Does Trump’s divisive Phoenix rhetoric help his agenda?

Politics

JUDY WOODRUFF: So, there remains a lot to unpack from the president's expansive speech last night in Phoenix.

We turn now to Karine Jean-Pierre. She's a senior adviser to moveon.org, a contributing editor to "Bustle," an online women's magazine, and a veteran of the Obama administration.

And Matt Schlapp, he's the chairman of the American Conservative Union and the former White House political director for President George W. Bush.

And it's great to see you both with us again. Thank you very much.

Matt, I want to come to you first.

The president is talking unity today in that speech that he gave in Nevada. But last night–

MATT SCHLAPP, American Conservative Union: Yes.

JUDY WOODRUFF: — it was a raucous call. He was defending the way he handled Charlottesville. I was just talking to Congressman Hurd about it. His supporters in the audience loved it, but a lot of people who were listening say they were concerned about what they heard.

How did you hear it?

MATT SCHLAPP: Yes, I think that's what's going on in our politics and it's been going on for, I think, for too long. But we're in our corners. You know, the nation is very divided. The left has never been more left, and the right has never been more right.

And this president wasn't elected — at least his core supporters didn't elect him because they wanted to bring peace and unity to the country. They were spoiling for a fight because after eight years of Obama and what they felt being cut out of the system, they wanted to see some advances on the issues they care about. Donald Trump is actually the type of president that his voters asked him to be.

JUDY WOODRUFF: And, Karine, what does that mean?

KARINE JEAN-PIERRE, MoveOn.org: Well, that's kind of scary in that regard because as president, you're supposed to be a president for all, and he's being more and more divider in chief. I think what we saw last night was 75 minutes of woe is me, victimization, the usual Donald Trump. He seemed very detached from reality, also incredibly isolated.

And he tried to rewrite history on how he responded to Charlottesville by omitting all– many sides and both sides, and saying that very fine people, call — saying that about the white supremacists.

So, it was incredibly disturbing what we saw yesterday. But it's also not surprising. He was of script and speaking from his heart.

MATT SCHLAPP: Judy —

JUDY WOODRUFF: Let's listen — just one minute, Matt.

MATT SCHLAPP: Sure.

JUDY WOODRUFF: I want you to listen to a brief part of what the president had to say. This is on the news media.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: These are sick people. You know the thing I don't understand? You would think, you would think they'd want to make our country great again, and I honestly believe they don't. I honestly believe it.

If you want to discover the source of the division in our country, look no further than the fake news and the crooked media.

And I don't believe they're going to change, and that's why I do this. If they would change, I would never say it. The only people giving a platform to these hate groups is the media itself and the fake news.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

JUDY WOODRUFF: Matt, you were saying earlier the president is doing what his supporters elected him to do.

MATT SCHLAPP: Yes.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Is this part of that?

MATT SCHLAPP: Yes, absolutely. We've been fighting — conservatives have been fighting with the national media for a long time because they feel like they just don't get a fair shake.

If you look at the Harvard study that came out recently on news coverage, all the big networks and the big media outlets, it skewed way against Trump. It skewed way to the left. If you look at all the surveys of reporters and who they tend to vote for politically and their political leanings, it skews to the left.

It doesn't mean a Democratic and left-leaning reporter can't be fair, and I think it's very unfair to say — to talk about the media monolithically. And he brought that out in his remarks last night, too. But there are place where's a conservative, quite honestly, just can't get a fair shake.

This is not one of those. But there are some places where they can't and this is a 50-year battle that conservatives have had in this country.

JUDY WOODRUFF: How does this advance the president's agenda?

KARINE JEAN-PIERRE: It doesn't at all. And from what I can remember, the white supremacists that were marching in Charlottesville, they weren't pledging their allegiance to "The New York Times" or CNN. They were pledging their allegiance to Donald Trump. Some of them were saluting to the Nazi flag in his name.

And so, the fake news is coming from Donald Trump, or we are — we are essentially following everything that he is saying. So, we're not making this up. These are his words. All we have to do is play back the tapes.

JUDY WOODRUFF: The other thing I want to ask you both about is — and this is — quickly just listen to another excerpt of what the president had to say last night about fellow Republicans.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: Obamacare is a disaster, and think, think — we were just one vote away from victory after seven years of everybody proclaiming repeal and replace. One vote away. One, one vote. One vote away.

And nobody wants me to talk about your other senator, whose weak on borders, weak on crime, so I won't talk about him.

Nobody wants me to talk about him. Nobody knows who the hell he is.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

JUDY WOODRUFF: So, Matt, of course, the president is referring to Arizona's two senators.

MATT SCHLAPP: Right.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Jeff Flake who he was just talking about. And Senator John McCain —

MATT SCHLAPP: Right.

JUDY WOODRUFF: — that one vote on health care, who by the way is undergoing chemotherapy right now for cancer.

MATT SCHLAPP: Yes, #indisputable. One vote away.

And think about it, two of those votes, both Senator Murkowski and Senator John McCain, went around this country — John McCain featured it in his television ads that he would lead the charge to repeal and replace Obamacare.

And it's worse than what the president said. There are actually six Republican senators who switched their vote on a copycat vote. In 2015, they voted to repeal Obamacare, knowing Obama would veto it. This time, they didn't vote that way because they knew it would become law. Why did they go around this country for seven and a half years saying they would repeal it?

JUDY WOODRUFF: But what I'm curious about, Karine, is how does this help the president to be going after members of his own party?

KARINE JEAN-PIERRE: It doesn't at all when Congress —

MATT SCHLAPP: But you kind of enjoy it, don't you?

KARINE JEAN-PIERRE: Hey, it's great.

MATT SCHLAPP: OK.

KARINE JEAN-PIERRE: I have popcorn for days to watch this madness. But when Congress comes back in September, Donald Trump's going to be a very lonely person. And the reason why Obamacare failed to be repealed and is still the law today is because Trumpcare was so unpopular. The only thing more unpopular than Donald Trump was Trumpcare.

MATT SCHLAPP: This is, this is-

KARINE JEAN-PIERRE: And, remember, he only needed 50 votes. Not 60.

MATT SCHLAPP: That's right.

KARINE JEAN-PIERRE: Fifty. And they couldn't get that number.

MATT SCHLAPP: And we have 52 Republican senators. This is a fight my party has to have. We won't push aggressively for our agenda, our supporters start to wonder why they put Republicans in at all.

JUDY WOODRUFF: So does that justify or explain the president's — what was reported to be — this shouting match, angry conversation between Mitch McConnell —

MATT SCHLAPP: Having — we both served in different White House administration, but I cannot tell you how many times word spread when the president, the vice president, or someone senior in the staff had harsh words with someone on the other end of Pennsylvania Avenue.

JUDY WOODRUFF: You're saying this has happened before.

MATT SCHLAPP: It happens all the time. Remember Trent Lott? You know, there was all that controversy. So this is not uncommon.

The only difference in the Trump era which I don't like is these spats tend to wind up in the pages of magazines and newspapers. I wish there was a little more discretion. I don't know who's guilty on that front, but the White House sure has been leaking a lot, previous to General Kelly.

JUDY WOODRUFF: But it does raise a question, Karine, is this president going to get done what he wants to get done, whether it's — I'm going to say it for Matt, tax reform, infrastructure work.

MATT SCHLAPP: That's right. Health care.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Health care.

KARINE JEAN-PIERRE: Oh, gosh!

JUDY WOODRUFF: Is this going to advance?

KARINE JEAN-PIERRE: I just think it makes it very difficult for him. But I have to say Republicans have been enabling him. I think even though there was a spat, if you will, that was reported in the paper last night, they are still going to be lockstep with Donald Trump. I don't see any scenario where they are not.

MATT SCHLAPP: We need to have this fight. We need to learn as a party that — I give you guys great credit in the Obama administration. You got the agenda through. Even when you couldn't get it through Congress, by hook, by crook, by phone, by pen, they got it in.

Republicans, we are much more timid. We're so afraid we're going to rankle people. That's why we turn to Trump. We're tired of that because it doesn't — it doesn't end up in results. They want to see results. Maybe this won't work, but maybe it's our only way to actually get things done.

JUDY WOODRUFF: But nothing timid about this president.

KARINE JEAN-PIERRE: But you guys, they obstructed for eight years and they were very successful. There's a reason we have Justice Gorsuch and not —

MATT SCHLAPP: The American people gave Republicans majority and they acted in that way. We're good at obstructing. Let's see if we can actually govern.

KARINE JEAN-PIERRE: Well, you haven't been able to do that.

MATT SCHLAPP: I agree with you.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Matt Schlapp, Karine Jean-Pierre, we'll have you back to continue this. Thank you both.

MATT SCHLAPP: Thanks, Judy.

KARINE JEAN-PIERRE: Thanks, Judy.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Thank you.

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