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Hey there, it's the NPR Politics podcast. I'm Susan Davis. I cover Congress. I'm Tamara Keith. I cover the White House. And I'm Juana Summers. I cover demographics and culture.
And it is eleven forty eight p.m. on Tuesday, August 25th. And the second night of the Republican National Convention has just concluded. We all know Donald Trump makes no secrets about how he feels about things. Total honesty is what we as citizens deserve from our president. Whether you like it or not, you always know what he's thinking. Tonight's speakers included two of the president's children, Tiffany and Erik and first lady Melania Trump.
I believe that we need my husband's leadership now more than ever in order to bring us back once again to the greatest economy and the strongest country ever know. And God bless you all your families and God bless the United States of America. First things, what what stood out to you all? What is your first main takeaway?
So what stood out to me is from almost the very beginning of the convention proceedings tonight, all the way through to the very end, there was a blurring of the lines between political and official.
You had the president in a made for TV moment giving a pardon to a guy in the White House as part of his convention.
Later in the convention proceedings tonight, you had Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in Jerusalem giving a speech at the Republican National Convention. This is the first time in modern history that you have an acting secretary of state delivering a convention speech.
Usually cabinet members and especially secretaries of state do everything they can to be on the other side of the planet, trying not to be involved in politics in this very political time. And then at the very end, you had Melania Trump delivering her remarks from a newly remodeled or re landscaped Rose Garden at the White House.
Yeah, I mean, these don't just blur the lines of political and fiscal. They also sort of blur the lines of ethical and legal in some regards.
Certainly the secretary of state giving that speech as overseas raises questions about the Hatch Act.
And the Hatch Act is essentially what prohibits certain federal branch employees from engaging in political activities on official time. And certainly using the White House for this has raised ethical questions, although the White House lawyers say they think they're in the clear that it's totally legal.
But it was, you know, Stark to see a lot of this happening, especially with the official presidential seal in the first lady's remarks, which had, I think in other times had been blurred out in images and videos.
Yes, I still kind of can't believe that. We saw also the president swearing in new Americans a naturalization ceremony at the White House done for the convention.
It was just a lot of things that you can't see.
It's definitely like the Trump reality TV element of this, too, right? Like he wants surprises.
He wants to it's like move that bus like this and you get a pardon and you get citizenship.
Like you won't believe what's going to happen next.
You know, keep them keep him entertained, keep him watching this.
And also a little bit about flexing the power of incumbency. I mean, he's reminding people who have benefited from his four years in office that, you know, he he is the guy in the White House right now and that he's delivered all these things. And so every time I saw that imagery, that's kind of what it drew out for me.
Well, and especially after Joe Biden gave his speech in a way that sort of had the feel of an Oval Office address. Now you have the president of the United States being like, hey, look, I'm president. I'm going to do president things in the middle of my convention.
One thing that I just kept thinking about as I was watching tonight is I think that it's very clear what two of the most effective messages Republicans think they have in the home stretch of this election, the first being the economy. I mean, top economic adviser Larry Kudlow remarks was really interesting to me where he sort of spoke about the pandemic in the past sense.
Look, our economic choice is very clear. Do you want economic health, prosperity, opportunity and optimism, or do you want to turn back to the dark days of stagnation?
Recession and pessimism in the economy is clearly the strongest ground that Republicans feel like they're standing on, especially when you look at polling that suggests that voters still kind of give the Republican Party an edge.
When you ask them, who do you think is better on the economy?
Even though we are in a terrible recession right now at this very moment, it's not necessarily reflective of this exact moment.
But I do think that the Trump campaign believes that if they can get people to remember what life was like back in January and February and how positive people felt about the economy, if they can get them to believe that Trump will bring them back to that, that is their best closing argument in this election.
And I've talked to Republican strategists for House and Senate campaigns who feel the exact same way. And they were just hammering that again and again tonight. And I think that was smart.
The other thing that was really interesting to me, especially as we have more protests happening in Kenosha, Wisconsin, and ongoing still in other cities, is this law and order message right?
I mean, obviously, the president just keeps tweeting law and order over and over again. But you heard it throughout the night from different speakers highlighting these protests in the city and the sense that I think that they believe it could be a smart bet that more Americans are getting tired of the violence that there was in the beginning, this sort of solidarity movement. But it is as it's gone on and carried on that, you know, suburban voters, people who might not want to admit that it makes them uncomfortable, are not happy.
With the situation on the ground, and I think that the Trump campaign believes that they can sort of scrape and claw back some of these swing suburban voters who are kind of turned off by the Republican Party but don't really like the response they're seeing from Democrats on this.
So I've actually been thinking a lot about the culture war message. And something that struck me was how differently it was packaged tonight as compared to the first night of the Republican convention, where I think you heard that message come out really forcefully. This felt like a softer approach to me. And one thing that I found really interesting was the focus on some of the younger speakers in the night from Cancel Culture. This is something that we heard Nicholas Sandmen, the teenager who was involved in a viral incident last year near the Lincoln Memorial.
Talk about I learned what was happening to me, had a name. It was called being canceled as an unknown, as in revoked and then made void. Canceled is what's happening to people around this country who refused to be silenced by the far left.
This is also something you heard speakers throughout the night talk about. And even one of Donald Trump's children, Tiffany Trump, actually made one of the more forceful political speeches I've certainly ever heard her make, hitting on a lot of these themes that attack on the media, this cancel culture and these culture war themes as well.
Even talking about big tech, people must recognize that our thoughts, our opinions and even the choice of who we are voting for me and are being manipulated and visibly coerced by the media and tech giants.
The thing that was interesting to me about Tiffany and Erick speaking to is they didn't really sound like his kids, you know, like they sounded more like campaign advocates.
They didn't sort of often offer the personal side of their father. That is the traditional role for kids here. I mean, they really offered some of that big culture war red meat stuff tonight that you don't traditionally hear from the candidates families.
The Democrats want to defund and disrespect our law enforcement. The Democrats want America where your thoughts and opinions are censored when they do not align with their own. President Reagan said freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction, it must be fought for and it must be protected. This is a fight that we are in right now, and it is a fight that only my father can win. All right. Let's take a quick break.
And when we come back, we'll talk about First Lady Melania Trump speech support for this podcast.
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And First Lady Melania Trump was the keynote speaker tonight. And it was one of the only moments this evening in which any speaker acknowledged the pandemic and the toll the pandemic has taken.
I want to acknowledge the fact that since March, our lives have changed drastically. The invisible enemy covid-19 swept across our beautiful country and impacted all of us. My deepest sympathy goes out to everyone who has lost a loved one, and my prayers are with those who are ill or suffering.
In an evening of very sharp elbowed red meat speeches, Melania was sort of the tonic to all of that.
It was a very different tonal speech than from anything else we heard tonight.
And I think it's also so striking because we so infrequently hear from her. She does not campaign often. She does not give big high-Profile speeches like that. So I think that by virtue of hearing a little from her, it made people take a little bit of an extra listen to what she had to say and how she would describe not just the accomplishments of her husband's presidency, but the things that she has championed as first lady and why she thinks that her family deserves a second term in the White House.
It also is one of those things where I was watching and you're thinking, why? Why doesn't the campaign have her out there more?
Because she would could probably be a pretty effective advocate for her husband, because I think one of the things that people don't like about Trump is they're just tired of his style.
For all the base people that love them, there's just as many people who think they don't love the way he talks and acts as a president.
And she just offered this portrait of him tonight that basically no one else did or does on a regular basis.
Well, I mean, she said the words that a lot of people think that the president of the United States should be saying in this time, you know, about the coronavirus, about the racial justice protests and about, you know, America's history of racism.
And and then she quickly made the turn to saying, but, you know, kind of like, let's not protest, let's move on.
I also ask people to stop the violence and looting being done in the name of justice and never make assumptions based on the color of a person's skin.
She was she was delivering her speech in a way not meant to inflame, which is just different than the way President Trump usually talks about these things.
One other speech tonight that I think is worth highlighting, and I will be the first to admit that I had no idea who this was before he spoke tonight was Daniel Cameron, who is the attorney general of Kentucky. He's a black man. And he just kind of gave one of those speeches that you thought this is a guy that's going to get the rising star treatment.
He's just young. He's fresh face. He took some swings at Joe Biden for insensitive things that Joe Biden has said.
I think often about my ancestors who struggled for freedom. And as I think of those giants and their broad shoulders, I also think about Joe Biden, who says, if you are voting for me, you ain't black, who argued that Republicans would put us back in chains, who says there is no diversity of thought in the black community? Mr. Vice President. Look at me. I am black. We are not all the same, sir. I am not in change.
My mind is my own. And you can't tell me how to vote because of the color of my skin.
I think it's also important to situate kind of who he is within history. Danielle Cameron is the attorney general of Kentucky and he has been under intense pressure from the left for months to charge the three police officers in the killing of Brianna Taylor, who, when officers broke into her home without warning and shot her. And I as I listen to the speech, I notice that he only made brief mention of her or the demonstrations over police violence and systemic racism that her killing helped fuel.
And I actually thought, you know, the speech was very much along the same lines as what we have heard from some of the other speakers on Monday or Tuesday night. You know, he accused Democrats of viewing black voters as a monolith and taking their votes for granted and trying to cast Joe Biden as a puppet of the radical left. So a different, perhaps unfamiliar messenger to some. But I do think during a convention in which the Trump campaign has so deliberately focused on characterizing protesters.
As looters and anarchists and has just given so much time to talking about them, it does feel like his background is just really significant here, too, and probably not an accident. No. And more of a validator to white voters, I think, than changing the minds of black voters. But I just think we're going to be hearing a lot more from him. All right.
Well, that's it for night two of the Republican National Convention. And we will be back tomorrow night. If you want to follow along live, you can find many of us from the NPR politics team on your local public radio station. And you can find your station at NPR Eglash Station or by asking your smart speaker to play your NPR station. I'm Susan Davis. I cover Congress. I'm Tamara Keith. I cover the White House. And I'm Juana Summers.
I cover demographics and culture. And thank you for listening to the NPR Politics podcast.