Next president will have to rebuild public’s trust in government, says journalist Chuck Todd

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"Meet the Press" moderator Chuck Todd in conversation with Yale School of Management dean Ted Snyder on April 28. (Photo by Alaina Pritchard)

America’s political system and infrastructure are so broken that it is difficult to find any “good people” running for political office anymore, “Meet the Press” moderator Chuck Todd said during a campus talk on April 28.

“The number-one challenge for our next president will be to restore confidence in government,” Todd told a large audience in an Evans Hall classroom at the School of Management (SOM). His talk was sponsored by the Poynter Fellowship and SOM’s Global Network for Advanced Management.

Todd spoke about the 2016 presidential race and the media’s coverage of it in a question-and-answer session with Ted Snyder, dean of SOM. He also took questions from audience members during the hour-long talk.

Also host of “Meet the Press Daily” and political director of NBC News, Todd said that fixing the political infrastructure includes re-thinking everything from campaign rules to voter districting to political coverage by the media. He said that this is one enormous challenge that isn’t being talked about in the current presidential campaign.

The other two major challenges America’s next president have to contend with, he claimed, are the public’s economic anxiety and the question of how the United States should use its “superpower” around the world.

He described American economic anxiety as “real” and said that for the fourth year in a row, Americans are worried that their children will be worse off than they are. He also noted that the country is transitioning from an industrial economy to a service economy — or something else — saying that part of the problem is that we don’t yet know what that something else might be.

“So there’s a fear of the unknown,” said Todd. “This left-behind generation that is supporting Trump — and to a lesser extent Sanders — is feeling desperate right now.” The next president, he added, will have to “re-orient the relationship between government and the American worker” and help define the future of those workers in the changing economy.

Todd said every president since Bush has struggled with the question of American power in the global world, saying, “We know we’re a superpower but we don’t know how to use our super power anymore.” He added that in the current world climate, it is “harder to do diplomacy.”

These are the topics that should be the focus of the presidential campaign, Todd told his audience.

During his talk, Todd acknowledged that Trump and Clinton are the likely nominees for their respective parties, and he spoke about each of the candidates. He said he thinks Sanders got into the race not believing he would be the nominee, but then “tasted it,” and so is still “coming to terms” with a likely defeat. He also said he believed that Sanders missed the opportunity of “reciprocating” by endorsing some of his political allies.

Todd said he thinks it’s “a good thing” that “Trump has exposed a lot of the ridiculous side of American politics.” Asked by Snyder what mistake Trump has made that will most hurt him in the election, Todd answered that by making comments that disparaged Mexicans, Trump has alienated much of the Hispanic vote.

 The journalist joked about former Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives John Boehner calling Ted Cruz “Lucifer” and commented, “I’ve gotten to know Cruz a little bit. He’s almost human.”

Of Hillary Clinton, Todd said that both she and Bill Clinton share an “ability not to walk away from the stage.” He said that he believes that Hillary is driven, in part, by a sense that her husband failed to have a second term as president due to his impeachment hearings. “What drives Hillary may be a second chance in the White House — redemption,” Todd said.

Todd said that his biggest aim is to educate viewers of “Meet the Press,” but acknowledged that “right now, the news environment is such that everything is saturation.”

“Trump is a symbol of where we are in our media coverage right now,” he said, even though coverage of the Republican candidate has been “more negative than any candidate this century,” Todd said.

One of the reasons he loves covering politics, the journalist said, is because “no matter how much data you have,” the “human factor” means there will always be upsets and surprises.

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