Ted Cruz Delegate Will Loyally Favor Trump; Falwell On Why He Backs Trump
STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:
And I'm Steve Inskeep in Cleveland. There are at least two kinds of people at the Republican convention here - people who support Donald Trump and those not entirely convinced. Let's hear one of each. Susan Klein is a delegate from Joplin, Mo. She cast her convention ballot for Ted Cruz. On the convention floor, she told us she will loyally favor Trump now, but she's not so sure about her neighbors in the Ozarks in far southwestern Missouri. It is the Show-Me State.
SUSAN KLEIN: And what I'm hoping to hear this week is a little deeper discussion on exactly how he plans to execute those plans. Soundbites are nice, but, you know, what are the details about how you plan to accomplish what you're saying?
INSKEEP: Well, this is really interesting because, early in the campaign, when people were saying you're just saying soundbites, you're not giving any details, he actually said I don't think people really care about the details. You're saying you do care about the details.
KLEIN: Oh, absolutely, yeah. I think the people, at least in my districts, are definitely very concerned about, you know, a lot of issues. And so they want to know exactly, you know - I mean, it's great to make promises, but how do you plan to execute those? And are you going to be able to live up to them?
INSKEEP: So what are the questions? How do you plan to grow the economy, is that a question? You said jobs. What about immigration and the other things?
KLEIN: Yeah. How do you plan to execute the immigration plans that you have? You know, you say you're going to build a wall. Well, we've had funding for a fence for years that's never been built, so what makes you think you can do it?
INSKEEP: Do you think it could cost him votes in your area if he does not become more specific before Election Day?
KLEIN: I think it could. It definitely could.
INSKEEP: That's Susan Klein on the floor of the Republican convention. A short distance off the floor, we met a man who is all in for Donald Trump. Like Trump, his name is a brand. Jerry Falwell, Jr., is the son of the late preacher Jerry Falwell, who was a leading figure in the culture wars. The son is not a pastor but has taken over and expanded his father's Christian college, Liberty University in Virginia. He has a close-cropped beard and a mild demeanor. He says he's known Donald Trump ever since Trump spoke at the university in 2012.
You've been seen as being less political than your father was.
JERRY FALWELL JR: That's right. I'm very much focused on the university. It's completely consumed all my time. This year is a rare thing for me to become active. But I just believe this election is so critical.
INSKEEP: This is really interesting, though, because is there some risk to your university in being politically involved?
FALWELL, JR.: Well, if the university endorsed, but I've made it very clear that it's me personally endorsing, not the university.
INSKEEP: Is there some financial risk - you lose a donor, you lose a lot of donors, make people unhappy?
FALWELL, JR.: You know, a lot of Ivy League schools have presidents who are very politically active. And I don't think it has an impact on whether a student chooses a school or a donor gives to a school. I believe we have a responsibility, even if our job is to lead a nonprofit organization, as private citizens to be good citizens and to make our voices heard. The university is doing well, but I don't think it's because of anything I've said or done politically.
INSKEEP: What have you heard from other evangelical leaders about supporting Donald Trump so early and so strongly?
FALWELL, JR.: You know, it was funny that rank-and-file evangelicals were ahead of all the leadership. They saw for decades conservative Republicans had made promises to them on issues that were important to Christians and conservatives when they were running for office. But when they won, they didn't keep those promises. And I think, you know, like the song by The Who "Won't Get Fooled Again," I think they just decided no more. We want somebody who maybe makes mistakes and maybe sort of talks off the cuff and may not get it right all the time, but at least he's not bamboozling us.
INSKEEP: There has been a divide among evangelical leaders, though. I think of Russell Moore.
FALWELL, JR.: Oh, there's always been that divide going back 30-40 years back in my dad's day. There's always been that divide, always will be, but the...
INSKEEP: But Trump has brought it out. Russell Moore of the Southern Baptist Convention, I think of his statements that Trump has been a little soft on white supremacists to say the least. He describes him as a lost person...
FALWELL, JR.: I don't know what Russell Moore's politics really are. I don't know if he's a closet liberal or if he's a conservative. I don't think it really matters what I say. I don't think it matters what the evangelical leaders on the left say. Evangelicals and conservatives are voting as Americans. They're voting to save our nation, to control immigration, to stop terrorism, to bring jobs back to the country. And if you poll that group and you look for where the traditional social issues fall, they used to be near the top. And now, they're the last ones on the list - very bottom.
INSKEEP: Why do you think that's changed?
FALWELL, JR.: Because the country is in such dire straits. Many pastors tell me that what difference does it make what happens with social issues if we lose our country? We've got to save our country first.
INSKEEP: Is his business background and your current work part of the reason you felt a bond with this guy, because you're raising money, you're spending money, you're building buildings, you're building stuff?
FALWELL, JR.: Big part, big part of it.
INSKEEP: Is his personal life or any candidate's personal life relevant to you?
FALWELL, JR.: Well, I think Jesus said we're all sinners. When they ask that question, I always talk about the story of the woman at the well who had had five husbands and she was living with somebody she wasn't married to, and they wanted to stone her. And Jesus said he's - he who is without sin cast the first stone. I just see how Donald Trump treats other people, and I'm impressed by that.
INSKEEP: Somebody asked him in an interview if he had sought forgiveness as a Christian at any time. And he gave a not too explicit answer. He didn't quite say yes.
FALWELL, JR.: Well, he - his background is a New York businessman. He doesn't talk like we do as evangelical Christians, and so his way of describing his faith may not appear to line up with others. He just expresses his faith in a different way than many evangelical Christians do.
INSKEEP: In the "60 Minutes" interview the other day, Lesley Stahl said, in passing, you're not the most humble person. And he broke in and said, I'm very humble. I'm humble in ways you'll never understand.
FALWELL, JR.: Yeah. I've never seen any arrogance. I do think he is...
INSKEEP: Do you think he's humble?
FALWELL, JR.: I do. I do. I think he's very outspoken, and I think he is - what's the old saying? If it's true, it ain't bragging.
INSKEEP: I'm interested if you think that he's truthful, and here's why I ask that. I know that many people find him attractive because they feel he speaks the truth. But he also makes contradictory statements that can't both be true. And he even wrote in one of his books that he engages in what he called truthful hyperbole, basically exaggerating, saying things that aren't true for a purpose. Do you think he's a truthful person?
FALWELL, JR.: I do. I think he is. I've never known...
INSKEEP: Even though he said he's not actually.
FALWELL, JR.: I haven't read that book, so I can't comment on it. But I - but I just - I just know you don't get where he is in life by not telling the truth or by being dishonest in business and by treating your employees unfairly. And it's just not possible.
INSKEEP: Mr. Falwell, thanks very much. I've enjoyed it.
FALWELL, JR.: Thank you.
INSKEEP: That's Jerry Falwell, Jr. He speaks at the convention tonight, as does Donald Trump. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.