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Trump Continues To Express Concern For Men Amid Kavanaugh Confirmation Battle


President Trump says Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh has not been treated fairly in this whole process. And as the president has stood by his nominee, he has also repeatedly expressed concern for America's men. By doing so, Trump is tapping into a current in American society - a current that helped propel him into the White House and could help Republicans in the midterms. NPR White House correspondent Tamara Keith explains.

TAMARA KEITH, BYLINE: Standing on the White House lawn, President Trump was talking about the Kavanaugh confirmation fight when he said, quote, "it's a very scary time for young men in America." Hours later in an arena full of supporters, he explained what he meant.


PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: This is a time when your father, when your husband, when your brother, when your son could do great. Mom, I did great in school. I've worked so hard.

KEITH: He then spooled out an imaginary conversation where a son tells his mom about landing his dream job only to be falsely accused of misconduct.


TRUMP: A person who I've never met said that I did things that were horrible. And they're firing me from my job, Mom. I don't know what to do. Mom, what do I do? What do I do, Mom? What do I do, Mom? It's a damn sad situation, OK.


KEITH: Much of the attention since last week's hearing has been on the politically mobilizing effect it had on women - particularly those on the left. But it's triggered something in Republican men too. Here was Republican Lindsey Graham at a Senate hearing last Friday.


LINDSEY GRAHAM: I know I'm a single white male from South Carolina. And I've been told I should shut up. But I will not shut up if that's OK.

KEITH: Graham and Trump are putting voice to an idea that long predates the allegations against Kavanaugh - the peril of being a white man in America comes up regularly on conservative talk radio. And it's been amplified in the era of #MeToo and Kavanaugh.


UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER #1: The blood-drenched jihad against this innocent man - this good and decent man.


UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER #2: We're finding now that if you are a white male...


UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER #3: It's okay to be against white guys.


UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER #2: ...You're out. It's done. It's over.


UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER #4: I think it's hatred of men. And I've said this.

KEITH: Rush Limbaugh has been railing against so-called feminazis (ph) for decades, to much commercial success.


RUSH LIMBAUGH: We're so out of balance here. Women activists - feminazi women can demand all kinds of investigations into men. Men cannot require or demand investigations into women. Can you imagine if somebody tried that?

KEITH: That was from his show today.


LIMBAUGH: Men are under investigation in this country - be it through Kavanaugh or through Trump or whoever.

KEITH: The idea being that men are under siege - as women have taken more prominent roles in the workplace, as demographic and cultural shifts have changed the rules. Whit Ayres is a Republican pollster who has argued, unsuccessfully in the age of Trump, that his party needs to adapt to those changes.

WHIT AYRES: In areas of the country that are struggling economically, especially small towns and rural areas, those changes are really disquieting. And now the culture that's been so comforting and comfortable is changing as well. So it's no surprise that a lot of white men are upset and fearful.

KEITH: It's something President Trump tapped into as a candidate with his talk of forgotten men and political correctness run amok, says Frank Luntz, another Republican pollster.

FRANK LUNTZ: The idea that you can't say things that you believe to be true, that you can't think the way you once thought 10 or 20 years ago because there's something wrong with it.

KEITH: And now as Trump tweeted today, there is an anger among some at how Kavanaugh has been treated. Luntz notes that partisans seek to gain advantage from the open wound that was the Kavanaugh hearing.

LUNTZ: It has been used by some to try to energize the white conservative male to say, hey, look. Now you're the victim. You're the one who is being punished.

KEITH: The day after the hearing, conservative host Laura Ingraham offered this analysis on Fox News.


LAURA INGRAHAM: I don't think this whole year of the woman thing - I wonder if they haven't bit off more than they can chew on that because I think it could easily as well turn out to be the year of the man who feel like the target is on their back all the time. And it's not fair.

KEITH: An NPR-PBS Newshour-Marist poll out today found a big swing in public opinion among men following the hearing with a 10-point increase in those saying they plan to support a Republican candidate in the upcoming midterm elections. Tamara Keith, NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Tamara Keith has been a White House correspondent for NPR since 2014 and co-hosts the NPR Politics Podcast, the top political news podcast in America. Keith has chronicled the Trump administration from day one, putting this unorthodox presidency in context for NPR listeners, from early morning tweets to executive orders and investigations. She covered the final two years of the Obama presidency, and during the 2016 presidential campaign she was assigned to cover Hillary Clinton. In 2018, Keith was elected to serve on the board of the White House Correspondents' Association.