Donald Trump is the "classic third-party candidate," documentary filmmaker Ken Burns said Thursday, and his campaign can be compared to several others looking back in history.
"He is someone who goes in without the support of a party, without the anxiety of a party, without all of the traditional buttresses," Burns, who was on MSNBC's "Morning Joe" program
to talk about the remastering of his "Civil War" documentary, said.
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And as Trump is an outsider, said Burns, "he's allowed to say everything," so his candidacy is "a lot of fun. It reminds you of Huey Long in '36; George Wallace in '68 ... he plays right into all of this. He's so much fun that he has taken up all the oxygen in the room."
Burns said, though, that he looks back at late President Abraham Lincoln as an example for the presidency of the United States, as Lincoln was able to "negotiate complex sides and reconcile the two sides. When we see that, then you'll have a kind of leadership that Americans want."
At the same time, Burns said Trump has told him "nice things about the Civil War series many, many times," and Burns believes that there is a "complexity and elegance to the political process and to American history."
Earlier on the show, during his own segment, Trump said he has an affinity for and an interest in the Lincoln and the Civil War era.
"I always found anything having to do with Abraham Lincoln fascinating," Trump said. "I will read anything about Lincoln. I just found the whole era fabulous. I studied it and I like it. You learn from it. But I found him to be a fascinating guy, a very complex person."
Burns also discussed his remastered PBS series, which will be released the week of Sept. 7, 25 years after it originally premiered to record-breaking viewing.
"We shot this on 16-millimeter film," Burns said of the original series. "[With that,] the size of the image is about the size of my thumbnail."
But the new version has been redone in "ultra HD, frame-by-frame, and everything will be crisper, sharper, with stabilization of the images. All the colors will be complex. It's what I saw from the viewfinder when I was working on it 30 years ago."
Burns describes the Civil War as "the most important event in American history," and said everything led up to it, from the Declaration of Independence onward.
"'We hold these truths to be self-evident that all men are created equal,' oops, the man who wrote that had slaves, and everything since has been a consequence of it," Burns said.
Burns said he is working on a film about baseball legend Jackie Robinson, who came to fame during an era of "pools, hotels, about cops stopping young black kids. It's still going on."
And with the controversy surrounding the Confederate flag after the shooting deaths of nine people at a historic black church in Charleston, South Carolina, in June, Burns said that taking down the flag does not equate to denying anyone their heritage.
"If we brag we're this country started on the idea that all men are equal, but we have 4 million people in 1861 who were owned by other people, then these problems are going to cascade down the decades and we're going to be dealing with it," Burns said.
"We came together on this issue. You know as well as I do, that battle flag is one of many of the army of northern Virginia. It didn't come to prominence until after [the] Brown versus Board of Education [case] ... it became the symbol of the Confederacy once desegregation was underway."
And as far as the Civil War itself, "we have unfortunately labored under the idea it was about something else — states rights, nullification, differences in political, economic stuff," but when you read South Carolina's articles of secession, "the answer is simply, as you know, slavery, slavery, slavery."
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