Washington Wednesday: Campaign concerns

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MARY REICHARD, HOST: It’s Wednesday the 10th of July, 2024.

You’re listening to WORLD Radio and we’re so glad you are! Good morning, I’m Mary Reichard.

NICK EICHER, HOST: And I’m Nick Eicher. It’s Washington Wednesday.

Congressional Democrats have lost their appetite to try to push President Biden off the ticket. One of the leading critics on a Democratic caucus conference call was veteran House Democrat Jerrold Nadler of New York. By the afternoon yesterday though he was back in line, questioned by CNN’s Manu Raju who would ask Nadler why he changed his tune on Biden.

NADLER: He made very clear he’s going to run. He’s got an excellent record, one of the most existential presidents of the last century. Trump would be an absolute disaster for democracy. So I’m enthusiastically supporting Biden.

RAJU: What did you say on that call on Sunday?

NADLER: I’m not gonna comment on what I said on a private call.

REICHARD: Biden set a defiant tone on Monday with a letter to Congressional Democrats saying he is committed and competent and he intends to stay on as the Democratic nominee.

This came after a week of withering media coverage of a debate with Donald Trump that no Democrat, including Biden, would defend. I had a bad night, he said repeatedly.

EICHER: Now nearly two weeks later, concerns have only increased. Biden took questions about his age in an interview with ABC’s George Stephanopoulos over the holiday weekend:

STEPHANOPOULOS: Did you know how badly it was going?

BIDEN: Well look, the whole way I prepared- nobody’s fault. Mine. Nobody’s fault but mine.

STEPHANOPOULOS: But what has all that work over the last three and a half years cost you physically, mentally, emotionally?

BIDEN: Well, [long pause] I-I-I think it just cost me a really bad night. Bad run. But you know I…. George… I am optimistic about this country.

REICHARD: In that letter to Democrats in Congress, Biden stated his record on job numbers, drug prices, and “canceling” student debt. He said he must take the nomination out of respect for the democratic process, citing voters who have already cast their ballots. Biden referred to himself as the “presumptive nominee,” and took it even further when he called into the MSNBC show Morning Joe.

BIDEN: I’m more than the presumptive, I’m gonna be the Democratic nominee.

EICHER: In the Stephanopoulos interview Biden argued that he’s evaluated for his cognitive strength on a regular basis, and that there would be no need to submit to independent testing.

On Capitol Hill, some Democrats left a House Democratic Caucus meeting in Washington still lukewarm in their support. Here’s Congressman Ritchie Torres of New York speaking to reporters. Leo Briceno in WORLD’s Washington bureau among them:

TORRES: If this president declines to leave voluntarily then he’s our nominee and we have to do everything we can to support him, it’s that simple. [Reporter: Do you think- Do you think he’s the best person to defeat Donald Trump?] We have to make the best of a complicated situation.

LEO BRICENO: Is that a pragmatic consideration?

TORRES: I’m a pragmatist, so yes it is.

REPORTER: Has the president said he would consider whether or not to drop out?

[No answer]

REICHARD: Now turning our attention to the other half of this year’s presidential race. The Republican National Committee released new language for the platform to be voted on at the convention next week.

EICHER: In 2020, the Republican Party decided to forgo the platform committee due to the pandemic and a scaled back convention. The new platform wording was released on Monday, perhaps best summarized with former President Donald Trump’s catchphrase: Make America Great Again. Platform planks include restoring Trump’s border policies, modernizing the military, ending critical race theory and gender ideology in schools, and restoring protection of women under Title IX.

What the new document lacks, though, is strong pro-life language. Here to discuss the changes and the politics is Jonah Wendt. Jonah is a policy adviser at Advancing American Freedom, which is a think tank founded by former Vice President Mike Pence.

REICHARD: Jonah, thanks for joining us.

WENDT: Hi Mary, thanks for having me on. It’s an honor to be here.

REICHARD: Jonah, let’s start with what struck you most about the proposed new Republican platform language?

WENDT: Yeah. So the Republican platform language has massively shrunk down. I believe there were 35 references to either life or abortion in the previous platform. That’s been condensed down to one. And you also have a very concerning language here in terms of what Republicans will protect and defend the vote of the people from within the states on the issue of life. And that should get the hair on the back of a lot of pro-lifers to stand up when they start thinking about the recent ballot initiatives we’ve seen in Ohio and are going to be on the ballots in Arizona and Florida.

And this idea that Republicans are now supposed to be on the side of doing ballot initiatives that oftentimes result in massively expanded abortion policies, especially when those campaigns are often conducted without, you know, the slightest bit of honesty from the pro-abortion agenda.

REICHARD: Well, that’s the quantity aspect. Let’s talk the quality aspect. I mean, the whole document is only 16 pages. As you say, it mentions abortion once and says, I’ll quote here: “we will oppose late term abortion, while supporting mothers and policies that advance Prenatal Care, access to Birth Control, and IVF.” Jonah, is this very different from the past, and if so, how?

WENDT: The previous language had been much stronger, but when you’re saying that late-term abortion according to the CDC, 99 percent of abortions happen prior to 21 weeks. And so now the Republican party is saying you can have abortions under those situations, but not after 21 weeks. So saying you’re only going to stop 1 percent of abortion, that’s not going to really fire up pro-lifers.

And then additionally embracing IVF, which a lot of pro-life Americans have deep, deep concerns with. There’s responsible ways to do it. But under the current structure of IVF inside the United States, a lot of pro-lifers have very sincere concerns with the way that it’s practiced.

REICHARD: If you were in charge here and could put in language that you think is best aligned with best principles, what would you say?

WENDT: I would just go back to the 2016 platform. This is language that’s been hammered out over 40 years. Delegates got together, held hearings, did subcommittee meetings, offered amendments and hammered out this language over 40 years. And to just throw that away in the name of honestly, political expediency is quite concerning.

REICHARD: What would you cite as evidence that it’s political expediency alone behind this?

WENDT: I think you can look at how the Trump campaign and the RNC and a lot of the Republican establishment has responded to recent electoral defeats. In the 2022-2020 election cycle, we kept being told that Republicans are going to take all these seats. And then all of a sudden when they didn’t, they had to find some scapegoat. And who else but the pro lifers to scapegoat when they’re going to vote for you anyway.

REICHARD: You know, we’ve seen that pro-life issues have not fared well at the ballot box as you referenced. Since the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade in the Dobbs case, six states have voted on whether their constitution guarantees a right to abortion, and the pro-abortion side has won each time. Ohio, Kentucky, Virginia, California, Michigan, Vermont. Given that, is it sensible to scale back abortion language for the sake of winning elections?

WENDT: I mean, I think this is one of the situations where it’s really the Streisand effect. If you hadn’t touched a language, nobody would talk about it. But now you’re going to tell one of your most loyal voting blocks inside the Republican party, yeah, your issue, we’re scared of it. I don’t think that’s very helpful. I think if they just kept the language as it is, it’s a non-story. You say, this has been the language for 40 years. The Republican party unapologetically stands for life. But now by retreating, you’re making it into a much bigger issue.

REICHARD: You mentioned the Streisand effect. That’s a reference to when Barbra Streisand, the singer and actress, sued a photographer for taking a photo of her mansion on the cliffs of Malibu. He did it for ecological reasons, the California Coastal Records Project. And her lawsuit just brought even more attention to her home that she was trying to avoid. Is that what you mean by the Streisand Effect?

WENDT: Yes.

REICHARD: Okay, all right. Well, we know that this is not the final official platform. That only happens after delegates vote next week in Milwaukee. What do you expect to happen?

WENDT: A lot of the delegates there will get their arms twisted and forced to vote ‘Yes.’ But, luckily Tony Perkins at Family Research Council’s on the platform committee. He has been a very strong voice for life. He’s actually trying to introduce a minority report that expands on these pro-life views. And I encourage delegates to support his maneuver, although I don’t expect it to be successful.

REICHARD: Final question here Jonah…what’s good about the platform?

WENDT: The platform is great in certain areas. It calls for extending the Trump/Pence tax cuts. It calls for a Reaganesque peace through strength. It opposes the radical gender ideology we’ve seen sweeping through schools. It supports school choice. There’s a number of great things in the document. It also calls for protecting a Supreme Court, keeping that from being packed and ending the Democrats’ radical lawfare. Like when you have pro-life activists having the FBI knock down their doors simply because they were at an abortion clinic, that seems like it’s something that we should be fighting to stop. And when you’re just fundamentally breaking the rules of the game and how it’s played in the United States and using the legal system to go after your political opponents, that’s simply not who we are.

REICHARD: Anything else you’d want to add to this entire topic?

WENDT: I think that this platform opens up the question of is there a pro-life party in the United States? And that pro-life activists need to think long and hard about that. A lot of the pro-life activists that I follow on Twitter who aren’t politically connected—those who are more free to speak their mind—have incredible concerns about this. And they do give President Trump credit for winning the 2016 election, pushing life, getting Supreme Court justices. But now Trump’s really left the pro-life movement out to dry. And so you’ve got a situation now where…All these people claim they’re pro-life and now you have people walking away from the issue and we need to be standing stronger than ever.

REICHARD: Jonah Wendt is a policy adviser at Advancing American Freedom. Jonah, thanks so much.

WENDT: Thank you for having me on, Mary.


WORLD Radio transcripts are created on a rush deadline. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of WORLD Radio programming is the audio record.

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