Useful Idiots: Rep. Rashida Tlaib on Urgent Needs During COVID-19, Dealing with Donald Trump

In this week’s quarantine episode of our Useful Idiots podcast, hosts Matt Taibbi and Katie Halper are joined by Rep. Rashida Tlaib to discuss her initiatives during the COVID-19 pandemic and how she deals with Trump.

Matt and Katie respond to Hillary Clinton’s conversation with Joe Biden, and the multifaceted tone-deafness of Clinton repurposing Rahm Emanuel’s infamous “lemonade out of a big lemon” quote about the economic crisis. Katie describes Emanuel as “representing the worst of the Democratic party.”

Katie argues that there’s a need to create good policy during moments of crisis, but it’s not something politicians should be flaunting as a talking point.

“The coronavirus is teaching us all sorts of things about how much our work-centric lives suck, and how many things we do that are unnecessary that we can maybe stop doing, like spending half of our lives getting to work and you know, not spending time with our families and all that other stuff,” Taibbi says. “But that doesn’t mean I’m going to get on television in the context of endorsing a presidential candidate and saying ‘we can’t let this crisis go to waste,’ as someone infamous once said.” However, they still thought Clinton sounded more coherent than Biden throughout the conversation.

The duo discussed a new “intelligentsia” movement and the future of internet censorship. “I think this is an extraordinarily dangerous moment for the press in this country. What people are going to do with this disease is say, ‘OK, time’s over for niceties. We can’t afford any of that civil liberties stuff right now,’” says Matt. “Having the internet platforms in charge of what information we do and do not say, it’s going to kill us a lot faster than any of this other stuff.”

Rep. Tlaib joins the hosts to talk about her upcoming briefings about on-the-ground topics related to COVID-19. She also breaks down her new bill in Congress, the Automatic BOOST to Communities Act, to create recurring payments on a debit card (starting at $2,000 and then $1,000 per month) for Americans in need of COVID-19 relief.

They discuss major changes in thinking in D.C. brought on by the coronavirus. “It’s not a shift, it’s what we’ve already seen in the past, which is: Congress is reactionary. We wait until something like this happens for us to have an awakening,” says Rep. Tlaib, who discusses the general lack of urgency that she’s experienced there.

“I really don’t try to spend time thinking about what’s going in his mind,” Rep. Tlaib says of Donald Trump’s vocal attacks on “the squad.” “While he tweets, I work. That’s all I can continue to do. Was I surprised or whatever? I don’t know if I am anymore, of anything. But I know to myself, that’s exactly what he wants. He wants me to react. He wants to distract form the work I have to do.”

Matt and Katie also ask Rep. Tlaib her thoughts on Biden’s handling of Tara Reade’s allegations. (The conversation was recorded before Biden had publicly denied them).

“It really matters as a leader, as somebody who wants to be President of the United States, who you proceed with this. This is something extremely serious and it’s still happening to women, young women, right now. And we want to know what you’re thinking about this,” says Rep. Tlaib.

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