Preet Bharara: From CAFE, welcome to CAFE Insider. I’m Preet Bharara.
Preet Bharara: And I’m Preet Bharara.
Preet Bharara: Hey, Anne. How are you?
Preet Bharara: Hey, Preet. How are you doing?
Preet Bharara: So just to let people know what’s going on, we are all in our individual homes social distancing. Is that correct?
Preet Bharara: Yes. I tweeted out a picture this morning, I’m sitting in a beach chair looking at a laptop with a microphone in front of me.
Preet Bharara: I’m doing the same.
Preet Bharara: Not looking at you.
Preet Bharara: It’s a little odd. Another thing that’s different today is, given how serious the nature of the coronavirus threat is and all the questions that people have, we have a guest. A special guest who will be joining us for the special program.
Preet Bharara: Our first one.
Preet Bharara: Our first full guest. We had your judge who was on the show.
Preet Bharara: That’s right.
Preet Bharara: But we have a guest who I think is one of the best people we could have to talk though all these issues with, and it’s our long time friend, Lisa Monaco. Hi, Lisa.
Lisa Monaco: Hi, guys.
Preet Bharara: So just by way of introduction, people who listen to the show regularly and stay tuned know who Lisa. And if you follow the news and watch TV, you also must know who Lisa is, but for those of you who don’t, Lisa Monaco has had many, many jobs. She was the Homeland Security and Counterterrorism advisor to Barack Obama. She was also once upon a time the chief of staff to Bert Mueller. She was also assistant general for the National Security Division of the Department of Justice. She was once council to Attorney General Janet Reno.
Preet Bharara: She has bunch of different things she does now, including teaching NYU Law School with me and Anne, and apropos of the current situation. When she was at the White House for Barack Obama, one of the things that she was responsible for was pandemic disease and just a few days ago, Vice President Biden established something called Public Health Advisory Committee to help him formulate policy and recommendations with respect to coronavirus and other things, and one of the member of that committee is Lisa Monaco. Now, with that introduction, we have no further time to talk.
Lisa Monaco: Thanks, Preet, for letting people know that I couldn’t keep a job.
Preet Bharara: Also, I would say this, one of the things that both Preet and I have been doing is calling you, Lisa, and texting with you and asking you questions about what’s happening. We thought it would be great to have you join us today so that all the listeners could have the benefit that Preet and I have had of your insight and thoughtfulness on this. So thanks for joining us.
Lisa Monaco: It’s great to be with you guys and always good to have an excuse to talk to you.
Preet Bharara: Also, before we get into the president’s response, the congressional response, all the state and how they’re responding, can I ask a basic question that I’ve been asking pretty much everyone I text with or call on the phone lately. How are doing?
Lisa Monaco: I’m doing okay, I think like everybody. Getting used to a very, very different way of life. As you guys are today, I’m sitting at home in my apartment in Washington D.C. and adjusting to, everyone’s calling it a new normal, but it’s pretty abnormal and we’re all experiencing it differently, but I’m lucky. I’m doing well. I’m doing a lot of face-timing with my father who’s outside of Boston in his house and doing the same with my siblings. So very, very strange times.
Preet Bharara: Anne, how are you doing?
Preet Bharara: I’m good. I mean, I think we’re all trying to adjust to what is really a strange situation and to Lisa’s point about her dad, I’ve dropped some stuff off at parents’ and stayed 10 feet away, haven’t brought our son with me. Just trying to take every single precaution we possibly can. I will tell you on a slightly later note that obviously schools are closed in New York City and so our five-year-old is home and there are over almost 50 kids in his class at school and two kindergarten classes. We’ve been doing Zoom snack time, these online conferences with like 40 kids and for snack and for lunch.
Preet Bharara: They’re not running the late-night talk shows, they should literally run these because it is comedy. The first minutes are like, “Hi. Hey. Hi,” and they’re all screaming at each other. Then the last 10 minutes are, “Bye. See you later. When am I going to see you?” It’s an imperfect solution that actually seem to work and so we’re getting by. But I’m thinking about everyone and sending everyone well wishes because it’s tough and we’re trying to figure out also how we can help other people who are more vulnerable, and it’s not easy. I’m glad to be with you guys and talk about what’s happening.
Preet Bharara: It’s a tough time and just lost of things feel strange. I wrote about this in the note, the CAFE Insider Note last week. Some of the things are not so dramatic, just not going out as much. But when you hear the entire sports season in multiple sports gets canceled, you think, “What the hell is going on?” For us, personally, we picked our daughter from college, so she’s basically midway through her freshmen year and getting in the groove of things.
Preet Bharara: We drove up in the school, and it’s a surreal scene. Middle early March, and you’re seeing all these kids packing up their boxes and getting ready to say goodbye prematurely. I think it’s particularly bad for freshmen and also seniors because I don’t think there’s going to be a commencement in a lot of these schools. And at some places like WashU where we have a couple of friends’ kids go there, I think they announced they were ending the semester midway through their spring break and so they never got to say goodby or come back.
Preet Bharara: So our daughter I think is a little feeling that she’d rather be with her college friends, with her two younger brothers, and her mom and dad. She’s a little cooped up, but I’m glad that we’re all together and taking care of each other.
Preet Bharara: Yeah, it’s really tough as we all teach at NYU and we’ve gone virtual for the rest of the semester. For the students, it’s really … They’ve just closed the residence halls at NYU. The law school residence halls are open, but the world has changed really rapidly. And I think it’s going to take everyone, particularly the younger folks, a long time to just sort of make peace with how much it’s changed. Of course though, and this can launch us into where we are now, it’s the right thing and I don’t know when you’re a teenager or a young adult if you can understand that as much as I think all of us do as grown-ups, but it’s definitely tough.
Preet Bharara: Because we’ve never see anything like this. We’ve been through 9/11 all of us on the phone and if you know older folks, they went through a lot of other things including World War II and the Vietnam War, and yet the reaction is not like this. We’ll get to it later. We’ll talk about the postponement of elections, but people keep reminding everybody that we had an election in the middle of the civil war, but the nature of this thing is such that the required response is for people to not venture out of their homes.
Preet Bharara: Before we get to all these responses, I thought, Lisa, one of the great things about having you on, given your prior role and your current role, could you describe a little bit this experience you had back in January of 2017 where you literally engaged in a desktop or tabletop exercise about a global pandemic with the incoming people from the Trump administration, basically foreseeing exactly this kind of thing.
Lisa Monaco: I can’t claim credit for undertaking the exercise itself. What we were doing, this was, as you point out, Preet, actually it was January 13th of 2017. So it was literally the last week of the administration and we were engaged in the transition between the Obama administration and the Trump administration. And President Obama and Vice President Biden had said to their team, and to me and the National Security team, “We want to have a very professional, very thorough, comprehensive transition. We want to make sure that there is even a handoff.”
Lisa Monaco: And some of those responsibilities fell to me, in particular this planning for an exercise scenario. We call it tabletop exercise, which means that you literally get into a room and talk through a scenario and talk about issues and lessons learned from crises that we’ve faced. And we did this basically taking a page out of the Bush administration’s to book. So back in 2009 and the transition between the Bush administration and the Obama administration, the Bush administration did this exercise for the first time.
Lisa Monaco: They had the outgoing national security team and the incoming national security team sit down literally side by side, shoulder to shoulder, walking through various scenarios, modeled on crises that the Bush administration had faced and having them impart to the incoming Obama team some of the lessons learned. And I was actually in that room in 2009 because I was sitting behind and staffing Bob Mueller, you pointed out Preeth that I was chief of staff to Bob Muller during that transition. And it was a really, really valuable discussion to have to be able to learn what the outgoing team had experienced and to try and understand some of the issues that the new team would be facing.
Preet Bharara: Can you talk through a little bit what a tabletop exercise is?
Lisa Monaco: Sure.
Preet Bharara: We did them a lot when I was AG and Preet probably has experience with them, but I think people have been talking a lot about it without really helping folks to understand exactly what it is.
Lisa Monaco: Sure. It literally is sitting around a table and you’re walking through a scenario, a hypothetical scenario, but it’s only hypothetical in the sense that it’s not really happening as you’re talking about it, but it’s modeled on something that could occur and maybe something that has occurred and you’re trying to understand what would you do if the same situation arose again. And so you literally are sitting around a table walking through a scenario. It usually has a facilitator. They are saying, “The situation is as follows.”
Lisa Monaco: In a terrorist scenario, say, “The bomb has gone off and the mayor in the city is going to be forced to make the following decisions. How do you react?” People will talk through the various scenarios, discuss what authorities they might have to act, what are going to be the choices or the options in front of them and how should they consider and when should they take on various decisions. So you’re literally talking through a scenario and trying to understand and anticipate what you might be faced with and then have that inform your planning going forward.
Preet Bharara: Lisa, are you in a position to tell us any of the details of the scenario you were focused on in January ’17?
Lisa Monaco: Yeah. I can say a little bit about, Preet. So when it came time for us to plan the transition between the Obama administration and the Trump administration, we knew for sure that we were going to do a tabletop exercise because it had been so beneficial to the outgoing team, to the incoming Obama team rather in 2009. But we had to decide, “What are going to be the scenarios?” And it fell to me and my team to plan out what the various scenarios would be. So we said, “For sure we want to walk through what we think is going to face the incoming team when it comes to terrorism issues.”
Lisa Monaco: We talked about a homegrown terrorist attack that would take place here on what’s called a soft target, like a sports’ event. We knew we wanted to have a cyber scenario be part of it because we knew that is such a big challenge and would likely be a challenge for the incoming team. We knew for sure that they would have to deal with a serious weather event like a hurricane. So we included that as a scenario. And then I said to the team, “We’ve got to have a pandemic scenario” because that is something that they’re very likely to face.
Lisa Monaco: We knew that because we had dealt with Ebola quite obviously. We had dealt with, during the Obama administration, the H1N1, Zika. So we basically put together these sets of scenarios and we included pandemic. So I just want to be clear on one thing about this exercise that we did, this wasn’t a situation where we were providing the incoming team some secret answer key as to how to deal with a pandemic of a new coronavirus or a novel flu. This wasn’t a situation where they didn’t take sufficient notes or we were providing a special answer key.
Lisa Monaco: This was really about trying to make sure that we were conveying as much information about the lessons that we had learned about dealing with a public health crisis and making sure that we were flagging for the new team the things that we thought should be at the top of their worry list and the things that they should be most focused on when it comes to Homeland Security. That was the point. And in particular, we created that scenario, we said, “What’s going to be the thing we’re most concerned about when it comes to a pandemic?”
Lisa Monaco: It wasn’t Ebola,. It was, in fact, a new strain of flu. And if you talk to any public health expert out there, they would tell you that when it comes to epidemic or pandemic disease, the thing they’re most concerned about is a new strain of flu. Why?
Preet Bharara: Why is that?
Preet Bharara: Why?
Lisa Monaco: Because first, we don’t have a vaccine. Second, it is so highly communicable and transmissible because it is communicable through respiratory droplets. As we’re now confronting and everyone has now gotten to understand that the coronavirus, the novel coronavirus is spread through respiratory droplets unlike-
Preet Bharara: And by that, you mean coughing and sneezing.
Lisa Monaco: Meaning coughing or sneezing, and where those droplets land on surfaces and you touch a surface and then touch your face or your mouth or your eyes, that is how this is spreading and that’s how a new strain of flu would spread. And so that has always been the kind of nightmare scenario for public health experts and that’s why people are talking so fervently about the need to wash your hands, to not touch your face.
Preet Bharara: One of the reasons I’m asking you to describe all this, to put the current crisis in context, is that when anybody says this was not something foreseeable or nobody thought this could happen, that is a full absolute brazen lie.
Lisa Monaco: That’s right.
Preet Bharara: And not only was the Obama administration thinking about it, but the Obama administration through this transition period communicated that to the incoming Trump administration. There was also, for a period of time for historic reasons, a lot of focus on this kind of pandemic crisis in 2018 because as we were discussing before we came online, it’s the 100th anniversary of the devastating Spanish flu. You, in fact, wrote an article in Foreign Policy magazine along with a colleague, Vin Gupta, that is entitled, in 2018, two years before where we are now entitled The Next Pandemic Will Be Arriving Shortly. So I just think it’s important for people to understand when we try to figure out what went wrong here.
Preet Bharara: Can I ask a question too? I mean, because I think that this is also helpful. The thing I don’t understand is, and I don’t want to point fingers or cast blame in many ways because I feel like it’s always better to look forward than backwards, but I have really truly been struggling to understand why the Trump administration would close down, essentially cut the National Security Council staff in half and really eliminate the global pandemic, the global health teams.
Preet Bharara: So it’s not as though folks weren’t saying, “This is one of our greatest fears.” It’s that, “Was there a conscious disregard for science? Was there a feeling that it was unlikely to happen?” And I don’t know that any of us can answer it, I just have been struggling a little bit with this question of, to both of your points, there was nothing about this that was unknown to the people who spend their days doing this work. The question then really becomes why we weren’t better prepared to handle what’s been happening.
Lisa Monaco: I think a few points on this. First, and Preet, you bring up the article I wrote in 2018. I have to say I can’t claim credit for that title and you and I, and we’ve all written lots of op-eds and I think we generally decry or shake our heads when we see what the headline writers-
Preet Bharara: They are always a bit sensational.
Lisa Monaco: They’re always sensational and you always say, “Oh God, that’s overblown.” In this case, I can’t point fingers because the headline writers on this one were right. But I certainly was not alone far, far from it. As you point out, Preet, public health experts, national security experts, Homeland Security experts have long been pointing towards their fear of emerging infectious disease. And I use that and I’ve long used that term very specifically.
Lisa Monaco: In other words, naturally-occurring infectious disease and contagious disease is one of the greatest threats we face and that’s being born out. Meaning it doesn’t require any malicious actor for us to be experiencing the profound disruption that we’re experiencing. Now, this question of why did the National Security Council get reduced? Just to kind of step back for folks to understand what is this debate all about and is this just kind of bureaucratic infighting and why do we care what boxes are on a particular org chart.
Lisa Monaco: So after the Ebola crisis, folks will remember that President Obama appointed the Ebola Czar. In any crisis, usually the question arises, who’s in charge? Who’s going to be the czar? So the president appointed Ron Klain, who’s been a guest on your podcast, Preet. Very, very capable guy. And he came in and really spearheaded and coordinated the response. And the last thing he did before he left that role is he recommended to the president, “You should never ever have to have a single disease-specific czar again. You should never get into that position.
Lisa Monaco: You ought to have this capability constantly and have it resident in the National Security Council staff.” So that’s exactly what we did. We stood up, we created what’s called the global health security and biodefense directorate, meaning a team of people within the National Security Council, meaning within the White House staff who are focused 100% of their time on preparing for a pandemic and being able to respond rapidly when we start seeing signs that a pandemic is in the [inaudible 00:19:16].
Lisa Monaco: So we stood up that capability under leadership that is career subject matter experts and we said, “We need to have this as a standalone capability within the White House. Just like, by the way, we have the same type of dedicated teams in the National Security Council staff for terrorism, for cyber, for nuclear proliferation, all of which we’ve identified as top threats. And that was the situation when we left office in 2017 and that team, that global health security team stayed in place until the spring of 2018 when John Bolton came in.
Lisa Monaco: And then as part of, and we don’t quite know why this changed, but either because of a downsizing effort or a real tactical decision to say, “We just don’t think this is a priority.” He dismantled that directorate, dismantled that team and the senior expert leader, a very well regarded coastguard [inaudible] named Tom Ziemer was reassigned. Now, to be fair, the response has been, from the Trump administration, “That team was dismantled but its functions were put in other places in the National Security Council staff. So no big deal.”
Lisa Monaco: And my response to that is you reflect your priorities in how you organize your team. Anybody who’s ever run an organization knows that. And the fact that they dismantled this team, I think reflects a view that the pandemic disease is not a national security threat and I think, in fact, that’s the wrong way to approach it. That, in fact, this is a national security threat and we ought to treat it that way.
Preet Bharara: When Donald Trump was asked about it at a press conference in the last couple of days, he basically said, “I don’t take any responsibility for it,” and that he knew nothing about it. And again, I agree with Anne that we should mostly be looking forward, but accountability also matters. And just this morning before we came online, I saw a report that a video has surfaced from, I think, 2018 where Donald Trump actually responded to criticism of the dismantling of the pandemic team. And he said …
Donald Trump: Some of the people we cut, they haven’t been used for many, many years. If we have a need them, we can get them very quickly and rather than spending the money, and I’m a business person, I don’t like having thousands of people around when you don’t need them. When we need them, we can get them back very quickly.
Preet Bharara: I guess we should jump into how prepared this White House was, whether it had that office or absorbed those functions into a different part of the National Security Council. Before we came online, the three of us were talking and Lisa, you were marveling at the tone of the president yesterday as compared to how he was talking before. What do you make of that?
Lisa Monaco: Look, I think it was a real sea change and I sat there and I watched that press conference, and when you compare it to the press conference he gave at the Centers for Disease Control a few weeks ago to his weekend press conference on Sunday when he said, “This is totally under control,” yesterday it was a complete reversal and I found myself thinking, “Who is this guy and what has he done with Donald Trump?” Because it was a completely different approach. The tone, I thought was appropriately somber and grave. And what you were actually seeing finally was an alignment in the message coming out of the White House with the science and the public health experts who have been urging to be much, much more aggressive on this.
Donald Trump: Actually with my son, he says, “How bad is this?” It’s bad. It’s bad, but we’re going to be hopefully a best case, not a worst case, and that’s what we’re working for.
Preet Bharara: Yesterday for me was the first time that I felt the president reflected the gravity of the situation. Before this, it’s felt like, and again, the economy is incredibly important, but it’s felt a lot of bragging about how we’ve responded. A lot of things that show a lack of accountability, taking responsibility or just projecting confidence to the American public that there’s a way forward. I do want to say one thing though that I was really concerned and we may get into this in more detail later.
Preet Bharara: But the call that the president did with the governors, and of course, the governors around the US are split between Democrats and Republicans. The call the president did where he basically said like, “Go find emergency supplies and capacity for healthcare systems on your own.” There was the implication that it was going to be left to the individual states to fend for themselves. That is inconsistent with what I think needs to happen and this sweeping executive response where the states are being supported, but understanding that the federal government will have access and abilities to do things that the states just don’t have.
Preet Bharara: So I agree very much, I thought Trump was a different person yesterday, but I also, just looking at some of the other things, I really left some of the reading about the response to the governor’s thinking, “Even if he gets it, he still doesn’t understand that ultimately the United States government is going to have a huge impact on how we come out of this and has to take responsibility.”
Preet Bharara: Probably that seems to me is that there’s been a vacuum of leadership and until yesterday’s, Lisa points out where the tone is changed, the president called the Democrat a hoax. He said, “We’re going to be out of it. It’s all under control. It’s not a big deal.”
Donald Trump: They’re politicizing it. We did one of the great jobs. You say, “How’s President Trump doing?” They go, “Not good, no good.” They have no clue. They don’t have any clue. They can’t even count their votes in Iowa. They can’t even count. No, they can’t. They can’t count their votes and this is their new hoax.
Preet Bharara: And as different states have come into the crisis with open eyes, they’ve all had to set standards. We have totally different responses and different directions ranging from suggestions to self-quarantine to no gatherings over 250, in some places no gatherings are over 50. The White House has now said avoid gatherings over 10. Shouldn’t it be the case that the best practices and best advice, obviously with accommodations for local circumstances, but all of that should be coming from the top? Isn’t it very confusing for people to understand what the best practice is when it’s one thing in Pennsylvania and a different thing in Texas and a completely different thing in San Francisco?
Lisa Monaco: Absolutely, which is why, particularly in a public health crisis, you want public health voices and experts to be the single source of guidance and messaging on this. We’ve just gone through a series of weeks where the experts were saying one thing and as you pointed out, Preet, the president, and others were saying sometimes the complete opposite, with Tony Fauci saying, “This is going to get a whole lot worse before it gets better unless we really are aggressive in our interventions.” And the president saying, “This is completely under control and this thing is going to just wash through.”
Lisa Monaco: That kind of whiplash is both hard for the public to digest and really, really difficult for those who are in charge at the state and local level of a public health response. Remember, the authorities here and the people who are on the front lines of dealing with this crisis are at the state and local level and they need to be able to rely on what’s coming out of the federal leadership. And until yesterday, we really didn’t see that aligned.
Preet Bharara: You know what’s interesting to me? And Preet and I’ve talked about this a lot in terms of the Trump playbook, but even the first instinct to go political and to make this about political parties, and look, it generally has worked for the president. He says something’s political. It’s Democrat versus Republican and then it puts people immediately into camps and then he defines the facts as he sees them for his base. This is so different to me and that, first of all, this is completely not political. It should not be political at all.
Preet Bharara: I’ll be nonpartisan in my praise and criticism in a second, but it shouldn’t be political. And the second thing is that, unlike certain things where the American public doesn’t have direct knowledge, I think here the American public, and at least in a number of states and cities, has a pretty real feeling of how dramatic and how serious this really is. And so it’s really hard to square some of what the president was initially saying with the truth that people were seeing around them.
Preet Bharara: Just to be nonpartisan and for a minute because I think it’s really important here to talk about this because to me, the democratic and Republican governors need to work together and particularly they need to push the president on leadership on this issue. I think Mike DeWine has been excellent in Ohio and he jumped in very quickly. He took actions sort of closing things down, limiting access in a way that people thought was maybe overkill at the beginning but has turned out to be really, really wise.
Preet Bharara: And I also have been really critical of the New York City mayor who just didn’t get … He didn’t get it. I mean, I don’t know how else to say it.
Preet Bharara: He went to the YMCA to work out yesterday.
Preet Bharara: Yesterday, after he’s told the public-
Preet Bharara: The same day we’re going to shut down gyms.
Preet Bharara: Exactly. And the message that that sends, it’s like, I feel like leaders have to understand that everything they do and say in this time of a crisis, people understand that and they are watching. And when you watch the mayor basically say, “It’s okay for me to work out, but I’m telling the rest of you to stay home.” It just sends a … It’s tone-deaf. I think there are a lot of people who’ve risen as leaders and frankly a lot of people who have failed.
Lisa Monaco: And it’s really important because leaders have got to lead, is they’ve got to model the behavior that they’re asking and the sacrifices that they’re asking other people to make. I remember so vividly during the Ebola crisis, there was a lot of fear and uncertainty and sometimes hysteria about Ebola, and a lot of misunderstanding quite frankly about how you could and couldn’t catch it, etc.
Lisa Monaco: And one of the most impactful things that happened during that was when President Obama hugged Nina Pham, who was a nurse who had contracted Ebola but was recovering, when he invited her to the oval office and hugged her. And that picture, no pun intended, went viral because people in it, it captured the fact that we had to lead with and be informed by science and facts, and not by fear.
Preet Bharara: Right. Here we’ve seen the opposite and that is where all the single most important piece of advice is a combination of washing your hands and not getting too close and not shaking hands. The president literally during his press conference shook the hands of almost every CEO and government official that he introduced. Do we all agree, speaking about what things were good and what things have not been good, that the president’s decision to stop travel from China many, many weeks ago in January was, in fact, a very good and helpful thing?
Lisa Monaco: Yeah, I think it was a fine decision. I don’t take issue with that decision. I think the concern here is treating it as the silver bullet and thinking, “Okay. We can stop this by stopping travel or limiting our flights.” And let’s be honest, we didn’t stop travel from China. We didn’t stop shipments from China. I think that travel restriction was certainly fine as far as it goes.
Preet Bharara: Didn’t it just by time? I mean, the stuff I’ve read is basically they said that it was the right decision at the time, that basically it’s slowed the disease coming at such a high rate to the United States. And so it bought the administration a month. I mean, the criticism seems to me to be, and it’d be great to hear you talk about this, Lisa, that that month wasn’t used well to increase capacity of hospitals, to get the testing set up. And so we sort of bought ourselves extra time, but then we failed to use it the way we should have used it.
Lisa Monaco: No, that’s exactly right. I mean, it did buy us some time, but we squandered that time by all indications. And by continuing to frame this as an issue of a foreign invading virus as opposed to a public health emergency and crisis that we had to deal with domestically, we lost very valuable time. I think this was one of the things I think had there been that directorate, that team, if they still were inside the White House, based on my experience and how this operated during my time in the White House, what that team would have been doing, it would have been ringing the alarm bell.
Lisa Monaco: It would have been saying, back in December when we saw the cases starting to emerge out of China, it would have said, “What if this really comes here in earnest? What if we are dealing with a worst-case scenario? Here are the models. Here’s how it could spread and you know what, folks? Here are how many hospital beds we have. Here’s what our ICU capacity is. Here’s what our ventilator capacity is and we will very quickly get overwhelmed. Therefore, we’ve got to start ramping up now.” That would have and should have, I believe, started back in December.
Preet Bharara: So part of the problem is, that I think you’ve identified, Lisa, in your writings and here, is that we need to think about these kinds of pandemic crises as national security issues. And I’ve heard bill Gates talk about this too. Everyone understands that when it comes to traditional national security, having armed defenses, that we’re going to have hundreds of thousands of people who are not necessarily at any given time engaged in battle, but they’re there in case battle comes.
Preet Bharara: And we have lots and lots of people in the reserves so that if there’s a crisis somewhere, they can be deployed immediately. But we don’t have that same attitude about this kind of thing. As evidenced by the quote from Donald Trump that I preceded earlier, people think it’s a waste of time and money and energy to have a lot of people on staff who are planning and developing strategies, but waiting in anticipation of something that’s the equivalent of a wartime crisis.
Lisa Monaco: I think that’s exactly right. In the fallacy of that type of thinking is that they would be waiting for something to happen. To the contrary, the purpose of that team and the way I think we do need to think about this is not as solely a domestic issue, but rather as a global health issue because if we can raise the capabilities and the capacity of other countries to detect these viruses as they are emerging and to improve their ability to stop them overseas before they get here, it is much more efficient.
Lisa Monaco: It’s much smarter. It’s much more cost-effective and it is, of course, going to be much better from a public health perspective. So this isn’t a question of waiting for the bomb to go off and then responding. We have to have the capability to be addressing these issues on a daily basis.
Preet Bharara: Can you explain it for everyone how it can be that the vice president of United States and the president keeps saying there are 1 million or 1.5 million or 0.9 million tests available, but that in fact, only a few thousand people had been tested in the United States. Nobody can seem to understand that disconnect.
Preet Bharara: I think 20,000 people have been tested now, is that …
Lisa Monaco: Yeah. Those are the best numbers I’ve seen, but it is orders of magnitude off of what other much smaller countries have done.
Preet Bharara: Like South Korea is doing-
Preet Bharara: Like South Korea.
Lisa Monaco: Like South Korea tens of thousands a day.
Preet Bharara: … 10,000 a day.
Lisa Monaco: Right, exactly. And so this is the most confounding and distressing problem of this whole event. It’s what others have described as the testing debacle as the original sin of all this. I think that’s right because if we can’t measure it, we can’t address it and manage the issue. So why are we in this position? I think it’s a confluence of factors. One is, as I was just talking about, failure to get a jump on this when we first saw it emerging out of China and treating it solely as an immigration or travel restriction issue. So that’s point one. Point two is there frankly were just some mistakes and faulty initial tests.
Preet Bharara: And Lisa, the World Health Organization created a test and I think that was actually Germany’s test. As individual countries were creating tests, the World Health Organization took one, tested it themselves, adopted it. Why didn’t the US take that test? Because it does feel like there’s a real error there in our decision to make our own, which may be something that we’ve done in the past, but then our test, one of the three parts didn’t work. And so you ended up sending out faulty kits and that to me feels like this failure to take the existing validated World Health Organization tests. And I know it’s a confluence of factors, but why would the US not take that test?
Lisa Monaco: It’s a really good question. So I think one of the problems is we approached this crisis as … We didn’t see it as the explosive crisis that it has become and that is a real failure of imagination. So kind of the regular order of business for how these things go is, the CDC would develop its own test, validate its own test, and then use that exclusively. But in an emergency, you have to be willing to say, “Wait a minute, we’ve got to have an all-hands-on-deck approach to this. We have to be willing to deviate from the regular process understanding that this is a freight train coming at our head. So we need to ramp up our capacity.”
Lisa Monaco: So I absolutely think we should have availed ourselves of the WHO tests and other countries were doing so. We were just, so it seems to me, stuck in a mode of doing it the way we’ve always done it and not hitting the fore alarm fire bell early enough. You talk to people like Tony Fauci who say, “You want to be in a situation where people look back and say, “Oh, you overreacted.” That would be what they call a high-class problem in this situation and we are not there.
Preet Bharara: Do you think we’re at the right point on testing today or will we have enough in a short period of time?
Lisa Monaco: I think a lot remains to be seen on that. We’ve seen a lot of promises being made on the testing front and there’s been under-delivery on that. Based on what I’ve been hearing over the last couple of days in terms of now trying to fire on all cylinders with the partnership with the commercial labs really enlisting this high throughput capability from Roche, I think they’re now getting all the pieces into place. But remember, this is not just an issue of getting the actual tests manufactured.
Lisa Monaco: Now you’ve got a problem of logistics and administration of these tests and you have to do it in a way where our emergency rooms and our hospitals aren’t being overrun with people coming in to get the tests. So you’ve got a whole nother logistical challenge of setting up testing sites in places where you’re going to be able to keep both the healthcare workers and the people getting tests safe and outside of an already under stress healthcare system. This is another reason why you need to have that coordination function in the White House.
Lisa Monaco: During Ebola, this was a massive logistics operation to try and make sure you were getting the right capacity, the right equipment to the places that needed it. And you got to have that coordination function coming out of a central point in the White House.
Preet Bharara: So what do you think are the two or three most important things going forward for medical professionals? Is it getting more beds? Is it trying to get more ventilators? I mean, I don’t even know what the capacity is to build more ventilators in a few week period of time.
Lisa Monaco: I think there’s a few things. One, testing, testing, testing. We’ve got to be able to roll that capacity out. The second is getting healthcare workers the personal protective equipment that they need and the capacity to deal with this tsunami that’s coming at them. Preet and Anne, there are a million hospital beds in this country, just a million. That is a stunning number when you think about-
Preet Bharara: In a population of 350 million approximately.
Lisa Monaco: Exactly. And when you look at the worst-case scenario models of this that are being informed about what we saw in China, what we’re seeing in Italy, the assessment is that about 50% of, and this is the models that people are working with, the public health experts are working with, that 50% of the American people will become infected with this virus. Now, that is an astonishing number. Now, the good news is-
Preet Bharara: And what percentage will require hospitalization potentially?
Lisa Monaco: Right. So the good news is that 80% of the people who get infected will have a mild impact. 15% will have to be hospitalized and 5% will require critical care. That’s ICU. That’s ventilator potentially. So when you think about doing this math, 5%, that is a massive strain on a country. And a system that has a million beds and 100,000 of those are ICU beds. So by any measure, our capacity is going to be overwhelmed.
Lisa Monaco: So what needs to be happening and has to be happening right now is surging capacity to the healthcare system into health care workers. That means things like enlisting the best logistic capabilities we have in this country, which frankly comes from our military and erecting temporary testing centers or hospital or treatment capabilities in existing space or commandeering other space, whether it’s dormitories or you name it. All of that planning has got to be, and capacity-building has got to be happening right now.
Lisa Monaco: That’s why that emergency declaration was so important, but frankly, amazingly slow incoming. That’s why you’re seeing-
Preet Bharara: Are those models though? I’m trying to strike a slightly hopeful note. Do those models take into consideration massive, massive mitigation strategies, which include, I don’t know if you call these mitigation or not, which include, self-quarantining and no gatherings of more than 10 or 50 people, and the closure of bars and restaurants and the cancellation of theaters and all of that? Does that bring down the most horrifying estimates in the models or not?
Lisa Monaco: Yes, that would. And that’s why you hear people like Tony Fauci saying how important it is that we take these aggressive steps now because the scenario and the math we just talked about is what’s coming at us if we don’t do … Frankly, the only weapon we have right now because we don’t have a vaccine, we don’t have therapeutics, if we don’t use the weapon we have, which is these social distancing and other non-pharmaceutical, as they’re calling them, interventions. So that’s why this incredible push now to really take these very aggressive measures to slow this spread and do what has been described as flattening the curve.
Preet Bharara: So, Lisa, when the president talked yesterday about, we should prepare for this till the sort of social distancing that we’re going to have a tough time and that it could go on until July or August, what is that timeline based on and is that timeline accurate?
Lisa Monaco: So I was actually really surprised to hear him say that, not because I have reason to doubt that we should be preparing ourselves for longer term disruption than maybe people have been baking into this. But I was frankly surprised to hear him acknowledge it for the reasons we’ve talked about before because he’s been previously very reluctant to sound notes of reality when it comes to this. So we’ve seen estimates and people have heard things like eight weeks. We need to be prepared to do these social distancing measures for eight weeks.
Lisa Monaco: Yesterday we heard with the new rollout of the new guidance from the White House and CDC about limiting or banning gatherings of more than 10 people, closing restaurants and bars, etc., that that is for 15 days. Tony Fauci very quickly at that press conference said, “Wait a minute, at 15 days, we will reassess where we are.” So I think the short answer to your question Anne is those timeframes that we’ve heard couple months, couple of weeks, those are all about being as aggressive as we can as soon as we can so that we can hope to have some effect on this spike in cases and the cascading effect then on the hospital system.
Lisa Monaco: And we won’t know how well we’re doing until we can get those tests out and understand if we’re having an impact and slowing the spread and the number of cases.
Preet Bharara: I had a call last night with some friends and they have teenage kids, all of whom still want to be out with their friends. I feel like this is one of those moments where, and I don’t know if either of you have wisdom on it, but somehow we have to convey the message that everybody’s got to be home with their families or on their own and it’s going to be really tough. But hearing Lisa talk about it feels so important to me that as soon as possible, we take these drastic measures because kids may be asymptomatic, young people, and not showing signs of the virus themselves, but it could be passing it on to other folks.
Preet Bharara: And so it just feels to me that, I know that the president reflected the gravity of the situation yesterday, but in my call last night with some dear friends, I was really surprised to hear that they haven’t stopped their kids from going out with other folks. And I get it. I get how hard it is for young people, but I really feel like if we stress anything, it has to be that we have to do what we each can do. And one of the things we can do is with friends and family, make sure people are abiding by these restrictions, which are really tough,
Preet Bharara: Not just young people. All the reporting is that the two groups of folks are young people and elderly people who maybe think, “I want to live my life.” Like where I described how we went up and picked up my daughter from college on Saturday and the prior days, the three of us on the podcast right now and lots of other people who have been enduring the crisis have understood, you don’t touch people. You don’t shake hands and everywhere I looked on the college campus people were tearfully saying goodbye and hugging and kissing each other.
Preet Bharara: So on the eve of literally the closure of a college campus with thousands of people to prevent the spread of coronavirus, you had an occasion where I didn’t see anybody practicing any social distancing. That had to be enforced by kicking them off of campus.
Lisa Monaco: The thing, and this kind of dovetails with this words of wisdom piece, but the thing that is so jarring about this is how much it’s forcing us to understand that we as individuals may be the best weapon that we have against this in terms of taking these aggressive measures and taking it seriously. But at the same time, we ourselves are the vector of its distribution. So it’s such a double edge sword. And because thus far based on what we’re seeing, the young people have a much better track record.
Lisa Monaco: If they’re getting infected, they’re feeling they’re having a more mild impact and the severe impacts are really skewing to the elderly. We’ve got to impress upon everyone that you could be the source of spread to somebody who is much more vulnerable. And it’s incumbent upon parents. It’s incumbent upon leaders to really impress upon everyone that we have to take individual responsibility for not being a source of further spread.
Preet Bharara: Congress wavered back and forth between taking a recess, not taking a recess. The house has passed something called the Families First Coronavirus Response Act. Mitch McConnell chose not to work over the weekend. We are recording this now on Tuesday morning, happy St. Patrick’s Day, by the way, everybody.
Preet Bharara: Happy St. Patrick’s Day.
Lisa Monaco: Right back at you.
Preet Bharara: Very unusual St. Patrick’s Day in my experience and there’s a delay in the Senate taking up the act among other things that are in the act are a provision for free testing for coronavirus, emergency sick leave, expansion of unemployment insurance. All of those things are good or not?
Lisa Monaco: Absolutely. First things first, when a couple of weeks ago the Congress passed an $8.3 billion emergency aid package to make sure that we could fund the creation of the vaccine, that we could get more equipment and capacity to state and local healthcare providers, etc., that was all critically important. But what wasn’t in that initial bill was all of the things that you just mentioned, attention and caring for those who are going to be the most severely impacted by this. The hourly wage workers who aren’t going to be able to get paid when their businesses are working remotely, etc.
Lisa Monaco: So that stuff is absolutely essential and the food assistance, in particular when you think about the number of children in this country who rely on the public school system to get their breakfast and lunch and now those schools closing, we’ve got to have a capability to provide that assistance if they’re not going to be getting it at school.
Preet Bharara: I mean, my feeling on this is that if anything, I think the bill is too modest. It’s 14 days, family-paid leave, and it doesn’t apply to all companies. There are a number of companies that are exempted and the amount given to the supplemental nutrition programs, things like WIC, Women, Infants, and Children, SNAP, which is again for folks who need assistance with food, I think it’s good and it’s really important as a starting point.
Preet Bharara: But in my mind, particularly as we talk about the potential length and severity of this, we have to really be thinking about all the people in the gig economy who are going to not have work, everybody who works in restaurants, at theaters, people whose office jobs find them not to be essential. And those companies which would want to generally pay employees may be about to go bankrupt themselves. And so I think we’re going to face just a huge number of economic hardships.
Preet Bharara: And what I think back to, and I think you were in the administration at this point, Lisa, but I don’t recall for sure. I was AG in 2008 when the financial crisis hit and just how quickly a stimulus bill was done to push money out to the states, and to build infrastructure, and to essentially change the way we were looking, just a real understanding of how devastating the financial crisis could be for Americans and frankly, still was even with a lot of extreme measures that were taken.
Preet Bharara: I think that the bill is terrific. I worry that … Worry is not the right word, I think it’s just the beginning. And so no one should look at this as we’ve solved the problem of economic insecurity in the United States due to the coronavirus. We’ve just chipped off a small amount in my view.
Preet Bharara: Look, I think the first and most important concern is what we spent most of our time talking about and that is addressing the disease. But boy, the economic impact just in talking to people in our community and in thinking about what it means for small businesses, which means you’re a local diner, or a clothing store, or a bookstore, a lot of those businesses are going to close and they’re never going to reopen almost no matter what the government does.
Preet Bharara: And I was talking to somebody who’s in the restaurant business in a very significant way and I’ve never heard someone speak in such a dire way. Entire industries are going to be just decimated because they can’t deal with being shut. Even with takeout being loud, you shut down every restaurant in the country, which seems to be where we’re heading, a significant percentage of them are just not going to survive. The other bad thing about the bill is that it exempts big companies from giving emergency sick leave.
Preet Bharara: Big and small.
Preet Bharara: I mean, the very small ones I think can get a-
Preet Bharara: I understand, yes.
Preet Bharara: … a waiver, but I agree with all of you who are saying something needs to be done immediately. Look, the Andrew Yang idea that some people mocked, the universal basic income, a version of that is coming back with a vengeance. Mitt Romney said we should get $1,000 to every American adult. Other people are saying some version of that because it’s going to be too difficult.
Preet Bharara: I actually think it’s a good idea, but I also think that it has to happen soon.
Preet Bharara: Yeah. It’s hard.
Preet Bharara: Again, one of the things we’re watching is that the longer you wait, the consequences grow exponentially. And so $1,000 in someone’s pocket today can stop them from going into true distress, losing what housing they have, losing their car, just losing access to even the ability to go to work potentially in a month or two or three months when things start to turn up. And so to me, it’s just one of those things that it makes complete sense, but it has to happen soon. Otherwise, $1,000 isn’t going to be enough. We’re going to have to give people a lot more.
Preet Bharara: One of the things I would note is that I saw the thing yesterday where, as the markets, and the markets have been all over the place, but they’ve been very bad, as people started taking money out of banks … And that was a moment to me that is all about confidence and this sort of sense of security that people are worried of whether or not they’re financially secure enough to last for this period of time. And so the government has to act to make sure that people know that they’re on top of it and that they’re willing to help people in distress, and that’s what people in communities and countries have to just do.
Preet Bharara: You know what I’m going to do? I’m not going to use cash. I’m just going to pay for things with toilet paper.
Preet Bharara: You’re going to go back to the barter system.
Preet Bharara: I’m going to be like, “It’s two ply.”
Lisa Monaco: Yeah. Given the shortage that everyone’s experienced in the toilet paper, I think you could make a real profit there.
Preet Bharara: Can we take a moment also as we’re talking about restaurants and folks and just give a huge shout out to the healthcare workers, the people who are delivering packages, the postal service, FedEx, UPS, all the grocery workers, all the workers who are still going to work to prepare food and make sure people have access to basic supplies. I mean, they’re really heroes.
Preet Bharara: Yes, they are.
Preet Bharara: And I would just add this myself yesterday with our five-year-olds trying to do some version of school. We definitely do not pay teachers enough in America and they really are heroes too and a lot of them are about to do online teaching. People are really doing … They’re so brave and they’re doing extraordinary things for all of us. And so I am deeply, deeply grateful as I know you all are.
Preet Bharara: It took a long time given the subject matter and for you to use the word extraordinary.
Preet Bharara: Oh, I didn’t even realize I did. It was an appropriate use.
Preet Bharara: I mean, it could be appropriate throughout this entire discussion. I welcome the use of that term in the current context.
Lisa Monaco: But it really does show, like it really lays bare earth what the backbone here is on the day-to-day existence, really relying on people who are performing these jobs and doing so under this stress. It makes you focus on what we really need every day to get by.
Preet Bharara: I will say one other thing on the congressional piece and then I want to ask you both about the presidential election. One thing about congressional action, and I think it is very far from perfect, but it was Nancy Pelosi and the Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and that is bipartisan. The fact that they did 10, 12 calls a day to work out details, it’s a positive sign of the ability of government to potentially get something done.
Preet Bharara: And again, I do not think it’s enough. I think it has to go farther, but just the fact that two leaders from different political parties and the world we live in has been so polarized, the fact that they were able to do this together gives me some hope.
Lisa Monaco: Yeah, I agree with that.
Preet Bharara: Are we going to be voting?
Lisa Monaco: I hope so.
Preet Bharara: I mean we have to. I feel like this is a really important conversation because I worry so much that … First of all, obviously, polling places can be very crowded and we don’t want to put anybody in harm’s way. And so the current solution will not work in the way that we wanted it to work for primaries and potentially for the general election. Who knows? November is a long way off, but I think now is the time to prepare and think about it.
Preet Bharara: I oversaw elections in New Jersey and there’s a bill that was just introduced, I think it was Ron Wyden to move to paper ballots for elections and basically say, “Everybody can do an absentee ballot.” That feels to me like the right decision to make at this moment in time for every single state voting in primaries, for the general election. If we don’t need it, we don’t have to use it.
Preet Bharara: But to me the worst possible outcome would be to have any question about elections being canceled or not held, particularly at this moment in time where I think I could not stress how important I think it is for the American public to get to pick who our leaders are, particularly in time of crisis. And so I feel really strongly about it, but I also know that it’s a really difficult time and the first priority has to be keeping people safe. But the second priority has to be how do we get people to vote?
Preet Bharara: And just thinking about what you said before, Lisa, about the failure of imagination, I feel like this is another space where the playbook might not work and we may have to do it differently than we’ve done before, but none of us should decide. It’s not a binary choice of we either do it the way we’ve always done it or we don’t do it. It has to be, how do we find a way to do it that safe? But in my view, we have to do it. What do you guys think?
Lisa Monaco: I think that’s exactly right. We’re going to add this to the list and maybe put it at the top of the list of things that we have to reimagine. We’re in a time now where we’ve got to reimagine how we’re working. We’re all experiencing that. How we’re educating our kids, how we’re going about our daily life and we may have to reimagine some of these fundamentals in order to get them done because it can’t be a choice between exercising our democracy and being able to stay safe.
Preet Bharara: Look, I think it is a very tough choice, particularly in short order to try to alter the way people vote in primaries that are already set. Georgia and Louisiana have already postponed their primaries. I think the states in which there’s voting taking place today are proceeding. But if on the one hand, we say, “Particularly elderly people are not supposed to gather in groups of more than a few,” and you know for a fact that you have these long lines at schools and other polling places, I don’t know how you square that.
Preet Bharara: I think a larger question that we do have time to address is posed to us by a listener. Why don’t I read the question? Swirly02 says, “If Trump’s reelection was an obvious jeopardy, could the coronavirus situation enabled Trump to declare martial law,” spelled correctly, M-A-R-T-I-A-L, “Or some other executive strategy and postpone this scheduled election and remain in office.” So this is something that people are beginning to worry about. I know, Lisa, you advised the Biden campaign and were on that committee. So I don’t know if you want to weigh in more forcefully or stay out of this conversation.
Preet Bharara: But if you read the constitution and you talk to most experts, they’re of the view that a change in time of an election of the president of United States can only be done by an act of Congress. So you’d figure that wouldn’t be able to be done just because the whim occurs to Donald Trump. And then second, something that I think people may not be as aware of, the constitution specifically provides that the term of the president states, and in this case would be Donald Trump and his vice president, Mike Pence, it ends at noon on January 20th of 2021.
Preet Bharara: And so if there is not been an election in due course before then, by operation of the constitution, both Donald Trump and Mike Pence as I see it must leave office, and who becomes the president? Nancy Pelosi, am I correct?
Lisa Monaco: That sounds right to me at the risk of doing a little constitutional right here as we speak, but I think that’s right. The constitution is pretty clear on the ending of the term.
Preet Bharara: So, guys, this has been very helpful. Just sort of squaring away with the policy responses had been, but I go back to how we began this conversation. When you’re in your own home and dealing with your own family and maybe elderly parents, you’re not necessarily thinking about all of this with respect to the minutia policy. You’re thinking about how it’s affecting people’s lives and people’s psyches, and I guess a question that’s worth considering is how is this experience affecting the country and the mood of the country and the culture that we’re so used to in the country? Is it changing temporarily? Is it changing for good? What do you guys think?
Lisa Monaco: I think it’s unsettling people in a way that nothing has before and I think it’s because this is the first crisis at least I can remember in my lifetime that isn’t localized. It’s not something that we can say Boston Marathon bombing, that affected one locality. Even 9/11 seem to have more of a kind of beginning, middle and an end to it in terms of the actual event. And this is so unsettling because it’s not localized and there’s so much unknown about what we yet have to experience. So that’s the bad news.
Lisa Monaco: On the flip side, I think there’s hope in the sense of responsibility if people will grab it to understand that they are the ones who can alter the course of this thing by acting responsibly, by adhering to the social distancing guidance, by really being respectful and protecting of the more vulnerable populations. It’s a really unique crisis where we as individuals and communities actually have the most power to actually alter its course.
Preet Bharara: I mean, I feel like it’s such a great question. I think in some ways I feel that it’s too soon for us to know the long time effect that it will have on us. But I was thinking yesterday, and it’s a very small thing, but my great grandmother, this part isn’t a small thing, but I found out that my great grandmother had passed away during 1918 in the banish influenza. I’d never really understood that. I knew that my grandma’s mom had passed away when she was very little and she was raised by her dad and an aunt.
Preet Bharara: But I had this moment yesterday, I made a cup of tea in the afternoon and I saved my tea bag and it was this moment where I thought, “God, is this why my grandma always used her teabag twice? Sometime three times.” It’s such a moment of thinking, “Okay, first of all, I now understand something that I never fully understood completely or internalized.” And second of all, it was a moment of hope in a strange way for me, which is the following that we got through that.
Preet Bharara: And so I have a lot of hope that we will get through this, particularly as Lisa says, if we join together, if we really think about how we can not just take care of our own families but help others who are less fortunate. I’ve done a donation for Covenant House, which I sit on the board of and they’re the largest provider of shelter for at-risk youth. I think everyone should do what they do in a way that can be helpful. If people are able to cook meals for other people in their building or neighborhood, it’s all kinds of things that any of us can do in our daily lives to really make sure that we’re looking out for others.
Preet Bharara: I feel like that’s really important to the extent that we can. I also would say that a good friend sent a note to us the other day after having talked to a psychologist friend of hers who said, “There’s a lot we can’t control, but what we can control is the choice we make on how we wake up each day and deal with this for ourselves, for our friends and for our family.” I take that to heart with our five-year-old.
Preet Bharara: Obviously, it’s a very scary time. It’s all very unsettling, but how do we do our best every day to make him have the most normal or most positive experience that he can while still understanding the gravity of the situation? And so for all of us, I think that we have to bring our best selves to the moment. One of my favorite things is talking to you guys. So thanks for that. This is a wonderful part of the day for me and because I’m not homeschooling.
Preet Bharara: I think it’s been really hard and I’m just thinking of my own evolution over the last two or three weeks, it’s amazing to me how people’s outlook changes and how the outlook evolves. And just thinking about it personally, this is the most unsettled I can ever remember feeling and the only other time, and Lisa invoked it a minute ago, that in any way approximates is 9/11. And in some ways, I was more fearful in the short term after 9/11.
Preet Bharara: I mean I had a four-month-old daughter, my wife and I were living in the city. I was working at this other district and for days, I thought at any moment there could be another attack and we could die and people who we know could die. And your sense of security was just stripped away from you and this is different from that. But a couple of things were positive at that time, I felt that we did have leaders. And it might be shocking to say the people that at that time you looked to for guidance and leadership and their names were George W. Bush and Rudy Giuliani.
Preet Bharara: And whatever you think of those individuals subsequently, they provided local and national leadership and I guess to some extent, it was localized but I think the whole country felt the injury of those attacks. But there’s also some other things you could feel, you could feel anger. You could decide, “We’re going to go to war,” and there was something you felt whether was true or not you had some control over, and it was humans who did it. And if there were humans who did it, then there were humans who could stop the bad people who did these things from doing it ever again.
Preet Bharara: And here you’re talking about microbes, not people. It’s a lot more unsettling. It’s a lot more scary in the sense that it could happen to anyone at any time and you don’t know how bad it’s going to get for people in your own family or people that are close to you. But I agree that, I think, whenever we’ve had challenges like this before, either the United States or around the world, people step up to the court. And unlike in wartime situations what is being asked of people, although it seems jarring and it seems upsetting to our ordinary routines and patterns of life, it’s not that much to ask to sit home.
Preet Bharara: It’s not that much to ask to teach via Zoom as opposed to in a classroom. It’s different from wartime because the things we’re asking people to do, which is not to minimize a lot of people who have anxiety and loneliness issues and that’s going to be a problem for a lot of segments of the population, but when the most important thing you can do is wash your hands and stay away from other people to prevent the deaths of millions of people, I think that’s not too much to ask and I think we’ll step up to it.
Preet Bharara: I agree with that. I think we should always try to find some positive news and I want to say a huge thank you to all the CAFE Insider listeners who sent me links yesterday to an amazing thing, which was the Chicago aquarium, the Shedd Aquarium where we’ve been with our five-year-old. Because there are no human visitors, they let the penguins out to walk around and to check out the exhibits. And it’s a fantastic video that we should post for folks on the CAFE website.
Preet Bharara: But I don’t know if you guys had a chance to see it, but it was just great joy to see the penguins waddling around the aquarium, checking out the fish and having the run of the place was a really magical thing. And that is a great moment of imagination by the people at the Chicago Shedd Aquarium to think, “Hey, we could actually let the penguins walk around today and get some exercise. What would that be like?” So I loved it and I hope that everyone will keep sending us all these great, wonderful things. It brightens the day.
Preet Bharara: We need some joy.
Lisa Monaco: Here, here.
Preet Bharara: Before we go, special thanks again to our friend and colleague Lisa Monaco. Thanks for educating us.
Preet Bharara: Thank you, Lisa.
Lisa Monaco: Thanks for having me.
Preet Bharara: You are also a national treasure, by the way.
Preet Bharara: You certainly are. Anne and I will be back again next week. We’re going to keep trying to give you the best most careful analysis and discussion of the unfolding coronavirus crisis and we’ll hope you’ll listen to us.
Preet Bharara: Take care.
Preet Bharara: That’s it for this week’s Insider Podcast. Your hosts are Preet Bharara and Preet Bharara. The executive producer is Tamara Sepper. The senior audio producer is David Tatasciore and the CAFE team is Julia Doyle, Matthew Billy, David Kurlander, Calvin Lord, Sam Ozer-Staton and Geoff Isenman. Our music is by Andrew Dost. Thank you for being a part of the CAFE Insider community.