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Peter Robinson: A native of Oregon and a graduate of Princeton, Kimerley Strassel of the "Wall Street Journal" writes the weekly column "Potomac Watch." She is also the author of a number of books, including most recently "Resistance: How Trump Haters Are Breaking America." Kim, thanks for joining us.
Kim Strassel: Hi, Peter.
Peter Robinson: And welcome everyone to this special shelter at home edition of "Uncommon Knowledge." I'm at home in Palo Alto, you're at home where?
Kim Strassel: I am currently at home in my home in Alaska. I actually split my time between DC and Alaska, but the kids are here and we decided if we were gonna shelter in place, it would be nicer up north.
Peter Robinson: So, April, still plenty of snow on the ground?
Kim Strassel: Lots of snow on the ground. It was about 11 degrees last night, but we're getting lots of daylight already, so it's getting light before six and not getting dark until after nine.
Peter Robinson: Any bears coming out of hibernation? I guess I'm running through all of my Alaska cliches in my mind here.
Kim Strassel: Okay, next up is moose. The moose are all out in force. The bears we haven't, its still a little bit early but it's pretty soon they'll be out.
Peter Robinson: All right, so I'm in California, you're in Washington and we take both our minds and put them in Washington. Two quotations, the first is you in the "Wall Street Journal" on April 2nd, so just a few days ago as we record this. Quote, "Crises have a way of separating the leaderlike "from the opportunistic. "The Trump administration spent this week "distributing ventilators, "standing up small business loans, "dispatching hospital ships, "erecting alternate care facilities, "explaining virus modeling, "revamping regulations to keep truckers on the road, "and plastering the airwaves with information "about hygiene and social distancing." close quote. That's quotation one. Here's quotation two. This is Pete Wehner in "The Atlantic" magazine on March 13th. Quote, "Trump is fundamentally unfit for office. "For me," Pete Wehner writing, "That is the paramount consideration "for electing a president because at some point "a president will face an unexpected crisis. "The crisis has arrived in the form "of the coronavirus pandemic, "and it's hard to name a president who has been "as overwhelmed by a crisis as the coronavirus "has overwhelmed Donald Trump." Kim, two just totally different views of reality here.
Kim Strassel: Yeah, so look, first of all, this is an unprecedented crisis as we have all talked about ceaselessly and it's hard for me to know that there would be any leader, any person, or any administration that would have been prepared for it or known exactly what to do. So, from my perspective, I think the question is when you look at Donald Trump, and by the way, we all have different views of his leadership style, but if you look at the actions and what has actually taken place, the question is, is the federal government providing some sort of guidance? And is it providing the support it needs to the states? And I think that as a general answer to that, that has happened.
Peter Robinson: All right, let me do this again. Another pair of quotations. Same idea actually. Here's David Frum in "The Atlantic" April 7th, just a couple days ago. "That the pandemic occurred is not Trump's fault. "The utter unpreparedness of the United States "for a pandemic is Trump's fault." And David went on at about a 2,000 words length and the whole article was titled "This is Trump's Fault." Here's Holman Jenkins in the "Wall Street Journal." Again, April 7th. Same day, same day. "There will be much to criticize "about the Trump administration's response "just as we can never forgive FDR's baiting "of Japan with embargoes, "Kennedy's actions in the Bay of Pigs, "or Johnson's in the Tonkin Gulf. "Mr. Trump is the worst president we've ever had, "just like some of the best presidents we've ever had." So here's this distinction between Trump is singularly unsuited for office. He is singularly at fault, as opposed to Holman Jenkins who says wait a minute, this is human affairs. We all mess up over-- It's the story of American history. It's the story of getting it wrong at first, then pulling ourselves together and finally getting it right. So, you're in the Holman camp on this one, correct?
Kim Strassel: All right, but I think that that's in part because, look I'd be open to somebody making the argument that Donald Trump is singularly unsuited for this moment. The problem is is that most of the people that are making that case, including David Frum, who you just quoted, or including Pete Wehner, have been making the case that Donald Trump is singularly unsuited for office from before the time he was even elected. So it becomes kind of difficult to separate out the uniqueness of their argument. In this case, versus their general view that the man should never have been elected at all. That just, I mean, and that's, I think, and I've made this case many times that for the kind of Trump haters out there. After a while, your repetition begins to weaken your argument. Now, Holman's point I think is very good. Are we making mistakes on a daily occurrence in the middle of this? Oh, you bet you we are. And one day there's gonna be a postmortem that is gonna be really ugly, but I would argue that that postportem is going to be one that looks at a lot of mistakes that were made by a lot of administrations on the road to coronavirus. You know, whether it was prior administrations that didn't adequately restock our stockpiles. Whether it's health agencies that over 30 years have claimed to be preparing for pandemics and yet, seemed to have no plan when this came out. Sure, this is gonna require a complete retooling of the way we look at these things, but to say that it's all incumbent upon one person is just ridiculous.
Peter Robinson: Back to the coronavirus, back to the substance of what we're dealing with right now. Just one more, frankly one more Trump question. We've got, I quoted David Frum and Pete Wehner, of course, as you know, I could have quoted any number of dozens and dozens of people, but David Frum and Pete Wehner both worked in the administration of George W. Bush, three and a half years ago before Donald Trump, four years ago before he declared his candidacy for president. You and I would have thought of David Frum and Pete Wehner as broadly speaking, to put it crudely, on our side! A limited government, free markets, republican candidates overall tend to be better for that than democratic candidates, and now we have, it reminds me again and again of the OJ Simpson trial. Where we had the jury and those of us watching on television, looking at exactly the same set of facts, and coming to utterly opposed conclusions. What accounts for this?
Kim Strassel: Yeah I mean, but this has been happening, again, since the minute he--
Peter Robinson: You wrote a whole book on it!
Kim Strassel: I wrote a whole book on it and you know, I make these examples. It is astonishing to me and this is my favorite one. That you continue to hear people say today that Donald Trump is some sort of autocrat or tyrant or a dictator in the making, because I'm sorry. When you step back and you look at what his administration has actually done on a day to day basis. I mean, forget the president's press moments. Forget the things he puts on Twitter. Look at what's happened at the cabinet level, at the agency level. One of the biggest de-regulations in the history of the country, if not the biggest, a giant tax cut. You can't become an autocrat by cutting the size of your government by a third, okay? I mean, everything that they have done is designed to take power away from the federal government, to devolve it out to the states to make things more free in the country. But that's an example of what you're saying, and so now we're getting it here in the context of the virus, which is that, you know, Donald Trump is suitably, you know, uniquely inept or uniquely unqualified for this moment. I mean, I guess the question that I would have for a lot of these people is, what exactly would they be doing differently at this moment? And I think that gives us some big questions about shut down, no shut down, but again, is that on Donald Trump? Or on this kind of massive, so-called experts and health community, which is all over the map itself on what they way is supposed to be forward.
Peter Robinson: All right, the big takeaway. Here's Kim Strassel on March 19th. This is just great because I get to ask you what you meant about this or that. Of course I read your column all the time, and now I get to talk to you about it.
Kim Strassel: That's bad though Peter. I means I wasn't clear enough the first time around.
Peter Robinson: Oh no. I get to ask you to elaborate. I'm quoting you, "Here's the lesson of the virus so far: "relying solely on government bureaucracy is insane. "To the extent America is weathering this moment, "it is in enormous part thanks to the strength, "ingenuity and flexibility of our thriving, "competitive capitalist players." close quote. Explain that.
Kim Strassel: Well look, to me, whatever criticism you want to level at the Trump administration, the single most important thing they did at the very beginning was a philosophical decision, which is that they were not going to attempt to deal with this on their own. They were going to embrace the private sector and move forward in a public-private partnership in dealing with this. Brilliant, because that is exactly the way forward in this country, and it always has been. The federal government, when do we ever expect the federal government to turn on a dime and handle a major project? I mean, you cannot reconcile that idea in your head with, for instance, the DMV, okay? Which is what most of us think of in terms of government. So you turn to actors you can, and what's unique about this partnership is that you have player out there wanting to do stuff and then the government's role is to get out of their way, right? And so it was the CDC that completely messed up that original testing regiment. It was the private sector.
Peter Robinson: Go into that a little bit because that gets laid at Trump's-- Trump gets blamed for that again and again, that's still going on, but just explain what actually happened with regards to the testing.
Kim Strassel: Yeah, so what happened is the CDC, the World Health Organization had its own way of going forwards with testing, but lots of different countries over the time have always had different regiments, testing regiments. The CDC has traditionally and in this case, it did it again, decided it wanted to come up with its own testing regiment because it wanted to exert some quality control over that. The problem was is that when all the scientists won it and did it, they messed it up. It didn't work and it delayed us for a couple of weeks. They then turned to the private sector, which got, you know luckily, we had some incredible actors out there who had been working on this already themselves and they were able to stand up an effective testing regiment in a little less than a week. Thank you private sector! But you see that replicated, whether it's on the ventilator front, whether it's on personal protection equipment, whether it's on the vaccines that are getting pushed forward, I mean we have an amazing resource in the United States and just one last thing on this, it is astonishing to me, even as we are watching this and also, all of these corporations paying employees even though they've got no money coming in, you know? Giving them leave. We hear these stories of small businesses bending over backwards to make sure they're not laying people off. At the same time, we have Bernie Sanders giving a farewell or a drop-out of the race speech this week, in which he was unrelentingly horrid to the corporate community and suggested everything wrong in the United States is laid at its feet.
Peter Robinson: Amazing. Kim, so big takeaway, private sector is saving us.
Kim Strassel: Amazing, yeah.
Peter Robinson: Let's discuss a couple of threats to the private sector that the current crisis may be posing, and one is, in one way or another, if it happens it will happen in a subtle way. It'll happen press conference by press conference probably. A shift from decision making by the democratically elected office holders to the unelected public health officials. And so, there have been moments when people have said in conversations I've overheard, the acting president of the United States is Dr. Fauci. Donald Trump's instincts were clearly against shutting down the economy, but the experts talked him into it. Actually, by the way, let's start with that, with the threshold question. Are you satisfied that the public health experts did a serious and rigorous job of weighing the costs of shutting down the economy and throwing, we now know, today's figure is 6.6 million Americans out of work, and all of the pathologies that go with unemployment. That they did a serious and adequate job of weighing those costs against the benefits of the lives they believed we could save by shutting down the economy. Did they do that right?
Kim Strassel: Of course they didn't. But you know what, in fairness, it's not their job to do that, right? I mean look, public health officials exist to worry about public health and we have them and they're meant to be one part of a broader government, in which a president is soliciting and getting the views of a whole range of different experts. And that clearly didn't happen here, and you know, I blame a little bit the media. I blame democrats who immediately came out of the box with this mantra, "You need to listen to the scientists. "You need to listen to the scientists." Okay, we do need to listen to the scientists, but we also need to listen to the economists who are talking about what the balance of all of this will be, and what the similar devastation, by the way, to health, will be of people who are homeless, who can't feed their kids, who are having mental health issues because of all of this, or the people right now, I would give this-- All of the people who aren't going in and getting mammograms or colonoscopies, and we are potentially missing other cancers. I mean, none of this--
Peter Robinson: Standard procedures that are being delayed, yes.
Kim Strassel: Right, none of this is necessarily good overall for health. So yes, we're making a dent on one type of fatality out there, but at what cost in every other way? That's my one concern. I think the other concern that I really have about this is when, let's say you take the advice, listen to the experts. Why these particular experts? You know, and I'm not again, in any way diminishing Dr. Fauci or Dr. Birx or any of the people that are working on this, but--
Peter Robinson: They're accomplished people full of good will. We'll stipulate that.
Kim Strassel: Yeah, it also happens to be that they just happened to be there at this time. It doesn't necessarily mean they are the most qualified people or there aren't other experts out there that are similarly, like have a lot to supply here and maybe a different view. And so, I think the president's obligation really needs to be to step back and listen to everyone and then make the decisions.
Peter Robinson: So, in questions of national security, I'm thinking this through. I'll fumble because the thought is occurring to me as I speak. In questions of national security, it's the job of the national security council to hold debates.
Kim Strassel: Right.
Peter Robinson: And if necessary, to get the Secretary of Defense and the Secretary of State in the situation room to thrash it out in front of the president. No such debates have been held among public health officials in the current crisis.
Kim Strassel: That's my fear, right. I mean, you know, we have guys right out there in your, John Ioannidis. I think I'm saying his name the right way.
Peter Robinson: Yes, yes!
Kim Strassel: You know, an amazing sort of look at the numbers sort of person, and he's got a very different view of all of this, and I haven't really seen anything either, by the way, that suggests that he isn't onto something or that his view isn't as valid as those that are being voices in the White House. So in my perfect world, in the coming weeks we'd begin to have that debate within the White House. The president would be soliciting the views of experts across the country, and not just from the infectious disease area, but from a wide range of health, of public health disciplines because they would all have very different views.
Peter Robinson: Right, all right here's another threat to the private sector, to the kind of vigorous private action that you champion from the current crisis. And now I'm quoting William Galston in the "Wall Street Journal." All I do is read the "Wall Street Journal."
Kim Strassel: Me too!
Peter Robinson: And occasionally I "The Atlantic." So here's Galston writing a couple of days ago. Quote, "No Senate Republican, not one, "voted against the $2.2 trillion dollar rescue bill, "and unprecedented expansion "of government's cost and reach." close quote. And I recall the brief press conference that majority leader McConnell gave after they voted to move that $2.2 trillion package to the president's desk and majority leader McConnell was crowing that the Senate had gone from the bitterness of impeachment to the common cause of this rescuing the economy, and of course you can get every Senator to vote for giving away billions of other people's money. This feels too good to those guys. They're gonna want to do it again. Is that not a danger?
Kim Strassel: It's a huge danger. I mean, as I pointed out in the aftermath of that vote, you had all of these Senators running around saying, "Oh look, a 100 billion dollars for hospitals, "and look, we're sending this much money "to individuals at home and breaking out "all of these little categories." What nobody was pointing out was that the single biggest category in that bill--
Peter Robinson: 600 billion if I recall from your column.
Kim Strassel: More than 600 billion dollars went to government itself. And by the way, that's not even counting the money that also went to state governments, as well too. That's just the federal government's payday. So, you know, they walked away with the biggest slice of this pie, and that was partly democrats demanding, saying, "We knew where the money needed to go here." Look, anybody did. Where did we need-- We were having a beginning of a liquidity crisis. We needed money to get to corporations and to small businesses to thereby encourage them to keep their employees on the payroll and thus spare us from having more people go to government for help. That's a simple, simple concept. But democrats, the price of this was, you know, you've got to give us money for the food stamps, turbocharged unemployment insurance. You should see the money that just flew to every department in government, and it was very funny.
Peter Robinson: NASA, you pointed out NASA got money.
Kim Strassel: Yeah, now all under this sort of vague term like, for the purpose of preparing and dealing with coronavirus, NASA gets 60 million dollars. You're like, or make it 60 million dollars, but you're like why? For what cause? So, in the end, democrats demanded it but republicans willingly rolled over for it because they like big government too, many of them, and nobody wanted to seem to be the spoil sport at this spending party.
Peter Robinson: All right, the politics of it all. This is, it may seem crass to say so, in the middle of what still feels like a crisis, but it is the fact that we have an election in seven months.
Kim Strassel: Yes we do.
Peter Robinson: Here's William Galston again. "President Trump had planned to organize his campaign "around two themes: a strong economy "and a critique of the Democratic Party "for allegedly embracing socialism." That gives away Galston, allegedly. Anyway, for allegedly praising socialism. "In today's radically transformed circumstances, "neither of these themes is likely to work." The economy is an a recession and republicans themselves just voted for this gigantic budget busting bill. Where do the politics of this shape out?
Kim Strassel: Yeah well, if you look at those two themes, I think they're gonna obviously have to be modulated, although I think that there are corollaries to them that you are likely to see the Trump administration adopt. With any luck, we are gonna come out of the other side of this at some point, and the economy is going to start back up again. Everyone's having a debate. Are we going to have a U shaped curve on the way back up? A V shaped curve? The bigger point is is that we're gonna have a chance to rebuild. I think what you're going to see the Trump administration start to do is shift to arguing that, you need a sort of conservative Trump-like person in office to maintain that. That we're at a risky time period. Democrats have just demonstrated their own view of governance, which is to just throw more money at it and bash on the private sector. We, especially right now, cannot afford to have that happen. We will not come out of this for a long time if they are elected to the presidency in November. That's gonna be one of their arguments.
Peter Robinson: And that will prove compelling?
Kim Strassel: Well, I think it's gonna partly depend on, look, I mean, it's just simply the case that the way people feel about their pocketbooks plays a great deal into an election. So, how bad is this? How much is the response that we have put out there gonna stem the losses? How quick is the recovery? We just don't have the answers to that yet.
Peter Robinson: The journalists. The question of journalism. I'll come back to the journalism coronavirus in a moment, but first here's something that nobody-- It just disappeared. The story disappeared, and you know where I am going with this. Subsequent to the investigation of the FBI's requests to the FISA court connected to the Russia matter, the Department of Justice's Inspector General inspected more than two dozen other FBI wire tap applications. The IG's office went in and essentially at random, pulled together 29 that had nothing to do with the Russia matter, just to see how the FBI was submitting these things, and the IG's conclusion. There were quote, "apparent errors "or inadequately supported facts" close quote, in every single one. And as I say the IG, Inspector General, the Department of Justice issued that report in late March. As you and I speak, this is 10, 12 days ago. It got this big a story in a few newspapers and it's gone. What do you make of that?
Kim Strassel: Well, I would like to point out, we at the editorial page of the "Wall Street Journal" did a big editorial on it because it--
Peter Robinson: I always accept the editorial page of your journal. Go ahead.
Kim Strassel: No, but because this is a huge deal, right? A 100% failure rate, okay. And it's important because it puts the lie to guys like Comey, who for the past years have said, "Oh, you know, you can't bash on the FBI. "It's nothing but a bunch of people. "We are straight up. "These applications are the most serious things "we do all the time." When the results in December came out of the IG's Russia report he said, "Well I guess we were a little sloppy." Well, now we find out that apparently, the FBI's general attitude is that they don't need to follow any of the rules, and that we've got nobody watching the shop. You know, and if the IG randomly chose 29 applications and every one of them was violating what are known as the Woods Files Procedures, which are meant to be the central mechanism by which you keep the FBI on the straight and narrow and make sure these applications are supposed to be scrupulously accurate. That they don't care, and then the other aspect of that IG report is they also found out that the internal mechanisms that the FBI and Department of Justice are supposed to maintain to guarantee this are a joke! Nobody looks at the results of the reports that they do. Nobody goes back to the individuals who filed the applications and say, "Hey, you made errors, what's up with this?" There's no consequences for anybody. No accountability, and the media doesn't want to talk about this because it reminds them of the Russia story, which was a humiliating experience for both them and the Democratic Party.
Peter Robinson: Do they feel humiliated?
Kim Strassel: Well, they should.
Peter Robinson: But they should
Kim Strassel: They should feel humiliated because they got it a 100% wrong. They put the country through torture for three years on the basis of their own hatred of a candidate, not on the basis of any facts.
Peter Robinson: So, a quick little summary. The media got the Russia matter entirely wrong. All of these months later, not a shred of evidence has turned up, that now Justice Kavanaugh was justly accused by Christine Blasey Ford. Not a shred of evidence of which I am aware that that was anything other than a fabrication from beginning to end. And what else, and now we have the IG's report making unambiguous that the FBI has been sloppy in one of its most solemn duties. Correct?
Kim Strassel: Correct.
Peter Robinson: And the press has no interest in any of that.
Kim Strassel: Well I think it's really wise though that you bring it up, because it reminds us Peter. I mean look, the press does this all the time. We are in the middle of the coronavirus everything. All day long, 24 hours, seven days a week, but that's going to fade and people are going to remember that there are other issues that do matter in the running of a country and in elections, and remember, we still have the Durham report to come out at some point too. That has not disappeared and I keep reminding people as well that my belief, my understanding is that he is very conscious of not wanting to go too far into an active election period with his results. He wants to get that out, so I'd wager that's still gonna come out sooner rather than later.
Peter Robinson: This spring, summer at the latest?
Kim Strassel: I'd think so. I would imagine he would like to have it done before the conventions, because that is often viewed as the official starting gun for an election.
Peter Robinson: So there's a huge story coming. On the coronavirus itself, journalism even on the coronavirus, I was thinking this over. Can I just give you a couple of questions? Just questions off the top of my head. So, Dr. Fauci has been saying that this thing is more lethal than the flu, and it turn out, as best I understand, and I've talked to some physician friends here at Stanford. He can not know that. He can not know that! The lethality rate is a ratio. It's the number of people who die divided by something, and you can't know that it's more lethal than the flu until you have much more widespread testing of people who are infected. So, there he is saying something that he can't know in front of a room full of reporters and no reporters respectful- I mean, I have to confess, I have other things to do. I haven't listened to every minute of those White House briefings, but you know I dip in from time to time as you do, and the tenner is aggressive towards the president. Aggressive toward Pence and fawning toward Dr. Fauci and the public health professionals, even when there isn't-- That question seems to be obvious, respectful, pertinent, and un-asked, or this question of, there's a new book out by a couple of Princeton economists. You're a Princeton woman. The Deaton husband and wife team and they've done a study. I haven't read the book but I've read the review in "The New Yorker" and they asked, "What is the cause of these deaths of despair?" And it's not related to age and it's not related to race and it's not related to region, it's a result of unemployment. Where people are unemployed, they abuse alcohol, they abuse drugs, you get domestic violence and you get suicide. Well, if serious economists such as those at Princeton are studying this matter and running studies and quantifying it, why aren't we getting some modeling about the likely health effects of throwing seven million Americans out of work? That at least parallels the modeling we're getting, every hour it seems, on the coronavirus. Now, again that strikes me as pertinent, respectful, obvious, and un-asked. What is going on with American journalism?
Kim Strassel: Yeah, here's--
Peter Robinson: Am I wrong?
Kim Strassel: No, no, no, every day I watch those and it's so frustrating to me because I wish I were there to get to raise my hand.
Peter Robinson: There are good questions to ask of these people.
Kim Strassel: Here's another one that I think falls into that same category, and you have probably noticed this as well, but everyone seems to have a different term up there, and I'm meaning among the scientists, about what it is exactly the endgame is here. What are we trying to accomplish? You know, is it to slow the spread? Because that's very different from stopping the spread.
Peter Robinson: Correct.
Kim Strassel: Okay, are we attempting to eliminate this altogether and then trace any new little case of it and go out and extinguish that, because if that's the case we're gonna be locked down for a very, very long time and we won't have an economy at the end of it. Or, if we're gonna slow the spread, slow the curve, lower the curve, flatten, whatever you want to call it, let's be honest that if you are taking that approach, a lot more people are still gonna get this, just over a longer period of time. In which case, why aren't we opening up some of these-- I mean, I just think that there are some really fundamental questions that the scientific crew up there does not get asked.
Peter Robinson: So, okay. I guess there's no surprise that Peter Robinson and Kim Strassel are in violent agreement. But, the larger question is, these guys have shut down the American economy. I don't know what stories you're hearing in Alaska, but here in-- I live in an older house. We had some trouble with the kitchen and I had a plumber in the other day and it turns out that kitchen sinks are considered essential. But he had three guys show up for work the same day. It was a gas line that needed to be repaired and some bureaucrat in City Hall had decided to yank the permit because after all, that was non-essential. So three guys went home that day without getting paid. This is happening over and over and over again at a vast scale. They have done something grave in shutting down the economy, and they still can't explain to us quite what they think they're doing it for. And I don't understand why journalists aren't on their feet asking Fauci to clear this up. What is the failure of American journalism? Doesn't it seem as though Bill Safire or Scotty Reston of the old days at the "The New York Times" would've pushed these guys for answers?
Kim Strassel: Well, they would've asked the tough questions, but would've asked the tough questions to those who are actually driving this show, which is what you're saying about the kind of public health officials who are standing up there on the stage. Look, I mean this is one of the jokes of journalism these days is that, they pretend to be tough by being mean to Donald Trump, as if there is any effort involved in that whatsoever. You know, and in as doing so, they kind of hide beneath this of lack of willingness or lack of bravery to ask some really hard questions. Also, because they don't want anything--
Peter Robinson: And lazy because they don't want to do the work!
Kim Strassel: The other problem is that they don't want anything to impede any narrative that looks as though it's bad for Donald Trump or that allows them to beat on Donald Trump. So, that's what happened with the Russia thing, right? I mean, look, it wouldn't have been very hard to unravel or even to just poke holes in the ludicrousness of the ideas that they were promoting, right? But it was so much more important to them that it be true in someway, that they were willing to spend two and a half years making things up, and that's what we're looking at today too, and unfortunately when you don't have a functioning press, when you don't have a press that does its job it is bad for the country, and so people love to pile on the press. I find it more of a tragedy than I do anything else. It's because it hurts all of us in the end.
Peter Robinson: A few last questions Kim. You're not only working at home, but you've got three kids to keep an eye on at home, so I won't, thank you for your time. How does this end? Even in New York, which has it seems to be the hardest hit. The peak either has already taken place or appears to be taking place quite soon. In a matter of days, not weeks. Who gets to go back to work and when? And who's going to decide all of this? That actually strikes me as a pretty complicated sequencing problem. Who gets to go first? How do we sort this out, right?
Kim Strassel: Well also, who do we convince to go first? I think that that's an even bigger problem, and it's why, you know in some ways--
Peter Robinson: I'm going stir crazy. Mr. President, I volunteer right now.
Kim Strassel: But what I mean is from, look, we live in a federalist system, and everyone keeps asking the president when he is going to open the economy. It's not up to Donald Trump to open the economy, okay. Every one of these governors and mayors have made their own decisions and will continue to make their own decisions. That being said, I do think the federal government is going to play a crucial role in this regard. It's gonna have to push people by putting out very clear guidance about what it suggests being done, because it's gonna take a little bit of a prod to get some of these governors to agree to move. You know there's, look, we're talking about politics in the end here, okay. I'm not in any way suggesting that these officials don't care about the people in their state and their economies, but right now it's safer to be in lockdown than not, okay.
Peter Robinson: Politically-
Kim Strassel: From a political perspective. If you're a governor of a state, do you really want to be the first one that says, "Okay, hey y'all, go back to work and good luck, "and hope that works out." So you know, especially when you have a federal government that again has not been clear to people about what the end game is here. You know, if we're in a situation where we go back and it is expected that this is still gonna run through society, people are still going to be going to the hospital, we're still gonna have outbreaks, they need to start telling everybody that now and let people get their heads around it. You know, if we're gonna be in la-la land and pretend that the real goal here is to stamp this out, people aren't gonna want to go back to work.
Peter Robinson: Right, right. The president tweeted, I guess it was earlier this week, that he expects the economy to rebound very quickly. Maybe even bounce back to a higher growth rate than we were enjoying earlier. We were at what, a little over two percent when the crisis hit. We've been at three percent a year before that, I guess six months before that. I spoke last week though to Kevin Warsh, former member of the Fed, former Fed governor. And Kevin said wrong, wrong, wrong.
[Kevin Warsh]: I think it'll take longer than most believe. Again, I don't think the economy can turn to on as quickly as it was turned off. I think that's in general, a great benefit of the American capitalist system.
Peter Robinson: People are thinking of this economy like a light switch. We can turn it off and then we can switch it back on. It's a living organism. It has been very, very badly wounded.
Kim Strassel: Right.
Peter Robinson: And it will take time to heal, so I said Kevin, "What do you mean? Weeks, months?" And Kevin said, "Quarters." What do you think?
Kim Strassel: No, I think that that's right. I mean, just like remember too, when we talk about people going back to work, re-opening the economy. You're talking about a million different sectors of economy, some of which will be able to get back to work maybe relatively quickly. Maybe in some areas of manufacturing for instance. There are gonna, nonetheless, be entire sectors of the economy, and by the way, not little ones either, big ones. Airlines, you know you can't expect to have a healthy airline that depends on half of its income or more from overseas travel, which no one is gonna be allowing anytime soon, okay. And then you reflect that from sector to sector. The hotel industry, the cruise industry, B&B's. You know, I just saw something the other day about some of the Airbnb and different kind of these groups that allow you to book in other people's homes. Who's gonna be using those? So this is gonna be a slow rolling re-opening, and it could be quite some time before we're anywhere near back to normal.
Peter Robinson: And the politics of that?
Kim Strassel: That's why I'm saying--
Peter Robinson: Again, we have seven months! Seven months. I spoke earlier this morning to Senator Portman, Rob Portman of Ohio. Democrats likely, who knows, he said who knows, but Democrats are likely to keep the house because Republicans face so many more difficult seats in the Senate than do Democrats. The Democrats needs to flip four seats in the Senate and recapture the White House, and the day after election day we will wake up in a different country. Seven months from now. So how quickly can you get that economy revving again, Kim?
Kim Strassel: Yeah, I think it's almost impossible, just at this very moment to look forward and know how any of this is gonna play out politically. It's very, very difficult. You know, look, but I will add one other factor in here that I think is notable because you mentioned it earlier about what the White House's original plan was going to be, to talk about the economy and talk about socialists. Well, I would point out that while Bernie Sanders did give a, kind of, concession speech this week. He kind of dropped out. He didn't really. That was sort of fake news, he says he's gonna remain on the ballot on all continuing primary states and continue to collect as many delegates as he can, and the purpose of this, because we already have newspapers reporting it, is that he is in negotiations with the Biden's camp about what aspects of his agenda Biden has to adopt before Bernie will allow his people to support Biden.
Peter Robinson: This isn't over at all.
Kim Strassel: This isn't over and he says he'll go to the conventions, so this is all about extracting pounds of policy flesh from Joe Biden, and they've already put out their list of demands. He needs to support MediCare for all. He needs to support the Great New Deal. He needs to support a 50% reduction in prison populations. He needs to support free college tuition, a complete forgiveness of all student loan debt. While it's unlikely to see Biden doing all of that, he's gonna end up doing some of it and that is very dangerous for Joe Biden. If you're trying to get independence, disaffective Trump voters, suburban housewives, you know this is the point at which he's supposed to be pivoting back to the middle, and Bernie made it clear this week that his intention is to make sure there is no pivot, and in fact that Joe Biden becomes just as unelectable as he was.
Peter Robinson: By the way, did you see the babble on Bee Headline, "Sanders withdraws from race because goals "of doubling federal spending and destroying capitalism "are already accomplished."
Kim Strassel: No I didn't. I shouldn't laugh.
Peter Robinson: No. Laugh or cry. So, I've got a closing question, a lovely closing question, but I can't close just yet. I don't know how to articulate this one. Donald Trump, even people who like him can't stand him up to this point, the position of many people has been oh my goodness. Nevertheless, on policy he's okay. He's better than the alternatives. The policy is okay and as long as we don't have to look at him, it'll be all right. Is there some sense maybe in which for the first time the fate of the ordinary American is linked to that guy? As we go through this, there's something, this happens to some presidents but not all, of course always to war time presidents, but you begin to feel, I don't like him, but he's my guy. He's the country's guy. We need him to succeed. Is that sort of-- Is there some sense in which there's a kind of deepening of support or beginning of some kind of attachment to him as a result of this crisis, or am I just talking unquantifiable romantic nonsense?
Kim Strassel: I don't know, I mean look. I think the phenomenon you describe is one that you would expect to be seeing.
Peter Robinson: In a crisis.
Kim Strassel: In a crisis, right. I think that as with so many issues, it comes down to Donald Trump, and it's fundamentally gonna be up to Donald Trump in that regard as well too. Look, I look for, it's just my own view, I look at these briefings and when I think they first started I thought they were a good idea. It made the president look engaged and ahead of things. You know, as they have gone on and become a little bit more of the Donald Trump show, and the drama of the fights with the reporters, that's not what people want to be seeing right now, okay. You know, they want him to get up there, deliver the news, send the message that they've got a handle on what's going on and then let the rest of the team talk and get on with it. So, I'm not quite sure he can help himself. And you know, the thing about Donald Trump is I don't-- Everyone says it's about his ego and everything. I think it's more Donald Trump, I think he thinks he's fully engaged and doing the right thing and being there for the American people and that sometimes the dividing line between what Trump wants for Trump and what Trump is trying to do for everyone else is very murky.
Peter Robinson: Now we pull back from Donald Trump and the current crisis. Let's expand our thinking, raise our thinking from weeks and quarters even to years. Here's Kim Strassel in the "Wall Street Journal" on March 19th. "The nation's response to the crisis has been made possible," quote, "by free market policies that have underwritten "three years of economic boom and put companies "on a better footing to confront hard times. "If the US is to overcome this crisis and future ones, "we need more of these animal spirits, not less. "That's the takeaway of this pandemic." More animal spirits and not less. Are you optimistic?
Kim Strassel: Well look, here is something that I hope, our side as you were saying, embraces. We're talking right now about the threat of bigger government, given all of the spending. We're talking right now about the threat to the economy and our politics should certain, you know, socialist candidates win in November. But what I see here is also an opportunity for people to realize the problems of government, okay. I mean, we need to make sure no one forgets that the reason we are shut down is because government shut us down, all right. And we need to take a look around. I have been fascinated at how many times over the last three weeks have we had a story about this or that agency dismantling a regulation so that something could proceed more quickly. I think this is an opportunity for us to ask why they were there in the first place, and are they really serving any purpose. You know, and maybe we could come out of this with a healthier view of government and its problems, and maybe even a smaller, more streamlined one if we do things the right way.
Peter Robinson: Kim Strassel, don't stay in Alaska too long. We need you down here in the lower 48. Kimberly Strassel of the "Wall Street Journal." Thank you.
Kim Strassel: Thank you.
Peter Robinson: For "Uncommon Knowledge" the Hoover Institution and Fox Nation, I'm Peter Robinson.