Barbershop: Trump Transition Team Tactics And Twitter Etiquette

Dec 10, 2016
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MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:

It's time for a trip to the Barbershop. That's where we gather a group of interesting folks to talk about what's in the news and what's on their minds. Joining us for a shape-up today are Ken Rudin. He is a longtime political analyst. He's host of a radio show called Ken Rudin's Political Junkie. Hi, Ken.

KEN RUDIN: Hello, Michel. What is Aleppo? I'm sorry, I thought I was doing Gary Johnson.

MARTIN: Exactly. Sorry, sorry - not your turn yet. Gayle Trotter is a conservative commentator based here in Washington, D.C. Welcome back to you.

MARTIN: Great to be with you, Michel. And Farajii Muhammad is the host of Listen Up! That's a radio show on member station WEAA in Baltimore. He's also director of a youth organization Peace by Piece. Welcome back to you, too, Farajii.

FARAJII MUHAMMAD, BYLINE: Thank you, Michel.

MARTIN: So let me start with this, over a month - we're about a month out since the election, and Donald Trump is still tweeting up a storm. This week, he made ripples by tweeting about the potential projected cost of revamping Air Force One. He also singled out a union leader who questioned Donald Trump's math on the number of jobs he claimed to have saved at that Carrier plant in Indiana. That's the one that makes the heating and air conditioning equipment. And that resulted in a wave of angry calls toward the man, angry, you know, threats. And all of this has brought back concerns about the president-elect's - what should we say? - fondness for Twitter and the unintended - or perhaps their intended consequences. I'm not quite sure, particularly when it's directed at - you know, private citizens.

So, Gayle, you're the Trump supporter in the house. We'll start with you on this. What do you think about that? Is this a problem or not?

GAYLE TROTTER: It's not a problem. Donald Trump is using the most recent media that he has to get out to the American people. I would say that these are his fireside tweets, taking from President Roosevelt, who used a new medium of radio when he was president, to get his message directly out to the American people. And it's great because Donald Trump through Twitter can bypass the mainstream media, and he speaks with his authentic voice. He's not using a committee. Many people said won't somebody take his iPhone from him so he won't be making these tweets in the middle of the night? But this is why people like him. I've heard many Trump supporters tell me we feel like he is speaking personally to us through Twitter.

MARTIN: All right, Ken, what do you think about this?

RUDIN: Well, I understand why he's doing it. Obviously, you know, he doesn't - Donald Trump has never trusted the media. The media has shown, obviously, they treat him in kind. And by tweeting, he bypasses the media, and that all makes sense to me. But unlike - I mean, I don't remember President Roosevelt ever attacking "Saturday Night Live." In other words, the attacks are - the things he does, yes, he does have a microphone...

MARTIN: Well, maybe 'cause it wasn't there then? I'm just saying.

RUDIN: Well, that could be one reason.

MARTIN: You know...

RUDIN: That could be one reason. I know...

MARTIN: ...Accuracy compels me to point out it didn't exist then...

TROTTER: (Unintelligible) Michel.

MARTIN: ...Although I'm sure you were there.

RUDIN: I didn't think of that. But what I did think of is that he does not...

MARTIN: But I take your point about private - well, let's take "Saturday Night Live" because they have a lot of people to make phone calls for them, to answer their phones and to get their coffee and whatever. But, you know, what about, you know, private citizens who don't - like, some college student in New Hampshire or what about that?

RUDIN: Well, exactly, what about - what about that 18-year-old girl - The Washington Post did a great story about this - the 18-year-old girl who stood up to President-elect Trump and said that, you know, how do you feel about women? And then he replied that you're nasty and you're arrogant. And then suddenly she got bombarded by all of his followers with hate tweets that did not stop for a year.

MARTIN: OK, Farajii, you what about you?

MUHAMMAD: You know, I don't think - I mean, first, Donald Trump is the president-elect. So he does not have the - he needs to be held accountable in his tweets. And I think that if he puts out these personal tweets then - and not under the official White House Twitter account, then that just keeps him in a place where he doesn't have to feel like he's going to be held accountable about what he says.

His tweets shape policy, and his tweets shape opinion and perception. And at this point, we don't need to have two Twitter accounts. We need to have one because now Donald Trump has now taken on this role as the president. And as this role, that's what you are for the next four years. You're not...

MARTIN: Well, not yet - not yet, not till January. So but that's the part of the question here. Still, he is not president yet. And so he's still, for all intents and purposes, a private citizen.

MUHAMMAD: You know what, Michel?

MARTIN: So...

MUHAMMAD: Just in the case with the union worker, I mean, he puts out this number of 1,100...

TROTTER: Union president - let me put in there. It was the president. It wasn't just a regular worker.

RUDIN: Right, Chuck Jones.

MUHAMMAD: Yeah, but - the union president, excuse me. And the thing is he put out this number that he saved 1,100 jobs when in fact it was 730. He didn't give credit to his own running mate, Governor Pence, about, you know, really helping to broker that deal in Indiana. And so it's, like, again, you're putting yourself out there with no real accountability...

MARTIN: But isn't the tool of accountability elections?

MUHAMMAD: Hmmm?

MARTIN: Isn't the tool of accountability elections?

MUHAMMAD: Yes. And at the same time, when you have this type of platform and you use it and just use it without any type of restrictions or guidelines or regulations, it can become very dangerous when you are the president-elect.

TROTTER: But he's the anti-regulation guy. That's the beauty of it. That's why his supporters love it because they don't want him boxed in. They don't want him part of the Washington elite. They want to drain the swamp, and he's the guy to do it.

MARTIN: Well, let's talk about it - let's talk about some of the alleged swamp residents or future swamp residents, if you want to sort of call it that. OK...

TROTTER: The swamp dwellers...

MARTIN: ...So the president-elect tweeted this morning that the former mayor of New York Rudy Giuliani has pulled out of the running for secretary of state. And now there are reports that ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson is going to be Trump's pick. I want to give NBC credit for this. They were the first to report this.

NPR has not independently confirmed it. We don't expect a formal announcement until next week, but it's certainly a different name than has been bandied around. So, Ken Rudin, why don't I go to you first on this. So what do you - what do you say about that?

RUDIN: Well, I mean, there are a lot of things to talk about about everything he's picked for the Cabinet. You know, it's interesting how he knew more than the generals and yet we have generals who are going to head up the Department of Defense and, you know, all these different entities and organizations. But regarding Rex Tillerson - and what's interesting about this the most to me is that not only is he, I think, a climate change denier or at least we know how he feels about the environment as being the CEO of ExxonMobil, but more importantly he's a very close personal business relationship with Vladimir Putin. And when you have the combination of Tillerson, plus General Flynn, who's going to be his national security adviser with close relationships with Putin while, as we heard from Mary Louise Kelly earlier in your show, you know, as Russia is being blamed for hacking into the election system and clearly trying to get their favorite candidate to be winning, that is going to be clearly a conflict not only between Trump and the rest of the country, Trump and the Republican Party.

MARTIN: Well, I don't know that Rex Tillerson is a climate change denier. I know - I mean, because you're for fossil fuels or because you make your living in fossil fuels, I don't know that that means you're a climate change denier. We do think that Scott Pruitt, the Oklahoma attorney general who has been nominated to be - or would be under the leadership - the leadership of the EPA has been described as a climate change skeptic. But there's also this whole thing about the transition team circulating a questionnaire asking who has worked on climate science or not. And, you know, for a lot of people, that seems like a witch hunt. Gayle.

TROTTER: Or the opposite. You might remember that in the first week after he was elected president, Barack Obama said elections have consequences. I won. And if the American people want to have a voice and have elections actually matter for something, when you put new leadership in - not just somebody from the same party but from the other party, they want to know what's going on at the agencies. They're going to have new priorities. They're going to have new policy initiatives. And how can any new leadership going into any organization be able to take over if they don't know the projects that are going on, who's in charge of the projects, what the money is that's being spent? And if Donald Trump isn't able to go in and actually change these agencies, then it gives a lie to the fact that we're able to change anything and hold anybody accountable in Washington. And Farajii, what do you think?

MUHAMMAD: Well, again, I mean, if we're looking at this all of the appointments, my big question is what will the poor and the middle class of this country have in terms of its leadership? You have a lot of these big CEOs - excuse me - from Goldman Sachs, ExxonMobil's and so many different places. And these - let's be real about this, this is a - privileged white men. And so at this point, what about the poor, what about the middle class? Even if you're looking at the poor coming out of Virginia, Michigan, there was a great article that Time or, I'm sorry, another periodical just did in terms of why those folks in Virginia, Michigan, Pennsylvania had decided to vote for Trump because they said essentially for change. They're expecting jobs and whatnot. But at the end of the day, his administration does not reflect the diverse population of this country, and his administration does not really seem to be all about the poor and the middle class, where the rest of America is. There's only a small percentage of Americans that are making the type of money that a Goldman Sachs CEO will make what ExxonMobil CEO will make.

MARTIN: Can I ask Gayle about this very briefly. What about that question?

TROTTER: Sure, I didn't want to interrupt. But I thought Nikki Haley might disagree. She's a daughter of Indian immigrants and she has been appointed to the U.N. And if she goes through the confirmation process...

MARTIN: Yeah, but she's not working on domestic policy. I mean, she's at the United Nations. I mean...

TROTTER: No, but it's part of his Cabinet. It's part of his inner circle of people that he's selecting. And I think the reason why his message resonated with the very populations that you're talking about is because he wants to bring everybody together and create jobs and unleash our economy. So they will have jobs.

MUHAMMAD: But the administration doesn't reflect that.

RUDIN: Can I jump in just quickly?

MARTIN: Go ahead, Ken.

RUDIN: What I agree with Gayle about - I mean, you know, everyone - when Tom Price was a - Congressman Tom Price was nominated to be the secretary of HHS, everybody said, oh, no, he's going to get rid of Obamacare. Donald Trump campaigned on getting - repealing Obamacare. So for all the reactions to the Betsy DeVoses and the Jeff Sessions and the Tom Prices of the world who Donald Trump is named to the Cabinet, this is what he campaigned on. So for people to be suddenly so astonished that he's going in that direction to me misreads the entire election.

MARTIN: All right, let me just take a couple minutes to end on a slightly different note, but it still has to do with voting. That's my very hard - that's my hard turn. And I will leave you to decide whether it's a turn right or left. I won't decide. So the Grammy nominations, Beyonce and Adele lead this year's nominations. They'll be headed for...

MUHAMMAD: Oh, so difficult...

MARTIN: Farajii can't decide if he's fainting or not. They're facing off in all the big categories - Record of the Year, Album of the Year, Song of the Year. Do we have time to play a little bit? All right, just have a little taste.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "HELLO")

ADELE: (Singing) Hello from the other side. I must've called a thousand times.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "FORMATION")

BEYONCE: (Singing) I go off, I go hard, get what's mine. I'm a star because I slay...

MARTIN: All right, Farajii...

MUHAMMAD: Yes.

MARTIN: ...Beyhive or camp Adele?

MUHAMMAD: Yes, I have to be a Beyhive member because my wife is, so I want to...

MARTIN: Because you want to go home.

MUHAMMAD: Right, exactly. No, you know, I think this is a big, big category, big situation. I mean, Adele and Beyonce, these are, like, titans right now. But I think they do have some of the strongest albums of the year. I'm really kind of up - up in the air because I actually like both albums.

MARTIN: Tie. OK, tie. We'll keep it from your wife. We won't let her know. We'll keep that part secret. Gayle, you were rocking out to both. I saw you rocking out. So Beyhive...

MUHAMMAD: Beyhive...

MARTIN: ...Or camp Adele? Which one?

TROTTER: So Beyonce lost a lot of fans this year when she went out campaigning for Hillary Clinton and came out against law enforcement. And I was not an Adele fan until I went to her concert at the Verizon Center in D.C. like a month ago. And she made some anti-Trump comments, too, so neither of them have clean hands on that. But I would have to go with...

MARTIN: I don't think Adele's a citizen, though. And having been to be the Beyonce concert...

TROTTER: Which is worse, which is worse.

MARTIN: ...I did not already any loss of fans, confession, seemed kind of crowded, just saying. OK, so you're - what?

TROTTER: I'm torn.

MUHAMMAD: You're torn?

MARTIN: You're equally...

MUHAMMAD: I'm going to pull one for the Beyhive, though.

MARTIN: You're going to pull one - OK, Ken, tiebreaker.

RUDIN: Michel, I'll be honest with you, I don't really follow current popular music. I thought you were talking about Adele Castro, so I really don't have any part of this whole thing.

MUHAMMAD: Really?

MARTIN: Frank Sinatra is not up for anything, Ken, sorry or Mozart for that matter. I don't think he is either, which is your era, as I recall. OK...

RUDIN: Well, I knew Mozart, and he was a friend of mine. You are no Mozart.

MARTIN: True, true that. Ken Rudin is a political analyst and host of Ken Rudin's Political Junkie. Gayle Trotter is a conservative columnist here in Washington, D.C., also a blogger - Right on DC?

TROTTER: Right in DC.

MARTIN: Right in DC, absolutely. And Farajii Muhammad is the host of Listen Up! That's a radio show on member station WEAA in Baltimore, also director of a youth organization Peace by Piece. Thank you all so much for joining us.

TROTTER: Great to be with you.

RUDIN: Thank you. Thank you, guys. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.