A panel of top political commentators joins Diane to talk about some of the head spinning events of this last year and to get their perspectives on the challenges ahead.
Guest Host: Susan Page
The U. S. economic picture remains mixed. While the government reports a lower-than-expected trade deficit, weekly jobless claims hit a two month high. Apple denies accusations by the Justice Department it conspired with publishers to fix e-book prices. G. O. P. presidential hopeful Rick Santorum suspended his campaign this week, claiming he was out of cash. The fight for women voters heats up as the White House tries to distance itself from a Democratic strategist’s controversial comments about Ann Romney. And gay rights activists decry President Obama’s decision not to push through an executive order banning gay bias by employers. Jerry Seib of The Wall Street Journal, Jeanne Cummings of Bloomberg News, and John Harwood of CNBC join guest host Susan Page for analysis of the week’s top national news stories.
- Jerry Seib Washington bureau chief, The Wall Street Journal.
- Jeanne Cummings Deputy government editor, Bloomberg News.
- John Harwood Chief Washington correspondent for CNBC; reporter, "The New York Times."
Friday News Roundup Video
The panelists discuss Democratic activist Hilary Rosen’s comments earlier this week that Ann Romney “never worked a day in her life.” Politicians and pundits from both sides of the aisle, including President and Mrs. Obama, defended Mrs. Romney against the criticism. Mrs. Romney has worked in the home as a stay-at-home mother of five children.
MS. SUSAN PAGEThanks for joining us. I'm Susan Page of USA Today, sitting in for Diane Rehm. She's recovering from a voice treatment. The Justice Department announces charges against Apple and five publishers for conspiring to inflate e-book prices. Rick Santorum withdraws from the Republican presidential race, paving the way for Mitt Romney to claim the GOP nomination. And George Zimmerman is charged with second-degree murder in the fatal shooting of Florida teenager Trayvon Martin.
MS. SUSAN PAGEWith me in the studio for the domestic hour of the Friday News Roundup: Jerry Seib of The Wall Street Journal, Jeanne Cummings of Bloomberg News and John Harwood of CNBC and The New York Times. Welcome to "The Diane Rehm Show."
MR. JERRY SEIBThank you.
MS. JEANNE CUMMINGSThank you.
MR. JOHN HARWOODMorning, Susan.
PAGEWe have three veterans of the Friday News Roundup. We were just mentioning before we went on the air that all three of you either now or used to work for The Wall Street Journal, so The Wall Street Journal very well represented here this week.
SEIBAnd proud of it.
PAGEWe're -- invite our listeners to join our conversation later in this hour. You can call our toll free number. It's 1-800-433-8850. Send us an email at email@example.com, or find us on Facebook or Twitter. Well, you know, it's been more than a year that we've talked about the Republican presidential race almost every week on the Friday News Roundup. And I think, Jerry, now, for the first time, we can say definitely we have a presumptive nominee, Mitt Romney. Rick Santorum pulled out this week. Why did he decide to withdraw from this race?
SEIBWell, I think there were two reasons, probably. One was the fact that he was rapidly running out of money, and you don't have money, you don't have a campaign. But, secondly, I think he was facing the prospect of a potentially embarrassing loss in his home state of Pennsylvania, or at least not much of a victory in his home state of Pennsylvania.
SEIBAnd, I think, if you're Rick Santorum and part of what you're doing here is setting yourself up to have a continued role in the Republican party and the potential to play a big role in the 2016 presidential race, if Barack Obama wins his second term, you don't want to go out on a low note. You want to go out on a high note. So he can say, I won 11 states, did what most of the people in the party wanted him to do, got praised for it and can now become kind of a voice in the party that's not tarnished by having gone out on a bad note.
PAGEYou know, he did a lot with a little. If we were talking in January, I think it'd be -- a very prescient person would've said the last person standing against Mitt Romney would be Rick Santorum rather than some of the other candidates who have come and gone. Jeanne, how important is it for Mitt Romney that Santorum is now suspending his campaign, won't be campaigning against him?
CUMMINGSWell, it's important for him in a variety of ways. First of all, it allows him to, not completely, but to begin to talk to independents and some of the swing voters and not have to focus exclusively on the Republican base. He can't do it entirely. He still has Newt Gingrich in the race and, of course, Ron Paul. But -- and he can't risk any embarrassment along the way here. But he can, and he already has, begun to shift. We've seen him say flat-out, I'm not anti-immigrant.
CUMMINGSThey've started to address the women question. So they are making that move. Secondly, it's important to him in that he can now begin raising general election money. He has spent quite a bit to try to fend off the challengers in the primary. He has about -- he only had about $8 million in the bank as of last account. And so he does need to start to replenish those accounts.
PAGEIn a story in The New York Times this morning saying their goal is to raise $60 million for the campaign.
PAGESix hundred million dollars. That's right. In comparison with President Obama, who last time raised about $750 million, and we assume will raise perhaps even more than that. Well, John Harwood, even though we say he's a presumptive nominee, Newt Gingrich, Ron Paul, still in the race. Does it matter that they are?
HARWOODI don't think so. I think this is the functional end of the primary contest, and I think that the importance is, as Jeanne indicated, that Romney can now turn his focus fully on the general election. And in addition to that, he can mobilize the other parts of the party that weren't willing to take a stand, weren't willing to put their money on the line while the primary fight was going on for fear of offending various factions that weren't aligned with Romney.
HARWOODI will say on your previous point, I think it is absolutely stunning what Rick Santorum was able to achieve. I never would've expected it. It was the thing that I've gotten the most wrong about this campaign. I always expected Romney to be the nominee. And I think this was a matter of Rick Santorum coming to terms with the fact that wasn't going to happen. I don't think he's going to have a big role in 2016, frankly. If Mitt Romney wins the presidency, of course, he will have no role.
HARWOODIf Mitt Romney doesn't win, and it looks -- if you had to put odds on it right now, you'd say the odds are slightly greater than 50-50 that Obama would win. I think that's when the varsity comes out for the Republican Party and all these big-shot candidates who didn't run this time are going to run. But Rick Santorum can take a lot of satisfaction in the depth of his race and the way that he was able to rally conservatives in a way that nobody expected.
PAGEYeah. That would happen in 2016, assuming President Obama wins a second term...
PAGE...because, obviously, if Romney wins in November, then he'll be the president running for re-election then, we assume.
SEIBAnd Rick Santorum will not be his vice president. I think that is clear.
PAGEThat's almost certainly true. You know, I remember just about a month before Rick Santorum won the Iowa caucuses -- although we didn't know that for a while -- I spent a day with him in Iowa. We went to six -- he had six events that day. We went to one event where no one showed up. It was him and me and his driver and the county chairman in Red Oak, Iowa, at a coffee shop, and yet, a month later, he was off to the races in Iowa, so really remarkable. Well, Jerry, so we know who the nominees are going to be.
PAGEAlmost certainly it's going to be President Obama and Mitt Romney. Is this an election which will have a really clear policy contrast? Do they have very different visions of the world and of what the government should do?
SEIBNo. I actually think they do, and it's in the interest of both parties right now, both campaigns, to say that. And sometimes it's true, and sometimes it's not. In this case, I think the differences boil down to this, that the Romney campaign is going to try to portray the Obama view of the world and of the U.S. government as one in which the government takes on a bigger and bigger role, not only in the economy, but in American life in general, and that should scare people.
SEIBAnd they think the Obama portrayal of the Romney world is going to be that they want to go back to economic policies that benefit the rich, that created deficits and will create more deficits and that leave the middle class holding the bag.
SEIBAnd a lot of that is embodied in the basic economic plans, the tax rates that they both want to put into place for the country, which are very basic things about how you view the world, you know, how much money you want to spend if you want the government to spend and how much you want to tax people are very core issues. And there are big differences on those issues, and they're going to be played out. So I do think there's a vision thing in the middle of this campaign.
PAGEDo you think the two candidates, John, have given voters, at least so far, an idea what their vision is on economic policy? We know the economy is the big issue this year. Have they laid out in some substantive way what they would do?
HARWOODThey have. I disagree slightly with Jerry in the sense that I think there are differences between the candidates. There are differences on tax rates, on the extent of budget cuts, on the extent of restructuring you do to entitlement programs. But I think the presidency pulls people to the center. Both of these men have shown that they can be pulled and will be pulled to the center when governing.
HARWOODAnd I think the fundamental challenge that both will face is going to be what to do about deficits and what to do about the tax entitlement programs. And I actually think that no matter which one wins, you're going to see the likelihood of a deal that may not -- that would be different on the margins, depending on which one is elected, but broadly similar.
SEIBYou know, I think it's interesting to note that what you're -- one of the things you're saying -- and John suggested this -- is that the two campaigns are each trying to push the other guy away from the center right now, that, you know, Democrats are going around saying that Mitt Romney is an incredibly wily conservative figure, and Romney must wonder why they weren't saying that when he was trying to win conservatives over in South Carolina.
SEIBBut -- so they're trying to portray Mitt Romney as more conservative than he really is, and the Republicans are trying to portray Barack Obama as more liberal than he really is. And that's the dynamic for the general election.
PAGEYou know, we know this is going to be an election about big things, right? It's -- we got big economic problems, what to do about entitlements, a closely divided Supreme Court. We've got -- in the second hour, we'll talk about what North Korea is doing, what's happening in Syria, but what transfixed us this week was a comment, Jeanne, by a Democratic strategist with some ties to the White House, not really close ties to the White House. What did she say that kind of caught everyone's attention this week?
CUMMINGSWell, the strategist is Hilary Rosen, who -- in full disclosure, I know Hilary, and she's an articulate -- very articulate speaker about the Democratic policy. And she missed the mark. She...
PAGEWhat did she say?
CUMMINGSWhat she said was that Ann Romney, Mitt Romney's wife, had never worked a day in her life, which then the Romney campaign immediately responded, pointing out that she chose to be a stay-at-home mom and had raised five children and that that, indeed, is a lot of work. And virtually the entire world came to Ann Romney's defense, including the president, including the First Lady, including the Democratic National Committee, including David Axelrod out in Chicago at the Obama-Biden re-election headquarters.
CUMMINGSSo everyone has agreed that, indeed, raising five children -- raising one child is actually hard work. Hilary Rosen tried to clarify what she was talking about, and that is the choices and -- that are faced by women who don't have the luxury of making a choice between job and stay at home. But there was no fixing it. It was off the mark, and I think the Romney campaign used it very effectively to change the conversation, to elevate Ann Romney in a way that's good for his campaign.
CUMMINGSShe -- her response was measured. She didn't counterattack. She just defended herself and, in fact, said something nice about Hilary Rosen raising her own child. And so I think, all in all, the Romney campaign pivoted in a way that we haven't often seen in their campaign. They were pretty adroit, and they took good advantage of the situation.
HARWOODSusan, I agree with that, and I think the deafness that Ann Romney showed is a reflection of what an asset she is to Mitt Romney. The understatement was a huge benefit for her. I think everyone around this table can stipulate that raising children is hard work. And that is a reflection of how this was one of those moments -- it was kind of like -- remember when Hillary Clinton in 1992 said, I could have stayed home and made tea and served cookies. That was the kind of thing that clanged with large segments of the kind of voters that both of these candidates need to win the election.
PAGEYeah. It's seemed disrespectful, I think. And women make all kinds of choices -- so do men -- and it seems like everybody should be treated with respect.
CUMMINGSAnd we should note why Romney reacted so quickly. And that is the polls show a very large 18-point gender gap between Barack Obama and the Romney campaign, and they do need to shrink that.
PAGEWe'll talk about that gender gap after we take a short break. Stay with us.
PAGEWelcome back. I'm Susan Page of USA Today, sitting in for Diane Rehm. It's our Friday News Roundup. With me in the studio: John Harwood of CNBC and The New York Times, Jeanne Cummings of Bloomberg News and Jerry Seib of The Wall Street Journal. Well, Jerry, we've had economic news this week, some of it kind of disappointing.
SEIBYeah, I think this is a week in which some of those storm clouds started to gather on the horizon a little bit. They may blow away, but they may sort of roll in as well. It's hard to know for sure. But the big economic news of the week was a jobs report that came early in the week, which said that only 120,000 jobs were added in the U.S. economy in March, and that was only half as many as most people had thought. It didn't affect the unemployment rate. It actually went down a notch, but that was just because people had vacated the workspace and stopped looking for jobs.
SEIBAnd then later in the week, there was a report that claims for unemployment insurance had gone up last week, had, in fact, gone up for the last two weeks, somewhat unexpectedly as well, and there were sort of soft reports on auto sales and small business sentiment. It wasn't all bad. There was an inflation number that came out on Friday that was actually a little more tame than previous ones, so maybe inflation isn't a problem.
SEIBBut, all in all, you look at these numbers, and every one of them could be explained away by, you know, strange weather early in the year, or flukes around the Easter reporting period and things like that. But together, there are enough data points out there this week that you have to wonder whether maybe -- excuse me -- maybe we're not in the pink after all as some have thought in January, February and March.
PAGENot in the pink...
HARWOODOf course, on the other hand, Jerry, everybody's going to be filing their taxes this weekend, so that should lift the public mood.
SEIBExactly, makes everybody smile, you know?
PAGEThere is one thing that happened, which seems like good news, which is a drop in natural gas prices. What's -- what do you think is happening with -- in that area?
CUMMINGSWell, I think that it depends on your perspective when it comes to natural gas. That drop in prices reflects the fact that it's become a very competitive marketplace, and there's been a lot of investment in natural gas. It's good for consumers because -- especially home heating oil is down in terms of cost. In terms of growth in the industry, there are small operations that have opened up to try to get in on this. And so it's probably going to lead to -- it could lead to some consolidation and that sort of thing.
CUMMINGSAnd there may not be as much in -- as rapid investment as we have seen so far in that market, which has tremendous potential to help the country become more independent of foreign imports of oil.
PAGEYou know, we also -- for news that affects consumers, we also saw this Justice Department lawsuit against Apple and book publishers over whether they have been illegally inflating and setting the cost of e-books. Tell us a little about this, John.
HARWOODWell, you've got a problem, which in the book publishing industry is like the problem for the newspaper publishing industry. How do you make money off of digital content, which is so easily distributed, and with people who are willing to -- in the newspaper business, give it away? And how do you back away from that? You know, newspapers have been in the process of trying to figure out, after years of giving this stuff away, how could we charge for it?
HARWOODPeople are putting up paywalls, and book publishers are trying to figure out how they can avoid having their material -- the material of their authors given away so cheaply. So book publishers begin working with Apple as a counter to Amazon, which was giving or selling best-selling books for under $10. And the Justice Department discerned an effort by publishers to collude and -- in a competitive way, and the publishers are saying, no, we were careful about it.
HARWOODWe were careful about it. We weren't colluding. We were working with the different retailer, and, you know, we'll see how this goes. But it's part of the ongoing process of discovering how this economy can adapt to digital information and the need to protect intellectual property and keep it coming.
SEIBNow, three of the publishers I've heard already settled with the government, which probably tells you they didn't see a very -- that they had a problem in this particular case. There's also a parallel process underway in Europe in which European regulators are asking the same questions and demanding some of the same changes. You know, I think, as John suggested, the big elephant in this room is Amazon.
SEIBYou know, they're trying to figure out how can -- how -- if you're a book publisher, how can you work with Amazon, but not be undercut by Amazon? And Amazon has gone out and started to cut its own deals with authors, saying, we'll just cut out the publishers entirely. We don't really need them anymore. This is a new world. But I think the government's case on -- in this particular incidence as a narrow anti-trust question was probably pretty good, or you wouldn't see publishers settling already.
HARWOODThe same thing has happened in the music business, too.
HARWOODYou know, record labels have suffered tremendously because now artists can go directly to online publishing.
CUMMINGSAnd what's interesting is that Apple, so far, has not settled. And so, maybe, there will be a challenge where we can learn more about exactly what the regulators are seeing 'cause we don't know that yet as a result of the fact that these cases have been settled quietly.
PAGEYou know, I wonder, how many of us around this table read books on e-readers instead of traditional paper copies? How about you, Jerry?
SEIBI do both, you know? I, you know, I have an iPad. I like to keep a book loaded up, so if I'm on a plane, I can read it. I'd actually prefer still to have a, you know, hardbound book, but maybe that makes me a dinosaur. I don't know. But I, you know, I think it's...
HARWOODThose books are heavy.
SEIBYeah, that's true.
SEIBYou know, as a content producer, you'd like a world in which you don't really -- it doesn't really matter what platform people use to read it.
PAGEWhat do you use, Jeanne?
CUMMINGSI use both, too. I have an e-reader, and I also like to have a book. Frankly, my e-reader at the beach is not such a brilliant idea, I don't think, and so I'll take my Mary Higgins Clark paperback with me down on to the sand.
PAGEWhat about you, John?
HARWOODI was just on a beach vacation for a few days reading the recent biography of Willie Mays in hardcopy, and I like holding that copy in my hand.
PAGEYou know, I like holding a hardcopy book, but I like traveling with an e-reader.
PAGENow, that's a distinction I'd make. Well, let's go to the phones and let some of our listeners join our conversation with your questions and comments. Why don't we go first to Little Rock? Lee is calling us. Lee, hi.
LEEHey, how are you doing?
PAGEGood. Thank you.
LEEI would like to make a statement here about the writers nowadays and the reporters and the media, about how they take things out of context and let people get away with all kinds of stuff, like the Hilary lady when she mentioned about Ms. Romney. She made the statement that she hadn't worked a day in her life, and then she went on and explained exactly what she meant.
LEEOK, so then the media takes the thing, and they only say -- they only use the part of her statement, that Ms. Romney hasn't worked a day in her life, and they don't talk about the rest of what she said, when she explained what she meant. And everybody want to make a big deal out of it when the lady really told the truth.
LEEDo you see what I'm saying? And then nobody in the media will stand up and say, well, hey, wait a minute. We are taking this thing all out -- and, you know, everybody in the media is doing the same thing. You understand what I'm saying?
PAGEYou know, Lee, I do, and I think you make a good point. And part of it, I think, reflects -- like, the Twitter culture where, you know, the first time I read -- understood -- heard what Hilary Rosen said was on a 140-character tweet, where there is not a lot of room for context. Does Lee make a fair point, do you think?
HARWOODLook, let me first say, Hilary Rosen is a friend of mine, and she's an intelligent and principled person who's also a mom. But people have different points of view on these issues. There are cultural differences in the country that are reflected in statements like that. Was Hilary Rosen condemning stay-at-home moms? No. But there are different ways in which people in different parts of the country with different backgrounds and outlooks look at working women versus women who are not working outside the home.
HARWOODAnd those differences get reflected and talked about in the campaign, and I think it's a legitimate discussion. I would not say, based on what I know, that this is one of those cases. There have been cases in this campaign where statements have been taken out of context to the unfair detriment of candidates. The one that comes to mind for me is when Rick Santorum made a comment about Obama and his energy environmental policy and said, it's a theology. It's not a Christian theology.
HARWOODAnd people in the press, in our business, made it look as if he was questioning his Christianity. I think that's not at all what Rick Santorum was doing. But I don't see this as a case where the meaning of what Hilary was saying was grossly distorted.
SEIBYou know, I think almost all these Washington/political controversies erupt because they come in a context. John used the context word. And I think it's important. This became a big issue this week because -- and as Jeanne had indicated earlier, the Romney campaign perceives a problem with women voters. The polls substantiate that. And Romney had been increasingly stepping out as an asset of the Romney campaign to address that problem.
SEIBAnd so the question on the table was, could she speak to and for working women and their economic strains and stresses? And it was in that context that Hilary Rosen said what she said, and it wasn't out of the blue. It was in the context of what was already becoming a fairly big debate on -- in the presidential campaign.
CUMMINGSAnd it's one that's not going to go away.
CUMMINGSThe gender gap is real. And if you look at the -- some of the rhetoric and conversation that took place during the Republican primary regarding contraception and abortion rights, those issues are going to remain in the campaign as long as the Obama operation could make sure they're a part of that discussion. And, you know, in this day and age of Twitter and YouTube, et cetera, anything said can't be walked away from. And Mitt Romney has said he would defund Planned Parenthood, and he has said some other things that the Democrats are going to make sure women are reminded about.
CUMMINGSThere is going to be a fight to try to win over women as swing voters in this election because in 2000 -- the swing of women between 2008 and 2010 was a good eight to 10 points. And we see the differences in the election results, where the Democrats were up in '08 and Republicans were back up in '10. Part of that was because of that swing among independent women voters. So they are very much going to be a part of the conversation.
PAGEAll right. Let's go to Patricia. She's calling us from Skokie, Ill. Patricia, welcome to "The Diane Rehm Show."
PATRICIAThank you so much. I love the show, and I have a comment about Ann Romney raising her children. Can you hear me OK?
PAGEYes, we can. Please go ahead.
PATRICIAOK. Great. My comment is I think a little nuance needs to be injected into this discussion in that she is of an economic status that thousands and thousands of women are not, who may have had to work all day and then come home and raise their children, or who have not any help. Maybe she had some domestic help. Maybe she had a cook. Maybe she had some other kind of staff, a maid. Maybe she didn't.
PATRICIABut I think that a little nuance is called for. It isn't just a black-and-white issue of she stayed home, so that makes her a working-class hero mom, even though child raising is the job of jobs, as far as I'm concerned and anybody else, I'm sure. But I just wanted to inject that into the discussion.
PAGEAll right. Patricia, thanks so much for your call. You know, we've just been flooded with emails along this general line. I'll just read one of them, which comes from Lou. (sp?) She says, "Ann Romney never had the experiences of women of the middle class. She never cried because she had to leave her 6-week-old baby to go back to work because they needed the income.
PAGE"She never struggled with the bills, tried to figure out how to take one of her kids to the dentist this week or if it had to wait. She never came home after a bad day at work and still had to fix dinner for the family, check homework, clean up the kitchen, all with a smile." What do you think about that, Jeanne?
CUMMINGSWell, that is the sort of -- that's the nuance that Hilary Rosen did not reflect in the comment that she made. And that -- those were the kind of stresses that working women face that she was intended to speak to. Now, Ann Romney did not have a cook. She had a once-a-week cleaning lady. The campaign has said they did not have nannies. They didn't have, you know, many of the other support system that people attribute to the wealthy.
CUMMINGSSo she -- and, you know, raising five kids is hard work. And where people are taking issue is that she can't be the voice of the secretary of the woman who has to, you know, make the kind of choices the caller mentioned, which is, you know, come home at the end of the day, make dinner, try to figure out how to get a day off to go to the dentist. That doesn't mean she didn't face pressures and difficult choices of her own as she was trying to raise her children, though.
PAGEI'm Susan Page, and you're listening to "The Diane Rehm Show." You know, I'll just say one other thing in -- President Obama -- I mean, it was amazing yesterday to see the president of the United States, the vice president, the First Lady all feel compelled to respond to this. And I thought President Obama said something I agree with, which was he's a combatant in this contest, and so is Mitt Romney, but families are civilians.
PAGEAnd it's probably a good idea for people to keep that in mind when they talk about subjects like this. Well, let's talk about the George Zimmerman case. It took 46 days for charges to be brought in the shooting of this Florida teenager. Jerry, why did charges finally get announced now?
SEIBWell, you know, that's a good question, and I think it's probably impossible to answer. You know, it did seem as if, until the publicity surrounding the case grew to, you know, literally a crescendo that it was probably going to slip away, and nothing was going to happen.
HARWOODI think that's the answer.
SEIBExactly. But, lo and behold, you know, a special prosecutor is appointed. The police ran in the other direction, and a grand jury is not impaneled. And the special prosecutor brings a second-degree murder charge. It's -- I think it's probably a very dicey case, but I'm not a lawyer. I'm not an expert, but I think what we're seeing here is an example of public pressure more than legal pressure. And, you know, I think the public pressure was probably too much to resist, and maybe rightfully so.
CUMMINGSWell, and there's also been conflicting reports in the media that reflect some conflict within the police department and the prosecutor who stepped aside in this case, but would have been the original one to handle it. There are some reports that the police did want to charge Zimmerman and that the prosecutor chose not to. So, as Jerry said, we'll learn more about the case as we go along, but it's entirely possible this was not the easiest call for someone to make.
CUMMINGSThe one thing that was clear with this new special prosecutor, when she did not call the grand jury, was that she clearly felt that first-degree murder was not an appropriate charge because she would have had to have a grand jury to do that. So we knew pretty early on that was off the table. So then you are moving down into the lesser charges that often do carry with them a murky set of facts.
HARWOODAnd I don't think, Susan...
HARWOOD...this is going to get any easier because, for the reasons that both Jerry and Jeanne suggested. Anybody, as a commonsense matter, the more you learn about what happened in this case, you look at it, and you say something was badly wrong there that should not have happened. It's -- but it's hard to suss out beyond a reasonable doubt why it happened. And so I think the publicity, the public pressure clearly resulted in these charges, but I think we're in for a ride because it's going to be difficult to get a conviction.
PAGEThe Stand Your Ground law in Florida makes it complicated. Tell us about that, Jerry.
SEIBWell, the Stand Your Ground law basically is a self-defense law, and it -- Florida has passed one, as have other states. And the point of the Stand Your Ground law is that if you are seriously threatened, if your life -- and you have -- can make the case that you feel that your life is threatened, you have the right to defend yourself, including with firearms.
SEIBThat's a murky legal definition. And in this case, it's going to be particularly hard to prove because nobody actually seems to have witnessed the entirety of this event. And the law itself may or may not be invoked as a defense. If it is, I think it's going to be a set of laws like that that are going to be on trial as much as Mr. Zimmerman.
CUMMINGSI think that's definitely so. I think that the law itself is going to be a major issue. It's an interesting process in that there are two steps. At first, he can claim before a judge that he was defending himself. The judge could dismiss the case based on that alone. If he doesn't win that, then he takes the argument to the jury.
PAGEDiane will be back on the air Monday. And she'll be doing a show on the issue of racial profiling. That's something the prosecutor says George Zimmerman was doing that terrible night. We're going to take a short break. Stay with us.
PAGEWelcome back. I'm Susan Page of USA Today, sitting in for Diane Rehm. It's our Friday News Roundup, the domestic hour. Jerry Seib of The Wall Street Journal, Jeanne Cummings of Bloomberg News, John Harwood of CNBC and The New York Times. Well, let's go to Michael. He's calling us from Ann Arbor, Mich. Michael, hi, thanks for giving us a call.
MICHAELYeah. I'm black, and I just want to say that I don't think it's right for Mr. Zimmerman to get lynched in prosecutor and jury all at once. I mean, I think he deserves -- despite what you think, everybody deserves a trial. And it's like the prosecutor, judge and jury all -- it's like they got him guilty already. And I don't think that's right. So that's what I wanted to say.
PAGEAll right. Well, Michael, thanks for your call. You know, we've also gotten an email from Ed along the same lines. He writes from St. Louis, "Does anyone believe that George Zimmerman can receive a fair trial?" We've got another caller, Max from Tampa, who says, "If he faces a jury that's all white, he'll be acquitted." I mean, this goes to kind of the -- some of the hard questions we were talking about involved with this trial.
SEIBYeah. And I think it also goes to John's point that this -- none of this case gets easier as we go forward. This has the potential to be sort of very ugly for a very long time. Michael's point is almost, word for word -- excuse me -- what I heard Mr. Zimmerman's lawyer arguing yesterday, which is that everybody needs to hold on here. We're in the legal process now. Reserve judgment. That's the point of the American legal system.
PAGEIs that what -- can it happen? I mean, what is the answer to that question? Can he get a fair trial?
CUMMINGSWell, yes, he can.
HARWOODYes, he can.
CUMMINGSHe can get a, you know, they're -- they'll be able to manage to get people who can -- who are not totally absorbed in the news or those who may know something about it but willing to hear both sides out because we don't -- haven't heard all of the facts. None of us have. And we've heard a lot from the side of Trayvon, who, you know, they put out as much as they can because that was part of what they had to do to put pressure on the prosecutors to continue to investigate. So they did what they had to do.
CUMMINGSA lot will, you know -- depending on how bad this might get, a lot will depend on his family. I think his parents and their comments of late were very measured and fair representation of what they felt in their hearts. And, you know, if we can keep that kind of tone around it, maybe it won't blow up. But in the end, it feels like one of those cases where there's not going to be -- no matter what the outcome is, there's going to be one side that feels like they got robbed.
HARWOODI do think it goes to what level of confidence you have in the American justice system. And, obviously, it makes mistakes and reaches conclusions that any one of us disagree with from time to time. But at the fundamental level, I still have confidence that it works. And it may not be easy, but I expect that he will get a fair trial.
PAGELet's go to Indianapolis, Ind., and talk to Scott. Scott, you're on the air.
SCOTTHi. Yes. I got to begin the conversation by saying that I own a lot of Apple products, and I actually own some stocks. I'm a bit biased. But I was upset about the lawsuit. And maybe your panel can educate me a little bit, but my understanding was that Amazon had a basic monopoly on the e-books, was buying them at a low rate because they could 'cause there really was nowhere else for publishers to go and then selling those e-books at a discounted rate so that they could promote their Kindle.
SCOTTAnd Apple just came along and said, I'll tell you what, we'll give you another model. We'll let you sell them whatever price you want on our product, and you just -- we'll take a percent like an agency. And I don't know -- I don't see where that becomes an antitrust-type case.
PAGEAll right, Scott. Thanks for your call.
SEIBWell, I mean, Amazon had decided because it had such power in the marketplace that $9.99 would be a good general price for books, and that upset the publishers. What Apple said was that we offer you -- and Scott's right. They said, essentially, we offer you another venue. We -- you have another outlet here. It's with us. And that, I think, is fine.
SEIBI think what the government's case is is that that wasn't all that happened, that Apple got together in restaurants in New York with representatives of the other publishers and said, OK, so let's figure out what's a better price than $9.99, and they came up with $12.99 to $14.99. And then they all agreed how they would enforce that so that Amazon couldn't undercut them. So it's not the idea that Apple entered the marketplace as an alternative to Amazon. It's what happened after it was clear that's what was going on. That's the government's case here.
PAGEWhenever you have multiple companies meeting in a restaurant in New York and deciding what a good price should be for their products...
SEIBThat's a problem.
PAGE…it sounds kind of suspicious, I got to say, yeah.
PAGELet's go to J.P., calling us from here in Washington, D.C. J.P., you're on "The Diane Rehm Show."
J.P.Thank you very much for taking my call. All I wanted to ask the panel is when is Mitt Romney going to face the issue of his Mormonism? An inherent issue is the fact that they do not believe in heaven. They do not believe in the trinity, and, really important, the issue that the Mormons, for years, have been baptizing dead Jews as holocaust victims, et cetera. The last one was a month ago when they baptized Daniel Pearl, and both his wife and his mother were very upset. When is Romney going to have his JFK moment when JFK faced his Catholicism?
PAGEJ.P., thanks for your call. Do you think that that moment will come, John, when we'll see a major speech from Mitt Romney about his faith?
HARWOODI'm not sure we're going to see another major speech from Mitt Romney about his faith. Let me just say that J.P.'s question resonates with all of us as former colleagues of Danny Pearl. And I'm aware of the controversy involving what happened. I do think Mitt Romney has been facing questions about his Mormonism in the course of the primary campaign, if not spoken loudly by other candidates in a more quiet way.
HARWOODAnd -- but I do think the good news for Mitt Romney is, to the extent that people, especially conservative Christians, evangelicals, have questions about whether Mormonism is a cult and whether they accept its belief tenets, many of those people who have reservations are in states that Republicans are likely to win anyway. And I don't think you can expect the Obama campaign to be pressing this issue.
CUMMINGSI agree with that. And I think that Romney will be -- I'd put odds on him -- not giving that kind of speech. I don't see where it would benefit him. And I don't think that the pressure would come, as John said, from the Democrats or the Obama campaign to force such a conversation. So I think if there was going to be a moment like that, it would have been in the primary. And we are now moving out of the primary phase.
SEIBWell, I think the Romney campaign would say we gave that speech. We gave that speech in the 2008 campaign. And in fact, he did. It's there, and it can be looked at. You know, Mormonism is a big part of Mitt Romney's life. He was -- he's an elder in the Mormon Church. It's not an incidental thing, so I think that's legitimate. I think the questions about the Mormon faith have been aired. And I think Jeanne's right. If they were going to be seriously -- become a serious issue for Mitt Romney, we would have seen it the primary context as much as the general election.
PAGEHere's an email from Daryl, who says, "How come no one in the media is talking about the congressional elections? Isn't that going to be more influential this year?" What do you think?
HARWOODWell, I think the congressional elections are more diffused, and so it's easier to focus on a presidential race when you have them. But I think that focus is going to come. I also think another reason is that there's very little expectation that the majority is going to shift in the House of Representatives. I think people expect that Republicans may lose a few seats but a small number.
HARWOODOn the Senate side, the expectation that the chamber would shift from Democrats to Republicans has diminished sharply because of some of the changes that have happened: Susan Collins -- excuse me, Olympia Snowe announcing, for example, that she was going to retire and some of the progress the Democrats have made in states like North Dakota that suggest that maybe their losses won't be as great. So I think that sort of sense of stasis has diminished attention, somewhat. It'll grow as the months go on.
PAGEDo you think, in fact, Democrats will be able to hold on to the Senate?
HARWOODI think their chances are a lot better than anybody would have expected a year ago, and they may even be better than 50-50.
PAGEAnd how much difference does it make? Just assuming that the House stays Republican, to some degree, how much difference does it make which way the Senate goes?
CUMMINGSWell, it will make a difference if there's also a change in the presidency. For instance, if the Senate were to flip to Republican control and Romney were to win the White House, that could make a huge difference because legislation would be able to get passed, whereas, now, when we have the two chambers at loggerheads, nothing get passed except for crisis legislation.
PAGEYou know, Jerry, we were talking earlier about Rick Santorum with -- suspending his presidential campaign. One thing he didn't say in the speech he gave in Gettysburg where he announced that, he didn't say the words Mitt Romney. Will he, do you think, endorse Mitt Romney, and does it make a difference whether he does or not?
SEIBWell, first, will he? And, you know, I expect he will. It was interesting he didn't in that speech, but maybe not surprising. That tends to happen when the two candidates get together, and they have a meeting. And they sort of share their thoughts and bury hatchets and that sort of thing. And I suspect that will happen, and I suspect that's what Rick Santorum will do. And it is marginally important that he do so because he said some of the harshest things about Mitt Romney in the primary season.
SEIBSo I think it's probably important to the Romney campaign that if he's going to endorse that, that will help put some of those to rest, then maybe minimize the effect of those opposition ads that will be run against Mitt Romney, playing back things Republicans said about Mitt Romney in the general election. But I don't think it's not a defining issue for Mitt Romney. He's his own man. He's the nominee. He does it on his own, and endorsements are, I think, in the margins.
CUMMINGSI think Rick Santorum also felt like he earns that moment, that it was his moment. And he also may well be negotiating, you know, their...
PAGENow, what would he want to negotiate for? What could he get?
CUMMINGSMaybe a good speaking assignment at the convention, you know, just some...
CUMMINGSHe -- yes, that's right, to help him -- the Romney campaign already has been helping to raise money to retire the debt of Tim Pawlenty, who quit the primary race last summer but still has debt to pay off. So there are things that he could be looking for right now.
SEIBThey, however, are not the Republicans who need the most help retiring debt. That would be Newt Gingrich.
PAGEBut what is Newt Gingrich doing? You know, he's done much less well than Rick Santorum in actually winning contests. He won South Carolina, and he won his home state of Georgia, and that was it. Why is he not choosing to suspend his campaign?
SEIBYou know, I think you have to take him at his word. He's going to remain in the race so that he can be the voice of conservatives all the way up to the convention, and somebody ought to play that role. I mean, I don't doubt him when he says that's his role. I think you can question whether that's a wise course for him because he's not earning the gratitude of people in the party by doing that necessarily, and he does have a big debt to repay.
SEIBBut, you know, he wants a voice in the national debate. That's one thing Newt Gingrich has always wanted, and I assume he thinks that staying in for a while longer guarantees him that voice.
HARWOODAnd let's be honest. If Newt Gingrich announces tomorrow that he's ending his campaign, who's going to pay attention to anything he says the rest of the year? Nobody.
CUMMINGSIt's -- it is amazing though how much cost it is -- it's been to him for this campaign. We did a report at Bloomberg about his, you know, Newt Inc. was a famous, you know, infrastructure he built around himself, very lucrative, over $100 million. Since he'd left off, has had churned through three of his companies. And one is bankrupt, one is shutdown, and the other is just his speaking and publishing company that's left.
CUMMINGSAnd in addition, there are those -- his attack on Freddie Mac who was a client of -- an employer of his, he was on contract with them, and they paid him, you know, almost $2 million. And yet he turned on them on the campaign. That could make it very difficult for him to get those kinds of consulting contracts in the future. So there's been quite a bit of cost to him to make this race.
PAGEAnd, John, what do you think Ron Paul wants? He hasn't won any states yet. I think there is very slim prospects he's going to win one in the future. Why does he stay in?
HARWOODI think Ron Paul wants to, as best his can -- and it hasn't been going nearly as well as one might have thought from earlier in the cycle with the attention that he got -- vindicate, as best he can, the slice of Republican -- excuse me -- libertarian philosophy that he brings to the Republican Party, try to advance the ball on that and speak up for a view that -- a vision that his son may carry after him.
PAGEI'm Susan Page, and you're listening to "The Diane Rehm Show." You know, we've had -- we saw some gay rights activists, who've been very supportive of President Obama, express disappointment this week, the issue of an executive order they thought he would sign and now has decided not to. Jerry, what would this executive order have done?
SEIBWhat it would do is it would ban employment description -- discrimination against gay and lesbian workers by federal contractors. And what the gay and lesbian community has really hoped is that there would be a law passed that would put that into effect. That's not going to happen. And they -- so as a fall back, they had hope that the president and the White House would issue an executive order saying the same thing. They had a meeting this week. They were apparently told that's not going to happen this year. And I think some...
HARWOODI think the message was, we can wait.
SEIBYes, exactly. That's probably true. That's the optimistic way of framing the message. I think the rationale on the White House was less that we don't want to make a statement in favor of gay and lesbians in a campaign context, although that may have been part of it. I suspect it was more, we don't want to be accused of laying more troublesome regulations on the business community when the job market is so shaky, so that probably had more to do with that then with being afraid to make a statement in -- on behalf of gays and lesbians. That's my guess.
CUMMINGSWell, and they may have to say a whole lot more about their support of the gay and lesbian community before this is over with because the community has -- is raising money now to try and make it an issue. They're going to make a lot of noise in Washington. And some of his newest and most generous donors have come out of the gay community in light of getting rid of Don't Ask, Don't Tell, in light of the administration's decision not to defend in court the defense of marriage act.
CUMMINGSThat brought a lot of new support to his campaign and in some ways made up for the support he lost on Wall Street. So this is an important constituency for the White House, and I don't think they're going to be able to just ignore them after a rather tense meeting this week.
HARWOODBut, Susan, I do think that Jerry put an -- put his finger on the issue here. This is a Democratic campaign that sees social issues as an offensive weapon in many important parts of the country where they need to win suburban voters, states like North Carolina, Virginia, Colorado, et cetera. However, the intersection of social issues with issues of employment, jobs, business regulation is a toxic one for the White House, and I think the president is trying to keep some distance from that.
SEIBI would just note that it's going to be -- and Jeanne is right. It's going to be impossible to keep total distance from this 'cause there are five states that have ballot initiatives this year dealing with the rights of gays to wed. And that's not going to go away, and that's something that everybody is going to be forced to talk about whether they want to or not.
CUMMINGSAnd that's as…
PAGEAnd where exactly does President Obama stand, Jeanne, on the issue of allowing same-sex couples to marry?
CUMMINGSWell, he's murky on it, and that's another thing that bothers him. He's not been a full-throated supporter of gay marriage. He is...
HARWOODI think he's still going through Darwinian evolution on that.
CUMMINGSYeah, right. So that, you know, that's another rob for them. And just getting back to the other issue, out of fairness, we should note that the White House says that the reason that he doesn't want to do the executive order is because he feels like legislation would be -- would provide broader protection to...
SEIBAnd they do support the legislation.
CUMMINGSAnd they do support the legislation.
PAGEWe're been joined this hour by Jerry Seib, Washington bureau chief of The Wall Street Journal, Jeanne Cummings, deputy government editor of Bloomberg News, and John Harwood, chief Washington correspondent for CNBC. He also writes for The New York Times. Thank you all for being with this hour.
HARWOODHave a great weekend.
PAGEI'm Susan Page of USA Today, sitting in for Diane Rehm. She'll be back on Monday. Thanks for listening.
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