Meet the Press Panel Melts Down Over Trump's 'Performative Narcissism'

Shortly after interviewing Counselor to the President Kellyanne Conway, Meet the Press host Chuck Todd brought in his panel to discuss the immigration crisis at the southern border. While the panel was split on whether or not there actually is a crisis on the border, they all seemed united in their contempt for President Trump, melting down over his “performative narcissism” and warning of a “genuine democratic crisis” because of his “lack of governance.”

Todd began the conversation by describing Conway as somebody who “represented an administration that...wants to do something, wants to do a deal but her boss doesn’t sound like somebody that wants to do a deal.” New York Times columnist David Brooks outlined what would happen in a “magical fantasy land where we have a President who cares about solving other people’s problems” before trashing President Trump: “President Trump sees every problem as a chance for his own performative narcissism, as a chance for him to show...what a man he is.”

Brooks also accused the President of trying to “deter immigration through cruelty,” arguing “that’s why we have this problem.”

Eugene Robinson of The Washington Post repeatedly dismissed the idea of a crisis on the border. According to Robinson, “we’re a country of 330 million people, you know, richest, most powerful country on Earth. Yes, we can deal with 50,000 families, you know...people on the border...Let’s build the facilities and put the people in place and let’s get it done.” 



While Danielle Pletka of The American Enterprise Institute argued that the situation at the border is “a genuine crisis,” she accused President Trump of widening “the chasm between himself and proper governance” and warned of “another year and a half of mismanagement...lack of governance...and of genuine democratic crisis.”

While Brooks did not hesitate to trash President Trump, he also focused on the Democrats’ inaction when it comes to solving the problem; calling them “strangely mute on what to do.” Robinson was unmoved by the points of the other panelists; declaring “I don’t think it is an open borders question the use of the word crisis” before reiterating his earlier talking points: “It’s a lot of people who are coming in but we are able to handle it.”



Brooks disagreed with Robinson’s claim that “we are able to handle it,” reminding him “there are 700,000 people coming this year and they’ll wait until 2021 to get a hearing.” Pletka closed the immigration conversation by calling the situation at the border “a crisis in every sense of the word.”  Robinson did not get a chance to respond to Pletka but if he did, he likely would have agreed with her argument that “we shouldn’t get into semantics” about the word crisis and continued to downplay the situation at the border as a nothing burger.


A transcript of the relevant portion of Sunday’s edition of Meet the Press is below. Click “expand” to read more.

Meet the Press


10:53 AM


CHUCK TODD: Welcome back. Panel is here. Washington Post columnist Eugene Robinson; Danielle Plekta, The American Enterprise Institute; NBC News Capitol Hill Correspondent and host of Kasie DC on MSNBC, Kasie Hunt; and New York Times columnist David Brooks, author of the new book The Second Mountain. I think it’s going to take a third, fourth, or fifth mountain if we’re ever going to figure out the immigration solution. You wrote about that this week, David, in the way of just like I felt I guess it’s a version of enough is enough, you know, you’re Samuel L. Jackson snakes on a plane moment, you know? Can’t we…I just had…I’m just not sure what conversation I just had. That was a very…Kellyanne Conway represented an administration that looks like that wants to do something, wants to do a deal but her boss doesn’t sound like somebody that wants to do a deal. 

DAVID BROOKS: Yeah, there’s a magical fantasy land where we have a President who cares about solving other people’s problems. And if we had that President, then we would expand the detention centers, we’d vet the kids in their home countries so they don’t have to take the walks.

TODD: We’d probably ask mayors to take in some of these…

BROOKS: Right.

TODD: …folks, right?

BROOKS: We’d fix the release system so they’re released in coordination with humanitarian agencies. We’d do what any mayor and governor would do. You just, there’s a problem here. Let’s fix the problem. But unfortunately, President Trump sees every problem as a chance for his own performative narcissism, as a chance for him to show what, what a man he is. And so everything becomes not a solution. Everything just becomes a pose, show business and the…the upshot is he’s tried to deter immigration through cruelty, and that’s been a miserable failure and that’s why we have this problem. 

TODD: You know, Kasie, it seems as if, and you always wonder, oh boy, when do the Senate Republicans, are they going to get upset, are they going to get nervous, but the sacking of the basically, the entire echelon of the, of the Homeland Security Department…and by the way, look at this, I’m going to put the listing of actings that we have going in this administration right now and how many of them are actually connected to some form of border security or the border issue, especially what’s happening at DHS. Do you get a sense, you know, with Senate Republicans like when even Mitch McConnell says we have got to have an adult conversation, something’s afoot? 

KASIE HUNT: Mitch McConnell was, I think, measured himself, kind of saying, okay, I’m open to this. I think if anything, that also puts a little bit more heat on Democrats to, to try to come to the table or it’s designed to. I do think there’s an increased amount of nervousness. Clearly, the White House wants to be able to do whatever the President wants to do regardless of kind of some of the guardrails that Congress has put in place around these questions. I mean, it seems like that’s a big part of the reason why the Homeland Security Secretary in particular was sacked. But, you know, I think the, the absolute root of the problem here is that this President, every time he goes to Congress and says I want to solve X problem by doing Y thing, whatever Y is changes five or six times during the course of the negotiations. So, you know, how are, you know, Republicans have learned this lesson several times. The Democrats then had to learn it again, even though Republicans tried to tell them, hey, like watch out, like, this guy’s not really a reliable negotiator. 

TODD: Right.

HUNT: So how do you solve this problem if that’s the case? 

TODD: Would you accept any of the deal parameters that Kellyanne Conway laid out today? 

EUGENE ROBINSON: Look, you could have, you could have that conversation and you could make a deal. But not with Donald Trump. You couldn’t, you couldn’t with a President who says let’s get rid of judges, let’s…you know? As David said, it is performative, it is showing what a tough guy he is. It is not finding solutions to problems. This is…we’re a country of 330 million people, the you know, richest, most powerful country on Earth. Yes, we can deal with 50,000 families, you know, people on the, on the, on the border. It’s not that big a deal for us to handle that if we choose to handle that, and handle it properly. We have laws that provide for asylum, let’s follow the law. Let’s, you know, let’s, let’s build the facilities and put the people in place and let’s get it done. 

DANIELLE PLETKA: I’m not sure I agree with you about, about the fact that we can handle this. I do think this is a genuine crisis and that’s all the more reason why we need to adapt our laws, why we need to update, why we need to, why we need to move ahead with some of the changes that Kellyanne Conway laid out very normally, I thought. But I want to talk about the President for a second because I think we reached a turning point in the last week in which, you know, feral marketing reality TV guy Donald Trump actually widened the, the chasm between himself and proper governance. 

TODD: Yeah.

PLETKA: In which…

TODD: Who knew that was possible?

PLETKA: …I really was surprised but, you know, when we see this, we see an administration struggling, running to keep up with him, to execute the increasingly random things that he’s saying. That, that, that is also a crisis, in my opinion, because if this gets worse, we are looking at another year and a half of, of mismanagement, of lack of governance and of genuine democratic crisis. 

TODD: Well, here’s the other part of it, and, which is, and this was a part of this that I don’t… why take away the money from the Central American countries? And of course, I was trying to get at like there is no…we have no consistency in our foreign policy. What we’re doing in Venezuela and, I mean, you, it’s…now, there is some political ramifications for Venezuela. It’s called Florida’s electoral votes. 

HUNT: Indeed. I mean, Chuck, the root of the question, I think is is this about policy or is it about politics? I mean, do they really want to solve the crisis? Because, I mean, I do think, you know, our system has for many years functioned that way, we have solved big problems in the past. We don’t have the greatest immediate track record but that doesn’t mean that we couldn’t do that. But there’s no…the trust has broken down because the sense is, I mean, why? That is…the best point is, why are you to take that money away when we know that it helps stem the root of the problem if you’re the President? It just indicates to others he wants…this is a political thing for him. 

BROOKS: Can we not let the Democrats off the hook here on this one?

TODD: Right. They need to…

BROOKS: A lot of them are still saying there’s no crisis and then they’re, they’re strangely mute on what to do. And I think, the core problem is they don’t know where their base is on immigration.

TODD: That’s right.

BROOKS: Are we a zero…open borders party? Where are we? And they don’t want to get on the wrong side of the Twitter mobs, and so it’s just lay low, lay low, lay low, or just be abstract. 

TODD: Eugene? 

ROBINSON: I don’t think it is, it is an open borders position to say, to, to, to question the use of the word crisis. Maybe you can use that word, you can not use that word. It’s a lot of people who are coming in, but we are able to handle it. You know, this is…this, it’s not hoards and hoards invading in the way that the President describes the caravan. In fact, there is a process and people get to apply for asylum. We can look at the asylum laws if you want to, if you want to look at that, but we have laws and we ought to follow them. 

BROOKS: There are 700,000 people coming this year and they’ll wait until 2021 until they get a hearing. 

PLETKA: Right. This is, this is, this is a crisis in every sense of the word. You’re right. We shouldn’t get into semantics about this. But, but the President gets…this is a sanctuary city play. He gets that the Democrats are in a very, very invidious position here. 


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