Trump's 'critics say he talks loudly and carries a small twig': NPR correspondent

The "This Week" Powerhouse Roundtable discusses the politics of the week and remembers Cokie Roberts.
15:18 | 09/23/19

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Transcript for Trump's 'critics say he talks loudly and carries a small twig': NPR correspondent
In the 1960s the ladder of opportunity in journalism was closed to her and other women. She wrote six nationally best selling books. Yet, after we were married and moved to New York, she was told repeatedly by various editors we do not hire women to be writers. Steve Roberts delivering the eulogy for his wife cokie Roberts. I'm happy to be joined by friends and colleagues here at our round table which says a lot about that ladder today. Donna Brazile, a Fox News contributor and former DNC chair. Like cokie a proud Louisiana native. Karen Tumulty, a political columnist for the "Washington post". Mara liasson, she worked side by side with cokie and our Karen Travers, cokie mentored her here at ABC. We'll get to our thoughts on cokie in a little bit. We'll start with the news just as cokie would have wanted us to do. Karen Tumulty, I want to start with you. I want to pick up on Iran. You heard what secretary Pompeo said. The president's maximum pressure campaign seems to be having the opposite effect of what they wanted it to do despite what secretary Pompeo says. The question is, can the president let Iran get away with this attack. I think that is one of the things a lot of other countries are going to be wondering at the U.N. General assembly. The president's messaging has been so inconsistent. Talking about peaceful I think that he's confusing a lot of people in this country, but also a lot of other countries around the world. Mara, the president doesn't appear to know how he wants to respond, but he has two things in mind. He doesn't want to disrupt the economy certainly and he doesn't want to go to war for someone who said they would get us out of wars. I would add to that he doesn't want to look weak. All of that is pretty hard to juggle. You can't do all those things at once. His critics say he talks loudly and carries a small twig. The president wants the benefits of looking tough. Now this is real life. He created a maximum pressure campaign to put the screws to Iran. What did he think would happen? He says he's locked and loaded. He said he doesn't want war. He sends a couple hundred troops to Saudi Arabia. The message to Iran is, hey, you got away from this. Karen Travers you do a lot of radio two-ways. What are they asking you about this? Are they tuned in? There was a big difference Monday to Friday. Monday after the president's locked and loaded tweet, there were a lot of concerns that a military strike was eminent and a lot of questions about what the U.S. Interest was here. What is the national security interest that's at stake? As the president dialed back and talked about wanting a peaceful solution, the question I heard most was a credibility question. Why should we believe the trump administration when they say Iran absolutely did this, and why should we believe the trump administration that the strategy they'll pursue is correct? The president questions his own intelligence agencies. The president has mislead on issues big and small, including the hurricane Dorian map. That was referenced a lot this week. They haven't presented any evidence. That's correct. The question has become why should we trust them. Karen, I want to turn to the whisleblower complaint and how that's playing out. The president said I hope they put this conversation out. How big a problem do you see this for the president? The president has been tweeting about this for three days. He's been tweeting about it. His strategy seems to be deflect and distract. He said he had a beautifully, perfectly fine conversation. He said he didn't say anything wrong, but if he did, it doesn't matter anyway. We heard this strategy from the president before. He's calling it a witch hunt. He's trying to muddy the waters in such a way that, if you're a supporter of the president, you don't think it's a big deal. It's the latest thing the Democrats and the media are going to make a big deal out of. Don't support the president, you think this is it. Donna, this has got to be personal for you. You had your emails hacked in 2016 by the Russians. When you look at this, what do you say? I say never again. We should not allow the president of the United States to put his political interests above the interests of our national security. Once again, the president is diverting attention now saying that the investigation should be on Joe Biden when we've known for months the president directed his personal attorney, Mr. Giuliani, to figure out if there was something there and now the president is attacking the whistleblower, attacking the intelligence agencies. He's doing all this when he can simply say congress should do their job. Congress should allow the whistleblower to come forward and we should see the entire transcript. Karen, if he puts the call out, does that end it? No. Depending on what it says. It depds on what it says. This is qualitatively different from everything we talked about in the 2016 election. This is a sitting president using the powers of his office and, if what has been reported is true about this conversation, I mean, he is not -- Credible and urgent found the ig. He's inviting a foreign power to collude. It's all different from any of these controversies we've seen before. Is it a way for the trump administration to talk about Joe Biden? You saw secretary Pompeo turn it to Joe Biden. Se. It could be the 2020 version of birtherism. Oh, Joe Biden did something bad in the Ukraine. The Ukrainians investigated this and said there's no evidence of any wrong doing. My question is today he says he wants the transcript released. Does he really want that? Or is that yes I'll release my tax returns and I'll talk to Bob Mueller? We don't know. If it's released, it's simpler for people to understand. It's one conversation. There's a formal whistleblower complaint through the system. It's not a leaker. We don't know for sure that whistleblower complaint was about Ukraine. Right, or about this conversation only. We don't know. These are small numbers or pieces of evidence congress is trying to get their hands on. It involves the president talking to a foreign country and not benefitting from some vague scheme of Vladimir Putin. Karen, I want to turn to you for the 2020 race which we're going at with full speed. The Des Moines register poll shows Elizabeth Warren taking over Joe Biden, a 7-point jump. She seems to have all the momentum. She does. I think it's striking to see all the candidates' efforts, the race is steady except for Warren with that jump. Also, Joe Biden dropping several points. There was a number that was interesting. Two thirds of likely democratic caucus Goers say they haven't made up their minds yet. It's very early. There's a lot of time for that to change. Certainly that boost is fitting the narrative for Elizabeth Warren. She's on the rise right now. Donna, what do you see? The race is coming into sharper focus. Anything can change over the next few months. The other story is that Cory booker has signalled to his supporters if he's unable to raise $1.7 million over the next five or six days he's out. Doesn't have the field. Karen, Warren and Bernie Sanders have been trying to turn the table on Joe Biden. Take a listen to Warren this week. There's a lot at stake in this election. I know people are scared. We can't choose a candidate we don't believe in just because we're too scared to do anything Can Warren and Sanders make that case against Biden effectively? If you look at the Iowa poll numbers the percentage that say they're open to Warren's message is absolutely enormous. She has something I would rather have than a lead in the polls. She has the steady, steady gains. We're over 120 days until the caucuses. It tends to break away. What she's finding is that voters in the democratic caucuses are very open to her message. I think what we're seeing if it ends up being a warren/biden race, we'll see a clear ideological contrast. Not only do you see Warren's claims of Biden's electability, you see Biden pushing back on her policies, how she's going to pay for it. You'll see a clearer contrast. Karen, I want to take a look at how the president is doing. "The New York Times," they write Mr. Trump has made clear he wants to accomplish something big, but seems stymied. He has remained on the sidelines as divisive issues are debated and is treading water for fear of how things play. Does he need to accomplish something else with his re-election pitch? He needs to accomplish it or talk about it in a way that convinces his supporters. The economy is the center piece of his re-election message, but there are troubling signs there. Polls are showing that voters are starting to give him more criticism than praise. On doing something big -- it's why the administration is trying to rush money to build something of a border wall, just anything so he can say I built that. It's why you see these conversations over the past couple weeks about gun measures despite the fact there's no indication that the president is on board with what his administration is shopping. He told supporters at a fundraiser in California behind closed doors he's a strong supporter of the second amendment and that's what he's going to stick to. Put 2020 aside for a minute so we can reflect on our wonderful colleague, cokie Roberts. Donna, I want to start with you. Louisiana women. When I first met cokie, I was 21. I got up here to Washington, D.C. Cokie found out I was working for Gillis long. She said you're from new Orleans? I was born in New Orleans. I said yes, but the line was too long to work for your mom. She said I'll shorten it. The next month I was in Lindy boggs' office. She was an amazing woman. She pulled the ladder down for young women like myself, but she kept it down. She kept pushing me. She had a drive like no one this is the crawfish corn bread dressing. On the back is cokie's ndwriting. Women's leadership forum, national archives. Cokie constantly pushed us to be our better selves. She's on my wau along with Maya Angelou, Coretta Scott king. She was a great mentor and a wonderful friend. Karen, you texted me right away after cokie's passing and said when you struggled through cancer she planted herself in your room. Yeah. I think that what people -- what her listeners and viewers could sense about cokie was very genuine with her. I was not one of her closest friends, but I can tell you -- I mean, to look up in my hospital room after cancer surgery and there is cokie holding a big arm load of reading material and a big fresh load of gossip for me which I needed just as badly at that time. As did she. She loved her gossip. The thing about cokie was -- again, she was so generous in sharing her insights. She had such a deep understanding and respect for the institution of Washington which isn't very fashionable these days. She knew the back story of everything. Karen, I want to turn to you. You have known cokie since you were an intern here. Look at you now. Yes. She's always been so proud. When I read your remembrances of her, they were so touching. I thought how did cokie ever find the time to do so much for all of us. We all said this. She must have had more hours in a day than we all. To spend time with you in the hospital, to do her work, to do all this. Our twins were born prematurely. They spent three months in the NICU. Our friends were signing up for bringing food. Cokie signed up to give us food. She made it homemade, Louisiana of course. She have dropped it off on our front porch with a text that said there's foot on the front porch, plus wine. Our friends saw the sign-up sheet. They said is that the cokie Roberts bringing you food. I said it was. It wasn't just the work. It was the life, amazing mentor and role model she was outside this building. She slept very few hours. I don't know how she did it. She slept very few hours. She was one of those people who slept very few hours and didn't need it. I became a reporter at national public radio because of cokie I was a newscaster. I wanted to be a reporter. She by some miracle decided I should be her number two in congress when she was the congressional correspondent. I got to work under her, learn how to do it. She gave me an amazing education. We would go into the majority leader's office in the morning for the pen and pad gaggle and she would drill him because I'm sure she knew him since they were both in diapers. Then I trailed behind her in the bowels of the capital. Then she would talk to the workers in the cafeteria and treated them with the exact same respect and dignity. She had such a moral clarity. Yes. About everything. I wouldn't be here without her, none of us would.

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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