Inflation is high. The GDP has shrunk. But the job market has never been better. The Washington Post's Damian Paletta helps make sense of the U.S. economy today.
Guest Host: Susan Page
The Federal Reserve holds off on a short-term interest rate hike. But Fed chair Janet Yellen leaves the door open for an increase later this year. A deadline in Congress passes on the Iran deal, but another looms as Republican leaders try to avert a government shutdown over Planned Parenthood. General Motors agrees to a settlement for its failure to fix defective ignition switches that killed more than 120 people. And President Obama extends a White House invitation to a Texas high school student whose homemade clock got him arrested. A panel of journalists joins guest host Susan Page for analysis of the week’s top national news stories.
- Neil King, Jr. Global economics editor and deputy Washington bureau chief, The Wall Street Journal
- Susan Glasser Editor, Politico
- Jeff Mason White House correspondent, Reuters.
Video: Would Ahmed Mohamed Have Been Arrested If He Was White?
A listener writes: “Plain and simple: If he were a white kid named Mark and not a brown kid named [Ahmed] Mohamed, he would have gotten an ‘atta’boy’ from his teacher for building the clock and not handcuffs for being a ‘security threat.'”
Video: Will The Government Shut Down Oct. 1?
Congress is nearing its funding deadline. Can the House and Senate work together to avoid a shutdown?
MS. SUSAN PAGEThanks for joining us. I'm Susan Page of USA Today sitting in for Diane Rehm. She's off today. She'll be back on Monday. The Federal Reserve keeps interest rates near zero. Republican rivals take on 2016 frontrunner Donald Trump in their second debate and President Obama urges Congress to avoid a looming government shutdown.
MS. SUSAN PAGEJoining me for the domestic hour of our Friday News Roundup, Neil King Jr. of The Wall Street Journal, Susan Glasser of Politico and Jeff Mason of Reuters. Welcome to "The Diane Rehm Show."
MR. NEIL KING JR.Good to be here.
MR. JEFF MASONThank you. It's good to be here.
MS. SUSAN GLASSERHi.
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. Find us on Facebook or Twitter. And you can also watch our guests on our live video stream at drshow.org. We hope you'll take a look at that. Well, let's start with what the Fed didn't do. The Federal Reserve announced yesterday, Neil, that they would keep interest rates low. There'd been just enormous amount of speculation that they were about to raise interest rates at last. Why didn't they?
KING JR.They didn't, and Janet Yellen laid it out pretty well in a fairly lengthy press conference yesterday, because, in part -- in large part, unease about what the Fed is seeing globally, which is a little unusual. Normally, the Fed's business is to be concerned about the employment rate in the U.S. and the rate of inflation. But in this case, they've seen what's happening in China. There's a lot of unrest in the markets. We're seeing it today. The market's down about 250 points.
KING JR.And so there is basically let's wait and see as some of this stuff filters through for a month or two and see whether we'll finally take this move that they haven't taken for nine years. They haven't raise interest. We have a veteran Fed reporter who's been on the job since 2008, Jon Hilsenrath's never covered a Fed increase, Fed rate increase, which is remarkable. But the reason, I think, that there's this unease -- 'cause normally markets like it when, you know, rates are kept low and don't like it when they're raised.
KING JR.In this case, there's -- and this has gone all around the world today in markets, there's been this concern that what Yellen and the Fed itself were saying was they're not only worried about global growth, but there's an underlying concern about just the health of the U.S. economy. They even lowered some of their long term growth potential forecasts down to, like, below 2 percent annual GDP growth, which is pretty meager.
KING JR.So I think there's -- people are looking through some of the details of what the Fed put out yesterday and saying, hmm, there doesn't seem to be a lot of confidence in there the world's heading, but also where the U.S. is heading economically.
PAGESo even though we're in a recovery, we have been. Unemployment's rate is pretty low. There's just not a feeling that we're in a period of real prosperity or at least not confident about that, Susan.
GLASSERWell, that's the striking thing, isn't it, right, that, you know, President Obama came into office, obviously, in the midst of the turmoil that became the great recession and all these years later, we're basically still adopting the same policy that we had in the intermediate aftermath to get us out of that. There's never been a solid feeling of recovery. If you listened to the Republican candidates the other night at the debate, it was a pretty dystopian picture of America today that you heard.
GLASSERAnd I think that, of course, underlying that is this unease about both the economy right now and where we're headed.
PAGESo Jeff, poor Jon Hilsenrath waiting to cover a rate increase. Is it likely he'll have that opportunity this year?
MASONHe might have an opportunity this year and Chairman Yellen suggested yesterday that the Fed is leaving open the possibility of a rate hike. They do have policy meetings again in October and then in December. And polls, so far, I think continue to show that the expectation in the market is that there will be at least a modest increase before the end of the year. But as we already said, a lot of this -- and Yellen referred to this very specifically yesterday -- is related to the interconnectedness of the U.S. economy with the rest of the world.
MASONAnd because of that, it's not as simple as looking at the U.S. recovery, which has been strong and is absolutely there. And the White House will tell you that every single day. But there are lots of problems abroad and those all have an effect on the U.S. economy.
PAGESusan Glasser, there was rally in New Hampshire last night with Donald Trump in which a supporter, a guy at the rally, stood up and said, we have a problem in this country. It's called Muslims. We know our current president is one. You know he's not even an American birth certificate man. Trump said, right. A lot of Twitter activity. A lot of activity on social media saying he had an obligation to correct the supporter and say that President Obama is not a Muslim. What do you make of that?
GLASSERLook, the context here that actually has sort of gotten a little bit lost in all of the hullabaloo over Trump and his current set of outrageous things in this campaign has been that in many ways, it was his animus toward President Clinton and their very hostile relationship that might have even put him in the race as someone wrote this week. Remember that Trump was the original sort of promoter of this birther-ism.
PAGEHis animus toward President Obama.
GLASSERPresident Obama, yes. And, you know, in fact, remember when President Obama, at the White House correspondents dinner, taunted Donald Trump, you know, made fun his obsession with this cause. So this isn't just some random kind of heckler in the crowd, right, that Trump failed to quell. It gets right at this issue around what is Trump as a political figure? He has risen, in part, by encouraging, you know, the segment of people which is extremely high in polls throughout President Obama's presidency who falsely believe that he's a Muslim.
GLASSERSo I think it just -- it touches a nerve around, you know, Trump as a figure in American politics, right, that he's out there. He's encouraging people with a lot of reckless and factually untrue statements. And from the beginning, he's been on this sort of Obama's a Muslim. He wasn't really born in the United States. You know, he's been almost the candidate of that wing of American society.
KING JR.Yeah, this is basically a cautionary tale of sort of beware of what you stir up. And some of the discussion this morning -- I was watching Morning Joe and they were kind of critiquing Trump saying, well, you know, he's not really used to this town hall setting. He needs to get better in dealing with this sort of stuff. And it's like, well, maybe, but what we're actually hearing for the first time -- because it's been a very finite number of times that he's allowed his audience to speak -- so he's filled these stadiums.
KING JR.We saw it in Dallas. He's got all these people. It's overwhelmingly white. We know from polls kind of who these people are. But the really tricky thing for him and the difficult thing is once you let them step up and speak into a microphone, you start to learn things about them that could be disturbing. We saw some of this when McCain and Palin, in the campaign in 2008, when, you know, all this stuff was being, you know, yelled out at various sessions and things and that can be very damaging.
KING JR.My feeling -- and we can talk about the debate, I'm sure we'll move onto it in a sec, is that we -- I just have this distinct feeling that this week will sort of mark the moment of peak Trump and we're gonna kind of see a gradual slow fading of Trump is my feeling.
PAGEYou know, the only thing I would say to that is that we've said that -- we, the conventional wisdom, have said that before about Trump when he said that McCain -- John McCain wasn't a war hero, when he got in that feud with Megyn Kelly. I mean, there have been times before when we've said, this is just a bridge too far.
KING JR.Yeah, but my hunch is more -- not based on, well, if you say something about John McCain or Megyn Kelly then these sort of things will happen as much as reading Trump, how he performed in the debate where he was very listless. Most of his interventions were typical kind of Trump sort of petulant, sophomoric attacks on other people, that fact that basically the discussion was about everything that wasn't him.
KING JR.And you get the feeling that if he starts to fade in the standings that what would a second place or a third place Trump look like. He so needs to have the swagger. I kind of wonder whether he actually has the real conviction and the real fire to stick it out all the way through as opposed to, oh, this has been fun for awhile, but I don't know. This isn't really turning out the way I wanted it to.
PAGEWell, that would be what a lot of Republican leaders would hope would happen, that he'd go away quietly. That's not really been his modus up to now. Jeff, talk about the debate. What struck you about this second Republican debate in Simi Valley at the Reagan Library. I was there. All the candidates, too. Hour after hour debate, I thought, at one point, it would never end. What did you make of it?
MASONIt went for nearly three hours. I mean, as far I know...
PAGEAnd that was the second debate.
PAGEYou know, we'd already gone through a two-hour first debate, yeah.
MASONReally, really long. I think it was striking that Donald Trump, despite the fact that his performance was not perhaps as strong as it was at the previous debate, was clearly still the center of attention, at least at the very beginning of the debate. Other candidates really realizing they need to pile on and choosing to pile on from Jeb Bush to Carly Fiorina who had a pretty standout performance on the stage.
MASONIt was striking how much he continues to dominate, although, that said, he was a little quieter in the second half of that debate. He used the word humble as a bit of a joke when asked what his code name would be by the secret service. So he seemed to show a little bit of realization that maybe his shtick is not going to continue to come across as strongly or as positively to some of his supporters as it has.
PAGEHe's still the figure around whom the other planets orbit and a change in strategy by this rivals to attack him much more directly than they did at the first debate six weeks ago, Susan.
GLASSERWell, that's right. I mean, first of all, I think your point, Susan, is very well taken around the length of this debate. My guess is that a year from now, we might not remember too much about it, except for two things. One, it will be famous as the long debate and I think and hope it means that we won't have any more three-hour plus debates. It was an overwhelming experience, I think, both for the viewers as well as for the candidates themselves who were visibly struggling at various points just to keep going.
GLASSERSo I think it'll be remembered as the long debate. On the Trump front, I do think it will be remembered as the moment at which various candidates found ways, you know, to land a punch on somebody who, up until now, has been sort of the marshmallow man, you know. And he has not successfully, you know, sort of been bloodied in this contest yet.
GLASSERCarly Fiorina, I thought, was very effective at being able both to take him on and then also then to seize the platform to make her broader points that had nothing whatsoever to do with Donald Trump. Now, you can argue whether she overreached on something like the Planned Parenthood conversation in which she, you know, sort of both was factually incorrect at times and seemed to really, you know, take the debate in a strange direction.
PAGEWe're gonna take a short break. And when we come back, we'll continue our conversation about 2016 and also about this government shutdown. Will it take place? We'll take your calls and questions. Our phone lines are open, 1-800-433-8850. Stay with us.
PAGEWelcome back. I'm Susan Page of USA Today sitting in for Diane Rehm. It's our weekly news roundup. With me in the studio, Jeff Mason, he's White House correspondent for Reuters. Susan Glasser, she's the editor at Politico. And Neil King Jr., he's the global economics editor and deputy Washington bureau chief at The Wall Street Journal. And you can, if you're just watching us, you can also watch us live on live video. We're video streaming this hour at drshow.org.
PAGEWell, before the break, we were talking about the incident last night at a rally in New Hampshire with Donald Trump, where he did not correct a supporter who stood up and said that President Obama was a Muslim. We're getting lots of comments, especially on Facebook, about something else that happened this week to a high school student in Texas named Ahmed Mohamed. Jeff, walk us through what happened.
MASONOkay. He's a 14-year-old high school student in Texas who, in a way -- or in a desire to impress his teachers and classmates, brought a project to school that was a clock that he had put together. But when he showed it to his teacher, she was concerned that it was a bomb. And they ended up sending police to the school and taking him away.
MASONIn handcuffs, fingerprinting him, until his parents came to pick him up. And that has led to a global -- well, at least on social media, a very big outcry, driving attention all the way up to the White House where President Obama sent a tweet saying: Cool clock, Ahmed. Want to bring it to the White House. And he's going to come.
PAGEYou know, the police and the high school officials said it was a hoax bomb. Any sign that it was, in fact, a hoax bomb? Or was it just a clock?
KING JR.You know, the thing that's interesting in the background is that he had gone to a previous high school where he'd gained a great reputation among all these kids. He was, like, known as the invention man or something like that. And he was like a tinkerer. And so he would bring all kinds of funny gadgets into school all the time and the kids loved him. So now he's transferred to another school. It's September. Nobody knows who this guy is. He walks in with this cool, funny digital clock with all these wires sticking out of it and, clearly, people totally overreact.
KING JR.And here you have this perfect kind of studious, gangly kid wearing a NASA t-shirt, with these big glasses on, they arrest him and he becomes this huge, you know, symbol for the -- exactly the kind of kid you want. He wants to go to MIT, you know, the whole story.
PAGEHe may get there now with a scholarship.
PAGEHere's what one of our listeners wrote on Facebook: Plain and simple, if he were a white kid named Mark and not a brown kid named Mohamed, he would have gotten an attaboy from his teacher for building the clock and not handcuffs for being a security threat. Susan, do you think that's right?
GLASSERYou know, it's hard not to completely agree with the writer of that. I was stuck. My husband wrote that story for The New York Times about President Obama's overture. And he played me a voicemail this morning, you know, that was filled with the most unbelievable, racial hatred and epithets, you know, just from some random reader who claimed to be, you know, in Seattle. And I think that when we talked -- our previous conversation about Donald Trump and the person at his town hall just yesterday, repeating this claim that President Obama, himself, is a Muslim.
GLASSERI mean, you know, look, if we're almost eight years into a presidency in which people persist in believing that the president of the United States is a member of a religion that he's not, you know, this is the kind of deep seated, you know, fact-resisting situation that we're dealing with. But it's really, it's a powerful story, unfortunately.
PAGEAhmed, if you're listening to "The Diane Rehm Show," congratulations on your clock. Let's talk about something that's happening in Washington. You know, we have -- the government runs out of money at the end of the month. Jeff, will the government have money to run on October 1, when the new fiscal year begins?
MASONYes. I mean, they will find a way to keep the government running if -- I mean, I know that the president met yesterday with Democratic leaders from the House and the Senate and said, we're open to having some kind of a resolution passed that would keep the government open and that would keep the money flowing.
PAGEA kick-the-can resolution, right. Yeah.
MASONA kick-the-can resolution, which is a concession in many ways, because certainly the White House has been saying for some time that they don't want to play ball with Republicans who are threatening to shut down the government because of an ideological dispute over the funding of Planned Parenthood. And the president as well as other Democrats -- we saw Hillary Clinton yesterday, in an interview with CNN -- are making very clear that that's not an ideological fight that they are willing to engage in with Republicans. But it is one that many -- some Republicans, anyway, and high-profile ones are wanting to push. And so it's -- it may lead to another big shutdown debate and it may go up to the very end.
PAGEA huge test for Republican congressional leaders who clearly don't want to do this. Can they control their troops? Can they, Susan?
GLASSERWell, that's right. I was going to say, not only may it lead to another government shutdown -- and I'm sure we're all feeling a little bit of "Groundhog Day" when it comes to that...
GLASSER...when it comes to that conversation. But the other thing that's really striking, right, is that once again we're having a conversation -- a very serious conversation this time -- about whether Speaker John Boehner may be a casualty of this unrest within the Republican ranks. It's, you know, the ironies are many here. Obviously, Boehner is a leading anti-abortion advocate himself. And yet this dispute -- this persistent dispute over tactics, really, is what has bedeviled his speakership.
GLASSERHe's never really been fully in control of the House Republicans, even at the time when they've been fully in control of that branch of Congress. And I think, right now, you're headed towards probably the most serious confrontation over his leadership in what has been a very rocky number of years for him.
PAGEHere's an email from Paul, who writes us from Wilmington, N.C. Some news sources are pointing out that Boehner is not going to be reelected as speaker when the new terms starts in January because of how little he has cooperated with the fire breathers to his right. We'll see if that turns out to be correct. The email goes on: Couldn't the Democrats leverage his weakness by throwing their votes to Boehner, in exchange for his allowing the Democrats and the moderate Republicans to finally get something done. What do you think, Neil?
KING JR.You know, that's -- he must have actual knowledge of what's going on, which sounds like he does. Because he's a listener. That's what's going -- that is a scenario that's very likely to play out. So if all these things go -- if McConnell tries to step forward in the Senate with something that would have -- defund Planned Parenthood and that'll be blocked, and all various things will happen. But, in the end, it will fall to the House. There's huge frustration among Republicans both in the House and the Senate. They lost -- the Iran deal went through -- all kinds of things have not gone their way.
KING JR.In this case, the anger and ire among a large enough number of Republicans about Boehner is almost certain to bring some sort of resolution forward on Boehner's leadership, at which point, who could easily come to the rescue? Nancy Pelosi, who could -- because, in this case, the vote for the speakership is across both parties -- all you have to have is a certain number of Democrats to ether be present to change the math on the quorum or to actually overtly vote for him. And there's talk about Pelosi actually orchestrating exactly that kind of rescue, which I would assume would be part of -- then, meanwhile, there's a whole discussion about sequester and how do we deal with the budget talks? And she could make it contingent on something like that.
KING JR.They could -- they have a good hand to play and they could come out of this winners, the Democrats.
GLASSERWell, you know, that's -- our gang up on Capitol Hill, just this morning, had -- that's one of our lead stories from Lauren French and Anna Palmer, making that point, you know, could Pelosi save Boehner? I would say that in many iterations of leadership fights on Capitol Hill, both on the Senate side and, you know, but particularly when House fights erupt, you will hear a wave of, could the other party, you know, sort of muck around in it. That's something, historically, they've been very reluctant to do, right? Because in the end, it's up to the Republicans to decide who the Republican leader is. And ultimately, if a leader can't survive except from votes from the other party, he or she isn't going to survive in the long term.
GLASSERAnd so, you know, I think what it indicates is the real weakness on Boehner's part. Now, we reported last week -- and I think it's really striking, it hasn't gotten enough attention -- one way or the other, Boehner more or less is done. It's pretty clear from his friends and closest allies that he has made a decision at this point -- not publicly announced -- not to seek another term as speaker. And I think, you know, one way or the other, we're looking at the landing for this very rocky speakership.
PAGEYou know, if that story was not true, you'd think Boehner would really be publicly pushing back on it because it makes him a lame duck right from the start. If he doesn't run again, if he's not going to be speaker again, who will? Which Republican, Susan?
GLASSERWell, you know, I think that's where the 2016 election comes in. Because it's not clear. There's no obvious heir apparent. There is jockeying. And of course in the nature of leadership fights on Capitol Hill, it's very opaque. It's always denied often, until it's not denied. You know? But the majority whip, Kevin McCarthy, you know he was just elevated, remember, very suddenly, when Eric Cantor, last year, was the surprise defeated in the Republican primary. And so he, you know, has sort of shot very quickly up the ranks. He's from California. There's a -- certainly, a real possibility it could be him.
GLASSERBut I actually think that we really need to see how the Republican primaries play out next year in the presidential race. There is a real fight going on right now -- internal fight in the Republican Party, to see sort of what this kind of restive Tea Party wing of the Party, which has been very strong inside the House of Representatives, how much actual control and numbers will they have, I think, when the dust is settled after 2016, will determine who's going to be the speaker.
PAGESo, Jeff, we've had this kind of cliff-hanger politics around the budget before. We've had government shutdowns before. And it makes Washington look like the gang that can't shoot straight.
PAGEWhat's the other -- does it matter? Does it have real consequences if we, once again, go up right to the edge and perhaps even have to shut down the government until they figure out how to pass some kind of funding resolution?
MASONFor sure. It has economic consequences, it has political consequences. The political ones, last time, were harsher in many ways for the Republicans because polls ended up showing that that's who the American people blamed for shutting down the government. Certainly, the Democrats would make very clear that that's the case again here, if that happens.
MASONThe economic consequences are also clear and it ties into the discussion that we had at the beginning of the show. There is fragility in the global economy. Any sign that they're -- that the Congress or that Washington is not taking action that can help the economy but doing exactly the opposite could lead businesses to invest less, to have concerns, to affect the stock market. All of these things have ripple effects and so the consequences could be very big.
PAGELet's go to the phones and let our listeners join our conversation. We'll go first to Phyllis. She's calling us from Greensboro, N.C. Phyllis, you're on "The Diane Rehm Show."
PHYLLISWell, good morning and thank you for taking the call. Everything you're talking about is so interesting to me, I don't know where to start. But my reaction to the debate the other night and listening to Carly, who seemed to come on so strong, and then checking with FactCheck, it turns out the rags-to-riches story of starting as a secretary and making your way to a CEO position was not true. Her father was the dean of the Duke Law School and she, as an undergraduate, was at Stanford. I don't see that as really a step up from what I consider a rags-to-riches story. So I think all the things she said should be checked with FactCheck. But thank you.
PAGEPhyllis, thanks so much for your call. I agree we need to FactCheck. And I think it is true that she started as a secretary and worked her way up to be a CEO. That doesn't mean she started from a life -- I mean, she did have a -- she didn't come from a disadvantaged childhood though, Susan.
GLASSERWell, you know, I actually -- I think Phyllis makes a pretty fair point here. We have a special report out today -- we looked at the -- all the wealth of all the candidates and examined that. And it's the richest presidential field ever. You know, it's -- forget the 1 percent. And it's not just about Donald Trump. Many of these candidates are in the .1 percent -- and that includes Carly Fiorina, by the way, it includes Hillary Clinton, it includes Donald Trump, it includes Ben Carson, who are in the .1 percent. And I think that the implication of rags-to-riches is certainly -- this idea they come from very humble beginnings.
GLASSERNow there are people from very humble beginnings who are in this field. Somebody like Marco Rubio is a good example of that, somebody like Ted Cruz. But, in general, American politics have become dominated, increasingly, by wealthy people. That's definitely true of Congress, as well, where the net worth of members of Congress has shot up dramatically over the last decade.
PAGEI'm Susan Page and you're listening to "The Diane Rehm Show." We're taking your calls, 1-800-433-8850. And we're reading your emails. Well, that may give us a segue to someone who talks a lot about the richest in America and this is Bernie Sanders, who made a very interesting appearance this week, Neil, before and kind of not his most natural audience. Where did he go?
KING JR.He went to Liberty University in Lynchburg, Va., founded by Jerry Falwell. A place where Ted Cruz, for instance, actually launched his campaign this year. Certainly a very religiously conservative place. I think people might overplay a little bit how totally politically conservative it is. But it was an extraordinary thing to watch. A packed audience, certainly several thousand. I think it's obligatory to do to these speeches, so it's not like everybody showed up out of love for Bernie Sanders. But the reception was actually quite robust and quite strong. And it really just showed Bernie Sanders -- he has the perfect mix of conviction and that gift of intuition that I could say, probably, Hillary Clinton might lack a little bit of both of those.
KING JR.And he played the thing so well, because he was very upfront. I believe in gay rights. I believe in the woman's right to choose an abortion, should she want to. Obviously very difficult subjects at a place like that. And then he went on to quote, you know, the Golden Rule and Matthew 7:12 and a lot of very Biblical sort of things, mainly having to do with, we are not a country that worships wealth. We have this huge inequality, this sort of injustice that's gaining in our society.
KING JR.And he did it with just such fervor that it was sort of a preacher preaching a certain message and it seemed to go over quite well, even among some people in the aftermath -- bloggers and others -- who had -- who are now evangelical preachers of various kinds, who went to Liberty. It was just an interesting Sanders moment and just showed sort of the scope of -- that he's aiming for in terms of the kind of reception that he wants.
PAGEYou know, it's interesting. He got a very respectful reception, I thought. Not one without being challenged, but that's find. He said in his speech, I believe from the bottom of my heart that it vitally important for those of us who hold different views to be able to engage in a civil discourse. And, Jeff, I'm always surprised when candidates seem so reluctant to go before an audience that might hold different views or might not be their natural constituency, because it just seems like one of the things you're supposed to do if you want to be a leader of the country.
MASONAbsolutely. And he admitted that as well. I mean, he said that he usually speaks to crowds that are pretty excited about who he is and what his policies are, which is certainly true based on how well he's doing in the polls in Iowa and New Hampshire. He's the only non-Republican to have accepted an invitation to go to Liberty University. All of the candidates have been invited. So it was -- and it's sort of in line with who he is right now. He's taking risks as a politician and that is paying dividends for him in the polls.
PAGEAnd, Susan Glasser, Hillary Clinton, she's had some problems over the past week in her polls. She seems to continue to be bedeviled by the email controversy. Will we see a change in strategy, do you think, by her campaign?
GLASSERWell, you know, that's a really interesting question right now, obviously. She already took some steps in that direction, remember, a few days back when she decided to take a different approach on the email, to apologize more proactively, to say it was a mistake, she takes responsibility for it. Her campaign then aggressively pushed that message out to supporters in an email.
GLASSERThat was a very different thing, very reminiscent, unfortunately for Hillary Clinton, to the pattern in some of the previous Clinton scandals that all of us in this conversation remember somewhat painfully from the 1990s, right, that the problem often has been this long period of time, you know, of not really taking responsibility. The facts have come out quite slowly, I think one can fairly say. If you look at what Clinton or her allies were saying in the immediate aftermath of the disclosure of the private email server back in the spring, it's pretty different than what they're saying now. Remember, then, there were absolutely no classified emails. Now there's subsequently classified emails and more are turning up.
GLASSERAnd so, you know, it's become a serious political issue for the Clinton campaign.
PAGEWe're going to take a short break. And when we come back, we'll go back to the phones. We'll take some of your calls and questions and we'll read some of your emails. We'll talk about that GM settlement that was announced this week. Stay with us.
PAGEWelcome back. I'm Susan Page of USA Today, sitting in today for Diane Rehm. It's the first hour of our weekly news roundup. With me in the studio, Susan Glasser of Politico, Neil King Jr. of the Wall Street Journal and Jeff Mason of Reuters. You know, we were talking before the break about Ahmed Mohamed, the 14-year-old high school student in Texas who was put in handcuffs, taken to the police station after he brought a clock to school. Here -- we've had some push back on Twitter from our comments about whether this was appropriate.
PAGEBen puts on Twitter, we should act quickly for everyone's safety. Should the police not take each bomb threat call seriously, they don't know all the details and need to act for everyone's safety. And Ben also says, this kid wasn't racially profiled by the system, his English teacher overreacted. So, what do you think about that, Susan? Is it -- can you make the case that this was bare inappropriate in an age when people are very concerned about violence, including in schools?
GLASSERWell, I don't think anyone's saying that the mistake here was that the police didn't respond to a phone call from the school. No one's suggesting that they should start monitoring phone calls and deciding which to go to or not. The degree and the proportionality of the response, taking the boy away in handcuffs, I think is what people have responded to. The tweeter makes a fair point, a good point that this is a lot on the English teachers' shoulders. And on, you know, just our differing perceptions, you know? Does that English teacher -- will this be haunting forever, the question of like, a white kid, a white Caucasian kid, you know, coming in in the same tee shirt with the same project.
GLASSERWould that child, honestly, have been handled in the same way, I think, is the question that American society is reacting to. No one's suggesting that bomb squads shouldn't answer phone calls. We're suggesting that perhaps they should look at whether they need to handcuff 14-year-olds.
KING JR.The same tweeter, actually then tweeted something not every minor inconvenience needs to be a quote social movement. And it is interesting how these things explode. I mean, I read a piece this morning where somebody had gotten in and talked to the Mohamed family, and the parents were very much of the mind that this was really dumb, but it represented nothing in particular, that it wasn't -- they weren't saying, and some of the kids in the family, cause he has a number of siblings, were like, well, we're not so sure.
KING JR.But, the debate is, is this representative of this sort of built in suspicion or hostility. And then people kind of go in search of other indications that it is actually the case. As opposed to an English teacher that clearly overreacted.
PAGELet's go to Barbara. She's calling us from Baltimore. Hi Barbara.
BARBARAI just called in to say that I think you have to correct the statement that Ben Carson did not come. He certainly did come from humble beginnings. And he has succeeded very well. That's fine, but he did not start out in a very lucrative way.
PAGEYou know, Barbara, that's exactly right. We know he has an incredible story about being raised by a single mom in Detroit and achieving great things as a doctor. But Susan, you didn't specify that Ben Carson...
GLASSERNo, absolutely not. In fact, the point was that Ben Carson and Marco Rubio, Ted Cruz did come from humble beginnings. But that the overall story, right now, with this presidential field, is that it's the richest field of contenders. Not just Donald Trump being a billionaire, but that overall, the numbers are very striking. That these are a field of very rich and accomplished people who are running for President right now.
PAGEBarbara, thanks very much for your call. Jeff, to that point, you know, there was time when politicians really emphasized their humble beginnings. We have a case now where Trump, Donald Trump, is really emphasizing his great wealth. And it seems to be working to his political advantage.
MASONIt absolutely does. And I think part of that has to do with the fact that in this election, voters seem to be rewarding people who just say what they think without necessarily a whole lot of thought about what the implications would be. And Donald Trump has been the poster child for that. Things come out of his mouth that many other traditional politicians would get ripped apart for saying. And he doesn't, and that's related to wealth, it's related to other things, just like the story we discussed earlier with his rally where he didn't chide the questioner or correct the questioner.
MASONNearly the same thing happened with John McCain in 2008 when he was very definitely trying hard to beat Barack Obama in that election, but he corrected a questioner who asked a similar -- who made a similar statement at one of his rallies.
PAGESusan, why is his wealth not an issue, in fact an asset when it comes to Donald Trump? But when you think about someone like Mitt Romney, his wealth became a detriment to his campaign politically?
GLASSERWell, that's exactly right. The thing about Trump are a couple things, right? You know, he's the candidate of braggadocio, you know, as he pointed -- braggadociousness. Which, by the way, actually is a word. We looked it up. It is a word, and it's got two g's, much to my surprise. So, it fits with Trump's persona. He has made the case, Susan's right, like rather than shying away from it, or being somewhat embarrassed, you know, as Mitt Romney was with the talk of car elevators and such. Trump has made it into a selling point on the trail. I can't be bought by anybody, unlike those corrupt politicians.
GLASSERLike Bush, in the pocket of special interests. It is a conundrum. You've gotta wonder, if in the long term, that really is going to help him. But he's used it as a selling point. And by the way, you want to talk about somebody who's not from humble beginnings. I didn't really know much about this. We ran an extraordinary piece that I recommend about Grandpa Friedrich Trump, who was the progenitor of the Trump family fortune through some very dubious means back in the gold fields of the Klondike. He was running houses of ill repute according to the Trump family biographer.
GLASSERSo Donald Trump is three generations in to a family fortune, trying to turn that into a selling point on the campaign trail. But yet, oddly enough, I would say where he has a line that's connected to Bernie Sanders, if you go back to this interesting conversation about Sanders at Liberty University, right, is that they're both selling a brand of economic populism. That is around their personal brand of telling it like it is, or a form of integrity. They are appealing, actually, to different wings of, you know, that eternal, in American politics, the little guy.
GLASSERYou know, there's a left wing populism, there's a right wing populism, but both of them are selling this conversation around wealth and inequality in America, actually, to the little guy in this campaign.
MASONI would just add to that that this is a dynamic that is the case on the Democratic side, as well. Barack Obama really was very successful against Mitt Romney in 2012 because of emphasizing that, that those differences in wealth. Hillary Clinton will have a harder time doing that if she ends up being the nominee, because she and her husband, Bill Clinton, have made a lot of money and are very wealthy. And yet, she has made it clear, and can do, but it's just a different dynamic. She has made it clear that she wants to focus on income inequality and on raising peoples' wages.
KING JR.Another thing that actually is a matter of the money that you have in the bank, though. It's how you come off. I mean, he is a son of queens. I mean, people have studied his sentence structure. Most of his sentences are like five words long. They end. He says another one. He's very -- what he is is he's like a lot of working class people would be if they got really rich. They would have a big jet. It would be gold. Their name would be on it. He's like an everyman who happens to have both come from wealth, but enhanced it by making still more of it. He comes off as a regular guy. That's the thing that...
GLASSERBut it's so calculated.
GLASSERI agree with you, but just like your point, earlier, which I think is a very important one to go back to. He's calculatedly appearing to be the guy who tells it like it is, or even makes these what appear to be gaffs. I think it's -- you know, it's on purpose. It's his style. And I think you're absolutely right to channel. It's sort of like arguably an American working class person's version of what, you know, an outrageous, flamboyant rich guy would behave like. But I think it's calculated. That's a part of his persona that he's crafted over decades, but in fact, he's not somebody from humble beginnings.
PAGEHe went to the Wharton School of Finance, as he likes to tell us. Let's go to Suffolk, Virginia, and talk to Calvin. Calvin, thanks so much for holding on.
CALVINHi. I just have a question. I don't understand why there continues to be all this discussion about the email scandal concerning Hillary Clinton. It appears that, the facts are out there, she neither disseminated nor received classified emails. But yet, there continues to be this fixation on this is a scandal that's following her. None of my friends, no one I know even talks about this, the emails, and whether or not they were classified. It appears to be media driven. I feel as if there is some reason to create some type of horse race between Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton.
PAGEThat's, Calvin, thanks so much for your call. Jeff, this is an argument that the Clinton campaign makes, that voters don't care about it, Hillary Clinton has said repeatedly. People don't ask me about it. Do we have signs that voters actually do care about it, or that this email controversy is having an effect?
MASONWell, we have signs in the polls. It's affected her in the polls, it's affected her in early voting states like Iowa and New Hampshire. And if it weren't affecting her, then they wouldn't have made the decision, strategically, for her to address it differently, to apologize for making the choice of having that server and for using a personal account for both personal and work related email when she was Secretary of State. Clearly, I mean, the caller raises some legitimate points and Secretary Clinton said, even in her interview last night, she looks forward to answering more questions about it when she testifies in Congress.
MASONBut the truth is, you certainly can't argue that it's not a topic of discussion among voters. It is affecting voters in the way that they are responding to the polls.
PAGEAnd, you know, Susan, I think one of Hillary Clinton's biggest problems is that this isn't going to go away any time soon. She's testifying before the Benghazi select committee next month. We have an FBI investigation going on. It seems clear to me that she's going to be facing questions about this well into next year.
GLASSERWell, and not only that, but it's like a series of sort of like, you know, bombs, you know, to set off in her politics. Every single month, according to the schedule, that they've set for release of the emails. There will be a new release of emails at the end of each month. And that goes all the way up until right before the Iowa caucus. And so, basically, even if the investigation doesn't prove anything, even if the Benghazi appearance on Capitol Hill goes well, you're still going to have a reminder every month.
GLASSERYou're going to have thousands more emails released. And, you know, journalists pouring through them, finding more evidence of discussions that could, after the fact, be considered classified. And so, you know, you're actually structurally guaranteed, basically, that the conversation around her email will lead right up to the eve of voting in 2016.
PAGEWe had a caller, Howard, from Ohio, who I was going to go to, but unfortunately, he just dropped off. So Howard, let me ask what I think your question was. It was for Neil, and it said, what actually happens if the Fed raises interest rates? It's been so long, who can remember? How does it actually work?
KING JR.Well, I mean, you know, what they were talking about was raising -- it's a very tiny incremental starting point of all interest rates, basically. And it's the overnight rate that they charge banks to borrow for them so that they can keep their liquidity the way they want it. And it's been basically zero, and they were talking about raising it a quarter of a percentage point. So, would that cause huge ripples? Well, amazingly, it does. I always call it one of the most important and most tedious things out there.
KING JR.You know, whether this is going to happen and in what fashion? But it makes the dollar more valuable. We've already seen that happening. It ripples throughout emerging markets in like, in ways that can be quite devastating. And just for the US consumer, it has a tiny kind of incremental pushing up of all the various rates that one pays, all the way up to your mortgage, to the amount that you pay on your credit card. It's not an automatic thing, but especially if it's the start of an incremental steps of raising interest rates. All those things could get to be more expensive.
PAGEI'm Susan Page and you're listening to The Diane Rehm Show. Jeff, General Motors just made a 900 million dollar settlement. Tell us -- remind us, what were the charges that the automaker faced?
MASONWell, the automaker faced charges that it had essentially not admitted or not started to recall cars as soon as it realized, 10 decades before, or excuse me, 10 years before it started to recall them, that it had a faulty ignition switch on some of their cars and had led to as many as 124 deaths. And so, that's, those were the charges. The CEO of GM said, our cars helped, I mean, people died in our cars, and that's why we've agreed to this. And that's why they had that big figure. However, what did not happen is there were no criminal charges against specific executives at GM.
MASONAnd that's something that victims of these ignition switches are very upset about.
PAGE124 people died. 275 people injured. Some employees knew about the issue for more than a decade, but no recalls were made until last year. Susan Glasser, should somebody have been prosecuted?
GLASSERWell, you know, it's hard for me to say. I'm imagining that this is a topic of big conversation right now, you know, inside the Justice Department. And I guess you're going to see something more happening as a result of these reports. That would be my guess.
PAGEYou think something may still happen, you mean. It's still possible that prosecutions could be made of actual individuals?
GLASSERDeferred and -- yeah, but that...
KING JR.Yeah, I think this is a final settlement, basically. That is exactly what caused the big stir, which came out when the actual settlement details came out this week. Is that they forwent any sort of prosecution of individuals and didn’t even take criminal charges overtly against GM. So, you know, Ralph Nader, one of the most famous of consumer crusaders, called GM a homicidal fugitive from justice. So, there are definitely those that are very irate about this, and it goes back to the whole, you know, what we saw during the financial crisis and the aftermath of the financial crisis.
KING JR.The banks that went down, the mortgage lending that wasn't right. And again, there, there were no prosecutions. This is when those instances were a number of people like Ralph Nader were calling for prosecutions like that.
PAGEYou know, we talked about the main debate, the main Republican debate. Let's talk just for a moment about the undercard debate that had the four people whose poll standings didn't get them on the main stage. I have to say that South Carolina Senator Lindsay Graham seemed to be having a lot of fun.
MASONA lot of fun, and really showing a little bit more of his personality, that people who know him or journalists who have covered him have seen for years. But didn't really see in the first, in the first debate that he participated in. One of the things he said this week was he referred to -- he said that basically, if he becomes President, we're going to drink more. And that was, that got a laugh and it got him some attention.
PAGEYeah, he also said, Strom Thurman had four kids after age 67. If you're not willing to do that, we need to come up with a new immigration system. Also pretty good. You know, somebody who was not on the stage, Rick Perry, the former Governor of Texas who dropped out between the first debate and the second debate, his super PACS have 13 million dollars in cash. What can they do with them, Susan, with that money?
GLASSERWell, that's a good question. I know, you know, we were, the other day, that somebody wanted, who was one of the big donors, wants, a big, you know, a big multi-million dollar check back. You know, I think we're going to face this issue. Remember, we have a field that started out at 17 Republican candidates. More of them are going to be casualties. Rick Perry was the first, and you could argue, and he may well argue, that, you know, he was a casualty of Donald Trump.
GLASSERScott Walker, I wanted to mention. We haven't mentioned him. You know, in a weird way, right, Lindsay Graham, much less, well no, much less, you know, the handicappers thought he had much less. He arguably benefited much more by having the stage to dominate in that undercard debate than Walker, the ballyhooed governor of Wisconsin, at one point, leading in the polls in Iowa. Now looking to be struggling even to stay in the race. He had the smallest amount of speaking time of any of the candidates, according to one count in the mainstream debate.
GLASSERAlso bashing Trump, kind of like Perry, will he be the next casualty of the Trump rise?
PAGESusan Glasser. She's Editor at Politico. And we've also been joined this hour by Jeff Mason, White House Correspondent for Reuters. And Neil King Jr. He's the Global Economics Editor and Deputy Washington Bureau Chief at the Wall Street Journal. Thank you all for joining us this hour.
MASONGreat to be here.
KING JR.Thank you.
PAGEI'm Susan Page of USA Today, sitting in for Diane Rehm. She'll be back on Monday. Thanks for listening.
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