Nine years ago, former FBI agent Robert Levinson disappeared in Iran while on a mission for the CIA. The story of his secret journey to Iran, the CIA cover-up that followed and efforts to rescue the longest-held U.S. hostage.
A midnight shooting at a Denver Theater left 12 people dead. A suspect is in custody. Federal Reserve Board Chairman Ben Bernanke described efforts to lower the unemployment rate as frustratingly slow. Housing data indicated a market in recovery, with existing home sales and prices and new home starts all up in June. Senator John McCain criticized attacks by Congresswoman Michele Bachman on a long-time aide to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. And, without intervention from Congress, the Post Office moved closer to defaulting on payments for future retiree benefits. Jerry Seib of the Wall Street Journal, Susan Page of USA Today and Chris Cillizza of the Washington Post join Diane for the domestic hour of our Friday News Roundup.
- Chris Cillizza author of The Fix, a Washington Post politics blog; managing editor of PostPolitics.com; and author of a new book, "The Gospel According to The Fix."
- Jerry Seib Washington bureau chief for The Wall Street Journal.
- Susan Page Washington bureau chief for USA Today.
Friday News Roundup Video
Our panel discussed the repercussions of the Colorado movie theater shooting that left 12 dead and dozens injured Friday morning. Jerry Seib, Washington bureau chief for The Wall Street Journal, said the shooting could renew the political debate about violence and gun control in the United States. The Washington Post’s Chris Cillizza said polls show there’s typically a short-lived bump in the national discussion after major gun-related events, such as the Virginia Tech massacre and Columbine High School shooting. Cillizza added that Gallup polls have found American support for stricter gun laws fall by about 50 percent since 1990.
MS. DIANE REHMThanks for joining us. I'm Diane Rehm. Federal Reserve Chair Ben Bernanke testifies on Capitol Hill on the U.S. economy and LIBOR rigging scandal. A new poll shows voter discontent over the Obama administration's management of the U.S. economy. GOP rival Mitt Romney remains under pressure to release his tax returns. And President Obama says he's shocked and saddened by a deadly shooting at a Denver movie theater that killed 12 people.
MS. DIANE REHMJoining me for the week's top domestic stories on the Friday News Roundup: Jerry Seib of The Wall Street Journal, Susan Page of USA Today, and Chris Cillizza of The Washington Post. I know many of you will want to join the conversation. Call us, 800-433-8850. Send us email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Join us on Facebook or Twitter. Good morning everybody.
MR. JERRY SEIBGood morning, Diane.
MS. SUSAN PAGEGood morning.
MR. CHRIS CILLIZZAGood morning.
REHMChris Cillizza, congratulations on your new son.
CILLIZZAThank you so much. He is now, let' see, 9 days old. He spent nine days in the world, Will. Thank you so, so much, though. As I said, anyone who congratulates me, my wife did almost all the work.
REHMThis morning carries such sad news, heavy heart, this shooting in Colorado. Susan, what do we make of this young man, age 24, the alleged shooter, James Holmes, walks into theater where a midnight showing of "Batman" is, with a rifle, with a shotgun, with two pistols, starting with tear gas?
PAGEIt's unfathomable, and it's -- you can't -- I can't explain it. I can't really understand what prompts people to do this. The only -- we do know that the White House has now said that they don't see a link to terrorism. You know, that's a good thing. It would be, I think, worse if this was part of some kind of start of a new terror threat. But we've seen these apparent -- we don't know very much. We should acknowledge that, but it looks like one person clearly disturbed and armed to the teeth.
SEIBWell, you know, as the father of a teenage son who was at a midnight showing of "Dark Knight" Thursday night, this one hits pretty close to home.
SEIBI mean, this was happening all over America. That's -- this was a cultural event, you know, not just in Aurora, Colo., but everywhere. And so, I think, for a lot of Americans that the -- this could've been me, you know, feeling is very strong after this.
REHMThere, but for the good Lord.
SEIBRight, exactly. And so, you know, I do think Susan's right. You know, the -- one of the tendencies in these situations that we all fall prey to is to jump to too many conclusions too fast before we know what has really happened. But the one thing you know for sure is that there will be a renewed debate about sort of, you know, youth in America, gun control in America, and violence in America, and it so happens it's in the middle of a presidential campaign season. This is not a presidential campaign issue, but those subjects, I think, now inevitably will be.
REHMAnd, of course, President Obama cancelled his campaign appearance today.
CILLIZZARight, Diane. This was his second day of a Florida trip -- obviously Florida, a critical swing state. He spent yesterday there. He is in Fort Myers. We expect him to address the tragedy in Colorado around 11:20 this morning. He was expected to do another event. He had a scheduled campaign about that he has now cancelled and will return to D.C.
CILLIZZAAnd I'm just seeing on Twitter, so take it with a grain of salt, but I'm seeing on Twitter that at the event in Fort Myers where he will make an address, they've taken down all sorts of -- any campaign signs and sloganing to, I think, reflect the somberness of the moment. I would add, though, to Jerry's point is that these things do not happen in a vacuum. We are in a political year. This will re-stoke, I think, a conversation about gun control, whether it changes anything.
REHMDo you really?
CILLIZZAI do think it will re-stoke the conversation. I have written already this morning. However, though, if you look at in the aftermath of similar events, Virginia Tech...
CILLIZZA...Columbine, Gabrielle Giffords' attempted assassination in 2011, what you see occasionally -- and this is the best case -- is you occasionally see a bump up in the conversation about gun control. What should we do? What should we not do? And then it returns back to the status quo that there does not seem to be a huge appetite for it. So I would say I don't think that that takes away -- it clearly doesn't take away from the tragedy of the families. And I not -- we all have kids. Look, it's a scary event. We all go to the movies. It's a scary thing that this could happen.
REHMTwo of our producers had children at the theater last night here in the Washington area, Susan.
PAGEYou know, it's too early to know what the political impact of this is, and it's probably inappropriate to dwell on that too long. I do think that one thing that struck me this morning was what a big event this is and how small the presidential debate seems in that we've spent a week talking about Bain Capital. When did Gov. Romney leave Bain Capital, President Obama saying, "If you have a business, you didn't build that," a quote that's been taken out of context and used against him, and it seems like there are big things that perhaps we should be talking about.
REHMYet what are those things? Are they, should people be allowed to own guns, shotguns, machine guns, tear gas, have access to all those weapons? And, you know, these incidents occur, and there is talk. And then it all goes away, and we're right back where we started until the next incident.
CILLIZZAAnd I would say, Diane, if you look at over the polling trend over time -- I looked at it this morning -- it's -- it is a remarkable thing. In 1990, Gallup started asking a question about, do you think there should be more strict gun laws, less strict gun laws, or they should stay roughly at the same? At the time, almost eight in 10 people said there should be more strict gun laws. Ten percent said less strict.
CILLIZZANow that number is 55 percent less strict or stay the same, 44 percent more strict, so you've just seen the decline. And, look, it follows what the political debate, again, which is that you do not hear anyone, Democrats or Republicans, really talk about gun control. I mean this was at -- you know, the assault weapons ban, this was at one point...
CILLIZZA...a major political issue for the Democrats.
CILLIZZAYou do not hear Barack Obama talk much in those terms. And, again, I would say I think Susan is right. I mean, I think, the thing always to remember here is that people's lives have been lost, and families have been affected. That said, none of these things happen in a vacuum. They happen in a political context. And we, as political reporters, I think, have to at least examine how those will be -- how the impact will be felt.
REHMThe youngest victim reported was a 6-year-old being treated at Children's Hospital Colorado where six victims have been taken. We pray for all of those families involved. Now, Susan, I'm going to turn to what your paper has been writing about and most papers in the country, the question of Mr. Romney's tax returns. Your paper's latest poll shows that most Americans want Gov. Romney to release those forms.
PAGEYou know, this survey was interesting. We did this on Wednesday. And what we found was most Americans say it's largely irrelevant to making a decision about -- in general, should presidential candidates have to put out their tax returns? People -- a majority of Americans said, we think it's irrelevant to the decision-making process.
PAGEWhat about Gov. Romney, in particular, and a majority of Americans, including a third of Republicans said, yes, you should put out more than the two years he's put out. And that says to me that Democrats have made some headway in saying, maybe there is something that he is trying to not disclose that we would want to know.
SEIBWell, it's interesting how this issue has grown this week and mostly 'cause Democrats are fertilizing it and wiring it. But, you know, the question that's been on the table -- and Rick Perry, of all people, drew a lot of attention to this in the Republican primary process saying, let's release the tax returns, Gov. Romney. People will raise questions. If you're the nominee, people will raise questions. And, of course, here we are.
SEIBAnd what the Romney campaign has committed to is to releasing the last year's 2011 tax returns, any previously released 2010. And they're saying, that's it, and that's fine. But the mystery is why and where are the 2011 returns, the ones that he has said he would release. And it's created -- and I think they have some problems just getting them completed. But whatever the explanation, it's created an open playing field for the Obama campaign, and they're just running up and down in this playing field with abandon.
REHMWho else among Republicans is calling for release of those forms, Chris?
CILLIZZAWell, you've seen Bill Kristol, George Will. Haley Barbour, the former governor of Mississippi and the former chairman of the Republican National Committee, essentially said, if I was in Mitt Romney's place, I would release it. That does not mean that he's saying Mitt Romney should release them, though it seems a clear indication. Rick Perry, who Jerry just mentioned, basically said, well, if it's about -- I always think transparency is the best policy.
REHMAnd what is the connection there to Bain Capital, Susan?
PAGEWell, we would know more about how much money Gov. Romney was continuing to get from Bain. We would know -- we don't know what we would find out because, just from the release of the single tax return that we've seen, we learned a lot that he's had to answer questions about.
PAGELike the -- like having a Swiss bank account, like having investments in tax havens like the Cayman Islands. And, you know, when this began to get a head of steam, I thought that politicians always end up disclosing when there's a drift like this. I have been convinced that that is not the case here, that he will -- Gov. Romney will continue to resist this. They're making a calculation that people don't care much about this. They care about looking forward to the economy. That's the only thing they want to talk about, and disclosing more tax returns would get them off track from that message.
REHMDo you agree with that, Chris?
CILLIZZAI think Susan is right, that that's what they believe, and I think, too, that the USA Today poll proves that former -- and New York Times had a poll which essentially said this is an election about the economy and Barack Obama's handling of it. So whether or not you care about Mitt Romney's tax returns is immaterial. I will say, though, that you can die the death of a thousand political cuts here when you just keep every day there's the drum beat. And the truth is often worse than what people -- the truth is often better than what people imagine.
REHMChris Cillizza of The Washington Post. Short break. Right back.
REHMAnd we're back with the domestic hour of our Friday News Roundup. Here is our first email from Ray in Zionsville, Ind., who says, "It wasn't just a rifle. It was an assault rifle. As long as the NRA continues to mau-mau, the Congress eye on this issue is going to continue, and we'll be in danger." And one from Mark in Cary, N.C. "It's almost pointless to keep spending news time on each new gun-related homicide incident."
REHM"They will continue until, if ever, legislators stand up to the gun lobby and pass serious regulations." I want to go back to Gov. Romney, Jerry Seib, because it has been reported that he's got a $100 million IRA. Anything wrong with that?
SEIBNo. It's unique because of the way the money was built up in the IRA. We've done -- we did some explanation of that earlier this year. And it has to do with taking Bain assets and putting them in an IRA, which were valued low enough at the time they were put in that you can qualify that as an IRA contribution, but then they grow very rapidly over a short period of time potentially. And that makes the value of the IRA just kind of explode, and that seems to have been what happened for Mitt Romney.
SEIBIronically, that doesn't mean he gets a great tax benefit. He may pay a higher tax rate when he withdraws that money at the end of the road from that IRA than he would have if he had claimed that income as regular income along the way. So it's not so much a tax dodge as kind of a mystery about how can an IRA get that large? But that's pretty much the explanation.
CILLIZZABut I feel like all of this stuff -- the IRA, the tax returns, the Grand Cayman, the Swiss bank account -- all of this adds to the character or characterization, I guess, depending on how you view it, that Mitt Romney is not like you, that Mitt Romney is not only wealthy, but Mitt Romney is someone who is using that wealth and using his position to hide certain things about his wealth and what he's done with it.
CILLIZZANow, we have no proof that he's hiding anything. Mitt -- his -- Mitt Romney's explanation was always, everything I've ever done is legal. I pay taxes. No one doubts that. This is not a legal problem or a financial problem. It's a political problem because that's how Barack Obama wins. He turns this from this is a referendum on the economy to this is a choice between someone who, granted, has not done as much as he had hoped with the economy versus a wealthy man at a time of economic hardship who does not understand what average people need and want.
PAGEAnd I know Chris is among those who have compared this race to the race in 2004, which bears a lot of similarities...
PAGE...where you have an incumbent president -- in that case, George W. Bush, who had some problems. His approval ratings were below 50 percent, and his campaign successfully makes the -- his challenger unacceptable and wins in that way. That's what happened to John Kerry and the swift boats attacks. And we're seeing that same effort being lobbied now by Democrats against Mitt Romney.
REHMAll right. Meanwhile, you've got President Obama saying, if you've got a business, you didn't build that. It was somehow taken out of context when he said, there were a lot of people behind you building roads, regarding construction, doing all the background work, and yet Mitt Romney has taken that to imply something totally different.
SEIBWell, you know, if you were an Obama speech writer, you'd probably want to go back and re-craft that section of the speech because if you read the transcript or more -- more of the point, if you actually listen to the speech, you'd come away with a different meaning than the words just taken out imply. What he really was saying was if you have a successful business, it's because somebody paved the road to your business and somebody built the sewer system that allows your system to, you know, to -- your business to function at all.
SEIBAnd you didn't do that. Everybody did that together, which is a perfectly plausible argument to make. I think it came out badly, and the Republicans have picked up on it. I do think, though, what it does point -- and there has been some commentary along these lines.
SEIBIt does kind of point to a different philosophical view that does matter in that, whether you take it in or out of context, this is really still a division that, you know, there's a Romney Republican view that most people who succeed do it on their own and do it through their own hard work and ought to be rewarded accordingly and the sort of the Obama Democratic view, which is that, well, everything that happens in this country that works as a collective effort, and there should be more acknowledgement of that, and people at the top should paying a little bit more to make that happen.
SEIBThat happens to be the philosophical divide in this election, and that part is not made up. That's very real.
CILLIZZAAnd I would say not terribly new, that divide, either.
SEIBNo. It's the reason we have two parties.
CILLIZZAI mean, remember the it-takes-a-village controversy with Hillary Clinton. That was about raising children, but the idea that it's a collective effort, Republicans took great umbrage at that. It takes a family -- I mean, this is a -- as Jerry pointed out, it's why we have two different parties in this country. There's a fundamental philosophical divide that kind of penetrates every part of political life.
REHMOK. I just want to read you what the president said. He said, "If you were successful, somebody along the line gave you some help. There was a great teacher somewhere in your life. Somebody helped create this unbelievable American system that we have that allowed you to thrive. Somebody invested in roads and bridges. If you've got a business, you didn't build that. Somebody else made that happen." And what you're saying is that that should've been re-crafted. But only the last lines of that appear in the Romney video. Susan.
PAGEThat's right. And it's outrageous when candidates pull things out of context to make a big thing out of it, and that's what the Obama people are doing now. They would be on stronger footing in complaining about that if they had not been the same thing to Gov. Romney in this campaign. I mean, it's one of the things that's been so discouraging about this campaign. And, you know, in a year when we have a clear, philosophical divide, we have the country coming out of the worst recession since the Depression.
PAGEAnd we're talking about what he meant when he said you didn't build it, or what Gov. Romney meant when he said I'd like to fire people. You know, that was a quote on his side that was taken out of context to mean something it didn't mean. And I wish voters would punish candidates for doing this. That is not the history of these negative ads. The history of these negative ads is that they work.
REHMYeah. Speaking of negative ads, how did Bob Schieffer and Hillary Clinton end up in one of Mitt Romney's ads? Susan.
PAGEWell, because that footage was out there, and it is legal to use.
PAGEIt's legal, and there's nothing you can do about it except complain. And...
REHMAnd that's what Bob Schieffer has done publicly.
REHMI don't know about Hillary Clinton.
PAGEAnd John Harwood, a friend of the NewsHour...
REHMAnd John Harwood.
CILLIZZAThere's a fascinating piece, I believe, it's in The New York Times today that details how reporters are being used more and more in -- whether their writings or their actual appearances on television are being used as a way -- in campaign ads as a way for candidates and campaigns to sort of say, even neutral arbiters are saying this. It's a fascinating development. If you have not read the piece -- I believe it's in The New York Times -- check it out because it is very much true.
CILLIZZAAs much as both parties lambaste the media, they still use the media and, in fact, are using the media more and more to try to say, it's not just partisans saying it. Look, this member of the media who you know is also saying it, so it's a fascinating development in the world of campaign advertising.
SEIBThey keep a video version of what campaigns have done for years with newspaper headlines and ads.
SEIBIt's, it's an extension of that.
REHMBut, of course, in addition to the ads, you have a New York Times/CBS poll that says its economic fear is hurting Obama. Jerry.
SEIBRight. And I think if you step back from that poll and look at lots of polls in the last few weeks, including in Susan's paper, including in my paper, you've seen a kind of a consistent story here that, you know, this is a pretty close to even race right now, and the variations don't matter that much at this point. The economy is the dominant issue, and it is a drag on President Obama. But it's kind of everybody running in place but no real motion on that front.
SEIBAnd you've got a very polarized electorate and a very small group of undecided voters in the middle who are looking at this economy, and they're not happy. But they're not sure if anybody has an answer. And that's kind of the picture of the race that comes out of that poll and just about every other one in the last couple of months.
PAGEI think this poll has got to be pretty distressing for the Obama folks because it shows their efforts to talk about other things, to disqualify Romney on Bain Capital and tax returns are not having an impact. People are keeping their eye on the ball when it comes to the economy. And the level of skepticism about President Obama and the economy, I thought, was pretty stunning. Sixty-four percent, so two-thirds, said that President Obama's policies contributed to the economic downturn.
PAGEThirty-four percent, a third of Americans, say they contributed a lot to the economic downturn, and a plurality of voters say his economic problems are not improving the economy and never will. I mean, that is a big hurdle for an incumbent president to get over and win a second term.
CILLIZZAThe one thing I would say -- and I agree, as I almost always do, with everything Susan just said -- is that the comparison to '04, I really do think, is apt in that what you have in Barack Obama is a president who, on the central issue of the election, is not only not making the sale that he is the right person, but is actually starting to lose elevation. In an April -- and -- New York Times/CBS poll, the do approve or disapprove of his handling of the economy was 44 approve, 48 disapprove.
CILLIZZANow, 39 approve, 55 disapprove. That's -- so you have that. If I gave you just that number or gave a political scientist just that number, you would say, well, Romney's probably up six or eight points.
CILLIZZAWell, no, the race is a statistical dead heat because, just like in 2004, George Bush was struggling to sell people on his ability to effectively prosecute the main issue of the day, which was the war in Iraq. And yet John Kerry and Mitt Romney still are unable to, at least at this point -- and maybe they will as September, October comes, but at this point unable to convince people despite the fact that they are clearly not sold on the incumbent that they are the right alternative. It's a fascinating moment.
REHMWhat did Fed Chair Ben Bernanke have to say, Jerry?
SEIBWell, he testified twice this week before Congress, once before a House committee, once before a Senate committee. He essentially said, we all know that growth is slowing down. It's not a pretty picture. He said -- essentially, if you read between the lines -- we the Fed might do more about this in the fall or late this summer.
REHMWhat more could they do?
SEIBWell, they can basically sell more bonds -- it's generating more money -- which doesn't have much immediate impact except that it affects the psychology of markets, makes people think that interest rates will be low for a long time to come, that...
REHMHe's already said through 2014.
SEIBRight. And now he can put some more money behind that if he chooses to. More quantitative easing is the technical term. And that shows a couple of things. It shows people that interest rates will be low for a long time to come. That might encourage a little more business investment, a little more home buying. And it says essentially Fed's on the case. We are not going to let this thing spiral down into another recession or round two of a recession.
SEIBAnd that's important psychologically. But he's also saying that part of the job here is in the lap of Congress. You guys have to do something to prevent this fiscal cliff that we've all talked about at the end of the year in which tax rates would go up and the federal borrowing limit, the ceiling, would be hit. And spending cuts of, you know, so huge and sort of indiscriminate variety would go into effect.
REHMSo do you all see this happening in the lame duck Congress after the election, Susan?
PAGEYeah. I think nobody -- no analyst thinks there's any possibility...
PAGE...of something serious being done by Election Day. But, boy, be in town for the lame duck session of Congress...
PAGE...because big things are going to happen or not happen, and we're going to fall off this fiscal cliff.
REHMSusan Page of USA Today, and you're listening to "The Diane Rehm Show." What about the LIBOR? And what has the Fed said about that? What has Timothy Geithner said about what he knew, when he knew it and what he tried to do about it?
SEIBWell, the LIBOR controversy is essentially a scheme that has been uncovered in which banks in London were the LIBOR rate, and LIBOR rate is kind of the -- it's the London overnight bank lending rate. It tells you how much -- what interest rates are in the real banking world, and that that was gamed by bankers in London who essentially lied about the amount of money they were paying to borrow other people's money.
SEIBThis affects a lot of us because a lot of interest rates in the U.S. and elsewhere around the world are determined by what the LIBOR rate is. It's kind of a benchmark. If that rate was being played around with, it's distorted the markets. The Fed and Tim Geithner, who was then at the New York Fed, apparently, back in 2007, raised some alarms with their colleagues in Europe about how this benchmark was being used and whether it was being gamed inappropriately.
SEIBSo the controversy is partly over, well, if you knew something was going wrong, why wasn't more done about it? But, in truth, it's probably not an American problem in the first instance. And the Fed is now under some of the same questioning, which is, why weren't you paying more attention to this? It's probably not an entirely appropriate question because it's a market mechanism. It's not a government rate.
SEIBBut nonetheless, there are going to be investigations. The Justice Department is on the case. They already are going to banks that operate in the U.S. and saying essentially, if you were in on this, it was essentially a fraudulent action, and people are going to pay big penalties. There may be criminal cases yet.
REHMAll right. And, finally, before we go to our break, there were apparently a number of Republicans who alleged that a top State Department aide, Huma Abedin, had connections to the Muslim Brotherhood. How do you see this, Chris?
CILLIZZAGolly, Diane. This is a -- this came up...
CILLIZZAYeah, which is, if anyone who knows me, it's a rare moment. This came up -- Michele Bachmann as well as several other people, members of Congress, Louie Gohmert from Texas and others, wrote letters to the inspector generals of several cabinet -- Homeland Security, State Department -- seeking more information about certain employees who they believe have ties or some strain or some connection to the Muslim Brotherhood.
CILLIZZAHuma Abedin is very well known to anyone in Washington for lots of reasons. One is she is the closest aide to Secretary of State and former senator, former presidential candidate Hillary Clinton. Two, she is the wife of former New York congressman Anthony Weiner. She is someone who's been in the news quite a bit. This issue, I think, came really into the national forefront when John McCain took to the Senate floor earlier this week and essentially said, I know Ms. Abedin. These allegations are ridiculous.
CILLIZZAThis is -- you know, this is beyond the pale, criticizing Michele Bachmann in his own party. Since then, John Boehner -- Marco Rubio addressed it on your show. Any time you are drawing comparisons to Joe McCarthy and the Red Scare is not a good moment for politics. Broadly, I would say Michele Bachmann -- we have always known Michele Bachmann represented the most conservative wing of the Republican Party.
CILLIZZAI don't know whether there is a constituency for these sorts of things. She has been able to -- in her defense, Diane, I will say she has been able to repeatedly win re-election. Despite saying things, as she did, I believe, in the 2010 -- the 2008 election, that President Obama held un-American views, she has continued to be able to win. But I would say that this is a further marginalization of Michele Bachmann at this point.
PAGEWhen you have John Boehner, who is the speaker of the House and who has been very reluctant to do anything that puts him at odds with the Tea Party members, party, coming out and saying that he believes that Huma Abedin has a sterling character and he said accusations like this being thrown around are pretty dangerous, you are in some trouble. You know, Huma Abedin is somebody all of us know.
PAGEIf you've covered Hillary Clinton since she was first lady, Huma Abedin has been a top aide and someone, I think, is -- who is widely trusted and respected in Washington.
REHMSo what would have been the motivation here, Jerry?
SEIBYou know, it's really hard to say. I'm not sure that I know. You know, the one thing that's clear is that the arrival of a Muslim Brotherhood government in Egypt has shaken up a lot of people who think it's the beginning of a wave of new Islamic governance in the Middle East. And, you know, fear is always a factor in these things.
REHMJerry Seib of The Wall Street Journal. Short break. Your calls when we come back.
REHMAnd here in the studio, three of our top journalists, Jerry Seib of The Wall Street Journal, Susan Page of USA Today, Chris Cillizza of The Washington Post, author of the new book "The Gospel According to The Fix: An Insider's Guide to a Less Than Holy World of Politics." Going to open the phones now, 800-433-8550, first to Alex in Charlotte, N.C. Good morning. You're on the air.
ALEXI'd feel remit if I didn't just express my profound sorrow at what happened in Colorado today.
ALEXMy question, though, is about the election and the media in it. I read on The Daily Beast, I think that the word game changer has been used in the past 30 days some 2,000 times. So my question is, is that now a buzz word, and what have been the game changers?
PAGEYeah, it's a buzz word, so we should all stop using it right now.
REHMYeah, you bet.
PAGEWe should take a pledge...
REHMSame with iconic. I'm so tired of hearing that something or someone is an icon.
PAGEI won't be using that for at least today.
PAGEYou know, campaigns look for game-changing events because sometimes when they're behind, like John McCain needed a game-changing event in...
REHMSo he chose Sarah Palin.
PAGERight. In this race, I think they're also -- both sides are looking for something that shakes up this tie. I mean, the Gallup tracking poll yesterday had the candidates at 46-46, an actual tie. And so the idea is that something has to happen to move at least a sliver of voters to get a candidate.
REHMLike the selection of a vice presidential candidate, Jerry?
SEIBWell, that's a favorite game-changing moment that people like to talk about. And another one is when Mitt Romney represents himself to the country at the Republican Convention. But the point I was trying to make earlier is that when all is said and done, there haven't been any game-changing moments for at least the last two and probably three months. If you look at what the Gallup poll had in its daily tracking in April, it's not much different than what it has today. There's lots of motion right now but not much movement.
CILLIZZAAnd just to add and agree with Jerry, Diane, one of the most fascinating things is we've had big events, the capture -- the killing of Osama bin Laden, the debt ceiling debate, the budget showdown, and yet the numbers almost do not move. It is, I mean, up a few points, down a few points. But I think what it says is you have so much of the electorate locked in. You have about 47 percent who are voting for Barack Obama no matter what. You have 47 percent who are going to vote for Mitt Romney.
CILLIZZALiterally, almost no matter what happens between now and Nov. 6, you do that math, and then you have 6 percent of people who are going to get $2.5 billion, maybe more, of communication to try to win them -- either win them over to one side or force them away from the other side.
REHMAnd then there are those who are simply not talking, and it would be interesting to hear from them. You know, the polls, I realize they're useful to journalists -- I am standing apart from the polls right now.
PAGEYou know, they're only campaigning advertising in nine states now, right?
PAGEMaybe there are 12 swing states with nine core swing states. There's, what, two, 3 percent of the voters in those states that are actually in play. The candidates might as well go to the homes of the undecided voters in the nine swing states and campaign that way.
CILLIZZAIt's not that -- it's actually not that unreasonable.
SEIBWell, you know, we've been talking about parallels to 2004. That's what this is. This is a 2004 race redone. That's the way that -- at this point, John Kerry was up by a few points over George W. Bush. In the end, it was decided by, you know, a few hundred thousand voters in Ohio, right?
SEIBThat's what it came down to.
REHMOK. We've got a tweet from Mark Murray of NBC News. "Due to the Colorado shooting, the Obama camp is putting a hold on the TV ads it's airing in that state until Monday. An Obama campaign spokeswoman says Michelle Obama has canceled her events in Charlottesville and Fredericksburg." And an email from Allan, he says, "I don't doubt Gov. Romney has followed the law in filing his taxes. What our discussion is missing is the steps he took to shake those tax laws.
REHM"There have been reports that Bain lobbyists worked hard to keep the carried-interest provisions. It would be interesting to know what those lobbyists also did to shake the other loopholes Gov. Romney took advantage of."
SEIBWell, this is the substantive backdrop of the Bain Capital private equity debate, which is the carried interest taxation.
SEIBThis is not Bain Capital. This is the an private equity industry, over the last couple of decades, has pushed very hard to keep in place a provision in which carried interest, which is the profits that private equity partners make on their investments, those -- the carried interest is taxed at a lower rate than regular income would be. There's a great debate, and has been for years -- it happens to be accentuated now because of Bain Capital -- about whether that's fair.
SEIBIs that really interest or dividend income? Or is that the regular income that people in the private equity interest make for their labors? If Mitt Romney wins, that's going to be much harder debate than it has been, and it's going to be heard about a lot in this campaign as well.
REHMAll right. To Pinehurst, N.C. Good morning, Ben.
BENGood morning, Diane. I'm a longtime listener, first-time caller. Thanks for taking my call.
BENYou're welcome. Well, first, again, our family, definitely our prayers go out to the victims and their families to this tragedy in Colorado. And as your guests mentioned, I think definitely topics about violence associated with guns will come back during this presidential debate. My perspective might be a little different. I'm an emergency physician, and I am also a husband and a father. In addition, I'm a concealed weapon permit holder.
BENAnd twice during my life, myself and my immediate family members have been saved from violent crime because of those concealed weapons that we confidently produced. Fortunately, no one was injured. But I just think, as we come back and revisit this issue, the fact that increasing gun control laws most detrimentally affects a law abiding citizenry.
BENIn fact, there's an economist, I believe, from Chicago, John Lott, did a 10-year study, wrote a book called "More Guns, Less Crime" and showed that the violent crime rates in concealed weapon permit-issuing counties went down once they're instigated. In the surrounding county, that violent crime went up. So just as a law abiding citizen and as a father, I sure hope my ability to protect my family is not limited. Does that make sense, Diane?
REHMI appreciate your call, Ben.
CILLIZZAAnd Ben rightly explains why I think you have seen this shift in public opinion on things. As it relates to gun control and whether we should have more or less laws, Diane, you know, I think one thing that we've seen after Virginia Tech, after Columbine, even after Gabrielle Giffords' attempted assassination, is that the public does not equate these high-profile incidents in which guns are used, these tragedies, with the broader kind of conversation about whether it is OK to own a gun, to possess a gun legally.
CILLIZZAThey are separated in the public's mind, and that's what public opinion would suggest. And so while you might think this would -- I do think we will talk -- we are talking more abut gun control right now. It does not necessarily affect how we view -- we may talk more about it, but it may not change views on it.
REHMAll right. To Cleveland Ohio. Good morning, Nancy.
NANCYHi. Thanks so much for taking my call.
NANCYYou're awesome, Diane. Well, in kind of addressing the last caller, my question is, how come that Republicans spend so much time and money on voter ID laws to ensure that there are no instances of voter fraud but they don't spend any of that on gun laws to ensure that there are not such massacres like the tragedy in Colorado?
PAGEWell, Nancy, fair question. And I think it depends on where -- what you think, it depends on where you stand on this. I mean, there's a long history of division on gun control in this country. I guess I am skeptical with the idea that this is going to promote much of a conversation about gun control 'cause there's -- there are political figures willing to stand up on its behalf when you have an election that is going to turn on states like Ohio and Colorado which have a lot of gun owners, gun owners like Ben.
PAGEI do think you raised an important issue which are these efforts, these ballot security efforts going on in some key states like Florida, for instance, that critics say are really going to disenfranchise a lot of voters, especially minority voters and lower-income voters. So I think that is a big issue this year.
REHMAnd, of course, I asked Sen. Rubio about that yesterday, and he points in another direction. He says, if one illegal voter gets through, that's not fair to anyone. Jerry?
SEIBWell, this is a really interesting and heated but low-profile debate in this election year, which is the tightening up of voter ID laws, is it just five or is it not, and how do they get tightened? I mean, one of the other things that's happened is in some states, the ability to vote ahead of time or to vote absentee is also been restricted. Democrats see that as a particular problem for them in some places.
SEIBFlorida was an interesting case because they tried to stop weekend voting, early voting -- excuse me, registration, and that got rolled back. The question -- and this goes to Susan's point about how close this election is and how few voters will make the difference in the end. The ability to register those marginal voters is really important and probably more important to Democrats. So this is a really important debate that just doesn't get a lot of public attention.
PAGEAnd, in fact, we had a state legislative leader in Pennsylvania who pushed -- helped push through some tighter voter rules in that state and then announced that they had just succeeded in delivering Pennsylvania to Mitt Romney by passing that law.
REHMAll right. To Troy, Mich. Good morning, Kumar.
KUMARHi, Diane. I just want to say shame on Michele Bachmann for spitting her poisonous views out, and no one should have to bear her statements like that. But my comment was about the economy. I really thought that President Obama should've played up the George Bush caused this mess, and it's going to take us another couple of years to get over it. But I thought that he prematurely started saying the economy was getting better and started pointing to polls and economic indicators that showed that the economy was improving albeit not as much as we wanted to.
KUMARI would've wanted him -- and I would've pleaded with him -- to wait to start the economy is better chant until the unemployment rate was below seven, or at least below 8 percent. I mean, I thought he started advocating for his theory that the economy was getting better way too early, and that, most likely, it's going to cost him this presidency.
SEIBWell, it's an interesting point because I think some people in the White House regret that two summers ago, they started to say, isn't it, that look as if it was true at the time, well, we've hit bottom. We're on our way back. And then the summer slump came around. And I think they've learned their lesson. And I don't think you're going to hear a lot of, well, the economy is roaring back anything close to that for the remainder of this year for exactly that reason.
SEIBAnd, indeed, there was a summer slump last summer, and it looks as if we're in the midst of a summer slump this summer. So I think the line from the Obama campaign is going to be, we're slowly getting better. It would be a lot worst if not for what we had done. And the -- and this goes to the caller's point, the root cause is still what happened during the eight years of George W. Bush administration.
REHMJerry Seib of The Wall Street Journal, and you're listening to "The Diane Rehm Show." Kumar's comment about Michele Bachmann brings back the recollection that yesterday talking about Michele Bachmann's comments, one caller said, we've got a brand new kind of McCarthyism, which Marco Rubio said, no, that's not what's going on here. All it takes is one voice. I realize that Sen. McCarthy did, in fact, hold hearings and bring forth all these witnesses, but it can start with one accusation.
CILLIZZAWell, and I would say that Michele Bachman is not exactly a low profile voice, Diane, whatever you think of her, this is someone who ran for president, who, for a time, was in the top tier of the presidential race and someone who, again, regardless of what you think of her, has shown an ability and a knack to get attention. Kumar's point about that she shouldn't have a platform to voice these views, I always say to people on the right and the left, this is a representative democracy.
CILLIZZAShe is elected by the people of Minnesota's -- it was the 6th District until redistricting -- the people of Minnesota to represent them in -- up to and until they decide that her statements or her views are no longer acceptable, she has every right, whether I agree or disagree with her points of view, she has every right to make them as the other 534 people who were elected to office.
REHMHow close is the race against her out in Minnesota?
CILLIZZASo she has a district, Diane, that is a suburban twin city, St. Paul and Minneapolis. It is a conservative district. She does not win it by as much as a less controversial Republican would win it by. But I would say, in 2008, she -- three-and-a-half weeks before the election -- went on MSNBC and said that Barack Obama held -- she believed that Barack Obama and other Democratic members of Congress held un-American views.
CILLIZZAThat became a huge national story. Her opponent who had the great Dickensian name of Elwyn Tinklenberg, that -- he was a Democratic state senator -- he raised millions and millions and millions of dollars, and Bachmann was seen as kind of a -- the target for Democrats hoping to make a point against these sorts of views. She won. So I think these comments will -- what she is doing will, again, put her in the center of things. But in a way, it's kind of like, if you didn't know what you were getting with Michele Bachmann by now, you haven't really been paying attention.
REHMLet me just say that the president has spoken, and he said, "We woke up to news of the tragedy that reminds us of all the ways we are united as one American family." And he also went on to say, "The federal government stands to do whatever is needed to bring this heinous crime to justice." Now, breaking news from the AP, police say the Colorado movie theater suspect's apartment is booby trapped, and therefore the entire area has been evacuated.
REHMI mean, it just leaves one wondering, and Marian in Roachdale, Ind., on the line with us, says, "We glorify violence in this country, and what an irony that our president got the Noble Prize for Peace."
CILLIZZAI would say one thing, Diane, that I found the most frightening about all of this is the premeditative nature of it. This was not sort of an angry person who goes out and decides at spur of the moment. And the confirmation of the booby trapping of the apartment speaks to a level of planning...
CILLIZZA...and strategy that is frightening.
REHMTakes your breath away.
CILLIZZAYeah. It is genuinely frightening.
REHMChris Cillizza, author of the "The Fix," also author of "The Gospel According to The Fix." Susan Page, Washington bureau chief for USA Today. Jerry Seib, Washington bureau chief for The Wall Street Journal. Thank you all so much.
CILLIZZAThank you, Diane.
REHMAnd thanks for listening. I'm Diane Rehm.
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