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The rise of cable TV and the 24-hour news cycle. Pundits shouting at each other on air. Members of Congress refusing to even glance across the aisle. Social media trolls. Fake news. And now new evidence that Russia engaged in cyber-espionage to try to influence the U.S. presidential election as well as House elections in a half-dozen states across the country. Those are just some of the concerns that did not exist when Diane began her career in radio nearly 40 years ago. Diane speaks with two journalists and a political scientist who have had front-row seats in Washington as these changes unfolded.
- Norman Ornstein Resident scholar, American Enterprise Institute; co-author of "It's Even Worse Than It Looks: How the American Constitutional System Collided With the New Politics of Extremism"
- Susan Page Washington bureau chief, USA Today
- Byron York Chief political correspondent, The Washington Examiner
MS. DIANE REHMThanks for joining us. I'm Diane Rehm. When I began my career in radio more than 40 years ago, there was no cable television. There were no cell phones, no Internet or social media. While those advancements have brought many benefits to the world, I cannot help thinking about some of the not so great changes that have occurred during my years on air. The latest revelations about Russian cyber espionage underscore those changes, as does the loss of civility in politics and society at large.
MS. DIANE REHMHere in the studio to talk about it all, the very civil Norman Ornstein of the American Enterprise Institute and two outstanding reporters, Susan Page of USA Today and Byron York of The Washington Examiner. I hope you'll join us, questions, comments, 800-433-8850. Send an email to email@example.com. Follow us on Facebook or send us a tweet. Thank you all for being here.
MR. NORMAN ORNSTEINWe are thrilled to be here.
MR. BYRON YORKThank you.
MS. SUSAN PAGEGood morning.
REHMAh, thank you.
REHMSusan Page, talk about these Russian hacking revelations that the New York Times went into great depth about this morning. How significant do you believe they are?
PAGEI think this is a story we're going to be talking about and exploring for months, maybe years. I mean, it's the -- a new form of warfare. Cyber warfare against institutions of democracy. I think we don’t know the full story yet and I think it's important that we, as a nation, find out the full story.
YORKWell, I think it's a really important story because we can't tolerate this sort of thing. So it's a really important story. It has to be investigated. I don't think it had any great electoral impact. I don't think there was any hacking that we know, other than the actual voting machines or anything like that, on election day. And as far as the impact of what we knew was happening at the time, the Podesta leaks and the DNC leaks earlier than that, I think they had some effect.
YORKBut in my opinion, it really was a change election. Hillary Clinton really was very bad at keeping the Obama coalition and if you want to talk about external forces, I would put the Russian leaks way down at the bottom and I would put James Comey way up at the top of outside things that affected the election. So no, I don't think it was very important as far as the final result was concerned.
ORNSTEINI agree that the Comey letter goes at the top of the list, but I actually think this had a significant impact. And we need to know a lot more, including what role the Trump campaign played in its communications with the Russians along the way. I have to say here, Diane, you know, this is -- has stunning implications for the future of the country and keeping people together. Whatever outcomes we achieve, a lot of people are going to feel as if it's illegitimate. But there's so many forces here that behaved badly.
ORNSTEINAnd as we were talking with Eric Lipton of The Times before -- and I thought The Times pointed out, the role of the press in all of this, gleefully printing hacked leaks that included not just information about criminality or anything that might relate to national security or even egregiously bad behavior, gossipy stuff that legitimized that process. And we know, from what Eric was saying, that you had individual reporters who were directly in league with Guccifer 2, getting information to put out there themselves in which they had to go in and get a password to do it and knew it was coming from the Russians.
ORNSTEINIf you take that, the role of the FBI, the fact that we had the incoming chief of staff of the president, Reince Priebus, denying openly that there was any hacking of RNC when we know that he's been presented an enormous amount of evidence to the contrary, that efforts made by the Democratic National Committee and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee to get their Republic counterparts to say, no, this is a bad thing, and they wouldn't do it, there's just an awful lot of bad stuff. And if we don't get a completely independent investigation of all of this, which involves our greatest adversary interfering with our electoral process and trying to undermine our fundamental way of life and maybe with a lot of collusion with others, then I'm not sure what happens to this republic.
PAGEI don't think I'd put Comey's letters at the top of the list. I would put Hillary Clinton's initial decision to have a private email server for her exclusive use -- to use exclusively when she was secretary of state from which the Comey then flowed. But I think that even if the Russian hacking had no impact on the outcome of the election, it is an assault on our democracy and it contributes to this erosion and faith in our most fundamental institutions. And that is something, if you're looking at trends over the last four decades, is a terrific concern.
YORKNorm, what do you think was the most dangerous single revelation that came out of either the DNC or the Podesta acts?
ORNSTEINI actually think there were no dangerous revelations...
YORKThere you go. I agree with that.
ORNSTEIN...but what ended up happening was the entire frame of the election was around emails and around Democrats colluding inside their own party to damage Bernie Sanders, as if you weren't going to have a Democratic party that would see a socialist who'd never been a Democrat coming in as somebody who might be a little questionable, that it was all one-sided. It was all from and surrounding Hillary Clinton's campaign and that is, voters went into the voting booth, the frame of the election was all about illegality and corruption when there was no illegality that we know of.
ORNSTEINAnd so it had an impact, Byron. But when you look at the coverage and the way it was hyped and the front page above the fold stories and the number of ways in which cable television news shows lead, if you were a voter who wasn't following a lot of this very closely, what you would see is there's a stench of corruption that is a mile wide and 100 miles deep.
YORKWell, I think when you say that it had framed the entire election about emails, I agree with Susan that I think Hillary Clinton had sort of pre-framed the election about emails with her decision to do the server, which members of the House Benghazi committee I think were surprised to discover, I believe it was 2014, that this happened. So I don't think that was Russian-related. And when I think about what happened, if I think back to the DNC emails, and we all remember that kind of feverish atmosphere on the first day of the Democratic Convention last summer, in retrospect, a lot of that really was inside baseball.
YORKAnd the same thing is true, I think, of the Podesta emails. And when you go back and look at elections, you often say, in retrospect, you know, it was really about the unemployment rate or it was really about the voters' desire for change or it was really about these deep systemic desires in the electorate. And I don't think that the Russian hacks, if we -- worst case scenario, if they were done -- these were done by the Russians and they were done by the Russians with the intent purpose of electing Donald Trump, I don't think they had very much effect.
PAGEI listened to a focus group last night in Cincinnati that Peter Hart was conducting for the Annenberg Center at the University of Pennsylvania and these were 12 Trump voters from Cincinnati. About half of them had voted for Barack Obama or Bill Clinton in the past so they were swing voters who had swung toward Trump and they completely conflated the state department email story with the Russian hacks. They thought the Russians had hacked state department emails that Hillary Clinton had sent.
PAGESo these stories became one big story in their mind that contributed to a sense that Hillary Clinton simply couldn't be trusted.
ORNSTEINAnd let's keep in mind that we had an election where Hillary Clinton got almost 3 million more votes than Donald Trump, an election that was decided by a sliver of votes in three states. Now, you can point to a dozen things that made the difference. And I would say the Comey letters mattered because the frame in the final week, as people were making up their minds, was all about, oh, my god, what scandals are coming next.
ORNSTEINAnd here, again, I think, when I look at the press coverage of the emails, the number of stories in places like the New York Times, which is now doing this exemplary work, above the fold where the conclusion was, questions have been raised, when you put a story that's above the fold on the front page and you do it day after day after day, the signal that it sends, not just to the readers of the New York Times, but to all the editors and producers around the country who look at that as guidance for what matters, it is a profound story. And it was hyped in a way that was deeply damaging beyond what the actual story was.
REHMAll right. And then, the question becomes, looking at the press and how it has operated in the past 40 years, how has it changed, Byron?
YORKWell, I think it's two big things when you look at mass media. When you started your program, most cities in the country had three TV stations, ABC, CBS, NBC, and between them, they shared about 90 plus percent of the audience. That completely went away in the 1980s with cable and the founding of CNN in 1980 and Fox News Channel in 1996. And then, the other thing that happens later is the whole -- is the Internet. So what has happened is, from this world in which people read one newspaper and watched one of the three network evening newscasts, you have a world in which vast amounts of information are available and you can pick and choose.
YORKYes, that does lead to siloing, but it also gives you more information than you ever had back then.
PAGEYou know, back in 1979, say, which was the year you started to have your own show, Diane, it also happens to be the year that I moved to Washington working for Newsday, you could have the three networks, The Associated Press, a couple big papers decide something was not a story and it did not get coverage. Americans would not be aware of it. You could do what you're talking about, Norm, where a couple editors could decide this isn't really worthy of coverage, we won't cover it and Americans wouldn't know about it.
PAGEThat is no longer the case. You could have the biggest papers in the country, the wire services and the networks decide not to cover something. It's still going to be explored in big ways through social media and other outlets.
REHMSusan Page of USA Today. Short break here. I want to hear your ideas about changes over the last four decades. Stay with us.
REHMAnd welcome back. Our first tweet from Chris regarding the Russian hacking. Where is the evidence? Where is the proof? This is nothing more than fake news. Susan?
PAGEWell, I would urge Chris to read the New York Times story from this morning, which is remarkably detailed and makes it clear that the fact is the U.S. government knew about these hacks going back quite some time, back into last year.
REHMAnd even before, to 2014.
PAGEAnd even before that. And also there's a record of Russian hacking in this country and elsewhere. So there are signatures that cyber-sleuths can identify that tell you who the hackers are and what their interests are.
ORNSTEINSo, you know, one of the interesting twists in this story in the New York Times was that because we'd also had previous hacks into the Defense Department and the continuing ones into the State Department that it forced John Kerry and the people around him to turn to private email accounts on Gmail, which we know is what Colin Powell used, it was earlier in the era of email, and others. They've all used these kinds of work-arounds.
ORNSTEINThey didn't have a private server, but this is a longstanding problem. But we've never had evidence before of a hostile foreign power intervening directly and explicitly to change the American political system and maybe change the outcome of an election. Just a couple of minutes on the media because I think for people like us, it's a wondrous world. We take out a little device, and we have access to more information at our fingertips than NASA had when we first went up to the moon in a device that costs a pittance, where it was billions and billions back then.
ORNSTEINBut what it also means is that traditional media are foundering, trying to find business models. The good news today is that the Washington Post apparently just turned a profit, which is to the credit of Jeff Bezos and Marty Baron, the owner, the editor. Maybe we're turning a little corner here. But they're floundering, trying to find a model. Cable news is turning more and more to screaming and sensationalism.
ORNSTEINBut the most important thing is people now can cocoon in and get the information that they want from where they want it, and it is reinforced by social media. When we grew up, and I came to Washington in 1969, we shared a common set of facts, and we could debate, hammer and tong, what to do with them. Now we not only don't share that common set of facts, but the reality of fake news, of people deliberating injecting things that are false into the system, not just the Russians, it's Americans as well, and people who believe it are not going to be shaken from those beliefs, is a real challenge to a deliberative democracy.
REHMHere's an interesting email from Rance, who says don't forget the use of fake news and conspiracy stories from Russia. I used to trust CNN News, but I saw Kellyanne Conway put out at least three fake stories on CNN without challenge from the host or network. Hacking is one thing, but the fake news being spread by major news networks cannot be discounted. He doesn't specify what stories Kellyanne Conway put out, Susan.
PAGEOne of the things that we've seen just in this campaign is a change in the assumptions about what the role of an interviewer is on shows on CNN or MSNBC or ABC or wherever.
REHM"The Diane Rehm Show."
PAGEOn "The Diane Rehm Show," and that is that there's an expectation of a more aggressive role than I think we traditionally took, more of an obligation to challenge statements that are not accurate. We used -- you know, we have had fact-checks for some time, but those are kind of after the fact. Because some figures now repeat untruths over and over again, it's become I think more important for journalists to challenge those either face to face when you're doing an interview or in print.
PAGEYou know, more often you see now statements about something being untrue. When Donald Trump, for instance, said that there's -- it's not clear whether there's climate change, this was just the other day, a lot of the stories said in fact there's scientific consensus that there is climate change. And that's something that we are much more likely to do now, to insert ourselves in that way, than we were before this campaign.
REHMBut who's pushing back on Donald Trump saying I won in a landslide, by hundreds of millions of votes?
YORKHe said a couple of things. I think there's been significant pushback on that. He said he won by one of the largest electoral vote margins in history, that's not true, and I've seen it corrected all over the place.
ORNSTEINForty-sixth out of 58.
YORKYou know, so I've seen -- but I've seen that mention all over. It's not as if that has gone unremarked on. You know, as far as -- the listener is right to separate fake news and hacks because I mean the DNC stuff and the Podesta stuff, the reason it caused so much trouble is it was accurate. These were the actual emails. They were private, they thought they were private at the time, but they weren't.
YORKOne last different thing about the hacks, and I don't want to blame the victims here, but one of the things we have seen with the DNC and the Clinton campaign is they didn't take this stuff very seriously. And I remember when we first saw it reported a while back that John Podesta gets this phishing email, and I thought, wow, John Podesta fell for that, and no he didn't. He did the right thing. He sent it off to the IT department, and they fell for it and said oh, yeah, John must change his email immediately, his password immediately.
YORKIt seems to me that these organizations need to be much more careful in the past, and the New York Times made it pretty clear that the DNC did not really take this very seriously when the FBI, which is about five blocks away, was trying to get in touch with them about this.
PAGEI bet they take it more seriously now.
ORNSTEINYou know, what a comedy of errors. So the FBI has an agent call, a low-level tech guy, at the DNC.
YORKHe gets the help desk when he calls.
ORNSTEINHe gets the help desk and never pays a personal visit so that he would know that it wasn't a hoax, and the FBI doesn't try to call somebody at a top level. So -- and of course the idea that you just brush off a call from somebody who says he's the FBI, it's a comedy of errors.
ORNSTEINBut what we also know here is that when they discovered the extent of the thievery, the DNC and, as Eric pointed out, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee because there were a number of congressional races probably decided by this, and as he pointed out, we had Paul Ryan's super-PAC and the National Republican Congressional Committee and the RNC in league with the Russians, using this information in TV ads. When the DNC and the congressional campaign committee went to their Republican counterparts and said this is a direct threat to our democracy, we want to issue a joint statement saying this is really bad stuff, they were told no way, forget about.
YORKWell, I -- when you say in league with the Russians, they were like working with the Russians, or they were using material that they knew had been originally hacked by the Russians?
ORNSTEINThat they knew had been hacked by the Russians, and apparently, according to Eric, at least some of them were in direct with Guccifer, getting stuff and then putting it into TV ads that they knew were coming from Russian hacks.
REHMTalk about Paul Manafort's relations with the Russians.
ORNSTEINSo Paul Manafort, who was for some time the campaign manager for Donald Trump before he left the campaign, had very close ties, including with a lobbying -- his lobbying firm, Manafort, Stone and whatever it might be, with Russian figures and with the Ukrainians, who were very closely related to Russia. We know he had close relationships.
ORNSTEINAnd we know from a number of stories that the FBI was deep into an investigation of whether and perhaps others in -- associated with the Trump campaign had been in communication with the Russians during the course of the campaign. That investigation was ongoing. James Comey said we're not going to report on any of this because it might influence the election, and we don't know, as a guest in the previous hour suggested, whether they slow-walked that investigation or what happened with it, but it appears to be ongoing, and it appears that that's going to be the next shoe to drop in the New York Times deep investigation of what's been going on.
PAGEAnd of course one concern I think many of us have is that these won't -- these accusations, this -- these investigations won't be pursued as vigorously both by the Trump administration and by a Congress that is controlled by Republicans because Democrats who might -- who would be the ones most inclined to pursue it vigorously, won't have the power to force a congressional investigation. We're really going to be depending on the Justice Department and congressional Republicans to take this seriously and take it -- pursue it wherever it goes.
YORKWell you always depend on the Justice Department, and Justice Department is under a Republican or a Democratic president. That's just the way it works. I do think -- I would ask anyone, do you really think that it requires some outside agency to believe that Hillary Clinton did not excite the voters who excited -- who were excited by Barack Obama to the degree that Obama had? I mean, do you really think that? And the answer is no, she just didn't.
PAGEI don't think the question is whether it turned the election. I agree with you. I don't think it's likely to have turned -- I don't think it made the difference in this -- in this election, although it was one, you know, additional complicating factor. Apart from that I think it needs to be really seriously pursued.
PAGEThe Russians aren't going to do this this time and never do it again, right. We need to be prepared to respond in a smarter way than we did in this election.
REHMNorm do you believe that the Russian hacking did make a difference?
ORNSTEINSo when you win the popular vote but lose the Electoral College by an extraordinarily small number of votes, when you know that a switch of -- not just a switch or 60,000 or 70,000 votes, but turnout implications might have given Hillary Clinton 278 electoral votes, a narrow victory reflecting just what Byron said, that she was not a great candidate in an election of change, that she did not excite the same as Barack Obama, but the difference between a Clinton victory by a narrow margin and a Trump victory is profound.
ORNSTEINAnd we know that the stories were framed in the final weeks, we had three or four Senate races decided by one percent or two percent or less that would have changed the majority in the Senate, would have, for example, put Merrick Garland onto the Supreme Court. Now you can parse this out, and when you lose by that close a margin, accepting that it was going to be much closer than a lot of people anticipated, you could point to a dozen things that made the difference in the end.
ORNSTEINCould you say that this was a factor, that if it hadn't been there, or if it had been stopped in its tracks, or if it had been reported and framed in a different way that it might have switched the outcomes in the extraordinarily close races in Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania, yes, I think you can.
YORKWell, and the skeptics would say those Russians were so good that they got Hillary Clinton to ignore Wisconsin and Michigan until it was too late. I mean, these guys are really, really good. The fact is she ran a rather bad campaign in some of these areas, and she took them to -- she took them for granted. Now what we did see in this election, I think what we'll probably see more of, is you saw the states that are really red and really blue getting more so.
YORKSo you see Hillary Clinton winning by four million votes in California. Her Electoral College -- excuse me, her popular vote lead nationally is about three, right, so four million votes in California alone. So you get in these areas that are heavily, heavily Democratic, everybody did, they were agitated, they were motivated, they turned out, but you can't get more than 55 electoral votes out of California right now.
REHMAnd you're listening to the Diane Rehm Show. I want to turn now to some of the appointments that Donald Trump has made, starting with his secretary of state, Susan.
PAGEHere's a -- here's a remarkable fact that I learned today on Twitter, which is that of Donald Trump's top six appointments so far, five of them have no civilian government experience. And that is true even for the biggest prize of all, secretary of state, going to Rex Tillerson. Donald Trump has announced his intention to nominate him, the CEO of Exxon-Mobil, to be the nation's top diplomat.
PAGESo it has really been remarkable the degree to which Donald Trump, himself elected the first president in our history who has neither governmental experience or military command experience, the degree to which he's bringing in a government of senior officials who will bring a similarly fresh approach, his backers would say, or uninformed I guess his critics would say, and definitely a business outlook.
PAGEThat's one thing that has struck me. I think this is the most business -- this is the Cabinet that has drawn from business interests most of any since Eisenhower.
YORKI think it's kind of an intriguing pick, and I'm frankly very anxious to hear from Rex Tillerson at the confirmation hearings. Clearly he's not going to have easy going in the confirmation hearings. We've heard Rand Paul, who's on the Foreign Relations Committee, express some doubts. We've heard Marco Rubio, who is on the Foreign Relations Committee, express some doubts, both Republicans.
YORKOn the other hand, he's widely praised by lots of people. we know for a fact that Robert Gates and Condoleezza Rice suggested him either to Trump or to the Trump team. He does manage a very big organization. I believe Exxon-Mobil has more employees worldwide than the State Department does. And I think -- I think it's an intriguing choice. And as far as the Yeltsin stuff, as far as his views on everything else, to me he's a really blank page, and I'll be very, very interested to see how he does in these hearings.
ORNSTEINSo first I think Susan's point is a really interesting and important one. An awful lot of the people who voted for Trump said we want to blow up Washington, and we're not that concerned about what will follow because it's so awful, and others who thought he'll run it like a business, and now we're going to see we have a grand experiment on that front. With Rex Tillerson, interestingly and mysteriously, last night his Wikipedia entry was changed by taking out the fact that he won the Medal of Friendship, the Order of Friendship from Vladimir Putin and the Russians. And who knows who did that, probably it was the Russians. But we're going to have...
YORKBe sure to tell the foreign relations committee about that, they'll want to know that.
ORNSTEINWe'll have an interesting set of confirmation hearings. Steve Coll, who is a terrific reporter with the New Yorker, used to be with the Washington Post, wrote a book about Exxon-Mobil and its global reach and did a piece in the New Yorker on Tillerson that I found quite unsettling. He's been with Exxon-Mobil for his entire professional career, and this is a company that we know doesn't have much regard for the national interest of the United States.
ORNSTEINIt is a global company that sees itself almost as an entity unto itself. So at different times in the past when the State Department or the government have Exxon-Mobil not to get involved with vicious dictatorships or in countries where we had other kinds of disputes, Exxon-Mobil basically said forget it, we're going to do what we want.
ORNSTEINAnd so whether somebody who's been so inculcated with that culture, who owes so much to that company, will come in and have a mindset that will take it on when necessary, and that includes the Russian sanctions now in place that have damaged Exxon-Mobil with its extremely close relationships with Rosneft, the Soviet or the Russian oil company, these are real questions and there are broader questions about his attitude towards American foreign policy.
REHMNorman Ornstein of the American Enterprise Institute, he's the co-author of "It's Even Worse Than It Looks: How the American Constitutional System Collided With the New Politics of Extremism." Short break here, we'll be right back.
REHMAnd welcome back to a conversation with three in-the-know people who've been around Washington for a long time. Not longer than I, I must say. I was born here. I was raised here. Norman Ornstein, he's been around for a long. Susan Page is Washington bureau chief for USA Today. Byron York is one of my -- was one of my first guests on this program. He's now with The Washington Examiner. Going back to when you were at The Washington Times?
YORKI was at National Review.
REHMNational Review. That's when we first had you on.
REHMAll right. Let's talk about the appointed energy secretary, Rick Perry. And that needs Senate approval.
YORKIt does need Senate approval. And he'll get it, as the former governor of Texas. And he's gonna get an enormous number of jokes about the brain freeze that he had during the debate in 2012, in which he named three -- was going to name three cabinet departments he would want to get rid of. And energy was the one that he couldn't remember.
YORKNow, the more serious question is, well, Governor Perry, if you had remembered and you had gone on record as wanting to get rid of the Energy Department…
REHMSo why are you taking it?
YORK…why do you want to go be the secretary of energy.
YORKAnd I, you know, and he's gonna have to answer that. Now, in terms of just administrative skill and familiarity with the oil industry and all that…
REHMNo, but wait a minute, Byron.
REHMIs he going to walk into that congressional hearing room and say to those who are about to vote for or against him, ladies and gentleman, I think we ought to do away with this department?
YORKWell, this is a dilemma that Republicans have faced in the past because when the Republican president sees they have a Department of Education, they have a secretary of education and Republicans have been talking about getting rid of the Department of Education for as long as it has existed, so this happens with the Republicans. It doesn't happen with the Democrats, but it does happen with Republicans.
YORKAnd they'll come in and say, well, as long as there's gonna be a Department of Energy, we need a steady hand at the helm. We don't need to be imposing crazy regulations on businesses all across America. So I'm gonna do my best for that. So that's basically what he'll say.
PAGEBut, you know, the fact is Trump has named a series of people to jobs heading agencies they would like to dismantle.
PAGERick Perry's an example at Energy. I bet Scott Pruitt, the Oklahoma attorney general who's been named to head EPA, would just as soon do away with the EPA. You look at, even at HUD with Ben Carson, Ben Carson has questioned whether it's a good thing to subsidize housing, whether that fosters dependency. So in that way this is a really conservative administration. And, you know, it's not like they're gonna be able to actually eliminate these departments, but they can make them much less effective.
PAGEThey can make -- they can both repeal regulations or just slow down the implementation, the enforcement of regulations. They can do all kinds of things that undermine the mission of these agencies they have been named to help run.
ORNSTEINSo let me talk a bit about Energy, which is a large and diverse department that deals with things that include extraordinary complex science and nuclear weapons and nuclear power as well. President Obama picked two distinguished scientists, the last one of which won the Nobel Prize in physics. And as somebody noted yesterday, we are going from the head of the physics department to the deputy manager of the phys. ed. department.
ORNSTEINRick Perry had classes in science. Apparently, he got Cs and Ds. Now, he has been a governor and he was a successful governor, reelected a number of times. His knowledge of many elements of what's in the Energy Department, you'd have to say, pales in comparison to his predecessors. But we also have to keep in mind that the transition team in the Trump incoming administration approached the Energy Department and demanded the names of all of those career civil servants who had been involved in any fashion with climate change, which the Department refused to give.
ORNSTEINBut that's a chilling reminder that we're moving to a very different approach to policy and very possibly a purge of a lot of civil servants just because they follow the policies of the previous administration.
REHMWhat do you make of that, Byron?
YORKWell, I wouldn't expect any sort of purge, but it's a Republican administration and it's gonna be different. And I think Republicans believe, for example, that this administration has turned climate change into too big a part of the mission, not just in their Energy Department -- obviously in the EPA, but like Defense Department, NASA is about this. There's a -- they feel that they've made it much too big a part of the executive agencies. And I think, as far as what Susan said, undermining the mission of the agencies, I think they feel that Democrats have inappropriately expanded the missions of the agencies. And they want to bring them back to what they think is a reasonable size.
ORNSTEINI just want to talk a bit about NASA. The most important information we have about climate comes from the satellites that NASA has operated. And we now have a Republican Congress that's tried to cut NASA out of that. So this is not just a war against policy on climate change. I see it as a war against science and something that could have really profound implications. If we turn off the satellites from being able to track what's going on with the climate, it's like blinding yourself when you're gonna have a whole lot of other issues that affect the global economy when it comes to climate.
REHMTalk about the EPA, Susan.
PAGEI was just thinking, as Norm was speaking, you know, there are some big divisions in our society on the basis of states, on the basis of geography, the kind of community in which you live. Also maybe on your belief in science, your belief in climate change. We may be coming to a time when asking the question, do you think climate change is real, is one that tells you a lot about who a person is gonna vote for. And that is new. That is different from the kind of politics that we've had in the past.
ORNSTEINWe're also gonna be, you know, we're not moving from one 45 yard line to the other 45 yard line, in terms of fundamental policies. There are these stark differences that Byron was talking about. And it's really difficult in a democratic, small "D," society when you have a completely divided country, you have a president who got 46% of the popular votes coming in with narrow or Republican margins in Congress and making 180-degree turns in policy. That's not an easy thing to do and to get through without having a lot of repercussions.
YORKWell, I mean, that is the way our system works. Obviously, the White House, they clean the place out. When the president leaves the new administration comes in and that place is just bare. So you build your White House from the ground up. We have political elected, excuse me, nominated and Senate-confirmed leadership in all of the departments, but underneath there is this large bureaucracy that's pretty resistant actually to change. Which is why hugely radical change usually never happens, even though the president wants it sometimes.
YORKSo I think we'll see what direction Trump goes in. And the president does have power to get things done, but he is going to encounter this enormous bureaucracy that doesn't want to do what he wants to do.
REHMAll right. Caller in Cape Cod, Mass. Patty, you're on the air.
PATTYI am. Hi, Diane.
PATTYI was just calling because one of your guests commented that Condoleezza Rice recommended Tillerson, but it's also my understanding that Condoleezza Rice plays a significant role with Exxon Mobil. And that's just my comment.
PAGEYou know, it's true that Condoleezza Rice's consulting firm has had…
ORNSTEINWith Bob Gates.
PAGE…with Bob Gates, has had business with Exxon Mobil. And I think that's a very appropriate thing to point out. Even though I would say that Bob Gates and Condoleezza Rice, I think, would not have recommended Rex Tillerson on the basis that it was gonna do them a little financial good. I think they're people who have kind of proven their loyalty and patriotism to the country. So I take their recommendations at face value.
REHMAll right. To Sarasota, Fla. Elliott, you're on the air.
ELLIOTTYes. Thank you very much. I think you have a very good discussion, good panel, especially Norm Ornstein. And I agree that…
ORNSTEINThank you, Elliott.
ELLIOTT…Russia has had a big hand in this. However, there's one point that the media, I think, has neglected importantly. It's a psychological warfare that was taking place, that the insidious campaign against Clinton has taken place of the last many, many years. And the media didn't pick up on that. Also, when Donald Trump had called her crooked Hillary and right in front of the Al Smith dinner, where he called her corrupt, I think that the media was totally negligent.
ELLIOTTBecause when it comes to corruption, so far there hasn't been a single negative report about Hillary. No -- nothing charged against her. Whereas with Donald Trump, he's been convicted on the phony Trump University. He had to pay $25 million. The media hasn't said a word about his bribery campaign, which he admits openly, he brags about it. He says I give money to Democrats and Republicans and I expect something in return.
ELLIOTTThe attorney general of Florida, Pam Bondi, who is investigating the Trump University, was about to go into the thousands of complaints she had, and she called Donald Trump and he gave her $25,000 for her campaign. Now, that is a book definition of bribery, when you give something to a public official and get something in exchange. Where is the media talking about the corruption of Donald Trump?
YORKWell, a couple of things. One, on the crooked Hillary thing, Trump did show an enormous knack for finding a phrase that seemed to work against opponent, low-energy Jeb, little Marco, and crooked Hillary. He did that and of course he did it in front everybody. On the press coverage, it's something -- and this applies to maybe some of the things we've said earlier in the hour. Perhaps there was exaggerated coverage of Clinton's various ethical issues.
YORKBut it's not as if this was done in the context of overwhelmingly positive coverage about Donald Trump. Coverage of Trump was overwhelmingly negative, ever since he became competitive in the Republican races. If you look at the latest study from Harvard, which I think did five consecutive studies, the Barone Center on this -- on coverage of the campaign, overwhelmingly negative, more so than Clinton.
REHMAnd you're listening to "The Diane Rehm Show." Would you agree with that, Susan?
PAGEI would disagree with Elliott in the -- with the idea that we didn't, we the media, broadly didn't cover things like the Trump University suit. Certainly there was a lot of coverage of that. I think the thing that was surprising was the way it didn't seem to make a difference. That you had investigations into his lawsuits, investigations into abuses connected with his charitable foundation and it didn't undermine his support with voters. And that's the thing that I think was perplexing for a lot of us.
ORNSTEINSo I would just say that, you know, the managers of the different Republican campaigns up in Boston almost assaulted Jeff Zucker of CNN. Because what happened is they gave enormous coverage to Trump. They let him go on by phone, as the networks did, when nobody else could. The image of the campaign to me was when Hillary Clinton was giving a deep, detailed speech about what to do about the working class and middle class struggle with jobs and employment and the three cable networks for more than a half an hour showed an empty podium instead, waiting for Donald Trump to show up so he could parade out the North Dakota delegate who put him over the top.
ORNSTEINSo the nature of the coverage turned negative, but for a long time it legitimized him as a candidate. One small point that people should keep in mind as we look forward, there are dozens of civil suits against Donald Trump. Kellyanne Conway's husband was the lawyer who made the argument in the Paula Jones case that the Supreme Court accepted that presidents could be subject to civil suits. So that may come back to bite her boss.
PAGEAnd in fact, USA Today has done a project tracking the lawsuits at which Donald Trump has either been a defendant or a plaintiff. There have been more than 4,000 of them. He's scheduled to give a deposition in one of them before he's inaugurated. That'll be quite remarkable.
YORKBut on the coverage, I think that one of things we've seen are expressions of frustration from the lords of the media, that we threw everything we had at this guy and it didn't work. And it always works. But this time it didn't work. And I think what it shows is that the growing lack of trust or the diminishing of trust in their organizations that people listen to this stuff. It's not that they didn't hear some of these things about Trump, they just discounted them. They thought they weren't true or they didn't matter.
PAGEHey, were lords of the -- lords -- let me disagree with lords of the media, the idea that there's like a…
YORKI was talking about above your pay grade, you know.
PAGEYeah, well, I'm sure that, but so there's some cabal of media people who decide we're gonna throw everything we have at Donald Trump. By the end of the campaign the media was doing its job in trying to pursue in a serious way the background, the story, the controversies about a person who was competing to be president of the United States. And it wasn't organized and it wasn't inappropriate. And if anything, we should have started earlier than we did because like -- I think many of us did not take Donald Trump seriously enough as a competitor when he first announced his campaign.
ORNSTEINSo two points. One is this is where the Comey letters come in. Because the whole frame of the election changed in the final 10 days away from Donald Trump and his failings to, oh, my God, what other scandals are there here on the Clinton side. But the second point is, in a populist age -- and maybe this will be a larger phenomenon -- we just don't have the willingness of people to trust elites. So you had only two newspapers of significance endorse Donald Trump.
ORNSTEINEvery other newspaper in the country, including ones that had never endorsed a Democrat and always endorsed Republicans took a different position. The two that endorsed Trump were Sheldon Adelson's mouthpiece in Las Vegas. And a Santa Barbara paper run by a strong Trump supporter. And it made no difference whatsoever. People didn't care.
REHMSo now we have an entirely Republican-controlled House and Senate. We have a Republican in the White House. And we presume we will have a Republican -- a conservative majority on the Supreme Court. What's that gonna be like?
YORKI don't know. I -- look, I think that what I was saying before about sort of drawing back the reach of some of the departments is certainly gonna happen. If you have a -- if you substituted a Scalia-like justice for Scalia, then you're gonna have Supreme Court decisions that were roughly the same sort of balance until some other element of the Supreme Court changes. The, you know, as far as Capitol Hill's concerned, the Party that controls the House really controls the House. So that'll stay the same. And the Senate will be the Senate.
REHMAll right. Well, let me take this moment to thank each of you for your ongoing loyalty to "The Diane Rehm Show." Susan Page, you have sat in this chair as much as I have almost. Thank you so much for that.
PAGEThank you, Diane.
REHMByron, thank you for always being willing to come on, even when you knew you were going to be in a minority of opinion. And, Norm Ornstein, your wisdom, your ongoing knowledge, so impressive.
ORNSTEINDiane, I'm gonna speak for all of us and for every other guest and for a huge number of listeners, this is a bittersweet moment for me and for us. This has been the island of civil discourse that is now diminishing almost everywhere else. You are a gem. Thank goodness you're gonna be doing a podcast, but boy, are we going to miss you on this show.
REHMThank you so much. You will love Joshua Johnson and "1-A." Thank you all. Thanks for listening. I'm Diane Rehm.
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