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Ever-growing ‘tribalism’ in politics extends to entertainment

From backlash toward musicians Kanye West and Shania Twain for praising President Donald Trump to controversy around comedian Michelle Wolf’s roast at the White House Correspondents’ Dinner, the entertainment industry is encountering the country’s stark political lines. NewsHour Weekend Special Correspondent Jeff Greenfield joins Megan Thompson for more.

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  • MEGAN THOMPSON:

    Joining us now from Los Angeles for analysis of this weekend's political news is special correspondent Jeff Greenfield. Jeff, good to see you.

  • JEFF GREENFIELD:

    Hi.

  • MEGAN THOMPSON:

    So earlier this week, the twitter sphere exploded when two celebrities, Shania Twain and Kanye West, said nice things about President Trump. And you say that there's a connection between all of that and what's happening with North Korea. Explain.

  • JEFF GREENFIELD:

    It may not sound at first blush to make sense but it's part, I think, of the whole overhang that has dominated our political atmosphere recently, which is tribalism — you know, pick a side, put on the uniform and that's who you root for.

    So here's what I mean. All right, We know that the picture of the two leaders of the Koreas doesn't mean that it's a done deal. We know that in the past we've had deals where the United States has become Charlie Brown and North Korea has been Lucy with the football. But still, when you compare where we are now to say a year ago with North Korea throwing missiles into the Pacific and that the president talking about fire and fury, this has got to be seen as a step forward, and it's even plausible that some of the credit belongs to the president for his rather unconventional approach to bluster and then diplomacy.

    And my question is, is there anybody on the really anti-Trump side of the spectrum who's even willing to say OK on this one, I think the president deserves some credit. And the connection between the celebrities that you mentioned was, any word of praise for the president draws this absolute outrage from people who find the president absolutely irredeemably bad. And I think we're going to see an interesting political version of that is that will any of the Democratic contenders for president, will any of them say, yeah on that one I think you know the president may deserve credit or will that, almost by definition, rule that potential candidate out.

  • MEGAN THOMPSON:

    We saw this tribalism on display this week at the White House and on Capitol Hill, right?

  • JEFF GREENFIELD:

    So the president has his first state dinner this week and the word 'state' is key because in that role the president's not a politician or a party leader, he or someday she is the embodiment of the state. That's why every state dinner that I can think of has always included members of the opposition and even a smattering of journalists. This one, not a single Democrat, not a single journalist.

    Then you look to Capitol Hill where the House chaplain resigned under pressure from Speaker Ryan. And while Ryan says this isn't the reason, that Chaplin had given a prayer during the tax cut debate saying the tax cut should go to everybody kind of equally. Then you had another congressman saying, next time we should have a family man as chaplain. Well, if you have a family man as chaplain that rules out the Catholic clergy, whereupon the Democrats took to the floor to denounce this, and now the issue of who's going to be the House chaplain becomes a political issue. It's like nothing is exempt.

  • MEGAN THOMPSON:

    And finally Jeff, we want to get your take on that White House Correspondents Dinner last night.

  • JEFF GREENFIELD:

    You know, I'm so old fashioned that I think it is possible to be generally very critical of Donald Trump and still take umbrage at some of what was said last night. And I was struck by the fact that after some criticism of Michelle, there was this outpouring on Twitter — Oh, I see you people are silent about all the terrible things that Donald Trump has said and done and you're criticizing a comedian. Now, call me madcap but I haven't exactly seen a lack of criticism aimed at Donald Trump for the many things he has said and done.

    And on the other hand you've got, you know, supporters of Trump ridiculing this comedian, well, at the same time being perfectly content with the kind of language the president of the United States has used for the last year and change calling his opponents everything you know from crooks to dumb to… I can't even go through all of the list. But the general theme I'm getting at here is that it's almost impossible now to have, what I used to think of, as a debate about issues where people cross over, not necessarily echoing whatever line their side is pumping for the day. We are, we seem to be beyond that for the moment.

  • MEGAN THOMPSON:

    All right. Jeff Greenfield thank you as always for being here.

  • JEFF GREENFIELD:

    Thank you.

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