War in Ukraine: airstrikes, drones and a looming counteroffensive
This week saw heightened tensions in the ongoing conflict in Ukraine. A wave of drone strikes hit the Russian capital Tuesday morning, bringing the war to Moscow for the first…
Officials release the names of the 14 victims from this week’s shooting in San Bernardino. The F.B.I. is treating the attack as possible terrorism. The Pentagon announces it is opening all combat roles in the military to women. The U.S. economy added 211,000 jobs in November, bolstering the likelihood that the Federal Reserve will raise interest rates later this month. Congress passes the longest-term highway bill in a decade. And Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel rejects calls for his resignation over a police shooting and a video. A panel of journalists joins Diane for analysis of the week’s top national news stories.
MS. DIANE REHMThanks for joining us. I'm Diane Rehm. Investigators continue to search for a motive in the San Bernardino shootings. The Senate votes to repeal parts of President Obama's healthcare law despite the promise of his veto and what the November jobs report might mean for an interest rate hike. Here for the domestic hour of the Friday News Roundup, Susan Page of USA Today, Ed O'Keefe of The Washington Post and Tamara Keith of NPR News.
MS. DIANE REHMWe will be live streaming this hour of the Friday News Roundup. You can go to drshow.org, click on Watch Live and see the first hour in action. You can also joins us with your calls, your comments, 800-433-8850. Send your email to email@example.com. Follow us on Facebook or send us a tweet. Well, what a week, everybody.
MS. TAMARA KEITHIndeed.
MS. SUSAN PAGEGood morning.
MR. ED O'KEEFEGood morning.
REHMWhat a week, indeed. So Susan Page, investigators still trying to establish a motive for the deadliest U.S. mass shooting in nearly three years. I'm somewhat confused because the perpetrators or alleged perpetrators had amassed an entire arsenal in their own home, their apartment, had left their six-month-old child behind. Their car was filled with the makings of bombs. Why is it so hard to determine whether this is an act of terrorism?
PAGEWell, there are ways in which this shooting doesn't necessarily fit the classic definition or the classic pattern we've seen with terrorist attacks. And in some ways, initially, there were reports, you know, that the alleged shooter had gone to this Christmas party at his workplace, gotten mad, left, come back. That would be more of a workplace shooting. But it's clear the level of preparation that had been done well in advance and some signs now of contact with individuals that intelligence agencies were watching because of terrorist connections makes this look like an act of terrorism.
PAGEAs you said, thousands of rounds of ammunition, a dozen pipe bombs in their home. This is a home where they had a six-month-old child.
REHMThis take preparation, Ed O'Keefe. It takes forethought. It takes a lot of purchasing power, you know. Where does that come from?
O'KEEFEWell, and it's still unclear. And I think this is why they're struggling to really figure out if this was some weird combination of workplace frustrations and just international connections that, you know, does that mean he's guilty by association?
REHMWhat about those international connections?
O'KEEFEWell, that's -- he had traveled to Saudi Arabia. His wife, the second suspect in this, is from Pakistan. They had met there. They came back. They got married. They had this six-month-old child. And in the course of this, it looks like they were preparing for this. There is also reporting this morning that suggests that the male suspect had been deleting items from his computer, which, again, feeds the idea that this was something that was totally premeditated, that the planning had been underway for awhile.
O'KEEFESo putting all of this together will probably take a little more time, but all signs, at this point, certainly point towards some kind of terrorist incident. It's as if it's an episode of "Homeland" or "24."
REHMWhat is the reluctance to call it an act of terrorism?
KEITHOne of the law enforcement officials yesterday said something to the effect of, obviously, they were preparing for something. What isn't clear is whether he showed up at this Christmas party and something changed, like whether the target changed and it became some weird mashup of terrorism and workplace violence. So I think that they are -- they're going through this very methodically. I mean, if you say terrorism, if the FBI says terrorism, that is a very big word and I think they want to have everything lined up.
KEITHThey're going through these thumb drives. They're trying to get this cell phone that was smashed back together well enough to find the data. They're going through the electronic records. They're interviewing family and friends and contacts and they're really building something here so that when they say it, if they say it, and I guess we would all assume that that seems like where it's headed, that they're ready.
REHMAnd what did the president say, Susan?
PAGEAnd the president said we didn't know, that there are signs that it may be terrorism or it may be a case of workplace rant. So he's been a step more conservative in his comments than Hillary Clinton, who has now called it an act of terrorism or certainly than the Republicans. You know, terror -- this was obviously a terrifying event, but to meet the federal definition of terrorism, this is what the federal definition says.
PAGETerrorism is a dangerous act intended to intimidate a civilian population, influence government policy or affect government conduct by mass destruction, assassination or kidnapping. So to meet the definition of terrorism, there needs to be a political purpose behind the violence. Just mass violence, just a mass shooting incident not necessarily technically an act of terrorism. And they didn't leave behind, so far as we know, one of those videos that we've seen with some acts of terrorism, declaring what their intentions are.
REHMOr any kind of manifesto or...
PAGEOr a manifesto.
REHM...something of that sort.
PAGESo that -- I think that's made law enforcement officials a bit cautious about immediately going to define it as an act of terrorism. But now we know the FBI investigation is pursuing it as an act of terrorism, even though they haven't made a determination and a declaration yet that it is one.
REHMAnd what changes if they do determine it's an act of terrorism?
O'KEEFEOh, it turns everything on its head. First of all, it means that there was an act, you know, a significant act of terrorism during the Obama administration. They can no longer claim in the vernacular that they kept the country safe. You know, many would argue that the Fort Hood shooting may have been the first example of this a few years ago, but, you know, there's that. Then, it immediately feeds the political debate, because you've seen this week an argument over whether this is radical Islamic terrorism, as Republicans would describe it, or whether it's just another example of, you know, the nation's gun laws failing to, you know, help stop violence acts of, you know, shooting violence.
REHMOkay. So take us back. Let's sort of focus here on Newtown and the killing of those young children by a white young man. So how does that differ? I mean, I think we're splitting hairs here when we call a killing by a white man slaughtering innocent children simply a problem of mental illness and we call what happened yesterday terrorism, if we reach that conclusion.
PAGEI'm certain to the victims and to their families and the first responders, it doesn't matter, right, what the word is. It's a horrible mass shooting of people of innocence and just almost beyond words. But there's a reason why this will matter if this is defined as an act of terrorism. The male shooter was an American citizen born in Illinois, had a good job, was -- in one profile of him said he was living the American dream, had found a wife, had had a baby.
PAGEAnd perhaps, there are signs was inspired to take action not perhaps at the direction of ISIS, of al-Qaeda, but inspired by the movements that have targeted Americans and that is something that's gonna be of a lot of concern to Americans, this home-grown domestic acts of terrorism.
O'KEEFEAnd remember, in the wake of the Paris attacks, there were a lot of counterterrorism officials and experts that said, given our geographic distance from the Middle East and from Europe, it was less likely that ISIS trained, ISIS-funded attackers would attack in this country. But people inspired by ISIS or their actions might take it upon themselves to do something. We don't know if that is what this is as of this broadcast, but if it pans out to be that, it proves that their influence, however indirect it is, is having an impact in this country.
REHMIt turns out...
O'KEEFEAnd the shooter in Newtown was not. He was mentally disturbed. In this case, if it's found -- I mean, that is the distinction right there.
REHMThis father of a six-month-old did travel abroad and apparently had some visitation aside from just Saudi Arabia.
KEITHWell, what is unclear is whether this travel was related to meeting with people or doing things that are nefarious or whether it was related to going, meeting his wife who he had met on the internet, going and meeting his fiance, they had to go to Pakistan to get her visa to be able to come here, a fiance visa. It's possible that this travel certainly wouldn't have set off alarms because it was family-related travel.
KEITHIt is entirely unclear, at this point, whether that is related to anything or not.
REHMAnd one element is that everything they purchased, they purchased legally, Susan.
PAGEAnd it goes to what should our response be if we want to stop these horrible incidents of terrorism. And that's one reason the definition matters because do you try gun control laws? California has the strictest gun control laws in the country and they bought these two assault-style rifles, two semi-automatic pistols legally. In Newtown, clearly, this was a case where gun control laws or mental health programs might have made a difference. Not so in the case in California.
REHMThey did alter the weapons once they bought them. Susan Page, she's Washington bureau chief for USA Today. Ed O'Keefe is with The Washington Post, Tamara Keith is White House correspondent at NPR News.
REHMAnd welcome back. Remember, you can see all of our guests on our live video stream. Tamara Keith of NPR News, Ed O'Keefe of The Washington Post, and Susan Page of USA Today. Just before the break, Susan, you said, what can we do? The question becomes, is there any executive action that the president is free to take regarding guns? Tamara Keith.
KEITHWell, certainly, after Newtown, the administration did take some executive actions. Gun control advocates are pushing hard for additional executive action from the White House and from the Obama administration. They've put out reports and studies and legal analysis saying that there is more that could be done. In particular, the advocates are talking about sort of a regulation that would affect gun -- sort of non-licensed gun dealers who sell a lot of guns. It's unclear whether any of those would have affected the situation in San Bernardino. It seems unlikely. But it's also unclear whether the White House is actually going to move forward with anything like that.
PAGEYou know, one of the things I think that just must stun Americans, when they look at the string of mass shootings and by -- if by one...
REHMThree hundred fifty-five.
PAGEMore than one a day. More than one a day in this country. And yet...
KEITHThough that number is controversial and somewhat disputed.
PAGEThere is -- but we know there are a lot of shootings...
PAGE...of people who are -- just happen to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. And yet there is zero prospect of legislation passing this Congress to try to address it. And in -- you look at the rhetoric in the 2016 -- of the 2016 contenders. We had the Democrats -- Bernie Sanders, Hillary Clinton, Martin O'Malley -- all immediately say we need commonsense gun laws. You had the Republican contenders immediately talking about battling radical Islamic terrorism. It's as though they're looking at different problems and there is no...
PAGE...solution in the middle that seems to have any prospect of happening.
REHMAnd the NRA has not been heard from.
O'KEEFEAnd, in essence, between this situation this week and last week's shooting in Colorado, both parties now have their poster boy. All right? The Republicans have their alleged radical Islamic terrorist, if that is what pans out. The Democrats have the lasts white guy who went on a rampage and it is another reason why we need gun control, you know. And that will be sort of the dividing line there in the next few months. Susan points out, legislation isn't going anywhere. It -- they tried again last night in the Senate, as part of a major budget package essentially. Democrats had two pieces of legislation there that they tried tacking on.
O'KEEFEThe first was a -- an effort to essentially take anyone who's on the TSA terrorism watch list and make sure that they're unable to buy a weapon. The other was the infamous Manchin-Toomey gun background check bill that failed in the wake of the Newtown shooting...
O'KEEFE...in 2013. And they tried it because they said, look, we have an opportunity here, a window, right after this happened to at least try. Both failed. Democrats say they'll continue trying.
PAGEAnd I saw in the Politico story about these Senate votes on the gun amendments, that not a single vote changed...
PAGE...from the Newtown shooting. In the three years since then, not one mind has been changed on whether to proceed with...
O'KEEFEAnd remember that the reason that vote failed was, although there were enough Democrats in the Senate at the time to pretty much get them to the 60 they needed, there were three moderate Democrats who were up for reelection that year who voted against it, who then lost. They've been replaced by much more conservative Republicans, all of them voting no. And they have not -- you're right, Susan -- changed the minds of anyone. Therefore, it came up short yet again.
REHMAnd what about the silencing of the CDC on the study of gun violence? And that was something that goes way back, Susan.
PAGEIt's 20 -- it's been for 20 years. It was a measure supported by the NRA and by opponents of gun control to bar the CDC from even undertaking studies of gun violence. So we don't have good national data when it comes to how many people show up at emergency rooms with gunshots. How are they treated? I mean, all this stuff we know about smoking -- the effect of smoking, or having too much salt in your diet. Those are the results of national -- serious national medical studies that the CDC has done. The CDC is legally barred from doing those when it comes to guns.
REHMAnd how did that actually happen? The vote must have been just incredible 20 years ago to see that kind of vote take place.
O'KEEFEYeah. And -- but that just shows you the enduring power of the gun lobby and how far back it now stretches. I mean, it really began there in the '80s. It stretches all the way through the '90s to today. And as last night's votes demonstrated, it's going to be a very hard lift if people want legislation to pass.
KEITHAnd this is really become part of -- it's basically a culture war now. It's -- Democrats and Republicans see it very differently. After the shooting the other...
O'KEEFEOn one element of it, they don't -- background checks, which is what they were trying to do last night. There is broad Republican support. There is broad gun-owner support.
KEITHOutside of Congress.
O'KEEFEOutside of Congress, yes.
O'KEEFEIn Congress, it's a totally different story. But nationally there is agreement to do this.
REHMWhat about the candidates on this issue? You mentioned that Hillary Clinton had come out and called it terrorism. What about Bernie Sanders, who comes from a gun state?
KEITHBernie Sanders is calling for background checks and tightened restrictions. I mean, he has been a little bit more moderate on gun issues. But in light of the recent shootings, he has come out with strong statements that are in line with Democratic orthodoxy. He does not want guns and gun control to be a weakness for him in the Democratic primary.
PAGEWell, you know, for 20 years Democrats have shied away from talking about gun control, generally, ever since the 1994 vote that they think really contributed to the loss of a lot of members -- Democratic members of Congress. And maybe that's changing. It's possible that we're going to see -- say, if Hillary Clinton is the nominee, a more -- a greater willingness to take this on as an -- as a campaign issue. Because Democrats have made the calculation, until now at least, that it hurts them too much, especially in swing states and in red states, to talk about this. Maybe that's changing.
KEITHAnd I spend a lot of time out on the campaign trail with Hillary Clinton and she has made gun control a centerpiece of her campaign. She gets -- that is -- when she is talking about guns, that is when she gets the most animated in her stump speech.
KEITHIt is when her crowds get most excited. It -- she is, and maybe with some risk, making this a centerpiece of her campaign.
REHMWhat about the Republicans?
O'KEEFEWell, it's funny. On the flipside, I was in a social hall in Goose Lake, Iowa, Monday night with Jeb Bush, where he's talking to 350 Republicans. And at the end of his speech, he spent a few minutes reminding them, I was once named NRA Statesman of the Year. I accepted the award from Charlton Heston. It's on the highlight reel of my life. And Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, every time there's one of these shootings, reminds people that we've got to do something about gun laws. Well, no, we shouldn't do this, he says, because it continues to affect the 99.9 percent of us who are law-abiding gun owners. And liberals and Democrats, you know, can't get away with this. So...
PAGEHey, I want to highlight reel of my life. I didn't realize those were around. Just one other thing. You want to know how Republicans stand on this? What is Ted Cruz doing today?
PAGEHe's going to...
PAGE...a gun range in Iowa to do an event that is announcing formation of his campaign's Second Amendment coalition.
KEITHAnd that is how very different -- how very differently these things are playing out on the campaign trail.
REHMWhat about Trump on guns? What do we know?
O'KEEFEWell, you know, in the last few days, at least, he has focused more on the work of law enforcement. There was a notable tweet the other night when the two suspects had been shot almost immediately, he tweeted out something like, I'm hearing that law enforcement got them. Go police. Very different than the sort of standard thoughts and prayers messages that came from everyone else. He describes these shooters as madmen. He says, something's got to be done but we don't want to totally infringe on people's gun rights. He reminds people that he has licenses to carry in New York, which is true. That's been checked. And, you know, but he does not hue to the orthodoxy of most Republicans as much as the other candidates do.
PAGEHe also made a comment -- and I thought this was amazing -- that every time there's a shooting my poll numbers go up.
PAGEAnd it's true.
KEITHI don't -- a causation and correlation here.
REHMYeah. But how do you figure?
PAGEBecause, well, I'll tell you, I think what he's thinking -- and actually there are other analysts who think this too -- is that he sounds so tough and so strong...
PAGE...that after an incident like the Paris shootings, or perhaps even this one, we'll see what the polls...
REHMHe says, I could take...
PAGE...that people think, I want somebody really strong.
REHM...care of this. Yeah.
PAGEYou know, that's the reverse of what we thought before the Paris shootings -- I mean, at the immediate time of the Paris shootings, that it might prompt people to want someone with more experience in national security. That has not turned out to be the case.
REHMAll right. Let's talk about Rahm Emanuel in Chicago, because now that the Chicago Police Chief has been fired, there are now calls for his resignation. Ed O'Keefe, how is that going to work? It's not going to happen, if you ask Rahm Emanuel. He says, look, elections have consequences. That's when we deal with these things. The decision to part ways with his police chief, he said he'd been working on that over the Thanksgiving weekend and realized that the chief was someone who was becoming a distraction to the overall force and that it had to be done.
O'KEEFEHe asked for the resignation and it happened. I'd, you know, between this situation with the video and the city's soaring crime rate to begin with, it's a wonder that it took this to finally get new leadership at the police department.
REHMThe question becomes, whose responsibility was it to withhold that video for 13 months?
PAGEAnd -- his administration's responsibility. And the other question is, why did they choose to delay it for so much -- for so long? Why did they delay the indictment of the police officer for 13 months and delay the release of the video? And the charge against Rahm Emanuel is that they did that because he was facing an election. He faced an unexpectedly strong primary challenger. They waited until that was over for this to come out.
REHMDo you expect him to say in office?
KEITHWell, I expect him to plan to stay in office, that's for sure. Yeah, as Ed said, he feels like there was an election and he has no intention of going. And he's not the kind of guy who just says, oh, gosh. Okay. I'll just walk away.
REHMNo, I certainly understand that. But the question becomes whether there might be a rising up of the populace.
KEITHI think it depends on what comes out.
PAGEI think a -- I covered Rahm Emanuel in the White House during the Monica Lewinsky scandal. That guys not going to walk away from this even if there is enormous public opinion. Because he is an extremely combative politician who will stay and fight. But he may face a Department of Justice investigation -- a federal investigation of Chicago Police practices. And it was interesting, his long-time friend, Hillary Clinton, came out in favor of that.
REHMOn what basis would the investigation...
PAGEIt would be of Chicago Police practices and whether there's a pattern in practice that is, say, discriminatory against African Americans.
O'KEEFEAnd based on all the reporting, it certainly seems to fit the bill of what the Justice Department would investigate, given that they've done this in Cleveland and New Orleans and elsewhere.
KEITHIt seems that given the rampant problems in the Chicago Police Department, there would be plenty for the Justice Department to take a look at. Initially, Rahm Emanuel said that he didn't think it was a good idea. He didn't think it would be worth it. He later came out with a statement saying, well, okay, yeah. Actually I think a Justice Department look at the broader police practices would be a good idea.
PAGEWhich I think was running in front of a train that was moving, right?
KEITHOh, that train was coming -- that train had actually kind of run him over already.
REHMAll right. Let's talk about Ash Carter's decision to allow women in all places...
O'KEEFEThis is one of the more...
REHM...in the military.
O'KEEFE...I think, encouraging stories of the week. And it is another reminder of how dramatically...
O'KEEFE...you know, the Obama Era has revamped the look of the military. Remember, this is the president that repealed, or worked with Congress to repeal the don't-ask, don't tell ban on gays and lesbians serving in uniform. They have made exceptions now for transgender individuals who want to serve. And now Ash Carter this week said, woman is eligible for any position in the military, of course, if they pass the rigorous physical...
REHMIf she can make it, sure.
O'KEEFE...and mental tests.
O'KEEFESo one day there might be a woman in the Navy Seals, the Army Special Forces. There was resistance from the Marines -- as there was during the don't-ask, don't-tell debate -- about whether or not women are going to be able to take on the more rigorous combat roles that Marines often serve in.
REHMIt is tough.
PAGEWe saw two women graduate from Army Ranger school. That was great. And let's remember, 200 women have been killed, too, in combat -- 200 women in service killed in combat in Iraq and Afghanistan. In some ways, this is recognizing a reality that already exists.
REHMAnd you're listing to "The Diane Rehm Show." Congress approved a transportation bill providing full five years of federal funding for transportation and infrastructure. How well is this going to work, Tamara?
KEITHWell, it is the longest transportation bill we've had in a very long time. Since 2009 there have been, like, dozens, I think, of these little, tiny extensions. So this is, in theory, going to bring a great amount of certainty to state and local governments to actually do some of these long-term projects that they've been wanting to do. The challenge here is paying for it.
REHMThree hundred and five billion.
KEITHThree hundred and five billion. Now a lot of that is covered by the Highway Trust Fund, which is funded by a gas tax. However, that was last raised in the 1990s. It hasn't exactly...
REHMAnd they wouldn't raise it.
KEITH...kept up with inflation or more efficient cars or all of these things. So there's a great shortfall there. And there's a lot of, like, finding money under the couch cushions. But also, they just haven't fully settled this out.
PAGESo, you know, you wouldn't think, Congress passes bill the president will sign would seem like a big headline.
REHMYeah, it's huge.
PAGEBut the fact is, how often have we seen that?
O'KEEFEAnd remember, this is a leftover from the Boehner Era. When he became speaker in 2011, he had said, my big goal is to pass a long-term highway bill. Well, it never happened. And so this -- the wheels were spinning on this as he was preparing to leave. This is merely leftover business. People may think it's great that Congress passed something. This is at least six years overdue.
O'KEEFEAnd they still haven't sorted out how to pay for it.
PAGETrue, but is it -- I still think we spend so much time saying Congress doesn't do anything, Washington's so dysfunctional. This is a big bill. It's really important to states and cities. The fact that it goes on for five years is important for long-term planning in terms of some of these infrastructures spending. And it was passed by 83 to 16 in the Senate, 359 to 65 in the House. The president says he'll sign it. This is a big thing. And maybe -- and it's the result of bipartisan negotiations between Democrats and Republicans on the key congressional committee.
KEITHAnd especially on transportation. You know, back in the old days -- which wasn't that long ago -- transportation bills were the kinds of things that very easily got bipartisan support.
KEITHIt wasn't seen as, like, big, larded government spending. It was seen as this thing that is very popular at home and that's why you have so many roads and bridges and off-ramps named after members of Congress.
REHMSo what I want to know is, how soon will this be implemented? What's it going to mean for Americans and jobs?
PAGEI think it means -- I think it will mean something. That's -- $305 billion is a lot of money. And it's going to mean that there will be -- the president plans to sign it. I think he'll sign it really quickly. It means -- I guess the money goes out with the -- immediately, right? I mean, I think there's no...
PAGEIt starts to go out.
O'KEEFEIt starts to.
KEITHSo you'll see it -- you'll see the impact on roads that are full of potholes and bridges that are said to be dangerous.
REHMD.C. certainly has its share.
O'KEEFEThey sure do. They sure do, Diane.
KEITHJust ask our cars.
REHMWell, but let's hope that they do get this underway really quickly. Short break here. And when we come back, we'll open the phones for your calls. Stay with us.
REHMAnd welcome back to the domestic hour of the Friday News Roundup, which you can watch as well as listen to. Here with me, Tamara Keith of NPR, Ed O'Keefe of The Washington Post, and Susan Page of USA Today. Let's take a call from Charlotte, N.C. Robert, you're on the air.
ROBERTHey, thanks for taking the call.
ROBERTI think, over this next year, we'll see a real change in attitudes towards gun control. Because the jihadis have finally realized you don't have to bring down an airplane or blow up a radioactive bomb somewhere, but you get a couple of guys who show up with AK-47s or AR-15s, whatever, you know, an assault rifle, you know, to church service with about 1,000 people there and start gunning them down and we're supplying them with the weapons. There are -- you know, they're citizens. They can legally walk out and buy a gun and start shooting people up. And I suspect, after about 10 or 15 of those types of attacks, even the most rabid anti-gun control will say, well, you know, we can't keep supplying weapons to the terrorists who are attacking us.
O'KEEFEAnd almost immediately after this shooting, you saw groups like the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence seize on that and say, if Congress can't admit that this is a loophole that is going to be exploited by terrorists, then, you know, how silly are they, essentially? They have been pushing this in the last few days. You heard the president almost immediately afterward say that that TSA terror watchlist loophole, that anyone on that list, the fact that they could go conceivably buy a weapon and do something is a valid point and one that I think is going to resonate quite far if this situation pans out the way they think.
REHMAll right. To Jerry in Richmond, Va. Hi, you're on the air.
JERRYHi. Good morning. Thanks, all. Yeah, my question is, isn't it more than that? And when Congress -- most notably, the Republican Party -- refuses to enact legislation which prevents terrorists from being armed, isn't that aiding and abetting terrorists?
O'KEEFEThat's the argument I think people are going to start making. And I think we've already seen some of these gun groups suggest -- gun-rights group -- or gun-control groups...
O'KEEFE...make that argument. And it's one that could very well could stick, especially as Congress tries to wrap up its business and get out of here and go quiet for a few weeks. The debate could build very much so.
REHMIt's interesting. We have a tweet from Helen, who says, the fact that no votes have changed in three years shows that Congress is more afraid of the NRA and losing elections than killers.
PAGEYeah, Helen, I agree with you. I thought that was a very striking fact, when we saw the votes yesterday. Not that the measures didn't go through -- we didn't think they were going to go through -- but that there's been no shifting at all. And it shows how paralyzed or how petrified into amber this debate seems to be. It seems to me that we won't see action on gun control until we see action in elections. If we have an election...
PAGE...where there seems -- where a candidate really makes the case for gun control and gets elected and some members of Congress get elected, having campaigned on it, that's what would -- might prompt the political system to respond.
KEITHAnd thus far, the people who are most passionate about the gun issue are the people who vote Republican, who are aligned with the NRA. The NRA's power is not necessarily in its money, it's in its ability to mobilize voters. And their voters are the one who are energized and vote. And what the gun control groups are trying to do is figure out how to get their voters energized.
KEITHBut it's just not on the same level.
REHMA little breaking news here. CNN, NBC and Reuters are reporting that the feds are in possession of a Facebook posting where the wife of the shooter pledged allegiance to ISIS.
KEITHIf that is proven to be true, it would be a real game-changing moment in this investigation and in the political discussion. Our reporters at NPR are working to confirm that as well. And I'm told that they have not yet confirmed that. And so I think that we should all proceed with caution until we have much more extensive confirmation on that.
PAGEBut if the debate is, is this an act of terrorism, that would make it an act of terrorism. Because that would be -- affiliate this shooting with a political agenda by ISIS.
REHMIt makes you wonder about this fellow. Here he was -- as you said, Tamara -- having a nice life here in the United States, where he was born, going online, finding a wife online, going to Saudi Arabia. She comes back already pregnant with their child. They have this child and it's six months old. They leave this child. It raises so many questions about her, about him and about the whole issue.
O'KEEFEAnd the whole system.
KEITH...his coworkers had bought him baby presents at Target and threw him a baby shower at the office.
REHMAnd he loved it.
KEITHWho wouldn't? Though, one article I read, I think in The Washington Post, said that his wife didn't come to that work baby shower.
O'KEEFEYep. No, I mean, if this is true, again, it exposes so many different vulnerabilities and loopholes that people have been warning about for quite some time, especially in the wake of the Paris attacks.
REHMTell me about this fiance visa.
KEITHAbout the fiance visa, my understanding is that you have to go back to the country that you have citizenship in, the country that you're born in, to get the fiance visa.
REHMSo she had to go back to...
KEITHSo she had to go to Pakistan to get the fiance visa. That's what they said in the State Department briefing yesterday. And that is a relatively standard process.
REHMBut she was...
O'KEEFEAnd she was vetted.
REHMBut she was, at the time, living in Saudi Arabia.
KEITHThat is my understanding.
O'KEEFEYeah, that's my understanding.
REHMAnd then went from there to Pakistan. And the United States allows this kind of fiancé visa for a citizen of the United States.
PAGEAnd she had been approved, I believe, for a Green Card. She had a conditional Green Card as well, to get -- which gave her additional standing in the United States.
KEITHAnd there was all kinds of vetting that was done in the process of that happening. One question could become here, how good is our system of vetting people?
REHMAll right. Let's go to Wauchula, Fla. David, you're on the air.
DAVIDYeah, I mean, it's very simple. Every police officer in the United States, at any level, has been trained in shooting. So, question, how many shots have been fired in the various situations -- Colorado, or California, what have you -- by our trained police officers? And why do they need so many shots when everybody knows that any American man on Main Street, in the dirt, can shoot down any bad man with one shot.
REHMI'm not sure I understand that, unless you relate that to the situation in Chicago, where a police officer shot 16 bullets into a man after he was down.
PAGEAnd that was -- the video of that, which has just been released recently, of course, is very shocking. Because clearly that man was posing no threat to anyone after he was shot and down on the ground.
KEITHAnd obviously the situation in Santa Barbara -- or not -- San Bernardino was very different. There was a chase. There were munitions being thrown out of the vehicle. There were -- it was a gun battle going down the street -- a very different situation, and hundreds and hundreds of rounds fired in the process of that.
REHMAnd the destruction within that workplace…
REHM...had already taken place.
REHMI'm going to ask you now about yet another vote to rescind or overturn Obamacare. Susan, I don't get it.
PAGESo we talked -- we praised Congress for passing the highway bill. But this is a case of the more -- something we see more often here in Washington, which is kind of governmental theater. This bill passed the Senate 52-47 to repeal Obamacare. It's going to go to the president. Guess what he's going to do? He's going to veto it. This is an effort for -- I mean, Republicans have promised to repeal Obamacare. Now they can say they voted to do that. Unsurprisingly, the president does not agree.
REHMAnd what about funding for Planned Parenthood. That got in there somewhere.
O'KEEFEAlso cut in this large bill. They were calling it a reconciliation bill because it's bringing together a lot of different things. The House has passed a similar version. And that's why it's headed to the president. They don't have veto-proof majorities on this though. So, again, that's what makes this a show vote, that they were doing this, knowing that it would get rejected by the president, putting Democrats and Republicans on the record. This creates some headaches for more moderate Republican senators who are running for reelection next year in places like New Hampshire, Illinois and Wisconsin and Pennsylvania.
O'KEEFEBut Republicans see this as the first of a several-step process that could eventually result in a Republican president being elected and a Republican-led Congress doing it yet again in early 2017 and possibly undoing this law.
KEITHAnd this is how congressional Republicans, in part, make a case that if only we had a Republican president then we could repeal Obamacare.
REHMAnd they're also looking at climate change...
REHM...and anything that the president might do on that.
PAGEWell, you know, even as the president was at that climate change conference in Paris, you had the Congress doing several things that were intended to show their disagreement with him on acting on climate change. You had -- the House passed some resolutions that already had passed the Senate that would have scuttled the EPA rules that tried to cut carbon omissions from existing in future coal-fired power plants, which is a big step by the EPA, long in the making. Now this legislation, guess what? The president's going to veto it. So, again, it wasn't legislation designed to become law. It was legislation designed to make a political point.
O'KEEFEAnd, frankly, to embarrass him on the world stage.
KEITHYes. They are trying to say, this guy's only here for a year, world leaders over there considering this, and so why would you want to make a deal with a country with a guy that's only here for a year? And, look, the Congress just passed this thing completely undoing those regulations.
PAGEAnd I think it does have some effect on the president's standing. I think it must raise questions with other foreign leaders about whether the United States will deliver on its promises on climate change. The president got a question about that when he was in Paris. And he said, number one, I think a Democrat will be elected in 2016. But, if not, this issue is so serious that a Republican basically wouldn't dare to undo what I'm doing here today. But we'll see if a Republican's elected, if that's the case.
REHMIt really does raise questions about our politics though. The country elects a president. He stands before world leaders and at the same time is being undercut by leaders in his own country. How does that make our country, as a whole, look? It's not just getting or going after our president, it's undermining the whole country.
O'KEEFEAnd it's been this way, essentially you could say, since at least the fiscal-cliff fights of 2011 and 2012. That the world has looked at us and said, how is it that this allegedly great country -- their words, not mine -- but, you know, they see this as a, how can you say you're the greatest superpower on Earth when you can't even balance your checkbook?
KEITHBut it is...
O'KEEFEAnd they've been saying it since then.
KEITHBut it is by design. Our system is designed to have these checks and balances and to have a president not be able to just go on his own.
REHMI don't quite see it as a check and a balance, if in fact you've got a leader who is standing with scientific leaders, who is standing with world leaders, and our own president is being cut from underneath. I have a problem with that.
PAGEAnd of course that used to be a tradition. Politics stops at the water's edge. When a president was abroad, a Congress would have done that.
PAGEThose days are over.
O'KEEFEAre long gone.
KEITHOh, yeah. Long gone.
REHMAnd you're listening to "The Diane Rehm Show." Let's go to Dallas, Texas. Bruce, you're on the air.
BRUCEHi, there. Well, what you guys are just talking about is exactly where I'm coming from. And by the way, this started, as far as I'm concerned, when Bill Clinton was president. That's when it went off the rails where nothing stopped at the water's edge. But about what you were talking earlier today, one of your panelists was asked, what's the takeaway of the San Bernardino shooting? And the first thing he said was, well, President Obama can no longer claim that he's kept the country safe. And actually, he went on to say, that Fort Hood, that incident established that. Well, I mean, so now apparently the Democrat president is supposed to know what's in the mind of every American. I mean, it's gotten that absurd.
REHMEd O'Keefe, I'm looking at you.
O'KEEFEBruce, I see -- I hear you. You know, just one of the largest political talking points of the last 15 years or so was the idea that George W. Bush, despite what people thought, kept the country safe from another major terrorist attack. Obama taking over, made the same pledge. And, you know, if these types of things are happening in a slightly different time, of course, and in a slightly modified version of terrorist threat, you know, again, he can't say it. And that is a major -- it becomes a cornerstone of a president's legacy at that point. And there will be questions, I think, going into his last year about whether or not he was able to do that.
PAGEAnd it becomes an increasing part of the debate over his successor.
PAGEI think it becomes a bigger part of the debate in 2016. And we've seen, in the Republican Party, a real divide about how to best respond to ISIS and to the threat abroad, to terrorism. So were going to be hearing, I think over the next year we're going to be hearing a lot about this and about what the next president would do to make American's safer.
REHMFinally, turning to the presidential campaign, most of the GOP candidates appeared at the Republican Jewish Coalition's presidential forum. What happened there, Tamara?
KEITHThere was a question about how the outsiders would perform -- Trump, Donald Trump and Ben Carson. Ben Carson got pretty mixed reviews. He read his remarks from a script. He typically is more off-the-cuff. But he read his remarks. And he reported Hamas, more like hummus, the chickpea spread, which caused much Internet mocking and some laughter I think afterward in the room as well. Donald Trump came in and said a lot of things that could be interpreted as Jewish stereotypes, saying things like, I'm a negotiator just like all of you here in this room. However, I will say, he did get a standing ovation when it was over.
O'KEEFEI mean it's -- look, this is a very important group to meet with if you are a Republican candidate for president because a lot of money comes with the people who are in that room. Sheldon Adelson is this long-sought donor, who threw a lot of money in the last cycle at Newt Gingrich's efforts. Certainly they would like him to do that for them this year. And so this was a must-attend for all of them. Obviously some people struggled with this. Chris Christie had tripped up with this group a few years ago, has learned his lessons, and was also well received yesterday.
REHMLast word, Susan.
PAGEIt was like all of them had foot-and-mouth disease.
REHMAnd that's the last word for the domestic hour of the Friday News Roundup this week, from Susan Page, Washington bureau chief for USA Today. Ed O'Keefe, congressional reporter with The Washington Post, Tamara Keith, White House correspondent at NPR News. Let's hope next week is better, gang.
KEITHBetter next, yeah.
REHMAnd thanks, all, for listening. I'm Diane Rehm.
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