CNN Host Phil Mattingly's Pauline Kael Moment

September 4th, 2023 7:39 PM

Ron Brownstein Audie Cornish Phil Mattingly Coleman Hughes CNN This Morning 9-4-23 In 1968, Pauline Kael, then The New Yorker's film critic, has famously been quoted as saying, "I can’t believe Nixon won. I don’t know anyone who voted for him.” The actual quote might actually have been a bit different, but the point remains: liberal elitists live in an echo chamber of their own ideas.

On Monday, Phil Mattingly (recently named Kaitlin Collins' permanent replacement as a co-host of CNN This Morning) seemed to have his own Pauline Kael moment.

Mattingly was commenting on a recent column by CNN analyst Ron Brownstein in The Atlantic entitled "Why Biden Just Can't Shake Trump in the Polls." Said Mattingly:

"Ron, I think that the value of this piece, and I say this often about your analysis, is you listen to Donna Brazile, you listen to people talk, and it's just this constant how, why, why does this keep happening? Even after seven years of it always happening to some degree."

In other words, the people that Mattingly talks to are perpetually perplexed by Trump's persistent popularity. To paraphrase Kael, Mattingly might as well have said: 'I don't understand how Trump can be tied with Biden in the polls. Nobody I talk to likes him!'

If Mattingly represented a continuation of CNN's left-leaning tradition, there was another guest on the show who didn't fit that mold. 

Coleman Hughes, a CNN analyst with credentials that could be considered anything but traditionally liberal since he has been a fellow at the conservative Manhattan Institute.

Hughes' comments on Monday's show were also of interest. In commenting on factors that might affect the presidential race, he suggested independents "may end up caring quite a bit about the emerging Hunter Biden scandal."

The Hunter Biden situation is a "scandal?" Not something you'd expect to hear on CNN!

And in lauding judicial independence in the context of judges rejecting  redistricting maps made by members of their own party, Hughes noted that New York's highest court rejected "the Democrat proposal for redistricting."

Democrat, not Democratic? 

Over on MSNBC, we once caught Joy Reid scolding a guest for committing that very crime against liberal right-speak!

On CNN This Morning, co-host Phil Mattingly's "Pauline Kael moment" was sponsored in part by Tylenol, Prevagen, Sling, and Sleep Number. 

Here's the transcript.

CNN This Morning
6:11 am EDT

DONNA BRAZILE: I've never seen anythingl ike this with Donald Trump. I mean, what doesn't kill you make you stronger? I mean, being convicted, I mean, being indicted, that is making him stronger? Raising $10 million using an ugly mug shot to raise money?

This is a movement. And anyone who thinks that you can apply the old political rules to trying to defeat this candidate based on he's scary, he's ugly, whatever you might want to call it, this is a movement. And we have to respect the fact that it's a movement.

PHIL MATTINGLY: That was former Democratic National Committee Chairwoman Donna Brazile, underscoring the formidable nature, particularly in the Republican party, that Donald Trump continues to hold.

A new Wall Street Journal poll, well, it backs her up. 59% of Republican primary voters support Trump. He's up 11 points from April, when this poll was last taken.

Look at this, Trump is still in a dead heat with President Biden in a hypothetical head-to-head rematch. 46% apiece.

Let's bring in political analyst and host of the podcast Conversations with Coleman, Coleman Hughes, as well as CNN senior political analyst Ron Brownstein. He's also editor at The Atlantic. His latest piece is headlined, "Why Biden Just Can't Shake Trump in the Polls."

And Ron, I think that the value of this piece, and I say this often about your analysis, is you listen to Donna Brazile, you listen to people talk, and it's just this constant how, why, why does this keep happening? Even after seven years of it always happening to some degree.

And your piece really kind of cracks the code to some degree, and almost breaking out the why here, with four kind of core pillars. What are they?

RON BROWNSTEIN: Yeah, well look, obviously one reason -- good morning, first of all, happy Labor day, everybody.

One reason is that we're really dug in as a country, and there are not many voters who are gonna switch sides for whatever reason, whatever is going on. But beyond that, there really are four core factors, I think, that are shaping the environment for 2024. Two of them are weakening President Biden, two of them are weakening Donald Trump.

I mean, for Biden, the headwinds are concerns about his age. Again today, consistently in that Wall Stree Journal poll, three-quarters of Americans say they think that he is to oold to serve as president for another term. 

And inflation! Inflation is incredibly scarring for voters, and it is at this point largely eclipsing the positive news that Biden has on a variety of economic fronts. Particularly job creation, and jobs, specifically, flowing out of the trio of big bills they passed these last few years.

So age and inflation on one side. On the other side, abortion and insurrection are weakening, are weakening Trump. 

. . . 

And when you add up age and inflation on one side, and abortion and insurrection on the other, what that adds up to right now is stalemate.

. . . 

AUDIE CORNISH: Coleman, I want to turn to you, cause we heard Donna Brazile admitting there something that a lot of people feel like they have known for the better part of eight years.

So, have Democrats really made the adjustment that they need to, to account for what she's talking about?

COLEMAN HUGHES: Yeah, well, it remains to be seen. And that was a great analysis, I think, by Ron just now.

So you've got these, these two factors on each side, which seem to equal each other out. The question is, you know, are there -- what other factors are going to emerge?

So, for example independent voters may end up caring quite a bit about the emerging Hunter Biden scandal, right? Is that going to tip the scales? Who knows?

Is there going to be, as the Trump indictments evolve, is the, the optics of that going to continue to help Trump within the GOP, but, but hurt him with independents, which is what has happened thus far?

I think that you see this 60% number [of support for Trump among Republicans], right? We should remember, before the indictments, Trump was polling closer to 40%. And that's what I would call, that's what you might call, like, the personality cult. Those are the people that just like Trump no matter what. 

After the indictments, there's another 20% of Republican voters or so that have come home to Trump, because they feel that he is persecuted, and they need to rally to his defense by nominating him.

CORNISH: Right. Not so much a vote for him, but in a way, a vote against the forces they are upset with.

HUGHES: Exactly. And that might be an own-goal, because, in the end, even though Biden is, is in some ways a candidate with some weaknesses, Trump is still not the best bet for beating him. So in some ways, Republicans may have to choose between nominating Trump and beating Biden. And the way things are looking now, it looks like they want to choose nominating Trump.

. . . 

CORNISH: Now, the reason why these states are locked, the reason why this map feels so locked, is part because of gerrymandering, right? In part because of our congressional maps. 

I want to talk about Florida, because a judge there has rejected a congressional map that Ron DeSantis was pushing. And so, this is a battle, in basically, where DeSantis is fighting with fellow Republicans. 

Now, his map actually eliminated two heavily-black districts. Can you talk about this ruling in the context of what else is going on in Florida with DeSantis and black voters?

HUGHES: Yeah, sure. So, I think we're so often in the business of delivering bad political news. I think this is a moment for restoring faith in the role ofan independent judiciary. Because what you see right now is a Republican-nominated judge essentially policing his own side, right? Saying that that is not a valid way of redistricting the, the districts in Florida, and that's diluting the black vote, right?

That's the role of the judiciary. And it restores faith that the judiciary is not just playing politics by other means, but is actually using jurisprudence to uphold the Constitution.

Now, in the context of what's been going on, we've seen some other hopeleful examples as well. Just a few months ago, the Supreme Court ruled 5-4 that Alabama's redistricting was similarly unconstitutional, and Brett Kavanaugh and Chief Justice Roberts sided with the liberal Justices there.

And last year, you saw New York's highest court, where in that case the Democrat proposal for redistricting was, was rejected. So, we've seen some hopeful examples of courts really doing their jobs and providing that check and that balance.

MATTINGLY: Yeah, it's an interesting point. You see these rulings, and I think a lot of us immediately go, well, that's plus one D in the House races, or that's plus two. 

HUGHES: Right.

MATTINGLY: You're counting seats, as opposed to saying, like, oh no, we have a, everybody talks about gerrymandering in this kind of amorphous, scolding, top-line way, but this is what is supposed to happen, I guess,  to some degree.

HUGES: Right, in that sense.

MATTINGLY: All right, Ron Brownstein, Coleman Hughes, thanks guys, very much.