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Rep. Tom Cole Describes Mike Pence As 'Reassuring Pick' For VP

Rep. Tom Cole Describes Mike Pence As 'Reassuring Pick' For VP

NPR's Robert Siegel talks to Oklahoma Rep. Tom Cole, who is also the deputy majority whip for the Republican Party.

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST: 

Now we're going to hear from Representative Tom Cole, the Oklahoma Republican. Congressman Cole is a senior member of the House. He was long a member of the House GOP leadership. He is a political consultant by trade and a straight shooter by reputation. Thanks for joining us.

TOM COLE: Thank you. What a kind induction.

SIEGEL: I want to ask you about a tone that is in evidence at this convention. Last night Chris Christie was playing the role of the prosecutor and reading a rhetorical indictment of Hillary Clinton one charge after another, charges of lying or getting this or that wrong in office. And the crowd was chanting this.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

UNIDENTIFIED CROWD: (Chanting) Lock her up. Lock her up.

SIEGEL: They were chanting, lock her up. And I'm just curious. Does that strike you as perhaps a bit over the top for...

COLE: Well, I always expect political conventions to be over the top. I think we'll certainly see next week some pretty extreme rhetoric from the Democrats as well. So you know, I think it's just something somebody got started, wasn't orchestrated.

SIEGEL: But it's not clear how figurative this is, actually. Christie is mentioned as a possible attorney general. He was asked about it, and he said she should be convicted.

COLE: Well...

SIEGEL: Donald Trump has said she should be in jail. Are we hearing a political party saying the other party's candidate should be, you know, put on trial as soon as they can?

COLE: It sounds somewhere in the neighborhood of 60 percent of the American public thinks she should have been indicted, so I'm not surprised that people use that kind of rhetoric because most Republicans and many independents think she did break the law.

SIEGEL: Let me run past you something that a lot of people have said apropos of the Melania speech controversy which has now been explained. A ghostwriter has said it was her responsibility. She offered her resignation. Mr. Trump didn't accept it. A lot of people think that this suggests that a B team is running this campaign right now. This is not ready for primetime campaign stewardship - a little learning curve here that has to be negotiated.

COLE: No question - I think they're not a B team. I just think they're an overstretched team. I mean, he's run for president and for the nomination successfully with a much smaller staff than most presidential candidates has. And the fact that he succeeded, you know - some testament to their success.

But I do think at this level, you've got to work harder to make sure you get it right because you know you're being scrutinized by the other side very, very carefully. And if you make a mistake - and they did - then that's going to be exploited.

COLE: Are there serious conversations going on about how the presidential campaign had better beef up and get some more...

COLE: I think there are.

SIEGEL: ...More professional staff?

COLE: And to the credit of the Trump team, remember, they've made a lot of changes themselves, and some of them were probably pretty difficult. When they changed campaign managers, clearly Mr. Trump, you know, had a great deal of...

SIEGEL: When he dropped Corey Lewandowski.

COLE: Yeah - had a great deal of affection for Lewandowski and appreciation for his job, and he knew he needed to do something different. He did. And you know, I see this up and down the line. There's a much more robust staff than there was a matter of weeks ago. But it takes time to put all those things together.

Now, do I think that will cost him the election - no, I don't. But I do think, you know, any time you take the news cycle and move it away from where you wanted it to go - something else, yourself - by your own actions, you made a mistake.

SIEGEL: The big event tonight will be the speech by Mike Pence, governor of Indiana, candidate for vice president. What do you want to hear from Mr. Pence? How important is he to this campaign, and what's the mission when he addresses the nation tonight?

COLE: He's extremely important this campaign. For a lot of us, myself included, I've never met Mr. Trump, but I know Mike Pence. I served with him for 10 years in Congress. I think very highly of him. It was very reassuring pick to me. And I think in a sense, he brings a lot of unity to the Republican Party and reassurance. I'd say the same thing with Governor Christie and Newt Gingrich as well. The final three sort of reassured traditional Republicans, OK, we understand your concerns. I think he will be the happy warrior.

You know, one of his favorite expressions is, I'm conservative, but I'm not mad about it. And that's a different tone. That's a Reagan-esque tone. And he was always that way as a communicator - very principled conservative. And I'd like any oppo research operation in the world look at him because he's the straightest arrow on the planet.

SIEGEL: Congressman Tom Cole of Oklahoma, thanks for talking with today.

COLE: Thank you.

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Listen to the full program: http://www.npr.org/2016/07/20/486785225/rep-tom-cole-describes-mike-pence-as-reassuring-pick-for-vp