PBS NewsHour: Trump’s Wild Gestapo Remarks vs. Biden Faces ‘Jaded Electorate’

The “Politics Monday” segment of the PBS NewsHour, as hosted by substitute anchor William Brangham, was spicier than usual. Brangham found “controversy” on Trump’s side (no surprise there) but President Biden eluded blame for his poor polling — blame a “jaded electorate” instead.

He was joined by the usual Monday political duo, Amy Walter of The Cook Political Report and NPR White House correspondent Tamara Keith. Brangham huffed:

In sarcasm mode, Brangham interjected his own thought. “So feeling like a trial is unfair is equivalent to being part of the Nazi secret police.” 

Walter lamented how Republicans must suck up to Trump to be his vice presidential candidate, as if that’s a novelty. Kamala Harris didn’t have to demonstrate loyalty?

NPR’s Keith explained a sort of running mate beauty contest in Palm Beach. She mocked it as comparable to the soapy reality show The Bachelor:

Then Brangham ran the infamous clip from NBC’s Meet the Press of host Kristen Welker hassling Republican Sen. Tim Scott, a possible Trump VP choice, asking him SIX times if he would accept as valid the results of a presidential election that hasn’t taken place yet.

No panelist admitted their fellow journalist’s questioning was hackishly excessive, though both Keith and Walter agreed it went on “for a long time,” and the PBS clip skipped the part when Scott finally said in frustration, “This is why so many Americans believe that NBC is an extension of the Democrat Party.

The panel then turned to Biden’s poor polling.

PBS NewsHour

5/6/24

7:45:57 p.m. (ET)

William Brangham: It’s already shaping up to be a busy political week, as Republicans navigate the fallout from controversial remarks made by former President Trump at a fund-raiser over the weekend. Meanwhile, six months out from the election, President Biden continues to deal with a jaded electorate, as he wrestles with the political ramifications of the war in Gaza.

Following this all closely is our Politics Monday duo, Amy Walter of The Cook Political Report With Amy Walter and Tamara Keith of NPR.

So nice to see you both. Happy Monday.

Six months out, as I just mentioned, from this election, this weekend, Donald Trump was at this campaign event and he made these comments where he basically equated the Biden White House with the Nazis, saying that they are running a — quote — “Gestapo administration.”

Now, this is, obviously, Amy, the — just the latest in a long history of Trump…

Amy Walter, The Cook Political Report: Yes. Yes.

William Brangham: … saying things like this.

But one of his fellow Republicans, one who’s vying to be the number two on the Trump ticket, North Dakota Governor Doug Burgum, came out and defended Donald Trump. Here’s what he had to say.

Gov. Doug Burgum (R-ND): A majority of Americans feel like the trial that he’s in right now is politically motivated. And if it was anybody else, this trial wouldn’t even be happening. So I understand that he feels like that he’s being unfairly treated.

William Brangham: So feeling like a trial is unfair is equivalent to being part of the Nazi secret police.

Amy Walter: Well, first, let’s talk about the majority of Americans, as the governor said right there, feel that this is unfair, which, according to the most recent poll, the NPR/PBS/Marist poll, that is not true; 54 percent in that poll thought that it’s fair.

Now, 46 percent think it’s unfair. So there are a lot of people…

William Brangham: Right.

Amy Walter: … who think the way the North Dakota governor does.

But if we think that this candidate Trump or a Trump 2.0 president is going to look any different than the candidate we have known since 2016 or the person who was president for four years, you’re going to be sorely mistaken. This is the reality of — this is just who Donald Trump is, how he’s going to operate, how he is going to speak and behave.

What we are seeing as well, as you pointed out, Doug Burgum reportedly on the short list to be a vice presidential candidate, is that loyalty to Donald Trump is always important. I think, in a Trump 2.0, it will be very, very top priority in picking who is around him.

And so, when we talk about, well, what are the constraints or what are the restraints or the guardrails around a Trump presidency for things that he says or does, who’s going to maybe rein him in, stand up and say no in the way that the vice president, Mike Pence, did, these folks are not saying that they would like to…

William Brangham: They’re saying: I won’t do that. Don’t worry, boss.

Amy Walter: I’m pretty good with — I’m pretty good with the way that Trump is going to operate.

Tamara Keith, National Public Radio: Yes.

Right now, we are in the audition phase of the vice presidential pick contest…

Amy Walter: Yes.

Tamara Keith: … or, like, an episode of “The Bachelor” or something.

And he — they had this event in Palm Beach. They brought all of these candidates, potential vice presidential picks in, and then many of them went out on the Sunday shows. And what they had to do was show their loyalty to former President Trump.

He — as Amy said, he does not want another vice president who will be loyal to him only up until when it matters and when the Constitution is on the line.

William Brangham: Right.

Tamara Keith: He wants someone who will go out there and prove and tie themselves in knots, like Senator Tim Scott did on “Meet the Press,” just tie themselves in knots to stick with the reality that is Trump’s reality, even if it is not true.

William Brangham: Let’s take a look at what Tim Scott had to say, because he was asked about, will you accept the election results, regardless of who wins? Here’s what he had to say.

Kristen Welker, Moderator, “Meet the Press”: Well, Senator, will you commit to accepting the election results of 2024, bottom line?

Sen. Tim Scott (R-SC): At the end of the day, the 47th president of the United States will be President Donald Trump. And I’m excited to get back to low inflation, low unemployment, and…

(Crosstalk)

Kristen Welker: Wait, wait. Senator, yes or no, yes or no, will you accept the election results of 2024, no matter who wins?

Sen. Tim Scott: That is my statement.

William Brangham: I mean, Kristen Welker went back and forth about this multiple times.

Tamara Keith: For a long time.

Amy Walter: Yes, for a long time.

Tamara Keith: And this is relevant because former President Trump is still denying the results of the last election. He is going to Wisconsin and Michigan and saying, oh, no, I actually won here, when he didn’t. So, it’s entirely relevant whether you will accept the results of the 2024 election.

He has also said in that “TIME” magazine interview that — it came out last week — that he doesn’t think that there will be violence or any issues, as long as the election is fair. But, at the same time, he is saying that the last election, which was fair, wasn’t.

William Brangham: Fair meaning, “I won.”

Tamara Keith: Generally speaking, yes.

(Crosstalk)

Amy Walter: Yes.

William Brangham: Amy, meanwhile, Biden has got polling that again showing not great news for his campaign.

We want to put up this graphic here. A majority of the U.S. adults, 54 percent, disapprove of Biden’s performance. That is a 3 percent jump since March. Now, that’s within the margin of error.

Amy Walter: Yes.

William Brangham: But it is his worst rating since 2019.

I mean, how panicked should that campaign be?

Amy Walter: Well, he is deeply unpopular, but he’s not that much more unpopular than Donald Trump is. And the poll that you’re citing are — the Marist poll.

So, Donald Trump’s overall approval rating is 42 percent, the president being at 40 percent. Where we sit right now is really fascinating. It feels like we have been — this campaign has been going on for about 100 years, because it basically has.

(Laughter)

Amy Walter: We’re rerunning 2020.

William Brangham: You both look great for 100-year-old people.

(Laughter)

Amy Walter: Thank you. Thank you. Appreciate that.

But the focus right now is on Joe Biden. He’s the president now. Obviously, four years ago, it was Donald Trump. If the question is, should we go — which president do you think did a better job in his first term, right now, Trump is winning that argument.

And you see in poll after poll when they ask questions about what do you think — who you did a better job on the economy, whose policies do you think have helped you the most, Biden or Trump, Trump is beating Biden on those matters.

But if you talk about a campaign, which is about the future, that’s the conversation that we haven’t really gotten into yet. And that’s why you saw even the Tim Scott interview. You hear the surrogates, as well as Donald Trump, talk a lot about, remember back in the days, let’s bring us back to those days of four years ago…

William Brangham: Right, booming economy.

Amy Walter: … when the economy was great and inflation was low. So, remember, remember how great those times were.

It’s up to the Biden campaign to make the case that — not so much to fight about whether those times were great, but to talk about the next four years and what an administration of Biden’s would look like and his policies and compare them to Donald Trump’s.

Tamara Keith: Which is why the Biden campaign continues to highlight all of the things that Trump says…

Amy Walter: Yes.

Tamara Keith: … like the Gestapo comments and everything else that he has said, while also really trying to amplify what he is saying he would do…

Amy Walter: That’s right.

Tamara Keith: … and, in particular, on abortion rights, where he is trying not to say what he would do, and on any number of policy matters.

In that “TIME” magazine interview, again, where he talked about wanting to round up migrants and…

William Brangham: Right, deploy the military inside the U.S.

Tamara Keith: Yes. And then he was asked, well, but the military being used on civilians? And he said, oh, no, they’re not civilians, which is a pretty significant departure from norms.

William Brangham: Right.

Amy Walter: Yes. And this — the case hasn’t really been prosecuted yet.

Tamara Keith: Yes.

Amy Walter: Believe it or not, we are still, which feels like either six months, you think, is a long time from now or a very short time from now. I tend to think of it as a short time.

I think most normal voters think, well, we’re a long way away from the election.

William Brangham: So they just haven’t dialed in yet.

Amy Walter: Yes. And the — and both candidates soon enough will be on the airwaves making their case to voters. Theoretically, there will be debates between these candidates, where the differences between the two will become more of the conversation.

William Brangham: Theoretically, on those debates. Amy Walter, Tamara Keith, so nice to see you both. Thank you.

Amy Walter: You’re welcome.

Tamara Keith: Thanks, William.

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