PG 147: North and South Korea Meet, Macron Goes to Washington, How Special of a Special Election in Arizona?, Ronnie Jackson Withdraws, and the Scott Pruitt’s “Secret Science”

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This week Trey and Mike host together for the first time in a number of episodes. Picking up with one of last week’s topics the hosts discuss the meeting between the leaders of North and South Korea. Trey and Mike both agree the meeting was important, but it was a show over a substantive policy meeting. Despite the need for caution, both are weakly optimistic about the future. The devil will be in the substantive policy details, especially in the meaning of “complete denuclearization.”

The conversation then turned domestic as Trey and Mike examined Emmanuel Macron’s state visit to the U.S. The hosts argued that President Macron was trying to simultaneously highlight his personal relationship with President Trump while pushing for Trump to concede on a few important policy points. Trey and Mike spend time discussing those policy points, including Syria. tariffs, and the 2015 Iran nuclear deal. The Trey and Mike didn’t agree on each of these issues and, on Syria, both took opposite policy positions.

The conversation then shifted to the Arizona special election. Both hosts, as political scientists, agree that the actual campaign is generally not the best variable in understanding elections. They discuss how much of the current wave of Democratic inroads is due to over arching structural variables and how much of it is explained by a post-Trump Republican Party.

Next Trey and Mike briefly analyze Dr. Ronnie Jackson’s withdraw from consideration as head of the VA. Trey and Mike agree that the vague accusations were not the right grounds for this to occur, they were simply the “sexiest” news items. Instead the more important, and theoretically boring issue, was the experience to lead such a large organization. That, unfortunately, was not the conversation the American people had.

Finally Trey and Mike have little positive to say about Scott Pruitt. Trey argues, and Mike agreed, that Pruitt has two majors issues: 1) a rule change on “secret science” and 2) a series of potential ethical lapses concerning spending. The hosts, as scientists themselves, spend time explaining why some science requires privacy for participants and the importance of the peer-review process. As for the ethical violations, the problem is everyone is for fiscal conservatism when it is brandished as a weapon, but not so interested in it when in power.

What Trey is Reading

A River in the Darkness: One Man’s Escape from North Korea. Masaji Ishikawa.

What Mike is Reading

Mencken: The American Iconoclast. Marion Elizabeth Rogers.

Notes on Democracy. H. L. Mencken.

Sheila Tate on First Lady Nancy Reagan

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Mike talks with Sheila Tate, who served as press secretary to First Lady Nancy Reagan from 1981 to 1985. After leaving the White House staff, she co-founded the Washington D.C. public relations firm Powell Tate. She served as press secretary to George H. W. Bush during his successful campaign for the presidency in 1988, as well as for his transition. Sheila remained in close touch with Nancy Reagan after the Reagans returned to California, speaking with her often until Mrs. Reagan’s passing in 2016. Ms. Tate is the author of the recently released book The Lady in Red: An Intimate Portrait of Nancy Reagan.

Mike and Sheila discuss what First Ladies do, what Nancy Reagan was like, the role she played in the Reagan presidency, the ‘Just Say No’ anti-drug campaign, her ‘Dragon Lady’ reputation, what people most commonly get wrong about Nancy Reagan, and lots more.

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PG146: North Korea, Russia, Gorsuch Sides with Liberals, Crafty Congressional Republicans, James Comey’s Media Blitz

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This week, Mike welcomes special guest co-host Will Miller, a center-right political scientist. Mike and Will start the show by discussing the upcoming negotiations between the U.S. and North Korea in the wake of Secretary of State Nominee Mike Pompeo’s Easter weekend visit to North Korea and recent indications by the regime that they’re willing to freeze nuclear testing and discuss denuclearization. Both Mike and Will are skeptical, but believe that getting the North talking is a step in the right direction.

After that, it’s a discussion of the Russia sanctions that didn’t happen, when UN Ambassador Nikki Haley’s announcement of upcoming sanctions was walked back by the administration, which claimed that Haley had gotten ahead of herself. Mike and Will see this as yet another example of the Trump administration’s poor message discipline – a problem that seems to stem largely from President Trump himself. The Guys also discuss whether additional sanctions should have been imposed.

Next is a discussion of a Supreme Court decision on immigration in which Trump appointee Neil Gorsuch joined with the Court’s four liberals to strike down part of a law used to deport immigrants on the grounds that it is unconstitutionally vague. Will argues that this isn’t really a partisan issue, but rather one of statutory construction, and says that the real surprise is that other conservatives on the Court didn’t have more of a problem with the vague wording of the law.

Then Mike gets to talk about his favorite government agency, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, as well as explain the intricacies of the Congressional Review Act, which Senate Republicans used to overturn a CFPB ‘guidance’ issued during the Obama administration. Mike says that this is a clever / sneaky move by Republicans that could lead to a good deal more Obama-era regulatory guidance being overturned. Will agrees, but as he’s no fan of regulation, he sees this as a potentially good thing.

The Guys close with a discussion of James Comey’s media blitz and what his new book and memos tell us about whether or not President Trump obstructed justice. Mike says that it tells us next to nothing, and the media is making focusing far too much on the clash of personalities. Will agrees, and says that the Republicans’ move to release the Comey memos may have partially backfired on them.

What Will’s Reading & Watching
Tell Them We Are Rising: The Story of Black Colleges and Universities (PBS documentary)

Why Historically Black College Are Enjoying a Renaissance. (National Geographic)

The Paradox of Choice. Barry Schwartz

What Mike’s Reading
Hoover: An Extraordinary Life in Extraordinary Times. Kenneth Whyte

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Economist Tyler Cowen on The Complacent Class

Mike talks with economist Tyler Cowen. In addition to being a professor of Economics at George Mason University, Dr. Cowen blogs at Marginal Revolution, hosts the ‘Conversations with Tyler‘ podcast, is a regular contributor at Bloomberg View, and is the author of a number of books, including The Great Stagnation, An Economist Gets Lunch, Average is Over  and The Complacent Class: The Self-Defeating Quest for the American Dream, which recently came out in paperback.

Mike and Tyler discuss how the United States got so complacent, the rise of segregation, monopolies and anti-trust regulation, ‘matching’ and inequality, why Americans don’t riot like they used to, Brazil as the best comparison country to the United States, Donald Trump’s ‘placebo presidency’, if the future belongs to China, and lots more.

Tyler Cowen on Twitter 

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PG145: US Strike on Syria, Ryan Out, Zuckerberg Testifies, Cohen Raid, IG McCabe Report

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Mike and Jay open the show with a discussion of the US-led missile strike on Syrian chemical weapons infrastructure, in response to Syria’s alleged chemical attack on Syrian insurgents. Both Mike and Jay agree that the international community can’t stand by and allow anyone to use chemical weapons, and they feel the strike was justified. Mike takes issue with the way the strike happened, arguing that President Trump doesn’t have the Constitutional authority to carry out such attacks without Congressional authorization.

After that, they discuss House Speaker Paul Ryan’s announcement that he would not seek reelection. Mike points out that Ryan is the 27th Republican in Congress to either resign or not seek reelection, compared to only 11 Democrats, which suggests to him that many Republicans know a ‘blue wave’ is coming. Jay doesn’t entirely buy this, arguing that many Republicans may simply be tiring of working with President Trump. Both Mike and Jay feel that Ryan has been unfairly portrayed by many in the left-wing media as an ‘evil guy who hates the poor’, though Mike points out that the right engages in this sort of thing all the time too, when they say that liberals ‘hate America’.

Next is a look at Facebook co-founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s nearly 10 hours of testimony before Congress. They both thing he did a good job, and that it’s unlikely any government regulation of Facebook is coming, at least not in the short term. Jay doubts whether the attempt by Russia to use Facebook to help defeat Hillary Clinton was very important. Mike agrees, but argues that the fact that a hostile foreign power was making any attempt is reason for serious concern.

Following that is discussion of the FBI raid of Trump attorney Michael Cohen’s office, including the seizure of attorney-client communications. Jay says that this is very serious, and suggests that there may be a double standard at work, with officials being more willing to authorize actions targeted at President Trump than they would be against others. Mike disputes this, saying that he’s more inclined to trust in the integrity of top FBI and Justice Department officials than he is to trust in the integrity of President Trump.

In a semi-related story, Mike and Jay talk about the Department of Justice’s Inspector General report on former Deputy Director Andrew McCabe, which concluded that McCabe lied to investigators as well as to former FBI Director James Comey about a story leaked to the Wall Street Journal. They discuss President Trump’s reaction to the finding – that McCabe was under Comey’s control – and point out that that’s the exact opposite of what the report concludes. Mike point out that this IG finding puts something of a hole in the narrative of some on the left that McCabe was unfairly forced out of the FBI.

What Jay’s Reading
Guys and Dolls: The Stories of Damon Runyon.

What Mike’s Listening To
Ezra Klein talks to Sam Harris about Charles Murray.

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Danielle McDonald on Barriers to Justice

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Mike talks to Dr. Danielle McDonald, a criminal justice professor at Northern Kentucky University about her book Race, Gender, Class, and Criminal Justice: Examining Barriers to Justice.

Mike and Danielle discuss racial profiling, the militarization of law enforcement, problems with public defenders, racial sentencing disparities, and capital punishment.

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PG144: A War of Words and Tariffs between China and the United States, Zuckerberg Goes to Congress, the Potential U.S. Pullout from Syria

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Trey is joined by Ken this week and reveals he is headed to Oklahoma Christain University. Trey and Ken open the show by discussing the ongoing dispute between the United States and China over trade policy. The hosts explore both the immediate tariffs on aluminum and steel issued by Donald Trump and the pork and wine tariffs imposed by China in retaliation. The hosts also parse the escalating war of words between the two countries and speculate on the possibility of a trade war. Trey and Ken agree that free trade is largely better for the economy (Trey most strongly), but disagree over the role of unions in a free trade driven world.

Next Trey and Ken look at the thorny issue of Cambridge Analytica and Facebook’s numerous privacy snafus over. In a series of reveals it was uncovered that Facebook is recording data on users call and texting data, allowing apps to gather wide swaths of information on users who had not consented and more. In short, for a variety of reasons, Facebook could not get off the proverbial front page. Trey and Ken ask themselves what they might do if they were Congress. Specifically what questions the hosts might have for Mr. Zuckerberg in a committee hearing. Trey and Ken also muse on if people really are willing to pay the economic cost for privacy and mull whether Congress ought to make that a mandated requirement.

Finally Trey and Ken move to the international issue of Syria. They discuss President Trump’s comments earlier last week on an imminent pullout and the revelations late last week that he is butting heads with his military staff, potentially offering them a six month timeline. In a unique twist Trey argues that U.S. foreign intervention has been a failure and finds support for Trump’s stated goal to wind down military options overseas while Ken limitedly argues that the U.S. has a moral imperative to see them through to create stability.

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What Trey’s Reading:

Longtime listeners might have gleaned that I love political science and history, but what you might not know (unless you follow me personally on Twitter or Instagram) is that I am a runner and aspiring triathlete. I love to run year round in on all terrain and in all weather and so this week I am going to share a pair of books I read that I think might inspire you to get outside, run more, and maybe even change the way you eat. Sorry we didn’t have time to share it during the episode itself!

Born to Run by Christopher McDougall. An inspiring tale of how all of humanity is a running people, but how we lost the essence of our running.

Eat and Run by Scott Jurek. It is a autobiography with running and eating thrown in from one of the world’s greatest ultra-marathoners. Scott is a man who runs as much in a single race — 150 miles — as I run in a month!

Military Force, Healthcare Workers, Does Jay Respect Young People?, Thoughts on Burke, Flip-Flopping

In this listener mail episode of The Politics Guys, Mike and Jay respond to listener questions including:

Why Congress gives the president so much power in authorizations for use of military force.

The lack of attention both Mike and Jay have paid to working conditions to healthcare workers, and how those conditions affect patients.

Why Jay seems so dismissive of young people’s protests.

What Jay (and Mike) mean when they call themselves ‘Burkean’

Why political flip-flopping gets such a bad name.

Show Notes
Nuclear Jenga – in a Bouncy Castle. Jesse Lawler
Great Thinkers: Edmund Burke

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