This inauguration, usually a time for unity, defies precedent

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    That brings us to Politics Monday this inauguration week with Tamara Keith of NPR and Susan Page of USA Today.

    Great to see both of you on this Monday.

    Tam, let me start with you as we — before we get into any of the specifics, inauguration week for this incoming president, how does it look at this point?


    It looks like it's going to happen.



    His team says that he is still working on the speech, still refining it.

    We have no idea what that speech will say, though they promise he will talk about bringing Americans together. But he's also giving a speech the night before at sort of a pregame rally and event for supporters. And then, of course, there will be protests the following day.


    What should we look for, Susan?

  • SUSAN PAGE, USA Today:

    I think this has been a remarkable period since the president-elect won the election two months ago, because, usually, this has been a time when Americans kind of come together, there's this era of kind of good feeling, at least for a little while.

    We haven't seen that with this. We have seen really a continuation of the rhetoric we heard during the campaign, and some of the divisions have persisted. And Donald Trump is going to be inaugurated with the lowest approval ratings of any president since we started to take polls.

    So, this is going to be — we overuse the word unprecedented when it comes to Donald Trump, but there are many ways in which this period of time has been unprecedented.


    And part of that, as we have been discussing and reporting earlier in the program, Tam, is this back and forth over the weekend between Congressman John Lewis, who said he didn't view Donald Trump as a legitimately elected president because of the Russian interference in the election, but then Mr. Trump's coming back at him and saying, you should be doing more in your own district.

    What are we to make of all that?


    And also saying that he's all talk, talk, talk, and no action, which many people took issue with, given that John Lewis is a civil rights hero, icon.

    So, this is the latest instance of which you could basically go every single week for the last year-and-a-half of Donald Trump taking a fight, you know, taking an opportunity to strike back at someone on Twitter, getting into a Twitter feud.

    Last week, it was Meryl Streep. This week, it's John Lewis. Many times, he's gotten into feuds with people who you would consider to be people that you wouldn't want to touch, that, politically, it's just not worth going there.

    But Donald Trump, you know, he will not just sit back and let someone insult him. And the way John Lewis did insult him really hit him in a soft spot.


    Susan, is there evidence that this kind of response on the part of the president-elect helps him in some way?


    Well, it may help him with his core supporters who have elected him maybe in part because he is so combative, because he never fails to counterpunch if he thinks somebody has taken a punch at him.

    And there are even some defenders of John Lewis who think Donald Trump is still the legitimate president — that's a very serious charge to make against someone who is about to take the oath of office — but that he is a figure of such respect, of such iconic status in the United States from the civil rights struggle, that he was a particularly inappropriate person to have a counterpunch.

    And now we have more than two dozen members of Congress saying they will boycott the inauguration ceremonies. Now, sometimes, members of Congress I think haven't shown up, because who would notice if every member of the House was there?

    But this has now become a rallying cry and another sign of the divisions that Donald Trump will face when he moves into the White House.


    Tamara, how much should Donald Trump, who is a Republican — will be a Republican president, be concerned about his relationship with the African-American community? I mean, after all, this is not a group of voters who supported him.



    And this continues. By about a little more than two-thirds in a new Pew poll of African-Americans say that they do not approve of the job that Donald Trump has been doing in his transition of explaining his policies or where he's going. That's far worse than he ranks with white voters, for instance.

    So, this is a problem. It's a problem that Donald Trump has, at least on some level, tried to address. He brought Steve Harvey to Trump Tower. He talks about wanting to help. But almost always, he focuses on, well, I want to help urban centers. I want to help crime-ridden urban areas, which many in the African-American community have been hearing him say throughout the campaign, and hearing it as an insult and sort of misunderstanding the fact that large numbers of black people live in the suburbs, for instance, and are quite affluent.


    But, today, he did meet with the son of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Susan.


    He did. And, of course, this is — this would have been, I think, the 88th of Martin Luther King Jr., and so a good day to meet with his son and to think about some of the issues that Martin Luther King raised.


    Well, I want to turn to something else that Donald Trump said in one of the interviews he did over the weekend with The Washington Post — and, Susan, I will start with you on this — in which he said, in so many words, that he supports — they were talking about health insurance and what's going to happen to Obamacare.

    And he said — he promised insurance for everyone. How are we to interpret this?


    So, a revelation, I think, to all of us, including congressional Republicans who work on this issue.

    Health care, what a tough issue. We saw that with the passage of the Affordable Care Act. But in this interview with The Washington Post, Donald Trump said he would have insurance for everybody, it wouldn't be a single-payer system, it would be a great system and less expensive.

    So, if that's true, that would be terrific. But people who work in health care say that is a really tough thing to do. And we think that it's possible that he is — we're moving toward is health care access for all, not coverage for all.




    Access to all is something that Paul Ryan, the House speaker, has talked about.

    And that would still be an achievement, but an easier thing to do than coverage for all.


    And, Tam, I wanted to ask you. What Susan brought up is that how does this square with what Republicans have been saying they want to do about health care?


    Right. What she said, universal access. There's a big difference between coverage for all and universal access.

    And one thing that Republicans have talked about a lot recently is how President Obama said, if you like your plan, you can keep your plan, if you like your doctor, you can keep your doctor. And they point out that that simply proved not to be true.

    And Donald Trump and his team are tiptoeing very close to making promises that in the not-so-distant future could be held against them if it doesn't become a reality.

    I think lots of people would love to have health insurance for everyone. Many people would like to have health insurance. But, you know, Donald Trump also said that he had a great plan for knocking out ISIS, and then he never really said what that plan was. We will have to see.

    He says he has to wait for Tom Price, his health and human services agency director, to be nom — or to be confirmed, and then he says right away that plan will be clear. So, I think we have to wait to see the plan.


    And just finally, in a few seconds, Susan, his incoming health and human services Cabinet secretary-designate is in a little bit of hot water right now.


    That's right, a story that CNN first reported that he bought some — when he was a member of Congress last year, he bought some stock in a bio-med company, then a week later introduced some legislation that would help that company, and then got a campaign contribution from that company.

    Chuck Schumer, the Senate Democratic leader, has called for an investigation of that. And it comes in the wake of a Wall Street Journal story last month that reported about stock trades that Tom Price had done.


    Well, watch this space. We will see where that goes.

    Susan Page, Tamara Keith, thank you both.


    Thank you.


    You're welcome.

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