For this month's Readers' Review: "Drown" -- the debut collection of short stories by Pulitzer Prize-winning writer Junot Diaz. Twenty years ago, Diaz published ten heart-breaking tales about a fragmented family from the Dominican Republic finding their way in 1980s America.
House Speaker Boehner questions President Obama’s strategy in Libya. U.S. home sales fall to the lowest level in half a century. And South Dakota opens a new front in the war over abortion. A panel of journalists joins Diane for analysis of the week’s top national news stories.
- Susan Davis congressional correspondent, National Journal.
- Stephen Hayes "The Weekly Standard," author of "Cheney - The Untold Story of America's Most Powerful and Controversial Vice President"
- David Corn Washington bureau chief, "Mother Jones" magazine; author of several books, most recently, "Hubris: The Inside Story of Spin, Scandal, and the Selling of the Iraq War."
MS. SUSAN PAGEThanks for joining us. I'm Susan Page of USA Today, sitting in for Diane Rehm. She's on a station visit with WJCT in Jacksonville, Fla. Calls are growing louder on Capitol Hill for the administration to explain its decision to intervene in Libya, government and industry reports show home sales remain in the doldrums, and the 2010 census finds the number of Hispanics surpassed the 50 million mark. Joining me in the studio for the domestic hour of our Friday News Roundup, David Corn of Mother Jones magazine, Susan Davis of National Journal and Stephen Hayes of The Weekly Standard. Welcome to "The Diane Rehm Show."
MS. SUSAN DAVISGood morning.
MR. DAVID CORNGood morning.
MR. STEPHEN HAYESGood morning.
PAGEWe invite our listeners to join our conversation later in this hour. You can call our toll-free number, 1-800-433-8850, or send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org, or you can find us on Facebook or Twitter. Well, Susan, this criticism on Capitol Hill of the president's actions and explanation of his actions, so far, pretty bipartisan. He's getting flak from both Republicans and Democrats.
DAVISThat's right. I think one thing you've heard, House Speaker John Boehner sent a letter to the White House this week, a pretty strongly worded letter saying, you know, we want more explanation on the cost of this engagement, the scope of it, the timeline, and that Congress should have been more engaged in the front end of this decision-making process. But then you also have on the left, I mean, liberal members like Barney Frank, members in the Senate who have said, you know, Congress should have been informed, there should have been some acknowledgment of Congress that this action was appropriate and allowable.
DAVISSo I do think, next week, we're gonna see a little bit of -- the White House is gonna be coming up to Capitol Hill with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Defense Secretary Robert Gates. There'll be a closed-door, members only briefing to, sort of, give a situation, lay of land of Libya. But I do think there's a lot of anger and there's a lot of resentment on Capitol Hill right now towards the White House.
PAGEYou know, I noticed that both "Meet the Press" and "Face the Nation" on Sunday will have both Secretary of State Clinton and Secretary of Defense Gates. Unusual to see them out there together, but we are not hearing from President Obama on this. Why not, Steve?
HAYESWell, I think that President Obama has, since the beginning of his administration, been a president who's not eager to talk about issues of war and peace in public. You know, if you look at what he did with Afghanistan, they took quite a bit of time to do their policy review in Afghanistan. He's given three major speeches on Afghanistan over the course of his time in office. By comparison, he gave some 60-plus on health care when he was pushing for health care.
HAYESSo he's a president who I don't think is very comfortable being known as a war president, despite the fact that he was by necessity elected as a war president. And I think the White House basically doesn't want to spend a lot of time, doesn't want to have a huge national debate about Libya.
PAGEDavid, do you think that's fair?
CORNNo, I don't. I mean, I think, he -- while on his travels in Latin America last week, it was -- it came up again and again. They knew that there'd be press conferences with these foreign leaders that he was meeting with. And he gave explanations in Chile and in El Salvador. I think that, you know, it probably warranted a -- some sort of speech when he -- when the attacks begun, something a little bit more. But the fact that he hasn't done that, I don't think is a determinative factor on how we should be thinking about this.
CORNFrom talking to people in the White House, it is apparently -- it is readily clear to me that what drove the decision was that he and others believed that they were facing this terrible possibility in Libya of Gadhafi going in and doing what he said he would do, showing no mercy to the civilian residents of Benghazi. And their attitude really was, let's stop this first, this is -- we'll be in a better position if we stop this than if we let it go ahead, then, you know, kind of figure out what comes next. It wasn't like, this is -- we're not gonna create a doctrine, we don't have an endgame strategy. It was, in a lot of ways, a police action.
CORNAnd the fact that they had people on the ground who wanted this to happen, that they were working with the Arab League, which is getting more involved. we see in the last day, in the past few days in the military actions there, and they had European allies. So I think there's been a rush to judgment. And the one thing that impresses me about Barack Obama -- I don't agree with him on everything -- is that this is a guy who's willing to try something that very few politicians are. And that's patience, you know?
CORNIf I don't have the answers for you in six days, hopefully you'll judge me better when we see the outcomes of this. And I think that's what he's doing here. And I think people in Congress, kind of, you know, are getting caught up in the hypersphere and wanna -- you know, and hyperventilating.
PAGESo you've made this explanation, this cogent explanation of this action. What, I guess, is surprising to many people, including myself, is that when you take the country into military action, even if it's not a full-scale war, people want to understand what's going on...
PAGE...they want to understand what the goal is and what the endgame is, what the expectation is to get out of it. Even Michael Waldman, former chief speech writer for Bill Clinton, and not a critical voice toward Barack Obama, did a column...
CORNLongtime pal of mine, yes.
PAGEHe did a column in Bloomberg yesterday that said that President Obama really needs to address the American people about it.
CORNI think Michael is right. And I think there could have been more on that front. And I saw the other day, Denis McDonough, the deputy national security advisor, was basically offered by the White House to the cable channels to explain. And he gave a very cogent explanation. I think they should do more of this. I think this has been the major problem from the beginning with this administration.
PAGEDo you think, Susan, that Congress will actually do anything about it or will they simply complain that they weren't consulted enough?
DAVISNo. I think they'll simply complain at this stage. And especially to the extent that the military mission appears to be scaling back, NATO will be taking over, I mean, the sense that what the administration said is gonna happen is going to happen, seems to be on track. I think one of the reasons why you see members were angry this week -- just by nature of timing, Congress is in recess and they're all at home. And they're at home and they're at constituent events, and they're suddenly getting asked questions about why we are at war at Libya, you know, this is the way people are phrasing the question.
DAVISAnd they don't have a good answer. And they don't like that. And I think that that helps feed frustration both among the rank and file to their leadership that says, why are we being bombarded with questions about Libya? We don't have the answer to them. The mission is not clear. And that sort of frustration filters up the chain.
PAGEJohn Yoo, who was, of course, the controversial Justice Department official in the George W. Bush administration, has an op-ed piece in The Wall Street Journal this morning titled "Antiwar Senator, War-Powers President," where he praises Obama for, he says, flip-flopping on a national security issue. Has President Obama, in fact, proceeded differently in terms of consultation with Congress than his predecessors when it came to this kind of military action, Steve?
HAYESWell, in terms of consultation with Congress, I don't think he's been that different from the way that George W. Bush. You just have a different set of people in Washington complaining about it. I think -- but he certainly has changed his mind or at least changed the way that he believes this kind of a consultation and this kind of a discussion should take place. I mean, back as a senator, he was very keen on having Congress involved at the outset. He talked about the need for presidential consultation. He talked about, you know, the inability -- there was this famous comment that he gave the Boston Globe, the president can't launch any military intervention without this approval from Congress.
HAYESSo I think, you know, he clearly is saying something different now than he was then. But to go back to what David said and expand on it, and Susan as well, I mean, I think there's a reason that the president hasn't done more talking about Libya or given a speech, a major speech about Libya. And I think, in part, it's because he doesn't know what to say. This is a White House who three weeks ago, two, three weeks ago was arguing that a no-fly zone would be totally ineffective, wouldn't solve the problems. And even for those of us who favor intervention, which I did and do, it's hard to reconcile when you've been talking to the White House or hearing from the White House that a no-fly zone wouldn't solve the problems, wouldn't do the kind of things that we needed to do, that they then two weeks later went ahead with a no-fly zone.
CORNBut that's -- but, Steve, I mean, I've sat in many a briefing with Jay Carney from the beginning of this in which he said no-fly zone was indeed an option that was on the table, under consideration. It's true that Secretary Gates came out at one point and said these are really hard to do, not sure this would work. He didn't come out fully against it, but he signaled that he wasn't in favor of it. But the White House position was never at the beginning that we shouldn't do this.
HAYESSure, but at the same time, I mean...
CORNAnd I just, you know, I just don't think it's fair to say that he doesn't know what to say. I think there, you know, there is a strong rationale, and I think that, you know, I think they're late in getting it out, but I think they have something to say.
PAGEOn another topic, we saw reports this week that the Obama administration has changed the rules for the interrogation of people who are terrorist suspects when they're first apprehended. Susan, how big a change is this?
DAVISIt's a significant change. I think it's a significant change on several levels. It's a significant change from a legal standpoint, and it's likely that this will probably be challenged maybe by Congress and perhaps by civil liberties groups. It's also a significant change politically. A lot of what President Obama has done since he's become elected is the exact opposite of what he said he would do as a candidate. These are...
PAGENow, not on many fronts, but on this front, on the terrorist front.
DAVISOn the terrorist stuff, specifically.
DAVISAnd a lot of this -- the Bush administration policy on terror investigations and Miranda rights, and these were a lot of things he criticized as a candidate and not only has maintained as president, but as what we're seeing in this case, has extended. And essentially, this further loosens the Miranda restrictions on terror investigators if they have someone that they're interrogating when they have to read them their Miranda rights and provide them with an attorney. So it is very significant, especially from just a criminal justice standpoint.
PAGEDavid, is it fair to say that on some of these issues involving terror investigations that President Obama has found the reality of being president forces changes in some of the positions he took as a candidate?
CORNWell, I think he's been forced, say with Gitmo, to deal with political realities and realities that was messier than he had thought. I mean, there were problems with the way people were rounded up originally that makes it hard to get them the due process he wanted to. On the Miranda case, I mean, it still is limited to what's termed exceptional cases. And there has to be prior approval by FBI supervisors. I think if there's any difference between -- the key difference, I should say, between the Obama administration and the Bush administration is that as they -- as Obama may be trying to contend with these very thorny issues, there is still, I think, much more of a respect or desire to create due process and checks on the system than there was in the Bush-Cheney cowboy days.
PAGEBut one thing that I don't -- I guess I don't understand -- maybe you know, Steve -- can the Justice Department simply change the rules for the reading of Miranda rights, 'cause Miranda rights were imposed really by the courts?
HAYESRight. There's a reason that we don't know that because it's, I think, unknown at this point. There are arguments I've seen -- several legal arguments that the courts are going to be the ones who ultimately have to do this. And as Susan mentioned, you have Congress that's going to want to have some say in this. And in fact, when Eric Holder was testifying about this some time ago, he suggested that this could be done legislatively, this expansion of the exception. The public safety exception to Miranda warnings could be done legislatively. And I think we're likely to see that at some point down the road.
PAGEA topic perhaps for a future news roundup. I'm joined with -- by Stephen Hayes of The Weekly Standard, Susan Davis of National Journal and David Corn of Mother Jones magazine. We're gonna take a short break. When we come back, we'll talk about the results of the 2010 census now coming out. Stay with us.
PAGEIt's our Friday News Roundup. We'll go to the phones soon, 1-800-433-8850. Our phone lines are open. You can always send us an email at email@example.com. Well, I've got to say, I love U.S. census stories...
PAGE...and especially ones that had -- that show big trends. Here's a trend that we found out about yesterday, the biggest change in kind of the ethnic makeup of the U.S. population since 1910, when we had a flood of Eastern European immigrants. Susan Davis, what do we see this time?
DAVISOne of the most interesting things coming out in the latest census data is that half of the population in the past 10 years, the growth, was Hispanic, suggesting that the racial minority growth in this country is growing at an even faster rate than some have predicted. And what we're seeing is population drain from the Northeast and the Midwest, and a population growth throughout the South and the Mountain West and the Southwest. It's sort of the shifting demographic nature of the country.
DAVISProjections are that, probably by mid-century, we're going to be a minority majority nation, which is sort of a fascinating turning point in American history. And we're also seeing sort of the -- I don't know if you want to say the end, but certainly the decline of the Rust Belt in America. Certainly, the industrial Midwest, the boom for so much of the past 100 years, has sort of just reached an end point in its storytelling.
PAGEYou know, there are so many repercussions from this enormous growth of the Hispanic population, from the foods that we see sold in the grocery store. But one of the big impacts, Stephen Hayes, has got to be in politics. We know that Hispanic voters in 2008, by more than 2-1, voted for Barack Obama over John McCain. Is this bad news for the GOP?
HAYESWell, I think the conventional wisdom is that it's bad news for the Republican Party. And I think, in the short-term, it probably is. You've had a Republican Party that has had an incredibly difficult internal debate on how to handle questions about immigration and allowed -- excuse me -- politically strong voice in the Republican Party that wants to basically close the borders, totally opposed to illegal immigration and very skeptical of increased legal immigration. And it's why you've seen politicians like Jeb Bush and others make the counterargument and say, look, the Republican Party cannot be a party that is perceived to be -- whether it's accurate or not -- an anti-illegal immigration party, or an anti-immigration, anti-Hispanic party.
HAYESI think the problem, in some respects, will correct itself as you see Republicans, prominent Republicans, who are of Hispanic descent, take up, you know, a louder voice or have a bigger presence on the national stage like Marco Rubio, obviously, and other state governors, Brian Sandoval and others.
PAGESusana Martinez, another one, yeah.
HAYESSusana Martinez and others.
PAGEYou know, if we're talking about political implications, though, David Corn, one would be this move of people from the Northeast and the Midwest to the South and West. That could be bad news for Democrats.
CORNWell, it could in conventional terms. But if the growth of the population in Texas and Arizona, say, is largely driven by the growth in their Hispanic populations, Democrats are saying, hey, in a couple of years, Texas and Arizona might be swing states. I forget when this is gonna happen, but Texas is on the verge of being a minority majority state. If you add up the Hispanic population and the African-American population in Texas, you're gonna get over 50 percent. So, you know, even though the population is shifting in the South, the population in the South is shifting.
CORNAnd just as a counter narrative to what Steve just said about the Republican Party maybe maturing into -- in a positive direction on this issue, it could, well, come to be, too, that this -- the rise of the Hispanic population here could cause some cultural tensions and conflicts. You know, we've seen that, you know, manifesting itself in places like Arizona. Is that, you know -- will that disappear or dissipate, or might it spread to other parts of the country now as this population increases in places where it wasn't seen before? And I think there will be a split on the conservative side, on the Republican Party, between those who handle it well and those who wanna go back to the good old days, and we all know what that means.
PAGEYou know, it's -- it could be generational as well...
PAGE...because the older population is much more white in its makeup than, say, school children, the age of school children, who – where the Hispanic proportion gets much bigger.
CORNWell, school children -- I think 25 percent now of children, according to census, are Hispanic. I mean -- so if you look at, you know, a generation that's coming, the numbers are much, you know, greater there in terms of the Hispanic percentage than what we see amongst the population at large at the moment.
PAGESusan, one of the big disputes that Congress has been unable to resolve in recent years is the debate over what to do on immigration policy. Does this have the potential to reshape that debate? What's the impact?
DAVISIn the long-term, it's certainly going to reshape the debate. There's no way that you can -- looking at this data and understanding the population forces at work, it's not going to. In the short-term, there's just really no appetite on Capitol Hill for an immigration debate right now. I think so much of the focus has been on budget spending, fiscal fights, that there's just not a lot of bandwidth right now for divisive issues like immigration. And because Republicans are in control in the House, and because this issue does divide their party so much, they don't really wanna have this fight right now.
HAYESBut, remember, it's -- this issue also divides Democrats, to a certain extent. I mean, you've got, you know, interest groups on -- within the Democratic Party, particularly the old Reagan Democrat coalition, and union workers who are worried or concerned potentially about the growth of illegal immigration in particular and the possibility that some of the jobs that had been going to union members and others might be taken by illegal immigrants. So you've had a strong voice in the labor movement, you know, saying, wait a second.
PAGEBut, of course...
PAGEGo ahead, David.
CORNBut they've been much more amenable to trying to work out a deal. I mean, Ted Kennedy had brought them along, brought them to the table. Right now you see -- you know, let's look at John McCain. I mean, he led the -- he was one of the leading Republican voices for trying to work on this difficult issue. And what did his message become during the last campaign when he ran? It was basically, one, get off my lawn. He totally changed his point of view in this. And there -- I see -- correct me if I'm wrong, Steve -- I see no one in the Republican Party who's even interested in trying to broach the issue. While I think there are some Democrats who would like to. But per what Susan just said, they don't see any political space to do this.
PAGEI wonder if there's a political imperative, though, for Barack Obama because, in the 2008 campaign...
PAGE...he talked to Hispanic voters about his commitment to a comprehensive immigration reform package, and he'll be seeking those voters even more in 2012.
CORNHe talked about this last year. He'll be talking about this. He'll be calling for immigration reform. I just don't know who'll be listening.
CORNOn the Hill, that is.
DAVISI don't think there's any doubt immigration will come up in the presidential race, particularly in the Republican primary as well.
PAGELet's talk a little about the economy. We've seen this fragile recovery kind of going along at a slow pace, but reports this week on sales of new and existing homes down, in some cases, to historic lows. Steve, does this raise questions about the recovery?
HAYESI think the sales of existing homes, new homes, numbers are -- we saw those this week because me and my wife are planning to put our house on the market.
HAYESSo it's all about me and...
CORNWashington is still a pretty good market, though.
HAYESWhen you live outside of Washington, it's less good. Look, I think it has caused people to wonder whether we are really in the kind of recovery that I think has been sort of a soft assumption among, you know, people in Washington and economists. These numbers are disturbing. They're worse than many people expected them to be. And to the extent that they are, you know, either reflective of the lack of job creation or the lack of robust job creation, I think they're worse.
PAGESo have you -- has it affected, say, the price you're gonna put on your house or your expectation on how...
PAGE...quickly it will sell?
HAYESIt's a bargain. I mean, if anybody wants to buy a house. (laugh)
HAYESYou wanna give out the website where they can look at it?
HAYESNo, it's -- yes, it has. It has.
PAGEGiven, though, the fact that this housing boom and bust is what really propelled us into the worst recession since the Great Depression, I guess, David, it's not really a surprise...
PAGE...that it's gonna take a long time for the housing market to recover.
CORNWell, you know, we built a lot of houses in places that, you know, that are outside cities. Now gas prices are high. You know, there was -- they built houses on the presumption that people who couldn't really afford them could still buy them, at least get in on -- pay off the developer. And so it seems to me there's probably, unfortunately for Steve, a glut of homes, of recent homes on the market. And, you know, this is coming at the time where -- I heard on NPR this morning that the GDP estimates for the last quarter were -- rised up. Still not -- you know, it's 3.1 percent. Four or 5 percent will be a lot better. But we have this economy where the Wall Street is roaring at the moment. It's come back and it surpassed what it is. But wages and jobs are really slow behind and would -- you know, it's leading to, I think, economic divisions.
PAGEThe most -- go ahead.
DAVISOne of the things I think is interesting -- and this story had just sparked something in my mind 'cause National Journal has just done a lot of extensive work on homeownership in terms of -- obviously, we know the economic problem that we have, these houses on the market and the housing boom and bust, but that in terms of Americans' attitudes. But that -- in terms of Americans' attitudes towards homeownership, you know, has that shifted? And we just did extensive polling. I just wanna -- just so I don't screw up the numbers, but that four-fifths of the respondents said that it's still -- that owning a home is still better than renting. Nine out of 10 said they would still buy their home again, and seven out of 10 said that they would advise someone to buy a home. And the thing that I thought was really interesting is only one in 10 said they ever believed that they bought more home than they could afford.
DAVISSo have we learned a lesson, I think, is the question. The one thing...
HAYESThat seems to say no.
DAVISI know, which is really stunning, considering, like you said, this is sort of what propelled a lot of this -- the financial problem. The one thing I do think is shifting that was noticeable is that people are more wary of the government incentivizing homeownership, that people should maybe not be -- that if you're gonna buy a home, it should come from your own interest and own willingness and own money instead of giving some kind of benefit to do so, that maybe that was bad.
DAVISSo that could be interesting because housing reform and Fannie and Freddie and all that is something that this Congress is gonna be mindful of, and we may actually see legislative action on that this year.
PAGEAnd thinking about the economy, of course, the biggest, most important thing coming out of the Japan crisis is the humanitarian situation there, which continues, and the nuclear crisis, but it also has an economic impact here. The New York Times this morning, reporting on disruptions in global car making, including in the United States, because of disruptions in the supply of parts that are made in Japan. How serious do you think this situation could be, Steve?
HAYESParts and plastics. I mean, if you read The New York Times story and others like it, the suggestion is that it's a short-term problem that can be overcome, and that these things, when this happened in Japan in, I believe it was 1995, there was sort of a blip. But in terms of the long-term trajectory of the economy, that wasn't the cause for Japan's stagnation.
PAGEThinking about the impact of the situation in Japan on the U.S., how about the impact on the move that we had seen taking route for -- to build more nuclear power plants in the United States? David, has this affected the public's attitude toward that?
CORNWell, I don't think it's a big surprise, but the most recent polls show that Americans are less keen on nuclear power than they've been in a bunch of years. You have to go back to sort of Three Mile Island days. And I think, you know, what we're seeing in, you know, Japan -- it's a highly technological, sophisticated society, and we're seeing some of the fundamental flaws in the design of -- and capability of nuclear power. We had a situation in which the -- our government said we need a 50-mile evacuation zone around the plants that are troubled in Japan.
CORNWell, here in the United States, basically they -- the rule is a 10-mile zone. If you included 50 miles, basically the whole northeast seaboard, I think maybe even a majority of the American population, Indian Point in New York, here in Washington. So I think it's causing people to rethink some of the issues with nuclear power.
PAGEI'm Susan Page, and you're listening to "The Diane Rehm Show." We're gonna go to the phones now, 1-800-433-8850. We'll take your cars -- calls. First, let's go to Pittsford, N.Y., and talk to Dick. Dick, thank you for giving us a call.
DICKThank you. The reason for my call -- I'm a retired FBI agent. And when I heard you talking about the change in the Miranda warning, I don't -- I'm just here to supply information that the FBI used to give the warning of rights prior to Miranda, and the Supreme Court decided that there's a reason for being able to give the Miranda because the FBI was still effective. So I'm a little concerned that there is this change. I suspect that the current Supreme Court is looking for a reason to maybe even change Miranda, and this may very well be the case that will come up.
PAGEAnd you're concerned because it will make it harder to interrogate -- to get information from suspects or...
DICKNo, not so much that, but the change in the process, because I think any time you start to do that, one never knows where it's gonna lead, I guess.
PAGEAll right. Okay. Well, thank you very much for your call.
HAYESWell, there have been changes in the process and quite a few of them over the years. And you have people who would defend Miranda warnings argue that there's been sort of a chipping away of those rights. On the other hand, this all grows out of the December 25 bomber, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, and the, I think, imperative that he was interrogated for longer than he had been. He was interrogated only for 50 minutes and then was Mirandized and then basically stopped cooperating.
HAYESNow the White House argued that he had -- they had gotten all of the information they could have possibly gotten from him. But I think there's a coming realization, and this goes back to the point you were making earlier, that this administration came in with the idea that Miranda warnings were sort of sacrosanct, that this was the way business had been done, a criminal law sort of approach to this could work. And the reality is actually quite different.
HAYESYou had a Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, who was trained by al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula, who most certainly did not provide all of the information that he had in 50 minutes. And we now know that al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula is probably the most dangerous al-Qaida franchise in the world.
PAGEOne of the great...
CORNI just have to say, the Wall Street Journal report, Steve, that after he was Mirandized, he still, the administration says -- we don't know, we weren't there -- that he still continued to give valuable information.
PAGEI would just say that one of the great things about the "Diane Rehm Show" is that we get calls from people with all kinds of expertise, including retired FBI agents.
PAGELet's go to Karen. She's calling us from Columbia, Mo. Karen, hi. You're on the air.
KARENHi. Thanks for taking my call. I direct our center for health policy here at the university and do a lot of talking on census issues and population shift. And something happened early in your discussion that I just wanted to call attention to and that is the use of the word majority and minority. It might help your listeners to understand that that's not just the number of people, that folks in the majority have privilege, they have power. And so, when you say, you know, we're gonna be a majority -- a minority majority, I think we need to define that for folks a little bit.
PAGEAnd how would you define it, Karen, when you're talking about this issue of how to put it in that context?
KARENWell, we use those words, majority and minority, like they mean the same thing. But majority, you know, the majority are folks of privilege that have power, that have more sway in the society. And so, it's not just the absolute number of people.
PAGEAll right. Well, Karen, thanks for your call. David.
CORNYeah. I think that's the point she was making that, you know, just because a population group might be in the numerical majority doesn't mean that they are in the political majority in terms of power. We do know with Hispanic vote – voting, that they, up to now in recent years, they haven't voted proportionately in terms of, you know, compared to, say, white Americans, maybe because they're new to this country, maybe because there's some concern about immigration issues and -- but we see year by year by year in different states, they're getting closer. So their political power is increasing. It's still disproportionate, I think, to their population numbers.
PAGEIt was interesting in the 2010 midterms, the states where Democrats did better than expected, where they held on -- Colorado, Nevada, California -- all states with big Hispanic populations. We're gonna take another short break. And when we come back, we'll take more of your calls and questions. You can reach us at 1-800-433-8850. Send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Stay with us.
PAGEWelcome back. I'm Susan Page of USA Today, sitting in for Diane Rehm. With me in the studio for the domestic hour of our Friday News Roundup, David Corn, Washington bureau chief of Mother Jones magazine and an MSNBC analyst, and Susan Davis, congressional correspondent for National Journal, and Stephen Hayes, author of "Cheney: The Untold Story of America's Most Powerful and Controversial Vice President." He works for The Weekly Standard.
PAGENow we have an email here from David, writing us from Fremont, N.H., saying, "What do we know about Sarah Palin's visit to Israel?" I note that David is from New Hampshire, so a big interest in potential 2012 presidential candidates. Why is she in Israel, David?
CORNAll presidential candidates go to Israel. She went there and it was -- she went on a -- I think she was booked by one of these Christian tour groups, which are tied to the evangelical wing of the party, Republican Party, who really care a lot about Israel because it plays a role in the Book of Revelation in end times. So that was a bit controversial. But while she was there, it was interesting to me, she said the Israeli should stop apologizing. And I'm saying, whoa, Benjamin Netanyahu doesn't strike me as much of an apologist.
CORNI don't know what she's talking about. She's trying to be more Israeli than the Israelis. And it came across as a bit of pandering. She also said that she has Israeli flags in her office at home, that she has lots of Israeli flags. I mean, most American candidates wrap themselves in the American flag, not always in the Israeli flag.
PAGESo, Stephen Hayes, do you think that this -- the fact that she took this foreign trip to places that are important in American politics, is this a sign that she will, in fact, run for the Republican nomination in 2012?
HAYESI do not know. I would, if I had $100 today and I were in Las Vegas, and I could place a bet on whether she were gonna run or not, I would say she's not gonna run. And I think that this had as much to do with...
PAGEWould you bet your house, because you're trying to sell it?
HAYESIt's probably worth about $100 these days. (laugh)
CORNI see a telethon here. (laugh)
HAYESShe -- you know, I think this has everything to do or as much to do with making money as it does to do with a potential presidential run.
PAGEYou know, Michele Bachmann indicated -- the Minnesota congresswoman indicated this week, Susan, that she is going to form an exploratory committee and get in this race.
DAVISYeah. It seems like she will probably announce an exploratory committee, May, June. Seems like that's when we're gonna have more of a flurry of people officially announcing. To the extent that she is a tier A candidate, I don't think anyone thinks that. But I don't think you can undercount her sort of influence right now in the sense that she does have a very large microphone on a national level. She very much draws the attention of Tea Party grassroots activists. She's a good fundraiser.
DAVISShe raised $13.5 million during the 2010 election, more than any other House member. And she could make an impact in Iowa. There's a very evangelical component to which she speaks to that audience. She speaks their language. They like her. Long term, does it matter? I don't think much. But in the short term, there's -- you're gonna hear more from her.
CORNWe have a story at motherjones.com this morning that the person who she seems to have picked to be her Iowa state political director is a state representative who is a birther. He has put forward bills, demanding the presidential candidates to show their birth certificates. But beyond that, he's also a hard money fan. He wants people to pay their taxes in gold and silver currency. He doesn't believe in paper money. So she has really sort of aligned herself with a very specific slice of the Republican Party. And if Sarah Palin doesn't run, she is a wonderful understudy in that way.
PAGEBut if you are running for president and you -- somebody signs -- you've signed somebody up to work with you out of state, does that mean that you are responsible for their positions on issues?
CORNWell, I think it sort of indicates where you're coming from, and that you certainly don't have a strong opposition. I mean, this is a guy who is an elected leader of Iowa. And I suppose if he was actually pro-choice, which I assume he isn't, then people would say, why are you hiring a pro-choice person? So I think you can, you know, you can judge people by who they decide to appoint to run their campaigns.
PAGEYou know, we know that President Obama was born in Hawaii, but the questions about his birthplace continue to be an issue among some. Is that gonna be a factor? Is that gonna be an issue that gets discussed, Steve, in the Republican presidential nomination?
HAYESNo. I really don't think so, although what Michele Bachmann has done is invite those questions. I think David is actually right. I mean, when you pick somebody like that who has taken those kinds of views, it guarantees that you're going to be asked those questions, and not only asked those questions in sort of a perfunctory way, but that they will be central to the kinds of questions she's asked at the early stages of her campaign in Iowa.
CORNDonald Trump has raised this, as he's gone about, you know, floating himself as a possible candidate. He was on "The View" the other day, and he spent more time talking about Obama's birth certificate than he did about "Celebrity Apprentice."
DAVISI would say, from almost a little bit of a cynical view, though, for guys like Donald Trump, I think that, obviously, they know how to get media attention. And I think whenever you question Barack Obama's birth, you get media coverage, which is a Donald Trump element to this, a Michele Bachmann element to this, that they're incredibly savvy at getting us to pay attention to them.
PAGEIt is hard to imagine that Donald Trump or Michelle Bachmann will, in the end, be the Republican nominee. But it is possible to imagine that Newt Gingrich will be the Republican nominee. And -- well...
PAGE...he's a more serious candidate. He's -- I think he was a serious -- yeah.
CORNNot this week. Did you pay attention to him this week?
PAGEWell, that's my question. This week, he got into some hot water by expressing, I think, conflicting positions on Libya.
CORNWell, five days ago he said, if I was president, we would intervene in Libya -- actually maybe a week ago. And then as soon as Barack Obama intervened, he said, if I was president, I wouldn't intervene in Libya. Then he said he hadn't flip-flopped. It was really -- you know, politicians do this all the time, but this was one of the clearest, most, you know, red-handed cases of brazen flip-floppery that we've seen in the past couple of weeks. I mean, it makes them look really, very, very unserious.
PAGEDo you agree with that, Steve?
HAYESYes, I do. I think the timing was actually a little bit longer. It was March 3 and I think March 22. And that's at least...
HAYESIt's central to his defense, but it's not a compelling defense. I mean, he basically said things that are directly opposite of one another within the span of less than three weeks.
PAGEAll right. Let's go back to the phones. Let's go to California, Fallbrook, Calif. and talk to Michelle. Michelle, I don't know where Fallbrook is. Where is it in California?
MICHELLEIt's in San Diego County.
PAGEAll right. Well, thank you for your call. Do you have a question or a comment?
MICHELLEI had a comment going back to the census information, and I think that the Hispanic population may be overstated. I'm -- my mother is Mexican and my father is Irish, but I, you know, was not raised in the Hispanic culture at all. I don't speak Spanish. But if I'm on a census form, I'm forced to choose Hispanic. And once I say Hispanic -- I either have to say Hispanic or not Hispanic. If I say Hispanic, then I don't get any other options. I can't say that I'm mixed race, which is what I would consider myself. So I just think it kind of overstates the Hispanic. You know, you're kind of grouping everybody as Hispanic, which may not be -- they may not be culturally Hispanic.
PAGEInteresting. Michelle, thanks so much for your call. Any comments from the panel?
DAVISI'm not sure that that -- I don't want to dispute the caller, but I'm not sure that that's entirely accurate because you do have options to clarify your race on the census and you do, you know, you can be mixed race, and you can identify one way or another. So I understand what she's saying, that if you are someone of mixed race, Hispanic or not Hispanic.
CORNBut it's an interesting question because as there is more people of mixed racial backgrounds, how they decide, you know, to define themselves, which is usually what we give people the prerogative of doing, you know, is gonna shape the statistical equations that we talked about. You know, the best case obviously is the president who had a white mother and a black father, but considers himself African-American.
PAGEBut of course, being Hispanic, it's a case of ethnicity, so you could be black Hispanic or white Hispanic.
PAGESo on the census form, I think you can describe yourself as mixed race, but perhaps as Michelle said...
CORNOnce you describe yourself as Hispanic to begin with, yes.
DAVISTo the larger question, though, of the, just the count, the only thing I would note to that is that there -- if people remember during count, there was actually a lot of controversy that they -- people were not gonna respond and there was an element. And in the aftermath that there's actually been a lot of credit, and there's been very little controversy over the quality of the count. There's been almost no controversy, which is pretty remarkable for the census. So I think the numbers are pretty solid.
PAGELet's go to Paul. He's calling us from Orlando, Fla. Paul, we appreciate hearing from you.
PAULGood morning. I'll try to be brief here. I'm perfectly happy with our involvement in Libya, but I'm concerned about the precedent that President Obama had set in not concurring with Congress. Carry it out 10 years, when, God forbid, President Trump or President Palin decides they want to set up a no-fly zone over Chechnya or Iran. You know, I mean, the War Powers Act are pretty clear and concise. And in this matter, it's probably not much as practical matter goes, but nibbling away at one piece of the Constitution pulls away at the thing, and I'm worried about it. Thank you.
PAGEAll right. Paul, thanks for your call. David?
CORNWell, the War Powers Act is one of these -- it's sort of the bastard son of the Vietnam War in which liberals think it didn't go far enough and conservatives hate it for reigning in imperial presidential power. And it does give the president the ability to take a military action by -- if he notifies Congress after the fact within 48 days and then he has 60 days...
CORNForty-eight hours, excuse me. And then he has but 60 days to sort of do what he wants until Congress can say, okay, now you have to end it. If they don't go along with it, there has to be a vote. And then if they say stop, he has 30 days to stop. So there still is a lot of presidential prerogative here. It doesn't mean that you have to get Congress' permission first. Now, there are people who interpret the Constitution, people like Dennis Kucinich, and there are some people on the right who do it as well, who believe that regardless of what the War Powers Act says, you still have to come to Congress first. And Obama seemed sympathetic to that point of view when he was in Congress.
CORNPeople in Congress like congressional prerogatives, and people when they're president like presidential prerogatives. So it's a thorny issue, and I think the caller is right that every time a president does this, even if it's justified in that instance, it does set precedence that can be abused by people down the road, which is one reason we care about the rule of law because you never know how it's gonna be used.
PAGEOne of the interesting things has been how careful people -- spokesman for the White House, including Jay Carney, the new press secretary, not to use the word war...
PAGE...in describing what is happening in Libya.
HAYESWell, I think -- and this relates to the point that David was making to a certain extent and also what we talked about, you know, 45 minutes ago, which is that I think the president doesn't wanna talk about this is war because they wanna do it in a limited, clean fashion. And I think sometimes the problem with military conflicts is they don't go the way that you expect them to go and what starts out as -- I forget the euphemism -- a kinetic military activity ends up as a war.
PAGEWell, in fact, war -- these military actions almost never go...
PAGE...at least precisely the way...
PAGE...that you expect it to go at the beginning. That's for sure. Let's talk to Billy, calling us from Little Rock, Ark. Hi, Billy.
BILLYHi. Yeah. Good morning. I just wanted to say that it's ludicrous for people to say -- for all these people to say that President Obama didn't go to Congress. Nobody has gone to Congress when they tried to start a conflict since Johnson. And I also wanted to say that people like Mike Huckabee and everything -- he should, like, put his fork up and crawl back into the trailer he crawled out of, and Newt Gingrich needs to go back home, and all these people who think that they can run for president again who -- that were thrown out of office in the first place. We don't want them there. We don't want them to run anymore.
PAGEAll right. Billy, thanks very much for your call. I don't think that Mike Huckabee was defeated. I think he left -- you know, he served his term. I don't know if he was term limited or not, but I don't believe that was a case of being defeated. David, any comment for our caller?
CORNI mean, Mike Huckabee lost the 2008 nomination run, of course...
PAGEThat is true, yes.
CORN...so he did lose there. But I forgot, what was he even saying before? He's turned the tables on us. He was...
PAGEWell, I think a concern about criticism of the president when it comes to Libya.
CORNWell, I mean, I do -- as I said earlier, I think the president is very good at trying to employ patience. And he's trying to do what he thinks is correct, and he's not concerned with immediate judgments that we, in this business -- it's our job to do immediate judgments.
PAGEI'm Susan Page. And you're listening to "The Diane Rehm Show." You know, interesting that South Dakota became the state this week to institute the most severe restrictions on abortion of any state. Susan, tell us what this new law says.
DAVISSouth Dakota has always been one of the more restrictive states when it comes to abortion rights. The latest law, what it would do is any women seeking abortion services would have to submit to counseling prior to getting the procedure, and after counseling, would have to wait 72 hours before being allowed to receive the procedure, which is further complicated in South Dakota because they don't have any abortion facilities there. They're a state famously known for doctors that fly in once a week to perform services. So abortion-rights supporters say that this law is particularly egregious, that it further restricts the right of a woman.
DAVISBut it is -- also, South Dakota is not alone. And this is what is interesting. And I've written about abortion recently in terms of the state level. There's a lot of states right now in the legislatures that are moving -- Republican-controlled legislators that are moving abortion legislation through. So we do have this sort of percolation across the country right now of legislative action to restrict abortion rights.
DAVISThe Arizona House or the Arizona legislature just sent a bill to the governor there that would prohibit abortion based on race or gender, that a woman could not get an abortion because she says it's a girl and I want a boy. Now, practically speaking, that does not particularly happen, but it was a way of extending further protections to the fetus, and it's a big bill for abortion opponents.
CORNBut, you know, a key point here is the South Dakota law mandates you have to go to what's called a pregnancy crisis center, where it's their job to talk you out of having an abortion. These are not medical people. They're not certified. They're not...
DAVISThey're not accredited.
CORNThey're not accredited. They're not licensed. There's no regulation. So this is the most paternalistic, Big-Brother form of legislation, that if you wanna have an act that's legal, you have to go to this place and talk to these people then wait three days. I bet you, this doesn't pass constitutional muster even with this Supreme Court.
PAGEYou know, in the -- a billboard that announces the show, we noted that there was a former senator's ex-wife who died this week. Her name was Elizabeth Taylor. She was better known for other things. But she was a figure in Washington as well as in Hollywood. And I wonder what kind of impact, Steve, you think Elizabeth Taylor had on things in this town.
HAYESWell, I mean, she was somebody who was obviously known quite well for her activism on HIV/AIDS issues, testified in front of Congress numerous times, actually raised the profile of AIDS as an issue and was instrumental in doing so. She also was -- less known about her was that she was sort of a pro-Israel advocate and not shy about her views on that as well.
PAGEAnd, David Corn, she was married for a time to John Warner, who was then the senator from Virginia. Did she like, do you think, being a senator's wife?
CORNWell, obviously not too -- (laugh) for too long. But he put out a beautiful statement the other day when she passed away. And this was the last line from Sen. John Warner. He says, "I shall remember as a woman whose heart and soul were as beautiful as her classic face and majestic eyes." That was just lovely.
PAGEThat's a nice way to end the news roundup this week. I wanna thank David Corn of Mother Jones magazine, Susan Davis from National Journal, Stephen Hayes from The Weekly Standard for being with us this hour. Thank you.
PAGEI'm Susan Page of USA Today, sitting in for Diane Rehm. She'll be back on Monday. Thanks for listening.
ANNOUNCER"The Diane Rehm Show" is produced by Sandra Pinkard, Nancy Robertson, Susan Nabors, Denise Couture, Monique Nazareth and Sarah Ashworth. 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 email address is drshow.org. And we're on Facebook and Twitter. This program comes to you from American University in Washington. This is NPR.
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