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Amy Walter and Susan Page on Trump’s embassy move

Amy Walter of the Cook Political Report and Susan Page of USA Today join Judy Woodruff to discuss President Trump’s political calculus in moving the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, the president’s tweet about potentially helping a Chinese telecom company hurt by U.S. sanctions and the outcomes of last week’s primary contests.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    From the president's announcement the U.S. will reconsider sanctions on a Chinese phone company to the opening of the American Embassy in Jerusalem, there's a lot of news today with potentially far-reaching political fallout.

    To discuss it all, I'm joined by Amy Walter of The Cook Political Report and Susan Page of USA Today.

    Politics Monday. Welcome to both of you.

    So, Amy, this festive celebration today in Jerusalem. The president promised, I'm moving that embassy to Jerusalem. It's happened, celebrating there, but a few miles away big protests on the part of the Palestinians, more than 50 dead. What about the political calculus for the White House?

  • Amy Walter:

    Yes, I think that this was clearly something that the president, like many things he talked about on the campaign trail, campaign promise that he wants to show Americans he can keep.

    And this is especially important for a group of voters that have been the most consistently supportive of the president, and that's evangelical voters, who have seen this decision to move the capital — the embassy — excuse me — to Jerusalem as really a high point in the president's tenure.

    We talk a lot about these evangelical voters and how do they find a way to square the president's behavior with his presidency, and I think it really is on things like this, where, on the policies, they see somebody that is supporting them and fighting for them in a way they haven't seen in other presidents, even Republican presidents who were more outwardly religious.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Susan, how do you see the upsides, downsides politically?

  • Susan Page:

    It's certainly true, as the White House side, that other presidents had promised to do this or had supported the idea, and then not followed through.

    But the reason they didn't follow through was because, once you're actually president, you can see the costs involved, the costs involved in these deadly protests we saw in Gaza, also the costs involving in the U.S. role going forward as an honest broker in the Middle East.

    That is now gone. I think it's unlikely that the Palestinians will be willing to see the United States as an honest broker in negotiations for the rest of the Trump presidency.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Well, another development we have seen in the last few days was an international component, Amy.

    And that is the president's surprising tweet over the weekend that he wants to negotiate a better deal for this Chinese telecom giant called ZTE. He's now — the administration now worried they're losing a lot of jobs. They want to renegotiate everything.

    So, the question is — this is the president who talks about America first, America first, but here he's worried about Chinese jobs.

  • Amy Walter:

    Right.

    Whenever we talk about President Trump, we try to talk — people like us talk about policy and we try to put it in this nice little context of what it's going to mean.

    I think, for so many voters, what they do is they see President Trump through the prism of his personality, not his policies. And so for plenty of voters out there who supported the president, they said, he's a businessman, he's a negotiator, he's going to figure it out. This is how you negotiate. You give them a little, they give you a little, and you finally come out with a better deal.

    So they are not going to see this as, wait a minute, you're giving away something to the Chinese, especially something that has far-reaching consequences when it comes to security issues?

    And then, if you're opposed to the president, you say, well, we told you so, right? This is a guy who said he was going to be a great negotiate, he doesn't know what he's doing, he's giving away jobs, or at least he's putting more emphasis on Chinese jobs, and not as concerned about security as he should be.

    But, at the end of the day, the policy piece is really filtered through whether you believe that he's going to be able to deliver on his promise.

  • Susan Page:

    Let me disagree with you.

  • Amy Walter:

    OK.

  • Susan Page:

    Which is that I can see a campaign ad in the making, saving Chinese jobs? And if you can see an ad in a place that didn't get manufacturing jobs back, the way the president promised when he campaigned there in 2016, and instead protected Chinese jobs, and with a very controversial way, a company that is linked to the Chinese government, that has been identified as posing a cyber-security threat.

    Their products cannot be sold on U.S. bases because of — for fears for how they can be manipulated.

    So I think this is a perplexing step by the president. And I would be, I guess, surprised if he ends up following through on it. I wouldn't be surprised if they pull back in a major way from what he promised to do.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    I noticed he's tweeting today trying to clarify.

  • Amy Walter:

    But isn't that's what we have seen all along, right?

    The tariffs come out, and then the tariffs have caveats. And then the decision comes out on Twitter, and then it gets sort of cleaned up afterwards. I think this has been part of the course.

    But even — I think it's going to take something pretty significant, in other words, a real bite out of people, whether it's the tariffs. We heard that there's going to be all this uproar in the heartland because farmers are upset about these tariffs, these people who supported the president.

    And yet you don't see a real loss of support from the president there. When I talk to some of the folks out there, the sense is, we trust him to do the right thing.

    Now, if that turns out not to be true, then I would agree with you. But I think for now there's still a sense that we hired him to do this kind of job, for the people who support him. If you don't like him, it doesn't matter what he does. You're never going to give him credit for anything.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Speaking of the heartland, Susan, the voters were actually — they're starting to speak. We're starting to see primary contests out there.

    Last week, you had, what, West Virginia, Indiana, Ohio, North Carolina, tomorrow, a primary in Pennsylvania and elsewhere.

    Are we seeing any patterns here? I know it's early. It's still may, the election finally in November, but are we learning anything from this?

  • Susan Page:

    I think we're seeing a lot of Democratic energy both in the primaries and especially in the special elections.

    The special elections, even the ones the Democrats didn't win, they perform so much better than they did two years ago. It's given Democrats, I think, a lot of hope that this is a good year for them.

    Pennsylvania, a state that has a primary tomorrow, an important state to look at, because you remember they had to change all their congressional lines because of a gerrymandering case. They have had some Republicans retire.

    They have got, I think, 18 congressional districts. And I think that maybe five of them, according to The Cook Political Report, might be flippable for Democrats. They might pick up five seats just in Pennsylvania. They need to pick up 23 to win control of the House. Picking up five seats would get you a long way there.

  • Amy Walter:

    And adding on to that, the candidates who may be the nominees here on the Democratic side, they are women in every single one of those districts.

    So you could see a state that right now has zero women in the delegation actually having five potentially in the delegation. And, you know, one of the story lines of this year is the energy among women voters, the candidates.

    A lot of these women who are running here are first-time candidates. They have never done anything like this before. They were brought out of the woodwork by the last election.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And a lot of them going up against incumbents, who are historically tough to beat, but a lot of story lines we will be following in the months to come.

    Amy Walter, Susan Page, Politics Monday, thank you.

  • Susan Page:

    Thank you.

  • Amy Walter:

    You're welcome.

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