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How Should Republicans Deal With Donald Trump?


And let's talk more about this with Cokie Roberts, who joins us most Mondays. Cokie, good morning.


GREENE: So we heard right there a little bit of Trump on ABC's "This Week" talking about his hair. But I mean, there was more to that conversation with Martha Raddatz, I mean, pushing pretty hard about Donald Trump's own military record, right?

ROBERTS: Yes, as she first described the horrendous circumstances of John McCain's capture, imprisonment and torture. And then she started asking Trump about his lack of service during the Vietnam War. And he defended the fact that he had first a student deferment, then a medical deferment for a bone spur in his foot. And finally, when the draft lottery was instituted, he pulled a high number and so he wasn't called up. His somewhat uncomfortable answers stood in stark contrast to the war that John McCain had suffered through. But none of that caused Trump to back down or apologize. So if he stays in the race, which he seems likely to do at least for a while, that was just the beginning of what will be an extensive examination of his life, including all of his business deals over the decades, David. And he's unlikely to find that very pleasant.

GREENE: Well, you say if he stays in the race, which you say he's likely to do, likely probably in part because he's doing so well in the polls. I mean, what does that tell us about the Republican Party right now?

ROBERTS: Well, it tells us there's a great big field and lots of people have been at the top of the polls at this point in the race and eventually dropped without a trace. Remember Herman Cain...

GREENE: Yeah...

ROBERTS: ...From last time around?

GREENE: Big name for a little while.

ROBERTS: Right, that's right. Trump is obviously more formidable because he's better-known and he's self-financed. And he might be willing to stay in much longer than other flash-in-the-pan candidates. But in the end, I think that's what he's likely to be. But look, it is clearly a problem for the other candidates who can't get their message out because he's taking up all the oxygen in the room. So what he says at a conservative forum in Iowa, the other candidates are drowned out.

GREENE: You know, I think about drowned out, you could say the same thing about some of the Democratic hopefuls over the weekend at this gathering of liberal activists. Remind us what happened there.

ROBERTS: Well, Martin O'Malley and Bernie Sanders were in Arizona for a Netroots forum, and they were repeatedly shouted down. A crowd of African-American activists went after O'Malley when he stated that all lives matter in talking about police violence. And their cries of black lives matter filled the room. And after about 10 awkward minutes, he was basically forced off the stage. And then Bernie Sanders didn't fare much better as he tried to lay out an economic program. Hillary Clinton, the front-runner still, stayed away from that gathering in what was probably a wise political move because she was likely to meet the same kind of reception, except more so.

And, you know, David, it's really no win for her if she tries to placate the left of the party. She'll say things that get her in trouble if she gets to the general election. If she doesn't try to placate them, she gets pushed around and looks bad. And she knows that all these efforts to push her to the left by party activists could actually spell disaster if it makes the Democrats look like they're out of the mainstream. That had been the problem for the party from McGovern to Bill Clinton. And it's Clinton's efforts - Bill Clinton's efforts - to move the party to the center that some liberal activists are trying to change.

GREENE: All right, we're speaking to Cokie Roberts. She joins us most Mondays. Cokie, have a great week.

ROBERTS: OK, David, thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Cokie Roberts was one of the 'Founding Mothers' of NPR who helped make that network one of the premier sources of news and information in this country. She served as a congressional correspondent at NPR for more than 10 years and later appeared as a commentator on Morning Edition. In addition to her work for NPR, Roberts was a political commentator for ABC News, providing analysis for all network news programming.
David Greene is an award-winning journalist and New York Times best-selling author. He is a host of NPR's Morning Edition, the most listened-to radio news program in the United States, and also of NPR's popular morning news podcast, Up First.