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Saturday Politics: Trump Responds To Mail Bomb Case


We're going to turn now to NPR's Ron Elving. Ron, thanks so much for being with us.

RON ELVING, BYLINE: Good to be with you, Scott.

SIMON: First, let me ask you about President Trump's reaction to these events because at the White House yesterday, he said - and I'll quote - "we must show the world that we are united together in peace and love and harmony as fellow American citizens." Then, just hours later, a rally in North Carolina, he had another line of attack, didn't he?

ELVING: Yes. You know, even at that White House event that you mention, he said those words about peace and love, and then he took off after CNN and others in the media and got the crowd chanting lock them up, lock them up. There's a pattern of the president first saying the magnanimous and presidential thing, possibly reading from prepared remarks that may be on the teleprompter, then pivoting to the spontaneous remarks that are his trademark. So again last night at that rally in North Carolina, he began with this.


PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: Political violence must never, ever be allowed in America. And I will do everything in my power to stop it.

ELVING: And at another point, he talked about ending what he called the politics of personal destruction. But moments later, he was back to bating the crowd with the name of Maxine Waters, an outspoken African-American congresswoman, and teasing the crowd before saying, I won't say it, I won't say it - not clear what it was, but in the past, he has referred to Maxine Waters as a, quote, "very low IQ person." I want them to say I was being nice, the president said to laughter from the crowd.

SIMON: Democrats, of course, have leveled the charge that President Trump has helped to create this politically charged atmosphere. The president told reporters yesterday that certainly his rhetoric couldn't be held responsible for whatever happened to put all these mail bombs addressed to Democrats and some of his critics. That raises the question - how much can President Trump be held responsible for the actions of this one apparently troubled man?

ELVING: Certainly not responsible in a legal sense or responsible in a literal sense, but everyone should have a look at these rallies, ask themselves what the undertones and underlying purpose of these rallies might be and consider the photographs now circulating of the bombing suspect himself attending one of these rallies and holding one of these signs.

SIMON: Other news we need to ask you about - President Trump continued to talk about the caravan, thousands of Central Americans who are traveling through Mexico to try to reach the U.S. border. There were reports this week that the president's considering executive action that would block them from applying for asylum. Do we need to consider the timing when we talk about this?

ELVING: Yes. Everything right now is about the midterm elections in 10 days. This caravan had swollen to more than 7,000 early in the week. Yesterday, it was down to roughly half that size or less. Many are dropping out. The Mexican government is offering incentives for those who would choose to stay in the southern part of Mexico. And that's an offer may be pretty tempting for many of these people to accept while others are going to press on to the United States. And if they get to the border, they will represent some marginal increase in the number who seek asylum at that border every month. But the images and projections of an army of migrants marching across Mexico, descending on America, that was never the real story. And it becomes less like reality every day.

SIMON: Ten days from the midterms, it looks as if polls have been tightening. Now maybe Democrats have extended a lead, according to the NPR-PBS NewsHour-Marist poll.

ELVING: It looks like 10 points in the generic poll - which party do you want to have in control of the House - so that's the threshold of a truly meaningful margin. If it holds, it would seem sufficient to deliver the House to the Democrats. It would not appear nearly sufficient to deliver the Senate, but it would suggest the momentum shift we felt earlier in October toward the president and his party has begun to shift back in the direction of the opposition.

SIMON: NPR's Ron Elving, thanks so much.

ELVING: Thank you, Scott. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Ron Elving is Senior Editor and Correspondent on the Washington Desk for NPR News, where he is frequently heard as a news analyst and writes regularly for NPR.org.