Ready, Set, Debate! | Crooked Media
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June 26, 2024
What A Day
Ready, Set, Debate!

In This Episode

  • President Joe Biden and former President Donald Trump are set to square off tonight in their first debate of the presidential election — and the first debate in history between a sitting and former president. Whether you’ve been waiting for it or dreading it, the debate is expected to draw millions of viewers, even though Election Day is still months away. Friend of the pod and ‘Hysteria’ co-host Alyssa Mastromonaco served as the deputy chief of staff under President Barack Obama. She explains what we should expect from tonight’s big event.
  • And in headlines: The Supreme Court accidentally posted an opinion suggesting it may allow emergency abortions in Idaho, much of the upper Midwest is getting pounded by heavy rain and dangerous flooding, and soccer star Alex Morgan has has been left off the U.S. Women’s National Team’s Olympic roster.
Show Notes:




Tre’vell Anderson: It’s Thursday, June 27th. I’m Tre’vell Anderson. 


Alexis Johnson: And I’m Alexis Johnson and this is What a Day, the show where we’re celebrating one of our foremost national holidays. 


Tre’vell Anderson: That is right, everybody. We are, of course, talking about the 20th anniversary of the movie White Chicks. 


Alexis Johnson: Ugh. A classic. Sending them our best na na na na na na na to all who celebrate. [singing] [music break]


Alexis Johnson: On today’s show, SCOTUS inadvertently posts a highly anticipated abortion decision and then takes it down. Plus, Kenya’s president rolls back a controversial tax bill after deadly protests in Nairobi. 


Tre’vell Anderson: But first, today is debate night in the United States of America, and four years after the last set of debates, we’ve got the same two still old and still white guys up there. In case you don’t remember how it went last time, but let me jog your memory. 


[clip of President Joe Biden] Not going to answer the question because–


[clip of Donald Trump] Why wouldn’t you answer that question? 


[clip of President Joe Biden] –because the question is–


[clip of Donald Trump] You want to put a lot of new Supreme Court–


[clip of President Joe Biden] The question is. 


[clip of Donald Trump] –justices. 


[clip of President Joe Biden] The question. 


[clip of Donald Trump] Radical left. Who is your–


[clip of President Joe Biden] Will you shut up man? 


[clip of Donald Trump] Listen, who is on your list Joe? 


Tre’vell Anderson: Y’all. It was a very, very wild time. And so we’ve been waiting for it. We’ve been dreading it. And now the time has come for President Joe Biden and former President Donald Trump to debate for their lives. It’ll be 90 minutes long, kicking off at 9 p.m. tonight, eastern time. And if you’re skipping it, as we know many of you will be. We’re going to do our best to take care of you. 


Alexis Johnson: Yeah, I can’t lie. 9 p.m. is kind of past my bedtime, but give us the 411 and remind us where this is all happening. 


Tre’vell Anderson: Yes. So the debate is happening in Atlanta. It’s hosted by CNN. Jake Tapper and Dana Bash are moderating. It’s actually the first debate in history between a sitting and former president. So I guess, yay history perhaps? 


Alexis Johnson: Okay. Well, I also know a few things have changed about the format. So what’s so different about this year? 


Tre’vell Anderson: Well, first off, there will be two commercial breaks. Now usually there aren’t any commercials breaking up the presidential debates, but CNN wants to capitalize on what’s expected to be massive viewership. Semafor reported that one of the top ad packages on the program cost $1.5 million. And you know what? Journalism costs. Okay, get over it. All right. But during these ad breaks, the candidates are not allowed to talk to their staff or get any pep talks. I guess they just have to stand there with their thoughts. Also different this year, there will not be an audience and their microphones will be muted unless it is their turn to speak. So hopefully we don’t have that back and forth like we just heard there. 


Alexis Johnson: Mm. Good luck with that. 


Tre’vell Anderson: [laughing] I’m hoping for the best, Alexis okay? So I wanted to talk to someone who knows firsthand what the process of preparing for a debate looks like. And our good friend of the pod and co-host of Hysteria, Alyssa Mastromonaco, happened to serve as the deputy chief of staff under President Obama. I started by asking Alyssa how, if at all, Biden should be treating this debate differently than the 2020 debates. 


Alyssa Mastromonaco: Got to be honest, he has to treat them the same. Deadly fucking serious. Just because we have some different rules this year and it’s four years later, he does not need to think about Trump in any sort of a different way. He is still the same person. Nothing has changed. All of his tricks are still up his sleeve. He just needs to take it deadly serious. 


Tre’vell Anderson: Okay. Trump is famously shameless, able to get away with scandals that would end the career of any other normal politician. If you were advising Biden ahead of tonight, what would you tell him in regards to that? 


Alyssa Mastromonaco: He has got to stay the course Tre’vell. He cannot be derailed. You have to think of Trump is actually the only thing that he’s actually successful at, which is the man can produce television. He loves–


Tre’vell Anderson: Yeah. 


Alyssa Mastromonaco: –TV moments. He wants to create a moment that they can use for fundraising where he can say, look at him. He stuttered, look at him. I set him off because don’t forget the last debate. He brought up Hunter Biden to then Vice President Biden, and he will bring up Hunter Biden again. 


Tre’vell Anderson: Absolutely. 


Alyssa Mastromonaco: He’s going to try to throw President Biden off his game. He’s going to try and get him emotional. And, you know, when any of us gets emotional, whenever we’re defending family, you can get really off the rails. And so I think that he just needs to be steadfast. He has to have blinders on. I hope he’s watched a million times over all of the old Trump moments in all of the debates, because it’s almost like running a football play with him, you know, like you have to know all the different plays that he could run and guard against them. 


Tre’vell Anderson: Now, you worked as the deputy chief of staff in the Obama administration. So you know what it’s like to prep for big nights like these. Take us behind the scenes. How do you think Biden has been preparing over the last few weeks and days? Is it watching these videos? Is it like they did in scandal? Is he preparing, you know, fake arguments just in case? How is it happening? 


Alyssa Mastromonaco: Tre’vell, let me tell you about my foundational debate prep experience. It was with the John Kerry campaign, and I was in charge of going to Neiman Marcus to buy all the ties to try on to see which burned on TV. That was my first segue into debate prep. But in general, I think that if I’m President Biden, I’m spending debate prep making clear, cogent examples of the policy that I have done. The successes I have had, this will be the biggest audience he’s probably had in forever, and it is the time to communicate and show contrast. You’re working on annunciating, getting your points out, what are the things you have to hit? 


Tre’vell Anderson: And we’ve got some big format changes this go around. Mics will be muted when they’re not supposed to be talking. There’s no audience, there’s no prepared notes that they can bring with them. Of these changes, which do you think will be kind of the most difficult for the candidates to adapt to? 


Alyssa Mastromonaco: Oh, it has got to be the mics. 


Tre’vell Anderson: [laugh] Yeah. 


Alyssa Mastromonaco: It has got to be the mics. I actually went back and watched a couple of older debates, and it is going to be like they have duct tape on their mouths. 


Tre’vell Anderson: Yeah. 


Alyssa Mastromonaco: To not be able to respond. And I think that the muzzling effect on Trump may drive him insane, like he will be like a caged animal, I think, without his mic on. Also, no studio audience. I’m going to be such a trite bitch right now, but I wonder how boring it’s going to be?


Tre’vell Anderson: I want boring though. I want boring.


Alyssa Mastromonaco: I know I want boring, but I also want Americans to watch because I do think we’re going to see contrast. 


Tre’vell Anderson: True. 


Alyssa Mastromonaco: But I do think this could feel much slower than other debates we have watched before. 


Tre’vell Anderson: To that point, historically, people tune into debates to get to know the candidates a bit better, right? But we know both of these dudes well enough. Plus, this debate is unusually early in the election process. How much sway do you think this debate could actually have on voters and the trajectory of this election at this point? 


Alyssa Mastromonaco: I do think it’s early, but I love that we’re doing it early because historically, the Presidential Commission on Debates, which has hosted these debates in the general election for about 30 years I think, they are not a part of these. The candidates set up directly with, in this case, CNN and in September with ABC. This is the part that’s hard because we know them. I don’t think it’s as much about someone having a breakout, amazing performance as much as it is if they both do well, it’s net neutral. I don’t think it has much effect at all. If someone gets their clock cleaned, I think it’ll matter. If someone performs really poorly, it’s going to be on social media. We’re going to see it nonstop until the fall. I think that Trump, if he whiffs, you heard it here first. This is my news witch prediction. That if Trump gets his clock cleaned, I bet you he announces his vice president really soon because he will want to use it for fundraising and to, like, wipe away the story. 


Tre’vell Anderson: The deflect. Yes.


Alyssa Mastromonaco: I feel like in the past couple of weeks he’s been saying, I picked them, I picked them. You don’t know who they are, but I’m going to have them with me at the debate. And he’s not saying when he says that that we will know who the person is. What he’s saying is he’s bringing like a cadre of people. 


Tre’vell Anderson: Right. 


Alyssa Mastromonaco: Because there’s always a spin room afterwards where everybody brings their surrogates that among that herd of people, his vice president may be. 


Tre’vell Anderson: That was my conversation with Alyssa Mastromonaco, former White House deputy chief of staff and co-host of Hysteria. On this week’s episode of her show, I joined her as guest co-host to wrap up Pride Month and discuss, among other things, the state of anti-trans legislation. Check it out on YouTube or wherever you get your fabulous podcasts. 


Alexis Johnson: Well, thank you for that Tre’vell. We’ll get to some headlines in a moment, but if you like our show, make sure you subscribe and share it with your friends. We’ll be back after some ads. [music break]


Tre’vell Anderson: [AD BREAK]


Alexis Johnson: Let’s wrap up with some headlines. 


[sung] Headlines. 


Alexis Johnson: The Supreme Court accidentally posted a document related to its ruling on Idaho versus the US on its official website on Wednesday. That’s the case that will decide whether or not doctors can provide emergency abortions in states that have strict abortion bans. The document was removed shortly after it was posted. But you got to be quicker than that. Bloomberg News was quick to download it before it disappeared, and it’s not clear if the document was just a draft of the Supreme Court’s decision or the final decision itself. But according to Bloomberg’s report, the justices seemed poised to turn the case away. This would technically uphold a lower court’s ruling that actually allows Idaho’s doctors to provide emergency abortion care, but we won’t know what their decision is until it’s officially released. A spokeswoman for the High Court acknowledged the premature post on Wednesday, saying that the full ruling, quote, “has not been released,” but also didn’t say when it would be released either. 


Tre’vell Anderson: But there were some official opinions released by the US Supreme Court Wednesday. The justices sided with the Biden administration in a case that sought to limit government contact with social media companies. In a six  –  three decision, the court rejected claims from Republican states that the White House was suppressing free speech when it urged companies like Facebook and YouTube to do more to combat disinformation about Covid 19 and the 2020 election. Writing for the majority, Justice Amy Coney Barrett said the states didn’t have the right to sue because they failed to prove they were harmed. By dismissing the case, the justices sidestepped thornier questions about the First Amendment and how it applies to social media companies. Justices Clarence Thomas, Neil Gorsuch, and Samuel Alito dissented. And in a separate six – three decision, the court’s conservative majority further gutted a federal anti-corruption law. They drew an absurd distinction between an illegal bribe to influence an official decision and a gift given after the fact, which the court said was okay. Most surprising of all, Justice Thomas, regular receiver of expensive gifts from politically connected billionaires, did not write that opinion, which basically means we’ve got more folks we need to be investigating. Okay?


Alexis Johnson: Truly. Well, following deadly protests, Kenyan President William Ruto announced that he will withdraw a finance bill that would have raised taxes throughout the country. Demonstrations against the bill this week led to protesters storming and burning parts of the parliament building. The protests have largely been led by young people who argue that they can’t afford those proposed taxes. They also criticized the lavish lifestyles of Kenyan officials as the country sinks further into debt. Clashes with police grew violent, contributing to the deaths of more than 20 people and prompting a statement from the Kenyan Human Rights Commission condemning the police response. President Ruto addressed the political unrest on Wednesday. 


[clip of Kenyan President William Ruto] Listening keenly to the people of Kenya. I concede, and therefore I will not sign the 2024 finance bill. 


Alexis Johnson: Ruto will send the bill back to Parliament for amendments. But some demonstrators say they will keep marching in hopes of a full repeal and to call for resignations of those who voted for the bill. 


Tre’vell Anderson: Flood warnings are holding steady across the upper Midwest as severe thunderstorms, torrential rain and heavy winds have battered the region for more than a week now. Tens of millions of people were at risk of the extreme weather earlier this week, with Iowa, South Dakota and Minnesota all facing the brunt of the devastation so far. At least 20 rivers reached their highest recorded levels after days of heavy rain, forcing residents living near the overflowing rivers to flee their homes. In southern Minnesota, a house toppled into the Blue Earth River, leading to partial failure of a nearby dam. President Biden approved disaster declarations for several counties in Iowa earlier this week, allowing federal funding to get to those affected. 


Alexis Johnson: U.S. soccer star Alex Morgan has been left off of the Olympic roster for the women’s national team. Emma Hayes, the team’s new coach, unveiled her 18 player lineup on Wednesday. Speaking on a call with reporters after the rosters release, Hayes said, quote, “it was a tough decision, especially considering Alex’s record and history with this team. I felt I wanted to go in another direction.” Morgan has been the face of women’s soccer for more than a decade. She was a key player in the national team’s Olympic gold medal win in 2012, and its back to back World Cup wins in 2015 and 2019. But Hayes has been tasked with overseeing a generational transition for the team, especially after its historically early elimination from last year’s Women’s World Cup. In a statement posted on X, Morgan said, quote, “I’m disappointed about not having the opportunity to represent our country on the Olympic stage,” but added that she looks forward to supporting the team as they head to Paris. Tre’vell, I think we’re seeing a lot of this changing of the guard in women’s sports. I mean, some of these historically famous players, they have to pass the baton at some point. 


Tre’vell Anderson: It is okay for the old heads to step aside and make room for the newbies. 


Alexis Johnson: It’s true. 


Tre’vell Anderson: Okay. And I know folks might not like the fact that Alex Morgan won’t be playing, but this just gives great opportunity for some other really talented women’s soccer players to, like, show us what they can do. 


Alexis Johnson: Exactly. And that is ultimately how you grow the sport. And those are our headlines. 




Tre’vell Anderson: That is all for today. If you liked the show, make sure you subscribe. Leave a review. Stay dry out there if you’re in the Upper Midwest and tell your friends to listen. 


Alexis Johnson: And if you’re into reading and not just submissives on the lasting cultural impact of White Chicks like me, What a Day is also a nightly newsletter. Check it out and subscribe at I’m Alexis Johnson. 


Tre’vell Anderson: I’m Tre’vell Anderson. 


[spoken together] And hold my poodle. 


Alexis Johnson: What a beautiful chocolate man. I mean I could quote White Chicks all day. 


Tre’vell Anderson: Listen, White Chicks has all of the best quotes. Okay. 


Alexis Johnson: So many good quotes. Oh, you want to talk about mothers. 


Tre’vell Anderson: You want to talk about mothers– [laughing]


Alexis Johnson: Shout out to the Wayans brothers. Icons, truly. 


Tre’vell Anderson: Icons. [music break] What a Day is a production of Crooked Media. It’s recorded and mixed by Bill Lancz. Our associate producers are Raven Yamamoto and Natalie Bettendorf. We had production help today from Michell Eloy, Greg Walters, and Julia Claire. Our showrunner is Erica Morrison and our executive producer is Adriene Hill. Our theme music is by Colin Gilliard and Kashaka.