A confident Trump unleashes on 60 Minutes
In a combative interview on CBS’ 60 Minutes, President Trump this week insisted that the cause of climate change was unknown, defended his immigration policy, and hinted that his defense secretary could soon be forced out. Appearing much more self-assured than his last time on the program, shortly after being elected—“He is truly president. And you felt it,” interviewer Leslie Stahl said afterward—Trump gave little ground to critics. He passed up a chance to criticize Russian President Vladimir Putin and Kim Jong Un, claiming he’s tough with Putin in private and saying he has “good chemistry” with North Korea’s leader. The president backed off calling climate change a “hoax,” but speculated the climate would “change back.” Trump, who mimicked Brett Kavanaugh accuser Christine Blasey Ford at a recent rally, said that whether Blasey Ford was telling the truth was no longer important. “It doesn’t matter,” Trump said. “We won.”
Trump confirmed two reports about developments in his administration. Asked whether Defense Secretary James Mattis will be departing soon, Trump said, “He may leave. I mean, at some point, everybody leaves.” Trump used to affectionately refer to the retired four-star general by his nickname “Mad Dog,” but has reportedly taken to calling Mattis “Moderate Dog.” He told Stahl, “I think he’s sort of a Democrat, if you want to know the truth.” Trump also confirmed that the White House is considering reinstating the policy of separating migrant children from their parents at the border. Insisting he’s been treated unfairly on that issue, Trump told Stahl, “I’m president, and you’re not.”
What the columnists said
Lesley Stahl was no match for Trump, who “converted 60 Minutes into a short rally,” said Daniel D’Addario in Variety.com. He masterfully managed to “bulldoze” the interview format, and Stahl “struggled to break into his monologues” with weak attempts at follow-up questions. Trump was given free rein to ramble; one question was simply the word “China?” The mainstream press continues to believe it can corner Trump in a one-on-one. Each time, Trump’s “refusal to play by the typical rules of engagement” allows him to come out unscathed.
I hope our allies don’t watch CBS, said Uri Friedman in TheAtlantic.com. This was another instance when Trump described U.S. security commitments “graver dangers to the national interest” than the actions of Russia and North Korea. Trump conceded that Putin “probably” engages in assassinations around the world, then qualified that with, “It’s not in our country.” In Trump’s world there are “no friends and no enemies.”
This was a “master class in deflection and denial,” said Michael D’Antonio in CNN.com. The 11 million who tuned in saw a president who “refused to take responsibility for his divisive behavior” while whining that he’s treated unfairly. Republicans “need Trump to go full Trumpist to get out his voters,” said Greg Sargent in WashingtonPost.com, and he did. Take his “gloating, misogynist contempt” for Blasey Ford, whom millions “saw as an icon.” Instead of apologizing for mocking her, Trump tallied himself a win, asking, “Have you seen what’s gone on with the polls?”