tv Munk Debate on President Trump and American Democracy CSPAN November 25, 2017 5:26am-7:00am EST
state university history answer on the and are in architecture sunday, groundbreaking ceremony at the eisenhower oil in washington dc. this weekend, on c-span networks. c-span boxes on the his overnd we are delaware is 12 state capitals. the our next stop is tallahassee, lord appeared their own december 6. we will have live in during washington journal. newt gingrich and ingersoll on the side they about the trump presidency you -- presidency.
>> good evening. [applause] to begin with, i want to welcome the canadian audience tuning into this debate. melt state, live right now on his family. -- hispanic. -- span. it's great to have you as virtual disciplines. your interest in your commitment and desire for in warm public discussion. we bring some of the world's
million donation. we are moments now from getting our debaters out here. they will tackle the resolution tonight, yet resolved american democracy is in its worst crisis in a generation, donald trump is to blame. arguing in favor is the renowned the author of the sullivan. log, andrew [applause] is debating partner tonight is the best-selling author of numerous books. if he is a scholar at the
workings tuition --. [applause] one team of great debaters deserves another. let's welcome back to the stage, the former speaker of the u.s. house of representatives and the author of a recent best-selling book "understanding trump." ladies and gentlemen, newt gingrich. [applause] our final debater tonight, newt gingrich's teammate, a celebrated columnist and well-known u.s. political commentator. ladies and gentlemen, kimberley strassel. [applause]
a few more housekeeping details before we go to opening statements. number one, we have a hashtag. #munkdebates. those of you in the audience are watching online, join into the conversation, join the online debate. we have a rolling poll. people will be voting on your performance minute by minute throughout this debate. also, my favorite part of the munk debates, the countdown clock. for each of the segments of the debates, opening statements, rebuttals, closing statements, we are going to put it clock up that will countdown the final minutes or so of each debaters presentation.
when backlog reaches zero, join me in a round of applause that will keep our debaters on their toes and our debates on time. let's find out, this audience am -- of 3000 people here, coming into this debate tonight, how did you vote on our resolution? it resolves american democracy is in the worst, best and the -- the worst crisis in a generation, and donald trump is to blame. let's see the pre-audience about. 68% agree. 32% disagree. this is very much in play, maybe more than some of the debaters thought here in downtown toronto. our second question, because we always want to see how fluid is the debate, how fluid is people's minds, would you potentially switch your vote depending on what you hear over the next hour and half? let's see those numbers. is this audience in play? 80%, yes. and very open-minded group tonight.
[laughter] this is going to be fun. love that second vote at the end of the evening, which will let us know which of these teams wins the debate and which does not. let's begin with opening statements. as is the tradition, begin with the pro side. andrew sullivan, your six minutes start now. andrew: thank you for having me. i come here to tell you something that in your hearts you already know. [laughter] the united states is in a state of emergency. this began a january 20 of this year. it began because we have a president uniquely unfit to hold the office that he does. he represents a threat the core values of american democracy and the stability of the country, a
threat to the national security of the united states and to the world. those are big words, i know. let me briefly tell you why i i passionately and sincerely believe that statement. the first is that this president has waged a war on the truth from the minute he took office. throughout the campaign beforehand, he lives and lies -- lied and lied and lied. he has uttered 1300 lies, counted by a newspaper, none of which has see retracted, from the idiotic claim that his inauguration crowd was the biggest in history, would you can see photographs is simply not true. to a lie so dangerous that 3
million people voted illegally in the last election. something that attacks the core, heart, and integrity of democracy itself. he is unfit because he has violated, wants to violate, and has no respect for the rule of law. this is a president who has told police to abuse suspects as they arrest them, told the military that they should torture suspects, the worse the better, even if they are innocent or not, they deserve it, he said. he has encouraged violence against people who dared to protest and heckled crowds. and often to pay the legal fees of those who commit crimes and assault protesters. he is still seething with theory every day because his attorney general, one of the most hard-core republicans you could find, actually dared to reach
recuse himself from the russian investigation. he asked the fbi director to declare his personal loyalty to trump, not the rule of law, but to trump. and when he refused, he fired him. after he fired him, he bragged that that was why he fired the fbi director. this is a man who has no understanding for, and indeed contempt for the constitution. a man who despises the first amendment, a man who threatened jeff bezos, from amazon, if he dares to criticize the president. a man who threatens to remove the license of nbc because they reported the truth about what he said, after which his own secretary of state called him "an effing moron." [laughter] this is a dictator with nuclear
weapons holding the lives of hundreds of thousands of people in his hands with the responsibility of a teenager chatting on 4chan. this is a man who has undermined nato, declared there is an absolute moral equivalent to the united states and vladimir putin. this is a man who the republican chairman of the senate foreign relations committee has said to drag us into world war iii. a man who described the white house as an adult day care center, in which adults have to go in shifts. this is a man, fundamentally, with no sense of responsibility to the power he holds and the sacred duty he is required to uphold. he will use that power, that office and everything that has come before it, something that
hundreds of thousands of americans have died for, in order to launch petty vindictive attacks on private citizens, be spoiling the seat he sits in. he is a man who is not in control of himself, but is in control of us. i wish this were not the case. there are many problems in america, many on the left overreacting to him, and elite that refused to understand that trade in immigration are good. -- best dresses that trade and mass immigration are good on the american working class is your all of it is true and not pertinent to the debate tonight. the debate is about the worst possible response to those
causes. those are legitimate feelings. this is about a man who has used those feelings for one thing only. self aggrandizement. he is a disgrace to the united states of america. he should be removed by all constitutional measures as soon as possible. by the 25th amendment, by those around him who know the threat that he is. [applause] rudyard: andrew, a strong opening statement. kimberley strassel, you're next. kimberley: thank you for having me. i would like to introduce a new word tonight. i have three children. before i left, i was telling them about this debate and the
resolution. i asked them to help mom prepare for this. tell me why you think donald trump is bad for democracy. they had struggle articulating a reason why, until finally my six-year-old used for favorite word. she said he's bad because he is a poo-poo head. while andrew did a much more eloquent version, that sums up what i believe my debate opponents will say tonight. they don't like donald trump because he is a poo-poo head. [laughter] they will claim he has divisive, argue he has violated all of the political norms. they will say he has no respect for his office. they will say he has undermined america's relationship with the rest of the world. in all of that, they are largely right. that has nothing to do with democracy. a democracy is not just that we
don't like someone. democracy is a formal concept. it is government for the people and by the people. in the united states, it is something more specific. it's documents, the declaration of independence, life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, free from a government that overregulates. it's the constitution and it's the saying that we are a government of laws and not of men that we have separation of powers, the congress makes laws and the judiciary interprets them. donald trump was elected because his predecessor violated that constitution day after day in a lawless fashion. and the backlash that grew in the united states put him in office because he ran as the law and order candidate.
it was his predecessor who was frustrated when he couldn't name his people and get them confirmed in the senate, so he declared the senate out of session, and took the supreme court voting 9-02 tell them that was an egregious abuse of power. it was barack obama who came to office with agenda programs like climate programs and immigration reform. he acknowledged he needed congress to change the laws, and when he didn't do it, he claimed executive power. there was barack obama who was secretary of state who didn't have to follow the laws of public oversight the way everyone else does, set up a secret server, and then destroyed her emails. it was barack obama -- [crowd booing] kimberly: was that good? i hope that was good.
this was the prior government that seized assets and taking $5 billion that sicced the irs on a witchhunt on americans. and this was a former government that recently we had been talking about in the last few days, saying that the president threatened to the after nbc and its license. again, sticks and stones, but words cannot hurt you. the president makes the laws, but the measure is whether or not he has actually done anything. [laughter] [applause] kimberly: and yes, he is still having some trouble with that legislative agenda, fair enough. but what donald trump threatened is nothing compared to barack obama who actually has his attorney general look through the emails of the press, at fox
news, an egregious violation of the first amendment. donald trump has put people in office that ran against him in campaign. they are lying order candidates, they are to make sure we restore democracy to what it was before by getting rid of regulations that made crushing burdens on businesses, with a new tax code that doesn't reward those with the best accountant and only those. this is about fundamental change and restoring the rule of law. you don't have to take my word for it. i was looking in the newspaper just the other day and i found an article that appeared in the "washington post" and the headline was "how donald trump is helping to save our democracy." it was written by e.j. dionne. my first thought was, why am i flying to canada when he has already agreed with me?
the point is even on the basis of what ej and andrew would argue, that somehow the president is corrosive to the culture, they also think it could be benefits shall, causing americans to pay more attention, and at the end we could end up with a stronger society. again, this is a president who was brought to office by americans who wanted to see a return to actual law and order. anyone who would suggest that is not happening behind-the-scenes is paying too much attention to a media that is only interested in the bright shiny things that donald trump says and not what his administration is actually doing. [applause] rudyard: thank you, kimberly. e.j. dionne, just six minutes on the clock.
e.j.: i was standing here while andrew was speaking and i said a little prayer of thanks for such a vigorous argument on our side of the debate. i'm very grateful to kim for mentioning that piece i wrote, because i did indeed argue that donald trump could be great for our democracy. he could be great for our democracy, because he is rallying so many americans to political action to oppose the very abuses that andrew opposed. i ask you tonight to take that 68% and make it 80% to send a signal to those americans who know the threat that donald trump poses to our democracy, that they have friends north of the border. [applause] i want to say it is a great honor to be on this side of the longest undefended border in the world, make it stay that way. [laughter] may there be no walls between
the united states and canada. we have stood with each other, but perhaps more importantly, we have learned from each other. everybody wants a neighbor who embodies decency, and we americans are very lucky to have you. as you can tell from my last name, my family headed south from québec. [speaking french] [applause] i want to salute the courage of our opponents to show up tonight. [laughter] after the week that donald trump has had, they clearly have a commitment to the idea that the show must go on. [laughter] this is a week in which donald trump challenged the very idea of a free press. it bothered him that people can write whatever they want, which sounds like the first amendment
to me. he threatened a network he didn't like with removing their license. two problems. networks aren't licensed in the first place. [laughter] the other is that the threat of using presidential power against people you disagree with is not a mark of a democrat but of an autocrat. [applause] then, he told our fellow citizens in puerto rico that he might just walk away and allow them to suffer. so yes, i salute the bravery of our opponents here, but i want to point out that throughout this debate, they will cling to one piece of this resolution like a liferaft. they will talk about all of the problems the united states has had for 5, 10, 20, or 30 years. andrew and i will not dispute
united dates had problems before donald trump and will have some after. they will try to blame, as kim ingested -- just did, everything that is wrong on liberals, or on barack obama or on hillary clinton. they will do everything in their power to avoid the central issue, because deep down, i think they know that so much that donald trump says and does is indefensible. they will blame everyone else for a crisis that donald trump has created. we are talking about the danger of autocracy. we did not talk about that under george w. bush, barack obama. we are talking about the collapse of the norms of democracy. we did not talk about that before donald trump. we are talking about this persistent lying.
we did not talk about this before donald trump. we are talking about what senator bob corker, and early trump supporter, of the president in need of an adult day care center. this is a crisis for our democracy. we have never had a president who, from his very first thing -- day in office, plainly showed that he had no business being president. andrew spoke eloquently about president trump's threats to our liberty. i want to talk briefly about norms. norms are the things you need people to live by because you cannot write rules for everything. we can start with the most basic norm, which is truth telling. daniel dale, the great reporter for "the toronto star" just reported today that president trump, and i quote him, "got a new personal record for the most
false claims in a week." that's an amazing record. by his count, he clocked in at 40. those 1300 lies or misleading statements that andrew described amounted to five statements a day. that is quite a record. please do not let our opponents in this debate hold democracy to a lower standard that i know they hold democracy to a higher standard. i hope we can persuade even then tonight that it is their job to stand up for our democratic life. trump arouses anger, but also fear, fear about whether our institutions can survive a leader who praises strongmen abroad and sees them as the model for bold leadership. the united states has not faced
as great a threat to with the -- to its democratic values and republican institution for many decades. [applause] donald trump is to blame. thank you. [applause] rudyard: thank you, e.j. we are now going to go for the last closing statement. speaker gingrich, we will put six minutes on the clock. the stage is yours. newt: first of all, i thought andrew was spectacular. i thought the rhythm, the litany, the pattern, it could have been a shakespearean speech. [laughter] a condemnation of the tyrant, a vicious unending problem. go back to it and listen to the rhythm. it's available online. his oxford education gives him an extraordinary advantage. in america, if you sound like him, you have a 20 point higher iq by the act of being able to speak.
[laughter] my good friend ej continues the great tradition of the american elite media, which is they hated trump before he ran, hated him while he ran, hated him when he was sworn in, and sworn to hate trump. i want to pose a problem for all of you that is a problem for free society. how would you know? a four-star general in the marine corps who lost a son in active duty went to a press conference in washington and said so much of what you report is false. that it is an enormous problem. another four-star general, chief of staff john kelly, retired, serving as secretary of defense, said yesterday that the media reports about trump wanting a tenfold increase in nuclear weapons, that's totally false.
you may decide they have both been infected, as my friends would suggest. they have become trumpized, no longer know the truth. you may decide that a great deal of what you believe is total hogwash. brought to you by your news media, which is so deep into its own incestuous ideology that it hasn't a clue what donald trump is doing because it cannot allow itself to think openly and objectively. i will give you examples. his speech in warsaw is an extraordinary document, comparable to reagan. i say that with some knowledge, because reagan's chief speechwriter helped write it. but of course if you are on the left, the very idea that you would defend western civilization is probably prove -- proof there is something wrong.
read the united nations speech, which has a core argument, you may disagree with the argument, but it is not trivial. he says the base of freedom starts with sovereignty. if the united nations was a collection of sovereign countries who reach agreements, it is useful. if, however, we are moving towards the globalization with a bureaucratic legalistic system in which our nations are subordinate to parts of this larger thing, then it is dangerous. i don't know about you, but i had it, along with george mitchell. a three-year study of the united nations.
the idea that the general assembly should replace the canadian parliament or the american congress as a source of ultimate authority is insane. look at who belongs to it. look at who is on the human rights commission. if you're not a tyrant or dictator, you are not allowed on. the all get together and say, hey, we're doing fine. israel should be condemned. that israel is condemned about 100 times a year. you wouldn't want to condemn venezuela or cuba or zimbabwe. you certainly wouldn't want to say what the chinese are doing to create a truly totalitarian system in which they are tracking every cell phone in china, that would be inappropriate. i think what trump was saying is profound.
you might think what trump is doing, to deregulate, he is returning power to the states, to local communities, following the law, and i know from my friends who claim they worry about democracy. the great number of executive orders that were illegal and unconstitutional were signed by barack obama, not donald trump. there are profound differences. there is a simple problem. the american people rebelled. this is not a local thing happening. it happened in austria. it happened in the city of rome, which elected the first woman mayor. it is happening in catalonia. you can't blame all of these things on trump. merkel just had the worst elections since 1946 for the conservative party in germany. people are unhappy around the planet. they were unhappy in the u.s. and they decided the source of their unhappiness was in washington, and they wanted to kick over the table. here is where we are. he is draining the swamp.
[laughter] the alligators are unhappy, and two of the lead alligators are here tonight defending it. [laughter] [applause] rudyard: let's hear from those two hungry alligators. we will hear from the pro side now. andrew, let's go to you for your rebuttal on the opponent's side statement. andrew: i'm glad to. i'm going to take specific points that were made in an attempt to address them. the first is that everything that i cite is some invention of the liberal media. the truth is that almost everything i cited is in the public records, on television.
his quotes are there to look at and examine. there is nothing here that is spin. everything i cited was facts. one of the things that autocrats do is mix lies with facts. endlessly. they gaslight. they pretend that the people, that a free press is the real danger to society. i side with thomas jefferson and not with vladimir putin and donald trump. [applause] a free press is essential. we have a conservative press and conservative media, as well as a liberal press and liberal media. the facts decide. they are on the liberal media's side. i will concede that barack obama did commit and execute executive orders that were out of order.
he did so because he was subjected from day one by the insane republican party's decision to do nothing but obstruct everything this man did, even when he was inheriting -- [applause] -- even when he was inheriting the worst recession since the 1930's, they didn't give him a single vote for a surplus. now with a much greater debt, they are proposing another con, to borrow more money, tax cuts not for the middle class, but for the wealthy. they claim once again that will decrease the deficit rather than increase it. i will note that yes, when you look on paper, some people can write speeches. some people are smart in the white house, even though stephen miller isn't exactly your idea. [laughter] they can write some eloquent speeches. i also listened to the inaugural
speech, a cavalcade of hatred and fear and demonization. a man, who by democracy standards, after he lost the -- acts as if he lost the popular vote. [applause] he is rightly president because our constitutional republic has rules that require him to be president, and i accept completely his legitimacy. but it is precisely those rules that he is a threat to. certainly i want to point out that speaker gingrich is correct and i agree with him, that globalization has gone too far and too fast. [applause] rudyard: we will leave that point for the moderated middle of the debate. you have run up against your three minutes. thank you for keeping our debaters on time. ej, you are up next, alligator number two. [laughter]
e.j.: if andrew and i are defenders of the swamp, then mr. gingrich is here on behalf of the socialist international. [laughter] trump has taken the swamp and just added in many new alligators and polluted the swamp far more than it ever has been polluted before. it is mr. trump's cabinet secretaries who have flown around on charter planes at taxpayers' expense when they could have taken a car or train from washington and gotten their -- there much more quickly. it is donald trump who uniquely among recent presidents who has refused to release his tax returns so we can know how many millions or billions the tax cut
proposal he is pushing might save him. it is donald trump who has refused to separate himself from his businesses, unlike any president in recent memory. we don't know what is happening in his businesses, but we know that somehow there are more members of his golf clubs than ever and all kinds of influential people wanting to stay at his hotels. the ways in which the swamp is far more polluted than when mr. trump got there is legion. it is not, as andrew pointed out, the media who have made up the things we are saying about donald trump. almost everything we are saying that is wrong with donald trump are things that have come out of donald trump's own mouth. [applause] it is donald trump who said that rather authoritarian sounding thing, "i alone can fix it." it is donald trump who said our american intelligence agencies, that they were taking a shot at him and asked, "are we living in
nazi germany?" it was donald trump who said, don't worry about any of my businesses because the president can't have a conflict of interest. it was donald trump who, when the courts ruled against him on his travel ban, blamed them for future terrorism. he says, if something happens, blame him, he said of one of the judges in the court system. it was donald trump who falsely said that president obama had cap -- tapped his phones. he spelled it why the way, tapt, on twitter. it was donald trump who said he fired the fbi director because of the russia thing. our case is not based on propaganda. our case is not based on falsehood.
our case is based on what donald trump has said. and who he is. [applause] kimberley: i would like to repeat what he has just said. our case is based on what donald trump has said. if you listen to everything they have mentioned, they cannot name an example, a concrete example of an action the president has taken to undermine democracy. name a column that you've not been able to write. andrew writes on his blog with more adjectives than he has used up here tonight. no one has ever said he cannot do so. this president is not interfered in the press's right and say whatever they want no matter how false it is. it makes me laugh. the press runs constant articles saying that donald trump's
approval rating is 35%, isn't that horrible? do you know what the united states media approval rating is? 12%. they are not in a position to lecture. that number was there well before donald trump ever came to office. talk about anything. i defy my opponents. give an example that donald trump has, in the way that barack obama has done, trampled on the congressional branch. name one time the supreme court has ruled 9-0 to stop one of his actions. in fact, noticed that ej mentioned the lower courts and his travel ban. what he did not mention is that the supreme court ultimately upheld the main provisions of it, because it was constitutional. it was legal, by contrast to his
predecessor's decision, to grant immunity to the illegal immigrants in the u.s. by the way, this is a problem we all have to try to overcome. we have to try to get beyond justifying illegal behavior just because we agree with the policy. andrew just said, well, why did barack obama continually act in a lawless way? because he was obstructed. is that your justification? i'm sure everyone in this audience will be more than alarmed say that chuck schumer's obstruction now gives donald trump license to do whatever he wants. that is why we don't like presidents like that. i will give you an example. i have passionately fought for years for the right of dreamers. living in the u.s., brought by no fault of their own, to continue living in the u.s., and offering the amazing contributions they do. nonetheless, i opposed the way barack obama did it, because you don't simply exempt entire
people from the law. we are a nation of laws. donald trump is returning us to that. in the end, as a result, our democracy, our institution, rule of law will be stronger. that is what we need to measure. [applause] newt: that was a tactical mistake to bring up the lower court decision by a judge who was overruled by the supreme court. that is one of the complaints of conservatives about the judicial system. you look at the ninth circuit court, which is crazy. you look at the individual judges out there, who are crazy. they make decisions that are crazy. on national security grounds, they just repudiated 8-0, on national security grounds, the president as the commander in chief, has the obligation to take the steps to defend
america, but no judge canned -- should interpose themselves in a way which makes america more vulnerable to attack and then be shocked if the president says you just made america more vulnerable to be attacked. it is not at all inappropriate. franklin delano roosevelt attacked the courts. i appreciate jefferson's appreciation of the media. i always thought his newspaper to attack his opponent was an example of the freedom of the press that is worthy of being brought up by people like you. [laughter] i appreciate you bringing up jefferson. [applause] i want to remind all of you that worry about dissent in america that one of the most popular musicals of modern times is based on the vice president of the united states shooting the secretary of treasury.
[laughter] we have not had, since hamilton, a single incident of such passion. therefore, i feel comfortable that america will endure this. let me go one step further. the first was something andrew said that i think you should think about in terms of its viciousness and dishonesty. that is the clever mixing together of putin and trump. let's be clear. vladimir putin was trained by the kgb. he believes in torturing and killing people. his government routinely assassinates people. he kills people that writes the wrong things. he has imposed a vicious dictators have -- dictatorship. he has seized crimea.
to suggest there is anything in the american system comparable to putin is profamily dishonest intellectually and makes it impossible to have a rational discussion. if you accept the two words in the same phrase, you are already in a crazy environment. one quick example of the real hostility to freedom in america. at a college two weeks ago, black lives matter surrounded and aclu spokesperson, would not let her speak freely, and walled her off from her audience on the grounds she had no right to be there. the most violence today in america is on the left, not the right. [applause] rudyard: thank you for a terrific opening to this debate. you set the table. let's dig into some of the specific issues. we agreed this debate has a political dimension to it, economic dimension, and cultural dimension. let me start with you, andrew,
and take up on -- >> is there a meaning to your green socks? they look really good. rudyard: i don't know. thank you. >> i feel almost embarrassed that i have boring black socks. rudyard: you and i can trade socks at the end of the evening. [laughter] there is a debate here. can we please get going? [laughter] let me pick up on kimberley's point. i think it was an important one. andrew, you can answer. many things trump says we disagree with. many of us in this audience, --viscerally, by the reactions of the audience. give me an example of barack obama undermining democracy. andrew: let me give you an example that is equivalent to the obama administration.
and i think i did he abuse the executive -- kimberley: but you defended it. andrew: no, i don't think it was defensible, but i don't think the intent and the way he behaved as anything like as dangerous as donald trump. here is a classic example. this is a man who has faced obstruction in the congress from his own party, who has been unable to construct a workable majority for any of the proposals he has constructed. the fact that he is too incompetent to be a dictator -- [laughter] -- doesn't mean the will and intent is not there. [applause] the fact that the constitutional order of the united states for the last 240 years of -- has not collapsed in the last nine months is not a great achievement. here is what he has been trying
to pass for the last nine months. that is the affordable care act, which is the law of the land. he is required to effectively enforce the law of the land. he has been unable to change the law of the land, so what is he doing? he is sabotaging it, using his office to sabotage and undermine the laws of the land at the expense of millions of people's potential health insurance and health care. [applause] that seems to me sabotaging things when he can't change them. the same thing with the iran deal. rudyard: before we get to that, let's let kimberley respond. kimberley: it is hard to sabotage a law that is collapsing under its own weight. [boos] law of the land, so what is he you have entire counties across the u.s. that no longer have more than one option for the health care, when people are watching premiums triple, when
average basic business owners can no longer afford -- andrew: they wouldn't have health care at all without obamacare. kimberley: many people have no health care because of it. now they no longer have it. the bigger point is it is hard to sabotage it, but the point is -- it is hard to sabotage something that is failing. but also, the former president, this is a law unilaterally changed more than 42 times himself and changed it himself. this has now become such an elastic definition of what the law is, nobody knows what it is anymore. the prior president didn't respect his own law. andrew: a law does set up an institution and regulation. the regulations to enforce that law are a part of the interest of the executive branch to make sure the lies properly enforced.
the last president attempted to use his executive power to enforce the rule. the current president is using executive power to undermine the rule. kimberley: why is it not an abuse for obama to use that power? rudyard: this is a debate about american democracy, not health care. >> i want to pick up on something that new said, that this notion that andrew invented the link between vladimir putin and donald trump. [laughter] he said it was somehow intellectually dishonest. it was not andrew sullivan. it was donald trump, the man, that said that vladimir putin, the man you said was a kgb agent, with a stronger leader than barack obama. it was not andrew sullivan who said that. it was donald trump who has refused over and over and over again to say a critical word about vladimir putin. [applause] trump fired james comey because he got too close to the russia thing. that is an action that is
genuinely troubling in this administration. [applause] donald trump berated his attorney general because his attorney general refused -- recused himself. these are intimations of autocratic behavior. rudyard: let's cause for a second, because that is an interesting example ej is making of a specific example that the president is taking that is undermining american democracy. newt: he said that he stronger. if the term is stronger leader, tell me something -- andrew: he was asked on television. he was asked, actually presented with the point you just made, that vladimir putin is a killer. he responded "we are killers, too."
if you ask any democrat for a second, if they would say such a thing, you would impeach the guy. e.j.: you talked about moral equivalence. i have never heard a worst case of moral equivalence. andrew: he committed for jury in a civil trial. but a president who admits that obstruction of justice is in someone you want to -- newt: so wait a second, this is something which andrew mccarthy, as a former prosecutor for the federal government, has outlined clearly. presidents have the authority to fire the fbi director. period. it's in the constitution. andrew: but not as obstruction of justice. but not to squash an investigation. [applause] newt: this is exactly what i'm talking about. moore is out there with 17 lawyers --
andrew: despite trump, not because of him. newt: but he's out there. your argument is trump is such a powerful autocrat and so incompetent, he can't be autocratic the autocratic, because he's incompetent. all the things you are worried about are not happening because he's not smart enough, so the fact is the investigation is underway. in the senate, the house, the justice department, the washington post, the new york times, on the way at nbc news, but we are in danger of america losing its freedom because of in -- an incompetent person that can't achieve any of the things you are worried about. [applause] newt: i just don't understand. andrew: when a president openly hopes for investigation, and fire someone who -- obstructed an investigation and is angry with an attorney general who obeys the law? when he tells u.s.
servicemembers to break the law. his words continually undermine the rule of law. his words matter. kimberley: his words are acts, because, listen closely, andrew could not come up with anything that he has done -- andrew: we did. [laughter] kimberley: he used executive power in health care in the same way barack obama did. andrew: no. kimberley: so now -- rudyard: when you are talking over each other, the audience can't hear. kimberley: you guys are some of the worst examples of this. the media has completely changed the russia story. james comey was aware that the president was not himself under investigation. the president asked several times for james comey to clarify that. he refused to do it because james comey was a political player in washington is anything
you have ever seen. now we know he was keeping secret memos, that he leaked things to the press, that in general -- you want to talk about things that should scare people about democracy? how about the head of the fbi actively investigating both candidates for the presidency simultaneously with the use of a secret court and wireless warrant? [applause] and now that we are attempting to exercise oversight and find out what happened and why there was such a probe and the actions, obstruction is happening, but not from the trump administration, but from the career bureaucrats left over. e.j.: i want to say a couple of things. first, i think andrew and i have already made progress because newt conceded that trump has not been an effective authoritarian because of his incompetence.
so we have the incompetence of donald trump on the table already. [applause] but what i think what kim said was incredibly dangerous. what she did and what supporters of trump do all the time, it is why we are frightened about the role of truth in our politics, is she has ascribed all sorts of evil motives to james comey, who, if we know anything about what he did, intervened in the election that did not help hillary clinton. he did not come out with any information on the donald trump investigation that was ongoing. comey was not willing to make a statement before the investigation was over. we know from the mueller investigation that they have not closed off the idea that donald trump was involved. they have not settled the matter. the attack on james comey is a piece with what andrew and i are worried about. donald trump was vocally upset
when sessions recused himself, and there would not be a special counsel if the deputy attorney general had not insistent. the reason we worry about our democracy is we don't know what will happen at the end. we do not know if there will be a saturday night massacre, it's the equivalent of elliott richardson will be fired in this case. donald trump's behavior up until now can give one no confidence that we will avoid that path this time. [applause] rudyard: speaker gingrich. newt: you know, let's go back to comey for a minute. all right. when comey was the number 2 person under bush, he appointed a special counsel for what he knew was not a crime, for what involved leaking a name from the cia, which they knew at the time
was not a crime. they knew who leaked it. they told the person who leaked it to shut up. they appointed a special counsel who tried to get vice president cheney, and couldn't get him, and in the end managed to get somebody who is a totally decent civil servant on a technical argument. this is where bob mueller will get going. you don't get 17 high-priced lawyers, virtually all of whom voted for hillary, you don't get those kind of layers in a room to change their career, come to work as part of a task force, and not get something. e.j.: you are already trying to discredit an ongoing investigation, and said enough, you say this is political. that's what i'm worried about. andrew: the possibility of neutral enforcement of the laws by career professionals, by someone whose reputation has stood up to republican presidents, including george w. bush, at great risk to his own career --
kimberley: at last training was -- rudyard: whoa, ok, you are all talking at once. the audience cannot hear anyone of you individually. newt: i was just going to bring it to the present. it is james comey who, under oath in the senate, said, yes, i deliberately leaked a memo who is a friend -- to a friend of mine, and forced the appointment of a special counsel. e.j.: because he was afraid trump was going to obstruct. newt: i don't care what the cause is. the guy who is the director of the fbi telling you he broke the law, which he did -- e.j.: there was no law broken. he did not break the law. andrew: notice, ladies and gentlemen, how the argument has been diverted. how we are now engaged in a character assassination of one
of the most honorable people who has ever served. because an autocrat, a man who cannot tolerate any opposition, someone who resists any zero-sum, has infected the minds and souls of these people so they are attacking the integrity of the very process -- [applause] kimberley: hold on. rudyard: that deserves a response. we will let kimberley respond. kimberley: the last time i heard a group of people who were just incensed over the abuses of a career bureaucrats and the license he was taking with his offense was the entire left-wing establishment and press when james comey decided to come out and criticize hillary clinton in the middle of the election. andrew: not me, kimberly. prove it. kimberley: then you are alone in that. everyone else was out there. so please don't suggest that it is just conservatives are those
on the stage that now are questioning the integrity of james comey. we all know people in powerful positions also need to be held to some account. it is concerning that you have an fbi director who is now so vigorously opposing any oversight of what he did. rudyard: ok, i think we have re-litigated -- hold on. we have a lot of topics to cover. we have spent a significant amount of time on this. lets all sit down for a moment. [laughter] take a collective breath, and move onto the next aspect of this. i will come to you, ej, because i want to pick up on something speaker gingrich said. that is that the crisis of democracy in america today is a crisis of the left, that identity politics on the left, micro aggressions, a whole
litany of views about how america should be reconfigured and restructured is what reciprocated this acute moment in american culture. you say this resides with the left, not the right. e.j.: i have known speaker gingrich i think for 30 years, and i think in times of high unemployment or low unemployment, in times of national concord and discord, he always says the problems in american politics come from the left. i don't think that should surprise us in the least. i just want to make a point about this extended discussion we had just now. it proves the central point that andrew and i were trying to make, which is that our opponents in this debate have to keep diverting you from what
trump has actually done. they do not want any of us talking about the fact that it is republicans like bob corker who are very worried about the possibility of world war iii, trump has actually done. and it is republicans in congress who privately say that they are worried about many of the same aspects of donald trumps personality, his approach to issues, his tempestuous this, his lack of focus. instead, we talked about a man named james comey. it is donald trump who is on trial here today in this proposition. secondly, if we want to have a long debate over problems in the american economy, about the problems of inequality, we could have a very long debate about that, and i would welcome it. but i do not think it is the left side of american politics that is dividing us in the way donald trump did on the day of charlottesville, when he tried
to create a moral equivalence between clansmen and nazis and those who opposed them, because many of those who were in the streets opposing them were peaceful protesters trying to oppose the rise of this far right. and look at the rise of the far right itself. i believe this movement has empowered new forms of political action on the right, the far right end of politics, that i know kim and newt have to oppose in their hearts and in their consciences. i think this should worry us. when we see these movements empowered in our country, it is not just bad for liberals, it is bad for the entire conservative conservative movement.
>> let me be clear about what ej was just saying. no one on the left once to take the student violence in connecticut, where they injured a professor when they tried to stop a conservative from speaking, nobody on the left wants to take the antifa people at berkeley who say they are eager to use violence to stop people from speaking, nobody on the left wants to confront the fact that, in the latest study, professors under 35 are 12 to one democrats, and the idea -- are 12 to one democrats. no one wants to look at the kind of limited described a minute ago. i thought it was ridiculous. they blocked an aclu spokesperson from's "william and mary. physically blocked her. and then blocked her from seeing the audience. she could not even mingle with the people who came to talk with her. no one on the left was to do --
wants to deal with any of this. no one wants to deal with how soros is funding network after network and undermine democracy and create the kind of violence i just described. [indiscernible] >> i rest my case. you cannot talk factually about what is going on america and then have it taken seriously because it totally discredits their case. [applause] you may know, speaker gingrich, and you may know, kimberly, that i have been very vocal about this poison on the left. i do it every week. i do it in venues where i may get a lot of blowback. i do it at the risk of my career and my job. you are right. there is an awful poison on the left. there is a poison that is dividing this country. [applause] it is a poison that is increasing racial divides. ej is right. there is obviously some foul, disgusting, far right movements in this country. my point is this, and it's about donald trump. he is president of the united states. it is his job, his responsibility to attempt to bridge the divide, not to exploit it, deep in it, and make -- deepen it, and make it much worse. [applause] >> i think, if you are familiar with my work, then you also know that i have spent years now writing about the scary of use of government power, and the attempt of people to silence their political opponents using not just tactics like speaker gingrich was talking about, but former scary once -- scary ones. so i know about abusive power and was like autocratic security. let me tell you about something in the united states a few years ago. in wisconsin, a liberal district attorney was mad at conservative groups and his republican governor. they launched a bogus campaign called the john doe law.
it allowed him to do it in secret and impose a gag order on everybody who was investigated. they had their financial records taken, there were predawn raids staged on their homes. in one case, a child of one of the targets, the parents were off on a charitable fundraising trip. the police came, broke into the house, put him in the room, would not allow him to call his lawyer or his grandparents. and they said if you tell anyone what happened this morning, you will go to jail. that is abuse of government power. that happened on the left. if i saw donald trump engaging in anything like this, you can believe me would be the first person to say something about it. [laughter] but this is ridiculous. no, to this point, we have lots of words, tyranny, we don't have an example, even the jim comey example, you are not making the case that it's illegal for him to do it. >> it's illegal to obstruct justice.
>> and nobody has found him to have obstructed justice. >> we are under the investigation to find out. >> nobody has yet come up with anything to suggest that he has undermined any democratic institutions or laws. it's not proven. >> this is a sea of red herrings. i have no idea what an investigation in wisconsin many years ago has to do with today. [applause] they pardon of joe arpaio has more to do with what we are talking about tonight. >> suddenly, you have a very fine [indiscernible] >> do you care about the pardoning of joe arpaio? have you written about it? don't you consider that a clear violation and abuse of power? do you think it is ok to pardon --
>> let me say something. [laughter] joe arpaio was accused of violating the constitutional rights of people in arizona. and donald trump tried first to end the investigation and he couldn't succeed in doing that. so he pardon a man accused of constitutional violations and the rights of minorities. this is an action -- i am not making this up. this is not what mr. gingrich likes to call the terrible news media. this is a fact. and when a president of the united states uses this rather unlimited pardon power to pardon who violates the constitutional someone rights of american citizens, i don't know whose
constitutional rights are safe, because you remember the line -- first they came for these brothers and sisters of ours, and we do not know where that story ends, but it rarely and some well. >> let me start with that. [applause] quoting bonn hopper, which was a friend of the nazies. >> it was marnie mueller. >> i apologize. thank you for correcting. next time, i will try to get it right. [laughter] why don't we quote somebody who is talking about the nazis when we talk about trump. i will tell you about why these guys -- >> of that idea holes whether you are talking about nazis or whether you are talking about any regime you might worry about. >> it's about tyranny. >> let me just suggest to all of you that citing the joe arpaio
pardon is a perfect example of what we are talking about. you can make a pretty good case. it was a dumb pardon. a bad pardon. he shouldn't have done it. that's a policy question. you had an 89-year-old man who had spent his entire lifetime in law enforcement, who had been reelected over and over by massive majorities -- [crowd booing] >> i understand the absence of compassion for people you don't agree with. [laughter] i'm assuming those are mostly liberals who are groaning. think about it from this standpoint. i'm not arguing for it. i'm trying to make a deeper point. so trump decides that an 89-year-old former law man probably shouldn't go to jail. some of you would say, no, by god, what a chance to show the police nobody is above the law. let's punish this 89-year-old who is clearly a danger.
that's not the argument we are having tonight. that's a policy argument. you can say it is a stupid thing to do. there is zero question as a matter of the united states constitution that the president of the united states can pardon anyone at anytime. zero question. >> that's why i am so afraid that he will abuse his power. what he did in that case he will do another cases. >> he may abuse the power, but he will not break it. he will be an autocrat. he will be doing exactly what the founding fathers gave him to do. this was not a bunch of stupid people. >> did the founding fathers believed that the president, if this turns out to be the case -- it's a possibility -- finds the people in his campaign broke the law in colluding with russia, in trying to distort the results of the election, and the president decides to pardon them, do you think pardoning his own people and indeed part -- pardoning
himself is something the founders really thought the power was supposed to be used for? >> you are making my case. what the founders would have said is that that is why you have the impeachment provision. >> correct. >> and if it turns out that a president were to pardon himself and the congress were to decide that was unacceptable, they have the full power to impeach him. you are making my case. everything you just complained about is totally constitutional, was totally written into the document. he did not in any way abuses -- abuse his power. he may have done something not right in terms of policy. he did nothing wrong in terms of constitutional authority. [applause] >> he is actively undermining the spirit of the constitution, the norms and procedures that are essential to maintain the constitution, and he actively, every day, experian's and exhibit's contempt to the notion of republic under law, in which
he is equal, not about everybody -- above everybody else. he fundamentally mistakes the understanding of the presidency of the united states, in ways that makes everyone externally -- extremely nervous. you must conceive, surely, let me big you, that the rhetoric that this man has used, his praise of a man who was extrajudicially killed thousands of people, surely you are troubled by the rhetoric and tone of this person. surely, you are troubled by a president who tells officers to abuse something. surely, there are some lines you don't want a president across. president to cross. >> surely, there are some things i wish he wouldn't say everything will day. [laughter] [crosstalk] >> did you read the editorial page? we do, on nearly a daily basis, point out things that make him a
real poo poo head. [laughter] but what you are taking it sound as though the things that go through trump's brain become a law, or become action. they do not. have you met brian sankey, have you met the head of the epa, have you met any of the people that he has installed in these positions. because they are the folks making the decisions and running the government. and many of them are constitutional law professors. again, scott pruitt, before he was put in head of the epa led the charge on dozens of states to sue the obama administration over its own overreach of federal powers. these are people with a deeply found belief in law. they are running the government. random things happen in donald
trump's head. until you can prove to me that they have been put in action, then they are nothing more than your fears and rhetoric. [applause] >> ok. this has been a terrific debate. i have been superfluous as a moderator. that is a great sign of a terrific conversation. [laughter] important issues being tackled. i am conscious we have our closing statements. we will put three minutes on a clock for each of you. we will do our closing statements as is the tradition of these debates, in the opposite order of our opening remarks. so newt gingrich, you will be a first with your three-minute closing statement. >> let me just suggest to you that, had they worded the proposal for the debate differently, it would have been impossible to have any arguments. if they had said, donald trump is a poo poo head and says really weird thing sometimes. it would have been tough. [laughter]
the objective reality is this is the first person in american history never to have held any public office, to come out of nowhere, defeat 16 republicans, defeat hillary clinton, defeat a billion-dollar campaign, defeat the media. he has a hostile takeover of the republican party and a hostile takeover of the national government. and that kind of person probably has edges. [laughter] so if the debate topic had been resolved -- donald trump has some edges and they are a little strange, i would have refused to come up. i would have said are you crazy? i am willing to debate front of some of canadians, even if some of them boo. because i think you are better than a berkeley audience. [laughter] [applause] but still, you have to have some sense here. that's not what the question is. america has many challenges.
venezuela has many challenges. catalonia has many challenges. austria has many challenges. germany has many challenges. britain has many challenges. we are living in a period where our culture and our economy is in turmoil, where systems like facebook and google that are uncontrolled and are changing the landscape and all of us are having to adjust. in that setting, the wording of the debate strikes me as a most -- as almost impossible for them to carry. but the problems of the american democracy are donald trump? he is a manifestation of the problems. he was elected because a vast number of americans are deeply uncomfortable. and they preferred taking the risk on somebody with rough edges, and somebody who occasionally would say rough things because they thought he would break up the system that they thought was failing the
country. i think that is what is happening. of course, if you are in the old order or you grow up in the old order and you are part of the old order, this is all horrifying. as i said at the beginning, i fully expect, as the swamp diminishes, that the alligators will be snapping and biting and arguing and yelling autocrat, autocrat. when what is happening is america's once once again reinventing itself [applause] >> i want to thank you all for your attentiveness. i salute newt gingrich for trying to make donald trump seem almost cute and eccentric at the beginning of this talk. [laughter]
i also appreciate his calling us alligators, because they are cute in their own way. i want to point out that what happened at the end of the debate is precisely what i said would happen, which is our opponents want to hang on a few words of this proposition and say that, if you don't believe that donald trump caused all the problems that the united states faces, then you really can't vote for this proposition. we are asserting some thing else. we are asserting that donald trump is the crisis, is the problem. they say we presented no specifics. they couldn't really answer us on joe arpaio. they had to go on a long bit of character assassination to dispute what was said about james comey, which is true, which is donald trump said he didn't like what james comey was doing about the russia investigation. that should be genuinely
alarming. it is trump himself who holds himself above the norms that every other politician -- i should say including mr. gingrich -- hold themselves. he says i don't have to get rid of my businesses. i don't have to release my income tax returns. you don't have to know anything about me. i can do what i want. if that isn't autocratic, i don't know what is. american democracy was never supposed to give us a leader like donald trump. we have had more or less ideological presidents, more or less competent presidents, we have had other presidents who divided us, but never as consciously as donald trump has. we have never had a president who has aroused such grave and widespread doubts about his commitment to the institution of self-government and to the norms of democracy. we urge you to vote for this proposition to send a message to us. i believe to us, meaning we americans -- i believe the
united states is more tolerant than donald trump. we are more committed to democratic freedoms than he is. the american people are more open to progress and hope and it to the future, that is why the vast majority of americans disapprove of donald trump. he has created the worst crisis for our democracy in generations. but i want to assure all our canadian friends here that we shall overcome. [applause] >> so let's think about what we have established here tonight. as newt said we established that the president is a bit of a poo poo head, he is a little odd, a little off, does not govern like anyone else had and says things that we wish he hadn't all the time. we have established that a lot of people do not agree with donald trump's policies and are
furious that he was elected, and will do what they can to discredit him. and that the media will do so, too. half of the stuff that comes out of the media, it is disputed by four-star generals. it does not stop them from writing it. there is massive and hostile campaign. we established that, if you throw around scary words like autocrat and tyranny and putin and put them in the same sins -- same breath as donald trump, but you can scare people. and make them start thinking about an ultimate reality of what is happening in washington. but here's what we have not established because it goes to tonight's resolution. we have not established that donald trump has undermined or hurt in any way the actual rules and forms of democracy in the united states as we americans view them. ok? they mentioned jim comey.
he had the right to fire him. they mentioned joe arpaio. he had the right to pardon them. -- him. they talk about different moves he has taken, there is no one disputing that the present has the right to change regulations within health and human services, to change the health care law. you may not like how he is doing it. you might not agree with the policy of before. you might not like that he got rid of the climate program. but he did so because it was pushed through without congressional approval. they recognized that it likely violated the constitution because of the way it was put through. no one can point to anything that has undermined, again, those basic structures that we have. >> what about banning the lgbt from the military? [applause] >> no one is disputing that he
can do that, too. i'm not saying it is the right policy. many people can disagree, but you don't just get to revolt because you don't like it. that's why we have elections. i appreciate that a lot of people in this room do not like the way this election went. many of us on the republican side, donald trump was not our first choice for the nomination either. but we had an election that was peacefully conducted and honestly conducted. [booing] there is no proof otherwise, and if you think so, let's see what actually happens before you make up your mind. i ask you to not believe the hype. base this on the facts he has done so far. [applause] >> ladies and gentlemen, i want to end with agreement with speaker gingrich, that america is facing in the world is facing -- and the world is facing
extraordinary challenges. extraordinary challenges of economy, of technology, and the extraordinary dangers and difficulties of a multiracial and multicultural society. america is the first what -- white majority country in the history of the world to become nonwhite majority country. technology is ripping people's lives apart. it is impoverishing many people and stagnating the wages of many more. it is a difficult, emotional, troubling time. but it's precisely because we are in such a difficult moment that the constitution of the united states respects the rule of law in these united states, civility in our language and discourse is maintained in the united states. and rules and norms and procedures that have protected our democracy for centuries be upheld. that is why, when we have a president to have contempt for
that constitution, who has pushed it in nine months to the breaking point, who has exhibited every capacity and instinct for authoritarian rule, who divides americans every day in completely unnecessary ways, a man who can turn the national football league into a matter of deep division, and who acts on the international stage with a recklessness and ignorance and a pride and a vanity that puts all of us and our lives and our security at stake. it is because he is absolutely the worst possible answer to these problems, that he is intensifying and deepening these divisions, that he is tarrying -- tearing america apart, emotionally, culturally, and politically. that the country is fast dividing into two warring tribes.
and the one person we need at this moment to bridge those divides, to address these problems with sincerity is the president. and he has a chance if he had reached out to the democrats, engaged on infrastructure, with held his vicious tongue. if he were able to control himself, he could have been a great president. but he isn't. he is what he is. and what he is is a danger the likes of which we haven't seen in our lifetimes. [applause] >> thank you. that was a terrific and hard-fought debate.
it reminds me of something peter morgan once said on this stage. it is one thing to give a speech in front of an audience of people who agree with your with -- with you or disagree. something quite different to get on a stage and engage in verbal and mental combat with your intellectual peers. ladies and gentlemen, a round of applause for our debaters. [applause] >> this weekend, on the c-span network, tonight at 9:15 p.m. eastern, former presidential speech advisors for presidents nixon to obama and dr. anthony eitan on how your zip code impacts your health. on book tv on c-span2, tonight eastern, the
editor-in-chief christopher beckford on his book, "the art of the donald." 11:00 a.m.,y, at rebecca fraser and her book, "the mayflower." an american history tv on c-span3 tonight at 8:55 p.m. eastern, penn state university history professor on the u.s. capitol's art and architecture and sunday at 9:10 p.m., the groundbreaking ceremony for the dwight d. eisenhower memorial in washington, d.c. this weekend on the c-span networks. " is nextngton journal with your phone calls. effectdiscussion on the of tv coverage on politics. and michelle obama talking about life in the white house at a women's conference in the little people. in about an hour, we will talk to jesse mechanic