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CNN’s Stelter Offers No Pushback as Brinkley Loses Mind, Links Trump to Franco and Mussolini

Posted on 31 July 2017

On Sunday’s Reliable Sources, CNN host Brian Stelter offered zero pushback on CNN presidential historian Douglas Brinkley’s latest unhinged tirade in which he compared President Trump to 20th century dictators Francisco Franco of Spain and Benito Mussolini of Italy.

Brinkley also ripped Trump as overseeing a White House in “utter disarray” and gave The Resistance something to cheer for as he added that Trump’s “unfit for command.” That drew a brief interjection from Stelter, who only asked him to clarify (to which Brinkley doubled down).

Stelter teed up Brinkley with this softball: 

To our historian for some context here. Douglas Brinkley, I find myself reaching for words, trying to figure out how to put a week like his in context. The banners on screen say things like White House in crisis. Anchors say things like chaos, trying to express just how extraordinary the situation is. Help us out, how do you convey what's going on with the Trump White House? 

Brinkley responded that the White House is in “utter disarray and you can't really compartmentalize everything because it's all morphed together as Donald Trump unfit for command in my opinion.”

Stelter stepped in but Brinkley dug in, citing communications director Anthony Scaramucci’s unprofessional New Yorker interview while his administration has been “leaking like crazy.”

“He thinks you can govern by chaos and it's not working. It is true. He has this 36 percent of the American public backing him. That means over 60 percent of Americans think that he's doing a miserable job and the rest of the world is laughing,” Brinkley proclaimed before linking Trump’s tweets to how Nixon behaved on his Watergate tapes.

Out of left field, Brinkley went down to the dictatorship path when Stelter put forth the notion that Trump could ideologically move to the center:

Yes, except he's going independent in a kind of revolutionary way. It's sort of the Trump movement. You're either with me or against me. The key to Donald Trump is just this kind of blind fierce loyalty, and that's what Franco expected in Spain. That's what Mussolini wanted to do in Italy. I mean, these are kind of ways if you're asking people to march in lock step with you and we saw John McCain give the big thumbs down to Donald Trump. No, we're not all in lock step with you. 

Just when you thought the eye-rolling nominees for a future Notable Quotables edition were done, Stelter predicted McCain’s “thumbs down” might be a new sign for one wing of The Resistance:

And journalists love a come back story. They love a story about a new change, a new chapter. I'll go in record here and predict that that thumbs down is going to become a symbol for anti-Trump Republicans. This is gong to become a sort of meme of some sort.

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Stelter’s reluctance to challenge Brinkley was no surprise, seeing as how he’s repeatedly referred to Trump as a dictator. Stelter has disagreed with my colleague Nick Fondacaro’s assertions in the past, but it’s difficult when he’s said Trump’s behavior was “exactly what authoritarians do,” and that “citizens in dictatorships” identify with the current state of America.

Further, one can throw in his December 11 declaration that Trump’s election warranted a “national emergency” and you have a show that one could make a solid case as being divorced from reality.

This argument is even more of a slam dunk when he’s previously offered no disagreement for Trump-dictator comparisons. CNN political commentator Carl Bernstein and longtime liberal journalist Jeff Greenfield went on February 19 rampages against Trump as someone akin to Hitler and Stalin that saw no disagreement. Here's Greenfield's meltdown:

STELTER: Jeff, your impression here. Carl is using words like authoritarian would you agree with that characterization?

JEFF GREENFIELD: Well, that's certainly the whisper of it. When you use a term like ‘enemy of the people.’ A lot of people have pointed to totalitarian regimes that use that phrase whether it was Stalin or whether it was Hitler. And I'm certainly not going there at this point.

Now here’s what Bernstein uttered in the same hour: “There's a history of what ‘enemy of the people,’ that phrase means as used by dictators and authoritarians including Stalin, including Hitler.”

One week later, Stelter used the term “authoritarian tendencies” on February 26 in describing Trump’s behavior while interviewing New York Times executive editor Dean Baquet. 

Despite all this, Stelter claimed in an April podcast with BuzzFeed News that he’s not “freaked out” or “crusading” against the President even though he thinks his rallies are “poison.”

To tie all this up, here’s a series of exit questions (to borrow from contributing writer P.J. Gladnick): Has Trump imprisoned any journalists? Have there been any reports of innocent Americans being rounded up and shot by the government? Has there been any word about the government creating labor camps for political enemies or anyone who goes against the State? Have liberal protesters been allowed to demonstrate without being run down by tanks? And finally, are journalists still allowed to do their jobs?

One could do this all day, but those are enough for liberal minds to ponder.

Here’s the relevant transcript from CNN’s Reliable Sources on July 30:

CNN’s Reliable Sources
July 30, 2017
11:05 a.m. Eastern

BRIAN STELTER: To our historian for some context here. Douglas Brinkley, I find myself reaching for words, trying to figure out how to put a week like his in context. The banners on screen say things like White House in crisis. Anchors say things like chaos, trying to express just how extraordinary the situation is. Help us out, how do you convey what's going on with the Trump White House? 

DOUGLAS BRINKLEY: It's an utter disarray and you can't really compartmentalize everything because it's all morphed together as Donald Trump unfit for command in my opinion. I mean, you could go and look at Godfather movies and — 

STELTER: You said he's unfit — let me be clear, you said he's unfit for command? 

BRINKLEY: I think so. I think when you have a White House communications director that uses the kind of foul language that he does against fellow employees of the federal government and makes threats the way that he did, and that's supposed to be your solution to the United States as a way they're going to communicate with the world, it means Donald Trump picked the wrong person to be his communication director. He has a White House that's leaking like crazy, as just mentioned. There are people ready to whistle-blow. He thinks you can govern by chaos and it's not working. It is true. He has this 36 percent of the American public backing him. That means over 60 percent of Americans think that he's doing a miserable job and the rest of the world is laughing. We have a crisis in North Korea and we're playing these reality TV, big time wrestling games, because Donald Trump was weaned and raised on television, and it's becoming a TV episodic president, where every day, you've got to say something sensational to make sure your name is on the headlines. We had a problem with Nixon. If it’s any president, this is like it's Nixon. If you listen to the Nixon Watergate tapes, the secret tapes, and you hear Nixon ramble, it sounds like Donald Trump's tweets and it didn't turn out well for Nixon. 

STELTER: I was just Googling to make sure I have the facts right, Doug. Back in December, you went down to Mar-a-Lago and met with then-President-elect Trump, didn't you? 

BRINKLEY: I did. 

STELTER: Did you think things were going to work out this way? 

BRINKLEY: You never know. You know, I don't do how things are going to work out. If you're a historian, you try to deal with kind of just deal with real events. There was this moment of hope that he might try to unite the country and do infrastructure, be really the third rail candidate, which he is in ways, not really a Republican. Republicans don't like Donald Trump.

STELTER: And he's drifting more in that direction, as being an independent of some sort. 

BRINKLEY: Yes, except he's going independent in a kind of revolutionary way. It's sort of the Trump movement. You're either with me or against me. The key to Donald Trump is just this kind of blind fierce loyalty, and that's what Franco expected in Spain. That's what Mussolini wanted to do in Italy. I mean, these are kind of ways if you're asking people to march in lock step with you and we saw John McCain give the big thumbs down to Donald Trump. No, we're not all in lock step with you. So, what do you have, six months of a dysfunctional White House, nothing has gotten done, the biggest thing Congress got done was keeping and strengthening sanctions with Russia. But it's a failed agenda so far, and we'll have to see whether he's able to kind of get in a new form of leadership going with a White House chief of staff, but it's been a wreck so far. 

STELTER: And journalists love a come back story. They love a story about a new change, a new chapter. I'll go in record here and predict that that thumbs down is going to become a symbol for anti-Trump Republicans. This is gong to become a sort of meme of some sort.