Friday on MSNBC, while discussing Monday night’s upcoming presidential debate between Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump and Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton, Weekly Standard editor Bill Kristol said Trump knows “deep in his heart he shouldn’t be president of the United States.”
Partial transcript as follows:
STEPHANIE RUHLE: Joining me now is Bill Kristol, editor of the Weekly Standard. As I said, the heat is on, but Donald Trump is painting this picture, eating cheese steaks, chilling out, adding another rally on Saturday night. Do you believe it? Do you believe this easy breezy Donald Trump is showing up, or do you think behind the curtain, though there’s been nothing official said, there is a Roger Ailes, you know, scheming, figuring this all out?
BILL KRISTOL: There is plenty of scheming, I’m sure Roger actually is one of the people talking to Donald Trump and he will give him good advice. I don’t know—all 100 million people watching, the presidency on the line, Donald Trump knowing deep in his heart he shouldn’t be president of the United States. maybe Donald Trump will just choke. Wouldn’t that be interesting?
RUHLE: Hold on. Why on earth, let’s be honest, do you think Donald Trump deep in his heart thinks he shouldn’t be president of the United States?
KRISTOL: As far as he has a heart, I should say. Because surely, he’s not a foolish man. He is an intelligent guy. He doesn’t know anything about public policy. He’s demagogued to get where he is—pretty skillfully, pretty cleverly. He just thought this was another reality show episode. I do think originally, you know what I mean, that was what this was about.
RUHLE: You don’t think demagoguery has led to people being in positions of massive power?
KRISTOL: It has, but most of those demagogues, I mean unfortunately for the world and their countries, had real crazed ambitions for certain ideological things or even to have power like Hugo Chavez or something like that. Trump wants to be a celebrity. Does he really want to be president? It’s long shot, but I like the idea of Donald Trump choking before 100 million people on Monday night. It would be a fitting capstone to this presidential year.
RUHLE: That might be what you’d like, but you’re a conservative guy. At the end of the day, Donald Trump is going to walk away from the debate most likely saying, ‘Oh I won it.’ And she’s going to feel good about what she did. But if we end up with things tight, what are you going to do?
KRISTOL: I’m going to think of what to do, plan to vote for Evan McMullin, the Republican candidate right now. But look, I’ve talked to a lot of people about this in the last few weeks as you can imagine. Some people have made up their mind already. Some people are saying let me see what the situation is, how dangerous Trump is. Does he change anything, walk back any of his views. For me, Trump can’t be president. I don’t want Hillary Clinton to be president, but Donald Trump really can’t be president.
RUHLE: Well, let’s talk about, Hillary is studying, studying, studying. What is the risk she shows up on Monday super prepared and she’s like Lucy from Charlie Brown rattling fact after fact that ends up white noise, and what Donald Trump does know what to do is create moments, and he creates moments that end up lasting. Will showmanship outweigh studying?
KRISTOL: I mean it sure could. I’ve underestimated him from the beginning. I underestimated him in the Republican primary. He knows TV very well, you know, and to the degree he can turn this into a reality TV show, that’s what he does. It’s not what Hillary Clinton does. I actually think she’s ahead. And her calling card, the case for Hillary Clinton, is she is competent, she is sober, she’s not Donald Trump. I think she should never attack him or mention him. I think the biggest mistake they made is when she gets into these back and forths with him, which is his strong suit. She should say—here’s what I’m going to do on the following issue, for 90 seconds. And we discussed this the last time I was on. If you’re in a change environment, you do need to tell voters what you’re going to change. And her biggest drawback so far is, what is she going to change? Trump, you can say he’s tough on immigration, renegotiate the trade deals, not get us into wars in the Middle East. What would Hillary Clinton do? If she has a good two or three headlines of what she will do as president, that is reasonably compelling, reasonably moderate, ignoring a lot of the left wing of the party and appeal to the swing voters who don’t trust her, worried she will be too liberal. If she can be reasonable, she’ll be fine.
RUHLE: Even though she’s in the lead, do you agree she has a lot more to deliver on Monday night, and Donald just kind of has to show up? Sean Spicer has already said that Hillary, she’s going to be flawless.
KRISTOL: I have been thinking that, flawless. That the bar is so low for him. I think there’s a case for that. I have a little more confidence in the American public, 90 minutes, only the two of them. That’s a lot of time. You can get away with seven people on the stage with your cute 60-second answers and dissing of Jeb Bush. And people say Trump is tough and Jeb didn’t have a good answer. Forty five minutes each, I think if she’s substantive, she’ll be fine.
RUHLE: If you’re in Lester Holt’s seat, the one question you would you ask Donald Trump?
KRISTOL: That is a good question. Luckily I haven’t had to think of this. This would be a surprise to you but I was not asked to moderate the three debates. Lester will do a good job. He should be tough. Ask each of them — I don’t know. The question for Hillary Clinton is, 90 seconds, three things. Headlines, what will you do. The country is on the wrong track, do you agree or disagree, to the degree it is, what would you do to change things?
RUHLE: If she gives you an answer you like, would you vote for her?
KRISTOL: I don’t think so. I will vote for Evan McMullin because I’m a conservative. Problems with Obama’s policy and the Supreme Court. I do think she’s ahead and the burden is more on Trump than people realize. He needs to make his case.
RUHLE: William, thank you for joining me. Bill Kristol.