War in Ukraine: airstrikes, drones and a looming counteroffensive
This week saw heightened tensions in the ongoing conflict in Ukraine. A wave of drone strikes hit the Russian capital Tuesday morning, bringing the war to Moscow for the first…
Guest Host: Derek McGinty
Donald Trump and Ted Cruz grab most of the attention at the first Republican debate of 2016. The two frontrunners ended their political détente, sparring over issues ranging from Cruz’s citizenship to Trump’s “New York values.” On the Democratic front, Hillary Clinton sharpens her attacks against Bernie Sanders as she loses ground in Iowa and New Hampshire. Congressional Republicans consider their agenda in a presidential election year. Anxiety over China’s economy and oil prices bring volatility to the U.S. stock market. The National Guard distributes water in Flint, Michigan. And President Obama delivers his final State of the Union address. A panel of journalists joins guest host Derek McGinty for analysis of the week’s top national news stories.
MR. DEREK MCGINTYWell, thanks for joining us. I'm Derek McGinty filling in for Diane Rehm. And if you are just a tad bleary-eyed this morning, we understand. That GOP debate on Fox Business channel ran long and late last night, but at least it was not boring. In fact, it was a bit of a political gun fight with much of the ammunition spent on the guy who wasn't there, President Barack Obama, who, this week, delivered his final State of the Union address.
MR. DEREK MCGINTYMeantime, in Michigan, they're asking for federal disaster relief as the water has too much lead in it and some suspect it also has the bacteria that causes Legionnaires Disease. And, of course, there's the U.S. stock market, which has already opened for today and not looking good. In fact, this is the worst new year's start ever for the markets and some experts are talking recession.
MR. DEREK MCGINTYWe've got our own experts here in the studio for the domestic hour of the Friday News Roundup. Naftali Bendavid of The Wall Street Journal, Susan Glasser of Politico and Reid Wilson of the Morning Consult. I want to welcome all of you here with me. I'm Derek McGinty. And, of course, we can't wait to hear what you listeners think about last night's debate and everything else on this quite long list of topics today.
MR. DEREK MCGINTYThe number's 800-433-8850, 800-433-8850. You can also send us your email at email@example.com. Join us on Facebook or Twitter. And because it is Friday, we're doing that live video stream of this hour so you can watch it at drshow.org. Hey, guys.
MS. SUSAN GLASSERHi, there.
MR. REID WILSONGood morning.
MR. NAFTALI BENDAVIDGood morning.
MCGINTYGood morning. All right. Everybody knows about the slug fest between Donald Trump and Ted Cruz last night, very entertaining. But I was also struck by what I call the rise of the establishment guys. Fewer candidates meant Chris Christie, Jeb Bush and John Kasich got more time and seemed to do pretty well. Naftali?
BENDAVIDYeah, I wouldn't underestimate, actually, the significance of having seven candidates on the stage instead of ten. On the one hand, seven still sounds like a lot, but it's just that much less time that you have to battle for. And I thought nobody had really a bad night last night. I think they continue to have the problem that there are four of them, depending on how you count it and it's just very difficult for any one to emerge.
BENDAVIDI thought Chris Christie had his moments and Jeb Bush did, but ultimately, it's very hard to emerge when you have that kind of a cluster.
MCGINTYWhat do you think?
GLASSERWell, you know, Naftali, I agree with you very much about the difficulty of breaking through at this point. But a couple quick observations. First of all, it was -- Ted Cruz was just on a different playing field at this point. He really has emerged with much more confidence and authority as he's risen in the polls and looks to be potentially leading in Iowa at this point. He really was very confident. He came out very, very aggressive in jabbing Donald Trump and pushing back.
GLASSERIronically, against the birtherism, he didn't mind it when it was birtherism about Barack Obama. Now he thinks it's a disqualifying thing for Donald Trump to be saying. That being said, there was somebody who had a bad night. Let's all agree, Dr. Ben Carson...
MCGINTYOh, my goodness.
GLASSER...the surge isn't happening. In our insider survey of key early state insiders, one of them said, this is starting to look like Admiral Stockdale territory. Remember him, the guy who ran with Ross Perot?
MCGINTYYeah, who am I -- why am I here?
GLASSERWhy am I here?
MCGINTYWho am I and why am I here? I asked the question personally when I'm watching Ben Carson. Does he still care about what's going on? It's hard to tell, Reid.
WILSONOne of the things that -- what I saw last night was two pairs who were attacking each other for various different reasons in that they all want supremacy in early states. Donald Trump and Ted Cruz trying to win Iowa. It's a close race according to the most recent surveys that have come out. And then, Chris Christie and Marco Rubio who are really fighting over trying to win that establishment mantle and make a big statement in New Hampshire.
WILSONThen, of the three other people, Jeb Bush just sort of looks lost on stage, like he doesn't understand the political calculus of today. And I think John Kasich is running a great campaign for 2000. It's not a campaign for 2016. This Republican party has sort of evolved away from -- remember when John Kasich was Paul Ryan before Paul Ryan was Paul Ryan. And then, Ben Carson, who...
MCGINTYIf you listen to John Kasich, every statement begins with, well, you know, I did used to be budget chairman and I am governor of this very important state and I've done these things before and da-da. That's his selling point and it's just not selling.
WILSONAnd experience doesn't sell these days in politics like it has in the past. Look at Jeb Bush, a two-term governor. John Kasich, a two-term governor who spent, what, 18 years in Congress, by the way, as chair of the budget committee, a guy who actually knows about balancing the federal budget, that doesn't count anymore. What counts is new and different and the change that, you know, I think people so desperately seek. That's not good for a candidate who's been around the national stage for decades.
MCGINTYYou got to give John Kasich, I guess, credit for sticking with his strategy, though. Maybe that's the only strategy he's got. Let's get back to Trump and Cruz, however. As I say, very entertaining to watch them go at each other. It seemed to go back and forth. Is there a sense of who came out on top on this?
BENDAVIDWell, my sense was that Cruz was sort of, in a way, the dominant figure of the night, to tell you the truth. On the one hand, he was taking on Donald Trump, whether it was about the birtherism issue, whether it was about New York values, whatever those are, and he also was taking on Marco Rubio, in a sense, from his other side and they got into it about immigration, about taxes.
BENDAVIDHe just had this dominant feel. He also came off as a trained debater, as a guy who knows exactly what he's doing. Was not surprised that the guy had been a debater. But more broadly about the debate, the thing that struck me was this almost apocalyptic vision of America that was being talked about. It was a great contrast to the president's State of the Union earlier in the week where he had been trying to take a more positive tone.
BENDAVIDBut I mean, they were talking about an America in decline, beset by economic insecurity, beset by, you know, military insecurity, just an America that they don't recognize anymore and that really jumped out, I thought.
GLASSERWell, Naftali, I do agree with you. I think that has been a running theme throughout the primary season so far is the sort of the red America, which is one of almost, you know, Armageddon-like decline. On the other hand, you have the split-screen thing happening with President Obama and his State of the Union address, which was a, by the way, not quite full-throated defense of all the change. That was the biggest word that he used, of all the change that he's accomplished over the course of his two terms in office.
GLASSERSo you really do have the sense that there's a narrative for the Republicans, there's a narrative for the Democrats and they don't meet. But Derek asked the question about Trump v. Cruz and who won. I agree that on point overall, Cruz had an authority and a mastery of the stage that no one else touched. However, Donald Trump, after every single other debate, except for this debate, he was really judged to be the loser, at least by the pundit class.
GLASSERThat didn't stop his rise in the polls. This time, no one said that Trump lost. It was his best debate performance. It has a very un-Trump-like, almost statesmanlike invocation of New York after 9/11. It wasn't really apropos of anything. It didn't really match up with anything else he said and actually, it was strikingly discordant with how Donald Trump spoke the rest of the evening. But it really did stand out as a moment for Donald Trump that he has not conjured up right now.
GLASSERAnd right now, remember, he's trying to convince people in the Republican party who've watched this spectacle up until now as an amusement park theatrics, hey, if I'm actually going to win, I've got to make people comfortable enough. Not super comfortable, but comfortable enough with the idea that I can be the party's nominee. And that 9/11 moment kind of did that.
MCGINTYThis was the final debate before the Iowa caucuses so where do we go from here? I mean, how do you feel the political strategies will line up over the next couple of weeks, Reid?
WILSONWell, I think we're going -- the Republican party has gone through three phases of Donald Trump, if you will, to Susan's point. There's sort of the stage of denial, the stage of anger/bargaining, if you will. There was the denial that he was a real candidate, that he would play a big role in this race and then he jumped to the top of the polls and he stayed there for six months. There was the anger and bargaining phase. We heard a lot of Republican strategists trying to come up with the money necessary to run a bunch of negative ads against him.
WILSONThose ads haven't showed up. Now, we're in -- I don't know if we call it the acceptance phase, but we're getting close to that point where some senior Republicans are telling all of us that, hey, Donald Trump might actually be the nominee. These are, you know, the people who ran the previous presidential campaigns are now saying, boy, we could have Donald Trump as an actual nominee.
MCGINTYAnd they're asking themselves, do I like Donald Trump or do I like Ted Cruz.
BENDAVIDWell, that's the thing. I mean, I think having Donald Trump in the race has made Ted Cruz, in some ways, seem a little bit more palatable. You know, he's sometimes...
MCGINTYOr perhaps the other way around for some.
BENDAVIDWell, depend -- yeah, depends who you talk to. But I mean, he's sort of -- there's this, you know, been desire on the part of the Republican establishment for Trump support to fall away, but it's not clear that it would fall away to anybody except Ted Cruz and then they'd end up with him. I'm not sure who they think would benefit. But if you look further ahead at the way the primaries line up, there are several primaries earlier on that would be easier for Ted Cruz to win.
BENDAVIDThey tend to be southern primaries, more conservative states. And then, after that, you get to states that would be a little bit less in his territory. So you could see a situation play out where there's a bit of a surge for a Trump or a Cruz and then later in the campaign, the battle is if for any establishment figure can close that gap.
WILSONLet me just bring up one thing real quick on this other states down the line that get to vote. The people who are going to vote in those Republican primaries are still Republicans and they're still conservatives. A field poll that California's best poll just came out a couple of days ago that shows Ted Cruz leading in California. And those are the states, you know, whether it's Massachusetts or California, I mean, they still get to send delegates to the National Convention, despite the fact that they're gonna vote Democratic in November.
WILSONAnd when they do, I don't see a lot of clear evidence that Cruz can't win those primaries.
GLASSERWell, which is why it is a mistake to just only talk about the primary process. When we're -- if we pull out to talk about the general election, the picture looks pretty different. Remember that Donald Trump is polling -- his lead consists of a minority of a minority party and the question of who's gonna even turn out. That means that the vast majority of Americans are not only unlikely to vote for Donald Trump if he emerges as the nominee, but there's an extent to which the party being pushed so far to its fringes is certainly something that the strategists in Brooklyn at Hillary Clinton's headquarters are not looking upon with dismay.
GLASSERWe had a really interesting glimpse into this fight for the soul of the Republican party in a story that we broke late last night. The RNC was having its winter meetings coincidental with these debates and a committee man stood up and video was taken and he said, guys, we're being terrorized here, literally terrorized. You are forcing us to tow the line. You're trying to tell us it's okay, that we can accept Donald Trump as our nominee. What, are you kidding? This is crazy. It's going to be the end of our party. Can't somebody, you know, tell the truth? This sort of cri de ceour, which by the way, fell on deaf ears.
MCGINTYWe've got to take a break. I'm Derek McGinty and you're listening to "The Diane Rehm Show."
MCGINTYYou're listening to "The Diane Rehm Show." This is the domestic hour of our Friday News Roundup. I'm Derek McGinty in for Diane. And here in the studio with me, Naftali Bendavid, editor and reporter at The Wall Street Journal, Susan Glasser, editor of Politico, and Reid Wilson, Congress editor and chief political correspondent at Morning Consult. The number here is 202 -- or should I say, 800-433-8850. So let's take a phone call or two. Frank in Charlotte, N.C., you're on the air. Go ahead, Frank. Frank, are you there?
FRANKCould you hear me?
MCGINTYYep. Now I can.
FRANKOkay. I was a little troubled yesterday that, you know, I've -- when they were talking about how the president was taking our economy backwards. But if you look at the numbers, unemployment in 2000 was 4 percent. Okay? And then it started to increase all the way into 2009. And the Republicans were in charge from 2000 to 2006. They actually took us to 2009 with an unemployment of whatever it was. And once health care was passed, whether that was a solution to the unemployment dropping, it stabilized and started to increase after it passed. Okay? Okay, and our economy, what happened to it was a cause of a Republican's president, a Republican Congress and a Republican Senate.
MCGINTYWell, that's certainly the argument from the other side of the aisle. But it wasn't going to get much traction last night, was it, Naftali?
BENDAVIDNo. And it, again, we had this sort of stark, contrasting tableaus this week, where you had the president portraying a much more positive view of the United States, economically and militarily, than the Republicans. And the truth is, I mean, it's right that there has been a sustained recovery in many ways. There's been job growth. There's been a fall in unemployment. No one could discount that. On the other hand, wages haven't gone up and there's a lot of anxiety and there's a lot of struggle in the economy. And it has not been a clear, uninterrupted, smooth recovery. And so, it's been volatile.
BENDAVIDAnd so you have these starkly different portraits and I think, both in their different ways, the Republicans and President Obama tried to seize on that this week.
MCGINTYIs there something ironic about the GOP selling itself as now the champion of the working man?
GLASSERWell, you know, Republican populism has been around for a long time. However, we haven't really elected a lot of Republican populists to office in recent years. And I do think that that's part of what makes this rift inside the party so very interesting. You have people who you'd never call populist and working-man's people, although John Kasich did his very best to talk about his roots in Pittsburgh to make it clear his dad didn't wear a white collar, unlike Jeb Bush's father and some of the others up on the stage. And by the way, unlike Donald Trump. Let's talk about the irony of a billionaire who has emerged as an angry populist in this campaign.
MCGINTYYou know, I got an email from Almina which speaks to just what you're talking about. It says, if you gave Kasich as much airtime as you do Trump and Cruz, he might be doing better. Why do all the media focus on the fringes, Reid?
WILSONWell, I don't know that the -- the media focuses on the candidates who are leading. And it is, you know, Donald Trump didn't lead because he got more time in a debate. Ted Cruz has arguably increased his standing by leaps and bounds because of his performances in various debates. As Naftali said, he's a talented debater and has demonstrated that over and over again. But Ted Cruz is building his lead, especially in Iowa, because of his appeal to a very specific slice of the Republican electorate, Christian evangelicals.
WILSONI mean, the difference in airtime, if you actually take a look at the minutes and seconds that they all get to speak, isn't that great. I mean, it's a matter of a few minutes. A few minutes of John Kasich talking is not going to change -- fundamentally alter the Republican race.
MCGINTYLet's talk about the Democratic race for just a minute. Up until now, in the last week or two, Hillary Clinton was pretty much assumed that she was going to walk into this thing pretty easily. But she was always down in New Hampshire, because that's a home -- basically almost a home state for Bernie Sanders. But now, in Iowa, where she had a big advantage, that advantage has dried up. What's going wrong for Hillary Clinton?
GLASSERWell, you know, remember, Iowa was the state that humbled her back in 2008, when she ran against Barack Obama and was in a -- thought to be in a similarly commanding position. Hillary Clinton is not a tailor made candidate for Iowa. People are now starting to talk about the enthusiasm gap, which by the way is I believe almost verbatim the phrase that was used eight years ago. And so there must be a sense of déjà vu haunting things. From what I understand, Clinton has a much stronger campaign on the ground this time around in Iowa. She's much better organized. They've been conscious from the beginning that the campaign was starting out in a state that wasn't friendly territory to her.
GLASSERThey drew an unlucky luck of the draw basically with Sanders as her only significant opponent, because otherwise New Hampshire would have been solidly in Clinton's corner. So I think you could very well have the scenario where she emerges very bloodied coming out these first two states. That doesn't necessarily mean that it changes the outcome of the Democratic race. But it's going to be one of those -- Hillary Clinton and Bill Clinton, for that matter, have given us almost a lifetime's worth of political roller coasters.
GLASSERIt's very, very likely that Clinton is going to be rolling down that one before she rolls back up.
MCGINTYNaftali, how much trouble is she in?
BENDAVIDWell, I think, long term, she's not in a huge amount of trouble. She's always struggled with a candidate who can generate more passion and more devotion and people willing to knock on doors. She's always been somebody who's broadly popular in the party but doesn't have the same intensity that some of the other candidates can generate, whether it's Barack Obama or Bernie Sanders. And I think the campaign is starting to face the question of, what if she loses Iowa and New Hampshire? How bad is that going to be? And it won't be great and no candidate likes that sign of vulnerability.
BENDAVIDBut the truth is, states further down are probably better for her. I'm sure she can then position herself as the comeback kid, just like her husband did. And my sense is, this isn't a great moment for the campaign, but probably not anything close to a fatal one.
MCGINTYLet's take another phone call. Martha in Winston-Salem, N.C., you're on "The Diane Rehm Show."
MARTHAHey. My goodness, thank you for taking this question because it's frustrating me. I'm somebody who really believes Ted Cruz is not eligible to be president because he was born in Canada. I know the comparison is John McCain, but John McCain had two American parents and was born in another country. Ted Cruz only had one parent who was American and born in another country. Does mean all those Amer-Asian children that were left behind in Vietnam are technically American citizens who are eligible to run for president? You know, that's the thing with a -- go ahead.
MCGINTYI was just going to say, I don't know that anyone here is a constitutional or legal expert on who's eligible to vote and who's not. But I'll let anybody who wants to...
BENDAVIDYeah, I mean...
MARTHAWell, you know, when they -- and were complained about Obama, I kept saying to people, you know, the uterus has to be in Kenya for him to have been born in Kenya. And there was never any proof his mother was there. So I'm just...
MCGINTYAll right. Let's talk about this.
BENDAVIDI mean, leaving uteruses out of it for the moment, you know, I think this is an issue that when it first came up a lot of us shrugged off, that it was sort of one of these things that Donald Trump tosses off. How could anybody take it seriously? I think in the past few days we've seen that both legal scholars and other politicians are at least admitting that it's not completely settled law. But I think, that said, if -- the Supreme Court is not in any way going to disqualify an elected President of the United States unless it absolutely has to because the law is 100 percent clear. So the likelihood that something really happening, like Ted Cruz winning and then somehow facing a serious challenge I think is minimal.
BENDAVIDAnd in a way it's minimal, you know, precisely because the law is unsettled and the Supreme Court isn't going to choose that opportunity to do so. So I think it's that kind of a legal issue. It's probably moot. But it does seem to be striking some doubt in some people's minds.
MCGINTYAnd Trump's not letting it go.
BENDAVIDNo. And it's something he does very well.
GLASSERWell, I did love the irony of Donald Trump citing Laurence Tribe in the middle of the debate stating it.
WILSONSo there's an actual part of the U.S. Code that deals with the definition of a natural born citizen. It is title 8, chapter 12, subchapter 3, second 1401.
MCGINTYI take back what I said about nobody here being a legal expert.
WILSONSomebody -- a friend of mine emailed that to me. I can't claim credit for it. But it does in fact lay out a number of requirements that would make somebody a natural born citizen or not. You know, again, I am not a constitutional scholar so I can't say -- and I'm not a Ted Cruz scholar, so I can't say whether or not he meets those criteria. But we have had a number of nominees who have not been born in the United States. John McCain was born in the U.S. Territory in Panama. Barry Goldwater was born in Arizona before Arizona was a state...
WILSON...when it was still territory. So that, at least has happened. I don't mean to suggest that Canada is a territory of ours that we're about to annex. But, you know, who knows? This is -- the point though is that this is an issue that has come up. It is now in the political bloodstream in Iowa and at a moment when Ted Cruz just sort of last week looked like he was running away with Iowa. Now the most recent Iowa poll conducted for the Des Moines Register shows that it's a much closer race. So something is tempering Cruz' growth. Maybe it's this.
MCGINTYLet's get to the president and his State of the Union address this past week. He was obviously trying to lay out his version of a legacy. And we had Paul Ryan, the House speaker say, well, the president obviously is delusional. He sees things as he wishes they were rather than how they are. How successful do you think he was though in telling America, this is what I've done and we should be proud of a lot of this.
BENDAVIDWell, I think he was successful in sort of injecting that back into the conversation. I don't think he was successful in changing the minds of the people who have been critical of him. It was remarkable. I mean, you know, last night, I think Chris Christie called it something like story time with Barack Obama. I mean, these were two such starkly different portraits of the country that really sort of took you aback a little bit. I mean, this was not a typical State of the Union address. Usually there's this long list of initiatives and people inside and outside the government spend months trying to get one sentence in the State of the Union that backs up their cause. This was not like that.
BENDAVIDThe president, I think, was trying to do two things. One is create sort of a bookend of his presidency, hark back to some of his early themes and messages and talk about how he feels like they've gone. And the other really was to present a counterpoint to the Republican campaign. He quoted language very specifically that the Republican candidates have been doing. And it was a remarkable thing to see, a president using that pulpit to deliver that kind of a message. It would seem to be a direct rebuke of what was happening in the other party's primary campaign.
GLASSERWell I don't think it was an accident that Obama started out making a joke about Iowa and whether the Republican candidates wanted to get off of the floor of Congress and get back there. He said, I know a thing or two about it, if you'd like to talk to me. He's really feeling the campaign this time. Although I was struck by the fact that this was an anti-Republican speech. It was not a pro-Hillary Clinton speech.
GLASSERAnd I think that's very important. Clearly, Obama is not really putting his thumb on the scale for Clinton at this point, as much as -- if anything, he's striking certain themes that Bernie Sanders is more associated with. But he's really, really peeved about this angry, unhappy, America-in-decline narrative that the Republicans are portraying in the campaign this year.
MCGINTYWell, the most interesting thing to me was the Nikki Haley response, the governor of South Carolina, who after, you know, saying the obligatory we don't like Obama business at the top, said a lot of the same things he said about the angry voices dominating the debate of the GOP.
WILSONAnd on social media -- on Facebook and Twitter -- the moment of the State of the Union that generated the most comments, the most interactions was that President Obama talking about the anti-Muslim sentiment that we tend -- that some of the Republican candidates are tending to fall into. What has struck me about this speech is that -- and by the way, the last sort of week or two -- is that we've got two people who are not in the 2016 race who are very much trying to inject themselves into the race.
WILSONAnd on one hand you've got President Obama, who is trying to portray this optimistic vision of the country after his eight years in office. And by the way his coalition, the younger voters, minority voters are much more likely to see that optimistic vision, to Naftali's point about sort of the dichotomy of American public opinion these days.
WILSONThe other person who's trying to inject himself into this race is Paul Ryan, the speaker of the House, the first time he was sitting behind President Obama as the speaker. And he has tried to make the point that Congress is not going to lie down. Usually, in a presidential year, you don't hear much from Congress. They prepare to run their own campaigns in conjunction with their party's presidential nominee. Paul Ryan is signaling that he actually wants to try to do some things, make Congress actually work and pass some legislation.
MCGINTYReid Wilson is Congress editor and chief political correspondent at Morning Consult. Susan Glasser is the editor of Politico. And Naftali Bendavid is editor and reporter at The Wall Street Journal. I'm Derek McGinty and you're listing to "The Diane Rehm Show." Let's get back to our phones, if we might. Derek in Louisville, you're on the air. Go ahead.
DEREKYes. Thanks for taking my call. I was just kind of curious on the panel's thoughts on the poll that was taken earlier in the week that the information was held out and actually held Rand Paul out of the debate. If that pool had been added he would have been tied with Jeb Bush. And then also how he kind of took on social media and was the trending candidate for the majority of the debate, even though he wasn't even there.
GLASSERWell, you know, the caller is right. This didn't get very much attention. We wrote this story. But basically the poll had just been released literally a few minutes later. This survey appeared to have been taken within the rules set by Fox, within the time period set by Fox for polls that would consider these things. It knocked Rand off the stage. He declined to participate in the undercard debate. I don't know if you noticed, at the very end, if you stuck with this debate -- it ended way after eleven o'clock at night, so there, you might not have -- but there was a little bit of audience disruption shouting, Rand, Rand, Rand, well after eleven o'clock last night.
GLASSERThat being said, what I think about the Rand Paul candidacy, remember back a year ago or even two years ago -- this is a lesson for all of us in the perils of political conventional wisdom -- Rand Paul, the most interesting man in politics, has disappeared into an asterisk in this Republican contest. He's very likely to drop out after the Iowa caucuses.
MCGINTYHe did, however, have an interesting moment drinking bourbon on the Daily Show with the host there doing his one-man debates.
GLASSERBut the truth is, my guess is that his father is going to be remembered as the more successful Paul presidential candidate in the family.
MCGINTYAll right. Let's get to this email, which comes our way from Rob, who says, Donald Trump getting the GOP nomination will not kill the Republican Party, it will simply confirm what we already know, that the party of the establishment's already dead. We conservatives have had enough of Republicans in name only and Democrat light.
WILSONWhich is fascinating because he's talking about a candidate who has voiced support for a single-payer health care system, he's a candidate who has donated to Hillary Clinton and the Clintons writ large. And Donald Trump is -- he is tapping into something and it is -- it's this sort of anger that voters like the emailer sort of feel at the Republican establishment. They feel lied to.
WILSONThey feel like they've been lied to during the George W. Bush administration. Remember, the rise of the Tea Party didn't start with President Obama. It started with compassionate conservatism in 2006 and 2008, when voters finally had enough with George W. Bush. So Trump is sort of the outlet for this rage, even if he isn't the perfect outlet ideologically, because a lot of his previous policy positions don't adhere to what, I think, we all would define as conservatism.
BENDAVIDAnd I mean that anger is something that has benefited the Republican Party in many ways. It gave them a majority in the House. It gave them a majority in the Senate. And the question is now whether that's ultimately going to come back to haunt them and these things are coming back to roost. And I think that's the thing that worries the establishment so much. I mean if you saw -- we talked about Nikki Haley's response. I mean, that was the voice of the Republican establishment. It was the face, literally and figuratively, that they want to put forward.
BENDAVIDAnd it was striking how similar her message was to President Obama's. I mean, things she said, like, well, if we'd lower the volume, you can hear the other side. Well, that could have been taken right from his speech.
MCGINTYAnd she also said Republicans are at least in part to blame for the gridlock in Washington.
BENDAVIDShe did. She said that very specifically. She said, we, as Republicans, have to own that. And you saw this immediate, fierce, angry backlash. And that highlighted the split and the almost war that's taking place in the Republican Party as well as anything else has.
GLASSERWell, remember, this is a war. It was just a few months ago, in fact, that the revolution did eat its own and the Republican conservatives in Congress, the Freedom Caucus, forced out their own Speaker John Boehner, who came to Congress, by the way, as a revolutionary insurgent in the 1990s.
MCGINTYAll right. We're going to take a break. When we come back, we'll get to that water crisis in Flint, Mich. Not the kind of thing you expected to see in this country. We'll talk about it. Stay with us. This is "The Diane Rehm Show."
MCGINTYI'm Derek McGinty in for Diane Rehm on our Friday News Roundup. And I'm joined in studio here by Naftali Bendavid, Editor and Reporter at the Wall Street Journal. Susan Glasser, the Editor of Politico. And Reid Wilson, Congress Editor and Chief Political Correspondent at Morning Consult. Our phone number is 800-433-8850. And of course, you can send email to @firstname.lastname@example.org. I'm curious about this story out in Michigan where they're actually having to have the National Guard hand out water because there's too much lead.
MCGINTYAnd it all seems to stem from the fact that they had to change how they handle their water because of financial problems in the state, Reid.
WILSONSo, here's what happened. A couple of years ago, two years ago, when Michigan was going through an economic crisis, you might remember there was a -- an emergency coordinator who had to come in and take over Detroit because its economic situation, budgetary situation was so bad. In Flint, they switched the way they were receiving their water. Instead of pulling water out of Lake Huron, they pulled it out of the Flint River. And the Flint River, after years of industrial contamination, is kind of a lousy place to get your drinking water. That water has -- had a lot of sort of caustic substances in it and a lot of iron.
WILSONAnd extremely elevated lead levels. And so, now, after two years, 18 months, of denying that there was any problem with the water, the state has acknowledged that there is a significant problem with the water, with the number of children who are showing elevated lead levels and lead is really, really bad for you especially in your drinking water. Now they have called in the National Guard. Rick Snyder, the Governor has asked President Obama for an emergency declaration and because of that, this is going to end up in a lot of courts.
WILSONAnd a lot of people are going to get a lot of money. And it's probably going to cost the state a lot more than it would have to just continue pumping water out of Lake Huron.
MCGINTYThe criticism of the Governor and then what they're investigating now is well, that he, as you say, denied it was a problem for a long time and therefore allowed, perhaps, people to get sick.
WILSONIt is a question of who knew what when. Who knew how bad the water was when? What did the Department of Environmental Regulation, whatever the Michigan version of it is called, what they actually did. How they treated the water, and the answer appears to be they didn't treat it with the right chemicals. Which apparently would have cost only something like 100 dollars a day. Which is nothing for a government and a city the size of Flint, Michigan.
BENDAVIDIt also shows you, I think, just the extent to which a lot of our old industrial cities are still very much in decline and don't get the attention that they need. I think sometimes there's this picture painted of this Renaissance of the cities. People are moving back in and there's high tech companies and there's, you know, cool new restaurants. There's a lot of towns in the northeast and Midwest that I think are still suffering very greatly. Flint, Lord knows, has had its share of problems as a city of 100,000 people. And a lot of towns like that still are not getting the attention and their people are suffering in many ways.
GLASSERYou know, this is a different version of the two Americas narrative. And for every person who looks at Barack Obama and sees somebody who's eminently reasonable, who is basically putting on his Constitutional Law Professor hat and lecturing us about why are you getting so panicked about all these things. Look at the miracle of technology in my eight years in office. Look at the transformation of our cities. Look at all this. You have an extraordinary gap and that's what is fueling -- we haven't talked about it much today, the Bernie Sanders campaign on the left.
GLASSERYou know, Flint, Michigan, this is Democratic territory. It's not Republican territory, but this is the same anger and disconcerted electorate that says, hey, wait a minute, you talk about this dazzling new America. We're not a part of it. That's the inequality narrative that Sanders and the leftward pull in the Democratic Party is speaking to right now.
MCGINTYI think it's very important. I'm glad you brought that up, because I have this fantasy that if the parties begin to be led by their most, you know, angriest voices as it's put. You know, you'll have Bernie Sanders verses Ted Cruz in your election, maybe even a third party candidate at that point.
GLASSERI have to tell you, I was really struck this week. We haven't talked much about it, but on guns, which remember, was everything that President Obama talked about last week. His outrage, one of the most dramatic moments of his Presidency, right, was the President of the United States openly weeping in tears as he talked about his proposed, his executive orders to try to do something about this issue that he really hasn't done much on, which is gun control. Then, it was reduced to one sentence, by the way in his State of the Union speech.
GLASSERBut, so you have the President, tears rolling down his cheeks, there is an unbelievable video, I don't know if you've seen it, where the Duck Dynasty guy is endorsing Ted Cruz. They're both in camouflage, in paint, they're hunting, they're shooting things, and this is the whole reason for the Duck Dynasty endorsement of Ted Cruz. And if you want a better split screen image of the difference in America, think of the President weeping as he thinks of the children who've been killed in these mass shootings.
GLASSERAnd look at Ted Cruz, who's getting the endorsement of a public figure in Iowa because he was willing to shoot things himself.
MCGINTYWow. I want to shift gears just a bit because as you mentioned, the President's painted a pretty picture of the economy and how it's grown. But the first few weeks, or two weeks of the year have not born that out on Wall Street where, again, the markets opened today and there's a big sell off and it's considered a pretty wide route. This is the worst first two weeks of the year the stock market's ever had.
GLASSERWell, there are several factors, clearly, driving this. One is the slowdown in China, slowdown in Asia. Overall, that's clearly causing some of the selloff. Technology stocks, for example, are down. A lot of those that suggest the interdependency of our economy, number one. Number two, remember that we're looking at an oil, almost an oil crash at this point. It's plunged below 30 dollars a barrel, down into 20 dollar a barrel potential territory. That is a major disruption in the global economy.
MCGINTYIt's interesting to hear you say that, because, of course, most of us think of low oil prices, that's a great thing, but it's obviously having some bad side effects.
BENDAVIDIt is. I mean, it's a good example of how the economy can be a little bit more complex sometimes than people think. Obviously, it's good to have low gas prices for a lot of people. On the other hand, that's a big industry that employs a lot of people. A lot of companies are now starting to lay people off. They're starting to cut their budgets. There are a lot of industries that depend on that industry, so there's a bit of a ripple effect. And as for China, and before that, the Eurozone, I think it just highlights the way that things can be going relatively well in this country, but unless things are going pretty well in all the major economic, look...
BENDAVID...the EU and China are the other two big economic regions of the world and we're connected to them and to the extent that they don't do well, we suffer. But I do want to say, just in the President's defense, he did make it clear that there are things like technology and globalization that are causing a great deal of anxiety, that he said he recognized. So while he, I think, wanted to provide an anecdote to some of the apocalyptic descriptions on the other side, he was certainly recognizing that people have legitimate fears.
MCGINTYWell, let me ask this. I'm sorry, go ahead.
WILSONI was going to say, one thing that I think we, it's important to keep in mind as we hear candidates like John Kasich talk about the Ohio comeback and how great the economy has done in Ohio since he's been the Governor. And you hear other candidates being blamed for how bad things went when they were Governor. I'm thinking of the previous Governor of Ohio who's now running for Senate. You know, the Governor of a state has almost nothing to do with an economic crash in this increasingly interconnected global world. The President of the United States also doesn't get, also doesn't deserve all the credit he or she will get or all the blame that he or she will get for an economic up and down.
WILSONPresident Obama does not bear a lot of blame for a 2,000 point dive in the Dow Jones Industrial average because China is slowing down and oil is more likely to hit 20 than it is to hit 40 in the next couple of months. He probably also doesn't get a lot of the credit, doesn't deserve a lot of the credit for having the unemployment rate. I mean, that's just sort of the nature of a globalized economy. There's not a lot that one person, no matter how powerful he or she is, can actually do.
MCGINTYBut there is a lot of credit, or blame, perhaps, to be passed out, regarding foreign policy, and that is where the President took a lot of criticism. I'm trying to figure out, is the President underestimating the power of ISIS when he says, look, this is not an existential threat to the United States. Republicans say, look, he doesn't get it. Does he or doesn't he?
BENDAVIDWell, he's certainly not wrong to say to say that ISIS is not an existential threat to the United States in the sense that they're not going to invade and take over the country. And I think he feels, and a lot of other experts have made similar points, that the overall level of anxiety and fear that's directed toward ISIS and other terrorist groups is not proportional to the actual harm they inflict. It's a delicate thing to say, politically, because it sounds like you're minimizing the threat like you don't understand the menace that's facing the country.
BENDAVIDBut, you know, strictly speaking, it's true. And I think that's -- I mean, by the way, the other big issue, in terms of foreign policy, was this issue of the Iran, of the boat that strayed into, apparently strayed into Iran territorial waters and this image of American sailors on their knees with Iranian soldiers having guns and that was this flashpoint to the point that when the first question of the debate, to Ted Cruz, involved jobs, he ignored it completely so he could have the opportunity to talk about how humiliating it was and how it would never happen under his watch, that American, you know, military people were going to be on their knees with their hands up in front of Iranian soldiers.
GLASSERWell, and let's remember what happened when there was, immediately, the news right before the President's State of the Union, of those boats being held by the Iranians. You would have thought, to look at the Republican Presidential campaigns and their statements and Twitter that we were facing a new Iran hostage crisis, 300 days, and of course, that dissipated even within one single news cycle.
MCGINTYDidn't stop Donald Trump from calling the President, saying this is Jimmy Carter stuff, though.
GLASSERYou know, for five years, I was Editor of Foreign Policy Magazine and I'll tell you, every single foreign policy expert said, you know, when foreign policy mixes with Presidential politics, only bad things happen. They used to pray that there would be no conversation about the world in an American campaign.
WILSONOne would hope. That would be a good thing. And to Naftali's point, by the way, Ted Cruz is an expert at not answering the question you're asked, but answering the question you want to answer.
MCGINTYHe's very good at it.
WILSONJust about every single -- remember, in a couple of debates ago, when he took on his all of the other candidates, all the moderators and he said, you know, you're asking me to question Donald Trump's intelligence and whatever. He went down the line and repeated all the attacks against all the other candidates, which was very clever. But he was, he was asked a question about the budget deficit, and he claimed it was a gotcha question. So, he's very good at sort of answering the question he wants to answer.
MCGINTYLet's talk to Christopher in Jacksonville, Florida. You're on the air, Christopher.
CHRISTOPHERLook, I mostly wanted to point out how, you know, disingenuous the debate so far has been. So, the Republicans framed the debate about the deficit and moral, as a moral question, yet you look at their actual plans that they've put forward, you have, you know, Marco Rubio's plan is projected to cost four trillion dollars over the next 10 years. You have even the so-called moderate Jeb Bush's plan, as opposed to conservatively coming in at 3.2 trillion dollars. You have Donald Trump at 12 trillion dollars and no way to pay for it. So, I'm just wondering how long, you know, can the fraud go on?
CHRISTOPHERBecause (unintelligible) goes back to Paul Ryan, whose plan had lots and lots of magic asterisks that...
MCGINTYYou know what, I want to get a chance to answer your question, Christopher, because I too ask myself, how can you say you're going to build up the military, you're going to spend this money, you're already spending 600 billion, how much more are you going to spend? But at the same time, you're going to cut taxes and balance the budget. I don't know how this all adds up.
BENDAVIDYeah, I mean, one of the, I guess, benefits for the candidates, at this point in the campaign, you know, they're not the incumbent, they don't have to submit actual budgets. They can just talk about all the great things that are going to happen. Usually, the response is, well, my tax cuts will create such growth, such unbelievable, incredible, unprecedented growth that the budget deficit will disappear. I think that this will become a little tougher as we narrow down and have actual nominees who have to put forth actual plans and get a lot of criticism.
BENDAVIDRight now, there's a lot of hopefuls. There's a lot of proposals out there, and people aren't being pinned down, perhaps to the extent that they should be.
MCGINTYNaftali Bendavid, Susan Glasser, Reid Wilson, they're our journalists as we talk about the issues that made news in this past week. I'm Derek McGinty. You're listening to The Diane Rehm Show. Let's continue with a phone call or two before our time runs out. Clay in Norfolk, Virginia, you're on the air.
CLAYYeah, good morning and thank you so much for taking my call. I appreciate it greatly. My question is in regards to Ted Cruz's comment about New York values and I apologize to the panel and to the host for taking us all the way back to the beginning of the show, but when I heard Ted Cruz make his comment last night, that the values in New York City are socially liberal, pro-abortion, pro-gay marriage, focus around money and the media, what I heard was veiled anti-Semitism. And I would like to be wrong about this. I would like, you know, to be way off base on this one.
CLAYNot because I like Ted Cruz, but because I think that is abhorrent in the world today.
MCGINTYWell Clay, you raise a -- that's an interesting point. I hadn't thought of that one, but I wonder what our panelists think.
GLASSEROh, I agree. I think it's a long standing code word. I think it was very purposeful. Ted Cruz is extremely familiar with the map of states that will be coming up early on in the campaign. That being said, it's an irony that Ted Cruz is a very, very vocal supporter of Israel, as are every single other Republican candidate in the Republican field, where it's become the new orthodoxy. So, it's not something that you hear that often. Which is why I think it did leap out to people. This is something that more belonged in the political conversation of the 1970s. Or earlier. Than it really doesn't come up that much anymore. So, it struck a weird note.
MCGINTYYeah, it's interesting to me too that Israel has now become a partisan issue, where it used to have some semblance of that, but everybody was for Israel back in the day, but now it seems that Republicans are making it their business to say we're more for Israel. I want to just note we got an email regarding the situation in Flint, Michigan. This person, we got a few emails about it, saying that there was no lead in the Flint River water as we may have suggested.
MCGINTYThe lead came from the pipes in the Flint water system, which was leeched from the plumbing, not from the river itself. At least that's what they say, so that's something that, if we owed a correction, there it is. We don't want to be wrong about that. And that's the situation. We also got another email regarding this, which says, from Mike in East Lansing, he says what a horribly misleading description of Flint. These actions were made by a Governor appointed emergency manager who overrode elected officials.
MCGINTYSaying that the city of Flint did this is disingenuous at best and a lie at worst.
WILSONWell, the city switched its water supply. I don't know who made that decision. I assume it was the state and the Environmental Department that had to make that decision. So...
MCGINTYAll right, one more phone call. David in Concord, North Carolina. You're on the air.
DAVIDYeah, hi. As a Republican, I hope that the Democrats want to make gun control a big issue in the general election. I believe it would put Pennsylvania into play and I think they would lose Ohio. So, you know, like I said, as a Republican, please make it an issue.
BENDAVIDWell, I mean, that might be a little bit of an overstatement. First of all, Republicans have been talking about taking Pennsylvania for as long as I can remember and they can never quite manage it. But in terms of gun control, you know, the conventional wisdom after the 2000 election, of all things, was that Al Gore had lost, in some significant part, because of the gun control issue. I think the question now is whether the politics are changing. I mean, I think the President's efforts are directed less at passing legislation, which I think he knows is not going to happen.
BENDAVIDHe's trying to shift the political discourse just a couple degrees so that it won't be as politically explosive an issue as it is.
MCGINTYAnd the polls show that a majority of Americans do support at least some increase in gun control.
BENDAVIDWhen you talk about specific issues surrounding the gun control debate, public opinion is dramatically in favor of them. Whether it's, you know, universal background checks or banning assault weapons or banning high capacity magazines. The funny thing is, when you ask Americans, and I think this says a lot about our politics today, when you ask Americans if they support President Obama's actions on guns, which are much less dramatic than any of the three things I just named.
BENDAVIDA significant portion, a much greater portion of Americans disapprove of any of those, even weaker moves, because it's President Obama.
MCGINTYSusan Glasser, you have 30 seconds to have the final word. If you want it. You don't have to.
GLASSERI still think Donald Trump won't be President, but I can't tell you who's going to win the Republican primaries.
MCGINTYAll right, well, that's as good a final word as any. I want to thank Susan Glasser, Editor of Politico, Naftali Bendavid, Editor and Reporter at the Wall Street Journal, and Reid Wilson, Congress Editor and Chief Political Correspondent at Morning Consult. Great conversation, guys. A lot of information. Also thanks to you listeners who called us as well. I'm Derek McGinty and this is "The Diane Rehm Show." Thanks for listening.
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