DAVID GREENE, HOST:
President Trump last night responded to allegations of racism.
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PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: No. No. I'm not a racist. I am the least racist person you have ever interviewed.
GREEN: The president was answering a reporter's question after a weekend of back and forth about whether he used a vulgar word to describe African countries. While his reported word choice is still being debated, this is not the first time the president's words have stoked racial tensions. Conservative columnist Seth Mandel of the New York Post recently wrote about this kind of rhetoric as more than impolite but dangerous. And he joins me from our studio in New York. Good morning, Seth.
SETH MANDEL: Good morning.
GREEN: So you say language like this is dangerous. Who specifically is in danger?
MANDEL: Well, I don't think that it's necessarily somebody is in danger from one statement or from - when the president makes the comment that he did about immigrants from certain countries. But I think, on the whole, it's dangerous to the political system because what the Republican Party has become is a kind of incubator for this kind of talk and this outrageousness. And the candidates that it's putting forth are going to get more extreme unless the incentives are changed in the primaries, which is what I was writing about - is that Republicans have to be - Republicans have to fight it out in the primaries and not nominate people who talk this way because this is the sort of thing that can change a party. And a party can change a country.
GREEN: Well, let me ask you about some of the politics here because you've got some Republican senators coming out and defending the president at this moment. What do you feel like they stand to gain?
MANDEL: That - you'd have to ask them. It's, perhaps, that there's some sort of policy that they think that they can get cooperation from the White House on. But it also could be just the mere fact that President Trump is a reality. And I think that Republicans in Congress are just trying to figure out how to navigate that reality. And some just feel like they cannot serve in the Republican Party in its current form, as somebody like Jeff Flake.
A lot of the Republican senators have seemed to settle on, though, the idea that if you ignore the president's more extreme rhetoric and his crazy tweeting and all that, you can, at least, gain enough of his trust to work with him and hopefully pass things. So they passed tax reform. And they're going to be looking at some sort of infrastructure bill. And maybe they'll take another crack at health care. But I think that Republican senators are basically just saying we can't wish him away. And we can't...
GREEN: They feel like they have no choice. They've got to support him in these moments and hope for the best. But let me ask you about the flip side. I mean, the Republicans like yourself, concerned about this from the very beginning - you were a part of the so-called Never Trump movement. So in this election year, with the risk of maybe alienating Trump's base, what do you do? What's your next move?
MANDEL: I think that you have to show - you have to show the base that you are powerful enough and strong enough to nominate better candidates. I think that you have to - I think that the base is the most vocal group. And they are more organized in primaries. And they have really been at the forefront of this. And I think other Republicans have to fight it out in the primaries and find a way to not nominate the Roy Moore's of the party and show the base that you can - that, you know, they don't have final say.
GREEN: Seth Mandel is an op-ed columnist for the New York Post. And he joined us from our New York studios. Seth, thanks for the time.
MANDEL: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.