Pulitzer Prize-winning biographer Jon Meacham on the evolution of Abraham Lincoln's moral principles and political leadership -- and what the era of Lincoln can teach us about the state of our democracy today.
Guest Host: Susan Page
President Obama begins a 60-day campaign to convince skeptics in Congress and the American public to support the nuclear deal with Iran. Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker officially joins the crowded field of Republican presidential hopefuls. A gunman kills four marines Thursday in a shooting in Chattanooga, Tennessee; officials are treating the attack as a possible act of domestic terrorism. And President Barack Obama becomes the first American president to visit a federal prison, aiming to rally support for an overhaul of the U.S. criminal justice system. A panel of journalists joins Diane for analysis of the week’s top national news stories.
- Jeanne Cummings Political and White House editor, The Wall Street Journal.
- John Harwood Chief Washington correspondent, CNBC; reporter, The New York Times.
- David Rennie Washington bureau chief and Lexington columnist, The Economist.
Video: Why Are The Attacks In Charleston And Tennessee Treated Differently?
“Does a killer have to be Muslim to be called a terrorist?” a listener asked.
Video: Why Are The Tennessee Attacks Considered Terrorism?
Our panel looks at why the attacks on two military outposts in Tennessee were so quickly labeled terrorism.
MS. DIANE REHMThanks for joining us. I'm Diane Rehm. A gunman opened fire yesterday at two U.S. military centers in Chattanooga, Tennessee, killing four Marines, wounding three others. The FBI is investigating the attack as a possible act of domestic terrorism. President Obama begins a two-month effort to win over congressional skeptics of the Iran nuclear agreement. And Republican Governor Scott Walker of Wisconsin enters the presidential race.
MS. DIANE REHMHere for the domestic hour of the Friday News Roundup, John Harwood of CNBC, Jeanne Cummings of The Wall Street Journal and David Rennie of The Economist. And since it's Friday, you can watch a live video stream of this program. Go to our website, drshow.org. You can also join us by phone, 800-433-8850. Send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow us on Facebook or Twitter. And it's good to see all of you.
MR. JOHN HARWOODGood morning.
MS. JEANNE CUMMINGSGood morning.
MR. DAVID RENNIEMorning.
REHMNice to have you here. John Harwood, talk about that horrific shooting in Tennessee. Do we know for sure that this was an act of domestic terrorism?
HARWOODWell, I must say, Diane, I always bristle a little bit at the idea of applying a name to attacks like this. It's terrorism by definition if you look at what happened. But yes, authorities are looking at whether or not this young man had ties to terrorist groups. There were reports that his father was once investigated for the idea that he might have supported financially terrorist organizations. Some of the messages that he had posted about Islam raised some questions.
HARWOODBut I don't think we know enough yet to say. There has been a report even just this morning that he had traveled overseas in the months preceding this attack. So we just don't know, but authorities are scouring all the electronic and other physical evidence to see.
CUMMINGSYeah, as John said, they're not saying definitively now, but that is, of course, the line of investigation. And when you add in addition to looking at his family background, if you look at the target, because this is the very kind of thing that ISIS on social media has been urging followers to do, to basically commit random acts of violence. And some of the target that they suggest are military targets in the United States.
REHMDavid Rennie, why is it important to define it as an act of domestic terrorism or not?
RENNIEWell, there's two ways in which it's important and I think one way, which is unhelpful, is it becomes a partisan issue because we've seen with previously shootings, for example, the Muslim psychiatrist who went on a rampage at Fort Hood, there was a big argument as to whether that was a workplace accident and that played into the idea that you heard from some conservatives that this administration, President Obama, is somehow reluctant to call radical Islam the threat that it is.
RENNIEI think what's a much more helpful discussion is how do you stop this kind of radicalization of people living in the country. And it's very much, if you talk to national security officials in America, but also in Europe, this is their worst nightmare. People with American passports, European passports who, by all accounts, had assimilated perfectly. He want to high school in Tennessee. He went to university. He got a degree. He had a good job.
RENNIEThis wasn't some disaffected recently arrived kind of lone wolf. This was someone who, to all intents and purposes, was living a completely American life and then became radicalized. And that is, as I say, if you talk to intelligence people, that's their worst nightmare.
REHMAnd at the same time, you have in Aurora, Colorado, the jury convicting James Holmes in that horrendous theater shooting in which 12 people were killed and over 100 injured, Jeanne.
CUMMINGSYeah. That trial is particularly interesting in that the defense, I thought, put on a pretty strong case that he suffered from mental disease and was in a psychotic break at the time that he committed the crime. But the jury was utterly convinced otherwise. What was the surprise in that verdict was how fast it came. They deliberated for about 12 hours and they had had, you know, months of testimony.
CUMMINGSAnd so they clearly were not buying the argument. And what the prosecutors had countered with were really how meticulously the attack was planned and the fact that he was dressed in a defensive way, that he knew what he was doing was dangerous.
REHMSo David Rennie, how do you divide the two? One where four Marines are killed at a military base, one where one walks into a civilian movie theater and slaughters 12 people and injures so many more, aren't they both acts of domestic terrorism?
RENNIEWell, I would resist trying to use terrorism -- if people want to use it for a label for expressing the strongest possible kind of disapproval of what people are doing, if that's all you want, then yes, of course, these were both utterly wicked acts. But one was a wicked political act, as far as we can tell, linked to, you know, a broader political and religious conflict. One was an act of kind either a psychotic episode or just kind of pure, random personal evil.
RENNIEAnd I think what was extraordinary about the Colorado case is, of course, we very rarely see these trials because very often, these people kill themselves or get killed. It's very unusual to have one of these mass shooters on trial. It was very interesting seeing the judge's instructions to the jury in Colorado. He said to them, if you agree with the defense that he was insane, then be aware that he will never face any criminal punishment on these charges again.
RENNIEAnd I wonder how heavily that weighed on jurors as they wanted to see some sort of punishment for what he'd done.
HARWOODI agree entirely with David and I think that, you know, the difference is the young man in Chattanooga targeted two military installations. There's a reason for that. There's a message in that and I don't think that we can ignore it.
REHMIt's interesting that USA Today reports that since the Colorado shootings three years ago, 78 additional mass killings have occurred, claiming the lives of nearly 400 additional victims. So...
HARWOODAnd virtually nothing has happened in the Congress since then, nor is likely to happen during the last year and a half of President Obama's term. This is one of the great disappointments that he had. It is shocking to many people in parts of the country that Congress has not acted, but the deep-rooted presence of people who believe in the Second Amendment and the rights of gun ownership and the idea that steps proposed in Congress would somehow incrementally restrict that right have proven much more powerful and the intensity of that opposition has proven more powerful than the broad support for the kind of steps that the president advocated and we're going to hear in the 2016 campaign as well.
REHMAnd here you have this killing out in California, where an immigrant who had been deported five times killed a woman on the street walking with her father. I mean, guns.
CUMMINGSWell, the one thing that is a little bit different and, long term, might help is that while nothing can pass in Congress for the reasons that John articulated very well, the administration is actually starting to keep some data. And one of the things that's been lacking from all of the gun debates is that the proponents of change have not had hard data to make their case because the NRA had prevented the justice department from keeping statistics.
CUMMINGSAnd that ranges from number of victims and number of cases, mass shootings versus single shootings. In addition when people started asking about police officers killing civilians, whether black or white, what are the numbers, nobody had them because that's another number they couldn't keep. Well, now they're starting to keep some of those numbers, as USA Today is able to report. That could ultimately start changing the debate.
REHMAnd the presidential campaign also, David Rennie.
RENNIEAlthough we tragically have not really seen any candidate on the Republican side breaking with the kind of consensus that, you know, gun rights are absolute. I think what the Colorado shooting should also remind us is the absolute toxic insincerity of the pro-gun lobby and the NRA because when we have these mass shootings, their constant refrain is to say, don't blame guns. This is about mad people. This is about mental illness. This is about sickos. This is about crazies.
RENNIEAnd then, they devote extraordinary effort to making it impossible or as hard as possible to restrict the access of mentally ill people to guns. I mean, let's not forget that the single most, you know, the one thing tried after the terrible school shooting in Connecticut was to eliminate loopholes in the background checks, which the NRA fought tooth and nail. But all that's trying to do is to more consistently check that people with criminal backgrounds and mental illness don't buy guns.
RENNIESo the one thing that would actually logically follow from their focus on the mentally ill they block. So I think you can see there their total insincerity.
HARWOODDiane, I will say that I think the people who want more restrictions on gun ownership are going to win. They're just going to win more slowly. You know, we've just been through a situation in gay marriage where you had a very rapid change in attitudes. The same kinds of people, older, rural, tradition-minded whites are the people who are on the side of the pro-gun and over time, they're going to lose.
REHMJohn Harwood of CNBC and the New York Times. Don't forget, you can watch the program during this hour by going to drshow.org and click on "watch live."
REHMAnd welcome back to the domestic hour of our Friday News Roundup. We're told that Reuters is saying the Chattanooga shooting suspect possibly made multiple trips to the Middle East to both Yemen and Jordan. Then we have an email from Katherine who says, "Is it because his name is Middle-Eastern and he has ties to radical Islam that this is immediately called domestic terrorism? When the young white man slaughtered eight black men and women in a church, it was called a potential hate crime and the media hemmed and hawed over whether it was domestic terrorism. Does a killer have to be Muslim in order to be a terrorist?" David Rennie.
RENNIENo, clearly not. But I mean the word terrorism has been used for decades to describe organizations which are willing to use terror and violence and death to advance their political aims, whether it's, you know, Irish terrorisms trying to separate from the United Kingdom or Arab terrorism or, you know. It has a defined meaning. And if, as John said, absolutely rightly, this man had been writing about jihad on his website. And if that turns out to be something that motivated him to go to a military base and seek out members of the American military to kill, then that's a political act involving terror. So I fear I don't agree with the listener that we've been using double standards.
CUMMINGSI think the labels -- yeah, the labels are all about motivation. You know, what motivated the shooter? In Colorado, it was declared a mass shooting because there didn't appear to be any kind of political agenda on his hands. It was evil or crazy. In South Carolina, it's a hate crime because it was driven by racism. And this one the targets are military targets. I mean, the first thing we all saw was not his name, what we saw was his target.
REHMIndeed. And here's an email from Greta who says, "The FBI defines international terrorism as acts inspired by groups or ideologies. They define domestic terrorism as acts inspired by home-grown ideas, like the Ku Klux Klan or survivalists or eco terrorists. The distinction," says Greta, "is lost on most commentators." John.
HARWOODWell, fair point. It's lost on many. I will say, on Dylann Roof, there was some reporting indicating that he had some notion that he wanted to incite a race war. That could be seen as a political aim. The problem is that basically nobody else wants a race war except for...
REHMAll right. Let's turn to something very political and that is the Iran agreement that was reached on Tuesday. Now Congress has, what, 60 days, Jeanne Cummings, to review it, to comment on it and whether to decide to agree to it.
CUMMINGSOr to approve it. The Congress' power in this case is in all likelihood to be symbolic, that they will express -- we can expect that all of the Republicans have lined up against it, even Rand Paul who initially thought having negotiations with Iran, avoiding military confrontation, using diplomacy, he said many things supportive of that. But then when he saw the details, some of them bothered him and even he came out against it. So, you know, we can look at probably a very partisan vote. So the Senate Democrats are where everything hangs.
CUMMINGSAnd I think a lot of it -- a lot of the focus is going to be on two of them: Chuck Schumer in New York, he's sort of the leader-in-waiting. He also is a strong representative of the pro-Israel advocates, Jewish community. How he comes down on this is going to be influential with many other Senate Democrats.
REHMAnd you have Benjamin Netanyahu, the prime minister of Israel speaking out strongly against it. How likely -- or is he to influence a majority of Congress to vote against it?
RENNIEWell, I think he's played a fascinating role, not just this year with his visit to Congress but, you know, his speech at the U.N. previously. He plays a double role. I think there are a lot of grassroots Republicans who frankly think that, across the entire piece, the person who makes the most sense when it comes to the Middle East and dealing with Muslims is Benjamin Netanyahu. And you will hear Republican members of Congress saying, privately joking that frankly he could win the nomination if he was running for 2016 for the presidential nod because he captures quite a chunk of the Republican opinion. But he has also, in the past, overdone it.
RENNIEAnd some of his most recent comments where he said that Iran was plotting to take over the whole world, you know, he has within him the capacity to take his rhetoric just a step too far and that probably ends up helping Democrats roll into line. And he also makes it very partisan by siding so blatantly with Republicans. And as Jeanne says, absolutely correctly, to overturn a presidential veto, the Democrats would need to lose 13 Democratic senators and then you would have 67 Senate vote, which would overturn President Obama's veto and kill this deal.
REHMWhich he's already threatened to do.
RENNIEWhich is -- so, unless he loses 13 Democratic Senators, he's safe. And the more that Benjamin Netanyahu makes this into a partisan issue for the right, to some extent that helps Obama because it keeps the Democrats onboard.
HARWOODDiane, I think that's the key point, talking about the veto override numbers. You can bet that a majority of Congress in both chambers is going to vote against this deal. However, they are exceedingly unlikely to get 67 in the Senate and 290 in the House to stop this deal. It is very significant that Hillary Clinton, who recently waffled and stayed out of the trade debate, came out very strongly in favor of this deal, which began to be negotiated during her tenure. It's part of her legacy, even though John Kerry brought it to completion.
HARWOODAnd in the House, Nancy Pelosi, who also had went against the president during that one hiccup in the trade debate, came out very strongly, said, "I've reviewed the details carefully. I'm going to strongly urge members to vote for it." Nancy Pelosi is a very effective leader. She is not going to lose, I don't believe, the sufficient number of Democrats to override a veto.
REHMDiane Feinstein also came out in favor of it.
CUMMINGSYeah. But I think John makes the most important point that a lot of people are overlooking and that is the role of the House. You know, we all are focused on what's going to happen in the Senate because they're going to be first up. But from the White House perspective, the safest -- the place where all of this absolutely stops is in the House, because Pelosi will not lose enough members to override the veto.
REHMSo you all believe that this deal will go through?
RENNIEWell, there's another leg to this though. Because, as John says, probably there will be a majority disapproving but it just won't hit that supermajority threshold, so President Obama will be able to veto it. But if it comes close, then the politics of that are pretty bad. And I think what was interesting is on kind of day two, you could see both Republicans and Democrats saying, from different angles: Republicans saying, "If we can't overturn the veto, let's try and make it clear that this thing does not have legitimacy because a majority of Congress disapproves of it." And you see Democrats worrying about the consequences as this deal, you know, unfolds because there's going to be some bumpy moments, there's going to be some accusations of cheating.
RENNIEWe could see Iran, you know, messing around with inspections in months to come. This will then play into the presidential debates and the contests. If, hanging over that, is an unbelievably narrow, squeaking kind of victory in Congress with a big majority against it, that's not great.
REHMDo we have any idea yet about how the American public feels about this deal? Any polls yet?
CUMMINGSNot -- I haven't seen anything done just this week, right after, you know, the deal was announced Monday. The most recent poll for The Wall Street Journal last month had 47 percent of the public said they don't have enough to have an opinion on this. So, and then there was a slight majority in favor of negotiating the deal. So public perception is very much up for grabs.
HARWOODI think there are multiple things true at the same time, Diane. One, I've been surprised, in looking at our NBC/Wall Street Journal poll over the last couple of years, at the amount of willingness expressed by Americans to use military force to stop Iran from getting a nuclear weapon. At the same time, when President Obama says, "The only alternative to this deal is another war...
HARWOOD...in the Middle East, that touches a nerve in the American people. And the final thing is, I'm sure that you're going to get robust numbers who say, "You can't trust the Iranians. They're going to try to cheat." And it's going to be a little bit of a blur of those three truths at the same time.
REHMJohn Harwood, let's move to President Obama as the first sitting president to visit a federal prison. That was pretty dramatic yesterday.
HARWOODI thought it was dramatic. It was dramatic not only in that first being achieved, but the way in which the president talked while he was there. The idea that this president, who has written in his own autobiography of using drugs when he was a kid, teenager, young man, and reflecting on, "but for the grace of God...
HARWOOD...I could be in this situation, given the way sentencing and criminal justice policies evolved during the '80s and '90s, when fear of crime was so high." It was very poignant. And I've got to say, I think, for all of the predictions that this president was going -- and this started very soon after he was reelected and health care website, people were talking about second-term curse and it's disaster and presidency's over and all that -- he is loving this phase of his presidency. He doesn't have to face voters again. He doesn't have to campaign for Democrats and subsume what he wants to the desire of the political needs of those Democrats.
HARWOODHe's doing things that he believes in. He loves doing it. He loved defending that Iran deal at the news conference the other day. He would have stood there for two hours and talked about that deal.
REHMI was so impressed. I mean, he was sort of saying, "What's the matter with you guys? Ask me more."
CUMMINGSI thought it was funny at the end when he actually had a piece of paper, where he said, "Oh, what are the other arguments I've been hearing?" Oh, here they are." And he answered questions that weren't even asked.
REHMThat weren't even asked. He...
CUMMINGSOn the prison reform, this is one I -- we all hate to predict, right? But this one I think he's going to bag. And that is because, we have a story in The Wall Street Journal, his ally -- one of his allies in this fight -- are the Koch brothers. Who would have thought? First he deals with Cuba, then Iran, then the Koch brothers, right? Talking to people who we don't normally talk to.
HARWOODIs he going to open an embassy there, too?
CUMMINGSYeah. Really. But David Koch very much is a proponent of this prison reform proposal. And so imagine those forces combined going to Capitol Hill. You have the president talking to the Democrats, you have the Kochs -- the Koch brothers talking to the Republicans. This thing has got real legs.
RENNIEThat's right. And of course what this points to is, you know, a growing sense of how this rather young president is going to use this presumably, hopefully, god willing, very long post-presidency. And, above all, he's starting things like My Brother's Keeper, focused on young African-American men who have all those sort of terrible problems that we know of in terms of, you know, not graduating from high school, going to prison in large numbers. He has a unique ability to try and tackle that problem and he has hopefully decades in which to do it.
REHMDavid Rennie, Washington bureau chief and Lexington columnist at The Economist. And you're listening to "The Diane Rehm Show." So, Jeanne, on that issue, you see a good change of bipartisan support.
CUMMINGSAnd just to give it the little -- the listeners -- what he wants to do is really, first and foremost, get rid of mandatory sentences, so that you're dealing with the human being in front of you...
CUMMINGS...and not just a set of facts.
REHMHe really had some interesting words to weigh-in on regarding Bill Cosby.
CUMMINGSThat -- I got to admit, that one took me for -- by surprise. First -- on two fronts -- first of all, it was apparent that the White House had researched whether they could take that medal away, whether they could revoke it. When he was asked that question, he knew the answer. There's no legal precedent or there's no historic precedent, which means they went and looked. Somebody considered it.
HARWOODWell, in fairness though, Jeanne, at White House briefings, he was -- Josh Earnest was peppered for days with the question, "Are you considering revoking the medal?" And the answer was, "Well, we'll look into it." So I think some of that was in response to those questions.
CUMMINGSSo they did look into it. Right.
CUMMINGSBut his comments were -- he seemed so conflicted because Cosby -- Bill Cosby has been a friend.
REHMI didn't think he looked conflicted. I think he...
CUMMINGSI thought at the end, when he had -- when he said what he said, forcefully...
CUMMINGS...that if you drug anybody and have sex with them, that's rape. He was very clear.
CUMMINGSBut I also -- and I wasn't in the room, maybe John was and he could speak to it -- but from what I saw, I felt like applying that standard to someone who had been a supporter and a friend was painful to him.
REHMI would agree, it had to be painful.
CUMMINGSBut he did it.
REHMBut he was very tough.
CUMMINGSHe did it.
HARWOODWell, yes, he was. Although I must say I disagree with some of my colleagues who have said, "He called Bill Cosby a rapist." I don't think he did that at all.
HARWOODHe said -- he said, "If the set of facts -- if this set of facts...
HARWOOD...occurs, that is rape." Now, all of that is in dispute by Bill Cosby and Bill Cosby's wife and Bill Cosby has not been charged with a crime. But I think drawing a line and saying, "If the things that have been alleged are true, that's rape." to me, that was forceful and not especially controversial even.
RENNIEI think we should also mark this moment as a bit like when John was talking about how fast opinion has moved on gay marriage. If you'd had this discussion in American politics or English politics 20 years ago, there would have been all sort of people saying, "That's not rape. Rape is a guy with a knife in a back alley. You know, this was two people who had gone to a party." We've moved on. I think there is now much, much broader and acceptance that rape can happen, you know, after a party in this way. And that we're willing to talk about it. That a president can use the word "rape" in the middle of a press conference like that and it is not in a -- you know, we're talking about this now. And I think that is a healthy development.
HARWOODBut I will say one other thing. What he -- the set of facts that he described was someone giving -- administering drugs to a person for the purpose of rendering them incapable of refusing their desire to have sex with that person. I don't see that as controversial by anyone. If you really want to get into the gray area, then you talk about the things coming up on college campuses about rape after -- or sex after two people have had too much to drink and how is consent defined in that circumstance? That, to me, is where it gets gray. The idea of drugging somebody and having sex with them, I can't see anybody disagreeing with that.
REHMBut those are the charges that women have made in the case...
REHM...of Bill Cosby.
CUMMINGSWell, more importantly, those -- that is -- those are the set of facts that Bill Cosby has admitted to...
CUMMINGS...in the deposition.
REHMWell, no. I think he simply said, "Yes," in response to "Did you give that woman drugs?" He never said he then intended to rape them.
HARWOODAnd he didn't say that he did it for purpose of incapacitating.
REHMExactly. And short break here. When we come back, we'll open the phones. Stay with us.
REHMAnd welcome back. We've had a number of callers and questions from and emails questioning Jeanne Cumming's comment about the NRA blocking the Justice Department from collecting data on gun violence. Please explain a bit more how the NRA could influence a government agency in this way.
CUMMINGSWell, as we were discussing in the break, the NRA has prevailed on Capitol Hill to have lawmakers withhold funding from, not just the Justice Department, but as David reminded, the NIH as well. They have refused to provide funding for them to keep these kinds of statistics. And it is in that way that they have not been kept for decades. And it was only after Sandy Hook that President Obama issued an executive order for them to start keeping the records.
RENNIEThat's right. You saw the National Institutes of Health and the Center for Disease Control as their public health, kind of, hat on. They were studying things like suicide rates in houses with guns in. And accidents with guns. And some years ago, Congress started defunding that systematically. And saying that it was not part of their mandate to do that.
REHMSo, now, for the first time in a long time, we're having these records kept, John.
HARWOODYes, and what we've seen in many areas is that the very act of keeping records. This is why the NRA didn't want them kept. Over time, that can prove to be a galvanizing influence for action. Because once you know something and can prosecute an argument about it in the Congress, that's when, that's how you ultimately prevail.
REHMAll right. And let's open the phones now. 800-433-8850. Let's go first to Laurel, Maryland. Katang, you're on the air.
KATANGGood morning, Diane. Thank you for taking my call.
KATANGI'm a little bit conflicted about the definition of terrorism. During one of the discussions around domestic terrorism, the issue of this white young man who killed the nine blacks in the church came up, and one of the guests, after having agreed with the fact that there was a political motivation behind the crime, then sanitizes the act by saying, well, because nobody else believed in it, believed in a race war, therefore, we couldn't take that as a terrorist act. This young man, from the beginning, I think, based on what I know, thought that blacks are overtaking the world.
KATANGAnd therefore, they should be stopped. And if he started a race war, it would make sure -- it would eliminate the privilege or advantages that blacks are having now. So...
HARWOODWell, Katang, that was me. This is John who said that, and I wasn't sanitizing, in any way, the crime. All I was saying was if you label something as having a political purpose, and the number of people who share that political purpose is infinitesimally small, it is hard to see it that way, because there is no movement behind it.
REHMBut how do you know that? How do you know that? You've got the KKK still in existence. You've got a number of groups all over the country who are very racist.
HARWOODThere are many racists in the United States, and there are, but my point is that the idea of a movement for a race war, if you compare that, for example, to the other kind of issues we were talking about today of political aims in the Middle East. Radical Islam. There's no comparison, because there is a broad movement for radical Islam that we've seen. The constituency for a race war in the United States is very, very tiny.
REHMLet me read you an email, sorry, a tweet from Rachelle, who describes herself as African-American. She says black and Muslim killers are called terrorists and thugs. Why are white shooters called mentally ill?
RENNIELook, I think that, you know, I'm not speaking for the whole media here, but this idea of until we call a killer a terrorist, we have not expressed the strongest possible level of disapproval, I would reject that. I think that that's just a complete dead end to get into. Now, I have more sympathy for the question about whether we call some killers thugs and others not. That strikes me as an example of the kind of charged language, loaded language that does, you know, the media needs to be careful about.
RENNIEBut this idea that until we call someone a terrorist, we haven't said we think they're wicked. I think that's nonsense. The fact that someone killed nine people in a church, as an act of racist hate crime, that to me is as bad as it gets. I don't need to call that person a terrorist to express disapproval of them.
REHMAll right. And let's move on to the campaign, though. You know, the first debate is when?
CUMMINGSWell, technically, it's August 6th. Although, the New Hampshire media pulled a fast one on the RNC and on August 3rd, they're going to have a candidate forum, not a debate.
REHMHow many people onstage?
CUMMINGSThey're lining up. I don't know -- they haven't settled all the details. But they are getting the candidates to respond and agree to come.
REHMAll right, so you've got Wisconsin governor Scott Walker officially entering the Republican primary this week. What do we know about his priorities?
RENNIEWell, I went to Wisconsin. I watched him do his launch in Waukesha. I think that, essentially, what he is pitching to is every four years, and (unintelligible) just wrote this column this week. Every four years, Republicans want to believe, Republican grass roots want to believe that there's a new Ronald Reagan out there. And what that means is it's code for someone who can give them victory, nationally, without any compromise on their conservative principles. Someone who is such a skilled communicator and so good at selling the message that they can have victory without tradeoffs.
RENNIEAnd they're always looking for that semi-half mythical...
REHMAnd do they think they have it?
RENNIEWalker would certainly like you to think that he is. You know, he mentioned Ronald Reagan, you know, an enormous number of times in his speech. He has Reagan's knack at telling stories, so in his little chunk on Iran, he didn't just condemn the deal in technical terms, he said, we have among us here someone from Wisconsin, who is the youngest hostage in the American Embassy in Tehran all those years ago. And I remember as a kid tying yellow ribbons around a tree trunk, and he tells me he doesn't like this deal.
HARWOODDid he mention that he was married on Reagan's birthday?
RENNIEHis wife mentioned that their anniversary is Reagan's birthday. And rather sweetly, she said that she likes to think that he'd remember their anniversary even if it wasn't Reagan's birthday. She's not sure. I think, though, the problem is that they're remembering half of Reagan. Because Reagan was not just the scold that we saw Scott Walker being, you know, drugs testing for welfare recipients. Hard work is the way forwards. Reagan was a happy warrior. And I think that if -- and he also was talking to the country as a whole. He talked about the inner cities, opportunity in the inner cities.
RENNIEWalker's pitch, I think, at the moment, is rather scoldish. It's also rather narrowly focused. He doesn't talk about immigration, doesn't talk about inner cities, doesn't really talk about anyone beyond the base.
HARWOODWell, it's also the case that Ronald Reagan was a candidate and was President in a country that is wholly different from this country. Nine out of 10 voters were white when Ronald Regan was running. He ran at a moment of conservative ascendency after a long period in which Democrats dominated the White House. We're not in that country right now. We're in a country that, in the next election, seven out of 10 voters are going to be white, which means three out of 10 are going to be non-white. That is an overwhelming Democratic constituency with different priorities.
HARWOODAnd Republicans are going to have to accommodate themselves to that reality.
RENNIEAnd just very quickly, if you want a fun fact, I checked the numbers. In 1980, when Ronald Reagan first became President, he scored 56 percent of the white vote in a country that was 88 percent white. Last year, when Scott Walker was re-elected governor, he did exactly the same thing. He got 56 percent of the white vote, the same share, in a state whose electorate is 88 percent white. His problem is that Wisconsin looks nothing like the rest of America.
REHMAll right, let's go to Steve in Orlando, Florida. You're on the air.
STEVEHi. Thanks. I have a comment, so thank you for giving my ego a forum.
STEVEYeah. My comment is that a very important story that doesn't seem to be getting much traction that was reported by Bloomberg News was that the biggest increment of Jeb Bush's hard money fundraising for the first quarter came from employees of Goldman Sachs. Which I think is very telling, rather than the moderate that he's often characterized as. Jeb Bush believes that Wall Street did nothing wrong.
CUMMINGSWell, I don't think I'd go quite that far. We haven't heard extensively from Jeb Bush on what he thinks about the financial crisis and the role of the banks in that crisis. But it is true that Wall Street was, in terms of industries, his biggest backer. And that shouldn't be that much of a surprise. Wall Street weighs in heavily in Presidential campaigns. He got about 300,000 dollars, maybe a little more, from seven or eight of the top big banks. Hillary Clinton got 300,000 dollars from seven or eight of the top big banks.
HARWOODAnd you know, the fact that they got that support, or that Jeb got that support, doesn't, wouldn't mean that he's not a moderate. In fact, when I talked to Ted Cruz this week at an event that my network hosted in New York City, he said that that was proof that they are moderates. He said the two Wall Street candidates are Jeb Bush and Hillary Clinton. They're both status quo candidates. Don't believe what Hillary Clinton says about getting tough on Wall Street prosecutions. She's not going to do it.
HARWOODWe need to embrace somebody radical, and Ted Cruz makes precisely the same argument that David mentioned about Scott Walker. That is conservatism leading to victory without tradeoffs.
REHMAnd what about Hillary Clinton verses Bernie Sanders in the polls? Some little lagging going on there, Jeanne.
CUMMINGSWell, you know, Bernie's touched a nerve. There's just no question about it.
CUMMINGSAnd his passion, his perseverance of issues such as income inequality. I mean, he was talking about that in 1991. The guy has been on this side of the political realm for a long time, and the politics have moved to him, and it is a moment for him. And I think there is a wing of the party that would like to see an alternative. It will be interesting this evening, in Iowa, when all five of the Democrats who are running in the primary, will take the stage for the first time together.
REHMAny chance that Joe Biden may get in at this late point?
RENNIEYou have to ask the question, does that, you're asking the question, if Hillary is still in the race, or Hillary implodes? I think if Hillary was to implode for some reason to do with the scandal or health or something, then everything changes. But right now, if you look at the reporting from people who've been speaking to his inner circle, it's hard to see why he would do that to himself. At the moment, you know, he has quite a consequential legacy as an unusually sort of useful Vice President, why would he want to go down as the guy who lost the primary again?
REHMAnd Donald Trump. He has released his monetary wealth.
HARWOODIn all capital letters.
REHMIn all capital letters. What do we make of the fact that he is running so strongly in this campaign?
CUMMINGSWell, he is like Bernie Sanders. I mean, he, there's obviously a disgruntled, angry part of the Republican Party, and nobody does angry better than the Donald. We looked into his fundraising. Now, he said he's going to self-finance. And he is. But we were calling this, this is a long shot candidate premium. Donald Trump, Dr. Carson and Bernie Sanders. The pay that they've got to put out to get those top strategists, Donald Trump's top strategist is earning 240,000 dollars a year. That is almost double what Mitt Romney had to pay to get a top strategist.
REHMAnd you're listening to The Diane Rehm Show. Let's go to Danny in Houston, Texas. You're on the air.
DANNYYes, thank you for taking my call.
DANNYThe point I was making, and I'll say this, preface this as a pretty liberal guy, I will say that with regards to Obama visiting the federal prison, being the first president to visit prison, I am very excited to see it, because it seems that Democrats have been lagging on a lot -- on this issue. A lot of Republicans have actually, people like Newt Gingrich have been pushing for prison reform for a while. So, I think many people are surprised how willing the -- a lot of people from the right are on this issue, and have been for a while. And I'm glad to see that Obama has taken the step.
REHMGood. Thank you, Danny, for that call. There are a number of people who have asked us to talk about what happened with Planned Parenthood in an undercover video that went viral. Tell us about that video, David.
RENNIESo, there are two things to say about this video. This video was filmed by an anti-abortion group about a year ago. They put out an edited version about eight, nine minutes long, which is picking up a lot of traction on Capitol Hill. We'll see investigations by committees in Congress. Two things. Point one, they're making the charge that this proves that Planned Parenthood is possibly breaking the law, but certainly selling body parts of aborted fetuses for money. I don't think, if you watch that full video, I watched it last night, I don't think that's borne out.
RENNIEThey're talking about expenses, they're talking about transport, things like that. And they explicitly say, they can't get into any perception that they're selling parts at all. Point two, is this a real public relations blow and a political blow to the pro-choice movement? I think it is. It's a horrible video to watch. It's upsetting to watch. The woman looks callous. She's, you know, spooning, forking food into her face and drinking wine while she discusses the kind of minutia of these things.
RENNIEI think what we're seeing is kind of an attempt to make the pro-choice movement look like the extremists. That's the really interesting political dynamic underway. But instead of the days when anti-abortion activists were the ones waving kind of plastic fetuses on protest marches, they're trying to sound the reasonable mainstream, and to make the pro-abortion, pro-choice movement sound extreme. That's what this video fits into.
CUMMINGSWell, I think that that's absolutely right. And it's -- this is a very much a political and public relations problem for Planned Parenthood that they're going to have to solve and weather. And they're going to be -- there's going to be an attempt on Capitol Hill to try to go with their funding, cause they receive federal funding for services provide other than abortions. They provide mammograms to women. They do pap smears for women. They do regular health services for women. That's a big part of what Planned Parenthood does. And that could be in jeopardy right now.
REHMAll right, let's end on an up note. And that is the sighting of Pluto and what we're seeing.
RENNIEThat's right, and this follows on that amazing incident with the satellite that landed on the comet and then lost power and came back and people were following it on Twitter. I don't think there's massive public support for very, very expensive kind of manned missions to Mars or the moon. We've seen NASA can't get support for that. But it turns out we are still interested in the mysteries of space. And these little quiet satellites that are launched kind of nine, seven years ago, go off, toodle off and do this incredible thing.
RENNIEIt captures our imagination, and I think that's stirring. You know, we're still, we can still raise our eyes above the horizon from time to time.
REHMWhat a wonderful note to end on. Thank you, David Rennie of the Economist. Jeanne Cummings, White House Editor for the Wall Street Journal, and John Harwood of CNBC and the New York Times. I am going to be on vacation for the next few weeks and there'll be wonderful people sitting in this chair. I'll miss you. I'll be back here on August 10th. Thanks for listening, all. I'm Diane Rehm.
Most Recent Shows
What troubles at Twitter say about the state of social media -- and why one tech watcher argues this could transform the industry in positive ways.
Political analyst Norman Ornstein on control of Congress, the red wave that wasn't, and other lessons from the midterm elections.
At the end of the year Dr. Anthony Fauci will step down from his post as the nation's top infectious disease doctor. He talks to Diane about his 38 years on the job -- and what's next.