America’s Collision Course With The Debt Ceiling
As the nation counts down to default, Diane talks to longtime Congress watcher Norm Ornstein about the debt limit negotiations, what's at stake and whether he sees a way forward.
Budget talks led by Vice President Biden continued on Capitol Hill. Both sides are focused on avoiding what the Obama administration warned would be a first-ever default on U. S. debt. Newt Gingrich said he’s still in the 2012 presidential race after an exodus of his top campaign aides. Mitt Romney’s staff said the former Massachusetts’s governor will skip the Ames, Iowa straw poll. Leon Panetta’s appointment as the new Secretary of Defense appeared on track after his confirmation hearing. And a massive Arizona wildfire continues to blaze. A panel of journalists joins Diane for analysis of the week’s top national news stories.
The panelists talk about whether or not Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-NY, 9th District) can survive the scandal surrounding lewd pictures of himself that he sent to women via Twitter. “Any time sex enters the public discourse, hypocrisy is about a nano-second behind,” said Mother Jones Washington bureau chief David Corn, referring to Congressional Republicans involved in recent similar scandals who are still in office. But The Washington Post’s Karen Tumulty said the fact that former Rep. Chris Lee, a Republican from New York, resigned immediately after shirtless photos of him surfaced on the web back in February makes it more difficult for Rep. Weiner to keep his seat:
MS. DIANE REHMThanks for joining us. I'm Diane Rehm. Congressional leaders from both parties agreed to step up the pace of debt reduction talks. Newt Gingrich's campaign team quit over dispute about the former speaker's commitment to a presidential run. And Congressman Weiner says he is determined to hold on to his seat in Congress despite calls to resign.
MS. DIANE REHMHere in the studio for the national hour of our Friday News Roundup: David Corn of Mother Jones magazine, Karen Tumulty of The Washington Post, and welcoming the first time, Mark Tapscott of The Washington Examiner. Throughout the hour, we'll welcome your calls, 800-433-8850. Send us your email to email@example.com. Join us on Facebook or Twitter. Good morning to all of you.
MR. DAVID CORNGood morning.
MR. MARK TAPSCOTTGood morning.
MS. KAREN TUMULTYGood morning.
REHMKaren Tumulty, what is the status of the talks being led by Vice President Biden?
TUMULTYThis was, sort of, an odd week, because the House is out of town, the Senate is here. But what has happened is, essentially, they've been hit by a torrent of both bad news about the state of the economy itself and bad news about how people feel about the state of the economy itself. At The Washington Post, we had a poll with ABC News this week that suggested, by a ratio of something like 2:1, Americans really feel like the country is on the wrong track. Six out of 10 disapproved of President Obama's handling of the economy.
TUMULTYThey're not wild about the Republicans' handling either. They are, you know, there is some sentiment among conservatives that this debt ceiling deadline in August isn't such a big deal, but most people do seem to want these guys to come to some kind of arrangement. So they're supposed to begin meeting again at a quicker pace next week. And I really do think it's under a different kind of pressure than they were feeling before.
REHMDifferent kind of pressure, Mark?
TAPSCOTTI took away a little bit different main point from that otherwise very, very important, I think, Post-ABC polls. If you read down in the crosstabs, we found that 55 percent of the folks that -- the responder or they surveyed said that they would vote for somebody else besides their incumbent congressmen. I think that's an indication that people are fundamentally dissatisfied with both parties, the lack of progress and the lack of seriousness about addressing the kinds of problems we have.
CORNWell, the issue of the debt ceiling, also there is some more potentially frightening news when you have these rating agencies coming out and saying, we're gonna lower the U.S. credit to junk bond status.
REHMIt's not only the credit rating agencies, it's China.
CORNChina then holds a trillion dollars in debt here. And I think, you know, the other day, I have a fellow who lives in my block who's an economist in town with a non-partisan group. And he saw me drive by. And he chased my car and he said, you’ve got to -- when you go on air -- he didn’t know I was doing the show -- you have to tell people that if we default on our -- on what we owe because they don't raise the credit ceiling, we will have another crash or could have another crash -- it's very likely -- like 2008, triggered by financial instability.
CORNAnd we see people getting very nervous about this and sending signals to the negotiators. This may not be something to play politics with. Now, of course, they are politicians. And Republicans are still out there trying to get something in return for raising the debt ceiling, which has nothing to do with spending. This is money we owe anyway. You can't get rid of your credit card debt by saying I'm gonna lower my credit line. And so, it's, you know, it's gonna get very tight, I think, in the coming weeks.
TUMULTYBut, David, you have a lot of Republicans and especially new members who came to Washington vowing that they would not raise the debt ceiling. And they are looking at their constituents at home saying, are you not, you know, were you not serious about what you said? So what the Republicans are trying to extract and what, I think, the White House is now recognizing, they're gonna have to give something in exchange.
TUMULTYThe Republicans are saying that we should get, in spending cuts, at least as much as we raise the debt ceiling. And I think that's something that most people would probably agree with.
TAPSCOTTI suspect a lot of people outside of Washington, D.C., when they hear the, you know, $1 in spending reductions for every dollar increased in the national debt, wonder, well, why not $2 or why not $3? I think there is a fundamental dissatisfaction with the seriousness of Washington about this problem.
CORNBut we have all this bad economic news that the recession may be heading towards another dip or not -- recovery not really taking off. And that, most standard economist will tell you, Mark Zandi and others, that now is not the time to cut down on government demand. That if you do so, you'll have a worse position, given recession and jobs and demand, and that will lead to another cycle of pain.
CORNSo you want to, you know, it sounds good to cut government spending in terms of raising the debt ceiling, but it can have a terribly negative impact on people's jobs. And we talk about this, it's fine by us. We have jobs.
TAPSCOTTBut, David, the problem -- we're in the problem that we have now because, precisely, we followed the prescription of conventional economics for 50 years. That's why we have the problem.
CORNNo, it's not. It's the Bush tax cuts. It's deregulation. It has nothing to do with...
REHMOK. I'm not gonna get into an argument about what caused the state we're in. What I want to know, Karen, is there any wiggle room on the August 2 deadline?
TUMULTYYou know, there's, the Treasury secretary has all sorts of tools in his toolbox to extend things somewhat. But it -- they are saying that it is very serious that some time around August, we are going to be in a crisis.
REHMAnd clearly, there are political risks for both parties, Mark.
TAPSCOTTCertainly. Absolutely. And as I've said, I think the political risks are equally serious for both parties, and the Republicans are kidding themselves if they think they have a safe majority in the House. They can lose it just as quickly next November as they gained it last November.
TAPSCOTTThey have to take this seriously
REHMCharlie Cook, yesterday on this program, said that the 2012 election is going to be the first truly incumbent out election across the board. And this may be the reason for it.
CORNWell, it could be. I mean, I like Charlie a lot, but one lesson the last two years is that you can never really predict what's gonna happen...
REHMOf course not,
CORN...a year and a half from now. We've been on a real rollercoaster ride, and I think a lot will determine whether the administration and the White House can get handle on the economy and have some progress. And if not, I think we're looking at similar situation. I agree with Mark, a year from now, people may just be really fed up with everybody and voting more in an anger -- out of anger than out of anything else, and that would -- may not lead to the best possible outcome either.
REHMKaren, The Senate sent a signal by refusing to delay the credit card fee imposition on the banks. Tell me about that.
TUMULTYWell, this was an interesting fight. Essentially, it was the banks versus the retailers and the consumers as well. Essentially, what this would do would allow retailers to charge consumers less if they pay in cash or if they pay in credit cards that don't charge the retailer as high of a fee as other ones do.
REHMAnd as I understand it, the fee had been 44 cents per swipe. The Senate wanted it -- and the retailers wanted it down to 12 cents per swipe. And there was a move to postpone that whole consideration, and that's what failed.
CORNWhat was part of the Wall Street reform bill that passed last year was, you know, took an anti-bank position on this. So the banks have been mobilizing lots of money in donations, lots of lobbyist being hired and blankening the Hill. And so, one significance of this is it shows that the banks still haven't gotten back the political clout they had, you know, a couple of years ago before the 2008 crash.
TUMULTYThis wasn't even close, by the way. It was a vote of 64-33.
TUMULTYAnd 17 republicans joined the Democrats.
TAPSCOTTDiane, I think this is the perfect illustration of what's wrong. When the Untied States has to depend upon the United States Senate to decide whether you and I pay 44 cents or 18 cents per swipe of our debit card, we should not be surprised that our economy is in a shambles.
REHMWell, wait a minute. Why do you say that it strikes me -- and perhaps I'm wrong -- that the consumer obviously is paying for each swipe, and now, by the way, the banks are saying they're simply going to pass it on to the consumers but, at least, the Congress, the Senate stood up to the banks?
TAPSCOTTWhen you politicize the economy, you get political decisions rather than economic decisions. And people who lose are the people who pay the taxes that the politicians spend.
TUMULTYBut I don't know that it's such a bad thing that before people go out and spend money, they have a choice to think, well, do I wanna pay for this in cash instead of using my plastic because, by the way, that's also part of what got us into this problem, or if, you know, this might foster competition among the banks.
CORNI mean, what we -- I think what we saw in 2008, I mean, we should never lose sight that the crash that happened, that why there are millions of people unemployed now was because of the financial sector and doing things in their free-market-get-government-out-of-our-way manner. And there have been debates in Washington prior to this about how far they should be regulated and all these securities, and they kept winning those arguments. So they weren't regulated. They went wild.
CORNThey did things that nobody could understand, except maybe seven of them in Wall Street. And now, the market is back. They still have their homes in the Hamptons, but millions of Americans got tossed out of work because of the contraction they caused.
TAPSCOTTCrony capitalism. It is a partnership between big government and big business. That's why we had a financial problem, not because we have free markets. Free markets did not do the mortgage derivates.
CORNWell, the crony capitalism came about because the banks were able to get politicians to give them regulatory free passes to do lots of this stuff.
REHMDavid Corn, he's Washington bureau chief of Mother Jones magazine. When we come back, we're going to take a look at what's happened to Newt Gingrich.
REHMAnd welcome back to the domestic hour of our Friday News Roundup, looking at what's been happening in this country over the past week. It's not been a quiet week. It's never a quiet week. It's been a hot week here in Washington. Here in the studio: Karen Tumulty of The Washington Post, Mark Tapscott of The Washington Examiner, David Corn of Mother Jones magazine. What is going on with Newt Gingrich and his campaign, Mark Tapscott?
TAPSCOTT(laugh) Exactly what I think an awful lot of people in this town have expected to happen for quite a long time. The thing you have to remember about the Newt Gingrich campaign is there wasn't exactly an overwhelming public demand in the Republican Party for a Newt Gingrich campaign. I think, if anything, this was more of a vanity campaign, and vanity campaigns don't go anywhere.
REHMIs that how you see it, Karen?
TUMULTYNot entirely because I had actually been out on the road a bit with the speaker last year during the mid -- he was getting big crowds. A lot of what he was saying really resonates maybe not with the Republican establishment, but with the Tea Party people. But his campaign launch is probably, you know, the most calamitous that anyone could remember.
TUMULTYHe made a number of unfortunate comments, including referring to the Republican budget plan, the Medicare provisions as right-wing social engineering, essentially taking all those Republicans in the House who voted for it and just, you know, cutting off the plank that they had walked to the end of. There were embarrassments over his six-figure jewelry bills at Tiffany. And it seemed like everything he did to sort of fix the...
TAPSCOTTDon't forget the cruise.
TUMULTYOh, in the middle...
REHMWell, the cruise just happened.
TUMULTYOK. In the middle of all this, he and his wife decided to go on a vacation, on a very expensive cruise. Now, all of this -- Newt Gingrich is this remarkable story of being the man of his moment, of re-invention, a big ideas guy, but he has never been a particularly disciplined figure. And the big question about him and the question he said he understood intellectually was that he was gonna have to be a different kind of person as a presidential candidate. And he has not, thus far, shown that he's able to do that.
REHMSo why did these top aides walked out on him, David? Who and why?
CORNOh, I don't know. Sudden rush of sanity. I mean, what they -- what they're claiming is that they could not run the campaign, that they wanted him to campaign and do the things that candidates do. He -- and they blamed his wife, Callista, for this -- wanted to go off on this two-week cruise to Greece on a boat with Twiggy, the old fashion model, for some reason. I don't know what her connection is here.
REHMWho sponsored this cruise? Do we know?
CORNI think it was just a cruise. I don't know if -- it wasn't one of these cruises where he speaks and makes money.
CORNI think this was just a, you know...
CORNAnd, you know, my guess is that that, as these things are, that that was the last straw, the last ship out of town, and that there was -- a lot of us -- of the stuff building. They probably saw his lack of discipline. I'm sure they tried to stop it...
REHMOK. So can't...
CORN...and focus him. But, you know, the thing about Newt is, you know, for 30 years, he's been very consistent in his inconsistency. He has this personality where people like to say he's a big ideas and policy guy and he sits down with Hillary Clinton, talks about health care IT. And he can be very engaging. But then at the other time, he is a bomb-thrower who will say anything that comes through his head. He'll call people traitors if they don't -- if he doesn't like their political positions. And he has never been able to contain the dark side.
REHMCan he recover, Matt?
TAPSCOTTNo. I don't see any way that he can recover.
REHMNo. Do you agree, Karen?
TUMULTYI am very skeptical at this point.
CORN"Dancing with the Stars" next season.
REHMAll right. Why is Mitt Romney skipping the Iowa straw poll, Karen?
TUMULTYWell, it's interesting. I was in Iowa just a couple of weeks ago and it's like the whole state is in this collective identity crisis. Mitt Romney spent a lot of money there last time, and he won the straw poll. And he was so formidable with how much he spent that he essentially drove John McCain and Rudy Giuliani out of Iowa. And what happened? Mike Huckabee comes in and wins it.
TUMULTYIowa is a very quirky state. It's not a terribly representative state. It's overwhelmingly white. It's elder -- it's older than average. And I think Mitt Romney is looking at this state and recognizing he can't win there. And if he does badly in the first contest, that could cripple him. So he's putting a lot of effort into New Hampshire.
REHMBut he's still, as I understand it, planning to participate in the Iowa caucuses, isn't he, Matt?
TAPSCOTTWell, he certainly has to. I mean, you have to participate in it, to some degree, if you're gonna be a serious candidate. I think he's made a calculation that the odds are that Michele Bachmann, for example, is gonna do very well in that. And he just wants to get past that because it'll be a temporary...
REHMWell, you know, what's interesting to me is that Michele Bachmann is listed as one of the people invited to participate in a debate on Monday night. She hasn't declared her candidacy. I don't understand it.
TUMULTYOh, I was -- I also saw her when I was in Iowa a week ago. She says she will declare her candidacy in June -- she will declare whether she's running in June, but she made it very clear that she is all but in the race. She keeps pointing out that she is a native of Waterloo, Iowa, which is where she will announce this decision.
CORNYeah. You don't tend to travel to Iowa to not announce...
CORN...and she says she is gonna be there. She also hired Ed Rollins to be her campaign manager when she gets up...
REHMRight. But doesn't that mean she's got to announce before Monday...
REHM...to participate in the debate?
CORNWell, then maybe that is the issue, actually.
CORNThey have a fair amount of latitude. The interesting thing about -- you know, she hired Ed Rollins. And just a couple of weeks ago, he was saying, as a pundit, she had no chance of winning. And after the State of the Union speech, when she gave her Tea Party response, remember, competing with Congressman Ryan, he got up and he said, she's not a serious player. Now he thinks she should be the next president of the United States. You should, you know, you should get Ed on the show.
TUMULTYI think the rules of who's in and out of debates are not necessarily -- for one thing, the parties can kinda make the rules. They will set up some threshold in the polls...
REHMI see. I see.
TUMULTY...or something like that. And the fact is, she's a factor, and it's a better debate if she's there.
REHMOK. Let me go back for a minute to Mitt Romney and his statement regarding global warming, Mark. He has said he believes there is -- that the planet is getting warmer and that humans are contributing to that pattern. Rush Limbaugh has slammed global warming. And, you know, where do we go with this?
TAPSCOTTThe Washington Examiner's Philip Klein pointed this very problem out in a column last week that people have focused, heretofore, on his RomneyCare problem. That's not his biggest problem. His biggest problem is these kinds of issues -- some of which include flip-flops by him in the past -- that raised questions about whether or not he can be trusted, if he's elected, to do the things that he promised to do. And that's exactly the problem that so many people have with so many politicians in both parties these days. They don't believe them.
CORNBut in this instance, he hasn't flip-flopped. He's not yet. And, you know...
REHMHe was consistent on the global warming issue.
CORNAnd his problem is, you know -- gosh, darn it -- he believes what most scientists believe. He believes what most heads of state believe. He believes what a lot of Republicans believe before the Tea Party came in. He believes what John McCain believed in 2008, that global warming has a man -- or human-, you know, made component, and that we need to do something about it.
CORNAnd for that, he's gonna have to pay a price because Rush Limbaugh thinks that he knows better than most scientists.
TUMULTYLook, if this Republican primary is going to be a test of ideological purity, Mitt Romney is not going to win it. So Mitt Romney's strategy to win this thing is to portray himself as the guy who is best capable of dealing with the economy, who has the best experience for dealing with the economy and, by the way, who has the best chance of beating Barack Obama in November of 2011. Those arguments either sell or they don't. But I just don't think that this is gonna affect whether or not he gets the nomination.
TAPSCOTTIt's -- it is wrong to frame this issue as purity test. That's -- that is a very obsolete way of looking at it. It's not ideology now. It's whether or not we have a candidate who can be trusted. Professional politicians in both parties are the problems. And whoever among the Republican field most persuades Republican primary voters, that they can be believed and they can be depended upon to do what they say they will do, that's who will be the nominee.
REHMMark Tapscott, he is editorial page editor of The Washington Examiner. Do join us, 800-433-8850. Karen, there is a growing chorus of Democrats calling for Congressman Weiner to resign. Is he likely to, or is his wife's pregnancy likely to mitigate those calls?
TUMULTYI am still very skeptical that he can survive this. I'm gonna be very interested, for instance, to hear what Speaker Nancy -- former speaker, now House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi has to say later today. She has a public appearance in San Francisco at a Medicare event with Kathleen Sebelius. But Anthony Weiner returns. The House has been out of session this week.
TUMULTYThat has been a blessing for him. He returns Monday to this whole firestorm just being reignited when Congress gets back into town. The Democratic caucus is gonna be a very hostile place for him to be.
REHMI wonder whether it's even worse because we're in such hard economic times, Mark.
TAPSCOTTThat certainly does not help any politician who's got an ethical problem right now, because, you know, people have an expectation that we elected you to do serious work on serious problems, and you're not doing that. But then, you have the poll that came out yesterday that shows that, I think, 56 percent of those that they surveyed in New York City say, well, he ought to stick around.
CORNWell, because I think they've looked at what he's done professionally and they agree with it, you know? And, you know, any time sex enters the public discourse, hypocrisy is about a nanosecond away. So Democrats who stood by Bill Clinton, who you could argue did something worse -- And I'll leave it to the people to come up with their own judgments here -- you know, are now calling for Weiner to leave.
TAPSCOTTAnd Republicans, who had no problem with David Vitter staying in the Senate, and Larry Craig and John Ensign wasn't forced to resign by the Republican in the Senate, are now saying that Weiner has to leave. So, I mean, it's all about political calculation. The political calculation at the moment of the Democrats is they thought they had the Republicans on the run with the Ryan budget and Medicare, and now they feel like they're talking about Anthony Weiner's Twitter pics, and they don't want that.
TUMULTYThere's another contrast here, though, that I think is really quite damaging to the Democrats, and that is of Congressman Chris Lee, the Republican from New York, who did something sort of less egregious. He put out a picture of himself shirtless on Craigslist, looking, apparently, for a date. He was gone. And the Republicans are gonna point out that contrast.
REHMKaren Tumulty, national political reporter for The Washington Post. And you're listening to "The Diane Rehm Show." David Corn, did Leon Panetta, during his confirmation hearings this week, give any indication about how he plans to rein in defense spending?
CORNNo. I mean, this is -- the president has tried to make this an issue. And, you know, a lot of folks say that, you know, that it's been a modest effort at best from this administration. And, you know, Gates has gone after a few weapons program, and there're been this fight between some Republicans and the administration over certain big-ticket items.
CORNBut certainly, Leon Panetta did not put on -- is not advocating, before he enters the building, severe or, you know, change-the-roles-type of cuts. And a lot of the question, too, a lot of the money now also depends on Afghanistan.
REHMExactly. And did he give any indication about whether he plans to pull out more troops that outgoing Secretary Gates would?
TUMULTYI was interested by Sen. Susan Collins, saying, you know, what does the end look like here?
TUMULTYEssentially, he gave a lot of signals that there would be a bigger drawdown, but he said, ultimately, that's a decision for the commanders and for the president to make and that he will implement that decision.
REHMAll right. We're going to open the phones now, 800-433-8850. Send us your email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Join us on Facebook or Twitter. Let's go first to Richard who's in Cincinnati, Ohio. Good morning. You're on the air.
RICHARDGood morning. My congressman, Congressman Chabot, had a town hall meeting at which he really didn't take any open questions. But I wanted to ask him this or say this to him. It's about the -- raising the deficit ceiling.
RICHARDSome people think that a congressman who voted to authorize a war but who failed to insist that any provision be made to pay for that war, who helped to ensure that for the first time in the history of our republic we're waging a war without having taken any actions or raise money to pay for that war, who before the start of the war voted to reduce revenues then voted two months after the war started to reduce revenues again, a decision that guaranteed the ballooning of the national debt, some people think that such a man should be taken under his word when he calls himself a responsible fiscal conservative or a budget hawk. But I disagree respectfully.
REHMAll right, sir. Thanks for calling. Mark Tapscott.
TAPSCOTTWas that a question or a speech?
REHMWell, it was, in terms of paying for the Afghanistan war and yet refusing to raise the debt limit.
TAPSCOTTAbsolutely. I, you know, I think that is the kind of question that is fundamentally leading to the kind of re-examination that clearly is going on in the government today about whether or not we should be in Afghanistan to begin with. I think there is a search for a way out, and they're gonna find one.
TUMULTYYou hear the same argument, by the way, being made about the fact that the Republicans put through a massive Medicare prescription drug program as well and didn't pay for it. What they say is, look, that was the past. We regret those mistakes, and let's talk about the future.
CORNYeah. But I do think the caller hits on this rank hypocrisy in the center of a lot of this because, you know, we need -- we have trillions of dollars in debt, not because of what we've done in the last six months or the year. It's over what's happened over the past 10 years. And there's a chart -- you know, I'll put it on my Twitter feed later if people wanna look at it -- that explains this very easily.
CORNIf you look at the causes of the debt for now and the 10 years ahead, more than Afghanistan, more that the Iraq war, more than the Medicare drug bill that was passed, it is the Bush tax cuts that sucked out the revenue and caused this problem.
REHMAnd David Corn is clearly not only Washington bureau chief of Mother Jones magazine but making application to be chief economist to the world. We'll take a short break here and be right back.
REHMAnd welcome back. We'll go right to the phones. First, to Tulsa, Okla. Good morning, John. You're on the air.
JOHNWell, good morning. Thanks a lot. Hey, I'll be brief, but I wanted just to talk about the trust factor. You were just talking about trust with your panelists and how important that would be, and then we went to Weiner. And then somehow, we depart from that idea of trust because sex isn't, suddenly isn't a trust issue.
JOHNBut I take exception with that. I'm married. And in my most basic relationships and being faithful on the small things would be how I am to my family. How can I divorce myself from trust with my most basic relationships from who I am in my public life? Community starts -- whom we raise our children, our families and how we relate to our spouses.
CORN...the great thing is, that people get to render their own judgment. During the Clinton scandal, I said, people thought that he shouldn't be behaving that way in office. They were entitled to believe that. They thought it disqualified him. They're entitled to make that case. I think the same thing is true with any of these politicians.
CORNAnd if Anthony Weiner thinks he can make it to Election Day and put himself before the judgment of people like the caller who's not in his district, then we'll see what people think. But this -- it's a legitimate debate and discussion for us to have.
REHMThanks for calling, John. Let's go to Cincinnati, Ohio. Good morning, Mike.
MIKEHi. I just wanted to comment on your -- what you'd said earlier about the possibility than in the next election there will be an anti-incumbent movement.
MIKEAnd I think that that's absolutely the case. And I think we'll also see people selecting independents and maybe even letting in candidates because they just they just want a clean House. I also feel that, you know, the whole idea of the left-right paradigm, people are just beyond that and they're thinking in terms of are you for the special interest in the corporations or you're for the people.
TAPSCOTTI have done a great deal of work, you know, over the last few years with the good folks at the Sunlight Foundation, which is not exactly a conservative group. And I've done that because I agree with the caller very much. I think there is a trans-partisan yearning in this country for solutions, for people who will not serve the interest of the special interest in this town, rather recognize that people outside of Washington have lives to live, and government, too often, gets in the way of doing that.
REHMAll right. To Raleigh, N.C.. Good morning, Bill.
BILLGood morning, Diane. And listen, to that last caller and both of your news people there, I totally disagree. North Carolina is hosting the Democratic Convention in Charlotte next year, A. B, the Republican legislature here has passed a law that's gonna make it tougher for people to vote. C, the polls still show Obama and the Democrats are ahead.
BILLAnd, D, that caller and the respondent on your panel who said, oh, yes, people were anxious to get in right hand and do other things, baloney. The people are gonna vote the two-party system. And if Obama doesn't have any major, major disasters, he's gonna be re-elected.
TUMULTYWell, Bill, especially calling from North Carolina, I would suggest that, you know, over the next year and a half, you are gonna hear -- your caller ID is gonna be jammed, your mailbox is gonna be jammed. I mean, North Carolina really does look like it could be, you know...
REHMA very decisive state.
TUMULTY...the bellwether of bellwether states.
REHMI'm glad you called, Bill. Thanks. To Haverhill, Mass., good morning, Richard.
RICHARDGood morning, Diane. I know Jon Huntsman has not yet announced his candidacy. But if he should catch on and after he announces, and ever get the nomination, he'll be toughest candidate for Barack Obama to beat. He's a moderate Republican -- and I consider Barack Obama a moderate Republican. There's not much philosophical difference between him about the role of government. But what -- if he got the nomination, that would just transfer him the whole Republican Party.
RICHARDThe people on the right would be mad, obviously, but I think also we he could get more done than Barack Obama because the Democrats, basically, in the Congress wouldn't be trying to block everything that Huntsman would try to get through.
REHMThat's interesting. I have a dear friend from Oklahoma who has been watching Jon Huntsman ever since Barack Obama was elected. And Obama sent Huntsman to China. What do you think about Jon Huntsman?
TUMULTYYou know, I really -- I've seen him speak a few times. I really don't know enough -- I know what his record is, but I don't know enough about how he's gonna present himself in this campaign, what kind of niche he's gonna find in the Republican field, and, quite frankly, what his path to victory in a Republican primary would be. He's saying Florida is gonna be his big state. That was also Rudy Giuliani's playbook four years ago, and he was gone before he could get to Florida. So I'm just, you know, he's a fascinating character, but I still need to learn to a lot more.
CORNYou know, there's a thinking that one thing he's gonna try to do is run a campaign based on the theme of new civility. And if that doesn't put him out of -- put most Republican primary voters, I don't know what will. I mean, I'm just going off with what Mark said earlier too. He doesn't tap into the anger. You know, he worked for Barack Obama. He praised Barack Obama. He doesn't, you know, whether there is an ideological litmus test or not, he certainly doesn't pass it. And the thing, too, is he's untested on the national stage. And performance counts a lot. If you can perform as...
REHMBut he currently did a great job in China. Mark, what do you think?
CORNWell, maybe ambassadors...
TAPSCOTTHe also did, according to number of folks, he also did a very credible job as governor of Utah. And that provides him some credibility with the Republican conservative base. But I think Karen is exactly right. He's trying to figure out, how am I gonna run? What is Jon Huntsman gonna need in the campaign? And that remains to be seen.
REHMAll right. To Joe in Detroit, Mich. Good morning. You're on the air.
JOELove your show, listening to it on my SiriusXM Radio (unintelligible).
JOEYes. I'm calling in regard to your panel's earlier discussion of Republican candidates. And why -- speaking of the endless wars that never end, and this reckless creasing of the world and the destruction of the dollar with the printing of the money, why we haven't talked about Dr. Ron Paul? (unintelligible).
REHMHe was on this program, you know? He was on this program several weeks ago. How serious are you, Joe, about Ron Paul?
JOEI think he resonates with the voice of American people that the wars and overseas spending need to stop before we cut domestic spending. That we just can't afford the policing of the world anymore, and that the printing of the money is just ruining our middle class by the...
REHMThanks for calling. Karen?
TUMULTYHe's -- well, he is -- Congressman Paul is now running for the third time. He always draws a very enthusiastic...
TUMULTY...following, but not a particularly large one. And all of the debates, it's always the Paul people who were shouting the loudest in the hall. The question is whether the Republican Party would nominate as it nominee someone who, for -- who opposed the Afghan war and who, for instance, favors legalizing drugs.
CORNYou know, the interesting thing about the Paul supporters -- and, you know, and you have to like there enthusiasm and passion to a certain degree -- is that they really do believe that he's the -- that Ron Paul speaks for 98 percent of America. And somehow, when they get -- when it comes to Election Day, they can't fully explain what went wrong. They...
REHMI wouldn't laugh if I were you, David Corn. You never know.
CORNWell, that's why I would say about Huntsman too and Ron Paul. I mean, but Ron Paul, as a libertarian, as an arch-libertarian, he is out of step with some very hardcore Republican principles.
REHMAll right. To Missoula, Mo., good morning, John.
JOHNHey, good morning. Great show.
JOHNYou know, the question I ask with regard to this, it seems like what we're talking about or what I'm hearing is the same thing I hear constantly regarding our election and political cycles is, you know, we talk about speculation. We talk about, you know, the hypocrisy. But it's the same issues over and over and over.
JOHNWhat is gonna draw out and what are some potential solutions to get people more involved to actually create change because what's happening is the same thing over and over again. And I just am curious of how we're gonna change -- how we're really gonna substantively change 'cause it's getting old?
REHMGood question. Mark Tapscott.
TAPSCOTTI think the fundamental prerequisite for having any kind of real change, any lasting change is a new cast of characters in this town, people who are not prisoners of conventional wisdom about what government can and should be doing. The issue is whether or not, as the previous caller suggested, we're going to have an election next November where, fundamental, anti-incumbent result produces a new cast of characters here. I personally think that we will.
TUMULTYWell, first of all, I think John was calling in from beautiful Missoula, Mont. to torment us on this dreadful Washington day. But he gets to something here. Because if you look at the last three elections that, you know, 2012 would suggest, I mean, in 2010, a party got kicked out of office. In 2008, a party got kicked out of the White House. In 2006 -- the voters are -- they don't have much patience. They give these people a little bit of time to come in and do the job and then they are ready to just, sort of, hand them their hats.
REHMAnd surely, that's part of what the technological changes have brought.
CORNBut that -- that may be part of it too, but a lot of these issues we face, what's wrong with the economy is not just the crash, but there's that some fundamental restructuring that needs to go on. It may not be minimal to repair in a one election cycle.
CORNAnd then the other thing is I think a lot of independents, particularly, they want -- they -- one reason they voted for President Obama, they want someone to come to Washington and change things, but not fight about it. But how can you not fight over these things when there's some very serious divides? And the public has to make some decisions in terms of which side and which approaches they want to see implemented.
REHMKaren, tell me about the efforts on the part of the Obama administration to get the economy moving.
TUMULTYWell, they, you know, they keep pointing to the things that they have done, and they, you know, their argument seems to be, you know, that we'd be in even a worse of a position than we are now. But the president is going out around the country, he's going to a lot of swing states and talking about things like initiatives in education and things like that that would open up more opportunities, create more jobs for people. He talks about green jobs.
TUMULTYBut these are all -- I think the sense is that they don't add up. There are a lot of things that all sound good, but they don't add up to what feels like an economic strategy.
REHMAnd Mark, I understand the White House is considering a payroll tax break for employers. What does that mean?
TAPSCOTTBasically, it means they're out of ideas. You know, a payroll tax we had -- a temporary payroll tax cut...
TAPSCOTTFor employees, right.
REHM...but now it's for employers.
TAPSCOTTThe problem is that that does not address the fundamental problem that is keeping our economy from growing, and that is the conviction among people with capital that now is not the time to invest in economic growth because they have no certainty about what government policy is going to be a year from now, five years from now, 10 years from now.
CORNYou know, Paul Krugman calls this the confidence fairy. Any time in any past and to the Bush years, you could say, we don't know what tax policy is gonna be a year now because it's always up for grabs. It's always for change. The problem with the economy is not because of government regulation or government decisions. It's what Wall Street did that triggered this collapse.
REHMDavid Corn of Mother Jones magazine, and you're listening to "The Diane Rehm Show." Karen.
TUMULTYWell, as long as we're talking about revenues, I think we should be keeping our eyes in some other areas as well. For instance, the White House, in these negotiations, is talking about possibly, you know, it -- getting rid of some tax breaks for oil companies.
TUMULTYI think that, politically speaking, at a time when we're all essentially paying as much as to fill our cars as we are on our mortgages -- I'm exaggerating, of course -- but when you're, you know, it takes 60, 70, $80 to fill up your tank, it's gonna be politically hard, I think, for the Republicans to argue against, you know, getting rid of some of these oil companies.
CORNBut they are resisting.
TAPSCOTTHere's he problem that Washington doesn't understand. Anytime Washington politicians say, we're going to invest or we're gonna have an infrastructure program, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera, people outside of Washington hear they're going to spend more. A tax increase is not going -- they don't take it seriously because people do not believe that Washington politicians will spend the extra revenue on deficit reduction. They think they'll spend it on helping their political allies.
REHMBut, you know, Bill Clinton made a speech couple of weeks ago and said very plainly, straightforwardly, something has to give on both sides. You cannot...
CORNBut that is true, but we can't rely on sort of rhetoric and camp. People like spending on Medicare. They like environmental regulations. They don't like stuffing their food that shouldn't be there. That costs money to do.
REHMOf course, it does. But there...
CORNThey like -- and they like having good roads.
CORNThey like having parks.
REHMDavid, there has to be...
CORNWell, if they...
REHM...some give on both sides. That's all there is to it.
CORNWell, that may well be. But...
REHMAnd there has to be some cuts.
CORNBut right now -- but if you come into the conversation saying, government spending is bad, period, tax revenue is bad, period, then you're not offering any gives.
TAPSCOTTThat's not what I said, David.
TAPSCOTTWhat I said was...
CORNI'm saying it's what Republicans are saying.
CORNThat's what republicans are saying.
TAPSCOTTLet me clarify. I did not say that tax revenue is bad. What I said is people outside of Washington do not believe politicians in either party will take the revenue that would come from a tax increase, whatever the kind of tax increase, and use it for deficit reduction. They believe they will use it to benefit their political allies, whether that's big labor...
TAPSCOTT...big banks and so forth. But the problem is credibility.
CORNBut they also weren't spending -- but they weren't spending for these other issues. And we can argue...
CORNI mean, and if they don't...
TAPSCOTTThat's up to debate.
CORN...but if they don't understand, I mean, this -- the conventional view is that the stimulus did save and preserve two to $3 million -- two to 3 million jobs. Now, the Republicans come out and say that's not true at all, so they are tainting the debate by putting out a false set of facts.
REHMAll right. Karen, I'm gonna give you the last word.
TUMULTYWell, I'm just sitting here, trying to dodge...
REHMI know it.
TAPSCOTTNothing is flying. Nothing is flying.
REHMI know it. I know it. I got a last caller here in Timonium, Md., who's been waiting. Charles, quick question, please.
CHARLESNo crisis is really hard. I'm 86-year-old World War II combat infantry vet in Belgium and Germany. This is idiotic to have the jerk Rush Limbaugh set the pace of this country of ours. Have some competent, scientific people on our side, and those who switch go on with global warming, and have his people debate the issue. He's a jerk. He's full of hot air. Bye.
REHMAnd Charles got the last word this morning. He's from Timonium, Md. David Corn of Mother Jones magazine, Karen Tumulty of The Washington Post, Mark Tapscott at The Washington Examiner. And I want to apologize to our listeners this morning for the talking over and the argumentation. It was less than civil today, but we'll try to do better next hour. Thanks for listening. I'm Diane Rehm.
ANNOUNCER"The Diane Rehm Show" is produced by Sandra Pinkard, Nancy Robertson, Susan Nabors, Denise Couture, Monique Nazareth and Sarah Ashworth. The engineer is Toby Schreiner. Dorie Anisman answers the phones. Visit drshow.org for audio archives, transcripts, podcasts and CD sales. Call 202-885-1200 for more information.
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