A molecular-biologist-turned-Buddhist-monk says altruism is the answer to many of the world's most pressing challenges. Can concern for others help solve wealth inequality, climate change and world hunger?
The fight intensifies over the administration’s proposed economic policies. Federal economists revise projections on health care spending. And the president voices support for his chief of staff as mayor of Chicago. A panel of journalists joins Diane for analysis of the week’s top national news stories.
- Byron York chief political correspondent, Washington Examiner, and author of "The Vast Left Wing Conspiracy."
- Eleanor Clift contributing editor for "Newsweek."
- Kate Zernike national correspondent, The New York Times.
News Roundup Video
The panelists discuss Florida pastor Terry Jones’ decision not to burn copies of the Koran to mark the anniversary of the 9/11 attacks as he had intended. They explore the media’s role and discuss the controversy’s relationship to a recent debate over the proposed construction of an Islamic center in Lower Manhattan near ground zero:
The panelists discuss the politics surrounding the debate over whether or not to keep the Bush-era tax cuts for individuals making more than $200,000 per year and couples making more than $250,000 per year:
MS. DIANE REHMThanks for joining us. I'm Diane Rehm. President Obama has chosen Austan Goolsbee as the new head of the White House Council of Economic Advisers. Chicago Mayor Richard Daley's decision to resign could leave the White House in a tough spot. And a California judge says the military's ban on openly gay service members is unconstitutional. Joining me for the domestic hour of the Friday news roundup, Eleanor Clift of Newsweek, Byron York of the Washington Examiner and Kate Zernike of The New York Times. We'll invite you to join us as well, 800-433-8850. Send us your e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org. Join us on Facebook or Twitter. Good morning, everybody. Happy Friday.
MS. ELEANOR CLIFTGood morning, Diane.
MR. BYRON YORKGood morning, Diane.
MS. KATE ZERNIKEGood morning.
REHMKate Zernike, welcome to the program.
REHMPresident Obama spent this entire week making big economic proposals. What can we expect in the way of reality to come out of all this?
ZERNIKEWell, I think the Republicans are certainly going to oppose him on this. I think he's expecting this. It's somewhat ironic because these are proposals -- what he's proposing are things right out of the Republican playbook. I think the gamble the president was making is that this is going to tell people, look, it's the Republicans who are obstructing. I'm trying to do something to turn the economy around. They're the ones in the way.
REHMAnd how do you see it, Byron York?
YORKWell, I don't think a lot is going to happen. On the proposal to spend $50 billion building roads, rails, runways, I don't think you'll see that go anywhere. A number of Democrats have said they just don't feel like they can support additional spending on this idea of having -- allowing companies to write off new equipment and expenses. That is something Republicans like very much. The only argument they have against it is they don't like it just being two years. They'd like it to be permanent. I think a number of the critics have said if these were such great ideas, why didn't he propose them earlier? And I think that the purpose of the president's two speeches, you can really see it in one thing he said, which is -- he said, "I'm going to work every day, every minute, every hour on turning our economy around." And I think the president was trying to fight back against this Republican argument that he has not spent the last two years with the economy as his top priority.
REHMSo too little, too late for November, Eleanor?
CLIFTWell, actually the tax write-off, I think he proposed a year ago, and it didn't go anywhere. But too little, too late, he gets that criticism from both his friends and his foes because he should've packaged all this up and made a bigger splash six months ago, a year ago. But I think what he's doing now is trying to set up a clear contrast between the Democratic agenda and the Republican agenda. I think even if he had dressed this up six months or a year ago, I -- he probably wouldn't have gotten any Republican support because they have made a decision to oppose him so they can then run on the argument that the Democrats can't govern. And it's been very successful. I mean, these upcoming elections are really not about the Republicans. They're about the Democrats. And Republicans are just going to sort of stand back and see if the narrative that has taken hold can play out until Election Day.
REHMAnd, Kate, what about his reference to John Boehner multiple times?
ZERNIKEWell, I think he was responding to -- not to say that John Boehner's school yard fight, John Boehner started it, but in some ways John Boehner did start it by criticizing the principal -- the president. And the president very specifically went to Parma, outside of Cleveland, to make his speech and referenced Boehner -- I think it was at least eight times. I think what he's trying to do is say, "If the Republicans take over, this would be your speaker. Do you want these people in charge?" He's trying to really put a face on it the way the Republicans have made Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid the face of the Democrats.
YORKI thought it was slightly odd move. It made the president seem somewhat reactive. He did mention Boehner so many times, and it also tended to elevate Boehner. I mean, the polls have showed about half of the people in the country don't know who Boehner is, and everybody knows who the president is. And putting him on kind of an eye-to-eye level with the president does make -- I think is a mistake in the president. The other thing though is the president is taking a lot of criticism for blaming George W. Bush for the economy. Going after Boehner as somebody who was there for Republican rule and is still around and would be Speaker of the House if Republicans win. He's a much better villain in the sense that he's there and he's alive.
REHMBad move, Eleanor?
CLIFTNo, I think it's one of the few moves the president has left. And that is to try to get the American people to understand what happens if they return to Republican rule, that John Boehner would be the Speaker the House, that he was there for the Gingrich revolution, that in 1995 he was videotaped handing out checks from the tobacco industry on the House floor. He personally smokes. He's very friendly to the tobacco interest and a lot of other special interests, and, I believe he's called global warming a myth. And he basically espouses the same Republican ideas that the president is arguing got us into this ditch. So whether it will work, I'm dubious because I remember when President Reagan tried to run against Tip O'Neill. And Tip O'Neill was this Democratic Speaker of the House, and they caricatured him as this, you know, classic ward politician smoking a cigar, and it really didn't gain traction. But we are in the different media environment today, so it might work.
REHMBut -- and do the Democrats seem to like President Obama's more combative tone, Kate?
ZERNIKEWell, I think they like that the White House is fighting for it. I mean, again about a month ago, we saw Robert Gibbs saying the Democrats were very upset with Robert Gibbs when he said that the Republicans probably -- I don't know if he actually used the word majority, but he certainly said that they was -- were in the realm of possibility. So I think the Democrats like that. What the Democrats don't like are some of these programs that to them sound like more stimulus spending. To Democrats in tough districts, anything that sounds like government spending, stimulus spending is toxic in this environment.
REHMKate Zernike of The New York Times, Eleanor Clift of Newsweek, Byron York of the Washington Examiner. Do join us, 800-433-8850. Certainly, this fight over tax cuts -- I mean, what you call a tax cut, what you call stimulus is very much up in the air.
CLIFTRight. The Republicans are running on the notion that the deficit are out of control, and people are worried about it. At the same time, they want to continue the tax cuts on people making over $200,000 for individuals, $250,000 for couples, which would, I think, cost $700 billion. And they don't apparently consider that spending. So, you know, somebody that I interviewed this week said that, you know, hiring John Boehner as speaker is like buying fire insurance from the guy who lit your house on fire. But are people's memories that short?
CLIFTAnd here's where I do fault the president. I think all along he should have been explaining what the spending was about, why the short-term stimulus spending was necessary. There's a difference between short-term deficits and long-term deficits. He's supposed to be this great teacher, and I think he really missed the opportunity here. And now this -- it's really taking root, that all spending, no matter what it's for, is irresponsible.
ZERNIKENot to mention that the stimulus actually did include some tax cuts, which I think is a point that is often lost in the discussion.
REHMSo how can Republicans be pushing for these tax cuts to be kept across the board when, as the president points out, it would add another $700 billion in spending?
YORKWell, if you go back to February 2009 when the original stimulus was passed, Republican's argument was, well, we can have twice the stimulus for half the price. They were going to cut taxes, and it was going to be four or $500 billion. The point was they were -- the government was going to lose a lot of revenue anyway. Their feeling is that it's -- if you ask them, they'll just say it doesn't makes sense to raise taxes on anybody in a recession. I think this was the week that Obama had to draw a line on extending the Bush tax cuts. And he did draw the line in not wanting to extend them for individuals who make over $200,000 a year, families who make over $250,000.
YORKI personally think he had to do this for his base who he wants to show up to vote in November. Because if you are part of the liberal Democratic base, and you look at the Obama presidency, and you say, well, Guantanamo is still open, we are escalating in Afghanistan, a lot of the Bush National Security policies are still in place. And now we're going to keep the Bush tax cuts. I think that's very discouraging to the Democratic base.
ZERNIKEBut I think it's not just the Democratic base. I mean, Gallup had a poll this morning, saying that a plurality of Americans actually support the idea of rolling back those tax cuts for people who make -- for families who make above $250,000 a year.
CLIFTI think it's a promise that the president made, and I think his position was muddied this week when his former budget director, Peter Orszag, authored a piece in The New York Times, basically advocating for extending all of the tax cuts for two years and then eliminating all of them. Which, you know, may be the correct fiscal policy, but politically, for a president who is trying to connect with the middle class, to tell the middle class, you're going to lose your tax cuts in two years, I think, is not a wise move.
REHMSo what is the president's new top economic adviser -- Austan Goolsbee, how is he likely to enter this fray? Eleanor.
CLIFTI think that he is more liberal than even his predecessor, and I think that...
CLIFTYes. And I think he didn’t get one of the top jobs initially because he was thought to be too liberal. And the president was reaching out to voices that he thought mainstream Democrats and Republicans would have confidence in. So I suspect that he's going to be backing up the president.
REHMWhat do you think, Byron?
YORKI probably agree with that. I think the interesting thing was -- the word about this is that he was the obvious internal choice, and they really didn't have a lot people on the outside who were interested in joining the economic team.
REHMByron York. He is chief political correspondent for the Washington Examiner, author of the "The Vast Left Wing Conspiracy." Short break, we'll be right back.
REHMAnd Sunday, President Obama will not be at Ground Zero for the ceremonies marking 9/11. Why not, Eleanor?
CLIFTWell, I believe he's attending something at the Pentagon. And, I think, if you look back at George W. Bush, he did not go to New York every year either. Although some people are trying to make an issue out of the fact that the president is not going to New York, I don't think it's unusual (unintelligible) in Washington.
REHMIs -- could it be at all connected with the controversy over the mosque?
ZERNIKEWell, I think probably the president is trying to stay away. Having waded into that controversy, he started to -- he quickly tried to wade back out. So he could be trying to stay away from that issue. But I think Eleanor is right, that this is just something that we saw President Bush do, too. And remember, since 9/11, there has been this feeling at the Pennsylvania sites and at the Pentagon, there is often this complaint, we -- this was our tragedy as well.
ZERNIKEIt's not just about New York City.
REHMAnd, now, we bring in a Florida church pastor to this extraordinary...
YORKWell, you know, this is a media story as much as anything. But just on the substance of it, book burning is a very ugly business.
REHMBut don't blame it on the media...
REHM...when Gen. Petraeus gets into it right at the start.
YORKMaybe that wasn't a good idea.
REHMOkay. But don't blame it on the media. Okay?
YORKBut, look, book burning is a very ugly business. It's an ugly act this man has planned and apparently now has called off.
REHMNot necessarily -- suspended.
CLIFTHe's playing the media.
YORKHe suspended it.
CLIFTHe ought to teach a course in media...
YORKBut the question is, in a country of 310 million people, how much attention to pay to something like this. Obviously, it could hurt the United States' image abroad. We saw what happened in the Danish cartoon controversy. There are crowds that get very angry, and there have been -- there was violence. But this is constitutionally protected speech, as the Supreme Court would say, and it's something that -- I think if it were not made such a big deal of, we might not even be talking about it right now.
ZERNIKEI think this is evidence of our viral world. I mean, I think that if the media weren't writing about this, this would be all over the internet. And I think that's where a lot of the Muslim countries would be finding out about it. I mean, I think Gen. Petraeus had to say something. And I think Gen. Petraeus having said something, I think the media had to step in.
CLIFTYes. And I think the FBI, apparently, had been monitoring this for some period of time before it caught on as an issue in this country. It was all over the internet on the jihad sites. Having said that, I think there are laws in Gainesville, Fla. about having a bonfire. Can't the Gainesville Fire Department step in? And also, you're not supposed to cry wolf, cry fire in a crowded theater, and to me this is the equivalent. So I think you could probably find some reason to step in. But I think this guy is all about getting media attention, and I suspect in the end he'll back down.
REHMIt sure sounds that way, but at this point there's an appointment for the pastor to meet with the imam in New York tomorrow.
YORKWell, the pastor came out and made what sounded like just a kooky statement that he, Pastor Jones, had made an agreement with Imam Rauf where he wouldn't burn the Qurans. And then the 9/11 -- the Ground Zero mosque would be moved. That was immediately shot down by the imam. No such deal had been made. And I don't believe that the pastor had framed his international burn a Quran day in terms of the mosque anyway. So here again, he managed to grab onto another story and get more and more attention.
CLIFTHe tried to link it to a very different and serious controversy...
CLIFT...and taking what is really a fringe stunt and trying to cast it in a bigger frame.
REHMSo he's now saying that the representatives of the imam lied to his representatives, and that he's going to now rethink his decision.
ZERNIKEWell, if you listen to the imam who has -- who the pastor said had brokered this whole deal, he said that this mosque thing came up sort of very peripherally, sort of at the end. Oh, by the way, you know, do you think that they'll call off that, you know -- could they call off that mosque in New York City? I mean, this was not a central part.
ZERNIKEI mean, again, this pastor has been talking about this since July, well before we started this debate about the mosque in -- at Ground Zero. And I think this -- it was almost a way to keep the fight going, you know. Hey, there's another good fight in New York City. We can link these two together.
REHMFights all over the place. Kate Zernike is the author of a brand-new book. It's titled "Boiling Mad: Inside Tea Party America." And we heard this week that Chicago Mayor Daley is going to resign. How come now?
YORKWell, we can't read his mind. He's 68 years old. His wife has had cancer for quite a while. It's a serious case. And his popularity is not what it used to be. He's down in the polls. And my personal theory is he is the second longest serving mayor in Chicago, next to his father. And come February, when he leaves office, it'll be just about even. So they will have served almost exactly the same period of time.
ZERNIKEHe's a good son. He doesn't want to outdo his father.
YORKI think there's something of that to it, yes.
REHMSo national political implications, Kate.
ZERNIKEWell, so we know that Rahm Emanuel, who's the president's chief of staff, has said publicly that he would like to run for mayor of Chicago. He's a very politically ambitious guy. He -- to take the chief of staff's job, he gave up his hopes of being Speaker of the House one day. He gave up his seat on the north side -- representing the north side of Chicago in Congress. So it could -- he could very well leave the White House to run for mayor of Chicago. And that would, of course, raise the question of who's going to be Chief of Staff in the White House and what kind of, you know -- he has a very firm -- known for a very firm hand, to say the least. And I think people are wondering who would replace him in the White House.
REHMWell -- and the president has been very supportive of his interest in being mayor.
CLIFTYes. And also the president is probably going to be looking at a very different Congress after the November election and a very different two years in the remainder of his first term -- an optimistic statement. And if you look back at Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton, when they had shakeups and who -- the kinds of chiefs of staff they brought in. President Reagan brought in Howard Baker, a very respected senior lawmaker. Bill Clinton brought in Leon Panetta, who is today the CIA director. So there -- this opens up a lot of possibility for President Obama. Some people have floated Mayor Bloomberg. If Mayor Bloomberg can't be president, maybe he'd like to be the chief operating officer. I think it's a very tough job.
REHMWho else is being thought of?
CLIFTThat's the only name I've heard, but perhaps you...
YORKWell, we've heard about one of the men on the National Security staff, Tom Donilon. We've heard about the -- sort of outside eminences would be John Podesta -- a former Clinton White House chief of staff -- now runs the liberal think tank Center for American Progress. But he said he doesn't want to go back to the White House.
CLIFTAnd he did that for President Clinton.
YORKHe ran Clinton's -- excuse me, he ran Obama's transition. And then there are some others. Tom Daschle is another possibility if you want one of these outside eminences. So it's unclear who he'll pick, but he'll do it after the election.
REHMAnd Karen Tumulty actually mentioned Valerie Jarrett as a possibility.
CLIFTI don't see that as much of a shake-up. And I think if a shake-up is in order, you would have to have somebody with an iron fist inside, maybe Tom Donilon or somebody outside who sends a message that this is going to be a different White House.
ZERNIKEAnother inside candidate would be Pete Rouse, who was Tom Daschle's, I believe, chief of staff, and then was Obama's chief of staff on the Hill, and was often known as the 101st senator because he just got such a history on the Hill and knows people up there. So if you're looking for someone who, again, knows the Hill, knows how it works, someone like that is going to be a more promising choice than someone like Valerie Jarrett who really doesn't have any experience there.
REHMSo what are Rahm Emanuel's chances if he does decide to run?
YORKI was about to mention that. You can't just go to Chicago and say, okay, I'll be your mayor now.
REHMI'll do it. Yeah...
YORKThere are lots of other people, including the sheriff of Cook County, Jesse Jackson Jr., Luis Gutierrez, people who are interested, Democrats interested in running. Chicago has not had a truly contested mayoral election in a long time. This Daley has been mayor for 21 years. So it is a wide-open thing, and there's no guarantee that Rahm Emanuel would end up the leading candidate come election time.
REHMByron, a U.S. District Court judge has said that don't ask, don't tell is unconstitutional.
YORKThis is a District Court judge, not a higher judge, but basically says that there's no basis for the military to force gay members to not reveal their sexuality and that it's an infringement of their constitutional rights. It seems as much as anything, kind of a prod to get Congress to do something. This is something that the president wants Congress to do something about, the defense secretary wants Congress to do something about after he has finished his study, which is still ongoing. But it seems to me that some of the cases out there that judges are making decisions on -- like gay marriage -- this is a case that actually is going to be resolved by congressional action.
REHMSo would you see that the Obama administration would try to appeal the decision?
YORKWell, yeah, they actually, you know, defended the Defense Department in this case. And I think they will continue to do that while they try to get Congress to fix it.
CLIFTBut the House has passed their appeal.
CLIFTThe Senate has yet to act, which are the most famous words always in Washington.
REHMWe've got lots of callers. I'm going to open the phones now. 800-433-8850. Send us your e-mail to email@example.com. First to Cincinnati, Ohio. Good morning, Nelson. You're on the air.
NELSONHi. Thank you.
REHMGo right ahead, sir.
NELSONFirst of all, I'd like to say that Obama, like Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton, appears to not know what hit him. He's been sucker punched by the huge -- this billion dollar Republican propaganda machine which is running the so-called worry and protest over the deficit, which was totally silent while Bush was doing what the Republicans promised they would do, which is drain the American economy to destroy the government.
REHMAll right, sir. Thanks for calling. Eleanor, sucker punched?
CLIFTI think that's a pretty good description, actually. I think the president did come to Washington, having run a campaign about bipartisanship and leaving the politics of the past behind us. And I think he did reach out. And I think he was rebuffed, and he continued to seek bipartisanship on a health care bill, far beyond where it was possible. And the whole messiness of the legislative process, I think, helped turned people off to the kind of presidency that he was running as opposed to the kind of presidency they thought they were getting. So I do think the president has been late to understand the magnitude of the internal opposition that he faces.
YORKWell, if you look at the Peter Orszag article that was mentioned earlier -- I mean, he's very concerned about the deficits not only in the long run but in the sort of intermediate run. So as far as Republicans...
REHMHe being Orszag.
YORKWell, the president is too. The -- as far as the Republicans and the deficits are concerned, it's absolutely true. They did not raise as big a protest with George W. Bush. When I covered the Republican primaries in 2008, everybody -- people at rallies -- everybody would say to me, you know, we've got to get a president who will control federal spending. And that was their way of saying, I don't approve of what George W. Bush -- on the other -- did. On the other hand, in 2007, the federal deficit was less than $200 billion. It would be almost pocket change today.
REHMByron York of The Washington Examiner. You're listening to "The Diane Rehm Show." To Great Falls, Va. Hi there, David. You're on the air.
DAVIDHi. Good morning.
DAVIDI'd like -- I've got a question. In light of the controversy involving the mosque and the involvement of the Tea Party or Astroturf movement, sponsored by the Koch Corporation -- K-O-C-H Corporation, or Koch Industries -- and the spokesmen such as Sarah Palin, Dick Armey and Glenn Beck, where do they stand on the follow-up controversy involving the Florida preacher?
ZERNIKEI think there's a lot to untangle there. First of all, I think the Tea Party movement has certainly been organized by a lot of these groups. I don't think you can say that it's a complete Astroturf movement. Groups like Americans for Prosperity, which the Koch Industry or the Koch Foundation funds, and groups like FreedomWorks, they have been trying to build a grassroots movement for years. They have not been able to. What allowed them to do so was the economy cratering and concern about stimulus and deficits. I don't know -- I don't think people like Sarah Palin and Glenn Beck have come out on this pastor in Florida. I think it's a lot more difficult for them to come out on this than it is for them to come out against the mosque at Ground Zero.
YORKActually -- I'm sorry. If I could add one thing?
ZERNIKEActually, I think Sarah Palin has...
YORKPalin and, I believe, Beck, have both criticized it.
ZERNIKEOkay. Sorry, I didn't...
REHMMm hmm. Criticized it.
YORKOr condemned it, whatever.
REHMOkay. All right. Thanks for calling, David. To Patrick in Dallas, Texas, you're on the air. Patrick, are you there?
PATRICKYes, I am here. Hello?
REHMGo right ahead, sir.
PATRICKOkay. My question is -- they gave a tax cut to the -- Bush gave a tax cut from the beginning of his year. For eight years, we have these tax cuts. What kind of job did that tax cut create for American people? If that -- if he created any job, why are we in the mess in the first place?
CLIFTYeah, the first decade is called the lost decade when it comes to creating jobs. I think Bush had negative -- overall negative job creation. So no, those tax cuts did not spur an economy that created additional jobs.
REHMFair point, Byron?
YORKIt is although I would point -- take you back to the 2000 presidential race in which the burning issue is what are we going to do with our incredible huge federal surplus? That was the argument between Al Gore and George W. Bush. Bush proposed a tax cut, which I think was a reasonable response to that. When the economy went into a slump as he went into office, they stayed with the tax cut. And then they blamed the deficit on a combination of 9/11 tax cuts and the tech bubble bursting, which really did reduce a lot of federal revenues. So as a job creator, it was not a job creator. No doubt about it. But it began as a reasonable response to the economic situation of the time.
ZERNIKEBut then we started two wars, and I think you have to ask whether there, it was a reasonable response when that's all going on as well.
CLIFTI agree with Kate. And I would also point out that Al Gore wanted to put that money in a lockbox, you remember?
CLIFTFor the rainy day which began rather quickly.
REHMAnd Social Security.
CLIFTThat's right, that's right.
REHMAnd none of that happened, Byron.
YORKIt did not. I mean Bush won the election, and he got the tax cut with substantial Democratic support too.
REHMByron York, he is chief political correspondent for The Washington Examiner, author of "The Vast Left Wing Conspiracy." Short break now, and after that, we'll take more of your calls, your e-mail, your questions. Stay with us.
REHMWelcome back to the Friday news roundup this week with Kate Zernike of The New York Times. She has a new book out titled "Boiling Mad: Inside Tea Party America." Eleanor Clift is with Newsweek. Byron York is with the Washington Examiner. Here's an interesting e-mail from Kelly in Arlington, Va. who says, "With all the media coverage of Pastor Jones' plans for international burn-a-Quran day, why aren't you and the rest of the media providing at least some balance by discussing the international buy-a-Quran day movement that started on Facebook?" Have you heard about this?
YORKNews to me.
REHMOkay. Buy a Quran. Let's go now to Dack in Chapel Hill, N.C. You're on the air, sir.
DACKGood morning. My comment is in response to, I believe, Ms. Clift's comments regarding the ruling by a district court judge in California regarding don't ask, don't tell policy of our military. I believe Ms. Clift supposed that it was sort of an effort to prod Congress into rescinding the policy. And I would be curious to hear whether or not she thinks that's an appropriate role for a district court judge to play and whether it might be considered by some as an example of judicial usurpation.
YORKI'm often confused for Eleanor.
YORKI'm the one who said that. I believe it is an effort on the part of the judge to do that, and I believe it's wholly inappropriate. I think that's the wrong role for a judge to play.
REHMI hope that answers it, Dack. Let's go to Kevin in Long Island, N.Y. Good morning, you're on the air.
KEVINGood morning, Diane. I'm a huge admirer of your show.
KEVINI have two questions. I guess the first one could go to you. The rest could go to the panel. The first one is about the pastor. And you had mentioned before that it's not a media creation. It shouldn't be blamed as a media creation. But I don't understand how a small-time pastor, with less than 50 people following him, with no money, no political connection, who has been doing this for years, who now has the president saying his name. How is this not a media creation?
REHMKevin, I'm having a little bit of a hard time understanding you, but I get the drift of what you're saying. What I said was that early on, Gen. Petraeus called Pastor Jones and urged him not to burn the Quran, not to...
REHM...push this movement forward. Once that happened, yes, the media...
REHM...did begin to follow it. I think the media, like everybody else, however, has a short attention span. So this may go...
KEVINAnd I do understand...
REHM...more quickly than you think.
KEVINI do understand the Petraeus part.
REHM...go on to the next point, please.
KEVINI guess the next question is am I the only person who is a little uncomfortable having somebody being told not to exercise their First Amendment right in order to protect the truth?
YORKWell, I mean, this is an issue. And you think, here again, that this is constitutionally protected speech. And for the president to go on television -- he was asked, but he doesn't have to answer it -- he said -- he asked that this not be done. He has the secretary of defense call the pastor. Clearly, they're leaning on the pastor not to do this. Do I think it has crossed a line in violating his First Amendment rights? No, I don't think so. It would be better if the media had simply made editorial decisions not to elevate this guy.
REHMHere's an e-mail from Kimble in Englewood, Ohio who says, "The Republicans' supposed compromise on extending tax cuts for the rich for another two years is a Trojan horse. Their intention is to get them extended to January 2013 when they hope a new Republican president would take over and extend them permanently." Byron.
YORKThey want to extend the tax cuts permanently. I think there's no doubt about it. Their argument now is that it doesn't make sense to raise taxes in a recession. But I feel certain that they would not be in favor of raising taxes at some later date even.
CLIFTRight. They're not making a secret of that. I mean...
CLIFT...it's out there. That's their position, is that they should be made permanent.
REHMAll right. To Jacksonville, Fla. Hi there, George. You're on the air.
GEORGEYes, thank you. It's surprising to -- well, not surprising, given the press' usual bend. But it's amazing how little play this government study about the cost of health care is actually going to increase per person as opposed to if nothing would have been done. And I think this just shows that, you know, people -- that you see the Democrats running away from this health care plan like crazy. And another example of, you know, what happens when you rush through legislation.
GEORGEIn Nancy Pelosi's famous words, "Everybody will love it when they see what's in it." Well, here we go. Costs more money, people don't like it. And the press -- at least the willing press, seems to be -- yeah, they've mentioned it, but they downplay it. In fact, on this panel, it hardly came up, and you don't see big stories about it. But it's a huge story. It was the most major piece of legislation that Obama was touting, and lo and behold, it cost more than he planned.
ZERNIKEI believe that the legislation is very defensible. If nothing was done, costs would have gone up. And citizens would have had no assurances that they could not -- insurance companies couldn't cut them off if they got sick. And a lot of the abuses are going to be outlawed under the legislation.
REHM...what's happening, Eleanor. That the premiums are going up because insurers say, that in order to cover the mandates, they've got to charge customers more.
CLIFTThey're anticipating a flood of new people coming, and they should be because people are going to be required to have health insurance. They're anticipating many new people coming on their rolls, and they're raising the rates and saying that this is what they need to do to cover this. But I think we also need to establish just what the costs are. They were projected to go up 6.1 percent had nothing happened. This new report says they'll go up 6.3 percent. It's a marginal increase.
YORKBut that does indicate that the cost curb has not been bent downward as the Obama administration hoped. And as far as the insurance companies are concerned, starting very soon they're going to not be able to impose lifetime or annual caps on coverage and not be able to screen for pre-existing conditions, at least with children. This is going to cost them some money. There's no doubt about that. And they're saying that in response to that, they have to raise their rates.
CLIFTThey can make it up in volume. They're going to get a lot of new...
YORKThat's in 2014.
CLIFT...patients, and -- yes -- and the cost curve will be also bent going into the future when the preventive requirements kick in.
REHMSo there are clearly two views on this because Congressman Pete Stark said that insurers are using the consumer protections in health reform as a cover for their own greed. Kate.
ZERNIKEI think that's right. You know, it's the most telling -- to me, what's most telling about this is if you look, actually, at the governor's race in Florida where Rick Scott won the Republican primary, Rick Scott is a big health insurance -- former health insurance executive. He was -- ran his company when it was guilty of the largest Medicare fraud in history. And I think a few years ago, had this person tried to run for governor, he would have been laughed out of the race because there was so much anger at health insurance companies. The anger now is over government trying to take over health insurance. That, to me, is the interesting shift here, is that we don't hear so much anger at the health insurance companies anymore.
YORKAnd the fundamental problem with all of this is that people like me did not believe during the health care debate, that you could insure 30 or 32 million currently uninsured people and save money in the process -- spend less in the process. Nobody believed it, and I don't think it's going to turn out to be true.
CLIFTWell, again, I think that this administration has a case to make that this -- was -- is an important historic achievement. And I think it will be -- will go down in history as that, but it's going to take a while. And the administration, again, has not made its case as forcefully as it should have.
ZERNIKEAnd I think the provisions against not -- put against -- not being able to strike people with pre-existing conditions, those are things that are popular with the American public.
REHMAbsolutely. And holding your young child on your roll until age 26 -- certainly another popular aspect. George, I'm glad you raised this. It was on my list. Thanks for calling. To Boston, Mass. Good morning, Mary. You're on the air.
MARYYes. Good morning and thank you. I enjoy your program very much.
REHMI'm so glad.
MARYI just want to say I'm an independent voter, and so I can -- you know, I feel objective listening to both sides -- Republican, Democrat and anywhere in between. But the more I listen, the more I keep thinking that the GOP and Wall Street are, quote, unquote, "in bed," when it comes to boosting the economy for the middle class. And I say that because Wall Street banks and companies were rescued by the top program -- the taxpayers. And I'm just thinking as to why are the banks and companies sitting on these record profits, big CEO salaries, and yet no jobs have been created? I mean, they've got the money to do so. Why don't they do that? That can be a question to one of your panelists, but it's mostly a statement.
MARYAnd the other thing with health care, people aren't giving things time to work out. I think that -- give it two years, four years -- they'll be saying, oh, this is great. Why didn't we do this sooner? That's all I have to say. I'm just so frustrated sometimes with listening to politics. I really want to turn it off. But I want to make sure they put the right person in office. Thank you.
REHMI understand your frustration totally. Eleanor.
CLIFTWell, I would just mention that the reason for the TARP spending was to rescue an economy that people in both parties thought was imploding and that would have affected the global markets, and that that money was appropriated under President Bush, and that most of it has been paid back with interest. It really was a good deal although it is seen by the American people as a toxic program.
YORKWell, this -- I think it was almost the beginning of the Tea Parties in the sense that you had this situation in which all sorts of people were telling the president -- Bush at the time -- that the world was going to end unless he poured $700 billion in. And we need to pour $700 billion, and they had a three-page proposal. I mean, it was very undetailed. And they were going to buy these troubled assets. And then somebody said, well, maybe we shouldn't do that. Maybe we should just put it directly in the banks.
YORKThe message that people got is that the government did not know what to do. They threw around an enormous amount of money in an incredibly quick time, and it ended up going all to the big banks. So it has not helped anybody who voted for it.
CLIFTYeah, but the big banks did pay it back with interest.
REHMAny other comment, Kate?
ZERNIKENo. I would agree with Eleanor.
REHMAll right. Let's go to St. Louis, Mo. Good morning, Larry.
LARRYGood morning, Diane. First time caller, long time listener of your show.
REHMGlad to have you.
LARRYMy question -- so I'm sort of piggybacking on what one of the other callers said before. And that was that, you know, I listen to a lot of news, both from liberal news and Fox radio, TV, conservative news, and it's very frustrating. And because I'm a -- a student of politics, it seems to me that they're both covering fringes on both sides. And politics, as my understanding, is the art of compromise. And no one seems to want to compromise. Are there any adults in Washington...
LARRY...that can figure this out? (word?) this is how we get legislation done.
REHMLarry, I think that's a great question and a question lots of people around the country are asking. Are there any adults in Washington? Byron.
YORKWell, first of all, the president and Democrats have gotten a lot done. I mean, the health care should be their signature achievement. Maybe they're not campaigning on it now, but it was a huge thing. The Democrats are going to do it for a generation. Now, on the issue of polarization, if you look back, this has been going on for a few decades now. If you look back...
REHMBut it's got much, much worse.
YORKIt wasn't great in the Reagan years. If you -- but if you look back and see the number of lawmakers who get perfect 100 ratings from the American Conservative Union and from the Liberal Americans for Democratic Actions, that number is increasing and increasing and increasing. And the number of people who are in the middle are fewer. We're just in a very partisan cycle that could break at sometime. But right now, it's not going to change.
REHMAnd you're listening to "The Diane Rehm Show." Kate.
ZERNIKEWell, I was going to say first of all, the Reagan years -- I mean, Reagan talked a lot about having -- you know, that he and Tip O'Neil disagreed during the day, and at 5:00 they had a beer together. So I don't think we see the president and John Boehner doing that. I think what's got -- what's happened is -- what's different now is the internet. And also we have a much more polarized cable news environment. And so everyone has their own echo chamber that they can retreat to, and it reinforces their beliefs. And they don't really ever have to meet an opinion that they don't agree with.
REHMTo Indianapolis, good morning, Ray.
RAYThank you. I believe Mr. York characterized Bush's deficits as a pittance compared to Obama's, and I'd like to point out that Bush funded two wars as supplemental funding off-budget. And I think one of the reasons our deficit is so high is that Obama has put that back on the budget, and so I'd appreciate a comment about that.
YORKActually, I disagree with that. I was talking about the 2007 deficit. And if you look at the deficit from '01, '02, '03, '04, '05, '06, '07, it's really quite low. In 2007, it was trending down and goes up in 2008 and then through the roof in 2009. I think there is an idea that somehow Bush paid for the wars with secret money, and it's not on, you know, on the books. If -- I've talked to people at the Congressional Budget Office about this -- if you look at their figures for the deficits for every year, it includes all federal outlays and receipts -- the regular deficit. So the deficit figures from the Bush years include the cost of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
CLIFTWell, here's where I agree with the Tea Party people. I think President Bush exploded the deficit. He started with a surplus. He added two wars, one totally unnecessary. He paid for -- he had a prescription drug program for seniors that he didn't pay for. And so he set the stage of the beginning anger against the Tea Party, which is why the Tea Party is not all that happy with Republican leadership either.
ZERNIKEAbsolutely. That's true. And if you -- you know, if you talk to Tea Party, there is -- they'll tell you that it's not that -- look, I think people always say, well, why didn't the Tea Party come up during the Bush years? This is proof that this is just all about a black president. I think what happened was, this was growing, and then the economy cratered. And so it really peaked there, and then we had the bailouts that, of course, did begin under President Bush. And then we had the stimulus, and people got very scared about where are we going to get this money. Our deficits are already rising.
REHMAnd one piece of good news, the Commerce Department has said, wholesale inventories rose in July, best performance since July of 2008, triple the increase the economists had expected. Businesses are now restocking depleted store shelves. And that is seen as a major upswing in the economy, helping to alleviate fears the country could be in danger of slipping into another recession.
REHMSo we'll end on that bit of good news. Eleanor Clift, Kate Zernike, Byron York, thank you all so much. Happy Friday.
REHMEnjoy your weekend, everyone. I'm Diane Rehm.
ANNOUNCER"The Diane Rehm Show" is produced by Sandra Pinkard, Nancy Robertson, Susan Nabors, Denise Couture and Monique Nazareth. The engineer is Tobey Schreiner. Dorie Anisman answers the phones. Visit drshow.org for audio archives, transcripts, podcasts and CD sales. Call 202-885-1200 for more information. Our e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org, and we're on Facebook and Twitter. This program comes to you from American University in Washington. This is NPR.
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