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Will Mike Pence help change the tone of the RNC?

Judy Woodruff and Gwen Ifill speak with New York Times columnist David Brooks, syndicated columnist Mark Shields and Amy Walter of The Cook Political Report about Wednesday night’s main RNC speaker Indiana Gov. Mike Pence and his influence at the convention.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    And with that report, we turn to syndicated columnist Mark Shields, New York Times columnist David Brooks, and Amy Walter of The Cook Political Report, who are also joining us around this table each night for our live convention coverage.

    Welcome to all three of you. We love spending all this time with you.

    Mark, is the Donald Trump we’re seeing in this reports that Gwen prepared, is that the Trump coming through at this convention?

  • Mark Shields:

    Unfortunately, yes.

    It was a terrific piece of reporting, but I think it is coming through, Donald Trump’s ego, Donald Trump’s vanity. It’s — I don’t think it’s necessarily flattering to him, but I think it is coming through.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    David?

  • David Brooks:

    I don’t think so. I think there is a patina of normalcy in this convention.

    Like, we sit in the booth like we always do every four years. We get french fries or whatever — I get at least every four years.

    (LAUGHTER)

  • David Brooks:

    And so it seems like, oh, we’re at another convention.

    But this is not another convention. This is a party that used to believe in free trade, immigration, capitalism, compassionate conservatism, and that party is gone, at least on the podium. And the Republican Party is nominating a guy without any known principles, without any known experience, without any known ethical standards.

    It’s bizarre. I mean, I’m getting more cosmically depressed the more I think — I step back from the normal patina of life here and think about what’s actually happening.

  • Gwen Ifill:

    And as Amy wrote in her column for The Cook Political Report today, the same cheesy music from the band.

  • Amy Walter,

    The Cook Political Report: It is the same cheesy music.

  • Gwen Ifill:

    That’s my — that’s Amy’s opinion, not mine.

    (LAUGHTER)

  • Judy Woodruff:

    They’re going to be insulted by this.

    (LAUGHTER)

  • Gwen Ifill:

    How different is this convention from — I mean, four years ago, we were all here, and there was Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan, four years before that, John McCain and Sarah Palin. And this in some ways is exactly the same as we have always seen, and in some ways it’s so different.

  • Amy Walter:

    And yet they feel very different.

  • Gwen Ifill:

    The party is so different.

  • Amy Walter:

    The party is so different, in part because I don’t think there is a party.

    This is Trump’s convention, and he has put his stamp all over it, and we are going to once again see him tonight and of course his big speech on Thursday. But this party is not Trump’s. And you could feel that in the hall. We talked a lot about the disunity among many members of the delegation, the fact that the hall is not filled, the fact that speaker after speaker has come up and given their version of what they see as the Republican Party.

    It’s not necessarily the version that Donald Trump has. To have Paul Ryan, the speaker of the House, not mention any — the most important parts of the Donald Trump messaging, the wall, immigration, trade, I think, was quite important and quite significant.

    I will be very curious to see what Senator Ted Cruz says tonight. He is somebody who has yet endorse Donald Trump. And there is no indication that he is going to do that tonight. Instead, he’s going to put out his vision of the Republican Party.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And yet, Mark, a lot of these delegates really like Donald Trump and think he’s just what their party needs, what the country needs.

  • Mark Shields:

    They do. I don’t think there is any question. A very healthy majority of them do.

    I just have one point that I want to make about this election, this campaign, this convention. And it reminds me — just before the collapse of the Soviet Union and the end of the civil war — the end of the Cold War, Georgy Arbatov was a Soviet expert on the United States.

    And he made a brilliant prediction. He said to the United States, we’re going to do a terrible thing to you. We’re going to deprive you of an enemy. And the organizing principle of the United States defensive foreign policy had been opposition to the Soviet Union. There is no more Soviet Union.

    If you take Hillary Clinton out, there is no organizing principle for this convention. Last night, Mitch McConnell spoke, Republican leader of the Senate; 24 times, he mentioned Hillary Clinton. Five times, he mentioned Donald Trump. Twice as often, Hillary Clinton has been mentioned as has Donald Trump.

    And I think it’s true in this campaign. If Hillary Clinton disappeared tomorrow and Donald Trump was a referendum up or down, he would be in trouble. And I think the same thing is true for the Democrats.

  • Gwen Ifill:

    So, Mike Pence steps up to the podium tonight. This is his big moment, even though a lot of people feel they know him. Does that make a difference? Does that begin to orient this party or orient this convention, David Brooks, or is it just going to be what it’s going to be?

  • David Brooks:

    I doubt it will make a difference. The Trump persona is sort of dominating this atmosphere.

    But at least we might get an emotional break. I’m sort of struck about the emotional tone of the convention, which the first night was about loss. The second night, let’s face it, it was sort of about hatred. It’s hard to say you want to lock up Hillary Clinton without actually hating her. And it’s hard to imagine a party that is not corrupted by hatred.

    And, also, it’s funny you mention Arbatov. We — they took away the Soviet Union as an enemy. We have got an ally apparently in Vladimir Putin, who we have now adjusted the platform to soften the Republican Party’s view of Vladimir Putin, so we have got sort of a soft-core Putinism going on here.

    But Pence is a nice guy, a warm guy, a genial guy. And that’s not exactly the tone we have been hearing. So, I’m hoping…

  • Gwen Ifill:

    Do you think he will talk about the wall?

  • David Brooks:

    I would be — I will jump out of the…

    (CROSSTALK)

    (LAUGHTER)

  • Gwen Ifill:

    No. Don’t do that.

    (CROSSTALK)

  • David Brooks:

    He will not talk about the — I would be very surprised.

  • Amy Walter:

    What I’m really surprised that we haven’t heard about — and Donald Trump is the one that I expect to make this message the most strongly — is that all this establishment — we have been talking about disunity, disunity this whole time, but Donald Trump won this nomination.

    And Donald Trump is getting anywhere from 40 to 45 percent of the vote right now. He is close to Hillary Clinton, either tied or a couple of points behind. And his message is resonating with a good group, a good, significant chunk of voters.

    That’s the message that’s coming across here that’s not coming across from the establishment, this idea that they have been left behind, that the establishment still isn’t putting policies forward that address economic stagnation, the feeling they have of this loss.

    And until that happens, which I think needs to happen tonight, then you know, we’re going to get that change.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Mark, do you agree? That’s what — what do they need to do tonight and tomorrow night to fix or to fill out what the message has been so far?

  • Mark Shields:

    To be the party of open arms, rather than clenched fists.

    And I think Mike Pence is a step in the right direction that way. It’s interesting. Paul Ryan, Mitch McConnell, others have used him as a hook for sort of speaking positively about the Trump candidacy. Mike Pence gives a legitimacy…

  • Gwen Ifill:

    Wasn’t that the plan for Trump all along?

  • Mark Shields:

    Well, I don’t know.

    Mike Pence is still in small print on the sign. And he had barely a walk-on cameo apart in his own announcement last Saturday. So, tonight, this is really the first chance to see and see what his role might be in this campaign.

  • Gwen Ifill:

    I saw Donald Trump Jr. today at an event in which he basically said that Mike Pence was a calming influence, and they couldn’t pick any of the other finalists because you didn’t need two Donald Trumps being another Donald Trump.

  • Mark Shields:

    That’s right.

    (LAUGHTER)

  • Gwen Ifill:

    So they seem to recognize on some point the need for a calming influence, David.

  • David Brooks:

    And someone who seems a little genial and will reassure orthodox conservatives.

    There really are, I think — OK, I’m quoting Amy’s newsletter today. But there are several — I’m struck by how many different parties there are here. There is a Kasich party. There is a Cruz party. There is sort of a Trump thing.

    And then there is an — even an old-guard George H.W. Bush-Bob Dole party lurking here in the corners.

  • Gwen Ifill:

    Right.

  • David Brooks:

    And so Pence is not offensive to any of those parts of the parties, whereas Trump is alien.

  • Gwen Ifill:

    I have to say it’s good to hear that you are reading each other’s…

    (LAUGHTER)

    (CROSSTALK)

  • Gwen Ifill:

    … and quoting each other, and not just…

    (CROSSTALK)

  • Judy Woodruff:

    But they always do, don’t they?

  • Gwen Ifill:, beginning at 8:

    They do.

    Thank you all very much, Amy Walter, ark Shields, David Brooks. We’re going to see you all later tonight.

    And you can stay with us as well tonight00 p.m. Eastern time, for our special NPR/”PBS NewsHour” coverage of the Republican presidential convention in Cleveland.

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