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Politics & Government

A Republican View Of The Democratic Convention

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

And I'm David Greene in Philadelphia with national political correspondent Don Gonyea, who's been joining me to cover the Democratic National Convention all week. I guess now, Don, we go from convention back to hard on the campaign trail.

DON GONYEA, BYLINE: We will have Secretary Clinton - nominee Clinton with Bill Clinton, with her running mate, Tim Kaine, and his wife, Anne Holton, at Temple University. The ticket, their spouses and this is - this is the beginning of the sprint.

GREENE: Right up the road from here.

GONYEA: Right up the road at Temple, yeah.

GREENE: Well, I want to play some tape. We've been listening to people attending the convention all week. And a young woman named Safiya Ghori, she is - was spending a lot of time with delegates from Arkansas. She's the page for the Arkansas delegation. She's a practicing Muslim, and she has two children.

SAFIYA GHORI-AHMAD: The minute the news hits that there's a terrorist attack, every Muslim I know thinks to themselves, please, God, let it not be a Muslim. Let it not be the name of my son or my daughter.

GREENE: Do you think - you're thinking that?

GHORI-AHMAD: Yes, all of us are. All of us are thinking that. I mean, we all kind of collectively hold our breath and hope that it's not an American Muslim because it's so tough for this counter-narrative to come out of American Muslims who are peaceful and you're citizens and taxpaying and law-abiding people. But I think it's on us to kind of get that narrative out there, and we do try to do that.

GREENE: If, God forbid, there are more attacks, if those attacks are tied to Muslims, do you think that makes it more likely that Donald Trump becomes president?

GHORI-AHMAD: I think it does feed into his narrative that Muslims are dangerous, and, you know, your Muslim neighbors can't be trusted, and they should be banned. And immigration is the issue, so let's put up borders. And I think Donald Trump will play into that.

GREENE: Safiya Ghori, attending the convention from the state of Arkansas there. I want to bring in another voice. It's Congressman David Schweikert. He's a Republican from Arizona and a frequent guest on our program. Congressman, good morning to you.

DAVID SCHWEIKERT: Good morning, David.

GREENE: I just want to ask you about what that young woman told me. I mean, she is very fearful of more attacks on this country, fearful that Muslims will be blamed and feels that if that happens Donald Trump will be president. Does that frame the campaign in a way that the more people in this country are afraid of outside threats that that is where Donald Trump could get sort of communicate a message that resonates?

SCHWEIKERT: What I think it frames is - if this makes sense - a randomness. What happens if 10 days out from the actual Election Day there's some type of horrible attack? Does that end up at that punctuated moment sort of defining the narrative? You know, it - being out here in Arizona, I am blessed to represent a gentleman named Zuhdi Jasser who was on television repeatedly trying to explain the difference between Islam and political Islam. But that's a much more difficult story to tell than sort of the visceral nature of a horrible act.

GREENE: Do you think Donald Trump does that well, making that distinction? Because I think a lot of voters might not feel that he makes that distinction, that he plays on fears in a way that doesn't recognize that distinction.

SCHWEIKERT: Look, the distinction's going to - is complicated because there's many levels of, you know, Sunni, Shia, those of us who actually bathe in the news and bathe in the policy. And I think much of the American public wants to live their lives and know that someone is focused on it. And, you know, it was - listening to the secretary's speech last night, sort of kept waiting for that intense empathy to sort of Middle America's angst. And I'm not sure it was well-woven into that speech.

GREENE: Congressman, I - you know, one thing Hillary Clinton did say, though, is that Donald Trump took your party from morning in America to midnight in America. I mean, it was a convention in Cleveland that seemed in contrast to Philadelphia, you know, talking about how frightened many Americans are. I mean, is - did you like the - what seemed like a very dark feel at your party's convention? And is that a fair assessment from Secretary Clinton?

SCHWEIKERT: Look, you're talking to someone who's probably pathologically optimistic, so I mean (laughter)...

GREENE: I like that line.

SCHWEIKERT: ...I may not be the best person to sort of - look, I am blessed to live in Arizona, which is sort of - you move out to the, you know, the West as an optimistic personality. But did the convention reflect a change in the Republican Party or did the convention reflect where sort of the fears, the hearts, the thoughts of much of America is today?

GREENE: Did it reflect your optimism?

SCHWEIKERT: I don't think it affected or reflected my - personal optimism. But I do think it reflected sort of an angst, a discomfort, particularly for such a huge swath of America which doesn't sort of see the income mobility or, you know, discussions of, you know, whether it be debt and deficits and all the things that are scary and complicated.

GREENE: Are you proud of your party's message right now?

SCHWEIKERT: I actually wish my party would do a much more detailed drill down on solutions. And that's actually - think about the - sort of this contrast last night. Secretary Clinton was doing a very workman-like speech, step by step. And then, when she sort of got into a rhythm, the rhythm sounded like a plethora of sort of very left proposals that I might have heard back in the '90s.

GREENE: Although specifics that many say that people did not hear from your party's candidate, Donald Trump.

SCHWEIKERT: Yeah. From my party, I think we actually have to get much more detailed, that there are ways - there really are solutions to every complex problem. But a lot of them require market-based solutions and technology-based solutions. And for many of us out there, you know, who serve in Congress, we're waiting for any leadership out there to understand. There are solutions, but that supercomputer you carry around in your pocket, or that smartphone, believe it or not, is one of the platforms we can build solutions for our community.

GREENE: All right. Republican Congressman David Schweikert, thanks for joining us as always.

SCHWEIKERT: Enjoyed it, David.

GREENE: Thank you. Janet Hook, Don Gonyea, what do you make of that?

GONYEA: It's - we're talking about how Muslim Americans react. It's actually broader than that because you hear a lot of the same things when you talk to Hispanic-Latino Americans. And Trump has been a powerful motivator for a lot of them in Congressman Schweikert's whole state - home state, one place to get motivated, to get registered, all that.

GREENE: Janet, just about 10-15 seconds.

JANET HOOK: Yeah. I think that obviously the congressman is a little bit uncomfortable with the message coming out of his convention. What I don't know is whether members of Congress like him are going to be able to separate themselves enough from the message that Trump is setting.

GREENE: OK. Janet Hook from The Wall Street Journal and NPR national political correspondent Don Gonyea, thank you both. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.