LOS ANGELES - This week on The Issue Is, President Trump and the White House go on defense against Bob Woodward and The Atlantic, the Presidential race tightens, a political spouse opens up about life on the campaign trail and about the struggles of coming out to his family, and much more.
To break it all down, Elex Michaelson is joined by former former White House Communications Director Anthony Scaramucci, Los Angeles Times political writer Seema Mehta, Breitbart News Senior Editor-at-Large Joel Pollak, Chasten Buttigieg, husband of former Presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg, and by the Meiselas brothers, the voices behind MeidasTouch, a political action committee working to oust President Trump.
The conversation kicks off with expert analysis of a series of interviews President Trump did with journalist Bob Woodward, newly-released tapes revealing that, in March, he downplayed the coronavirus threat in an effort to no cause a public panic.
“That’s the President, he’s trying to charm Bob Woodward, he’s telling him the truth about how he feels about things,” said Scaramucci, who served as White House Communications Director for 11 days in the summer of 2017.
“What I’m curious about, the questions not being asked of the President, if you knew it was deadly, and you’re saying you didn’t want to panic the people, but you knew it was six times more deadly than the flu, then why didn’t you tell people to wear the masks,” Scaramucci continued, adding that the President’s actions, and divergence from expert advice, led to the destruction of the American economy, and a death rate that every few days is equivalent to that of the September 11, 2001 attacks.
Joel Pollak, senior Editor-at-Large of Breitbart News, pushed back, saying that it is not accurate to accuse the President of actively trying to mislead the public.
“At the time the President was speaking, the scientists in charge of the coronavirus response were telling people not to wear masks,” Pollak said. “The President actually told people on March 31 that they should think about covering their faces, he actually was out ahead of the experts on that one.”
“Objectively, if you look at the President’s response to the virus, versus what he was saying at that time to Bob Woodward, it’s not the same thing,” said Seema Mehta, political writer at the LA Times.
But the release of the Woodward tapes was not the only story this week that caused the White House to go on defense, so too was a story in The Atlantic in which anonymous sources allege the President called fallen soldiers “suckers” and “losers.”
Much of the pushback of the story has relied on the fact that the sourcing was anonymous, whereas more than 20 current and former White House officials have publicly gone on the record to dispute the claims, many of whom were present when the alleged incidents took place - from First Lady Melania Trump to former National Security Advisor John Bolton, himself, no fan of President Trump, as told in his recent tell-all The Room Where it Happened.
“The broader language, a lot of it attributed to anonymous sources, was really remarkable,” Mehta said, admitting she doubts the story will move the electoral needle at all.
“Talking to voters who are Trump supporters, they don’t believe it, they think it’s made up, they think it’s fake news, they think these anonymous sources don’t exist,” Mehta continued. “If you talk to people who oppose the President, this goes in line with everything they already believe about the President.”
Scaramucci said that he has spoken with some of the anonymous sources from The Atlantic piece, and says that not only does he believe them, and that the language is consistent with past language from the President, but that this story is only the beginning.
“Sometime by mid-October you’ll see a deluge of ex-officials in the Trump Administration speaking out about his lack of fitness to be President of the United States,” Scaramucci predicted.
Pollak questioned the use of anonymous sources, saying the story goes against journalistic ethics, adding that voters are more concerned with President Trump’s “results” than with what “he has said, or what he is believed to have said.”
“One thing that people do appreciate about him, and his respect for the troops, is that he’s not committing them to wars that the United States has no intention of winning,” Pollak continued. “He’s also bringing the troops home while announcing new peace agreements and negotiations.”
Despite the wave of negative press the President has received in recent days and weeks, the polls actually show a tightening, especially in important swing-stages like Nevada, Michigan, and Florida, where Trump and Biden are essentially in a dead heat.
Pollak attributed the tightening to the recent protests and riots that have been taking place in major cities.
“There’s a sense of fear about the new challenge to public safety that has been posed by riots,” Pollak said. “And the rioting has a ripple effect, because it doesn’t just happen where people are smashing windows or throwing Molotov cocktails, it forces businesses to close, it also diverts police resources, and it amplifies calls on the left to defund or abolish the police, so people are feeling unsafe.”
Scaramucci agreed that the law and order messaging is helping the Trump campaign, but for a different reason, saying it’s only because the President has been “good at telling the big lie” that Biden and the left are for defunding the police, which Scaramucci said is not true.
Next, Michaelson is joined by Chasten Buttigieg.
Buttigieg, husband of former Democratic presidential candidate and former Mayor of South Bend, Indiana Pete Buttigieg, just released his memoir I Have Something to Tell You.
“The thing I want to tell people most of all, is that they’re not alone,” Buttigieg said of why he wrote the book. “The reason I open up so much in the book, is because, so often, people in politics don’t share those kinds of truths or vulnerabilities, they don’t take chances, and that’s not the kind of book I wanted to write, I wanted to take some risks, and just share who I really am.”
Part of sharing who he is, meant Buttigieg used the book to open up about how he came out to his family - writing them a letter before running away from home.
“I think, many times the story we’re so used to hearing is the parents kick the kids out, the kid runs away,” Buttigieg recalled. “I grew up in conservative Northern Michigan, and my parents didn’t kick me out, it was just a simple fact I felt like I knew that once I come out, I’m going to shatter my parents dreams, their hopes.”
“Everything I had learned from the society, the bubble, I was growing up in, was something about me was twisted and broken, and people will not love that, so I wasn’t pushed out of my home, I ran away, because I was ashamed of this thing inside me that I had only grown up learning was wrong,” he continued.
Eventually, Buttigieg’s parents called him home, Buttigieg saying he is grateful for the fact they did, that they had conversations with him, and that they are now his strongest allies.
Out of the closet, Buttigieg would eventually meet his now-husband via the Hinge dating app.
“He had a really cute photo of him in his Navy uniform, so that caught my eye,” Buttigieg said. “I was a little cautious to go on a date with a politician, but it worked out, there were fireworks, literally, on the first date.”
Now that Buttigieg is happily married to the politician best known as “Mayor Pete,” Michaelson asked what his advice was for others who might be struggling with identity or sexuality.
“I remember being a suicidal teenager… wondering if there was a future for me in this country, if I would ever know love, if I would ever know community,” Buttigieg recalled. “I wish I could go back and put my arm around that kid’s shoulder and tell him I know the bad feels terrible, but wait until you feel the good, wait until you know what it’s truly like to be loved by someone… they say it gets better, and I know it sounds like a load of baloney, but it truly does.”
Buttigieg credits his husband with some of that change, saying that he felt broken when he met Pete, but that Pete made him feel loved, seen, comfortable, and cherished.
“He took a wrecking ball to that wall I built up between my heart and the rest of the world… he means the world to me,” Chasten said of Pete.
After a brief discussion on what it means to be a political spouse, especially on the national stage alongside the likes of Joe Biden’s wife Jill Biden, and Kamala Harris’s husband Doug Emhoff, Michaelson played a round of “personal issues” with Buttigieg.
In the rapid-fire personality game, Buttigieg revealed that his favorite actor was Tom Hanks, his favorite Disney movie was Up, his role model was his mother, and given the choice between Star Wars and Star Trek, he would opt instead for Harry Potter.
The Issue Is: with Elex Michaelson is California's only statewide political show. For showtimes and more information, go to TheIssueIsShow.com.