AILSA CHANG, HOST:
President Trump addressed the suspected pipe bombs tonight at a campaign rally in Wisconsin. He said an aggressive investigation is underway, and he promised to bring those responsible to justice. The reports of suspicious packages today definitely affected the tone of the president's rally tonight, and NPR's Scott Horsley joins us now to talk about that. Hey, Scott.
SCOTT HORSLEY, BYLINE: Hi, Ailsa.
CHANG: So tell us about the mood tonight. What was it like at the rally?
HORSLEY: Well, the audience was pretty raucous, a typical Trump crowd, as they waited in an airplane hangar on what was a fairly chilly Wisconsin night. But the president himself was unusually restrained. This was definitely Donald Trump on decaf. Even though it was obviously a partisan event, the president said he wants Americans to work together in peace and harmony, and he stressed that the way to solve our policy differences is peacefully at the ballot box.
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PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: Those engaged in the political arena must stop treating political opponents as being morally defective - have to do that.
TRUMP: The language of moral condemnation and destructive routine - these are arguments and disagreements that have to stop.
HORSLEY: And Trump himself tried to follow that advice tonight as he talked up his fellow Republicans and lobbed relatively mild criticisms at their Democratic rivals.
CHANG: Now, how big of a change was this from some of the other rallies the president has been holding in the past several days?
HORSLEY: If you've been watching the rallies throughout this midterm campaign season as I have, it was a very noticeable tone change. The president himself commented on it. He was criticizing Democratic Senator Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin, who's in a re-election battle against his favorite candidate. And while he painted Baldwin as far to the left, he did so in fairly restrained terms, saying, I'm trying to be nice.
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TRUMP: Do you see how nice some I'm behaving tonight? This is, like - have you ever seen this?
TRUMP: We're all behaving very well, and hopefully we can keep it that way, right?
HORSLEY: The president seemed to be deliberately keeping himself in check, and he acted a little bemused at his own ability to do so.
CHANG: Now, all the targets so far of the packages we've been hearing about today have been prominent Democrats. This comes at a politically charged time less than two weeks before the midterm elections. But it sounds like I guess the president didn't stop campaigning altogether.
HORSLEY: No. I mean, he hit his usual campaign notes. He touched on hot-button issues like border security and the Supreme Court. But it was as if someone had applied a Midwestern nice filter to the president's microphone this evening.
He also talked a good deal about trade but in less apocalyptic terms than he usually does. He drilled down a bit on the revised trade agreement that his team negotiated with Canada and Mexico. That's a big deal for Wisconsin dairy farmers. And he actually suggested those farmers were a driving force in the negotiations with Canada. Although as usual, he kind of exaggerated the extent to which Canada has agreed to open up its dairy market.
CHANG: And just quickly, earlier today, the president took part in a rare bipartisan bill signing at the White House. Can you tell us a little bit about that?
HORSLEY: Yeah. He signed some sweeping legislation to address the opioid epidemic, and that bill passed both the House and Senate with near unanimous approval. That is a sign of just how big the nation's opioid epidemic has become and how big the drug overdose problem is in both red and blue states, big enough that, as GOP Senator Rob Portman of Ohio said, the two parties were willing to put politics aside and work together.
CHANG: That's NPR's Scott Horsley. Thank you, Scott.
HORSLEY: You're welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.