Transcript: America This Week, Episode 74, February 2, 2024
Walter and Matt discuss the crazy lawfare targeting of No Labels, RFK Jr., the Trump campaign, and anyone else trying to get on the ballot. Plus, the newly relevant "The Lottery," by Shirley Jackson
Matt Taibbi: All right. Welcome to America This Week. I'm Matt Taibbi.
Walter Kirn: And I'm Walter Kirn.
Matt Taibbi: Walter, what's going on? How are you doing?
Walter Kirn: I'm in New York City in a hotel room. You can see the vibrant hotel room art over my shoulder there.
Matt Taibbi: That's some impressive decor.
Walter Kirn: Yeah, yeah.
Matt Taibbi: It's monochromatic, but it's cool.
Walter Kirn: Yeah, it represents a hairball magnified to a thousand times its normal size. It's one of those I found under the bed and was photographed and AI rendered it as a painting.
But yeah, I did the airline travel in the age of the 737 controversy. I checked what planes my connections involved, two Airbuses, so two thumbs up. No Boeing. Got here, apparently the system's still operating in some fashion, and here I am.
Matt Taibbi: Life is going to be like that weird Obama movie that we watched where just planes are falling out of the sky, we're going to have container ships washing up on our shores and things like that. It's going to be signs of the apocalypse pretty soon.
Walter Kirn: Well, I never thought I would check the manufacturer of the planes that I was flying on before. And frankly, I don't want that exit row seat anymore.
Matt Taibbi: Because you don't want to help or you don't want it to blow out?
Walter Kirn: I don't want it to blow out, and I don't want to be counting the missing bolts as I fly along.
Matt Taibbi: Oh, man. America 2024, we're doing great. We should replace E pluribus unum with that. We're doing great. We're doing just fine.
Walter Kirn: Right.
Matt Taibbi: So we got a couple of interesting topics this week. Obviously, we're in the middle of campaign season, and I think an evolving storyline is that there are these legal battles going on on all fronts to determine who's going to be on the ballot, where obviously Donald Trump is the high profile exemplar here, and there was even a little bit of news with his ballot access cases. Illinois basically rejected one of these petitions to get him off the ballot. But there have been other stories that are equally as bizarre, and I think it's just worth exploring a little bit some of the craziness that's been happening in the last couple of weeks that's come out.
Now, some of this started a couple of weeks ago when we started to see news items like this one, which is... Hang on one second. All right. So Biden Allies Plot to Thwart Third-Party Bids That Threaten His Reelection. And there was a similar story. This is the Reuters story. Basically, it tells us that American Bridge, which is David Brock's organization. David Brock is the former self-confessed right-wing hitman who kind of flipped sides and joined up with Hillary, created a super PAC. He's also behind Media Matters, Center for American Progress. He's like the killer on the Democratic side. He's hired a lawyer, Marc Elias, to help thwart outsider bids by the likes of Robert F. Kennedy Jr., the third-party No Labels. And by the way, note how they just describe Robert F. Kennedy Jr. as anti-vaccine activist.
Walter Kirn: Oh, in US News? Yeah, okay.
Matt Taibbi: In US News. Yeah. Well, and so there's a really revealing kind of passage. This is from the US News/Reuters piece" "A central tactic employed: flagging technical issues with starting legal challenge as third-party candidates navigate a patchwork of laws to get on state ballots." What they're basically saying is, we're going to file technical challenges and lawsuits, but we don't really know what they are yet.
Now, this story goes hand in hand with another one, and this one actually came out some time ago initially. This is a story that was in Semafor in late December. And they got word that there had been a group call that included representatives of all these different pro-democratic advocacy groups, MoveOn, End Citizens United, The Lincoln Project, American Bridge, same group, Public Citizen, which is weird because that's Ralph Nader's old group, Reproductive Freedom For All, and then people like Bill Kristol, Doug Jones, and an aide to Democratic Billionaire, Dmitri Mehlhorn, this is a name that people are going to want to know. He is sort of like Reid Hoffman's fixer, and Hoffman is involved in, he's bankrolling a lot of these, not exactly on the level type of operations.
Anyway, in this call, they got the tape of it, and they decided they wanted to send a message to third-party groups, and this is what they wanted to say: "Through every channel we have to their donors, their friends, the press, everyone, everyone should send the message: if you have one fingernail clipping of a skeleton in your closet, we will find it. If you think you were vetted when you ran for governor, you're insane. That was nothing. We're going to come at you with every gun we can possibly find. We didn't do that with Jill Stein or Gary Johnson. We should have. We will not make that mistake again."
Now, there's more. I interviewed a whole bunch of people from No Labels yesterday, and the stories are really shocking. We can get into them a little bit more down the line, but this is all part and parcel of this idea that we're going to do anything we can to make sure that Robert F. Kennedy and No Labels, who are both well-funded and well-positioned to actually get on the ballot, that they're not going to be there. And you couple that with the anti Trump challenges and the suppression within the Democratic Party, and it gets pretty weird pretty fast, doesn't it, Walter? I don't know. It seems very different to me, this vibe, than previous years.