What Happened In Texas And Who Is To Blame? : The NPR Politics Podcast Millions of Texans have been without power or potable water for days following unusually harsh winter weather. The Republican governor blamed the outages on renewable energy but that is only 10 percent of the story.

Plus, we look at "cancel culture." Where did it come from, and why are conservatives eager to use it as a political cudgel?

This episode: congressional correspondent Susan Davis, White House reporter Ayesha Rascoe, business reporter Camila Domonoske, KUT's Ashley Lopez, and political reporter Danielle Kurtzleben.

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What Happened In Texas And Who Is To Blame?

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What Happened In Texas And Who Is To Blame?

What Happened In Texas And Who Is To Blame?

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MATT: Hi. My name is Matt (ph), and I'm calling from Altadena, Calif., where I'm an engineer on the Perseverance Mars rover. My stomach is in knots as I await the beginning of its entry, descent and landing at Mars. This podcast was recorded at...

SUSAN DAVIS, HOST:

11:58 a.m. on Friday, February 19.

MATT: Things may have changed by the time you hear this, and hopefully, we'll have had our fifth successful rover landing on the red planet.

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

AYESHA RASCOE, BYLINE: Wow.

DAVIS: Congratulations, Matt. It was a successful landing.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

SWATI MOHAN: Touchdown confirmed. Perseverance is safely on the surface of Mars and is ready to begin seeking signs of past life.

DAVIS: They've also landed - I couldn't even believe it - like, five times safely now. It's like it's not even hard for us anymore to land on Mars.

RASCOE: (Laughter) I'm sure the engineer might say it's a little tricky...

DAVIS: (Laughter).

RASCOE: But they did it.

DAVIS: That might feel differently. That might feel differently, is what you're saying.

Hey there. It's the NPR POLITICS PODCAST. I'm Susan Davis. I cover Congress.

RASCOE: And I'm Ayesha Rascoe. I cover the White House.

DAVIS: And so much of the country has been hit with some terrible winter weather right now. States of emergency has been declared in Oklahoma and Louisiana, but no place has been hit harder than Texas. And the response to the crisis has become contentious and increasingly political, so we've asked NPR's Camila Domonoske, who covers the energy business, and Ashley Lopez, a reporter with our member station KUT in Austin, Texas, to join us to talk us through it.

Hey there.

CAMILA DOMONOSKE, BYLINE: Hi.

ASHLEY LOPEZ, BYLINE: Hey.

DAVIS: So, Ashley, you've been dealing with massive power outages. People are living without heat and water for days now. Can you just start by giving us a picture of what life is like in Texas right now?

LOPEZ: Oh, man. It's - someone told me that it's like living in the 1850s in a way. Like, you just have to plan for so much and, like, not really know when you're going to have, like, just the luxuries of civilization again. Just, like, quick numbers - right now, I think there's something like 14 million Texans without clean drinking water.

DAVIS: Wow.

LOPEZ: You either have a boil water notice, so you have - you do have water coming in, but it's not potable. And - or you're like me, and you have no running water at all. There's still also about - I think more than 300,000 Texans, last I checked, who don't have power. So, you know, there are many people - I talked to someone this morning who's now at, like, 100 hours plus of not having electricity through some freezing, freezing temperatures. It's just - it's a really dire situation for a lot of people.

And then there's - not to mention what comes next, which is just, you know, what is going to likely be months of recovery and fixing pipes and damage and - you know? Yeah. And then there's, like - there's just a lot to, like, not look forward to, I guess.

RASCOE: Yeah. My best friend lives in Austin and has - just had a baby in November. And so she sent me the pictures of her having to bundle up her baby. Their power was on and off. And so my heart just goes out to everyone, you know? Just her - you know, her beautiful little baby, having to bundle her up.

LOPEZ: Yeah. You know, I talked to families where they had a newborn who they had to have, like, just strapped to their chests for days on end because they're worried about their little baby freezing to death. But I think long term, like, not having a sense of when things will end or get better has been probably the hardest part because it's easier to get through day by day when you see an end in sight. But when you don't see it, I think that's when it gets hard for people.

DAVIS: I think these power outages have been so shocking for the people watching Texas from the outside because it's such an energy-rich state. It's such a resourceful state. And to see a state that has suffering like that just is really surprising to see. Camila, I know that you have looked into sort of the power question of this. Why did Texas struggle so hard to keep the lights on?

DOMONOSKE: Yeah. Basically, the state is just not built for temperatures as cold as it saw, and so two things happened simultaneously. The really cold weather caused everyone to crank up their heaters, including a lot of electric heaters, and so demand for electricity went up. And then at the exact same time, because of the exact same cold weather, the supply of electricity went down. All of these power plants were having problems. Equipment literally froze access to natural gas that they needed to power. Power plants froze in the pipelines, wells froze.

All of this happened at the same time. And electric grids are really delicate. You need to keep a very precise balance between supply and demand of power. And when their supply just plummeted like that, they had a very blunt instrument to reduce demand, which was just to shut off huge portions of the state.

That's kind of the simple answer. There's a more complicated answer, which is that people are going to spend a lot of time digging into the decisions that have been made in Texas over the years and the role that they played in this genuine disaster - things like Texas is on its own power grid.

DAVIS: Yeah. I had no idea.

DOMONOSKE: Yeah. We have the eastern side of the United States. We have the western side of the United States. And then there's Texas, which doesn't share power with its neighbors in order to avoid federal regulations. Did that play a role here? Other nearby states also had outages, but they weren't as bad. So that's something that's definitely going to come under fresh scrutiny.

The winterization, the weatherization of power plants and natural gas pipelines - you can obviously operate windmills and natural gas pipelines in really cold weather, but you have to prepare for it. You have to build for it, and it's expensive.

DAVIS: Yeah.

DOMONOSKE: And Texas generally hasn't chosen to do that. That's going to come under scrutiny. And then the projections and decisions that were made by the Electric Reliability Council of Texas, ERCOT, which is what runs that Texas grid, will also come under scrutiny. So there will be lots of questions about whether this could have been avoided. But the most simple answer is just that they were not ready for how cold it got down there.

DAVIS: There's been a lot of political blame. I saw earlier this week the Texas governor, Greg Abbott - he's a Republican - suggested wind and solar outages were also to blame for part of it. There was also comments I've seen a lot about the Green New Deal. If we do the Green New Deal, it's going to be more like Texas. Can you talk about that? Is there anything to that? I mean, where does the renewables come into play here?

DOMONOSKE: Yeah, it is true that wind turbines froze and that solar power generation went down. Everything froze. The failures were across the board. Natural gas plants went offline. Coal power plants had their water pipes freeze, and they had to shut down. Even some nuclear generation was knocked offline. Like, genuinely, every form of electricity generation in Texas failed when it was needed in this moment.

And so if you talk to ERCOT, they say that it doesn't make sense to single out any one source of power generation as being at fault here. The bulk of Texas' grid is not powered by renewables. It's powered by natural gas.

DAVIS: Yeah.

DOMONOSKE: And those plants didn't operate when ERCOT was expecting them to. And that's fundamentally what caused the problem here.

RASCOE: And so when is water going to be - like, when are people going to have running water again?

LOPEZ: Well, you know, water is a county-by-county, city-by-city thing, so it depends where you live. But I will tell you here in Austin, Austin Water has basically no projection for us. At one point, they sent out a note - like, make plans to have - not have water for days, not hours. So - but other than that, like, we're not really getting a lot of information as to how long it will be until we all have water or even drinkable water.

And I think that's actually a trend statewide. There's no hard date, and I think that's why you see a lot of frustration and emotional exhaustion from people - because it's just been so hard to plan because you just don't know how long you're going to be in this situation.

DAVIS: And can we just talk about how this is coming while we're also still in this pandemic?

LOPEZ: Yeah.

DAVIS: I mean, speaking of things that, when will it end? (Laughter).

LOPEZ: Yeah, so this has been - our health infrastructure is sort of like the secondary crisis we're all dealing with right now. So for one, these water outages have highly affected hospitals. There are hospitals across the state who are - who don't have flushing toilets, the ability to wash hands - which, as you can imagine, is a big deal. And as you know, we're in the middle of the pandemic, so there are a lot of people who are seeking lifesaving care in hospitals right now. So, you know, like, problems with hospital infrastructure are a serious concern.

DAVIS: I mean, it's not just a humanitarian crisis. It's also an energy crisis. It's a people crisis. And then just to sprinkle on top of all of it, you get a little political scandal to go with everything else this week with your senator, Ted Cruz.

RASCOE: Yeah. Yeah, Ted Cruz. You know, that's - there's a very bleak picture being painted right now because this is a dire situation. But to lighten the mood a little bit, let's talk about Ted Cruz.

(LAUGHTER)

RASCOE: He actually went - he went to Cancun with his children.

(LAUGHTER)

RASCOE: You know, they - and it's...

DAVIS: But that contrast she just painted is what makes it so stark, right? It's, like...

RASCOE: Yes.

DAVIS: All these people are suffering, and he's on his way to the Ritz Carlton in Cancun. I mean, it's just - that's...

RASCOE: In Cancun because, you know, they didn't have no heat in their home. And it was, like, we got to get away. So they were going (laughter) to Cancun. And this broke out because people - like, there were leaks galore. So obviously, he went on a commercial flight. There were pictures of him on the plane. So those started, you know, going all over the Internet.

His office at first wasn't commenting. And then when all of the uproar started, all of a sudden, he's on his way back. Like, camera crews are following him on the trip back - you know, him at the Cancun airport. And he put out this statement blaming his children, saying that they asked to go, and he was trying to be a good father, and just putting it all on the kids (laughter).

LOPEZ: Yeah.

DAVIS: Actually, I cannot imagine that this is going well for Ted Cruz in Texas right now.

LOPEZ: This is how you know, like, people aren't having it, is everyone around you, including people at the airport and in your neighborhood are narcing (ph) on you. Yeah, it's - I've seen so much from - frustration on both sides from people about this. And, I mean, there are lawmakers who - you know, I'm thinking of someone else in the Houston area. Like, we have a state rep here who today I saw her house covered in insulation from her house because her entire roof collapsed in on her house.

And, like, so, you know, it's - this is across the board, you know, regardless of your political persuasion or whether you're a politician or not. People are dealing with some really serious things. So to kick it to Cancun - I mean, I just - I don't think anyone is looking at this and saying, like, that's OK.

DAVIS: I mean, it's a lesson in being good to your neighbors, people - because they will leak on you to The New York Times.

RASCOE: They leaked the group chat.

DAVIS: If you do not...

LOPEZ: Yeah.

DAVIS: If you are not a good neighbor, if you're not a good senator, they will leak on you.

Well, Camila and Ashley, we know you have to get going. Thanks to both of you. And, Ashley, I hope your water and power and everything get back on and stay running. And I hope you stay safe.

LOPEZ: Oh, thank you. Me, too. Thanks, guys.

DAVIS: We're going to take a quick break. And when we get back, we're going to talk about getting canceled.

And we're back. And we've got politics reporter Danielle Kurtzleben with us. Hey, Danielle.

DANIELLE KURTZLEBEN, BYLINE: Hey, guys.

DAVIS: So you did this great piece about something this week that I honestly am a little surprised that we haven't talked about more on the podcast yet, so I'm really glad we're going to talk about it today. But it's two words we just never stop hearing right now in politics - cancel culture.

(SOUNDBITE OF MONTAGE)

DONALD TRUMP: Cancel culture, they call it - cancel culture.

JOSH HAWLEY: People are tired of the cancel culture.

MARJORIE TAYLOR GREENE: Cancel culture is a real thing. It is very real.

JIM JORDAN: So who's next? Who will the cancel culture attack next?

DAVIS: Danielle, to the extent that you can define cancel culture, how do you explain it if someone who's listening right now has no idea what we're talking about?

KURTZLEBEN: OK. Let's start with the popular definition among people who tend to talk more about cancel culture. These tend to be but are not exclusively people who have a more moderate or right-leaning point of view. That definition is that cancel culture is groups of people, often online mobs, coming for people whose opinions they disagree with and shutting down speech. This is how they define it.

One common example is New York Times opinion page editor James Bennet. This happened last year. He resigned after the paper published an op-ed by Republican Senator Tom Cotton about using military force during last summer's protests of racial injustice. After that, people inside and outside the Times pointed at that op-ed as offensive. They said it made them feel unsafe, and they also said it mischaracterized some key facts. Point is, Bennet resigned, the Times backpedaled to a degree, and that is pointed to as cancel culture. People came for Bennet, and he and the Times bowed to the pressure. That's one point of view.

But the other point of view - this tends to be more liberal, more left, but not exclusively - this point of view is that cancel culture doesn't really exist or, at the very least, that it's not something new, that it's just the marketplace of ideas at work, that, look; if I don't like something that you say, I can criticize it. I can complain. Me and my friends don't have to read it, don't have to buy your stuff - and that that has always happened, and that's just what's happening now, just with a new name

RASCOE: And cancel culture - I mean, this was something that really came out of Black Twitter, you know? And really...

DAVIS: Right.

RASCOE: ...What people would say - OK, some celebrity did something or said something that they felt like was out of pocket or not - you know, that they disagree with, and they would say, OK, this person's canceled. You're canceled. And that was a way of saying, we don't mess with you anymore. We don't want to deal with you anymore. We're not a fan of you anymore. And so as with, like, the word woke, it has gone into the broader atmosphere to the point where it's really unrecognizable as a word. And, you know, just like now, if anyone uses the word woke...

DAVIS: Yeah.

RASCOE: ...I immediately just close off my brain because I...

(LAUGHTER)

RASCOE: Because it doesn't mean anything that it used to mean. And it's kind of that way with cancel right now. Like, it just means whatever the person who's saying it wants it to mean at that moment. And it's just kind of a way of saying bad, bad, bad.

DAVIS: It just seems like politicians in particular use it for anything they don't like. And you hear it from sort of across the spectrum. But I think we hear it more among Republicans now. But just a couple of recent examples I think of is that, you know, a moderate like Adam Kinzinger said it was cancel culture when conservatives were trying to oust Liz Cheney from leadership for voting for impeachment.

Or you have Jim Jordan, who's a conservative in the House, saying it was cancel culture coming after Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene for stripping her of her committee assignments for any number of sort of conspiratorial or controversial things she said. It's become this sort of catchall where it's, like, if you're against this person, you're just part of this cancel culture mob.

KURTZLEBEN: Right. Yeah. And that's one of the things that sort of prompted this piece, was in part seeing how Republicans who had largely or maybe even exclusively been throwing this term, using it as a cudgel against liberals, against the left, using it against each other, like Adam Kinzinger using it against people to his right.

DAVIS: Yeah.

KURTZLEBEN: Like, suddenly, it took on all new dimensions.

DAVIS: I can't - I think the thing that I get stuck on with cancel culture - and to me, I think of it in two ways. There's sort of cancel culture culturally of, you know, everyday people not in positions of power who might feel like they're getting shut down on Facebook or whatever it is. But when you talk about people in positions of power, elected officials, I mean, there's this question of, aren't they just being held accountable? Like, what's the difference if - people in positions of power should be held to different standards than the rest of us, right?

KURTZLEBEN: Right. Yeah. And when you talk to people who are concerned about cancel culture, who would tell you they are sincerely concerned, they will often tell you that they are quite worried about, you know, Joe Blow, some unknown person who puts up a social media post that offends other people and is fired from their job as a construction worker or as a teacher - you know? - that they are concerned about that.

Yascha Mounk, who - he is a political scientist who runs the Persuasion newsletter. He told me that he's very worried about that. I also talked to Mona Charen, who is a political commentator. She's an editor at the right-leaning magazine The Bulwark. She said, look - when you're using this to excuse a Marjorie Taylor Greene, someone who has said racist things and also just spread conspiracy theories, you're watering down this concept, and you're making it harder for those of us who actually care about the shutting down of speech to actually make our points because, suddenly, why are we looping you in with this?

DAVIS: Right. Like, maybe racist speech is worthy of condemnation and not just cancel culture, right? (Laughter).

KURTZLEBEN: Yeah, yeah.

RASCOE: I certainly don't say everything that's on my brain every day. I think - don't we all worry about getting fired? Like, we - like, just as human beings, we cannot go around doing and saying any old thing and, you know, remain employed. You know...

DAVIS: Right.

RASCOE: ...You can't go and tell your boss off (laughter) just because they get on your nerves. You can't do that.

DAVIS: And be like, it's cancel culture.

RASCOE: Yeah, you can't cancel me.

(LAUGHTER)

KURTZLEBEN: No, but, like, Ayesha, that's such a great point. Like, this is a thing that I found myself thinking about when I was working on this, and that - I mean, you brought up woke. There's also - like, there are so many parallels here also with the phrase political correctness.

RASCOE: Yes.

DAVIS: Yeah. I was going to ask you about that.

KURTZLEBEN: Like, these three phrases - they all happen to be phrases that are about - that are related to a free speech debate. They - you can use these phrases to have a nuanced, sincere debate about the best way to talk to share ideas in a society, the best way for a society to be inclusive.

But that's what makes these phrases easy to use as political cudgels - because they imply that you have to exclude certain speech to be inclusive. And that is a really controversial idea, especially when people disagree on what free speech means. It gets very complicated quickly. And to me, that's what makes it so easy to use these in political ads, to use these in speeches, to get angry at the other side.

DAVIS: Do you have a sense of why the right and conservatives in particular seem to be really focused on this cancel culture message? I imagine that there has to be some effectiveness to it in winning these political arguments because the party seems, certainly in the activist level, very focused on the cancel culture debate right now.

KURTZLEBEN: Right. Yeah, absolutely. I mean, in part, it's - there's a simple answer to this, which is that culture wars, culture war issues, whatever they're about, whether they're about abortion, whether they're about guns, this is even - and this is even further removed from policy, I think you can easily argue - they get people really inflamed. And, you know, this actually creates some frustration, depending on the conservative you're talking to.

One woman I spoke to, Mary Katharine Ham, another conservative commentator and writer - she told me that she, other conservatives - there are plenty of conservatives who would like to get back to the days of talking about tax policy (laughter), of talking about limiting the size and scope of government and that that may be what conservative Republican elites want, but it doesn't quite seem to be - or at the very least, Republicans don't trust that it's what their voters want. So cancel culture it is.

And also, cancel culture, by the way - because it is a weapon, because in using it, you're pointing at someone else and saying, they're limiting my speech - it's also an easy way to demonize the other side or at least to attack the other side.

DAVIS: Yeah.

KURTZLEBEN: And this is kind of what parties do now. They point to themselves as great, but they especially make the other side look bad.

RASCOE: It's us versus them, right? And it stood out to me when Sarah Sanders, the former press secretary for former President Trump - she's running for the governor of Arkansas. And, you know, in her, you know, opening ad, she's talking about cancel culture and not about, like, Arkansas jobs or whatever. It's like, I'm going to stand up to the left and the cancel culture. That's how - you know, it wasn't this localized message. It was really this culture war.

DAVIS: Yeah. All right. Well, let's take a quick break. And when we get back, it's time for Can't Let It Go.

And we're back. And let's end the show like we do most weeks - with Can't Let It Go, the part of the show where we talk about the things we can't stop thinking about, politics or otherwise. Ayesha, what can't you let go this week?

RASCOE: So I can't let go of, you know, the Trump Hotel in D.C.

DAVIS: Yeah.

RASCOE: Some Trump Hotel employees have started dishing on the procedures that they had in place during the Trump administration because during the Trump administration - and he got sued over this - but Trump's hotel in D.C. was this happening place for all the people on the right and all the people in Trump's circle. And they had all of these very special procedures for when Trump came into the hotel. He had this big table that belonged only to him. It was a round booth in the middle of the floor or whatever at this restaurant. And there was a standard of operating procedure, standard operating procedure.

DAVIS: Like a rider that, like, stars get (laughter). OK.

RASCOE: First, you discreetly hand him a bottle of Purell, like, under the table - just discreetly.

(LAUGHTER)

RASCOE: This was before corona.

KURTZLEBEN: It had to be out of sight?

RASCOE: Out of - discreetly. You don't want to do it...

KURTZLEBEN: Wow. OK.

RASCOE: ...You know, big time. And then you have to have - you say, good morning, good evening, whatever. Mr. President, would you like your Diet Coke with or without ice? And then there's a polished tray of chilled bottles and highball glasses that was already prepared for either response. And then there were seven steps to actually giving the sodas. Like, so you had to open the soda bottles not beforehand - and right in front of him. And you had to use a certain bottle opener and that you had to hold it a certain way. And, you know, he had to hear the bottle pop. You know, he had to - you know, he had to see it. (Laughter) So it's this whole thing.

DAVIS: I mean, I think most people want to see their bottles opened at the table.

RASCOE: Yeah.

(LAUGHTER)

RASCOE: But, I mean, I will say, with the Diet Cokes, even at the White House - I've told this story before. He had that red button - Trump had that red button on his desk that he would press...

DAVIS: Oh, yeah, the Diet Coke button.

KURTZLEBEN: Right.

RASCOE: ...To bring out the server on the tray that would bring out the Diet Cokes. And when I interviewed him once when I was working for another outlet in the Oval Office - I don't even drink Diet Coke, and Trump just kept going, you want some Diet Coke? You want some Diet Coke? You want some Diet Coke, don't you? And I just kind of was, like, OK.

(LAUGHTER)

RASCOE: And he pressed the red button, and out popped the, like, formal server, like, with the Coke on the tray, with the Diet Coke on the tray.

DAVIS: Wow.

RASCOE: And I - but I don't even drink Diet Coke, so it was very awkward because I had to, like, kind of sip it a little. But I didn't want Diet Coke. I don't drink Diet Coke.

DAVIS: I have two thoughts on this. One is I aspire to be at a point in my life where I could have a red button of some kind...

RASCOE: (Laughter).

DAVIS: ...That I could push that someone would bring me the thing that I wanted most. Like...

RASCOE: Yes.

DAVIS: ...There's something uniquely, like, American and aspirational in that.

RASCOE: Yeah.

DAVIS: Although mine would probably be, like, a LaCroix - or a Spindrift, if I'm being honest.

RASCOE: (Laughter).

KURTZLEBEN: Well, yeah.

DAVIS: Or a glass of wine depending on the day.

RASCOE: Yes.

DAVIS: The other thing is, how do we know all this? Did the waiters, like, leak the group chat? Like, what - how did all this...

RASCOE: They're leaking it. Yes, the waiters...

DAVIS: Oh.

RASCOE: ...Now in the - because now, like, the hotel's not doing very well. They're trying to sell it, and so they're probably not going to have jobs there much longer. So now they're just leaking all the stuff. They're just leaking all the information. Yeah. So this is how we know it.

DAVIS: The leakers this week.

RASCOE: Yes.

DAVIS: God bless the leakers.

RASCOE: (Laughter).

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

KURTZLEBEN: I cannot let go of perennial ray of sunshine Dolly Parton...

RASCOE: Oh, yeah.

DAVIS: Oh, yeah.

KURTZLEBEN: ...Who continues to be a blessing upon all of us. We don't deserve her. So, I guess, last month, Tennessee state legislators - the state she is from - proposed to erect a statue of her on the Capitol grounds. And she this week came out with a statement saying, maybe please don't right now. She thanked them, but then she said this.

(Reading) Given all that is going on in the world, I don't think putting me on a pedestal is appropriate at this time. I hope, though, that somewhere down the road several years from now, or perhaps after I'm gone, if you still feel I deserve it, then I'm certain I will stand proud in our great state Capitol as a grateful Tennessean.

And it's lovely. It's selfless. It also inspired me, by the way...

DAVIS: It's very humble.

KURTZLEBEN: Yes. And it's also just aware. Like, you know, read the room. She has read the room (laughter). Things are bad right now. And she's saying, you know, maybe let's hold off. But...

RASCOE: And it's just so not of this moment, right? Like, it's of a different era. It's of a different mindset because, you know, I mean, this is the me, me, me...

DAVIS: Selfie culture.

RASCOE: Everyone builds monuments to themselves, like, on social media, right? Like, so to actually say - to have an honor and to say, no, don't do this for me now. I don't want the spotlight on me - it's just, like, that's why you deserve a statue, right? Like, that's why she deserves one (laughter).

DAVIS: Yeah. And she's given her money to fund vaccine research. I mean, you just - it's like Dolly just can't seem any better of a person.

KURTZLEBEN: I know. And as an addendum, this all - reading about this inspired me to listen to her all morning while I've been writing. And it's just - it's like, optimism in vocal form. It's delightful. It made my day. I urge our listeners to put on some Dolly this afternoon or this weekend.

RASCOE: Absolutely.

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

DAVIS: The thing I can't let go of - if Dolly Parton is the artist most closely associated with the state of Tennessee, who is the musical artist you most closely associate with the state of New Jersey?

KURTZLEBEN: Bon Jovi or Bruce.

RASCOE: Redman. Redman.

(LAUGHTER)

DAVIS: I love it. Dang it. Neither one of those is what I was going for. I was actually going for Bruce Springsteen. But honestly, I'll accept both of those answers. The thing I can't let go this week is - it actually happened back in November, but it was just reported on. It was just revealed this past week that Bruce Springsteen got arrested in New Jersey last November...

KURTZLEBEN: What?

DAVIS: ...For a DUI. But he wasn't technically over the legal limit. He was under the legal limit. But the reason I can't let it go is Bruce Springsteen is like Dolly Parton in Tennessee. It's, like, the closest you're going to get to, like, royalty in a state like that. And I just couldn't stop laughing this week. I have two brothers who are also police officers, and I was texting them about it. And I'm like, I cannot imagine that officer bringing Bruce Springsteen - like, one of the most popular people in New Jersey ever - into the police station for, like, a not actual DUI, and all the other cops looking up and being, like, oh, dude. No.

RASCOE: (Laughter).

DAVIS: Dude, no. No.

(LAUGHTER)

DAVIS: What have you done?

RASCOE: What did Bruce, like - did he go off on the police officers or something? Why didn't - why did they...

DAVIS: No.

RASCOE: ...Bring him in?

DAVIS: He went right along. There was - so he - apparently, a police officer witnessed him. He was driving on a motorcycle through a state park, and people recognized him because he's Bruce Springsteen in New Jersey. And he stopped to talk to them, and they were drinking, and they offered him a shot of tequila.

RASCOE: Oh.

DAVIS: And he took the shot - again, because he's Bruce Springsteen in New Jersey. And then he got back on his motorcycle...

KURTZLEBEN: (Laughter).

DAVIS: ...And was driving, and the cop stopped him and arrested him for DWI. And I believe it goes to court soon, although, honestly, is there a jury in the state of New Jersey...

(LAUGHTER)

DAVIS: ...That's going to convict Bruce Springsteen for not actually being drunk and not doing anything wrong? So my brother did joke to me, though, where I was, like, what would you do if that - if you were the cop? And he's, like, I'd just make him play in my living room for a month.

(LAUGHTER)

KURTZLEBEN: Yeah.

DAVIS: All right. Well, I think that is a wrap for today. Our executive producer is Shirley Henry. Our editors are Muthoni Muturi and Eric McDaniel. Our producers are Barton Girdwood and Chloee Weiner. Thanks to Lexie Schapitl and Brandon Carter and our intern, Claire Obi (ph). I'm Susan Davis. I cover Congress.

RASCOE: I'm Ayesha Rascoe. I cover the White House.

KURTZLEBEN: And I'm Danielle Kurtzleben. I cover politics.

DAVIS: And thanks 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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