Former NBC News anchor Tom Brokaw agrees with Breitbart News executive chairman Stephen K. Bannon, who asserts that the sentiment behind the populist/nationalist revolt that has catapulted Donald Trump to the Republican presidential nomination has its origins in the “can do” self-reliance and independence captured in the former anchor’s book, The Greatest Generation.
During a live in-studio interview at Sirius XM’s broadcasting headquarters in New York City that began with the story of his medical journey with multiple myeloma, Brokaw went on to share with Breitbart News Daily host Bannon his views on the Greatest Generation and the 2016 presidential election.
Bannon noted that, in his view, the current anti-establishment vote powering the campaigns of both Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders is “like, really the Greatest Generation book, because you wrote about the Greatest Generation, and who fought the war, not from the general’s level, but from the little guy, the guy in the trenches, the guy that had to climb the cliffs at Pointe du Hoc, the guys that had to storm the beaches, the guys in the Pacific that took Peleliu and Tarawa, it was their voices.”
“Isn’t that national pride, this nationalism, this populism, isn’t it predicated on that Greatest Generation determination, that grit?” Bannon asked.
“There’s no question about that,” Brokaw answered.
“I still see myself as the correspondent from Main Street. I get it,” the veteran broadcaster added.
“It’s my fiftieth year at NBC and we’re doing a whole series. Ten, twelve years ago, I was out in the middle of Ohio talking about the lost American dream, about manufacturing disappearing from places like Toledo, Ohio, which was the home of Libbey Glass at that time. About how the working class had changed in Detroit. Now everybody was on the run. They would get an assignment in the morning and they would have to go to Cincinnati, or they would have to go to different places,” Brokaw said.
“On the other hand, you do see those towns where they said, OK, we’ve got to reinvent ourselves. That era is gone, we’ve got to find a new way of doing things, and they’ve been enterprising at doing it.”
The Greatest Generation, first published in 1998, chronicles how the little guys in America–the grunt fighting on the front lines of combat, his wife or girlfriend working in the plane factory at home–won World War II.
“Do you see this anti-establishment vote, whether it’s Bernie Sanders on the left, or Donald Trump, Ted Cruz, Tea Party groups on the right, do you think the establishment of both parties, and the intellectual and cultural elite of the country have let the country down? That we’re kind of in this…almost leaderless?” Bannon asked.
“I think what they’ve done is separate themselves from the country,” Brokaw jumped in.
“I think…they didn’t listen to the country before this cycle. It’s become a kind of self-continuing process in Washington. Everybody, because of gerrymandering, Democrats and Republicans, are generally in good shape about getting back,” Brokaw said.
“They live good lives. They spend a lot of their time just raising money. When I was growing up, the congressman would come back and walk Main Street. Now they go to a country club and raise dough,” he explained.
“So I think there is a real profound separation,” the South Dakotan added.
“On the other hand, I think that there are so many more strengths in this country than people are now willing to acknowledge. We’re in better shape than most people think we are in terms of prosperity and where we’re making gains in medical care and other areas,” he noted.
As for presidential politics, Brokaw had plenty to say.
“I’ve been covering presidential politics for NBC News for fifty years, so I have kind of a memory,” Brokaw told Bannon.
“You said 1968 is the year it all jammed together,” Bannon said. “There’s never been a year for news [like that], like maybe 1989 [when the Berlin Wall fell], do you think, particularly with California coming up next week that we could have a come from behind victory by Bernie Sanders [in the Democratic primary]?… Do you think he can pull an upset there?” Bannon asked.
“Yes, I do,” Brokaw answered.
“My colleagues are tired of hearing me say this, but it’s held up over the years. My favorite theory of politics, every cycle, is what I call the UFO theory, the unforeseen will occur,” he explained.
“I never get involved with who’s going to win, who’s going to lose at the beginning or even midway through. What I try to do is describe the consequences of what may happen, and what the possibilities are here,” he continued.
“Bernie Sanders is on a roll, he’s ramping up at this point. She’s [Hillary Clinton] got difficulties, and the country is half-cocked in the ticked off position. They’re willing to pull the pin on the grenade and roll it in to the process, and kind of frag the process if you will. That means that the younger voters in California who have no attachment to Hillary, you know, she’s been around for a long time,” Brokaw observed.
“This guy comes around and says a lot of unrealistic things about free health care, free college, that kind of thing. But he’s obviously touching a big political nerve,” the veteran NBC journalist added.
Bannon closed out the interview by asking Brokaw about President Obama’s recent trip to Hiroshima, Japan.
“I have no problem with what Harry Truman did. None whatsoever,” Brokaw said of Truman’s decision to drop atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagaski to end World War II in 1945.
“They didn’t get it. I thought maybe he could have delayed Nagasaki a day or two later, because it was pretty quick right after Hiroshima that he pulled the trigger on the second bomb…I think he could have given a little more time for unconditional surrender, and made it clear, if you think that was bad, watch what’s coming next. Unconditional surrender, right now. But, on both bombs, I have no problem with it. That was going to end the war,” he noted.
“Japanese prisoner of war camps were really brutal, by the way,” Brokaw added.
Listen to the entire interview here:
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