Veteran diplomat Richard Haass turns from foreign affairs to threats from within. He argues Americans focus so much on rights we forget our obligations as citizens -- and the country is suffering because of it.
Guest Host: Indira Lakshmanan
If there were two unifying themes to the third night of the DNC it was this: why Donald Trump is not qualified to lead the country and why Hillary Clinton is. A series of speakers – Vice President Joe Biden, former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, and Clinton’s running mate Tim Kaine – hammered home both points and offered some of the most pointed attacks yet on the Republican nominee’s character and credentials. But President Obama was the man of the night. He painted a hopeful and optimistic America which is in stark contrast to the one Donald Trump describes, and Obama delivered a full throated endorsement of Hillary Clinton. Guest host Indira Lakshmanan and her panel discuss the latest from the DNC.
- Lisa Lerer National politics reporter, The Associated Press
- E.J. Dionne Jr. Senior fellow, Brookings Institution; columnist, The Washington Post; author, "Why the Right Went Wrong: Conservatism--From Goldwater to the Tea Party and Beyond"
- Lara Brown Political scientist and associate professor, Graduate School of Political Management, The George Washington University; author, “Jockeying for the American Presidency: The Political Opportunism of Aspirants”
- Clarence Lusane Chair of the political science department, Howard University
MS. INDIRA LAKSHMANANThanks for joining us. I'm Indira Lakshmanan sitting in for Diane Rehm. President Barack Obama stole the show on the third night of the Democratic Convention, making a rousing and urgent case for Hillary Clinton, calling her the most experienced woman or man ever to seek the presidency, including himself and her husband. He and other speakers, notably billionaire businessman, Mike Bloomberg, an independent and former Republican, unleashed the harshest takedowns yet of Republican nominee, Donald Trump, citing his history of bankruptcies and unpaid bills and questioning his sanity. Meanwhile, hundreds of miles away, Trump stirred his own buzz, encouraging Russia to hack into Hillary Clinton's emails.
MS. INDIRA LAKSHMANANTo talk about what it all means, I'm joined in the studio by Clarence Lusane of Howard University and Lara Brown of George Washington University. And joining us by phone from Philadelphia at the convention, E.J. Dionne of The Washington Post and Lisa Lerer of The Associated Press. Thanks to all of you for joining us.
MR. E.J. DIONNE JR.Great to be with you.
MS. LARA BROWNThank you.
MR. CLARENCE LUSANEThank you.
MS. LISA LERERThanks for having me.
LAKSHMANANAnd to all of you out there listening, we want to hear from you. You can join us any time in the hour by calling us on 1-800-433-8850. You can also send us an email to email@example.com. Or you can join us on Facebook or on Twitter at drshow. So E.J., I want to start with you. The president spoke last night on the 12-year anniversary to the day of his debut on the national stage as a keynote speaker for John Kerry's 2004 convention. It felt, to me, like we were seeing some of that same campaign fire that's often been subdued while he's been in the Oval Office.
LAKSHMANANPlus, this message of optimism and unity and an American dream that he said can't be contained by any wall, a reference, of course, to Donald Trump's call for a wall dividing us from Mexico. What were your takeaways?
DIONNE JR.Well, first, you know, President Obama owed a great debt to the Clinton family because at the Democratic Convention four years ago, probably, I think the best speech at the convention on behalf of Barack Obama, including, by the way, Obama's acceptance speech, was President Bill Clinton's case for President Obama's reelection. He more than paid that back last night and so, by the way, did Michelle Obama's speech, which I think was the turning point of this convention.
DIONNE JR.Before she spoke, there was a lot of scratchiness. There continue to be some, you know, some rebellious Bernie Sanders delegates, but on the whole, the convention turned. And I think it was classic Obama in the sense that it was this combination of rational argument and almost evangelical preaching. The line that will always stay with me is when Obama said, we don't look to be ruled, you know. He said another point -- at the same point, our power doesn't come from some self-declared savior promising that he alone can restore order.
DIONNE JR.And it was just a very pointed statement about Donald Trump, seeming to fashion himself after a kind of European far right or a Latin American strong man who is going to save the country from disorder. He took that on. But the other thing he did is he was just utterly unambiguous in his praise of Hillary Clinton and when he said that she is the most qualified person ever to run for president, there was that nice little moment where he said, sorry, Bill, to former President Clinton.
DIONNE JR.So it was definitely a victory. And the biggest problem will be that he may well overshadow Hillary Clinton who speaks tonight, much as Bill Clinton kind of overshadowed Barack Obama four years ago. But that didn't hurt Obama and I don't think that speech, even if it does overshadow her a little bit, will do anything to hurt Clinton.
LAKSHMANANWell, let's talk about what it might do to help her. Lisa Lerer, you've been there all week. People, of course, have said that First Lady Michelle Obama would be a very hard act to follow after that heartfelt appeal that she gave for Clinton, talking about being a mom of daughters and how she wants them to see the possibilities. But the president, as E.J. said, gave his own quite emotional appeal, testifying not only to Hillary's experience, but to her heart. I was struck by that line. He said, yes, she's made mistakes, but she did it because she's been trying. She's been in the arena actually working. So tell me, did he make a convincing case, an argument for the Hillary doubters?
LERERWell, look, I was struck by that line as well, that she's someone who's been really -- struggled in this campaign with questions about her honesty, with questions about her trustworthiness and he sort of brushed those away. He acknowledged them and said, okay, but that's not enough of a reason for Democrats, his argument was, to vote against her. I mean, this was a really important moment for Hillary Clinton. Not only was it a passing of the baton, you know, that nice video at the end of her coming out and hugging.
LERERThe two embracing. But she's basically running -- the way she wins is be resurrecting the coalition that twice boosted President Barack Obama to victory. So young voters, women and minority voters. She's been spending her entire campaign appealing to those groups. No one appeals to them better than President Barack Obama who still has really high popularity ratings. So having him come out and back her and tell his supporters to back her is a really powerful thing for her.
LAKSHMANANWell, Lara Brown, there were a lot of people online, I noticed last night, who were comparing Obama to Ronald Reagan and his Republican, of course, but very optimistic vision of morning in America, our country as a shining city on a hill. Is that a fair comparison?
BROWNWell, I think it's certainly a fair comparison in the sense of their tone and their, you know, talking points toward what America looks like, the fact that it is a great nation, the fact that it is something that should be sort of reveled in and celebrated, not sort of torn down or focused on the negative. But that being said, I think one of the things that is different, is especially if you're looking to say 1988 when Ronald Reagan was passing the baton to George Bush, Sr., we were in a different place, economically and in terms of sort of world powers.
BROWNI mean, Russia was obviously -- I should say the Soviet Union, at that point, was obviously starting to crack and there were questions about that leadership. And I think what we're seeing and what a lot of the Republicans sort of have expressed thus far is that while Barack Obama's speech was incredible, he hit it out of the park, he was really talking from a democratic point of view about what our policy looks like. Most Republicans would say, great speech, completely disconnected from reality.
DIONNE JR.Can I something real quick about that?
LAKSHMANANYes, E.J., go ahead.
DIONNE JR.One of the things that I noted last night and it was definitely in Obama's speech. It was also in Tim Kaine's speech when he said, you know, if you're looking for the party of Lincoln, we are wide open. The convention is not trying to say Donald Trump is your typical Republican. It is really trying to open its arms to those many, many Republicans -- and I'm sure we'll get to it, particularly after Donald Trump's invitation to Russia to hack Hillary Clinton's emails -- it was saying Republicans, come to us at least for this election, while your party is under the control of this very strange and dangerous guy.
DIONNE JR.And in that sense, that was another, I thought, Reagan-esque aspect to the Obama speech. Reagan was very good at communicating with potentially dissident Democrats. That's where the term Reagan Democrats comes from. And I think there was -- the Democrats made a choice last night to really try to call some of those Republicans over.
LAKSHMANANWell, E.J., you make a good point and I want to bring Clarence Lusane in because, in fact, the president did sort of talk about the party as a big tent. He did refer to the party of Lincoln, meaning the Republicans and sort of make an overt call to people who might be disaffected Republicans who don’t see Donald Trump as their leader. They also made a -- he made a call out to, you know, the Bernie people as well. But, you know, tell me what your thought is on that. Can he actually peel away those independents and those Republicans by saying, we're a big tent, we're a big party, come join us?
LUSANEYeah, I think so. I think that has been one of the significant goals of the convention is not to just say we have problems and we have different solutions, but that we look at the world very differently. And part of that is aimed at the Democratic base, but also at those independents. That's why Mike Bloomberg was there who gave, I thought, a really effective speech. That's why Joe Biden was there to address these white working class men. So I think there is a collective effort on the part of the Democrats at this convention to say to come back.
LUSANENow, part of it -- and I'm want to pick up on the point that Lara raised is this notion of how do you view the country? Is it in a very dark kind of place, which is what came across at the Republican Convention, or is the country really great? And I think the Democrats have to be careful and say that the country is great-ish, meaning that it's not the dark place that the Republicans talk about, but we also recognize that there are issues that have not been resolved by either Republicans or Democrats.
LUSANEAnd if we address those issues, if we're honest and straight forward, then the tent becomes wide and it becomes open to not just traditional Democrats, but also those who have moved into and see themselves as independent and they're trying to figure where they're at coming off the fence.
LAKSHMANANWell, Clarence, the president, of course, compared Donald Trump to a demagogue and said Americans don’t need to be ruled. Briefly, before our break, tell us how effective was that line of attack.
LUSANEWell, there is an issues going into last night of whether or not President Obama would actually even mention Donald Trump's name. This is his last hurrah, this will be...
LAKSHMANANHe's been "he cannot be named" until now.
LUSANEHis last great speech and do you want Donald Trump's name peppered through that? But I think he felt such an urgency to identify the danger that Donald Trump represents that he did call him out by his name and said, you know, this guy is not prepared. This guy is irresponsible and, of course, this was echoed in other talks by the other speakers.
LAKSHMANANYeah. Okay. Well, we will -- we'll hear more about that. We're going to take a short break. I'm going to look forward to hearing your comments and your questions. You can call us on 1-800-433-8850. Stay with us.
LAKSHMANANWelcome back. I'm Indira Lakshmanan, a columnist for The Boston Globe, sitting in for Diane Rehm. Joining me in the studio today to talk about last night's Democratic Convention, Lara Brown, associate professor and interim director of the Graduate School of Political Management at George Washington University, and Clarence Lusane, chair of the political science department at Howard University. And by phone from the convention in Philadelphia, Lisa Lerer, national political correspondent for the Associated Press and E.J. Dionne, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution and a columnist from The Washington Post.
LAKSHMANANSo right before the break we were talking about how effective was President Obama's attempt to reach across the aisle to talk about the party of Lincoln and sort of praise the past of Republicans and try to get present-day Republicans in. Lara, I want to hear from you, how do you -- how effective do you think the speech was of another former Republican himself who actually spoke, Mike Bloomberg, former mayor of New York, who now identifies himself as an independent?
BROWNWell, I think, for those delegates in the hall, it wasn't very effective. If you looked at the people in the hall, they weren't very excited or interested. They were, in some ways, a little bit skeptical of what he was saying. But...
LAKSHMANANWell, remind us some of the key points that he made.
BROWNWell, what he was talking about was his own past and his sort of differences with both political parties. He actually did say at one point that he said Democrats had obstructed on education reform. And so that was one of those moments that generated some boos from many of those in the arena. But I think it's important to realize that he was really talking to those voters who are watching on television and who are thinking about, what choice am I going to make come November? And he was really looking to say, I know Donald Trump as a businessman. I've worked with him in New York. I know who he is. And he is not a respected individual in this business community.
LAKSHMANANWell, what were the exact words he used? So he's speaking to independents. He's speaking to Republicans, even some who are not watching on television but who are going to read the news reports the next day in The Wall Street Journal. But, you know, I was struck that he -- the words he used. He said, Donald Trump says he's going to do for America what he did for his business. God help us.
BROWNGod help us.
LAKSHMANANYou know, and he says, I'm a New Yorker and I know a con when I see it. He also basically said that Donald Trump was insane, I mean, by saying that you need to vote for the sane and competent candidate. He's saying the other one is neither of the above. And I was struck at how incredibly dismissive he was. I mean, he's of course one of the richest men in America, a billionaire. He seemed to be saying, Donald Trump's not that. He's cheated people. He's refused to pay workers. So, you know, do you think he's going to reach those independents and the Republicans, the people on the fence?
BROWNWell, he also said, he didn't start with a million dollars from his dad...
BROWN...like Donald Trump did. And I think what he was arguing to, you know, these voters is that, look, Donald Trump's not who you think he is. And I can tell you about him very powerfully because I've seen him, I've known him. We've been in Manhattan together. I also think that, yes, he will be effective. But he'll be more effective as clips of his speech are used in Democratic ads come this fall. That's where a lot of the things that he said are going to hit home and they're going to hit home in those battleground states where people really are deciding, which way do I go?
LERERYeah, I also think that this is the beginning of something we're probably going to be seeing a lot of in the fall, which is an effort by the Clinton campaign to bring out prominent Republicans, prominent independents and have them offer testimonials for Hillary Clinton.
LERERThey have a whole department within the campaign of people focused on winning over Republicans and using Republicans who approach them, high-profile people, elected officials, business leaders, military leaders -- we've seen some of these people come out already -- and using them effectively to win over independents and Republicans, particularly in places like the suburbs of Columbus or, you know, the suburbs of Denver, places that really can swing a state or swing an election. We haven't -- we've seen some of that. We haven't seen that much of it because there was a concern about rolling out these people before the primary was totally complete. They didn't want to inflame the anxieties of the liberal wing in their party that supported Bernie Sanders.
LERERNow that's over. The party presented, after sort of a rocky first day, a pretty convincing picture of unity here at this convention. So I think we're going to start to see more Michael Bloomberg-type officials emerge. And, you know...
LAKSHMANANInteresting. Can you give us a preview of some...
LERER...the way one Democrat explained it...
LAKSHMANAN...who some of those might be?
LERERWell, I don't, you know, I don't have a list of names quite yet. And I -- they're keeping that pretty tightly held, right? Because if you have -- if you're the Clinton campaign and you have a very high-profile Republican backer, you don't want to roll that out until, you know, September or October, when people are really plugged in to the election. But the way one Democrat explained it to me, which I thought was interesting is, if a Republican stays home, that's one vote for Hillary Clinton. If a Republican goes out and votes for her, well, that's two votes for Hillary Clinton.
LAKSHMANANThat's kind of funny math. I'm not sure about the math. But...
LERERIt is funny math. But the goal is to, you know, depress Donald Trump's turnout.
DIONNE JR.Lisa made a great point in terms of Republicans and independents for Clinton. I think Republicans for Clinton is going to be one of the most interesting political groups in the united States. Because there really are a lot of them. And while many of the neocons who really can't stand Trump may be reluctant to go all the way to Clinton, there are a lot of Republicans who are already there. People like Brent Scowcroft, President George H.W. Bush's top foreign policy advisor and one of his best friends. Richard Armitage, another prominent Republican foreign policy figure. And I think these folks will be rolled out.
DIONNE JR.What's interesting is, I think, in most elections in recent years, you haven't had a lot of cross-party voting. People vote pretty party line these days. In this election, the split is much more along class lines. And so I think you will have a significant number of white, college-educated Republicans -- particularly women, but also some men -- who will either publicly or quietly be Clinton supporters.
DIONNE JR.In the meantime, you have working-class voters, some of whom have been Democrats, who are very tempted by Trump. In some of the polls he's doing very well among these voters. And that's where you saw Joe Biden deployed last night I think particularly to speak with them. It was, for those of us who've followed Biden for a long time, it really was fun to see him yell out the word malarkey. That was a Biden-ary...
DIONNE JR....if ever there was one. And to really say, how can you support this guy who stiffs his carpenters, his plumbers? This is no friend of the working class. Obama made that point. But I think there are going to be very different tracks here. But Republicans for Clinton is going to be as interesting a group as, say, if I could bring that up again, Democrats for Reagan were back in 1980.
LAKSHMANANMm-hmm. Well, Lara has passed me a not that one of the high-profile Republicans who is going to be saying some good words for Hillary Clinton from her information, is a former Bush Secretary of Treasury Hank Paulson.
LAKSHMANANSo that will be...
LERERYeah. He's already been out there. He was -- he published an op-ed in The Washington Post.
LERERYou know, one interesting thing that -- another interesting element of this is whether these Republicans vote Democratic down the ticket. What I've heard sort of anecdotally from strategists is they're seeing something pretty unusual this election cycle -- and, you know, not surprising, it's a pretty unusual election cycle -- which is that people are voting for the presidential candidate of one party and a Senate candidate of the -- or saying they support the Senate candidate of an opposite party. They're splitting their ticket. And that's not something you generally see. Who knows how widespread that will be.
LERERBut one reason that people are giving in these focus groups for wanting to do that is saying, well, I'm going to vote for whoever -- Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton -- but frankly I don't like them all that much, so I want to check on what they can do. So I'm going to vote for the Senate candidate from the opposite party. You know, it's a reflection of how unpopular both these candidates are at the top of the ticket. It's also a bit -- the rationale is a bit strange, because one thing that, you know, we hear a lot -- those of us who follow this -- is how unhappy everyone is with nothing getting done in Washington. And that doesn't really seem like a recipe for...
LAKSHMANANThat doesn't bode well, does it?
LERER...bipartisanship. But, you know, it gives you a sense of where voters' heads are and how the choice that many people feel they have to make is not one of, you know, throwing their support and being excited about the candidate. It's one of picking the choice of, you know, the lesser of two evils.
LAKSHMANANThat's a fascinating...
DIONNE JR.You know, that's an important point about what this...
LUSANEYeah, can I...
DIONNE JR....this convention is about. Because I am persuaded that there is some give in the Hillary Clinton favorable numbers. She fell in one poll down to 28 percent after the Comey intervention and the things Comey -- the FBI director said.
LAKSHMANANThe FBI director, about her emails.
DIONNE JR.But at one point -- at various points in her career, she has been as high as around 66, 67 percent favorable.
LAKSHMANANBut those were two times, E.J.
DIONNE JR.Now there's no way she'll ever get back.
LAKSHMANANLet's remind people, those were two times. The two times were at the height of the Monica Lewinsky scandal, when she had sympathy from the public, and as she was secretary of state, when she was seen as a more...
DIONNE JR.Absolutely right.
LAKSHMANAN...bipartisan figure. But Clarence wanted to jump in.
LUSANEJust quick point. So one of the fundamental laws of politics is that you don't go after a candidate's weaknesses, you go after their strengths. And using Mike Bloomberg was really smart.
LUSANEBecause what they're going after is his business acumen. And the best person to kind of -- to tear that apart is another billionaire. And Donald Trump pretty much got away with this through the whole primary season where the other Republicans simply did not raise these issues, some of which E.J. mentioned and that we've been talking about. But you're going to hear a lot of that, because a lot of Donald Trump's support is based on this mythology that he's created that he's this super businessperson who's resolved all of these economic issues, when in fact when you pull the sheets off of that, you see a disaster in the making.
LUSANEAnd so I think they're very smart to do that. And we're going to see a lot of that, particularly, I think, aimed at working-class voters, particularly in swing states.
LAKSHMANANAnd also at businessmen, I suppose.
LERERIt's also a little bit of psychological warfare here. The one thing we've seen time and time again in this election cycle is that Donald Trump really does not like it when people question his wealth or his business acumen.
LERERThat just sets the guy off and he'll react and he'll lash out in ways that are unpredictable and often counterproductive for his campaign. That has not gone unnoticed by Democrats. And you see Democrats and Hillary Clinton and now, I think, this will be a role that Tim Kaine will step into. It's certainly a role the vice president typically takes, try to bait him into these conflicts by talking -- by questioning his wealth, questioning -- saying things like, well, maybe he's not releasing his tax returns because he doesn't have as much money as he says he does.
LERERThat's all designed to get him into -- get him to say things that he probably shouldn't, that may cost him the votes of these moderate, independent Republicans in these pivotal swing, suburban counties (unintelligible)
DIONNE JR.That's so right. And you're going to see a lot of Elizabeth Warren for that reason, because nobody seems to get under his skin quite like Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts.
LAKSHMANANOr as he calls her, Pocahontas.
LAKSHMANANI'm Indira Lakshmanan, and you're listening to "The Diane Rehm Show." So, Lisa, you brought up Tim Kaine. And I'd like to ask you, what did you make of his performance last night? Did you think he did well? And what constituency is he bringing to the table?
LERERWell, so the thing that's been so notable about Tim Kaine -- and this is his second major speech -- he, of course, had a -- on Saturday, he was in Miami with Hillary Clinton for his formal unveiling -- is just what's always -- what's striking to me is just how normal he is. He seems like very down to earth. He's very folksy. And he's very positive. And he really comes out with a positive message that we're just not hearing, a sense of sort of happiness to be up there on the stage, that we haven't been seeing from other officials this election cycle.
LERERWhat was particularly interesting to me last night wasn't so much he went after Trump. That's generally what a vice president does. The idea is to make the vice president be the attack dog so the person at the top of the ticket can seem more presidential by rising above the political fray. But he also mentioned something that nobody -- said a word that nobody else -- none of the other speakers had said, which was the "T" word, trust. And he talked about how he would trust Hillary Clinton with his son's life -- his son is being deployed overseas -- and how the country should trust Hillary Clinton.
LERERThat's a really important thing for her. That's her biggest weakness in this election cycle is that she just cannot get those honesty, those trustworthy numbers to improve all that much. So having her out there and having -- having, sorry, having him out there in this role as sort of validator-in-chief is something I think we're going to be seeing a lot. And, frankly, he -- the campaign thinks he's the right person to do it because he just seems like such an average guy, compared to Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, both these, you know, very rich millionaires who live in New York City.
LAKSHMANANWell, their focus-grouping certainly seems to show that he comes off as a regular, trustworthy, nice guy. That video showed him living in the same modest house that he's lived in for so many years and showed his sort of working-class roots. But, you know, there were also some people making jokes about him, about his sort of like awkward dad delivery of the way he tried to mock Donald Trump. And he had some pretty kind of groan-worthy lines in there...
LAKSHMANAN...like, you know, believe me, believe me, we should feel the Bern and not get burned by the other guy. So I wonder if they're not -- they're probably not going to be using him on the late-night comedy circuit I suspect.
DIONNE JR.Although you know what's funny about that...
LERERWell, and I was also -- I already started wondering who would play him at SNL, you know?
LERERThe people at SNL are having a field day. And of course, like all...
LAKSHMANANI know. I know the guy in my mind. It's Tamron, what's his name?
LAKSHMANANYeah, that guy. It's got to be him.
LERERAnd of course like, you know, many things in politics, this is all a construct too, right? Like he went to Harvard Law. He married the daughter of a former governor of Virginia.
LAKSHMANANOf a governor. A Republican.
LERERA Republican, which of course was a point he made, getting back to what we were saying before about Republicans supporting -- appeals to Republicans supporting Hillary. But, you know, in politics, how you present really matters. And he presents...
DIONNE JR.Well, although, you know, what's interesting, two things. One is, yes he did end up at Harvard. But he also got their by way of the machine shop and the University of Missouri.
DIONNE JR.I think his time as a Jesuit volunteer...
DIONNE JR....which, for non-Catholic purposes, is translated as Christian missionary, was -- although I've never seen somebody look for shout outs to Jesuits at a convention.
LAKSHMANANWe've come a long way since Kennedy, haven't we?
DIONNE JR.But, you know, the goofiness of the believe me, I actually think, in some ways, was the most effective part of that speech. Because I think it was so wonderfully goofy that it's going to be funny when Trump actually says believe me, which he says all the time. And I think Kaine sort of attached a ball-and-chain to that believe me. That people are going to hear Tim Kaine precisely because it looked kind of goofy. But it was funny for being goofy.
LAKSHMANANSo, Clarence, a theme that came up last night was something Lisa kind of referred to obliquely, talking about Tim Kaine said he would trust Hillary Clinton with his own son's life, who's been deployed overseas. That theme is national security. Tell us a little bit about Leon Panetta's speech.
LUSANEYeah. I think the speech by Panetta could have been much stronger. I think I might have...
LAKSHMANANHe was, of course, the former CIA director...
LUSANE...the former CIA director...
LAKSHMANAN...and defense secretary.
LUSANEAnd certainly, you know, as secretary of state, Hillary Clinton was, you know, the top person in the administration on foreign policy. Now, of course, there were hiccups along the way, in part because we're in the kind of world where you've got world wars, you've got terrorism, you've got climate change, you know, you've got a range of issues that no one has an answer to. So you're going to be a target regardless of your skills and talents. But I thought that the Democrats could have did much better and certainly Panetta could have done much better in highlighting some of the strengths that the former secretary of state brought, while acknowledging there are still difficulties in this still very dangerous world.
LUSANESo I think, going forward, they're going to have to be much better, particularly as the debates come up and as international incidents emerge, in presenting her experience, her knowledge, her capacities -- some of which is what President Obama, I think, tried to clean up by saying, she's been in the room, she's been there when these decisions have been made.
LAKSHMANANAnd both of them said that she was key in pushing the president to go after Osama bin Laden.
LUSANEOsama bin Laden.
LAKSHMANANSo they tried to give her credit for that. And, you know, credit for having been in the Situation Room. All right. We're going to take a short break. And when we're back, we're going to go to your calls and your questions. Stay with us.
LAKSHMANANWelcome back. I'm Indira Lakshmanan, a columnist for the Boston Globe, sitting in for Diane Rehm. Joining me in the studio are Lara Brown, associate professor at George Washington University and author of "Jockeying for the American Presidency: The Political Opportunism of Aspirants," and Clarence Lusane, chair of the political science department at Howard University and author of "The Black History of the White House." Joining us by phone from the convention in Philadelphia, Lisa Lerer, national political correspondent for The Associated Press, E.J. Dionne, Washington Post columnist and author of "Why the Right Went Wrong: Conservatism--From Goldwater to the Tea Party and Beyond."
LAKSHMANANBefore the break, we were talking about national security. And I'm struck about, you know, Clarence, you know, you are interested in how the rest of the world thinks about Donald Trump, and that's something that President Obama brought up last night.
LUSANEYeah, this has unfortunately not been given as much attention as I think it needs to, but the international community is as focused on this election as anyone here in the United States, and there's a great sense of alarm. I was in New Zealand and Australia last week, and 100 percent of the people I talked to wanted to talk about the election and their anxieties and, indeed, fear of a Trump presidency given the kind of reckless, irresponsible, off-the-cuff remarks that they've heard from him during this campaign season.
LAKSHMANANWell, the latest thing was his call on Russia yesterday to hack into Hillary Clinton's email and give the FBI whatever emails have disappeared.
LUSANEYeah, this is kind of unbelievable that you would hear this from anyone, let alone the nominee of the Republican Party, particularly the Republican Party that's attempted to always present itself as the adult in the room on foreign policy, That it's got the edge on Democrats because it's responsible, and it takes, you know, foreign policy seriously, and you've got a candidate who clearly does not.
LUSANEHis explanation now, that he was being sarcastic, makes it even worse, that you have this international platform, and rather than take the responsibility of speaking in a measured and critical and an informed way, you just speak, and whatever comes out of your -- out of your brain at the moment.
LUSANESo that is very dangerous.
LAKSHMANANAll right, well let's take a call. We've got Stan from Richmond, Virginia, on the line. Stan, please go ahead.
STANYes, good morning. In fact I was wondering about that very item, thinking about it with folks here talking. It seems that -- it's been reported that Hillary Clinton's private server has been taken offline and in fact is no longer existing in its former state. When Trump said hack -- or he didn't say hack her email, he said find her emails. So her emails were deleted. He can't be calling for them to hack her server because according to her, those emails no longer exist. So my question is why do we keep saying that he's saying hack her emails when he actually said find her emails, and of course we're all saying that they don't exist, those 30,000 emails are gone.
STANSo either they don't exist, they're still there, and we're suggesting that he's saying they should hack her current server or that...
LAKSHMANANOkay, all right.
STANYeah, I don't understand why we keep saying it.
LAKSHMANANThank you, Stan. I think probably the issue is that -- the point is that he made the call. Whether or not it's something that realistically could be done, it's the idea that he was calling on espionage by a foreign nation, and this is of course against the backdrop of Russia being suspected, according to the U.S. national security establishment, intelligence community, of having hacked the DNC emails. Lara?
BROWNWell, I was just going to say I think that's right. I think the assumption is that Donald Trump, in saying what he said, believed that essentially her server had already been hacked and that they were holding on to those 33,000 emails that have gone missing.
LAKSHMANANActually it's not 33,000 emails, I just want to correct that, but anyway.
BROWNOkay, well that's what he was saying, right, it's important, and that essentially he was saying please release those. But I think what we're talking about from a national security standpoint is he is basically saying, you know, hey Putin, help me win the election, and that is really a bigger problem because...
LAKSHMANANWell, he has praised Donald, you know, he has praised Vladimir Putin.
DIONNE JR.That is so right. I mean, this is truly astonishing. I don't think there can be any covering over or minimizing what happened yesterday, which is to have a candidate for president of the United States calling on a foreign power to conduct any kind of espionage against an American, an American citizen of any kind, let alone a candidate for president of the United States, is just absolutely astounding. Can you imagine if this had happened during the Cold War, if the party situations were reversed, and there were a lot of Republicans out there -- I mean, the Capitol Hill was silent, the Republicans were aghast.
DIONNE JR.Paul Ryan's aide put out very strong statement, although Ryan himself seemed to be silent, unless he's spoken since I last looked. You know, the Republicans are aghast about this. They were critical of Hillary Clinton for her reset with Russia, but this goes way beyond that. And I think that what this all opens up is a lot of good reporting, I hope, that will be coming on exactly what is Donald Trump's relationship with Putin, with Russian businesspeople and just his own public statements in praise of Putin.
DIONNE JR.This is a really extraordinary thing, and I don't think we can minimize this.
LAKSHMANANI noticed that...
DIONNE JR.And as E.J. points out, I mean, it's particularly extraordinary because it's Russia. I mean, this is a country that we have a long, very weighted history with, that we still have very difficult relations with and that has a history of weighing and getting involved in foreign powers' elections. So to make...
DIONNE JR.And Putin happens to be an ex-KGB guy just by the way.
LAKSHMANANUnder the Soviet Union, when it still existed.
DIONNE JR.Yes, exactly.
LAKSHMANANAnd the fact that he has of course expressed, I mean, Donald Trump has expressed admiration for Putin, he has said that Iraq would be better off if Saddam Hussein had never been ousted, the fact that North Korea's Kim Jung-un has, and this is true, not "The Onion," actually praised Donald Trump, I think that's -- all fits into this same sort of narrative of what is Donald Trump on foreign policy.
LAKSHMANANLisa, I want to ask you because Donald Trump has been trying to paint Hillary Clinton as both negligent over Benghazi and a warmonger in Libya, Afghanistan and Iraq. So is national security going to be a winning issue for her?
LERERWell, I mean, certainly her campaign thinks so. They see her as someone who can, you know, provide a steady hand, that has experience on these issues. Their argument is basically that the Benghazi attacks and the email server, that those are already baked into the cake, that they're sort of a Rorschach test for voters. People who don't like Hillary Clinton already see those as big issues, people who do like Hillary Clinton see them as sort of, you know, right-wing conspiracy sort of things.
LERERI'm not sure that that's quite true. I think they feed into this larger narrative of questions about her honesty, questions about her trustworthiness, and those are things that she has begun starting to -- begun to address head-on last month in -- in a speech in Chicago she acknowledged the fact that a lot of people don't trust her, and rebuilding that will take a long time. But it's also not something that can be fixed with one convention speech or even a four-day convention. This is a big problem for her, the fact that Americans don't trust her, and it's something that if she wins will be a problem for her in the White House, as well.
LERERSo I think she'll have to start dealing with that, and certainly national security will play into that argument. It's also going to play into their larger narrative about Trump, which is that he's erratic and unfit and untrustworthy.
LAKSHMANANAll right, I want to bring in one of our listeners. This is an email from Katie in Mechanicsburg, PA, which is near Pittsburgh, and she says that she's a 29-year-old white woman and a proud independent since she was 18 until this primary season, when she changed to Democrat to vote for Bernie Sanders. She says that before the convention she was undecided on how she was going to pull the lever in November, leaning towards third party, but after watching the convention, she's so repulsed by the Republicans and impressed by the Democrats, at this point, she says, they have convinced me that Hillary Clinton -- they have not convinced me that Hillary Clinton is good, but they have convinced me that Donald Trump is much, much worse. Clinton will now mostly likely get my vote in November, she says.
LAKSHMANANAnd then we have two pretty interesting emails, one from Rita in Cincinnati, Ohio, who says, yeah, there have been a number of Republicans who come out for Hillary, you could call them high-powered. But what I call them is out-of-touch-with-real-people elites. All they do is reinforce for blue-collar people why they hate her.
LAKSHMANANAnd similarly, a listener, Ted in Durham, North Carolina, says it's smart for Hillary to present herself as the sane, centrist choice, but could her campaign rely too much on prominent Republicans like Hank Paulson, involved in the 2008 bank bailouts? Does that mean she's going to be taking her left flank for granted, E.J.?
DIONNE JR.That's -- those are very interesting emails. There are several things that were going on here with the Bernie supporters. I think the Bernie supporters on the floor are divided into three kind of groups. This is my impression from walking around the floor the other day, that there are people who have been in politics for quite a while, and not necessarily as elected officials but as union officials and others, those folks moved to Clinton pretty quickly, and I think the Clinton campaign couldn't have asked for more from Bernie Sanders. He really made an organic argument that the two sides had come together substantively around a lot of issues.
DIONNE JR.There were some other Bernie supporters who I think were people who have come to politics more recently, who take defeat hard. Everybody takes defeat hard, and it takes a while to get used to it. And there is a third group that is quite left of center on that floor. I've been joking that the back of the California delegation is Petrograd. You know, they're the people who are shouting out, you know, against, you know, against for example Leon Panetta last night, and so there will be some...
LAKSHMANANWho is from California himself, his own...
DIONNE JR.I'm sorry?
LAKSHMANANI said who's from California himself, of course.
DIONNE JR.Right, and there will be some Bernie voters who are going to vote for Jill Stein. I think that the first email reflects where a lot of Bernie people will be at the end, but I agree with the last email that Clinton's going to have to be very careful about the establishment support that she is going to pick up. And one thing I would have liked to have seen more of at this convention, we saw some of it last night from Tim Kaine and Joe Biden, is more outreach to the white working class and more effort to say wait a minute, the problems facing white, working-class voters are very similar to the problems facing working-class Latino and African-American voters because the -- Clinton can theoretically win without winning Michigan, Ohio and Pennsylvania, as long as she carries Florida, but that really narrows her path.
DIONNE JR.These states are very important, and I think there's a moral case that the Democratic Party, which is the part of FDR and Harry Truman, cannot walk away from any part of the working class. So yes, she does have to be careful about some of this Republican establishment support.
LAKSHMANANI'm Indira Lakshmanan, and you're listening to "The Diane Rehm Show." All right, let's take a call from Miriam in Arlington, Virginia. Miriam, go ahead.
MIRIAMHi, thanks so much for taking my call.
LAKSHMANANThanks for calling.
MIRIAMThank you. I'm a Green Party member. I have, whenever I had the opportunity, voted Green, very proud to have voted for Ralph Nader. But at the same time, I really do believe that the Green Party has taken a role of swaying the vote in local elections and around the country, and we are independent thinkers. And I think that Bernie Sanders made a great effort coming aboard the Democratic Party and pushing forth a very liberal platform, something progressive.
MIRIAMAnd I now believe that it's time for Jill Stein and the Green Party to put their boots on the ground for Hillary Clinton.
MIRIAMI also think it's time for Hillary Clinton to recognize that there is a third party out there and that the information and the ideas that they come up with year after year are typically adopted by progressives.
MIRIAMBut she is going to get...
LAKSHMANANAll right, well there we have a Green Party person who voted for Nader saying she's going to vote for Hillary, and all of her fellow Greens should do the same. Lara?
BROWNWell, I think that's certainly a worthwhile point of view and will be the case for some of these individuals. I have said actually in print that at the end of the day, I think many people who want to vote for a third party, if they believe that this election is at all close, and their least favorite candidate could win, rather than their second-favorite candidate, they will in fact vote for one of the major two parties. So it's only if a third -- a potential third-party voter believes that the election's a lock one way or another that they're going to, if you will, allow themselves to waste a vote...
LAKSHMANANTo have that protest vote, all right. We have a comment on Twitter here from a listener, Jay, who wants us to talk more about gun control and that emphasis, and I think that a caller here, Nigel from Silver Spring, also has a comment about what more he wants to hear about. Nigel, go ahead.
NIGELHi, thanks for having me, appreciate it.
NIGELI was curious to know (inaudible) and hearing her arguments with Bernie Sanders concerning the criminal justice system pertaining to blacks. Now I guess my question is, will Hillary continue to pick up this totem pole? Will she pass it on to someone to represent her and the feelings behind it? Or will, again, will she just pick it up and continue to speak on it because, I mean, there is a small portion, not a small portion, maybe a big portion, of people who are still waiting to hear something, something (inaudible).
LAKSHMANANAbout police brutality, okay, thank you, Nigel. Clarence, in the short time we have left, talk about that, the Black Lives Matter, police brutality, gun violence.
LUSANEYeah, well, we certainly saw at the Democratic convention an effort to address that issue and in to some degree a balanced way. President Obama, for example in his speech, and I think Michelle in her speech, you know, both talked about the police and the protestors. So, you know, they wanted to send a signal that, you know, there's a legitimate reason for people to be raising some of these issues, and President Obama actually has a long history around that, but you also saw at the convention a very prominent role for African-American women.
LUSANEDonna Brazile, who is becoming -- who has become the interim chair, you know, there were others who were there, as well. And so I think, you know, on that side of it...
LAKSHMANANAnd the mothers of male and female victims.
LUSANEAnd the mothers -- and the mothers of the victims who were able to give a presentation. So I think there was a very significant understanding on the part of the team Hillary that, you know, these issues are going to have to be critical -- critically addressed both during the campaign but also moving forward. And you look at the platform, it also addresses some of these issues.
LAKSHMANANAll right, I want to bring up, a listener here on Twitter says there was a big messaging problem last night. Everyone saying that America is so great aren't thinking about the disenfranchised and unemployed who don't feel any better when they hear that. And an email from Michael in Washington, D.C., who says okay to all these speeches in the programming, but does it even matter? Is anyone watching? Do we have reliable viewership, or is it just the press and partisans who are watching these conventions?
LAKSHMANANE.J., we just have a minute left. Give us your thoughts.
DIONNE JR.It is true that over the years partisans have tended to watch the conventions more than everybody else. I saw some figures yesterday that in the early days, the viewership of the Democratic convention was 25 percent, roughly, higher than of the Republican convention. And just to pick up on that, real quick on that point about the left out, the hurt, Obama went out of his way in his speech to talk about them. And I think it is a problem that Democrats are going to have to navigate, which is to say this country is in way better shape than Donald Trump says, but we acknowledge the problems that remain to be solved. And that's the line Hillary Clinton's going to have to walk.
LAKSHMANANAll right, that's E.J. Dionne, Washington Post columnist and Brookings Institution senior fellow. We also hear from Lisa Lerer, national politics reporter at The Associated Press, Clarence Lusane of the political science department at Howard, and Lara Brown of George Washington University. Thank you so much to all of you for joining us today. Thank you to all of our listeners for tuning in and sharing your thoughts. I'm Indira Lakshmanan, sitting in for Diane Rehm. Thanks so much for listening
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