"My Brilliant Friend" by Elena Ferrante is the first of the mysterious Italian author's Neapolitan novels. The series tells the story of a life-long friendship between two working class girls in Naples. Critics have called Ferrante “one of the greatest novelists of our time.” Yet nobody knows her true identity. Join Diane and her guests for a discussion of “My Brilliant Friend.”
The Obama administration says it will no longer defend the federal law that bans same-sex marriage. House Republicans propose a plan to avoid a government shutdown. And Wisconsin’s fight over collective bargaining expands to other states. A panel of journalists joins Diane for analysis of the week’s top national news stories.
- Major Garrett congressional correspondent, National Journal.
- Sheryl Gay Stolberg White House correspondent, The New York Times.
- Chris Cillizza author of The Fix, a Washington Post politics blog, and managing editor of PostPolitics.com.
Friday News Roundup Video
The panelists discuss the ongoing tensions between public employees in Wisconsin and Gov. Scott Walker (R) over the governor’s proposal to cut pay and benefits and strip unions of their collective bargaining rights in the state. The “budget math” clearly shows that the issue of collective bargaining is “unrelated” to the state’s deficit, said Major Garrett. The panelists also agreed that the governor’s statements during a prank phone call this week were damaging, but not likely to be career-ending:
MS. DIANE REHMThanks for joining us. I'm Diane Rehm. House Republicans pushed forward their call for deep spending cuts to avoid a government shutdown. President Obama announced the Justice Department will no longer defend the federal ban on same-sex marriage, and Rahm Emanuel became Chicago's first new mayor in 22 years. Joining me in the studio to talk about the week's top domestic stories on the Friday News Roundup, Major Garrett of the National Journal, Sheryl Gay Stolberg of The New York Times and Chris Cillizza of The Washington Post. Of course, we'll be taking your calls later in the program. Join us by phone, by e-mail, on Facebook or send us a tweet. Good morning to all of you.
MR. MAJOR GARRETTGood morning, Diane.
MS. SHERYL GAY STOLBERGGood morning.
MR. CHRIS CILLIZZAGood morning, Diane.
REHMMajor Garrett, what are House Republicans proposing, as far as cuts, to keep the government going?
GARRETTOkay. Last week we had the $100 billion continuing resolution. Next week, we will have a $4 billion continuing resolution. And the reason it's four billion is it will be a two-week extension of government operations while negotiations continue. Where does that $4 billion number come from? Well, it's a pro-rated amount from the $100 billion. So House Republicans are trying to maintain the consistency on the magnitude of spending cuts. One thing that will be interesting -- you'll see when the bill is dropped later today in preparation for a vote Tuesday or Wednesday -- is some of the cuts will be straight from the president's budget.
GARRETTThey will take President Obama's recommended terminations, put them into their continuing resolution and say, Mr. President, certainly we can agree on this. We're taking some of your own recommendations, because they want to intensify the pressure on Senate Democrats who have said the $4 billion amount is unacceptable, it's too Draconian, and they want to do something else. The Senate Democrats are looking for a seven-month solution to this continuing resolution, keeping the government open problem. The negotiations will continue, but that's where we are right now.
REHMSen. Harry Reid calls the House plan extreme, Chris.
CILLIZZAYes, he does. Look, this is -- you know, Diane, this is the conundrum or, if you're a political (word?) reporter, the sort of fascinating thing about split control of Congress, right. House Republicans had passed this budget bill for the last seven months of the year. Harry Reid has basically said this is dead on arrival. It's not happening. Remember, the Senate remains controlled -- just to remind everyone -- remains controlled by Democrats. And Harry Reid is pushing for a 30-day extension. Just in terms of the terms of debate, March 4 is when the current continuing resolution, which is basically the document that funds the government, runs out. We assume there will be some sort of extension.
REHMLike, two weeks.
CILLIZZAMajor's point -- two weeks is what Republicans are proposing. Harry Reid would like 30 days. If passed is prologue, we will probably divide -- add 30 and two weeks and divide that by two, and we'll probably split the difference somewhere down the middle. The fascinating thing here, though, Diane, is this is a classic game of political chicken. Both sides are sort of daring the other side not to compromise with pretty big stakes.
CILLIZZAIf the government does shut down on March 5 when -- or March 4 when the continuing runs out, people will pay attention. And we've learned from '95, when this happened with Newt Gingrich as Speaker of the House and Bill Clinton in the White House, there are political consequences, particularly if it goes on for any longer than a day or two.
REHMSheryl, how likely a shutdown?
STOLBERGI don't think a shutdown is very likely. I think that both sides remember very well the shutdown of '95. That was clearly a loser for Republicans, but there's really no guarantee that it would be a loser for Republicans again. Back then, Republicans were in the minority. Now, Democrats are in the minority, at least in the House. And I think there's enough nervousness about how this would play out and which side would be blamed for it that neither side wants to go there.
REHMThis latest poll indicates two-thirds of Americans don't want to see a shutdown. What about this gang of six, a compromised effort operating behind the scenes? Who's involved? How effective might it be?
CILLIZZAWell, I would say, in general, Diane, we've seen things like this happen before, the infamous gang of 14 senators during the nuclear option. This is a debate over federal judges and should we pass them or not. It will be as successful as the leadership within the two parties allow it to be. I always say, when it comes to these things, there's really only five or six people in general you have to pay attention to. One is the president of the United States, one is whoever the Speaker of the House is -- in this case, john Boehner -- one is whoever the leader in the Senate is -- Harry Reid -- and the other is a minority leader in the Senate -- Mitch McConnell.
CILLIZZAThose people will ultimately throw Nancy Pelosi in there, but those people ultimately decide where we're going here. And, just quickly to go back to Major's point, both sides in this are trying everything they can to sweeten the deal so that they can go to the public and say, well -- the Republicans, well, we put some of President Obama's proposals here. And, remember, President Obama's budget that he introduced last week, he can say, there are things that Republicans should like in here. Both are trying to both win a policy debate but also a political debate heading into 2012.
REHMSheryl, what about the influence of Republican freshmen? How have they been at work here?
STOLBERGWell, I think they're kind of the wildcard in a way. You know, Republicans -- like John Boehner, the Speaker of the House -- I think, would like to cooperate with the president. They don't want to be seen as the party of no, going in to the 2012 election. But these Republican freshmen -- many of them out of the Tea Party movement -- came to Washington on a mission to shake things up. And, by golly, they are determined to cut spending and to live up to their promises, and they don't particularly feel beholden to their own leadership.
STOLBERGAnd, at the same time, Speaker Boehner has indicated that he wants to have kind of an open process, so a process that allows for amendments, that gives lawmakers of all stripes a vote. And so it's created kind of a chaotic situation for the Republicans in which it is hard for them to control their own caucus. And these freshmen are pushing, pushing, pushing for deeper cuts.
GARRETTWhen the House Republican leadership -- led by Speaker Boehner -- presented the original outline for the continuing resolution two weeks ago, it bombed, and the freshmen said, we're not going to take it, and you're going to have to go and meet that $100 billion figure that we campaigned on in the midterm elections. And if you don't, we won't support it, and you'll lose. And Speaker Boehner had to look at that situation, make a very big decision. All right. I'll side with the Republican freshmen. They are now emboldened. At some point, the freshmen know they're not going to get all they want out of this confrontation, and they're going to have to work with Speaker Boehner to get whatever they can get.
GARRETTA couple of quick points -- one of the reasons we're in this situation of a continuing resolution is because a former Democratically controlled Congress didn't do its work, didn't pass the appropriations bills, didn't fund the government. So this is something inherited by this new Republican Congress. Point two, the longer these negotiations go on, the more difficult it is to actually achieve budget cuts in this year. Why? Because the budget year keeps moving along.
GARRETTThese -- these government agencies continue to function. So if you're looking at -- and the real number here is $61 billion in cuts passed by the House from what was enacted in 2010. To get $61 billion in cuts out of a six-month budget, which, you know, is very difficult. So the longer this goes on under a temporary negotiating posture, the more Democrats and the president retain the existing spending.
CILLIZZAAnd, I would say, it's not just in the House though Republicans control the House, and that is sort of a central front, clearly. But I would say, look at Rand Paul, the Kentucky senator elected, sort of, of his own volition, saying, I am of the Tea Party. This is Ron Paul's son. He proposed $500 billion in cuts in a single year. So, I think, many within the Tea Party say, $61 billion. And that may seem like a big number, but that's kind of their medium offer. I think Rand Paul -- $500 billion. Many of them would say we want to see that.
GARRETTHe won no favors doing that, I tell you.
CILLIZZAPut defense -- right -- put defense spending on the table, traditionally a place where Republicans would never go -- cutting defense spending. We need to have a serious conversation about it. I don't think we're headed toward $500 billion in cuts, but I also don't think that many within the Tea Party think the $61 billion -- I would guess -- Major, you know better than I -- but I would guess many of them don't think it's enough.
STOLBERGI also think, too -- step back points here. First, this budget doesn't even deal with the big elephant in the room, the biggest driver of growth in the government spending, which is Medicare, and then over the longer term, Social Security. So even by -- we can't really grapple with the deficit even by talking about these cuts. And, secondly, I think in this numbers fight, we have to remember that this is a deep philosophical fight between the parties over how to bring the nation out of recession.
STOLBERGAnd whether the path out of recession is through spending cuts solely, as the Republicans would say, or as President Obama and Democrats would say, through targeted spending in key areas, like education and infrastructure and clean energy. And it's that philosophical divide that is really driving these numbers battles, and that fight over the philosophy is not going to go away.
REHMSheryl Gay Stolberg of The New York Times, Chris Cillizza of the Washington Post, Major Garrett of the National Journal. Do join us, 800-433-8850. I want to hear how our listeners feel about all this. Some may not be paying close attention to what's going on here in Washington. They find it complicated. They find it boring. They find it business as usual. But others are deeply concerned about what could happen.
CILLIZZAWell, you know, Diane, I would just say, Sheryl mentioned earlier that both sides are nervous about what would happen...
CILLIZZA...if there's a government shutdown, and there is good reason. Look at any poll conducted before the 2010 election or after it. Everyone shows people incredibly disgusted, dissatisfied in -- with government in Washington and believing that government in Washington fundamentally does not listen to them. If you shut down the government, essentially take your ball and go home by both sides, that kind of childish petulance is -- will only play into and add to the perception that Washington isn't listening. And it could well wind up being a pox on both your houses, literally.
STOLBERGAnd, also, Diane, you know, everybody wants spending cuts, but nobody wants their programs cut.
STOLBERGSo we're seeing this week that lawmakers are on recess. They're taking these programs back out to their districts, and they're getting an earful from people who like the idea that they're cutting spending but who say, oh, but don't cut that program for veterans, or Head Start, that's really important. Let's not cut that. And, you know, you're never going to get agreement that way.
REHMSheryl Gay Stolberg. We're going to take just a short break here. You can join us on 800-433-8850. Send us your e-mail to email@example.com. Send us a tweet or join us on Facebook.
REHMAnd the problems are not just happening here in Washington. They're happening all over the country, all over the world. But let's focus next on what's going on in Wisconsin and the standoff there. Early this morning, Republicans in the Wisconsin assembly took significant action on a plan to strip collective bargaining rights from most public workers. Democrats didn't even realize what was going on.
GARRETTYeah, the perception had always been that the assembly was the safer of the two. That's why the Democrats in the Wisconsin Senate have decamped to Illinois to prevent the positioning of a quorum, so that legislative body can deal with it. But even with the expectation that, ultimately, the Wisconsin assembly would move forward on this, it was done late. It was done somewhat surprisingly. And it sort of indicates -- if you just sort of look at the legislative maneuvering -- Republicans -- it seems to me, we're moving this through rapidly and not feeling as confident about it.
GARRETTI mean, if you feel confident about the future of this proposal, you'll do it in the middle of the day, let everyone see it, and let it (unintelligible) debate play out. To sort of shove it in in the evening leads me to believe that maybe they're not feeling as legislatively solid about this as they were maybe a week-and-a-half ago.
REHMActually, Major, it was early this morning. Chris.
CILLIZZAWell, this is not entirely unexpected, that the state Senate is the bigger problem. That's why the Democratic state senators are out of the state. The assembly, not as big an issue -- but, look, I tend to try to look at these things as broadly as possible. I think my parents were not terribly political. And, if you're watching this, it seems to be neither side comes across particularly well. Scott Walker, I thought, the governor, the new Republican governor of the state, I thought, for the first half of this showdown -- first four or five days -- actually came across pretty well. I think, unfortunately now, labor has made some real concessions. What they won't concede on is giving up collective bargaining, which really has not all that much to do, frankly, with the budget problems that Scott Walker is trying to close.
REHMThat was the very question...
REHM...I asked the Indiana governor.
STOLBERGYeah, it's hard to see how stripping union workers of their right to bargain collectively over issues like health care and pensions can address a budget shortfall. I also think that both sides appear to be, frankly, behaving badly in this instance. You've got these Democrats who have fled and are in hiding and moving around like a hunted...
REHMAnd how long can they stay away?
STOLBERGAnd, you know, you have the governor who was embarrassed this week when he accepted what turned out to be a prank call from someone, a liberal blogger who was posing as one of the Koch brothers, a big donor to Republican causes and to Gov. Walker in particular. So, I think, in the end, both sides will kind of pay a price, a political price among voters for this standoff, and that, frankly, may be how it gets resolved, when the public gets up in arms enough about their lawmakers...
REHMAnd says, go back to work.
STOLBERG...and says, go back and negotiate.
GARRETTGo back to negotiate.
STOLBERGLet's talk about, maybe, let's get rid of that provision to strip union workers of their right to bargain, and let's talk about real ways that we can save money or have spending cuts and come to some kind of compromise.
GARRETTAnd you began to see a little bit of cracking on it this week. One Republican senator in the Wisconsin legislature said, well, why don't we just take the governor's proposal and put it up for two or three years? And then we can revisit it. We can sunset it, saying, all right, governor, we'll give you a partial victory on the collective bargaining issue you're so doggedly determined to win. But let's just sunset it. The governor said, no. I mean, he is completely uncompromising on this underlying issue of collective bargaining rights, which -- as all of us agree, and which the budget math clearly shows -- is unrelated to the $3.6 billion budget crisis that Wisconsin is facing.
REHMSheryl, you raised this prank call. Let's talk about what was in that call. He talked for 20 minutes to the person who claimed to be one of the Koch brothers. That, in and of itself, a lot of people are complaining about...
REHM...'cause they can't get through to governor at all. He apparently admitted his administration had thought about planting troublemakers into the protest grounds. He said he would not cave to the unions. He wouldn't compromise or negotiate. Has he done anything wrong, Chris?
CILLIZZAI would say there's a difference between the reality of doing something wrong and the perception of doing something wrong. And that's a big difference in politics. I would say the problem for Scott Walker -- and I do think his -- he started to lose momentum on this issue right around this call -- is that the idea that someone who you think is David Koch can immediately get through and you can spend 20 minutes on the phone with this person, in the midst of a national showdown over a budget and over collective bargaining, that perception is not good. And I would say that has cost him -- it just looks nefarious.
CILLIZZAPeople do not like the influence money has in politics, generally, and they don't like the idea that someone who is a billionaire, who gives to Republican causes -- and, of course, it wasn't that person, someone posing as a billionaire who gives to Republican causes -- can get on the phone. I would say the actual verbatim of the call, it was not great. I think Scott Walker would prefer it not to have happened, but I don't think there was anything particularly incriminating in there. I would say this person...
CILLIZZAJust quickly, Diane. This person who did the call was clearly trying to goad Walker, at times, to get him to say off-color things or to agree to off-color things. Now, again, it was not a perfect phone call by Scott Walker. But, given the fact that he was tricked into it, I also don't think it was sort of career-damaging in any real way.
REHMThe chief of police in Madison, Wis., says he wants some answers from Walker about the statement the governor made about considering inserting troublemakers into the group of protesters. Quote, "It was a public safety risk." Based on what he was saying, it was suggesting to cause disorderly behavior that could have led to unrest, Sheryl.
STOLBERGRight. Well, thankfully for the governor, he only acknowledged that he had considered it.
STOLBERGHe didn't -- had he acknowledged that he had done it, I think he would be in quite a bit of trouble. And I agree with Chris. I think that the problem for him was in taking the call and then spending 20 minutes. Some of the things he said on the call were, frankly, not that different from the things that he has said publicly -- for instance, saying things like, this is our moment, this is our time to change history. That's language that the governor has used in public. So when you look at the content of the call, it's, frankly, not all that shocking, with the possible exception of this admission of considering sending instigators out.
GARRETTI think we would all agree it could have been much worse.
GARRETTI mean this...
GARRETTThis thing could have been a complete career-ending catastrophe. I mean, he had fallen and if he had said, in addition to considering instigators, well, we called several people and they had 40 ready and, you know, we were going to deploy them. And then we just thought well of it at the -- I mean, it could have been 100 times worse. It's bad enough as it is. I agree with everyone here. It's a bad call. Momentum has ebbed away from him since then. And the idea about instigating, or potentially putting instigators in the crowd, was not rejected because it was wrong or threatened public safety because, tactically, they thought the politics wouldn't work out for him, that, you know, we might rile the crowds up too much. And that could make things...
GARRETT...slip away from me. So...
GARRETT...it was a tactical reason, not a right-and-wrong reason. And, I think, that's a problem for Gov. Walker.
REHMBut, now, all of this discontent is not just in Wisconsin. It spread to Indiana. It spread to Ohio. You've had thousands of protesters showing up in Columbus. What is this going to mean as the state governments go to negotiate their own budgets?
GARRETTLet's do a couple of quick numbers. There are 44 states in the union right now that are facing deficits of about $125 billion, cumulative. Almost every state in the union has a difficult budget situation to deal with. Many of the states have been living that -- with that two or three years. In the last election, many Republican governors -- like John Kasich in Ohio, Scott Walker in Wisconsin -- came in and said, we're going to deal with this, but we're also going to deal with some underlying things that have always irritated Republicans. Public employee unions and their ability to mau-mau legislatures -- which they do 'cause they're collectively organized and they are very much involved in the political process at the state level -- have been driving either pension costs or wages or other things.
GARRETTNow, on -- I talked to Rich Trumka of the AFL-CIO earlier this week when I was on MSNBC on "Morning Joe." And he said to me, there is a new era. Public employee unions are going to have to give back things they've negotiated. That's an enormously important statement, for the AFL-CIO to say, you're going to have to give it back. Even though you negotiated fairly -- you won it by rights -- you're going to have to give that money back. That's a huge transformation. And I -- and it seems, to me, what I find a hard time understanding is why Republicans can't push on that open door and take those concessions and move on. Why this deeper, more trench warfare fight over basic collective bargaining rights?
REHMYou know what I find most interesting is you've got thousands of people out there protesting in these states. Where were they on Election Day?
REHMSurely, they heard the governor's elect...
REHM...talking about these issues. Democrats, they don't.
STOLBERGBut, now, they are facing cuts to their paychecks.
STOLBERGNow, it has hit home. They are -- it's not theoretical. It's not in the abstract. It's, you know, I'm going to pay more for my health care. My salary is going to go down. And I fought for these things, and I'm going to get out there and raise my signs. And I have to say, through all of this, Diane, I have wondered -- this may be kind of a wild thought -- how much do these protests in the Middle East sort of play into the psychology of the protests here at home? People are watching on their televisions ordinary citizens rise up against their governments. And I do think that, in some small way, perhaps, that is influencing the thinking behind some of these protests saying, we can do this. We're upset about this. We can turn out and make our voices heard.
CILLIZZAJust to your Election Day point as well, Diane, one thing that, I think, is fascinating, there are obviously practical stakes here -- collective bargaining being the biggest one in places like Wisconsin, Indiana, Ohio. There's also a lot of symbolic things at stake here. Labor has watched its power and its share of the electorate decrease steadily since 1972. If you go and look at exit polling in 1976, labor was 34 -- labor or a union household, 34 percent of the electorate, 2008, 21 percent of the electorate, 2010, 17 percent of the electorate. Labor has to show that they can win, that people cannot simply cross them, cannot simply say, you know what? We're going to zero out collective bargaining. They can't -- it's a full stop moment for them.
CILLIZZAThey can't let Scott Walker win because, if Scott Walker wins, now all of a sudden, there's a big -- the door has been wedged open, and the John Kasichs of the world and the governor of Michigan, Rick Snyder -- these are people who would take that lead and perhaps run with it.
CILLIZZAAnd, I think, they understand that this is a stand for labor and that they cannot, cannot back down.
REHMThey've got a new Gallup poll showing 61 percent of Americans support collective bargaining. And you had Republicans winning over Democrats in this last election. This could be a reversal of that trend. You're listening to "The Diane Rehm Show." Gay marriage. President -- why now -- why taking this position? Fascinating. In the midst of everything else that's going on, acknowledging his feeling about gay marriage itself is still evolving. Nevertheless, he comes out and says it's time for a policy change.
STOLBERGAnd there's actual reasons for why now. The government has, for the past two years, defended the Defensive Marriage Act in court, in courts where there have been legal precedence that, in effect, made it easy for them to do so. Now, come two cases filed in New York in a federal district that is governed by a circuit where there is no such precedent. So the Obama administration was forced to confront, for the very first time, the legal question of whether or not gay people deserve protected status in the same way that, say, African-Americans do or women or other minorities. And so they did wrestle with this legal issue and concluded that they could not argue that gays deserve to be discriminated against, which is the position that they would have had to take to continue to defend this 1996 law in court.
STOLBERGThey were facing a March 11 deadline. And we know that the president's views on gay marriage are evolving as he says. He has favored civil unions in the past. He has been thinking a lot about gay marriage. And, I think, they found it untenable to move forward with a kind of aggressive argument that they would have had to make to defend this law, which is -- which the president himself says ought to be repealed.
GARRETTRight. Exactly as Sheryl described, there was an opportunity here to look at this afresh in a new judicial arena. It doesn't change the policy. His administration has made clear, it will still be enforced. And the administration will make allowances for those who want to argue on behalf of the existing Defensive Marriage Act in these judicial venues to substitute themselves for the administration's Justice Department lawyers. So they are making allowances for this legal argument still to be made...
GARRETT...and the policy is being enforced. These are two important distinctions in this story. Remember, as a candidate, Sen. Obama said Defensive Marriage Act itself was abhorrent, that he believed it violated the Fifth and 10th Amendment and that he opposed it and always has. But the Justice Department in these other venues for presidential reasons carried out the federal defense of a federal law, which every Justice Department has to do under most circumstances. And, now, because there was an opportunity in these new venues to look at it afresh, it's now more consistent with Sen. Obama's position before he became president and his evolving feelings on the matter.
CILLIZZADiane, one thing -- and, actually, Sheryl's paper, The New York Times, wrote a great story about this. So there's a really important point to be made. Fascinating how little blowback among 2012 Republican presidential candidates, there was this decision. Now, Mike Huckabee, former Arkansas governor, did condemn it. He was, by far, the most vocal. Newt Gingrich, the former Speaker of the House, also made some statements about it, but Mitt Romney, Tim Pawlenty, Haley Barbour, Mitch Daniels, very little -- maybe a statement -- but, certainly, not a big deal. I mean, I think it shows. Look at polling on gay marriage. You have seen the number of people willing to accept it rising steadily.
CILLIZZAYou have Republican strategists -- privately, certainly, and even many publicly -- now saying, look, this is a losing issue for us. Younger generations of people are not animated by this. The more time we spend talking about gay marriage is the less time we spend talking about health care and the economic stimulus. And both of those two things are better for us. So the silence or the relative lack of comment by the 2012 presidential candidates does show you that this election will almost certainly be fought -- no big surprise -- but almost certainly be fought on economic issues solely.
STOLBERGI'll thank Chris for the shout-out. I actually wrote that story.
STOLBERGAnd what is interesting is that more and more prominent Republicans, frankly, are coming out in support of gay marriage. We recently saw Barbara Bush, the daughter of the former president. Laura Bush has. Dick Cheney, whose daughter -- who has a daughter who's gay. All have come out in support. And, while the public is evenly divided still on gay marriage -- 50-50 -- we know that polls show the public's supportive of gay rights in other areas. Don't Ask, Don't Tell won overwhelming support. The public is supportive of gays for -- to not be discriminated against in the workplace. These are important trends.
REHMSheryl Gay Stolberg, White House correspondent for The New York Times. Short break then your calls.
REHMAnd let's go to the phones now. First, to Ray in Cincinnati, Ohio. Good morning.
RAYGood morning. I just want to say one thing. I've been fighting this for 40 years, and I know what the problem is. And there's hundreds, thousands of people who know what the problem is. They're involved in it the same way I am. The people that you work for, the companies that you work for are not paying any taxes. They have made a lot of the lower class people work for cash money, which the tax has not been paid. And I could name hundreds of people who don't pay their taxes. We have a...
REHMAll right. Thanks for your call. That's an issue for the IRS. But, in Wisconsin, the charge has been made that Gov. Walker gave corporations a $142 million tax cut two days after he came into office and then turned and said that the state budget had to be cut.
CILLIZZAAnd, Diane, I think that -- we've talked a little bit about this. But, I mean, I think that what you just talked about with the corporate tax cut, and, honestly, what the caller's talking about, gets back to where Walker is running into a problem now. This has moved beyond a battle about closing the budget gap, which is real -- and to Major's point -- is a serious problem. It's now appears to have moved into an ideological...
CILLIZZA...debate over whether unions should have the right to bargain with employers or not. He's on much shakier ideological ground there. Because if you turn it into a fight over, Republicans don't like unions, it's not as a winnable an argument as it is. Look, we have a budget problem. We need to make tough cuts to close that gap. When you are giving money to corporations, it placed into what the caller is talking about...
CILLIZZA...distrust with corporate America.
REHMLet's go to Michelle. She's in Oklahoma City. Good morning to you.
MICHELLEGood morning. My question has to do with President Obama's decision to no longer defend marriage between a man and a woman. I'm an African-American voter in Oklahoma, and I voted Democratic. But, I -- from my views, most African-Americans are pretty conservative, at least in my neck of the woods. So I'm wondering if that decision will hurt his election possibilities in 2012, as there are more gay voters as opposed to African-American voters.
STOLBERGWell, I think the caller is absolutely right that African-Americans, historically, have been very uneasy with gay marriage and have been conservative on social issues. But I don't think that the president's decision will, frankly, hurt him all that much because, I think, African-Americans will support him on many other issues. He is, after all, the first black president. His election was a historic one. And I think that when they look at him overall, this issue will probably not be enough to turn them away from him, given that they're not going to flock to his opponents who -- you know, African-Americans traditionally don't support Republican candidates. Who are they going to vote for, Mitt Romney or Tim Pawlenty? Probably not.
GARRETTAnd to Chris -- briefly, to Chris' larger point about the economic focus likely to be visited upon the 2012 election, it was visited on the 2010 election. And then it would give us an interesting scenario we haven't seen since the culture war started in the late '80s. Two consecutive election cycles is likely to be defined almost not at all by cultural flashpoint issues.
REHMAll right. To Decatur, Ind. Good morning, Randy.
RANDYGood morning, Diane.
RANDYI'm a public school teacher in Indiana, and I'm not sure if it's a good day, by the way. We have a snow day today. So -- but Gov. Daniels and the Republican legislators did not run on taking away collective bargain rights from teachers or anybody else. That's something that slipped in after they got into office. And Gov. Daniels, yesterday in Ohio, said that public employees are the privileged elite. And when he had a chance on Fox News today to retract that statement, he did not. He just -- he went -- he was further more aggressive on it and said that the average public employees are paid more than the tax they are paid for salary.
RANDYWell, most of us -- certainly, all of our teachers, you know, conservation officers and many state employees -- have bachelor's degree or, in the case of teachers, most of us have master's degrees, so, of course, they make more than the average person in Indiana who doesn't have a college education. I mean, that's a ludicrous statement in his part and completely unfair.
CILLIZZAWell, let's just quickly step back for people who may not know what's going on in Indiana. It's a similar debate to what's happening in Wisconsin. But at issue here is the Republican control legislator is trying to push through a law that would ban unions from negotiating contracts, forcing members that -- people who are not members of the union to pay representation dues and fees. Now, those representation dues and fees are typically used -- not exclusively, largely used -- to fund unions of large political programs, turnout operations, those sorts of things.
CILLIZZAThe complicating thing here for Mitch Daniels is, if you go back and look what he saying earlier this week about this bill, he essentially said, it's not the time or place to push this bill, arguing against his own party who is pushing the bill. But Mitch Daniels is doing one other thing, aside from being governor of Indiana, Diane. He's thinking about running for president of the United States in 2012.
CILLIZZASaying, essentially, now is not the time or place to reign in union spending is not a winning message, tonally or otherwise, in a Republican primary. And so what you've seen and what the caller talks about, in the last 48 hours, all of a sudden, Mitch Daniels has become...
GARRETTMuch more aggressive.
CILLIZZA...much more hard line. These people need to come back to work. This isn't fair. He's amped up his rhetoric, understanding that the message he was sending earlier in the week is not a message that Mitch Daniels' presidential candidate could succeed on.
REHMBut, you know, when I asked Gov. Daniels on the air exactly how collective bargaining might affect state budgets, he couldn't give me an answer.
GARRETTI mean, there is one element of the larger issue of unions collectively bargaining and pushing legacy cost for state budgets larger -- for health care, for pensions, for other things. Okay? But that's an issue to be dealt with in bargaining. And when you have the unions, as they have in Wisconsin, at least nominally -- they haven't sat down because no one's going to sit -- no one's willing to sit down with each other to hash these things out, saying, we're willing to take the health care and pension concessions.
GARRETTAnd Rich Trumka is saying every public employee union is going to have to reconcile themselves to these new budget realities. It seems like you can deal with these dollars and cents issues. What's much more at stake is this idea of the nexus between politics, union membership and pressure on state legislatures going forward.
REHMRandy, thanks for your call. Let's talk about Rahm Emanuel's significant win in Chicago. Were you surprised he got 55 percent of the vote?
GARRETTI was not. This is really a master stroke of politics, moving from Washington back to Chicago. And I must tell you, when he left the White House -- I was still covering the White House -- I wasn't sure this was all going to work out. You remember The New York Times had a picture of his first day shaking voters' hands. They looked forlorn. He looked totally out of place. I thought this could all just fall right apart. But Rahm Emanuel was much more sophisticated at the local game in Chicago politics than I gave him credit for.
GARRETTFirst of all, he had done a lot of work on understanding that the field would eventually clear itself. Most of the older men and other type of heavyweights fell away. That cleared the field for him. He raised a ton of money. He did a lot of retail, political work, and he did very well in debates. I happened to listen to that. He did really well. I mean, he was on point, on issue, aggressive, innovative, resounding. He's got huge issues to wrestle with...
GARRETT...huge issues to wrestle with.
REHMThat $600 million deficit.
GARRETTRight. And all -- and these issues about costs, layoffs, public employees -- they're not just in Wisconsin. He's going to have to wrestle with them, too.
CILLIZZAThe biggest challenge that Rahm Emanuel faced, honestly, was not any of the named candidates that he ran against. The biggest challenge to him becoming the next mayor of Chicago was the challenge to his...
CILLIZZA...registration and -- exactly, his residency. There was a major issue. He was briefly thrown off the ballot by an Illinois appellate court, saying he hadn't lived in the state for the requisite year prior to running for mayor. The Illinois State Supreme Court overturned that. And one fascinating thing -- which makes me always love politics, Diane -- is that the law of unintended consequences, him being seen as a victim, sort of being taken advantage of, if anything could -- you -- I could not believe anything could make Rahm Emanuel terribly sympathetic as a figure. But I know for a fact -- I talked to some people within his campaign -- his numbers increased significantly...
CILLIZZA...after winning that State Supreme Court battle, and particularly among African-Americans. Just fascinating.
REHMHow is he going to work with the City Council, Sheryl?
STOLBERGWell, I think -- so here's the question. You know, all the things you've heard about Rahm -- that he's potty mouth, that he's aggressive, that he's sharp edged, all that -- it's all true. And...
STOLBERGBut during this campaign, Rahm was very Zen, right? He was calm. He was collected. He was polite. He was charming. He didn't get riled up when his residency was being challenged. I'm wondering, is that going to last?
STOLBERGHow will he deal with these aldermen, one of whom ran against him or tried to run against him? And, you know, how long will the Zen Rahm last, and when will we see the old Rahm? But one thing I do know, it's going to be fun to watch. He's like the full-employment act for journalists.
REHMAll right. Let's go to Indianapolis. Good morning, Marlois. (sp?) You're on the air.
MARLOISHello, Diane. I wanted to make a comment concerning Gov. Daniels' statements on your program earlier this week.
MARLOISHe said that public employee union dues were used a great deal for lobbying and for political action. I am not familiar with public state employees, but I'm a retired public school teacher. And I know for a fact it's against the law for our dues to be used for political action and lobbying. He said we were the strongest lobbying body in the country, but that all comes from additional contributions made by the teachers. We cannot use their dues for political action.
GARRETTThat's -- I will take the caller at her word. I'm sure she knows this issue better than I do in its particularity. What Republicans will say on this issue is, well, all money's (word?), it all gets washed around, and these are political forces we have to contend with. Well, yes, they are political forces you have to contend with. Welcome to politics.
REHMBut let's hear another view from Tom in Jacksonville, Fla. Good morning.
TOMOh, hi. Yes, thank you. A couple of points. If everybody is at all exercised about the Koch brothers -- and the Koch brothers is sort of like the new conspiracy theory -- how about the reports that on -- that the Democratic senators have received anywhere from $6,000 to $100,000 per person from the unions? That's not really getting reported. Secondly, I had listened to the 20 minutes, and that was a very dismissive -- it was a dismissive tone that he used.
TOMHe was just trying to calm down somebody. So maybe you want to see a conspiracy there, maybe not. That's fine. Second, there's a massive amount of hypocrisy here. Remember how the Democrats all said, you know, the Republicans are the party of no and they're filibustering the health care bill and that's anti-democracy, et cetera, et cetera? Here, we have Democrats actually leaving the state to stop legislative action. And, you know, where is the outrage about that?
REHMWell, I think you may begin to hear it, Major.
GARRETTOh, certainly. That's not a position you can defend perpetually.
GARRETTYou got to go to work. You got to show up. And, I think, the Senate Democrats in Wisconsin's position is when there's a negotiation, we'll come back.
REHMBut what about our caller's point on the hundreds of thousands of dollars union members donate to individual candidates?
CILLIZZAI would say that, while I don't know the particularities of what Wisconsin state senators have received in terms of donations, it is a fact that unions spend and contribute massive amounts of money largely to Democrats. You know, conservatives smartly pointed out, after the fake Koch brother phone call, that former -- service employees, under national union president Andy Stern, was the number one visitor at the White House, had been to the White House more than anyone else. Look, no one likes this. It is a fact. People who donate large amounts of money do tend to have their voices heard more often. It is not a Democratic thing. It is not a Republican thing. It is something, I think, that the average person dislikes and wants out of the process.
REHMChris Cillizza of the Washington Post. You're listening to "The Diane Rehm Show." Want to ask you all quickly about Arizona's proposed new immigration law. I think there are lots of people concerned about this. What would it actually do, Sheryl?
STOLBERGWell, it's, many would say, a Draconian law or at least more restrictive than the one Arizona has already adopted. It would bar illegal immigrants from driving in the state, from enrolling in school, from receiving most public benefits. Their children would receive special birth certificates under this law that would make it clear that the state doesn't see them as Arizona citizens. And I think, you know, we are really seeing the fault lines over immigration play out in Arizona here. Arizona already has drawn the scorn of Democrats and of President Obama over the measure that it passed last year, compelling police officers to inquire about the immigration status of people that they stop. That provoked a considerable outrage. If this bill passes, it will, I think, really rile up the issue in Arizona and around the nation.
CILLIZZAOne fascinating thing, Diane, as, I think, a lot of people look at Arizona and think, I can't believe they're doing what they're doing. And yet Sheryl mentioned the law passed last year and signed into law by Gov. Jan Brewer. Before signing that law, Jan Brewer had two serious primary opponents and a serious general election opponent. After that law -- signing that law, both primary opponents dropped out, and she won the general election with ease. It is -- I think we are in danger of thinking that, wow, what are they doing?
CILLIZZAThere is a significant segment, at least in Arizona -- and this is not a state, by the way, with an insignificant Hispanic population. This is a state with a significant Hispanic population -- who say, exactly right. We need to be tougher on these things. I do think that there is a sense in the country, in some ways, that illegal immigration is -- or immigration, generally, is an issue that must be dealt with, must be dealt with, with these -- what many people believe to be -- over-the-top or Draconian measures. And they agree with them. And I think we have to represent that viewpoint, too.
GARRETTThe state politics are very important here, and Chris has absolutely described what happened in Arizona before and after that law was signed. Now, there is an omnibus bill that was passed by a Senate committee in Arizona that has made the things that Sheryl just talked about. There is also a separate piece of legislation on this whole issue of developing and distributing a Arizona-specific birth certificate. And this is about challenging directly the 14th Amendment's protection that if you're born in this country, you become a citizen, and the people backing this legislation want a Supreme Court fight on this.
GARRETTThey are preparing this for one reason and one reason only, to challenge this historic notion that if you're born in this country, ipso facto, by constitutional decree, you are a United States citizen. What they have redefined citizenship in Arizona to be under this bill is, if one parent is a U.S. citizen or a permanent legal resident, you can be a citizen. If they're not, you cannot be, even if you're born here. And this is a piece of legislation passed by the powerful Appropriations Committee in the Arizona Senate, 8-to-5. They're moving it through the process.
REHMMajor Garrett, you've gotten the last word. He's a correspondent for the National Journal. Sheryl Gay Stolberg is White House correspondent for The New York Times. Chris Cillizza is the author of The Fix, a Washington Post politics blog, managing editor of postpolitics.com. Happy Friday, everybody. Have a good weekend. Thanks for listening. I'm Diane Rehm.
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