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.
A second Dallas nurse is diagnosed with Ebola this week, soon after taking a domestic flight. CDC director Tom Frieden faces tough questions on Capitol Hill about the handling of the nurses’ cases, and President Obama considers appointing an Ebola “czar” to head US containment efforts. With weeks left before the midterms and nearly one million early votes cast, courts rule on voter ID laws in Texas and Arkansas. The stock market swung wildly again this week, as investors respond to mounting uncertainty in the global economy. And the budget deficit has dropped to its lowest level since before the great recession. The domestic hour of the Friday news roundup.
- Manu Raju Senior congressional reporter, Politico.
- Michael Scherer Washington bureau chief, TIME.
- Lisa Lerer White House correspondent for Bloomberg News.
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A caller to the show said there’s excessive coverage of the Ebola crisis by news media. The panel — all journalists — responded to the criticism in this video clip.
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MS. SUSAN PAGEThanks for joining us. I'm Susan Page of USA Today sitting in for Diane Rehm. She'll be back on Monday. President Obama considers appointing an ebola czar to lead the U.S. response to the virus. Courts weigh in on voter ID laws in Texas and Arkansas and a bumpy ride for the stock market. Here to discuss this week's top national stories on our Friday News Roundup, Manu Raju of Politico, Michael Scherer of TIME, Lisa Lerer of Bloomberg News.
MS. SUSAN PAGEAnd since it's Friday, you can watch a live video steam of this program on our website, drshow.org. Welcome to "The Diane Rehm Show."
MR. MANU RAJUHi, Susan.
MR. MICHAEL SCHERERHi, Susan.
MS. LISA LERERThanks.
PAGEWe invite our listeners to join our conversation later in this hour. You can call our toll-free number, 1-800-433-8850. Send us an email at email@example.com or find us on Facebook or Twitter. Well, this is a rare news roundup today because we are starting both the foreign and domestic hours with the same topic, ebola, a big issue inside the United States, a huge issue in West Africa and around the world.
PAGEManu, we learned just last night that President Obama is suddenly open to appointing an ebola czar, an idea that the White House had been kind of dismissing. Why the change?
RAJUYou know, it's been the criticism over the way the administration has handled this issue so far. And the president says that, look, the people that are dealing with ebola right now in the CDC have their hands tied on a number of different issues. They're sort of stretched thin. They need someone who's a point person, potentially who can just work on this specific issue, particularly as the CDC comes under criticism over whether it's been giving proper assurances to the American hospital system, to hospitals and whether they have the proper precautions and the procedures in place in dealing with this deadly virus.
RAJUPotentially, if a person comes in, maybe there'll be a clearer set of guidelines and when these cases begin to proliferate, there'll be a more uniform set of standards in dealing with this.
PAGELisa, you know, if people like Senator John McCain, who has criticized the administration on other fronts for having too many czars, is one of those who was pushing for an appointment like this, who would the president want to appoint to this job, do you think? What would he be looking for?
LERERWell, I think he's looking for someone who has both a public health background as well as more of a political background as well. This is a White House that's in crisis mode. President Obama, of course, cancelled some of his travel, his campaign travel this week. That's a highly unusual situation. I remember being on Air Force One with the White House when the Malaysia Airlines jet went down and if you remember, we didn't know what had happened, who had downed it and we were flying from Delaware...
PAGEWe still don't know.
LERERRight. We still -- of course. And so it wasn't clear, you know, are we gonna be in a war with Russia, what's going on? And we were flying from Delaware to New York for a fundraiser and the reporters were all chattering, are we gonna turn around, are we headed back to Washington? There was no conversation like that happening in the front of the plane with the aides. This is an administration that doesn’t like to cancel travel to show that they're in this kind of crisis footing.
LERERAnd what we've seen this week is them make a really sharp pivot to that kind of footing with talk of appointing a czar, with the cancel of the travel. He will be traveling Sunday, but the president came out last night, which is pretty unusual, and this is, you know, in part, this is about public health and, in part, this is about politics. They know that the public polling has really dramatically flipped on this issue in the past two weeks and the public is concerned and we're, what, 18 days away from a midterm election.
LERERSo he needs to show, the president needs to show, that he is on top of this.
PAGEMichael, we know we call him no-drama Obama, but that has maybe not served him so well with this particular crisis.
SCHERERRight. I think the White House is concerned that they constantly have to put out the president and now I think he's come out three times to give statements about ebola. Each time, the tone of the statement is very similar, but each time, he's cleaning up a new mess. And so he keeps reassuring the country that everything is under control and fine and for the most part, that's still true.
SCHEREREbola is not a big threat to America right now. But it's also true that there have been a number of missteps along the way in the way that the CDC has prepared local hospitals and also in the way this has been communicated by the CDC to the American people and to hospitals. I think the conclusion that the White House may be reaching if they go forward with this is that Tom Frieden at the CDC is not the best person -- I mean, I don't think they doubt his scientific ability to handle this outbreak, but he may not be the best person to be the public point person in terms of communicating with the American people about what the dangers are going forward and what's being done.
LERERAnd I think it's worth noting that this is a particularly tricky issue for the White House because it really is a fine balancing act 'cause the concern here -- look, we've only had three people in the U.S. have ebola so the concern, in some ways, is more about hysteria. So you don't want the president giving an Oval Office address and then have everyone rushing out to stockpile hand sanitizer. I saw a picture on Twitter making the round yesterday of a woman dressed in her homemade ebola suit, sitting at Dulles, which was basically plastic bags, what looked like garbage bags, from head to toe.
LERERSo the White House doesn't want to see all of these people checking into hospitals with symptoms of ebola that really are the flu or whatever. That doesn’t help the country respond to or identify any possible spread of this disease. But at the same time, they have to calm fears.
PAGEYou know, it's hard to argue there is an overreaction, right? I mean, three people in the United States have had ebola. One of them came to this country with it, only two have caught it here. They both seem to be doing well. I mean, we hope they are doing well. It's, of course, a terrifying disease. I mean, really, more people are being killed by lightning strikes than by ebola in the United States.
RAJUYeah, that's right. But, you know, it does go to the public perception about how the administration is handling it. And, you know, it's really become an issue that's dominated the campaign trail in the past week. I mean, if you look at the debates that have happened in the Senate races, almost all of them have talked about ebola and that's become a wedge issue between the Republicans and the Democrats.
RAJUAnd you look at the hearing that happened yesterday in the House Energy and Commerce Committee, there were two candidates, House members, who are running for the Senate in two of the most closely competitive races in Iowa, Bruce Braley and in Colorado, Cory Gardner, who returned to that hearing and left the campaign trail and Braley did that just hours before his own debate. I mean, it just shows that this is an issue that really has caught the public's attention, even if, you know, the people's risk of catching this disease is extremely rare.
LERERIt just speaks to the Republicans' underlying argument for this whole campaign, which is questioning Obama. They're trying to nationalize this campaign, make it a referendum on the president and his capacity. And here you have the president looking like he's not, you know, that there were a bunch of missteps and he hasn't handled them properly. So if you're a Republican, this plays exactly into your midterm argument. It couldn't be timed better politically for them.
PAGESo one of the other things being debated is whether there should be a travel ban. We're, of course, monitoring travelers who come to the United States from West Africa, but there are any number of people who say we should cut off that travel entirely. What's the argument for and against doing that, Michael?
SCHERERWell, the argument for is that politically it makes an enormous amount of sense. People are afraid. They're fearful of what's happening. They don't see the government in control and it makes sense in a sort of instinctual level that if this is a disease that's coming from West Africa, we cut off access to West Africa, then we'll actually stop the disease. The problem is that all the experts, almost unanimously, the people who actually work with infectious diseases, say the truth is counterintuitive, that if you cut off flights from West Africa, if you stop visas coming from West Africa, there'll be a blowback in a couple different ways.
SCHERERThe first is, you'll make it much harder for supplies and medical personnel to get into West Africa and out of West Africa to help stop this at the source. You could cause additional economic damage to that part of the world, which would also maybe continue the spread of this disease. And the second is that because most people leaving West Africa are now coming through the airports, we now have an ability to actually interview them, to test them, to track them, to know who they are.
SCHERERAnd there's a pretty extensive screening process happening both in the airports in West Africa and in the ports where these planes are landing. And the CDC says, look, if we give up on that, what's gonna happen is these people are gonna sneak across the border and they're gonna fly from another country, we won't be able to track them. We won't know who they are. We won't be educating them as they come across. We won't be checking them for fever and that could lead to a greater spread of this disease.
PAGEYou know, we talked about how this has affected the midterm elections just two and a half weeks away. Also seems to be having an effect unnerving the stock market. What a week it was for the stock market. Manu, what do you think is happening?
RAJUYeah, it's really been a wild week. In addition to the fears of ebola, there have been concerns over the world economy. I mean, there's concerns about Europe potentially tipping into a recession, the German economy slowing down, the Chinese economy slowing down, plunging oil prices. And, you know, while the job market here in the United States has shown steady growth, it has not grown at the pace that a lot of folks want to see happen. And I think it also speaks to the larger concerns over the economy that, you know, while the recovery is happening, it's just been full of fits and starts and we're not seeing that robust growth economically that they administration has hoped for all along and this week certainly speaks to that.
PAGEHere's another example of how integrated we are as a globe now, right, on both ebola and on the economy, there is no border that protects you from what's happening in the rest of the world.
LERERThat's exactly right. And part of what may be happening here in the United States is this may be just a simple adjustment of the market, too, the economic reality that the country actually is in. While, you know, we've recovered from the recession a few years ago, wages are stagnate and it's hard to justify the tear -- given the fundamental economic reality, it's hard to justify the tear the market has been on. So this could just be a readjustment. And I also think it's worth pointing out that some of these things are actually kind of good for the average American.
LERERGas, oil prices are down so gas prices are down. Commodity prices fall so that means eventually things could be cheaper at the grocery store for people. So this isn't -- though, I think, psychologically it makes people really nervous and they're watching the volatility and up and down and certainly for the Democrats with the midterms, again, it's another marker of uncertainty that's bad for them, politically, I do wonder if economically it might actually help people out.
SCHERERThe other issue here is that we are coming to the end of this extraordinary period of Federal Reserve intervention both here and around the world and the market doesn't really know how to price itself in this environment and so what everybody is saying is, we're going to have a few months, maybe a few years of some of these big swings, as traders try and figure out what things are actually worth now that we're coming out of this extraordinary period.
SCHERERI mean, when I woke up this morning, I have no idea where the stocks are now, but futures were up and they were up not because of any fundamentals, but because of comments from the Federal Reserve chair.
PAGEYou can see of our guests on our live video stream at drshow.org. We're gonna take a short break. When we come back, we'll talk about what's gonna happen in those midterm elections. Stay with us.
PAGEWelcome back. I'm Susan Page of USA Today sitting in for Diane Rehm. With me in the studio for our Friday News Roundup, Lisa Lerer. She's White House correspondent for Bloomberg News. Michael Scherer, he's Washington bureau chief for TIME magazine. And Manu Raju, senior congressional reporter for Politico. You can watch video of this hour streaming live on the web on drshow.org.
PAGENow before the break, we were talking about the idea that President Obama just might name an Ebola czar. He suggested that last night. Now we have multiple sources, CNN and NBC among them, reporting that he has chosen an Ebola czar, Ron Klain. This is a familiar figure to all of us. Tell us about him.
SCHERERWell, Ron has been in the White House and out of the White House for decades now, I think. I mean, he's a veteran of the Clinton years. He helped run Al Gore's campaign in 2000. And then when Obama and Joe Biden came to the White House in 2008, Joe Biden brought him in as his chief of staff. And he was pretty influential in those early years in overseeing things like the Stimulus Act.
SCHERERHe's been talked of since then as a possible chief of staff to the president. I think that's still probably a possibility in the final two years of the Obama term, but he's someone they know. He's someone they know to be confident and he will actually be someone who can deal with what we were just talking about, the political and messaging aspects of it.
PAGESo he's got lots of experience, he's highly respected, lots of political knowledge. So far as I know, no background though in public health.
LERERRight. He's not a doctor. He's not, you know, a PhD in public health. He's not someone who -- I mean, unless he has some secret health degree that we're all unaware of, he's not someone that's certainly not known for his expertise in health issues. What he is known for, as Michael pointed out, is management and his politics
LERERSo the White House is making a decision here that they need a political manager to oversee this. And not just a political manager, that's a little unfair, but also someone who's good at management, who can -- a good coordinator who understands government who can connect different parts to create a coordinated response but also a response that's politically viable with the midterms.
PAGESomeone who -- here's an email we've gotten from Andrea who writes us from Pittsboro, N.C., but the fact is we're getting a lot of emails along these same lines. She writes, "Why doesn't congress approve the nominated surgeon general and let him or her do the job that's needed? The preparation, planning, political and PR functions of that position are what are needed right now."
RAJUWell, it's a great question. You know, that issue has been wrapped up in a political fight between the two sides over the surgeon general nominee. You know, I think that this issue though, naming Ron Klain, as Lisa said, the White House needs someone who can actually communicate a message on why -- on what they're doing. They don't need someone who's a public health professional per say.
RAJUAnd that's probably why they don't -- leaning on a surgeon general nominee to do just that. They need a political face, someone who could talk about what's happening, someone who could go in front of the cameras and someone who can actually clearly alleviate concerns particularly among Democrats that the administration is moving in the right direction here.
PAGESo just to repeat for some of our listeners who might have missed this, news just in that the president is likely to name Ron Klain as the new Ebola czar. This is being reported by CNN, NBC and other news outlets.
PAGEWell, let's talk about the midterm elections because I've got to say, if you love politics, it's like the best week of the year because there are debates everywhere in some of these key Senate races. You know, there was one in Kentucky, for instance Michael, where it seemed to be the most notable thing was that the Democratic nominee for the Senate, Alison Lundergan Grimes, refuses to say if she voted for President Obama. Why?
SCHERERBecause she doesn't want to have to say it. If she says it -- I mean, she is running a race in Kentucky as a Democrat who she is saying will oppose the president at every turn on most of the things that Kentuckians don't like about the president. And my guess is that she probably did vote for the president. I think if she didn't vote for the president last time she would probably say that.
PAGEShe was a delegate to the Democratic National Convention, you know. And he was the guy nominated.
SCHERERBut she doesn't want to confuse that message. The problem, of course, with saying I'm not going to say who I voted for is you don't look like someone who can stand up and, you know, take a stand and stand for what you stand for. And I think there's been some blowback. And you've seen the DSCC pull out of that race...
PAGEPull their -- no longer investing, not really pulling money out. I think not putting more money in for ads.
PAGEBut isn't that a sign that they think that race is lost?
RAJUWell, I think that it's probably going to be lost because McConnell's held a pretty steady lead in the polls by four to six points. And the problem for Grimes has been all along is trying to, you know, sort herself on the positions, on the issues. She really is a very scripted candidate and she has been from the start attacking McConnell who's very, very unpopular in that state, but also trying to navigate the line between her very liberal and progressive base and try to also show herself as a conservative Democrat in a conservative state. She has not been able to really navigate those two different constituencies that she needs to win in a state like Kentucky.
PAGEYou know, I think this not saying who you voted for for president is kind of silly but I will say that she jumped in the race when other stronger candidates declined to do so in Kentucky. And it's been a race. You know, McConnell's had the lead but I don't think he's ever had a double-digit lead. So, you know, kudos to her for being willing to wage a battle, however it comes out. You know, Lisa, another favorite debate this week was in Florida when the debate -- CSPAN came on, the debate was supposed to start. Only one candidate on the stage. What in the world happened there?
LERERSo the issue was over former Governor Charlie Crist's fan. The Republican-turned-Democrat has traveled throughout his whole career with a fan that he always puts at his feet. You know, Florida's hot. The man doesn't want to sweat. He certainly doesn't want to be caught on camera sweating so his Republican opponent Governor Crist -- I'm sorry, Governor Rick Scott decided to make an issue of this and refused to come on the stage until the fan was removed.
LERERCharlie Crist played it off really well saying, I'm here to debate, you know, substantive issues like education, not a fan. Scott held his ground. Eventually he came out. It turns out in the end that Scott was correct, that fans actually weren't allowed on the stage. And former Governor Crist had handwritten an addendum onto the contract, you know, providing for his fan. But politically he came out ahead. You know, I think the governor looked petty and Crist looked like he was able to roll with the punches.
LERERBut, I mean, what this says on a larger scale about that race is this race, we called it this week at Bloomberg Politics the worse race in the country. And it really is. I mean, this is one of the largest states in the entire nation. It's extremely critical politically of course. It's always been a battleground and you have this governor's race between two candidates that frankly nobody likes and both have -- you know, are very flawed candidates in a race that's just been, you know, had a deluge of outside money and where no substantive policy issues are being discussed at all. So it really is sort of a kind of depressing race. And I think the fan just showed that to the country.
PAGEWell, I think it's a good thing we don't have any really serious problems in our country so that we can debate, like, fans and who did you vote for in 2012. Okay. Let's have predictions. You know, the big story election night is going to be who -- which party controls the U.S. Senate. Where do you think that stands, Michael? If you had to bet today, who would you bet on?
SCHERERI don't generally bet but I think I would say that the trends seem to be looking good for Republicans. Not just because it's a midterm year in which almost inevitably more Republicans will be voting than Democrats compared to presidential years, but also because the Democratic attempt to change the conversation, which started a couple weeks ago when Obama went to Chicago and tried to give a speech about how the economy's actually doing great has been demolished by the news.
SCHERERI mean, we're opening today talking about the stock market going down and Ebola. And that is still -- it's a kind of grim moment for the country. And grim moments are bad for incumbents.
PAGELisa, what do you think? Republicans win control of the Senate?
LERERI would also come down on the side of Republicans just because I think this kind of reminds me of 2012 in a way when Obama simply had more past to 270. And I think in this case Republicans have more past to 51. It seems pretty widespread agreement that they'll flip West Virginia, Montana and probably South Dakota, although there's some debate over that. So then they just need to pick up three states out of Arkansas, Colorado, Alaska, North Carolina, Louisiana, Iowa, if I'm not forgetting any.
LERERSo there's a bunch of different ways they could do that. So it seems like they'll -- they're -- they have more ways to get to that 51 goal. What I do think is we may not have an answer on election night. It seems pretty likely that Louisiana could go into a runoff. Georgia could go into a runoff. And then you have this issued of these independents in Kansas, which is a state that I know both Manu and I have spent some time in over the past couple weeks. You could have an independent win who hasn't -- who's refused to say which party he'll caucus with. So then there'll be an auctioneering process for where he goes.
LERERAnd Maine's Senator Angus King, another independent, has said that he could flip parties himself from caucusing to the Democrats to the Republicans. So we might not know who's in the majority of this congress until December, maybe even January.
PAGEIf it goes to the Georgia Senate race, which is possible, that election wouldn't be held until January. Manu, what do you think? The Republicans win? Do you make it three for three?
RAJUNo. You know, I think that they are certainly favored but this election certainly could go either way. As Lisa mentioned, the Republicans have so many targets in that they could have a huge night but they could really blow these races as well. All these races that you talk about aside from those three that will likely flip, are within the margin of error. You know, Alaska for one, that's a -- we -- there's a rural contingent in that state that's very hard to pull. Who knows who's going to come out in that race.
RAJULouisiana, a possibility of a runoff. Georgia, the Democrat Michelle Nunn is now leading in that race. If there's a runoff, big question there on what happens. Kansas can go either way. Arkansas is within the margin of error. Iowa as well. You know, so there are so many questions on election night. If Democrats -- they've been bragging about this turnout operation. If they actually can, you know, carry through on what they say they have put together, maybe they can hold a couple of those seats. And then the Republicans can come frustratingly short for a third straight cycle in taking back the majority. I think it's still up in the air.
PAGELet's invite our listeners to join our conversation, our toll free number, 1-800-433-8850. We'll go first to Bret. He's calling from Hot Springs, Ark. Hi, Bret.
BRETHi. Good morning. How are you all?
BRETGood, good. I'm calling about the information that we've received so far on ISIS or ISIL and ebola. Last year -- or during -- before the presidential election we seen a lot of misinformation from the administration on Benghazi. Are we to expect the same kind of administration misinformation on ebola?
PAGEYou know, Bret, I think you make a good point in that people are really skeptical about whether they can trust the government, whether they can believe the reassurances that they've been told. What do you think, Michael?
SCHERERI think that's right and I think that is the political problem we were talking about earlier. I think you can say that the president probably erred and the administration erred early on in ebola by leading with, don't be concerned and then describing the dangers. The dangers haven't changed. It remains a very narrow danger that ebola becomes a serious threat in the United States. But it is getting worse and so people are losing faith in the validity of that message.
PAGEI'm Susan Page and you're listening to "The Diane Rehm Show." We're taking your calls, 1-800-433-8850 and we'll read your emails, firstname.lastname@example.org. Let's take another caller. We'll talk to Chris who's calling us from Clinton Township, Mich. Good morning, Chris. Well, I think we've lost Chris. Let's go to Jean who's calling us from Springfield, Va. Jean, are you there?
JEANYes, I am.
PAGEGreat. Welcome to "The Diane Rehm Show."
JEANI think that the media coverage of the ebola has been extremely excessive. I challenge the media to not mention the word ebola for one hour.
PAGEOkay. Well, criticism of the media, that's kind of a staple in everything we do. Is it fair in this case?
RAJUWell, maybe. I mean, you know, there is wall-to-wall coverage. And I think all of our news lines are covering it. But people are legitimately concerned. This is something that is consuming West Africa and it's something that has now become a new issue in the United States. So, you know, there's always a balance about how much you cover an issue but this is one that has certainly captured the public's attention.
PAGEYou know, I think there'd be grounds for less criticism if we were giving as much coverage in West Africa as we are to a nurse who gets on a flight here. And then we see schools shut down in two states.
LERERRight. I think that's exactly right but this is a horrifying situation in West Africa. There are reports that say as many as 10,000 people a day are getting affected. There's very little infrastructure to stop the spread and to help these people. So I think coverage of that issue is certainly legitimate. Whether the wall-to-wall coverage about the three infected people here in the U.S. is legitimate, you know, is a good question but look, people are interested in this. People are concerned.
LERERThe polling -- two weeks ago the polling said that something like two-thirds of people weren't worried about ebola. It's completely flipped. The most recent poll in the Washington Post this week said that 66, 67 percent of people were concerned about them or someone in their family getting ebola. So, I mean, people are worried about it and they want information.
PAGEWe saw the director of the CDC testifying on Capitol Hill yesterday. Did we learn anything substantively new, Michael, from that testimony?
SCHERERThere were some details that came out about when the nurses may have been infected but no, most of that was members of congress voicing their concerns, Republicans making the argument for a travel ban. And the CDC and the rest of the government basically holding their ground explaining why they weren't going to do that. And to some extent continuing their apology for both miscommunicating and mis-preparing on the local hospital level.
SCHERERI mean, what happened in Texas was a real failure. You know, from the beginning of this process, you know, people at the White House, people at CDC felt very confident that the U.S. health care system could handle something like ebola very well because we are probably one of the most modern health care systems in the world. Ebola is something that is containable if you use the right practices and have the right equipment. And that process just failed in Texas.
SCHERERAnd so I think, you know, the other things that was talked about a lot at that hearing was the fact that the CDC is going to be far more aggressive in the future if other ebola cases pop up in different parts of the country of sending in a reaction team, of preparing the hospital for taking over the operation to make sure these slip ups don't happen again.
PAGEWe had one or two Republican members of congress suggest that the head of the CDC, Tom Frieden, should resign, should be replaced, but not really a groundswell on that. Manu, do you think he's got his job safe?
RAJUI think for now, particularly with the name of a new ebola czar, someone will take that -- will be his box basically on this issue. You know, Frieden's really only faced pressure from most conservative members in the House and the Senate. People like Steve King, the Republican from Iowa, has called for him to resign. David Vitter from Louisiana also has called for him to resign. But you have not seen that call from the Republican leadership so -- and the pressure has not mounted from the Democratic side.
RAJUSo certainly when Democrats start calling for your head, that's when the Democratic Administration will force you to resign. But that has not happened yet.
LERERAnd there's one other thing that's interesting, I think worth pointing out in the polling, which is that when they ask -- when these polls about Ebola have asked people whether they trust the government's response, overwhelmingly it's Republicans, not independent or Democrats, who don't trust the government's response. So Republican candidates, certainly Republican 2016 candidates are reading those numbers and they're seeing an opportunity to question the government's response and to score points with their base by doing so.
LERERSo that's part of why you're hearing those calls, you know. And it's part of why they're warning of a -- folks like Rand Paul are warning of a pandemic. They're playing into those fears that they're hearing from and seeing in their voters.
PAGEThat's Lisa Lerer. She's the White House correspondent for Bloomberg News. And we're also joined this hour by Michael Scherer of TIME and Manu Raju of Politico. You can see all of our guests on our live video stream drshow.org. We're going to take another short break. When we come back, we'll talk about conflicting court rulings on some of those voter ID laws. Stay with us.
PAGEWelcome back. I'm Susan Page of USA Today, sitting in for Diane Rehm. And with me in the studio, Manu Raju of Politico, Michael Scherer of Time, Lisa Lerer of Bloomberg Politics. Lisa, I want to go back to a comment you made that's attracted a little bit of furor. We know that Ebola is a terrible threat, but possibly inadvertently misstated.
LERERYeah, I think I said 10,000 -- 10,000 people being infected a day, it's 10,000 a week. And that's by the end of December if they don't get better controlled. But the point is that this is something that's growing exponentially in West Africa and is a major not only public health threat in the region, but national security threat as well.
PAGENow, here's an email from Bob who writes us from San Antonio. He says, "Congress has made significant cuts in CDC budgets over the last six years. What effects have these cuts had on the abilities -- the agency's ability to respond to this outbreak of the Ebola virus?" For instance, Manu, has it affected the fact that we do not now have a vaccine?
RAJUThat's only been the criticism. You know, I'm not entirely sure exactly the impact on this specific response. But you've seen that debate sort of play out on the campaign trail. The Democratic candidates who are trying to defend themselves on the -- on this issue are saying that, look, Republicans would vote to slash CDC funding even more. You saw Mark Udall in Colorado attack Cory Gardner for backing budgets that would slash CDC funding.
RAJUAnd Gardner trying to defend himself saying, well, Udall, you did too. And similarly, last night in the Iowa debate, Joni Ernst, the Republican candidate, was on the defensive over this issue as Bruce Braley said you would support budgets that would slash CDC funding. So certainly this has become an issue that has been talked about quite a bit on the campaign trail.
PAGELet's talk to Kathleen. She's calling us from Dayton, OH. Kathleen, hi, you're on the air.
KATHLEENHi. Hey, listen, I watched both -- I watched the Lundergan Grimes-Mitch McConnell debate and I also watched Senator Udall and Cory Gardner's debate. And I am just really -- I want to ask your guests. How is it Republicans been so incredibly successful at dumping their obstructionist behavior and votes -- I've looked closely at Senator McConnell's vote online and I encourage voters to do the same as well as Senator Udall's votes, which Udall's have been for the greater good, McConnell has, you know, took an oath as soon as Obama was inaugurated to obstruct.
KATHLEENHow have these guys been so -- McConnell and Boehner and these guys -- been so successful at dumping their obstructionist agenda onto the damn candidates?
PAGEYou know, Kathleen, you must be the world's best informed voter if you're sitting in Dayton, OH and you're watching these Senate debates in other states. Congratulations. CSPAN loves you. What do you think about her -- about her point?
RAJUWell, in the McConnell side, he would say he's proud an obstructionist because he says that I'm blocking bad things for Kentucky. That's been a part of his calling card, that I'm fighting the Obama administration. The president lost 116 out of 120 counties in Kentucky in 2012. And as we noted, the reason why Alison Grimes did not say she supported Obama in 2012 is because that hurts her politically. So, in that regard, it's held.
RAJUBut, you know, in Cory Gardner's case, she mentioned Colorado, you know, he was a couple of years ago -- National Journal rated him as the 10th most conservative member in the House. But he's a very skilled politician. He knows how to talk in a more bipartisan manner. He's promoted things like over-the-counter birth control, things that could appeal to folks on the left.
RAJUAnd he's managed to run a very effective race by suggesting he's a pragmatic voice and it's Udall who's been the partisan. So part of it is messaging, part of it is rhetoric. But some of these candidates have been effective in doing just that.
LERERAnd one other thing I want to point out about McConnell. I was in Kentucky this past week with Hillary Clinton. She, of course, came and did a big campaign rally for Alison Grimes. And one thing that was very notable about her remarks was that she never mentioned Mitch McConnell. She attacked him. She said...
PAGENow why do you think she did that?
LERERBecause I think she is calculating. She knows she's running, of course, we all suspect or know she's running. And I think she calculated that it's not very presidential to be on record attacking the Senate minority leader or perhaps even majority leader. So if you want an indicator of the political winds in Kentucky, I think you look at Hillary Clinton and how she was managing her support for Alison Grimes.
PAGETalk about taking the long view. She's thinking, I'll run for president, I'll get elected, I'll need to work Mitch McConnell, I guess I won't mention his name today.
LERERWell, actually I have a piece up today that you're playing right into perfectly, I'll tout it, about all the Republicans who are watching every single thing Hillary Clinton says. There's a whole industry of Republican groups that are saving all this footage of Secretary Clinton on the campaign trail in order to use it later in attack ads. So that's what she's watching for. She knows they're out there.
SCHERERLisa, you want to give the website?
SCHERERI would just say, the reason -- the reason people are -- are successful right now at running on their obstruction is that the country as a whole does not believe the direction Obama has been pushing the country is really the right one right now. If you look at the polls, he's polling at 40 percent, which is not a good place to be approaching a midterm election. And if it was reversed, if 60 percent of the country or 65 percent of the country still believe that Obama knew how to take the country forward, was, you know, doing a good job in office, then Republicans wouldn't be successful in those attacks.
PAGEYou know, the fact is the landscape is quite negative for Democrats. It's surprising in a way that Democrats continue to be at least be able to hold on to the hope that they can keep Senate control. The president's approval is low. When you look at, is the country going in the right direction? It's now a bit lower than it was in 2006, which was a disastrous year for the party that held the White House.
SCHERERYeah, it's really quite remarkable. The president is just toxic right now in these battleground states. I mean, we keep talking about Colorado, but that is a prime example.
PAGEHe carried it twice.
SCHERERHe carried it twice and now he's underwater with women, with men, and those voters that the Democrats need. You know, in past elections Democrats would go after Obama supporters, making sure those Obama supporters get to the polls. But those Obama supporters are no longer Obama supporters. They view him negatively. It is such a difficult situation. It's the biggest reason why they are losing in states like Iowa and in Colorado, it's the president.
SCHERERAnd that's why we have not seen him once on the campaign trail for any of these candidates. It's pretty remarkable for a guy who's -- who was an asset for a lot of these candidates just a couple of cycles ago.
PAGEWell, and in fact, two years ago reelected with a majority of the votes, the first Democrat since FDR to twice win a majority of the vote for the presidency.
LEREROne thing I've noticed that some candidates have been doing and something that Hillary Clinton and Alison Grimes did in Kentucky was they say it's not about the next two years, it's about the next six years, which is of course a sort of soft way for Democrats to say, forget about Obama, we know you don't like him. But this is about the, you know, the future of the country and the future of the Senate. And other thing on Colorado, I think it's the generic ballot of this race, of this cycle, right?
LERERIt's the state that looks most like America. It's, of course, going to be competitive state in '16. So I'm going to be watching that race really closely to see how it plays out there and see what lessons we can take away from that for the parties heading into the presidential.
PAGEAnd a good governor's race there in Colorado as well with Governor Hickenlooper a while -- a couple months ago we thought he was going to be reelected without too much trouble really competitive contest here. While we're talking about Kentucky and 2016, Michael, maybe we should mention the story that you done for Time magazine with -- tell us about Rand Paul.
SCHERERI can give you a website. Yeah, I did -- we -- I did the cover story for Time magazine this week. We called Rand Paul the most interesting politician in America. And the reason is that he's really trying to color outside the lines of the political narratives that we have known for 30, 40 years, basically since Richard Nixon, Republicans have been the party of law and order, of the straight and narrow.
SCHERERAnd Rand Paul is now going around the country talking mostly to Republican audiences, but also black audience, also college audiences, and arguing for a conservative change in the way we think about issues like criminal justice reform, like privacy, even issues like spending. I mean, he will go into an audience in Ferguson where I was with him last week and say I support increased funding for job training here, which is something Tea Party Republican is not likely to say. And then he'll -- the second sentence is, and I'm going to pay for it by giving nonviolent offenders out of prison and reducing prison cost.
PAGELet's -- we've got an email from Peggy. She writes us, "In Texas, the Republicans say that voter IDs are easy to get. That's not true. My 88-year-old mother stood in line at the DPS for almost two hours on her walker to get a voter ID. She had to pay $10 for it. There is a photo ID and a voter ID. The latter, which is free, you have to know to ask for the voter ID specifically. These facts alone will suppress voters."
PAGEWell, congratulations to your mother Peggy for being willing to go to that length to be able to vote. Let's talk about these court rulings on voter ID laws. One of them was in Texas, Manu. What did the court decide there?
RAJUIt was the federal appeals court that basically stayed a lower court ruling. And that lower court ruling had said that the Texas law was discriminatory against blacks and minorities and senior citizens and folks like the caller who's having difficulty getting an ID. But the appeals court basically said that the Texas law can go forward in this election cycle. And largely, not necessarily on the merits, but because we're so close to the election and early voting is beginning in Texas.
RAJUAnd they said it would cause confusion if there was -- if that law was nullified right before the election. So that went forward. But we're really seeing a conflicting spade of rulings all across the country. Arkansas State Supreme Court ruled that its voter ID law was unconstitutional and we've seen in in Wisconsin that the voter ID law that was -- that Republicans wanted to move forward will not move forward in this election cycle because that's so close to the election that this was taking shape. So, you know, this is -- we're all over the map on this -- on this issue right now. And the courts are certainly divided.
PAGEWe've talked about how close some of these races are. Are there races in which the enforcement of these new voter ID laws could make the difference, Lisa?
LERERWell, certainly that's the argument that Democrats make that'll depress votes from young and minority voters who are key demographic for Democratic candidates. I do think it's awfully confusing for voters. You know, they see the reports in their own state, maybe even from other states. They don't know what they need, what they don't need. It's already can be kind of a challenge for people to -- who are working one or two full-time jobs to get to the polls and cast their ballot.
LERERAnd if they don't know what they're going to need, you could see that that would quickly become overwhelming. So, I do think the -- the mix of different laws is challenging.
SCHERERJust to pull back the lens here a little bit. What's happening now is just the latest round of this fight. And we've seen over the last decade mostly in Democratic states a real expansion of the ability to vote. There are a lot more early voting now than there was before. There are sometimes mail-in voting, a lot more absentee balloting. And generally speaking, that has benefited Democrats because the people least likely to vote tend to vote Democratic.
SCHERERRepublicans have been fighting back very aggressively, and that's what most of these cases are, by putting in place new rules. And the courts are really unsettled on this. I think North Carolina may be the place where you have the biggest impact ever, pretty tough. It's not a voter ID issue there, they've shrunk early voting. They have no out-of-precinct voting now. They have no same-day registration, which is something they had before when you have a close race. But the real impact of all this stuff is likely to be felt over several cycles, because it's a long-term fight.
PAGEI'm Susan Page. And you're listening to "The Diane Rehm Show." Don't forget, you can see all of our guests on live video on our live video stream at drshow.org. Manu?
RAJUYeah, I mean, we're talking about voter ID here. In, you know, if we're also promoting our stories, I was in Kansas this week and I was -- and there was -- there's a very controversial voter ID law there. And the man who has implemented that is Chris Kobach, the secretary of state. And they have the most far-reaching voter ID law in the country in that they actually require birth certificates, people who have -- who are registering to show that they were born in this country or that they were citizens of this country, either birth certificates or passports.
RAJUAnd that's another issue that's being held up in the courts right now. So this is something that we're seeing play out in about 30 states right now that have voter ID laws and, you know, it's not clear exactly how it is going to play out.
PAGESo we've talked about some of the criticism of President Obama that's causing Democrats some pain. Here are some other news that we saw this week that didn't get very much attention. The White House announced that the deficit is at its lowest level since 2007. Lisa, why is the deficit down so much?
LERERWell, it's, you know, it's fallen to the prerecession levels in part this is because of the spending cuts that both parties agreed on and the sequester. And, you know, as well as the increased in taxes on wealthy individuals. But I don't think we're going to see a stop of -- a cessation of budget fights. I mean, we're still going to have to deal with entitlements, which, of course, spending on entitlements going to explode as baby boomers age and we're pretty much on a standstill on that in Washington.
LERERRepublicans want to tackle that issue, Democrat -- Obama and Democrats won't do it unless taxes are raised and Republicans say no way. So we're sort of at a -- I don't think this positive news is going to cause any reconsideration of issues in Washington.
SCHERERThe big story here is we're now -- we have deficits now that are lower than our growth rate, which basically means we've staunched the bleeding, that the country is no longer bleeding enormous amounts of money. It doesn't mean, though, that we're exactly in a healthy place. The debt as opposed to the deficit -- the amount of money that the U.S. government owes somebody is still larger than the gross national product, which is not a comfortable place to be.
SCHERERHistorically, it's more like 50, 60 percent of the gross national product. And to lower that back down, it's either going to take a very long time at this rate or more taxes and less spending.
RAJUYeah, I would say that...
RAJUSorry. I was going to say, only in Washington would a $483 billion deficit be good news.
PAGEStill. Here's an email from Rick. He writes us from Dallas. He writes, "When gas is up, it's hard on everyone and everything. But when gas is low, you report that's bad as well. When unemployment is high, that's bad and affects the economy. When unemployment drops, you say, that's not what we want to see." And here, of course, and this isn't from his email, the deficit is way down but we're saying don't relax, it doesn't really mean that much good. He says, "Are there magic numbers? And if so, how could they possibly be maintained for more than a week or a month? Fair point?
LERERWell, you know, we don't -- good news does not make for good stories, right? No, I think we -- the country is facing a lot of big problems and we -- it doesn't seem like folks in Washington, certainly not over the past couple of years, had the wherewithal or the ability to tackle them. So that's really what we're talking about with the deficit.
RAJUAnd I think that we should say very clearly when gas prices are down, unless you're an oil trader or you're a shale driller in North Dakota, that's a good thing. Everybody is going to have more money in their pockets at the end of the day. When unemployment rates are down, that's a good thing also. It means your friends are going to have more money, you're probably going to have more money. The wages will probably, at some point, start to increase again. So we can celebrate those numbers.
PAGEBut it is true, I think, as Rick says, that we, as journalists, look for the cloud not for the silver lining.
RAJUYeah, that's fair. But, you know, we're also trained as journalists to be skeptical about when the government is trying to promote good news. But I think largely it just shows that the economy is very mixed. You know, there are a lot of mixed signals. There are things that suggest we are moving in the right direction. But for every two steps forward, we take one step back. And that -- that is reflected in the news coverage as well.
PAGEManu Raju, senior congressional reporter at Politico, Michael Scherer, the Washington bureau chief for Time, and Lisa Lerer, she's a reporter with Bloomberg Politics. Thanks so much for being with us this hour.
PAGEI'm Susan Page of USA Today sitting in for Diane Rehm. Thanks for listening.
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