STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:
Let's hear some of the responses from political leaders to yesterday's shootings in Baton Rouge. Police now say they believe a single gunman was responsible for killing three police officers and wounding three more. President Obama spoke yesterday afternoon.
(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: We as a nation have to be loud and clear that nothing justifies violence against law enforcement. Attacks on police are an attack on all of us and the rule of law that makes society possible.
INSKEEP: Now, after that statement, Donald Trump took to Twitter declaring President Obama, quote, "doesn't have a clue. Our country is a divided crime scene, and it will only get worse." Hillary Clinton put out her own statement. Here's part of that - today's devastating assault on police officers in Baton Rouge is an assault on all of us. There is no justification for violence, for hate or attacks on men and women who put their lives on the line.
We're going to talk about this, the convention and much more with commentator and columnist Cokie Roberts, who joins us here in the studios here in Cleveland. Hi, Cokie.
COKIE ROBERTS, BYLINE: Hi, Steve.
INSKEEP: And we're at Ideastream, by the way, here in Cleveland, near the arena. Also joined by Tucker Carlson, editor-in-chief of The Daily Caller.
TUCKER CARLSON: Thanks, Steve.
INSKEEP: And I'm impressed that you're...
ROBERTS: Hi, Tucker.
INSKEEP: ...Wide awake. So how has the news of the last few weeks affected what we may hear at this convention, Cokie?
ROBERTS: Well, for the last few weeks, since we started having these awful shootings, Donald Trump has characterized himself as the law and order candidate. Now, it's no coincidence that he started using those exact words after a long trip with Newt Gingrich who knows those terms well. And we saw them work effectively for the Republicans for a generation basically, and I think he's trying to bring it back again.
And today, the convention's theme is make America safe again. And there will be presentations by the likes of Willie Robertson of "Duck Dynasty" and a couple of Navy SEALs and people who were at Benghazi and a sheriff and Rudy Giuliani, of course famous for his tough stance on crime, and then Melania Trump.
INSKEEP: Tucker Carlson, does this news play into Trump's hands in any way?
CARLSON: Well, it does. I mean, it reinforces the suspicion that I think a lot of Republican - and maybe some independent voters have - that things actually are falling apart. I mean, the president is right, and everyone knows it. These are attacks not simply on individual police officers but against the system itself, against law and order, against the rule of law. And that's a terrifying prospect.
There's also a racial component, apparently, to these shootings, as there were to the last set of police shootings. And that gives people, again, the sense that the country itself is fraying. And in a situation like that, the candidate who represents change may have the advantage over the one who is staying the course.
INSKEEP: Now, this has been going on long enough that Trump, in effect, had a response already recorded before the shootings on Sunday morning because he was interviewed over the weekend for "60 Minutes." And the subject of law and order, of course, came up because of the events of the last several weeks. Let's listen to some of that.
(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "60 MINUTES")
DONALD TRUMP: I have great faith in law enforcement. If they don't want to take their guns, I think that's fantastic. But I have great confidence in law enforcement. The police like Donald Trump. It's law and order. And I have great confidence that they will do a great job.
ROBERTS: I think we're going to see a lot of police people at this convention wearing blue and showing the police like Donald Trump. Make America great again, his slogan, does hark back to a mythical time - but still people believe it existed - when everything was orderly and there wasn't this kind of tension and all of that. And I think that that is what he's been playing on, and we're going to see just a lot more of it. And I think, probably pretty successfully, we're looking at polls going into this convention, three national polls, all of which show him and Hillary Clinton basically within the margin of error.
INSKEEP: Well, now, this is very interesting because it's not just security they're going to be talking about, but national security.
INSKEEP: They're going to be talking about terrorism. They're going to be talking about the attack on Benghazi back in 2012, which is interesting, Tucker, because this is going after Hillary Clinton on what Clinton would have described as her strength, a former secretary of state.
CARLSON: It's fascinating. And by the way, I mean, it really is 1968 again - war abroad, racial unrest at home, you know, the candidate promising to bring the country back in line with its basic values. I mean, it really is - you know, I don't want to say - I'm not saying this in a pejorative way. But, I mean, it is, in some ways, the Nixon campaign, which, by the way, was successful, as you will remember.
ROBERTS: But that's, of course, a terrifying thought because we know what happened...
ROBERTS: ...In 1968. Not only - we had two horrible assassinations, and we had a totally disrupted convention.
INSKEEP: But when you said law and order - that that resonates, that was a theme of the Nixon campaign back in...
INSKEEP: ...1968 and '72 - that this is a guy who's going to pull the country back together and keep things on course.
ROBERTS: Yes. That's what he's selling. And I think that a lot of people are buying it. And I think, frankly, a lot more people are buying it than are telling the pollsters that they're buying it, I think.
CARLSON: And not to - and by the way, I mean, it's not just a campaign about law and order, but a campaign against the elites...
ROBERTS: Right. Exactly.
CARLSON: ...Who are unaffected by the disorder in the streets or insulated from it. And so when he says the police love Donald Trump, he's saying not just the cops, but also just sort of ordinary working people, people who are - you know, who were born here, who get American values. I mean, it's a metaphor for a lot of things.
INSKEEP: Kellyanne Conway, the pollster, told our colleague Mara Liasson elsewhere in this program that Republicans could succeed if this is a referendum on Hillary Clinton. Does that mean don't make it too much about Donald Trump?
ROBERTS: I think it basically does mean that. I mean, yesterday Reince Priebus, the chairman of the party, was all over the airwaves. And any time he was asked to defend Donald Trump, he basically attacked Hillary Clinton and said, repeatedly - this is a binary election was the term that he kept using. So it's basically - it's not just about Donald Trump. It's about Donald Trump versus Hillary Clinton. And that is - we're going to hear an awful lot about that in the next four days.
INSKEEP: Tucker Carlson, how united would you say the Republican Party is as this convention opens?
INSKEEP: Well, maybe more - I mean, not very united of course, but more united, perhaps, than some of us expected. I don't think there's going to be a massive disruption by delegates. I would say, actually, there's an affirmative message for the Trump campaign that I think is more effective even than attacking Hillary, and that's a sort of imprecise, but, you know, aggressive economic program for the middle class. I mean, I don't know. I think that works. I think you could see him peel away some independents on that.
INSKEEP: And he's got an economic message that is going to resonate with enough people? Of course, he's gotten a lot of attention talking about trade. But is it going to resonate with enough people?
CARLSON: The overwhelming majority of the economic gains under Obama have gone to the top 1 percent. And if he keeps saying that, I don't know why that wouldn't work.
ROBERTS: And he's winning on the question of the economy in most polls against Hillary Clinton.
INSKEEP: OK. Thanks very much. That's commentator and columnist Cokie Roberts. Cokie, thanks for coming by this morning?
ROBERTS: Good to be with you, Steve.
INSKEEP: We may be hearing from you later in the week. And who knows? - maybe also Tucker Carlson of The Daily Caller. Thanks for coming in so darn early.
CARLSON: Thanks a million.
INSKEEP: Really appreciate it. We are at Ideastream in Cleveland, just a few blocks from Quicken Loans Arena where the Republican National Convention will open a bit later today.
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.