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This Week In Politics: Trump And The Economy Take A Lashing

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

The conventions are behind us. It makes it official. We are now in a general election heading towards the presidential election in November. So let's talk politics with NPR commentator and columnist Cokie Roberts and also Jonah Goldberg, senior editor at the National Review and a columnist for the Los Angeles Times. Good morning to you both.

COKIE ROBERTS, BYLINE: Good morning.

JONAH GOLDBERG: Good morning, great to be here.

GREENE: Well, it's great to have you back, Jonah. Thanks for - thanks for coming on. I wanted to start with a lot of the conversation over the weekend with Donald Trump and also the parents of the late U.S. Army captain, Humayun Khan, who was killed in Iraq. His father, of course, spoke Thursday night at the Democratic convention, went after Trump, offering to lend him his copy of the Constitution if Trump needed it. And over the weekend, Trump seemed to lash out a bit. Here he is on ABC's "This Week."

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "THIS WEEK")

DONALD TRUMP: If you look at his wife, she was standing there. She had nothing to say. She probably - maybe she wasn't allowed to have anything to say. You tell me.

GREENE: Cokie, explain what exactly was happening here. What message was Trump trying to send?

ROBERTS: Well, he was apparently trying to say that she wasn't allowed to speak because she was a Muslim. Now, she answered very forcefully herself, both on television appearances and in an op-ed in today's Washington Post, where she says she was overcome by grief. There was this enormous picture of her slain son. And she was afraid that she would - she would cry.

And - but look, what we have going on here is another big upset over Donald Trump's attacks. And it's - happens now over and over and over again, whether it's John McCain or Megyn Kelly or, you know, or a disabled reporter. It keeps happening. And the campaign sort of goes off track, and then it comes back. And it doesn't seem, in the end, to have any effect.

GREENE: Jonah Goldberg, I think back to covering President George W. Bush. I mean, he had a back and forth with Cindy Sheehan, a Gold Star mom who lost her son in Iraq, who stood in protest of the war at his ranch in Texas. I mean, he came out and honored, you know, her son and also disagreed with her when it comes to the Iraq War. I mean, how - handling that is different than what we saw from Donald Trump here?

GOLDBERG: Yeah, look, I mean, the thing is - about the Khan's - is they would have to be hyper-partisan and very political and ideological for a very long time before they approached the status or role that Cindy Sheehan had had during George W. Bush's presidency. I think the - it is an uncomfortable thing, I think, for - when families politicize or become embroiled in the - in politics about their dead family members. And I think that one of the things I find so baffling is that Donald Trump started from, you know, went from zero to a hundred in just treating these people like they were partisan attack dogs, when most people hadn't been introduced to them yet. And it seems that...

ROBERTS: Of course, the point they - the point that we should say - the point they were trying to make was that their son was a hero and a Muslim...

GOLDBERG: Right.

ROBERTS: ...And that if Trump's ban on Muslims were in place, he wouldn't have been able to save his regiment.

GOLDBERG: No, no, I agree with all that. And I agree, you know, and I have nothing but sympathy for the Khan's. And I thought they handled - Mr. Khan handled himself with nothing but grace in most of this. At the same time, Donald Trump - this just seems to me - the pattern now seems to be that he thinks that he can keep - that he can win simply by constantly reinforcing his image. He seems to have a thumbless grasp of the idea that politics needs to be about addition. Instead, he just keeps doubling down, doing the things that his biggest fans already like about him...

GREENE: Well, is he right?

GOLDBERG: ...Rather than trying to win over anybody.

GREENE: I mean, is this reaction - while, you know, while we're talking about it in sort of a, you know, a critical way that some people were criticizing - are there people in the country who will respond favorably to this, Jonah?

ROBERTS: It might be right. It might be right. He, I mean, he certainly has not (laughter) seemed to suffer so far. Look, we saw - we've seen some insta-polls (ph) out of the Democratic convention, where Hillary Clinton's - CNN's measurements - Hillary Clinton's speech, have people more likely to vote for and have they had a very positive reaction to it, 71 percent, as opposed to 57 percent for Trump's speech.

But, you know, a lot of that is partisan. People who watch the Democratic convention tend to be Democrats, you know, and vice versa. CBS did some polls in 11 battleground states and, again, saw a little bump for Clinton out of the convention. We'll see in the next few days how this goes. Certainly, all of the attention since this convention has been on Donald Trump and the Khans. And so that can have an effect in - on - all on its own.

GREENE: An effect, but, I mean, Jonah can attention be a positive thing for a candidate like Donald Trump, even if it's this kind of attention?

GOLDBERG: Well, it's certainly proved to be - you know, look, all the rules that govern normal politics seem to be suspended for the time being. And Donald Trump has learned or has benefited from the fact that simply having your name out there all the time and everyone talking about you conveys a certain kind of strength or has a certain kind of appeal that I personally find baffling. But it's worked for him.

You know, before they - he even sealed the nomination, he'd gotten something close to $3 billion in free media because even his critics can't look away. And it's benefited him so far. The question is - will this continue to benefit him in a general election where the electorate is very different than the one he secured for the GOP nomination?

GREENE: Let me just ask you, Jonah, Hillary Clinton received the endorsement of the Houston Chronicle over the weekend. This is an editorial board that did once support - endorse Barack Obama, but otherwise is generally supporting Republican candidates. They said these are unsettling times that require a steady hand. I mean, your publication, the National Review, came out against Trump back in January. But could you imagine the National Review taking the next step and endorsing Clinton?

GOLDBERG: I cannot imagine it. I cannot imagine - I mean, there would be ice skating in the lower pits of hell...

ROBERTS: (Laughter).

GOLDBERG: ...Before National Review endorsed...

GREENE: (Laughter) Wow.

GOLDBERG: ..Hillary Clinton. We didn't endorse Kennedy or Nixon in 1960. And I think we're going to do the same thing this time around as well.

ROBERTS: But the Houston Chronicle's editorial was really quite remarkable. They called Donald Trump a danger to the republic and said he was totally lacking in qualifications to be president and that it was highly unusual for them to endorse at this stage of a political campaign. But they thought the times called for it.

Look, I think, the most important thing that happened in the campaign this past week was the circuit court saying that the North Carolina voter law is unconstitutional because, the truth is, with everything out the window as we know it I don't think that the vast financial advantage that Hillary Clinton has should be used on TV ads because those don't seem to do any difference in this campaign cycle this...

GREENE: This is a law that there were provisions in it that seemed to be targeting African-American voters...

ROBERTS: African-Americans - and the main thing for her to spend money on now is get out that vote...

GREENE: All right.

ROBERTS: ...Because that's going to make the difference in the Electoral College.

GREENE: We'll have to stop there. Cokie Roberts, Jonah Goldberg, thank you both very much. As always, we appreciate it.

GOLDBERG: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.