New York Times Columnist David Brooks says American culture’s obsession with individual achievement and self-worth has gone too far. In a new book, he argues it is time to rethink what makes a fulfilling life and become more humble, kind and self-sacrificing.
Guest Host: Susan Page
Four months before Election Day, another disappointing jobs report: the nation’s unemployment rate remains at 8.2 percent. President Barack Obama takes his reelection campaign on the road to the Rust Belt, and announces a trade complaint against China on auto imports. Republican challenger Mitt Romney joins conservatives in saying the health care mandate is a tax, raising a furor over whether he has flip-flopped on the issue. More fallout from the Supreme Court decision upholding the Affordable Care Act. And the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration goes on record to deny the existence of mermaids. A panel of journalists joins guest host Susan Page for analysis of the week’s top national news stories.
- David Lindsey Washington editor-at-large, Reuters.
- Juan Williams political analyst, Fox News.
- Janet Hook congressional correspondent, The Wall Street Journal.
Friday News Roundup Video
The economy added 80,000 jobs and the unemployment rate held steady at 8.2 percent, the Labor Department reported Friday. David Lindsey, Washington editor-at-large for Reuters, said the jobs report followed a trend of dismal economic numbers, but that it likely wouldn’t affect U.S. presidential campaign narratives. Juan Williams, political analyst for Fox News, said American anxiety toward the economy would change only as a result of a dramatic shift in employment numbers. Janet Hook, congressional correspondent for The Wall Street Journal, said several more jobs reports are expected before the November elections.
MS. SUSAN PAGEThanks for joining us. I'm Susan Page of USA Today, sitting in for Diane Rehm. She's off today. For the third month in a row, the monthly jobs report is disappointing. Unemployment is stuck at 8.2 percent. That news will set the tone for the second day of President Obama's bus tour through Ohio and Pennsylvania. Meanwhile, Republican Mitt Romney breaks GOP records by raising more than $100 million in June.
MS. SUSAN PAGEJoining me in the studio to discuss the week's top national stories: Juan Williams of Fox News, Janet Hook of The Wall Street Journal, and, on the News Roundup for the first time, David Lindsey of Thomson Reuters. Welcome to the show, David.
MR. DAVID LINDSEYThanks. Good to be here.
PAGEAnd welcome also to our old friends, Janet and Juan. We're going to take calls from you later in this hour. You can call our toll-free number, 1-800-433-8850. Send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org, or find us on Facebook or Twitter. Well, Mitt Romney has just come from his vacation home in Wolfeboro, N.H. to talk to reporters. He said that the jobs report this morning is, "Another kick in the gut to middle-class families." He calls the jobs rate disturbing and troubling. David Lindsey, tell us what the government reported just an hour ago.
LINDSEYWell, 80,000 jobs created and 8.2 percent unemployment rate. These are -- this is not to be confused with a good report. This is following a trend of dismal numbers. But I think the question for the campaign, as it pertains to the campaign, is whether it changes the narrative, and I don't think it does really. It's -- it continues -- it'll -- it continues a trend. It allows both sides to continue saying what they've been saying. Romney, Obama's not doing enough, and Obama, look, we're making slow but steady progress from a car accident that I inherited three years ago.
PAGEJuan, what do you think the effect -- is it -- are we overreading the importance of this one jobs report? What do you think the impact is?
MR. JUAN WILLIAMSWell, when you said disappointing, I was struck by it because I think there was a fear that it, you know, they could -- the numbers could go up, the jobless rate could go up, and that's what people really follow. I think, for most Americans, they just want to know what the jobless number is -- 8.2 percent is not great, but people remember it was 9 percent not too long ago. And if you look back at the May numbers in terms of job creation, it was down, I think, in the 60,000. Now, it's up in 80.
MR. JUAN WILLIAMSThe economists had been hoping for something like 100,000, and, of course, you need 200,000 to really try to say we're on the way making substantial progress in terms of getting out of the recession. But in terms of your specific question, the political narrative that I follow, you know, I think people are anxious about the economy, about their savings, pensions, vacations this time of the year, and I don't think that goes away.
MR. JUAN WILLIAMSI think that that's just going to be the way it is unless you see some dramatic shift in the numbers between now and, let's say, October. I just think this is the way it is. This is the perception people have of the economy. I think it's the perception they have right now.
PAGEBut this is a worse jobs report than had been predicted. Economists predicted that 90,000 or 100,000 new jobs will be created. Last month, the number turns out to be about 80,000. Janet, what do you think?
MS. JANET HOOKWell, one thing we can -- we should remember is that there are three or four more jobs reports before Election Day. And I don't know whether this is the one that is going to set people's perceptions at how the economy is doing for when they vote in November. Now, there isn't too much reason to think that they're going to be drastically different over the next four months, but this isn't the end of the story of how people are going to feel on Election Day.
PAGEYou know, it's not the end of the story, but The New York Times had an interesting story in this morning's paper that said that political scientists see the jobs reports that comes -- that came out today and the one that comes at one month as especially important and kind of setting the perception that voters will have of the economy in November.
LINDSEYI think people are starting to tune in to the race. And if, as Janet was saying, if we don't see an appreciable change moving forward, it is kind of stuck, what a lot of people have said, as a lethargic campaign to begin with. Short of, you know, a European meltdown that begins to really affect the United States, it's -- in a way, you can see this as kind of Obama running out the clock on this kind of economy. He's generally ahead in the polls and especially in swing states. And if this situation holds, I think the Obama team would be satisfied with that result.
PAGEDo you think that's right, Juan? You're nodding.
WILLIAMSYeah, I think that's exactly right. I mean, you know, when you think about these numbers, you know, the president being on this bus tour in Pennsylvania and Ohio this week, he is going into areas that have struggled in terms of recovery in the Rust Belt areas. And so they are in aging sectors of the economy, manufacturing in particular. Manufacturing is one of the primary drags right now. It went down for the first time in about three years.
WILLIAMSAnd there is the president able to say in both states, your unemployment rate is lower than the national average, and then to say, I was the one who stepped in and believed in, you know, General Motors and the like and all the kind of ancillary production that goes with the tires and metal frames and all the rest, glass. And so for him, that's why he's out there this week trying to trumpet that, you know, stay the course. Don't change captains in the middle of the storm.
HOOKRight. And, you know, he always has to walk this delicate line between trumpeting progress and sympathizing with people who are still struggling. But it is quite striking that in some of these swing states that he has to take over that had the hardest hit in the manufacturing sector like Ohio that unemployment is low. And if -- also if you look at the breakdown of the jobs numbers that were reported today, all of the job growth was in the private sector.
HOOKIn fact, the private sector increased jobs by 84,000, and there was a loss of public sector jobs of 4,000. Now, that doesn't justify the line that Obama got into so much trouble by when he said that the private sector's doing just fine, but it does show that it's the private sector that's powering whatever economic recovery we've got.
PAGEYou know, there is another number that got our attention this morning and that is $100 million. David, that's how much Mitt Romney raised last month. That sets a record for a Republican candidate, not as much as Barack Obama raised four years ago in the fall, but really a stunning number.
LINDSEYIt's -- it really is. And when you combine it with the independent groups, the super PACs and the non-profit groups, Crossroads and those kind of groups, Restore Our Future, it is -- it's just a shocking -- I think people thought the Citizens United case would change politics. And the Obama's decision in 2008 not to take public money was kind of a groundbreaker when McCain did, and there was such a disparity in the amount raised and spent.
LINDSEYBut this is a whole new ballgame, and it's almost -- they say it's on steroids. It's almost like a pinball machine. It's, you know, it's incredible. And I think what the Obama people have said that they're prepared to be outspent, outraised. But I think they'll have enough money to compete. It won't be a situation like 2008 where it was 3-to-1 Obama or anything like that.
LINDSEYAnd I think what the $100 million figure does for Romney today is allow him to distract from questions about his campaign staff and Obama going around in Ohio, reminding people that Romney opposed the auto bailout. It allows him a good headline. Beyond that, I'm not sure, you know, if he raised $90 million or $100 million, that's a huge difference, but it does give him a really good headline today.
PAGEIf President Obama is outspent, it'll be the first time an incumbent president has ever been outspent his challenger in modern political times. We also hear this morning, Juan, that, on POLITICO, that Romney is looking at making a foreign tour in July, later this month, might take him to four or five nations. Why do that?
WILLIAMSWell, you know, it reminds me a little bit going back to '08, David's comment, not only that Obama raised a lot of money back then, but he took a foreign tour, again, to establish, you know, that he had some bona fides when it came to foreign affairs. And there's kind of a set up here for Romney. If he goes to the Olympics in London, he can remind people of his success in raising money for the Salt Lake Olympics.
WILLIAMSAnd then, secondly, he can appeal to the Jewish community with a stop in Israel where President Obama has never visited. And then he wants to play on sort of open wounds with Poland. You know, they're upset, some comments that the president made about Nazi death camps in Poland and about whether or not there'll be negotiations with the Russians about a missile shield in that area.
WILLIAMSSo he can try to just poke at Obama, but this is an interesting poke because normally the Republican would be the one who's strong on National Security. But if you look at the numbers, President Obama is very strong on national security. So this really comes down to just establishing that, you know, Mitt Romney has some experience in international affairs.
PAGEThere's some talks that he might stop in Afghanistan, but it looks like that trip may not -- that stop may not happen because of security concerns. Janet, what do you think about this tour?
HOOKWell, it raises an interesting question about whether Romney is thinking that he needs to find whom the overall focus of his campaign 'cause, to this point, it's really been all about the economy. And every time another topic comes up, whether it's gay marriage or immigration or health care, Romney really scrambles to get the focus of attention back onto the economy. So I don't know if this signals that maybe he's thinking that he has to broaden his message. Maybe the -- there's a little uncertainty about whether the economy focus is working.
PAGEDavid, you mentioned that Romney might well want to change the subject today because he's been kind of twisted in a pretzel in talking about whether this health care mandate is a tax. What's the problem is he having with that?
LINDSEYWell, the problem is -- and the reasons Republicans, a lot of Republicans are not happy with them is there are a lot of Republicans who want to talk about health care, who want to run on -- bashing Obama care. Mitt Romney is not one of them. Every time he mentions it, it harkens back to his days in Massachusetts, and he gets into a conversation about all the things, like Obamacare, that he has supported in the past.
LINDSEYSo any kind of -- what Eric Fehrnstrom did the other day in calling it a mandate, I mean, calling it a penalty or a fee but not a tax, the individual mandate, it really becomes a distraction. And that is Romney now needs to extricate himself from that, and I think that's a part of the staff issues that they've been having.
HOOKI was really interested in how this played out after the Supreme Court ruled and set it up that Republicans could say, see, even Supreme Court says that the health care...
HOOK...law is a tax. And, you know, up on the Hill, Mitch McConnell and John Boehner, they grabbed that ball, and they ran with it. And it was puzzling to me that Romney didn't follow suit.
PAGEJanet Hook, she's a congressional correspondent with The Wall Street Journal. We're going to take a short break. When we come back, we'll talk about the continuing fallout from that Supreme Court decision on health care. Stay with us.
PAGEWelcome back. I'm Susan Page with USA Today, sitting in for Diane Rehm. And with me in the studio for the domestic hour of our Friday News Roundup: Juan Williams, he's a political analyst for Fox News, David Lindsey, he's deputy Washington bureau chief for Thomson Reuters, and Janet Hook with The Wall Street Journal. We're going to go to the phones shortly, 1-800-433-8850. Our lines are open. You can send us an email to email@example.com.
PAGEWell, Juan, there is continuing fallout from the Supreme Court decision on health care. One of the debates is the issue of what John Roberts did, whether he wrote one decision, was going in one direction and then changed his position, which would've changed the outcome of that decision. What do we know now?
WILLIAMSWell, it's -- obviously, we don't know for sure, but we do know that CBS and a reporter named Jan Crawford, who has written a book about the Supreme Court that was wildly lauded by conservatives, says she has two sources who were involved in the deliberations, which would mean two members of the Supreme Court.
PAGEAre they clerks?
WILLIAMSNo, no. I think if you're involved in deliberation, I read it as members of the court. And, anyway, you and I might differ, Susan. But -- and that they had told her specifically that the chief justice switched sides in the course of the deliberations, going from viewing the individual mandate as unconstitutional to siding with the idea that under tax law, it is constitutional and permissible.
PAGEJanet, you know, you never -- you almost never see scoops like this out of the court, things from inside deliberations. What do you think is behind the fact that this story got out? And, you know, kudos to Jan Crawford for landing it.
HOOKYeah, really. It was a blow-me-down kind of story. I mean, who would've thought that you could get that much information out of one of the most closely held institutions in Washington. And it really -- I mean, to be honest, you got to assume that it came from justices on the other side of the argument. And if I were John Roberts, I'd be a little nervous about going into closed-door meetings with those people again.
HOOKIt was really amazing how much information she got. And, you know, I actually found it hugely educational and entertaining to find out more about this institution. They almost revel in their privacy.
LINDSEYIt's fascinating that the precedent that may come out of this case have -- might have nothing to do with the law. It might have, you know, internal court workings. And the way this particular court, the justices feel about one another, it will be really interesting moving it forward, I think.
PAGEYou know, Juan, one thing that we know is polls continue to show that a majority of Americans don't think that Affordable Care Act is a good law. A majority continue to say that they don't approve of it. The polling on whether the decision was right is split right down the middle. In the USA Today Gallup poll, it was 46 percent to 46 percent on whether you approved of it and approve of what the Supreme Court did.
PAGEBut I wonder if, over the long haul, meaning over the next several months, if the Supreme Court decision changes the landscape, changes the way people will view the law. Do you think it will?
WILLIAMSOh, absolutely. You know, I mean, again, the numbers are more, into my mind, split than opposed at this point. But what you see is there is a huge cohort that says, I'd like to wait and see. And, by the way, the most stunning number on this that came out this week was from Pew, and it indicated most Americans don't know the court had a decision. I was like, are you kidding me? How is that possible? What, you know, what are we doing?
WILLIAMSI mean, in the media, I mean, but they say they didn't know. And, anyway, I guess it befuddled me. It was like, really? So, anyway, but once you get into the specifics of the act, you know, things like closing the doughnut hole for seniors once you get into the keeping young people on their parents' insurance, once you get into making sure that people with pre-existing conditions are able to get insurance, those things all have high favorables.
WILLIAMSSo once you put in place kind of an affirmation from the court, and I guess once people realize this has happened, I think that what you have is a situation where people are going to kind of say, let's see how this works. I think they're going to be much more open to it. And I think that's part of why the Romney team doesn't want to pay on this land, this field. I think that they are moving away from this.
WILLIAMSDespite the ongoing concern in conservative circles, you know, that we're going to fight this, we're going to have a vote on the Hill in July to try to repeal and all this, all that's symbolic, but from the Romney campaign perspective, I don't think they believe that it's going to be an issue in the fall.
HOOKAnd I think the main impact of the decision on the political debate about it though is that it deprives Republicans of the conservative argument that this law was, you know, a gross overreach of government power, unconstitutional overreach of power. When you have the most conservative justice on the court saying that it wasn't, it's hard for them to make the case. And that's probably the move visceral argument that they had for appealing to the Tea Party base.
PAGEAnd yet no question that Republicans in the House are going to go ahead with a vote to repeal the law.
HOOKOh, absolutely. They have a vote scheduled for next week. The only question in my mind is whether that's the last one that they hold.
PAGEYou know, David, one of the things that told me that the White House thinks the landscape is changing is that, really for the first time out there campaigning in a public event, Obama yesterday was talking about the law. You know, he has avoided doing that in events before. But in five stops in Ohio yesterday, he was touting the benefits of the law.
LINDSEYRight. What you see right now is an admission from many leading Democrats that they failed to explain this law to the American people. And I think a lot of them see this as a second chance. And what -- so it will become a part of their platform and their campaigns as much as it will be a part of the really conservative Republican angry Tea Party movement that Janet was talking about. I think the Democrats are -- have been inspired by this, and they see a new chance to explain what, as Juan says, are very popular parts of this bill.
PAGELet's go to the phones and let our listeners join our conversation. You can call us, 1-800-433-8850. We'll go first to Tamara calling us from Oklahoma City. Hi, Tamara.
TAMARAHi. Good morning. I just wanted to make a minor correction to what Mr. Williams said regarding Mr. Obama not making any foreign tours during the 2008 campaign. And I just wanted to say that he actually visited Jerusalem, Israel, in 2008, in July of 2008. I was there. And I also believe he traveled, made stops in Europe, Western Europe, as well as a brief, I think, one day or a few hour stop in Iraq. So I just wanted to clarify that, that I don't think Mitt Romney is doing anything unique by going to, you know, London possibly to tout his Olympic triumphs in Salt Lake City.
PAGEAll right. Tamara, thanks so much for your call. You know, Juan, I don't think that was exactly the point you were trying to make.
WILLIAMSNo. I said, in fact, that the president hasn't gone as president to Israel. But what I said was that during the '08 campaign, he made a foreign tour to try to establish his credentials and ability to handle foreign affairs. And I guess that's where Tamara may have seen him, but it was at that juncture -- and it's analogous now to what Mitt Romney is doing in terms of as a candidate going overseas.
PAGEIn fact, I remember that peculiar ad that McCain -- that John McCain made in 2008 that showed Obama being greeted by a huge crowd, I think, in Berlin during his campaign trip there. You know, there are a lot of advantages -- there are disadvantages to incumbency, like you're being held responsible for the jobless, right? There are a lot of advantages, too, and I think we saw one of them yesterday.
PAGEJanet, President Obama was outside of Toledo, Ohio, where they make Jeeps, and he announced that he was filing a trade complaint against China for putting a big tariff on vehicles, including Jeeps. Tell us what happened.
HOOKThat's right. President Obama kind of spoke to workers' anxieties about the trade deficit and trade with China and filed a complaint against China arguing that they were slapping unfair tariffs onto American imports. And that is the kind of executive action that a president can take. It's not the first time he's done that, but it was a rather well-timed announcement in front of an auto plant in Ohio.
PAGEYou know, however, China had a reason it slapped the tariffs on the U.S. imports, David, which was after the U.S. bailout of the auto industry. They argued that that was unfair trade practice on our part.
LINDSEYRight. And it -- as Janet said, it does play really well, that kind of executive action plays really well just as, you know, two weeks earlier he did on the immigration issue. And both of them seemed to have kind of taken Romney's campaign back just a little bit. It gave them pause and have them looking for some footing, I think.
PAGEJuan, we've heard Mitt Romney talk about trying to get tougher on China. It's been one of the points he's made against President Obama.
WILLIAMSIt sure has. He says that Obama has been too soft on the Chinese. But now this is interesting because, in fact, it was the Obama administration that challenged the Chinese for dumping cheap tires in the United States before the WTO and did so successfully. So this is kind of a second trip to the WTO for the Obama administration taking on China. The second thing I would say here is that, you know, when you think about the whole business with unfair trade, the U.S. is trying to do a much better job in terms of that manufacturing relationship.
WILLIAMSAnd for the first time, despite the numbers that we've seen this week, you see some manufacturing coming back to that Midwestern area. And, you know, there's some hope there despite the fact that the numbers are down this week -- this month.
PAGEThe auto industry in particular has done pretty well after kind of skirting catastrophe a couple of years ago.
HOOKRight. And today's jobs numbers show some strength in the manufacturing sector to the extent that I think more than 10,000 of the jobs that were created were in manufacturing. And it's been a key point, key selling point and point of difference between Obama and Romney because Obama often reminds voters in the Midwest that Mitt Romney had opposed the auto bailout that he claims credit for a lot of the job growth in Ohio and Michigan.
WILLIAMSNot only that, you know, what's interesting here is that in these very effective ads that the president is running in the swing states, he makes mention of the fact that Mitt Romney outsourced or placed jobs, some of which went to, where, China. And people don't like it, and I think that's part of why Obama has a strong lead now in several of the swing states.
LINDSEYObama's WTO announcement was as if timed to go off with these Bain Capital ads being put out by Obama's team that focus on outsourcing and how Romney was a pioneer in shifting jobs out of the country.
PAGEAnd, in fact, the slogan that they're using on this two-day bus trip is "Betting on America," which, I assume, is to make the point that they say Mitt Romney has been betting against America and American workers. Let's go to Wilmington, Ohio, and talk to David. Hi, David.
PAGEYes. Go ahead.
DAVID...taking my call today. I really appreciate the episode today and really love the show. Susan, I think you do a great job, and it's good to hear Juan Williams. My comment, which is, you know, our subject from the last three or four things you talked about, has to do with the Democrats and the health care. I think they're a big failure. I'm an independent and tried to be a Republican growing up and can't be a Democrat yet.
DAVIDBut as an independent, I think the Democrats, in the early part of Obama's presidency, really were not very loyal and helpful in getting the health care across. And I think that's kind of their own fault, and it's going to cost him, I think, in this election. And thanks for taking my call.
PAGEDavid, thanks so much for calling. David Lindsey.
LINDSEYYeah. I -- this is the point -- we had Nancy Pelosi in the bureau last week, and she was making this exact point. They spent so much energy getting the bill passed, writing the bill, getting it through, and they still -- you know, they tried to get Republican votes for it unsuccessfully. And in the end, they didn't explain the bill to people outside Washington, and this caller is reflective of that. That's what they failed to do.
PAGEI'm Susan Page, and you're listening to "The Diane Rehm Show." We're taking your calls at 1-800-433-8850. Let's go to Barbara. She's calling us from St. Johns, Fla., yet another swing state. Barbara, you're on the air.
BARBARAOh, thank you so much for taking my call. Well, first, I have to say I'm a cancer survivor, and I'm for this bill. But one point that I'd like to make out, I used to do seminars for people enrolling in Medicare, and there's a penalty for people once they're eligible for Medicare. Part A is automatic, and there's no charge. But there is a part for -- a charge for Part B that pays for physician services. And one doesn't enroll in Part B when you're eligible.
BARBARAFor every year they do not enroll, they have to pay a penalty of 10 percent, so just going to do a flat -- so, in other words, if their premium for Part B -- which normally takes -- is taken out of your Social Security check -- is $100, then for every year, they have to pay for the rest of their life $110. And there's a similar penalty for enrollment in Part B, which pays for prescription drugs.
BARBARAAnd if one does not enroll at the time they're eligible, for every month they enroll in -- in other words, you say, you know, I don't take any prescription drugs. Why don't I wait until I have to? Well, they wait -- two years later, they have to pay an additional 24 percent. For every year they delay their enrollment, they have to pay addition 1 percent of their premium.
BARBARAAnd so I watched the Supreme Court decision with a lot of interest. For them saying, well, no, it's a tax and it's not a penalty because -- whoa. If they come as a penalty, then you have all these people -- who are paying their penalty for Medicare Part B because of late enrollment, or Medicare Part D because of late enrollment -- would be going up to their congressmen and saying, wait a minute, this is not constitutional.
PAGEBarbara, thanks so much for your call. So the debate: penalty or tax. Why does it have so much power, do you think, Juan?
WILLIAMSOh, because the idea of taxes is toxic, especially in this era of American politics when Republicans have said, you know, there will be no taxes, and Grover Norquist has got so many people signing pledges never to raise taxes under any circumstances. So the idea is that's another way to attack this bill.
WILLIAMSNow, we were just talking about a moment ago, you know, how Nancy Pelosi, I think, was telling David that, you know, they didn't do a good job because they didn't have any Republican votes, and then they started fussing among themselves. And basically it was the White House trying to appeal to conservative Democrats. And then you had things like, you know, the Cornhusker Kickback idea and sausage making and Chicago-style politics. That became the image of the bill.
WILLIAMSNow you listen to this lady or you listen -- there was yesterday a woman who burst into tears in front of President Obama, thanking him for this bill. But you listen to this lady, she doesn't care about all this rhetoric. Does Mitt Romney consider it a tax or a penalty? Does Eric Fehrnstrom? Does President Obama? What they care about is the delivery of services. You know, is there a social safety net for people so they don't have to go into bankruptcy if they have some catastrophic need for care?
HOOKYeah. Nancy Pelosi, after the Supreme Court decision came out, was asked about whether it was a tax or not. She had a great line. She said, call it what you will. Let's just take yes for an answer.
PAGEAnd yet it's -- the way that Mitt Romney handled this caused a lot of consternation on the part of conservatives. You know, David, there was a really scathing editorial in The Wall Street Journal yesterday.
LINDSEYAbsolutely. And really raising questions about the fundamentals of the Romney campaign, the people running it, their capabilities, and it reflected Rupert Murdoch's tweets and Jack Welch's tweets before. Rupert Murdoch, of course, controls the Journal, and really raising questions about whether they -- these guys are in over their heads compared to the pros, as they call them, in Chicago who are running Obama's show.
PAGEDavid Lindsey, deputy Washington bureau chief for Thomson Reuters. And we're also joined this hour by Juan Williams of Fox News and Janet Hook of The Wall Street Journal. We're going to take a short break. When we come back, we'll go back to the phones and take your calls, 1-800-433-8850. Or send us an email, firstname.lastname@example.org. Stay with us.
PAGELet's go back to the phones. We'll talk to John. He's calling us from Louisville, Ky. John, thanks for giving us a call.
JOHNOh, thank you very much for having me. And so I just wanted to make a comment on the whole Bain Capital outsourcing, Betting on America thing. As a small business owner and somebody who sees, basically, both political parties as two wings of one bird of prey, it just strikes me as a bunch of hypocrisy with this whole Betting on America when me and my friends are dying trying to run small businesses out of the endless new regulations coming forth from D.C.
JOHNAnd so it's just like they're killing the small businesses in America with thousands of pages every year of more regulation. And then we act surprised when like the businesses go over shores, but it's almost impossible for me and my friends to keep our businesses afloat and comply with the never-ending regulations that are getting put on us. And so it's hypocrisy from both sides of the aisle there. But especially on the Obama part, if he really cares about small businesses, let's quit funding Solyndra and take the boot off the neck of the small business owners in the country.
PAGEJohn, thanks so much for your call. Interesting perspective, David.
LINDSEYHe sounds like just the kind of voter that both sides want, and both sides have a tough sell toward in -- with Romney and his business past but with -- a lot of people are echoing what he's saying about the Obama policies and too much regulation, too much government involvement in their lives. And this is a central tenet of the Romney campaign.
PAGEHere's an email from Phil. He writes, "Yesterday, in speeches by Tim Pawlenty and Bobby Jindal, both claimed the economy was worse today than it was four years ago. As I recall, the economy was already heading for a steep decline with the major automakers unable to get the loans they needed to survive and housing was unraveling. Do they just have poor memories? Or are they able to convince people of a new reality because they hope we forgot?"
PAGEYou know, interesting question from Phil, Juan, but the thing that most interests me is that President Obama was basically being stalked yesterday by Tim Pawlenty, the former governor of Minnesota, and Bobby Jindal, the current governor of Louisiana. This is kind of a new thing, I think, in this campaign.
WILLIAMSYeah. Well, it's interesting. I guess it's kind of borne out of the whole macaca incident in Virginia with George Allen many years ago. But now you have this idea that it's OK to have someone, you know, kind of follow your opponent around. And in this case, it's also like a show for people who might be the vice presidential nominee because both of those men are considered to be on the list of finalists along with, by the way, Rob Portman, the senator from Ohio.
WILLIAMSYesterday, he had an op-ed in the Ohio papers talking about, you know, how the economy is doing better and President Obama's policies have not contributed to that improvement. So it looks as if when we're, you know, right now, all the speculation is that we're down to the finalists in the VP hunt. And then Ann Romney made news this week when she said that there is a woman on the list.
WILLIAMSAnd then everybody assumes that's New Hampshire Sen. Kelly Ayotte, who has been very close to both Romneys and has been campaigning with Romney. She was in the 4th of July parade with him in Wolfeboro.
PAGEJanet, we talked about what is -- how hard it is to get inside stories off of the Supreme Court. I think almost equally hard to get real stories about a VP search, I mean, stories that are actually reflective reality of what's going on inside the campaign.
HOOKRight. And I think that Romney has said that only he and his top staff know who's on the list, and that's probably true. I think most of the speculation about who's being considered comes from people who are promoting some of the people that are being mentioned. And I do think that the campaign has been pretty interesting, though, the way they've deployed these people who are being considered or want to be considered. It's almost like they're auditioning for being vice president.
HOOKThey've campaigned with Romney and without Romney. If I were Romney, I'd kind of hold off on choosing because he's got a lot of good talent out there campaigning for him.
LINDSEYRight. The stalking thing that you mentioned, Susan, I -- that kind of raised an eyebrow. I think it's raised a few eyebrows because if you're really going to be the guy who's going to be Romney's vice presidential pick, are you in the stalking role? Are you going to -- is Pawlenty -- does this say something about where Pawlenty and Jindal rank in the VP stakes? Because if they're going to be held up as vice presidential material, are they the same guy in a van chasing the president around Ohio? I mean, you know, that -- it does seem a little incongruent to me.
PAGEWhat do you think, Juan?
WILLIAMSYeah. I mean, it seems like busy work or something. And also, it just, you know, it doesn't have much dignity the way how it gets...
HOOKWell, except, you know, Romney himself has stalked Obama. I was with Romney a month or so ago when he was in Ohio when he chose the location 'cause Obama had just been there.
PAGEYou know, it is a role, though, of running mates to do the things that might be unseemly for the guy at the top of the ticket to do, to do the attacks. And I noticed on the news when I was watching broadcast news last night that it did get Pawlenty and Jindal into the stories that reporters did about the president being on the road.
WILLIAMSI don't think there's any question about that but the point -- the overwhelming is it seems like they're just, you know, chasing after the big dog. And so the question is the governor of Louisiana here, you know, former governor of Minnesota, so this is your role. I think the whole question comes down to exactly who do you think would be a good running mate for Mitt Romney. Do you want someone who's going to add energy to the ticket? Do you want someone like a Sarah Palin answer?
WILLIAMSAbsolutely not, right, it comes from Republican circles. So then you say, oh, so what about someone like Nikki Haley? You know, she's a woman, a minority. She's got a lot of energy. What about Kelly Ayotte, as a woman again, because the woman vote is so critical on this race? Well, we're not sure. Well, what about Rob Portman? Well, we like Rob Portman. Rob Portman is, you know, kind of a detail guy. He's not going to cause any fuss. He's going to be reliable, and it's the top of the ticket that counts anyway.
PAGEYou know, I don't want to lose Phil's main point, which was do people not remember that the economy was so bad four years ago. And, in fact, that was kind of the tone that was taken by the statement that Alan Krueger, who is chairman of the White House Council Of Economic Advisers, took in the statement that he put out after this morning's job reports.
PAGEIt starts out by saying, while the economy is continuing to heal from the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression, much more remains to be done to repair the damage from the financial crisis and the deep recession that followed. And that says, to me, more time to heal the damage done before we took over.
HOOKRight. I mean, this is a central part of Obama's campaign and governing message, which is that I inherited a big mess, and things would be a lot worse if I hadn't implemented the policies I did. It's a very hard argument to make to an -- when the economy is still struggling, but that's the burden on him, to remind people about how bad the economy was when he took over.
PAGEFrank is calling us from Rochester, Mich., yet another swing state. Hi, Frank.
FRANKHi. How are you?
FRANKThank for taking my call. I'm -- I would describe myself as kind of a frustrated Democrat in that I almost feel as if I know more about what Romney would do, such as it is, than I do about what President Obama would do. I'm just wondering why he doesn't communicate more with people by coming out with some major plans, even if he couldn't get them through Congress. Bowles-Simpson, tax reform, the need for a stimulus.
FRANKThere was an article in The Washington Post -- I forget about who -- on this point this morning. Why doesn't he get out there and do it, you know, ala Harry Truman? Give 'em hell, Harry. Thank you.
PAGEAll right. Frank, hey, thanks for your call. You know, Frank is echoing what some Democrats have said. Some, you know, Democratic strategists have said that the President needs to do more.
LINDSEYYeah. Walking away from Bowles-Simpson is number on that list probably, and it sounds like Frank is focused on budget and tax issues. And there is some frustration among Democrats that the president hasn't shown more leadership on that. There's also -- you hear from the Republican side that we're suddenly seeing these bursts of leadership from Obama on immigration and allowing children of illegal immigrants to stay with executive order a few weeks ago in the WTO complaint yesterday.
LINDSEYAnd so you do get that since, but I would question one part of Frank's comment in that he knows Romney's policies, 'cause I think Romney has ran a campaign that essentially is I'm not Obama. And I think it's -- as someone who has reporters who cover Romney's campaign, one of our frustrations has been determining what -- how exactly -- what his positions are on a range of issues. And I think he doesn't feel a need to have articulated them that precisely at this point.
PAGEDan has sent us an email from Sacramento making a similar point. He says -- Timmy says, "Two points: One, Romney can criticize Obama only once in the economy, but he has yet to offer any credible alternative. His 59-point plan is no plan at all. And, two, President Obama may be outspent, but that doesn't mean he would voted out. Incumbents and the others have been outspent but still went on to win." That's certainly true.
PAGEWe also have an email from Brent, who wants to respond to the caller we had, John, who talked about the burden on small businesses of government regulation. Brent writes, "I'm continually amazed at the assertions that small businesses are being destroyed by government regulation. I have owned my own small business for 30 years and have never once been held back or interfered with by government regulation." We've gotten a couple emails to this point, Juan.
WILLIAMSWell, certainly, it's a mantra that comes repeatedly from Republicans. And I might say, when you -- when I talk to business people, they talk about high levels of uncertainty about what the Obama administration will do in the future, which speaks to the last caller. You know, tell us exactly what you're going to do especially, you know, as everyone approaches this so-called taxmageddon at the end of year. What are your plans? Do you intend to extend the Bush tax cuts, the Social Security payroll tax?
WILLIAMSAll of these things are kind of sitting out there. So it's interesting to hear because, you know what, there are people who think that regulation and business is not a bad thing. But the question is, what becomes too much? And it might be that the emails come from people who feel it's not been too much. Thirty years in business, that's pretty good. Congratulations. But for someone who might be starting up and looking at start-up costs, the idea that you then have to hire lawyers and accountants to satisfy all these bureaucrats could be crushing.
HOOKYes. And, Juan, pointing out the question about uncertainty being as troublesome as the regulations itself and taxmageddon, which is the end-of-the-year big debate that's going to be in Congress about a whole bunch of tax laws that are expiring. I mean, there is so much uncertainty. We don't know which party is going to control the Senate. We don't know who's going to be in the White House.
HOOKAnd you've got this problem that both of the candidates had been a little bit unclear about -- both Obama and Romney have been a little uncertain about how they would deal with the long-term problems that are raised by this.
PAGEJanet, you mentioned taxmageddon. Tell us what you think will happen. Will anything happen on the extension of the Bush tax cuts before the election?
HOOKOh, no. I mean, no.
LINDSEYA hearty laugh from everyone, right?
HOOKI'm certain about few things in life, but I am certain that there will be no resolution of that before the election. I think the House is planning to have a vote on extending the Bush tax cuts that expire at the end of the year. But that will be a House vote. It won't be followed by Senate action. This is a problem that requires a big serious consensus, and this isn't the time when those kinds of things happen.
PAGEOK. Not by Election Day, by the end of the year?
HOOKBy the end of the year, they have to decide something. And it may be deciding not to decide and putting it off for -- I mean, one kind of classic kick the can down the road solution is to extend the deadline for another three months.
PAGEI'm Susan Page, and you're listening to "The Diane Rehm Show." We're going back to the phones. We'll go to San Antonio, Texas, and talk to Angela. Angela, thanks for holding on.
ANGELAHi. First of all, I like this show, but I really like hearing Juan Williams 'cause I was in my 20s when I first started hearing NPR. And to hear his voice again, it makes me very happy 'cause even my daughter says, you know, I've seen so many people come and go. My question is it seems like our candidates are in these bubbles. And these bubbles are so insulary and the world is spinning out of control. We've got Syria, we've got Africa, we've got Timbuktu being defaced. And these two candidates, it's like we -- these are so big and we can't deal with them. We can't even comment on them.
ANGELAAnd that unwillingness to engage on anything, it's like they don't want to engage on anything. If they say the wrong thing, their world will implode. Sometimes you just have to make a comment. You have to come down on the side. Right or wrong, you have to come down on the side. And it's like they tiptoe around all these things. You know, the Supreme Court said, yes, that this is our health care. It's a tax. This is what we're going to do. And then nobody came out with a good, rough, what I call cliff note summary of what the health care program provided.
PAGEAngela, thanks so much for your call. I'm going to turn your question over to Juan because you had such nice words to say about him.
WILLIAMSWell, thanks. You know, I really identify with this kind of idealism. It's just that the politicians -- it's just like this business, the tax, the penalty, they refuse to just say, you know, look, if you don't have insurance, you're going to pay this penalty, and that's the deal. Instead, they look for opportunities to attack each other, and they don't come up with solutions. I mean, David was talking earlier, well, so what's the president going to do? And people thinking, well, is he -- does he want more stimulus -- oh, don't say stimulus.
WILLIAMSIf you say stimulus, you're going to get punished. Even though what we heard earlier from Janet was, actually, we could use some stimulus in terms of producing jobs in the public sector, which is where the losses are occurring right now, if we wanted to, you know, bolster our gradual recovery. So it's, you know, there's just lots of evasions and lies in this game. And I hope that people who follow the news are aware of them.
PAGEAngela, thanks so much for your call. Well, sad news this week. We learned from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration that mermaids are not real. They posted a statement -- a very firm statement on their website saying there is no evidence of what they call aquatic humanoids. Why did they feel compelled to do this, Janet?
HOOKOh, I'm just shaking my head. Those scientists really know how to ruin all the fun. There apparently was a documentary out that was -- it was a fictional film that was so convincing that people actually thought that it was a documentary about mermaids. And they had -- the agency got so many questions that they felt like they needed to make a public statement. But I don't know. I'm glad I'm not a little girl having my heart broken right now.
LINDSEYI guess I'm not too surprised that there aren't mermaids, OK? I'm a little surprised that NOAA looked into it. I'm really surprised that they admitted looking into it.
PAGEOn the other hand, if you believe in mermaids, will you accept the word of a government agency that they don't exist?
WILLIAMSNo. I mean, you wouldn't -- what is that landing site 51 or whatever? People don't accept that either. But I'm going to say I think there are angels.
PAGEWell, I think we've -- polling has shown that most Americans think there are angels.
WILLIAMSOh, is that right? And...
WILLIAMS...David is with most people who don't think there are mermaids?
LINDSEYI've never seen one, so I'm with -- I think I'm going to stand firm with NOAA on this.
PAGEI want to thank our panel for joining us this hour. David Lindsey, deputy Washington bureau chief for Thomson Reuters. And we've also been joined by Janet Hook, congressional correspondent with The Wall Street Journal, and Juan Williams, political analyst for Fox News. Thank you all for being with us.
WILLIAMSThank you, Susan.
PAGEI'm Susan Page of USA Today, sitting in for Diane Rehm. Thanks for listening.
ANNOUNCER"The Diane Rehm Show" is produced by Sandra Pinkard, Nancy Robertson, Denise Couture, Monique Nazareth, Nikki Jecks, Susan Nabors and Lisa Dunn, and the engineer is Tobey Schreiner. Natalie Yuravlivker answers the phones. Visit drshow.org for audio archives, transcripts, podcasts and CD sales. Call 202-885-1200 for more information. Our email address is email@example.com, and we're on Facebook and Twitter. This program comes to you from American University in Washington. This is NPR.
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