Former CIA agent Nada Bakos and CNN contributor Kirsten Powers debate Scott Jennings, a pro-Trump CNN contributor on Don Lemon's Tuesday night program.
Bakos makes the case that the damage to institutions done by the Trump administration may never be fixed: "I just don't think we are seeing the sense of urgency in all this that we need to."
"Now we see how weak these institutions are it comes up against authoritarian measures,” she said.
"The institutions themselves aren’t built for this. Our democracy is fragile enough right now because of the erosion that’s happened. We’re starting to see and not feel quite impactfully as we should some of the things that authoritarians have typically done throughout the years."
"This is what we would call an early warning analysis," she said. “We would talk about the fact that, here are the signposts along the way and the signals that measure authoritarian values that crop up…. you’re eroding democratic norms."
"We have two branches of government, the executive branch and the Congress, who we were hoping would not act in their self-interest, so we are still relying on the Supreme Court to do that. And that is going to be determined by what happens when Kennedy retires."
The republic is burning and we are all bystanders. (This is not hyperbole)— Nada Bakos (@nadabakos) July 10, 2018
NADA BAKOS, FMR CIA: As a CIA analyst, I saw the strength of the institutions and the bureaucracy. Everyone who has dealt with a federal institution knows it is really hard to get them to do something when you need them to do it. Now what we're seeing is how weak these institutions are when they come up against authoritarian measures.
So, the institutions themselves aren't built for this, and our democracy is fragile enough right now because of the erosion that has happened that we are starting to see, and not feel as impactfully as we should, some of the things that authoritarians typically have done throughout the years.
For instance, we have two branches of power, the executive branch and the Congress, who we were hoping would not act in their self-interest, so we are still relying on the Supreme Court to do that. And that is going to be determined by what happens when Kennedy retires...
What has happened with all of these institutions, and how easy it is for Trump to denigrate them -- just through a tweet!
And continually attacking these institutions. That, to me is problematic. I just don't think we are seeing the sense of urgency in all this that we need to.
SCOTT JENNINGS, CNN: I would just say, I have more confidence in the durability of American institutions. We have endured a lot in the 240 years since our founding, a lot of presidents, a lot of different kinds of personalities. Here's the thing, we have elections every two years. If you don't like what Donald Trump is doing, you can vote his party out in November, and you can vote him out two years later.
The alarm that is sounding forgets that we have the power to change the government or keep the government in place, depending on your point of view. I think it is a little bit alarmist to say we are crumbling when we have not had an election since Donald Trump became president.
KIRSTEN POWERS: This is what happens in every country before the fall. Some people say people are being alarmist and overreacting. When things are starting to crumble people literally say our institutions are too strong, they can stand up against this. The fact of the matter is the first institution that goes is the media. And that's the first institution that Donald Trump is trying to tear apart. He talks about the media being the enemy of the people, which is authoritarian-speak, constantly about fake news, you can't trust anybody. That is literally out of Vladimir Putin's playbook... Donald Trump seems to want what Putin wants, the whole government-by-spectacle thing that Putin did, where everything is a spectacle to the point that nobody can trust anybody anymore, so they just tune out...
DON LEMON: If you speak to anyone who has been a part of an atrocity, or Holocaust survivors, they sort of look at us now and ask if we see what is going on now. And we're sitting back saying, no this is not happening, he would never do that, and they say that is exactly what happened in their own personal atrocity. People thought it would never happen and then it did.
NADA BAKOS: From a CIA perspective, this is what we would call an early-warning analysis. Here are the signposts along the way and the signals that you can see and measure authoritarian values that are cropping up. When you start to attack institutions by any means, usually in media, criticizing the media, it is now through a tweet. If you're attacking those institutions, you are eroding Democratic norms.
And you're talking about voting measures? The Gerrymandering that has happened around this makes it really difficult for us to say we can wholly rely upon voting as like a stalwart against all of this erosion.
We don't have to compare him specifically to Putin, it is not one-to-one, it is the fact that he is even leaning in this direction. Some of these democratic norms don't seem to be part of his values system...
KIRSTEN POWERS: He parrots the talking points of dictators and then attacks NATO. Try to explain that. He treats NATO like our enemy and parrots the talking points of two of the most evil leaders in the world, who are also the sworn enemies of the United States
SCOTT JENNINGS: I don't know how you could have so little faith in the durability of 240 years of the Democratic process.
KIRSTEN POWERS: 240 years actually isn't that long.
SCOTT JENNINGS: We have the magic of the founder, we have the history of the Constitution. We have elections every two years in this country through thick and thin and we are going to keep doing it. I don't know how we could lose all the confidence of 240 years in 18 months.
KIRSTEN POWERS: We've never had someone so hostile to American values.
SCOTT JENNINGS: You can say whatever you want about him... At the end of the day, it can all be resolved in an election.
NADA BAKOS: I disagree with that. By the House of Representatives? What is that gonna do?
SCOTT JENNINGS: What do you, mean, you disagree that election resolves our political differences?
NADA BAKOS: Well, yes. Part of this erosion means we are going to have to rebuild what we've actually lost so far. We're going to have to go back and find out how we're going to piece some of this back together. We've never been in this situation.