Radio Website Header-Waves 6 3.0.jpg
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00
0:00
Available On Air Stations

Week In Politics: Terror Attack In France, Trump Chooses Pence

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

And now to last night's attack in Nice, France. Just a few hours after a truck drove through the crowd, killing more than 80 people, both U.S. presidential candidates called into cable news channels to offer their views. And though Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton disagree on many things, last night on Fox, they agreed about this.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

DONALD TRUMP: This is war. If you look at it, this is war coming from all different parts. And frankly, it's war. And we're dealing without - with people without uniforms.

HILLARY CLINTON: This is a war against these terrorist groups, the radical jihadist groups. It's a different kind of war. We need to be smart about how we wage it, but we have to be determined that we're going to win it.

SHAPIRO: And this afternoon at the White House, President Obama had this to say.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

BARACK OBAMA: We will win this fight by staying true to our values - values of pluralism and rule of law and diversity - and freedoms, like the freedom of religion, freedom of speech and assembly.

SHAPIRO: Our regular Friday political commentators are with us - E.J. Dionne of The Washington Post and The Brookings Institution. Hi, E.J.

E J DIONNE: How are you?

SHAPIRO: And David Brooks of The New York Times is also here. Hey, David.

DAVID BROOKS: How are you?

SHAPIRO: I'm good. David, do you see this drumbeat of terror attacks shaping the national mood in politics?

BROOKS: Very much so. First, it's the steady - steady drumbeat of violence, both domestic and foreign. First of all, it raises an atmosphere of fear. I think it increases an atmosphere of pessimism. But more specifically, it increases an atmosphere of suspicion of globalization.

This - this election is largely fought over - between a nationalist candidate, who's Donald Trump, and a more globalist one, who's Hillary Clinton and who believes more in the free movement of people and goods. And Trump's more closed nationalism is - historically, when these things happen, that sort of nationalism is more appealing to people. And so I think Trump's candidacy and his viability right now is fueled by what's really a horrible, global atmosphere of fear.

SHAPIRO: So you're saying this ripples out not just to national security, but immigration, trade and other issues. E.J., what do you think the reactions of these two candidates tells us about the kind of campaign we're looking at here?

DIONNE: Well I think that Trump is determined to sound tough and threatening. And Hillary Clinton is determined to sound determined and calm. It's very interesting. She put up an ad recently where the tagline is, a steady leader in an unsteady world. She's making a bet that enough voters - even though I agree with David that there is this atmosphere of fear and worry, she's betting that enough voters think somebody who's safe, who has experience - and she's certainly pushing that - is somebody you can trust more.

But clearly there is a constituency for someone like Trump, who - and Trump thinks they'll turn to a strong man willing to break the rules if that's what it takes. But those clips you played at the beginning of the show were perfect because they showed Hillary Clinton is not going to let Trump get to her tough side, if she can help it.

SHAPIRO: Yeah, you know, there's this kind of crass line in Washington that terrorist attacks help Republicans. But, David, we've seen enough terrorist attacks in the last six months to have some evidence. Is that really true?

BROOKS: Well, historically, it's been true. This is a year - weird year and a weird sort of Republican Party now led by Donald Trump. I do think - my general rule of politics and general presidential elections is the candidate - voters go for the person who promises the most order. And so, for - in 2008, John McCain was suspending his campaign. He seemed disorderly. Barack Obama seemed calm and smooth. He seemed orderly. 2004 - George W. Bush seemed order - the force of order against terror, and John Kerry less so.

In this campaign, as E.J. elucidated, we have two different sorts of order. We have the muscular machismo of Trump versus the more steady, experienced, calm and predictability of Clinton. And those are two promises of different kinds of orderliness. People have enough risks in their life. When they vote for a president, I think they want someone who's - where the downside is relatively limited.

SHAPIRO: Well, we had expected a big announcement from the Trump campaign today about who his vice president would be. It ended up leaking yesterday that it was Mike Pence. He postponed the announcement. The ceremony will be tomorrow. He announced it on Twitter today. So after all of that, E.J., what does the knowledge that Trump has chosen Pence - the Indiana governor - bring to our understanding of his ticket?

DIONNE: Well, I think Donald Trump did just as everybody said he's done. He picked a safe choice. He picked a traditional choice. Pence won't hurt him too much, except among social liberals, who are already on the attack. He may help him with Republican politicians and some conservatives. But I also think the choice of Pence is a sign of real weakness because there were many Republicans who could have helped Trump far more - I think, just for a couple, John Kasich and Rob Portman of Ohio.

But so many Republicans said that they didn't want to run with Trump that he was reduced, in the end, to Pence, the safe, very conservative guy. Chris Christie or Newt Gingrich - and Newt - never let it be said that Newt is bereft of self-awareness. He made this wonderful statement where he said he and Trump would constitute a two-pirate ticket. They were both pirates, whereas Pence was a relatively stable, more normal person. And that's who he picked.

SHAPIRO: David, CNN and NBC are each reporting that, as late as midnight last night, Trump was making calls asking if he could get out of the Pence choice - not something that we've independently confirmed, but what do you make of this?

BROOKS: Well, you know, he's - he's shambolic. And, you know, even after announcing the choice, they didn't update the website. They didn't have talking points to the press. They didn't have all the normal things that a campaign does because this is not a normal campaign. I'm tremendously interested to see if we see this shambolic disorganization flow into the convention next week. That'll be, to me, one of the big stories of the convention.

SHAPIRO: Well, they already had a couple people who were listed on the speakers roster pull out.

BROOKS: Right, I'm...

DIONNE: Tim Tebow, for one.

BROOKS: ...Mourning the loss of Tim Tebow, but we do have Lynyrd Skynyrd, so I'm looking forward to a good "Free Bird."

(LAUGHTER)

SHAPIRO: In our last minute...

DIONNE: "Sweet Home Alabama."

BROOKS: That'll be the one state he carries, by the way.

SHAPIRO: I do want to ask you about the Democratic side of the campaign, where Bernie Sanders endorsed Hillary Clinton. E.J., do you think this brings the unity to the Democratic Party that they're going to need?

DIONNE: Yeah, I mean, I think it's really striking that, after all the talk about democratic disunity, you had Sanders issue a really strong statement in supporting Hillary. Of course, he talked about the achievements of his campaign. He's gotten some concessions on the platform and in Hillary's positions. But it was a very strong endorsement, and you also had that very powerful speech from President Obama.

So I think that the talk of Democrats being divided that we heard so much of just turned out to be talk and nothing more. I think the issue will be, to some of Sanders' most ardent supporters who have their doubts about Clinton - it's not so much that they're going to vote for Donald Trump - it's will they vote. Particularly, will young people vote? And so I think Sanders and President Obama are going to have a very important role in this campaign, partly as mobilizers and as organizers.

SHAPIRO: We're going to have to leave it there. E.J. Dionne of The Washington Post and the Brookings Institution, thank you very much.

DIONNE: Good to be with you. Thank you.

SHAPIRO: And David Brooks of The New York Times, thanks, as always.

BROOKS: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.