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.
Election year party platforms usually don’t get much attention. But this year’s draft Republican platform is different. It’s making national headlines thanks to comments made by Missouri congressman Todd Akin — and by a widening gap in philosophies within the G.O.P. Akin’s remarks about rape made the party’s proposed adoption of a no-exceptions ban on abortion big news, even though similar restrictions have been in the platform for nearly three decades. Other planks include tougher immigration rules and a decision not to spare mortgage tax deductions. Diane and her guests discuss the Republican party platform and what it could mean for the Romney-Ryan ticket.
- Kirsten Kukowski Press secretary for the Republican National Committee.
- Norman Ornstein Resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute.
- Jonathan Allen Congressional reporter for Politico.
- David Keene President of the National Rifle Association and former chair of the American Conservative Union.
- Anna Greenberg Democratic pollster and senior vice president of Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research.
MS. DIANE REHMThanks for joining us. I'm Diane Rehm. This year's Republican Party platform has gotten more attention than in years past. It calls for a constitutional amendment outlawing all abortions and offers some tougher stance on immigration than in 2008.
MS. DIANE REHMJoining me in the studio to talk about the proposed GOP platform and its impact on the Romney campaign: Norm Ornstein of the American Enterprise Institute, Anna Greenberg of Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research and Jonathan Allen of Politico. Joining us from a studio in Tampa, Fla., David Keene of the National Rifle Association. We do look forward in hearing your input. Give us call, 800-433-8850. Send us your email to email@example.com. Join us on Facebook or Twitter. Good morning to all of you.
MR. NORMAN ORNSTEINGood morning, Diane.
MR. JONATHAN ALLENGood morning.
MS. ANNA GREENBERGGood morning.
MR. DAVID KEENEGood morning.
REHMGood to have you all with us. First, joining us by phone is Kirsten Kukowski. She is press secretary for the Republican National Committee. Thanks for joining us, Kirsten.
MS. KIRSTEN KUKOWSKIThank you for having me.
REHMPlease talk about just how final this proposed draft platform actually is.
KUKOWSKIWell, so -- I'm just going to give you a little background on the platform process real quick. So over the last several months, the platform committee has taken input from over 30,000 voices, interest groups from every interest that you could have in America to gather input. And what they did was we came to Tampa a couple of days ago, and we convene, the platform committee. It consists of two people per state, a man and a woman.
KUKOWSKIAnd they came together. They went into their subcommittees. There were six subcommittees by issue, and they had discussions. And then that afternoon and the next day, we came together as a whole committee and had more discussion on the issues. And then at the end of the second day, we came -- or we ended with a proposed 2012 GOP platform that will now go to the full RNC convention...
KUKOWSKI...here in Tampa on Monday.
KUKOWSKISo, you know, it is likely going to be the document that the convention will pass. But we will wait and see on Monday.
REHMOK. I understand that that draft includes a plan calling for a constitutional ban on abortion without exception. Is that true?
KUKOWSKIWell, I think that there's a little bit of misconception here over the last couple of days on that issue. Basically what happens on the abortion issue in general is that we put forward the exact same language that the Republicans have had in our platform since 1984. And that language includes an amendment that is a very broad -- that's very broad. It is not a specific amendment.
KUKOWSKIIt does not get into exceptions at all. We are actually silent on exceptions because we would prefer as a party that those exceptions be discussed at the state level and those decisions made at the state level. So it is a 100 percent pro-life principle party. But we really don't get into the details. We really do leave those up to the states.
REHMI understand that some Republicans, including your presumptive nominee, Mitt Romney, support exceptions to the ban. What kind of problems does that create?
KUKOWSKIWell, Mitt Romney has put forward his views on abortion and that they do include exceptions as, you know, Paul Ryan has discussed over the last couple of days as well. But like I'm saying before, our platform is a pro-life platform. Mitt Romney has said he is pro-life. Paul Ryan has said he is pro-life. And the umbrella principle, pro-life principle that our platform passed, we actually all are in a pro-life agreement.
REHMWhat does that mean in the case of, as Congressman Akin put it, legitimate rape?
KUKOWSKII'm sorry. Can you repeat your question? I couldn't understand that one.
REHMI said, what does that mean when you're dealing with the language that Congressman Akin used, legitimate rape? Is there still no exception in that platform?
KUKOWSKIWell, I think that everybody from the RNC chairman, every Republican that I've talked to, that I've seen speaking publicly, Mitt Romney, Paul Ryan, everyone has said that what Rep. Akin has to say on that subject has had -- and recently on that subject is just not appropriate. It's offensive and not where our dialogue needs to go. I think at that point break, we can talk about, you know, the platform, the RNC platform and where we're going. But I think that we are in the exact same position on abortion that our party has been...
KUKOWSKI...since 1984. And I think that that's very...
KUKOWSKI...very important for people to put into perspective.
REHMBut is there an exception for rape?
KUKOWSKIWe do not -- we are at -- we are 100 percent pro-life party. Let me get that out first. Second, there are no exceptions in any of the language, but we do not address exceptions. We are silent on them. So we leave any talk of exceptions, details like that up to the state. So it is wrong to say we do have exceptions, and it's wrong to say we don't.
REHMOK. Tell us about the amendment to expand the party's endorsement of state voter ID laws to include proof of citizenship.
KUKOWSKIWell, I think that our platform was very clear that we are pro-legal immigration, and we are taking steps to, you know, to work on our illegal immigration problem that we have in our country.
REHMSo what does that mean? Are you endorsing those state voter ID laws?
KUKOWSKIYou know what? I'm going to have to take a look at the fine prints. I'm not well versed enough in that exact fine print. So I will have to get back to you once the full convention convenes on that subject.
REHMOK. And I can certainly appreciate that. But let me just wonder out loud whether there are concerns that the draft platform appears to be intolerant to many moderate Republican voters.
KUKOWSKIOh, I don't agree with that at all. I mean, I think that on -- are we talking just on immigration, or are we talking in general?
KUKOWSKIJust in general, no, no, not at all. I would say the last couple of days, we have, obviously, in the media -- and, unfortunately, because of timing of some current events -- have focused on, you know, a couple of social issues that is really the minority of the platform. The overwhelming majority of our platform is talking about jobs and the economy and how we move forward as a country back in to economic prosperity.
KUKOWSKISo I think that once we have an opportunity to go out here as a party once the convention votes on the platform next Monday here in Tampa, the people are going to find that we really are putting forward some solutions that a lot of people, moderate voters, I would even venture, I guess, some Democrats are going to be very much in line with.
REHMOK. And one last question. What's going to happen if the hurricane hits Tampa?
KUKOWSKIWell, I'm standing outside right now looking at the Forum, and it is sunny. And I'm saying my prayers, and I hope everybody else around us does their prayers, see that there isn't a hurricane that comes our way. I do know that my boss and several others are having a meeting on the situation right now who are monitoring it. And I know that there are contingency plans in place. Obviously, when we picked Tampa to come to a couple of years ago, we knew that this was going to be a potential issue.
KUKOWSKISo we want everybody safe. We're going to have -- we have plans in place if, in fact, the hurricane does come our way. But everybody needs to cross their fingers and say their prayers that the blue skies continue.
REHMI'll certainly be joining in. But what are your contingency plans?
KUKOWSKIYou know, I can't get into the details right now. I think it's a little bit too soon. We're all watching the weather patterns and hoping. And, you know, I was -- went to a television -- a local Tampa television studio yesterday, and one of the women said, I've lived here for 40 years, and I can tell you that every time it looks like the hurricane, you know, we are very, you know, we are in the direct path of the hurricane that most of the time it chooses to go one way or the other, and we're probably going to be fine. And you know what? Right now, a couple of days out, let's hope that she's right.
REHMLet's hope she's right. Kirsten Kukowski, she is press secretary for the Republican National Committee. Thanks for joining us.
KUKOWSKIThank you so much. Have a good day.
REHMYou, too. And now turning to you, Jonathan Allen, the importance of platforms, how relevant are they truly?
ALLENNot very. We like to talk about them in the press. We like to see what the party platform is. It's an idea of what one party stands for versus another. There are interesting fights that go on in defining that. But for the average voter, this is not something that they pay a whole lot of attention to. And we've seen this year already in the last week Mitt Romney distancing himself from this abortion plank in the Republican platform that Kirsten was talking about.
ALLENHaving been around for a couple of generations now, he believes in exceptions for rape and the case of a mother being in danger. So this is not something that's going to last a long time beyond the newspaper articles and the convention.
ORNSTEINWell, let me make a general comment first about platforms, Diane. Usually, nobody pays any attention to them except in the back pages of the paper. Now, it's in the front page. Usually, there's a tension between the nominee and the platform. But, usually, what a nominee does is to use the platform very effectively to mollify critics within the party. Give them a few bones in the platform because who really cares in the end. You're not governed by it. Nobody will pay attention. This is different now.
REHMThis is more aggressive somehow.
ORNSTEINYes, it is. And, you know, the problem for Romney in a general sense is he wanted these four days to define himself in a way differently from the way he's been defined to this point. And this is not easily going to allow the convention to work the way he wants.
REHMNorm Ornstein of the American Enterprise Institute. When we come back, we'll hear from Anna Greenberg and David Keene. Stay with us.
REHMAnd welcome back. As we talk about the Republican Party draft platform, you just heard from the press secretary for the Republican National Committee. Here in the studio: Norm Ornstein of the American Enterprise Institute, Anna Greenberg, Democratic pollster, senior vice president of Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research, Jonathan Allen, congressional reporter for Politico.
REHMOn the line with us is David Keene. He is in Tampa, Fla. He is president of the National Rifle Association, former chair of the American Conservative Union. Anna Greenberg, your thoughts on the draft platform's language on abortion.
GREENBERGWell, as the press secretary said, this is the same language that's been in there since 1984. And I think that that's a line they're using to try to dismiss the attention to it as if it's sort of, you know, it's not new.
GREENBERGIt's not extreme. It's what we've always been. But I think the important thing is the context. There has been a build up to this that sort of culminates in Akin in the platform over the last year and half that has kept these issues on the front burner in a way they normally are not, especially during, you know, troubling economic times. So, you know, the very first vote the congressional Republicans took was on abortion.
GREENBERGYou have both at the federal level and state level trying to defund Planned Parenthood. You have, of course, the very prominent invasive ultrasound legislation in Virginia but also in Pennsylvania. And then you have the birth control debate, I put in quotation marks, 'cause most people -- it's not a debate but, you know, with the changing regulation under the Affordable Care Act and then the compromise with the Catholic bishops. And then, you know, then you have Akin, and then you have, you know, the platform.
GREENBERGAnd so this is actually, you know, a long period of time where there is -- of course, you have Rush Limbaugh and Sandra Fluke. I mean, it's pretty extraordinary, and it -- and what's happening is you're seeing across competitive congressional races, Senate races, even presidentially, these issues playing a much more prominent role not so much because people are terribly worried that something's going to happen to a woman's right to choose, but more that it's an indicator of how outside the mainstream Republicans are.
GREENBERGI was astonished that President Obama was running an ad. It was national cable, but it was showing in battleground states where it literally said, I supported woman's right to choose, and attacked Mitt Romney for saying that we should get rid of Planned Parenthood. I don't know the last time a national campaign ran ads on abortion, let alone in battleground states.
GREENBERGSo I think that what's happening here is not so much that this platform is different or new. It's that the context, that it's -- you know, that it's being passed in a context of heightened attention and real conflict over these issues in ways, frankly, that aren't beneficial to the Republicans.
REHMDavid Keene, a fair assessment or not?
KEENEI don't think it's as fair as Anna might think it is. You know, both -- let's face it. To begin with, we have two parties. One of them is pro-choice. The other one is pro-life. If we look at the two parties' platforms and the stances that the two parties take, they take positions that a lot of people -- the middle might disagree with on both sides. I might ask, for example, how many voters agree with the refusal of Democrats to condemn abortion for sex election purposes or to condemn partial birth abortions?
KEENEMost polls show that majorities -- large majorities of people are against that. The fact is, though -- just going back to what Kirsten said, the language -- and I have to begin by saying I was -- I used to work for Jim Buckley, who was a conservative senator from New York, and he and then Sen. Mark Hatfield of Oregon were the first two people to introduce a life amendment to the Constitution.
KEENEAnd from that time to this, there's always been an argument just as there is with the balanced budget, for example, what should go into that amendment? Should it be an amendment with no exception? Should there be exceptions? There are various versions of it. And to be fair to this platform, it not only contains the language that it's contained since 1984, but it does not address that question. Some people try to read that into it.
KEENEBut at the end of the day, what the platform says with the two parties is one of them is pro-life and one of them is pro-choice. And in recent years, in particular, the pro-life position from a purely political standpoint has helped and not hurt Republicans on the margin because the public has been moving in that direction and poll after poll has confirmed this. Having said that, you know, I do think that it is helpful to the Obama administration and the Obama campaign to a degree -- to any degree that they can shift the focus for a day, a week, an hour, away from the real problems that the country faces.
KEENEAnd those are economic problems. And I think what's happening to some degree, and I would the same thing if I were them, is to try and find something else to talk about rather than the fact that the country is headed to a fiscal cliff. And other than the fact that millions and millions of Americans who thought they would be working now under an Obama administration are not.
REHMDavid Keene, he is president of the National Rifle Association, former chair of the American Conservative Union. Jonathan Allen, you wanted to add something about the language regarding the right to choose in the Republican platform.
ALLENNot necessarily that I wanted to add something about it but that they added something to it that has escaped some attention in this because it wasn't part of the exact abortion plank. There's an -- another amendment that was added on the -- basically, RU-486, the morning-after pill. Some folks call it the abortion pill, but basically the -- I don't know how to put it -- the post-affair contraception and basically calling for a ban on that. So that's one thing that's -- one thing that was added.
ALLENIn addition to that, the idea that the -- that this isn't a pretty strong, aggressive tack on abortion in this platform, it's been around since 1984, is, I think, a little off. You've got the Fourteenth Amendment issue where basically Republicans want to have the Fourteenth Amendment language on no one being able to be deprived of their life, liberty or property without due process of law apply to a person at the point of fertilization.
ALLENSome folks see that as an attack on contraception in addition to abortion but certainly on abortion. And if you were to put in place what the platform calls for, as it calls for it, there wouldn't be an exemption. So the silence on exemption is a statement in that case. But I think that within the Republican Party, the effort to find a balance that everyone can agree upon has been to have this silence so that the folks who want the exemptions can feel like it's silent on it, and the folks that don't want them can feel that it's silent on it.
ORNSTEINWell, I -- you know, as I listen to Kirsten, I thought, gee, perhaps you shouldn't use the term misconception when you talk about the way we're dealing with this issue in the platform. But she was flat-out wrong when she said, we want to leave it to the states. Their human life amendment doesn't leave it to the states to decide whether they're going to have abortions or not abortions. But they also added language, and Jonathan referred to this.
ORNSTEINThey added language calling for legislation that would apply the Fourteenth Amendment to all persons. I think in the language, it's at the point of conception. There is a bill that Paul Ryan and Todd Akin, among others, had co-sponsored calling for it at the point of fertilization. But either way, this is no exceptions, not left up the states. One other point, Diane, David was talking about where the public has gone on abortion.
ORNSTEINThere has been some change in a pro-life direction in the last several years, but most Americans are in the middle. They understand the tension between protecting life and protecting rights. And overwhelmingly, all categories, including the most conservative categories, believe in exceptions for rape and incest. So they've got a problem on this one, I think, that, you know, nobody's focused on before because we don't focus on platforms except now.
ALLENI just would add to that. The sanctity of life issue, they do leave it for states or the federal government to make legislation. So if you are silent on this exemption, you're silent. But if you look at what's going on in the states right now, if you look at what's being introduced in legislatures, these are bills that have no exemptions. And, for instance, the Wisconsin pro-life organization has been pushing this bill and has said, if you believe in it, any of these exemptions, you are not pro-life. So the ticket that Paul Ryan is supporting right now is not pro-life according to Wisconsin pro-life folks.
GREENBERGWell, I also would just add there is dissembling also around this not being different for those reasons that Jonathan mentions, but also this kind of attack on birth control is new. And it's played itself out in a number of ways, including the changes to the federal regulations that required employers to cover birth control and that whole, you know, that whole conversation, it's happening at the state level.
GREENBERGBut having RU-486 and the morning-after pill, which are actually different from each other -- one is -- does cause an abortion. The other prevents fertilization. Having that in the platform now is also different and so far out of the mainstream. I mean, there is no controversy about the use of birth control. And one thing I want to just mention in relation to what David said is that, you know, the idea that somehow this is something Democrats are doing to try to take people's attention away from the economy, this is a self-inflicted wound.
GREENBERGAgain, I'll go back to you. This is -- the very first vote the Republicans took was, in Congress, was, you know, on abortion, and there's been really extreme and strange things that have been going on that had national prominence since then on this issue.
REHMDavid, on inflicted wounds?
KEENEYou know, Diane...
KEENE...no, I don't think that's -- obviously, in Todd Akin's case, that's true. And for a whole different reason, it has nothing to do with all of this. But the fact is, obviously, there's an attempt to try and pick at issues -- the immigration or abortion or whatever -- to take attention away from the economy. Now, I may be corrected on this because the final platform has not been adopted, and I was not present in the debate in that subcommittee over the abortion plank.
KEENEBut I have the language that the subcommittee adopted, and I don't see this language about the RU-46 or any of that in there. Now, there were 250 proposed amendments to the platform. Not all of them were adopted. And, you know, you can find people on any issue that are way out, one way or the other, and who condemn people who don't, in their view, approach perfection.
KEENESo Jonathan's argument that, well, you know, there are some pro-life people who don't think Mitt Romney is sufficiently pro-life, I live now in the world of the Second Amendment, and there are always some people who think that the NRA is not sufficiently supportive of the Second Amendment. They're wrong. And the -- but the fact that you can find somebody way out there who then says that this is true or that's true or that isn't doesn't get away from the point.
KEENEWe're talking about the Republican Party platform, and then we're talking about other issues. The fact is that the party platform is important, and at the end of the day on this issue, the two parties have vastly different positions. There are some people who support one party's position and some people who support the other. And then there are voters in the middle who pick and choose, as somebody mentioned earlier.
KEENEThat's what politics is all about. But this characterization of this part of the platform or other parts of the platform goes on during platform week. And, you know, right now, nobody sitting at your table or -- and I certainly don't have a copy of the platform that's going to go to the convention on Monday to be debated, possibly amended and probably adopted because it hasn't even yet been printed.
KEENESo we're talking about things that took place in subcommittees. And then we're trying to expand them, and we're trying to talk about their impact on something. And in many cases, we're talking about language that may or may not even exist.
REHMAll right. David Keene, he's president of the National Rifle Association. And you're listening to "The Diane Rehm Show." Last comment, Jonathan, you wanted to say something.
ALLENWell, I was just going to make a point that David's right in the basic sense that the Democratic Party is pro-choice and the Republican Party is pro-life, and obviously people in those parties cross over.
ALLENThe interesting point, I think, is in these exemptions because they are what the political class has done to bridge that difference. It's one of the hardest things that's been there, and they've only done it to bridge that difference in the past on federal funding for abortion, not the availability of abortion, but on federal funds. Federal funds shouldn't be used on abortion, except in the cases of rape, incest and life of the mother is the agreement that they've made.
ALLENAnd so the efforts to change that language not only on the federal funding issue, but also on the larger availability issue are controversial 'cause that's where the middle ground has been found before.
REHMAll right. Norm, what do we know is in the draft platform about jobs and the economy?
ORNSTEINWell, let me make the general point that David made, which is an interesting one because, in years past, any of us geeks who wanted to get access to platforms and platform language didn't have much trouble. In fact, you had people in the platform committees who were begging us to look at the stuff 'cause they wanted to get attention.
REHMAs we did. As we did.
ORNSTEINYeah, yeah. So this is the first time. I know that Susan Nabors and your staff worked night and day to try and get the language. There's a pretty strong effort here to keep the language from getting out for all the reasons that we're talking about. At the same time, of course, there's a heavy focus on jobs and the economy, and most of it is criticizing President Obama for the policies that he's pursued.
ORNSTEINIt, in probably more -- from what I have seen, more than in other areas, really reflects the talking points and the policies that candidate Romney has pursued. And...
REHMAnd, Anna, the Federal Reserve is one of those targets.
GREENBERGRight. There's a requirement to audit the Federal Reserve, though I don't think your average voter would understand why that's controversial. I actually think the -- probably the most important issue here in the platform is what they do to Medicare, which, of course, is enshrined in the Ryan budget plan and supported by Mitt Romney. But to have it in the platform sort of basically makes every Republican sort of this is their plan, and it basically turns it into a 401 (k) retirement plan. And so this is...
REHMThat is defined contribution.
GREENBERGWell, you can call it what you want...
GREENBERG...but it basically means you get a voucher to buy your own insurance.
GREENBERGAnd, you know, there's all kinds of requirements about what that looks like, but, regardless, this is a huge issue. It's deeply unpopular. And they -- I felt that Mitt Romney doubled down by picking Ryan as his running mate on Medicare, and I felt like they tripled down by putting it into the platform. So they are going -- sort of they've decided this is, you know, this is it. And I think it's going to be more so, frankly, than the reproductive rights, and health issue is going to be critical to this election.
ALLENIf this ends up being a 60-40 issue for Democrats, they've lost ground on Medicare. Medicare was more popular than that in the past. And we're looking at polling. To me, Democrats look at it and they say, wow, we're doing so great 'cause it's like 50-34 in the last poll or whatever. And I'm thinking to myself, that's not so good for Democrats. If you look at Florida, Marco Rubio ran last time on a similar idea to Paul Ryan's if he won as a Republican.
ALLENI think that there is a general acceptance in the public that something needs to be done about the entitlement programs. And the fact that Paul Ryan and Mitt Romney have a plan is helpful to them, by and large, helps them neutralize what has been a huge Democratic advantage in the past.
GREENBERGWell, I just...
KEENEDiane, I think, if I could add on that...
REHMHold on, David. Go ahead, Anna.
GREENBERGWell, just from the perspective of public opinion polls, it is -- it's true that in the initial question on the Ryan plan, you get a -- you know, it's about 50-52 against. But once you tell people what's in it, the numbers shift pretty dramatically.
REHMOK. David, we've got about 30 seconds before the break.
KEENEYeah. I was just going to say I agree with one thing, and that is that the Republicans feel they need a plan, that people really perceive that things have changed, that we're in a fiscal mess and that the Obama administration and the Obama campaign doesn't have a plan. And it is true that Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan have doubled down in the sense that they're saying we at least are willing to look at these problems and deal with them. What about them?
REHMDavid Keene, he's former chair of the American Conservative Union. When we come back, time for your comments. Stay with us.
REHMAnd welcome back to our discussion of the Republican Party platform. We're going to open the phones, 800-433-8850, first to -- let's see -- Broken Arrow, Okla. Good morning, Dave.
DAVEGood morning, Diane. Thanks for taking my call.
DAVEI would consider myself a moderate Republican, and I would have to say that the only thing that I still agree with Republican platform one is pro-life. I'm pro-life. I'm not necessarily against exceptions. But everything else that they have to say, I have to say that they are completely out of touch with the humans that live in the United States. And the top thing that they want to talk about, you know, the economy or abortion or gun control, they're not in connection with the voters.
DAVEThey're going to get slammed during this election because they have no idea what I as a Republican want. It seems like everybody who is my equal has been brainwashed to believe that because the Democrats believe in abortion or they support abortion rights, then they're obviously godless, immoral people and can't be in charge of our country or we're all going to be godless, immoral people.
KEENEThat's sort of a weird interpretation of the way the world looks. Maybe things are different in Broken Arrow, but when I was in Oklahoma recently, I didn't find it at all. What Americans are upset about is the direction that this president and his administration are trying to take the country, in terms of government involvement in the lives of citizens, in terms of the fiscal cliff that we're approaching and in terms of their unwillingness to really look at the real problems that the country faces.
KEENEThe platforms of the various parties -- and one of the things that happens each year is the party and those involved say, can't we shorten it? Well, it ends up that they can't shorten it -- and this is true with both parties -- because in addition to the core values, in addition to the jobs and all of that, they're -- each party is a coalition of many, many interests. And those interests have historically been -- have been addressed in the party platforms and continues to be addressed in the party platforms where the party agrees with one interest to the other.
KEENESo all of these issues -- none of these single issues make the difference with the overall electorate. They are important, however, to some voters, and those voters are important to the party and the candidate.
REHMAll right. Norm, you wanted to say something about Medicare.
ORNSTEINYeah. Just following on what David said, one other point -- Anna mentioned the Fed and the audit of the Fed, and it gets to what David said about coalitions of interest. Keep in mind Ron Paul, who is still a factor here, and the audit of the Fed is in because they want to mollify Paul and his faction. In many other cases, the amendments offered by Paul supporters were just cursorily dismissed. On Medicare, there's an important point here, which is -- as David was saying, they want to deal with the problem, but they don't deal with the problem for 10 years.
ORNSTEINThat's when the proposal to have the voucher plan kicks in. In the meantime, we now have something that contradicts Paul Ryan's budget that Mitt Romney and, I believe, the platform say, which is we're going to remove the entire $716 billion in cuts for Medicare that are in the Affordable Care Act. To do that, as Jackie Calmes pointed out through a survey of experts in The New York Times the other day, means that you bring this insolvency of Medicare eight years forward to 2016.
ORNSTEINAnd if you throw into that, cutting out the protections through the doughnut hole and other provisions, look at the Medicaid cuts which hit the dual-eligible people, you're talking about a serious hit on seniors, and part of this is a debate over whether that message reaches those seniors. And if you can wreak some of them at the margins, then you're talking about a real difference.
REHMAll right. I want to turn now to the stance in the platform on immigration. Jonathan.
ALLENThe Romney folks really wanted to soften the stance on immigration from where it had been in 2008, from where it was in the Republican primary. They've been trying to soft sell this, and there was an amendment accepted, adopted into the platform that would call for the completion of a border fence, prevent illegal immigrants' kids from getting in-state tuition and do some other things that basically take that harder line, sort of Republican primary position and adopt it as part of the platform.
GREENBERGThey added a provision for a guest worker program, but that, quite honestly, is more an issue for business owners who, you know, are in agriculture and seasonal industries that are low wage and, I think, less an attempt to, you know, suggest to Hispanic voters that they are really progressive on the immigration issue.
REHMAnd, David, isn't that going to hurt the GOP push for Latino voters?
KEENEI don't think so. I mean, we're talking here about illegal immigrants, not about legal residents or about people that get in line and come in to this country under the rules that prevail in which they follow. And we're talking about people who sneak across the border, overstay a visa and then take jobs from people who follow the rules. President Obama likes to talk about people that follow the rules. Well, this favors those people. And the fact of the matter is that the Republican -- both parties have to appeal to a growing Latin vote, if you will.
KEENEAnd the Republican Party's appeal is based on their values, is based on shared values with Republicans. And some of these other issues that Democrats don't like do appeal to these people. The fact is that when you're talking about the path to legal immigration, a guest worker program is something that does make some sense. Sure, it helps employers. That's why folks are coming to this country because of our values, because of our freedom and because of the opportunity that they might have to make a better living than they would some place else.
KEENEThat's why this country has always been open to people who come through the legal process. And an attempt to make sure that people follow the rules and that those who break the rules are not rewarded for doing so is something that does not seem, to me in the end, to play against Republican prospects within these communities.
REHMAll right. Norm.
KEENEIf you just look at the elected officials, Democrats like to talk about how Republicans turn off Hispanic voters. But if you look at the governors, you look at the Senate, you look at all of these groups, it's Republicans who are, in fact, electing Hispanic candidates.
REHMAll right. Norm.
ORNSTEINMitt Romney, as Anna said, did want to soften this language. During the primary campaign, he had to move very sharply to the right from where he had been and, of course, endorsed the Arizona immigration law. We saw...
REHMAnd that's because of the Tea Party influence?
ORNSTEINWell, I don't -- wouldn't say so much even just Tea Party. It's a broader group of hardliners, which is always tougher, by the way, in difficult economic times. But I remember pretty vividly as many do, Sheriff Arpaio, the controversial Birther among other things, nodding vigorously and smiling as Romney spoke during a debate. So they want to, you know, change the subject.
ORNSTEINWe're going to see, I am sure, prominent -- not only Marco Rubio, who may or may not appeal to Mexican-Americans or Puerto Rican-Americans as a Cuban-American, but Susana Martinez, the very attractive Mexican-American governor of New Mexico and others out there as voices. You know, the immigration issue may get overshadowed a little bit in this convention in terms of controversy by the abortion issue, but it's a problem.
GREENBERGI think that we have to look at the DREAM Act, which I think you will see a lot of direct voter contact among, you know, in the Hispanic community around the DREAM Act. The DREAM Act and what Obama did around deportation is actually pretty popular.
GREENBERGI mean, if you look at it nationally and even in states like Texas that are more conservative, you get pretty strong majorities in favor of halting the deportation of DREAM Act kids. I believe that you will see advertising and mail and door knocks to Hispanic voters around the DREAM Act no matter what is in the platform. That issue, you know, doesn't turn off Anglo voters and is, you know, in fact, pretty popular and very popular among Hispanic voters.
ALLENIt's interesting the DREAM Act and the response to it by Marco Rubio, who had put out his version, essentially a scaled-back version that was probably more commonly accepted, what he wanted to do. It didn't go as far as the DREAM Act -- gave President Obama his -- perhaps his greatest political opportunity of the last two years where he waved his hand and basically did what Marco Rubio would have done by legislation, taking it away from Republicans.
REHMAll right. Let's take a caller in Lantana, Fla. Good morning, Christine.
CHRISTINEGood morning. Given the statistics that there's 32,000 termed pregnancies that result from rapes and given that the social net may be shredded, food stamps cut, public schools going down the tube, I'm wondering if there are any statistics on the quality of life of these babies once they are born. Are they adopted out? What happens to these 32,000 a year?
REHMDavid Keene, do you want to comment?
KEENEI don't have any figures that -- I'm sure there probably are empirical studies, but I haven't seen them.
REHMAll right. And to -- but the issue becomes if, in fact, there are some thousands born of rape, I mean, what do we, as a society, say about that and/or do about that, Norm?
ORNSTEINAnd let's just reiterate that overwhelmingly among all groups, including among pro-life groups, there is a strong belief and an exception for rape. So that's a problem here.
REHMBut then you got Kirsten Kukowski, the question I put to her that the platform seems intolerant to moderate Republicans, how would you respond to that?
ORNSTEINWell, I think there are going to be a lot of people turned off by this. A lot of --both pro-choice, but also more moderately pro-life Republicans who are going to be uneasy about it. Then it becomes a question of whether it is a single-issue vote, and how much that overwhelms other things, and how much it has staying power through the course of the campaign compared to the larger economic issues. And I think what Todd Akin has done is to increase significantly the chances that this issue has more staying power.
GREENBERGWell, first, I think we have to acknowledge that the issue goes beyond abortion. As I said earlier, we have a whole lot of other things going on. So it elevates the whole area of reproductive rights and health in a way that we've -- I don't think, really, ever seen in a presidential election.
GREENBERGThe other thing I want to know -- and this goes back to the caller from Broken Arrow, Okla., and the question about moderate Republicans. You know, if you look at the economic data, with 8.3 percent unemployment and a range of other indicators, Obama should be losing, right? He should be losing this election. I mean, the political science models would say, given the economics, you know, he should be losing, but he's not. He's ahead by two, three points, depending on the poll.
GREENBERGAnd I believe that part of it is a reflection of independent voters being turned off by the hard-right shift that started with the Republican takeover of the House and state houses and legislatures, including reproductive rights, but a whole range of other issues as the caller points out. I can't really imagine a scenario where Obama is doing as well as he is doing given the economic situation we're in.
ALLENWell, first of all -- and I would say that if I were a political opposition researcher, ad maker, I would pull those comments from you, just saying Barack Obama should be losing and play them on a loop. That's...
ALLEN...making fun of that sort of -- the construction of it. Look, I think that the extent to which the Republican platform is tied to the Republican candidates is exactly the extent to which the Republican candidate ties himself to it. The voters aren't going to choose who they're going to vote for based on what the platform say. They're going to vote on what the candidates say.
REHMJonathan Allen of Politico.
REHMAnd you're listening to "The Diane Rehm Show." David, you want to get in on that?
KEENEYeah, I do want to get in a little bit on this because, you know, it -- we are in a position now in a while. Every presidential race is different from every other one. Nonetheless, if you go back to 1980, for example, Ronald Reagan was behind Jimmy Carter by double digits up until just two or three weeks before the election. We have a country in which probably 46 percent on each side now are ideologically and partisanly decided relatively early on.
KEENEThe campaign, which is just beginning in the eyes of people who were not obsessed with politics, will give those -- the rest of those folks a chance to decide where they want to go. So I wouldn't be too comfortable if I were an Obama supporter saying, well, you know, he's not losing yet because we have a bad economy. He's an incumbent president who this far out is barely even.
KEENEAnd you've got battleground states that are closing up, margins that are disappearing, and you're going to have a race. It's -- it'd be crazy to predict right now how it's going to come out. But, in fact, this is going to be a very close race about very big issues. And people are going to make that decision as the campaign gets underway...
KEENE...and as those people, who are not obsessed as we are with politics, begin to look at it and say, should we judge him on what he's done and give somebody else a chance or not?
ORNSTEINDiane, getting back to the convention a little bit, Mitt Romney recalibrated with the choice of Paul Ryan because his focus -- a relentless focus that Stuart Stevens I think came up with, this is all going to be a referendum on the economy -- wasn't working because Obama was defining Romney, with some help from Romney, in a way that made him very unpopular. They were counting on the convention to be away to redefine Romney both to turn Bain Capital into a big plus.
ORNSTEINThis is a guy who has been hugely successful in business. He can do the same for the economy, to show him as a warm person who cared about people instead of the out-of-touch, ultra-rich guy. Part of the problem with the platform now is it takes away from that narrative. The hurricane, they take away from that narrative. They were counting on four days where they would have an almost uninterrupted opportunity to kick off their campaign, and this is going to pose, I think, an additional challenge for them.
ORNSTEINIf it's not a referendum but a choice and your nominee has to struggle, you know, usually you can mollify your extreme groups by putting stuff in the platform that nobody pays attention to. Now, every time you have to recalibrate, it makes those groups a little more uneasy. It's a problem.
REHMAnna, the Democratic convention will have its own problem, platform for a lot of people. What are a couple of the issues that'll come up there?
GREENBERGTo be honest with you, the only issue that I've seen talked about prominently is that the Democratic platform will adopt the Clinton -- the marriage equality. In other words, embrace same-sex marriage. I think the -- and moreover, there is now increasing discussion about the number of women who will be speaking in prominent roles with Elizabeth Warren and Michelle Obama and others as part of the convention.
GREENBERGAnd, you know, I think there's -- we could talk about why that -- those -- they're making those sorts of choices, but I think it'll be a warmer and a fuzzier convention than the Republican convention.
REHMIt'll be another program for us to be doing. Thank you so much for joining us, Anna Greenberg, David Keene, Jonathan Allen, Norm Ornstein. Thank you very much.
ORNSTEINThank you, Diane.
REHMThanks for listening, all. I'm Diane Rehm.
ANNOUNCER"The Diane Rehm Show" is produced by Sandra Pinkard, Nancy Robertson, Denise Couture, Susan Nabors, Megan Merritt, Lisa Dunn and Rebecca Kaufman. The engineer is Tobey Schreiner. Natalie Yuravlivker answers the phones. Visit drshow.org for audio archives, transcripts, podcasts and CD sales. Call 202-885-1200 for more information. Our email address is firstname.lastname@example.org, and we're on Facebook and Twitter. This program comes to you from American University in Washington. This is NPR.
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