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
Former University of Cincinnati police officer, Ray Tensing, pleads guilty to a charge of murder of a black motorist and is free on bail. GDP numbers for the second quarter of 2015 suggest the U.S. economy is growing, but slowly. Congress passes a three-month stopgap highway funding bill, adding another item to the already long list of legislative priorities for the fall. And now there are 17: Former Virginia Gov. James Gilmore announces he’s in race to be the GOP nominee for president. We look at these and other top stories of the week.
- Manu Raju Senior congressional reporter, Politico.
- Lisa Lerer National politics reporter, The Associated Press.
- Michael Scherer Washington bureau chief, TIME.
MS. SUSAN PAGEThanks for joining us. I'm Susan Page of USA Today sitting in for Diane Rehm. Diane is on vacation. The former University of Cincinnati police officer charged with murder is free on bail after pleading not guilty. Republican presidential hopeful, Donald Trump, builds his lead over his GOP rivals even in Florida. And the latest GDP numbers show growth in the U.S. economy, but not much.
MS. SUSAN PAGEJoining me to talk about these and other top stories of the week, Manu Raju of Politico, Lisa Lerer of the Associated Press and Michael Scherer of TIME magazine. Welcome to "The Diane Rehm Show."
MR. MICHAEL SCHERERHi, Susan.
MS. LISA LERERHi.
MR. MANU RAJUHi.
PAGEWe're going to invite our listeners not only to hear us talk, but to see us. We are live streaming this hour of "The Diane Rehm Show." You can watch it on the web at drshow.org. You can call our toll-free number later in this hour if you have a question or a comment. Our toll-free number, 1-800-433-8850. You can always send us an email at email@example.com or find us on Facebook or Twitter.
PAGEWell, Manu, you are up on the Hill every day covering it. They are just about -- the House is gone. The Senate is just about to get out of town, but they did not reach the multi-year deal they had hoped to have on the highway bill. Why not?
RAJUThe House and the Senate are on opposite pages and maybe even opposite planets on this issue. The Senate moved forward. Both, of course, chambers, of course, controlled by Republicans, but this is yet another instance in which the Republican leadership in both chambers have different tactics and strategies to accomplish what they hoped to achieve. And on the highway bill itself, Mitch McConnell, the Senate majority leader tried to move forward a long term funding bill, a six-year bill, that would be paid for, for three of those six years.
RAJUThe final three years, they would punt those pay-fors into the future Congresses to decide on how to deal with it and it would be paid for by things like selling off additional oil reserves from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve. But the House Republicans don't like that at all. In fact, Boehner used a curse word to describe the Senate's bill earlier this month in a very colorful language. But they opted to push forward a shorter term bill that would actually punt the issue until later this year to hopefully tie it to a larger rewrite of the international business tax code to pay for a long term highway bill.
RAJUSo these are completely opposite approaches the House and the Senate have taken on this very critical issue. So as a result, what we saw the Senate do yesterday was a -- in addition to passing its six-year bill, they passed a three-month extension, punting this fight into the fall and really adding to the huge laundry list of things that Congress is going to have to deal with in facing one deadline after another. And the highway program is another one of them. This is going to be more than 30 extensions in the past six years over highway programs at a time when bridges across the country are deteriorating.
PAGEAnd they had to do that three-month patch because otherwise funding for the highway bill would've expired at midnight tonight. You know, Lisa, one reason, I think, some people in Congress had hoped to get this done is that the other things they have to get done in the fall are harder than making a deal on the highway bill.
LERERRight. It's going to be quite a fall on Capitol Hill. You have 12 spending bills. You have the sequester is up for renewal. You have the nuclear bill. You have defense policy bill. You have a debt ceiling. Oh, and then, there's the Ex-Im Bank, which didn't get through this week. So there's a whole laundry list of things and it's really hard. Plus, the tax revamp that Manu mentioned.
LERERSo there's this -- Planned Parenthood, of course, Planned Parenthood. There's also a really big push to defund Planned Parenthood after the videos of the employees bartering over fetal tissue came out. So it's hard to look at this laundry list of things and think that we are not going to be headed, at least courting, some kind of shutdown. And on top of it, right, you have a presidential election that is well underway.
LERERWe have the first debate on the Republican side happening on Thursday. You have a bunch of guys wanting to be president in the Senate. So that's just a recipe for a politicization and people digging into their positions. On top of it, you have a lame duck president who's not going to feel very much like he has to compromise. It's going to be a very, very ugly fall.
PAGEAnd, you know, there's usually -- this is bipartisan support for the highway bill. They haven't managed to pass a long term extension for a decade. The last time a multi-year bill passed for the highway programs was in 2005. Okay, Michael, the Senate still is going to stick around for one more week. What are they going to do? Well, I mean, among the other things, you mentioned Planned Parenthood funding.
PAGEThere's a push to try to defund Planned Parenthood. Do you see that going anywhere?
SCHERERWell, there's going to be another fight. In 2011, Republicans in the House passed a bill defunding Planned Parenthood. As it stands now, people who go to Planned Parenthood with government funding are not doing it for abortion services. They're doing it for mostly women's healthcare, STD checks, regular checkups and that's actually very popular and something that Democrats have held onto in debates. The issue now before us is Republicans see these videos, which are very difficult to watch, if you've watched them, however you feel about the abortion issue, as a window to raise this issue again.
SCHERERAnd a number of Republicans are going to try and basically do what they can to shut down this organization and Democrats are going to fight back. It's not at all clear that they can get the, you know, ten or so Senators they need, Democratic Senators, to go along with them. So it's unlikely this actually happens, but it's going to be yet another fight in which conservatives want to make a stand.
RAJUYeah, and I would just add that, on the Planned Parenthood issue, there's going to be a procedural vote next week. That's going to fail. The question is going to be, for the Republican leaders, do they try to renew this fight in the fall over the spending issue because that's going to be something that people are going to be worried about that could prompt a government shutdown because we're going to have -- they're going to have to make a decision in September whether or not to continue to fund the government and whether or not to, you know, fund the $500 million or so that Planned Parenthood gets, that the conservatives are demanding that they defund.
RAJUSo this could be yet another flashpoint over this issue and that's one of the reasons why the Republican leaders are trying to move this now. They trying to disentangle it from the spending fight, but I think that's just a short term solution. We're going to see the bigger fight happen in September.
LERERAnd I can tell you, as someone who covers the presidential election, that Democrats, particularly Hillary Clinton and her team, are loving this politically. She sees herself -- they believe that she can pull more women voters, particularly married, suburban women who are a demographic the Democrats sometimes have trouble with. That can make the difference. If there is a shutdown over Planned Parenthood, they see that as a major win for her. A loss policy-wise, of course, but a major win for her campaign and as something that they could use as a motivating factor for women, particularly these suburban, married women in the 2016 election.
SCHERERThe other side of that is that the Republican candidates see this as a major win for themselves at the moment and so you're setting up, you know, a train crash because for Republican candidates, especially in the debate next week, every one is going to try and outdo the other in outrage over these Planned Parenthood videos and they're going to be drumming up a lot of grassroots support for taking a very hard stand on this.
PAGEYou know, the only people who may not see it as a win are the American people who would like to see a functioning government that gets funded, doesn't have a shutdown when the fiscal year ends.
LERERRight, of course. There's certainly a lot of frustration out there in the public with what it seems like Washington's inability to act on anything, these constant crises and shutdowns, and I think that's part of what's fueling this Trump surge. We mentioned Trump briefly in the intro. I'm sure we have a lot more to discuss with him. But there is this sense, you know, when you talk to voters who support Trump, that he tells it like it is. He's outside politics. He's outside the establishment and he could really cut through the red tape and get things down.
LERERI think that's part of what's fueling Bernie Sanders' rise as well. There is definitely this frustration with Washington and conventional politics and that, of course, could hurt Bush and Clinton who have some of the most famous political names in the country.
PAGESo you got to feel sorry, perhaps, for the Republican leaders of Congress. John Boehner, for instance, one of this own members for North Carolina, Mark Meadows, offered a motion to vacate the chair. Now, there may be a few listeners who don't know what that means. Manu, what does that mean?
RAJUIt basically -- it's an effort to overthrow John Boehner as Speaker. And, you know, it was really kind of a curious thing 'cause Meadows is sort of man on an island here, you know. He kind of came out of nowhere, surprised people. Even surprised a lot of his like-minded conservatives who don't like John Boehner. And he didn't really have much support of it and then suddenly announced it right before the House left for its August recess.
RAJUAnd a lot of these guys were caught blindsided. So he doesn't have much support internally for it. The leadership is sort of writing it off. But it does speak to the larger frustration that a lot of those conservative, grassroots types have with John Boehner and the Republican -- and Mitch McConnell and their efforts to try to compromise with Democrats. Not only did we see that on the House side, we saw this on the Senate side, too.
RAJUTed Cruz went to the floor last Friday, accused Mitch McConnell of lying over his plans to move the Export-Import Bank. This is something that is just not done in the Senate. It's usually a very collegial body. But to accuse a leader of lying and also -- accusing anybody of lying, let alone a leader of your own party, just shows the battle that the leadership has to constantly deal with and try and tamp down this outrage from the conservative base.
SCHERERYou're seeing a lot of positioning in advance of these fall fights and so the Meadows thing is not going to succeed, but he has positioned himself as a leader of the conservative outrage that is sure to come, assuming there is some compromise that comes later this year, which is almost inevitable. And the same with Cruz. Cruz, right now, is competing, more than anyone else, with Donald Trump for votes and so whereas it's a terrible thing to call the majority leader of the Senate a liar in the Senate, it's not a bad thing on the campaign trail to call anybody in Washington a liar.
PAGEFive sitting senators are running for president. One can only imagine what that will mean for how Congress will work next year. We're going to take a very short break and when we come back, we'll continue our conversation and we'll go to the phones. Our phone lines are open, 1-800-433-8850, or send us an email at drshow.org. Stay with us.
PAGEWelcome back. I'm Susan Page of USA Today sitting in for Diane Rehm. And with me in the studio, Michael Scherer, Washington bureau chief for TIME Magazine, Lisa Lerer, national politics reporter for The Associate Press, and Manu Raju, senior congressional reporter for Politico. We're going to take your calls and questions in just a few minutes, 1-800-433-8850. Also, we're live-streaming this hour. You can watch us on the Web on drshow.org. Well, Hillary Clinton, this week, laid out her plan to combat climate change. Lisa, you were covering this. What did she -- what is she proposing?
LERERSo her plan was very focused on renewable energy. She proposes getting 33 percent of the nation's electricity from renewable sources by 2027. That's up from 7 percent today, so it's a real big jump. And it's a higher goal than the 20 percent that Obama set. Half a billion solar panels by 2020, a seven times increase from today. And enough energy from carbon-free sources to power every home within a decade of her inauguration. These are really ambitious goals. Some people would say they're somewhat unrealistic goals. I mean, it would be really hard to get there. But what most people commented on about her climate plan was what she didn't mention, which was the Keystone XL pipeline.
LERERThat's, of course, become a major issue in the environmental community. It's a major issue for the Democratic base. There are many people in the Democratic Party, certainly in the environmental wing of the Democratic Party, who see this as the most important fight on climate change happening right now. And Clinton said this week in New Hampshire, she said twice that she wasn't going to comment on it because it was something she worked on as Secretary of State and she didn't think that would be right to second-guess the president and John Kerry, who are currently reviewing this policy. That may be true. She may feel that way. It's also awfully convenient.
LERERThis is a really contentious issue. Even within the Democratic Party, there are Democrats from coals states who would like to see the pipeline built. There are of course -- and of course, in the general election, it's even more contentious. So there's certainly a benefit for her to not express an opinion on this. But it could hurt her in the primary and certainly fuels her opponents, Bernie Sanders and Martin O'Malley, who've said that they would stop the pipeline immediately. So we'll have to see how it plays out.
PAGEIs that a sustainable position, Michael, do you think? That she can't have a view on it -- it's essentially because she knows too much.
SCHERERThat is not -- it's not a rational thing. I mean, whether it's sustainable politically is a different question. There's plenty of things she worked on as Secretary of State that she has commented on, including the Trans-Pacific Partnership, the trade deal. So, you know, it's an excuse in the moment. I think what Clinton has been doing is trying to be bold and safe at the same time. So she comes out with these big proposals. But in this case, this is all really the low-hanging fruit. She's saying everybody wants more renewable. Let's do more renewable. She isn't talking about the harder questions, which are what you do with fossil fuels.
SCHERERAlso, there's an open question about oil exports and Arctic drilling. She hasn't gone near the question of a carbon tax, which is very controversial and she probably will stay away from this cycle. And then this is just one area where she's doing that. If you look at how she's approached financial regulation on Wall Street, she's come up with some very specific proposals. But she's also avoided some of the harder ones. And I think her plan is very clearly to try and do this through the primaries, to try and appear as liberal and bold as she can, allowing her the space to then pivot back to the middle, if and when she becomes the nominee.
LERERThat's an excellent, excellent point. And you can even see it in the things she chooses to talk about, right? She talks a lot about immigration. She talks a lot about paid sick leave, paid family leave. She talks a lot about reforming the criminal justice system. These are positions that are popular not only in the Democratic base but across the country, you know, certainly across the realm of getable voters, right? They may not be, for Hillary, they may not be popular with Republicans, but they're not voting for her anyhow. So she's playing it extremely safe. But, as Michael said, at the same time trying to make it look like she's this bold progressive. It's a tough balancing act.
RAJUAnd especially when you're avoiding weighing in on some key issues. Even though she did talk about the Trans-Pacific Partnership, she's sort of -- she's kind of, you know, playing both sides of the issue on that. She came out -- as Secretary of State, she supported the Trans-Pacific Partnership. But when asked on the campaign trail if she supported it, she said, "Well, you know, I want to make sure the right labor and environmental standards. I want to see how it plays out." When she was asked if she supported the fast-track authority, which is central to getting the TPP enacted, she punted on that issue as well.
RAJUSo, clearly, she's playing it safe. She does not want to antagonize the Democratic base while also not alienating some of those moderate voters in the general election.
PAGEAnd that position on the fast-track authority was particularly perplexing because, if she were elected, she would certainly want, as president, to have that fast-track authority.
LEREROh, that's exactly right. And I think the larger danger here isn't so much even about her positions. It's how this sets a narrative in motion. You know, Republicans are working really hard to create this narrative about her, that she's -- will do anything to get ahead, that she's a consummate preacher of Washington, that she's not trustworthy. And when she doesn't answer questions about her positions on various topics, it sort of plays into their narrative. That's something we saw, really effectively, Democrats do to Romney in '12, right? They created this idea that he was this heartless plutocrat. They pushed it. They pushed it early. And, you know, he reinforced it, of course, through several errors, like the 47 percent.
LERERBut that was already in people's minds and that really hurt him. I think that changed the election.
PAGEYou know, in 2012, we did not actually hear that much discussion about climate change. And I wonder, Michael, do you think that this time around, for 2016, it is going to be a big issue?
SCHERERI don't expect in the general election it'll be much different than last time. There's not a lot of polls that say it's at the top of the mind of many voters. It's gone down actually pretty considerably since the mid-2000s in terms of the concern among voters in elections. In the primary, though, that's different. In the Democratic primary it's a big issue. And in the Republican primary it's sort of a litmus-test issue as well sometimes. Because, you know, there is a lot of concern among a lot of Republican constituencies that Democratic policies are going to come and hit them hard where they work, which is in the coal industry and gas industry.
RAJUAnd it's particularly important among Democratic donors.
RAJUI mean, that's a huge issue.
PAGEParticularly one Democratic donor.
RAJUTom Steyer, the billionaire environmentalist who is going to be -- spend a lot of money in this campaign season and is pushing the candidates to take harder lines on climate change. Clearly, that's the risk for Hillary too on the Keystone issue. If she came out and said she supported it, a lot of those big donors would be very angry at her.
LERERIt's also slightly more important for younger voters. And what Clinton is trying to do here is really resurrect as much as she can the Obama coalition, right? So minority voters and young voters and female voters to come out and come out big to support her. So I think you will hear her talk about it as an attack line against Republicans. Some in the general just to try to boost enthusiasm with younger voters.
PAGEI saw that Jeb Bush, yesterday, in an interview said that at least some of climate change is due to human activity. So he may be adjusting his position on that. We'll have to wait and see. Here's an email from Jason, who writes us from Kalamazoo, Mich. He says, "I'd like your panelists to revisit The New York Times story about Hillary Clinton's emails and the inspector general referrals. First it was a criminal referral regarding Hillary. Then it was a criminal referral regarding the handling of emails. Then it was a non-criminal referral. Due to the awkward way the Times walked back the story, it seems likely to me that the reporters got burned by a bad tip from Representative Gowdy's Benghazi investigation."
PAGENow we don't actually know where the tip came from. We do know the story broke last -- in last Friday's New York Times. We talked about it on the News Roundup. It is, as Jason notes, a different story now than it looked to be a week ago.
SCHERERYes. It was not a criminal referral. And it was not clearly a referral about something Clinton had done. We now know, because the inspectors general have come out with a lot of the paperwork that was involved in this, that they reviewed a very small portion of the emails that Hillary Clinton kept on her private server and found a pretty alarming percentage of those emails contained what they believed -- the intelligence community and the State Department IG believed to be classified information. Now, that doesn't necessarily mean that it's classified information. The classification system in the U.S. government is a very tangled one.
SCHERERIt happens almost always out of executive order. And so different agencies can disagree over whether a specific piece of information is classified or not. It's clear that the information was not marked as classified -- at least the information that's been reviewed in these emails. So it's not clear that Hillary Clinton, by sending or receiving these emails or keeping them on her server, did anything wrong. At the same time, the IGs are taking steps to make sure that the government as a whole -- the State Department, the Justice Department, the intelligence agencies -- secure this information now. And they're -- they've asked the FBI to become involved in this mainly out of procedure.
SCHERERThere's a 1990s memo that says, if you discover that classified information may not be in classified systems, you have to refer it to the Justice Department. The next step, we're not really sure right now. The Justice Department has not yet said whether they're opening an inquiry on this or not. We'll probably know that in the coming weeks. And we also don't know the particulars of this information and that will matter quite a bit. As a political issue, which is separate from the criminal and the justice investigation, this is much bigger deal.
SCHERERBecause if it comes out that this information reasonably should have been considered classified -- I mean, we may soon know exactly what this information concerned, even if we don't know the information itself -- it could be very embarrassing for Hillary Clinton, even if she doesn't really face criminal jeopardy for it.
PAGEAnd it's gotten muddy because of the way in which the Times originally reported the story and had to walk it back. Lisa, we expect more emails to be released today by the State Department. What will you be looking for?
LERERWell, of course we're going to be looking to see what was redacted. The emails go through a process, a (word?) process where things are redacted that may not necessarily be classified but they don't necessarily want to be out to the public. So we'll try to see what we can guess behind the bars.
PAGESo if you see a lot of things blacked out...
PAGE...that would indicate maybe some sensitive material.
LERERMaybe some sensitive material had been there. You know, of course we're looking for anything that shows her human side. We're looking for anything about Benghazi. These email -- these email though so far have not been super, super newsworthy, you know. And, frankly, you go through thousands and thousands of pages of emails and a lot of them just say, please print, you know?
LERERAnd that's by design. I mean, the important thing to remember here is what we're looking at, these 55,000 pages of emails, are only what Clinton decided at the beginning to release to the State Department. So there's a whole bunch of emails that she did not release that presumably have been destroyed. Now, what the Clinton team says is, "Well, these were about her meeting up with her husband and her yoga and Chelsea's wedding." But we don't really know that. We don't know what's in those emails because we haven't seen them. So you're already seeing sort of a sanitized version of her correspondence, you know, at the outset. So we'll have to see.
LERERLook, you never know what's in them. There could be something really interesting. But so far, that hasn't really been the case.
PAGEWell, now, here's the end of Jason's email, which I was reading before. He wrote at the end, "I understand the need to keep informant's confidentiality. But at what point does this act as a shield for bad actors? Would a reporter ever burn a source that misled them and use them to disseminate false information?" Does this raise some of those questions?
RAJUI mean, you certainly have to be careful of what sources tell you. I mean, if a -- the Justice Department did confirm to the Times and other news organizations that there was a criminal inquiry. And that was the basis, apparently, of their reporting. Now, the Justice Department later said that was not the case. They said that it was a security referral, as Michael said, that, you know, essentially refers it to the FBI to look into whether or not classified information was being improperly disseminated, not a criminal investigation.
RAJUBut it's a very tough position for the reporters when the Justice Department confirms that it's a criminal inquiry and then you report it that way and it turns out it's not the case. And that's, unfortunately, what happened to the Times reporters.
SCHERERYeah, I mean, I know, at TIME we had it from the same Justice Department source, two different ways within a matter of hours on Friday. There was enormous confusion inside the government about what was going on there. And so it's not clear that a source intentionally burned The New York Times. Although there were other issues with the Times story besides the question of whether it was a criminal inquiry.
LERERBut this all works in the Clinton team's favor, right? Their goal -- their communications director sent a big letter that they posted online disputing the story. You know, we're already a week later here, disputing the story. They want to muddy the story up as much as possible. That's their goal. They feel like people who don't like Hillary Clinton are going to see this as, you know, proof that she's, you know, corrupt. People who do like her will see another evidence of the vast right-wing conspiracy. They want to keep it as muddy and as partisan as possible. It's unclear whether they're succeeding because we've seen a number of polls that show how people view her trustworthiness. Those number have dropped.
RAJUAnd this story started in March and we're still talking about it, too.
LERERAnd we're going to continue talking about it because there's a monthly email dump until three days before the Iowa caucus.
PAGEMargaret Sullivan, the public editor at The New York Times, wrote a very tough column about this. And she said her prescription was, less speed, more transparency. I'm Susan Page and you're listening to "The Diane Rehm Show." Let's go to talk to Ed. Ed is calling us from Newbury, Ohio. Hi, Ed.
EDHello. I have two concerns now. It was originally one. A carbon tax I think would help on transportation of goods made in foreign countries. People getting rich on foreign labor are not concerned about where their stuff is being made. And my other concern is, people who are using the road should be paying by having a higher gas tax. With prices so low, why would it be hard to increase the federal gas tax?
PAGEAll right, Ed. Thanks so much for your call. Higher gas tax, Manu, what do you think?
RAJUCertainly, that's one of the things that, you know, the gas tax hasn't been raised in a very long time. It is, you know, this has been a major reason why the highway trust fund is having so many problems. In addition to having a gas tax that hasn't been raised, people are driving more fuel-efficient cars. So that means there's less money going into the trust fund that pays for a lot of these road projects. But why the gas tax won't be raised is that Republicans are dead set against any tax increases. And this Congress is controlled by Republicans so we're not going to see that. And that's why when Mitch McConnell cut a bipartisan deal in the Senate for a six-year highway bill, it did not increase the gas tax.
RAJUAnd certainly the conservative Republican House will not increase the gas tax. Democrats, by and large, generally support that. But they're realistic. And Republicans -- there are probably only maybe a couple that do. Bob Corker of Tennessee is a proponent of increasing the gas tax. But he is sort of on a reservation -- on an island himself. So we're not going to see that really change this Congress.
PAGEEd, thanks so much for your call. Well, just a few days from now, next Thursday, we'll have the first Republican presidential debate. Michael, do we know for sure who's going to be on stage?
SCHERERWe don't know for sure. And we don't even know for sure what polls will be used to determine who will be on stage. We have a pretty good idea of those candidates who are safe, because the polls have been -- while not constant -- relatively stable for a couple months. But there are a number of candidates -- including Chris Christie, Rick Perry, John Kasich, Rick Santorum -- who are on the bubble right now. And of the list I just named, probably two of those four will make it on stage and two won't. Fox has said that if there is a tie -- and they haven't defined what a tie is -- they could add another podium. So I don't know if that means, like, they have to be polling within the same percentage point or within the margin of error.
SCHERERWhat we know is that it's going to be kind of arbitrary on the low end. Because these polls have margins of error of 2 or 3 percentage points, even when you're averaging them together.
LERERAnd in some of these cases, we're talking about under a percentage point.
LERERTwo-thirds, you know, of a percent. So the differences are so slight. And of course, these are national polls. These aren't, you know, Iowa polls or New Hampshire polls or early state polls. So, you know, there has been this argument that it rewards candidates for their time on Fox News, rather than their time spent in Des Moines and Waterloo and, you know, Concord. So there are some -- certainly there are many people who are going to -- who have already and will continue to dispute the rules of this debate.
RAJUAnd what Fox did was that they allowed for the kid's table, of sorts, to be expanded. So there's going to be -- the people who are polling less will have that five o'clock debate and the front-runners will go at eight o'clock.
PAGEWe're going to take another short break. When we come back, we'll talk about the state of the U.S. economy and we'll take some of your calls. Our toll-free line, 1-800-433-8850. You can also watch this hour being live-streamed on the Web on drshow.org. Stay with us.
PAGEWelcome back. I'm Susan Page of USA Today sitting in for Diane Rehm. And with me in the studio Manu Raju, senior congressional reporter for Politico. Lisa Lerer national politics reporter for the Associated Press and Michael Scherer, he's the Washington bureau chief for TIME Magazine.
PAGEWe're going to go to the phones soon. You can call our toll-free number, 1-800-433-8850. First we're going to talk about this case involving Raymond Tensing, the former University of Cincinnati police officer. He was been -- he was been -- he has been charged with murder for shooting and killing a driver during a traffic stop. And, you know, the reason this is, I think, been such a compelling story is that we have body camera footage that shows us exactly what happened.
SCHERERAnd not only shows us what happened, but shows us that the police officer's original story wasn't true. The officer had said that he made this traffic stop, that the person he stopped started to drive away, and was dragging him along the car, thereby endangering his life. And that that is why he pulled his gun and shot him. The video pretty clearly shows that he tried to open the driver's door. The driver resisted opening the door.
SCHERERAnd then in like this stunning two-second move he pulls out his gun and he shoots him, it looks like in the head. It's a -- it really shows, I think, more than anything else, what a big change body cameras and cruiser cameras are bringing to the way America polices. You know, the -- in a situation like this, in which the witness is dead, in any other year without video it would be very hard to make a prosecution stick. But here we have clear video of what appears to have happened.
PAGEYou know, you made a point similar to one made by Charles, who has sent us an email. He's writing us from Houston. He writes, "The most troubling aspect of the shooting is the fact that the other police officers corroborated Officer Tensing's version of events. Absent the video, all the police officers would be believed and the dead man's parents would have no way to prove that their son was murdered.
LERERThe video, I mean, when you watch this video it's pretty shocking. It was widely disseminated. And so I sort of wonder about the long-term impacts of this. Does this start influencing juries? I think there is a sense that people want to side, in some ways, with the police. They want to believe that the police force is looking out for them, is protecting them. So does this, you know, having these videos -- not just this video, but other videos of similar killings disseminated, does that start influencing public opinion and does it influence juries?
LERERAnd does that change how these cases end up being resolved?
RAJUYeah, and I -- the body cameras issue is certainly going to get more steam. I had a chance to talk to the senator from South Carolina, Tim Scott, who of course is from a state that has had its own horrific violence, including the killing of a man, Walter Scott, earlier this year, an unarmed man running away from a police officer in North Charleston who was murdered, was killed.
RAJUAnd Senator Scott told me that he is pushing forward on legislation that he introduced this week to essentially fund police departments' use of body cameras. And he's pushing for Congress to spend about $100 million annually to ensure that these police departments have body cameras. So it'll be interesting to see whether instances like this will fuel that push within Congress.
PAGEYou know, I think most police officers are honorable, doing their jobs, putting their lives on the line for public safety, so body cameras protect -- seems to me protect them, as well as expose cops that are not doing that.
SCHERERYeah, I know. And I think that's the reason why it's very difficult to oppose them. I mean, it's not a position in which you can say, I'm against knowing what really happened.
PAGEThese series of incidents we've seen over the past several months, do you feel there's going to be, like, a larger political impact, a larger impact on our nation, our debate about race, our sense of law enforcement?
LERERWell, I think we've already seen that. Right? There's certainly momentum in Congress, starting to be more momentum to deal with sentencing laws. Both Hillary and Bill Clinton have come out and basically said they were wrong when they -- parts of the crime bill, that was one of his major legacy items, were not handled correctly.
LERERAnd, you know, if you look in the past year, the pace of this issue is unbelievable. The Black Lives movement is disrupting Democratic events. They've become a major force. One of the first speeches Hillary Clinton gave was on criminal justice. I think it already -- the issue already has shifted. And now it's just a matter of, like, codifying some of these changes into policy.
PAGEI said before the break we wanted to talk about the state of the economy. We've got a caller who wants to talk about that, too. Colby, calling us from Harrisonburg, Va. Colby, hi, you're on the air.
COLBYHi. I was calling to talk about the general state of the U.S. economy, actually. But my question had to do with the student debt load. I was curious as to whether there was a bubble forming around that in the economy and whether student debt is being traded as a security on the market and what's the general state, with respect to student debt, in relation to the economy.
PAGEAll right. Colby, thanks for your call.
SCHERERWell, student debt's been rising because the cost of college has been rising much quicker than anybody's wages or inflation for several decades now. And it's become a huge burden on a disturbing number of Americans, you know, preventing them from buying homes and preventing them from doing the things that we want successful citizens to be doing. For most of the student debt, it's basically guaranteed by the federal government right now. So it's not traded in the same way that a, you know, mortgage-backed security would be traded.
SCHERERAnd the other big innovation here is that in the last several years the government has provided people, all these new income-based repayment program. So if you're getting your loans through the federal government, which almost everybody is who are going to college, you're -- the amount you pay on your student loans is capped as a percentage of your income. So even as the debt continues to be a massive problem, the degree to which it's pushing people into bankruptcy or really disturbing people's lives has started to ameliorate.
PAGEI'm really impressed by how much you know about the student loan program. Kudos. We had a report on the U.S. economy this week. You know, it grew, Manu, but it didn't grow by much. It's like we're still in search of a recovery that will feel like a recovery.
RAJUYeah, exactly. It grew 2.3 percent in the last quarter. It was expected to be about 2.9 percent. So clearly, less than people expected. It's better than it was in the first quarter, which grew -- they revised their estimate. I think it's .6 percent in the first quarter, which had largely to do with the bad weather, the West -- the port dispute in the West Coast, in addition to lower energy prices and the like.
RAJUBut it does fuel that larger concern that while the economy is going in the right direction, it is not going as rapidly as it should. And while the unemployment rate keeps -- continues to tick down, people's wages continue to stagnate, this is an issue that the administration is struggling with because they want to say that they brought the economy roaring back. But, as we see, there's just constantly these mixed numbers in the economy, these mixed signs that things could just be better.
PAGEAnd we've been waiting, of course, for the fed to raise rates. The fed has signaled they want to do that when the economy seems stable enough. This -- Lisa, this may indicate that is still a ways off.
LERERWell, it could. I mean, some people think it could happen as soon as September. I think it's more likely it happens a little later in the year. But the expectation seems to be that fed will raise rates as some point this year. I think politically, though, Manu makes a really good point, which is that people don't feel better. They don't feel quite as bad as they did during the depths of the recession, but because wages -- and they've certainly been helped by, like, lower gas prices, for sure.
LERERBut because wages haven't grown that much, they don't feel like they're doing great. Right? And as a result, you see this is going to be a major issue in 2016. It's something all the candidates talk about a lot. And it's something we're going to be hearing about a lot.
PAGEYou know, it's not only the wages are stagnant, but that some people are doing so well…
PAGE…while everybody else seems to be doing not so well. It fuels that whole debate about income and equality.
SCHERERYeah, if you look over the last, I mean, there's different ways of calculating it. But definitely since 2002, and then, in a different way, all the way back to the early 1980s, an enormous amount of the income growth in this country has gone to the top 10 percent of income earners. And there are a lot of arguments for why that is. You know, technology has changed, globalization has rewarded capital in a way that doesn't reward work in the United States. But it's clear that that's becoming a political issue in a way it just was not in the last three or four elections.
LERERAnd one thing that's worth mentioning, quickly, is that prices have crept up a little bit. Prices on everyday things. We had a story in the AP recently that prices of haircuts have gone up slightly. You know, so things that people spend money on now feel more expensive and their wages haven't increased. And they see these people at the top. So it sort of ends up being a pretty interesting political mix of economic issues.
PAGELet's go back to the phones. Our phone lines are open, 1-800-433-8850. We'll talk to Robert. He's calling us from Fort Lauderdale, Fla. Hi, Robert.
ROBERTHi. How you doing?
ROBERTI'd just like to mention that the Planned Parenthood videos were doctored. And you didn't all mention that. And it's kind of like a Republican ploy. They've done it with ACORN. They'll do it again.
PAGEAll right. Robert, thanks so much for your call. Now, we're they doctored? They were selectively edited.
SCHERERYeah, they were very carefully edited. In some of them, it's unclear how leading the question is that you hear the response from, from the Planned Parenthood employee. But the fact -- what is clear, is that -- and this is not a criminal matter in any way -- that there is a practice of giving body parts of fetuses, for medical science, and that money is exchanged for that. Planned Parenthood maintained that it's all done very ethically. That the money is not a profit-making enterprise.
PAGEIt's to defray expenses.
SCHERERDefray expenses. And that the video show Planned Parenthood employees saying they're willing to take steps to make the specimens that are handed over for medical science more usable. And so it still raises, I think, you know, a lot of issues for a lot of people. You know, what -- however it's edited, that much is there. And this is just a part of the abortion story that, I think, many Americans haven't thought much about before.1
PAGEEven Hillary Clinton said she found the videos disturbing. Although, she supports Planned Parenthood, opposes the effort to defund Planned Parenthood. Here's an email from Barbara, who writes us from San Antonio, Texas. She writes, "Is there any chance of legal action against the Center for Medical Progress, the organization that filmed the edited videos at Planned Parenthood sites. It appears that their status could be considered fraudulent." Do we have any sense of that?
SCHERERI saw that story. That argument has been pushed by a number of liberal groups based on basically how they categorize themselves when they registered for the IRS. And as a general matter, that's not something that's a criminal issue. A nonprofit group can be a part of several different categories. And can be a medical group, can be a group that's focused on issues of abortion. And all of those can be true. And I think it's an attempt by, I mean, this is a real battle going on right now. And it's attempt by liberal groups to change the topic.
RAJUAnd, politically, I'm not sure how much they would want to fight this. It suggests it's a criminal matter. Take the issue, you know, continue this issue in the news. This is an issue that Planned Parenthood wants to go away and change the subject from. They don't want to focus on this. They want to talk about what -- the other services that they provide, which is beyond just abortion services. So I'm not sure how much, politically -- political will there is to use that argument to their advantage.
LERERBut it's not going to go away because it happened at the start of a Republican primary. So this is a major…
LERER…base motivating issue for Republicans. And it's something we're going to be hearing a lot about. And certainly something we're going to be hearing about in the debate next week.
PAGEHere's a tweet from Steve. He writes, "The real question is will white America now finally believe what blacks have been saying about police brutality for decades?" Certainly, there's certainly something to that comment.
SCHERERYeah, I think that there's a video issue. The visibility of this and the undeniability of not just this situation in Cincinnati, but I think we've had a half dozen now over the last year at least, or more than a dozen, makes it so that it's not an issue you can ignore.
PAGEI'm Susan Page and you're listening to "The Diane Rehm Show." We're taking your calls and questions. Here's an email from Herman, who writes us from Washington, D.C. He says, "Isn't it fair to say that Donald Trump's popularity in the Republican race is due to the fact that the Republicans in Congress have done nothing but oppose Obama. They have proposed nothing useful, always negative. Trump, on the other hand, is positive he will bring jobs back from China. He will do something about immigration. He will defeat ISIS."
RAJUI'm not sure Trump is positive. He's been pretty negative bashing everybody who stands before him. But I do think that he taps into this very dissatisfied, angry electorate who believes that Washington is just a unseemly, corrupt place, where members from both parties just decide to do whatever they want and don't listen to the American people. And for that reason, even though Trump, you know, it's not clear what his policy positions are, what he really stands for, he's resonating in the polls because he does speak to that kind of angry base of voters.
LERERRight. I mean, that's going to be a really big question for the debate. Which is does Donald Trump actually have policies? Does he come out with policies? We, actually, at the AP this morning fact-checked one of his early policies on immigration, which basically was he wants to take -- deport the -- everyone who's undocumented out of the country and then bring back the good guys, as he calls them and leave the bad guys out of the country.
LERERThat's basically impossible. You can't even locate all the undocumented people, never mind deport them all. So it's not really much of a policy. So one thing we're going to be watching closely in the debate is how much he's pressed on his ideas, how much he's encouraged to nail down specifics, which will be hard, given how many people are on the stage, and whether he's able to do that.
SCHERERI would just say that also only 15 years ago he was proposing a massive net worth tax on all Americans, basically to take away -- it was 15 or 17 percent of all Americans' net worth over a certain income, with an exception of their primary residence, including Trump properties. Which is like, by far, the biggest one-time tax ever in the history of America. And he's running now in the Republican primary. At the same time he was also in favor of single-parent health care. Basically, a version of Obamacare.
RAJUAnd he was a Democrat.
LERERAnd he loved Obama and Hillary Clinton.
SCHERERSo to say that, like, his policies are the thing that's attracting Republicans, I think, his policies aren't really clear. It's his attitude that's attracting Republicans right now. And he's been very good at that.
PAGEThe Boy Scouts of America took a big step this week. A new policy toward gay scout leaders. This has been an issue we've been talking about for years. Manu, tell us what happened.
RAJUYeah, essentially what the Boy Scouts did was that they allowed applicants to -- said there would be no bans based on sexual orientation. This was a big step forward. Of course this has divided the Boy Scout community and other people have followed it for years. But they did allow an exemption for religious affiliated troops to say that they can set their own policies and essentially deny gay scout leaders who want to join.
RAJUThey can deny them from joining. That is going to be the debate going forward. So you're seeing that while people did applaud this, people who do support LGBT rights did support this move. They were very disappointed in this 'cause it leaves kind of a big out.
LERERAnd frankly, they didn't have all that much of a choice. They faced discrimination lawsuits from New York and several other states. So this was going to happen whether the Boy Scouts did it themselves or it was forced on them. The big question now, actually, is around the Mormon Church. 20 percent, about, scouts are Mormons. Mormon -- young Mormon boys are signed up automatically into the Boy Scouts. So the church has said they want to review the policy. They were a little annoyed it was released in July, which is when they're out of session. So they have to see what they're going to do, if they're going to form their own organization.
SCHERERIt's also notable that the Catholic Church and the United Methodist Church and several other religious organizations have basically embraced this change, which is, you know, a huge shift from where we would have been 5 or 10 years ago on this issue.
PAGEYeah, well, I want to thank our panel for joining us this hour. Michael Scherer from TIME Magazine, Lisa Lerer from the Associated Press, Manu Raju from Politico. Thanks so much for being with us this hour.
PAGEI'm Susan Page of USA Today, sitting in for Diane Rehm. She's on vacation. Thanks for listening.
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