What does Trump gain politically by attacking NFL players?


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JUDY WOODRUFF: Meantime, it’s time for our Politics Monday team to look at not just the Affordable Care Act, but what we have been talking about earlier in the program, the feud between the president and the National Football League.

Joining us now, Amy Walter of The Cook Political Report, Tamara Keith of NPR, Politics Monday.

Amy, you just heard Lisa’s report. Apparently, the Republicans’ effort is dead once again.

AMY WALTER, The Cook Political Report: Yes.

And the question beyond do they have the votes is, what would happen if they actually passed this? Also over the weekend, there were a number of polls that came out showing that this bill is not particularly popular. People don’t know much about it, which goes to the question about how hard the president himself and Republicans were selling it to the public, which is, the answer is not a lot.

But even on the question about whether people like Obamacare, you heard Senator Tim Scott saying people really hate Obamacare, we need to do something about it. When the ABC poll asked voters, if you had a choice between Obamacare or this Republican proposal, 56 percent said they would rather stay with Obamacare, 33 percent said they would go with the Republican proposal.

So, even if something passed, Republicans would then have to spend a whole bunch of time defending it, defining it, and talking about it, and trying to get people to like something that right now they’re not particularly interested in.

JUDY WOODRUFF: So, maybe they’re better off without it, Tamara.


TAMARA KEITH, NPR: Well, I won’t be the one to decide that.



TAMARA KEITH: I think that Republicans want something.

Clearly, the president wants something, anything. He was on a talk show this morning in Alabama, mostly to talk about the Senate race, but was also talking about the repeal and replace effort. And he wasn’t kind to his fellow Republicans. He said they were posturing, that he was just totally upset with John McCain.

But he also — who has said that he would vote no on the measure, and on a previous version did the thumbs-down that President Trump found very upsetting. And he talked about that.

But, you know, he wasn’t making a hard pitch for the legislation. And he also just didn’t even seem that optimistic. Now, there have been times where this White House has said, it’s going to pass at this point in the process. And they aren’t saying that this time.

AMY WALTER: Yes, Republicans have been saying — we saw some reporting on this over the weekend — their greatest fear was that, because they haven’t been able to pass this, donors are getting very upset about this and sitting on their wallets, which impacts the candidates up in 2018.


AMY WALTER: It may not affect President Trump, but it certainly impacts his party.

JUDY WOODRUFF: So, you mentioned Alabama, Tam.

I will use this to turn to that. The president was there on Friday. He made news for a whole lot of reasons. But what does that race look like right now between Luther Strange, who is the appointed senator, and Roy Moore?

TAMARA KEITH: Well, it is a fascinating race that — and we talked about this a little bit last week, but it really pits President Trump, who has supported Luther Strange, who is the appointed sort of fill-in for the senator who left to become the attorney general, it pits President Trump’s candidate against basically all of President Trump’s people.

You have got Steve Bannon, you have got Sarah Palin, you have got all of these Trump allies campaigning for Roy Moore, who, according to recent polls, seems to have an advantage.

Yes, we — I was talking to one Republican analyst who said, you know, you have got people that went to this rally that President Trump had for Luther Strange, put on their make America great again red hats, and probably walked out and planned to vote for Roy Moore.

AMY WALTER: It is — this debate and this sort of intraparty fighting between the establishment/anti-establishment has been going on for years, right? We remember this starting in 2010.

The difference this year is that, in 2010, it was Republicans as the out-party. They were frustrated with their own party, saying they weren’t fighting hard enough against President Obama and Democrats in Congress.

So, they were trying to figure out who they were and how to define themselves. Now here we are, Republicans have the White House, they have the House, they have the Senate. The intraparty rifts are as strong as ever.

And even the president, while he did go down to endorse Luther Strange, of course, said, well, maybe I shouldn’t have done this in the first place, that Roy Moore, he is actually a pretty good guy.

So, you know, his stamp of approval isn’t necessarily helping to heal this rift. And I think we’re going to continue to see this. We had already started to see primaries start to emerge among Republican senators up in 2018.

It will be curious to see if we see an increase if Roy Moore does win, of these intraparty fights on the Senate and the House side.

TAMARA KEITH: And let me just say that, if Roy Moore wins, President Trump is going to find a way to turn it into a victory for himself.

AMY WALTER: Absolutely.

TAMARA KEITH: President Trump doesn’t take defeat. He finds victory in defeat.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, the other news that the president made in Alabama, of course, was going after the National Football League, the players who have been protesting during the national anthem.

Amy, we — it’s become a huge topic of conversation over the weekend. It was at every professional game yesterday. What does the president gain politically by doing this?

AMY WALTER: Yes, I think he is just — this has been true since he was a private citizen, since — as a candidate and now as president.

Getting into the culture piece, whether we call it the culture wars or the divide on some of these issues, is a much more comfortable place for him than getting in debates about policy.

And that’s where he likes to sit. It’s where he feels the most confident. And, remember, all through 2016, he took these positions that a whole bunch of folks, even on his own side, said, don’t get involved in those, they are going to be politically damaging, you can’t recover from this.

And, of course, he won. And so he trusts his gut and he trusts instincts on these issues. They play to people that show up at his rallies.

And I think that’s the other piece to remember. He loves getting the applause and adoration of the folks who show up at the rally. Having a 90-minute speech about health care and taxes wasn’t going to get people riled up.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Is it helping him?

TAMARA KEITH: This is a base-feeding feud, and he keeps picking these feuds. He’s done it again and again and again.

And they — it excites his base. Now, you know, these protests were originally about protesting racism and police brutality. But now the president and the White House say, this isn’t about race. They say it’s about patriotism and the flag.

And President Trump, on many occasions, has turned and said, patriotism. It has — whatever this is, whatever it is, whatever the fight is, he makes it about patriotism.

JUDY WOODRUFF: So, we watch. But, for the time being, Amy, it seems to be splitting the country.

AMY WALTER: It absolutely is.

It will be curious to see when polls come out, though when we looked at polls from when this first started, it was definitely split, especially among racial lines, not surprisingly.


Amy Walter, Tamara Keith, Politics Monday. Thank you both.

AMY WALTER: You’re welcome.

TAMARA KEITH: You’re welcome.

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