GW debate sways audience against giving Trump a chance
George Washington University hosted a debate Wednesday night about whether or not President Donald Trump should be given a chance to govern in the Oval Office, and the con-side won a clear victory, at least with the live audience.
The debate—titled “Give Trump a Chance?”—featured David Frum, senior editor for The Atlantic, and Brennan Center for Justice President Michael Waldman arguing against giving the president a chance, with Bloomberg View columnist Clive Cook and political analyst and attorney Gayle Trotter making the case that Trump should be given a chance to pursue the policies he campaigned on.
“We didn’t have this debate when Barack Obama won the election and reelection."
“The premise of this debate is wrong,” Trotter provocatively began her introductory statement, arguing that the real issue isn’t whether people should like Trump, or whether he’s president, because the fact remains that Trump is “the current occupant in the Oval Office.”
“We didn’t have this debate when Barack Obama won the election and reelection," Trotter observed, and while she acknowledged that Trump may have flaws, especially personal ones, she also touted his ability to overcome social problems because he “tapped into the patriotism of his fellow Americans.”
Frum then took the stage, countering that “the core premise of this motion is [that] the things we need to know about Donald Trump lie in the future, not in the past."
After accusing Trump of ushering in the “most unethical and least transparent administration in modern American history,” he went on to criticize him as an “existential threat” to the media and for refusing to place his business assets in a blind trust, pointing out that he merely handed control of the Trump Organization over to his sons, who have not separated themselves from the White House, even meeting Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch after Trump announced the pick Tuesday night.
Cook, after acknowledging his criticisms of Trump—such as being “dismayed” by the president’s executive order to temporarily halt immigration from seven terrorist-haven nations—nonetheless called it “anti-democratic, plain and simple” to deny Trump a chance to execute his duties in the Oval Office.
“Rules are often unfair to losers, and politicians often lie,” Cook conceded, imploring the Supreme Court and Congress to “stand up” to Trump when necessary, but also praised Trump’s Cabinet selections, such as Defense secretary James Mattis and Homeland Security secretary John Kelly, as “competent individuals.”
Waldman, however, argued that “this is not a normal presidency and this is not a normal time,” and called for people to stand up to the “extremism” of the Trump administration, saying that after 10 days in office, “We’ve already given him a chance.”
The debate continued along the same lines for about half an hour, after which there was a Q&A with the audience. The audience was also polled on the resolution both before and after the event by Intelligence Squared U.S., which hosted the debate.
Among those who attended in person, the anti-Trump side emerged with a clear victory, increasing its support from 43 percent to 72 percent, while the share of audience members supporting the idea of giving Trump a chance fell from 28 percent to 21 percent.
Those who watched the debate online, conversely, gave consistent responses both before and after the debate. Pre-debate, 56 percent opposed giving Trump a chance against 39 percent supporting the notion, and after the debate the con-side had improved only slightly, to 58 percent, while the pro-side dipped to 38 percent.
A spokesperson for Intelligence Squared, however, explained that the online poll is only given to viewers once, and so does not reflect whether individual viewers changed their positions over the course of the debate. Rather, the figures simply represent the views of those who voted prior to the event compared to those who voted after.
Follow the author of this article on Twitter: @JacksonRichman