PG150: Santa Fe, U.S. Opens The Embassy in Jerusalem, North Korea Has Harsh Words for Bolton, Haspel Is Confirmed, Senate Intel Committee Agrees Russia Tried to Influence 2016 Election, and 2,500 Pages of Trump Tower Documents Released by the Judiciary Committee

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This week Trey and Mike begin the show with the tragic news of a school shooting in Santa Fe Friday. Mike argues briefly that it is the immutable American gun culture that leads to these kinds of tragedies. Trey argues that the right ignores the possibility of lowering the current levels of gun violence with data from other countries while the left ignores that these rates are extremely low forms of death.

After Santa Fe, the hosts transition to two foreign policy topics. The first of these is the United States moving the Israeli embassy to Jerusalem. The move, started by Congress under Bill Clinton but delayed since then, occurred on Monday and led to violence in Gaza and a border conflict. Trey and Mike have different takes on the ability to take sides, but agree that most ignore the long standing historical forces — and immorality — that has led to the ongoing violence. They also arguing the timing was ill advised.

In other foreign policy news Trey and Mike look at the recent harsh words between the U.S. and North Korea as we approach the June 12 summit. Neither host finds the issue shocking and both suggest that it is par for the course for North Korea despite the unfortunate comments from John Bolton.

Turning from foreign to domestic policy Trey and Mike discuss the Senate confirmation of Gina Haspel. Mike argues that she is qualified save for her role in the 2002 torture involvement. Trey is more disappointed in the Senate for the vote and argues that her move to destroy evidence in 2005 disqualifies her from the role and makes it impossible to ever accurately asses her success or failure as CIA head given it is hard to know if she would revert to those kinds of coverups again.

Next Trey and Mike move on to the Senate Intelligence Committee endorsing the evidence that Russia was involved in influencing the 2016 election and, further, it was doing so in favor of Donald Trump. Trey argues that the conclusion is straightforward, but that the likelihood it resulted in changing the election is tiny.

Finally, Trey and Mike discuss the 2,500 pages of material released by the Senate Judiciary Committee. Both hosts offer insights into what the material means and offer a voice of support for continued investigations.

Bonus Show! Supporters were treated to a second bonus show this week. If you are interested in hearing more from Trey and Mike head to www.politicsguys.com/support/ and unlock the bonus show.

What Trey is Reading
Endure: Mind, Body and the Curiously Elastic Limits of Human Performance. Alex Hutchinson.

What Mike is Reading
Sam Harris and the Myth of Perfectly Rational Thought. Robert Wright.

Ran Levi on Hacking, Cybersecurity, and Ransomware

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Mike talks with Ran Levi, author of Battle of Minds: The History of Computer Malware and host of the Malicious Life podcast, which explores the people and the stories behind the cyber security industry and its evolution.

Mike and Ran discuss Russian hacking into Democratic and Republican systems, potential hacking into state election systems, why paper ballots are a really good idea, the cybersecurity threat posed by Russia, North Korea, and terrorist organizations, the most common vulnerabilities and what governments aren’t doing to protect themselves, and more.

Ran Levi on Twitter

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

PG149: Iran Nuclear Deal, North Korea Summit, Torture & the CIA Nomination, 2018 Primaries, Michael Cohen’s Shenanigans

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This week’s show opens with a look at the Iran nuclear deal that President Trump pulled the U.S. out of. Both Mike and Jay agree that it was an imperfect deal, but Mike feels we should have stayed in and worked to improve it. Jay feels that the deal was far more imperfect than Mike does, but he agrees that the president’s propensity for walking away from international agreements isn’t the best way to handle things.

The Guys next turn to the historic summit meeting between President Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jung Un, which President Trump announced would be held in Singapore on June 12. Jay sees this as a potential step in the right direction and though Mike has plenty of doubts about President Trump’s diplomatic ability, he agrees that after decades of stalemate, things could possibly be changing for the better. Even so, it’s still very early days, and the U.S. is dealing with an incredibly secretive and untrustworthy country, so expectations should be very low.

After that Mike and Jay discussion Gina Haspel, President Trump’s nominee to lead the CIA. Mike acknowledges Haspel’s experience and expertise, but agrees with Senator John McCain that Haspel’s position on torture / ‘enhanced interrogation techniques’ is disqualifying. Jay disagrees arguing that much of the outcry against Haspel is simply due to her being Donald Trump’s nominee.

Next is a look at the Senate primary elections in Ohio, West Virginia, and Indiana. Neither Mike nor Jay saw much to surprise them, with Jay pointing out that there seemed to be a move away from extreme Republicans.

Finally, Mike and Jay talk about former Trump personal attorney Michael Cohen raising millions peddling his connection to the president. Mike says that while this sort of thing goes on all the time – in Republican and Democratic administrations – he’s troubled by yet another Russia connection. Jay sees things more or less the same way, and in discussing the topic he clarifies his position on Trump, Russia, and collusion.

What Mike’s Reading
Why the specter of Marx still haunts the world.

Rulers of the world: read Karl Marx!

Happy Birthday, Karl Marx. You Were Right!

What Jay’s Reading
I’m Not Black, I’m Kanye: Kanye West wants freedom – white freedom. Ta-Nehisi Coates

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

Broken Healthcare, The Value of Protest, Labor Unions, Syria, Thoughts on Trump

This listener comment show begins with Mike and Jay taking a question from a listener who wonders if it’s fair to conclude that healthcare in the United States is broken given the far greater amount per capita the U.S. spends to get results not too different from other rich, developed countries. Mike says yes, and Jay doesn’t quite say no, though he points out some important features of the United States that may make international comparisons somewhat tricky.

Next is a listener who writes in to argue against Jay’s seeming dismissal of protests by telling the story of how his experience attending a march led him to become deeply involved in politics. Jay responds by acknowledging that in some cases a protest experience can be a springboard for greater political action, but argues that in most cases that isn’t what happens.

Then it’s a listener questioning the value of labor unions. Mike says that while it’s true that unions may have been slow to adapt to a globalized market, they still have a critical role. Jay, who points out that unions have done a lot of good in the past, is a lot more skeptical about their continued relevance.

After that the Guys make some recommendations for books that cover Clinton shenanigans – books that aren’t partisan hit-jobs but rather well-researched examinations written by highly respected authors. (Yes – those sort of politics books *do* exist.)

This is followed by several questions about Syria, involving the president’s authority to authorize military action and a more macro-level look at U.S. policy in Syria and the Middle East as a whole.

Mike and Jay close the show by answering a listener who wonders what it would take for Jay to be personally appalled by Donald Trump, and what, if anything, Mike likes about the president.

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

PG148: Mueller’s Questions for Trump, Pornstar Payoffs, Trump’s Trade Wars, Sprint T-Mobile Merger, States Sue EPA

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The show starts off with Mike and Jay discussing the list of questions Special Counsel Robert Mueller has for President Trump, and whether or not the president will end up answering them. They both agree that it would be extremely unwise for Trump to sit down for an extended interview, even if that means ‘taking the 5th’, which President Trump has previously (and erroneously) suggested only guilty people need to do. As a legal matter, even if Mueller concludes that President Trump obstructed justice, the only remedy is impeachment and removal by Congress, something that would require extremely compelling evidence.

Then it’s a look at the latest in the Stormy Daniels payoff, in light of new Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani’s statement that the president reimbursed his attorney Michael Cohen for Cohen’s hush money payment to Daniels. Mike thinks that Trump may have known about the payment, but proving it will be extremely difficult. Jay wonders if the media referring to Daniels as a ‘former porn star’ is a way of making her seem more legitimate, though Mike questions whether ‘former porn star’ is really that much better sounding than ‘porn star’.

After that, the Guys talk about trade – specifically the tariff extensions President Trump recently extended to Canada, Mexico, and the EU, as well as a high-level U.S. trade delegation that was in China this week. Jay argues that this is of a piece with Trump’s typical business strategy of staking out a bold position, never letting go of leverage, and walking away from deals if they aren’t favorably enough. Mike points out that this may work in the private sector, but doesn’t always transfer over to global politics all that well.

Then it’s a look at the proposed T-Mobile / Sprint merger. Mike and Jay are in agreement that it’s likely to enhance competition and be a better deal for consumers. Jay thinks that the Trump administration will ultimately not try to block the merger and while Mike hope’s that’s the case, he’s not as optimistic as Jay is about that outcome.

Finally, the Guys discuss the lawsuit filed by 18 states against the EPA’s move to lower fuel economy standards as well as revoke a longstanding waiver that allows California to set more stringent standards. Mike supports the higher standards and the continuation of the waiver, while Jay feels the standards are worth reevaluating and that California shouldn’t be allowed to set its own, tougher standards.

What Jay’s Reading
Why the Justice Department is Defiant. Kimberly Strassel (WSJ – paywall)

What Mike’s Reading
The Jesuit Guide to (Almost) Everything. James Martin, S.J.

Pope Francis Isn’t Catholicism’s Trump. Andrew Sullivan.

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Kurt Andersen on Fantasyland: How America Went Haywire

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Mike talks with journalist and best-selling author Kurt Andersen about his most recent book, Fantasyland: How America Went Haywire: A 500-Year History.

Mike and Kurt discuss America’s founding by ‘a nutty religious cult’, the long history of American pseudo-empiricism, the dynamic equilibrium between fantasists and realists that made American great, how the fantasists ended up in the driver’s seat, ways in which the 1960s empowered the modern right, Donald Trump as a 21st century P.T. Barnum, and lots more.

Kurt Andersen on Twitter.

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