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.
Tampa, Fla., Mayor Bob Buckhorn said he was prepared to call off the Republican National Convention next week if Hurricane Isaac threatens public safety. The housing market showed more signs of recovery as home sales rose in July. And U.S. health officials said the West Nile virus outbreak in five states was one of the worst in American history. Naftali Bendavid of The Wall Street Journal, Jeanne Cummings of Bloomberg News and David Chalian of Yahoo! News join Diane for analysis of the week’s top national news stories.
- David Chalian Washington bureau chief, Yahoo! News.
- Jeanne Cummings Deputy government editor, Bloomberg News.
- Naftali Bendavid National correspondent, The Wall Street Journal.
Friday News Roundup Video
The panel discussed the reactions to Missouri Rep. Todd Akin’s comments about “legitimate rape.” Bloomberg News deputy government editor Jeanne Cummings said the reaction in the political world was “truly something we don’t see very often.” She said the last time both political parties pushed for a candidate to drop out of a race was in 1992. David Chalian, Washington bureau chief for Yahoo! News, said Akin’s remarks drove the Republican campaign’s message away from jobs and the economy.
MS. DIANE REHMThanks for joining us. I'm Diane Rehm. New home sales rise as the housing market slowly rebounds. Mitt Romney's energy plan would expand state's control over production, and Tropical Storm Isaac could force an early nomination vote at the Republican National Convention. Joining me to talk about the week's top national stories on the Friday News Roundup: David Chalian of Yahoo News, Jeanne Cummings with Bloomberg News and Naftali Bendavid of The Wall Street Journal.
MS. DIANE REHMThroughout the program, we invite your comments and questions. Call us on 800-433-8850. Send us your email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Join us on Facebook or Twitter. And Happy Friday before the convention everybody.
MS. JEANNE CUMMINGSGood morning.
MR. DAVID CHALIANHappy Friday to you.
REHMGood to see you all. Well, Republican Congressman Todd Akin who's running for the U.S. Senate-Missouri really created quite a firestorm this week. Let's hear exactly what he had to say.
REP. TODD AKINIt seems to me, first of all, from what I understand from doctors, that's really rare. If it's a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down. But let's assume that maybe that didn't work or something. You know, I think there should be some punishment. But the punishment ought to be on the rapist and not attacking the child.
REHMAll right. Jeanne Cummings, what was your reaction?
CUMMINGSWell, the reaction in the political world was truly something we don't see very often. Both sides immediately stepped up and criticized him for using the term legitimate rape. And for the science that he was trying to point to about how a pregnancy doesn't often occur as a result of a rape which medical -- the medical community stepped up and immediately started to debunk that as well.
CUMMINGSWe looked -- tried to think back on when the last time either party came out with such a full-scale effort to drive somebody out of a race and get rid of a candidate. And we had to go back to David Duke, who was the member of the KKK and was a Nazi promoter running in Louisiana or from Louisiana, and he wanted -- he ran in the 1992 presidential as a third-party candidate.
CUMMINGSSo it's -- this was truly a remarkable moment. Everyone tried to drive him out, and the reason wasn't just because of Akin. It was because of what happened next, and that is that the issue of rape and the issue of abortion. Both became subjects that Ryan and Romney became scrutinized on and were asked questions about, and it drove the conversation away from jobs and the economy. And it's now in congressional ads as well.
REHMAnd, David Chalian, despite calls, as Jeanne says, from all sides for him to step down, he says he's going to stay in the race. Will he be able to?
CHALIANWell, he certainly decided to stay in the race through this initial deadline that passed where he could easily have gotten off the ballot and replaced. There is a subsequent deadline where there would be some fees assessed for him to get off the ballot in late September. We'll see if he takes the same approach and just keeps his head down and stays in all the way through November.
CHALIANHe left -- in one of his interviews this week, he left open the possibility that he couldn't completely rule out the notion that he may not make it all the way till November. But I have to say, Diane, as astonishing as the swiftness and how robust that response was from the entire Republican establishment, it also was completely ineffective.
CHALIANIt didn't accomplish its goal which I think speaks to this moment inside the Republican Party a lot about how much power really exists at the grassroots level and how the establishment has lost its way to sort of make its power felt. You saw that happen as the week progressed. Mike Huckabee, on his radio show -- one of Todd Akin's big supporters -- came out in support of Todd Akin remaining in this race if that's what he wanted to do.
CHALIANThat kind of -- and then Todd Akin was down in Tampa this week to meet with Christian leaders and assess his candidacy with these supporters and that his grassroots base evangelical Christian community, they are onboard with Todd Akin staying in this race.
REHMAnd, Naftali Bendavid, the uproar over those comments truly took Mitt Romney and Ryan off message.
MR. NAFTALI BENDAVIDYeah. It happened at a pretty bad time for them because they're -- this is the moment, of course, leading up to the convention which is the opportunity for Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan to introduce or re-introduce themselves to the country. And the last thing they needed or wanted was, in the week ahead of that, to be talking about social issues, to be talking about abortion, to be talking about rape rather than to be talking about the economy. And even more specifically, when it comes to Paul Ryan, this is his moment to be introduced.
MR. NAFTALI BENDAVIDHe was being asked all kinds of questions about how his position on abortion, is it like Todd Akin's or not? Is it like Mitt Romney's or not? Is it like the Republican platform or not? So what this ended up doing is it took the Republicans completely off message, and it has to be said that this is not the first thing that's taking them off message. They seem to have had great difficulty talking about the economy which they believe is the issue that will win them the election, and this is a fairly dramatic instance of them being thrown off that message.
REHMAnd, of course, speaking of that Republican platform, Jeanne, it outlaws -- at least the draft outlaws all abortions.
CUMMINGSThat's correct, no exceptions for rape or incest. And the governor of Virginia, who is a platform chairman, said that the document reflects the grassroots opinion of the Republican Party, getting to David's point. But that is -- that's a -- the problem for the Republicans is that gives this issue legs because now it is the official position of the party, one that the Democrats will attack. And just to make it clear for the readers, Romney believes there should -- I'm sorry, listeners. Can you tell that I work in print?
CUMMINGSThat Romney's position is that there should be exceptions for rape and incest and the life of the mother.
REHMSo who holds sway here?
CUMMINGSRyan does not believe that.
CUMMINGSRyan also was co-author of legislation that inserted the word forcible rape which goes to this argument as well. Ryan has said, Romney's president. He's at the top of the ticket. I'll abide by his position. But you could tell from the platform that the party itself is not in sync with their nominee.
REHMAnd Paul Ryan backed away from questions on forcible and legitimate. He said again and again, rape is rape.
CHALIANHe was echoing President Obama's words this week from the briefing room. There's no doubt about that. I would also make the point that not just Gov. Romney's position is at odds with the platform. So was the party's nominee in 2000 and 2004. George W. Bush believed in those exceptions, as did John McCain, the Republican Party nominee in 2008.
CHALIANSo this is not the first time that we've seen the Republican nominee hold a different position than the platform that gets passed for the party as well 'cause these exceptions have been absent from the platform for some time. But the Akin controversy, to Jeanne's point, brings this all to the forefront and away so that that division between the nominee and the base of the party gets exacerbated.
CHALIANTo your point about Paul Ryan saying rape is rape, I thought one of the most fascinating things we heard from Paul Ryan this week, to echo Jeanne's point here, was on the plane with reporters between two of his events. And he said, he repeated the line about how Mitt Romney is the top of the ticket, and this is his policy vision.
CHALIANAnd I am comfortable with this because it's a step in the right direction, he said, which I found so fascinating because it begs the question, how much of Mitt Romney's record does Paul Ryan only sort of perceive as a step in the right direction and that was enough for him to get on board and take the number two slot?
BENDAVIDI think also, you know, both parties now see that Todd Akin is not getting out of the race, at least any time soon. And so they're starting to develop their strategies going forward taking that into account. And the Republican's strategy is very simple, which is changing the subject. You know, they spent Monday and Tuesday saying get out of the race. You got to get out. And by Wednesday, Mitt Romney was not talking about Todd Akin, talking only about the economy, and that's their strategy.
BENDAVIDAnd their hope is in a couple of weeks after the conventions, after the next job report, we'll only be talking about the economy. We'll barely remember who Todd Akin is. The Democrat's strategy is the opposite. They want to tie -- they want to make the Republican Party the party of Todd Akin. They want to tie every single candidate from Mitt Romney on down to Todd Akin. You're already seeing Democratic ads that talk about the Romney-Ryan-Akin position on abortion.
BENDAVIDAnd every congressional -- every Democratic congressional candidate is demanding that his Republican opponent denounce Todd Akin or return contributions from Todd Akin or explain how his positions differ or resemble those of Todd Akin. And that's the battle that's going to play out in the next few weeks: one party trying to keep the Akin story alive, the other party trying to pretend like it never happened.
CUMMINGSAnd the reason...
REHMWhat is this going to mean in Massachusetts, Jeanne?
CUMMINGSWell, one of the first ads that went up was for Elizabeth Warren, and it brought up the Akin remark. Now, Scott Brown, her opponent, her Republican opponent, he was one of the first to issue a statement denouncing what Akin said. In Massachusetts, I think this is a harder issue for Elizabeth Warren to take advantage of simply because Sen. Brown has proved to be a pretty adept politician.
CUMMINGSHe, in Washington, often voted against his Republican colleagues. He has a more moderate voting record. He has a really pretty good political antenna as demonstrated by him being first out of the box to say, whoa, I don't want to be associated with that. Now, nationally wide, this issue, though, could really have an impact, is that one of the key swing constituencies that Romney and Obama are both vying for are suburban independent women.
CUMMINGSThose women were with Obama in 2008. They swung hard to the Republicans in 2010, married women with children, another key swing constituency that switched from Democrat in '08 to Republican in '10. And so both sides believe that they are up for grabs again here in '12, and this is the kind of issue that the Democrats will try to use to tip the scale in their direction.
CHALIANI think that's entirely true. And to what Naftali was saying, I was with a senior Obama adviser yesterday who said, forget about Hurricane Isaac. Hurricane Todd, referring to Congressman Akin, has already beared down on Tampa.
REHMDavid Chalian, Jeanne Cummings, Naftali Bendavid, they're all here for the domestic hour of the Friday News Roundup. I hope you'll join us as well. I look forward to hearing from you.
REHMAnd, of course, while we're talking primarily about political news, other events have taken place. Last night, this morning in Chicago, 13 shootings. This morning in New York City, right outside the Empire State Building, four people shot. What in the world's going on here, Naftali?
BENDAVIDWell, it does seem like we've seen a number of outbreaks of really awful violence recently. Obviously, there was the Batman theater shooting, the shooting at the Sikh temple. Chicago's been struggling for some time with a bit of a crime wave. Now, we have the shooting outside the Empire State Building. We don't know much about it yet, although I understand police have said it's not terrorism. So in some of these cases, it seems to be domestic terrorism like in the Sikh shooting. In other cases, it seems to be gang-related.
BENDAVIDThis, you know, tends to reopen a debate about gun control, and that always comes up. But we don't ever seem to actually do anything about it. In fact, even the Democratic platform -- I asked somebody about this -- it doesn't seem like the Democratic platform is going to strengthen its position on gun control. They don't think that that's a politically advantageous thing to do. So it does seem like there's been a few of these recently, but I don't know that it's going to change the trajectory of our politics or our policy.
REHMAnd I wonder how many of you have heard about this. An email from John in Cleveland says, "Can your panel, please, comment on the Texas judge who was interviewed saying there was going to be a civil war if Obama is reelected? It seems to me that the least of Republican Party tries to bully everyone into doing things their way. If Democrats are in power, they no longer cooperate for a middle ground. But when they are in power, they expect everyone to fall in line." Jeanne.
CUMMINGSWell, it is -- it's been remarkable in the past since 2009 how the anger during the health care fight surfaced and led to the development of the Tea Party that the discourse has degenerated to really hard positions on both sides. And it will be interesting if, when, and -- I'm hoping that the judge was speaking rhetorically. But it is -- we have all of this fury that's bubbled up to the surface. And if Obama is reelected, he is probably going to be pressed not to cooperate.
CUMMINGSThe Republicans are likely to hold the Congress. They are not going to be in a mood to cooperate. If Romney gets elected, the Democrats and the Congress aren't going to be much in a mood to cooperate. So, you know, I think we're headed for stalemate for a while longer here.
CHALIANWell, I have not seen the full remarks from this judge, so -- but it certainly doesn't sound like a very judicious language coming from a judge to cite a civil war. And it is very much that kind of language that we saw throughout that whole period in 2009. I do agree in terms of what else the listener -- the emailer was saying about sort of cooperation or compromise. It's not just -- Jeanne's point is right -- not just will -- there's no sort of election result that would cause any one party to be more likely to compromise the other.
CHALIANIt's also that these election results are likely to produce even more narrow majorities in both chambers than exist right now, and probably, I would guess, the president, whomever gets elected, is going to be elected with a more narrow majority than last time around.
REHMLet's talk about the important news like the economy. What does the good news about housing this week mean for the economy, Naftali?
BENDAVIDWell, I mean, I think it is pretty good news in the sense that housing was, perhaps, one of the big drivers, I think you'd have to say, of the fiscal financial, economic problems we've been having. So a little bit of a rebound in that sector is really important and probably a prerequisite for things getting back on track. What we're seeing is that both prices and sales are going back up in housing, and you get the sense that the market is really bottomed out and is starting to head in the right direction.
BENDAVIDThat doesn't mean we're there. There's still a long way to go that people who feel like it could be better if perhaps credit was a little bit looser. But it's part of actually a number of other indicators we've seen recently that suggest that things are heading on the right direction albeit slowly. There was a feeling in the first half of this year that perhaps we're going to head back into another recession. I think it's fairly clear now that that's not going to happen, and that's, perhaps, the biggest significance of these numbers.
REHMAnd what about the bad news from the CBO, the Congressional Budget Office, on the looming fiscal cliff?
BENDAVIDYeah. What they said is that -- of course, they had previously warned that the fiscal cliff -- and what that means is these automatic spending cuts and that are supposed to take effect in January, beginning in January, and also the expiration of the Bush tax cuts. You know, they warned previously that this would be bad news, but they kind of ratcheted up the seriousness of their warnings. And they are saying that it could be a significant recession, that growth could plummet, that unemployment could rise.
BENDAVIDThe truth is my own personal guess is that Congress will get itself together, and it's hard for me to imagine politically than letting these things take effect in January. But the fact remains that if they wait until the last minute, that does its own damage, and businesses have no idea what's going to happen. They're worried about taxes going up and spending being cut. And I think the CBO's warning just underscores that while Congress is really not doing very much in this campaign season, there's this potential looming economic blow that could be pretty devastating.
CHALIANI do think the CBO story was probably the most significant story of the week here in Washington because they did ratchet up the stakes of just how high the stakes are for this fiscal cliff issue. While at the same time, we saw nothing but stale political rhetoric from both President Obama and Mitt Romney in response, just playing the blame game with each other. So it just begs for -- I wish one of these debates in the fall could be sort of just 90 minutes of the two of them actually debating the solutions to the fiscal cliff. But they don't do that. It's just pure...
REHMDo you want to get in the middle of that?
REHMJeanne, what CBO said was, if the fiscal cliff does occur, the unemployment rate would be back up to 9.1 percent by the end of 2013 and the economic conditions, that would probably be considered a recession.
CUMMINGSYes, a harsh warning to Congress. Now, that said, this Congress has gotten in a pretty lazy habit of pushing their problems down the road. And there is -- it is perfectly conceivable that they would come back after the election, be once again unable to come to an agreement because one side or the other or both sides actually would have to take a bit of pain. And then they push it off until March, or they push it off until April. And it's a regrettable habit that this Congress has gotten into, and it's conceivable that they would do so again.
CUMMINGSAnd also, just to David's point, if you look at the rhetoric on the campaign, what really is remarkable -- and we write about it today in Bloomberg -- is that neither side is talking about what they'll do the day they get elected to fix this economy. Both sides are talking about 10-year plans and nine-year plans and 12-year plans. And if we get this long-term thing in place, well, then everything will right itself. And what the voters want to know is, if you get elected, what are you going to do on, you know, Nov. 12 or 23 to help me?
REHMAnd what is the Fed saying? They met this week. They talked about, even if a fiscal cliff is averted, the economy would probably grow less than 2000 -- 2 percent in 2013. Will they or won't they provide a third stimulus, Naftali?
BENDAVIDWell, they send strong signals. This was actually minutes that were released from a meeting that was a few weeks go 'cause that's how they do things at the Fed. But, you know, they suggested strongly -- more strongly than they have in the past that they would take action, which presumably would be yet another round of quantitative easing. There's, of course, debate about effective that it is whether or not it makes sense if they do this is a period leading up to an election, that will be controversial for its own reasons.
BENDAVIDYou know, but in terms of the fiscal cliff itself, there's a flipside to this. The reason that these spending cuts were put into effect was 'cause of the deficit. So if they just put off spending cuts and, you know, tax increases, you know, that's fine, and maybe that'll prevent a recession. But it's going to make the deficit worse. And so that's the bind the Congress has now put itself in is that, on the one hand, actions that they need to take to cut the deficit on the other hand would hurt the economy and perhaps create another recession.
REHMYou know, I'm interested. I know that Chairman Bernanke is going to speak on the 31st of August in Jackson Hole, Wyo., and he's likely to signal then exactly what is going to happen. But you do wonder about the effects of the economy on the spate of recent disasters here in the U.S. California Gov. Jerry Brown declared a state of emergency Wednesday in three Northern California counties. David.
CHALIANWell, these wildfires and the drought that we've seen, I think it has sort of two different impacts. There's the immediate local -- state and local impact, and that devastates state and local budgets at a time where they can't afford to do that at all. But the drought issue is clearly affecting food prices. We're seeing corn more expensive than ever now. And when food prices go up at a time when Americans are feeling the pinch of gas prices and other costs in their daily lives, that can have a chilling effect on consumer spending, which, we all know, then could have a chilling effect on the overall economy.
REHMHere's an email from Chris. He says, "According to the Huffington Post, Romney said big businesses are doing fine in many places, and they know how to save money by using overseas tax havens. How do Romney and the Republican leadership reconcile that statement with their claim that businesses and the economy are hurt due to high business tax rates in America?" Naftali.
BENDAVIDYou know, I saw those comments reported, and I wondered some of the same thing. I haven't seen the full context of those comments, but they really jumped down President Obama's throat when he said the private sector is doing fine. And so for Mitt Romney to say big business -- which, of course, is only part of the private sector, but nonetheless -- it's doing fine seemed like an unusual choice of words.
BENDAVIDAnd, you know, we have gone to a point in the campaign where, you know, God forbid, you stray a little bit off message, and it becomes this huge furor for at least a day or two or, in the case of Obama's you didn't build that comment, for, you know, several months. And so, you know -- again, I didn't hear exactly what he said. It seemed like the kind of thing that the Democrats are probably going to jump on if only because they were the victims of that kind of piling on when Obama made similar comments.
CUMMINGSWell, when you put them in context, they're actually a bit worse. The context was big business has figured out how to use the tax code to manage to pay less than the onerous taxes in America by using tax savings, et cetera, overseas. But small businesses...
REHMAnd to whom did he say this?
CHALIANIt was a fundraiser in Minnesota last night.
CUMMINGSBut small businesses, they haven't figured that out yet, and that's the problem, that small businesses need some help. And so it was basically encouraging small businesses to get into the kind of tax avoidance that big business does. And that -- those remarks come on the same day that these Bain records showed up on gawker.com: 950 pages of internal Bain documents. Some of them have been public before. Others had not.
CUMMINGSBut among the things that it -- that comes out of looking at those, when we did our review, is that Bain had found every way it could to use overseas blocker corporations and various accounts to try to avoid paying U.S. taxes --all of it legal, although there are some tax experts who quibble. But there's no indication that what they did is illegal. But that's the context in which those remarks are said.
REHMJeanne Cummings with Bloomberg News, and you're listening to "The Diane Rehm Show." I'm interested that President Obama's campaign announced this week they would start receiving contributions via text message. They're the first presidential campaign to do this. How's it going to work, David?
CHALIANSo this is due to a FEC ruling, a recent ruling, and they are immediately taking advantage of it. In fact, campaign manager Jim Messina was the very first American in history to test it out and donate to the campaign via text message. This will work like charities have worked in recent years, where you can donate -- very quickly with the push of a, you know, button and put in the right text messaging code -- $10, a small dollar amount. And the campaign is now able to collect that in a way that they weren't before.
REHMIs this going to make up for these huge PAC dollars that are coming in?
BENDAVIDWell, it's not going to make up for them. But I think it does show that, while we focus a lot on the big-money donors, these technological changes have also made it possible certain kind of donations from small-dollar donors. And you're seeing that play out in some interesting ways. I mean, just to get back to the Todd Akin thing for a minute, you know, he's had to switch from a big-donor kind of campaign to a small-donor campaign that relies on evangelicals who support him.
BENDAVIDBut I also thought it was interesting that Claire McCaskill, one of the innovative things that her campaign did is she went on Twitter and bought an ad so that if you search for Akin on Twitter, the first thing that comes up is a fundraising appeal from Claire McCaskill. And so that got a lot of attention both in the political world, but also sort of in the techno geek world because it was an innovative use of Twitter. But I think it's the kind of thing we're going to see a lot more of.
REHMSo how does Akin -- how do Akin's remarks help or boost McCaskill's candidacy?
BENDAVIDWell, they -- well, other than, you know, other than the idea that perhaps voters may be reluctant to vote for a guy like Todd Akin, just in terms of fundraising, you know, they're not giving out numbers, but it's remarkable the way -- the appeals that they've made. The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, you know, McCaskill's campaign itself, groups like EMILY's List -- everybody is raising money off the Todd Akin remarks.
REHMWhy is her seat so important, Jeanne?
CUMMINGSWell, she's -- the Republicans have already been calculating they could win that one. And for them to retake the Senate, they need -- is it four or five?
CHALIANFour. President Obama's.
CUMMINGSFour. OK. And they were counting on her, on that particular seat, because Obama's popularity in Missouri has dropped considerably, and Claire McCaskill is very closely associated with the president. She was one of the first to endorse him in his primary campaign against Hillary Clinton four years ago. So, with him, they hope she goes. So they were really counting on the seat.
CUMMINGSAnd to get a sense of how important these remarks are in that race, you just listen to the volume that went on earlier this week: 48 hours of everyone in the Republican Party screaming for him to get out because they now feel like that race is even, and they were -- they could have been way ahead of McCaskill. She now still has a very tough race ahead of her, but it may be closer to a 50-50 race.
CUMMINGSA recent poll, quick poll, showed that she is ahead of Akin. He could still make up ground, but it's still viewed now as a much closer race than it would have been had one of his primary opponents been victorious.
CHALIANAnd somewhat oddly, you don't normally see this in politics, but the McCaskill campaign...
CHALIAN...was quick to jump on that poll and say, no, no, no, we're not really ahead. It's really much closer. They want to keep the story alive, and they want to keep the fundraising that's been going along with it alive as well.
BENDAVIDWell -- and most of all, they want to keep Todd Akin in the race...
CHALIANYes, without a doubt.
BENDAVID...because the McCaskill campaign and Sen. McCaskill herself has been very gracious about saying, hey...
CUMMINGSOh, yeah. She's the only one saying nice things about Todd Akin these days.
BENDAVIDRight. She's saying Todd Akin shouldn't step down. He should stay in the race. He's a worthy opponent, you know? And I think that's because she does feel like he's the guy she can probably beat the most easily.
CHALIANAnd she played in the Republican primary to make sure he was the nominee.
REHMDavid Chalian of Yahoo News. Short break here. When we come back, we'll start taking your calls. Stay with us.
REHMAnd welcome back. A number of you have commented on the judge's statements in Lubbock County, Texas. To clarify, in the state of Texas, the county judge is chair of the county commission, not an actual judicial judge. But here is the text of his comments. He said, "President Obama is going to try to hand over the sovereignty of the United States to the United Nations. And what is going to happen when that happens? I'm thinking the worst, civil unrest, civil disobedience, civil war maybe.
REHM"And we're not just talking a few riots here and demonstrations. We're talking Lexington, Concord, take up arms and get rid of the guy. Now, what's going to happen if we do that, if the public decides to do that? He's going to send in UN troops. I don't want them in Lubbock County, OK, so I'm going to stand in front of their armored personnel carrier and say, you're not coming in here." And those are the words of Judge Tom Head of Lubbock County, Texas. Naftali.
BENDAVIDWell, I mean, they seem like pretty shocking comments. If he's head of the county commission, that sounds like a local elected, you know, position, so I don't know if that's better or worse than being a judge. But that's -- those are obviously fairly extreme off-the-wall things to say.
BENDAVIDInflammatory. And it does, you know, I mean, we've mentioned this before. But the language had -- does seem to have gotten coarser and more angry and more provocative and more inflammatory in recent years, and it's too bad. I mean, to some degree, that can't be controlled, but when it's an elected or government official, I guess you'd hope that they show a little bit of restraint, not talk about civil war and an invasion by the United Nations and tanks in Lubbock County. You'd hope that they be a little bit more restrained than that.
CUMMINGSWell, if what he says Obama is going to do -- to hand us all over to the UN -- were to happen, then maybe we would have a civil war. But it's not going to happen. I mean, it's just the kind of, you know, extreme black helicopter conspiracy theories that have been floating around in our country for a long time.
REHMBut to say that publicly, Jeanne, I mean, really makes me wonder how individuals like that get a microphone to say things like that and to inspire perhaps what we see happening around the country. David.
CHALIANIt's obviously irresponsible rhetoric. But to Jeanne's point, it is kind of fantasyland. I mean, what is he talking about? I mean, what -- the picture he paints is not possible. I'm mostly offended, I guess, by his call for civil war and then moving over to the revolutionary war in terms of Lexington and Concord or coming up to -- he's sort of mixing his metaphors there.
REHMAll right. Let's open the phones. We'll go now to Winter Haven, Fla. Good morning, Roger. You're on the air.
ROGERGood morning, Diane. Good morning, panel.
ROGERI just want to -- basically a -- well, I guess I'll frame it as a -- like Mitt Romney. When he goes around the country saying things that others have pretty much said is actually incorrect, like when he references the $716 million shifting that Obama's doing or the food stamp requirement. OK. The point that I make with this is that it seems -- other than him taking those positions of things that if you really dig into, it turns out that, you know, there's more to it than what he says.
ROGERWhen there is some controversy within the Republican, you know, establishment, he seems to have to wait on the party members or other conservative figures to see what they're going to say before he responds.
REHMOK. And, Naftali, clarify for us, if you would, what the Romney campaign has been saying and what the reality is about that transfer of funds from Medicare.
BENDAVIDWell, this has to do with President Obama's health care plan, and that health care plan, there's no question about it, tried to cut the cost of Medicare. And they did it, first of all, by taking -- by going after Medicare Advantage, which is a sort of private program within Medicare. And they also achieved some savings by getting some of the people who provide healthcare through Medicare to agree to cut back on some of that. And so what they say they're doing is they are in completely logical ways, cutting out some of the waste that's in the Medicare program to improve the services.
BENDAVIDHowever, the Republicans say that that is going to inevitably hurt the beneficiaries, and this is an argument that they've been making since the last election. And that's been a back and forth. It's been going on. Now, it sort of come up again because of the Ryan plan.
BENDAVIDAnd because -- when Romney picked Paul Ryan, he has a plan to transform, really, the Medicare program into what they call a premium support system, what a lot of people call a voucher system where you'd get a fix payment, and then you could choose how to that to buy health insurance. And so in order to head off some of that criticism, I think the Romney campaign has gone after these $700 billion in cuts to Medicare from the Obama health care plan.
REHMBut is it -- what they keep saying is he's stolen that money from Medicare. Can you clarify?
BENDAVIDWell, you know, again, they would say that what they're doing is streamlining it and that they've gotten some givebacks, if you will, from some of the people like, say, medical device manufacturers and the services that they provide through Medicare. I mean, stealing is obviously a very strong word. I think Republicans, the Republican, you know, ticket does know they're a little bit vulnerable on this issue of Medicare. Paul Ryan's plan, you know, like it dislike it, it changes Medicare in a fundamental way.
BENDAVIDIt provides it where instead of his sort of guaranteed, we're going to take care of your health care, you have a certain amount of money that you can then use to buy health insurance. And a lot of people say, well, seniors, you know, don't necessarily have the ability to wade through all kinds of insurance programs. They worry that the money that they get will not keep up with the increase in health care cost. And so there are some real criticisms of that program as well as some strong defenses of it, and so this is something that the Republicans have come out with, all guns blazing.
CHALIANIt will surprise no one that nuance gets lost in a presidential election but I -- what the thrust of -- and there's no doubt Naftali's right, that why the Romney campaign is going so hard at this is to try to keep away from the whole notion of moving to a voucher system but their claim that he is stealing from Medicare to pay for Obamacare, right? It is true that the savings of -- in Medicare in the Obama health care law helped make sure that that law was paid for, that it's part of the money they used to pay for it.
CHALIANBut the picture that the Romney campaign is trying to paint is that you -- your money for Medicare is being taken away so that somebody else can have Obamacare. And that is not entirely true. The money is repurposed inside Obama's health care law for programs that relate to seniors as well, for filling the prescription drug hole, for -- there are things that it's paying for inside Obama's health care law that goes back to seniors' health care.
REHMAll right. Very briefly.
CUMMINGSWell, this isn't -- OK. This isn't just about nuance. This is completely disingenuous. The $700 billion was -- of savings was used by Ryan in his own plan. And Romney now, to gain a political advantage and to create a political argument, suddenly says he's going to keep that $700 billion there, will not touch it. He says that at the same time that Republicans say we've got to drive down the cost of entitlements. And so now Romney is not going to do that. They say, we're going to balance the budget.
CUMMINGSWell, now, Romney is leaving $700 billion untouched in Medicare, and he's going to continue the Bush tax cuts. There is no way he could provide us with a budget that actually works when he's making these kings of arguments.
REHMAll right. To Cleveland, Ohio. Good morning, Jim.
JIMGood morning. Thank you for taking my call.
JIMI'm -- and we -- I'm glad that we're talking about all these issues because I believe this election is not -- they're about -- is not about the economy stupid. It's about everything else. It's certainly like when you get married, you get the in-laws too. And I think the American public has to be very leery, especially about the republic because as a Democrat, like Will Rogers said, I belong to no organized political party. I'm a Democrat.
JIMBut the Republicans are so ideological about their policy that if they get in, the economy isn't -- there's no silver bullet for the economy. What we get with them are radical judges that overturned laws that have been in effect for years, the Voter Rights Acts, the money for campaigns, the union-organizing laws, the women's health issues. We get all of that with it. So when somebody sits down on the day after election, and if Romney is elected, when they take a look at what they get. Well, I didn't know that I was going to get that or (unintelligible) that.
REHMAll right. OK. Thanks for calling. Our caller mentioned the Voting Rights Act, and there's a lot going on with voting rights out there. ID demands that may not be able to met by some individuals who are perfectly in their rights to vote. Jeanne.
CUMMINGSWell, it is true that there are deep concerns that there are people who are going to make it, and it goes -- and it spans a gamut. If you look in Pennsylvania, there are seniors who may not have the proper ID as well as urban residence who may not -- or poor residents who may not have the proper ID. So it's -- it could have a broad effect on constituencies of both parties. But I have to say my personal favorite was in Ohio when the secretary of state out there was going to keep the voting locations open longer in Republican counties and close them earlier in Democratic counties.
REHMHow can that be?
CUMMINGSI mean, that's just my personal favorite.
REHMBut how could that be?
CUMMINGSNow, clearly, he has backed off.
CUMMINGSBut it was so brazenly partisan. It really was shocking.
CHALIANWhen you take partisan-elected officials and put them in charge of the voting system in our country, there is -- you can't -- they can't do anything that is not tinged with, of course, them seeking partisan advantage.
REHMAll right. To Jonesboro, Ark. Good morning, Bobby.
BOBBYGood morning, Diane. Thank you for letting me be on your show.
BOBBYI'll be very brief. As far as Mr. Akin, he did misspeak. I personally don't know the man. I'm in Arkansas. He's in Missouri. His terminology -- but the news media has not emphasized the last part of his statement, which said, punish the rapist, not the child. And the thing is this, those of us, whether we're a Christian, we're a Muslim, we're a Buddhist or whatever, there is a God. Even alcoholics and drug addicts believe in a higher power. God is the creator of life.
BOBBYHe knows when we're going to be born and when we're going to die and that we are going to be accountable for our actions. So the thing is this, Mr. Akin misspoke. I wouldn't -- I don't know if I would vote for him or not, but I don't live in Missouri. But the thing is, the news media, most of it, will not give him credit for saying punish the rapist, not the child.
BENDAVIDWell, I mean, I think -- a couple of things. First of all, I think the most -- the strongest reaction anyway has come from Republican leaders. In other words, this is in a situation where the media went after the guy without anybody else doing so. This is everybody, from Mitt Romney to Paul Ryan to Mitch McConnell and John Cornyn, saying he should pull out and then calling his remarks everything from inexcusable to offensive.
BENDAVIDBut it's also true that there's a pretty healthy segment of the, you know, anti-abortion and religious conservative community that feels like he is being unfairly pilloried and abused, that what he was saying -- you know, perhaps, he used some wrong words, but what he was saying was pretty clear. It was certainly no worse than a lot of other people have said. That there's a little bit of a double standard, and one of the things that is keeping Todd Akin going, and will continue to sustain him if he does stay in the race, is support from that part of the community.
REHMAnd you're listening to "The Diane Rehm Show." Let's go to Houston, Texas. Good morning, Emo. (sp?)
EMOHi. How are you doing, Diane?
EMOFirst time caller, I love your show.
EMOI just wanted to make a comment. One of your guests had talked about how Romney had just pretty much made a sound bite about leaving the $700 billion savings from Medicare on the table. And it just kind of seemed that since Paul Ryan had joined the campaign, he -- brains of it. I mean, even starting from the "60 Minutes" interview that they did together, questions on the budget and questions that really required, I guess, you know, higher analytical thinking, it seems that Romney has been kind of deferring to Paul Ryan on those questions.
EMOSo, I mean, I thought it was almost kind of funny that he made that comment 'cause the first thing I thought when I heard it was, I wonder if he asked Paul Ryan about this.
CUMMINGSWell, that -- certainly, that's what the Democrats want to paint a picture of, and it was the effect. I mean, that Romney was saying, I love the Ryan budget. And then once he got Paul Ryan, he got all the details in that budget, and nobody knows him better than Ryan. And that was risk that Romney took in choosing Paul Ryan because Ryan does know his budget inside and out. He's a detail kind of guy.
CUMMINGSRomney was trying to float with, you know, 59 points of light that are supposed to turn into a balanced budget. And now, he's stuck with every line item in it. Now, I just want to have one comment on the last caller. It is true that Akin may have misspoke. But even with the good part of what he said, punish the rapist, not the child, in between those two, there is a woman. And it was a total lack of compassion or respect or concern...
CUMMINGS...or recognition of the woman's role and what suffering from rape is. That is what was wrong, really, really wrong with what Akin said.
REHMNaftali Bendavid, finally, let's talk about Mitt Romney's new plans for the development of energy around the country.
BENDAVIDWell, energy has been, of course, a big topic for the Republicans and a big way to go after President Obama, from Solyndra to the Keystone XL pipeline. But the big outstanding thing about Romney's energy plan is that it would give more authority to states to control oil and gas exploration and drilling on federal lands within their borders. And that is not only in energy policy, but it's a federalist policy.
BENDAVIDI mean, there's a big feeling among the West that they're sort of this individualist West up against this, you know, controlling Washington. And I think his policy was as much a tip of the hat to that sentiment as it was to, you know, an overall energy policy.
CHALIANYes, I completely agree. He checks three boxes with this. He checks a sort of energy policy box, and he gets out there and, for a day, tries to divert attention from Todd Akin and other distractions and actually put out some sort of policy speech. He gets to appeal to, especially battleground states like Nevada and Colorado, to that Western sentiment of individualism and federalism. And, of course, he rolled it out in the same week he was raising a ton of money from the oil industry.
CHALIANHe slept overnight in midland Texas. And he raised a lot of money this week. So his high-dollar donors from that industry would be obviously also very pleased with loosening the permit and regulation aspect of drilling.
REHMAnd that's the last word from David Chalian of Yahoo News, Naftali Bendavid of The Wall Street Journal and Jeanne Cummings with Bloomberg News. Are you all headed to Tampa?
REHMAnd stay out of the rain. Thanks for listening, everybody. I'm Diane Rehm.
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