This Week In Politics
DAVID GREENE, HOST:
Donald Trump's campaign has been talking up a speech he will give later today in Ohio about ISIS, saying it will offer specifics on how to tackle terrorism. But some of his other statements have been getting more attention. On Friday, Trump called President Obama one of the founders of ISIS. And over the weekend, he attacked the media on Twitter and at a campaign event in Connecticut on Saturday.
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DONALD TRUMP: I'll tell you, honestly, I'm not running against crooked Hillary Clinton. I'm running against the crooked media. That's what I'm running against. It's true.
GREENE: Now, Republicans complained that he wasn't going after Hillary Clinton hard enough. But over the weekend, Bill Clinton was on the defensive about his wife's State Department e-mail scandal anyway.
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BILL CLINTON: First of all, the FBI director said when he testified before Congress, he had to amend his previous day's statement that she had never received any e-mails marked classified. They saw two little notes with a C on it - this is the biggest load of bull I've ever heard - that were about telephone calls that she needed to make.
GREENE: OK, listening to Donald Trump and then Bill Clinton there from over the weekend.
I'm joined now by NPR commentator and columnist Cokie Roberts and also Republican pollster Jim Hobart, who's in the studio with me. Good morning to you both.
JIM HOBART: Good morning.
COKIE ROBERTS, BYLINE: Good morning, David. Good morning, Jim.
GREENE: Jim, let me start with you. Republicans saying Donald Trump is making a misstep by not spending enough time calling out Hillary Clinton on this e-mail scandal and other things and sort of going, quote, unquote, "off message." Do you agree these are some missteps he's making?
HOBART: Yes, I think that in a campaign where both candidates are relatively unpopular, you want the campaign to be about the other person. And for the past two weeks, really since the conventions have been over, the campaign has been entirely about Donald Trump. The shift - if he wants things to change in the polls, the campaign needs to start being about Hillary Clinton and her e-mails and reminding voters why they don't like her.
GREENE: Cokie, I mean, we have Republicans charging in this new - these new e-mails might suggest, they say, a pay-to-play system. I mean, going so far as to say if you gave to the Clinton Foundation, you might get favors from the State Department. Even if Donald Trump chooses not to go after her aggressively, I mean, can she avoid this being a problem?
ROBERTS: No, it just plays into the whole concept of the Clintons, as they're referred to, playing fast and loose with the rules, although there have been no incidents reported that in fact the State Department did any favors for any of the people who were e-mailing them. But look, it is just part of the big picture.
And The Washington Post has an editorial today saying that it - really, castigating her for this and saying if she were running against anybody else, it would be a big problem for her. But we're going to have more of this because now we know the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee e-mails have been hacked. And so things are likely to come out there. Voters are just going to be whiplashed by all of this. And it's all likely to show up in negative ads that make everybody crazy.
GREENE: Well, let me ask you about some of the newspapers you brought up. The Washington Post also had an editorial that called Donald Trump uniquely unqualified to serve as president. Last night, The Wall Street Journal published this op-ed saying Trump is right, that most of the media wants him to lose. And, I mean, we've had many stories sort of talking to reporters asking whether they can be objective covering a Trump campaign. Jim, is - does Donald Trump have a point if he says that the media is against him?
HOBART: I think the reality is that the reason the media covers Donald Trump so much is that Donald Trump makes news every single day. The vast majority of people who have run for president, they give the same stump speech in different cities each day, and so they really don't make much news.
GREENE: It gets boring sometimes.
HOBART: Right. But when you're someone who starts saying that Hillary Clinton and President Obama worked together to found ISIS, yes, that is going to get wall-to-wall coverage on the cable networks. That is going to get big articles written in the major newspapers.
ROBERTS: Also - also, keep in mind, David, that the estimates are that Donald Trump has gotten $2 billion worth of free media, so it's not exactly against him in that way. But also, this is a tried-and-true Republican talking point, as Jim can tell you. You know, to run against the mainstream media is very popular with the Republican base.
But I do think that we have to point out that The Wall Street Journal editorializing against a Republican candidate is highly, highly, highly unusual. And in fact, in that editorial, the papers said that Trump needs to stop blaming everyone else and decide if he wants to behave like someone who wants to be president or turn the nomination over to Mike Pence. So there's a lot going on that is not just about the media. It's about - it's about Donald Trump and his campaign.
GREENE: Jim, does this feel like a tried-and-true line, or is there something different here if Donald Trump is the candidate?
HOBART: Well, I think that running against the media is a great way to win a Republican primary. It's not a very good way to win a general election. And I think that - is Donald Trump being covered a little differently than maybe Mitt Romney is - was? Yes, but he's also running a much different type of campaign than Mitt Romney did, as well.
ROBERTS: And you know, in talking about blaming everyone else, I mean, what's happening now that you're seeing is that with Trump losing in the polls - and there are new polls out over the weekend that show him in worse shape than before - he is looking around for somebody to blame other than himself so - so it's either the media, or now he's saying if he loses in Pennsylvania, it will be because of cheating - that's the word he used - and telling people to go to the polls, get the sheriffs out because if he loses Pennsylvania, it's a rigged election where somebody's taken it away from him.
GREENE: Well, Cokie, you bring up those polls. I mean, the polls seem to be coalescing around Clinton ahead by as many as eight points in some of those battleground states like Pennsylvania. But, Jim, it is August. I mean, how much stock should we put in these polls at this point?
HOBART: Look, an eight-point lead is a significant lead, especially when the candidates have 100 percent name ID, and no - everybody knows exactly who they are. That said, we're still about 90 days out from the election. So there is time to turn them around, but he's going to have to shift the focus back on Hillary Clinton. If he keeps talking about himself, talking about the media, talking about rigged elections, that's not a way to turn swing voters in your favor.
ROBERTS: Jim, but as a pollster, you've seen these numbers. When you look at those numbers, what do you see?
HOBART: It's a challenge. I mean, it would be one of the - it would be a borderline - bordering on a historic comeback at this point.
GREENE: All right, we'll stop there. Republican pollster Jim Hobart with me in the studio and NPR commentator and columnist Cokie Roberts. Hope you two have a good week.
ROBERTS: You, too. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.