High-Profile Journalists Discuss Election Results at President’s Forum
American journalists came together on Sunday, Nov. 20 to discuss the challenges ahead after the national election. Under the title “The Road Ahead: United Or Divided”, a President’s Forum was hosted by the Westchester Community College Foundation in the Hankin Academic Arts Building.
Moderator Lester Crystal, a long time executive producer of the PBS NewsHour and former President of MacNeil Lehrer Productions, opened by acknowledging the demeanor Donald Trump has been exhibiting since the election on Nov. 8.
Pulitzer Prize winner Brett Stephens, who writes “Global View,” the Wall Street Journal’s foreign-affairs column, stressed his concerns about recent appointments to Trump’s cabinet—namely Mike Flynn, who will advise the President-elect on national security, due to tweets indicating Flynn is “frightened of Muslims.”
At the same time, Stephens stressed the importance of keeping an open mind going into the next four years of a Trump-Presidency.
According to Jason Riley, a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute and a columnist for the Wall Street Journal, Trump did well in areas where manual labor is dominant, where people have “bigger problems than tone and temperament”.
“Most voters looked past behavior,” says Riley. “Hillary Clinton represented the status quo and people did not want more of the same.”
Maureen Dowd, Pulitzer Prize winner and columnist for The New York Times, agreed. “Voters were looking for a Rottweiler to rip off the face of Washington,” Dowd explains. She was convinced that Trump was elected for chaos, not in spite of it.
When asked by Crystal whether or not election promises, like the war on ISIS and immigration policies, would be kept, Dowd illustrated that Trump’s statements about policies had “followed the word of the crowd” throughout his campaign. She said that Trump had had many different personalities throughout his career—as a businessman on his show The Apprentice, and later in his campaign as a presidential candidate.
Ruth Marcus, a columnist for The Washington Post, specializing in American politics and domestic policy, is concerned about President-elect Trump having “no coherent philosophy.”
It is questionable whether he has the “self-awareness to be scared” of the presidential responsibilities awaiting him.
Dowd agreed with Marcus, saying Trump is essentially “ideology free” and how it will depend on who will be his counsel for certain issues. Riley, however, urged citizens to be optimistic and “give him some time” to take his place as a leader.
Stephens advocated being careful with too much optimism. “Character informs about the manner of the presidency.” He stresses that “voters are easily bamboozled” and how trusting the wisdom of the people can be dangerous in this political environment.
Marcus responded to Stephens’ concern by explaining how important it is to respect voters and the election outcome, while still being worried about the future of the country.
According to Dowd, it is essential now to focus on how Democrats lost so many working class voters in the 2016 election. “Hillary was a terrible candidate,” says Stephens. He compares Hillary to “a modern day Marie Antoinette”, who is telling people to eat cake and care about Trump’s temper, when voters really had much bigger concerns about the economy and taxes.
“The Hillary Campaign was focused on how terrible Trump is,” explains Dowd, “they did not pay any attention to concerns voiced by Bill Clinton about the campaign.”
Stephens was very concerned about the fate of politics. “Trump is like a meteor that will destroy both parties and create a new kind of division,” he says.
When reached for comment after the debate, Dowd had a different take on the situation. “It is interesting how Trump seems to be causing not division, but unity about how he is dividing the country.”