"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 presidential candidates moved on to South Carolina, as front-runner Mitt Romney faced criticism from within the GOP over his tenure at Bain Capital. White House Chief of Staff Bill Daley is leaving after just one year on the job. A Federal Reserve survey showed the economy ended 2011 with the highest growth since last spring. David Chalian of Yahoo! News, Susan Page of USA Today and John Dickerson of Slate.com join Diane for analysis of the week’s top national news stories.
- Susan Page Washington bureau chief for USA Today.
- 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."
- David Chalian Washington bureau chief, Yahoo! News.
Friday News Roundup Video
Callers voice concerns about GOP presidential hopeful Mitt Romney’s management of Bain Capital. One woman whose husband’s company was bought by Bain said that Bain laid off many workers and that its management strategy is placing tremendous stress on employees, although her husband makes the same salary:
MS. DIANE REHMThanks for joining us. I'm Diane Rehm. Opponents of Republican frontrunner Mitt Romney pulled back from their attacks on his role at Bain Capital. The Fed confirmed the economy is improving, and Bill Daley resigned as White House chief of staff. Joining me for the week's top domestic stories on the Friday News Roundup, David Chalian of Yahoo News joins us for the first time. Welcome.
MR. DAVID CHALIANThank you.
REHMSusan Page of USA Today who is my longtime good friend, host sit-in for me. Thank you very much.
MS. SUSAN PAGEGood morning.
REHMAnd John Dickerson of slate.com. Happy new year to you.
MR. JOHN DICKERSONHappy new year, Diane.
REHMAnd let's talk about Bill Daley. What's happened there? If you understand that he was -- it took a long time for President Obama to choose him, how come he has left? David Chalian?
CHALIANWell, remember, Diane, a couple of months ago, he had really ruffled a lot of feathers up on Capitol Hill, the Democrats on Capitol Hill. We're not very pleased with the way Bill Daley was running's the White House communications with members on the Hill. And so the president and his team started moving a lot of Bill Daley's responsibilities over to President Obama's longtime close adviser Pete Rouse, who's a senior adviser in the White House.
CHALIANBill Daley still got to keep the corner office and was sitting in the chief of staff's office in the White House, but was no longer, sort of, running the day-to-day West Wing operations. The goal, I think, for the president's political team was, OK, we can make this change, but, hopefully, Mr. Daley will stay through the election year, and we won't have any, sort of, tumult before -- in our election year. That was not the case. He went home for Christmas and he came back and basically said, what am I doing here sitting in this corner office without a portfolio? I wanna go.
CHALIANThe president tried to convince him to stay, and there was some rumbling among some White House staff that they weren't pleased that he, in an election year, just decided to, sort of, packed it in and go home. But that is nonetheless what he told the president he wanted to do.
REHMSusan Page, is this just Washington insider stuff? Does it make a difference in the campaign, going forward?
PAGEWell, I would say, I've spent the last three weeks on the campaign trail, and no voter has raised to me the issues of who's working on the White House staff. So I think it's pretty much an inside story. I mean, it does tell us a couple of things we already knew about the Obama White House. One, is that if you're in that very tight, long-term inner circle, you're not gonna get in there. I mean, Bill Daley, who's a very highly regarded and also from Chicago and have lots of great experience, never really cracked the inner circle.
PAGEAnd Jack Lew who's taking over him also a very highly-respected figure with a lot of experience, more experience than Bill Daley had on the Hill. He worked for Tip O'Neal, the legendary House speaker for years. I mean, I'm sure he'll do a great job. But the idea that he's going to also get into that very tight inner circle, I think that's unlikely.
REHMBetter prepared to take on the budget fights, John?
DICKERSONRight. This is -- it's a good place if you wanna become chief of staff to go -- be the director of the Office of Management and Budget. Leon Panetta now at the Defense Department made that transition. Josh Bolten in the Bush White House made that transition as well. The president will release his budget soon, so good to have somebody shepherding the process who's been through it. But what Susan says about the relationship between the White House and Democrats on the Hill, they were angry with Daley.
DICKERSONHe was brought in to do two things: improve the relationship with business with this White House -- that hasn't really happened -- and he was also supposed to reach out to Republicans. Mitch McConnel, when Daley was announced, said, you know, he was his favorite person inside the White House. And this was supposed to help but nothing helped, and a lot of people say, well, because the Republicans were in no mood to deal with the president.
DICKERSONBut Democrats were angry with Daley at -- during the debt limit negotiations for appearing to approve of more spending reductions than they weren't comfortable buying into. And now we're in an election year, and they want somebody in the White House who is much more sensitive to their needs than Bill Daley was and that was their big complain about him.
REHMOK. And one of the things you hear over and over on the campaign trail is that Republicans want to shrink government. So today, we hear that President Obama is thinking about merging several agencies, Susan?
PAGEThe president this morning is gonna propose that Congress gives him the authority to combine the Commerce Department, the Trade Representative Office, the Small Business Association -- Agency...
PAGE...Administration into one agency. Now, this is not exactly news because in the State of the Union address a year ago, the president said he was gonna seek a reorganization of government that would include these kind of things. So now that we have the State of the Union address coming up now on Jan. 24, he's following through on that. So this is reorganization. He says, we'll save a couple of thousand jobs, save some money and streamline operations. And now he says -- or duplicative and don't always make sense.
REHMSo does that mean you're gonna see some layoffs in government?
PAGEThey say that job savings would come through attrition, so you wouldn't see layoffs. But this is not something the president can do on his own. He needs to get congressional authority to do it, and we've seen how hard it is to get congressional authority to do almost anything.
REHMOK. Let's talk about what's happening on the campaign trail. John Dickerson, Mitt Romney's opponent seemed to be rethinking their attacks on Mitt Romney. Why?
DICKERSONWell, there is rethinking them and then there's still kind of going forward with them. The main attack that we saw before the New Hampshire primary was on his business experience as a venture capitalist or a vulture capitalist as Rick Perry would call it. There was a huge backlash from conservatives who said, wait a minute, this is the free enterprise system that you're attacking the president on here.
DICKERSONYou're giving ammunition to the Obama administration, and you're also -- the ammunition is not just clips of Newt Gingrich attacking Mitt Romney. But when you engage in this argument that suggests that the free enterprise system has good parts and bad parts, you are embracing the Democratic argument. You are allowing the conversation to go forward. It used to be that Republicans would say, you know, the president wants to punish Wall Street.
DICKERSONWell, he just wants to punish success. The lines were bright and clear. Now that there's been this pile on, the lines are quite blurred and that worries Republicans.
CHALIANWhat is so fascinating about this line of attack is we have seen, as John was just saying, the conservative establishment. I never thought I would see Rush Limbaugh and Rudy Giuliani run to Mitt Romney's defense on anything. And so the establishment piece of the party has really come to his defense on this. It is not yet clear where Republican voters are on this, right?
CHALIANAnd that is why I think that Rick Perry and Newt Gingrich, even though it is in a bit of a herky-jerky fashion -- they go on the attack for a day and then they back off for a moment -- it is still seen in those camps as a salient attack, and obviously, it is seen that way by David Axelrod and the entire Obama campaign as perhaps the most salient attack against Mitt Romney, to portray him as a corporate rater.
CHALIANAnd we know another piece of evidence, Diane, that Mitt Romney and his team is very concerned about this. They went up on the air today with a new ad in South Carolina to try to redefine his Bain experience and talk about the jobs he helped create in places like Staples or Sports Authority, some of these companies that Bain invested in. It is of concern to the Romney campaign, this line of attack.
CHALIANThey were caught a little bit off guard that it came from Republicans. Now, they certainly anticipated it for the fall. But I am so fascinated to see, and I just don't think -- if you guys have seen evidence of this yet. If Republican voters in South Carolina -- a very economically distressed state, unlike Iowa and New Hampshire -- if indeed this line of attack, with the voters in the party, the people on the ground -- middle class, blue-collar Republicans -- are having a different response to this attack than sort of the Club for Growth or Rudy Giuliani.
PAGEYou know, this reminds me so much of the swift boat attacks against John Kerry, because with the swift boat attacks, they took John Kerry's calling card, which was his service as a war hero during the Vietnam era and made it a negative. They made it impossible for him to talk about it because he would have to address all these questions that have been raised by a barrage of ads criticizing for -- him for it.
PAGEThis takes Mitt Romney's calling card, which his -- what does he say all the time? He says, I've got business experience, private sector experience. I know how to create jobs. This president does not have that kind of experience. He doesn't understand the economy. If you can make that a toxic asset so that it's hard for Romney to talk about it, that is a very big problem for him.
REHMWhat about the fact that The Wall Street Journal is reporting -- and I know you all already knew this -- that Newt Gingrich is giving Credit Suisse analysis and advice?
DICKERSONWell, this is a sort of a new round of, what, the first round of attacks against Gingrich, which is that he left office and then profited from his time in office. And it's funny because he was just making a similar critique. He's now sort of fuzzed up his critique of Mitt Romney a little bit, but essentially suggested that, you know, if people in office are just gonna self -- are just gonna deal to their friends, then that's a kind of socialism, which I thought was an interesting trail.
DICKERSONBut in that description of self-dealing to friends based on your power, he, in a sense, is describing the work he did, which was helping powerful interests learn the ways of talking in Washington. You don't have to lobby directly. Nobody lobbies directly who's successful. They help and encourage people to come to a line of thinking that they think as, actually, they've come to on their own, but that then ends up helping their clients.
REHMWell, and according to The Wall Street Journal, his analysis and predictions on key issues such as health care, renewable energy, the firm then used to help make stock recommendations to investor clients. And -- but do you see some wrong with that?
DICKERSONWell, the voters certainly are gonna see something wrong with that in both on the left and the right. I mean, the -- one of the big themes of this election is that powerful people rig the system, the economic system and the government system, to help themselves and their friends. And that's universally shared on both the left and the right.
REHMAnd, meanwhile, social conservatives are meeting in Texas this weekend, David, to choose the person, the Republican they think best represents their values.
CHALIANI'm not sure if they're gonna emerge from that meeting with a candidate. Their goal is to discuss, if you talk to folks involved with putting this meaning together, to discuss the state of play, and where are they, and where can their issues get the best hearing right now. I will be somewhat surprised if they emerge from that meeting saying Rick Santorum is our guy or something, because they're also political operatives and very savvy political players.
CHALIANAnd if they see this landscape moving to a Romney nomination, I'm not sure that group wants to come out and just be the anti-Romney faction because they may end up very quickly being on the losing side of that.
REHMDavid Chalian, he is Washington bureau chief of Yahoo News. Short break. We'll be right back.
REHMAnd if you'd like to join us for the Domestic Hour of the Friday News Roundup, call us on 800-433-8850. Send us your email to email@example.com. Join us on Facebook or send us a tweet. Susan Page of USA Today is here. John Dickerson, he is chief political correspondent for slate.com, also CBS political analyst and contributor. And David Chalian, he is Washington bureau chief for Yahoo News. Going to back what we were just talking about this gathering of social conservatives in Texas this weekend, what are you thinking, John Dickerson?
DICKERSONWell, as David quite rightly pointed out, the questions -- whether they came up -- could come up with a consensus in the room. But then, even, let's say they did, which of the candidates that they would anoint -- the other ones would have to then drop out. I don't see Newt Gingrich suddenly saying, oh, OK, you fellows in Texas, you decided it was Santorum. Well, bad luck for me. That's not gonna happen.
DICKERSONAnd then on the voter's side, one of the themes we've watched in this election is that rank and file grassroots voters are kinda sick of fancy people telling them what to believe. And that was one of the beauties of Iowa, in a sense, which is that everybody counted out Rick Santorum and, you know, the people had their voice. So the notion that somebody could issue a directive and say our person is such and so is also kind of counter to the energy in the Republican Party right now.
REHMAnd the energy seems to be, let's not have Mitt Romney as our nominee.
PAGEWell, that's been the energy in some ways, although there has been no consolidation behind one of his alternatives. He won Iowa by eight votes. Talk about your close elections. He won New Hampshire easily, even though the attacks had started on there.
PAGEIf he wins in South Carolina on the 21st, which is possible, I think you'll see a great debate about whether the -- his rivals should stay in race and fight it out, or whether there'll be a lot of pressure on them by their contributors and by Republican interest to endorse Romney as the effective nominee in one of the fastest finishes I think we've ever seen in a contested race.
REHMWell, and that is the subject of an email from Dan, who says, "It's strange to see Mitt Romney about to sew up the nomination so early in the year. If he wins South Carolina, the rest of the candidates can forget it. But if he does basically walk through the primaries into the nomination, President Obama will eat him alive. He will not have been tested. He will be unprepared for the general election." David, do you see it that way?
CHALIANI don't. I think there is value, at times we have seen, certainly in the 2008 Democratic race, in an elongated nomination process where somebody inexperienced, like Barack Obama at that time on the national stage, gets a whole lot free rounds, right, with Hillary Clinton, and gets tested in preparation for a general election. Mitt Romney has run for president before.
CHALIANHe's been through this once before. It's actually one of his greatest assets as to why he's doing so well right now. He also has the only, of the entire field, the only presidential scale campaign operation going on right now. That is going to have him very well prepared should he be the nominee to take on President Obama. There's some value in taking some knocks early on and go in a few rounds, but I don't think it's hard for me to agree with the emailer because I don't think it necessarily knocks him out of contention if he just waltzes to the nomination.
PAGEDavid, I think there's one other national presidential scale campaign out there and that is Ron Paul's. He is on every ballot. He's organizing in these caucus states. He's, in some ways, modeled his campaign on Barack Obama's successful campaign by paying attention to places that the other candidates, the other non-Romney candidates, overlooking now. I think it is unlikely that Ron Paul ends up with a nomination, but I think it's now likely he ends up being the candidate who goes to the convention with the second most number of delegates and a lot of say on things, like the platform.
CHALIANI completely agree with that.
REHMHow is he gonna do in South Carolina?
PAGEWell, we'll see. You know, it's not kind of his natural territory because we've seen that his supporters come from independents, from younger people. It's -- the kind of very conservative evangelicals, he gotten -- he got some support from evangelical Christians in Iowa. But this is not his kind of natural terrain, and he's since skipping Florida, so then there'll be a little bit of time before we see him tested in another state.
REHMHere's an email from Diane in Brick, N.J., who says, "It's disappointing to say the least that President Obama has chosen Jack Lew as his chief of staff. With a deep Wall Street background, and someone who recently spoke against regulation, this seems to be the same-old wine in a brand-new bottle."
DICKERSONWell, perhaps, although he is quite experienced with the ways of Washington, which is what the president needs. The president needs stability right now. He needs somebody there who knows the way the place works, who can manage the White House and understands also the political sensitivities here, his own -- the president's own political sensitivities with an election year, and also Congress and the Democrats who were worried about losing the Senate and trying to build their strength in the House. So he needs a kind of steady-as-she-goes candidate, and Jack Lew is about as good as you can get.
REHMAll right. And moving on to the president's fundraising success, which seems to be rather major thus far, he's raised 750 million during his 2008 campaign. He's raised more than 42 million, while the DNC brought in 24 million. Where is all coming from, Susan?
PAGEA lot of it is coming from small donors, and that is a strength of the Obama campaign because for one thing, with small donors, they have it maxed out, so you can go back to them over and over again. And for another thing, it shows, you know, grassroots support when you can get people to contribute small amounts of money. Now, we've seen a little bit of a interesting PR tussle between Republicans and the Obama campaign, and the Republicans kept saying he was gonna raise $1 billion.
PAGEAnd I thought this was kind was kind of a mischievous assertion because, of course, the Obama campaign would love to raise $1 billion. That would be, you know, quite a bit of money. But it was -- they thought it was discouraging small donors because if you're gonna raise $1 billion, why do you need my $25 to contribute? It now looks like they won't make that $1 billion mark. There was an analysis by our friend, Chris Cillizza, in The Washington Post this morning that says $1 billion, given the current rate of fundraising, seems a little bit out of reach. But by any measure, this is a ton of money.
REHMAnd that takes us to the overall economy in general. The Fed says there are signs of economic improvement this week, yet we hear a report this morning that the U.S. trade deficit widened in November for the first time in five months largely because of a spike in the price of imported oil. But exports fell for a second straight month, a sign that Europe's slow-down has begun to affect the U.S. economy. Trade gap rose to 10.4 percent to 47.8 billion today. David.
CHALIANWell, that trade gap can feed into some populist arguments on the campaign trail, no doubt. But we've also seen a slight shrinkage in the federal deficit. And so I think that the president -- you saw him do that this week, Diane, when he came out to do the insourcing jobs initiative, right? Each day now, they want to find a way to get him -- the jobs reports from December was a great number for him to come out and talk about.
CHALIANAnd each day now leading up to the State of the Union, when he's in public, they want him to be able to hit just some of the big, broad themes. So he does an insource event, and really, it was just -- he was just there to repeat the December jobs numbers and to talk about the saving of the auto industry again. Those were actually the main points in his remarks that he wanted to make.
REHMOK. But explain insourcing, John Dickerson.
DICKERSONWell, I can’t remember what the actual jargon term means. I was -- so I'm gonna talk just briefly about the economic news, which is that -- look at -- so had this Fed report that came out and said that the end of last year was stronger than we thought. Consumer spending was up. Manufacturing was up. This was six months after we thought we were going into a double-dip recession again. .
DICKERSONNow, so they say things are pretty healthy, 3 percent growth at the end of last year. Now, though, you have these signs of weakness again, and you have what the trade deficit suggests is that you have, you know, there can be a real impact to the economy here if we're buying goods, if Americans are buying goods from overseas and not domestic manufacturers. So these two reports that you mention, challenge -- you get a little, you get a sign of health and then you get a sign of weakness.
DICKERSONAnd so what the president is trying to do is put -- is talk about, you know, tax incentives for companies that keep jobs here as opposed to, you know, and then penalizing companies that do business overseas.
REHMSo what he wants to do is bring jobs back, Susan.
PAGERight. We all know what outsourcing is. We've seen a lot of that where companies relocate their operations in China or in Brazil or in India. And so the idea of insourcing is just bringing some of those jobs back. And, you know, one of the things that is helping this process is the fact that the economy in China is doing well. They have a growing sort of middle class that's raised labor cost there. And that's made it more likely that American operations might find it feasible to bring some of those jobs back home.
REHMAll right. And let's talk about Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour. What has he wrought here, David?
CHALIANThis is certainly not a graceful exit from office for Gov. Barbour, who clearly has ruled out a presidential campaign, if this is how he choose -- how he chose to leave office. But these pardons that he gave, over 200 pardons, in his last hours in office, sort of enraged a lot of people in the state, and I think it's because of how he did it. You know, he finally put out a statement after three days, saying 90 percent of the pardons that he doled out were to people who were already released from prison.
CHALIANIt wasn't as if the floodgates of prisons were opened and these 200 people walked out. But he didn't apparently talk through the families of the victims and actually sort of pieced together the coalitions that you need when you're going to do something like this. So it has created this uproar and completely overshadowed the new governor of Mississippi from being able to sort of get his administration started.
PAGEAnd, of course, four of these people who were pardoned were people serving life sentences for murder. I think a lot of the tumult has been around that case. We've seen these interviews with the family members of the murder victims, saying they didn't know this was gonna happen. They thought these people were gonna be...
REHMSo -- but why would they have been released?
PAGEWell, we would -- you know, Gov. Barbour has been hard to reach. I saw a piece on ABC last night, where a reporter went into the office building of his law firm, looking for him. He was thrown out by a security guard. I assume that Gov. Barbour, who's a very -- one of the country's most sophisticated politicians, eventually will come out and explain what was going through his mind with these pardons.
REHMBut he sure hasn't yet.
DICKERSONNo, he hasn't yet. He's tried some spin. You know, he's said, well, previous governors have released -- some of these were what are called trustees, and these are people who worked in the governor's...
DICKERSONNo. T-R-S-T-U-Y, right?
DICKERSONTrusty, as in you are very trusty. And the -- they worked in the governor's...
DICKERSONWell, that's the plural, but it -- but...
DICKERSONBut the -- they worked in the governor's office. And so he said, well, this is -- there has been this situation before. But there have been only 18 pardons by governor since 1988. He, in this big, huge swath that he released here, 41 of them were murderers, sex offenders or child molesters, and that's what's extraordinary.
REHMJohn Dickerson. He is chief political correspondent for slate.com. And you're listening to "The Diane Rehm Show." You might be interested in tuning in on Tuesday morning, when Gov. Haley Barbour's pardons will be our subject. Now, I want to ask you about the Supreme Court decision, this First Amendment case that was decided this week. Susan, what was that all about?
PAGEYou know, people who analyzed the court say this may be one of the most important decisions involving separation of church and state, religious liberty, in a couple of decades. And one thing that was certainly notable, even for those of us who are not sophisticated about the court, is that it was a unanimous decision, which we don't see so often in big cases. And in this, the Supreme Court said, basically, that the government couldn't apply employment laws to protect a teacher at this Lutheran school who was a called teacher -- that is, she taught secular topics.
PAGEShe also taught religious ones. It said the religious school had the right to fire her. She could not sue using employment discrimination as her case because of the religious connection of her teaching.
REHMHow do you see it, David?
CHALIANI do think the unanimity is key. First of all, remember, Chief Justice John Roberts, who wrote the opinion for the court in this case, said, when he took over as chief justice, he was looking for more and more unanimous decisions. That went for his time at the court. But I think one of the reasons it was a unanimous decision is because it was also limited.
CHALIANThey did not actually rule that every kind of employee at these institutions going forward would be granted this, what they call ministerial exception -- that's the term in this case -- that they wanted to talk very specifically about this is the first case, this woman, this teacher of this nature that reached the Supreme Court, and that that's all they were ruling on here. So I think keeping it narrow was a way in which to get the unanimous decision.
REHMYeah. But the question becomes how far-reaching the question is.
DICKERSONRight. That's the worry, is that it's -- is that now opens a whole set of things that can be done to employees under this ministerial exception, and that's yet to be determined.
PAGEOne of the questions that wasn't answered in the decision was so what if a Catholic nun or priest reported sexual abuse of children in the school? Is that something where the kind of the rules of the state would apply? And there was -- in one of -- in the main decision, it said there are gonna be questions like that. We'll address them if they get to us.
REHMAll right. And other questions this week, Stephen Colbert, according to Peggy in Charlotte, says, "Stephen Colbert is making a complete mockery of the Citizens United law at every step, since creating his Super PAC to his turning it over to Jon Stewart last night. He and his lawyer explained the procedure so simply a first grader could understand how completely ridiculous this is." John Dickerson.
DICKERSONIt is ridiculous, and it's changed the shape of the race that we are seeing. It used to be -- I mean, you can -- for example, Newt Gingrich is benefitting from a $5 million donation from a one, single source. It's -- a lot of this money is going towards these ads that are attacking Newt Gingrich. And the weird -- the notion that -- there's no collusion. They're not allowed to kind of talk to each other, and there are some rules about that. But the candidates…
REHMYou mean the candidates and the Super PAC.
DICKERSON...and the Super PACs are not allowed to talk to each other. But the Super PACs are all run by people who intimately understand the interest of the candidate -- in a lot of cases used to work for the candidate, which is the case with Newt Gingrich. And these ads are, and these films are, you know, the worst of the worst in terms of -- I mean, if you're not getting four Pinocchios, which is the highest rating you can get from The Washington Post for being untruthful, if you're not getting four Pinocchios for your Super PAC ad, you're not doing it right.
DICKERSONAnd yet, you know, they are effective. They are swamping the airwaves. And it's allowing candidates who actually couldn't raise that much money on their own if they're not doing well to continue limping along with all of this huge, big-money support.
REHMJohn Dickerson of slate.com, Susan Page of USA Today, David Chalian of Yahoo News. You'll have a chance to ask your questions after a short break.
REHMAnd the phones are open, 800-433-8850. First to Neal in Cleveland, Ohio. Good morning to you, sir. Go right ahead.
NEALGood morning. Thank you. In light of Stephen Colbert's campaign, I just thought it'd be interesting to point out that if corporations are people, as Mr. Romney maintains, then he's a serial murderer. And if you think that's extreme, then you haven't properly thought through the deductive implications of the Supreme Court's ruling. And I think the Supreme Court justices should be forced to explain why that is not true if they sincerely believe that corporations are people.
REHMHow do we get to corporations are murderers?
DICKERSONWell, I think his idea is that since -- I think where he's going here is since Romney was involved in a process that ended up in some instances ending companies or created the conditions that caused companies to fail, that if companies are people than the, you know, so that's -- I think Romney's argument about corporations are people, which comes up on the campaign trail at a lot of his events, is slightly different than the supreme court ruling in this way, which is his argument is that the money and profit that's created by a corporation goes back to employees.
DICKERSONIt goes back to shareholders. It goes back to human beings. And that when people want to attack corporations, what they're doing is attacking people involved in the corporate process. It's not the same -- it's not related to the Supreme Court decision.
PAGEYou know, Romney's comment that corporations are people and that he worried at times about getting a pink slip and that he liked being able to fire people when they didn't provide good service, I think it all goes to what may be an even bigger vulnerability for Mitt Romney than hit the debate over Bain Capital, and that is this tendency toward verbal gaffes and this difficulty he has connecting with an audience in a kind of natural and spontaneous way.
PAGEBecause that is something that we expect political candidates to be able to do and especially presidential candidates. It's not -- you know what, it's not President Obama's greatest gift either. He's great at a big speech. Not quite as good, I think, connecting with people individually. But compared to Mitt Romney, he is a master.
CHALIANAnd Susan, what I would add to that is Mitt Romney seems to have a tendency that when he does make one of these gaffes, he doesn't re-craft it creatively. He actually doubles down. He gets back out there the next day, and he's like, no, no, no. I do like to fire people that don't -- you say it again and he -- the same thing with the corporations are people. He incorporated that into his stump speech. So he just gets stubborn about it, and I think that is a flaw for him on the trail.
REHMInteresting. All right. To Fort Walton Beach, Fla. Good morning, Naomi.
NAOMIGood morning, Diane. Thank you for taking my call.
NAOMII just wanted to comment on those subjects before the break about the super PACs and the campaign moneys. Whenever I hear talk about all of that, it reminds me of a book that I read that's probably a good layman's education in how these things work, and that's John Grisham's "The Appeal," a book about a fellow who was asked to run for judge and all the campaign and the money that went behind getting him into that judgeship post there'd be a favorable outcome in a lawsuit for a group.
NAOMIIt just all reminds me of that book.
REHMWell, you know, when you're dealing with political campaigns, they're sometimes stranger than fiction. Thanks for calling, Naomi. I'll put that book on my list. To Los Angeles, California, Albian, (sp?) you're on the air.
ALBIANYes. I think that not enough attention has really been paid to how Bain Capital treated the companies it acquired if that were in fact failing. It seems that, in many cases, they took profits out of these companies as they failed, and that by doing so, they also contributed materially to their failure. I think the point that Gingrich made, and he was grounded on very heavily by conservative Republicans, is that if you invest in a company with the purpose of turning it around and you fail and the company fails, then you should take a loss and share the burden of that failure with the workers.
ALBIANBut that in many cases, they didn't do that. The companies failed. The workers were laid off. But Bain took substantial profits out, and that's the problem. It's an ethical problem actually. And that needs to be focused on a little bit more than the discussion has in my view.
CHALIANI think it's exactly that that is at the heart of the salience of the Bain attack against Mitt Romney, what you're describing right there. I mean, that actually was the core of Ted Kennedy's advertising against Mitt Romney in the 1994 Senate race. It was stories just like that about how the workers failed, lost jobs but Mitt Romney continued to make money.
REHMAnd to Limerick, Maine. Good morning, Jane.
JANEGreetings from Maine.
JANEYes. I don't know why no -- anybody has brought up the fact that the companies that did succeed because of Romney investing in them through Bain Capital. The products of those stores are made in China and places like that with very low-cost labor and abusive exploited practices.
REHMI think, in part, our caller is talking about staples. Is that a fair criticism, John?
DICKERSONI don't know how many products -- staples are made in China, but it's a probably pretty safe bet that a whole lot of them are. I think the pushback from Romney or anybody else would be yes, in a global economy you're gonna have some products that are from China. But these companies, the stores are in the United States. They pay, you know, they are part of the U.S. economy. They employ Americans. They are physical operations here in the United States.
DICKERSONAnd while the goods they're selling may not be in China, you could make the case that they should be made in China in a global economy because those are not high-value products let --- and nevertheless, we're employing people here at staples in the United States which benefits the U.S. economy.
PAGESo maybe we're in for a debate about capitalism...
PAGE...in this election. And I was interested, the Gallup Organization sent out some results from a poll this morning that said 50 percent of Americans have a positive view of capitalism and 40 percent of Americans do not.
CHALIANAnd that's why what's so interesting about the fact we're having in the Republican primary because clearly the lines are not so clear even in the Republican primary about the difference between good old capitalism and vulture capitalism.
REHMLet's go to Norman, Okla. Good morning, Shirley.
SHIRLEYGood morning, Diane.
SHIRLEYThank you for getting my call in.
REHMSure. Go right ahead.
REHMGo right ahead, please.
SHIRLEYOh, thank you. My husband's company was bought by Bain Capital, and it caused a tremendous change in his company. The worst of which is less than half of the people who were employed are now there. My husband is 63. He now does the work of four, sometimes five people, and it has created a strain on our family. It's difficult. And I cannot imagine that Romney would be a good president.
REHMCan you tell me what the company was, Shirley?
SHIRLEYI can, but I'm not sure it would be a good idea.
REHMOK. All right.
PAGEBut, Shirley, I can tell you, there is -- there are several Republican campaigns and the Obama campaign -- they are trying to get you on the phone right now for an add to run now or later in this campaign.
REHMAnd do you feel you've been able to recover?
SHIRLEYWell, recover in what way, Diane?
SHIRLEYMy husband is making the income that we have been used to making. However, it's creating a health issue with him, and he comes home extremely weary every day.
REHMInteresting. What -- you know, it is at the heart of capitalism, expanded capitalism, with new avenues of exploration and even exploitation. And Shirley and her husband suffer from that. Let's go to Hudson, Ohio. Good morning, Dave.
DAVEHi, Diane. Thank you for taking my call.
DAVEI really appreciate your show and the discussion that you're leading. And I just had a comment. I just tuned in when everybody was talking about all these gaffes. And to me, that's a symptom of the problem with journalism is your buying the campaigns line. It's certainly a gaffe from the point of view of the Romney campaign because they don't want people to hear their candidate saying things like that.
DAVEBut from the point of view of a voter, what I'm hearing is something that's true about Romney. And so I don't see it as a gaffe. I see it as one of the few things that isn't manufactured and marketed to me.
REHMThat's an interesting point. David.
CHALIANAnd the real definition of the gaffe is when you allow the truth to come forward unintentionally.
CHALIANSo I think it does give you a window into these candidates. Absolutely.
REHMSusan, we were talking during the break about the number of voters who actually came out in New Hampshire.
PAGEYou know, it was interesting both in Iowa and New Hampshire, Republican turnout was up just a little bit, but not up to what the projections had been beforehand.
REHMSo what do you make of that?
PAGEI think it raises questions about whether -- we've talked all about this enthusias-ing gap between Republicans and Democrats, with Republicans being much more ginned up about the 2012 elections. I think it raises a question about to what degree is the true.
REHMWhat do think, John?
DICKERSONI think it is a challenge and something -- and the anemia surrounding the Romney campaign has been a problem for him all along. And the question is, take this anemia on the one hand, but then balance it out by the real disappointment with President Obama, and see if that improve the situation for Republican voters. But, as Susan says, everybody was predicting above Iowa and New Hampshire, that it would be this big turnout fueled by this anger at President Obama, and it just didn't happen.
REHMAll right. To Miramar, Fla. Hi there, Sharon. Go right ahead.
SHARONGood morning, Diane. Your program is fantastic. I have enjoyed it for many years. I'm calling because there's a small point that's now being aired in the Bain documentary, going throughout South Carolina and now available on the Internet, pointing out that when the Steelworkers Union plant was closed because of Bain's efforts coming and basically make their own profits that the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation of the United States had to come in and use taxpayer dollars to guarantee the rights to this Steelworkers union members, and that's a bailout.
SHARONAnd when Romney was working with Bain, as his own corporation -- and I'm sure Bain continued this practice -- they looked for any bailout from any source available and they walk off with the profits, knowing full well that the anti-unionism that they take into these corporations that they then, you know, liquidate and they destroy the workers, they destroy the unions at the same time, in some cases, they try and rehire those union workers at a lower wage and not doing any membership policy.
SHARONBut the taxpayers of the United States bailed out Romney to the tune of a lot of dollars. And if people would watch that documentary they would see that point being made.
REHMAnd we talked about that a great deal yesterday in our program on these kinds of venture capitalist efforts. David, a comment.
CHALIANWell, I do think that this line of attack here, what you're specifically talking about with bailouts, I think, get's at some of the conservative antipathy that we have been seeing at Mitt Romney throughout this entire time. I mean, here's somebody who did support the big TARP bailout, right? This is somebody who represents, whether it is the sort of corporate venture capitalist portion of Bain in his history there or in terms of supporting George W. Bush and Hank Paulson in the big bailout there.
CHALIANHe's not in line with a lot of the conservative grassroots movement who are so anti that, I mean, that is where Ron Paul is able to chime in and get some support and really draw a contrast with Mitt Romney. So I do think this is a bit of a vulnerability for him and something we should look at even if he does wrap this nomination up. Something we should look at in the results, going forward, throughout all these Republican contest.
DICKERSONIt's just a double whammy. It's both vulture behavior and what was -- the vulture behavior caused the situation in which the pension fund had to be bailed out by a federal entity. So it's -- you got two things going on there that are at the heart of this election, and in that case they're combined.
REHMAnd you're listening to "The Diane Rehm Show." So how quickly is Bain going to come up if Romney is the nominee? How quickly is that gonna come up in his debates with Obama?
PAGEWell, we saw the Obama campaign put out a memo on this morning by Stephanie Cutter, who has been a guest on your show, Diane, talking about the case against Romney with Bain. Now, you know, the Romney people make kind of an interesting argument, which is it's not a bad -- they knew this was gonna be an issue against Obama. They say not necessarily a bad thing that they have to deal with it now.
PAGEWith a somewhat friendlier electorate, Republicans presumably a little friendlier to the arguments he'll make, and a chance to kind of test the responses we'll make. No, I don't know if I think that's 100 percent true because it gives you a longer time to air these criticisms of Romney, but that is a response that they're making. And I think that for the Obama campaign, this is their number one case against Mitt Romney as the Republican nominee.
REHMAll right. And in these last couple of minutes, Susan, I want to raise with you the death of our friend Tony Blankley, who was one of the very, very early participants in this Friday News Roundup. I was just so shocked and saddened to hear of his death.
PAGEYes. And at age 63, too young, I think. What an interesting man he was. How many times did he bring different aspects of his life to bear when he was in the news roundup and other programs? You know, he was born in London. His father, Churchill's accountant, moved to California, became a child actor, was a child actor in Humphrey Bogart's last film. He loved to tell that story.
PAGEBecame a prosecutor in California and then a journalist and, of course, let us not forget came really to fame in Washington as a spokesman for Newt Gingrich when he was speaker of the House.
REHMDid you know he had a farm with llamas and other exotic animals out there in Virginia?
PAGEHe was so proud of that. He would talk about the llamas and the peacocks. I think he had peacocks too. Yes, he was a man of great appetites and big interests.
REHMAnd we should not forget his three children. I happen to be at St. Patrick's Episcopal Church on the Sunday, when his boys were confirmed in that church. I love sharing that experience with Tony, and I'm sad of his death. Thank you all so much for joining me this morning. David Chalian of Yahoo News, Susan Page of USA Today, John Dickerson, slate.com and CBS political analyst and contributor. Thanks for listening, all.
REHMI hope you have a good and safe weekend. We'll take the holiday on Monday and bring you a couple of our favorite rebroadcasts. I hope you'll tune in for those. We'll be back with you live Tuesday morning. Thanks for listening. I'm Diane Rehm.
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