For this month's Readers' Review: "Drown" -- the debut collection of short stories by Pulitzer Prize-winning writer Junot Diaz. Twenty years ago, Diaz published ten heart-breaking tales about a fragmented family from the Dominican Republic finding their way in 1980s America.
Republican presidential candidates debated in South Carolina as polls showed former Governor Mitt Romney with a seven-point lead over former Speaker Newt Gingrich; the U.S. government charged seven hedge fund managers in a $62 million insider trading case; and several prominent websites “blacked-out” in protest of controversial anti-piracy legislation in Congress. Jerry Seib of The Wall Street Journal, Sheryl Gay Stolberg of The New York Times and Ryan Grim of The Huffington Post join Diane for analysis of the week’s top national news stories.
- Ryan Grim Washington bureau chief, Huffington Post.
- Sheryl Gay Stolberg Washington correspondent, The New York Times.
- Jerry Seib Washington bureau chief, The Wall Street Journal.
Friday News Roundup Video
Sheryl Gay Stolberg, Washington correspondent for the New York Times, Ryan Grim,
Washington bureau chief for the Huffington Post, and Jerry Seib, Washington bureau chief for The Wall Street Journal discuss Obama’s decision to reject the Keystone Pipeline permit.
Sheryl Gay Stolberg, Washington correspondent for the New York Times, Ryan Grim,
Washington bureau chief for the Huffington Post, and Jerry Seib, Washington bureau chief for The Wall Street Journal talk about the SOPA and PIPA legistlation.
MS. DIANE REHMThanks for joining us. I'm Diane Rehm. President Obama rejects the Keystone pipeline deal for now. Top Internet sites protest anti-piracy bills in Congress. And then there were four. Who's up, who's down and who's out in the Republican race for the presidency? Joining us for the domestic hour of the Friday News Roundup: Jerry Seib of The Wall Street Journal, Sheryl Gay Stolberg of The New York Times and Ryan Grim of the Huffington Post.
MS. DIANE REHMI hope you'll join us as well. Call us on 800-433-8850. Send us an email to email@example.com. Join us on Facebook or Twitter. Good morning, everybody.
MS. SHERYL GAY STOLBERGGood morning.
MR. RYAN GRIMGood morning.
REHMJerry Seib, let me start with you. We learned yesterday that Rick Perry suspended his campaign. Now, what does that mean?
MR. JERRY SEIBWell, it means he's done, and it means that his supporters, which haven't been all that plentiful, are up for grabs. It also means -- and I think this may be, in the long run, just as important -- his money is up for grabs. And I think you're going to see a divergence there. You get the sense that a lot of Rick -- excuse me, Rick Perry supporters may head toward Newt Gingrich as Rick Perry himself did, but that the money, the big money behind him is more likely to head toward Mitt Romney.
MR. JERRY SEIBSo I think, in South Carolina terms, it's kind of a wash because he wasn't gaining traction there, maybe a marginal benefit to Newt Gingrich, in the long run, may actually be beneficial to Mitt Romney to have more establishment Republican support galvanizing behind him.
REHMSheryl, what do you think?
STOLBERGWell, you know, I think the big question right now, obviously, in the Republican Party is who will emerge as the conservative alternative to Mitt Romney? So the question is, do Perry supporters go to Gingrich or to Rick Santorum? Now, he has urged them to go to Gingrich, and we see Gingrich already rising in the polls in South Carolina with some analysts predicting that he will beat Mitt Romney there on Saturday. In the end, frankly, I don't think endorsements, per se, mean that much.
STOLBERGI think it -- you know, maybe it will help him right now at this moment. But also, clearly, Diane, we've seen the Perry endorsement way overshadowed by the controversy over Marianne Gingrich's statement that her former husband Newt asked her to have an open marriage when they got their divorce 12 years ago.
REHMRyan Grim, welcome to the program.
GRIMThanks for having me.
REHMWhat was your reaction to that first question by John King?
GRIMYou know, he probably didn't handle it the best way that he could when Gingrich came after him. If John King had said -- and just to back up, you know, he asked him about the open marriage to launch the debate, and Newt Gingrich said this is appalling and borderline despicable that you would even do this.
REHMAnd attacked the media.
GRIMAnd attacked the media. If -- and John King said, well, don't blame me. It was ABC that first reported it. And he kind of looked like he'd been smacked around by Newt Gingrich. If he instead would've said, no, you have for, you know, decades, been running as a principled, family values conservative, how does that -- how is that not relevant -- you know, how is your own personal behavior not relevant to your politics, then it might have put Newt Gingrich back a little bit.
SEIBWell, you know, I mean, I think the -- look, it was clearly a tactical response by Newt Gingrich. He was going to respond to the question by attacking the question itself and the questioner. And that was what he did, and he did it very effectively. You know, I think a reasonable response would've been, well, it's not the media. It's your former wife that had said this, so respond to that, not to me. But, you know, in the heat of the debate -- and this has been a feature of Republican Party debates increasingly.
SEIBThe respondents are playing not just to the TV audience but to the audience in the hall, and that's clearly what he did. He got a standing ovation. That changes the dynamic of the debate. It changes the way it feels in the room, and that, by extension, changes the way it looks on television.
REHMIf I could change one thing about these debates, it would be to ask the audience to be silent. It not only affects what's happening inside that auditorium, it affects everything. It changes everything. I think it's unfair to the country as a whole to have to sit through these cheers or boos or whatever. Sheryl.
STOLBERGYes. I think that's absolutely right. I think that the audience participation in these debates has been one of the most fascinating phenomena of the whole cycle. But also, with respect to Newt Gingrich, attacking the media is a tactic that we have seen from him throughout this cycle. He began -- you may remember the debate where he'd told Chris Wallace stop asking gotcha questions. He criticized Maria Bartiromo of NBC and said, you know, the media was not asking legitimate questions on the economy.
STOLBERGHe eviscerated Juan Williams the other night at another debate when Juan Williams asked him, were his comments about child labor laws belittling the poor, and we saw him literally just take down John King last night. So he's an excellent debater, but he also has learned that attacking the media plays well to a Republican audience and particularly the crowds in these halls.
GRIMBut, on the other hand, if these crowds are representative of the Republican primary electorate, then maybe it is useful to see, you know, how they respond to certain questions. It's probably interesting for the -- you know, the American public to see them cheer, for example, a person who doesn't have health insurance and is left to die, as they did one time, or boo a question from a gay soldier about gay marriage. You know, that kind of does bring the issue then to the center stage and say, well, why, as a society, are we treating people...
REHMIt's a good a point.
GRIM...in this way?
REHMIt's a good point. Sheryl.
STOLBERGYes. Although I think that it's a self-selecting society, right? I mean, the people who go to these debates are really party -- you know, they're partisans, right? So we're seeing sort of a core of, I think, the most partisan element of the Republican Party. I do wonder how the rest of the public reacted last night, especially to Newt Gingrich's treatment of John King.
STOLBERGLet's face it. You know, there are a lot of women out there who would probably like to know the answer to the question, who would like to hear more, who, perhaps, watched Marianne Gingrich's interview and are wondering about Newt Gingrich's marriage to her. And, you know, perhaps, we're just not hearing those voices.
SEIBWell, you know, it cuts a lot of different ways. I mean, I was one of the moderators...
SEIB...for the Monday night debate. And in that case, it was not just the audience cheering or booing the moderators, but it was also a case in which Ron Paul got booed by people in the audience. So it's -- it just creates a much different atmosphere. I'm not sure what's right and what's wrong. And you're right, Sheryl. It's -- by definition, it's a small and self-selected audience of people who were actually going to show up for that sort of thing. It just does change the dynamic, and I think it makes for good TV. But I'm not sure, you know, whether it's the right thing or the wrong thing.
REHMAnd what about Iowa? Rick Santorum now claims victory there. How does that change the dynamic, Jerry?
SEIBI don't think all that much. I mean, you know, the truth is nobody knows, and oddly, I don't think anybody will ever know who really won Iowa and by how much because somehow eight precincts votes have been lost.
REHMAnd how does that affect the importance of Iowa?
SEIBWell, that's, you know, that's a question that people will have to debate over the next four years. My guess is probably not all that much. I mean, you know, somehow we spend four years debating the importance of Iowa and New Hampshire, and people attempt to belittle them and to change the way the system works. And we always end up in exactly the same place. So I'm not sure it really will.
SEIBIowa was and is essentially a tie between Rick Santorum and Mitt Romney. In the long run, you have to step back and say, that's probably better than Mitt Romney expected to do in Iowa and better than we all thought he would do. We thought he might even skip it entirely. So I don't think it changes all that much.
REHMI want to ask you about Mitt Romney and his attitude, his comments about his money. There seems to be something of a tin ear there, Ryan.
GRIMSure. And it's the worst possible time for a private equity executive to be running for president, you know? When you have the American consciousness focused on inequality of Occupy Wall Street raising the issue, he's clearly a 1 percenter and not something that he would deny. And his advisers must just smack their foreheads over and over and over again to casually bet $10,000, to say that you made not very much income from your book sales in one year. It turns out to be, I believe, $374,000.
REHMSpeeches as well, Sheryl.
STOLBERGRight. And, you know, other things he said throughout the course of this campaign -- corporations are people, jokingly saying, I'm unemployed, and then accusing President Obama of practicing the politics of envy. I think that's a theme that we're going to see. And the issue about his taxes is really hurting him. He has said he paid, in effect, of 15 percent tax rate. He hasn't released his tax returns. We know he has made a lot of money.
STOLBERGI thought that was the one point in the debate last night where he looked, frankly, kind of squirrelly and off his game when John King said to him, will you follow your father's lead and release 12 years of your taxes, which George Romney did when he was running. And Mitt sort of kicked back and said, well, maybe. And, you know, he doesn't seem to know how to handle that issue.
REHMJerry, how important is a candidate's tax information?
SEIBI don't think, per se, it's all that important. I think what is important is the perception. And in other words, does the candidate understand the concerns of average people, which is kind of the way pollsters ask this question. And a lot of things go into that answer. I actually tend to think -- and I think the Romney campaign probably also feels this way -- that the bigger vulnerability may be the line of attack on Bain Capital, that you -- yes, you spent 20 years plus in the private sector, but you shredded companies and lost jobs, didn't create jobs.
SEIBThat's the one, I think, they need to push back on 'cause that goes to the heart of the Romney campaign narrative, which is that jobs and unemployment are the key issue. I know how to create jobs because I did it. If you can undermine that narrative, you've undermined a lot of the case that Mitt Romney makes it that I'm the guy who can win against Barack Obama.
STOLBERGI think that's right. But I also think that taxes will reveal something else that Mitt Romney doesn't really want to talk about, and that's his donations to the Mormon Church. We know that he tithes as faithful Mormons do. He gives 10 percent of his income to the church. Ten percent of Mitt Romney's income is quite a lot of money, and the tax returns will probably reveal that and would raise it as an issue.
REHMSheryl Gay Stolberg. She's Washington correspondent for The New York Times. Do join us, 800-433-8850.
REHMAnd welcome back to the domestic hour of our Friday News Roundup this week with Ryan Grim of The Huffington Post, Sheryl Gay Stolberg of The New York Times, Jerry Seib of The Wall Street Journal. The phones are open if you'd like to join us, 800-433-8850. Send your email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Join us on Facebook or Twitter. Tell me about the economy. It would seem that there is some good numbers out there, sales of existing homes up 5 percent. The unemployment benefit applications dropped to 352,000, the lowest in four years. Jerry.
SEIBWell, I think you're having kind of a slow accumulation of what I would call modestly good economic numbers. The existing homes sales number is pretty good, not great. It's actually a little below what some people had thought, but it's a sign of maybe a floor being built under the -- slowly being built under the housing sector. I think the more intriguing one is the jobless claims going down.
SEIBThat means companies aren't laying off employees the way they were a couple of years ago, and that's usually -- that usually precedes the ramping up process. We've seen a little of that. And, you know, for President Obama, the key really is the unemployment number, I suppose, and if jobless claims going down presages a slow drop in the unemployment rate, then that's a good thing.
SEIBYou know, the best the president can hope for is that the trend lines are going in the right direction by November, not that the picture will be great, but you look at these numbers and you say, well, maybe the trend lines are turning around and heading in the right direction.
REHMAnd at the same time, all of the Republican candidates are criticizing President Obama on the Keystone pipeline rejection. Sheryl.
STOLBERGWell, that's right. You know, President Obama was under a deadline imposed by Congress to make a decision within 60 days from last month, I think, Dec. 17 on this Keystone pipeline, this controversial project that would take -- build a pipeline from Canada through the Gulf Coast. The president declared this week that the pipeline was not "in the national interest." Now, those are words he was forced to use by the legislation that was passed.
STOLBERGHe was expected to declare, was it in the national interest or not. This isn't the end of it, though. The White House has made clear that, right now, it doesn't feel that this pipeline is ready to go. There is more environmental concerns. But it's clear that it will be revisited. The president told Steven Harper, the prime minister of Canada, that Canada was free to reapply. Some viewed that as quite a slap at Steven Harper. But nonetheless, the Canadian pipeline company that submitted this application says it will reapply, and we'll hear more of this.
REHMAnd find a different route. Ryan.
GRIMExactly. And it's funny, it might not seem like there's a connection between this conversation and the one we are just having about housing. But environmentalists say that, if you build this Keystone pipeline, it's game over for global climate change. And if you think about the housing market, it usually gets going in the spring. Housing starts get going when it's warmer out. For a lot of your listeners, spring came early this year.
GRIMDecember was an obscenely warm month, and especially in many parts of the Midwest where we saw more housing starts than average and more proportionately than the rest -- around the rest of the country. So, bizarrely, this warm weather could be playing a part in this uptick in housing starts that we're seeing.
STOLBERGYeah, I think that's right. Also, I probably should have said that this is a really tough issue for the president because, on the one hand, he's got Republicans hammering him saying, he's a job-killing president, and you have supporters of this pipeline saying, it could bring as many as 20,000 jobs. On the other hand, you have a president who is committed to the environmental movement and wants to be the green president, and you've got environmentalists saying, this pipeline will be disastrous.
STOLBERGSo he's kind of between a rock and a hard place, and he has wanted simply to put this thing off until after the election. And that is what he initially tried to do. He said, prior to that congressional action that he wasn't going to make a decision, Congress forced his hand, I think, by deciding that saying, right now, it's not in the national interest. He, at least, leaves himself open to reverse himself, whereas if he had allowed it now, he obviously couldn't undo that.
REHMJerry, somebody called yesterday as we talking about the pipeline issue, saying that these jobs would mostly be for pipefitters and others in that particular field and that that is the lowest unemployment area in the whole construction field, namely that those guys are mostly employed.
SEIBWell, that's probably true. I don't know what the numbers would be, but it's -- logically, that's correct, and it makes sense. And I'm not sure that the jobs argument is really ultimately the big argument here. I think the big argument is, do you invest? Does the nation invest in these kinds of projects in a way that essentially keeps everybody hooked on fossil fuels for a long time to come?
SEIBOr is it time to -- for the government to stop supporting these things as a way to kind of compel the country to move elsewhere in its energy future, which creates jobs someplace else? That's kind of the Obama view, I think.
REHMSo how much of an issue is this going to be in the election?
SEIBOh, I think it's going to be a huge election. I mean, Republicans have set it up as a big test, not only of job creation. But, again, I think that's the secondary argument. The primary argument is, look, we need energy independence. For now, energy independence comes from fossil fuels. We've got way more oil and natural gas within our borders than people realized, even 10 years ago.
SEIBPresident Obama is standing in the way of taking advantage of that. That's the argument. And the Obama counter is going to be, look, we eventually have to kick our addiction to fossil fuels. There are great prospects out there. I have to go in a different direction. That's what I'm going to do. And they will -- the Obama campaign will frame this as a past view of energy versus a future view of energy.
GRIMRight. And Jerry's exactly right that that's how this is being set up, but one of the kind Alice-in-Wonderland qualities of this is that you'll be piping in oil from Canada to the Gulf Coast, where a ton of it, tons of it would be exported. You know, this is a global market, and the notion that getting this pipeline up and running is going to have a noticeable impact, that the pump is one that might be appealing to politicians -- but take a few steps back, and it's fantasy.
REHMAll right. Let's talk about the online piracy legislation moving through Congress. Harry Reid has now postponed a vote on this legislation that was to take place on Tuesday. Explain the legislation to us, Ryan.
GRIMSure. And this is a stunning turn of events. This is a bill that had been pushed mostly by Hollywood and other content creators aimed at piracy online not just in the United States, but globally. And its original iteration was quite extreme. It would allow a company to get an injunction without a hearing the very same day and take a website down. Now, in order to take a website down, it would attack the very infrastructure of the Internet.
GRIMIt's called the domain name system, and so the problem arises because the Internet is global -- is a series of global connections, right? And as soon as you break that, as soon as one user from one country doesn't get the same website that another user from another country gets, you don't have the same Internet that we have today. Entrepreneurs who want to then go out and build Web companies would be less likely to do so because, at a moment's notice, without any warning, they could be taken down.
REHMSo you had WikiLeaks shut down on Wednesday. You had Google with a black line through it. What's really at issue here, Sheryl?
STOLBERGWell, you know, I think it's sort of -- it's almost new -- it's been cast as new media versus old media, but, really, it's sort of Internet freedom and access versus intellectual property. So I talked to this friend of mine who's a music industry economist yesterday, and he said, look, all this is is to try to take down some of these unlicensed and pirated videos and music, et cetera. He said, if you go online and you type in, see movies now or watch free movies now, you can come up with websites that will show you where you can download free movies that are in the theaters right now, which is illegal.
STOLBERGThey are coming from overseas. He said, all we want is the ability to choke this off at the portal, so that if Google has information that website X is showing these movies, Google is supposed to shut it down. Now, on the other hand, Google is saying, look, the minute you start intervening in our ability to disseminate information, you are on a slippery slope here. And we saw this fight at the debate last night with, interestingly, Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum kind of on opposite sides of this issue.
SEIBWell, you know, it's -- if you're moving into a media world in which not only can you download a movie that was just released two days ago in the theaters and you can do that and you can then plug your laptop into you TV and watch it on your big screen TV, you've really changed the economic marketplace for content producers, for people who make movies and TV shows and, let's face it, books and all kinds of things.
SEIBThat's the nub of the problem. The interesting thing, politically, was -- you know, that this was headed toward an easy passage, a bipartisan passage in Congress, until the Internet providers stood up and started to make noise in the last few weeks. And then the White House shifted the climate by saying a week ago, well, we're not so sure anymore. We're not so sure this is the right way to do it.
SEIBI think everybody will now fall back and try to come up with a more elegant way to get at the problem, as Sheryl described it, which is, how do you surgically stop this practice without messing up the infrastructure of the Internet?
REHMSo what does this demonstration say about the power of old-fashioned lobbying versus the power of Internet mobilization?
GRIMSure. These are a set of organizations that hadn't flexed their muscle before -- Wikipedia, for instance, going down. I was talking to a chief-of-staff to one of the backers of the bill before it happened. And he said to me, wait a minute, Wikipedia is going to make the evening news, isn't it? And then that's -- and that's when people start paying attention...
GRIM...when you're going to -- when it reaches the broader public. We all know about that, but the kind of untold story of what happened is that, behind the scenes in the White House, you had two elements working against this bill that hasn't been reported much. The State Department is one, and the national security community is the other. The State Department, their overriding ethos is Internet freedom. It's a huge issue for Hillary Clinton.
GRIMShe goes to China all the time and preaches to them, do not tell search engines what to do. The national security community, meanwhile, once they started to learn what it meant to break the Internet, to break this domain name system, they started realizing that it would create all these ways around what the regulators were trying to do, which then makes securing the Internet that much more difficult.
GRIMThere is this saying created from John Gilmore, who is an Internet pioneer. He said the Internet interprets censorship as damage and routes around it, and the national security community actually does believe that. So if you try to block information on the Internet, that information will find a new way around it, and that's not something that national security folks want. They want to know where it is. They want a secure Internet 'cause then they can -- you know, they want stability.
REHMExactly. So what's going to happen to this legislation?
STOLBERGI don't know. I mean, yesterday, some of the supporters in the Senate -- Orrin Hatch and Sen. Grassley and others -- were trying to work a way around this, trying to revise it. Now, we're seeing Harry Reid summarily pull it from the floor this morning. My friend on the other side, on the side of Hollywood, thought it was dead. He was almost saying, well, you know, we lost that one. But as Jerry suggested, it may come back in some sort of revised form, although, frankly, this is such a difficult thing to do, technically.
STOLBERGI don't know how you get around these technological problems of -- that the -- that this issue poses.
SEIBIt was just a rapid erosion of support for the legislation in the last 48 hours -- I mean, really, stunningly. In one day -- I don't know. We have been -- we have that count in our story, but it was more than a dozen people in the House and several senators all -- just all turned on a dime and came out against it. So Harry Reid couldn't get it through.
REHMJerry Seib of The Wall Street Journal. And you're listening to "The Diane Rehm Show." Sheryl, let's talk about this insider trading story. Prosecutors in New York unveiled a massive insider trading case Wednesday, involving seven individuals. We're talking about amounts like $78 million.
STOLBERGThat's right. This is -- the Manhattan District Attorney -- or U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said that the scheme included one trade that earned a $53 million illegal windfall for the head of this company, Level Global Investors. He described it as a stunning portrait of organized corruption on a grand scale. He talked about a circle of friends who essentially formed a criminal club whose purpose was profit.
STOLBERGAnd, you know, this is -- this was really quite an indictment, but, you know, it raises the question, Diane, what about the banks, right? What about the companies that contributed to the financial downfall?
REHMHow come we can go after individuals and we can't go after the banks?
STOLBERGThat's right. And I think this is the whole sort of 99 percent, 1 percent, Occupy Wall Street discussion that we're having. This is fueling a lot of anger that banks whose activity helped create financial disaster in this country, individuals within those banks, are not getting prosecuted. Now, part of it is just that it's cleaner and easier to prosecute insider trading, right? That's something that you can trace to an individual.
REHMBut it's small potatoes compared to...
STOLBERGRight. But it's an easy -- I think, for prosecutors, it's an easier, cleaner line. Jerry probably knows more about this. It's an act of trading that you can trace, whereas finding the activities of individual bankers may be a more difficult act for prosecutors.
SEIBWell, I mean, look, insider trading is clearly illegal. Doing something really stupid on a grand scale, which is probably what a lot of banks and people in investment houses did in bundling up mortgage securities, probably isn't illegal. That's actually the nub of the problem for the prosecutors, and so one of the criticisms isn't so much that they shouldn't be doing insider trade prosecutions. I don't think people are arguing that.
SEIBI think they're arguing the resources of the prosecutor's office, particularly the DA's office in Manhattan, are being diverted to this, and they should be pointed in that direction. I'm not sure that if you spend a lot of time trying to get to the bottom of some -- look for some illegal as opposed to, you know, unwise or even immoral activity by banks, you'd actually find it. The question is what went on that was actually illegal as opposed to maybe just wrong or, as I said, stupid. And that's a line prosecutors have to worry about.
GRIMYeah, Jerry's formulation is the right one, but the banks want to have it both ways. They want to say, look, we're the smartest guys in the room. Don't worry about this. We're going to allocate capital. You don't -- you know, don't burden us with too much regulation. But at the same time, they want to say that, oh, we're pretty stupid. We just didn't see that there was a $7 trillion housing bubble that was founded on fraud.
GRIMAnd, you know, everybody has basically accepted, as part of the national conversation, that this was fraudulent. Now, people like to blame the borrowers instead and say, oh, the borrowers were, you know, overstating their income. 2005, I actually worked with a broker to try to buy a house, and I asked him what documentation he needed. And he said, oh, don't worry about it, you know, just state your income.
GRIMI said, so what do you mean state it? So I had a pretty low income at the time, and he kept telling me, no, no, that's not enough. That's not enough. So we eventually did...
REHMDid you buy it?
GRIMIt seems crazy, and we didn't. And this was 2005, and I could already actually see that things were overheated. So we decided not to buy at that time. But -- and, actually, at that time, you had Greenspan and Geithner and others saying there was no housing bubble, which I don't quite understand how regular people could see it at the time, but others couldn't.
GRIMBut so the idea that that's the borrower's fault -- you're being told by these brokers, who are then handing over all of these loans to these banks, which are just seeing a huge increase in the amount of loans going out to people who clearly don't deserve them. Prices are going through the roof. It was clearly based on fraud.
REHMRyan Grim, he is Washington bureau chief for The Huffington Post. When we come back, it's time for your comments, questions, your emails, your tweets. Stay with us.
REHMAnd welcome back. Time to take your calls. Let's go first to Bret, who's here in Washington. You've been waiting the longest, Bret. You're on the air.
BRETDiane, you're a national treasure. I think Marianne Gingrich is deserving of a little more sympathy than Speaker Gingrich, saying that a friend of the couple would be a good witness for what the couple would say in private. I guess it's not much of a comment, but I just used to take care of women with multiple sclerosis. And most men leave them. So I just wish that the speaker wouldn't be so, you know, short and so -- first, he told John he wouldn't answer -- he didn't want to answer the question but he would. And he wants to blame the media.
BRETWell, I mean, in this Internet media age, you can get your information. Well, I mean, if Rush Limbaugh and Newt Gingrich hate the media, I wish Newt -- "Rush Limbaugh" wasn't the only talk show that our armed forces overseas get -- got to hear.
REHMOh, no. You're wrong about that. The American Forces Network also carries this program. But to the caller's point, number one, I don't think Marianne has or had MS. Am I correct?
GRIMShe -- No, she was diagnosed with MS.
REHMMarianne was. OK. I'm wrong. Go ahead, Ryan.
GRIMTo the caller's point, if this is going to be a he said, she said between Newt and Marianne, we should acknowledge one thing. Whether or not there was an agreed upon open relationship, Newt has acknowledged that he was acting as if they had an open relationship. He was having a long-time affair with his current wife while he was married to his last wife. So it's almost whether or not she agreed to that or whether he asked for that and she consented to it or he didn't ask for that is almost beside the point. The -- you know, you can't -- the benefit of the doubt has to be with Marianne in that situation.
REHMAll right. To Fort Wayne, Ind., good morning, Anne. You're on the air.
ANNEHi, Diane. Thanks for taking my call.
ANNEI'm calling because I was disappointed and somewhat discouraged by the commentator's comment that the fact that Mitt Romney gives 10 percent of his income to the Mormon Church raises an issue. And I'm going to suggest that it wouldn't raise an issue if she felt that was a positive fact. And I think that, regardless of which faith, I think that when people of faith give away 10 percent of the income, that's a good thing, and it's good for all of us.
STOLBERGI'd like to say I actually agree with the caller. I myself am a person of faith who makes charitable contributions, and I, in no way, think that it is a bad thing to make charitable contributions to religious organizations. I only meant to say that Mitt Romney has not wanted to make his Mormon faith an issue in this campaign.
SEIBSome evangelical Christian voters are concerned about Mormonism, and so, to the extent that releasing his tax returns would open up his faith as an issue, that is difficult for him. But certainly in no way did I or do I think that it is bad to give charitable contributions to religious organizations.
REHMJerry, on that point, how much of a factor is Mitt Romney's Mormonism going to be in this election?
SEIBWell, you know, interestingly, not as much as some people thought and certainly not as much as it was four years ago. I mean, there is a kind of a sense that a couple of factors that the reality that he -- this had all been aired and discussed four years ago, made it less of an issue this time. And the second reality that there was a second Mormon, Jon Huntsman, in the race for a long while made it seem less unusual, I guess.
SEIBThere is a -- it's kind of a lingering question in South Carolina where polls have shown that some members of the evangelical community there continue to have reservations about voting for somebody who's a Mormon. But I think it's become marginalized compared to either what it was four years ago or what some people thought it would be this time overall.
GRIMWell, I think it will be less of an issue in the general election because...
REHMIf he is the nominee.
GRIMRight. Because, I think, if you try to think of somebody who would refuse for somebody because of their Mormon faith, that's probably going to overlap pretty strongly with people who think the president is a Muslim. And so if they had to pick then between the different religions that they're opposed to, they'll probably pick Mormonism over Islam.
STOLBERGAnd I would say I think, frankly, it's kind of sad, in a way, that we're having this debate over faith. I think that most Americans -- my bet is most Americans would say that faith should not be a litmus test for the presidency, that we are a country that was founded on freedom of religion. And...
REHMWe thought we got past it with John F. Kennedy.
STOLBERGThat's right. That's exactly right. And we've had so much discussion of the role of faith, not only with Mitt Romney but with Michele Bachmann and Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich and others and certainly President Obama that I think a lot of Americans would like to get to other issues like the economy.
REHMAll right. Let's go to Clemson, S.C. Good morning, Abel.
ABELGood morning, Diane. It's such a pleasure to once again be on your show.
ABELI have two quick comments or questions. First, the conservative attack. Last night, as I listened on liberal media, it really -- it almost caused me to get simply sick. For almost three years, we've been chasing this Birther thing that conservative media has been on on President Obama, and no one's -- Mitt had -- I mean, Mitt or Newt has had no problem with them attacking President Obama.
ABELBut all of a sudden when the media asked him a question about his marriage and the fact that he cheated on his wife, all of a sudden, it's the liberal media attacking conspiracy. That was embarrassing. But my second point is even more important. All I'm hearing from all of these candidates is we're going to get rid of Obamacare as their economic plan. What is their economic plan to bring jobs and to solve our economic problems?
REHMI think that's a good question. What do you think, Ryan?
GRIMNo. Absolutely. They usually don't go from step one to step two. They say we're going to get the government, you know, out of this and -- but they don't say step two. Well, how is that actually going to create jobs? And we had plenty of deregulation in the '90s and the 2000s, and we saw what happened. Things got out of control, and then they collapsed. And I guess I'm just shocked at the shortness of the memories -- of the memory here.
GRIMIt's like -- well, what are you going to actually do, and how is deregulating even further going to create jobs? How does the government spending money, how does the government putting money into the economy actually make it harder for a business to grow? It doesn't make any sense.
REHMJerry, have we heard specific plans from any of these candidates about how to turn the economy around?
SEIBWell, I think we have, and I think, in a sense, they've been repeated so much that people have kind of, like, forgotten that voters need to come back to this subject. But, you know, look, the view -- and it's almost universally held among the Republican candidates.
SEIBThere are variations on this theme. But the view is that if you reduce corporate tax rates, you reduce regulation and you create a lower regulatory burden that will create jobs in a way that is -- that they're not being created now and that -- if you can figure out along the way how to reduce the deficit so that there's greater sense among business people that they have a certainty ahead about what their tax rates are going to be over time.
SEIBAnd, by the way, if you also repeal Obamacare, you'll also create more certainty in the business world about what the costs are going to be down the line. All those things will create jobs. Now, you can either agree with that analysis or disagree with the analysis, but I don't think there's a mystery about what the Republican view about how you create jobs is. And I don't think there is a wild discrepancy among the various Republican candidates about that.
SEIBI think that's kind of the consensus. And they said the question of whether you think that's a sufficient answer or not is open to debate, but I don't think it's a case in which they haven't said what they're going to do.
REHMAll right. To Munith, Mich., good morning, Allen.
ALLENGood morning, Ms. Rehm. Thank you for this wonderful show and the opportunity to present. When you discuss the -- the PIPA laws, one of the things that doesn't seem to come into the conversation often enough is the change in the (word?) cost of prosecution. When somebody has a copyright infringement, it used to be they went after the court indictments themselves, and they had to -- cost of protecting their copyright themselves.
ALLENWith the digital acts, it all seems that the burden is being shifted to somebody other than the person making the money. And I don't understand why the movie or the record industries need Google to carry that part of the burden for them.
GRIMSure. It's not necessarily a matter of need. It's more a matter of want. I know, you know, Hollywood and the content creators will take what they can get. You know, I think -- and I don't say this too often. But I think Newt said it well last night. You know, he said we have a patent office, and we have copyright laws. And the system is relatively fine as it is. If you feel like you've been infringed upon, then you can use the laws that are currently on the books and go after these folks.
GRIMYou know, the content creators would like more, and it's, you know, under our current system. It's certainly their right to lobby for more.
STOLBERGAnd, interestingly, we've just seen in the news, federal authorities shutting down this mega-upload site, charging that it illegally shared movies, television shows and e-books. This was a Justice Department prosecution, sort of the old-fashioned way, not the way that the SOPA and PIPA laws would propose, but just old-fashioned, you know, go out, get some search warrants, investigate, and the Justice Department cracked in and shut this -- cracked down and shut this site down.
REHMJerry, we've just heard that the Supreme Court has thrown out electoral maps drawn by federal judges in Texas that favored minorities. The unsigned opinion today left the fate of Texas' April primaries unclear. Is this victory for the GOP?
SEIBIt is. But it's -- I'm not sure that it's going to clarify where Texas goes from here. I mean, what happened was that there was a map drawn up. It was seen to be not fair to particularly Hispanics and other minority groups. The courts redrew the map. The state took it to the Supreme Court and challenged the court-drawn map, and the Supreme Court now seems to have thrown that out. It would suggest to me that this means it go -- you go back to the map that the state legislature when it's drawn.
SEIBAnd that is a victory for Republicans, but, you know, their -- one of the problems is it's late in the game now. I don't know how you handle a primary that quickly, and particularly when nobody is quite sure what their congressional district for a House race is really going to be. I mean, I think that's an element on this -- of uncertainty.
SEIBTexas isn't going to -- it doesn't have a huge role in the Republican presidential primary. So, in that front, it doesn't matter very much, but it's going to be hard to figure out how -- it'll get sorted out. But it's not clear right now what the Texas political map is going to be like.
REHMAll right, to Sarasota, Fla. Good morning, Bill.
BILLGood morning. Thank you. One thing I never ever hear anywhere on the media is the fact that so many economists were predicting 25 percent unemployment when Obama took office. You never hear a word about this, and yet you constantly hear attacks against Obama because unemployment got all the way down to 9 percent. I think he should be praised for the unemployment being 9 percent and...
GRIMThe problem for the president is that it's always hard to take credit for things that didn't happen. And he's been actually mocked by his Republican opponents for saying things could be worse because, you know, frankly, that doesn't help somebody who's out of a job. But the caller is exactly right. And one of the president's problems and a lot of the economic forecasters' problems was that they didn't seem to recognize that this was a different recession than every other recession we'd had since World War II.
GRIMThey were using CBO models that assumed that the financial system would bounce back or that we basically had a functioning financial system. And if you would throw out that assumption, then you would have seen that unemployment would have gone much, much higher than actually did. You know, that CBO and the White House is predicting 8.5 percent, and it shot past that within a couple months.
REHMRyan Grim of The Huffington Post. And you're listening to "The Diane Rehm Show." To Silver Spring, MD. Michael, you're on the air.
MICHAELYes. Thank you, Diane, for taking my call.
MICHAELI just wanted -- I wanted to continue the discussion about the economic hint of the PIPA laws. And, you know, I got an opportunity here with Jimmy Wales, the founder of Wikipedia on the Democracy Now radio program. And while he concentrated on the freedom of speech, the censorship issues, where it's maybe the most important, he also talked about the fact that the law might have huge effect for especially Internet companies, like, you know, nonprofit companies in terms of having to do the policing.
BILLAnd the question of whether this is really a law that would in fact affect media consolidation, putting more power in the large media organization controlling the Internet and really hurting smaller, lower income groups.
SEIBWell, look, you know, I think that the -- there's a kind of an Internet culture, the debate that's woven into all of this, which is there is a kind of a sense that whatever you can get away with online should be OK and that nobody is really responsible for that. And if you're a content producer, the idea that somebody else would pave the way for theft, which is kind of what this looks like to a content producer, is kind of a ridiculous proposition.
SEIBAnd that if the -- if something needs to be done to stop the people who are facilitating theft, then that's a reasonable thing to do. That cuts against the Internet culture, which is essentially an everything-and-anything-goes culture. And that's -- in a way, this is not a legal argument. This is a culture clash, and that's what we're seeing played out right in front of us.
REHMOne more issue that's come up this week in Wisconsin -- the opposition turned in nearly twice as many signatures as needed for recall of the governor. What happens next, Sheryl?
STOLBERGWell, what happens next is their signatures will have to be certified. They needed 540,000 signatures. They turned in a million. It looks like that's enough to force a recall election, which would happen sometime in late spring or early summer if there's no legal fight. Scott Walker, you might remember, took on the unions in Wisconsin, went over -- went after their collective bargaining rights. There were huge protests in the capital, in Madison.
STOLBERGFourteen members of the state legislature fled to avoid voting on this law that ultimately passed. It was struck down. There were recall elections. It's a whole saga. It's like a telenovela or something. And there were recall elections in which a couple of lawmakers were recalled. And now, we will see what happens to Scott Walker as a result.
SEIBSure. But Democrats and labor have two challenges that they face here. And the first is that Scott Walker is amazingly well-funded. He has a personal war chest that's quite substantial, and he's going to get extraordinary amounts of outside corporate money because, you know, this is -- this has become a national, you know -- a race of national interest. And the elements of the conservative movement that are backing Walker don't want to see him beaten.
SEIBThat the second -- because of the point that it would make, the second problem that they have, though, is that they don't yet have candidate. Russ Feingold has ruled out of race. He's -- you know, he -- they very strongly pushed him, but he just said, no, I'm just simply not going to do it. Tom Barret ran against him last time and might be the person that they end up going with this time. But that is a problem because you need a horse to ride if you're going to win this race.
REHMAnd speaking of horses to ride, today is Jan. 20. I remind you that the inauguration of our new or existing president is one year from today. Thank you all so much, Jerry Seib, Sheryl Gay Stolberg, Ryan Grim. Have a great weekend. Thanks for listening, all. I'm Diane Rehm.
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