Many say the current presidential race is the most uncivilized in modern American history. Civility in public discourse, why it seems to have hit a new low and long-term implications for the democratic process.
The Senate makes a deal on filibusters. Attorney General Eric Holder attacks stand-your-ground laws. And a Rolling Stone cover of the Boston bombing suspect sparks outrage. A panel of journalists joins Diane for analysis of the week’s top national news stories.
- Ed O'Keefe congressional reporter for The Washington Post.
- Julie Hirschfeld Davis national political correspondent at Bloomberg News.
- John Harris editor-in-chief of Politico.com, author of "The Survivor" and co-author of "The Way to Win."
Justice Department officials are reviewing whether George Zimmerman committed a civil rights violations, such as a hate crime, when he shot dead Florida teenager Trayvon Martin. The panel also discussed ambiguity in how large of a role stand-your-ground laws played in the jury’s decision to acquit Zimmerman of murder charges.
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MS. DIANE REHMThanks for joining us. I'm Diane Rehm. Detroit files for bankruptcy. Atty. Gen. Eric Holder attacks Stand Your Ground laws. And the Rolling Stone cover of the Boston bombing suspect sparks outrage. Joining me in the studio for the Domestic Hour of the Friday News Roundup, John Harris of Politico.com, Julie Hirschfeld Davis of Bloomberg News and Ed O'Keefe of The Washington Post.
MS. DIANE REHMI invite you as always to be part of the program. Give us a call, 800-433-8850, send us an email to firstname.lastname@example.org, follow us on Facebook or Twitter. Good morning everybody.
MR. JOHN HARRISGood morning.
MS. JULIE HIRSCHFELD DAVISGood morning, Diane.
MR. ED O'KEEFEGood morning.
REHMGood to have you all here. Let's start with Detroit and its filing for bankruptcy. It's been coming on for a long time. What's this going to mean for that city, its residents, its pensioners, Ed O'Keefe?
O'KEEFEWell, they believe that, you know, this could just drive more people out of the city as its, you know, fantastic population decline continues. But state officials expect it to sort of outline today a little more how exactly they're going to handle the situation. What is it the largest municipal bankruptcy in U.S. history and really just sort of the conclusion or really I guess the result of a decade's long decline.
O'KEEFEYou know, now that the automobile industry has taken a hit and really Midwestern industrial cities have suffered, especially in recent years with the recession.
REHMJohn Harris, is there a clear roadmap going forward?
HARRISIt seems to me that there's not a clear roadmap absent, bit outside subsidies. In other words, the structural problems that Detroit has in their -- the financial problems are merely an expression of the kind of sociological problems and the economic problems at the core. The financial problems are clearly massive commitments that can't be sustained in terms of pension, in terms of public services on the economic base, on the revenue base that the city has.
HARRISYou can fix that as a math problem. You can't fix the sociological problem, which is that you've got an inner-city core that doesn't have a functioning economy, has enormous public service needs, does not have the population or the economic base to sustain those obligations. So absent a big outside subsidy, I don't really see the -- how the problem gets solved.
REHMSo, Julie, you have automobile companies who were sort of bailed out of bankruptcies by the federal government. How come not the city itself?
DAVISWell, I mean it's so ironic because in the 2012 presidential campaign, Mitt Romney resurfaced about let Detroit go bankrupt. And, of course, he was talking about the car companies themselves, not the city. But what we did see was some government involvement to really manage the bankruptcies of two of the three major automakers in Detroit, and it worked. There was a clear pathway.
DAVISThey came out of bankruptcy. They emerged, and now, they're -- Chrysler and GM are back to profitability. What is not happening correspondingly because of the condition of Detroit and the condition really of a lot of American cities of this size -- I mean, Detroit had two million people in 1950, and it's, you know, vastly eroded the whole tax base and the cultural base. You know, the heart of the city really and so you didn't see that the auto industry come back they carry over to the population of Detroit.
DAVISWe've seen it help the state's economic wellbeing. We've seen it help the suburbs, certainly the car companies themselves. But it hasn't carried over to the city itself, which is now $18 billion in the hole. So what you're really gonna see I think is a lot of attempts to cut some of these pension obligations. I do think you're gonna see city workers and retirees really having to take a substantial haircut to get them where they need to be.
DAVISAnd that may not even be enough. They're talking about maybe having to auction off their, you know, billion-dollar art collections and stuff like that. So it's really gonna -- the city is going to take even a bigger hit than it's taken.
O'KEEFEThe statistics on this are just stunning. I was reading over again it last night. You know, the population has gone from two million to roughly 700,000. It was like once the fourth largest city. Now, it's just north of Washington, really, here in the District, nearly 80,000 buildings abandoned or seriously blighted. Forty percent of the city streetlights don't work. Police response times are about an hour.
O'KEEFEAnd the jobless rate is about 18 percent. But, you know, there wasn't much of a response here in Washington to this, and state officials are more than happy to step in and try to fix the situation, which I know a lot of experts have said which suggest that perhaps other cities might be observing what happens in Detroit in the coming weeks and months and say, well, gosh, if they get bailed out, if they get helped, if there's a way to restructure their balance sheet, maybe we should slip into bankruptcy as well.
REHMYou know, it's interesting because you had Gov. Snyder's decision to send in an emergency manager. Some people have said that this whole episode has carried racial implications that it's a setting of a wave of concerns for some in Detroit that the most white Republican-led state government was trying to seize control of Detroit. How do you see it, John?
HARRISI don't see it as primarily through a racial prism, but it is true. You know, we've talked about the problems of Detroit in the context of the car industry. The car industry is doing a little bit better, but the jobs that the new resurgent car industry is producing are not producing jobs for these people because they are low skill, and, you know, face serious or sociological challenges in an inner-city environment with poor public safety, poor schools.
HARRISPeople aren't so not coming out of that environment ready to take 21st century jobs. That's the reality. Unfortunately, that there is in Detroit a racial dimension to that, but in lots of cities there's the exact same phenomenon that isn't racial have to do with how you create an opportunity culture. Many inner-cities just simply are not doing that I would say because in my view safety and schools.
REHMSafety and schools, Ed?
O'KEEFEYeah. I mean it's -- there were similar accusations made here in Washington back in the day when Congress have much more oversight, you know, and this is a city, Detroit, that had a lot of problems with its city government in recent years, and it was led by primarily by African-Americans. And the city -- the mayor or the manager currently is, and, of course, the mayor is white. So obviously, that is an accusation or a storyline that people will explore.
O'KEEFEBut I think John is right. You know, this speaks more to greater sociological issues. Some of America's biggest cities that haven't necessarily been able to adjust to the modern-day economy. And I remember a lot of the automotive jobs now that are being created aren't being created in Michigan. They're in Kentucky.
REHMRight, right, right.
O'KEEFEThey're in South Carolina. They're down in the South. They're not in Michigan anymore.
REHMAnd now, you've got pensioners who as Morning Edition reported this morning may have to take as little as 10 cents on the dollar. How are people going to survive this?
DAVISWell, I mean, you already have -- this is a city where more than a third of the population is living in poverty. It's a place where home values are a fraction of what they are in the rest of the state. Median income is $28,000, which is a fraction of what it is in the rest of the state. It's not really clear how these people can sustain that kind of hit, which is why I think John is right that there is going to be a lot of discussion of whether, you know, there can be some subsidies either federal help or some sort of public-private some kind of structure that can help the city get out of this.
DAVISBut in the short term, I do think that, you know, you are gonna hear a lot of accusations of racial and, you know, certainly class warfare here. I mean you already have the unions very angrily responding to this action by the emergency manager and saying, you know, they didn't even try. They haven't (unintelligible) because of who they are effectively. And it's gonna be hard in the short term as they lay out the steps that they're gonna take initially to try to, you know, bring them into bankruptcy.
DAVISThis could be, you know, more than a yearlong process. They say they may emerge next summer or next fall. They think and it may be -- take longer than that. So I do think you're gonna see a lot of -- it's gonna be a divisive process going forward.
REHMJulie Hirschfield Davis, she's national political correspondent at Bloomberg News. And if you'd like to join us, do remember that this first hour of the Friday News Roundup is being video streamed as we speak so that if you cared to view, you can see it us here in the studio as well as listen to the program. Let's talk about the Zimmerman acquittal and following George Zimmerman's acquittal we have lots of people just taking to the streets in protest, John Harris.
HARRISWe did, and here's a case undeniably and emphatically that was being viewed through a racial prism. It was a kind of racial roar shock test that we have from time to time in this country, too frequently. I mean to me the closest analog was in fact the O.J. Simpson case where people looked at a verdict and were just incomprehensible in different directions largely broken down around race.
HARRISMany African-Americans simply could not understand how an acquittal happened. I think many white people did in fact view the case much differently through a more sympathetic prism to George Zimmerman.
DAVISWell, I mean I thought it was interesting the response that we saw, particularly from Pres. Obama who's had to -- who has throughout his presidency walked such a careful line on issues that are fraught with race. In the very beginning of this, right after the case started to unfold, he said, you know, if I had a son, he would look like Trayvon Martin. And that was a very sort of passionate emotion-filled response.
DAVISWe saw a much more measured -- much less emotional frankly Pres. Obama responding to the verdict, saying, you know, he's calling for calm, calling for refection, saying he was not gonna get involved in the Justice Department as it decides whether to actually bring a civil suit here, civil charges. So he's really, you know, walking a fine line here.
REHMJulie Hirschfield Davis. And when we come back, we'll talk further about the Department of Justice's options, Eric Holder's statements. Stay with us.
REHMAnd here's our first email on the George Zimmerman decision. It's from Sharon, who says, "I do not understand the judge's lack of instruction on Stand Your Ground. Stand Your Ground should only have applied to Trayvon Martin. George Zimmerman was the aggressor, so Stand Your Ground should never even have been considered." Let's hear what Eric Holder had to say about this.
ATTY. GEN. ERIC HOLDERThese laws try to fix something that was never broken. There has always been a legal defense for using deadly force if -- and the if is important -- if no safe retreat is available. But we must examine laws that take this further by eliminating the common sense and age-old requirement that people who feel threatened have a duty to retreat, outside their home, if they can do so safely. By allowing and perhaps encouraging violent situations to escalate in public, such laws undermine public safety.
REHMAnd, of course, that was Eric Holder, attorney general, speaking at the annual convention of the NAACP. Department of Justice has said it would restart its hate crime inquiry into the shooting death of Trayvon Martin, pretty high bar to reach before bringing that case, Ed O'Keefe.
O'KEEFEYou used high bar. I was gonna use steep hill.
O'KEEFEBut, yes, it is. And the Justice Department has asked for their officials to hold on to all the evidence, just in case they do decide to pursue charges. That, of course, has set up some concern because this means that Mr. Zimmerman doesn't get back, for example, the gun that was used that in this situation, which he was going to get back now that he was acquitted. A lot of people are concerned that the Justice Department, needlessly, holding on to this evidence. But they're gonna need it potentially if they are able to find civil rights violations, which is really the only avenue they can pursue.
O'KEEFEHolder saying this is notable. There are 23 states that have these so-called Stand Your Ground laws. But let's face it. Holder is probably in the midst of his calendar year as attorney general. He's likely or expected to leave the Justice Department in the coming months. There's not much the federal government can do other than say they don't necessarily like these laws that states have passed.
O'KEEFEAnd, you know, others have said this week that, you know, if you're upset about the Trayvon Martin-George Zimmerman situation, perhaps, you push for a change in gun control law -- gun laws across the country. I heard several people say that this week that, perhaps, that's the spirit in which this should be carried on, but attempts to seriously consider a change in gun laws up on Capitol Hill are going nowhere. They pretty much faltered since the debate pretty much fizzled out back in April and May. And so we'll see.
O'KEEFEAnd there wasn't much said, you know, among lawmakers this week about this. There were few that gathered in New York City to call upon the Justice Department to do this review. But beyond that, you know, we'll just have to wait and see. I think the president's statement was notable. He said, look, a jury has spoken. We have to respect the verdict. Everyone, please, behave peacefully and move on.
REHMAnd for the most part, they have indeed.
REHMIt was rather unusual, was it not, Julie, that one of the jurors who acquitted George Zimmerman spoke out anonymously on CNN?
DAVISIt was. And even more notable was what she said, which was basically that in the end, George Zimmerman was justified. And then you saw almost all of the other jurors come out with a statement not long thereafter saying this does not reflect what we thought as a jury or what we thought as individuals for the others took the time to distance themselves from those remarks because, really, it was sort of a moral judgment on what is, as both John and Ed have point out.
DAVISReally, it's an emotional case that was very confusing in its legal ramifications as well. And what was interesting about the Stand Your Ground aspect is that, you know, it didn't really come up very much during the trial. It didn't come up. George Zimmerman didn't asked for a Stand Your Ground hearing, which he could've done after his arrest. And it wasn't in the juror -- in the juror's instructions, you know, what that meant for them and how they had to look that.
DAVISSo you can't say it wasn't a factor in what their decision was. But it's not really clear how big of a role it played. And so it is -- it's -- that makes it even more notable that the Justice Department now is -- that Eric Holder is, you know, calling attention to these things, and it is really a point of contention. You know, you see some folks occupying Rick Scott's office in Florida trying to get him to get rid of this law.
HARRISI mean, at the heart of the trial was deeply ambiguous evidence, and that was what the jury was presented with, real ambiguity, real confusion about precisely what happened the night of that tragedy. My own suspicion is that Attorney General Holder's comments on this are a little bit of a head fake or a release valve.
HARRISIt's a way of expressing concern, putting itself on the side of people who are concerned and possibly -- I don't know this. This is not based on reporting, but it's just my hunch -- setting up the predicate for there's nothing we can do on the civil right -- on a criminal case as far as civil rights being violated because just as the prosecutors in Florida had a very, very steep legal challenge in the face of that ambiguous evidence, so would any new trial.
REHMDo you agree, Ed?
O'KEEFEYeah. As we said, it's a very difficult situation to sort out. And frankly, if that element of evidence was there, you know, racism or potential racial bias, why wouldn't it have been presented as a possible reason in the state's case that was just finished? So...
REHMAnd now you've had some very permanent legal voices speak out saying that the prosecution did a totally botched job, not creating, not presenting, putting forth the real character of who Trayvon Martin was, not emphasizing the number of calls that George Zimmerman had made to police. And in fact, there was some question about whether words were changed in terms of some of the phone calls he made. What kind of a job do you think the prosecution actually did?
O'KEEFEYou know, I will admit, I have not watched every second of this trial. I've read news reports of it. Certainly, it appears that the jury was not convinced. I will say this, I've served on a jury. It was just a case here in D.C., got called, and I remember sitting with fellow jurors and remembering that phrase, beyond a reasonable doubt. And that sticks in the minds of a jury, and it looks as if they were not convinced.
O'KEEFEAnd they look at those four words very seriously when they get their instructions because they understand that someone's life and a situation is hanging in a balance. And I think having watched that interview with the juror, it does appear that that was -- that they were not convinced.
REHMAnd juror B37 who did present her views to CNN apparently had signed a book deal, and then that book deal was rescinded after there was a huge outcry. Turning the page, let's go to the threat of filibuster that occurred this week on the Hill, and finally at the 12th hour, an emotional deal, Julie.
DAVISYes. Well, this is the nuclear option that comes up in the Senate from time to time. And as most of us who had been watching the Senate for a long time expected, they did actually pull themselves back from the brink. And it did break a logjam. I mean, President Obama is now getting to staff up his cabinet in a way that had really been blocked for several months.
DAVISAnd Democrats had been threatening to basically change the rules of the Senate to deprive Republicans of the ability in the minority to block President Obama from votes on these people, not to block the nominations them but to block them from coming to a vote because the Democrats do have a simple majority in the Senate. But they don't, by current Senate rules, have the ability to shut down the minority if they want to raise an objection or, as they say, filibuster a motion to have vote on one of these people.
DAVISSo, you've got -- you then saw four confirmed nominees. President Obama, in return, had to pull back two of his nominees for the National Labor Relations Board and submit to new ones. And in return, Republicans allowed those votes. And the big dispute now is over what did Democrats give in return. The minority leader of the Senate, Mitch McConnell, a Republican, said that he really tried to, you know, hold out for a deal where they would not be allowed in the future to change the rules of the Senate. But that didn't happen.
DAVISThey still say, you know, we reserve the right if this happens again, you know, to come back at this. And some Republicans are really not pleased with that.
REHMAnd McConnell himself said he would continue to reserve the right to filibuster any future controversial nomination.
O'KEEFEAnd then Harry Reid responded and said, I reserve the right to reinstitute the threat of a nuclear option. It was incredible, Diane, that all it took was a 3 1/2-hour closed door, no-staff, no-camera meeting among 98 of the 100 senators for them to realize, gosh, you know, we're really not that far apart on most of this stuff. I asked a few senators afterward, was this kind of like a boyfriend and a girlfriend having an airing of grievances? And they said, that's exactly what it was like. And so we all said, well, why aren't you doing this more often? And I think there -- we may see a push to somehow have at least like a monthly meeting or something where they all just get together...
REHMWouldn't that be unusual?
O'KEEFEWell, it is unusual, but yet it's so simple that, you know, maybe if they just got together and discussed...
O'KEEFE...the institution and what it's doing and how they can somehow strike a deal. I have seen a lot of eagerness among Democrats and Republicans to really do things, and I think there was a lot of that in the immigration deal that happened recently. There was a lot of that in the failed gun control attempt earlier this spring. There was a lot of that this week. You saw a significant number of Republicans saying, no, we don't wanna do this because we came to Washington to serve in the Senate to get things done, and if we do this, nothing will happen.
REHMBut on the issue of immigration reform, John Harris, you've got Republicans targeting other Republicans.
HARRISI mean, that's the nub of the matter, I think, on this issue. It is Republicans, particularly in the House, who do not share the concerns of the larger Republican Party. My gosh, how will -- what happens to the party, long term, if we're shut out among the Hispanic vote? These people are viewing their -- the situation from a much more short-term perspective. What happens to me if I face a primary challenge?
HARRISJust months from now, really, the 2014 primary challenges will occur over the next six, eight, 10 months. These people typically do not have large Hispanic populations in their districts. They either have zero or single-digit perspectives. So their incentives are totally fear-driven. If I am seen as antagonizing the conservative base in my district by being accommodating to comprehensive immigration reform, it could be the end of my career.
REHMSo, on Tuesday, according to The Huffington Post, you had Republican Senators McCain and Graham join Sen. Schumer in a meeting with pro-reform groups to discuss how to help move this immigration bill, but notably absent was Marco Rubio.
O'KEEFEYes. The senator from Florida is in a bit of a pickle. He's -- since the immigration bill passed in the Senate, he's really attempted to find more conservative causes to latch onto to sort of, you know...
REHMEstablish, re-establish, yeah.
O'KEEFE...bolster his conservative bona fides, if you will, not only potentially for his Senate race if he decides to go that way, but, more importantly, for his presidential ambitions in 2016 if that's the choice he makes. He's said that he won't agree to any spending deal that doesn't repeal Obamacare. He says he's in support of a ban on abortions after 20 weeks. He has stayed notably silent on immigration.
O'KEEFEThe Schumer-McCain effort is part of several different attempts to go after certain Republicans. There's got -- the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee going after 23 Republicans who either won narrowly or have sizable minority populations in their districts, Congressman Gutierrez of Chicago, the Democrat, traveling the country, visiting Republican districts as well to try to gin up support. Lots of different people -- religious, corporate, political -- trying to put pressure on Republicans.
REHMEd O'Keefe, congressional reporter for The Washington Post, and you're listening to "The Diane Rehm Show." You've got lots of people complaining that President Obama has not been out there strongly enough to support and push for more support for his own health care bill. Julie.
DAVISWell, that's true, and if you look at the polls, you may get a clue as to why. I mean, there -- the health care exchanges that are -- that were, you know, devised in the law go into effect in October. People can start enrolling. But if you look at the polls, 52 percent are not in favor of it. They don't think it's gonna help them, the most recent Gallup poll.
REHMIsn't that because they don't really understand it yet?
DAVISIt may well be. It may also be because we just saw Congress vote for the 38th time to repeal or delay or scale it back. The House voted this week to delay the individual mandate, the requirement that everyone have health insurance, in response to the fact that the president and his administration announced last week that they were gonna delay the employer mandate, which is basically they won't enforce, until 2015, the penalties that they would otherwise levy on employers for failing to offer their employees affordable health care.
DAVISNow, you know, it's clear that the president and his team wanna get credit for, you know, listening to the concerns of companies and employers and not giving them a punch in the gut in a difficult time economically by making them, you know, abide by all these record keeping requirements and everything else. But the point is Republicans have been saying for a long time that this bill is unworkable. This law is, you know, too big, too much, too burdensome, and it's not gonna help you. In fact, it's gonna hurt you.
DAVISAnd it's not really clear -- it depends where you live -- whether it is going to help or hurt in terms of cost. I mean, the short-term issue is are people's premiums gonna go up or not? And in a lot of states -- like New York and Oregon and Washington and California -- it looks like they may come down and may be much better off because the state has organized things such that they will be better off.
DAVISBut in places like Mississippi, you haven't had one insurer step forward to say that they're gonna offer a plan under this new law. In Indiana, premiums are slated to go up. So it's really not clear to people yet whether this is gonna help or hurt them. It gives Republicans a real opening to criticize it.
HARRISI can't think of another example over the past, really, generation or two where a major policy debate has seemingly ended with enactment of legislation, and yet the policy debate remains as contentious, and it remains as alive. I don't know whether that's a comment on our politics, and we just don't ever resolve issues. We just were so programmed for nonstop combat that the debate never ends.
HARRISOr maybe it's a function of this particular bill because once you enact the policy legislative, there's still so much implementation that it really actually lives in people's lives more than it did when it was being debated in 2009 and 2010. It's more tangible now. In any event, I can't think of a similar example.
REHMBut, Ed, if the president were to delay the individual mandate, I mean, you may as well give up.
O'KEEFEI mean -- and that's the argument the Republicans are making is, gosh, if he wants to do this...
O'KEEFE...for the employer mandate, he's clearly, you know, in agreement with us. Republicans say that this thing isn't working, that it's too complicated to do, and if you delay it once, what's gonna stop you from delaying it again? These were the 38th and 39th, actually, and then they're combining the two -- the employer and the individual mandate -- and sending it over to the Senate. It will be the 38th and 39th time the Senate ignores what the House did. But, you know, Republicans feel they have a point on this one because the president went about it doing it himself.
REHMEd O'Keefe, congressional reporter for The Washington Post. When we come back, we'll talk further, take your calls, your email. I look forward to hearing from you.
REHMAnd welcome back. Time to open the phones. First to Indianapolis. Hi there, Thomas.
THOMASI think you have the most important show on radio, and I'm just very thankful for it.
THOMASI -- concerning the Detroit issue, it was mentioned that pensioners might get pennies on the dollar for their pension payments. And I've seen corporations do this and governments do this in bankruptcies, and I just think, of all debts, the -- paying people's pensions is sacred. And I don't think anybody should be able to wiggle out of it. People can't wiggle out of their student loans. And I think there should be some protection for pensions.
THOMASPeople fulfilled their contracts and worked for the government and did everything they were expected. And governments and corporations should fulfill their contracts.
REHMI'm sure there are lots of folks in Detroit who agree with you. Go ahead, John Harris.
HARRISWell, just at the human level, it's impossible not to agree. A commitment was it commitment, and it amounts to a reneging on a commitment. As the caller says, it does happen all the time in bankruptcy processes.
REHMBut where are they gonna get the money to fulfill these pension obligations is the problem. Let's go to Michael in Durham, N.C. Hi. You're on the air.
MICHAELHi. Thanks, Diane. Love your show.
MICHAELI wanted to talk about the nuclear option. It sounds so radioactive. And it seems like a term the Republicans have come up with. But I don't understand what's wrong with allowing our elected representatives voting yes or no on issues. And the Democrats have once again chickened out, of which I am a Democrat. And they should have allowed, you know, they should have pulled the trigger and have issues come to the floor and vote yes or no on them instead of having years of, you know, of stalling, which is a Republican trick.
O'KEEFEMichael is the exact reason why Harry Reid finally consented to at least threaten this and walk it up to the brink. He was convinced by enough of his Democratic colleagues, most of whom have just been elected really in the last six to eight years, most of whom have always served under a Democratic majority who said why is it that we can't just do something on majority rule?
O'KEEFENow, the older senators of both parties who served in the majority and minority turned around and said, you haven't seen the shoe on the other foot, and to do this will only cause problems for us down the line. And we shouldn't do it. But look, that conversation on Monday, you know, cleared the air. And the president, at the end of the week, got his nominees and the situation for now is averted.
O'KEEFEBut remember, big confirmation fights to come on Homeland Security secretary, probably on a new attorney general, inevitably Supreme Court nominations and others. And there will be plenty of opportunity for this to come up again and it probably will.
REHMThanks for calling, Michael. Here's a posting on Facebook, "Please explain why Detroit had to file for bankruptcy? The citizens of Detroit were told that giving up their lawfully elected representatives by having an emergency manager would solve everything. Why did this appointed person not do his job?" Julie.
DAVISWell, I mean, his job, as his title would suggest, was to manage what is really an emergency. And as happens in a lot of these cases, he got in there, looked at the books, looked at all the obligations and saw -- at least this is what he's saying -- that there was no other option.
DAVISThere's absolutely no recourse for them to take other than to go into this proceeding and figure out, you know, which obligations they can pay, which they can postpone, which they can negotiate out of and, hopefully, find somewhere along the way some assets that they can sell, some subsidies that they can collect from somewhere so that they can manage their way out of this.
DAVISThey're simply -- in emergency manager's estimation -- and it seems like a lot of folks who have looked at the situation agree with him -- this is $18 billion and nowhere to find the money. He says there simply wasn't a way out of it. It wasn't a matter of thwarting democracy. That elected officials wouldn't have had an ability to really solve this any other way either. So, you know, at this point, in a position like that, you kinda just have to take his word, and it's an awful situation.
REHMAll right. To Annie, here in Washington, D.C. You're on the air.
ANNIEHi. I think it's terrible that that poor young boy -- this is about the Zimmerman verdict. A poor young boy lost his life. And I think George Zimmerman should have been held accountable for his moral judgment in the way he handled it. But the thing I haven't heard anyone discuss is that when Casey Anthony was acquitted for killing -- for allegedly killing her 2-year-old daughter, we didn't see any demonstrations in the streets.
ANNIEWe didn't see anyone breaking into Wal-Mart, stealing bicycles, running through the streets, turning over police cars. And there was just as much outrage there. So I just wondered if the panel could talk about that.
O'KEEFEI mean, it's -- that's a good point. But, you know, I think this one certainly stirred up a lot of emotion.
REHMExactly. And I think will continue to stir up emotion until that is spent. Thanks for calling, Annie. To Durham, N.C. Hi, Peter.
PETERHi. How are you doing, Diane?
REHMGood. Thanks. Go right ahead.
PETERI wanted to ask a quick question about the Detroit situation.
PETERI gather that the reason they don't have enough revenue to cover all of these extra -- a large part of that is not getting any property tax revenue. So I'm wondering why these 80,000 abandoned buildings, they don't just annex some of those and give them to individuals and companies that incentivize people to move back to the city.
O'KEEFEI remember reading that they actually attempted some of that and that they've even propose leveling many of them and sort of turning it over to farmers and just charging property tax that way. The argument being that there are vast sections of the city that could very well just be turned into that. A host of urban renewal projects are either being proposed or have been attempted.
O'KEEFEI remember Time magazine a few years ago even bought a house in the city and sort of spent a year sort of exploring the blight of it all. You could go look that up. It was a pretty interesting series. But those things have been talked about.
REHMWe shall see. Thanks for your call, Peter. Dick Cheney's daughter, Liz Cheney, has announced she's running for Senate in Wyoming, challenging Republican incumbent Mike Enzi, who said he was told she would not run. What's the story, John Harris?
HARRISWell, there's some dispute over what she said, but I think at this point, what she said doesn't matter.
HARRISRemember the old Ron Ziegler phrase in the Nixon years, that's non-operative. She's in the race. It's because of her name. It's going to be a national race, not just a Wyoming race. And one thing I'm waiting for her to articulate that I haven't heard in the initial announcement is really a good case of why. All we've heard basically so far is, like, I'd really like the job, and I think I'd be better at it than this other fellow from my own party.
REHMAnd, of course, she goes back there for vacations but has not lived there for quite a while. Julie.
DAVISWell, she moved back last year and was very quick to say that it had nothing to do with politics. And, of course, that may also no longer be operative because, obviously, she's running for the seat from there. I mean, I think what we've seen in the last several election cycles is primary challenges by Republicans who say that the incumbent Republican has gone Washington.
DAVISLook at Dick Lugar, who has been there for years and years, was considered a statesman, was the head of the Foreign Relations Committee, you know, gets knocked off in a primary by somebody who presents himself as, you know, a Tea Party-aligned person who was much more true to conservative principles. And, in fact, Dick Lugar was seen on Capitol Hill and throughout the nation and in his state as well as a moderate. But Mike Enzi really isn't. He's pretty well-respected by conservative groups.
DAVISI think many in the Tea Party would consider him an ally. Maybe not someone who's a firebrand in the sort of realm of Rand Paul or someone who certainly grabs national headlines for things like that, but, you know, he's been their senator a long time. They feel like they know him. They can trust him. So it will be interesting, as John says, to see how Liz Cheney stakes out her profile. What does she bring to this that he doesn't bring other than that she hasn't been in the Senate and he has?
O'KEEFEAnd he seemed pretty crestfallen Tuesday afternoon when he came off the Senate floor and voted and Cheney had just announced she was doing this. And his first line to report -- one of his first lines to report was I thought we were friends. I didn't think she was going to do this. But he did make the point. I go home almost every weekend to Wyoming, and I think that was a direct reflection of the Lugar charge that he faced a few years ago in that Lugar didn't spend much time back in the Hoosier State.
O'KEEFEYou know, and then talking to other Republican senators as they came off the floor, they said, well, you know, Cheney is a -- she's well-respected. Obviously, we've worked with her father. Many of them said, however, you know, we stand by incumbent Republicans. But I think a lot of them were thinking, there but for the grace of God, go I because it could have been me. It could have been a conservative challenger coming after my seat. And in this case, he's drawn a very well-known challenger.
REHMSo does this help in, any way, Democrats in the state?
O'KEEFEIf they can find a strong Democrat in a cowboy state to run, yes. But Democrats are harder to come by in those types of states. And what Democrats are thrilled about is that it will force the National Republican Senatorial Committee and the Republican National Committee, generally, to have to spend time and money defending Enzi and diverting resources potentially from races in places like Alaska, Arkansas, Louisiana, North Carolina, West Virginia where they expect to be able to make gains next year.
REHMAll right. And a significant error, the mayor of Detroit, David Bing, is African-American. One of today's panels has said the mayor of Detroit is white. This is a significant error. Please, correct it. I thought I heard you say that he was African-American. So perhaps, you know, some people may hear something and think they heard something else. Let's go to Tampa, Fla. Hi there, Tiffany.
TIFFANYGood morning. How are you all?
REHMI'm fine. Thank you. Go right ahead.
TIFFANYWell, I am calling in response to a caller who called a few seconds ago. She talks about the tragedy that had happened here in Florida in regards to Trayvon Martin with the George Zimmerman case and also the Casey Anthony case in which two children essentially were killed. And she asked the question of why is it with the George Zimmerman trial that people were so outraged and were arriving in the streets and turned over cars, but that same outrage wasn't shown in the Casey Anthony trial.
TIFFANYAnd I just wanted to speak a little bit about that, because I know prior to the George Zimmerman case, there was a lot of discussion in the media about -- specifically how African-Americans tend to riot or that -- this possibility of rioting may occur. And I just wanted to be clear that oftentimes -- not quite sure where this perception comes from -- but rioting is just something that happens when people feel outrage and that there is just this complete disgrace that's going on.
TIFFANYAnd in the case of the Trayvon Martin situation, I think African-Americans have constantly seen this happened over and over again with various cases that aren't shown in the mainstream news. And so there were very few cases where cars and things were turned over. But what I want to say -- go back to the notion that when people are upset or outraged, that they tend to take it to the streets.
REHMSure. And, in fact, in the outcome of the Trayvon Martin-George Zimmerman case, there was very little in the way of destruction, overturned cars. It was quite peaceful. And you're listening to "The Diane Rehm Show." The Texas governor, Rick Perry, signed a tough abortion law yesterday. And what it does is to ban abortions after the 20th week of pregnancy. Some would argue that some women are not even aware by the 20th week that they are, in fact, pregnant. Julie, you wrote recently, 17 states have enacted 45 new restrictions on abortion issue. Is this headed for the Supreme Court?
DAVISWell, that's certainly what the activists -- the anti-abortion activists are hoping. I mean, this has been a concerted effort on the part of folks who have been pushing to revisit Roe v. Wade and get it overturned for years and years, to try to get as many laws on the books as they can that curve abortions, curve abortion rights, limit the window wherein a woman could terminate a pregnancy, limit the conditions in a clinic under which one could get an abortion or receive services or counseling on that, which is also a part of the Texas law, as well abortion clinic regulations.
DAVISAnd, yes, they hope to push the envelope enough so that somebody will challenge a law. And in fact, you mentioned, some women don't even know they're pregnant at 20 weeks. North Dakota actually enacted a lot earlier this year that would ban abortions after a heartbeat could be detected, which could be as early as six weeks. And many, many women are not aware they are pregnant at that point. And that's being challenged in court.
HARRISThe reality of abortion in this country is that there are many millions that take place. It's a very common procedure. It is a very, very uncommon, very rare procedure at 20 weeks. It's an enormously emotional topic that late in a pregnancy, and people find it jarring to talk about. Almost always the circumstances that lead to an abortion at that late date are, in fact, sensitive in an unusual circumstances. And there's a very, very small number.
HARRISI think that reflects the strategy of the anti-abortion movement to always look for favorable ground on which they can make their case. And they can win when they're on favorable ground. So far for nearly 40 years since Roe v. Wade, they cannot win on the broader ground of what does a majority in this country think about the woman's right to a legal abortion. That's unfavorable ground. These difficult cases of 20 weeks, while rare, is favorable ground.
REHMAll right. And finally, an email from Judith in Greenville, N.C., who says, "I wish someone from Rolling Stone would explain the cover photo, not the decision to write the story or even have him on the cover. Why that photo? It makes him look like a rock star." Ed.
O'KEEFEAs I told you earlier, I think one of the reasons Rolling Stone did this is because we're talking about Rolling Stone magazine. And it's, you know, it was an outlandish decision, designed to sell magazines or, at least, perhaps, to drive up sales and chatter about them, and it worked. Well, here we are talking about them and what many believed was a poor editorial judgment.
REHMPoor editorial judgment. Shocking, shocking. Ed O'Keefe of The Washington Post, Julie Hirschfeld Davis of Bloomberg News, John Harris, editor-in-chief of Politico.com, author of "The Survivor." And thanks for listening all. Have a great weekend. I'm Diane Rehm.
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