Steve Schmidt, one of the most eloquent and powerful speakers on media in recent years, gave a truly amazing interview on All In With Chris Hayes tonight
June 27, 2018

Steve Schmidt consistently gives flawless interviews and analysis of the current state of politics, mainly the Republican party. As a former GOP, he has incredible insight into what led to Donald Trump and what Donald Trump is doing to not only his former party, but to our country as a whole. His interviews are powerful and profound, often upsetting, but always must watch. Tonight he joined Chris Hayes on All In and gave, what I think, may be his best interview to date. Here is a bit of the transcript:

CHRIS HAYES: My next guest is a long time Republican strategist who just quit the GOP after almost 30 years over the president's immigration policy. In a tweet storm last week, Steve Schmidt wrote, "This Independent party will be aligned with the only party left in America that stands for what is right and decent. That party is the Democratic Party." And MSNBC contributor Steve Schmidt joins me right here.

STEVE SCHMIDT: Good to see you Chris.

HAYES: First I want to talk about that. The kind of breaking point for you. You've been a never-Trumper. That's been clear. There's a group of people that I think have very strong views about this individual, this president and his character. Then there's a question at which point that becomes true about everyone in league with him. What was the breaking point for you?

SCHMIDT: I had the experience on June 5th standing on Juno Beach and spending time in the Canadian cemetery, spending time at Pegasus Bridge where the British 6th Airborne went in and understanding the value of the US-led liberal global order that emerged from the aftermath of humanity's greatest tragedy, which killed 80 million people and left the world in ruins. That liberal global order is worth defending. This president is an autocrat. He is not a small d democrat. He doesn't believe in liberal democracy.

And what we're seeing here every day are five behaviors:

One, he incites fervor in a base through constant lying.

Two, he scapegoats minority populations and he affixes blame for complex problems to them and them alone.

Three, he alleges conspiracies that are hidden and nefarious and linked to those scapegoated populations.

Four, he spreads a sense of victimizations among those fervent supporters.

And five, he asserts the need to exert heretofore unprecedented power to protect his victim class from the conspiracies and the scapegoated populations.

Through all of history, you understand totalitarianism, you understand how democracies fall. You will find those five behaviors. Now, the Republican Party and the Democratic Party I would argue and you and I disagree on many many things but we are fidelitious to liberal democracy.

That's true.

That government of the people, by the people, for the people must continue. The Republican Party has abdicated, conservativism has become synonymous with obedience to the leader -- a leader who says "I am the law. I am above the law. I will define what truth is, truth is what the leader says it is." Not what we would have recognized months ago as objective truth. So the Republican Party has become a threat to liberal democracy and all over the world, we see a regression in Poland, in Hungary, the rise of far right ethno-nationalist parties and the last time this happened, it unleashed a tragedy the likes of which the world has never seen. And I think there's a real lack of imagination in this country about how fragile these institutions are and about how dangerous a president as unprepared, as authoritarian, as ignorant as he is -- the damage that he would be able to cause.

HAYES: That's incredibly well said. And when I think about this and you think about those behaviors they seem so obvious. And here you have today the court, this is what I found so fascinating about the court's decision today. If Donald Trump wasn't Donald Trump and President Marco Rubio on day one puts in this ban, it almost certainly -- it's not even a question. The question is, does what this guy has said and the bigotry he's espoused taint in a kind of unfixable way, constitutionally, this ban. We all saw it happen in realtime. It's remarkable you have Gorsuch and Roberts, who is someone -- you worked on his confirmation.

SCHMIDT: I led the confirmation.

HAYES: Both doing a kind of sophisticated version of the Paul Ryan "I didn't read the tweet." They all read the paper and so the facts of the case.

SCHMIDT: The intent was perfectly clear. This was a religious test. This was a religious ban. This was what he said it was. We should take him seriously, what he says. And so this is as un-American a policy as we have ever seen. We have freedom of religion in this country. And this is also true. This decision harms the national security of this country in a profound way. The forces of Islamic radicalism of extremism are real and dangerous. But the only force that can defeat it is moderate Islam. This was a gift to the extremists. This was a fulfillment of Bin Laden's strategy which was to precipitate a global conflict, a war of civilizations between the West and between Islam. We don't want to be at war with a billion Muslims all over the world in a 21st century crusade. So the stigmatizing of good and decent people in the insult given to the Muslim soldiers who have served this country, who have sacrificed, it is appalling.

HAYES: There's also a similarity here that strikes me what's happening on the border and here. In both cases the president talks about MS13 and ICE. Those are two groups genuinely evil. There's no real supporters of them. What he does policy wise is people fleeing from Syria and people fleeing the murders in Guatemala trying to flee to this country, those are the people that end up caught in the gears of his demonization of those groups.

SCHMIDT: You look at regression of democracy to an autocracy. All through history, when you look at violations of civil liberties they have always occurred through a prism of fear, fear is a contagion. It erodes democratic values and institutions but always in the name are compromised and that lesson has been learned through history. And here we are repeating it again. And the moral shame that comes from internment camps and precisely what they are for toddlers and children who are stripped away, some of those children stripped away from breastfeeding mothers, it is a shame that will linger a stench that will linger around this vial administration and my view for a century.

HAYES: Is there a -- is there a political constituency of vote in other words the country that feel the way you do? I really mean this. Like, I don't know if there is. There's Steve Schmidt. There's Nicolle Wallace. There's Charlie Sykes, people that exist in the world and Bret Stephens. Are there voters who are alarmed at what's happening and say "I'm a Republican and can't abide this." I don't know as an empirical matter, if they exist.

SCHMIDT: I think there are acts of kindness and decency that take place every day in this country. I think about the Las Vegas shooting where Johnny Smith, 33-year-old African-American runs into a hail of gunfire. He saves 33 people's lives. He's running towards a group of school kids to save them and he's shot twice in the neck. And then a white cop runs into the gunfire to save Johnny Smith's life. That is also America. The author Alex Haley had a saying, he said find the good and praise it. Nobody can compete with Donald Trump in a vileness contest. He's the most vile. Nobody can compete with Donald Trump in a dishonesty contest. Because he's the most dishonest. We have to find the good and praise it in this country. Free market American capitalism is worth defending in my view. Liberal democracy is worth defending. The US-led liberal global order despite all of its flaws, it has secured the peace, it has lifted billions of people planet out of abject poverty into something approaching prosperity over the last 73 years. All of this is worth defending. It was architected by giants. Conceived by FDR. Built by a plain spoken man from Independence, Missouri, Harry Truman. Stewarded from John Kennedy to Ronald Reagan to Barack Obama and the departure from it by this president, his fetishizing autocrats from Erdogan to Putin to President Xi -- It is disturbing. Our allies who we are connected to by shared history and values are rightly concerned. But I do believe that the American people don't want to live in Trumpistan. They want to continue living in America. This is a fundamental question in 2018. This is the most important midterm election in American history. Because if this is not repudiated in November, this country's going down a track of not just decline but a fundamental change that will be very, very difficult to change the trajectory that we're on.

HAYES: Steve Schmidt, it's great to have you here. Thank you very much.

As a reminder, on June 20th, Schmidt formally left the Republican Party in a very powerful thread on twitter. One of the most profound tweets was this one:

He is right. The only party left that cares about democracy is the Democratic Party.

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