Congress expert Norman Ornstein on what the debate over the debt limit says about dysfunction in Congress, and his ideas for how to fix it.
President-elect Donald Trump continues to build his team ahead of inauguration: This week Trump nominates Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt, friend of the fossil fuel industry, to head the Environmental Protection Agency, and the pick is sparking outrage from environmental advocates. A man is charged in the armed incident at Washington D.C.’s Comet Pizza, which was set off by a persistent fake news story. Overall life expectancy in the United States sees a decline for the first time since 1993. And astronaut John Glenn dies at the age of 95. Diane and a panel of journalists discuss the top domestic news stories of the week.
- Lisa Lerer National politics reporter, The Associated Press
- Sheryl Gay Stolberg National correspondent, The New York Times
- Naftali Bendavid Editor and reporter, The Wall Street Journal
MS. DIANE REHMThanks for joining us. I'm Diane Rehm. President-elect Donald Trump continues making controversial selections for his cabinet and staff. He chooses fast food executive Andrew Puzder for labor secretary and climate denier Scott Pruitt to head the EPA. Republican lawmakers push back on Trump's threat to impose a tax on U.S. companies that move job overseas and the President-elect's pick for national security advisor, Michael Flynn, and his son both face criticism for fake news tweets.
MS. DIANE REHMHere for the domestic hour of the Friday News Roundup, Sheryl Gay Stolberg of the New York Times, Naftali Bendavid of The Wall Street Journal and Lisa Lerer of The Associated Press. I do invite you, as always, to be part of this Friday News Roundup. Give us a call at 800-433-8850. Send us an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow us on Facebook or Twitter. And remember, we are also video streaming this hour of the Friday News Roundup.
MS. DIANE REHMSo you can watch as well as listen. And welcome to all of you.
MR. NAFTALI BENDAVIDThank you, Diane.
MS. SHERYL GAY STOLBERGThank you.
MS. LISA LERERThank you.
STOLBERGHonored to be here, Diane, for one of your last shows.
REHMGood to see you -- thank you. Thank you, Sheryl. That's very kind of you. Let's talk about some of the President-elect's picks for his various heads of department. Naftali, talk about Andrew Puzder as labor secretary.
BENDAVIDWell, he's a guy who has been, like some of Trump's other picks, very critical of regulations that have been imposed. In his case, of course, in the area of workplace regulations. He is CEO of a company that franchises a couple big fast food chains, Carl's Jr. and Hardee's. And he's spoken out about raising the minimum wage. He's spoken out against the Affordable Care Act. And so with him, as well as the EPA pick, this guy named Scott Pruitt, I think you're going to see at least an attempt of a massive rollback of a lot of the regulations that the Obama administration has been putting in place for the last couple years.
BENDAVIDYou always see, of course, a little bit of a reversal of course when the White House changes party, but this is going to be sort of beyond that because I think this just -- this extreme nature of the difference in approach between some of the new folks coming in and some of the outgoing people.
LERERSo what's striking to me, I mean, this was the week that we started to really get a fuller picture of the entire cabinet. I think he's filled about 13 of 21 positions. And I've been sort of thinking about it in my head as shorthand as G&E. It's generals and executives. And, you know, that makes sense in a way because Trump ran as someone who wanted an outsider campaign with outsider picks, but these aren't, you know, so he's not going to the usual suspects as much, the senators, the governors, the long-time politicians.
LERERBut, you know, these aren't really outsiders. A lot of these people are really big donors. Linda McMahon, of course, who ran for Senate in Connecticut, who was head of the WWE, she's going to be running small business administration and she gave $6 million to Trump's superPAC. The finance chair -- Trump's finance chair, Steve Mnuchin is going to be treasury secretary. So you know, I guess these are outsiders, but they're certainly not outsiders to the political process or Trump's own political process and he's certainly not draining the swamp, as he promised.
STOLBERGYeah, I think Donald Trump is revealing quite a lot about how he's going to govern through his cabinet picks. And what we're seeing is consistently across the board conservative ideological picks who are opposed, in many cases, or have policies that oppose the current Obama policies. During the campaign, Trump was very hard to pin down, ideologically. He kind of said things that were all over the board. People took cues when he selected Mike Pence to be his vice president.
STOLBERGMike Pence is a very staunch social conservative and a fiscal conservative. And we're seeing that pattern throughout his picks. So not only Pruitt, but -- and General Kelley, but also Ben Carson at HUD, neurosurgeon, ran for president, deeply critical of social safety net programs. He's got an up from the bootstraps philosophy that makes a lot of mayors and some housing experts nervous. And so I think what we're seeing as -- again, despite Trump's ideological -- seeming personal ideological inconsistency, he's been very, very, very consistent.
STOLBERGAnd we're also, as Lisa said, seeing a lot of generals. And that's raising concern about militarization of the cabinet. To those who are concerned that Donald Trump has a style of kind of a strong man or a dictator, you hear that criticism of him, this selection of generals feeds into that critique.
BENDAVIDBut I do think there's a little bit of a potential for internal contradiction here, despite that because Trump's approach has been the sort of gut level populist. You know, he comes up with this stuff, sometimes it seems like without a lot of thought, but it's his impulse and what the people want and what would help the common man. And a lot of these are doctrinaire conservatives. And doctrinaire conservatism is not the same thing as gut level populism. And there's a lot of areas where that could come into conflict, especially because he's picked people who are outspoken, who aren't afraid to break the china.
BENDAVIDI mean, that's one thing a lot of them have in common is they're sort of these brash, aggressive, outspoken types. And it's fine to pick people like that who've criticized your opponents, perhaps, but when they're inside the administration, if they're all equally outspoken and equally ready to go their own way, he could be putting together a very fractious administration that's kind of all over the place and sometimes at odds with itself.
LERERMy favorite example from the past week of those kinds of contradictions was Al Gore comes to Trump Tower, meets with Ivanka Trump, comes out and gives this statement to reporters all about climate change. The next day, Donald Trump names Scott Pruitt, a guys who's headed up state efforts to overturn the Obama administration EPA's efforts to regulate emissions.
REHMAnd a climate denier.
LERERAnd a climate denier. So, you know, it's hard to take from that where -- we know Ivanka's a very close, perhaps one of if not the closest advisor to her father, it's hard to take from that where he's necessarily going. And certainly it could create an administration that's rife with internal rivalries. That's what we've seen from his campaign. He had, what, three campaign managers. That's what we're hearing from this process already. Internally, the people around him are sort of already jockeying for power. So it'll be interesting to watch.
STOLBERGBut at the end of his campaign, he came together very consistently with Kellyanne Conway about -- as his campaign manager and really found a winning formula. And she, too, is very conservative and we know she's a powerful influence. One thing I would say about the inconsistencies or the tensions, we are also seeing this in Donald Trump's own statements. For instance, on climate change, Donald Trump has said climate change is an expensive hoax perpetrated by the Chinese.
STOLBERGYet, in an interview with the New York Times shortly after he was elected, he allowed that humans might cause some global warming, that he would entertain, thinking about the Paris Accord. So he, himself, has continued to articulate inconsistent statements depending on the audience that he is addressing.
BENDAVIDYeah, I mean most transitions, what you see is a president-elect coming in with, if not a shadow cabinet, at least certain pools of people that they're expected to choose from and that they've signaled that they like. With this team, you feel like they got elected, perhaps to their own surprise, and then kind of looked around at who they could put in various spots. And so there's a certain air of unpredictability and sometimes seeming randomness as in the case of Dr. Carson. And you see that really in the secretary of state pick, I think, because there are all these people that are -- that the transition is saying are being considered, but a lot of them have completely different temperaments and different philosophies.
BENDAVIDAnd you sort of wonder do they have a vision for what they want in that job if people so different are being considered.
REHMAnd Kellyanne Conway introduced a new name in that secretary of state column just yesterday.
BENDAVIDAre you talking about Rex Tillerson, the...
REHMNo. She talked about Alan Mulally.
BENDAVIDYeah, and, well, that's right. I mean, this has been a very strange -- and it's, perhaps, the most important position and it's been the most drawn out and the most chaotic and the most sort of transparently chaotic, where, at first, it was going to be Rudy Giuliani and Mitt Romney. Then it was expanded to four, then it was expanded to about ten and now you're hearing this new name. And, again, these are people that they seem to be struggling with what it is that they want out of that position.
BENDAVIDOn the one hand, they have these CEO types that we're talking about. On the other hand, we have long-time public officials. We have John Bolton in there, a guy who's been a very hard-hitting figure in the state department or was for a long time. So it's just not clear what they're getting out there.
LERERAnd what's really striking to me about the secretary of state picks, too, is this doesn’t seem to be a decision over policy direction. I mean, these are people that have vastly different views on policy. Donald Trump, of course, feels very close with Russia, has spoken very, like, glowingly about Russia. And Giuliani has been sort of -- who has been in the mix has been sort of back and forth. Romney, of course, got very little credit in 2012 for calling Russia the country's biggest geopolitical threat. He's in the mix.
LERERSo on a lot of issues, on China, on Russia, on Iran, these guys are all -- the candidates that we're hearing are all over the map, which doesn't give you a good sense of where Trump himself is on foreign policy. And also given the fact that he's not someone with a lot of foreign policy experience, this is an even more -- where that person is on these issues is even more important.
REHMSheryl, when might we likely expect a pick for secretary of state?
STOLBERGI don't know. I think perhaps next week. Next week is also going to be a very big week, though, in Trump world because on December 15th, Donald Trump has said he would make a major announcement about how he is going to manage his businesses. And so we have this -- a lot of concern about Trump -- the Trump company having deep roots in countries all over the world, vast potential for conflict of interest.
STOLBERGDonald Trump really hasn't said, precisely, how he is going to manage that. We just heard today that he intends to continue as executive producer of "The Celebrity Apprentice." He intends to continue to get paid.
REHMHow can this be? I don't understand how...
REHM...rules governing the White House, the presidency, how this can possibly happen.
BENDAVIDWell, it's turning out that a lot of these things aren't ironclad rules, but are just sort of the way things have always been done. And one thing about Trump, he doesn't do things the way they've always been done.
REHMNaftali Bendavid, he is editor and reporter for The Wall Street Journal. Your calls, your questions, comments, I look forward to speaking with you.
REHMWelcome back to the first hour of our news roundup focusing on domestic news. And certainly at the top of that agenda are President-elect Donald Trump's picks for his cabinet, all of which must be confirmed, with the exception of one. And before we go to the question of congressional confirmation, I'd like to ask you about Stephen Flynn. Because not only has his son been removed from the transition team because of his tweets -- negative tweets out there, especially regarding the Ping Pong comment, pizza shop that was -- really had a scary situation the other day, but other tweets. But Stephen Flynn himself has tweeted. And I just wonder about all that, Sheryl.
STOLBERGRight. I think you mean Michael is the father and Stephen is the son.
STOLBERGAnd so General Flynn, who has been -- who Donald Trump wants to be his national security adviser and has named as national security adviser, a position by the way that does not require Senate confirmation...
STOLBERG...has used his Twitter account, which has about 106,000 followers, to retweet various specious accusations, such as the notion that Hillary Clinton was involved with a child-trafficking ring. That tweet, in particular, prompted a gunman from North Carolina to turn up here in Washington at a well-known pizza place called Comet Ping Pong and fire some shots. And it's drawn a lot of attention to this notion of fake news. So General Flynn has used his account to retweet these. His son, who was working for the transition, also did. And the son has been basically canned.
STOLBERGHe's been fired. Donald Trump issued a statement saying he's fired. I was reminded, I have to say, of his old show, "You're Fired." But in the case of General Flynn, he is not fired.
REHMBy the way, they are both...
STOLBERGAnd it's going to raise serious questions about the way he can advise the president on very sensitive national security matters.
STOLBERGSo it's raising questions about his judgment.
REHMThey are both Michael Flynn. Go ahead, Naftali.
REHMNo, I made the mistake as well.
BENDAVIDI mean, it's true that on the one hand you have this son who has tweeted -- after the gunman went in, he tweeted, until Pizza Gate is proven to be false, it'll remain a story. So that's really kind of an incredible statement if you think about it. He's sort of saying, you can make an assertion. Until somebody disproves it, we can treat it as something real. And this whole question of fake news, I think what this highlights is that fake news isn't just this false stories that people accepts, like Martians landing in Chicago. They have, usually, villains. There's usually somebody who's being accused of having done something horrible, whether it's Hillary Clinton, John Podesta, President Obama, the Democrats, the Muslims.
BENDAVIDAnd what that means, there are targets. And what we've seen a couple times in the last week, is that there are people who take this stuff seriously. And they take up arms or they make threats and they go out and try to act on some of this stuff. And it is a bit sobering that Michael Flynn, the elder, who, he has also tweeted about Hillary Clinton, money laundering, sex crimes with children, and it does -- I think if he had to face a confirmation hearing, it would be a rocky one. As it happens, the position of national security adviser is not subject to Senate confirmation.
LERERBut I'm just not sure this is a problem for Donald Trump, because he himself has trafficked in these kinds of stories. He, of course, tweeted after the election that there was, you know, millions of people voting illegally in California and Virginia. And that is not true. And that's something that started on -- through Alex Jones, who's a big radio host who pushes a lot of these fake stories. So this, I mean, Donald Trump himself has trafficked and promoted these kinds of conspiracy theories. So I'm not sure that he really cares that his national security adviser is doing the same.
LERERBut I do think, for that position in particular, that job is a job where you are mediating between generals and the cabinet officials and you're sifting through a lot of facts, often sort of confusing facts coming in from abroad. I mean, just look at what happened with the attacks on the Benghazi consulate during Obama's tenure. These facts can change a lot over time. So it's a job where facts really, really matter. And you have a guy who's known as a -- former employees have said he has Flynn facts, his own facts. And he's not open to hearing other points of view. So I do think it is a real problem.
REHMAnd, by the way, I have done an extra interview with Jim Fallows on this very issue of fake news and its consequences, and some of the appointments that President-elect Trump has made thus far. That extra piece will be up on our web site this afternoon. I hope you'll give a listen. Now, let's go back to Ben Casey as the secretary of...
REHMSorry. I said Casey -- Ben Carson, and his appointment and what that could mean.
STOLBERGSo, let's start with the idea that HUD is the agency that's responsible for sort of ensuring that Americans have access to safe and affordable housing in a variety of ways. And that includes public housing, and it also includes administering the Fair Housing Act. It includes making sure that Americans who want to rent an apartment, if their African-Americans or minorities, don't get discriminated against. I would note that this is the very act that Donald Trump's company was accused of violating in the 1970s, when it faced accusations from the Justice Department that it refused to rent to African-Americans. His company settled that lawsuit without admitting wrongdoing.
STOLBERGBut now you have Ben Carson basically assuming the role of HUD secretary and in an era when Trump has indicated that he would roll back some of the policies that the Obama administration enacted in order to ensure fair housing. Obama was very aggressive in promoting anti-discrimination policies. Many conservatives thought that he went too far. Those kinds of policies are now going to be rolled back. And Carson is going to be at the helm of this agency. And he's a man who doesn't have any experience in housing. He's a neurosurgeon. And a lot of people are saying, he may be a brilliant brain surgeon, but brain surgery does not equate with running a complex housing bureaucracy.
LERERSomeone who works in a -- in government, local and state government, which has a lot of dealings with, you know, HUD of course, made a joke to me about his inexperience. They said, well, I suppose he's lived in a house. So that's the level of experience we're dealing with. This is a very complicated, bureaucratic sweeping agency. He doesn't have a lot of experience managing those kinds of big organizations. But I think it does show one thing that has been consistent about these appointments, which is loyalty. Trump likes people who are with him, even if they don't have necessarily the qualifications.
BENDAVIDI mean, it's interesting, because that's true. But on the other hand, let's not forget how Trump ridiculed Ben Carson on stage, holding up his own belt buckle and saying, quote, "how stupid are the people of Iowa for purportedly buying in to Ben Carson's childhood stories?" But the other -- I think the other thing this highlights is the importance of subcabinet positions. It's one thing to choose some generals...
BENDAVID...and senators to run these agencies. But critical are going to be, you know, the head of the criminal division of the Justice Department, or, you know, the head of the Bureau for Southeast Asia at the State Department.
LERERAnd the civil rights positions are going to be absolutely critical.
BENDAVIDYeah. So we shouldn't, I think, lose track, while we're caught up in the drama of these cabinet appointments, of the very important subcabinet positions that are going to have a lot to do with how this really plays out in the next few years.
REHMSo what about congressional confirmation? And how likely is that to be for some of the more controversial choices, Naftali?
BENDAVIDWell, there's no question that some of them are going to face some pretty rocky -- a rocky reception. I mean, you think of Puzder, in particular, at Labor, you think of Pruitt at the EPA. Right now it's not clear whether any of them is going to have enough opposition to be -- to actually have to withdraw. We'll see. Usually, the rule in these things is one or two people ends up being a sacrificial lamb. On the other hand, this is a Republican-controlled Senate and they are going to, you know, for that reason, have a higher bar for someone to be disqualified.
STOLBERGLet's talk about Jeff Sessions as attorney general. Now that's going to be -- I would bet he's going to get confirmed. He is a senator. They're not going to reject him. But that is a very, very important post when you're talking about civil rights, about everything from race and policing to the housing discrimination matters we just talked about. You've seen the Obama Justice Department be very, very aggressive in investigation police departments like Baltimore, that have been accused of violating civil rights of African-Americans. I would wager that under a Jeff Sessions Justice Department and under a Donald Trump Justice Department, those kinds of investigations are going to go away.
STOLBERGThat is going to generate a lot of angst on Capitol Hill when he comes up for confirmation. And you're going to hear a lot of screaming about that.
BENDAVIDI mean how the rubber hits the road here is going to be really interesting to watch. First of all, it's not always as easy to roll back regulations as just declaring that you're rolling them back. Often there's an extended legal process. People can go to court. Secondly, there's going to be a Civil Service that remains in place that's in charge with implementing the policies of this new administration.
BENDAVIDAnd they can handle it in all kinds of ways. They can be real cooperative. They can be less cooperative. So I think you're going to see a bit of a clash of interests here in the next few months and years. And we shouldn't assume we know exactly how it's going to play out.
REHMAnd there was some pushback against the president-elect when he said he would fine companies that were moving their operations overseas, Naftali.
BENDAVIDYeah, I mean, if there's one principle that's been dear to the hearts of Republicans and conservatives, it's that you don't slap a tax on somebody because you don't like their business decisions. I mean, that violates almost every principle that economic conservatives hold dear, from having a level playing field, not picking winners and losers, and not using taxes to enact social policy. So the fact that he's don't everything from go after companies for moving folks over -- jobs overseas, to Boeing for its contract, you know, on Air Force One, and to this threat to impose a 35 percent tax on companies that ship jobs overseas and then try to reimport those products. It violates, again, the conservative orthodoxy we were talking about.
BENDAVIDAnd to the extent you've seen a little bit of a pushback from Republicans, like Paul Ryan and Kevin McCarthy, it's been on those issues.
LERERTo me, this is going to be one of the most fascinating political storylines to watch in the first year of the Trump administration, which is how the Republican Party, you know, who are leading on Capitol Hill, who are empowered to do a lot of things, square their decades of conservative orthodoxy with some of these things that Trump is doing. And so far it's been pretty tortured. I mean, Kevin McCarthy came out and gave this press conference last -- this past week, where he was, you know, he didn't want to answer questions. He was tiptoeing around, you know, repeated, you know, sort of critical questions about Trump's trade policies. And he was sort of all over the map.
LERERAnd then he finally said at the end, a little exasperated, let's take a deep breath. He's not sworn in yet. So I think this is going to be a really hard line for a lot of these Republicans, particularly Paul Ryan, to walk. And they also don't want to invite their own nasty tweets from the president -- the president's bully pulpit. Especially Paul Ryan, which has this very, you know, complicated, contentious history with Trump.
STOLBERGDiane, I think also we should talk about the president-elect's personal style here. Because what we've seen this week is a propensity or a willingness to go after individuals and businesses. He used his Twitter account to go after Boeing on the Air Force One. He said, cancel the order. He used his Twitter account to go directly after a union local in Indiana, a union leader. And this, just some smacks of cyberbullying, singling out -- he's a very powerful person. He's the president-elect of the United States. And he's singling out individual companies and people for his own, you know, Twitter attacks basically.
REHMSheryl Gay Stolberg of The New York Times. And you're listening to "The Diane Rehm Show." I'm going to open the phones. And I think there are lots of folks who'd like to be part of this conversation. Let's go first to Mascoutah, Ill. Billy, you're on the air.
BILLYYes, Diane. Thanks for taking my call.
BILLYYou know, I was wondering how people like General Petraeus and General Flynn can carry a top-secret clearance. And the reason I'm asking this is because my brother was in the Air Force and stationed in the Philippines. He was getting transferred to the Security Services in San Antonio. And they found that he had a forged performance report in his records. And the OSI proved that it was forged because the supervisor denied writing it. But just because he had that performance report in his record, he was denied a top-secret clearance. And he could only get a secret.
BILLYSo I'm sitting up here saying, you've got General Petraeus, who was talking to Broadwell, and you've got General Flynn tweeting false information about people. So I'm just asking this question.
REHMAll right. Thanks for calling.
BENDAVIDI mean, I think that's a particularly salient question when it comes to David Petraeus. And part of it is because so much of the Trump campaign was about attacking Hillary Clinton for her purported careless, reckless handling of national secrets. So for them now to put forth a nominee for secretary of state, as Petraeus has been talked about, who plead guilty to violations of, you know, pretty significant laws regarding classified information, I think, would be difficult. I think it's probably what's going to keep him from getting the job.
REHMAll right. And to Tom in Madison, Conn. You're on the air.
TOMHi, Diane. Thanks for taking my call.
TOMI was wondering if the panel could comment at all on anything positive about Donald Trump's picks for his cabinet?
REHMAll right. Sheryl.
STOLBERGSo, it's funny, I was just thinking about this. And I was thinking that we've -- I don't mean to come across and I don't think any of us mean to come across as negative. Donald Trump has said that he was going to upend Washington. He was going to drain the swamp. This is what he promised to do. He promised to bring change. And we are seeing how he is bringing change in every way. He's picked cabinet members -- if you're a conservative, you are happy about these Donald Trump cabinet picks. You voted for him because you want Obama policies repealed. People liked his strong and direct style. the voters who supported him like the fact that he is an executive and that he relies on other executives and generals.
STOLBERGSo a big part of the country is very, very happy about what's going on here in Washington. And we, in Washington, as we chronicle this, must not forget that.
LERERAnd I can tell you, I was at an event -- Mike Pence spoke at the Heritage Foundation this past week, and they're extremely excited about a lot of these picks. They feel that it's an actualization -- or it will be an actualization of a lot of what they've worked for during the Obama era. So there are a lot of people who are very excited. I think the reason there's some controversy -- part of the reason there's some controversy around some of these picks is that Donald Trump hasn't really gone out there since winning the election and sort of laid out his vision for the country. We're getting sort of select interviews. He sat down with, of course, The Times. He sat down with the TODAY Show. He tweets out in 140 blasts.
LERERBut he hasn't really put himself out there to be asked some of these questions about some of these people and about where he wants -- the direction he wants to take the country. So that's why this press conference this next week will be awfully fascinating.
BENDAVIDYeah. And I mean, you know, in fairness, these people are very strong, successful, outspoken people for the most part, who are not afraid to speak their minds or to upend the established order. You've got to say, he has picked people like that, who've been strong leaders.
STOLBERGThese people like himself really.
REHMNaftali Bendavid, Sheryl Gay Stolberg, Lisa Lerer, they're all here to answer your questions. Send us your comments by email, email@example.com. Don't forget, you can watch this hour of the news roundup live by streaming at drshow.org.
REHMAnd welcome back. Sheryl Gay Stolberg, talk about what the Ohio Legislature did just yesterday.
STOLBERGOkay, so just yesterday, in Ohio, the legislature sent a bill to Governor John Kasich that would ban abortion after a heartbeat is detected, as early as six weeks. That bill was long presumed to be dead in the Ohio legislature, but now that Trump has been elected, it's passed and it will go before Governor John Kasich and he will consider whether or not to sign it. He hasn't said whether or not he will.
BENDAVIDWell, this also raises the issue of the Supreme Court, I think. One of the most significant things, that we haven't talked about that appointment, but that's gonna be one of the most consequential and could last for decades. And it's particularly striking because Mitch McConnell made this decision about a year ago, whenever it was that Justice Scalia died, that he was not going to allow President Obama's nominee to have a vote. And it seems to have paid off.
BENDAVIDIn the sense that now Donald Trump's elected, he's going to get to pick the next Supreme Court Justice who will be hugely influential given the makeup of the Court. And will rule on laws like the one we're just talking about.
STOLBERGAbsolutely, and Donald Trump has said that he will appoint conservative Supreme Court Justices who would overturn Roe v. Wade and send it back to the states. So this is obviously a deep concern to abortion rights advocates. It comes on the heels of eroding many of the gains that they felt they made in earlier decades. Over the past 10 years, there have been -- these have been tough years for the abortion rights movement. And they see tougher times ahead.
REHMAll right, to Charlotte, North Carolina. Anthony, you're on the air.
ANTHONYHi Diane. Long time listener, first time caller. Thank you.
ANTHONYI, I was calling because I have a question about LGBT protections and I think this is one thing that we really haven't heard a lot from -- coming from the -- from Donald Trump's campaign. We, I know that Mike Pence was interested in using the electroshock therapy to try to convert gay men to make them straight again. But then, on the other hand, we've seen Donald Trump hold an LGBT flag at one of his rallies. I don't know if he was just doing that out of force.
ANTHONYBut my main question is, for you and the panel, what do you all think is going to happen with the protections here in the United States and how quickly do you think that things would happen? Yeah.
STOLBERGSo, well, we've seen an interesting contrast. We were just talking about abortion. On what Donald Trump has said about abortion verses LGBT rights. In the "60 Minutes" interview, he did say that he would send Roe back to the states, but he also said he believed that the same sex marriage ruling was the law of the land. So he's at least signaled that he is accepting of same sex marriage. As to Mike Pence and whether or not he's promoted conversion therapy, I'm not, I'm not sure of that.
STOLBERGBut I do know that many LGBT people across the country are very concerned about Obama-era policies being rolled back. I think we'll learn a lot when Tom Price is -- comes up for confirmation as the Health and Human Services Secretary. And we'll learn a lot, also, during the Jeff Sessions confirmation hearing as Attorney General. These issues are bound to come up.
REHMHas Tom Price made statements against abortion?
STOLBERGI am -- I'm not personally aware of what he has said, but I believe so. I don't know what he's said on gay rights.
LERERHe would strip funding from Planned Parenthood for sure.
STOLBERGYes, that's right. That's right.
LERERBut, you know, these are -- what's interesting, this is another example where the goals of the National Republican Party may come into conflict with some of these appointments. You know, if you talk to some Republicans, you know, they'll privately say that they don't want to have these fights on same sex marriage. Because they know that the country's mood and acceptance of these relation -- of, you know, LGBT relationships has really shifted dramatically. And that's not necessarily a winning strategy at, you know, in these swing states.
LERERFirst, these Senate races, Governors races, national races. So, you know, they, they've been kind of hoping that there's certainly a wing in the party that's been kind of hoping they could avoid having these conversations. That may not be possible.
STOLBERGI feel compelled to mention that they're accepting of the L and the G and...
STOLBERG...perhaps the B.
STOLBERGBut the T, transgender, has been a hot button issue.
LERERThat's a good point.
STOLBERGAnd many transgender rights advocates are very, very concerned. And many conservatives believe that President Obama went way too far in extending -- in ordering schools to make bathrooms, all bathrooms available to transgender students. So, that, that is still a hot button issue.
REHMAll right. Let's go to CeeCee in Marengo, Illinois. You're on the air.
CEECEEThank you for taking my call.
CEECEEMr. Trump is going to tell us on -- four days after the Electoral College -- four days before the Electoral College meets, whether or not he intends to be a Constitutional President. If he doesn't divest himself of his businesses, he is not going to be Constitutional President. Period.
CEECEEIt says very clearly that the President, that no elected official can have an emolument office title or any kind whatsoever from a king, prince or foreign state. The Electoral College has a responsibility to select the runner-up if he does -- if Mr. Trump decides that he is going to run his business as well as govern the country.
BENDAVIDWell, there's sort of a lot there. I mean, I think, you know, the idea of the Electoral College not going along with the way the votes played out, I think is probably unlikely. Of course, this recent election where Hillary Clinton seems to be leading by a substantial margin in the popular vote has raised a lot of questions about the Electoral College, but my hunch is, it's just not the kind of the thing that's going to change anytime soon. Though this will certainly intensify the debate.
BENDAVIDIn terms of his business dealings, we'll see what he says on December 15th. I think a lot of those things are open to interpretation. And one thing a lot of us, I guess, are discovering is that many of these rules don't apply to the President or they're guidelines and things that have been done a certain way, but that the President isn't under a legal obligation to do. I mean, that's...
REHMBut what about the emoluments clause?
BENDAVIDWell, again, that's a matter of interpretation. There are certainly people who would say that is unconstitutional. But others wouldn't, so that means it would go to the courts. And whether the courts would be willing to say that a sitting President, you know, is acting unconstitutionally, I think it's kind of a tall order.
STOLBERGI would direct you to what Donald Trump himself said in his interview with the New York Times, which is that a President can't have a conflict of interest. He has said he checked with his lawyers on this and that's his position.
REHMI don't understand that. That makes no sense.
STOLBERGWell, that will debated among lawyers and whomever challenges it. But that is his position.
BENDAVIDBut ultimately, the court's going to have to decide, should it come to that, and I think that's the only -- it doesn't matter what we think, it matters what they think. And I think the idea of this, again, of the Supreme Court stripping a President of his office because of that clause I think is pretty unlikely.
LEREREspecially a Supreme Court that Donald Trump has appointed one or two of the Justices on.
REHMAll right. Let's go to Chris in Huntingburg, Indiana. You're on the air.
CHRISMy comment is not just to your ears or your panel's ears, but literally everyone that's listening. Especially somebody that has the pull to make things change in this country. It's about trade. You know, I live in Indiana. And, you know, I'm familiar with the Carrier deal and I don't think anybody talks about what I think is the real reason why these companies move is because they can, they can go off of the backs of cheap labor to make these moves, if that makes sense.
REHMI certainly do understand your point. Someone has challenged the number of jobs actually saved by Donald Trump. I think at first he said 2,000, then it was down to 1,000. Now it's down to 800, but there are a lot of other companies, not only in Indiana, but around the country are -- is he going to give them the same kind of deal?
BENDAVIDWell, that's the big question, because right now, and he's not President yet, of course, but right now, his policy has been to target individual companies, to call them out by name, and in some sense, to be involved in the negotiation as to what would keep them here. He's also talked a lot about punishing companies that move overseas. But in the Carrier case, it seemed to be at least as much a matter of giving them breaks for staying as opposed to punishing them for leaving.
BENDAVIDYou'd think he can't keep up four years of going after individual companies, that this will, at some point, have to be a matter of a broader policy that we undertake to keep these jobs here. On the other hand, he's certainly establishing a reputation and image for himself as a guy who kicks butt and takes names. And, you know, get results.
LERERAnd it's been -- I mean, it may be questionable policy or even bad policy, but it's really good theater. There was a poll this week that said 60 percent of voters said the Carrier deal gives them a more favorable view of Donald Trump.
STOLBERGIt's good politics for him.
REHMTalk about the call to or from Taiwan.
STOLBERGSo, Donald Trump broke decades of American protocol by accepting a congratulatory call from the President of Taiwan. This is not something that our State Department would have advised under our One China Policy. And your foreign policy panel can address this better than I. This was, this was a big deal. My newspaper reported this week that Bob Dole, the former Senator, worked for months to try to lay the groundwork between the Taiwan and the Trump campaign to basically improve relations.
STOLBERGAnd while right after this call was accepted, Mike Pence came out and said, well, it was just a congratulatory call. It was sort of a lark. Not a lark, it was a spur of the moment kind of thing and he accepted it and it was no big deal. Come to find out, in fact, it was the product of months of lobbying on behalf of Bob Dole who represents the government of Taiwan.
LERERWhat's so -- what was so mystifying, well, there are a number of things that were unusual about this episode, but one thing that was so mystifying was the reason. At first, they said it's no big deal. Why is Washington, everyone's freaking out about this call, when in fact it is a shift in policy? So why not, why send out the future Vice-President to do interviews and say it's no big deal, only to have the next day, everyone find out that actually, this has been in the works for months and it is a shift in policy. It's very, very confusing and it's a reporting challenge for all of us, for sure.
REHMLisa Lerer. She's a Reporter for the Associated Press. And you're listening to The Diane Rehm Show. All right, and a caller in Houston, Texas. You're on the air. Ellie.
ELLIEOh, hi Diane. Hello, Diane.
ELLIEThank you for taking my call.
ELLIESo, my comment and question was that, you know, we have a President who was campaigning on draining the swamp. And in the past, the US has been pretty upset, in general, about, you know, business (unintelligible) individuals. Influencing the political agendas with their money and their own influence. Essentially outweighing the votes of ordinary citizens. And it now feels like the outrage is about just those individuals' policies in his cabinet and occasionally on his own person but not how we've just given businesses the reigns.
ELLIEAnd not just the ability to influence. The question to me is it feels like more is a state of denial that we've entered where we're willing to believe something but sometimes we just don't want to actually see. How have we come to a point where we've turned on the dime and entered an opposite direction?
REHMYeah, I'm not quite sure how I understand that. Sheryl, perhaps you.
STOLBERGI think, frankly, in a way, it hits on what I just said which is that Donald Trump campaigned on draining the swamp, but now we've learned this week that he relied on lobbyists to arrange a call between Taiwan and him. And so, is that draining the swamp?
BENDAVIDWell, it's also true that a lot of the cabinet appointments have a very strong business background.
BENDAVIDAnd so, there are those who say that that contrasts with the populist message on which he ran. And that's gotten a lot of attention. A lot of these folks are very wealthy business leaders and that's drawn some attention. And I know the transition itself has sought to sort of tamp that down and find some appointees who don't fit that mold because of their concern about that image.
LERERBut one thing I think we're all watching is whether the folks who elected and supported Donald Trump are okay with all of this. And so far, they have been, but let's keep in mind, it's very early. The man is not even President yet. And whether they stick with him when he doesn't fulfill some of these promises in the way he proposed. For example, the wall, it was going to be the biggest wall. You know, the Great Wall of Trump is now -- he says maybe more like a fence.
LERERAre his supporters okay with that? Are they okay with the swamp seeming to get a little murkier after his promises to drain it with all these donors getting these big jobs We'll have to wait and see, and I think a lot of that will depend whether people feel more economically secure in their own lives. And that could take time.
REHMAll right. Let's talk about one of the real heroes of this country, and perhaps even the last real hero. John Glenn, the first person to orbit the earth, he died yesterday at the age of 95. Sheryl.
STOLBERGYou know, I think you hit it on the head. One of the last real heroes. John Glenn was a -- he was a Midwesterner, he was a test pilot, he was an astronaut, he was a Senator. He served this country, he served in a time when we could look up to our public officials. He served without, almost without a hint of scandal. He was caught up a little bit in the Keating 5 Scandal a while back which also caught up John McCain. But he survived it as did McCain. And I think in retrospect, Americans really are yearning for public servants like John Glenn.
STOLBERGAnd he will be missed.
BENDAVIDYeah, I think in many ways, if he was one of the last heroes, it was as much because of us and what the country has become is because of him. I mean, he was certainly an admirable man and a great man, but you also have difficulty right now imagining the country unifying so completely and feeling such positive emotions throughout all the diversity of the country as we did back then. And I think it speaks a lot to the intense divisions where we can't even agree on what's real and what's not right now. The almost universal adulation in which he was held.
REHMInteresting that he did not return to space for a very long time because President Kennedy thought of him as too valuable a hero to risk once again.
BENDAVIDYeah, I mean, he was a national treasure and they didn't want to put him at risk. It does tell you a lot about the worth that he, that he held for the country. Of course, he did ultimately return to space at age 77, becoming the oldest person to do that. By that time, a lot of, many years had elapsed, but yeah, he was considered a national treasure.
REHMI must say I was fortunate enough to be invited to a small dinner with him and his lovely wife Annie one evening and he was just as kind and personable as he was heroic. He was very soft spoken. He just made you feel comfortable, even though I think he was, at heart, a very shy person.
STOLBERGHe was a hero with humility.
REHMYeah. He really, really was, and we're going to miss him and we'll think lots about him. One last question from Lucille. I think it's a good one. What authority does Trump have to cancel the Boeing contract, even before he takes office?
BENDAVIDWell, it's certainly, well, he certainly doesn't have any before he takes office. It's not clear he has any afterwards, either. I mean, for one thing, just so we know, Boeing has challenged this idea that there's a four billion dollar contract, saying there's no such thing. It's a 170 million dollar contract for just some initial work. But there are processes for these things. There are bids and there are procedures and it's not clear what authority the President would have to unilaterally cancel them.
REHMNaftali Bendavid, Lisa Lerer, Sheryl Gay Stolberg, thank you all so much. And thanks for listening, all. I'm Diane Rehm.
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