What's on Congress' agenda in the final weeks before the August recess? Our panel takes a look at what needs to happen, and what can realistically get done.
The Friday News Roundup: House Republicans warn President Barack Obama about executive action on immigration. Primaries are held in four states. And Burger King announces plans to move its headquarters to Canada.
- John Harwood chief Washington correspondent, CNBC; reporter, The New York Times.
- Molly Ball staff writer, The Atlantic.
- Alex Burns senior political reporter, Politico.
Watch Live Video
Starting at 10 a.m. Aug. 29, watch live video of our Domestic News Hour.
MS. DIANE REHMThanks for joining us. I'm Diane Rehm. House Republicans warn President Obama against taking executive action on immigration. Voters in four states go to the poll for primary elections and Burger King announces plans to move headquarters to Canada. Here with me for the domestic hour of the Friday News Roundup, John Harwood of CNBC and the New York Times, Molly Ball of The Atlantic magazine and Alex Burns of Politico.
MS. DIANE REHMAnd since it's Friday, you can watch a live video stream of this program at our website, drshow.org. If you'd like to join the program, give us a call at 800-433-8850. Send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow us on Facebook or send us a tweet. And happy Friday to you.
MS. MOLLY BALLHappy Friday. Thanks, Diane.
MR. ALEX BURNSHappy Friday. A long weekend ahead.
MR. JOHN HARWOODHappy Friday.
REHMYes, indeed. John Harwood, remind us what action is President Obama thinking about doing regarding immigration?
HARWOODThe president is looking at a range of things that, I think, in their most provocative form would involve an exercise, either very large or more narrow, of what you would call prosecutorial discretion. That is to say, with the Dreamers a couple of years ago, he indicated that the federal government would not seek to prosecute people in a certain category.
HARWOODNow, keep in mind there are 11 million undocumented people in the country and we are not prosecuting the vast majority of those people. We are not deporting the vast majority of those people. But he codified that to send a signal. I think what he's talking about doing is something quite similar and you could either make it narrow, say we will not prosecute and seek to deport relatives or the Dreamers or you could say there are 11 million people in the country.
HARWOODLet's be real. We're not gonna deport them and we'll reassign our priorities and our resources toward, you know, border security for new people. Now, I don't think he'll go that broad, but I think that's the kind of dimensions that we're talking about.
BALLAnd there are also executive actions that the president plans to take with regard to the border crisis because as you'll remember, before Congress skipped town a month ago, they were unable to get anything done to pass any supplemental funding for the executive branch to deal with this ongoing crisis on the southern border. And so some of the executive action that the president takes will probably be to address that, whether through, you know, trying to expedite the judicial process to expedite some of the deportations of these unaccompanied minors, potentially, you know, emergency funding and other provisions.
BALLSo there's sort of a two-part aspect to this. There's the aspect that is sort of immigration reform by other means and then there's the aspect that is to deal with the border crisis.
REHMAnd Republican response, Alex Burns.
BURNSWell, so far, you've heard Republicans, I think, taking tentative steps in the direction of saying, you do this and we're going to end up having a fight on the federal budget in a couple weeks that Congress is due to pass a new continuing resolution to keep the government open. You've started to hear Republican members of the House, a couple prominent Republican members of the Senate saying, you know, this will not stand.
BURNSYou go down that direction, we're going to address it on the spending side. It's not yet clear, Diane, whether that's really a credible threat because if they really want to confront the president, you end up having a conversation about whether they're willing to shut down the government in order to prevent funding for the actions he takes on immigration.
BURNSAnd still, at this point, I think pretty broadly in the Republican Party, certainly in the Republican leadership, that's not a place they're going to be willing to go.
REHMThere are some Democrats uncomfortable with this, John King (sic) .
HARWOODYes. I think Democrats will be uncomfortable if he goes very broad, okay, especially in some of the battleground Senate races where there's not a large Hispanic constituency and where the potential payoff in terms of the positive, you know, you look at place like Arkansas, for example, that that might not be helpful to Mark Pryor there.
HARWOODBut I do think, on Alex's point, to some degree, it feels as if the White House and Democrats are trying to bait Republicans into talking about shutting down the government, talking about impeachment because those things would tend to aggravate, even when they're talked about, the Republican image problem that might feed into the midterm elections.
REHMAnd indeed bring out more Democratic voters, Molly.
BALLPotentially. I mean, as John noted, most of the states that have competitive Senate races this year are not in states with a lot of Hispanic voters, except for Colorado. And it will be interesting to see how the elections in that state are affected. Democrats are nervous about the potential for a backlash here and the exacerbating of the president's already quite negative approval ratings, the exacerbating of the impression that the Republicans have stoked, that the president is sort of imperial and ignoring their wishes, the wishes of Congress.
BALLNot that Congress, of course, has acted. But Republicans are also quite nervous, too, because they do see, as John was saying, the potential for a backlash. And you do have members of the House like Steve King saying we must stop this at all costs and that sets up the potential for a confrontation. You know, Democrats, more than anyone, have been stoking this idea that we could have a shutdown because they would love to go back to, you know, the best political times that they've had in the past couple of years has been when the shutdown happened nearly a year ago.
BALLAnd I tended to think, oh, this is just a Democratic creation. Republicans know better than to shut down the government again. And then, I started talking to some of my Republican sources on the House side and the leadership is very nervous about this. The Republican leadership in the House is very worried about how they're going to handle their conservative flank.
BALLThe conservatives were emboldened by what happened with the border bill before the recess...
BALL...when the conservatives were able to get their way on that.
BURNSYeah, I mean, I think what Molly just said is exactly right. Republicans aren't going to shut down the government as a deliberate strategy sort of marshaled by the folks at the highest levels of the party. But, look, when have we seen the House make fully responsible political choices based on the wishes of its leadership. The question isn't does John Boehner want to shut down the government. It's did Boehner and the new members of his leadership team have the political juice to restrain the folks on the right flank of the House conference.
BURNSAnd you could just be talking about a couple dozen people. That's all it takes. Restrain those people from blocking a spending cut.
HARWOODIn other words, Democrats are looking at the Republican caucus and throwing a big box of matches over there and hoping they play with them and it gets out of control.
REHMAnd in the meantime, you did have protests outside the White House yesterday, John.
HARWOODSure. And look, the president and the Democratic Party have pressure to finally deliver, right? The president got 71 percent of the Hispanic vote in 2012. That's a core constituency of the Democratic Party now. It's growing. And they've got to show that they put a high priority on this. Now, that doesn't mean, you know, the risk for the president is that the broader he goes, the more you raise the specter of is he really simply trying to, in effect, nullify existing law and deliver on commitments without getting the political support in Congress to do it.
HARWOODAnd, you know, there is some danger that the president would go too far in that way, even for some of his supporters. But in the long run, Democrats are aligning themselves with the interests, the aspirations of the Latino community and that is a pressure that has political payoff, but it also comes with burdens and responsibilities.
REHMSo you had about 145 people taken yesterday, handcuffed, taken to a facility in Anacostia, paying, what, a $50 fine. But you're likely to see, perhaps, these kinds of protests break out, Molly.
BALLI think you're likely to see protests on both sides. You know, immigration activists are expecting that this executive action is going to happen sometime in the month of September so in the next several weeks, we're going to see something out of the White House on immigration. And, you know, this is likely to be the sort of September surprise, if you will, that scrambles the calculus of the midterm election. I think we will see probably people who are angry about this decision, take to the streets in a lot of places.
BALLWe will likely see supporters of this decision also, you know, engaging in activism around it and it really has the potential to bring a lot of people out.
REHMAnd is President Obama likely to do the same thing on climate change, Alex?
BURNSHe's certainly trying to accomplish something internationally on climate change. The New York Times had a story this week sort of detailing the kind of international accord that he's trying to broker with other, you know, carbon-emitting or highly carbon-emitting countries that wouldn't necessarily require Senate approval. So updating a 1992 agreement that was legally binding with some additional sort of points of political pressure for big polluters.
BURNSIt's not really clear that that's something that would satisfy folks in the environmental community, but I think they're realistic about what the U.S. Senate looks like right now. What you do have is already Republicans speaking out and saying, this man has so little respect for the legislature of his own country he would rather deal with the United Nations than the U.S. Congress. And, you know, that's something that -- I think what wraps together the immigration issue and this issue is that this is a president sort of acting with whatever authority he has and really setting the early agenda for 2016 right now.
REHMIs he likely to do this before the election or afterwards, John?
HARWOODWell, if we're talking about trying to reach a voluntary agreement with other countries, that's gonna take awhile.
HARWOODI don't think -- it's not his choice of timing. He'll do that as soon as he can do it. I do think that this is different in kind from what's going on with immigration. With immigration, we've got a law. Certain things are against the law. Those laws are not being enforced right now. What do you do about that? Do you change a new immigration system or do you just say and acknowledge we're not going to enforce the law, which raises questions about administration and governance.
HARWOODBut climate is different and the domestic climate agenda that he has has been blessed by the Supreme Court in terms of his authority to do that.
REHMJohn Harwood of CNBC and the New York Times. You can see all of our guests live on video stream at drshow.org. We'll be right back.
REHMWelcome back to the Domestic Hour of our Friday News Roundup this week with Molloy Ball of The Atlantic, John Harwood of CNBC and the New York Times and Alex Burns with Politico. You can see all of our guests live on video stream if you go to drshow.org. And I want to turn now to Burger King, Molly Ball, and Burger King's acquisition of Tim Hortons. Talk about what's happened and why.
BALLWell, Burger King claims this is not about taxes but it's largely been portrayed as one of these tax inversion deals that we're seeing a lot of in corporate America where a company merges with a foreign company and then its American operations become a subsidiary of a multinational in effect. And the corporate tax rate it pays is based on the country where it is headquartered. So in this case, Canada, which has a lower corporate tax rate than the United States.
BALLThere is a potential for a consumer backlash here because people don't like this image of American companies evading taxes. It's not likely to mean a lot of jobs because if you think about it, fast food workers can't commute from Canada. The jobs that Burger King has would largely have to stay in the United States because of the nature of the business.
BALLBut, you know, Walgreens tried to do one of these inversion deals just a few months ago and ended up canceling it largely because of consumer backlash because there was the potential for some kind of boycott from people who saw this as unpatriotic. And it's something that the president has talked about too, trying to close these loopholes or punish these so-called tax cheats.
REHMSo are we going to get a rehash of the debate over tax reform?
HARWOODYes, that will also go nowhere like the last debate over tax reform. I will say, in the case of Burger King, I don't think the effective tax rates being paid by Burger King and Tim Horton were that different even though the nominal corporate tax rate in the United States is higher than in Canada. So I'm not sure that taxes are the principal motivation, although given the fact that we've seen a number of these deals, it's being discussed in that light, especially since Warren Buffett, who is a friend of the White House, has participated in the financing of that.
HARWOODBut, look, the tax reform debate, even easy things are difficult to do in Washington right now. And tax reform is exceptionally difficult for a number of reasons. Democrats want to raise more money, Republicans don't. Republicans really want to cut rates, Democrats don't care about that quite so much. Democrats are more willing to look at corporate tax reform, Republicans say no, no, we've got to reform the entire system including individual.
HARWOODIt is a recipe right now for really not moving forward. I think we're in a conversation that's likely to play out over a couple of congresses and will get done, if it gets done, under the next president, not this one.
REHMDo you expect any backlash for Burger King, Alex?
BURNSYou know, I don't know that you're going to see that much backlash against Burger King specifically because, you know, as Molly mentioned this is not likely to cost a lot of American jobs. And Burger King is, I think, a pretty benign-seeming corporation. You're not talking about, you know, a big car company who people already resent moving their operations to Singapore or something like that.
BURNSBut I do think, Diane, that when you sort of -- you know, corporate tax inversion is an awfully technical-sounding term. I think that's an indication of how early in the political debate we are that Chuck Schumer hasn't come up with some more, you know, incendiary term to use for folks relocating their corporate headquarters overseas for precisely this reason.
BURNSYou know, I think you do -- you are starting to hear prominent Democrats, particularly folks like Sherrod Brown, the senator from Ohio, or Chris Van Hollen, the top Democrat on the House Budget Committee saying, we need to pay attention to this. And for a party that is trending increasingly populist in its economic rhetoric, I'd be shocked if you didn't start to hear this come up more and more heading into 2016.
HARWOODOne point I do think that was raised by our colleague Charles Krauthammer in the Post today is very on point, I think. Mitt Romney was pilloried in the 2012 campaign for saying, unfortunately, at an event in Iowa, I believe, corporations are people too. And he was ridiculed for that. People said, what are you talking about, corporations are people? That shows how Republicans think. Well, if the administration is now saying that corporations are unpatriotic, if a corporation's not a person how can a profit-making organism be charged with patriotism or lack of it? And I think there's a little bit of a double standard going on there.
BURNSYou know, I think the other dimension to this is that this is a debate that is happening -- already happening domestically between U.S. states, this idea of, like, how do you make a country economically competitive enough to prevent Burger King from moving across the northern border? This is a debate that happens all the time as, you know, Rick Perry the governor of Texas tries to poach companies from California because there are lower taxes and a more lax regulatory environment in Texas. There's a reason why I suspect every single listener to this program gets a credit card statement from a Delaware address.
HARWOODSo you already have this kind of competition -- regulatory and tax-related competition happening between U.S. states. I think it will be alarming to people as they realize that it's not just an issue of Bank of America moving across, you know, a state line.
REHMWell, and if you're talking about the federal treasury and the amount of taxes it is or is not likely to get from corporations, in the long run aren't you dealing with a bigger problem than we might think right now?
BALLSure. I mean, there's a problem of collecting federal taxes from corporations that is much bigger than just the inversion issue. There's the issue of offshore tax havens. There are all kinds -- you know, there are massive "compliance departments" quote unquote in these big corporations whose job is basically to find creative ways to use the tax code. And that's a big sort of slogan of the tax reformers, that we need to find ways to simplify the tax code so that it's equitable, so that the mom and pop person on the corner is paying similar tax rates to the big corporations.
BALLAnd this has been a rallying cry, I think, for politicians on both sides. But it's -- like John said, it's very hard to do in practice. And once you get down to brass tax, the armies of lobbyists employed by these companies exist to make sure that their preferential treatment in the tax code doesn't go away.
HARWOODHuge differences among businesses on this.
REHMExactly. And small and large. I mean, large corporations have many lawyers which do get their tax rate down most of the time below 25 percent, let's face it.
HARWOODAbsolutely. And if you look at who the big winners would be by taking the nominal rate down, realizing that most big companies don't pay the nominal rate, but who pays the high effective tax rate? Wall Street. So if you reform the tax code, get that rate down, they're a big beneficiary. How many politicians want to vote for that?
REHMAll right. Let's talk about the primaries. We had one in Florida where Charlie Crist won his first race as a Democrat. First he was a Republican and independent. Now he's a Democrat. So how much money is this race going to involve?
BURNSIt may be as much as Burger King will pay in taxes next year, Diane. This is really an extraordinary election for a whole number of reasons. One of them is, Crist's party switch. The other is that the incumbent governor, Rick Scott, was sort of nowhere on the Florida political map five years ago, and then just self funded with his incredible personal fortune campaign for the governorship.
BURNSSo now you essentially have a general election between a wealthy Republican incumbent, a well-funded Democratic -- you know, recently Democratic challenger, two men who have virtually no relationship with the parties that they are running to represent, or no long-standing relationship with the parties that they're running to represent just slinging incredible mud at each other. This is not just going to be an expensive race. It's already an intensely personal race.
BURNSThe ads that are on the air right now are the Republicans saying that Charlie Crist put judgeships up for auction when he was governor -- governor as a Republican. And Democrats are on the air saying that Rick Scott ran a company that received, at the time, the highest fine for Medicare fraud in history.
BALLAnd, you know, as Alex sort of said, the fact that the primary is not over is not really the starting gun for this race. This race has been underway for months now, both candidates having lots of money, Rick Scott having orders of magnitude more money in part because he's the incumbent and in part because he has money personally. But Charlie Crist is a very good fundraiser. He's always been a very good fundraiser.
BALLFor Florida Democrats, there is a lot on the line here because Rick Scott is quite unpopular. And even though Florida has gone Democratic in the last couple presidential elections, they have had just miserable failure at the state level. There's no Democratic bench to speak of. They lost that special election a few months ago for a house seat that was on relatively favorable turf for them. They are tiny minorities in the state legislature and have been wiped out in the congressional delegation as a result of the way the map was drawn.
BALLAnd so, you know, this is -- Florida Democrats have accepted Charlie Crist as sort of their savior even though he's a former Republican partly because he's done a lot to win them over, but partly because they feel like he's someone people know. He's someone who is relatively well-liked. He's the sort of big name that might be able to put them over the top against an incumbent who, while unpopular, you know, has a lot of fire power.
HARWOODBut it's really about degrees of unpopularity here. Rick Scott, he was -- there was a lot of negative ammunition against him because of that Medicare case that Alex referred to, when he first ran. He has governed in a very provocative way, provocative conservative trying to crack down on Democrats voting, trying to cut social services, very, very controversial. And then with Charlie Crist, you got a guy who has put the issue on the table by changing his political identity. Who is this guy? What does he stand for? And that's why it's going to be such a negative and nasty race.
BALLFlorida's also a place -- you know, we talk about, oh, the election hinges on turnout and it doesn't mean anything to say that. Of course elections hinge on who votes. But if you look at, you know, the sort of whiplash that happened really to this whole country between 2008 and 2010. You know, in 2008 Obama winning very handily, and then in 2010, this huge backlash of Republicans winning everywhere. And it was largely because of who didn't vote.
BALLAnd, you know, when I was in Florida in 2012, I went down to one of the two counties in the whole state in Daytona Beach that went for Obama in 2008 and then for Rick Scott in 2010, trying to find who are these voters who changed their mind? And I didn't find any. What I found were a lot of Democrats who didn't vote in 2010. And so for Democrats in Florida in 2014 and really across the map, the key is going to be to try to motivate those Obama voters in a year when Obama is not on the ballot. And that's an uphill battle.
HARWOODAnd it's why President Obama may have a more active role in this race and more upside for the Democratic candidate than he does in many, many other parts of the country.
REHMAnd what about Arizona with Republican Doug Ducey winning the primary? He's going to face Fred DuVal, a Democrat, to succeed the Republican governor Jan Brewer.
BURNSThis is another race where it's one rich guy running against another rich guy, in case you're sensing a trend here. But, you know, folks think that Arizona is one of these states that Democrats have been sort of eyeing anxiously for years as if you -- you know, if you look at the demographic trends, this is a place that's getting more diverse. It ought to be a place that the national party more identified with racial diversity ought to be able to compete in.
BURNSThere's not a kind of Democratic optimism about that state. This time they tried very hard in a U.S. Senate race there in 2012. They had an excellent candidate who came up short against a, you know, qualified but not particularly interesting Republican Senate nominee. The big sort of personal interest headline from this race, Doug Ducey, the Republican nominee, also the founder of Cold Stone Creamery. So, you know, when I talk to people about that race they say, Democrats have a shot but, look, the Republican nominee is a guy who brought ice cream to the desert. So that's a tough target.
HARWOODDiane, this is a race that makes me feel old as a political reporter because I first met Fred DuVal when he was an aide to Bruce Babbitt, the governor of Arizona when he was running for president. Press secretary in that campaign was a young guy you might've heard of, Mike McCurry. And now Fred DuVal's the gubernatorial nominee.
REHMAnd in Oklahoma, what's going on there, John Harwood?
HARWOODI'll be honest, I have not paid close attention to the Oklahoma campaign once we had the primary and the House Speaker was defeated by Jim Lankford in that contest. That's -- and I think Lankford is a strong favorite to win. That's -- I haven't paid deep attention to that one.
REHMBut you've got State Senator Connie Johnson who won the Senate primary.
BURNSYeah, and look, Oklahoma has a -- this is -- it's sort of an interesting state in that it is super, super conservative. But every now and then it'll throw up a statewide race that looks closer than it reasonably should be. And you certainly have that in the governor's race this year that there have been a couple polls out showing that Republican incumbent Mary Fallin, you know, really not in a particularly secure position.
BURNSYou know, you have -- the Democrats have put up an incredible candidate for the U.S. Senate. Look, I don't think anybody thinks that they're going to do particularly well in those statewide races this time. But it's one of those states that occasionally surprises.
REHMAnd you're listening to "The Diane Rehm Show." One situation I think all of us are watching is happening across the river with the trial of a former Republican governor, Molly Ball.
BALLThat's right. And I believe that the closing arguments are happening or have just happened. There's been a lot of very sort of sorted and entertaining testimony over the last several weeks. Interestingly rather than two, there's sort of three sides in this trial because it has pitted Bob McDonnell against his wife, Maureen McDonnell. So they have separate defense teams. There's his defense that is largely based on negative portrayal of her. There is her defense.
BALLAnd then there is the prosecution which is claiming that Bob McDonnell awarded favors to his friend and very substantial donor, Johnny Williams, in exchange for preferential state treatment for Johnny Williams' vitamin supplement company which had various audiences and promotion from the governor's mansion while he was in office. It'll be very interesting to watch the jury deliberate this case. From what I've heard from people covering the trial, it's very difficult to read. And the evidence that's been presented, you know, could be seen a number of different ways.
BALLMcDonnel is saying, you know, that his wife brokered most of this and that they were largely estranged. The prosecution has pointed out that they didn't look estranged to anyone else and that they spent most of their time together. And if she had a crush on Johnny Williams, it appears to have been completely unrequited. So, you know, there's potential prison time for Bob McDonnell if he's convicted.
REHMIt's a clever strategy, don't you think, John Harwood?
HARWOODI guess. It reminds me a little bit of Marion Barry's defense that we may remember when he was caught a few years ago taking illicit drugs. Look, no one looks good in this situation. It will be hard, I think, to prove. You know, I heard somebody this morning predicting a hung jury in that situation because in the same way that it's hard for lobbyists to prove they've made a big difference, it's hard to prove that Johnny Williams got anything for a lot of money.
REHMJohn Harwood and we're going to take a short break. When we come back, we'll talk about a shooting incident with a nine-year-old involved and Michael Brown's burial.
REHMAnd welcome back. You can see all of our guests live video steamed, go to drshow.org. Let's open the phones now. First to Dallas, TX. Jose, you're on the air.
JOSEThank you for taking my call, Diane. I love you and I love your show.
JOSEMy question for your panel is in regard to Paul Ryan's recent comment on NPR and the general public talking point that Obama can't be trusted to enforce border security. So my question is, what is the history and context to this argument? And to what degree does it conflict with the proposed legislation that we've seen from the Senate, because my understanding is that the Senate legislation directs an unprecedented amount of money and support to border security.
JOSEAnd so, will Obama support for this bill contradict the idea that he doesn't care about border security? Or is it just an attempt by the House to deflect from their own unwillingness to consider the bill?
BURNSWell, I think that's exactly what it is. The back story here is that Republicans who want to look supportive of immigration reform as a general principle just not this bill or any bill that might come up in this Congress. The argument that they make, and Paul Ryan is one of these folks, is that you just can't trust this president to enforce the law. And they have, you know, they have a decent set of data points that the president has selectively enforced immigration law.
BURNSThat is also clearly true. So what -- you know, the Democratic comeback that you've heard to those kinds of comments by Paul Ryan is, okay, let's pass an immigration reform bill and make it effective January 20, 2017 and the next president can enforce the law. I don't think that anybody who's really undecided on this issue is particularly swayed by either the argument Ryan made or the argument that his opponents made. The plain fact is that the House hasn't acted on immigration. And if you're upset with that, you're just going to be upset with that.
HARWOODIt's a ridiculous talking point, Diane. The -- to say the -- you know, Alex started out by saying, yes, it is an attempt to deflect from the House's inaction. That's all it is. The reason there are 11 million undocumented immigrants in this country is because the immigration laws have not been enforced for a very long time by many presidents. So the idea that Obama uniquely cannot be trusted, it's just made up.
REHMAll right, let's go to Lynn in Concord, NH. You're on the air.
LYNNTwo weekends ago, John Boehner was at an exclusive golf course in Manistee, MI for a weekend of golf. He and his entourage had Secret Service agents and FBI. Three choppers flew over the course the whole time, government cars were driving around the area and in the town. And they flew in on a huge government jet.
REHMWere you watching all this?
LYNNMy fraternity brother was on the course playing at the same time.
LYNNPi Kappa Alpha.
BURNSOh, sorry about that.
LYNNAnd the question is, how many hundred thousand did that cost the taxpayers?
REHMIt's a good question. But who knows?
BALLI certainly don't know, although I do think that these complaints about politicians taking vacations or taking a little time off do get a little bit tiresome. We've -- we've now heard for several weeks sniping at President Obama for playing while he is on vacation in Martha's Vineyard. And of course, presidential vacation eats up an enormous amount of taxpayer resources based on the amount of security and the extent to which his staff has to travel with him.
BALLSo clearly, this is a bipartisan issue. Presidents can't just go for a walk. The speaker of the House also cannot just drive himself to the golf course and play by himself. So I'm not sure to what extent this is avoidable unless we want our leaders to sort of be imprisoned in their own homes.
BURNSI agree with Molly.
REHMAll right. Let's go to Charlottesville, VA. Hi, James. James, are you there? Guess not. Let's then go to Matt in Atlantic Beach, FL. Hi.
MATTHi. I've been waiting for a little while, so I'm going back to the first conversation you were having about the election in Florida.
MATTI feel like -- I feel like I represent a lot of people in Florida actually that not many people not voted. I was probably one of a hundred people in my area that went. When I got there, everyone looked at me like I was crazy because I'm younger and I was probably the only young person that voted in the primaries. And I still feel like, even though I did get to vote, we are just voting between, you know, the better or worse of two evils and there's not really much to, you know, (word?) for anything we can do about that other than just sit around and wait until the next -- next election comes around.
BALLWell, this is a sentiment that we hear a lot from voters in elections all over the country. And part of it, I think, is a side effect of these tremendously negative campaigns whose purpose is just to make you feel bad about all the candidates. It's also true that we see a lot of bipartisan shenanigans in Washington that have made people sort of declare a pox on both their houses and feel like neither party is serving their interests.
BALLEverybody is too preoccupied with the next election or making their opponents look bad. And so, you know, I think that's a part of the challenge that parties have in motivating their voters is that both parties have historically low approval ratings. Although the Republicans is a little bit worse than the Democrats. People don't feel good about political parties. People don't feel good about politicians. People don't feel that anyone is speaking to them. They feel like it is the sort of battle to be the lesser evil.
BURNSYeah. You know, I think about this a lot as a campaign reporter that elections matter a great deal if you believe that the outcome than changes outcomes in governing. I think it's hard over the last couple of years to point to an election that has led to really constructive outcomes on the federal level. So, you know, you have to go back to the passage of health care in 2010 for, I guess, Dodd-Frank was a little bit after that.
HARWOODThat was pretty big.
BURNSIt was big. But it's now been a couple cycles and hundreds of millions and billions of dollars spent on negative campaigns to no apparent consequence. The voters saw what the president did after 2008, course corrected. But course corrected sort of into a brick wall and we remain sort of stuck in that brick wall. And I think you're going to hear increasing cynicism about politics until we get past the point that people go cast their ballots and then still nothing happens.
REHMTo Lexington, MA. Hi, David.
DAVIDHi, Diane. I have trouble with the notion that Americans of Hispanic extraction will be won over by whichever party offers amnesty. A poll several years ago found that 69 percent of this Democrat demographic supports a national mandatory e-Verify, the policy that would encourage self-deportation. And I think they're motivated by the same issues generally that motivate Democrats like me.
DAVIDWhat I don't understand is the president's total lack of compassion for American workers when he puts illegal immigrants before the 20 million Americans who are out of work as the Center for Immigration Studies reported all of the 5.7 million new jobs since the millennium has been filled by immigrants.
BURNSYou hear that line of argument a lot when it comes to issues related to sort of social policy and identity and that, you know, Hispanic voters don't really care about immigration, what they really care about is jobs. And what women care about is not really abortion, it's, you know, can they take care of their families. The reality is, those things -- the second part is true, women do care about taking care of their families.
BURNSHispanics do care about jobs. Everybody cares about jobs and taking care of their families. But, you know, the caveat to all that is, if a political party is projecting an image that they just don't like a certain group of people, if Hispanics or women get the idea that a candidate or a set of candidates just basically don't relate to them or have contempt for them, then they're not going to listen to what you have to say about jobs.
BURNSAnd that's why you have, from the Republican side, this real sense that, my goodness, we've got to do something on immigration to show this really important block of voters that we don't just dislike them.
BALLI think another thing that's interesting also is that, historically, this has been a more potent argument than it used to -- than it is today. We used to see real divides within the Democratic Party where labor was on a different side of the immigration issue than the Hispanic block. And that's no longer the case. You have, you know, the AFL-CIO and a lot of other big unions being largely on the same page as, you know, the president and the rest of the Democratic Party on immigration, in part, because it would increase the total number of jobs in the economy according to almost all economists and according to the CBO's report on the Senate bill.
BALLAnd it would sort of lift all votes even there would be some people who would be disadvantaged. But -- but it has been a really interesting development, I think, that while it used to be, I think, a lot more possible for people opposed to immigration reform to sort of use this as a wedge where it wasn't clear what the net gain would be for politicians. You would gain some Hispanic votes, but you would lose a lot of white working class votes.
BALLThe polling is much more strong -- much stronger in favor of immigration reform now in almost every demographic than it used to be, you know, a decade ago.
REHMAll right. Let's talk about Michael Brown's funeral, which was held this week. There were thousands of people to show their respect. You had people like Jesse Jackson, Spike Lee. You had really people turning out, wanting to not only pay respects but to say something's wrong -- something's wrong with our justice system. What's the latest on the investigation, John?
HARWOODWell, I think the investigation of the grand jury is going to be looking at this and we don't expect to know what charges, if any, are going to be filed until perhaps October. But there's no question there's something wrong and that this case has pointed up something wrong in the administration of justice. You have a -- it has to do with sociology. It has to do with the nature of communities. It has to do with race.
HARWOODIt has to do with so many things that need addressing in our society that aren't easy to address and we've been talking about for quite a long time. You know, Rand Paul, among Republicans, was trying to make an argument a couple of weeks ago that, yes, there is a systemic problem in the way our justice system is skewed. But the answer is -- the problem is big government. I don't think that's a very convincing answer to many Democrats. And it underscores why it's so difficult to move forward on this.
BALLWell, there's a couple of different ways that this could have political ramifications. In the Congress, we have seen already a proposal to hold hearings or examine this issue of the militarization of police forces, to reexamine this post-9/11, really, spigot of military equipment that has gone to police forces with no accountability or limits on the way it can be used, and I think those pictures out of Ferguson that were so striking of the basically tanks and riot gear plus that these police were wearing.
BALLSo there's a desire to at least reexamine that and maybe set some limits. The Congressional Black Caucus also has called for, you know, an examination of some of the issues around that. And then I think locally, you know, there were voter registration drives that some of the peaceful protests in Ferguson. There's a lot been said about how even though it is a majority African American community, its representatives are overwhelmingly white and the police force is overwhelmingly white. So I think you will hear pressure on the local authorities to announce reforms and also potentially a voter backlash.
REHMAnd you're listening to "The Diane Rehm Show." Alex, I know you want to add a word.
BURNSYeah, on the Michael Brown case. I just got back from a trip to Korea to visit my wife's family over there. And the thing that blew me away and sort of shook me up a bit was turning on the television and seeing the second or third news story on many broadcasts on Korean television -- I'm not talking about CNN international -- is Ferguson, right? So this incident that happened in a small town in the U.S. that most of us had never heard of before where one man was killed has now come in so many places to define what people think is going on in the United States right now.
BURNSAnd so many of my wife's aunts and uncles, you know, they ask, what is going on with you people? They see these images and they think back to, you know, the images that they saw in the 1960s or worse because this time, you know, you're not just talking of police with dogs, you're talking about police with, you know, what comes right out of Iraq.
REHMTanks. And one more issue weapons in very, very questionable hands, nine-year-old girl having an Uzi in Arizona, trying to, for some reason, learn how to shoot an Uzi, the backfire or whatever it's called, turned her shoulder and she shot her instructor. John Harwood, what do we make of this?
HARWOODWell, a couple of things. First of all, I would expect some significant movement to change the rules around shooting ranges like that. You know, there are some who let kids as young as eight years old hold those weapons. Others restrict it to a higher age. I got to say, as a father of three daughters, I think there's something wrong with those parents that -- why would you want to take your kid, a young girl, and put an Uzi in her hands?
HARWOODFor what reason? I think it's idiotic and it is a tragic accident and I feel terrible for the instructor who lost his life. I feel terrible for that young girl who's going to carry that with her for a very long time. But it was completely preventable kind of tragedy.
REHMGenerally, apparently, there are no age restrictions at these shooting ranges and that may be something that eventually changes.
BALLWell, and look, I'm sure these parents thought they were doing something responsible. This girl was not out in the wilderness with her own gun.
REHMWith an Uzi, Molly?
BALLShe was at a shooting range under the supervision of an instructor, presumably being taught to handle weapons safely. And there's a train of thought that, you know, the best way to ensure gun safety is to make sure that the people who handle guns have been trained from an early age and their safe deployment and know what they are doing around guns, you know. But I think another issue that this points out is that, you know, we hear these -- these gun statistics about the tremendous level -- number of firearm deaths in this country.
BALLAnd usually we talk about this in the context of a massacre or urban crime. But a very large number of the shooting deaths in this country are accidental deaths. A very large number of the gun -- deaths from guns are a gun going off when it isn't supposed to very often in the hands of a child. Often a child is the victim. So it will be interesting to see if this sparks a different debate than the largely unproductive one that always goes nowhere after a tragedy.
REHMLast word, Alex.
BURNSI mean, call me a cynic, but I feel like it's only a matter of time before we hear someone say that if you outlaw nine-year-olds with guns, then only nine-year-old outlaws will have guns, that these debates tend to go nowhere for a reason.
HARWOODThere's absolutely no reason for a nine-year-old girl to have an Uzi in her hands.
REHMYou got the last word. John Harwood of CNBC and the New York Times, Molly Ball of the Atlantic magazine, Alex Burns of Politico, thank you all. Have a safe Labor Day weekend.
BALLYou too, Diane.
REHMThank you.. And thanks for listening, all. I'm Diane Rehm.
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