Mueller Report, Trump’s Yemen Veto, Barr Limits Bail for Asylum Seekers

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Kristin and Mike open the show with the story that’s consumed the media – the release of the redacted Mueller Report. They discuss ‘collusion’, obstruction, Attorney General William Barr spinning the report pre-release, and the pros and cons of starting impeachment proceedings. They also talk about Trey’s ‘big picture’ view – that presidents are too powerful and the office of the presidency itself is broken.

Next, they discuss President Trump’s second veto, over the congressional resolution to stop assisting the Saudi-backed Yemeni government forces in that country’s civil war. Mike sees it as a small positive sign, though he wishes that Congress would be more assertive when it comes to taking what he views as its rightful place in matters of war. Kristin points out that there’s more than a little gray area here, which Mike feels could be clarified if something like the War Powers Resolution were made into a constitutional amendment (not that that’s happening any time soon).

The show closes with a look at AG Barr’s announcement that some asylum seekers would be denied the opportunity to post bail. The decision, while only applying to those travelling without children and entering at non-authorized entry points, could affect thousands of asylum seekers. Mike thinks that if the administration were serious about solving this problem, they’d make it much harder for businesses to hire undocumented workers by mandating E-verify and cracking down on businesses employing undocumented workers, a position Kristin thinks is reasonable. Further, Mike argues that instead of cutting aid to Central American countries, as the Trump administration has been doing, the U.S. should be dramatically increasing it. Kristin isn’t a fan of that, arguing that government money may be poorly targeted and ill-spent and that it would be far better to encourage NGOs to assist struggling Central American countries.

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Chick-Fil-A, Trump’s Taxes, Democratic Fundraising, Podcast Politics

Mike & Jay open the show with a discussion of recent controversies surrounding Chick-Fil-A. Mike believes that decisions to not allow the chicken chain into certain venues are based on the company’s support for anti-gay discrimination and its own internal anti-gay policies. Jay, on the other hand, sees this as an attack on religious belief.

Next is a look at the standoff between the Treasury Department and the House Ways and Means Committee concerning Donald Trump’s income taxes. Mike and Jay both think that the law requires Treasury to hand over the president’s returns and that eventually that will happen. Mike believes that this is important for policy reasons, as there may well be some significant conflicts of interest that could be identified through an examination of Trump’s returns. But politically both Guys see it as a potential loss for Democrats, no matter what the returns might contain.

After that, Mike and Jay review the first quarter Democratic presidential candidate fundraising totals. Mike was surprised at how far in front Bernie Sanders was, and also by the strong showing of Pete Buttigieg. Jay thinks that Elizabeth Warren’s weak showing is most likely a result of her decision to eschew big-donor fundraising events. Jay also points out that we shouldn’t make too much of these numbers, as in every presidential primary there are flashes in the pan who start strong but fade fast.

Finally, Mike talks about some findings from his research on ideology, bipartisanship, and demographic representation in the political podcast world.

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DHS Shakeup, Barr Before Congress, Net Neutrality, Assange Arrested

Mike & Jay open the show with a look at the leadership shakeup at the Department of Homeland Security. Mike argues that the problem isn’t insufficiently tough leadership, but rather that President Trump wants to do things he can’t legally do. (Like keep asylum seekers in Mexico, which a federal judge recently said wasn’t permissible.) Jay largely agrees, but points out that the president’s hands are somewhat tied by Democrats in Congress who aren’t interested in negotiating a broader deal on immigration. Mike doesn’t quite buy that, arguing that Trump hasn’t even tried to negotiate in good faith.

Next is discussion of Attorney General William Barr’s testimony before Congress. After talking about why certain parts of the Mueller report might legitimately need to be redacted, the Guys discuss Barr’s claim that the government spied on the Trump campaign. Both Mike and Jay agree that this of course happened, and that the only question – as Barr himself pointed out – is whether that surveillance was fully justified under the law. They both see this as very serious and entirely worthy of a fair and full investigation.

After that Mike & Jay discuss a House measure that would reinstate net neutrality after the Trump FCC rescinded it. Jay says that net neutrality is a solution in search of a problem and that there’s no need to regulate and potentially hinder the growth of the Internet. Mike says that enshrining net neutrality in law is a smart preemptive measure that will keep service providers from acting in ways that will stifle competition.

Finally, Mike & Jay talk about the arrest and potential extradition of Wikileaks founder Julian Assange. They agree that Assange should be extradited and that while he may at times be a journalist, he has repeatedly acted in a dangerous and wildly irresponsible way, putting countless lives at risk.

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Brian Smentkowski on Myths Stemming from our Misunderstanding of the Bill of Rights

Will talks with political scientist Brian Smentkowski, an Associate Professor at the University of Idaho. He’s the co-author of Misreading the Bill of Rights: Top Ten Myths Concerning Your Rights and Liberties with Craig Freeman and Kirby Goidel.

Topics Will & Brian discuss include:

      • The top myths Americans hold regarding the Bill of Rights
      • Whether a Bill of Rights is necessary for democracy
      • Our changing understanding of religion in the United States
      • America’s paradoxical view of security
      • How a free press and an informed citizenry impacts democracy
      • The differences between punishment and torture

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Mueller, Joe’s Woes, and the Role of Government

Will is joined by a new co-host, Brian Smentkowski, a political scientist from the University of Idaho. They begin the show by discussing the current status of the Mueller Report and Democratic efforts to get President Trump’s tax returns released. Will sees little value with releasing the report in full while Brian argues that if nothing else it is symbolically necessary. Both agree, however, that the report will be twisted to fit partisan desires. Regarding income tax returns, both note how tradition is guiding discussions more than law at present.

Next, they turn to discussing the harassment allegations raised against potential presidential nominee Joe Biden. While Will argues that Biden is from a different era and seems genuinely unsure of what he’s done wrong without being malicious, Brian argues there’s nothing funny about the allegations and when combined with Biden’s past could raise red flags for some voters. Will ties the conversation back to whether the average Democratic voter would risk a Biden nomination (and polling that suggests he’s the best chance against Trump in 2020) over the current allegations or not. They then turn to discuss the current field and Tim Ryan’s decision to irrelevantly enter the race. Both find Mayor Peter to be an interesting case study.

Lastly, the Guys talk about three recent example of government intervention and regulation. First, they look at the focus on self-regulating industries brought to light by the FAA and Boeing’s Super Max debacle. Brian argues that self-regulation can work, but it comes with definite risks while Will worries about the cost-benefit of government becoming too involved. Both Will and Brian share concerns over New York City’s current proposal for a consumption tax to relieve traffic concerns south of Central Park. Brian isn’t sure there will be any impact while Will believes money should be spent on better public transportation to influence ridership. Lastly, both Will and Brian lament the upcoming statewide ban on plastic bags in the state of New York, albeit for very different reasons.

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Medicare For All, Trump’s Obstruction, Mike & Jay’s Apostasies, Mayor Pete, Israel, Bernie, Gerrymandering, Trusting The Media

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In this listener mail episode, Mike and Jay respond to the following listener questions:

  • Will employers pocket insurance premium money they’d potentially save under a Medicare For All system?
  • Why might Trump have wanted to obstruct justice, even if he wasn’t working with the Russians?
  • Where do Mike and Jay differ from their parties?
  • What do Mike and Jay think about Pete Buttigeig?
  • Why do so many Democrats seem to be anti-Israel?
  • Will gerrymandering get worse after the 2020 Census?
  • How can we trust a media that first told us that Trump was working with the Russians and is now disappointed that he wasn’t working with the Russians?

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Mueller Investigation,Trump and Obamacare, Medicaid Work Requirements

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Jay and Mike open the show with a discussion of what we currently know about the recently ended Mueller investigation. Jay says there was ‘no collusion’ while Mike points out that there was ‘not enough evidence to prove collusion’ which he sees as an important distinction. They also discuss why Mueller refrained from making a determination about obstruction of justice and what’s next for Democrats intent on continuing their investigations into President Trump.

After that is a look at the administration’s recent change of position on the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act. Previously, they stated that while the individual mandate was unconstitutional, the rest of the law could stand (not that they were enthusiastic about it). This change of position seems to be both constitutionally questionable and a potential political problem for Congressional Republicans. However, viewed in light of what’s good for President Trump, Jay believes the change of position may make good political sense.

Finally, the Guys discuss a federal judge halting Medicaid work requirements in Arkansas and Kentucky. Mike argues that the administration overstepped when it granted the work requirements waivers which he believes amounted to the executive branch rewriting a law it didn’t like. Jay counters that work requirements are related to health outcomes, and that the programs should be allowed to continue.

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Brexit and the Electoral College

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Trey & Ken start the show this week breaking from the normal format and discussing a topic that does not cover “American politics and policy” directly. Instead the pair discuss Brexit. After talking about the complex potential outcomes of Brexit and the looming hard deadline the pair turn to discus the idea of nationalism more broadly.

Trey begins by suggesting nationalism is the underlying cause of Brexit. Ken sees nationalism as inherently racist. Trey, a supporter of open borders at home, cautions that nationalism is a more important variable than he has given credit. He sees a credible argument against his own position for open borders and wonders if the two of them have not missed reasonable pushback.

Trey & Ken close the episode with a listener question. The question concerns what would happen to American presidential elections if electoral college votes were given out on the basis of proportional representation instead of winner take all. Both Trey & Ken have slightly different views but agree that any of these changes depend on how much you value democratic majoritarianism vs. republicanism’s fear of majorities.

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DC vs. Donald Trump, Free Speech on College Campuses, Economics and Elections, The Democratic Primary Field

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Trey & Ken start the show by discussing the novel constitutional law case District of Columbia v. Donald J. Trump. The question in the case concerns an antiquated word, emolument, found in only three places in the constitution. The question pivots on if foreign and domestic entities are involving themselves with Trump properties to get a better reception from President Trump. Ken thinks the case is relatively straightforward, but Trey wonders how much the Supreme Court would want to involve itself in a potentially ignorable decision.

After that, they talk about President Trump’s executive order concerning free speech on college campus. Trey & Ken learn they are both supporters and members of the same free speech organization and are happy with the principles laid out in the order. The order itself, however, seems to do nothing that isn’t already taking place on college campuses. Trey suggests it is more of a position stance than a policy stance.

Then it’s time to discuss the economy. Recent economic conditions are showing a deeply healthy economy. The only cloud being the ballooning federal deficit. Trey & Ken have a bit of disagreement over the causes of this good news. Then the two discuss the economic models that suggest that President Trump would easily win reelection in this climate. Trey & Ken talk political vs. economic forecast models and debate the extent to which minimum wage increases explain weekly worker wage growth.

Trey & Ken close the show by talking about the robust Democratic primary field. Ken discusses his top three candidates while Trey ponders if Booker has not been given his due. Trey thinks Democrats have a tougher general election regardless of the winner given the current economic conditions and Ken is worried his predictions are too early to matter.

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Anti-Trump Conspiracy, Online Media, Late-Term Abortions, Is Mike Naive on Immigration?

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In this listener response episode, Mike and Kristin address these listener questions:

  • In the light of recently released testimony, can we conclude that elements in the intelligence community worked to sabotage Donald Trump?
  • Is online media transparent enough about changing stories?
  • Is opposition to the Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act tantamount to support for infanticide?
  • Is Mike being naive about border security?

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