Guest Host: Cecilia Kang
Apple is front and center in the debate over privacy after the company says they’ll fight a court order forcing them to unlock the iPhone of the San Bernardino shooter. President Obama says he will not attend the funeral of the late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia. Meanwhile, the political debate over replacing the vacancy heats up. On his visit to Mexico, the Pope weighs in on the race for president and Donald Trump fires back. And ahead of Saturday’s Democratic caucus in Nevada, Hillary Clinton holds a small lead over Bernie Sanders. Guest host Cecilia Kang and a panel of journalists discuss this week in news.
- Domenico Montanaro Lead political editor, NPR
- Laura Meckler National political correspondent, The Wall Street Journal
- Reid Wilson Congress editor and chief political correspondent, Morning Consult
MS. CECILIA KANGThanks for joining us. I'm Cecilia Kang of the New York Times sitting in for Diane Rehm. She's on a book tour. Apple fights an order to help the FBI access the iPhone of one of the San Bernardino shooters. Donald Trump fires back at Pope Francis who suggested Trump is not Christian for his views on immigration. And the Supreme Court vacancy caused by the death of Justice Antonin Scalia becomes a polarizing issue on the 2016 campaign trail.
MS. CECILIA KANGJoining me for the domestic hour of the Friday News Roundup, Domenico Montanaro of NPR, Laura Meckler of The Wall Street Journal and Reid Wilson of The Morning Consult. Thanks so much for joining us.
MS. LAURA MECKLERThanks for having us.
MR. REID WILSONMorning.
MR. DOMENICO MONTANAROThank you.
KANGWe'll be taking your comments, questions, throughout the hour, call us on 800-433-8850. Send us your email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Join us on Facebook or Twitter. And because it's Friday, we're doing a live video stream of the hour. You can watch at drshow.org. We'll start with the DOJ and Apple. Domenico, a showdown between Apple and the Department of Justice this week over unlocking an iPhone. Bring us up to speed on what happened.
MONTANAROWell, as you know very well, the court had said that Apple has to break through, essentially, the encryption of the San Bernardino shooter for their iPhone. And Tim Cook is fighting this, the head of Apple, saying that the government's asking us to do something we simply do not have, which is build a back door to the iPhone. That's caused a lot of consternation on the campaign trail. We've had Republicans and Democrats respond.
MONTANARODonald Trump said that he agreed 100 percent with the courts. John Kasich said that this is not government overreach, that he also agreed with the court. Marco Rubio was the one who kind of had a little bit more of a nuanced view and said that it's complicated, that he understands that Apple's trying to protect privacy, like if you use your iPad or iPhone, you don't want someone to have this capability to break into your sensitive information.
MONTANAROTed Cruz, who's supposed to sort of take up the flame of liberty, you know, took that over from Rand Paul, said that Apple has to comply and that we can walk and chew gum at the same time, protect us from terrorists and protect our civil rights. On the Democratic side, of course, it's more complicated. Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton both said they see both sides and Hillary Clinton, of course, said that this is the reason why you need to have someone who can find common ground.
KANGIt's already become a political issue. And Reid, tell us a little bit about why Apple's CEO Tim Cook is taking such a tough stand. What has he said about why he wants to fight this court order?
WILSONWell, this is a fascinating example of sort of the contours of modern technology and the tech industry. And you know a lot more about this than I do, but essentially, Tim Cook is arguing that this will become a slippery slope, that if Apple is ordered to rebuild their operating system and allow federal authorities a way into this particular iPhone, what's to stop the federal government from coming back the next time?
WILSONWhat's to stop the Chinese government from coming back the next time or the Russian government or some other governments where they're not trying to protect you from terrorism? They trying to stifle dissent or stifle sort of the freedom of speech and the privacy protections that Apple is creating. And the fascinating part about all this, to me, at least, is that Apple has built -- in a world where so many of these companies that run so much of our lives now, Google and Facebook and Twitter and things like that, are building software platforms.
WILSONApple is building a product and once that product is built, they're sort of done with it. They're saying to their consumer, this is your product. You do what you want with it. Here is your security that even we can't hack into. That's sort of -- that's a significant difference, I think, between Apple and the other companies that are becoming such a huge part of our lives.
KANGIndeed. Isn't that, Laura, one of the bigger issues here for Silicon Valley, is if they say yes to the U.S. government, what's to stop Russia, China, other nations to say, well, if you're allowing them the keys, you should give it to us, too? So technologically, when I talk to people, they say there are technological ways to give information in the way the U.S. government does, but what's the broader context here? What is the concern by the companies?
MECKLERWell, I think the broader context is that once you build this, you lose total control over it. You don't know what's going to happen to it, as well as, perhaps, fulfilling other requests. But I think isn't part of it just that once you have this backdoor in, it could get in the hands of people who are not authorized to use it as well? And I think that also the sort of broader context that we're looking at here is, you know, two very compelling things that are at intention.
MECKLEROne is the need for law enforcement to track down leads. I mean, let's keep in mind what the heart of this is. This is the cell phone of somebody who killed many people, who is now dead himself, has not privacy rights of his own anymore...
KANGThe San Bernardino shooter, Syed Farook.
MECKLER...that there may -- exactly, this is his phone. There may be information that's on this phone that maybe -- that could lead the FBI to other potential future terrorists, for people who he was in touch with, people who might have more information. I mean, they're saying, essentially, there's information that might be useful. And so that's their principle. And then, on the other hand, you have Apple representing sort of the technology companies that are basically saying, well, you know, there is a right to privacy here and not one's gonna trust us to protect their privacy if we just let you into this phone.
MECKLERSo I think that what really had been happening is that the government had been looking for a test case to really push this in the courts and say, you know, let's get a ruling. And this one is about as perfect as it gets for them so this is the -- they took it and ran with it in the courts to see can they actually force the technology companies to do this.
KANGThis was an opportunity. Just a news update. Apple does have a three-day extension to respond to the court order so they have, actually, until Friday, February 26. Laura, as you mentioned, this is not new. This has been -- this debate has been going on for some time and we periodically hear about the president and people in the administration meeting with Silicon Valley business leaders about the issue of security and privacy.
KANGAnd they seem to really be at loggerheads and it looks like there is talk, perhaps, Reid, about legislation on encryption. That's been going on for a while, too, that talk. Where is it headed?
WILSONAnd to Laura's point, this is the big problem with the way these laws have been structured is that the technology is advancing faster than Congress operates, faster than the White House can formulate some kind of cyber security.
KANGIsn't that always the case? Yes.
WILSONBut it's happening...
MONTANAROIPhones outdated, you know, in six months, basically, and legislation...
WILSONIs outdated three months before that.
MONTANARO...you're lucky if it takes six months to get something through.
WILSONExactly. And I mean, they've been debating a cyber security bill that they finally passed last year. It took them, what, four or five years to get through just one cyber security piece of legislation. Now, the White House is convening, you know, new panels that will take on privacy and cyber security and all that and -- but by the time they finish discussing all this, you know, it's not only going to be Apple that has a new operating system. It's going to be, you know, Samsung and Google Voice and all the rest.
KANGUm-hum. Technology will have advanced.
WILSONWell, yeah, exactly. Technology advances a lot faster than anything is able to happen on Capitol Hill right now.
KANGAside from Capitol Hill being behind on the technological advances, Domenico, is there a consensus, though, on whether there should be encryption law?
MONTANAROWell, you know, there's been this debate, though, for a while over meta data when it's -- starting with the NSA and with the Edward Snowden revelations. And I think that that's part of what you're seeing kind of play out now because, you know, this is one of those cases where the government says, we went to court, right? I mean, they're saying -- the argument had been, get a warrant. What's the problem? Get a warrant. Well, the government's saying, we got a warrant. We've now gone through the courts so they're now trying to put more of that pressure on Silicon Valley, which is much more libertarian.
KANGAnd Laura, how do people feel about this? It's -- the surveys I've seen show that after the Paris attacks, for example, more than 50 percent of people surveyed said they are afraid that some of their privacy protections will be unpeeled, if you will. Will be peeled back after that because of terrorists, trying to clamp down on terrorist activity.
MECKLERYeah. I think that -- I think there are fears that go both ways, frankly. You know, there are fears of losing your privacy and there are fears of terrorism. And I think that those two things have been in tension for a very long. I mean, we make these compromises all the time. You have to take off your shoes when you go through airport security. You have to -- people who are on the no fly list aren't allowed to fly, even though, in some cases, they're mixed up with somebody else and they have to deal with a whole long process to get off of it.
MECKLERI mean, there are a lot of situations in this country where we're balancing these two things, you know, individual rights versus security. So I think this is just another example of that.
KANGAnd onto the 2016 campaign, the big news, of course, of Justice Antonin Scalia's death over the weekend. That had immediately elicited response from -- on the campaign trail and it's become a central issue for the campaign. How are the campaigns reacting, Domenico?
MONTANAROWell, you know, there was, initially, a GOP split now or rather there's now a GOP split among Republican senators on what they should do about this because Senator Mitch McConnell -- it's pretty amazing when we think about how this happen -- happening so quickly. I mean, Antonin Scalia found out died on Saturday and then almost immediately the reaction on Twitter and elsewhere was went to the political and whether or not President Obama should appoint somebody.
MONTANAROMitch McConnell, the Senate majority leaders who essentially controls the agenda in the Senate, said that the country should wait until the next president is in place because it could change the ideological direction of the court, depending on who's in place. Now, that's 11 months from now and that has heightened the stakes on the campaign trail for, you know, 'cause usually the court -- Supreme Court appointment is kind of an abstract idea for most people.
MONTANAROYou know, it plays well with base voters on the Democratic side and on the Republican side, but this makes it much more, you know...
MONTANARO...real, right? I mean, you know that whoever the next president will be will get to shape social issues for the next generation, essentially, not just be in place for four years.
KANGYou can attach real issues to the idea of a replacement. Coming up, more of the Friday News Roundup. You can see all of our guests on our live video stream at drshow.org. Thank you. And we'll be right back.
KANGWelcome back. I'm Cecilia Kang of The New York Times. If you're just joining us, you can watch us live -- watch our live video at drshow.org. I am joined by Domenico Montanaro, the lead political editor for NPR, Laura Meckler, a national political correspondent for The Wall Street Journal, and Reid Wilson, the Congress editor and chief political correspondent at the Morning Consult.
KANGPope Francis, Laura, inserted himself into the 2016 campaign with comments on Trump. Tell us about that.
MECKLERWell, it was really pretty amazing, if you think about it. I mean, here you have Pope Francis, who has been controversial but is also wildly popular worldwide. And he was asked about immigration. He was going to the -- this week, spending time at the Mexican border, the Mexican-U.S. border. And he was asked about this. And what he said was that it's not the Christian thing to do to build walls rather than to build bridges. And he said that if there's somebody who's advocating that, he's not a Christian. And that was widely interpreted to mean that he was saying that Donald Trump, who has come to prominence on his proposal for a wall between -- at the border with Mexico, that essentially Trump was not a Christian.
MECKLERSo in true fashion, Trump fired back. He did not shrink from this. I don't think anybody thought he would.
MECKLERAnd he said the pope was completely out of line. So you essentially have, you know, the pope versus Trump, which if that's not a headline that we thought -- that we could sort of make up for its...
KANGAnything can happen at this point.
MECKLER...sensational value, I'm not sure what would be in the political sphere. I think that it really was actually a pretty unprecedented moment on both sides. Essentially, you don't usually see religious figures, heads of denominations -- certainly not the pope -- going after individual people, and particularly passing judgment on whether they are or are not a Christian. It's -- it seemed like a pretty extreme statement in a way for him to say. On the other hand, usually when politicians are sort of criticized by religious figures, they just sort of say, well, you know, we'll agree to disagree or I respect his views and just kind of back off. But, of course, that's not what Trump did.
MECKLERSo you essentially have both people engaging in a very dramatic way. I mean, I personally don't see this particularly harmful to Donald Trump. You know...
MECKLER...if he can criticize Fox News, if he can criticize John McCain, if he can criticize George W. Bush, I'm not sure why he can't...
KANGBut this is the pope.
MECKLER...criticize the pope. Frankly, I'm not -- I would be surprised if this made much more than a marginal difference for him. But we'll see.
KANGThe pope might trump, no pun intended, the Fox News. Reid, what do you think? How is this going to affect Trump?
WILSONSo, I'm not entirely certain that I would say that the pope engaged. And he was asked a very specific question. He -- Donald -- the one thing that Donald Trump said yesterday that I think is inarguably correct is that this pope is a very political pope. He is, in fact, I mean, he's not only the head of a denomination, he's also the head of state.
KANGAnd what do you mean by that, with saying he's a political pope?
WILSONHe is -- he has injected himself into a significant number of political debates. I mean, he went to the border with Mexico and stood there, delivered a Mass to 200,000 people and then walked to the river and looked across and waved at the U.S. border guards who were standing there looking back at him. So he has not been shy about injecting himself into politics. I don't think, though, that he was intentionally trying to inject himself into the 2016 campaign. The thing that amazed me is that this whole exchange -- not only the pope's initial comments, but then Trump's comments and then the pope's reaction to Trump's comments -- all happened while the plane carrying the pope was heading back to Rome.
WILSONSo the whole thing, they were like sending emails back and forth from the plane. That just amazes me from a technological perspective. The -- whether or not this is going to matter in the 2016 race, I mean, if there was anything that captured the bizarreness of this campaign in one subject line, it was the email yesterday that we all got that said Donald J. Trump responds to the pope. That, I mean, that just amazed me that that was actually -- who was writing the story when this came in?
WILSONWas it Dr. Seuss or Joseph Heller or Hunter S. Thompson? I can't quite decide. But this is -- Donald Trump, you're right, has gone after just about everybody -- every sacred cow on the Republican side. The pope transcends Republican and Democratic lines, certainly. But, you know, whether or not this has an impact so close to the election. I think the one thing that could leave an impact is the notion that Donald Trump is just flying off the handle at anybody and everybody, including the pontiff.
MONTANAROI was going to say, I don't think that this pope has really any impact as far as the Republican primary electorate goes. You know, you mentioned that the pope may trump Fox. I think Fox trumps the pope, certainly, when it comes to a...
KANGIn the U.S.?
MONTANARO...when it comes to a Republican primary.
MONTANARONo. No. I mean, when we're talking about a South Carolina primary that is two-thirds white, born-again evangelical Christian. You know, we've had -- we have reporters on the campaign trail there with NPR who have already heard from voters immediately who said, you know, that they're not sure if the pope is Christian, we had one person say.
MONTANAROSo, you know, the fact is, you know, Trump has his supporters. They are who they are. I think the bigger thing -- and Reid touched on this -- that's going to -- that could have an impact on Trump started at that debate and whether or not he looked in command and in control. So regardless of what he actually said about the pope, the fact that he's, as Reid said, flying off the handle so quickly to respond to the pope and kind of responds to whoever it is and in very superficial ways. If you say a nice thing about this pope -- or, about this pope -- Donald Trump -- is he the pope? I don't know.
MONTANAROI mean, if you say a nice thing about Donald Trump, he's your friend. As soon as you turn on him and say something that's not so nice, then he turns on you even harder. So, you know, I mean look at Ted Cruz and Donald Trump. Cruz and he were best friends like a month ago, right? And then all of a sudden Ted Cruz and he are jostling for the same voters. And now Ted Cruz is the biggest liar he's ever met. He beats him in Iowa and they're no longer friends.
KANGYou know, this comes on the heels, Laura, of Trump making yet more controversial statements this week. And this time he defended waterboarding and saying that torture works. What is the response to that, if at all, from voters do you think?
MECKLERWell, the response I heard from Republican primary voters who were at Trump events was, you know, damn straight it works. Absolutely. Let's bring it back. I think that this is a very, you know, as in many things, Donald Trump does not show a lot of nuance or necessarily like a particularly sophisticated understanding of the pushes and pulls in policy. There actually -- there's a lot of evidence that torture and waterboarding in fact does not work. Beyond that, I mean, that's the argument certainly that John McCain has made, you know, a former prisoner of war himself, has said that people will say anything just to make it stop, essentially. That's one argument against it.
MECKLERAnother argument against it, of course, is that it, you know, goes against American values and that we've also signed a international treaty saying that we won't torture. Normally, the Republicans who feel like we should be doing waterboarding -- the argument from the sort of the Dick Cheney crowd -- is not, yes, it's torture and that's just fine. It's that waterboarding is not in fact torture. So that's a much more subtle argument.
MONTANARODonald Trump says he'd do worse than waterboarding.
MECKLERYeah, bring on -- what else is there available? I mean...
MONTANAROYeah, bring it, whatever. Yeah. Maybe there's a -- as I heard a joke yesterday -- holy-waterboarding. I don't know. Never mind.
MECKLERBut I mean, it's, you know, it just sort of shows that I don't think that Donald Trump's popularity or campaign is built on, you know, the sophistication of his policy. It's built on something very different. The rest is just all sort of ancillary to his whole enterprise.
KANGOn to other candidates. Former President George W. Bush was in South Carolina this week campaigning for his brother Jeb. Reid, what did he say? And why did he wait this long to hit the trail?
WILSONWell, this was a fascinating debate when Jeb Bush first got in the race about a little more than a year ago now, he first sort of made known that he was thinking about running. The question was, how would a Jeb Bush campaign use his last name, use his family legacy? Did he want to avoid his unpopular brother on the campaign trail. And for the longest time, he did. George W. Bush has sort of retired from politics -- not sort of, he is retired from politics. However, Jeb Bush even raising, you know, the $100 million that he did for his Super PAC and raising the, you know, the incredible amount of campaign cash that he did, thanks to generations of the Bush-family network, never caught on with the Republican base.
WILSONAnd this is literally the last card that the Jeb Bush campaign has to play. Had -- after a disappointing, what, sixth-place finish in Iowa, fourth place -- I mean, fourth place in New Hampshire was seen as a good thing for Jeb Bush. Now, in recent polls, he is -- I mean, he'd be lucky to be in fourth place in South Carolina at the moment. This is starting to look like Jeb Bush's last stand. And George W. Bush, George H. W. Bush both won South Carolina in their respective runs. This time, Jeb desperately, desperately needs to win. I think he needs to win to keep going on or at least place a strong second. Polls show that he's nowhere close to that.
WILSONAnd this is really his -- the Bush campaign's last opportunity to make some noise, make some headway, make some progress in the delegate count, to lay any type of claim to the establishment lane of the Republican Party.
WILSONAnd George W. Bush is the last chance that he has to do that.
MECKLERI actually thought it was seeing George W. Bush on the trail. I think he kind of came across very well. I mean he was, you know, he was self-deprecating. He was funny. He made a very strong case for his brother. And he also went after Donald Trump. He said that we need someone in the Oval Office who mirrors -- I'm sorry, we do not need someone in the Oval Office who mirrors and inflames our frustration. We need sound judgment. Described his brother as measured and thoughtful. And I think that that -- in some ways, he made a better case for his brother than I think Jeb sometimes makes for himself.
MECKLERSo I think it was sort -- some of the people I know who were at that event said that, you know, George W. Bush is not necessarily looked at all that kindly in retrospect but that when you actually see him, it sort of reminded people of what they liked about him.
MONTANAROYeah. And part of the problem for Jeb Bush is he's really had to, you know, figure out this push and pull between his family name being popular in the Republican primary and, really, the Bush name in 2012...
KANGEven a liability.
MONTANARO...I mean it wasn't even talked about.
MONTANAROI mean, people didn't bring up his name, right? I mean, it just didn't happen.
MECKLERWell, John McCain actually, like, in 2008 even...
MECKLER...John McCain only appeared with Bush twice in public. And once it lasted something like 11 seconds.
MONTANARORight. And once was at the White House. I mean, the fact is, like, this has been very difficult for Jeb Bush. Because of his last name, his, you know, favorability ratings have been sky-high negative ratings with a general election campaign, with a general election group of voters. Jeb Bush struggled, you know, over the summer last year with those four different responses within a week on whether or not he would have gone into Iraq knowing what we know now. Then he finally changed on that and said, fine, knowing what we know now, I wouldn't have gone in.
MONTANAROAnd then you had George W. Bush come out this week, you know, and we've heard from voters earlier this summer who had said, you know, he's just not Bush enough, Jeb Bush. So he has been struggling with this. And really the only thing that George W. Bush could say substantively, policy-wise, that his brother did really well was that he was good on hurricanes. And that's something that we've heard Jeb Bush say, that he -- hey, you know, I was really good on hurricanes. During the anniversary of Katrina, he highlighted his, you know, response in Florida. And it just makes it for a very awkward, you know, never mind campaigning, but Thanksgiving.
KANGI'm Cecilia Kang of The New York Times. You're listening to "The Diane Rehm Show."
WILSONI think we've, by the way, also -- I'm sorry.
KANGIf you'd like -- if you'd like to join us, call 1-800-433-8850 or send an email to email@example.com. Find us on Facebook or send us a tweet. And don't forget, you can see all of our guests on our live video stream at drshow.org. Go ahead, please, Reid.
WILSONI was just going to say, I think we also forget that George W. Bush was a pretty good candidate.
WILSONAnd Jeb Bush is not a very good candidate.
KANGIt really shows up when...
MONTANAROHe's uncomfortable, the difference there.
WILSONYeah. He doesn't have the sort of personal connection. Jeb Bush is running a very good campaign for the year 2000. And we are so far beyond that. I mean, we've got Donald Trump responding to the pope. This is not Jeb Bush's campaign, right?
KANGThis week, also, we saw South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley endorse Marco Rubio. We're also -- I'm also seeing some reports of Jim Clyburn, a powerful member of the House leadership from South Carolina potentially endorsing Hillary Clinton. Laura, talk a little bit about what these endorsements will mean.
MECKLERThey're both very important endorsements. Yes, Congressman Clyburn does plan to endorse Hillary Clinton today. And he is the only Democrat in South Carolina -- the South Carolina Congressional Delegation. He's African American, enormously popular in the state. Hillary Clinton has a huge advantage with black voters and that's going to be very important for her in South Carolina, where well over 50 percent of the electorate is expected to be African American, as well as in states to come. Many states in the South will be voting on March 1 and there's a similar sort of demographic dynamic going on there.
MECKLERSo I think that it's -- frankly, Congressman Clyburn's endorsement was expected for Secretary Clinton. It goes along with a lot of other high-profile endorsements. I think it's good for her. But I also think that, if it had gone to Sanders, to Senator Sanders, it would have been very bad for her. So I think in a lot of ways it sort of avoids what could have been a very, very difficult storyline for Hillary Clinton.
MECKLEROn the Republican side, Governor Haley's endorsement of Marco Rubio was very important for him as well. Because he is sort of coming off of a poor showing in New Hampshire. He's trying to essentially regain the status as the sort of establishment candidate, the alternative to Donald Trump and to Senator Ted Cruz. She gave him a big boost in that regard. She's very popular. And she timed her endorsement very, very smartly, just a few days before the voting where it can have a lot of impact. So I think this definitely gives Senator Rubio a boost in the arm.
KANGReid, would you agree? How does this affect the Rubio-Cruz dynamic?
WILSONWell, there is a -- I think there are two sort of contrary storylines that are developing in South Carolina right now, which is why I'm fascinated to see how voters behave tomorrow when they actually head to the polls. On one hand, there's this notion of the Marco Rubio momentum, that he's coming back after a poor showing in New Hampshire, that he is locking down as much of the establishment lane as possible within the Republican field. The polls, on the other hand, don't show that. They show that there is a clear leader in South Carolina in Donald Trump. That there is a, I think it's fair to say that there is a developing consensus that there's somebody in second place and it's Ted Cruz -- it's not Marco Rubio -- by a few points here and there.
WILSONHaley, waiting until Wednesday -- was it Wednesday or Thursday -- whenever it was, right before the Saturday primary to endorse, is great and gets a lot of news publicity, you know, newspaper attention. But it means that the advertisement that the Rubio campaign immediately started running to tout her endorsement, which is really how the word is going to get out, only gets to run for three or four days. It doesn't get to run for three or four weeks. So...
MONTANAROThings can change.
MONTANAROI mean, we'll see where this winds up going. I mean, there hasn't been a lot of great polling in South Carolina. There -- it does look like a three-man race at this point, which Reid had mentioned, with Donald Trump, Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio potentially, with Jeb Bush and John Kasich on the outside of that looking in. But let's step back for a second here and what we saw on that stage. You had Nikki Haley, who is and Indian-American governor in South Carolina…
MONTANARO...Tim Scott, the first African-American governor in South Carolina, and Marco Rubio.
MONTANAROI'm sorry, senator. What did I call him? Governor?
MONTANAROOh, okay. Maybe there's something in his future. I don't know.
WILSONI've heard that he wants to run for governor, actually. So...
MONTANAROBut, I mean, when you look at these three, with Marco Rubio being Cuban American, I mean the level of diversity that...
MONTANARO...that was on that stage, which the Republican Party has worked very hard at...
KANGAnd Nikki Haley is a woman. Mm-hmm.
MONTANAROWell, absolutely. And, you know, the Republican Party has worked very hard at trying to recruit, you know, national conservatives to make the party look differently. And that can have an impact.
MECKLERAnd it's such a contrast to what -- the message that's been sent from Donald Trump, who is getting all the oxygen of essentially a much more hostility towards immigrants. I think that they're serving as a counter that's important for the party.
KANGComing up, your calls and questions for our panel. Please, stay tuned.
KANGWelcome back. I'm Cecilia Kang of the New York Times sitting in for Diane Rehm. I'm joined by Domenico Montanaro, the lead Political Editor for NPR. Laura Meckler, the National Political Correspondent for the Wall Street Journal. And Reid Wilson, the Congress Editor and Chief Political Correspondent at the Morning Consult. If you're just joining us, you can also watch us live on video at drshow.org. As we all know, Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia died last weekend. And almost immediately, a political battle erupted.
KANGLet's go back to that. What was President Obama's response to his death? Reid.
WILSONWell, Domenico mentioned earlier that this thing got very political very quickly. And what we saw from Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell and from President Obama were early shots that McConnell said he thinks that the President should not nominate anybody and wait until the next President comes into office to fill the seat. President Obama said that he will fulfill his Constitutional obligation to pick a nominee. Both of those statements came before Antonin Scalia's body got to the funeral home.
WILSONWhich was really remarkable.
WILSONAnd just speaks to how amazingly divided we are. Republicans and Democrats have spent the last week calling each other hypocrites. The Republicans have found a million examples of Democrats saying that they wouldn't confirm a nominee, various nominees, within the last, you know, 12 to 18 months of a President's term. Democrats have found all the counter examples where Republicans criticize those Democrats for saying that. I think this is, sort of, if you ever needed an example of why the American people hate Congress, this is probably it.
WILSONThey are both proving, both sides are proving to be as amazingly hypocritical as they possibly could be. The -- Domenico mentioned this earlier too, this sort of the wall of resistance on the Democrat -- or on the Republican side, however, is starting to show some cracks. There are a few Senators, Lisa Murkowski from Alaska, Susan Collins from Maine, possibly Dean Heller from Nevada, who have suggested -- Mark Kirk from Illinois, who have suggested that the Republicans ought to hold hearings, if and when President Obama nominates a candidate.
WILSONAnd whether or not that candidate is going to be able to get through a rough confirmation hearing at the height of a political battle is less certain. But, sort of, the cracks in the Republican wall of opposition to even holding hearings, are beginning to form.
MECKLERWell, I actually -- I'm going to disagree a little bit with what you said. When President Obama first reacted to this, he paid tribute to Scalia, someone who he probably agrees with on -- agreed with on almost nothing. I mean, if, there's obviously a few bedrock principles, but on all the hot issues of the day, they were on opposing sides. I thought he offered a very gracious statement and he did mention, yes, he planned to fulfill his duty to nominate. Personally, I find it sort of stunning that anybody would think he wouldn't do that. I mean, he has a year left, one year left in a four year term.
MECKLERSo, is the idea that -- can anybody imagine any President of any party getting up and saying, you know what, I only have a year left, so I'm not going to nominate someone. I mean, it would never happen and it shouldn't happen. I mean, that is his job. Now, the Senate has to decide how to deal with that, but did not find that statement to be particularly divisive. I think that what -- we'll have to see how it plays out from here. It's an interesting question right now, will they hold hearing or not? There's a dynamic among Republicans where they want to essentially not approve this nominee.
MECKLERWhich we should add would essentially, likely, change the whole balance of the Court.
MECKLERThis is a situation where you have someone in the conservative wing potentially being replaced by somebody who would be a reliable vote in the liberal wing. So, this is a major threat if you're a conservative in this country. So, I understand why they don't want this to happen. They want to roll the dice and see if they can win in November instead. But there is a question of how do you essentially go about this without appearing to be just obstructionist. And you see Chuck Grassley, the Chairman of the Judiciary Committee saying, well, maybe I will hold hearings. But from a conservative point...
KANGAnd this is after he said, at first, he wouldn't. He walked back.
MECKLERHe wouldn't, right? And now he's saying maybe he would. The problems that conservatives have with that, and I think this is very telling, goes to Reid's point, is that there are some conservatives who feel like, well, if he holds a hearing, then it's going to be about that individual. And people are going to have to actually consider the merits of the individual. And it will be harder to say no to a floor vote for a specific person than it is to just say no, on principal, we're against any of this.
WILSONI'm just surprised that there wasn't any kind of lip service at least to trying to hold hearings or take the high road. I mean, Donald Trump, in that debate, said delay, delay, delay is the name of the game and the audience applauded. You know, and maybe the biggest applause line of the night. You know, Mitch McConnell coming out so quickly to say that we shouldn't even try to appoint anyone. You know, because there's precedent for this. In 1968, Lyndon Johnson nominated two Supreme Court Justices for vacancies. They were both not confirmed. He had to withdraw them, but they got hearings within two weeks.
WILSONChuck Grassley's office, you know, has been pointing to this 80 year precedent. They originally said that no one had been confirmed in an election year. That wasn't true, because Anthony Kennedy was confirmed in 1988. Then they revised it to say that no one had been nominated and confirmed in an election year, which you then have to go back to 1932 where Benjamin Cardoza was nominated and confirmed. But it also doesn't come up that often. Right? I mean, these are lifetime appointments.
MECKLERThe irony of this whole thing is that they, Democrats, in order to confirm someone, would need 14 Republican votes in addition to all the Democrats.
WILSONBecause you're talking about getting past the 60 vote...
MECKLERTo get past the 60 vote margin. That is a heavy lift. Even if this gets to the floor, there's no guarantee, by any means. People could find all sorts of reasons, legitimate reasons to say that they opposed a person potentially. So I'm not sure, you know, this doesn't, just because it goes -- they get a vote on this doesn't mean that this person takes the seat.
WILSON...and don't believe that if the shoe were on the other foot that Democrats wouldn't be opposing...
MECKLEROh, of course.
WILSONThey might do a better job of the lip service, though.
KANGIf President Obama nominates a moderate with wide appeal and the Republicans won't even consider him or her, how risky, actually, is that for the Republicans in this election year? Reid.
WILSONI think it -- this serves to undermine a critical sort of message that Mitch McConnell, the Senate Majority Leader has been trying to push over the last year and half. Year and a couple of months, since he became the Majority, since Republicans took back the control. Which is that Republicans are able to govern, the Senate works, here's a bunch of stuff that we've done. They risk, on one hand, without bringing up a nomination, becoming the Senate that doesn't work, the dysfunctional, you know, this is the old P.J. O'Rourke line that Republicans say that government doesn't work and then get elected and prove it.
WILSONThat -- he risks sort of devolving into a dysfunctional Senate. On the other hand, if they don't do anything, Democrats have every excuse and they're going to, to completely shut down the floor. Stop all of the progress that has been happening and demand action on any candidate who, any nominee the President sends up. So, Republicans are in a real -- between a rock and a hard place here, even if President Obama were somehow to magically nominate a conservative, there are -- he's not going to. There are concerns among conservative voters that those conservative justices who have been nominated over the last several years, most notably Anthony Kennedy, John Roberts, have not always been a reliably conservative vote.
WILSONSo, I mean, there are a lot of problems here for Senate Republicans, politically and from a government standpoint.
KANGWhat will late Justice Anthony -- Antonin Scalia be most remembered for, going forward? Laura.
MECKLERI think he'll be most remembered for giving voice to, and vigorously defending the idea of originalism. That the Constitution means what it meant when it was written and it's not an evolving, breathing living document. I mean, there are a lot of specific cases of decisions dissents that he wrote, but I think that that is he was essentially the leader and the intellectual heart of that argument and that many others agree with.
KANGAnd Domenico, the President will not be attending his funeral, which takes place on Saturday. What do you think of that decision?
MONTANAROWell, there's a lot of stuff behind the scenes on that. I mean, you know, what his relationship was like, President Obama, with the family of Antonin Scalia, you know, it's thought that Scalia's family weren't exactly fans of Obama.
KANGIt should be said that the Vice-President is attending.
MONTANAROHe is attending. And he was friendly with Antonin Scalia, so if there was somebody coming to your family's funeral, you know, who you didn't necessarily like, maybe that's why he's not attending. But, coming back to Reid's point on the moderate who might get through, you know, there are people who have passed in the last couple of years, to lower courts, unanimously. Oren Hatch, for example, the Senator from Utah, was asked on NPR, about Sri Srininvasan, whose name has come up and he said that, well, he's a fine man, but Robert Bourke.
MONTANAROYou know, he like went back to Robert Bourke, who in 1987, was held up by Democrats and eventually rejected. He's the last person to be rejected, so these Senators have long memories, and they feel like they're girding for this fight because they feel like either side would object.
KANGWe've got lots of calls and we got some emails and tweets. One tweet from Christian. How much do endorsements benefit candidates? As a young voter, I base decisions on who I like, not on who a political celebrity likes. Laura.
WILSONYeah, I think that's a good point. I think endorsements, by and large, are losing their power, over the long run, and have been for a while.
KANGWe've got a call from Jimmy in San Antonio, Texas. Hello Jimmy, you're on the air.
JIMMYYes, I would like to say that I think that the Pope was out of order in criticizing Donald Trump. The Pope would have better advised to criticize the corrupt oligarchy that has made Mexico a failed state and caused Mexicans to flee the country in order to get a good life. And I think you...
KANGThanks, Jimmy. This sort of goes, Domenico, to the point of maybe the Trump, the Pope does not trump Trump.
MONTANAROIn fact, exactly. In a Republican primary. And there are a lot of people who feel the way Jimmy does, and I think that that's part of what is appealing about Donald Trump for them, where he makes them feel something. And is saying things that they think and believe.
KANGWe've got another call from Nick in Washington, D.C. Hello Nick, you're on the air.
NICKHi. How's it going?
KANGWell, thank you. Please go ahead.
NICKThanks for taking my call. My question's about the Apple ruling. And my question is, is there -- has there been a case where a court has ordered a company or an individual to build something, as opposed to surrender information or allow access to a property or something.
WILSONI have no idea.
KANGThis is -- you're asking a really good legal question. As far as technology is -- I actually don't know either. Domenico?
KANGNo? Okay, let's go to an email from Bill in Cleveland, but a good question about case history. Don't forget about the millions of American Catholics, many of whom are Hispanic, voting in the general election, who were probably offended by Trump's comments, about the Pope and might take that into consideration. Laura.
MECKLERThat's actually interesting. Exit polls from past elections show the Catholic vote is very divided between Republicans and Democrats. There are a lot of liberal Catholics and a lot of very conservative ones who care about very different things. So I think that that's true, for sure. Especially that, and there are a lot of Hispanics who are Catholic. I mean, all the growth in the Catholic Church in this country has come from Hispanic Americans who are much more likely to be Democratic and see things the way this Pope does.
MONTANARODonald Trump said a lot of things that have offended Hispanics and this is just one more that will go to that point. I mean, this is the first Pope from the new world, and he's from Argentina. He speaks Spanish, you know, and that is -- that's something that the Republican Party -- establishment looks at and again, just says, you know, this is potentially very problematic in a general election.
KANGI'm Cecilia Kang of the New York Times. You're listening to The Diane Rehm Show. Let's talk a little bit about some of the names that have been bandied about about potential successors to Antonin Scalia. Reid, who do you think are probably the most likely? We've heard lots of names this week.
WILSONSo, I think we've got sort of three categories here. And Laura mentioned, I'm sorry, Domenico mentioned Sri Srinivasan. He's sort of in the first category which are the people who have been confirmed as judges by the Senate. Merrick Garland of the D.C. Circuit, which is the same circuit that Srinivasan serves on. Jane Kelley, a liberal on the 8th Circuit. Diane Wood of the 7th Circuit. They sort of, they've come up again and again as President Obama has had these opportunities to appoint somebody to the Supreme Court.
WILSONYou've got the second category of the politicians -- the names that have been thrown out there in the last couple of days. Oren Hatch, strangely enough, the former Chairman of Judiciary Committee.
MONTANAROHe said, by the way, that if he were appointed, because Democrats think he would die tomorrow, he'd live another 20 years to spite them.
WILSONWhich, he probably would. Given the political atmosphere in Washington these days, living to be 120 would -- is not out of the realm of possibility. Elizabeth Warren, the liberal stalwart from Massachusetts. Amy Klobuchar, Senator from Minnesota has been mentioned, too. And then two cabinet officials, Loretta Lynch, the Attorney General, who only won confirmation with 52 votes, so she'd be a pretty tough lift. And then Jay Johnson, the Secretary of Homeland Security. His name also got thrown out there. I want to bring up one more name that a couple of people have mentioned.
WILSONBrian Sandoval, the Governor of Nevada. He's a Republican. He was unanimously confirmed to a District Court seat about a decade ago, before leaving to run for Governor.
MONTANAROAnd suggested by Harry Reid.
MONTANAROSo that he couldn't run against him for the Senate.
WILSONExactly. Exactly. But what would be interesting about Sandoval is that he is a Republican who has frustrated just about every Republican in his state and around the country. He is Hispanic, a Governor from a swing state who won re-election with 71 percent of the vote back in 2014. He's also pro-choice. He is the only Republican Governor to both expand Medicaid and create his own in-state exchange under the Affordable Care Act. And he has said that now the Supreme Court has ruled on same-sex marriage, that it is settled case law.
WILSONThe point is, appointing somebody like Sandoval would put Republicans in...
KANGA tough spot.
WILSON...a terribly tough political spot. That being said, I don't think it's going to happen.
KANGLaura, what is he gonna look for, though, in a candidate? Is it going to be diversity? Is it going to be this, you know, maybe somebody who puts Republicans in a tough spot? What do you think are the qualifications?
MECKLERI think that, I think if you've watched Barack Obama for the last seven years, and you look at who he is and what he wants, I think the most likely thing he's going to do is try to pick someone who he views as a reasonable choice. There's some talk on the left, who he should nominate Elizabeth Warren, that will fire up the base. That's not in his nature. In fact, Vice President Biden yesterday said, that's not what he's going to do. He's going to pick somebody, it's not in his nature.
MECKLERHe's going to pick somebody who is, who is eminently qualified. I don't -- who is -- will be viewed as a reasonable, I think it's most likely pick -- I think the more likely ones on the list that Reid just ticked through are people like Merrick Garland, who has been considered in the past. That would not do much for diversity. He is a white man, but keep in mind President Obama's already nominated -- already put on the Court two women, including the first Latina woman. So, I think the pressure on diversity is a lot less now than it was earlier in his term.
MONTANAROHe's also got to consider somebody who's expendable. Because honestly, if you appoint somebody now, and nominate them, the chances that a new President's going to bring up that same name are pretty low.
KANGAnd finally, we are seeing reports that Harper Lee, author of "To Kill a Mockingbird" and "Go Set a Watchman" has died at the age of 89. I'm joined by my guest, Domenico Montanaro, the lead political editor for NPR, Laura Meckler, the National Political Correspondent for the Wall Street Journal. And Reid Wilson, Congress Editor and Chief Political Correspondent at the Morning Consult. I'm Cecilia Kang of the New York Times sitting in for Diane Rehm. Thanks for listening.