Weekly Roundup: Friday, October 18 This week Joe Biden's campaign released fundraising numbers that showed his campaign does not have much cash on hand, and Bernie Sanders was endorsed by Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. Plus, Trump passed his 1,000th day in office and proved he is more Trumpian than ever. This episode: Congressional correspondent Susan Davis, White House correspondent Tamara Keith, political correspondent Asma Khalid, and editor correspondent Ron Elving. Email the show at nprpolitics@npr.org. Find and support your local public radio station at npr.org/stations.
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Weekly Roundup: Friday, October 18

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Weekly Roundup: Friday, October 18

Weekly Roundup: Friday, October 18

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SCOTT DETROW, BYLINE: Quick note before we get started - we are doing a live taping of our show in Washington, D.C., so if you want to hear what we think about the latest political news or if you've just ever wondered what it's like to see a podcast taped live, join us at the Warner Theater on November 8. Information and tickets at nprpresents.org. Hope to see you there.

TIM: (Singing) Hey. It's Tim in San Jose. A whole lot of politics happened today. Some were good, but some were sordid. This fine podcast was recorded at...

SUSAN DAVIS, HOST:

At 1:22 p.m. on Friday, October 18. He made us a song.

TIM: (Singing) It takes a while to engineer it. Things may have changed by the time you hear it. NPR POLITICS, go, go, go. OK, get ready. Here's the show.

(SOUNDBITE OF THE BIGTOP ORCHESTRA'S "TEETER BOARD: FOLIES BERGERE (MARCH AND TWO-STEP)")

DAVIS: Can he just do this every time? That was spectacular. Like, oh, my God.

ASMA KHALID, BYLINE: That was really good rhyming.

RON ELVING, BYLINE: That's the new B.J. Leiderman.

DAVIS: (Laughter) This is amazing. Hey there. It's the NPR POLITICS PODCAST. I'm Susan Davis. I cover Congress.

KHALID: I'm Asma Khalid. I cover the campaign.

TAMARA KEITH, BYLINE: I'm Tamara Keith. I cover the White House.

ELVING: And I'm Ron Elving, editor-correspondent.

KEITH: And, Sue, you are hosting the podcast today.

DAVIS: I am hosting the podcast today.

KEITH: And not just today...

DAVIS: But forever.

KEITH: ...But going forward forever. So we now have four hosts of this podcast because it is a daily podcast, and you...

DAVIS: I'm now the fourth co-host?

KHALID: Yeah.

KEITH: Yes.

DAVIS: The fourth co-host...

KEITH: But first in our hearts.

KHALID: Woo.

DAVIS: Yes. Thank you very much.

ELVING: Give her the green jacket.

DAVIS: I will try not to let the power go to my head.

ELVING: Too late.

DAVIS: But I make no promises.

KEITH: But if you do, it's OK.

DAVIS: It's time to let Sue be Sue.

KEITH: (Laughter) Wait. They say that about the president.

DAVIS: Exactly. Let Trump be Trump. Let's let Sue be Sue. So let's start my first official day in the chair talking about one of my favorite topics - money. So we've got a bunch of campaign finance numbers this week, but one of the numbers that I want to talk about is related to Joe Biden, where he released some fundraising numbers for the third quarter that were kind of underwhelming and maybe raising questions about how well his campaign's doing.

KEITH: Can I explain something about how campaign finance works? So, like, two weeks ago, we did a podcast where we talked about all these numbers that came out that the campaigns released. Those were the numbers that the campaigns wanted us to see.

DAVIS: Yep.

KEITH: Now, this week was a deadline for the report that has all of the information, all the stuff under the hood.

DAVIS: They have to tell us.

KEITH: They have to put this information out, and in the case of Vice President Biden, under the hood, it didn't look as good as the big number that he released initially.

KHALID: He has about $9 million cash on hand. That's available cash he has to use. And just for some perspective, I mean, that is less than Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren Pete Buttigieg and Kamala Harris.

DAVIS: Why? Why is Biden having - is he spending the money too fast? Is he having a harder time raising the money? What's not connecting for him?

ELVING: One part of the problem is that he's raising money the old-fashioned way. He's holding fundraisers. He's asking people for it in the larger amounts, and that used to be the smart way to do it. It's just not anymore. Nowadays people have digital programs that allow many, many more donors to get in the game with smaller contributions. And Barack Obama wasn't necessarily the first person to do this, but he was the first one to do it and take it all the way to being elected president. He really showed the way, and others have gotten the idea. For some reason or another, the Biden people have held back. They haven't really modernized their campaign fully.

DAVIS: Do you think it's partly because the smaller donor tends to be the younger donor and Biden's coalition as it is right now in the primary doesn't - he doesn't seem to have as much youth support as people like Bernie Sanders or Elizabeth Warren or Pete Buttigieg?

ELVING: All true, and that would be a logical explanation. But I think there's also a certain amount of resistance that just - you know, hey. I'm going to be the traditional frontrunner. I'm going to be the traditional, conventional candidate. I'm kind of a man of not necessarily the past, but of the grand tradition. I'm going to run the way I ran for president before. And by the way, he's run for president all the way back to 1987, so he has a lot of experience, but it's not necessarily experience in the way that it's done today and successfully.

KHALID: But Ron, to that point, I also think it is a somewhat risky strategy because high-dollar donors, fundraisers and, like, the Beverly Hills, Calif. - I'm just sort of making this up. This is where I imagine high-dollar donor fundraisers live.

DAVIS: Beverly Hills...

KHALID: Mansions in Beverly Hills...

DAVIS: New York, Chicago...

ELVING: It's not the projects.

DAVIS: ...Silicon Valley, Palo Alto...

KHALID: But they like to pick winners, and this is why I think it's somewhat of a risky strategy - is that they saw the amount of cash on hand that Joe Biden has. They see it not looking as good, and they see a candidate like Pete Buttigieg, for example, who's doing a combination of small-dollar donors, these small, "grassroots," quote, unquote, fundraisers as well as big fundraisers with wealthy donors. And look. They start to reassess because they like to pick winners.

DAVIS: Yeah.

KHALID: And I think that when your cash on hand starts to dip, it's just not a great sign, and it's somewhat - like, it's a circular problem then.

KEITH: Like, does it have a chilling effect going into the next round because people start to look at you like your trajectory is going downhill?

DAVIS: Yeah. I mean, you've got polls, and you've got money, and they are different things. They measure different things. But in a perfect world, you would have a lot of money in the bank - like, a lot more than $9 million in the bank - and you'd also be at the top of the polls. And where Biden is now is he's still pretty much at the top of the polls and competition.

KEITH: Yeah.

DAVIS: But the money puts him at a disadvantage compared to the other guys.

KHALID: The flipside to me of this story, though, is the candidate who has not been polling that high, and that's Bernie Sanders, because he is somebody who you look at his cash on hand. It's better than any other Democrat...

DAVIS: Yeah.

KHALID: ...In the field. You look at the amount of money he raised in the third quarter. Again, it was better than any other Democrat in the field. And yet, his polling doesn't seem to be aligning with his fundraising. There seems to be a bit off - right? - when you look at the person leading fundraising and the person leading polling.

DAVIS: Yeah. And Sanders is a good pivot point because he's having sort of the opposite week of Biden in that Biden's people are questioning where his campaign's going. And Bernie had a bad couple of weeks. You know, he had had this heart attack. People were wondering about his health. And this week, he's had a really strong week. He's raising a ton of money. He had a strong performance in the debate where he looked vigorous on the stage.

KHALID: And made jokes about his health, you know?

KEITH: I'm great. I'm fine.

ELVING: You can say he definitely got his two stents' worth in.

DAVIS: And then...

KEITH: Aww.

DAVIS: Oh, that's why we have you in the pod, Ron.

KEITH: Pun.

DAVIS: And then he got, later in the week, you, know arguably one of the more coveted endorsements in the Democratic Party right now, with - Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the rock star sort of freshman in Congress, came out and announced that she was backing Sanders.

KHALID: Yeah. And they'll be together at a rally this weekend in New York. He also got the endorsement of another progressive member of the so-called squad, Ilhan Omar from Minnesota. And, you know, to me, one of the interesting things - I was talking to Bernie Sanders' campaign manager earlier this week. And he said, you know, there was this narrative in 2016 - and they're not saying that the narrative was correct - but there was this narrative of them being this party that was - and this is me sort of paraphrasing here - but this party that was white Bernie bros-ish (ph)...

DAVIS: Yeah.

KHALID: ...Right? And that's a hard thing to say now when you look at, like, getting key endorsements from young women of color.

KEITH: I have this theory about this that, like, you would say like, oh, that's bad for Elizabeth Warren, the other major progressive candidate. She didn't get the endorsement of these two key, very visible women on the progressive left. But it may not be all bad for Elizabeth Warren because part of what Elizabeth Warren is trying to sell in this primary is not her progressive bona fides. She's trying to convince more establishment Democrats that she's electable, that she can win.

DAVIS: Yeah. That's a good point.

KEITH: And so maybe it's not so bad that she didn't get the endorsement of the Democratic socialist...

DAVIS: Right.

KEITH: ...And the two congresswomen who are the biggest target of President Trump.

DAVIS: And may make it harder to paint her with that socialist brush if she does end up being the nominee because AOC didn't support her, and Bernie didn't support her. And I'm not a Democrat.

KHALID: I mean, to me the big takeaway of this week was I think that the overall conventional wisdom maybe before the debate was that this was starting to winnow down into a two-person contest, Joe Biden and Elizabeth Warren. And I would say after this week, for a couple of reasons, I think that that conventional wisdom has been thrown out the window. Bernie Sanders still looks extremely competitive. And I would throw Pete Buttigieg also into that mix.

ELVING: And I would also throw in Amy Klobuchar because while she's well behind the other ones, clearly, she had finally a debate that made you think she belongs on the stage. All the other debates up to now, she seemed a little lost. And in this one, she came on like the person that people who admire her admire.

DAVIS: One other candidate I want to talk about before we take a break is Kamala Harris. She has been one of the more surprising Democrats in the 2020 race in that she really started strong but has been - we talk about trajectories - on such a downward trajectory. And there were - the most recent poll out of Iowa this week, which she has most recently said she needs to win to keep her campaign going...

KEITH: She said she was moving to Iowa and added an expletive in there (laughter).

DAVIS: Yes. The pivot to Iowa, as we see - have seen many candidates do in the past, she came in at 2% in the most recent Iowa poll. This is behind candidates like Andrew Yang, like Montana Governor Steve Bullock. She is not in a position that any reasonable person could say, this is someone who's got a shot at Iowa as we sit here today.

ELVING: She's running partly because California moved their primary up, and there was a chance there for her to make a showing in the early going, in the early, early states. And then, boom, in you come to California. That's her state. She wins the state. Suddenly she's got a huge cache of delegates.

DAVIS: But that's not the way California votes.

ELVING: Well, California has, generally speaking, not been all that friendly. But - I mean, to necessarily...

DAVIS: To the home-state people.

ELVING: ...To the person who's the home - well, they've been - they voted for Jerry Brown.

DAVIS: Once.

ELVING: But they really propelled his candidacy. So I think she got in largely with the thought that she could do a little bit in the early going and then really get it ratified in California. And suddenly, even if she didn't win, she would at least get a lot. And then she would suddenly be a really legitimate candidate. But she's got to do something in the early going, or the state's just going to say, well, you're fine as a senator, but we're just not going there.

DAVIS: We are entering a really interesting chapter in the race to Iowa in which it's hard to believe that all these Democrats make it to Iowa, right?

KEITH: (Laughter) Yeah.

DAVIS: Like, there is - there's going to be a point where, some people, you have to start calculating when do you get out of the race if you don't think you can win because if you want to endorse, or you - if you want to maintain your own political standing, or sometimes you just run out of money, and you can't pay your staff's paychecks anymore. So I'm not convinced that every Democrat that's in the race today is going to be on the ballot in Iowa come February 3.

All right. We're going to take a quick break. And when we get back, we've now crossed over Trump's 1,000th day in office. And this week, he proved he's more unleashed than ever.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

DAVIS: And we're back. Tam, I want to start with you because this week was filled with moments that I think would be fair to say was just Trump being Trump, where there has been this - moments in his presidency where people say he needs to be unleashed; you need to let him trust his own gut and his own decisions. And there was a lot of moments this week that I think you could say there was no other explanation that it was just the president following his own gut instincts.

KEITH: Yes. President Trump seems to no longer worry all that much about what others will think or say. It's possible he never worried about what others thought or said, but there were times when he was constrained. There are several examples this week where one might argue he was unconstrained. I would say No. 1 is the announcement that the Group of Seven meeting, this big meeting of world leaders, is going to take place next year at his own resort at...

DAVIS: Yeah, at the Doral in Florida.

KEITH: ...At the Doral in Florida. And the White House seems to acknowledge that, yes, we know that people are going to say this is the very definition of self-dealing, but it's the best resort.

DAVIS: Well, Mick Mulvaney said yesterday there was 12 locations that they looked at for this, and they did all this research, and they finally decided the only one that could take the G7 was the property the president owns.

KHALID: I mean, this is rather genius political strategy, I will say. I mean, I don't think that it's genius. Maybe you could argue the moral...

DAVIS: (Laughter) Bold?

KHALID: Bold.

DAVIS: It's certainly bold.

KHALID: But I think it's extremely clever. And I feel like part of it's - you know, we all recall back when Donald Trump was campaigning, he made these kind of infamous comments that he could stand in the middle of 5th Avenue and shoot somebody and he wouldn't lose votes - and the idea basically being that he could commit an act in public, in broad daylight, and it would be OK. And that's somehow different than, say, shooting somebody in a dark alley at 2:00 in the morning. And I find that this is what his administration routinely does, is take something off the table by talking about it in public and so...

DAVIS: Being so brash about it.

KHALID: Exactly. And therefore it's, like - it almost takes away - and I'm not saying I agree that this is not morally problematic - but it takes away the idea that, how can you be so upset about this? This isn't secretive. It's not like we're hiding this fact. We told you all at a press conference that this is exactly what's happening.

DAVIS: And we've told you he's not going to profit.

ELVING: If you're the president, as Richard Nixon once so eloquently put it, it's not illegal. It's not illegal. That's the theory. And what we're hearing from Mick Mulvaney is, get over it. We're just going to do it in plain sight, in daylight, and you can't do anything about it because even if we're breaking the rules and breaking the law and breaking everybody's standards, there's nobody out there to stop us.

DAVIS: The Doral is also the story that I think, back on Earth 2, would be the biggest political story of the week.

(LAUGHTER)

DAVIS: But it is...

KEITH: But it is not.

DAVIS: It is a testament to the week we've had that it is not; it's not even cracking the front pages, in some ways, and I think because of the much more bigger impact story of the president's foreign policy decisions in Syria.

ELVING: When that comes back later on when people start talking about Doral or later on and when it goes through courts, people are going to say, why wasn't that in the paper when it happened?

(LAUGHTER)

KEITH: Well - and so the other thing that came up at that press conference, that the chief of staff, Mick Mulvaney, had to announce this, was he actually came out, and he said that there was a quid pro quo with Ukraine. I mean, he did not dispute it when somebody described a quid pro quo. And he said, yeah, that's foreign policy. Now, he walked it back about five hours later. But the reason Doral got lost, in part, is because the chief of staff came out and publicly said another thing that you wouldn't say in public.

DAVIS: And Mulvaney...

ELVING: Confessed to a larger crime.

DAVIS: Mulvaney is someone who is - reportedly, someone who does encourage Trump to be Trump. I mean, he believes in that ethos, and he kind of embraced that at the podium yesterday. To Asma's point, he came out and blew up weeks of coordinated Republican messaging...

KEITH: (Laughter).

DAVIS: ...On the impeachment investigation, on denying that the president did anything wrong, and did sort of seem to admit that they had done all these things; they just weren't wrong, and they weren't impeachable, and they weren't crimes. Of course, he then had to walk back those 40 minutes on live television (laughter).

KEITH: He tried to put the toothpaste back in the bottle a few hours later, via a statement.

DAVIS: Yeah, only Trump gets to be Trump, right? It doesn't work when Mulvaney tries to do it.

ELVING: That's a good point.

DAVIS: And I think it's probably the first time in his presidency that you really have seen Republicans broadly break with this White House and criticize this White House and vote against this president - was the vote in the House this week to condemn his decision to withdraw troops from Syria. You saw every member of Republican leadership vote against him. You have seen people like Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell say they want to take even stronger action than the House Republicans want to do. I mean, it is an absolute rejection of the president's policymaking, and it's not done yet, right?

You know, like, I know that they've announced a cease-fire, but there's questions of whether it's even been an effective cease-fire. Capitol Hill is torn up over this. I mean, this is a really big, big deal, and it has prompted highly unusual bipartisan pairings when people like Liz Cheney and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez are on the same side of an issue.

KEITH: (Laughter).

ELVING: And the president's justification is, I told you I was going to pull our troops out of the Middle East. Well, we're talking here about a small garrison, and meanwhile, we're sending 2,000 fresh troops to Saudi Arabia. So we're not really pulling out of the Middle East, either. This is just a deal that was struck between two presidents - again, in this case, Trump and Erdogan. And we don't really know what it's all about or what Erdogan is really up to.

But the cease-fire they announced a couple days later is not a cease-fire at all; it's just a pause long enough to let the Kurds withdraw from what they had wanted to be their land and effectuate the permanent status of Turkey that Turkey wanted all along. That's not a compromise.

KEITH: But here's the thing; President Trump really doesn't care. He does not seem to be bothered by the fact that huge numbers of members of his own party think he's wrong. He thinks he's right, and he thinks that this ceasefire has proven him right. And, you know, go back to Doral, go back to Ukraine. He continues to say, I have conducted everything correctly. I am doing this right. This is the right choice. I'm right. You're wrong. And there are no consequences.

DAVIS: Also, Trump did campaign on ending wars, right? He campaigned as a much more isolationist president, not in line with traditional Republican ideology.

KHALID: And isn't there some sense, though, that there is public support for the idea of ending endless wars? Perhaps not in this way, but I feel like there is broadly, like, a plurality of support behind the idea that...

DAVIS: He won an election on those promises, right?

ELVING: It's an applause line in all the rallies.

DAVIS: Yeah. All right, let's leave it there. We need to take a quick break. And when we come back, it's time for Can't Let It Go.

And we're back. And it's time to end the show, like we do every week, with Can't Let It Go, the part of the show where we talk about the things from the week that we just can't stop talking about, politics or otherwise. Ron, what couldn't you let go this week?

ELVING: Bit of a sad one, Sue, but one I think is also uplifting, inspiring for a lot of people - Elijah Cummings, who was chairman of the government oversight committee, the reform committee in the House, one of the three committees that's investigating or conducting this impeachment inquiry into President Trump and a man who has been at the leadership level of Congress for a generation. He was a leader from the time he came from one district in Baltimore. It happens to be the very one that President Trump has been denigrating in recent weeks.

And Elijah Cummings was a tough negotiator. He was a tough fighter in his civil rights days and in his congressional days. But he was also old school in one other way - he was so good at the personal side of the relationships across the aisle, even with people that he was battling all day long, like say, oh, Mark Meadows, the guy who founded - or is one of the founders and one of the past presidents - of the House Freedom Caucus. They were friends. They got along well, so well, in fact, that sometimes the Congresspeople's staffs on the side on the Republicans were afraid that their guy was going to go soft on him because Elijah Cummings was so persuasive and such a good buddy. So old school in the best sense of the old Congress when people really talked to each other.

DAVIS: Tam?

KEITH: So the thing that I can't let go of is a little bit of news that broke after the podcast was taped on Wednesday, and we just haven't gotten to it. And so I wanted to take a chance to talk about this. President Trump sent a letter...

DAVIS: (Laughter) Go on.

KEITH: President Trump sent a letter to the president of Turkey, Recep Tayyip Erdogan. It was unconventional in its phrasing. I mean, let's just say that it was not sort of traditional diplomatic phrasing by any stretch of the imagination. It was so unusual that when it was first reported, it looked like all the other White House reporters had to confirm that it was real with the White House because it didn't seem like something that could actually be real.

ELVING: It read like a parody.

KHALID: OK, let's actually describe what it says.

KEITH: Oh, don't worry because the thing I really can't let go of is that someone on the internet, someone named Eric Koch, has set the letter to the opening credits of Star Wars. You know, the scroll where the words...

DAVIS: This is just, like, on brand for Tam right now.

KEITH: Yes. So here we go. Let's play it.

(SOUNDBITE OF JOHN WILLIAMS'S "MAIN TITLE AND ESCAPE")

KEITH: A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away - now that's original Star Wars - the White House. Dear Mr. President, let's work out a good deal - exclamation point. You don't want to be responsible for slaughtering thousands of people, and I don't want to be responsible for destroying the Turkish economy - and I will. I've already given you a little sample with respect to Pastor Brunson.

I have worked very hard to solve some of your problems. Don't let the world down. You can make a great deal. General Mazloum is willing to negotiate with you. And he's willing to make concessions that they would never have made in the past. I am confidentially enclosing a copy of his letter to me, just received.

History will look upon you favorably if you get this done in the right and humane way. It will look upon you forever as the devil if good things don't happen. Don't be a tough guy. Don't be a fool - exclamation point. I will call you later.

KHALID: That fact that I know that by heart is sort of amazing.

DAVIS: Is telling that it's already been - my favorite has been how - have you seen, like, people have memed (ph) it where some of it is, like, letters to Santa from kids? And it's like, Dear Santa, let's make a deal. You bring me a PlayStation. I'll be good.

KHALID: (Laughter) I haven't seen that.

DAVIS: I'll call you later.

KEITH: One of my questions is, does he, like, right that himself? Or is he dictating that letter to, like, a secretary who's just, like, typing this on White House stationery?

KHALID: You do have to appreciate, though, the honesty behind it.

KEITH: Yeah.

KHALID: There's really not that much muddled information there.

KEITH: No. Here's the thing...

KHALID: Don't be a fool. Don't be a tough guy. I will call you later.

DAVIS: Or I will destroy you. Twitter Trump is rally Trump is letter-to-other-foreign-leaders Trump.

KEITH: Yeah.

DAVIS: It's all the same.

KEITH: It's authentic.

DAVIS: Asma, what can't you let go this week?

KHALID: OK (laughter). So you all probably recall that Democratic presidential candidate Cory Booker...

DAVIS: I've heard of him.

KHALID: ...Also a senator from New Jersey, has been dating Rosario Dawson.

DAVIS: Yes.

KHALID: So The Cut had a headline this week saying "Cory Booker Subjected Rosario Dawson To The World's Longest Bedtime Story."

DAVIS: Go on.

KEITH: (Laughter).

KHALID: I know - enticing headline. So I was just saying, you know, like, I finally got into audiobooks. It's, like, a new thing for me. So I feel like this is essentially - Cory Booker must be really into audiobooks because apparently he and Rosario Dawson, like, couldn't see each other for a long stretch of time, so they would FaceTime, and he would read her a book.

DAVIS: Stop it. What book?

KHALID: "City Of Thieves."

DAVIS: I don't know this book.

KHALID: I'd never heard this book before, but apparently it's...

DAVIS: Fiction? Nonfiction?

KHALID: ...A 250-plus page novel set in Leningrad during World War II.

DAVIS: Uplifting bedtime stories right there.

KHALID: This doesn't strike me as, like, so romantic, but I'm also not Rosario Dawson. So, you know, who knows?

KEITH: I would have dumped my husband if he wanted to...

(LAUGHTER)

KHALID: So my favorite...

ELVING: I remember watching a mother read a story to her little boy over the telephone from a studio in NPR West in Culver City, Calif., in 2016.

KHALID: How long did it take?

KEITH: Ron.

(LAUGHTER)

ELVING: That was Tamara Keith. She was reading one of the - Seuss. I think it was Seuss, wasn't it?

KHALID: OK, but that's, like, a 10-minute story, right? -ish?

KEITH: Yes.

ELVING: And he's usually asleep by the end of that story.

(LAUGHTER)

KHALID: OK, so my favorite part of this was the process of reading this book aloud, "City Of Thieves," would take, by moderate estimates, five hours.

KEITH: Oh, my God.

KHALID: It could even take more like seven.

KEITH: That's weird. It's also weird if they're talking or FaceTiming. If you're FaceTiming and someone's reading you a story and it's not your child - that's adorable - it's a little much.

ELVING: Yeah, TMI. TMI.

KHALID: OK. But apparently, this isn't the first time he's done this.

KEITH: Wait - there was a previous girlfriend he did this with? It isn't even their special thing. You're not even making a girl feel special with the long World War II stories you're reading her.

KHALID: (Laughter) So in February of 2016, in an interview with The New York Times, he recalled being in a long-distance relationship in which he and his girlfriend decided we should read books together. They started with "The Lovely Bones."

KEITH: Oh, yeah. OK.

DAVIS: Oh, that's a good book.

ELVING: It's a good book. It's a good book.

KHALID: And before he knew it, they were reading the book out loud to each other over the phone. I feel like I can't even get my husband to pay attention when I talk for, like, five minutes. (Laughter) I don't know if that's...

DAVIS: Yeah. This is, like - I just have my husband read The New Yorker, and then our thing is I just tell - I have him debrief me on the interesting parts because I don't even have time to read The New Yorker anymore, so.

(LAUGHTER)

KEITH: In defense of this book, 250 pages is not actually that long for a novel.

DAVIS: No.

KEITH: I mean, this is not, like, a 500-page novel.

KHALID: It's not the book that's the issue, Tam; it is the reading it aloud as a romantic gesture.

KEITH: I get it. I get it. I don't disagree.

ELVING: So absence makes the heart grow fonder and the critical faculties grow weak.

(LAUGHTER)

KHALID: We wish them well. I'm curious what their next book will be.

KEITH: Sue, what can't you let go of?

DAVIS: The thing I can't let go this week is Eliud Kipchoge.

KEITH: Who?

DAVIS: Anybody see this this week? Eliud Kipchoge is a marathoner...

KEITH: Oh, yes

DAVIS: ...Who broke the two-hour marathon human capacity record? I don't even know.

KHALID: Wait - what does that mean?

ELVING: Sub two-hour.

DAVIS: No human being has ever run a sub two-hour marathon.

KHALID: Wow.

DAVIS: Eliud Kipchoge did it on Saturday in Vienna, where he ran a marathon - 26.2 miles - in 1 hour, 59 minutes and 40 seconds.

KEITH: That is...

ELVING: And 40 seconds to loaf in there; twenty seconds spare.

DAVIS: This is something that, in my reading of this - because I've gone deep on it this week - was something that scientists didn't even believe was humanly possible until as recently as the 1990s.

ELVING: Well, isn't sub four for respectable? Aren't you really running to run that far in four hours?

KEITH: Well, I'd like to say it's respectable.

KHALID: Wow.

DAVIS: What is the fastest you've ever ran a mile in your life?

ELVING: Well, that's...

KEITH: Seven and a half minutes.

DAVIS: So he ran - in this race, he held a sub 4 minute, 34 second mile pace...

KHALID: What?

DAVIS: ...For 26.2 miles.

ELVING: That is beyond...

KHALID: Wow.

DAVIS: Think about that. I mean, that is just - the reason why I can't let it go - it's just - it's superhuman. We do have a little bit of clip. It's just of him crossing the finish line. But it is, like - I don't know if you guys, like, cry when you watch the Olympics or when you watch these feats...

KEITH: Yes.

DAVIS: ...But it was spectacular to see the crowd, like, watching this man go sub two-hour marathon.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

UNIDENTIFIED COMMENTATOR: Eliud Kipchoge storms into the history books in Vienna - 1:59:40, the unofficial time. The first man to run a marathon in under two hours. One final lung-busting stride for Eliud Kipchoge; one giant leap for human endeavor.

ELVING: Wow, BBC.

DAVIS: One giant leap for human endeavor.

KEITH: That was great.

ELVING: Whoa, BBC.

DAVIS: Human beings are amazing sometimes. All right, that's a wrap for today. And let's end the week by thanking the team that puts this show together. Our executive producer is Shirley Henry. Our editors are Muthoni Muturi and Eric McDaniel. Our producer is Barton Girdwood, with assistance from Chloe Weiner and Lexie Schapitl. Our digital producer is Dana Farrington. Our social producer is Brandon Carter. And our intern is Elena Burnett. I'm Susan Davis. I cover Congress

KHALID: I'm Asma Khalid. I cover the presidential campaign.

KEITH: I'm Tamara Keith. I cover the White House.

ELVING: And I'm Ron Elving, editor correspondent.

DAVIS: And thank you for listening to the NPR POLITICS PODCAST.

(SOUNDBITE OF THE BIGTOP ORCHESTRA'S "TEETER BOARD: FOLIES BERGERE (MARCH AND TWO-STEP)")

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