Week In Politics: U.S. Sees Job Gains In May
SCOTT SIMON, HOST:
Of course, when President Trump called in the National Guard in the streets of Washington, D.C., he told governors in a conference call they must be dominating. NPR senior editor and correspondent Ron Elving joins us now. Ron, thanks so much for being with us.
RON ELVING, BYLINE: Good to be with you, Scott.
SIMON: The president spoke at the White House yesterday for roughly an hour. And with all of the events and ferment going on, he spoke mostly about the May jobs numbers, didn't he?
ELVING: Yes, indeed, he did. And it may have been the first time we've seen a president take a victory lap for 13% unemployment. But, you know, that was a better number than April by almost a point and a half and way better than what economists and journalists were expecting. So it turns out that even after a short period of reopening restaurants and dentist offices and so on, millions of furloughed folks go back, and it offsets the further job losses elsewhere in the economy. And, of course, the president has been cheerleading for quick reopening. And so here he is yesterday describing this recovery.
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PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: Now we're opening, and we're opening with a bang. And we've been talking about the V. This is better than a V. This is a rocket ship.
ELVING: One thing about a rocket ship, though, Scott, as a metaphor, it does set certain expectations. Right now, the stimulus bills are still shoring up the economy to some extent, and permanent job losses actually increased in the month of May. We should note as well that job losses for African Americans actually grew and the gap between white and black unemployment got worse. Still, it was easily the best news the president has had on any front in some time.
SIMON: And this week, the president was the subject of grave and serious criticism from high-profile and respected people who once worked for him who do not approve of his leadership, do they?
ELVING: It started with that dressing down of the governors that you mentioned. Then we had the violent clearing of peaceful protesters from the park across from the White House to set up Trump's photo-op with the Bible in the boarded-up church. All this prompted unusually sharp responses from a number of retired national security officials and even military officers, such as retired Marine General and former Secretary of Defense James Mattis. They denounced the president's talk about sending troops into American cities, and Mattis in particular said the president had not even tried to unite the country or even pretended to try. He said the president had chosen to divide and deepen the divide. And another retired Marine general, John Allen, wrote that the events of Monday night, the clearing of the park across from the White House, looked like the beginning of the end for American democracy.
SIMON: And when these generals spoke up, a number of, I guess what we'd call - what we used to call, I might say, centrist Republicans seemed to also speak. I'm thinking specifically of the Republican senator from Alaska, Lisa Murkowski.
ELVING: Yes. Senator Murkowski has not been a big Trump booster, but she has stood by him on the big votes. Now, with her newfound reluctance, the president has targeted her on Twitter, vowing to support anyone who will oppose her in her next primary - anyone with a pulse, the president said.
And one other remarkable thing the president said to end the week, on Friday morning, talking about the jobs report, he said George Floyd was hopefully looking down and saying this is a great thing that's happening for our country. Continuing to quote the president, "a great day for him, a great day for everybody, a great day in terms of equality."
SIMON: Do we know where, when the Republican National Convention in August is going to be?
ELVING: Not really. The governor there in North Carolina, Roy Cooper, is a Democrat. He says they are still seeing a lot of new COVID cases in North Carolina. He can't guarantee approval for 20,000 people to go to Charlotte and jam into a basketball arena in August. And that prompted the president to say he was going to move his acceptance speech, the centerpiece of the convention, out of Charlotte, possibly to Tennessee or Texas or maybe most likely to Florida, which is now his home state.
SIMON: And we will note the polls don't look so good for the president.
ELVING: It's been a rough week for Trump in the polls, several of which now have him trailing Joe Biden nationally by 7 points or as many as 11.
SIMON: NPR's Ron Elving, thanks so much.
ELVING: Thank you, Scott. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.