An update on that Buttigieg country music interview, Biden’s criminal justice reform plan, Ginsburg weighs in on candidates’ proposals to increase the number of Supreme Court justices, some unexpected things the candidates paid for in Q2, and a brief history of presidential candidates staying in people’s homes while campaigning.


Show Transcript

Note: This is the speaking script for the show, so the audio as delivered will differ very slightly from the below. This script also does not include audio clips from third-party sources, or advertisements, which may appear at various points in the show.

An update on that Buttigieg country music interview

First up, a brief update on that story yesterday about Mayor Pete Buttigieg’s interview for a country music radio show which was never aired, due to network concerns.

Well, now it looks like Buttigieg is the man to have on your country music radio show. According to a Fox News story by Sasha Savitsky, “Big Rick” Daniels, host of WGGC’s “Big Rick in the Morning” is actively courting Buttigieg for an interview. Reading from Fox News here:

“"We aim to give a fair platform to any public servant, to talk to country music listeners," Daniels told us in a statement. "We always have an open door, on my show or the station in general, to those who have [an] appropriate message to share."”

And later in that same article:

“While Daniels told us he is "still nailing down a time/day" for his interview with Buttigieg due to "the debates and other planned appearances," he will tweet out a confirmed time for the interview as soon as he can.”

While it’s unclear to me whether Buttigieg is actually going to sit for that interview, or Big Rick is just looking for some attention here, I think it would be delightful to see a competition among country music radio show hosts to get primary candidates on the air.

Biden’s criminal justice reform plan

Yesterday, former Vice President Joe Biden released his criminal justice plan. Titled “The Biden Plan for Strengthening America’s Commitment to Justice,” it runs to about 15 printed pages and while I would normally list the highlights right here, Biden released a video in which he ran through them roughly as fast as I would, so listen to this. Note that I AM cutting off the second half of this video, because the rest of it is basically an ad for Biden, and America, and justice, or, well, anyway, just listen in:


So, okay, here’s the thing. The media narrative on this is that Biden’s new plan is essentially a complete reversal of his position on 1994 crime bill. Reading from a piece in The New York Times by Katie Glueck:

“In his more than three decades as a senator, Mr. Biden was a tough-on-crime Democrat who could be impatient with concerns about the societal dynamics that contribute to crime, and he championed the 1994 crime bill that many experts now associate with mass incarceration.
That history has presented a challenge for Mr. Biden as he mounts his third bid for the presidency, with many progressives questioning his commitment to reforming a criminal justice system that disproportionately ensnares people of color.”

And this is true. Back in ’94, Biden helped lead the charge on a crime bill that promised mandatory minimums, treated crack and powdered cocaine differently, created a three-strikes law, and all sorts of stuff that he is now staunchly against. Again, reading from the Times:

“Aiming to reverse the legacies of the 1994 crime bill, Mr. Biden called for eliminating discrepancies in sentencing between powder and crack cocaine and for the elimination of mandatory minimum sentencing, repeating and building on points he has made on the campaign trail. He also called for an end to cash bail.”

Beyond that, he’s calling for an end to the death penalty at the federal level, with state incentives as well. He calls for the Justice Department to, “root out unconstitutional or unlawful policing,” and calls for a new task force that would examine the issue of prosecutorial discretion. If you’re not familiar with that last one, it is the ability of a law enforcement officer or agency to determine whether and what charges to bring against a defendant—that, again, is tied up with mandatory minimums and racial considerations. And here’s one more bit from the Times:

“In some areas, Mr. Biden is not as bold as many of his rivals. While he supports decriminalizing marijuana and expunging prior cannabis use convictions, he continues to stop short of supporting legalizing marijuana across the board, in contrast to a number of his opponents. He leaves the issue of legalizing marijuana for recreational use to the states and supports reclassifying “cannabis as a schedule II drug so researchers can study its positive and negative impacts,” his proposal said.”

Okay, so there has been a lot of backlash against Biden for this proposal. For instance, Senator Cory Booker immediately tweeted, “It’s not enough to tell us what you’re going to do for our communities, show us what you’ve done for the last 40 years. You created this system. We’ll dismantle it.”

In the Washington Post, Matt Viser and Sean Sullivan pointed out the drastic contract between Biden in the 90s and Biden today. Reading a Biden quote from their piece:

““It doesn’t matter whether or not they were deprived as a youth,” Biden said on the Senate floor during a 1993 debate. “It doesn’t matter whether or not they had no background that enabled them to become socialized into the fabric of society. It doesn’t matter whether or not they’re the victims of society. The end result is they’re about to knock my mother on the head with a lead pipe, shoot my sister, beat up my wife, take on my sons.””

So the obvious narrative here, and indeed a TRUE narrative, is that Biden has utterly reversed his position on a variety of issues related to crime and justice—among them, the death penalty, mandatory minimums, the societal aspects of racial justice, drug policy, cash bail, and more. Now, we’ve seen this before with Biden. He reversed his position on the Hyde Amendment, and a public option for Obamacare. But I think this dust-up over Biden’s plan puts one question into clear focus:

Do we expect our politicians with long careers to stick to their guns around policies they enacted decades ago, or do we expect them to learn from their mistakes and actively seek to change positions in order to achieve justice TODAY?

While it’s true that Biden’s support of that ’94 crime bill contributed to a bunch of the problems he now wants to solve, what exactly is the alternative? I don’t think it’s reasonable to expect someone to remain static after so many decades in public service. Sure, there are definitely things that would disqualify a candidate even if they were done a long time ago—and maybe, for you, that crime bill is one of them. That’s fine, that’s up to you as a voter, and it’s part of why we have a primary process.

So I’m genuinely curious to see whether voters will look at Biden’s many shifts on issues as real, heartfelt movement, or whether they’ll see his previous actions as disqualifying. Time will tell, and the debates next week will absolutely get into this specific issue.

Ginsburg weighs in on candidates’ proposals to increase the number of Supreme Court justices

In an interview with National Public Radio that aired this morning, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg gave her opinion on the idea of adding more justices to the Supreme Court. In the interview with Nina Totenberg, Ginsburg said:

“I think that was a bad idea when President Franklin Roosevelt tried to pack the court.”

She’s not wrong about that one—that was a pretty disastrous move.

Now, here’s a fun fact—Ginsburg was four years old when FDR tried to pack the court by adding liberal members who he thought would be amenable to his New Deal plans. That did not work at all, but much of the New Deal did, of course, make its way into law. Now let’s listen to a clip from that interview that is extremely relevant to this current primary field. Totenberg speaks first:


For more on this issue and specifically the Buttigieg plan to increase the Supreme Court all the way to 15 justices, check out the Election Ride Home show from May 5th titled “Economic Patriotism and the Supreme Court.” Buttigieg is not alone in this field in his desire to add people to the court, but his proposal has the highest total number and seems to be the most comprehensive. Plenty of other candidates favor term limits or other such mechanisms to fiddle around with the court, so this is a real live issue in this field.

And expect to hear real debate on this court issue as we head into the September debates. I think there are too many people on stage in July to have a real conversation about it, but at some point this issue, and it is a HUGE issue for voters, needs to be discussed and it would be nice to see the primary candidates hash it out on live TV. Check the show notes for the entire NPR interview with Ginsburg—it is well worth a listen, and I will keep you posted as the candidates continue to talk about term limits and court-packing.

Some unexpected things the candidates paid for in Q2

Now that the Q2 FEC reports are in, it’s possible to wade through all the disbursements—that’s the spending by the candidates—and see who paid for what. And apparently over at Politico, three reporters drew the short straw and got to wade through many, many hundreds of pages of database results looking for fun stuff. These American heroes are Maggie Severns, Elena Schneider, and James Arkin.

Okay, so I do think you should just go and read the Politico story, because I want them to get the clicks they so rightly deserve after doing all this research. But I am going to highlight just a few items they turned up, because, you know, wow.

First off, Joe Biden’s campaign spent $12,075 dollars on paella. If you’re unfamiliar with the term, it is a Spanish rice dish with seafood. The campaign purchased this massive quantity of tasty paella from LA’s restaurant Got Paella, and presumably used it during a fundraiser when Biden was in town in early May. Or, you just can’t rule out the possibility that the Biden campaign is stockpiling strategic paella for later in the race.

Second is Governor Jay Inslee, who paid $30,226 dollars to Banana Stand LLC. So, that’s a reference to the TV show Arrested Development, in which the wealthy family owns a banana stand near the beach, and George Michael Bluth is “Mr. Manager” at that stand. The family catch-phrase is, “There’s always money in the banana stand.” Now here’s the weird thing. It’s unclear what the heck Banana Stand LLC actually IS and DOES. According to Politico, it has no website, and only one other federal candidate has ever paid money to this group. That candidate is Richard Ojeda of West Virginia, who you may recall as the very first candidate to drop out. So…if I ever get Inslee on the phone, I’m gonna ask him why he put $30,000 dollars in the banana stand.

And last up, let me just read from the Politico story here.

“John Delaney spent $699 [dollars] at Smith Island Baking Company, a cake company in Crisfield, [Maryland], near the Chesapeake Bay. That’s enough to serve cake to more than 170 people, according to the estimates on the site — or, in 2020 campaign terms, 0.13 percent of the 130,000 individual donors Democrats need to amass to qualify for the September debates.”

Do check the link in the show notes—it is bananas.

A brief history of presidential candidates staying in people’s homes while campaigning

And last up today, here’s another fun one where you really should go read the article. I’ve previously reported that Senator Cory Booker likes to couch-surf while he’s on the road—he stays with people in the local community, rather than renting a hotel or sleeping in his RV. But Eliza Collins of the Wall Street Journal examined not just Booker’s habit of doing this, but the rich political history of this kind of campaigning going back CENTURIES.

Let’s start with a brief anecdote about Booker, though, as he is best-known for this kind of thing during this cycle.

“Sen[ator] Cory Booker sat on the family-room floor with New Hampshire State Sen[ator] Jon Morgan and his wife Katie, a physician assistant, until past midnight last Saturday.
The next morning at 8, the room was the scene of a gymnastics show as the New Jersey Democrat swung the Morgans’ sons high into the air, and upside down, as cartoons played in the background. Mr. Booker spent the night with the Morgans, their three sons and three dogs Saturday, an experience Mr. Morgan described as “a little surreal.””

There’s a bit more to that story, as well as tidbits on how Hickenlooper, Moulton, O’Rourke, and Yang have also stayed with families on the trail. But here’s just one of MANY kickers in the story from earlier campaigns. Reading again from the Journal:

“In 1992, then-Arkansas Gov[ernor] Bill Clinton stayed with John Broderick, a lawyer who later would become the Chief Justice of the New Hampshire Supreme Court. The next morning, Mr. Clinton decided to go for a jog. Mr. Broderick remembers the temperature being single-digits and telling Mr. Clinton he couldn’t go out with just his Arkansas sweatshirt. So, he said, “I dressed him up, he looked like a snowman.”
The next day, a neighbor called Mr. Broderick and told him that she had almost called the police after seeing “an unusual man” bundled up running through the neighborhood.””

So, pro tip as the winter approaches, uh, I guess these candidates better start making winter clothing with their campaign logos plastered all over it. Be on the lookout, because “unusual men [and women]” may be campaigning in your neighborhood.


Well, that is it for one more episode of the Election Ride Home. I have been your host, Chris Higgins. You can always find me on Twitter @chrishiggins. Well, today is hedge-trimming day in the yarden. We’ve got this English laurel hedge that, I swear, you trim it, you turn around, you look back, and it has grown two more feet. So every Wednesday, which is right before the compost bin goes out, I get out the stupid ladder and I climb up there and I hack off some chunks of this laurel, just so that next week we can have the same old dance. So wish me luck, it really won’t help, but I would appreciate it as I sweat my way through this particular task, while listening to podcasts on my headphones. As always, thanks for listening, and I will talk to y’all tomorrow.