The First 100 with Brian Beutler | Crooked Media
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February 09, 2021
America Dissected
The First 100 with Brian Beutler

In This Episode

Abdul reflects on the power and responsibility of American leadership–and what it means for how the US must lead on COVID-19. He talks to Brian Beutler, Editor-in-Chief at Crooked Media and host of season 2 of the podcast Rubicon, focused on President Biden’s first 100 days.

 

Transcript

 

Dr. Abdul El-Sayed: Friends, before we get started, I just want to tell you how grateful I am for the incredible reception you gave our book and the fact that you give us your ears every week on this pod. We sold out our first printing on the day of publication. I hope you’re enjoying it. I really enjoyed writing it and the space it gave me to develop a bit more the big ideas in both policy and public health that we discuss on this part every week. It got me thinking. It’d be great to have a place to do some regular writing. So I kicked off a new Substack newsletter called The Incision, where I’ll be writing out some thoughts several times every week. I hope you’ll subscribe at Incision.substack.com. This weekend, I wrote out 10 recommendations about how to talk to loved ones about the vaccine with empathy. Tonight, I’ll be dropping a piece on why extending COBRA health care is the only bad thing about President Biden’s COVID-19 recovery bill. Subscribe. Check it out. Incision.substak.com.

 

Dr. Abdul El-Sayed: SARS-CoV-2 variants continue to spread. Quickly becoming dominant in countries all over the world. Meanwhile, vaccine delivery continues to be slow. South Africa halted distribution of the AstraZeneca vaccine on evidence that it only confirmed 10 percent protection against the variant that has become dominant there. Cases continue to decline in the US, down another 30 percent over the past two weeks. This is America Dissected. I’m your host, Dr. Abdul El-Sayed.

 

Dr. Abdul El-Sayed: This was President Biden last week in an important speech laying out the focus for his administration’s foreign policy.

 

President Biden: From the pandemic, to the climate crisis, to nuclear proliferation, challenging the will, only to be solved by nations working together and in common. We can’t do it alone. We must start with diplomacy rooted in America’s most cherished democratic values.

 

Dr. Abdul El-Sayed: First, isn’t it amazing to hear a president talk about working with others to solve our biggest crises, rather than against them? The speech laid out an ambitious approach to rethinking American foreign policy, rooted in diplomacy, mutual cooperation and multilateralism. To be sure, there was a time when that was rather commonplace. And yet, in too many moments of shame for our country, whether the war in Vietnam, the war in Iraq, or an endless drone war in countries all over the world, we’ve broken from that tradition and killed hundreds of thousands of people. The U.S. has a long history of leadership when it comes to pandemics. Again, there was a time when our Centers for Disease Control and Prevention were the unquestioned global authority on public health, the model that every other country worked to emulate. And this was a bipartisan consensus.

 

President Bush: If we wait for a pandemic to appear, it will be too late to prepare. And one day many lives could be needlessly lost because we failed to act today.

 

Dr. Abdul El-Sayed: It was, in fact, George W. Bush who first decided to build out a pandemic prevention plan after reading the Great Influenza by John Barry, who will be our guest on this pod in a couple of weeks. President Bush also kicked off PEPFAR, the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, in 2003, a program which spent 80 billion dollars across over 50 countries and is credited with having saved over 17 million lives by getting much needed HIV testing, treatment and prophylaxis to communities that needed them. Though the program was not without its bumps. At the beginning, it required some proportion of the prevention budget to be spent on abstinence only education, which has zero evidence supporting that it works. And yet the program stands up as a testament of what’s possible when the U.S. leads on public health. Similarly, the US’s efforts were critical to stopping the Ebola epidemic in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone during the Obama administration. American leadership has been critical to take on serious global health catastrophes, but we’ve been all but missing when it comes to COVID-19. Not only have we failed to keep our house in order as we account for five times as many deaths per person to COVID-19 as the global average, but we all but failed to support the global response. Under the Trump administration, our foreign policy was, after all, characterized by America First, a slogan popularized by people like Charles Lindbergh, Nazi sympathizers who wanted to keep America out of World War Two. Thankfully, President Biden has already reversed our exit from the World Health Organization, which was slated for July. But if we’re serious about being leaders in the fight for COVID-19, it’s going to take a lot more than that. And that should start with vaccines. Look, I know we’re struggling to get Americans vaccinated right now, so hear me out. President Biden has already committed to buying enough vaccine from Pfizer and Moderna to fully immunize almost every eligible person in the entire country. But the pace is the issue, and much of that is because of bottlenecks in deployment and limitations in production. But President Biden has already committed to using the Defense Production Act to speed up production. The question is to what scale? Estimates suggest that we’ll produce enough vaccine to vaccinate 2.1 billion people by the end of 2021. But why stop there? What about the other 6.4 billion? When our country’s full productive capacity has been counted on in times of need, it has more than delivered. That’s why we need to pull out all the stops and commit to producing enough vaccine for the entire world. James Krellenstein, Peter Staley and Wafaa M El.Sadr made this argument in The New York Times a few weeks back, and I agree with them. If we really wanted to lead, we would have decided that in this unprecedented crisis, America would vaccinate the entire world. First, it’s the right thing to do, to do what we can to save others, no matter whether they’re here in the United States or abroad. And the lives that we’ll save will probably be our own. Why? Because right now, the biggest threat we have when it comes to COVID-19 are the variants that are popping up with increasing degrees of resistance. And every single susceptible person, not just in America, but all over the world is a vector where a virus could make the next mutation. So it’s in our best interest here at home to make sure everyone abroad is vaccinated too. Today, we’re joined by Brian Beutler, Crooked’s Editor in Chief, who’s been tracking President Biden’s first 100 days in office for season two of his podcast, Rubicon. If you haven’t been listening, you’ll want to after our discussion. After the break.

 

Dr. Abdul El-Sayed: America Dissected is brought to you by Marguerite Casey Foundation, which launched the Freedom Scholars Award in partnership with Group Health Foundation last fall. The award is a three million dollar investment, recognizing scholarships’ critical role in nurturing movements towards freedom. I asked one of the freedom scholars, Dr. Megan Ming Francis, associate professor of political science at the University of Washington, why her work is so critical to understanding the movements that are shaping the pursuit of a more just, equitable America.

 

Dr. Megan Ming Francis: During the spring of 2020, thousands of protests and rebellions exploded across the country. More than 20 million people from large cities to rural towns have taken to the streets. Their voices, their bodies and their imaginations have awakened a sleepy nation to the urgency of addressing deeply entrenched racial injustice. For many Americans, the protests have come as a surprise, but they are not. The current transformative BLM movement is built on the legacy of the longer black freedom movement. My work shines a light on the history of black protest movements that are centered on protecting black lives and ending racial violence. Today, my research focuses on understanding how vibrant black led movements form and how they can successfully transform political and legal institutions.

 

Dr. Abdul El-Sayed: To learn more about the Freedom Scholars Award and Marguerite Casey Foundation, visit Caseygrants.org. You can also follow them on Twitter at Casey Grants. America dissected is brought to you by Magic Spoon. So is my breakfast this morning. Growing up, cereal was one of the best parts of being a kid. I remember cuddling up with a bowl of delicious sugary stuff while watching Saturday morning cartoons. That’s what childhood in the 90s was made of, that in absurdly large, high-tops. But I’ll be honest with you, I’m thirty six years old. I can no longer enjoy a bowl of cereal without it very quickly appearing somewhere on my body. So unfortunately, I’ve had to give that up until now. Because now we have Magic Spoon. And here’s the thing: with zero grams of sugar, 13 to 14 grams of protein and only four net carbs in each serving, I can eat them and enjoy them and not have to worry about it later on. Its Keto friendly, gluten free, grain free, soy free, low carb and GMO free. They’ve released a brand new variety pack now featuring peanut butter, which is the best flavor. They released peanut butter as a limited edition in 2020 and it sold out three times. It’s gotten so much love that they’ve decided to keep it permanent and added to the best sellers variety pack, which also includes frosted, fruity, and cocoa. And if I can make this recommendation (I know my friend John Lovett agrees with me) take the peanut butter, take the cocoa, put in some milk and thank me later. So here’s what you need to do. If you loved eating cereal as a kid, go to Magicspoon.com/ad to grab a variety pack and try today and be sure to use our promo code AD checkout to save five dollars off your order. Magic Spoon is so confident in their product it’s backed with a one hundred percent happiness guarantee. So if you don’t like it for any reason, they’ll refund your money. No questions asked. Remember, eat your next delicious bowl of guilt free cereal at Magicspoon.com/ad and use the code AD to save five dollars off. Thank you Magic Spoon for sponsoring this episode and my breakfast.

 

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Dr. Abdul El-Sayed: My guest today is Brian Beutler, he is Crooked Editor in Chief and also host of the Rubicon podcast, in its second season, focusing on the first 100 days of the Biden administration. Brian, thanks for taking the time.

 

Brian Beutler: Thanks for having me on.

 

Dr. Abdul El-Sayed: So I got to ask you, these 100 days, stepping back, when and where did we decide that one hundred days was the, the way we needed to judge whether or not an administration had got off to the start we wanted it.

 

Brian Beutler: We traced it back to the FDR presidency, FDR first term I should say, where he inherited, like Joe Biden has inherited, a series of globally historic crises and had to act very quickly. FDR himself didn’t use that term a great deal, but because of how active his administration was in its first 100 days, that term became sort of standard that future presidents and also future media gatekeepers used to evaluate the progress of subsequent administrations.

 

Dr. Abdul El-Sayed: OK, and, you know, there are many, many challenges that this administration is facing coming into the first 100 days. It’s not just the pandemic and it’s not just the economic consequences of the pandemic, but it’s also the fact that there is a mess of challenges to clean up when it comes to foreign policy and our country’s positionality and standing in the world. It’s climate change. It’s the brokenness of the inside of government. Following four years of an administration who care less about the care and feeding of the bureaucracy. How do you think about building a team to take on not just this pandemic, but the pandemic in the context of all of the other challenges that we face?

 

Brian Beutler: So, you know, restoring global faith and American leadership is a very complicated problem because beyond just performing well, right, the Biden administration has to persuade allies, other governments that the United States isn’t just going to swing back and forth between untrustworthy regimes, incompetent regimes and regimes that that take governing seriously, take democracy seriously, know what they’re doing. So that’s a really big challenge that is almost entirely apart from just executing well on controlling the pandemic. I think that for them, to a large extent, it’s been a process of reassembling a team of people who have experience addressing major interagency challenges, including pandemics. The president himself, many members of his team, spent eight years running the government in a fairly competent administration, and they were only out of power for four years. So putting the band back together in some sense isn’t as hard as it otherwise might have been. His chief of staff is Ron Klain, and I think this is Ron’s third global public health emergency. Obviously, it’s the worst one, but a big part of it is just that these are members of a community that takes governing seriously and learns from experience. Separately, I think the Biden administration has sort of benefited from the fact that the pandemic is a year old and it has been addressed with a varying degrees of success by other governments. So inheriting one of the worst responses sets a very low bar for him to clear. And then he has a large menu of options to pick from to improve things that have been tested elsewhere.

 

Dr. Abdul El-Sayed: I’m wondering, how much do you feel like is the right amount of balancing, bringing the band back together and selecting for past experience, versus bringing in new thinking? How has this administration tried to do that? Because on the one hand, you know, you look at this administration and they’re older than the previous Obama administration by about 10 years, which is mainly because they’ve just aged 10 years. Versus, you know, the need to build out a bench and to bring in a group of people who may look at this differently because they have not come in with the baggage of this is how it’s always been, and we just have to tidy up after this Trump administration and we’ll be good to go. How do you feel like they’ve tried to balance that and what do you think is the right balance to be able to take on an unprecedented set of challenges?

 

Brian Beutler: So I think that their north star in all this is if they don’t competently address the crisis, they’re going to they’re going to suffer politically and the country is going to suffer. And, you know, the outgoing administration will try to base its comeback on the new administration’s failures. So I think that that has been the insight driving many, many decisions that the new administration has made. So I think after watching Trump screw this up for a year, the Biden administration, understandably, has placed a premium on experience over new thinking. I don’t think it’s possible to deny that. But I also don’t think that means that the new brain trust includes zero people with different forms of expertize. So, you know, by that I don’t mean that they pulled very heavily from the young, ascendant progressive wing of, say, the House caucus to run the show. But a big part of the challenge Biden faces is untangling a bunch of logistical messes, right? And so his coordinator for the vaccine rollout and other aspects of the pandemic response is Jeff Zients, who’s not a new character. He’s best known in government for salvaging the healthcare.gov rollout, which was a fiasco. And obviously, these are problems of a different kind in scale. It’s clear to the Biden team that they faced logistical challenges that are surely much more complicated after a year of failure than they might have been if the past administration hadn’t messed things up so badly. And so I think that’s where you’ll find a lot of the innovative thinking, apart from the public health insights that the administration will bring to bear, most of which I imagine will be, you know, not new in any sense, you know, the product of years and years and years and years of study,.

 

Dr. Abdul El-Sayed: Which is also interesting, is rather than select a physician or public health practitioner as HHS secretary, they went with someone whose background is in the law and it may be tipping their hand into what they feel like the biggest threats facing American health care may actually be after four years of Trump trying to dismantle the Affordable Care Act. What does the choice of Xavier Becerra to lead in the midst of this pandemic tell you about the way that the administration is thinking, both in the short term about taking on this pandemic and in the long term rebuilding following the pandemic?

 

Brian Beutler: Yeah, that’s a good question, I guess the way I see it is, I see that the pandemic response as being centered very much out of the White House. And I haven’t seen much indication that the HHS leadership, per se, is where Biden is going for his, like, frontline response answers just directly. And that the choice of Becerra reflects a sort of different set of challenges that I think the administration anticipates it will face in trying to shore up the Affordable Care Act, in trying to build on it. Also in trying to deal with like sort of intra democratic disagreements over the direction of health care policy. Becerra comes from the progressive wing as a supporter of Medicare for all. Biden himself is not. And that’s been a source of tension between him and different factions of the party. And Becerra can be a peacemaker in that regard, I think. That’s sort of how I have interpreted the Becerra nomination. But I guess it’s sort of remains to be seen how big of a role he’ll play once he’s situated and, you know, who knows what phase of the vaccine rollout will be in at that point. But it’s possible that my assessment of this could be totally off.

 

Dr. Abdul El-Sayed: Hmm. You know, it’s interesting, right? Because he’s not someone who does not know health care per se. He led a lot of the most fervent defenses of the ACA from the California attorney general’s office. But it’s also interesting, right, because in some respects it cleaves health from health care. Right. And it basically says these are two different challenges. One is a problem of public health and public health infrastructure, of course, which the HHS secretary has some bearing on. But the other is an issue of health care. And we kind of want to do both. We’ll put the public health issue out of the White House and out of the CDC, which, of course, falls under HHS, but is sort of seen as an independent agency. And then health care is where we hope that HHS will lead. And it’s sort of an interesting bifurcation of two things that I think the public tends to tends to think of as the same. You know, I hate to be Rumsfeldian here, but there are unknowns and then there are unknown unknowns. And if you take the White House in the reins of American government after Donald Trump, you know, Michael Lewis wrote a whole book about the unknown unknowns and in some respects, one of the jobs that the incoming administration is going to have to face is trying to find the unknown unknowns that are not working after four years of Trump and trying to address them. Do you know how they’ve thought about this? In what ways they’ve tried to operationalize this in the administration?

 

Brian Beutler: Yeah, it’s a good question. And I can’t say I know all the ways. But for instance, on the economic front, Biden has asked Congress to place coronavirus relief on autopilot by enacting what are known among wonks as automatic stabilizers, right?  So they scale up benefits if and when unemployment climbs, and scale down automatically as the economy improves. And I think that that’s good policy under under any circumstances, but particularly in a climate of uncertainty, of unknown unknowns. You know, we don’t know right now whether the world is going to crush COVID with the help of these new vaccines once and for all, or whether we’re going to face sort of cyclical shutdowns as the virus evolves and escapes the reach of vaccines. And if you don’t know the answer to that, you don’t want your economic response to COVID to entail having to go back to Congress over and over and beg, hat in hand for new money. So they’re saying, let’s not take a gamble on these vaccines being a permanent fix for COVID and let’s pass an economic relief that will automatically turn back on if, six months, eight months, a year from now, the country has to shut down economic activity to reduce the spread of a new variant of COVID. And I assume that that kind of thinking is evident elsewhere in their response. But I, you know, there’s a lot going on behind the scenes that’s invisible to us at this point.

 

Dr. Abdul El-Sayed: Hmm. I think the point that you make is a really good one. The other thing that is just sort of happening is like COVID-19 has been a bit of a stress test for the government. And so if it’s broken, you’re probably going to figure it out just because we’re not in a usual scenario. And that’s generally bad news in terms of a pandemic exploiting the brokenness of government. But it’s good news and finding it out and making sure that you can fix it. And in some respects, right, like I mean, we’re so dominated by COVID that I worry sometimes that this administration is probably going to be spending a lot more time cleaning up after COVID of the four years that they’re here and there are going to be a lot of challenges that have not been tended to. And I want to ask, you know, how might the pandemic be overshadowing some of the other bigger picture challenges this administration can face that may manifest in the long term?

 

Brian Beutler: Yeah, in a weird way, I think that the success is the big risk here, right? if you imagine Biden ignoring the pandemic and focusing only on those other challenges or on attaining his other policy goals, then what would happen is, you know, mass death would continue, the economy would collapse and his administration would fail terribly, right? I think it’s the flip side where Biden turns things around on COVID and is rewarded politically for it. Where other crises, particularly I’m thinking here of the crisis of democracy, might fall by the wayside. Where if it’s two years from now, we’re coming up on midterm elections, Joe Biden is very popular because he’s managed to save the country from coronavirus, Democrats are rewarded with a good election result. You can imagine that putting downward pressure on the party to address some of the systemic anti-democratic features of our system because they think, well, politics took care of the problem for us and we don’t need to pass new laws to make sure that people can vote and to make sure that representatives don’t pick their voters rather than the other way around. And it’s in that climate of sort of the afterglow of having successfully defeated coronavirus that I worry that the administration will sort of sideline some of the other concerns that feel very immediate in the wake of Trump, but that might not feel so immediate a year or two down the line, particularly if things have gone well.

 

Dr. Abdul El-Sayed: I think that that makes a lot of sense. You know, it’s interesting, right? Because so much of what the past dogma among Democrats has been is that good policy is good politics. And you’ve had this conversation on your pod about the interplay between policy and politics and the notion that it may just be that good politics is just good policy, right? And that you’ve got to be able to deliver big wins that are clearly tied to the administration and that have immediate outcomes from the moment that they’re passed. You know, I wonder in some respects, the biggest win of all that Democrats are looking at politically is that Joe Biden got elected, right? That’s it. Like Ding dong, the witch is dead. Right? Donald Trump is gone. And folks don’t have to worry about him, at least in the short term, any longer. How much do you think the bounce of that will potentially interfere with a focus on the actual work from the Biden administration and potentially deliver, you know, I guess, oversize political wins for the policy benefits that are actually extracted?

 

Brian Beutler: I’m trying to make sure I understand your question correctly. That you worry that because defeating Trump was such an important goal for Biden and the people who voted for him, that having done it, they might tune out a little bit in a way that, you know, sort of happened after Barack Obama took over from George W. Bush and that the import of what he does will be lost in that?

 

Dr. Abdul El-Sayed: In some respects. I guess the question that I’m really trying to get at is, it’s possible that just because the Biden administration won, that a lot of the things that we’re doing in the short term that are sort of obvious things to be doing and, you know, all credit to the administration for doing them, that those are getting oversize political accolades for what they actually are achieving in the short term. And one very clear example of this is a lot of the work that’s being done by executive order. And obviously this is a challenging moment. We barely hold onto the Senate, but we’ve seen the consequences of governing by executive orders. That it can very quickly be undone by executive order. And there is all kinds of celebration about these executive orders and I think a lot of that is just because they’re undoing so many of the evils of the Trump administration. And I just worry that maybe the weight that we’re putting on this moment, because Biden is now president and Trump is not, may leave us not governing for the long term, in ways that have clear policy detriments.

 

Brian Beutler: Got it. Got it. Got it. OK, that makes sense. So a few a few thoughts. One is that Biden hasn’t exhausted his executive power yet. There are people who are annoyed by that. They’re like, why hasn’t Joe Biden forgiven student loan debt? I don’t know if and when he’s going to do that. He has suggested that he will. But that’s something that he might deploy after this sort of celebratory period post Trump, where everyone’s feeling very relieved that he’s gone and that Biden is getting to work very quickly, undoing some of that damage that he could use to sort of sort of regain political capital with that group of voters six months, a year from now. Another thing I would say is that, part of the reason Biden is finding it easy to undo a lot of what Trump did isn’t just a Trump did it by executive order, but that he just did it very lazily. I believe that Biden’s team of advisers and lawyers isn’t going to satisfy themselves with signing an executive order saying, you know, it’s the goal of the government to do X, Y, Z. That will translate into a whole raft of rulemaking and other forms of policymaking that are harder to dislodge by an incoming administration. And thirdly, the sort of part that remains to be seen is that it’s not lost on the Biden team for sure that they are going to need a fairly robust legislative component to their agenda. Both to make sure that the country is in good shape, to make sure that Biden’s political interests are best served, and to make sure that whatever happens in four years or eight years, that there’s a legacy there to preserve. That’s obviously a huge question with such a closely divided Senate. And, you know, I wouldn’t want to confidently predict that they’re going to get huge returns out of Congress given how closely divided it is. But I don’t think that this story begins and ends with this series of few dozen executive actions that Biden has taken. They’re going to parlay that into more.

 

Dr. Abdul El-Sayed: Mm hmm. On that front, all roads for legislation lead through West Virginia. And, you know, getting Joe Manchin on board takes outsized influence over the legislative agenda that Biden can pass. And I’m wondering, how does, you know, West Virginia, which is a very unique state that’s been hit very hard by a series of challenges, whether it’s the opioid crisis or the offshoring and automation of jobs, how is that factoring into the way that the economic response in particular, but also the public health response to COVID-19 has taken shape?

 

Brian Beutler: So I think they’re still trying to figure out what to do about the Joe Manchin problem. Before the inauguration, I believe, Democratic leaders in Congress were talking about bringing earmarks back, something that has been absent from the legislative process for about a decade. And that has made it harder to legislate because it’s harder to entice reluctant members to break with their party if there’s not a direct stake for their district or their state in what Congress is passing. That’s something that could obviously be used to help entice somebody like Joe Manchin to vote with the party as opposed to against the party. That’s talking about carrots. On the stick side of things, Vice President Harris did some local media around COVID relief in West Virginia and Manchin seemed to respond pretty poorly to having sort of been pressured by the White House publicly in that way. But one thing I heard from Manchin himself gave me some hope, at least, that the Democratic leadership in Congress and in the White House has reached him in a productive way. He was dodging some questions about whether he’d support this or that. But his dodge was, I’m going to do what I can to make Joe Biden a successful president. That’s a paraphrase, but it’s pretty close to exact. Whatever that means in practice for Joe Manchin, what he will or will not vote for, I think it suggests that Democrats have had some success aligning Manchin’s incentives or his view of his own incentives with theirs. If Manchin thinks that, if he thinks that the way for me to win is to prove my independence by screwing over my party at every turn, that’s bad. And it’s going to create a mess. Things aren’t going to pass. You know, the coronavirus response will be too weak. The whole party will suffer as a result, and so will the country. If Manchin realizes more correctly that Biden’s success is his success, and he will lose very badly if Biden presides over a failed response, then he might provide Biden the votes he needs to be successful. Again, it remains to be seen. Like there has not been a super critical vote in this new Congress yet. And we don’t know how hard or easy it will be for Democrats to get to get Manchin to go along with them. But I took that to be a positive omen.

 

Dr. Abdul El-Sayed: Mm hmm. As you’ve been covering these first 100 days, you yourself have been dealing with some COVID related challenges. How has that impacted the way that you’re thinking about this work and the way that what government does shapes our daily lives?

 

Brian Beutler: Yeah, so to give your listeners a little background on this, my wife and I came down with what we now believe was mild to moderate COVID back in early March when there was just no testing, at least in Washington, D.C. So we couldn’t confirm a diagnosis. The closest direct evidence for it was from antibody testing that we got a few months later. But after a month or so of pneumonia, I never regained my ability to do steady state exercise. And only and actually in the last couple of days, my doctors concluded that the culprit is clotting, which is something COVID-19 is believed to cause. So that creates some uncertainty about the future. But over the over the months, it’s obviously been unpleasant physically and psychologically, but it’s been a useful daily reminder that even if you rigorously cover the mortality numbers and the hospitalizations and you maintain like a healthy level of outrage and urgency about that, that’s still significantly undercounts the amount of harm the virus has done and will continue to do. And the only way to arrest that is with a mix of good luck and with competence. So as relieved as we might be that the last team is out and that people like Dr. Atlas are no longer in charge of COVID and responding to it by trying to get as many people sick as possible, we also shouldn’t be complacent or hold Biden himself to like a less than exacting standard, because governing failures, even if they are the product of good faith human error, can still cost tons of damage. And that will be true even if that damage is invisible in the statistics.

 

Dr. Abdul El-Sayed: Brian, I really I hope that you begin to feel better and I’m sorry about your experience. And it’s an important reminder about just how important governing is. I think sometimes we pay a lot of attention to the politics. And increasingly, you know, politics in the past was covered as sport. Now it’s almost covered as reality TV. But when it goes wrong and it delivers results that do not match with the seriousness of the challenges at play, you know, people suffer. And we’ve seen that in profound ways and in less profound ways, in ways that we don’t count. And I really appreciate that reminder of just what’s at stake here. And we’re all hoping and praying for a great one hundred days and the continued application of sincere efforts and competence to a really, really big set of problems. And we appreciate you coming on to help us to better understand that. And that was Brian Beutler. He is Crooked Media’s Editor in Chief and host of the Rubicon podcast. You can check it out wherever you get your podcasts. Take a listen. It’s been really insightful about the various challenges that the administration faces in the ways that they’re taking that on. Brian. Thanks for taking the time today.

 

Brian Beutler: Thanks, Abdul.

 

Dr. Abdul El-Sayed: As usual, here’s what I’m watching right now. The various COVID-19 variants, including B117 from the U.K., B1351 from South Africa and P1 from Brazil, are popping up all over the country, suggesting that they are spreading quickly. The CDC has already predicted that B117 would be the dominant strain in the US by next month. And recent research suggests that it may be faster than that. This puts added pressure on vaccine deployment, but it also forces us to consider how we deal with the ongoing potential for COVID-19 evolution. One approach is genomic surveillance. This means not simply checking people for COVID-19, but regularly looking into the genetic sequence of COVID-19 samples that we find to track the spread of these variants and keep an eye out for more. The UK has been a global leader in this. Sequencing the genomes of eight percent of all cases. In the US, we’ve only been sequencing around one percent. The American rescue plan, President Biden’s COVID-19 relief package, includes about 50 billion dollars for this, which is good news.

 

Dr. Abdul El-Sayed: That’s it for our show this week. Next week, we’ll have Dr. Angie Rasmusson, a virologist, back on the show to tell us a bit more about the variants and what we need to do to stop them. And don’t forget, we’ve still got America Dissected swag. Our Science Always Wins hats are sold out, but we still got a few more of our sweatshirts and T-shirts. They’re going quick, so make sure to grab them before they’re gone. Crooked.com/store. And I hope I get to see you all at the Incision. Incision.substack.com.

 

Dr. Abdul El-Sayed: America Dissected is a product of Crooked Media. Our producer is Austin Fisher. Veronica Simonetti mixes and masters the show. Production support from Tara Terpstra, Lyra Smith and Alison Falzetta. The theme song is by Taka Yasazawa and Alex Sugiura. Our executive producers are Sarah Geismer and me, Dr. Abdul El-Sayed, your host. Thanks for listening.