A panel of top political commentators joins Diane to talk about some of the head spinning events of this last year and to get their perspectives on the challenges ahead.
Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton square off in their first debate since the Vermont senator’s big victory in New Hampshire. The Republican presidential field shrinks as the remaining candidates head to South Carolina for tomorrow’s primary. The Department of Justice sues the city of Ferguson, Missouri over police reform. President Obama tells supporters not to despair over a Supreme Court ruling that puts his climate regulations on hold. Janet Yellen says the Federal Reserve would not rule out imposing negative interest rates if the U.S. economy takes a turn for the worse. And the last of the Oregon occupiers surrender, ending the wildlife refugee siege. A panel of journalists joins Diane for analysis of the week’s top national news stories.
- Neil King, Jr. Global economics editor and deputy Washington bureau chief, The Wall Street Journal
- Jackie Calmes National correspondent, The New York Times
- David Rennie Washington bureau chief and Lexington columnist, The Economist.
MS. DIANE REHMThanks for joining us. I'm Diane Rehm. The Republican presidential field narrows after a dramatic New Hampshire primary. The Department of Justice Ferguson, Missouri, after the city amends a police reform deal. And the Supreme Court puts President Obama's climate regulations on hold. Here for the domestic hour of the Friday News Roundup, Neil King, Jr., of The Wall Street Journal, Jackie Calmes of The New York Times and David Rennie of The Economist.
MS. DIANE REHMOf course, we will be live video streaming the Friday News Roundup in this hour. You can go to WAMU.org, click in Watch Live. You can come to us by phone, 800-433-8850. Send us an email to email@example.com. Follow us on Twitter or Facebook. And it's so good to see you all.
MR. DAVID RENNIEGood to see you.
MS. JACKIE CALMESGood to see you, Diane.
MR. NEIL KING JR.Hello.
REHMHappy to have you all here. All right. Your thoughts about last night's debate, Jackie.
CALMESWell, it was substantive and rather quiet until the second hour and got a little feisty there. And I especially enjoyed the split-screens when you could see how Bernie Sanders there, like a caged animal ready to attack.
REHMBut what were the issue that got him feisty? What made them angry? What got them really talking about substantive issues?
CALMESWell, it was a lot of the same issue they've talked about before, but I think they're of higher -- almost higher imperative now that they're heading into South Carolina and Nevada where you have an African American constituency and a Hispanic constituency in Nevada because for instance, the two biggest things that got Bernie Sanders riled up were when she, Hillary Clinton, was pointing out how he has attacked and criticized President Obama.
CALMESWhich, of course, doesn't go over well with black Democrats. And she also pointed out that he had opposed a 2007 immigration bill that Ted Kennedy co-sponsored and she supported. And that, of course, resonates with Latino voters in Nevada.
REHMHow do you feel about it, Neil?
JR.It was, in many ways, the embrace of Barack Obama by Hillary Clinton who's had to pivot in various ways to find kind of where her place is going to be and is she going to be kind of -- try to a little bit out-progressive Bernie Sanders or is she gonna be the woman of experience who should be elected on the basis of her experience. And in this case, it was very clear that, at least for now, she's going very much to I'm gonna run on the legacy of the Obama administration.
JR.I'm gonna accuse Bernie Sanders of proposing totally unrealistic things. She's trying to puncture his, you know, he's all about -- Donald Trump is let's make America great again. Bernie Sanders says, let's make America great for the first time. Let's have everything. And we don’t quite know how we're going to pay for it, but we're gonna have universal healthcare and so -- and she, I thought, pretty effectively, actually, was like, Bernie, your numbers don't add up and was really going after him.
JR.And the one time when he said that was a low blow was when she was basically saying, you're acting like a Republican. You are attacking the president of the United States, our party's head, as somebody who's less and is weak and has not actually done the things that all of us Democrat are proud of.
RENNIEAnd I thought that was -- it probably didn't really move the needle last night and I suspect a lot of Sanders fans watching didn't like it. But I think you can see there the foundations of actually quite a clever strategy for Hillary Clinton. Her core problem is that to win back some of those Sanders voters, ultimately, she has to convince them that they are deluded about is possible and that Bernie Sanders is selling fantasies that will not get through the Republican-dominated Congress that the next president will inevitably have.
RENNIEAnd so what she was essentially doing is by clinging very, very much to Barack Obama's record, as Jackie and Neil have said, she wasn't just wooing, you know, black voters who like Barack Obama. She was saying, we have the same strategy of incrementalism, taking half a loaf and hoping to get the full loaf later. And if you don't like that, if you think that we live in a kind of oligarchic Dystopia which is ripe for revolution, which is what Bernie Sander's pitch is, then be very clear, you're also criticizing the way that Barack Obama has run this country for the last eight years.
REHMAt one point, Hillary Clinton said, when I am president and Bernie Sanders came in and said you're not there, Secretary Clinton.
CALMESYeah, it didn't seem to go over all that well, just from what you heard in the --there seem to be some -- a little bit of murmuring.
REHMWhich didn't go over?
CALMESHis comment that she -- you're not there yet, Hillary. And he did -- that was just one of the comments that Bernie Sanders had that sort of made clear that he has more confidence coming out of, as he should I suppose, coming out of New Hampshire where he walloped her. And he almost seemed like the frontrunner on the stage and she was the one on defensive. I thought one of her best lines against him was that -- where she said, I'm not a single issue candidate.
CALMESAlthough, you have to ask, you know, in which I assume she's inferring or that he's -- it's all about, you know, the billionaire class and about the money and the rigged economy. On the other hand, that resonates pretty well, just that single issue message, with the people who like Bernie Sanders.
REHMHow important do you think these debates actually are, David Rennie, in terms of changing people's minds?
RENNIEI think that they -- we've seen just in the last few days. I mean, look at the Republican race in New Hampshire in the primary there. Marco Rubio had a terrible debate on the Saturday night just before the primaries. He was, you know, brutalized by Chris Christie. He sounded, you know, he repeated his talking points. It made him look wooden and people said robotic. And then, all of us reporters, I was in New Hampshire with the pack, and we were saying, maybe this won't hurt him.
RENNIEMaybe we're over imagining that this will hurt him. It really hurt him. It turned out to really, really hurt him because it did that deadly thing of crystallizing something that people already were uneasy about. And I think that in politics, you know, that's when things can change in a heartbeat. So that -- that debate, ironically, the man who launched the attack, it was suicide move, in fact, as people are writing, you know, Chris Christie ended up dropping out of the campaign.
RENNIEBut that was an example of these debates matter because they show us kind of in real time what we're already wondering, that...
REHMAnd how well did Donald Trump do in New Hampshire?
JR.Well, he had, you know, of course, just looking at the election results, he did quite well and he did pretty much exactly as it's been foreseen for months in the polling. And it was interesting, like, because it was so clear, the victory on both sides, both Bernie Sander and Donald Trump, that all the networks called thing basically the minute the polls closed. And then, the race on the Republican side immediately became -- the only tension point was who's gonna come in second or who's gonna come in third?
JR.Which is pretty interesting. We were talking about this before, but -- of the 16 New Hampshire primaries since 1952 when it became the first primary in the nation, 13 on the Republican side have been won by the person who then went on to become the nominee. I don't think that there's ever been a case where anyone who came in third in New Hampshire went on to become the nominee, and yet this was a case where there was this obsession about who's gonna come in third.
JR.But on the other hand, who came in third might actually matter because that's what's so bizarre about this election we're in where all the precedent is out the window.
REHMSo how much does experience matter to people?
JR.You know, pretty much not at all. I had to laugh last night, one of the things I tweeted was that Bernie Sanders absolutely had the gall to talk about -- he was like, of all the years I've been in Congress, and then he sort of said, like, you know, kind of suggested, like, and there have been a few, I've been around for -- and I was like, wow, somebody actually noted their years in Congress. Like, why would -- and on the Republican side, the only person who's done anything remotely like that is John Kasich.
JR.And what he does is he talks about the years in Congress. like, which were now a pretty long time ago and the things he did, balancing the budget and other things. But otherwise, this is a experience-free election. Well, I should say Hillary Clinton, of course. Her main mantra is, I'm the person with the most experience and the best suited for this job.
REHMBut how strongly did John Kasich come out of New Hampshire?
CALMESWell, it's, you know, he came out as sort of the story of the night and yet he had 11 percent of the Republican vote. So but it was...
JR.17, I think.
JR.I think, wasn't it 16, 17? Yeah, anyway, sorry, yeah.
CALMESI went to bed. But he -- still it was, you know, when less than one out of five of the Republican voters in New Hampshire, which was to be one of his best states and his -- one of his main strategists, John Weaver, was, you know, an architect of John McCain's great campaigns there where he walloped George W. Bush in '99/2000, but he -- it gave him life for another day. So now -- but he goes, unfortunately for him, goes onto South Carolina, which is not such a great state for him.
CALMESSo it's, you know, it couldn't be...
JR.The other thing, too, is Kasich kind of invested. I think he did 100 town hall meetings. He was all in on New Hampshire so he put basically all of his chips there. He did pretty well. As a result, he hasn't really invested all that much time in the states going forward.
RENNIELet's be clear. The reason that we're interested in who comes third or even, you know, people were saying, oh, look, Jeb Bush came fourth. That's great for him. It's like, really? Why we're having this conversation, it's because we know that there is, among other things, there is a vast pool of big business friendly Republican kind of establishment people with a barrel full of money. And if they see someone who looks like they're capable of stopping Donald Trump and stopping Ted Cruz, two candidates who they suspect will lose in the general election, then they will take that barrel of money and they will pour it over the head of that champion.
RENNIESo there is a race for third and fourth place to have the barrel poured over you. And the problem is there isn't a champion yet.
REHMYeah. Haven't you already seen that money moving from one candidate to another?
CALMESA little bit, but I think most of it is still on the sidelines.
RENNIEIt's in the barrel. It's waiting.
REHMIt's in the barrel waiting to see what comes next. All right. We are, as well. When we come back, we'll talk about other issues and take your calls. Remember, you can watch this portion of the Friday News Roundup by going to drshow.org. Watch video live and stay with us.
REHMWelcome back to the domestic hour of the Friday News Roundup, this week with Jackie Calmes, The New York Times, David Rennie with The Economist and Neil King of the Wall Street Journal. During the break, David Rennie, we were talking about the kerfuffle over the weekend over the statements of two women, Madeleine Albright and Gloria Steinem. Go over what happened.
RENNIEWell, it was a very sort of surreal moment because you had Gloria Steinem, the great feminist icon, saying something that was essentially sexist. She was talking about why so many women, particularly young women, are going to the Sanders campaign, and she said, well, maybe they're going where the boys are. And, you know, it was an astonishing thing to say. She was rebuked immediately by the Clinton campaign.
RENNIEAnd Madeleine Albright, slightly less kind of egregious, she has a line that she's used for a long time that women who don't support other women, there's a special place in hell reserved for them, and she used that line. But I think what they're both expressing is a real alarm on the Clinton side that not only is she not winning sort of all women, but there's a particular demographic that's been vital to the Democrats in the last couple of cycles, a real pillar of the Obama coalition, which is unmarried women.
RENNIEThey went for President Obama in both his elections by gigantic margins, and they are going for Bernie Sanders at the moment.
REHMSo why? That's the issue. Why are these young women not interested in Hillary Clinton?
CALMESWell, to generalize, I'd say, and as the mother of two 20-something girls, both on an anecdotal basis and just generally, that, you know, it's a post-feminist generation, and they've never not know, you know, things like reproductive rights. Of course those are under attack across the country in state after state right now, but -- and, you know, as Hillary Clinton herself said last night in the debate, freedom of choice, including, you know, the choice of choosing a man over a woman, I, you know, I just think it's -- younger women just don't have that sense that, you know, we need to have a woman president right now because they think they'll see one in their lifetime, whereas people in their mothers' generations think this may be the last chance I get to see a woman as president.
REHMHow about you, Neil?
MR. NEIL KINGYou know, the Democrats have a very long tradition of going for the new, out-of-nowhere thing. Barack Obama was like that. Bill Clinton was like that. I mean, we -- the Democrats don't tend to go for anything resembling the next in line, and even though Bernie Sanders isn't exactly young, for a lot of young people, he came out of nowhere, and here was this really bizarre, kind of funny, sometimes grumpy, disheveled person who had this very utopian view of what the world could look like and that went to a lot of the issues that they care about.
MR. NEIL KINGOddly, a lot of them are things like health care and Social Security, that most younger people don't really care about...
KINGBut I think the women are going for him in the same way that men are, because they find him really fresh. I do think that Hillary Clinton has handled this whole thing pretty well. Last night there was -- she was asked about this, and I thought -- and she actually said with a smile, I've worked my whole adult life to empower women to make their own choices, even if that choice is not to support me.
REHMGood for her.
KINGWhich is a line she's already been using this week. And it was, it was funny, actually.
REHMYeah, yeah, yeah.
KINGAnd she's been sort of heartfelt about this.
REHMBut the question becomes, is she going to shake up her campaign operation in order to somehow recast herself?
KINGYeah, you know, that came out this week. I think Politico wrote about it. It made a bit of a kerfuffle. David Axelrod at one point had tweeted that this was sort of vintage Clintons to not look at the inward at themselves but to look at their staff. It is true, oddly enough, in the last go-around, or I should say in the '80 go-around, February 9, they were taking a shellacking, they had just come out of the primaries in some distant states like Nebraska and Louisiana and caucuses and the like, and they had a staff shuffle then. That was February 9.
KINGOf course the calendar is different, so that was actually like a month of where we are now. My prediction would be no staff shakeup of any kind now if we come out of Super Tuesday on March 1, and Bernie Sanders has done really well in a bunch of states, and they might have, like, fought to a draw, which is totally possible. That would be the big defining moment, I think, of this race in terms of where the nation is when it comes to Bernie Sanders. Then we could see a lot of fear and loathing in the Clinton campaign, and we could see a staff shakeup.
RENNIEWell, I think what must be so frustrating for people inside the Clinton campaign, in fact I spoke yesterday to some people who had been in the Clinton White House and who are kind of tearing their hair out about, you know, where we are right now, is it's not that the campaign has made a series of absolutely gigantic mistakes that we can all point to. And if you look at the exit polls in New Hampshire, among people who are registered Democrats and among people whose top concern is electability, choosing someone who can win in November, she's doing just fine.
RENNIEI think the really confounding, frustrating, difficult thing for Clinton world is that so many people like Bernie Sanders because they don't seem to care about electability in the same way. It's not their top issue. Now as a kind of rational, chilly kind of logic guy, I don't understand how electability isn't your top issue because if you lose, you lose.
RENNIEAnd I think that part of this is young people, and I'm going to sound like a grumpy 40-something here, a lot of millennials, a lot of 20-something Americans, they don't remember a Republican winning the White House in a landslide. They remember George Bush maybe squeaking it, if they can remember that. Well, they don't even remember Bush. They just remember Obama winning twice, and they think, oh, you know, the country's getting less white, and demographics are bringing it our way. I think that a lot of them are just really complacent. They think that the White House belongs to the Democrats, and that's why they're so willing to...
CALMESWell, and the corollary of that is in our current times, the Congress essentially belongs to the Republicans, which, given the redistricting lines and the politics, the population shifts to the South...
REHMIt would be hard to change that.
CALMESYeah, it will be, you know, most people would tell you that it would be after 2020 before the Democrats would ever have a hope, if then, of taking back the House of Representatives. Why is this important? Well, you know, the millennials don't also remember maybe the 2007-2008 campaign very well, when Barack Obama was the candidate of hope and change. Much has change. You know, just ask Marco Rubio whether things have changed under Obama, and he'll tell you four times that they have.
CALMESBut the fact is that one of the biggest raps against Barack Obama is that he hasn't been able to do what he promised, and that is bring the city together, bring the capital together and get things, big things, done in a bipartisan way, which makes you question how in the world is Bernie Sanders going to do that. But millennials, you know, have to sort of look at -- beyond the White House, you also have to look at what kind of Congress would a President Sanders face.
REHMAnd what kind of Supreme Court you would have under a Republican president.
KINGWell, that's always one of these issues that sort of lingers out there, and I think it's really one of the most important ones for both sides, that what is the estimate now, that the next president will probably pick three.
REHMFour, three or four.
KINGFour? Okay, I was going to say three. Of course we don't really know, but it will be a very big thing. And as we were reminded of this week, the Supreme Court is a hugely important, out of nowhere.
KINGIn this case the decision on the admission standards was like a really out-of-nowhere move on their part. They can be a really decisive factor, and I think that for Hillary Clinton in particular, I think that will be one of the things that she will, and already has, hit on quite a lot.
REHMTalk about that Supreme Court decision and the environment.
KINGThis was really an important and very strange and unprecedented move on the part of the Supreme Court. My understanding -- so just to step back a little bit, as very much a part of his greenhouse gas initiative and the whole climate change push that came to a head in Paris at the end of last year, the whole global agreement, was the U.S. commitment that they will cut greenhouse emissions state by state by about a third by 2030. And it's based very much on going to the states and saying you must figure out your own path forward to make these reductions, and you must come back to us with your plans by 2018, or you can even get an extension.
KINGA bunch of states, mainly red states, 20-something of them, sued. And in the normal process this would go through the appellate levels, and then the Supreme Court would weigh in on some appellate decision pro or con. My understanding is that on Friday, they got all the brief books, and they decided just like that, in a very unexplained, strange decision, five to four, that no, they're going to put a stay to the whole thing, and it has thrown a wrench into anyway what is very important for the administration, global, you know, emissions climate change agreement. And it's uncertain where it's going to...
REHMWhere does that leave the United States vis-à-vis the rest of the world on this agreement?
KINGIt kicks the whole thing out from under them right now.
RENNIEI mean, I -- just preparing for this program, I went and looked at some of the French newspapers last night. They were covering this because this -- as Neil says, this was the court not striking down an Obama administration policy. What they did was they said all of these lawsuits from 27 states and from some big power companies, this is about a policy about how you generate electricity. This is the Clean Power Plan.
RENNIEAnd what the court essentially said is we think that quite possibly the president has overstepped his bounds because the president has very large authority over how the federal government operates, but the argument here, and there may be some legal argument here to this, is this -- essentially the federal government can change how the federal government does its business, but it's too much for the president to say here's a new rule at the federal level which then makes gigantic changes in the states and will make the states and the power industry and all these large companies take multi-billion-dollar decisions just to keep up with this federal rule change.
RENNIEAnd I think what they said is that's -- there's a reasonable argument that he's overstepped his bounds, that Congress really is the only body that can make this kind of degree of a change. But this is not going to happen in Obama's term, and so that's what you saw the European papers saying, is oh my goodness, the next president is going to decide this question, and then if it's a Republican, they know what that means. It's not going to happen.
REHMGoing back to the Hillary question and young women, we have an email from Carol Ann, who says young women are supporting Bernie because Hillary Clinton has a credibility, integrity problem.
KINGWell, that is one thing that we've seen very distinctly in the exit polls coming out of both Iowa and New Hampshire. When asked about is honesty and integrity an important issue for you, for the people that say that it is, those people go substantially to Bernie Sanders. I mean, this is something that Hillary Clinton has wrestled with for a long time.
KINGAnd it's very clearly something that moves, that is moving votes, particularly among, well, not just young people, into the Bernie Sanders camp.
REHMAll right, and here's a caller in Jupiter, Florida. Hi Michael, you're on the air.
MICHAELThank you, Diane, for taking my call.
MICHAELMy question today is why aren't more men and their voices being heard in support of Hillary Clinton? Why, I say, I'm 64 years old. As long as I've lived on this planet, men have ruled the United States. Their voices have been heard over and above all women. I'm raising three daughters who I want to have a better life as a woman. In 2013, one out of every five have been raped in this country. Under wages, inability to get better jobs because of sexism.
MICHAELI want to see a better life for my daughter, and I know by putting Hillary Clinton in the White House, we can build and create a foundation, a beginning, for all women's voices to be heard from now until whenever.
REHMAll right, Michael, thanks for your call. Here's a different point of view from Haley in Kalamazoo, Michigan. You're on the air.
HALEYHi, thank you. I feel like your panelists, like the Clinton group, they are pretty out of touch with my generation. I'm a millennial, and we appreciate the efforts that the baby-boomer feminists made. Remember, though, that we're a really well-educated generation, and we aren't riding on gender as our key issue. We want someone who is the best candidate, who represents us all, and we are looking at the bigger picture.
REHMSo for you, Haley, what does the bigger picture mean?
HALEYWell, we look at the history books, and we see that the American economy did best when we had a thriving middle class, when people were making livable wages. And our generation has not seen that at all. We would love a chance to have what the baby boomers had.
REHMAll right, thanks for your call, and you're listening to the Diane Rehm Show. I know you wanted to respond, Jackie.
CALMESWell, I was just going to say, you know, that's what I was trying to say is that her generation, millennial women, and like my daughters, have -- you know, feel like they have the freedom to choose the candidate they want, whether it's a male or a female, and that as much as they'd like to see a woman as president, it'll happen in their lifetime. The conditions in this country are such they don't see a barrier to a woman being president.
KINGOf the things that Haley said, I thought the most powerful was the part at the end, which is fascinating, which is a kind of nostalgia, even among younger people that might not remember this moment, which if you look on the Republican side, these campaigns are built almost entirely about -- around the concept of returning to something that we once had and once were, which was largely something in the '50s, '60s and '70s, where the country had incredible GDP growth, and we built the highway system, and we went to the moon, and all these things happened.
KINGAnd the country is a very different country now. We're much older. We have a much bigger Social Security state that we have to pay for. The finances don't work out as well. And there's a lot of -- and the economy has this mysterious weakness about it that we're trying to grapple to understand. And her point is an interesting one, which also -- there's a funny thing about Bernie Sanders, where on the one hand he's not really looking back, except for what his tax rates would be, right, which would be kind of like '60s and '70s-era high tax rates, which he would need to pay for.
KINGBut obviously Haley sees in Bernie Sanders a sort of nostalgia and a desire to return to a type of economy that we once had.
RENNIEWell, I think that, you know, I take the point absolutely that, you know, people are very angry about the fact that they've gone to college, they've got all this college debt, and the jobs aren't there, and the baby boomers, you know, are living in these expensive houses that young people can't afford. But here's the problem. I disagree that -- I disagree certainly that we in this panel are kind of the Hillary campaign.
RENNIEI think what I'm saying, and what The Economist magazine is saying, is you have every right to be resentful about your current situation, but you have to fix it in the world that exists. You have to have policy ideas that will get through this Congress, the Congress that the next president is going to have to deal with. Our concern about Bernie Sanders is, one, his numbers don't add up. I mean, he's -- there's gigantic, trillion-dollar holes in his budgets.
RENNIEAnd two, this is still a country with an awful lot of Republicans in it and a Congress which is, as Jackie says, at least the House is going to be Republican, and Democrats are not going to have 60 seats, anywhere near 60 seats in the Senate. So the next president, whether it's Bernie Sanders, Hillary Clinton or Ted Cruz, is going to have to deal with that reality, and Bernie Sanders just is peddling dreams, and that's the problem.
REHMWell, that is also the question. Are people simply responding to the person, the personality, the expectation of what that person might be able to do, rather than thinking about what can this person really accomplish, especially if the Congress is of a different party? I mean, are we as an electorate really thinking realistically?
CALMESWell, the short answer is no, and in fairness to voters, you know, you like to be idealistic, you like to be hopeful.
CALMESAnd you don't want to take that away from people. But, you know, just as unrealistic as Bernie Sanders' platform is, given the government he'll face, you know, it's just as unrealistic, Donald Trump and Ted Cruz, and I might throw in some of the other candidates, too. But it is -- you know, voters do have to be more realistic without losing their idealism.
REHMJackie Calmes of The New York Times, David Rennie of The Economist, Neil King at the Wall Street Journal. More of your questions, comments and the president on political divisions in this country. Stay with us.
REHMAnd welcome back. Let's talk about the fact that the Department of Justice wants to sue Ferguson, Missouri. Tell us what that's all about, Neil.
JR.Well, it goes back to the August, 2014 Michael Brown shooting and all of the results that came out of that and the sudden focus on Ferguson, Missouri as being kind of the epitome of this small town that had a real problem in its policing and in the way that its court system operated. So the Department of Justice came in, intervened essentially, in the affairs of Ferguson to kind of create a scenario, a plan that would remedy these things. And they were very close to having gotten an agreement that was very complicated in terms of body cameras for the police and how the courts would operate differently.
JR.And various good practices that the police would use. And in the end, in a vote this week, the city council voted for an amended plan, essentially that had some things that were left out of what the DOJ wanted. And that in itself forced the hand of the Department of Justice, at least on their own terms it did, and they sued Ferguson on a bunch of counts, basically constitutional amendment grounds. First, fourth and 14th Amendment basically pointing to what they were describing, some of these things being known before, that there was just a practice, a history of all kinds of unfair practices that were largely race based on harassing, people.
JR.Not giving them their due process when it came to the court side. The argument, which is interesting, on the council side, is that this is a majority city, majority black city council. They voted six to nothing to -- for the plan, the Department of Justice then didn't like, was a budget thing. They were basically saying, what the Department of Justice is asking us to do would cost something like 14 and a half million dollars over three years. Or no. I think it was 10 million.
JR.And they have a 14 million dollar a year budget. So that would be a huge hit to them. So, here we stand now with the huge Department of Justice going after a fairly small town in Missouri over their policing practices.
REHMAnd in the meantime, have things in Ferguson improved?
JR.They've improved, certainly to the extent that we're not seeing the things that gave rise to this in the first place. And I think there are already a number of these practices that have been discussed with the Department of Justice are things that are making their way through the system.
REHMAnd David Rennie, Janet Yellen testified before Congress this week about the US economy. She was asked whether, perhaps, she had made a mistake by raising the interest rate even as little as she did.
RENNIEThat's right. And she was getting it from right and left.
RENNIEBecause Republicans tend to think that the -- that this is easy money, that it's all going to overheat, that we're going to see hyperinflation, because, you know, this is outrageous stimulus to the economy. The markets, and probably most Democrats, were sort of maybe suggesting that she should cut rates, that we should look about negative interest rates as you're seeing in some countries now. And she said that she wouldn't take negative interest rates off the table. I think the market's expectations are now that there may not be a whole bunch of rate rises, even small rate rises this year.
RENNIEAnd what this is really about is, you know, America has been doing a bit better than certainly other large economies, certainly compared to Europe and some, you know, China's slight slowdown. So America had been a bit of a beacon of hope. She's basically saying it's fragile. She's concerned. She's concerned about inflation being too low. That sounds like an odd thing, but actually, very low inflation and deflation can be very, very dangerous for an economy, because if you think that TV is going to be cheaper next month, you don't buy it this month, in crude terms.
RENNIEAnd so everyone stops spending. It's just bad for an economy. Peoples' debts don't get eaten away by inflation. So she's in a pickle. It was an interesting thing, she has an interesting line, though. She says, we don't believe that recovery's die of old age. So she doesn't believe that it's kind of -- she thinks that something has to actually go wrong in the economy for the economy to turn down. She thinks if there's going to be a recession, you have to be able to show that something is actively going wrong. She doesn't believe that this kind of just runs out of puff and out of steam and that America would drift...
REHMSo she would not go so far as to say I believe the economy will improve.
RENNIE...no. So, in December, when they made the first rate rise, tiny, tiny rate rise, remember, in December, first rate rise for a decade, that was kind of taking the patient out of the intensive care ward...
RENNIEPutting them back in the general ward and saying, okay, you know, you had your heart attack, now in a bit of better shape. We can put you in the general ward. And everything's looking pretty optimistic. She admitted in her testimony to Congress over two days, there's a whole bunch of alarming indicators. The slowdown in China, the low oil prices which are good for some things, but actually bad for others. There's just a lot of head winds. And you know, that patient is not running around a running track. They're still in a, they're still in the hospital bed. They're just not hooked up to life support.
RENNIEYou know, traditionally, Fed Chairmen have one main piece of ammunition, which is the interest rate. And they generally raise and lower it to try to make various changes to the inflation rate and the job picture and so on. This is a Fed Chairman, and the one before her, who has had none of that because the rates have been at zero for so long. So all that Janet Yellen really wants to do is to see an economy that's strong enough to bear her incrementally raising the interest rates. So, if this recovery dies of old age or whatever it will die of.
JR.And at one point, it will go down. She will have some traditional leverage to combat it, which is lowering rates. At the moment, we're already, even though the recovery is continuing, and the, you know, the retail numbers came out today and they were strong. And we've seen these strong job numbers. There's already the talk of the possibility of having to go into negative rates, because...
JR....we're basically flying at like 15 feet above ground. And the only -- and that would be a really scary, strange moment. And though it has been underway in a number of other places, most recently in Japan, its track record of actually boosting growth is pretty meager so far.
REHMAnd talk about scary moments, think about the stock market in these last couple of weeks.
CALMESRight. And the stock market reflecting the global headwinds. And we've seen throughout this recovery, and one of the reasons it's been so slow since the 2008 and 2009 recession is that every time the US seemed to be seeing the green chutes, there would be some, you know, European debt crisis or something that sort of stopped it in its tracks. And the other thing that Janet Yellen's Fed has working against it, as she knows, and now takes for granted, but it's only been in recent years that this was so true.
CALMESIs that given the polarization in Congress, you know, she manages, the Fed manages monetary policy. The other big tool that the government typically has is fiscal policy to stimulate an economy. But this is, in a polarized Congress and White House, there is not, you know, the Fed cannot count on them to provide stimulus to the extent they can. And there's now a sense, there's a consensus in the Fed and elsewhere that interest rates will remain low, essentially, for a long time.
CALMESThat the trend has changed. And with that low interest rates, Congress and the White House should be providing more money by way of things like infrastructure.
CALMESAnd long term investments, education and that would be something that would provide for long term growth. But that isn't happening to the extent that Janet Yellen would like it to.
REHMBut the question becomes why. Why is the Congress so absolutely dead set against providing money for an infrastructure that is so terribly in need of it right now. And that would do exactly as Janet Yellen says. It would stimulate the economy. Is it totally political?
RENNIEIt is. And what's interesting is that, you know, in general, business tends to favor Republicans over Democrats. This is one of the few issues in which if you talk to big business leaders, they're really cross with the Republicans. You know, there are a bunch of big CEOs who worry a huge amount about the state of peoples' roads and bridges and railway lines and air traffic control. And dredging ports to take the new big ships that are going to come through the new big Panama Canal. I mean, any big business leader in this country can give you, you know, a list of 10 infrastructure things that they would like to see money spent on right now to make sure that America is competitive.
RENNIEAnd they're in despair about the Republicans, as are quite a lot of Republican Senators if you talk to them in private. They would love to do some stuff on infrastructure.
REHMSo, so who's holding it back?
RENNIEThe House. It's the House of Representatives.
REHMAnd who within the House has the wherewithal to move this forward if it were not that Barack Obama is in the White House?
JR.It's hard to see it moving, necessarily, under the current circumstances. The one thing I think could make something important move is if they were to cut some kind of bigger corporate tax deal.
JR.There's a push -- a lot of people are still saying that's the one thing that might happen this year where there would be a sort of one off repatriation move. There's trillions of dollars of US corporate profits overseas that are just sitting in Ireland in various places. If they would say, okay, your one time reduced tax rate is gonna be this, you bring it back and it would -- and this is, would be, you know, tens and tens of billions of dollars that could be spent on infrastructure. That's the idea.
JR.You know, Obama, President Obama has been pushing in his budget that he's put forward, which isn't gonna go anywhere really. He put this 10 dollars a barrel tax on a barrel of oil, which is a roundabout attempt to basically do what nobody has been willing to do in Congress, which is to raise the gas tax, which has been sitting at the same level for decades, which has been the traditional means that we've raised money to spend on climate.
REHMOkay, so I want to go back to my question. Is this all to ensure that the President of the United States does not get to be a success?
CALMESWell, you can find Republicans who would say that in their private moments or might even say it publicly. But at bottom, this just goes against the fundamental Republican creed and they -- there was talk late last year, Paul Ryan was in negotiations with the likes of Democrat Charlie Schumer. And Chuck Schumer. And with the White House people about a package that, as similar to what Neil has referred to, would have used a sort of one term infusion of tax money from multi-national corporations to fund a hundreds of billions in infrastructure.
CALMESBut it never, they never got to the gory details, because it was -- the Democrats wanted more spending than Paul Ryan and the Republicans were willing to support. And so I think we've lost the chance for another year. And in any case, it's always going to come down to the fundamental Republicans are against raising taxes.
RENNIEAnd the view of the federal government, the role of the federal government. It's not just about 2016 calculation, I mean, that's your question, I think. Is this just designed to sort of kneecap this President?
REHMWell, it's also about Barack Obama.
RENNIEInfrastructure, you know, every single issue, from infrastructure to what we feed kids in schools goes into the kind of mincing machine of partisanship now. And roads and bridges have gone into that. A lot of Republicans sincerely believe the federal government has no business -- you know, Eisenhower would now be a dangerous Communist for building his highways. This has to be done by the states. It's up to the states to do this stuff. They also deeply dislike the idea of using federal highway funds to do things like public transport because quite a lot of House Republicans don't think public transport is something you should do at all.
CALMESThey're from the South and the West. They don't have a lot of public transport.
RENNIEYeah, they don't believe in things like trains. You know, trains are socialist European things. You know, they're not to be built.
REHMYou know, it's so interesting. I've got Henry Petroski coming on on Monday. He is not only an historian of how things work, but one of his arguments is that without this infusion of money for infrastructure, the US economy falters. Do Republicans want to see the US economy falter? I mean, we're in a kind of Catch-22 here that talks about what Republicans believe in, what Democrats believe in. But the fact of the matter is the country needs infrastructure.
JR.The country needs a lot of those things. Like, to go to David's point, I really, there is, we're at a kind of crisis in terms of our view of the federal government's role.
JR.And with just profound differences over whether the federal government should be sort of the preeminent force on all of these things.
REHMNeil King of the Wall Street Journal. And you're listening to The Diane Rehm Show. Let's go to Hillsborough, New Hampshire. Marco, you're on the air.
MARCOHi there, Diane. It's great to have you back.
MARCOAnd you sure will be missed. My question today is considering the worst happens and Trump wins the Presidency, can we consider him, when we have to take care of international diplomacy?
REHMForeign affairs. And Donald Trump. Neil.
JR.Well, you know, Donald Trump has a long legacy now, at least so far in this campaign of saying that he knows a lot of everybody that makes up every nationality and all those people are great people and he gets along with the Chinese really well and the Mexicans really well. And has also said, on the other hand, a lot of things that are likely to make his Presidency, should there be one, difficult with all of those nations. I think it's fair to say that we don't really know a lot about what his foreign policy would amount to, other than it would be really muscular, really strong and would help make America great again. But it would be highly unpredictable, I think we can say that.
RENNIEWe've seen him make some extraordinary claims. I mean, I interviewed Donald Trump a while ago for a cover story and I asked about the South China Sea. You know, so, you know, what would you do if the Chinese keep building these airfields on these islands in the South China Sea? He goes, ah, you know, Japan will take care of that. And I was like, well, what if Japan doesn't take care of that? And he goes, you know, Japan used to beat China all the time in wars. They can handle that. Then the other day on North Korea, and the dictator, Kim Jong Un, he said, you know, maybe the Chinese can make him disappear.
RENNIEI'll make the Chinese -- I'll get the Chinese to make him disappear. So he's volunteering to make the Communist government in Beijing assassinate one of their close allies. That's one of his more recent suggestions.
REHMI mean, it just leaves you wondering, not so much where his comments come from, but the enormity of the population that believes what he says.
RENNIEI can tell you, as a Brit living in America, looking at the British newspapers, the European newspapers, if you think that Europe was horrified by some of George W. Bush's policies, the coverage of this election in the outside world is just people have their heads in their hands in disbelief.
REHMAnd yet, I gather the Parliament in England voted down the idea of excluding Donald Trump from England.
RENNIEYeah. That was right. That would have been ridiculous if we'd have excluded him. I think we can cope with -- we can cope with Donald Trump. We're brave enough for that.
REHMDo you think the US is ready for a Donald Trump?
JR.I might challenge a little bit the idea, at least so far, that there's an enormity of support, as you said, for Donald Trump. If you look at, so, at the moment, he's gotten, he's getting about a third of the Republican vote. The Republican vote is itself maybe 40 percent.
JR.Or a third. Yeah, so we're talking about a third of a third, or maybe even a third of 40 percent, but we're still talking about -- the people that are really in love with Donald Trump are maybe 18 percent of the country. Probably more like 15 percent. The whole key with him is is this gonna sort of shift as other drop out and will he kind of catch a real -- will he start to snowball in ways that will make him a de facto nominee within a month or so? Or a couple of months. And will that then swell into something that could imperil whoever the Democrat is. And it's extremely hard to predict.
REHMAnd those are the questions we leave you with. We didn't answer too many this morning we raised.
REHMAbsolutely. Neil King, the Wall Street Journal. Jackie Calmes, the New York Times. David Rennie, he is Washington bureau chief and columnist at The Economist. Thank you all. Have a great weekend.
CALMESYou too, Diane.
JR.You too, Diane.
REHMPeaceful. Peaceful. Thanks for listening all. I'm Diane Rehm.
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