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News Brief: RNC Ends, Laura Recovery Begins, Japan PM Resigns

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

The president used the White House as a backdrop last night.

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

He accepted his party's presidential nomination and gave a dark warning. In the outdoor speech, the president recited great moments of history in the White House and then said if Joe Biden is elected, Democrats would destroy it all.

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PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: This election will decide whether we save the American dream or whether we allow a socialist agenda to demolish our cherished destiny.

MARTIN: The location of the president's speech changed multiple times because of the pandemic. First, it was supposed to be in Charlotte, then Jacksonville. Unable to safely gather a crowd in either place, the president fell back on the White House. He did that despite a law that forbids politicking on federal property. The crowd sat shoulder to shoulder. And few people wore masks.

INSKEEP: NPR White House reporter Ayesha Rascoe has been following the Republican convention and is on the line. Ayesha, good morning.

AYESHA RASCOE, BYLINE: Good morning.

INSKEEP: And thanks for your work - staying up late, watching speeches, getting no sleep, getting up early for us. And here we are. Four years ago, Donald Trump said, I alone can fix it. That was a line from his convention speech. What was the follow up?

RASCOE: Oh. Well, in a lot of ways, he painted a picture that he is fixing it. But that picture doesn't necessarily line up with a lot of what Americans are seeing around the country. One thing that stood out was this line where he talked about his response to the coronavirus, which has now killed 180,000 people.

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TRUMP: To save as many lives as possible, we're focusing on the science, the facts and the data. We are aggressively sheltering those at highest risk, especially the elderly, while allowing lower-risk Americans to safely return to work and to school.

RASCOE: He delivered this line with more than 1,000 people sitting outside, many without masks and almost no social distancing. Trump also said there would be a vaccine by the end of the year or maybe even sooner. That is way more optimistic than the current science suggests. The government has led an aggressive effort to get a vaccine. But it's not there yet.

INSKEEP: Well, did the president address another issue that has been making a lot of news this week, protests over racial justice?

RASCOE: There was some talk about that. But really, there was this very extensive talk about law and order - condemning rioters, conflating protests and riots and claiming that America is a land where everyone is equal, which most of the American public does not agree with that statement. This is a message that Trump has come back to again and again. And it's his main thrust of his reelection argument. Vote for Trump or you won't be safe even though these things are happening while Trump is president. He's also being critical of Biden for the 1994 crime bill. But now he's talking about increasing prison sentences and prosecuting people to the full extent of the law.

INSKEEP: Now, he also made this warning about Democrats. Democrats, in fairness, made a warning about Donald Trump, saying that if the president got another four years, it would be a disaster for the country. How did Trump describe Democrats as a potential disaster?

RASCOE: Basically, he argued that Biden would be this Trojan horse of the left and that he would be controlled by far-left politicians. You know, one thing he did say that we can just quickly fact check is that Biden wants to defund the police. And that's just not true. Biden has not said that he wants to defund police. He wants to actually give police forces more funding but in different ways.

INSKEEP: Ayesha, thanks so much.

RASCOE: Thank you.

INSKEEP: NPR's Ayesha Rascoe. And we should note, this is an eventful day in Washington, D.C. A march on Washington echoing the 1963 march led by Martin Luther King is scheduled for today.

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INSKEEP: Some other news now. Hurricane Laura has passed beyond coastal Louisiana and Texas.

MARTIN: Yeah. Its remnants are still causing damage as the storm moves inland. Several people have been killed. Clyde Cain, a member of the volunteer relief group Cajun Navy, talked to NPR from Lake Charles, La.

CLYDE CAIN: Every powerline, practically, around is down, snapped in the road. It just look like a big tornado went through there. It's just been a matter of riding through the streets, assessing the damages and where we're going to be needed for the relief part of this.

INSKEEP: NPR's Wade Goodwyn has been riding through some of those streets and assessing the damage. He's now in Houston. Hey there, Wade.

WADE GOODWYN, BYLINE: Good morning.

INSKEEP: What have you seen and other people seen moving around the coastal area?

GOODWYN: Well, I mean, the one thing that strikes you is the incredible number of trees that have - big, big trees - that have fallen. When you're driving out toward Louisiana, the other side of the highway was reduced to no lanes. You know, a three-lane highway, you know, had trees all the way across it. And the cars that were going west had to ride on the median shoulder for mile after mile while the police tried to clear enough space to actually have one lane.

But once you get to - like, I went to Iowa, La., which is just east of Lake Charles. And, I mean, everything is ripped up. And most of the damage was caused by the trees. So I found, you know, people outside with their chainsaws trying to cut these large trees that had crushed their pickup trucks and smashed through their roofs. And it was hot. I mean, there's nothing worse than, you know, the day after a hurricane. It's like Houston on steroids in the summer. And even though the temperature was about 91, with the humidity, soon as I got out of the car, my face was pouring sweat. And everybody was out there doing the best they can in this heat.

INSKEEP: And I'm just thinking - because we heard about all these power lines being down, a lot of people are going to be without electricity, going to be without air conditioning. And this is not just inconvenient. This could be a life-threatening issue for some people.

GOODWYN: I mean, hundreds of thousands are without power. And again, this - you know, it was the trees that fell that snapped these power lines. I was - you know, when I was walking around and driving around, the poles that held the electric wires had snapped. So they were swinging and hanging.

INSKEEP: Wow. Is it understood why the storm surge, the water, was not as damaging as expected?

GOODWYN: I think we think that it came ashore in a not very densely populated area where they had no gauges. So we're unsure exactly how high the water surge was. But it did not do the kind of damage that, for example, Hurricane Rita, which came ashore right at the same place in 2005 - it flooded everything. This damage was almost entirely wind damage.

INSKEEP: A good reminder that forecasts are only forecasts. You've got to wait for the reality. Wade, thanks so much.

GOODWYN: Oh, you're quite welcome.

INSKEEP: NPR's Wade Goodwyn.

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INSKEEP: Japan's longest serving prime minister is resigning.

MARTIN: Yeah. Shinzo Abe said he is stepping down because of ill health. In the past, Abe has struggled with colitis. This is a chronic digestive disease. He was seen visiting a Tokyo hospital for what was his second visit in a week. He has been prime minister for eight years. For a little context - when he took office, President Obama was still in his first term in this country.

INSKEEP: So how did Shinzo Abe change Japan? NPR's Anthony Kuhn has covered East Asia for years and is on the line from Seoul. Hey there, Anthony.

ANTHONY KUHN, BYLINE: Hey, Steve.

INSKEEP: First, the resignation. What is he saying?

KUHN: His main point was that even though he had said earlier this week that he intended to manage his health condition and do his best at his job, he now feels that, you know, it could influence his political judgment. And that's just not acceptable. You know, he tried to keep the focus on policy, saying that Japan is right in the middle of a fight against COVID. And they've got to keep continuity with that. And at times, he was - you saw a bit of emotion coming through. But he tried to keep it focused on public matters.

INSKEEP: OK. Let's just note, there's no anointed successor here because it's a parliamentary system. It's likely that the same party remains in power and picks another prime minister. As they get started on that process, let's talk about the effects of Abe's departure. First, does it affect relations with the United States?

KUHN: It certainly will. Abe had a personal rapport with President Trump. And he played that up and put it on full display, for example, during a visit last year to Tokyo by President Trump, where he regaled President Trump with sumo wrestling matches, golf games, steaks and hamburgers, all to try to sort of finesse a bumpy period in the relationship. He managed to keep trade frictions with the U.S. under control. He managed to keep the Trump administration's push to get Japan and other allies to pay more for the cost of having U.S. troops there from blowing up. So from the U.S. perspective, they're certainly going to hope that a strong alliance manager like Abe will come next.

INSKEEP: How, if at all, did Shinzo Abe managed to change his country during all those years in power?

KUHN: Well, one of his chief goals was economic growth. He wanted to see Japan grow again like it did in the 1960s. And it did grow for a prolonged period but at a very weak sort of rate. He barely kept GDP growth in positive territory. Another thing was that he wanted to change Japan's post-war constitution and make it, in his mind, a more normal country. And he didn't get to change the constitution. But he was able to legislate so that Japan could deploy its military more extensively overseas, particularly in support of U.S. efforts.

INSKEEP: This was the constitutional limitation on having true armed forces that are called that. He wanted to change that - didn't get that done. But there were more limited things he could do, you're saying.

KUHN: That's correct.

INSKEEP: Anthony, thanks so much.

KUHN: You're welcome, Steve.

INSKEEP: That's NPR's Anthony Kuhn in Seoul. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.