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'Make America Safe Again': GOP Convention Opens With Focus On Law And Order


Even before the weekend attack on police in Baton Rouge, Republicans planned to make public safety a major talking point at their national convention. Our co-host, Robert Siegel, is there in Cleveland. And Robert has more on what's coming up tonight, right?


That's right, Audie. The theme this evening will be make America safe again, meaning safe from threats both foreign and domestic. Prime-time speakers will be highlighting what they see as the shortcomings of the Obama administration in those areas and also trying to tar Democratic rival Hillary Clinton.

But before we get to that, this afternoon session was quite interesting. Fractures within the Republican Party were on full display during the opening hours. A vote on the convention rules, which would ordinarily be a mere formality, turned instead into a noisy showcase for the minority of party delegates who are unhappy with the presumptive nominee, Donald Trump.

NPR's Scott Horsley was on the convention floor when all of that happened, and he joins us now. And, Scott, walk us through what may have been the last gasp for the Stop Trump faction.

SCOTT HORSLEY, BYLINE: Well, Robert, Donald Trump has the majority of delegates at this convention. So the only way the anti-Trump forces can stop him from getting the nomination is to somehow unbind those delegates and let them vote for somebody else. They tried to do that in the Rules Committee last week. They were unsuccessful. And Trump's team thought that was the end of it. But when the Rules Committee report came up for a vote this afternoon, the anti-Trump forces took one more run at it.

They tried to force a roll call vote, which even if it didn't stop Trump would've catalogued just how strong the anti-Trump sentiment is here. The convention leaders said they would not conduct a roll call vote. And then there was a noisy revolt on the convention floor. The acting chairman walked off. The band started playing to try to drown out the protests. Then the chairman returned. They did another voice vote, and the chairman announced that some of the states that had petitioned for a roll call had withdrawn their petitions.

So now the rules are in place. The delegates are still bound. But there was considerable discontent, and it's really not the note you want to kick things off on here if you're trying to present a picture of a united Republican Party.

SIEGEL: Now, this was one more twist in a nominating process that has had no shortage of twists.

HORSLEY: Yeah. I mean, as a practical matter this is all going to be a footnote. The rules are set. The platform's adopted. Donald Trump is going to be the nominee of the Republican Party. Even if there'd been a roll call vote, that would probably have been the case. But this was a chance for the anti-Trump forces to make their presence known. And for those who complain that political conventions have gotten too scripted, this was a moment when this convention went momentarily dramatically off-script.

SIEGEL: Well, this evening they should be back on script. Let's talk about the scripted portion of the evening. The theme - make America safe again. The Trump campaign was highlighting public safety even before the attack yesterday on police officers in Baton Rouge, La. And Donald Trump responded to that attack with a series of tweets saying America is a divided crime scene, and it will only get worse. How will the RNC try to amplify that message at the convention tonight?

HORSLEY: Yeah, Trump's campaign feels the more nervous Americans are about their personal safety, the better it is for their candidate. So they're going to be trying to underscore that unease this evening while also playing up the theme of Republicans as the party of law and order. So as you say, you're going to hear from people who've been victims of crime in this country committed by immigrants who are in the U.S. illegally. You'll also hear from the mother of one of the Americans killed in Benghazi.

SIEGEL: That's NPR's Scott Horsley. Thanks, Scott.

HORSLEY: My pleasure, Robert. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Scott Horsley is NPR's Chief Economics Correspondent. He reports on ups and downs in the national economy as well as fault lines between booming and busting communities.

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