The beating death of Tyre Nichols has renewed calls for reforming the police. But can anything really change?
Guest Host: Melissa Ross
Businessman Donald Trump continues to top the polls of likely Republican voters. In the key state of New Hampshire, Trump now leads the field by 18 points. But his recent proposal to ban all Muslims from entering the U.S. has ignited a firestorm. Critics say it’s an outrageous plan that violates the U.S. Constitution. But supporters say it’s necessary to keep America safe from Islamic terrorism. Guest host Melissa Ross and guests discuss Donald Trump’s continuing dominance in the polls, his plan to keep Muslims out, and what it all means for the 2016 presidential election and the future of the G.O.P.
- E.J. Dionne Jr. Senior fellow, Brookings Institution; columnist, The Washington Post; author, "Our Divided Political Heart: The Battle for the American Idea in an Age of Discontent."
- Jeffrey Lord Contributing editor, The American Spectator; a former aide to Jack Kemp and Ronald Reagan
- Vin Weber Partner at Mercury, a consulting firm; former member of Congress representing Minnesota's 2nd district (1981-93)
MS. MELISSA ROSSThanks for joining us. I'm Melissa Ross of WJCT in Jacksonville, Florida, sitting in for Diane Rehm. She's out today and will be back on Monday. Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump continues to dominate both the polls and the headlines. This week, he's drawn sharp criticism from both fellow Republicans and Democrats for a proposal to ban all Muslims from entering the U.S.
MS. MELISSA ROSSJoining me here in studio to discuss Donald Trump's latest proposal, his lead in the polls and what it all means for the 2016 presidential election and the future of the GOP, E.J. Dionne of The Washington Post and Vin Weber of The Mercury Group. And joining us by phone from Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, Jeffrey Lord of the American Spectator and CNN.
MS. MELISSA ROSSWe'll be taking your comments and questions throughout the hour. Call us at 800-433-8850. Send us your email to email@example.com, and join the conversation on Facebook and Twitter. E.J. Dionne, let's start with you. Donald Trump angering even fellow Republicans with his recent proposal to ban Muslims from entering this country, yet he still leads all Republican polls. A new CBS/New York Times poll out just this morning finds Donald Trump garnering the support of 35 percent of Republican primary voters.
MS. MELISSA ROSSWhat explains the appeal and staying power of Donald Trump?
MR. E.J. DIONNE JR.Well, what I'd like to do -- thank you, by the way. It's great to be here. I'd like to separate my own views from my analysis of what's going on. You know, my own view and in the view of a lot of Republicans as well as Democrats, what he said was reprehensible. It can't work. It will weaken us among our Muslim allies. I think it's a terrible thing he said. But the question that I'd like to put on the table is why does Trump have staying power?
MR. E.J. DIONNE JR.And I think there are a couple reasons here. One is that there is an enormous pool of working class, lower middle class Republicans who really feel left out of their party. They've been voting loyally Republican for years and they don't think they have gotten much out of that. And they have become Donald Trump's base, Trump the billionaire is the Republican working class hero. Among Republicans without college degrees, Trump leads 46 percent to 12 percent over Ted Cruz.
MR. E.J. DIONNE JR.On the other hand, those with college degrees, it's a completely different race. You know, Cruz and Carson and Rubio and Trump are all bunched up together. So I think that class base he has is very important. And the other thing is, on this idea of excluding Muslims from the United States, the Republican Party has become much, much more conservative over the last five, ten and twenty years.
MR. E.J. DIONNE JR.There was a poll that came out yesterday from Bloomberg Politics and Purple Insights, 51 percent of Republicans strongly favor Trump's proposal and another 14 percent not so strongly favored it. So two-thirds of Republicans are in favor of this idea, even though most Republican leaders are condemning it.
ROSSVin Weber, do Donald Trump's remarks on Muslims and his plan to ban them from this country damage the GOP in your view?
MR. VIN WEBERWell, in my view, absolutely, yes. I'd like to talk about the Trump campaign in terms of the strategy that it's employing, which is really a rejection of what the Republican party thought and said about itself after the 2012 elections. You might remember that the party conducted what they called sort of an autopsy after we got beat in 2012, came out with what I thought was a very important report on how the party should move forward.
MR. VIN WEBERA lot of it was about technology and organization and things, but it also emphasized very much that the party doesn't have a future unless it can appeal more strongly to minority voters, Hispanics and Asians, primarily, also African Americans if that's possible, young people and women. There is an alternative strategy to that. I don't accept it, but it looks to me as if the Trump campaign is embracing it.
MR. VIN WEBERAnd that says, no, we're not gonna try to do better with women, young people, Asians and Hispanics. We're going to try to increase our share of the white conservative vote, if you will, and the place to do that is exactly in the communities that E.J. talked about.
ROSSJeffrey Lord, you're a Donald Trump supporter. What about Vin's comment that Trump's strategy seems to be expanding the base of white conservatives who feel a lot of economic anxiety. For example, a new Pew Research Center Report out this week finds that for the first time in 40 years, the middle class in this country is no longer in the majority. It's smaller than both low income and high income Americans. What are your thoughts about that and also why is Donald Trump's plan to ban Muslims from entering this country a good idea for the campaign?
MR. JEFFREY LORDWell, first of all, his idea on banning Muslims, all he was asking for, is asking for is a temporary pause in the immigration of Muslims into the country, a proposal which strikes many people as just common sense. We have a problem with radical Islam. Just this morning, I was seeing something on the news about the arrest of a man in Minnesota who was organizing and helping ISIS. There is a problem here.
MR. JEFFREY LORDAnd the refusal to acknowledge the problem at the point when we've now reached where, yet again, just this month, we had another incident where somebody, you know, this husband and wife couple, the wife coming into this country on a so-called fiance visa, you know, walked into this office and murdered 21 people -- or 14 people, excuse me, in cold blood. The American people have had enough of this.
MR. JEFFREY LORDThey have had enough of this. And what they don't see here in the Republican party with the Republican party establishment is, you know, that people are dealing with these problems. And I might add, you know, I think that this is very much similar to the reaction over the years to Rush Limbaugh. I remember -- and I have a column in the American Spectator this morning recalling a column -- a "Newsweek" cover, when "Newsweek" was still sort of alive and hanging on, by David Fromm who was a former speech writer for President George W. Bush.
MR. JEFFREY LORDAnd it had a picture of Russia on the cover with a, you know, a photoshopped piece of tape over his mouth and it said, "enough." And it went on to say how terrible he was for the Republican party and that we were going rue the day that this kept going, et cetera, et cetera. Well, of course, we got to 2010 and the Republican party won big time in terms of taking back the House, et cetera, and they went on to do the same thing in 2014.
MR. JEFFREY LORDI think that audience that Rush speaks to, people who are disaffected with leadership of the Republican party, is very much Donald Trump's audience. And one other thing, I also think that you've got people -- I was on CNN this morning and they had a focus group, with Alyson Camerota, the host of the morning show there, and one woman in particular struck me.
MR. JEFFREY LORDShe said she'd never -- she hated politics. She'd never been involved in it. She didn't want anything to do with it. And she was very passionate in her support of Donald Trump because she feels finally, finally somebody is paying attention to her. And I would suggest that this is the same kind of audience that was reached by Ronald Reagan decades ago. And I certainly remember in the day there were Republicans who said they could never vote for Ronald Reagan, you know.
MR. JEFFREY LORDRonald Reagan is a fascist. He's an extremist. Gerald Ford said he could never be elected president because he was too conservative. Now, everybody says, oh, bring back Reagan. I mean, I think we've got the same sort of phenomenon going on here and it's quite passionate.
ROSSWhat would you say, though, to criticism coming in from all sides about Donald Trump's proposal to ban Muslims from this country? House Speaker Paul Ryan saying, this doesn't reflect conservatism. Jeb Bush calls this proposal unhinged. Chris Christie calls it ridiculous. And other GOP presidential candidate John Kasich says it's outrageous. Senate Republicans on the Hill, both in the House and the Senate are saying that this could jeopardize the Republican majority in Congress as well. What about those concerns?
LORDI think what would jeopardize the Republican majority in Congress is if they listen to that kind of thing. I mean, to be perfectly candid, these responses are going to be seen out there in an instant. By the way, there's a Fox poll out today half of which was taken after he made these remarks. And he went up -- it was in South Carolina and he went up by eight points. So I really do think that there is this incredible disconnect between the base of the Republican party and the leadership of the Republican party.
LORDAnd these responses from all of these people, good people one and all, are going to be seen as playing to the media, to playing to The Washington Post, playing to those who are in a panic over Donald Trump. And they have such disdain for this leadership that when we hear these kind of remarks, all that does, frankly, is help him.
ROSSThe latest Fox News poll, E.J. Dionne, finds Donald Trump leading in South Carolina, as Jeffrey Lord just pointed out. And what about his comment that there's a big disconnect between Washington and the rest of the country? For example, here's a quote coming in from our Facebook page from Herman. "This split is only between professional politicians and the people all stirred up by the incompetence," he says, "of the media. Trump is within the law and he has the guts to speak what our current president should have said.
ROSSThe first and foremost duty of the president is to protect this nation and its people." E.J. Dionne.
DIONNE JR.Well, first, just on that particular point of the ban, Mr. Lords talked about a man who was arrested for helping ISIS. What if one Catholic is arrested somewhere for helping some, you know, terrible group? Do we then ban all Catholics? I mean, in a way that example shows the problem of the proposal. But substantively, we are talking as if Donald Trump is speaking for the people in a big way.
DIONNE JR.Let's look at his numbers. If he is getting 30 percent, that's a high end of the average in the polls, of the Republican and the Republican leaning independent, 40 percent of the electorate, that is 12 percent of Americans. Now, 12 percent is a lot of people. It can support Rush Limbaugh's radio show very handsomely. It can win a bunch of Republican primaries 'cause the Republican primary -- the proportion of Republicans who call themselves very conservative has almost doubled -- very conservative has almost doubled over the last 20 years.
DIONNE JR.So yes, it can win in primaries, but that doesn't mean he is speaking for anything like a majority of the country.
ROSSVin Weber, quickly.
WEBERWell, I just think, first of all, in terms of what Jeffrey said, excuse me, a little cough there, there's a great irony in this. He's right about the base electing a Republican Congress in '10 and '14, but the problem is the reason we can't do what they want is because we elected a Democratic president. That's the question.
ROSSAnd we will continue the conversation with E.J. Dionne, Vin Weber and Jeffrey Lord coming up.
ROSSWelcome back. I'm Melissa Ross sitting in for Diane Rehm today. Donald Trump, 2016 and the GOP, as we welcome E.J. Dionne, senior fellow at the Brookings Institution and columnist for The Washington Post. Vin Weber, a partner at Mercury and a former Republican member of Congress representing Minnesota's 2nd district. And Jeffrey Lord, analyst for CNN and contributing editor at The American Spectator. Vin Weber, is Trump's Muslim ban proposal constitutional?
WEBEROh, I'm not a constitutional lawyer. I don't know. I have talked to people that are experts on border security that say that it is entirely permissible for a border authority to ask someone's religion. Now, does that mean you can prohibit them from coming in because of their religion, I don't know. In any case, it's a bad idea. There's, you know, Jeffrey talked about security. We -- you can care about security and think we should do more about security and want to call radical Islamic terrorism what it is, without deciding that we're going to apply a religious test before people come into this country.
ROSSJeffrey Lord, yesterday, six-time MBA champion Kareem Abdul-Jabbar published an op-ed piece in TIME titled, "What Donald Trump and ISIS Have in Common." And I'm going to quote from it. He writes, "Trump is ISIS's greatest triumph. The perfect Manchurian Candidate who, instead of offering specific and realistic policies, preys on the fears of the public, doing ISIS's job for them." Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Muhammad Ali both speaking out as famous Muslim athletes to denounce Donald Trump.
ROSSKareem Abdul-Jabbar goes on to call him a schoolyard bully. What about those criticisms?
LORDYeah, you know, I've heard some variation of these kind of things before. And to be perfectly candid, I am always astonished at this kind of thinking. And I use the analogy with the Civil Rights Movement, when Dr. King and so many others were marching for civil rights in the 1960s. If anyone had stood up -- and frankly I think there were some people who stood up and said this at the time -- that they shouldn't do it because all they were going to do was encourage the Ku Klux Klan and encourage segregationists and encourage the racists of the day to increase their resistance to civil rights. Well, to be perfectly candid, that's absurd.
LORDI mean, what they were doing was right and they stood up and they took the criticism for it. And you don't -- when you're out there in support of an issue, you don't think that, oh, well, by doing this, I'm going to increase the opposition. The opposition is there. And that opposition is going to exist whether you do anything or not. And there's one thing I'd like to pick up on that Vin talked about in terms of having Republicans control House and Senate and yet there's a Democratic president. When Ronald Reagan was president -- and, Vin, I think you were in Congress at the time...
LORD...and I was in the White House, on the White House staff -- the House Democrats and the Senate passed a quote, unquote, "clean water bill," which was, you know, pumped up in the media of the day as, you know, a pro-environment issue. And President Reagan saw it differently. He saw it as pork, that it was lard and all of that kind of thing, as he was want to do with some things. He wanted to veto it. And as I remember the tale -- and I've gone back and looked this up in his diaries -- he summoned the House Republican leadership and said, we're going to lose, but I'm going to veto this bill and I want your support.
LORDAnd the reason we have to do this is to draw the line between the Republicans and the Democrats, so that the people will know where we stand. And I want your support, knowing that we're going to lose this issue. I believe I'm correct in saying that he got only 26 Republican votes on this. But his point, which he did frequently, is a good one. And this is what, I think, so many people are so disappointed with. Send bills to the president's desk -- to President Obama's desk and have them vetoed. And then if you can override the veto, so be it. But draw the line in the sand. And what we do instead, at this point, is decidedly un-Reaganesque.
LORDWe're afraid to lose. We're afraid to draw that line in the sand and we just fold. And that is what is so frustrating to people.
WEBERJeffrey, I think that you are occasionally right. I mean, I'm not against...
LORDThank you, Vin.
WEBERI'm not against sending some bills to the president to have them vetoed. But you have made exactly the point on the other side as well. There's only one president that has the bully pulpit that can communicate with the country. There was no one that could compete with Ronald Reagan on the veto of a bill in the Congress, no matter how eloquent they were, because the country doesn't pay attention to a leader in the Congress. We have a Democratic president and -- who would be in Reagan's position of explaining to the country why he vetoed a bill. Look, I'm -- that doesn't mean you don't do exactly what you said.
LORDBut the bill only got 26 House votes. I mean, Republicans didn't support it. I mean, that's my point. They didn't stand with him.
WEBERBut the point is -- you're making the point that Reagan, the great communicator, could rally the country because he was President of the United States. The problem we have as conservatives is so can Barack Obama. We need to elect a Republican president to do what you want to do.
ROSSAnd you don't believe Donald Trump can rally the country? You don't believe he can unite the Republican coalition?
WEBERI think that he can get a majority of the Republican coalition. I don't think he can get elected president.
ROSSYou don't think he can be elected president?
WEBERNo, I don't.
DIONNE JR.Yeah, I don't think he can win a general election either. Look, the Republicans in the House have voted over 60 times to repeal Obamacare. That hasn't done any good. I want to occupy a slightly different space from both Vin and Jeff, obviously, given my point of view. There is a truth to the idea that the Republican base feels that it has been misled and that Republican politicians make a series of promises and gin up the base on a variety of issues. And then when it comes time to govern, they can't satisfy them. Why is that? Well, it's because the country isn't where the Republican Party is. The country does not want to go back to the culture of the 1950s. It doesn't want to go back to the ethnic makeup of the country in the 1940s. And it doesn't want the tiny government that Republicans promise in their rhetoric but actually not only can't deliver on but know they can't deliver on.
DIONNE JR.We are going to have a large government because of Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, the Clean Water Act is popular. There are a whole lot of things the government does that are popular. Practical Republican presidents take over, including Reagan, and they know that they can't do these things. So you've got this disconnect between Republican rhetoric, which the base wants them to live up to, and reality, which gets in the way of living up to that rhetoric.
ROSSBut Donald Trump isn't really touching on those themes so much as he immigration and national security. Vin Weber.
WEBERWell, we're -- yeah, I'm glad you said that. Because we're proceeding sort of on the assumption in this discussion that Donald Trump's campaign is entirely aimed at the most conservative voters, the base of the Republican Party and rallying them. That is not borne out by the polling that we see. His -- other candidates -- Ted Cruz, perhaps -- do appeal primarily to the Republican base. But Trump's base is much broader than that. E.J. described it probably accurately in terms of the demographics -- working class, less educated. But they are not primarily the conservative base of the Republican Party.
ROSSJeffrey Lord, when Donald Trump spoke with Barbara Walters on "ABC World News Tonight," she asked him, are you a bigot? And he denied that he was a bigot. He said somebody in this country has to say what's right. When you hear the candidate you support being called a bigot, what are your thoughts?
LORDYeah, I'll tell you exactly what my thoughts are. First of all, in terms of Donald Trump, daughter Ivanka is Jewish. His in-laws are Jewish. He is hardly an anti-Semite. When he took over the Mar-a-Lago estate down there in Florida and made it into a club in Palm Beach, he was the first to go -- he went out of his way to open that club to African Americans and to Jews, which was something that was verboten in these -- some of these posh, Palm Beach clubs. This was decades ago. And he was celebrated by the ADL, the American Defamation League. So, I mean, it's untrue on its face.
LORDBut I would -- let me just address the larger issue here about bigotry. And I've written about this without reference to Donald Trump but it certainly applies. And I've written about this a great deal. Yesterday, President Obama gave a speech celebrating the 13th Amendment to the Constitution, which ended slavery. What he didn't mention -- which I find, you know, always curious -- is that the 13th Amendment was opposed by the Democratic Party of the day, as was the 14th Amendment and the 15th Amendment, that gave African Americans property rights and the right to vote, et cetera.
LORDHe didn't mention that the Democratic Party thrived on racial politics for, you know, up -- of a particular venue, particular type -- all the way into the 1960s. People who were elected to Congress, campaigning for, say, Social Security, were also members of the Ku Klux Klan. They were Democrats. This was their base. And my contention is that this streak in the Democratic Party, which is its founding, you know, founding pillar, is still there today.
DIONNE JR.That is -- the last, you know, I was with you...
LORDThey divide by -- they divide -- excuse me -- they divide by race. They divide and judge by skin color.
DIONNE JR.I was with you until that last statement. Because the history -- you're right on the history. The Democratic Party was often a racist party 100 years ago. And I pray that I would have voted for Abraham Lincoln in 1860 and I think I would have. And it's notable, however, that the states that voted for Abraham Lincoln are also the states that voted for Barack Obama. The two parties switched sides on race.
DIONNE JR.The Southern Segregationists left the Democratic Party and went over to, first, to the States Rights Party back in 1948, and to the Republicans starting in 1964. So they have just switched sides on this question. That's a historical fact. If you want to talk about the Democrats back in reconstruction, I'm with the Republicans back then.
ROSSAnd let me -- Vin Weber...
ROSS...let me ask you as well. As we talk about Donald Trump's effect, not just on this race, but on your party...
ROSS...what would you say to concerns and handwringing among some party leaders that Donald Trump is damaging the GOP brand generally?
WEBERI think that three or four months ago, Republican leaders and others listening to what Donald Trump said were not concerned. Because the Trump brand -- the individual brand that he'd built for himself through his businesses and his entertainment activities -- was separate from the Republican brand. And whatever he said may have applied to Trump but not to the Republican Party. The concern that I think you're seeing now from a lot of Republican Party leaders is that, after four or five months of Donald Trump being the leading Republican candidate, it's very hard to say that the things that he's saying should not be applied more broadly to the Republican Party. And I think that's the big concern.
WEBERBack -- I want to respond just to one thing Jeffrey said. I, you know, I don't want to call Donald Trump a bigot, you know? And you made some good points about, you know, not being anti-Semitic. However, he has cited as precedence for his administration's actions two of the darkest pages in American history -- the internment of the Japanese by President Roosevelt and the expulsion of Mexican Americans in -- pardon me for what they called it -- Operation Wetback in the Eisenhower administration. Those are things that America should be ashamed of and he's using them as precedents. Shouldn't we be concerned about what a Trump presidency would do?
LORDVin, you're only half right there. He has not cited Franklin Roosevelt's -- and I know this because, to be perfectly candid, I said this on CNN and he was watching and then mentioned me and what my point was on the air when he was on CNN an hour later. He was not talking -- nor was I -- I specifically said, you know, what Franklin Roosevelt did with the internment camps was immoral and I might add racist. What I was talking about were three presidential proclamations -- and this is what he's talking about -- that came from Franklin Roosevelt the day after Pearl Harbor, that put severe restrictions on immigrants in this country who -- suspended all their naturalization processes.
LORDAnd they weren't allowed to drive more than five miles from home. If they worked six miles, they were out of a job. They couldn't buy shortwave radios, cameras. There were a whole series of restrictions. And as I said...
ROSSBut Jeffrey Lord, is there any justification at all for the internment of American citizens?
LORDWell, of course not. But Donald Trump was opposed to that, and is. He's not saying that. So, sure, of course, I'm saying that. I mean, to get back to my earlier point with E.J., this was yet another example of the Democratic Party and race. They interned these people because of the color of their skin.
ROSSAnd let me just jump in and say, you're listening to "The Diane Rehm Show." I'm Melissa Ross, sitting in for Diane Rehm. If you'd like to join the show, call us at 1-800-433-8850. Emails to firstname.lastname@example.org. Find us on Facebook or send us a tweet. Let's go to your calls...
DIONNE JR.Could I just, real quick. I just want to make one quick point. I don't know what's in Donald Trump's heart. I try not to read people's hearts. Targeting all 11 million undocumented immigrants and saying, I'm going to get them out of the country and build a wall that the Mexicans will pay for, good luck with that. Or targeting every Muslim -- there are Muslims sitting in Arlington Cemetery, who died for the country in the recent fights we've had in Afghanistan and Iraq. That is just wrong. And I just wanted to say that. Because we're being polite here and Mr. Lord is doing an excellent job at defending Mr. Trump. But this is an outrage. And I think we -- he should be called on this.
LORDYeah, I just -- what he's talking about is Muslims outside the country, who are not American citizens. Frankly, I'm thinking perhaps we should suspend all immigration to this country until we get a grip on what's happening here. We cannot keep having incidents in this country where people fly planes into buildings because they're here on visas. Whether they're, you know, shooting people to death in a California, you know, Christmas party, we cannot keep having these kind of incidents. This is wrong. This is dangerous.
ROSSHow would we realistically suspend the visa waiver program, for example? In recent weeks we've learned about loopholes in that program -- issues with that program.
LORDRight. I mean, I would suspend all of this, to be perfectly candid. I mean, it's very clear, we have no idea what's going on here.
ROSSVin Weber. Vin Weber.
WEBERI think -- look, I think that there is a real issue here. But I think that Jeffrey and Donald Trump are focusing on the wrong solution. Trying to keep people out of the country at the border is almost an impossibility. Yes, we have a security problem in this country. We ought to pay attention to it. The head of the FBI says we've got a security problem. So let's beef up our security forces, let's beef up our intelligence. Maybe we need to increase the budget of the FBI and things. But we're looking at the wrong target if we say we're just going to try to keep everybody from coming into this country.
ROSSIn Europe, there's been a reexamination of Europe's open-borders policy. E.J. Dionne, does America need to reassess its open-borders policy?
DIONNE JR.Well, let's be clear on what Europe's open-borders policy is. Within the European Union, you can travel now without a visa from Poland to Germany or German to France. And that has been actually a great blessing for the Europeans. They don't have an open border on the outside.
DIONNE JR.They're basically trying to make themselves more like the United States. We don't need a visa to go from Texas to Massachusetts. But they are worried that their outside border is more permeable and so they are revisiting their internal border. But it's a good thing you brought up Europe, because you are seeing some of this same right-wing backlash in Europe that is feeding the Trump campaign. The fact that Marine Le Pen, in France, the National Front -- which 30 years ago was seen as an exotic, right-wing party -- came in first in the regional elections in France last Sunday. You're seeing right-wing parties like this gain ground.
DIONNE JR.So, yes, Western societies are feeling insecure. But I do not think we are at our best as free societies when we respond to fear primarily and forget who we are.
ROSSAnd coming up, your calls and questions. Stay with us.
ROSSWelcome back. I'm Melissa Ross, host of First Coast Connect, WJCT Public Broadcasting in Jacksonville, Florida, sitting in for Diane Rehm today. Donald Trump, the GOP and 2016 as the conversation continues with E.J. Dionne, senior fellow at the Brookings Institution and columnist for The Washington Post, Vin Weber, partner at consulting firm Mercury and former Republican member of Congress, and CNN analyst Jeffrey Lord, also contributing editor at The American Spectator.
ROSSWe go now to your calls and comments. Let's begin with Kenneth in Houston, Texas. Kenneth, good morning, you're on the air.
KENNETHGood morning, how are you?
ROSSGood, thank you.
ROSSYeah, go ahead, Kenneth.
KENNETHYes, my position is that Trump is leading because Trump is speaking to the majority of the Republican base. This is what they believe. A majority of the Republican base believes that -- in what Trump is saying, and all the other candidates, they also do the same thing, but they are too scared to say it because they know that if they say that, they won't win the general election.
KENNETHBut I guarantee you that they are right now envious of Trump's position, where he is in the polls. But I can guarantee you that the only reason why they are not saying it openly is because they will not win the general election. That's my position.
ROSSVin Weber, is Trump simply putting into words what the majority of GOP voters are thinking?
WEBERWell, the polls say that a majority of the GOP voters agree with him in all these things. I'd make a couple of points. First of all, I think there is a leadership vacuum in the country, and Trump is stepping into it. If there was leadership being provided in a different direction, some of those people would see things somewhat differently. I don't agree with the caller that all the Republican candidates basically agree with him, and they're afraid of saying it.
WEBERI think that George Bush, I think that Marco Rubio, I think that Christ Christie has been outspoken in contesting Donald Trump on some of the basic things that he's said about Mexican-Americans and immigration and now about the Muslim controversy, as has the highest ranking elected official in the Republican Party, Speaker Paul Ryan, two days ago in saying this is not what our party stands for.
ROSSJeffrey Lord, does this reflect a schism, then, within the party, or is Donald Trump speaking for the party?
LORDOh, I think it reflects there is a schism in the party. There's no question about it. And to be perfectly candid, historically speaking, I think what you're seeing here is the 2015 version of what went on with Dwight Eisenhower and Robert Taft and Barry Goldwater and Nelson Rockefeller and Ronald Reagan and Gerald Ford and George HW Bush. I think there are some of the same threads of this argument, where there was a feeling that the quote-unquote establishment is out of touch, and I think the only difference at this point that the balance has so tipped on the side of the people who really believe the establishment has just not, you know, come through and delivered that this is, you know, as it were rocket fuel for the Trump campaign.
LORDAnd I think he, himself, understands that very well, and he is, you know, a superb communicator, and people are responding to him.
ROSSI find myself...
ROSSPaul, let me go quickly to Paul in Ottawa, Canada. Paul in Canada, hi Paul, good morning.
PAULHi, thanks so much for having me. I have a comment and a question, and my comment is directly related to this notion of a schism you were just discussing. As an outside observer, I feel like the GOP's been lurching further to the right in using these thinly veiled racial messages for a long time. So when I hear about the establishment GOP being anxious and up in arms about Trump's popularity, it feels disingenuous because to me it looks like they're reaping exactly what they've sowed for a very long time.
PAULAnd now my question, I feel as though the media coverage of Trump sometimes seems to explain him -- just struggles to explain his popularity, as though he were some kind of hypnotist or master showman. And he may be a master showman, but surely the simplest explanation of the Trump phenomenon is that a lot of people agree with him. So why do you think there's this reluctance to admit that there's just a significant segment of the American voters, voting population, who find these ideas appealing?
DIONNE JR.I totally agree with that caller on both -- on both counts, although I think again, I want to -- we should always qualify this. It's a significant part of the Republican Party. Trump has yet to prove that he has appeal way out -- far outside the Republican Party. I find myself weirdly agreeing with something -- some stuff Mr. Lord said but disagree with the political conclusion, which is I do think that Trump recapitulates fights that you've seen in the Republican Party in the past, particularly the Goldwater campaign in 1964, and it's worth noting that Barry Goldwater got absolutely clobbered by Lyndon Johnson, which is what a lot of Republicans are afraid of.
DIONNE JR.And I think the Canadian caller and Mr. Lord overlap on something, which is the establishment of the Republican Party has used a lot of Trump's themes to rally the base over many years. But they've done it through dog-whistle politics. Steve Benen, a liberal blogger, pointed this out. And now the dog whistle has given way to a bullhorn. Trump doesn't hide anything. He doesn't disguise anything. He says let's stop all the Muslims from coming in, let's deport all the 11 million. And so, you know, I quoted recently the prophet Josiah in a column recently, those who sow the wind reap the whirlwind. And I think that's what's happening in this Republican primary.
ROSSJeffrey Lord? Jeffrey Lord?
LORDYes, I have to say this is where I would disagree both with the caller and with E.J. When it comes to race, to continue my thought from earlier, it's not just that this stuff stopped with the 1964 Civil Rights Act. To this day, the Democratic Party plays on racial fears. They divide people by skin color. This is what the illegal immigration is all about. If those were all white Germans, they'd doubtless have another view of this. But they do this because they prey on the fears of minorities, and they exploit them, and this is sort of their rocket fuel to push the progressive agenda.
LORDIt has always been the one-two punch of the Democratic Party, divide by race and then use that to push the progressive agenda. And whether it was Woodrow Wilson or Franklin Roosevelt or Barack Obama, they still do it. And this is the problem. And so there's the disagreement there. I really do think this is on the other side of the coin.
WEBERI just have to say, Paul made a very important point in trying to analyze this election when he called Donald Trump primarily a showman. I think that that's important. Donald Trump, in my definition, is not really a Republican or a Democrat, or a liberal or a conservative, but he is an expert showman, and it's enabled him to dominate this race from beginning not necessarily to the end yet, at least to this point, though, showmanship.
ROSSAnd Jay in Jacksonville, Florida, agrees. Jay in Jacksonville, good morning. Hi, hi, Jay.
JAYGood morning, big -- hi, big shout-out from Duval County. Everybody loves to hear you on this national stage.
JAYAt some point everybody's going to realize the emperor has no hair. Donald Trump cannot use these tactics against China, against North Korea, against any of the countries that we actually have to do business with. He can't just -- you know, he's going to get the Mexicans to build a wall and pay for it? These things are just bizarrely irrational, and while it may appeal to people, at the end of the day he's going to find himself in a debate with Bernie Sanders or Hillary Clinton and is going to get decimated because he is not -- he doesn't understand the true nuance of international geopolitics.
JAYHe doesn't understand domestic politics well enough to speak to issues like Black Lives Matter and immigration and equal pay for equal work for women and education. Like, I don't understand why people don't see that so clearly.
ROSSJay, thanks for the call. Jeffrey Lord, what would you say to those who aren't Donald Trump fans, who don't think he's qualified to be commander in chief?
LORDSure, I mean, you're always going to have people that think that, not just about Donald Trump but, to be perfectly candid, any candidate. You're going to have a lot of people saying that Hillary Clinton as secretary of state has illustrated in vivid terms why she can't be trusted as commander in chief. So you're always going to have this.
LORDOne of the points I'd make about Donald Trump here is that, you know, if you read his -- and I know him, so I've had these kind of discussion with him, but if you read his books, in "The Art of the Deal" he talks about the need, when you negotiated, to take a position that's so far out there so that as you negotiate you can get to where you want to be.
LORDWhat he's doing here in his presidential campaign is clearly that, and I think most people don't yet understand this.
DIONNE JR.But we can't -- we can't elect a president based on the notion that he doesn't really mean what he says.
LORDGetting the issue of illegal immigration, he's getting the issue of Islamic radicalism, terrorism, in this country on the table for discussion. We're discussing it right now, and I'm not sure that we would be if Donald Trump hadn't...
ROSSLet me ask you all as a follow-up, here's an email from Marjorie. I'm a 67-year-old white female with a Ph.D. Stop implying that only the uneducated or low-income are voting for Donald Trump. All of my highly educated friends making more money than your interviewer, that's me, are voting...
DIONNE JR.Probably than all of us.
ROSS...for Trump. Unfortunately your guests are only interested in being politically correct, so they have to make sure others do not support the Muslim ban. I support Donald Trump because he has a plan, he speaks his mind, and he can be trusted. E.J. Dionne?
DIONNE JR.Just to that person's point, it's not that he's getting no support from people who went to college, he's -- they are just not giving him the support that those without college degrees. The poll I cited, Cruz gets 22 percent, Carson and Rubio are tied at 19 percent among college-educated, Trump is at 18. So she's not alone, I know, in saying that. We're talking about what the differential is.
DIONNE JR.But I just, I think that for a lot of Republicans, I obviously agree with that proud Duval County caller about what's going to happen to Donald Trump in the long run.
ROSSDown there they say Duval.
DIONNE JR.Go Duval. But I think that this is something the Republicans brought on themselves. I have a book coming out my publisher probably would mention, next month.
ROSSYes, please do.
DIONNE JR.Called "Why the Right Went Wrong," and it's a kind of a -- it's a history of conservatism to try to explain where Trump comes from, where these odd things in the Republican Party come from. And on Page 2, I'll probably surprise people by quoting Erick Erickson, the editor of the popular blog Red State.
DIONNE JR.Where he said the Republican Party created Donald Trump because they made a lot of promises to their base and never kept them. And I think this disconnect is at the heart of the Trump candidacy.
WEBERThe last two comments we've had are very interesting. The lady who called in and said she's voting for Trump and well-educated and all that says because he can be trusted. Minutes before that, Jeffrey Lord just told us that we shouldn't really take seriously what he's saying because it's all just a negotiating position.
LORDNo, no, no, no, no I don't mean you shouldn't take him seriously....
WEBERHow can you ultimately trust somebody whose platform is he doesn't really mean it?
LORDNo, no, no, no, no, no, no, he means it, but it is a way of getting arguments on the table. It's a way of, it's an MO, if you will, of doing this. Of course he means it. I mean, I can tell you, I've talked to him for quite a long time over the years, and he believes this very passionately, and I think that's what people respond to.
ROSSI'm Melissa Ross, sitting in for Diane Rehm, and you're listening to "The Diane Rehm Show." Let's go now to John in Louisville, Kentucky. Hi John, good morning.
JOHNHello. I think a lot of people are afraid to admit that the fact that the current president is black has a lot to do with Trump's support and the direction the GOP has been going.
ROSSJeffrey Lord, what about that sentiment?
LORDI think it has nothing to do with his being black. I think it has everything to do with his being left. I always find it interesting when this particular conversation comes up because I have as friends a number of black conservatives who tell me the vehemence with which they are attacked because they are both black and conservative, and the politically collect crowd, liberals, believe that if you're black, you must be -- not only black but a Latino, a woman, that you have to be a conservative.
LORDThis is why they are treated so, you know, so badly by so many liberals. So I don't really think that this is the problem. I mean, people -- I mean, the same people that don't like Barack Obama love Ben Carson, and they loved Herman Cain.
ROSSE.J. Dionne, what about that, and also what about some data showing that polling might actually be underestimating Donald Trump's support, that the recent poll finding he's at 35 percent, that might actually be a bit low?
DIONNE JR.Yes, on that point, first of all, we have so many polls out there with so many different standards. This is a real problem, technical problem for polling, number one. Number two, with extreme candidates, sorry Mr. Lord, there are people who are reluctant sometimes to say they're actually voting for them and then end up voting for them. So I think that's perfectly possible.
DIONNE JR.In terms of race and Obama, we have to keep two things in our heads at the same time, I think. On the one hand, are there some voters who are engaged in a racial backlash against Barack Obama? I think there's a lot of evidence to that in the attitudinal surveys. There are a group of about 22 percent of American counties where Barack Obama in 2008 ran behind John Kerry in 2004, and I think that drop-off was -- had something to do with race.
DIONNE JR.On the other hand, there are plenty of conservatives who don't like Barack Obama, they don't like Hillary Clinton, they didn't like Bill Clinton, and so you can't just say it's all race. I don't believe that, but I do believe race is part of it.
ROSSAnd Vin Weber, as you wanted to point out, a lot of the sentiment for Donald Trump is driven, you believe, due to frustration with the Obama White House and distaste for Hillary Clinton.
WEBERI think that we have a leadership gap in the country. Now the parties are polarized, and Democrats have a different opinion on this, but most Republican voters, including me, think that we have, at a time of great peril for our country, an absolute void in leadership. And that void or vacuum creates an environment in which somebody like Donald Trump can come in, in my judgment with demagogic appeals, but it -- and I don't want to blame Obama for Trump, but if we had a strong leader that made Americans feel secure that they were dealing with some of these problems, we'd have a little different political environment.
ROSSI think that is blaming Obama for Trump, which I find entertaining for a Republican Party.
ROSSJeffrey Lord, is there any hope, is there any chance that Donald Trump will bolt the GOP, as he's been hinting at, and run as an independent?
LORDYou know, I doubt it, I doubt it at this point. I mean, I think -- I think he can win. I mean, I think he -- I mean, he likes to win, and, you know, to be perfectly candid, to run as a third-party candidate, we just don't have the habit of electing third-party candidates no matter who they may be. So I think he'll just stick right where he is.
LORDOne quick point, though, that E.J. made about Barry Goldwater and his defeat, Barry Goldwater ran knowing that he was going to lose because of course in 1964 the country was still in, you know, a lot of trauma over President Kennedy's assassination. Lyndon Johnson was extremely popular in the day, and it was sort of the flood tide of liberalism. I don't think any Republican could have won. Barry Goldwater certainly knew that he was going to lose, but he wanted to make his point and begin to wrest control of the party from the Eastern GOP establishment, which he began to do.
ROSSE.J. Dionne, who do you see winning the Republican nomination for president?
DIONNE JR.Well, the honest answer that anyone should give right now is nobody has a clue. If I -- you want me to guess, I think the person who may be in the strongest position is Ted Cruz, which may surprise people, and the reason I think so -- but that requires Donald Trump to lose support at some point. I think he has a very coherent strategy to unite the most conservative elements of the Republican Party, who I believe from the polls are a majority of the party.
DIONNE JR.But if -- I say that with every expectation that all predictions are wrong, going to be wrong.
ROSSVin Weber, very quickly.
WEBERTo Jeffrey's consternation, the polls lately have showed that the so-called establishment candidates are totaling over 50 percent right, and Jeb Bush is the best candidate to capitalize on that.
ROSSAnd we thank you, E.J. Dionne, senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, columnist for The Washington Post and author of "Why the Right Went Wrong: Conservatism from Goldwater to the Tea Party," Vin Weber partner of Mercury, a consulting firm, and CNN analyst and contributing editor at the American Spectator Jeffrey Lord with us today. I'm Melissa Ross of
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