Sunday’s Reliable Sources featured a ten-minute segment painting Republicans and President Trump as liars and trashing the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act. It did not take long for members of the panel to begin comparing Trump’s America to the Soviet Union and the Third Reich.
No member of the panel had more hyperbolic analysis than Russian chess champ Garry Kasparov, chairman of the Renewed Democracy Initiative. Host Brian Stelter brought up Kasparov’s opinion piece on the CNN website titled “I lived in the post-truth Soviet world and I hear its echoes in Trump’s America.” Stelter asked Kasparov his usual softball: “is it this kind of mendacity that is the echo?”
Kasparov responded: "It’s probably even worse, because in the Soviet Union, we had to struggle to find alternative source of information. Here, I just push a button. So, swipe your finger on the phone. And…and it’s quite amazing that, you know, just Trump succeeded in just, you know, separating people. It’s like, you know, red state reality and blue state reality."
So, wait: We’re like the Soviet Union...except dissenting information is available everywhere? The obvious joke is this: Why is Stelter letting a Russian interfere in our political process?
CNN’s resident “conservative” S.E. Cupp agreed with Kasparov: “I think there are two different realities and two different sets of quote-unquote ‘facts.’” She then proceeded to make a veiled comparison of the President to Hitler: “In a book I won’t mention that’s very famous by a person I won’t mention who’s very awful...he said propaganda works by appealing to feelings, and not our reasoning abilities.” As Cupp made her subtle jab at Trump, Stelter had a huge smile on his face.
When Stelter claimed that it has been 286 days since the last "formal, on-camera" White House press briefing, Kasparov claimed the United States was descending into a dictatorship: “It doesn’t happen overnight. People have the wrong impression about dictatorships being built...by the military coups...It happens...in many places...day by day, night by night.” Even Stelter pushed back on Kasparov’s analysis, reminding him “this is not a dictatorship.”
President Trump has been available to the press all the time, conducting his own press briefings on the White House lawn. They don’t count as “formal” or “on-camera” because the reporters aren’t on camera. But that doesn’t mean the president isn't taking questions.
In spite of Stelter’s effort to reassure his audience that America is not a banana republic, Kasparov maintained that the United States is on “a road to perdition,” complaining that “2016 elections validated Trump’s style.” Echoing a comment he made on Real Time with Bill Maher last year, Kasparov warned that the President’s re-election will serve as a “validation of his political methods” before proclaiming that Republicans are “no longer reliable sources.”
People who compare Trump to a dictator are not “reliable sources.” It’s not a “blue state reality.” It’s just....propaganda to affect feelings.
A transcript of the relevant portion of Sunday’s edition of Reliable Sources is below. Click “expand” to read more.
BRIAN STELTER: Hey, welcome back to Reliable Sources. I’m Brian Stelter. Are we all suffering from media memory loss? Two years ago today, Trump signed a tax cut and reform bill into law; promising Americans a giant tax cut for Christmas. But as we all know, this tax cut was weighted heavily toward corporations. Corporations benefitted. And many of the promises that President Trump made with regards to the tax cut have not been fulfilled. Now, today also marks one year since the month-long government shutdown. Remember, this was in the news last Christmas, last holiday season. Trump was demanding more money for border wall funding. It was an epic fight that I feel like a lot of us have already forgotten. Certainly, President Trump has been trying to…to forget about these things. He…he said he wouldn’t sign another bill like the one he had to sign last winter and yet he just signed two of them on Fr…over the weekend. So, let’s talk about this idea of memory loss, how to make sure the media does follow up on these stories. Let me bring in three experts who are here with me. Catherine Rampell is a…let me start with, actually, Garry Kasparov, a first timer here on Reliable Sources. He’s the chairman of the Renewed Democracy Initiative, and a former world chess champion. Also, with me…he’s also the author of Winter is Coming. This is the book, Winter is Coming: Why Vladimir Putin and the Enemies of the Free World Must be Stopped. Also with me, syndicated opinion columnist for The Washington Post and CNN commentator, Catherine Rampell, and host of S.E. Cupp Unfiltered, S.E. Cupp. Catherine, let me start with you because your…your brand new column is about the tax cut two years later, broken promises. Is it fair to…you know, are you seeing enough follow-ups in the press about these kinds of milestones?
CATHERINE RAMPELL: I think there has been insufficient follow up. Basically every single promise that Trump and Republicans, by the way, other Republicans, other members of his party have made has been broken. He said that the tax cut would pay for itself. Instead, it has added or will…is projected to add $2 trillion to the deficit. He said it would super charge growth, that we would…Trump said it would…we would get to something to like 6 percent growth. No, we’re at 2 percent, which is what we had when Obama was President. He said it would result in big raises, which hasn’t happened. And he said that it would be politically popular, that Americans would be grateful, they would rush to the Republican Party because they’d be so grateful for getting this, you know, boost to their paychecks. None of that has been the case. The tax cut remains deeply underwater. And for some reason, we’ve just kind of let it go. We know it’s…it’s to be expected. Of course, Republicans would lie about tax cuts paying for themselves. They’ve always lied for it…lied about it. And…and I just think that’s incredibly disappointing that…that they’re getting away with breaking tons and tons of promises very significant to the U.S. economy and to Americans’ pocketbooks just because of low expectations.
STELTER: And President Trump is not the only one that misleads people about the economy and tax cuts. Mark Meadows on the floor of the House made some…some B.S. kind of statements during the impeachment debate the other day. I’m going to show one of those.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. MARK MEADOWS (R-NC): We’ve lowered the bar to impeach a President that continues to give us an economy that not only is growing but growing at levels that we have never seen in the history of our country.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
STELTER: Is that true, Catherine?
RAMPELL: No, none of that is correct. Look, not that a strong economy should be an…a get out of impeachment free card. It…it’s obviously not. But as I just said, we’re growing at about 2 percent this year. We grew at about 2 percent on average during Obama’s second term before we…we had this $2 trillion tax cut. That’s below the long-term post-war average of about 3 percent. It’s actually way below what it was when Bill Clinton was impeached. When Bill Clinton was impeached, we were growing at about 4.5 percent.
STELTER: Is it fair to say the economy is growing, it’s just that Trump fans are exaggerating the growth?
RAMPELL: Yes. Yes.
STELTER: Because all I hear…
RAMPELL: We have…
STELTER: …on Fox is the economy, the economy, it’s growing incredibly.
RAMPELL: Look, the economy today is not substantially different from the economy before Trump took office. It’s not like you can point to a, a, a point in the, you know, the decline of unemployment where you can see that Trump took office and the red sea parted and suddenly all these people gained jobs. These are basically the same trends we saw before despite the fact that there’s been all of this fiscal stimulus that Trump has pumped into the economy through tax cuts, through higher spending. We’re not seeing much payoff from any of it, but because those trends have continued, because the economy has not crashed, for some reason Trump gets to claim credit for the fact that…that things are okay.
STELTER: So, the bigger picture here, Garry, is something you wrote about for CNN.com recently. You said “I lived in the post-truth Soviet world and I hear its echoes in Trump’s America.” Is this kind of mendacity that is the echo? Is that what you hear?
GARRY KASPAROV: It’s probably even worse, because in the Soviet Union, we had to struggle to find alternative source of information. Here, I just push a button. So, swipe your finger on the phone. And…and it’s quite amazing that, you know, just Trump succeeded in just, you know, separating people. It’s like, you know, red state reality and blue state reality. For instance, the Senator from Louisiana, Kennedy, he lied about Ukraine interference in 2016 election on Fox, then he apologized on CNN. So, I…wish CN…
STELTER: That’s right.
KASPAROV: And I wish CNN…CNN anchor…anchorman could actually attack him, demanding that he would apologize on Fox. But that’s what…what’s…what’s Trump did, and…and unfortunately, it’s very little response from…from media forcing them to actually to bring truths to…to the Fox audience.
STELTER: That’s an interesting term you used. Red state reality and blue state reality. S.E., does that sound right to you? Is it that simple?
S.E. CUPP: I think there are two different realities and two different sets of “facts.” And that’s how propaganda works in a…in a book I won’t mention that’s very famous by a person I won’t mention who’s very awful, you know, he said propaganda works by appealing to feelings, and not our reasoning abilities. So, to that extent, the propaganda’s working. But I’d like to just push back on…on something that Catherine said and, and, and, and the, the…the op, the, the, the piece that she wrote, stringing all of these lies and broken promises together is really important and really good work. But I’m not sure he’s getting away with it. I think the media is really holding him and Republicans accountable. For example, she wrote about it yesterday. You’re talking about it today. I talked about it on my show yesterday. The media writ large employs people just to fact check now, the President; his broken promises, his, his, his lies. If you compare that, I think, to Obama’s media, for example, I think they were a lot more helpful in sort of the…the more subtle misleadings that Obama participated in during his administration.
RAMPELL: Obama never made claims like this.
CUPP: His lie of…Well, his lie of the year, which was if you like your health insurance, if you like your provider, you can keep your doctor, that was parroted and promoted by a lot of people in the press because, I think they wanted to believe it was true and I think that Trump gets a lot more scrutiny. Now, deservedly so, but I think to say that…that Trump and Republicans are getting away with the lies where the media is concerned is just not true. Now, where voters are concerned, will voters hold Trump and Republicans accountable? We’ll have to see in 2020. But it was not a great midterm election for Republicans in 2018, and I think a lot of the lies and broken promises probably had something to do with it.
RAMPELL: Look, on the…the point about Obama’s claim about you can keep your doctor…if you like your doctor, you can keep your doctor. Actually, a lot of health writers did point out that that was incorrect at the time. So, I…I don’t think that that’s the case but leaving Obama aside…
CUPP: Yes, but a lot of news anchors did not, a lot of big news…
RAMPELL: Well, whatever…
RAMPELL: …I, I can’t account…
CUPP: …did not. They were happy to just…
RAMPELL: …I can’t account…
CUPP: …bury it.
RAMPELL: …for, I don’t know that’s the case, but whatever. We’re not talking about Obama. The point is about Trump and Trump…
RAMPELL: …keeps…Well, that’s the point of this, right? Trump keeps repeating these lies. He has figured…he and Mark Meadows and others have figured out a lot of the time the media won’t call them on it. In fact, if you look at a lot of the news coverage, it is about the booming Trump economy, look how great the…the economy is. And look, as I said, the economy is quite good…
STELTER: Right. I think it’s like…
STELTER: …a news overload, though.
STELTER: When there’s 100 things going on at all times and 100 crazy claims, it just…it feels like an overwhelming situation, even if there are individual fact checking moments happening.
RAMPELL: And I think the problem is that the way people process information is when you repeat the lie, even if it’s to debunk the lie, people remember the lie. They remember it about the economy. They remember it about, you know, whether or not there was…whether or not Ukraine was interfering with the 2016 election in the case of the…the John Kennedy quote that you’re talking about. What happens is the news cycle becomes about the crazy thing that was said, and even if the media, which I…I think, as I said, has not done a sufficient job at debunking things. Even if the media…even if members of the media do attempt to debunk them, we end up amplifying the thing that needs to be debunked…debunked. And it’s…it’s really a difficult challenge for people who are covering these kinds of claims, again, whether it’s about…
RAMPELL: …economic issues or national security issues or…or electoral interference.
STELTER: Well, here’s…here’s something…I want to go…have you go down the memory hole, now that we’re at the end of the year. This was the year the…the White House press briefing died, the on-camera press briefing. It’s been 286 days since a…a formal on-camera, White House press briefing. You can go to WhiteHousebriefing.press for that daily count. Garry, does this kind of thing matter, this kind of transparency, this symbolic transparency that goes away in the United States? Does it matter?
KASPAROV: I made this prediction all the way back in 2016 after Trump’s elections. That it’s, you know, it, it doesn’t happen overnight. That’s…people have the wrong impression about dictatorships being built, you know, by the military coups. It, it, it happens in many…in many places, you know, just, you know, day by day, night by night…
STELTER: Cutting back on this, cutting back on that.
KASPAROV: Chipping pieces from here.
STELTER: But this is not a dictatorship, anywhere close, right?
KASPAROV: No, no, no, no, no. But it’s, it’s, it’s a road to perdition. So, once again, it takes time. But look, you know, where we were in 2016 and where we are now. 2016 elections validated Trump’s style. God forbid, he’s reelected in 20…in 2020. That would be a validation of his political methods. And, again, it’s…it’s, you…you say it’s Trump. But, by the way, Trump also…he has a family. So, that’s why if those who think that Trump world will be gone by 2024, I can remind them that, you know, he has a daughter, he has a son and it’s no longer GOP. It’s…it’s a Trump’s party. But even worse, you know, there were people who will be following Trump’s successful technique. I mean, let’s look at the Republicans. They keep repeating in the same grandiose terms, the greatest economy, you know, huge. So, it’s…it’s amazing, this…the, the Republicans today are just…they’re no longer, no longer reliable sources.
STELTER: You can say that.
KASPAROV: Exactly. Exactly.
KASPAROV: They’re not reliable sources. They don’t do reliable human beings.
STELTER: That’s a good plug.
KASPAROV: You know, they’re only reliable puppets.