On CNN’s Out Front with Erin Burnett on Wednesday, guests who worked in Republican presidential administrations discussed reporting in Michael Wolff’s new book, Fire and Fury, that Donald Trump himself did not think he would be elected president.
David Gergen served in the administrations of presidents Bill Clinton, Ronald Reagan, Gerald Ford and Richard Nixon, while Richard Painter is the former chief White House ethics lawyer in the George W. Bush administration.
“David Gergen, this is counter to what the president says, is but consistent with what any of us who were texting or talking to anybody who was with Trump that night knows: they had no clue he was going to win and were as shocked as anybody else,” Burnett reminded. “The night of the election, though, I thought these words were interesting, according to Steve Bannon, Trump was befuddled, disbelieving, horrified, and then completely sure he was the guy.”
“Well, once again, it is important that we haven’t heard from Steve Bannon contradicted any of these quotes that have been attributed to him, so we have to assume that this is what he said,” Gergen concluded.
“The whole thing was built, whole campaign was built to enhance [Trump’s] brand, to increase his riches, to make him a more powerful man around the world,” Gergen noted. “And who would have believed — none of us believed, he included, it would now appear — believed he would actually make it.”
“The problem here is that I don’t think he has the mentality, the state of mind, to be an effective president,” Painter noted. “Or, as we saw with these tweets about North Korea and nuclear weapons, to be a safe president.”
“He does not control his impulses, everything is about himself and his own image and his own ego, and that’s the way he’s lead his whole life,” Painter noted. “He’s never even been head of a public company, it’s always been a private company that he owned where he could be the sole dictator and he could call all the shots and that’s not the way it is when you’re President of the United States.”
“Maybe in some other countries, maybe in Russia and some other countries you can be a dictator, but not here,” Painter explained. “And we have now seen that it may be a very dangerous situation to have him as president, and many of us are very worried about that.”
“I do think we need to have a serious national discussion about this, because I do think in a major institution, a board would act,” Gergen suggested. “And by the way, I think the Republican Party bears responsibility here. You know, he’s there, he’s first and foremost head of the party, at least in political terms.”
“He’s very paranoid,” Painter observed. “He is paranoid about Robert Mueller and the investigation, he is paranoid about the press and thinks the press is out to get him.”
“This is a very dangerous situation, where you have a man with as much power as the President of the United States, who is paranoid and who could seek to use that power in very destructive ways, at least with respect to the press and going after political enemies, putting political enemies in jail and so forth,” Painter warned. “You have judges and others who would stop it, but when it comes to nuclear war, he could move unilaterally very, very quickly.”