During two different cable news broadcasts on Friday morning, personalities compared President Trump to two different “strong men” dictators, apparently growing tired of the Hitler comparison. CNN senior political commentator and former Obama aide David Axelrod compared Trump to the Roman Emperor Nero while MSNBC’s Jon Meacham described him as “Stalinist.”
On New Day, Axelrod compared President Trump to Nero while complaining about the President’s reversal of Obama-era environmental policies. After declaring with a straight face that he wasn't concerned about the Obama legacy, Axelrod effectively blamed the Trump administration’s roll-back of Obama-era environmental policies for the wildfires plaguing California and compared the President to the tyrannical Roman emperor: “I mean you look at these wildfires. I mean Trump is literally Nero while the west burns.”
When asked about the press briefing by U.S. intelligence leaders on Russian meddling, Axelrod declared: “We have a bipolar administration. We have a President saying one thing and his administration saying another. It’s important that they did what they did. It’s also important for the President to stop undercutting that message and sending signals to Moscow that the back door is going to be open.”
Less than two hours earlier on Morning Joe, liberal historian Jon Meacham described the President’s declaration of the “free press” as the enemy of the American people as “Stalinist.” He also urged the administration to “stop playing this totalitarian card” and echoed the concern of CNN’s sanctimonious White House correspondent Jim Acosta that “somebody is going to get hurt” as a result of the President’s media criticism.
The other members of the Morning Joe panel also took turns trashing the President and White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders. Co-host Willie Geist accused President Trump of having an “obsession” that “he’s not treated fairly, that he’s not given the credit he deserves for all his perceived achievements.”
The Washington Post’s David Ignatius described “the press room that Sarah Huckabee Sanders is running” as “toxic” and suggested that she refused to deny that the press is the enemy of the people “because she’s afraid of her boss, she’s afraid of Donald Trump, and you can see watching him last night in Pennsylvania why she’s afraid of him.”
Frequent panelist John Heilemann suggested that Ivanka Trump only dared to push back on her father’s declaration of the press as the enemy of the people because “Ivanka knows she won’t be fired and Sarah Huckabee Sanders knows that she will be fired.”
Apparently believing that the panel didn't already consist of enough Trump hatred, Washington Post associate editor and columnist Eugene Robinson questioned Sanders's morality: “But you know, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, Mike Huckabee’s daughter, presumably, you know, a God fearing woman, I mean, what does she, I never ask this question, but what does, what does she say when she kneels down to pray at night?”
With the midterm elections less than 100 days away, the media will continue their never-ending drumbeat to remove the “totalitarian” Trump from office.
A transcript of the relevant segment of New Day is below. Click “expand” to read more.
CNN's New Day
DAVID GREGORY: Well, let’s talk about that, Axe, because you’re very concerned about what the administration is doing to roll back particular policies of the Obama administration on the environment, I think about fuel standards and their announcement that’s come out in the last couple days.
DAVID AXELROD: Yeah.
GREGORY: Combating climate change, you know, EPA regulations. So this is…one of the reasons why conservatives ultimately fell in line for Trump is that there is a different view about what government should do, how it should balance economic interests with environmental concerns, how it should intervene in the economy, whether there should be universal health care. You are seeing this play out right now with a President who is also relying, as Obama did, on executive rules, executive power to change the direction. But you don’t like the direction it’s going in now?
AXELROD: Well, look, you know, let me make clear, and I’ve said this before here and elsewhere, it’s not…I don’t care about the Obama legacy. History will take care of that. It’s the practical implications of these policies. You guys read news and so you’re covering stories at the same time the administration rolling back these measures that are meant to try and combat climate change. And, you know, these…these runaway wildfires in the west and these floods in the east, there are real implications to these policies. I mean you look at these wildfires. I mean Trump is literally Nero while the west burns. And that’s what concerns me, the real life implications of this. And what’s interesting on health care, you mentioned health care, is the Affordable Care Act has never been more popular. There is a real urgency about health care in this country. It’s rising to the top of the list again of issues of concern among people. And you don’t hear Republicans talking anymore about the Affordable Care Act as much. You don’t hear them talking about repeal and replace as much because, you know, we see the uninsured rising again. We’ve seen premiums jacked up largely because of the administration’s actions. And so, you know, I…I’m not worried about legacies, I’m worried about the impact of policies. And ultimately people…you’re right, David, there’s this philosophical difference. Ultimately when people vote, they’re going to have to judge, are the policies of this administration helping them…helping them? Are their wages going up? Are their lives better? If the answer is no, even if the…even if their, the GDP is up and Wall Street’s doing well, then they’re going to have a political problem.
ALISYN CAMEROTA: Very quickly David, we only have 30 seconds left, what did you think when you saw all of those national security heads come out and take the podium and try to sound the alarm of what’s happening current day, now, as we speak about Russian interference?
AXELROD: Well, we have a bipolar administration. We have a President saying one thing and his administration saying another. It’s important that they did what they did. It’s also important for the President to stop undercutting that message and sending signals to Moscow that the back door is going to be open.
GREGORY: Is it…is it…do you think we can safeguard the country well enough with this bipolar existence?
AXELROD: I think it puts us in jeopardy. I have confidence in people who were standing on that platform. I think they were serious people. They’ve been attacked by this President as well. But when the President speaks, people listen, and Vladimir Putin listens as well. We need to be…we need to move forward as one. And it’s concerning and bewildering that this President is willing to undercut these folks on what is a major, major concern for our democracy.
CAMEROTA: David Axelrod, thank you very much for “The Bottom Line.” Have a wonderful weekend.
A transcript of the relevant segment of Morning Joe is below. Click “expand” to read more.
MSNBC's Morning Joe
WILLIE GEIST: Welcome back to “Morning Joe.” It’s a few minutes before the top of the hour here. We’ve been talking about Ivanka Trump calling her father’s family separation policy a low point for her and for the White House. Well, in that same Axios interview, Ivanka told Mike Allen that the press is not the enemy of the people as her father has said repeatedly.
MIKE ALLEN: Do you think that we’re the enemy of the people?
IVANKA TRUMP: Sorry?
ALLEN: Do you think the media is the enemy of the people?
TRUMP: No, I do not.
GEIST: She says “no, I do not think the press is the enemy of the people” in response to Mike’s question. President Trump later tweeted “they asked my daughter Ivanka whether or not the media is the enemy of the people. She correctly said no. It is the FAKE NEWS, which is a large percentage of the media, that is the enemy of the people!” That’s the President’s tweet. Well, at the White House briefing yesterday, Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders refused to answer whether she agrees with President Trump that the media is the enemy of the people.
SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS: It’s ironic, Jim, that not only you and the media attacked the President for his rhetoric when they frequently lower the level of conversation in this country. Repeatedly, repeatedly, the media resorts to personal attacks without any content other than to incite anger. The media continues to ratchet up the verbal assault against the President and everyone in this administration and certainly we have a role to play but the media has a role to play for the discourse in this country as well.
JIM ACOSTA: The President of the United States should not refer to us as the enemy of the people. His own daughter acknowledges that and all I’m asking you to do, Sarah, is to acknowledge that right now and right here.
SANDERS: I appreciate your passion. I share it. I’ve addressed this question, I’ve addressed my personal feelings. I’m here to speak on behalf of the President. He’s made his comments clear.
GEIST: So Jon Meacham, she says she speaks on behalf of the President, he’s made his comments clear. His comment has been time and again that the press is the enemy of the people. Even in these times, an extraordinary moment when the White House Press Secretary will not say that the working press is not the enemy of the people.
JON MEACHAM: Yeah. It’s, as you say, it’s hard to determine which is a lower moment. It’s an elective kind of base management. It’s pernicious. It’s dangerous. It is, and this is not media elite people defending media elite people. It’s simply a Stalinist phrase, for God’s sake. It comes out of totalitarian regimes to declare that a free press is enemy of the people and I just would say this and you know, if I had two minute with President Trump, which seems very unlikely, what I would say is what, so we’ll use this. We know you care about success, we know you care about ratings. Most people do. What do you want us to think when we look at your portrait down the years? Do we, do you want us to think of the reality show impresario who used totalitarian tactics and continued to govern only for his base or do you want us to look at you and say, you know what, he got there by unconventional means but he actually tried to reach out beyond the people who supported him. The latter, which is what he should want, because this cycle is for a moment, Sarah Huckabee Sanders is going to be dealing this with the rest of her life. These moments are for the moment. History is forever. And I just would think that…the fact that it’s in the national interest, leave that aside. It’s in their self-interest to stop playing this totalitarian card because the other fear, I think Jim Acosta said this at some point this week, is somebody’s going to get hurt and it’s not worth it. It’s not worth it.
GEIST: And David Ignatius, after Sarah Huckabee Sanders had that moment in the briefing room, it was only amplified at the President’s rally last night where he spent a large chunk…he was there ostensibly to campaign for somebody, a large chunk of that speech railing against the media; he called it the fake, fake, disgusting news, I think was the term he used, on and on with this obsession. He’s got this obsession that he’s not treated fairly, that he’s not given the credit he deserves for all his perceived achievements.
DAVID IGNATIUS: It’s a toxic situation. I think the President knows exactly what he’s doing in his populism, the media is the kind of symbol of the elite that he wants to encourage the country to denounce. Pretty soon we’ll we’re going to be getting to lock them up, the way things are going. That press room that Sarah Sanders is running is toxic.
MIKA BRZEZINSKI: Yeah.
IGNATIUS: I’ve never seen anything like that in 40 plus years of being a journalist. She should be ashamed of the briefing process that she’s running. It’s just unbelievable when she’s asked to deny that the press is the enemy of the people after the first daughter has said that that’s nonsense and she won’t do it. And she won’t do it because she’s afraid of her boss, she’s afraid of Donald Trump, and you can see watching him last night in Pennsylvania why she’s afraid of him.
JOHN HEILEMANN: That’s the big contrast. The contrast is Ivanka knows she won’t be fired and Sarah Huckabee Sanders knows that she will be fired. So she’s afraid for her job. She cares more about keeping her job than speaking the truth.
BRZEZINSKI: I see the play on both levels. Ivanka was doing what Ivanka needed to do for Ivanka. And Sarah Huckabee Sanders is doing what she needs to do for President Trump. But in the process, we are losing something incredibly important in this democracy. Joining the conversation to continue on this, Pulitzer-Prize Winning Columist, and Associate Editor for The Washington Post and MSNBC Political Analyst Eugene Robinson. And Gene, I, you know, it’s staggering to watch Sarah Sanders every day at the press briefing, every day it gets, if possible, more shocking and more disturbing when it comes to manipulating or devaluing the truth. What I saw yesterday was something worse, and she was reading prepared statements. There’s, this is a strategy, this is not something that Trump or she is stumbling into; the strategy of playing the victim. It’s why I didn’t agree with what happened at the White House Correspondents’ Dinner because we make ourselves potentially vulnerable to being chipped away at by those who want to hurt exactly what it is we do. But she played the victim but had a prepared statement. Did you see what I saw?
EUGENE ROBINSON: Yeah, I saw, I saw the same thing. I certainly saw her reading the prepared statement. You know, this segment of history is playing out as tragedy and farce at the same time. It was, it’s stunning. I had thought months ago that Sarah Sanders, you know, was the worst Press Secretary I had ever witnessed in my about 40 years here in Washington, and that her briefings were useless if she was just going to read, you know, sort of prepared non-responses to perfectly reasonable and necessary questions and that’s what she does routinely when she bothers to have a briefing. I think it’s a, you know, on that level it’s a waste of everybody’s time. Yesterday, I guess it wasn’t a waste of everybody’s time. Everybody put their cards on the table and we heard something that was just grotesque, I thought…
BRZEZINSKI: It was.
ROBINSON: …the way that she sort of in a toady is the only word that comes to mind of her stance towards the President and she was so afraid to deviate from this line, this enemy of the people line, even a little bit. And so she had to write it out and read it and wouldn’t go beyond it because, you know, I mean, John was right, she can get fired. But you know, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, Mike Huckabee’s daughter, presumably, you know, a God fearing woman, I mean, what does she, I never ask this question, but what does, what does she say when she kneels down to pray at night?
BRZEZINSKI: I know. I don’t know.
ROBINSON: And what sort of, you know, is she bargaining? Because how can she be proud of this? How can she…
BRZEZINSKI: I don’t know. But that’s something she’s going to have to live with. We care about what’s happening, you know, to the national conversation, and to the safety of our democracy, and Donny and Susan, this is a strategy that works with the base, I believe. I saw her perfection for the base when I watched that briefing.