What's on Congress' agenda in the final weeks before the August recess? Our panel takes a look at what needs to happen, and what can realistically get done.
President Barack Obama traveled to Austin, Texas, yesterday to spotlight manufacturing success stories there. He blamed Congress for hampering the economy by blocking his jobs proposals. Boston police officials told a House committee the FBI never informed them that Russia was concerned about the bombing suspect’s older brother. A former high-ranking State Department official gave emotional testimony to a House hearing on the Benghazi tragedy. Republican senators pushed for hundreds of border security amendments to the proposed immigration bill. And officials said they might seek the death penalty for the suspect in the kidnapping of three Cleveland women. A panel of journalists joins Diane for a discussion of the week’s top national stories.
- Michael Scherer White House correspondent for Time magazine.
- Rachel Smolkin deputy managing editor for Politico.
- David Welna congressional correspondent for NPR.
Featured Video Clip
Former South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford won a special election this week for a vacant House seat, defeating Democrat Elizabeth Colbert Busch and surprising many with a successful political comeback. David Welna of NPR said Sanford “clearly had betrayed the trust” of his constituents, but noted that the state is very conservative and religious. “America is the land of the second act, and all kinds of politicians have found redemption again,” Welna said. Rachel Smolkin of Politico said Sanford is adept at “retail politics,” which involves connecting with voters and reporters.
Watch The Full Show
MS. DIANE REHMThanks for joining us. I'm Diane Rehm. The Senate Judiciary Committee begins plowing through hundreds of amendments to its immigration bill. President Obama makes taxes his first stop on a nationwide push intended to pressure Congress to pass his economic agenda. And prosecutors consider the death penalty for the Cleveland kidnapper.
MS. DIANE REHMJoining me for the domestic hour of our Friday News Roundup: David Welna of NPR, Rachel Smolkin of Politico, and Michael Scherer of Time magazine. We'll take your calls throughout the hour, 800-433-8850. Send us an email to email@example.com. Follow us on Facebook or send us a tweet. Good morning to all of you.
MS. RACHEL SMOLKINGood morning.
MR. DAVID WELNAGood morning, Diane.
MR. MICHAEL SCHERERGood morning, Diane.
REHMDavid Welna, let's talk about the so-called bipartisan immigration bill, the Gang of Eight. How did it hold up in its first test yesterday?
WELNAI think it passed its test if the test was whether it could withstand efforts by opponents of the bill to insert amendments that would have made it unpalatable, unviable for passage in the Senate. There was something of an onslaught. There were at least six amendments offered by Republicans who oppose the bill as it sends now to add, in particular, requirements that would make it necessary to entirely secure the Southwestern border before any action is taken on legalizing the people who are here in the country unlawfully.
WELNAAnd that was a non-starter, of course, for members of the Gang of Eight. The two Republicans on the committee, Lindsey Graham and Jeff Flake, who are members of that gang, voted with all of the Democrats to defeat those amendments. So, at least, as far as border security goes, which was the title of the bill that they tackled yesterday with 32 amendments offered and 21, I guess, approved, things held up.
WELNAEight Republican amendments were approved. They did not really alter the character of the bill very much, but it was an effort to try to curry more support among some Republicans of the committee who are still undecided.
REHMSure. Where do you see it going now, Rachel?
SMOLKINI think that's an excellent point about withstanding the onslaught on the first day. Many more days remain, and it'll be a real test of the Gang of Eight to see if they can stick together, the four members on that committee. They're really walking a line here. They do want to indicate that they're open to changes that this is not a closed process.
SMOLKINAnd, in fact, there was one interesting moment yesterday where they did adopt another proposal from Sen. Chuck Grassley that would require the government to achieve so-called effective control of the entire Southern border, not just the high-risk area as this passed on a unanimous voice votes or wasn't considered one of the more controversial amendments.
SMOLKINAnd the Gang of Eight members, they really did it. As a show of good faith, yes, we are willing to make changes to this bill. So as an indication that they are trying to listen to Republicans, they want to win over more Republicans, but they can't move too much further to the right then some smaller proposals and amendments like this, or it would disrupt that delicate balance that they, the Gang of Eight, has found.
SCHERERThere are really two political storylines to watch here, one is whether, over the next several weeks, the people who oppose this bill can get an amendment that effectively will kill the bill which is -- seems unlikely. I mean, the -- especially in committee where you have majority of Democrats plus two Republicans who are voting with them. The second line to pay attention to though is whether the amendment process can really light a fire among conservative grassroots people to actively oppose this bill.
SCHERERRight now, you have the sort of tepid opposition in the country, which is a real contrast to where we were in 2007. Talk radio is kind of mixed on whether this is a terrible thing or maybe not a terrible thing. A lot of the Republican Party establishment is mixed on this, and a lot of it is very supportive.
SCHERERAnd it was clear yesterday that what Ted Cruz, the Texas senator, is trying to do here is to use these votes as a way of telegraphing to the country, look, this isn't a serious bill about enforcement, for instance. You have to be worried about this. You have to get angry now because, really, there is a race on. I mean, the supporters of this bill want to get this thing done by the fall. If it goes past that, there's a real chance it doesn't happen and opponents wanted to like.
REHMNow, something else going on up on the Hill this week. Charges and countercharges during the weeks, House hearings on Benghazi. Rachel
SMOLKINThis is an issue Republicans have been pushing for months. It got new scrutiny during the week. There was a very emotional hearing about this where we heard from a veteran diplomat that he had effectively been silenced, that he tried to voice his concerns. And his view was retaliated against and demoted.
SMOLKINWe now have a new report out this morning from ABC News' Jonathan Karl that raises additional questions about the editing process on the talking points as. This are, of course, the talking points that Susan Rice discussed that have gotten so much attention. These new documents indicate, from ABC News, that the State Department made some extensive editing.
SMOLKINVictoria Nuland, State Department spokeswoman, asked the CIA to delete a paragraph citing warnings of prior attacks, so that sure to give this additional attention as well. It's very fraught with politics, this issue. I mean, you have a, you know, sort of extreme statements coming from some Republicans like Lindsey Graham, saying, this is Watergate all over again. You have the obvious Hillary Clinton angle.
SMOLKINShe is no longer the secretary of state, so that makes her much easier to attack in some ways because now the clear next question with Hillary Clinton is, will she be the Democratic nominee in 2016? Democrats see this as entirely fraught with politics, and Republicans say, no. This just hasn't received the scrutiny that it needs to.
REHMAnd former Vice President Dick Cheney has said, let's subpoena Hillary Clinton.
WELNAWell, it's not beyond the realm of possibility. The House Oversight and Government Affairs Committee headed by Darrell Issa, which held this hearing on Wednesday, plans to bring in more people, more of the principles to question them. And I don't know if there would be any executive privilege that Hillary Clinton could invoke as a former secretary of state.
REHMSo is it more politics, or is it really getting at something new regarding Benghazi? Michael.
SCHERERThe problem with following the story is there's so many different strands moving at once, and there's so many different questions. For instance, you know, one whole part of that hearing had to do with whether there was something that could've been done to prevent the loss of life if the military and the intelligence services had acted quicker.
SCHERERYou had testimony being given in which people who are basically in the region at the time had the impression that the answer is, yes, the Pentagon has been consistent from the beginning, saying, that's just not true. And so you just have a disagreement over the facts of the case there. And then you have this political question of, during an election year, did the White House try and downplay the issue of terrorism to protect themselves?
SCHERERAnd it's clear -- and I think this is where we have the most movement this morning -- that there was a lot of politics at play. And the most obvious politics at play was interdepartmental politics. I mean, the State Department was trying to make sure it wasn't blamed for this. The CIA was trying to make sure it wasn't blamed for this. And so -- and this is very typical in Washington that something goes wrong and everybody tries to protect their own.
SCHERERThe bigger question, the one that Republicans are most upset about, about whether there's evidence that someone at the White House hid information intentionally from the American public for about 20 days, which is about the amount of time it took for the White House to admit that this was probably not a result of a demonstration. It was a premeditated terrorist attack. We still don't have a clear answer to. But, you know, this will keep going, and there's a lot of noise that Republicans want to make for political reasons.
REHMAnd wasn't there something new this morning about that question of demotion of the individual who testified that, in fact, he was not demoted? David Welna.
WELNAWell, he had actually requested to be withdrawn from Libya, citing family reasons, and also just sort of a bad association with everything that happened there. So he was brought back to Washington and put in sort of a holding pattern while they figured out what his next assignment would be. This was sort of between the cycles of when they would make decisions on assignments. He was given a job at state, a desk job. But he continued to receive the same salary and retain the same title that he had. So his version of that it was a demotion, I think, might be open to a lot of dispute.
SCHERERYeah. I mean, I've -- I'm a little conscious here 'cause I've covered enough stories in which you have bureaucratic scandals that get huge media attention, and there is clear retaliation against government employees. I mean, it happens all the time in the federal government. You have lots of whistleblower cases that come out.
SCHERERI don't think we have evidence here that there was clear retaliation against him. He was moved into a different role, and there is some -- been some concern that, you know, these people had complains about the State Department investigation wanted to speak more. But, yes, I think it's still a little open.
SMOLKINAnd the State Department was very quick to counter that narrative, saying, not only was he not demoted, he will never be demoted. We're trying hard to find the next thing for them. So at least publicly, they were very quick to counter that message.
REHMBut House Speaker John Boehner is still demanding more emails. David.
WELNAHe's demanding specifically the release the public of one email that went out shortly after the attacks, where the attackers were referred to as extremists associated with the Muslim group Ansar al-Sharia. That email was quoted from -- at the hearing on Wednesday by Trey Gowdy, a Republican from South Carolina. He, instead of saying extremist, used the word terrorist. And so now there's a back and forth about which word was used, whether that's relevant or not, but it has gone public, and it's a question now whether it will be released.
REHMDavid Welna, congressional correspondent for NPR. Rachel Smolkin of Politico. Michael Scherer of Time magazine. Short break here. And when we come back, we'll be talking about President Obama's agenda.
REHMAnd welcome back to the domestic hour of the Friday News Roundup this week with Michael Scherer of Time magazine, David Welna of NPR, Rachel Smolkin of Politico. Michael, what's on President Obama's big agenda this week?
SCHERERHis big agenda is still one that is not happening in front of TV cameras. It's meeting with members of Congress, having his staff meet with members of Congress. It's a sort of, you know, quiet diplomacy that's going up and down the length of Pennsylvania Avenue to try and put together a coalition that can get a big budgetary/deficit/tax reform bill later this year. And I think the signs are still far more optimistic than they have been in any time in Obama's presidency.
SCHERERBecause you have a situation in which Speaker Boehner, who has tried to negotiate several times with Obama over this and failed, has basically taken himself out of the game. And the House, which is, by far, the most dysfunctional body right now in Washington, is going to come at this second. The Senate is going to act first. You have a majority in the Senate, and you have clearly half dozen, maybe a dozen Republican senators who are interested in getting something done and are -- who want to talk.
SCHERERIt's not clear if they can come together yet. But they're -- all sides seemed very eager to be having these conversations. And really, what they have to do is they have a few months now to come up with six or seven or eight or more Republicans who can join with Democrats and move something through the House.
WELNAWell, I think the signs are not very good this week, at least for the -- well, on the part of at least Republicans in the Senate, to get to some kind of a deal. Majority Leader Harry Reid this week moved to take the budget that the Senate passed to conference with the budget that the House passed. And this is after Senate Republicans had been screaming for several years about the fact that Democrats had not passed the budget.
WELNAWell, they finally did pass the budget. And now, Republicans are blocking the path to reconciling that budget with the House budget. So if they can't even agree on something that basic that is within the regular order of Congress, getting to some grand bargain in the fall seems a bridge, at this point, too far still.
REHMMeantime, the president flies out to Texas. Rachel, what's he hope to accomplish there?
SMOLKINThis was a trip to the Austin area to talk about jobs and the economy. Jobs had been such a big part of the presidential election. We heard again and again about creating more jobs, about improving the economy, had kind of disappeared a little bit from the radar just because there had been so much attention on other issues like immigration and gun control.
REHMDoes he have anything new to say?
SMOLKINHe did have anything new to say. He did say that the economy is improving. He said the unemployment rate is steadily falling, a number of monthly jobless claims, the lowest in five years. So there is some good news on the economic front. But even here where President Obama is trying to push this as a success story for the administration, the message is complicated because, at the same time, he's saying that Republicans need to do something more significant to help the economy.
SMOLKINThey need to do something to undo the sequester. So he's got to make people feel better about the economy but not too good about the economy because then that undercuts his message on the sequester.
REHMAnd meantime, the stock market is soaring. Fed Chief Ben Bernanke spoke this morning saying the Fed is still monitoring banks and other important financial institutions. But it's widened its scope to include other important participants that could either trigger a crisis or make the system more vulnerable. He is worried about inflation. These rates of interest are so low, and yet the stock market is soaring, but bonds are going nowhere. Michael.
SCHERERWell, yeah, because the Federal Reserve is depressing the interest rates on bonds intentionally to get people to take risk with their money and are doing that in the stock market. I, you know, you do have a situation in which, I think everyone would agree, the stock market's success in recent months is in some part at least due to what the Federal Reserve is doing. And there is an increasing diversions between the success of the stock market and the reality of the economy, which has been improving. It's been a pretty good spring.
SCHERERRelative in recent years we've had, but not the kind of, you know, breakaway 20 percent increase spring that we've seen in the stock market. The question is whether the stock market is just ahead of the economy, whether they're foreseeing an increase in the economy or whether this is just a temporary bubble that's been pumped into investors' pockets by the Federal Reserve. And at that point, which the Federal Reserve starts pulling away from its monetary easing, that stock market might come back down.
REHMAnd the question is: How soon that might happen?
SCHERERYeah. And Ben Bernanke has been, as always, very cagey about that question. You know, they've set these long-range targets. He's stuck with saying they will stick to these long-range targets. But then in the next sentence, they say they will continue to evaluate the economy on a rolling basis, and they could change how much they buy on a month-to-month basis pretty much at any point.
SCHERERI think, you know, the -- it is clear that the Federal Reserve is more activist than we have seen a Federal Reserve in a long time, that the American Federal Reserve is not the only monetary body that is playing this role, that around the world, you have monetary bodies pumping huge amounts of currency into their economies. And we're still in the middle of this new era, and what is unknown is how -- whether they can -- what economists talk about as a soft landing -- whether the Federal Reserve can pull out of this in a way that doesn't cause a fear or return to high inflation.
REHMAll right. Let's move on. The Pentagon released a study this week, Rachel, focused on military sexual assault. What was revealed?
SMOLKINYes. This is a Pentagon survey estimating that 26,000 people in the armed forces were sexually assaulted last year. That number was up significantly from 19,000 in 2010. President Obama, we saw him visibly angry about this during the week of very strong demands from Congress as well to really confront this issue and get something done. This came two days after the officer in charge of sexual assault prevention programs for the Air Force was himself arrested and charged with sexual battery.
REHMAnd let's hear what the president had to say.
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMABottom line is I have no tolerance for this. I have communicated this to the secretary of defense. We're going to communicate this again to folks up and down the chain in areas of authority. And I expect consequences. So I don't want just more speeches or, you know, awareness programs or training, but, ultimately, folks look the other way. If we find out somebody's engaging in this stuff, they've got to be held accountable, prosecuted, stripped of their positions, court-martialed, fired, dishonorably discharged, period.
REHMAnd the problem is, is it not, David Welna, that the military continues to insist that the military oversee these kinds of issues in trials?
WELNAWell, I think some people consider the term military justice to be an oxymoron in a system where somebody can be found guilty and the commanding officer will throw that verdict out and exonerate the person who's been charged. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand is expected to introduce legislation next week that would strip the commanding officers of this power to basically overrule the verdicts and give prosecutors more leeway in pursuing these cases.
WELNAIt's interesting. Rachel mentioned 26,000 cases reported of sexual assault last year, but I think there were only something like 3,600 that actually went to court. So there's a vast underreporting, and many people say it's because there's no faith that this is going to lead anything. In fact, it can make things worse for the victims.
SCHERERAnd of that 3,600, one in 10 resulted in a court martial. So you're talking 26,000, but then you're talking 300 -- or 30 -- 360 court martials.
SMOLKINAnd the Pentagon's survey, just to be clear, those were estimates of sexual assaults. The actual reporting on the topic is far, far lower than those numbers.
REHMSo the question is -- pardon me -- until you begin removing the top people, how are you going to get to what's happening in the military? One of our guests yesterday said until it begins hitting the generals themselves, you will have no change.
SCHERERThis issue has been here for a decade. We've been reporting on this stuff for a long time, and it's been horrific and outrageous, and not much has changed. They -- you know, the president in his statement talked about I don't just want another commission or another study or more education because we've gone through basically a decade of this. Susan Collins, a Republican senator from Maine, this week was out saying, if you are the parent of a daughter thinking of enrolling in the military, think twice because I'm not sure your daughter is going to be safe.
SCHERERAnd if you have a United States senator telling the American people that women may not be safe by enrolling in the military because of sexual violence, I mean, you -- we're at a sort of a breaking point right now. And hopefully legislation or something moves forward here or there's more military reforms, but it's clear that the outrage that has been slowly boiling for many years hasn't really had much effect. The problem is getting worse, not better.
REHMWell, clearly, it hasn't really gotten through to the top. Yesterday, Gen. Mark Welsh, chief of staff of the Air Force, was testifying before the Senate Appropriations Defense Subcommittee. He was asked about this issue. And as Ruth Marcus wrote this morning, "The general said it's a big problem for our nation. It may be as big or bigger. Elsewhere, roughly 20 percent of young women come into the Department of Defense and the Air Force.
REHM"They report that they were sexually assaulted in some way before they came into the military. So they come in from a society where this occurs. Some of it is the 'hookup mentality' of junior high, even, and high school students now. The same demographic group moves into the military." And Ruth Marcus asks, "The hookup mentality? Talk about not getting it. General, the hookup culture is lamentable but consensual. Sexual assault is, by definition, not consensual."
SCHERERYeah. I think those comments were outrageous, and I think the military brass has felt this is something that could be contained. You know, the military is going to push back now, and secretary of defense has already pushed back by saying they don't want to undo the chain of command. Basically, the military is one of those institutions in which the guy in charge runs everything and can decide everything. But...
REHMSo they don't want to take those cases away from them.
SCHERERWell, I think there's room for compromise. They haven't ruled out the ability for compromise, but the idea of taking the military justice and having any commander say, out of it they have. They don't want to change the system of the military, but I think it's clear that something will have to change. And I think it's really notable that the people driving this right now are female senators in Congress.
SCHERERIt's not the men who are out there saying, this must change. It's a coalition of women senators, and, you know, we haven't had a lot of women senators or members of Congress for many years. I think that's also a part of the problem.
REHMAnd you're listening to "The Diane Rehm Show." David Welna.
WELNAI think this puts our new defense secretary, Chuck Hagel, in a very tricky position because he is expected to stand with his commanders, and at the same time, he is part of the Obama administration. And President Obama yesterday invited women who sit on both the House and Senate Armed Services Committees, both Democrats and Republicans, over to the White House to discuss this, raising the profile of this even further. And I think the question is how Hagel is going to react when Congress moves to strip commanders of this power to overrule jury verdicts.
REHMAnd so the editorial board of The Washington Post published today, "The key issue is whether the traditional military justice system is equipped to deal with sexual abuse cases."
SMOLKINAnd so far Hagel has seemed cool to the idea of taking military justice out of the chain of command. There's a real question of if you don't do that, if you don't take that dramatic step, are any of these smaller compromises really going to make a difference, or will it be another decade, as we were discussing, of task forces and some recommendations and education where nothing really changes?
SCHERERI agree with everything that's been said here. I think it's also worth putting this in context. The military justice system is clearly not able to deal with these situations, but the civilian judicial system has also struggled for years, and it's very well documented that it can't appropriately deal with sexual assault cases.
SCHERERAnd the point, you know, before the unfortunate comment about the hookup culture, the point that these problems are society-wide and have been accepted for years despite enormous rates of abuse -- I mean, you know, some studies say, you know, a quarter or a third of women at some point in their lives will go through this -- I think points to a problem that goes beyond the military, and the more we can talk about this, the more we can bring it up, the better off we all are.
REHMAnd certainly we can go from there to this hideous Cleveland kidnapping and imprisoning case where the man accused of kidnapping three women and a child in Cleveland being held on $8 million bail. I think there are lots of questions as to how he was able to keep them there for 10 years despite what neighbors said they tried to do. They claim they called the police on at least three occasions. Police say they have no record of such calls, one in which a neighbor spotted a naked woman in the backyard. Rachel.
SMOLKINThe case is just so chilling. I -- there'll be a lot of questions in the coming weeks about the way the police handled this case. We've seen that already. The police are saying some of these reports did not come to them, that neighbors didn't approach them the way the neighbors are saying. But there will be many, many questions about each of these points where it seems like the police could have done something.
SMOLKINThey were called to the house. There were various other incidents that came up. And they either weren't investigated at all or were given the most cursory look, and that allowed these women to remain in captivity for all these years. The more that comes to light about the case, the more horrifying it is.
REHMRachel Smolkin of Politico. We'll take a short break here. When we come back, we'll take your calls, your email. I look forward to speaking with you.
REHMAnd it's time to open the phones. First to Herndon, Va. Good morning, Craig.
CRAIGGood morning. Hey, I have a question. This concerns the Benghazi hearings' ongoing witch hunt, and I want to know where Lindsey Graham and John Boehner and all these other politicians were during the Bush administration when there were 13 terrorist attacks on American embassies and consulates around the world, especially the one on March 2, 2006 in Karachi where David Foy, a U.S. diplomat, was targeted and killed by a suicide bomber. I don't remember any hearings in Congress concerning any of these attacks.
REHMAll right. David Welna.
WELNAWell, I think if we go all the way back to 9/1l, that was an event which was preceded by repeated warnings by some of President Bush's top national security advisers about the possibility of attacks that appear to have been ignored. And yet there did not seem to be a stomach among Democrats in Congress to pursue this in a political sense of saying -- of assigning blame to specific members of the administration.
WELNAIn fact, when Democrats took control of the Senate in 2007, there was a question of whether they would open hearings on what happened back then. And I remember Dick Durbin, a Democrat from Illinois, just said, well, you know, we think that there are questions that need to be answered, but this is just not something that we're going to do right now. And clearly, House Republicans feel very differently and Lindsey Graham and John McCain.
SCHERERThe politics in these investigations are always hyped up, and clearly, Republicans are using this right now as a base motivating tool. They're not very liked, the people who we vote Republican are very angry, and this is a way of channeling that anger and increasing their support. That's it. I do think there's a role for an investigation here.
SCHERERI mean, it was good that these, you know, by all accounts, excellent public servants who are able to testify, to tell their side of the story. This is the role Congress plays to get this stuff out. There is a check and balance role here. I think it's just that in the rhetoric around this, it gets blown into something that's much bigger than what the actual questions are about, about what happened and what could've been done to prevent it.
REHMAll right. Let's go to Tallahassee, Fla. Good morning, Joe.
JOEGood morning, Diane. Thank you for taking my call. I just want to comment on in regards to the military sexual abuse situation that are happening. You guys were speaking akin to mostly about policy and way to avert the situation after the fact. But I think it's worth examining the root cause of the issue, and to me it, seems clear that it's kind of this machismo cultural phenomenon especially you said it's happening most frequent throughout the culture, and it's probably magnified in these physical machismo kind of sect such as the military or maybe law enforcement.
JOESo it may be worth thinking about how have other machismo-dominated situations been averted in the past, such as mental illness and suicide being such an issue and the teams that maybe after the media or something picked up on that, it's been handled a little better. So I think it's worth examining those root causes.
SMOLKINI think the caller makes an excellent point about examining root causes, and what we've been saying education programs have been in the works for years, it shows the continuing need for such programs. I know earlier I mentioned the officer who was arrested and charged with sexual battery the officer in charge of sexual assault prevention programs for the Air Force. To me, there was no more powerful symbol of this week and the problems that continue to exist.
SCHERERWell, we can remember the Navy Tailhook scandal many years ago, and that was seen at the time as perhaps a turning point. But the fact is that there are more women in the military now than there were before, also working in very close proximity with men. I was in Afghanistan recently, and I was just amazed to see the jobs that women are doing, working their male counterparts and in situations that you wouldn't have seen even 10 years ago.
REHMTo Chelsea in Belleville, Ill. Good morning.
CHELSEAGood morning, Diane.
REHMHow are you? Go right ahead.
CHELSEAI'm all right. I was a victim of a sexual assault, not military related. But I reported that to the police because I felt like that was -- I felt that I had to take the -- try to get some of my power back. And after the first couple of days of going in and giving my report and helping them collect evidence, they completely dropped me off the face of the earth. I've called. I've emailed. I haven't gotten any calls back.
CHELSEANobody's made any attempt to contact me regarding what happened with my case since then. And I feel like that really kind of speaks for how once you reported the crime that it becomes about how the offender has wronged the government or the institution, and it stops being about how they've wronged a person.
REHMChelsea, I'm so sorry for your experience. David Welna.
WELNAYes. I was in Rio de Janeiro about 20 years ago, posted there, and there was a real issue there about women reporting sexual assaults to the police and nothing being done about it. And the solution that they found was that they created a special post at every police station that would be staffed by women who would receive reports of sexual abuse. The numbers just turned around immediately.
WELNAThey were much more responsive because these were people who could empathize and sympathize with the victims.
REHMAll right. To Cleveland, Ohio. Good morning, Dan.
DANGood morning. I'm a long-time listener, first-time caller.
REHMGlad to have you.
DANI just wanted to make comment on the whole Amanda Berry situation here in Cleveland. The Department of Justice, Civil Rights Commission is actually just here after months and months of petitioning for you to come because the Cleveland Police Department is really -- it's hard out here. I'm just going to put it that way.
DANWe recently had two individuals shot 137 times by the Cleveland Police Department. And it's really the community at large is not happy with how the Cleveland Police Department has behaved over the last decade. I really wanted to just make comment that I think of root -- talking about root causes before. A caller was talking about root causes.
DANI think a root cause of these sorts of issue really is just the patriarchy that dominates quasi-military outfits like the police department law enforcement, as well as when you actually look at military brass. You don't see many women in -- in positions of upper crust positions, nor do you see minorities in positions of power in law enforcement. I just wonder what your guests would comment for that.
SCHERERLike I said before, I just think that's definitely the case in the U.S. Congress where men have dominated for many years, and clearly, when women get into positions of power, you saw this -- you this now on sexual assault. You see it -- you saw it on even after the financial collapse, you know, as a group of women senators who basically came together to push for tougher regulation of derivatives. It was basically women regulating an entirely male industry, the Wall Street finance industry.
SCHERERAnd so I think there's a lot of evidence that suggest that that is true. And I think the only thing to say is that in cases like in Cleveland in the issue of sexual assault, talking about it publicly and loudly matters a great deal. And, you know, callers like the one who just called in, I think, like, people have to have these things in their mind. They have to know these are issues going on. They have to be aware of them, and they have to be educated about them. It has to be a constant thing to change these sort of embedded pattern.
REHMAnd to Oklahoma City. Good morning, Sharon.
SHARONGood morning. Thank you for taking my phone call.
SHARONI wanted to call in because my husband is a high ranking officer in the Army as the commander of a unit. And his -- he comes home a lot talking about the struggles of trying to get sexual assault cases resolved. He deals a lot with man on man sexual assault, women on women sexual assault, and then also the usual -- I guess, you can say usual -- the most cases he sees again is the traditional man-woman assault, men sexually assaulting women. Does anybody have any comments on some of the struggles that he might be facing, dealing with upper -- upper officers at resolving these issues?
REHMWell, the question to you is, what kind of struggles is he having dealing with his own superiors?
SHARONWell, a lot of it deals with just the red tape of paper works being reported, people signing off on it. It's not a very speedy process. And just like the most recent case was a young recruit, and he was assaulted in a hotel room while they were on duty. And, you know, the kid had to go to the hospital. And it's just the red tape process. And he says there should be something that should be faster for resolutions for these concerns, but his hands are tied.
SCHERERYeah. I mean, I think that's something -- the fact that the military knew about this and was saying they were taking care of it five years ago and 10 years ago and that's still the case signals that they are not able to do it themselves. Another fact that came out from the surveys is that 62 percent of victims of sexual assault in the military, according to the military survey, said they face retaliation for reporting it. So, you know, that there is a clear sense within the military that just coming forward is still something that will get you in trouble.
SMOLKINAnd I think that goes back to the chain of command issue that we've been discussing, the report up the chain. And that might be exactly what has caused the problem. I would just go back to President Obama's words, saying, the bottom line is I have no tolerance for this, and then going on to say, I got their back. So we'll see if this is something that the White House does in the coming weeks and months step up its attention to.
WELNAYou wonder about the idea of something like an ombudsman who would be looking out for the interests of these people and critiquing the institution's response to those issues. I don't know quite what that -- how that would work with the military, but in other areas, especially in journalism, it's been all to the good.
REHMDavid Welna, tell me about Mark Sanford, the former South Carolina governor who had an affair. He has now made to come back. How did he do it?
WELNABack from the dead. I think that he comes from the state that is quite conservative, very religious, and he clearly had betrayed the trust of the people of the state as governor of South Carolina. But the fact is that he ran in a district that voted heavily for Mitt Romney in November. There is a very polarized political situation nationwide. And I think that in Charleston, it's the same situation and idea of electing Elizabeth Colbert Busch to represent that district, a Democrat, was just more than people could imagine beyond...
REHMAnd the sister of Stephen Colbert.
WELNAThe sister of Stephen Colbert. Yes. Then sending Mark Sanford -- I mean, America is the land of the second of act, and all kinds of politicians have found...
WELNA...redemption again one more.
SMOLKINAnother key to this victory is that Mark Sanford is very, very talented at retail politics. His opponent, Elizabeth Colbert Busch, is new to politics and really often seemed to be in hiding at the end and not do a lot of public events, really did not engage at all from reporters, was surrounded by her handlers. Mark Sanford did exactly the opposite.
SMOLKINHe would hold event after event. He would engage with reporters, with voters. He would apologize as many times as anybody wanted to hear him do that. He even held a mock debate with a cardboard cutout of Nancy Pelosi.
REHMAnd you're listening to "The Diane Rehm Show." And to Indianapolis. Good morning, Diane.
DIANEGood morning. Before I ask my question, I'd like to say that I appreciate the women in the legislature and the military for pursuing this issue of sexual assault. My question is, since we're viewing Benghazi as a tragic event and consider reduced funding for the State Department as at least partially responsible, shouldn't Republicans be concerned that while their whipping off their right-wing base, they're distancing the more middle-road public? They need to be attractive.
WELNAWell, I think that's an issue that doesn't apply just to Benghazi. We see with the immigration bill also before Congress that despite the opposition of many Republicans to that legislation, there are many Republican lawmakers who realized that they shoot that legislation down at their peril, that they can't always be playing the role of the negative force in Congress.
WELNAThey have to be for something. And soft diplomacy, I think, is probably going to be on the rise. There's not much enthusiasm for getting involved in more armed conflicts, and the State Department is going to have to play, if not -- if anything, a bigger role, and they'll need the money to do that.
REHMHere's an email from Nancy, who says, "While it is critical to get at all the information regarding the terribly unfortunate events in Benghazi, the furor over which Republicans are calling for additional hearings smacks a pure bloodletting in politics. As quid pro quo, let's reopen the wounds of 9/11 attacks and especially the inevitable March to war in Iraq over false claims of WMD, which is still causing loss of life.
REHM"The internal political climate in Washington of the last five years is almost as deleterious to our country as external forces intend on bringing us down." David, you mentioned 9/11 and the fact that Democrats faced with the possibility of looking at how, why this could have happened, decided to move on.
WELNAWell, I think for one thing, they did not have the need to fire up their base about these fiascos. That base was already fired up. And I think that Republicans who are pushing the issue of Benghazi -- Lindsey Graham is up for re-election next year and he's trying to do something very risky on immigration -- there are -- there is not a whole lot of enthusiasm among Republicans in South Carolina for that issue. By pushing an issue such as Benghazi, he gives himself a bit of political cover.
REHMDo you agree with that last sentence about what's happening in Washington being as deleterious as external forces, Rachel?
SMOLKINWe're seeing many veteran lawmakers who don't want to run again and retiring. And I think that's one indication of what the caller is talking about. We've also seen a real shift in the treatment of Hillary Clinton over the past week. She is now seen as fair game by the Republicans, 2016 starts now.
REHMRachel Smolkin -- 2016 starts now -- David Welna, Michael Scherer, thank you all so much. Have a great weekend.
WELNAThank you, Diane.
SMOLKINThank you, Diane.
REHMThanks for listening, all. I'm Diane Rehm.
Most Recent Shows
Greek voters go to the polls for an historic referendum on the country's debt crisis. We discuss the future of Greece in the eurozone and implications for global economies.
Acclaimed ballerina Misty Copeland joined Diane to talk about her remarkable career and how she is challenging physical stereotypes that she says keep ballet stuck in the past.
For the Fourth of July: A fresh reading of the Declaration of Independence, and how ideas of freedom and equality have been interpreted over the years.