The School of Communication and Media (SCM) held a virtual event on Oct. 19, featuring two of the most prominent political commentators in the United States: Peter Baker, the chief White House correspondent for The New York Times, and Susan Glasser, a staff writer at The New Yorker.
Keith Strudler, the director of the SCM, moderated the event.
Glasser and Baker addressed Montclair State University’s students and staff and spoke on the upcoming presidential election, as well as their new book, “The Man Who Ran Washington,” which entails a biography on former secretary of state and White House chief of staff, James A. Baker III.
Baker and Glasser essentially described Trump’s presidency as being a turning point in history as Trump introduced a strategy to suppress the president’s opposition to voters in southern states who would not be favorable to the Republican party.
“The president has been systematically attacking the legitimacy of the institution of voting itself in this country repeatedly as a campaign strategy and that’s something we’ve never seen before,” Glasser said.
Baker and Glasser made a comparison to James A. Baker III’s handling of the end of Watergate, to the aftermath of the Cold War and to Trump’s response to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. They also discussed how both eras dealt with devastating events, but noted that while James A. Baker III has encouraged bipartisan deals, the Trump administration has not made a deal for another COVID-19 relief package in the last six months.
“Usually giving away money is something politicians do well,” Baker said. “If they can’t do the easy thing, how can they do the hard thing?”
Baker and Glasser went on to compare James A. Baker III’s utilization of the press to that of the current president’s. James A. Baker III was able to build a rapport with journalists, whereas Trump does speak to the media, but circulates fake news. Baker and Glasser said that Trump is stripping away the credibility of the media and leaves the American people uncertain, especially pertaining to mail-in voting and the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The extreme feeling of chaos at all times almost juxtapose as a political strategy,” Glasser said. “People have treated this as political theater [for] the last four years. The difference is, now we are dealing with a deadly pandemic where we are at 200,000 dead Americans and in the middle of an economic recession.”
Baker and Glasser admitted that Republicans turning on the incumbent president is uncommon. With the election right around the corner, states that are historically red during the presidential election are now shifting to blue.
With front row tickets to American politics, Baker and Glasser say that anything can happen in this election. Hillary Clinton might have taken the lead in 2016 and Joe Biden appears to be taking the lead in 2020, but both Baker and Glasser say that like Clinton’s unexpected defeat, Biden is not quite safe yet.
“If you’re a Trump fan, there is still reason to have hope, but if you’re a Biden fan, there is still reason to worry,” Baker concluded.