Diane talks with Damian Paletta, economics editor at the Washington Post.
Guest Host: Susan Page
The Flint, Michigan water crisis forces an official with the Environmental Protection Agency to resign. The E.P.A. also announces it will take over lead sampling of the city’s water. While a federal appeals court hands President Obama a temporary win on a key rule to limit carbon emissions, the Supreme Court agrees to review a case challenging his executive actions on immigration. Ted Cruz accuses the Republican establishment of unifying behind Donald Trump. On the Democratic side, a surging Bernie Sanders prepares to challenge Hillary Clinton on Super Tuesday and beyond. And people living on the east coast of the U.S. prepare for a monster snowstorm. A panel of journalists joins guest host Susan Page for analysis of the week’s top national news stories.
- Ron Elving Senior Washington editor, NPR News
- Karen Tumulty National political reporter, The Washington Post
- David Rennie Washington bureau chief and Lexington columnist, The Economist.
Role Of 'Lies' In GOP Race
The Clinton Campaign
Flint Water Crisis
MS. SUSAN PAGEThanks for joining us. I'm Susan Page from USA Today sitting in for Diane Rehm. She's recovering from a voice treatment. The Supreme Court announces it will review President Obama's executive actions on immigration. The Senate blocks a bill on tougher refugee screening and in the Republican presidential race, Sarah Palin endorses Donald Trump as the battle for conservative voters heats up.
MS. SUSAN PAGEJoining me for the domestic hour of the Friday News Roundup, Ron Elving of NPR, Karen Tumulty of The Washington Post and David Rennie of the Economist. Welcome to "The Diane Rehm Show."
MS. KAREN TUMULTYGreat to be here.
MR. RON ELVINGGood to be here.
MR. DAVID RENNIEThank you.
PAGEWe're going to invite our listeners to join our conversation a bit later in this hour. Our toll-free number is 1-800-433-8850. You can send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Find us on Facebook, on Twitter and if you want to see what we look like, video of this hour of the Friday News Roundup is streaming live on the web at drshow.org. Well, you know, we have been talking about the 2016 presidential race pretty much since the 2012 presidential race was decided.
PAGEFinally, one week from Monday, voters finally get to weigh in with the Iowa caucuses and, Ron, this is the week we saw the return of Sarah Palin endorsing Donald Trump. How important?
ELVINGProbably not that important, except that it does extend the longest winning streak in winning the day, the week, the month in the media that we have ever seen in presidential politics. This man, Donald J. Trump, and now we've all started calling Donald J. Trump, partly because Sarah Palin did, and he had dominated again this week because of Sarah Palin and she will probably also have some substantive help for him in Iowa because she speaks to a lot of the people that he is contesting there with Ted Cruz.
PAGESo some good news for Donald Trump, Karen. Maybe more bad news for Ted Cruz.
TUMULTYYeah. Not only was anything he said this week pretty much obliterated by the media saturation coverage of the Sarah Palin endorsement of Donald Trump, and I'm ready for all the callers who want to explain to us how unhappy they are at how much time the media does spend covering people like Sarah Palin and Donald Trump's endorsement, but, you know, he also had a number of, you know, Donald Trump turned his full force and fury on Ted Cruz. He not only was questioning whether he's a natural born citizen under the constitutional requirement, but he was talking about Ted Cruz's temperament and how nobody likes him and said he, you know, he couldn't get anything done.
TUMULTYAnd you had some GOP establishment figures, like Bob Dole, weighing in and saying, you know, Donald Trump would do better in a general election than Ted Cruz.
PAGEYou know, David, this is -- there are a couple surprises here. One is that the leading candidates, as we head into the voting, turn out to be Donald Trump and Ted Cruz. I don't think we saw that six months ago or maybe, you know, a week ago, but that seems to be the case. And the other is the division in the Washington establishment, the Republican establishment, about which of those two they would prefer. What are you seeing?
RENNIEWell, I think what you're seeing is the extraordinary cynicism of quite a part of the Washington establishment. And I mean that part which is embracing Donald Trump. Now, my own magazine, The Economist, we're not big fans of Donald Trump or Ted Cruz, to put that on the table. We don't think either of them would be the right pick for the Republican party as far as we can tell at the moment. But I think that if you're going to be harsh, what the establishment is saying is that they know, 'cause they're smart people, that both Donald Trump and Ted Cruz are lying through their teeth to the voters about what is possible.
RENNIEThey're promising things that cannot be possibly be delivered, whether it's a wall on the border paid for by Mexico on Donald Trump's side or whether it's, you know, these impossible things that Ted Cruz keeps promising he can do in Washington and then it doesn't happen 'cause the Republican traitors are, you know, betraying the cause. So I think both of them are liars. I think their excitement about Donald Trump right now is that they think he is probably a more pragmatic and flexible liar who will switch in the general to slightly more kind of subtle and cunning lies, whereas they worry that Ted Cruz will keep going with these rather narrowly ideological lies that don't have broader appeal.
RENNIEI don't think, you know, they don't believe either man is telling the truth about the program they're offering.
PAGEWhat do you see, Ron? Because there is a division you have, Bob Dole saying he prefers Trump over Cruz, but you have National Review, which has a long history in conservative thought putting out and issue devoted to bashing Donald Trump.
ELVINGOne would have to say that the conservative figures who are actually elected to major offices, senators, governors and so on, are coming out against Cruz rather predictably. And by the way, Terry Branstad, the governor of Iowa, who is still a very potent figure, the longest serving governor in American history, has come out specifically saying that he's not endorsing anyone, but we have to vote against Ted Cruz because of his position on ethanol and renewable fuels and that's a big thing for Iowa.
ELVINGSo we've got that kind of establishment figure and how would it make you feel if everyone that you worked with in your workplace was given the question of whether or not to say you needed a promotion and every single one of them said no, they would rather promote someone from way out there in the world of reality television than you. So Ted Cruz is really getting negative reviews from his peers, but the conservative media, the conservative media including radio talk show hosts and magazines, such as you mentioned, those kinds of people are saying, no, Donald Trump is a bigger threat to the party and we get behind Ted Cruz.
TUMULTYBut I also think it's worth pointing out that with Ted Cruz, it's personal. He stood on the Senate floor and called Mitch McConnell, the Senate Republican leader, a liar. With Donald Trump, you get the sense that the way the Republican establishment looks at him as, you know, it's just business. What he's saying, you know, there's nothing personal here. He's actually tapping into a deep vein of anger in the country. So I think that's a big distinction.
PAGECould either Donald Trump or Ted Cruz defeat Hillary Clinton in a general election, do you think?
RENNIEPersonally, I don't see it. I think that's -- Ted Cruz -- and I think Karen's absolutely right that the reason that Republicans in the Senate dislike Ted Cruz is, in large part, personal. But I think they also take the view that he's just doing -- he's offering bad math to the conservative elections in these primaries. I mean, I've had senators say to me, you know, he's essentially -- Ted Cruz's pitch is to the most conservative third of their party and telling them -- a majority of the party and they can be a majority of the electorate if you just get out these millions of Christian voters or Evangelical votes or conservative voters who, in his sort of narrative, didn't turn out to the polls in 2008 and 2012 because the Republicans had an uninspiring, squishy moderate candidate.
RENNIEProfessional elected Republican politicians think that maths is a fantasy and a path to disaster.
PAGEKaren, yes or no, could that -- either one of those Republican nominees defeat Hillary Clinton in November?
TUMULTYI honestly don't know. It's hard to imagine it, if you look at sort of the underlying strengths of both operations, but there's so much time between now and November and, you know, who knows what happens?
PAGEAnd we've been so wrong so often in this race.
PAGERon, just yes or no, could the Republicans prevail?
ELVINGNot on their own. She has to beat herself. But she might.
PAGESo, you know, we shouldn't assume that Hillary Clinton is the inevitable Democratic nominee because Bernie Sanders just keeps getting stronger. A new CNN ORC poll has him up eight points in Iowa. He has a bigger lead than that in New Hampshire. Now, there's some reasons to be skeptical of that poll that assumes huge turnout in Iowa. That may not happen. But Bernie Sanders has been the surprise. On the Democratic side, he has been a surprise. How is he doing, Ron, and if he wins Iowa and then New Hampshire, what does that mean for Hillary Clinton?
ELVINGWell, we have not seen anyone lose Iowa and New Hampshire and then storm onto the nomination. It...
PAGEOne, Bill Clinton. Yeah.
ELVINGOne, Bill Clinton. Well, but that was because Iowa didn't happen that year. That year, Tom Harkin, the senator from Iowa ran and so no one paid any attention to Iowa.
PAGEAnd so he turned a number two finish in New Hampshire into the comeback kid.
ELVINGInto a winning tradition. Nobody even remembers that Paul Tsongas was the winner in that primary so that really is an outlier. It's very difficult to lose the first two contests that we have been so focused on for so many months and where there are so many media people right now reporting and then say, no, but look, really, I'm the winner here down the road. But she has a firewall in South Carolina. Bernie Sanders hasn't made the sale or really even tried that hard to make the sale to African American voters, Hispanic American voters.
ELVINGHe's saying that he will and he's saying that they're going to come to like him when they get to know him, but he hasn't really made that connection yet. So if she can turn it around in South Carolina, turn it around in Nevada, then we get to the March 1 primaries, many of which are in the south, and those are probably going to be more dominated by black voters and they are probably going to be friendlier ground for Hillary Clinton.
PAGEBut you know, we have seen news reports in The Associated Press and elsewhere that Bill Clinton, Chelsea Clinton are concerned about the direction of this campaign. What are you hearing, Karen?
TUMULTYWell, I think that, you know, you don't even have to go deep inside the campaign. All you have to do is watch what the Clinton campaign is doing, which is they're attacking Bernie -- first of all, they spent most of this campaign ignoring Bernie Sanders at the December debate. Hillary Clinton, you wouldn't have known he was standing on the stage next to her unless she was responding directly to one of his comments. She talked all about Donald Trump. But now, they're attacking him every way they can think of.
TUMULTYBut the thing that's interesting, you go to a Clinton event and it feels sort of -- the energy in the room feels sort of dutiful. At the Bernie Sanders events, it's passion that you are seeing. And after the first round of attacks on him, on his healthcare plan, he raised $1.4 million in a single day. So this is a -- it's a phenomenon.
PAGEYou know, the Bernie Sanders -- Bernie Sanders has put out his closing arguments and they include some ads about Wall Street. That's meant as an attack or at least a contrast with Hillary Clinton. But also this very inspirational ad they put out yesterday, 60 seconds. It's to the Simon and Garfunkel tune "America." It chose bucolic scenes of America. There's not a word spoken in terms of like I'll do this, here's my position. It's all feel-good politics about people's excitement about Bernie Sanders.
PAGEIt reminded me, I have to say, a little of the "Morning In America," ad that Reagan did. And, you know, that's the kind of thing that can pull out people who maybe don't usually vote. We're going to take a short break. When we come back, we're going to talk about some of those court decisions. Some of them have gone President Obama's way. Some of them haven't. And we'll take your calls, 1-800-433-8850 or send us an email at drshow.org. Stay with us.
PAGEWelcome back. I'm Susan Page of USA Today sitting in for Diane Rehm. With me in the studio: David Rennie, he's the Washington bureau chief and a columnist at The Economist. And Karen Tumulty, national political reporter with The Washington Post. And Ron Elving, senior Washington editor at NPR News. We're going to take your calls and questions, read your emails in just a few minutes. But first we want to talk about this situation in Flint, Mich. We did a show on Flint, Mich., earlier this week on "The Diane Rehm Show." I've got to say it's shocking, as more information comes out, as more emails are released, what happened there to the people in that community.
PAGEPresident Obama was visiting Michigan on -- to do something else, and the Flint story just kept cropping up. David, tell us what the president is doing, what the federal government is doing when it comes to the Flint, Mich., water crisis.
RENNIESo the president, before he went to Detroit to give a speech that was originally going to be about, you know, the recovery of the auto industry and stuff, he had the Mayor of Flint, Mich., into the Oval Office and he said some very personal remarks about how, you know, no one should have to put their own kids in that sort of danger in an American city. I mean, I think it clearly, you know, this situation upsets him a great deal. The federal government has given some money. Now you're seeing the usual FEMA sort of help coming in on bottled water and money.
RENNIEBut there is an interesting interplay. Because for a moment, at the beginning of the week, it looked like this was going to be a sort of -- not that everything is partisan -- but it looked like a story that was tough for the Republican governor of Michigan. There were these emails released which showed, you know, that they hadn't taken it as seriously as they should have done. It looked like being a bit of a story about, you know, a white Republican governor perhaps not caring about an African-American, very poor, broken city. But we've also seen a resignation now from the federal -- from one of the local officials who was in charge of that area for the Environmental Protection Agency has resigned.
RENNIEAnd so there was an element of federal oversight that failed as well. But I think, you know, people are having an important conversation about how this can happen in a country as rich as America and whether it happens because these are poor cities.
PAGEYou know, we have a caller, Carl, who's calling us from Saginaw, Mich., which is I think near Flint. Carl, is that what you wanted to talk about?
CARLYes. Good morning, everyone. Yeah. I live just north of Flint, Mich. Our water is okay. We're really disappointed in what's happened here. And there's some local blame, county, city. You know, we've -- they've had emergency managers in Flint, appointed by the governor. But -- and this morning I heard the governor blaming, you know, like midlevel bureaucrats. You know, why would a midlevel bureaucrat sit on information that there's lead in the water?
PAGEYeah. And of course it's especially damaging, I think, for the Governor Rick Snyder, because, Karen, he sold himself. He was elected as one tough nerd, as being not an ideologue but being a very competent manager.
TUMULTYRight. And as, you know, somebody who could fix problems. You know, I think that he, in his state of the state speech this week, finally sort of did a mea culpa, said I am sorry, I will fix it. But in these emails, you see time and again officials in his administration just dismissing this as, you know, all about politics. But, again, there's a federal, you know, lapse of responsibility in this as well.
PAGEAnd of course when he said, I'll fix it, you can't fix it for kids who have raised levels of lead in their blood. There will be consequences for the rest of their lives.
ELVINGThere could very well be. And that's the part of this that is so haunting. I think, for parents who have done nothing more than give water from the tap to their children, now finding out that they have done this kind of damage. There is an enormous amount of blame and plenty to go around for all the players here. I think the thing that's stunning to folks though is that there could have been any disagreement at any point about whether or not this was a serious incident. We're talking about 30 times the level of elevated concern in terms of parts-per-billion in lead in the water, 30 times greater. And in some children, far greater than that.
ELVINGThis exposure is horrific. And it's very hard to imagine why people had a hard time struggling over whether or not they had a problem.
PAGEAnd some heroes in this story: A mother who was very persistent. An engineer at Virginia Tech, who used the Freedom of Information Act to get information out about this. A pediatrician in Flint, who raised this issue, was attacked for it, persisted. So there are some heroes in this story, but there are some people who really fell short as well. You know, there's a -- he was also -- President Obama, when he was in Michigan, also had some -- had to confront another issue in Michigan involving the Detroit schools. David, can you tell us about that?
RENNIEYeah. So Detroit is not out of the woods. I mean, the president was there to celebrate the recovery of the auto industry and to celebrate, you know, some of these iconic, sort of hipster brands, like Shinola Watches that he went and visited that are making stuff in Detroit. And -- but the problem is Detroit, for all it's recovered from the absolute kind of abyss of a few years ago and its bankruptcy, it remains a very poor city. And, in particular, things like the schools are in terrible shape. And so we saw, this week, teachers effectively going on strike by calling in sick, to draw attention to the incredibly bad state of the -- just the classrooms.
RENNIEAnd we've seen pictures in the newspapers of, you know, really horrendous classrooms, rats running around school corridors. I mean, places where -- again, a bit like the water in Flint -- a lot of people listening to this program would never dream of sending their kids to that sort of school. It wouldn't -- it just wouldn't fly. And so, you know, people are having to ask soul-searching questions about, how come it's different in a place like Detroit?
PAGEAnd of course Detroit, a great American city with an amazing history. So we're hoping for Detroit's comeback. And of course it has come back in some ways. But obviously huge problems remain. Well, let's talk about the Supreme Court. This week, Karen, it agreed to hear a case challenging President Obama's immigration plan. This is a Supreme Court decision that could affect not only the immigration plan, but the power of presidents who succeed President Obama. What did the Court agree to over -- to take a look at?
TUMULTYIt agreed to take a look at President Obama's executive order, essentially, you know, making it possible for a number of people -- particularly children -- to stay in this country, who were brought, you know, brought here illegally.
TUMULTYBut it -- the Court also opened up some questions that the lower courts had not with regard to the president's responsibility to diligently enforce the laws that are passed by Congress. I think the whole question of whether or not President Obama has exercised the power of his office within the constraints of the Constitution, it has become front and center in the Republican race. This case is likely to land in June. And no matter how the Court comes out -- by then, presumably, we'll know who the nominees of the two parties are -- and no matter how it comes out, it's going to inflame this issue.
PAGEYeah. That'll just be weeks before the national political conventions.
ELVINGAnd we also are expecting the Court, in the month of June probably, to rule on a highly, highly visible case from Texas having to do with affirmative action based on race. And we also expect the Court to have a ruling on another Texas case having to do with the access to abortion. So this is going to be a dramatic, once again, a dramatic June from the Supreme Court, just as we reach a political crescendo as well.
RENNIEThere's a human side to this argument as well, which is really extraordinary. Because this latest Supreme Court ruling, they're looking at the second of the big kind of wave of executive actions that the president took. This one is affecting mostly the parents of American-born children, who themselves don't have papers. And I've done quite a lot of reporting for The Economist on this. It's amazing. You go to, sort of, schools in places like Nashville. There's a ton of kids there who have American passports, they're born in America. But their parents are undocumented. And what does that mean? It means there parents can't drive them to school. They're frightened to drive, in case they get picked up at a stop sign or running a red light.
RENNIEIt means that, you know, they're worried that their parents can get deported. In some cases, they are deported. And these are future voters. Every year -- Pew, the research center, put out some amazing numbers this week: 800,000 Hispanic kids turn 18 every year in this country, U.S.-born citizens. So 800,000 new Hispanic voters turn 18 every single year. This is their parents, in many cases, who are in the Court's eyes.
TUMULTYAnd the legal tension here is between, again, the Constitution's requirement that the president faithfully execute the laws of the country, versus the longstanding principle of prosecutorial discretion, the idea that, you know, many presidents have claimed. Look, you know, there's a limited number of resources available to enforce the law. And it's -- the president should have some leeway in deciding which of these cases are most urgent, you know, which of the people, you know, pose the biggest threat to the country that, you know, you need to concentrate on.
ELVINGThis is why the White House prefers that these be referred to as executive actions rather than executive orders. Because what they're doing is they're giving a directive for priority to the prosecutors. And that, it seems, would be more within the prevue of the White House should do and what the Department of Justice should do, as opposed to an order, which sounds a little bit more imperial.
PAGEAnd even if, in the real world, they could deny this executive action, the idea that the resources would be focused on law-abiding people, even if they're here illegally, who have lived her a long time and have had -- have American-born kids, that's not likely. But the difference in their lives has to be huge -- the difference of feeling confident that you're not going to have a knock on the door that tears your family apart makes a big difference. You know, there was another case involving executive privilege this week. A federal judge rejected Obama's claim over records for that notorious Fast and Furious action that the Justice Department took. Who wants to talk about that?
ELVINGWell, this is probably one of those programs that you wonder, is this as bad as it gets? Is this as bad an idea as there ever has been in the federal government? But the ATF, the Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms folks, tried an experiment where they let some guns go that they thought would fall into the wrong hands. And then they could use the fact that those guns were going into the wrong hands to prosecute the wrong hands, or the people with those hands. And of course some of these guns wound up actually in the hands of enforcers for the Mexican drug cartels. And some of them were used not only in Mexico, but at least one American border agent was killed with one.
ELVINGSo this turned into a fiasco beyond fiasco. And attempts to cover up, to obscure who might have been responsible have been bumbling around in the courts now pretty much throughout the Obama administration. And this court -- this particular Federal Judge Amy Berman Jackson, appointed by Barack Obama, has said, look, all the damage that you're talking about possibly being done to federal deliberative -- executive deliberative processes has been done. Get these documents out there. So Congress is going to proceed with them.
PAGEYou know, the judge said that she wasn't really questioning Obama's claim of privilege, but said the Justice Department had disclosed so much of the information that it undercut their ability to make the argument that it was going to be damaging. Now it's still possible some of these disputed records are going to be held back.
RENNIEThat's right. Because there are still privileges when it comes to kind of protecting foreign intelligence. And I think, underlying this, humming away there is the fascinating dispute between the Mexican government and the American government, that Mexico, for all it's very violent crime, actually has very strict gun controls. Guns are sold in Mexico under the control of the Mexican military. So a vast majority of the firepower used by the cartels in their brutal, sort of, internal wars in Mexico comes from America and, in some cases, comes from specific shops that the Mexican -- I've spoken to Mexican intelligence officers who know shops in Texas where the majority of these high-powered rifles are coming from.
RENNIEBut because of the politics of guns on this side of the border, the Mexicans would certainly tell you they don't get the cooperation and the help they would like.
PAGEAlso possible the administration will appeal this ruling. The White House said they hadn't decided on that yet. Well, let's go to the phones. We'll talk to Doug, who's calling us from Birmingham, Ala. Doug, thanks for being patient.
DOUGThank you. While we're on the subject of liars and emails, I might bring up Hillary Clinton. This week they discovered the special access program emails on her server. Is there any one of you -- my question is this, is there any one of you that believe Hillary Clinton, when she stood at the UN and several times since then, and said that she didn't have any secret or top secret -- and this is above top-secret -- emails on her server. Do any of you believe her at this point?
PAGEDoug, thank you so much for your call. Karen, this is an issue that just doesn't seem to be going away.
TUMULTYYeah. And it is now quite clear that there was secret, classified material on that server. The distinction that the Clinton people make is that it wasn't marked that way. But the fact is that what the law requires is that the sender of the email have responsibility for making sure that no classified material, you know, it gets out of proper channels. So we're going to see the last batch of Hillary Clinton emails at the end of this month, or at least it's supposed to be at the end of this month. We'll see if the State Department makes its deadline for releasing them. But this -- the issue does continue.
PAGEI'm Susan Page and you're listening to "The Diane Rehm Show." We're taking your calls, 1-800-433-8850. And you can also see all our guests on our live video stream at drshow.org. Let's talk about the -- and just one more court decision that was important this week. This was an appeals court declined to block a key EPA carbon rule that's been challenged in court. David, why is this important?
RENNIEBecause they could have -- essentially, this is the centerpiece of the Obama administration's attempts to use executive powers through the Environmental Protection Agency to really try and change the way that electricity is generated in this country, to generate less carbon or to put less carbon into the atmosphere. And they've done it this way rather than going through Congress, because Congress was never going to produce a law to do it this way. This is setting up, you know, this is essentially making sure that this fight continues, as opposed to ends now. This court essentially means -- they said, you know, this is going to -- let this play out for a while longer.
RENNIEBut you have a lot of lawsuits and a lot of states, most of them Republican controlled, who are determined to block this and they are not going to cooperate. And, you know, we're going to see a lot more of this. But it didn't stop because the court is allowing it to run.
TUMULTYYeah. And these controls are the main tool that the administration has at this point for meeting the targets that it pledged last month at the climate talks in Paris. So for, you know, again, for that deal to go forward, this program has to go forward.
PAGELet's go to Sarasota, Fla., and talk to Henry. Henry, you're on "The Diane Rehm Show."
HENRYGreat. Thank you for having me this morning. I think that a lot of people are reading the support in the African-American community with Hillary Clinton wrong. We saw the same thing in 2008 and 2012. Most of the older black people I knew -- and I'm African-American -- were pronouncing Hillary Clinton's inevitability. But when you look at it, it was really a desire for Bill Clinton 2.0, because they remembered those policies. But for most of the millennials, and one of the reasons she's not getting that support, is because those millennials don't have the memory of Bill Clinton. He's -- they don't have Bill Clinton on the brain.
HENRYAnd so as the African-American community looks at Bernie Sanders' policies, what they were -- discovered that they're better for minority communities than Hillary Clinton's policies. And we'll see that play out as this contest goes -- as this contest goes forward. I'll take my comments off the air.
PAGENow, Henry, before you go, are you African-American yourself?
HENRYYes, I am. I am African-American.
PAGEAnd how about, since you talked about age, if you don't mind me asking your age. How old are you?
HENRYI'm 37 years old.
PAGESo you're in that younger group, not in the older group that has such a long history with Bill Clinton.
HENRYCorrect. Correct. I mean, I remembered his presidency. It was good. But she's certainly not her husband. And the African-American community hasn't quite teased that out yet.
HENRYAnd I don't think the Hillary -- I don't think the Clinton campaign wants the African-American community to tease that out. I mean, we saw the other night in the debate, she spoke very highly of her husband's policies. And then she draped, you know, basically, Obama over her shoulders. And so I don't think that she wants that teased out. But I saw this in 2008. And a lot of people were saying that, you know, Barack Obama was not going to win, that he was a long shot. And they were really putting that support behind Hillary Clinton. The Clinton machine, a lot of people owe the Clinton's favors in Washington. And so we'll have to see how that plays out in this election cycle.
PAGEHenry, that's such an interesting point. Thanks so much for your call. We do see a kind of generation gap, to some degree, in the black community when it comes to the Democratic presidential race. We'll have to see whether Bernie Sanders can turn out younger African-Americans to offset the support Hillary has among older ones. We're going to take a short break. And when we come back, we'll continue our conversation with Ron Elving, Karen Tumulty, David Rennie. And we'll talk about NASA reporting that 2015 was the warmest year ever. We'll take your calls and questions. Stay with us.
PAGEWelcome back. I'm Susan Page of USA Today sitting in for Diane Rehm. It's our Friday News Roundup. And with us in the studio, Karen Tumulty of The Washington Post, Ron Elving of NPR, David Rennie of The Economist. We're taking your calls. Our phone lines are open, 1-800-433-8850. And if you're just joining us, you can also watch live video of our show at drshow.org. Well, the Senate this week blocked a bill -- Senate Democrats did -- that would have really toughened refugee screening. Ron, what was the issue here?
ELVINGWell, the issue really goes back to some of the terrorist actions of recent months and of course to the enormous exodus of refugees leaving the Middle East because of the civil war in Syria and because of the larger war with ISIS, flooding into Europe of course, and the United States trying to take some share of these refugees, not just from Syria, but of course a lot of focus on Syria.
ELVINGSo with the idea of many more refugees coming in, with the backdrop of the terrorist actions in Paris last fall, San Bernardino -- even though there's not a direct link here, there's not a direct sort of cause and effect -- nonetheless the atmosphere is refugees coming from this part of the world are dangerous and they have to be screened in ways far beyond the vetting that they've been getting up to now. The House wanted to have a bill to that effect. They could have gotten it through the Senate if there were fewer Democrats. But the Democrats still have enough to block action in the Senate.
TUMULTYThe key element of this was that the FBI director and the Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security would have to personally certify that each one of the refugees who was let into this country was not a threat.
ELVINGGet the drift? (laugh)
TUMULTYAnd Harry Reid also pulled a strong-arm tactic that I think sort of weakened the appetite for doing this. He said that, if this came to the floor, he was also going to force the Senate to vote on an amendment that would essentially take Donald Trump's proposal of a temporary ban on all Muslims coming into this country and force the Republicans to go on record as being either for or against it. So, suddenly, this Senate didn't seem like that it was all that excited about doing this bill.
PAGEDavid, I have to say though that some of the incidents that we've seen reported in Cologne, Germany, and elsewhere in Europe, involving refugees, has inflamed tensions there and concerned a lot of Americans.
RENNIEYeah, look, I think we have to be realistic about the politics of this. And I think, you know, the truth is that if your big concern is terrorists turning up in the United States and carrying out attacks, looking at the refugee policy and only the refugee policy doesn't make any sense. Because, if you're a terrorist organization trying to send extremists to carry out attacks in America, you would find one with a British passport or a French passport or a Belgium passport, just stick them on a plane. Because they don't need a visa. So actually the refugee process, which takes years and years, is a really stupid way to send terrorists to America. So there isn't a kind of pure logic here.
RENNIEHaving said that, you know, my own magazine, we write these sort of high-minded editorials saying, you know, people should be opening their doors. They shouldn't be closing their doors to refugees. It's a hard sell. People want to feel safe. And that's not a completely unreasonable thing to want to feel. And they look at these events in Cologne and they draw, you know, all kinds of links and just go, why are we even letting these people come anywhere near us? Even though America's taken hardly any. That's another important point.
PAGEYes. The president has said that he will bring in 10,000 Syrian refugees over the next year. Do you guys think that'll still happen? Do you think that'll happen, Ron?
ELVINGI don't. I don't believe that will happen. It's become just too much of a point of ignition for a lot of the resentment that's being directed at immigrants in general right now. So I suspect that that will have to be one of the many things that is forestalled by the presidential election and the politics associated with it.
PAGENow David mentioned that, in fact, refugees are screened quite extensively. But we have a Visa Waiver Program that allows people from 38 countries to come in without a visa. The administration moved this week to make that a little harder, Karen.
TUMULTYAnd you're talking about -- I don't remember the numbers -- but it's just many, many fold greater than the number of people who are coming in as refugees.
RENNIEOh, it's tens of millions a year.
PAGELet's go to Toledo, Ohio, and talk to Barry. Barry, thank you so much for joining us.
BARRYHi. Thanks. I'm surprised that, in the eight months or so that Trump has been running for president, that no one has been able to say that the emperor has no clothes and make it stick. And here he is doubling down, having Sarah Palin come out and support him. And it even seems more inane to me than ever. And I'm just wondering if your panel has an opinion -- any opinion the panel might have on...
PAGESo, Barry, before you go let me ask you, who are you supporting in the presidential race?
PAGEOkay. Barry, thanks very much for your call.
ELVINGAnd Barry probably was not the target voter for the Trump campaign from the get-go. Those people who do respond to Donald Trump have only felt, I think in general, that his appeal has increased throughout this eight-month period. And I do feel as though many people in the media -- and I'm talking here not only about the general media, but even the very focused, conservative media, National Review Magazine and so on -- just really calling Donald Trump out in the most explicit kinds of ways, saying the emperor has no clothes, saying he's not a conservative, saying he doesn't belong in the Republican Party. And that's just the Republicans, the party he's running with.
ELVINGAnd you can imagine, similarly, how people in the media who don't share that particular orientation have been leveling their guns at him. So it doesn't seem to matter to the people that like Donald Trump.
PAGEBecause the reason they like him is not because they agree with him on his position papers, which by the way he doesn't have. They agree with him because he's mad and he says things are broken and he promises to do something about it.
TUMULTYYou know, even though, like his constant rants against political correctness, I can't tell you how many people I have run into on the campaign who are, you know, even Democrats, who feel like they've been forced to watch their words a little more than they should. And I remember -- okay, this is the oldest reporter trick in the book -- but I was talking to my cab driver in Las Vegas, and he was telling me, you know, I think I'm going to be a Bernie Sanders voter. And I don't like anything that Donald Trump says, but I'm kind of glad that he's saying it.
RENNIEI think the other thing that's very powerful and is very difficult for us in media to deal with is, you know, we tend to judge a candidate by, as you say, their policy positions and then we try and weigh out what makes sense. I went to a focus group the other day of Trump supporters, organized by Frank Luntz, the Republican focus group kind of guru. What was very striking was that it's part of -- it's a bit about Trump, but it's also about them, it's about their own sense of how they see the world. And they see the world in very clear terms.
RENNIEYou know, just for example, self evidently, Muslims are a dangerous group you shouldn't let into America. And then they feel that people keep telling them, you know, you're stupid and you're racist if you think that. What Donald Trump offers them is validation. He's a powerful, rich, successful guy, who says, you know what? I hear you. And of course you're right. Of course that's how the world is. You see the world straight. And that kind of validation is a very, very powerful emotional experience, very hard to interfere with in the usual political ways.
PAGEJay is calling us from St. Louis, Mo. Jay, you're on the air.
JAYWhat you all just said about 800,000 kids becoming U.S. citizens is what's propelling Donald Trump's electability. I never thought I'd be a Donald Trump fan ever. But what you all just talked about makes me think I might actually vote for him. I'm not -- I believe in climate change. I believe in a lot of things. But I'm possibly with him on this.
PAGEAnd what makes you -- what makes this an important issue for you or an issue that might make you support Donald Trump?
JAYWell, that the composition of this country is changing so rapidly. And it doesn't seem like anybody else wants to do anything about it. I understand some countries in the world have -- to be a citizen you have to be, you have, your father has to be a citizen and things like that. But Donald Trump is at least wanting to look at that issue.
PAGERon -- thanks so much for your call, Jay. Ron Brownstein has an article, I think it's in National Journal, that talks about how different the Americas are that are represented by these two political coalitions. The Republican coalition represents an America that used to be, that most of, you know, very much more white than the current composition of America. The Democratic coalition represents the America demographic that will be. Really a time of transition for our nation.
ELVINGThat's right. And I believe that many Republicans or many people who feel that they would rather have the country the way it was in 1950, or even for that matter the year 2000, than the country that they have today or that they will have in 2020, 2025, are feeling as though this is their last chance. That this election is their last chance to really push back against these changes before Florida and Texas go the way of California and become automatic Democratic states in presidential politics.
PAGEBut the fact is, this demographic situation is cast. These children...
ELVINGThese are citizens.
PAGE..who were born in the United States, they're American citizens.
ELVINGThey are citizens.
RENNIEThe most amazing statistic is Hispanics in this country aged under 21, 98 percent of them are U.S.-born citizens. So you could build Donald Trump's wall. You could put a glass, hermetically sealed dome over America and stop all future immigration. They're here and they're citizens.
ELVINGAnd this is why, after the 2012 election, some of the people in the Republican Party, at the highest levels of the Republican National Committee, put together a report saying, we really have to change the way we're talking to these people, because they are going to be the voters of tomorrow whether we like it or not. There's nothing we can do to exclude them. They're in the United States just as we are in the United States.
PAGEAnd of course the diversity of the United States has historically been a source of real strength, resilience. I mean and it's also, in many -- I know it's been difficult for some Americans looking at changes in the country -- it's been a source of Americas vitality. It's part of our history.
TUMULTYBut -- and, you know, when you hear people express these sentiments, it's really hard to sort of untangle all the different threads of them. You know, how much of this is about race? And -- but one component of it is also economic, feeling a sense that, wait, you know, my generation played by the rules and my kids are not going to ever be able to succeed and do better than I did. And, you know, feeling that that part of the American dream is being lost as well.
PAGEAnd, Jay, of course, our caller, was very respectful, you know? And I think anguished about this. So a real debate in this nation.
RENNIEWell, you can flip the economics on its head, which is, if Jay wants his Social Security payments to arrive every month, some of these kids need to get jobs and go to college and get well-paid jobs and pay the taxes.
PAGEOf course you're making an assumption there about Jay's age. We don't actually know if he's getting Social Security, but...
RENNIEWell, we all will eventually.
ELVINGEverybody gets there sooner or later.
PAGEHere's an email, a tweet actually, from T.P. T.P. tweets, I don't understand how unrepresentative Iowa counts really or why the media obsess on it. It's true. Iowa is not a diverse state.
ELVINGWell, and it's not -- it's at least bigger than New Hampshire, the people in Iowa would say. Why does anybody get to go first? Why do we have a kind of retail politics that we do at the beginning of the process? I can tell you why Iowa and New Hampshire are first, because they've insisted on it and they've made it stick. But, why those two states? That's another question. Why do we start out with such a tiny microcosm that isn't really representative? It's because of tradition. It's because of the way things have always been done. It's because you can't ignore them if they're out there having some kind of vote.
ELVINGIt's like you can't ignore a poll. Anybody who says they're a pollster can put out a poll and suddenly have it reported in shouting volume all over the media. So that's why.
TUMULTYBut the virtue of the system -- and I certainly understand all the problems -- is that it allows a candidate who is not well known, who does not have a lot of money, to go out and test his or her message and to see if it can resonate with people, see if it can build support. If California or New York were the first state, or Texas, that would not be the case. It would just be whoever had enough money to blanket the airwaves.
PAGEIf we didn't have this system, would Bernie Sanders be a credible challenge to Hillary Clinton.
TUMULTYNot a possibility.
TUMULTYBecause he started out last, what was it, May, basically, you know, just a guy with a message.
PAGET.P., thanks so much for your tweet. I'm Susan Page and you're listening to "The Diane Rehm Show." NASA this week reported that 2015 was the warmest year on record. It smashed the previous record, which was in 2014. David, what does this report say to you?
RENNIEWell, it falls like a kind of rock into the mud pool that is the debate about climate change in America. You know, it should fall like a rock into a kind of lake which causes huge ripples. We should be worrying about the fact that 15 of the 16 most hottest -- 14 of the 15 hottest years this -- ever recorded in this century, something is clearly going on. But to an extraordinary extent, what you believe about climate change is linked to whether you have a D or an R next to your name. It's an amazing thing how, sort of, rigid this has become and how little wriggle room there is really on the campaign trail about it.
ELVINGAnd what state you're from. If you're from a state that is with the energy industry, which is struggling right now, but which has been the basis of the economy of many of our states, you feel that this is an existential threat, that people are coming after you. You may question their motives. You may think that climate change is just an excuse to come after you. But you are in denial largely because your economic interest dictates that you be so.
PAGEWhat about this big storm, Karen, that is hurdling toward us even as we sit in our studio here in Washington, D.C.?
TUMULTYWell, and, of course, every time, you know, this kind of data comes out, you know, you'll have somebody go in the Senate and throw a snowball on the floor. So, you know, the fact is that I think people are -- have gone from calling it global warming to calling it climate change, just to make the point that this isn't just about the world heating up, but it's about much more violent weather patterns than we've seen. But you are going to -- it's going to take probably a few more years of data to sort of separate this out from the effects of this El Nino weather pattern that we're seeing.
PAGEHere's an email from Andy, who writes us from Vermont. He writes, why doesn't Trump have to put out detailed plans around his ideas, while everyone needs to? Are the rules different for Trump?
RENNIEYeah, sure. That's exactly right. Because what he's offering his people isn't a set of policies. He's offering them a feeling and an outlet for stuff that is essentially emotional and instinctual.
PAGEHere's a message from Michael. Michael, from Brandon, Fla., who's given us a call. He says, if Hillary Clinton is not the Democratic candidate who prevails, is there a possibility that John Kerry or Al Gore could jump in? I might add Joe Biden's name to that list. Could the Democratic field get bigger, Ron?
ELVINGSure, it could get bigger. But mechanically it's extremely difficult to mount a campaign at this point. Now, if some cataclysmic event made it impossible for either Bernie or Hillary to continue running, surely the Democrats would come up with somebody. But if it's a matter of getting into challenge one of those two people because you don't like the results of the first few primaries, that's an insuperable obstacle.
TUMULTYBut you've got to wonder how many of these guys are out there, sitting there, kicking themselves that, you know, this septuagenarian Democratic socialist is actually mounting a real threat to Hillary Clinton.
PAGESo, as you know, at 10 o'clock, we have the domestic hour of the Friday News Roundup. At 11 o'clock, we have the international hour of the Friday News Roundup. There was a story I really wanted to include. We couldn't figure out where it went because we should have third hour, an intergalactic hour of the news.
ELVINGLet's get bigger.
PAGEBut we decided to have it here instead. And that is reports that two American -- from two American scientists that they have discovered a planet beyond Pluto. They're calling it Planet 9. How exciting is that, David?
RENNIEIt's pretty exciting. And it has a kind of poetry to it, too, because one of these scientists is the guy who killed Pluto. He's the guy that found that Pluto was not a planet.
ELVINGNo, he sent it to the kiddy table.
TUMULTYHe demoted it.
ELVINGHe sent it to the kiddy table.
RENNIEYeah, the undercard debate. Yeah. So he's now kind of atoning for his earlier demotion by finding potentially this thing that explains why some little objects on the other side of the solar system behave in odd ways. Their orbits look kind of wobbly in an odd way. And one explanation potentially is that they're being tugged about by some gigantic, very, very dark planet, a long, long, long way away. But it takes 20,000 years to orbit the sun, apparently.
TUMULTYYeah. You'd have to go like a long way between birthday parties...
TUMULTY...if you live there.
ELVINGHow do you feel if you're Pluto? I mean, really. I mean, first you've been called a dwarf planet now, instead of a real planet. I mean, really, seriously demoted. And a lot of Pluto's fans are very upset about this whole Planet 9 business. And this is really kind of a theoretical planet. It has not actually been observed.
PAGEWe haven't seen -- no one's seen it. Yeah.
ELVINGThat's the other way to say it.
ELVINGIt hasn't been observed and nobody's seen it. There's a Yogi Berra-ism in there somewhere. But the idea that this thing is out there, 10 times larger than Earth, having this weird orbit that is not like the other planets is fascinating. And I think we're probably going to hear a lot of Planet 9 societies forming.
PAGEPlanet 9, but I'm hoping there'll be some kind of Twitter contest to name Planet 9 in our future. Well, I want to thank our panelist for being with us this hour for the Friday News Roundup. Ron Elving of NPR, Karen Tumulty of The Washington Post, David Rennie from The Economist, thank you all for being with us.
PAGEI'm Susan Page of USA Today sitting in for Diane Rehm. Thanks for listening.
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