'Typical Liberal Media Bias' A Father and Daughter Spar over Trump

SPIEGEL staffer Jiffer Bourguignon was disappointed when her father voted for Donald Trump. A little shy of two months after the billionaire real estate tycoon became president, she reached out to her dad in the form of a telephone debate on the new administration's policies.

Jiffer Bourguignon with her father Paul
Jiffer Bourguignon

Jiffer Bourguignon with her father Paul

Interview Conducted By Jiffer Bourguignon


My dad and I have always had the completely opposite political opinions, and the 2016 election only exacerbated that. Dad voted for Donald Trump in the general election, but neither he nor I thought the Republican would actually win.

I spent the night of Nov. 11 at the Javitz Center in New York, where Hillary Clinton's official election party took place. As state after state went to Trump, the realization slowly started to sink in that he would become president. My dad and I texted back and forth and I realized later that I had become so worked up that my replies were in ALL CAPS as I wrote things like, "THE WORLD IS COMING TO AN END!!!"

We needed a bit of time and space after the election before we could talk politics again. The first conversation, which took place a week after Trump's inauguration, abruptly ended after I started shouting. Now that a number of weeks have passed, we are once again able to speak about the current state of politics in the United States in a halfway civilized manner.

    Jiffer Bourguignon, 42, is an American and worked as an editorial assistant in SPIEGEL's Washington bureau. Her father, Paul Bourguignon, 70, lives in North Carolina.

Me: Honestly, if you had told me back in early November that we would be having a conversation about Trump's first 100 days, I would have laughed until I cried. But here we are. You got your wish. Are you happy with President Trump's (I still can't believe I'm saying that) performance so far?

Dad: Yes, I'm thrilled. Like it or not, he is doing what he said he would do -- which is a big difference from the last eight years under Obama. Usually when someone is elected, they owe their big donors big favors, but Trump hasn't taken their money. I don't especially care for him as a person, but I do like what he's doing.

Me: Such as?

Dad: Veterans have been waiting for help and the Department of Veterans Affairs is a mess. Twenty-two vets a day commit suicide. Trump has installed someone who is going to change that.

Me: Trump picked David Shulkin, Obama's incumbent head of the Department of Veterans Affairs, to run the agency. That's not really a good sign when you have promised an overhaul. What do you think about his immigration ban?

Dad: First of all, it's not a ban. The immigration restrictions were poorly handled by his staff. People who have green cards and U.S. citizens were affected and that was because they didn't execute it properly. Look, he took the seven most dangerous countries - identified by Obama! - and put restrictions on them. The Islamic State already said they will sneak in operatives posing as refugees to carry out attacks against Americans. Trump is just trying to keep us safe.

Me: You cannot label every citizen from seven predominantly Muslim countries as potential terrorists and classify them as radical Islamists.

Dad: Sorry, but you also can't take any chances right now. Look, if I were on a plane with a person who was planning to blow it up, I would much rather that person's rights be restricted than go down in flames.

Me: This ban contradicts two of America's major founding principles: That we do not tolerate religious discrimination and that we shelter people fleeing such persecution. Patriotic Trump supporters have forgotten that.

Dad: We have to protect ourselves. Trump understands that. It is his job to keep this country safe. He is right when he says we have to build up our military.

Me: And build a wall? Does that keep us safe? From people fleeing crime and violence at home?

Dad: The wall will keep the criminals out. Look, I have no problem with people coming into this country, but they have to do it the right way. What is it about the word "illegal" that people don't understand? Trump is just enforcing the law. And, anyway, wasn't it Obama who was referred to as "deporter in chief?" That drives me nuts -- Obama does something, and the press doesn't bat an eye. But when Trump does the same thing, the press is all over him! Trump can't take a crap without the press crying foul!

Me: So, you feel there is a double standard?

Dad: Absolutely! Typical liberal media bias! The press spends too much time focusing on what he's doing wrong. Instead of focusing on policies, they cry about how much time he spends at Mar-a-Lago.

Me: Someone needs to hold him accountable and to discern the truth from his lies. That is the press' job. A free press, recently vilified by Trump as the "enemy of the people" -- a statement which, by the way, even your favorite conservative station, Fox News, objected to -- is an essential pillar of democracy.

Dad: Their job is to report the news - not to promote conspiracy theories or push their own agenda. Trump's first major speech before Congress was excellent. He was professional and presidential, but all the liberal media could do was criticize him. They never give him a chance.

Me: The media's role should be that of a watch dog. The Washington Post broke the story about Trump's military adviser, Mike Flynn, and his communications with the Russians, which he lied about. That could have resulted in a serious breach of security. As someone who is concerned with national security this should really concern you.

Dad: If the stories are true then, yes, that is a problem.

Me: If? THAT is the problem: There are so many "alternative facts" swirling around right now that the truth is hard to discern.

Dad: What I do know is that people have been hit hard at home. They are out of work and can't afford the basics anymore. They knew they would get more of the same if they elected another Democrat. And they are so fed up that they are willing to take a chance on a narcissistic ass like Trump.

Me: Do these people honestly think they will be better off now? Given his campaign promise to "drain the swamp," I could imagine they are now upset that he is hiring the wealthy business elite.

Dad: Oh, come on. You are just like the press complaining that his cabinet is filled with millionaires and bankers. Obviously, they didn't get to where they are now by being stupid. He's surrounded himself with good people and he's going to listen to them.

Me: Like who? Steve Bannon? An alt-right racist hell bent on destroying the government? When he surrounds himself with people like that, it emboldens those who are racist, sexist, anti-Semitic, xenophobic, etc., and the result is the spike in hate crimes across the U.S. that we have seen recently. These are the "good" people around him?

Dad: There are always a few bad eggs in every bunch. All I know is that after eight years of Obama, our enemies don't respect us and our friends don't believe us. Trump is going to spend money to build our military. And the whole world is safer when the U.S. is in charge.

Me: I'm not so sure about that, Dad. If things escalate, Europe could be the battlefield. And Trump has left Europe unsure about his commitment to NATO. With Trump at the helm, Europe is feeling quite vulnerable.

Dad: Let's just see what happens. Change is tough. Maybe I will agree with you a year from now. But for God's sake, just give him a chance.

Me: I'm just afraid of the amount of damage he will do by the time you agree with me.

Dad: That is not what I consider giving him a chance!

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skraft16 03/28/2017
1. Don't like Trump, but he is the President.
And your DC staffer sounds like a stereotypical "bleeding heart". Yes, the people fleeing crime and violence coming across America's southern border. However, the fact is that 90%+ of those crossing the border illegally are doing so for economic reasons. So your Washington bureau member is constructing a straw man, instead of trying to "discern the truth from the lies"--which of course were her words about what the media SHOULD do.
saul42 03/29/2017
2. This story clearly illustrates what's going on in todays world
All over the world, the politician that speaks his mind is the one that will resonate well with the public. Those that focus on their P’s, and Q’s will be toast. The crowd seems to agree: Most Americans (59%) say “too many people are easily offended these days over the language that others use.” Fewer (39%) think “people need to be more careful about the language they use to avoid offending people with different backgrounds.” About eight-in-ten (78%) Republicans say too many people are easily offended, while just 21% say people should be more careful to avoid offending others. Among Democrats, 61% think people should be more careful not to offend others, compared with 37% who say people these days are too easily offended
JohnnyMorales 03/29/2017
3. She made the typical Liberal mistakes
Her dad is an ideologue. She also has strong beliefs, but is clearly far more pragmatic. As a result, she tries to reason with him, when his beliefs defy logic and reason. She can't convince him, yet she doesn't want to give up hope. If she only knew the only way to make any point with someone like that is to draw from their own personal experiences, and completely avoid 3rd. person conversations. Only by using examples she can think of that tie Republican policies to his personal disappointments can she make any progress. All too often people don't realize what party is pushing what. Clearly he thinks Republicans and Donald are doing good things for him personally, but all he knows about are the general, ideological policies that don't affect him directly. By confronting him with personal disappointments he's dealt with as a result of Republican supported policies, she can make him make the direct connection between their bad policies and his losses. The problem is she probably thinks they are all so obvious, he knows what they do that is terrible, and that is simply not true. Ideologues don't support based on personal things as much as they do on general beliefs, the opposite of what she is probably like. Keeping it on general grounds, just allows him to rise an ideological shield and discount every point she tries to make.
Alexis de Pleshcoy 03/31/2017
4. To the last American, to the last dollar
It will take time to assess the effect of the policies implemented by the Trump administration. We know now that No Child Left Behind and Common Core are failures; Heritage Foundation healthcare market based solutions fails to deliver healthcare (implemented by Mr. Romney, ACA, AHCA) both in cost and outcome. It took a generation to determine that Milton Friedman is wrong. What is surprising in this article is that Dad (Paul Bourguignon) knows the devastating post effects of war, being familiar with the many problems at the Veteran Affairs; Me (Jiffer Bourguignon) has spent time in the European killing fields, yet both are ready to send our kids to war, and of course pay for it (I’m an American taxpayer, children have student loans). Dad has the standard concern: “enemies don't respect us and our friends don't believe us”. President Obama has actually expanded on the Wolfowitz doctrine, committed 1 trillion in development of new nuclear weapons; sent thousands of US soldiers (on borrowed money) to protect the EU, the wealthiest, largest entity in Western civilization; built Romania ABM sites and much more (paid by us, our kids will have to fight). President Trump most likely will continue on the same path. While visiting the military base Cape Henry, Virginia Beach I admired there superb soldiers; I was about to ask them if they are ready to die for Tiraspol to come back to the Republic of Moldova, or for Narva (redlines for the Obama administration), just to be sure that 500 million EU citizens believe us. I also wanted to ask them to send the bill for their student loans to Norway’s government (they have 1 trillion in their sovereign fund), as Jens Stoltenberg always asks for more from us (like all NATO general secretaries, last two from Nordic countries). Me from the article is even more concerned that “With Trump at the helm, Europe is feeling quite vulnerable”. It is hard to accept that an American is ready to fight to the last US citizen, to the last dollar we can print or borrow, so 500 million people (who put 1 trillion in military expenses in the last four years) don’t feel vulnerable. Afghanistan defeated the same enemy, with NSA Brzezinski just encouraging their jihad (and some Stingers). Make no mistake, if Russia uses nuclear weapons in a rapid de-escalation scenario then we are prisoners of the “Western civilization” way of thinking and we have to retaliate in kind, ending life as we know it. President Obama was ready to do it; President Trump would do it. But for the EU/NATO, and the Bourguignon family to ignore the reality that the US can’t forever be the first line of protecting Europe, it is difficult to understand; plus why aren’t the EU soldiers in Afghanistan, Syria and Iraq (last two their colonial backyard)? What is even more difficult is that both don’t appear to understand that the world is no longer the playground (or killing field) of one billion people (the Western civilization). The super hyper powers of China and India are watching and waiting, while developing huge armies, armed to the teeth including with nuclear weapons.
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