Analysis of the Supreme Court's last decisions of the term and the impact of a vacant seat on the bench.
A leaked internal audit showed the NSA repeatedly violated privacy rules. The NAACP and ACLU filed federal lawsuits in North Carolina alleging the state’s new voter ID law violates the Voting Rights Act. Attorney General Eric Holder called for major changes to mandatory minimum sentences for low-level drug offenders. The Justice Department blocked a merger of American and US Airways. A federal judge declared significant portions of New York City’s stop-and-frisk policy unconstitutional. And Newark Mayor Cory Booker won the Democratic primary in the New Jersey. A panel of journalists joins Diane for analysis of the week’s top domestic headlines.
- Molly Ball staff writer for The Atlantic.
- Ari Shapiro White House correspondent for NPR.
- Jeanne Cummings deputy government editor for Bloomberg News.
Attorney General Eric Holder announced a new approach to criminal justice, saying that he wanted to examine low-level drug offenders who have been locked up. Holder’s aim is to lower the country’s incarceration rate, which has increased significantly over the years. The panel addressed Holder’s plan and whether it would be possible to implement in our federal prison system.
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MS. DIANE REHMThanks for joining us. I'm Diane Rehm. North Carolina adopts a new vote ID bill. The Justice Department sues to block the merger of American Airlines and US Airways. And the judge rejects New York City's stop and frisk policy. Joining me for the Domestic Hour of the Friday News Roundup: Jeanne Cummings with Bloomberg News, Ari Shapiro of NPR and Molly Ball with The Atlantic.
MS. DIANE REHMYou can join us. You can actually watch this hour of the Friday News Roundup since we are live video-streaming. You can call us, 800-433-8850. Send us an email to email@example.com. Follow us on Twitter or Facebook. And welcome to you all.
MR. ARI SHAPIROGood morning.
MS. MOLLY BALLGood morning.
MS. JEANNE CUMMINGSGood morning.
REHMAri, let's start with North Carolina's governor who signed an extensive voter ID law into effect. What does it do?
SHAPIROThe law includes several provisions that are characteristic of many of the voting rights laws of this sort that we've seen, you know, from one state to another. So it limits early voting. It requires a voter I'd. But then it goes a little farther even than that. So, for example, it prevents 16- and 17-year-olds from preregistering to vote -- from registering to vote before they turn 18.
SHAPIROIt prohibits polling places from extending the hours of voting, say, if there are especially long lines. If somebody shows up at the wrong polling place, it does not allow them to file a provisional ballot. So the people who oppose these sort of laws are very concerned that this North Carolina law goes even farther than some of the others that they've been fighting.
REHMAnd, Jeanne, what about what the Supreme Court did earlier this year on voting rights? What does that have to do with this?
CUMMINGSWell, before the Supreme Court ruling in which they struck down the preclearance piece of the Voting Rights Act, North Carolina would have had to have submitted this legislation to the Justice Department for review to ensure that it was not going to, you know, suppress minority voting rights. So now, they don't have to get preclearance. That's the part of the law that the Supreme Court shot down.
CUMMINGSSo North Carolina in addition to others, Texas, many Southern states that will under the Voting Rights Act, they're now rushing to get some -- to pass these laws. Now, they didn't -- the Supreme Court did not strike down the entire Voting Rights Act. So the Justice Department can challenge these laws, and they are in Texas. And the North Carolina law immediately went into court based on a lawsuit who filed by the ACLU. So these will be vetted by the court eventually.
REHMAnd did Hillary Clinton spoke out about this, Molly Ball?
BALLThat's right. She gave a speech in which she strongly condemned what Democrats and many in the left see as efforts to suppress voting to -- suppress particularly minority voting. The argument being that the people who are most likely to have photo IDs and to otherwise be affected by these laws are minorities and the poor who overwhelmingly vote Democratic. So this is seen as a sort of Republican plot to give themselves a sort of phony advantage. When they can't win the electorate as a whole, they try to keep the people home who would otherwise vote against them. That is...
REHMThat is the allegation.
BALLThat's the allegation.
BALLI'm not saying that's proven. But so this is a very highly partisan, highly charged battle. It's not new. We saw it in 2012. There's actually some evidence that it turned into a motivator for the Democrats in 2012 that actually African-American turnout hit record highs in part because there was a strong sense in the African-American community of don't let them stop you from voting. They are trying to keep you down there, trying to tell you, you can't vote, don't let them do it. And so it proved very strongly motivating.
SHAPIROAnd in fact, we saw just a couple of weeks ago at the White House. The president and the attorney general met with a big coalition of civil rights groups, all of which came out and said we are determined to fight these kinds of laws. We are unified as one community. You're even seeing them talk about the 50th anniversary of the march on Washington in connection with these voting rights laws. They're saying we have to keep pursuing Dr. King's dream and not let these laws take effect. So I think Molly is right that it really is a motivating factor for these groups.
CUMMINGSSome of the more insidious problems that can occur given the Supreme Court ruling is a passage of a state law is pretty obvious, and, you know, people can rally around it. The Justice Department can see it, know it, decide if they want to challenge it.
CUMMINGSBut there were other things that had to be pre-cleared under the Voting Rights Act, including the moving a precinct, small things that can go unnoticed and yet have a major impact on Election Day for certain types of voters. And suddenly, their polling places have been moved to a new location, and they have not been fully informed on it, that sort of thing.
REHMSo clearly, we're going to end up with a good many court challenges.
CUMMINGSAbsolutely. And another thing I think often gets overlooked is that the Supreme Court did not say this was over, this provision of the Voting Rights Act. They sent it back to Congress. The assumption has been that this Republican House of Representatives is too conservative to ever consider redoing that portion of the Voting Rights Act in a way that would be acceptable to the court.
CUMMINGSBut I think civil rights groups that I speak to really believe there's an opening for them to put a lot of pressure on Republicans because regardless of the sort of policy debate over whether these laws are or not acceptable, it looks bad for Republicans who are trying to fight this image that they are a party of old white men that is opposed to minorities and to a sort of open debate about ideas.
SHAPIROI think Molly is right the Democrats see an opportunity to use this as a political weapon, but I don't know anyone, Democrat, Republican outsider who actually thinks Congress will pass something that could put this back into place in the Voting Rights Act.
BALLI would agree with that. I believe that there are Republican members of the House who are concerned about this, who are looking at legislation and would like to promote it. But in this Congress, we'll be lucky if we avoid shutting the government down...
BALL...for crying out loud. We're not going to -- this is not going to command a lot of attention.
CUMMINGSThey are -- however, they are sensitive to embarrassment. They did pass -- they did renew the Violence Against Woman Act when that started to look bad for them.
SHAPIROSure. But look at how much effort the Republican Party put into appealing to Latino voters, and yet...
SHAPIRO...a comprehensive immigration bill seems very unlikely...
REHMRight. So let's move on to the NSA. The Washington Post reported today that the NSA has repeatedly broken rules. What kinds?
BALLWell, they have violated privacy of some citizens for -- in more than 2,000 cases according to a 2012 audit that was among the documents that Edward Snowden released earlier in the summer. And The Post had done due diligence of it, did their reporting, and they did the story today that released that particular audit. It's very difficult given how encrypted all of this information is...
BALL...to really get a sense of what they did do. But there's been the talk that this court that oversees them is lenient, and people kind of characterize it in that way that is kind of a go-along court. Well, even that court found in one case that they had violated the Fourth Amendment rights of a large number of people and halted a particular program. Now, some of the violations are somewhat technical. They're due to typos. Many of them involved apparently cases where they were tracking a foreign cellphone and that cellphone came into the United States.
BALLAnd so, you know, overseas, you don't need a warrant. As soon as they come into the U.S., you do need a warrant. So those kinds of violations are among them.
SHAPIROOne of the things that's striking about this report is that every time the president defends these programs, he says, look, there's congressional oversight, and there is judicial oversight. And in these reports, you have the judge in charge of this, the head of the foreign intelligence surveillance court saying we really have no ability to test the government's claims. We have to take them at their word.
REHMSo they approved.
SHAPIROAnd also in this report, you have the head of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Dianne Feinstein, saying this from The Washington Post was the first she had seen of it. They talk about how senators and members of Congress are able to view these documents only in private. They can't take notes.
SHAPIROAnd only 10 percent of elected officials have staffers with the security clearances high enough to let them view and advise their bosses on what's going on. So when the president talks about the oversight for members of Congress and the oversight from the judges, this reports suggests that it really is not oversight in the way that we think of it.
CUMMINGSAnd this is exactly what sort of drives the civil libertarians crazy, right? Is that the government's whole defense of this program has mostly amounted to saying, well, trust us. You know, we are doing this, especially President Obama who seems very sensitive to the criticism that he has basically continued a lot of the intrusive policies of George W. Bush that he once criticized.
CUMMINGSAnd his response to that has sort of been to say, no, we're not doing it a bad way like they did. We're doing it in a good way, and you can trust us because we're better than them. And so I think reports like this really inflamed the sort of odd coalition of this sort of civil liberties right and civil liberties left who see this as just a complete murky and unaccountable part of policy.
BALLI think we should note, though, that Congress can't get off the hook here. Why do only 10 percent of members have a staffer with the security level to read this stuff? I mean if they want to complain and if they want to pass new laws, they need to educate themselves, and it's on them to make sure that their staffing is up to what it should be, and that they do due diligence. They represent the public in this mix, more so than anyone else. And, you know, we need the members of Congress with the authority to read this to do their job...
BALL...so that we can know more about what's happening.
REHMAnd we've got another report this week about James Clapper, a rumor, don't know how true it is that he's going to be called on to investigate this whole process.
SHAPIRORight. So this comes from President Obama's news conference last week where he said he wanted to appoint an independent panel of outsiders to review the technology capabilities and eavesdropping programs and advise the administration and advise the public on, you know, what should happen. So then it comes out that James Clapper, the director of National Intelligence, is likely to be the one assembling this panel which gives real heartburn to members of Congress who say James Clapper lied to them.
SHAPIROClapper had testified many months ago that the U.S. does not systematically collect intelligence on American citizens. He later had to say -- I'm paraphrasing that testimony on his part. He later had to say that it was erroneous testimony. So then this week, the White House backpedaled and said, no, no, no, James Clapper won't be in charge of this. He's just going to be making sure these people have the security clearances they need.
REHMAri Shapiro of NPR. Short break here. We'll be right back.
REHMAnd welcome back. Ari Shapiro of NPR, Molly Ball of the Atlantic, Jeanne Cummings of Bloomberg News, they're all here to answer your questions. Give us a call, 800-433-8850. And remember, we are video streaming this hour as well. If you'd like to see the show at work, we'll welcome you. Jeanne Cummings, Eric Holder announced a new approach to criminal justice and said he wanted to take a hard look at low-level drug offenders who have been locked up.
CUMMINGSYes. What he is trying to get at twofold, first of all, to diminish the country's incarceration rate, which causes millions and millions of dollars. And it also costs us in terms of human capital 'cause these people who are committing non-violent crimes of -- have very low size amounts of drugs that they're dealing with so it's a low impact, they go away for a decade. And, you know, you basically lose people. They come out, they're an entirely different person.
CUMMINGSAnd so what he is advocating is an approach that Texas has been like a ground blazer on, and that is giving them rehab or putting them into alternative facilities that are less expensive, that are more directed at correcting the behavior than prison time and saves tons of money. So the federal government is really following some state actions with Texan being foremost.
BALLWell, there's a couple of parallel, I think, stories going on here. Number one is the sort of war on crime, which in a lot of ways has been won. Crime is at historic lows, particularly violent crime. And the question, I think, which is impossible to answer, is, are these high incarceration rates the reason that crime is at historic lows because if that's the case, then obviously, letting people out is the wrong thing to do.
BALLOr are they an unfortunate byproduct that is, as Jeanne said, costing us a lot of money and costing us in other ways in social ways and something that needs to be corrected? The parallel thing that's going on is a real reconsideration of America's drug war. You have, on both the right and left, a lot of policy thinkers and policy makers saying that it's about time we sort of stood down in a lot of the ineffective tactics that have marked the drug war.
BALLYou have two states in the last election legalizing marijuana and multiple other states decriminalizing it for medical purposes. And so there's a real feeling that in terms of the American public, we've changed attitudes. We no longer have that really moralistic attitude about drugs, and maybe there needs to be a different approach.
SHAPIROAnd the political valence of this is also really interesting because for many years conservatives were the tough-on-crime crowd. You know, nobody could lose an election by being too tough on crime. And now the conservatives, in many cases, are leading this effort at decriminalization.
SHAPIRO'Cause it costs so much money, because running prisons and locking people up for a long time is just draining state coffers. And so as Jeanne said, you've got states like Texas, like Kentucky, deep-red, conservative Republican states that have been really leading the charge on this, and the federal government is just following where they paved the way.
BALLIt's a fiscal issue, and it's also a libertarian issue. And as you've seen that sort of libertarian strain of the Republican Party rising, you've seen figures like Ron and Rand Paul speaking more prominently within the GOP. You have a feeling that these -- some of these policies are assaults on personal liberties. So I think there's an element to that as well.
REHMSo are we likely to see a change to the so-called mandatory minimums, Jeanne?
CUMMINGSNo. I don't think we'll see that right away. That's -- Holder took an executive approach to this. He's not trying to change federal law. Instead, he is instructing his prosecutors to not put into an indictment the amount of drugs the person was caught with because it is that number...
CUMMINGS...that triggers the mandatory minimum sentence.
CUMMINGSSo if they, you know, if you're -- you could be charged with carrying cocaine. But if they don't put the ounces in, then they stay away from triggering mandatory minimum sentences, some of which can be 10 years for a very small quantity.
SHAPIROBut the term mandatory minimum is misleading. About 10 years ago, the Supreme Court said these sentencing guidelines were just that, guidelines, that they were advisory and that judges were not bound to them because you had the entire judicial community saying, this is crazy. We have cases with extenuating circumstances where the person really doesn't deserve to spend as much time, but the mandatory minimums require us to put them there.
SHAPIROWell, for the last decade or so, those minimums have been advisory, not mandatory, and so now it's the prosecutors as well getting onboard with this. We are not going to adhere to these advisory guidelines.
REHMI see. I see. All right. And all this comes at the same time New York City's stop-and-frisk policy has been put down by the courts, Molly.
BALLThat's right. The court said that the stop-and-frisk policy that Mayor Michael Bloomberg has had in place that's become a very contentious issue in New York City and is an issue in the mayor's race right now, the race to succeed Bloomberg, and the court decreed that this policy is, in fact, unconstitutional. And so my primary interest in the politics of this it's been interesting to see the different mayoral candidates respond to this.
BALLYou have all the Democrats saying that they would find ways to alter the policy to make it not amount to, in their view, racial profiling. The Republican candidate is backing it very strongly, and Mayor Bloomberg himself also responding very strongly that he disagrees with the court decision.
CUMMINGSWell, first of all, a disclaimer: Mayor Bloomberg, his -- the -- is the head of the parent operation that owns Bloomberg News, but he has nothing to do with the Bloomberg News operation or the judgments we make. Just to clarify, the court didn't exactly strike down this procedure. What she did was she declared that they were implementing it in an unconstitutional way and that they -- and she then is imposing some restrictions on it.
CUMMINGSShe wants someone to oversee it. She wants a pilot program where the police officers have little cameras on him so that people could get an idea of the decision making. One of the things that is objectionable to civil rights lawyers is that the police can stop someone and frisk them if they are behaving in a furtive way. Well...
SHAPIROLike looking over their shoulder or putting...
SHAPIRO...their hand in their pocket.
CUMMINGSYeah, right. And so, I mean, a little camera would give us an idea of how do you define furtive behavior. So there's a long way to go here, and the mayor is appealing for a decision.
REHMI know. Yes. And...
SHAPIROIt's a very interesting, very readable opinion. It's about 195 pages, and it's also rich with data because you had civil rights communities, groups, black and Hispanic rights advocates saying, look, this is racially discriminatory, but there wasn't always the data to back it up. This case demonstrated that about 83 percent of the stops between 2004 and 2012 involved blacks and Hispanics even though those groups make up just about half the city's population.
SHAPIROIt found it in roughly 90 percent of the stops, there was no weapon found, no drugs found. People were just let go. And so this ruling in this case gave us a lot of data so that we can talk not just anecdotally but factually about what the program actually involved.
REHMAnd Mayor Bloomberg is going to appeal the ruling.
CUMMINGSHe will. And in part, the city -- their argument is this has helped them reduce crime.
REHMAnd reduce crime, which is what you were talking about earlier.
BALLCrime is at historic lows in New York City as well. It is for anybody who remembers what New York was like 20 years ago when it was really a cesspool, and, you know, Mayor Giuliani before Mayor Bloomberg, really, got credit for cleaning up New York. And that was how you had this long string of Republican dominance in the mayor's office in one of the most liberal, most democratic cities in the United States.
BALLI think it's really the end of an era for New York, the end of the Bloomberg, which, of course, has lasted much longer than anyone expected when he first came in because he was able to get himself that third term. The city is appealing this, but most of the Democratic candidates are saying that they would drop that appeal.
BALLAnd so this Bloomberg era of really sort of idiosyncratic in term -- in partisan terms leadership that sort of crossed political boundaries but was also very strongly driven by this executive who saw himself as a business executive and didn't govern in a particularly collaborative way.
BALLThat era is over in New York.
REHMDo you think he has other higher ambitions, Ari?
SHAPIROListen, people talk about him as a potential plausible third-party candidate, and I think that as an individual, he might be a potential plausible third-party candidate. But I personally don't see a path to a third-party candidate actually being viable no matter who that candidate is.
CUMMINGSI think what direction I see or at least where I see his energy right now is in his foundations and in his advocacy arm of his vast empire. So at least, initially, I would expect that he will go into -- more energy into the anti-guns group and into some of his other advocacy arms.
BALLHe has done quite a lot on the guns issue already. And, yes, what I hear from people in his orbit is that he's going to become a much stronger national voice behind not only guns but also climate change. If you recall, that's a very important issue to him, and he made a big statement in the wake of Hurricane Sandy last year and said it was the reason that he was endorsing President Obama for re-election.
BALLSo I think we can expect him to become much more visible on these policy issues. I -- what I'm not sure about is whether it is helpful to these policy issues to have someone like Michael Bloomberg be the face of them. Something I've heard from sort of Democrats in red states is having the mayor of New York City associated with you on an issue is not necessarily helpful.
SHAPIROWell, the face is one thing. The wallet, another.
REHMExactly. All right. Let's move on to yet another Department of Justice suit against the airline merger of American and US Airways. And yesterday, a judge dealing with the bankruptcy of US Airways decided to put this off for two weeks. Molly.
BALLRight. So it sounds like we are going to have to wait a little while for the resolution of this. It's -- we've seen all of these airline mergers in recent years, and it seemed, I think, to a lot of people, fairly capricious that all of a sudden DOJ would say, no, not this one, after so many large airline companies have merged.
BALLBut the rationale seems to be that this -- it's time for this period of consolidation to come to an end that if these two particular airlines were going to merge, especially based on a lot of the internal documents that were uncovered in the course of this litigation, the plan would be to raise fares and to -- and that would hurt consumers. And so the -- and so DOJ is saying this is not something that would be helpful.
SHAPIROYeah. After 9/11, airlines lost a ton of money, and one airline after another went into bankruptcy. They were facing competition from smaller carriers, like JetBlue and Southwest. Just recently, we started to see these companies starting to do better and, in some cases, come into the black. And so...
REHMAmerican made millions last year.
SHAPIRORight. And you look at an airport like Reagan National Airport, which is the closest one to our studios here today, 70 percent of the gates at Reagan would be taken up by this one merged airline if the merger were allowed to go forward. And I think the combination of potential monopoly and airlines being a little more profitable made the Justice Department pause in this case when they didn't in the 2008 Delta-Northwest merger or the 2010 United-Continental merger.
REHMAnd you're listening to "The Diane Rehm Show." Do you expect it to go through eventually, Jeanne?
CUMMINGSPerhaps with modifications. But this one is really interesting because they've got emails, and they've got internal marketing and planning documents that, you know, illustrate how the industry has cut deals with one another so that pricing stays at a certain level and how US Airways sometimes can be this rogue airline and go out there, not go along with the gang.
CUMMINGSBut the lack of competition that would result from this apparently is so clear that in addition to the Justice Department, you have Virginia's Republican Atty. Gen. Ken Cuccinelli joining the lawsuit. And Cuccinelli is very, you know, free market operator who's now running -- he's now a candidate for governor. So if you have those two places come together, it looks like...
SHAPIROBipartisanship at last.
CUMMINGSYeah, finally. This might be a tough one to go through.
REHMAll right. Let's talk about Cory Booker and his win in that Democratic primary election in New Jersey for a U.S. Senate seat. He -- if he does win the eventual election, he'll be the only African-American Democrat in the Senate. You have Republican Tim Scott, the only Republican black senator. How likely is it he will win, and how much farther does Cory Booker want to go?
SHAPIROWell, it's extremely likely that he'll win. The special election on Oct. 16 is not something Republicans are even fighting all that hard to win. They were unable to recruit a top-tier candidate to go against Cory Booker. Cory Booker is almost as popular as the governor of New Jersey, Chris Christie, who's a Republican. And then, of course, the seat is up for a full term in 2014.
SHAPIROSo if he does win, he would have to run for re-election again. I think everybody sees him as a potential, viable, someday maybe presidential candidate. One thing that struck me in his victory speech this week -- this was a quote he said: "If I'm your U.S. senator, the direction I am most concerned with will not be right or left, but will be with going forward." Now, who does that sound like?
REHMAny comments, Molly?
BALLWell, he is a politician somewhat in the Obama mold. What something, I think, has been really interesting as he has emerged as almost definitely a senator, having won this primary, not only his -- is his Republican opponent a pretty weak opponent, but it seems that Chris Christie will not be supporting that side of the ticket, that Christie is too preoccupied with his own re-election.
BALLAnd the Republican opponent is someone who ran against Chris Christie in the past. So no love lost there. So Chris Christie is -- sorry, excuse me. Cory Booker is almost definitely a senator, and you've started to see a lot of criticism from the left of the type of senator he will be. There have been a lot of progressives openly criticizing Booker, who they see as a little bit of an all sizzle, no steak phenomenon. His accomplishments are seen as somewhat...
REHMI never know really what that means.
SHAPIROMeans he runs into a burning building to rescue somebody inside.
BALLRight. He's big on Twitter. He rescues people from burning buildings. But in terms of his actual governing capabilities, he's seen as a little bit thin. And there is also a feeling, I think, on the left that he's sort of captive to Wall Street and to the monied interests and to the hedge funds that have been big donors, that he's been entangled with in some ways, that have also made Cory Booker pretty wealthy. And I think the left feels like if they're going to get a senator in a solidly blue state like New Jersey, it ought to be someone that they feel would sort of fight for them a little bit more.
CUMMINGSWell, they also -- he's also been criticized for working closely with Christie, which he defends as necessary to get things done in the state of New Jersey and for his city. It will be interesting to see if he goes the substantive route when he gets in the Senate or if he just becomes a celebrity senator.
REHMJeanne Cummings of Bloomberg News. Short break here. When we come back, time for your calls. Stay with us.
REHMAnd we're back. Ready to open the phones first to Joanne. She's in Southbridge, Mass. Hi there. You're on the air.
JOANNEGood morning. You have a lot of wonderful topics...
JOANNE...but the one I'd like to speak of is the voter registration...
JOANNE...to have an ID. We're predominantly a white and Hispanic community here, and when there was a gentleman running for our sixth district representative who happened to be Hispanic, that's when I started hearing rumors of folks having to get identification because they were voting. You know, they never came out and said minorities or what have you. But they even put up billboards in this town, trying to get people to jump on the bandwagon of having folks have an identification. And it just didn't feel right to me, you know...
REHMAnd it doesn't feel right to a lot of people, Molly.
BALLWell, the argument that you always hear for this photo ID laws is that they're necessary to combat voter fraud. The problem with that is that voter fraud is not existent, for the most part. There are almost zero prosecutions of actual voter fraud cases. And to be precise about what we're talking about, the type of voter fraud that a photo ID law protect against is someone showing up and claiming to be someone they are not in order to vote in that person's stead. And again, the number of actual cases of this is vanishingly small.
BALLI believe you could count them on one hand. The type of voter fraud that does happen is people sending in absentee ballots that are not theirs, and that does occur. But you don't hear about crackdowns on absentee balloting happening, possibly because there's a different population involved, an elderly white population, for the most part.
REHMInteresting. Here's an email from Kevin in North Carolina who says, "I've dedicated thousands of hours to political organizing in North Carolina. The GOP just sowed the seeds of their own demise. A lot of people do not volunteer for campaigns because they don't like to sell. Now, they don't have to. Now, they can contact voters in order to help them acquire an ID. And people are furious, he says, I see anger expressed everywhere, often by people who have not been politically active in the past."
SHAPIRONorth Carolina is such an interesting state politically right now. As you remember, President Obama won it by the smallest of margins in 2008. In 2012, the Democrats held their convention there, but President Obama did not carry the state. Now, Republicans control the Statehouse and the State Legislature for the first time in about a century.
SHAPIROAnd they're pushing through bills related to abortion, to voting rights, to other things that can be very divisive. And so, you know, as you have a growing minority population in North Carolina, as you have a more conservative set of elected officials governing North Carolina, it's going to be really interesting to see what happens politically in that state.
REHMAll right. And to St. Charles, Md. Hi there, Jennifer. You're on the air.
JENNIFERHi, Diane. I'd like to take you back to the Bloomberg stop-and-frisk discussion.
JENNIFERYou know, I hear many discussions in talk radio, very academic about the topic, you know, many stemming from the recent court decision. But I have to wonder, you know, where is the outrage? You know, we have a lot of these very, you know, topical, very learned discussions. But other than some, you know, some -- a few protests at the time the law was put into place. I don't hear a lot of outcries of emotion or, you know, anger at this incredibly invasive and frankly un-American law.
BALLWell, I think in New York City you really do hear the outrage, and I think that's part of the story of what's going on here. Obviously, courts are not necessarily responsive to citizen activism, but there really has been -- this is, in part, the story of a civil rights movement that was once a sort of atomized agglomeration of marginally effective groups that have really come together and made this a very organized movement and put a lot of pressure on policymakers in New York City.
BALLSo there have been people marching in the streets over this. There have been people making a lot of noise and very angry about it.
CUMMINGSIt's also affecting the mayor's race now. The Democratic primary -- there's one particular candidate who was a very vocal opponent of this, who is moving up in the polls.
REHMWho is that?
SHAPIROBill de Blasio.
BALLBill de Blasio.
CUMMINGSThank you both.
CUMMINGSI had an absolute brain wipeout there. And so, you know, it is driving some passion.
REHMWhere is Anthony Weiner on this issue? Do...
SHAPIROAt about 10 percent in the polls, I don't know.
REHMOK. In other words, his pleas have not had much of an effect.
BALLWeiner has plummeted in the polls, and I don't think this is why. He -- his whole pitch has -- to voters has been that he will be sort of a strongly liberal fighter for the people. But I think we all know there are other distractions affecting his fortunes, and those appear to have had an effect.
REHMAll right. Let go now to Hillsborough, N.C. Lynne, you're on the air.
LYNNEI just want you to know, you're the number one reason why I am a supporter of NPR, and I love your show.
REHMI'm glad. Thank you.
LYNAs a resident of North Carolina, I can tell you that many of us are very, very upset about the number of bills the general assembly is passing, not only voting rights, abortion, restriction, cutting and funding for education. And redistricting recently occurred here. And I'm concerned about how this is going to affect future elections. I just like some comments on that.
CUMMINGSWell, I think that the first real temperature taking of North Carolina voters will be in the Senate race. Sen. Hagan is up for re-election. The state -- even though Obama didn't campaign there and Romney won it, the president lost it by only a few points. And that's remarkable, given that he invested nothing there. He didn't -- other than the convention, he didn't run ads. He didn't really spend time there. So that is evidence, I think, of how closely divided the state is along partisan lines.
CUMMINGSAnd, you know, I think those midterms -- the Senate race, it'll be interesting because she is targeted. It's one of the red states that the Republicans need to take if they want to win control. And so that'll be the first register of where the voters are. In terms of the House and redistricting, the caller is absolutely correct.
CUMMINGSThey -- those seats are highly unlikely to change because the districts are just so recently drawn. It takes about eight years for the impact of redistricting to blur because of people moving from one place to another. So it's only been a few years since they did draw those House lines and so they're probably going to stay the same.
BALLWhat we are seeing across the South is demographic change and economic change turning red states into purple states. And North Carolina is probably the sort of on the leading edge of this phenomenon. We've already seen Virginia go twice for a Democratic president, Florida go twice for a Democratic president. Those are Southern states. They are former red states that have turned deeply purple and seem to be trending blue.
BALLRepublicans are really worried that the sort of things being done by the legislature in North Carolina risk worsening that problem, risk handing these states to the Democrats by creating the impression that you have Republicans who are so ideological that they are not really sort of sensitive to the concerns of sort of the middle of the electorate. Jeanne mentioned the Senate race in North Carolina, I think the Senate race in Georgia is also going to be very telling.
BALLYou have a number of strongly ideological Republican candidates vying for the nomination in that primary. You have a pretty well-credentialed Democratic candidate. And Obama did better in Georgia than any Democratic candidate in 30 years. Again, you have a growing African-American share of the electorate. You have a growing population of sort of suburban middle class. And you have an economic change creating this sort of new South that is really reshaping the electorate in these states.
REHMYou all will be interested to know that every single caller waiting wants to talk about voter ID. So it's really interesting to me. I'd like to ask you, Ari, about Jesse Jackson Jr. He was sentence to 2 1/2 years in federal prison. The judge also sentenced his wife. But she will go in for one year after he finishes.
SHAPIROYeah, they're sequential sentences so that the children won't be without both parents at any given time. He was convicted of misusing about three-quarters of $1 million dollars in campaign funds to buy fur capes, celebrity memorabilia, mounted elk heads, a Rolex watch, things like that. He has said that he has been treated for bipolar disorder. That was part of his defense, obviously not a successful part of his defense.
SHAPIROYou know, this was -- he was once one of the biggest up-and-comers in the black political world. And at this point, it's just such a disgraceful fall. His father, the Reverend Jesse Jackson, of course, was there at the sentencing and spoke very emotionally about how difficult it was to see this. And sadly, it fits into a pattern in Illinois of elected officials in the state just tripping over themselves and winding up in prison.
CUMMINGSWell, it really is the end of a dynasty. I mean, the Jackson family in Chicago, you know, one of the biggest political families. And, you know, it's an end to that particular era. And it's -- I heard his father on NPR being interviewed, and it really was sad, you know, it was very sad. And he said he believes that his son is -- after therapy -- he's been in therapy for over a year -- that his son is strong enough now to take the punishment and that that's -- was the only right thing he's got in his life right now. So, you know, the kids are 9 and 13. You know, the family -- it's a devastation of a family based upon greed.
REHMHe also said that he does believe in redemption. And have we seen the end of Jesse Jackson Jr. politically or not?
BALLHe may have spiritual redemption available to him, but it is hard to see how political redemption awaits after how far he is falling and what he's done to his constituents. I mean, this was a breach of the public trust. And he even made this sort of very cynical mode of waiting until he had been re-elected to make a deal with prosecutors in order to sort of give himself some leverage. So instead of sort of leveling with the voters about this issue, he sort of hid it until they would re-elect him and then step down.
REHMAll right. To Bruce in Baltimore City, Md. You're on the air.
BRUCEHi. I appreciate you giving me a chance to express my opinion. So on voter ID and registration so, you know, let's to be fair. Is there anything -- could there be some fraud involved with that? Is it minimal, or is it -- could it be possibly larger than we expect? Well, here is the important issue. You know, so the civil rights people and all the minority are saying, this is in the opportunity for the conservative Republicans to control the issue, control voting. I say nonsense.
BRUCEThat's propaganda. Here is the important point: You know, the bottom line is if you cannot -- if you don't have the responsibility, the initiative to go out there and get a state ID photo card, or if you don't have friends or family or people who can help you, then maybe to a certain extent, unfortunately, maybe you shouldn't vote.
SHAPIROUnfortunately, that's not the way the United States works. You know, the right to vote is based on responsibility or initiative or family or connections. It's based on citizenship.
REHMAnd you're listening to "The Diane Rehm Show." To Pittsburgh, Pa. Hi there, Patrick.
PATRICKHowdy. How it's going?
PATRICKWell, (unintelligible) previous caller, which is we need voter system which ensures that only citizens are voting. And I think I see the dyed-in-the-wool Democrats objections to these issues as being their attempt to keep their ability to re-elections in particular areas, not as, you know, otherwise, why object so strenuously to these issues unless you're trying to sneak voters, you know, people in that's going to be voting?
REHMInteresting. And you're listening to "The Diane Rehm Show." Molly.
BALLIt's not just something that has been proven, and it has been investigated very, very exhaustively. If you'll recall the U.S. attorney scandal in the Bush administration back in 2006, a big component of that was that the Bush administration was pushing these federal prosecutors to find and prosecute cases of voter fraud that the lawyers involved just didn't think were there, didn't think a case could be made. There have been attempts to, you know, to verify the citizenship.
BALLAnd the caller is certainly correct that our voting system is tremendously disorganized in this country. It's devolved to the local level, and the systems are antiquated. In the wake of Florida in 2000, there were some efforts to bring it up to date, but they've sort of foundered and there's a lot of bickering over because it is a very contentious area of the law. But, you know, as Ari said before, the right to vote is not restricted to people who have their stuff together. It's something that we all have.
CUMMINGSWell, when the attorney generals looked into this in the Bush administration, it wasn't that they couldn't make a case. They didn't find it. It wasn't there. No one who supports these laws has brought any kind of significant evidence that there is voter fraud. What people have found is voter registration violations.
CUMMINGSAnd ironically, a couple of the highest profile cases involved Republicans, where people changed -- they register someone to vote and then they switched their party, or they don't -- or they put fake names down because they're trying to reach a certain level. That stuff has gone on. But that never becomes a vote. If you have a piece of paper where you have misregistered someone, that's not a vote, and that's not voter fraud. That's voter registration.
REHMLet's talk for a moment about Jack Germond. He died on Wednesday. He was 85 years old. He died at his home in Charlestown, W.Va. He covered 10 presidential elections. Ari.
SHAPIROYou know, I remember when I started in Washington, I was an intern to Nina Totenberg, Supreme Court legal affairs correspondent at NPR, and every Friday, as her intern -- this is in 2001 -- I would join her to go the studios where she would tape the TV show inside Washington. And on that panel were many journalistic titans, you know, well, many of them including Jack Germond, who was in a league of his own.
SHAPIROHe was larger than life physically in terms of personality, in terms of his scope of knowledge, just having been everywhere, talked to everyone, knowing in tremendous detail the political current news and history stretching back to the federal state, local and county level, wherever you wanted to talk about.
REHMAnd, you know, I interviewed him back in 2004. He did not want to talk about himself or his own personal life or schmoozing with this one or that one. He wanted to focus on the politics of the day. And that's what he did so well. We'll miss him. Jack Germond died on Wednesday. Again, he was 85. Jeanne Cummings of Bloomberg News, Ari Shapiro of NPR, Molly Ball of The Atlantic, thank you all so much.
SHAPIROGreat to be here.
REHMAnd have a great weekend everybody. Thanks for listening. I'm Diane Rehm.
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