Pulitzer Prize-winning biographer Jon Meacham on the evolution of Abraham Lincoln's moral principles and political leadership -- and what the era of Lincoln can teach us about the state of our democracy today.
The presidential debates are underway, with Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump clashing Monday night on jobs, taxes, national security…and on one of Trump’s former beauty queens. Meanwhile, the candidates are back on the campaign trail, wooing undecided and swing-state voters as their advisers work on strategies for the remaining debates. Meanwhile, Congress serves President Obama his first-ever veto override, giving the families of 9/11 victims permission to sue Saudi Arabia. And the U.S. government will keep running — for now — after Congress passes a spending bill to avoid a shutdown. A panel of journalists joins guest host Joshua Johnson for analysis of the week’s top national news stories.
- Naftali Bendavid Editor and reporter, The Wall Street Journal
- Sheryl Gay Stolberg National correspondent, The New York Times
- Josh Kraushaar Political editor, National Journal
MR. JOSHUA JOHNSONThanks for joining us. I'm Joshua Johnson sitting in for Diane Rehm. Congressional leaders reach a deal to avoid a government shutdown. Donald Trump loses ground with female voters in tossup states after Monday night's presidential debate. And Congress hands President Obama his first veto override to pass a 9/11 victims bill. We look forward to hearing your take on this week's domestic news in this hour of the Friday News Roundup.
MR. JOSHUA JOHNSONJoining us for the conversation, Naftali Bendavid of The Wall Street Journal, Sheryl Gay Stolberg of the New York Times and Josh Kraushaar of National Journal. Naftali, Sheryl, Josh, welcome to the program.
MS. SHERYL GAY STOLBERGThank you.
MR. NAFTALI BENDAVIDThanks for having us.
MR. JOSH KRAUSHAARGood to be here.
JOHNSONWe'd also love to hear from you listening right now, you, on this week's top domestic stories so call us. The number is 800-433-8850. That's 800-433-8850. Email us, email@example.com. Find us on Facebook or tweet us. We are @drshow. And you can watch our live video stream of this hour online at drshow.org. I got all dressed up just for the occasion. Let's start off by talking about something different in Congress this week. Bipartisanship.
JOHNSONCongress actually agreed on a bill that they decided deserved to live and, Josh, it was a very unique experience for President Obama. What happened?
KRAUSHAARYeah, well, we actually don't have the threat of a government shutdown and the funding for Zika and a lot of other of the administration's domestic priorities were passed in a compromise with House and Senate Republicans. And, you know, the politics of compromise may seem distant when you pay attention to the presidential election, but we've seen, both in the primary elections, where we haven't seen members of Congress challenged from the right or from the left in as many primaries as we have in recent years and we've actually seen cooperation on Capitol Hill, which is a big contrast from elections past.
KRAUSHAARSo, you know, as contentious as the presidential campaign has been, when you look at what's going on on Capitol Hill and when you look at what's happening kind of in the state's down ballot, there's some signs that we may actually be seeing some bipartisanship, some more compromise in the future.
JOHNSONDig a little deeper into the details of the funding bill, this continuing resolution to prevent the government from shutting down at least for now. They'll have to revisit it, but what was it that allowed Congress to let this bill pass?
KRAUSHAARWell, I mean, Republicans, essentially, were willing to kind of compromise, allow for some compromise on the Zika funding and other domestic measures. But this was sort of a punt, like a kick down the road where, you know, they didn't want to have a politically contentious battle over an issue that's dogged Republicans in the wake of a presidential election and some key Senate races.
JOHNSONYeah, Naftali Bendavid, this seems to have become the way that Congress runs these days, just to kind of, as Josh said, just kind of kicking the can down the road and then we'll fix it when we absolutely, positively have to fix it.
BENDAVIDIt is. It's a routine that we've seen happen over and over again now where the moment approaches where there's almost going to be a government shutdown and usually, right before that shutdown occurs, they come to some kind of a last-minute agreement. The thing that really struck me about this was how little the dynamic has changed since the days of John Boehner. You know, there was this thought that maybe when he stepped down, this dynamic where a group of conservative Republicans holds up a bill that the Republican leadership wants so they have to negotiate with Democrats.
BENDAVIDMaybe that would come to an end. But instead, this is the exact same dynamic we've seen in the past. The Democrats wanted funding for Flint and other cities that are suffering from contaminated water. They were in the driver seat, in part, because it's just one of these laws of politics that when the government shuts down, people blame the Republicans. You know, and also, members of Congress wanted to get home. The last thing they want is to be stuck in Washington, looking ineffective, while their challengers are vigorously campaigning in their home districts.
JOHNSONSo it allows them to get on with the work that this year, this time this year, they absolutely have to be doing.
BENDAVIDThey do and in two months, they'll be back here, you know. This bill only funds the government through December 9th so all they've done is guaranteed that during a lame duck session, they'll be back here having the same arguments, taking the same votes.
JOHNSONSheryl Gay Stolberg, what do you make of all this?
STOLBERGWell, I was going to say this may have been compromise, but this was comprise sort of at the barrel of a gun, right? And the gun of the November elections, just like Naftali said. These lawmakers can't go home empty-handed and with a government shutdown and, frankly, this is like Groundhog Day. Really, we are seeing this over and over and over again in Congress. The most basic function of Congress is to fund the government. It's the only job they absolutely have to do. And every time they have to do it, it's at the last minute.
STOLBERGI always say it's like teenagers. They do it often in the middle of the night with a pizza party. I think, this time, they probably got it down during the day, but only at the very last minute with the clock ticking and the government and the threat of a shutdown hanging over their heads. We saw what happened a few years back when the government shut down and Republicans forced a government shutdown over funding of Obamacare, the president's healthcare program.
STOLBERGThey insisted they were not going to fund the government unless Obamacare was defunded. The government was shut down. It accrued very poorly to Republicans around election time. They were punished for it. So I suppose they learned their lesson. But I wouldn't necessarily call this a happy or easy compromise.
JOHNSONSo really just the threat of the election kind of forced everything onto a unique time table.
STOLBERGRight. Like, better do your job or guess what? You might get fired.
JOHNSONThere was another bit of bipartisanship that was super strong, overwhelming. This override of a presidential veto. President Obama has never had this happen before. Josh, what was it about this bill, this 9/11 victims bill, that brought basically all of Congress together?
KRAUSHAARRight. Well, anytime you invoke 9/11 families, giving them the ability to sue, it really can bring both Republicans and Democrats together. Only Harry Reid was the long Senate vote with the president when it came to that initial vote. But, you know, the administration was very steadfast in its opposition to the bill and you now assume Paul Ryan, Mitch McConnell, the House speaker, the Senate majority leader, are starting to backtrack and saying that they may offer alternative legislation to deal with some of the concerns that the White House has.
KRAUSHAARBut, you know, national security is a very potent issue politically on Capitol Hill in a presidential race. And when you invoke 9/11 families into the equation, it's hard to -- I mean, the fact that the president has a pretty tenuous relationship with even some of the members of his own party on Capitol Hill, they didn't do probably enough leg work that they needed to do to really persuade them that this was an important vote. And ultimately, it's gotten the White House in quite a bit of conflict with its Capitol Hill allies.
JOHNSONYeah, this was a bill that would allow the families of 9/11 victims to sue Saudi Arabia for any role they allege that the nation may have had in this attack. But Naftali, it was not long after the bill passed that a number of members of Congress were like, well, we may need to reread this. We may not have thought it all the way through. We might need to fix some of this. What are some of the things that they might need to go back or are considering going back and amending?
BENDAVIDWell, technically, this bill allows American citizens to sue any country that's found to be responsible for an act of terrorism. But, you're right, it was pushed by families of 9/11 victims who are interested in suing Saudi Arabia, which they believe to be partially responsible for the attacks. But the concern is, and the White house has been fairly explicit about this, as have former officials of both parties, that this would allow American and Americans to be sued in other countries. It sets a precedent. And it's striking to me -- it was hardly an example or a profile of congressional courage.
BENDAVIDIf that's not an oxymoron to begin with. I mean, it was -- the second that they overrode this decisively that they were out there talking about unintended consequences, unforeseen consequences, really we've got to come back and take another look at this. I mean, it seems like the plan, to the extent that there is one, is that so they passed this thing overwhelmingly, override the veto right before an election, go home, get reelected and then in a lame duck session, they come back and narrow it significantly.
BENDAVIDAnd so they make it perhaps a little bit harder to sue countries in court. But the idea of overwhelmingly overriding a veto and then within hours talking about the problems with the bill and reconsidering it, I mean, even in Washington, that's something you don’t see very often.
JOHNSONAnd Sheryl, this seemed to arouse the president's concern, if you read the veto letter, that this bill could make the whole war on terror, in some ways, harder to prosecute.
JOHNSONIt kind of disjoints the process.
STOLBERGRight. So let's think about who is trying to appeal to what audience. Congress is trying to appeal to the voters back home who elect them and anytime you're seeming to go against 9/11 families in an election year, that's not something that members of Congress want to do. So thus, they approve this bill. But the president is thinking about our standing in the world and the safety and security of American soldiers oversees. Saudi Arabia is a close ally of the United States. There's fear that American soldiers could be retaliated against by other nations because of a bill that opens up questions of sovereign immunity.
STOLBERGSo the president has been very, very concerned about this and trying to articulate that concern to members of Congress who, as we saw, didn't listen and handed him the very first override of his entire presidency.
JOHNSONSpeaking of President Obama's concerns, before we get to our first break, there was a conversation this week, a town hall that was on CNN, regarding our service members and defense in this country. He was asked why he refuses to use the term radical Islamic terrorism, which is a term that Republican candidate Donald Trump has used quite a bit on the campaign trail. The president basically said he didn't use the term because he did not want to create a false equivalency between Islam and terror.
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMAIf you had an organization that was going around killing and blowing people up and said, we're on the vanguard of Christianity, well, I'm not -- as a Christian, I'm not going to let them claim my religion and say you're killing for Christ. I would say that's ridiculous. That's not what my religion stands for. Call these folks what they are, which is killers and terrorists.
JOHNSONJosh Kraushaar, what do you make of that, briefly?
KRAUSHAARWell, look, this is something that the president has said for quite some time so it's nothing new coming from the White House. But, look, if Donald Trump wins this election, as unlikely as it may seem, the resistance from the White House to call terrorism terrorism is going to be one reason why. And you look at the polls that came out in the last week, the national polling. National security in the wake of the New Jersey and New York bombings spiked, up about eight, nine points as a top issue with voters.
KRAUSHAARAnd Donald Trump is expanding his margins. He was already leading among voters who are most concerned about terrorism. His margins are growing even more significantly in the wake of those terrorist attacks. And, you know, you look at the Orlando -- the terrorist attack in Orlando where the president -- FBI redacted some of the transcript and want to mention ISIS in the transcript and later backtracked, it's endemic of a real concern that a lot of voters have, a lot of national security-minded voters have.
JOHNSONWe're going continue that concern on the other side of the break. We're up against a break. We're back in just a minute. Stay close.
JOHNSONIt's "The Diane Rehm Show," Friday News Roundup. I'm Joshua Johnson sitting in for Diane Rehm. We're spending the hour with Naftali Bendavid of The Wall Street Journal, Sheryl Gay Stolberg of The New York Times and Josh Kraushaar of National Journal. Let's talk politics. There was a debate. A lot of people watched. Kind of interesting. Always news making. Plenty of surprises. I don't even know really where to begin with the -- Sheryl, where do we...
STOLBERGIt was like the Thrilla in Manila.
JOHNSONBoy was it.
STOLBERGIt was great TV.
JOHNSONAnd it's only the first one.
STOLBERGRight. So I think headline from the debate, I do think Hillary Clinton won the debate. She did. She -- the polls are reflecting that she came out. She had a difficult first part. Donald Trump kind of had her on the ropes, to use the Thrilla in Manila analogy, in the beginning over trade. She came back very strong in the second half, particularly when he talked to her -- he tried to address the question of her stamina. He said she didn't have stamina. And she said, look, the next time, you know, when he travels all the way around the world and goes to all these countries and negotiates all these peace treaties and, you know, does X, Y and Z, all the things that I have done...
JOHNSONThen you can talk to me about stamina. Yeah.
STOLBERG...then he can talk to me about stamina. And then the moderator, Lester Holt, asked him about his remark about her presidential look, which is code, frankly, for a lot of women. And she immediately seized on that and talked about Donald Trump's assertions about women, calling them fat, calling them ugly. And then she brought up the beauty queen who has landed her in a teensy bit of trouble...
JOHNSONRight. Alicia Machado.
STOLBERG...Alicia Machado, and said that he called this, a Miss Universe contestant, a pig and she was Latina and he called her Miss Housekeeping. And I will say she also -- she had an excellent moment, I did think, when she gave that little shimmy, for those of you who watched the debate. I thought, as a woman, that was a fascinating moment to me. Because Donald Trump had unleashed this barrage of attacks. She just gave a little shimmy, as a female gesture, and said, whoa, you know...
STOLBERG...let's talk about that.
JOHNSONLet's shake that off and keep talking.
STOLBERGAnd then she launched right into talk about NATO and nukes in Iran. And I thought the juxtaposition of that really spoke to the fact that this is a woman who can be female, which is -- has been a question about her. Is she, you know, is she feminine enough, is she real enough, and can also be tough?
JOHNSONBut Naftali Bendavid, let me ask you about that. The -- a lot of the news narrative this week has been about Donald Trump being on the defensive. That the debate knocked him on his heels and he blamed the moderator, he blamed the microphone, he blamed everything but himself. Is that a fair reading of this debate? Is -- if this debate maybe lost him face with the nation but gained him ground with his core supporters, the people he's counting on to come out and vote for him, isn't this kind of a win where it counts, potentially?
BENDAVIDWell, I do think he's under some pressure to expand his core and his base. However, I just -- you know, how many times during this campaign have we said, Woo, that was a bad moment for Trump, man. He really lost that debate or he really said something dumb there. And then in the days and weeks to come, his polls either hold steady or they increase. So...
JOHNSONAnd we said that through the whole primary.
BENDAVIDWe did. And he -- including in debates where he looked like he was on the ropes at various times. So I, for one, would be very hesitant about making any predictions about the outcome. And in fact, sometimes, you know, there have been bounces for his opponents. They turn out to be short-lived. So...
STOLBERGI would echo that, actually.
BENDAVIDI would echo what Naftali said. You can't draw the, you know...
STOLBERGYou can only talk about what happened right now, at this moment, after the debate.
KRAUSHAARHere's the problem for Donald Trump. It wasn't the debate, which I think he lost on points. But I think he could have, you know, lived to see another day, another debate. The problem was he's exacerbated his problems after the debate by attacking in such personal terms, Miss Universe Alicia -- the former Miss Universe Alicia Machado, and tweeting overnight about her, how awful she was and trying to make a real conspiracy theory out of her not winning or out of her issues.
KRAUSHAARSo, I mean, there were two goals, I think, that Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton had to achieve from the debate. Hillary Clinton needs to energize millennials and non-white voters. And by talking about President Obama, by talking about stop-and-frisk in the way she did, I think she did accomplish what she needed to do to energize the Democratic base. Donald Trump needs to do a little bit -- just a little bit better with women. I mean, he needs to (word?) among, especially white, working-class women. And he did absolutely nothing and probably hurt his cause, when all is said and done.
JOHNSONLet's get to a few audience comments and calls. Lee emailed us. Two stories. Trump apparently did business with Cuba during the embargo, referring to that Newsweek exclusive. And the Trump Foundation is apparently not set up to actually receive donations. Very easy to let slip through the cracks, with Trump tweeting about beauty queens. Now let's dive in on the phones with Rachel in Orwigsburg, Pa. Rachel, welcome.
JOHNSONHi. What's on your mind?
RACHELI have a question and it's brought about a little bit by the small amount of bipartisanship we saw this week between both sides of the aisle, but not between the legislative and executive branches. With any of these candidates, third-party, Democratic, Republican, does anyone see peaceful coexistence for the next four years? Or are we stuck with four more years of what we've had, which is basically gridlock? I don't see the independents being strong enough to lead. The Republicans don't seem to support their candidate, from what we're hearing. And it seems like if the Democrat wins, they're just going to see it as an extension of what we have right now.
JOHNSONGood question, Rachel. What do we think about possibly four years of getting stuff done? Sheryl.
STOLBERGI think she makes a very wise comment. And I think, sad to say, the possibility of getting stuff done is pretty slim. I think that we are so polarized as a nation. When Barack Obama was elected in 2008, many, many people were hopeful at that time, that -- and he, himself, campaigned by saying he would bring the country together, he would -- you know, he seemed to be a unifying force. If anything, the country has become more divided since then. You can blame Obama and you can blame the Republicans. There's plenty of blame to go around.
STOLBERGBut the fact of the matter is today, eight years after President Obama took the Oval Office, we are more divided as a nation. The parties are dug in. Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump are a very clear reflection of that. I think two more unalike and opposite candidates one could never see. And it's upsetting, frankly, as a...
JOHNSONAlthough part of that might depend on an assumption that we might not have an executive branch and a Congress that are run by the same party. Like, what's the read on how the congressional races are going?
KRAUSHAARWell, if the -- Hillary Clinton wins the presidency -- and I'm -- I generally share Sheryl's pessimism. I, it's just there's so much polarization these days, it's hard to see a whole lot getting done. On the other hand, the political incentives have never been more favorable for compromise if Hillary Clinton wins, because the Senate's going to be narrowly divided no matter which party takes the majority. And you have a lot of these red-state Democrats, folks like Claire McCaskill in Missouri, Jon Tester, Joe Donnelly in Indiana. If Hillary Clinton is going to want to keep her hold -- the Senate in -- after 2018, if she wants to get things done, she's going to have to really worry about these members' political needs.
KRAUSHAARAnd that means she can't go too far to the left. She's going to have to find something a little more in the middle for her own political survival.
BENDAVIDYeah. I think there's a whole other point, which is, we're talking about division between parties, but there's enormous division within each of the parties. And I think, no matter what the outcome is of the presidential election, the Republican Party is divided at least three ways, between sort of the Trump folks, the Tea Party folks and the more mainstream, traditional Republicans. I think Bernie Sanders made real inroads in the Democratic side. So I think you're going to have this fragmentary situation where parties are at war within themselves, as well as at war between, you know, one with the other.
BENDAVIDAnd so I think we're going to end up, no matter what happens, with a very fragmented landscape. And it's not going to be a pretty time in the next two years...
BENDAVID...I think, no matter what happens.
STOLBERGAnd they're -- and as the caller pointed out correctly, there really is no strong, independent, third-party candidate. Some people were drawn to Gary Johnson. Well, he practically, or did disqualify himself this week, after his, you know, what is Aleppo gaff, he didn't know what Aleppo was. And then he was asked by Chris Matthews on "Hardball" to name his, you know, a foreign leader he admired. And he couldn't come up...
JOHNSONAny foreign leader.
STOLBERGAny foreign leader, pick one. There's lots of...
JOHNSONHe could have made up an answer.
STOLBERG...countries out there.
JOHNSONHe could have said anything.
STOLBERGAnd he didn't. And he, you know, it fell to his vice presidential -- his running mate, Bill Weld, the former governor of Massachusetts, to, you know, throw out a name there, Vicente Fox, who was the former president of Mexico.
JOHNSONWell, and Bill Weld also told, I think it was CNN's Dana Bash, that, you now, Gary Johnson just doesn't do pop quizzes well.
STOLBERGWell, you know...
KRAUSHAARHe doubled down on his comments -- he tweeted yesterday that I still don't know a foreign leader that I admire. Presumably, he's trying to say he doesn't admire any foreign leaders. I think that was the gist of what he was trying to say, but...
JOHNSONSomething like that, yeah.
KRAUSHAAR...no one seems to want to win this presidential election. I mean, Gary Johnson had a real opportunity. He certainly is running against two of the least liked major party presidential nominees in recent memory. And he didn't have a -- he didn't staff up. He didn't raise money. And he didn't, you know, really campaign all that much. And now he's making gaffs on national television.
JOHNSONHowever, there is the factor of Gary Johnson and Jill Stein siphoning votes from millennials, potentially, away from both candidates and playing this spoiler role, if you will. And, you know, Hillary Clinton hit the campaign trail with Bernie Standers this week to try to gain back some of the millennials that went his way. I wonder at what point the entire political landscape just has to reckon with the fact that voters my age and younger are dissatisfied with the current state of politics enough that they may not be willing to, you know, to blow up the table in the strand of some of Donald Trump's most ardent supporters.
JOHNSONBut they are insistent enough on change that they will say, no, really, I'm going to vote for who I want to vote for and I don't care what you think.
STOLBERGYeah. Polls of millennials have consistently showed that they are in the no-labels crowd.
STOLBERGThey are open to voting either Democrat or Republican. Their concerns are economic -- college debt, can I get ahead, will I be ever be able to buy a house? And in an uncertain economic time, their votes are very much up for grabs. And it is exceedingly important, if Hillary Clinton is going to win this race, that she bring out the millennial vote. Millennials voted overwhelmingly for Barack Obama. In 2012, they voted I think 67 percent for Obama, 30 for Mitt Romney. They were critical in several swing states.
STOLBERGWhat Hillary has to do is drive out those millennials -- who frankly are not very enthusiastic about her as they were about Obama -- and get them to the polls. And this is especially true of minorities and African-Americans. I've spent a lot of time in black neighborhoods this week in Philadelphia and also a lot of time in Baltimore. And young black people will tell me that their parents and their grandparents made them go out to vote for Barack Obama. They were like, you've got to vote. You've -- you're going out there and you're going to vote. I'm a going to drag you by your ear and do it.
STOLBERGAnd, you know, if nobody makes them go out and vote for Hillary Clinton, because African-Americans are a reliable Democratic constituency, that's going to be a problem for her if they stay home.
JOHNSONI wonder if also, someday, we'll be able to look back at the presidency of Barack Obama for that very reason and see that there was something kind of epical about his ascendance that changed the expectations thereafter. Like, I've heard a lot of black voters saying, well, I don't know who we're going to get fired up about this time. We were real excited about Barack Obama. And now, I just -- I don't know what the discussion is.
STOLBERGAnd many are sad to see him leave.
STOLBERGI have heard many say they wish he could run for a third term.
JOHNSONBy the way, speaking of millennial voters and younger voters, if you're listening or, well, if you know a younger voter who may not be listening -- and young voters, why aren't you listening? -- we are doing a show next week about what matters to young voters in the election. We'd love some input. Send us a video, send us a voice memo, let us know what you are looking for from the candidates, what they would have to do to win your vote. And especially, you know, if you're supporting Gary Johnson or Jill Stein, or if you don't know who to support, or if you are determined not to vote, we would still like to hear from you. Where are you right now in this electoral process?
JOHNSONEmail us. Send us a video or a voice memo to firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com. Or leave us a voicemail. Here's the number, 202-854-8851. That's 202-854-8851. We would love to hear from you. I'm Joshua Johnson and you're listening to "The Diane Rehm Show." Let's continue on the phones now with Lex here in Washington, D.C. Lex, welcome.
LEXHi. I have a question about the Trump Foundation. You mentioned it briefly and I've heard so much this week about self-dealing or about him using the Trump Foundation to settle some of his own debts. And I was hoping to clear up what exactly happened. It sounds illegal but no one is talking about it and maybe I have misinformation. What exactly happened? Is it illegal? And why aren't people talking about it?
JOHNSONLex, good question. Naftali Bendavid.
BENDAVIDWell, the allegation -- and this has come out through some very good reporting in The Washington Post -- is that the Trump Foundation, which is supposed to be a charitable foundation, used some of its money to pay off legal debts incurred by Donald Trump himself or by his businesses. I mean, I'm not going to venture a legal opinion here, but clearly the implication is that that is not permitted and that that's something that the Trump Foundation needs to answer for. Now there is an investigation currently underway by the Attorney General of New York into the foundation, into whether or not it has the certification that it needs and has conducted itself properly.
BENDAVIDThe Trump team was quick to point out that the Attorney General of New York supports Hillary Clinton. But nonetheless, this is a, you know, formal, official, you know, criminal probe into the Trump Foundation. But we'll see how it plays out. I mean, as with so many other things with Donald Trump, this strikes me as the kind of thing that for any candidate would be almost fatal, but in his case, certainly his supporters don't seem to be fazed by it at all.
JOHNSONLet's continue on the phones now with Jack in Plymouth, Mich. Jack, welcome.
JACKHi. I just wanted to talk about President Obama and the -- allowing the 9/11 families to sue Saudi Arabia. And I just think that I don't think President Obama is getting enough credit for political nuance here. I think one of the main issues that people haven't seemed to be talking about is, what happens when one of the largest global superpowers says to citizens, yes, you are allowed to sue other countries now for damages, basically? And what does that open up the United States to? Because the United States has some kind of iffy dealings worldwide, especially when it comes to drone strikes and civilian casualties, et cetera.
JACKSo how -- I don't think he's getting enough credit for those concerns. Because those can be extremely big deals, especially -- and when you're the chief diplomat, that's stuff you have to think about.
JOHNSONFor sure, Jack. And I, you know, I think that was one of the things that -- by the way, we discussed the 9/11 bill in great detail yesterday. It was the first hour of our show yesterday. If you want to hear it, you can go to drshow.org. But I don't think President Obama has ever really gotten a lot of political points for his nuance. He's gotten political points for his vision, for being motivational. But the constitutional law scholar in him I don't think was ever his strongest political point.
BENDAVIDTrue. But this is a point that seems to me like it should be relatively easy to understand. In other words, if people in Pakistan want to turn around and sue Americans or sue the United States for what they see as drone strikes that may have inadvertently hit civilians, I mean, it just -- that's just an example. But there's, you know, dozens of them around the world. And it was interesting to hear members of Congress, after voting to override the veto, say, look, the administration didn't do a good enough job of explaining to us the potential consequences of this bill. As though it's not the responsibility of members of Congress to read the bill and understand the consequences. It was really a very interesting political dynamic.
STOLBERGI think what it was, was the administration didn't do a good enough job explaining to voters the consequences of this bill. And so voters did not pressure their lawmakers to vote -- to not override. Now, that's a tough sell, frankly, in an election year where people are really concerned about the economy, to get them thinking about 9/11 and lawsuits, et cetera.
JOHNSONLots more to talk about in the domestic hour of the Friday News Roundup. We're spending this hour with Naftali Bendavid of The Wall Street Journal, Sheryl Gay Stolberg of The New York Times and Josh Kraushaar of the National Journal, and with you. So keep giving us a call, 800-433-8850. Email us, firstname.lastname@example.org. I'm Joshua Johnson. Glad to be with you. You're listening to "The Diane Rehm Show," from WAMU and NPR.
JOHNSONBack again with the Friday News Roundup. I'm Joshua Johnson, sitting in for Diane Rehm. Before we keep going with the news, I should let you know that NPR is following the presidential candidates as they get ready for the remainder of the campaign, and for the Vice Presidential debate this Tuesday. You'll find live coverage on many NPR stations, including most likely your local, along with live online fact checking at npr.org. Sheryl, let's talk about Charlotte.
JOHNSONThere are some new details that have emerged about last week's shooting death of Keith Scott that drove so many people into the streets of downtown Charlotte for several nights. What's the latest that we've learned about this?
STOLBERGWell, so the latest is that police issued an audio recording on which an officer can be heard saying that Keith Scott, the African American man who was shot, had a gun. And the officer can be heard on the audio saying, you know, he saw Scott with a gun. But, of course, that is still just an audio recording, and the video recordings that have been released thus far have not made clear whether or not Keith Scott had a gun. The police in Charlotte say he did have a gun.
STOLBERGKeith Scott's family says he did not have a gun. And so, this is obviously the critical component to this investigation. And we still don't know what the answer is.
JOHNSONIt seems to be kind of a crapshoot in a lot of these cases that have come out since, well, particularly since Ferguson, since Michael Brown's death in 2014 of people demanding -- show us the video and then the video comes out and it may or may not settle the problem.
JOHNSONIt helps, but it still seems like it's too much of a variable whether or not the video does any real good to calm people down.
STOLBERGRight. Well, this is frankly the argument for body cameras. And this is why many police departments, including in Baltimore, a city I've covered extensively, are moving toward body cameras. And police officers, who favor body cameras, will tell you that they are good for police and good for bystanders. That when a police officer is wearing a body camera, he or she knows that his every movements are being recorded and so that tends to have a de-escalating effect.
STOLBERGAnd when citizens know that officers are wearing body cameras, they may tend to, you know, calm down, and then in the end, when an incident like this happens, the video is released and we can see what happened. Well, in this case, there was one officer who was not wearing a body camera and -- or whose body camera was not turned on. And that's also become an issue in Charlotte. Why was this officer's body camera not turned on? What would we know if it had been?
JOHNSONThere was also body camera video from another shooting in El Cajon, California, which is near San Diego. What do we know about that?
STOLBERGSo, in that case, there have been protests there, too. And the family of the man who was shot says that he was mentally ill. And this is a serious issue. The Washington Post has been doing some really good work tracking police shootings in this country. It reports that roughly one in four police shootings involve mental illness in some way. So, the question about the way police treat mentally ill people is now bound to be renewed around that shooting in El Cajon. I believe that the person shot was unarmed in El Cajon. Am I correct there?
JOHNSONYeah, he was armed with, I think, some kind of a device for vaping.
STOLBERGHe was wandering in the road and his -- a family member thought that he was unstable and...
BENDAVIDYeah, the police say that when they showed up, he took out a device and aimed it in what they called a shooting stance. And then it turned out later, it was, as you say, this vaping device, this sort of non -- a sort of smokeless cigarette type thing.
BENDAVIDAnd so, the question of his mental stability has been brought up by the family itself. And it does raise a whole other set of questions.
JOHNSONWhat do we make of the uptick in these kinds of incidents? I mean, on the one hand, it's probably a good thing for our democracy that we are talking about it more. That we are engaged about these things. On the other hand, we're seeing a lot of it. And I mean, granted, we have the cameras, so we can see a lot of it, but like what do we make of this at this point? Josh?
KRAUSHAARYeah, it's helping to have these types of conversations, but in our age of social media, it's much, much too easy to react sometimes violently before we know all the facts about these cases. And, you know, you look at the politics behind these issues, especially in North Carolina, one of the most pivotal states on the electoral map this year. It's -- North Carolina's as racially polarized of a state as we've seen it. The protests and the violence took place in the heart of downtown Charlotte, as opposed to some of the other riots that took place in more of the inner city core of those cities or areas.
KRAUSHAARSo, this is -- I mean, I'm going to fascinated to see how the politics in North Carolina are going to shift as a result of the issue in the last couple weeks. Because when I've talked -- talking to Democratic and Republican pollsters in recent days, the African American vote is more energized and even more overwhelmingly in favor of Democratic candidates. But the white vote, the white suburban vote in particular is starting to tilt a little bit more toward Republicans in the wake of these incidents.
STOLBERGSo, I think we should be clear about whether or not there is an uptick. I mean, I think we don't know if there's an uptick in police shootings. Because there aren't really any good long term data and civil rights advocates and African Americans will -- Black Lives Matter folks will tell you that all we -- the reason we think there's an uptick, or that it appears there's an uptick is simply because we have all these videos and it's recorded. I'm here to tell you that as a young reporter at the L.A. Times, I covered the aftermath of the Rodney King beating.
STOLBERGAnd so that was more than 20 years ago. These issues have been around for a long time and what Black Lives Matter activists like DeRay McKesson and others will say is that basically, they're just, you know, we now have the evidence to show what's happening and to bring the issue to the fore to force police departments and politicians to address it.
JOHNSONWe may not know if there's an uptick in these kinds of incidents, but it does appear that there was an uptick in murders in the US. The FBI released its latest uniform crime statistics. Its uniform crime report for this year, and granted, one year does not for a trend make. But from year to year, it looks like at least the murder rate in some of our biggest cities is up. Do we have any read on why that's increasing or what to make of this? Naftali?
BENDAVIDWe have a little bit of a read on it. I mean, the murder rate jumped by 10, I think almost 11 percent in 2015, which is the latest figures that the FBI has. And it was the biggest increase by far in the last 20 years. And so, there's a couple big questions that arise. One is, you know, we've had essentially 20 years of decline in crime, violent and otherwise. Does this suggest that that trend is about to be reversed? And we're not going to know that for another couple of years, obviously.
BENDAVIDBut what was striking about the figure is that it was driven, largely, by spikes in murders in a handful of big cities? It wasn't across the board. And perhaps no surprise, a lot of those big cities were the exact ones where there have been tensions between the police and the community. So we're talking about Chicago, we're talking about Cleveland, St. Louis. And it raises questions about what's been called the Ferguson Effect. And there's a lot of debate about that.
BENDAVIDThere's a couple of different versions of the Ferguson Effect. Some law enforcement people, including FBI Director Jim Comey, maintain that police officers are less likely to get out of their cars and engage in ways that could help avert violence because they're afraid of being videotaped and getting in trouble. But other people, community leaders, say look, the community is going to be reluctant to help out the police and engage them if they see that they can't trust them.
BENDAVIDAnd if they see that they can't rely on them not to act violently. But either way, what's clear, I think, is that this tension between communities and police, that these videos are reflecting and maybe exacerbating, is being reflected in some of these crime numbers we're seeing.
STOLBERGAlso, in Baltimore, which is one of the cities that had the biggest increase, you can really see this playing out in a very interesting way. After Freddie Gray was killed, the riots in Baltimore unleased a lot of looting at drug stores, in particular. A lot of drugs were stolen, prescription drugs. Authorities there say that that in turn fueled the drug trade in Baltimore with more drugs on the street, more gang activity, more violence translating into more murders. Baltimore had 211 homicides in 2014.
STOLBERGIn 2015, Baltimore had 344. Now New York has 8.4 million people and had about the same number of homicides in 2015 as Baltimore, which has 660,000 people. So you -- the murder rate there is out of control and it's -- you can trace it back in a way. It's directly linked to the tensions between police and community, which spawned unrest. Which then resulted in this looting of stores and the Ferguson Effect that Naftali spoke about.
JOHNSONSee, now that's...
STOLBERGAll these things cycling out to create a drastic uptick in murder.
JOHNSONAnd see, that's another aspect of these numbers. And I'm sorry, those of you who are listening, I know that's a lot of numbers in a very short period of time.
STOLBERGSorry. I'm sorry.
JOHNSONBut no, no, no. But it's, it's a very sharp uptick in a much smaller community, so per capita.
JOHNSONMaybe that would be the more illuminating number.
STOLBERGThat's exactly it.
JOHNSONIs the per capita number.
JOHNSONFor these cities.
JOHNSONWhere the same number of -- like, if you just look at the number of murders went up. But then, if you look at the size of the community and the burden they bear, you know, a handful of cities.
JOHNSONParticularly cities like Baltimore.
STOLBERGIf you think of Baltimore and New York, where Baltimore has less than one tenth the population of New York, but they've got the same number of murders?
JOHNSONThe same uptick. Yeah.
STOLBERGNot the same uptick.
JOHNSONOr the same number.
STOLBERGThe same number, the same absolute number of murders. That's a problem for a city like Baltimore to have so many murders.
JOHNSONWell, we would love to hear your perspective on these murder rate numbers, on the police shootings, on politics. Continued please, to give us a call for the rest of the hour. 800-433-8850. Email us, email@example.com. Let's get back to some of our audience comments. A lot of comments on politics, since we kind of started the show with politics. Tom emailed us. The panel remarked this morning that it will be hard to get legislation done. Could we get some attention on the Congressional races that could possible improve that situation?
JOHNSONWe hear only and always about the Presidential horserace on this show and on this network. Most of us probably cannot even identify who's running in House and Senate contests around the country. We need to hear more. Are there any races in Congress that you think are pivotal?
KRAUSHAARI just got back from New Hampshire, covering probably what will be the bell weather Senate race. Whoever wins the New Hampshire Senate race is likely to hold the majority come November. And Kelly Ayotte is a very well liked freshman Senator running against a very popular Governor, Maggie Hassan. And it's a race that -- the most fascinating dynamic in that race is Democrats were planning to tie Ayotte to Donald Trump. That was -- that was the playbook until very, very recently.
KRAUSHAARNow they're realizing that the Mitt Romney playbook, the playbook of attacking Republicans for cutting entitlements, for cutting spending on defunding Planned Parenthood, the traditional 2012 playbook is actually doing -- is more effective in attacking the Republican nominee. So, we're actually seeing a very, very close race that could come down to -- it's not going to come down to Trump's performance in the state. It's going to come down to the traditional domestic issues that have long defined Congressional politics.
KRAUSHAARThe Pennsylvania Senate race is another big bell weather. Pat Toomey, freshman Senator, used to be the head of the very fiscally conservative club for growth, is running against Katie McGinty, ran for Governor in 2014, a first time candidate for Senate. It's again a race where the national environment is playing a big role. And Toomey has tried to proclaim his independence from his party. He supported Michael Bloomberg's push for more gun control. He co-sponsored the Toomey-Manchin Bill. But he's struggling to do well with some Trump voters.
KRAUSHAARTrump voters -- who he has not really enthusiastically endorsed Donald Trump and he's actually underperforming with a lot of the most populist Republicans or populist voters in the state.
JOHNSONThat's Josh Kraushaar, Political Editor at the National Journal. I'm the other Josh, Joshua Johnson, and you're listening to The Diane Rehm Show. Let's continue on the phone now with James, here in Washington, D.C. James, welcome.
JOHNSONWhat's on your mind, James?
JAMESI just got to say about the police shootings. I'm 66-years-old. A Washingtonian. I had the talk when I was a teenager. The police -- it's engrained in police culture, for whatever reason, they've been killing black folks (unintelligible) and getting away with it for -- before I was even born. And the reason that it's -- ya'll say it's an uptick, because of social media. The iPhone. I mean, like I said, they've been doing this prior to me being born. Usually, they get away with it because you're going to take the policeman's word.
JAMESAnd sometimes, they used to have what they call a drop piece, in case they shot somebody accidentally or they shouldn't have, they would have a gun to place in their hand or to drop at the scene.
JOHNSONTo plant on the scene, yeah. Yeah James, thank you for calling in and saying that. I have kind of wondered about that myself, about whether the social media effect and I can attest to what James is saying about having the talk. Because I had to have the talk from my elders about if an officer ever pulls you over, it's yes sir, yes ma'am. You keep your hands on the wheel at 10 and two, you tell them before you reach for something. And now, maybe to James's point, it seems like there's an uptick because now the rest of the nation is having to hear this conversation.
JOHNSONAnd it's not just black America talking about it anymore. Let's continue on the phones with Keaton in Clarksville, Arkansas. Keaton, welcome.
JOHNSONHi, what's on your mind?
KEATONI'm a History and Political Science major at Arkansas Tech. And we have been trying to find out what the general consensus is in regards to the next Presidential election. Many people of my generation have expressed a lot of frustration with Hillary Clinton. Not because of her previous record as First Lady or Senator of New York but rather as Secretary of State. Her recent actions, you know, Benghazi, the DNC leak, her emails. Et cetera. And, many have, but many more are expressing frustration at being forced to vote one way or the other and just not voting.
JOHNSONYeah, Keaton, thank you for calling in with that. Can we talk about that frustration a little bit, about feeling like they're forced that they have to choose red or blue and there's no other colors in the rainbow. Naftali.
BENDAVIDWell, I think that explains the interest in the third party candidates, and why, you know, we've talked about this dynamic a little bit earlier in the show, but why it's a very important one. Whether Gary Johnson can attract votes from people who would otherwise vote for Hillary Clinton. And a difference of a couple of percentage points could be -- could make a very big impact. And that's why his mistakes are consequential, and it's why you've seen Barack Obama and Michelle Obama, for example, on the campaign trail.
BENDAVIDSaying look, a vote for a third party is a vote for Donald Trump. Staying home, that helps Donald Trump. They're trying to convey this message that not -- may not resonate 100 percent with younger voters that, you know, that if you don't vote for Hillary Clinton, you're essentially voting against her. And it's a very important part of what's going on right now. And it's crucial to the outcome.
JOHNSONDoesn't that just make it worse, though? I mean telling a -- really, telling a young person -- the surest way to get a young person to do something you don't want them to do is to tell them not to do it. Isn't that making it worse?
STOLBERGWhat I wonder is looking out over the long term, maybe what we'll see out of this election is a viable third party. We've got all these young people out there, like our caller, who are disaffected, who are looking for something different. Maybe the long term legacy, the lasting legacy of Trump v. Clinton in 2016 will some kind of viable third party brought to the fore by millennial voters who are disaffected and dissatisfied and sick and tired of being forced to vote for one or the other.
JOHNSONBefore we end the hour, let's squeeze in one more call from Mandy in Springfield, Illinois. Mandy, welcome.
MANDYHi, thank you. My thing is it's just not the millenniums. Like, I am not a millennium. But, you know, I know 80-year-olds that are very upset about Trump verses Clinton. And they don't want to vote either way, so I don't think the focus should just be on millenniums. I have a good another 20, 30 years, 40 years voting. So we need to have something, somebody that steps forward to help the masses vote. You know, it's not just now, in today's age, it's not just the millenniums. It's everybody is disenfranchised with the Republican Party, with the Democratic Party.
JOHNSONYeah Mandy, I take your point on that. Josh, it seems like there's a lot of discontent to go around.
KRAUSHAARAbsolutely. And Naftali touched upon this at the beginning of the hour. But there are a lot of internal tensions within both parties, so even if Hillary Clinton wins the Presidency, the fact that the Democratic bench of young talent is so thin going forward is a big red flag for the party. It hurt, I mean, their opportunity to win over some of the younger voters, of winning over millennials. It's going to be a challenge given their bench. And Republicans have this huge divide between the populists and the business wing of the party, and that's not going away anytime soon either.
JOHNSONThat's Josh Kraushaar of the National Journal. Sheryl Gay Stolberg of the New York Times. Naftali Bendavid of the Wall Street Journal. Thank you all for spending the hour with us. Again, if you are a younger voter, we would love to hear from you for our show next week about young voters. Email us, firstname.lastname@example.org. We would love to hear from you. Until we meet again, I'm Joshua Johnson, sitting in for Diane Rehm. Thanks for listening.
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