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Week In Politics: Democratic Ticket And Trump's USPS Moves


This week, we got the full picture of the choice Americans will make in November as former Vice President Joe Biden announced that his running mate on the Democratic presidential ticket will be California Sen. Kamala Harris. And Harris, the former prosecutor, laid out her case against the Trump-Pence ticket.


KAMALA HARRIS: Just look where they've gotten us - more than 16 million out of work, millions of kids who cannot go back to school, a crisis of poverty, of homelessness afflicting Black, brown and Indigenous people the most, a crisis of hunger afflicting 1 in 5 mothers who have children that are hungry and tragically more than 165,000 lives that have been cut short.

SHAPIRO: At the White House, President Trump made his own argument against the Democrats, talking about the way Harris questioned his Supreme Court nominee, Brett Kavanaugh.


PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: She was extraordinarily nasty to Kavanaugh - Judge Kavanaugh then, now Justice Kavanaugh. She was nasty to a level that was just a horrible thing the way she was.

SHAPIRO: Well, as we sometimes do on Fridays, we're going to talk about the week in politics, including the state of the presidential race, with two analysts, Washington Post columnist Jonathan Capehart and New York Times columnist David Brooks. Good to have you both here.


DAVID BROOKS: Good to be with you.

SHAPIRO: Biden seemed to be in a strong position before he named Harris. What do each of you make of his choice of putting her on the ticket? David, what's your reaction?

BROOKS: You know, the first 48 hours when you pick a vice president are super crucial. Does the party get a jolt of energy? Does some scandal arise? Is there a media frenzy? And by that standard, the picking of Harris has to be regarded as just a tremendous success. The Democrats do seem genuinely excited. They raised $48 million. And there's really no clear line of opposition the Republicans have. The two other political things I like about the way they handled it, first, is they honored all the runner-ups. So Susan Rice and all the others who didn't quite make it feel - were praised, and I think their stature has been enhanced by the process. The second thing is they seem to understand Harris' downside, which is she ran a very poor campaign, disorganized, some of her staff was suspect, and they apparently made it clear in the selection that there would not be a separate Harris staff. There would be just one Biden-Harris staff. And Biden would have control over the staff, and she wouldn't be able to bring all her California people with her. So all in all, I have to say quite an impressive job.

SHAPIRO: Interesting. Jonathan, what's your take?

CAPEHART: I agree with what David said, and I would add this - that Sen. Harris was the common-sense choice. And I say that because I think the American electorate has become so skeptical and cynical about politics the many times they've seen a politician instead of taking the common-sense route or making the common-sense choice, they picked the one that's the most complicated. And so when a politician actually does make the common-sense choice, it's surprising, and it's thrilling. And that's what we saw when Vice President Biden picked Sen. Harris. I think that's a lot of the fuel behind the energy and excitement we've seen over the last 48 hours.

SHAPIRO: You know, part of President Trump's reaction has included speculation with no basis in fact about whether Harris meets the constitutional requirements for a vice presidential candidate. And we want to be very clear, she is qualified. She was born in Oakland, Calif. Do either of you think this is going to have an impact to either help or hurt the president? Jonathan, you want to go first?

CAPEHART: I would hope that it hurts the president. But we have to keep in mind that this is something that he used really to propel himself into presidential politics by using the racist birther lie against then-President Barack Obama. So the fact that he and some others are trotting it out as a way of trying to delegitimize Sen. Harris is not surprising. I do think that it is incumbent upon not just the Biden-Harris campaign to push back against it but for Republicans of conscience and then Americans of conscience to say, no, Mr. President, this is not the way you should be running your reelection campaign.

SHAPIRO: David, do you think this birther-ism 2.0, if you want to call it that, will land differently in 2020 than the first version did when President Obama was in office?

BROOKS: Yeah. It's so obvious. I mean, if you're born in the U.S., you're a U.S. citizen, so this is so uncomplicated. What strikes me is the secondary critique, that she's nasty. And what's always been interesting with Harris since she burst on the scene is most politicians are conflict averse. They hate personal conflict, in person especially. And she's not. She's in committee hearings as a prosecutor, as a regular. She's willing to go toe to toe right in the room with people. And it's her toughness that I think is actually, A, her best quality, if harnessed well by the Biden campaign and the Biden presidency, and the thing that Trump should fear because he's up against - and he and Mike Pence - are up against a genuinely tough character.

SHAPIRO: Let me ask you both about the questions around the U.S. Postal Service, whether they will be able to manage a deluge of mail-in ballots in November and whether President Trump is openly trying to undermine them. I mean, here's what he told Fox Business.


TRUMP: If they don't get those two items, that means you can't have universal mail-in voting because they're not equipped to have it.

SHAPIRO: Those two items being money for mail-in voting and money for the post office. Then here's what he said just a few hours later about the Democrats' request.


TRUMP: I can understand the post office, and if we could agree to a bill, the overall bill, which is obviously a much bigger number than just the post office, that would be fine. But they have the post office as one of their requests. It's their request.

KAITLAN COLLINS: Right. But this morning, you said you were against it, didn't you?

TRUMP: I'm only against - what I'm against is - I'm against doing anything where the people aren't taken care of, and the people aren't being taken care of properly.

SHAPIRO: This is very hard to parse, but just today, we learned the Postal Service has warned 46 states that some mail-in ballots may not be counted. Jonathan, how much of a threat is this to election integrity?

CAPEHART: This is a threat, a major threat, to election integrity. Leave aside the arguments over, you know, what should be in the relief package that, you know, you just heard the president talk about. Apparently postal officials said, you know, leave aside the money. We can handle this. But the problem is with 671 sorting machines being removed as we speak, they handle 21.4 million pieces of paper mail per hour. And...

SHAPIRO: So it's about more than the funding, you're saying.


SHAPIRO: I want to just give David the final word in our last 30 seconds or so. What's your take on this?

BROOKS: Yeah. You know, mail - the number of mail pieces are down by a third. So the Postal Service has to adjust to that reality. But to do it just before an election when we are going to have a mass of mail coming in all at the end seems to be poor timing, to say the least.

SHAPIRO: That's David Brooks of The New York Times and Jonathan Capehart of The Washington Post. Thank you both. Have a great weekend.

CAPEHART: Thanks, Ari.

BROOKS: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.