Home / World News / Opinion | Why Republican Ken Buck Believes in Antitrust and Doesn’t Believe in the ‘Big Lie’

Opinion | Why Republican Ken Buck Believes in Antitrust and Doesn’t Believe in the ‘Big Lie’

[THEME MUSIC]

song

When you walk in the room, do you have sway?

kara swisher

I’m Kara Swisher, and you’re listening to “Sway.” My guest today, Congressman Ken Buck, has been at the forefront of the Republican Party’s efforts to regulate Silicon Valley. He’s the ranking member of the House Antitrust Subcommittee. He teamed up with Democratic Congressman David Cicilline to introduce a package of antitrust legislation this summer, aimed at companies like Amazon, Apple, Facebook, and Google. So I wanted to talk to Buck about what will actually get passed, what the Facebook files and whistleblower revelations mean for the regulatory road ahead, and whether he’ll be able to bring along his fellow Republicans, some of whom think antitrust is just a euphemism for big government.

Congressman Buck, welcome to “Sway.”

ken buck

Thank you. It’s good to be with you.

kara swisher

So I wanted to get a sense of what brought you yourself here. You represent Colorado’s 4th Congressional District, which covers the eastern part of the state. And issue-wise, that screams energy and agriculture, not tech. So talk a little bit about what brought you into big tech and antitrust and focusing in on these companies.

ken buck

Well, David — Chairman Cicilline has been a great leader and really reached out in a bipartisan way, and I very much appreciated that. And we conducted a series of hearings together last year, and one of them was in Boulder, Colorado. And when I listened to the testimony of these small startups and how they’ve been treated by these four monopolies that you listed, I was really shaken by it, I guess. I was a prosecutor for 25 years, and the conduct of these companies was akin to the kind of white-collar crime that I was used to seeing, not the kind of business activity that one would expect to see from companies that are — these startups are actually clients. They’re putting their products on Amazon, on Google. And to have them just abused and cheated in the way that they were just offended me. And I decided that this was a really worthwhile project to spend time on.

kara swisher

Was there one thing that bothered you?

ken buck

Oh, I could give you dozens of examples. Amazon, for example, allegedly offered to invest in certain companies and receive proprietary information from those companies, and then went and duplicated their product. And so just the lying of, we’re interested in investing in your product, and then using that information to unfairly compete is — to my mind, it’s fraud. And I saw the same thing with Google. There’s a company that produces music lyrics, and Google allegedly just kept copying those music lyrics. And then, they did the same thing with Yelp. And it’s just not the way we should be doing business in America. Now, there are bad actors outside of monopolies, but I believe that these four companies got away with what they got away with because they are monopolies.

kara swisher

So you used the term, “monopoly.” You’re a lawyer. You’re someone who understands these distinctions. Most people throw around the word “monopoly” in a way that doesn’t necessarily apply. But talk to me about, from a legal perspective, why you think that is the case.

ken buck

Well, let me back up one second and tell you, as a conservative, I don’t think big is bad. I think big is great. I think that a lot of our innovation comes from having big companies. And I think that they do a lot of good for American and American workers. But when your company has a competitive advantage because of its market share — so in other words, there are two platforms for phones. One is Apple, one is Amazon —

kara swisher

No, Google.

ken buck

Google. Google, I’m sorry, yes. There are no other competitors in that way. Those two can do things on their app stores that others can’t.

kara swisher

Does big eventually always lead to this? Because I think a lot of people think that these companies need to grow, that they’re sort of rapacious in their need to grow. I sometimes call them the Borg, and all they want to do is eat. Is it impossible to get to that size and not do this, do you think?

ken buck

Well, I think it is certainly tempting for a company that has an overwhelming market share to act in this kind of way, because there’s always a pressure to increase profits, and they’ll take advantage of that monopoly position. I don’t think it’s necessarily — there are political systems that rely on benevolent dictators. I don’t think these are benevolent monopolists, and so the — big isn’t necessarily bad. If you had 10 big oil and gas companies, you’d still have competition at the pump for pricing. You don’t have that in this situation. And it’s a new technology. One of the fascinating things that we found in this investigation is that the laws that were written in 1890-something and 1914, the Sherman Act and the Clayton Act, nobody anticipated the kind of commerce that we’re seeing now on the internet.

kara swisher

So you’ve introduced a package of House bills this summer on antitrust that came out of these investigations. What’s the status of those House bills? Could you walk us through? And which one do you think is most likely to pass?

ken buck

Sure. So after a 16-month investigation, we got together and drafted six bills. Two of them are really no-brainer kind of bills. The other four are more controversial, especially on my side of the aisle. And interestingly, the California Democrats have a problem with them, because they’re in California. The four bills that are being debated heavily and as a package would deal with some of the issues that we’re trying to deal with. So we have the non-discrimination bill. We’ve seen that Amazon is self-preferencing, and the nondiscrimination bill basically says, Amazon, you can’t do that. Now, the Facebook issue — they have acquired Instagram and WhatsApp. And they did that during a time period that big tech mergers occurred, and there wasn’t a single challenge by the F.T.C. or Department of Justice Antitrust Division. And so the merger bill just says, we’re going to flip the burden for these four companies on mergers. You have to basically show that a merger is pro-competitive, as opposed to showing us anti-competitive.

kara swisher

Okay, the third one?

ken buck

The third one is what we call portability. And just as you can take your cell phone number from Verizon and move it over to AT&T, this would give you the ability to take your digital file and move it from Google to Bing. We found that after the Telecommunications Act in the 1990s, it opened up the cell phone market. People were more able to make determinations based on quality and price, rather than having been locked in because all their information existed with one carrier. So that’s the portability bill. And the last bill that’s really at issue — and it’s probably the toughest one, it passed the markup in the Judiciary Committee by just one vote — is what we call a structural separation. And that bill would say that you can operate Facebook, but you can’t have Whatsapp, or you can’t have Instagram. And Google, you can’t have YouTube, and —

kara swisher

So you can’t be both a marketplace and a seller of services, for example.

ken buck

Yes. It basically separates the businesses out into smaller businesses.

kara swisher

And then there’s a smaller one that updates merger filing fees, which is just a revenue generation bill. Which of these — that was the only one I feel like could actually pass. What is the status from actually passing?

ken buck

So the merger filing fees bill, I think, is one of the no-brainers. The other one is the venue bill that just gives state attorney generals the same ability to sue in their own states and not have a case removed. But I think the two bills that are most likely to pass that would have the biggest impact are the nondiscrimination bill and the merger bill that would require them to show that a merger is pro-competitive. I think those are the two that are getting the most traction on both sides of the aisle.

kara swisher

Mm-hmm. And the impact, you think, will be significant?

ken buck

By shining a light on this area, one, we see more journalists taking an interest in it. Two, we see the public taking a greater interest in it. And three, the legislative branches around the country, as well as the courts, are going to start taking more of an interest in this. And I think you’re going to start to see the, really, public opinion moving policy in this area.

kara swisher

Let me ask you. You mentioned the Democrats. President Biden is building up an antitrust trifecta in Lina Khan, Tim Wu, and Jon Kanter. So talk a little bit about that. How do you look at those things? Because those picks that he made are quite aggressive. These are all people who sort of probably agree with you on a lot of these things.

ken buck

Oh, I think they do agree. And I think that the key to all of this is the executive branch and how they choose to enforce these laws. And there are laws on the books. They are more vague than what we are proposing. And so we’re really giving a scalpel, as opposed to a chainsaw, in the F.T.C. and Antitrust Division’s ability to go after these companies.

kara swisher

So how do you look at these picks that President Biden made of these three particularly — I would say, tech critics, I think?

ken buck

They obviously are aggressive. Some of them have been talking about things that really create a partisan division that Chairman Cicilline has been great at trying to bridge. And it scares Republicans. If you stay to antitrust, and you talk about, we need to create competition in the marketplace, I think it’ll be a lot more popular on my side of the aisle.

kara swisher

So if the House shifts to Republicans in the midterm elections, is there enough Republican support behind you to continue to pass these bills, which you think are good bipartisan efforts to do something about it?

ken buck

Yeah, it’s tough to say who gets elected in the next wave if Republicans do win the House. And tough to say how the bills will change if Republicans win the House. But certainly, the big tech companies are spending a lot of money right now, trying to run out the clock and make sure that they don’t get passed in this Congress where there is some momentum.

kara swisher

And you think that will happen at this moment?

ken buck

I think the bills will pass.

kara swisher

Okay. Let’s talk specifically about these companies. The House bills were a culmination of this investigation, which you noted, into Amazon, Apple, Facebook, and Google. Let’s go through these companies just quickly. You’ve mentioned some specifically, but I want to talk first about Amazon. You and some other members of the House Antitrust Subcommittee just sent a letter to the company essentially asking whether its executives, including Jeff Bezos, misled you during your investigation into its business practices. Give us an overview of why you did that and what you think is going on here.

ken buck

So there was a report covered by a number of news organizations that talked about the self-preferencing that Amazon engages in in India, specifically. We found the same things here in the US, but I think that report really highlighted the issue at an important time. Because, hopefully, these bills will get on the floor within the next — or at least this year, in November, December. And so it was an opportunity for us to say to Amazon, clarify what you told us before. This is really confusing. And to his credit, frankly, Jeff Bezos in his testimony said, we have a policy against self-preferencing. That doesn’t mean we never do it. But we have a policy against it, and we’re doing our best to enforce that policy. Well, I don’t know that they are doing their best to enforce the policy. So I’m not suggesting that he lied. I’m suggesting that his testimony and the testimony of others has been misleading in terms of how they really oversee the operation of their various companies in different countries.

kara swisher

So in other words, bad things happen. We try not to, but bad things happen. And you feel like they don’t try to stop bad things from happening.

ken buck

Well, if you turn a blind eye to bad things, if you put your head in the sand, if you only care about profit and reward profit and not-good behavior, bad things are going to happen more often.

kara swisher

So what do you want from Amazon specifically?

ken buck

Well, the letter requests them to clarify their position. I think there’s a lot of reporting now, and a lot of former employees have come forward and said, this is part of the business practice. And I think if Jeff Bezos were to be honest, he would come forward and say, yeah, we did it. We did it far too often. And I think, then, the American people would get a greater understanding of why exactly these monopolies exist and what the antitrust laws could do to help prevent this kind of conduct.

kara swisher

So Apple, they just survived this antitrust suit by Epic. You recently introduced a bill that would set the rules of how companies like Google and Apple, as we talked about, run their app stores. How do you look at them?

ken buck

Well, when you look at the conduct of Apple — and take Apple Music and Spotify. They charge Spotify a 30 percent surcharge so they have a competitive advantage. And the nondiscrimination bill would say, if you’re going to treat Spotify this way, you’ve got to treat Apple Music this way. You can’t treat these different entities differently.

kara swisher

And what about Google?

ken buck

Well, when Google basically steals the information from Yelp and creates its own, and Google has a 90 percent share on handheld devices and mobile devices and a very similar percentage on desktop searches, it’s overwhelming. And part of the reason they have that, frankly, is they have a better search engine than Bing and other products. And so kudos to them for being able to create that. But once you’ve created it, then you can’t use it in a way that discriminates against people. And I’m not sure that they would agree with me on this, but in their choice of algorithms and other conduct, they have really influenced the marketplace in a way that isn’t healthy. It’d be much healthier if we had five Googles out there that people could pick and choose from.

kara swisher

So of course, company receiving all the attention these days, Facebook, and the recent testimony from whistleblower Frances Haugen — she alleged the company continued to prioritize growth over safety, specifically brushing aside internal research about, for example, Instagram’s effects on teens, not doing enough to address election misinformation, and on and on and on. These keep coming out. Do you think this could be Facebook’s big tobacco moment?

ken buck

I think it’s different than big tobacco. It takes you about 30, 40 years to die of smoking, and it takes you evidently just a few months as a teenage girl to start having suicidal thoughts. And so —

kara swisher

So, worse.

ken buck

I think it’s incredibly sad, frankly, that somebody — when I get on an elevator in the House office buildings, these kids have a phone to their face, and they never say hello. We have transformed our society into an almost antisocial, pro-tech society, and it’s scary to me. But as it concerns Facebook, I think they had research that showed, full body pictures of other teenage girls were a contributing factor to a young girl’s self-image. They had research that showed that their platform is being used by human traffickers and drug cartels, that a lot of bad activity was going on. And frankly, they didn’t do enough to deal with that. Now, that doesn’t make them a monopoly. There are plenty of bad actors in competitive markets. But it really does point out that if we had five Facebooks, a parent would have the choice of saying, you’re not using Instagram. You’re going to go use this app over here.

kara swisher

So one of her most significant claims is that Facebook lied to shareholders about the impact of its algorithms. Could this hit Facebook in a way that nothing else has so far?

ken buck

Oh, I think it will hit Facebook in a way. And I talked to members who were agnostic about antitrust, and they’re coming to me now and saying, how do I sign up for this? They’re just really deeply offended. And it’s not on an antitrust level. They’re just deeply offended by a company that would act in this way. It’s almost robot-like, and without any emotion or concern. And I understand that you can cut corners for profit, but when you put it above just basic humanity and caring for your community, I think it is something that will turn a lot of people off.

kara swisher

Does the S.E.C. have teeth here? Facebook paid the S.E.C. $100 million to settle the Cambridge Analytica allegations but didn’t admit or deny those claims. The F.T.C. had settled a case when they paid $5 billion. I said it was a parking ticket, and if they added a 0, they might start to get interesting. Do our regulatory bodies have enough teeth here to fight back?

ken buck

Well, I have to tell you, you’ve mentioned a couple in the U.S. We’ve had similar cases in Europe and similar cases in Asia, and they really are parking tickets to these folks, because their combined revenue from these companies exceeds all but — I don’t know what it is, 16 or 18 countries in the world. The G.D.P. of 16 or 18 countries in the world.

kara swisher

Right.

ken buck

So I think that judges, when they’re handing out penalties or accepting settlements, really have to think on a much different level than what we’ve been thinking about before.

kara swisher

Mm-hmm. So you recently co-authored an op-ed with Cicilline, where you suggested WhatsApp and Instagram would have been less toxic if Facebook hadn’t acquired them. What did you mean by that?

ken buck

Yeah, so both WhatsApp and Instagram — the founders had a vision for how the company should operate, and it was really —

kara swisher

And they’ve left. Just to be clear, they’ve left the company under —

ken buck

Well, they stayed with the company after the acquisition, and then at some point, the Facebook executives were moving the company in a direction that was offensive to them, and then they left. And so it’s quite obvious that if these companies had remained independent, they would have flourished. They would have created competition in the marketplace, and they would have acted in a much more responsible way. And that’s really why I think the antitrust laws are applicable in this situation.

kara swisher

So what do you do now? Do you want them to — what could they do? Split off Instagram and WhatsApp, for example, at Facebook?

ken buck

I think that the structural separation bill would do just that. It would give the government and the courts the authority to separate these different entities out. And part of the rationale for that bill is that at the time that the acquisition occurred, there really wasn’t sufficient information to be able to challenge it in court.

kara swisher

So you could go back and do that?

ken buck

Right. It’s sort of looking back and making that kind of decision. It is the toughest bill, frankly, to pull off. In my mind, it would be much better to have the top five different entities that were a combination of Facebook, WhatsApp, and Instagram, rather than having the three entities separated.

kara swisher

Separated. Oh, that’s interesting.

ken buck

Especially now that the folks with a conscience have left those companies, I’m not sure that you are really going to be able to replicate what they intended to do.

kara swisher

So when you think of the whistleblower complaint, particularly polarization and teen mental health, as you discussed, do you think content moderation policies are the root of the problem? Or is it just the algorithms that these companies use? House Democrats on the Energy and Commerce Committee just introduced a bill to reform Section 230. I’m not a big fan of what they wrote. But it’ll hold certain platforms accountable for knowingly or recklessly using malicious algorithms. Well, how do you look at 230?

ken buck

It’s really a fascinating issue.

kara swisher

It is.

ken buck

And it’s one of the things that really divides right down the aisle. The Democrats in the House — and I’m speaking for them, but from talking to friends, they believe that President Trump and others have been reckless regarding the January 6th incident, the vaccine mandates, issues like that. And so they think that the platforms should do a better job of regulating speech when it comes to what they believe are irresponsible statements. On the right, Republicans are upset that Republican speech is being moderated, censored. And so they are — we are upset with that. And so the platforms really have a delicate balance, a tightrope to walk. From my perspective, we’ve always allowed speech in this country that has been wrong. And if you have a newspaper, obviously, there are libel laws that you are allowed to print things, and then have another newspaper compete with you. And I think that’s really the answer, is the competition. We have cable news channels that disagree with each other fundamentaly.

kara swisher

Yes, I’ve noticed. I’ve noticed that.

ken buck

[CHUCKLES] And I think that we are a better country, from my perspective, the more information that’s out there. And having said — even if some of it’s flat wrong and scientifically wrong. Having said that, I have to tell you, I go to a lot of town hall meetings and other meetings where I get people who are just furious with me because I didn’t support President Trump on this or I’m not talking enough about the border or whatever the issue is. And they just get so ratcheted up with the internet and the information on the internet.

kara swisher

So you don’t mind that? You don’t mind that even when it’s false? Do you think social media is biased, for example, against conservatives? I know that was an issue on your committee.

ken buck

I don’t think we’re ever going to agree on what’s fair censorship and what’s not fair censorship. I look at the Hunter Biden laptop story, and I think that that was unfairly censored right before the election. David may disagree with me. He may very well say that there wasn’t enough proof and it had too much of an influence on the election, and so it was fair to do that. I think that when President Trump raised the issue of the origins of Covid, it was not an unfair issue to raise, and it’s something that should have been debated at the time. There are things that I think have been censored. I don’t monitor much on the left, and so I don’t know whether the left has been censored a lot also. So it’s hard for me to say whether it’s unfair censorship, but I certainly think that the right has been censored.

kara swisher

All right. You’d be surprised that I agree with you on the Hunter Biden. They should not have taken that up, and they did then say, we made a mistake. But it’s not a pattern. It’s an anecdote. And the most popular things on, say, Facebook or any of these sites are conservative. So you think that this idea of misinformation should not — should just — you’re just going to take it at these meetings, even if you don’t agree with what the people are saying and even if the things they say are incorrect?

ken buck

Well, no, I take that as an opportunity to educate and to disagree with people and to challenge their assumptions. It’s not popular, but that’s what I do at these meetings when I’m confronted with that. Section 230(c) talks about something that is otherwise objectionable. And you can run a Mack truck through something that is otherwise objectionable. It should involve the same thing that it involves for newspapers and others. You should not print something that is false and would lead to imminent danger to a person. The more vague you get, the more difficult it is for these platforms to make a good decision on what should be on their platforms and what should be off. If we’re talking about vaccines and ivermectin, for example, that’s a fair debate for us to have in this country. I had cancer. I had stage four cancer. I had somebody come up to me and say, you shouldn’t do chemo. You should eat blueberries. Well, I don’t think — I’m not the smartest bear in the woods, but I’m not the dumbest bear in the woods either. I looked at them and I thought, you know, okay, if you get stage four cancer, you go ahead and do that, but I’m going to go get my chemo. And I survived. And I don’t think I would have if I just relied on buckets of blueberries. So I do think that we have to make sure that we have a K-through-12 education system that develops critical thinking skills, and we have to rely on people to make good choices.

kara swisher

You know, I get your point, and I do agree with you on many things. But you know, vaccine misinformation, for example — and I would call some of it really dangerous. You can have your debate of whether you should take a vaccine or not, but it’s very hard when it overwhelms in a way that, say, the Covid misinformation has. It’s different when you’re taking a blueberry cleanse, or whatever you want to call it, for cancer. And then, not getting vaccinated because you have bad information — and that affects a wider range of people.

ken buck

Sure. So one of the things that you do, and that I do, we consider not only the information but the source of the information. And when I go and I talk to my doctor about vaccines, he gives me certain information. I don’t just take his word for it. I also do some research. And I look at the different opinions out there, but I certainly trust my doctor’s opinion more than I do some website that’s been in existence for two weeks. And so I think that’s part of what we have to do as Americans, but I don’t know that it’s overwhelming. I don’t frankly spend a lot of time — I don’t own a T.V., and I don’t spend a lot of time on the internet, watching shows or reading things from unreliable sources. And so the people that do that — I don’t care how much you try to protect some of these people. They’re going to make stupid choices, because they rely on stupid information.

kara swisher

Mm-hmm. I mean, for example, you were — speaking of blueberries and cancer. And you said in December of 2020, I have the freedom to decide if I’m going to take a vaccine or not. In that case, I’m not going to take the vaccine. And yet, you are now vaccinated. Correct?

ken buck

I’m not.

kara swisher

You’re not vaccinated? You’re not vaccinated. When you decide, for example, I’m not going to get vaccinated, how do you manage that when people have so much emotion around these things?

ken buck

Well, I manage it by trying to stay optimistic and stay focused on the commonality and not the differences that we have.

kara swisher

We’ll be back in a minute.

If you like this interview and want to hear others, follow us on your favorite podcast app. You’ll be able to catch up on “Sway” episodes you may have missed, like my conversation with Congressman David Cicilline, and you’ll get new ones delivered directly to you. More with Representative Buck after the break.

All right. So when you come to something like election misinformation, for example, and this Big Lie theory that’s all over these platforms — and it is more than anywhere else. And I know it’s on cable. I know it’s in newspapers. I know it’s everywhere, but the stuff flowing over these giant platforms is really quite vast. Now, this was allowed to go unfettered. Do you think that is okay, even if you do not agree with it?

ken buck

First, yes. The answer is yes. And two, I don’t believe in the Big Lie. And I have seen many of the articles, and I have analyzed them. I was the state Republican chair in Colorado during this cycle. Many of the accusations that were made concerning Dominion machines and illegal immigrants voting and other things were things that I was able to monitor. And in my belief, it absolutely didn’t happen in Colorado. And I’m very skeptical that it happened anywhere else, and I haven’t seen clear evidence that it has happened in other places. I think that when people continue to spread false information, they lose credibility, and they lose popularity. And these debates, frankly, have been helpful. I think that while I may disagree with some of my colleagues about the “Big Lie,” I don’t disagree that we need to make our elections every bit as secure as we can make them, at the same time, promoting participation in our elections. And so I think those are good discussions for our country to have.

kara swisher

So just so I make sure I have it correct, you don’t believe the election was stolen, and believe the Big Lie is a lie. But you just said that people figure it out, and then the truth outs itself. President Trump has never been more popular. And this lie thing is doing pretty well as a lie. How do you combat that? Again, is it just by competition?

ken buck

I think it is. We have competition in the political world, just like I would love to have competition on the platforms. And I think, at some point, if President Trump decides to run for president again, there will be competition on the Republican side, and there will certainly be competition on the Democrat side. And voters will make a choice. And frankly, I think that President Trump’s policies were better than President Obama and President Biden’s policies. There are other things that people will look at and say, I can’t vote for that man. And so I get that, but that’s part of the beauty of this country, is, we don’t have a Communist Party, like they do in China, that decides what information is going out there and what information can’t go out there.

kara swisher

Okay. So when Liz Cheney condemned the big lie in May, you were one of the few Republicans who defended her. So can you talk a little bit about that?

ken buck

Yeah, I think one of the reasons I love the Republican Party is we have a vigorous debate about abortion. We have a vigorous debate about guns. We have a vigorous debate about a lot of issues. And the fact that Liz Cheney stood up and said, I think this is a lie, and I think it’s very dangerous for us to promote this, is part of what I believe is an important function and process in the Republican Party. Just as the Democrats challenge themselves all the time on a lot of issues, we need to challenge ourselves. And so I think that — I don’t condemn Senator Sinema or Manchin for what they’re doing. I think it strengthens the Democrat party, and I think that Liz Cheney strengthened the Republican Party. I didn’t agree with everything she said, but I certainly believe that it’s part of our process.

kara swisher

But she seems to be a party of one. You’re saying a vigorous debate. It’s pretty much Liz Cheney and Adam Kinzinger saying, this isn’t true, and you’ve just said the Big Lie was not true. But it’s not a vigorous debate.

ken buck

Well, I’ll tell you, I think it is vigorous behind closed doors. I don’t know that it is vigorous right now out in the open.

kara swisher

Ah, closed doors! Don’t get me with those.

ken buck

Yeah, no, well, I suppose a reporter doesn’t like the closed doors very much. But —

kara swisher

Yeah, who likes it?

ken buck

The reality is that I have been involved in a number of very heated discussions about both the November election and the January 6th — you know, whatever you want to call it. I consider it a riot, other people use the term insurrection. But I think that is an important part of what we’re trying to accomplish. And yes, I think that the American public needs to understand that the Republican Party is not all on one side or the other of this issue. And really, the problem that I think Liz has is, a lot of Republicans want to focus on the policies that are in place now — Afghanistan, the border, inflation — and not focus on the November election. And so when she is focused on the November election and arguing with President Trump, it elevates that issue above the issues that a lot of us would like to be talking about before the midterm elections.

kara swisher

Sure. But that’s sort of saying, like, the lady should keep her mouth shut, right?

ken buck

No.

kara swisher

Isn’t that — I mean —

ken buck

No.

kara swisher

No?

ken buck

No. I think when you’re going to a press conference, which she did, and you are asked a question whether President Trump is the leader of the Party going forward, there is a more polite way or a more diplomatic way or more unifying way of messaging than to say, he has no role in the Party. Of course, he has a role in the Party, just as President Obama has a role in the Democrat Party. And so those kinds of statements detracted from what Republicans want to focus on right now.

kara swisher

But you think it’s just saying it in public — airing your laundry in public is what, essentially, you’re saying — is that she should move on? Or do you still continue to support her for her truth, I guess?

ken buck

I think Liz Cheney should talk about what Liz Cheney wants to talk about. When she is the number three in the conference chair and she is in charge of messaging for Republicans, it’s important to find the unifying messages that all Republicans and the conference can get behind. And that’s, I think, why she ultimately lost her position in that regard.

kara swisher

I get it. At the same time, if she believes something’s really hurting the republic, this is what she’s saying. I think that’s why she’s doing it. But when you look at the overall polarization all over the place, do you think you have a bipartisan effort on-going with antitrust and other issues? Do you think that’s sustainable? You know, here you are — in Congress, as you said, it’s refreshing to see this working. But is the polarization just impossible to get anything done, including something that is reasonable like this?

ken buck

So when I started in public office, I was elected district attorney, and I met with the publisher of the local newspaper. And he said, Ken, there’s a plane that leaves Newark every day and lands in LAX, and we don’t cover that. The one that ends up in the cornfield in Iowa, we cover. And the same thing happens in Congress. And so I think the American public has a misperception about Congress and our ability to work together. I’m very happy to have worked with Chairman Cicilline on this issue, and I’m really glad that he included me and trusted me. We could not have been — we could not be disagreeing more on some issues, and frankly, engaging in food fights with each other on some issues. But we put all those things aside, and we sit down and we roll up our sleeves, and we get the work done.

kara swisher

Well, how do you do that? I just wrote a piece about the pro-wrestlization of Twitter, for example. I was talking about some things Marjorie Taylor Greene did and the use of it. And I know, on your committee, Jim Jordan enjoys doing that quite a bit, causing ruckuses. When people have these different megaphones on these platforms, is it impossible to get back to a shared reality again?

ken buck

No, I don’t think it’s impossible. I think it happens every day, and I’m really happy that I’m part of it. I am not going to agree with David Cicilline — I live in the country. It would take a certain amount of time for a police officer to respond to my house, and I have weapons in my house. David Cicilline was the mayor of Providence, Rhode Island, and he had serious violent crime problems with guns, and he advocated for certain gun control measures. So we disagree on some issues. We put those aside, and we move forward on an issue like antitrust, where we both think the country will benefit from more competition with big tech. And I think that happens every day in many ways in the House and Senate. I think people live in silos right now. I think they get their information from very discreet sources. And I think that we don’t have the Walter Cronkite telling us the news and everybody agrees on the facts. We can’t even agree on the facts now. Forget about what conclusions we should draw from the facts, but we can’t even agree on the facts. And so I don’t know how to get there. I do think part of the answer is that we have more options to choose from. And I think that given more options, we will be less likely to fall into the extremes.

kara swisher

And if more Republicans, for example, come on “Sway,” for example, I try to — I ask all of them to come on. [LAUGHS] Not all of them.

ken buck

I will join you any time.

kara swisher

All right. Thank you so much. I really appreciate it.

ken buck

Thank you very much. It’s good to be with you. [MUSIC PLAYING]

kara swisher

“Sway” is a production of New York Times Opinion. It’s produced by Nayeema Raza, Blakeney Schick, Matt Kwong, Daphne Chen, and Caitlin O’Keefe; edited by Nayeema Raza, with original music by Isaac Jones, mixing by Sonia Herrero, and Carole Sabouraud, and fact-checking by Kate Sinclair and Kristin Lin. Special thanks to Shannon Busta and Mahima Chablani. If you’re in a podcast app already, you know how to get your podcasts, so follow this one. If you’re listening on the Times website and want to get each new episode of “Sway” delivered to you with a bushel of blueberries — which I find delicious but, P.S., doesn’t cure cancer — download any podcast app, then search for “Sway” and follow the show. We release every Monday and Thursday. Thanks for listening.

About brandsauthority

Check Also

Voting Rights, Omicron, André Leon Talley: Your Wednesday Evening Briefing

(Want to get this newsletter in your inbox? Here’s the sign-up.) Good evening. Here’s the …

%d bloggers like this: