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Tamara Keith and Amy Walter on Trump picking a Tulsa rally amid protests

NPR’s Tamara Keith and Amy Walter of the Cook Political Report join Judy Woodruff to discuss the latest political news, including pressure on President Trump to respond to nationwide protests over American police violence, the public health concerns and political implications of Trump’s upcoming Tulsa rally and whether presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden is suffering for lack of publicity.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    As President Trump gears up for his first campaign rally since the pandemic hit, we take a look at the political pressures on him to act on police reform.

    Our Politics Monday team is here to analyze that and more, 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."

    Hello to both of you.

    It is Monday. A lot to talk about.

    We have just learned, Amy, that, in this executive order President Trump will be signing tomorrow, the White House putting out word that it will say something about training, something about transparency, about information-sharing, and about community policing. We don't know many details.

    How much pressure is there now on President Trump to do something about police reform?

  • Amy Walter:

    Judy, there is a lot of pressure on him.

    I mean, I think many of us have been surprised at how quickly this issue not only rocketed up to the list of issues that Americans say they are concerned about. I just saw a CNN poll out the other day that showed this as the number one issue for voters.

    Obviously, many more Democrats see this as a top issue than Republicans. But, still, it was ranked higher even than COVID. And I also think we have been surprised at how quickly Americans' opinions, specifically white Americans' opinions, not just about police, but also racism writ large in this country, have changed in such a short period of time.

    And the president needs to get with the right side on this issue. Right now, Joe Biden is seen as having an advantage on handling race relations — again, this is a CNN poll — by more than 30 points. So the president wants to come out, understandably, very quickly, put something out there as an executive order.

    Congress is going to, in all likelihood, get to this some point — this issue at some point in July, which will give the president another opportunity to sign something.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    So, Tam, you cover the White House.

    If you're President Trump or one of the people around him, how do you look at this issue?

  • Tamara Keith:

    Well, President Trump has really been going back and forth on what his message is and who he's delivering that message to.

    He is someone who his campaign ran an ad during the Super Bowl about criminal justice reform. But, at the same time, he wants to be the law and order president. And he's speaking different two different constituencies.

    But, clearly, as Amy says, the fact that the White House has rushed, has worked hard on this executive order, the fact that the president is, according to officials, going to be calling on Congress to do more just is a sign of the pressure that he's under to show that he's doing something and isn't simply focused on law and order or individual cases.

    That said, whether he ties this into the larger idea of systemic racism that the protesters are marching about, or whether he really makes this about the few bad apples, which is what he's been talking about, that there are a few bad cops, I think that remains to be seen.

    It seems much more likely that he's going to lean on the side of, well, let's root out the few guys that are trouble.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Meantime, Amy, the president continues to say he's done more for African-Americans than any — at one point in the last few days, he's better than Abraham Lincoln, it sounded like what he was saying.

    But, Amy, I want to ask you about this rally, first campaign rally he has had since the pandemic began. It's going to be in Tulsa, Oklahoma, the site of a terrible massacre of blacks back in the 1920s. It was going to be held on Juneteenth, the anniversary of the end of slavery. They have now moved it to Saturday.

    But my question is, is it still smart for the president to be doing this?

  • Amy Walter:

    Well, nobody in public health thinks it's a good idea for him to be doing this. The Tulsa newspaper, the editorial board said, we love having a president come in, but we would like him to not come in the middle of a pandemic, especially when it means a whole bunch of people crowded together indoors, which is, according to all health experts, about the worst possible thing that you can do with COVID.

    But, Judy, it comes back to this. It's — the politics of it really aren't the issue here. It seems to me it's what the president wants to do. He loves getting the adoration of the crowd. He's been missing it desperately.

    Look, the reason that the president, though, is sitting at a very low point of job approval ratings — in fact, he's dropped now close to 40 percent job approval rating — it's not because he hasn't held enough rallies. It's because the two most important issues right now to Americans, the COVID crisis and race relations, he's seen by a majority as not handling those particularly well.

    And so doing a rally isn't going to make his approval ratings move at all. So, politically, it's really for him. It's not for his political standing.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And, Tam, help us understand the White House thinking here.

    Why do they think it is the right thing to do?

  • Tamara Keith:

    Well, he doesn't like polls, right? He doesn't trust the polls.

    But he doesn't have the thing to point to, to say, look, the polls are wrong, I have amazing enthusiasm, just look at these people.

    Well, after Saturday, he's going to have that back. He's going to be able to say, look at those 19,000 people that we packed into the BOK Center in Tulsa, Oklahoma. And look at Joe Biden. He's still doing these small gatherings that are socially distant.

    This is not going to be socially distant. The Trump campaign told me today they will be passing out masks, but they will not be required. And they will pass out hand sanitizer, but the arena will be absolutely full, is what they say. President Trump has said that social distancing wouldn't look so good for a rally. It wouldn't really work.

    So he's going to have this big, bold, loud example of how he has enthusiasm. Does one rally negate a bunch of negative polls? Probably not. But it'll look good in the ads.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And just a few seconds to each of you.

    Does it — is it a problem for Joe Biden that he's not getting out, Amy?

  • Amy Walter:

    Well, right now, the RealClearPolitics average has Joe Biden up eight over Donald Trump. So I would say, no, it's not a problem for Joe Biden to still be in his basement.

  • Tamara Keith:

    Yes, and he's making the calculated risk that it may not be a great idea to be the source of a super-spreader event.

    Now, we don't know whether the Trump rally will turn into a super-spreader event, but, without social distancing and masks, the public experts — the public health experts I talk to are really concerned.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    So, I guess if you can be eight up from your basement, why change things?


  • Judy Woodruff:

    Tamara Keith, Amy Walter, we thank you both.

  • Amy Walter:

    You're welcome.

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