There is a lesson we can learn from CNN’s “town hall” meeting with Trump On May 10th. The lesson involves how we deal with proven serial liars, of which Trump and the MAGA crowd are far from the only ones around. That lesson also should be considered by the anti-Putin left.
Trump operates on the theory that if you throw enough mud (or lies) some of them will stick. His lies were so fast and furious that it was impossible for the interrogator, Kaitlin Collins, to keep up with all of them. You can’t really blame Trump, no more than you can blame a rabid dog for biting people. You have to blame the person who set the dog loose, which in this case were the CNN executives and Kaitlin Collins.
That starts with the fact that evidently CNN allowed Trump to choose the audience. Every lie Trump said, every outrageous statement he made was greeted with applause, cheers and even laughter from his audience. Collins’ refutations of Trump’s lies had no effect whatsoever. Collins asked Trump about the sexual assault on Gene Carroll. As he did all evening, Trump talked right over her, calling the victim of his assault a “whack job”, and on and on. Collins should have told him “that is disgraceful. You sexually assaulted a woman and then slandered defame her, and now you’re doing it again. It is exactly because of sexual predators like you that women who are raped or assaulted are so reluctant to speak up. You are enabling sexual predators throughout the country.” But she couldn’t say that because that would have been “unprofessional”, and anyway CNN is trying to attract some of the MAGA crowd. So in the end, the net effect was to strengthen the MAGA crowd.
Abby Grossberg interview
This comes after CNN’s Anderson Cooper’s disgraceful May 3 interview with Abby Grossberg. She, you will remember, is the former Fox executive who is suing Fox for a hostile work environment. In the ten minute interview, Grossberg described the atmosphere at Fox. She also whitewashed herself, excused her enabling of all the lies told on Fox. She did that by saying that time and again she’d asked for fact checks on those lies. The question that was waiting and waiting to be asked was, “well, if you repeatedly tried to stop the lies and you repeatedly failed, shouldn’t you have resigned? Didn’t your remaining on the channel help enable those lies?” Instead, about eight-and-a-half minutes in, Cooper did just the exact opposite. He said in relation to her not resigning: “I understand in your position you’ve worked your way up in this company and you’ve reached a pinnacle in your career and want to get to be an executive producer, so that I get it.”
What is happening is not only that CNN’s CEO Christ Licht has determined that the channel can expand its audience by bringing in Trump liars. That’s just the business side of things. Behind that is the view of the liberals that we need to establish a dialog with the MAGA crowd. As CNN makes clear, that is done by on the one hand giving these serial liars an audience. (What’s next? An interview with George Santos?) On the other hand, it’s done by excusing every enabler of these lies as long as they have finally made a break with MAGA, even if it’s purely for their own career move. In other words, they don’t want to make a decisive break from the MAGA crowd.
The Putin apologists on the left
It’s not so different from a layer of the left which supports Ukraine but is unwilling to make a decisive break from the Putin apologists on the “left”. These apologists run the gamut from the “revolutionary” left like “People’s Forum” and Margaret Kimberley to the soft left like Code Pink’s Medea Benjamin and the Green Party’s Jill Stein. I’ve listened to Howie Hawkins debate Margaret Kimberley and also Jill Stein. It was exactly like Collins questioning Trump. Both Kimberley and Stein told lie after lie. Hawkins disputed the lies, but that made absolutely no impression on the Putin apologists. If they haven’t heard and been influenced by the actual facts up until now, it’s because they don’t want to be.
The only way to deal with Trump if one is forced to be on air with him is to knock him off his perch by going on the offensive. Explain how he’s been a money launderer for the Russian Mafia for years and that’s why he’s Putin’s poodle. Explain how he further laundered money through his gambling casino in Atlantic City. Explain how he only “succeeded” in business by getting hundreds of thousands of dollars from his daddy. Explain how his ridiculous decisions caused him to go bankrupt time and time over. Make him deal with the Access Hollywood tape in which he bragged about sexually harassing women, and label it as such. And don’t let him tell lie after lie after lie. Explain at every turn that his lies are simply meant to confuse and divide the working class in order to enable the capitalists to totally dominate society. In order to do all that, it’s necessary to constantly interrupt him. But that’s impossible since he’s a guest of CNN.
It’s similar with people like Kimberley, Benjamin or Stein. The only way to deal with them is to expose what they really stand for. For example, expose the fact that Kimberley met with outright fascists at the 2014 “Anti Globalization Movement of Russia” (AGMR) conference in Moscow. Expose how Medea Benjamin supports the Iranian theocracy. Expose how Jill Stein aligned herself with Putin and in effect supported Trump in her 2016 presidential campaign. In every case, explain that what they’ve done is to betray the most basic principle of socialism: international working class solidarity and there is no going back.
The problem is that it means a decisive break with these people and their supporters. So be it. They have traveled so far down the road that there is no going back. They have nothing to offer as far as building a real, working class socialist movement. Trying to keep some links with them only means giving them a platform and watering down international working class solidarity.
The capitalist liberals compromise “democracy” every time they give a platform to the MAGA liars. The socialist left compromises socialism every time they give a platform to the Putinist serial liars on the “left”.