STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:
And I'm Steve Inskeep in Cleveland. Let's get a taste of the most dramatic speech yet here at the Republican Convention. It's the speech last night by Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas. If you missed this moment, it is worth hearing. If you heard it last night, it is worth hearing again. Spoiler alert - it's going to start off well and end very differently. We're going to listen to part of it with NPR's Scott Detrow, who's with us throughout the week. Hi, Scott.
SCOTT DETROW, BYLINE: Hey, Steve.
INSKEEP: Once again - and political strategist Sara Fagen is also here. She was White House political director for President George W. Bush - is also now with CNBC. Good morning to you.
SARA FAGEN: Good morning.
INSKEEP: Thanks for coming by. Scott, what made Ted Cruz's appearance particularly dramatic?
DETROW: So Ted Cruz had been Donald Trump's last rival standing. Their primary battle got very, very personal. And unlike basically every other big-name speaker at the convention, Ted Cruz had not yet endorsed Donald Trump.
INSKEEP: OK - so a little suspense about what he was going to say. Let's listen to an early passage.
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TED CRUZ: On health care - your freedom to choose your own doctor without Obamacare.
CRUZ: On taxes - your freedom to provide for your family without the IRS beating down your door.
CRUZ: The Internet - keep it free from taxes, free from regulation. And don't give it away to Russia and China.
CRUZ: Freedom means free speech, not politically correct safe spaces.
CRUZ: Freedom means religious freedom, whether you are Christian or Jew, Muslim or atheist.
CRUZ: Whether you are gay or straight, the Bill of Rights protects the rights of all of us to live according to our conscience.
CRUZ: Freedom means the right to keep and bear arms and to protect your family.
CRUZ: Freedom means that every human life is precious and must be protected.
INSKEEP: Sen. Ted Cruz at the Republican Convention last night - Sarah Fagen, what were you thinking as he went through that part of the speech?
FAGEN: I thought that was the best speech of the convention thus far, not only just in terms of building a conservative case for the party but just in terms of the energy of the room. And he's a great performer. He's one of the best in the Republican Party.
INSKEEP: Really disciplined as a speaker - and knows what he's doing - and really practiced.
FAGEN: Well, he's a litigator who litigated in front of the Supreme Court. I mean, he's one of the best orators, certainly, in the country. He's really, really good at this.
INSKEEP: And you see that early in the speech. But let's listen to the part now where things start to go wrong.
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CRUZ: Don't stay home in November.
CRUZ: If you love our country and love your children as much as I know that you do, stand and speak and vote your conscience, vote for candidates up and down the ticket who you trust to defend our freedom and to be faithful to the Constitution.
INSKEEP: OK. Those are not cheers. They are boos. He's being booed and booed - howls led by the New York delegation.
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CRUZ: God bless each and every one of you. And God bless the United States of America.
INSKEEP: Ouch. Sara Fagen?
FAGEN: So it was a really interesting case study. One line in that speech ruined what would have been an incredible moment for him as a party official, as a candidate, as someone who clearly desires to run for president again.
INSKEEP: The line was - what? - vote your conscience?
FAGEN: Vote your conscience.
INSKEEP: What did delegates hear when he said, vote your conscience?
DETROW: Well, vote your conscience had been the rallying cry for a small but vocal group of delegates who had tried to wrest this convention away from Donald Trump, open it up, get a different nominee. All week, they'd been saying, we want to vote our conscience. So when the floor heard that, they heard, feel free to vote for Republicans up and down the ticket. And if you don't vote for Donald Trump, that's fine.
INSKEEP: Was this really a surprise? - because when Ted Cruz, some days ago, met with Donald Trump and prepared to speak at the convention, he made a statement then. He said, I didn't talk about an endorsement. I didn't talk about endorsing Donald Trump. Were people really surprised?
FAGEN: You know, they shouldn't have been. He's been telegraphing that all week - and for weeks - that he's not going to endorse him. He said just a week ago - he wasn't sure he was going to vote for him yet.
DETROW: And he stuck to the remarks that were released before the speech.
FAGEN: He did. And to me, this is a classic case of mismanagement by the Trump team. I mean, if you're - first of all, Ted Cruz should never have been speaking before Mike Pence if this was what he was going to say. He should've spoke Monday night. That's what the Democrats are doing. Bernie Sanders is going to get a great slot on Monday night.
INSKEEP: Early in the convention.
FAGEN: Early in the convention.
INSKEEP: Get it out of the way.
FAGEN: That's right.
INSKEEP: But Ted Cruz got this much more prominent opportunity. Was the booing - the reaction - orchestrated? You were there in the hall, Sara Fagen. Could you tell?
FAGEN: No, I don't think it was orchestrated. It was pretty amazing. I was in a booth with many journalists. And when that started happening, everybody basically got up and rushed to the front of the window because there was such surprise. And it built. You know, you heard a few people boo from the New York delegation initially. And everybody else figured out what he really meant - and boom.
DETROW: What did appear to be orchestrated, though, was Donald Trump entering the room as those boos crested, stealing the spotlight from Ted Cruz and creating that very dramatic contrast right there. It was a split-screen moment of Ted Cruz being booed and Donald Trump walking into cheers.
INSKEEP: In just a few seconds, is it possible this is good for Ted Cruz? It strengthens his brand - someone who's separate from Donald Trump.
FAGEN: I think it depends - what happens in November. If Donald Trump wins - or loses - excuse me - loses a close election, this is going to be very bad for Ted Cruz. If he loses by 10 or 12 points, well, then all of a sudden, Ted Cruz looks pretty smart.
INSKEEP: OK. Sarah Fagen of CNBC, formerly with the Bush White House, thanks for coming by. Really appreciate it.
FAGEN: Thank you.
INSKEEP: And NPR's Scott Detrow is with us, as well. Now, tonight, it's Donald Trump on the stage in Cleveland to accept the nomination, a moment that follows many decades in the limelight. Here's NPR's Sarah McCammon.
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DONALD TRUMP: Nobody's bigger than me.
TRUMP: Nobody's better than me.
TRUMP: I'm a ratings machine.
SARAH MCCAMMON, BYLINE: From his early days as a New York real estate developer to his entertainment career, including appearances on NBC's "Saturday Night Live," to his rise in politics, Donald Trump has used his celebrity status to enhance his brand. Glenn Plaskin first met Trump almost three decades ago on the set of "The Phil Donahue Show."
GLENN PLASKIN: And Donald Trump was very approachable. And he was backstage all alone. And I just walked up to him and introduced myself and asked him if he would do an interview.
MCCAMMON: A little over a year later, Plaskin profiled Trump in the March 1990 issue of Playboy. Trump appears on the cover in a white shirt and tuxedo pants with an otherwise naked woman wrapped in his jacket. Even then, Plaskin says, Trump understood the importance of being front and center.
PLASKIN: He knew that he wanted and needed his name in the newspapers.
MCCAMMON: Former gossip columnist Paula Froelich says Trump is a master at courting the press. Froelich was a writer for The New York Post's Page Six.
PAULA FROELICH: Here's this guy from a real estate family in Queens, right? And he wants to be part of the New York social scene. And he basically figured it out a long time before a lot of the other people did. You know what? Here are the press people who are going to write about me. And he became very friendly with many, many press people across many, many organizations.
MCCAMMON: Trump and his first wife, Ivana, cultivated an aura of glitz and glamour. Glenn Plaskin says it all built up Trump's brand.
PLASKIN: Remember, this was the late '80s. It was a time of extreme excess and giddy materialism - you know, big hair and shoulder pads. And Donald and Ivana were kind of a golden couple.
MCCAMMON: Plaskin spent hours over several weeks interviewing the real estate developer for the 1990 Playboy piece at Trump Tower in New York or aboard his helicopter. Plaskin says Trump enjoyed taking phone calls on speaker phone from his famous friends.
PLASKIN: And you never know who could be calling. It could be Princess Diana. It could be Mike Tyson, Don Johnson.
MCCAMMON: As much as the real estate developer benefited from the spotlight, he also craved it. Tony Schwartz, who ghostwrote Trump's famous 1987 book, "The Art Of The Deal," remembers him as someone with an almost boundless thirst for attention. Speaking to member station WNYC, Schwartz read from a journal where he documented his experience of working with Trump.
TONY SCHWARTZ: It's draining. It's deadening. It's one-dimensional-izing. It pulls me away from all that is best in life - complexity and subtlety and caring and nurturing - because all Trump is is stomp, stomp, stomp - recognition from outside. Bigger, more - a whole series of things that go nowhere in particular - that are a black hole.
MCCAMMON: Schwartz now says he regrets his role in Trump's rise. But others, like Glenn Plaskin, remember Trump more fondly. Even as he was trying to win Trump over, Trump was also wooing him.
PLASKIN: At one point, I said to him, well, there must be a lot of women who are attracted to you. You're a good looking guy. And he looked at me. And it was so fast and so witty. And he said, well, you ought to know. He was just extremely charming, very witty and very engaging. And, of course, you know, as you know, in any good interview, there's a kind of friendship or seduction that happens, in a way, because you want to have the person open up. And Donald Trump was very good at that.
MCCAMMON: And when Trump accepts the Republican presidential nomination tonight, we'll see just how far that skill has gotten him. Sarah McCammon, NPR News.
INSKEEP: Sarah's part of our team covering the Republican convention here in Cleveland. We want to thank our partners WCPN Ideastream for sharing their space with us this week.
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