War in Ukraine: airstrikes, drones and a looming counteroffensive
This week saw heightened tensions in the ongoing conflict in Ukraine. A wave of drone strikes hit the Russian capital Tuesday morning, bringing the war to Moscow for the first…
Guest Host: Rachel Martin
Apparent Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump meets with GOP leaders on Capitol Hill. Speaker Paul Ryan calls the meetings encouraging but stops short of endorsing Trump. West Virginia and Nebraska hold primaries where Trump and Bernie Sanders both win. Congress returns from a recess and passes a package of bills aimed at combating opioid addiction. And in a letter that goes out today, the Justice Department directs public schools to allow transgender students to access the restroom of their choice. A panel of journalists joins guest host Rachel Martin for analysis of the week’s top national news stories.
MS. RACHEL MARTINThanks for joining us. I'm Rachel Martin of NPR's "Weekend Edition" sitting in for Diane Rehm. The U.S. Justice Department directs all U.S. public schools to allow transgender students to access the restroom of their choice. Donald Trump meets with GOP leaders on Capitol Hill in an effort to unify the Republican party and the House passes several bills to combat opioid use, which has reached historic levels in the U.S.
MS. RACHEL MARTINJoining me in the studio to talk about these and other top national stories this week, Sheryl Gay Stolberg of the New York Times, John King of CNN and Lisa Lerer of the Associated Press. Welcome to all of you.
MS. SHERYL GAY STOLBERGGood morning.
MR. JOHN KINGGood morning.
MS. LISA LERERThanks for having us.
MARTINAnd we want you to be part of the conversation. We'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, and I wore lipstick just for this, we're doing a live video stream this hour. You can watch at drshow.org.
MARTINSo let's talk politics, the subject de jour of every day. There was a big meeting on Capitol Hill. Donald Trump went up to make nice with the House leader, Paul Ryan. It was a spectacle outside. There was, like, a paper mache Donald Trump. There were bagpipes. But it was much more significant what was happening on the inside. Sheryl, what came out of that meeting?
STOLBERGSo what came out of that meeting, I think, is the first hint toward party unity, you know. Just a week ago, we were reporting that the Donald Trump/Paul Ryan breach might be beyond repair. Paul Ryan said he wasn't ready to support Donald Trump. Donald Trump said, well, I'm not ready to support Paul Ryan's agenda. So this was this big meeting. It was either gonna blow up or it was gonna be a rapprochement.
STOLBERGAnd I think what we're seeing is the beginnings of the rapprochement. Paul Ryan came out afterwards and said he found Donald Trump warm and genuine, that they still had policy differences he wasn't ready to endorse yet, but that he felt that it was a good first meeting and they were gonna talk more. They were gonna dig more into the policy weeds.
MARTINBut this is complicated, John. I mean, these are two men who have been at odds on a lot of very important policy issues.
KINGYeah, this is A and Z trying to figure out if they can somehow coexist. I think they have detente. I'm not sure if they'll ever get peace because they have such significant difference. But if you're Paul Ryan, you have to remember you're a leader of the Republican party. Many of his House members -- he's trying to protect the House majority. Many of them are fine with Trump or at least they're okay with Trump because where they're from, especially in the southern districts, you can be tough on immigration.
KINGMaybe people don't believe Mexico's gonna pay for a wall. You can say, let's temporarily ban Muslims. But from Paul Ryan's perspective, they think so far so good, especially in the idea, you know how Mr. Trump's saying, well, when I talk about banning Muslims temporarily, that's just an idea. It's just a proposal. It's just to, you know, throw ideas out there and then I'll work with the Congress.
KINGIt's just to say we need to deal with this. It's not really to say I mean all the particulars. And so he seems to be backing off a bit on at least one of the things that had a lot of senior Republicans in Washington saying that might not only cost us the White House, it might cost us the Senate and a lot of House seats.
MARTINBut what about trade, Lisa? I mean, these fundamental issues that are so important to the Republican party writ large. I mean, Donald Trump is way out of step.
LERERRight. There are fundamental ideological issues here. Trade is one of them. Privatizing Medicare is another one, that's something Paul Ryan has made really his cause in Washington. It's something that Trump has said he doesn't want to change those programs, although he backed away slightly. His advisor backed away slightly from that this week so it's hard to pin him down.
LERERBut, to me, this kind of felt like two kids out on a date after parents had already arranged the marriage, you know. Like, the Republican party cannot spend the next six months in open warfare against Donald Trump. They have to reach some kind of...
MARTINThey don't have a choice.
LERER...detente with him. And the most striking comments, I thought, came not from Paul Ryan, but from Lindsey Graham, who had called Donald Trump a nut job and a loser, as a person. He spoke to him on the phone on Wednesday and after that, he said he was warm. He was funny. He was cordial. He's got a great sense of humor, he said. You know, he's from New York, he obviously can take a punch.
LERERHe's not, you know, endorsing him, per se, but he said the insults will stop. I think that's where a lot of these guys are and I think Paul Ryan also wants to give his members some space to figure out where they want to be on this. You know, there are people from southern districts who have endorsed Trump. There's a lot of people from battleground districts who this is a lot more trickier for them politically.
MARTINThis is all about protecting the down ticket.
STOLBERGWell, I think that -- now, the person who really has a lot to lose here, I think, more to lose is Paul Ryan. Because if you look at these two men, Trump -- there are no two people on this earth who are more opposite than Paul Ryan and Donald Trump. You know, Trump is flexible. He's malleable. He's all about personality. Ryan is a man of serious conservative principles and ideals. So and Ryan is also thinking about a run for himself in 2020 should Hillary Clinton either be elected or should Donald Trump -- well, I guess should Hillary Clinton be elected.
STOLBERGSo you've got sort of the deal maker against the ideologue. And I think that Trump has already said, look, I'm willing to be flexible. I'm, you know, my proposed ban on Muslims was just an idea. But for Paul Ryan to be flexible on his principles, I think, poses a lot more of a danger to him. So I think...
MARTINAnd Donald Trump doesn't actually need his endorsement.
STOLBERGExactly. So I think Ryan is especially interesting to watch here and is dancing this very delicate dance and it's really a question here, for him, will party trump ideology. No pun intended.
MARTINThat word. No, that word.
STOLBERGNo pun intended there.
MARTINIt's changed for us. John.
KINGIt's a test of competing theories of politics. Trump has brought his own personal theory of politics, which is I can campaign at 30,000 feet. I can do rallies of 25,000 people. I don't need a tough, you know, high tech data operation. I don't need a party infrastructure in his view. And the data does not support this right now, but in his view, all these Bernie Sanders voters are going to cross over. All the independents are going to say Hillary Clinton's old news.
KINGShe's traditional politics, you know, and come to him. Versus the Democrats who have this nuts and bolts from the Obama campaign, two cycles of very sophisticated voter targeting and on the Republican side, you're going to have some people who say, yeah, I'm for Trump. But they're not gonna work it. They're not gonna work hard. They're not gonna help him raise money. They're not gonna pull the levers of their own personal political infrastructure.
KINGOn the Democratic side, look what we've seen in the last week. The president, the first lady, Elizabeth Warren, even Bernie Sanders who still says he's running for the nomination, and he has every right to keep running for the nomination -- he's not mathematically eliminated yet -- says, over my dead body will Donald Trump be president. So he's making clear that he'll rally his supporters.
KINGAnd then, you have Secretary Clinton. So the Democrats are saying all hands on deck, using organization, using party resources, using the levers of politics. Trump says, I'm going to do Air Force Trump, you know, and just, boom, blow you out my way. We'll see what happens.
LERERIt really is a repudiation of, like, the past three cycles of political research and advancement, the idea that you're going to throw away big data, it's really a striking idea, but it's, you know, he thinks he can basically run on free media and personality.
MARTINWhich he has so far, in large part.
LERERWhich he has, but I think that, you know, for Paul Ryan, there's an unpredictability with Donald Trump that he doesn't want, you know, Paul Ryan doesn't know what Donald Trump is going to be saying three months from now, never mind, like, a week from now. So I think he wants to mitigate that risk a little bit, give this all a little time to breathe, give his members a little time to breathe.
MARTINCan we talk about Marco Rubio? I mean, I guess we knew that this was going to come down, but still it's surprised some people that he's given his official endorsement to Donald Trump.
STOLBERGSo, you know, I think Marco Rubio is also in a bind, right? During his campaign, Marco Rubio was very, very explicit about all the reasons he had serious reservations about Trump. He had reservations about his policies. He had reservations about the way he spoke about Muslims. He called him, essentially, a fear monger. He said he would not want to have to explain Trump to his own children.
STOLBERGBut he also pledged to endorse or to support the party's nominee. So now we see him saying, okay, I promise to support the party's nominee and I'm going to do that, but my reservations still remain. So I think what will be interesting to see is how enthusiastically does Marco Rubio support the nominee.
MARTINIt's about what John was saying. It's about enthusiasm.
STOLBERGIs he going to get out there and be on the stump for Donald Trump in his home state of Florida? Is he going to raise money for him? Is he going to appear as a surrogate for Donald Trump? I, frankly, don't think so. I find that hard to envision.
LERERAnd he basically said as much. I mean, these endorsements of Donald Trump, these Republican party endorsements have become an art form. You know, he said -- this is his quote. "Donald Trump is the only other choice on the ballot." I mean, that is not a ringing endorsement.
MARTINNot super psyched about his options.
LERERSo he is not super psyched. And I think we're hearing a lot of that from Republican party. So, you know, it goes to what John is saying about tapping those networks. I just don't see that happening.
STOLBERGLike, I support, but I'm not endorsing. What did Kelly Ayotte say?
KINGAnd it could become -- that state could become an example of whether this -- Trump's way works or the data way works or the targeting way works. Because imagine, the Bush family says never. Never Trump. They're going to boycott the convention. They're not for Trump. So you won't have Jeb Bush's help. He's been off the bike a long time in Florida so you might say, who cares?
KINGDidn't perform very well in his campaign. Marco Rubio, he did lose the Florida primary. He got blown out pretty good by Mr. Trump, but he has a network. He has friends there. If he's not going to help Donald Trump in the state of Florida, does that matter? Does that matter? We're having a conversation...
STOLBERGHe's also an important Hispanic voice. He's an important Latino voice in a state that has a large Latino electorate, many of whom have traditionally voted Republican because the Cubans have traditionally been Republicans. We're seeing a bigger influx of Puerto Rican voters who will tilt registration among Latinos toward Democrats in Florida, but that's a, you know, Donald Trump is going to push Hispanic Democrats to the polls to vote for Hillary Clinton.
MARTINEssentially, though, in this moment, are we seeing a reluctant circling of the wagons of the establishment in the GOP?
KINGI think, for the most part, yes. At least rhetorically saying he won fair and square and he did win fair and square. And so the board, if you will, the Mitch McConnells, the Paul Ryans, the Washington establishment, this Trump takeover has been voted by the shareholders and the board finds itself in a very awkward position because they oppose him on just about everything. But at some point, if you're in politics, you have to acknowledge the customer is always right, isn't he?
KINGThe voters have sent Donald Trump there. So there's a lesson to be learned. Even as they resist, it's very hard. You mentioned the trade issue. It's very hard for a party that has been committed to free trade deals, has been committed to globalism to embrace a guy who, in his foreign policy speech, said, you know, we're no longer going to answer to the false song of globalism. That's Donald Trump speaking.
KINGThat's the Republican nominee speaking. Hard for them to embrace him, but they also can't run from him because their voters elected him.
STOLBERGHe's kind of hijacked their party. I mean, that's what we're seeing is the disintegration almost of what we thought was the Republican party. When George Bush was president, we used to talk about the three legs, right? You had the fiscal conservatives, you had the social conservatives and you had sort of the mainstream. Well, now, you've got this whole other wing that's sort of the Trump, the nativist wing.
MARTINIt's something new. It's something new. Coming up, more of the Friday News Roundup. You can see all our guests on our live video stream at drshow.org. Stay with us. We'll be right back.
MARTINWelcome back. I'm Rachel Martin with NPR's "Weekend Edition" sitting in for Diane Rehm. And I'm joined in the studio by Sheryl Gay Stolberg, national correspondent for The New York Times, John King, chief national correspondent for CNN and Lisa Lerer, national politics reporter for The Associated Press. And we are talking presidential politics. We've spent the last few minutes focused on the GOP and the fault lines within the party. Let's shift our attention, if we could, over to the Democratic side of the race.
MARTINWe got an email from William, who says, Bernie Sanders is running to win. Please watch Oregon and Kentucky and report accurately. The race is not over even if the overpaid pundits think it is. They were not right about Donald Trump either. Bernie Sanders did walk away with a couple of victories recently, Sheryl.
STOLBERGHe did walk away with victories in Nevada and West Virginia. But the math is still very hard for Bernie Sanders.
STOLBERGNebraska, sorry, sorry, sorry. Nebraska, one of those N states.
MARTINOne of those N, western states.
STOLBERGThe math is still very hard for Bernie Sanders. In order to overcome Clinton's delegate lead, he would have to win roughly two-thirds, I think, of the remaining delegates. And he would also have to win super delegates. So this can be really hard.
MARTINSo talk about what that means and why that's complicated, John.
KINGThe thing that makes it most complicated is that the person who wrote the email is exactly right. We should watch Kentucky and see what happens, see if it models after West Virginia. But he won West Virginia even though he had a 15-point victory. He had about 52 percent of the vote, 51 percent of the vote. He only picked up seven delegates net over Clinton because of the Democratic Party rules.
KINGMaybe he'll win Oregon by a bigger margin. He won Washington State with 70-something percent. He won Idaho with 70-something percent. But he needs, to Sheryl's point, he needs 67 percent of the remaining delegates. There's just shy of 900 delegates left. Well, 62 percent of those delegates are in California. The other big slice are in New Jersey. This is not to -- Senator Sanders has done something extraordinary. Senator Sanders has created a movement and he has, as I said at the beginning of the campaign, she's an aircraft carrier. He's kind of a dinghy. Well, the dinghy's put a lot of dents in the aircraft carrier.
STOLBERGAnd he's pushed her. He's pushed her to the left.
KINGAnd he's pulled her. I would say he's pulled her as opposed to pushing her.
KINGHe's come here -- anyway. But, just to be honest -- I'm not to criticize Senator Sanders and I'm not trying to alienate his supporters -- can you see Bernie Sanders getting 67 percent in New Jersey? Can you see Senator Sanders getting 67 percent in California? Is it possible? Sure it is. But if you look at the map, you look at past contests, places where you do have a significant or sizeable African-American population or significant or sizeable Latino population, Secretary Clinton in most cases has won those states. But, in any case, she will perform -- she's not going to get 30 percent of the vote or 32 percent of the vote. I just -- it's hard to see that happening.
LERERAnd the statistic to me that's most striking is she can win 14 percent. She can win. She can lose by 14 percent, collect 14 percent of the remaining races and still become the nominee.
MARTINIt's a low bar.
LERERIt's a really low bar. The only way for him to do this at this point is to switch super delegates. And not just a couple dozen super delegates, like that flip from Clinton to Obama in 2008, he has to switch hundreds of super delegates.
STOLBERGAnd super delegates, by their nature, are establishment-type folks.
LERERAre party, right, they're party insiders. So it's really hard to see that happening because these are people who are very strong Democrats, who have a strong commitment to the party. And he's a guy that just became a Democrat basically to run for president. And his supporters have launched this very aggressive campaign, where they've been calling these super delegates and really, in some cases, harassing them...
LERER...you know, for several months at this point. So that doesn't really make them inclined to switch their views. So it's hard to see this is anything but all but over. And there's some frustration, I think, from folks in the Democratic Party. Now that Trump has locked things up, they want to see Senator Sanders get out and allow the party to unify.
STOLBERGBut here's what Senator Sanders has achieved. And like John said, it really is extraordinary. He has really tapped into the energy in the Democratic Party. And the energy in the party is on the left. It's for a more progressive agenda. It's voters so, just like Republicans who have been fed up with the status quo and voted for Donald Trump, that you're hearing that same sentiment among voters who are fed up with the status quo, who feel aggrieved. They feel like the system is rigged, as Elizabeth Warren used to say and as Bernie Sanders says, that the billionaires have taken over. And that is really where the energy in the party is. And do you really...
MARTINBut will these people come out to vote for Hillary Clinton?
KINGI think both she and Senator Sanders have some work to do.
STOLBERGYeah. And I think some of them -- some of them will vote for Trump. It is amazing to me how out -- when I talk to voters, how many people I've spoken to have said, I like Sanders and the I like Trump.
KINGRight. New and different. People are looking for new and different. Hillary Clinton has many, many strengths. You could have a long list of her strengths. And often, experience as she has, the resume she has, often that's a great asset in a political campaign. Not this cycle. People want something new. They want something different. They want somebody who they trust to change Washington. And for all of Secretary Clinton's strengths, I don't think when you look -- if you look at Donald Trump, Bernie Sanders or Hillary Clinton -- say, who's more -- who's least likely to change Washington, most people would bet on Hillary Clinton.
MARTINBut this intersection between Trump supporters and Sanders supporters is still confounding to me and many.
STOLBERGIt's amazing. They're the flip side of the same coin. And we have the capitalist and the socialist and they're both populists. And that's what they're tapping in to.
KINGTrade and wages.
MARTINTrade and wages.
KINGAnd different and change. Trade -- the specifics are the economics. You're exactly right, the populism and your wages haven't gone up in 15 years. The politicians you keep electing aren't listening to you, they're not helping you. These trade deals...
MARTINAnd those are single-issue voters?
MARTINI mean they care enough about it that that was...
LERERI'm just not -- the question is how many of them are there?
LERERI mean, I think there are some of those people. But I'm not sure there are -- frankly, I'm just not sure they're a huge group. Like Bernie Sanders won Michigan. For Trump to win Michigan is not outside the realm but it's pretty tough I think. It's a Democratic state. The more interesting question to me is -- and this is certainly a target for the Clinton campaign, is the suburban Independent, maybe even Republican women, you know, in the suburbs of Columbus, in the suburbs of Washington. Do they flip? Maybe they voted for Rubio or for Governor Bush, do they flip over to Hillary Clinton because they just don't like Donald Trump's tone, they don't like what he said about women and they don't like where he is on foreign policy.
LERERShe started to make that push. You'll see her start to make that push an awful lot harder when Sanders is out of the race. Her advisers feel that if she starts pushing, aggressively targeting moderate Republicans while Sanders is still in the race, it's just too complicated. You're sort of baiting him to go after you.
MARTINSo this is a tough moment for her. She's fighting two...
LERERA two-front war.
KINGWithout a doubt.
KINGAnd don't underestimate though what -- how Trump has surprised us is that he had the broadest coalition in the Republican Party. When he first started, we though he was going to get sort of the, you know, the Tea Party people or Tea Party-like people -- new voters who just want a change, just wanted something different, anti-establishment. But go to the Virginia results and look how well he did against Rubio in the suburbs just outside of Washington. Go to some other states and look how he did in the suburbs where you thought this was Rubio's...
MARTINBut who were those voters, John? Are those Hispanics? Are those minorities?
KINGI think they're -- I think it's everybody, Rachel. And I think -- let's see if my colleagues disagree -- but I just think that, you know, we start by thinking evangelicals are going to vote for Cruz because he's the Tea Party evangelical guy. And suburban voters are going to pick a Bush or a Rubio because that's the mainstream. And that's usually the case. That's, you know, you look at -- you always study the last campaign when you're covering the current campaign. But we've had to throw all that out. Because I think evangelicals want change. They're disgusted with Washington and upset with Washington.
KINGSuburban college-educated women who may have nothing in common with those evangelicals on a policy, if you said list your top-ten policy priorities, have nothing in common with them, guess what? They agree, Washington's broken. They've invested in -- they keep voting for traditional politicians and, in their view, getting nothing back.
KINGAnd so they share that. They share the desire to change Washington. They share the agreement that Washington politics are broken. And they're setting aside the traditional way they usually vote and thinking outside the box.
STOLBERGI do think Lisa makes a really important point about women, though.
STOLBERGI mean, you know, certainly Democratic women are enraged by Donald Trump and by his statements about women, which I think can, frankly, only be called misogynist. So it will be interesting to see, how will Donald Trump try to repair that? He's already -- we've already seen him put his daughter, who is very poised and an excellent...
STOLBERG...Ivanka, an excellent spokeswoman for him, out there saying don't listen to what my father says, listen to what he does. He's promoted women. He's, you know, he respects women.
MARTINIt's hard not to listen to what he says. Sometimes...
STOLBERGRight. Well, you know, watch what he does, not what he says, she'll say. But I think, you know, the issue of women and can women and will moderate Republican women line up behind Donald Trump is a big question.
LERERWhat's so interesting to me is, when you talk to voters, how unpleasant a choice this is for them.
LERERLike both of these candidates have such high unfavorability ratings that when you go and you have these long conversations with voters, whether they're suburban women or working-class men in Michigan, they'll say, well, I don't like him, I don't like her. I don't know what to do. You know, she's -- they -- it's really amazing.
STOLBERGThe happiest man in Washington? Barack Obama.
MARTINYeah. All of a sudden...
STOLBERGBecause he looks good. And his numbers are starting to go up.
MARTINWell, what about these recent polls, though, that show -- much to Democrats' chagrin -- Donald Trump closing the gap, in one-on-one polling, with Hillary Clinton?
KINGI think that goes to Lisa's point, that people are unhappy with their choices. At the moment, there's more attention being focused on Trump. There has, you can say, pretty much consistently through the campaign. It's be interesting to see, over the next couple of weeks, where the competition has actually now left on the Democratic side, whether the -- more attention focused on the Democratic race will help Hillary Clinton in that regard. But nationally, nationally she wins quite convincingly. When you go state-by-state, let's see the second time they poll Florida, the second time they poll Pennsylvania, the second time they poll Ohio, if those Quinnipiac numbers that came out a week ago hold up.
KINGBut what they tell you is that this will be -- we're in may. I would not invest more than a penny or a nickel in polls in May and what they tell you about what's going to happen in November.
MARTINA lot of months left.
KINGI would save that money for something else. But what it does tell you, as you raise the curtain on the general election, that it looks like it could be very competitive in the six or eight states necessary to have a tug-of-war. Let's see if it stays that way. I agree with the targeting of women, in particular. The big challenge for Trump in a general election is, in the Republican primaries in most states, the voters are a majority men on primary day in the Republican primaries. On the general election, we know that, in Virginia, there'll be 55 percent women, in Florida it'll be 55 percent women. In every general election state or battleground state anyway, you'll have a majority women electorate compared to what Mr. Trump had in the Republican primaries, which are dominated by men. So we shall see.
LERERThe interesting thing, not to get a little nerdy here, but the interesting thing about some of those polls to me was how they didn't quite know how to model the electorate. Like the Quinnipiac poll was one of the ones that came out and they basically assumed an electorate that was about five points wider than what we saw during President Barack Obama. And no one really knows if that's right. Like, theoretically, African-American voters should turn out in lower rates because there isn't the first black president on the ticket. But, you know, she's -- Hillary Clinton is running against the original birther. So maybe they want to defend his, you know, President Obama's legacy.
LERERLatinos, there's more of them. They're young, demographically, they've very young. We've seen higher registration rates. We don't have good numbers on that. So maybe more of them come to the polls. We just don't know. And it seems to me like the pollsters don't quite know either.
MARTINBut do, historically, do people like to vote for someone or do they vote against someone? Or, as you say, protecting Obama's legacy?
STOLBERGAlso, I want to share with you something really interesting that David Axelrod, President Obama's chief strategist, wrote to President Obama 10 years ago in 2006. He says, he advised Obama that the most important person in the election of 2008 was not going to be on the ballot and that it was going to be George W. Bush. And that voters at the end of a two-term presidency want to elect somebody who is the polar opposite of the incumbent -- they look -- in personality and in style.
STOLBERGThat all of the strengths that they perceived when electing, say, Obama, who was perceived as deliberative and cautious and thoughtful, et cetera, voters now view those as weaknesses and they want to elect the opposite. And David went through, sort of, history about why, you know, why this has happened. And he essentially made a case, in January, before the Iowa caucuses even, why Donald Trump was going to be a force to watch. And it's because he's the polar opposite of the man who's in the Oval Office.
MARTINI'm Rachel Martin with NPR's "Weekend Edition." And you're listening to "The Diane Rehm Show." If you'd like to join us, call 1-800-433-8850 or send an email to email@example.com. Find us on Facebook, send us a tweet. Don't forget, you can see all our guests on our live video stream at drshow.org.
MARTINI'd like to go to a caller. This is an interesting question we've got from Gary in Cleveland, Ohio. Hey, Gary. You're on the air.
GARYHey. Hi. Thank you very much. Great show, great panel. My question is, I wonder how your panel felt about the idea that Donald Trump would have been better off running as a Democrat? He wouldn't have had to trash women and minorities and Muslims. And he could have been Bernie Sanders on steroids.
MARTINThank you so much for your call. Panel?
STOLBERGDonald Trump is running as Donald Trump. And if he had run as a Democrat, he'd be trashing women and Hillary Clinton and, you know, Muslims and all the other things. He is a Trumpian. He's not really a Democrat or a Republican.
MARTINWell, that's the point. And I think that's what the caller's trying to get at...
MARTIN...is that Donald Trump is not a conservative as we have known them to be running for the GOP nomination.
LERERAnd he is subverting all the conventional rules of politics. You know, we have the issue with the tax returns. He said that he wasn't going to release his tax returns this week. I mean, that's something that every presidential nominee has done, usually released like a decade of returns in recent history. So this is a pretty big break. And it certainly has caused a lot of people to wonder why he's not releasing them. I've heard a bunch of good theories.
MARTINWell, he says he's been audited. He's worth a lot of money and it's routine to be audited. And he says he will release them when the audit's done.
KINGI'm no tax expert, but the letter he released saying he was audit -- he was being audited, I think it says he's under review. There's distinctions within IRS reviews. And I'm not even sure he's being audited...
KING...from the legal perspective, or just being reviewed. I'm not -- I'm sure of the distinction there. But the IRS has repeatedly said there is no prohibition on it. Somebody who's being audited, even if you're getting the most thorough, Roto-Rooter audit possible, there's no prohibition on you releasing those materials. So he could release past years. He could release some of this year's if he wanted to just release the summaries and say I'm sorry, I'm in the middle of this legal investigation. He could do more than he's doing, let's put it that way. This is -- these are his documents and it's his financial disclosure. It's completely within his right. He has decided, for whatever reason, not to do this.
LERERAnd at AP we actually dug up one of those past years. Granted it -- you know, because the casinos, he had to submit some of these to the regulatory -- various regulatory agencies. And what we found was he paid a very, very low tax rate. Which is not unusual for real estate. You can depreciate your assets. You can carry forward losses. So that's one theory, that he didn't pay very much in taxes. The other theory, of course, you don't account for your assets in your returns. So his net worth may be a bit lower than he would like people to see it to be worth.
STOLBERGI think that's the real theory. Because I think, on the taxes, he's just say, well, I'm a business man, I follow the rules, you know, I paid the taxes I was due. But I think that, to me, is the issue, is what is his net worth. Because Donald Trump is all about, I'm a winner. I made a lot of money. I'm successful. If those tax returns show that he is somehow less successful than he has portrayed himself to be, that is what he is...
MARTINDiminished the brand (word?)
MARTINI want to shift our attention to nod to a couple things that happened on Capitol Hill this past week. The House GOP scored a big victory yesterday on Obamacare subsidies. This is a fight they've been fighting for a long time. John, how significant is this ruling?
KINGWell, it's significant in the sense that they won a court ruling that said essentially, in this one Bush appointee -- George W. Bush federal judge appointee, says that the Congress did not appropriate the money for one of these subsidy programs, the insurance-company subsidizing for low-income people. And therefore the administration is breaking the rules by finding the money to put into the program. It's a no-no. Congress didn't directly appropriate that money. You can't do this. The administration will appeal. In most cases, the administration has won on the appeal. What it tells you is they keep fighting this. They keep fighting this. Years in, they keep fighting this.
MARTINBut they have, right, they have said they have told their constituents that this is a fight that they keep waging.
KINGThey have. And I think that's -- this is -- you make a great point. Because sometimes when you get out and you talk to voters about the dysfunction of Washington, they say, why have they voted, you know, 40-something times or 50-something times now to repeal Obamacare? Well, in those districts, those candidates -- go back and look at their advertising, go back and look at their statements. They said, I'm going to go to Washington and I'm going to do everything I can. I'm going to go to Washington and anything Obama says yes, I say no. And so the American people have sent these people here. You know, not, you know, the people from San Francisco didn't send those guys from South Carolina here. But that's the way it works.
KINGAnd so the House Republicans have committed to doing this. But this -- it tells you -- we'll see what happens in the courts -- but it tells you we are having yet another election cycle in which Obamacare, the Affordable Care Act, will be front and center as an issue.
MARTINI want to continue our conversation. We are talking about presidential politics. We're talking about important bills that have come up on Capitol Hill in the last week. And we have all kinds of calls and emails to get to. Stay with us. Your calls and questions for our panel coming up next. You are listening to "The Diane Rehm Show."
MARTINHi there. Welcome back. I'm Rachel Martin with NPR's "Weekend Edition." Sitting in for Diane Rehm and I'm joined in studio today by Sheryl Gay Stolberg of the New York Times, John King of CNN, and Lisa Lerer of the AP. And we've been talking politics. I'm going to shift our attention, though to a big news story. The US government weighing in on transgender rights. And this, of course, has all stemmed from this debate that's happening in the state of North Carolina over their controversial HP2 Law, so-called Bathroom Law.
MARTINToday, the Obama Administration has weighed in in a pretty unprecedented way. Sheryl, can you get us up to speed on what happened?
STOLBERGSo, the administration is sending a letter to every public school in the country, saying that you are at risk of losing your federal education funding, billions of dollars of funding if the schools do not allow students to use the bathroom that corresponds with the gender with which they identify. So, this is obviously in direct opposition to this North Carolina law which says that people must use the bathroom that corresponds with the gender assigned on their birth certificate. It's really -- this is really the next frontier in LGBTQ rights. Right?
STOLBERGWe now have same sex marriage as the law of the land. We saw last year in Houston a big fight over an expansive bill to protect civil rights for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people. It was rejected and it was rejected around a very simple message. The opponents said, no men in women's bathrooms. And now, I think what we're seeing is this whole fight, frankly, around transgender rights, is coming down to a fight over bathrooms. That's what's happening in North Carolina and the Obama Administration has now directly weighed in here and said that this is a violation of civil rights.
STOLBERGThat transgender people have a right under the 1964 Civil Rights Act to use the bathroom of their choice. And public schools get with it or you're going to lose a lot of money if you don't.
LERERAnd it's an interesting legal question, right? The legal question is basically, is transgender a protected class under the Civil Rights Act, and that's what a lot of this litigation, particularly, you know, the dueling suits now over the North Carolina Bathroom law.
MARTINYeah. We should say the Department of Justice has sued North Carolina. North Carolina has countersued.
LERERAnd that's really the question that they're deciding. The Obama Administration clearly sees this as the next frontier in the Civil Rights movement. We'll have to see where the courts come down.
KINGI was -- but the administration made a conscious choice. It could have just had the suit with North Carolina. This Education Department directive is a conscious choice by the administration to take it nationally. And to make clear that this President, in his final months in office, wants to advance this ball. And wants to deal with this issue. And when you have the Attorney General not only saying we will defend you in court, but she used the words, Loretta Lynch did, we see you.
MARTIN...it's a different kind of message.
KING...the administration's making a very clear statement here about where it wants to go and where it believes the country is going. And if you think about this from the perspective of social conservatives, they have lost repeatedly, including a Supreme Court that they think has a -- that thought had a conservative majority on same sex marriage. And so, social conservatives have been increasingly taking their fights to the state level, like in North Carolina. And now, you have a national administration fighting back against them. This is going to carry forward for a few years as we settle what, I think you rightly call, the next frontier.
LERERIt's also interesting, because the administration was fairly late on the issue of same sex marriage. So you do get the sense that they don't want to be behind the ball on this issue.
MARTINThis is something that the Obama Administrations sees as key to their legacy.
STOLBERGYeah, and this was really a remarkable moment, frankly, to see Loretta Lynch, an African American female Attorney General, granddaughter of sharecroppers, stand up and say, and then she grew up in North Carolina, say this is akin to Brown v. Board of Education. This is a civil rights matter.
MARTINI want to turn to our callers, who have politics on their minds, so we might go back and talk a little Presidential politics. I'm going to bring in Seamus of Boca Raton, Florida. Hi Seamus, you're on the air.
SEAMUSHey, how are you doing?
MARTINI'm doing well.
SEAMUSI'm new to the show. Excellent, excellent show, but...
SEAMUS...my, my, my point was that the only way you're going to get change in Washington, obviously, is to get money out of politics. And perhaps get the large corporations to pay their fair share of taxes.
MARTINMoney, money out of politics. Seamus, thanks so much for your call. John, how likely is that?
KINGWell, given the Supreme Court ruling on Citizens United, not so likely in the short term. The only way to do that is to have an overwhelming change in the Congress and have lawmakers willing to deal with this issue. And you just simply don't have that right now. I will say this, that for all the people who entered this cycle thinking that, you know, you have these 17 Republican candidates who are all going to have -- or, you know, five or six of them are going to have these multi-million dollar super PACS and super PACS were now the levers that pulled the chains and made the decisions in American politics.
KINGNot so much. Not so much. Donald Trump's just blew right through that, and Jeb Bush, I think, you know, that giant flushing sound is 100 million dollars of Jeb Bush's fundraising that did nothing. And so, I completely respect the caller's perspective and voters feel this. This is why Trump -- I fund myself, I'm rich, I'm different, I'm not beholden to anybody. Bernie Sanders.
STOLBERGAnd that's why Bernie -- exactly.
KINGYeah. Bernie Sanders changed the system. This is why they have appeal, because people certainly feel that to their bones that the rich get richer, the rich have a rigged system, and they get nothing.
MARTINI want to go to George in Bardstown, Kentucky. Hi George, you're on the air.
GEORGEHello. Love the show. First time caller.
GEORGEI was curious, I'm hearing the words flexible and softening tones with Donald Trump. We had a candidate a few years back who changed his mind on a certain position and he was bombarded with the word flip flopper. Why isn't Donald Trump being bombarded with this word? I mean...
MARTINYou're talking about John Kerry.
GEORGE...he used to be morally ambiguous.
MARTINYeah. Thank you so much for your call, George.
LERERWell, I think part of the reason is that I know the Clinton -- the Clinton campaign believes that they can do a lot stronger than flip flopper. I think their goal here is to try to attack him as someone who's untrustworthy. You don't know where he stands. It's not that he's changed his position, it's that he never really had positions or convictions to begin with. So I think that's a lot more of the kind of depiction -- I think if Romney, Democrats tried to paint Mitt Romney as a heartless plutocrat. I think they're going to try to paint, this summer, particularly, try to paint Donald Trump as a con-man.
STOLBERGI think the reason it doesn't stick is because frankly, we know that Donald Trump is a flip flopper. He's the one saying, I'm totally flexible. But what we will see is -- are the Clinton people making the case that he is dangerous. And we're already seeing that, especially on foreign policy.
LERERAnd questions about his character and his personality.
STOLBERGHis temperament. His temperament.
LERERWe saw recently the story in the Washington Post that he was -- he took on a personality, a persona of a PR guy when he was dealing with...
STOLBERGHe denies it.
LERER...certain media representatives. He denies this, but it's this interesting look into how he has managed his brand over the years.
KINGAnd how to him, is every -- the Democrats will raise the question, and Hillary Clinton's super PAC, Priorities USA is getting ready to do this in a number of states, that is it, as Paul Manafort, Trump's own late to the campaign advisor, said at the Republican meeting in Florida not that long ago, is much of it an act? Is he performing all the time? And Democrats are going to try to turn that and say, yeah, don't, don't believe this guy. To Lisa's point, he's a con-man.
MARTINI want to go to Jeff in St. Augustine, Florida. Hi Jeff. You're on the air.
JEFFOh, hey, good morning. I'll try to be concise. Three quick things. You know, Trump agrees with the left on the bathroom thing, so that would be another loss for conservatives
JEFFIf I didn't see so many trucks with confederate flags, in some cases, flying off of them, and NRA stickers all with Trump signs also, I would possibly consider voting for him. The next point is, on the math for Bernie Sanders, you know, I've been an early supporter of his. I'm a little bit dubious about the so-called revolution, but if he can win Oregon and California, and he can mobilize hundreds of thousands of supporters, in the streets, in Philadelphia, I don't think the, you know, the super delegates are gonna have much of a choice.
MARTINThanks so much for your call, Jeff. I mean, does he have a point that if there -- is there such a thing as just the inevitability of momentum?
LERERI mean, she's gotten more votes. Right? Rallies do not predict electoral outcomes. You can have a really big rally and still be losing. And he is -- the math is just not there for him. He also has -- I mean, to me, the revolution, while he's accomplished a lot, he's certainly pulled her to the left on a lot of issues, the revolution has been fairly specific into whom it's attracted. She's done significantly better with minority voters who form a big part of that Democratic Party. She's done better with women, you know, particularly older women.
LERERSo it's hard to see the party, you know, overruling the popular vote, the pledge delegates and the super delegates for one segment of their party.
KINGI think the question will become, and the caller makes a great point, there are still 11 contests out there. Eight states and then the US Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico and District of Columbia is the last one. Senator Sanders has every right to go forward. It's just 67 percent of the remaining delegates to beat her by one and pledge delegates is pretty hard math. We'll see how, we'll see how it plays out. But then, then comes the question, what does he want? What does Senator Sanders want if he falls a little short? And can -- and does Secretary Clinton accommodate him -- do they, do they...
LERERWhat does he want?
STOLBERGHe wants, he wants the platform, and we're already seeing her accommodate him. For instance, on Medicare. She said that, you know, she has strongly resisted his call for single payer health care, which he describes as Medicare for all. Now, she is saying, well, she always believed in the public option. The public option was debated when the President's healthcare bill passed Congress early in his administration. And it was basically, in essence, that you could have the government provide you healthcare. She's saying, well, maybe people 50 or 55 and older should be allowed to buy into Medicare.
STOLBERGSo, that's what he wants. He wants, if he can't be the nominee, his ideas to be embraced by the party.
LERERAnd let's not forget that he also has a strong personal incentive to make sure Democrats have a good run this election. If Democrats retake control of the Senate, he would most likely be chairman of the powerful, very powerful, Senate Budget Committee. That is a good job where you can get a lot of things done if you're Bernie Sanders. So, you know, his colleagues in the Senate believe that he will be helpful once they get into the fall.
MARTINI want to at least nod to something that happened on Capitol Hill this past week. Some attention being paid to the opioid crisis in this country. Capitol Hill now fixating on this, trying to pass legislation. What do we know about these bills? What difference can they possibly make? Sheryl, have you been following this?
STOLBERGSo, what we know is that there is a package of 18 bills before the Congress and they include measures that would make it easier for doctors to treat patients addicted to opioids, give law enforcement officers greater authority to you know, block drug trafficking. Greater protection for veterans and children affected by the whole opioid epidemic. And it's -- there is an opioid crisis in this country and I think this is one area where we are likely to see rare agreement on Capitol Hill.
STOLBERGAnd the White House wants to do something about this as well. And you know, this is important for lawmakers, frankly, who go home and have to show that they've done something. We're seeing Senators like Rob Portman, for instance, in Ohio. He's in a tough re-election battle. It's a swing state. He's been talking about the opioid epidemic for months out on the campaign trail.
MARTINSo this is something we could see some bipartisan agreement.
STOLBERGIt's one of those rare, yeah, it's a rare -- you know, there's always got to be some moment of unity, whether it's passing the transportation bill or something that the public wants. And the public does want this.
KINGThere is still a subset fight over where the money comes from.
MARTINHow do you pay for it?
KINGDemocrats are trying to get hundreds of millions of dollars in new money. Republicans are saying, this should be money, you know, because of their concerns about the budget deficit, they say let's find money in other programs and re-direct it. So there's some of the traditional haggling over money, but this rare bipartisanship is extraordinary, and as someone who covered the crime bill back in the Clinton days, it has become an issue during the Democratic campaign from time to time. The tone is so much different. The compassion in this opioid debate, as opposed to the punishment tone of the 1990s crime bill debate, I think is quite striking.
MARTINI'm Rachel Martin with NPR's "Weekend Edition," and you're listening to The Diane Rehm Show." We'd love to hear from you. If you'd like to join us, call 1-800-433-8850. Send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Find us on Facebook or send us a tweet and don't forget, you can see all our guests on our live video stream at drshow.org. And I want to go now to Joe in Rochester, New York. Hi Joe, you're on the air.
JOEHi. I've heard before that nativism is one of the central definers of conservatism in Europe. And it seems like that's true in the United States now. Do you think that's changed? Do you think there's more nativism, or do you think it's always been here and it's just coming to the surface now?
MARTINThanks for your question. I'll throw it to the panel. Who want to take it?
LERERI mean, I think there's a couple of things going on. I think there's this sense that we were talking before that, you know, the economy is rigged. Politics is rigged. The average person can no longer get ahead. That's borne out by some economic data like the economic recovery, while the country is, has recovered from the recession, wages haven't improved. Certainly, the federal minimum wage hasn't gone up. So people feel tighter. And then, I think there's this whole set of social changes.
LERERYou know, the transgender bathroom issue that we were talking about before. That, you know, people feel that the country's moving in ways -- there's a certain segment of the population that feels that the country's moving in ways in which they are not prepared to go. So there's a number of things going on. But I think economics, and the feeling that things have just gotten harder, is the main driver. And when you feel that way, you look for various people to blame.
STOLBERGYeah, I think, though, that it is unfair to equate conservatism with nativism. You know, when George Bush was President, he very pointedly spoke out about the Muslim faith as a faith of tolerance. He said our war is against terrorists, it is not against Muslims. When John McCain ran against Barack Obama, and someone accused Obama of being an Arab and a terrorist, John McCain stood up and he said, no ma'am. I'm sorry. That's not right. He's a good man, a family man, I simply disagree with him on policy.
STOLBERGAnd we've already talked on this show about how Donald Trump is really, frankly, not a conservative. So I think, while there may be a strain in America of nativism, I don't think it's fair to equate the two or to say that the nativists are taking over the conservative movement somehow.
KINGI think it's part of the tug of war. The conservative movement and the Republican Party, often two different things. Conservatives are often at odds with the party itself. But I do think there's a tug of war. And to Sheryl's point, historically, you can see Bush, you can see McCain. You can go back to 1996 when Pat Buchanan's central theme was America first. That was his whole pitch. And he was a somewhat effective candidate, helped knock Phil Graham from the race, but then lost to Bob Dole. He had a limit to his appeal. But Trump has obviously stretched that limit in this cycle. This is why Paul Ryan and these other Republicans have this dilemma over...
STOLBERGThat's why Marco Rubio is so uneasy.
KING...how close do we hug him? Because they hope this doesn't last. But he's their nominee at the moment. And so they, it's sort of like grabbing a rodeo bull and trying to hold on until November.
MARTINOkay, we've covered the range of issues surrounding Presidential politics. We've talked about transgender rights and the battle over legislation in North Carolina. There's one important story we have not tackled yet. It is the naming of the national mammal. You guys following this? It's very important.
STOLBERGOkay, who -- I'm in favor, who's in favor of the bison for national mammal?
MARTINThe bison, ladies and gentlemen, has been named. President Obama signed a law on Monday making the bison the country's first national mammal. Now, I hail from a part of the country where we revere the bison. I'm from Idaho. I will also say something controversial. They are delicious. I have had a bison burger.
KINGAnd doctors tell you they're better for you than other meats.
LERERYeah, I love the bison lobby, which is ranchers, conservationists, tribal groups. You're part of the bison lobby.
MARTINI am part of the bison lobby.
STOLBERGPlus, someone from Pennsylvania, a lawmaker wanted to name the groundhog the national -- I mean, come on. The groundhog?
STOLBERGWhat's more American than a bison?
MARTINIt's true. Yes.
STOLBERGThe bison is big. It weighs a ton. It's powerful.
STOLBERGAnd it doesn't even replace the bald eagle, which is the national animal, but we don't have a national mammal. So, why not?
MARTINGive the bison its rightful place in American history and American culture.
KINGTed Turner thanks you.
MARTINTed Turner thanks me. You're welcome Ted Turner. Oh, it's been a great discussion. Thanks so much for joining us. Sheryl Gay Stolberg, National Correspondent for The New York Times. John King, Correspondent with CNN and Lisa Lerer of the AP. I'm Rachel Martin with NPR's "Weekend Edition," sitting in for Diane Rehm. Thanks so much for listening.
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