Week In Politics: Trump Attacks Former Miss Universe After Debate NPR's Ari Shapiro speaks with our regular political commentators, E.J. Dionne of The Washington Post and Brookings Institution and David Brooks of The New York Times, about Donald Trump's attacks on former Miss Universe Alicia Machado and the upcoming vice presidential debate.
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Week In Politics: Trump Attacks Former Miss Universe After Debate

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Week In Politics: Trump Attacks Former Miss Universe After Debate

Week In Politics: Trump Attacks Former Miss Universe After Debate

Week In Politics: Trump Attacks Former Miss Universe After Debate

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  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/496119845/496119858" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
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NPR's Ari Shapiro speaks with our regular political commentators, E.J. Dionne of The Washington Post and Brookings Institution and David Brooks of The New York Times, about Donald Trump's attacks on former Miss Universe Alicia Machado and the upcoming vice presidential debate.

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

For more on the week in politics, our Friday regulars are here - David Brooks of The New York Times and E.J. Dionne of The Washington Post and the Brookings Institution. Good to have you both here in the studio.

DAVID BROOKS, BYLINE: Good to be here.

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

SHAPIRO: So let's start with that tweet from Donald Trump this afternoon. (Reading) For those few people knocking me for tweeting at 3 o'clock in the morning, at least you know I will be there, awake, to answer the call - exclamation point. E.J., why is he harping on this?

DIONNE: As Bill Clinton might say, it depends on what the meaning of the words answer the call is. I mean, this was astounding, I thought. And I really think that so many Republicans who are sort of quietly going along with Trump really should be taken aback by this.

How many times is he going to get a fifth or a sixth or a seventh chance after these sort of irrational and very mean outbursts? And the fact that Trump sent out that tweet absolutely underscored why people are aghast at what he did. His first tweet was sent out at 3:20 in the morning.

It was an expression of paranoia about the people in his campaign who leak things. And he called them liars, basically said they don't exist. And then...

SHAPIRO: Don't believe sources if they're unnamed.

DIONNE: Right. And then, at 5 - from 5:14 to 5:30, he's doing this other tweeting. It - really, if this doesn't shake people's sense of what kind of man he is and whether you want him close to power or the button, the military, I don't know what will.

SHAPIRO: David, we've been talking about this controversy for a few days now. Can you help us see it through the lens of demographics? Which voter groups are likely or unlikely to be swayed by this?

BROOKS: The 3:00 a.m. cranky old man voter group is very pleased right now.

(LAUGHTER)

BROOKS: They found their candidate. I really was struck by the solitude nature of it. I mean, most candidates have a team, and they're part of an organization, and they make decisions as a team. And the candidate is the face and the ultimate decision-maker, but as part of a team. But he's up there at 3 a.m., all alone, tweeting and making the campaign's decisions for itself - for himself.

And then that tweet was significant where he said there are no other sources about my campaign. And that's sort of true. Whether this will offend any specific demographic groups, importantly millennials, I'm not sure. I mean, it is sort of reality-TV rules.

SHAPIRO: Well, millennials, but also, we're talking about women and weight. You're talking about a Latina woman. I mean, these are voting groups that could be very crucial to this campaign.

BROOKS: (Laughter) Any more of them?

DIONNE: And Miss Housekeeper.

BROOKS: Yeah.

DIONNE: The - you know, and I think it's very important because the issue is - for a lot of these groups is not will they vote for Trump? No, they'll never vote for Trump. The issue is turnout. Will a lot of Latinos turn out against him? And especially, will millennials not vote third party and not decide to stay away from the polls but turn out?

And I think that Hillary Clinton is making some appeals directly to them. She had an interesting speech on national service today. But I think revulsion at Trump is likely to be the thing that turns them out, if anything does.

SHAPIRO: There are more debates coming up, and the next one is with the vice presidential candidates, Mike Pence and Tim Kaine, about whom we've heard almost nothing in the last few weeks. David, why have they been so low-profile in this campaign?

BROOKS: They're boring. No, they're conducting a normal campaign. And this is - this Machado story is an example of what the presidential-level campaign has been about. He's made it about anything but actual issues. And Clinton has tried, to be fair. She had the free college and the national service thing.

She's conducted a more or less normal campaign. But her most potent weapons have been attacking Trump personally, sort of negative polarization. You don't try to like your own side, but you try to dislike the other side.

The vice presidential candidates are actually generally likable, and so they're not in the negative polarization game. And therefore, they're not generating the fear and passion and the non-policy faux controversy that has been much of the coverage of the campaign.

SHAPIRO: And so, E.J., do you think it's going to be a pretty typical policy debate on Tuesday night? What are you going to be looking for?

DIONNE: Well, first of all, I think the fact that we haven't heard much about them is probably a tribute to them because we tend to pay the most attention to vice presidential candidates when they make big mistakes or when they are controversial.

We paid a lot of attention to Sarah Palin when she was John McCain's running mate. That didn't help John McCain in that campaign. I do think they will talk some about policy, but my hunch is that - that Tim Kaine is going to try to put Mike Pence on the griddle a little bit and probably cite some of the most outrageous things Trump has said.

Mike Pence is not characterologically Trumpian (ph) in any way that we know about. And I think that'll be his way to get attacks in on Trump and just challenge Pence to go there. Will he defend some of these things? That's what I'm suspecting will happen.

SHAPIRO: But it's funny, I think about previous campaigns, where, you know, maybe Joe Biden, as a VP, appealed to a particular demographic group that Barack Obama didn't appeal to or Sarah Palin animated a part of the base that John McCain didn't. In this campaign, I don't see Pence or Kaine playing that role in any significant way for either side.

BROOKS: Yeah, or key states - particularly Virginia is probably reasonably safe for the Democratic Party. I do think there are comfort-zone candidates. And they're - I think they're both - the general general sense - oh, they're likable. They have a good aura. People seem to find them generally normal and kind.

And so I don't think they play that role particularly. I do agree with E.J. How Pence deals with all the various Trump statements and whether he just counters with the Benghazi and all the other stuff.

And then the part - the shoe we're all sort of waiting for to drop in the campaign - I doubt Pence would get into it but what Trump keeps mentioning is going after Bill Clinton's scandals. And that's the next step of this ugliness. And so it'll be interesting if the debate sort of wanders off in that territory.

DIONNE: You know, I do think that Pence appeals to traditional conservatives and particularly religious conservatives. That's his background. I think that's one of the reasons he's on that ticket. Kaine appeals to moderate Democrats. He appeals to a group very dear to me, liberal Catholics, but I'm not sure how large a swing group we are.

SHAPIRO: Well, let's pivot from the government-in-waiting to the current government because this week, Congress had one of its most active days in years. And for the first time, they overrode a presidential veto on this bill allowing people to sue Saudi Arabia - people who were harmed by 9/11.

This is the first time Congress has overridden a presidential veto. And as soon as it happened, dozens of lawmakers who voted for the bill immediately expressed buyer's remorse. David, what's going on?

BROOKS: Politics. So, you know, they - they passed this vote, which was nominally in favor of the 9/11 families, and who could want to vote against the 9/11 families in an election year? But it really does set a bad precedent. I tend to find myself on the administration's side of this.

You can't have individual citizens using the court system to conduct American foreign policy. It's just a recipe for instability and unmanageable foreign policy. And the administration wisely made this case.

But even their closest allies, notably Chuck Schumer, didn't go along with them. But I think, at some deep level, there was a level of conscience in there. And they sort of regretted the fact that they sort of messed things up.

SHAPIRO: E.J.?

DIONNE: You know, I thought there was something almost hilarious, but also pretty appalling. Leaders of a Republican-controlled Congress attack Obama because a Republican-controlled Congress overrides Obama's veto. They could've stopped this, but they're saying, no, Obama should have intervened more. And I think that's kind of ridiculous.

I do think that the - Saudi Arabia should be put on notice by this. Saudi Arabia is not a popular ally here. There are a lot of Americans, for a very long time, who've questioned the Saudi regime, questioned their involvement, the involvement of some people within that regime with 9/11, questioned the whole Wahabi tradition.

And so I do think it was an expression of popular feeling. It has its problems as foreign policy. I agree with David on that. But I really get why it was very hard for people to stand up to the president.

SHAPIRO: Quick last word on Shimon Peres, the Israeli leader who was laid to rest today. President Obama flew to Israel for this funeral. David, what was so important about his legacy that it was worth President Obama being there in person?

BROOKS: Well, he's, first of all, the last of the founding fathers of the state of Israel. And he also gets credit for being the longest visionary in terms of imagining a peace process. I found it was getting detached from the reality of the ground, but he deserves credit for being such a visionary.

SHAPIRO: E.J.?

DIONNE: Tzipi Livni, in The New York Times - former foreign minister of Israel - said history is not made by cynics. It's made by realists unafraid to dream. That's a perfect tribute to him.

SHAPIRO: E.J. Dionne of The Brookings Institution and The Washington Post and David Brooks of The New York Times, thanks to both of you.

BROOKS: Thank you.

DIONNE: Thank you.

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