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Week In Politics: July 4th Amid A Pandemic, Economic Depression And Protests


Thank you for joining us on this Independence Day that is unlike any other in American experience. It falls in a time of pandemic, social distancing, economic depression and protest against injustice. NPR senior editor and correspondent Ron Elving joins us. Ron, thanks for being with us.

RON ELVING, BYLINE: Good to be with you, Scott.

SIMON: We have heard in newscasts and elsewhere in the show about President Trump's speech last night at Mount Rushmore. Tell us a bit about your impressions.

ELVING: You might say it summed up where we stand as a nation on our 244th birthday, Scott, or at least where the president thinks we stand. He went very light on the coronavirus, mentioned it only in passing. Instead, he wanted to frame the moment as a great confrontation over American history, posing on one side the four presidents on the postcard monument behind him and on the other what he called the new left-wing fascism, which was his phrase for the movement protesting the treatment of Black people by police and the glorification of slave holders and the Confederacy. It could not be clearer where the president is going with this as a strategy for bringing out his hardcore supporters in November.

SIMON: And, of course, the coronavirus pandemic barely mentioned in the speech, cases are rising in almost 40 out of 50 states. Is the White House, as you see it, changing, stepping up or somehow altering its approach?

ELVING: There has been some give regarding the masks. The president said this week he was all for the masks, said he thought the mask made him look good, although we haven't really seen him wearing one. And Vice President Pence has begun wearing a mask pretty consistently. But if you looked at that crowd in South Dakota last night jammed together, very few masks visible in the crowd, much like in the Tulsa rally and Phoenix.

Now, some of the Secret Service people on those trips have since tested positive, as has Kimberly Guilfoyle, Donald Trump Jr.'s girlfriend who was present at those rallies. The president has also insisted on having as big a celebration tonight in Washington, D.C., as the city will allow, including what they're calling the biggest fireworks show ever - so not that much alteration, not that much stepping up.

SIMON: And there was a promising jobs report this week but with a big but.

ELVING: Yes, it was a truly encouraging report about the jobs picture as of three weeks ago. The bad news is that right after they did those measurements, the resurgence of the virus began closing businesses down again. Lots of furloughed people came back only to be furloughed again. Nonetheless, the report gave the president a chance to insist that the virus was under control. Here he is on Thursday.


PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: Today's announcement proves that our economy is roaring back. It's coming back extremely strong. We have some areas where we're putting out the flames or the fires. And that's working out well. We're working very closely with governors, and I think it's working out very well. I think you'll see that shortly.

ELVING: Yeah, that was Thursday, the same day we broke our one-day record with 55,200 new coronavirus cases in a single day. So those flames are going to be around for a while and showing up on the next jobs report four weeks from now.

SIMON: Is the Trump campaign going to go into the fall and just avoid the coronavirus?

ELVING: The operative philosophy appears to be that if the president doesn't talk about it, it doesn't exist on the right level for his supporters, and he can blow past it.

SIMON: NPR's Ron Elving, thanks so much for being with us.

ELVING: Thank you, Scott. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Ron Elving is Senior Editor and Correspondent on the Washington Desk for NPR News, where he is frequently heard as a news analyst and writes regularly for NPR.org.