The beating death of Tyre Nichols has renewed calls for reforming the police. But can anything really change?
Guest Host: Susan Page
Senate Democrats hand President Barack Obama a foreign policy victory, blocking a GOP resolution to reject the Iran nuclear agreement, but House Republicans continue to fight the deal. The likelihood of a government shutdown becomes more real. The Justice Department pledges to get tough on white-collar criminals. CNN sets its lineup for next week’s Republican presidential debate. Police officers charged in the Freddie Gray case will be tried in Baltimore. And America marks 14 years since the Sept. 11 attacks. A panel of journalists joins guest host Susan Page for analysis of the week’s top national news stories.
- Jackie Calmes National correspondent, The New York Times
- Michael Scherer Washington bureau chief, TIME
- Laura Meckler National political correspondent, The Wall Street Journal
Video: Fourteen Years After Sept. 11, What's Changed?
Video: Will We See Another Government Shutdown?
Video: Will The Justice Department Crackdown On White-Collar Crime Make A Difference?
MS. SUSAN PAGEThanks for joining us. I'm Susan Page of USA Today sitting in for Diane Rehm. Senate Democrats clear the way for the Iran nuclear deal. A defiant Kentucky clerk is released from jail by a federal judge. And a memorial to victims of flight 93 opens on the anniversary of the September 11 attacks. Joining me for the domestic hour of our Friday News Roundup, Jackie Calmes of the New York Times, Michael Scherer of TIME magazine and Laura Meckler of The Wall Street Journal.
MS. SUSAN PAGEWelcome to "The Diane Rehm Show."
MS. JACKIE CALMESGood morning.
MS. LAURA MECKLERThank you, Susan.
MR. MICHAEL SCHERERGood morning.
PAGEWe invite our listeners to join our conversation later in this hour. You can call our toll-free number, 1-800-433-8850. You can always send us an email to email@example.com or find us on Facebook or Twitter. And by the way, you can see all of our guests on our live video stream at drshow.org so we hope you'll take a look. What a vote. You know, we've been talking about the Iran nuclear deal for years on the news roundup, both in the first hour and in the international hour that follows.
PAGENow, we have a vote in the Senate that indicates this deal is going to go into effect. Michael, tell us about it.
SCHERERWell, there was a lot of suspense this summer. It's an unpopular deal around the country. It's a deal that Republicans were universally against in the Senate. And it was unclear whether the president, first of all, would have to veto the bill and then would be able to override a rejection of his deal with Iran. But in the end, he outperformed expectations. The vote last night had only 58 people in the Senate voting to reject. They needed 60 to reject the Iran deal.
SCHERERFour Democrats joined all the Republicans, but in essence, it was a victory even though he last a majority of the Senate and this is going to happen now.
PAGEYou know what strikes me about this. The president, we've described him as somebody who has problems with Congress. He's in his second term. He's in the last two years of his second term. He's been referred to as a lame duck. What's happened in the past few months? He won a vote on trade promotion authority by making a coalition with Republicans. He's now won a big vote on the Iran nuclear deal, perhaps his biggest foreign policy achievement by holding Democrats. This doesn't sound like a lame duck to me.
MECKLERNo, and he's also extremely active in terms of using his executive authority to try to fight climate change, to, you know, he just -- even on small things like renaming Mount McKinley Denali, which did not go over well with Republicans either. I mean, he is essentially very -- he is very active. He is getting some wins. But it's not with -- with the exception of the trade, I think it's mostly either just with support from Democrats, like we saw yesterday with the Iran vote, or using his executive action on his own.
PAGEYeah. So Jackie, this is not quite over yet. Republicans in the House are talking about using some strategies to continue to try to work against the Iran deal. What can they do?
CALMESWell, there's really nothing as a practical matter that they can do at this point. You know, the debate will continue. They'll continue to make their points, but essentially this will be signed by the parties that negotiated it officially in October and then Iran will have six to nine months or so to take the steps that it needs to take before sanctions can officially be taken down.
CALMESAnd so but, you know, this will continue to be an issue and it will continue to resonate in the presidential campaign, even once Congress is done with it.
SCHERERThen, there are a few -- members of the House are gonna continue to try to put up votes with the intent of putting pressure on Democrats because, again, this is an issue that Republicans win in the polls. So there's a proposal to not allow sanctions to go down until Iran pays reparations for terrorist attacks. There's efforts in various states to have states get involved in foreign policy and impose their own state sanctions.
SCHERERBut in practice, I think Jackie's right. This won't stop the deal from moving forward.
PAGEThe House Speaker, John Boehner, said yesterday they're gonna use every option, possibly suing Obama to keep him from carrying out the deal. But Laura, it seems to me, the real question now is does the deal work? Does Iran cheat? Does it succeed in delaying, forestalling a nuclear program in Iran?
MECKLERRight. Of course. That is the major question and it's gonna be a little while, I think, before we get an answer to that question. I think that domestically, also, what we're going to see in the coming -- probably before we find out whether it works or not, is this issue become a big issue in the 2016 campaigns, both for Congress and also in the presidential race. You saw the candidates out there this week talking about this.
MECKLERHillary Clinton talking about exactly what you were saying, which is what happens next? Well, how can we work within the framework of this deal to contain Iran and control that sort of negative influence in the region? How can the U.S. position itself in a sort of post-deal world?
PAGEYou know, Jackie, I wonder. A majority of the public's against this deal. We find that in polls. We saw groups that advocate for Israel spending -- I saw an estimate $30 million in an effort to defeat it. So why did the administration prevail?
CALMESWell, I think it prevailed because, once again, Democrats were united. They've been united, for the most part, throughout his administration. And in this case, you had a deal that was negotiated, very much has the personal imprint of Senator John Kerry, who was long a member of the Senate. And I think there was a sense -- well, I know there was a sense among a fair number of Democrats that the pro-Israel, the Netanyahu and Israel, and the APAC here in the country sort of overplayed their hand and were heavy-handed about this, have become so identified with the Republican party in this country that it's become offensive to Democrats and it helped unify the party.
SCHERERAnd, you know, the other legacy item that's coming out of this vote is now all the major accomplishments of Obama through two terms have been basically party line votes. And that's just really unusual for an American president. And he's gotten a lot done, Obamacare, the stimulus. I mean, you go back through his two terms with this, but it leaves that mark. Remember, Obama was the guy who ran as the person who would bring red and blue together.
PAGENo red America, no blue America. It turns out there is a red America and a blue America, at least when you're in Washington, D.C. Laura.
MECKLERYeah, there certainly are red and blue sides of the U.S. capital, no doubt about that. It was interesting. President Obama issued a statement after the vote, sort of declaring victory on this end. At the end of the day, what this victory looked like was that, you know, in 100-member Senate, they only got 58 members to vote against him, you know, so that and nobody, as you say, nobody from the other party.
MECKLERSo this is not exactly what we think of as what victory looks like traditionally. This is essentially he escaped, is what it is, and the important thing I don’t we've mentioned is that if they had been able to pass -- if they had gotten over that 60 vote threshold, then his deal still would've gone through because what would've happened is they would've passed this motion of disapproval. He would've vetoed it and his veto would've been sustained.
MECKLERBut essentially, because they couldn't even bring it up for a vote in the Senate because of the Senate's rules, then that meant he didn't have to do that.
PAGEAnd that's a relief to the White House, I think. I think the White House, from the beginning, was confident they could sustain a veto, but to have a major international agreement go into effect on the basis of managing to hold one-third of the U.S. Senate on your side, that would really have been winning ugly.
CALMESYeah, it would be. And, you know, we've essentially -- it makes us look like a parliamentary democracy as opposed to the one we have and in terms of, you know, each party voting as a united block. And, you know, but it did happen and the other -- you saw the leaders of the European countries wrote an op-ed in the papers this week that we're defending it and it sort of was characterized throughout as just a deal between the U.S. and Iran.
CALMESBut it did have these other countries, major allies, as well as Russia and China as signatures. And that also gets back to how he was able to get so many Democrats on board. That sort of international support and simply the lack of an alternative. I mean, if not this deal, than what was not a good answer for anyone.
PAGECongress has not run out of things to argue about, though. We're just a couple of weeks away from having to fund the government. The new fiscal year begins October 1. Some talk about another shutdown. Michael, do you think we'll see one?
SCHERERI think it's very possible that we see one, but we don't know. As always in this situation, it's kind of murky a couple weeks out. There are plenty of ways that Mitch McConnell and John Boehner can work to avoid a shutdown. I think it's clear the House is going to pass things that Democrats in the Senate and the president will not accept, including, most likely, new restrictions on Planned Parenthood funding so that would get to a veto if it did pass the Senate. But it's not gonna pass the Senate because there aren't 60 votes for reducing Planned Parenthood funding.
SCHERERAnd so, you know, the Republican leaders will have to decide whether they want to shut the government down. It hurt them in the short term the last time this happened, but then, they won a great victory in an election following and so will have to weigh those two possibilities.
MECKLERYou know, recently the majority leader, Mitch McConnell, was asked about this, you know, would you shut the government down over Planned Parenthood, and he said flatly no. He does not want to do this. And the truth is that the history on this is not good for the Republicans, even though they did, of course, have that midterm victory. Number one, when they shut down the government, there was a very -- I think most people believe, even in the Republican party, that it was very damaging to them, even though they were able to recover.
MECKLERAnd secondly, the last time they picked a fight over Planned Parenthood was in 2011, ahead of the last presidential race. It turns out that the Democrats viewed that, ultimately, as a political gift. President Obama talked about Planned Parenthood all the time. So while there have been these undercover videos that are disturbing to many people where they're talking about procuring fetal tissue, there's been -- and there's no doubt those videos are not helpful to anybody who likes Planned Parenthood or for Planned Parenthood itself.
MECKLERAt the same time, most Americans view Planned Parenthood as a women's health organization that deals with contraception and it just didn't work out politically.
PAGEWe're gonna take a short break. When we come back, we'll talk about that defiant clerk in Kentucky, Kim Davis, who's out of jail going back on the job on Monday. What will she do? And just a reminder, you can see all of our guests on our live video stream at drshow.org. We'll be right back.
PAGEWelcome back. I'm Susan Page of USA Today sitting in for Diane Rehm. And with me in the studio for the first hour of our news roundup is Laura Meckler. She's a staff writer at The Wall Street Journal. Michael Scherer, he's the Washington bureau chief at TIME Magazine. And Jackie Calmes, she's national correspondent for The New York Times. And we're going to take your calls and questions later in our hour. Our phone lines are now open, 1-800-433-8850. Or send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
PAGEWell, Kim Davis, the clerk in Kentucky who had refused to issue marriage licenses once the Supreme Court said that gay couples had a right to marry, has been released from jail this week. She plans to return to work on Monday. Laura, what will she do then?
MECKLERWell, that's the question, right? We don't know what she's going to do next. Is she going to -- she, of course, as a reminder, what her stance was is, as long as I'm being forced to issue licenses to gay couples, she's not going to issue them to straight couples either, which is, of course, part of her job. So we don't know what she's going to do. It was clearly an act of defiance. And then while she was in jail, her deputies were issuing the licenses. And the judge said to her that when you, you know, I'm releasing you. I'm expecting you to allow them to continue issuing those licenses. Even -- he kind of was offering an accommodation -- you don't have to sign them if you don't want to, but they need to be signed by someone in your office.
MECKLERShe has not said what she's going to do next. In the meantime, she has become quite the cause celebre for people who oppose gay marriage in this country for the many in the religious conservative community. And we'll have to see.
PAGEJackie, I think we've seen the Republican presidential field really divide on this issue. Now, they're very united in saying the Iran nuclear deal isn't a good deal, for instance.
PAGEBut on this issue, they were really split three ways: From those who said they were going to stand with Kim Davis -- people like Mike Huckabee and Ted Cruz who came down to greet her in jail. You've got Bush, Rubio and Rand Paul calling for some kind of middle ground. And you've got people like Trump and Fiorina and Christie and Kasich and Carson and Graham saying she ought to issue the licenses. What does this mean for the GOP?
CALMESIt sort of defines the three strains that are within the GOP right now -- or at least three, there, you could define more. But the religious liberty group -- the religious conservatives, religious right, whatever you want to call it -- they are very strong in particular in the Iowa caucuses. So you'll see, you know, in particular, Cruz and Huckabee are looking to prevail in the Iowa caucuses. They think that's where they're particularly strong. And evangelical Republicans are really a major force. It's about 60 percent of the caucus voters in Iowa.
CALMESAnd, but it does show the strains. And, you know, George Will, in a column today, was very critical of those like Kim Davis and her supporters. So it's a very -- it just shows that people are looking for a niche and those who don't see themselves as strong in that religious liberty niche can feel freer to criticize Kim Davis and her supporters.
PAGEYou know, Michael, when the Supreme Court ruled in June that there was basically a constitutional right to marry if you were a gay couple or a straight couple. A lot of people, I think, thought that settled the issue. Is it settled or will this continue to reverberate, do you think, in our politics?
SCHERERIt's not settled as a matter of politics, it's settled as a matter of law. And what you've seen is basically two tactics by those who are still very angry about the Supreme Court decision. One is to go to this issue of religious liberty, which is slightly different than whether or not we should have gay marriage. And the other is to continue to focus on marriage. And what's interesting about the Kim Davis case is that her lawyers, who are, you know, of the most conservative strand of the evangelical community, have really focused on this religious liberty issue. And while they cast it as a black-and-white issue, it's actually a pretty nuanced one.
SCHERERYou know, in the U.S., you can be a conscientious objector from war because of religious reasons, but you can't be a police officer who refuses to arrest a woman because of religious reasons. I mean there's just certain things you can't do in public service claiming that your religion blocks you from doing that. And where we sort of end up on this spectrum is going to be interesting. I don't think there's a lot of broader popular support for someone in sort of a low-level bureaucratic role, like Kim Davis, being able to use religion to not do their job.
PAGEWell, you call it a low-level bureaucratic role, but she is an elected official...
SCHERERShe is elected. That's true.
PAGE...which makes it hard to fire her.
PAGEYou'd have to impeach her or she would have to resign.
MECKLERI think what this whole thing is about is that, what the conservative response to the changes in same-sex marriage in this country has sent. And, that is, that they know they can't stop it -- and they've been saying this for a while -- so instead they want to change the debate to be one about religious liberty. And the most interesting thing to me is that they cast themselves now as the minority needing protections. Whereas, for so many decades longer in this country and elsewhere, you know, it's been gay and lesbian people who have been the minority and needing protections.
MECKLERNow they're saying, no, no, we're the ones who have the unpopular views now. We need protections and you need to respect our religious liberties, our right to not participate in gay marriage essentially. And I think the way this has played out up until now has been mostly in the private sector, in terms of, do I have to bake a cake for a gay wedding? Now we have it squarely in the public sector where you have somebody literally saying, I don't want to do the job that I have been elected to do because I am so opposed to this. And you see the people who are very upset about gay marriage and see it slipping away from them, seizing on to this case as a way to promote this religious liberty argument.
CALMESWhat's really interesting is where we are today in 2015, when you think back to 1960, as John Kennedy was running for president as a Catholic, and to reassure the country that he would not take his orders from the Pope, he went to Houston and before a crowd of Southern Baptists. And now you have conservative Protestants who are strains of conservative Protestantism, who are the ones who are saying they can take, their ultimate law is divine law. So it's quite a switch.
PAGEHere's an email from Susan who's writing us from Bloomington, Ind. She writes: Please, when you talk about this, do not refer to her Christian beliefs. Many Christian denominations believe in gay marriage and marry gays in their churches. That's certainly true. And Trish, from Arlington, Va., makes this point. She says: The media's making such a big story about Kim Davis, but she is the only person in her position in the whole country who is doing this. What about all the Christian clerks who are following the law? Now, I think that's not exactly right. I think there are some other clerks that have tried to make an issue of this.
SCHERERRight. And most of her deputy clerks even, in her office -- with the exception of her son -- have agreed to go forward with it. I mean, again, what's interesting here is that she's making a religious-liberty argument. When she first started doing this, people thought it was an argument about whether the state government had to follow federal law. You know, the Supreme Court has laid out a federal law -- interpretation of law that says these gay marriages should be allowed and should go forward. And that's not actually the case she's making. She's not saying that the State of Kentucky should not follow what the Supreme Court says. She's saying, I should not be forced to carry out what the Supreme Court says.
SCHERERAnd I think there are, I mean, if she succeeds here -- which seems unlikely at this point -- but I'm sure there are many, many clerks around the country who have deeply held beliefs, who would follow in her footsteps.
MECKLERI mean, I think that, in regards to what the listener said, the reason why her case is being made such a big deal isn't really the media, I mean, it's the political atmosphere around it. I mean, she has been elevated, I mean, obviously kind of one follows the other. But I think that she is a symbol of something larger. And I think that that's why her case has gotten so much attention.
PAGELet's go to the phones. Let's let Marjorie join our conversation. She's calling us from Fort Lauderdale, Fla. Hi.
MARJORIEHi. How are you?
MARJORIEThanks for taking my call.
MARJORIEMy comment was about the Iraq agreement. When I was listening Sunday morning to the programs on the television, they talked -- oh, had Colin Powell on. And Colin Powell, who is a very well respected Republican, commented that this was not the greatest thing but a good thing because there's 10 to 12 years ahead where they won't be able to do what they want to do. And I don't understand why these Republicans don't want to listen and respect what he has to say.
PAGEMarjorie, thanks very much for your call. I know Colin Powell would be very pleased to hear your comments. So why did Colin Powell not have much influence apparently, because I think -- I believe the agreement got not a single Republican vote.
SCHERERI mean, Colin Powell has long been on the very moderate end of the Republican Party when it comes to foreign policy. He's been critical, in retrospect, of our military adventures in Iraq. And so I think he was representing that edge of Republican thought. You know, he's been supportive of Obama in many ways that most Republicans would never be in recent years. So I don't think he was very representative of where the party is at.
PAGESo here's what Hillary Clinton said this week. She said, I'm sorry. It took her a long time to get there. In an interview with ABC, she said, I'm sorry about that, when she was talking about her private email system. What finally convinced her that she ought to say that?
MECKLERWell, it's funny, because in a way she's been kind of like trying to say it for a while, hasn't quite been able to do it. Last week she said, well, she's sorry that it's caused problems, essentially. This was just -- has been consuming her campaign, frankly. I mean, her -- she is falling in the polls in New Hampshire, in Iowa and nationally. She -- it's a huge distraction. She gets asked about it every time she steps to the microphone. It is becoming a big problem for her campaign. And I think that there's been an evolution inside the campaign.
MECKLERI mean, some people, when this story first broke, I remember I was covering it then, and there were people then saying, they need to just get ahead of it right now, do everything they need to do, but they probably won't. And then that's what's happened. It's been strung out over months where, you know, when she was asked several weeks ago about it, she said, oh you guys -- meaning reporters -- are the only ones who care.
MECKLERBut yet, finally they have come around to realize that this has, if nothing else, is preventing people from hearing what she has to say on a lot of other issues. I mean, this is a week she gave a very thoughtful speech on Iran, for instance. This is -- she's put out a lot of policy. But people are not paying attention to this because this story has all the oxygen. So I think that what they -- she finally realized this, that they have to just rip the band-aid off and she, in fact, did it.
PAGEJackie, do you think she meant it?
CALMESOh, man. What a question, Susan.
CALMESOh, I don't even know how to answer that. Well, I think, you know, they heard focus groups and polls were telling her she had to do this. I think even she's probably convinced now, if only on that basis, that it's a mistake.
PAGEI'm sure she's -- I'm sure she's sorry.
CALMESI think she believes it's -- I think she's sorry she didn't do this sooner.
PAGEI'm not sure she thinks it was a mistake at the beginning.
PAGEI don't know whether she thinks that or not. But I am quite sure she's sorry, if only because of the impact it's had.
CALMESYeah, and the impact is very damaging in that even the bottom line, the poll slippage is not so dangerous to her -- polls can always change -- as what's underlying those polls and it's a sense that she's neither trustworthy nor particularly likeable. And those are two very dangerous places to be.
PAGEHere's an email from Phil in Indianapolis. He writes: I'm confused. Why is Hillary Clinton apologizing for her legal email server. I don't hear Donald Trump apologizing for his business bankruptcies or Mitt Romney apologizing for parking his money in the Cayman Islands. Isn't this what lawyers normally do, work to the edge of the law without going over. It seems to me a double standard against women, not just against Mrs. Clinton.
SCHERERIt is what lawyers usually do. It's not what secretaries of state usually do. And politicians are generally held to a slightly higher standard than lawyers. And I think, you know, what she did that was different from what other people have done -- including other former secretaries of state -- was to have exclusively a private server, to not use any government email while she was in office. No one had done that before. That's specifically what she's apologized for. And then the other unusual thing she did was she destroyed, you know, erased all the emails she decided did not concern government business. And there are still open questions about whether she did that accurately.
PAGEI'm Susan Page and you're listening to "The Diane Rehm Show." We're taking your calls, 1-800-433-8850. Laura Meckler.
MECKLERWell, I think the email that you just read is exactly how Hillary Clinton views this situation, which is, what I did was legitimate. She will say that -- even when she's apologizing, she still says, I had every right to do this. Which is a different question from, is this a good idea? And I think that she obviously -- I think there's, you know, in terms of whether she means it or not, I think she's sorry she -- that it's come up all unfolded the way it is -- has, obviously.
MECKLERI don't know if she fully grasps -- I think that certainly from a reporter point of view, I think the way we look at it is that, one of the problems here is that it sort of obscures efforts for people to see what she's emailing in terms of the Freedom of Information Act, in terms of having a true record of her as secretary of state. I don't think she is particularly sensitive to that concern. The issue of -- and then there's the separate issue of classified emails, which they say they haven't, I think, a fairly strong defense to.
MECKLERHowever, it just brings up the issues. Why -- if she had done it the way everybody else generally does it, then you wouldn't be worried about this. This wouldn't be a problem. And I don't think she has -- my sense from listening to her a lot on this question is that, in her heart of hearts, I don't think that she thinks to herself, you know what, that was a really bad decision that I made. I think what she thinks is that, politically, it turned out that was a bad decision that I made.
SCHERERWell, you know, you look also back -- this a politician who's been in the public eye much longer than most and has been repeatedly embarrassed by her emails coming out years after the fact. I mean, there are a lot of emails that have come out from her time at the White House, memos that were written to her from her time at the White House, stuff that is in, you know, libraries that are being used against her now. And I think she came into office as secretary of state thinking, look, I've got way of not -- of avoiding this, of taking more control of the system. That same history, I think, got her in trouble here.
SCHERERIf she had, you know, remember her initial response to this was, this is just, again, sort of the right-wing smear, media smear mongering against me. It was very defensive. And the public just didn't buy it. Independents just didn't believe that, and now she has to back up. And...
MECKLERForget about Independents -- Democrats.
SCHERERYeah, and a lot of Democrats.
PAGEHere's an email from Chris who writes us from Canton, Mich., writes: Clinton's apology will not change anything. The story will go on because the release of emails will continue to go on. Clinton pleaded with the State Department to release all of her emails to prevent precisely the current situation, the slow drip of emails over her entire campaign. Jackie, I think that goes to the question, having said it was a mistake, having said that she's sorry, does it settle it? Does this issue recede now for Hillary Clinton?
CALMESWell, I think it doesn't, probably, for the reason that the listener underscores, which is there will continue to be email releases and people will make something of them. We're in a presidential campaign season. And whether, like Laura says, whether she has a good defense as to how -- these being classified now, it's, you know, a lot of whether they were classified at the time or not, it raises for a lot of people, the example of, here she is when, you know, David Petraeus and others have been prosecuted for matters like that. And it, you know, as one of the simple laws of politics is when you're explaining, you're losing.
PAGEYou know, we saw Vice President Joe Biden on the "Tonight Show" last night being -- really, such a touching appearance, talking about kind of the toll on himself from the death of his son and whether he would make a presidential bid. He said he hasn't decided. But, Michael, he did not sound like a guy who is ready to plunge into a grueling presidential race.
SCHERERYeah. To paraphrase one of the things he said, it was a -- if I'm going to do this, I need to be 110 percent committed to it. I'm not sure I'm there yet. And to say that less than a month before you have to announce your decision, by his own timetable -- I mean, he said he was going to do it by the end of the month -- suggests that he's not going to get there.
PAGEWhat do you think, Laura?
MECKLERI think that no one really knows what he's going to do. And a lot of people are offering opinions about it and don't really know. I think that there are two things that I've observed that are at cross purposes. On one hand, you do see some pieces of a -- a lot of activity going on to prepare the ground if he were to want to run. And so you kind of wonder, okay, would that be happening without his blessing? Maybe he just a fallback in place. But when you listen to him -- and not just last night, which was the "Late Show" to prevent you from getting...
PAGEOh, the "Late Show." Sorry.
MECKLER...a call from Stephen Colbert...
PAGEOh, yes. Right. Yes. Right.
PAGE...who I'm sure is listening right now. Hi, Stephen. The -- to -- it wasn't just last night, but also when he spoke in a synagogue in Atlanta recently, when he -- the reports from a call he did with DNC members about Iran, where he talked about this -- is all the same. It's very emotional, heavy, he doesn't sound like he's ready to do this.
PAGEWe're going to take a short break. When we come back, we'll discuss a stunning announcement from Baltimore just since we came on the air. Stay with us.
PAGEWelcome back. I'm Susan Page of USA Today, sitting in for Diane Rehm. It's our domestic hour of the weekly news roundup. With me in the studio, Jackie Calmes of the New York Times, Laura Meckler of the Wall Street Journal, and Michael Scherer of Time Magazine. Well, some very surprising news. A couple of weeks ago, I was in Baltimore to interview the mayor, Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, a rising star in the Democratic party, Secretary of the Democratic National Committee. She's announced, just since we came on the air, that she will not run for re-election next year.
PAGEThat's a surprise. When I talked to her, she was talking about her re-election campaign. She's had a tough time, Michael, with the riots that we saw in the wake of the Freddie Gray case.
SCHERERIt wasn't just the riots. It was how she managed that night and the days following. She was widely criticized by pretty much everybody on all sides of the issue. The, you know, the police unions were furious with her. Many people on the streets were furious with her. You know, she was seen, was sort of being groomed by the Democratic, national Democratic establishment, for greater things. And I think the story here is that the -- her mishandling of that initial explosion in her city has sunk her near term future.
PAGEYou know, yeah, she's a young woman. She's in a political dynasty. Her father was an incredibly influential state legislator whose endorsement was critical. And Martin O'Malley winning his race for mayor of Baltimore and launching his political career. I asked her in the interview when she first thought she might want to run for office, and she said she was in the third grade when she thought she'd want to run for office. She said at a news conference that she has just held in Baltimore that she wants to focus on the community.
PAGEWell, we saw news on the Freddie Gray case this week, Laura Meckler, with a 6.4 million dollar deal, a huge amount of money, to settle the Freddie Gray case.
MECKLERAnd the unusual thing about that case is that, about the settlement I should say, is it's before a suit had even been filed. So, this is a city acknowledging that it bears incredible culpability for the death of this, you know, 25-year-old black man who had this terrible spinal cord injury sustained in police custody. This horrible van ride where they were -- did not have him properly in the van and they did not respond to his pleas for help. And cries for help. So, this was the city acknowledging that it has -- it had a big problem on its hands, settled it.
MECKLEROf course, we still have a trial pending for the officers who were involved with this. And this is not related to that. There's two separate tracks, but that case has been settled.
PAGEAnd news also on the trial front this week. Tell us what happened. Jackie.
CALMESWell, the six defendants are going to be tried separately, which is interesting. And, you know, it's gonna draw this thing out, which again, brings us back to Stephanie Rawlings-Blake's decision, that is issue is going to be front and center for a long time in Baltimore.
PAGEAnd it's going to be in Baltimore, a decision this week by a Baltimore circuit court judge, that the trials will stay in Baltimore, although some of the defense lawyers had argued there ought to be a change of venue.
SCHERERThe other notable thing about this is that 6.4 million dollars is an enormous amount of money for, basically, a police brutality case here. There are a lot of police brutality brought against Baltimore police, and settlements tend to be, you know, less than a couple hundred thousand dollars. And I think there's an acknowledgement, in part, probably, I mean, Stephanie Rawlings-Blake was involved in deciding on this settlement for political reasons, but also just because of the severity of the case. That this is really an extraordinary situation that demanded an extraordinary settlement.
PAGELet's go to the phones and invite our listeners to make their own comments or ask questions. Jeff's in San Antonio, Texas. Jeff, thanks for holding on.
JEFFYes, good morning. I was just wondering if the Republicans realize that their rejection of the Iran just leaves us out of the whole deal. Wouldn't the other countries signed on, wouldn't they go ahead and take the deal and remove sanctions and whatnot?
PAGEYeah. Jeff, thanks for your call.
MECKLERI mean, that's one of the biggest arguments against rejecting the deal, is that it's not like we're going to go back to the old status quo. The thing that was keeping the sort of, the foot on the neck of Iran was these international sanctions. And what the President was saying and all the proponents of the deal said that, you know, those sanctions are gone. They're not gonna reappear, so we're not gonna return to a situation where you can just go back to the negotiating table a year from now and get a better deal.
PAGELet's go to Durham, North Carolina and talk to Chris. Chris, you're on the air.
CHRISHi Susan. Thank you so much for taking my call.
CHRISSo, my question is kind of twofold. I think -- I'm concerned that myself and many other liberal Democrats have with Ms. Clinton is that she is a remarkably unrelatable, sort of candidate. She, well, first of all, these emails debacle that's been going on, she has really kind of proven to us that she thinks herself to be a little bit above the federal government, especially when she wants to be able to oversee the destruction of the emails herself. That worries me, and what worries me even more is that a candidate that I do believe in, Mr. Bernie Sanders, is getting little to know recognition from a lot of the mainstream media sources.
CHRISEspecially with his pretty meteoric rise in his grass roots movement. So, I'd really like to hear your panel talk a little bit more about Mr. Sanders. And see what you guys really think about what his effect has been, especially with the youth of America.
PAGEOkay Chris, thanks so much for your call. I mean, that has been a meteoric rise. It's been a surprise to everybody, I think including Bernie Sanders, that he is now leading in New Hampshire and essentially tied in Iowa with Hillary Clinton.
MECKLERI mean, I think that he has gotten some attention. If you support Sanders, you may not want more attention, given the fact that he's doing pretty well without the kind of scrutiny that has come to Hillary Clinton. I think that with his, as you say, incredible rise, I think that we will see more attention, more examination of his record. A more, deeper look at what he would do as President, what sort of President he would be. I think that, for a long time, he was viewed as just sort of a liberal gadfly and I still think he has a steep road to actually win the nomination. You know, having said that, I suspect there will be more coverage of him.
PAGEHere's an email from Liam in Wildwood, Missouri, directed at you, Jackie.
PAGEYou're in trouble now. He writes, I take exception to her comparison of Hillary Clinton's email issues to those of General David Petraeus. The General deliberately classified information to his mistress. It's not analogous to the use of a private server.
CALMESWell, I actually agree with the listener on that. My point was just that this is what people throw up to me constantly when they're asking me about Hillary Clinton. And so, my point really is that when you have, and I actually thank the listener for making the point. When you have questions of is someone trafficking in classified information? For a lot of people, it raises memories or recalls these past episodes of people who have been prosecuted for that. And, so that's a problem for her.
SCHERERAn important thing to remember about prosecuting for classified information is that the legal standard is you knowingly are letting classified information leak. And in the Petraeus case, there was no doubt that he knew what he was showing his mistress was classified. In the Clinton email situation, nothing that we've seen or that she said that went on her personal server was marked classified. And she has said, I had no knowledge at the time. And it's going to be very difficult to make that case. So, the legal jeopardy, for her, is much, much lower than it is for someone like Petraeus.
MECKLERAnd the argument now is over was it actually classified -- should it properly be classified? What the Clinton campaign is trying to do is turn this into a debate over over classification. They say that too much in Washington, and I think a lot of people agree with this, is considered classified when, in fact, it's actually quite benign. So, whether that's true with every single email that's been flagged is another story. But that's the argument they're trying to make is that not only was it not classified at the time when we -- when it was sent, but maybe it even shouldn't be classified.
PAGEI'm not sure that, I think, when you go and talk to voters, any of them care about the level of classification of documents. You talk to them about the issues they care about, that wouldn't be one of them. But I'm not sure if the listener was Leon or Leanne, but either way, thanks very much for your email. We're talking about prosecution. Let's talk about a Justice Department announcement this week, a pledge to crack down on white collar crime. It's really one of the first big actions taken by the new Attorney General. What is the Justice Department now saying it's going to do differently than it's done before? Jackie.
CALMESWell, in the past, and this goes to something that has dogged the Obama Administration, and in particular, former Attorney General Eric Holder, from the start. Because, you know, the context is, they took office at a time when there was this financial collapse and bailouts of big banks and financial institutions. And there's been this continuing frustration, especially in the President's own party that people haven't gone to -- individuals haven't gone to jail for that. Some institutions have paid big fines, but there's been, you know, no individuals have been prosecuted for this to speak of.
CALMESAnd one of the problems is, and this is a problem that will go to what they've done at the Justice Department now, is say that after a long study, is that individuals, in fact, when they try to make deals in the future to, with corporations to settle a case, those companies will have to show that they have provided papers and documentation to defend their individuals at the company. The problem with this is a lot of what people have done is legal. I mean, it just, it caused problems, but under the laws that exist, it was legal at the time. And that will still be a problem.
MECKLERI think the proponents of this would like to send a message of deterrence, essentially put Wall Street executives on notice that, you know, you're not going to just be able to skate away with this. You need to be more careful in your decision making. Now, whether that will change anything, whether there actually are people who would be prosecuted or not, I don't know. But I think that that's sort of the message, and there is a lot of frustration that there hasn't been anybody personally held to account.
SCHERERAnd the alarming thing here is that skating away with it are 600, 700 million dollar fines that have been levied against, you know, people like J.P. Morgan, or companies like J.P. Morgan and Citigroup. For these giant institutions, it doesn't really matter. It doesn't hurt their stock price, they pay the fine, they're fine with it. I think an executive making a decision thinks he might end up in jail.
SCHERERIt could be different.
PAGEWell, we're on the legal front. Let's talk about a big victory for House Republicans. We've talked about the trouble they've had with the Iran nuclear deal, but when it comes to the Affordable Care Act, they won a victory in their legal battle when a federal court judge in Washington said they had the legal standing to sue the Obama administration over the implementation of a particular part of Obamacare. Tell us about what the judge said.
PAGELaura, go ahead.
MECKLERWell, sure. Well, what he said was that the case could essentially proceed. So, there was one question. It wasn't really on the merits. It wasn't on the merits. It was on whether the Congress can essentially -- has the right to sue the executive for how they're implementing a law. That is not something that happens every day. Very unusual. And, in this case, it's a very small part of the Affordable Care Act, probably one that most people have never even heard of. It's 136 billion dollars that goes to insurance companies to help make up for the fact that they're required, under the law, to give price breaks on cost sharing to low income people.
MECKLERSo, like on the co-pays and premiums and that sort of thing.
PAGENice description, by the way, of a pretty arcane provision.
MECKLERMy healthcare policy background is serving me well this morning. In any case, the whole point of this is that did the administration have a right to do that without this money being particularly appropriated? Now, the bigger political point is that Republicans are still trying to fight to bring this law down. They have tried -- two cases have gone all the way to the Supreme Court and have lost. I think that this one, even if they do win, is not going to bring the law down. But it is something that would -- it is a chink in it, and it does undermine the law and it's certainly not helpful to the White House.
PAGEAnd does it also kind of open the door to challenges of other aspects of the law, because the judges found that they have the standing to sue?
SCHERERWell, not just that, but the courts have historically not wanted to get involved in fights between the President and Congress. And there's a long tradition of judges finding ways to say Congress doesn't have standing. And this, I think, could, I mean, this is an issue that the judge said that this is about appropriations. Congress has the right to appropriate the money. They didn't appropriate specifically for this topic. But you could see more cases in which the fights between Congress and the Executive Branch end up in courts.
PAGEI'm Susan Page and you're listening to "The Diane Rehm Show." Just a reminder, you can see all of our guests on our live video stream at drshow.org. Let's go back to the phones. We'll go to Bethesda, Maryland and talk to Eric. Eric, you're on the air.
ERICJust a comment on Kim Davis. On separation of church and state, I mean, it was mentioned yesterday by a caller, but it seems to me she's establishing her religion as the official state sponsored way to go. If she was a Muslim and saying that gay marriage is against Muslim law, all her Republican supporters would be screaming Sharia Law and tell her, and saying get her out of there.
PAGEAll right, Eric.
ERICInstead of being supportive, supporting her.
PAGEEric, thanks very much for your call. You know, we've gotten an email from Dwight along the same lines. Dwight writes, Kim Davis is a public servant, took an oath to serve the public, not only, not just the ones she accepts or agrees with. I am a police officer and I also took an oath to serve. I cannot pick and choose which calls I want to take. As an African American, I've had to protect KKK members during their marches and demonstrations. Dwight, thanks very much for that email.
SCHERERI mean, her argument is a little more nuanced than saying my religion is state religion. She's saying, I have an individual right of conscience to not do something that violates my conscience. But I think you're right. I think the metaphor of a Muslim clerk saying, I will not marry a Christian couple, or something like that, would be outrageous to many Christians, including many of Davis's supporters. And it's a difficult issue that, I mean, it's just a reality that public servants have to serve the public, or not have those jobs.
CALMESOr get a new job.
PAGEJackie Calmes, you've covered a lot of tax debates in Washington over the years. Jeb Bush announced his tax plan this week. Tell us about it.
CALMESWell, he got a lot of attention for it from the standpoint of -- for including one provision that would take away a tax break for -- that benefits hedge fund operators, private equity people, that has gotten a lot of attention in the 2012 election, because a lot of the reason that Mitt Romney's effective tax rate was so low was that he, a lot of his income was from investment income. So, this tax break, called carried interest, effectively allows people to pay a lower capital gains rate on income that many people consider just ordinary income. And they should be paying upwards of 40 percent.
CALMESBut the fact of the matter is that for all that attention to that, what people are calling a populous provision, the bulk of his plan is pretty, you know, standard Republican supply side cut taxes. The huge benefit, it cuts taxes both at the lowest end of the income scale and at the top. And there's not as much for the middle class as his rhetoric would suggest, but it is a huge tax break, bigger than his brother's, for the top of the income scale.
PAGEAs we end our show, I just want to take a moment to note that this is the 14th anniversary of the September 11th attacks. We've been seeing various commemorations. This morning, in New York City and Washington, in Shanksville, Pennsylvania, the National Parks Service today is opening and dedicating a new memorial visitor's site. There, the crash site, for flight 93. All of us remember where we were that day.
MECKLERAbsolutely. I mean, this really is, for us, a Pearl Harbor moment, where you just, things change. There's before and there's after. And even 14 years later, I think reading -- I was re-reading an article on the front page of the Wall Street Journal the next day about the people who jumped to their deaths from the towers rather than be burned alive, essentially. And even still, now, it's painfully raw.
PAGENearly 3,000 people died that day, just an extraordinary toll.
SCHERERAnd the other thing worth noting is it's 14 years later, and I would never have guessed on that day, or even in the year after, that we would not have had another major terrorist attack since then. I think the assumption then was this is going to be something like normal. And, you know, knock on wood.
PAGEAnd a tribute, I think, to people who work in law enforcement and intelligence analysis. Whatever criticisms there have been of how they've proceeded in the years since. That's certainly a remarkable thing that's happened. Well, I want to thank our panelists for being with us this hour. Michael Scherer of Time, Laura Meckler of the Wall Street Journal, Jackie Calmes of the New York Times. Thanks so much for joining us.
CALMESThank you, Susan.
PAGEI'm Susan Page of USA Today, sitting in for Diane Rehm. Thanks for listening.
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