ASHLEY: Hi. My name is Ashley (ph). And I'm here to see the POLITICS PODCAST at the Harris Theater in Chicago (laughter).
BARRY MERMAN: Hi. This is Barry Merman (ph). And I'm here to see the NPR POLITICS live show - been listening to this podcast since the first episode in 2015.
ANDREANNA PACHELLA: Hi. My name is Andreanna Pachella (ph). This is a gift for my birthday from Kevin Kelly (ph). And I'm here at the POLITICS PODCAST for the first time live. This podcast was recorded at...
UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #1: This podcast was recorded at...
MERMAN: This podcast was recorded at...
UNIDENTIFIED AUDIENCE: 7:45 p.m.
ASMA KHALID, HOST:
On Friday, January 10.
UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #2: Things may have changed by the time you hear this.
UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #3: OK. Here's the show.
(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)
KHALID: This is the NPR POLITICS PODCAST live.
I'm Asma Khalid. I cover the presidential campaign.
RON ELVING, BYLINE: I'm Ron Elving, editor/correspondent.
AYESHA RASCOE, BYLINE: I'm Ayesha Rascoe. I cover the White House.
SUSAN DAVIS, BYLINE: And I'm Susan Davis. I cover Congress.
KHALID: And we are here in Chicago at the lovely Harris Theater, so we are not alone. And we want everyone listening to know that we are not alone, so y'all say hi.
UNIDENTIFIED AUDIENCE: Hi.
RASCOE: They really follow instructions. That's great.
DAVIS: They're very obedient.
KHALID: And we should point out that NPR is partnering tonight with WBEZ for this live show. And we want to say a huge thank you to WBEZ, one of the most lovely NPR stations around.
KHALID: So let's dive in. Are y'all ready?
DAVIS: I'm ready.
RASCOE: I'm ready.
KHALID: We are now 24 days away from the all-important Iowa caucuses. But before we actually dive into the state of the Democratic race, we need to talk about what's been happening in Washington, D.C., because I feel like that's where everyone's attention has been just in - for these past, you know, few weeks, months, whatever we want to say, but especially this last week.
KHALID: And when we first were discussing what we wanted to talk about in tonight's live show, we thought we were going to talk about impeachment. But then it seemed like we, potentially, might be going to war with Iran, and that kind of derailed our plans.
RASCOE: It's a good thing. Yeah.
KHALID: Now at the end of the week, it seems like that situation has de-escalated, and we are not going to war with Iran.
RASCOE: Right now - for now, for now, for now.
ELVING: We do check our phones. We do check our phones.
KHALID: But that does not mean that the impeachment news has been sidelined, and that is moving along as planned. In fact, we got some news about that today. So, Sue, why don't you catch us up on where things stand?
DAVIS: Yeah. I mean, there's been this, like, extraordinary stalemate in Washington, where Speaker Nancy Pelosi has been holding on tight to these articles of impeachment and not sending them over to the Senate, the thing she has to do to trigger a Senate trial, because she wanted to see, in her words, what the rules of the game were going to be. So Mitch McConnell has said - the Senate majority leader - he doesn't actually need Democrats anymore to move forward with this trial. He's going to start doing it with Republican votes. He can - he's got the 51 he needs. And we're waiting on Nancy Pelosi now to name the impeachment managers and send them over. She said today she intends to do that by, probably, the middle part of next week. And, you know, the rough timeline about this is once they get those articles - starts a little bit of back-and-forth procedural stuff. And then we're anticipating, you know, anywhere between a two to three week trial. The sort of conventional wisdom everybody believes Washington is operating under is they want to wrap that thing up before these Iowa caucuses, but, you know, that's the goal. I don't know, as we sit here today, if we could be dealing with an impeachment trial and the start of the 2020 nominating contest.
KHALID: That would be crazy because some of the people who have to be jurors, you know, who have to be there for that Senate trial are running for president.
DAVIS: Yeah, and they don't have much of a choice. The rules of impeachment in the Senate say if you are a senator, you need to be in your chair in the chamber listening to the trial proceedings. And they go six days a week, which is even more inconvenient. And even more inconvenient for most senators, they can't talk. They're not allowed to say anything, which Mitch McConnell has joked could be good therapy for any number of them to be able to have a minute to their thoughts. So it's complicated, obviously, for President Trump. What does this impeachment mean for him? But it also - impeachment is also scrambling this calculation for a lot of these Democrats running in Iowa, when they would much rather be in Des Moines than in D.C.
RASCOE: And talking about President Trump, he has been kind of just sitting right now on the sidelines when it comes to impeachment because the White House has been getting ready. But they don't know - they didn't know when it was going to happen. Now it seems to be moving. We did have some news today from the White House that they are going to have - the question has been who - because during the trial, the White House will be able to defend itself, to put a case forward. And so we knew that, probably, White House counsel Pat Cipollone would be one of the people who would be leading this. But we didn't know whether the president's personal lawyers would be involved. And it's not Giuliani...
RASCOE: ...But Jay Sekulow, who was very much involved in the Russia investigation, defending the president. He will be a part of the defense now. And so this will be the time for us to really hear from the White House, their defense.
DAVIS: The first time.
RASCOE: The first time because they didn't participate at all in the House, and there's still a question of, what's going to happen with these witnesses, right?
DAVIS: Yeah. I mean, you know, I don't think a lot of - the Republicans are kind of divided - not that divided. They're mostly unified. They don't want to hear from witnesses. But there's a couple Republicans - people like Susan Collins of Maine, Mitt Romney of Utah - who have at least indicated they could be open to them. Susan Collins says she's working with a small group of bipartisan senators to see if there could be a witness agreement. This is the wild card. This is the thing that we don't know. Do - does two weeks of a trial - the witnesses' vote won't come until the end of these - they present the evidence. At the end of that process, has the White House made a good enough case that Republican senators say, we don't need to hear anymore? Or do they make a case where people might say, I don't know; maybe I do want to hear from acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney and former national security adviser John Bolton? Probably not. You know, this impeachment process has been a pretty partisan endeavor so far. Big bipartisan breakthroughs in impeachment don't seem to be likely. But I'm not willing to say it's not going to happen. It's just one of those things we're absolutely watching.
ELVING: And in the case of Bill Clinton's impeachment, which was in February of 1999 - the trial portion in the Senate - they did call witnesses, but not in person. They had them deposed, videotaped and then set up big Jumbotrons in the Senate chamber to watch the testimony of Monica Lewinsky and others. And that was the witness portion of that particular trial.
DAVIS: Yeah. No one's coming to the floor of the Senate to take live questions if they do get witnesses agreements. Like, that's - this is not going to be as good of television as I think some people think an impeachment trial sounds (laughter). It's going to be a lot more like watching C-SPAN than it is going to be like watching like "Law & Order."
RASCOE: It's not going to be like "Matlock" or anything.
DAVIS: It's not going to be like, I object.
RASCOE: OK, thought so.
KHALID: You know...
DAVIS: But if they do get witness agreements, it'll probably happen behind closed doors, and people will get to read transcripts, which is kind of how the House impeachment inquiry went.
DAVIS: So it's going to be still pretty subdued and senatorial, no matter how it plays.
KHALID: But, you know, Ron, you were just mentioning Bill Clinton's impeachment. And I think what's worth remembering about what's happening right now with President Trump is that President Trump has actually formally already been impeached, right? I mean, that sort of label now falls over him.
And he's the only president - I mean, Sue, you mentioned this earlier when we were just chatting, that he's the only president in American history to be running for reelection as an impeached president. And I do think there's a lot of questions about whether or not that label hurts him or helps him because, certainly, I mean, there's an assumption that it's kind of rallying his base.
ELVING: It is indeed rallying his base. Everything that happens to Donald Trump seems to rally his base.
RASCOE: Yeah, that's the thing. Yeah.
ELVING: And that is one of the magic powers that has enabled Donald Trump to become president and remain president up to this point, that no matter how bad something looks in a headline, it only serves to make the people who adhere to him - and I mean him, not so much a philosophy, an ideology or even a party - but something about Donald Trump has become, to some degree, welded with their own sets of grievances, different as they are in some cases, and their own sense of how they may have been put aside or disrespected by other elements of the culture.
KHALID: Do we have...
ELVING: The elite, if you will.
KHALID: Do we have a sense, though, that - I mean, I hear you when you say that a lot of, you know, sort of attacks against him rally his base. But do we have a sense that impeachment is doing anything more than ordinary? And I ask that in part because, you know, the RNC was quite excited to share fundraising numbers...
RASCOE: The other - yeah.
KHALID: ...Say, after the impeachment process began and showed that there were record number - you know, record days of fundraising they had after this impeachment process began.
RASCOE: Yeah. So that's what the campaign is saying, is that they're getting record fundraising, that they're getting all these people signing up, new people signing up. And so they are saying that this is rallying the base, like, this is something that is getting people motivated, getting people off the sidelines and getting them out there for President Trump.
So I think it's hard because it does seem like all of these things are always rallying the base. But in this case, that's what they're pointing to. They're pointing to fundraising, and they're pointing to people signing up and saying that that's a sign that their base is motivated.
ELVING: We shouldn't forget, though, that there is quite a different profile in terms of the public response from what there was to Bill Clinton's impeachment. Support for Bill Clinton's impeachment and removal from office never went above 30% - three, zero - in the Gallup Poll in 1998 or 1999. And after he had been acquitted, he went on to 58% approval in the Gallup Poll.
Now, that would be an extraordinary figure for any president in the modern time, but certainly for Donald Trump, who is usually in the low to mid-40s and sometimes has been, still, lower. So there has been stronger approval throughout the process than there ever was for Bill Clinton's impeachment and removal, and we'll have to see what effect the trial has on that. If the base is being rallied, it is also possible that the, if you will, corresponding I would never vote to reelect Donald Trump is also being hardened.
DAVIS: I think impeachment's bad, right?
DAVIS: Politically, impeachment is just bad. It is. But the question we don't know is, is the closing argument of this election - does this election become about Donald Trump's impeachment? Is that what we're talking about when voters are casting their ballots in the general election? Or is it about something else?
And the thing I go back to is if you point back to the week on Capitol Hill that Donald Trump was impeached, he was - I think the impeachment happened on a Wednesday. And then the next day, the House passed the USMCA, the rewrite of the NAFTA law. And this is a really important thing to remember because Donald Trump also has a story to tell for his reelection, and he has a lot of fundamentals in his favor as the incumbent, right? He's got legislative victories he can point to. Rewriting NAFTA was a signature campaign promise, and he can say, promise delivered.
And you look at things like today, just atmospherics in the country in a presidential year - great jobs numbers, 50-year-low unemployment figures. I mean, if those economic numbers hold, history does seem to dictate that those are very good things for an incumbent president to be enjoying.
KHALID: I mean...
ELVING: Unquestionably. Everybody would like to have the economy that Donald Trump has at this time. And there is a natural tendency on the part of most voters to attribute the state of the economy to the present president. Whether it was his doing or not, it doesn't really even matter. They do tend to think of the president as being responsible for the economy.
If the economy is great, what's wrong with the president? Which is one of the reasons why it is curious and often noted that he does not seem to be enjoying the kind of widespread support outside of his original base; in fact, not even up to the number that voted for him in the election of 2016, despite all those positives.
RASCOE: I think one interesting thing about President Trump, when you bring that up, is that - and I think that we saw that this week with Iran - is that you have the economy. You have the impeachment. You have these things happening. But then you also have President Trump, who's constantly doing things. And in this case with Iran, you know, they're making a case that there was an imminent threat. But that just shows that you don't know what's going to happen next. He is still president. He is still making decisions, at times, maybe making decisions that previous presidents wouldn't make. And so that's a difference with President Trump is that you have someone who, even with a great economy, with all of these things, he's making decisions. He - he's his own wild card, essentially.
DAVIS: If you look at his approval-disapproval, one of the things he needs to do to get reelected is convince some number of people who say they don't approve of him to still vote for him.
RASCOE: Yes, yeah.
DAVIS: And I do think there - he is uniquely capable of doing that because I think that Trump's behavior and the things he's done that, I think, people don't like about how he conducts himself as president - I think he's one of those politicians that's uniquely capable of getting people to say, like, but I still - you know, at least I know who he is. And there's something about having that known brand.
KHALID: And to that point - Yeah. To that point, I flew in this morning from Cedar Rapids, Iowa. I was just in Iowa all last week, and I spent some time in this tiny county in northern Iowa called Howard County. And why I went there in particular was there's a whole bunch of counties - about 31 of them - that flipped from being places that President Obama won and then places that President Trump won. And Howard County actually had the biggest margin. I believe it's the biggest margin of any county in the country. And what was interesting is, you know, you talk to the Republican chair and the Democratic chair. Both of them feel like impeachment is kind of a wash. It's not actually affecting anybody's opinion. If you're a Republican, you think impeachment is a witch hunt. If you're a Democrat, you think, like, yeah, he should've been impeached four months ago, right? So I think that's what's interesting to your point though about, can he sway people? I think, you know, one of the things even the Republican county chair told me is, you know, I don't like how he talks. A lot of people around here don't think it's very polite. You know, or a particular religious county - we don't like how he speaks on Twitter. But, like, you can't disagree with how well the economy's doing. And that's consistently the message I've heard from Republicans for a long, long time. And I don't see any indication of severe buyer's remorse. And so all he needs to do is convince some folks who kind of held their nose and voted for him to kind of hold their nose and vote for him again.
DAVIS: To do it again, yeah.
KHALID: All right. We're going to take a quick break. And when we come back, we're going to talk about all things Iowa.
All right, we're back. And we're going to talk now about the 2020 Democratic primary. The field has whittled down a little bit, and we are now down to just 13 candidates.
RASCOE: Lucky 13.
DAVIS: A baker's dozen.
KHALID: We lost one this morning. In case you all were not plugged in with the news, we should mention Marianne Williamson has departed.
RASCOE: And we don't have "Bye Bye Bye." We usually play NSYNC. We don't have the music tonight. But think it in your head - bye, bye, bye.
KHALID: And we should point out that the Iowa caucuses are now just a little over three weeks away. And so we have a new poll out.
DAVIS: We got some hot, new numbers out.
KHALID: Just earlier today, the Des Moines Register came out with a poll. And I think what was, perhaps, the most interesting top line is that actually, pretty much the four leading candidates are all statistically within the margin of error. And I think at this point in the race, people thought maybe we would have had some clarity about a potential frontrunner. This poll showed that Bernie Sanders was in the lead. He was, I believe, at 20%. And I would say that, you know, what's interesting, I think, to a lot of us is this poll is just not any random ad hoc poll. I think, you know, you see a lot of polls out about the primary race. And it's hard to sometimes differentiate, well, what does this poll mean? The Des Moines Register poll is kind of the gold standard of Iowa polls. And so for them to find such a muddled race so close to actual caucus day, I think, is worth paying attention to. So, again, Bernie Sanders was at 20%. Elizabeth Warren is at 17%. Pete Buttigieg is at 16%. And Joe Biden is at 15%.
DAVIS: Bernie Sanders saw a good jump. I think he jumps up seven points. And notably to me, too, former mayor Pete Buttigieg dropped 9 points, which, like - and when you're reading these numbers and they're close, you're like, ooh (ph), things are happening, right? Like, the race is starting to get even more interesting.
KHALID: But to that point, Sue, I think what was so interesting is if you dig a little bit beneath the surface, I want to say over 40% of voters still said that they could be swayed to another candidate. I mean, that's what's sort of mind-boggling to me is we're so close to caucus day. And this is consistently what I kept hearing from voters when I was in Iowa. You asked them if they had their mind made up. And it's bizarre to me how many folks still are like, I don't know. I got my top three. And it's like, all right.
RASCOE: What are they waiting for?
KHALID: I don't know. That is an excellent question. What are they waiting for? I mean, look. A lot of people told me - and maybe the hometown crowd of Chicago, you all will maybe like this fact - that your former senator, also known as the former president of the United States, Barack Obama...
KHALID: He was somebody that - many people have told me - instantly people fell in love with in Iowa. And not necessarily like it was instant. But over time, as they got to know him, they fell in love with him. And I talked to the former chair of the Iowa Democratic Party. And she told me that, you know, she was an early, early backer of Barack Obama's as soon as he got in the race. And she said that year, we were thinking with our heart. And she's like, you know, this year, people are thinking with their head. And they're trying to calculate who's going to be the most effective Democrat to defeat Donald Trump in November. And I don't know that they've been able to make up their mind about who that best opponent is.
ELVING: You know, you have to say maybe something's changed in Iowa. Or maybe there's just not a Barack Obama in this field. There may be a lot of other people in the field who would be really strong candidates in November or maybe someday at some point in their career. But they are not at that magic moment of time of emergence that Barack Obama was in 2007 going into the 2008 election year. And it's been a big field. And it's been a field in which there was a lot of, if you will, equal appeal on a part of a number of candidates. You had some older candidates, some younger candidates, some diversity. Elizabeth Warren went up to 22 points at one point. She's fallen back a little bit but not that much. So people have risen and fallen. And there is still time for just about anything to happen, especially because Buttigieg are going to have Iowa to themselves for the last two weeks of this campaign if all those senators are back in Washington sitting at their desks with their hands folded, rolling their eyes at the impeachment trial.
DAVIS: But there's something really important, too, to understand about Iowa. Like, we've talked - it's been a wide-open field. But there isn't actually that many candidates in contention to win Iowa, right? I mean, you do have to - one of the most important numbers to remember in Iowa is 15 percent. That is the minimum threshold that you need to get at any of these caucuses to qualify for any delegates. And so if you're walking out of Iowa with no delegates, you're in a tough position, you know?
KHALID: And we should point out that 15 percent - it's kind of wonky. But it's not like you have to get 15 percent statewide. You've got to get 15 percent in every teeny-tiny caucus, which means if you don't have a real good ground game. If you haven't been out doorknocking and getting people out to your events, it's just going to be really hard to get 15 percent in some of these counties. And so I would argue that's why it's not a horrible position to be a lot of people's second-choice candidate because at this point, if Amy Klobuchar, hypothetically, is your first choice and she just cannot meet that threshold in some these counties, some of those people are going to realign to, say, a Joe Biden or a Pete Buttigieg or something.
ELVING: It is a caucus. It's not a primary. So you don't just walk in and walk out. You don't just go in and vote and then walk out. You sit around. You listen to people argue. You have a chance to vote by your feet by going over and caucusing with a group of people. And if you aren't viable because you don't have 15 percent, you're a free agent. You can go over here and join one of the other campaigns. So maybe Amy Klobuchar's people go to Elizabeth Warren, or maybe they go to another candidate. It's a highly volatile situation, unlike a normal primary in a normal state.
RASCOE: But does this mean that when you talk about the four candidates that are currently leading right now - Sanders, Biden, Buttigieg, Warren - in no particular order - I'm just saying that. People get sensitive.
RASCOE: But there are others. Like, is it possible that you could have a Klobuchar, a Cory Booker, Andrew Yang. Like, could you have a surprise kind of showing...
DAVIS: I think it's possible because I also think caucuses are wildly unpredictable, and polling isn't a good indicator. But things can happen, right? I think that there's also probably more than one ticket out of Iowa - right? A really strong surprise second- or third-place showing could provide a big lift and some life.
KHALID: But could you really a fifth-place ticket out of Iowa?
DAVIS: You need to get what?
KHALID: Could you really have a fifth-place ticket out of Iowa?
DAVIS: No. This is what I'm saying. You would need to have a surprise performance in Iowa to, I think, really benefit one of these, like, second-tier - one of these second-tier campaigns. You'd need a surprise. You'd need a night. You'd need to be a story coming out of Iowa. I mean, it's just - it's really tough. I also think Iowa historically has a pretty good track record at picking the Democratic nominee. Republican - Iowa's Republican caucuses they have a much poorer track record of picking the eventual nominee. Iowa's pretty good at this. So the sort of boost, morale boost you're going to get in this nomination fight coming out of Iowa if you're the winner - that's a really hard thing to sort of overcome if you're at the bottom of the pack.
RASCOE: But two names that I was hearing way back when all this started - we started talking about 2020 in, like, 2016, right?
DAVIS: Twenty - the day after.
RASCOE: Bernie Sanders, Joe Biden. Those two names are still kicking around near the top.
DAVIS: At the top.
KHALID: They are. And, I mean, I will be the first person to admit I think that that's a pretty surprising storyline - just how resilient both of them have been. I've spent quite a bit of time recently looking at Bernie Sanders' resiliency. I think it's a storyline, I will admit, I think surprises a lot of us journalists in part because when we first went out reporting, I went to New Hampshire, and I talked to all of these progressives who had supported him in 2016 who told me, I want somebody else. You know, he's too old. I feel like his time has come and gone. And now you look at the polls. And, you know, look. This Des Moines Register poll - he's in the lead tonight. You look at his fundraising numbers. And he outfundraised everybody else in the field amongst all the Democratic candidates.
DAVIS: And small-dollar donors, like real people, not just big checks, you know?
ELVING: What Bernie Sanders has done here is not just to parlay his name recognition and his longtime enthusiastic progressive supporters but also to start a movement among people who have - if you want to call it populist, call it populist - but they have something of what has motivated some Trump voters. They have a much different set of solutions and a much different man to look to in Bernie Sanders. But there is something large about what Sanders is accomplishing. And whether or not he is ultimately physically able to - I don't know why some of these white guys keep going.
ELVING: Biden and Sanders. Come on. Let's get some young people on stage. But...
KHALID: He said it, not I.
ELVING: Name recognition is no small thing in politics.
ELVING: And in a field of people that are middling, well-known, to have a couple of people who've been around as long as these two guys - Biden and Bernie - matters a lot.
KHALID: And to - I mean, Biden, too, we should point out, I mean, he has just, I think, been far more consistent in the polling than folks expected. And part of his resiliency has been that he does really well with African American voters.
KHALID: And so when you start looking at polls - in, say, South Carolina in particular - there's really just no competition. It's Joe Biden and then everybody else is way down in the bottom. And, you know, I think there were some assumptions that some of the other African American candidates earlier on in the race - Kamala Harris, Cory Booker - might be able to peel away some of that support, but we didn't see it.
I mean, there was just a tremendous amount of loyalty that people felt towards Joe Biden. And he had been a presence, they felt, both, you know, during his eight years as vice president for Barack Obama but also just a presence on his own in some of these communities for years. And so I think, for me, one of the big questions coming out of Iowa is going to be, in some ways, sort of more where Bernie Sanders and Joe Biden fall.
KHALID: I'm very curious about that. I know there's been a lot of talk about Elizabeth Warren and Pete Buttigieg maybe kind of rivaling it out and where they might fall. But I think, to me, what's really interesting is there are really high expectations, I think, for Bernie Sanders. The polling and the fundraising has shown him...
KHALID: ...To be really - doing really well. What I hear on the ground in Iowa is that Pete Buttigieg and Elizabeth Warren have the strongest organization. And Iowa is coming up pretty soon, so we will have more to talk about that in lots of our upcoming podcasts. But for now, we are going to take a quick break, and we'll be right back.
(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)
KHALID: And we're back. And now it is time for one of the most fun parts of the show, Can't Let It Go, where we all share one thing that we just can't stop thinking about, politics or otherwise. Sue, why don't you start.
DAVIS: The thing I can't let go this week is World War III.
RASCOE: Oh, yeah. I can let that go. I can let it go.
DAVIS: So a lot of talk this week, concern about World War III, you know, the Iran dust-up. And the thing I can't let go is Pottery Barn has got you covered in the event of World War III coming about in that Pottery Barn has started selling, I think it's called, the Prepster Emergency kit.
KHALID: Did they just start selling this this week?
DAVIS: Very fashionable. I think it's cotton and twill, maybe it's got leather handles. It's really a really lovely piece. The thing that's even better about it is what Pottery Barn thinks you will need for your emergency situation.
DAVIS: If you can see up here on the screen, there's some astronaut ice cream.
DAVIS: Some field notes so you can keep a journal at the end times.
RASCOE: You got...
DAVIS: Like, eight ounces of water because that seems like all you'll need.
KHALID: How long do you think this will last?
DAVIS: Some moisturizer 'cause you don't want to go out with dry skin.
RASCOE: You don't want dry skin.
DAVIS: I do appreciate that there's a radio, so you can still find your local station, your local NPR station.
RASCOE: And you can find NPR.
DAVIS: Hopefully, it won't be a fundraising week so you can just get the news.
KHALID: Oh, yes, to get the news.
DAVIS: But the reason why I really can't let it go is if you are the person that's buying this, you're probably not going to make it.
DAVIS: I mean, am I right?
RASCOE: So - but if you have $500 to buy that, you have the money to pay somebody else to get ready.
DAVIS: Yeah, to save you.
RASCOE: Right. Like, you have...
DAVIS: You have staff.
RASCOE: You have staff that can help you get ready and, hopefully, you can pay to protect you for protection (laughter).
DAVIS: Well, I would hope - I just really hope that whoever buys - if anyone owns one of these, let me know. Like, tweet at me. I would like to know.
RASCOE: But I...
DAVIS: Maybe it's better than I think it is.
KHALID: I feel like someone should buy it for you and just give it to you as a present (laughter).
RASCOE: Well, but - well, I like that they have different colors, though, because you want to be able to...
KHALID: Wait. They have different colors of the bag?
RASCOE: If it's World War III, you want to be able to coordinate with whatever you're doing.
DAVIS: You don't want to clash.
RASCOE: You don't want to clash, like...
DAVIS: You don't want to clash.
RASCOE: ...In that way. But...
KHALID: I get it.
RASCOE: You got to be ready.
KHALID: Took me a second. I got it.
RASCOE: You got to be ready. I like that, though. I like that. That's good.
KHALID: Well, thank you. I hadn't seen that.
RASCOE: I hadn't seen that (laughter).
KHALID: So thank you for bringing that to my attention. All right, Ron, why don't you go next.
ELVING: OK. How many of you have seen this New Yorker, the cartoon issue? The cartoon issue? We got some New Yorker readers here. All right, I'm going to put this forward as a measure of the New Yorker's ability to show us the change in our times. If you've looked at the cartoons in this magazine - I opened it sort of randomly, not realizing what was happening, got to Page 25 and saw one of the most outrageously sexist cartoons I have ever seen in my life of an artist, you know, telling a model who has just disrobed to be painted, oh, no, honey, just the head, OK?
And I thought, what magazine is this? This looks like something out of the '50s in another kind of magazine entirely. And then I moved on, and there were a couple of others on Page 29, one in which a man introduces his new wife to somebody and says, that's my old wife up there on the shelf, and she's, like, a trophy up there, like stuffed.
RASCOE: Oh, man.
ELVING: And I'm - what in the world am I reading in the cartoon issue of The New Yorker on December 30, 2019? Well, it turns out they were retrospectives.
ELVING: And people had said, these are my favorite cartoons from the past, and they were drawing attention to what cartoons were in the past. And if you went a little further to Page 40, you discovered the beginning of a 10-page graphic novel - or short story, in this case - but 10 pages in The New Yorker devoted to a young woman artist drawing a graphic depiction of her own sexual awakening in her own adolescence that is really quite moving and I think you would respond to and think, times have changed. The New Yorker has changed.
DAVIS: I like that Ron was about to write a very angry letter to The New Yorker...
KHALID: To The New Yorker.
DAVIS: ...From NPR's Ron Elving before you realized it was cartoons from the 1930s.
ELVING: Strongly worded letter to follow.
KHALID: Was it in fine print? Like, when did you realize?
ELVING: Well, it turns out it was from 1935, I believe - the first one.
DAVIS: Oh, wow.
ELVING: And the other one, I think, was from the '50s. And people had been asked to look back over the cartoons that were most memorable to them, either as cartoonists for their own work or for that of other cartoonists. And that's how they got in the magazine. I'm still a little surprised that they chose those particular cartoons, but it did illustrate the point that they were obviously trying to make in perhaps not such a subtle fashion that cartoons, like popular songs, reflect who we are and how we change and how taste-making magazines like The New Yorker have changed, indeed.
DAVIS: Ron, thanks for being an ally. Yeah, yeah. Exactly.
DAVIS: As some of the women on the stage (ph), I appreciate that. Asma, what can't you let go this week?
KHALID: So I don't know if you all saw or heard that Elizabeth Warren, a candidate running for president - she gave an interview with Cosmo recently in which she discussed her skin care routine.
KHALID: Oh, you guys are laughing. Well, anyhow, I don't know if you do or do not know this little tidbit, but I just want to rehash a portion of it so you're familiar with this. She was asked, what is your skin care routine? She responded, Pond's moisturizer. She says she uses it every morning, every night and, quote, "and I never wash my face," at which point I found this a little surprising. Now, we have had an internal debate about this very issue...
RASCOE: We've had a lot of talk about this, yeah.
KHALID: ...Because I find that the idea that someone never washes their face a little uncomfortable to me. That being said...
KHALID: That being said, if you zoom in on Elizabeth Warren's face, she has pretty good skin.
KHALID: Now, if I had that good of skin at the age of 40, I feel like maybe I should try the Pond's routine, which I have never tried before.
DAVIS: I mean, I think she gets water on her face. I just think that it's like...
KHALID: She doesn't actually say that (ph).
RASCOE: See, that's the problem with these debates, and this is why I don't like these type of questions. I feel like you get into all these things on the Internet - you know, who washes, or do you wash your face? How do you wash your face? Do you wash your legs - all this stuff. Listen.
RASCOE: You don't have - you should not have to - Elizabeth Warren or nobody else should have to tell anybody about their hygiene habits.
RASCOE: My thing is...
RASCOE: ...Unless we are being intimate - so unless you are licking on my face...
RASCOE: ...You don't need to know whether I'm washing it or not. You don't need to know nothing about that. That's what I say, OK?
DAVIS: That's fair.
KHALID: All right, you win.
RASCOE: That's my stand on this.
KHALID: Ayesha, what can't you let go this week?
RASCOE: Well, what I can't let go of - now, we've covered some big news this week. I don't want to take away from that. But there was some big news that we have not talked about yet on this stage.
KHALID: It's taken some restraint.
ELVING: It has.
RASCOE: Harry and Meghan...
RASCOE: ...Are leaving the - they step in - that is - this is huge news. This was seismic news in the newsroom.
RASCOE: We had crowds gathered around. You don't see this on a normal day. There were crowds.
DAVIS: And we see some things.
RASCOE: We see some things. But there were crowds gathered around just talking about Harry and Meghan and their decision to step back from their royal duties. But they're not trying to abdicate at this point. They want to be financially independent.
And I am Team Meghan, though I say, you know, look; I know we have listeners all around the world. I feel like there have been some people, maybe the tabloids - not the British people, but the tabloids who have been mean to Meghan. I feel like it has been some racist things about Meghan.
RASCOE: And I say if you're going to be mean to Meghan, then Harry is doing the right thing in saying, you're not going to be mean to my wife. You were mean to my mom. She died. And I'm not going to let that happen to my wife. I'm going to protect her. And we're getting out. And I say more power to him.
RASCOE: That's what I say.
RASCOE: That's what I said.
DAVIS: I will say this, though. I will say this. It is one of the most savage things I've ever seen someone do to their 93-year-old grandmother.
DAVIS: We want to say thank you to our partners at WBEZ, all of their staff and volunteers who made tonight possible. You can support this podcast by supporting them, your local public radio station. And a huge thank-you to all of the staff at the beautiful Harris Theater.
KHALID: And we couldn't have done this show without Allie Prescott and Jessica Goldstein from the NPR events team.
DAVIS: The show and the podcast are produced by Barton Girdwood, Barbara Sprunt and Chloee Weiner.
KHALID: Our social engagement editor is Brandon Carter. And our engineer tonight was Tyler Greene (ph).
DAVIS: Our editors are Shirley Henry, Muthoni Muturi and Eric McDaniel.
KHALID: Special thanks to Lexie Schapitl and Dana Farrington.
I'm Asma Khalid. I cover the presidential campaign.
ELVING: I'm Ron Elving, editor and correspondent
RASCOE: I'm Ayesha Rascoe. I cover the White House.
DAVIS: And I'm Susan Davis. I cover Congress.
KHALID: And thank you, Chicago, for being with us for the NPR POLITICS PODCAST.
NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.