What's on Congress' agenda in the final weeks before the August recess? Our panel takes a look at what needs to happen, and what can realistically get done.
A panel of journalists joins Diane for analysis of the week’s top national news stories.
- Susan Davis chief congressional reporter, USA Today.
- Naftali Bendavid national correspondent, The Wall Street Journal.
- David Chalian Washington bureau chief, Yahoo! News.
Friday News Roundup Video
The panel discussed the implications of presumptive Republican candidate Mitt Romney’s financial history, including his offshore bank accounts, reluctance to release more tax returns and tenure at Bain Capital. David Chalian, Washington bureau chief for Yahoo! News, said the issue of tax returns will be Romney’s “Achilles’ heel” in the election. Naftali Bendavid, national correspondent for The Wall Street Journal, said the fact that Romney refuses to release his tax records means that questions will linger. “It’s not the ordinary political strategy,” Bendavid added.
MS. DIANE REHMThanks for joining us. I'm Diane Rehm. U.S. unemployment claims dip to their lowest level in four years, Vice President Biden rebuts GOP hopeful Mitt Romney in a speech to the NAACP, and a new report claims Penn State officials showed a callous disregard for victims to protect the school's football program.
MS. DIANE REHMJoining me in the studio for this week's top domestic roundup: Naftali Bendavid of The Wall Street Journal, Susan Davis of USA Today and David Chalian of Yahoo News. You can join us as well. Call us on 800-433-8850. Send your email to email@example.com. Follow us on Facebook or Twitter. Good morning, all.
MS. SUSAN DAVISGood morning, Diane.
MR. DAVID CHALIANGood morning.
MR. NAFTALI BENDAVIDGood morning, Diane.
REHMNaftali, the AP is reporting that the estimated losses now at JPMorgan Chase are as high as $5.8 billion. That's a far cry from the first report of $2 billion.
BENDAVIDIt is, and I think that's going to probably send another set of shockwaves toward people who are involved in banking and who are watching banks which now is all of us, as it's become increasingly clear that how the banking system goes has a lot to do with how the economy goes.
BENDAVIDIt was not that long ago that the head of JPMorgan Chase, Jamie Dimon, was in front of a Senate committee. And people really remarked then that he was treated somewhat with kid gloves, in part because he came in at the beginning and apologized. He said he'd made mistakes and that things would be fixed. But now that this figure is coming out, I think we may see some renewed scrutiny and perhaps criticism of both him and the bank.
REHMAnd yet the bank also is reporting huge profits.
BENDAVIDYeah. I mean this is one of the things that happens with banks. People get frustrated because there are all these things that are revealed about the way they do business, yet they seem to be doing very well. And ever since that bank bailout, I think people feel sort of like they have some ownership of the banks. Like, for example, they're -- are owed an explanation when this sort of thing happens.
BENDAVIDI mean, Morgan is quick to say, look, this isn't taxpayer money. You know, this isn't the money of any of our investors. But I think people feel a certain proprietary interest in the way banks work because of that bailout.
REHMDavid Chalian, how likely is it that Jamie Dimon will be back on Capitol Hill?
CHALIANI would imagine we'll see him again. I don't mean immediately because this figure has gone up, but he's not a stranger to Capitol Hill. And we probably will see him again. And perhaps, to Naftali's point, he'll come in for a little bit more heat than he did the last time around. I will say politically, though, Diane, immediately upon this news, Elizabeth Warren, the Democratic Senate candidate in Massachusetts jumped on it, calling for a new Glass-Steagall Act, saying banking is supposed to be boring, not this roller coaster that they're still on, which, obviously, she's the ideal candidate to tap into this.
CHALIANBut it shows a real sort of strain in the American electorate that people are -- this anger and this populism that exists, it's something that the president and his team took -- try to tap into all the time. And with stories like this, I think it plays to their ability to do that.
REHMInteresting that when Jamie Dimon was here, originally, he called this whole event a tempest in a teapot.
DAVISI don't know if people would agree about that now. I think to both of their points, I do think it factors into -- especially because it's an election year and there's just so much public anger towards the banks and this prevailing pervasive view that there's one set of rules for the big banks and there's another set of rules for everybody else.
REHMAnd, of course, we'll be talking in our international hour more about the LIBOR rate and the scandal at Barclays and the Bank of England. Is there any connection here, Naftali?
BENDAVIDOh, I think there is a connection. I mean, I think, first of all, the way that the banking system and the overall financial system works these days, there's always a connection between what's going on in one country and another, particularly a country like the United Kingdom where we have a lot of connections. And the whole LIBOR issue has drawn a lot of attention here and the questions about whether or not U.S. regulators here could've done something, perhaps, to warn about what was going on over there.
BENDAVIDBut I think this is also a political issue, and one of the big debates that's going on right now about the presidential and congressional elections is who's really on the side of the middle-class, average American and who's on the side of the so-called elites or moneyed interests. And you're seeing that become like a core of what's going on. And so stories like this play directly into that.
REHMAnd, of course, you've got the first-time unemployment claims taking the largest drop in four years last week. How positive a sign is this, Susan?
DAVISI think it's temporarily positive. A lot -- what the bonus was attributed to was auto sales. It may not be necessarily good news for the economy long term 'cause it seems like a temporary boost, but it's certainly good news for the auto industry. Normally, often, auto companies shut down in July. There's temporary layoffs. It's the time of the year when they close their factories for redesign, for different, new car lines.
DAVISDemand's up 15 percent this year for new car sales. And so it's fueling a lot of jobs in the auto industry. It's also interestingly -- it just fits with the time where the average American car is eleven years old, so there's sort of a natural demand in the country right now for newer cars. And it -- but it -- most economic forecasters will say this is temporary. It's a nice boost, but it's not going to last, and they're still lagging economic problems.
REHMHow did they know how old my car was, David?
CHALIANI think it's also interesting this news comes on the heels of that Obama bus trip through Ohio and Western Pennsylvania
CHALIANBecause even if it is temporary and every analyst seems to suggest that it is and that we shouldn't read too much into this, tying it to a boost in the auto industry is something that the Obama administration will be eager to jump on and use to their advantage because that auto bailout, they go out there into those Midwestern battleground states and claim as one of their biggest successes of the entire administration.
REHMAnd, Naftali, this fight for the middle class, that seems to be emerging more and more in this campaign.
BENDAVIDAbsolutely, and I think that's not an accident. And I think that's a battle that particularly President Obama thinks he can win. And so we've seen it play out in a couple different ways over the past few days. One is, you know, this proposal for extending the Bush tax cuts for people making $250,000 or less but not necessarily for those making more. But also this big discussion about Bain Capital and Romney's time at Bain Capital and whether or not he outsourced and should he be held responsible and when did he leave, that's become a furious debate.
BENDAVIDAnd I think it's because the Obama campaign is trying to define Mitt Romney essentially as an obnoxious rich guy who doesn't care about you. And they feel that if they can define him that way and if that's the image that gets set in the public's mind, then that may overcome some of the other disadvantages they have in terms of the economy.
REHMWhat is the discrepancy between what Mitt Romney says about when he left Bain Capital, and what is the apparent reality, David?
CHALIANWell, we've got a little more information yesterday with a Boston Global report about an SEC filing from Bain, and the dispute is this, Diane: The Romney campaign states that he left in February 1999 to go run the Olympics in Salt Lake City and that he was done with day-to-day management of Bain. There is now an SEC filing that shows that he was indeed listed as the CEO, the sole stockholder, the -- you name a word that means you're running a company, and that's what he's listed deep into that. That was 2001.
CHALIANAnd there are some other filings from 2002 showing that even though he was running for governor at that time that he was still listed as a managing member of Bain. So to Naftali's point about this being used by the Obama campaign to continue to build a narrative about Mitt Romney, the Romney campaign is going to have to answer some of these questions in a way they haven't yet.
REHMBut why is it important that the American public know this?
CHALIANWell, the Obama campaign would say it's important because in that time period and that disputed time period is when some of these jobs in these companies that Bain had invested in were offshored, where outsourcing went on, where layoffs occurred in that time period, which the Romney campaign had always stated, listen, he's not responsible for that. He had already left the day-to-day management of Bain.
CHALIANSo on that narrow issue -- but, again, I don't think this is about the narrow issue. I think this is about painting a picture of Mitt Romney as a very wealthy, out-of-touch guy who does not understand, nor will he fight for problems that you have at home.
DAVISThe thing I thought was interesting, too, was that it gave the Obama -- they're sort of pivoting. They've been trying to paint Mitt Romney as just out of touch, a guy who has car elevators and dressage and this sort of elitist -- but the Bain attacks have really started to go more towards character that they've pivoted and tried to make Mitt Romney seem like he's a man of bad or immoral character.
DAVISStephanie Cutter, leading aide for the Obama campaign went so far as to suggest in a conference call with reporters that he would be a felon if the SEC filings were indeed accurate and he was involved after the fact, to which the Romney campaign said, you know, that's really outlandish accusations for the president to make. But it's interesting, when you see polling numbers, that Mitt Romney's negatives are actually pretty high. And I think that the Obama campaign sees an opportunity to go beyond even the elitism and make it seem like Mitt Romney is a bad guy.
CHALIANNot just his negatives in general but specifically his business record. I mean, that's one of the most fascinating findings in the polls is that usually if you're a businessman, right, that's a credential that any candidate likes to have.
REHMAnd that's what he's been touting, certainly.
CHALIANAnd -- right. No doubt. And this ties back into talking about the JPMorgan story and others. But these days perhaps, the business credential is not quite what it was. The Obama has certainly been exploiting that. So it's not just negatives in general that he's not a likable guy. It's actually this main calling card of his is not selling.
BENDAVIDYeah, they wanted his strength, which I think is sort of an old trick. His strength was precisely supposed to be, I know how to create jobs here in America. And so if they can show, well, in fact, perhaps he didn't create jobs the way he says he did, they feel like that would be a real vulnerability. But you can see the way, by the way, they're responding, I think that -- that is, the way the Republicans are responding that there's some sense that these attacks are resonating.
BENDAVIDMitt Romney this week unveiled a new ad that sort of called the Obama campaign liars for saying that he outsourced. But you're never in a good position. You're playing defense. If you're having to run ads that are responding to the other guy's ads, the same time John Boehner said essentially, oh yeah, well, the president outsourced with the stimulus because some of the stimulus money went to foreign companies and workers. And so my reading of that whole thing is it's starting to be effective, and that's why the Republicans feel that they need to respond.
REHMWhat about the offshore accounts, and how are they resonating?
BENDAVIDYeah. I mean, I actually think that is an issue that has yet to have its full impact. I mean, the idea that a presidential candidate has offshore accounts in the Cayman Islands, you know, in Switzerland, that -- it's just, you know, whatever the legitimate reason for that, that's not going to play well. And I think the Obama campaign hasn't even yet begun to focus on that, and that's going to be a big one when they do.
REHMNaftali Bendavid, national correspondent for The Wall Street Journal. Your calls, your comments when we come back. Stay with us.
REHMAnd welcome back to the domestic hour of our Friday News Roundup this week with Susan Davis of USA Today, David Chalian of Yahoo News and Naftali Bendavid of The Wall Street Journal. This email came in before the program began. It's from Karen, who says, "I feel as though everyone's missing the point in talking about the legality of Romney's using international tax havens. In my mind, the issue is not whether it's legal. It obviously is."
REHM"The issue is it demonstrates the fallacy -- the conservative argument that if you let wealthy people keep more money and pay less taxes, they'll use it to start a business and employ more people. Monies sitting in offshore accounts is not doing that. Romney's money strategies demonstrate once again trickle-down economics doesn't work so well." David.
CHALIANI think Karen makes an interesting economic point and one that you may hear Democrats make. But I go back to what Susan was saying, and there's a larger character issue that is beyond the economic point, beyond the legal point of just what are you hiding. Why are you trying to game a system, even if it's a system that is built to be gamed, right? But why you, seeking to be president of the United States, why did you that?
CHALIANAnd it's not just the offshore accounts. This also has to deal with his tax returns and his reluctance to release them. And we -- the one thing we learned more than anything else throughout the entire nomination season about Mitt Romney is that that tax issue is a major Achilles heel for him, personally. It threw him so far off his game in South Carolina, and we had never seen him so off balance as to when he came under pressure to release his tax returns.
CHALIANAnd you see the Obama campaign trying to get under his skin because they constantly use his father as the example, George Romney, the guy that released 12 years, and that is just purely trying to get under Mitt Romney's skin to be like, you're not as man as your father was, right?
REHMSo why is Romney so reluctant to release?
BENDAVIDWell, of course, we'll know that better when and if they ever become public. I mean, Democrats have all kinds of speculations that'll show all kinds of, let's say, tax dodges, things that aren't necessarily illegal but things like the offshore accounts that politically don't play well. Perhaps they'll show that he's taken some tax, you know, advantage of some policies that he opposes. I mean, clearly, there's something in there that Democrats feel like could be useful to prolong this.
BENDAVIDAnd he must be -- I mean, you'd think that what he'd want to do is release them all and get it out of the way. And the fact that he's not doing that, I don't know, it's going to keep raising questions. It's not the ordinary political strategy. And I think there's this whole set of issues that the Romney campaign really needs to figure out how to address, and it's the offshore accounts. It's the tax returns. It's the time at Bain.
BENDAVIDI think they're hoping that the economy, you know, will be enough to persuade voters that President Obama needs to be thrown out of office. But I think they're in a little -- they're playing with fire a little bit if they don't figure out how to address these questions.
REHMThere's also the issue of Gov. Romney at the NAACP convention in Houston where he was booed when he said he wanted to repeal the Affordable Care Act. Some people have speculated that he said that for purposes of showing his base that he was not a flip-flopper, that he was willing to go to the NAACP and say what they did not want to hear.
DAVISI mean, it's -- we don't know what Mitt Romney's motivation was. But I'm not inside his head. I don't know what his exact motivation was. But it's fair to say that that's a boo you sort of walked into. If you walk into the NAACP and say that you -- one of your top priority of president -- as president would be to repeal the first black president signature legislative achievement, that's a fair expectation that there's going to be some jeers or boos from the crowd.
DAVISOverall, though, Mitt Romney got a pretty good reception at the NAACP. On the whole, it wasn't that contentious of a speech. I think he might deserve some credit for actually going there and giving a speech, which the last Republican president, George Bush, sort of became famous for declining the invitation for five years in a row before he ultimately did go and address the group. So there's an element of acknowledging that he went to speak to a bloc of voters that he has zero chance of appealing or winning over this November.
REHMWell, I don't think we ought to characterize the NAACP as a single-minded bloc of voters.
DAVISTrue. But I would say African-American voters are going to vote -- well, we have no doubt that they're going to vote predominantly overwhelmingly in favor of Barack Obama.
CHALIANAnd Mitt Romney did not go there to woo votes. I mean, that's not at all what he did. He went there to do two things: one, I think, to show that he will take the Obama has failed on the economy message to any audience wherever it is that he wants to show that he will stay consistent on that, and, two, I don't think it's to show his base.
CHALIANI think it's to show independent voters that he is not afraid to go into enemy turf, if you will, or just to not embracing constituency, and that he's not afraid to talk to black people is something they wanted to indicate to independent voters so that they can be comfortable with Mitt Romney.
BENDAVIDYou know, it's funny watching the speech. He looked pretty uncomfortable to me. He looked like he knew he needed to be there and he needed to say certain things, but he didn't look relaxed. And the Obamacare comment sort of seemed to be made in passing. It's like he was trying to move past it quickly. But the comment that he really dwelled on a little bit was he said, if you want a president who will make things better in the African-American community, you are looking at him. And then he got boos for that, and then he said, take a look.
BENDAVIDIt was almost -- it was pretty in your face. And so I think maybe he wasn't -- I don't know if he was specifically expecting boos or not. But, again, he had to know that wasn't going to be received positively given that the current occupant of the White House is the culmination of centuries of black aspiration, and he's telling this group of African-Americans, I'm actually better for the black community than that guy is.
REHMAnd, of course, last night, there was a fundraiser at former Vice President Dick Cheney's home for Mitt Romney, $30,000 per per, (sic) raising something like $4 million. Does that represent kind of a seal of approval from the conservatives, Susan?
DAVISI don't think there's any doubt that the Republican Party, at this point, is completely behind Mitt Romney. It's interesting 'cause he doesn't have a particularly close relationship with either Dick Cheney or former President Bush. He does speak to former President H.W. Bush on a fair number of occasions, and they've -- been known to have a relationship.
DAVISI think it's also just a matter of securing up his bona fides with a part of the party that has always been sort of skeptical of him but has, you know, Dick Cheney speaks to tremendously. So I think -- I mean, obviously, Dick Cheney is motivated equally by defeating Barack Obama as he is supporting Mitt Romney. But I don't think that there's any surprise that Dick Cheney is fully and completely behind.
REHMHow do you think of the party last night plays to independents, David?
CHALIANI don't think -- first of all, we don't have images of it, right? So it can't sort of dominate television coverage and get into the consciousness of a voter in a real way. We have a pool report that comes out of it. But I don't think it will surprise any voter, right, that Dick Cheney is behind the Republican nominee. And I don't think you're going to see the Romney campaign utilize Dick Cheney for much more than what they utilized him for last night. I don't anticipate that they're going to put him out as a surrogate...
DAVISHe's not going to be a surrogate.
CHALIAN...and do the Sunday morning show circuit. But if you talk to Romney fundraisers, there is so much money out there right now, they can't sweep it up fast enough for the energy that the moneyed folks on the Republican side have, and they want to defeat Barack Obama. And so, you know, utilizing Dick Cheney's network to help bring that money in is, I think, a pretty easy decision for them to make.
REHMLet's talk about that money for a moment and the 8-1 margin that Mitt Romney apparently has raised thus far. What's going on here? Are donors cooling off for President Obama and the excitement is on Mitt Romney's side, and will money be the deciding factor?
BENDAVIDI think money's going to be a big factor. I think there's a lot of ways to calculate the ratio because it depends on how you count outside groups and how you count, for example, what unions do and corporations do. I think there's a few things going on. I think it is often easier to raise money to defeat a guy who's in office that a lot of people, you know, can get worked up about to dislike than it is to raise money for the guy who's there.
BENDAVIDI do think that there's been a lot of pent-up money on the Republican side sort of waiting for the primary to resolve itself now they've got their guy. He's their standard bearer. They're going to give to him. I think that there are a lot of Republicans that are more willing to give to super PACs than Democrats are because Democrats, a lot of them, are philosophically opposed to super PACs.
BENDAVIDI think the advantage is probably going to be substantially on Mitt Romney's side. Whether or not that's a deciding factor, you know, is a whole other question. And, certainly, the Obama campaign is trying to use that. They put out fundraising appeals saying, look how much these other guys are raising. You got to help me out and help me raise money as well.
REHMAnd one last question on the campaign. The Drudge Report posted an item naming former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice as Romney's potential veep. Could that have been a trial balloon, Susan?
DAVISYou know, I think the veepstakes to me is sort of like the Supreme Court. We have so little idea of what they're -- the people that know don't talk, and the people that don't know talk a lot. And -- but, you know, on paper, when you say it, it makes sense. She feel -- she brings a diversity to the ticket. She brings foreign policy expertise, which is something that Mitt Romney himself does not have.
DAVISShe's always been sort of a silent favorite within the Republican Party. I think -- I've covered the Conservative Political Action Committee, the conference here every year of conservatives, and she's always been sort of a crowd favorite in these. So I think it's not a bad story for Mitt Romney to have -- maybe considering her as a vice presidential nominee. But if he's actually considering her, nobody really knows.
CHALIANI think her views on choice will make her extremely difficult to sell to the Republican convention, and...
DAVISThat's a very good point.
CHALIAN...and I think that -- and so I think there's a little bit squishy there for social conservatives, which, if you're Mitt Romney, who your whole life has been squishy to social conservatives, I think that's a very tough pairing to sell.
BENDAVIDYeah, I think that's right. I think it's somebody that they wanted out there as somebody they were considering, but I'd be very surprised if they pick her. I do think that the last thing he's going to do is pick a pro-choice running mate. But also she's never run for political office. She's impressive when she gives speeches, but it's a whole different thing to be in a campaign.
BENDAVIDThe Republican Party is still traumatized by the Sarah Palin experience, where they brought in somebody who was seen as not having national experience. So I think perhaps it's somebody they wanted people to think they were thinking about. I'd be very surprised if she's ultimately the choice.
REHMAll right. And now, turning to Penn State, an independent investigation into how top officials at Penn State University handled reports of Jerry Sandusky's sexual abuse of boys was released yesterday, and Joe Paterno does not come out very well on this, David Chalian.
CHALIANJoe Paterno's family probably is so thankful that he is not here to see any of this. I went to a Big Ten school. I love Big Ten football. I have enjoyed nothing more than going to Happy Valley at times and seeing how the football program there and the way the community embraces it.
CHALIANBut I kind of wish -- and this will upset Penn State fans -- I do kind of -- I kind of wish Joe Paterno was still alive to answer for this because it is shocking to see his involvement at the level that it is in some of these emails that came out. I mean, this is just a complete failure. And the Freeh report, I think, even though I don't think there was...
CHALIANLouis Freeh, the former FBI director who conducted this investigation. I don't think there are tons of new details here. I think we had a pretty solid record of what went on. But when you see an email from the president of the college explaining the downside of not reporting because what if it ends up being true, I don't know how you can write that as the president of the university and not think, wait, actually, this is -- I need to report this then. There shouldn't be this downside.
REHMHere's an email from Richard in Fort Myers, Fla., who said, "Penn State football program should be suspended by the NCAA for as long as the cover-up was taking place, 10-plus years."
BENDAVIDI mean, I think that NCAA is clearly going to do something pretty dramatic. It wouldn't surprise me at all if they suspend the program for a period of time, maybe, you know, probably a multi-year period of time. They're now taking the Freeh report as well as, you know, other information, and they're deciding what to do.
BENDAVIDBut more broadly than that, I think this report has, again, raised the question of the whole of football at big-time universities and the role that it plays there and if too much deference is given to those programs, something that Louis Freeh emphasized over and over again in his report as you couldn't go against the football program if you were at Penn State.
BENDAVIDI don't think Penn State is probably alone in that, and so this is going to cause a certain re-examination. I'm not sure what the outcome ultimately will be in terms of changes at these programs, but, certainly, it raises the issue in a very stark and painful way.
REHMAnybody likely to be prosecuted, Susan?
DAVISThere is still ongoing -- there -- two of the -- senior former head of the university, four of the guys that were involved in the cover-up are still facing charges, but trial dates have not been set. I do think -- this is what Naftali said, and I'm not from a Big Ten school.
DAVISAnd I think to maybe people that aren't immersed in college football, one of the things that it has unveiled is the culture of college football and the lengths people would go to cover up such horrific crimes. And someone I had read said, if this had happened in the economics department, does anybody think that it wouldn't have been stopped immediately?
REHMSusan Davis of USA Today. And you're listening to "The Diane Rehm Show." Here's an email from Janice, who says, "Many of the news reports make it sound like Paterno, Spanier and others concealed or covered up Sandusky's crimes. This makes it sound as though they were taking affirmative actions to hide what was going on, which is not accurate. This is not an apology for their failure to act, but I think it's important to clarify that theirs were sins of omission, not commission."
BENDAVIDI mean, I think, you know, thinking about what the report said, I guess that's true, but I'm not getting the, I guess, the exact moral distinction there. In other words, if there are these horrific crimes reported to you and you didn't do anything about them, that seems to me like enough of an offense without sort of making the distinction that, well, they weren't -- you didn't shred documents or something.
CHALIANI mean, I can't imagine sitting in front of any of those victims and explaining the difference of a crime of omission or not. I mean, if you -- to me, it is an affirmative step. If you are sending an email with instructions that says, let's not go ahead and report this, we're just going to speak to him directly, that's an affirmative step that covers up the abuse from more investigation and probing. That -- I don't...
REHMWhat happens to Penn State with the civil suits that are likely to come now, Susan?
DAVISThat's a great open question, and I think that that goes to the question that, I think, is being debated now, is whether they can continue their football program if the university isn't going to have to take some kind of penance step to say to the community, or at least use the money from the football program to put it towards, you know, some kind of awareness or to the victims or some kind of amends from the university, both from the community, from the public relations standpoint and just from the myriad civil suits that they're going to be facing.
REHMOf course, the football program brings in money that goes toward the academic programs and other programs at the school.
BENDAVIDYeah. There's no question this is disastrous for the university on all kinds of levels. And, you know, apparently attorneys for the victims were in the audience when the report was delivered. I think there's very little question that material from the report will make its way into the civil suits. The university will probably try to settle as many of them as it can 'cause the last thing they need is a series of protracted lawsuits.
BENDAVIDBut, you know, there's several steps more to be taken. There's the NCAA. There's the civil suits. There's further prosecution of some of the top officials. We don't know if the former president, Spanier, is going to be charged or not, but two other top officials have been. So there's a lot more to go here.
CHALIANBut it's that money that you're speaking of that is why, I think, Naftali may be a little skeptical about what kind of changes we're going to actually see at programs across the country. That money that these athletic programs bring in that do pay for so many other things in the university is a real motivating force against real change that needs to happen, obviously.
REHMDavid Chalian, Washington bureau chief for Yahoo News. Short break here. Your calls when we come back.
REHMWelcome back to the domestic hour of the Friday News Roundup. Let's open the phones, going first to Indianapolis. Good morning, Kenny. Thanks for joining us.
KENNYHi, and thanks for taking my call.
KENNYI have two quick questions.
KENNYOne is why suddenly is business experience seen as so important to holding the office of the president? I mean, George W. Bush had a fairly bad business record before he got into office, and Clinton didn't have a business record, and Bush and Reagan. Suddenly it seems to be imperative that somebody have a business history. And the second question I have is, it seems to me that the direct indicator of how Romney would act and legislate as president would be to examine his record as governor of Massachusetts.
KENNYAnd there's been a little examination of that, but not much, and more attention seems to be being paid to everything but that. And I wondered if your panel could respond to those two things.
REHMAll right. Thanks for calling. David Chalian, business experience has certainly been made to seem important.
CHALIANWell, certainly by the Romney campaign. They want it to be an imperative because that's the credential that he has. I don't think, I mean, you hear Barack Obama say -- in fact, he said it in an interview with CBS's Charlie Rose just yesterday, saying that, you know, Mitt Romney's business experience, his entire job was to make money for his investors, right, not to create jobs, not to do the things that a president needs to do. So he, to the caller's point, refutes that.
CHALIANBut I don't think that there is a collective assessment that business experience is a necessity or an imperative. I think that the Romney campaign has been quite successful at trying to make it an important credential in a very sour economic moment for our country.
REHMWhat about his experience as governor, Naftali?
BENDAVIDWell, I think that's an interesting one because both the Democrats and the Republicans have concluded that it's not in their interest to talk about his Massachusetts tenure, and it's for the same reason, which is that he was something of a moderate governor. So Romney doesn't want to go out there and say, yeah, so, you know, I was much more liberal when I was governor of Massachusetts. That's not the image he's trying to create.
BENDAVIDAnd Democrats don't want to acknowledge that he, you know, they want to emphasize his right-wing qualities as they see it. So neither side wants to hold up a time when he was more of a moderate or liberal Republican than he is now.
DAVISExcept when it comes to the issue of health care. Democrats like to talk about the fact that the president's health care plan is mirrored much after Mitt Romney's when he was governor of Massachusetts.
REHMAll right. To Statesville, N.C. Good morning, David.
DAVIDMorning. I wanted to address the NAACP appearance. There have been a lot of liberal commentators saying that Romney went up there to get booed on purpose, but that may have validity if what he said was something that he hadn't said on the stump the whole campaign. He's made it a centerpiece of it to could get rid of Obamacare.
DAVIDAnd, you know, it just seems to me that liberals are looking for something to poke holes in what was basically a good appearance. The boos were publicized. That was one of the most reported stories. What wasn't reported quite as much was the fact that at the end of it, he got a standing ovation.
BENDAVIDI mean, he did -- I mean, I agree with that. There was a, you know, 98 percent of the speech was gracious and positive and got a positive response. I think a fair way to describe it would be polite applause. I mean, it wasn't warm or impassioned, but it was certainly courteous.
BENDAVIDI mean, as I said before, I mean, the comment that jumped out at me as one that was a little more provocative was saying, if you want a president who's going to be good for the African-American community, you're looking at him. And, to me, that was much more of a direct, almost a challenge to the audience than the Obamacare comment, and that's not something that he said in other places.
REHMAll right. To Diane in Norman, Okla. Good morning. You're on the air.
DIANEGood morning. Yesterday on the news, I heard a kind of an informal survey of the community at Happy Valley regarding Joe Paterno, and the results of that community, they reported, was overwhelmingly a defense of Joe Paterno and saying what a really good man he was and basically that the current report out on the activity that occurred at the university just really shouldn't apply to Joe.
DIANEAnd what my thoughts were, as I was listening to this, is that, in many ways, this community was an enabler of the behavior that occurred at the university. And if I were a parent in that community with a young child, I would be really concerned about the safety of my child, that if abuse occurred, it might be really dependent upon who it is that's abusing them if it would be handled correctly.
CHALIANI think you make a really smart point about the community at large because we talk so much about the official Penn State University community and officials, but that larger community, there's no doubt that Joe Paterno and that entire program was -- is so revered and that, even though -- I don't know the specific survey you're speaking of. But there is clearly a bit of dissonance of people for their emotional attachment to the program and to the coach for all these years and trying to somehow place this horrendous information about the abuse into that love of the program.
CHALIANBut I think you make a wise point, which is perhaps the larger broader Penn State community needs to look at themselves as not enablers in some legal way or that they have a real responsibility here but that how do we treat these people? When we treat people as if they're superhuman and when human activity actually takes place, it makes it much harder to come to terms with them.
REHMThere's a large statue of Joe Paterno on the grounds of Penn State. Is that likely to remain, do you think?
BENDAVIDWell, there certainly have been calls already to take it down, and I think we're just going to have to see how it unfolds in the next few months. I mean, it's a pretty unusual situation where a guy who's been a legend, literally for decades, at the very, very end of his life, this devastating information comes out. And we'll have to see how the community handles it. But one thing I do want to say about the Penn State community, I mean, I -- it seems like there are communities like this around the country.
BENDAVIDI mean are the fans at Alabama really any less into their football team than the fans at Penn State? So I don't think you want to blame a whole community for child abuse on the one hand. On the other hand, there's this impassioned, you know, support and defense of athletics at various university colleges, and it does raise interesting questions.
DAVISI see a parallel here in some ways to the child abuse scandals that we saw in the Catholic Church, in the sense that there was a tremendous negative view towards the church and the cover-up and what they did. But there was still a sort of positive view of the Pope. And in this community, Paterno was like the Pope, and I think it's hard for them to connect the crimes with this sort of hero in this community. And I think there's just a conscious -- you know, they just don't want to believe it.
REHMTo Dallas, Texas. Good morning, Frank.
FRANKGood morning. My comment is regarding Mr. Romney's appearance before the NAACP. He's obviously -- he was so obviously uncomfortable. To me, the most provocative remark was not at the convention. It was afterwards. His remark afterwards, I believe in Montana, with him responding to, you know, the bullying he had done, I believe it was, he said something to the effect of, you know, you need to tell those people -- I guess it was those people that like Obamacare.
FRANKYou need to tell those people, if they want more stuff from the government, more free stuff -- now that, to me, illustrates a visceral, unhealthy attitude towards people of color that -- kind of like the welfare queen attitude, and it raises the question I'd like to lay before the panel.
FRANKIs it not fair question to ask this guy who wants to be, all of us, our president how he addressed the teaching of his church that -- you know, that was the teaching of his church until he was nearly 30 and his children were 6, 7, 8 years old, and they had been taught this teaching -- that black people have the mark of Cain or where, you know, very bad people? The book of Mormon says some very, very bad things about -- or did say bad things about black people.
FRANKIs it not a fair question to ask him, how does he process that with his children, or did he process it? Because he seems to be -- just have -- I mean, that portrayed an unhealthy attitude to me toward...
BENDAVIDI mean, yeah, I guess I think that's a fair question to ask him. To my knowledge, he's been asked some questions along those lines once, at least that I've seen. And he sort of made it clear, of course, he doesn't support that sort of policy.
BENDAVIDBut, you know, I mean, these questions of religion and how much of a religious church's actions and statements and policies you then attribute to somebody who's an inherent of it, who's running for office, I think, is a delicate one and has to be handled carefully. I think the question that the caller asked is one that could be put to Mitt Romney, and I believe it has been.
REHMWhat about the voter ID law? He didn't bring that up, did he? David.
CHALIANNo. But Joe Biden certainly did when he went to the NAACP the day after. You know, those voter ID laws are -- I haven't seen an issue this cycle that energizes the base of the Democratic Party quite as much as that issue is doing right now. And I think you saw that on display yesterday when Joe Biden did that. And from a political, practical point of view, the Obama campaign -- when you talk to the folks running the campaign at Chicago -- are very concerned about this as they are trying to put together the math of getting the president re-elected.
CHALIANThey think that this voter ID law, specifically in Pennsylvania right now, it may have a real impact on -- because their whole goal to get the president re-elected in this tricky economy with so many -- with so much pessimism right now is to try to really alter the electorate and really bring out their voters in new numbers that -- and that could become trickier for them to do if these voter ID laws (unintelligible).
DAVISThe voter ID law and the Obama campaign is already -- is part of their ground program. And they're particularly concerned about Florida, Ohio and Wisconsin, where they have new voter ID laws, and those are states that Barack Obama very much would like to win in November. The Brennan Center, which is sort of the outside expert on this issue, estimates that the new voter ID laws -- I think 22 states are in some stages of voter -- new voter ID laws -- could disenfranchise up to 5 million Americans, depending on the state.
DAVISAnd 5 million votes is a lot of votes. And by tradition and by history, voter ID laws tend to disproportionately affect minorities and the poor who also tend to traditionally vote Democratic.
BENDAVIDI also think we -- I think that Joe Biden's appearance before the NAACP is worth taking a minute and talking about. For one thing, unlike either Mitt Romney or, really, I thought President Obama in his video message, Biden seemed totally comfortable, totally at home. He gave a stem-winder. He seemed to connect to the audience. And it just remind you how much he does kind of bring to the Obama administration, that you have a president who's seen as being a little bit aloof, and then you have this guy who can go there and seemingly talk to anyone.
BENDAVIDThe other thing it does raise is why didn't President Obama go? And, you know, the answer -- the sort of easy, standard answer is, well, he doesn't really need the African-American community. He's got them already. He doesn't need to make his case to them anymore. I think another question that could be asked, though, is, was his campaign worried about the image of him being wildly cheered by a liberal African-American group? Is that an image that they were a little bit antsy about necessarily putting forward when the -- you know, at this time of the campaign?
REHMYou know, the calculations along the road here are just more than I can bear sometimes. To Fort Lauderdale, Fla. Good morning, Erica.
ERICAGood morning, Diane.
ERICAI have, I guess, a quick comment and then a question. I went to University of Florida. And as everybody knows, they worship their football team. And I really thought about that. Would that have happened at the University of Florida? And I can honestly say I don't think so. And it's not because of the difference of the love of the football team. You know, we idolize Tebow and Danny Wuerffel and Spurrier and everybody else. But we didn't have a long-time coach that was there for so long that he wasn't just important to us, that he was important to our parents' generation, too.
ERICAAnd I think that, you know, both Paterno and Sandusky's tenure there was so long that, I think, it's almost like keeping a president in office, you know, in the United States for 30, 40 years. You're going to just have a buildup of power, and I think that maybe that could have been part of it, too, was the length of time that that they'd been there.
REHMAnd your question, Erica?
ERICAMy question is, how come -- it's obvious that the four gentlemen named in the Freeh report were discussing this back and forth. How come no one's mentioned conspiracy charges against the remaining three men that are alive?
REHMInteresting question. Before you respond, David Chalian, let me remind you you're listening to "The Diane Rehm Show." David.
CHALIANI am not a lawyer, but I would not be surprised if we don't see that very question about conspiracy charges enter this discourse before all is said and done.
REHMDo you agree?
BENDAVIDYeah. I think that -- yeah. Again, I'm not a lawyer either. But, I mean, I think when you have a group of people who seem to be talking together about not bringing something to light that is a crime, I think that's always a possibility, so we have to wait and see.
DAVISAnd there is an active federal investigation. It's not over with the Sandusky trial. There is ongoing federal investigation into what happened at the university and also violations of, I think -- I want to say (unintelligible) I believe it's the Clery Act, which is the law that requires universities to report crimes. And they -- and obviously they violated that if they did cover up these crimes as well.
REHMDoes Louis Freeh continue to lead this investigation?
DAVISWell, no, in the sense that he was leading an independent audit sort of, if you will, into the culture and what happened, the federal government is investigating further the crimes that were committed at Penn State.
REHMAll right. To Bloom Hill -- Bloomfield Hills, Mich. David, you're on the air.
DAVIDGood morning. I'll -- I'd just like to make a comment. No questions. This Penn State debacle just comes under the heading of the conspiracy being worse than the crime. Although there's really nothing worse than child abuse, the conspiracy is equal to or even greater than because it furthered the child abuse. And if, when Paterno and others were notified of this situation with Sandusky, they took action immediately, we wouldn't even be having this conversation right now.
REHMI don't agree with that. I think it would have come out, and it would have been a great scar on that school, whether it had come out or -- now, as you say, I do agree with you that the cover-up has been disastrous. But the very fact that these young men have now grown up with these memories, with this experience at the base of their souls, is pretty hard to take. Naftali.
BENDAVIDYeah. I mean, I think I understand what the caller is getting at. If it had been handled earlier, maybe some of the abuse could have been prevented. I do think this is one of those crimes where you can't really say the cover-up was worse than the crime because the crime was so bad that it's, you know, it's hard to think of what would be worse.
CHALIANI completely agree. There's nothing worse than this crime. Because of the time span of how long the abuse went on for, perhaps some earlier reporting could have prevented some abuse...
CHALIAN...but certainly no guarantee of that because it wasn't just the reporting of it. Sort of every step of the process, there was a failure to respond to it in a proper fashion.
DAVISWell, it's like we were saying, there's really not two sides to this story.
DAVISThere's only really one side to this story.
DAVISThey were wrong.
REHM...that it should have been stopped immediately. Susan Davis of USA Today, David Chalian of Yahoo News, Naftali Bendavid of The Wall Street Journal. Thank you, all, and happy Friday.
REHMThanks for listening, all. I'm Diane Rehm.
ANNOUNCER"The Diane Rehm Show" is produced by Sandra Pinkard, Nancy Robertson, Denise Couture, Susan Nabors, Megan Merritt, Lisa Dunn, and Rebecca Kaufman. 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 firstname.lastname@example.org, and we're on Facebook and Twitter. This program comes to you from American University in Washington. This is NPR.
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