Veteran diplomat Richard Haass turns from foreign affairs to threats from within. He argues Americans focus so much on rights we forget our obligations as citizens -- and the country is suffering because of it.
With just days before voters go to the polls, key midterm races are coming down to the wire. But Republicans are increasingly confident they will win control of the Senate. In several states, proposals restricting abortion are on the ballot. With the economy on firmer footing, the Federal Reserve ends the bond buying program known as quantitative easing. A nurse in Maine defies a state isolation order as the Centers for Disease Control rejects mandatory Ebola quarantines in the U.S. And Apple’s Tim Cook becomes the first openly gay C.E.O. of a Fortune 500 company. A panel of journalists joins guest host Susan Page for a conversation about the week’s top national stories.
- Jeff Mason White House correspondent, Reuters.
- Clarence Page Syndicated columnist for the Chicago Tribune
- Molly Ball Staff writer, The Atlantic.
MS. SUSAN PAGEThanks for joining us. I'm Susan Page of USA Today sitting in for Diane Rehm. She'll be back on Monday. With just days to go before the midterm elections, candidates step up campaigning in key states. The Federal Reserve ends its bond-buying program and debate continues over Ebola quarantines in the United States. With me for the domestic hour of our Friday News Roundup, Clarence Page of The Chicago Tribune, Molly Ball of The Atlantic and Jeff Mason of Reuters.
MS. SUSAN PAGEAnd since its Friday, you can watch a live video stream of this program on our website, drshow.org. Welcome to "The Diane Rehm Show."
MR. JEFF MASONThanks for having us.
MR. CLARENCE PAGEHi, Susan.
MS. MOLLY BALLThank you.
PAGEWe invite our listeners to join our conversation later in this hour. You can call our toll-free number, 1-800-433-8850. You can always send us an email, firstname.lastname@example.org or find us on Facebook or Twitter. Well, Clarence, down to the last few days, what's gonna happen Tuesday?
PAGEWe're gonna have an election, Susan, and some people will win, some will lose and many will be surprised. But right now, though, it seems like the narrative of the day is widespread apathy about the election, that there is a big enthusiasm gap. Republicans, on the whole, have an advantage going into it, the polls indicate, because their voters are older, more conservative and more reliable.
PAGEDemocrats, on the other hand, are relying on what we used to call GOTV, get out the vote and what's now called the ground game for some last minute surprises, which, I think, are quite possible.
PAGESo Molly Ball, we've got 435 House races, 36 governors races, but all the focus is on about a half dozen, maybe up to 10, races in the Senate that will determine which party controls the Senate for President Obama's final two years. What's the trend? What do you see changing over the last few days as we go into Election Day?
BALLWell, you know, in my experience covering elections, there tends to be this sort of calm before the storm where, for the last few days, it doesn't seem like anything is happening and it's like that proverbial duck that's still on top of the pond, but paddling madly beneath the surface because, as Clarence said, this is the time when the mechanics click in. Really, the messaging has been done, the campaign narratives have been set and all that's left is this sort of sprint to the finish, this mad dash to drag people out of their houses and get them to the polls.
BALLI've just been in Colorado for the last few days and that is one of the most closely contested Senate races. There's also a quite competitive gubernatorial race there, some House races and so far, you know, Colorado is going to be different this year because it is an all-mail election. Not meaning men, but meaning post. So everybody who is registered or who has voted before is getting a ballot in the mail to send back.
BALLAnd so this is sort of unchartered territory. Nobody knows how that's going to effect the party's turnout efforts. So far, the Republicans are ahead in terms of the number of ballots that have been returned. Even compared to past year, Republicans are outdoing the sort of benchmarks that they've set before, although Democrats tend to have a late surge in Colorado and nobody knows, since it's a different kind of election, how it's going to work.
BALLSo state by state, you have this close analysis happening of what are the returns that are coming in since there isn't a single election day in most of these states, it's a long early voting period. In Iowa, it's a month and a half. So, you know, this data is trickling in and the parties are trying to, like I said, run out and get those people to the polls at the last minute.
PAGEJeff Mason, the biggest cliché in politics is it's all about turnout, but we do see some remarkable racially tinged ads, especially in the South by Democrats. We've seen -- there was a New York Times story the other day about these -- and a tough email sent out yesterday by the Republican National Committee saying that if these were ads Republicans were running, there would be an uproar. Tell us about these ads and why Democrats are now airing them.
MASONWell, one thing that sort of picks up on what Clarence and Molly have said is when it comes to turnout, the Democrats need African Americans. They need women. They need young people. And many of those groups, traditionally, in midterms will not show up. So that may be one reason why we're seeing some of these ads. And these ads, they're pretty remarkable. There are pictures of children holding "Don't Shoot" signs and saying if you want to prevent another Ferguson from happening, you have to go out to vote.
MASONTalking about preventing another killing of someone like Trayvon Martin, some of it is very, very direct and quite brutal, in some ways. And it is interesting that it's Democrats and that, I think, is totally connected to the need for turnout among that population.
PAGEClarence, do you think it works? Will it turn out black voters?
PAGEWell, what's interesting -- my short answer is yes. My long answer is this is part of a trend that goes back at least to a Willie Horton campaign of 1988, which was generated by Republicans who saw supporters of the Bush campaign, the elder Bush campaign, and then in 2000, we saw the NAACP come back with ads that virtually painted the younger George Bush as supporting the killing of this black man out in Texas, which -- in that truck dragging case.
PAGEThey criticized Bush's voting against this one civil rights piece of legislation up there. It was another obvious effort to try to link conservatives to the cause -- to opposition to civil rights. I'm trying to make a very long story short. But essentially, this is the kind of emotional appeal that both sides use and in each case, the opposite side accuses the first one of sensationalism, et cetera, but they do have an impact.
PAGEThe question is, will it have enough of an impact to bring out enough minority voters to overcome the advantage we spoke of earlier that conservatives tend to have in these midterm elections. And I tend to doubt it, but we will see.
PAGEWe should note that the Willie Horton ad, the notorious Willie Horton ad, benefitted George H.W. Bush, but wasn't put on by his campaign.
PAGEIt was not, that's right.
PAGEIt was put on by an outside group. You know, another group that Democrats are really wanting to appeal to, Molly, is women. It's the votes of women that helped elect Barack Obama in 2012, 2008, been a key part of the Democratic coalition. Some signs that the gender gap that has advantaged Democrats among women voters has gotten much narrower this year. Why do you think that's happened?
BALLYou know, we have seen Democrats running these campaigns on the topic of women's health. And Colorado, were I just was, not to belabor it, is a very good example, where Republicans have turned this back on the Democrats by saying, why are you so obsessed with social issues? It's been a campaign that, at least by the incumbent, Democrat Mark Udall, his campaign against his Democratic challenger, Cory Gardner, has been almost entirely about this assertion that Cory Gardner wants to take away your birth control because of his support for the so-called personhood measure.
BALLHe's stopped supporting it on the state level, but still supports it on the federal level, something he's sort of had trouble explaining. But the Republicans have turned this around and said, why is this the only thing you want to talk about? Why won't you talk about, you know, these pocketbook issues, the economy, the environment? And, you know, in my article about this race today, I said, this is sort of what Democrats have done for years saying, Republicans are the ones obsessed with social issues.
BALLWe're the ones who want to focus on your quality of life, your healthcare, the environment, the economy and so I think they've had some success with that, Republicans, by sort of changing the subject from that attack. And Cory Gardner also has found a very sort of clever way around this by coming out in favor of having birth control be available over-the-counter. And without getting into the arguments for and against that, that gives him a way of saying, number one, I'm not against people having birth control and, number two, this isn't just about what I'm against.
BALLI'm also for something. So I think Republicans have, in this election, found new ways to beat back that attack from Democrats.
PAGEYou know, I think there's also a feeling that threats in the world, like the beheadings of ISIS and the threat of Ebola, have made some women voters more concerned about those issues and that may also be helping Republicans appeal to women voters. Jeff, you're at the White House every day. How concerned is the White House over what may happen in the Senate?
MASONAbsolutely concerned. And they want to pretend like they're not and they also want to pretend, in many ways, like they're still optimistic, that the Democrats are going to win. And I don't think they're ruling out the possibility that the Democrats could maintain a very slim majority. But the truth is, they're worried. They don't like it when reporters come up and ask, you know, are you preparing for a Republican Senate and how are you gonna reach out differently.
MASONThey're just not ready or not wanting to talk about those things.
PAGEWell, do you think they are? Are they preparing for a Republican Senate?
MASONThey have to be, yeah, absolutely, because it's gonna change -- it's gonna effect the last two years of the president's administration. It's gonna effect what they can do. It might even help him in some ways. And I think that they're thinking about all those ramifications. I would also add that an interesting thing that we're seeing in this last home stretch of the midterms is Barack Obama.
MASONThe president has stayed out of the campaigns so much, other than doing fundraising for the last several months, and he's doing a few different trips now. He's on one today and will be on a couple this weekend. And that's interesting.
PAGEWhich are targeted, we might add, to areas that -- where he already has supporters and not to these crucial swing areas where these tight races which tend to be in red or deep pink districts.
BALLAnd they're all in gubernatorial races with one exception. Michigan is the only Senate race and that's one that Democrats look like they're going to win easily. But even in these blue states like Colorado, Iowa and New Hampshire that Obama won in 2008 and 2012, he is not welcome. He is not campaigning there.
PAGEQuick, just very quickly, let's go around the horn. Tell me a race you're gonna be watching that you think is especially interesting or significant. Clarence, you go first.
PAGEOff the top of my head, I have to say the Illinois gubernatorial race, actually, because here you have a Democratic governor in a Democratic state and he's running for his life right now, Pat Quinn, because of the fiscal situation, if anything there. And Bruce Rauner, a Republican who's come from out of left field or out of nowhere, really, that's an advantage for him because he's not part of the establishment.
PAGEAll politics is local. How about you, Jeff, what are you watching for?
MASONI would say the Wisconsin gubernatorial race. Obama went there this last week. Interesting because of the 2016 ramifications, if Scott Walker prevails, then that lifts him as a potential candidate for the Republican nomination. If he loses, it probably takes him out of the mix.
BALLWell, for sure, significance on an election night, I will be in Kentucky because that is when we're going to find out whether Mitch McConnell becomes the majority leader, although there might still be a couple of outstanding races. But I think these gubernatorial races that have sort of flown under the radar are so interesting. And the one in Maine, where Paula Page, who's quite controversial, is still tied, thanks to the presence of an independent candidate in that race.
PAGEWe're gonna take a short break and when we come back, we'll go to the phones and take some of your calls and questions. Our phone lines are open, 1-80-433-8850. Or send us an email at email@example.com. Stay with us.
PAGEWelcome back. I'm Susan Page of USA Today sitting in for Diane Rehm. It's the domestic hour of our Friday News Roundup and with me in the studio Jeff Mason, White House correspondent for Reuters, Molly Ball, staff writer for The Atlantic and Clarence Page, a friend but not a relation. He's a syndicated columnist for the Chicago Tribune. Just in the past week his new book has come out. It's called "Culture Worrier." It's a collection of 30 years of his columns.
PAGEYou've been rehearsing that title, haven't you?
PAGEAnd because it's Friday, we're doing a live video stream of this hour. You can catch it at drshow.org. Well, this just in, a Maine judge has ordered the nurse who had done work in West Africa to stay away from public gatherings, to maintain a 3' distance from people. Man, this has become a real cause, Jeff.
MASONYeah, it absolutely has. And Kaci Hickox has really led the charge for medical professionals returning from West Africa, speaking up for her rights and saying that she does not think it's fair or scientifically sound to have to be quarantined. And the politics that she is in the middle of are federal- and state-based.
MASONIt's created some real big tensions between the White House and states like New Jersey where she first arrived and Governor Christie put her in a tent essentially. And now she's in Maine and she said that she will fight any further attempts to quarantine her. And she's taking bike rides and basically saying, this is not fair and I'm not going to play.
PAGEMolly, here's a fun fact that I learned on CBS last night, which is there are six states where governors have imposed these quarantines. And in five of them the governor is running for re-election next week.
BALLOh, I'm sure it must be a coincidence. That was my sarcastic voice, in case you couldn't tell. Yeah, I mean, I think this is -- we're seeing sort of the political long tale of the Ebola story now. I think since there haven't been any new cases since the doctor in New York and -- there could still be but we are also seeing signs that the epidemic is slowing down in Africa. There's news this week that reported cases have plummeted in West Africa.
BALLSo I think, you know, it's possible that this -- that we're nearing the end of this panic. And that, you know, when this first happened and the response out of the White House was perceived somewhat weak, was perceived to be somewhat reactive, somewhat late and it sort of fit this narrative about Obama that his approval ratings were plummeting because people didn't see him as a hands-on leader, and so there was this big freak out.
BALLAnd whenever you have that coming from the federal government, I think you will see state officials rushing to fill that void by, for lack of a better word, grandstanding and finding ways to take political advantage of the situation. Now that we're not seeing any new cases, now that there doesn't seem to be anything else to freak out about, I think it's going to die down.
PAGEYou know, we have a new USA Today national poll out today. And we asked people, what are the chances that you think a member of your family will get Ebola in the next year? Twelve percent of Americans say it is likely that a member of their family will get Ebola in the next year. The experts say that's ridiculous, it's not going to happen. But it indicates how deep the fear is of this disease.
PAGEYeah, it is. I think about how Nigeria, the largest country in Africa, has been declared Ebola free for up to three weeks now. And they had a serious problem early on but if they brought it under control, surely the U.S. could bring it under control. But, yeah, this is the kind of impression that you have to credit or blame to the effectiveness of us in the media to scare everybody half to death. And I can't help but wonder how much the current political season has to do with it, how much this will die down after Election Day next week.
PAGEI think Chris Christie certainly found mixed reaction to his bold action and had to start backpedaling away without looking too much like a bully. But I can't wait to see what kind of reaction that has on his presidential hopes.
PAGEJeff, Ron Klain has now been on the job for two weeks as the White House Ebola czar but he's kept a really low profile. What has he been doing?
MASONHe has kept a really low profile. He did go this week, yesterday to Atlanta to visit the headquarters for the CDC. And otherwise the White House has said he's doing the job that they hired him to do, which is a behind-the-scenes coordinating role. You're not going to see him on television a lot, at least that's what they're signaling. And we certainly haven't seen him on television at all. At the very beginning of his tenure he started with a meeting with the president. And otherwise is just doing the coordinating that they said they wanted him to do.
MASONBut that said, he was brought in because of the weakness of the federal government response that Molly alluded to. And so I think -- and this is one reason why folks like us continue to press the White House for, what is Ron Klain doing, because we're expecting some kind of a shift, some kind of a signal that everything's under control now. And it doesn't just have to do with numbers decreasing in West Africa. It has to do with showing that the White House and the administration is in control.
PAGEWell, I'll tell you one thing that I think has disquieted some Americans is that the CDC says you don't need a quarantine for nurses and doctors coming back from West Africa. And of course we honor the work of these health care professionals that are willing to put themselves in harm's way there. On the other hand, they've also announced that they will quarantine U.S. troops that are coming back from West Africa. Isn't this kind of a mixed message, Clarence?
PAGEWell, for those of us who have served in the military, it's not a mixed message at all. But fewer and fewer people serve in the military nowadays. But in the military it's a different kind of culture. And let us remember that when President Obama first said he was going to send U.S. troops over there, we had Congressman Louie Gohmert from Texas and others saying, he's sending them over there to get Ebola. You know, what would we have said if they had not taken extra precautions for our military to be as Ebola-free as possible?
PAGEBut this just underscores how these troops are going over there to build facilities, not to be engaged directly with people who have Ebola. And it's not considered unusual in the military at all to be told, oh, you will stay among yourselves for three weeks before you go out into the general public again.
BALLIn a way it is a mixed message and I think that a lot of the problem -- the perceived problems with the government response have been messaging problems. And this is something that the White House always complains about. You always hear the White House saying, it's not fair that you criticize us for basically not communicating well if we're getting the job done right, right. If we're doing all the things but you just don't like the sort of show we're putting on. This criticism is sort of flimsy.
BALLI think it does go a little bit beyond that because part of the job of the White House is to reassure people, is to show people that something is being done. But it's the same with the Ron Klain criticism, right. People feel like he's not out front, I don't see him every day. What's the point of a czar if not to sort of make a statement about what you're doing? And so you hear -- you get this pushback from the White House, it shouldn't be about what you see. It should be about what's actually happening.
PAGEAnd Democrats point out that a congressman will confirm President Obama's -- a surgeon general nominee that we would have a visible person out there. So the politics continue.
MASONIt's also interesting on the military part of the equation that some of the things that Secretary Hagel said when they announced it. Military members are not volunteers. Okay, fair enough. That families of the military members wanted a safety valve. So they used some interesting reasoning for saying why this is different from imposing a quarantine on volunteers who are taking part in medical and other volunteering teams.
PAGELet's go to the phones and let our listeners join our conversation. We're going to go first to Connie. She's calling us from Essex, Conn. Hi, Connie.
CONNIEHi. I just read that Governor Jindal of Louisiana ordered thousands of doctors planning to attend a tropical disease meeting to stay away from Louisiana if they've been to certain African countries the past 21 days. My husband's a retired microbiologist. He brought up a very interesting point. There are thousands of researchers working in labs with the Ebola virus. Why aren't these research scientists quarantined every time they leave their laboratories?
PAGEAnd why do you think that is, Connie? They aren't quarantined because it's not necessary or because we don't know that they're working with these viruses? Well, I guess Connie said what she had to say and then hung up so...
MASONWe lost her.
PAGEYeah, we lost her. What do you think?
MASONI think the answer is probably I think what she's alluding to, is that the science is -- says that it's not dangerous and that obviously you have to be careful. But that the only way -- and Josh Earnest of the White House and others are repeating this on a daily basis, the way you catch Ebola is through contact with bodily fluids from a patient who is exhibiting symptoms And that's much different from just being able to pick it up by being near somebody.
PAGEIt is a case where you really want leadership by people who can explain to Americans who are worried about this or not sure about how it happens. I mean, it reminds me a little of the early days of the AIDS crisis when people were very concerned about even having their kids go to school with kids who were HIV positive. And it took some time before we kind of sorted that out as a community to figure out what was a realistic fear and what was an irrational one.
BALLThen there's been quite a bit of sort of irrational panic and hyperventilation around this, especially since at this point it does not look like a sustained long-term crisis. And this is always...
PAGEUnless you're in West Africa.
BALLOf course. And this is always a tricky spot for leaders, is what is -- is your responsibility to, you know, go as far as possible to reassure people or is your responsibility to try to tamp down the panic and say there's nothing to worry about. This is irrational. You cannot get Ebola from someone who has been to a completely different part of Africa where the virus isn't present, which we've also seen in some cases.
PAGELet's go to Herndon, Va. and talk to Matthew. Matthew, thank you for calling us.
MATTHEWThank you for taking my call. I wanted to speak to the Senate races coming up y'all were talking about earlier. We've been hearing a lot of reporting about stuff, you know, like how many governor races are in the bag or just how much money's been spent. But at the end of the day, I guess my question is, six weeks from now, no matter who wins, will it matter at all? I mean, the legislative branch has been so just at their throats for so long, they've been so deadlocked and so just -- I don't know, the whole thing feels like old King Log or something. But they're not really accomplishing anything anyway so does it matter who's in the Senate?
PAGEMatthew, thanks so much for your call. Well, isn't it likely that people -- we know the congress is gridlocked, right. We've had a couple years of that. Is the election likely to make that better or worse, Molly? What do you think?
BALLWell, I think the caller makes a really good point. We complain about how apathetic people are and not likely to turn out, but voters correctly perceive that the stakes are low in this election. And the only thing that could change is which party has the majority in the United States Senate. And even if that changes, we will still have divided government. We will still have the different branches of government controlled by different parties because Obama will still be in the White House and the Republicans will still have the House of Representative barring some strange sort of meteor-like event.
BALLAnd so, you know, there's not much reason to expect that a lot is going to change. There are some little things around the edges. You know, Mitch McConnell's the majority leader. That changes the tone. It changes the process for nominations. But unless the parties wake up in a completely different mood after Election Day and decided that they're going to work together in a way that they have not wanted to for the past six years, not much is going to change.
PAGEThere is this theory, Jeff, that Republicans, if they control both the House and the Senate, they will feel more of an obligation to govern, to deal with President Obama. What do you think? Is that possible?
MASONI think it's possible. I think it will also create some issues for Republican -- potential Republican presidential candidates, in the Senate in particular, who will have divided loyalties between what they need to do, either supporting Mitch McConnell, potentially taking some difficult votes on keeping the government running or on the debt ceiling while also trying to put together campaign platforms that are appealing to conservative voters in the presidential primary. But I think, yes, I mean, I think they will feel a sense of need to govern and that's something that they'll have to be watching. And the voters will be watching.
PAGEI'm Susan Page and you're listening to "The Diane Rehm Show." If you'd like to join us, call 1-800-433-8850 or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. You can find us on Facebook, send us a tweet. And don't forget you can see all of our guests on our live video stream at drshow.org. Well, Clarence, the Federal Reserve made headlines that said it would end this long-running bond purchase program. What was this program designed to do?
PAGEWell, quantitative easing was basically designed to give a booster shot to the economy by freeing up credit and offering up more dollars without exacerbating the problem of inflation, which is always a concern. Remarkably inflation has not gone up, I think, to a large degree because of income stagnation in the lower income brackets. But in any case, there is a new surge of confidence in the Fed that has caused them to decide now to ease the easing for the time being and to see what the reaction will be.
PAGEWhich tells you the economy is recovering a little slowly.
PAGE...good numbers out yesterday for the third quarter growth in the third quarter of 3.5 percent. That's pretty healthy. Well, Molly, what about a focus now on interest rates. Is that what the Fed is likely to do?
BALLThat's what a lot of analysts are anticipating. Now that we are seeing healthy growth and now that quantitative easing is coming to an end, a lot of analysts are anticipating that the Fed will raise interest rates, probably not until late 2015, possibly even early 2016. But there is a sense that there is a thaw in the economy, that there hasn't been inflation, as so many predicted when quantitative easing was first announced in 2008. And that the Fed can now proceed to take slightly more aggressive steps.
PAGEIt must be frustrating for the White House, Jeff, because 3.5 percent growth in the third quarter, that's pretty good. Certainly compared to what's happening in other places in the world, that's good growth. The unemployment rate has dropped to 5.9 percent and yet people do not give the economy much credit for getting better.
MASONWell, they don't give the White House credit for the economy getting better, and that is absolutely frustrating to them. In fact, then you see that reflected in some of the events that they plan for the president, before the Ebola crisis in particular erupted to the political levels that it is now, they're looking for credit. They want to say, look, this president implemented so many programs and saved the auto industry and did the things that have brought us off -- away from the brink.
MASONAnd to a point where you've got unemployment at 5.9 percent, which is considerably different from the 7.8 percent that it was in September, 2012 when the Feds started this round of quantitative easing. But it is absolutely a frustration, and one that continues to be reflected in the polls and will affect this election.
PAGEObama's never been very good about tooting his own horn ironically enough. What's really frustrating is a recent poll, for example, which showed that people thought that the economy was still getting worse, even though it's gotten appreciably better on all scores of unemployment as well as a cost of living.
PAGEAnd yet, you know, as I mentioned earlier, a wage stagnation of the lower income brackets is one really negative area still. But this is a recovering economy. And this person's not getting credit for it.
BALLAnd I think there's a couple things going on. First, as Clarence mentioned, people's incomes aren't going up, people's wages are not going up. People aren't getting a raise and so they don't feel that the economy is helping. And then unless your money is in the stock market, it's not benefiting you.
BALLAnd then there's this really interesting phenomenon that I've seen on the ground where a lot of these Senate candidates are in red states, states with Republican governors. And so you have someone like Joni Ernst in Iowa saying, thanks to our Republican governor we're doing great here in Iowa, but Obama's ruining the rest of the country. And you had the Republican candidate in Alaska saying the same thing. So a lot of Republicans are sort of performing this little tap dance where they're saying, well, because of Republican governance, our state's okay. You know, unemployment in Iowa is about 4.5 percent but the rest of the country's going to heck.
MASONWell, and I think it also sort of signifies that male-female divide that we talked about earlier, the way men and women in different voting blocs view the economy. More women believe that the minimum wage should be increased than men, 71 percent compared to, I think, around 50 percent. More women still are less optimistic about where the economy is and believe it's still in recession. So those types of things play out in elections.
PAGEAnd if there's one thing I've heard many voters say is, it's good economy for the rich, it's not a good economy for me. We're going to take a short break. Stay with us. We'll be back.
PAGEWelcome back. I'm Susan Page of USA Today, sitting in for Diane Rehm. And with me in the studio for our Friday news roundup, Molly Ball, staff writer for the Atlantic, Clarence Page, syndicated columnist for the Chicago Tribune, and Jeff Mason, White House correspondent for Reuters. Let's go to the phones and take some more callers. You can call us, 1-800-433-8850. We'll go to Nick who's calling us from Waterford, MI. Hi, Nick.
NICKHi, how are you doing this morning?
PAGEGood. How are you?
NICKDoing good. I just like to make a comment, you know, with all the money -- I think I heard the other day, somewhere around $4 billion dollars -- going to be spent in this election cycle, these big organizations like the Koch brothers and these other places, they're expecting something for their return on investment. And what they're expecting and what our politicians are going to give to me as a working person are two different things.
NICKSo actually I don't think the election is going to make no difference at all, because the little bit that we're putting in, we have no say. You know, money equals access and I have no access and neither does most of the people out here that are working for a living.
PAGEAnd so, Nick...
NICKSo they're bought...
PAGENick, let me ask you, you feel like you don't have the influence. Will you still go to vote on Tuesday?
NICKI voted. But I mean, I don't know if it's going to make any difference. I mean, I've been -- we've had 30 years of this failed Reaganomics policy here, where it's been a trickle-down theory. And, you know, we've -- we got what we elected. We didn't have nothing but the trickle down situation. And you can tell between the widening income gap between the rich and the poor and the middle class. It just keeps widening and widening. So that tells us where our elections worth.
PAGEYeah. Nick, thanks so much for your call. Clarence?
PAGEIt's ironic. I hear this a lot from people who don't like Reaganomics. But what they are missing is that the people who like Reaganomics are the ones who are most likely to vote in midterm elections. And that is why we have the kind of policies that we have. Those are defined by people who show up. I'm reminded of Mitch McConnell in his recent debate to hold on to his Senate majority seat.
PAGEHe wound up criticizing the Obamacare website in their state, but said he wouldn't touch this, which they don't call Obamacare there. It's got a different name in Kentucky. But nevertheless, it is the Affordable Care Act plan and says very popular there in Kentucky. So he has to say he's going to repeal a plan that's very popular in his state by changing the website.
PAGEI mean, he wasn't called into account for that because his opponent Alison Lundergan runs made an even bigger blooper, in my view, by not wanting to admit that she had voted the president from her own party. And that got all the headline attention.
PAGEMolly, we've got a lot of ballot initiatives that people will vote on in various states. Several states are having ballot measures that would restrict abortion. Big measures in North Dakota, Colorado and Tennessee. Tell us about them.
BALLWell, the one in Colorado, since that keeps coming up, is the so-called personhood amendment that would declare begins at conception and then a lot -- the opponents of this kinds of measures say that it would not only ban all abortion, no matter what, but would also restrict some sorts of contraception that interfere with the fertilization process. This has been on the ballot in Colorado twice before. It has failed twice. This is the third time.
BALLSome Democrats actually feel like it's been a good turnout mechanism for them to get people to come out and vote against this thing. And now that it's the third time that people assume it's not going to pass, it sort of lost its oomph. The one in Tennessee is a constitutional amendment that would give -- that would overturn a Tennessee Supreme Court decision by giving power to the legislature to regulate abortion. Similarly, in North Dakota, it is an amendment that would restrict abortion. Those seem like they actually are rather close, unlike the one in Colorado.
PAGEAnd, Jeff, how big an issue does abortion continue to be when you look at this midterm election?
MASONI think that's a great question. And if you talk -- we talk about -- abortion, gay rights, some of these social issues always end up being a part of a national conversation for presidential campaigns. But when you see them on ballots like this in states, it just reinforces the fact that it is not just theoretical, it is not just about conservative versus liberal or progressive. These are actual measures and laws that would affect and influence this issue and women's rights.
MASONAnd goes to that divide between more socially conservative and more socially liberal people. The answer to the question is it's still a huge issue and it continues to come up in very specific local and state races like these.
PAGEBrian is calling us from Orlando, FL. Brian, you're on the air.
BRIANHi. How are you?
BRIANI just wanted to --to point out that we all seem to be a little dissatisfied with our country and the state of things. But at the same time, we don't turn out to vote. And when we do, we only vote Republican or Democrat. We don't consider third party. And I think a lot of that has to do with media coverage and how it's almost like -- here in Florida, we have Crist is going up against Governor Scott. And we have Adrian Wyllie who is a libertarian.
BRIANHe's got a 10 percent, I think, it's (unintelligible) in the polls. But he needs 14 to get in to the debates. Used to be seven, and now -- I know he's been on NPR and done some things. But it just seems to me like that whole fight didn't really get very much attention. He didn't really get any backing behind him. (unintelligible) Kind of like, well, where are the voters left?
PAGEYou know, Brian, you know, you raise such a good point. And we know in surveys that people are increasingly open to the idea of a third-party candidate because they're so sick and tired of what they see happening in the two parties. But it is hard for a third party candidate to break through, Molly.
BALLWell, one of the very interesting sort of sub-trends of this election year has been the upsurge of independent candidates in some of these races. Most prominently in Kansas where the independent candidate Greg Orman actually is slightly leading. It's just about tied in the polls with the Republican incumbent Pat Roberts and has a chance to win and hasn't said which party he would caucus with if he does come to the Senate. He would Angus King from Maine who's an independent.
BALLThere's an independent candidate, as I mentioned before, in Maine who is getting a good chunk of the vote, but isn't -- but at this point looks more like he's going to play a spoiler role, if anything. In Alaska, there is an independent fusion ticket taking on the Republican governor and is sort of within shooting distance there. And in South Dakota, Republicans were briefly given a scare by an independent former Republican senator who is the third candidate along with the Republican and Democrat in that Senate race.
BALLSo I think we are seeing -- and I think it is an expression of this kind of dissatisfaction that people feel with the parties, this upsurge of independent candidates in various places.
PAGEI mean, it's interesting that Republicans expected to do so well on Tuesday when Republicans have, in fact, not improved their standing with voters.
PAGEApproval of the Republican Party continues to be really low.
PAGEThat's right. And as long -- it's like the old story about, you know, when you're running from a bear, you don't have to be faster than the bear, just faster than the person you're running with. You know, this is where the Republicans are now. Their approvals are lower -- well, congressional Republicans' approvals are lower than President Obama's. But as long as they're winning more races than the Democrats, they're happy.
PAGEBut there's no question we've seen over the last 30 years at least a decline in people who call themselves Democrat or Republican and an increase in those who call themselves independents, especially among the young. And it takes a case like this where the public is so fed up with both that you begin to see some traction begin to happen with these so-called third party movements.
PAGEBrian, thanks for your call. Jeff, there's been a lot of reaction to the FBI impersonating the news -- impersonating news sources to catch a suspect in Seattle. Before we talk about why this had been controversial, tell us what had happened.
MASONWell, basically, this -- this goes back to 2007. The FBI used a fake AP article to get a...
PAGEThey created an article.
PAGEAnd labeled it as being from the Associated Press.
MASONAnd they used that as a way to get a suspect in some high school bomb threats to basically click on this article and give them the information by doing that about where he was. And so that has created a lot of questions and criticism about undermining the Associated Press, undermining journalists, and just questioning whether the tactics they used are correct.
PAGENow, obviously we want the FBI to investigate -- be able to investigate the threat of school bombings. So it's not a question about that. But why does this cause so much concern, Clarence, among journalists?
PAGEWell, it was outlawed for foreign correspondents -- or I should say for the CIA to pass as foreign correspondents back in 1970s, where the Church commission because that was a practice overseas. And people feel the same way here domestically that they expect us journalists not to go undercover. This is, in itself, another controversy that's happened or changed in our practice in recent years that undercover reporting has fallen out of favor here. And certainly, from the government, the FBI passes themselves off as journalists, that is highly questioned by a lot of people, too.
PAGEMolly, we also learned this week about an FBI sting operation in Las Vegas, a separate issue. Why has that become controversial?
BALLWell, this was a case where in order to break up a sports betting ring, the FBI agents posed as internet repairmen and gained access to the -- to this facility by saying we're here to fix your Wi-Fi and they came in and then they were able to put some kind of trace on the line by -- and the argument from the people running the sports betting ring who have made this argument in the face of their, you know, arrest of this charge is that that did not constitute being invited in.
BALLThat if you're posing as a repairman and someone says, come in, that's not the same as, you know, the police knocking on your door and you let them in for that reason.
PAGEAnd apparently they had dismantled the internet so that they would have a reason to come in to offer to fix it.
PAGELet's go to JB. He's calling us from Winston-Salem, NC. Hi, JB.
JBHi, good morning. I heard one of your folks say that the voters rightly pursue this as not much at stake here. I think there's a lot at stake mainly because if you put more Republicans in office, there's going to be more mischief. We got Kay Hagan run against Thom Tillis here in North Carolina. And I got to tell you, when he was speaker -- as he was speaker of the House, he still is, under his direction, North Carolina is now going to run a budget deficit of 1.1 billion next year.
JBAnd families that -- average families in North Carolina have -- taxes have gone up around $20,000. But if you earn as much as 940,000, you get a $10,000 tax break. I don't think that's the type of person we need in the Senate.
PAGESo it sounds like, JB, you're going to be voting for Kay Hagan, is that right?
JBEverybody that's using their head will.
PAGEAll right. Thanks. JB, thanks for your call. You know, that's been one interesting race, Jeff. And I believe it's the most expensive race in the country in history, in history. Millions of dollars, including from outside groups, being spent in North Carolina. Why has it attracted so much money?
MASONWell, and I just -- and I also like to say that it goes back to what one of the previous callers talked about about this, the amount of money coming from outside groups. And the last cycle in 2012, the big story was how much those outside groups are affecting national elections. And now they're going very specifically down that these state and local elections. And that is a -- that is a change in the trend.
BALLWell, there's an interesting point here, though. We've had a lot of these sort of democratic-leaning callers, you know, blaming the Koch brothers or seeing this as a pernicious Republican force. But, in fact, the Democratic SuperPACs have outspent the Republican SuperPACs in this election. Democrats, after complaining and...
PAGEWhich is ironic, very ironic.
BALL...and whining and falling down on the ground about this outside spending have beaten Republicans at what they saw is their own game.
PAGEI'm Susan Page. And you're listening to "The Diane Rehm Show."
PAGEMention something about North Carolina, let's call -- it has turned into the real swing state these days. I mean, they went for Obama in '08, they went for Romney in '12. It's a state that would vote for a Jesse Helms or for someone completely -- other while -- John Edwards, you know, in their statewide elections. And this is one where nowadays we're really seeing the populace left versus the populace right down there. So turnout really matters in North Carolina.
PAGEMolly mentioned that we had had some callers that were taking a Democratic point, including JB who said was supporting Kay Hagan. Here's an email from Bill who's writing us from Fairfax, VA. He writes, "Since the 2010 midterms, the Republicans have been labeled obstructionists for not going along with the Democrats' agenda. If the Republicans take control of both house of Congress, will it then be fair to level the same charges against Democrats if they block the Republican agenda?"
MASONIt's a fair question. And I think we'll say how that plays out a in the next two years. We'll -- that will also play out, no doubt, in the presidential election. On one level, to sort of flip that question around, I think, that the candidate -- potential candidate like Hillary Clinton might be very pleased to see a Republican-controlled Congress, not because she doesn't want Democrats in and she's certainly working hard in going out on the campaign trail to help her fellow Democrats.
MASONBut if she can campaign against a, quote-unquote, "do-nothing Congress that is led by Republicans," that's not all bad. And the flipside to the writer's question is, you know, will that potentially also backfire on Democrats for not supporting a Republican agenda? I think that's a little less likely.
PAGERepublicans have to have an agenda. That's been the big complaint, that they have -- they have opposed the Democrats -- what Democrats have proposed but haven't proposed alternatives. Affordable Care Act is a leading example of that. So I wait to see if the Republicans will now turn to their own think tanks again and come up with some ideas, have a real debate.
PAGEYou know, we talked about whether Republicans, if they control both houses of Congress, will feel more of an obligation to negotiate. I wonder if President Obama is going to feel more of a need to negotiate in that case, too. I mean, it takes two.
BALLAbsolutely. And this is the argument that you hear from Republicans. In a way, it's a version of the sort of magical thinking that we heard from Democrats in 2012 and before when you had Obama saying, well, if I win reelection, it will, quote-unquote, "break the fever." And Republicans will suddenly wake up and realize this is what the country wants and they will feel obligated to come and work with me to do these things.
BALLOf course, that didn't happen. Now you have Republicans saying, well, when the president sees that this is what the country wants because the country has just elected a Republican Senate, Obama will feel obligated to come and work with us on the things that we want to do. That being said, there are some specific areas where Republicans and Democrats have some agreement, things like tax reform and possibly energy and -- or immigration. And so, there is a possibility they could find an agreement.
PAGEYesterday, Tim Cook, the CEO of Apple, became the first openly gay CEO of a Fortune 500 company, on the front page of a lot of newspapers this morning. Clarence, why is this thought of as being so important?
PAGEWell, it's the private sector. Now, we used to talk about this in the public sector, you know, electing a gay congressman or someone of that nature. And what strikes me, Susan, is I was actually more impressed when the principal of a magnate high school here in D.C. came out of the closet and his students rallied around him out on the streets. And, to me, that really showed how much we have changed over the last 10, 20 years.
PAGEAt the same time, the Apple case is important because that's a big international corporation. A lot of the countries they do business in, it is illegal to be gay or to at least, you know, have a gay sexual activity and all. It's going to be very interesting to see how this plays out overseas.
PAGEJeff, why did he decide to come out?
MASONWell, he's -- and something that was interesting is how he did it. I mean, he said -- one of the things he says, I consider being gay among the greatest gifts God has given me. And he talked about influences such as Martin Luther King and also saying, I'm not comparing myself, obviously, to someone like Martin Luther King, but he had never denied his sexuality, but also never explicitly talked about it. And it -- he decided now was the time.
PAGEJeff Mason of Reuters, Molly Ball of the Atlantic, Clarence Page of the Chicago Tribune, thanks so much for being with us this hour.
BALLThank you, Susan.
PAGEI'm Susan Page of USA Today, sitting in for Diane Rehm. She'll be back on Monday. Thanks for listening.
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