Media and politics have been so divided and so divisive that it was a surprise when CNN announced a town hall with none other than former President and leading GOP presidential contender Donald Trump. Staged in New Hampshire, the site of the first GOP primary of the election season in 2024, Kaitlan Collins and Trump sat across from each other on tall chairs with Collins facilitating questions from the audience.
Or at least, that was what she was supposed to do. Mostly what Collins did was interrupt, not listen for answers to questions she posed, and treated Trump like a combative witness. There were those in the social media verse who tried to say that Collins "won," even though it wasn't meant to be a debate but a conversation between Trump and local voters.
But the truth is, that Trump basically made Collins look like a fool. With her argumentative stance and combative questioning style, Collins came off more like a prosecutor in desperate need of a conviction than a journalist looking for answers and trying to hold the past and potentially future leader of the free world accountable.
She tried to make Trump look bad by discussing the Capitol riot of January 6, 2021, where thousands of his supporters made their way to the Capitol building as his rally at the ellipse was winding down and entered, uninvited, with the intention of stopping the certification of election results for Joe Biden. While Collins spoke about injuries to officers, however, Trump spoke about a woman who was killed, Ashli Babbit, a protester who was shot by Capitol Police. He decried the fact that no officer was held accountable for the fatal shooting of the unarmed, diminutive woman, a veteran of the US Armed Forces.
When asked outright about the January 6 defendants, he said he would likely pardon "a large portion" of them. The audience cheered at this.
Collins asked Trump about the recent verdict in a civil case brought by E Jean Carroll in New York, in which a judge and jury found him liable of sexual abuse, though not rape which was the allegation. Trump stuck to his guns that he never knew the woman, and that he was innocent of all accusations. He pointed to poll numbers showing that the verdict would have little to no impact on his electability where the American people are concerned.
Trump has a different method than many politicians, which is that he never wavers. He does not tell some constituents one thing and others something else, as Obama did with his views on gay marriage, but stick to his perspective and drives it home every time. Trump's take on energy security is that the US should be energy independent, and the nation was energy independent under his leadership.
"Drill, baby, drill" was Trump's response as to how to deal with the rising energy costs in the US.
As to Biden's policies, Biden's leadership, and the progressive takeover of American institutions, Trump said "Our country is dying. Our country is being destroyed by stupid people." And he's not particularly wrong. From pronoun people to progressive ideologues, from antifa militants to groomer teachers, the country is spilling into ideological chaos.
Immigration, a hallmark of Trump's first presidential campaign, was raised at CNN's town hall. And while Collins attempted to back him into a corner by getting nit-picky about how many miles of border wall were built, or his family separation policy, in place from May 7 to June 20, 2018, during which time some 2,600 children were separated from families, with more than half reunited by the end of July of that year, Trump stood firm.
He said that policy prevented people from coming, and it reduced numbers not only for the time in which it was in place, but afterwards, when the notion that parents would be separated from their children was enough to make them not make the trip to the border.
Trump promised to put an end to the war in Ukraine, while Collins tried to get him to pledge allegiance to one foreign nation or another. She was not successful in that, instead Trump pledged support for peace, and for forcing Europe to contribute an equal share of funds to that war. He said Europe has thrown in maybe $20 billion, while the US is breaking the bank at over $170 billion funds given and rising.
Collins, who had kept up her practice of interrupting Trump, falsely correcting him, and generally making it impossible for him to answer her questions, stayed that way right up to the end. She entirely misunderstood the sweeping case of the many boxes of classified documents, be they Biden's multiple caches of hidden documents or those seized at Trump's Mar-a-Lago home by the FBI. She refused to let him properly respond.
Finally, Trump said, "you are a nasty person."
And she really seemed entirely unclear as to how the entire thing played out. For the record, yes, Obama also took classified documents. And when it became apparent that many presidents and vice presidents past had ended up with classified documents among their possessions when they left their lives of public service at the executive level, the National Archives put out a call for everyone who'd been in that position to have a look around, and see if any classified documents were lying around their homes or offices.
While it's unusual to hear a candidate insult someone outright like that, it was more shocking to see a newswoman decline to allow her subject to answer questions she posed, and to insist on a narrative construction of facts. Collins spoke with a closed mind and made assumptions about Trump and his views.
Meanwhile, when a veteran of the US Armed Forces stood up to ask a question, Trump offered him a job.