Week In Politics: Hillary Clinton's Upcoming Announcement, Rand Paul's Remarks NPR's Melissa Block speaks with political commentators, E.J. Dionne of the Washington Post and Brookings Institution and David Brooks of The New York Times.
NPR logo

Week In Politics: Hillary Clinton's Upcoming Announcement, Rand Paul's Remarks

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/398824530/398824531" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript
Week In Politics: Hillary Clinton's Upcoming Announcement, Rand Paul's Remarks

Week In Politics: Hillary Clinton's Upcoming Announcement, Rand Paul's Remarks

Week In Politics: Hillary Clinton's Upcoming Announcement, Rand Paul's Remarks

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/398824530/398824531" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript

NPR's Melissa Block speaks with political commentators, E.J. Dionne of the Washington Post and Brookings Institution and David Brooks of The New York Times about Hillary Clinton and Marco Rubio's upcoming announcements for a presidential run and Rand Paul's controversial remarks this week.

MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

So candidate Clinton on Sunday, Republican Marco Rubio is set to enter the race on Monday, and the expanding presidential field is where we'll begin with our regular Friday political commentators E.J. Dionne of The Washington Post and David Brooks of The New York Times. Welcome back to you both.

E.J. DIONNE: Good to be with you.

DAVID BROOKS: Thank you.

BLOCK: Now of course in 2008, Hillary Clinton was competing in a contested Democratic primary. It's unclear if she's going to have any major Democratic opposition this time. E.J., how does that shape her message? What's her campaign theme this time around?

DIONNE: Well, I think what the fear of the campaign is is given there won't be strong internal opposition, the press will become her main opponent, and they may act that way. And so she's going out of her way to start trying to improve relations with the press. But I think this go-slow, go-small approach to her announcement, as my Washington Post colleagues Anne Gearan and Phil Rucker put it, is really smart. First, she doesn't need a big showy event because she doesn't need name recognition. And as Mara's piece suggested, she's very good in small settings. And this is a way for her to show that even though she is the overwhelming front runner, she is not thinking that way. One of the mistakes she made the last time is she acted too much like a front runner. And so even though this time she's better off than she was last time, she's going to try to play the humble card.

BLOCK: David, any drawback to going slow, going small, playing that humble card?

BROOKS: Yeah, it could be boring. You know, she wrote a book that was not exactly filled with intrigue, and she just published an afterword that gave new meaning to the word anodyne. And I do think when you're running for president you have to take some risks and you've got to show people something fresh and you've got to stay interesting. And I think I'm curious to know how she'll do that. I'm also curious to know how she'll move her policies. The party has moved significantly to her left, the economic - Democratic economic groups and thinkers has moved significantly to the left. How far will she go to be where the party is? How will she deal with her contacts with finance and Wall Street? There's a ton of actually kind of interesting questions, and we'll find them all out eventually. But I just hope, frankly, for her and for us that she does something interesting, takes some risk, gives us something new so she doesn't seem like a figure that we've known for the last 20 - 25 years.

DIONNE: You know, I just want to say for Hillary Clinton, a couple of months of boring would be great compared to what happened to her about a month ago. And I think this is almost...

BLOCK: You're talking about the e-mail servers.

DIONNE: Yes, exactly. And this is almost designed to be boring. The thing people forget - yes, she has the same closeness to some of the Wall Street folks that Bill Clinton had, but she ran as much more of a populist the last time than Barack Obama did. She's still got that in her. And I think she is going to run a campaign the way Bill Clinton did in '92 trying to balance - no, I'm not a radical - I believe in capitalism, but I think people are getting a bad shake. And I think inequality is going to be a big part of her campaign.

BLOCK: Well, this week the Republican presidential field added Kentucky Senator Rand Paul to its ranks. And he announced his candidacy this way.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

SENATOR RAND PAUL: We've come to take our country back.

(APPLAUSE)

BLOCK: Now, E.J., some people hear that phrase, and they hear a dog whistle. Take our country back from whom exactly? What do you hear?

DIONNE: Well, that is the sort of the classic Tea Party slogan, and he is running for that vote. What's fascinating about Rand Paul is that he seemed much stronger about a year and a half ago than he does today, partly because the Republicans were in a much more libertarian, antigovernment and anti-interventionist mood in foreign policy. And since the rise of ISIS and other issues, the party seems to have moved the other way again toward engagement and militancy. Senator Lindsey Graham, I think, issued the most insulting comment when he said, in many ways Rand Paul is to the left of Barack Obama in foreign policy. Those are fighting words in the Republican Party, and I think that's the attack he's going to face.

BLOCK: David?

BROOKS: I agree. He did seem stronger a year ago in part for the reason E.J. mentioned, in part because he seemed like a more attractive personality, more of a happy warrior. This week was not notable for happiness. It was notable for various chip-on-his-shoulder behaviors, especially with some of the people who were trying to interview him. And I think that E.J. is right, too, that the party is less libertarian on foreign policy, also on domestic policy. The other candidates, Marco Rubio, who will announce soon - a much more active government role to increase opportunity for people, and Rand Paul sort of left out of that. And I'll be - he'll have a younger group that he'll - that will vote for him. He'll have a more diverse group, but it's smaller than it was a year or two ago.

BLOCK: David, you mentioned his chip-on-the-shoulder behavior in interviews, and let's listen to some of that. Short-tempered and testy is how he has admitted to being especially in an interview on "The Today Show" this week. The host, Savannah Guthrie, was asking Rand Paul about his past views that seem to have changed over the years, especially on foreign policy and defense spending.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "TODAY SHOW")

SAVANNAH GUTHRIE: Defense spending and now you want to increase it 16 percent. So I just wonder if you've mellowed out.

PAUL: Yeah, why don't you let me explain...

GUTHRIE: Sure.

PAUL: ...Instead of talking over me, OK? Before we go through a litany of things you say I've changed on, why don't you ask me a question, have I changed my opinion on...

GUTHRIE: Have you changed your opinion...

PAUL: ...That would be sort of a better way to approach an interview. No, no - you've editorialized...

GUTHRIE: OK, is Iran still not a threat?

PAUL: No, no, no, no, no, no, no, listen...

BLOCK: David, I don't know that Rand Paul's core supporters are going to care much if he's short tempered with the mainstream media, but what about the broader base? Is there a temperament to question - to worry about here?

BROOKS: I think there's a bit of that. Never tell an interviewer how to do an interview. I would never tell you, Melissa...

DIONNE: How dare you ask that question, Melissa?

(LAUGHTER)

BROOKS: You're doing a wonderful job.

BLOCK: Just don't shush me, please.

BROOKS: You know, people - I've never seen people vote for someone who seems defensive. And you've got - and the other thing is I think you should be fair enough to say hey, I've changed my mind, the facts changed. That's considered a scandal in politics. But I will say one more thing about Paul - that I just think you've got to come off attractive. You know, when you're running for president, you're a guest in the living room for four years. And this is something Chris Christie is learning the hard way and Rand Paul is going to learn - that if people don't think you're going to be around the living room as a pleasant experience, they're not going to vote for you even if they agree with you.

BLOCK: E.J.

DIONNE: I think that's absolutely right. However, what Ran Paul is now trying to do, knowing he has dug this hole for himself, is he is trying to turn every interview into an attack on him by the liberal media. And if there's one thing that tends to play well with Republican primary voters, it's attacks on the liberal media. So he may ramp this up now because he's already stuck with the image of being rather testy.

BLOCK: I want to hear very briefly from both of you on the expected entry of Marco Rubio into the race on Monday. David what do you expect to hear?

BROOKS: I think he's a rising star. He's vastly undersold. I think he, Scott Walker and Jeb Bush are the only three plausible candidates. And Marco Rubio is by far the most intellectually creative. And if I were a Democrat, I'd be a little worried about him against Hillary 'cause he can play a generational card. He's very smart. He may seem too young, but I regard him as - if not the most promising Republican candidate, certainly among them.

BLOCK: And E.J., quickly?

DIONNE: On paper, I think he is their strongest candidate. I think he needs to show a little bit of backbone that he didn't show on immigration when he supported immigration - an immigration bill and then backed away from it.

BLOCK: OK, E.J. Dionne of The Washington Post, David Brooks of The New York Times, thanks to you both. Have a good weekend.

BROOKS: Thank you.

DIONNE: Thank you.

Copyright © 2015 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at www.npr.org for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.