Republican presidential candidates (L-R) Rick Santorum, George Pataki, U.S. Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY), Mike Huckabee, U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) , U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX),  Ben Carson, Donald Trump, Jeb Bush, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, Carly Fiorina, Ohio Gov. John Kasich and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie stand onstage during the Sept. 16 presidential debates at the Reagan Library in Simi Valley, California.

Republican presidential candidates (L-R) Rick Santorum, George Pataki, U.S. Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY), Mike Huckabee, U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) , U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), Ben Carson, Donald Trump, Jeb Bush, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, Carly Fiorina, Ohio Gov. John Kasich and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie stand onstage during the Sept. 16 presidential debates at the Reagan Library in Simi Valley, California.

Eleven republican presidential candidates faced off last night at the Ronald Reagan library in California. In a raucous debate that lasted nearly three hours, front-runner Donald Trump fended off attacks from Jeb Bush, Scott Walker and Carly Fiorina. Senator Marco Rubio criticized President Obama on foreign policy and Ben Carson offered a minimum wage plan. Candidates also weighed in on the Iran nuclear deal, tax reform and funding for Planned Parenthood. And in what some are calling the “undercard” debate, South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham dominated. Diane and guests discuss of last night’s Republican presidential debate and what it means for the GOP nomination.


  • Norman Ornstein Resident scholar, American Enterprise Institute; co-author of "It's Even Worse Than It Looks: How the American Constitutional System Collided With the New Politics of Extremism"
  • Byron York Chief political correspondent, The Washington Examiner
  • Mercedes Schlapp Co-founder and principal, Cove Strategies, a governmental and public affairs firm based in Alexandria, Virginia; former media liason, President George W. Bush Administration


  • 10:06:54

    MS. DIANE REHMThanks for joining us. I'm Diane Rehm. Last night, Republican candidates took center stage for the second debate of the 2016 presidential race. Former governors Jeb Bush and Scott Walker joined Carly Fiorina in challenging the front-runner, Donald Trump. Senator Marco Rubio for his foreign policy responses and Ben Carson offered a minimum wage proposal.

  • 10:07:26

    MS. DIANE REHMHere to discuss what the candidates said on a range of issues, Norman Ornstein of the American Enterprise Institute and Mercedes Schlapp of Cove Strategies. Joining us by phone from Simi Valley, California, Byron York of the Washington Examiner. You are, of course, always a welcome guest on this program.

  • 10:07:51

    MS. DIANE REHMGive us a call at 800-433-8850. Send us an email to Follow us on Facebook or Twitter. And welcome to all of you.

  • 10:08:08

    MR. NORMAN ORNSTEINGreat to be with you, Diane.

  • 10:08:09


  • 10:08:09

    MS. MERCEDES SCHLAPPGreat to be with you.

  • 10:08:11

    REHMHow are you there, Byron?

  • 10:08:15

    YORKGreetings from California, Diane.

  • 10:08:16

    REHMI know it's early for you, but good to have you with us.

  • 10:08:20

    YORKThank you.

  • 10:08:22

    REHMNorm Ornstein, you were watching, as I was, on television. What were your impressions of that second three-hour debate?

  • 10:08:37

    ORNSTEINWell, the first, Diane, is how different it is to do a debate with 11 people on a stage.

  • 10:08:43


  • 10:08:43

    ORNSTEINOr 10 people or 9 people. And, of course, they weren't going to do the 16 or the 15. But -- so I had some sympathy with the CNN and Fox and others who have to do this, but I did not think it was handled particularly well. First, Jack Tapper started just trying to provoke fights over Donald Trump and it's a network that's been all Trump all the time. But then, as we went through the three hours, you know, the difficulty, first of all, of some people disappearing for 40 minutes or 50 minutes before reemerging very slightly, but the fact that some of the most important issues that we have to deal with, education, healthcare, jobs and the economy, were not there on the stage at all.

  • 10:09:33

    ORNSTEINAnd instead, we had vaccines and who would be on the 10 or $20 bill. I was not impressed.

  • 10:09:40

    REHMByron York, your impressions right there.

  • 10:09:45

    YORKI agree with a lot of that. I mean, it was very, very long debate, I have to confess. I got really tired by the end of it, having watched the earlier debate as well. And while there were some critical issues discussed, there was a lot of discussion of national security, there was a lot of talk just basically on the sometimes petty disputes between the candidates. At one point, viewers will remember Donald Trump and Carly Fiorina got into a match over their respective business records and Chris Christie finally said, wait a minute, you know, I'm glad you want talk about your careers, but what about the middle class?

  • 10:10:26

    YORKWhat about people who are feelings squeezed, have lost jobs, have lost income, et cetera. And I do fault CNN to some degree because moderators do control debates and they could have put more emphasis on jobs or healthcare or education if they chose, but this is the way they chose to run it.

  • 10:10:45

    REHMHow about you, Merce Schlapp?

  • 10:10:47

    SCHLAPPYes. Well, I felt it was more of a personality contest and it almost felt like a town hall, as opposed to a debate. It was this idea of just letting them go after each other and I think, again, that's how CNN set it up. But I have to tell you, I think that format worked a lot better and we got to learn more about the characters of these different candidates than the Fox debate, which I think was a little more just with these very specific questions and we didn't get a lot from these different candidates.

  • 10:11:17

    SCHLAPPSo to that point, I think CNN did perform in allowing to bring out what I would say the flaws and the strengths of these different candidates.

  • 10:11:26

    REHMAnd speaking of strengths, many analysts have said Carly Fiorina stood out again. Do you agree with that?

  • 10:11:36

    SCHLAPPAbsolutely. I think she exceeded expectations. Carly Fiorina was under a lot of pressure because she had the stellar performance in the first debate and everyone was wondering what is she gonna do, how is she going to respond to Trump. And it was interesting 'cause in that first answer, she really didn't punch him strong enough when they asked about the nuclear button. Would you trust Donald Trump with the nuclear weapons?

  • 10:11:59

    SCHLAPPAnd so I thought that was a little bit deflating. It was a little bit disappointing. She didn't take the bait. But then, she just jumped right in, really showed substance and then was able to come across being respectful and how she responded to Trump on the face question, on the fact that, you know, women heard very clearly what Donald Trump had said. And let me tell you, those women voters, those GOP women voters, they're going to be shifting from the Ben Carsons, possibly from the Trumps, into the Fiorina camp.

  • 10:12:29

    REHMWhat do you think, Norm?

  • 10:12:31

    ORNSTEINIt is extraordinary that when you do have 11 people on a stage that one can stand out as a consensus winner. And I think there's little doubt that Carly Fiorina is the consensus winner here. She owes a lot to CNN, which changed its criteria late in the game to bring her into the debate. If they had stayed with what they had originally said, she would've been on the kiddie stage and not with these other candidates again.

  • 10:12:55

    ORNSTEINAnd that's vaulted her into a different position. But now, it's going to be, I think, more challenging for Carly Fiorina. She seemed to have command of facts and figures, but the fact is, many of the things that she said were either wrong or misleading, including talking about the Planned Parenthood video that was not there.

  • 10:13:13

    REHMSpell that out.

  • 10:13:14

    ORNSTEINCarly Fiorina said, watch that Planned Parenthood video and you will see a fetus with its heart beating as they cut into the brain, which is not the case. And it's not at all the case. There was an exchange in one of the videos, edited in, with an outside person saying that she had, as a technician, witnessed something like this, but that's a lot different than saying what the video and it's right there. At the same time, Fiorina gave a lot of detail of what she would do with the military and nobody asked what that would cost.

  • 10:13:53

    ORNSTEINSo she's going to get more scrutiny now.

  • 10:13:57

    REHMSure, sure.

  • 10:13:57

    ORNSTEINAnd that's what comes with the territory and that will include her business background and that, I think, is going to be an interesting challenge for her. But there's no question that she stood out in this debate.

  • 10:14:07

    REHMByron, from your perspective right there, how much did she stand out?

  • 10:14:15

    YORKA lot, a lot. I do think most of the candidates did okay on their own terms. The bigger problem, as Norm eluded to, is that given the format, they would occasionally just got dark for 30 or 40 minutes. You'd think, well, has Scott Walker left to get a hamburger or something? What's going on? But Fiorina certainly did stand out. She was under pressure because she had complained and kind of campaigned to be included in this debate and I do believe, personally, that CNN's earlier standards were unfair because she was clearly in the top 10 of candidates in the weeks leading up to the debate.

  • 10:14:51

    YORKBut having campaigned to get in, she had put some pressure on herself to perform. You don't want to underperform, something like that. And I think after a debate, if a candidate has had a big moment, they really kind of savor that, they can kind of surf on it for the next few weeks, I think Fiorina had four of them, actually. Her discussion of Russia and Iran, her discussion of Planned Parenthood, her encounter with Trump over his face remarks and her -- what she said about putting a woman on the $10 bill, I think those all scored really, really big with Republican audiences.

  • 10:15:25

    REHMAnd what about the audience right there in that auditorium, Byron? How did they respond? How did they seem to be reacting not only to Carly Fiorina, but to the activity as a whole?

  • 10:15:44

    YORKPretty enthusiastically to everybody. For example, when Donald Trump -- I mean, this is a establishment Republican audience. It was about 500 people invited by the Reagan Library so it was like a big crowd in an arena they way the first Fox debate in August in Cleveland was. And they responded very well. For example, when Jeb Bush -- Donald Trump had criticized George W. Bush's decision to go to war in Iraq and Jeb Bush said, I'll tell you one thing. My brother kept us safe.

  • 10:16:18

    YORKThe crowd was very, very responsive to that. It helped turn the crowd actually against Trump on that particular score. But having an audience at these things, even if it's a smaller 500-person audience is really important because the candidates do seem to kind of surf on crowd reaction when they're speaking.

  • 10:16:38

    REHMNow, we've just gotten a tweet saying that Norman Ornstein did not speak accurately about what Carly Fiorina said. She did not say you'll see them cutting on the brain and we're asked to replay that segment. Maybe you've the quote there, Norm.

  • 10:17:07

    ORNSTEINI'm just looking at The Washington Post fact check. "Anyone who has watched the video tape, I dare Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama to watch these tapes. Watch a fully formed fetus on the table, its heart beating, its legs kicking while somebody says we have to keep it alive to harvest the brain." That's the direct quote.

  • 10:17:28

    SCHLAPPWell, you know, I think for Carly in this moment of the Planned Parenthood was an incredibly important moment for rallying those social conservatives, in particular. Again, these videos have been out. They're gruesome videos. It's something that we know it's being played out in Congress and Republicans are not doing very much in Congress at this point. So I think we're going to have to see how Carly is going to take this over and bring over the social conservatives on her side.

  • 10:17:55

    REHMAll right. We'll take a short break here. When we come back, we'll talk more. Seems to have been a lot of attacks on congressional Republicans. Short break, right back.

  • 10:20:02

    REHMAnd welcome back. As we talk about last night's Republican debate -- actually there were two, that so-called under-card debate. Who was there, Merce?

  • 10:20:18

    SCHLAPPIn the 6:00 p.m. debate, we had Lindsey Graham, Governor Pataki, Rick Santorum, former senator from Pennsylvania, and Governor Bobby Jindal. Again, that debate was kind of a bit of a sleeper. But the one that made it the most exciting and probably brought the humor in was Senator Lindsey Graham. I think he was very strong on basically going after Hillary Clinton. He made his case for being the hawkish Republican in the room. And he was the one definitely to watch. But I will tell you that those conservatives out there, although they don't necessarily support Governor Bobby Jindal, they do respect him. Because he was out there fighting against the senate Republicans, saying that he would be that outsider in Washington.

  • 10:21:01

    REHMSo did anybody, in your view, move up?

  • 10:21:07

    SCHLAPPAbsolutely not. (laugh) No.

  • 10:21:09

    REHMNobody moved to first tier?

  • 10:21:10

    SCHLAPPNobody -- there's no more room in first tier, Diane. We're -- it just doesn't work. I mean, at this point, I think that they stay in the second tier and probably just need to drop out at this point.

  • 10:21:21

    REHMGo ahead, Byron. I hear you clearing your throat.

  • 10:21:24

    YORK(laugh) Well, I think Lindsey Graham actually did stand out quite a bit. He's clearly America's funniest prophet of doom, because he spoke about ISIS just all the time. And he said, I'm running because I want to win this war and I know how to do it. And his policy prescription of ISIS was, I'm going to quote here, "We're gonna kill every one of those bastards we can find, 'cause if we don't, they're coming here." Very popular with Republican audiences, again. But the question was -- in the first debate, with Fiorina -- excuse me -- in the August 6 debate on Fox, there was this feeling that the best performer in the undercard debate could rise up to the next group. And there doesn't seem to be that feeling now with this.

  • 10:22:13


  • 10:22:14


  • 10:22:15


  • 10:22:15

    YORKAnd indeed, as popular as Graham's remarks were, we've had a recent poll showing that 78 percent of South Carolina Republicans, his home state, feel that he should drop out of the race.

  • 10:22:26

    REHMInteresting. Norm Ornstein, what I found fascinating was that there were probably more attacks on congressional Republicans than on Hillary Clinton.

  • 10:22:41

    ORNSTEINAnd that's a reflection of a deeper reality here, Diane, which is that the non-establishment, outsider candidates are capturing support of almost two-thirds of Republican primary voters out there because there is this deep-seated sense that the establishment has lied to them repeatedly, let them down, and they promised that they would repeal Obamacare, bring Obama to his knees. The fact is, in the final two years of a two-term president, almost always there's a great deal of weakness. But Obama keeps moving in an assertive and aggressive fashion and congressional Republicans have had little to do.

  • 10:23:20

    ORNSTEINLast night was a very difficult night for John Boehner and Mitch McConnell, because they don't want to shut down the government. They don't want to have a debt ceiling confrontation. And virtually all of the presidential candidates -- with the exceptions of Lindsey Graham and John Kasich, basically, who said don't go this way -- are goading them into doing it. And they're going to find, especially Boehner in the House -- there are probably 40 or 50 House Republicans who are determined -- Planned Parenthood is the big issue now and the candidates were really making that the big one. But in a broader sense, the spending issues could be a really huge headache for them.

  • 10:23:59

    REHMAre they going to continue to push for a shutdown on the government? Last night, someone said to me they're going to take that off the table and put it into the reconciliation bill. What do you think, Merce?

  • 10:24:16

    SCHLAPPI believe that Mitch, you know, Mitch McConnell and John Boehner, they are not inclined in any way to shut down the government. What's fascinating is for a lot of these pro-life groups that are out there and really pushing for defunding Planned Parenthood, they're stuck. There's nowhere to go unless there's a separate bill that comes up to try to defund that. And, again, that is -- I just don't see it happening in the near future.

  • 10:24:39

    REHMYou don't either, Norm?

  • 10:24:41

    ORNSTEINNo. But, you know, what Boehner wants to do now is to have a separate bill to defund Planned Parenthood that won't even get through the Senate, and then say, we'll -- we've dealt with that.

  • 10:24:51

    REHMWe tried.

  • 10:24:52

    ORNSTEINThat's not what the presidential candidates...

  • 10:24:53

    REHMYeah, mm-hmm.

  • 10:24:54

    ORNSTEIN...will accept. You know, Bobby Jindal has been trying desperately to emerge as a front-tier candidate. He's trying to get to the right of everybody else. Now he's doing it mostly by insulting Donald Trump. Trump's not taking that particular bait. But he's also tried to move over by saying that they're all traitors -- Scott Walker did the same thing -- because they didn't take on Obama. And that's going to put additional pressure on them. You know, they can get out of this by relying on Democrats. And that's not going to make the anti-establishment primary voters any happier.

  • 10:25:28

    REHMGo ahead, Byron.

  • 10:25:30

    YORKWell, this anti-establishment feeling is stronger than the candidates even knew. As you know, many of them, like Scott Walker and Jeb Bush, have tried to portray themselves as Washington outsiders and certainly, in the case of Walker, that's entirely true. But I was at the Trump rally in Dallas on Monday night -- a really, really big rally -- and I got the sense, from talking to people, that it's not Washington outsiders they're interested in. They want people who are outside the entire realm of politics and government.

  • 10:26:06

    YORKAnd so Scott Walker spent his career in government. He can't really touch them. He can't appeal to them. And so this anti-establishment feeling, I think the candidates are finding out, is stronger than they even thought and they don't quite know how to deal with that.

  • 10:26:22

    REHMBut here's what I want to know. Has Trump peaked?

  • 10:26:28

    SCHLAPPI think Trump is deflating. (laugh) That's probably the best way to put it. It's his version of deflate-gate. So I think that he cannot grow in his percentage of support. I think he is stuck where he's at, especially after this next debate -- I mean, after this last debate. I think for -- he really, I don't think, will gain supporters. We've already started to see that with the surge of Ben Carson, getting into sort of that 20 percent. So I don't see where Trump has a place where he can continue to grow.

  • 10:26:56

    REHMOkay. Here's an email from Susan in Indiana. She said, would you comment on Carson's proposal for immigration reform? Specifically, his comment, people would be required to pay a fine and all back taxes they may owe by having to work in the fields. They would have to work in agriculture in this capacity for either a number of years or until the debt was paid. He was not clear. Is indentured servitude something the U.S.A. really wants? That was all from Susan. What do you think, Byron?

  • 10:27:46

    YORKWell (laugh) it is -- like some of other Ben Carson proposals, it is not a reasonable proposal. It's obviously not possible. Carson, for example, his taxation plan is based on the idea of tithing. And actually Donald Trump, last night, defended progressive taxation to Carson. As far as -- the one thing I will say, as far as paying a fine and back taxes, that has been a key feature of immigration reform proposals going back a good ways -- including the Gang of Eight bill, which passed with, I think, 68 votes in the Senate. But the whole work-in-the-field stuff, I'm sure, just seemed to come out of left field for a lot of viewers.

  • 10:28:27

    REHMAll right. And a number of you have asked about that Carly Fiorina quote. We have it now.

  • 10:28:37

    MS. CARLY FIORINAAnyone who has watched this video tape, I dare Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, to watch these tapes. Watch a fully formed fetus on the table, it's heart beating, it's legs kicking, while someone says we have to keep it alive to harvest its brain. This is about the character of our nation. And if we will not stand up and force President Obama to veto this bill, shame on us.

  • 10:29:06

    REHMAll right, Norm, now clarify the tapes that she is talking about.

  • 10:29:12

    ORNSTEINWhat is there in the tape is a technician from an outside company saying she witnessed somebody saying, the heart is beating, we have to keep this fetus alive. While there were some video tapes that had -- that were not of that particular incident -- that were not, didn't show that. So it was misleading and that's what most of the fact-checkers have said right now. And, you know, I think, in a broader sense, I'd just get back to the main point, Diane, which is that when you emerge in a situation like this, you're going to be held to a different level of scrutiny.

  • 10:29:52

    ORNSTEINBut I would add a caveat to that, that gets back to our earlier conversation -- I don't think those rules apply necessarily to Donald Trump or to Ben Carson. Because for a lot of the people out there who are supporting them, they don't care about what factual bases people have.

  • 10:30:09

    REHMDoesn't matter if they're right or wrong.

  • 10:30:11

    ORNSTEINIt doesn't matter. And it doesn't matter if they know anything. When Donald Trump said last night, for most of out there, the idea that, well, I don't know anything about these foreign leaders or I can't tell the Quds from the Kurds or any of the rest of it, but I'll get the right people in there to do that. You know, a lot of us who have been around politics and policy might be appalled. For the people who support a Trump or a Carson, that's not what they're looking for. They're looking for somebody who's going to say, never mind that obfuscation and shades of gray, we want somebody who's going to get in there and blow the place up.

  • 10:30:46

    REHMAll right. So you've got primary voters who may put a Donald Trump, who may put a Ben Carson in there as their choice. What portion of Republican voters do the primary voters represent?

  • 10:31:11

    SCHLAPPYou know, I think it's -- just clearly shows how divided our party is. Let's just take this latest poll. And, again, these polls are going to be irrelevant by December.

  • 10:31:17

    REHMOf course.

  • 10:31:17

    SCHLAPPBut Trump and Carson, alone, the outsiders, are getting about 50 percent at this point. This is your angry voter, anti-establishment, emotionally charged voter, I would like to say, as well. And then you've got the more establishment moderate types, which would normally fall into the Governor Jeb Bush, Governor Chris Christie, even Governor Kasich. So then -- so that is where we have the divisions. But the problem is, since we have so many candidates, the vote is just being divided pretty dramatically. And it's really -- it's going to have take some of these candidates to drop out to really see who can rise to the top.

  • 10:31:57

    REHMWho do you think is most likely to drop out next, Byron?

  • 10:32:04

    YORKWell, I mean, there are a couple of candidates who don't seem to have any real rationale for their candidacies. And I think if you -- you have to look at Lindsey Graham as one of those because Lindsey Graham has based his entire candidacy on national defense. And he really decided to run several months ago, when it looked as if Rand Paul's sort of non-interventionist appeal was going to go pretty big and that Paul would do quite well. And there was a lot of concern among national security hawks that Paul would have some success. Graham wanted to counter that. Now Paul has really sunk in the polls on his own to where he's very -- he's almost out of the top 10.

  • 10:32:44

    YORKAnd so you have to wonder, what rationale does there still exist, if there really ever was one, for a Lindsey Graham candidacy.

  • 10:32:52

    ORNSTEINYou know, there are a couple of points to make here. The first is, in this new world of post-Citizens United money, candidates can stay in much longer than they did otherwise, if they have one or two sugar-daddies or major supporters. And while that might not be sustained long into the primary and caucus period, there's no particular reason to drop out if you've got enough money to at least keep going. And the fact is, for a number of these candidates -- you know, George Pataki, who's a pretty sad case, Jim Gilmore, who didn't even make it on to the kiddy-table stage -- but they're on Sunday talk shows. Why would anybody otherwise have put them on Sunday talk shows to give their points of view, if they weren't presidential candidates?

  • 10:33:37

    ORNSTEINSo candidates can stick around for a longer period of time and that's going to complicate matters as we get into January and February and March.

  • 10:33:45

    REHMAnd you're listening to "The Diane Rehm Show." Time to open the phones, 800-433-8850. First, to Hannah in Casselberry, Fla. Hi, you're on the air.

  • 10:34:04

    HANNAHThank you for taking my call, Diane.

  • 10:34:05


  • 10:34:06

    HANNAHI have two questions I think that will need only quick answers. Was CNN irresponsible and deliberately designing their questions so that the candidates attacked each other instead of focusing on the issues? And would it have been reasonable for CNN to divide the candidates into one group of seven and another group of 8?

  • 10:34:28

    SCHLAPPWell, yeah. That's a great question. I think, for CNN, it would have been better if CNN would have asked a little more of the tougher issue questions. I wanted to hear I know, as a woman, about education, about health care, about the economy. These are the kitchen table issues that most Americans want to hear about. And unfortunately, I think it got so stuck on foreign policy and too much on this personality exchange, which, again, it shows the character of these candidates but it doesn't show enough of what we really wanted to hear, which was about jobs and education and health care.

  • 10:35:01

    REHMAnd, Byron, what about separating into two groups?

  • 10:35:06

    YORKYeah, that is a great idea. A lot of people have had it. If you have 15 people, why not have one, eight -- one, seven -- and then just pull the names out of a hat? And because, incidentally, sometimes the under-card people bring interesting points of view to the debate. As a practical matter, that was difficult for CNN. Because, if you noticed, all the questions -- many of the questions were based on -- okay, here's candidate A and standing to his right is candidate B and he has said this. What do you think about that?

  • 10:35:35

    YORKThe questions were crafted on the basis of knowing who was on the stage. So if you did pull the names out of the hat an hour before the debate, it would have made a very, very difficult logistical job for the -- for any debate moderators to handle.

  • 10:35:50

    REHMAll right. To Arlington, Texas, Gary, you're on the air.

  • 10:35:56

    GARYGood morning.

  • 10:35:57


  • 10:35:57

    GARYI'm a card-carrying Republican. I watched the debate again last night and I am appalled that so many members of our party are willing to shut the government down over Planned Parenthood. The -- their personal religious beliefs drives their agenda. And yet, is that the most important thing that the Republican Party has to offer in the United States?

  • 10:36:23

    REHMWhat do you think, Merce?

  • 10:36:25

    SCHLAPPWell, again, I think that it shows how divided our party is. You have those individuals, mostly in the moderate category, that would say it makes no sense to close down the government over Planned Parenthood. Then you have the social conservatives, who are very much part of the grassroots activists, who are yelling and saying, Republicans have done nothing or very little to push forward the pro-life agenda in Congress. And they want something to be done, especially after the release of all these videos depicting Planned Parenthood harvesting baby parts.

  • 10:36:58

    ORNSTEINWe're going to find, I think, that this dispute is going to deepen over the next several months. And it's not just Planned Parenthood. The House has been unable to pass a single appropriations bill through. We don't have one that's been sent to the president and we're two weeks away from the deadline. Then we've got the debt ceiling coming up. It's a much broader attitude. Planned Parenthood is the tip of the spear here.

  • 10:37:23

    REHMAll right. And we'll take a short break. More of your emails, your phone calls, when we come back. Stay with us.

  • 10:40:03

    REHMAnd welcome back as we talk about last night's presidential debates among many Republicans, nine in the upper group, four in the lower group. I don't know how we want to characterize them. But I'd like to ask you all about Jeb Bush and how you think he came across. Norm?

  • 10:40:32

    ORNSTEINNot particularly well, Diane. Jeb Bush has many strengths. As a governor, he was a strong figure. He's a policy wonk. Debate format is simply not a good one for him. He, you know, he gets, of course, jabbed all the time by Donald Trump for not having energy. On the stage, he occasionally showed moments, but he just doesn't come across as a strong figure.

  • 10:41:02

    ORNSTEINAnd I thought, you know, if you want to look at the contrast between a Carly Fiorina, steely, decisive, and Bush, it did not work to his advantage. You know, a guy who should be number one among the establishment figures, and they're going to struggle, the establishment figures, didn't come across as number one.

  • 10:41:22

    REHMWhat do you think, Byron?

  • 10:41:24

    YORKI think the big subtext of the Trump-Bush rivalry so far has been people who are inclined to like Trumps see Trump as strong and Bush as weak. And the two were standing there next to each other on -- at the debate. And while I don't think Trump had a particularly good night, he actually seemed, shall I say, below energy, certainly in the later parts of the debate, and he disappeared for a while, as well, I think that he appeared stronger than Bush, even though Bush, you know, knows vastly more than Trump does about all of these policy issues.

  • 10:42:03

    YORKBut still this basic problem that has bedeviled Bush, which is that he looks weak compared to Trump, this didn't change that dynamic.

  • 10:42:12

    REHMAnd the question is, is Bush's heart really in it?

  • 10:42:17

    SCHLAPPI do think that Bush's heart is in this race. But the problem with Bush is that he's always about his mind. He's -- he is so engrossed in the policy and in talking about the statistics and his conservative record that sometimes his heart doesn't show. But I think yesterday he really loosened up. He always comes across being a little more uptight. The fact that he said I smoked pot 40 years ago, and my mom, you know, I'm sure my mom didn't like that I said that, and his moments of really going after Trump, I think they were effective.

  • 10:42:48

    SCHLAPPThe humor came out, being about to be -- protecting his wife to a certain extent, and then really that one clear moment, which Byron had talked about earlier, about saying my brother kept America safe, he was able to go after Trump, which is what he needed to do. He -- it was a steady performance. It was a lot better than his first debate. So again, I think he survives this one.

  • 10:43:11

    ORNSTEINYou know, I'm a little more skeptical. I think the problem that Jeb Bush has is that he's trapped in the Bush body. And he has to defend his brother and his father, who are not at this point very popular with a very large share of the Republican Party. It was fascinating that we got this exchange. It really was a serious difference over foreign policy but particularly a number of the candidates saying it was a horrible mistake to go into Iraq.

  • 10:43:38

    ORNSTEINAnd Bush, who's floundered on that issue, not really able to deal with it. And in that audience of establishment figures, saying my brother kept the country safe, he got a very positive reaction, but it would've been very easy to say, on whose watch did 9/11 occur. So it's a real problem, I think, for him, and I'm not sure he's going to find an easy way out of it.

  • 10:43:57

    REHMLet's go to Nashville, Tennessee. Carl, you're on the air.

  • 10:44:03

    CARLThank you very much. You know, it's appropriate that we were talking about Bush because my two comments are basically surrounding the last Republican presidency. Number one, it dumbfounds me. Like, I never understand why, when a Republican says these words, Bush kept us safe, no one ever say how safe it can feel on 9/11. No one -- seems like they just forget about that and just dwell on everything afterward.

  • 10:44:38

    CARLNumber two, Ronald Reagan, and I think one of the reasons that he won the election in 1980 is that he asked a fundamental question to Americans, are you better off now than you were four years ago. And the majority of the country said no, no we're not, we're going to elect you, Mr. Reagan, make us better. And now nationally if I look back, the American motor industry is booming, the stock market has tripled, health care is closer to a right than a privilege in our country ever in our lifetime.

  • 10:45:14

    CARLMe personally, my wife has a job that's tripled in pay. My business is booming. One of my child has graduated from college, one in college and one on the way to college. And this morning, I personally filled up my work trucks, all of them, with $1.98 worth of gas. The Republican Party offers me nothing. They want to repeal all those things that have made my life and Americans' life personally better over the past seven years. They're not offering me a -- the city, the shining city on the hill. They're offering me doom and gloom.

  • 10:45:49

    REHMAll right, Carl, and congratulations for the progress that you have made. Do you want to comment, Mercedes?

  • 10:46:01

    SCHLAPPSure. I think that's been one of the criticisms that the Republican Party has had, which has been offer the solutions, offer me the optimistic message because we do know that the economy, although it's gotten better, it's still slowly growing. I mean, we've seen two percent growths. You know, I think you saw what Governor Jeb Bush said. He wants to have a high economic growth, four percent a year. You know, you need sustained economic growth.

  • 10:46:25

    SCHLAPPAnd really, Carl is very fortunate. There's a lot of Americans out there that still don't have jobs, that the wages are stagnant, there's low labor participation rates. So again, we factor in all these things, but I think for Republican and that successful Republican candidate really needs to have an optimistic message for Americans and not the doom and gloom.

  • 10:46:46

    ORNSTEINOne of the real problems I think some of these candidates have, and it's typified by Jeb Bush's tax plan, which my -- many of my colleagues, economists like Michael Strain and James Pethokoukis, my friend Henry Olsen, have looked at and have been appalled by because it basically is a huge tax cut, bigger than George W. Bush's tax cut, but the vast majority of it is tilted toward doing even more for the super-rich.

  • 10:47:15

    ORNSTEINAnd at this point, on a debate stage where the only candidate who used the words middle class was Chris Christie, and these issues were simply not on the table, having an appeal beyond that narrow primary electorate is a real challenge for a party that can't seem to get out of a tax-cut box.

  • 10:47:33

    REHMNorm, what about immigration policy?

  • 10:47:36

    ORNSTEINWell, you know, one of the interesting things in the dynamic here is that Donald Trump emerged because of an immigration policy that was off the charts in terms of its radical nature. And you had Ann Coulter, who, you know, you may not want to take seriously, but a significant number of the anti-establishment people do, saying if Donald Trump followed through on his immigration policy, quote, he could perform abortions in the White House for all I care.

  • 10:48:06

    ORNSTEINIt's become a symbol and a symbol for a significant number of people that I think it is a big hurdle for the party to overcome.

  • 10:48:16


  • 10:48:16

    SCHLAPPAnd to Norm's point, I'm Hispanic. You know, knowing this community very well, it's -- I have to tell you when you hear that Donald Trump rhetoric, it really just turns off the Latino community, especially Republican Latinos, you know, to basically say we cannot support someone who is just so extreme on immigration. So again, that's where I think you have, where Governor Jeb Bush, Senator Marco Rubio, Carly Fiorina, they're a lot more sort of in the middle ground of approaching immigration in a different way.

  • 10:48:48


  • 10:48:48

    YORKWell actually, I think there's no doubt that the whole field has moved right on immigration since the race began. Part of it is Trump, and part of it is just the politics of the Republican base. But, you know, Marco Rubio has long said now that his -- the bill that he authored, the Gang of Eight bill that did pass the Senate, wouldn't work. It just wouldn't work.

  • 10:49:13

    YORKSo as you listen to them discuss immigration, they say the border has to be secured, internal enforcement measures like e-Verify and visa entry, exit, all those have to be in place and running before we even consider the future of the 11 or 12 million who are here illegally now. That is -- that is a move right for the party, and it has happened. The RNC did not want it. If you remember the RNC autopsy report after 2012, the only specific policy they called for was comprehensive immigration reform. This has been something that's been done basically with the power of the Republican base against the party establishment.

  • 10:49:56

    REHMAll right, to Elk Ridge, Maryland. Hey there, Yaya, you're on the air.

  • 10:50:01

    YAYAThank you, Ms. Diane. How are you doing today?

  • 10:50:05

    REHMI'm fine, thank you.

  • 10:50:05

    YAYAOkay, I have a question, and I'm going to make -- I'm going to talk a little bit about my faith. My question is, why does the Republicans, some of them, talk so bad about illegal immigration because Ms. Diane, I came to the United States September 12 of 1999. I will never forget. When I came, I was illegal, but I have stayed in the United States all these years, have met my wife, who is an American citizen. We have three kids. All of them are straight-A students. And I've always paid my taxes in United States. Now the system is so broken that even though I am illegal for the past 16 years, I still get a work permit every year to work.

  • 10:50:46

    YAYASo Ronald Reagan, when he was president, I was in Sierra Leone, that's where I'm from, at the time. But a lot of people liked him, and he was for a reason. And I would like to be able to vote one day in United States. I've been here this long, and I've paid my taxes, and I think when people have the power to vote, they can make changes.

  • 10:51:10

    ORNSTEINYeah, I think that's a very powerful statement, and the fact is Jeb Bush had the courage to say that people came here as an act of love, and that's a reality. The vast majority of the people who came here wanted better lives for themselves and their families. But for a sizable sliver of voters, that's not what they want to hear, and when Donald Trump says I will move so quickly to throw these people out of the country, that resonates.

  • 10:51:37

    ORNSTEINAnd I think it's a larger dilemma that we've really been talking about. In a lot of ways, Republican establishment figures, and I'll go back to the young guns in Congress, Kevin McCarthy, Paul Ryan, Eric Cantor, encouraged and incited people to an anger level in 2010 and 2014, and it worked in those midterm elections, and thought they could co-opt them.

  • 10:51:58

    ORNSTEINAnd now it's a question of who's being co-opted and especially this is the symbolic issue, immigration.

  • 10:52:02

    SCHLAPPLast night's debate, Senator Marco Rubio spoke beautifully about immigration, saying his parents are immigrants, his neighbors are immigrants. It was a very positive message, and that's the type of message that we need to hear. And you know what? He can speak it in Spanish, as well. I think it's important because guess what, Diane, it's that critical number, 45 percent.

  • 10:52:20

    SCHLAPPIf the Republican nominee does not get that 45 percent threshold, they cannot win a general election, and that is why it is critical to make sure that the message is one that is positive and not this negative rhetoric towards the Hispanic community.

  • 10:52:35

    REHMYou also had Marco Rubio speaking a fair amount about foreign policy and got some good reactions there.

  • 10:52:42

    SCHLAPPIt definitely showed Marco's -- he's very substantive on the issue, obviously being part of the Foreign Relations Committee. I think he took a jab at Trump when he basically said, you know, you've got to be ready day one. And he was able to really show that he has the knowledge in that area.

  • 10:53:00

    REHMAnd you're listening to the Diane Rehm Show. But his answers on climate change were not quite so accurate.

  • 10:53:10

    SCHLAPPI think he has struggled a bit more on the climate change answer. It's always an issue that for Republicans, they try to steer clear of, so I think that becomes a bigger issue for the Republicans and something that they're going to need to address.

  • 10:53:24

    ORNSTEINWell, I'm not a scientist, Diane, but of course I'm also, as the other candidates are, they're not economists, they're not doctors except for two of them who were up on that stage. But they're much more willing to take positions on issues like the economy or health care. So it's -- at least none of the candidates said I'm not a scientist last night, but this is another one of those litmus-test issues for Republicans, and the only one who's been willing to say yes, it's a real problem, and we need to do something about it is Lindsey Graham.

  • 10:53:58

    ORNSTEINAnd, you know, I'm sad that Lindsey has not been able to get on the main stage in these debates because he can keep candidates more honest and force them into answers that moderators can't do, and it's too bad.

  • 10:54:13

    REHMAnd previously I said there were nine in that main stage.

  • 10:54:17


  • 10:54:19

    REHMThere are actually 11. How about Governor Scott Walker, Byron? How'd he do?

  • 10:54:27

    YORKNot as well as he had hoped. The Scott Walker team was worried after the first debate in August, felt that he had not really made much of an impression on voters. We've seen Scott Walker really slide, the biggest fall of anybody in the Republican polls both nationally and in the early states. So they were really hoping for a better night.

  • 10:54:47

    YORKAnd the idea was for Walker to inject himself into the conversation more and to play a bigger role, and it actually didn't happen. If you look at the breakdown of how long each candidate spoke, Walker was 11th in a field of 11. He spoke for eight hours, excuse me, eight minutes and 29 seconds. It only seemed like eight hours. Eight minutes and 29 seconds, and Trump spoke for more than twice that.

  • 10:55:18

    REHMWhat do you think?

  • 10:55:20

    SCHLAPPI think for Governor Scott Walker, it was a better performance than his -- the first debate. He did have these little one-liners like the apprentice line or playing the cards, which I think played okay. But here's the problem. Governor Scott Walker had his moment that one time in Iowa. People found him likeable, sort of as the rebel, the street fighter, and it's turned into a politician who cannot even describe his positions and keeps changing and trying to camouflage his way into becoming more Trump-like, or...

  • 10:55:52

    SCHLAPPSo again, I think he's lost himself a little bit there.

  • 10:55:54

    ORNSTEINYou know, there are really a couple of contests going on here, Diane. There's a contest among establishment figures as to who can emerge as a consensus choice. It's going to be much harder than the last time, when there was only one, Mitt Romney, who really could emerge that way.

  • 10:56:08

    ORNSTEINAnd then there's the outsider group and people who are trying to be more outsider than the other outsiders. You've got a Fiorina who actually, interestingly, straddles the two groups, and Walker's been trying to do that unsuccessfully. But I think, you know, he's faltering within the establishment, the top four, Walker, Rubio, Bush, Kasich. Kasich is -- hits a sweet spot for compassionate conservatism, and that's something that would have a broader appeal in the country.

  • 10:56:39

    ORNSTEINBut the real question last night with many of his answers that were out of sync with most of the rest of the candidates, because they're out of sync with a good portion of that activist base...

  • 10:56:49

    REHMYou're talking here about Kasich, yeah.

  • 10:56:51

    ORNSTEINJohn Kasich. It's a question of whether this is a party that has any more room for a compassionate conservative, and I think frankly he's outflanked Bush on that front. But it's Rubio who's -- and Fiorina who are kind of sitting there while the others are trying to find a niche.

  • 10:57:08

    REHMWhen is the next debate scheduled?

  • 10:57:10

    SCHLAPPI believe October, and I think October 9.

  • 10:57:14

    REHMAll right. We'll be talking about the next one, as well. Thank you all, Norman Ornstein, Mercedes Schlapp and Byron York. And thanks for listening, all. I'm Diane Rehm.

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