Congress expert Norman Ornstein on what the debate over the debt limit says about dysfunction in Congress, and his ideas for how to fix it.
The U. S. east coast was shaken by a rare earthquake and now braces for a battering by Hurricane Irene. The storm has disrupted the dedication of the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial in Washington, D. C. The Congressional Budget Office predicted high unemployment will continue until 2014. Bank of America announced it will receive a five billion dollar infusion from Warren Buffett. Apple faces a future without co-founder and longtime C. E. O. Steve Jobs. And Texas Governor Rick Perry took a commanding lead in the race for the G. O. P. presidential nomination. A panel of journalists joins Diane for analysis of the week’s top national news stories.
- Reid Wilson Editor-in-chief of National Journal Hotline.
- Karen Tumulty National political reporter, The Washington Post.
- Ron Elving Washington editor for NPR.
Friday News Roundup Video
Diane and the panelists discuss some of the revelations in former Vice President Dick Cheney’s memoir, including Cheney’s deep disagreements with then-Secretary of State Colin Powell and other high-ranking administration officials:
MS. DIANE REHMThanks for joining us. I'm Diane Rehm. The Commerce Department reported the economy grew a meager 1 percent this spring. Texas Gov. Rick Perry surged ahead of the competition in the latest GOP presidential polls. And the dedication of the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial was postponed because of Hurricane Irene.
MS. DIANE REHMJoining me in the studio for the domestic hour of our Friday News Roundup: Reid Wilson of National Journal Hotline, Karen Tumulty of The Washington Post, Ron Elving of NPR. We'll take your calls throughout the hour, 800-433-8850. Send us your email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Good morning to all of you.
MR. REID WILSONGood morning.
MS. KAREN TUMULTYGood morning, Diane.
MR. RON ELVINGGood morning, Diane.
REHMAnd Chairman Ben Bernanke is proposing no new steps by the Fed to boost the economy while hinting that Congress may need to act to stimulate hiring and growth. He says while record-low interest rates will promote growth over time, the weak economy requires further help in the short run. What does that mean, Ron Elving?
ELVINGThe elevator marks sideways. He does not have something he wants to reveal in this particular setting. He wants to have a two-day meeting of the Open Market Committee later on. He wants to have a little more discussion of whether or not they're going to ease further. I would say the lean on this sounds like they are going to ease further, and we'll have a third round of what they call quantitative easing, a process by which the Fed buys bonds and tries to inject a little bit more liquidity into the economy.
ELVINGThey've already lowered interest rates to virtual zero, so they really don't have any more tools. And this is the last one they've got, and I suspect they'll go ahead and use it. But what they're saying, I think, to Congress is, you guys are going to have to think about something that helps stimulate the economy and not just about long-term deficit reduction.
REHMAnd what could that be, Karen?
TUMULTYWell, that, right now, not much of anything, quite frankly because, you know, the political tone of everything is austerity. It's of cutting. The president has a few things that he wants Congress to do. He wants Congress to extend the holiday for people paying their half of Social Security taxes. A few things like that. But what really needs to come back is consumer confidence. People need to start spending money again.
TUMULTYAnd it's typical in this type of recession -- one that's caused by a financial crisis, one that caught people with a lot of debt on their hands -- for them to really be very cautious and really be working on paying down that debt. So you know, it's really consumer confidence that's gonna drive any kind of recovery.
WILSONThis announcement by Ben Bernanke was not unexpected. Everyone one Wall Street was telling people -- telling their clients earlier -- all week not to expect anything new out of the Jackson Hole meeting. But it's -- as Karen says, there's not a lot of political will in Washington, D.C., especially on the Republican side to come out in favor of any kind of new stimulus package. President Obama, when he comes back from vacation -- he's actually coming back tomorrow, I suppose -- when -- after he's back, though, he'll give a big speech promoting new job opportunities or new stimulus ideas.
WILSONBut those new stimulus ideas are gonna require spending. And the Republican Congress isn't -- Republican House isn't gonna pass new spending measures. This will set up a nice contrast for him, though. He'll be able to say, look, the Republicans stood in the way of anything that would stimulate the economy. It's interesting to note, I think, that his best option has become setting up that contrast instead of something else Ben Bernanke could do.
TUMULTYAnd I do think that, you know, there are a lot of other things. We now have one economist who's saying there's a one in three chance that this recession could actually take a second dip. The situation in Europe is parlous and could force the financial markets worldwide once again to seize up the way they did in 2008. There are all kinds of things out there on the horizon that are really -- appear to be, at this moment at least, sort of outside the control of policymakers in Washington.
REHMIt's fascinating to me that Warren Buffett yesterday decided to invest $5 million in Bank of America. Why and what impact could that have, Ron?
ELVINGThere are several reasons he might have decided to make this moment the moment to get big time in the Bank of America. Apparently, he made the decision -- he says he made it in the bathtub.
ELVINGI don't know if that has to do with the flow, the liquidity.
REHMAnd did I say million? I meant billion.
ELVINGBillion. He put $5 billion in. And, you know, the funny thing is that in the world of high finance nowadays, $5 billion isn't what it used to be. But it is a big vote of confidence coming from Warren Buffett. And I think what he's doing here in part is he's saying this bank has gotten so cheap and most people consider to be too big to fail, I'll make some money here by putting $5 billion, and the stock price will go up and my money will be worth more.
ELVINGBut he's also saying on a more broad front that he has confidence that the economy is not going to double dip, at least not in any severe way. We're down to almost, what, 1 percent growth was announced this morning...
REHMOne percent growth.
ELVING...for the spring, and that's pretty near the bottom. But at the same time, Warren Buffett thinks we're going to go up from here, and that's essentially what his $5 billion are saying.
WILSONWarren -- and as a matter of fact, he has done this before. He invested heavily in Goldman Sachs during the first of the possible double dip here. The other part is, though, Warren Buffett, he's now sort of renting out his name. He has a very great sort of deal here. He makes 6 percent off his $5 billion, so that means $300 million a year. That's just for lending his name. And the stock price went up a little bit, went up about a dollar yesterday. We'll probably do all right for the next few weeks.
WILSONBut this investment in Goldman, the first time he sort of lent his name out to one of these institutions, Goldman's bounce didn't survive all that much. It fell 20 or 30 percent afterwards before rebounding. But for Warren Buffett, this is a great deal. He also gets to buy shares at the strike price that he bought them -- bought this round at the same price for the next 10 years. So Bank of America can come back and he can make a lot more money.
REHMAnd the other problem is that the Congressional Budget Office is projecting the unemployment rate will decline to a still high 8.5 percent by the end of next year. How do all these bad numbers affect the task ahead for the congressional debt committee, Karen?
TUMULTYWell, it does suggest an urgency to it. The problem is this committee starts meeting just as the presidential election season kicks in to high gear, and I think that's gonna be a real problem for the committee, because everything that they do is gonna be, you know, shrouded...
TUMULTYAnd it's gonna be, you know, the members who would have to vote on this thing are essentially gonna be, you know, playing the political angles of all of these recommendations.
REHMYou don't think anybody there is going to rise above politics and really keep the people in their minds?
ELVINGIf we're talking about the committee of 12, one has to hope that there are going to be some of those members who are going to have a larger concern. And I do believe that there are several people on that committee who were perhaps even chosen with an eye towards their potential in this respect. I think of Rob Portman, for example, the freshman senator from Ohio. He's just been elected. He has a long history in Washington.
ELVINGHe's, in fact, a former director of the Office of Management and Budget, and that is the kind of position from which he can take a larger view. I think that both sides have a few people in there who are willing to compromise and really do wanna take a larger view. But on that same committee, it's salted with people who are there to battle.
REHMTrue. How optimistic are you, Reid?
WILSONWell, I'd take a look at two of the Republican members -- Republican House members, Dave Upton -- Dave Camp, excuse me, from Michigan and Fred Upton, also from Michigan, are two of the picks that John Boehner made. Both of them -- they're not sort of the fire-breathing conservatives who make up the freshman class. I thought it was very notable that there are no freshman on this -- on the committee that John Boehner picked.
WILSONRob Portman has a long history of working on budget issues. I think on the Democratic side, Max Baucus is somebody who could find some kind of common ground. The real key here, though, is if just a few Republicans or just a few Democrats, maybe even only one of each, flips and votes with the other side, is that deal really going to get through a heavily partisan, highly polarized Republican House, or the same heavily partisan, highly polarized Democratic Senate?
ELVINGThe best thing that can be said for the way this committee was structured was that they have now a guarantee that it will come to the floor of the House. It will not be up to the speaker whether or not to bring it to the floor of the House. It must go to the floor of the House, once the committee has reported. And even more significant, there's no filibuster in the Senate. It's a simple majority to approve or disapprove. That gives whatever comes out of the committee a chance.
ELVINGIt's going to need it because, as Reid says, it's going to be difficult to sell any compromise that comes out of this committee. It would be something of a miracle to get a good compromise, even a greater miracle to pass it House and Senate. But it has a chance because of those two procedural breakthroughs.
REHMAnd if they do not reach a compromise, Karen?
TUMULTYIf they do not reach a compromise, then we get -- supposedly, we get automatic cuts that are pretty sweeping and pretty deep. I, having been in Washington long enough to have seen a few of these other so-called sequester schemes, though, am skeptical that in the end this actually happens. This is one of these things -- it's often called a gimmick, and for good reason because it's one of these things they pass so they can all pat themselves on the back. But in the end, you know, Congress ultimately doesn't pull its own trigger.
REHMSo they'll come down to what date, Reid?
WILSONI believe it's Nov. 23 is when the final proposal has to be out.
REHMMy husband's birthday. Of course, they have to do it.
WILSONThere you go.
ELVINGThat's why they chose it.
WILSONAnd then the House and Senate must vote on it by Dec. 23, otherwise these cuts come into effect. Of course, this means that it will come out at about 10:00 p.m. on Nov. 23 and the final votes will be taken at 10:00 or 11:00 p.m. on Dec. 23, so don't make any Christmas plans yet.
REHMAnd is that...
ELVINGNo accident. No accident at all. They put both of these deadlines right up against holidays, where they know that they are then allied with the spouses of all the members of Congress who are screaming at them, you're going to ruin another one of our holidays, another one of our vacations by being there in Washington. They know what they're doing.
REHMRon Elving, he is Washington editor for NPR. Karen Tumulty of The Washington Post. Reid Wilson of National Journal Hotline. Do join us, questions, comments. I look forward to hearing from you.
REHMAnd just to bring you up to date on Hurricane Irene, Homeland Security Secretary Napolitano is warning of extensive power outages. She says, Irene is a Category 2 now but she says not to focus too much on whether it's Category 2 or 3. You will not be able to tell much difference. Predictions are still 5 to 10" of rain all along the northeast corridor. And the National Hurricane Center director says its confidence in the forecast track for Irene is higher than normal.
REHMSomebody is telling the east coast something. First an earthquake and now a hurricane, Ron.
ELVINGBut why would these things happen while both the president and congress are out of town. Does that seem fair?
REHMBut the president is on the east coast on Martha's Vineyard. I mean, there you go.
ELVINGHe's on his way back.
REHMOkay. Steve Jobs is stepping down as CEO of Apple. Will the company continue to perform in a stellar fashion without him?
ELVINGWell, I think so. Steve Jobs hasn't been a -- first of all, he's been the most influential CEO in terms of the direction of his company and a direction of how we all live our lives than I think we've seen in decades, if not a century since Henry Ford maybe. But he's -- he hadn't had a huge hand in a lot of Apple's dealings over the last few years given his own personal health problems. The CEO -- the guy he's recommended to replace him has -- was the person who filled in for him while he was gone so one would imagine that Apple will continue on its way. It's certainly revolutionized the way we play on our telephones and our computers and our iPads and all those things.
REHMAll right. And people -- speaking of people moving down or up, what does Rick Perry's showing, Karen Tumulty, mean for Mitt Romney going forward in the G.O.P. pursuit for the nomination?
TUMULTYWell, if you believe the latest polls it would look like we have a new frontrunner in the Republican race. Rick Perry has gotten in the race, has made a big splash, is sort of uniquely positioned because he can run as both an establishment figure, the longest serving -- continuously serving governor in America, the longest serving in Texas history. He can also channel a lot of that insurgent Tea Party energy.
TUMULTYBut he has made a number of comments, specifically his suggestion that monetary easing on the part of Ben Bernanke was treasonous, that suggest he came in a little bit hot. He has the potential to generate controversy. And I think that these next few presidential debates -- in September alone we have three Republican debates coming up -- and I think that is going to be a real test as to whether, you know, he's -- Rick Perry is -- has taken over the race or whether he's just the latest kind of Fred Thompson-like west (unintelligible) ...
REHMReid Wilson, I think close examination of Rick Perry's record in Texas is something that's going to be up to all of you journalists looking into his claims about job creation, his record as far as kids finishing high school. All of that I'm sure is going to come out.
WILSONAs a matter of fact it's been interesting to watch. Karen's paper has done the story on the Perry record. National Journal has. NPR's done it. Everybody has sort of looked at this -- at what they're calling the Texas miracle in terms of how much -- how many jobs have been created and how the -- how children fare in Texas. But it is clear though that at the moment Rick Perry, I think, is the frontrunner in the Republican field. The Gallup poll that you referenced shows him up by 12 points over Mitt Romney.
WILSONBut beneath that sort of top line number you see that Rick Perry leads among conservatives by a huge margin. He leads among southerners. He leads among those who attend church on a regular basis. Basically he leads among everybody who's likely to turn out to an Iowa caucus or a New Hampshire primary or a South Carolina primary.
REHMInteresting that Ron Paul comes in third, Michelle Bachmann at 10 percent. Other announced candidates in single digits, Ron.
ELVINGThat's right. Paul and Bachmann are very close to being tied in the three big polls that have been done since mid-August. The interesting thing is that in all three of those polls, one kind of a Democratic poll, one a Republican poll and then Gallup, you have pretty similar numbers. They all seem to find that Perry has clearly broken into a lead -- shot into the lead as soon as he declared his candidacy even in the midst of the weekend when Michelle Bachmann was winning the Ames Straw Poll in Iowa and getting a lot of attention for that.
ELVINGSo the Republican electorate appears to have been waiting for someone like Rick Perry or just someone new, someone who had a forceful personality and somebody who seemed to be able to bring together these different strains of conservatives.
REHMSpeaking of which, what do you make of Jon Huntsman?
ELVINGI think Jon Huntsman has amazed even himself with the experience of just how difficult it is to run for president. You think when you're way off in China and you're looking at this and you're thinking, you know, the field is weak. I'm going to get in there. I'm going to have a little different message. I'm going to be very competent. I'm going to be consensus building. And, you know, he has a gorgeous family as we've just seen in the magazines. There's a lot to be said for Jon Huntsman but he hasn't been able to say it for himself very well thus far and the voters are just not responding to him.
TUMULTYYeah, his whole entry into the race was just sort of odd. And he's got some things that are just going to be a hard sell with the Republican electorate.
TUMULTYWell, they're in a very angry mood right now and he's -- so to be selling conciliation this may not be the right year for that. And the fact is, his most recent job was as Barack Obama's Ambassador to China. So...
REHMHe talked about global warming, Reid.
WILSONHe's talked about global warming, he's talked about -- he doesn't exactly tow the most conservative line on immigration issues. He's not terribly against the idea of same sex civil unions at least, if not full marriage. But he has broken from the orthodoxy a lot and right now that's not what the Republican primary electorate wants to see. He is entirely a creation of -- his candidacy was entirely a creation of the media as -- and I think...
TUMULTYAnd a few political (word?) .
WILSONExactly. And look, his failure to sort of latch on -- or grab any traction really shows that there is no room for a moderate in the Republican primary right now.
REHMWhat about a third party candidacy, Ron Elving?
ELVINGThis always comes up about this time when people are expressing a great deal of dissatisfaction with the two parties as they are. And when the president does not seem as strong as he did even a few months ago and when the opposition party does not have a candidate yet who clearly beats the president, it seems like the ideal moment to have a third party candidacy. We've been down this road a number of times. But third party candidacies really don't come from a third party. We don't have a strong enough third party to mount one.
ELVINGWe have had some individuals like Ross Perot, or if you go all the way back to Teddy Roosevelt, who had the personal resources, the assets to be able to leap into the field and make an impact but they haven't gotten anywhere close to getting elected. This is still an awfully difficult road for a third party candidate or party is a bit of a rigged game.
TUMULTYYes. Although it may be what, you know, Barack Obama was wishing for over his birthday cake because it certainly does seem like if Huntsman were to decide this, and there's absolutely no evidence that he's going to, that could, in fact, help the president because it would probably siphon off more Republican votes than Democratic ones.
REHMOn the other hand, John Padorats (sp?) a conservative columnist has said, it's hard to conjure up a scenario in which a third party challenge doesn't harm Obama and help Republicans. So all kinds of views out there.
WILSONWell, let's take a look at the last two significant independent candidates who tried to run for president, Ross Perot and John Anderson in 1980. They both played on anger -- on anger within the American electorate. They both came at times of great economic stress. Consumer confidence levels were incredibly low. People were angry at Washington, D.C.
WILSONNow there's a significant portion of the electorate that's angry but cut that portion of the electorate in two or take off, you know, a third of it. And that -- they're -- essentially they're all voting against President Obama at the moment. If you take a third off you dilute their power and I think that it's only a good thing for President Obama if a third party candidate gets in.
REHMReid Wilson. He's editor-in-chief of National Journal Hotline. Do join us, 800-433-8850. We mentioned earlier the earthquake here on the east coast and in Colorado. But ten years after 9/11 Washington D.C. still does not have effective evacuation plans. Why is that, Ron?
ELVINGAmong other things, I suspect, it's because of the multitude of jurisdictions and all the different governmental authorities that have something to say about Washington, D.C. as a metropolitan area. Also because you have an enormous concentration of jobs in the very center of the area. And in this particular instance with the earthquake on Tuesday, the rather ill-advised statement that came from many different government agencies and also from many private employers was, everybody go home.
ELVINGWell, it's a great idea to go home. It would've been better if everyone had gone to some local restaurant or someplace else to spend a little time first because if everybody hits the road at the same time the roads stop functioning as roads. They become parking lots. We've seen this before with snow storms when they sent too many people home at the same time. We saw it at 9/11. And we saw it again on Tuesday. It simply has to be communicated to everyone in a position of employment authority, you don't send everyone in the metropolitan area onto the road at the same time.
REHMBut wouldn't you think that Janet Napolitano had communicated that to especially government agencies before now?
ELVINGOne might have thought. One might have thought that this would've been an article of faith among everyone who has this authority that you don't send everyone home at the exact same time. But then we had not had an earthquake of this kind in this area since 1897 so this one wasn't in the play book.
REHMAll right. And sadly damage to the Washington Monument so it's closed down. Sadly the dedication of the Martin Luther King Memorial has been postponed because of Hurricane Irene. I'm very sad about the damage to the National Cathedral for three of four spires in the central tower broke off. And they have no insurance to cover that, whereas the federal government presumably will take care of the Washington Monument.
WILSONThis is just the latest two events in what have already been an incredibly newsy year. I mean, the shooting of Congresswoman Gabriel Giffords, that happened this year. I always have to sort of remind myself of that. The Arab Spring has happened this year. The government -- near government shut down, near miss on the debt ceiling increase. This has been, I feel like, about a half a decade's worth of news in the first eight months of the year.
REHMAnd don't pick the biggest story yet because there's lots more to come. And Reid Wilson is with National Journal Hotline and you're listening to "The Diane Rehm Show." Let's talk about Dick Chaney's biography. I was fascinated to read that he was unconscious for weeks in 2010. He said he had a vivid dream he was living in an Italian villa pacing the stone paths to get coffee and newspapers. What a great dream while you're unconscious. But on the serious side he certainly wrote about his differences with Colin Powell, Ron Elving.
ELVINGThat's right. He had a great number of differences with both Colin Powell and Condoleezza Rice. Apparently when we see the personal library of Dick Chaney we won't be finding a book with lots of photographs of Condoleezza Rice as they found in Libya. There was not much love lost in these relationships because Dick Chaney involved himself in foreign policy in a way it's hard to imagine any previous vice-president having done. He was very much a driver of an aggressive foreign policy. We learn in his book, among other things, that he recommended the bombing of a weapons site in Syria as late as 2007, 2007 well after the Iraq invasion. Well after all of the things for which he will be remembered and will be famous.
ELVINGSo the book is entitled "In My Time" I believe and it might've been subtitled "And I'm Still Right" because the book does appear to be completely unrepentant about all the things that made him a rather unpopular vice-president to some degree within the administration and certainly in the general public.
TUMULTYAnd it's probably worth noting that Condoleezza Rice's own memoir is due out in November. And so she -- and he is, he was very harsh about her. He described her as naïve on North Korea. We may have another version of events coming very soon.
WILSONOne interesting part of this book that dovetails on a point that Ron made earlier about the lack of evacuation policies here in Washington, D.C., Dick Chaney wrote a note that he kept in his safe that could've been used had he been incapacitated that would've allowed him to resign essentially. Only one of his aids knew that. This brings up the point that there's not really a way to remove an incapacitated vice-president. There's not really a way to evacuate Washington D.C. in times of crisis. There's not really a way to replace the majority of the U.S. House of Representatives if some disaster strikes. There are members of congress who tried to pass new continuity plans but that hasn't really gone anywhere.
WILSONSo at the end of the day we've still got a few parts of this whole thing to -- disaster plan to get right.
REHMAnd finally before we go to our break let's talk about the prosecutors dropping the case against Strauss-Kahn. I wonder why. To what extent did they simply feel that the woman who accused him of raping her could not make her case, Ron?
ELVINGThat appears to be the thinking that the prosecutors had in recent weeks, and it goes back a number of weeks, that after the initial crime there was a fairly high degree of confidence that she would be a strong and persuasive witness. But that as time went on, mostly because of things that the prosecutors came to learn about the victim and about other statements that she had made and things that they knew would have to be brought into evidence in court, they came to believe that she could not carry the case. And unfortunately in these matters when physical evidence is not necessarily dispositive and when there are no witnesses, you do get to a situation in which the victim, if the victim is testifying, really becomes the case. And the credibility of that one witness becomes the case.
ELVINGIn this situation they did not want to prosecute and fail. Some people will fault them for that decision. They will say, yeah, you should've prosecuted and left it up to a jury to decide whom they believed.
TUMULTYBut this is possibly not the end of this. There's still a civil case and he goes back to face some similar accusations in France. So this is not the end of what we will be hearing.
REHMAnd some people are saying he is going to countersue or he may countersue. The other question is, is his career in France finished?
WILSONThere actually was a poll that came out just recently that suggested the French populace has soured on Dominique Strauss-Kahn significantly, that his presidential chances are probably done. That being said, there were at least a few rumors out there that maybe he didn't want to run for president in the first place.
REHMReid Wilson, Karen Tumulty, Ron Elving. They'll all answer your questions when we come back.
REHMWelcome back, it's time to open the phones during our Friday News Roundup, the domestic hour. And first we'll go to Winston Salem, N.C. Good morning, Robert.
ROBERTYes, good morning. Earlier there was a statement about consumer confidence being part of the problem with economic recovery. And, I guess, it represents one of my disappointments. I feel that there's an echo chamber, in many ways between the press and, I guess, the leaders of our country because, from my perspective and I think a lot of people's perspective, there's a misunderstanding that it's not a lack of consumer confidence, it's a lack of economic opportunities with, basically, concentration of too much wealth in the very, very top of the society.
ROBERTMost of us, we've not had many raises, in years. We have -- we're basically broke. And, you know, the middle class has been decimated in this country. And I think the election in 2008 was about that. I think the last Congressional election was about that. I think there's a misunderstanding in Washington, D.C. and among, in many ways, I think, even the press because, in my opinion, the press also has become disjointed from the working class in this country.
ROBERTThere's not much of us left, except that we're the majority of people, but we have little voice in this country. And I think it's not consumer confidence, I think it is people don't have the money to spend.
REHMAll right, sir.
TUMULTYWell, I -- since I was the person who brought that point up, I do think consumer confidence is -- I mean, that's one of the reasons that people don't go out and buy things. I mean, the fact that they don't and that they have a lot of debt and they are now placing the priority on paying off these humongous debts.
TUMULTYBut the reason that that's important to the recovery is that business, out there, is sitting on mountains and mountains of cash. Cash that they could be using to make capital investments, cash that they could be using to hire people. They are not because they don't believe the customers are out there, that the customers will begin spending.
REHMThey continue to say it's a lack of sureness about what's coming.
WILSONIt -- the republicans and Congress have talked a lot about uncertainty, that is exactly right on point. Americans feels a great deal of uncertainty. The caller mentioned that the 2008 and 2010 elections were a lot about anger at Washington and uncertainty of what was coming. I'd include the 2006 elections in that as well. This has been something, an anger, a sort of, pervasive pessimism that the American electorate has been feeling since, you know, the mid -- the middle of last decade. And this a -- this is nothing new.
REHMAll right. Let's go to Fort Worth, Texas. Good morning, David, thanks for joining us.
DAVIDThank you. I just wanted to make a comment. You had mentioned the name Rick Perry and we Texans seem to pride ourselves on thinking that just because we've elected a governor, that we have the next waiting President. And I would like to just remind everybody of back in the '80s, when that picture came out of Dukakis, that, sort of, sank his campaign.
DAVIDAnd I'll make a nice little contribution or a, sort of a, gut stab, whichever way you want to look at it, I'd urge your listeners to look at the picture of, soon to be President, Perry, firing off a handgun with Mayor Mike Moncrief of Fort Worth. Probably at a Nascar event or something, it was a race of some sort. And I just -- before they make up their mind about the next President, just look at that picture and I'll leave some of the comments to your panel there.
REHMAll right, thanks for calling. Ron Elving.
ELVINGI suspect the caller is referring to the famous picture of Mike Dukakis riding in a tank with his helmet and goggles and so on. The truth is Mike Dukakis had actually served in the United States Army and in the tank corps, I understand it. And actually was doing something that he had done before. It was not an absurd setup and yet the photograph it produced was absurd and it came to symbolize things about his campaign that were lacking, perhaps, even to parody the man.
ELVINGI suspect although I have not seen this photograph of Governor Perry firing the handgun. I perhaps, would guess the caller is suggesting that this would undercut something of his image. We'll have to take a look at the picture.
TUMULTYI'm the Texan on the panel here so I can say, Governor Perry, one of his own favorite episodes from his own life involves when -- once he was jogging, he claims to have had his dog threatened by a coyote and while he was jogging, he pulled out a gun and blew away the coyote. Now, a man who says that he jogs with a gun is, I don't think, going to be terribly embarrassed by a picture with a gun although I have not seen this image either.
WILSONIt's a pretty humorous image, but it's -- I mean, this is -- this feeds into Rick Perry's swagger. He is somebody who is very sure of himself, who knows exactly what he's doing and a lot of the time he is such a great -- I think he is a great retail politician and anyone who underestimates him is doing so at their own peril.
WILSONA lot of very good politicians have lost to Rick Perry along the way. This is just something that he can use to convince voters in Iowa or New Hampshire or South Carolina that he's the guy who shares their values. And, let's remember, he's running for the republican Presidential nomination, right now, not in the general election.
REHMAll right, to another point of view from Mario, he's in Cincinnati, Ohio. Good morning to you.
MARIOGood morning, Diane. I very much appreciate and strongly support your urging of journalists to strongly look at all the candidates background. However I would ask you to reflect upon your interview of Barack Obama, back on October 20th of 2006, when he was doing his "Audacity of Hope" book tour.
MARIOAnd if you have an opportunity, go to the archives of that and listen to that interview, see how he literally just pulled the wool over your eyes regarding your question on the military commission act and how he would vote on it. And what came about of that in the policy decisions that he actually implemented that echoed exactly what the Bush administration had with regards to habeas corpus. So again, it's -- by all means, we need to look at every candidate strongly whether it's on the right or the left. But we need also intellectual consistency.
REHMThank you, Mario. Ron Elving.
ELVINGI'm going to have to speculate here as to exactly what the caller may be referring to but I assume that he's referring to the right of habeas corpus with regard to terror suspects that were captured during the Bush administration and as a candidate, he was highly critical, of course, of the handling of that entire issue area by the Bush administration, particularly of course, promising to close Guantanamo Bay as a prison for terror suspects.
ELVINGIt's been a difficult slog for the Obama administration, for Eric Holder, as the attorney general, to deal with all the promises that he made about how he was going to reverse course on our handling of terror suspects. There were a lot of obstacles put up to closing the prison including Congressional action to make it impossible to move anybody into a federal prison from Guantanamo Bay and things of that nature but it has been a great disappointment to civil libertarians, that the kinds of things that candidate Obama said were not carried through on by the Obama Administration.
REHMAll right. Here's an e-mail from Mary Jo who says she can find no news coverage of a protest in front of the White House. "I understand," she says, "about 200 protestors, including Bill McKibben, have been arrested." That's about that new pipeline. Karen.
TUMULTYThat's right. And I certainly have seen coverage of it in my newspaper, The Washington Post including, I believe, a very large picture of the actress Margo Kidder being arrested in yesterday's paper on page three. This is -- it's a group of environmentalists who are complaining that this pipeline would essentially bring down a lot of potentially, environmentally degrading, slurried from the tar sands in Canada.
REHMAll right. And do you want to comment? All right, let's go to Tulsa, Okla. Good morning, Bill.
BILLGood morning. Diane, I have thoroughly enjoyed sitting here with my phone stuck in my ear listening to your program.
BILLI have a comment. I've changed my mind several times while just listening to you but I have a comment that Mr. Barnae (sp?) ...
BILL...Bernanke, if he wants people to spend money, he ought to quit stealing mine.
REHMHow do you mean?
BILLI -- I am getting approximately $1,000 a month, less money, less spendable income because of Bernanke's policy because my bank, my savings and loan, where I have -- or credit union, where I have money, is not paying any interest.
TUMULTYWell, I don't mean to argue the Ben Bernanke point of view here but I think that he would say that he has lowered interest rates, essentially, to prevent that bank or credit union from collapsing as it might have in 2008, when the entire worldwide financial system seized up.
BILLHe's done it to protect his buddies on Wall Street so that they get their $100 million bonuses.
ELVINGWell, one of the other parts of this, is that by bringing down the -- by bringing down interest rates, he spurs some kind of other investing. That the money that's, maybe, sitting in treasuries right now, might be better -- it might get a higher yield if it's put in stocks or bonds or something else. So, moving...
REHMBut, you know, it seems to me, the callers comment represents the kind of conspiracy thinking that's out there, that somehow these policies are not for the people, they are for the buddies.
ELVINGWell, I think, it actually represents a -- the sort of, American peoples disgust in Washington, D.C. and in every single institution that's here, Congress, the White House, the Fed, everything that has an impact on their daily lives is having a negative impact, at the moment. And I think that's what the caller's point was.
TUMULTYWell, I also think it reflects the fact that people are angry that, you know, these people on Wall Street caused this crisis and that none of them went to jail for it. In fact, a lot of them are collecting bonuses as big or bigger, meanwhile the people who were hurt the most by it which were a lot of people, for instance, who hold mortgages are still looking at mortgages that are under water and, you know, their own finances have been wrecked.
REHMAll right. To Bethesda, Md. Hi there, Martha.
MARTHAOh, hi, thank you for taking my call.
MARTHAI'm a little upset by the man who said that people in the country are angry with Obama. Yeah, a lot of people are but a lot of people are not. And that is never reflected in the news. Many people, people who I work with, people who I saw at Chautauqua last week, really support the President and I don't think the press gives accurate reflections of the populations. But when they say that many people are angry with him, then those who are independents who don't know which direction to go, often go against him just because they think someone else who could get in power can then make something happen.
WILSONThis brings up a really…....
WILSON...Martha brings up a really interesting, sort of, disparity here between the way we think about our Presidents. On one hand President Obama's job approval rating is a disaster, it's about 40 percent, plus or minus a couple of points based on whatever the previous day's news. On the other hand, people see him personally favorably. They like the guy, they want to like the guy.
WILSONThere was a very telling quote in one of the local Cape Cod newspapers this week when President Obama was on Martha's Vineyard, somebody who had been a supporter in 2008 said she doesn't like the fact that she doesn't approve of his job performance because "I love loving him." I thought, that was such a telling moment. When President Obama's reelection gets in -- becomes really jeopardized, is when that favorable rating -- the personal feeling that Americans have about a President, starts to slip dramatically.
WILSONThat has begun, very slowly, to dip but if it gets worse, then people -- then it's an indication that Americans are thinking "Well, this guy's just not getting it done, I'm, sort of, giving up on him." At the moment, they haven't entirely given up on him yet.
ELVINGI believe that's true and I think that that is his ace in the whole, if you will for next year, particularly because it'll come to be compared with how they feel and what their favorability feeling is personally about whomever the republicans nominate.
REHMRon Elving of NPR and you're listening to the Diane Rehm Show. Excuse me, let's go to Detroit, Mich. and to Russell. Good morning.
RUSSELLGood morning, Diane. Diane, I have a couple of comments.
RUSSELLOne, the talking has -- talk about when Wall Street is doing well, it's -- the economy is great but in Detroit, when Wall Street goes up, we go down. Secondly, to generate consumer confidence, they have to have money. And it all comes back to jobs. And I read recently in one of the papers, that the Honda is opening up a $400 million assembly plant in Mexico. And where do you think they want to sell their Honda's? And I say, Bush tore up the SALT treaties. I expected Obama to tear up NEFTA and all the other SHAFTA's.
TUMULTYWell, in fact, the President is urging the passage of several free trade treaties, actually, to -- as what he promises would be an economic stimulus albeit one where he's going to get a lot of resistance from his own party. I think, it's interesting that Russell is calling from Detroit because one of the criticisms that the President's recent trip across the country was that he did it -- he went largely to rural areas, to heavily white areas and areas that really are not suffering that badly. Whereas you look at a place like Detroit, and I believe he will be going there soon, I mean, those are the real basket cases of this economy.
REHMWhat does Russell mean when he says Wall Street goes up, Detroit goes down, Ron?
ELVINGHistorically, certainly in the last couple of decades, we've seen a lot of wealth generated on Wall Street by the manipulation of the markets and meanwhile people who made things for a living, people who manufactured automobiles, for example, people who built the weapons of World War II, the things that Detroit is proud of in its history, those people have been suffering. Now, I think, the Obama administration would probably say to Russell, but look what we did for the auto industry.
ELVINGMaybe we haven't repealed NAFTA and maybe we haven't tried to move away from the free trade commitment of the United States since World War II. And the Obama administration, as Karen said, has been moving toward more free trade. But we have done things where we could do things. We saved the auto industry from going down, that seems to be turning around, that seems to be turning a profit, that's good news for Detroit and for Michigan and that's what they could have contributed. I think, that would be their response although Russell's point remains a valid one
REHMRon Elving of NPR, Karen Tumulty of the Washington Post, Reid Wilson of National Journal Hotline. And before we sign off, here's an e-mail from Kathy. "Please emphasize how dangerous the coming storm is for listeners along the Eastern Coast. A lot of seniors listen to the show. A lot are staying put. Please, tell them to get out." All I can do is wish that everyone stay safe. Thanks for listening all, I'm Diane Rehm.
ANNOUNCER"The Diane Rehm Show" is produced by Sandra Pinkard, Nancy Robertson, Susan Nabors, Denise Couture, Monique Nazareth, Sarah Ashworth, Lisa Dunn and Nikki Jecks. The engineer is Erin Stamper, A.C. Valdez answers the phones.
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