In an election that’s presented numerous moments where people from the across the political spectrum found themselves on the same side, Tuesday’s CNN Republican Presidential Town Hall featured another strange dichotomy as liberal historian Douglas Brinkley oozed praise for Donald Trump over his handling of campaign manager Corey Lewandowski facing criminal charges.
While Brinkley was found on the same side as Trump during Tuesday’s CNN Tonight panel, former Meet the Press moderator and CNN political commentator David Gregory excoriated the candidate’s behavior and wondered out loud what the Trump campaign’s doing
Brinkley chimed in first and when asked for his thoughts by host Don Lemon, he proclaimed that, in his view, “Trump handled” the situation “fairly well” to town hall moderator Anderson Cooper by “talking about loyalty of defending his guy.”
“Was he going to do? Really fire the campaign manager for that incident? So he doubled down, tripled do you on it like Trump did,” Brinkley added.
Even though he admitted that the alleged assault of conservative reporter Michelle Fields is “a big news story,” Brinkley brushed aside what supposedly transpired along with the subsequent charges by ruling that “in about three days it will kind of taper away” because “I don't think it’s that big of a story in the end.”
By the next segment, however, Gregory offered a take that couldn’t have been more different. First calling out the campaign by asking “what are you doing,” Gregory seemed exasperated at the idea that the campaign spent Tuesday “leaning into this” despite the fact that “[y]ou've already got the problem at your rallies where you have violence.”
Gregory paired this with Trump’s past comments about wanting “to punch protesters in the face” and submitted that the situation served as yet another peek into “the leadership style of Donald Trump as potential president.”
Most significantly, Gregory noticed how Trump spoke to Cooper in far more detail about how he believes the Fields incident happened than providing reasons to bolster his wild claim that the United States should withdraw from NATO:
He had more granular detail about whether there were adequate print markings on this reporter's arm than he does about fact that he wants to get rid of NATO and doesn't know the basic fact that NATO has been fighting terrorists in Afghanistan for the past decade. I would think as commander-in-chief, he’d want to have a better grasp of that[.]
Before CNN political commentator and fervent Trump supporter Kayleigh McEnany swooped into to defend Trump’s behavior as being vital to his broader movement, a frustrated Gregory concluded: “I mean, why does he want anyone working with him putting his hands on a reporter?”
The relevant portions of the transcript from CNN Tonight on March 29 can be found below.
March 29, 2016
11:21 p.m. Eastern
DON LEMON: Bob Beckel, is this is a weak spot for — for Donald Trump? To that — and was that effective?
BOB BECKEL: No, no. Listen, you back in history and First Ladies or wives of presidential candidates have been beat up from the very beginning since the beginning of time, so I don’t think that — they're going to be a big part of this campaign. You can’t get away from that.
LEMON: No, I'm talking about Corey Lewandowski, the campaign manager.
BECKEL: Yeah, well, I mean look, if you believe the video, and it hard not to believe a video, right, Don?
BECKEL: It's pretty clear he did, yeah.
LEMON: But according to Donald Trump, there's the video right there. According to Donald Trump, oh, it was no big deal, they're downplaying it, she should be stronger. That — that is the response from the campaign Go ahead.
DOUGLAS BRINKLEY: I thought Trump handled that fairly well. He's talking about loyalty of defending his guy. Was he going to do? Really fire the campaign manager for that incident? So he doubled down, tripled do you on it like Trump did. It’s a big news story. It’ll be headline news tomorrow but I think in about three days it will kind of taper away. There will be more headlines. I don't think it’s that big of a story in the end.
11:30 p.m. Eastern
LEMON: You wanted to say, David, about this Corey Lewandowski.
DAVID GREGORY: This is not about the legal aspect of this case, wherever that goes. It's certainly a distraction, but again if you're the Trump team, what are you doing? Why are you leaning into this? You've already got the problem at your rallies where you have violence. You have a candidate who talks about his desire to punch protesters in the face. So what are we learning about the leadership style of Donald Trump as a potential president? What are we learning about the people he surrounds himself with? What are we learning about the way he responds to criticism or adversity? He had more granular detail about whether there were adequate print markings on this reporter's arm than he does about fact that he wants to get rid of NATO and doesn't know the basic fact that NATO has been fighting terrorists in Afghanistan for the past decade. I would think as commander-in-chief, he’d want to have a better grasp of that rather than — I mean, why does he want anyone working with him putting his hands on a reporter?