Trump-Putin Summit, Endangered Species Act, EU Fines Google, Judicial Nominations

This week, Mike and Jay open the show with a discussion of the summit between President Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin in Helsinki, Finland. They agree that President Trump’s performance was bizarre and awful. Mike says this, combined with everything else we’ve seen regarding Trump and Russia, is enough to convince him that President Trump is either compromised by Russia or believes he may be compromised, which amounts to the same thing in real terms.

After that, the Guys discuss new rules that would make major, industry-friendly changes to the Endangered Species Act. Mike says that he’s all in favor of streamlining environmental approvals for industry, but not at the cost of endangering and destroying biodiversity. Jay has a more positive take on the proposed rules, believing they’re a much-needed corrective to a policy that’s unnecessarily hampered economic growth.

Next is a look at the European Union’s latest fine against Google for engaging in anticompetitive practices. Mike says that ensuring competitive markets  is a key role of government, and that the EU is doing a better job of it then the US is doing. Jay is also all for competitive markets, but thinks that the EU’s position is overreach and that consumers have more options than EU regulators seems to believe.

Finally, the Guys talk about the withdrawn nomination of Ryan Bounds to serve on the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals. Mike finds it disappointing that Bounds even got to this point, as both of his home-state senators returned negative ‘Blue Slips’ which traditionally meant that the nomination would be quashed. He argues that the Blue Slip tradition is yet another casualty of our hyper-partisan environment. Jay is less sad to see the Blue Slip go, arguing that it’s no longer serving its intended purpose, but he agrees with Mike that making judicial nominations filibuster-proof has been a step in the wrong direction.

What Mike and Jay are Reading
Why I’m No Longer a Russiagate Skeptic

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Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha on Politics, Lead, and the Flint Water Crisis

Mike talks to Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha, director of the pediatrics residency at the Hurley Medical Center in Flint, Michigan, and an assistant professor at Michigan State University’s College of Human Medicine, where she heads the Hurley Children’s Hospital Public Health Initiative.

It was through Dr, Mona’s courageous and unflagging efforts that the public learned about the dangerous levels of lead in Flint’s drinking water. Her work has been recognized by numerous environmental groups, including the Michigan Environmental Council, the Children’s Environmental Health Network, and the Union of Concerned Sciences.  She’s the author of a recently released book on the Flint crisis, titled What The Eyes Don’t See: A Story of Crisis, Resistance, and Hope in an American City.

Follow Dr. Mona on Twitter

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Russia Indictments, SCOTUS Pick, NATO Summit, Trade War, Strzok Testifies

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Mike and Trey kick off the show by discussing the 12 Russian intelligence officials indicted this week for hacking into Democratic Party systems. Mike says that despite the fact that these Russians will never face trial in the United States, the indictments point to the importance of allowing Robert Mueller to complete his investigation, which is not at all the pointless ‘witch hunt’ some claim. Trey says that these indictments make the idea of President Trump meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin an even worse idea than it already was.

Next is discussion of President Trump nominating Brett Kavanaugh to replace Justice Anthony Kennedy on the Supreme Court. Mike and Trey agree that Kavanaugh is a fairly mainstream conservative choice who will almost certainly be confirmed. Trey points out that a few Senate Democrats facing tough reelection fights may end up voting in favor of confirmation, which seems far more likely than any Republicans defecting.

After that, the Guys talk about the NATO summit and President Trump’s first official visit to the UK. It was a story of two Trumps – the public side, where the president engaged in his usual over-the-top bellicosity, and the private side, where by most accounts he was downright reasonable.

Trey believes that President Trump’s view of NATO and trade relations with the UK is bound up with his larger zero-sum view of trade, which is currently playing out in the escalating trade war with China, which the Guys turn to next. They both agree that imposing additional tariffs on Chinese goods is a truly awful idea, and while a majority of Congressional Republicans agree, they lack the political will to do anything substantive about it.

Finally, Trey and Mike discuss the bipartisan grandstanding at the Congressional testimony of FBI agent Peter Strzok. Mike laments the GOP’s continued effort to destroy the credibility of the FBI in support of the president, and Trey agrees that the greater tendency to discredit accusers, rather than focus on the facts, is a very disturbing trend.

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Power Imbalance, Trump Supporter Motivations, What if the Democrats Win?, The National Debt, How to Effect Change

In this listener comment episode, Mike and Trey address these questions:

  • Why has the executive branch become so much more powerful than the legislative and judicial branches, and what can we do about it?
  • What motivates President Trump’s political allies beyond short term outcomes?
  • If the Democrats take control of Congress are we still stuck in a stalemate or do we see President Trump force the GOP to compromise to get his agenda passed? What common ground could the Democrats find with Trump? Are they so oppositional that compromise is politically detrimental?
  • How big of a problem is the national debt?
  • What practical things can liberals and conservatives do to effect change?

What Mike’s Reading
Marijuana addiction is real, and rising (Denver Post)

What Trey’s Reading
The Adventures of Tom Sawyer. Mark Twain

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SCOTUS Strategy, Pruitt Resigns, Trade Wars, Immigration, Republicans in Russia

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This week’s show kicks off with Mike and Trey discussing the likely strategies of both the left and the right once President Trump names his Supreme Court nominee.

After that it’s discussion of the resignation of scandal-plagued EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt. The Guys agree that Pruitt was exactly what many Republicans wanted in terms of policy, but that the mounting scandals became too much of a distraction. They also discuss what Pruitt’s departure is likely to mean for the EPA going forward.

Then it’s a look at the escalating trade war between the U.S. and China, after President Trump’s imposition of $34 billion in tariffs on Chinese goods, and China’s retaliation. Mike thinks this is looking less like a negotiating tactic and more like a longer-term policy. Trey agrees and, as the biggest free-trader of all the Politics Guys, is particularly disturbed by these developments.

Next is an update on the immigration fiasco, which Mike continues to argue is both incompetent and inhumane. Trey makes the point that this policy can be seen as part of a larger worldview that also pushes back against free trade. Mike suggests that all the awful images might actually be what some in the administration want, in that they may eventually lead to fewer immigrants willing to risk crossing into the United States illegally.

Finally, they discuss the GOP Senate delegation to Russia over the 4th of July as well as President Trump’s upcoming summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin. Mike is surprised as how partisanship has become so strong that it has somehow turned Republicans into Russian appeasears. Trey and Mike are concerned that President Trump may be overmatched in any one-on-one meeting with Putin.

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Anthony Kennedy, the Politics of the Supreme Court, and how a New Justice May Change the Court

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In our first ever three-person Politics Guys, Northern Kentucky University Law Professor Ken Katkin joins Mike and Jay to discuss:

  • how Kennedy was different from the Court’s four other conservatives
  • whether the Justices are politicians in robes or if they base their decisions on more than partisan calculations
  • if Senator McConnell should hold off on hearings for President Trump’s nominee to replace Kennedy until after the election, as he did with President Obama’s nominee to replace Justice Scalia
  • how the Court may alter its opinions on partisan gerrymandering, LGBTQ rights, denial of services to same-sex weddings, and Roe v. Wade with a new, more conservative replacement for Kennedy

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Kennedy Retires, Travel Ban, Public Unions, CA Abortion Law, TX Redistricting, Immigration

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This week’s show starts off with Mike and Jay discussing Justice Anthony Kennedy’s retirement. There’s so much to cover here that the Guys decided to do an entire episode on it, which will drop in the usual Wednesday slot (July 4).

There were a bunch of important Supreme Court decisions announced this week, which Mike and Jay then get into. First was a big win for President Trump’s travel ban. Jay thinks the Court make the right call, but Mike – after initially agreeing earlier in the week – has changed his mind, and thinks the four liberal dissenters got it right.

After that is another 5-4 conservative ruling that overturned a 41-year-old precedent that allowed public sector unions to charge non-members a collective bargaining fee. Jay once again sides with the conservative majority, while Mike argues that their decision rests on shaky grounds and, as such, he would default to allowing the policy of the states as opposed to what he sees as conservative judicial activism.

Then it’s a look at the Court – yet again along 5-4 ideological lines – overturning the California FACT Act, which required anti-abortion ‘pregnancy crisis centers’ to make mention of abortion services available elsewhere as well as to let clients know if the center does not have a state medical license. Mike agrees with the 9th Circuit, which held that this was neutral commercial speech and therefore subject to regulation. Jay believes the majority on the Supreme Court was right in arguing that this amounts to compelled speech promoting abortion, and therefore a violation of the 1st Amendment.

The final big case of the week involved a Texas congressional and state legislative redistricting plan that a lower court said was an impermissible racial gerrymander. It was another 5-4 ideological split, with Jay standing with the conservative majority who argued that the burden of proof was on the plaintiffs and they didn’t demonstrate that Texas acted in bad faith. Mike is pretty sure that Texas did act in bad faith, but because he didn’t see clear proof of this, he reluctantly agrees that the Court’s conservatives were right on this one.

Finally, Mike and Jay discuss the major developments in immigration policy in the last week: President Trump’s suggestion that immigrants aren’t entitled to due process, the multi-state lawsuit against family separations, a federal judge ordering the administration to reunite families, the incompetence with which the policy has been carried out from the very beginning, and why Congress hasn’t acted, and it’s likely to any time soon.

Listener support helps make The Politics Guys possible. If you’re interested in supporting the show, go to politicsguys.com/support.

Police Immunity, Regulating Business, Covering Trump’s Lies, How We Perceive Migrants

In this listener comment episode, Mike and Jay address the following listener questions:

  • Should police be given the level of qualified immunity from prosecution they currently receive? Will a recent federal court ruling change anything?
  • We need to keep an eye on regulators, but doesn’t Jay think we also need to watch companies? How do we keep companies honest, and working in the best interest of consumers and the public?
  • How can the media balance respect for the office of the presidency with fair coverage of presidential untruths?
  • How do our perceptions of migrants shape our attitudes toward immigration policy?

What Mike’s Binge Watching (and reading) While his Wife is Away on a Month-Long International Trip

What Jay’s Reading

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Family Separation, SCOTUS on Gerrymandering & Sales Tax, Space Force!, US Leaves Human Rights Council

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This week’s show starts with Mike and Jay discussing the bipartisan furor over family separations that have occurred as a result of the Trump administration’s ‘Zero Tolerance’ immigration policy. Mike argues that the policy is inhumane, that Donald Trump lied when he said he could do nothing about it – as evidenced by the Executive Order he signed halting the policy – and that the policy was incompetently rolled out. Jay agrees about the incompetence and the president being wrong about having his hands tied, but believes that the policy’s effects have been exaggerated by many on the left and in the media.

After that, it’s a look at two important Supreme Court decisions. The first is a highly anticipated ruling on partisan gerrymandering. The Court disappointed many people by deciding not to decide, arguing that the cases weren’t ready for their review. Mike and Jay, while disagreeing on the underlying issue of partisan gerrymandering, agree that the Court made the right call here.

The second case involves an ideologically unusual 5-4 split in a ruling that will allow states to require out-of-state merchants to charge sales tax. Mike agrees with the policy, but sides with the dissenters – led by Chief Justice John Roberts – on the law, agreeing that this was a matter for Congress to address, not the Court. Jay, while less pleased on policy grounds, shares Mike’s approval of the judicial restraint argued for by Roberts and the three other Justices in the minority.

Next is a discussion of the Trump administration’s proposals to create a ‘Space Force’ and to combine the Departments of Education and Labor. Mike is skeptical about the need for a sixth branch of the armed forces, while Jay thinks it could be a reasonable idea given what’s sure to be the increasing military importance of space. Mike’s less sure about the Education / Labor merger, and Jay agrees that it would need to be fleshed out considerably more. Given that neither of these things can occur without Congressional approval, it seems unlikely they’ll happen any time soon, though Jay points out that it can be useful to float big ideas as trial balloons.

Finally, the Guys debate the wisdom of the United States withdrawing from the UN Human Rights Council. Jay points out that the Council has a massive bias against Israel and is filled with human rights abusing states. Mike agrees, but believes that the Obama approach of engaging with even very flawed international organizations in an attempt to improve them is usually a better strategy than walking away.

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Why the Electoral College? Why a Two Party System? Ranked-Choice Voting Systems Explained

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This episode features Trey and Ken’s responses to the following listener questions:

  • Why do we have the Electoral College?
  • Why isn’t there a way to invalidate fraudulent elections?
  • What would it take for a third party rise to national prominence?
  • Can you explain ranked-choice voting?
  • What do you think about ranked-choice voting in light of the recent Maine election?

What We’re Reading
A Spy Named Orphan: The Enigma of Donald Maclean by Roland Philipps

The Kennedy Brothers: The Rise and Fall of Jack and Bobby by Richard Mahoney

Listener support helps make The Politics Guys possible. If you’re interested in supporting the show, go to politicsguys.com/support.