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February 07, 2023
What A Day
SOTU Goes The Nation

In This Episode

  • President Biden delivered the annual State of the Union address Tuesday night, speaking to a divided government amid some swipes and heckling from far-right Republicans. Jon Favreau, co-host of Crooked’s Pod Save America, joins us to unpack the president’s message — and his agenda for the year ahead.
  • And in headlines: the death toll from the earthquake that struck Turkey and Syria rose to over 7,700 people, transgender rights activists occupied Oklahoma’s State Capitol to protest attacks on gender-affirming care, and Labor Secretary Marty Walsh is expected to leave the Biden administration.

 

Show Notes:

 

 

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TRANSCRIPT

 

Josie Duffy Rice: It’s Wednesday, February 8th. I’m Josie Duffy Rice. 

 

Juanita Tolliver: And I’m Juanita Tolliver and this is What A Day, the podcast that hopes to run long enough to be linked romantically to Leonardo DiCaprio. 

 

Josie Duffy Rice: Yeah, when we were 19, he’ll be 98?

 

Juanita Tolliver: Eeew. 

 

Josie Duffy Rice: I think or something? 

 

Juanita Tolliver: But that’s probably his ideal match up. But deadass. 

 

Josie Duffy Rice: I’m sorry, Leo. I know you’re not going to be 98 in 16 years, but you know. 

 

Juanita Tolliver: Don’t apologize to that man. [laughter] [music break]

 

Josie Duffy Rice: On today’s show, rescue workers are racing against time to find survivors from Monday’s earthquake that hit Turkey and Syria. Plus, another energy giant posted record profits last year. But first, last night, President Biden delivered the annual State of the Union address. 

 

[clip of President Joe Biden] Because the people of this nation are strong. The State of the Union is strong. 

 

Josie Duffy Rice: It was his second time addressing a joint session of Congress. But unlike the last time around, he spoke to a divided government, complete with swipes and heckling from far right Republicans. There is a lot to unpack from the president’s 82 minute speech. So we brought in our friend Jon Favreau. You may have heard of him. He’s kind of popular around here. [laughter] He’s co-host of Crooked’s Pod Save America and knows a thing or two about how these speeches come together. Jon, welcome back to What A Day. 

 

Jon Favreau: Thanks for having me back. Can’t believe it’s been a year already. 

 

Juanita Tolliver: Time flies. 

 

Josie Duffy Rice: Would you rather be here with us or would you rather be writing the State of the Union speech?

 

Juanita Tolliver: Good question. 

 

Jon Favreau: It’s not even close. It is the most miserable [laughter] speech to write of any other speech. Like, hands down. 

 

Josie Duffy Rice: Yeah, I can imagine that. 

 

Juanita Tolliver: All right, so, Jon, thinking about tonight. How is the current State of the Union? And overall, what did you think of this speech? I know the process behind the scenes is miserable, but what did you think of Biden’s performance tonight? 

 

Jon Favreau: I think Biden did a great job with what is always a very difficult speech. He said a lot of popular things. I was watching some of the dial tests on our group thread, the Crooked group thread, and, you know, he spent a long time, I’d say almost half the speech on the economy, on what– 

 

Juanita Tolliver: Right. 

 

Jon Favreau: –he has been doing on the economy and what he’s been doing on jobs, what he’s been doing on costs. And a lot of it, I think, I imagine was very, very popular. I think that he handled the Republican heckling pretty well. Um. He made them look small, he looked big–

 

Juanita Tolliver: Masterfully, if you will. 

 

Jon Favreau: Yeah! 

 

Josie Duffy Rice: I feel like he was into it. 

 

Jon Favreau: He was into it. He was lively. He was energetic. You know, he fumbled over a few words here and there. But I would rather him be lively and energetic and forceful and stumble over a few words than like, hit everything and be sort of dry. Right. 

 

Juanita Tolliver: Right. 

 

Jon Favreau: And I think he projected a lot of confidence and he showed that he was the adult, he was the leader, and that the rest of them were acting like children. So I thought that was very effective. 

 

Juanita Tolliver: And they needed someone to shush them. I counted four times that McCarthy had to shush his conference like– 

 

Jon Favreau: Yeah. 

 

Juanita Tolliver: Come on. My grandmother would not have been having it, but he did his best. 

 

Jon Favreau: And they didn’t really listen, which is par for the course because– 

 

Juanita Tolliver: Right. 

 

Jon Favreau: –they don’t usually listen to Kevin McCarthy. 

 

Josie Duffy Rice: We should also point out who was invited to the Capitol last night. Tyre Nichols mother and stepfather were among the VIPs. Let’s take a listen to President Biden introducing them. 

 

[clip of President Joe Biden] There’s no words to describe the heartache of grief, of losing a child. But imagine, imagine if you lost that child at the hands of the law. Imagine having to worry whether your son or daughter came home from walking down the street, playing in the park, or just driving a car. Here’s what Tyre’s mother shared with me when I spoke to her. When I ask her how she finds the courage to carry on and speak out, with the faith of God, she said her son was, quote, “a beautiful soul and something good will come of this”. 

 

Josie Duffy Rice: Biden also spent a good chunk of the speech talking about police accountability while he called for higher standards for law enforcement. He didn’t explicitly say anything about the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act. So what did you make of that in that moment? 

 

Jon Favreau: First of all, that was one of the more moving sections of the State of the Union, a speech that is usually very workmanlike. And to the extent that there was poetry in the speech and sort of moving human emotion, I think that section really captured it. I think it was a lot stronger than his section on police violence last year. 

 

Juanita Tolliver: Right. 

 

Jon Favreau: Um. When all he did was talk about funding the police. I think he was much more forceful here. 

 

Josie Duffy Rice: We loved that. That was great. 

 

Jon Favreau: Yeah. And I you know, it’s interesting that he didn’t actually I mean, because he has been calling on Congress to pass the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act, uh especially over the last couple of weeks. I imagine, because he knew it’s not going to pass and there wasn’t support for it, he didn’t call on them to do it again. It’s interesting, this entire speech, I don’t think he called on Congress to pass almost anything. 

 

Josie Duffy Rice: Mmm. 

 

Juanita Tolliver: The line was, if you try it, I’ll veto it. 

 

Jon Favreau: Right. Yeah. 

 

Juanita Tolliver: Right like that was the line. 

 

Jon Favreau: Yeah, he he did. He pledged a few vetoes here and there and he sort of laid out the stakes of the debt limit fight and talked about that. But I think it was a realization that he’s not getting any legislation passed these next two years because of the Republican House. 

 

Josie Duffy Rice: Yeah. 

 

Juanita Tolliver: And I do want to touch on the humanity you just mentioned, too, because when he talked about the talk that most Black and Brown parents have to give their children, I don’t think I’ve ever heard a president talk through that talk. Have you, Josie? 

 

Josie Duffy Rice: Obama did, and his approval ratings dropped [laughing]–

 

Juanita Tolliver: Okay. 

 

Josie Duffy Rice: –drastically. I mean, it was nice to hear it, I think, from a white president, frankly. He’s standing up there as someone who’s lost a child, talking to another parent, who’s lost a child. 

 

Jon Favreau: Yeah. 

 

Josie Duffy Rice: Which is obviously not a club anybody wants to join. I just was thinking about the connection between the two of them. 

 

Juanita Tolliver: Right. 

 

Josie Duffy Rice: Obviously, it’s a very different way that they lost their children. But– 

 

Jon Favreau: Yeah. 

 

Josie Duffy Rice: –there is no way to get past that tragedy. 

 

Juanita Tolliver: Right. I would love to go back to that masterful unscripted move where Biden put his mental agility on full display, [laugh] he managed to flip from Republicans booing and heckling him into getting some degree of unanimity on taking Social Security and Medicare off the table in the debt ceiling fight. And I want to know what your reaction to that moment was, because it was giving part troll and part master negotiator. [laugh] Right? Like, so what was your reaction there and what do you think it means when it comes to resolving the issue around the debt limit? 

 

Jon Favreau: Yeah, I think he very deftly exposed uh sort of the pickle that Republicans uh are in on this issue because a number of them have proposed Medicare and Social Security cuts and those who haven’t proposed Medicare and Social Security cuts, it’s going to be hard to balance the budget like they said that they wanted to do without touching Social Security and Medicare. I think that my view on this is that Republicans have uh looked at enough polling to know that Medicare and Social Security cuts are not popular, not just with the American people, but even with their voters, even with most Republican voters. 

 

Juanita Tolliver: But when has polling stopped them Jon. 

 

Jon Favreau: Right yeah no. [laughing]

 

Juanita Tolliver: C’mon. We’ve seen the numbers on a plenty of issues. [laughing]

 

Jon Favreau: I think that what they will try to do is to make deep cuts to discretionary spending. Right. Which is all– 

 

Juanita Tolliver: Right. 

 

Jon Favreau: –of the spending that’s not defense, not Social Security, not Medicaid, everything else. And, look, those cuts would be painful and destructive enough. And I think that what Biden is trying to do is sort of smoke them out, because what they’re going to try to do is just say that we’re spending too much money. We just want to make cuts, but not specify the cuts. And any time they actually start specifying the cuts, they know it’s going to be very unpopular. 

 

Juanita Tolliver: Right. 

 

Jon Favreau: So he’s now got them to say no to Social Security and Medicare and then we’ll see what’s next. There’s still education, health care funding, everything from food safety to airports. I mean, it’s a lot of stuff that they’re going to have to cut if they want to balance the budget, that’s going to be extremely unpopular. 

 

Josie Duffy Rice: Right. 

 

Juanita Tolliver: Right. 

 

Josie Duffy Rice: Related to this question about the economy, Biden also had to once again do the difficult job of communicating where we are with inflation and the economy. And based on recent polling, there does seem to be a gap between the pretty historic gains that the administration is making and what people are feeling in real time. Have you guys heard about eggs? Because I have. [laughter] Uh. Do you think he adequately captured the reality? Like, do you think he sold, you know, the fact that this is getting better? What was your take on that? 

 

Jon Favreau: I don’t think any president or any political leader can make people believe something that they don’t feel. If you’re someone who has gone to the store and seen higher prices over the last several years, even if it’s getting a little better, you’re still feeling that pain. You know, you’re still– 

 

Josie Duffy Rice: Right. 

 

Jon Favreau: –stretching your paycheck. And what he decided and what the White House decided was to use this speech as an opportunity to say to people, hey, I realize that things aren’t as good as they could be right now. But here’s what I’ve been fighting to do the last couple of years. And by the way, it’s been a lot. 

 

Juanita Tolliver: Right. 

 

Jon Favreau: And by the way, these other people who’ve been heckling me, they haven’t been trying at all. 

 

Juanita Tolliver: That part. 

 

Jon Favreau: Right. And in fact, his whole veto threat about uh them trying to repeal the Inflation Reduction Act and specifically what that law does for prescription drug prices, which is lower prescription drug prices– 

 

Josie Duffy Rice: Right. 

 

Jon Favreau: –and lower health care premiums. And any kind of repeal of that law would raise prices at a time where inflation’s already too high. He tried to make it more of a choice than a referendum on whether or not he’s fix the economy. 

 

Josie Duffy Rice: Hmm. 

 

Juanita Tolliver: And from my vantage point, another use of this speech was a potential reelection campaign speech vibe. Right. Like I was getting that energy because the primary theme here that the president kept repeating was that, look, they’ve done a lot. There’s still more work to be done and now it’s time to, quote, “finish the job”. That sounds like a 2024 campaign slogan to me. I want your reactions to that. 

 

Jon Favreau: It’s funny you said that because my dad texted me halfway through the speech and said the exact same thing you just did. [laughter] He’s like, I think that’s the slogan– 

 

Juanita Tolliver: Bless. 

 

Jon Favreau: –right there. It’s not a bad one, right? Because it’s not claiming full victory, which he can’t do. But what he’s saying is, you know, we’ve made some progress. And if you elect me, I’ll make more. And if you elect the other party, then you know we’re going to go backwards. 

 

Josie Duffy Rice: Mm hmm

 

Juanita Tolliver: Because this is about that contrast. Right. Like– 

 

Jon Favreau: Yeah. 

 

Juanita Tolliver: That’s what it comes back to, drawing that contrast with Republicans. 

 

Jon Favreau: Yeah, exactly. 

 

Josie Duffy Rice: So what about some of the things he didn’t address? For example, abortion only got a few lines in this speech, although he did talk about Ticketmaster, which I didn’t see that one coming. Uh. [laughter] What was missing from your perspective? 

 

Jon Favreau: The balloon. How how did he not mention the balloon? 

 

Josie Duffy Rice: I know. 

 

Jon Favreau: I’m just kiddng. [laughing] Because I was a speechwriter in my former life. I would have been looking for cuts at the very end. Right? It was a little long. The speech was longer than last year’s speech. So I think he got everything in there that he had to get. And I think anything that he did not think he had the power to change or that this Congress would change with the Republican House. I think he didn’t mention. 

 

Josie Duffy Rice: Mmm. 

 

Juanita Tolliver: Right. 

 

Jon Favreau: And so I think that left him with either accomplishments he’s already done, executive actions he could take on his own, upcoming fights that he’s going to have with this Congress over debt ceiling, and principles and values that he wanted to get across. And I think he probably didn’t want to go down the path of any pushing for legislation that wasn’t going to get a hearing or anything else. And so like on abortion, you know, again, it was a veto threat. You pass a national abortion ban. I’ll veto it. 

 

Josie Duffy Rice: Right. 

 

Juanita Tolliver: Right. 

 

Jon Favreau: And that’s about as much as he could do. You know, maybe if he wins reelection and there’s a Democratic Congress, we’ll uh we’ll hear a different kind of speech. 

 

Josie Duffy Rice: Jon Favreau is a co-host of Pod Save America and also the host of Off Line. Thank you so much for joining us, Jon. 

 

Juanita Tolliver: Thank you. 

 

Jon Favreau: Thanks for having me, guys. Appreciate it. 

 

Josie Duffy Rice: We’ll be right back after some ads. [music break]. 

 

[AD BREAK]

 

Josie Duffy Rice: Let’s get to some headlines. 

 

[sung] Headlines. 

 

Josie Duffy Rice: As of our record time of 9 p.m. eastern, the death toll from the earthquake that struck Turkey and Syria has now reached over 7700 people. Tens of thousands more are still missing as rescue workers in both countries have been working in freezing cold temperatures to find survivors amid the rubble. Turkey’s president has declared a three month state of emergency for the ten provinces affected by the series of quakes. 

 

Juanita Tolliver: New reporting from the Associated Press has found that in the years before Tyre Nichols’ fatal beating, the Memphis Police Department has struggled to hire and properly train new officers. Of the five former officers who have been charged in his death, two of them only had a few years of experience. None of them had been on the force for longer than six years. And despite a policy requiring a ranking officer to be on the scene of any incident where an officer uses a stun gun or pepper spray, no supervising officer responded to Nichols’ arrest. The Justice Department is already conducting a formal review into the department’s practices, and seven additional Memphis police officers are now under investigation for their role in Nichols’ death. The New York Times also reported yesterday that one of the officers charged in the fatal beating took a picture of a severely injured Nichols and texted it to at least five people. 

 

Josie Duffy Rice: Horrifying. BP, the company that brought us hits like the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in 2010, is the latest energy giant to post record profits from last year. Yesterday, the British company reported raking in $28 billion dollars in 2022 as oil and gas prices worldwide soared following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. That’s nearly double the amount of money it made in 2021. Its competitors, including ExxonMobil and Shell, also recorded record breaking windfalls in the past week. But seeing all that green on its balance sheet means BP has decided to backpedal on its earlier pledge to actually go green. The company was aiming to cut emissions from the fuel it sells by up to 40% by the end of the decade. It’s now looking at a 20 to 30% cut instead, BP says it will shift its investment strategies to, quote, “shorter term fast payback projects.” Hmm. 

 

Juanita Tolliver: Hmm. 

 

Josie Duffy Rice: As a company that sells nonrenewable dinosaur goo, what could go wrong? 

 

Juanita Tolliver: Over 100 transgender rights activists occupied Oklahoma’s state capitol yesterday to protest proposed attacks from GOP lawmakers on gender affirming care. Demonstrators entered the building chanting Trans lives matter to protest two bills that would limit access to gender affirming care in the state. One would ban health care professionals from referring anyone under 26 for transitional care. The other would ban trans youth from getting gender reassignment surgery. The demonstration comes after Republican Governor Kevin Stitt gave his State of the State address on Monday, calling on his party to ban all forms of gender affirming care for trans youth. These are just two of many anti-trans bills pre-filed by Republicans ahead of the state’s legislative session. I mean, they just couldn’t wait to start controlling other people’s bodies. But here we are. 

 

Josie Duffy Rice: They’re trying to ban adults from getting health care. That is– 

 

Juanita Tolliver: Right. 

 

Josie Duffy Rice: –what they’re doing. It’s bad enough when it’s kids. Leave it to Biden’s secretary of labor to score a competitive job offer. Marty Walsh, friend of WAD and acting labor secretary, is expected to leave the Biden administration. According to sources familiar with the situation, the former Boston mayor and labor union president has accepted a position leading the National Hockey League’s Players Association in his home state of Massachusetts. Between this and 80 for Brady, [laughter] New England is on a hot streak. Walsh’s departure is expected to be formally announced in the coming days, as the administration has been a little busy right now with some big speech. I don’t know which. 

 

Juanita Tolliver: Casual. 

 

Josie Duffy Rice: Walsh will be the first member of Biden’s cabinet to leave his post. A level of presidential stability we haven’t seen since One Direction was still together. [laughter] Honestly, I’m not ready to talk about Harry Styles. I will be. Just not today. 

 

Juanita Tolliver: One Direction aside, Marty Walsh is going home, girl. He’s going back to Boston and he’s cashing in with a $3 million dollar payday. Right. Like. I feel like that’s beyond what we’ve seen other cabinet members get when they leave. But– 

 

Josie Duffy Rice: Yeah. 

 

Juanita Tolliver: I mean shout out to him. Get your coins. Get your coins, Marty. 

 

Josie Duffy Rice: And those are the headlines. 

 

Juanita Tolliver: One more thing before we go. We’re officially in the phase of the George Santos news cycle where it’s time to make some merch y’all. The Crooked Store now offers coffee mugs and t- shirts for three venerable institutions that George Santos has yet to take credit for starting. But it’s only a matter of time until he does naturally. Like the George Santos Center for Middle East Peace and Bird Rescue. That’s just a good idea. [laughter] He really should lie about getting that off the ground, you know. 

 

Josie Duffy Rice: Truly. 

 

Juanita Tolliver: Just to get started. Check out all three designs at Crooked.com/store. [music break]

 

Josie Duffy Rice: That is all for today. If you like the show, make sure you subscribe. Leave a review. Write your rebuttal to the rebuttal and tell your friends to listen. 

 

Juanita Tolliver: And if you’re into reading and not just the prerequisite skills for the Secretary of Labor gig like me, What A Day is also a nightly newsletter. Check it out and subscribe at Crooked.com/subscribe. I’m Juanita Tolliver.

 

Josie Duffy Rice: I’m Josie Duffy Rice. 

 

[spoken together] And consider the union stated. 

 

Juanita Tolliver: [laughing] It’s been a long night, Josie. [laughing]

 

Josie Duffy Rice: I like that. I like that. [music break]

 

Juanita Tolliver: What A Day is a production of Crooked Media. It’s recorded and mixed by Bill Lancz. Jazzi Marine and Raven Yamamoto are our associate producers. Our head writer is Jocey Coffman and our executive producer is Lita Martinez. Our theme music is by Colin Gilliard and Kashaka.