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Trump Calls Into Radio Show; Host Is A Member Of #NeverTrump Movement

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

We now question a man who got an unexpected chance to question Donald Trump. Trump is fighting from behind in Wisconsin's Republican presidential primary. He called into a conservative radio talk show and apparently did not know the host is a member of the Never Trump movement. That host, Charlie Sykes, is with us now from Milwaukee. Mr. Sykes welcome to program. Good morning.

CHARLIE SYKES: Good morning.

INSKEEP: I want you to listen along with us here to this interview, and I want people to hear it. You pushed Trump to apologize for attacking Ted Cruz's wife on Twitter and so forth, also on his threat to start a trade war. Let's get some flavor of that.

(SOUNDBITE OF RADIO SHOW, "CHARLIE SYKES")

SYKES: What would happen to Wisconsin - because many of our jobs here are involved in import-export - what would happen to the price of goods if in fact a President Donald Trump were to impose a 45 percent tariff on goods coming in from China?

DONALD TRUMP: Well, it'll never happen. But what - it'll never happen. Wisconsin would end up doing much, much better than it's doing right now. That would never happen.

But you have to have the threat out there because what they're doing is currency manipulation. They're devaluing their currencies and they're making it virtually impossible for our...

SYKES: Well, you're a much better negotiator than I am, but you just said it will never happen, so you've basically given away that your negotiating ploy is a bluff.

INSKEEP: Radio host Charlie Sykes talking with Donald Trump. Well, he was polite, Mr. Sykes. He took your questions. Did you feel you learned anything?

SYKES: Yeah. I learned that Donald Trump is never going to apologize, never going to back off, even when you challenge him, even when you said, you know, Mr. Trump, you're running for president of the United States and you sound like a 12-year-old on the playground - absolutely unfazed by that.

INSKEEP: There was a period of the interview in which you pointed out that battle between the candidates' wives or a battle over the candidates' wives didn't originate with Ted Cruz but a group unassociated with Ted Cruz, and he just kept repeating that Cruz did it first.

SYKES: Yeah and continues to repeat that. I mean, that's his entire line, you know, he started it. He started it. And I asked him, well, is that your standard, that a supporter of another candidate does something despicable and therefore you think that you have the right to do something despicable? He's an extraordinary candidate, and we live in extraordinary times.

INSKEEP: Did you end up liking anything about him though?

SYKES: I am very much in part of the hashtag #NeverTrump. I have to admit that I thought that he was a good sport. He did not hang up on me. He hung up on another host later in the morning. He answered all of my questions calmly, but I guess part of what surprised me was maybe I was so naive - maybe there was a little part of me that thought that he might actually want to make the pivot, that he might actually think, you know, I'm not auditioning for triumph the insult dog.

I'm running for the presidency, and maybe coming to Wisconsin where we value civility and decency that he might say, you know what? You're right. Wives should be, you know, off the table. We should stop insulting the appearance of women. I should stop, you know, tweeting out insults for people. But of course that wasn't - that wasn't meant to be.

INSKEEP: You suggested on the program that you believe he's actually liberal. What do you think he would do as president that you dislike?

SYKES: Well, actually I think what I suggested was that he's a fraud when he claims to be a conservative. I actually think that the key to understanding Donald Trump is that there is no there there. And I think that you saw that in some of the questions that he got later in the week, including about abortion.

On most of these issues, I don't think that Donald Trump believes much of anything. I think that in some of these questions I don't think he's devoted more than five seconds of thought to whether, you know, how he feels about abortion, how he feels about nuclear weapons.

I think that this is a man who basically will say certain things that he thinks he needs to do to seal the deal. In this particular case, the product he's selling is Donald Trump for president. I don't think that he is a liberal. I don't think that he is a conservative. I think that he is basically a narcissist and - well, he's also, you know, very much an authoritarian, but he's definitely, definitely not a conservative.

INSKEEP: What do you make of the fact that Republican voters have certainly gotten plenty of information to make up their minds about the things you've just said and many seem not to be too concerned about them? They're voting for him.

SYKES: Well, I will admit that that is highly disconcerting, and of course, one of my missions in life is in Wisconsin to make sure that at least our voters in Wisconsin learn about Donald Trump. And I think that if you look at what's happening in Wisconsin, we actually have a very informed, engaged, energetic electorate. We've been through a lot. You know, we got Paul Ryan, you know, as speaker of the House of Representatives. We got a governor that ran for president. We had the fight over collective bargaining. So our voters, I think, are much savvier - at least I'm hoping they are.

And over the last six months on a pretty regular basis, we talk about Donald Trump, what Donald Trump has said, the way he behaves when he misstates facts. And I think that what you're seeing reflected in Wisconsin right now is what happens when you actually have an electorate who on a daily basis do learn these things and do - you know, are provided this information about Donald Trump.

INSKEEP: And I guess we should mention that in the RealClearPolitics polling average - average of polls - Ted Cruz is ahead of Donald Trump in Wisconsin right now. But of course, Trump is still leading overall. Do you go for a third party or independent candidate if Trump is nominated as the - by the Republican Party?

SYKES: Yes, I do. When I say never Trump, I mean never Trump. My problem...

INSKEEP: Even though that means perhaps that Hillary Clinton or whoever is nominated by the Democrats would be president most likely.

SYKES: Well, what I said is I can't control who gets the nomination. I can't control who wins the election. I can control - I can only control my own conscience, and I am actually a principled conservative. I actually do believe in constitutional government. I do believe, though, that Donald Trump - my problem with Donald Trump is not just that I disagree with him on the issues. I just think the man is manifestly unsuited and unfit to be president. And I'll be - it sounds maybe corny, but I actually love this country and respect the presidency too much to support Donald Trump.

INSKEEP: Mr. Sykes, thanks for your time.

SYKES: My pleasure.

INSKEEP: Charlie Sykes hosts a daily talk show at WTMJ-AM in Milwaukee and is the author of the upcoming book "Fail U." Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.