CNN’s Reliable Sources used to be a show about journalism and media ethics. In the Trump era, it’s all about Trump and conservatives ruining America.
Host Brian Stelter opened by lecturing President Trump that “leadership also means leading the public, in this case, leading Trump’s base away from illogical, destructive ideas.” It quickly became clear that the panel saw the border wall as an “illogical, destructive idea” with guest Karen Tumulty calling it “the wrong idea to a real problem.”
BRIAN STELTER: It’s a chaotic end to year two of the ‘as seen on TV presidency.’ Right now there’s wall to wall coverage of the third partial government shutdown of the year. It’s so embarrassing for the country. And it’s partly due to Trump’s radio and TV cabinet. They were warning him that he would look weak if he didn't demand border wall funding so now here we are....
Leadership means sometimes persuading people who disagree with you, that's why presidents so often use TV to make their case and to talk to more than just the base. But Trump is mostly just tweeting. Leadership also means leading the public, in this case leading Trump's base away from illogical destructive ideas. Instead, Trump is the misleader in chief. The Washington Post has him up to 7,546 false or misleading claims since Inauguration Day and a good number of those claims are about the so-called border wall, stoking fears, stoking anger.
Eventually, the conversation turned to the Mattis resignation, with CNN’s favorite has-been, Carl Bernstein, reporting from liberals’ favorite city -- Paris -- arguing that Mattis’s resignation as well as the government shutdown raises the question of “the fitness or unfitness of Donald Trump to be President of the United States. What the Mattis letter has done in a monumental way is to push Republicans into making some real judgments, they're talking to each other, there is coming to be a much greater consensus that he is unfit on psychological grounds, that he is unfit, perhaps, because of his contempt for the law, and particularly unfit in his conduct of foreign policy in such a way as to be a danger himself.”
Bernstein also suggested Republicans needed to be pressured about removal:
CARL BERNSTEIN: I think as journalists that we need to be going to all Republican members of the House and Senate and having serious discussions with them, questions on background, what do they think about the fitness of Donald Trump to be President of the United States?
Stelter proceeded to bring up a tweet from former Clinton Press Secretary Joe Lockhart, who asked “how is it that with everything we already know and there’s a lot we don’t know, not a single major editorial page has called on Trump to resign?” Lockhart added, “if this had been any other President, I think we would have already seen the call.” Stelter then asked Bernstein if he agreed with Lockhart. Not surprisingly, he did.
According to Bernstein, “Yeah, look, if Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama had said and done the things that Donald Trump has done, impeachment proceedings would have been done a good while ago and I think you could even count perhaps on conviction in the Senate if it were a different President of the United States.” Bernstein also described the Trump Presidency as an “untruthful Presidency” and claimed that President Trump has “wittingly, unwittingly or half-wittingly” served as a “tool of a hostile foreign power,” namely Russia.
Based on this segment, it seems perfectly obvious what liberals and the media want for Christmas: the removal of President Trump from office, either by resignation or impeachment.
A transcript of the relevant portion of Sunday’s edition of Reliable Sources is below. Click “expand” to read more.
BRIAN STELTER: But first here on Reliable Sources, it’s a chaotic end to year two of the as-seen-on-TV presidency. Right now, there is wall to wall coverage of the third partial government shutdown of the year. It’s so embarrassing for the country. And it’s partly due to Trump’s radio and TV cabinet. They were warning him that he would look weak if he didn’t demand border wall funding so now here we are. Sunday’s New York Times reports that Trump is spending, quote “ever more time in front of a TV,” often retreating to his residence out of concern that he is being watched too closely. The story depicts Trump as paranoid, isolated, and many of the aides who are with him come from TV. I mean, think about it, this year, John Bolton joined the Trump from Fox, Larry Kudlow joined from CNBC, Bill Shine joined from Fox, now, Heather Nauert is up for the U.N. Ambassador job and his longtime aide, Hope Hicks, is over working for Fox in corporate PR. It’s the as-seen-on-TV presidency.
And look, that’s not all bad. Media experts have been helping Presidents communicate for decades and news coverage can keep presidents in touch with the public. That is a good thing. But leadership means sometimes persuading people who disagree with you, that’s why Presidents so often use TV to make their case and to talk to more than just the base. But Trump is mostly just tweeting. Leadership also means leading the public, in this case leading Trump’s base away from illogical, destructive ideas. Instead, Trump is the misleader in chief. The Washington Post has him up to 7,546 false or misleading claims since inauguration day and a good number of those claims are about the so-called border wall, stoking fears, stoking anger. He says stuff like this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PRESIDENT TRUMP: Illegal immigration costs our nation $275 billion a year. You hear many different numbers.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
STELTER: His numbers are bogus. They appear to be made up. He used to say $200 billion, then $250, now he’s saying $275 billion. But even the most extreme estimates by anti-immigration groups do not go that far. So he’s lying again. Again. Is it possible to have a fact-based budget debate when the President is so detached from reality? This is an ongoing constant challenge for journalists, as well as for the public. So, let’s get into it with Karen Tumulty. She’s a columnist for The Washington Post covering national politics. Dara Lind, she’s a senior reporter for Vox Media covering immigration, and CNN Political Analyst Carl Bernstein. Karen, is the President creating a crisis, this border wall drama to shut down, to distract from the real crises he is facing?
KAREN TUMULTY: Well, there is a crisis at the border, but it is not the crisis that the President describes of, of criminals and drug dealers coming over, terrorists coming over the border. There is a humanitarian crisis at the border, of just record waves of legal asylum seekers trying to get their claims heard. And the answer to that is to look at both the dysfunctional immigration system that we have in this country and also the sources that make people…of the reasons people become so desperate in Central America. So a wall is really…you know, it’s, it’s the wrong answer to a real problem. And I think the media is doing a pretty decent job, particularly, for instance, my newspaper has an amazingly well-documented story by Nick Miroff in the paper today of what the real crisis at the border is and it's one that's being made worse by Trump’s immigration policies.
STELTER: I love the interactive on The Washington Post website that shows you the entire border, it shows you there’s already lots of walls, lots of fences, lots of bollards in a lot of different places and I understand Trump wants more of those. But, Dara, what are the biggest misconceptions, the biggest misnomers about the border as we go through this funding fight?
DARA LIND: I mean, I think that the debate over a border wall or not often takes place in this weird reality, this weird alternate reality where there is no border enforcement or there is perfect border enforcement everywhere. What the Trump administration is actually asking for is 215 miles of bollard fencing largely in the Rio Grande Valley where there isn’t a lot of barrier right now. So, we could be having a discussion about, as Karen said, is this the right response to this particular flow of people, some of whom were seeking asylum, some of whom aren’t.
LIND: But instead we have either the idea that everyone is coming over in an invasion and there’s absolutely nothing or that the government has already done everything it possibly could and that every other dollar it spends is unnecessary.
STELTER: Right. So we’re, we should have that nuanced conversation, but oftentimes that nuance gets lost. What do you want viewers to know as an immigration beat reporter?
LIND: I mean, it’s not even what I want viewers to know, it’s what would be excellent to have Congress debate, right? Right now, the debate about the border wall has become a debate about giving Donald Trump what he wants, it’s become important to both parties to either give it to him or deny it to him because it was a promise made to his base. And we saw that this week when he initially seemed to be moving toward compromise and was then pulled back to the right by conservative media. So I think Karen’s right, the conversation that the public is having is actually a fairly nuanced conversation about what do we do with a flow of people, many of whom are asylum seekers, but who are crossing between ports of entry, but Congress doesn’t appear to have gotten the memo.
STELTER: Carl, help us connect this fight to Trump’s precarious position overall. To me, James Mattis issued a warning to America with his resignation letter and that’s the other big story this weekend, loss of support for the President. How do you connect these fights?
CARL BERNSTEIN: Well, you just said it right, it’s all one big story and that story is about the fitness or unfitness of Donald Trump to be President of the United States. What the Mattis letter has done in a monumental way is to push Republicans into making some real judgments, they’re talking to each other, there is coming to be a much greater consensus that he is unfit to be the President of the United States if you talk to Republicans, that he is unfit on psychological grounds, that he is unfit perhaps because of his contempt for the law and particularly unfit in his conduct of foreign policy in such a way as to be a danger himself. And this is what Mattis has said, Tillerson has said, McMaster has said. They view the President of the United States as a danger to the national security of the United States and Mattis issued a warning, a shot across the bow that this can no longer be tolerated, having a President who does business in this way, trashes our alliances and allows Vladimir Putin to be the king of the world by destabilizing the United States of America.
STELTER: But if Republicans are saying it privately, very few of them are saying it publicly. Do you believe that will change?
BERNSTEIN: I think there… it’s starting to change already. I think as journalists that we need to be going to all Republican members of the House and Senate and having serious discussions with them, questions on background, what do they think about the fitness of Donald Trump to be President of the United States and let’s start running detailed stories about what they really think because the contempt that so many of them have, as well as the fear of Donald Trump, they’re also afraid of his base, and Trump is a President of his base, not a President trying to unite the country. But they are also still fearful of his base why they, why a lot of them haven’t come out and spoken, they’ve been craven against the President. But listen to what Mitch McConnell said, he broke with the President of the United States after the Mattis letter in a way that is absolutely definitive and I think is going to be regarded as a changing point in the Trump Presidency because there is…now this is no longer about just the Mueller investigation, this is about the fitness or unfitness of Trump in every regard and especially about an untruthful Presidency that it makes it impossible to have a truthful debate.
STELTER: There, there is something real happening among Republicans, but I also wonder, Karen Tumulty, if there is some wishful thinking going on among liberals; thinking that this is the end or the end is near. Are you detecting any of that among liberal writers and liberal columnists?
TUMULTY: Well, it’s certainly…you know, it does feel like something is sort of qualitatively different about the events that we’ve seen over the past ten days. But the fact is that, you know, Trump was able to get that vote out of the House for this wall that he wants. So I really don’t see particularly in the House until, you know, early January when the Democrats take over, any real dynamic changing.
STELTER: I mean, here is an interesting example. Joe Lockhart, a former Clinton Press Secretary who knows something about the Clinton years and impeachment and all the calls for Clinton to resign in the ‘90s, here’s what he tweeted. He said, “how is it that with everything we already know and there’s a lot we don’t know, not a single major editorial page has called on Trump to resign.” Lockhart says, “if this had been any other President, I think we would have already seen the call.” Carl Bernstein, do you agree with Lockhart?
BERNSTEIN: Yeah, look, if Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama had said and done the things that Donald Trump has done, impeachment proceedings would have been done a good while ago and I think you could even count perhaps on conviction in the Senate if it were a different President of the United States. But this is not just a question of whether he is going to be impeached, convicted, not convicted. This is about whether or not a consensus is developing that the President of the United States is not fit to serve in a situation such as we have never had in the history of this country. Read what individuals are saying in the Congress, being, quote…quoted as saying he’s off the rails. Republicans saying that, not Democrats. He’s off the rails psychologically. He’s not stable enough to be President. These are questions that as journalists we have to look at not pejoratively, not saying whether we think he’s psychologically unfit, but what people of the country think. We also ought to be talking to people in the country about all these things, but also about Republicans particularly and what they say about these questions and also Trump tried to make this…his fitness about whether or not he’s committed “collusion.” Well, the larger question is whether he has been a tool wittingly, unwittingly, half-wittingly of a hostile foreign power and the evidence seems to stack up that wittingly, unwittingly or half- wittingly, he has been a tool of a hostile foreign power, of Vladimir Putin, in such a way as to undermine the interest of the United States. It doesn’t mean it's impeachable but it is an amazing fact.