Nine years ago, former FBI agent Robert Levinson disappeared in Iran while on a mission for the CIA. The story of his secret journey to Iran, the CIA cover-up that followed and efforts to rescue the longest-held U.S. hostage.
Disappointing job figures from the Labor Department – the June unemployment rate rose to 9.2 percent. Meanwhile, thousands of Minnesota government employees filed for unemployment as the state shutdown continued. Federal budget negotiations inched forward: all eyes will be on the White House over the weekend. President Obama’s Twitter town hall drew thousands of questions and comments. Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney raised $18 million. And the Casey Anthony decision raised doubts about the jury system.
- John Dickerson chief political correspondent for Slate.com and CBS political analyst and contributor. Author of "On Her Trail: My Mother, Nancy Dickerson, TV News' First Woman Star."
- Dan Lothian White House correspondent, CNN.
- Laura Meckler White House correspondent, The Wall Street Journal.
Lisa, who describes herself as a disabled adult child, discusses her difficulty in living on a government benefit of just under $1,000 per month. She says she feels that the struggles of disabled people are being lost in the latest debt ceiling debates in Congress:
MS. DIANE REHMThanks for joining us. I'm Diane Rehm. Tough budget negotiations continue this week. Minnesota's government remains shut down. And U.S. employers added only 18,000 jobs in June, far fewer than expected. Joining me to talk about the week's top domestic stories on the Friday News Roundup, John Dickerson of slate.com and CBS, Laura Meckler of The Wall Street Journal and Dan Lothian of CNN, who I welcome for the first time. Good to have you, Dan.
MR. DAN LOTHIANThank you very much. It's good to be here.
REHMLet's talk about these job numbers, John Dickerson. The White House -- first White House reaction to the unemployment rate, it's unacceptably high. But they go on to say it's important not to read too much into any one month's report. And that's from Austan Goolsbee.
MR. JOHN DICKERSONWho is probably happy that he's not going to be too much longer in the administration because it's a -- it's -- this is the best, I suppose, they can say, but it's not very good, either politically or substantively. I mean, what's shocking about these numbers is that the consensus forecast was, before these numbers came out, that there might be 100,000 jobs or in that range. Even some people were forecasting higher, so you've got a real punch in the gut here.
REHMSo how do you explain this?
DICKERSONWell, this is what -- I mean, the companies aren't hiring. The people would say because there's uncertainty both in the economy and in the picture in Washington in terms of the debt deal. Other people would say because productivity is up, companies are continuing to make money and squeeze more per worker and don't necessarily then need to hire more workers.
DICKERSONThere's also one interesting number that -- the number of the unemployed for less than five weeks grew by about 400,000. That hasn't happened since August of '08. And the idea there is, or the -- and, again, this is just, you know, kind of reading initial signs. But could there be something happening here, a new kind of wave? Does that signal a new potential wave in these numbers?
MS. LAURA MECKLERAnother drag on it is government hiring. The government payrolls dropped by 39,000 in June alone. So there was a little bit more private sector growth. There was about 57,000 private sector jobs created, still very low. But the government -- some, you know, state governments laying people off, that doesn't help the situation either.
LOTHIANI don't think you can underestimate this word, uncertainty. I was on the road a few weeks ago, and I was talking to a business owner. And he told me that he's ready to hire, he is ready to grow, but he needs more certainty in the market before he can do that. And you hear that time and time again. And, you know, we can talk about all the other factors that play into this.
LOTHIANBut if business owners don't feel like they know which way the economy is going, why should they gamble on loading up with more employees?
MECKLERAnd I don't think we can underestimate the impact that this has on the political conversation in the upcoming presidential election. I mean, where, you know, Austan Goolsbee says don't read too much into any one report -- and they have said that before -- they practically say that every month. They say it whether the numbers are good or bad. But the fact is we've had three months in a row now of bad numbers.
MECKLERAnd this looks more and more like one of the worst recoveries that this country has seen since, you know, going back to the '30s. We're talking about this could be years before the job market fully recovers. So there's a statistic often used about how, you know, president had -- only one president has won a re-election with unemployment this high, you know, since World War II. But I think it's even more profound than that.
MECKLERIf you look at the numbers, very few presidents have stood for re-election with unemployment this high. I mean, we're talking at very, very high levels. It's very rarely been at this level. And so, I think, this is a big problem for the president.
LOTHIANLook -- and I think that's why you'll see the president, you know, this event added today. He's coming out at 10:35 this morning, scheduled to come out to the Rose Garden and talk about this. And perhaps what we'll hear from him is what we've been hearing in recent weeks, is that, take a look at the overall picture, that everything is moving in the right direction.
LOTHIANAnd the president will probably walk us back to where the economy was before he came into office, how much deeper it was once he got in, and how he believes he was able to bring the economy back from sort of this brink of this free fall. So I think that's the message you'll hear from the president today.
REHMJohn Dickerson, how are these numbers likely to have any impact on this weekend's discussions?
DICKERSONI think they put even more pressure on a deal. We -- the latest reporting from my conversations last night is both sides are optimistic they're going to get somewhere now that we can talk about the shape of the deal. Usually, what happens is you have one side being optimistic in order to put pressure on the other side to say, basically, we're really close if they would just agree. But in this case, you had both sides suggesting a new sense of optimism.
DICKERSONAnd, I think, for the president, who has very little he can actually do to fix these economic numbers, he needs to be able to come out and say, I did something big. I helped to put together a big deal. Now, there are plenty of people, particularly on the left of his party, who would say that cutting government jobs, that taking money out of the economy is just absolutely the worst thing you can do in a bad economy.
REHMHow did we get from the cutting $2 trillion to now cutting $4 trillion? I don't get it.
LOTHIANWell, look, I mean, a couple of things. First of all, you know, there was all this talk about maybe a mini deal, and the White House shot that down very quickly. The president himself came out and said that that was not something that he was pushing for. I think, you know, to jump off what John was saying, the president wants to do something that essentially doesn't kick the can down the road, to use a term that the White House likes to use.
LOTHIANThey -- he wants to show that he's being aggressive on this front. So that's why he doesn't want something small or insignificant, I think.
MECKLERBut, you know, the $2.4 trillion they were talking about was never considered small. The mini deal was always more like $1 trillion.
MECKLERThe $2.4 trillion was considered what you -- the price of what they wanted, or to extend the debt limit...
REHMThe Republicans are on it.
MECKLERThe Republicans insisted on...
MECKLER...at least $2.4 trillion to get us beyond, to extend debt ceiling long enough past the 2012 elections. But then -- but at the same time, we had both President Obama and the House Republicans with their own long-term deficit reduction plans that were in the $4 trillion range. Nobody really thought that this deal was going to try to tackle those.
MECKLERThose -- in order to get to $4 trillion, you're talking about tax code, tax increases. You're talking about entitlement spending, Social Security, Medicare. You're talking about fundamental stuffs in the -- in government spending.
MECKLERAnd, now, that stuff is suddenly on the table because they're saying, hey, if we're going to do this, let's do it.
REHMOkay. But there's another sort of shift in vocabulary. Is there not, John?
DICKERSONRight. There are a couple of different shifts in vocabulary. So you come from two to four by the president basically saying, let's go big or we'll go home. And so that meant two things: one, taking on these entitlements -- and he's so -- he said, look, if I'm willing to change the cost of living increases for Social Security, maybe, or make some of these changes that he'd already proposed in Medicare, you Republicans have to be willing to raise taxes in some fashion.
DICKERSONNow, the definition of what it means to have a tax increase is going to be very fungible here. And there are ways in which you can raise taxes (unintelligible) by closing loopholes. And you call it that instead of tax increase, or you can talk about having no net new tax increases. But part of the deficit number is part of -- you can count part of the deficit number as future tax increases -- sorry, pardon me -- future tax cuts.
DICKERSONTherefore, if you close loopholes in one place to pay for those future tax cuts, you can claim savings. But as a net matter, there is no actual net new tax increase.
MECKLERBut if we have a $2.4 trillion deal, the sort of medium range, I think, that's what we're going to see. A revenue neutral deal is what they're calling. So you may have some tax cuts, other tax increases and call it a wash. And it can be sold as no new taxes net. But if you end up with a $4 trillion deal and if Democrats go along with Social Security cuts, then they're talking about $1 trillion in new taxes.
REHMBut, you know, before...
MECKLERSo that's a real tax increase.
REHMBefore you start talking about Social Security cuts, what they are talking about possibly is what, John, extending the amount of salary from which Social Security monies...
REHM...can be taken...
DICKERSON...I don't think so. No. I think one -- at least we got to be careful here. One this is that a lot of things are being discussed.
DICKERSONAnd the level of discussion and the interconnectedness of some of these things is quite -- it's a moving picture. And -- both on the tax side and the spending side. But, so far, the only thing I've heard in the context of Social Security is just changing the cost of living increase. There's the long-time debate about how you accurately measure inflation, and there was not a cost of living increase in the last Social Security -- the last time around...
REHMThe last two years.
MECKLERYeah, that's right.
MECKLERAnd, I mean, the interesting thing...
LOTHIANRaising the retirement age as well?
MECKLERWell, those are -- see, what has always been talked about Social Security and doing -- if you're going to do a Social Security deal, there would have several elements, including what you guys just mentioned, maybe raising the retirement age, the adjustment to the inflation, and also subjecting more taxes...
MECKLER...I'm sorry -- more of your pay...
MECKLER...to earnings -- excuse me -- to the payroll tax. That is what the -- that is what has been talked about at the confines of a Social Security deal. This is something different. This is saying we're going to do a deficit reduction deal. We're going to pull one element potentially out of the Social Security menu, this one benefit cut which is the inflation adjuster.
MECKLERAnd we're going to put that in as a tradeoff, not for other Social Security changes, but for, perhaps, tax increases in some other realm, other things dealing with the overall picture. And that really has a lot of people on the left very, very upset because they believe if you're going to make -- number one, they don't want to see cuts at all. But, number two, they say -- a lot of groups, like AARP, for instance, what they say is, we might be able to accept a benefit cut, but we want it done for Social Security, in the context of Social Security.
DICKERSONRight. Instead, the argument will be, this doesn't have anything to do with shoring up Social Security. You're just looking for a place to find some money...
DICKERSON...and also be able to claim for the president. Look, I went after one of my own sacred cows here. And, therefore, Republicans should come along in some kind of a tax deal of some size. Well, regardless -- and, again, it's going to become a debate here about what you call a tax increase and what you don't.
DICKERSONBut we should -- finally, there's one other important political piece here, which is that the president, by going big at $4 trillion -- and let's say they only get the 2.5, the sort of middle option -- the president can then campaign and say, look, I was going to go for $4 trillion. I was even willing to go after Social Security and Medicare and do all of these risky things within my own party.
DICKERSONBut Republicans, because they are so, you know, hard over on protecting the rich -- I'm now speaking in his political voice -- ...
DICKERSON...wouldn't do it. And so that he could both get a deal at 2.5 and then also have an issue, that's one of the possible outcomes.
REHMJohn Dickerson, he's chief political correspondent for slate.com and CBS political analyst and contributor. Short break here. We'll be right back.
REHMAnd just before the break, we were talking about the negotiations that will go on this weekend over resolving issues between Democrats, Republicans, the administration -- a lot of parties here -- and whether there are contingency plans in place, John Dickerson, if they cannot reach some sort of agreement.
DICKERSONYou know, if there are contingency plans in place, it's in no one's interest -- particularly the people who would be making such plans -- to let them know that they're out there. And Treasury Secretary Geithner apparently briefed the president and congressional leaders in the meeting yesterday about the state of play. And at the -- at that level, everybody has agreed that it would be catastrophic. And also it gets catastrophic the closer you get up to this deadline because...
DICKERSON...what is being worried about here is the market reaction. Now, so far, the market -- at least, as far as the stock market is concerned -- has been in pretty good shape the last few days. People seem to think some kind of a deal will be made.
REHMUp 10 percent for the year.
DICKERSONExactly. And there was a period where it had gone down, people getting nervous. But in the last...
DICKERSON...week or so, things have looked better. So -- and there are also -- so it doesn't look like there really is a plan B. And Republican leaders, in the one sort, are trying to get this deal done and count the votes. They certainly don't think you can -- that you can risk it in any kind of way.
REHMDan, could even talk about a plan B hurt the negotiations?
LOTHIANWell, I think so. I mean, if you have a back-up plan, then why should you agree to what's in front of you, right? The Treasury Department has been very sort of upfront in saying publicly that there is no plan B, that, really, as John was pointing out, it would be catastrophic if this Aug. 2 deadline came without any kind of deal.
LOTHIANThe one thing that has been floated out there -- and I did a story about this, this week -- has been whether or not the president will invoke Section 4 of the 14th Amendment, essentially allowing him to just continuing -- continue to borrow money.
REHMOn a constitutional basis.
LOTHIANExactly. The president hasn't directly knocked this down, although he said that's not something that they would be looking at. Jay Carney, White House spokesman, essentially, in a roundabout way, said that that's not something that they're talking about. But, to my knowledge, that's the only thing that the president would have, is sort of a plan B if they can't meet the deadline.
REHMAnd here's a comment posted to our website, drshow. Steve says, "Does anyone on the panel have thoughts on why President Obama has moved so close to Republican positions? Is it because he feels he has no room to maneuver? Or does he truly believe what he's saying?" Laura Meckler.
MECKLERI think it's a little bit of both. I think that this debate has absolutely been fought on Republican turf. And, from the beginning, it's all been about, you know, what spending can we cut. It hasn't been about raising taxes, if there have -- taxes have absolutely been in the -- at the back of the line, rather than the front of the conversation. Same thing -- we even -- and most of the conversation about what to cut has been domestic spending.
MECKLERIt hasn't been defense spending, which is something that Republicans are much more loathe to touch. So it's -- he really hasn't had a lot of options in the sense that Republicans kind of hold the cards. They've just been playing chicken with this and said, we're willing to let this come to the brink, and he isn't. So that's one thing, is he hasn't had a chance. But, on the other hand, I think he recognizes that there's a political mood in the country which says government's too big.
MECKLERYou are spending too much. You need to get your act together. We -- we're having to live on less money. You have to live on less money, too. There is -- that's real. And that was reflected in the 2010 elections. And I think that Obama wants to get out in front of that and wants not to be seen as being dragged along, but as, yeah, me, too, I'm for cutting government spending.
DICKERSONIf the economy is injured by coming up to the deadline or hitting the deadline, the president pays the penalty above all others. So they really do believe this would be an economic catastrophe, and he would take the pain of not having a deal more than anybody else. You can try and spin in the ways that other -- that Republicans would be at fault, but they believe, at the White House, you can't spin it past what would be a very bad reality.
DICKERSONAnd the other thing is that the president's economic message, after you get past this, will be about investments and targeted investments in order to grow the economy and do things. Well, that, to some voters, might sound like your sort of typical Democratic spending, spending, spending. So in order to make that case about the future, they want the election to be about the future, as you might imagine at the White House, rather than the past and the most immediate past in terms of these job numbers.
DICKERSONIn order to be able to have credibility to talk about spending in specific areas, you need to be able to say, look, I am a spending cutter, and I cut a lot of spending here because I recognize that the deficit is a problem. So to what Laura is saying, meet the mood of the country, but, also, it's the predicate required for this conversation they'd like to have about the future. And the president needs to be able to say, look, I've proven myself as a person who is a good fiscal steward.
REHMJohn Dickerson of slate.com, CBS, Laura Meckler of The Wall Street Journal, Dan Lothian, White House correspondent for CNN. What's happening here in Washington is, in another way, happening in Minnesota, where you've got an entire state shut down. Laura.
MECKLERYou do. And the arguments in Minnesota absolutely mirror the federal arguments, which is that they've got -- of course, the numbers are smaller. It's one state. They've got a $5 billion budget gap that they need to close. The Democratic governor, Mark Dayton, is saying that we need to raise taxes. He's suggested taxes on millionaires. He's suggested a cigarette tax. And he -- and Republicans have said, no, we need to do this on...
REHMAnd he's got a Republican majority...
REHM...in his state legislature, all of whom come up for election next year.
MECKLERAnd they are saying, no, this is not a taxes problem. Just like you hear in Washington, this is a spending problem. They presented him with a budget with a lot of cuts to social services. He vetoed that. And that's where the stand-off is, and it's now been going on for a week.
LOTHIANAnd I think the concerns there, that the longer this goes on, it just impacts the overall economic health of that state. I think one of the things, you know, when you look at a story like that, beyond just the government workers there who've been furloughed, is the impact that this has on the private sector there in Minnesota. There are all of these people who own private businesses, who depend on the public workers spending their dollars.
LOTHIANAnd when they're not making money, they're not getting paid. They're not spending. And so there's sort of the ripple effect that occurs, impacting the overall health of the economy of that state.
REHMYou know, it's interesting that it's Minnesota. I think of Minnesota as a place where people get along.
DICKERSONRight, a state that has its act together, yeah.
DICKERSONAnd now we have a governor running for president from there and a congresswoman running for president there. It's a hotbed of the country's political moment. This mirrors more the conversation we had in Washington about the government shutdown from the spring because you have a situation which two-thirds of the government actually is still operating the sort of essential services in Minnesota.
DICKERSONAnd so you have kind of a disconnect, which is that, at least, the whole thing hasn't shut down. You do have all of this money, however, that's not coming in...
DICKERSON...from things like the lottery, the fees at state parks, uncollected tax revenue. And so it's kind of the worst of all worlds. There's not the sense of immediate sense of urgency because the emergency services are being taken care of. On the other hand, day by day, you're losing a lot of money.
REHMHow much longer can a state like Minnesota afford to be shut down without economic -- real economic hardship for the entire state, Laura?
MECKLERI honestly don't know how long it can go. Obviously, it gets worse the longer you go. There was one estimate that they are losing about $23 million a week in spending power between what the government workers are not spending and other ripple effects. You know, that obviously starts to add up. Their debt was downgraded by one of the rating agencies yesterday. So I think that this affects -- the longer it goes, the worse it gets.
REHMDo you agree with that, Dan Lothian?
LOTHIANI completely agree. I mean, yeah, I saw that number as well, that estimate of $23 million. This is -- no one really has sort of the crystal ball to know at what point it becomes catastrophic. But every day that this goes on, or every week that it goes on, it has to be undermining the economy of that state.
REHMDan Lothian of CNN. And the most popular topic in President Obama's first ever White House Twitter town hall was jobs.
LOTHIANIt was jobs. I believe -- what was it? -- 27 percent of the questions that were submitted had to deal with jobs. And I think, you know, you can look at all of the other issues that sometimes people inside Washington focus on -- the foreign policy issues, Afghanistan. Certainly, it's important. There is the overall, you know, internal debate here about, you know, what's going to happen with the debt ceiling and so forth.
LOTHIANBut at the end of the day, I think the American people care about jobs. You know, they care about whether they can hang on to their homes. That was the second most popular topic, is housing, but also jobs, whether they'll be employed. And there's a lot of concern about that. And that's why you see, you know, House Speaker John Boehner will never miss the opportunity to talk to the president or ask the president about it.
REHMHe did it himself.
LOTHIANAnd, in fact, he crashed the Twitter town hall, was able to get a question in to ask the president about jobs. And the president admitted that, you know, they have not been able to create as many jobs as demand is out there for. And so, yes, jobs remains, I think, the number one priority for Americans.
REHMYou know, at the same time, you had Mitt Romney announcing via Twitter that he was in a meeting with British Prime Minister David Cameron. He's in London to fund-raise. He raised a good bit of money in the last few weeks, Laura.
MECKLERHe did. He raised $18.25 million. That's -- that was a good haul, well ahead of any of his challengers. Mitt Romney is clearly the front-runner in the Republican presidential nomination race. The question now is, really, who is going to be the alternative to Mitt Romney. For a long time, people thought it might be Tim Pawlenty. Then people kind of thought it might be Jon Huntsman, the former governor of Utah.
MECKLERNow, a lot of people seem to think it might be Michele Bachmann, the congresswoman from Minnesota, who was dismissed, I think it's fair to say, by a lot of people in Washington, but is -- seems to be pretty popular out there on the trail. In Iowa, she and Romney are in -- virtually tied for first place. So...
DICKERSONWell, I think, you know, we always -- well, a couple of things, first, on the Romney money. Big haul, you know, very good, but there are still a lot of Republicans who worry about -- that the number on the Obama side will be gargantuan, you know, close to $800 million. Some people talk about a billion. That's probably a little overstated, but...
MECKLERWell, you're now speaking for the entire race, not for this month.
DICKERSONFor the entire race. So -- and so -- right, but Romney's haul was not as good as it could have been. It was certainly better than the others, but Romney's case is, I can run against Obama. That's why he's in London. He's looking like a presidential candidate already. He's been very smart in, really, basically keeping this race about him versus Obama. It works nicely because he can say, I was in the business world, the economy is bad, I know how to fix it.
DICKERSONSo for a candidate focused on the general election, if you look then at the general election money picture, what looks very good relative to his other Republican opponent doesn't look so good relative to the president. And so that's one thing to keep in mind with Romney's numbers. With respect to Bachmann, I think that we basically will have to wait to see what Rick Perry does, the governor of Texas.
DICKERSONHe presents a significant challenge to Bachmann in that wing of the party. We always knew it would be a split primary between the sort of Romney and then the alternative. Rick Perry looks like a very strong alternative who could run well with those conservative voters, evangelical voters that Bachmann appeals to. She's from Iowa. And she has a strength there, which is why she's doing well in that state.
REHMJohn Dickerson of slate.com, and you're listening to "The Diane Rehm Show." We also heard from David Plouffe this week, the White House senior adviser, who said it's going to be a closer race this time than last time, Dan.
LOTHIANWell, I mean, that's the strategy as well, right? You don't want to say early on that you're going to run away with the race, but, no. They realized the reality that it is going to be very competitive. But back to, also, Mitt Romney, the White House realizes, I think, that he is the front-runner at this point because you'll hear David Plouffe talk about Romney as being a political contortionist.
LOTHIANThey are going after him, and they're not really talking about any of the other Republican candidates. It's Mitt Romney. So, clearly, they view him as the person to beat, you know, as their opponent.
REHMAnd, meanwhile, you have Ron Paul criticizing the TSA, saying that he wanted to introduce the American Traveler Dignity Act, Laura.
MECKLERRight. He basically thinks that airport security should be run by the airlines, not by the government. Of course, that's much closer to the situation we had pre-9/11 before the federal government took charge of standards. And most -- of course, most of airport security now is run by the Transportation Security Administration. I think a lot of people who are experts in this field would say going back to an airline-run system would not be smart from a security point of view.
MECKLERI also think that he probably is tapping into kind of a populist vein of people who don't like being, you know, told to take off their shoes or patted down in, you know, cavity searched and that sort of thing. I'm joking about the cavity search.
REHMNow, where are the...
MECKLERBut, you know, that's -- people don't like it. And so, when you go out there and say, yeah, I don't like it either, let's get rid of it, that's a popular thing to say.
REHMThere -- go ahead, Dan.
LOTHIANBut look at the week that he -- you know, this week, the news out is that the airline industry does continue to be -- remain a threat for terrorism, that there are ways that terrorists are looking to bring bombs inside their bodies on to airlines. And so, while people might be frustrated that, you know, they're being patted down or whatever happens when you're trying to board an aircraft, the reality of the situation is that the threat out there remains real.
LOTHIANAnd so this is a -- it's a message that might resonate with some, but I think it doesn't really hold a lot of water with a lot of people.
REHMAnd, finally, John Dickerson, Casey Anthony has been convicted of lying to police about her daughter's disappearance. But she was acquitted on the much more serious murder charges. What did you think about the decision of the jury?
DICKERSONWell, there was a lot of outrage because a lot of people who watched the case closely about, you know, the death of her 2-year-old daughter and looked at all of the evidence that was presented by prosecutors thought, well, of course, she's guilty. But, you know, in a criminal case, where you have to prove beyond a reasonable doubt, not guilty doesn't mean she was innocent, but it means that the case was not proven.
DICKERSONAnd the whole reason that our justice system is balanced that way is that, you know, we want a system in which it's very hard to send people to prison because you don't want to send an innocent person, and so you had it weighted in this fashion. And so this is another example where people are unhappy, much like with the O.J. Simpson trial, where people thought he was guilty.
DICKERSONUnhappy with the way it turned out, but it causes a kind of conversation again about the way our system is structured so that, you know, you don't err on the other side. And, now, she'll -- you know, people are now talking about her going on and having a career and making money off of this, which I'm sure will increase the outrage exponentially.
MECKLERYeah, I mean, I think it's just very hard for anybody. They see a mother who, you know, doesn't report her child missing for, what, 31 days, who, you know, so clearly lies to police and -- which, of course, she was convicted for and doesn't seem to be all that interested in finding her or all that upset about it. I mean, all of that is very hard to see and very hard to hear. And it makes you, you know, really wonder what's going on here. How is this person going to just essentially walk away?
MECKLERBut, on the other hand, you know, I can't -- I don't feel like I can be here and say the jury was wrong. I didn't sit there. I didn't listen to the evidence. And from what I understand, there was no solid proof, no forensic evidence tying her to the crime. And, you know, she was also on trial for the death penalty, we need to keep in mind. So, I mean, this is serious stuff.
REHMLaura Meckler, White House correspondent for The Wall Street Journal. When we come back, it's time to open the phones, 800-433-8850.
REHMWe'll go right to the phones in this -- our Friday News Roundup, the domestic hour. Let's go to Dan in Sussex County, N.J. Good morning to you.
DANGood morning. I'm calling in reference to the starve the beast program that conservatives devised back -- way back into the Reagan administration, where they were to cut taxes or never raise taxes, and it was further implemented on the George Bush, where we're in two wars -- didn't pay for them -- gave the prescription drug program to seniors -- never paid for it -- and ran up trillions of dollars in debt.
DANAnd, right now, we're -- the house of cards that they built is falling down. And they're using that as a cudgel to beat President Obama back against the head about, you know, cut the deficit by cutting all the social service programs that it can be possibly be cut, instead of raising a nickel on taxes anywhere. This is devised plan by the conservatives of the Republican Party that has been in play now for close to 30 years.
REHMAll right, sir. Laura Meckler.
MECKLERWell, there's no question that the deficit increased quite a bit under President Bush for some of the reasons that the caller mentioned. I think, though, the overall government spending has been fueled by both parties. I don't think you can put that all on Republicans. There's -- deficit has increased quite a bit since President Obama took office. Now, he would say that it was for necessary things to save the economy.
MECKLERBut, nonetheless, it has been -- the deficit has been steadily climbing, so -- and I do think that there's a frustration with the incredible size of our deficit and our national debt in the country that has penetrated in a way that only happens every so often. People really start to care about this, so, I -- there certainly are Republicans who feel like the answer is, smaller government at any cost and have had that sort of starve the beast mentality. But I don't think that that's the only thing going on here. I think it's deeper.
REHMAll right. To Newton, Mass. Good morning, Lisa.
LISAYes. I wanted to raise the issue of what happens to the disabled with these debt limit cuts to Social Security. If they realize that -- I'm what's called a disabled adult child, which means I've been disabled since childhood. And my father's retired, so I collect according to his record. And then when -- if he's -- if I survive him, I would -- I was supposed to get more. You know, my parents and my family won't be here to help me.
LISAThey say they want us to live in the community. I get just over $1,000 month now. And, apparently, the disabled groups, they're saying that, you know, if you live a long time, the disabled people collect for a long time, longer than most. And this will affect us disproportionately, and we're the most vulnerable. Statistically, disabled adult children are the poorest. And it just seems, to me, it's all about numbers.
LISANobody thinks about the disabled. No one thinks about the vulnerable. And when you rush something, then, I think, it's like designed so that no one can think about people.
REHMThat's a truly eloquent statement, John Dickerson.
DICKERSONI think it's exacerbated in this debt discussion because it is about numbers. It's not about Social Security solvency and those other things we mentioned, raising the retirement age, expanding the amount of income that can be taxed doesn't affect the benefits side. And so those would be things that would get you more money, allow the system to be more healthy and don't affect people like Lisa.
DICKERSONAnd so, you know, this is -- we don't know what's being discussed -- I mean, we've heard rumors and things like that or whether anything will be changed. So there's also a lot of rumors around here and people saying things that are in play, that may not, in fact, be, so we have to keep a close an eye on that, too.
LOTHIANI think that's so true. I mean, so much right now, it's just about speculation. We don't know specifically what's on the table. But I think that, that's why you hear people, like, you know, Nancy Pelosi, or other, you know, progressives who are saying, you know, this can't be touched because the impact to people who are needy, have these medical needs, the disabled, is unknown, and they're scared. And I think that's why there is so much concern among the people.
REHMLisa, I wish you all the best. Thanks for calling. Here is a comment on the drshow website, "Shouldn't we be talking about the man behind the Republican stubbornness, Grover Norquist? Who elected him? Here is a man who's professed the desire to make the government so small it can be flushed down the toilet, who has all kinds of connections to Jack Abramoff.
REHM"And it's his pledge that most Republicans are loyal to not the good of their constituents. More light must be shown on this man behind the foolish stance Republicans are holding."
MECKLERWell, that very well may be true and what -- and Grover Norquist does have a lot of power. He is -- does oppose anything that is a tax increase in any form. Having said that, is he the one that people should be angry with? He wasn't elected. It's members of Congress who are choosing to sign this pledge, to abide by this pledge, to care what Grover Norquist says...
REHMThe pledge he wrote.
MECKLER...that he wrote. But I don't care who wrote it. It's up to an elected official to decide whether to participate in it. So, I mean, really, Grover Norquist only has the power that elected officials give him. So, you know, I mean, that's not to say that he isn't, you know, a bad influence on the system, but it isn't -- I'm just saying, though, that it's up to individuals to make -- up to elected officials to make those decisions.
DICKERSONAnd up for people -- to voters to penalize and punish those politicians or to do their own version of what Grover Norquist has done. I mean, he's a free citizen. Now, you can claim -- I mean, so the right of one person has a point of view to do everything in their power to get politicians to dance to their tune, you know, is -- should be protected, whether you like what he's doing or not. And so the way to combat it is to focus on the politicians and the choices they're making.
REHMAll right. To Elkhart, Ind. Good morning, Jacky. (sp?)
JACKYOh, good morning. There was an interesting op-ed in our local newspaper here at the South Bend Tribune. It was written by Ezra Klein, K-L-E-I-N. And in it, he states, I know right after the president was elected, Rush Limbaugh got up and said, I hope he fails. And in 2010, Mitch McConnell said that the most important thing for the Republican Party was to see that Obama is a one-term president. That goes above everything.
JACKYAnd it made me think of an ancient Chinese proverb, "To appease the dragon means only that you feed your children to him last." Republicans are not going to quit. No matter what we give them, they're going to keep us in a state of constant fear and upset and agitation. They don't care about the American people.
JACKYThe fact that they're willing to possibly crash the whole economy over this one little thing, I mean, it's -- not that the deficit is little. But, I mean, that should be handled separately than all these safety net programs.
LOTHIANWell, I think if you spoke to a Republican, I don't think that they would say that they don't care about the American people. I don't know that John Boehner -- Speaker John Boehner has ever come out and made a statement that he didn't make some kind of reference to the American people. You know, the argument can be made out there that there are some Republicans who want to see the president fail. But I think at the end of the day, both Republicans and Democrats realize what's at stake here.
LOTHIANThey've all realized that, you know, it's in the best interest of the voters, or the American people, to get this debt ceiling raised. The question is, can you find compromise between, you know, Republicans and Democrats?
REHMAll right. Here is a question from Twitter, "Why was Mitt Romney raising money overseas?" John Dickerson.
DICKERSONAmericans who live in London, who can still give money -- he's not raising it from Londoners. And -- but the larger point, in addition to just getting dollars to keep the campaign going, is that it's a way for a candidate to have a sort of -- to go over and look presidential. He meets with the prime minister. He -- you can see him as a potential president when he plays in this role.
DICKERSONYou remember, candidate Obama did a similar thing with the European trip in which he was greeted by throngs of fans. The McCain campaign tried to use it against him. It didn't work. But this is -- so it's kind of a twofer. It's the money and the chance to sort of play act a little bit.
REHMAll right. To Charlotte, N.C. Hi there, Mark.
MARKHello. How are you all tonight?
REHMI'm fine. Thanks.
MARKI am a small business owner, and with all due respect here, I don't understand why people don't get out of the Beltway and just come to America and see. You know, we feel -- and I voted for Republicans, and I voted for Democrats. But as business owners, we all feel that our political leadership is just failing our country. And I'm not speaking about Obama. I wasn't a big fan, but, at least, he was trying to work and negotiate.
MARKThe Republicans signed the Grover Norquist pledge and then simply walked out on the meetings. The stock market is down because small businesses and -- really, we have to protect ourselves against a Minnesota outcome here at the end of the month. I think if they would get their act together, settle the debt issue, you would see a huge improvement on employment by small businesses.
MARKWe're all just having to protect ourselves because we don't know what they're going to do.
REHMSo let me ask you a question, Mark. If this badgering back and forth continues and we go past the deadline that has been set on the default, who would you be blaming?
MARKWell, I'd definitely be blaming the Republicans. Get in there and settle. This is not rocket science. For instance, in North Carolina, our new Republican legislators cut a 1 percent sales tax that 70 percent of the people said they wanted to keep for education. They went ahead and cut it. And now, we're laying off 17,000 teachers, which nobody wants to do. How is that going to improve education or the economy?
MARKBut it's all about this Grover Norquist deal. Why are we allowing somebody to really put the hedge on the American process?
REHMAll right. Laura Meckler.
MECKLERWell, I think one interesting thing is there are a few Republicans who are willing to buck Grover Norquist, the people like Tom -- Sen. Tom Coburn, who has been in a sort of a public fight with him. He is a -- as interested in cutting government spending as anybody is, has long preached about this and has said that, yeah, we also have to raise taxes, too, as part of a balanced deal. And --
REHMBut they're very few.
MECKLERBut there are few. That's true. There are few, but I think the interesting thing what the -- what Mark said was he said, you know, we feel the country's leadership is failing us, or the leadership is failing the country. And, I mean, and that's what's going on, the sense that -- now, he's putting most of the blame on Republicans. I don't know if that would necessarily be the -- I don't think anyone really knows how that will fall out in a widespread way.
MECKLERBut I think that what the White House wants to show is that they are above that and trying to cut -- get up something balanced, something we give and you give.
LOTHIANBut he also makes that point, that we were talking about earlier, is that uncertainty is still a big issue.
REHMOf course, for him.
LOTHIANAnd so -- for him as a business owner.
LOTHIANSo if you can resolve this situation, raise the debt ceiling or any other, you know, political or financial situation that might be negotiated in Washington, then that can create more certainty for the business owners outside of the Beltway.
REHMDan Lothian, he is White House correspondent for CNN, and you're listening to "The Diane Rehm Show." Mark, thanks for your call. Let's go to Arlington, Texas. Good morning, Ed. You're on the air.
EDYes. I think President Obama is handling the current discussions with Congress poorly. I think, rather than being the calm, dispassionate negotiator that he's trying to present himself as, I think he needs to present himself more as the harsh principal of a school of juvenile delinquents. He needs to tell the American -- he needs to present himself as kind of the informer of the American public as to how poorly Congress is doing its job, and mainly the Republican-controlled House.
REHMAnd Ed is certainly not the only one who -- even among President Obama's supporters have criticized him for not standing up more strongly, more forcibly, going directly to the people.
DICKERSONWell, I would say a couple of things. One, at the press conference last week, the president did precisely what Ed is talking about.
DICKERSONHe scolded Congress. He scolded Republicans. He, in fact, compared them unfavorably to the homework habits of his daughters. I mean, everything is short of suggesting they needed a drool cup.
DICKERSONSo I think that that's -- I think he was pretty harsh. Now, the problem is he faces reality. There is a deadline here. He believes in the deadline. He believes that if the deadline is not met, the economy will crater. He believes that he will pay a real price if that happens. So he can lecture, and then he can deal with reality. And I think that they are dealing with reality.
DICKERSONPresidents are limited in what they can do by a lot of things. And, right now, he's limited by the political situation that he faces. And he could try a big, risky, bold gambit and have a huge, massive fight Republicans, and he could fail. And he thinks that the chances of failure are large, and they would be catastrophic. And so he is doing the best he can, given the hand he faces.
REHMAll right. To Owosso, Mich. Good morning, Brian.
BRIANGood morning, Diane. Basically, the reason I'm calling is I really dislike the confusion that has been displayed by so many people about the -- they equate raising the debt ceiling -- like, if you don't raise the debt ceiling, we will default on our loan. And I just -- I -- that's, frankly, not true. I mean, if you borrow so much on your credit card, for instance, and you go to your credit card company and say, hey, I want to borrow more, and they say, no, that doesn't mean that you default.
EDYou keep making your payments. You just don't get to borrow anymore. And that's, you know, that's all I really have to say. I really dislike how everybody is equating not raising the debt ceiling and default. And it...
MECKLERBut in order to pay our ongoing obligations to send Social Security checks out...
MECKLER...to pay government workers, to pay interest on bonds that's owed to all sorts of people, in order to do all the things that the government does every month, we don't have enough money coming in. So if you -- in order to do that, we need to borrow more. So, you know, you could -- the problem is a lot of this -- he may be suggesting, and there have actually been some who have suggested this -- yes, just pay the interest on the bond and just stop all other government services.
MECKLERMeaning, no one gets Social Security checks, no Medicare doctors get reimbursed. You know, we just sort of stop paying the TSA. Maybe that would make Ron Paul happy, you know...
REHMHow likely do you think that is...
MECKLERI think it's virtually impossible.
DICKERSONBecause -- and the reason it's impossible and the reason they'll work to get a deal is that even if you could do the math and arrange things in such a way as Laura describes, that might solve the math problem for the moment, but the market reaction to that would be catastrophic. And that's what they're worried about.
REHMWell, let's hope they all come to the White House this weekend ready and willing to negotiate in honesty and fairness. John Dickerson of slate.com and CBS, Laura Meckler of The Wall Street Journal, Dan Lothian of CNN. Happy Friday. Have a good weekend. Thanks for listening, all. I'm Diane Rehm.
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