Week In Politics

Jun 8, 2019
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SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

As quickly as they appeared, threats of tariffs on Mexican goods are gone. President Trump says the administration has reached a deal with Mexico. And new NPR polls provide insight into what Americans think on two major issues, one the country's been wrestling with for decades, another we've only confronted a few times - abortion and then impeachment. NPR's senior editor and correspondent Ron Elving joins us. Ron, thanks so much for being with us.

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

SIMON: The threat to slap high tariffs on three - I guess - what? - $350 billion worth of goods from Mexico is indefinitely postponed. How do you read what we've seen the last few days?

ELVING: The president got home last night and proudly declared by tweet that his latest crisis with Mexico had been averted. He said there'd been an agreement between negotiators for the two countries while he was out of the country. We don't have all the details on new measures, and we don't know if they will work. But it appears Mexico's promises about sending some of their newly formed national guard to their border with Guatemala were enough to satisfy President Trump - at least for now. But, Scott, more than a few Americans are asking whether this crisis was real in the first place.

SIMON: The president was in Europe this week, of course, and came home yesterday to disappointing job numbers. Are they an economic warning shot, if you please, about trade wars?

ELVING: It may be, except that the month of May had largely passed before the latest round of trade threats began. So these numbers appear to have more to do with where the overall economy stands after roughly a decade of expansion. We're well into the late stage of the cycle. And some degree of slowdown may be expected. Still, the weak jobs numbers highlighted the dangers of more trade war at this moment.

SIMON: Impeachment continues a kind of slow roll. Now, you've made the distinction between an impeachment inquiry and actual impeachment proceedings. I wonder if this distinction is lost on many of the American people as they respond to public opinion polls. I mean, Senator Pelosi - or Speaker Pelosi said this week she thinks a lot of people think that impeachment means removing the president from office. Of course, it doesn't.

ELVING: It doesn't unless the Senate goes along, and you're right. It's a tough issue to poll in part because of that misimpression. And as we have said before, the percentage that favor impeachment as they understand it is well under half. And in fact, it's lower than it was back in September. And the number of House members who favor impeachment has grown. It's up around 60, but that's still only about a quarter of the total Democratic caucus. So this is less a broad mandate from the people than it is a rallying cry for the activist core.

SIMON: NPR, the PBS NewsHour and Marist organization polled the views of Americans on abortion, and there are both lots of nuance but also some clear generalities, aren't there?

ELVING: An overwhelming majority of Americans, Scott - roughly 3 out of 4 - think that Roe vs. Wade should be upheld and that abortion is now a part of the basic American understanding of personal rights. But at the same time, sizable majorities also believe that abortion rights can coexist with some restrictions, mostly having to do with the timing of abortion and the status of the fetus. And these voters are frustrating to the activists at both extremes on the issue, the people who would ban all or nearly all abortions on one hand and those who would allow abortion under any circumstances on the other.

SIMON: As we said, the president's back from his trip in Europe. He stung some of his political opponents with interviews that were done and - behind the cemetery in Normandy, for example.

ELVING: Yes. The president poses for a lot of pictures with the foreign leaders and has some sort of conversations with them - not clear how much he's listening to them and what he says to them while he's there - seems intended more to be heard by his own supporters back home.

SIMON: Ron Elving, thanks so much.

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