Trump, Clinton Prepare To Face Off In First Presidential Debate Next Week
ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:
When events like this weekend's bombings in New York and New Jersey happen in the middle of a presidential campaign, it's natural to ask how the next president would handle the situation. Today Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton gave us contrasting images. Trump spoke to FOX News.
(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)
DONALD TRUMP: We're trying to be so politically correct in our country, and this is only going to get worse. This isn't going to get better. And I've been talking to you guys for years.
UNIDENTIFIED MAN: You have.
TRUMP: And I've been saying it.
UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Well...
TRUMP: This is only going to get worse. And what I said is you have to stop them from coming into the country.
SHAPIRO: And Hillary Clinton addressed reporters.
(SOUNDBITE OF PRESS CONFERENCE)
HILLARY CLINTON: I've laid out a comprehensive plan to meet the evolving nature of this threat and take the fight to ISIS everywhere they threaten us, including online.
SHAPIRO: NPR national political correspondent Mara Liasson joins us now. And Mara, what do you hear in those two very different reactions?
MARA LIASSON, BYLINE: I hear a microcosm of the entire campaign. On the one hand, you've got Trump with a message that comes straight from the gut. It's an emotional reaction. The bottom line is be afraid; be very afraid. And I can keep you safe. We're going to get tough. Then he usually points to some kind of policy solution, in this case profiling and a ban on Muslim refugees and immigrants. When you scratch below that, it's hard to figure out exactly what he means because the suspect was not a refugee. He was an American citizen, and law enforcement caught him right away.
On Hillary's part, as usual, her message comes from the head. She was measured and practical. The bottom line for her is this is complicated. I live in the real world. I understand this problem. We do need to do more, but we can't demonize an entire religion. And we don't need to sacrifice our values to fight terror.
SHAPIRO: And what does the contrast between those two candidates and their messages tell you about the broader arc of the campaign?
LIASSON: Well, what it tells you is you've got a establishment, status quo candidate who's playing by the normal rules, wants to go after ISIS with the tools that are available. And then you've got Donald Trump, who is not playing by any historical rules at all. He has a powerful emotional message geared to people who are afraid of terrorism and don't have the time or interest to think about the details. And many of them think, why should I? That's the commander in chief's job.
And this has worked for him in the past. During the Republican primaries, his numbers went up the most after the San Bernardino attacks, and now we'll see if this has any effect on his numbers in the general election.
Hillary Clinton, on the other hand, has almost the entire national security establishment on her side, including many former Republican officials. Former Defense Secretary Bob Gates all but endorsed her, but Trump has a ready answer to that. He says the establishment made a mess. They didn't keep us safe, and ISIS grew on Clinton's watch.
SHAPIRO: Well, Trump and Clinton will meet face to face one week from tonight for their first debate. What does each of them need to accomplish?
LIASSON: Hillary Clinton needs to finally make the sale. There are a lot of people out there who don't want to vote for Donald Trump, but they are not sure about her. She has to make herself seem more likable, honest and trustworthy. Those are her weak points. That's very hard to do in a debate.
Donald Trump, who's now practically even with her nationally and in many battleground states has an arguably lower bar - he needs to show that he's a plausible president. He has to help people imagine him as a commander in chief.
SHAPIRO: We've been saying since the Republican and Democratic conventions that the first debate is the next big potential turning point. Do you see it as that important?
LIASSON: Yes, I do see it as that important. It's going to have a huge audience. This race has gotten close. And because Trump is so unpredictable, there are going to be so many people tuning in just to see what he will do. And I do think - I think this debate is hugely important.
SHAPIRO: NPR's Mara Liasson, thanks a lot.
LIASSON: Thank you.
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