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Week In Politics: Trump Crosses Delegate Threshold To Secure GOP Nomination


Here to talk more about the campaign and other things are our weekly political commentators, E.J. Dionne of The Washington Post and David Brooks of The New York Times. Welcome to both of you.

E J DIONNE: Good to be with you.

DAVID BROOKS: Good to be with you.

MCEVERS: All right, so we just heard that if Hillary Clinton loses California, it won't change the delegate math. But still, the question is how bad would it be for Clinton? E.J.?

DIONNE: It would not be good. Mo Elleithee had a good line at the end of that piece - math beats momentum every time. That's true, except in the media and except in - among nervous Democrats, who are always ready to push the panic button. I think they have it sort of taped down permanently. And, you know, what they want to do is win California and New Jersey on the same night and say, OK, Bernie, now is the time for you to start working with us. I think that the California primary is about which message people want to send. Bernie wants them to send a message to the party and the country - and antiestablishment message and a message that the party should move in a progressive direction. Hillary Clinton, as she said, wants to send a message that the Democrats are uniting against Donald Trump. I think her desire to get votes against Donald Trump are probably going to be her best asset in trying to beat Bernie Sanders out there.

MCEVERS: The State Department's inspector general released a report this week that said Clinton did not seek legal approval to use her private email server. There were also three new emails released. How could the timing of these questions affect her in California and beyond? David?

BROOKS: Well, it'll certainly affect California and beyond, and it'll certainly affect beyond. Listen, it's baked into the cake that people think she is dishonest. And this was not - it's not, like, qualitatively different what we learned from this report, but it's a few extra bricks on the wall. She didn't get permission. She stonewalled the investigation. And she very deliberately chose to have this server. It was not some accidental thing because it was inconvenient to have two phones. So that does underline the, you know, she'll stoop to anything or she plays by her own rules line. And I have to say, even listening to the clips that we just heard from her, she has - goes after Trump for being dangerously divisive, but the rhetoric is stale. Trump's- you know, his evil genius is that he's really good at picking a word to summarize somebody - little Marco Rubio, lying Ted Cruz, crooked Hillary Clinton. It's just one word. It's a powerful marketing message. She's just not as good at that kind of thing as Trump is.

DIONNE: Of course, nobody is, incisive David. You know, I mean, there just isn't anybody's who's used that kind of negativity against other people. I mean, poor lying Ted. That's going to stick with him forever.

BROOKS: I thought sexy David would be better.


DIONNE: Never satisfied, never enough.

MCEVERS: This week, Donald Trump became the presumptive Republican nominee after some delegates pledged their support, of course, getting him to that magic number of 1,237 delegates. And then there was the question of whether House Speaker Paul Ryan would endorse Trump or not. The two did talk on the phone, but then Ryan later said he was not endorsing trump. Here's what he had to say about the state of the Republican Party after that phone call.


PAUL RYAN: What I'm most concerned about is making sure that we actually have real party unity, not pretend party unity - real party unity because we need to win this election in the fall. There's just too much at stake - the Supreme Court - on and on and on I could go. The point is, I want real party unity, and that's what I'm most concerned about.

MCEVERS: OK, guys, what does he mean by real party unity here?

DIONNE: Well, I think that Woody Allen had a movie once where he had people speaking English with English subtitles. And the English subtitles said what people were really trying to say. And I think you hear Paul Ryan over and over again say, do I really have to endorse this guy? I really don't want to do it. I think he knows that he may have to get there in the end. And he knows that if he does, he is essentially going to be walking away from a whole lot of the things he's said he believes in. So I think Ryan hates what's going on, which is why he keeps kicking this endorsement down the road. And he talks about unity because he doesn't really want to bring it about, though he knows he has to.

MCEVERS: So this is a reluctant Paul Ryan, David?

BROOKS: It's like watching somebody be asked Henry VIII's fourth wife. It's just, like, a bad job prospect. And so he's sort of compelled to do it, but you can see he doesn't want to. And what he means by party unity, I think, is party disunity. I think, eventually, he's going to want to separate the Republican Congress from the Republican nominee and have as much disunity and mental distinction in the minds of voters as possible.

DIONNE: This - oh, could I just say quickly, I think that this is a real bind Trump is putting a lot of Republicans because, for months and months, Republicans talked about how unacceptable Trump was as a candidate. They criticized all the outrageous things he said and did. And now they're being forced to endorse him. And when they don't, Trump goes after them as he went after Susana Martinez this week, which I think was really quite surprising - except that it's Trump - because it did him absolutely no good. It's not going to speed up her endorsement, and, oh, by the way, Donald Trump's going after another woman politician.

MCEVERS: You know, another thing Ryan talks about is that, you know, rather than the bitterness and the anxiety, this campaign should focus on the issues. He put out - you know, he talked about putting out his Confident America agenda this week about the economy, taxes, healthcare, poverty. But, you know, people are responding to the anxiety on the campaign trail and not necessarily talking about the issues. Is that going to hurt Ryan?

BROOKS: Well, it's the issues in the issues. I mean, Ryan is a great and a good political leader. He still has a bit of the problem that, frankly, a lot of the Republican establishment has, which is he cut his teeth at a place called Empower America, which was a very Reaganite think tank in the 1980s and '90s, I guess. And - but his ideology is still, very reasonably, traditional Reaganite. And that's what Trump just slaughtered. And so if Ryan's going to really answer Trump, he has to be post-Reaganite, frankly, the way Trump is, but hopefully in a different flavor.

MCEVERS: And of course, today, President Obama became the first sitting U.S. president to visit Hiroshima. He laid a wreath there. He gave a very moving speech calling for a moral revolution. Let's hear a little bit of that.


BARACK OBAMA: But among those nations, like my own, that hold nuclear stockpiles, we must have the courage to escape the logic of fear and pursue a world without them.

MCEVERS: Pursuing a world without nuclear weapons - as one Hiroshima survivor said to me yesterday, the U.S. is spending more than a trillion dollars to upgrade its nuclear arsenal. I mean, that does not sound like an administration that's willing to live in such a world. E.J.?

DIONNE: Well, you know, early on, Obama reached an agreement with Russia designed to reduce nuclear weapons. He pursued the agreement with Iran. I thought this was a really powerful speech. And I think it's good for the United States that Obama went to Hiroshima. You heard again the moral balances he keeps trying to talk about. He talked about man's capacity to do evil can lead us to war. And yet, we must possess weapons to defend ourselves. I think he's tried for a kind of moral realism that Reinhold Niebuhr - the philosopher - the theologian David and I both admire - preached. And I thought you heard that loud and clear today in Hiroshima.

MCEVERS: Quickly, David?

BROOKS: Yeah, well, fortunately, he's not reducing our nuclear stockpile. He's done it less than the two Bush administrations. And I think that's a good thing because the nuclear weapons do stabilize things.

MCEVERS: That's David Brooks of The New York Times and E.J. Dionne of The Washington Post. Thanks to both of you.

BROOKS: Thank You.

DIONNE: Great to be with you. Happy Memorial Day.

MCEVERS: Thanks. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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