The U.N. suspends Syrian peace talks until late this month. The U.S. plans to quadruple military spending in Europe as a signal to Russia. And American officials express concern about ISIS in Libya. A panel of journalists joins guest host Tom Gjelten for analysis of the week's top international news stories.
White House sources say Vice President Biden apologized for declaring his support of same-sex unions ahead of President Obama. The president’s announcement spurred a major spike in donations to his re-election campaign. J.P. Morgan Chase disclosed a $2 billion trading loss, giving supporters of tighter banking regulation new ammunition. Six-term U.S. Senator Dick Lugar’s defeat to a Tea Party favorite could give Democrats a chance to hold onto a Senate majority. And the U.S. Postal Service dropped plans to close thousands of rural post offices. Clarence Page of the Chicago Tribune, Jeanne Cummings of Bloomberg News and syndicated columnist Steve Roberts join Diane for analysis of the week’s top national news stories.
- Steve Roberts syndicated columnist and journalism professor at George Washington University.
- Clarence Page syndicated columnist for the Chicago Tribune.
- Jeanne Cummings deputy government editor, Bloomberg News.
The panelists discuss the social and political implications of President Obama’s announcement of his support for same-sex marriage earlier this week, and explore the political calculations and risks for the president. Jeanne Cummings said that the announcement could possibly knock at least one important swing state out of play for Obama in the presidential election, but that ultimately the issue will likely be secondary to the state of the economy and job creation:
MS. DIANE REHMThanks for joining us. I'm Diane Rehm. President Obama became the first U.S. President to publicly support same-sex marriage. Long-time Republican Richard Lugar loses his Senate seat to a Tea Party-backed candidate in Indiana's primary. And J.P. Morgan Chase suffers a $2 billion trading loss. Joining me in the studio for the week's top domestic stories on the Friday News Roundup: Clarence Page of the Chicago Tribune, Jeanne Cummings of Bloomberg News and syndicated columnist Steve Roberts.
MS. DIANE REHMYou are always a part of our discussion. Join us on 800-433-8850. Send us your email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Feel free to join us on Facebook or send us a tweet. Good morning, everybody.
MR. CLARENCE PAGEGood morning.
MS. JEANNE CUMMINGSGood morning.
PROF. STEVE ROBERTSGood morning, Diane.
REHMGood to see you all. Steve Roberts, let's start with all this. Talk about same-sex marriage, the vice president's statement on Meet the Press last Sunday, followed by Arne Duncan, the education secretary saying he supported same-sex marriage, and then the president comes out. What do you make of all these?
ROBERTSWell, I think the president was candid and sincere when he said his views have been evolving. And when he explained what had happened, that he talked about his daughters and they had friends in school who had same-sex parents and gay staff members -- and I think he's gone through the evolution a lot of us have, Diane, that when you know people you love and respect, who are in the solid relationships, it becomes increasingly odd and out of keeping with belief in human rights to continue to oppose same-sex marriage.
ROBERTSSo I think that president was sincere. I think there are some political calculations here. He can raise a lot of money from gay groups, but there also political risks as well. But...
ROBERTS...it's experience that's the key here.
REHMPolitical risks, Jeanne Cummings.
CUMMINGSWell, the risks are that there are swing states in play in which they just -- North Carolina being the obvious one where they just recently passed -- voters surpassed a measure that would ban same-sex marriages. They -- in Iowa, it's an issue. In Colorado, it's an issue. These are all states that are going to be targeted during the presidential. And the voters, at least those turned out for this special referendum down in North Carolina, the majority of them are on the opposite side of the president.
CUMMINGSSo the risk is that he will knock one of these states that he wanted to have on his target list out of range for his re-election in light of taking the stand. Now, keep -- we all must keep in mind, though, it's a piece of the campaign. But the election and economy and jobs remains primary.
PAGEI agree. It's a positive form in terms of his base because he not only has a predominance of people in his base who agree with the support for same-sex marriage, but also one of the big complaints in his base, especially among young voters who are crucial for his election and crucial for his re-election campaign, is that he's got too wishy-washy that he hasn't been strong enough on the hope and change keeping that alive.
PAGENow, he has been good on other gay issues. Again, the Don't Ask, Don't Tell, he took away the fight against DOMA, the Defense of Marriage Act, and Republicans retaliated now by trying to make DOMA a constitutional amendment, that sort of thing. But we can talk about that separately. But I think for him -- I've been hearing so many people this week talking about how Obama's back, thank you, you know, tears in people's eyes. There's just this kind of emotional response that we haven't heard much of, except on the right so far, in the campaign 2012.
ROBERTSWell, that's an important point because if you look at the polls, there has been a very sharp change. And now, the latest Washington Post polls, 52 in favor of gay marriage, 43 against, sharp change over a few years. But if you look internally among young people, it's not even close. There is an enormous difference, enormous age gap on the subject because young people are growing up in an environment where they -- it's not just their personal experience that what we're talking about. It's also pop culture.
ROBERTSEven the president -- Joe Biden talked about the importance of the TV show "Will and Grace" and others that have depicted gay couples. I had the experience just recently, a few weeks ago, of being invited to a baby shower. Former student of mine and his partner spent five years saving over $100,000 to afford a surrogate mother who's now pregnant with twins.
ROBERTSNow, I looked at that couple, and I thought, who else do I know is more committed to basic family values than someone who spends five years saving $100,000 to afford a surrogate mother? And I think that's a very common experience in America, Diane.
REHMHowever, those who do not support gay marriage are going to come out in equal numbers to oppose what the president has done.
CUMMINGSWell, that's right. And when you talk about the young people, it is true that they embrace this. But if you look at the other end of the scale, seniors don't, and they vote in large numbers. In addition, there are conservative leaders, like Tony Perkins at the Family Research Council, who say Obama just did for Romney what Romney couldn't do for himself, and that is to excite the Republican social conservative base.
CUMMINGSIt gave them one more reason to come out and vote against Obama. The evolution of the issue is also evident, though, in how the Republican Party is reacting. Romney was very sedate in his reaction. Imagine if Rick Santorum had still been in the Republican primary. His response would've been much more -- had much more volume to it.
CUMMINGSWe would've probably heard the rhetoric of the attack on the American family, the, you know, the liberal attack on the American family, that kind of rhetoric which is used often on the right against this issue, whereas Romney talked about it being a tender issue and a sensitive issue and one in which he doesn't agree. But he's not going to attack those on the other side.
REHMJeanne Cummings of Bloomberg News, Steve Roberts, syndicated columnist, professor of journalism at George Washington University and syndicated columnist Clarence Page for the Chicago Tribune. Do join us, 800-433-8850.
REHMI found myself wondering whether part of the reason Mitt Romney had sort of kept a little more quiet on this issue had to -- had anything to do with the front page story in The Washington Post about his high school experiences, the allegations and the admission on the part of his classmates that they had harassed a young schoolmate because his hair was dyed blond. They had leapt on him en masse, cut his hair, which, the young man said, had been a traumatic experience.
PAGEWell, yes. And I thought, well, something like out of "Goodbye, Mr. Chips" or some other prep school drama, this was not just a question of them criticizing his long hair. They physically grabbed him, wrestled him to the ground, and Mitt Romney, according to witnesses, took a pair of scissors and just chopped away at the hair, which I can understand it being a terrifying experience.
PAGEBeing the same age as Mitt Romney and having been in high school at that same time, let me draw everybody back, especially young folks, back to that time. This is, what, a year or two after The Beatles appeared on the American scene. There were a number of brave fashion-forward guys who started sort of wearing their hair long. It was not uncommon to be called sissy or some other derogatory term.
PAGEMy own high school principal back in Middletown, Ohio, said if any long hairs showed up at this school, they're obviously communists, and they're out of this school. I mean, that was the kind of attitudes people had. So this was a case where Mitt Romney apparently said, according to witnesses, that, hey, he can't look like that. He can't wear his hair like that. That's not an unusual thing.
PAGETo physically grab somebody, wrestle them to the ground, and chop off their hair, that is rather dramatic. I think, you know, this is not going to be a core issue, but it's something that -- for those swing voters out there who are looking at just impressions, this is the kind of thing that sticks in people's minds and establishes the kind of a narrative like those on the right who say that Bill Ayers was a mentor to Barack Obama. So you get these kind of competing narratives out there.
REHMDoes this have legs, Jeanne?
CUMMINGSWell, I think Clarence is right in that it's part of the mosaic. And -- I mean, first of all, they didn't just not like him because his hair was long. According to the witnesses and participants that were interviewed by The Post, they thought the young man was gay. And that was another piece of the puzzle. And, essentially, it's bullying. I mean, that's -- it's the worst form of bullying. It was a physical assault.
CUMMINGSNow, will it have legs? It could feed into the narrative of Romney in different ways but certainly in one way. It, again, reinforces the sort of elitist life that he's been. It's another story of the princes who are -- you know, they're out on this campus, manicured lawns, a great estate of a school, and, you know, people come in who aren't like them, who aren't as -- they don't deem as equal to them, and they get treated like this. And they get away with doing this.
REHMHe says that his -- and Mr. Romney says he doesn't remember this incident.
ROBERTSWell, he's sort of taken several points. He said he doesn't remember it, but then he also apologized. He said that if I conducted pranks that offended people...
ROBERTSAnd I do think that there is a potential here for reinforcing an image. And, remember, just -- a lot of voters are just starting to pay attention to this campaign. It comes at a bad time for Romney when people are -- many voters are just starting to form their opinions of him.
REHMSyndicated columnist Steve Roberts. We'll take a short break here. When we come back, we'll talk about J.P. Morgan, its losses and its effects on possible regulations.
REHMAnd welcome back. We're in the midst of the Friday News Roundup this week with Jeanne Cummings. She's deputy government editor for Bloomberg News. Steve Roberts, he is professor of journalism at G.W. here in Washington, D.C. and a syndicated columnist. Clarence Page writes his syndicated column for the Chicago Tribune. If you'd like to call us, 800-433-8850. Send us your email to email@example.com.
REHMJeanne Cummings, this J.P. Morgan story is a big one, $2 billion in loses, which Jamie Dimon says happened because somebody wasn't paying close attention.
CUMMINGSYes. J.P. Morgan had reorganized an investment wing that's based in London. And, best I could tell -- and I'm not an expert on this -- but they -- it seems as though they were making very, very large bets against corporate debt and sovereign nation debt. And it all -- they discovered it went awry because the market was far more volatile than they had anticipated. And so they were not able to manage their risk in these kinds of trades.
CUMMINGSThey have to -- they are doing internal investigations to figure out what went wrong. They've fully disclosed to their investors what went on. One commentator for Bloomberg had one of the best quotes around, and that was, "It's a $2 billion loss, suggests a position of considerable size. It's a bit like hell -- easy to get into, not so easy to get out of." They're trying to clean up the mess right now.
CUMMINGSBut the great importance here -- I mean, they -- obviously, J.P. Morgan stock prices are down and that sort of thing. But Jamie Dimon was leading the lobbying charge to loosen up regulation under the new banking reform law that would have banned or restricted this kind of transaction. And now, that lobbying effort has been derailed.
REHMAnd we have a statement from Securities and Exchange Commission Chair Mary Schapiro, who told reporters, "I think it's safe to say that all the regulators are focused on this." She declined to make any further comment related to J.P. Morgan. Are we likely to see this kind of incident support the idea for more regulation, Steve?
ROBERTSWell, of course, there already has -- was passed in Dodd-Frank some very significant regulations, which, as Jeanne said, Jamie Dimon and a lot of the bankers are -- were fighting to try to mitigate and repeal. I think there's a political implication here, too, because Mitt Romney has campaigned very heavily against Dodd-Frank, very heavily against the idea of regulation.
ROBERTSAt the core of his economic argument is that the economy is overregulated and that the Obama administration, Democrats in general, are throttling initiative by overregulating the banks and other economic institutions. And I think this strengthens the Democratic argument that Wall Street cannot be fully trusted and that certain amount of regulation is necessary. It's a pretty stark reminder that, for all of its enormous virtues, the free market does have some drawbacks and that regulation on some level is necessary.
PAGEAlso, don't forget Dodd-Frank, while it's viewed as overregulation by Jamie Dimon and some folks, others would say Dodd-Frank's final version was watered down from where it ought to be...
PAGE...and that we need more. And this credit default swaps are, once again, at the center of this new controversy with Chase. And what's the problem? Unraveling all of this in itself because such a big earthquake through the other -- rest of the market that they're reluctant to do anything about it. They got to do something about. But, once again, too big to fail, why don't -- why do we still allow banks to be that big? That argument now, I think, gets some more strength.
REHMAnd here's an email from Emily on this very issue: "Please comment on why so little has really been accomplished so far in reforming Wall Street, much less prosecuting the most egregious offenders." Jeanne.
CUMMINGSWell, there have been stories written about this, and as time goes on, perhaps it deserves a lot more attention. But a couple of things are happening. First of all, the regulations were passed. They are now being written by the bureaucrats. That takes a certain amount of time, but many are in place. And there are indeed charges being brought against people on Wall Street. But what's different is that the banks are challenging cases that normally would be settled are now not being settled. They're being challenged.
CUMMINGSAnd so the government regulators are increasingly being brought into court. And so it's taking longer to punish those who have been accused of wrongdoing. Bloomberg's working on a story on this right now. This is a big shift in the way the regulators and the banks traditionally have interacted. If somebody got called up by the SEC or something, they would settle the case through an agreement. That's not so now. Increasingly, they're going into court which -- for what become very long trials.
REHMAll right. So you got $2 billion gone, but who's affected? What about investors, Steve?
ROBERTSWell, it -- if you've invested in the funds, it's not a good day. But I think there's a larger point that Clarence makes, which is this kind of thing can be unsettling for the markets. You know, markets...
ROBERTS...markets depend on certainty. They depend on predictability. And something like this, a major institution, a bedrock institution of Wall Street, this...
CUMMINGSThe one that came through the crisis in the best shape. This will...
ROBERTSYou know, people are going to start comparing it to Lehman Brothers. They're going to start...
ROBERTS...remembering, and this on top of the unsettling news from Europe in the last week. The Greek elections and the dissolving of a lot of the agreements and the repudiation of Sarkozy and his policies, this could start snowballing. So, as I said earlier, on one hand, this could help the Democrats because it reinforces the argument that regulation is necessary. But it could also hurt Obama if these combined bad news has a destabilizing effect on the market and starts sapping confidence.
REHMThere is one bit of good news, which is that Fannie Mae reported a $2.7 billion profit in the first quarter, the biggest since 2007. Jeanne.
CUMMINGSYes. That's an indicator that there could some stabilization going on in the housing market.
CUMMINGSThat said, there are still so many people suffering.
CUMMINGSAnd, you know, the people still can't refinance. People are still underwater. You know, we see pockets where the prices of houses have stabilized and begun to go up a little bit. But you get into areas in Florida and in Nevada and in the states that were the hardest hit, and those people aren't going to believe for a second that the housing market has begun any kind of turnaround.
REHMAll right. Let's turn to Indiana, Clarence, and Richard Lugar's loss, a roadmap for more Tea Party wins? How do you see it?
PAGEYes and no. I mean, here, we have a case that -- where things worked out well for the Tea Party winning of the Republican Party because Dick Lugar, in many ways, handed this to them by not -- well, for one thing, he hasn't been a resident of Indiana for quite some time. And this is -- this really hit Hoosiers hard.
PAGEIt hadn't been a problem for him in the past, but this is the Tea Party era now where his opponent, backed by a number of outside funders as well, made a campaign out of this. And Lugar also had the embarrassing position of having to defend his residency. He's been dropped from registrations roles. He hadn't been down the state so long.
REHMI wonder how long ago he moved out of Indiana and established permanent residency here in Washington and how many elections have gone by since then.
ROBERTSWell, as Clarence said, he didn't have an opponent. In fact, he hasn't had a Democratic opponent, let alone a Republican opponent in a long time. I think one of the most significant impacts of this is on the people who come back to the Senate. We've seen a pattern now. It's not the first time. You had Bob Bennett defeated in Utah. You had Lisa Murkowski in Alaska defeated in a Republican primary. She won her seat as a write-in. You had John McCain survive a Republican primary, came back and was a much more conservative senator when he returned.
REHMAnd here's an email to exactly that point from Matt in Durham, N.C., who says, "I'm no fan of Lugar, but his loss does bode well for the future functioning of Congress. If the American people continue to elect extremists on both sides, I fear we'll head for systemic failure of government." Now, the question here is that Lugar's defeat opens the way for a Democrat in that seat, which was so clearly held by Richard Lugar, Jeanne.
CUMMINGSIt's true it increases the odds for the Democratic candidate, who's a legitimate candidate. He's state senator down there. And we should say that the person who defeated Lugar, Mr. Mourdock, is the state treasurer, so he's, you know, a standing -- politician in good standing in the state. Indiana is a very Republican state. So while it may improve the Democrats' chances, I think that seat will still lean Republican.
CUMMINGSAnd this defeat did, in fact, empower the Tea Partiers. They immediately moved money from Indiana and into Texas and Wisconsin. Up in Wisconsin, it's another Senate race, where former Gov. Tommy Thompson has a primary challenge. And Tommy Thompson would be, having been a governor, likely the kind of character to come to Washington with the goal of getting things done and with the knowledge that it requires working with the other side. His opponent comes with a different view.
CUMMINGSSo there, again, is another opportunity. And what I find interesting is that people complain about this, but they have to do something about this. The reason this is happening is because the broad electorate has abandoned the primary race and left it to the extremes on both sides, R and D. And as a consequence, the moderates cannot survive their primary races. That is on the voters. If they don't show up on Primary Day, what do they think is going to happen?
REHMAnd you mentioned Wisconsin. Steve, what about that recall election in Wisconsin with Republican Gov. Scott Walker that comes next month?
MR. STEVE ROBERTSIt does, and the Democrats finally are unifying around Milwaukee Mayor -- former Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett. He had a tough primary, but he won reasonably well. And people are already describing this as a dress rehearsal for the fall because you have enormous amounts of money pouring in there, some estimates as much as 40, $60 million in this election.
MR. STEVE ROBERTSYou have -- the labor unions have an enormous stake on the Democratic side 'cause, of course, the motive for the recall was Walker's anti-union policies. And on the other side, you have these conservative activist groups, which were very present in the defeat of...
REHMWho collected $25 million.
ROBERTSVery active, Club for Growth and others, the Koch brothers, very active in the primary in Indiana, will be active in Texas and other places. And so what you're seeing is very much a preview of the fall where the money spent by outside groups through super PACs and those mechanisms will probably dwarf the money spent by the two candidates themselves.
REHMSteve Roberts. And you're listening to "The Diane Rehm Show." Clarence, you want to add to that?
PAGEThere's so much more to say. But, well, one thing: Both Indiana and Wisconsin are -- well, Wisconsin is more of a swing state than Indiana. But these are cases where, for example, Barack Obama won Indiana last time, wasn't expected to. But his team found, while battling Hillary Clinton, that they had the possibility of winning Indiana -- turned out they did. This time, they don't really expect to win it.
PAGEBut we do know that November is a time that, unlike Republican primaries and unlike the 2010, we -- there will be more Democrats turning out. There will be more younger voters turning out, more...
PAGE...of the voters who come from Barack Obama's constituency, so...
REHMIt's time to open the phones, 800-433-8850. First to Long Island, N.Y. Good morning, Greg. You're on the air.
GREGHi. Thanks for having me. I love your show.
REHMSure. Go right ahead.
GREGI wanted to see if any of the panels is willing to comment on the fact that I personally think Barack Obama's coming out in support of same-sex marriage seems a little orchestrated. And I'm an Obama fan. I worked on the campaign in 2008. But I just think they used Biden's flubbing instincts, or however you want to put it, and stole the news cycle from the North Carolina referendum. And also it's worked out very nice, timing-wise, for the Clooney fundraiser. So I just wanted to see if anyone wants to comment on that.
CUMMINGSI have to admit I was with you. When I first heard about this, I really thought, you know, Biden was the tip of the spear and that they sent him out to see what kind of incoming would occur. You're right about the Clooney event. There's also one in New York on Monday, hosted by Ricky Martin, who, of course, is gay. And there's a large fundraiser later in the month that's sponsored by some of the gay activists.
CUMMINGSSo they had -- the timing is right for all of that fundraising. And so I wondered the same, until Biden apologized. And, you know, I thought that's -- if it was orchestrated, I just don't think the vice president would apologize for doing his job as, you know, part of the (word?) that is Washington.
ROBERTSWell, I think that it does work out in terms of fundraising and not only the Clooney event. But one out of six Democratic contributors are -- seem to be identified as gay, which is a very important part of the constituency.
CUMMINGSBundlers, not contributors. Yeah.
ROBERTSAnd you see the Democrats are suffering, to some extent, from fundraising. We mentioned the power of the super PACs, and the conservative money has shown a willingness to open their wallets this year and...
REHMSo, Steve, give us your opinion of Greg's thought.
ROBERTSI agree with Jeanne. I do not think that this was totally orchestrated. It often happens that the vice president is a leading indicator, but I think the president was going to do this. I think he wanted to do it on his own terms later in the summer. I think his hand was forced, and he had to do -- act more quickly than he wanted to. But he would have done this for all of these reasons later at some point in the summer anyway.
PAGEYeah, I think that President Obama did not evolve as much as the public has evolved, and he's been watching public opinion. It is moving in the direction of supporting gay marriage. And especially on his own side, he's been prodded and prodded and prodded. You know, why are you on the fence on this? I don't believe in conspiracy theories. I believe in the Chicago City News Bureau slogan: If your mother says she loves you, check it out.
PAGEI've checked it out as best as I could. I think my colleagues are right. Joe Biden wouldn't have apologized the way he did. However, how do we move the bar a lot in this society when we now see this as a political advantage for Barack Obama? I mean, our discussion is very different now than it was, say, in 2004 where the gay pride issue -- or, sorry, gay marriage issue hurt Democrats.
REHMClarence Page of the Chicago Tribune. Several emails pointing out that Congressman Joe Donnelly is a member of the U.S. House of Representatives District 2, Northern Indiana.
REHMWelcome back. As always, so much in the news during our domestic hour. Here's an email, let's see, from Angelo, who says, "Mr. Romney is doing himself a disservice by not remembering this incident. Apparently, there are a lot of emails with this same thought. Combined with his treatment of his dog on the roof of his car and with his corporations are people, all that reinforces that he disassociates himself from the suffering of others.
REHM"I found myself wondering, if I had participated in such an event in high school, would I remember it?" And, Steve, you remembered a story you just heard on NPR.
ROBERTSI did, about a young man in high school who was assigned a gay teacher, and he asked to leave the man's classroom, even though this man had been very kind to him and very supportive. And it just bothered him for 40 years that he had been so mean to this man simply because he was gay. And he tracked him down and apologized. And they had a reconciliation -- made a beautiful story. Look, I'm not sure that any of us would want to be judged on the kind of person we were in high school. I think you have to say that.
ROBERTSBut at the same time, I do think that it's totally legitimate for reporters. And what we're seeing is something that happens in every presidential campaign, where reporters -- when you run for president, you have to expect that this white hot light of scrutiny is going to reveal things that maybe you don't remember, maybe you don't want to remember, maybe you are ashamed of, and you got to be prepared for this when you run for president. And Mitt Romney seems to have not been totally prepared for this.
CUMMINGSIt's -- in fact, the campaign had started to point reporters to his funny antics when he was in high school as a way of trying to loosen him up a little bit to go away from the, you know, the sort of stiff corporate image. So in some respects, it could be that, you know, reporters were put on a path, and they didn't know what was going to be on the other end of it.
REHMHere's a call taking us on to another subject from Ralph in Richmond, Va. Good morning to you. Ralph, are you there? He wanted to talk about the postmaster general. Let's talk about the post office, which has now decided to change its mind on rural closings. Why the announcements, Clarence?
PAGEYeah, it's a stop-gap measure. They say now they've found ways, you know, or they're going to find ways to keep these rural post offices open. May I make a comparison to public radio in saying that this is one of those issues where people say, well, we need to have public funding for this, but then you get this groundswell of views from heartland America, small town America, rural America, et cetera, people with so many other reasons why this post office is important, why this community gathering spot and this old-fashioned way of communicating with the rest of the world is important?
REHMWhat they've done is to cut hours so that then they cut the number of employees needed. And it's going to mean that 13,000 post offices in rural areas have their hours cut, going to save $500 million.
ROBERTSThey were going to close 3,700 and...
ROBERTS...as Clarence said, not only are these post offices community centers. The other thing that's happened in rural America is a lot of services have fled these small towns. Like, pharmacies is a very good example, and so for elderly residents, the post office, in some ways, is more of a lifeline because you get things like drugs and other supplies by mail. So there is a clash here. In some ways, a post office is needed more than ever in these small towns, but the economics are inexorable.
PAGEAnd the losses are huge. And someone's got to pay for it at some point in some way.
REHMTo Louisville, Ky. Good morning, Chuck.
CHUCKGood morning. Good morning, panel. Just wanted to point out something that nobody is talking about as far as the constitutional amendment that's been passed in North Carolina about the, you know, the anti-gay bill. This was scheduled by North Carolina Republicans. The vote was scheduled by North Carolina Republicans to coincide with the North Carolina Republican primary. So Democrats weren't out voting. My point is that I don't believe this is a good strong sampling of the people in North Carolina, and I think that state is still in play.
CUMMINGSWell, that's a very valid point to make. Certainly, even though there was a Republican primary going on, nobody would have blocked the Democrats from coming out to vote on the same-sex marriage issue. Granted, the incentives for voting are important, and I'm sure many Democrats didn't go out because of the -- it was really a Republican event. And maybe the state still is in play.
CUMMINGSIt is true that the majority of the African-Americans who came out and voted voted for the ban on same-sex marriage. Now, the Republicans are pointing to that as evidence that the state is now way out of Barack Obama's reach, and I would -- I -- there are analysts who strongly disagree with that because...
CUMMINGSIncluding you, OK, because the expectation is that the African community is quite proud of the first black American president, and they are not going to come out and vote against him in November.
ROBERTSBut this is an important point to remember. One of the reasons Obama was slow to evolve on this issue was concern in -- of course, the polling is very different. About 40 percent of African-Americans support gay marriage, 40 -- 52 percent nationally, and there is a significant difference. And there was concern that this could sap some enthusiasm for Obama. But I agree with Clarence. The incentives to vote for Obama in the black community are overwhelming.
PAGEBy coincidence, I'm working on a Sunday column on this.
PAGEAnd, Steve, you're right on those numbers. These numbers are fluid like everybody else. And I will say, in short, among blacks and Hispanics, the same trends are happening that are happening with the general population, that the swing is in favor of support for gay marriage, that you're finding a lot of people are declaring, you know, I don't agree with Barack Obama's position on this gay marriage, but who else am I going to vote for, Mitt Romney? He's even more out of my mainstream, if you will. So this is going to be an interesting contest.
REHMAll right. To Indianapolis, good morning, Leo.
LEOGood morning. I wanted to make one comment about the discussion about Sen. Lugar's law.
LEOI think the panelists may have underemphasized age as a factor in his loss. A local poll in Indiana indicated that while Republicans voted 60 percent for Murdock, (sic) most of them, the majority of them wanted a person who could reach across the aisle. And so it's ironic that they wanted a person who could reach across the aisle, and yet they voted for Mr. Murdock. So it seems to me that age could have been a huge factor that everybody agreed on. He's 80 years old, and he'd be 86 if he were re-elected before his term would end.
ROBERTSThere's no doubt that he came across as aged and feeble. But I want to say a word for Dick Lugar. I...
ROBERTSHe was 80, and he was very -- he was slow in some of the debates and not as decisive. But let me say a word in favor of Dick Lugar. I've covered the Congress for a long time. He is one of the best members of the Senate in either party I have ever covered. He was a genuine lawmaker, a genuine professional, worked on very important issues with Democrats, particularly with Sam Nunn on dismantling nuclear weapons abroad. The Senate needs more Dick Lugars, not fewer Dick Lugars.
REHMAll right. To another view in Indianapolis. Samantha, good morning to you.
SAMANTHAHello there. I wanted to share my point of view about Richard Lugar and the residency issue. The question came up, why is it that he's been re-elected time and time again and residency has never been a concern before? It's not as obvious on the national stage, but locally we just had a secretary of state in Indiana, Charlie White, who was removed from office in February because of residency issues and convicted of charges for voter fraud and other associated things. So I think that residency might be a bit more salient in the minds of Indiana voters than ever before.
PAGEMurdock made a big issue out of that.
PAGESaid -- and said, well, here's a senator who came and file suits and you can't make me move back to Indiana. Hoosiers didn't like that. And, I mean, that must've kind of pitched that -- yeah, Hoosiers didn't like that.
REHMAll right. To Springfield, Mo. Good morning, Rosemary.
ROSEMARYOh, thank you so much. And a shout out to Clarence Page. I met him when he spoke at Drury College...
ROSEMARY...Springfield a number of years ago.
PAGEGreat to hear from you.
ROSEMARYThe reason I'm -- I'm sorry?
PAGEGreat to hear from you. Thank you.
ROSEMARYThe reason that I'm calling is that I think we're losing a realization of how much virulent hatred there still is toward gays. In June, in Branson, Mo., there's going to be a conference at the Camden Hotel and Conference Center from Scriptures for America. And an article in the Springfield newspaper quotes Mark Potok of the Southern Poverty Law Center as saying that this church believes that homosexuals should be punished by death.
ROSEMARYAnd there is a Facebook page that's been set up called Reject Racism in Branson and the Ozarks. And I would strongly suggest people go to that Facebook page and express their concerns.
PAGELet me say I like Mark Potok. His organization, of course, does focus on the most extreme, extreme radical views on the left and right out there, so some of his comments can be out of context. But I look with greater optimism at the larger picture. Republican Party right now is quite divided over this issue because a lot of Republicans think, you know, why are we getting in the way of gay marriage? At least somebody's getting married these days.
ROBERTSAnd the fact is that what's happening to Republicans, what we were talking about earlier, it's life experience. Dick Cheney is for gay marriage 'cause he has a gay daughter. Mark Mellman, who is the -- ran George Bush's campaigns, came out as gay and is now an advocate for gay marriage and has apologized for some of the things he said. So it's happening on an individual, family-by-family, community-by-community basis.
CUMMINGSBut at the same time it is a movement, and this is the civil rights movement of this generation.
PAGEFor the right wing.
CUMMINGSAnd, well, no, I'm...
PAGEI'm sorry. You're right, though, about gay marriage. Yeah.
CUMMINGSAs progress is made, I mean, Clarence, you know better than anybody here -- the civil rights movement for African-Americans was, you know, crossing the line. There was a lot of violence. There was a lot of resistance. And, you know, we could be moving into that phase or maybe in the midst of it right now for the gay community.
REHMHere's an email from Jim in McLean, Va. He says, "You folks are making too much of the J.P. Morgan issue. Two billion dollars is only 1 percent of J.P. Morgan assets. Lots of businesses lose 1 percent and more, but that's not grounds for market instability or government intervention. For how many years did American car companies lose money and draw on their reserves?" Jeanne.
CUMMINGSWell, certainly in terms of the size of J.P. Morgan, $2 billion, it's -- is not...
REHMA drop in the bucket.
CUMMINGSRight. Right. But it does -- it is important in a couple of ways. It is symbolic about the risk taking that continues on Wall Street just after -- just few short years after the country had to bail them out. It's about mentality and accountability and over -- watching over those who are dealing with their money. But the big thing here is on the regulation. They were winning that fight. The pressure was on to loosen up the new regs that were going to come their way. And now, they are likely to lose that fight, and the regulations will be tougher.
REHMJeanne Cummings of Bloomberg News, and you're listening to "The Diane Rehm Show." Want to talk to you for a minute about student loans and why that student loan bill failed in the Senate, Steve.
ROBERTSWell, I can tell you as a college professor, it is a very important issue to a lot of my students because the loan rate will double in June for certain Stafford loans if this is not fixed. Everybody agrees, so they say that they want to fix this problem. What they can't agree on is how to finance it. It's costly. Six billion dollars is at stake.
REHMIt's currently 3.4.
ROBERTSThree-point-four, and it would double to 6.8.
ROBERTSAnd this would -- to fix this would cost $6 billion. It would -- most estimates are that if the loan rate goes up, it'll add about $1,000 to the average student who has to pay those bills. And -- but this is classic example of the tension in Washington and how every issue becomes a fight. And the Democrats want to use -- want to raise taxes on wealthy people in their Social Security, Medicare taxes to pay for it. Republicans want to sap a fund that was created under the Obamacare bill. I do think it will get solved because the political risks are high.
REHMHow is it going to get solved?
ROBERTSWell, I think they'll find a way to finance it some relatively neutral way or make it up, which, you know, it's much easier to spend money in Washington today than save...
PAGEWe're going to -- they'll work out a compromise without -- well, I call it got to compromise. But, you know, there's a larger problem, though, here than just the Stafford loans. The Pell Grants have been decimated in all the budget cutting that's been going on. That's what really helps low-income kids to get into the middle class.
ROBERTSAnd this get...
PAGEAnd that needs to be part of this package. This is like immigration. It needs to be a comprehensive reform, but neither Republicans or Democrats right now in this election year are ready to deal with it that way.
ROBERTSAnd it's gets to a larger theme in the election, which is, in many ways at the heart of the Romney versus Obama argument, as Romney says, smaller government, these problems should be solved by the free market. And Obama says there are moments, like investing in education, when government expenditures paid by taxpayers is a worthy thing to do.
ROBERTSAnd that's going to be argued for the next six months.
REHMAnd that's what I want to ask you about, whether all of you or each of you sees President Obama is willing to spend more capital in these last six months leading to the election. Is he going to get out there and fight in a way for this student loan compromise as we haven't seen him fight before?
CUMMINGSWell, he has been out on this issue. It's one of the things that Republicans complain about, is that they say, well, we want to fix this. We're not against fixing this, so why is the president making such a fuss about it? And in the last week, the president has been on college campuses, turning up the heat on this issue because the deadline is, indeed, looming. It's a good issue for him. He will fight for it. And I agree with Steve and Clarence that Congress will find a way to settle it because the Republicans don't want to be on the other side of this going into November.
PAGEAnd one of the reasons they don't want to be on the other side -- let's remember an interesting fact. There are 8 million people who -- young people who were not eligible to vote in the last election, who have turned 18 since the last election. It's a very important group. Many of them are in -- if not in college then maybe in community colleges, and it's a key battleground. And one of the reasons why Obama is pressing this issue is to get them engaged, get involved and registered because it becomes a way to leverage his vote.
REHMSteve Roberts, professor of journalism at George Washington University -- it's a long sentence. He's also a syndicated columnist. Jeanne Cummings, she's deputy government editor at Bloomberg News. And Clarence Page, syndicated columnist for the Chicago Tribune. Have a great weekend, everybody.
PAGEThank you, Diane. Thank you
CUMMINGSThank you, Diane.
ROBERTSThanks, Diane. Thank you.
REHMAnd enjoy your weekend. Thanks for listening. I'm Diane Rehm.
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