4 Voters In Arizona Assess The Vice Presidential Debate

Oct 5, 2016
Originally published on October 5, 2016 6:15 am
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DAVID GREENE, HOST:

And I'm David Greene in Phoenix, Ariz. We are here at NPR member station KJZZ as part of our project Divided States, in which we're exploring four battleground states during each of the four debates. And this morning, pretty cool experience - we've brought in four voters to have an informal roundtable right here in the studio and weigh in on last night's vice presidential debate. We met each of these voters on the show yesterday morning. Now, they're back. We have Lanny Lahr, a retired businessman and philanthropist in Phoenix, Ariz. We have Mary Graham, who's 26 years old, works at the Catholic Cathedral of Phoenix. Next to her, Majerle Lister, who's 22, lives on the Navajo reservation outside Flagstaff in northern Arizona. And Eileen Eagar is also here. She is a real estate agent in Tucson in the southern part of the state. Good morning to all of you, and thanks for spending a good bit of your morning with us. We appreciate it.

MAJERLE LISTER: Good morning.

EILEEN EAGAR: Good morning.

MARY GRAHAM: Good morning.

LANNY LAHR: Good morning to you, David.

GREENE: So you all watched the debate last night?

LISTER: Yes.

LAHR: Yes, we did.

GRAHAM: Yes.

GREENE: OK, well, I mean, your state, of course, borders Mexico. And I wanted to start off talking about immigration. It was an issue that came up. The candidates talked about how to keep dangerous people out of the country. And let's listen to this exchange between Governor Mike Pence, the Republican, and Senator Tim Kaine, the Democrat, who starts off speaking here.

(SOUNDBITE OF VICE PRESIDENTIAL DEBATE)

TIM KAINE: Can we just be clear? Hillary and I will do immigration enforcement and will vet refugees based on whether they're dangerous or not. We do it based on discriminating against you from the country you come from or the religion that you practice.

MIKE PENCE: But the problem with that is...

KAINE: That is completely antithetical...

PENCE: Well, look, the director...

KAINE: ...To the Jeffersonian values of equality.

PENCE: Elaine, the director of the FBI, our Homeland Security, said we can't know for certain who these people are coming from Syria.

KAINE: Yes, we can.

PENCE: Syria...

KAINE: And when we don't let them know, we don't let them in.

PENCE: So the - the FBI...

KAINE: When we don't know where they are, we don't let them in.

PENCE: The FBI and Homeland Security said we can't know for certain. You've got to err on the side of the safety and security of the American people, Senator. I understand that...

KAINE: By trashing all Syrians or trashing all Muslims?

PENCE: ....UN wants us to expand to...

GREENE: All right, some of the debate last night. Eileen Eagar, you support Donald Trump, and you told us on the program yesterday that you liked his temporary ban on Muslims entering the country. It made you feel safer. Was Governor Pence tough enough for you last night?

EAGAR: He was. I thought he was absolutely perfect. I want to make - I want to make a comment regarding what Kaine said about, if they can't be vetted, we won't let them in. Well, we know that the Syrian people can't be vetted. And so, therefore, he is saying the same thing that Trump is saying, but he's saying it in different words. He's twisted it, and he's saying we're - if they can't be vetted, they won't be let in. Well, then we're not going to leave the Syrians in.

GREENE: You're making a distinction between saying that, if we don't know, we just need to take...

EAGAR: That's right.

GREENE: ...Them by the status. But what he - what he seems to be suggesting is that, if you take that approach, it is, as he put it, trashing all Muslims. And I want to say that that was a reaction that - after you were on our program yesterday, I know you have gotten angry reaction. You brought a stack of letters suggesting that you're - you're bigoted. I mean, just to use that word, it sounds like...

EAGAR: Oh, more than that.

GREENE: More than that?

EAGAR: Stupid, ridiculous. I mean, the - you know, so - so we complain about what Trump says about people. Let me tell you something - your listeners have said things to me in their emails and their tweets that are so much worse than anything that Trump has ever said to anyone at any time. And I just couldn't believe that people were that nasty.

GREENE: Well, can I - can I just - I mean, we're sitting in a room. You're Mormon yourself. We have someone who's Jewish. We have someone who is Mexican-American. We have someone - someone who is Native American sitting around the table with you.

EAGAR: Yeah.

GREENE: I mean, do you think it's OK to consider someone dangerous because of his or her religion?

EAGAR: No, that's really not the case. It's not because of their religion. It's because of their ideology. It's because they have - they have forecasted what their ideology is and that they want to kill Americans. They want you to be part of what they do, or they want you to be gone.

GREENE: Even if it's not all Muslims doing that? You're saying just...

EAGAR: I don't - you know, again, after all that hate stuff that I heard yesterday, I have Muslim friends. I have - I have friends that are Vietnamese, I have friends that are Mexican. I have friends of all different cultures, and I love all of them, but I know them individually. I don't know these people that are coming in. And I know that we some - have had some terrible things happen in our country real recently.

GREENE: Let me turn to you, Mary Graham. You've been weighing whether or not you could vote for Donald Trump. Did Mike Pence's views about immigration last night make you more likely to vote for Trump?

GRAHAM: Based on immigration, I would say no, which is, like, really interesting because I was, like, really loving him. And...

GREENE: You were loving Mike Pence last night?

GRAHAM: Yeah, yeah. I was like, oh, OK, all right. I see you. I can definitely, like, give - relate to a lot of things that he said, especially later on in the debate. I guess it just kind of goes back to, like - like, the whole build-the-wall thing. Like, that's just - it's kind of a hard pill for me to swallow, especially when I just know personally so many beautiful immigrant families and beautiful immigrant friends who I - I have not - and I know that that's a reality that the whole - that there are people who are - do come into this country with bad intentions.

I know that that's a reality. It's just hard for me because I am surrounded by so many people who I - don't have those intentions and that I have not seen that. That - it's really - wow, like they're trying to make a better life for themselves, for their families, and they are really, really striving to even represent that in a more positive light. So that was kind of hard - a hard one for me, personally, to swallow.

GREENE: OK, let's hear another exchange here from the debate. And this touches on another issue that has been difficult for the country to grapple with in recent years, and that's police killings. Republican Mike Pence suggested that Hillary Clinton seizes on these killings for political gain.

(SOUNDBITE OF VICE PRESIDENTIAL DEBATE)

PENCE: When she was asked in the debate a week ago whether there was an implicit bias in law enforcement, her only answer was that there is implicit bias in everyone in the United States. I just think...

KAINE: Can I - can I explain?

PENCE: ...What we ought to do is we ought to stop seizing on these moments of tragedy. We ought to reassure the public that we'll have a full and complete and transparent investigation whenever there's a loss of life because of police action. But Senator, please, you know, enough of this seeking every opportunity to demean law enforcement broadly by making accusations of implicit bias every time tragedy occurs.

KAINE: Elaine, people shouldn't be afraid to bring up issues of bias in law enforcement. And if you're afraid to have...

PENCE: I'm not afraid to bring that up.

KAINE: If you're afraid to have the discussion, you'll never solve it.

GREENE: Lanny Lahr, let me turn to you. You have voted for Republican presidents in past years. You're supporting Hillary Clinton in this election. Does Pence have a point? Has she responded to police killings in a way that seems like she's seizing on moments?

LAHR: I don't believe that Pence is right. There is bias, and then there's bias in all of us, no matter whether we say we don't have bias or we do. There's - that's just the way it is. And unless we try to head-on this issue to figure this issue out, we'll never solve it. Now, through time, the blacks have been segregated against. They've been incarcerated much more often than whites for the same, identical crimes. Now, whether we like it or not, as white people, the truth is that's the way it is. So Pence can try to deny those things, but he's wrong.

GREENE: You think this is an important issue for Hillary Clinton bring up in...

LAHR: Oh, absolutely.

GREENE: ...At these moments.

LAHR: I think any issue that you can bring up about what Trump is supporting - the fear - he's a fear monger. He's making all Hispanics, all Muslims - this is no different to me than World War II, when we incarcerated the Japanese or in Germany, when they seized upon the Jews because the economy was bad. You look for one group, and in this election, Trump has looked for two groups - the Muslims and the Hispanics.

GREENE: Majerle Lister, let me ask you. You're part of the Navajo community. How do - what do you think about when you listen to Lanny there?

LISTER: I do agree. There's been a systemic movement - or there's been systemic racism towards minority people. And I do - one of the things that I'd really liked about Tim Kaine's response was the community-relations aspect, which is reforming police to get better involved with their community because that relationship, I think, is very important because you have so - you have people who are afraid to call the cops, people who are afraid to actually even go to the police based on their skin color because of how they'll be treated, what will happen.

And so I agree there needs to be some, like, communication between the community and the - excuse me - the community and the police department. Oh, go ahead.

GREENE: We have - we have just about 20 seconds left or so. I just went ask you, Majerle, you - you supported Bernie Sanders.

LISTER: Yeah.

GREENE: You've been thinking about whether Hillary Clinton is someone you could support. Did last night change your mind in one direction or the other?

LISTER: Yeah, it seems she's - ever since she won the nomination, she's taking ideas from Bernie Sanders and demilitarizing the police and investing in community relations and looking into mental health reform, specifically within policing, I think, has kind of made me lean more towards Hillary Clinton.

GREENE: OK, spending time with Majerle Lister, who lives on the Navajo reservation outside Flagstaff, Eileen Eagar, a real estate agent in Tucson, Lanny Lahr, a retired businessman and philanthropist in Phoenix, and Mary Graham, a Catholic Latino in Phoenix, Ariz. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.