In a discussion packed with humor — perhaps camouflaging alarm — five alumni journalists agreed that Donald Trump can win the presidency, though none predicted he will. “Listening to a guy who’s a billionaire, who isn’t politically correct, ... [people] are having a great time,” said CBS News correspondent Chip Reid *82. “It was stunning to me when I first saw that — and I’m not just talking about Joe the Plumber, I’m talking about people who make a lot of money and have upper-level jobs. There are a lot of people out there who love him, and they’re not idiots.”
The discussion focused on Trump. “He is in many ways very strategic,” said Tom Bevan ’91, co-founder of the poll-tracking website RealClearPolitics.com. “Trump has no staff, he has spent no money, and he ran against accomplished people — the deepest bench the Republican side has had, perhaps ever. He beat them all, and that is why he is in a league of his own.”
Asked about the role of the press in fueling Trump’s climb, PBS NewsHour correspondent Kathleen McCleery ’75 responded: “One of the things Trump said he has learned about the press is that they’re hungry for a good story, and the more sensational, the better. And we fell into that trap.” Sandra Sobieraj Westfall ’89, of People magazine, said that different rules apply to the candidates: Hillary Clinton’s statements are “picked apart,” while Trump’s pass with less scrutiny and “we laugh it off.”
The panel, “Presidential Politics 2016: The Road to the White House,” was sponsored by PAW and the Ferris journalism seminars. All the panelists struggled to predict what might emerge from a Trump presidency. Washington Post London bureau chief Griff Witte ’00 said European leaders are debating what kind of leader he would be. “I’ve talked to neo-Fascists in Denmark who say, ‘Wow, that Donald Trump is sort of extreme, isn’t he?’ ” Witte said.
Reid guessed that if Trump won, “it would be somewhere between impeachment in the first term and [carving his face on] Mount Rushmore.” Responded moderator Joel Achenbach ’82 of The Washington Post: “But he would remove the other four faces.”