A massive forest fire has been raging in Alberta, Canada, for nearly a month. Scientists say warmer, drier weather has increased the frequency and intensity of fires. For this month's Environmental Outlook: wildfires, climate change and threats to North America’s forests.
The FBI admits using drones in the United States. A Congressional Budget Office report says an immigration bill would cut the federal deficit. And the Federal Reserve outlines an end to its stimulus. Diane and a panel of journalists discuss the week’s top national news stories.
- Molly Ball staff writer for The Atlantic.
- Susan Davis congressional correspondent for USA Today.
- Jerry Seib Washington bureau chief for The Wall Street Journal.
James Gandolfini, best known for playing crime boss Tony Soprano in the HBO drama “The Sopranos,” died Wednesday at age 51. USA Today reporter Susan Davis said Gandolfini’s legacy will be the way he changed TV’s reputation in this country. “He made television cool … ‘The Sopranos’ and his ability to make probably one of the most memorable characters in television history made actors want to do personality-driven dramas,” she said.
Watch The Full Broadcast
MS. DIANE REHMThanks for joining us. I'm Diane Rehm. An agreement on tougher boarder security moves the Senate closer to passing a comprehensive immigration bill. Fed Chair Ben Bernanke lays out a plan for ending the stimulus, upsetting markets worldwide. And President Obama defends the NSA's surveillance program, saying that focus is on data not the content of phone calls.
MS. DIANE REHMHere for the domestic hour of the Friday News Roundup: Susan Davis of USA Today, Jerry Seib with The Wall Street Journal and Molly Ball of The Atlantic magazine. Do join us, 800-433-8850. Send an email to email@example.com. Follow us on Facebook or send us a tweet. Good morning, everybody.
MS. SUSAN DAVISGood morning, Diane.
MR. JERRY SEIBGood morning.
MS. MOLLY BALLGood morning, Diane.
REHMSo, Jerry Seib, explain with the economic outlook improving, what exactly did Ben Bernanke say that threw the markets into turmoil?
SEIBSo I get to explain the markets.
REHMYeah. You get to explain it all.
SEIBGood, OK. That's a good start. All right. So what Ben Bernanke said this week was that the Fed thinks the economy is getting better.
SEIBIt's getting better slowly, not dramatically but slowly and surely. If that continues to happen, the Fed will start tapering off, later this year, its bond-buying program in which it's investing about $80 billion a month in buying treasuries which is a way of just injecting $80 billion into the economy. It will conclude that's not so necessary anymore, and we'll start slowing down their program. And we'll end it sometime next year if the economy continues to prove -- improve as they expect.
SEIBAll the markets heard was they're ending the bond-buying program. They're taking money out of the economy. So the stock market fell, you know, 500 points in a couple of days. Now, that's not the only reason the market fell. The other reason the stock market fell was that it turns out manufacturing in China is slowing down. So the people in the market saw a reduced amount of stimulus in the American economy and a slowing manufacturing sector in the Chinese economy.
SEIBThey don't think that's good for the global economic conditions in spite of the fact that Bernanke said the economy here is doing better. So they got a little panicky. Now, to me, this just suggests what might happen when the Fed not only really talks about tapering off bond-buying but actually does it. And sometime down the road, it actually raises interest rates a few points which has happened in the past. So I think there's gonna be more gyrations before we get through this process.
REHMSo, Susan Davis, Paul Krugman said this decision to end the stimulus, perhaps by year's end, could end up looking like an historic mistake. Is he right?
DAVISTo be determined. I think that part of this is that there's been so much -- so much of the market rebound and fluctuations have gone on what Bernanke has said. And the question is, is the fundamentals of the economy actually improving or has all of this guessing coming from what the Fed is doing? Are they fundamentally strong, or is it all just smoke and mirrors for what the Fed is doing?
DAVISAnd I think that's part of the reason why you've seen why Bernanke has become such a controversial figure and what the Fed has done has become such a controversial figure because people -- there's an argument to be made that the Fed should be pulling out of this -- out of the stimulus process. And in the short term, there may be...
REHMSooner rather than later?
DAVISThere could be short-term pain, but in the long term, it would force the economy to recover on its own versus outside forces stimulating.
SEIBThe reason this is hard for the Fed is that the flipside of starting to withdraw from the stimulus program too early is if you withdraw too late, you fed money into an economy that's getting hotter anyway and you've created inflation. And if you're a central banker, you're first job is to worry about inflation.
SEIBAnd so while Paul Krugman makes a credible argument, the counter argument is -- that some people would make is the Feds already extended this too long. They've run too much of a risk of creating inflation down the road. You better start -- you got to start sometime, you might as well start soon.
REHMSo, Molly Ball, what about Ben Bernanke's future?
BALLWell, everything we know is that when his term comes to an end, he doesn't wanna stick around. The administration doesn't seem to want him to stick around not because of any animosity but just its view as his time being up. And so we're starting to hear names floated, really, mostly, one name. I think Janet Yellen's name comes up the most. But there are a few sort of also runs in contention. And so it looks like Bernanke's days are numbered.
REHMJerry, would there be a different approach by someone like Janet Yellen?
SEIBI don't think Janet Yellen would be particularly different. She's -- if anything, she's a little more dovish, a little more inclined to continue the things like the bond-buying program than Ben Bernanke might be, but they're not wildly different. So I think that whoever takes over the Fed knows that he or she is going to have to manage the end of this process. How fast and how soon, those will be debated. But at some point, the Fed does have to retreat from what it's been doing.
SEIBIt can't continue to essentially heat up the economy all by itself, and that's gonna be very tricky. And it's gonna be on the communications job as much as a finance job. It's gonna be, you know, as we saw this week, communicating to markets and to Americans, here's what we're doing, here's how fast we're doing it. Here's why we're doing it, and here's why you shouldn't panic. There's gonna be a lot of that.
REHMDid he do anything wrong in his mode of communication?
SEIBI -- well, I think if the Fed did anything wrong, it wasn't this week. It was in the prior couple of weeks in which they created some confusion about how -- when this was going to start, when it might end, what the conditions would be for the retreat from stimulus -- from bond-buying to continue. And that's what Chairman Bernanke tried to clear up this week. So I think if there hadn't been some confusion that had been created in previous weeks, this week might've looked a little more orderly. So I think the problems came earlier.
REHMSo when the Fed pulls out totally, what happens to the market?
SEIBWell, they're adjusting now. They will adjust to a new reality. I think Sue touched on a key point here which is, what's the strength of the underlying economy? Everybody loses sight of that at a time like this. The question is, do you need the Fed to continue to pump in $80 billion, or do businesses take the money they have and start injecting it in investments in the economy and in hiring?
SEIBThat stimulus of the right kind, is that proceeding while the Fed is retreating? That's the key question to watch. If those two things are in sync, this can happen in a fairly calm way. But it's hard to get them in sync.
BALLWell, I think what we see from the way that the market has reacted in these last couple of days is a market and an economy that's just still very -- a recovery that's very tentative and a market that's very skittish. It's easily spooked, easily frightened because there isn't a feeling that we're totally out of the woods and on sort of a glide path to, you know, brighter times. There's a feeling that baby steps are being taken and things are improving but in a way that nobody's quite sure whether to trust.
DAVISI do think it's also -- the important thing to remember, too, and Jerry referenced about how everyone reacted to just the idea of them pulling out, is it's not date specific. It's condition specific. So unemployment needs to get back to 7 percent. Certain conditions need to be happening in order for the Fed to do this. So if by mid-2014 we're still looking at 7.6 unemployment, the Fed is all but certainly going to continue these types of stimulus activities.
REHMSusan Davis of USA Today, Molly Ball of The Atlantic and Jerry Seib of The Wall Street Journal. Let's turn now to the farm bill. Lawmakers in the House defeated the farm bill, a bill that usually passes without a problem. What happened, Susan Davis?
DAVISThis is more of a continuation of the kind of activity we've seen in the U.S. House this year in which Republicans that control the chamber are incapable of passing bills with their own votes. And they thought on Thursday that they were gonna have a significant amount of Democratic support on this bill because farm bills historically have had large bipartisan numbers of support, in part because everybody in this country eats, and everybody in this country has some relation to the farm and agriculture business in this country.
DAVISWhat Republicans did was they moved the metric too far. They made cuts to the programs that Democrats could not support, specifically the SNAP program known as food stamps.
DAVISThey cut the program by about 20 billion whereas the Senate bill also had cuts but more in the orbit of 6.5 billion. And they put more conditions on work requirements that people would need to get into the program and get benefits. And Democrats said this is too far. You got to pass this bill on your own.
DAVISAnd they lost -- they didn't get the Democratic support they wanted, and they lost, more importantly, 62 of their own Republicans that said this bill -- that were -- didn't wanna vote for it regardless because there is this broader idea in the Republican Party that they shouldn't be spending money on a lot of these programs.
REHMBig defeat for John Boehner.
SEIBIt was, you know, and Republicans were trying really hard afterwards to blame Democrats. I think that will, you know, it's true they expected more Democratic votes than they got, but the underlying problem on their side, as Susan suggested, is that, you know, the -- there was an idea in the Republican caucus in the House that the idea of farm supports in general are just wrong. They're bad economics. They're bad philosophy. They're bad theology. We should end it.
SEIBAnd so there's a group in the House that's way to the right on all these programs, and if you can't get them, you need to get the right number of Democrats. That's a balancing act. They got it wrong this week.
BALLWell, the irony is here that there is actually brought bipartisan agreement that agricultural subsidies are terrible policy. But they've always passed with large bipartisan majority because they were terrible policy everyone agreed on.
BALLAnd so now that's kind of fraying and coming apart where you do have a lot of these Tea Party Republicans who are more concerned with, what, sort of the ideological right and the sort of club for growths of the world think of them than what, you know, the rural interests in their districts, which are probably declining in power all the time, thanks to the sort of changing nature of that business.
SEIBOne of the things I am wondering about, and Sue might know the answer to this, is, you know, why the Democrats didn't produce the votes that they thought they would get. Was it because people fell away because of the substance or because they saw a chance to create a defeat for John Boehner?
REHMMake a political point.
DAVISI think there's both, but I do think it was on the substance. They had more votes in the underlying bill until they passed two amendments added to it by leadership that changed the food stamps and the work requirements. And that was a line -- and, you know, they blame Democrats, but two days before that vote, Nancy Pelosi said publicly, I'm not gonna vote for it. They're probably not gonna get the Democratic votes. And if they pass these amendments, they definitely won't get the votes.
REHMNow what happens to food stamps now?
DAVISWell, there's a couple options. They could obviously extend current law which, in this scenario, is probably the most likely thing that's gonna happen. But what that will do is continue payments on subsidies that everybody thinks are a bad idea. If they don't do anything, there could be dramatic changes to -- one of the best examples is the milk program. Milk could go up to as much as $7 a gallon 'cause we revert back to very, very, very old laws.
DAVISDebbie Stabenow who is the agriculture chairman in the Senate side, and this is part of the interesting politics of this, has said, hey, if you can't pass your own bill, how about you pass the Senate bill? And it's one of those equations where if you put the Senate bill on the floor, you'd get a lot more Democrats but a lot less Republicans, and John Boehner doesn't wanna do that.
REHMSusan Davis of USA Today. When we come back, we'll talk about immigration reform and whether there is a real chance now.
REHMAnd we're back with the domestic hour of the Friday News Roundup this week with Molly Ball of The Atlantic, Jerry Seib of The Wall Street Journal, Susan Davis of USA Today. Susan, let's talk about the immigration bill and whether there is now room for compromise.
DAVISA major hurdle was passed this week while -- it may be passed. They'll vote next week. But part of the problem about this bill and what was interesting this time, it was less about pathway to citizenship and more about the argument over border security. And two senators, Bob Corker and John Hoeven, have come up with what they believe is the grand compromise that can get to the final passage of this bill, which is being called on Capitol Hill the border surge. And it is going to put a tremendous amount of resources on the U.S.-Mexico border.
REHMTwenty thousand more agents?
DAVISTwenty thousand more agents, billions of dollars more for surveillance of the border, constructing 700 miles of additional fence. I mean, a $30 billion cost to really lay the concerns of people that talk about border security that they can get to pathway to citizenship. This -- if this amendment can pass, and there are very good signs that it can because people like Marco Rubio, a member of the Gang of Eight, has signed on as a co-sponsor. If this bill passes, it is hard to see how final passage is uncertain in the Senate.
DAVISNow, whether they will get the 70-vote threshold that Chuck Schumer says he wants to show brought by partisan support, that remains to be seen. But the movement and the momentum right now is that it's behind this bill and looking at a vote at the later part of next week on it.
SEIBWell, the other good thing that happened for this bill this week was that the Congressional Budget Office put out a study that said immigration reform and legalization of current illegal immigrants is, in the long-run, a net winner for the federal budget. It reduces the deficit. It produces more tax revenue, which is an argument that lots of people had been making on both sides, Republicans and Democrats, but that critics were sort of scoffing at.
SEIBI think it's harder to scoff at that argument now. And the cost that Sue just referred to is offset in the long-run by increased revenues because of what increased immigration and legalization does for the federal budget. So now there's an argument that even people who don't like spending that much money on the border can say, look, at least, we'll get it back in the long run.
REHMSure. What about the House, Molly?
BALLWell, that is still a major question mark. And that's always been the case that, you know, there is this sort of weird bipolar conversation we're having, where, yay, things are looking so great in the Senate. And then the House is just is still kind of scary and impossible when you talk to people who are immigration reform advocates. The House Gang of Eight, which became a Gang of Seven, still has not produced anything, and so it's still not clear.
BALLBoehner says he doesn't wanna just put the Senate bill up for a vote in the House. So would they come up with some kind of piece meal approach to passing aspects of immigration legislation? Will they, at some point, produce their own bill? And then you can -- something has to get through both Houses and then you can work for something then in conference.
REHMSo what are the major drivers here?
SEIBWell, I think the major driver is the size of the vote in the Senate for passage. I think that is -- that will determine how much pressure there is on the House to get this done. I think the second major driver is probably the sort of the leadership in the House. I mean, John Boehner has been a little bit all over a lot on this week, and he's called the border security provisions laughable in the Senate bill. But now that -- maybe this fixes that problem.
SEIBHe's kind of implied, I'd like to get this done, but has also said, you know, it's not clear. I can get my caucus, and I may not bring it to the floor at all unless I'm sure a majority of my caucus will vote for it. I mean, that all has to get -- those forces in the House have to align. But I think a really important key is how many Republicans in the Senate vote for this and provide cover for Republicans in the House who might wanna vote for it.
DAVISI think that the Senate passage of this is is the easy part in the immigration fight. The battle in the House -- I would not bet my life, but I would bet my car that there is almost certainly not a majority of Republican support for the Senate bill or anything that looks like it. And what's difficult about the House is where the border argument has really focused the Senate debate. The House is still very much stuck on the pathway to citizenship idea.
DAVISAnd the very concept of it does not have significant or broad support among Republicans. Among Democrats, I do think it does. And there is a Gang of Eight competing in the House to put forward its own comprehensive bill. But the thing, I think, is very important, the politics of this cannot be left out of the equation for Republicans in that when they redrew their districts and the districts they represent now are more white than they were 15 years ago.
DAVISThey're less diverse than they were 15 years ago, and they're more conservative than they were 15 years ago. But nine out 10 House Republicans are never gonna face a general election threat barring a seismic national wave. And the only thing they're gonna face are primary election threats, and immigration reform is the kind of thing that primary threats are built out of. And they're already -- there are already groups forming to challenge any Republican that votes for anything that includes a pathway to citizenship.
SEIBThere's also an idea in the House that is -- that could be the death of comprehensive reform, which is that, well, let's do this piecemeal. Let's do border security bill, and then let's do a bill for high-tech visas for highly skilled workers, and then let's do a bill that provides farm workers and to do it bit by bit rather than in a comprehensive hole.
SEIBAnd I think the history of this subject for the last 20 years is that doesn't work because if you trade away one issue that your opponent is hot to have, you'll lose your leverage to get the issue that you wanna have a vote on. And so I don't think a non-comprehensive approach is going to work either, but there is a feeling in the House that that's a possibility.
REHMAll right. Let's talk about something the House did vote on this week, that is to put new limits on abortion. Molly.
BALLWell, I've written about this from a political perspective, which is you have this conversation sort of among Republican pundits and elites and even the Republican National Committee and the College Republican saying, we've got to become more hip as a party if we wanna start winning presidential elections again. We've got to stop sending a message to young people and minorities, in particular, that we're sort of not with the time, stuck on the culture wars of yesteryear.
BALLAnd then something like this gets through, which is purely symbolic move, never going to become law, but it's a gesture that says, this is what our priority is. And so there are -- there is some handwringing among some Republicans that it sends a bad signal.
REHMWhat would it do? What would the bill do?
BALLWell, originally, it would've been almost all abortions past 20 weeks when there is a much disputed claim that fetuses can feel pain past that point. And it probably would have been unconstitutional had that actually become law. Then the only exception in the original bill was for the life of the mother after a bit of hubbub. They later added exceptions for rape and incest. So that was the bill that ended up passing.
DAVISRepublicans were under a tremendous amount of pressure from, I think, the social conservative orbit of their party to act, in some way, to respond to the trial of Kermit Gosnell in Philadelphia. That was sort of the reason to respond to this. And that was an event that really inspired and incensed the abortion opponent community. And I think they felt tremendous pleasure to, at least, weigh in on it.
DAVISAs long as there is divided government in D.C. as we see now, it's hard to see any abortion legislation on one side of the fence, the other becoming law because there's always gonna be barricade on one or the other. I do think that what the vote did show that was telling to me is how the middle ground on this issue has really eroded. There used to be orbits of Republicans who supported abortion rights. There was orbits of Democrats who opposed abortion rights.
DAVISOn this vote, only six Republicans voted against the party and only six Democrats voted against their party. And there was a mix of reasons in there that wasn't necessarily 'cause they didn't believe in it. So I do think that on one of these issues, it has just shown how much the party -- the two parties have gone to their corners on the social debate. And there is very little room for common ground on these kind of difficult debates.
REHMSo, Jerry, are there electoral consequences for Democrats or Republicans on this issue?
SEIBWell, I think there are some for some members. You know, but as Sue suggested earlier, the congressional districts have now been -- they're drawn away that they're so sorted out that there probably aren't enormous ones. The Republicans who voted in favor of this are probably from districts where that's what their constituency, by and large, wants them to do. And Democrats are in the reverse position. So I think there are probably some.
SEIBI think the broader political facts probably are at the national level that to the extent the Republicans wanna make the case that, you know, we've -- we change on social issues. We're not gonna emphasize social issues or just directly appeal to women for whom this is an issue where this kind of vote doesn't go down nearly so well, that's harder to do in the face of a vote like this. So I think for the party, there are consequences. I think for individual members, less so.
REHMBut there is no chance this is going to the Senate?
DAVISNo, the White House has already issued a veto threat. And Harry Reid has not even put on the schedule. So it's unlikely to even get a vote in the Senate.
REHMOK. I was interested that Sen. Lisa Murkowski, Republican of Alaska, came out in favor of same-sex marriage this week.
DAVISIt is not as surprising when you know that Murkowski is more of a centrist Republican, and she represents a state that has probably more of a libertarian view of individual liberties and individual rights. I do think it's notable her coming out because there is now clear majority support for gay marriage in the Senate, maybe not a supermajority of the 60 votes you would probably need to vote on anything like this, but last rough count was about 55 senators have come out in support.
DAVISAmong Republicans, it's still a pretty small orbit. Murkowski joined Senators Rob Portman, who came out in a very national way to discuss his son had -- his son came out as gay and how it changed his view on the issue, and Mark Kirk, who also represents maybe a more centrist- and Democratic-leaning state. But among Democrats, it's almost unanimous support with a couple of holdouts.
DAVISSo the changes may be coming more on the Republican side of the aisle. But the fact that the Senate has crossed this Rubicon of majority support is sort of notable to me.
REHMInteresting, too, that the president raised this issue in Berlin, Molly.
BALLAbsolutely. This is something -- obviously the Supreme Court is about to weigh in, probably in the next week, on the two challenges to anti-gay marriage laws: Proposition 8 in California and the Defense of Marriage Act. And that's why there are actually potential policy consequences to something like Murkowski, who is -- certainly has the reputation as a centrist, but also is the only red state Republican senator who has come out in favor of gay marriage.
BALLEven if the Supreme Court finds that the Defense of Marriage Act from 1996, which denies federal recognition to gay marriages even if they're legal in individual states, even if the Supreme Court overturns that, there are still a lot of legal complications in the federal code that bar gay couples from a lot of the rights that are afforded to other married couples under federal law.
BALLAnd so the Senate -- Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand has said that the Senate is going to bring up a legislative repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act that would unwind some of its other provisions and clarify some of the other parts of federal law. So having a majority of senators on that side of the issue actually could matter.
SEIBWell, I don't think that the -- this debate is near its end. I think it's near its beginning for the reasons Molly just cited. You know, there's -- if there's a growing consensus in the country -- and certainly the polling suggests there is -- in favor of gay marriage, then that has to ripple out through a lot of states. The shift's gone to the opposite direction over the last 10 years.
SEIBAnd at the federal level, if there is gonna be an unwinding of policy positions, that's going to take some time. So -- excuse me -- the Supreme Court decision is important, but in -- it's only the beginning of, I think, a rethink of this issue which will take some time.
BALLWell, the Supreme Court decision is only at the beginning unless the Supreme Court...
SEIBUnless it -- yeah, it's true.
BALL...overturns Proposition 8 on broad constitutional grounds. Most people aren't expecting that...
BALL...but it is technically possible that the Supreme Court could say next week, let -- any kind of anti-gay marriage legislation is unconstitutional on equal protection grounds, and then the entire country gets gay marriage all at once.
REHMMolly Ball of The Atlantic. You're listening to "The Diane Rehm Show." Let's talk about the NSA surveillance programs. President Obama spoke to Charlie Rose this week, Jerry. What did he have to say?
SEIBWell, he defended the NSA surveillance programs, and I think his broader argument, which he's repeated a couple of times in different settings in the last few days, is that there's a false choice that's being set up here between security and freedom. We can have freedom and security at the same time. That's what I'm trying to achieve. And his more specific argument was that the two NSA programs that have attracted the most attention, one involves compiling phone records of Americans, but that that's just numbers of phone calls that are connected to each other.
SEIBIt doesn't involve listening to any phone conversations, or there are no names attached to the numbers. If you wanna go deeper, you have to have the FBI come in and get a court to allow you to do that. And on the other program, which involves intercepting Internet traffic, it's totally foreigners. It's not Americans. So nobody's reading your emails or checking out your Google searches.
SEIBSo the message was these are necessary programs. They're helping, they're under control, there are restraints on them, and they're necessary, but not an impingement on liberties, and that's the message he's been trying for two weeks to get out.
REHMAnd then FBI Director Mueller came out, acknowledging that drones have been used in this country. Was that a surprise to you?
DAVISIt was a surprise to the committee. I don't think that they expected Mueller to say that, and I think maybe it didn't surprise them. But what did surprise them is they said, well, we have done it. It's been used seldomly. It's been used minimally. And we're working on guidelines to figure out -- the legal guidelines by which we can use it. And...
REHMHow has it been used?
DAVISWell, he didn't get into -- they talked about it in terms of surveillance, certainly not drones in the attempts of -- to take out terrorists and things, as we talk about overseas in that debate, more about surveillance and in uses of kidnapping cases and federal crimes. I think what -- from a congressional standpoint, from an oversight standpoint, it's the idea that they're operating these systems without clear guidelines and without clear framework.
DAVISThe FBI director is obviously on his way out the door, and they're in -- about to be in the process of confirming the next FBI director, who probably has broad bipartisan support. No one has said they're gonna oppose him yet, but it does seem like this could be an issue that could become a factor in his confirmation process.
REHMGen. Keith Alexander also testified.
BALLWell, I mean, what we're seeing with this is there just seems to be layer upon layer of new developments in this. And if you are of the view that these are violations of civil liberties, it's, I think, starting to seem like, well, you're not paranoid if they're actually out to get you because we just keep finding out that there's more and more that is actually happening about Americans being spied upon by their government. And so it's interesting to me how sensitive the president appears to be to this charge.
BALLYou've seen in the interview with Charlie Rosen, in the speech that he gave a few weeks ago, he seems to be really at pains to try to explain this, I think, because he realizes that, first of all, there's a lot of his liberal base that is kind of freaked out by this, and, second of all, that it's at odds with a lot of his campaign rhetoric when he was campaigning against the supposed overreaches of the Bush administration. And he seems very sensitive to the sort of charge that his administration has not had a good record on civil liberties.
REHMSo, in the meantime, you've got Edward Snowden, the former contractor for Booz Allen talking again with The Guardian.
SEIBRight. He did a kind of an online interview with The Guardian this week and said he was happy to be attacked by Dick Cheney -- that's the highest honor he could think of -- and that he's not a traitor. He's just trying to let people know what their government is doing and that he has more documents and that he's -- he basically -- and interesting, given what Molly just said. He essentially blamed President Obama for this.
SEIBHe said it's when President Obama came in, continued the policies of the Bush administration, that's when I got disillusioned. That's when I decided I needed to do something.
REHMSo what's next for him? Is he gonna go to Iceland? What happens?
DAVISWell, first, the Justice Department has an active open investigation. He has not been charged with anything. And depending on what they charge him with, it's likely he will be charged under the Espionage Act, which seems to be the general consensus, as well as national security, leaking of those documents. The -- there's -- the fascinating thing is what do you do once they've charged him?
DAVISAnd it is unclear. Extradition policy is very vague and most often rooted in diplomacy more than it is in hard law. But it's possible he could seek asylum in Hong Kong, and there is talk that he may try and go to Iceland, which has stronger whistleblower protections.
REHMSusan Davis of USA Today. Your calls when we come back. Stay with us.
REHMAnd welcome back. Time to go to the phones. First to Katie in Indianapolis. Good morning.
KATIEGood morning. Thank you for taking my call.
KATIERegarding abortion, your guest made a comment about abortion, the Washington state being more extreme and less middle ground. That kind of make sense to me 'cause I think it is either extremely right or extremely wrong. There kinda is no middle ground. I have never heard anyone argue that abortion is right just that we don't have a right to say it's not right. But in understanding both sides, I am wondering how your guests would propose a consensus be possible.
BALLWell, if you look at public opinion polling actually, most Americans are not completely on one side or the other. There is a small minority of Americans who believe that abortion should never be legal and a small minority of Americans who believe it should always be legal. But the vast majority of Americans believe it should be legal in some circumstances and not others. And there are all kinds of shades of gray in terms of what kind of restrictions people would like to see. But I think, actually, the Congress is far more polarized on this in terms of the absolutes than the American people are.
REHMAll right. Here's an email from John who has a question on the immigration reform legislation. "With sequestration already in place, how does the Senate plan on paying for the surge of border control personnel?" Jerry.
SEIBWell, I don't think they have quite answered that question yet on one level. On another level, it doesn't matter. I mean, Congress can manage to find the money to pay for things it needs to pay for or wants to pay for. And whatever the rules are, they're made by Congress and Congress will figure out a way to get around those rules. So it's a legitimate and intelligent question. The answer will be they'll find a way.
DAVISPart of the reason why they're able to spend this money is because of the CBO report that Jerry referenced earlier that said, over the next decade, if we enact this law, it'll save 780 billion, I think, was the long-term figure. So...
REHMHow did they arrive at that? What were they figuring? The income taxes...
SEIBWell, it's a combination of things. There is -- there's the increase tax revenue that you get when you legalize 11.4 million or whatever the number of illegal aliens who are here now. There's economic growth that occurs when those people enter the -- move out of the shadows and enter the -- sort of the real economy.
SEIBPresumably, they're helping to finance the retirement of people -- baby boomers and -- who are in the Social Security and Medicare programs or will be soon because they're gonna pay those taxes that reduces burdens elsewhere. And there's the idea that if you bring more workers into a country that's in need of labor in certain areas, you've just generated more economic growth generally. So that's the basic idea.
REHMAll right. To Lexington, Mass. Hi, David.
DAVIDHi, Diane. Thank you for taking my call.
DAVIDI'm a liberal Democrat, and I'm disgusted with this immigration reform bill. We have 20 million out of work right now, and this bill would issue 33 million green cards. According to the Congressional Budget Office, it will increase unemployment and reduce wages for American workers, and it's only gonna cut illegal immigration by 25 percent. And it's pushing us to be more like China and less like Scandinavia.
DAVISHe raises arguments that are being made right now in the Senate debate, most prominently, I think, by Jeff Sessions. He's a Republican senator from Alabama who has been very forceful in discussing all the points he just raised. There were -- in the CBO report, there was discussions that if you have this flood of workforce into the market that it could suppress wages in the short term. I mean, these are not all positive effects. There are other effects that have come out of it.
DAVISBut I do think that the overall economic projection is a good one. There is also -- and when he talks about unemployment, it's a very valid concern, and it's one that's raised by opponents of this bill on a regular basis. The counterargument that someone say is that the jobs that the illegal immigrants in this country are fulfilling are jobs that are -- were not being filled by the American workforce to begin with, which is what created the demand for it.
DAVISIt's a contentious debate. I don't disagree with that. But that – there -- the macro effect of this by non-partisan analysts is that it could be good for the U.S. economy.
SEIBWell two points. One is that this is a situation in which there are 11.4 million or so people who are already doing jobs. If they're gonna suppress wages, you could argue -- that has already happened. They're here. They're working. They're taking jobs. That's already baked into the cake. The second argument -- the second point would be that, you know, if you look at the economic research on this, you will find that there is a very clear divide.
SEIBYou can find economic studies that say more immigration depresses American wages, and you can find studies that say it makes no difference at all. It all evens out in the end. So if you're looking for an empirical objective answer to that question, you'll look in vain.
BALLOne of the interesting things about this debate as opposed to the last time we had it in 2006, 2007 is the left appears to be much more unified in support of immigration reform. I remember hearing a lot of dissent from Democrats, particularly sort of blue-collar union Democrats, on exactly this contention that it would be bad for workers and for low-wage workers. And we've really heard very little of that from the left this time, and we did see both the AFLCIO and the Chamber of Commerce sign on to a version of this bill very early on, which didn't happen back in 2006, 2007.
REHMAll right. Here's an e-mail from Tom in Virginia. "After what happened in the House to the farm bill, I wonder if all these infighting will actually stop immigration reform. They really are the do-nothing House." Susan, are the two connected?
DAVISThey are. And I think that that was one of the immediate takeaways when the farm bill went down and sort of surprised everybody on Capitol Hill yesterday was that if you can't pass a farm bill that has tremendous bipartisan support, how are you gonna pass a far more contentious, far more difficult bill, particularly, as John Boehner has said this week, that he would not bring immigration bill to the floor unless it had the majority of Republican support?
DAVISThere's 232, roughly, Republicans in the House who he's gonna need at least 117 of them to sign on to this bill, and that is a very, very hard, tough task for him to do.
REHMAnd here's an e-mail from Nino (sp?) in North Carolina. "The job of the U.S. Central Bank is not to worry only about inflation. Federal Reserve Act establishes three objectives: full employment, staple prices and moderate long-term interest rates. We are not even close to full employment."
SEIBNo. I think that Chairman Bernanke said pretty much that himself this week. Their target is 6.5 percent. That's the point where -- they were not gonna call that full employment, so people shouldn't be confused about that. That's the point at which they think the employment picture is improving enough for them to start scaling back. And we're not there yet. And that was one of the things, I think, market people didn't listen to when he said that. He said, that's -- we're gonna -- if we get there, then we will start to taper off. But we're not there yet.
REHMAll right. To Houston, Texas. Tony, good morning.
TONYGood morning, Diane. I love your show.
TONYYou're an amazing woman. I'll keep it quick. Yeah, I just wanted to ask or get you guys' view on me as an individual American and my friends and yourselves and then other people are pretty much disillusioned with the president and everybody else involved with what they're saying about the NSA program and just we're supposed to take their word at it, and that, you know, everything's OK and that we're not doing this, that and the other.
TONYAnd my -- what I wanna know or just get your thoughts on is, is the public just gonna keep standing still and just, you know, they're gonna listen to the rhetoric, or we're actually gonna stand up and do something about, you know, the situation because it's a little out of hand, in my opinion.
BALLThe interesting thing to me about these revelations is that they do seem to have been a sort of tipping-point moment for a lot of people who previously were willing to sort of give the administration the benefit of the doubt. Now, you have the civil liberties community saying, oh, you know, we've been angry at Obama over this stuff for years now. This is nothing new. But -- and then you do have a love of people who are just predisposed to sort of stick by the president and trust him no matter what.
BALLThe public opinion picture that we've seen is very mixed. It seems to depend a lot on how the question is asked, and people are very divided on particular aspects of these programs. But there has been a tremendous reaction, particularly from the left, of people saying, this is it. I could tolerate it up to now, but this is sort of the last straw for me, and now we've got to do something.
SEIBI think one of the interesting things is that in the Congress -- leaving aside public opinion, which as Molly says, is a little hard to read although it's not as much against this as some people might have thought, but in the Congress, there's seems to be a big centrist block of people from both parties who are prepared to defend these programs because they created them in the first place and to resist voting to change them. So I think in the political arena, you don't get the sense that there's some big movement taking shape to start rethinking these programs in a fundamental way.
REHMAnd Valerie posted this on Facebook. She says, "Please talk about the abortion laws the GOP is passing all over the country." She says, "I was under the impression jobs were the number one priority of the GOP." Susan.
DAVISShe does raise an interesting point. A lot of the abortion restrictive laws that had passed in this country have happened on the state level, and it happened since 2010 when there was a national wave of Republicans being elected both on the federal and state level. A lot of state legislatures were taken over by Republicans. And since then, I don't have exact number, but many states have passed more restrictive abortion laws. Most recently, Wisconsin was adjoined to debate where they passed a restrictive law of similar to what the Congress was trying to do this week.
DAVISThere are so -- there are many states now that are under one-party role, either Democratic or Republican. So in Republican states like Wisconsin, they're finding it much easier to pass these bills because there isn't the divide the power, which is not what we are seeing on the federal level. And it's hard to see, you know, monolithic control of Washington anytime in the near future, which is why I don't see abortion laws changing on the federal way.
SEIBYou know, it's been a long period of time in the history of this country in which the surest way to figure out who's a Democrat and who's a Republican is to ask their view on abortion, and I think what we discovered this week is that's still true. You know, there a lot of issues that divide people, but the one that will give you the purest partisan divide is still the abortion issue. And I don't think that's gonna change anytime soon.
REHMAll right. To Cleveland, Ohio. Hi, John.
JOHNHello. I'd like to ask your panelists why anyone is surprised or concerned that the FBI is using drones since American law enforcement -- federal state and local -- has been using airborne surveillance for over 60 years for everything, for felony investigations to traffic enforcement.
SEIBWell, I think it's a good point, you know, the -- look, the FBI follows people on the street all the time and, you know, people were perfectly comfortable with there being a lots of cameras on the streets of Boston that helped track down the Boston bombers. So I don't think people should be particularly surprised. It's a tool. It's another tool. There are lots of tools.
SEIBAnd I think the -- what happened here was that there was a tool that people hadn't thought about that was sort of taking out from under the table and put on top of it. But if you assume law enforcement will use whatever tools are available, you probably shouldn't be surprised.
BALLThis all comes in the context of a sort of heightened sensitivity to the whole idea of drones, which are after all a newer technology for military and law enforcement alike. There's something creepy about the fact that nobody's, you know, in the thing when it's following you around. And...
REHMAnd they're used for killings.
BALLRight. And so...
REHMI mean, that's the other aspect.
BALLAnd I think that's the real knob of this debate is the drones that are being used to -- by the military. And so the fact that law enforcement is using them is just sort of brings the issue up and again and flames again. But we saw, you know, Sen. Paul doing his 13-hour filibuster on the use of drones, and it's clearly just an issue that is having a moment right now.
REHMNow, here's an interesting email from Brian. He's in New Hampshire. He says, "Isn't it odd how the financial markets generally considered right leaning are so skittish at the prospect of the government taking off the training wheels? Aren't these the same people always decrying than any state? Perhaps they should start being adults, managing markets more sensibly then we people would not have to rescue them again."
SEIBWell, I don't -- I think it's a mistake to think of the markets as being politically leaning one way or other, therefore, making money quickly. And, you know, it's not a political view. It's a practical view. And if governments can prop up the economy, that's fine. If they can keep interest rates low, that's fine. I don't think that's a political view. I think that's a totally pragmatic view. And that's how you have to look at markets.
REHMAnd you're listening to "The Diane Rehm Show." To Annapolis, Md. Good morning, Patrick.
PATRICKI just wanted to make a few comments. I've been actually really angry with the fact that people saying that immigrants coming to America, even if they're illegal, are taking jobs away. There's comments about the African-American community saying that legalizing immigrants takes away jobs from them.
PATRICKBut as a third generation Irish and Polish-American, the history of immigrants have always taken jobs that the majority of Americans didn't wanna take, whether it'd be washing the floors in hospitals that my grandmother did or working as migrant field hands like my great, great grandfather did. There always been the immigrants who came to America who were always looked down upon but did the jobs that are needed for America to work.
PATRICKAnd I find it really insensitive and also disingenuous that politicians and groups are saying that they're taking jobs that could go to other groups when those jobs are the ones that I know my generation would never take because they looked down on them or the fact that to modern Americans who lived here for long enough and have the pleasure of the things that we have wouldn't be able to live to their standards.
DAVISNo. I think he just voiced the counterargument to the earlier caller.
DAVISI will say, though, what's interesting to me is that we focus so much on the low-wage immigrant. But there's also, in this debate, the issue of the high-wage, high-educated immigrant and that you want to create an environment in which immigrants from other countries are coming here, particularly in our tech and innovation and -- visas that they can get.
DAVISSo it's -- we're focusing -- it seems to be -- it's very easy to demagogue that side of the worker, but it's also -- they seem to just be fulfilling needs in the economy versus taking jobs away.
REHMLet's talk about James Gandolfini, best known for playing Tony Soprano. He died this week at age 51, not clear of what, perhaps a heart attack -- pardon me -- maybe a stroke. What do you think made him such a perfect Tony Soprano, Susan?
DAVISIsn't it -- it's sort of that -- it's the X factor that you don't -- you can't really put on a certain talent. I mean, he -- the thing that I think is his probably lasting legacy -- and I watch "The Sopranos" and I was a big fan of the show -- is that he kinda -- he changed the way we do TV in this country in the sense that he made television cool, in that film actors and people that consider themselves A-list stars, TV was sort of seen as B-list medium.
DAVISAnd "The Sopranos" and his ability to make probably one of the most memorable characters in television history made actors wanna do personality-driven dramas.
BALLHe was the sensitive big guy, right? He was the sort of -- looks like an oaf and can really scare you with you a glare but with that incredibly complex soul on the inside. My other favorite role of his was his role as the general in the movie "In the Loop," the British political comedy. And it was a very similar thing. He was a general who is really struggling with his conscience.
REHMMolly Ball of The Atlantic, Jerry Seib, The Wall Street Journal, Susan Davis, USA Today. Have a great weekend everybody.
BALLThank you, Diane.
REHMAnd thanks for listening. I'm Diane Rehm.
ANNOUNCER"The Diane Rehm Show" is produced by Sandra Pinkard, Nancy Robertson, Denise Couture, Susan Casey Nabors, Rebecca Kaufman, Lisa Dunn and Danielle Knight. The engineer is Tobey Schreiner. Natalie Yuravlivker answers the phones. Visit drshow.org for audio archives, transcripts, podcasts and CD sales. Call 202-885-1200 for more information. Our email address is firstname.lastname@example.org, and we're on Facebook and Twitter. This program comes to you from American University in Washington, D.C. This is NPR.
Most Recent Shows
Congress is updating a 40-year-old federal law regulating thousands of chemicals in daily use. The bipartisan bill has support from many industry groups and public health advocates, but some in the environmental community say it doesn't go far enough. A look at regulating the safety of chemicals.
Nine years ago, former FBI agent Robert Levinson disappeared in Iran while on a mission for the CIA. The story of his secret journey to Iran, the CIA cover-up that followed and efforts to rescue the longest-held U.S. hostage.
President Barack Obama lifts the embargo against U.S. arms sales to Vietnam. We discuss what closer ties between the U.S. and Vietnam mean for trade, leverage on human rights and growing concerns over China's military expansion.