From The Archives: A 2008 Conversation With Barbara Walters
A conversation from the archives with Barbara Walters about her 2008 memoir "Audition," a story of family challenges, celebrity gossip and blazing a trail in TV news.
Diane and guests discuss the week’s top national stories, including the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, the October jobs report and the final push before Election Day.
Major Garrett, White House correspondent for National Journal, and Jeanne Cummings, deputy government editor for Bloomberg News, address a caller’s question about New York and New Jersey’s handling of Hurricane Sandy. The caller asks why we haven’t learned from the devastation caused by Hurricane Katrina.
MS. DIANE REHMThanks for joining us. I'm Diane Rehm. The East Coast begins a long recovery from damage caused by Hurricane Sandy. The U.S. economy added 171,000 non-farm jobs in October. And President Obama returns to the campaign trail as Gov. Romney sets his sights on Pennsylvania. Joining me in the studio on the final domestic hour of The Friday News Roundup prior to the election: Major Garrett of National Journal, Jeanne Cummings of Bloomberg News, and Glenn Thrush of Politico.
MS. DIANE REHMI do invite you to join us. Your questions, comments are always welcome, 800-433-8850. Send us your email, firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow us in Facebook or Twitter. Good morning and welcome to all of you.
MS. JEANNE CUMMINGSGood morning.
MR. GLENN THRUSHGood morning.
REHMJeanne Cummings, what does this morning's jobs report tell us about the economy and what's happening?
CUMMINGSWell, the report say that we created 171,000 -- dollars...
CUMMINGS...171,000 jobs in the past month which is a little higher than what the estimates had been. And so it shows that the economy is still stabilizing. It is improving. You take that data, and you add it with the fact that consumer confidence is at its highest level since February 2008. We've had manufacturing expand as well. So those are good signs, although the jobless rate remains problematic.
REHMAll right. And, Major Garrett, Gov. Romney has just said, "Today's increase in the unemployment rate is a sad reminder that the economy is at a virtual standstill. The jobless rate is higher than it was when President Obama took office, and there are still 23 million Americans struggling for work."
MR. MAJOR GARRETTAbsolutely. You saw -- I think all of us saw -- on the reporter end who receive emails from various Republicans -- instantaneous reaction to the jobs report. Speaker Boehner put out a statement right away. So did House Majority Leader Eric Cantor. The Romney campaign responded quickly. Several Republican senators did as well. I haven't seen -- now, I turn my cellphone off in consistency with the rules here, so I don't know if the president has weighed in yet. But nothing from the Obama campaign...
GARRETT...and there's a strategic reason for that. I was in Chicago two days ago and met with all of the senior Obama advisors one last time before the election, and they were not looking at this report as a huge pendulum-swinging moment. They said, look, the country has absorbed the economy as it is, and the president is running in the context of that economy.
GARRETTAnd what we're going to focus on, and our strategic approach will be what it's been for the last two weeks, get out to vote, make sure our message is consistent with where the economy is, but we do not anticipate a pendulum swing based on whatever the number was going to be, up or down.
REHMGlenn Thrush, what do you make of this 23 million figure?
THRUSHI mean, obviously, that is the foundational argument that Mitt Romney has to make in order to be elected president, particularly in these battleground states. The dissonance happens -- and who could have predicted this even a year, a year and a half ago, is that in these battleground states, particularly in Ohio and Wisconsin, where, I think, the trench warfare is really going to be fought, is considerably better. It's considerably -- the unemployment rate is considerably below the national average, and consumer sentiment in those states is even higher.
THRUSHIn terms of this particular report, the sense in Chicago, as Major said, is that there were two potential market movers from here on in. The first was this report. And the fact that it wasn't a wow on either side, I think, makes it a fairly neutral entity. The other market mover is this huge investment that the Romney folks and their associated super PACs are making in some of these battleground states, and they are outspending the Obama side hugely. So one down, and one to go.
REHMAll right. And, Jeanne Cummings, I want to ask you about that 23 million figure. Isn't that somewhat piling on?
CUMMINGSYeah. He counts more people as being unemployed than the labor department does. There are economists who do that. There's a way to expand that number, and that's to count the people who are underemployed. They're part-time, and they wish they were full-time, people who've dropped out of the job market, gone back to school or stopped looking for jobs. He'll roll them all in there to get the biggest number possible.
CUMMINGSAlso, in his statement, he said that the unemployment rate is higher than when the president was elected. That's true, but it's very modest. He -- when the president was elected, the unemployment rate was 7.8 percent. Today, this month, they increased it to 7.9 percent, so we're talking about a tenth of a point.
REHMAll right. And what about...
GARRETTAnd down from a high of 10 percent.
GARRETTAnd down from a high of 10 percent during the president's term, and trajectories matter in these situation.
REHMWhat about consumer confidence and standing, Major Garrett?
GARRETTWell, look, as Jeanne mentioned, consumer confidence is not robust, but it is improving, the number for the Conference Board for this most recent month, 72.2 for context. The solid or kind of bumptious consumer confidence number is about 90. So we last say that in December of 2007. It has been moving steadily upward. On that confidence scale, people are more eager in the next six months to buy cars, a little bit less eager to buy homes.
GARRETTBut generally speaking, they feel better about their own personal finances, and they seem more interested in making consumer-oriented purchases the next six to 12 months. And that is indicative, I think, of two things: Generally, the economy is not contracting -- it's expanding slowly -- and secondarily, I think there's been a trend line for the last three years. And I think it's one of the reasons people feel a little bit better about themselves.
GARRETTPeople have been, since the Great Recession, deleveraging their own economic situation, buying down their debt, paying down credit card bills, getting their own personal financial house in order. Less confident that Washington can do that but more committed to doing it themselves. And once you get a little bit more sense that you're moored a little bit more securely -- relationship income to debt and things like that -- you feel a bit more confident.
REHMSo, Glenn, you feel that none of these figures is going to affect the election, that people have already made up their minds?
THRUSHI think it's baked in some of the trend lines. You know, obviously we're seeing the usual flurry of press releases, and to me, one of the really fascinating questions I have -- I'm sure major and Jeanne have asked themselves -- are what are the alternative press releases that the Republicans would have sent out had this been a more difficult report for Obama?
THRUSHBut, you know, this is very much in keeping. And I can tell you that Chicago has been fairly pleased with the trajectory of the unemployment report over the last couple of months. But, you know, that said, Joe Biden, early on, made a prediction that the stimulus would reduce the unemployment rate in this country by something -- what was the number that he had -- 6 percent.
THRUSH6.3 percent. And that is very much hanging over the Obama campaign.
REHMGlenn Thrush, he is congressional reporter for Politico. Jeanne Cumming, she's with Bloomberg News. Major Garrett, White House correspondent for National Journal. Do join us, 800-433-8850. Let's talk about the toll of Hurricane Sandy. It certainly became more and more clear throughout the week. How bad does the devastation look, Glenn?
THRUSHWell, I am from Shorefront, Brooklyn. I'm from Brighton Beach in Brooklyn, and I've been talking with some friends and family who are back there. And this is really a devastating situation. The 60th precinct, which is the precinct for Coney Island, Brighton Beach and Sheepshead Bay, had five feet of water in it. Coney Island Hospital had a fire and was out of commission for a significant period of time.
THRUSHI just don't think that people in other parts of the country are really absorbing the enormity of this crisis in New York. I think people have sort of a sense, almost take it for granted that New Yorkers are able to shrug this sort of stuff off. But this is a crisis that is really unprecedented, and in a certain way, more far-reaching than Sept. 11 for the city.
REHMIt's really interesting. Last night, you saw pictures of individuals who had not -- whose areas had not been touched, who were clamoring for fresh water, for food. It was getting cold out. They were beginning to feel the effects of that. But cleanup and recovery is under way. Isn't there a promise that electricity is going to be back on by tonight, Jeanne?
CUMMINGSWell, that's a promise, but it's really, really difficult because of the urban nature of this particular disaster. There's layers and layers of wreckage. And so they now -- the governors of Virginia and a bunch of other states are now shipping all their crews North to try to help New Jersey, to try to help New York. But as Glenn said, the damage is so extensive where the governor, Gov. Christie, was on the radio saying, we don't -- we need rails. We need to rebuild rails. We need signals. We need -- so much infrastructure needs to be repaired.
REHMIt's extraordinary that they did get one part of that subway working by yesterday.
GARRETTYes. And what they can get up and running, they will get up and running as immediately as possible. Traffic has snarled horribly in New York because vehicles are the alternative means when public transportation is out. When you have rail lines that are soaked in not just seawater but also to storm drainage water, you have to dry them and then retest them and redo every single switch along the subway lines. I'm from Southern California. I didn't grow up in the New York subway system, but I've ridden it. I appreciate it.
GARRETTAnd Glenn is right. There is an enormous suffering. And in any storm that I've ever covered, and I did a lot of that before I got to Washington, you have sort of layers of psychological reaction. You have the absorption. You have the stiff upper lip. And then you have this is grinding me down. And I think we're in the stage right now where people are feeling a little bit grinding down, and what they're going to need to see in the next 48 hours is tangible, visible efforts to provide the basics: shelter, power, food, clean water.
REHMMajor Garrett, White House correspondent for National Journal. Short break here. And even as the New York Marathon will go on as planned, we'll talk about the reactions to that when we come back.
REHMAnd welcome back. As a final note on New York City, which has been so badly hit by Hurricane Sandy and certainly not just the city itself, but the mayor has said the city is going to move forward with the marathon on Sunday. What do you make of that, Glenn?
THRUSHI think it's a somewhat dubious decision. First of all, you have to understand, the New York City marathon is not a -- an immense event in the psychology of most New Yorkers. It is often considered to be, for folks in the outer boroughs, a bit of an inconvenience that snarls traffic. And, you know, it's clear that resources are being diverted to have this thing go, particularly the ferries, and you got to wonder if they wouldn't be better used elsewhere.
REHMAnd here is an email from Susan in Tulsa, Okla. who's wondering the same thing. She says, "Is it true that there are two big generators in the park just waiting for the New York City marathon? If so and if it were my neighborhood building that was dark and getting colder, I'd be getting ready to demonstrate at the marathon in a big way." What's the story here, Major?
GARRETTI don't know the specifics of the generator placement. But I agree with Glenn. I'm somewhat torn, but I'm on his side of it. I've ran three marathons. That was in my misspent youth. I don't do that anymore.
GARRETTAnd they're a great celebration. I know that New York City, as a world-class city, wants to keep its world-class events, even amid difficulty. But you need all sorts of police and security personnel to monitor the route and to keep the spectators and the like. That just seems like they can be doing better, more constructive and more immediately relevant things than guarding the marathon.
CUMMINGSWell, I'm actually lean -- I think it's probably a good idea to do it, and it's about normalcy. It's about trying to get your life back together and your city back together. It's also about commerce. There's a lot of money that -- I think I heard $350 million that the city can make off of this event. And that's important, too, for New York, just a matter of keeping businesses going. And so I, you know, I hope they balance their resources 'cause both Major and Glenn raised very good points about diverting essential services and the, you know, the government there will have to be very careful about that balance.
REHMAll right. Let's talk about the creation of an odd couple by Sandy, and that was in New Jersey with President Obama and Gov. Chris Christie. What happened, Major?
GARRETTI'm going to take a contrarian view on this, and I wrote about this at National Journal. I really do think there is a reckless construct here that there's an odd couple or there's some sort of outpouring of bipartisanship. Crisis breeds the need for government to respond. And there is no Republican or Democratic way to provide a generator, fill it with gas and provide power or pick up garbage or bring someone a clean bottle of water, OK? That's essential government action in a crisis.
GARRETTAnd if you're a Republican and if the president's a Democrat, he can order you a C-130, you tell the president you're doing a fabulous job, get here as fast as you can, get the equipment off, and let's work together. And that doesn't seem to me to breach ideological lines. It doesn't seem to me to be outside of the norm of a political campaign.
GARRETTOh, yes, I gave a big speech for Mitt Romney, and that's going to hold me back from dealing with the president. I just don't see that. I think this is a governing moment, a crisis moment and where you need confident people to tell people in distress, we're working on your behalf.
REHMBut the Republican response to Gov. Christie has not been very supportive. Jeanne.
CUMMINGSYeah. I actually think this is a bigger moment. I think that Gov. Christie didn't give one speech. He's given a series of speeches as a surrogate for Romney in which he's been very, very critical and condescending about the president. What I read in Christie was he actually met the president, and he had real conversations with him. And at one point, the governor said, I didn't really know him very well before. And I think that these two guys got to know each other in a moment of crisis, and they worked together. And I think they have more respect for each other.
REHMGlenn Thrush, Rush Limbaugh called Gov. Christie fat and a fool.
THRUSHOh, wow. Wow, well...
GARRETTThat's a beach ball for you to swing at, Glenn.
THRUSHYeah. Hey, thanks, Diane. I really appreciate that one.
REHMI thought you'd like to know that.
THRUSHWell, I'm going to try to erase the image from my mind. The one thing I would say -- I agree with Major that these disasters do bring out these leadership qualities. But you do have a candidate in Mitt Romney, who Chris Christie advocated quite forcefully for at the Republican National Convention, who advocated either cutting or potentially eliminating FEMA and had been very sharply critical of these federal responses.
THRUSHAnd we do have a national debate that has sort of dichotomized around the role of federal government. So I think it is a legitimate point. In terms of the local optics, Chris Christie has to run for reelection. He has to deliver the goods in terms of money for his state, and this state is going to go very strongly blue, and he has clearly made a decision about his own political future, in addition to Obama's.
REHMAnd what about the Bloomberg endorsement, Jeanne?
CUMMINGSYes. Disclaimer here: I work for Bloomberg News. I have only met the mayor once, and he doesn't have anything to do with what we do in our operations right now as he's busy running the city and handling his own disaster. But the disaster itself seemed to have pushed him off the sidelines. The mayor is an independent. He had already gotten involved in the campaign, creating a PAC using his own money to go out and buy advertising for independent candidates or candidates he saw as willing to work towards at the center.
CUMMINGSHe's -- that PAC is backing both Democrats and Republicans, not very many of them. Probably the most notable is the independent candidate for governor in Maine. He put a fair amount of money into that race. So he's active in politics, but he had said -- he'd been on the sidelines in the presidential in part because he's been critical of the president for not bringing together people and working from the center.
CUMMINGSAnd he's not -- he had not embraced Romney either. And it seems the storm pushed him over the edge. The issue of global warming is an important issue to Mayor Bloomberg, and then when he looked at, you know, the future and who will be leading the country as we come out of this and we, perhaps, have a debate about global warming, the president does believe global warming is an important issue. Gov. Romney, at this iteration of his career, is not so much concerned about it, and so that tipped Mayor Bloomberg.
CUMMINGSAnd I think in one way, under the storm, for the president, this was all in all not a bad week because it started with Colin Powell's endorsement. See, if Colin Powell's endorsement -- you have Christie coming around talking about governing and then you have Bloomberg, an independent, come off the fence, and you put those things together. And that's a good batch of things for the president in the final week of the campaign.
REHMYou had an unfortunate reaction from John Sununu to Colin Powell's endorsement of the president.
GARRETTYeah, and not the first time John Sununu has complicated the Romney messaging from the surrogate bench. He said, in response to a question from Piers Morgan, he left open that there was some other reason other than facts or leadership or accomplishment that Colin Powell might endorse, for a second time, President Obama. And he said that must be about race. It must be some racial pride that he has there.
GARRETTAnd within about an hour, he backtracked from that, I'm sure under the furious advocacy of the Romney campaign. And it was an unfortunate moment for someone who, A, knows better or certainly ought to know better and who needlessly injected into an endorsement something that Republicans I don't think believe and certainly the Romney campaign doesn't believe and doesn't do anything to advance the cause of the candidate he was theoretically trying to help.
REHMSo overall, what impact does this storm, if any, have on people's thoughts about going to the polls? Glenn.
THRUSHLook, it's impossible to know. You know, we're starting to see, I think, we -- the president has had a very solid week in terms of the polling, particularly in the battleground states and is even, in terms of the RealClearPolitics average, polled even or slightly ahead of Romney, which wasn't the case a week ago. That said, we're dealing with a fundamentally different electorate than we've been dealing with even a decade ago.
THRUSHA very large number of voters -- and I'm not exactly sure how it breaks down pre-Sandy or post-Sandy -- already cast their ballots prior to that. So whatever impact it would have had -- and I think it is slightly a positive for the president -- is diluted by the -- those voting patterns.
CUMMINGSWell, I think that it does matter in that I think Romney had momentum coming into this week. There were a lot of things going his way, and he essentially lost the last week of the campaign. And not that he did anything wrong. He, you know, he did his events as best as he could. He, you know, made sure he was respectful of what was going on on the East Coast while he was campaigning out West. But everything else drowned it out. And so I think that was -- that stalled his momentum, and it's very hard to pick that back up when you've only got three or four days left.
GARRETTPicking up on Glenn's point, about 80 percent of the vote in Colorado will be before Election Day. About 75 percent of it will be in Nevada. About 50 percent of it will be in Iowa. In Chicago, I can tell you the Obama campaign feels very good about Nevada and Iowa, particularly on the early vote, and they believe they might have those two battleground states won even before Election Day polls open. Quick...
CUMMINGSWhich is what happened in 2008.
GARRETTQuick other point about the campaign going on even while Sandy occupied federal and state and local resources and the media's attention, two quick stories: They lost power in northern Ohio as a result of Sandy and Cleveland, and they were phone banking for the Obama campaign there and continue to do so by candlelight. Now, there's a joke in Chicago that Cuyahoga by candlelight is a song that has a title. It just needs some lyrics and music.
GARRETTAnd in Hampton Roads, Va. -- and I wrote about this in the magazine this week -- they were forced to evacuate under a mandatory evacuation order. So the Obama campaign that was intending to phone-bank from Hampton Roads moved to the Omni Hotel in Richmond, purchased 75 rooms, occupied every conference room and the lobby all night and phone-banked by computer, which is what -- tells me, you know, even amidst the storm, the ground game continued unabated.
THRUSHAnd, Diane, you know, despite claims to the contrary on the Republican side, Mitt Romney does not have a ground operation in a lot of these states that is comparable to the Obama folks. There is a big enthusiasm gap between Obama 2012 and Obama 2008. But the one thing the Obama folks have done for the past year-and-a-half to two years is focus on the ground game, and they claim it's going to be decisive.
THRUSHThe Romney folks have the advertising budget, but I've -- you know, Major's anecdotes are great. We've heard the same sort of, you know, the same sort of stories about the Obama folks just kind of, you know, going on and on despite the storm.
CUMMINGSWell, when you -- I believe, you know, that campaign workers need to execute, and so they stayed on task. But the Republicans say -- and there's some evidence in data you get from the states -- that they -- they're doing a lot better on early voting. They're much more competitive. Now, in 2008, John McCain was so not competitive. To say you are more competitive is a pretty low bar. But I do think if you look at the stats, they're doing pretty well in Colorado and in Florida and in some of the states that will decide this.
REHMJeanne Cummings of Bloomberg News. And you're listening to "The Diane Rehm Show." Let's open the phones now, 800-433-8850, first to Ann Arbor, Mich. Good morning, Charlie. You're on the air.
CHARLIEHey, good morning, Ms. Rehm. I was astounded to see Eric Cantor attack the president about not working with the opposition, by the way, and brings up my point that I don't understand why they don't emphasize more the -- by the way, I'm a registered Republican. But the fact that there have been 500 filibusters in the last four years compared to, I think, 100 in the previous 100 years, it's so obstructionist, and yet they blame him for not working with Congress. And I think that obstruction has hurt the economy a lot.
THRUSHI found those comments by Eric Cantor interesting as well, having covered the...
REHMWhat does interesting mean?
THRUSHI think -- let me put it this way. Back during the negotiations over the grand bargain when it appeared that John Boehner and the president had an agreement, Eric Cantor was the, I would say, the representative/broker for some of the Tea Party contingent in the House of Representatives that scuttled that deal.
THRUSHAnd Eric Cantor has been among -- and I would say he has a -- the comparable on the Senate on the Democratic side, just to balance things out, would be Chuck Schumer -- has a reputation for being highly partisan and not somebody you go to to make a deal. So I think his comments with Mitt Romney yesterday were, in that regard, interesting.
CUMMINGSWell, I think the caller is right that Republicans -- you have to go back to Mitch McConnell's very early remark where he said that he wanted to make sure the president was a one-term president. So that revealed a mindset, and, throughout, the tensions were there. But the White House played its part in this. There was a time when Paul Ryan came -- when Paul Ryan came out with his budget, the president invited Ryan and others to come to hear one of his speeches.
CUMMINGSAnd Ryan went and sat right upfront, and the president was very partisan in that speech. And you -- it was insulting to the House Republicans who had come at his invitation and sat in the front. So both sides got -- have got to take a piece of this, and both sides have got to get their acts together if they're going to come back here right after this election and come to some kind of agreement that spares the country the so-called fiscal cliff.
THRUSHAnd one point just to agree with Jeanne on this, Obama is no Lyndon Baines Johnson in terms of his relationship with the Hill. This is not a guy who sits there and phones members of Congress.
REHMAll right. To Beaver, Utah. Good morning, Mark.
MARKYeah. I'd like to know, has the election ever been postponed, and can it be? Number two, what does the panel think about Hannity's and Giuliani's statement where they could -- where the president couldn't do more as to the gas lines and all the infrastructure problems that New York has?
GARRETTThe first question was?
CUMMINGSCan you postpone the election?
GARRETTNo, we didn't for the Civil War, and we're not for Superstorm Sandy, fact of the matter.
CUMMINGSYeah. It's in the Constitution.
GARRETTYou know, we waged an epic battle for the future of our country, and we didn't -- where lots of people died and there were huge battles raging. We had an election, OK?
THRUSHDetails, details, details.
GARRETTYeah. So we're not going to do it for Superstorm Sandy, and arrangements will be made. Provisional ballots, if they're necessary, will be cast and counted, OK? So that's not going to complicate anything, so we're not going to postpone the election. As for what does the president do on infrastructure, well, he can speed things up and limit or eradicate, for a period of time, federal regulations to speed things up. It was done in California after earthquakes. It's been done before. It can be done again.
REHMMajor Garrett. He's White House correspondent for National Journal. Jeanne Cummings is deputy government editor for Bloomberg News. Glenn Thrush, congressional reporter for POLITICO. Short break and right back.
REHMAnd here's an email from Tim in Ann Arbor, "Please discuss the statement and ads from Gov. Romney regarding Jeep and GM shipping jobs to China. Why has the campaign escalated the immediately discredited statements? Is there precedence for the CEOs refuting a mainstream presidential candidate in this manner?"
GARRETTNot that I'm aware of. And I think this isn't as important as anything that's happened in the last seven to eight days, particularly in the battleground state of Ohio and northern Ohio where, to use a metaphor I've used throughout this campaign, the Romney campaign needs to blow the cork out of the bottle. Obama's had a cork in the bottle in northern Ohio, meaning he's' consolidated support there, and Romney's always tried to take his southern Ohio base and move up the state to get over 50 or to get near 50, which he's never actually been consistently.
GARRETTAnd part of northern Ohio -- and the reason Obama campaign has been successful there is because of the continued debate about the auto bailout. It's very essential to the economy up there. So this Jeep ad says, hey, the bailout is going to send Jeep jobs to China. There was one little hook in the water in the Bloomberg story, which if Jeanne wants to comment on it, I welcome that...
GARRETT...that said that there might be production in the future in China, if I remember the story correctly. And the Romney campaign extrapolated that to say, auto jobs to China. And immediately, the Obama campaign, understanding the potential import of this kind of conversation -- what? Jeep jobs to what? -- responded furiously and intensely. The Romney campaign anticipated some of that but not all of that. And they also didn't anticipate the standing up of GM and Chrysler to say, hey, this is a huge issue, and it strikes to what we're doing in our own identity...
GARRETT...in the state.
CUMMINGSWell, I think also the auto makers felt like they got bipartisan support. They were in trouble. The country bailed them out. The taxpayers bailed them out. And, you know, they are not moving jobs. They're not moving U.S. jobs, sorry.
REHMSo why would the Romney campaign...
CUMMINGSWell, let me...
CUMMINGSWell, the Romney campaign and its advertising, frankly, has pushed all kinds of boundaries and not just on auto makers. That's a whole different topic. But first of all, the way they first tried to get it out from under this because the newspapers in Ohio have come down very hard on them as well is they tried to claim that the Bloomberg article was inaccurate. So I want to make the record clear here.
CUMMINGSThe Bloomberg article was not inaccurate. It was correct. And what it stated was that they were negotiating with Chinese companies to build Jeeps in China with Chinese workers. They were not taking American jobs. They are expanding jobs in Ohio and in the U.S. And so it was -- what --- the way Romney interpreted it was completely wrong.
THRUSHIt's political malpractice. I mean, why would you, in the heat of a race where the auto bailout is the last prop that the Obama folks have holding up their majority, mention this and risk a backlash? It's nuts. The other things is there was a poll in Michigan a couple of days ago showing Obama with a fairly robust lead -- I forgot whether it's five or six points -- in which 50 percent of respondents to this poll said the reason they're supporting Barack Obama was because of the auto bailout.
REHMInteresting. We have an email from Ohio, and it says, "Ohio's been buzzing this week with news that Romney has been lying about Chrysler. It's been in newspapers, on radio, on TV, everywhere. To have auto makers..." -- I mean, "Auto makers come out bashing Romney has been devastating to perceptions about Romney's competence and integrity."
CUMMINGSWell, they have the -- definitely that's the risk they took that Glenn was talking about. And it was -- and they've done this with other ads, but to do it on this issue, in Ohio, was nuts. But if you even look at abortion, they have running in northern Virginia an ad where a woman speaks of how Romney doesn't -- believes in abortion rights and believes in contraception and that it should be available to all women, and that runs in northern Virginia.
CUMMINGSAnd now in Roanoke, we have pro-Romney ads by outside groups that differentiate -- that go after Obama for holding the very same positions. So in terms of their advertising, they have pushed boundaries like we've never seen a major candidate do in recent times.
REHMAll right. Let's go to Pittsburgh, Penn. Good morning, Don.
DONHi. Thank you for taking my call.
THRUSHWhat I wanted to comment on was the debate about weather that's raised by this disaster in New Jersey and New York. And actually what I was hoping might come out of this was some kind of really significant move to build dikes and levees to protect the shore in New Jersey and New York, sort of comparable to what happened in Harlem in the '50s after the whole country was devastated by an -- by a hurricane. And I appreciate that, whether the weather thing is man-made or not, it's definitely happening.
REHMThat's for sure, Glenn.
THRUSHThe problem with this issue nationally is that we are really in a box politically on this. A lot of people look at the 2010 midterms in which the Republicans stormed back and took over the House as a referendum on Obamacare. My interpretation is it wasn't. It was, if anything, a backlash in Appalachia and the center part of this country against the climate change efforts that the Obama administration sort of participated in, but mostly Nancy Pelosi pushed.
THRUSHThis is a -- this is becoming, in some regards, the third rail of American politics. It really splits the Democratic Party in half. So I don't see this as changing that paradigm or, you know, or prompting billions and billions in new infrastructure spending, unless something fundamentally happens in terms of public opinion here.
GARRETTBut I think that was one thing that Mayor Bloomberg, in his endorsement, wanted to try to bet back into the public sphere, this idea that whether it's climate change or not -- and he thinks it is and he wants more -- he advocates more both global and U.S. action on that to reduce greenhouse gases, but also to deal with the infrastructure issue because if, as we are being told by scientists, sea levels are rising, this problem will reoccur.
GARRETTAnd it may be coincidence -- I'm not a meteorologist, I don't know -- but two hurricanes in 14 months in New York and northeastern part of the United States, Sandy and Irene, it does get people to think differently, and it may change some of this equation and certainly this conversation.
REHMAll right. To Boone, N.C. Hi there, Doug.
DOUGGood morning, Diane. Uncle Doug, up in Boone, N.C. Thanks...
REHMAll right. Sure. Go right ahead. Doug?
DOUGMy call -- I've got a two-part deal here, statement and some questions. One, I go along with your speaker, the male speaker. I forgot his name. But anyway, about the rest of the country does not really understand the magnitude of what is going up -- going on up there in New Jersey and New York. We have no idea. You can see a little bit of it on TV. But those people are so displaced. They're cold. They're hungry. They don't know who they are, where they're going. You see at all these fuel...
DOUG…that have no gasoline because, number one, they're unprepared.
DOUGThey don't even -- generator themselves. There should be a generator at every fuel station. I feel that we, as a country, are very, very unprepared. Did we not learn from Katrina? Evidently not.
THRUSHWell, different storms teach different lessons, OK? Levees were the issue in and around New Orleans for Katrina and the inability and unwillingness in the days after that crisis for the local official Ray Nagin, the governor, Gov. Blanco, and the president of United States to coordinate and act in a unified, efficient way. What you saw in New York, in New Jersey was an immediate effort to convey that that efficiency would be there, that the alertness and awareness was high.
THRUSHAnd, you know, when the president says, C-17s and C-130s will be offloading gear, transformers or generators and personnel and things like that, you know the resources of the federal government will be there and available, but there is only so much you can do when the catastrophe is so widespread and the damage is so great.
CUMMINGSWell, even after Katrina though, when they rebuild, they didn't build everything back like it was. They improved. And so there is a very good likelihood that those discussions are happening right now.
CUMMINGSYes, certainly. And one of the first groups that Gov. Christie wanted in was the Corps of Engineers so that they could start talking about what do they do and how do they rebuild it. And so I wouldn't be surprised if we don't see some improvements. Is it possible to protect these inlets from all water? No. But are there things they could do? Perhaps.
REHMTo Jacksonville, Fla., another key state. Good morning, Dennis. You're on the air.
DENNISGood morning. Thank you for taking my call.
DENNISI just wanted to point out that down here in Florida, our Republican governor and legislature saw fit to curtail our number of voting days -- early voting days from 12 down to eight. And then to pile on further, they have crammed 11 amendments to our Constitution out of the back in the -- of our ballot. The average citizen is going to -- it's going to take the average citizen about 45 minutes to get through the ballot.
DENNISAnd what the net effect of this is -- I voted on the third day of early voting, and I still had to stand in line for over an hour to cast my ballot. And right now, the numbers are way up as far as their saying locally that, you know, that our early voting is taking place. But come Election Day, with all this, it's just -- it seems to be a blatant attempt to curtail the vote but...
REHMYou know, we're going to do -- devote a full hour on Monday to the various kinds of problems people are encountering. And right along with Dennis comes an email saying, "Please comment on the Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted basically defying the Supreme Court by limiting early voting hours in the state of Ohio despite being ordered not to do so." Jeanne.
CUMMINGSWell, there are thousands of lawyers who are being marshaled by both parties to try to look out for this sort of thing. But without question, what the caller is talking about, there are state -- Republican state legislators in Ohio, in Pennsylvania and in Florida who are on the record that some of these things are aimed at trying to tilt the vote.
CUMMINGSAnd, you know, it happens. They've got the power, and they could do it. It has happened in the last cycle, and it happened in the cycle ever since 2000. There's been a lot of attention focused on what sort of things. They look small, but they can make a big difference on Election Day.
GARRETTNow, when I was in Chicago -- and this might have been a game-face moment for Jim Messina, the president's campaign manager, but I don't think so because the numbers tend to back him up. But he just got off a conference call with the Florida volunteers for Obama for America. And in the first two days of early voting, they had equaled their six-day total in 2008. So they had beaten their own internal goals for mobilization and early vote. And he was very excited about that.
GARRETTAnd I will tell you, I've detected -- and I don't know if Glenn has as well -- a kind of a sea shift among Democrats in Florida and the Obama campaign in Chicago about what may or may not happen in Florida. But a week and a half ago, I think they were prepared more or less with shoulder shrugs to convey we're probably not going to get it. We'll probably fall a point or point and a half short. In the last two or three days, I think they are much more encouraged about the prospects in Florida.
GARRETTAnd they think Florida will remain close all night long and that they could eek out a victory.
REHMMajor Garrett and you're listening to "The Diane Rehm Show." To Ali here in Washington, D.C. Good morning, you're on the air.
ALIHi. Good morning. My question -- I'm just saying Karl Rove, who is a master of election, has predicted Mitt Romney will win by 279 Electoral College. What do you think, guys?
GARRETTGo ahead, Glenn.
THRUSHSure. I guess anyone gets to predict anything they want. I mean, I wasn't going to expect Karl Rove to be predicting an Obama victory. But I have -- I will tell you one thing. The Romney people about a week ago were predicting 305 to 330 electoral votes in their favor. They felt there was a wave. The notion that a leading Republican surrogate would be talking about a fairly narrow victory tends to tell me that they've trimmed their selves a little bit.
GARRETTAnd look the -- there is something going on in both campaigns. The Obama campaign looks at the statewide polling data and looks at the top line number and feels very reassured. In Ohio, president up by four, Iowa, five or six, Wisconsin, four or five, et cetera, et cetera. The Romney campaigns look at -- Romney doing better with independence, GOP enthusiasm higher, early vote totals better, as Jeanne pointed out, than John McCain, so they think that they are banking votes, and then on Election Day they'll make the difference.
GARRETTRomney campaign is not giving up this race. And they do think that there is a possibility of a kind of a low-level tectonic shift breaking late and bringing these battleground states into their column in ways the pollsters are currently not detecting.
REHMJeanne, people are really concerned remembering what happened in the year of 2000. What's your thought?
CUMMINGSWell, I'm concerned, too. 2000 was no fun if you were a reporter, that's for sure. We were all up all night.
REHMNo. But if you are a citizen?
CUMMINGSYes. Yeah. Will we be here all night long? It's possible. It's possible. Let's face it, this is going to be a close election. And Romney has a shot at winning, of course he does. And both sides are showing confidence. And they would be crazy if they didn't. We're five days out. This isn't done yet. It's not over until next Tuesday, and they should both be fighting until the end.
CUMMINGSThat's the way politics works, and that's what a contest is all about. And so it is possible that they'll go to the provisionals in Ohio, and we'll be there late at night. But that didn't happen in the last two elections. And so perhaps we'll get through without a freak show, with just a good clean election night and we'll know who won.
REHMAnd one more thing. More than 2 million people this week watched the clip of a 4-year-old Abigail Evans posted by her mother on YouTube. Here it is.
MS. ABIGAIL EVANSJust because I'm tired of Barack Obama and Mitt Romney.
MS. ELIZABETH EVANSThat's why you're crying? Oh, it'll be over soon, Abby. OK? The election will be over soon. OK?
REHMAnd indeed, NPR issued an apology saying, on behalf of NPR and all other news outlets, we apologize to Abigail and all the many others who probably feel as she does. We must confess, the campaign's gone on long enough for us, too. Let's just keep telling ourselves, only a few more days, only a few more days, only a few more days. But the important thing, get out there and vote. Major Garrett, Jeanne Cummings, Glenn Thrush, thank you all so much and have a great weekend.
GARRETTThank 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, Rebecca Kaufman and Lisa Dunn. 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 email@example.com, and we're on Facebook and Twitter. This program is a production of WAMU 88.5 from American University in Washington, D.C. This is NPR.
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