourself to those sort of beliefs. That feels like a change with Trump. It feels like, as people say, you know, they heated the quiet part out loud. Right. He said this is this is kind of who we are and we should be proud of it. You may think that’s too overt a dramatic of a reading of events that there may be more subtleties to it. Please correct me. But, you know, given somewhere close to that reality, that puts the party in a very difficult spot in trying to extend beyond that boat anchor. 


[34:26] Bill Kristol: Yeah, I think it’s actually very well said. And it raises lots of interesting questions. I mean, I’m probably one of those who kidded myself somewhat that, you know, obviously one could have different views about what actually would help poor Americans, minority Americans, African-Americans advance more, whether it’s still school choice and or various forms of economic opportunity as opposed to the war. As a liberal Democratic is, I really did believe that’s what we were debating. I guess I wanted to believe that obviously I was aware of other elements and strains in the party. But you could tell yourself, look, OK, there are these people I don’t personally care for too much down in some parts of the country. But that’s not the mainstream of the party. Now, you can’t sell yourself that anymore. And I think it’s — I think I was slow in seeing how much the race, race and racialism, in a sense, how much of a role that was playing aired or the Virginia where I live, which is a diverse area. I’m having a private conversation, oh, maybe 10 years ago or something with neighbors. Actually two or four South Asia immigrants and American citizens. Upper middle-class physicians. And, you know, we’re talking about politics. And in many ways, they should be Republican. They’re pretty well off. They, I think, not inclined to hope for too much help from government, very self-sufficient and very much extended family took care of themselves kind of in all this sort of — but what fits with the kind of conservative narrative, you might say became clear to me that they were Republican and they didn’t vote Republican. And I also pushed a little bit. Well, why not? Then you want to say it in a way that was kind of offensive or provocative. But somehow they looked at the Republican Party and they suspect they were shrewder than I was. And they saw that’s not a party that really welcomes people like us. And they’re not explicitly pursuing policies to harm people like us. And they’re not like Trump in talking about, you know, countries and people in derogatory ways. But it’s still not it’s not a party that wants people like us to be more central to life in America. And I think they saw something that I. Didn’t. And now it’s all out loud. But, yeah, I mean, I it’s unsustainable as a matter of demographics, I think. Do you feel like you can’t unsee it? Yes. You can’t see it now. And that’s why it’s troubling. I what I think of things going forward, people as they just go back to the Republican Party once Trump’s got I don’t really feel that that doesn’t mean I necessarily couldn’t go back and support individual candidates. It doesn’t mean that the party couldn’t look different five years from now. Couldn’t. That’s why I feel like somebody fucked from my point of view. This is just mere sort of repudiation of Trump. It’s necessary not just a let’s get beyond Trump. And really, it’s important to say that was wrong. 


[37:04] And this is, again, comes back to 2020. I mean, if Trump loses by, you know, four points in the national vote, pretty close electoral college system even goes along and concedes the election. But Republicans hold the Senate, maybe lose one seat, two seats sort of blow out. You know, I think that lesson they can rationalize is Trump’s own weaknesses. He didn’t handle the virus very well. He’s too stubborn. He antagonized more people than he had to. I don’t know that at least the kind of rethinking that isn’t, in my view, necessary. Now, if it’s a blow out. If Texas goes Democratic and suddenly people and Florida and people are suddenly looking at the three biggest states and actually the next bunch to all the Democratic states, then I think just as a proud of practical politics, you get a fair amount of rethinking. So I do think not just the outcome in 20 in November, but the magnitude of the outcome really matters more than where that is usually the case. 


[37:58] Well, there will be a conservative force in this country. And the question is, would people rather have it be something besides Qanon. So I’m hoping that somebody will be able to articulate a magnetic vision that people who are conservative can run to. That isn’t race is race based and that isn’t kind of conspiracy based. 


[38:17] We have one reason that I’ve been sort of so insistent on trying to fight within the Republican Party to find a challenger to Trump, which we failed to do a serious challenger. But then to have Republican voters against Trump is that I think it’s very important that we have responsible conservative party in this country is going away. And so we either have more or less responsible nonracial lists, etc. party, or we can have a Trumpy, authoritarian, populist, demagogic party. And that’s not good for the country. So I think we shouldn’t give up on the conservative side. But I’m short term pretty. I think we do need a kind of blowout and a cleansing, honestly, to get back to where we could have a healthy conservative party and coming to grips with what happened. 


[38:56] Andy Slavitt: Final question, a personal question. I’m just curious how difficult the last few years have been for you personally. And I don’t mean you how difficult it has been to watch the country go through this or even so much just to watch the party disappoint you in ways that I think you’ve described really well. But, you know, there’s a lot of, you know, well, when you’re born into culture and yet your friends are in that culture, your family is often in that culture. You’ve been a lifelong conservative and a proud one. And I imagine that you’ve been under Internet attack and blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. And that has not been pleasant. I just wondered how you’re doing and how difficult that’s been.


[39:41] Bill Kristol: I think I do okay. I mean, I’m older, so I sort of maybe a thicker skin and I think it’s been harder for some of my colleagues who are 40 and sort of say, geez, they may never have the kind of opportunities to serve in government or run for office that they thought they might have and worked hard to lay the groundwork for. I’m not really in that position, so that’s easier for me in that way. And I did you know, I grew up as a kind of Cold War liberal Democrat. I, as a kid, was a volunteer for Humphrey in ’68. I worked for more the ‘76 New York Senate campaign. My father had been a liberal before he became a neoconservative. So I had some memory of it for me, perhaps a little more than some other people. The notion that you might have to rethink things at some point in your life and some of your old allegiances wouldn’t be your new allegiances. Maybe that came a little more easily than for some other people. But now there are people I was very friendly with. And, you know, they were I worked with them when I first came to Washington in the Reagan Bush administrations have been allied with them for 20, 25, 30 years. Yeah, I don’t really talk to anymore. If it we just be too difficult and sort of unpleasant, even with your friends, partly because we’ve worked together politics with course we could talk about sports or music or something. But at the end of the day, politics is kind of the common bond. And I made some new friends. So that’s the good side of it. But it is I think it’s harder for people in sort of early, very early career. You can do where you want to in late career. You can sort of do what you want. I feel the people over 35, 40, 45 have had the roughest time. 


[41:13] Andy Slavitt: Well, I so appreciate this. Is there anything you’d say people should be looking out for this week? Any surprises or is it going to go sort of down the attack? Joe Biden front, as you said? 


[41:24] Bill Kristol: Yeah, I think it could be a total attack on. But I think that Trump Thursday night’s speech, it’s just going to be kind of interesting because he doesn’t give many set speeches that are presumably really will be a set speeches to a rally. Maybe it will be just like one of his rallies and they’ll have a certain amount of hoopla around it and so forth. So that will be somewhat interesting just to see what they think his message ultimately is. But the convention as a whole, I’m sure, will just be a trashing of Biden and Harris. 


[41:49] Andy Slavitt: It’s so great to talk to you. I’ve enjoyed it very much. 


[41:53] Bill Kristol: Keep up the good work. And Zach, nice to meet you and good luck. 


[42:04] Andy Slavitt: All right. I’m so glad Bill joined us for that. And we have an interesting week ahead with the Republican National Convention. We also have an interesting show ahead on Wednesday. A very interesting conversation with Brian Cashman. Brian is the general manager of the New York Yankees. And you may recall we did an episode with Steve Kerr, who is part of the NBA. And lest you think we’re just getting carried away with sports, really, the idea is these two leagues approached the pandemic in very different ways. And as you heard, if you go back, listen to the Steve Kerr episode, the NBA created a bubble. They invented low-cost testing. They really took a very innovative approach that helped society. Major League Baseball took a very different approach. They didn’t enclose themselves in a bubble. And we’re going to just compare and contrast largely for the purposes of understanding how those models might be used in other things we open because this is all about learning. Then coming up next week, we have another one of our toolkit episodes. This one is this our second episode on being back at school. Great episode. Janice Jackson, the superintendent of Chicago School District, and John King Jr., the former secretary of education. By the way, we have more toolkit episodes coming up, because so far it seems you like them. We have one coming up in a couple of weeks that is on the long haulers. These are the people with COVID who are experiencing chronic illness. And then we have a big one on testing. And how is testing changing our lives and how much more testing is coming in? Innovative types of testing. We will look forward to chatting with you on Wednesday. Thanks. Over and out. 


[44:02] Andy Slavitt: Andy Slavitt: Thanks for listening In the Bubble. Hope you rate us highly. We are a production of Lemonada Media. Kryssy Pease is our producer. Ivan Kuraev is our editor. Jessica Cordova Kramer and Stephanie Wittels Wachs executive produce the show and run our lives. My son Zach Slavitt is my cool co-host and onsite producer. Music is by Dan Molad and Oliver Hill. You can find out more about our show on social media @LemonadaMedia. And you can find me at a @ASlavitt on Twitter or @AndySlavitt on Instagram. If you liked what you heard today, please, please, please tell your friends to come listen, but from a distance. And for now, stay safe. Share some joy. And we will get through this together. And #StayHome.


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