Inflation is high. The GDP has shrunk. But the job market has never been better. The Washington Post's Damian Paletta helps make sense of the U.S. economy today.
Guest Host: Susan Page
President Obama outlines a strategy to combat the threat of ISIS, including air strikes and arming Syrian rebels. Congress debates the President’s Middle East strategy while leaders vow to pass a spending bill that would avoid another government shutdown. The N-F-L comes under fire once again for its handling of the Ray Rice domestic violence case. The White House says the President will delay taking action on immigration until after the midterm elections. In Ferguson, Missouri, the city council proposes broad changes to the court system in the wake of the Michael Brown shooting. And results from the latest and final round of primaries. A panel of journalists join Susan Page to discuss the week’s top national news.
- Karen Tumulty National political reporter, The Washington Post.
- Ron Elving Senior Washington editor, NPR.
- Chris Frates Investigative correspondent, CNN.
Featured Clip: After Ray Rice’s Suspension, What’s Next For The NFL?
What exactly NFL Commissioner Ray Goodell knew about the domestic abuse incident between Baltimore Ravens player Ray Rice and his then-fiancee, and when he knew it, could impact not only league rules, but also how the organization is funded and who serves as its leader.
Could Condoleezza Rice take Goddell’s place? Could Congress cut off the NFL’s non-profit status? Watch our panel discuss the issues below.
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Watch our panel in studio as they round up the week’s top news.
MS. SUSAN PAGEThanks for joining us. I'm Susan Page of USA Today sitting in for Diane Rehm. She's recovering for a voice treatment. She'll be back later this month. The nation reacts to President Obama's plan to defeat ISIS. Congress considers a White House request to arm and train the Syrian rebels. And the NFL comes under fire for its handling of the Ray Rice assault video.
MS. SUSAN PAGEHere with me for the domestic hour of the Friday News Roundup, Ron Elving of NPR, Karen Tumulty of The Washington Post and Chris Frates of CNN. Welcome to "The Diane Rehm Show."
MR. CHRIS FRATESIt's good to be here, Susan.
MS. KAREN TUMULTYGood morning.
MR. RON ELVINGGood to be here.
PAGESince it's Friday, our listeners can watch a live video stream of this hour on our website, drshow.org. We'll also take your calls later in this hour, 1-800-433-8850 is our toll-free number. You can always send us an email, firstname.lastname@example.org, or find us on Facebook or Twitter. Well, Ron, big speech by the president, nationally televised address from the White House this week. What has been the reaction in Congress?
ELVINGThe reaction in Congress has been unpredictably mixed, as opposed to the predictably mixed. Many of the people in Congress have been campaigning already for the November elections and for their future political status against the president's, what's perceived as, weak foreign policy, particularly with respect to ISIS or ISIL or the Islamic State, to take the name they prefer.
ELVINGAnd suddenly, here's the president asking for them to approve his actions against that group, particularly to give more money and to allow more freedom in terms of using our military in that part of the world, which suddenly makes people feel a little bit uneasy. So you get people who have been long-time Obama supporters suddenly saying, well, I'm not crazy about this idea, and then you get a lot of people who have been among his most vociferous critics saying, finally, the president is doing the right thing.
PAGESo Karen, Congress opining. What does Congress actually need to do?
TUMULTYWell, at this point, I think, one of the most hopeful signs for the president here is the fact that the House leadership seems to be behind him, but they've got some recalcitrance among their own members so there are probably going to be some hearings next week, you know, and then, at that point, I think, they decide how they handle a vote on this, if, in fact, one occurs.
TUMULTYYou know, there are a couple of benefits. The president says he doesn't need congressional authorization, but he essentially wants Congress with him as a partner. And I think that just having the discussion, just having the hearings, having it out on the House floor brings a sort of clarity of purpose to this entire endeavor, which is really important, given the fact that this is not going to be a short term thing.
TUMULTYIn fact, this is likely to be something that outlives the Obama presidency itself.
PAGESo Chris, Congress -- the White House wants Congress to approve some funding and also to authorize funding to help train Syrian rebels in Saudi Arabia to go back to Syria and fight. Is he likely to win on those two fronts?
FRATESYou know, that's a great question. He wants 500 million to help train those rebels and there's a couple of questions right now facing Congress. One is, do they do that before they leave to go home in two weeks to start campaigning for election? And as Ron pointed out, not many of these guys want to take a vote on foreign policy. So there's a big question of whether they'll do that funding before they go home or whether they will do it after the election.
FRATESOne of the ways they could do it is they could put it into the continuing resolution to continue funding the government after September 30, but there's mixed reaction there, too. Some Republicans want a separate vote on that. Some Senate Democrats, while the House has gotten behind the president's policy dealing with ISIS by and large, there's some Senate Democrats who are saying, well, I'm not crazy about that.
FRATESI don't think I want to vote to arm the rebels. Do we know if we're arming the right people? Because, remember, ISIL is running around with a lot of the arms that we sent into Iraq and so there is a hesitancy among some of his Democratic colleagues in the Senate to do that again. So this really, there's not a lot of time to talk about this. Everybody wants to get out of town.
FRATESYou know, Republican want to get out and try to take back the Senate. Democrats are very keen on defending it and they don't want to put up their vulnerable members into a very cantankerous debate. So it really remains to be seen how much Congress will deal with this and how they'll deal with it going forward.
PAGEYou know, the irony is, of course, those critics are making the arguments that the president himself was making until this week.
ELVINGThat's right. And this really is a case of somebody who has spent his entire time on the national political stage as a dove, as an outstanding dove, if you will, the dove of his age. And now, he has become a reluctant hawk in the 11th hour because it's been forced upon him. And let's face it. It was forced upon him by a set of video tapes that were put up by the terrorists themselves, beheading two American journalists, putting that in our face, and that has galvanized the American people as we have not seen in a very long time.
ELVING94 percent of the people in the country told The Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll that they were aware of those beheading video tapes. That is the most people to say they saw a news event in the last five years of any kind.
PAGESo Karen, we talked about the response the president got in Congress. You have a front-page story in The Washington Post today about the response -- this standing now, the president's standing, including with the groups that elected him, his strongest supporters. What's happening there?
TUMULTYWell, in our latest poll, which was conducted right before the speech, we saw a significant erosion among three groups of approval for the president, women, Hispanics and young people. And I think, of those three, the most important are women because, first of all, they have gone from, you know, supporting him for his reelection by 55 percent to disapproving of his job performance by 55 percent.
TUMULTYAnd these are the -- they are the, you know, a traditional swing group and so I did some reporting beyond that and called up some of these poll respondents and I was really struck by the degree to which national security is effecting this and women telling me that they were really upset by the fact that the president went and played golf after he expressed his revulsion for the killing of an American journalist.
TUMULTYThere is a real sense among these women, the ones I talked to, the ones who have been talked to in focus groups and again you're seeing it in The Wall Street Journal poll as well, that, yes, President Obama has been handed a big set of problems, but that, in doing that, as one women put it to me, he's lost his way.
PAGEWe had USA Today/Pew Research Center poll about 10 days ago and we asked, is President Obama's approach tough enough when it comes to foreign policy? A majority of Americans said no. That included some people who criticized President Obama on every front, but it included 40 percent of African-Americans, 41 percent of Hispanics, 52 percent of women saying he was not tough enough. Will this new speech and this new strategy toward ISIS help him make some repairs?
TUMULTYYou know, I'm not really sure there's enough time because at least, not by this midterm election, but I do think that it could have implications for 2016, the degree to which, you know, if this works, you know, I think that the Democrats have done well with women the last few cycles. It could help. But if it doesn't work, I think, you know, again, for instance, women, in particular, will be looking for somebody with deeper foreign policy experience the next time and, again, perhaps a more hawkish attitude.
PAGEAnd Chris, you mentioned the short term spending bill that the Congress is considering. Any chance of a shutdown or will they take care of this?
FRATESI think they're gonna take care of it. Nobody wants to see a shutdown on either side. If you remember, last fall, the Republicans pushed it to a shutdown. We got the basement, the historic basement approval ratings out of Congress. Certainly, Republicans don't want that to happen again. The only thing that saved them last fall was Obamacare went haywire and so they were able to come out of that nosedive. Everybody wants to get that passed.
FRATESAnd just to pick up on Ron's point, I think it's interesting, a Gallup poll showed that two-thirds of people think the world is more dangerous than it was just a few years ago and 71 percent of Americans support air strikes, but a majority of folks don't approve of the president. So he has a situation now where they want to see more action, but they're not sure he's the guy who can lead them. And I think that's an opportunity for him and he really needs to show some leadership here in the next few weeks and get some results quickly if he's gonna help Democrats in this midterm election.
ELVINGI have to wonder whether the White House realizes the degree to which the gulf has become sort of a focus point, a symbol, a troupe for people to look at and say, why is he doing that? Why is he playing golf? And that's always so well, you know, visualized in the media where we see him playing golf, we see him having a good time. And, look, I think the president should relax. I think the president should have an opportunity for some recreation.
ELVINGThe problem is that it comes to symbolize a lack of seriousness about problems that people are feeling quite acutely. And now that that's taken such a vicious and hideous face with what has happened in Syria and Iraq, that is the point at which the president obviously has decided he must pivot.
PAGEAnd in this "Meet The Press" interview last week, the president acknowledged it was a mistake to go play golf immediately after speaking from Martha's Vineyard about the beheading of journalists and the American reaction to that. Well, Chris, we rarely have sports segments on "The Diane Rehm Show" News Roundup. This will be an exception because of this video that shows Ray Rice punching his then fiance, now his wife, the NFL's response to it.
PAGEWhat is happening on this story now?
FRATESYou know, this story just seems to get worse for the NFL with every passing day. We had, earlier this week, TMZ release the video of Ray Rice essentially cold-cocking his fiance and knocking her out. The NFL said, we didn't see that video. Then, a few days later, AP said, well, actually, law enforcement did send that to somebody in the NFL. In fact, we have a voicemail saying that they've received it.
FRATESRoger Goodell, the commissioner of the NFL, has said, I didn't see the video and I didn't know that it was -- it wasn't clear to me when I made my decision back in February to suspend Ray Rice for two games, I didn't know how bad it was. And then, you got another AP story that said, well, in fact, Ray Rice did tell Goodell that he punched his wife, which has raised questions about whether or not Goodell had acted with the kind of seriousness he needed to.
FRATESAnd so now, he's essentially put himself in a position where he's hired former FBI director, Robert Mueller, to do an independent investigation. And people have looked at that because it's being headed up by the owners of the Giants and the Steelers, who are two lawyers, and saying, well, it's fine that you put the former FBI director in charge, but if it's being overseen by two owner, then how independent will it be?
PAGEKaren, just quickly, before our break, why does this matter? Does it matter beyond the NFL itself?
TUMULTYI think it absolutely does because, you know, sports stars are role models. They're role models for young people and, you know, and also there's just a little -- the question is callousness and the NFL owners seem to have shown it.
PAGEWe're gonna take a short break. When we come back, we'll continue our conversation. Our phones lines are open, 1-800-433-8850. Stay with us.
PAGEWelcome back. I'm Susan Page of USA Today sitting in for Diane Rehm. And with me in the studio for our weekly News Roundup, Ron Elvin, senior Washington editor for NPR, Karen Tumulty, national political reporter at the Washington Post and Chris Frates. He's an investigative correspondent for CNN. And if you're just joining us, you can also watch live video of our show at drshow.org.
PAGEYou know, we were talking -- in the two stories we talked about before the break, both embodied the power of video, the video of those two American journalists being beheaded, the video of an NFL player punching his girlfriend. You know, we had a new video this week also in Ferguson, Mo. about that story in the wake of the shooting of Michael Brown.
ELVINGThat's right. The investigation goes forward there now weeks later. And we are still waiting to see what might be the charges or what might be the legal upshot. There are some other developments in terms of other changes that are happening in Ferguson. But just to stay with the shooting itself, a new videotape has emerged that shows two contractors standing some distance away but within visual sight of the incident. And they're reacting to it. They're reacting to it with some shock and horror. And we've not seen their faces. We've not seen their names.
ELVINGBut they are white contractors and race is obviously a factor in this entire incident. And it is changing, to some degree, the conversation about who the witnesses will be if the grand jury should decide that they're going to bring charges against the police officer who did the shooting. This is going to be a factor in all of that. And the videotape, once again, communicates the horror of the moment. Because even though you're watching people watching it and not watching the actual shooting, there is an impact to that. There is a sense that you are re-experiencing this in a new way. And so that videotape too is powerful.
PAGEThe videotape, which is almost contemporaneous with the shooting, shows a witness saying that Michael Brown had his arms up, his hands up in the air at the point he was shot. Now, Karen, we have a grand jury now hearing evidence about this shooting. Could this video have an impact on their decision about whether to charge the police officer involved, and if so with what?
TUMULTYWell, you know, if it is presented as evidence, yes, it absolutely could. And I think, you know, more importantly it keeps the conversation going and, you know, it keeps things at the forefront. Because, you know, video is something now that everyone can share. And it really does bring in, you know, the whole world.
PAGESo the Ferguson Police Department, which has been under some fire, Chris, since this shooting, came out with a proposal for a new oversight board. What would it involve and what kind of reception did it get?
FRATESYou know, it got a mixed reception. This is a citizen review board for the police department and it was part of a number of reviews and reforms that Ferguson's trying to make. Another one was the court system. There was a lot of discussion about how black citizens are being stopped and ticketed and arrested at disproportionate rate to white citizens. And even though whites were just as likely to be carrying any contraband, there was an argument that these tickets essentially were going to cause a cycle where poor black people could not afford the fines. They were then, you know, getting fined more. They could not afford those and essentially were ending up in jail.
FRATESAnd so there was some reforms saying that this should not be used as part of the city fund. We should cap how much we take. And we should roll back some of those fines because they're essentially -- they're hurting the poorest among the Ferguson citizens.
PAGEThis one amazing statistic that came out of this was that these fines, court fines and fees are the city's second largest source of income. Twenty-one percent of its total budget came from these fines.
ELVINGThat's $12 million.
PAGEYou know, Ron, one of the things that was so shocking in the protests in the aftermath of the shooting was the photographs we saw of armored trucks and police in riot gear and the kind of militarization of our local police, a Senate hearing on that this week. Is congress reconsidering kind of the policy that the government has taken in selling police departments, and sometimes giving police departments, excess military equipment?
ELVINGYes, they are. And to call it reconsidering is maybe giving them the best of it because I think it was done without a great deal of consideration in the first place. A decade ago there was a great deal of equipment being spread around the country in the wake of 9/11 with the idea that terrorism was a threat to the country. Now, of course, there's greater likelihood that terrorists would strike New York or Washington, D.C.
ELVINGBut virtually every community -- there are 435 congressional districts and virtually every one of them wanted to get some piece of that action and get some kind of heavy equipment for their police departments. And many of them did, armored personnel carriers, very powerful guns and so on, much of which of course will probably never be used against al-Qaida.
TUMULTYAnd my newspaper this week also had a series on the degree to which cash -- confiscation of people's cash in the name of Homeland Security has become sort of a part of operation in many local police departments. And, you know, again, it's become -- security has become a cash cow. And it's -- again, takes it away from the original purpose and also falls most heavily on minorities and other people who are likely to be profiled.
PAGEYou know, I think it's also likely, it seems to me, to insight a situation and to inflame it as opposed to calm a situation. If the situation is about to tip into a riot it seems to me it's more likely to make it so.
FRATESWell, that's absolutely the case and we saw that with the pictures. I mean, you had newscasters -- I remember Jake Tapper on CNN was standing there and saying, there's nothing happening here. There's a gathering of people that warrants the kind of militarization that we have. And, Susan, since 1997, $5 billion worth of equipment has gone from the Pentagon to local police departments. And now we're seeing, you know, the -- everybody looks like a SWAT team now.
PAGEYou can understand it perhaps in New York or Washington. Ferguson, Mo. does not strike me as a place that's likely to be threatened by terrorists.
ELVINGThat's true and yet I do remember the debate a decade ago and longer when this was happening. And there was a sense, on the part of members of congress, that this should not be a reason simply to lavish greater federal resources on New York and Washington. The general feeling in the country as a whole is that those two cities do just fine.
ELVINGAnd so there was a sense that terrorists could strike anywhere, that perhaps there would be a strike on Leavenworth, Kan., for example, because there were people who had connections to terrorism who were begin kept in the federal prison there and so on. So it can be generalized as an anxiety. And, let's face it, the people who wanted to see that money spent wanted to generalize the anxiety to get everybody in congress to vote for the spending.
PAGEAnd to represent their districts, making sure they got a piece of the pie perhaps. Let's go to Mark. He's calling us from Dallas, Texas. Mark, thank you so much for joining us on "The Diane Rehm Show."
MARKOh, thank you for having me. You won't be happy, I don't think, particularly with my remarks however. And this is in the context of the whole ISIS situation. I think the media has played an appalling and dismaying role in the warmongering and fear-mongering that has gone along with this situation.
MARKYou can't find a single intelligence expert who thinks that ISIS is any threat to the homeland. You can't find a military or, you know, a policy expert on the Middle East who believes that bombing more civilians in yet another country will yield any effects any different than they've already yielded in Syria and Lebanon and Iraq, which is to say that they worsen -- it worsens the situation.
MARKAnd when you have a poll that asks, gee, is the president tough enough on foreign policy, I really can't think of a more juvenile way to phrase that question and then to look at the results of that in terms of the optics of the election. It's just -- it's an abject failure on the part of the media.
PAGEMark, thank you so much for your call. We really appreciate hearing your perspective. Chris.
FRATESWell, I think the caller has a point. I think when you do read the coverage you will see that most intelligence analysts don't believe that ISIS is a threat to the homeland right now. It's a regional threat in the Middle East. It is destabilizing that part of the world. But also you also have to remember just last week, you know, Chuck Hagel said that it's quote "an imminent threat to every interest we have."
FRATESSo there's the defense secretary also making these cases. So while certainly I think there has been a lot of coverage about is ISIS a threat, what kind of threat is it, you also have officials in the White House telling us it is a problem.
TUMULTYAnd don't forget the vice-president saying that we will follow them to the gates of hell. You know, again, the inflammatory aspects of this are not simply in the media. And I think, quite frankly, that if people are anxious and right before an election, that's a legitimate story.
PAGEYou know, Mark is of course correct in that U.S. intelligence officials said this week that there's no imminent threat. There's no sign of planning at this time for attacks on U.S. soil. On the other hand, you heard the president and top officials, members of congress and others express concern about the fact that these Jihadists are attracting some Americans and some Brits and some other people with European passports who would have the ability to get in and out of our country in a serious way.
ELVINGThat's right. And that, in a sense, adds a dimension to the threat we have always carried with us since 9/11. Well, yesterday was the anniversary, 13th anniversary of that day. And I think a lot of us still remember the degree to which the pervasiveness of the sense of threat was a dominant, emotional element of the next several years. Many, many people don't have the kind of memory of that now that some of us have.
ELVINGBut I do think that there is something about this specific group, their radicalism, their extreme violence that has captured the imagination of a lot of people, certainly in the media. And we do tend to harp on threat. We do look for danger. We do excite people about that danger. It's part of our function and perhaps we overdo it, as the caller suggests. But in the end, the opposite of that isn't acceptable as well.
PAGEWell, you know, we had this very sad anniversary yesterday, the 13th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks. And the fair criticism of the media before those attacks was that we had not done enough to take a serious look at these threats.
TUMULTYAnd wasn't it -- it was somebody -- and I believe it was the 9/11 commission who said that one of the things that made this country more vulnerable was, wasn't the phrase, a lack of imagination?
PAGELet's talk about immigration. You know, when a public official wants you not to notice something, they put it out on a Friday night or a Saturday morning. So last Saturday morning we learned from the White House that the president will delay his promised action on immigration. He promised to do something big during the summer. Chris, why the change of heart?
FRATESYou know, it was driven by a couple factors, Susan. One being that the feeling among White House officials was that talking about immigration would only hurt vulnerable Senate Democrats. And that if he moved unilaterally and used his executive authority then they would criticize him for being an imperial president. And he heard from Senate Democrats who said, you know, Mr. President, please don't do that right now. It's not a good move. Leave us alone.
FRATESAnd there was a feeling that if the Democrats were to lose the Senate and the president acted rightly or wrongly, immigration would've been blamed. And it would've made it that much harder to do comprehensive immigration reform. And so the president decided that it's wiser to punt until after the election and take this issue off the table.
ELVINGImmigration's one of those hand grenades that politicians are extremely afraid of right now. We saw what happened to Eric Cantor earlier this year, and a lot of people shouldn't...
PAGESo tell us what happened to Eric Cantor earlier this year.
ELVINGEric Cantor was the Majority Leader in the House of Representatives, a Republican leader. And he was poised, at least, to be the next Speaker of the House. And he was on cruise control to get there and he lost his primary. And he is now out of politics and working for a bank.
PAGEI'm Susan Page and you're listening to "The Diane Rehm Show." We're taking your calls. We have some open lines, 1-800-433-8850. Well, is this likely to help these incumbent Senate Democrats running in red states that he delayed action? Because he's still promising to act once the election's over.
TUMULTYYeah, although a lot of people are skeptical about that. And just yesterday the White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough met with a number of Latino groups, other immigration advocates and had to reassure them, yes, we really are serious about doing this. I think it doesn't completely ameliorate the damage. But what it does is takes it off the front burner. I think people just aren't talking about it the way they were.
PAGELet's go back to the phones. We'll talk to Paul. He's calling us from Birmingham, Ala. Paul, thanks so much for calling.
PAULThank you. And this is kind of a follow-up to Mark's earlier comments but if there's one thing I'm disappointed in the president and our national leadership is the fact that here we are 13 years later after 9/11 and essentially the point of 9/11 from the Jihadi standpoint was to engage us militarily to break us down economically and divide us. And it worked, as far as I'm concerned.
PAULAnd I think it's kind of obvious to everyone and here we are again dealing with the same situation on a smaller scale, but we're being manipulated by people -- although these are horrific acts beheading journalists of course, but to be manipulated and have our strings pulled again in a fashion like this. And then not have that addressed in the highest level and laid out essentially by the president and by the congress for what it is, explain to the American people.
PAULAnd I know the American people are not children and I know that the polls that you guys were speaking of earlier about how American react to these videos is, of course we're all upset about it. But I think it goes deeper than that. I think the average American knows that this is more than just what it is on the service. It is trying to engage us again and trying to get us to do the wrong thing, have a kneejerk reaction, spend billions of dollars doing it and get a lot of our people killed in the process. And that's my call. Thank you.
PAGEAll right. Paul, thanks very much for your call and for your comment. It's certainly true that the memories of these long wars in Iraq and Afghanistan hang over the debate about what to do about ISIS, Chris.
FRATESNo, I think that's right. And I think that's why also the polling shows that we don't want to put boots on the ground, that the American people are against that. But there is a feeling that when you poke the giant we should react, and that we need to react and we need to lead. And you saw the president talk about how he wants to get Arab stakeholders involved. And one of those big achievements as far as his policy is is that he has gotten and enlisted Saudi Arabia's help to help train moderate Syrian rebels in this fight.
FRATESSo the president is doing two things. He's trying to show some leadership with some American air power but he's also trying to engage and create a coalition that didn't exist in the Middle East to fight extremism. And that could be a marker for him and something that he passes on to his successor if he's able to get a working coalition against this kind of Islamic extremism.
TUMULTYAnd the other point he made in his speech is that he tried to make the argument that this is not Iraq and Afghanistan all over again. This is Somalia and Yemen. Now some foreign policy experts would disagree, that it quite follows there is those parallels. But he was really trying, you know, to portray it as much more of a sort of pinpoint limited operation.
PAGERon, you mentioned earlier in this hour what a reluctant warrior the president is on this front. Is this likely to be an issue that he can deal with and move on, or is this going to be with him for the rest of his time in the White House?
ELVINGI think it's very much the latter. It'll be with him for the rest of his time in the White House. It will be with his successor, whoever that is, for a great deal of time. It's going to take a long while, not just to do these airstrikes, which can happen right away and already have been happening, but to train up this force. Somebody's boots are going to have to be on the ground, as John Boehner said this week. The speaker made a good point which is, we can use our airstrikes but that's not enough. Somebody's boots are going to have to be on the ground because ISIS boots are on the ground And ultimately that has to be done.
ELVINGWe don't, in this country, want that to be American troops but we were willing and we are willing to train up and equip the people who will do it. But this president has done this. He has done this. He has waited for the country to change its mind before he decided which country to invade. He could've gone into Syria a year ago and said no.
PAGEWe're going to take another short break. When we come back we'll talk a little politics. The final primaries were this week. We'll talk about what we discovered and what it says about the November midterms. Stay with us.
PAGEWelcome back, I'm Susan Page of USA Today, sitting in for Diane Rehm. It's the first hour, the domestic hour of our "Friday News Roundup." With me in the studio, Chris Frates from CNN, Karen Tumulty from The Washington Post, Ron Elving from NPR. And if you wish, you can watch us on our live video stream at drshow.org.1
PAGEWell, let's go back to the phones. Let's talk to Doug, he's calling us from Greensboro, N.C. Doug, you're on the air.
DOUGGood morning, Susan, thank you so much for taking my call. Earlier in the program you had raised almost a rhetorical point as to why it would be important for a program like "The Diane Rehm Show," to be discussing the Ray Rice case. And take -- and even taking aside the issues that are raised in the domestic violence aspect of the case, I feel like the fact that sports are so ubiquitous in American culture.
DOUGAnd in particular, the NFL, it deserves merit. The NFL is a essentially a legalized monopoly, here in the United States. Many teams receive extravagant public subsidy, most in the form of tax breaks and credit to help build stadiums in American cities, that it's refreshing to get a discussion about it outside of the talking heads on ESPN and Sports Radio and thank you so much.
PAGEAll right, Doug, thanks for your call. We have an email from Janice, along the same lines as Doug's comments. He -- Janice writes, "Please comment on the fact that the NFL still enjoys a tax exempt status as a nonprofit organization. Senator Tom Coburn has offered a bill to revoke this and has gotten no attention. In light of the current scandal, I think, it's time for all of us to push for this."
FRATESWell, I think, it's -- I think, that's shown by some of the congressional action we've had this week. Twelve members of the House Judiciary Committee signed a letter questioning Goodell's handling of this. And then we had 16 female senators yesterday send Goodell a letter, saying that they want a no-tolerance policy for this kind of behavior, saying that, you know, the new policy the NFL put in, after Ray Rice, was that, your first domestic abuse violation gets you a six game suspension, your second gets you an indefinite ban from football, that you maybe could be revoked.
FRATESAnd they're saying, they want a no-tolerance policy, if you do it once, you're out. And, I think, that's because, as the caller points out, you know, sports is important. In fact, the Congress people said, you know, this is a -- this is role models, these are people who are looked up to and this is a big part of culture, You need to lead here, Mr. Goodell.
PAGEYou know, Karen, we've talked in the past about the impact of having more women in elective office, now, 20 women in the U.S. Senate, a record. This letter might be a letter might be an example, in fact, I'm curious about the four women Senators who chose not to sign this letter. I don't know who they are.
TUMULTYWell, I -- you know, on the -- but on the other hand, and I would really recommend people go to our website because at The Washington Post, because we have a video of women fans, last night, and, you know, coming out in support of Ray Rice and saying, you know, this is -- you know, that blaming the victim in some cases, saying that this is just not -- and I'm just here to watch football. You know, I have actually found the, you know, the response of women, sort of, troubling in some ways.
ELVINGOh, this is an issue. Let's face it, there is nothing that gets trickier than talking about marriage, violence in marriage, sex, race, all of these things are mixed in. And those women, and they were women of all races, who were wearing Ray Rice's number last night at the Baltimore Raven's game, I think that they were answering a different question. They were not saying that they supported wife beating, certainly. They were certainly not saying they supporting what Ray Rice did.
ELVINGBut they felt that somehow, they had been attacked by all of these people coming after Ray Rice, particularly because he represents, to them, the Baltimore Raven's. So they felt, as loyal fans, that they had been attacked and they wanted to show their loyalty to the team and perhaps even to a star that they have cheered and supported in the past or perhaps to his wife who is standing by him, so far, in this entire incident.
ELVINGSo it does get complicated quickly. And with respect to Congress, the fact that people are starting to talk about the NFL and some of these extraordinarily favorable treatments that they have under the law, that's the reason Roger Goodell is in trouble. The owners like Roger Goodell a great deal, but they're not going to like him so much if they feel like Congress is coming after them and they need somebody to throw under the bus.
PAGESo who could replace Goodell, 'cause one thought is Condoleezza Rice, who is a big football fan and if you wanted to address concerns about attitudes toward domestic violence and the treatment of women, that might be one way to address it.
FRATESIt certainly is and she's expressed interest in it, saying that, if she had a dream job, it would NFL Commissioner, which is pretty extraordinary for somebody who was the Secretary of State. But I think we've heard from Congress, that they're not looking right now to boot Goodell, that they're looking for answers from Goodell. The other interesting point, I'll point out, of all the association chiefs and lobbyists, and in many ways the NFL is a lobby here in Washington, a very powerful one, Roger Goodell makes the most at $44 million a year.
ELVINGThat is, that's a year.
FRATESThat's a year.
PAGEYou know, I would just say that politics teaches us that you can't tell the direction a scandal or a controversy will go, so we'll keep an eye on this one. Well, Karen, this Tuesday, the final round of primaries for the mid-term elections, what struck you as important or surprising?
TUMULTYWell, there was one gigantic surprise, I think, that night and that was that Congressman John Tierney of Massachusetts, a nine-term incumbent, was defeated in a primary. We've seen, I believe, it's four incumbents defeated in primaries this cycle. And this was the first time it's happened to a democrat.
PAGEYes. And he had been involved in controversy, a scandal involving his wife and brother-in-law, I think. Andrew Cuomo won and -- you could look at, you know, it's a glass half full, glass half empty question with Andrew Cuomo. He won with 60 percent of the vote, that sounds like a lot. On the other hand, he won with only 60 percent of the vote, how do you read it, Ron?
ELVINGIt all depends on how you feel about Zephyr Teachout. Now, if you want to talk about a name to take into politics and put on a bumper sticker, I think Zephyr Teachout is pretty fantastic. It should become, now, a website, I assume. Anyway, this is a candidate who was not universally known, previously. So you've gotta figure that most of that 40 percent is a protest vote against Andrew Cuomo and that means that an awful lot of people in his own party are not that crazy about him anymore, not that happy with his performance as governor. He's done some controversial things.
ELVINGHe has had some very controversial issues with respect to campaign finance and some of these other issues that have affected his governorship. So he would like, of course, to be seen on the national stage like his father, Mario, and he would like very much, possibly, to be in the mix in 2016 or 2020 or 2024 for the big office in Washington, D.C. So he was hoping for a little better than 60 percent in this primary. On the other hand, he will take it and he will be heavily favored to win in November.
PAGESo in New Hampshire, Chris, we had Scott Brown win the Senate nomination. This is notable because the last time he ran for the Senate it was from a different state, it was from Massachusetts. If he succeeds in New Hampshire against Jean Shaheen, the democratic incumbent, he'll be the first person since the direct election of Senators to represent to different states. How does that race look?
FRATESThat race is still favoring Shaheen at this point. You know, she is a former governor, she is a force in democratic politics in New Hampshire and, you know, Scott Brown is certainly a good retail campaigner, he's a guy whose known for his pickup truck, you know, for getting around and, you know, talking to voters. He's had some flubs, you know, namely, you know, trying to differentiate the fact that he is no longer from Massachusetts and that he's from -- his is, in fact, you know, running from New Hampshire and is a New Hampshire resident.
FRATESI thought it was also interesting to note that Martha Coakley won the governor democratic nomination in Massachusetts. And if you remember, you know, Martha Coakley was the one who lost to Scott Brown and put Scott Brown in the Senate, last go around. So, you know, you have a couple of retreads in new positions, looking to move up in American politics.
PAGECoakley's victory was not very impressive though. It was...
ELVINGAnd it was a three candidate race, so she still won, I think, by about six points over Steven Grossman who is the closest finisher behind her. But it's not terribly impressive. Again, it's just not what you want as a big after burner, going into the November election.
PAGESo let's talk about just one other race, Karen, in Rhode Island. Gina Raimondo won easily the gubernatorial nomination in Rhode Island. And this was notable because she's been quite controversial with the unions, which are so powerful in Rhode Island.
TUMULTYNo, Rhode Island politics though are so -- I mean, it's -- again, it's the, sort of, joke has always been Rogue's Island. I have never been able to figure out Rhode Island politics.
PAGESo, let's look at the November mid-terms, and what we know now, that all the primaries are done, we had Stu Rothenberg, a friend and frequent guest on "The Diane Rehm Show," this week, forecast a republican wave. He said, republicans win seven or more Senate seats, that would give them control back. Chris, do you think we will have a wave?
FRATESYou know, I think, we're certainly leaning to a republican Senate. I am still not convinced it's a wave. I think, things have certainly tightened and the board has expanded for republicans in places like Colorado. Today's there's a poll out that shows Senator Mark Udall is within the margin of error of Cory Gardner, a congressman who's challenging him. But I don't -- I'm still not sold on this idea that we're getting six or seven. I think, you know, I think Kay Hagan in North Carolina can hold. I think things are getting tough for Mary Landrieu but she's well known in Louisiana.
FRATESYou know, I think, Begich in Alaska can hold on. So I'm not sure that we get a wave but I certainly think it's looking like Mitch McConnell could become the Senate Majority Leader.
PAGENow, Ron Elving, you have a PhD in political science, is that correct? So we should turn to you.
ELVINGThat is not correct.
PAGEOh, you don't, I thought -- I actually thought you did.
ELVINGNot a PhD, no.
PAGEOkay. Well, you look very learned. So what do you think, is there a wave?
ELVINGMy question is, why wouldn't there be a wave? In the sixth year of a presidency, when a party has had the White House for two terms, going back a century, they have either lost the Senate or at least taken a big pounding in the Senate. LBJ didn't lose it in 1966 but he lost so many Senate seats that the rest of his presidency was a nightmare for Vietnam and a lot of other reasons.
ELVINGThere is a pattern in our politics, very strong, of second mid-terms being very tough on the president's party, not so touch on Bill Clinton in 1996 but he had already lost the Senate, big time four years earlier and was in the process of being impeached, which people didn't like very much and that actually kind of helped him in the elections that fall. So this is one of the strongest patterns we've ever seen. George W. Bush got clobbered, remember the -- remember the...
ELVING...the thumping, as he called it. That was in the sixth year of his presidency. So what has Barrack Obama done that is extraordinarily positive and politically popular, that he could defy one of the strongest patterns in U.S. Political history?
TUMULTYYou know, I think, that if there is not a wave, the reason is going to be the actual individual candidates themselves. They are, by and large, the democratic incumbents are strong, good candidates and they're a lot of brand names in here, Landrieu, Pryor in Arkansas, Udall out West, Begich in Alaska, again, these are -- they come from political dynasties.
PAGEI'm Susan Page and you're listening to "The Diane Rehm Show." We're taking your calls, 1-800-433-8850. Let's talk to Nick, he's calling us from Winchester, Va. Hi, Nick.
NICKHi, good morning, Susan. Quick comment. The media have a responsibility for -- in the social-political dialogue of presenting -- for presenting both sides of an issue. And my upset is with the coverage of the kids coming up from Central America. How many of those were actually being brought up through coyotes by their immediate relatives and how many of the people who have been allowed in are being sent to their immediate relatives? This is import because whether the relatives are here legally or not legally, this is an illegal way of bringing their relatives, these children, here.
PAGEYeah, Nick, good point. This is a story that we spend a lot of time covering, a little less attention these days. What do you think, Chris?
FRATESWell, I think it's a great question and one of the drivers of this policy is a program that allows, you know, these children to come in and get a hearing on whether or not they should achieve refugee status. And that's part of what's being discussed in one of the thorny issues along immigration lines, and so that is part of what's driving the children here. You know, certainly, some are coming across illegally as well but that's one of the reasons why the president, you know, kicked the can down the road, when it came to immigration passed the elections.
PAGEHere's a related email we got from Rob, Rob writes, "Since we feel ISIS is such a big threat to the U.S. homeland, isn't it time to discuss border security and closing the borders? It seems to me, it would be easy for an ISIS terrorist to hop a flight to Mexico, cross our Southern border, claim political asylum and get to a U.S. city to set up shop." Karen, we've heard Texas Governor Rick Perry, Texas Senator Ted Cruz, talk about the possibility of ISIS terrorists coming across the Southern border, any evidence of that?
TUMULTYThere's no evidence of that. But the fact is that the -- you know, I grew up in Texas and illegal immigration was just sort of part of the fabric of existence and I do think that, especially since around 2006, there is now a level of violence on the border that did not exist before. There -- it's just a fear factor around illegal immigration that wasn't there before. And so, you know, again, Rick Perry got a lot of attention for his speech on this very issue but, I think, it's one that resonates with people in border states.
ELVINGThere's no guarantee that people can't enter the country illegally from Canada either. We've had a number of people who came to the United States or attempted to come to the United States across the Canadian border. But there's a great deal of emotion associated with the Southwestern border and that obviously is where most of the illegal immigration takes place. And, yes, there is obviously that possibility that terrorists might, in small groups or I suppose over time in larger groups, infiltrate slowly or swiftly across that border. We haven't caught anybody doing that yet and if we do, that's obviously going to ratchet up the degree of concern and fear.
PAGESo on Sunday, a lot of people in Washington will be watching CSPAN because Hillary Clinton is going back to Iowa, the first time since she left the state in dismay after her third place finish in the 2008 caucuses, Karen.
TUMULTYShe is going with her husband who -- to an event known as the Harkin Steak Fry, it's the last time Senator Tom Harkin will host this event. It's a, sort of, a political tradition. Of course, Bill Clinton is now a vegan, so I don't know that he will be actually eating any steak at the Steak Fry. But, you know, look, Iowa was a disaster for Hillary Clinton in 2008. And, you know, this is the beginning but, you know, the real big question is going to be, how many of the lessons that -- of her mistakes there has she learned?
PAGEIt's amazing to me that she hasn't gone back to the state before. You'd think you'd go back just so we wouldn't be able to say she had never gone back.
ELVINGOn the other hand, if she goes back as Secretary of State, why is she going there? And if she goes back since she's been Secretary of State, everyone in our profession is immediately going to say, oh, well, she's running, she's running for sure.
TUMULTYWell, she could've sold a few books there.
ELVINGYes, she probably did too.
PAGEWell, I want to thank our panel for this hour. Karen Tumulty from The Washington Post, Chris Frates from CNN and Dr. Ron Elving from NPR.
ELVINGThank you very much.
PAGEThank you all for being with us this hour on "The Diane Rehm Show." I'm Susan Page of USA Today, sitting in for Diane Rehm. Thanks for listening.
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