President Trump may be congratulating himself on the instant reaction he got from a Pennsylvania audience of his supporters on Saturday, but Morning Joe host Joe Scarborough believes what he did and said was wrong – and even worse, dangerous.
The former Congressman said on his MSNBC morning program today that Trump likes to give his opponents funny names and blame the news media for his ills, but that kind of false populist rhetoric can have consequences.
“He actually talked about the ‘fake media,'” noted Scarborough.
“The booing is getting stronger by the day whenever he goes there and whips it up like it’s a Mussolini rally,” said Scarborough, “and yes, that’s what I said.”
Mussolini, of course, was an Italian politician who became the nation’s then youngest-ever prime minister, a powerful bombastic populist authoritarian whose speeches opposed equality and pushed for revolutionary nationalism – his version of “Make Italy Great Again.”
Mussolini eventually destroyed the Italian democracy, used his army and secret police to take absolute power and became a dictator, joining with Hitler to conquer the world in World War II, which eventually led to the devastation of his own country. He was finally removed in 1943 when the Allies invaded and was eventually executed.
Scarborough doubled down on his comparison of Trump to Mussolini.
“There is nothing American about what Donald Trump did in Pennsylvania when he tries to turn an entire audience, whether it’s against (NBC reporter) Kay Tur or whether it’s against (Meet The Press host) Chuck Todd,” who Trump called a “sleeping son of a bitch.”
“When you’re in rallies like that,” continued Scarborough, “and you whip your supporters into a frenzy, there are real-life consequences to that.”
“Threats follow,” said Scarborough, “often death threats. That unfortunately is exactly what he wants.”
Mike Barnicle, the veteran journalist who is a senior contributor to Morning Joe, added that Trump’s “constant attacks over many months and days” have worked.
“They’ve had an impact on this country,” said Barnicle. “They’ve had an impact on people. they’ve changed the way people think about the news that they read or the news that they see.”
“The president,” continued Barnicle, “has injected successfully a slow poison into the culture of this country. I don’t know what the impact is going to be years down the road but what I do know is the damage he has already done to the presidency.”
Another Morning Joe contributor, Noah Rothman, associate editor of Commentary, said the reason the Democrat has made the Pennsylvania race so competitive is that Trump himself is the issue – not the economy, not foreign policy, not domestic policy.
“The reason you’re going to see Democratic victories in November is Trump,” said Rothman.
“This is a values election,” he continued. “It’s a referendum on Donald Trump and his behavior.”
“And behavior like that is precisely why voters are going to head to the polls more energized for the Democrats than they are for the Republicans, to register their dissatisfaction.”
Scarborough agreed, but made clear the damage Trump is doing in the meanwhile is also something that is regrettable now, whatever happens in November.