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.
Employers added 103,000 jobs last month. But that was not enough to lower the unemployment rate which remained at 9.1 percent for the third straight month. In his first news conference since July, President Obama takes the offensive in support of his jobs plan. The field of Republican presidential candidates is set as Sarah Palin and New Jersey governor Chris Christie officially bow out of the running. Protests on Wall Street spark other demonstrations across the country. And fans and friends react to the death of former Apple C.E.O. Steve Jobs. A panel of journalists joins guest host Laura Knoy for analysis of the week’s top national news stories.
- Naftali Bendavid National correspondent, The Wall Street Journal.
- Jeanne Cummings Deputy government editor, Bloomberg News.
- Chris Cillizza Author of The Fix, a Washington Post politics blog, and managing editor of PostPolitics.com.
MS. LAURA KNOYThanks for joining us. I'm Laura Knoy of New Hampshire Public Radio, sitting in for Diane Rehm. Diane is on vacation. Senate Democrats proposed adding a surtax on millionaires to the jobs bill. New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin take themselves out of the running in the presidential race. And the Occupy Wall Street protests gain union support and spread.
MS. LAURA KNOYJoining us for the domestic hour of our Friday News Roundup, Naftali Bendavid of The Wall Street Journal. Welcome, Naftali. Good to see you.
MR. NAFTALI BENDAVIDThanks for having me.
KNOYAlso with us, Jeanne Cummings of Bloomberg News. Jean, thanks for being here.
MS. JEANNE CUMMINGSAbsolutely.
KNOYAnd Chris Cillizza of The Washington Post. Chris, welcome.
MR. CHRIS CILLIZZAThank you for having me.
KNOYWell, just out this morning, folks, the unemployment numbers came out. Unemployment rate for September, Jeanne, remained at 9.1 percent, kind of stuck there. What's your reaction to that, Jeanne?
CUMMINGSWell, it's clear that the economy is just creeping, creeping along. The job number was a little bit better than people thought it would be. There were 103,000 jobs added. But even that number isn't as good as it sounds because nearly half of them, 45,000 of them, are just Verizon workers who went off -- they were on strike last month, and they went back to work in September. So, actually, the growth rate is, in fact, smaller than it appears.
CUMMINGSSo it's better than the zero that we had in August, but it still is an indication that the economy is just not turning around.
KNOYPolitical implications, Chris.
CILLIZZAAs Jeanne pointed out, the zero number was about the worst possible number for President Obama in August, you know, just dead flat, no movement. So 130,000, while not anywhere near the about 250,000, I think, they would need -- jobs that we need that each month to drop the unemployment rate below 8.5 percent before November 2012, is still 130,000 jobs.
CILLIZZAI think the peskier problem, politically, is the unemployment rate, again, 9.1 percent. Even the most optimistic and Obama-allied economists seem to suggest that, you know, this is not going to drop at all quickly, certainly not before November of 2012.
CILLIZZASo that, I think, is -- it remains the larger political problem for them, which is it feels -- to Jeanne's point, it feels as though if we are moving in the right direction, it's -- we are rolling the ball an eighth of an inch forward every month when people want to see genuine movement, which makes it difficult for President Obama to make the case, which he's going to have to make.
CILLIZZALook, things aren't where they need to be, but we're moving in the right direction.
KNOYWell, he made a case this week, Naftali, right? Went on the stomp again for his jobs bill?
BENDAVIDYeah, and I think he has a real understanding that the economy isn't going to be going gangbusters by the next election. So what you're seeing him start to do is frame a case that I'm at least trying to do something about this. I'm trying to make it better. The Republicans are not only blocking every single thing that I do. They have no plan of their own.
BENDAVIDSo I think this is no longer a campaign that's built around let's hope the economy is better by the time, you know, 2012 rolls around. It's built around, who's doing more to try to improve things, who's really on your side? And I think you're seeing that switch. We've seen it for a few weeks, but it was kind of punctuated with an exclamation point at yesterday's press conference.
KNOYYeah, so what exactly -- what was sort of the tone of that? Naftali's hinting at it. But, Jeanne, what was the tone yesterday?
CUMMINGSWell, we're seeing now the president take a feistier stance. I think getting the debt ceiling behind him liberated him a little bit from action in Washington. He's very much focused on laying the foundation of his re-election campaign right now. And this White House has made a lot of mistakes in the last six months. They've -- have self-inflicted wounds that they've got to deal with.
CUMMINGSBut, I think, yesterday, he actually did a fairly good job of framing up the debate for the coming election in the way he wants it. And that is he is empathizing with all those folks who are struggling out there, and he cast the Republicans as siding with millionaires. And if he can frame that up and go into the campaign, that might be the best argument he can make. And, frankly, the Republicans are sort of playing into his hands.
CUMMINGSCharles Krauthammer, who's one of -- a renowned conservative columnist, told me just weeks ago that he felt like the Republicans in the House ought to just go ahead and pass the jobs bill because it's probably not going to have a big impact. But it would then take the argument away from President Obama for the coming election. I thought that was kind of an interesting take.
KNOYLet me invite our listeners to join us, too. We'll take your comments and questions throughout the hour. Call us, 1-800-433-8850. Send us your email, firstname.lastname@example.org. You can join us on Facebook or Twitter. Again, the number, 1-800-433-8850. What about that jobs bill, Chris Cillizza? Do you think it's going to pass the House?
CILLIZZAThe American Jobs Act as currently constituted and proposed by President Obama, no. I think the focus will move in the next week to the Senate, where Democrats do still have a majority. It's a narrow majority, but they have 53 seats in the Senate.
CILLIZZAPresident Obama needs to find a way to strong-arm wrestle, get those 53 Democrats or -- and some Republicans, too, on board with some sort of package, to put the onus, to put the ball back in the court of House Republicans, to do exactly what Naftali was suggesting, create -- that says I'm trying. I'm trying to do things -- granted some of these things haven't worked, but I continue to try.
CILLIZZAHouse Republicans, meanwhile, are absolutely obstinate. He needs to get it through the Senate to do that, to put that kind of rhetorical ball back into the court of House Republicans.
BENDAVIDWell, you know, I wouldn't underestimate what the Senate Democrats did the other day in changing the way this thing was paid for, which is by a surtax on millionaires.
KNOYRight, let's talk about that.
BENDAVIDYeah, I mean an income over a million dollars to be a 5.6 percent surtax starting in 2013. Previously, there had been other ways that it was going to be paid for, that President Obama had suggested, but Democrats had qualms about them. But with this, you know, the jobs bill probably will not become law.
BENDAVIDBut to be able to say that what you wanted to do was just a tax on millionaires -- you know, Democrats always struggle with the tax issue because the question is always, well, am I somehow going to get pulled into this? So this is an attempt to draw a clear line and say, if you're making more than $1 million a year, sure, but for the other 99 percent of you, you got nothing to worry about.
CILLIZZAAnd I would add just quickly that there are very few issues politically anymore that get 75 percent support of anything. In The Washington Post-ABC poll this week, we asked, would you support a tax on people who make a $1 million or above? Seventy-five percent support. So, again, to Naftali's point, this is something that, if Obama can rally kind of the Democratic Party behind, this is an issue that they have significant support within the American public on.
CUMMINGSWell, and the other thing the president did in -- yesterday in his press conference was call to light that there is no alternative plan. And that issue may or may not gain traction, but it's a legitimate question. And in a political debate, like, okay, you don't like my plan, what's yours? So there, again, he's pressing up against the theme that, I'm trying, they aren't.
CUMMINGSAnd Republicans not having any kind of jobs bill at this time does make that argument more powerful than it might have been.
KNOYNaftali, do you want to jump in?
BENDAVIDWell, I mean, if you ask them what their jobs plan is, it involves a lot of deregulation and a lot of lowering of taxes. And so what the president is trying to do, I think, is sort of take that on and say -- I mean, and you heard it in his -- there's a little bit of, are you kidding me, sort of in his tone yesterday. And I think what he was trying to say is, so you're saying that if we dismantle clean air and clean water regulations, that would somehow create jobs.
BENDAVIDBut, I mean, that what Republicans would say. They would say that the problem here is not that government needs to go out and spend money creating jobs, but that government fetters business and ties its hands. And so their argument is you need to remove those fetters, and everything would be just fine. And the Democrats, I think, are starting to take that on a little more directly.
KNOYWell, and backing up just a little bit, all of you, we started up talking about the economy, the unemployment numbers. Jeanne, Fed Chair Bernanke warned earlier this week that economic recovery is "close to faltering" -- kind of scary words from the Fed chief there.
CUMMINGSWell, absolutely. And there are some economists and investors, including George Soros who believe that we are already are back in a recession, that we slipped back. The president was asked about it yesterday, and I think by -- if you just look at his words and how carefully he chose them, you can see that The White House is, indeed, very concerned about the state of the economy.
CUMMINGSNow, a lot of this has to do with what's going on in Europe. It's not necessarily dynamics that are within are own country. But if Europe cannot deal with the debt crisis that is on its shores, then that is going affect the economy globally. As we all saw when our financial houses started to go down two or three years ago, the rest of the world went down with us. And so we're all knitted together.
CUMMINGSBut the president was careful to say that he saw slow growth, but growth, indeed, he said, is happening. And that is the position of some economists. I'm -- like we talked about earlier, these job numbers are not terrific. But they are not negative, and they are not zero. So, you know, he's clinging to that and hoping that that will pick up.
CILLIZZAYou know, the hard -- and Jeanne points it out -- the hard line politically that the president has to walk is he has to both empathize and acknowledge that, for most people in this country, it feels as if we are not -- and if we're not in a recession, it certainly feels like we are. They can't buy the things they want. They feel constrained in some way.
CILLIZZAAt the same time, people look to their president in times of economic difficulty for a sense of optimism, that things will get better, that we are America, and we can do this. So you have to both empathize and acknowledge the difficulties while also trying to lead and be optimistic, but, of course, not too optimistic, because you can't look out of touch.
CILLIZZAIt's just a very -- and this goes for President Obama, President Clinton, President Reagan, fill-in-the-blank president, Republican or Democrat who has struggled through any kind of economic difficulty. This is a virtually impossible political line to walk.
CUMMINGSWell, it's -- but President Reagan is the master of it with "Morning in America", the ad -- a famous, iconic ad in 1984 re-election campaign, so it's not impossible. President Clinton also had a great way of empathizing and then also looking forward. President Obama really isn't very good at this. This is not -- he has not found his way to this message.
CUMMINGSWhen he did an ABC interview recently, he empathized with everyone, but he wasn't able to pivot and make the second argument. And, you know, why is that? I don't know. Maybe it's because he is sort of grounded in the grown-up, just the facts, you know, that sort of thing. I don't know why, but he has not found the language that he needs to pivot.
BENDAVIDAnd one of the things you're seeing him do is take on Congress as a real adversary and villain in this whole thing. And I think he's hoping that that will enable him to sharpen his message 'cause it's not just about what he's saying, but about what Congress is saying and doing or not doing.
KNOYAll right. Well, coming up, more of the domestic hour of our Friday News Roundup. Again, you can join us at 1-800-433-8850. Send us your email at drshow@wamu, or join us on Facebook, or Twitter. And we'll be right back.
KNOYWelcome back. I'm Laura Knoy, sitting in for Diane Rehm. It's the domestic hour of the Friday News Roundup. Our guests are Naftali Bendavid, national correspondent for The Wall Street Journal, Jeanne Cummings, deputy government editor of Bloomberg News, and Chris Cillizza, author of The Fix, a Washington Post politics blog and managing editor of postpolitics.com.
KNOYOne more time, the number here on "The Diane Rehm Show," 1-800-433-8850. Email is email@example.com. And, all of you, after a couple of weeks of seeking mainstream spotlight, the Occupy Wall Street protesters did, Naftali, attract President Obama's attention at yesterday's news conference. What did he say about that?
BENDAVIDWell, he, I think, tried to walk yet another fine line, where he expressed support for their sort of passions and their frustration with Wall Street without specifically endorsing their tactics or what they stand for, which actually isn't entirely clear right now.
BENDAVIDBut I think you're seeing both the Democratic Party and the labor movement trying to decide exactly how to mesh with this movement -- excuse me -- take advantage of its energy without necessarily becoming part of it or being seen as co-opting it. It's not completely dissimilar to the challenge the Republicans had with the Tea Party movement.
BENDAVIDBut it also reminds me, you know, in the '60s, there was always this question, could the long hairs and the hard hats, you know, get together? And there's a little bit of that. You know, how do -- you know, does this become a little bit more of a mainstream movement to start enunciating specific aims? But how -- you know, can they do that without losing some of its energy and sort of raw enthusiasm?
BENDAVIDAnd I think that's something that we're going to see worked through in a very interesting way in the next couple of weeks.
KNOYYeah, right. What does that mean, Jeanne, that unions started supporting this movement?
CUMMINGSWell, they saw a kindred spirit and message. It's about jobs. And, you know, the unions these days are down on their -- they're back on their heels, not because of the politics. I mean, they do -- they have a friend or at least an ally in the White House, but they don't have work. And they need to grow, and so they don't have prospects to grow if they don't have a growing job sector. So I think there's a natural affinity there.
CUMMINGSI find this to be very, very similar to the Tea Party experience. Now, I don't know that -- if they're going to hold together the way the Tea Party did 'cause what the Tea Party did was actually really hard. And that's -- you know, experienced the enthusiasm of this grassroots burst, and then actually maintained some momentum and have impact.
CUMMINGSWe've seen lots of bursts, but we haven't seen that kind of endurance. And that's a pretty good achievement by the Tea Party. This may or may not evolve in that fashion. But one of the similarities that struck me -- Naftali mentioned that the Democrats are looking at it like, well, should we, shouldn't we? That's where the Republicans were with the Tea Party.
CUMMINGSAlso, you see people trying to define them before they can define themselves. And so people who don't agree with the messages coming from them are, you know, calling them hippies, calling them lawbreakers because they're camping out without permits or whatever. The Tea Party people were called racists. They were called all kinds of things.
CUMMINGSAnd what they turned out to be, you know, were a bunch of regular folks, who then used the power of their vote to have an impact on the system. We may well be looking at something very similar.
KNOYLet's take some calls. Again, the number, 1-800-433-8850. And first up is Ron in Paducah, Ky. Hi, Ron, you're on "The Diane Rehm Show." Go ahead.
RONHello. And thank you very much for taking my call. I'm going to back to the comment one of your -- a lady said earlier about the Republican staffers saying that the House should just pass the jobs bill. It won't do any good. It'll make Obama look bad. And that's my main beef with the political parties at this point in time is -- and it's always been this way, to some extent.
RONBut they're more interested in making the other guy look bad so they can get in power than they are in what's best for the country. They're couching their conversation as, well, we know what's best. But in reality, it seems they're just interested in gaining power and putting the other guy out.
KNOYWhat do you think, Chris Cillizza? Thanks, Ron, for that call.
CILLIZZAI think that is a -- that Ron taps into a strain of thinking that has long existed in American politics, but is clearly stronger at the moment than we've seen at any time since probably 1992, when we saw Ross Perot run as an independent. I was -- because I'm a poll nerd, I was looking through our Washington Post-ABC poll. One in five people think the political parties can lead this country in the right direction, one in five. That's a striking number.
CILLIZZANow, what that suggests is there is a real desire or want for some kind of alternative that is solution-oriented rather than purely partisan- and politically oriented. The difficult thing about any kind of third party is there's a reason we have two parties. There's, you know, lots of logistical hurdles and all sorts of things to overcome if you want to run or create a third party or run as a third party.
CILLIZZABut I would say if you looked at it generically, Ron is part of a growing number of people who are -- feel totally disenfranchised with the political process. I would put the Tea Party and Occupy Wall Street in that category. People feel as though their leaders -- whether it's Republicans, Democrats -- have failed them and are looking to channel their anger, frustration, energy, passion somewhere else.
CILLIZZAAt the moment, that's why you see these kind of nascent groups pop up because they don't have a vehicle or a channel to do that, certainly not in a major party way.
BENDAVIDAnd then we -- I think it's another thing. You saw President Obama try to do yesterday was harness that sentiment because he talked about how the things that he's proposed in the jobs bill are things that Republicans have supported in the past. But now they're against them just because he's proposing them.
BENDAVIDAnd I think that was an attempt, a little bit, to tune in to that sentiment that Ron is expressing, that, you know, neither of these guys really is thinking about what's best for the country. They're just thinking about what's bad for the other guy.
CUMMINGSAnd I'll just add one more data point to this conversation, and that is Congress' approval rating. It's, like, 8 percent. It's a -- it is a record, record low, and it...
KNOYWorse than journalists, Jeanne.
CILLIZZAAnd used car dealers. Thank God for Congress.
CUMMINGSWell -- and I can only presume that 7 or 8 percent are the members of Congress themselves and their staffs and their families. But there aren't very many people left.
KNOYLet's take another call. Ron, thanks a lot for that one. The number, 1-800-433-8850. And to Nick in St. Louis, Mo., next. Hi, Nick. You're on "The Diane Rehm Show." Welcome.
NICKGood morning, ma'am. How are you?
NICKSo my first comment is, with all the money that's been pushed out in unemployment, I don't see really any link with retraining. I think our economy has undergone, like, a paradigm shift, so the labor pool that supports the economy, I think, is not trained. I'm curious what your guests have to say about that. The second item is, like, a proactive approach to globalization.
NICKAnd then my third point, or question and point, I guess, is, why should the wealthy have to be responsible for the public well-being? And I'm curious what they have to say about that. I'll just listen off the air. Now, take care.
KNOYAll right, Nick. Thanks a lot. Let's take the first one, Jeanne. Training, is this jobs act talking about training at all?
CUMMINGSYes, it is. There's a component of it that was borrowed and modeled after a program in Georgia. The Republican governor of Georgia set up a system where, if you're on unemployment, you can work for a company for free, basically. That company just brings you in. You learn skills, and your income is basically your unemployment check.
CUMMINGSAnd that's a way of training people and could become a backdoor into a job, either with that company or you at least go out and you've got a new skill set. So...
KNOYSome states do this.
CUMMINGSThat's right. And President Obama took that proposal or that program, and he's put it in the jobs bill. So there would be a training aspect to this.
KNOYWhat about his point, Chris? Why go after the wealthy?
CILLIZZAYou know, it's an interesting one. And it's one that many of the Republican candidates for president and many House Republican leaders and Senate Republican leaders are making. Herman Cain -- the latest, new hot thing in the Republican presidential race -- has basically said, if you're not wealthy, it's your own fault, work harder -- which is not a view that is entirely dismissed. In fact, in a lot of corners of the Republican Party, it's adopted.
CILLIZZAYou know, I think what you see in this debate is almost pure politics. President Obama is trying to simplify it to say millionaires and billionaires need to pay their fair share, too. Republicans are saying tax increases, no matter who they are for, are a bad thing in a struggling economy. Both sides are oversimplifying and know they are oversimplifying. But, you know, the president always says, well, it's 13 or 14 months until the next election.
CILLIZZAThat is true, but that does not mean that he is not currently positioning for the next election. And I would say Republicans are doing the exact same thing and, you could argue, have been doing so since the president got elected. So I think, unfortunately, what's happening here is that the merits of whether wealthy people are paying enough into the tax system, or should pay more, are almost entirely lost.
CILLIZZAThe merits of that debate are almost entirely lost amidst the politics of what we've seen here. You know, Warren Buffett's secretary pays more than he does. No, this is actually hurting small businesses. I mean, you know, we're now familiar with the two arguments, and those are almost entirely political arguments.
KNOYIt's so hard to sort it out.
CILLIZZAIt is. And, you know, I actually feel bad for your average person who is simply trying to cut through all of this, the partisanship that has surround it. And I would go back to the first caller, Ron. I think that that feeling of frustration is what is the almost certain outcome when you see the back and forth between the two parties. And you, as a thinking person, know, you know what, nothing in life is this simple.
CILLIZZAIt's very rarely one side is 100 percent right and the other side is 100 percent wrong. And you, as a thinking person, are trying to navigate between those. The frustration of saying, these guys don't care about me, they care about scoring political points, that's -- I think that's why you've seen the disenfranchisement with institutions. Jeanne pointed out Congress.
CILLIZZAThe president has his lowest mark in Gallup, 41 percent for the month of September. Banks, journalism, every big institution in this country has, really, just a huge decline of confidence.
KNOYHere's an email from Chris in Rockledge, Fla. He says, "Since the Republicans don't think President Obama's jobs bill won't work, wouldn't it behoove them," he asks, "politically, to just pass it and show people that they were right?" What do you think, Naftali?
BENDAVIDWell, that's actually an issue that's come up before. But, you know, I think they're wary of giving him a victory. I mean, I think -- the truth is that he's been looking for a way to say that he can -- he spent most of his presidency doing this, that he could bring the parties together and pass things for the benefit of the American people. And I think that would be a big political boost, you know, to be able to say that he was able to do that.
BENDAVIDAnd I think that they're reluctant to do that. I think they may actually genuinely believe, also, that it doesn't work, and so why should they do it? Also, I mean, there is a payment aspect to this, right? So, currently, what the job bill would do is it would increase taxes on people paying more than $1 million.
BENDAVIDAnd I think what Republicans would say as well, we're just going to do that, just to kind of prove that it's a bad idea. I mean, there's perhaps a lot, politically, to be gained always from passing bad policies to prove that the other guy's ideas are wrong. But that's not something that generally anybody is going to -- it's not a course anyone is going to pursue.
CUMMINGSBut that option is a point of discussion in conservative and Republican circles, which is basically -- the way they see it is call his bluff. Go ahead, pass it. And then when it doesn't have a major impact -- because even the president admits, it's not a panacea -- then it's a hollow victory.
KNOYI'm Laura Knoy of New Hampshire Public Radio. And you're listening to "The Diane Rehm Show." We'll take your calls if you want to join us at 1-800-433-8850. Email is welcome, firstname.lastname@example.org. And let's go next to Em (sp?) in Orlando. Fla. Hi, Em. You're on "The Diane Rehm Show." Welcome.
EMHi, thank you very much for having me. I appreciate it. I -- may I continue?
KNOYYes, you may. Sure. Go ahead, Em.
EMI am a member of Anonymous, and I'm also a member of Occupy Orlando. I noticed earlier on, all of you mentioned that, in fact, Occupy Wall Street and Occupy -- I'm sorry -- Occupy Wall Street and the Tea Party should kind of be in the same corner. But I speak from personal experience when I say the Tea Party has crashed Anonymous and also Occupy Orlando attempts to protest and to get our message out.
EMThe reason I wanted to clarify that is because, although it seems that all of this common frustration will bring us in a common direction, there's clearly many people pulling in different directions, and they certainly don't all agree with one another.
KNOYWhen you say Tea Party has crashed, Em, what do you mean?
EMWell, they organized on their forums, and they made it clear that if we all got together and started protesting, which we all did at Lake Eola in Orlando -- we all had an organized meeting. The Orlando Sentinel decided to publish it because leadership was meeting for Anonymous and for Occupy Orlando, and the Tea Party made it clear that they would show up in force to talk us down, to scream at us, to essentially discourage us and behave as anti-protesters.
KNOYAll right. Em, thanks for calling in. All of you -- how about you, Naftali, first?
BENDAVIDWell, I mean, I do think it's interesting. I wonder if we're going to see more of that, if we're not going to see more situations around the country. We have protests and counter-protests, and it could get, you know, pretty ugly. But, you know, I think, you know, there are some similarities between the Tea Party and this group, but I think we really need to be wary of, you know, facile analogies.
BENDAVIDI mean, it's certainly true that there are huge differences as well, and, you know, the analysis of what's wrong with the country seems to be diametrically opposed. The Tea Party, they were so angry and are so angry at governments, whereas the Occupy Wall Street people are targeting their emotions and their analysis at companies and bankers and Wall Street.
BENDAVIDSo, I mean, I think there's an important analogy, you know, points to be made about the similarities. But I do think we need to be careful about sort of saying, oh, well, they're all the same, you know, the sort of emotional people on the right, the passionate people on the left. It's, you know, on the same kettle. And I think that a little bit of caution is warranted, as the caller suggested.
CUMMINGSI have to admit I was a little surprised -- excuse me -- that among the people who have been most critical of Occupy Wall Street have been leaders coming from Tea Party organizations. And you would think there'd be at least some sense of understanding of the frustration in why these people kind of went out into the street. I don't know how far it goes in the Tea Party, though, 'cause the Tea Party is -- again, it's not organized. It's better organized.
CUMMINGSBut there are lots of different Tea Party groups. Sometimes they all come together. Sometimes they don't. There's no one spokesman for the movement as a whole. But I have to admit, again, that I was a little surprised that, you know, we weren't just seeing the usual voices critical of Occupy Wall Street and these other groups, that it was -- it included the Tea Party voices, and I would have thought they'd be more -- a bit more sympathetic.
CILLIZZAJust quickly, one thing I think the caller makes a good point of -- and Naftali reminds us -- is that for all the talk that, why can't we all just get along and, you know, politics shouldn't be like this, the simple reality is that -- and on the fundamental issue facing the country the economy and how to restart it and make it better, make it grow faster -- the two parties have, if not diametrically opposed views, incredibly different views of how to do that.
CILLIZZAJohn Boehner has acknowledged as much. He said, look, I don't dislike Barack Obama. We just sometimes are on different planets when we're talking about how to make this economy go forward. There's a reason we have a two-party system in this country. The two parties disagree, and it's up to the American public when they got a chance to vote to say, we want to try this approach or we want to try this approach.
CILLIZZAI think what you've seen from 2006, 2008 and the 2010 elections is the public doesn't know which approach they like better. The stat I always cite, in 2006, Independents went for Democratic candidates by 19 points. In 2010, four years later, they went for Republican House candidates by 18 points.
KNOYWow, big swings.
CILLIZZAThat's a 37-point shift, which suggests that they just do not know what they want and which party can give it to them.
KNOYWell, and, Em, thanks for calling in on that. And we got a tweet also, who says, "The Wall Streeters..." -- meaning the Occupy Wall Street protests -- "...have no financial backing from the likes of the Koch brothers as the Tea Party does." This person who tweeted says, "Don't count on them getting it either, given the nature of their cause." What do you think, Naftali?
BENDAVIDWell, I think there may be some truth to that. I mean, it's hard to know. But it is true that -- I mean, I don't want to take away from the spontaneity the Tea Party movement and the fact that a lot of ordinary people did come out to protest.
BENDAVIDBut I think it's also pretty clear that, you know, Americans for Prosperity, a whole sort of range of groups who's providing at least logistical support, organizing support -- and so there were some large organizations behind some of these spontaneous protests. And as of now, at least, I don't know of anything that's similar on the -- with the Occupy Wall Street folks.
KNOYWell, coming up, more of our Friday News Roundup, the domestic hour. We'll turn our attention to 2012 presidential politics. Chris Cillizza, I'll be asking you first on that one. Stay with us.
KNOYWelcome back. I'm Laura Knoy, sitting in for Diane Rehm. It's the domestic hour of the Friday News Roundup, and we have Naftali Bendavid of The Wall Street Journal with us, along with Jeanne Cummings from Bloomberg News and Chris Cillizza from The Washington Post. We're taking your calls, too, at 1-800-433-8850, emails, email@example.com, or you can join us on Facebook or Twitter.
KNOYAnd, all of you, let's turn to my favorite subject, being from the first in the nation primary state, no matter what Florida does.
KNOYWe'll talk about that in a minute, presidential politics. And, Chris Cillizza, of course, I'm going to start with you 'cause this is really what you follow on your blog. New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, both said this week, uh uh, we're not going to do it. Any surprise there?
CILLIZZANo. I think if...
KNOYIt's kind of really late.
CILLIZZAIf I had to choose between yes and no, I would say no. I do think that Chris Christie genuinely reconsidered his past, very strident refusals to think about the race. He once joked that he would have to commit political -- no, not -- excuse me -- he would have to commit actual suicide in order for people to not keep asking him.
CILLIZZAOver the last month or so, though, it became clear, both in his rhetoric publicly and in what his advisers were saying privately, that he had decided to take another look and really genuinely rule this either in or out. That he ruled it out, I do not think is terribly surprising. I think in his heart of hearts, he did not want to do this.
CILLIZZAAnd I think, ultimately, in a presidential race, which is the ultimate grind -- I mean, this is a 24-hour-a-day job. For as long as you're in the race, you have to want it. And we've seen people who don't -- I always cite Fred Thompson, the former Tennessee senator...
KNOYI was just going to say Fred Thompson, right.
CILLIZZA...got into the race late, was the frontrunner, if you remember, for the Republican nomination. But it became clear rapidly that he was not interested in doing the basic blocking and tackling, going to Iowa, going to New Hampshire, doing interviews, you know, the sorts of things that you have to do to be elected the nominee and be elected president. He didn't want to do those things.
CILLIZZAAnd I think Chris Christie realized, you know what, he didn't want to do those things either and smartly did it -- made that decision before he had gotten in the race, so not surprising there. Definitely not surprising with Sarah Palin. This is someone who had taken no concrete steps, aside from the occasional relatively unplanned visit to either Iowa or New Hampshire or South Carolina to put a political organization in place that would capitalize on her political celebrity, which is still considerable.
CILLIZZAI think the decision she made was a decision largely forced upon her because she recognized that she had dropped from being a serious contender for the nomination to, at best, a second-tier candidate. I'll cite you a stat. I know I'm doing a lot of promotion of our Washington Post poll. Our pollster Jon Cohen will be thrilled.
CILLIZZABut in the Post poll, which came out this week, 66 percent of Republicans -- let me emphasize that -- of Republicans said they did not want to see her run for president.
CILLIZZAAnd that number, you know, that suggests -- that tells you everything you need to know about why Sarah Palin decided not to run.
KNOYSo, Jeanne, you're coming up to New Hampshire next week for a big debate at Dartmouth College sponsored by Bloomberg News, WBIN, The College and The Washington Post. So what's the field that we're going to see there, not just in terms of the people, but sort of who's gaining attention, who is not, and just the character of this whole field?
CUMMINGSWell, the field is set now, so we know what we're looking at, and that will change the debate in that they know this is game time now. We clearly want to see if Perry can deliver a good debate performance from start to finish. He hasn't done that yet. He's had moments of both good and bad. He needs to just deliver a good performance. We'll see if Romney can now really step up and claim the frontrunner spot.
CUMMINGSHe has gone ahead in some national polls. He's ahead in New Hampshire and other key states, and he is definitely trying to make it inevitable for himself. We'll see if he can pull that off. And then there's Herman Cain who's...
CUMMINGSYes, the Hermanator, who won the Florida straw poll and is now suddenly the new conservative third candidate who's taking a walk across the stage in the spotlight. We've seen, you know, people come through this location, Bachmann up, and then she's finished. Perry had a moment when he was going to be the conservative starling. He has now slipped, and now it's Cain's turn.
CUMMINGSAnd, in a way, it almost reminds me of, like, watching "American Idol" 'cause it's like they get voted off, you know?
CUMMINGSBut, anyway, so I think the debate dynamics will be a little bit different because I think, you know, Cain has got something to prove here. Is he a flash in the pan or does he have something, really, to say? 'Cause people are going to be looking at him. And so Bloomberg and The Post are both really pleased with the timing of this debate next week.
CUMMINGSAnd, you know, it could be -- it's all going to be focused on the economy, and so it fits neatly also with the hot topic of the day, which is jobs and jobs and jobs.
KNOYWell, and Chris Cillizza mentioned Fred Thompson, and wonder what you think, Naftali. Is Rick Perry going to end up the Fred Thompson of 2012, sort of...
KNOY...the knight who's supposed to save us and then ends up dropping out?
BENDAVIDWell, I mean I think his decline so far has been very interesting. And I think there's a couple reasons. I think one is, you know, people have the sense that this is a fiery time, and they want a fiery candidate. And Mitt Romney is not fiery, so maybe Michele Bachmann was going to be. And, you know, maybe Rick Perry was going to be.
BENDAVIDAnd then these debate performances have suggested that maybe he's not capable of delivering that sort of impassioned rhetoric that people want. But I also wouldn't underestimate the effect of this racial epithet that was apparently painted at the -- on a rock at the front of his hunting area. And that'll be bad for any candidate.
BENDAVIDBut I think for a guy, the people wondered if he was just kind of a southern, insular, regional-type candidate. You know, his talk about Texas possibly seceding played into that. And I think this really hits exactly at that vulnerability, and I think it helps explain one of the reasons why he really does seemed to be stumbling a little bit right now.
KNOYAlthough that epithet was painted over, and it was there before they bought the place, right, so...
KNOYAnd it really, you know, hit him with that.
BENDAVIDWell, it's hard to say. And as I say, for -- maybe for other candidates, it wouldn't have been as damaging just because there is some vagueness there. But, for better or worse, it plays right into the image that a lot of people have about him, that he's the southern good old boy who, you know, wears boots and talks the Texas talk. And, you know, that's great, you know, for Texas, but is it really good for the country? Is he really electable?
BENDAVIDYou know, if he's up there on stage with Barack Obama, is -- are people really going to turn to Rick Perry? And I think it sort of raises and underlines all those specific concerns that people have about him.
CILLIZZANaftali used the word electable, and I think that that he hits it right on the head. If you look at what Republican primary voters say they want, they do want someone who is in line with their conservative values. But more than anything else, they want someone who can beat Barack Obama.
CILLIZZAThis is the exact same thinking that we saw on the democratic side in 2004, that, yes, they wanted -- Democrats wanted a Howard Dean-like candidate who they felt was in line with their core beliefs. But they really wanted George W. Bush out of the White House. Now, obviously, they went with John Kerry, who is more the head than the heart pick. And that didn't work out that -- all that well, so we'll see how it plays out in 2012.
CILLIZZABut I do think Mitt Romney will continue to hammer on electability. Remember, he started it with the Social Security, Rick Perry calling Social Security a Ponzi scheme, essentially saying that that is a non-starter that will lose Republicans the election. Just kind of raising those doubts, do we really want to nominate this guy?
CILLIZZABecause, remember, the ultimate political enemy here is not Mitt Romney or Rick Perry. It's Barack Obama, and he's the one we want to go.
CUMMINGSWell, and we definitely have a lot of turns to go in this primary. It's been a pretty topsy-turvy few months already. But, you know, the voters haven't even weighed in yet. And somebody is going to win Iowa, and, right now, it doesn't look like it's going to be Romney. And so, you know, there are many twists and turns to come.
CUMMINGSRomney could go into Iowa and start really working the state, but, as today, he really hasn't. And so that is going to be a huge platform who -- for someone to become the alternative. And if you look at the polls, one thing that seems pretty consistent is -- Romney is not a new character. We all know that, right? And he's still hovering around in the 20s.
CUMMINGSYou know, like 70 percent of Republicans are not sold on this guy, and he's not a new product. And so there -- as I said, we just have a lot more to see in this race, and there's nothing inevitable about it.
KNOYWell, and in Iowa, you really have to work, Jeanne. I mean, it's not just as simple as showing up once in a while. It's a caucus, which means you've got to physically get your supporters out on a cold, snowy night into a room...
CUMMINGSYeah, if he chose to, he's got all the resources to engage in that state. And they're -- some of his advisers have said they're looking, you know, harder at it, and they certainly -- eventually, they're going to have to 'cause he's going to be there. But he skipped the straw poll. He won it in the last cycle and demonstrated a really strong organization in the state. He does have some people there, good people working in the state. But he hasn't committed to it.
CUMMINGSAnd so, again, that's -- he's got the resources, so it's a choice. It's not because he can't.
KNOYYou know, Naftali, I want to ask you about somebody else who, when they entered, made a splash, got a lot of media interest, and then we haven't heard as much since then. And that's Jon Huntsman, former Utah governor, former ambassador to several Asian nations, including China.
BENDAVIDWell, he just, perhaps, feels like the wrong guy for this time. I mean, he's a very measured person. He is quiet and thoughtful. He worked for President Obama, which, you know, it's just a tough sell in a -- you know, to a Republican electorate. And so, in many ways, people speak very highly of him. He was, apparently, a very good governor of Utah. You know, he claims that his performance in jobs is better than Perry's.
BENDAVIDI think it depends on how you count exactly. But, ordinarily, he's a guy who would seem to have a lot going for him. But, you know, I think, right now, as I said before, people are kind of looking for some kind of passion and something that reflects the way people feel right now, their frustrations and their desires and, to some degree, their anger. And he's just not that guy.
KNOYWell, and it's interesting how now the focus is on the first four states, Iowa then New Hampshire, Nevada, South Carolina. And it's interesting to see how these candidates are picking one or two states instead of trying to focus on all of them 'cause that takes a lot of time. Jon Huntsman, Naftali, just moved his campaign headquarters from Florida to Manchester, N.H. So it's kind of do or die for him in the Granite State, right?
BENDAVIDAnd we've seen that before. You know, we had -- Chris Dodd did something similar. I mean...
KNOYJoe Lieberman rented an apartment in Manchester eight years ago.
BENDAVIDI don't remember it working, ever. I mean, it's something that candidates do when they're a little bit against the ropes, and so this is a Hail Mary pass, to mix my metaphors. I don't know...
CILLIZZAIt's still all sports.
BENDAVIDSo, you know, I just don't know. But I think despite the great flux in the race, this really does boil down to Mitt Romney as the, you know, uncertain leader with all of his qualities, good and bad, and then Rick Perry as the hopeful challenger.
BENDAVIDSo, I think, for all the rise, and, perhaps, fall, of Herman Cain and Michele Bachmann and the others, I think that's what it's going to come down to. Can Rick Perry show himself as an alternative that's better than Mitt Romney to Republican voters?
CILLIZZAI would say just two quick things. I think we, collectively, as the media -- or I'll put it on myself -- we may have written the Rick-Perry-will-be-the-nominee story too quickly. And I think we have written the Rick-Perry-won't-be-the-nominee story too quickly.
CILLIZZAAnd we have a tendency to...
CUMMINGSHas to go.
CILLIZZAThe pendulum tends to swing -- it very rarely spends time in the middle. I think Rick Perry has two big things going for him. Number one, he raised $70 million in the third quarter. That's the -- will be the most that anyone raised over the past three months, suggests he's the only person in this race, other than Mitt Romney, who can raise the kind of money to run real campaigns in those first four, plus Florida, states.
CILLIZZAThe second thing he has going for him, he is on nearly every issue -- though not immigration -- but on nearly every issue perceived both tonally and issues wise to the ideological right of Mitt Romney, which is where the Republican primary electorate is.
CILLIZZANow, I think Jeanne's got it exactly right. He has to perform at some point. You know, those -- the money and the issue positioning doesn't get anything unless you can show in a debate that you could stand on that stage and that you belong, and he's not shown that just yet.
KNOYGo ahead, Jeanne, I know you want to jump in real quick.
CUMMINGSWell, I think we also should note that, with as crazy as this primary has been, the Cain rise gives great hope to the Santorums of the world, and Bachmann, that they can rise up again as well because what is driving the sort of up and down of this primary is the Tea Partiers. They keep moving, and they probably haven't stopped moving. So all of the candidates, next week, are going to be hoping that maybe it's their turn.
KNOYYou're listening to "The Diane Rehm Show." We'll take your calls at 1-800-433-8850. And, all of you, I want to close out, in just a few minutes we have left, with the passing of two very important people in this country. First of all, Steve Jobs, Apple's former CEO, died on Wednesday. Chris, it's hard to imagine mourning -- the world mourning the loss of just any corporate leader, right?
KNOYA corporate leader dies, and his friends and family mourn. But the world is mourning the loss of Steve Jobs.
CILLIZZAYeah, you know, I was struck, and maybe this shows that I -- having a 2 1/2-year-old makes me out of touch with -- I'm not focused on popular culture enough. But I was struck as someone who owns and has, sitting in front me at the moment, an iPad and owns an iPod and has a Mac computer and is a big Mac accolade. I was, even so, struck by the level of outpouring of grief, emotion, passion that Steve Jobs' passing created.
CILLIZZAIt was a huge, and remains, a huge, global story, which I think speaks to the kind of level of culture change that the products he has created have accomplished, as well as kind of the personal relationship that people felt as though they had with him. You know, he was Apple. He was, I think -- you know, for a lot of us he was the face of it. And so people -- you have an iPod. You think of Steve Jobs.
CILLIZZAYou know, when I have a cup of coffee, I don't think of Howard Schultz at Starbucks. You know what I mean? So I think there was a personal relationship that existed there that kind of struck me -- surprised me, I think, I guess, is the best word.
KNOYAll over the world, Naftali, what do you think?
BENDAVIDWell, I think, the products themselves are personal, too, so it's not like a guy who invented a really good kind of mayonnaise. I mean, if you, you know --maybe in your iPod you put this music that reminds you of some incredible time in your life. Or maybe you use the iPhone to send an email to your girlfriend or wife, and so I think there was something about the products themselves that was intensely personal. And that accounts for some of this as well.
KNOYWell, and I want to share this email with you from Collin in Memphis, who says, "While I very much appreciate that Steve Jobs was an electronics visionary that radically altered the face of consumer electronics, I have been saddened that his death has overshadowed the death of a much more important American, the Rev. Fred Shuttlesworth." And thanks for that, Collin, 'cause we should talk about that.
KNOYJeanne, Martin Luther King called Fred Shuttlesworth the most courageous civil rights fighter in the south.
CUMMINGSIt's true. He was in Birmingham, Ala., and his church was bombed. And he was an organizer, and he called his church a beehive of activity. He was an important leader. The civil rights movement is so associated in the persona of Martin Luther King, but it is good to be reminded that there were many very courageous, very brave people, many pastors around him, who also played important roles in the civil rights movement.
CUMMINGSAnd he was among them. And it's, in some ways, wonderful that he lived long enough -- he died in his 90s -- to, you know, see how much the world changed with the president, Obama, being elected.
KNOYRisking his life again and again for civil rights, Chris.
CILLIZZAYou know, one thing I was struck by -- and I will admit didn't know until I read the obituaries about the Reverend -- was that he and Martin Luther King Jr. had a relationship, but not a terribly warm relationship. It was a relationship of convenience that Shuttlesworth was in so much kind of the brusque, less classic-trained preacher to Martin Luther King Jr.
CILLIZZABut they both recognized they needed the other for the skill set that they brought, kind of a fascinating little nugget in how the civil right movement succeeded.
KNOYWell, all of you, thanks joining us. I'm Laura Knoy, sitting in for Diane Rehm, and thank you for listening.
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