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The December jobs report is being called “weird” and “wacky.” While the U.S. economy added just 74,000 jobs last month, the unemployment rate fell as fewer people sought work. Meanwhile, Senate Democrats hit a snag in their plan to extend long-term unemployment benefits. New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie apologizes for the actions of his staff who organized a traffic tie-up, apparently as political payback. The White House reacts to harsh criticism of the president and his staff by former Defense Secretary Robert Gates. And Liz Cheney abandons her U.S. Senate run in Wyoming. A panel of journalists joins Diane for analysis of the week’s top national news stories.
- Sheryl Gay Stolberg Washington correspondent, The New York Times.
- Jeff Mason White House correspondent, Reuters.
- Damian Paletta reporter, The Wall Street Journal.
Watch The Full Broadcast
MS. DIANE REHMThanks for joining us. I'm Diane Rehm. New job numbers are confusing everyone. The Supreme Court halts same-sex marriage in Utah. And New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie apologizes for what he says were the actions of his staff. Here for this week's top domestic stories on the Friday News Roundup: Jeff Mason of Reuters, Sheryl Gay Stolberg of The New York Times, and Damian Paletta of The Wall Street Journal.
MS. DIANE REHMWe are live streaming this first hour of the Friday News Roundup. You can join us at drshow.org to key in to that. You can call us at 800-433-8850. Send us an email at email@example.com. Follow us on Facebook or Twitter. And welcome to all of you.
MS. SHERYL GAY STOLBERGGood morning.
MR. DAMIAN PALETTAHi.
MR. JEFF MASONGood morning.
REHMHappy New Year.
MASONHappy New Year to you.
REHMDamian Paletta, tell us about these job numbers. It seems strange.
PALETTAIt's really jaw dropping, and I think people don't know what to make of it yet. The economy only added 74,000 jobs in December, the worst tally in three years. The unemployment rate actually fell to 6.7 percent, a factor of a lot of people leaving the workforce. So if we get a couple of these in a row -- you know, the economy had been adding about 200,000 jobs, which isn't great, but it was pretty steady. If we get a couple of these sub-100,000 numbers in a row for a couple months, I think that's going to be a real cause for concern. But right now it's hard to tell if this is just an anomaly.
STOLBERGYou know, Diane, 1.3 million Americans lost their unemployment insurance. And we're having a debate right now in the Senate over whether or not to extend that insurance. And I think these numbers, coming at a time when they're debating extension of unemployment insurance, are very, very sobering.
STOLBERGAnd it almost makes you wonder if we're going to have some kind of lost generation in a way of these long-term unemployed who lost their jobs in the great recession. Will they ever really be able to return back to the work place in a way that they were before? Will we see this kind of steady rate at a much higher unemployment rate than we previously had?
REHMAnd, Jeff Mason.
MASONYeah. The other question it raises is about the Fed. The Fed has started to draw back its very robust stimulus, and controversial stimulus. And the question is whether they will -- this will affect their decision to take that at sort of a slow pace, whether it will raise questions as to whether or not they should continue going at the same pace that they were before.
REHMAnd just on your point, Sheryl, we are going to do a first hour on Monday on unemployment insurance, how it stands around the country, who gets it, and why, trying to answer as many questions as we can. So do you agree that this could affect the Fed's decisions on when and how to slow?
PALETTAAbsolutely. And I think it's -- it was the first question that came into everyone's mind because the Fed had sort of set a target rate of about 6.5 percent for the unemployment rate about when they were going to start adjusting their policy. Now, even though we got a bad jobs number, we're talking 6.7 percent unemployment rate, so the -- they will -- if the unemployment rate falls another .2 or .3 percent in the next month, the Fed's going to have to make a quick decision.
PALETTAAnd we're going to have Janet Yellen in this new post. Feb. 1, she's going to have to hit the ground running, or she's going to, you know, be in big trouble.
REHMAnd what kind of a anomaly could this job number be, Sheryl?
STOLBERGWell, I guess we don't really know. We do know that weather affected it. The weather was very bad in December and kept people from coming to work. So perhaps when the weather picks up, maybe we'll see, you know, a turnabout. But, you know, to Damian's point about Janet Yellen, she has been very concerned about the labor market. As an academic and through her tenure on the Fed, this is something that she has expressed deep concern about. So I would expect her to be paying very, very close attention to these numbers as she takes office at the Fed on Feb. 1.
MASONI think it's interesting to note how big of a miss it was, based on what economists were expecting as well. Seventy-four thousand jobs were created, and they were expecting about 200,000. So that shows the magnitude of the difference in what economists were expecting after many months where people were saying, look, the economy is getting better, we're on the upswing.
REHMBut the point being that you can't make any final judgments just on this one month's figure.
PALETTAAbsolutely. We're still at a point where the stock market's very high. But there's about 50 million people collecting food stamps. You know, we're -- this is a really strange economy, and I don't think anyone's completely comfortable knowing what direction it's going in. This is another one of those reports that's going to give everyone pause and make you rethink, you know, your assumptions.
MASONBut there are anomalies that happen sometimes. And these figures could also be changed or revised up or down in the coming months.
REHMJeff Mason of Reuters, Sheryl Gay Stolberg, The New York Times, Damian Paletta of The Wall Street Journal. Chris Christie had a bad week, Sheryl. Tell us about it.
STOLBERGA very, very bad week. Gov. Christie had been dogged by complaints about lane closings in New Jersey off the George Washington Bridge. Anybody who's ever...
REHMThe busiest bridge in the country.
STOLBERGThe busiest bridge in the country. Anybody who's ever driven across the George Washington Bridge knows that it is bad when all the lanes are open. Back in September, two lanes were abruptly closed, and the mayor of Fort Lee, N.J. was not notified. It created a huge traffic jam in Fort Lee over four days, traffic gridlock. The mayor had not been a political supporter of Mr. Christie's, had not endorsed him for reelection, and there were immediate allegations that this was some kind of political retribution or payback, which the governor denied.
STOLBERGThis week, Democrats in New Jersey released some emails, showing very clearly that top aides to Gov. Christie had in fact ordered the lane closures. His deputy chief of staff, a woman named Bridget Kelly, sent off an email to a port authority official who had been a very close high school friend of the governor's saying, time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee.
STOLBERGSo this was unequivocal evidence that the governor's staff was deeply involved. The governor came out yesterday in a very emotional, apologetic press conference. He said he had fired not only Bridget but also another top aide. He expressed remorse. He apologized to everybody, seemingly including the news media, even reporters. This press conference went on for nearly two hours.
STOLBERGAnd the sort of pugnacious, combative Christie that we have always known was replaced by someone who was very contrite, apologetic and who, most importantly, denied that he was responsible. He said -- the best quote, I thought -- I am who I am. I am not a bully.
MASONWhat is extraordinary besides that nearly two-hour press conference yesterday is just some of the language that he used. He said, I am embarrassed. I am humiliated. And the context, which most of your listeners will know, is this would be a big deal anywhere, but this is a big deal because Chris Christie is the sort of un-anointed -- or almost anointed -- frontrunner for the Republican nomination in 2016.
MASONSo what does this make -- what does this mean for him in terms of his presidential ambitions? Certainly everything he said yesterday and everything that comes out in the coming days and weeks will affect whether or not he has a shot at becoming president of the United States.
REHMOK. Damian, this happened last September, the first day of school in New York. How come it's taken until now for this information to come out?
PALETTAGreat question. I think there were some news reports in October that suggested that there might have been some sort of political involvement in these lase closings. And that led Democrats in New Jersey to subpoena a bunch of emails and records, which are only now being released. So that obviously didn't have an impact on Christie's reelection in November. He sailed through.
PALETTABut, you know, really, this is -- like Jeff was saying, this is maybe the first chink in his armor that we've seen. You know, maybe Democrats are sensing there might be some blood in the water. And actually some Republicans are sensing there might be some blood in the water, too. They know he's going to be a tough one to beat for the -- in the primary for 2016. So don't be surprised if you don't see both parties kind of going for the jugular here 'cause he's very rarely playing defense.
REHMBut is there any indication thus far that the governor knew anything about this, Sheryl?
STOLBERGWell, here's the question. There's not really evidence that the governor knew anything about this. But this does come into a pattern of behavior. My colleague, Kate Zernike, wrote a very -- a fascinating story before Christmas about the governor's reputation of being somewhat of a bully. It documented, for instance, a state senator who had criticized the governor was promptly disinvited to a press conference in his own district.
STOLBERGA Rutgers University professor, who had sat on a commission involving redistricting and was the key vote, voted against the way the governor wanted him to and suddenly lost funding for some of his grants. A former governor of New Jersey, a man who served very briefly as governor, was -- criticized Gov. Christie and suddenly lost his state trooper escort, so the question is...
REHMOK. But being...
STOLBERG...is this a pattern for Chris Christie? And...
REHMOK. But being a bully is one thing. Tying up traffic for four hours for a week is quite something else. Is the governor, in your view, a man who would take that kind of a risk who could be traced?
MASONWell, he'd certainly said he was amazed by the stupidity of what happened and what led to that. So it doesn't seem like a smart politician would say, I want to really annoy a lot of people in my state. Certainly, also because some of the results of that traffic stop were really, really awful.
MASONYeah. I mean, it affected emergency service response. It affected children.
REHMKids couldn't get to school till the middle of the day. I mean, this is really stupid.
MASONWhat politician deliberately wants to do that?
PALETTAOne of the -- my favorite quotes from his thing yesterday was when he said, you know, I didn't even want this guy's endorsement. I wouldn't take retribution for something like that. It made me wonder, what do you take retribution for, you know?
STOLBERGThat was exactly my thought. I think you raised a good point. You know, perhaps Gov. Christie would not have been stupid enough to do this, and perhaps he did not know a single thing about it. But I think that the reason there are so many doubts about whether or not he knew, and the reason some people say that his press conference yesterday didn't pass the smell test, is because of all of these other events, because it occurs in a context. And this context does raise questions about the governor's character.
REHMSheryl Gay Stolberg of The New York Times, Damian Paletta of The Wall Street Journal, Jeff Mason of Reuters. When we come back, we'll talk about the White House and Congress, take your calls. I look forward to hearing from you.
REHMAnd welcome back to the domestic hour of our Friday News Roundup. First email from Mike: "If Republicans hold Obama responsible for every problem of the current administration, why shouldn't we hold Christie responsible for the actions of his highest staff member?" Damian.
PALETTAWell, one of the things Christie said yesterday is he did hold himself responsible. He said he's going to do a lot of soul searching. I think we're all kind of wondering what that means. But, you know, whether this is going to lead to some sort of change in the pattern of behavior, whether he's going to shuffle his staff going forward, or whether he's just going to kind of do what a lot of politicians do and try to, you know, put a coat of paint over this whole thing and try to move on, you know, we really don't know yet.
STOLBERGI think at the very least there will be questions about whether the governor set a tone in which this kind of conduct was considered acceptable. And I suspect that we'll hear more from his critics about that and perhaps himself as he does search his soul.
REHMWe got a thousand more pages of documentation to come.
MASONYeah, and he should be worried about that. But Christie did follow the number one political rule in crises like this. He did say, I take responsibility. He said it with a lot of caveats. He talked about the fact that he was misled. He talked about his disappointment about being lied to. But he did say, the buck stops at my desk, so I take responsibility. And that will probably inoculate him, at least in some voters' eyes, from what happened.
STOLBERGBut, you know, we haven't heard yet from the people he dismissed. And his aide Bridget Kelly was fired without him even talking to her. He said, I didn't bother talking to her. It was so obvious to me that she had lied. I'll be interested in hearing her side of the story, and I wonder how silent she'll remain, given that he spent two hours throwing her under the bus yesterday.
REHMBut why would the head of the Transit Authority go along with this?
PALETTAThat's one of those questions that we don't know the answer to. And, actually, I think the head or the former head yesterday took the fifth and didn't want to give his side of the story to a New Jersey committee investigating this. So there's so many questions. This story could go any different direction, I think. And, you know, Christie was really rough on President Obama when the Obamacare issues began.
PALETTAHe said the president should take responsibility, he should fire some people. He should let everyone know that, you know, this is -- he should take charge. And so Christie was in a real pickle yesterday when he had his own scandal flare-up. And he immediately, you know, got rid of some people. And so -- like Sheryl said, without even talking to them. So this could go any different direction.
STOLBERGYeah, it's worth noting also that the two Port Authority officials who were involved in this did resign in December, one of them, David Wildstein, who was the governor's very close friend from high school, and the other, an appointee that the governor made to the Port Authority. Both resigned after testimony from other friends and officials suggested that they were implicated in the closures.
REHMWhen did that hearing take place?
STOLBERGI'm not certain when the hearing took place. They resigned in December.
STOLBERGI suspect the hearing was shortly prior to that.
PALETTAAnd Christie talked about the fact that he was dismissive of whether this was a big deal back then. And that was part of his apology to -- the unusual apology to reporters yesterday because he realized probably should've taken this seriously a little bit earlier.
MASONAnd he also said -- one of the explanations originally was that there's going to be some traffic study. And yesterday he said, it's unclear if there even was a traffic study.
STOLBERGRight. And he was very flippant in the beginning. At one point he said, oh, I probably moved the traffic cones myself. He tried to laugh it off. Traffic is no laughing matter in New York and New Jersey.
REHMEspecially in New York.
STOLBERGEspecially on the George Washington Bridge.
REHMAll right. Let's talk about another snag yesterday in the Senate in its plans to extend long-term jobless benefits. What are the chances now of passage in both Houses, Sheryl?
STOLBERGWell, they're not as good as they were 24 hours ago, that's for sure.
STOLBERGYou know, things seem to fall apart over Republicans -- Senate Republicans' insistence that they wanted to add some amendments to the extension of unemployment benefits.
REHMWhat kind of amendments?
STOLBERGWell, Mitch McConnell wanted two amendments. He wanted, one, a delay in the Obamacare individual mandate, which was -- is a big deal for Democrats. It's really a redline for Democrats. We already saw during the government shutdown that tinkering or messing with Obamacare is something that Democrats are just not going to tolerate. And also, Sen. McConnell wanted to restore a $6 billion cut in military retirement benefits, which Harry Reid said could be taken care of in different legislation down the road.
STOLBERGSo Sen. Reid, the majority leader, ultimately came up with a package, a compromise proposal that he put forth. But he pulled a procedural maneuver called filling the tree. Filling the tree is basically a maneuver that would deny the minority any amendments. So Republicans were not going to be allowed to add any amendments to this. Republicans have balked. And now we're in this kind of classic Washington standoff. And we don't really know what the prospects are for reviving this in the Senate.
REHMYou know, Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi was on this program earlier this week. I asked her about the extension of unemployment insurance. And she said she'd be amenable to a three-month extension. Weren't Republicans amenable to that early on, Jeff?
MASONYeah, all sides were amenable to that. And the president was amenable to that. He came out earlier this week saying, that's fine, let's do that. And his people have been saying, go ahead and do that, and that gives us a little more space.
REHMSo then you had this effort on the part of Republicans to add other amendments.
STOLBERGRight, right. And Republicans -- any minority gets its back up when it is denied a voice. So the response to that to deny them the ability to add amendments or offer these amendments, you know, got their backs up. And now we see both sides, you know, knocking heads.
PALETTAThis is just the latest example in how a completely dysfunctional Congress operates. You know, I mean, typically they would allow everyone be able to offer amendments, but there'd be an understanding that they were kind of working to get to the same point. Harry Reid said, you know, I don't trust the Republicans.
PALETTAThey're going to try to get to, you know, a finished product here. And the Republicans are bristling. Obviously Republicans could take control of the Senate in November. So, you know, everyone's kind of squaring off that this is a huge issue for the 1.3 million people who lost their benefits in December.
PALETTABut it also -- you know, there could be -- they have to pass another bill to prevent a government shutdown next week, you know. And the debt ceiling issue is coming up again. I mean, they're playing with fire here, and there's no guarantee that all these things are going to get resolved if they keep playing games like this.
REHMAll right. And what about both Republicans and Democrats wanting to take hold of helping people out of poverty, Jeff?
MASONWell, it's interesting how big of an issue that has become for both parties. Certainly the president and Democrats have signaled that they want to work on that this year by pushing for an increase in minimum wage. The president held an event yesterday where he talked about having promise zones in specific cities throughout the country that are especially affected by poverty. But you also have Republican leaders and potential presidential candidates, like Marco Rubio and Paul Ryan, talking about their ideas for reducing poverty.
MASONIt's a winner with voters. It's something that both sides want to show they care about. But this issue on unemployment insurance is one that certainly the Democrats will say, look, we worked hard to extend this and the Democrats -- or the Republicans prevented it. So, you know, it's putting your money where your mouth is is one thing, where politics will show in this next year.
STOLBERGSo, you know, Diane, we mark the 50th anniversary this week of Lyndon Johnson's Declaration of a War on Poverty. And certainly among Republicans, the war on poverty has had a bad rap. Ronald Reagan once said, we fought a war on poverty and poverty won. So it's fascinating to me to see Republicans take hold of this issue of poverty.
STOLBERGAnd I think it really has roots in Mitt Romney's campaign of 2012. Mitt Romney famously remarked that the 47 percent didn't pay taxes. Aides to Paul Ryan and confidants of his will say that Ryan, who was the vice presidential nominee, was mortified by this remark. And Ryan has, over the past year, been thinking a lot about how to address the problem of poverty in the context of both his Catholic faith and also Republican policy prescriptions.
STOLBERGSo he's given a series of speeches about this. In May, he gave a commencement talk at a Catholic college where he talked about the Catholic principle of subsidiarity, the idea that matters should be handled by the least centralized authority as a way of addressing poverty. He talks about faith-free enterprise and the common good.
STOLBERGI think that was the title of his speech. So Republicans are trying to embrace poverty as a cause but through their own policy prescriptions. Democrats are saying, how can you be for poverty or for controlling poverty or eliminating it when you want to cut food stamps and privatize Medicare? So obviously a clash of visions.
REHMHow does Ryan's view differ from or is similar to that of Marco Rubio?
PALETTAMarco Rubio proposed this week essentially ending all federal antipoverty programs and consolidating all the money into a fund that gets directed to the states so the states can use the money how they see best fit. He believes that states are on the ground. They know what their communities need. Maybe one state needs more food assistance. Maybe one state needs more health assistance. They shouldn't have the government, you know, directing all these different mandates.
PALETTAPaul Ryan's very interesting. He proposes essentially an audit of all federal anti-poverty programs. Find the ones that are working and buttress them. Find the ones that aren't working and get rid of them. And then he's also calling for a lot more civic involvement. He said yesterday that a lot of people assume they pay their taxes and it's up to the government to take care of the poor.
PALETTAThey should move on with their lives. He said that that's not working obviously and that people need to be more involved in their community, help out the poor. The poor need to be more integrated into neighborhoods so that people are living next door to people who are less fortunate, and you kind of identify with them more. So...
REHMWhat about this idea of state block grants that Marco Rubio is talking about, Jeff?
MASONWell, I don't know that much about his specific proposal, but the idea of doing it on a local level with that type of a proposal or what Obama was talking about with these promise zones, has shown evidence of working. And that, I think, is one reason or one way that people who really want to get something done are focusing on.
REHMAll right. Let's talk about the White House reaction to former Defense Secretary Gates' book, Jeff.
MASONIt was not flattering about Vice President Biden, and not particularly flattering about President Obama, with whom people thought Bob Gates had a very positive relationship. The former Secretary of Defense said that Obama made the right decisions on Afghanistan and the wars but did not believe in his own policy and did not believe that the mission was going to succeed. He...
REHMWhy do you suppose he came out with this so quickly and, perhaps as other former secretaries, didn't give himself a little time?
STOLBERGYou know, it's hard to know, except that Bob Gates is someone who served both administrations. He came to President Obama's Administration having been George Bush's Defense Secretary. He's been a public servant for a long time. I'm not certain how old he is, but it's possible that he felt that, you know, while these memories were fresh in his mind, he wanted to write this book and get it done with.
STOLBERGAnd he was unsparing, I think, in both parties and also of himself. So I think that it was a very honest book as he saw it. He didn't pull any punches. And perhaps because he was a Republican, didn't really feel the need to wait and give President Obama kind of a little honeymoon period after his own departure.
REHMI haven't yet read the book, but Bob Gates is coming in here next Thursday in the second hour. So I'll be interested in talking with him face to face. Is there any fallout here in regard to Hillary Clinton and the assumption that she may become the president candidate?
PALETTAThat's probably the biggest question that comes out of the book. And he actually said some really flattering things about Secretary Clinton. But the one thing that's kind of grabbed everyone by the shirt is him saying that Secretary Clinton said that the only reason she opposed the Iraq surge was for political reasons. Now, I'm sure she's going to have her side of that story. I found it a little amazing that he would convey something like that that was probably said in confidence or something like that.
MASONIn the situation room, I think.
STOLBERGAnd he conveyed about the president, too. He said the president said the same thing.
PALETTABut he's not known for one who says something that's not true. So that's something that's going to have to be addressed by Secretary Clinton and possibly by himself next week on your show.
MASONIt's interesting how he's sort of taking sides in what could be the Democratic primary in 2016.
MASONBecause, though he did say that and that's negative about Hillary Clinton, he otherwise said very positive things about her, but not so much Joe Biden.
REHMAnd you're listening to "The Diane Rehm Show." What did he say about Joe Biden, and why do you think he was so harsh?
MASONHe said that Joe Biden had been wrong on nearly every foreign policy issue over the last four decades. And that is significant because Joe Biden is a foreign policy guy. That is his primary portfolio -- or certainly one of his main portfolios as vice president. He was the lead person in the Iraq stuff for this president and was a very big player in the Afghanistan discussions. He travels all over the world for President Obama and was a big player on foreign policy in the Senate. So that was hurtful, I think, to the vice president.
REHMHe also said the vice president had a basic mistrust of the military.
STOLBERGYes. He did say that and also kind of a painful comment for the vice president. And interesting to see the way the White House reacted to this book. We reported that Wednesday was Joe Biden Day -- or yesterday was Joe Biden Day at the White House. And the White House immediately put Vice President Biden on every stop in Mr. Obama's schedule.
STOLBERGUsually the White House issues a schedule of what the president is going to do the following day. And it'll say the president is meeting in the situation room with advisors, and the president is doing this, the president is doing that. Well, suddenly the schedule read, the president and the vice president will. And not only that.
STOLBERGFor the first time in the Obama presidency, the White House opened the vice president and the president's private lunch to news photographers. They have lunch together once a week, but photographers are never allowed in. But, lo and behold, after the publication of Secretary Gates' book, news photographers were allowed to photograph the president and the vice president dining together.
MASONFor about one minute. I mean, it's important to note it wasn't long. And there's also been sort of a running conflict between the White House and the press core about access. So they were saying this is in response to that. But the timing was more than coincidental.
PALETTAOne of the things that was also interesting is -- that came across in all his criticisms is that Gates seems to despise the politics of Washington. You know, he didn't want a lot of political interference what the Pentagon was doing. He wanted a direct line to the president. And, actually, you know, at one point, he says he can't believe the president didn't trust Gen. Petraeus, you know, who was leading the surge one retrospect. Probably had some reasons not to trust Gen. Petraeus because of the whole, you know, affair scandal that came right after his...
STOLBERGAnd let's not forget how Secretary Gates actually came to Washington. He was brought in by George Bush. He had been a member of the elder Bush's inner circle and was sort of brought in when the war in Iraq was going very badly to, you know, help the Bush Administration. So he came out of retirement, out of academia to come back to a place that he never really envisioned returning to.
REHMAnd let's not forget Gates' deep attachment to the troops, his deep feelings about the troops, his tearful standing in front of them and letting them know and the world know that he really cared about those men and women serving.
MASONAbsolutely. And I think that may be partially why he felt personally offended by his view that the president didn't believe in their mission.
REHMJeff Mason of Reuters, he'll be here along with Sheryl Stolberg, Damian Paletta to answer your questions after a short break. Stay with us.
REHMAnd welcome back. We have many callers. So before we get to topics like Liz Cheney's campaign, the Supreme Court holding gay sex marriage, we'll open the phones. Let's go to Bob in Bloomington, Ind. You're on the air.
BOBGood morning, Diane.
BOBYes. In the Christie press conference yesterday, in answer to John King's question, he said that he had not slept for the last two nights. And then he went on to say that he'd been upset from 48 to 36 hours or whatever it was in his words. Now, he claims to have been broadsided by this the previous morning.
BOBBut clearly, you know, something was upsetting him much before that. I'm wondering why nobody asked him about that. And, you know, we're saying -- he's thereby saying there's no indication that he knew anything prior to when he said he did. And yet he said he didn't sleep for two nights and that he had been upset for a much longer period of time.
REHMOK. Thanks for your call. And to you, Sheryl.
STOLBERGIf I'm not mistaken, he was asked about that, and he said quickly that he misspoke. He meant -- somebody did catch him on that. We noticed that in my office. My colleague Carl Hulse quickly tweeted out a comment, you know, why did he say he was sleepless for two nights? And someone did ask, and he said he misspoke.
REHMAll right. Here's an email and there are several like this. This is from Kacie in Akron, Ohio: "As governor of New Jersey, if there is a major gridlock situation on a bridge he controlled, shouldn't he have investigated to see why this was happening? Seems like an investigation on his part would have uncovered far more quickly than a news investigation. I feel he dropped the ball either way."
MASONI'm sure he's wishing he'd done the same thing now. I mean, this hurts Christie. There's no question. Nobody wants to come out and apologize for two hours. So I think it's a legitimate question, and I suspect the governor would agree.
REHMAnd here's another email on the Christie, what shall we call it, imbroglio or scandal.
REHMThis is from Nancy. She says, in yesterday's live Q&A with the governor, Christie corrected the "high school friend" statement with the fact that he knew Wildstein only in passing in high school and specified the circumstance. Christie wanted to make that clear. Damian?
PALETTAThat seemed like a sort of dangerous bridge to cross, if you pardon the pun, because I'm sure there could be some photos of them in high school or something unless he's sure that that'll stand up. But, like we said, Wildstein took the fifth yesterday. There's all sorts of questions about what he might say if he's compelled to testify. And so we're going to have to wait.
REHMAll right. To Hollywood, Fla. Chris, you're on the air.
CHRISYes, hi. I had some things -- Diane, I love your show. You really have a heart. And I think a lot of these unemployment continuation of benefits issues has come down to having a heart. And I think the Republicans have shown that they haven't. The one thing that struck me was your speaking when you began your show about, I think, one of your children had the croup, and you had some medical issues with the child.
CHRISAnd people just don't have the money. People are working all the time.
CHRISAnd with this Christie thing, you know, so people are working all the time and this guy is shutting down -- or his aides apparently are. He surrounded himself with a bunch of mean-spirited people. He had the reputation for being mean spirited. And when the woman who spoke and questioned him about their child going to a private school -- well, where does your child go? Where does my child go? Shouldn't all children have an equal shot?
CHRISAnd he shot her down. And he just shows what kind of person he is. So even if he wasn't directly aware and responsible, the guy should be done. He surrounded himself with vindictive people. I'll get off the phone. Thank you so much.
REHMAll right. Thanks for calling, Chris. Damian?
PALETTALike Sheryl said earlier, this whole thing definitely feeds into this mystique of him that he's been trying to suppress, that he's a bully, that he's brash, that, you know, if he doesn't like something, he goes and bulldozes through it and makes people pay. He's going to have a lot of work to do to repair the damage that this thing has caused. And on the unemployment benefits, you know, it is amazing at this point in the recovery there's still 3.9 million people who are considered long-term unemployed.
PALETTAAnd clearly, you know, as important as unemployment benefits are to those people, the system isn't working. These people aren't getting the jobs they need. And I think the point a lot of Republicans are making is we need to find something that works because just giving them another three months of money is not going to be the bridge to another job.
REHMYou know, yesterday on this program, we were talking about fasting as a way of dieting, and it occurred to me how many people out there are having to fast not because they're dieting but because they don't have the money to buy food.
STOLBERGYou know, Diane, not that long ago, I went to rural Tennessee to do a story about people who are on food stamps. And I was so struck by how many of the parents there were denying themselves food so that their children could eat. I had people tell me, well, if I eat, I eat one meal a day. And to think that people in this country are, you know, denying themselves food to feed their children, it was very, very striking to me.
REHMAll right. Let's talk about Liz Cheney and why you think her campaign failed.
MASONWell, she decided to drop out of her campaign for senator for the Republican nomination in Wyoming because, she said, for health reasons, probably from one of...
REHMWhose health reason?
MASONWell, she was a little bit unclear about that. She has five children, and the presumption is it has to do with one of her kids. But the reality is...
REHMShe used the word serious health problems.
STOLBERGIn her family, she said.
MASONIn her family, exactly. So -- but that was -- and there's no reason to assume that that's not the case. However, it was a convenient time for her to drop out of the race.
MASONBecause it wasn't going that well. She wanted to take on Enzi in Wyoming, but he fundraised well. He was supported by the establishment in Wyoming, and basically she was creating a problem for the Republican Party in that state that some people like Alan Simpson said...
MASONA former senator and a big guy in Republican politics there, said could open up space for Democrats to come in.
STOLBERGYeah. I think Liz Cheney miscalculated in several ways. First of all, she took an incumbent, Mike Enzi, with whom she really didn't have any serious ideological differences and who was very popular in the state, and there was really no reason for Republicans wanting to get rid of him. Second of all, she moved to Wyoming from Virginia.
STOLBERGShe had spent really much of her adult life in Virginia. And several -- so she was kind of viewed as a carpet dagger. When she applied for a fishing license, which is kind of a rite of passage in Wyoming, she said she had lived there for 10 years. That actually wasn't the case. Then there was this whole flack over same-sex marriage...
REHMAnd her sister.
STOLBERG...marriage, and her sister Mary Cheney is gay and is married. And Dick Cheney has famously said he stands in support of same-sex marriage. He has said freedom is freedom for everybody. Liz Cheney came out in support of traditional marriage. This provoked an open family rift.
PALETTAOn Facebook, right?
STOLBERGOn Facebook with her sister, and Liz and Cheney were obviously not speaking. They said they weren't going to have the holidays together and actually had one Republican -- top Republican official tell me yesterday that the problem with that was not so much even that Liz Cheney looked disingenuous on same-sex marriage but that she seemed robotic. You know, who throws their sister to the wolves?
REHMUnder the bus.
STOLBERGUnder the bus. I used that phrase earlier. I didn't want to use it again. But, you know, you don't do that in pursuit of a Senate seat. So for all these reasons, Liz Cheney was having trouble in her campaign anyway. So probably just as well that she withdrew because she probably, most people felt, wasn't going to win.
REHMShe was way down in the polls, too.
PALETTAYeah, way down in the polls. I'm sure she originally saw this generational shift in the Senate -- Rand Paul, Ted Cruz -- these younger guys.
REHMAnd thought she could get in.
PALETTAYeah. And she sees an old bull, Mike Enzi in Wyoming, who she'd completely underestimated the power that he had out there.
REHMBut she was friendly with him before she entered the race.
PALETTAThat's right. And so -- but I'm sure she thought that he'd be easy to bump off. Maybe he would -- she thought he'd bow out gracefully. He absolutely did not. People out in Wyoming are very, you know, proud and tough, and he's just -- everyone knows about. It's a big state, but everyone knows each other. And so he held his own, fundraised really well. She never really got off the ground.
REHMAll right. So this issue of same-sex marriage now back on the front pages because the Supreme Court, U.S. Supreme Court has halted same-sex marriage in Utah. What in the world does this mean for all these same-sex couples who were married during that short period when it was legal?
MASONThat is the big question. There were about rough 1,000 couples who married during that period. And the state of Utah has said it is not recognizing those marriages. And they've issued guidance saying, if these couples had already perhaps changed their names and driver's licenses, they won't change that. But anyone else who tries to change it now, that won't be recognized.
MASONThe big question is, will the federal government recognize those marriages? Because they were legal when they occurred. And so that's creating this real big legal limbo for a lot of people who took advantage of this opportunity to get married.
REHMSo what does the fact that the Supreme Court issued this day mean as far as going forward?
STOLBERGWell, the Supreme Court didn't act on the merits of the case. So it's really a procedural stay while the state of Utah appeals a ruling by a federal judge who surprised everybody last -- in December by declaring Utah's ban on same-sex marriage unconstitutional. So the merits of the case now have to go forward in the courts. And we will see what the appeals court says. And I suppose this will end up in the Supreme Court eventually.
STOLBERGOne thing that's interesting to me is, you know, when the court --the High Court considered California's same-sex marriage ban, it found that there were two classes of citizens, right? There was this class of Californians who had been married when same-sex marriage was very briefly legal there, and then everybody else was banned. And the Supreme Court took a very dim view of that. So I do wonder if eventually we will have that same outcome in Utah.
REHMThe same outcome.
REHMOr unless the court does farther.
PALETTAThe court could go farther. We don't know. And like you said earlier, there's a huge legal limbo. I mean, imagine a lot of these families have to file tax returns. And, you know, heaven forbid there's some sort of issue or one of them passes away and there's, you know, all sorts of financial issues that come up as well. I cannot -- it's hard to imagine that this stays in the state of limbo for very long just because of all the things that are up in the air.
MASONSo it opens up the state of Utah to a lot of lawsuits from those people. I mean, it's not really a particularly good move for either side, certainly for these families who are expecting the benefits of marriage but also for the state.
STOLBERGYeah. After the Supreme Court's ruling last year, I wrote about a Utah couple who is married in the District of Columbia. One of them is a psychology professor at the University of Utah. So they're married legally in the District of Columbia where they do live part-time. And in Utah, their marriage is not recognized. They have an adopted son. And I wrote to him yesterday, and he said that this whole episode has been very painful in Utah.
STOLBERGBecause in Utah, so much is tied up with the Mormon Church, and many gay people there are members of the Mormon faith. Their families are Mormon, practicing LDS. And that it's just been -- involved a very painful discussion where it's put this issue on the fore, and people have had to confront their own families about how they feel about this.
REHMSheryl Gay Stolberg of the New York Times. And you're listening to "The Diane Rehm Show." Let's go back to the phones, 800-433-8850. Let's go to Sarah in Fort Matilda at Pennsylvania, you're on the air.
SARAHHi, thanks for taking my call.
SARAHI wanted your panel's opinion about something that I think is being lost about Secretary Gates' new book, which is we have a civilian-controlled military, and I really feel that his criticism of our political leaders especially while many of them are still sitting in office is borderline low-class. Many of us civilians were not in favor of the troop surges. And I feel like him coming out and saying these things is actually kind of disrespectful. Thank you.
MASONAnd that is criticism that has been at Gates since this book came out. Some from lawmakers in Washington. This is also a man who prided himself on the reputation of being a straight shooter but admitted in his book that many of the criticisms he wrote about, he had not actually said to the president or to the vice president when he was part of the administration.
PALETTAThe Pentagon leaders for decades have been telling -- have been complaining about, you know, political leaders telling them what to do and interfering. So in one respect, it's actually not that surprising that he invokes this. What is surprising is someone of his stature, someone who has so much bipartisan respect taking direct shots at a White House while the White House is still in office.
REHMAnd to Andrew who's here in Washington, D.C. you're on the air.
ANDREWHi, Diane Rehm. Thanks for taking my call.
ANDREWI have a question regarding the jobs numbers. I'm a small business owner in D.C. And when times get tough, you know, I think, and jobs get laid off, you know, people -- there's still jobs to do. And so I wonder if, you know, are people trying to find alternative solutions like software and outsourcing. And even as a small business, I'm able to find companies that can help me.
ANDREWAnd then, you know, when the jobs, you know, the economy starts to turn around and people start looking for those jobs back, you know, they're already taken. And they're fairly cheap to fill. So I was wondering if the slow growth has anything to do with that, and maybe it's time to kind of rethink these -- the way these job numbers are calculated and what is an acceptable standard.
PALETTAIt's a real interesting question. One of the things we've seen -- we saw after the recession was a big realignment in jobs. So a lot of companies laid off people, and then when the economy started improving, they decided, well, we don't need to fill those jobs anymore. We're getting a lot of productivity, or we're using a lot more technology to replace those jobs. And so there's been this huge skills gap.
PALETTAA lot of the people that lost their jobs are really good at one thing, but that job isn't needed anymore. And they have to find something else to do. And let's -- personal decision, like you don't want to leave that thing that you feel like you're really good at and learn something else. And for others, it's just a logistical thing. Maybe that new job you need is three states away. And so that process is taking a long time.
PALETTAYou know, we've seen a flood of people move to North Dakota to participate in the energy boom who had nothing to do with energy in their prior jobs, but they just want employment. Not everybody can do that sort of thing. So if you're in an area with a high unemployment rate like Nevada and you can't move, you know, you're doing a lot of soul-searching right now.
STOLBERGYeah. I think, you know, I think exactly what Damian said is correct. We've seen this massive shift. You know, we frankly even see it in the journalism business. So many people that I know who came into journalism when I did and never could envision the rise of the digital era and the shrinking of the daily newspaper business are now doing other things. And many journalists, like many Americans, have had to do a lot of soul-searching about do I leave that thing that I love to do something else in a new industry.
REHMAnd a great many journalists had taken a buy-out. Let's face it. Sheryl Gay Stolberg, Jeff Mason, Damian Paletta, thank you all so much. And, again, happy new year.
PALETTAHappy new year to you, Dian.
REHMThank you. And thanks for listening, all. I'm Diane Rehm.
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