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The Week Ahead In Politics


This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News I'm Ailsa Chang sitting in for Rachel Martin. By almost any measure, Donald Trump's last few days have been pretty terrible - a war of words with the military community, a back and forth with his own party over endorsements, a rush of prominent Republican defections and polls that give his opponent a healthy lead. But about that opponent - Hillary Clinton hasn't had the greatest couple of days either. And joining me now is Ron Elving, senior editor on the Washington desk. Good morning, Ron.

RON ELVING, BYLINE: Good morning, Ailsa.

CHANG: So while Trump was having this terrible, horrible, very bad week, Clinton was giving some dicey answers to a question she's been asked over and over again about her email server.

ELVING: Yes, and there's really no quick recap of all those answers, and that's part of the problem. They tend to gloss over key facts or wander off into legalistic language. The other part of the problem is the problem and that is that she takes the FBI decision not to indict her or prosecute her and says that means everything she said on the subject is now more or less officially truthful. And that's just not the case.

And on Friday, when she was speaking with a group of minority journalists and letting them ask her questions in a news conference kind of a format, she referred to her earlier answer about James Comey calling her answers truthful as a short circuit kind of an answer. Well, that didn't really seem to please anybody.

CHANG: Well, what's the answer she should be giving?

ELVING: Her supporters and her partisans are distressed that she doesn't have a short one, you know, just a few well-practiced sentences. Why not just say I did this, Director Comey said that, we agreed about some things, we disagreed about some things, and move on? I didn't get indicted, so it's really not that serious. Now, you know what's a real problem she might say at that point? It's inviting the Russians to hack into the United States and interfere with our election or something else of that nature. But she doesn't seem to be able to get there.

CHANG: In that same press conference you referenced from last Friday where she defended herself about these, you know, about her response about the emails, she seemed to also falter on some real softballs. What is it about the press conference format that's so hard for her?

ELVING: She seems - she seems to have trouble getting comfortable with even one reporter in a one-on-one situation, and when you get a room full of them, it seems to unnerve her, or at least it has in the past. And when she was asked on Friday about meaningful conversations that she had had with black people in her life, she started talking about her staff rather than mentioning, say, the president of the United States or any of those mothers of young men who were - been killed in gun violence that she has met and had long conversations with. She just didn't seem to go to her own strengths in that instance and in many others like that.

CHANG: So we've also talked about Trump's bad week, but has the race really changed in a permanent way?

ELVING: We won't know that for some weeks, but things do seem to be resonating in a different way. And some of the things that Donald Trump has been saying for a very long time suddenly seem to be falling on fresh ears, and people are reacting to them in a different way from what we saw before the conventions.

CHANG: NPR's Ron Elving. Thank you so much, Ron.

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