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Tamara Keith and Amy Walter on climate change and pandemic politics

NPR’s Tamara Keith and Amy Walter of the Cook Political Report join Judy Woodruff to discuss the latest political news, including the differences between President Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden on climate change and what the Trump campaign’s willingness to hold large indoor rallies says about Trump’s perspective on the pandemic.

Read the Full Transcript

  • Judy Woodruff:

    With exactly 50 days until Election Day, the presidential campaigns are offering two very different messages on the wildfires and on coronavirus.

    Our Politics Monday team is here to examine it all and more. And that's Amy Walter of The Cook Political Report and host of public radio's "Politics With Amy Walter" and Tamara Keith of NPR. She also co-hosts the "NPR Politics Podcast."

    So, hello to both of you. These wildfires, so tragic to watch them. They have exposed the differences again in views between President Trump and Joe Biden, Amy, on climate change, the president saying today science doesn't know, Joe Biden calling the president a climate arsonist.

    What is driving these very different messages?

  • Amy Walter:

    Well, Judy, these messages really reflect the polarization of our country as well.

    In fact, when you look at where Americans are on the issue of climate change and the impact that climate change is having, both for, like, personal reasons, but also its impact on the economy, will it make it harder if we implement climate change policies to keep the economy going?

    And what we saw — this was a recent Pew poll — that about half of Democrats say, you know what, changes to take care of climate change are going to help the economy. Half of Republicans said it is going to hurt the economy.

    And that's kind of where you see the president and where you see Joe Biden, right? Joe Biden is saying, if we fix these things, we're going to create new jobs. You hear the president saying, hey, guess what is going to happen in Joe Biden's America? We're going to get rid of the jobs that so many people rely on, whether they're fracking in Pennsylvania or coal mining in West Virginia.

    Where most Americans are, though, is more closely on the side of Joe Biden on the issue of climate change. And especially those suburban voters that Donald Trump says he wants to win back over, well, for them, climate change is a reality.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And yet, Tam, we heard — we heard it earlier in the show in Lisa's report, the president saying to the panel of experts there in California, he said it's going to get colder, just defying what the science shows.

  • Tamara Keith:

    Yes, right, and saying that science may not be right on this.

    And that is completely and totally on brand for President Trump. This is a message that he's campaigning on. It's not a gaffe if you say it on purpose and it's what you believe. And President Trump is very much — he's pulling the U.S. out of the Paris climate accord.

    He is saying that, if Joe Biden wins, that — as Amy said, that Joe Biden would put you back in the Paris climate accord, and that would hurt the economy.

    President Trump has repeatedly shied away from climate science. And what Joe Biden is trying to do and what he did with that speech and what he's been doing in other venues is essentially saying that President Trump is anti-science or doesn't go with the science, and that that is putting Americans at risk.

    Joe Biden is trying to combine the concerns about climate change with concerns about the handling of the coronavirus.

    For President Trump, as Amy says, if you look at the polling, you have in the — according to a Pew poll, the number of Republicans who think that climate change is a very big issue is in the teens. So, President Trump, for his base, this is a perfectly fine message.

    And, of course, for Joe Biden's base, his message is right on right on cue and could help motivate young voters who care about this issue a lot.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And then, Amy, still related to science, of course, is the pandemic, the coronavirus.

    Joe Biden is going — he's wearing a mask wherever he goes. He's criticizing the president. The president continues to hold rallies, most recently in Nevada, defying the state rule or regulation, law against wearing masks and against having over a certain number of people indoors, just directly flouting what he — what the rules are.

  • Amy Walter:

    And what so many Americans also agree with.

    I mean, Judy, if you ask the question of voters, do you think that we should be wearing masks, do you wear masks, overwhelming majorities agree with both of those sentiments, and they do wear masks.

    We saw this in the conventions too, Judy. It kind of felt like we are living not just in two different Americas, but in two different planets. On the Democratic side, their Democratic Convention, everyone was wearing masks, both Joe Biden and Kamala Harris speaking to empty rooms, right, going out, socially distanced, as they were watching their fireworks on the day of Joe Biden's speech.

    And, of course, Republicans gathering on the White House lawn. The president really loves a crowd, and he wants a crowd, and he believes that you can't campaign without bunches of people around you cheering for you.

    It is not, however, what Americans are doing. And it is not within, as you pointed out, Judy, where scientists would like us to be.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And, Tam, at the White House, the Trump camp, they don't see this as taking a risk?

  • Tamara Keith:

    They don't see it as taking a political risk.

    The message that they have — and they're pushing it hard, and I think it works absolutely fine with their base. And I think we keep getting back to, it's all about the base this election, at least the way the president is handling this.

    But their response is, well, if there can be protests in the streets about racial justice, then we can hold a First Amendment event in states that say that we shouldn't be having a large event. And they are just doing it repeatedly and repeatedly.

    Tonight was supposed to be a — it was billed as a town hall panel discussion kind of thing, and it's a rally. So, the White House — this is the campaign. The campaign is putting on rallies. And they are doing them indoors. They had been saying they were only doing them outdoors.

    Well, this swing through Nevada and Arizona proves that they're not afraid to do it indoors either. And part of that is that there may not be a direct line that can be drawn from one particular event to someone getting coronavirus. And so they're just sort of taking a hands-off approach.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And in just a couple of seconds, Amy, I heard one of the folks attending the Trump-Nevada rally outside telling a reporter, this COVID is a hoax.

    There's still that belief out there.

  • Amy Walter:

    There is.

    And there's a lot going on, especially on the Internet and social media, that is really keeping Americans also in very different places about the reality of this very, very serious health crisis.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Well, we're seeing — we're certainly seeing a lot of it this week.

    Tamara Keith, Amy Walter, we thank you both. Politics Monday.

  • Amy Walter:

    You're welcome.

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