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?
Both parties prepare for the final stretch of the midterm campaigns. A federal judge halts the military’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy. And bank foreclosures reach a new high. A panel of journalists joins Diane for analysis of the week’s top national news stories.
- Chris Cillizza author of The Fix, a Washington Post politics blog, and managing editor of PostPolitics.com.
- Michael Duffy assistant managing editor, TIME magazine.
- Janet Hook Congressional correspondent, The Wall Street Journal.
News Roundup Video
The Diane Rehm Show (http://88-5.us/dfJ5Fv): The panelists discuss a federal judge’s ruling to halt the military’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy:
The panelists respond to a listener’s comment, indicative of many similar comments the show received, revealing discontent with the news that the government won’t increase social security benefits in 2011:
MS. DIANE REHMThanks for joining us. I'm Diane Rehm. The Justice Department asked a federal judge to temporarily suspend her order barring the military from enforcing the Don't Ask, Don't Tell law. Heated debates took place between U.S. senatorial candidates in that in Delaware this week. And this morning, Fed Chair Ben Bernanke said the central bank is preparing to do more to stimulate the sluggish economy. Joining me for the national hour of the Friday News Roundup, Michael Duffy of TIME magazine, Janet Hook of The Wall Street Journal, Chris Cillizza of The Washington Post. And throughout the hour, I'll look forward to hearing your questions and comments on the week's events. Give us a call, 800-433-8850. Send us an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org. Join us on Facebook or Twitter. Good morning, everybody.
MR. CHRIS CILLIZZAGood morning, Diane.
MR. MICHAEL DUFFYGood morning.
MS. JANET HOOKGood morning.
REHMMichael Duffy, what impact does Fed Chair Ben Bernanke's statements about doing more from the Fed to shore up the economy? What does all that mean?
DUFFYDiane, it depends on your definition of more. We're in the era of what is called the QE2, quantitative easing, round two. A year ago, if we have been talking here today, we would all know that Ben Bernanke as a chairman of Fed had used all kinds of new and different unconventional instruments, ways to sort of step in to the financial securities markets and buy up government securities, commercial paper, all kinds of things, as a way to lower interest rates. But at the end of last year, Bernanke said, I'm done. I've done all I need to do. We've restarted this. We've kicked -- started the economy. And now, a year later, it's pretty clear -- and Bernanke has been forthright about it, saying, no, we may have to do this again. In fact, we are going to do it again.
DUFFYAnd this morning, in the speech in Boston, he said, we're just trying to figure out how much we have to do, because it's quite controversial to go back, and he didn't want to do it. The idea though, of course, is if he goes back, and if the Fed goes back into the market and buys more securities and government securities, in particular, he will, in theory, drive down into straights, which will supposedly stimulate commercial and private borrowing and lending by the banks. As you know, that hasn't happened in the rates. We'd like to have had it happen over the last year. Bernanke's going to take another swing at it.
REHMMichael Duffy, he is assistant managing editor of TIME magazine. Also, on the horizon, foreclosures, more of them. Are we in crisis, Chris Cillizza?
CILLIZZAWell, Diane, the numbers would suggest we're -- I don't want to be an alarmist. I don't want to say we're in crisis. We're certainly approaching crisis levels. You had over 100,000 foreclosures in September, more than 800,000 between July and September. Simultaneously, with the foreclosures, you also have banks and large lending agencies re-examining their procedures based on something called robo-signing, that the lawyers who were involved in these foreclosures are supposed to be there to sign the legal papers to say, yes, I witness this. Well, turns out that lots and lots and lots of them, in fact, were not there. It puts the federal government in a very difficult place in that they don't want to stop foreclosures. They need to -- they don't want them to back up. They need them to move through the system. But at the same time, if there is a major problem with the way in which foreclosures are being done in this country, that's a problem, too. Ten-thousand foot view, the housing industry, foreclosures is a huge part of the economy.
CILLIZZATo Michael's point, we've seen Ben Bernanke, Congress, literally almost every agency that you could possibly think of, try to goose this economy in some meaningful way. It is not -- and the Obama administration, I think, would admit it -- is not responding in the way they had hoped. The question is, do they have public support? Maybe they'd do it, even if they don't. But do they have public support to try this again and prove that it will work?
REHMChris Cillizza of The Washington Post. He is the author of The Fix, a Washington Post politics blog, managing editor of PostPolitics.com. So, now, Janet Hook, we've got charges being investigated about banks who did not do due diligence in these foreclosures moving forward.
HOOKThat's right. And you've got this -- attorney generals in all 50 states looking into potential wrongdoing and fraud in this case, which guarantees that it's really a live issue that is being focused on across the country and actually having real impact on the -- on all kinds of purchases around the country because by -- if you freeze foreclosures, a lot of the transactions in process get frozen as well.
REHMSo do we have any bright spots right now in the economy?
DUFFYWell, I was just going to say about the foreclosures, it would be really easy to get a little worked up about this, but we have to mindful of one thing. As far as I can tell, Diane, looking at the reports this morning, it's hard for me to see whether anyone who has -- despite these problems with the way these documents were signed -- anyone has, so far, been improperly foreclosed upon, there are not any wrongful foreclosure cases that have emerged that I can find though the reports of the process being badly handled, and the automatic signings and the mortgage service companies doing things way too quickly. I think the larger point that you -- that is worth making is that there's so much distrust in general in America with the banking system, that a report about 5,000 foreclosure documents being signed today adds to the further -- this is not going to go to the silver lining question. It's an opposite -- the further distrust Americans have in the way the thing is structured. It's complicated. We don't really know who these folks are, and so that continues.
REHMBut the question still remains, could or what could this mean for people whose homes had been foreclosed, and now that paperwork is being called into question?
CILLIZZAWell, I think to Michael's point, there is no evidence of widespread wrongdoing as it relates to these foreclosures, but what looks to be sort of a process by which the rules were not followed...
CILLIZZA...that does not mean these people were wrongly foreclosed upon. I mean, I think that's an important distinction. The fact that procedure was not followed is important and worth noting and worth correcting, and I think people are doing everything that they can to figure out how widespread this is, and how do we fix it? That doesn't mean, however, that we're talking about large numbers of people who should not have had their houses foreclosed upon. I do think Michael's point is the most important one, Diane, when we think of this broadly, which is people distrust institutions broadly -- Congress, President Obama, banks, big business. This will further erode that trust because they feel as though the people who are supposed to be paying attention and supposed to know the rules aren't following. Even if there isn't sort of that wrongdoing aspect of it, it will erode public confidence in us getting back on track.
REHMAll right. And let's make sure to invite our listeners to join us, 800-433-8850. Janet Hook, what did the Justice Department do yesterday about this Don't Ask, Don't Tell policy?
HOOKWell, this is a really interesting situation because the question of the military's policy with regard to homosexuals called Don't Ask, Don't Tell, in essence, the courts are now doing what Congress wasn't able to do, which is to repeal the policy which has been in place for a long time. They've tried to vote on it in the Senate, and it didn't pass yet -- it may yet in the lame duck session of Congress. So as a matter of law, the courts have stepped in and said that this policy shouldn't be implemented, and then there was a restraining order...
REHMAnd it's unconstitutional.
HOOKYes, yes. It's unconstitutional, and then there was a court action to halt the Justice -- the Pentagon from implementing the policy. Now, the Justice Department is in this interesting position, which is that the administration supports the repeal of Don't Ask, Don't Tell. But it's the Justice Department's responsibility to uphold current law. So the Justice Department is appealing a decision that, as a matter of policy, the administration supports.
REHMNow, yesterday when we talked about this, there were a number of e-mailers who said simply, why doesn't the Obama administration do nothing about this and simply leave it to the Congress? Why did the Justice Department have to step in? Or did they?
CILLIZZAWell, theoretically, Diane, I mean, I think Janet is right, that the Justice Department's job is broadly to defend or, you know, stand up for...
REHMThe law as is...
CILLIZZA...established law as is, regardless of the position of the broader administration. That said, I don't think that they are under legal obligation to repeal -- I'm sorry, to appeal this finding -- this judge's finding. They're in a -- you know, it's a very dicey, political...
CILLIZZA...situation. I've -- you know, I -- obviously my bias is to tend to see through a political lens almost always. But I would say, when you are this close to an election on an issue that is this divisive -- and I would point out, while there is growing support for gay marriage and broader gay rights in the country at large, particularly among young people, it is still a galvanizing issue among social conservatives. They are vehemently opposed to the overhaul of Don't Ask, Don't Tell. It can be, at least for a small segment of the voting population on that Republican right, a voting issue, and I think that's part of a calculation that's going on here. There is always political calculation when we're seven -- 18 days from an election.
REHMSo, Michael Duffy, what's the immediate impact on American troops?
DUFFYOh, I think the Pentagon has announced this morning that for the moment, pending the appeal, it won't actually advance any prosecutions of people under Don't Ask, Don't Tell. So that's the immediate impact. To me, what's interesting is, I think, the White House knows that they don't have the votes to appeal this in the Congress, and they're not going to get more numerous after November.
REHMHmm. Even in a lame duck session.
DUFFYNo, even -- certainly not. And I also think -- well, that's the story.
REHMMichael Duffy of TIME Magazine. Janet Hook of The Wall Street Journal. Chris Cillizza of The Washington Post. Do join us. We'll take a short break. Stay with us.
REHMAnd we're back with the domestic hour of our Friday News Roundup this week with Janet Hook of The Wall Street Journal, Chris Cillizza of The Washington Post, Michael Duffy of TIME Magazine.
REHMInteresting that we've gotten several e-mails from people who say they're concerned about the lack of an increase in Social Security benefits for the second straight year. Now, this goes directly to this new poll which tells us that 57 percent of independents say the federal government has the wrong priorities, 53 percent of independents say the government has not really helped their families, 71 percent of independents say someone in their family has received unemployment benefits, mortgage interest credit, or Medicare, Medicaid or Social Security payments in the past two years. Michael Duffy, what is this poll all about?
DUFFYWell, unhappiness with the lack of a Social Security benefits increase goes also to Ben Bernanke's speech this morning when he said that one of the reasons we're going to do the qualitative -- quantitative easing is because inflation is so low. And the reason they're not -- there is not a Social Security cost-of-living increase is because inflation is so low. So all of this is, you know, of a piece and makes sense, but American's attitudes about governments have never, Diane, never been more complicated and contradictory. You know, we don't like Washington, but where is our COLA increase? We don't like the government, but I sure don't want to cut Medicare or Social Security or Medicaid. The Harvard/Kaiser poll that was in the Post early this week is just a riot of contradiction between what Americans expect from Washington and what they feel they're not getting.
HOOKWell, I think that this announcement that there probably won't be a Social Security COLA fuels that kind of schizophrenic attitude because, on the one hand, people are saying, well, I don't like government, but I want my COLA. On the other hand, they see the government spending, you know, billions of dollars on auto bailouts and, you know, the stock market. And so -- but I can't get my COLA? And in terms of the impact that government has on people's lives, probably those, you know, cash checks and the actual -- the Social Security program touches people's lives more directly than just about anything. For those people who receive it, it's part of their fixed income. So I'm not surprised that you're hearing a lot of reaction from callers. And I totally agree with Michael, though, that the people's attitudes towards government are so complicated, but it's episodes like this that, I think, probably fuel it.
REHMYou know what's interesting as the government measures inflation? Is not food accepted from that inflation measure? I think so. Let's check it because I think people who are on Social Security are worried about the price of food going up and yet not getting that COLA increase.
CILLIZZAYou know, Diane, I think that it's tied to -- I think you look at the questions and the e-mails you're getting about the Social Security increase. You look at the Kaiser Poll that was in the Post. I think it's tied -- that people's feelings about government are tied to this sort of broader scale anxiety, I think, that they feel about their situation. When we talk about this, when we talk about the economy all the time, which is this self-fulfilling prophecy, people don't feel confident enough about things. They don't go out and spend money. They don't look for a new car. They don't look for new houses. As a result, the economy feels sluggish.
CILLIZZAAs a result, they don't go out and look. You know, I mean, it's this never-ending cycle of perception. And I think that what you've seen over the last two years -- I think a lot of people poured a lot of hope -- and I choose that word carefully -- into Barack Obama as the anxiety alleviator...
CILLIZZA...someone who could change things in a meaningful way. He has not done it to the extent that they'd hoped. And it has left them, I think, feeling economic anxiety, anxiety about the future. And I think that's reflected in what you see as a widespread distaste for government and what government is doing for them and with them.
REHMAnd just to clarify, core inflation is a measure of inflation which excludes certain items that do face volatile price movements, notably food and energy. So...
DUFFYAnd there's evidence this week that food prices are going up, and you made that point.
DUFFYI think there's another decision by the EPA that will affect that this week when it decided that the amount of ethanol in gasoline...
DUFFY...would increase from 10 to 15 percent. That means that the prices of, particularly corn, are going to be going up. And already, I think, this week there were reports that there were problems with wheat harvest. So there are -- there is concern about food prices going forward.
CILLIZZAAnd that, of course, is -- you know, the thing that affects people most are the things that affect them on a daily basis.
CILLIZZAI mean, that's why we always say, you know, pocketbook issues. It's -- you know, it's a little bit of a cliché, but it's absolutely 100 percent true. You go to the gas pump, and it costs more, or your food costs more. And you feel like your dollar isn't being -- you're stretching your dollar more and more. Those are the kind of things that affect people on a daily basis.
HOOKWell, and as a political matter, the elderly voters who are receiving the Social Security checks and not getting their COLAs right now is when both parties really want them on their side.
REHMAnd if you'd like to join us, 800-433-8850. Let's talk about the changing dynamics we're seeing in some of the most prominent races out there -- for example, Senate Nevada race. Chris.
CILLIZZADiane, I -- affirming my political nerd-dom -- spent my nine to 10 o'clock hour last evening watching on C-SPAN the Nevada Senate debate between Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and assemblywoman, Tea Party favorite, Republican, Sharron Angle. I was struck by lots of things. The thing I was most struck by was, to be totally frank, how poorly each of them did. It looked more like a debate for the State House or the State Senate. And to be honest, I may be insulting...
CILLIZZA... State House legislators at this point.
REHMGive me an example.
CILLIZZABoth of them -- Sharron Angle -- look, this is understandable. This is by far the biggest stage Sharron Angle has ever been on. She knows there were tons of national media there. She knows that lots of people are watching. And this debate was important for her to show that she was a credible, serious person. She was as nervous as I have ever seen a political figure be at a debate. At the beginning of the debate, she appeared to be sort of gasping for breath, which you -- as someone who has been nervous plenty of times on television and radio, I understand that feeling. But, I would say, it was remarkable to see.
CILLIZZAHarry Reid is someone that has a reputation for not being particularly good as a public speaker. I thought he repeatedly referenced Senate arcana. He talked about the seat, the Congressional Budget Office multiple times. I would guess that if you polled voters in Nevada, 90 percent of them have no idea what the CBO is.
DUFFYOr anywhere else.
CILLIZZARight. Yeah, right. It's not unique to Nevada. I don't want to get those angry calls from Nevada. But he -- his closing statement, he was kind of taken aback, had to shuffle through papers to find it. It just felt like an unpracticed performance by someone who you expected more from, I think. I think Sharron Angle had a very low bar. I think she cleared that very low bar, not by much, but I think she cleared that very low bar. I think we're headed to what could be the closest Senate race in the country in 18 days time.
HOOKYes. I also was nerdy enough to watch the debate last night.
CILLIZZAI'm not the only one.
HOOKI confess. I confess. And it was really quite remarkable. And I also watched a little bit of the Delaware debate between the two Senate candidates there, both of whom are newcomers -- well, newcomers to the national stage. Chris Coons is the Democratic candidate. And Christine O'Donnell is the much discussed Tea Party-backed candidate there. And in both cases, I thought it was really interesting because these debates were essentially the closing argument for these campaigns...
HOOK...in the states. But for the -- most voters, it was the first time they met these candidates, and they made quite a striking impression in all the news reporting leading up to it. But this was the first time that most people got to hear them at length.
REHMMichael Duffy, how much is the Tea Party influencing these races across the country?
DUFFYWell, it's quite probable come November that there will be three, maybe four, and depending how this races comes out, perhaps more senators in the U.S. Senate who will have Tea Party sympathies. Someone involved in the House leadership told me that he expects upwards of 80 to 100 new members, some of whom would -- you know, were Republican seats before, of course, some would be new. People who will arrive in Washington in January who ran 100 percent Tea Party campaigns for Republican leaders, who are running these chambers perhaps next year or even as minority leaders, this poses a huge management challenge because all of these folks are basically running at -- it's cutting the very programs we talked about a minute ago, and for a party that really has no recent history of cutting them.
REHMAnd how is Nancy Pelosi figuring into any or all of the races, Janet?
HOOKYes. You would think that Nancy Pelosi was on the ballot in 200 House races. Her name comes up so often in campaign ads, mostly Republican ads trying to discredit Democratic candidates because she -- her liberal record and profile is seen as a big liability to conservative Democrats. And I don't know how effective it's going to be, but it's striking that she is cited as the -- she is the demonized character of the Democratic Party much more than President Obama is.
CILLIZZADiane, just very quickly, one of the guys who works for me, a guy named Aaron Blake, did a -- he had the task of going through all of the ads being run by the National Republican Congressional Committee. This is the House campaign arm for Republicans charged with trying to take back the majority. They fund dozens and dozens of ads. I think they're up in upwards of 75 or -- 50 to 75 congressional districts right now. He found that in more than 70 percent of the ads they've run, Nancy Pelosi is either prominently, or in a passing way, referenced, just to reinforce Janet's point.
CILLIZZAI mean, this is -- if Republicans have their way, this is an election that is entirely nationalized around two figures, President Barack Obama and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. We'll see. They tried that, remember, in the special election in Pennsylvania back in May. There was a special election after John Murtha's death. They tried to nationalize -- Republicans tried to nationalize that election around Nancy Pelosi, lost by eight points. This is not then, but it does, I think, you know, create at least some conflict about whether the strategy works.
DUFFYThey lost that seat largely 'cause the Democrat who won ran against Barack Obama.
REHMYeah, that's right.
CILLIZZAAnd that is absolutely right, ran against the healthcare bill, ran against economic stimulus. Yeah...
REHMWhat about all the money going into these races? There is an alliance of GOP groups launching an ad blitz, Janet.
HOOKYes. I would argue that the outside groups that are channeling money into Republican -- in support of Republican candidates is probably as big a factor as the Tea Party in the outcome of these elections. Karl Rove has two of these kinds of groups that are buying ads in districts where the party may not be, but the candidate still needs some help. And it's having the effect of putting a lot of Democrats on defensive who thought they were in pretty good shape. So that -- I do think that they are helping to spread the battlefield so that there are many more Democrats running for cover than they expected at this stage.
DUFFYI'm guessing that the outside money raised by Republicans for these Super PACs, which operate separately from the parties this year and have much more authority to do so, is going to top 200 million. They're going to probably be twice that what the Democrats can put on the table. And it -- they were helped this week hugely when Barack Obama and other White House officials went after the U.S. Chamber of Commerce for somehow allegedly diverting foreign money into those political accounts for which there was very little, if any, evidence. And, in fact, the Chamber's own donations skyrocketed the minute the president began to go after them.
REHMMichael Duffy, he is assistant managing editor for TIME Magazine. And you're listening to "The Diane Rehm Show." This coming Sunday, The New York Times magazine will have an interview with President Obama, where he says his administration has accomplished a great deal. But he concedes that they haven't done as well as they should have on the political calculus. He says he allowed political foes to identify him as the same old tax-and-spend liberal Democrat. He says he underestimated Republican rejectionism. Why did he decide to do this interview with The New York Times now?
DUFFYWell, I'm guessing The New York Times had this -- had a very good story ready to go, and they simply said, we can do this with you or without you. And they decided -- the White House said, well let's try to put our gloss on it. I think -- well, in a larger sense, though, the reset at the White House really has begun. Even though the election hasn't been held, and it's still a few weeks away, they have already begun to rethink or reposition themselves for the two years that follow. You can see there is a broad repopulating of most key positions in the White House, a shuffle, a molting that's going on. It's quite normal, so we're looking at a new team here. And they are thinking anew. They're trying to -- and the story makes very clear that the president himself is trying to sort of reposition for the second half.
REHMBut from the tone of this article, it sounds as though the president is saying, we're still willing to work with Republicans, Janet.
HOOKWell, he better say that because there are going to be a whole lot more Republicans after this election. And the requirement to work with them is much -- is irrefutable. So the question is what he's going to do differently other than say he wants to work with Republicans. He's been saying he wants to work with Republicans since the day he was elected.
REHMRight from the start. Sure.
HOOKAnd I do think that the Republicans also have to rethink their strategy, though, because they have been -- they have set their strategy as opposition to Obama from the beginning of his administration. And if they have control of the House, they then have to make a decision. Are we going to continue to be the opposition party even though we're in the majority? Or do we have to figure out some way of working with him?
CILLIZZAYou know, first of all, I just want to say, Diane, I think that piece is incredibly long and incredibly worth reading. If you're...
CILLIZZAI was just going to say, Peter Baker, who I think is, if not the best, certainly in the conversation of the best political journalists that we have working these days. It's a fascinating piece that just -- aside from the Obama interview, which is sort of interwoven through it, which is interesting in itself -- it's a fascinating look into sort of how this White House views itself versus how it is viewed, which is a -- there's always something of a disconnect there. I think Janet's point is important particularly as it relates to the election, which is I don't think anyone in the White House either -- certainly not on the record. I don't even think on background as a senior administration aide or one of these, you know, these various ways that we find to describe these people.
CILLIZZAI don't think anyone would say, you know what, it might not be a bad thing if Republicans controlled the House for Barack Obama in 2012. That said, it might not be a bad thing for Barack Obama if Republicans controlled something in 2012. I don't think they can simply continue to be the loyal opposition if they are in the majority in either the House or the Senate or -- frankly, in a long shot -- the House and the Senate. I think not only would there be a burden a little bit on Barack Obama to try and find ways to work together, I think there would be at least some level of expectation that Republicans would reach across the aisle because they would no longer simply be able to say...
CILLIZZA...we don't like this. Give someone else the other option.
DUFFYBut I think we could also come back to what you mentioned a minute ago, Diane, about the outside Republican groups and their money. A lot of the money that's being poured into these accounts comes from Wall Street, private equity, hedge fund folks in Texas, California, New York who used to support Barack Obama. And I think the White House would like them to be back on their team in a couple of years.
REHMMichael Duffy of TIME Magazine. Short break. And when we come back, we'll open the phones.
REHMAnd it's time to open the phones. First to Cape Canaveral, Fla. Raylene, (sp?) you're on the air.
RAYLENEHi. Good morning. I took issue with your guest statement that no one losing their homes to foreclosure shouldn't be -- I'm an attorney here in Florida. I've also endured foreclosure due to government employee layoff here in Florida. And I really have concerns about the fraud issue with the foreclosures because -- well, to me, nobody should lose their property without due process of law. That's one of our guarantees in our constitution. So I'm an advocate for appointing counsel when there's a foreclosure. And these people may not be losing their homes improperly. They may be properly being brought to a foreclosure action, but they may be denied the opportunities to save their homes because of the rush and the glut in the proceedings. The -- they're simply -- they're just simply rushing them into the court and getting it done. And they're really not giving these people the real opportunity to save their homes.
DUFFYWell, that's an excellent point. I appreciate the call, particularly, 'cause it sounds like it was this -- someone who actually works in this issue...
DUFFY...which is better than anything I could put on the table. The most important thing, I think, from the perspective here is at a time when banks are already mistrusted and faceless. And you can see this is a problem across the country. We now have a new, essentially, a new kind of crisis which adds to the fears that these are not responsive, either to the people who have the loans or to the people are supposed to be doing oversight. We're working on a story, I know, about a bank in Georgia where they are going through these very papers at this moment and trying to verify, essentially, who owes what to whom.
DUFFYAnd frequently, they can't find any evidence...
DUFFY...that they even lent the people the money ever...
DUFFY...because the loans go through so many hands before they come back to the person to decide whether to foreclose.
REHMAll right. We've had numerous questions about Social Security. This issue seems to be at the heart. It's from an individual who says, "Why do we allow Congress to vote themselves a pay raise during the two consecutive years? We are told there is no inflation and, therefore, no COLA for us." Chris.
CILLIZZAYou know, Diane, I think that that -- the tenor of that question gets at exactly what is happening in the electorate. Why do -- and you could fill this blank in with politicians, big businessmen, almost anyone else -- why do they get special privileges that we don't? You saw last night in the Nevada Senate debate, Sharron Angle attacked Harry Reid on healthcare. You get great healthcare. Why can't we have a system like yours? That kind of -- you're seeing a real populism out in the country, this idea that the privileged few are getting things that the average person -- it's not available toward.
CILLIZZAI would say, you know, I think it benefits Republicans simply because they are not the party in power at the moment. But I don't think that it's directed necessarily at Democrats. I think it's -- I mentioned this earlier -- I think it's directed at institutions broadly. It's why you see Congress at its lowest approval ratings in a very long time. It's why you see the president with not particularly good approval ratings, why you see almost any large institution -- there is just a distrust, a feeling as though people are being gypped. I hate to say it any other way. I just -- I think that that is the sentiment that is out in the country, and I think you can see it reflected at the ballot box.
REHMAll right. And let me remind our listeners that this is hour of the Friday News Roundup is being webcast. It will be on our site, drshow.org, by 12 noon. Let's go to Grand Rapids, Mich. Good morning, Frank. You're on the air.
FRANKOh, yes, thank you. I really have to take issue with -- actually this mainline press' story line over the last two years, this whole idea that Republicans are the party of no, and there's been an attempt to reach out. Simple facts, Democrats voted against the healthcare bill. Democrats voted against the stimulus bill. Democrats voted against cap and trade or put up enough adversity to cap and trade not to bring it up. For Obama and the press to constantly paint the Republicans as the party of no and the Republicans as not being partisan is just factually, logically incorrect and very dishonest. The bipartisan positions were against the healthcare bill. The bipartisan positions were against cap and trade. The bipartisan positions were against the stimulus. Another classic...
REHMAll right, Frank, I must stop you right there. Michael Duffy.
DUFFYWell, I don't -- the caller and I, you know, live in separate universes. You know, there's very little evidence that I can see that there was much bipartisan support from the Republicans for any of those things. And, in fact, they're all campaigning for having not only stopped that (word?), but promising to stop more. So I don't know. I can't -- I just can't agree.
HOOKI think the caller's point about -- are the Republicans the party of no? Obviously, that's a formulation of where they're coming from, that Democrats have advanced for a long time. And I think the point is that beyond that -- rhetorical point is that for most of the Obama administration, their strategy has been to oppose what he's proposing without offering elaborate alternatives. Now, that changed -- they tried to change that last month when they offered their Pledge to America, which was an effort to say we are not the party of no. I think Republicans acknowledge that that was -- part of their effort was to put aside the view that they had no alternative. Now, as it happened, there wasn't too much new in there, but I do think that the dynamic of Republicans defining themselves as an opposition party, even Republicans see it that way.
REHMLet's go now to Charlotte, N.C. Good morning, Nathan.
NATHANGood morning. Thank you for taking my call.
NATHANQuick question or comment for the panel. A moment earlier, there was a statement made that if the Republicans took over one of the chambers in legislature that they would be almost compelled to work more with the president. Do you not feel that the message will then be reframed as a mandate to repeal? Almost like the Republicans are painting the Democrats as misreading the mandate they got when they took over the legislative and executive branches. Thank you.
CILLIZZAYou know, I think that's a fascinating question, and Michael touched on this earlier, and I think it's really, really important. If Republicans do take over the majority, is -- what does their governing coalition look like? It will be -- I don't want to say fractious, but you will have a number of people, both in the Senate and the House, who ran against the party leadership, who ran against, basically, what the Republican Party became -- certainly, if not in the first term of George W. Bush, certainly in the second term of George W. Bush. I think over reading mandates is something that happens quite often in politics. I think there is a tendency in politics, both in individual races and more broadly, to look at it and say, well, people voted me, and they love me. They love what I stand for.
CILLIZZAThis election is not -- even if Republicans take the majority -- this election is not an affirmation of the Republican agenda. Ask any smart Republican strategist, and they will acknowledge this is about people not liking what Democrats are doing and simply Republicans being the other guy or gal in that equation. So I think Republicans would be a misread if they thought this was a -- let's say they take over the house. This was a broad affirmation that, yes, the American public believes in the Republican agenda. Polling -- just quickly, Diane -- polling suggests the Republican brand is in worse shape than the Democratic brand.
HOOKAnd I think that Republicans will be particularly over reading the mandate if they think that they're supposed to repeal the healthcare bill. I think polling shows that Americans like parts of the healthcare bill, and they don't like others. And Republicans themselves acknowledge that by saying, repeal and replace is their platform.
REHMAll right. To Seattle, Wash. Good morning, Paul. Thanks for joining us.
PAULHello. The Justice Department did not contest that the Don't Ask, Don't Tell ruling is unconstitutional. So in asking for this stay, aren't they in effect saying that homosexuals are a class of people that it's all right to deny constitutional protection? And also in the ruling, it makes reference to several overseas combat operations, implying that Iraq is actually a combat operation. And I thought combat forces are supposed to have been withdrawn.
REHMAny comment here, Janet?
HOOKI think that the legal issues around the Don't Ask, Don't Tell ruling, it's hard to read too much into the current state just because it's so -- the administration is doing certain things right now just out of its kind of legal obligation and role. So I wouldn't take that too far.
REHMAll right. To Norwich, Conn. Good morning, Varda (sp?).
VARDAHi. I'd just like to say that we experienced the Bush years, and we saw all the deregulation that took place. There's no reason to think that this won't be a repetition of what took us to this economic crisis now. I think people are upset, but I don't think they remember how -- what Bush did and how bad it got. And Republicans have used something in the secret (word?) to prevent 300 nominations that Obama wanted to make. They blocked everything. And there's no reason why they won't continue to deregulate, take more away from the people and be more in favor of special interests as they're doing now by accepting donations from overseas contributors.
DUFFYWell, that just proves that some messages are getting through. It is interesting how short people's memories are. I think I -- there were as poll a few weeks ago that suggested that if you -- they actually put Barack Obama and George W. Bush on the same ballot. They were nearly tied head-to-head. And, of course, we've seen Bill Clinton come back and be a big hit on the campaign trail. Particularly where former presidents are concerned, memories are particularly short, which, at least for them, is a good thing.
HOOKI actually think that a lot of people do remember what the Bush year policies were like, including Republican voters who didn't like it. I actually have talked to Republicans on the Hill who are acutely aware of -- one of their missions is to prove to their base that they are not going back to the Bush policy -- Bush era policies because the run-up and spending is extremely unpopular with the Tea Party crowd.
REHMYou know, one thing we ought to mention is that a federal judge in Florida has allowed a challenge to the new healthcare law. What's this going to mean, Michael?
DUFFYWell, it's hard to tell. You know, I think it's actually a case involving 20 different states...
DUFFY...which have filed suit to a block or simply declare unenforceable, unconstitutional aspects of the healthcare bill -- which we talked about a minute ago -- the Republicans wanted to "repeal and replace." And so that case, which has -- does have a lot of attorneys general, mostly from the south and west involved, will go forward. How quickly? We don't know. But sort of to put together what both Chris and Janet just said, there are huge divisions in the Republican Party about just how far to go with repealing and replacing. And while that is a good slogan, there are lots of Republicans who think that's just a very bad piece of road. So a big fight coming up no matter what happens.
REHMMichael Duffy of TIME Magazine. You're listening to "The Diane Rehm Show." And let's go now to Cleveland, Ohio. Good morning, Barbara.
BARBARAGood morning. I had a couple of -- a quick comment here on, first of all, what I perceive to be the real issue before our government, and I believe that we need to address campaign finance reform and the lobbying activities. I think that by addressing these areas, that we would open the door to addressing regulations of these -- of big government, of big corporations, the money interest, whether it's the banks, the insurance companies, the oil companies. There is too much lobbying activities. And then laws are made favorable to these large companies and corporations and not necessarily serving the people as -- you know, these individuals in the public sector. They are to be public servants, but they are more loyal to the large pharmaceuticals.
BARBARASeveral years ago, when George Bush was in office, and they were talking, you know, healthcare had been on the issue under President Bill Clinton. And then we're talking about the pharmaceuticals, and they passed the law that we could not import pharmaceuticals from Canada. So we have our -- we're serving our large moneyed interest instead of serving the people and making access to low-cost drugs.
REHMThat is the perception of some of people.
REHMThat campaign financing, lobbying is at the root of everything.
CILLIZZARight. I think a lot of -- I think the caller is in keeping with lots and lots of people who believe that sort of the money washing around the system is causing pervasive corruption in one way, shape or form. What I would say is, we are less than a decade removed from the most sweeping campaign finance reform legislation ever passed, McCain-Feingold. And you could draw a pretty direct line between the passage of that legislation -- what we were talking about earlier. American Crossroads -- this group that Karl Rove and former RNC Chairman Ed Gillespie sort of developed the idea for -- that's likely to spend initially $50 million. I think they've upped it beyond that now.
CILLIZZAYou know, I think the White House and Congressional Democrats, to an extent, are trying everything they can to highlight these sorts of groups. I'm skeptical that it does much more than get Democratic base voters who do not like Karl Rove, do not like sort of the idea of money awash in the system -- get them excited. I'm not sure independents in an election where the unemployment rate is 9.5 percent are going to get that motivated by campaign finance. I think if you asked them in a poll, do you think there should be less money in politics? The answer is, absolutely. When you -- when they vote, I think they vote on the economy, healthcare, other things. I don't think they vote on campaign finance.
DUFFYBut when the president attacked Karl Rove for these groups, Rove's receipts doubled. I mean, it has one other impact, which is that it actually turns out the other side also. And so I think what -- I think the great thing about the caller's remarks were that there is a pervasive feeling -- we've been talking about this whole hour -- that money interests, corporate interests, well-represented interests get paid, and everyone else doesn't. And that's at the -- very much at the heart of what's going on also in this election.
REHMAnd, unfortunately, likely to continue, Janet.
HOOKYes. And one other way that that whole suspicion of institutions is fueled by this is -- one thing that the Democrats are harping on about the Rove groups, is that the donors aren't disclosed. So not only are they big and powerful, but we don't know who they are.
REHMLast word from Janet Hook of The Wall Street Journal. Michael Duffy of TIME magazine. Chris Cillizza of The Washington Post. Thank you, all. Thanks for listening. 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 email@example.com, and we're on Facebook and Twitter. This program comes to you from American University in Washington. This is NPR.
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