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Between Violence And Political Upheaval, Expect To Hear Word 'Anxiety' Often


Let's turn our attention now to Cleveland. That's where the Republican National Convention starts tomorrow. I was in the city last week speaking with residents and politicians in the area about the convention, about the election and their city. You might remember that yesterday we heard from four proud Cleveland residents who also happen to be proud Republicans. And one word we heard during that conversation was excited, as they were all looking forward to the convention.

But another word we think we may be hearing this week is anxiety. So we're going to go now to NPR senior editor and correspondent Ron Elving, who's there in Cleveland. He's been preparing to cover the convention this coming - in the coming days. We're talking to him for our regular feature Words You'll Hear. That's what we try to understand what's happening in the news by parsing some of those words.

And we call - we think anxiety is the word because recent police shootings and terror attacks worldwide have raised concerns about this week's Republican National Convention. And that's to say nothing of the divisions that remain within the party owing to the presumptive nominee, Donald Trump, who's a polarizing figure. So Ron Elving's with us now once again. Ron, thanks so much for joining us.

RON ELVING, BYLINE: Good to be with you, Michel.

MARTIN: So start with the events that we've been talking about today, if you would. President Obama spoke a short time ago. What did you make of his statement on this latest shooting?

ELVING: The president, of course, was very sober. He sounded weary because there have been so many of these trying, trying tragedies in recent days if you go back to Orlando and then, of course, the police shooting in Dallas and, of course, the deaths of Alton Sterling and others who have been killed either in police custody or by police officers. It has been a steady drumbeat. The president also sounded wary because anything that he says seems to be so fraught in this environment. And finally, he sounded worried about what might be ahead.

MARTIN: Have we heard from other political figures today, particularly the presumptive nominees for the two major political parties, Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton?

ELVING: Yes. Donald Trump has been active on Twitter, as usual after major events. Just a few minutes ago, he sent a tweet in which he said, (reading) President Obama just had a news conference, but he doesn't have a clue. Our country is divided. It's a crime scene, and it will only get worse.

An earlier tweet was (reading) our country is totally divided, and our enemies are watching. We are not looking good. We are not looking smart. We are not looking tough.

On the other hand, Hillary Clinton also put out a statement just about 5 o'clock this afternoon saying (reading) today's devastating assault on police officers in Baton Rouge is an assault on all of us. There's no justification for violence, for hate, for attacks on men and women who put their lives on the line every day in service of our families and communities.

MARTIN: Now, you've been in Cleveland for several days now getting ready for the convention. What sense do you have about how people feel about the readiness of the city? Do they feel secure? What are people telling you?

ELVING: People want to be proud of their city. They want to be glad to be welcoming back a national political convention. There hasn't been one here in 70, 80 years. And at the same time, there is a heightened tension about what might happen. And after what happened in some other cities in recent days, not the least of them Nice, France, people are wondering, could there be a terrorist attack? Could there be violence coming from some of the protests and counter-protests that are expected here in the coming days? Could there be some sort of an attempt to go after any one of the enormously well-known celebrities of politics and entertainment who are going to be on the floor in the next several days?

MARTIN: So there's a sense of kind of anticipation, but there's also kind of a little underlying unease. Now, I have to ask you, though, Ron, you've covered a number of these conventions. And in recent years, particularly in the post-9/11 era, there's just been a lot of emphasis on security in public places. How do the measures there compare to the conventions that you've covered in the past, recognizing that we're probably only seeing the tip of the iceberg? There's plenty of things that are going on sort of behind the scenes that we're not aware of. But from what you see, how does it compare to other conventions you've covered?

ELVING: The visible police presence is enormous. And it is, by the way, remarkable in the way that they are treating people. They are enormously respectful and cooperative, trying very hard to make this a good experience for everyone as well as a safe one. But police have been brought here from as far away as Texas, and certainly from all over Ohio and the rest of the Midwest.

There is an enormous police presence. And they are expecting they're going to need them because there are going to be an enormous number of protesters and counter-protesters. So with all of that, people are still trying to maintain some of that spirit of anticipation and excitement that you talked about earlier.

MARTIN: Before we let you go, we have just about - just under two minutes left. But I wanted to ask you about the political anxiety, if you're sensing that there. I noted that - just today that a former Florida governor, who was also a candidate - an unsuccessful candidate - for president this year, Jeb Bush, published an op ed in The Washington Post suggesting - well, pretty much stating that he is not going to vote for the presumptive nominee, suggesting that he may vote for the Libertarian candidate or write a candidate in. Is there still anxiety among the Republican leadership about their nominee? What do you sense there?

ELVING: There's a long list of Republican luminaries who are not coming to this convention. Certainly the Bush family and the former presidents in the Bush family are not coming. And Mitt Romney and others who have been nominees of the Republican Party in the past are not coming. And many senators and governors are choosing to keep their distance. But the people who are coming by and large have made their peace with the Trump nomination.

And while there is still a group that is still trying to organize some kind of resistance to the Rules Committee package and maybe try to bust open the convention on the first night, no one really expects that to happen. No one really thinks that that is much of a threat. And so we expect it to be a Donald Trump show all through the four nights. We're going to hear from a lot of members of his family and from a lot of his friends and a lot of people who are going to tell us things we may not have heard before to make us perhaps like Donald Trump better.

It's going to be a very personalized kind of tribute to the nominee. But it will also be an attempt at unifying and healing some of those wounds that you referred to within the Republican Party, at least for those who are here.

MARTIN: That's NPR's Ron Elving in Cleveland. Ron, thanks so much for joining us.

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

Michel Martin is the weekend host of All Things Considered, where she draws on her deep reporting and interviewing experience to dig in to the week's news. Outside the studio, she has also hosted "Michel Martin: Going There," an ambitious live event series in collaboration with Member Stations.
Ron Elving is Senior Editor and Correspondent on the Washington Desk for NPR News, where he is frequently heard as a news analyst and writes regularly for NPR.org.