The Jan 6 Enablers Won’t Quit Trump (With Mark Leibovich)
The January 6 hearings have proven how few people in Donald Trump’s inner circle stood up against his mission to overthrow the election results. How did we get to the point where someone was able to run over the country in such a roughshod way with little resistance? Andy speaks with author and reporter Mark Leibovich about the people who rolled over in submission to Trump’s antics and what it reveals about the current GOP. He offers glimpses inside his time interviewing key players like Eric Trump and Lindsey Graham at the Trump Hotel bar, and a prediction on whether Trump could win the nomination and the presidency again in 2024.
Keep up with Andy on Twitter @ASlavitt.
Follow Mark Leibovich on Twitter @MarkLeibovich.
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Check out these resources from today’s episode:
- Order Mark’s book, “Thank You for Your Servitude: Donald Trump’s Washington and the Price of Submission”: https://www.penguinrandomhouse.com/books/653294/thank-you-for-your-servitude-by-mark-leibovich/
- Read an essay adapted from Mark’s book: https://www.theatlantic.com/ideas/archive/2022/07/kevin-mccarthy-lindsey-graham-trump-devotion-2024-election/661508/
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- Order Andy’s book, “Preventable: The Inside Story of How Leadership Failures, Politics, and Selfishness Doomed the U.S. Coronavirus Response”: https://us.macmillan.com/books/9781250770165
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For additional resources, information, and a transcript of the episode, visit lemonadamedia.com/show/inthebubble.
Andy Slavitt, Mark Leibovich
Andy Slavitt 00:17
Welcome to IN THE BUBBLE. This is Andy Slavitt. It’s Monday, July 25th. So we’ve just witnessed yet another hearing in the January 6th select committee trial, and I can’t help but ask myself as I listen to everything that happened, not just what happened on that day. But how did we get there? How did we get to the point where we had somebody who has been able to run over this country in such a roughshod way, without a lot of resistance? You know, I always thought that the Constitution, our checks and balances, the norms we have prevent that from happening. And so, this, how did we get here question doesn’t just focus on Donald Trump. It actually focuses on a lot of the people who are in positions of power in Washington, DC, that have the ability to stop them, and in fact, many of them, at one point said it would be appalling for him to become president. We know we’re talking about people like Marco Rubio, Ted Cruz, Lindsey Graham, Mitch McConnell, Kevin McCarthy, so if it gets worth looking hard at their actions over the last few years, and my guest […] he did that, his name was Mark Leibovich, he is a writer for The Atlantic. He has been a longtime reporter of The New York Times, I have to say, he’s an amazing writer. He is a very good writer. I love reading the stuff he writes, whether it’s an article, or one of his books, because he’s just a really interesting writer. He gets people to talk to him. And he’s very unsparing, and he put out a book called thank you for your servitude, which made me laugh, the title made me laugh. And you know, the title is sensibly says it all. But he spent a lot of time talking to these folks over the last four years, and the conversion process they went through, and then to have it all capstone by what happened on January 6, where they were trapped inside their own office building, by the people that they kind of were enabling, at least that’s one reading of it. So I wanted to get Mark on the show, to give us some perspective on that period of time that led up to January 6, talk a little bit about what happened on January 6. And then we finished with the question in everybody’s mind, which is what’s gonna happen next with Trump? And he’s got a very clear point of view on whether or not Trump has a future in the Republican Party. I let you hear that in the interview. Here he is.
Andy Slavitt 02:58
So Mark, welcome to in the bubble.
Mark Leibovich 03:00
Thanks, Andy. Thanks for having me.
Andy Slavitt 03:02
You know, we all watched Donald Trump from the time he walked down the magic escalator at Trump Tower, to the to the very unlikely campaign. And you focus in Washington on how that town works. And I think one of were, there have been a number of surprises we all lived through. But, you know, the one that I thought pretty sure of was, once the guy won, once Trump became president, that he would be, he’d have a real difficult time of it in Washington, that the Republican Party had its own interests and indeed beliefs, things like free trade, things like low taxes, etc, etc. And that Trump was gonna run right into it. But that’s not exactly what happened. Let’s see what happened.
Mark Leibovich 03:52
Yeah, I mean, I think for the most part of the Republicans kind of bent their will to him. I mean, I think not because Trump is such a powerful and forceful personality, but largely because, you know, just the brute force of power and the brute force of bullying, I think sort of won the day, right. I mean, it’s not like Trump went up to the hill and explained his health care plan in a way that went over Paul Ryan, right? I mean, like, he didn’t do that. It’s just, I think the great unstoppable force of both of them was inertia and fear, fear of failure if you’re Trump, I mean, fear but fear of Trump and fear of not being re-elected, if you’re a Republican on the hill, but I also think that they both sort of expose the fecklessness and the shallowness of a lot of the ideas that underpin you know, Republican America at this point, and you know, I mean, there were some absolute very core things that they got done I mean, judges, tax cut being the two big ones, but for the most part, I think they just both wanted to get through the day, they both wanted to survive. And in stay in power, if possible.
Andy Slavitt 05:05
The part about them using him to get things they wanted done like judges I understand. Right, that feels like you can understand that motivation. But it feels different than what you talk about in the book, which is this general sense that Republicans knew that this wasn’t someone they’d liked. To put it mildly. And yet they knew they behaved very differently.
Mark Leibovich 05:32
Absolutely. I mean, they did I mean, part of it was just fear and part of it, that they, they didn’t want to lose their jobs. They were just so terrified of, you know, the mean Tweet of the base being, you know, unleashed upon them, the Trump base being unleashed upon them. So yeah, they were very scathing in private. I mean, I think personally, I think what Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz and Lindsey Graham, and all the Republicans who ran against him said about him in 2016, was much closer to the truth than the sort of ridiculous adoration that they will say in private, I mean, they know what he’s about. But they play act. I mean, it’s exhausting. I mean, to watch, but they play act, and Trump needs to see that. But he needs to see, basically, performance art of devotion. And he doesn’t seem to be able to discriminate sincerity with just performance, right. And that’s sort of one of the many pathologies behind Trump. But I think that, to me, is the most maddening thing. I mean, one of the things I wanted to focus about in the book are just the people who knew better. I didn’t, I wasn’t trying to understand his supporters in Ohio any better than the next guy, I didn’t want to try to understand him. I didn’t want to try to like, find a killer anecdote about, you know, him feeding dog food to Mike Pence or something like that. I mean, like, I’ll leave that to any other number of White House authors. You know, it’s the people in the middle. It’s just the addiction to power. It’s the addiction to obedience. It’s just been worn down.
Andy Slavitt 07:09
And ostensibly, it’s our line of defense, right against one person imposing its will and being too corrupt. There’s some theoretical check and balance. That we were supposed to see. You mentioned Ohio. There’s a lot of people, including your former New York Times, colleagues, that would write the story about the Ohio diner, the diner that no New York Times reader had ever visited, except on a cross country trip to take their kid to Princeton. And kind of what’s going on in that world. You write about a different diner, if you will. You pick the Trump hotel bar scene as the kind of magical, both symbolic and real center for the story. I’m wondering if you can read a passage? Yeah. To just give people a sense of the imagery you created there?
Mark Leibovich 08:04
Yeah, I mean, you know, look, as you said, I mean, this was the Republican capital of Washington and the Trump Hotel was like, literally located probably halfway between the White House and Capitol Hill. And it was just sort of Rick’s American cafe. Right. It was like where it was where the administration people and a lot of cabinet people and members of Congress would hang out and, you know, pay money to the boss, basically. I mean, you know, it goes to the bottom line, and the President was happy. So, yeah, I will read to you a couple of paragraphs here to give you a flavor of what it was like. In its time, the Trump Hotel was full of people racing the clock, the grandkids dashing around the concourse playing tag with Uncle Baron. You could pick out the made man in the lobby, Trump’s adult children, strutting around as if they owned the place, Don Jr. and Eric would be nursing drinks. With those stiff Trump smiles and simultaneously bloated and angular cheeks at close range they flesh scared and darting Trump eyes is it bracing for a light fixture to Paul, you can tell the boys really wanted to be recognized, especially by dad. The likes of Senator Lindsey Graham would look so powerful in here and feel so appreciated. Over the years he had made himself a top deputy in the service to the alpha. He never looked more enthralled. And when he was skipping from table to table to Trump Hotel, getting thanked for all the wonderful things he had done for quote our great president, there might be some Turkish businessman chasing after him trying to get a meeting with the boss down the street. Or some Oathkeeper wanting an autograph. Lindsey said he would always try to be helpful.
Andy Slavitt 09:39
So that’s one of many scenes that you describe in the book and you talk about planting yourself basically there, just kind of observing and then you’re you know, you’re a reporter and you talk to people and get them to talk to you for a living. How did that go?
Mark Leibovich 09:58
You know, it was bizarre, first of all, it’s one stop shopping. I mean, if you’re a reporter, and yeah, I was hardly the only reporter who hung out there, I mean, I left to my own devices, I would not be hanging out there, this is not my kind of place. But you show up. And it was there was always like a weirdly festive racing the clock environment. I mean, it’s, there’s a good analogy here, I can’t think of what it is, it’s just like, it was like a flea market or a bazaar. And, and a lot of people are drinking a lot, so it’s easier to get them to talk. It’s more convivial than what you see on TV. I mean, it’s not like a menacing, kind of back and forth that you’d see, like on cable or something, it’s not the nastiness of the tweets. I mean, you just have a lot of just people around it. And also they, you know, it could take on the feel of therapy sessions, in some ways. I mean, this was very much a place of not so much solace, but it was kind of a safe space for Trump people or quasi safe space for Trump people to go and sort of talk about their, just how bizarre their days are, and how, like, how under seeds they feel by the media, by Trump himself, but also by, you know, I think it was a place to unwind, you know, given what they were doing all day, and I’m not sure they felt great about it. But I got a lot of work done in there. And I think a lot of my colleagues did, too. And you know, it sounds kind of bizarre to say, you go to a really sort of a five star, four star hotel after work and, you know, you drink on the company dime or something. And you expense it, but it was, I wouldn’t say it was hazard pay, but I always learned a lot. And it was quite a scene. And you know, it’s a weird thing to say, but it was actually a really nice place. I mean, the food was good. And so I think as I said in the book, it was very well, it seemed like a very well managed operation, unlike the owners side, hustle down […]
Andy Slavitt 11:49
That was one of the lines that made me laugh, side hustle line. You know, getting people to talk and not just talk but to be revealing is part of what you do well, and you have to do well, in your profession. And yet there was this very public feud between the President and the mainstream media, and very specifically that I think, failing New York Times if I’ve got the adjective right. And so people know you, and it’s not your first book, you wrote a very famous book about Washington, they know that you’re writing for the enemy. Or, you know, of the enemy of the state. Yeah, so to speak. And yet, you would someone would say to you, for example. You know, I can’t believe Trump did this, you would follow up oftentimes, or something like, but don’t you feel responsible for enabling him. Courageously kind of, you know, kind of write in New York Times character? How did that work?
Mark Leibovich 12:50
You know, it’s never easy. I mean, I think there, it’s not always an easy transaction, obviously. I mean, I think part of it is learning how to ask questions in a way that doesn’t give people time to really think about spinning you. I think one real disservice that a lot of journalists do to themselves is they speechify, they sort of do big wind ups. And the key to a conversation like this is when someone really starts to let their hair down. Ask like the kind of surprising and very, very precise follow up like, do you feel responsible? You know, no big wind up, just let them react. Listen, I mean, part of it is just listening. I mean, another occupational hazard, and I came to this I made this mistake before is you have this list of questions and became a prisoner to the list of questions. Right? Gotta get to this next, gotta get to this next. And hopefully, after the two minutes has elapsed, and this question being answered, I will go on to the next one. I mean, you got to sort of look for your opportunities to ask the surprising and sometimes, you know, revealing questions. So I mean, look at a lot of it’s just very basic journalism, one on one, which is these people aren’t your friends. I mean, you’re not in this to make friends. I mean, it’s sometimes I do make friends, but it’s not intentional. And, you know, it’s a transaction. I mean, even when I’m at the Trump Hotel, and might be like, laughing with my colleagues. I mean, we’re at work. And it’s not like, you know, and another basic thing is you don’t burn people. I mean, it’s like, if you’re in an off the record setting, you don’t burn them. I mean, it’s just like, you go to your word. I mean, it’s pretty simple. But, you know, one of the things that the Trump narrative, you know, has turned on us is like, we’re all corrupt. We’re all dishonest. We’re, you know, no one can trust us. We make it up. And I think it’s harder. I think most people know that. But I think it’s not someone they always play on TV.
Andy Slavitt 14:47
When we come back, we’re gonna we’re gonna name a few names, and we’re gonna talk about what led up to January 6, and kind of where things seem to be headed from here.
Andy Slavitt 15:17
So, of all the people you spoke to and look, I think one of the advantages that you had and we had as readers in reading the book was he had pre-existing relationships with a lot of these folks before they met Trump. I remember having dinner with Lamar Alexander, when it was down to him and Cruz, […] and Cruz walked into the restaurant. And Lamar said, I can’t stand that guy. I don’t know Trump. I just can’t stand that guy. And I’ve never supported him. And I’ve never met Trump. And so, you know, those, there are several, including being in the green room with Lindsey Graham a few times and all the stuff that, you know, his pitter patter doesn’t seem to change. But there are a few people. And I’m wondering if you’d say a few words about which ones you found most interesting or surprising from what you saw, ranging from I think, people who showed real courage like in the book like Mitt Romney, who voted twice for impeachment, to Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio, Lindsey Graham, Bill Barr, what stuck out to you, among some of those folks?
Mark Leibovich 16:30
Well, I mean, I think a lot of them are pretty true to caricature. I mean, I think Cruz was genuinely a despised figure. I mean, you just don’t find a lot of people defending him, right? So I mean, I thought I actually thought Cruz gave a really ballsy speech at the Republican Convention in 2016. I was, you know, and I was amazed, I got pissed off at the media. I remember thinking, and everyone was like, Oh, what a disaster for Ted Cruz. He was booed out of the arena, his wife was hounded out of, you know, out of Cleveland. And he was, I mean, it’s like, you know, the worst things to put on your resume, then, you know, vote your conscience. Right. I mean, he that didn’t last long. I mean, he came around pretty quickly.
Andy Slavitt 17:13
They all seem to, I mean, like you would catch them saying something or doing something mildly reprimanding of the president. And then you would just document how would be weeks, sometimes days before he’d get them to snap back? What is what that?
Mark Leibovich 17:31
Yeah, and there would be this performance art, sometimes least in 2016, there was like this performative. I’m not happy about this. I mean, Rubio was sort of surprising. I mean, Rubio, when I first got to know him, which was like, 2010, you get a very impressive dude. I mean, he had a real conservative rep. I mean, he had a really kind of compelling personal story about his parents fleeing Castro. And just, you know, the, you talked all about the danger of falling in line behind a charismatic leader and authoritarianism and how he lived firsthand the danger of that. And I remember after, you know, he was finally succumbing to Trump in 2016. I said, So you told me this about authoritarian leaders and charismatic leaders and a threat and he said, We just can’t have that here. I just, you know, I can’t abide it. But I’m just exhausted now basically. And he said he was quitting the Senate. He announced like, I’m done with this. I don’t like it here. And you know, again, that it took him a couple of months to realize, oh, I’m not gonna get out of my parking space if I don’t have this job.
Andy Slavitt 18:35
I’m in my 40s. Maybe I’ll get a halfway decent board. But what else?
Mark Leibovich 18:40
Yeah, I mean, but again, like Rubio knows better. You know, Bill Barr knows better.
Andy Slavitt 18:47
What’s the closest that came to saying stuff to you on the record, which said, Look, I know better but I’m just having to play along.
Mark Leibovich 18:59
I would like to say I think they all pretty much say you got to read between the lines a little bit. But um, you know, I think McCarthy’s saying, you know, it’s just too much. It’s, it’s the tightest tightrope I’ve ever had to walk. He goes up and down. He’s angry at me one day. I mean, he just the level of frustration that McCarthy betrayed to me was pretty naked. I think Lindsey Graham was always amazingly transparent his own way. Very smooth, very kind of, like, you know, a schmoozy kind of guy. Kind of entertaining, but he’s very, he’ll lay out the game pretty explicitly. It’s like, oh, well, you know, if you flatter him too much, he’ll lose respect for you. But you know, if you really want something tell you tell him Obama will do the opposite. And that’s, it was like, yeah, that’s like tape recorders running. He’s just telling me this and, and it’s like, he’s proud that you’ve mastered the game. And it’s like, you’re not supposed to talk about it. I mean, I’m thrilled that you’re talking about it to me and you know, maybe, you know, the calculation is Trump will actually be flattered by it, but it’s like, okay, you usually don’t give away the game like that. But I mean, Lindsey, like played Trump like a nine iron, right? I mean, it’s like, I don’t know, I was surprised by that.
Andy Slavitt 20:07
Yeah. Well, I think it was some combination of really figuring out that my South Carolinian supporters are probably going to read the times. Trump will and he’ll probably be impressed that you’ve got it all figured out. In your mind, you did talk to Trump a number of times as well. When you get underneath it, this sort of dichotomy of his sort of very working class, rural, grievance oriented supporters, and I forgive me, for anybody who’s a Trump supporter, if you feel like I’ve lumped you into his character as to or was trying to demean you. That’s not my purpose, but I think people know what I mean by that. And Trump’s kind of crowd at Mar a Lago, which as you pointed out, wasn’t exactly that crew. Did Trump get like, the irony of how he was working? Was he just, like, pleased that he was able to run that game?
Mark Leibovich 21:04
I think, you know, probably, I mean, I think Lindsey Graham was always saying, you know, of course, Trump gets the joke. And you’ll hear little hints of this. I mean, I think it was Michael Wolfe, who kept saying, he was either telling a secondhand story, or he had this conversation with Trump himself. But, you know, people apparently, like would say to Trump, you know, how much of this is an act? And Trump would say, well, it’s all an act. And then remember, Bill Barr, and his memoirs said that Trump said that, you just need to adjust enough crazy in the tweets, you know, and I spent enough time with him at least in 2016, to know that he knows where the lines are, like he would go, he would toggle on and off the record all the time. And it was frustrating sometimes, but he would like, say something off the record that would cross like, lines. I mean, wildly offensive, irresponsible stuff. And then he come back a little bit closer to the line, say, all right, on the record, so and so it was a sleazeball. I mean, something like that. So he I think he knew. You know, I mean, I imagine he’s as cynical as we imagined, but it’s, you know, either way, it takes a real level of deviousness to take it as far as he did, obviously.
Andy Slavitt 22:15
Yeah. Yeah. And I think probably he was you were probably advantaged by the fact in those conversations, and over time, he felt completely untouchable that he could barely beat anybody as well. So you could say whatever he wanted, printed. When come back, we’ll take him to the January 6 hearings, get much predictions on whether or not Trump’s gonna be president again.
Andy Slavitt 22:35
You mentioned McCarthy, which makes me think about the January 6th hearings. And I’m wondering if you could talk a little bit about that as sort of I mean, if this were a fiction book, which I pray that it would be the we lived in a world where this is a fiction, by the way, it was a fiction book, it would not be nearly as good to book people, yeah, it’s unreal, that could happen. Got a quite an imagination. But if this were a fiction book, this would have been in many ways, kind of the seminal scene, right? Which is all of all of the things that you supporters have sown, which is increasing permission. Increasing forgiveness, not willing to stand up results in what, you getting personally attacked. By the very people that you claim to love. Yeah. And so was that inevitable? I mean, she talked about, like, how that came to be. And then you get again, McCarthy, who was very angry, very scared, very upset by what happened. You know, glad that that apparently lasted a couple of weeks until you figured out that if you wanted to be speaker.
Mark Leibovich 24:07
I mean, I always thought McCarthy I mean, I remember. So in the January 6th commission hearings, I was struck by the portrayal of Mark Meadows by Cassidy Hutchinson or, you know, his chief of staff about how feckless and he just like, he was completely out of control. He didn’t, he couldn’t do anything. He just was sitting there. Reading his phone, my sense is McCarthy basically reacted the same way. I mean, he was unreachable. He wasn’t leading anyone. I mean, there’s all these really confused kind of backbench Republicans, a lot of them young ones who needed some kind of guidance about voting for certification, voting for impeachment. I mean, you know, most of them left to their own devices would have voted for certification, because that’s what you do. It’s what you know, with a couple of outlying exceptions over the years. I mean, you vote for certification. And, you know, all of a sudden, Trump says, no, you mustn’t vote for certification and then crews and Holly started their little drumbeat. And the Freedom Caucus, you know, Jim Jordan, and those guys were like, yeah, don’t vote for certification. And next thing, you know, you have a groundswell. And, you know, and again, McCarthy was nowhere to be found then I mean, he voted against certification, too, but he was nowhere to be found. And he was, I think you mentioned, he was angry, he was scared, and I forgot what the third one was, but I would put scared first, I think he was mostly just scared and overwhelmed. And ultimately, you know, it sounds like a cliche, but character matters. And he’s probably a person. I mean, I would say he’s a person of low character. There, I said it, and I think that came through during a very, very precarious moment. When I think others did a better job frankly, under incredible pressure and great threat of physical harm.
Andy Slavitt 25:52
Well, you wrote about someone who you don’t know Liz Cheney in that moment, and wondering if you can read that passage. Because well, the book is very funny. I find myself really gripped. And not laughing when I was reading this.
Mark Leibovich 26:09
It gets less funny as I mean, quite the ending, but everyone knows, you know, how January 6 went and so forth. So to set it up. I had this conversation a million times with McCarthy with Rudy, and I mean, just look Graham about like, how they’re going to be remembered. I mean, there’s always the verdict of history thing that people ask, you know, how, how will the future historians assess how you’ve conducted yourself during this formative period? How will what will your grandchildren think and so forth? And they all hated the question and had great contempt for like Trump said at one point, you know, if I lose this election, that’ll be my legacy. And Rudy would say, if I don’t care about my legacy, I’ll be dead and stuff like that. That was kind of the MO right, very kind of nihilistic or just indifferent to it. Liz Cheney was not like that. And here’s a passage that speaks to that. Liz Cheney is more willing than her fellow Republicans to entertain weighty matters of legacy and responsibility and how history will remember these times. This is about being able to tell your kids that you stood up and did the right thing she said. Cheney was in the Republican cloakroom on that Wednesday morning preparing to give her speech in support of DC isn’t supportive certifying Biden’s victory when her father called, Dick Cheney had just watched Trump on TV at his rally vowing to get rid of quote the Liz Cheney’s of the world. The former vice president became worried about his daughter’s for speech that it could inflame tensions, were she sure she wanted to go ahead? Absolutely she told him nothing could be more important. A few minutes later, Trump supporters stormed the entrance, House members were told to grab gas masks and from under their chairs and leave. Jim Jordan the pugilistic Trumpist from Ohio offered Cheney a hand, get away from me, she snapped waving him off. Cheney had grown disgusted with many of her colleagues over what they were willing to tolerate. She understood the pressures of learning to coexist with Trump as an elected Republican. She even understood humoring him if only it was a short term path of least resistance in the initial days after the election, but it has now gone dangerously beyond that. The indulgence Cheney saw from her colleagues for the president outraged her. I kept saying, guys, this is our constitutional obligation here, Cheney told me, This is what the Constitution says, This is what the courts have decided. She couldn’t believe her help fellow Republicans were still abiding this into December and then January. And then she says to me, we’ve got people we have entrusted with the perpetuation of the Republic who don’t know what the rule of law is. And she was just genuinely disgusted. And yeah, let’s Cheney. I mean, I know I’m not the only one to say this. But I, you know, I think she showed character, I think she continues to show character, I think she will probably lose her job over this. And she’s playing for keeps, and I appreciate that.
Andy Slavitt 28:59
Yeah, there’s something about the real personal nature of the call from a dad to his daughter. I mean, you think of, it’s been a long time since I’ve changed the human form, right? But at that moment, you know, hearing his daughter’s name worried about her. And then what she said, you know, which is there’s nothing more important right now, which was sort of go back to the first question I asked you, because it’s sort of what we thought was there somewhere in Washington, as much as we know how screwed up and selfish and corrupt in so many ways DC is, we thought that there would be a line that where people would just sort of stand and say, this ain’t happening. Because quite frankly, for other people and throughout history, that’s happened. Yeah. And when it didn’t hear, I think, I think it was scary. So I guess I want to close by just asking you about kind of where it goes from here. And by it, I mean, probably a couple things. One is the Republican Party is the Republican Party now, a MAGA party. Number two Trump personally wins, which is, it can be a market party without Trump, certainly, but in 2040 expected to be a MAGA party with Trump. And from everything you’ve seen, you know, do you think that the fevers broke is in your phrase? Or do you think, no, this is going to continue to 2024 and beyond and he will be there as long as he’s around?
Mark Leibovich 30:34
Yeah, I think well, first of all, I mean, we’ve seen what he does, which is he takes what he can get, right? I mean, unless someone stops him. He’s like Putin that way. I mean, just like, he’ll just keep going. And it is a MAGA party. I mean, he’s proof of it. I mean, the fact that it’s just gone on for seven years is proof that it’s a MAGA party, right? But also everyone was like, the fever is breaking. And, you know, Republicans are flocking to Ron DeSantis now, I’m not buying it. I think, you know, first of all, DeSantis is as Trump derivative is, as you can imagine, I mean, he basically built his whole career on incredibly sort of goupy weird behavior of just sort of sucking up to Trump. He, you know, he passes off. I mean, he just I don’t know, I don’t see it, I think..
Andy Slavitt 31:24
What do you make of the storyline that’s emerging in it? Sometimes it feels like more of a hopeful storyline of the Republicans want Trump without the personality, without the tweets, without that they’re really tired of that. If someone came along and said, we’ll give you the same thing without him.
Mark Leibovich 31:42
Yeah, I mean, DeSantis is it supposedly or just referring to him, like on background is Trump with a brain. I don’t buy it. I don’t think first of all, I think you can’t lose the cult of personality and lose the personality. I mean, DeSantis doesn’t have that compelling personality. And the people who know him, don’t like him. I mean, it’s not that they don’t like him. he’s just a weird, dude. Right? And I cannot imagine him scaling well. He’s not terribly popular in Florida. He’s not a shoo in for reelection. You know, yeah, maybe he’s smart. But you know, I think a lot of people are smarter than Trump, I think. I don’t know. I don’t see it. I don’t see the DeSantis thing at all.
Andy Slavitt 32:21
Do you think Trump is the nominee? And do you think how much we believe that Trump becomes president again in 2024?
Mark Leibovich 32:30
the president thing? I mean, that’s tough. I mean, that really, I mean, one takeaway from the book, I hope is that, like, Republicans got to stop. And I mean, they didn’t really try it a lot. I mean, they tried, but they can do this. I mean, if they can just like rally either around someone else. I don’t know if it’s DeSantis or who but and like, get him into a general election. It’s a jump ball, right? I mean, you know, obviously, Democrats have their own problems. I mean, Biden’s got his own problems. I mean, it’s not like the Democrats have, like a natural heir apparent. I mean, that’s a whole other conversation. But yeah, I mean, I don’t look forward to a general election where Trump has a decent chance of winning again. And I guess the worst case scenario is, I mean, best case scenarios that he loses in his effort to steal the election is not successful, and no one dies this time. I mean, you realize the bar is kind of lowering, but you know, we all live through it. I mean, those were not fun days, so, but I don’t see anyone stopping him right now. And I also think everyone’s like, oh, well, 50% of Republicans want someone else. I mean, that was true in 2016, too, you know, and, you know, it’s not like, I mean, they came around, I mean, it’s, it’s not like do you think DeSantis is going to endorse Biden? No, you think DeSantis’ supporters are going to like, you know, stay at home? Probably not. I mean, for Trump, so I don’t know.
Andy Slavitt 33:55
The guy gave the party a formula. And, you know, no one’s ever accused most politicians of being original fakers. So you get a formula. And this is how you run the formula. And, you know, I think what Jesus said, I think is compelling, which is that the cult of personality without the personality, there’s not a lot of track record for that work. Well, Mark, I really appreciate you coming on, and giving us the blow by blow in writing this. You know, I don’t always recommend books to people, but you will both enjoy this and be glad you read it.
Mark Leibovich 34:33
All right. Thank you. When you say both, you mean like you only have two people listening to this?
Andy Slavitt 34:36
No, you’ll enjoy, actually think I said it right. You’ll both enjoy it. And this is a point of emphasis, and be really glad you read it for other reasons.
Mark Leibovich 34:45
Awesome. Thanks for having me on, Andy.
Andy Slavitt 34:48
By the way, we have five listeners.
Andy Slavitt 34:50
Hey, you know what, every little bit counts right? I appreciate you. This was fun.
Andy Slavitt 34:54
Alright, let me tell you what we have coming up on the show. If you didn’t notice we’re in the middle of the BA5 wave. We’re going to have some upcoming shows talking about what’s happening and what will be happening soon around COVID. Speaking which we’re also going to have Tony Fauci on the show. Kyle pointed out to me that Tony announced his retirement at the end of the Biden term, which gives him like two full baseball seasons. Finally, Tony is a big baseball fan loves the Nationals. Jamie Raskin, who is Congress person, on the January 6th select committee is going to come on and talk about the hearing and what’s going on, love that we can bring that to you. We’re going to episode on monkey pox, that is growing stronger and stronger. And our response is not done enough. Coming up, we’re gonna have Patton Oswald, comedian, but just some great takes on everything. And more around vaccines. We’ll be heading our way. So there’s gonna be a lot of great shows in the next few weeks. Tell your friends by the t shirt, and come back on Wednesday. Thank you for listening.
Andy Slavitt 36:12
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.