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.
At a town hall event, gun rights activists pressed President Obama to justify his executive actions on gun control. He says he will not campaign for any candidate who does not support “common-sense” gun control measures. The U.S. gained 292,000 jobs in December, as employers capped the year with impressive job growth. The House votes to repeal Obamacare and defund Planned Parenthood. And a standoff in Oregon on a federal wildlife sanctuary continues. 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 economy added 292,000 jobs in December. In a town hall meeting last night, President Obama fielded questions about his executive action on gun control and Ted Cruz leads the GOP pack of presidential contenders in Iowa. Here for the domestic hour of the Friday News Roundup, Jeff Mason, White House correspondent for Reuters, Amy Walter, national editor of The Cook Political Report and Neil King, deputy Washington bureau chief for The Wall Street Journal.
MS. DIANE REHMThroughout the hour, of course, you are always welcome to join us. You can watch this first hour of the Friday News Roundup by going to drshow.org and clicking on Watch Live. You can call us at 800-433-8850. Send your email to firstname.lastname@example.org or follow us on Facebook or Twitter. And Happy New Year to all of you.
MR. JEFF MASONGood to be with you.
MR. NEIL KING JR.Happy New Year to you.
MS. AMY WALTERYes, Happy New Year.
REHMAnd to you, Neil King, we have 292,000 jobs added. How come such a big gain?
KING JR.Some of it might have been a little bit seasonal, to the extent that we had a really warm end of the year. It's that the economy is still pretty strong. They're not the most wage-rich jobs, let's say. The only little tiny dark spot in the jobs numbers this morning was that wages on the whole of the year went up about 2.5 percent. It's not stellar.
KING JR.The Federal Reserve would certainly like to see that growing a little bit more. By the logic of what we're seeing in terms of job growth, 'cause last year was the second best year we've seen this century, so the year before was a little bit better in average job growth monthly, we should be seeing more wage pick-up than we are seeing with these kinds of jobs.
KING JR.On the other hand, this has been a pretty grim week so far, pretty grim start of the year with the sort of incredible downturn in the market that we saw not just here but all over the globe. A lot of unease coming out of China and a lot of concern about whether, oh, my god, we're entering a year where we could see some real fissures in the global economy and possibly, you know, talk of a recession. All of a sudden, the U.S. looks all the more to be the sort of standout economy, certainly the most durable of any around the world.
KING JR.So maybe, who knows, when it comes to the election, will this turn out to be an economy election as we've seen so many times before where what seems to be a national security election environment turns the other way? Or will it stay kind of in the weird limbo zone that it's in now where it's a little of everything?
REHMOf course, Jeff Mason, the job unemployment percentage did not change.
MASONNo, it didn't. It stayed steady at 5 percent. And, listen, this is going to be a topic next week when President Obama gives his State of the Union address. If anybody has a desire to take a victory lap, it's probably the White House on numbers like this. And the fact that it stayed at 5 percent when seven years ago he came into office and it was so high, it's -- this particular set of numbers exceeded expectations, but just generally, I think economists at the White House and elsewhere were not expecting the economy to be this strong at this point in the year.
REHMAnd Amy, does this support the Fed's interest rate decision?
WALTERIt would seem to, but I feel like I'm a broken record every time I come onto this show, Diane, in saying, on the Fridays when jobs reports are released, saying that it is not affecting American's views of their own economic stability or security or the nation's economic security and stability. And, you know, you see the percentage of Americans and they don't think the country's off on the wrong track as high as it's ever been certainly wouldn't seem to reflect the fact that the economy is picking up.
WALTERAnd so the president will talk about how well things are going, how low the unemployment rate is, how many jobs have been created since he's taken office, certainly since the depth of the recession and yet, there are a lot of voters out there believe that they are barely keeping up or falling behind. And when you look at the fact that now a third -- this was The Washington Post that did this poll -- a third of Americans who are blue collar workers, don’t have a college degree, white Americans without a college degree, a third of them now believe the American dream is not attainable.
WALTERThat's a really pessimistic public that is looking at these numbers and saying, I just don't trust that they're going to translate to me.
REHMSo Neil, why is that? Why is there such a gap between what we hear about job growth and the fact that wages have not risen and the fact that you still got so many people who do not feel better?
KING JR.No. It really is very much of a two-track recovery where we have these areas of the country where it so happens that a lot of people live, namely the urban centers, Washington D.C., New York, San Francisco, et cetera, that have seen quite great rebound since the recession and where most of the wage growth has been captured. You go 20, 30, 40 miles outside of those urban centers and you find all kinds of areas, certainly the majority of the country in terms of land mass, where it's been the opposite, where wages have actually declined and have stayed depressed.
KING JR.And this is one of the things, this kind of disjuncture that we see in the economy between those who have and are having still more, who are doing quite well at this moment, and those who aren't that feel broken away. And a lot of it is an education gap, there's a big one. If you look at the unemployment rate by educational achievement, you see those that have a college degree, the unemployment rate is like 2 percent. It just doesn't really exist. When you get up to those that have only been to high school, you get up into the 8 or 9 percent unemployed.
KING JR.And it's this pain that's out there, which is very distinct and is hidden in some ways by the unemployment rate numbers itself, that Donald Trump and others are -- and even on the other side of the electoral, you know, on Hillary Clinton/Bernie Sanders are trying to tap into that pain and there is a lot of it out there.
REHMOn the other hand, Amy, how much credit does President Obama deserve for the job growth that does exist, even though you've got an awful lot of people not feeling it?
WALTERLook, the president, whether you're a president in good times or bad times, you get the blame or you get the credit. So, look, his numbers on the overall handling of the economy, much better than they were back in 2010, even back in 2012. So he is getting some credit for that. But I think it's this overall feeling -- and I hear it all the time when I listen to voters, of I just feel like we are running in place and the sense that I don't -- I'm not optimistic for what the future holds.
WALTERI think a lot of this is based on the fact that it's the actual household income. If you look at where household income was in the '80s for your middle class Americans, it was about $95,000. Today, it's $98,000. That is, you know, from 1983 to today, that's not much of a change. If you look at people who are in the higher income bracket, it's twice as high as it was in the '80s. So that is what I think, that this is as much about, you know, whether or not it's this president's fault or this president deserves credit.
MASONIt's interesting politically, though, because it gives the democrats sort of a win/win situation. It lets the Hillary Clintons and the Bernie Sanders of the world say we need to work on wage growth. This is really important for our constituents. But it also lets Barack Obama say, look how far we've come. And so -- and the democrats can also say, look, if you want to put republicans back in office, take a close look at 2007. If you want to have democrats in office, take a look at what's happened since 2008.
MASONSo it gives them sort of two decent talking points that are in their favor.
KING JR.I mean, it is the case, to Amy's point, you know, presidents go up and down along with the job numbers or along with the economy. They aren't directly responsible for the economy, but it is the case. And I'm sure Hillary Clinton will probably makes some noise about this, that the last eight years that we had a democratic president there were a lot of job gains under Bill Clinton. It was certainly one of the best times that we've had in recent history. Obama, having inherited a terrible downturn and having come into office right in the midst of it, when we were seeing extraordinary job losses, the job gains under him have been pretty amazing.
KING JR.On the other hand, we are just dealing with a problematic economy that goes beyond politics, I think, and requires some real concerted attention and perhaps not as much, you know, who's to blame for it being the way it is. But that said, the federal government, in all of its complexity and in all of its inertness, is certainly to blame for some of what's not happening because, you know.
REHMI want to go back to your mention of China and, of course, we'll talk about this during the international hour of the News Roundup, but how much effect do you believe China's volatile market and monetary system, whatever one might call it, is going to affect the U.S. economy?
KING JR.Well, the market gyrations are very irrational and they have caused a lot of problems at the start of the year all around the world. But the real issue is what's going on in China in terms of its fundamentals and what kind of growth are we to see. And, you know, China has been sort of recession-free, in large part, for way too long, in part because the government has huge amounts of money to plow into the economy and it is profoundly a fake economy in terms of what's giving it strength.
KING JR.And it's going to have some kind of landing in the next year or so and the whole question is will it have kind of a soft landing and nobody can really trust the numbers there anyway, but will it be -- is it really a 5 percent growth economy or something less? And if all of a sudden, we realize that China's only growing at 3 or 4 percent, that could cause big problems around the world.
REHMWhereas it has claimed to be growing at some 7 percent.
KING JR.Exactly. And nobody really totally believes that.
REHMNeil King, he's global economics editor, deputy Washington bureau chief for The Wall Street Journal. Short break here. We'll be right back.
REHMAnd welcome back. Here in the studio, Amy Walter, national editor for the Cook Political Report, Neil King of The Wall Street Journal, Jeff Mason, he's White House correspondent for Reuters. And, as such, you were at the town meeting last night, Jeff. Tell us about President Obama's reactions to being challenged on gun control.
MASONWell, it was interesting to watch him. It's been a really emotional week for the president. He had the very emotional announcement about his gun control executive action on Tuesday, where he teared up. and he was asked about that at the town hall last night and said that he was surprised by his own reaction. But the more compelling parts last night were, as you say, the people who challenged him. The town hall was set up that -- such that there were people who were opponents to gun control and people who were supporters who were there.
MASONAnd a couple of the people who challenged him were very compelling. One woman was a rape victim who said, look, I want to be able to have a firearm to prevent something like this from happening again and to prevent -- to protect my children. There was the wife of the so-called American Sniper who also challenged him about gun safety measures and implementing gun laws that are already on the books.
MASONAnd the president had, I mean, he had solid responses. He said to the rape victim, look, you know, I admire you for standing up here and sharing your story. But we also want to make sure that your assailant, if and when he gets out of jail, has a hard time getting a weapon. So he had responses but it was compelling to see him in an environment where he was being challenged about the issue.
WALTERI think that is so much of the story about the discussion on guns, is as much about the messenger as the message. And I think the challenge for the president has always been and will continue to be that, as soon as he speaks about this issue -- whether or not it has political merit, policy merit, whether or not you ask this question in a vacuum and get a ton of support on it -- as soon as he becomes the messenger for it, it polarizes the electorate instantly. So it becomes very difficult to see the president being able to get the country united, even though...
REHMDo you mean this president?
WALTEROn this president, on this issue. I think, in fact, any Democrat on this issue is going to have a very difficult time. I think...
REHMYou know, you could take that a step farther and use Cokie Roberts' quote when she said President Obama could walk down the hall and Republicans would disagree.
MASONYeah. I mean you're just -- the -- I think we are in a country right now where the message -- as I said, the message isn't as important as the messenger. I could tell you something, Diane, that you agree with. And then if I told you, well, actually this person said it. You'd say, well I don't believe it because I don't trust this person, right? So I think we have gotten now to a place where the only movement we're going to get on this issue has to come from the messenger being someone that people who currently now feel very nervous about what the president's putting forward or don't trust the president, they trust that person.
REHMDo you agree with that, Neil?
KING JR.Yeah, I do in many ways. I think it's, you know, this week was fascinating because it was a week in which the President of the United States cried essentially on national television. And I think he cried for a couple of reasons. One, he was faced by the parents from Sandy Hook and other disasters and he feels this deeply. I think he also cried in part out of frustration that he's got a week -- a year left. He's been able to make no real headway on this issue. He cares about it deeply.
KING JR.You know, it was five years ago today that Gabby Giffords was shot. And, if you remember not only that day that that happened, but the shock that that caused across the country where a madman shows up at a political event in Arizona and shoots a congresswoman in the head and kills one of her staff members and kills five other people. Obama flew out there. There was that extraordinary memorial service that he gave that incredible speech at. And that's just been, like, we've almost forgotten that event, it's been so long ago. It's been buried by so many other events.
MASONBecause there have been so many other ones.
KING JR.So he's gone to so many of these things and given these extraordinary things. He's tired of doing that, in part. And now, last night I thought it was fascinating where he was having to say, to your point, Amy, that, look, I've only got a year left. I'm -- I don't even have the time to take your guns away, even if that was my desire.
KING JR.You know? Where the whole think, like, we...
REHMBut yet that doubt has been planted and planted rather deeply.
WALTERWell, it has. And if you look at the demographics of a typical gun owner in this country, they're white, Southern, overwhelmingly male. These are people who have not been and continue to not be supportive of the president or of Democrats. If you look at the people who are non-gun owners in this country, they are more urban. They are overwhelmingly female, minority. So it breaks down to...
REHMAnd yet the two challengers last night who stood up were indeed female.
MASONThey were. They were. And I think it's also interesting, the president knows that he, as a messenger, that he has some problems with that. I mean he acknowledged on this last night, he said that, you know, on gun control there was a time when gun advocates supported background checks...
MASON...on health care. He loves to point out the fact that Republicans originally were the definers or the designers of a market-based system. And yet they oppose it because -- or from his view they oppose Obamacare because it came from President Obama. So he's aware of that. And the bottom line is, whether it's this executive order or whether it's his calls for gun control that will probably lead to nothing, he wants to go out swinging on this issue. And that's what he's doing with the executive order. That's what he's doing with the teary-eyed speeches. That's what he's doing with the town halls. He wants people to know. He wants this to be on the agenda for the campaign, even if he doesn't think he can move the ball that far.
KING JR.And, interestingly, pitching it forward, he had this op-ed in The New York Times I think yesterday where he was saying, hey, Democrats or anybody for that matter, if you're not in support of what he called common sense gun control measures, I'm not going to support you ever, sort of. So he was also like withholding future support...
KING JR.Well, Bernie Sanders might be one of them, right?
WALTERFrom moderate Democrats that don't exist anymore. I mean that's part of the problem is that, you know, when the Brady bill passed in the early '90s, there were 46 Republicans who supported that. There aren't 46 moderate Republicans left in Congress. And there also aren't the moderate gun owners who were Democrats, who would have opposed it. And so those people in the middle absolutely aren't there. So I don't think he's going to have to withhold support from any Democrats because they're just not around.
MASONIt is also a shift for the Democratic Party...
MASON...to be able to -- talking about this as much as it is. You didn't hear President Obama or then Senator Obama talking about it like this in 2008 or in 2012. It happened after the election, the Sandy Hook shooting, and then the political courage came out. But this is a shift that it is a big issue in 2016 for the Democrats, even though it may have been their deep-down feelings for a lot longer before that.
KING JR.Yeah. I mean, he got into a lot of trouble obviously in '08 talking about clinging to their guns, people who...
KING JR.The numbers though, the poll numbers are very much in his favor. I mean, there are like overwhelming majorities of people who want these things like enhanced background checks.
KING JR.So, it'll be some...
REHMSo where are they? I mean...
WALTERAgain, it goes to who do they want to be doing the background checks. So if you said to somebody who says, I support background checks. And you say, okay, well great. The president said -- no. Absolutely not. Why? Well, I don't trust this president. That's what you would hear as the back and forth about it.
REHMThat's very interesting.
MASONAnd that's a messaging question. I mean, because the background checks would be done by the FBI...
MASON...regardless of who's the President of the United States.
REHMOkay. Let's move on to what the House did this week. They voted to repeal Obamacare and defund Planned Parenthood. Certainly that's going to be vetoed, Amy.
WALTERYes. And the president's already said, then there's not a veto-proof majority. So it will not go into law. Or there is a veto-proof majority, so they won't go into law. But, look, I think the conversation that we're having now, whether it's on Planned Parenthood or guns or Obamacare, right, it's all sort of part of this same mix, which is this real polarized environment in which the president is trying to complete his last term into which the 2016 campaign is full-on into. And we see more and more that elections are as much about motivating the people on, who feel very strongly about this issues, than they are talking to that vast majority of people in the middle.
WALTERAnd so the only people who are motivated by repealing Obamacare or getting rid of the funding for Planned Parenthood -- very conservative voters -- Democrats also hoping it motivates their voters who feel very strongly about continuing it. The gun issue is another one of those. Except on the gun issue, what we've found historically is that the people who are most passionate about it, who are willing to go and vote on it, who are willing to donate money about it, are those on the gun-advocacy side more than on the gun-control side.
MASONThere were 240 votes in favor and 181 opposed in the House. The Senate voted for it in December. This is theater.
MASONIt is theater to get the issue out on the table. The White House certainly sees it as theater. Josh Earnest was asked yesterday in the briefing, you know...
MASON...Josh Earnest being the White House spokesman, whether this was an imposition at all for the White House to have to take the time to veto the bill. And he just gave a one-word answer, it was like, no.
MASONNot an imposition at all.
KING JR.Yeah, it is theater. It's a 62nd time that the House has done this. This one actually has become a bill and will go to the president. You know, it is, though, on the other hand, a harbinger that if there is a Republican that wins in November -- in all likelihood, of course, assuming that the Republicans maintain a hold over the Senate -- we would very likely see a bill like this...
KING JR....hit that person's desk and very likely be the case that that person would sign it. It's also just a bit remarkable -- and maybe this goes to Amy's point about how intransigent all these things are and how deeply ingrained -- it was almost six years ago that the Affordable Care Act passed.
KING JR.You know, I mean, and six years later and it actually, you know, it's still a lot of argument about has it been a good thing or not, even though a lot of people, 17 million or something, now have insurance that didn't have it before. But this thing is still very much reviled by Republicans...
KING JR....and is not wildly popular by and large among the public. And that's difficult.
REHMAll right. Let's talk about the Iowa caucuses...
REHM...less than three weeks away, Ted Cruz now leading the way. Who's supporting him and what does it mean if he wins Iowa?
MASONWell, he's getting a lot of support from evangelicals. And he's spent a lot of time working to get their support. And that's a smart move. I mean, if you see -- if you look back at previous years, and some of those candidates who did the same thing are in the race again: Mike Huckabee won Iowa in 2008 with that kind of support, Rich Santorum in 2012. But Cruz, I mean, and that's a very important constituency in Iowa and in the Republican base, but particularly in Iowa. And if he does win, that could give him the momentum to supersede Trump either in New Hampshire or in other states. And Trump is worried about it.
REHMAnd what about Trump questioning Cruz's authentic...
REHM...birth in the U.S.
KING JR.You know, I find this issue just really wearisome because it goes on and on. And it's fascinating, now we've had basically three -- well, in the case of John McCain, he was a nominee. He was born in Panama. This was an issue then, they kind of cleared it up. We had Barack Obama. He was born in the U.S. He happened to have a foreign father. That was an issue then. It continues to be among certain people. Now we have Ted Cruz, born in Canada to an American mother. Not that I'm a presidential candidate, but my two daughters were both born overseas. My wife is American. The minute they were born, they got a birth certificate from the State Department. They were American citizens.
KING JR.It's not -- if one of my daughters -- I don't see it happening -- ran for president, I don't think it would be a legal issue about whether they could run or not. I find the thing -- the whole Canadian thing to be silly because I think it's -- and it's not settled law because it's this thing that's just sort of hanging out there. But, on the other hand, there's been a brilliant move by Trump -- like so many of his moves -- because it's thrown Cruz off his game. He's had to spend basically the week talking about whether he did or did not have a Canadian passport when he was three years old or whatever.
KING JR.And it's gotten McCain and other people to kind of come to his side. And it's been an odd moment for Ted Cruz.
REHMAnd you're listening to "The Diane Rehm Show." Trump also said he would love to take on Bernie Sanders.
WALTEROh, I'm sure he would. He loves to take on anybody. But I think the other interesting, I think, to raise about the...
WALTER...Cruz and the Canadian, is that it also gives us a little window into whether or not Trump is going to be more aggressive with Cruz as we move on. I mean there's been a lot of talk about, why -- Donald Trump's willing to challenge anybody. And he calls Jeb low energy. And he goes after Marco Rubio. He goes after John Kasich. He's attacked everybody except Ted Cruz. And Ted Cruz is his biggest threat right now in Iowa. And you saw that door opening a crack with the questions about his birth, being a Canadian citizen, et cetera.
WALTERAnd you also saw, he questioned in Iowa yesterday Cruz' non-support for ethanol subsidies, saying, I don't know. In Iowa ethanol's a big deal. Do you guys -- it's going to be a lot of jobs if we don't have the subsidies. You've got to take a look at this guy.
WALTERThank you. I've been working on that, Diane. But he's -- so, you know, there have been -- there are a lot of question marks about Donald Trump. Are these people who line up to come and listen to him, are they registered voters? Are they registered in that state? Will they show up to vote?
REHMOr do they simply want to see Donald Trump?
WALTERCorrect. Do they want to see him? So that's a big question. Now the other question is, does Donald Trump, if he sees himself losing in Iowa, start to go negative on Ted Cruz? That is a -- he, right now, is Cruz' biggest threat in Iowa and potentially further on down the road.
MASONAnd it's just -- it's very strategic and it's fascinating to watch how he just sort of nips...
MASON...you know, just sort of a mention here that Cruz has a Canadian background.
MASONJust sort of a mention here about...
WALTERJust sort of a (word?) ...
MASONYeah. And he mentioned the -- and he actually kind of pulling into that evangelical discussion earlier, Trump made a comment or a tweet saying, not many evangelicals coming out of Cuba.
KING JR.Yeah. That was a good one.
MASONTed Cruz' father is Cuban. So there you go. I mean, it's just very subtle but not so subtle strategic sniping at somebody who is a threat.
REHMSo what are the polls showing us now in Iowa?
KING JR.They've been mixed. I mean, if you average them out, Ted Cruz has definitely been leading. The Des Moines Register poll, which came out in the middle of last month, which is very highly respected, showed him up by a moderate amount. You know, in the end, whoever wins will win by a couple of points. That's been the norm for a while in Iowa. I will say -- Jeff mentioned the last two winners there -- they didn't go on anywhere much after that. Certainly Mike Huckabee didn't. My guess is that if Trump wins Iowa, he goes far. He could even become the nominee. If Ted Cruz wins Iowa on the strength of evangelical voters, who knows exactly where it takes him. It certainly won't hurt him thought.
REHMAnd look at Trump going after Bill Clinton...
REHM...and, of course, after all these photographs of the Clintons at Trump's second wedding.
REHMI mean they were very chummy, Amy.
WALTERWell, come on, now. And he has made the point for months now about the fact, this is Trump making this point, that, look, he understands the system and he played the game and he gets it as well as anybody does. But that what makes him Donald Trump, right? That he understands how to play it but he's not beholden to those people. Unlike, as he argues, Jeb Bush and others who have to go and scrape and beg for money and friendships with these people. I don't need that. I can fund my own campaign.
REHMAmy Walter, she's national editor for the Cook Political Report. When we come back, we'll take your calls, your email. Stay with us.
REHMAnd welcome back. Picking up from where we were on Donald Trump and his comments about Bill Clinton. If Hillary Clinton does, in fact, become the Democratic nominee, how much is the public going to have to hear about Bill Clinton's sex life? Jeff?
MASONWell, it depends on who's the Republican nominee. If it's Donald Trump, I think the public will hear a lot about it. And I think if it's, you know, a list of those Republican candidates would no doubt bring it up. It's a liability. And it's something that the Republicans will have to bring up. But the Hillary Clinton campaign is ready for it. I mean, this is not a new issue, obviously, and they will be prepared for those attacks.
REHMAnd what about Bernie Sanders? If he becomes the nominee, how might Donald Trump, if he becomes the nominee, attack him?
MASONThat's a counterfactual that's hard to -- yeah. I can imagine him going after him as an out of step, you know, I guess you can't really call him low energy.
MASONBecause Bernie Sanders is not low energy.
MASONYou know, socialist from Vermont who wants to, you know, make America weak.
WALTERYeah. Probably something like that.
MASONIt would be quite a slugfest, because Bernie Sanders knows how to give back in equal measure. And I would love to at least imagine the Bernie Sanders, Donald Trump debates.
REHMHow do you think Bernie Sanders did this week?
MASONHe did well. You know, he's, he gave the crowds, in a similar sort of way that Donald Trump did. He did the whole thing about making the argument that he, if he were elected, would need no act of Congress to break up the big banks. He was pointing to a provision within Dodd/Frank that would, he think, allow that to happen.
KING JR.And he said he would do it within, yeah, within the first year that he's in office. We're talking big banks. Citigroup, JP Morgan, Wells Fargo, criticizing greed on Wall Street. These are things that gin up...
KING JR....the liberal and left leaning side of the party. So, you know, that is not unfamiliar when you're running kind of a populist campaign. Hillary Clinton, on the other hand, has focused her sort of financial ire more on hedge funds and other non-bank entities. And said that, you know, that what Bernie Sanders and others have said, that what Bernie Sanders is proposing is not the right direction.
REHMAll right. I'm going to open the phones first to Jim in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. You're on the air. Go right ahead, please.
JIMThank you for taking the time. My comment is that I don't understand why gun control advocates haven't pointed out that virtually none of the Constitutional amendments are absolute in their nature. Even the first amendment, the Supreme Court has said, one doesn't have the absolute right to freedom of speech or religion in every context all the time. And I can go through the rest of the list, you know, case by case, showing it. And I don't understand why gun control people don’t say to people, look the second amendment is there, that's fine. We get it. But it, like everything else, can have reasonable limitations.
REHMAll right. And you'll be pleased to know that on Monday in our first hour, we will have several scholars talking about the second amendment, exactly what it means and how it is being interpreted. That debate could go on for 10 hours, at least.
MASONYeah, I would be interested in Jim's, obviously he knows well, I don't know the case law. It certainly hasn't, at least I think, been litigated nearly the same way that the first amendment, for instance, has, which goes back so far in terms of various cases that have come forward. Look, the NRA and other, and opponents to any kinds of moves on gun control have been particularly good at making the maximalist argument all the time. Which is one of the reasons, I mean, the NRA wouldn't come to the town hall, has evidently refused any invitations to come to the White House.
MASONAll based on this idea that why discuss anything with someone who wants to rid America of all guns. So, it's always the most extreme sort of outcome. So, they've done a good job of keeping the argument mainly in that side of the court, it seems.
WALTERWell, and I think what you hear from a lot of folks and what we're seeing in polling is that those who desire to get guns right now are doing it out of a fear, anxiety, safety concerns.
REHMYeah. The number of purchases...
WALTERThis, the number of people who are purchasing guns, because they feel unsafe. And reading a report the other day from San Bernardino, the sight, of course, of the shooting right before Christmas. You have a lot of folks there saying, you know what, I don't, you know, the reaction that I'm having is not so much about having more discussion about the second amendment. I'm just concerned for my day to day safety. And I'm just going to go buy a gun now.
MASONBut you also have people buying guns because they think the President's going to take them away. I mean, that, that, it's not coincidental that the stock market, that companies that sell guns saw their shares rise this week. That is a reaction to a fear that the White House and the President, with these executive actions, are really aiming to take their weapons away. And, you know, it's also interesting, apropos the second amendment. The President knows this.
MASONThe President is a Constitutional scholar. He taught Constitutional law. And he made a point on Monday in the Oval Office, and then the White House has a made a point for the rest of the week of saying, these actions are consistent with the second amendment. The second amendment guarantees the right to bear arms. Does it say anything about background checks? No. And that's the argument they're going to make. That doesn't mean it won't be challenged in court. It almost certainly will, but they feel strongly and that's why it's taken as long as it has.
MASONBut they have the backing.
REHMLet's go to Tom in Queens, New York. You're on the air.
TOMHi, thanks a lot. Can you hear me okay?
REHMSure. Go right ahead.
TOMI just wanted to ask you. You mentioned just before and suggested that Bernie Sanders has said that he would look to break up the big banks. And I think he'd be absolutely right, given the fact that the big banks are much bigger today than they were in 2008 and before. Before the financial crisis. But then after that, someone made the point that when it comes to Hillary Clinton, instead of going after big banks, she'd be going after hedge funds. And the reason I'm puzzled by that and why she's sort of given a pass on this because she and her husband were direct beneficiaries of hedge funds where Bill Clinton, after he left the Presidency, I believe worked for two different hedge funds.
TOMAnd when he had to sell his interest in them, because Hillary Clinton was running for President in 2007, I think he received somewhere between 20 or 30 million dollars from those hedge funds after being on their board for about two years.
REHMI'm not sure anybody in here, unless you do.
MASONI can't, I can't speak exactly to the Clintons' background there with the hedge funds, but I think it is absolutely correct to say that it's complicated for the Clintons. And their finances and their connections with Wall Street. Hillary Clinton certainly made a big deal and will continue to do so of saying that in 2007, she went to Wall Street and talked about the upcoming financial crisis. And feels like she's been out ahead on that issue, but, you know, with the Foundation, and the donations and the sort of complicated financial history that they have, that is no doubt going to be an issue on the Republican side.
REHMAll right. Let's talk about what's going on in Oregon and a standoff there that continues. A meeting with a local sheriff yesterday, the leader of a group of armed protesters occupying the headquarters of a federal wildlife refuge. Neil.
KING JR.You know, just the backdrop of this. I happen to be a Coloradoan myself and of several generations. I mean, if you spend time in the West, you realize rather quickly that the vast majority of the land there is owned by the federal government, mainly because they owned it all at the start, more or less. And you know, distributed it in various ways. But, so, if you spend time there, particularly if you live in these huge, open areas like Oregon, particularly the eastern side of Oregon or Washington state or Nevada, you interact with the federal government all the time.
KING JR.And particularly if you're a rancher. So, there are a lot of grievances there. And the grievances are interesting and deep and we're not going to be able to get into all of them, the ones that are going on in Oregon. But up from Nevada, you have this group, the Bundies and all of their various followers, who have sort of seized this thing in a much more kind of flashy way than either the aggrieved party, the Hammond family in Oregon or the local people want to have any part of.
KING JR.So they've seized this, you know, rather distant, remote wildlife refuge center and the sheriff that you mentioned, David Ward, is an interesting person. Fought in Afghanistan, evidently is very respected there, has been basically saying, would you all please go away?
REHMYeah. And even the residents around there are saying, we really don't want this.
KING JR.No. And the Hammonds, the father and son, themselves, have already turned themselves in. I think their case is pretty extraordinary and is due a lot of sympathy. But they've already gone off to California to evidently now start serving more of a prison term. And so, the standoff continues, and David Ward, the Sheriff himself, told the Bundies and others that we really want you to go. Just FYI, when you do go, you're likely to be arrested and charged on some sort of federal crimes. The Feds themselves have stayed way back in the background. And it's cold out there.
KING JR.There's not -- to sort of let them like cool their heels until they get tired of it. But there are legitimate things behind this. It's just, I think, that a lot of the people there are concerned that the way that the attention being drawn to it is not exactly...
REHMGive me one example of what's behind this.
KING JR.Well, I mean, in the case of the Hammonds, they, and I don't know all the details, but this is one of those things where they've got a lot of land that meets the land owned by the Bureau of Land Management. They claim that they had burned some controlled fires, which do actually make sense. It's kind of a sagebrush, sort of scrub...
REHMGot out of control.
KING JR.Yeah, got out of control and then they were charged -- and the Feds claimed that they actually were trying to cover up some illegal hunting. And they charged them with arson, and in the end, they were convicted, and they've already served some time. But you know, it all goes back to very deep, back into the 19th century grazing rights and how much the Feds interfere and decide, okay, you can no longer graze your cattle on the land because we're trying to protect some ptarmigan or some sort of thing and it's very fraught.
KING JR.Because these people are trying to make their living out of relatively little in wide open, fairly arid areas of the country.
REHMHow do you see this coming to a conclusion?
KING JR.My sense is that, in the end, they will decide to go and then they'll face some sort of recriminations from the federal government. I don't see this ending in some blaze of glory.
REHMAll right, let's go to Terry in Ormond Beach, Florida. You're on the air.
TERRYThank you for taking my call. 50 years a Democrat, but I'm not a Donald Trump fan. And he's right about Bill Clinton. Clinton carried on an eight year affair with singer Gennifer Flowers while he was Governor of Arkansas, and married to Hillary. And it's reported Hillary knew about that affair. So her outrage and shock over Monica Lewinsky and many other incidents was very phony. I'm pretty open minded, but Bill Clinton was a terrible role model for our young and I believe Hillary was an enabler.
REHMAll right. And that is one view.
MASONIt is indeed. And it's one that the Clinton campaign, as I said before, will be ready to have their say on. And Hillary Clinton will no doubt say every marriage is a marriage for that couple, and this is how they -- they decided to stay together. That was her choice, and she'll, no doubt, try to move the topic to something else.
WALTERBut this does speak to a bigger problem on a couple of levels. You know, the first is the overwhelming feeling among many Americans that they just don't want to go back to the drama of the Clinton years. All right, that, the idea of Hillary Clinton as President in a vacuum, of Hillary Clinton just being Hillary Clinton and who she is and whether she's able to do the job is hard to distinguish from Hillary Clinton, she comes with a whole bunch of baggage. Including her President, and I've heard from a lot of voters that say, I don't mind Hillary Clinton coming to the White House. I just don't want her husband coming back with her.
REHMBut there are still lots of people who adore Bill Clinton and come out to see him and support him.
REHMAnd you're listening to "The Diane Rehm Show." Let's go to Cleveland, Ohio. Hi James, you're on the air.
JAMESGood morning, Diane and panel. Thank you for taking my call.
JAMESI wish to stop real quick and say, I'm going with another caller, I believe on Wednesday, who said we're not looking forward to your last day on the air. I'm really not looking forward to that.
JAMESAnd I just wanted to push back a little on what Neil said about jobs. I agree with the percentages on who's getting hired, but here's where I'm going. We were a manufacturing society, and now we are a service oriented society. Therefore, the pay scale, if you will, is not the same. During the era of where a high school degree person could go out and get a job in a factory paid a good salary, today, they have to get past the computer assessment test. Actually, everyone does. And it's a little hard to take those, because I spent nine years taking care of my father and another relative.
JAMESHe since passed and I'm taking care of the one relative now. But I'm looking for a job. And it is very hard to get past that test. But also where I'm going is, the pay, say, for instance, in a call center, is two thirds to one half more than minimum wage. I also found that, I found that from people that stagnation in job search, rather in jobs in the country is not an accident. And I will stop and listen.
REHMI'm not sure what you mean by not an accident.
JAMESSome people feel that, like for instance, the way everyone pushes back against Obama, who is a Republican, no matter what he wants, some people feel that Wall Street and some others have purposely stagnated the economy to have gotten him from being re-elected the first time. And now they're just going with it. Not me, I just hear this from people and I'm a little surprised by it.
REHMAll right, Neil King.
KING JR.Well, there's certainly a belief out there that there are forces, automation, immigration, just the globalization overall trade agreements that have been added to the fact that there's been a depression of wages across a lot of sectors, and particularly the manufacturing sector. And all those things are true. I'm sure that the forces that James is faces is one that people all over the country have had to deal with. And even, I'm interested to hear him saying that these call centers would pay that much more than minimum wage.
KING JR.Because I wasn't really aware of that fact. I mean, we've seen these jobs numbers like we were talking about this morning that have been strong. But it is still remains the case that the wage growth has not been at all commensurate with what you would expect we would see when we have -- five percent unemployment is basically getting to what we call full employment. Where you're having, employers should be scraping to find good people, and when they scrape to find good people, they should be willing to pay them more.
REHMYeah, what he's doing, what he's saying is implying, at least, or at least I'm inferring that there are forces that are keeping wages down because of Obama. So that Obama will not get the credit, not only for job growth, but for wage increase.
REHMAnd that may be what some people believe.
WALTERYeah, they may -- that may be what they believe. I'm not a big fan of conspiracy theories. I think that's a little complicated to believe that that's actually happening.
REHMYou bet. You bet.
WALTERSo I don't think that that is the issue. But, I think to Neil's point...
REHMBut so is the idea that Obama is going to take away all of your guns. And it's sort of in the same category.
MASONYeah, it is. And it's -- people believe what they want to believe. And when there are certain elements or other candidates or whomever, who come out and sort of feed into that, it supports beliefs that some people have -- hold very dearly, whether they are factual or not.
REHMLots of conspiracy theories out there and lots of ideas about job growth, wage growth. We'll be talking about it all year long. Jeff Mason of Reuters, Amy Walter of the Cook Political Report, Neil King of the Wall Street Journal. Thank you all. Happy election year.
WALTERYes. Thank you, Diane.
KING JR.Thanks, Diane.
REHMThanks all for listening. I'm Diane Rehm.
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.
As President Biden's visit to Hiroshima dredges up memories of World War II, Diane talks to historian Evan Thomas about his new book, "Road to Surrender," the story of America's decision to drop the atomic bomb.
New York Times technology reporter Cade Metz lays out how A.I. works, why it sometimes "hallucinates" and the dangers it may pose to society.
It’s a story familiar to any working parent. You get a call. It’s your child’s school saying they are sick and to come get them. And you can’t because you’re…
Commentscomments powered by Disqus