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Jon Lovett explains why Democrats in Congress probably won’t regulate Facebook

Even if, in private, they might really want to.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg smiles and points from a podium where he is giving a speech.
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg.
Paul Marotta / Getty Images

On the latest episode of Pivot, Recode’s Kara Swisher traded in Scott Galloway for a guest co-host: Crooked Media’s Jon Lovett, the co-host of Pod Save America and host of Lovett or Leave It. They talked about everything from Trump’s shutdown to Netflix’s Bird Box, and why the newly Democratic-controlled House of Representatives probably won’t make a move to regulate tech giants like Facebook.

“I think if you were to ask a bunch of Democrats off the record, like do you think these companies should be regulated, they’d all say yes,” Lovett said. “How many of them want to make it happen? How many of them really want to devote their resources and attention to it?

“You look at what animates Democratic voters, you look at what animates Democratic politicians, it’s health care, it’s increasingly climate. It is wages and economic issues, it’s issues around reproductive freedom and criminal justice reform and inequality,” he added. “But regulating Mark Zuckerberg, right now ... There’s a lot of press releases and hand-wringing but you don’t really hear a big coherent case.”

You can listen to Pivot with Kara Swisher and Scott Galloway wherever you get your podcasts — including Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Podcasts, Pocket Casts and Overcast.

Below, we’ve shared a full transcript of Kara’s conversation with Jon.

Kara Swisher: Hi everyone. This is Pivot from the Vox Media Podcast Network. I’m Kara Swisher, welcome to Pivot 2019. This week, Scott Galloway is out and my friend Jon Lovett from Crooked Media is here. Hello, Jon.

Jon Lovett: Hello, Kara.

You’re stepping into the co-host chair. Jon hosts a number of his own fantastic podcasts including Pod Save America and ...

Lovett or Leave It.

Exactly. And we’re here at their headquarters in Los Angeles, at the Crooked Media headquarters, and I’m having a great time and I appreciate you doing this for me.

Thanks for coming. Look, people clamor for ...

You and I.

For us to be together.

Because we have such a spark, right? We have such a spark.

It’s electric.

It’s electric right now. You don’t know what’s going on in the studio right now. But, thank you for the ultimate podcast crossover episode.

So, I sort of gave you an idea of what we do here on Pivot, but it’s just exactly talking about the big story shake-downs. Then we talk about predictions and wins and fails of the week and I just, you’re so opinionated. I think you can agree with me on that one.


That you will have lots of opinions. There’s so much in the news now that you can discuss. We’re going to focus obviously on political stuff, but whatever you want to talk about. And so, let’s do first the big story breakdown.

Obviously the government shutdown for you all, is that correct, and stuff like that. I want to pivot it towards tech legislation, because I think it’s never going to happen now because they can’t even decide on lunch in Washington.


So, talk about that big story. The Democrats taking over the house, Nancy Pelosi was elected speaker of the House again.


Tell us where we are with this big story.

So, let’s talk about the shutdown.


You know, Donald Trump has, over the past two years, kind of had a pattern — whether it’s with DACA and the DREAMers, the Paris Climate Accords, the Iran deal, now this shutdown, several other issues — he knows instinctively that his comfort with cruelty, with damage, gives him leverage. He does know that. However, he doesn’t ever seem to have the discipline or follow-through to say, “Okay, I will threaten to deport children who did nothing wrong and were brought here by their parents.”


To get a deal. But then, when that deal is put on the table, when Democrats say, “You know what? If you’ll protect DREAMers and come to the table on immigration, we’ll give you money for border security.” He walks away. It’s never good enough.

He talks about renegotiating deals. NAFTA, right? He threatens to pull out of NAFTA, they make some cosmetic changes to NAFTA. Now with this shutdown, he sits down in the Oval Office with Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer and says, “I’m going to shut the government down over border security.”

Over the wall.

Over the wall.

Or steel slats or whatever.

Over steel slats. “I’m the one that’s going to do it. You want open borders, I want the wall. Call me Mr. Shutdown. I’m king shutdown, shutdown man.”

Government shuts down. Well, what’s the plan? Because you know, the Senate passed on a bipartisan basis by a voice vote, which basically means 100 percent of the Senators got behind a bipartisan deal that included much less funding for border security.

He then makes this threat. Paul Ryan, in one of his last acts, perfect last act for him, goes along with it.


Twizzling Paul Ryan, goes along with this ... the word is fakakta. It’s a fakakta plan. And the government has been shut down. I am very glad that Paul Ryan left the government as a capitulating supplicant to Donald Trump while the government was shutdown, while the debt hit record levels, right? Every single thing Paul Ryan claimed to care about.

And the stock market.

And the stock market took a huge hit. Every single thing that Paul Ryan claims to have cared about and been a leader on was damaged by his time.

Good-bye, Paul.

Good-bye. Don’t let the door hit you.


You know what? Let it hit you ... on your way to the gym. Let the door hit you on the way out. We got that.

Buns of steel, let the door hit you.

Listen, for two years, in my mind I had just been waiting for the moment where Nancy Pelosi takes the gavel from Paul Ryan’s fucking hands and today, it happened. So, you look at Donald Trump ...

Did he give it to her?

No, because he’s not in Congress anymore. Kevin McCarthy handed it over, which is much less satisfying, let’s be honest about it.

That guy.

Look at what Donald Trump did in the intervening time between an old Congress and a new Congress. He shut the government down over border security. He had two years of unified Congress, couldn’t get this kind of thing through. Nancy Pelosi just took the gavel. Did it get easier to get your money? Of course not. Of course not, especially because we know that the Senate already passed a bipartisan bill that the House can now pass a version of.

So, he basically does what he does. What Donald Trump does, he shoots the hostage, now the hostage is lying on the ground bleeding. He doesn’t have a plan for how to get his ransom. So, that’s where we are right now. I don’t think anyone really knows how it’s going to shake out. Donald Trump is dug in but ...

So, what’s going to happen? What is from you guys, you guys talk about this a lot on Pod Save America and Lovett or Leave It. What’s going to happen then?

I don’t know. I don’t have a prediction. What has happened over the past few years is there’s a lot of bluster around shutdowns, about shutdowns going on forever and how you’ll be blamed and I won’t be blamed. But Donald Trump went into this shutdown taking the blame for it. In the end, they choose to give in in some way.


It’s a hard thing to know how this actually shakes out, what kind of fig leaf Donald Trump will claim in order to reopen the government. I don’t really know, but it certainly doesn’t end with Nancy Pelosi’s, one of her first acts as Democratic Speaker, giving Donald Trump his $5 billion unless there’s some new big deal on immigration — which, again, feels very unlikely because, again, that deal was killed by Donald Trump before.

So, they can’t do anything. One of the things that we’ve been talking a lot about this year on Pivot is the idea of tech legislation, privacy legislation, any legislation making these giant platforms more accountable. That seems impossible at this point, right?

I mean, yeah. Look, they can’t seem to agree on basic functioning of the government. There’s not a bipartisan basis for that legislation right now. Republicans control the Senate. Even Democratic Senators, if I’m being honest, there’s not many of them have taken up the mantel. You know, it’s something ...

Senator Warner.

Warner, of course, has been a leader about this and said interesting things about it. But even he has been, you know, he has taken his time in reaching the point of saying that these companies need more regulation. People like Brian Schatz who are really smart messengers and are really smart about thinking through what the next Democratic position should be has been talking about this more.

But ultimately, the place that I’m interested in this debate taking place is the 2020 field and how this plays out amongst Democrats, because not only is a lot of this dependent on electing a Democratic president especially when we don’t have control of the Senate, that is also where a lot of the most important policy debates move forward, is in Democratic primaries. That’s what we saw in health care. I think that’s this time what we’ll see on tech, on monopoly, that I think ...

Do you think that is going to be a big issue or has tech kind of gotten out of, gotten away from paying the price for this? Because Nancy, I had talked to Nancy Pelosi and she talked about this internet bill of rights and Democrats now are much tougher on tech, right? They’ve shifted. They were the best friends of tech and then they moved away from it.

Yeah, I think it’s a really good question. I think this is one of those places where you see the cost of Democratic leadership, Congressional leadership, generally being older. They’re not as fluent in this conversation.

I also think it’s taking time for this idea to kind of move through the system. I think if you were to ask a bunch of Democrats off the record, like do you think these companies should be regulated, they’d all say yes. How many of them want to make it happen? How many of them really want to devote their resources and attention to it? It’s not been ...

When there’s so many other things.

When there’s so many other things. I mean, you look at what animates Democratic voters, you look at what animates Democratic politicians, it’s health care, it’s increasingly climate. It is wages and economic issues, it’s issues around reproductive freedom and criminal justice reform and inequality. But regulating Mark Zuckerberg, right now, it does feel like a lot of the patter ...

Regulating Mark Zuckerberg. That sounds terrible.

Sound like the name of your book.


There’s a lot of press releases and hand-wringing but you don’t really hear a big coherent case for here’s what the future of regulation on these issues ...

Right, No. I agree. It’s going to happen in the states, like Gavin Newsom and California and places ... even if it does happen, because there’s so many other issues.

Yeah, I also think it’s tied into a larger, much harder conversation about corporate power generally and corporate power inside of the Democratic party. And I think that’s partly why I’ve looked to the 2020 field as a place to have this debate, is I think the need to rein in Facebook, the need to rein in the monopolistic power that a lot of these companies have is going to be part of a larger conversation about the influence of money in politics, about the concentration of wealth, about corporate consolidation. And you know, Elizabeth Warren, that’s part of her ...

Yeah, just announced. I was going to ask about that, enters the presidential race.

Yeah. She enters the presidential race. You know, even Nancy Pelosi, her speech today taking the speakership talked about the concentration of wealth. So I think that’s going to be, I hope ...

And guess where the wealth is.

And I hope one of the big ... I think corporate power and corporate concentration, as it applies to tech companies, as it applies to Amazon, as it applies to banks, as it applies to telecom, as it applies to all these different industries, is to me the sleeper issue. It’s not that it’s not being talked about, but it is to me the place where Democrats can really say, “This is now not a part of our program, but a centerpiece of how we talk about ...”

Will they turn on tech? I mean, they seem to be, Cory Booker does, you know, some of them are really starting to beyond ...

Yeah, I don’t think it’s necessarily about turning on tech. I think it’s about saying, “Well, hold on a second.” You know, you guys have been ... the tech companies have been so unwilling to even define what they are, to avoid the conversation about where they fit and their power. They’re reluctant to talk about it, while at the same time exploiting it, building businesses off it, building great wealth off of it. So, I don’t think it’s about turning on tech. I think what you will see is what you always see around these issues. I think you will see some Democrats still adhere to a ’90s way of talking about these issues that everybody can win.


Then, I think you will see some further to the left be more strident, or at least more zero sum in these conversations.

Right. “Let’s get rid of these powers.”

Yeah, we have to attack these, these have to be broken up. These should be heavily regulated. They’re greedy, they’re corrupting our democracy. All of which I think has a lot of truth to it. And then I think you will see what happens with Democratic politicians, you will see a more moderate center-left position that becomes the kind of cohesive position that says it’s not about ... you will see ... Amazon has done a lot of good for people, right? They’ll say that. This is what their message will be like.

Consumer harm is the issue, right?

Right. The harm in saying like, can we have a system in which these companies are able to innovate and thrive and lead the world right? As one of America’s most important and powerful sectors, while preventing some of the consequences of their worst behavior. And I think that is a very reasonable question. That to me is where the debate will ultimately lie.

They also will have enormous power, Netflix taking down the episode about Saudi Arabia about journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

Khashoggi. Yeah. And these are some of the hardest ...

They just did that.

They just did it. But these are some of the hardest questions we face as a culture, right? Even dividing it into a tech conversation. You know, Netflix is going to take a lot of heat for this, but companies like Warner Bros. are deciding whether or not to include scenes in films based on what a Chinese censor would say. Well, okay. So, now Chinese censors are dictating what appears in America.


You know, this is a very specific example. There is a ... Martin Scorsese made a movie about Tibet. You can’t get it.


Because ... and that’s an old problem. We’ve been dealing with censorship around multimedia, about multinational companies and the content they create for a very long time. There’s just a new manifestation of it. And it’s more important now, in part because these companies are so much bigger, so much ... have so much control.


They’re pervasive. So, it becomes a big conversation. But it’s a conversation we’ve had for a very long time.

Right. But they are, well, you know ...

Kundun. That’s the movie.

Kundun. That’s right. But you know, they’ve weaponized and amplified in a way that is way beyond anything else.

Well, they ... I think it’s very hard. I’ve watched you talk to Mark Zuckerberg and try desperately to get to him to lower the fucking shield that he’s built.

Well, it’s hard to reprogram Data, but go ahead.

It’s just, I mean ... just three inches of just solid concrete between him and you. But as you chip, chip, chip, I think the thing that is true is that they did not think enough about downside risk.

No, never. Never. No.

No, connecting people is good. Therefore, connecting people is good. And well, guess what? People are people. And some of them are fucking terrible.

Yeah, I couldn’t get him to answer on the damages.

No. You couldn’t even get him to talk about how he feels about it.

No, I couldn’t. Six times. I did try to get him to fire himself.

Here’s the thing. Upton Sinclair: You can’t convince somebody of something their livelihood depends on not believing.

That was so high-minded, Jon.

Pretty good.

Upton Sinclair? Go ahead.

Upton Sinclair. It’s one of my favorite lines because ...

Okay. It’s a very good line.

There are many conclusions Facebook can reach. The one conclusion it can’t reach is that it’s doing more harm than good. It’s not possible.


Right? Every technology company should have a red button somewhere in the headquarters where if they realize they’ve caused more societal harm than they expected and done more harm than good, they press the button and the company dissolves instantly. That’s it. Just a big, red button in the center of the headquarters. You need two keys to unlock it, maybe a code, maybe a two-factor. Maybe one of those Unikeys, right? Just to unlock the fucking thing.

But then, push comes to shove, you know what? “Guys, it’s mostly Nazis now. Push the button.”

Yeah, yeah. “It’s mostly Nazis.”

“We looked, we crunched the numbers, and it’s robots and Nazis. Press the button.”

It’s Nazis and ...

That is a societal good!

We’re getting to that.

That’s a good.

That is a good. You know, one of the things I’ve said is we have to like — I’ve said this recently a lot — is we have to ... they should imagine every product they make as an episode of Black Mirror.


What’s the ... except not San Junipero, that one, because that’s a nice one, but all the bad ones.


Then they shouldn’t make it if they can think of a really good episode.

Right, because so far our track record is Black Mirror is just the news from four years from now.

Exactly. All right. Jon, red button. I love this idea. We’re here with Jon Lovett. We’re at the headquarters of Crooked Media.

And we’re loosening up.

We’re loosening up. We’re starting to drink and stuff like that. We’re going to take a quick break, but stay with us. We’re going to go into wins and fails of the week when we get back with Jon Lovett.


Now, back to the show. How did I read those, Jon? How did I?

You did great.

Did I do great? And was there anything that you’d emphasize more? QuickBooks!

I think you could have brought a little more heart to it. Let’s just be honest. I don’t think you’re going to ... I don’t know if you saw Roma. I don’t think you’re going to ...

I saw Roma.

So I think she did a better job in her performance than you did.

Oh, thank you, thank you.

In yours.

Thank you.

But she was transcendent.

She was transcendent.

You were fine.

Okay, thanks. I’m not up to your Roma standards?

You’re not.

Oh, man, that was a good movie, wasn’t it? Why didn’t they pick up the dog poop?

Why didn’t they pick up the dog poop?

Why didn’t they pick up the dog poop?

Just pick it up.

I mean, seriously. I was like, just pick it up.

It’s so funny that that’s your takeaway from the film.

I literally got obsessed with it.

It was making me crazy.

It was crazy. It was making me crazy. And then they drove over it, I’m like, “What are you doing?”

Stepped in it, drove over it.

Stepped in it, drove in it.

It’s a metaphor, probably.

I know, exactly.

Anyway, in any case, let’s move on. So we have a segment that, we’re going to talk about some wins and fails of the week. And one of them, to me, was the women in India forming the 385-mile human chain for gender equality. And then there was a fail that I thought ... men accused of sexual harassment trying to make comebacks, like Louis CK and Kevin Spacey, making some creepy attempts to get behind the microphone. What do you think? Give me some of your wins and fails.

I would say ... Look, I think Nancy Pelosi becoming Speaker of the House is one of the most important wins that we will have.

Oh, of course, Nancy Pelosi. Go ahead. Yes, explain.

Yeah. Not just because ... So look, before this election ... I’m a partisan, but I believe that Democrats winning the House was one of the most important steps we could take as a country to protect ourselves.

Right. Mm-hmm.

And the cost of losing, I think, would have been cataclysmic. So we avoided a truly horrific outcome in which people felt really dispirited. And we would have learned something quite horrific, which is, there wasn’t a price for Donald Trump’s terrible behavior or Paul Ryan’s capitulation to him. So that in and of itself was valuable. But Nancy Pelosi — I think the same thing about Elizabeth Warren — Nancy Pelosi, if she were a man, she would be considered one of the great leaders in modern political history.

This is correct. I like how you’re knitting this together.

Yeah, and I think she would be, and I think she will be. I think increasingly she is, in part because people are pointing this out, that saying that Paul Ryan was a young gun, intellectual leader, cover of magazines, even though it was mostly a fraud.

Nancy Pelosi, meanwhile, grinding away for decades, retakes the speakership. And by the way, one of the most successful speakers. I mean, those first two years of the Obama administration are one of the most productive legislative periods in modern history, right? Rivaling ... Not rival ... In the pantheon of periods of time of progress with FDR and Lyndon Johnson, have a lot of things getting done in a period of great crisis.

Now, she retakes that gavel at a little time of incredible importance in which we need Democrats to stick together. We need a strong leader, and we have that. I think that’s really, really important. I would say one of the big fails of this week has been this conversation around likability around Elizabeth Warren.

Right. Echoing the old Hillary Clinton one.

Right. And as people have pointed out, a lot of people who are currently saying Elizabeth Warren is unlikable, said that she was the likable alternative to Hillary Clinton. Isn’t it amazing how unlikable a woman becomes once she decides to go for the big prize?

Right. Right.

But in the same way that Nancy Pelosi isn’t given the credit she’s due, to me, it’s easy to have a conversation about how the term “likability” is sexist. And it is. It’s easy to say, “That’s wrong.” But what’s harder to talk about is what’s missing.


And Elizabeth Warren, I watched her announcement video, and it is excellent. It is also what she has been talking about for her entire career.

Forever. Mm-hmm.

Before she was in the Senate, she was a professor. She is the one who came up with this idea for a Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.


That originally she was going to lead but couldn’t get confirmed for it.

Right. Right. Mm-hmm.

But she has been the ... She, I think, more than anyone else you could point to and say, this is the intellectual leader of democratic politics. And she doesn’t get called back. If she were a man, she would right now be the natural frontrunner, the unalloyed frontrunner in Democratic politics. She has been the intellectual leader. She is a charismatic politician. She’s incredibly smart in how she talks about issues. She has been a consistent ... She’s been ahead of the curve in terms of talking about things like corporate power, talking about what’s been happening to the middle class.

It’s interesting. She’s sort of like that character on Homeland who was the president who became ... You know what I mean? She rubs people the wrong way.

I don’t watch soap operas.

Okay. It’s enjoyable. I like Claire Danes, and she can do anything she wants. In any case, what do you watch?

I watch all kinds of things.

What’s your favorite show right now?

Listen, I enjoyed Homecoming. I’m watching The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel.

Oh yes. It’s marvelous, isn’t it?

It’s a delight.

It’s delightful.

It’s a delight.

It’s a delight. All right, I’m going to get back to Elizabeth Warren. We had her at the Code Conference several years ago. And I have never gotten such negative feedback from men in my life. I have to tell you, it was fascinating. It was as if she went onstage and threw shit at them. It was amazing. It was sort of way out-sized, her appearance. And it was really interesting to me.

What do you think that is?

I’ve no idea, but it was remarkable. It was remarkable. I thought she was quite good, and very articulate about it. I don’t know if it was her shoes? I don’t know what bothered them. Something got under them and worked their last nerve with her. And it was sort of like, “Whoa,” that was fascinating.


I think she was a lady.


Also, she’s got opinions. She’s a lady with opinions. I think that’s really what it was.


And strong opinions. Unabashedly. And she tsk-tsked them, for sure, about wealth and power, the same thing as your corporate wealth and power, and rich people don’t like being told they’re awful, who think they’re great.

Right. And they certainly don’t ... Coming from someone who’s not going to preface it by saying how sorry they are to have the opinion.

Right, exactly. It was interesting. I was really like ... It was a real moment for me at the event.

Yeah. I mean, look, this is ... I think a lot of the defenders of Hillary Clinton’s candidacy make this similar argument, which is, every time you say that she was uniquely ill-suited, you fail to account for the ways in which a sexist system has spent a very long time making her ill-suited in the way that you’re describing.


And I think that there is a lot of truth to that. You also see on the flip side, we just elected 89 women to serve in the Congress as Democrats.

Right. I thought we only elected Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. She gets a lot of attention.

It was her and ...

No, I know, I know that.

88 others. I know you know, I know you know.

I like her squad. I like everything.

Speaking of attacks.

Oh man, she gets ...

They are going through her yearbook and putting these things out there as if they are criticism. She danced in college. She went by a nickname. And also they were saying, oh, she didn’t go to school in the Bronx. She talks about how she took a long trip to go to a better school.

Right. Right.

And how she learned from her home in the Bronx to this nicer neighborhood.


The differences of wealth, she’s talked about it.


The sexist attacks on AOC are incredible.

You know what’s astonishing? She’s really good at whacking them back.

She is.

She is. I literally have never seen someone as good at Twitter except for Trump, who I think is very good at Twitter, whether you like him or not. He’s good at it.

I agree.

She’s fantastic. Her chopping onions and talking about wealth was riveting.

It’s also one thing, to your point, oh, I didn’t realize other women were elected.


Right? She is someone who has, because of her own charisma, because of conservative attacks, because of how she kind of surprised people by winning in this primary against a prominent Democrat, has been given a pretty out-sized platform.


And she’s going to use it.


And she’s using it really well.


And to champion things she cares about. It’s such a funny thing. It’s like, “Oh, why is AOC getting all this attention?” That’s not the question. She has it. And how is she using it?


She’s spending it really fucking well.

Right, yeah.

She’s holding people accountable on the green new deal, she’s advocating for things she cares about, she’s pushing back on right-wing attacks on her in a really sort of charming and classy way.

Charming. Right, yeah.

And an effective way. So, she didn’t decide to become someone who receives all this attention. A culture around her for reasons good and bad decided that.


But good.


She’s using it.

Yeah, she does use it really well. She’s really fascinating. It’s interesting, we’ll see how Nancy Pelosi uses the medium. She’s not real good on Twitter and stuff like that. She’s just not. Although, she did push back on the coat thing, which was a meme online. Her whole weird coat obsession, which I’m like, “It’s a coat.” And she did actually talk about it, but it was interesting how that became something.

Yeah. Well, I’m glad she had that moment with Trump.

Yeah. Oh no, the moment was great.


The coat was ridiculous. The obsession of her coat she wore outside. That became the talking point.

She looked good in the coat.

She looked good in the coat, Jon. But really, it’s a coat.

I’m not sitting here talking ... You’re the one bringing up the coat.

She wore ...

You can’t stop talking about it.

I’m just saying. But I’m saying ...

Why are you obsessed with Nancy Pelosi’s coat?

Because they were discussing the coat versus what she did in there, more than what Schumer did in there. And she did the same thing. That’s my ...

She’s better than Schumer.

That’s right. She was quite good. And the coat became the meme, the online meme and all. So getting to that, and then I want to go to predictions, how do you look at social media and its impact in the next, going forward? Because obviously negative for the last one, and how they ... The Russian thing was a real bummer.

So we crunched the numbers.



Bad. Bad.

I don’t know. It’s a really hard question. I don’t really ... We’re out of the prediction business, but as individuals, we have to choose how we use these platforms. And I think that there’s two direct ... There’s offense and defense. On offense, I think we each choose the kind of person we are online. And I think there’s a lot of very good people who have chosen to be very ugly versions of themselves online. And I like to think that the more time we spend, the more we adapt, the more we learn, the better people will do. I think that’s wishful thinking.

But I do think as individuals ... I think there’s a lot of people out there that would look back on their tweets and posts and conduct online since they started using Twitter and say ... Let’s say they took all of my tweets and made an artificially intelligent version of me.

Right. Mm-hmm.

Would I like that person?


Would I like the version of me?

Do you? I like you.

Listen, I think I’m the rare exception. I’m a Twitter delight. But I think for the most part we would say we are more strident, meaner, less vulnerable, less honest. We’re more narcissistic, we’re more like Trump. That’s why Trump’s good at Twitter.


We are ostensibly tough, but also quite weak when we’re on Twitter, right? That’s how we are. We’re extremely vulnerable to injury while projecting a kind of imperviousness. So I think that’s the offense.

And there’s defense, which is how we each use it. And I take myself off now. I took myself off Twitter for this break. I occasionally went back on to search for my name.

You’re very good.

Just to do it, look at my mentions, because I’m human and there’s still blood in my veins. But these are tools. And I don’t think that they were developed maliciously. I think that there were truly good intentions behind Twitter. I think there are truly good intentions behind Facebook. However, these things have adapted to basically pornify our minds, right?


To reduce ideas. In the same way that McDonald’s is the porn of food, Twitter is the porn of information.


It is bite-size. It gives you that little bit of feedback.

Makes you feel bad, dirty.

It’s that it feeds your immediate needs while over time making you feel less and less value.

That is very wise thinking.

Less and less whole.

What about the impact on politics? How do you think politicians are looking at it for the next cycles? It’s sort of wobbly during the midterms.


But it didn’t break anything.

So I think there’s, again, the offensive/defensive. On offense, I would like to see more politicians just hold the phone themselves, use it the way Beto O’Rourke does. Use it the way, actually, Elizabeth Warren sometimes does, where you just kind of feel like you’re hearing from them. Use it the way AOC does.


Use it the way Adam Schiff ...

Adam Schiff is ...

Chris Murphy and others do where you just feel like you’re hearing from them.


Honestly, Chuck Grassley at times.

Mm-hmm. He’s good. He’s good.

Just uses it.

Chuck Grassley is good.

It’s not a medium for your press releases.

Conway’s good.

Yeah. George Conway is fantastic on Twitter.



I have a man crush on him on Twitter.

I think that that’s a mistake.

I know it is, but I can’t help myself. He’s very clever.


All right. Okay.

We’ll talk about that after.


We’ll work through that.

All right. Why is it a problem? You tell me right now. Because he’s the font of all evil on the planet and ...

I think that having vaguely okay opinions while being married to Kellyanne Conway is not a badge of honor.

I see. Right. Okay. Fair point.

So, in terms of how they use it defensively, I think that there’s this big question. And the question is, how much does the Twitter conversation reflect the world?


And we just don’t know.


You don’t know.

That is a really good point. That is a really good point.

It certainly is not analogous.

Feels like it. And especially because all the reporters are on it and all the media is on it.

Twitter definitely reflects the conversation reporters have. It definitely reflects the conversations politicians and democratic activists and the most devoted hard-core observers of politics, the right wing and left wing, center, all of it. That is a real conversation. Except, obviously, not as honest, not as open, not as vulnerable, not as fair, not as nice, fine. Which is by the way, you’re just saying that, that sucks, right?


It’s just an uglier version of a real conversation. Now, how does it reflect what real people think? What their experience of politics are? People out in the world who aren’t devoted to politics 24/7? We just don’t know. We don’t know how angry most people who watch CNN are about various panels and how they behave. We don’t know what ...

I can tell you, my kids don’t care. And he’s going to be voting in the next election too.

It’s so funny too, because this is a moment of so much passion and activism and anger for good and for ill online. But to me, sometimes I think when we look back, if things get worse, if we look back at this moment, what we will actually realize was an omen was actually how little people care. The government shut down. There are 800,000 furloughed people, most of whom are not getting paid by the government. And yeah, there’s online outrage but we’ve kind of gotten to the point where we just sort of whistle past the graveyard.

Yeah, I agree, I agree.

So it’s this crazy thing where, on the one hand, there’s a frenetic, endless, angry, elevated ... You know what it is, it’s like on Twitter, it’s the movie Gravity, but in real life it’s Roma. You know, same director.

Same director.

Difference experience.

Yeah, bad movie the first one.


Okay, wait, you liked it?

What are you talking about?

She came down from space by a happenstance? Come on.

That’s your summary of ...


That’s your summary of Gravity. Came down from space by happenstance.

What is your summary?

The human spirit!

Oh my god.

Using ingenuity and zeal to triumph over ...

You probably liked Bird Box, right?

No, I do not like Bird Box.


Bird Box is the greatest scam Netflix has ever ...

45 million people watched.

45 million people. Here’s a great example of why these companies are a bit too powerful. They’re in every house, all right, and they went into everybody’s algorithm and they said, “I don’t care what you like, I don’t care if you like baking, I don’t care if you like Bosch,” not Bosch, what’s that show, Kosh?

Kosh, I don’t know.

Kosh, Bosch? “I don’t care if you like old episodes of the Big Bang Theory or Frasier.”

West Wing.

“You are going to fucking watch Bird Box.” You sit there and you watch Bird Box. Hey, hey, did you open Netflix? Guess what? Bird Box. Then they brag about the fact that 45 million people ... They basically went into every American home and turned it on.

Wow, you know what? I bet like other companies, why didn’t we think of that? Why didn’t HBO think to go into everybody’s house and turn on ... Why didn’t it go into everybody’s house and just turn on Game of Thrones? Well, yeah, a lot of people will fucking watch it. Unbelievable!

Did you watch it?

Did you watch it? Yeah, of course I watched it! Netflix made me watch it. I never heard of Bird Box. I’m sitting ...

You live in Los Angeles! There’s a poster of Bird Box everywhere.

Which is the equivalent of them turning it on in my car.


I’m sitting at home, minding my own business, living my life, it’s holiday break, I open up Netflix.


And then Bird Box pops up and I think, “Sandra Bullock in a movie with a blindfold. It seems like action, I’m in!” I watched Bird Box before I ever even heard of the thing. That’s how they got me.

That’s funny. So was it good? I didn’t watch it.

It’s not good. It’s a very bad movie.

It’s very bad?

It’s a mess.

Is it bad/good, good/bad? Whatever.

It’s almost bad/good. It is a reminder that part of Netflix’s business model is traveling around Hollywood with a vacuum cleaner and just sucking up the things that hit the ground.

Oh, okay. That’s another episode. Thank you for that piece ... Have you sold a show to them yet? Because everyone seems to have.

I don’t know, I have to put some space between when this comes out and my next meeting over there.

Over there.

All right, so I’m going to ask for a prediction, Jon. Or your resolution for the year. I want a prediction. Is it Mitt Romney’s running for ... lost his mind or what? What is your prediction?

I will make one.

That was crazy online, Mitt Romney. Bird Box and Mitt.

Yes, man, Mitt Romney. I think that ...

He tries, right? They try, like George, vaguely trying to like ...

Mitt Romney. There’s always what he says and there’s always why he’s saying it and it’s never the same.

Okay, explain it to the people then.

Well, I don’t know. Look, I don’t want to be, on the one hand, I am very sick of Republicans, even Republicans with some conscience, speaking out against Trump without using their power effectively to stop him. That’s what I think you can say about Ben Sasse, that’s what you could say about Jeff Flake, that’s what you could say about Bob Corker and many others. They were never willing to truly use their power as senators. It’s almost as if that ... I think one of the kind of surreal aspects of our current political environment is there is the sense that people are kind of afraid of power.


As if they don’t really deserve it and don’t really have it when all you have to do ...

That’s like Mark Zuckerberg. I talked about that with him, he pushes away power that he has.

There’s this kind of sense that, “Oh, power’s for history, it’s not for me.” No, you’re in it, this is the fight, this is the moment. You have it, you’re in the fight, you either use it or you lose it. And they all chose not to use it. What Romney did that is distinct is he set down a marker before he took office in a way he did not have to. I think that there is value to that. Now, I’m very interested to see if he follows through with it.

Yeah, or else he’s at dinner at the White House.

Sure. And Mitt Romney’s track record is not one in which you find political courage on display. And keep in mind, he is part of the reason Donald Trump was elevated. He accepted his endorsement even though he was a birther, etc., etc., etc. I don’t begrudge him for meeting with him at that creepy Trump International dinner because ...

Yeah, that was creepy.

I think especially right then, it’s like ...

Okay, a lot of people did.

A lot of people did take a shot. I actually don’t begrudge him that. But his behavior before and since has not been that exemplary, he accepted Donald Trump’s endorsement, he’s played his cards I think very politically. But let’s see what he does.

The thing that makes me least enthusiastic is he said that — a classic line, which is, “I will support Donald Trump’s policies when I agree with them and I will not support them when I don’t.” Like that’s the standard? Hold on a second. Well, look, I had a friend and sometimes he brought me dinner of food I like and sometimes he used my vacuum cleaner without permission, I don’t know, making up a scenario. I’d be like, “You know what? Thank you for bringing me the dinner, it bothers me that you use the vacuum cleaner but you’re still my friend. I will support you when you support me and we will go our different ways.”

But if I had a friend who did nice things for me once in a while but then also randomly punched people on the street, or commit an act of violence or set cars on fire, I wouldn’t be this thing of, no, obviously I support my friend when he does nice things but I don’t support him when he ... No, hold on, you’re a fucking prick.

Yeah, yeah, you gotta get rid of that.

This is idea of like...

They won’t make choices. Not making choices is what they won’t do.

You have to put the things you care about on the line to stop Donald Trump. If you’re gonna go along with him when he supports the judges you like or policies you like and not when he doesn’t, you’re actually refusing to use the leverage you have. That’s what Bob Corker did, that’s what Flake did. You’re not using your leverage. So Mitt Romney, all right, use your leverage, let’s see what you do.

All right, predictions, one prediction? Or your resolution?

I will say this, I don’t know if you would call it a prediction. I’m trying to avoid predictions. But I will say, I am looking forward to the delta between what Bob Mueller knows and what we know getting smaller.


I think that we have spent a very long time ...




Speculating. We’ve seen a lot of charges, this is a serious investigation that’s produced genuine criminal wrongdoing continuously for the past two years, and yet it always feels like we are trying to fill in the center of the painting.


Based on what we’re seeing around the edges.

A real picture. All right, so your prediction is it will be interesting to see the Mueller thing. And what’s your resolution for the year? And then I’ll let you go, thank you so much for talking with me.

I would say my main resolution is, in terms of politics, is about using social media better. But as part of that, I would like to ...

You’re not going to do one of those essays about getting off of it, because those are tiresome.

No. If you want to get off of Twitter, delete the app. If you’re writing an essay about it it’s because you want people on Twitter to see it, which means you’re still part of the problem. If you write an essay about how you’re getting off of Twitter, it is because you want “Likes” and retweets on Twitter, which means you have still not cured your disease.

Yes, yes.

But I would say as part of that, and using the social media better ...

Okay, being nicer.

I would like to be ... I would like my offline conversations and my on-microphone conversations to sound more similar. They are not that different.

So you’re reconciling.

I would like to be more honest about how I feel.

No Jekyll and Hyde kind of ...

No. I think it’s very easy to be in front of a microphone and criticize Republicans and praise Democrats and then save my ire that I hold for Democrats till the mics are off. And just get that out there and I would like to make sure that I’m being more honest about both my friends and my opponents.

What’s your last message to Democrats? What’s your message, what should be their resolution?

I would say, as we think about 2020, one test that I would have is, would you think about this person ... When you’re choosing your candidate, I would like people to think, this is not someone who I view as electable or unelectable, when you don’t know anything about them and I would not like you to think, this is the right person to take on Trump. To me, the right candidate is a candidate you would think would make a great president, even if Donald Trump never came along. Imagine choosing a Democratic candidate to be president of the United States if you didn’t think that they had to stand across from Donald Trump and debate Donald Trump.

Don’t let Donald Trump in so much into your mind ... There’ll be time for that. I’m not saying we’re not gonna think about that, I’m not gonna say it’s not important. But don’t worry about electability and don’t worry about Donald Trump. Just think about what you believe.

Who is that for you right now? It sounds like Warren.

I think there’s a lot of good options. I sincerely, I’m not being coy, I honestly don’t know. I think that we’re gonna have a very strong field. I think we’re gonna have some ... I have concerns around kind of Washington-speak. That’s not about Warren, that’s just generally, I want to make sure we’re not in a kind of whatever, closed off, inside-DC conversation around policy and politics. I want to know that we’re talking in a way that reaches outside of that bubble.

And I also think one thing about this too, on the opposite side of that, it’s not just about ignoring Trump as we try to figure out what’s best but also being honest. Yes Russian hacking. Yes there are unique circumstances.

They didn’t hack, Jon. They didn’t hack.

There are unique circumstances around why we lost in 2016 related to our candidate, related to the failures of the media, the Russians, failures of the media in covering Donald Trump effectively. All of that is true. However, it took genuine cultural and political rot to open the door for someone like Donald Trump. And if we do not have a candidate who recognizes and appreciates that rot, and is willing to say that things were not right, that our discourse wasn’t up to par, that Democratic policies weren’t up to par, that there was a huge opening that we made for someone like Donald Trump. Even if it had to be a black swan, even if a bunch of other things had to go wrong, you need to be willing to have that part of the conversation.

You’re talking about reflection, self-reflection.

Yeah, it’s January, that’s what January’s all about.

Man, Jon. Wow, wow, I like this new Jon.

This was always me. You know what, maybe you look inward and say why didn’t you see me before. Why is it you learning something new about me is a reflection on me and not you?

Because I’m deeply in love with you, let’s just be honest with the situation here.

It’s happening. it’s fine. “Dear diary, it’s finally happening.”

Oh my god, we should start a rumor, it would be so funny.

Crazier things have happened, in the podcast world.

Okay, it’s not happening. Don’t even get into that. No, we’re not talking about that. I know just what you’re referring to.

I don’t know what I’m referring to!

I think you know what you’re referring to. Anyway, Jon ...

Is this show over?

I’m stopping you right now. Jon, thanks for ... Put your headphones back on. Thanks for taking Pivot with me today. Scott will be back next week. Jon, I appreciate it.

I appreciate you.

All right, I’ll talk to you soon.

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