Susan Glasser and Peter Baker are veteran political journalists who closely covered the presidency of Donald Trump, he as the New York Times chief White House correspondent, she as a…
Hillary Clinton officially became the Democratic nominee for president on Tuesday—the first female nominee of any major political party in US history. In another first, former president Bill Clinton, her husband, addressed the convention detailing his wife’s decades of public service and offering his perspective on her readiness for the job. He was the most prominent of a series of speakers seeking to re-introduce Hillary Clinton to those voters who believe they already know her and have misgivings. We get an update on the second day of the Democratic National Convention and the race ahead.
- Geoff Garin Democratic pollster, Peter D. Hart Research Associates
- Rebecca Sinderbrand Deputy national political editor, Washington Post
- Barrett Holmes Pitner Columnist, The Daily Beast and The Guardian; covers politics, race and culture
- Neil King, Jr. Global economics editor and deputy Washington bureau chief, The Wall Street Journal
MR. DEREK MCGINTYThanks for joining us. I’m Derek McGinty sitting in for Diane Rehm. She's out on vacation. Hillary Clinton cracked the virtual glass ceiling and a real-life one last night as she became the first woman to win a major party presidential nomination in U.S. history. At the end of the evening, the candidate herself burst through that computer-generated glass ceiling on the jumbotron high above the convention floor.
MR. DEREK MCGINTYIt was Hillary Clinton's moment, but you could argue that the man of the hour was her husband, the former president, who delivered a folksy, personal endorsement speech designed to chip away at what he called the cartoon version of his wife with all the baggage and the high negatives. Did it work? Well, we'll talk about that and the rest of day two and what's to come in day three of the Democratic Convention in Philadelphia and the presidential race ahead.
MR. DEREK MCGINTYNeil King, Jr. is here. He's with The Wall Street Journal. Barrett Holmes Pitner of The Daily Beast and The Guardian is here in studio as well. And joining us via the telephone from Philadelphia, Geoff Garin, a Democratic pollster and Rebecca Sinderbrand of The Washington Post. So good to have all four of you with me today.
MR. NEIL KING JR.Good to be here.
MR. BARRETT HOLMES PITNERYeah, thanks for having me.
MCGINTYYou know, I'll start with this. I wonder if with President Obama being the first black president and the fact that Hillary Clinton's been around so long, and Rebecca I'll start with you, are we a bit numb to the really historic nature of all this? I mean, this is a big deal.
MS. REBECCA SINDERBRANDAbsolutely. That was a conversation we were actually having yesterday. You know, we had our staff meeting where we were sitting around and talking about the different storylines and the stories we were going to pursue for the day and then, realized towards the end of the conversation that we hadn't really kind of doven into the real story of the day, the historic nature of a woman being the nominee for a major party.
MS. REBECCA SINDERBRANDAnd, in part, as you said, it's because Hillary Clinton has just been part of a political atmosphere for so very long and because this nomination has seemed almost like a foregone conclusion for many people for so long that the impact didn't really land the way it might have otherwise.
KING JR.I thought they really tried to drive that home in a really powerful way for those who were watching TV or that were in the hall, where, you know, Bill Clinton gave his speech, Alicia Keyes came out and did the music, interlude thing, and then, boom, they put up on the screen, George Washington and then every face of 43 old white guy presidents, Barack Obama and it was just like this very -- they were just pointing out the obvious thing, right?
KING JR.But it had a power about it and that was when the screen shatters and there's Hillary Clinton sitting at home on video. But it -- I was in a room, a number of women were in it, aren't necessarily huge Hillary Clinton fans, but there were, like, tears. I think it brought out this emotion of, like, wow, this actually is an historic thing.
PITNERYeah. I thought the Democrats did a great job last night. I say it's kind of slightly different than Obama because I think in 2008, people just didn't really believe it was possible for this, like, the -- to have the first African American president. Like, it was in that realm where, can you do this?
MCGINTYCan't possibly happen.
PITNERBut last night, the Democrats showed it that this is a continuation of the progress that's happened since 2008. Like, you can believe that a first woman can be president because we already shattered one ceiling. We can shatter another one and keep it going. And I think at the end, when Hillary told all the little girls that are watching, you know, I might be the first one, but you'll be the next one. It's a -- they presented as a continuation of keeping on to do -- make progressive changes in society. So I think that's why we were more accustomed to it, but it's still big time.
MCGINTYAnd Geoff Garin, do you have a sense that that resonates with the voters?
MR. GEOFF GARINIt does. I mean, the story may not have been front and center for a lot of the media that was covering the night, but it really matters to the millions of women across the country. It shows up in our polling. It shows -- it matters to the parents of -- both moms and dads of little girls who want to know that they're -- they want their daughters to know they can grow up to be anything. So it is a moving moment. It is not, you know, the dispositive reason to vote for her, but people recognize that this really is a change that a woman president will look at the world in a different way, will bring a different sensibility and perspective to things.
MR. GEOFF GARINAnd in an election that's about change, the fact that Hillary Clinton will be the first woman president is -- represents meaningful change to a lot of people.
MCGINTYAnd we're going to be taking your questions, your comments, phone calls throughout the hour. Drop us a line, 800-433-8850 is the phone number here. 800-433-8850. You might want to send us an email at email@example.com. And there is Facebook and Twitter to comment on as well. Well, you mentioned change and that's what former President Bill Clinton was talking about last night. He said, look, Hillary Clinton is a change agent, that she's been changing things for a long time. Neil, how do you think he did?
KING JR.I thought he did really well. I thought it was a fascinating speech. As we were joking a little bit beforehand, you know, he starts with "in 1971, I met a girl." And that was an interesting way to kick off what ended being a pretty long bio, basically. His sort of testimonial of this extraordinary woman that he has kind of come of age with and the importance that she had in his life and very much to point out there's a lot about her biography that you may not be familiar with. She's been around forever. She has the challenge of making herself new.
KING JR.And the whole change-maker thing was to basically make the argument that she will represent change no matter how familiar she is. And during the course of her career, she's done a lot of things to change things. That's her main challenge is to feel like she's new somehow.
MCGINTYRebecca, you were there. What was the reaction on the floor to President Clinton's speech? And we know, at least, those of us from home, I think we felt it stretched out a little bit. Did you feel that on the floor at all?
SINDERBRANDYou could absolutely feel that. I think that the people who were there for -- it did not seem to drag on if you were sit -- standing in the arena. Those people were soaking in every word. It was interesting beforehand. They passed out signs to the crowd that said, "change maker" for people to hold up. And, you know, again, that's a tall order for someone who's been in public life for as long as Hillary Clinton has. Bill Clinton had a really tall order last night, a lot of things that he had to accomplish with his speech.
SINDERBRANDBut, of course, the number one thing was what we saw last week with the Trumps, with Melania and Ivanka reintroducing Donald Trump, the man, to the American people. Bill Clinton had to essentially reintroduce Hillary Clinton, someone who many Americans -- there are very few Americans who have no opinion on Hillary Clinton. So he did a very good job, at least, from inside the arena, including, you know, we've seen over the course of the past few days some strong reactions from some Sanders supporters, including a walkout last night after the roll call, people who eventually came back in.
SINDERBRANDBut there were no kind of strong negative reactions during Bill Clinton's speech and I don't think that that was any sort of accident.
MCGINTYBarrett Holmes Pitner, did you learn anything new about Hillary Clinton and do you think the audience was surprised by what the president was talking about?
PITNERYeah. I think I definitely learned something new. Like, Bill humanized Hillary more than we've ever seen anyone do at this level. Like, it's one of those things where if you believe someone's a good person, they do the right things, but you don't know the stories. You don't know how they've impacted. You don't know their method for going about it. You know, there was a really great story about how Hillary is an exceptional listener and she listens to people and then she acts on it.
PITNERAnd Bill kind of gave a story about Hillary from before she was even Hillary Clinton would listen to people, go out into places and impact people behind the scenes. She's not, like, trying to get attention. She's trying to make change. And, you know, we live in era of politics where people try to get a lot of attention. You know, Trump is a big attention-seeker. And so to have the complete contrast of a woman who, for 20-some odd years has been making change, but not asking for the attention for that change.
PITNERJust I'm gonna make the change and if someone's life's better, that's really all I want. And I think he did a good job of presenting that.
MCGINTYYou know, one of the storylines out of last night was how Bill Clinton would deal with the issues that -- it's obvious. Everybody knows that he's not been a good actor over the years and not been a particularly good husband at times. He didn't seem to get to that. Did he need to? Did he need to say, you know what, I haven't been the best and she stuck with me and that's one of the reasons I love her?
KING JR.You know, maybe just saying that would've been probably a decent thing to have said. There was a lot of joking on Twitter anyway about the portions that he skipped over, particularly in the late '90s and all of a sudden, you know...
MCGINTYDid he need to get to that? I mean, do you think -- and let me -- Rebecca, as a woman, did you need to hear that?
SINDERBRANDThat was, of course, a notable omission. I think it would've been a little bit difficult, perhaps a bit uncomfortable for the dynamic, at least inside the arena, you know. This was something where he was dwelling on the more positive aspects of the relationship. And to go into such a painful time, I think might have felt a little bit out of step with the rest of the speech. It would've been extremely emotional, of course. And it's hard to imagine that that won't come up at some point. I know as much as they would like to avoid discussing it or dwelling on it, it maybe something they have to revisit at some point further along in the campaign.
SINDERBRANDBut last night, I think, was maybe not the time for that.
MCGINTYFair enough. You know, I asked the question yesterday that -- I said, does Bill Clinton still have game, you know? Because after the business on the tarmac with Loretta Lynch and then some of the things he said during the Obama campaign, I wonder if his judgment was quite as good as it had been politically. Did he show last night that he does?
PITNERI definitely think Bill Clinton showed he still has game. One of the most fascinating things about Bill Clinton and Hillary Clinton and this iteration is how do they make this new balance. And this is kind of a political couple balance that you don't really see in the world where both spouses are influential politicians. Like, usually, there's the male candidate and his wife is, you know, in the back. And the same thing with the female candidates, their male spouses not getting that much attention. So you can see when Bill Clinton had those moments where he was just trying to be a husband and not be a politician.
PITNERHe would get in trouble. And so coming up with this balance where now Bill is kind of like the proud political spouse and he's trying to talk up his wife, I think he did a really good job of transitioning that. You know, he has -- he's always had the political game, but being a spouse who clearly cares about your, you know, significant other can get you into trouble and tell something that they're doing something crazy and that does not always play well politically.
MCGINTYBarrett Holmes Pitner is a columnist with The Daily Beast and The Guardian. Neil King, Jr., global economics editor and deputy Washington bureau chief at The Wall Street Journal. On the phone with us from Philly, Rebecca Sinderbrand, deputy national political editor at The Washington Post and Geoff Garin, a democratic pollster. More of our conversation and your phone calls coming up right after this break. You're listening to "The Diane Rehm Show."
MCGINTYWelcome back. I'm Derek McGinty, sitting in for Diane Rehm. We're talking about the Democratic national convention in Philadelphia. Day two is history. Day three may make more history tonight. My guests here in the studio, Neil King, Jr., of the Wall Street Journal, Barrett Holmes Pitner of The Daily Beast, on the phone from Philly, Geoff Garin, Democratic pollster, and Rebecca Sinderbrand of the Washington Post.
MCGINTYAnd Geoff, we didn't get to you regarding the Clinton speech. As I noted, he didn't talk much about his story. Was that what he had to do?
GARINYes, I think that was very important, that he needed to make this a speech about her and not about him. He did that. You know, people who know Hillary Clinton well always bemoan the fact that the person they know is not the person who is characterized in the world, and there is nobody in the world better to close that gap than Bill Clinton, and I think he did a superb job of that.
GARINBut, you know, that -- it's a challenge. You've been president of the United States for eight years, and to really focus on the person who's going -- running to be president. And he really made this a speech very much about her, and he was, you know, a supporting character and a supportive spouse, and that's exactly what he needed to be last night.
MCGINTYIs it safe to say that this is just the beginning of a long-term effort to redefine Hillary Clinton? One speech is not going to do that.
GARINIt's not, I mean, there are -- and there were other people who testified to her good character and her good heart throughout the evening, and I hope and expect that we'll see a lot of that throughout the campaign. You know, I worked for Hillary in the 2008 campaign, and she really is a person with a good heart, and she -- and as President Clinton said, she's got a real history of working to change things for the better for people, and Americans need to know more and more about that.
MCGINTYAll right, I want to get to our phone calls at 800-433-8850. But Geoff, since you know her in a way that none of us here at the rest of the table likely do, what is it about Hillary Clinton from your perspective that has not come across, and why hasn't it come across? Why do people see her with these high negatives and the sort of closed-off view that they have of her, the cartoon view, as President Clinton called it?
GARINYes, I would describe it as a caricature, and, you know, the fact of the matter is that impressions of Hillary go up and down. When she's actually in office and working and serving people, her ratings are almost always high. That was the case when she was a senator from New York, when she was secretary of state, for a lot of the time when she was first lady. But in a political setting, when she is a target, there is a pretty vigorous effort to draw a negative picture of her, and it is hard to communicate through that, through all of that static and all of that fog, and that's why the convention is so important.
MCGINTYBut other politicians do it, though, other politicians do it, I mean, you know, and you have somebody like a Tim Kaine, for example, who no one can say a bad word about. So it's not just that she's in the arena. There's something about her in the arena.
GARINYes, well, I think that, you know, the truth is she is a person who stands up and represents something in American politics in a kind of a -- I think in a bold way, and that attracts lots of enemies who are out there making a case against her.
GARINAnd this week, at least, there's kind of an unfiltered opportunity to make the case for her.
PITNERSo I'd say that Hillary and Bill Clinton are just -- they've been at such a high level of American politics, where the attention's been on them for so long that they naturally become targets. And unlike Bill, Hillary doesn't have that charisma on the stump that makes it really, really hard for people to paint an alternative narrative of her. She's not a natural up there speaking, and that allows whoever is against her to go and project their narrative, and then now they have to spend time countering that. And that, you know, if you get -- compound that by years and years and years, this narrative exists, and hopefully, you know, Hillary and her -- everybody else that supports her can now change the picture, but there's just a window opened up that allowed her to be painted with a...
KING JR.I mean, she just does, at times, and particularly now we see this playing out in the polling, draw out a visceral, negative reaction from particularly a certain segment of the electorate, and Geoff could talk to this because he does a lot of polling and looks at these numbers. But the case is now, she's actually doing pretty well among most segments of the society, and in some cases even better than Obama was at this point four years ago, but she's doing profoundly and markedly worse among white males in particular and particularly non-college-educated white males, where the negatives are just off the charts, and that is her main challenge right there.
MCGINTYLet's go to Lisa, who is in Jonesboro, Arkansas.
LISAHi there. I am a woman, a liberal progressive and a proud feminist, and -- but I've been a Bernie supporter up until now. I'm going to vote for Hillary, but I feel a little let down. I feel like I've sort of had to settle a little bit. And I was wondering if those who have been present at the convention have sort of felt any of that from other women, sort of this I want to be more excited than I am.
MCGINTYWell Lisa, let me ask you this, before we get to our panelists. Did Bill Clinton's speech last night not excite you a little more?
LISAIt did, but I felt like it was -- it did what it was supposed to do, but he's supposed to say those things, you know. I felt like, I mean, that's his job to say those things. And Bernie's endorsement really, really helped, and I'm definitely going to vote for her. I want to be more excited, and I just feel like it's been a little bit of a letdown.
MCGINTYAll right, Rebecca Sinderbrand, what do you think?
SINDERBRANDYeah, you know, it's interesting that dynamic inside the arena. We've seen over the course of the past two days it's been almost as though, you know, you've seen some Sanders supporters, some of his strongest supporters, at the convention working through the five stages of grief on a very accelerated schedule from anger and, you know, depression and so on and coming to some degree of acceptance for many of them.
SINDERBRANDOf course there is still a percentage that is never going to accept Hillary Clinton, never going to support Hillary Clinton, but many of those people who are not Hillary Clinton voters to begin with. We've seen in polls, and it's reflected to some extent here, even among kind of the Democratic stalwarts, a degree of we support Hillary Clinton, we're going to vote for Hillary Clinton, we wish we were more enthusiastic about voting for Hillary Clinton. And the question is how much that matters.
SINDERBRANDThe question is the turnout in the fall, whether these are people who, when push comes to shove, make sure they get to the polls, whether these are people who are going to volunteer for the Clinton campaign or for other Democratic candidates in the fall. That's the big unanswered question at this point, not whether they're going to kind of flee to Donald Trump as he's been trying to imply that they might. That's not going to happen, but the question is still would they show up for Hillary Clinton.
PITNERYeah, so I like that you mentioned the five stages of grief. I wrote a piece for the Beast about -- a couple months ago about a Sanders supporter who is a friend of mine, I call him Matt from Cleveland, and he was going through the five stages of grief. And one of the things I had noticed is the Sanders supporters, and my friend in particular, their enthusiasm was pegged on, like, a sprint, almost, like it was contingent on Bernie winning, and if Bernie didn't win, then the progress that Bernie made would disappear. And it's a longer game, what Sanders is trying to do, and the support that -- the policy changes that the DNC has shown, the respect they've given Sanders over the last couple days shows that the impact will continue.
PITNERAnd so there's -- I can understand, like, a lower level of enthusiasm for Sanders supporters, but they should be incredibly enthusiastic about the progress. It's almost like we're in the UK, and there's like a Labour Party, and they're, like, they're working with the Greens to, like, you know, have a majority to get things done.
MCGINTYMike in Chelsea, Michigan, you're on the air.
MIKEHi, thank you for having me on your show. I have one comment about the Bernie Sanders supporters. I realize that they are very disappointed in their, you know, candidate not getting nominated. But I was kind of disappointed in the 2000 election with Al Gore. George W. Bush got in, as we all know, and even though Al Gore got the more -- had more votes overall, and at least with Hillary Clinton I believe you have a better candidate than what we were -- settled with. That's pretty much it. That's...
MCGINTYAll right, thank you for the call, appreciate it.
KING JR.There's been a little bit of an aspect, I have to say, with the Bernie supporters of almost as if they're the first people in history to have been disappointed by an outcome.
KING JR.Okay, so there's some heartbreak, and I think there's a wide understanding of what that is. Maybe it's not ridiculous, as Sara Silverman pointed out at the convention the first night. But, you know, look at the unbelievable race that Hillary Clinton herself faced in 2008, which was infinitely closer race than the one that we just watched play out, and there was some serious heartache there, too, and I don't remember a lot of booing from the floor and walkouts and all the various stuff. They got over it, and, you know, politics is filled with that. There was a lot of it in Cleveland, too. There was a lot of heartache there. But I don't know why they seem to have discovered this phenomenon.
GARINAnd Derek, the Pew Research put out an analysis yesterday, looked at the 20 percent of the Democratic electorate that was most consistently and stronger for Sanders, and their analysis is that 90 percent of them are already planning on supporting Hillary, so things are coming together. And I would remind the previous listener that there are two more nights left of the convention, including President Obama and Hillary herself, so there is time left for her to get plenty excited.
MCGINTYLet's go to Winn in Virginia Beach. You're on the air, Winn.
WINNHey, can you guys hear me all right?
WINNAwesome. Well, first let me start off by saying I am a white male, and I'm calling from Virginia Beach, but I am a liberal progressive. I was a Bernie supporter, but I will probably vote for Hillary. So my two quick comments, I am wondering why the Hillary people didn't have her daughter do her more familiar introduction. It would have been kind of along that same message of a daughter introducing her mom. I feel like it might have been a little more effective.
WINNSecond part, I am wondering, I'm still waiting for a little bit more convincing that Hillary is going to be the change-maker, and I'm looking ahead to Cabinet announcements and wondering if we're going to see a lot more progressive people filling up those slots, people like Elizabeth Warren or Cory Booker or even Bernie Sanders.
MCGINTYAll right, let's talk about that. Rebecca, any thoughts on the possibility of Chelsea having done that speech last night?
SINDERBRANDYeah, you know, it -- we had to hear from Bill Clinton. I think one of the interesting kind of discussions that's been taking place is how to use Bill Clinton in this campaign just generally speaking, what sort of role he plays, very careful in how he's presented, that he's not being seen to kind of overshadow her. That speech last night was a very good balancing act and kind of making sure that he kind of steps to the background just a bit.
SINDERBRANDAnd I think that putting a little bit of distance in between his speech and his wife's speech is also something that kind of -- that's important. You know, you think of the conventions as kind of a four-act play, and so, you know, you don't necessarily want to have the former president and the presidential candidate necessarily in the same act, particularly when you're trying to kind of present her as someone in her own right and that Chelsea, of course, we're going to hear from her, as well.
SINDERBRANDAnd so we're going to hear more about that. I think one of the things of course we've heard a lot from progressives, they want to hear more details, they want to hear -- make sure that people like Elizabeth Warren are possibly going to be connected to any Clinton administration. That's the common -- so I think also hearing from Tim Kaine tonight, someone who some progressives have some questions about, is something else that's going to kind of go a little bit further in making people come to a greater level of comfort with their support for Hillary Clinton.
MCGINTYRebecca Sinderbrand is deputy national political editor at the Washington Post. She and Geoff Garin, a Democratic pollster, are on the phone with us from Philadelphia. Here in the studio, Barrett Holmes Pitner, a columnist with The Daily Beast and The Guardian, and Neil King, Jr., global economics editor and deputy Washington bureau chief at The Wall Street Journal. I'm Derek McGinty, and you're listening to the Diane Rehm Show.
MCGINTYThere were a lot of other speakers last night at the convention, and Geoff, I wanted to get your take on how they came across, especially the mothers who came out, the grieving mothers who had lost sons to violence around the country.
GARINIt was an incredibly powerful moment in the hall. I think it was impossible to watch without tears in your eyes. And I think it says a lot about Hillary that this is so important to her. In the -- you know, in the Republican convention, their -- they talked about one side of this, attacks on police, but they didn't look at the rest of the situation. And at our convention last night, certainly honored police, Attorney General Holder said that an attack on a policeman is an attack on all of us, and we had the police chief of Pittsburgh speaking, as well, but we didn't ignore what's going on in the real world, and Hillary, I think very courageously and in a heartfelt way, has leaned into this.
GARINAnd those mothers spoke -- you know, they obviously spoke as black mothers whose black children have been lost to us, but they spoke first and foremost as mothers in a way that I think most Americans would connect with and feel immense support for.
MCGINTYYou know, Geoff's really talking about the need for -- the balance of that equation, right. You support the cops, but you want to be sure that people are treated fairly. Neil King, how did they do with that balance last night, do you think, and how does that compare to what the Republicans did?
KING JR.The contrast between this convention and the Democrats -- I mean, the Republican convention in Cleveland is just so profoundly stark, and the Democratic one has been primarily about this whole inclusiveness, the, you know, extraordinary diversity of not only the country but the party as it tries to present itself. You know, they brought forward singers last night, actors. There were a number of disabled people that spoke, the 9/11 mom that talked in very powerful ways.
KING JR.You know, they've very distinctly, and a lot of Republican critics have pointed this out, have steered away from not only law and order issues in a kind of frightening way, in the way that the Republicans hit on so strongly, but they've also so far, and I think that'll begin to change tonight and tomorrow, steered away from terrorism, talk of threats abroad, and they've gotten a certain amount of criticism for that.
KING JR.But considering the Cleveland convention was so stark in the kind of drear that it presented and the sense of menace that hangs over the country and over the world, so far this convention has been really totally the opposite in terms of its tone.
PITNERYeah, I'd say the Republican convention, by and large, was based upon simplistic narratives, you know, for us, against us, good or bad, you know, America's, you know, going to be better or going to be worse, whatever. And the Democratic convention is all about complexity. It's been about there are so many different types of people in the United States, that we have unique issues, you know, there's African-Americans, white Americans, Latinos, Asian-Americans, disabled, you know, you know, class -- breaking different glass ceilings, celebrating the glass ceiling we broke before with the first African-American president.
PITNERAnd so this complexity has been on display for the whole two days, and I think how they chose to handle the Black Lives Matter and the black mothers speech kind of was indicative of that because they kind of reframed the conversation. They weren't saying it's for or against the police. Like we're a civil society, you need to have law enforcement, you can't -- you're not against law enforcement, but you can be for anything in your society needing reform, and you can also be for being empathetic towards mothers who have lost their kids in tragic circumstances due to gun violence or, you know, reckless policing or something.
MCGINTYYou know, these conventions are all -- you're always talking to your base, right, you're always -- those are the people who are mostly watching your convention. Geoff Garin, do you think you were able to reach past your base last night, into those independent undecideds, all three or four of them that might be out there?
GARINI think so. I think the stories were relatable, and look, you know, this -- one of the central questions that's going to litigated in this election is what do we make of America's diversity, and the Republican convention I think presented a very negative view on that question.
GARINAnd the Democrats took a strong stance for inclusion, and I think that that's where most Americans are, and I think that -- that the convention is presenting a case for inclusion...
MCGINTYAll right, I'm going to stop you right there because we've got to take a break, but coming up, we're going to have more questions, more phone calls. Stay with us.
MCGINTYWelcome back. I'm Derek McGinty, sitting in for Diane Rehm. And we are having a fascinating conversation regarding the Democratic national convention in Philadelphia, what happened last night, what's likely to happen tonight. The number here, 800-433-8850. My guest here in the studio, Neil King, Jr., of The Wall Street Journal, Barrett Holmes Pitner of The Daily Beast, on the phone with us from Philadelphia, Geoff Garin, a Democratic pollster, and Rebecca Sinderbrand of the Washington Post. Let's go back to our phone lines. Lynn in Cincinnati, you're on the air, go ahead.
LYNNI thank you so much for taking my call. One of the things I think this whole convention has kind of missed and even this wonderful panelist -- all the panelists even today, you forget about the struggle for a smart, intelligent woman coming through and mitigating Congress upwards. We talk about the glass ceiling, but we forget the path that women have to take. You can't be too -- too strong, you can't be, you know, too mild, you're always criticized, and you're usually always in a sea of one.
LYNNAnd then you're like Hillary Clinton, who has progressive ideas, and now she has to persuade you on every facet. I'm a nontraditional job, and you still, every day, no matter how good you do it, no matter how well you are, you're still trying to convince those who already know, qualifications is a given, to get where she is, qualifications is a given, but for many -- anyone with her qualifications now would've already been president many times.
MCGINTYLynn from Cincinnati, I think you make very good points, and I hate to do this, but I'm going to throw it to you, Rebecca, and see what you think.
SINDERBRANDSure, well, you know, this is something that we've heard, of course, from Clinton supporters again and again. They say look, you know, people who remember the fights, the battles of the 1990s to see Hillary Clinton have to kind of defend her liberal bona fides is kind of blowing their minds a little bit. One thing we've seen over and over in Hillary Clinton's career has been the fact that when she is seen to be kind of reaching for something, when she's running for office, when she's, you know, pushing the health care plan and so on, her popularity, her favorability ratings, and I'm sure that Geoff Garin can speak to this much better than I could, seem to fall.
SINDERBRANDAnd then once she's actually in the office, once she's not kind of seeming to be kind of reaching for something or in a more kind of ambitious mindset, those ratings begin to rise again. Now you can say that that isn't necessarily connected to the debate that people have had, and for people in the Clinton camp, they're convinced that that's the case. And so they kind of look past the election a bit, and they say look, once this campaign is over, they think those numbers will shift.
MCGINTYAll right, we will watch for that, of course. I want to shift gears here, though, and talk a little bit about this issue around the hack of the DNC emails. The New York Times has now said that American intelligence has high confidence that the Russian government was behind the hack, even though they're not saying that it was not necessarily to help Donald Trump in any way. What does that mean, though, for this campaign? This sounds to me like an issue that's not going away, Neil.
KING JR.You know, as if this campaign wasn't crazy enough, and it's been as crazy as any of us could ever have imagined, then we have this whole extra wrinkle of what appears to be overt Russian meddling in this kind of classic psy-ops kind of way that they do of gathering up a bunch of emails and then giving them to WikiLeaks, which also seems to be working in kind of concert here, and very deliberately releasing them on Friday morning right after the end of the Republican convention, right when Hillary Clinton was going to move forward on picking her VP and kind of take the stage, dramatically complicating over the weekend their storyline and then leading to the resignation of the head of the Democratic Party on Monday morning.
KING JR.And, you know, there's been a whole back and forth, is Russia really involved, are the fingerprints all that clear? Trump sort of made light of it on Trump. The Russian government themselves has denied it, but even President Obama this morning is pointing out that, you know, there is this sympathy between Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin. And it does for all -- I think there are forensic things that the FBI and others have looked at that have indicated actual, you know, digital fingerprints, but there is a long pattern of the Russians attempting to do this and get involved in other countries' politics, and...
MCGINTYBut I think the thing you mentioned that's key here is this -- what one Democratic person described as a bromance between Putin and Donald Trump. And I wonder to what extent that's a campaign issue.
PITNERYeah, we will find out how much of a campaign issue it is, but it looks like this definitely won't be going away anytime soon. You know, there were the first couple of days where all everyone was talking about was how this is going to impact the DNC, and right now it looks like it might actually have played out well, at least it appeased some Sanders supporters at the very least because they were not big fans of Debbie Wasserman Schultz, but now we have to investigate how this hack happened, where it came from, and now all these connections seem to be, you know, materializing, and we can't get rid of it.
PITNERAnd one -- especially if you think of, like, 2012, when Mitt Romney was talking about how significant Russia is for, like, a national security threat, and, like, America needs to be vigilant to this, the idea that Russia is -- maybe has some influence in taking emails and trying to influence American elections, like, that's pretty significant, and we, you know...
MCGINTYGeoff Garin, is that something that you're looking at as a possible campaign issue for the Democratic side?
GARINWell, I think what will be durable out of all of this over the course of three months is the -- the judgments that Donald Trump has expressed about Vladimir Putin over the course of the past year and sort of the recklessness of the positions on NATO and inviting Putin to be more reckless himself. The reporting has also been is that Putin has reason to be hostile to Hillary Clinton. She has stood up to him and to his -- his rule in Russia. So I think that what will matter over the long term of the campaign is, given that we are electing a foreign policy leader and commander in chief, the very different record of judgment and action with regard to Russia, which clearly is an adversary of America in a lot of ways.
KING JR.I think one of the things that is a real vulnerability for Trump here is that a chief calling card of his in this election so far is I am beholden to no one. You know, I don't bow down to my donors, I am profoundly my own man. If it somehow emerges, this plotline, that he's somehow beholden to the Russians or to Vladimir Putin, I think that could dent him in some ways.
MCGINTYIt's weird because he says I have no investments in Russia, as if that's the issue, and I don't know that that's what people are talking about.
KING JR.The issue has been -- more what people are looking at is whether the Russians have investments in him.
KING JR.That's -- whether they have put money into his...
MCGINTYLet's go to Nathan in St. Louis, Missouri. You're on the air, Nathan.
NATHANHi Derek, I really think that the limit of Hillary's appeal comes down to something that was brought up by a previous caller, which is traditional gender roles and sexism in our society.
MCGINTYOkay. Is that it? Thank you, Nathan.
PITNERYeah, I'd say there's, you know, you could say the same kind of limitations applied to Obama initially, too. There's an uncertainty about having an African-American. You know, something new people have certainties about that. But the, you know, there's 100-something days left and Hillary Clinton has a whole team of people vouching for her, you know, she's heavily qualified.
PITNERAnd so there should -- and the idea is that there would be enough time to kind of surmount those obstacles, to repaint the narrative. And Obama did many of that in 2008. And, you know, so it's kind of -- there's an extra hurdle that has to happen, but it's understood that maybe this hurdle has always been there and we just have to kind of jump over it.
MCGINTYAnd perhaps there's an advantage there, too, people knowing Hillary Clinton so well. Right? You -- when you get to know a person you get beyond some of the traditional ideas you might have about who they are and what they stand for.
PITNERYeah, if you know a person and you already have a track record of breaking one barrier, it makes it easier to duplicate and get people out to vote and change the narrative that the opposition would be painting. And so I think she's in a good position to fix it or, you know, change how people perceive her. But, you know, it's still (unintelligible).
MCGINTYAll right. Let's look at day three of the convention. Tonight, we have President Obama and we have Tim Kaine. Gonna be a big night, Rebecca.
SINDERBRANDAbsolutely. You know, hearing from President Obama and we're coming to this at a very interesting moment of course. President Obama has seen some of the highest approval ratings that he's seen in quite some time. And so that's a good time for, of course for him to be both addressing the people at the convention who are -- have always been very much in his court and people beyond. People in the rest of the country who may be kind of more receptive to his message than they might have been two or three years ago.
SINDERBRANDAnd also, Tim Kaine. He is the big unknown for a lot of people. You know, that's the big competition this year. Between Mike Pence and Tim Kaine, who is less known to the American people? So he's coming at this with a fresh slate. He's introducing himself to viewers who -- the overwhelming majority of them not only probably never heard him speak before, may not even know who he is. So it's gonna be a very important speech tonight.
PITNERYeah, I'd say tonight will be really important for Obama because this'll be, you know, a unique speech for him, where he's not speaking on behalf of himself. He's kind of gonna be Bill Clinton in 2012 in this one, to boost up Hillary Clinton. So seeing how Obama paints this campaign, paints his role shows what Hillary Clinton's capabilities are and how much he knows her from working with her will be really, really important. I think this speech that he will give is kind of the ones that people thought Bill Clinton would give. But, you know, Bill Clinton has a different role now.
MCGINTYYeah. Now, Geoff Garin, did the -- the bar was set pretty high by Mrs. Obama earlier in the week. Wasn't it? I mean, what does the President have to do here?
GARINIt was a fantastic speech. I think the President's insights about Hillary Clinton will be very important. But remember Donald Trump drew a very dark picture of what this situation in America is and essentially said the country is going to hell in a hand basket and doing that pretty quickly. And I think President Obama is uniquely positioned to talk -- to give a different perspective of where we are as a country and where we need to go.
GARINLook, if America accepts Donald Trump's vision of where we are, that's not gonna be very good for electing a Democratic president. And President Obama's ability to tell people, I think, in a compelling and persuasive way that America is moving more in the right direction, that there's a lot to build on here, will be very helpful setting the stage for Hillary Clinton and to a Democratic victory.
KING JR.You know, as Rachel's pointing out, I mean, he has 52, 53 percent approval rating now. That's generally a very difficult thing for another party to be running against. If he can convince -- not just tonight, but in the months ahead, those 52, 53 percent of America that his time in office should not be replaced by Donald Trump and that they should vote for Hillary Clinton, that will be obviously a very large forest. So far, the love that's going evidently in the approval ratings to Obama is not flowing at all evenly or equally to Hillary Clinton.
MCGINTYAll right. Fair point. This is -- you're listening to "The Diane Rehm Show." Let's take another phone call or two. Mark in Beaufort, N.C. You're on the air, Mark.
MARKYes. Good morning to everyone. I'm a white heterosexual male that identifies as a white heterosexual male. And I'm terrified that some of the top secret data that Hillary Rodham Clinton spilled through her email server might come up in this document dump that WikiLeaks is promising. Can you guys comment on that? Is that a legitimate concern? As we talk about the Russians and the role they're playing in this…
MCGINTYAll right. Let's talk about it.
KING JR.It's not the same stream of emails, though. What they're now talking about is evidently they have some Clinton Foundation emails. The emails that we've been talking about on the Hillary server and all that, that she did as secretary of state, has nothing to do with -- at least as far as we know -- of anything that WikiLeaks has gotten a hold of.
MCGINTYLet's talk about the final night of the convention for just a minute, where Hillary Clinton, of course, will give her acceptance speech and sort of paint the picture of where she wants to take the country and why Americans should support her and give her a second look. Last week, Donald Trump had to basically carry the whole thing. Right? The convention hadn't gone that well. You'd had Ted Cruz embarrass him halfway through.
MCGINTYSo Donald Trump had to come up there and basically rescue the thing. And a lot of folks would say that he was able to do it. That he did do that. Hillary Clinton, on the other hand, I think it's safe to say, depending on how things go tonight, is getting teed up. Right? Her convention's gone well. She's had star power. She's had her husband, the former president. Now, she'll have the current president and Tim Kaine. So she -- what does a person have to do or do expectations go extra high when you've been teed up by such a good -- a well-run and impressive group of folks?
KING JR.I mean, I hate to use the expression, but I think she, yet again, for all these years, a quarter century in political office, has to humanize herself and give people that kind of warm feeling that she occasionally does that all the people that are close to her -- and Geoff could testify to this -- say she has, but the public feels less of.
PITNERYeah, I think she's getting teed up, so there's high expectations. But Hillary Clinton also is not known for being a great public speaker. So there's a low expectation component in there. So she's kind of in the middle. But I hope that the speech that she gives paints the picture of like a progressive movement push -- change, where it's a collective.
PITNERIt's not just about Hillary Clinton being the person that can solve all the problems of the world, but it's the progressive ideology and the, you know, morals that is representative of each day of this convention and her -- like her life -- her span of work over 25 years.
MCGINTYRebecca Sinderbrand, we've heard from more than one Bernie Sanders supporter who say, I'll vote for her, but I want to be more excited. Is there something she can do in this speech to make people a little more excited?
SINDERBRANDYeah, that's a big question. You know, you'd think at this point in the cycle of her career that we've heard from Hillary Clinton virtually kind of every message that you can hear from a politician. A big part of the convention so far, and I think that we'll hear that from her as well, is making sure Bernie Sanders supporters feel as though they're being heard. And that their point of view is being represented.
SINDERBRANDAnd so we're gonna hear a lot of that from her, that message of inclusion when it comes to the party. The entire percent of the convention was of course devoted to that theme essentially. But reintroducing herself and kind of acknowledging, as we've seen her over the past few weeks and months doing, you know, her own kind of limitations in some areas where she doesn't connect with audiences necessarily as well as her husband does, where she has, by her own admission maybe, not given the sort of explanations and the sorts of reasoning that people wanted to hear about the decision-making in the past.
MCGINTYThe trust factor. The trust factor plays in there, doesn't it?
SINDERBRANDAbsolutely. And so, you know, we're gonna have to -- we're gonna hear a little bit of that from her as well. So she's got a tall order. She's got a lot of ground to cover. And we'll see whether she hits all those boxes.
MCGINTYRebecca Sinderbrand is deputy national political editor of The Washington Post. Geoff Garin is a Democratic pollster. They have both been on the phone with us from Philadelphia, where the convention goes into night number three tonight. Here in the studio with me has been Neil King Jr., global economics editor and deputy Washington bureau chief at The Wall Street Journal and Barrett Holmes Pitner, columnist for the Daily Beast and The Guardian.
MCGINTYThanks to all four of you. Fascinating conversation. There's a lot more to talk about and I'm sure we'll be getting to it as the week continues. I also want to thank all our callers here at "The Diane Rehm Show." I'm Derek McGinty. I'm sitting in for Diane Rehm. And I want to thank you for listening.
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