Each week, Ezra Klein brings you far-reaching conversations about hard problems, big ideas, illuminating theories, and cutting-edge research. Want to know how Mark Zuckerberg intends to govern Facebook? What Barack Obama regrets in Obamacare? The dangers Yuval Harari sees in our future? What Michael Pollan learned on psychedelics? The lessons Bryan Stevenson learned freeing the wrongly convicted on death row? The way N.K. Jemisin imagines new worlds? This is the podcast for you.
Evan Osnos is the author of the National Book Award-winning The Age of Ambition: Chasing Fortune, Truth, and Faith in the New China, as well as a staff writer at the New Yorker. And he’s recently back from a trip to North Korea, where he learned how Trump’s threats are playing in one of the strangest and most sealed-off regimes on earth.
“To go between Washington and Pyongyang at this nuclear moment is to be struck, most of all, by how little the two understand each other,” he wrote. “In eighteen years of reporting, I’ve never felt as much uncertainty at the end of a project, a feeling that nobody—not the diplomats, the strategists, or the scholars who have devoted their lives to the subject—is able to describe with confidence how the other side thinks.”
In this discussion, Osnos and I talk about that trip: about what North Korea is like, what they think about us, and what war with them would actually mean. We also talk about China — they literally can’t believe their luck with Donald Trump, he says — and whether the widespread rumors that Trump is facing some kind of mental deterioration are true. Osnos, who dove deep into the subject for a New Yorker article on the 25th Amendment, fears they are.
And that’s not all: We dig into the pressures for war in Washington, the tendency toward survivalism in Silicon Valley, and why Osnos finds his best article subjects by looking at some of the worst things that could possibly happen to the human race. I enjoyed this conversation immensely. I think you will, too.
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