Guest Host: Frank Sesno

Florida Sen. Marco Rubio speaks with supporters as he stops to thank volunteers at a phone bank on the final day before the Florida primary election on August 29 in Miami, Florida. Rubio won over Carlos Beruff on Tuesday.

Florida Sen. Marco Rubio speaks with supporters as he stops to thank volunteers at a phone bank on the final day before the Florida primary election on August 29 in Miami, Florida. Rubio won over Carlos Beruff on Tuesday.

Sixty-six days before the election, Donald Trump is chipping away at Hillary Clinton’s lead in the polls. The Republican nominee made an unexpected visit to Mexico this week; in a speech in Phoenix hours later, he doubled down on his hardline conservative approach to immigration. Meanwhile, Clinton criticized what she called Trump’s fly-by approach to diplomacy, as she pitched her own foreign policy to voters in Cincinnati. Sens. John McCain (R-Ariz) and Marco Rubio (R-FL) win in state primaries. And the Supreme Court blocks a restrictive North Carolina voting law. A panel of journalists joins guest host Frank Sesno for analysis of the week’s top national news stories.


  • Amy Walter National editor, Cook Political Report
  • Wesley Lowery National reporter, Washington Post
  • Sudeep Reddy Economics reporter, The Wall Street Journal

Live Video


  • 10:06:54

    MR. FRANK SESNOThanks for joining us. I'm Frank Sesno of the George Washington University sitting for Diane Rehm. Donald Trump buckles down on his tough immigration stance this week after a visit with the Mexican president. In congressional elections, Marco Rubio, John McCain and Debbie Wasserman-Schultz all win state primaries. And the Supreme Court blocks the revival of a strict voting law in North Carolina.

  • 10:07:16

    MR. FRANK SESNOWell, joining us to talk about all this and more in the domestic hour of our Friday News Roundup, Wesley Lowery of The Washington Post, Amy Walter of the Cook Political Report and Sudeep Reddy of the Wall Street Journal. Thank you all for being here.

  • 10:07:27

    MR. WESLEY LOWERYGreat to be here.

  • 10:07:27

    MS. AMY WALTERHappy to be here.

  • 10:07:28

    MR. SUDEEP REDDYThanks for having us.

  • 10:07:29

    SESNOWell, where to begin? Why don't we begin with the latest because everything is connected and that's these new job numbers out this morning? I remember from a distant election, somebody once said it's the economy, stupid. I think it still is. But Pradeep (sic) start us with this. The new job numbers are out this morning. What do they tell us?

  • 10:07:48

    REDDYThey tell us that we have an economy that is not a blockbuster and it's not disastrous. It's somewhere way in the middle. But that's actually the economy we've had for the last four years. It is not exciting a whole lot of people, but it's steady. It's slow and steady economic growth. It is stability, but nothing to really jump and down about. That is the framing for what we've been dealing with for the last four years.

  • 10:08:18

    REDDYIt's the framing for the election. It is what creates a muddled picture. We had job growth that was decent and unemployment rate that is pretty good, but still, nobody is really excited.

  • 10:08:28

    SESNOAmy Walters, 151,000 jobs added, somewhat below the monthly gain of about 200,000 or so over the past 12 months, but not below that psychological threshold of 100,000 or 50,000 so it would be a disaster. How does that all ripple through the campaign?

  • 10:08:45

    WALTERWell, I think Sudeep said it quite well, which is it's -- the talk of stability is the talk that certainly the Clinton campaign is happy to keep focused on and that you have, you know, in a campaign where you have one side, the Trump side saying the world is on fire, everything's falling apart, it's a disaster, our economy is collapsing in front of our eyes, this report suggests, well, it's not.

  • 10:09:16

    SESNOBut it's not exactly robust growth.

  • 10:09:16

    WALTERBut on the other hand, it's not on a -- right. It's not on fire on the good side, right? And so...

  • 10:09:21

    SESNOAnd wage gains were not especially impressive.

  • 10:09:22

    WALTERThey're not as -- but yet, unemployment is decent. It's obviously very low, certainly, much lower than it was four years ago. The housing market doing okay. Consumer spending, pretty good. So you have just a muddled picture, which for the party in power, which, of course, is the Democrats is a pretty good place to be when you have, on the Republican side, a candidate who hasn't been able to run sort of a traditionally anti-incumbent campaign.

  • 10:09:50

    SESNOWesley Lowery, these are the last set of numbers like this we'll see before the first presidential debate.

  • 10:09:55

    LOWERYFirst debate.

  • 10:09:56

    SESNOBetween Trump and Clinton. Good news for either one, a battering ram for either one?

  • 10:10:01

    LOWERYYou know, I think that these numbers are malleable in a way that both campaigns can mold them to what they are trying to put forth, right? So the Clintons are arguing stability. In many ways, while they're not explicitly saying it, this argument for a third Obama term, that we've got things back on the right track and we want to continue doing that. The Trump argument, essentially, especially to disaffected white voters or people who might be middle of the road, is this argument that, look, the Democrats have been telling you everything's okay for eight years and really it's not.

  • 10:10:27

    LOWERYRight? And so this is another type of report where objectively, this is a pretty solid report for a country that's still working its way out of a recession, but it's the type of thing where Trump can say these numbers are made up. So they're telling you unemployment's getting better, but -- they're telling you wages are getting better, but is your -- do you have more money in your bank account? Is it better for you? And that is a message that does resonate to people because it takes a long time in the perception of the American psyche.

  • 10:10:51

    SESNOSo he can tee up that old Reagan thing, are you better off now than you were four years ago?

  • 10:10:54


  • 10:10:54

    WALTERWell, and you know, if you look at the polling, obviously, Donald Trump has had some major problems in the most recent polling, but on a couple of issues, especially on the economy, that is the one area in which voters say they trust him more than they trust Hillary Clinton. So there's a great opportunity there, but as I'm sure we'll get to in a moment, he's not spending a whole lot of time talking about the economy and his plans for fixing the economy. He's spending a whole lot of time trying to clean up a mess of his own creation.

  • 10:11:20

    LOWERYIf we were in a alternate political universe with President Mitt Romney talking about 4.9 percent unemployment, $2 gasoline and a record stock market, I can promise you the Republicans would be running hard on that record and the Democrats would be saying, well about income inequality? What about the middle class? What about wage growth? What about all these other problems?

  • 10:11:39

    SESNOYou're getting to the entire policy conversation that it seems we're not having this cycle.

  • 10:11:42

    WALTERNot having.

  • 10:11:43

    REDDYExactly, exactly.

  • 10:11:44

    SESNOIf you've ever had a job or you'd like to have a job, if you've ever voted or plan to vote, you might want to join our conversation today. We'll be taking your comments, questions throughout the hour. Call us on 800-433-8850 or send us your email at Join us on Facebook or Twitter. And because it's Friday, we're doing a live video stream this hour so you can watch us at And if you're there, hello.

  • 10:12:10

    SESNOPradeep, let me come back to you and ask one last question on these -- on this job report before we move on. It's not only the presidential campaign and all the voters who play close attention to these sort of things. It's this place called the Fed, which is thinking about raising interest rates, which actually would affect the economy. How do these numbers play into that trajectory?

  • 10:12:27

    REDDYThe Federal Reserve has raised interest rates once in the last decade.

  • 10:12:30

    SESNOIt is amazing.

  • 10:12:30

    REDDYThat was last December. It has gone longer than anybody expected in keeping interest rates near zero. It has tried over and over again to exit the extreme monetary policy that it had and bring interest rates higher, which would help savers, but also create some rumbles in the global economy and certainly the U.S. economy. And the economy has just not cooperated. Every time it hinted at raising interest rates, markets would respond and tie the Fed's hands.

  • 10:12:57

    REDDYNow, the Fed is at a point where it is getting close to what is traditionally full employment and these are decent job gains. This is what, if you look back a year ago, the Fed would be predicting -- they would love to have 150,000 jobs being added. It is a steady course and you would think they'd move on it.

  • 10:13:13

    SESNOAre you forecasting a raise in rates?

  • 10:13:15

    REDDYThey are very uncertain and there's going to be a pretty big debate in a few weeks about whether to raise interest rates at this moment because the global economy is a pretty ugly mess and they don't want to...

  • 10:13:24

    SESNOSo not a slam-dunk on either side.

  • 10:13:25

    REDDYAbsolutely not.

  • 10:13:25

    SESNOVery, very, very -- okay. Amy Walter, Donald Trump -- let's come back to politics for a minute. Donald Trump seems to be closing the gap in some of the polls that we're seeing and in some of the battleground states. What's going on?

  • 10:13:38

    WALTERWell, I think what you saw after the Democratic Convention and then the decision by Donald Trump after the Democratic Convention to spend a good amount of time attacking one of the speakers, Goldstar family, of course. We heard a lot about this. You say Hillary Clinton's lead expand probably outside of where she normally would be, even after a strong convention. In some states into the double digits, nationally eight or nine points.

  • 10:14:04

    WALTERI think that the natural resting place for this race is probably between three and five points. And that's really where we are...

  • 10:14:11

    SESNOThree and five points nationally.

  • 10:14:11

    WALTERNationally. And then, we look at the individual states.

  • 10:14:14

    SESNOIs that -- for those who -- for the uninitiated, is a three to five point spread a very tight race, a typically tight race?

  • 10:14:22

    WALTERI think that's a very -- in this day and age, that's a blowout.

  • 10:14:26


  • 10:14:26

    WALTERBecause a three to five point race nationally -- obviously, this is what Barack Obama got. He won by four points. Only 5 million votes out of, you know, hundreds cast -- millions and millions cast, but it translated into 332 electoral college votes. That's where we're probably and should be spending more time once we pass Labor Day is looking at the individual states and the pathway that these candidates have to getting this...

  • 10:14:55

    SESNOWell, let me ask Wesley Lowery about that. Let's talk about some of the key states.

  • 10:14:58

    LOWERYThe states.

  • 10:14:58

    SESNOFlorida, Ohio, some of the others. What are you seeing?

  • 10:15:01

    LOWERYOf course, I mean, it's fascinating what we were -- and we were actually talking about this a little earlier, how this election, because it's so A-typical -- in fact, brings into play neighborhoods and communities that otherwise -- Hillary Clinton is competing in places where she otherwise would not have been, where looking at real polling in places like Utah where, in most years, there's not much need for robust polling in the presidential level.

  • 10:15:22

    LOWERYBut we're also seeing communities, whether it be on the outskirts of Midwestern cities that are typically Democratic strongholds, thinking of places outside of Cleveland or outside of Detroit, where you have a large population of non-college educated while folks who may be susceptible to Donald Trump's message. Now, again, what we're seeing largely is that Donald Trump's not competing in many of the most important swing states, right? That right now, it's hard to see the pathway forward in places like Florida. It's hard to see in a world where John Kasich, the popular governor of Ohio, is hinting and nodding and essentially saying, don't vote for this guy.

  • 10:15:57

    SESNOThe Ohio story, actually, that is a remarkable story because the entire state party apparatus and the governor, essentially, at war with the party's nominee.

  • 10:16:03

    LOWERYWith their candidate. And this is -- and I have a bias being a Clevelander, but, you know, this is arguably the most important state when you're talking about a competitive presidential race, you know. It's an old cliché. So goes Ohio, so goes the nation, right? You have the popular Republican governor, someone who very likely might run for president again in 2012 (sic) with any other candidate might be your vice presidential nominee, basically actively campaigning against the Republican nominee.

  • 10:16:27

    LOWERYIn that type of environment, it's hard to see a world in which Donald Trump wins swing states like Ohio.

  • 10:16:32

    SESNOAmy Walter, I'm looking at some recent polls. One of them is a Fox News poll on President Obama's job approval. 54, 43 approval rating, a spread of 11 points. That's significant in a Fox poll. How does that spill over and does it into the campaign?

  • 10:16:46

    WALTERIt is fascinating. I do, I feel like we're spending a whole lot of time talking about we're living in these sort of two alternate universes. On the one hand, you say we've had an election that has been defined by disruption, whether it's Donald Trump's success or Bernie Sanders' success, not ultimate success, but success in closing a gap, obviously, in the primaries and gaining a lot of votes. At the same time, you're seeing a president who has only been going on the upswing when you look at his overall approval ratings.

  • 10:17:15

    WALTERWe talked about an economy that's improving. It's not on fire, but it's doing better.

  • 10:17:19

    SESNOIs that because the other candidates are so unpopular maybe he wins by...

  • 10:17:21

    WALTERSo I think there are a couple of things happening. I think one of them is certainly in comparison to what they see...

  • 10:17:24

    SESNOHe's the grownup here.

  • 10:17:24

    WALTER…right. And I've been sitting in a lot of focus groups recently where folks who didn't vote for Barack Obama are saying, you know what, he's not such a bad guy, especially compared to the people that we've had to see for the last few years. I think the fact the economy is improving, not as fast as people would like it to be, but is important. And finally, I just want to raise one thing, which is, again, a normal Republican candidate would be spending a whole lot of time attacking the president on some issues which he's avoided doing.

  • 10:17:49

    SESNOAttacking plenty of other things.

  • 10:17:50


  • 10:17:50

    SESNOWell, our conversation continues. We'd like you to join us. Coming up, more of the Friday News Roundup. You can see all of our guests on our live video stream at We will be right back.

  • 10:20:02

    SESNOBack on "The Diane Rehm Show" and the Friday News Roundup, I'm Frank Sesno sitting in for Diane today. We're talking with Wesley Lowery, national reporter for Washington Post, Amy Walter, national editor for the Cook Political Report, and Sudeep Reddy, economics reporter for The Wall Street Journal. Our topic obviously is politics. If you'd like to join us, we'll be taking your comments, questions, calls throughout the hour at 800-433-8850. Or send us your email at Join us on Facebook or Twitter. We are live streaming, so video of this hour on The Friday News Roundup is streaming live on the web at

  • 10:20:35

    SESNOSudeep Reddy, let me come back to you for a moment. We also saw political activity at the state level this past week. Voters in Florida and Arizona went to the polls. And guess what? In a year of upheaval, the incumbents all won.

  • 10:20:49

    REDDYThe election we expected to shake everything up is turning to be an establishment-driven win here. This was a case where we had been hearing for quite a while about John McCain being under pressure and all of the trouble that he would face. Look what he did. He came right out of it and just about every other...

  • 10:21:07

    SESNOHow do you interpret that?

  • 10:21:08

    REDDYA lot of voters don't know what to make of this election and this mess we're in.

  • 10:21:13

    SESNOA lot of politicians don't know.

  • 10:21:14

    REDDYThat's certainly the case. And when you look around, the existing records, the track records of these politicians, it does matter. Everybody doesn't want to take somebody who is untested and throw all their weight behind them. And that's -- that -- we're going to see that over the next two months, but also the two years that follow after that in how the mid-term elections (word?)

  • 10:21:34

    SESNOWesley Lowery, Donald Trump went after John McCain, said...

  • 10:21:37


  • 10:21:37 know, my kind of hero is not somebody who actually gets caught here. So does this election for McCain say anything about the relationship with Trump?

  • 10:21:46

    LOWERYYou know, I think it's going to be interesting. And McCain still has a Trump issue to deal with, which is, does, you know, in a world in which it actually comes to Hillary Clinton blowout, does that drive Democratic turnout or swing voting in a state like Arizona where we typically might not be having this conversation? And does that help his Democratic challenger, which typically wouldn't be something that would really threaten him?

  • 10:22:05

    LOWERYBut I do think it speaks to, you know, John McCain is this kind of standard bearer of the Republican establishment. He is as '90s, 2000 GOP as it gets. In fact, he was the candidate, right? And it speaks to kind of this grapple we have seen for eight years, right? This push between the McCain candidacy and then kind of the birth of the Palins and the Tea Party afterwards, right? And so we've seen this ebb and flow on the right of the Tea Party wave that comes in, in 2010, these fights over Obamacare. Eventually the fight now over immigration, which has kind of been the -- taken the mantle from Obamacare in some ways as the main issue of the anti-establishment right. And this is, in some ways, kind of one of the main battlegrounds.

  • 10:22:46


  • 10:22:46

    LOWERYI mean, we saw this also, frankly, in Florida in the race with Rubio, right?

  • 10:22:50


  • 10:22:51

    LOWERYAgain, this has kind of been the rise and the great stand of the establishment Republicans this year and a backlash to some of the fire and candidacies of the types of anti-establishment candidates that we would have seen winning in 2010.

  • 10:23:04

    SESNOWell, Amy Walter, let me ask you to talk about the Marco Rubio phenomenon.

  • 10:23:07

    WALTERYeah. I mean, he...

  • 10:23:08

    SESNOBecause he was...

  • 10:23:09

    WALTER...he was...

  • 10:23:09

    SESNO...defeated handily by Donald Trump in the primary.

  • 10:23:11

    WALTER...handily in the state.

  • 10:23:12

    SESNOAnd then?

  • 10:23:12

    WALTERAnd then he wins with 72 percent against a candidate who spent over $8 million, mostly of his own money. This is a wealthy home builder that he beat in the Republican primary and who -- his opponent literally tied himself to Donald Trump, saying I am the real Donald Trump candidate. Marco Rubio doesn't believe in Donald Trump. Vote for me. I'm going to be the guy to bring you that change.

  • 10:23:35

    SESNOWas that the gut or part of the guts of his message to the electorate?

  • 10:23:37

    WALTERYeah. That was absolutely a part of the guts. So it was literally...

  • 10:23:39

    SESNOSo this was a big roll of the dice on his part.

  • 10:23:40


  • 10:23:41


  • 10:23:41

    WALTERAnd Rubio got 72 percent of the vote, right? That sort of says it all. As did, now go to Paul Ryan a couple weeks earlier running against somebody who was getting the support of the conservative talk radio world, right? Raised a lot of money. Paul Ryan got 84 percent. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, also part of the establishment on the other side, right? Oh, the upheaval, the -- with the Sanders community. She's going to be in so much trouble for the DNC WikiLeaks and she rigged the election for Sanders. Sanders endorsed her opponent. He raised -- her opponent raised over $2 million thanks to that endorsement. She wins with 57 percent.

  • 10:24:26

    SESNOSudeep, so on the Democratic side with Debbie Wasserman Schultz and all of this and what we're seeing. Does this quiet the critics do you think within the Democratic Party? Does this start to contribute to some kind of, I don't know, a formation of a consensus?

  • 10:24:42

    REDDYProbably not. We have seen anti-establishment activists make a lot of noise throughout this election. They've making -- been making a lot of noise since 2010 as well, then from the Tea Party Movement. And they will continue to make a lot of noise. And that's shaping the positions of both parties. And it's going to create an interesting challenge as you get into actually governing around something like this. If we had seen the liberal end and the far-right end prevail in any of these races, then you would have seen lawmakers in 2017 have to think about their primary elections two years later. You would've had them thinking more about delivering for the base.

  • 10:25:23

    REDDYThis creates an opportunity for them to think more about what a mainstream voter might want. Whether that actually is what we end up with is another issue. But it at least removes us from going further out to the extremes of politics than we've been already.

  • 10:25:36

    SESNOLet's talk about a couple of other things. Donald Trump had an extraordinary week off to Mexico and then for a speech. Amy.

  • 10:25:44

    WALTERWell, none of us could quite believe that Donald Trump would go to Mexico -- it's a country that he's disparaged a lot -- and would meet with an even more unpopular Mexican president. So Donald Trump is more unpopular in Mexico but the Mexican president is more unpopular in his country than Donald Trump is in his. And I went into this thinking, well, what do both sides get out of this? Donald Trump is -- wants to go there to look presidential, to stand with a world leader. That made some sense. But the risk was that -- I went into this thinking, well, surely the Mexican president's going to come out and publicly rebuke him. He is going to bring him into his country and sandbag him, right?

  • 10:26:26

    SESNOIt was incredible. It was the -- yeah, exact opposite of that.

  • 10:26:29

    WALTERAnd that -- buy, man, he's going to go there and get so embarrassed. And then the president invites him basically to what looks like a bilateral discussion that any president of the United States would get. And it looked just so normal.

  • 10:26:47

    SESNOSo Wesley Lowery, just so normal?

  • 10:26:50

    LOWERYIt appeared that way. And it...

  • 10:26:51

    SESNOAnd did Trump get what he wanted? Did he succeed in elevating his stature? Because then a few hours later he came back and gave a speech and a lot of the punditry was saying, what a minute. Where are you on this issue?

  • 10:27:02

    LOWERYWell, but again I think that Donald Trump -- and it's kind of the double-edged sword, right, as both the brilliance of his candidacy and it's also kind of one of the fatal flaws of his candidacy or potential fatal flaws is that he is clearly not spending a ton of time worried about what we think about Donald Trump's candidacy, right? And rather he is zero-focused on the voters he knows he can win. And, right, and so I see kind of competing potential outcomes here, right? He wants to look presidential by going to Mexico, by having this conversation.

  • 10:27:31

    LOWERYBut he also wants to come back and reassure these voters that, no, in fact, the media's telling you I'm flip-flopping all these things. No, I still believe the same hardline things. I still want to deport 11 million people. I still see this conversation as a debate between open borders and amnesty or law and order. There's no nuance there and he…

  • 10:27:47

    SESNOSudeep Reddy, did we make any progress in understanding who's going to pay for the wall, what the ideological certification is supposed to be for the people whom the Trump administration would actually let into the country, where these 5,000 deportation officers are going to come from, how they'll be paid, or what they're going to do?

  • 10:28:04

    REDDYThose are very important policy questions and we made no headway on any of them. It was -- it is fascinating to watch a candidate who looked, in a single day, like he could be a general election candidate and hours later looked like a superstar primary candidate, in the same way that he -- that delivered the primary win for him. And that...

  • 10:28:24


  • 10:28:25

    REDDY...did not work politically where we're going now.

  • 10:28:25

    SESNO...but to his supporters and those who are undecided, does he not look like a decisive leader who gets on a plane and crosses the border and poses for the bilateral photo-op and then comes back and delivers, you know, a tough speech.

  • 10:28:39

    REDDYIf you're undecided, you'll be confused by what happened that day. Because you saw a lot of messages and not a whole lot of coherence about the position. If you are a true believer, a hardcore supporter, you saw somebody who is standing up for what made him a hit and he delivered on that front.

  • 10:28:58

    SESNOOkay. I want to slightly turn the corner with all of you and also share this with our audience.

  • 10:29:03

    LOWERYYou mean there's another candidate or something we should be talking about?

  • 10:29:06

    SESNOWell, no, I've got three newspapers in front of me. And I've been noticing this for quite some time. The Wall Street Journal, Mexico comments for pushback, talking about the lead piece on Trump's speech. The Washington Post, Trump message not policy at issue. That's the lead story. Just below it, Trump's strategy for charming donors, asking their advice in a mild manner is just below that. The New York Times, the main story here, to court blacks, a Trump script. Nowhere on the front page of any of these newspapers is an article about Hillary Clinton. Nowhere am I seeing or reading anything of substance about her policy or how she's supposed to address her deep unfavorables. What's going on here, Amy? Start us off.

  • 10:29:46

    WALTERThis has and will likely continue to be a referendum on Donald Trump, instead of what Republicans were hoping this election would be was a referendum on Obama but more specifically on Hillary Clinton and her problems.

  • 10:29:58

    SESNOIt's also about bad journalism or incomplete journalism.

  • 10:30:00

    WALTERWell, it is very hard when the candidate, in Trump, does not help make the case against his opponent. And when you have a very public back and forth with your own campaign about what your positions are, it makes it very difficult to make the race about anything else. Again, I am surprised. There was -- a couple weeks ago, when I was reading all those same newspapers, and the front pages were about the troubles with Obamacare and the exchanges and insurers warning of the dangers of the fact that there weren't enough healthy people coming into the Obamacare exchanges.

  • 10:30:37

    WALTERAnd yet, I did not hear one word from the Republican presidential candidate about this issue. Instead, what we heard a lot about was, what should I do on immigration?

  • 10:30:49

    SESNOWesley Lowery, you work for this paper called The Washington Post.

  • 10:30:51

    LOWERYI do. I think that, you know, one thing I will say to that though is I do believe -- I don't believe that we're necessarily seeing a full-fledged policy analysis of where Hillary Clinton stands. In part because, again, Donald Trump sucks so much air and oxygen. If he steps to a microphone every single day or travels to various different countries, it's impossible to not be there writing and talking about those things.

  • 10:31:13

    LOWERYWe have, however, seen in recent weeks, right, I think we have seen some substantive reporting on Hillary Clinton's foundation. I think we have seen substantive reporting on the ongoing drip-drop of the email issue when she was at the State Department. I think we are often seeing journalism that is focused on Hillary Clinton's alleged scandals or a perception of scandals or perceptions of distrust, but less deep probing of her policy positions. I was thinking, on the ride over this morning, I know very little about what Hillary Clinton believes in terms of education, right? You know, I believe very little -- we're seeing very little substantive engagement.

  • 10:31:45

    LOWERYBut the candidates set that tone. If they're not debating each other on policy, it is very...

  • 10:31:49

    SESNOThey'll say, go visit our website.

  • 10:31:50

    LOWERYOf course. And what many of the media outlets would say is, in fact, we have written about a lot of these things. If no one clicks them or reads them, it's hard to keep doing that.

  • 10:31:58

    REDDYPeople have clicked on them and they have read them over the last year. Hillary Clinton's policy positions have not changed a whole lot. And they're not that dramatically different from Barack Obama's policy positions. So there are variations. There are some departures on just about every front, whether it's trade or education, there are certain points. But people are really trying to understand what are Donald Trump's policy positions. They -- it is a big challenge. That is why you're seeing so many stories about this. Because if it can change in a single day, there are a lot of people who need to read about it to understand what's happening next.

  • 10:32:28

    SESNOI'm Frank Sesno and you're listening to "The Diane Rehm Show." And if you'd like to join us, give us a call at 1-800-433-8850. Send us an email to Find us on Facebook, send us a tweet. Don't forget, you can see all of our guests on our live video stream. That also is at And so we're going to get to some of your calls and questions in just a moment.

  • 10:32:51

    SESNOI do want to ask about one other question relating to Donald Trump's engagement with the Mexico issue this year. And, Wesley, let me come over to you on this. Very interesting fallout, a negative fallout from this ad hoc Latino committee that he had put together to support him.

  • 10:33:06


  • 10:33:07

    SESNOHe comes back from Mexico, delivers this speech, and suddenly some of these folks start peeling away. They are complaining they were used as props. What was this all about?

  • 10:33:15

    LOWERYYeah. What's fascinating -- and people have said this, this has been a criticism of Donald Trump, that we've also heard of several other candidates, especially from the Tea Party right and the anti-establishment right, that very often he is prone to repeating or being swayed by the last person he's spoken to. And what that means, very often -- and you get this from people who've talked to him or met with him -- is that in the room he comes across as very reasonable. He's listening to you. Hey, you made a great point about that thing. And then he goes and gives a speech that says all of the opposite of what he has just assured you to be true. Right?

  • 10:33:40

    LOWERYAnd so you have -- it's fascinating, four or five members of his Hispanic advisory committee who come -- who, after his speech in which he doubles down on kind of hardline rhetoric, deportations, crimes committed by illegal immigrants -- even though we know immigrants don't commit a higher level of crime -- he doubles down on, no, we've got to get everyone out of there. And they said, look, essentially this is not what we signed up for on the bill of particulars. And we're seeing a real grappling on the right of Republican operatives, especially black and Hispanic, who've had a real issue morally and ethnically, personally, if they can keep collecting paychecks in this space.

  • 10:34:15


  • 10:34:15

    SESNOAmy Walter, you have followed elections for a very long time. You're following this one. You mentioned a moment ago you were in a focus group. We'll come back to that in a minute. If these two candidates are so unpopular, why aren't the Libertarian and Green Party candidates getting more traction? Why wouldn't this be the ideal moment for a third-party challenge of some credibility?

  • 10:34:35

    WALTERI think you have a couple of things going on. The first is, we do have two uniquely unpopular candidates. But we also are at a time of deep polarization, a polarization that we have not -- we've not hit this level certainly in the last 40 or 50 years. So we are at a weird place in American history where more people identify as independents and say that they're not going to register with a party. But they're more identified with a party than ever. You pull on your blue jersey or your red jersey and that's -- that is how you go.

  • 10:35:08

    WALTERThe second thing is, nobody really gets to know who -- nobody knows who these other candidates are. They don't have the money or the infrastructure. And when you do see them on television, they aren't exactly giving you an easy reason to pull for them.

  • 10:35:23


  • 10:35:23

    LOWERYOf course. And I think Amy raised a really valuable point there, right? The idea that you also have to speak to the quality of the third-party candidates, right?

  • 10:35:29


  • 10:35:29

    LOWERYIt does raise a question of, couldn't this be a moment for a third-party candidate. I think it's a very different conversation in a world in which Mitt Romney decides that he's had enough with Donald Trump and he puts his name on the ballot. I think it's a very different world in which a Condoleezza Rice decides, you know what? I'm not doing this. I'm getting into the race. It's hard when you have figures who are on the relative margins of political discourse. And that's not to undermine Jill Stein of the Green Party or Gary Johnson of the Libertarian Party. But we're not talking about major political figures who have stepped in to run.

  • 10:35:57

    SESNOLet me go quickly to the phones. And James joins us from Grand Rapids, Mich. Hi, James. Go ahead with your question.

  • 10:36:02

    JAMESYeah. I was just curious about why, with all this endless handwringing about the Clinton Foundation and who's going to do what and when and where, why is no one asking the question about the Trump empire that he supposedly has? Who's going to run that if, God forbid, he does become the president of the United States?

  • 10:36:24

    SESNOThat's a great question and very fair. Sudeep, you want to lead us off on that?

  • 10:36:28

    REDDYWe are asking that question. We're asking it quite a bit. We're still trying to understand what is the Trump empire? How much money is in the Trump empire? What are the holdings of the Trump empire? A lot of these things would show up in...

  • 10:36:39

    SESNOFor the record, what has he said?

  • 10:36:41

    REDDYHe has said that he would pass on his business to his children and have them run it. That is actually a lot of what we seem to think about the Clinton Foundation as well, that Chelsea Clinton will pick up parts of the foundation. But with the Trump empire, we don't have his tax returns. We don't really know what it entails. We don't know what share of holdings, we don't know how successful or not successful they are. So a lot of this is a black box that has been built around the Trump brand and the marketing around it rather than the specifics of the business.

  • 10:37:09

    SESNOOkay, well we will be back with more on this, because there's a lot more to be had, and your calls and questions for our panel. So please stay tuned. The Friday News Roundup will continue. You're listening to "The Diane Rehm Show."

  • 10:40:01

    SESNOWelcome back to "The Diane Rehm Show." I'm Frank Sesno. Today, our Friday News Roundup and we're talking about American politics and a lot else with Wesley Lowery. He's the National Reporter for the Washington Post. Amy Walter, National Editor at Cook Political Report. Sudeep Reddy, Economics Reporter with the Wall Street Journal. We'll come to your calls and questions in just a moment. But before we do that, Wesley, I wanted to ask you one other big story.

  • 10:40:23

    SESNOAbout one other big story that took place this week. And that was the North Carolina voter ID law. The Supreme Court denying an appeal from North Carolina to revive that law. What happened? What's this all about? How significant?

  • 10:40:35

    LOWERYSo, essentially, and I'll try to be brief on this, but it encapsulates a lot of history, right? And so, after the election of President Obama, there was the Shelby vs. Holder Supreme Court decision. And what that did is it weakened some of the protections of the Voting Rights Act. It allowed states, southern states specifically, to make changes to their election laws that previously, they would have had to get federal approval for. What we saw almost immediately was a flurry of these laws being passed that created voter ID laws, for example.

  • 10:41:00

    LOWERYWe've seen that in dozens of states and then places like North Carolina, Georgia, also as well, that got -- tried to curb early voting, that tried to be more specific, not even just a voter ID law, but no, you can't use a college ID, for example. It must be...

  • 10:41:12

    SESNOAnd the state saying this was to curb voter fraud.

  • 10:41:15

    LOWERYVoter fraud, which by most objective measures, we know does not exist in a robust way. There are certainly small anecdotes. And so, North Carolina, which has seen, has been one of the most tumultuous political states during the Obama Presidency. Is one of the only states that one year backed Obama, and the next year, in fact, the only state that backed Obama in '08 and then backed Romney in 2012. Saw a Tea Party wave, they took the State House, they took the Governor's mansion, and they passed one of the most restrictive voter ID laws in the country.

  • 10:41:43

    LOWERYThis has been a major point of political tension. There were massive protests, sit-ins in the State House. Liberal and Democratic groups outraged by this, and this was supposed to be the first election where the new strict laws apply. Lawsuit was fired by several civil rights groups and a lower court judge, earlier this year, ruled essentially that this law was crafted specifically to suppress African American voters. They said that lawmakers ran studies and figured out which of these policy tweaks would suppress the black vote and they deliberately...

  • 10:42:12

    SESNOSo they implied an intentionality to that.

  • 10:42:14

    LOWERYCorrect. And that they deliberately wrote that into the law. Again, that's what the judge wrote in a very searing opinion. The Governor, Pat McCrory, who was on the legislators at the time who helped pass this, appealed. Essentially, he asked the Supreme Court to stay that ruling. Let's allow our law to still apply for November until we can get the Supreme Court to weigh in. What the court said, essentially, was that no, we are not going to, in the meantime, allow this law to continue, because the most recent judge's ruling is that this is a discriminatory law.

  • 10:42:42

    SESNOWhat then is the significance of that, and its implications for other state?

  • 10:42:46

    LOWERYOf course, you know, and so this would be much -- this is a major ruling in terms of voting rights law and this is something that's extremely important. It will be more important and more major once the court eventually takes up a case on one of these laws, as opposed to just considering one. But, it would be more politically consequential, in fact, if this was a normal election. In a Romney/Obama election, where North Carolina is a real swing state, one of the states that might decide the presidency, allowing voting options, such as early voting, Sunday voting to the polls.

  • 10:43:16

    LOWERYAnd then also getting rid of a voter ID law that might have curbed college voting is the type of thing that could really -- that could keep a state like North Carolina blue or have it turn blue in this election. Again, it's hard this year because the map is so different than it usually is.

  • 10:43:30

    SESNOAll right, let's go to the phones now, and we're joined by Raffe from Jacksonville, Florida. Hi Raffe, go ahead with your call.

  • 10:43:36

    RAFFEHow are you doing, sir? This is Raffe. I'm from Jacksonville, Florida. And I'm moving to the United States back in 2009 as a refugee. Because I used to work with the Army and the State Department back in Iraq. I'm from Baghdad, Iraq, so the State Department give me -- they opened the refugee program to us. So I moved to the states in 2009. I had a very hard time in 2009 as a refugee in the United States because, you know, it's not my language.

  • 10:44:12

    RAFFEIt's, it's, it's -- so, I had, I had a hard time. But I had some help from the government until I stand up on my foot again. I have a wife and three beautiful children. And now, me and my wife, we're making very good living, me as a truck driver, and my wife work in some factory. I mean, I mean, we both, we both make about 6,000 dollars a month.

  • 10:44:42

    SESNOSo you're doing okay? Life is good for you?

  • 10:44:45

    RAFFEOh, I mean, life is beautiful.

  • 10:44:47

    SESNOAll right, and so -- and congratulations. And we're very glad for that. What do you have -- would you take that life and turn that into a question for our panel?

  • 10:44:57

    RAFFEAgain please, sir.

  • 10:44:59

    SESNOWould you -- do you have a question for the panel?

  • 10:45:01

    RAFFEOh, I mean, I heard you talking about the economy -- I mean, the economy -- I mean, me, because I moved to the states in 2009, maybe I feel like, you know, I feel that the economy was so bad back in 2009.

  • 10:45:16

    SESNOBut for you, it's pretty good now.

  • 10:45:18

    RAFFEYeah, but after that, I mean, in 2010, 2011, 2012, I mean, I worked a lot of jobs. I mean, me as a responsible father for a wife and three children, I mean, I worked in many, many jobs. But I'm talking about, compared to 2009, right now, I mean there is a lot of job opening.

  • 10:45:39


  • 10:45:40

    RAFFEI mean, my wife finds her job, like, you know, in two days.

  • 10:45:43

    SESNORaffe, that's -- that's great. Let me turn to the panel with -- because there's actually an awful lot caught up in what Raffe is saying, who he is, where he's from.

  • 10:45:53

    REDDYA huge amount there. If you listen to the political discussion, you would have people talking about a nation in decline where there -- there's violence on the streets, where we're in daily trouble. Raffe has come from a place that actually does face some of that difficulty, a very difficult country. Has come to the United States, found opportunity, and now the point he makes is separating a lot of the rhetoric of what we're seeing from the reality. If you look at job openings in the United States, they are actually pretty high.

  • 10:46:27

    REDDYEmployers can't find people who they need to fill jobs. This is what immigration is about. This is why we have the fundamental policy debate about immigration because you need this to grow your economy. And because we're a country that has historically taken in people from all over the world to grow our economy. And the rhetoric of what we're seeing is that there are people who cannot get a job, which is true. There are a lot of people who cannot get a job, either because of their location or because of their skills.

  • 10:46:53

    REDDYBut it is not a country that is just, that is that much of a mess right now. And the rhetoric on the campaign trail right now, whether it's about people coming from the Middle East or whether it's about people coming from Mexico, there are more people going back to Mexico from the United States than coming in right now. And that is because there are a lot of opportunities in -- across the border as well.

  • 10:47:15

    SESNOLet's go to Tim from Houston, Texas. Hi Tim, go ahead with your question.

  • 10:47:18

    TIMHi, good morning. On its face, the concept of deporting the 11 million people from our borders is just absurd. You have to be crazy. However, has anybody given any thought of what this country might look like after 11 million people, hypothetically are deported?

  • 10:47:37

    LOWERYI have given some thought to that. What do you do with people who are working not just in the shadows, but their relatives, who might be working completely legally in our economy, what happens then, when you actually move that many people? How many businesses do you disrupt? How many households do you disrupt? How many neighborhoods do you disrupt that depend on consumer spending that depend on a vibrant economy? And obviously, how many lives do you discuss?

  • 10:48:01

    LOWERYThen, then we can start talking about what right track, wrong track numbers look like when you create that much disruption in a relatively stable economy.

  • 10:48:10

    SESNOIt seems to me that that is very much the sort of human face of this, the practical effect of this, that has been missing from so much of this discussion.

  • 10:48:20

    WALTERWell, and even voters, I think, are making this distinction. That Fox poll that you mentioned earlier in the show showed that 77 percent of Americans think we shouldn't be deporting immigrants who are here illegally. So I think that intellectually, that discussion that we're having right here absolutely is one that most Americans agree with.

  • 10:48:43

    SESNOWesley, here's a question I'd like to share with you. This is Kim in -- from New Hampshire. The person couldn't stay on the line. Observing nobody's talking about the Supreme Court. What do we know about the nominees who might end up on the Supreme Court, based on these two candidates?

  • 10:49:00

    LOWERYWho might end up on the Supreme Court? I think that's -- it's fascinating. And I think that one thing that we're not -- it's almost gotten completely lost is this conversation of Merrick Garland, the current nominee to the Supreme Court. Who, we're at what, this was in February, it was Valentine's Day when Scalia died. And so we are now almost six months with a court that is not full. What will be fascinating will be, first of all, what happens to this Obama nominee?

  • 10:49:21

    LOWERYIs this something that actually dies? Is it something that ends up becoming confirmed? Is Garland someone who's confirmed during the lame duck period after whomever is elected President, whether that be Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump? You know, people I've talked to on the right, there is a -- in world in which Donald Trump is elected President, there is a frustration or a distrust. He's put forward a list of many conservative leaning potential nominees.

  • 10:49:46

    LOWERYBut there is a worry with Donald Trump that he is not quite the same ideologue that many on the right are.

  • 10:49:51

    SESNOWell, he is not.

  • 10:49:52

    LOWERYWell, he just isn't. Right? And so, there's concern about that. But then, on the left, there is a belief largely that Hillary Clinton would probably follow the same pathway that Barack Obama did, right? You're going to have likely nominees that reflect a new diversity to the court that we have not seen previously, people who are left leaning, but often centrist as opposed to deep ideologues. But again, the idea of shaping the court for a generation or two generations, as opposed to getting firebrands in those seats.

  • 10:50:16

    SESNOChristopher joins us from St. Louis, Missouri. Hi Christopher.

  • 10:50:19


  • 10:50:21

    SESNOGo ahead with your question. Thanks for waiting.

  • 10:50:22

    CHRISTOPHERYeah, well, I gotta tell you, I'm really pretty disappointed in the fact that, you know, we're not hearing more about the Libertarian or the Green Party. Especially the Libertarians. I mean, the Libertarians are going to be on the ballot in all 50 states. The, you know, as Libertarians, we're being cut out of the -- of the polls. When you're talking about independents, you're talking about people -- the vast majority of people who are supporting the Libertarians.

  • 10:50:55

    CHRISTOPHERThey're independents because neither the Democrats or the Republicans are representing what they want and the Libertarians are.

  • 10:51:02

    SESNOHave you been to -- have you been to plenty of rallies with your candidate?

  • 10:51:05


  • 10:51:06

    SESNOAnd what are the crowd sizes?

  • 10:51:08

    CHRISTOPHERWell, the crowd sizes are decent sizes, but I gotta tell you, the vast majority of the people who are, who are watching and supporting these people are on social media.

  • 10:51:19

    SESNOAnd are -- let me ask you...

  • 10:51:20

    CHRISTOPHERThe Libertarians are developing huge...

  • 10:51:21

    SESNO...let me ask you another question, Christopher.

  • 10:51:22


  • 10:51:23

    SESNOAt your rallies, are there lots of cameras? Are there lots of journalists there?

  • 10:51:27

    CHRISTOPHERNo, there's not, because the media is just cutting them out.

  • 10:51:31

    SESNOAll right, Christopher, let me ask Sudeep about that. Sudeep, why don't we have more -- we talked about this a moment ago, but take us a little bit deeper. Why don't we have more attention and more traction, as Christopher is suggesting there should be?

  • 10:51:43

    REDDYFor any candidate who comes outside of the mainstream, you have to see them build up on their own, build up momentum. And you're seeing -- you saw that, obviously, with Bernie Sanders. Nobody would have really expected him, I don't think Bernie Sanders would have expected himself to be that much of a player in the election. But he knew what activism was about, how to organize a coalition. And make people care about those issues. The Libertarians, I think, have done pretty well getting people, enough people to care about it.

  • 10:52:08

    REDDYThese two candidates, the Presidential and Vice Presidential candidates among the Libertarian Party, are former GOP Governors who a lot of Republicans are looking at as viable options from the Never Trump camp. And there are some people from the Never Trump and Never Clinton camp who are looking at these two candidates as well.

  • 10:52:25

    REDDYWhat, what we need to see is how do you go beyond the traditional base of the Libertarians and draw in a more inclusive part of discussion, that can draw from both, both of those groups. And I think we're actually going to see more of it over the next two months.

  • 10:52:41

    SESNOI'm Frank Sesno and you're listening to the Diane Rehm Show. And if you'd like to join us in our remaining minutes, please feel free to do that and call us at 1-800-433-8850. I'm gonna go right back to the call, to the phones here, and call on Gray from Winston Salem, North Carolina. Hi, Gray.

  • 10:52:58

    GRAYHello. Nice to talk to you. I love Diane Rehm's show. I just want to respond to the characterization -- I'm sorry, I don't know which of the panelists said it about President Obama's Supreme Court nominees being moderate. I think they're very ideological as opposed to, for example, earlier liberal justices such as Ruth Bader Ginsberg. They tend to vote on cases much the same way legislators vote on policy decisions that they make in the Senate or the Congress. And I do believe if Hillary Clinton is elected, that we will get more of that and not less of that.

  • 10:53:29

    GRAYAnd therefore, whether conservatives know it or not, much of the continuation of their ideological philosophy depends on Donald Trump being elected President.

  • 10:53:38

    SESNOOkay, thanks Gray. Wesley, let me let you respond to that, since you were making those points.

  • 10:53:40

    LOWERYOf course. I think that that actually speaks to, in many ways, a broader -- I think that's a really smart observation, because it speaks to a broader theme in the American electorate right? Which is we less of a trust in all of our institutions, whether it be those of us in the media, whether it be our elected officials. And even things like the Supreme Court, which for a long time, was considered kind of non-ideological is now something that is very much seen as an ideological football.

  • 10:54:00

    LOWERYOne other thing I'd say really quickly, since this caller from North Carolina, earlier, when we were talking about North Carolina, I said it was the only state that voted Obama in 2008 and then switched over to Romney. My buddy John Harwood at CNBC -- he gave me a real time fact check and Indiana also did that. And so, in the sake of accountability...

  • 10:54:16

    SESNOSo why, okay. In that same spirit then, I just want to point out we've gotten a few emails asking us to clarify that North Carolina Governor McCrory was not a member of the Legislature, was mayor of Charlotte before becoming Governor.

  • 10:54:24


  • 10:54:26

    SESNOSo we all want to be transparent...

  • 10:54:27

    LOWERYOf course.

  • 10:54:27


  • 10:54:28

    SESNO...and correct and thank you very much. Fact checks are good. All right, to Jim in Portland, Maine. Hi Jim, go ahead.

  • 10:54:33

    JIMHi there. I just wanted to chime in. I was listening about the job numbers and somebody brought up low gas prices. If this was a Mitt Romney presidency, then the Republicans would be standing behind those numbers and I just feel like Obama doesn't get enough credit for that happening. I think that at the beginning of his Presidency, people were yelling drill baby drill. And people were angry about Iran. And then we had the Russian crisis. And with one move, he also had the XL pipeline.

  • 10:55:00

    JIMI feel like he drilled for natural gas, which is a horrible environmental decision, yet he did that in the Dakotas, and that simultaneously took the funding away from Iran and took a lot of money away from Russia. It brought our gas prices down and it made it so that the XL pipeline was no longer so viable. And I think he doesn't get enough credit for like that one lever did a whole lot for that guy. And I think a cool head who understands the chess board and how to move is more beneficial to this country than a hothead like Donald Trump.

  • 10:55:32

    SESNOJim, thanks for your, for your call. Sudeep, let me let you respond to that. I think, as Jim was laying it out, I was thinking this is like three dimensional chess. And then he said it's like a chess board, which, you know, life is complicated.

  • 10:55:42

    REDDYIt is a very important point, and Barack Obama certainly understands, understood throughout his political career, the resonance of gas prices. And why that matters so much in the political debate, why it matters to regular voters every day. And what he has tried to approach -- I remember the elections where we were talking about the arc -- drilling in the Arctic and that was the animating factor. He has realized that drilling in the US has provided jobs, has -- even though some of those jobs are going away, it has generated economic activity that's useful.

  • 10:56:11

    REDDYAnd has been -- and is probably one reason why his approval numbers are so high.

  • 10:56:15

    SESNOOne of the very biggest stories of these past several years is the transformation of the United States of America into an energy giant again.

  • 10:56:21


  • 10:56:22

    SESNOAnd people may not realize that, but it is true.

  • 10:56:25

    WALTERWell, and, you know, if we were having this conversation in Houston, though, about low gas prices.

  • 10:56:30

    SESNOWell, there's a down side.

  • 10:56:30

    WALTERThat would be a very different -- that would be a very different story. Or in North Dakota about this. So, that's again, the beauty, too, of our political system.

  • 10:56:37

    SESNOWe've got about a minute left. We're going into the Labor Day weekend. Traditionally coming out of the Labor Day weekend is when the general election campaign begins in earnest. Let me ask each of you to suggest what you're looking for, if anything, different or significant, on the other side of this holiday weekend. Quickly.

  • 10:56:53

    REDDYI am looking for undecided voters who really have not made up their minds about whether they could support Trump or Clinton. I am fascinated by this dichotomy and I don't understand, given how sharp views are about both of them, who's left.

  • 10:57:06

    SESNOAmy Walter.

  • 10:57:06

    WALTERThe down ballot. Is there going to be a drag? Especially for Republican candidates.

  • 10:57:10

    SESNOWesley Lowery.

  • 10:57:11

    LOWERYThe tone and does it shift to policy when we finally get to some debates and we get to hopefully set them up against each other. Can we shift it away from name calling and shift it towards some real policy?

  • 10:57:20

    SESNOTo Wesley Lowery of the Washington Post, Amy Walter of the Cook Political Report and Sudeep Reddy of the Wall Street Journal. Thank you all for a fascinating, incisive, reflective captivating conversation.

  • 10:57:29

    WALTERYou're welcome.

  • 10:57:30

    SESNOIt's been great. Have a terrific Labor Day weekend to you. And to our listeners and our viewers, I'm Frank Sesno. You've been listening to "The Diane Rehm Show."

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