Conor Oberst unleashes on Trump: 'He wants to replicate Russian oligarchy in America'

Story highlights

  • "(Trump) wants to replicate Russian oligarchy in America," Oberst told CNN
  • "Trump's so crazy he makes me nostalgic for George W.," he said

Washington (CNN)As public opposition to the Iraq War came to a boiling point more than a decade ago, Conor Oberst, who is most known for being the singer and songwriter from indie rock band Bright Eyes, was in the midst of the resistance, protesting the presidency of George W. Bush in his music and at shows.

But 12 years after the release of Bright Eyes' "I'm Wide Awake, It's Morning," which opens with "At the Bottom of Everything" -- a melancholy and sentimental critique of American society and politics -- Oberst told CNN that President Donald Trump has set a bar so low that it has managed to make the musician "nostalgic" for the presidency of George W. Bush.
"Trump's so crazy he makes me nostalgic for George W.," Oberst told CNN's #GetPolitical when we caught up with him ahead of his show at the 9:30 Club in Washington. "If you can make me nostalgic for George W. you're doing a massive magic trick," he added.
    Oberst, who backed Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders in 2016, is a critic of the political establishment and mainstream media himself, but he said that he worries that by branding the press as "fake news," Trump is "brainwashing" his supporters into believing in a fact-free narrative.
    "Our disregard for reality is scary. ... The thing that I find most upsetting about our current situation is that there's no consensus on reality," Oberst said. "Empirical evidence doesn't matter, facts don't matter. Nothing matters to these people. It's just this weird, cult personality. Everyone always compares (Trump) to a fascist strongman, but I don't think that that's far off, ... with his family and his businesses and stuff, he wants to replicate Russian oligarchy in America."
    A request to the White House for comment was not returned.
    At the Wednesday show in Washington, Oberst unleashed on Trump amid anti-Trump chants from the audience, labeling the President "racist," "homophobic" and then dedicated a performance of "The Roosevelt Room" -- a fiery and indignant "tear gas riot song" critiquing American politicians -- to the first family.
    "Sometimes you have to let the poison out," Oberst told the crowd before returning to a more sentimental repertoire.
    For his tour to promote his latest solo album, "Salutations," which includes songs like "Too Late to Fixate" and "A Little Uncanny," Oberst teamed up with a nonprofit organization to donate part of the proceeds to Planned Parenthood.
    "We decided to couple with Planned Parenthood obviously, because all of the threats of cutting funding and to me, growing up that was the place that if you were in trouble, that's where you went, especially if you are a woman," Oberst said.
    During the 2016 election, Oberst was critical of Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, but said that he ended up voting for her in the general election.
    "I definitely supported Bernie, but then once Hillary had the nomination, I was the guy arguing with my friends at the bar -- the Bernie and bust people -- saying, 'you guys are idiots'," Oberst said.
    The Nebraska native, who is most known for songs like "First Day of My Life," and "Lua," co-founded Saddle Creek Records and has worked with many folk/rock bands, including Commander Venus, Conor Oberst and the Mystic Valley Band, the Faint, the Felice Brothers and Desaparecidos -- one of Oberst's more political projects.
    "I have a lot of friends that I consider great, credible musicians that don't bring politics into their music and that's fine," Oberst said. "But I've always felt that if you are an artist or an entertainer for your occupation, that doesn't mean you surrender your rights as a citizen."