On Tuesday’s edition of Amanpour & Co., airing both on CNN International and tax-funded PBS, host Christiane Amanpour brought on left-wing New York magazine journalist Rebecca Traister and Democratic strategist Joe Trippi for a long conversation harping on the evils of the racist, misogynistic presidential candidate, Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis (almost as bad as Trump!) and reelecting Joe Biden, without the slightest of journalistic nods toward balance.
Traister, more ideological than party strategist Trippi, noted the party would have to soon move on from Biden.
(Well apparently you can “make this stuff up,” because Florida’s updated curriculum does not teach that slaves benefited from slavery.)
Traister took advantage of the opportunity to unload, accusing Republicans of “rolling back The Enlightenment,” among other sins.
Strangely, there was no mention of Vice President Kamala Harris, perhaps indicating that even the press realizes the American people have low confidence regarding her as a prospective president. There was also nothing about Hunter Biden’s expanding list of scandals, many of which touch his father the president himself.
Amanpour & Co.
Aired on PBS 7/26/23
1:32:23 a.m. (ET)
CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR: In the heat of the American summer, presidential candidates are focused on the dead of winter, that’s when the primaries start, just a short si months from now. It is a crowded Republican field, and it’s becoming clear that the culture wars will be front and center. Florida Governor Ron DeSantis still waging his battle against “wokeness” and his latest legislation raises race to a whole new and shocking level, like requiring school children to be taught that slavery actually equipped slaves with beneficial personal skills. On the Democrat side, there is Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., using his name to spread COVID conspiracy theories, hoping to challenge his own party’s president for the nomination. RFK’s campaign, much like Donald Trump’s, is an undeniable manifestation of a post pandemic conspiracy laden political landscape. That is the view of writer Rebecca Traister. And she is joining me now, alongside Democratic Strategist Joe Trippi. Welcome, both of you, to the program. Before I dive into the theory and the deep reporting that Rebecca has done, I want to ask you, as a Democratic strategist, Joe Trippi, that given both principled candidates, you know, sort of favorabilities are quite low, is it actually time or an opportunity for a viable third-party candidate right now, or even one to — you know, to question his own party?
JOE TRIPPI, DEMOCRATIC POLITICAL STRATEGIST: I think it’s a very reckless time to do that. I’m sure there will be people who do it, as Robert Kennedy Jr. is doing. But this is not — we’re not in — I don’t believe we are in an era where there’s actually — you know, it’s Republican versus Democrat or ideological fight between right and left, there’s — it’s autocratic Trumpism versus democracy. And the Trump vote is not — there is no way to have a — there’s no one who is going to take moderate Trump votes away from him. They don’t exist. There are no moderate centrist voters who are with Trump. So, if you put forth as no labels is trying to do a third-party that would be centrist and moderate, there’s only one campaign — it’s just the pro-democracy side of that equation that is going to get diluted. And I think the same is true with Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. in that — I think all of this is working towards helping Trump get reelected, including Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. I think it would be not surprising to me at all if there is a dark money, independent expenditure campaign launched on his behalf to attack Biden. All of this is, in my view, an effort to help Donald Trump win reelection.
AMANPOUR: So, Rebecca, you did the deep dive onto Robert F. Kennedy’s candidacy and all that’s going around. Does Joe Trippi have a point? I mean, one could say, that’s a little conspiracy laden, that he is being funded by the other side to damage Biden? Did you find any evidence of that?
REBECCA TRAISTER, WRITER-AT-LARGE, NEW YORK MAGAZINE: Well, I wasn’t — my reporting did not focus on the funding behind Kennedy’s campaign. It is certainly true — that a couple of things are true. First of all, Kennedy is certainly — he’s running as a Democrat, right? So, to be clear, he is not running, at the moment, as an independent or as a third-party candidate and he is drawing on a lot of recollections of his forebearers, of his uncle and his father, John Kennedy and Bobby Kennedy, Sr. in his campaign and saying he’s a true Democrat. But a lot of what he’s talking about has a really strong appeal to those on the right, and a lot of the networks that are promoting him, and I mean, the podcast networks, are people with right word leanings. A lot of the people who — and he crows about this — are excited about him are people who are also excited about Donald Trump. And he views this as a point of pride. I would argue that it is creating a lot of chaos. And I think that Joe is right that the peril here is that his candidacy draws more enthusiasm and weakens Biden, but I want to say that part of the reason that his candidacy, I think, is getting some of the attention it’s getting is because there is a lot of ambivalence about Biden on the left and amongst Democrats, and there are worries he is an older candidate. He had promised that he would be a bridge candidate to the future, but has not necessarily worked to empower a future generation of Democrats. And one of the things that I think — it’s interesting, Joe was talking about, you know, this is not right, this is not left, there is a major generational shift happening in both parties right now.
TRAISTER: And there is a lot of confusion and chaos about who is going to lead us into the future. And I think that candidate — chaos candidate, including Kennedy, are taking advantage of a lot of that conclusion.
AMANPOUR: OK. So, let me turn to you, Joe, then. The idea of this, you know, chaotic landscape, obviously, Robert F. Kennedy does have an unbelievable pedigree, and yet, he is peddling the kind of paranoid politics that Trump has been peddling. How do you see — you know, because you’ve been there, you know, certainly, in the Kennedy era, certainly Edward Kennedy and all the rest of it. How do you see Robert F. Kennedy, who is polling quite significantly, you know, continuing this quixotic campaign?
TRIPPI: Well, I would say, first of all, the first precincts I ever walked in my life were in California for Robert F. Kennedy, Sr. And then, I did work — going to work for Ted Kennedy in the ’80s. So, I know the — you know, I’ve worked with this family. I know them. They all – the entire family is against this. And Robert Kennedy is trading on the name, which I think is benefiting him right now. I think there are a lot of voters out there who just here Robert Kennedy Jr. and, you know, consider it. And — but I think every day that he is out there and his conspiracy theories are getting more daylight, the worse things will be for him. I am not worried at all about his — you know, his sort of tilting at windmill campaign for notoriety or relevance, he’s been doing that for some time and his campaign is just another part of that. What concerns me is the funding. The one thing we do know now, because the filing deadline for contributions just passed, and so it is starting to trickle out, I mean, the reporting is now out there, a large number of his donations come from Trump, from people who’ve only given to Trump and Robert Kennedy Jr. And so — and that is, you know, a problem. But the bigger problem will be if — in my view, if you see an independent expenditure, you know, dark money committee, start expanding funds, attacking Biden on behalf of Kennedy — I mean, has the excuse to do that. And I think, you know, I would not be surprised if that happens, given where Kennedy’s money is coming from and the stuff he’s exposing (ph), along with some other third-party candidacies that are out there that I think all of it — and, you know, there are a lot of years where I would probably not have problems with any of this, everybody has the right to run, you know, primaries. Let’s have a debate. I think this year, 2024, with Donald Trump threatening to get — you know, for him to return to the White House has got to be the most dangerous thing, not just to the American democracy, but to democracy around the globe.
AMANPOUR: So, let me ask you this then, because clearly, it is, you know, worrying quite a few Americans, and certainly, many people around the world who, you know, watched what happened on January 6th and many other issues. I mean, I’m talking about you know, firmly Democratic countries, and they are concerned. But to Rebecca’s point, Joe, do you think that the Democrats fumbled, Biden fumbled, by not being a bridge to a new generation?
TRIPPI: Well, first of all, he’s doing extremely well with Generation Z voters. I mean, he’s doing very, very well. The other thing is, at this point, in every election that we’ve seen — you know, I mean, not just for Trump years, but going back, you — everybody was bemoaning who the two candidates were going to be. It’s always been that case. I think Biden has done a remarkable job. You look at the job numbers, inflation coming down, you look at — with amazing, you know, tough Republican opposition on everything, the bipartisan bills, the infrastructure and other things, the way the economy is moving, this – the big recession that was coming is now like the big red wave that never happened in 2022. I just think that Democrats are better served by — which — and I think they are, they’re pretty much unified behind Biden. I think the threats of Trump will again — in the contrast, between Trump and Biden, which is what one in 2020 and what stopped the red wave from materializing in 2022 is — that contrast is really important. That’s why Trump cannot win. He has only gotten to 46 percent in both 2016, we’ve got the 20 to 46. In 2020, he got that 46.8. He cannot win if there’s only two candidates.
AMANPOUR: All right.
TRIPPI: He’s never — but Biden got 51 percent of the votes. There’s only one way Trump wins, that’s to erode Biden and to have a third-party candidate. That’s why no labels is such a threat as well.
AMANPOUR: OK. So, let me bring in Rebecca in then, because I see you wanting to, you know, put a different point of view across.
TRAISTER: Well, I want to say first that I absolutely agree with Joe that it is democracy. Democracy is absolutely in the balance. And I probably agree with him that given that Biden is going to be the candidate, that he is the best hope for democracy, there is no question. And so, I want to say that up front. But I also want to say that democracy was also in the balance in this point of incredible precarity for our Democratic institutions, for the globe, for the planet, that was also true in 2020, it was also true in 2016. It’s going to be true in every election moving forward that what is in the balance is democracy itself, is the health of the planet and its people, and that these decisions are crucial. But the Democratic Party also has to acknowledge it has to find a way forward that is not going to be Joe Biden for the rest of the future, right? And so, the questions — I mentioned earlier that there are these generational shifts. Of course, that was going to happen. A generation of leaders who came to power in the second half of the 20th century are aging out of power. And you can see how the different parties are approaching those shifts, right? What is the two-party system going to look like moving forward? I would argue the right has been quite hospitable to takeover by its hard right extremist flank. You saw that from the rise of the Tea Party onto this — the Freedom Caucus, you know. I would say that the left has been much more ambivalent to hostile about its younger generation, many of whom lean to the left of what leadership has been for the past few decades. This is part of what we are looking at moving forward in these moments of real risk, calamity and peril that Joe is accurately describing. And again, I want to state for the record that I agree, Joe Biden as the candidate, and I’ve been a critic of him from the left and I also have a lot of good things to say about his presidency and many progressive economic policies he has put into place, I want to give him a lot of credit. But I also want to say that the fact that there are questions about what happens next within the Democratic Party are very real and very pressing.
TRAISTER: And that those are the kinds of questions that I think that candidates — all kinds of candidates who are coming in as critics of Biden are taking advantage of right now, in part, because the party isn’t doing a great job of addressing them.
TRAISTER: What’s going to happen next? Who’s going to lead us forward? What’s that going to look like?
AMANPOUR: Yes. Let’s get to that in a second because let’s — we obviously know that Joe Biden is not going to be forever leader. He’s only got on more term possible. So, there will have to be some kind of changing of the guard at some point. Now, in the Republican Party, they look to the young man, relatively, obviously, young man, Governor DeSantis of Florida. And before what we are seeing and what we’ve seen unfold as a little — sort of stumbly rocky campaign, he was considered a very legitimate and major threat to the Democrats. But they — and I want to ask you to weigh in on this, Rebecca, and then I will get Joe Trippi’s, they have gone full woke, because as you pointed out, the economy is pretty good, employment is pretty good, the legislation has been pretty successful, but they’ve gone full woke, anti-women, all the reproductive issues, and this unbelievable legislation of trying to teach Floridian children that actually slavery had beneficial fallout for slaves. I mean, can you even — I don’t know. It seems like you can’t make this stuff up. Is that really campaign material, Rebecca?
TRAISTER: Well, I think that’s an open question. I think they are banking very hard on that, and I think there’s a lot of evidence that voters aren’t necessarily going to respond to it, but we don’t know. I mean, we shall see. I mean, this is one of the open questions, is how much electoral success can they gain from rolling back the enlightenment, basically. And, I mean, there’s a lot of evidence, by the way, so far, just because of the timeline, that some of the hard right rights rollbacks that they have enacted, for example, around abortion in the wake of Dobbs, are actually producing resounding electoral defeats, that’s something I wrote about earlier this year that some of this very hard right turn is ending very badly for them, and we have the evidence for that over the past year around abortion, Republicans consistently are losing every time abortion is on the ballot, post-Dobbs. So, these questions remain open, I think, for some of these other extremist, cruel, racist, xenophobic, misogynistic laws that are being passed in states like Florida and Texas, and elsewhere. But this is clearly their only strategy moving forward, and they are leaning into it hard.
AMANPOUR: And, Joe, obviously, from your point of view as a strategist, I mean, everything Rebecca is saying is true, and that it has not been an electoral winner, these hardline culture issues if you look at the last several nationwide elections over the last couple of years. So, where do you see the Republican campaign going, no matter who it might be, and who do you think might break out of the current pact, if at all? People talk a lot about Tim Scott. You know, he is black, he’s a senator, he’s from the south, he’s got a great life story.
TRIPPI: Look, I don’t think — look, I think what Rebecca just listed is why the Republican Party right now is on the verge of losing a generation, a generation forever. I mean, people tend in their first formative political moments where they align and vote one way, they tend to lean that way, even if they’re independents the rest of their lives. I witnessed this in the ’80s with Reagan. The Reagan revolution captured an entire generation for the Republican Party that gave them the path to victory. These anti-woke, you know, whatever you want to call it, move to – – where Trump and DeSantis are trying to out-extreme each other and DeSantis is winning right now on the — going to the even further extreme than Trump, but losing votes while he does it, that’s taking — it’s losing this younger generation, whether it was Joe Biden in his age or Gavin Newsom or whoever you would have — you would think about the nominee on the Democratic side, that generation is not voting for homophobia or racism for — and to take away women’s rights, it’s not going to happen, not this younger gen Z. So, one, there. The second thing I don’t understand about any of this, and I will put it out there, is, OK, tell me who wins, who beats Trump. Pick one, give it to me, DeSantis, Tim Scott, whoever, OK, let’s — we wave our wand, it happens. Are you telling me that for the first time in his life Donald Trump will be gracious, will go to the convention, hold his hands up in the air with the person who defeated him, tell them that it’s a great thing and urge all his MAGA supporters to join with him in supporting the Republican nominee? It isn’t going to happen. So, it is futile. OK. So, you beat him and then what? You get crushed in the general election because he will tell his folks to stay home and stand on their hands because it was stolen. DeSantis, you know, pulled a hoax on you, whatever is going to happen. I just think in the end, this is a fight between, I think, Trumpism and democracy, and I think, again, as I said earlier, I wouldn’t begrudge any of this potential candidacy. So, I just think it’s a reckless time to do it —
AMANPOUR: Right. OK. Yes.
TRIPPI: — even if they aren’t happy about Biden’s age. It’s —
AMANPOUR: The stakes are so high. Joe Trippi, Rebecca Traister , thank you so much, indeed, for being with us today.