A conversation with Australian author Richard Flanagan about his latest book “The Narrow Road to the Deep North.” The Man Booker Prize-winning novel is based on his father’s experience as a slave laborer in a Japanese POW camp during World War II.
President Barack Obama courts rank-and-file Republicans. The House votes to avert a government shutdown. The latest jobs numbers are released. A panel of journalists joins Diane for analysis of the week’s top national news stories.
- Manu Raju senior congressional reporter at Politico.
- Jeanne Cummings deputy government editor for Bloomberg News.
- Michael Scherer White House correspondent for Time magazine.
President Barack Obama met with several rank-and-file GOP leaders for meals this week in attempt to shore up support for a budget deal.
Jeanne Cummings, deputy government editor for Bloomberg News, said the meetings indicate both Democrats and Republicans are making an effort to end the spending debate.
“It’s sort of very refreshing for someone like me who spends my life covering a very frustrating city, a very broken city. The last week has been, at least by appearances, the way Washington should be,” said Michael Scherer, White House correspondent for Time magazine.
Watch The Full Broadcast
MS. DIANE REHMThanks for joining us. I'm Diane Rehm. The U.S. economy created 236,000 jobs last month. The unemployment rate dropped to 7.7 percent, the lowest in four years. John Brennan was confirmed as CIA director. And the House voted to keep the government running through the summer. Joining me for the domestic hour of the Friday News Roundup: Michael Scherer of TIME magazine, Jeanne Cummings of Bloomberg News and Manu Raju of Politico.
MS. DIANE REHMYou're invited to join us, 800-433-8850. Send us an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow us on Facebook or send us a tweet. Good morning, everybody.
MR. MICHAEL SCHERERGood morning.
MR. MANU RAJUGood morning.
MS. JEANNE CUMMINGSGood morning.
REHMGood to see you all. Jeanne Cummings, just how good are these numbers?
CUMMINGSWell, they're completely unexpected. The consensus was there would about 140- to 150,000 jobs. Obviously, we're 80,000-plus above those levels, and so it's a very good job report. It's big enough to bring the unemployment number down a couple of tenths of a point, which it's, you know, hung there at 7.9 for such a long time, and so, you know, it's -- this is part of a package of good news that we have seen about the economy in recent months. We have somewhat of a recovery in construction.
CUMMINGSThe Fed said recently that the banks have now put themselves in a position where they could manage a recession because they have enough reserves. We have the lowest interest rates. We have record profits. And the one lag had been for a while the slow hiring that was going on. And so this could be an indication that even the labor market is starting to see a slightly more robust recovery.
REHMWhat do you think, Michael Scherer?
SCHERERWe have had employment reports with more than 200,000 jobs before in the last couple of years, and they haven't been the signal that we're going to stay at this level for long periods. So we don't know yet whether this is a new robust economy or not. We also don't know what the impact of the budget talks that are still going on in Washington's going to be. You know, if the sequester stays in place, there's broad consensus among economists that about half a percentage point of GDP growth will be shaved off the economy.
SCHERERAnd most economists are predicting, this year, GDP growth around two, 2.5 percent. So you're talking about 20 percent of growth over the course of the year. So there are still a lot of uncertainties. But it's clear that the stock market has been very happy for all of this year, in part because of the Federal Reserve helping them out.
SCHERERAnd the hope for people who own stock, for people in America, is that at some point the real problem with the American economy, which is the stagnation of wages and the loss of employment, begins to mend itself. You know, it's going to happen at some point. We don't know whether it's going to happen this year or maybe a couple of years from now.
RAJUYeah. I think it really adds some urgency to these sequester talks. I mean, the White House knows full well that if the sequester really goes into effect, people will start feeling that in April, in May. You'll see folks have to suffer through these furloughs and lay-offs. And that could have an impact, both on the hiring as well as consumer spending and have a ripple effect across the economy. That's going to really lead to a sense of urgency here in Washington to get some sort of resolution on this issue over the next couple of months.
REHMMichael Scherer suggested the federal government had something to do with this high stock market. What do you think?
RAJUYeah. I think the Federal Reserve's so-called quantitative easing policy, the easy money policies in keeping interest rates low in the long term, certainly have had that kind of impact on the stock market. But, you know, the stock market isn't always the main indicator of how the economy is growing and then strength of the economy. We saw a peak in the stock market in 2007, just before the crash in 2008. So, you know, that -- but the very good signs of the job report, as well as housing starting to pick up again, those are much more instructive of the way the economy is going.
REHMOf course, an awful lot of people have been wondering why the job market is not even stronger than it showed today.
CUMMINGSYes. And one of the -- some of the -- this extended recession have impacts in a variety of ways. One of which was businesses figured out how to continue functioning with fewer employees. Some -- in some cases, they made it up the difference with machines. In some cases, they just became more efficient, and they didn't need as many people. And these now are built in to the labor market. And so growth needs to come in new areas to create another area for job growth.
CUMMINGSAnd Manu raised a really good point, though, about how the sequester fits into the economic recovery. And if people will recall last year, we started to see some improvement in the job market, going, month after month, about 150,000 jobs, sometimes, as Michael said, higher, but the loss of public jobs at the state level.
CUMMINGSAs states were trying to manage the fuel resources and the lingering damage from the economic collapse, they were laying off 30- or 40,000 jobs a month. And so there was always this, you know, sort of, you know, one step forward, one step back when we look at the job numbers from month to month. And we could now move right back into that cycle where is not the states, it's the feds who are laying people off.
SCHERERYou know, one of the things to remember in this -- this is actually the way the White House now talks about it, and you hear it some more from Republicans on the Hill -- is that the problem that has -- with the economy that's most upset voters is this feeling that they are not -- their lives are not improving and that -- if you look at the charts, median wages starts flat lining, not at this recession in 2007. It starts basically 2001, 2002.
SCHERERJob growth goes up a little bit, but wages, the way people are actually living in this economy, in their homes, in their families basically becomes a flat line. And we haven't escaped that yet. And I think the real question over the next couple of years is will the forces, not just in Washington but the globalization forces, which put a lot of pressure on wages in the United States, return jobs to the United States in a way that allows us to escape from this longer frustration the American people have been feeling?
REHMWhat about the minimum wage debate, Michael?
SCHERERThat debate is really the White House's attempt to directly address that frustration. It's a very populist policy. It has pretty broad support in a lot of polls. Economists will tell you it's probably not an ideal policy because it may lead to less jobs, you know, if you can only...
SCHERERYeah. If you can only hire so many people and only charge so much for your product, you'll hire less people if you have to pay them more. But it's a very popular policy because that's what the American people feel. They know their paychecks haven't changed for a decade. And they want their paychecks to go up, and they feel upset about it.
REHMIsn't the negative always what's argued when people talk about raising that minimum wage? You're going to have fewer jobs. You're going to have more layoffs. Small business won't be able to survive. Manu.
RAJUThat's right. You're going to see a big pushback from not only business groups, but also Republicans on the Hill for dealing with the minimum wage increase that certainly isn't going to be a top-priority item particularly in the election year because Democrats see this as a very politically popular measure, something that they could run on and saying that they're trying to help the middle class.
RAJUSo it's a very sensitive topic for Republicans, too, because, of course, over the years they've been painted as the party that is protecting tax breaks for corporations and the wealthy, and that's something that they're trying to get away from. And when you get into this minimum wage debate, it gets pretty sticky.
CUMMINGSWhich undoubtedly will be held until next year. I mean, it's basically a political trap. This is the easiest way the Democrats, you know, they bring it up, you know, in the election year -- not this year, next year -- and then the Republicans are going to be trapped in that corner. And, you know, as much as we've heard this argument that higher minimum wage means fewer jobs, when we went through this whole debate in the '90s, they made all of those arguments, and it didn't have that effect.
CUMMINGSNow, it may -- on individual businesses, yes. But on the economy as a whole, it did not lead to a loss of jobs and the economy did quite well in the '90s. And you look at states like Washington State that has higher minimum wage loss and they have a very robust economy as well.
REHMAnd Maryland is talking about raising minimum to $10 an hour.
SCHERERThere are a number of states. I mean, I was born and raised in San Francisco, which has a much higher minimum wage than the rest of the country. Now, you know, the other debate that comes into this is there are still a number of democratic economists who argue that the better way of dealing with this is to bring back and improve the earned income tax credit, which is a more targeted way of basically giving a tax subsidy to people who work directly.
SCHERERIt effectively raises their wages, but it's constructed around households as opposed to individuals. So you're not raising the minimum wage of people who don't necessarily need more money to support a family. You're raising it basically by family, the income by family, which is something else that Bill Clinton did in the 1990s.
REHMSo the question becomes is anything going to get done before that election year process begins, Jeanne?
CUMMINGSWell, I think that immigration reform will have to have made some advancement before next year. That and I think also these budget talks, they've got their deadlines that will approach and force action. And we are in this window where, you know, there are -- the talks have started in Washington. They're more robust than they used to be. There are more players at the table than we've seen before. And, you know, as Sen. Portman of Ohio, a Republican, said, there is a small window here.
CUMMINGSNobody's getting overly optimistic because the differences between the two sides are very real with the Republicans really holding firm on no more tax revenues and President Obama saying that indeed we will need some. So these are -- these could be just simply impossible to bridge, but they're talking.
REHMBut, of course, the president did say he's willing to give on entitlements on both Medicare and Social Security. Jeanne Cummings of Bloomberg News, Michael Scherer of TIME magazine, Manu Raju of Politico. Short break here. When we come back, we'll talk about dining at the Jefferson. Stay with us.
REHMAnd just before the break, Jeanne Cummings, you were talking about this slight improvement in what seems to be happening in Washington. Manu Raju, there was a dinner at the Jefferson Hotel this week. Who was there and who paid for it?
RAJUWell, it was Republican senators -- there about a dozen or so -- who were dining with the president. I mean, the president has not really done a whole lot of outreach to Republican senators, even Democrats, on Capitol Hill throughout his first term. He senses that the chance -- there are very few avenues in getting a budget deal through, and so now he's trying to do this through Republican senator to see who is willing to negotiate with him.
RAJUBut this was more of a social occasion. They were both getting to know one another. They were trying to build a relationship in the sense of cooperation before the real negotiations came in. The White House said afterwards that the president paid out of his pocket. But there is some dispute of that. But that's the White House's line.
REHMSo who were there? Who were the big players?
SCHERERIt's those members of the Senate Republican caucus who have signaled over the years that they want to work on a deal -- a bigger deal with the White House. That includes everybody from Sen. John McCain and Sen. Lindsey Graham to Tom Corker to Saxby Chambliss. There are a group of people, including some who have said, look, I'm willing to put revenue on the table again even though the Republican Party is against it, who want to try and do something bigger.
REHMGet a deal.
SCHERERYeah, get a deal. And I think that, you know, it's sort of very refreshing. For someone like me who spends my life covering a very frustrating city, a very broken city, the last week has been, at least by appearances, the way Washington should be. Way...
SCHERERA glimmer of a city that actually functions, of people who disagree but actually talk to each other. I mean, this dinner was one of a number of events. Yesterday, the president had lunch with Paul Ryan. About a week ago, he had John McCain and Lindsey Graham over to the White House. He's been making a number of phone calls privately with members of the Senate. Next week, he's planning to go up to the Hill to meet with the Republican caucus in the House. He's also going to have lunch with Republicans in the Senate.
SCHERERSo, I mean, this is the sort of actual conversation that we haven't had. And if you notice, at the same this is happening, the amount of public posturing and noisemaking that has become so typical of the day-to-day operations of this city has really declined. You haven't seen the president out on the campaign trail, you know, like he was just a month ago, you know, talking about how Republicans have to bend. He's talking privately. And maybe they'd come to some agreement, maybe they don't. We don't know yet.
REHMSo has this required a personality transplant? Or what's going on here, Jeanne?
CUMMINGSWell, what it required was the invitation to be made and for it to be accepted. We should note that the president issued these kinds of invitations in his first year in office and the Republicans said no. They didn't show up, and in fact, they would brag about the fact that they had turned down the president's offers.
REHMThank you for that clarification.
CUMMINGSYeah. So he made an effort early on. He made an effort last year a couple of times and was rebuffed. And so both sides had to do this. He had to make the offer. They had to say yes. Now, we got both sides doing that. There are hopeful pieces of this. If you look at House Speaker John Boehner and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, the two of them aren't standing in the way of it. And that's really important. In fact...
REHMWere either of them at the dinner?
CUMMINGSThey were not. Both of them have said -- Boehner has said he's done negotiating. McConnell said his last deal was his -- was going to be the end of it for him. However, both of them have encouraged the president to reach out to them -- their members and to build support and bring it up. And so I think what happens -- what it means is if there is a deal, Boehner and McConnell won't block it. And so that's another really good piece.
RAJUI think what we're going to see is this happening more towards -- almost a regular order of Congress. I mean, what we've seen over the last several years is the negotiations and failed negotiations happened between the speaker and the president and those really not going anywhere and Mitch McConnell and Joe Biden striking a deal at the 11th hour of the fiscal cliff.
RAJUInstead, what we're going to see is an effort to try to build some consensus through the committee process when the budget actually starts moving in earnest. That process will begin next week with -- when both Paul Ryan and Patty Murray unveil their budgets in the House and the Senate, and it's going to really pick up until we head up into the debt ceiling fight by mid summer. So we'll se that happen that far.
REHMAll right. So why is all this happening now, Michael?
SCHERERWell, the simple answer is that the leaders have decided they can't a deal by themselves. You know, House Speaker John Boehner has revealed himself repeatedly over the last couple of years as incredibly a weak leader who can't bring his caucus along even on things he embraces. And he's not embracing the president. So it's even harder if he tries to embrace the president. Mitch McConnell's, you know, facing what could be a difficult re-election campaign coming up, doesn't also want to be seen as the guy throwing his party or their ideals over the edge of the ship.
SCHERERI think -- so both of them are looking to -- I mean, the path for compromise leads through the Senate, and it goes to the House and it includes a lot of Democratic votes in the House. So both the leadership in Congress, the Republican leadership has basically signaled, as we say here, that the White House has to bring the members along and then the leaders will follow.
CUMMINGSAnd the politics have changed in such important ways. McConnell's problem in his re-election is a primary challenge. And so that's what he's got to worry about is that the Tea Party would put up a challenger to him. So that's a big reason. He can't come to the table right now. But clearly, he is one to go along with big bargains. We've seen that. And all reports are that Boehner really wanted to make a big deal but couldn't.
CUMMINGSSo -- but he can't do it now either 'cause his speakership might be at risk. So they have done the best thing they can, and that's to step aside and let others try to make this happen. And then for the president, he has a very different argument to make about why it's a good thing -- good reason to do it now. It's smart economically. It's good for the country. It could reduce the deficit. And he doesn't get a political win out it. He gets a legacy, and they get a legacy with him.
REHMIt's interesting that yesterday at that luncheon, not only was Paul Ryan but Chris Van Hollen was there.
RAJUYeah. That's right. He's the Democrat from Maryland, the top Democrat on the budget committee. Anything that's going to get done here is going to require Democratic support.
RAJUSo the president knows that he needs to keep Democrats surprised. That's why you're not seeing too much concern from Democrats, the leadership right now for these meetings that are going on with the Republicans. They know whatever gets done is probably going to have mostly Democratic support with some Republicans. And as Michael said, first, out of the Senate and then if the House would -- and Speaker Boehner will have to decide whether or not to allow a bill to go forward that would be carried with mostly Democratic votes.
REHMOK. Let's talk about the confirmation of John Brennan and what happened before his confirmation. Michael.
SCHERERAnother reason that is was the best week ever in Washington, D.C. A couple of days ago, while we were supposed to be having a snowstorm here that never materialized, Rand Paul, a Kentucky...
REHMI was here.
SCHERER...senator, took the floor of the Senate in an old-fashion filibuster. Normally, when we talk about filibusters, it just means kind of quietly, silently blocking things from happening. But the old-fashion filibuster is you actually go down to the floor of the Senate and you start talking and you don't stop. And you don't sit down and you never yield the floor. And he kept it going. I think it was 13 hours before he left the floor. He had some help from other members.
SCHERERAnd his point was a really populist, kind of a bipartisan, pan-ideological issue. And it's that the White House has been very cagey and very secretive about its drone policy. And most specifically, he was focused on what the White House and the Justice Department believes are the president's rights to attack an American on American soil with a drone. It was a very specific issue.
SCHERERAnd he implied over and over again that there is a possibility here that someone could be sitting at a cafe in Texas having a cup of coffee and all of a sudden be blown up by a missile that came from the sky that the president authorized. As a populist issue, I think you poll that issue. Do Americans support being able to be blown up without warning by a drone? All Americans are in Rand Paul's side here. The problem is that the president has not, in any way...
REHMAll right. Here is, in front of me, the attorney general's letter addressed to the honorable Rand Paul. It says, "Dear Sen. Paul, it has come to my attention that you have now asked an additional question: 'Does the president have the authority to use a weaponized drone to kill an American not engaged in combat on American soil?' The answer to that question is no. Sincerely, Eric Holder."
SCHERERYes. Eric Holder, you know, was happy to say no to that the next day. But the more interesting development coming out of this was that, the next day, Sen. McCain and Lindsey Graham came to the floor and went after Rand Paul very fiercely for attacking the U.S. drone program, and all of a sudden you have this big division exposed within the Republican Party about the way they approach defense policy.
SCHERERAnd the issue here for McCain and Graham is that, you know, they believe we have to be -- continue to have a very forward-pushing military operation against terrorists overseas, and they think drones are a key part of that, and they don't want this discussion, this sort of domestic fear of drone attacks, to somehow limit what can be done over there.
RAJUAnd then all of this is done in the context of a new CIA director's nomination. That gets passed shortly after all these fireworks die down in a very strange vote in which you have Democrats voting against him and Republicans voting against him. But, you know, he got past with, I think, 63 senators.
REHMYeah. Big margin.
RAJUThat's right, and I think it also -- you know, I don't think this debate's going away, this drone debate. You know, the White House could have probably saved itself some headache, but -- if Eric Holder had released that letter earlier this week. But, you know, on that vote, Patrick Leahy, the Senate Judiciary Committee chairman, voted against John Brennan because he feels that his committee has not been looped in on the administration's legal rationale for the drones program.
RAJUYou also have the Senate Intelligence Committee chairman, Dianne Feinstein, saying that she wants more oversight into this program, potentially more legislation. There is a big push, both on the -- both on -- among liberals and conservatives, people like Ron Wyden. I talked to him yesterday about this. He said that there is a coalition that's building among liberals and conservatives to get more answers out of the administration on this.
RAJUAnd it speaks to also this festering tension between the CIA and Congress over its secrecy post-9/11. They really feel they have not been looped in to the extent of the agency's programs.
CUMMINGSWell, I believe Manu is definitely right. This is the start of a debate, certainly not the end of a debate. And the wings that are coming together, the libertarian wing of the Republican Party, which the Paul family for a long time has been basically the face of, and it's the whole Big Brother fear that, you know, the drones will go up, and then the next thing you know, they're watching every move that we make. And so it -- but there -- as much as it answered -- Holder answered that question, there are a lot of questions that we still don't have answers to.
REHMAnd you're listening to "The Diane Rehm Show." We've got other nominations out there -- for example, Sylvia Burwell for budget director. What kind of signal does that send, Michael?
SCHERERI think it continues to send the signal that President Obama depends heavily on the staff of President Clinton. She's yet another nominee who was there in the middle of debates during the 1990s, worked in -- on budget and policy for Clinton, was a -- worked for Robert Rubin, the former treasury secretary of President Clinton, and has worked with a number of other people, you know, like Jack Lew, who was back there during the Clinton days, who are still around President Obama.
SCHERERI don't -- she's not a particularly controversial nominee. She has most recently been working at the Walmart Foundation. She worked with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. But she's someone who has a lot of experience with the kind of budget fight we're going through because she was there in the 1990s when this was happening, and I expect she would be confirmed.
REHMWhat about Interior Secretary Sally Jewell?
RAJUYou know, I don't think that she will be much of controversy on Capitol Hill. I think that the issues over access to public lands always come up in this context. Republicans, of course, are pushing for more access. But that is not going to be the big fight on the energy side, on the environmental side. That will be the EPA, the new EPA administrator, Gina McCarthy, who is nominated earlier this week.
RAJUThat is what the Republicans are going to really battle over because -- over the issues of climate change in which the president has tried to make a big push for. But we know that he's not going to be able to do things legislatively. This is going to have to go through the regulatory process, and that's what's prompting a lot of concern from Republicans.
REHMAll right. We're going to open the phones now, 800-433-8850. Let's go to Columbia City, Ind. Good morning, Linda.
LINDAGood morning, Diane. I was interested in the conversation about President Obama having dinner with Republican senators, and I'm reminded of a -- an episode of "The West Wing" where Martin Sheen, as the president, is trying to get something through to this Congress, whatever. And he, pretty much by himself, goes up the steps of the congressional offices and sits outside the hallway, waiting to talk to the leader of Congress. He comes unannounced.
LINDAAnd they're not understanding what to do about it, how -- politically, whatever, and they're talking and talking, trying to figure out what to do with the president who's sitting out in the hallway. Eventually, he waits -- they wait so long trying to figure it out that the president leaves. And it was quite an interesting episode. I would love to see President Obama walk up the steps of Congress, go and see who is to talk to and who would actually come out of their office to have a discussion with.
REHMHow likely is that, Manu?
RAJUWell, I don't think he'll be waiting. If he goes up to Capitol Hill...
RAJU...he'll be able to walk in right away. You know, the president's visits to the Capitol have been pretty limited in his first term, and I think that's the significance of next week and him going to both House Republican, Senate Republican and the Democratic caucuses in the House and the Senate, really try to begin that discussion that has really been lacking between the West Wing and Capitol Hill.
REHMAnd speaking of things happening, there is breaking news that Osama bin Laden's son-in-law has pleaded not guilty to conspiracy to kill Americans. We'll be talking about that more in our second hour. But, of course, there have been some pushback from Republicans on the fact that he was not going to be tried by a military council at Guantanamo. The president's response to that is that it's conspiracy, and there is no focus on conspiracy in international law. Short break and right back.
REHMAnd welcome back to the domestic hour of our Friday News Roundup this week with Manu Raju. He is a reporter at Politico. Jeanne Cummings is with Bloomberg News. Michael Scherer is with TIME magazine. Let's go first to Palm Desert, Calif. Good morning, Tim.
TIMGood morning, Diane. Thank you. My question concerns the minimum wage. If we complain about the obscenely bloated salaries claimed by executives at the top of the corporate food chain, we might hear conservatives argue that it's not a zero-sum game after all. The guy at the top takes more, it doesn't mean that there's a limited supply of good stuff for the common folks. If we ask for a higher minimum wage, it's a different story. That's treated as a simple subtraction from business profits that they'll never get back. So I want to keep asking until somebody figures this out.
REHMI think it's a really good question. Manu.
RAJUI think that's how the debate will be framed for folks who want to raise the minimum wage saying, look, folks at the top, their salaries keep increasing. Why -- how about folks who are struggling to get by? It's certainly how it's going to be defined. Republicans would counter and say, look, one is the government setting a price, the other is a private sector. And that's the way the private sector should work. So that is how this debate is going to be defined going forward, and I think that's -- that the caller's argument is certainly one that'll be raised.
SCHERERAnd the answer has more to do with the way the U.S. economy, the global economy has evolved over the last decade. I just mentioned earlier that minimum wages for regular workers in America are basically flat-lined for a decade now. At the same time, you have this explosion in corporate profits. You have a record Dow. Corporate executives are being paid obscene amounts of money, I agree with that, and they're being paid that because there are -- corporations are making enormous amounts of money.
SCHERERAnd the reason is complicated. There are a lot of factors here. But they have to do with globalization. The regular worker has global competition now in a way that he or she didn't in the 1990s. It has to do with technology, which has pushed a lot of people out of jobs. And it has to do with the Federal Reserve, which is pumping money into the economy in a way that improves investment and that -- and makes people who have good credit able to refinance at very low rates and people who don't have good credit really stuck in a very difficult situation.
SCHERERSo the answer is not just that, you know, one side is wrong and the other side is not wrong, it's that the economy itself is -- has become distorted from its historical norms over the last decade.
REHMAll right. Houston, Texas. Good morning, Felix.
FELIXYeah. Diane, thank you so much. This is my first time calling, and I'm trying to say something about Obama and the cooperation with the Republicans. In the first time, Obama offered the Republican's cooperation. In the early contract of cooperation, that's always offered on acceptance. They did not accept the offer. Instead, they went ahead to say that they want to make him one-time president. So Obama can't completely cooperate with them. Otherwise, it will seem as if he's begging them.
REHMCooperation now as opposed to previously. Jeanne.
CUMMINGSWell, that -- that's where I think that the political dynamics are so much different, and Felix makes a good point in that it -- the problem in Washington with cutting a deal is that one side has to let the other side win, and then they take that victory and they use it to try to get re-elected or beat somebody else in the campaign. We're at a moment here where Obama's not going to ever run again for public office. So, you know, this is a legacy item.
CUMMINGSThis is something he would like to achieve, as I said, because it's good for the country, it will reduce the deficit, there are lots of good reasons around it. And it also would look really good in the historic books for him. But the Republicans have an opportunity to actually share that legacy. It becomes a legacy for both.
CUMMINGSAnd they have long had deficit reduction as their top priority, and they've got a Democratic president who's willing to deal on entitlements. They're not going to see this type of environment very often. This is their window to achieve one of their top legislative priorities as well. So instead of it being just -- the political dynamics being just about a campaign, just about a re-election year, these -- this is about legacies that both of them could share, and that's what I think is different.
REHMAll right. Let's look forward. Jeb Bush suggested this week he might run for president. How seriously...
CUMMINGSOh, wait. No, wait, wait, wait. He didn't do that. Everyone read his comments to say I might want...
REHMHe said, "I've decided not to think about it for a while. I have the discipline to do that. In the interim, I hope to have a voice that I can share views that might be appropriate."
CUMMINGSA crack in the door.
REHMYeah, a crack in the door.
CUMMINGSA crack in the door.
REHMExactly. What do you think of that, Manu?
RAJUI think that if he entered the race, he would be very formidable candidate in the Republican primary. You would see that a lot of folks in Washington -- the big donor community and the establishment types get behind him very quickly. But it also create problems for another Florida Republican, Marco Rubio, who is himself paving the way for a 2016 run. If Jeb Bush gets in, does Rubio run? And if he does, Rubio would have a harder time dealing with his Florida donor class because Bush may suck a lot of those folks up. So Bush is really the heavy here and folks will be watching him closely.
REHMTalk about the Quinnipiac poll, Jeanne.
CUMMINGSYes. They have one of the first presidential polls for 2016. God bless them.
REHMI cannot believe it.
CUMMINGSAnd what they show is that Hillary Clinton stands at the top of the heap. They tested three D's, three Democrats and three Republicans, and Hillary beats basically all of the big-name Republicans. She's ahead of Governor Christie of New Jersey, 45-37. She's at 50 percent when it comes to Rubio of Florida and Paul Ryan of Wisconsin. Now, Christie was the strongest among the Republicans. And while he fell to Hillary, he did beat Vice President Joe Biden, 43-40. A little closer, but Christie of New Jersey was at the top of the Republican shack.
REHMSo where's Jeb Bush in all of that?
CUMMINGSWell, he wasn't in that poll.
REHMHe wasn't in that poll.
SCHERERHe can take comfort in the fact that poll's three years out are generally not predictive...
CUMMINGSWe like them anyway, though.
SCHERER...of actual results. You know, the thing about Jeb Bush this week is if he is running for president -- he had a very difficult roll out. He came out with a book in which he said, at one point, that he wants the immigration debate to be solved by creating a new legal status for the undocumented immigrants in the U.S., which contradicted what he had said previously where he said, I want a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants in this U.S.
SCHERERAnd then he was challenged on that point and he ended up saying, I said for both, either one. I'm not entirely sure which. I just want to make sure that future immigrants don't come here. His message was really rather muddied. And he positioned himself -- it wasn't clear whether it was intentionally or unintentionally -- to the right of Rubio who was really his mentee, (sic) who's gone out on a limb now to say that Republicans should be supporting a path to citizenship. So as the very beginnings of a possible campaign, he -- Jeb Bush got a clear sense this week of how difficult running for president would be.
REHMIs mentee really a word?
SCHERERI'm not sure.
REHMI'm not sure either.
CUMMINGSBut he offered yet another explanation in a Washington Post column today where he was quoted in, where he said he was writing the book in the middle of Republican primary in which he would've been on the left of everybody who was in that race. He took a less conservative position. And since the election, the Republican politics around immigration reform have just been turned on their head. And so now he suddenly is to the right of where everyone else has just moved, but that's a problem lag time of a book, I suppose.
REHMOK. I want to ask you all about two longstanding ongoing issues. First: abortion. Arkansas passed the most restricted ban on abortion this week. It's a 12-week ban that would affect women a lot. Manu.
RAJUYeah. And I don't think that chances of it holding up in federal court are very high. You know, under Roe v. Wade, the timeframe generally is assumed to be about 24 weeks. So this 12-week period probably is not going to hold up in court. We saw earlier this week an Idaho law that had about 20-week restriction that was rejected in federal court itself. It really reveals how sort of a split among anti-abortion activists, some who are really trying to push federal courts to overturn Roe and others want a more incremental approach. And I think that's what we saw in Arkansas.
SCHERERAnd what's clear here is that this is another example of abortion opponents continuing to have success on the state level. The -- one that -- the story in -- TIME magazine did a cover story about this a few months ago of the abortion debate in America over the last decade is that anti-abortion -- legislators and states have had enormous success in laws like this.
SCHERERThis one won't probably stand up in court but, you know, restricting conditions where abortion clinics can be, you know, what information a mother has to have before an abortion that has -- have really put pressure in a lot of conservative red states on the access to abortion. And the anti-abortion advocates, pro-life advocates continue to come up with new ways like this one to keep pressure on.
SCHERERAnd so this one probably gets thrown out of the court, but I think it should be seen in a broader context of a rather successful effort on the state level to restrict access to abortion in other states.
CUMMINGSAnd I don't think there's a real division between the anti-abortion crowds on tactics. I think that they are all in agreement, let's use them all, everything that we could possibly do. And so you have incremental legislation and you have legislation that is designed to go to the Supreme Court. And right now there are so many conflicting laws and decisions out there that indeed, you know, they're going to drive more cases and hope that the Supreme Court ultimately does what they wish, and that's overturn Roe.
REHMAnd what's holding up gun legislation in the Senate, Manu?
RAJUWell, the politics mainly. I mean, there is an effort to try to get a universal background check deal among senators. But that bill, probably with the best chance of passing, has stalled over the issue of federal recordkeeping, whether or not retailers who sell guns should be required to keep those records. Republicans don't like that. Tom Coburn of Oklahoma has a been key person in negotiations with Chuck Schumer, the New York Democrat.
RAJUThose talks have essentially ended for now. Instead they're going to still try to find other Republicans who will go along with that effort. Now we're seeing other legislation move forward, including the judiciary committee this week, which endorsed a bill to expand sanctions on so-called gun trafficking in which so-called straw purchases are made when a purchaser buys a gun for someone who shouldn't have one.
RAJUThose sanctions would be expanded under the legislation. But even that has a tough time of passing. That only got one Republican vote in the committee. Its chances on the Senate floor probably are better, but on -- in the House, it's anyone's guess.
REHMAnd you're listening to "The Diane Rehm Show." Golly, right after Newtown.
CUMMINGSAnd none of these bills that are advancing would have had anything -- would have prevented Newtown, would have prevented Colorado, would have prevented the Sikh temple shooting in Wisconsin. None of them, none of them would have prevented those -- the mass shootings that the American public is demanding action on.
SCHERERI think the thing you have to understand about what the president did after Newtown and they said it at the time more quietly than what they said publicly was this was the beginning of a long fight.
SCHERERThey were doing a big public relations push after Newtown to try and recalibrate the politics of guns in America. They knew they are always going to have an incredibly difficult time in the House. They proposed things like an assault weapons ban. They knew it really had no chance of passing the Senate and still has no chance of passing the Senate.
SCHERERBut if they do get incremental things at this Congress and they -- and there are lot of outside groups who are spending a lot of money who intend to continue to spend a lot of money to push these issues, they think that over long term they can begin to work a way with this.
REHMAll right. My wonderful producer Lisa Dunn has said the Oxford English Dictionary dates the term mentee to 1965, says it is of U.S. origin. However, it is controversial because some think the word is not a synonym for protégé. A little English class this morning. Let's...
SCHERERI just barely snuck by there.
REHMOK. And let's go finally to Sanford, Fla. Good morning, Greg.
GREGGood morning, Diane. I'm a huge fan of the show.
GREGMy concern is -- getting back to the drone issue, it's not just the government and their ability to fly drones around but the private sector as well. We have Google flying over now, taking pictures of our homes. I'm wondering if it's going to be a matter of time before they're taking pictures of our homes and selling pictures of our homes, live view of the home.
REHMAnd there was a near collision with a commercial plane with a private drone the other day.
CUMMINGSAnd the Federal Aviation Administration has recently released an estimate that there'll be as many as 10,000 active commercial drones in the year -- in five years. And so if...
REHMSo what's the FAA going to do about this?
CUMMINGSWell, we're on -- we're in unchartered waters here. And in addition to the commercial ones, they -- among the unanswered questions left after the filibuster is...
REHMThe private ones.
CUMMINGS...well, what about the police departments? They're having their own debate. And so, you know, while the federal government and the CIA will have certain rules, what would be the rules for, you know, the local police department?
SCHERERI mean, what happens when...
CUMMINGSThere are lots of unanswered questions.
SCHERER...the paparazzi in Hollywood get a hold of their first drones? They can fly over to Beverly Hills and take pictures of celebrities in their houses.
REHMSo when you say we're in unchartered waters, do you think that something is going to be taken up soon and seriously?
RAJUI think that's what propelling the push in Congress to try to deal with this. I mean, there's really, hardly any -- there's no oversight from the legislative branch or even sort of -- any sort of parameters for how this program is taking place. There are certainly going to be an effort, but a lot of this is going to be done in secrecy because this program is classified for the most part, and the people that -- even members of Congress don't know a lot about it. So I'm not optimistic that they're going to be able to get a lot done, but there is at least going to be a debate to figure out how to do just that.
REHMAny last word?
CUMMINGSWell, I think that this will be one of the most interesting debates as we go forward because it's law enforcement, it's privacy. You have so many strange bedfellows with the ACLU congratulating Rand Paul, and it's just going to be a terrific debate.
REHMJeanne Cummings, she is deputy government editor for Bloomberg News. Manu Raju is senior congressional reporter at Politico. Michael Scherer is White House correspondent for TIME magazine. Thank you all. Have a great weekend.
REHMAnd thanks for listening. I'm Diane Rehm.
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