While a guest on the weekday program CNN Newsroom last week, Doug Brinkley -- CNN's presidential historian -- used the opportunity to slam Republican Donald Trump’s first year in the White House by calling him an “asterisks president” and stating that he will be remembered for “racism” and “bigotry.”
Co-anchor John Berman began the interview by asking Brinkley: “How do you think history will look at this president or the first year presidency?”
Brinkley came out with both fists flying:
It’s an asterisk's president. Nobody really has believed he really is president, and that’s because of the FBI, Justice Department constantly investigating him.
You’re waiting any day for a shoe to drop.
In addition, the historian claimed that Trump “had a cloud hanging over him throughout the year.”
Nevertheless, he continued: “There have been some concrete accomplishments there -- the economy is doing well, and that’s a big thing for a politician to have going for him.”
“But alas, here we are, on the one-year anniversary, and we have a government shutdown going in,” Brinkley stated.
“When you have a 35 or 7 percent approval rating, it’s very hard to unite the country on anything,” he asserted because of Trump’s “historic lows” in public polls.
Co-anchor Poppy Harlow then asked Brinkley a surprisingly positive question. She began by stating: “You talk about the Stock Market. [Trump] said it in jest yesterday. Have you ever heard the phrase: ‘It’s the economy. Stupid?’”
Harlow then noted that the state of the economy “is really helping” Trump because of “the jobs numbers and the Stock Market.”
She then asked: “Where has he succeeded?”
Brinkley stammered while attempting to answer her question.“Well, you know,” he stumbled, “Theodore Roosevelt once said about the Justice Department, the house of Morgan, J. P. Morgan was complaining, you know, about Wall Street.”
Brinkley then quoted Roosevelt as saying: “My Justice Department, we know no ticker tape. Administrations are not judged on Wall Street. It’s going to go up and down. You might see it go down because of this shutdown.”
He then finally got to his answer for the question:
Where he really, I think, he did well in his first year is border security. I think the idea that most Americans want a tougher border with Mexico -- not the Wall, but the idea of more apprehensions.
I think in foreign affairs, the tough stance on Iran, perhaps the American Embassy in Jerusalem. You know, making that bold move might play out well.
Berman then interjected that Trump had done well regarding ISIS (the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria), and Brinkley agreed that “the one surgical strike in Syria” taking out a chemical plant was done with “pinpoint precision” that he stated was “flawless,” and “it worked.”
“Now when you’re looking back,” Berman stated, “there have been other things that the people look at as low points independent of Russia.”
“Number one, for me,” the guest responded, “that history is going to look terribly on the first year of Trump, his racism, the bigotry of Charlottesville, the bigotry of comments that he made about Haiti and Africa and El Salvador.
“This whole game of the National Anthem and how he tries to orchestrate and inflame the country,” the historian continued by noting that Trump got “very low marks on race relations for this president, and then infuriating our allies abroad.”
“We’re not liked anymore,” Brinkley continued. “Who would have thought that Great Britain doesn’t want our president to come make a visit, and that’s because his tweets have been so insulting to them every time they have a moment of national crisis.”
Harlow then stated that this “begs the question of what will take the lead in the narrative that was written about this president when they write the history books. Will it be those things you just mentioned -- racism, et cetera -- or will it be the other accomplishments.”
“Maybe the opening line someday in his obituary as ‘the president who couldn’t stop using Twitter,” Brinkley replied.
The guest then commented that “I don’t think it’s worked well for him. I understand why he uses it, but he puts himself in holes all the time.”
“At the core of it,” Brinkley stated as the interview drew to a close, Trump is seen “as a revolutionary figure that 35 percent sticks by him, and it’s part of a kind of nationalist, in some ways xenophobic, anti-immigrant movement that’s going on in the world.”
“He’s simply the kingpin of that global energy right now,” the historian added.
Berman then stated that Trump had gone through “an absolutely significant first year. I think history will say whether you look at that as a good or a bad thing,” he concluded.