Critic's Notebook: Michael Moore, Ana Navarro Slam "Malignant" Trump on Van Jones' CNN Special

Screengrab/CNN

CNN political commentator Van Jones discussed the recent election with Trump voters and guests Rick Santorum, Republican strategist Ana Navarro and filmmaker Michael Moore.

Hosting a CNN special dubbed The Messy Truth, political commentator Van Jones explored how Americans are feeling about the election a month later.

It turns out that nobody’s feeling very good.

Featuring both Hillary and Trump voters as well as specials guests Rick Santorum, Republican strategist Ana Navarro and filmmaker Michael Moore, the show began with a folksy, impassioned appeal by Jones, who decried the nation’s fractured state.

“This is America,” he began. “At some point we have got to do better.” He went on to lay blame on both major political parties, saying that they both “kinda suck” and pointing to Democrat “elitism” and Republican “bigotry and bias.” He added that while he didn’t expect the two sides to agree during the program, he hoped that they would engage in “constructive disagreement.”

Based on the results, he’s going to have to host a lot more shows.

The hour began with a segment depicting Jones’ road trip to Ohio, which had the feel of a National Geographic ethnographic exploration. There, cake box in hand, he visited an Ohio family of Democrats, including three grown children, who had voted for Trump despite having supported Obama in the last two presidential elections.

They had “voted for change,” explained the father. All of them, that is, except his wife, who voted Democratic down the line but declined to cast a vote for Hillary. “She scared me,” she said of Hillary, although admitting that Trump scared her as well. 

“We are what makes the world go round,” the patriarch explained about the manufacturing companies in the Rust Belt, adding, in a subtle paraphrase of Trump’s trademark line, “We truly want to make America better.” When Jones asked him what he actually wanted Trump to do, he replied, “We want him to come to the area.” These are people who are clearly starved for attention, and it’s safe to say that now they’ve got it.

Back at the studio in New York City’s Time Warner Center, Jones talked with Santorum, whom he described as “America’s sweater vest-wearing superdad.” (Unfortunately, the last time we had one of those, he turned out to be an alleged serial rapist.)

Admitting to his guest that “we live in different bubbles,” the host quickly turned the conversation to race, asking Santorum if he had been bothered by Jones’ comment shortly after the election that it was a sign of an American “whitelash” against a black president.

“You stirred up my family,” Santorum replied, before going on to say that if anyone was to blame for America’s increased racial tensions, it was Obama, apparently for having brought up the issue.

Santorum continued his bizarre line of reasoning in response to a question from a Muslim law student who described the “devastation and fear in the eyes” of her family members and friends after Trump’s election.

“You should feel much better about religious liberty” under Trump than Obama, Santorum told her, while Jones was probably wondering if the whole program had been a big mistake.

Santorum’s worst moment came in response to a tearful appeal by a young undocumented Mexican immigrant who was brought to this country when she was seven. Now an engineering instructor, and terrified that she’ll lose her career and be deported, she asked Santorum what advice he would give her.

In a display of the sort of compassionate conservatism that we can expect to see for at least the next four years, Santorum advised her to leave the country. “Give the gift that America’s given you to the world,” he said in his most Mister Rogers tone. Except he made it clear she wasn’t welcome in his neighborhood.

Navarro quickly jumped in, praising the young woman as the sort of person America should value and imploring her to stay and fight, and to be public about it. “Anonymity is no longer an option,” Navarro told her.

Navarro, who’s essentially broken from her own party, delivered a fiery diatribe against Trump’s hateful, racist rhetoric. “Donald Trump released the Kraken,” she thundered, earning points for the savvy pop culture reference.  

But Navarro was a pussycat compared to Moore, one of the few Democrats who actually forecast Trump’s victory months before it happened. (Perhaps Moore should become the new head of the Democratic National Committee.)

“I got over my five stages [of grief] back in June,” Moore commented, pointing to his having accurately predicted that Trump would win the four “Brexit states” of Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. “I live in Michigan…I don’t live in the bubble,” Moore pointed out.

Even while decrying the Democrats, who lost two of the last five presidential elections despite having won the popular vote — “They lose when they win!” he marveled — Moore advised them to “take some comfort” in the fact that the majority of Americans voted against Trump. Moore also sharply disagreed with a voter who said that he supported Trump because of his pro-American trade policies.

“He hasn’t done anything for you yet,” Moore told him. “He raised the issue,” the man responded.

Jones tried to persuade Moore that the Democrats should work with the president-elect, arguing that if they didn’t, it would only lead to the sort of paralysis that’s afflicted Washington for years. But Moore would have none of it, describing Trump as a “malignant narcissist” and saying that it was the “responsibility” of Congressional Democrats to “block and obstruct.”

“This is not a Kumbaya moment,” Moore declared, adding that the day after Trump is inaugurated, the Republican majority Congress would pass “one piece of suffering after another.”

Ah well. So much for “constructive disagreement.”

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