"My Brilliant Friend" by Elena Ferrante is the first of the mysterious Italian author's Neapolitan novels. The series tells the story of a life-long friendship between two working class girls in Naples. Critics have called Ferrante “one of the greatest novelists of our time.” Yet nobody knows her true identity. Join Diane and her guests for a discussion of “My Brilliant Friend.”
Republican candidates came out swinging against each other and President Obama in their third debate last night. Aides to Texas Governor Rick Perry confirmed he will enter the race, while the other eight GOP candidates will be tested in Iowa’s straw poll. House minority leader Pelosi filled in the final three slots on the deficit supercommittee. The Fed promised to keep interest rates near zero for the next two years. And, for the first time in its 115-year history, the Dow Jones Industrial Average moved by more than 400 points for four consecutive days. A panel of journalists join Diane for analysis of the week’s top national news stories.
- Susan Page Washington bureau chief for USA Today.
- Sheryl Gay Stolberg Washington correspondent, The New York Times.
- Naftali Bendavid national correspondent, The Wall Street Journal.
Friday News Roundup Video
The panelists talk about whether the newly formed deficit supercommittee is likely to reach a consensus in the coming months:
MS. DIANE REHMThanks for joining us. I'm Diane Rehm. Eight Republican candidates clashed in the Iowa presidential debate last night. The Dow moved 400 points on four straight days for the first time in history. And congressional leaders picked members of the new deficit super committee.
MS. DIANE REHMHere in the studio for the domestic hour of the Friday News Roundup: Sheryl Gay Stolberg of The New York Times, Naftali Bendavid, The Wall Street Journal, and Susan Page of USA Today. Join us, questions, comments. Give us a phone call on 800-433-8850. Send us your email to email@example.com. Join us on Facebook or Twitter. Good morning and happy Friday, everybody. It's been quite a week.
MS. SHERYL GAY STOLBERGGood morning.
MS. SUSAN PAGEGood morning, Diane.
MR. NAFTALI BENDAVIDGood morning.
REHMWhat did you take away from last night's debate, Susan Page?
PAGELively debate. Kudos to Fox. I thought it was a well-run debate. It's hard to run a lively, fast-paced debate when you've got eight candidates on stage. I thought you really saw the shape of the field adjusting some. We saw Romney, who's been the frontrunner, emerging unscathed once again as he did in the last debate.
PAGEYou saw Jon Huntsman, who was a late starting candidate, not breaking through, hard to take him seriously. And you saw Tim Pawlenty lay out the line of attack against Michele Bachmann, who's been the rising star since the last debate, laying out the line of attack that we are likely to hear from people like Rick Perry, the Texas governor who jumps in this race on Saturday.
BENDAVIDYeah, to an extent, this debate was overshadowed by somebody who wasn't there, which is Rick Perry, who's about to jump in the race, presumably tomorrow. And so that made it sort of a strange, almost irrelevant feeling to the debate. But you also saw Pawlenty and Bachmann go at it in a way that you hadn't seen before. And they both had something to prove after their last debate, where Pawlenty seemed to do badly. Bachman seemed to do well.
BENDAVIDHe wanted to prove that his performance was a fluke. She wanted to prove that hers wasn't. And so you had them really attack each other in fairly strong terms. They are the ones who have the most to gain or to lose from a straw poll and from what's happening in Iowa.
REHMYou finally heard that word Obamneycare come out in this debate, Sheryl.
STOLBERGThat's right. Well, that's really the one line of attack that the other Republicans have to go against Mitt Romney, which is his health plan in Massachusetts. He has repeatedly said that his health plan is not the same as President Obama's, that it -- whereas President Obama's created an individual mandate for all Americans, the Massachusetts plan, as he says, left it to the states.
STOLBERGBut this is really the way that his fellow Republicans are trying to undermine him. I agree with Susan. I thought Romney came out actually looking pretty presidential. And I think last night was the night we saw Minnesota nice turn into Minnesota nasty with the two Minnesotans going at one another. I thought that Michele Bachmann actually came out looking better than Tim Pawlenty.
STOLBERGShe held her own against his attacks on her, and she didn't back down.
REHMOf course, earlier in the day, you had Mitt Romney at the Iowa state fair kind of getting heckled.
BENDAVIDYeah, there's this thing called a soapbox that they have there, where the candidate stands up, makes a brief speech and then gets questions and answers. And he was sort of pressed on why there aren't higher taxes on corporations, and he came out with this line that corporations are people, too.
BENDAVIDAnd he elaborated what he meant, which is that corporations are, of course, made up of people and if they do well, presumably their employees and shareholders do well. But it's one of those lines that you can just see being used against him, if not by fellow Republicans, then certainly by Democrats.
STOLBERGI thought that was really interesting. You know, we haven't seen a whole a lot of Romney out there on the stump. And, in fact, his campaign has been criticized for running kind of stealth candidacy, if you will, letting the other Republicans get out there while he's, you know, busy raising money and keeping quiet. Now, the first time that we've seen him out there, he got into this situation in which he uttered a line that may come back to haunt him.
STOLBERGAnd, of course, in the age of YouTube and Twitter, you know, the video clips are everywhere, and you can see him being heckled at one point. He says to one of his hecklers, look, you know, now, it's my turn to talk and if you don't like what I have to say, you know, you can go vote for somebody else. And it was kind of a short response.
PAGEAnd, of course, Mitt Romney, the frontrunner, but a pretty fragile frontrunner, he's only in about -- he's only at 24 percent in the USA Today-Gallup poll that we took last weekend. And you saw in the debate how well he does in a set program. You know, he had his lines. He had some quotes. He looked in control. But when he gets into these campaign events, he is much less self-assured.
PAGEYou know, it's not just this time that he utters a line that could come back to haunt him. Remember when he was down in Florida with a group of about a half dozen unemployed people and he said, I'm unemployed, too? That's an example of a lack of nimbleness when you're on your feet, that if you're a presidential candidate who's going to win, you need to be a little better at that.
STOLBERGAnd Mitt Romney has to worry about that. You know, last night at the debate, the funniest line was certainly the line by Tim Pawlenty, where he said something to the effect of, if you can come up with President Obama's economic plan, I'll come to your house and cook you dinner, or I'll mow your lawn.
STOLBERGAnd then, looking at Romney, he said, but if -- in Mitt's case, I'm limiting myself to one acre, a clear dig at Gov. Romney, who is, after all, a very wealthy man.
BENDAVIDThere was one other interesting moment in the debate, you know, before we leave it, and that is that, at one point, the moderator asked people to raise their hand if they would reject a deficit cutting plan that was 10-1 spending cuts to tax increases. And every single one of them raised their hands. In other words, they would all walk away from a 10-1 deficit plan that favors spending cuts.
BENDAVIDAnd I think it's just a sign of the anti-tax kind of orthodoxy that's now in the Republican Party. And, in a way, this debate wasn't only about people's beliefs, but also about how willing you were to compromise. That actually came up quite a few times. And that was a sign that they all felt like they really needed to be on record being absolutely opposed to even the smallest tax increases.
PAGEAnd you know who was delighted to hear that? Would be the Obama campaign because these -- when candidates in a primary are forced to take pretty doctrinaire positions, who wouldn't take a 10-1 deal on spending the taxes?
PAGEI think most Americans would think that was a pretty good deal.
PAGEWhen you have candidates who refuse to do that, that can come back to haunt them when they're in a general election.
REHMSusan Page of USA Today, Naftali Bendavid of The Wall Street Journal and Sheryl Gay Stolberg of The New York Times. Do join us. Call us. Tweet us. Join us on Facebook. The Newsweek cover shot of Michele Bachmann this week stirred a lot of controversy. What was your reaction?
STOLBERGI was, frankly, kind of surprised. The Newsweek cover shot of her showed her looking kind of bug-eyed and off in the distance under a caption that said, queen of rage. I think it wasn't, frankly, the caption so much, all right. Let's have -- give them the license to write what they want, but the photograph really made her look kind of wild-eyed and almost deranged.
STOLBERGAnd Newsweek defended itself, saying they had plenty of pictures of her with her eyes wide open like that. But, still, it raised questions about the magazine. Did they run this kind of picture because they wanted a lot of buzz? Michele Bachmann herself refused to kind of get down to the muck. And she didn't want to wait into it. She just let the debate, you know, stand for itself.
REHMWe should say that Tina Brown, in a statement, said, Michele Bachmann's intensity is galvanizing voters in Iowa right now. Newsweek's cover captures that.
BENDAVIDYou know, and Tina Brown is known for wanting to generate buzz for her publications. And she's done various things throughout her career. And there was conservative criticism of this, you know, that it was the mainstream media being hard on a conservative. But I read it more as Tina Brown doing what she does, which is trying to generate attention.
BENDAVIDAnd I actually thought a much more important article about Michele Bachmann was in The New Yorker that just appeared, that went over thinkers that she has embraced. And some of these thinkers have views that some people would say are out of the mainstream. But in any case, that's an exploration of her thought process.
BENDAVIDAnd, to me, that was much more important than, actually, the photo that Newsweek put on there, which, to my mind, was essentially an attempt to generate some publicity.
REHMWhat about those thinkers and their thought processes?
BENDAVIDWell, you know, again, this is an article in The New Yorker, and, you know, people should read it. I mean, I think that it sort went through some of the writers and philosophers. Many of them are Christian conservatives, and some of the thoughts that they -- you know, that they hold and that they profess. And I don't want to pass judgment on it.
BENDAVIDBut I think it does cast light on the way that she thinks and the kind of people that have attracted her attention and her support over the years.
STOLBERGYeah, I think one thing we know about Michele Bachmann is that she is a woman of devout evangelical faith. This does guide her thinking. It guided her path in Minnesota when she came up through the legislature there as an ardent foe of same-sex marriage. We know that she has talked about her relationship with her husband in Christian terms.
STOLBERGAnd this came up last night in the debate, where she was asked about a time in her life when her husband suggested that she be a tax attorney. And she said, I don't want to be a tax attorney, but she looked to scripture and that scripture said, women -- wives shall be submissive to their husbands. Now, asked whether she...
REHMAnd the question?
STOLBERGThe question was, if you are -- become president, will you be submissive to your husband? And she came back and said, well, what we regard as submission is a sign of respect. Interestingly, I interviewed her pastor, her longtime pastor and asked him about that. And he said that they think of this in the religious realm.
STOLBERGIn other words, wives shall be submissive to their husbands in the religious realm and that running for president is a secular activity, which I actually thought was, frankly, a better explanation of that than the one she gave last night, which was simply to say that she regarded submission as a sign of respect.
PAGEAll of this is the classic progression in a presidential campaign. We're not taking Michele Bachmann seriously as a presidential candidate. So she gets this kind of scrutiny about her religious views and her government philosophy and her record as a legislator, so that's all to the good. You know, we're not doing this for, say, Rick Santorum.
PAGEBecause, despite the fact that he spent a lot of time campaigning, at this point we don't really take him seriously as a presidential candidate.
REHMAnd what's behind the timing of Texas Gov. Rick Perry's announcement, Naftali?
BENDAVIDWell, it is very interesting because it does seem, by design or not, to be stepping on what's happening in Iowa. And he's coming in with a splash. And he's coming in at a time when, you know, there's been a certain amount of dissatisfaction with the Republican field among rank and file Republican voters. And, you know, speaking of scrutiny, I think he's about to get it. You know, there's a lot of very obvious advantages that he has.
BENDAVIDFor example, he seems to be able to potentially unify fiscal and social conservatives, to unify establishment and insurgent-type voters. And he has a pretty good record of job creation in Texas. On the other hand, he has some liabilities. You know, I think Mitt Romney still has a real advantage, at least a head start, in terms of fund raising and so forth. And he's going to be scrutinized -- Perry is -- in a way that he hasn't been to this point.
REHMNaftali Bendavid, he is a correspondent for The Wall Street Journal. We're going to take a short break now. When we come back, we'll talk further about Rick Perry and Sarah Palin.
REHMWelcome back to the Friday News Roundup this week with Naftali Bendavid of The Wall Street Journal, Sheryl Gay Stolberg of The New York Times, Susan Page of USA Today. Here is our first email from David, who says, "Why does it seem everyone in the GOP field is competing for second place? Why would Pawlenty go after Bachmann and vice versa rather than go after Romney? Romney is just trying to run out the clock.
REHM"His opponents are letting him do so. Also, regarding Rick Perry, you think it's all odd that Romney, who provided the national health care solutions to Massachusetts, continues to face more questions about that policy than Rick Perry, who seemed to seriously discuss secession as a possibility?"
PAGEWell, of course, Rick Perry is not in the contest yet, so he gets in tomorrow, he said yesterday, in Austin. And then this process will begin. He'll -- I'm sure he'll be at the next debate, which is in Florida next month. And he'll undergo the same process, too. You know, the reason that candidates weren't going after Romney is the short -- Tim Pawlenty's short-term need is to win or nearly win this silly straw poll in Ames, Iowa, on Saturday.
PAGESilly. It's -- look, it's 15,000 people at a carnival. And they get free barbecue and ice cream, and they go listen to country music bands that the candidates put on. And they vote, and you don't have Romney running. He's the frontrunner. You don't have Perry running. He's second in our poll in terms of Republican contenders. So it is a silly event that has big consequences.
BENDAVIDAlso, I wanted to address the comment about secession because that's something that comes up a lot when you talk about Rick Perry. And it was a fairly offhanded comment if you go back and look at it. But, nonetheless, he did imply that, at some point, Texas may have to or want to secede.
BENDAVIDAnd I think the reason that it may have some resonance, even though it was clearly a remark made completely in passing, is that, you know, if there's a concern that I think people have about Perry, it's that he's got very much this Southern, Texas, evangelical style. He recently helped put on this huge prayer event, you know, to pray for the nation with a lot of evangelical leaders.
BENDAVIDAnd I think a comment like that feeds into perceptions that he's, you know, sort of a regional Southern, Christian type candidate that may or may not appeal to independents.
PAGEBut Perry has one big advantage, and that is jobs. Texas has created 40 percent of the jobs in the nation since the recession. This is a calling card that he's going to be able to play in every part of the country.
REHMAnd where are those jobs?
PAGEWell, a lot of them are in the energy sector.
PAGEAnd a lot of them are not the result of what Rick Perry did as governor. On the other hand, governors and presidents get blamed when things are bad, and they get some credit when things are good.
STOLBERGBut he's already starting to face questions about what role illegal immigrants have played in the economy in Texas. And I think we're going to see more and more scrutiny like that, as my colleagues have suggested here, as the days go on.
REHMHere's an interesting question from Gene in Chicago, who says, "This morning, I watched Michele Bachmann being interviewed on NBC. She stated she has a plan to balance the federal budget, which is the reason she voted no to increase the debt ceiling. When Lester Holt stated the increase in the debt ceiling was to pay currently approved debts, not new debts, Ms. Bachmann said that Mr. Holt's statement was false.
REHM"My question is for Mr. Bendavid of The Wall Street Journal. Who was correct?"
BENDAVIDWell, I didn't see that interview, so I can't take sides on that specific exchange. But it's clearly true that raising the debt limit was to pay for already incurred debt. There's no question about that. That come up a lot, and a lot of leaders of both parties felt the need, during the recent debt debate, to make that point, that it's not about cutting up your credit cards, really. It's about paying bills that you've already incurred.
BENDAVIDAnd I think that's ultimately why people on both sides of Congress went ahead and did it. You know, but this idea that it's about incurring further debt, you know, is not true.
STOLBERGYeah, I think that -- I think Naftali is exactly right, and I think we saw Michele Bachmann at the debate last night talk about how the Standard & Poor's decision to downgrade the credit rating of the United States validated her view. When you look at, actually, the reasoning that Standard & Poor's cited in downgrading the credit rating, they talked about instability.
STOLBERGThey talked about the debt ceiling being used as a political bargaining chip, which...
REHMAfter they acknowledged they had made a $2 trillion mistake.
STOLBERGThat's correct. But if you look at that, it really is Republicans who turned the debt ceiling, as they themselves will acknowledge, into a political bargaining chip.
REHMAll right. Any other person going to Iowa in a bus is Sarah Palin.
PAGESarah Palin, I mean, every time we start to think, well, she's not running, we can count her out, she shows up. I was in New Hampshire when Mitt Romney announced, and she showed up there.
REHMBut she's not on the ballot.
PAGEShe's not on the ballot. On the other hand, maybe she just doesn't want us to forget about her. I got to say, last night, you know, I covered the debate, filed for USA Today, went home, went to bed, had a dream that Sarah Palin endorsed Rick Perry in Iowa this weekend. So if that happens, you heard it here first.
REHMThat's great, Susan. All right. Have we got any good economic news, retail sales, Naftali?
BENDAVIDYeah, I mean, you know, there's a reason that the stock market has been not just plunging but also soaring, depending on what day it is. And there has been some positive economic news. I mean, the thing that just happened is that retail sales rose up, rose 0.5 percent last month, which is a relatively big increase. But it's also true that the job news recently hasn't been too terrible. It hasn't been fantastic.
BENDAVIDBut compared to what people were expecting, actually, unemployment has gone down a little bit. Job creation has gone up. And I think that's one reason you're seeing these wild gyrations in the stock market, is there's mix messages. And to some degree, the news from the U.S. is better than the news from overseas. And people are reacting both from the fact that our own economy is stumbling and struggling, to be sure, but not collapsing.
BENDAVIDBut on the other hand, overseas, there's some real worry about some pretty major economies, notably Italy and Spain.
PAGEOn the other hand, we got news about the trade deficit yesterday. It's the biggest trade gap since October of 2008. And a surprise, I mean, the economists who look at this stuff closely had expected the trade gap to narrow. Instead it got wider. And I read a survey this morning in The Wall Street Journal, actually, Naftali, of leading economists in which the prospects of a double-dip recession next year, now 29 percent.
PAGEThat is -- you know, that is pretty sobering news. Of course, for most Americans, I think the idea that we're not in a recession now seems unfamiliar. For a lot of Americans, it feels like we're in a recession right now.
BENDAVIDI mean, that -- well, the report that Susan's referring to was a survey of economists. So it wasn't really hard economic data. It was what economists, if you ask them, would say they think. And I think we all know that, like weathermen, economists are sometimes right and sometimes wrong.
STOLBERGAnd sometimes we're in recession before we actually know it because a recession has a very specific definition put out by the National Bureau of Economic Research. So it is quite possible that we will find out some months hence that we're, in fact, in a recession right now. And it certainly feels that way to a lot of Americans.
PAGEWell, that's right. For economists, there's a very specific definition of a recession.
PAGEFor, I think, a lot -- people who are without jobs, it's a pretty personal judgment.
STOLBERGAnd we're seeing consumer confidence falling as well this morning.
REHMWhat more could the Fed do besides announce that it's holding interest rates at zero percent throughout 2000 or to 2013?
BENDAVIDWell, the big thing that everybody's wondering is whether they'll do what's called QE3, which, essentially, it sounds more obscure than it is. It just means that the Feds, they would buy government bonds from banks, thereby giving them more money that they could lend out and so forth. But if you read the Fed's report, it doesn't really suggest it's going to imminently do that. It leaves the door open for doing that in the future.
BENDAVIDAnd that's something that a lot of traders and investors kind of would like to see. But it's not clear that it's going to happen anytime soon. And I think we're at a point, actually, where people are worried that the tools, not just Fed, but the government in general has -- and not just our government, but governments around the world -- have to combat this economic downturn. We're starting to run out of them. There are fewer arrows in the quiver.
REHMAnd that's why this whole area of faith in government question has come up, Sheryl.
STOLBERGYeah, I think that's exactly right. I was just going to add to what Naftali said, that we also saw, when the Fed voted this week to keep interest rates low, short-term interest rates low for the next two years -- a sign that they really don't think the economy is going to do well -- there was a split in the vote. And that split was very important. It was 7-3, and it's very unusual. It's the first time in about two decades that there's been this kind of division.
STOLBERGAnd it suggests that the Fed may have difficulty pursuing these kinds of policies, like QE3, because there's not unanimity about how to proceed.
PAGERight. The biggest tool the Fed have, of course, is interest rates. You know, interest rates cannot go lower. Unless you start paying us to borrow money, they can't go any lower. And the biggest tool that the administration and the Congress would have, which would be some stimulus spending, that seems to be politically off the table.
REHMAll right. Let's talk about the deficit super committee. Both sides have now named their folks. And here's an email from Reed at WUNC in Burlington, N.C.
REHMHe says, "Assuming the newly appointed Gang of 12 take their task seriously and somehow craft a plan to reduce deficits without gutting vital safety net programs, does your panel think the Republican leadership would vote to adopt such a plan if it might serve to boost President Obama's re-election bid?" Naftali.
BENDAVIDWell, I think a striking -- a way to answer that is the striking thing about this committee is the extent to which it's a creature of the leadership. So I don't think this committee is going to do something that then the leadership is going to have to decide whether or not to support.
BENDAVIDI think if you look at the committee, it's just striking how many people, that are either in the leadership of the various parties or are senior members and committee chairman, are on this committee. So I think what we need to watch -- and this, I think, does go to the writer's question -- is the extent to which people like Harry Reid and John Boehner feel pressure to reach a deal.
BENDAVIDIf they feel political pressure, that they need to reach an agreement, a major deficit reduction agreement, I think the committee's going to reach one.
REHMWhere is that political pressure going to come from?
BENDAVIDWell, right after, you know, the last debt deal, there was such widespread disgust at the process, at the product...
REHMIn the public, throughout the public...
BENDAVIDAmong the public, Congress' ratings, which could hardly have gone lower, managed to go a little bit lower. The stock market went crazy. The debt was downgraded. And I think it's possible, although it's far from certain, that the political class will look at that and feel like, just to save themselves, they have to put forward something that looks to people like it's a real step forward.
REHMSusan, I'm bothered by the fact that there is only one woman among the 12 members of this committee.
PAGEPatty Murray, the senator -- Democratic senator from Washington, she'll serve as a co-chairman of the committee. Only one woman, only one African-American, one Hispanic, so pretty much a group of white men, just like the --you know, just like the Congress is dominated by. Not a -- there's no rouges on this committee. There's no maverick, party mavericks. And the safe bet is always against agreement since agreement is so hard to reach.
PAGEBut it is -- I think you look at this membership, and you look at the economic situation we have. And I think it's possible that they will reach a deal. You do have...
PAGEI do. It's possible.
STOLBERGWe saw an interesting poll this week, out of The Gallup Organization, that found that six out of 10 Americans want this super committee to reach a bipartisan compromise, even if that compromise produces an agreement that they personally don't like. That finding held true across Democrats, Republicans and independents. But, interestingly -- and this is the wildcard -- Tea Party supporters did not agree.
STOLBERGIn other words, the Tea Party supporters don't necessarily want a compromise if they don't agree with it. And I think that's a competing pressure. You do have the voters pressing the leaders to try to come to terms. But these Tea Party supporters and the Tea Party freshmen don't feel that pressure. And they say they're not worried about their own re-election.
BENDAVIDBut the other interesting point is, what does it mean to come to an agreement? I mean, this committee was carefully structured, so it only needs seven, a simple majority of seven out of the 12 to support it. Now, realistically, I think if seven out of the 12 support it, it won't pass Congress. So it sort of depends who defect and why, and that, too, is going to be something to watch.
REHMNaftali Bendavid of The Wall Street Journal. You're listening to "The Diane Rehm Show." At first, we had heard that every single Republican on that committee had signed a no-new-taxes pledge. But David Camp of Michigan told Reuters that everything, including taxes, are on the table.
PAGEYou know, I think there is no possibility that any of these Republicans will sign on to an increase in tax rates. But I think it is possible that you could have a -- revisions in the tax code that result in higher revenues by closing loopholes and doing things like that that would be more acceptable. I thought Congressman Camp's comments were significant this morning.
PAGEAnd I don't think, in the end, if there is an agreement, it will be a deal where you get six of one side and you get one guy on the other side to defect. What you'll have, I think, more likely, is an agreement where you get three Democrats and four Republicans or the reverse where you can have something that's more in the middle so that you can lose some people on the edges of both parties.
BENDAVIDI mean, you know, this issue of raising taxes -- you know, Republicans say that they won't raise taxes, but it's all in the definition. And, you know, there's a lot of talk about lowering the rates, eliminating loopholes and increasing revenue. And I do think it's quite possible that the committee comes out with something like that.
STOLBERGYes. And we're hearing, actually, a few noises from some Republicans, who are out there in their districts, talking about the possibility of raising taxes in this kind of form. For instance, Phil Gingrey of Georgia said this week that he thought at least a few forms of tax subsidies provided to oil companies, perhaps, might be on the table. Others have talked about raising the tax rate on those earnings, say, over $700,000 a year, not the $250,000 that...
REHMNot the 250?
STOLBERG...Democrats and President Obama have talked of. So you're hearing, what, tiny glimmers of this. Now, whether those glimmers turn into some bright rays of sunshine, I don't know, but...
REHMNow, what does the recall election in Wisconsin tell us about the feeling in the country, Susan?
PAGEIt says we're still divided. You know, the -- in the Wisconsin recall elections of six Republican state senators, two of them were replaced by Democrats. But that was one short of the number that Democrats needed to win back control of the state Senate. This means Republicans still control the state legislature in Wisconsin and the governorship.
PAGEAnd they -- of course, we've seen those pitched battles in the state capital in Wisconsin over moves to curtail the power of the public employee unions there. It was interesting that you did hear the governor this morning on MSNBC. I saw an interview he did where he was talking in a much more conciliatory way than before and said he hoped to find common ground with Democrats. So maybe he's trying to lower the temperature a little.
REHMOf course, you got nothing to recall. Yeah.
STOLBERGOr lower the chances that he can get a recall.
BENDAVIDExactly right. He's subject to a recall. I think that can happen as early as January because he has to have been in office for a year. It was definitely seen as a disappointment for Democrats who were hoping to retake the Senate, which would have been a dramatic turn of events.
BENDAVIDBut it has to be said, knocking off two people who, you know, not too long after they were elected in areas that, depending on who you talk to, are somewhat Republican leaning. I mean, it's not nothing. I mean, in...
PAGEIt's not nothing. But $31 million spent in this campaign and huge organizational efforts, is this really the most valuable thing that our political system can do?
BENDAVIDWell, you know, I'm not sure I completely agree. I mean, I think from the perspective of the Democrats, they wanted to send a message that you can't just do this with impunity. We're going to come after you. We may succeed sometimes. We may fail most of the time. But I don't know.
BENDAVIDI don't think it's a small political event, in a place that really hasn't had that many recalls, to toss out two people on the same day, not long after a very Republican election. So, again, I think it did fall short from Democratic goals, but I don't think it was a total loss for the Democrats either.
STOLBERGAnd, you know, if you look at Wisconsin, Wisconsin is kind of, in a way, a testing ground for the rest of the country. Wisconsin has voted Democratic for presidents in the last six cycles, but the electorate swings back and forth. Russ Feingold, a Democrat, was thrown out of the Senate by Wisconsin voters not long ago. And Walker, the Republican, was picked. So it's a good place to get a mix, I think.
REHMSheryl Gay Stolberg of The New York Times. When we come back, we'll open the phones.
REHMWelcome back to the Friday News Roundup. We'll open the phones, go to Columbus in South Carolina. Abel, you're on the air.
ABELGood morning, Diane. Thank you for taking my call.
REHMGood morning, sir.
ABELMy question is this. When I listen to the Republican strategy for creating jobs -- and jobs seem to be the biggest issue facing the country right now -- it seems to be, if we fire more people who work for government -- policemen, teachers, firemen -- then that will create more jobs. I don't quite understand the economic philosophy -- strategy of how firing people who work for government actually increases and creates more jobs.
BENDAVIDWell, it was interesting, along those lines, that in the last month's numbers, a good number of government jobs went down. The number of private sector jobs went up. I mean, I can explain what, I think, their philosophy is, which is that you reduce the burden -- the government burden, and you reduce taxation on businesses. That frees them up to create jobs.
BENDAVIDAnd to do that, of course, you have to lay off government workers. I think that's the overall philosophy.
REHMAll right. And let's go to Wentzville, Mo. Good morning, Jesse. You're on the air.
JESSEGood morning, Diane. I just want to say that I love your show.
JESSEI feel like it's the only bipartisan show out there. And what I'd like to say today is I truly love my country, but I absolutely hate my government. And I hate it because, number one, it's not anywhere in the middle. It's completely far to the left and completely far to the right. And it's tearing this country to pieces. I feel we're fighting over nothing except political power.
JESSEAnd I feel like I represent Middle America, in that we don't know exactly why things are the way they are. But we absolutely need a more middle-of-the-road approach. Compromise is the only thing that's going to pull us out of this. And I don't feel that our political system, as it is right now, is ever going to compromise at all. I feel like we're not here to completely take care of, you know, the lower class, the poor to the point that it breaks the country.
JESSEI don't feel like we're here to, you know, empower the richest 1 percent of the country. You know, I feel like there should be a more middle-of-the-road approach, and I just -- I honestly don't feel like my vote counts. I don't feel that there is any sort of normalcy or reality in our political system. And I really don't know what can be done to fix it, but something has to happen soon.
REHMAll right, Jesse. Thanks for calling.
PAGEYou know what? And Jesse makes such a great point.
REHMHe really does.
PAGEThere is this huge disconnect between where the country is and where Washington is, where the country does want compromise. And they want progress, and they want people to -- their leaders to figure out what to do and move together. And yet Washington is set up in a way where it could not be more polarized. And part of that reflects things like how congressional districts are drawn to be very much dominated by one party.
PAGEThe other part of it is the role of money in politics. But I think Jesse is speaking for a lot of Americans...
REHMI fully agree.
PAGE...in saying that he does not like what sees this government doing.
REHMLet's go to Dallas, Texas. Good morning, Bruce. You're on the air.
BRUCEHow are you this morning, Diane?
REHMFine. Thank you, sir. Go right ahead.
BRUCEI just wanted to say a few things about Gov. Perry in Texas. You know, it's amazing that the EPA had to come into our state and take over the permitting for heavy industry because the governor couldn't handle it. We have the most uninsured children in the U.S.A. We're sixth from the bottom in graduation from high school. The governor himself, his college grade point average is lower than George W. Bush's.
BRUCEWe need somebody with some intelligence. He doesn't believe in evolution. Some crazy idea that humans were created by intelligent design -- very bizarre -- always sidesteps and avoids debates. The nation couldn't be in more serious trouble if we had a Perry presidency.
REHMI guess he is not a supporter.
PAGEAnd this is -- you know, we talked before about scrutiny. Well, Gov. Perry, who is, by the way, the longest serving governor in the nation, will have a chance to say he has helped create jobs. And opponents of Gov. Perry will be able to scrutinize his record on things like education and health care.
STOLBERGAnd the caller mentioned another important name, George W. Bush. What we're going to see coming out of Texas is the big split between the George W. Bush camp and the Rick Perry camp. Those two really are -- do not see eye to eye. Rick Perry, I think, irritated George W. Bush supporters when he first became governor and criticized the former President Bush for being a big spender.
STOLBERGAnd so I'm wondering how much support, frankly, Rick Perry is going to get down in Texas from the folks who wound up supporting George W. Bush.
BENDAVIDBut, ironically, I think he'll remind a lot of people around the country of George W. Bush, in other words, who may not know the -- know that history, but...
STOLBERGRight. And he'll have to say, I'm not George W. Bush.
BENDAVIDRight. But he's another Texas governor. And, you know, the caller mentioned the social services. That's, I think, going to be the response to the job claim, is, yeah, you did that. But at the same time, you know, you didn't take care of your people. They don't have health. They don't have education. And so I think the minute he steps on to the political arena, which I guess is going to be tomorrow, we're going to start seeing that debate play out.
REHMAnd here's another question regarding Rick Perry from Don in -- here in Washington, who says, "With Rick Perry announcing his candidacy, is it too late for Sarah Palin?"
PAGEIt's not quite too late, but it's getting close to the point where it'll be too late. And that's because there's a process of getting on ballots that starts -- you really start to hit deadlines in October. So, I think, the conventional wisdom would be, if you're not in by Labor Day, it would very hard for you to be a credible contender for the Republican nomination.
REHMAnd here's an email from Paul, who says, "The big lead story this week is not the Republican presidential candidates but the recall elections in Wisconsin. Even though they spent $40 million, the unions and Obama supporters had their heads handed to them by the electorate. This is a complete repudiation of the leftist union agenda by the voters of Wisconsin." First of all, do you all agree with that?
STOLBERGI think it's an incomplete repudiation. I mean, after all, it was split. All right. They only got two. But if you look at -- for instance, the Democrats went after several lawmakers, very aggressively there. One was Dan Kapanke. They tried to tie him to Paul Ryan's budget plan. He got knocked off. They made the same argument about another lawmaker, Alberta Darling. She survived, so, really, kind of a split verdict there.
STOLBERGAnd, I think, I'm not sure how much you can extrapolate from Wisconsin to the national picture, other than to say it's a harbinger of the great divisions that our previous caller spoke about.
PAGEI think, clearly, a disappointment, though, to public employee unions who devoted a lot of resources. I mean, Naftali is certainly right. They got two. That's not nothing. On the other hand, they failed to do what they set out to do. How many times can you mount this kind of campaign?
PAGEAnd it indicates that there is at least some support that continues to remain for the idea of really curtailing the benefits and the rights, the organizational rights of public employee union.
BENDAVIDAnd the only other point I'd make is that both sides poured millions of dollars into this. It's not like only the unions did and they got their heads handed to them. Both sides poured millions of dollars, and the results were what they were.
STOLBERGAnd we can all look forward to a replay when they try it again with Scott Walker.
REHMAll right. Let's go to Pensacola, Fla. Good morning, Jay.
JAYYeah. Hi there.
JAYI'm not sure this is appropriate to the discussion here. But in aftermath of this debt ceiling debate, I don't think anybody would argue that the Tea Party faction was -- and the Republican Party really held up the whole works. I'm wondering why a self-professed party is even allowed to be part of Republican -- I think it creates a problem when the moderate Republican goes to the polls in the general election if a Tea Party person has slipped in past the primary.
JAYThat Republican voter is not left with much of a choice. You're not going to vote for the Democrat. A good example is Rick Scott's election here in Florida.
STOLBERGWell, I think the caller raises an excellent point. And one of the most startling and profound changes that have happened in American politics has been the rise of the Tea Party. I would call it a wing of the Republican Party. It's not really a separate party. It's -- they certainly self-identify as Republicans.
STOLBERGBut this movement is putting a lot of pressure on the party leadership and has resulted, really, in the eradication of the moderate Republican. We saw them fall, one right after the other, in the 2010 midterm elections. Moderate Republicans getting primaried out, people like Bob Bennett in Utah, Mike Castle in Delaware, who was probably going to be the next senator from Delaware, except he lost in a primary.
STOLBERGAnd now, that seat went to a Democrat. So it's a powerful force, and, you know, this is the way the Republican Party is moving.
REHMHere is an email from Peter, who says, "No matter how well Michele Bachmann does in pursuing the presidential nomination, she's already a great prospect for VP. She's a great anchor to the right for both fiscal and social conservatives. What does your panel think?"
PAGEYou know, I think Michele Bachmann has emerged as a national figure. And she's going to continue to be that, whatever the outcome of the nomination process. But I guess I don't see her as the leading candidate to be -- I think the one thing that Republicans could do that could cause a lot of trouble for Barack Obama and the Democrats is to put one of their new Hispanic office holders as vice president, like Marco Rubio, the senator from Florida, or Susana Martinez, the governor of New Mexico.
STOLBERGAlso, traditionally, in a general election, you want to move to the center. Michele Bachmann certainly doesn't move to the center at all. She would allow Democrats to paint the Republican ticket as extremist. And I don't think that that would serve to win over the kind of independent voters that will need to be won by whomever prevails in the 2012 presidential race.
REHMAll right. To Dallas, Texas. Good morning, Roger.
ROGERHi, yes. Thank you for taking my call.
ROGERI just wanted to say that, very likely, Gov. Rick Perry will probably -- he's got a good shot of taking the Republican nomination and possibly the presidency, too, all things considered.
ROGEROne of the few good things I see coming from this possibly -- and I hope it starts now -- is the re-examination of his record, especially regarding the Cameron Todd Willingham case, where he's interfered with the workings of the Texas Forensic Science Commission in order to keep them from rendering a verdict that Texans put an innocent man to death. Thank you very much. And I'd just like to say, I hope this discussion starts now.
REHMAnybody know about this?
PAGENot about that particular case, but certainly the issue of the death penalty in Texas has been a long running one. And I suspect, as we said several times in this program, we're going to see a lot of scrutiny about Rick Perry. And that'll just be one more for the list.
REHMAll right. And to Tim in Wilkesboro, N.C. Good morning.
TIMGood morning. Thank you, Diane.
TIMI'd like to say I'm a -- since 1978, I have been a Republican, but recently became undeclared because I agree with earlier callers who say that there's no -- I just don't feel any support from either side right now. And they're not representing my interests. But going to the job creation, as a small business owner, I see almost no support for me.
TIMAnd then I think the numbers back me up to say that it's been a very long time since the net job creation by big businesses has been positive and that the small businesses have created almost all the jobs that we have added over 20 years.
REHMAnd we know that banks and corporations are holding on to all this money and, still, no job creation.
BENDAVIDYeah, that's true. I mean, I do think it has to be said that Congress has passed a few small business bills, and they're certainly -- both parties are saying that they've done things that help small business, you know. But the feeling that the caller expresses about having no support from either party is so remarkably widespread.
BENDAVIDThere's this phenomenon that's happening now of this incredible anger at both sides that, actually, you haven't seen very often. In other words, in 2006, people were really mad at the Republicans. In 2008, they were still really mad at the Republicans. Last time, they were really mad at the Democrats. Usually, when there's a wave election, a surge of anger, it's directed sort of the people who seem to be in charge.
BENDAVIDIn this case, they both seem to be in charge. People are really unhappy, and it could be quite a turbulent election because of that.
REHMNaftali Bendavid. And you're listening to "The Diane Rehm Show." Last question for all of you. I know people have been talking about this all week. Should President Obama go on vacation, and -- sort of a tangent of that -- should he go to Martha's Vineyard? Sheryl?
STOLBERGYes and no. Yes, he should go on vacation. I think -- he's the president. Whatever you say about him -- you may disagree with his policies. He's working hard. Americans need a break. He needs a break. So, yes, he should get some time with his family. Should he go to Martha's Vineyard? Maybe not the best message, to go to some big luxury estate on Martha's Vineyard when so many Americans are out of work and struggling.
BENDAVIDI mean, I basically feel the same way. I mean, it's not like the guy has a low-stress job. Everybody needs a vacation. It seems a little bit unfair to begrudge him taking a little time off. And as the White House has pointed out, it's not like he's really off. It's not like he's not going to being doing stuff when he's there. But I agree that there's a certain image issue with going to a big fancy place when we're in the middle of such a difficult economic time.
REHMWhat do you think, Susan?
PAGETwo words, Jersey Shore.
REHMYou can elaborate on that?
PAGEI think people understand he's got a tough job, and he deserves to spend time with his kids and all that. But there are places you can go that don't spark quite the image that Martha's Vineyard does.
REHMThe other possibility is for his wife and children to go on vacation and for him to join them on weekends. I'm just wondering about the message he is sending, going on any kind of vacation, when there are so many people out of work.
STOLBERGYou know, Diane, I'm actually going to disagree with you there. Rare, that I would take a strong stand, but, you know, when you are president, it is an incredibly demanding stressful job.
STOLBERGI would argue that the president needs some downtime to recharge, to rest, to regroup so that he -- or maybe she someday -- could come back and be renewed, refreshed and ready for the challenges that the country faces and that he faces. So I really do think that downtime is important for all of us, and especially for a president.
BENDAVIDI'd have to agree with that. I mean, you see the guy's hair turning white, you know? You can see kind of the stress that he's under. Everybody needs a vacation. I mean, again, to me, it seems a little bit unfair and sort of petty to be jumping all over the guy for taking a vacation. In fact, that even came up at the debate yesterday, you know, some of the candidates were sort of saying, the guy should be staying in town and -- I don't know.
BENDAVIDOf all the things to get worked up about, whether the president wants to take a little time off in August doesn't seem to be (unintelligible).
STOLBERGWhen the Congress is already at home.
REHMWhat about a congressional recall, would you be in favor of that?
STOLBERGI shouldn't have weighed in. I'm not going to weigh in. I would say that if the president were going to call Congress back to town to do some work, then, yes, of course. They should all be here and working. But absent that, you've got the lawmakers back home in their districts. They are doing town hall meetings and doing some work, but also taking some downtime. And so will he, I suspect.
REHMAnd Susan's last words, Jersey Shore. I have the feeling that the question is going to be debated on our website. Go to drshow.org. And, remember, this segment has been videotaped. It'll be up in a couple of hours. Sheryl Gay Stolberg, Naftali Bendavid, Susan Page, thank you, all. Have a great weekend. And thanks for listening. I'm Diane Rehm.
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