David Frum on Trumpocracy (Politics Plus)

There was a very short period in Mike’s life where he thought he could handle his teaching job, write a book, host The Politics Guys, and start a new podcast – Politics Plus. It soon became evident to Mike how insane trying to do all this at once was, and so he quickly shut down Politics Plus. But before he did, he’d posted four interviews – all of which he thinks are pretty good and are worth sharing with you as Politics Guys bonus episodes.


In this interview, Mike talks with journalist, author, and policy analyst David Frum. Mr. Frum is currently a senior editor at the Atlantic. From 2014 through 2017, he chaired the board of trustees of the leading UK center-right think tank, Policy Exchange. He’s served as a speechwriter and special assistant to President George W. Bush and as senior adviser to the Rudy Giuliani presidential campaigns. He’s also the author of nine books, most recently Trumpocracy: The Corruption of the American Republic.

In the conversation, Mike and Mr. Frum cover, among other things:

  • how Bill Clinton monetized the post-presidency
  • America as a toddler in heavy traffic
  • Donald Trump and punching babies
  • the ‘neither ethical or smart’ Trump administration
  • Congressional leaders enabling Trumpocracy
  • whether the American political system can handle the Trump presidency

Follow David Frum on Twitter

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Farm Subsides and Trade Policy, Trump and Iran Spat Over Twitter, The Michael Cohen Tape, and Facebook’s Record Decline

This week the show is produced for the first time ever in Oklahoma City. Trey, now officially part of Oklahoma Christian University, is joined by Ken who is preparing to move to Denver.

The first topic is Trump’s trade policy. The Trey and Ken to differing degrees agree that subsides to farmers is simply a policy mistake fixing the earlier policy mistake of enacting tariffs. While Ken has some boundaries around the idea of free trade, both think that the current tariffs policies are reminiscent of the import substitution industrialization models of the 1980s and 1990s.

Next up Trey and Ken look at the recent spat over Twitter between the U.S. and Iran. Here both hosts agree that the current foreign policy of acting belligerent randomly has not helped the U.S. cause. However the hosts disagree over the cause of this policy. Ken thinks it is part of a larger conspiracy where Putin controls Trump and Trey thinks, while it certainly benefits Russia, is more easily explained by an individual who is acting irrationally and that irrationality helps anyone who isn’t the U.S.

Trey and Ken turn next to the Michael Cohen tape of a conversation with Donald Trump. The hosts agree that the tape is damaging and ponder why Trump would have agreed to release it. They discuss the possible implications of the content of the tape and consider how it might play into the Mueller investigation.

Finally Ken and Trey briefly examine Facebook’s stock decline. At a 19% devaluation it takes the record for the biggest drop in one day ever. The hosts parse out the question to what extent, if any, recent privacy changes in EU law or backlash from data breaches has led to slowing user growth and, as a result, investor confidence.

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Fake News, Judicial Deference, Environmental Regulation, Abolishing ICE, Ideological Orthodoxy

In this listener comment episode, Mike and Jay get into:

  • If the media – Time magazine in particular – was fair in its photographic portrayal of President Trump’s immigration policy, and if Mike and Jay spend too much time on a media sideshow.
  • How much deference federal courts should give to administrative agencies.
  • Whether Jay thinks government regulations to prevent pollution are wise and necessary corrections for market failures.
  • A conservative case for abolishing ICE.
  • Mike, Jay, and ideological orthodoxy.

What Mike’s Reading

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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

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

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.

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

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

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

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

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