Earlier this month, the House of Representatives passed the 21st Century Cures Act in a rare bi-partisan effort. The bill is meant to speed the development of lifesaving treatments, but critics warn it may also allow ineffective or even harmful drugs onto the market.
President Barack Obama urges lawmakers to pass gun control legislation as Republicans threaten a Senate filibuster. In Connecticut, unsealed search warrants for the Newtown shooter reveal a large stash of weapons and ammunition. The Supreme Court hears arguments in two cases involving same-sex marriage. Questioning by the Justices suggests the Court might strike down DOMA, the Defense of Marriage Act. The so-called “Gang of Eight” senators visits the U.S.-Mexico border. Housing prices reach the highest levels in six years but consumer confidence drops. And North Dakota passes the nation’s strictest abortion laws. A panel of journalists joins Diane for analysis of the week’s top national news stories.
- Ron Elving senior Washington editor for NPR.
- Chris Frates national correspondent for National Journal.
- Justin Webb host of the “Today” program on Radio 4 in the U.K. and former North American editor for the BBC. His new book is "Cheers, America: How an Englishman Learned to Love America".
Featured Video Clip
Ron Elving, senior Washington editor for NPR, and Diane Rehm react to news that NPR will discontinue the 21-year-old call-in show, “Talk of the Nation.” Elving called the decision to no longer produce the national radio program “a little bit of an experiment” and a response to digital changes affecting most journalism organizations. “It is a move to the next phase and era of NPR’s programming. But I must say, personally, it also gives me great sadness because of the many, many, many hours of great enjoyment I’ve had with ‘Talk of the Nation,'” Elving said.
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MS. DIANE REHMThanks for joining us. I'm Diane Rehm. The Supreme Court concludes arguments on same-sex marriage. One hundred days after the Newtown massacre, President Obama makes a plea for gun control legislation. And David Petraeus gives his first public speech since resigning from the CIA over an extra-marital affair.
MS. DIANE REHMJoining me for the domestic hour of the Friday News Roundup: Ron Elving of NPR, Chris Frates of National Journal, and Justin Webb of Radio 4 in the U.K. We invite you to be part of the conversation. Give us a call, 800-433-8850. Send us your email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow us on Facebook or send us a tweet. Good morning, everybody.
MR. RON ELVINGGood morning, Diane.
MR. CHRIS FRATESGood morning.
MR. JUSTIN WEBBGood morning.
REHMGood to see you all. Ron Elving, on gun control, seems President Obama is challenging members of Congress and the public.
ELVINGYes, at an emotional news event yesterday at the White House, standing in front of 21 women whose lives have been devastated by gun violence.
REHMLet's hear what he had to say.
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMAShame on us if we've forgotten. I haven't forgotten those kids. Shame on us if we've forgotten.
ELVINGAnd indeed the fear on the part of many advocates of greater gun control is that this many days after Newtown, the impact has dissipated somewhat. And we do see in the polls numbers coming down from near 60 percent wanting new tougher gun laws to something closer to 50 percent, or a little under 50 percent again, in other words, drifting back toward the mean, back towards were we had been before Newtown, particularly when you get into serious gun control issues like an assault weapons ban.
ELVINGWeapons that take extraordinary magazines, such as were used at Newtown as we now know, in five minutes, they could do that great degree of damage because of these magazines. All of those provisions no longer in the legislation being considered by the Senate. Now there will be amendments to put them back in. And there will be an effort made, and the president will push those amendments. But right now, they're not in the bill, and certainly we don't expect them to be in the House.
REHMAnd, Chris, as a matter of fact, filibuster threat growing in the Senate.
FRATESWell, that's right. You have at least five Republicans now -- Mike Lay of Utah, Rand Paul of Kentucky, Ted Cruz of Texas, Marco Rubio of Florida and James Inhofe of Oklahoma -- all saying that any additional gun restrictions would be something that they would filibuster. So what we're looking at then is even background checks, universal background checks, Republicans have been reticent to accept those largely because Democrats are asking for some kind of receipt, some kind of record that the background check was made.
FRATESRepublicans don't like the idea of having the government, you know, kind of keep a record even if it's a private record that you need to keep as a gun owner and you don't submit it to the government. There's a feeling that that's too intrusive. So we're back very much to a place where we had assault weapons ban on the table. We have background checks on the table. Those things just seem to be moving quickly off the table.
FRATESAnd the only thing that we're seeing a lot of rallying around is school safety, idea that you remember when Wayne LaPierre floated it, everyone laughed at it and said, what, we're going to put more armed guards in schools? And now that funding for more school safety officers seems to be the only thing left on the table, which really raises the question, did Democrats -- did they -- was their strategy wrong? Should they have struck quicker after Newtown because now we're seeing things drift off?
REHMAnd, Justin Webb, as host of the "Today" program on Radio 4 in the U.K. and the author of the brand new book, "Cheers, America: How an Englishman Learned to Love America," you know, the situation between the U.S. and the U.K. on guns, so totally different.
WEBBWe find it very strange, and I speak -- I mean, I wrote the book from the perspective of someone who lived in America very happily, did not feel in danger, was not frightened by your gun culture. Actually, I saw some aspects of it that were explainable and decent. And I used to say to audiences back in Britain, you know, when an American looks at a gun and you look at the gun as a Brit, you're actually looking at a different thing because, at least in an idealized world, when an American looks at a gun, he or she is looking at a thing of protection, a thing that is enabled in the past. This nation...
WEBBUsed to. And that is a really fundamental difference. But the problem, it seems to me, as an outsider, I respectfully say to all of you -- and I know a lot of you don't need any convincing about this -- is that you have in your minds and those senators -- Cruz and the rest of them who are saying, absolutely, we're not going to go anywhere on this -- you have in your mind this link between guns and freedom that just does not seem to correlate with reality around the world.
WEBBThe freest nations in the world, some of them have a lot of guns -- Switzerland does, this country does -- some of them don't. The most unfree countries in the world, I don't know, Yemen, has a lot of gun ownership. On some unfree countries, there's no gun ownership. The correlation that is in the minds of those people and a lot of Americans, particularly in rural areas, between freedom and guns just doesn't seem to me as an outsider to be borne out.
ELVINGI think you could say that psychologically, there's clearly a link between security and gun ownership in the sense that people who feel insecure feel they need to have guns. Some of the countries that you mentioned are clearly places that are highly insecure, and so it becomes a vicious circle. More guns make for more insecurity and so on.
ELVINGIn this country -- and I think we're coming down to this, particularly with respect to some of these filibuster threats -- many people are coming to admit that what this is really about is certainly no longer hunting and certainly no longer even the normal sort of sense of home protection that people have always talked about but rather a sense of protection against what they perceive as some sort of impingement on their lives and liberty by the government, by some Big Brother that's going to come to their house that's going to harm them in some way.
ELVINGAnd it gets caught up in a lot of other fears of the federal government.
REHMSo yesterday, their search warrants for the house in Newtown where young Adam Lanza lived, those searches revealed what, Chris?
FRATESAn enormous cache of guns and weapons. He had other assault rifles there, knives. There was a -- just a collection there of guns that many gun control advocates, particularly the parents of the Newtown children, have said, why is this necessary? Why is that kind of enormous cache of arms necessary? And as Ron touched on, the idea that it's a protection against the government, you know, gun control advocates will raise the question, you know, our government now has nuclear arms.
FRATESIt has apache attack helicopters. It has tanks. The idea that an armed militia of citizens if the government were to turn against its own people would be able, no matter how well-armed, to stop that is just a...
WEBBI've got to tell you this though. Here's where it goes, though, in the psychology of people. Shortly after Obama was first elected when I was the BBC's man in Washington, I was down in South Carolina doing a piece, which we do a lot for the BBC, how easy it is to buy guns. And, you know, it's a classic piece. You go in a gun shop, you speak with an accent like mine, and the answer is yes, of course, you can buy a gun. It's so very hilarious. And we kind of loosed it off in the back and did all the things that you can do.
WEBBAnd then at the end of our purchasing of the gun, he came up to me, and he said, you know, there's one problem, sir. And I said, what's that? And he said, we can't sell you any ammunition. And I said, why not? And he said, because we've run out. They had run out of ammunition in this rural -- I can't remember where it was, but somewhere in the middle of nowhere in South Carolina just after Obama had been elected.
WEBBAnd that seemed to me to speak to the psychology that both Ron and Chris had mentioned.
REHMNow, there's another issue about what they found in Adam Lanza's house: NRA certificates. Now, the NRA claims that Adam Lanza and his mother did not belong to the NRA. What do those certificates mean, Ron Elving?
ELVINGI suspect they mean that the Lanzas at least aspired to being associated with the NRA and at least aspired membership. The NRA says they have no record. Now, the certificates would tend to suggest something else. But the NRA says they have searched their records, and as a private organization, they can tell you what's in the records and what isn't. They say they don't have any record of the Lanzas.
REHMAll right. And in five minutes, that young man killed 26 people. Could he have done that without an assault weapon?
FRATESWell, that is certainly the argument, that he could not, and even if you shrunk the size of the magazines from 30 bullets to 10 instead of 30, he would have had to reload and given someone a chance to try to disarm him without being shot. So that idea that we -- while that was popular after Newtown, this idea that, OK, if we can't ban the guns because there were problems with the assault ban that was in place in the '90s because, you know, they identified each gun by name.
FRATESSo then the gun manufacturers just changed the name of the gun. It's made a different color and got around it. And so there were kind of technical issues with that. But people were saying, at least we could shrink the magazines, right, because it would give somebody a chance to disarm a crazed madman. But now we're seeing that even a vote on that will likely go down. And, you know, a lot of people put blame on Republicans for that, but it's moderate Democrats as well.
FRATESIt's red state Democrats who were up for election. If Harry Reid wanted to push this through, he could have put the assault rifle ban and the magazine limiting legislation into his package and they would have allowed, you know, a vote on that and red state Democrats would have had it come along 'cause the leader said I want to pass this.
WEBBIs it also a rural-urban split?
WEBBDo those quit warring for the future of the country? I don't know. It seems to me that it's -- that split now -- I mean, you look at Mark Kirk, the senator from Illinois who, I think, is one of the only Republicans now...
FRATESHe is the only Republican.
WEBBOK, the only. On full disclosure, I used to know him. I went to college with him years ago in the London School of Economics. And he has, you know, not only a background as a soldier, but it's also a background of someone who's traveled a lot abroad. He's very much a city person. He strikes me as a kind of classic. So it's almost irrespective whether it's a left-right split within a political party. It's that rural-urban split that seems to me to matter more than it used to.
REHMAll right. And that's it on gun control. When we come back, we'll talk about same sex marriage, the arguments before the Supreme Court. We'll be taking your calls. Stay with us.
REHMOK. And welcome back. We're talking about NRA's certificates which, indeed, Adam Lanza had. Here in the studio: Chris Frates of National Journal, Ron Elving of NPR. Justin Webb, he's host of the "Today" program in Radio 4 in the U.K., back for a brief visit. Let's talk about same-sex marriage. At the Supreme Court, what signals, Chris, did the justices send out at how they might rule on the Prop 8 case in California?
FRATESWell, on Prop 8, it was a very confusing day. There were many questions about, you know, standing should this case even have been brought. What is the broadness of the ruling? Should we rule that same-sex marriage is OK across the nation? Should we just, you know, throw out this particular state constitutional amendment and say that that's unconstitutional, but it's up to each state to do it? So there was a lot of talk about where the decision might come down based on the justices' questioning.
FRATESAnd the thing that I was reminded of while I was watching the coverage earlier this week was the health care reform arguments that we had last summer. You had The New York Times write that health care reform was in peril. You had Jeffrey Toobin of The New Yorker say that the individual mandate is doomed because of the questions that justices were asking. And it turns out, a few months later, we get a decision where it was completely upheld. So I always caution everyone I talk to to say, be careful about...
REHMDon't try to interpret.
FRATESDon't try to read the tea leaves too closely...
FRATES…'cause it's a dangerous proposition...
FRATES...once they go and deliberate.
ELVINGYes, that is an excellent caution that we should all bear in mind. It is, however, impossible to restrain...
ELVING...the Washington community...
ELVING...the Supreme Court-observing community and everyone who carries -- cares enormously about this issue from speculating when they hear what sounds like such a clear pattern. And there did seem to be an emerging center in the court on both cases which was let's get this off of our front porch. We don't really want to have the burden of making this decision. We don't want another Roe v. Wade. What we would like here would be to see other people decide a political system perhaps.
ELVINGJohn Roberts said, oh, politicians are falling all over each other. They tried to change the law in gay marriage. And he seemed to want to let them. And also, there was also a suggestion certainly from Anthony Kennedy, who is often thought of as a pivotal justice, that the states really have total jurisdiction over regulating marriage. And really, this should be, in some sense or another, up to the states. And there is a way that the court could construct its responses to these two cases. That really would put it back on the states.
REHMJustin Webb, what's the situation, re: gay marriage in the U.K.?
WEBBWell, very similar in a way in that we have a move to legalize it. It's being pushed through parliament by the conservative-led coalition interestingly and rather worryingly for some of their co-supporters who are upset by some of them because they don't approve and upset by some of them, possibly a large number, because they just don't think it's a proper thing to be spending parliamentary time dealing with when you got an economic crisis the West are very much in the middle of.
WEBBSo it's -- but it is probably going to pass through parliament, and we are going to have on the statute a law that says marriage can be between two men or two women.
REHMWhat about the other case, the Defense of Marriage Act? Is that law doomed? Time magazine has a cover with two men kissing saying, you know, it's over.
ELVINGIt would appear that that particular part of the anti-gay marriage legal construct is under the greatest pressure because you not only have the four generally thought as liberal or progressive or at least democratic-appointed justices saying, this is discrimination on its face for these people not to be treated the same under federal programs.
ELVINGAnd there are 1,100 federal programs that in one way or another depend on whether or not you're married in terms of the benefits, including some pretty big ones like the estate tax which was the case that brought it before the Supreme Court. So it's on its face, discrimination, according to those four justices. Plus you add Anthony Kennedy standing there saying -- or sitting there, rather, saying, this is clearly not something that the federal government should've done.
ELVINGThis is something the federal government back in 1996 should have left to the states. And let me just add -- and this is an extraordinary number to me -- just was noticing again this week that when the Defense of Marriage Act, DOMA, passed in 1996, it was supported by 85 percent of the members of Congress, 85 senators and 85 percent of the members of the House of Representatives in 1996. Now, I realize that wasn't yesterday. I realize it wasn't last week or last year.
REHMBut people do somersaults all the time.
WEBBNo. But what's happened to the public? That's what fascinates me in both of our countries.
WEBBSomething has happened. And it hasn't been pushed by a great campaign of gay people. It's more just...
REHMIt's just reality.
WEBBWell, it's that social change. I mean, I think looking -- and all this reminds me of the Terri Schiavo case. You remember that terrible case back in Bush's first term of that sad case of a woman down in Florida. And she was brain dead, and her parents wanted her kept alive. And her husband said she should be allowed to die. And it came all the way up to Congress and to President Bush and the rest of it.
WEBBWhen it came to it, actually most Americans -- I think I'm right in remembering -- said, you know what? She should be allowed to die. Although this is a socially conservative country, when these issues touch individual families as increasingly gay marriage does -- 'cause people are open now to come out and be gay -- then actually this is also a kindly gentle country which does believe in freedom. And (unintelligible) go ahead and do it.
REHMOK. So we are left then with the question, does the Supreme Court really matter in this situation considering the fact that the public has moved so incredibly far?
FRATESAnd I think that is what the justices are grappling with is how much do we matter.
FRATESAnd the political clout and how quickly they have moved may end up, the gay rights movement that is, may end up hurting their argument in the court because the courts will look at it and say, you've made such progress that we don't know that we need you to step in. It seems like they may strike down DOMA because when you -- remember the history of DOMA, too. Bill Clinton signed that in the middle of the night. It was midnight.
FRATESHe signed that the Republicans had set it over during a campaign season a few months before the election to try to put them in a corner on a social issue, and nobody thought it was a big deal. It got buried inside the papers. And the reason was there was no same-sex marriage that was legalized anywhere in the country. So it was a kind of non-issue. It was a symbolic vote largely there. And I think, you know, now that we have gone so far, it really does raise the question of, where should we end up?
ELVINGHistory has put this on the lapse of these nine justices. And these justices' decision or their refusal to decide, their non-decision, will have a tremendous effect. If they choose not to overturn DOMA and surprise everybody, well, then we have DOMA. And DOMA goes forward. And all of the people who are affected by all of those federal programs remain behind the eightball. I think they're going to overturn it, but we don't know that yet.
ELVINGSo clearly, they matter, and they matter enormously, and I think they do on Proposition 8 too because if they say, all right, we're going to leave this just for California, what you're essentially saying is the other states, the great majority of states that have not yet legalized same-sex marriage, those are places where we're just really not going to interfere.
FRATESAnd not just have not legalized, majority of states have outlawed same-sex marriage. So...
ELVINGIt's in their state constitutions.
FRATESSo that really does -- DOMA really does impact those state laws as well if there is a precedent that said that that was discriminatory.
REHMAll right. Let's talk about the economy, some mixed news out there. Latest numbers housing soaring up, but people's ideas about where the economy is going somehow weakened.
ELVINGInteresting today, we got a couple of more statistics on top of the housing number, on top of the GDP number and on top of the consumer confidence number. And one of those was income, which was up four-tenths of percentage point. And also, consumer spending was up for the past month. So consumers were telling surveys that their confidence was down during March, but they were spending more money. Also, their income was up a little bit.
REHMI don't get it.
ELVINGWell, they had a little more money to spend because of the income number. They had a little bit more of wealth effect or perhaps delusion because their housing prices were going up. And yet, their confidence level, which is a totally psychological thing, was down. And I will advance the theory, it certainly not original, that it was all the talk they were seeing in the media about the sequester and about the situation in the federal government about all the terrible things that were going to happen.
REHMAnd job creation, the lack thereof.
FRATESThe lack of job creation and the feeling that unemployment is still high, that there hasn't been a movement where, oh, things are getting better, people have jobs, what they're hearing, as Ron pointed out, is gloom and doom. They had the president running around for the first couple of months of the year telling everyone the sequester cuts are going to really shake up the economy. It's going to be terrible for you. So while we saw that the stock market didn't really listen to the political class, I think a lot of voters did.
WEBBWhat has happened to the stock market? It's amazing watching it from London, thinking, huh?
ELVINGWhere else are you going to put your money?
REHMIt's sort of not paying attention.
ELVINGYou're going to put your money in Cyprus?
FRATESYou're going to put your money in American bonds?
WEBBAnd I'm actually bringing up Cyprus. It's quite an important...
REHMDon't do that now. We're going to talk about that in the next hour.
WEBBNot what specifically is happening in Cyprus, but the future of the euro and the future of Europe...
WEBB...as a trading partner for this nation.
ELVINGLong term, very bad news, but in the short term, it does cause investors, whose money is international, to think, well, you know, the United States is doing pretty well.
ELVINGI'll put my money in American...
FRATESLet's go back to Wall Street.
WEBBYeah, yeah. And we'd all kill for 0.4 percent growth or whatever...
REHMAll right. So I want to talk to you, Justin Webb, about immigration and this Gang of Eight that gathered on the border to talk about immigration reform. Talk about what happened there.
WEBBWell, look, it's like something out of a film, really, isn't it, or a TV series or so, but it put me in mind of those great sort of series about the way that government works and the things that can be done behind the scenes, 'cause you got to wonder whether -- I mean, I'm not suggesting this for real, but you have got to wonder whether the woman was an actress being paid because...
WEBB...there they all are, looking at the border, and suddenly a woman clambers over it quite successfully. It looked to me like quite a big deal to get over that fence.
REHMWell, and John McCain tweets that she made it over.
FRATESAnd John McCain tweets.
WEBBShe managed to get over the fence. So much for that strong border fence. But then she was apprehended pretty quickly, and it didn't look like a piece of theater...
WEBB...but also with a very important point there, that, number one, there are still -- although the great kind of days of people coming over in massive numbers are over, there are still people who are desperate enough to do it, as several of the senators accepted.
REHMAnd the president of the United States is talking about -- he's giving interviews to Telemundo. He's downplaying the clash between the Chamber of Commerce, the AFL-CIA -- CIO over the principle of temporary visas.
WEBBBut he is also saying that a deal has got to be done. That's what interests me...
REHMHe's saying it's got to be done.
WEBB...and done pretty quickly.
WEBBAnd if that happens, I mean, I don't know. Is it a real possibility?
ELVINGWell, the Gang of Eight says they're going to have a bill in the week after next when Congress comes back and that April is going to be immigration month. Maybe it will. Maybe it'll be May. But this does appear to be the one piece of legislation, the one piece of major legislation that is going to move forward in this Congress and where the president and the Republicans are going to be able to strike some kind of deal. The Republicans are obviously eager to have some kind of immigration change that they can trumpet to Hispanic voters.
REHMRon Elving of NPR, and you're listening to "The Diane Rehm Show." Chris Frates, North Dakota's governor signed the nation's toughest laws on abortion this week, saying the law would forbid abortion once a fetal heartbeat is detectable, which could be as early as six weeks into pregnancy. The governor himself admitted the law would likely not withstand court challenges, but...
FRATESBut it's moving forward and pushing the bounds of Roe v. Wade. It's clearly a test case. North Dakota, because it's so oil-rich, has the money to defend this in a way that many other states would not. So they feel like they can be at the vanguard of this fight. And it would mean, most likely, if this law goes into effect, that the only abortion clinic in all of North Dakota would close, which would leave 800 miles without an abortion clinic, and that's a huge radius.
FRATESSo this has a very big impact and, you know, is testing the limits. And it reminded me a little bit of no matter the -- what we were talking about just a minute ago with the same-sex marriage debate. No matter what the Supreme Court decides, the states will always push back, and they will always challenge and see how far they can go.
FRATESAnd I thought this was a really great example of the fact that, no matter what is decided, there will always be testing against the bounds of that. And the same group that defeated a similar piece of legislation in Idaho is going to take this to court. They think they can win, but what happens to these women in the meantime is really the question.
WEBBI always felt when I was here, actually, you know -- I mean, this is going to be -- people will shut me down, but is it worth defending Roe v. Wade? I mean, why not just let it go and say, look, it is actually up to the states? The reality is, in most of the United States, there would still be legally available safe abortions. People would have to travel. But it looks as if, as Chris was saying, they're going to have to travel anyway, and they already do have to travel, and it's already difficult to get to these...
REHMWell, but not only travel, Justin. Some states require a two-day residency...
REHM...costing an individual likely a fair amount of money, travel back and forth.
WEBBYou'd have to deal with all that in law, but I just wonder...
WEBB...this endless fight about Roe v. Wade. I mean, I was at school when it passed, and you're still having these sort of challenges to it. I mean, is it worth it?
REHMWell, it's interesting to hear Justice Ginsburg on this, Ron Elving.
ELVINGYou know, this -- when you say Roe v. Wade, you're talking about much more than one case before the court.
ELVINGYou're talking about the entire principle of women's health and the determination of women's health between a woman and her doctor and the role of the government. And it's too easy, really, to say, look at all these mechanical problems that it creates and all the legal problems.
ELVINGWhen you go all the way back -- and it's remarkable to say, but it's 40 years -- if you go back to those 40 years, to the world that we had then and the inequities between states, it's not dissimilar in many ways to the inequities between states regarding gay marriage today. And this applied to every woman in America.
REHMBut, you know, it's fascinating that those who support gun rights say, keep the government out of my house and out of my gun closet. But they don't say, keep the government out of a woman's right to make her own personal decision. There is some, however far-fetched you might imagine it, some analogy there.
ELVINGThat's why some Americans are attracted to the idea of libertarianism. However they may understand it and however it may be modeled by some politicians, the basic idea of it is the government would not have a right to tell you what to do in terms of abortion. It would not have a right to ban marijuana, and it would not have a right to take away your guns. That's pure libertarianism.
REHMRon Elving, senior editor for NPR. Chris Frates of the National Journal. Justin Webb, his brand-new book is titled "Cheers, America: How an Englishman Learned to Love America." We'll take a short break. When we come back, we'll open the phones, take your calls and talk about the first woman to head the Secret Service.
REHMAnd we're back. Time to go to the phones. Let's go first to Boss, Mo. Good morning, Kim.
KIMGood morning, Diane. Thank you. I'd like to comment on two issues.
KIMThe first one is I'm a life-long Democrat. I'm an authentic left-wing liberal, and I've lived in major cities and in rural areas. But I also believe in the Second Amendment, and I'm against the gun control. And I think that Mr. Webb -- is that right, Justin?
KIMI do think he's right...
WEBBCall me Justin.
KIM...that he's absolutely right that we're not so much afraid of each other as we're afraid of the infringement on our privacy. And there's the Fourth Amendment off of being battered with the NDAA, with GPS, cyberspace and, God forbid, drones, surveillance drones. I mean, the last -- in George Orwell's "Last Words," you can look that up on YouTube, he said, the only thing that's going to make a change is if we're aware and put a stop to it.
FRATESWell, I think it's interesting that you should bring up drones. We were just talking about that during the break, and National Journal had a cover story just last week on drones and the idea being what happens when other countries start to pick up the kind of drone technology that we use in theirs and that private companies begin to use drones.
FRATESAnd they're over, you know, your backyard or, you know, delivering burritos to your front porch. I mean, there's all kinds of drone technology out there. And the idea of who -- what Americans are on the kill list for drones in terrorist -- in other countries. The answer right now is zero is what we found out, and that was a bit of news because there was a question, are there any Americans on that drone list...
REHMWhich is why there was a filibuster.
FRATES...which is why Rand Paul was able to bring that issue to the fore. And I think it concerns people, as the caller had just said, about the infringement by government on to your liberties.
WEBBBut your gun doesn't protect you from the drone, does it? Or how...
FRATESWe could shoot it down.
ELVINGIt depends on whether or not you have anti-aircraft.
FRATESAll right. Let's go to Madisonville, Ky. Sheila, you're on the air. Sheila.
SHEILACan you hear me?
REHMYeah, sure can. Go right ahead, please.
SHEILAOK. I had -- 10 years ago, I started saying this as a joke. It's about marriage, that they ought to just get rid of the word marriage -- just erase it from all the law books.
REHMNot going to happen, I don't think. What do you think, Ron?
ELVINGThere has been talk about civil unions replacing marriage in a legal sense. And for those people who object to the term marriage as because that they regard it as a religious term, being applied to same-sex couples, this would seem to be a kind of halfway house.
ELVINGBut as long as we have marriage in our culture, look to as it is as the ultimate symbol of commitment between two people, it's going to be extremely difficult to get that out of law as a concept, even if you call it something else. And if you treat same-sex couples differently under any terminology, we're going to have the same discrimination problem.
REHMAll right. Let me just clarify the issue on the NRA certificates. Here's an email from Theo who lives in Connecticut, "In order to get a pistol permit, I had to take a course and afterwards a test. The certificate that you pass is given by someone who teaches the class and may be a member of the NRA or an approved NRA class. I had this certificate that has an NRA stamp on it, but I am not a member of the NRA." Thank you for that clarification. Let's go to Pelham, N.C. Good morning, Ken.
KENGood morning, Ms. Rehm. Thank you for taking my call.
KENLet me first state that I am a baby-boomer, heterosexual male and a Christian, and I would like your comments about the marriage law and civil law because there is no marriage law anymore. You cannot go to a synagogue or church or temple and be married by a priest or rabbi or whatever. You have to first go to town hall and purchase a civil license.
KENTherefore, each state is making you have a civil license, and the federal government does have control over it because each state recognizes each other's civil license. And you can be divorced in either state even if you aren't married there. So it's like an interstate issue, so federal law should take hold because we don't have a religious marriage anymore.
REHMAll right. Chris.
FRATESWell, the caller makes a point that I was going to make, which is that once government enter the marriage business by licensing it, sanctioning it and conveying benefits based on that status, it erased the idea of a religious marriage. Certainly, no one's arguing that any church should have to marry anybody it does not want to.
FRATESBut as the caller points out, there are thousands of rights that are conveyed once you are married, and that is a stamp by the state. No matter what state you get married in, you have to go to town hall and get that marriage certificate. And if you do not and you just get married by a preacher, you're not actually married in the eyes of the law.
WEBBThere was a great cartoon in The New Yorker many, many years ago, two elderly, middle-aged couple, a man and a woman looking at a newspaper. It's got some sort of gay marriage headline on it. And man's turning to the woman and saying, gay marriage? Haven't they suffered enough? And, you know, it kind of puts in mind of this whole sort of -- that the complications, once you go down this road, as the British government has discovered, are quite tricky to work out.
WEBBAnd I agree with the caller that the whole business of the -- that the state has already got involved. And in Britain, we have this issue of civil partnerships for gay people which then some heterosexual people -- so well, hang on, can't we have those 'cause we actually like the idea not being married? We'd also like to have a civil partnership.
WEBBThe government's had to say no, you can't do that. So it's very difficult. It's not as simple as you think it's going to be.
REHMHere's an email from Bill in North Carolina, raising a really good question: "Please explain Justice Kennedy's apparent reasoning that DOMA is unconstitutional only because it abrogates the state's rights to set the rules for marriage. Isn't he overlooking the fact that the Supreme Court itself ruled in a Virginia case years ago that states could not ban interracial marriage? Doesn't that precedent allow the court to go to the heart of the matter and rule against DOMA on equal protection grounds if they can get five votes?" Ron.
ELVINGI believe that the caller or the emailer is referring to the Loving case, which is a famous case of interracial marriage, which essentially established something that now seems so common and so part of normal life that people are astonished -- our children are astonished when we tell them that it was literally illegal in many states for people to marry if they were not of the same race. This, I think, is one of the great precedents that has been brought forward by the advocates of change and with respect to gay marriage.
ELVINGWhile there are other differences and while the racial difference has long since, you know, been laid to the past or put to the past, the prohibition or the prejudice against having people of the same sex marry is still with us and has been with us powerfully until quite recently as we talked about earlier during this program, the cultural change, the social change, the acceptance of this has really come in the last decade. Some people would say in the last five years.
ELVINGBut there was a tipping point. There was a sudden point with respect to race as well, and the Loving case perhaps was it. It was led up to by a number of other changes in the society from World War II onward. But that was the tipping point, and after that, everyone say, well, of course. And that is quite a model, is it not, for where we are today on gay marriage.
REHMAll right. I'm going to shift subjects here because a few people have called and asked whether we would comment on NPR's announcement today that NPR will bring to an end "Talk of the Nation," which has been on the air for many years and carried on NPR stations around the country. Ron Elving, you are with NPR. What kind of background can you bring?
ELVINGWell, first of all, it's a 21-year-old show on the air, and, you know, host Neal Conan and executive producer Susan Goodwin have done a magnificent job for generation putting this show on. And it has been a magnificent edition to the line up of NPR. There are a great number of changes undergoing -- being undergone by our industry and by radio and by our digital side.
ELVINGAnd it was felt that at this stage, what we needed in the afternoon as opposed to a traditional talk show of that kind was more of a news program that would essentially be more like the "Morning Edition" or the "All Things Considered" programs or even a closer model perhaps, the "Day to Day" program that NPR had on for a number of years up until 2008, which was retired then in 2008, that ran roughly around noon on many stations around the country.
ELVINGAnd this is a program that allows the network to put more news on. The host will be Robin Young, who's been hosting the program here now at WBUR in Boston. The program will be produced there at WBUR. And the other host is Jeremy Hobson, who many listeners know as host of "Marketplace" and previously worked at NPR.
ELVINGSo it's a little bit of an experiment. It's a little bit of an adoption of a very successful show from one of our member stations, which is something we want to do more of. And it is a move into the next phase and era of NPR's programming. But I must say personally, it also gives me great sadness because of the many, many, many hours of great enjoyment I've had with "Talk of the Nation."
REHMI should say I think you speak for people around the country, always sad to see a program go down. I can remember speaking with Bill Buzenberg about that very program before it went on the air. We had many long conversations. Let's go now to Miami, Fla. Good morning, Peter.
PETERGood morning, Diane.
ELVINGI'm a big fan of your show.
PETERYour guests mentioned earlier that the reason why the shooter was able to shoot so many people was due to the fact that he had a high-capacity magazine. I'm a former police officer, and the same thing could be accomplished, which is an automatic handgun. All he needed was a couple extra clips. It can be changed under two seconds. So I don't believe that argument about the high-capacity magazine. Of course, it's more convenient, but other than that, the same massacre could be accomplished.
FRATESThe key that I heard there from the caller was the idea that you did have to switch out clips. And that is the argument that it gives at least someone who is unarmed...
FRATES...a fighting chance to stop the shooter. And I think that is the argument there.
REHMAll right. And to Grapevine, Texas. Good morning, Jeff. You're on the air.
JEFFGood morning, Diane. I am one of what seems like eight liberal Democrats in Texas. And my wife and I are both highly educated. And after Katrina, we saw the breakdown in public order that leaked over from Louisiana into our state. That is one of the things that prompted us to purchase a couple of AR-15s.
JEFFWe also have five handguns, three of which are semi-automatic. My point is that somebody has said 1,400 rounds of ammunitions was a massive collection of ammo. And I would like to point out that if you wanted to buy ammunitions at a reasonable price, you do so in bulk, and you buy them in 500 or 1,000 rounds.
JEFFWhen you go to the shooting range to shoot your guns to make sure that they're operating properly and that you're sighted in and (unintelligible) you can easily go through 100 rounds per gun.
REHMAll right. Thanks for calling. Ron.
ELVINGThis is a country in which the gun culture and the people who live with guns and care a great deal about guns, and keep their guns in fit condition and ready to go have a very different view point on all of these issues as the caller indicates.
REHMAnd you're listening to "The Diane Rehm Show." President Obama named the first woman to head the Secret Service. Tell us about Julia Pierson and how significant it is that he chose a woman.
FRATESWell, I think it was quite significant any time there is a first. This president has had a few of them himself. And this was a step down -- another step in that direction. What was interesting to me about the appointment was that nobody really knew her, right, 'cause it's the Secret Service. So that's kind of...
REHMYou don't know who's in there.
FRATESYou don't know who is protecting. But when you did hear former Secret Service people come out into the media and talk about her, they talked about her, and they said, you know, for us, it's not so much that she is a woman. She was a great commander. You know, I served with her. You know, I talked to a Secret Service staffer who had said, you know, she will command great respect inside that agency, which is struggling with some problems.
FRATESThey had the prostitution scandal. They have a -- they are underrepresented in overall in the force by women Secret Service officers, so this may help that. So it was a move, I think, a smart move by the president also to put a woman in charge of a place that had seen some problems in a male-dominated culture.
WEBBAnd can I also just speak up for the Secret Service? As someone, you know, again, as an outsider, I traveled a lot with Presidents Bush and Obama and went in Air Force One. I went around the place with these folks and traveled through Europe and all over the place. And generally speaking, they were just the absolute model of polite forcefulness. I remember being arrested. I was in Slovakia, I think.
WEBBAnd I was arrested by someone. I was trying to get into the hotel where the White House bubble is, and I'd managed to get myself lost. And these kind of rather thuggish placements sort of hold me away, and the Secret Service -- I can remember just saying, hey -- he said very calmly, and he said to the two of them, American Secret Service.
WEBBI want him on the inside, please. And they just looked to him, and they looked to me. And they just pushed me in. And you have in that organization -- and I hope that this new boss can sort it out and sort out its troubles -- an institution that you really should be proud of and generally does a pretty good job.
REHMGenerally speaking, but let us not forget.
ELVINGYes. This is a 30-year veteran of the Secret Service, and she had been the deputy, so she is a completely logical person to move into this job. But on top of that, she is the first woman, and it comes on the heels of Cartagena horrors and all of the besmirchment, which was substantial of the reputation of the Secret Service, which as Justin was saying, has really had a highly professional reputation. So it is time for the lost boys to have Wendy arrive and for things to be sorted out on Treasure Island or lost island.
REHMDo you think she can do it?
ELVINGI believe that she is exactly the kind of person that they need. She is all business. She has great respect within the agency. She will command respect outside the agency and in the White House generally. So she is probably a perfect choice.
REHMRon Elving of NPR, Chris Frates of National Journal, Justin Webb, host of the "Today" program on Radio 4 in the U.K., author of a brand new book titled "Cheers, America: How an Englishman Learned to Love America." And to all of you, happy holidays. Happy Easter. Thanks for listening. I'm Diane Rehm.
ANNOUNCER"The Diane Rehm Show" is produced by Sandra Pinkard, Nancy Robertson, Denise Couture, Susan Nabors, Rebecca Kaufman and Lisa Dunn. 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.
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