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Week In Politics: Trump Goes After Kamala Harris After Biden's Running Mate Decision

SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

Joe Biden announced his running mate this week. The president immediately called Senator Kamala Harris nasty and stoked another birther falsehood. No deal on corona relief, no money for the post office when they need it most, and virtual conventions. NPR senior editor and correspondent Ron Elving joins us. Good morning, Ron.

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

SIMON: And good to be with you, my friend.

Kamala Harris - senator, former state attorney general, San Francisco prosecutor, daughter of Jamaican and Indian immigrants, first woman of color on a major presidential party ticket - what does she bring to the campaign?

ELVING: A connection to the future, Scott, to younger voters and to people of color, especially to Black and South Asian voters, but also a gusher of cash - $50 million in the first two days after the announcement. That's almost as much as Biden raised in all of 2019. But just as important, she adds a dose of dynamism that's often been lacking in Biden's appearances. You know, he first declared his first formal candidacy for the White House in June of 1987, a third of a century ago. And while that didn't get him far at the time, he had a lot of drive and excitement about him in those days. So watching him and Harris this week, you had a sense she was restoring some of that energy.

SIMON: The first line of criticism President Trump offered was, we have to say, a demonstrable lie that Senator Harris is not eligible to be president. That has to remind you of the lies he promoted about President Obama. I ask this with all reportorial objectivity, does anyone believe this nonsense?

ELVING: Well, we've seen that people can believe virtually anything if they want to. But this is among the more immediately disprovable of the president's falsehoods. What is disturbing is the way Trump raised doubts about her because her parents were immigrants. This is a pattern with this president. It goes well beyond campaign rhetoric. It's woven into his policies as well. But all that aside, Harris still brings a charge to the Biden camp, and just in time for the Democratic convention next week.

SIMON: Which opens in Milwaukee, but not really - mostly remotely. A convention like any other, right?

ELVING: Yeah, a convention where people don't convene - or not many of them, at any rate. So we don't really have a model for what it'll look like or how big a TV audience it'll have. But, look; if it's a made-for-TV event, it will have that in common with the big stadium conventions we've been watching over the last 50 years. Those have all been scripted TV events, too.

Meanwhile, President Trump has largely undermined any interest in his own convention in Charlotte, N.C., which would come the very following week. The latest idea the president has for his speech accepting the nomination is to use the White House as a nighttime TV backdrop for that. So we'll see what happens.

SIMON: President Trump announced an agreement to normalize relations between Israel and the United Arab Emirates this week. Wherever that agreement leads, does it give the president a political bump?

ELVING: Surely, it should. Any positive development there in that region is heartening and deserves a salute for all involved. But there are questions about just what has been agreed to. Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu says he's agreed to a temporary delay in annexing parts of the West Bank. The leader of the United Arab Emirates, on the other side, is calling it a permanent ban on annexation and then characterizing his own concession as being only for a road map toward normal relations with Israel. So it looks like a breakthrough, but it still has to be sold to the hard-liners on both sides.

SIMON: And this week, the president was astonishingly blunt about not helping the U.S. Postal Service in processing mail-in ballots, wasn't he?

ELVING: Yeah, all in the same week that he requested his own mail-in ballot in Florida. It's stunning to see any American president say he doesn't want to help the Postal Service, wants to hobble it in the middle of a pandemic. But it's not the first time Trump has said without evidence that voting by mail is more vulnerable to fraud or that it helps Democrats. The irony here is that mailed-in ballots have historically favored Republican candidates, and they're mostly used by older and more affluent voters, who are more likely to be Republican, at least in the past.

SIMON: Finally, Senate adjourned without passing a corona relief bill. Millions of Americans are still hurting, aren't they?

ELVING: They are, indeed, and that should be the focus for both sides of these negotiations, and it's why both sides are taking a big risk. Neither can be sure it won't be the object of voter wrath in November.

SIMON: NPR's Ron Elving, thanks so much.

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