America’s Collision Course With The Debt Ceiling
As the nation counts down to default, Diane talks to longtime Congress watcher Norm Ornstein about the debt limit negotiations, what's at stake and whether he sees a way forward.
The Federal Reserve raises interest rates for the first time in nearly a decade. Fed Chair Janet Yellen says the U.S. economic recovery has come a long way. A neighbor of one of the San Bernardino shooters is charged with supporting terrorism for plotting other attacks. President Obama says the U.S. faces no specific, credible terror threats this holiday season but that Americans need to stay vigilant. Congress is poised to wrap up passage of a year-end tax and spending deal. National security takes center stage at the latest Republican presidential debate. And a judge in Baltimore declares a mistrial in the case of the first police officer charged in the death of Freddie Gray. 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. The Democratic National Committee says Bernie Sanders' staffers improperly accessed Clinton campaign data. Congress is poised to pass a year-end tax and spending bill and a Baltimore judge declares a mistrial in the Freddie Gray case. Joining me for the domestic hour of the Friday News Roundup, Jerry Seib of The Wall Street Journal, Susan Glasser of Politico and Olivier Knox of Yahoo News.
MS. DIANE REHMAnd throughout the hour, you can watch us livestreaming. You can go do drshow.org and click on Watch Live. You can call us on 800-433-8850. Send your email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow us on Facebook or Twitter. And welcome to all of you.
MR. JERRY SEIBThanks, Diane.
MR. OLIVIER KNOXThank you.
MS. SUSAN GLASSERGood morning.
REHMGood to see you all. And Olivier Knox, tell us about Bernie Sanders, his staffer and what happened.
KNOXWell, overnight news broke that the Democratic National Committee has suspended, temporarily suspended Bernie Sanders' campaign's access to its master file of likely voters, of voters after it became clear that at least one senior Bernie staffer improperly accessed voter data from the Hillary campaign. Now, it's a little bit complicated, but basically, the DNC maintains -- the DNC and a vendor maintained three categories of data.
KNOXOne is a master file of voters and then each campaign has sort of propriety voter information and voter modeling and it appears that this software glitch allowed a senior Bernie Sanders staffer to look at the Hillary campaign's data, improperly. They shouldn't be doing that. And then, they notified the DNC of the glitch after realizing that they could peer at the...
REHMOkay. It is complicated, it seems to me, because the data was made available. The staffer looked at it. It was the provider's mistake, wasn't it?
GLASSERWell, it seems like a situation where there were two mistakes, right? One, clearly, it was the provider's mistake.
GLASSERAnd making public something that wasn't supposed to be available -- or not public, but not available to the Sanders campaign. But it's a good reminder, you know, just like you say to your kids, just because you can do something doesn't mean that you should. And in this situation, what I'm interested in is we're getting very, very close to the voting right now and the question is really how serious -- and potentially, this is quite serious in terms of the Sanders campaign's ability to turn their sort of public excitement, which clearly the candidacy has generated, especially in New Hampshire right next door to Vermont.
GLASSERThat New Hampshire, winning New Hampshire would be key to Sanders having any chance for a credible campaign in the long term against Hillary Clinton as the primaries unfold starting in February. And I have to say that it's potentially very serious of an issue if he's not going to be cut -- not going to have access to the DNC's basically invaluable database of records that connect actual voters on the ground.
REHMSo this staffer has been fired. What is the big picture here, Jerry?
SEIBWell, I think the picture is, as Susan says, that Bernie Sanders could win New Hampshire. It's possible. And what you need to do to win, particularly in early primary state, is make a big push in the last few weeks. Well, we're in the last few weeks now. We're about six weeks away. And you need the voter database to do that, to some extent. And so I think the second part of the big picture is the suspicion that a lot of people have and I think it's probably not a stretch to imagine this that the DNC would like Hillary Clinton to win this primary pretty easily.
SEIBShe isn't really -- they don't really want a Hillary Clinton that's damaged and that has to spend a lot of money to get the nomination. They want her to cruise to that nomination and there's going to be suspicions that if the punishment here seems overly harsh to the Sanders campaign, that's not an accident.
GLASSERWell, you know, Jerry's point, I think, is really important and worth amplifying. Tomorrow night -- and here's another data point that underscores the potential interest in the DNC and Clinton winning an early victory in the primaries, Saturday night, middle of the holiday season debate tomorrow...
GLASSER...is only one of a very few, many fewer than on the Republican side. The DNC set that schedule. A lot of people complained that they did this on purpose, that the system is tilted this time towards Clinton, so that's one thing the debate tomorrow night. Another interesting data point, we have a story this morning on the Sanders campaign. He's just been a lot more sluggish than Hillary Clinton on the campaign trail. We looked at the numbers and he's done what amounts to three full weeks less of campaigning this fall than Hillary Clinton has.
GLASSERHe just has a much more reduced schedule. Of course, he set himself up. Over the summer, he had this remarkable summer on the one hand. On the other hand, it wasn't necessarily very strategic. He was going around to have big rallies in favorable college towns that aren't necessarily in the places where contested voting and primaries are even going to be against Clinton. So there has all along been this question of, number one, how serious is Sanders really about taking her on and, number two, how much is the playing field tilted by the DNC and in other respects, toward Clinton.
REHMSo Olivier, it seems to me that Bernie's supporters could really be motivated by what the DNC is doing here and you could have a backlash against Hillary.
KNOXYou're already seeing liberals online saying that this is a big test to whether the DNC has it's thumb on the scale for Hillary. People calling -- there's a writer at The Washington Post who said, you know, come on. You got to restore this access quickly or else it will be abundantly clear that you're stacking the deck. The DNC says it wants a full accounting and it wants proof that all the information that was improperly obtained has been destroyed.
KNOXThat's a pretty high standard. I'm not really sure how you'd go about proving that. In terms of the DNC's actions, I think it's to look at the debate schedule and not think that they were stacking this in favor of the frontrunner. I mean, they've put debates up against major media events on Saturday nights. They've done basically everything but release live Komodo dragons in the media workspace to discourage coverage.
KNOXBut this is an interesting one because the Sanders' campaign moved pretty quickly to try to -- to fire the staffer, the fix this, as improper as it was. And so it's going to be interesting to see just how quickly the DNC can say we've reached -- we've gotten to the bottom of this and we're okay.
REHMJerry, last word.
SEIBJust interesting that the Hillary campaign seems to never get away from computer and data controversies. I don't know why. But who could've seen this one coming? You know, I think it'll be interesting to see what the Hillary Clinton reaction to this is, that she basically call for the DNC to sort of back of in a show of fairness to prevent the kind of backlash that you were talking about. I mean, that's the voice that hasn't been heard yet.
REHMAll right. Let's talk about the fact that the House has now passed the government-wide spending bill. The Senate seems prepared late today to pass that onto President Obama. Has there been more cooperation between both parties under Paul Ryan, Susan?
GLASSERWell, Diane, I'm so glad you brought that up. We were just debating this before we went on air. Is this John Boehner's parting gift to Paul Ryan, which is basically setting the stage for this bill or does it represent a new way of doing business in the very partisan, very contentious House? You know, we're not going to know definitively, but I think it's fair to say Congress is right now in the middle of passing this year-end $1.1 trillion spending bill. It just passed an almost equally large package of tax measures, tax cuts mostly, yesterday.
GLASSERAnd I think what you're looking at is a Congress where the interests have temporarily converged of both parties. So it's not an end to the partisan war. 2016 is obviously going to be a very partisan period of time, but it seems to me that both parties, for different reasons, want to get out of town with some accomplishments on their ledger.
SEIBWell, it is interesting 'cause I was making a list in my head the other day, yesterday, that the things that have happened in the last few weeks, military bill passed, highway bill passed, the spending bill passed, the associated tax bill passed, the oil export ban, which is part of the budget, passed. That's a pretty significant stretch of accomplishment.
REHMYeah, you bet.
SEIBNow, the question is, is that a sign of the future? And I think probably not. I mean, I think it's an aberration. It is a part -- it's this period in which, as Susan said, the two parties interests align, the rival of Paul Ryan made his caucus back down a little bit to give him some success early. But by the time you get to next year, every House member is running for reelection. A third of the Senate is running for reelection. There's a presidential campaign underway and the Obama White House isn't really going to try very hard to ask Congress to do big things.
SEIBSo I think what you're seeing now is nice if you like Congress to do things, but I think it's very temporary and very aberrational.
REHMAn aberration, Olivier?
KNOXWell, what's really interesting -- I'm gonna reframe your original question 'cause I think this is less evidence of cooperation between Democrats and Republican and more kind of a truce between the Republican Party base and their leadership. I think that's what we really saw here. I think there are a lot of conservatives quoted in a lot of outlets as saying very -- offering up variations on the theme of, well, we're giving Paul Ryan the benefit of the doubt.
KNOXThey didn't get -- there are a lot of things that the base of the Republican Party wanted in this spending bill that they didn't get.
KNOXMore restrictions on abortion rights, rolling back the Obama environmental proposals, those are both big items that they did not get in this big package. And, again, all the quotes from these previously very angry, very conservative House members are all saying, like, well, you know, we're -- the bad things were set in motion before he became Speaker and we want to give him the benefit of the doubt and I agree. I think next year, that goes away, the first time we see a real test.
SEIBPlus, the big tax bill, the one that extends a whole series of tax breaks for several years, tax breaks that Congress always extends anyway, but that the business community likes. It's not paid for. It's going to add to the deficit and that would've created cries of outrage previously. Not so much now.
REHMJerry Seib of The Wall Street Journal. Short break here. If you'd like to join us, 800-433-8850. Send your email to email@example.com. And don't forget you can watch live. Stay with us.
REHMAnd welcome back. Here in the studio, Susan Glasser. She's an editor at Politico. Olivier Knox, chief Washington correspondent for Yahoo! News. Jerry Seib is Washington bureau chief at The Wall Street Journal. During the break, Olivier, you raised a fascinating question about the Hillary campaign and why they have not noticed this glitch.
KNOXYeah, I mean, and I don't even -- I can't even assume that, right? What's interesting is that in all the reporting no one appears to be asking the question. She has this massive staff. She's supposed to be -- got -- she's supposed to have all these tech-savvy people. But the only people who noticed and exploited this glitch were the Sanders' campaign. I mean, I, you know, I don't want to be conspiracy minded. It just seems odd that they wouldn't notice this. I mean, is someone being raked over the coals in Brooklyn, being told, how come you didn't notice this? I'm just curious.
REHMWe have a tweet here that says, the Sanders campaign, months ago, alerted the DNC to the fact that campaign data was being made available to other campaigns, Jerry.
SEIBI don't -- I have not heard that. I don't know that that's the case.
REHMWe don't know that that's, in fact, true.
SEIBYeah. No, I mean, but given how slippery this process is, I guess anything is possible. But if that's true, it would obviously raise interesting questions about the timing of this whole thing.
REHMAll right. We've got a call from Chris in Raleigh, N.C. Hi, there, you're on the air.
CHRISHello, Diane. How are you?
REHMI'm good. How are you?
CHRISBusy with Christmas. But that's not why I called. I called -- I'm an officer in the Democratic Party in the precinct here. I have access to part of this database. It's called VoteBuilder. And there are mistakes and errors. Now, chances are good that if the Sanders campaign had access to the Clinton data, the Clinton people had access to the other data, too -- the O'Malley data, the Sanders data, whatever. The reason why you're probably not hearing about that is because, if the Clinton people had access to the Sanders data and the O'Malley data, they wouldn't want anybody to know that they had it. They'd be mining that stuff until the cows came home.
CHRISI have to give the Sanders campaign credit for, when they noticed this, they called attention to it. And what this is called is, shooting the messenger. The Sanders campaign is running honest, aboveboard, no establishment inside, wink-wink, nudge-nudge, say-no-more campaign. And this is what they get for it. They get their access denied after they've noticed that there was this problem and they alerted the DNC to it. And that's...
REHMAll right. Thanks. Thanks. Olivier, do you want to comment?
KNOXWell, this is sort of what we were tackling before, the question of whether and how the Hillary campaign learned about these flaws in the software that the Democratic National Committee was using to manage its voter database and the proprietary information from each campaign.
REHMAnd so far, Hillary Clinton's campaign has not commented on the Sanders campaign action. I wonder whether that staffer is going to be reinstated or not? Anyhow, let's talk about the Fed and what it did this week. As expected, they raised interest rates by one-quarter of a percent. On the day that they did so, the stock market reacted calmly and, indeed, went up. Next two days, way down. Jerry, what's going on? Some people disagree with what the Fed has done.
SEIBWell, so what happened is the Fed raised rates for the first time in nine years. They have been basically at zero since 2008. That's an extraordinarily long period, very aberrational, historically. And it was widely advertised. I mean, I think Janet Yellen set out to make sure nobody would be surprised when the Fed turned this corner. Nobody was surprised. The stock market rose partly because Janet Yellen said, when -- upon the Fed's move, look, the economy is looking pretty good to me. You know, the basics are good. Growth is right where we want it to be. Stock market read this as a sign that, you know, things are proceeding the way they're supposed to be now.
SEIBThen the stock market falls. That had more to do with other things. And it's a sign of how the Fed doesn't control the entire economy, even though people like to think that it does. Oil prices kept falling. That drove down energy stocks. China's growth is still slow, that's a problem. Interest rates actually crept up in some other markets, because when the Fed raises interest rates, the dollar gets stronger. Treasury -- people want to buy Treasury bills, that raises interest rates in other markets. So the reaction and reaction to the reaction is not surprising particularly. But it is a sign that Janet Yellen has her hand on a very big lever but it's not the only lever.
REHMAll right. But what are the arguments being made as to why she shouldn't have done it now?
SEIBThe main argument is an argument made by economists on the left, who say that the labor market is really not that good. That unemployment rate is around 5 percent. That looks good, it's misleading because the underemployment rate is very high. The people who have left the workforce entirely aren't being counted. So there's millions of those people out there. And wages have not moved up in conjunction with the job growth. And so, therefore, the labor market is actually weak. This will make it weaker. That's the main argument against it.
REHMSo how long will it be before we know whether she made the right decision?
SEIBThree years. I mean, I don't -- I'm just guessing. And, no, it's hard to say. The -- I think that the important point to make here, Diane, and the correct response to your question is, what really matters here is not what happened this week, it's what happens over the next two to three years.
SEIBThe -- what markets are trying to figure out is whether the Fed proceeds to raise rates regularly and consistently over the next three years. And the betting in the markets is that it will and that they'll go up to about three percentage -- about 3 percent over the next three years. A quarter of a percent, per quarter, for the next three years. The real question is what will the economic effect of that long-term shift be? And will that be, in fact, what the Fed does? Or does it continue to be willing to ratchet back when it thinks the economy's not performing...
REHMAnd what about inflation? She says 2 percent is her target.
GLASSERWell, I think Jerry's point is right. The question is whether they continue with this program or not. The overall interest rate is incredibly low still by historical standards. This is a very, very small, easing our way back into a more -- towards a more regular interest rate. But, you know, their time horizon may be three years. But the American political time horizon, of course, is one year. It is an election year next year and there is a question -- a serious question about whether the softness in the economy, the questions around the labor market and whether there's really sort of new structural problems in the American economy -- is there going to be a recession before this next election? That could well determine the outcome of it.
GLASSERHistorically, we have not gone this long in between recessions. And so you would argue that we're overdue for one. Clearly, that would...
GLASSER...dramatically affect the last year of Obama's presidency, potentially be very difficult for Hillary Clinton's presidency, so, you know -- for her presidential campaign prospects. And so that one-year time horizon doesn't really give us the luxury of understanding...
GLASSER...you know, what's going to happen in a three-year, sort of the economists' perfect world version of this.
REHMAll right. And, Olivier, how do you see it?
KNOXYou know, I asked that question, we had a briefing, year-end briefing yesterday at the White House with some senior officials and I asked them how concerned they were that this rate hike would hurt emerging markets, would hurt places that have dollar-denominated debt. We're already seeing capital flows leaving countries like Brazil. So is this going to, you know, you were worried about China's growth. That's a big concern on the White House's radar. But what happens if some of these countries suddenly struggle to service their debts? Are they worried about, you know, a cascade effect?
KNOXAnd they said, well, we don't think it's going to be like the Asian financial crisis. We don’t' think there's going to be any global contagion from this. But it, you know, it bears watching.
REHMAll right. Let's talk about the hung jury in the Freddie Gray case and a declaration by the Baltimore judge that it is a mistrial. What does all this mean, Olivier Knox, in terms of how they go forward?
KNOXWell, they now have to decide whether they want to -- the authorities have to try -- decide whether they want to retry William Porter, who was the first of the six officers that they think they're going to put on trial over the death of Freddie Gray.
REHMRetry him right there in Baltimore?
KNOXThis is one of the many questions that they're asking themselves. You know, his lawyers have asked to move the trial. The judge has refused to do that in the past. So that's one of the decisions they have to make. Do they retry him? Do they offer him a plea deal? Remember, he was supposed to be put on trial first, because they wanted to use his testimony and try to get him to help some of the other cases. So if they offer him a plea deal, they might get some more cooperation from him in the successive -- in the next trials. But they're asking themselves a lot of questions.
KNOXThere was a hearing that was supposed to happen, I think, yesterday -- an administrative hearing to try to make some of these decisions -- and it did not occur, apparently. So we're all in a -- we're in a holding pattern.
REHMWhat do you think about that? Is there likely to be a change of venue? Is the judge going to grant that?
GLASSERWell, you know, I don't know what the judge will end up doing. But I do think it really underscores the fact that these are not just, you know, this is, a case is not a case is not a case. And, clearly, both from the speed with which they -- remember, they moved very quickly in Baltimore, in contrast to some other cities that have had incidents like this, to move to trial. This does seem to call into question the prosecutor's strategy very seriously in...
REHMAnd I found myself wondering why they concentrated exclusively on what happened inside that van, rather than what happened when they arrested him and three officers were on his back?
SEIBYou know, I have to admit that, just as an observer, I've been wondering about that question since the night this happened. I don't...
SEIB...understand it. And I cannot figure out why they're -- the broader question of how was he handled on the arrest? Was he injured there? Why the van? I don't -- I'm perplexed by that. I don't have an answer any more than you do. But I have to say, this same question keeps popping up in my mind over and over again.
GLASSERWell, and I think, let's reflect on the fact that, you know, we're at the end of a year when we actually have had not only this incident in Baltimore, but an extraordinary series of cases that have really resparked a national conversation around race. And, you know, I'm curious, for example, will President Obama talk about this? He's doing his year-end news conference later today. He has started finally, in the seventh year of his presidency, to engage on this subject, to talk in a very different way about race, about the problems and challenges that he, himself, has faced as an African-American man. And I think that this hung jury and the fact that we're talking about such a divided country.
GLASSERLook at the bifurcation in the two parties. This -- the conversation around race that's occurring and immigration that's occurring in the Republican Party and in those Republican debates, versus, on the other hand, this really agonized discussion of criminal justice and its disproportionate effect on black communities in America. These are conversations that were always separate. They seem to have taken sharp turns away from each other this year.
REHMHmm. I would wonder whether the prosecutor in this case is going to get a lot of criticism for having proceeded as she did, starting with the police officer who put him in the truck?
SEIBThat's a good question. I haven't seen any coming from Baltimore's mayor and that would have been, you know, a potential flashpoint. Then I haven't seen anything from the mayor. But yeah, I mean, sure, I think a lot of people are going to be second-guessing this and a lot of people are going to be wondering why these jurors could not reach a verdict. And obviously, and it looks like in the coming days, we're going to know a lot more. I mean, if the prosecutor gets another bite at this apple, the stakes are going to be even higher.
KNOXYou know, I think one of the realities here is that, and this is unfortunate, and I think Baltimore is clearly going to live with this issue for a long time now. This is going to -- this has delayed the whole process of whatever the process of coming to conclusion and putting it behind the city was going to be. This is going to take a lot longer than people would have hoped, I would guess.
REHMAnd you're listening to "The Diane Rehm Show." Let's talk about the GOP debate, the first one after the San Bernardino shootings. National security really at the top of the list. Susan.
GLASSERWell, that's right. It's not the conversation we expected to be having just a few months ago. But then, again, we also didn't expect that Donald Trump would end 2015 leading polls both in New Hampshire, in Iowa and...
REHMNo, he's not leading in Iowa.
GLASSER...not in Iowa, but just in New Hampshire as well as nationally, where his lead...
GLASSER...has continued to go up, defying all predictions. And I think the same thing is true if you listened to that conversation in the debate the other night -- the CNN debate -- around national security. Donald Trump says, I'm going to be tougher. I'm going to be more of a leader. You know, it's almost like separate conversations from everybody else. They offer policy proposals. They offer debates over whether counterterrorism policy has succeeded here inside the United States. Donald Trump offers basically a vision of himself as being a more aggressive leader without necessarily fleshing it out. He was notably, notably ignorant about some of the basic fact of American national security. Again, he seemed to be impervious.
GLASSERThis is a guy who aspires to carry around the nuclear football, who can't even say what's at the cornerstone of our nuclear policy.
REHMAnd Jeb Bush went after Donald Trump, Jerry.
SEIBYeah, I think he did that reasonably effectively. It's -- felt like something he maybe should have done a month ago and he didn't, for whatever reason. But basically, he's -- it was, in fact, the -- to me, the exchanges between Jeb Bush and Donald Trump captured the entire essence of the Republican campaign. Donald Trump said, as Susan suggests, I'm going to be tough. I'm going to be tough. I'm going to tougher than any of these guys. And that was his entire anti-ISIS strategy to a large extent. And Jeb Bush says, I have this plan. I gave a speech at the Reagan Library. It's, I'm going to do this and this and this. And this is ridiculous. This is not a policy.
SEIBAnd that's the tenor of the campaign right now. Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio and Chris Christie, to some extent, and John Kasich offer these plans for how you're going to deal with these things, and Donald Trump offers an attitude. And the attitude beats the plan. And that's what happened this week, I think.
REHMAnd how are Republican policymakers at the top viewing a possible Trump candidacy?
KNOXI think at this point they've chewed some of their fingers down to the second knuckle. What you hear again and again from Republican -- I should emphasize, Republican -- your Republican establishment -- this is highlighting, once again, that the Republican establishment isn't really all that in tune with the Republican base. And this goes back to our conversation about the House and about the tensions between the base and the leadership there. The Trump phenomenon has surprised a lot of them. They dread the prospects of a campaign that pits Trump with, we have to, I think, at this point, assume Hillary Clinton.
KNOXAnd, but they're equally upset about Ted Cruz, who they think is running in roughly the same lane as Donald Trump.
KNOXAnd, well, and you have to understand that Ted Cruz is one of the most unpopular senators among Republicans on the Hill. So it's a little...
KNOXBecause, in their leadership's perspective, everything is about him. So he's willing to grandstand and to say things just -- and I realize that there's some irony about politicians complaining about grandstanding and misleading rhetoric. But they're very unhappy about the Trump phenomenon. They think that it's redefining the Party in a terrible way. But they don't appear to have a good answer to the base, which loves him. And Jerry made a good point, like, the attitude is winning. He's completely changed this campaign. And, agreeing with Jerry again, Jeb Bush probably should have recalibrated his positions a long time ago to bring himself more in tune with the average Republican primary voter.
SEIBBut to be fair to the Bush campaign, I think they made the same calculation almost all of us did, which is -- excuse me -- that the Donald Trump thing is surely just a summer fling. It'll fade away. Then we'll be well positioned. Well, the summer fade never happened.
REHMThe summer fade never happened and here we are in a very mild winter. Jerry Seib of The Wall Street Journal, Susan Glasser of Politico, Olivier Knox of Yahoo! News. Your calls, your email, when we come back.
REHMAnd we've had several emails about Bernie Sanders. Let's see. Your panel said they were unaware of Sander's campaign having reported the data firewall, having been dropped earlier multiple other organizations have been reporting it all day and last night. Including CNN, Briggs, the Sanders spokesman, said this is not the first time the firewall has failed. Our campaign months ago alerted the DNC to the fact that campaign data was being made available to other campaigns. Okay, let's go to Nino, or Nino in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. You're on the air.
NINOThanks, Diane. Love the show.
NINOIt's Nino. Italian pronunciation.
NINOI have a problem with the media's hyping fear and concern of us Americans about another terrorist attack. Especially after San Bernardino. We Americans are worried about a lot of things. Keeping a job, paying a mortgage, our kids' education, but we keep plugging along. I find it actually encouraging that with insane amount of weapons in circulation and with quite a lot of people with some kind of grievances against someone or something, only a tiny number of idiots goes out there and shoots someone. Thank you.
REHMAll right. What do we think about the media hyping terrorism? Jerry.
SEIBWell, I hardly think it could be more hyped than it was at the Republican debate this week. I guess that's one way of thinking about it. The second is that there's probably some validity to the criticism. I mean, we, you know, it's kind of what happens in what we do is we make every attack sound like it's somewhat apocalyptic. Or at least that it may be the beginning of the apocalypse. On the other hand, you know, I don't think you want to be in a position of underplaying a legitimate threat. So, it's a difficult balance.
SEIBAnd a lot of this is probably in the eye of the beholder, as well. So, you know, do we get carried away covering it? Maybe. Are Americans fascinated and concerned? Yeah. So, where do you find the balance there?
REHMPresident Obama's meeting with family members of victims of the San Bernardino shooting, and then heads to Hawaii for vacation. You know, he's making his end of the year statement surely. He's already said the threat of terrorism, there is no known threat right now.
GLASSERWell, look, I mean, you talk about the media hyping it. It was President Obama who gave an extraordinary, I think only the third or fourth of his Presidency, Oval White House Address to the nation the other night. Why did he do that? Even though he didn't really have a major new policy combating the Islamic State to announce or major new counter-terrorism measures here at home. He did that because he had become, under really pretty withering criticism, even from inside his own party, that he was not doing enough to assuage Americans fears.
REHMSo, is he going to do more now, Olivier?
KNOXWell, I mean, they're announcing sort of some new steps in the campaign against the Islamic State.
KNOXWell, they're changing some of the targeting parameters and they have been for a while. They've expanded them to include more oil tankers. They brought in Apache helicopters, which is a close air support. It's different, you know, when you're flying a drone firing missiles. Or you bring a helicopter in, you know, closer to the action. So, they are changing their policies a little bit. I want to just object to the notion that the media's hyping terrorism on one, for just one narrow reason. As a former Parisian, I don't think that that way hyping. I think that was pretty straightforward reporting of an absolutely horrifying series of massacres in the City of Light.
KNOXSo I'm just going to --- just want to put that out there on a personal note. This end of the year statement. You know, they -- the White House is making no secret that they really want action on guns next year. So, to the caller's point, they really want to still try to find a way, either via executive action or by talking to state legislatures or governors. They're really looking for action on guns.
REHMWhat kind of action?
KNOXWell, that's -- I think stay tuned for the President's year end statement. The early previews are, you know, relatively mild steps. They've gotta make sure that everything is legal. I would imagine, given what happened the last time they tried something that they would try to go for some background checks and things like that. But I don't -- I can't say I have any magical insight into what they're going to propose.
REHMAll right. Here's an email from Bruce in Pennsylvania who says it's curious to me that by this time in the primary campaign, no one has raised significant background issues on Donald Trump, such as business dealings, business associates, employees and so on. Does your panel think there might yet be an Achilles Heel that could reveal itself?
SEIBWell, I mean, I guess I would counter that. I think there's been a fair amount written and talked about regarding his background. You know, his personal background as well as his business background, we've certainly looked at it. Others have as well. I think you'll see more of that. That will continue. It's not as if it's a one wave. It's gonna, as long as he stays at the top, like any candidate, once you're at the top, you're subject to being frisked, and you are going to be frisked. And that's going to happen. Is there an Achilles heel? I mean, I don't know, because I think one of the things we've learned in this cycle is that the conventional rules don't apply.
SEIBThey particularly don't apply to Donald Trump. The conventional rules would say, if you say something outrageous or offensive, it hurts you, you fall in the polls. Donald Trump says things that people find outrageous or offensive and he goes up in the polls. So, in that formula is the action/reaction cycle the same way it's been before clearly not. So, I don't know what amounts to an Achilles heel for Donald Trump. And I don't think any of us do.
REHMAll right. Let's go to Zack in Cleveland, Ohio. You're on the air.
ZACKHi Diane. And hi panel.
ZACKI'm a long time listener of the show. I'm calling in. I'm a former police officer. I worked in Savannah, Georgia. And I wanted to shed some light on the Freddie Gray case. I want to preface it with that there's definitely a systemic invasion of racism in our country and in the criminal justice system, specifically with this case. The reason that they're focusing on the back of the police van, what happened, the lack of seat belting, is because those are basic protocols that every police officer learns in their academy and within their first couple of weeks at their department.
ZACKAnd the reason he was also put in a van is that generally, with the number of officers on patrol, if they have one officer left over that they can put in a transport van, just in case someone needs to be arrested, they have a way to transport them so that the other officer can get back onto patrol as soon as possible. But the reason they're focusing on it is because it's negligent to not seat belt your passenger any time they're in the back of a police vehicle.
REHMAll right. That's one view. Let's hear another from Rochester, New York. Sue, you're on the air.
SUEHi. Thank you. I was so pleased to hear you commenting on the appearance that Freddie Gray was injured before, severely injured, before he was put into the van. Dragging his legs and his feet behind him as he was pulled along by the police. And you're the only place I've heard that commented on. That's why I'm a devoted listener to The Diane Rehm Show.
REHMThank you so much. And I appreciate that. Surely, the prosecutor could have begun with that arrest. That's what I don't understand, Jerry.
SEIBYeah, and I don't either. And the autopsy report seemed to indicate that the -- it seemed to suggest the injury happened in the van, but I don't know where that conclusion came from either. You know, you're sort of in this situation where you don't know what you don't know and what the prosecutor is basing the case on is not entirely clear, I think, to people outside. I would have thought there was going to be some discussion of that throughout the course of the trial. The point we're raising here didn't seem to be the case. In fact, they seemed to move past it fairly quickly.
REHMAll right, let's go to North Beach Maryland. Marilyn, you're on the air.
MARILYNI really enjoy your show.
MARILYNAnd I just wanted to say something very quickly, because I know we're almost out of time. In regard to Bernie Sanders, he was just endorsed by the DFA, which is Democracy for America. It was a poll that was done online with voters. He got 87.9 percent and Hillary was expected to win that. It is backed by Howard Dean, who is a supporter of Hillary. And I've been talked to a lot of different people regarding voting. And from Costco, Ikea and Target where I was shopping, they're all Bernie Sanders supporters.
REHMInteresting. And I'm sure that that's correct. There are a great many Bernie Sanders supporters out there. Here's another in Warren, Michigan. Matthew, you're on the air.
MATTHEWThank you so much. I'll be very quick. I was just disappointed with the guest that you have describing Sanders' campaign as sluggish. Just this week, he won the Communication Workers of America endorsement. That's a huge labor union. He -- it was a record setting vote at the Democracy for America endorsement. He has a six part interview with rap superstar Killer Mike. He shattered the record for individual donations at this point in a campaign. Over two million. What does sluggish mean? Is that sluggish?
GLASSERWell, I think we were referring specifically to a story that looked at his efforts on the campaign trail. And the fact that he's done not just a little bit less, but actually an enormous amount less of active campaigning. That may or may not matter. And in fact, I think it's important to point out that Sanders won the Communications Workers endorsement, another key union endorsement just yesterday. That combined with his strong small donor fundraising suggests exactly the kind of candidate he is. The question is whether he can transcend that core base of support among both liberal leaning small donors, which powered the Howard Dean campaign and other kinds of Democratic insurgencies that we've seen in recent campaign cycles.
GLASSERIt may not matter that Bernie Sanders isn't hitting the (word?) in New Hampshire in the same aggressive way that Hillary Clinton is, but it's certainly notable that there's not just a difference in the campaigning styles between the two, but actually a pretty stark difference. Three weeks out of the fall campaigning is an enormous amount.
KNOXYeah, I think this is a good time to bring up the usual disclaimer that we are in the blah blah blah and fundraising section of the campaign. And we have yet to see an actual organizational test for these guys. Getting voters to the Iowa caucus, managing that weird process, getting voters to the polls in New Hampshire. We haven't seen that yet, so if there's an Achilles heel to someone like Donald Trump, I would suggest that it may present itself when we see whether his campaign is a real campaign. Can it really get people -- can it really get voters to the polls? And that's actually why this Bernie story about the DNC is so important. Because it directly, it could directly affect his ground game. His ability to get the voters to the polls.
SEIBAnd a similar thing on the Republican side. We will find out soon enough whether the people who say they support Donald Trump are in fact Republican primary and caucus voters or not. A lot of them look like they are old Reagan Democrats. I don't mean old in age, but I mean the kind of people we used to call Reagan Democrats. Are they really Republican primary voters? We'll see.
REHMAnd you're listening to The Diane Rehm Show. Let's go now to West Palm Beach, Florida. Simon, you're on the air.
SIMONYes. The question I had was it seemed to me that the judge in the Baltimore case declared that this was a hung jury very quickly. And perhaps, in the minds of some of us, possibly somewhat prematurely. And I wondered whether this raised any questions in anybody's mind as to whether this might make it more difficult for this policeman, I understand, to now prosecute, to now testify in the prosecution of other policemen. And it leaves a rather nasty taste. And I wondered if you -- anybody would talk about that.
REHMAll right. Olivier, I'm wondering about the basis of the caller's question, that the judge declared a mistrial rather quickly. He asked the jury to go back and consider again and consider very thoughtfully. Do you think he rushed to judgment?
KNOXWow. That's tough. You're really putting me on the spot. I mean, look, I think they make -- judges have discretion on this for a reason is they are in the best position to determine whether or not the jury's hopelessly deadlocked or, I mean, I don't know if you could say hopefully deadlocked, but you know, if it's an overwhelming majority of the jurors verses one. I don't know how the judge, exactly the judge reached this decision. I'm disinclined to second guess them at this point.
REHMAll right. And let's see. To Cleveland, Ohio. Mark, you're on the air.
MARKThank you, Diane.
MARKGood morning. I have a comment about the spending bill that the House just got through passing.
MARKWe're continuing to add to the debt. I mean, we're just spending trillions and trillions of dollars over our debt, and that's just gonna kill our kids and grandkids with a ton of debt. And the American people are getting a little tired of it. And I think that's why you're seeing Trump and Cruz, both outsiders, doing so well in the Republican race for the President.
SEIBWell, it's true. I mean, as I was saying before, that the tax cuts in the tax provisions aren't paid for. It's going to add to the deficit, which adds to the long term debt. I would say though that this is a period in which the deficit, on a year to year basis, has actually been declining. It's one of the reasons it's faded away a little bit as a campaign issue. But there's still a deficit. Every year you run a deficit, you add to the accumulated debt. It's just not a big issue right now because as a percentage of the budget and the GDP, it's actually shrinking over time, not increasing.
GLASSERWell, and yet, it is a signature issue of Ted Cruz. And in fact, he has a, you know, piece out today sort of going against his own party's leaders yet again and saying this is an outrageous overspending example of dysfunction in Washington. But what's striking to me is the fact that it hasn't been a bigger story. I think Jerry's right. That's because the macro trend is a reduction in the amount of the debt, but Republicans, the Republican majority in Congress right now has actually been built on attacking exactly this kind of spending. So, are you going to see bigger fissures inside the Republican Party in 2016 as the campaign plays out?
GLASSERI think the answer is certainly yes. Although Donald Trump interestingly is not really known as being a fiscal hawk. That's not been one of his issues and so it may be that there's an overall dissatisfaction with the system that's powering Trump, but I don't think that the sort of cut and austerity part of the Republican Party is the reason for Trump's success.
REHMLast word, Olivier.
KNOXI think we're gonna start finding out pretty quickly how many more Mark in Clevelands there are out there when the Republican voters actually get to the polls.
REHMAnd that's it for our Domestic News Roundup. Olivier Knox, Chief Washington Correspondent for Yahoo News. Susan Glasser, Editor at Politico, Jerry Seib, Washington Bureau Chief at the Wall Street Journal. Thank you all for listening. Have a great weekend. I'm Diane Rehm.
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