Yesterday Vice President Joe Biden announced he would not launch a campaign to be the Democratic 2016 presidential nominee. His decision ends many months of speculation and is likely to be a boost for Hillary Clinton’s prospects. Later yesterday, hard-line conservative members of the House signaled their willingness to support Rep. Paul Ryan as Speaker. Ryan had said he would be willing to serve if, in advance, different Republican factions agreed to support him. Join us to talk about new challenges for congressional Republicans and what’s next in the 2016 presidential campaign.
- Ron Elving Senior Washington editor, NPR News
- Doyle McManus Washington columnist, The Los Angeles Times.
- Nia-Malika Henderson Senior political reporter, CNN
MS. DIANE REHMThanks for joining us. I'm Diane Rehm. Ending several months of speculation, Vice President Joe Biden announced he's not joining the race to be the 2016 Democratic presidential nominee and House Republicans have a possible Speaker. Congressman Paul Ryan indicated his conditional willingness after gaining the tentative support of some hardline conservatives.
MS. DIANE REHMHere to talk about latest developments for both political parties, Ron Elving of NPR, Doyle McManus of The Los Angeles Times and Nia-Malika Henderson of CNN. I invite you, as always, to be part of the program. Call us on 800-433-8850. Send your email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow us on Facebook or you can send us a tweet. Welcome to all of you.
MR. RON ELVINGGood morning, Diane.
MR. DOYLE MCMANUSIt's good to be here.
MS. NIA-MALIKA HENDERSONHi there.
REHMGood to see you. Ron Elving, did Joe Biden really have a choice to make or as said, was it just too late?
ELVINGHe made the right choice because, as he said, it was just too late. But there was a decision. There was a long process of making a decision. A great number of people wanted Joe Biden to get into the race, either because they love Joe Biden, and there are many people who feel that way, or because they were dissatisfied with the current Democratic choices. They weren't ready to sign on with Hillary Clinton and they didn't think that Bernie Sanders, in the long run, could get it done.
ELVINGSo there was a constituency for a Biden candidacy and, of course, there were a certain number of people with a vested interest in it, people who were close to him, people who would be his advisors, who would be his staff. But in the end, he did the math and the math really was forbidding just in terms of the calendar. We're only about 100 days away from the Iowa caucuses and he basically has not campaign. He hasn't even really laid the psychological groundwork for his campaign, let alone the mechanical.
REHMAnd Doyle McManus, there are already a whole lot of people pledged to Hillary.
MCMANUSThere were. One of the pieces of this that became clearer as time went on, as a number of brilliant political scientists and analysts wrote, Hillary Clinton has already won the invisible primary. And that's not just the money she raised. We usually look at the fact that she's got $75 million in her banks accounts and Joe Biden has zero dollars and had last week, zero dollars in his bank accounts 'cause he hadn't opened any. But endorsements. Nearly every Democrat in Congress, nearly every Democratic governor, who had endorsed, had already endorsed Hillary Clinton.
MCMANUSSomething like 130 endorsements from senators, congressmen, governors. Joe Biden had two endorsement, the governor of Delaware, member of the House from Delaware. A lot of those people who had already endorsed Hillary were Joe Biden people who, if this had been a completely open race and if Joe Biden had announced a year ago, they would've been on Biden's side. But they were out on a limb.
MCMANUSSo as a kind of a political science exercise, there is a principle here about these nominating contests. We all wait for Iowa. We all wait for New Hampshire, but we do forget that the party establishment, with the possible exception of the Republicans this year, really has an enormous voting process or choosing process that it goes through this year, the year before those contests.
REHMSo Nia, what does this mean for Hillary Clinton's campaign? What does it mean for Bernie Sanders' campaign?
HENDERSONIt is good news for Hillary Clinton's campaign and bad news for Bernie Sanders. All of the polling that we've seen so far shows with Joe Biden out of the race, Hillary Clinton benefits. She's up 20, 25 points over Bernie Sanders in national polls and then if you dig down into other states, big states like Florida, really key southern states like South Carolina, she's also in the lead there. I think she has really constructed this southern firewall, right, that looks a lot like what Obama was able to do in 2008, which is really about African-American voters to tend to be a little bit more conservative and skeptical in some ways of Bernie Sanders because he is a socialist.
HENDERSONI think that's going to dog him. They both came out yesterday with statements lauding Biden and you saw from Sanders sort of an attempt to ally himself with Biden when he criticized or seemed to criticize Hillary Clinton over saying that Republicans were here enemies. So but I think, ultimately, this was good news for Hillary Clinton and she's had a stretch of good news. She had a good debate performance. She's got this Benghazi hearing coming up today, which will probably last quite a while. But I think this was one of the biggest hurdles that she had to get through on her path to the nomination.
REHMIs there any downside?
ELVINGYes. There's a downside for Hillary Clinton in the Biden decision. One part of it is that she will not have the challenge within the party that he would have provided uniquely. And it would also have given her an opportunity, at least, if she wants to take it, of separating herself a little bit more from Obama because Biden would've been the Obama stand-in candidate in the primaries. So those are a couple of not completely negligible considerations for her. There's also, I think, a consideration that had he gotten in, that would've divided the opposition research and all of the negative fire that's coming in right now, concentrated entirely on Hillary Clinton.
ELVINGThe Republicans would've had a field day with all of their video tape of Joe Biden back over the years and all the things that he's done and said that would be embarrassing to bring back and that would've lessened, if you will, the pressure on her in the blogosphere and also just in general in the media.
REHMSo here she is, as we speak, testifying before the committee looking at Benghazi, the House committee lead by Chairman Gowdy, who, I gather, is still making his opening statement. What are the biggest hurdles that she faces in this 2016 against Bernie Sanders and against Republicans?
MCMANUSWell, I think the first hurdle that she faces or faced was persuading the Democratic base, persuading progressives who were -- who found Bernie Sanders enormously attractive, that she, too, shared their goals and their dreams, even if not all of the specific policies that Bernie Sanders was talking about. I think she's actually already accomplished a great deal of that. That was the message of the debate last week when she said -- I think her most important line was, yes, I am absolutely a progressive. And we have seen not just a -- to me, a surprising bump for Hillary Clinton in the polls after that debate, but a little bit of a lag in Bernie Sanders support.
MCMANUSI actually expected Bernie Sanders to gain support out of that debate because he was introducing himself to a lot of Democrats who hadn't heard him before. Actually, that didn't happen. That's the dog that...
MCMANUSThat's the dog that didn't bark. Because, I think, in my view because Hillary Clinton was actually quite effective at moving over if she had been able to move. She actually did, at one point, move across the stage next to Bernie Sanders. She's right next to him now. There's not a lot of space in that primary. So that's the Democratic side. It's virtually impossible to find a scenario now, I think. Now, I'm getting way out ahead of the process where Hillary Clinton loses to Bernie Sanders. Your question about Republicans, your question about the trust issue that is a problem for Hillary Clinton, the problem of the emails, which Republicans have been investigating and it's an absolutely legitimate question, they have managed to discredit their own investigation of it by going in every possible direction that is less legitimate, but those are still problems for her, I think, in the general election.
HENDERSONThat's right. And I do think this idea of passion, right, you see that very much on Bernie Sanders' side. He's able to get these crowds, 10,000 people, 20,000 people at times. And there is a sense of, okay, we have Hillary Clinton. She's been around for awhile. She's had trouble, I think, stoking that passion. And I do think if Biden were to get in this, as we saw in 2008, that nip and tuck race between Clinton and Barack Obama, it did do the party some good. It did each side some good. They emerged as better candidates and the party, even at the state level, they benefitted from that energy.
HENDERSONSo she's got to find how does she connect with this Obama coalition, whether it be African-Americans, women, Latinos and really bring that passion back and that people want. There's certainly some of that on the Republican side with Donald Trump.
REHMYou know, we can all remember Bernie Sanders saying, we're sick and tired of the damn emails. How right is he?
ELVINGCertainly, he's speaking for Democrats across the country and speaking for people who are Democratic-leaning and feel that the first six or seven or eight investigations of Benghazi were probably sufficient. But we'll see what happens today. There's going to be a lot more, we are told, brought to the fore and that we're going to learn more and that as people look at these emails, people are going to become more disturbed. I'm suspicious of that because we've already seen so much because we've already heard so much speculated that anything shy of the worse accusations that have been made about Hillary and her server and about her behavior around Benghazi is going to be disappointing for the Republican base.
REHMTell me what they'd have to find to make a huge difference, Doyle.
MCMANUSBoy, that's a tough one. Is there a smoking gun in there?
REHMYes. Is there?
MCMANUSWell, I'll give you one example.
MCMANUSLook, here's, I think, a problem down the road, but I don't think this committee is going to find this answer. Hillary Clinton's lawyers took out more than half of the emails and declared them personal and not business-related. Now, it turns out that there were already some of the emails that weren't initially turned over did have to do with Libya. They were some of the emails coming from Mrs. Clinton's advisor Sidney Blumenthal. But substantively, it didn't really make a difference.
MCMANUSIs there a smoking gun in those emails? We don't know. We have to wait.
REHMDoyle McManus of The Los Angeles Times. Short break here. Your calls, your comments when we come back. Stay with us.
REHMWelcome back. We're talking about 2016, certainly in terms of the race for the presidency, also the speakership of the House. And we'll get to Paul Ryan, what he said, what others have said, in just a couple of minutes. But these hearings before the House committee investigating the 2012 attacks in Benghazi, Libya, are going on as we speak. And, Doyle McManus, what has confounded Chairman Gowdy and brought him to speak out strongly have been two Republicans who at least have had a part in serving on that committee saying, these hearings are all about getting Hillary Clinton.
MCMANUSWell, not just any two Republicans. One of them, of course, was Kevin McCarthy, who is still the Republican majority leader in the House, who was going to be the speakers of the House until, arguably, he made that impolitic statement. It was a classic gaff in the Michael Kinsley sense. He told the truth, which is that a large part of the impetus for this investigation -- as Ron points out, the eighth or ninth investigation that Congress has mounted into this affair -- was to undermine Hillary Clinton's candidacy. And there are lots and lots of Republicans on the Hill who will say that, privately, they just aren't impolitic enough to say it in public.
MCMANUSNow, Trey Gowdy, the chairman, just gave an opening statement at the hearing saying, he's taking the high road. He said this is not about you, Secretary Clinton. This is about getting to the bottom of the Benghazi. Well, good luck with that. The interesting dynamic, I think, in this hearing is that it's not just Trey Gowdy and Hillary Clinton. She's also going to try and take the high road as well. But they have wingmen and wingwomen. Trey Gowdy has six other Republicans who he's going to try and discipline to keep on the high road. Hillary Clinton has five Democrats on that committee who are going to excoriate the Republicans for being as partisan. They already have.
MCMANUSSo, in a sense, Gowdy and Clinton can take the high road because they've got seconds who can step in for them.
HENDERSONYeah. And, you know, this has been part of their framing of this hearing. They sent out, you know, kind of talking points last night before the hearing. And the first line of those talking points were the fact that these Republicans had made it known, or suggested at least, that at least part of these hearings were politically motivated. So if you look at, again, Hillary's last couple of days, she's been given some gifts by Republicans with regard to these hearings. And you've seen from a super PAC that are supporting her, they are running videos and ads where they cut what Kevin McCarthy said and basically say this is the kind of political witch hunt aimed at Hillary Clinton.
ELVINGThat's all true. And really what happened was that Kevin McCarthy and Richard Hanna -- another not quite so senior Republican from upstate New York, not one of the hard-core conservatives -- said in broadcast interviews what a lot of people had sort of thought. And now let me say why a lot of people had thought it. Because they spared us our homework. Really, otherwise, we would have had to have gone back about 18 months to when this committee was created, in May of the previous year. And Speaker Boehner, at that time, had been extremely reluctant to set up another investigation of Benghazi because it really was getting rather worn even then.
ELVINGAnd yet there was a tremendous amount of pressure on him, from his most conservative and most aggressively oppositional to Hillary Clinton members, who insisted that there was still more to learn and that they really had to go on and have another committee. And one suspects, in the backroom discussions, they had to have something that pinned it more on her because she was the Democratic frontrunner for 2016. So that was all pretty apparent back about 18 months ago but a lot of that had been lost in memory.
REHMOkay. Let's talk about some of the specifics that may come up in this hearing. They're talking about whether Mrs. Clinton, herself, as secretary of state, was responsible for not getting sufficient security into Benghazi.
HENDERSONRight. This idea that she basically ignored pleas from folks on the ground there to increase security, that's been a big topic. I expect that...
REHMIs there any evidence to indicate the truthfulness?
HENDERSONThere isn't any evidence that she saw these orders. I mean they were in cables and her argument all along has been, they didn't reach her level. And her argument, at least in some of the talking points, was, you know, I hired Chris Stevens. I asked him to do this job. I cared about him. I saw his flag-draped casket. And she teared-up in that -- almost teared-up in that last...
REHMBut why wouldn't she have seen those cables?
MCMANUSBecause -- and this is kind of one of those practical but unpalatable things to say -- it's not the job of the secretary of state to worry about the physical security of the embassies. It's the job of the secretary of state to negotiate, to strategize. The secretary of state has an undersecretary, an assistant secretary, an entire bureaucracy that deals with bureaucracy...
REHMDid they all see those memos?
MCMANUSYes. They did. And there is a legitimate question as to whether the -- because there was a State Department Review Board of outside experts, but they were mostly former diplomats -- whether the discipline was sufficient. But -- and -- but that's a legitimate question on both sides. It's not a slam dunk. And, as Nia said, Chris Stevens, the ambassador who was killed, was an old hand in that part of the world. He was actually quite beloved among his fellow diplomats for being a risk taker, for saying we have to get out there. And if you talk to any diplomats, they'll say this notion that you want to wall-up your diplomats and never take any risks and that you're never going to lose any, that's nuts. We can't do our business this way.
ELVINGAnd also, of course, this was not the U.S. Embassy that was attacked in Benghazi.
ELVINGIt was not even a consulate.
ELVINGIt was a mission. It was, if you will, a kind of CIA safe house kind of situation. And it was of minimal security. Everyone knew that when they decided to hole up there, everyone knew that. And if they had focused on security at the operational level, they would not have had him there at that time. So whether or not, though, ultimately, she bears some bruising over this, of course, is a presidential question, isn't it? Because no matter where in the bureaucracy a failure occurs, at some point or another, the president usually has to step up and say, I take responsibility for what happens in my administration.
REHMOkay. What is the biggest risk for Hillary Clinton to come out of these hearings? Nia.
HENDERSONI think it's maybe less on substance because at some point a lot of this gets lost in politics and a lot of this -- I don't know that voters are going to be paying attention at that level. I think it's more just in her presentation. She has to appear calm. If you remember the last hearing, she made that -- a statement, what difference does it make, if they were all, you know, in a walk, you know, on the way to the park or had seen a video? And that, of course, became an ad. It will become another ad. So I think it's more just, she has to appear calm. She has to appear almost lawyerly in terms of her responses to this. And she has to have a command of the facts. Because those are the things that I think are going to be more important, just politically.
MCMANUSAnd there is one other risk that -- we don't know whether it's there or not -- that is that, has the Republican committee found something...
MCMANUS...that we don't know about. Now, on the other side, I think there's an enormous risk for the Republicans. If that committee spends eight hours beating up one lone woman on the witness stand, that's not going to look very good to an awful lot of Americans.
REHMAnd, Ron, yesterday -- when Vice President Biden said he would not run, that it was too late -- he said, but I will not be quiet. What does that mean? How is he going to participate?
ELVINGPerhaps the least shocking statement we've ever heard.
ELVINGJoe Biden is going to participate in any and every way that he can, seemly or unseemly. I expect him to have a role at the convention next summer. I expect him to be on the stump for the nominee, whoever that is. He and Hillary Clinton have not been warm, close, personal friends. But he will do whatever he can to vindicate the Obama administration.
REHMIs there tension...
REHM...between the two?
HENDERSONAbsolutely. Long-time tension. I mean, as Ron said, they're not warm. They -- I mean, frenemies might be putting too fine a point on it. But they have been competitors. If you go back to 2008 or even back to 1992, in some ways I think, Biden saw himself as the person who should be more like Bill Clinton, in terms of the party and a party leader and consolidating all of the different wings of the party and it just didn't happen for Biden. And I do think Biden has chafed at his role as vice president. He has been, in some ways, overshadowed by this historic figure who is Barack Obama.
HENDERSONAnd when he saw that Hillary seemed to be the heir to Obama's legacy, it didn't sit very well with him. And I think some of those tensions from long ago sort of rose to the surface.
MCMANUSEspecially when Hillary Clinton, in order to prove her chops with progressive Democrats, began taking shots at President Obama's positions on the Keystone Pipeline, on the trade agreement with Asia. And one of the interesting bits of passion from Joe Biden yesterday was, Democrats, run on Obama's record, don't criticize it. Well, which Democrat was he addressing that to? The other factor here is that there is a quite significant policy difference, a substantive policy difference between Hillary Clinton and Joe Biden on foreign policy.
MCMANUSHillary Clinton is on the hawkish edge of the Obama administration. Joe Biden is on the dovish edge. And what we have in a sense overlooked is, if Joe Biden had gotten into this race, there would have been a bare-knuckled debate over that, over trade, over a whole set of issues. It would not have been a particularly debate among chums. It would have been pretty tough.
REHMSo what is that debate likely to be like between Hillary and Bernie Sanders, on war, on sending troops? How big is that going to be?
ELVINGThat gap is quite large as well. Surely, Bernie Sanders represents the left of the Democratic Party...
ELVING...and even beyond. After all, he calls himself a Democratic socialist or an independent socialist at various and sundry times. He has caucused with the Democrats in the Senate, but he's technically not a Democrat in the Senate. And he has been unhappy with the Democrats on exactly this set of issues. They aren't tough enough on income inequality. They aren't dovish enough or progressive enough with respect to foreign policy. And so actually he and Joe Biden might have been contesting that vote to some degree, if there had been a broader range of candidates in the Democratic Party.
REHMAll right. I want to open the phones before we turn to the position of House speaker. Let's go to John in Brooklyn, N.Y. Hi, you're on the air.
JOHNHi, Diane. Thank you for taking my call.
JOHNIt just seemed to me that Joe Biden was kind of reluctantly waiting in the wings, like the powers that be wanted to make sure that they had something else to talk about other than Bernie Sanders gunning for them. And kind of like waiting to see how Hillary was going to do, if she was going to implode, and to get him into the race. And I think his timing is telling, with it being the day before Benghazi hearings, that I think Hillary is going to come out of that okay. I think everyone feels comfortable with that. And so they let Joe off the hook, so to speak.
JOHNBut my question now, with it down to Hillary and Sanders -- and Hillary obviously pandering to the left to gain Sanders' supporters -- with the recent developments like in Great Britain with the Socialists winning and, more recently, in Canada, with the Liberal Party sweeping the elections, how this surge that it seems like the pundits are kind of missing of populism is going to affect how Hillary and Sanders are going to move forward?
REHMI think that's the perfect question to ask. Ron Elving.
ELVINGWell, I'm sad that we don't pay more attention Canadian politics, because Canadian politics are interesting in their own right. And they also have been, at times, an interesting reflection of what's going on in the United States. Now, in Canada, because Stephen Harper's been in office for, what, nine years, for populism to bubble up in Canada means that the left is going to be rising and it's going to push out Stephen Harper. Of course, it also has to kind of consolidate, but that's another set of Canadian issues.
ELVINGIt does have an indicator for the United States, as we saw in Great Britain in the Tony Blair era as well. There was a real connection there to the Clinton energy, to the Third Way and so forth. And many of Clinton's people subsequently went to work for Tony Blair.
REHMSo one wonders, and we'll talk about this in a moment, how that reflects on Bernie Sanders. And you're listening to "The Diane Rehm Show." Doyle, McManus, I mean, do those two elections in Canada, in Great Britain, sort of send a message that we've got to do more about fairness in income equality?
MCMANUSYes, they do send that message. And it -- I would argue that the turmoil in the Republican presidential campaign sends the same message, that the reason -- one of the reasons Donald Trump is attracting support from working-class, blue-collar Republicans, paradoxically, is that he is talking about income inequality in his own unusual way. But let me descend on the other side -- and, Diane, you've made the mistake of getting a bunch of Canadian political junkies on the show...
MCMANUS...okay? Justin Trudeau, who just became prime minister of Canada, was not the Socialist...
REHMThe son of Pierre.
MCMANUS...the son of Pierre Elliott Trudeau, was not the Socialist candidate in that race, Tom Mulcair of the New Democrats, and he got whacked. So this is not a Socialist wave across three different countries. It's really not an encouraging sign, I don't think, for Bernie Sanders supporters...
MCMANUS...the Canadian election.
MCMANUSAnd also, incidentally, Bernie Sanders has tried to distance himself from Jeremy Corbyn, the British Labour leader, who is well to the left in his rhetoric over Bernie Sanders.
HENDERSONAnd what he will try to do in the coming days before the next Democratic debate, which is in mid November, is explain Socialism. He is working on a big speech where he talks about what Democratic Socialism is. His advisers have been pressing him to do that for some time. He hasn't wanted to. He finally is acknowledging that that Democratic Socialism tag and label is a problem for him. He had that exchange, of course, in the debate where he said Denmark is a great model. And of course Hillary Clinton came back and said, hey, I love Denmark. But this ain't Denmark. This is the United States. So he's got some work to do in terms of explaining what that is. And we'll see that in the coming weeks.
REHMAll right. Let's turn now to Paul Ryan. He seemed to have made kind of a shrewd move this week, saying in effect, I'll only be speaker if you want me to. Now, does he have the votes he needs to become speaker?
ELVINGHe has. As of this morning, he has the endorsement -- meeting at this hour, the Tuesday Group, which is totally in love with the ideal of Paul Ryan. He might not be a member of their group, but he's the best they could possibly imagine doing. And of course he already had the Republican Study Group, which used to be -- which used to be the conservative voice in the House but they have been superseded now by the House Freedom Caucus, which kind of broke out and broke away from the Republican Study Committee to the right. And that group, the hard rocks, 40-some-odd members, that's really the pivot here, because they're the people who forced out John Boehner and they're the people who said Kevin McCarthy can't be the speaker.
REHMSo what conditions have they placed or has he placed on them?
MCMANUSWell, this was quite fascinating.
MCMANUSBecause this was -- this actually turned into a rather bare-knuckled negotiation. What initially happened, of course, when Kevin McCarthy was the speaker presumptive, was that the Freedom Caucus laid down a whole set of conditions -- non-negotiable demands, you could say, in the words of the old -- the new left, including: they wanted the ability to vote against the speaker when they wanted to, they wanted a pledge that there would be no discipline against them if they bolted from the party, they wanted to weaken -- crucially, they wanted to weaken the speaker's authority over appointments. Basically, they wanted to make the speaker a much weaker figure. They said this was grassroots participation. It would have made the job terrible.
MCMANUSPaul Ryan not only said no to that, he said, I have my conditions too and my conditions include a change in the rules so that you can't hold up a speaker this way.
REHMDoyle McManus, Ron Elving, Nia-Malika Henderson, they're all here to answer your questions after a short break. Stay with us.
REHMWelcome back. Our guests here in the studio, Nia-Malika Henderson of CNN, Doyle McManus of the Los Angeles Times, Ron Elving of NPR. One of our first tweets from Lauren, she says I hate how the ridiculousness of Benghazi overshadows the tragedy that is now Libya. I think that's really an important point. I'm going to ask you now about an email regarding Paul Ryan. It's from Peggy and she says, how can Paul Ryan put so many conditions on his job?
REHMHe wants to spend time with his family, but opposes the family and medical leave act.
HENDERSONAnd this is actually a point that some Democrats have raised, suggesting that it's a bit of a contradiction there. And that has been a main point of Paul Ryan, saying that he wants work and family balance, something that you often hear from Democrats. You often hear from women. Sometimes, you hear it from men as well. So, I think that's an interesting point. And I do think one of the things that has emerged from here, I think first, people thought he was putting all of these conditions on this job because he didn't think folks in the House would actually meet them.
HENDERSONParticularly that House Freedom Caucus, getting them all on board. So, it was something of a surprise that he was able to get not the endorsement, but the support of this group. A super majority.
REHMWhat, what about the Hastert Rule? What has he said about that?
ELVINGThat may have been the main concession he seems to have made to them. He said, look, I don't want to run the shop the way John Boehner did. I don't want to be, you know, bringing down a lot of retribution on people. And I do believe that we should have a little different select committee.
REHMExplain the Hastert Rule.
ELVINGAnd a little bit of a different -- the Hastert Rule, though, he was willing to give ground on. And said he believed in it. It says, simply, and this is not a big shocking thing, that the majority of the majority party should be in support of a bill before it comes to the floor. And if that most Republicans don’t want some particular bill to come to the floor, the Speaker shouldn't bring it there for a vote and pass it with Democratic votes. Now, a lot of people would say, that's not terribly surprising.
ELVINGThat's what the majority should do. It should work its will. Now, of course, what that means is that a very small number, relatively speaking, of the total 435 can block extraordinarily important things from coming to the floor, such as the lifting of the debt ceiling. Or the passage of a budget. Or a spending bill that keeps the federal government operating. And a couple of times, when this has come to the floor, the federal government has stopped operating because of what we now call the Hastert Rule, which actually has been in existence a lot longer than that.
REHMAnd now you've got until November 3rd to raise that debt ceiling, Doyle.
MCMANUSYou've got the debt ceiling on November 3rd. You've got the government running out of money in December. And so, the question here really is, yes, Paul Ryan has a majority now. Can he keep that majority? Because Paul Ryan is not a member of the Freedom Caucus. He is a deal maker. He made the budget deal with Patty Murray that has saved us from fiscal cliffs for the last two years. His instincts are going to be to make those deals and there's no reason to expect that three or six months down the road, probably not in the first round.
MCMANUSIn the first round, the Republican conference needs to avoid immediate chaos, but three or six months, or 12 months down the road that we won't end up back in the same cycle.
REHMSo, Charlie is asking, what kind of effect could the proposed change in House rules, and I'm not sure what changes yet, what changes under a new Speakership would have on A, getting legislation passed in the House, and B, on the Democratic side of the House. Ron.
ELVINGThis is the question. You know, John Boehner, a little less than three years ago, said he had no interest in violating the Hastert Rule or bringing any bills to the floor that the majority of Republicans did not favor. He has since done it something like eight times, including last September to pass a clean spending bill that included funding for Planned Parenthood, because if it didn't, it was going to be vetoed by the President. So, when it comes down to it, when it comes to the real decision point, will Speaker Ryan let the federal government close down rather than use Democratic votes to do whatever needs to be done?
ELVINGTo pass a spending bill, to keep the federal government operating. One suspects he will, so who, in this instance, is fooling whom? Is it the caucus giving in and kind of winking and nudging and saying, hey look, we got a couple of scalps, we got Boehner, we got McCarthy, we can take this guy Ryan and he'll be better for us. And then, later on down the road, maybe we'll get a Speaker who's really one of us.
REHMWhat about fundraising for Paul Ryan? How much time is he going to have to spend away from his family? Part of the negotiation.
MCMANUSPart of the negotiation and it appears to have been an absolutely sincere part of the negotiation on the part of Paul Ryan. His kids are 10, 12 and 13. Just the age when, ages when...
REHMYou need a dad.
MCMANUS...a parent wants to be, wants to be there.
MCMANUSSo he said he's not going to spend all his time on the road. Look, actually, Republicans haven't had a great deal of difficulty raising a lot of money for Congressional campaigns. I think they'll survive. There's one other impact on the political process that may be worth touching on. And it's this. When Republicans took the Senate in 2014, when they increased their House majority in 2014, Mitch McConnell and John Boehner said, we're gonna spend the next two years proving that Republicans know how to govern.
MCMANUSWe're gonna set up a whole agenda of bills, we're gonna pass them, we're gonna let the President veto them. And that will show the country that if they simply elect a Republican as President, they'll get good, stable government. I'm not sure that talking point is available to the next Republican nominee at this point.
HENDERSONThat's right. And in some ways, I think people hope that Paul Ryan is coming to the rescue and all of the chaos that we've seen in the House over these last many months.
REHMAnd why do people think he can?
HENDERSONThat's what's so interesting. Because if you look at Paul Ryan's record, he's very much a pragmatist. He's, he's not a purist. He's not with the House Freedom Caucus. If you look at his record, not only in negotiating with Patty Murray, but even his stance on immigration. And you've heard from some of the conservative blogs, really raising a ruckus about Paul Ryan, as if he's sort of a wolf in sheep's clothing.
REHMYou know, yesterday, I was listening to conservative radio talk show hosts, two of them. I have never heard such language in regard to Republicans. They said they deserted us. We shouldn't vote for any of it. I was amazed.
ELVINGWell, that's where the audience is. I mean, that's how you build an audience in that particular media realm. Paul Ryan is an ideologue by intellect, but he is a pragmatist in practice. He is an Ayn Rand fan, he is the kind of person who, as an undergraduate at Miami University of Ohio, was out there working for, ha ha, the local Congressman John Boehner's first election to Congress in 1990. Not everybody spends their Congressional -- their college years working for some guy who's running for Congress.
ELVINGPaul Ryan's a special kind of person who really cares deeply about conservative ideology. But when you put him down in a situation, he's from Janesville, Wisconsin. He wants to move the ball. He wants to see the government function. He is not the kind of person who is eager to see what happens if you don't raise the debt ceiling.
REHMAll right. I'm going to go back to the phones to Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Hi Marcel, you're on the air.
MARCELHi. Thank you for taking my call, Diane.
MARCELMy question is, with Bernie Sanders leading Trump by a significant margin more than Clinton leads Trump in the national polls, why are the Democratic (unintelligible) supporting Hillary with a double digit lead over Sanders?
MCMANUSWell, one reason is that Bernie Sanders isn't a registered Democrat. He is not a party loyalist. He's still an independent. He never did re-register as a Democrat. He is a, historically, has been to the Democratic establishment, a gadfly. Not a team player. The other argument you can have about polling there, yeah, you could look at a head to head at this point and imagine a Sanders verses Trump race, but the polls that matter, still too early for the polls to matter on a very granular basis, are the polls in places like New Hampshire and Iowa, where Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton are effectively tied at this point.
MCMANUSAnd in places like South Carolina and Nevada, where Hillary Clinton still has a lead. So, those, you know, sort of science fiction, head to head polls about what might happen a year from now in a general election don't mean a lot now.
REHMTo Ted in Dallas, Texas. You're on the air. Ted, are you there?
TEDHi. I had a quick comment and wondered what you all thought about the combination of Bernie Sanders as Vice President with Hillary Clinton on the ticket.
ELVINGThat would certainly be pleasing to a lot of Bernie's fans. I don't know how many votes, actually, she adds to her total in November of 2016 with him on the ticket as opposed to say, oh, just pick a name out of thin air. Julio Castro.
HENDERSONOr Tim Kane.
REHMJust pick a name.
ELVINGJust pick a name. There needs to be some kind of outreach to people of color on this ticket. There truly does. The Democrats depend on getting 70, 80 percent of the vote of minorities in 2016. They're going to need to do that, and they probably don't want to nominate two Anglos on the ticket.
MCMANUSBut Bernie Sanders would bring Vermont and its three electoral votes.
MCMANUSHand it to the Democratic column.
REHMAll right, to Jordan in Rochester, New York. You're on the air.
JORDANHi Diane, thanks for taking my call.
JORDANI have a group question about Bernie Sanders verses Hillary Clinton in the upcoming primary. And my question was this, isn't, is the issue of Bernie Sanders being perceived as unelectable based more around the idea that he just hasn't gotten enough exposure. And if he does get that exposure, do you think he'll pose a more significant threat to Hillary as the election approaches?
HENDERSONYou know, they're 100 days out. I think he got a lot of exposure in that Democratic debate. I think one of his -- the questions is does he have the infrastructure? Could he win a big state like California? Could he win a big state like Florida? Could he put together a coalition that looks like the Democratic Party? I think he'll be competitive. He'll win states like Vermont, maybe Maine. But in terms of the entire map, I think Hillary Clinton's a formidable choice here.
REHMAnd you're listening to The Diane Rehm Show. Interesting that all of our questions, thus far, have been about Hillary and Bernie Sanders. Is the Ryan speakership too much inside Washington? People out there, except on the right wing talk shows, don't really care.
MCMANUSI think that's largely true. I spent last week in California and nobody asked me about Kevin McCarthy's fall and Kevin McCarthy is from California. And yes, that's another element that there is this immensely passionate fight going on within the Republican Party. As Ron points out, it's not over substance, because everybody there is a conservative and everybody there wants to cut government spending. It's over strategy. It's over whether you cut deals with the other side or whether, to quote Mike Huckabee, whether you burn the place down.
MCMANUSAnd it's a remarkable break in the Republican Party and they haven't sorted it out yet. And that's why when we look at their Presidential primary campaign...
MCMANUS...we see nothing but chaos.
HENDERSONYeah, and it mirrors that fight in the House. I mean, it's over, I mean, if you're Trump, you kind of want to burn the place down. And if you're Jeb, you're the joyful tortoise, and you are more of a practical and pragmatic guy. You're more of a moderate. But we see how he's doing in the polls. He's at six percent. And Trump has been able to capture something like a third of the party and certainly a lot of the oxygen and fervor of these grass roots Tea Party Republicans.
REHMAt this point, how likely do you believe it is that Trump will become the Republican nominee?
MCMANUSIt's impossible. There you go, there's the answer. It's impossible to put a number on it. It seems to me what has changed is that a straight line projection, at this point, takes Trump to the nomination. It is easier to explain the scenario by which Donald Trump becomes the nominee than to explain the scenario by which any of the other candidates becomes the nominee.
REHMWho's the next to drop out?
ELVINGWell, there are several who probably ought to. I'm going to sound like The Donald here, because he says, well, here are all the guys who ought to drop out. But you know, if you're sub three percent in the polls at this juncture, you probably don't have a path. But to some degree, they're campaigning for other reasons. In the case of Donald Trump, we're at an inflection point. Because everyone now is admitting, perhaps, or realizing perhaps, that Donald Trump is on a straight line projection to being the nominee.
ELVINGAnd because of that, you suddenly get a completely different kind of tone on Fox News, a different tone on MSNBC. A different tone from all the people in between. And you suddenly have people contemplating the idea that this could actually be the Republicans' champion next year. Which, ultimately, in my view, in just the estimation of what I know about the American voting public, probably is not good news for the Republican Party. Because they could go down on the good ship Donald.
HENDERSONYeah, and you have Jeb Bush really fighting this, and really going after Donald Trump at this point. Really defending his brother's legacy around 9/11, which might not be the best place for him to be in a general election. Maybe it works for him in a primary election, but so far, he hasn't really looked good when he's tried to go up against Donald Trump.
REHMHow has this total non-politician managed to do this?
ELVINGYou know, I think the Republican Party has to take a certain amount of responsibility for why Donald Trump can rise this fast in their own ranks. Because they have encouraged, over the years, an anti-government, Washington is the problem, government is the problem, if we just got rid of it, the implication is we'd all be a lot better off. Donald Trump is not truly a radical, eliminate the government kind of person. But because he is so far outside the usual conventional definition of how a politician acts, he has been able to energize the party's base, in so far as it was created, as I say, by this anti-government feeling.
ELVINGThat goes back decades and decades, really to the resistance to the New Deal in the 1930s.
HENDERSONAnd he's, in some ways, a smart politician. He styles himself as being an anti-politician, but he's, I think, been able to put his finger on the pulse of where the Republican Party is.
REHMYeah, but on the other hand, people at various networks have certainly stomped him on contradictory statements one after another. Which he then cleverly says, well, I didn't say that. I didn't say that. And they've got recordings of his saying that. But he gets away with it.
MCMANUSWell, he gets away with it, in part, because as Nia said, he does anti-politics better than anyone else. If you hate all the politicians, he is definitely your guy, and there are a lot of voters out there who hate all the politicians.
REHMDoyle McManus of the Los Angeles Times. Nia-Malika Henderson of CNN, Ron Elving of NPR News. We wait to see what happens next. Thank you all.
ELVINGThank you, Diane.
REHMAnd thanks for listening. I'm Diane Rehm.