Was Trump Actually Dangerous?

I talked with progressive journalist and author Glenn Greenwald about the perception that he was soft on Trump's authoritarian tendencies.

As part of my effort to understand the political reordering, I wanted to talk with progressive journalist Glenn Greenwald.

A harsh critic of George W. Bush’s foreign policy, Greenwald has become a regular on Fox News. During a recent conversation, I asked him about the perception that he was soft on Trump (this transcript was lightly edited for clarity):

Matt: From where I'm standing, we had decent, honorable, Republican presidents, and then we got to Trump—and that's when you decided that you kind of like him… I feel like from my standpoint, that Trump has authoritarian tendencies, which is something I would think that someone who has libertarian sensibilities wouldn't like. My perception is that you are more favorable to Trump than you were for Obama, and Bush. Am I right about that, or am I wrong?

Glenn: No, I don't think that's quite the right way to frame how I view Trump. Let me just back up a little bit and say that, when Ron Paul ran in 2008, and 2012, I was often accused of being sympathetic to him as well. …So it's not like my heterodoxy on these issues came out of nowhere, just like I don't think this split on the right came out of nowhere. And as far as Trump is concerned, I think what is so misunderstood about, at least my posture towards Trump, is there's a huge difference between what a politician would like to do—or says they want to do on the one hand—and what they actually are capable of doing on the other. So if you were to say to me, “we're in a world where Donald Trump has dictatorial powers, there's no institution that can oppose him, nothing can limit or constrain what he will do whatever he wants to do, he'll be able to implement without any tension or pushback,” I would consider that deeply alarming. But that's not the world we live in. The United States is this, you know, rock of stability. I know people don't like the term “deep state” …[but] what they're designed to do above all else is preserved status quo stability to prevent radical change from taking place in United States. And I never thought that Donald Trump was anywhere near disciplined or committed enough to battle them and overcome them and implement these often crazy things he was saying on Twitter or in speeches and the like. And he didn't. There was this huge breach between things he was saying and the things that the administration actually ended up doing. I think, you know, his talk about Russia and Putin that scared a lot of people is a great example where his administration actually was more confrontational toward Russia than Obama was by doing things like sending lethal arms to Ukraine. So I looked at Trump, not as what he presented himself as being or what he would have liked to have done, but as what I viewed him as what his actual impact was on our political landscape. And I think he was often disruptive in positive ways. He taught the right to be skeptical and hostile toward [the] CIA and security state interference in our domestic politics. He questioned things like NATO and regime change wars, which I think is a very healthy debate to open up. And I just think the general way in which he was disruptive. Pointing out, the inherent corruption in the prevailing ruling class in DC, was healthy, even though I recognize that all the things that you see in terms of his grave character flaws, and, you know, the flirtation that he has with a lot of dangerous ideas. The reality was, he was a very weak president, who was able to implement very little of that, which is why I think he didn't scare me, as much as he scared a lot of other people. [Emphasis mine]

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