New York Times columnist Michelle Goldberg argued with her fellow panelists on MSNBC’s "Meet the Press Daily" Friday about whether President Donald Trump is the leader of the free world or an aspiring despot.
RealClearPolitics reporter Caitlin Huey-Burns was criticizing Trump’s communication strategy when she called him "the leader of the free world." Goldberg interjected to say that, actually, German Chancellor Angela Merkel is the leader of the free world.
"He’s not the leader of the free world, but, sorry," Goldberg said.
"By default he’s the leader of the free world," Commentary magazine editor John Podhoretz replied.
"Angela Merkel is the leader of the free world," Goldberg said, while Podhoretz laughed.
"Well, he is the most important person in the world in politics right now," Huey-Burns said, looking at Goldberg.
MSNBC's Katy Tur asked if Goldberg meant European countries don’t see Trump as a leader, but Goldberg went further than that.
"He’s a sort of junior player in a bloc of authoritarian countries," she said. "He’s part of a bloc that includes [Russian President] Vladimir Putin, [Philippine President Rodrigo] Duterte."
"[Trump] is not rounding people up and murdering them without any due process," Tur said.
"He would certainly like to," Goldberg replied.
"I don’t think you can say that definitively, Michelle," Tur said, steering the conversation to Podhoretz.
Podhoretz, a conservative critical of Trump’s foreign policy, said Merkel is not the leader of the free world, but did say it is a problem if Trump weakens U.S. leadership.
"If he is not the leader of the free world, there is no leader of the free world," he said. "There is no world order without the most important richest, and most powerful country in the world trying to maintain [that]."
Goldberg defended her point by saying we now live in a world where "Saudi Arabia can intimidate Canada for sending out a tweet about its human rights record," prompting laughter from Tur and the other panelists.