Brad Byrd In-Depth: The Tone in Washington


A recent CBS News poll showed about three out of four Americans believe the current tone of politics is encouraging some people into acts of violence. This comes with the shooting last week during the Republicans’ practice for the Congressional baseball game in Alexandria, Virginia.

Brad Byrd sits down with Justin Groenert and Matthew Neville, who host the Evansville podcast program “Politics Aside”, to get their take on the recent tone in Washington, D.C.

Transcript of interview:

Brad Byrd: “Welcome to In-Depth. A recent CBS News poll showed about three out of four Americans believe the current tone of politics is encouraging some people into acts of violence. Witness the shooting last week on a baseball field in Alexandria, Virginia. Two men who love to talk about politics and how our government works Justin Groenert and Matthew Neville. Justin and Matthew host the Evansville podcast program “Politics Aside” and they join me tonight. Thank you so much for being here tonight for this conversation. You believe that poll? What do you think about it?”

Justin Groenert: “I generally do. I think it’s fairly unprecedented to have an event like last week happen especially in our nation’s capital. I think we talked beforehand the last time was in the 1950’s where something like that on that scale in Washington happened. And it goes back I think both administrations can say both Obama and W. that there were some unflattering things that have been said about both administrations. I think that is the biggest gripe you sort of hear is sort of the tone and the tenor of politics has sort of gone south.”

Brad Byrd: “And Matt this is sort of being fueled social media can do some wonderful things but it really gives a mechanism, a tool for people who really want to spew venom.”

Matthew Neville: “I think social media has kind of been a big change. It came in during the Obama administration. It really gives people the ability to make comments with the feeling of being anonymous that no one knows it’s them making the comments. I think you have seen the vitreal that has occurred have gotten worse and worse since as Justin said from W. to Obama and now to Trump. You know I don’t know if the things that are being discussed are encouraging it but it’s certainly not helping the situation at all.”

Brad Byrd: “A rare event last week, both sides of the aisle came together, and it took a horrific situation that happened in Alexandria, Virginia to bring Republicans and Democrats and conservatives and liberals and moderates together. What do you think about that?”

Justin Groenert: “Well, I think one of the the things you think about Washington is it really is kind of a small town, Capitol Hill specifically having worked out there. And the congressional baseball game is one of the few times where everybody puts their arms down and they get together and play a baseball game. It was a shame that was sort of the backdrop for what happened last week with several people that were out practicing getting shot obviously, but I think it was also a platform that they could immediately roll into and say ‘Alright, maybe we need to play nicer together and actually get things done.'”

Matthew Neville: “And you saw Paul Ryan and Nancy Pelosi had moment together as well as the Senate leaders as well. And I’m hopeful this will be the beginning of a little more of togetherness and coming together to have better discussions on the issues and being able to focus more on the issues, not so much the slinging mud side to side.”

Justin Groenert: “And it was a nice gesture to that the Democrats won the game and gave the trophy to the Republicans to put into Represenative Scalise’s office. Hopefully, you hate to see something like that happen obviously, and as a staffer it was something that hit really close to home for me. But hopefully, something good can come out of it, and that is sort of a tone down tenor in Washington and we can actually deal with the issues that need to be dealt with.”

Brad Byrd: “The tenor of what’s been going on in Washington, you’re right it has been patriarchal in many ways, and this dates back decades in something instances. Some today with blame the tone on President Trump on the way he has galvonized millions of Americans to basically revolt at the polls. Some will say of course this has been happening since President Obama took office dating back to post 9/11. What are thing about the overall tone just by the way things are going right now?”

Matthew Neville: “I think it’s certainly getting worse. I think Justin will agree that both sides have done their fair share of things they’re probably not proud of. I would much rather see elections that are more focused on the actual issues. I think one of the things President Trump and his campaign actually did was it legitimize the idea of running a campaign of attacking your opponent more than focusing on the actual issues, calling people ‘Crooked Hillary’, ‘Lying Ted’, ‘Little Marco’, things like that. He may have inspired other candidates to say I’m going to focus more on attacking my opponent rather than the good things I would do.”

Brad Byrd: “Members of his own party, the Republicans, it seems that both Republicans and Democrats are troubled by the President’s Twitter account.”

Justin Groenert: “I think we’ve said that pretty much from the word go on our podcast.”

Brad Byrd: “Is a lot of this self-inflicted?”

Justin Groenert: “I think it is. I think if you look at the issues he has come up with specifically on Russia, they really have not been able to find anything directly attributed to Donald Trump, yet he goes on Twitter, he makes a statement, and it sort of spirals from there. I’ve said from the beginning the best thing for the country is for Donald Trump’s Twitter account being shut down quite frankly. But he wants to play to his voters, and he’s gone out of his way to make the media the bad guy, so this is his direct channel to his supporters. And right, wrong or indifferent, I think it’s going to be that way until somebody can get in his ear that he listens to and trusts and says enough.”

Matthew Neville: “The tweets don’t really seem to help. I think the great example of that is the James Comey tweet about there might be tapes of the conversations that they had. I mean not even the administration will confirm if there are tapes that exist. Sean Spicer has been asked. He says he doesn’t really know if the tapes do exist. A lot of the tweets don’t actually seem to be helpful in him giving his administration the things they need to get things done.”

Justin Groenert: “And it goes back to message discipline as well. I mean Donald Trump is the ultimate irrational in the most rational job in the world. When your administration says one thing and you undercut them tweeting something the opposite of that and then have your press secretary go out and say Donald Trump’s Twitter account is the actual position of the White House, it undercuts your credibility, the administration’s credibility a bit.”

Brad Byrd: “And I gues I’m just perhaps old school from the fact I give voters everyday citizens a little more credit than I think they’re getting right now because it seems like we’re in an age where we’re looking at those headlines, a lot on social media, headlines I’m talking about here, Twitter posts, tweets that have 140 characters to them, but I guess this is the journalist in me digging into the actual issues. Has that been lost in all of this process especially looking at the Russian investigation, looking at the healthcare bill for crying out loud right now? Republicans are saying just as the Democrats said eight years ago, there’s a very familiar tone, some are saying we have even seen what the bill or what the talking points they’re discussing here.”

Matthew Neville: “I think social media has given us the ability to kind of have a much shorter attention span. You can look quickly through your newsfeed, you can look at the tweets that are popping up in your timeline, and you can see a headline and go with it rather than actually clicking the article seeing if it’s a legitimate news site, if it’s actually siting things. I think the attention span has really gone down, and we’re just kind of seeing these things all at once and the confirmation bias of if I don’t like Hillary Clinton or if I don’t like Donald Trump and I see something negative I’m going to have this little bit of bias of just assuming that’s right.”

Brad Byrd: “Very briefly now, this Ossof-Handel election in Georgia is an expensive special election. $50 million has been spent on this. Is this the precurser? How important really is this?”

Jason Groenert: “Well, I think at the end of the day, we’re still a long way from 2018. And there are political operatives who are going to spend every way that they can. I think a Republican won a Republican’s seat. Yes, a Democrat made it a lot closer than it would be. But when you put $50 million and you put a high profile on a race like this in sort of the political environment that you have, there is going to be additonal enthusiasm by both sides.”

Matthew Neville: “I don’t think this is a precurser 2018. There is still a tremendous amount of time and things that are going to occur. As Justin said, this is Newt Gingrich’s former seat. This is not really a Democratic lean in a really toss up district. It’s a heavily Republican district that a Republican won.”

Brad Byrd: “Well, ‘Inside Politics’ on Evansville podcast, the advantage you have on that you don’t have a clock you have to pay attention to. You just go on and on, and I appreciate the invitation you gave me months ago. And thank you so much for coming tonight. We’ll be talking to you more frequently especially in the coming year, and we appreciate you joining us.”

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