Attorney General Eric Holder announces plans to resign after six years in his post. Lawmakers are bracing for a fight over the appointment of a successor. The Secret Service is under intense scrutiny after a knife-wielding man manages to evade security and enter the White House. The Treasury Department reveals new, stricter rules aimed at discouraging U.S. companies from striking so-called tax inversion deals overseas. A new FBI report confirms that mass shootings are on the rise in the U.S. And President Barack Obama speaks at the U.N. climate summit, calling for a more ambitious approach to climate change. A panel of journalists joins Diane for the domestic hour of the Friday news roundup.
- Susan Page Washington bureau chief, USA Today.
- Olivier Knox Chief Washington correspondent, Yahoo! News.
- Reid Wilson Staff writer, The Washington Post; he writes The Post's political tipsheet email called "Read In."
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Eric Holder announced this week he plans to step down as attorney general, ending his term as one of President Barack Obama’s longest-serving advisers. His resignation, which many saw as forthcoming, is a blow to the president, who’s still trying to get his second term administration on track, said Olivier Knox of Yahoo! News. Holder said he will stay on until a successor is confirmed. Reid Wilson of The Washington Post said the decision reflects a political reality as the confirmation hearing for a new attorney general would take place while Democrats still control the Senate.
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MS. DIANE REHMThanks for joining us. I'm Diane Rehm. Attorney General Eric Holder announces his resignation. Pressure mounts on Congress to pass a new authorization for strikes against ISIS and a White House breach prompts a review of Secret Service protocol. Joining me for the domestic hour of the Friday News Roundup, Reid Wilson of The Washington Post, Susan Page of USA Today and Olivier Knox of Yahoo! News.
MS. DIANE REHMI invite you to be part of the program. You can give us a call at 800-433-8850. Send us an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow us on Facebook or send us a tweet. You can also see the program during this first hour of the Friday News Roundup as we are video streaming the entire hour. And welcome to all of you.
MR. REID WILSONThanks for having us.
MS. SUSAN PAGEGood morning.
MR. OLIVIER KNOXHi, Diane.
REHMGood to see you. Olivier Knox, Eric Holder resigns. Not entirely unexpected.
KNOXNot entirely unexpected. He actually told The New Yorker in January or February of this year that he would stay in office well into 2014, but that obviously set kind of a timetable for him to announce his departure. Not a total surprise, one of President Obama's closest friends, one of his most long-serving advisors. So it wasn't a surprise, but it was still a bit of a blow to a president who's still trying to get his second term back on its feet.
REHMAnd Susan, you've served on a media committee with the Department of Justice.
PAGEYou know, one of the things that Eric Holder has dealt with is really alarm among a lot of journalists over the Department of Justice practices toward journalists. This administration has launched more leak investigations than all previous administrations put together. James Risen from the New York Times still has the threat of going to jail for his refusal to name his source on a story he did regarding Iran
PAGEAnd one of the thing that -- in the wake of all this criticism, one of the things that Eric Holder did was form a group of about eight journalists to meet with him and talk about these issues. He didn't have any power, but I think it's -- while I disagree with some of the practices the Justice Department has taken toward journalists, I appreciate the fact that he was willing to convene this group. We've been meeting at the Justice Department with him and with other officials to try to address some of the concerns.
REHMHow many of you?
PAGEThere are about eight journalists on this. Me...
PAGE...and two media lawyers.
REHMUm-hum. And Reid Wilson, why now? There's some talk he had health problems.
WILSONYeah, apparently, his wife, who's a physician, was worried about a recent health scare. There wasn't a lot of detail about what that would've been, but there's also a political reality. And the political reality is Democrats control the Senate now. They might not control the Senate in four months when the next Congress convenes. This gives the White House an opportunity to put forward a new nominee.
WILSONAnd the short list is already out. To put forward a new nominee to hold the necessary confirmation hearings in a lame duck session after the election and then perhaps to get a vote on the confirmation when Democrats still have the majority, which...
REHMBut is he really going to be able to get a vote? So much controversy.
WILSONThat's the question. A number of Republicans from the sort of un-influential, like Senator Ted Cruz -- to the un-influential within the U.S. Senate, like Ted Cruz, to the very influential, like Chuck Grassley, who's the ranking Republican on the Senate judiciary committee, have questioned whether or not now is the right time for a quick hearing.
WILSONSome of those Republicans want to see the next Congress deal with an attorney general. There's a bit of an irony here in that so many Republicans on Capitol Hill despise Eric Holder and have voted to hold him in contempt and when he says he will stay on until his replacement is confirmed, they're not delaying the confirmation of his replacement. So there's a little irony there that they're keeping him on a little longer than they want to.
REHMWho's on the short list, Susan?
PAGEWell, we have the conventional wisdom short list, which may or not actually reflect what President Obama himself is thinking, but Deval Patrick, the governor of Massachusetts, his second term about to end, I think, would definitely be on that list. There are -- the U.S. attorney in the southern district of New York...
PAGEThank you very much. Is also said to be on the list. You know, and there might be some current members of the Senate who would be possible. Amy Klobuchar is somebody who has been mentioned as a possibility, although taking any Democratic senator out of the Senate mix might be somewhat dangerous. There is the attorney general of California who is...
PAGE...thank you very much. Who is also one of those possibilities. You know, there is speculation that he'll want to choose either a woman or an African-American or a racial minority to fill that job. That would be in -- put that person in a position to carry on some of the big initiatives that Eric Holder has done.
REHMOlivier, what is Eric Holder's legacy?
KNOXWell, it's a complicate legacy because on the one hand, he took a lot of strides. You know, his model, his idol is Bobby Kennedy and he took a lot of steps to protect the right to vote, to combat voter ID laws and other ways of limiting voting. But as Susan pointed out, he has a really mixed record on things like civil liberties. The administrations war on the press was fought mostly through his office and so that was a mixed legacy.
REHMWhat started that, do you recall?
KNOXThe war on the press, I would probably date it all the way back to the campaign in terms of any ill will, but I think that, you know, this is a president who came in with a really -- actually a pretty cold-blooded sense of how to use national security powers. I don't mean that as pejoratively as it sounds, but extremely calculating and someone who actually saw some of these reports as truly dangerous leaks and, of course, as a Democrat is under more pressure to do more about it than a Republican might be.
KNOXEric Holder took a lot of -- you've seen the reports now. He's under a really interesting cross -- he's in a crossfire now because liberals say he didn't do enough to take on big Wall Street firms at Ground Zero for the financial crisis. They're talking about, you know, the national security apparatus. And conservatives are hitting him over the fast and furious gun-running investigation, the IRS scandal and other things, which they don't think he did enough to investigate.
PAGEYou know, that's entirely true, everything that you said. One of the things he did do was tackle even the discussion of the issue of race in America, the question about police practices, the disproportionate sentences and the very long sentences for some nonviolent drug crimes. And, you know, it was like he -- there was a lot of speculation he was going to leave at the end of President Obama's first term and then he seemed to get kind of a second wind and began to address some of these issues that I think possibly President Obama would like to address, but for a variety of political and policy reasons, has trouble tackling in a big way.
PAGEHe's got a lot of other things on his plate. He doesn't really want to be known as the black president because he has other things he wants to address. And that is, I think, gonna be a big part of Eric Holder's legacy.
REHMSo how likely is it, Reid Wilson, that we are going to get another confirmed attorney general?
WILSONI think it -- well...
REHMBefore the election.
WILSON...before the next -- I think it's more likely than not. I think that it will be a relatively -- especially if some of the people on the short list have been confirmed by the Senate before by very wide margins, whether it's Tom Perez, the secretary of labor, Janet Napolitano, the former DHS secretary who's now the president of the University of California system, she's sort of a long shot, a number of U.S. attorneys as Susan mentioned, Preet Bharara up there, a couple of others around the country, one in eastern New York, one here in Washington D.C. who are sort of on that list.
WILSONYou know, these are people who've been confirmed by the Senate before. The Republicans will use these confirmation hearings to bring up a lot of the things that both Susan and Olivier talked about, whether it's fast and furious or the Affordable Care Act or essentially anything that has anything to do with the Justice Department, and almost every element of President Obama's policy agenda has something to do with the Justice Department, will come up in confirmation hearings.
WILSONRepublicans will use that. But at the end of the day, it's extremely unlikely that an attorney general nominee will be blocked.
PAGEYou know, especially, I mean, it depends, in part, on who President Obama chooses because if he chooses someone...
REHMWell, I was about to say, Deval Patrick.
PAGE...right. If he chooses someone who is less controversial than Eric Holder, then there may be some incentive on the part of Republicans to get the new attorney general in there since Holder has said he'll stay on until the new person is confirmed. And the new rules that the Senate is following makes it a little easier to get it done with just Democratic votes 'cause you don't have the filibuster possibility against this confirmation, right?
PAGEYou only need a majority vote. So I think it's, you know, that somebody will get confirmed. And, in part, it was shrewd of the administration to make it clear that you don't confirm the new guy -- you're stuck with the old guy with whom you've had so many problems.
REHMInteresting. How high on the list is Deval Patrick?
WILSONI actually -- he took himself out of the running yesterday. He made very clear he was going to go back to the private sector. I mean, I think he'll still get some pressure to play a role, but, you know, he very clearly knew this was coming. He's got a long relationship with the president and a long relationship with the attorney general as well, but I wouldn't expect him to be the (unintelligible)
PAGEHard job to turn down, right?
WILSONYeah, yeah, it is.
KNOXRight. I think that's the challenge. When the president puts the offer in your hand, you know, how easy is it to turn down? We also know that Kamala Harris, California Democrats are saying, no way, because they want her down the line to run for Senate or some other high office.
PAGEOr governor maybe.
KNOXOr governor. And so they don't want to put her in a position where she might get locked into these bruising battles in Washington D.C, but it would be really interesting to see. I mean, a lot of these predictions are, I think, rooted, in part, in our interest in seeing, wow, what would happen if he nominated -- I mean, I have a little fantasy that he nominates Bill Clinton, but just purely for the interest, purely for the resulting news story.
KNOXBut I think, you know, that the odds-on favorite is another dangerous game because this is a president who really likes to surprise us with his picks.
REHMAll right. And there's pressure on Congress in another way and that is for new authorization for the use of military force as we began dropping bombs on Syria this week, Reid.
WILSONAnd this is a debate that is likely to dominate the lame duck session. There are, you know, Democrats and Republicans aren't exactly divided down partisan lines on this. House minority leader Nancy Pelosi voted in favor of allowing the president at least some leeway in bombing Syria to begin with. So there aren't really partisan lines here.
REHMReid Wilson of The Washington Post. He writes the political tip sheet called "Reid In." Short break here and I'll look forward to hearing from you when we come back.
REHMAnd welcome back to our Friday News Roundup of domestic issues this week with Susan Page, Washington bureau chief with USA Today and a frequent fill-in for me when I am out. And I always thank you for that, Susan.
PAGEIt's my privilege.
REHMOlivier Knox, chief Washington correspondent for Yahoo News, Reid Wilson of the Washington Post. And you can see all of our guests on our video stream by joining our Google Hangout. We posted the list on Facebook and Twitter. Big security breach at the White House this week. Olivier, what happened?
KNOXAn Iraq war veteran thought to be mentally ill scaled the north fence, which is the fence along the White House perimeter on Pennsylvania Avenue, which is closed to automobile traffic, scaled the fence. That happens a lot. What doesn't happen a lot is what happened afterward. He -- they're usually tackled in the first 20 yards or so. And this gentleman got all the way inside the doors of the north portico which, if you've ever been a tourist in Washington, is that beautiful colonnade entrance at the top of the White House driveway.
KNOXWell, and then he was detained and...
PAGEAnd then he opened the door and walked in.
KNOX...but he walked in, yeah.
REHMAnd he walked in.
PAGEWho keeps -- doesn’t keep their front door locked?
REHMI understand, but you...
WILSONThe person who doesn't keep their door locked is the person who's got 500 secret service agents guarding the door.
KNOXAnd thousands of tourists going through that door as they walk out of the...
REHMHere's what I don't get. I understand that there have been several previous breaks maybe we haven't heard quite as much about.
PAGEWell, I think we usually hear about them. I don't know that we always understand their seriousness. Now, during the break Olivier was mentioning the one where that guy was driving around a little lost and followed the motorcade carrying the first daughters into the White House, which I think that he was determined not to be somebody who even intended to do this. And yet what a breach that was.
KNOXThat was a much -- actually if you talk to people at the service, that's the breach that really freaked everybody out because that stretch of Pennsylvania Avenue was closed after the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing. And it was closed explicitly because of the possibility that someone would drive a vehicle packed with explosives and do a lot more damage to the White House. So for that -- for a vehicle to breach that perimeter was a much more serious breach than this gentleman. As spectacular as his breach was, the vehicle one is the one that really freaked people out.
PAGEBut, you know, the thing that disturbed me about the breach this time was that this man had had two encounters with the secret service before.
PAGEHe had showed up with a hatchet on his belt looking around the White House. They had stopped, they interrogated him, they let him go. Previously he had been stopped in a car. It turned out that he had a map with the White House circled. The secret service interviewed him. And there's -- there were opportunities to identify this man as being disturbed and targeting the president and doing something about it before he climbed the fence and ran through...
REHMAnd many rounds of ammunition found in his car.
WILSONI think it was 800 rounds that they found in his car. I mean, this spotlights, once again, an agency that's in real trouble.
WILSONThe secret service has fought back against low morale. They've been battling low morale. They been battling a number of incidents of serious misbehavior by a number of agents. They are incredibly short staffed which means that somebody who joins the agency in -- I don't know -- Albuquerque as a -- you know, because they're from Albuquerque, gets rotated to Washington. They think they're going to go home soon. They never end up getting to go home because there aren't enough officers to rotate in and out.
WILSONThe new director, Julia Pierson, has been on the job for about 18 months now. She has, by all accounts, not been able to turn around the culture. She's a career secret service officer herself. She was running the -- before she took over the whole agency she was running the agency's budget. It has been several years now in which this -- I mean, maybe a decade in which this agency has been facing these serious challenges that they just haven't been able to overcome. And this is another negative mark on...
REHMAll right. So they're short staffed. Is that what you're arguing because there's not enough money?
WILSONWell, there's not enough money but there's also -- they faced cuts. They've also been moved. When the Department of Homeland Security was created they were taken out of their historical home in the Treasury Department and moved to DHS. That caused a whole layer of new bureaucracy that causes problems among some of the senior officers. But even the junior officers, I mean, they're getting -- they're having to work six-, seven-hour days. And there's simply not enough people to do the job that the secret service is required to do.
REHMAll right. And the other thing are the scandals that have reflected back on them over the past -- certainly the past year.
PAGEI can appreciate that they're short staffed and working long hours. And we know that this is a really difficult and dangerous job. We should acknowledge that they put their lives on the line to protect public officials. On the other hand, that doesn't go to, like, cavorting with prostitutes when you're on a president trip...
PAGE...or getting so drunk in a foreign hotel that you're found passed out in a hallway. Those go to kind of basic judgment issues that you would not expect to be having.
REHMSo what kinds of changes do you expect?
PAGEI don't know. She -- Julie Preston's (sic) being called -- Pierson is being called back up to The Hill, to the House Oversight Committee this next Tuesday to talk about this latest incident. I mean, there is congressional oversight of this. And you've got to assume that President and Mrs. Obama are first on the list of those concerned about how things are going.
REHMYeah, and of course they happened to luckily be away when this gentleman simply walked in the door. I want to go back, Olivier, to this authorization for the use of military force. Do you expect the congress to act on this in lame duck session?
KNOXI don't expect them to. John Boehner said in an interview with the New York Times the other day that maybe the better time would be when they come back in January. But as you hear all these calls from folks for a vote, people who say we really should be debating this and voting on it. We really should vote on it, here's the thing. The War Powers Act of 1973 basically makes it possible for any member of congress to force a vote on this.
KNOXSo all this posturing about we want to vote, we want to vote, they could actually go right directly to the War Powers Act. They could submit two kinds of resolution, one, a declaration of war, the other, a declaration requiring the presidential withdraw of American forces from harm's way. That triggers a calendar under the law that requires committees of jurisdiction to take it up in congress. And basically you set up a vote.
KNOXIt happened in the 1990s. This -- so I get a little impatient with some of the folks who get in front of the cameras and say, gosh, we really need to have a vote. Well, member of congress, you could force one if you wanted to.
REHMSo what are you saying, that they are talking out of both sides of their mouth?
KNOXWell, I mean, the alternative is that they just don't know what the law says, which I suppose is possible. But it's actually -- it's a delicate balance obviously on Capitol Hill because you don't -- even though you could -- even though this could basically circumvent the leader's will and in some ways short circuit the committee process, because it requires all these actions, you don't want to make the leader angry unnecessarily. But if you're going to get before the cameras and say that a vote on this year's long military campaign, uncertain definition of victory and the rest of it, which I think is a worthy argument, then it probably behooves you to look at all the tools in your toolkit and realize that you actually could force a vote.
PAGEYou know, it's certainly true there are people trying to make politics out of this, right, stunningly, here in Washington as we get into an election year. You know, there's one person I think I would point out as trying to foster a very honest debate about it and that's Senator Kaine from Virginia who has stood up and given a serious of speeches, including a speech that he gave this week, talking about how important it is to have a vote on this and a debate on this. And how dishonest it is to be relying on the use of force authorization that was passed in the wake of the 9/11 attacks, to stretch that to cover this.
PAGEAnd I would -- you know, he's a person who is not only a Democratic Senator, foreman chairman of the DNC, close to President Obama, he has a relationship with President Obama. So I guess I would watch him as somebody who is honestly trying to raise some of the serious issues that are raised by the refusal, so far, of Congress to...
KNOXAt the risk of getting angry emails from sources, which I guess is a foregone conclusion at this point, there's a dividing line on this. Senator Kaine and a few others, Adam Schiff, a Democrat from California and a few others, were calling for a vote on this before the president said he did not need congress' authorization and wasn't going to ask for it. Okay. For me that's the dividing line.
KNOXPeople -- this policy has been telegraphed since mid-June at the latest. The people who were saying from say June 19 when the president laid it out, gee, we really should have a vote on it, people like Tim Kaine, people like Adam Schiff and others. Those folks have been doing that before it was clear that there would be consequences for that call. So when the president said, I don't need your help, I don't need your authorization, everyone who came out after that, I'm a little bit suspicious.
WILSONThe interesting part of all this to me is that I think a lot of members of congress, leaders in congress don't really know how to go about this process. They don't know how to set up the debate. You know, this is the first debate like this that we've seen in ten years with the only exception being the proposal to bomb Syria last year that went nowhere after leaders sort of lost control of the debate there.
WILSONSo I'm going to be really interested to see how John Boehner in the House, Harry Reid and Mitch McConnell in the Senate sort of set up the structures of the debate and essentially who the main players are. I don't think anybody has made those decisions yet because both sides are -- well, I shouldn't say both sides. There aren't really sides, partisan sides in this. It's just that they don't quite know how to go about the process.
KNOXThey're slightly hamstrung by the fact that typically it's the administration that asks for an authorization to use force. It's not congress that comes up with it on its own.
REHMAll right. And with less than six weeks to go until midterm, what's the overall picture, Reid?
WILSONWell, at the moment, you know, as we all know, Republicans need to net six seats to pick up the U.S. Senate. There are seven or eight Democratic seats that are in Syria's peril, three of which are probably safe to assume they're definitely going Republican. Of those five seats left that are in the middle that are essentially going to decide the majority -- maybe there are even six seats in that category -- Republicans are looking better and better.
WILSONThe Republican chances are improving because President Obama's approval rating is so low. The national atmosphere is not getting any better. People are more pessimistic about the -- people think the economy is worse now than it was in 2008, which whether or not it's -- I'm mean, it's not in fact the case but to them, I mean, that sort of informs the average American vote. And that is not a good thing for the national party.
WILSONThe other part of this is that the entire landscape, the 2014 midterm elections is being fought on Republican turf of those big Senate seats that will determine control of the Senate. Mitt Romney won all of them. And in some cases he won them by very large margins. President Obama's approval rating is at 31 percent in Arkansas where a Democratic senator is running for reelection, 38 percent in North Carolina where a Democratic senator is running for re-election. That's a terrible atmosphere to be a Democrat.
REHMWe have an email from Marilyn who says, "You all seem set on autopilot with your assumption Republicans will take control of the Senate. When I read the polls, I see four pickups at most. How are you coming to your conclusion?"
WILSONI'm happy to go through the math. So, again, Republicans need to pick up six. They're going to win West Virginia, South, Dakota and Montana, three Democratic seats that just aren't competitive. Democrats haven't overtly tried to win those seats. Incumbent Democrats in Arkansas and Louisiana where Senator Mark Pryor and Senator Mary Landrieu are running for re-election, are in very, very deep trouble. Even Democratic strategists will say they are at -- today they are likely to lose. That could change in the next six weeks but they're behind in the polls right now.
WILSONTo me the entire race -- that sixth seat, the 50th -- 51st Republican seat comes down to the State of Alaska. And if Senator Mark Begich is able to pull out a win in a very Republican state, and we've seen some polls just in the last 24 hours that show him trailing, then Democrats hold the Senate. But, you know, North Carolina, Colorado, Iowa, Republicans have some really good chances this year.
REHMAnd you're listening to "The Diane Rehm Show." Susan.
PAGEI would just say that Marilyn has a good point which is that we're still about six weeks out. And that is enough time for something to happen. We've had wave elections that didn't really become clear, didn't crystallize until the final weeks before the election. The trouble for Democrats is if you have a wave election, it is more likely to be one that favors Republicans and Democrats. But things happen. And so we should always be modest about, as Reid is, I know Reid is, as -- well, you are so -- about our certainty about things.
WILSONYou're the only person who thinks that. Thank you.
PAGEBut I would say one excellent thing that has happened this year is that finally at last Kansas is at the center of the national political debate -- that's my home state -- often ignored. Here we have a competitive governor's race and a competitive senate race against a very veteran Republican Senator Pat Roberts. And the independent candidate Greg Orman just may win. He would be the first non-Republican to win in Kansas since Herbert Hoover.
PAGEIt's -- I think that race is really hard to call. They have -- the Republicans have not sent in every troop they have. They've got Bob Dole out there campaigning and Sarah Palin. That's kind of the spectrum of the Republican Party these days. And that may save it for Pat Roberts. But without having taken over that campaign, Pat Robert, I think, was about to lose.
REHMJust think of how much money has gone into these senate races.
PAGEWell, and in fact there was a study out this week by the Center for Responsive Politics that said that $228 million in independent expenditures have been spent so far. That's more than in any election other than 2012. And that's a reflection really of this Supreme Court decision that opened the door to all kinds of independent spending.
REHMAll right. So President Obama spoke at the UN Summit this week. He spoke on climate change. One wonders whether he won hearts and minds, Olivier.
KNOXI think you're seeing some evidence that he may have swayed a few hearts and minds. I don't know that there's going to be a groundswell of action on climate change. You know, this is a cause that he's been talking about since he was inaugurated. And he's taken a lot more steps in the last couple years via executive order because, of course, everything's locked up in congress.
KNOXI think at the UN, I think what he's getting is he's getting some commitments from like-minded leaders. But among the big challenges are of course trying to get very large growing developing economies like China and like India to sign onto this sort of thing. I mean, these are steps that would likely, at least in the short term, slow down their growth.
REHMWho did not send their presidents to that UN Summit?
KNOXWell, the president's meeting with -- is going to be meeting shortly with Prime Minister Modi of India. So they'll have a chance to discuss this problem and others face to face. But, you know, everyone is looking to the United States to lead on this, even though the United States' share of carbon emissions has dropped relative to other economies.
PAGEWell, in fact, it greatly strengthened, I think, the president's hand in his speech that he was able to point to his own executive initiative that is aimed at cutting carbon emissions here by 17 percent by 2020. You know, previously he's had to talk about this as, I'm going to push this in congress. You know, this time -- this year he finally gave up on that and did some action through the environmental protection agency. And that gave him something to say, to say, we're taking this step -- he promised to put out another plan next year that will go even further. And that gave him -- that gave the United States the credibility to lecture China, for instance.
REHMSusan Page of USA Today and we're going to take a short break here. But if you're joining us, you can also watch live on Google Hangout. We posted the list on Facebook and Twitter. Stay with us.
REHMAnd welcome back. It's time to open the phones. Questions, comments from you, our listeners. You're always a part of this program. First to William in Jacksonville, Fl. You're on the air.
WILLIAMHey, Diane. Glad to see you're doing well.
WILLIAMI listen to your show every day.
REHMThank you, sir.
WILLIAMAnd I just wanted to make a comment about Mr. Holder.
WILLIAMI think he was one of the best attorney generals we had. He'd done a lot for bringing attention to the long jail sentence for minorities. I also wanted to thank him and look forward -- hope that he has a great future and I was sorry about our congressmen and senators being so aggressive towards the achievements that he tried to make. That's it.
REHMWell, I thank you for calling. I hope he's listening and has heard your comments. Here's an email from Michael who says I was surprised by Holder's announcement to resign given Ferguson case pending, the new investigation in Dayton with John Crawford. Holder's focus on civil rights is happening at what seems like a turning point on the issue. What does the panel think might happen to this focus when Attorney General Holder is replaced? Reid Wilson.
WILSONWell, I think it -- it depends on who the attorney general is. Let me say that a different way. The focus will remain the same whether or not the prominence is given -- whether or not it's talked about as openly and aggressively as Eric Holder talked about problems of race in America remains -- I think that's up to the actual nominee. Remember, just a few weeks into his tenure as attorney general back in February 2009, he said Americans are sort of cowardly when it come to race. He wasn't wrong.
KNOXI think also -- if you talk to anybody at the White House or in the Justice Department, what they'll tell you is one of his legacy achievements is revitalizing the civil rights division of the department and really putting in a functioning infrastructure -- a high-performing infrastructure where -- that was really in shambles before. So I think that what's going to happen is, even if it's not at the helm, this is a priority for this president, which is important. And Holder is leaving behind a really -- a revitalized civil rights division that will carry on the work even if he's not at the helm.
REHMAll right. To Rhonda in Murphy, Tx. Hi, you're on the air.
RHONDAGood morning. Thank you.
RHONDAI am very concerned about the Secret Service and their lack of protection of the commander in chief. I can't understand how they were so lax in letting someone get across the fence. I think we were so -- we are so up in arms about it, if we are, is because there was a tourist that took video of it. And perhaps these things that happened before, but we could not see it with our own eyes, I think, had it -- you know, we have policemen all across this country who are shooting down citizens who are not charging for the White House.
RHONDASo I just think it represents a larger disrespect for the president and for the people that he had chosen, you know, to represent him and his administration. I think vitriol that has been created by the Republicans, by the conservatives in the country have really created like a funk in the country, you know, for this president and for what he has tried to do. I just kind of pains me as an American to just hear the constant vitriol, you know, no matter what he does, who he chooses to...
REHMAll right. Susan?
PAGEYou know, I think Rhonda makes a good point that the vitriol that's been directed at President Obama from the beginning has, I'm sure, raised the threat level against him. I'm sure it creates all kinds of threats that we don't know about that the Secret Service has to deal with. And has and must deal with, right? Because they're supposed to protect him. You know, there's not really a thought that they should have shot this man as he ran toward the front door.
PAGEThe first family had left. He didn't seem to be -- he didn't have a backpack that could have been filled with explosives. However, they do have dogs there that are trained to chase and bring down people.
REHMSo where were they?
PAGEAnd that's a question that I think we are going to see raised at the congressional hearing on Tuesday.
PAGEI think in -- the director of the Secret Service praised the agents involved for not shooting the man. So that showed restraint. But there is a lot of criticism for not releasing the dogs.
REHMYou know, at the same time, here you have the Department of Homeland Security and the FBI telling law enforcement to be on the lookout for the lone wolf terrorist threat. What's the concern here? How great should our fear be?
KNOXWell, the lone wolf terrorist threat is something that's been of concern for years. The current lone wolf terrorist threat is tied a little bit more closely to the conflict in Syria. You know, for months now I'm sure every person listening to this program has heard senior American officials say that about a hundred Americans went to Syria to fight with groups like the Islamic state or the al-Qaida linked al-Nusra front.
KNOXThey obviously have their passports. They could conceivably come back to the United States and carry out attacks. What we have, though, in this past week is a little bit more clarity on that figure. First, the FBI James Comey said now that it's about 20 to 30 who are actually fighting in Syria, that a hundred refers to American citizens going or trying to go to Syria. So that's a bit of a climb down.
KNOXBut they are concerned about lone wolf attacks like -- maybe because those are the hardest ones to stop, someone who's been radicalized by events around the world, someone who's not taking direct orders from extremist leaders is much harder, there is no communication to intercept. There's very little planning to disrupt sometimes. And so that's what they're really worried about.
REHMAnd what about this comment from the Iraqi president who said, you know, Europe or the U.S. is about to be hit.
WILSONSo the Iraq -- the new Iraqi prime minister suggested in an interview this week that there may be a terrorist plot against subway systems in New York and Paris. James Comey, the director of the FBI was very clear yesterday. He said, we do not have that intelligence. This is apparently not the first time that somebody in Iraq's government has said we have intelligence and the U.S. has said, no, you don't.
WILSONSo it's not -- it's not clear. One interesting, by the way, as we go after this new group in Syria and Iraq, the Khorasan group, American officials have said -- I'm forgetting the exact parsing of the words and the exact sort of phrasing is important. But they have said that there is an imminent threat. But imminent doesn't necessarily mean tomorrow or next week or even that they are actual plans in the works. It's just that there is a group that is really trying to attack us.
WILSONThey have put together the resources they need to get the initial plans off the ground. However, that doesn't mean that they're coming at, you know, the specific targets within the U.S.
WILSONThe administration about how they phrase their speech.
REHMI'm going to take you on to another topic involving finances and new rules regarding tax inversion. Corporate inversions that allow large corporations to somehow diminish or even remove taxes paid to the federal government. Susan.
PAGEAnd this has been something that's really outraged a lot of Americans. The idea that American companies merge with a foreign company and one of the big purposes is to evade U.S. taxes by doing so. So there's -- the people in Congress are up in arms about it. But Congress has been unable to do -- actually do anything about it. They seem paralyzed even on issues on which there is broad agreement.
PAGESo this week we had the Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew announced rules doing what you could do by executive action to make it less profitable, less beneficial to American companies to do this.
REHMSo are these rules going to work?
PAGEWell, people who know more about this topic than I do say that they'll do something but not everything and that it's sort of like the issue of global warming. There are some things you can do by executive action. But to make the most far-reaching steps that would do the most to make this not something attractive to U.S. companies would take an action of Congress.
REHMAll right. Let's go to -- let's see, Eric in Charlotte, NC. You're on the air.
ERICThanks for taking my call, Diane.
ERICI can't, for the life of me, figure out why it is that the Democrats are distancing themselves -- the -- in the midterm elections, why some of the Democratic candidates are trying to distance themselves from Obama. Whatever metrics you use to judge by how things are going in the United States, he's doing well. If you're in the top 50 percent economically in America, you're going like gangbusters.
ERICIf you're in the bottom 50 percent, he's doing everything he can. He's trying to preserve the Affordable Care Act, he's trying to raise the minimum wage, close loopholes on the -- tax loopholes on the wealthy and lower the cost of education. So no matter what strata you're in economically, he's either doing a good job or trying to do the right thing. And then from foreign policy, he's got a lot of fire. So I think he's doing a very good job in putting out.
REHMIt sounds as though you're a great supporter of President Obama. Susan?
PAGEYou know, Eric, we have the White House on line 2, they'd like to get your last name and your phone number because this is an argument people at the White House would make.
PAGEBut it is not an argument that is -- that is working well in the states where we have the most competitive races.
KNOXI think a lot of these folks in these top Senate races are distancing themselves from the president because they, by themselves, without the president on the ballot cannot create -- recreate the coalition that swept him into office in 2008 six years ago the length of a senator's term.
REHMAll right, to Joan in Sutton, NH. You're on the air.
JOANYes, hi, Diane. Thank you very much for taking my call.
JOANAnd I'm absolutely on board with the previous caller. I love what he had to say, because I am truly dumbfounded that there are any close House or Senate races going on. It's hard to believe that anyone would vote Republican. And I feel like from day one, Obama's -- with Obama's presidency, the Republicans have been obstructionist to any positive progress for this country, especially when it comes to the economy and the environment.
JOANAnd I really truly believe -- and I've talked to people in my area, and we think what it comes down to is there's prejudices going on and they just cannot accept that there's an African American as a president.
WILSONWell, I don't know about that. I mean, they impeached the last guy -- the last Democrat who was in office. But this -- we're clearly in an atmosphere in the U.S. where there are two -- sort of two Americas living side by side. One in -- one that absolutely loves everything this president has done, and one that thinks that everything he's done is ruining the country. And let me tell you, they don't talk to each other, they don't read the same papers or watch the same television shows.
WILSONOr -- there are some -- a lot of consumer studies that suggest they don't even drink the same beer. So there are -- we're sort of segregating ourselves along ideological lines physically, mentally, all around the country. And that's a really disturbing trend.
PAGEIncluding New Hampshire where Joan was calling from. I mean, there's a close Senate race in New Hampshire, a race that we didn't think I think initially was going to be as close with Jeanne Shaheen running for reelection and Scott Brown running for the Senate from a different state this time. And that is a race that I think would have to be on the list of races that are hard to call at this point.
KNOXAnd to the caller's point, you know, I mean, the wages have remained fairly stagnant for decades. A lot of the gains that you see in the headlines don't actually trickle down to most Americans. A lot of Americans know someone who's been out of work for a long time. A lot of Americans know someone who fought overseas for this country, came back and was not treated particularly well by the V.A. that provides their health care.
KNOXPeople aren't feeling the good news as much as they're feeling the bad news. And whether -- it's not necessarily a partisan issue at all, it could just be a reflection of that.
REHMAnd you're listening to "The Diane Rehm Show." Here's an email from Kate, "The New York Times included Jennifer Granholm, former Michigan governor, in the list of possible nominees to replace Eric Holder. How likely a candidate is she? And could she get through a Republican House?" Susan?
PAGEI think she is not a likely candidate. I was actually surprised to see her name in the New York Times story this morning because she's become -- she's been a pretty partisan figure since she left office. And it seems to me that she would create problems that the White House doesn't need in this confirmation fight.
REHMAnd another question on that line from Mark who says, "I'm glad to hear Governor Deval Patrick has taken his name out of the running for attorney general. A few months ago President Obama made a remark that the governor would make a great running mate for any presidential contender on the Democratic side. I'd love to see him as a vice president, perhaps even a president someday." Reid?
WILSONWell, he has ruled out being an attorney general. He has not -- pointedly not ruled out running for president at some time in the future. I would point out that his consultant, his sort of main political adviser is a guy named David Axelrod who had something to do with President Obama getting elected in the first place. I believe his first gubernatorial campaign was managed by David Plouffe who was President Obama's campaign manager the first time around, too.
WILSONBack to the A.G. thing for a second. We haven't actually mentioned, I think the person that consensus would suggest is the leading candidate to replace Eric Holder, and that's Donald Verrilli, the solicitor general of the United States, the guy who argued in favor of the Affordable Care Act in front of the Supreme Court. A lot of early suggest -- early suspects believe that he's the -- he's the frontrunner.
REHMHow easy would confirmation be for him?
WILSONThe solicitor general is confirmed, isn't he? Is he? I think that -- I believe he is.
REHMYou think he's already...
WILSONI believe the solicitor general is a confirmed position, I'm not 100 percent certain on that. But if it is, then he's been confirmed before.
KNOXI think he would be a classic example of what Reid was talking about earlier about this confirmation process being essentially referendum on everything that the Justice Department touches. And he would be tied quite closely -- he argued successfully in favor of Obamacare's constitutionality. I think there's no way that Republicans would shy away from revisiting that discussion.
REHMAll right. Well, it looks as though we got another long few months ahead. And the Obama administration making a shift in its nuclear strategy, spending billions of dollars, Susan, to modernize U.S. nuclear facilities.
PAGEYou know, this was something I wasn't really aware of until I read a story in the New York Times this week by William Broad and David Sanger. David Sanger, of course, a friend of "The Diane Rehm Show," often on the second hour of the news round-up. And it talked about the fact that the president -- that this administration has embarked on a large-scale modernization for our nuclear weapons arsenal, originally with the idea that this would help facilitate reducing nuclear arms around the world.
PAGEThat it helped negotiations to reduce those levels. It hasn't worked that way. We're modernizing our nuclear arsenal for a variety of geostrategic and other reasons, negotiating real -- reductions in nuclear weaponry haven't worked. So we're going to have a bigger -- we're going to have a more modern nuclear stores and it's going to be easier for a future president who wants to increase to levels of nuclear arms to do so.
REHMSusan Page of USA Today, Olivier Knox of Yahoo News, Reid Wilson of the Washington Post, thank you all so much.
REHMHave a great weekend, everybody. And thanks for listening. I'm Diane Rehm.