Drama In S.C , Mass. Primary For Senate Seat
NEAL CONAN, host:
This is TALK OF THE NATION. I'm Neal Conan in Washington.
The day after the speech, foot soldiers Robert Gates, Hillary Clinton and Mike Mullen storm Capitol Hill. Mike Huckabee considers a long career on cable television, and the Atlanta runoff heads to a recount. It's Wednesday and time for a cliffhanger edition of the Political Junkie.
President RONALD REAGAN: There you go again.
Former Vice President WALTER MONDALE: When I hear your new ideas, I'm reminded of that ad. Where's the beef?
Former Senator BARRY GOLDWATER (Republican, Arizona): Extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice.
Former Senator LLOYD BENTSEN (Democrat, Texas): Senator, you're no Jack Kennedy.
President RICHARD NIXON: You don't have Nixon to kick around anymore.
Former Governor SARAH PALIN (Republican, Alaska): Lipstick.
President GEORGE W. BUSH: But I'm the decider.
(Soundbite of scream)
CONAN: Every Wednesday, NPR political editor Ken Rudin joins us for a roundup of all things political. This week, South Carolina Republicans rebuke their senior senator and may impeach their governor. Massachusetts Democrats vote next week on Ted Kennedy's successor. We'll focus on both those stories in a bit, plus an in-depth look at the politics of the Afghanistan escalation, gay-marriage votes in D.C. and New York and Charm City's mayor's misdemeanor.
Political junkie Ken Rudin joins us here in Studio 3A. Hey, Ken.
KEN RUDIN: Hi, Neal.
CONAN: And as usual, we'll begin with a trivia question.
RUDIN: Okay, well speaking of the Massachusetts Senate race, Martha Coakley, who is the state attorney general of Massachusetts, is running for the Senate there in next week's primary. There are three other current state attorneys general who have also run for the Senate in the past. Name them, and you can name one, you can name two, you can name three. We may even have three winners.
CONAN: Good lord.
CONAN: Big (unintelligible) dent in our T-shirt collection.
RUDIN: That's correct.
CONAN: So if you think you know the current state attorneys general who have in the past run for the United States Senate, give us a call, 800-989-8255. Email us, firstname.lastname@example.org. And well, we're going to focus more on the president's strategy in Afghanistan later in the hour, Ken, but you saw the speech. He's got a big task to do.
RUDIN: He does because - I thought it was a very good speech because I think everything he needed to say, he said, but the question is - the country before the speech was divided. Congress was divided, and I don't think any of that changes. To add 30,000 more troops, actually it's 30,002 because the two White House gate-crashers are also going, as well.
(Soundbite of laughter)
RUDIN: So it's 30,002 troops to Afghanistan. The conservatives like John McCain said that by talking about a timetable for withdrawal, it hurts the cause. It gives a bad signal to al-Qaida and the Taliban.
CONAN: That they can just wait this out.
RUDIN: Exactly. And the liberals say look, you know, and progressives say that there is a lot of problems in this country, and 30,000 more troops is not going to change anything. The Karzai government is corrupt, more and more Americans will get killed. And it's just not, you know - we've seen in the past in Afghanistan, sending more troops, occupying the country, whatever you want to call it, does not work.
CONAN: All right. We'll focus more on those short-term questions and also possible implications for the 2010 elections. Don Gonyea will join us a little bit later in the program, so stay tuned for that. Meanwhile, the big, impassioned debate in the U.S. Senate is over health care, finally reached the Senate floor.
RUDIN: It did finally, and of course, we are still months and months away from a final vote. I mean, we're talking about - Harry Reid would love to have something by Christmas. There is still some concern about what's going to happen with the public option. There are a lot of Democrats who are saying - like Joe Lieberman and Ben Nelson and Mary Landrieu and Blanche Lincoln are all saying well, I kind of support it, but I don't, not with a public option.
CONAN: And now there's talk of a new compromise being worked on by Tom Carper of Delaware.
RUDIN: Tom Carper of Delaware, exactly, and so they may have the votes they have. Of course, they may do that also without any Republican votes. They have 58 Democrats and two independents, and they'll need every one of those votes if it's going to get passed.
CONAN: In the meantime, there is a couple of interesting developments in mayoral situations, first in the city of Baltimore, where Sheila Dixon was found not guilty on several counts, a hung jury on a couple of counts, but guilty on one misdemeanor count involving $648 worth of gift cards.
RUDIN: It seems pretty remarkable, but the charge is embezzlement. And she was convicted of embezzlement, even though it seems like a very minor matter, and the question is whether she can retain her mayoralship, mayoralty - could retain her job, and that's still up in the courts.
But she got off, you know, on most of the charges, and that's the good news for Sheila Dixon. The bad news is that she could still have to forfeit the job.
CONAN: And there's a local ordinance. If found - if convicted in court, she would have to resign and, of course, lose her pension also as mayor. That's going to be awaiting a judge's decision on the sentence, I guess, in a couple of months time. In the meantime, in Atlanta, the contest on election day was too close to call. So they're having a runoff, and the runoff is too close to call.
RUDIN: Well, actually, the original election, there was - nobody got 50 percent, and that's why it went into a runoff. But in Tuesday's election, it was very interesting. The black candidate, Kasim Reed - and I only mention black candidate because he faced a white candidate. And since 1973, African-Americans have been winning the elections for mayor of Atlanta, starting with Maynard Jackson in '73. But Kasim Reed was the insider in this race, and the white candidate was the outsider, which is obviously the opposite in every other election. But anyway, this is fewer - about 700 votes difference between the two of them. Reed is ahead. He probably will win. There are not enough outstanding votes that would turn it to Norwood. But she has not conceded, and she's asking for a recount.
CONAN: In the meantime, we have some people on the line who think they know the answer to this week's trivia question, and that is the current state attorneys general who have, at one time or another, run for the United States Senate. And let's begin with Steve(ph), Steve with us from West Monroe in New York.
STEVE (Caller): Well, I was more certain of it at the beginning of the call. The more I think about it, I'm not sure Andrew Cuomo is�
CONAN: Apparently thinking about running for governor.
RUDIN: And Andrew Cuomo did run for - but governor. He ran for governor in 2002, dropped out, like, the day before the primary, but he did lose there, but he never ran for the Senate.
STEVE: Okay. Well, Zell Miller was my other guess.
CONAN: Well, I don't think you get that, either.
RUDIN: Zell Miller's not currently an attorney general.
STEVE: All right, all right.
CONAN: O for two there. All right, let's see if we can go next to Jerry(ph), Jerry with us from North Haven in Connecticut.
JERRY (Caller): Hey, guys, good morning. Good afternoon, I should say.
CONAN: Good afternoon.
JERRY: I'm going to try Jerry Brown in California.
RUDIN: Jerry Brown is the, I think, the easiest of the three answers, but that is correct. So Jerry gets a T-shirt.
RUDIN: Jerry Brown ran for the Senate in 1982 from California against Pete Wilson and lost.
CONAN: He gets a T-shirt if he agrees to send us a digital picture to hang on our wall of shame. So Jerry, hang on the line there, but don't - we'll get your - let's make sure I push the hold button and not the hang-up button. So we'll get his particulars and send him a fabulous no-prize Political Junkie no-prize T-shirt. In the meantime, there are still two outstanding current state attorneys general who have in the past run for Senate.
RUDIN: And boy, are they outstanding.
CONAN: And give us a call, 800-989-8255. Email email@example.com. Let's go to Chivy(ph), and Chivy's calling us from Oakland.
CHIVY (Caller): Yes, Lisa Madigan.
RUDIN: Lisa Madigan thought about and talked about running for the Senate in 2010 in Illinois, but she has not - as a matter of fact, she's going to run for re-election as attorney general. We do think that ultimately she will run for the Senate or perhaps governor, but she hasn't yet.
CHIVY: Thank you.
CONAN: Okay, nice try. Let's see if we can go to - this is Lance(ph) in Chambersburg, Pennsylvania.
LANCE (Caller): It's Lance, and it's good to be on the air with you, although I completely missed the question. I thought it was any attorneys general, not sitting attorneys general. So I was thinking of Scott Harshbarger in Massachusetts, who remember was attorney general and ran for that, I thought, and also I was thinking Dan Lungren was attorney general and ran for the Senate in California, but he's not sitting.
RUDIN: Well, actually, they are both not sitting, but both of them ran for governor.
LANCE: Oh, governor.
RUDIN: Harshbarger in Massachusetts and Lungren ran for governor in California. So even if they were sitting, or standing, that would not be the right answer.
(Soundbite of laughter)
CONAN: Or even outstanding, which I'm sure they all are.
LANCE: Oh, sloppy answers, okay.
CONAN: All right. Here's an email question - answer, this from Dick(ph) in East Lansing, Michigan, Bill McCollum of Florida.
RUDIN: Bill McCollum is correct, of Florida. We now have two of the three. He ran in 2000 against Bill Nelson and lost that race. Bill McCollum, of course, was on the impeachment committee during the Clinton impeachment, on the House Judiciary Committee.
CONAN: And I'll tuck that one aside so we can get back to him to send him his T-shirt. There is still one more to go, 800-989-8255. Email us, firstname.lastname@example.org.
In the meantime, Ken, while we await that, interesting news for once-governor of Arkansas and prospective presidential candidate Mike Huckabee, who got caught up in a terrible crime that was committed in the state of Washington, this week.
RUDIN: Pardon me? Oh, I'm sorry. No, I shouldn't make jokes about that, but that pardon of Maurice Clemens could be the end of Mike Huckabee's presidential chances. Maurice Clemens was accused of gunning down four police officers near Tacoma, Washington. He himself was killed yesterday, I guess outside of Seattle. But in the year 2000, when he was a young person who had gone through a crime rampage in Arkansas, Governor Mike Huckabee pardoned him, commuted his sentence, helped him release from prison or basically granted clemency because he felt he was under a 108-year prison sentence.
CONAN: At the time, I think he was 16 when he committed the crimes.
RUDIN: He was 16 years old, and the appeal to Huckabee - and as it turns out, in Huckabee's 10 and a half years as governor, he either pardoned or reduced the sentences of 1,033 prisoners, far more than his three predecessors combined, and that is going to obviously - it's something that obviously hurt Mike Dukakis with the Willie Horton pardon back in the '80s, and Mike Huckabee said the other day on his Fox News show that he's leaning against running for president. This terrible crime, and of course, Huckabee regrets, of course, what's happened, could put the final nail in the coffin.
CONAN: And another prospective Republican presidential candidate, Sarah Palin, who of course is touring the country to promote her book, a bus tour, we were told, except when, of course, she flies from city to city on a Learjet.
RUDIN: Yes, well, that's - you know, that's Sarah Palin. But you know, there was a very good article by Sam Tanenhaus in this week's New Yorker magazine, basically talking about whether you like her or hate her, and a lot of people like her, and a lot of people hate her, there's something fascinating about Sarah Palin to watch. And she seems to violate every rule of political normalcy, and yet she is a name to be reckoned with for 2012.
CONAN: Let's get some more answers to the trivia question. One of the current state attorneys general who has in the past run for Senate has yet to be named, and let's go to Scott(ph), Scott with us from Canton, Ohio.
SCOTT (Caller): I thought it was Jennifer Brunner, but she's the secretary of state of Ohio. Maybe it's Richard Cordray of Ohio. He's the attorney general.
RUDIN: Right, and he also was talking about running for governor and never ran for the Senate.
SCOTT: Ah, I don't get the T-shirt.
CONAN: No, not this time. Hang in there. Let's see if we can go next to - this is Jim(ph), Jim with us from Cincinnati.
JIM (Caller): My guess is, being an Episcopal clergyman myself, is it was Jack Danforth, who was also an Episcopal clergyman, who ran for Senate and served for 18 years.
RUDIN: Jack Danforth is correct, except for the fact�
RUDIN: Jim, don't get excited - except he's not a current state attorney general. We want a current�
JIM: Oh, a current.
CONAN: Current. You've got to listen to these�
JIM: Oh, come on.
(Soundbite of laughter)
CONAN: He's tricky. He's really tricky. We're going to have time for one more.
RUDIN: Come on, show me, as they say in Missouri.
CONAN: Let's see if we can go for one more, and who's been on the air holding the longest. Jim(ph), I think, Jim in Boca Raton.
JIM (Caller): Hi, yes. You know, the current thing, I didn't hear that, either, but my guess has been Bob Butterworth of Florida.
RUDIN: Bob Butterworth was the attorney general of Florida, but he never ran for Senate.
CONAN: And makes a hell of a syrup.
RUDIN: That's right, he said surreptitiously.
CONAN: Ooh, that was good. That was good.
RUDIN: Thank you, thank you very much.
CONAN: All right. So we're running out of time here. Ken, I think you're going to have to give it away.
RUDIN: The answer is Henry McMaster of South Carolina. In 1986, he lost to Fritz Hollings.
CONAN: Oh, the tip of everybody's tongue, I'm sure. All right, when we come back, we're going to focus on the situations in South Carolina, where the senior senator has been rebuked by some county Republican offices for not being conservative enough. We're also going to focus on the Massachusetts Senate race, so we want callers from the Republicans from South Carolina, Democrats in Massachusetts. Tell us about the situations that are developing in your states. There's that impeachment thing in South Carolina, too. Political junkie Ken Rudin will stay with us. I'm Neal Conan. It's the TALK OF THE NATION from NPR News.
(Soundbite of music)
CONAN: This is TALK OF THE NATION. I'm Neal Conan in Washington with NPR political editor and our political junkie, Ken Rudin. You can get more of Ken if you go to our Web site, where he writes a blog and also does a blog - what do you call those things? - podcasts, podcasts every week, with what's his name, Ron Elving?
CONAN: Ron Elving. Anyway, next week, voters in - oh, we've got a couple of corrections. First of all Sarah Palin's been flying around the country in a Gulfstream, not a Learjet. I apologize for that, got the wrong company. And we did get the right trivia question. It got in on our email before I cut off the tallying. Mike Livsy(ph) said Henry McMaster correctly. So ding, ding, ding. You will get a Political Junkie T-shirt.
RUDIN: Three T-shirts in one show.
CONAN: Three T-shirts in one show. In the meantime, next week, voters in Massachusetts head to the polls for a primary election to pick candidates for the Senate seat left vacant by the late Edward Kennedy. In a few minutes, we'll focus on South Carolina and the intra-party squabble involving Lindsey Graham.
But first, if you're a Massachusetts Democrat, how is this primary playing out up there? 800-989-8255. Email us, email@example.com. Fred Thys is a reporter with WBUR, our member station in Boston. He's been covering the campaign for the next junior senator from Massachusetts and joins us from a studio at WBUR. Nice to have you back on TALK OF THE NATION.
FRED THYS: Thank you, Neal.
CONAN: And given the political history of Massachusetts, I think we use the word tantamount here. Whoever wins the Democratic primary is tantamount to election.
THYS: Well, let me inject a little bit of caution into that. I was talking to the chief of staff of one of the Massachusetts congressmen - they are all Democrats - and he seems to feel that there's a sentiment out there that could still favor the Republicans even in Massachusetts, the anti-tax fervor, the whole tea party movement. This congressman's district office, for example, gets a lot of protests on a regular basis, the emails, the phone calls. He's sensing that there's an anger out there that the Republican candidate could possibly, possibly exploit to his advantage. But it's been a long time since Massachusetts has sent a Republican to the U.S. Senate. It's been since Senator Edward Brooke.
CONAN: Who are the frontrunners on the Democratic side?
THYS: Well, by far the - according to a Boston Globe poll conducted by the University of New Hampshire two Sundays ago, Martha Coakley, the current attorney general, is way ahead of the other candidates. She had 44 percent of the intended vote of likely Democratic primary voters. And then way behind her, tied, statistically tied, were Congressman Mike Capuano, who represents most of Boston and also the city of Cambridge across the river, and then he was tied with Steve Pagliuca, who is managing director of Bain Capital, who is a partner of Mitt Romney's, but he's a Democrat, Romney a Republican. And then way behind in fourth place is the founder of City Year, which was a model in Boston for AmeriCorps, excuse me, and he's lagging way behind in fourth place, and his name is Alan Khazei.
CONAN: There was a debate on TV in Massachusetts last night, and we have a brief excerpt. Health care was a big issue during the conversation among the Democratic candidates. And Stephen Pagliuca said he would support the House health care bill, even with the so-called Stupak amendment, which would ban federal funding for most abortions.
Mr. PAGLIUCA (Managing Director, Bain Capital): Because I want 30 million people covered. It's a very tough decision. I'm pro-choice, I'm pro-federal funding.
Attorney General MARTHA COAKLEY (Democrat, Massachusetts): Steve, it's personal with me. And it's personal with every woman who is in this, who is watching this. This was an amendment that was a poison pill that was designed, and it was voted on by people who didn't even vote for�
Mr. PAGLIUCA: It's personal with me, too, because it's personal because we don't have - we have 45,000 people dying because they have no access to insurance.
CONAN: Well, we heard one distinction there between Mr. Pagliuca and Martha Coakley, who you also heard. Is that the big issue in Massachusetts?
THYS: It seems to be becoming the big issue. Pagliuca is trying to make it an issue. A couple of weeks ago, Mike Capuano criticized Martha Coakley because she had criticized him for voting for the health care reform in the House, moving it on to the Senate. So he implied that she was naive and didn't understand the way Congress worked because she had said that she would vote against any health care legislation that contains the Stupak Amendment, which broadens the ban on federal funding for abortions.
And so it's becoming an ongoing theme. Steve Pagliuca, as you heard in the clip there, is trying to play - get this to play to his advantage, saying that he will vote for any bill that will come out of Congress no matter what the restrictions on abortion.
RUDIN: Fred, as you point out, Martha Coakley has this lead, and she's had it I guess basically since the inception of the campaign. The question is: With six days left, can somebody overtake her? And some people have speculated that the only thing they could see happening is perhaps an endorsement by a big Kennedy like Victoria Kennedy, Ted's widow, or former Congressman Joe Kennedy. Do you see that happening?
THYS: I don't see that happening at all. I've been told that we should not be expecting an endorsement from any of the members of the Kennedy family. The likely recipient, we would think, would be Congressman Mike Capuano, who's worked - you know, who holds the seat that Joe Kennedy once held, but I've been told not to expect that.
CONAN: Let's get some callers in on the conversation. We'll start with Russell(ph), Russell with us from Waltham in Massachusetts.
RUSSELL (Caller): Hi, how are you doing?
CONAN: Good, thanks.
RUSSELL: Great show today. I'm a volunteer with the Mike Capuano campaign, and I've been working the phones for weeks now. And I have a slightly different take on what the polls are showing. One of the things that the polls are not taking into consideration that it's very likely that less than 20 percent of the eligible voters in Massachusetts will be voting in this special election.
CONAN: Oh, very light turnout, yeah.
RUSSELL: Yeah, very light turnout. So I think the polls are deceptive. I think what's really important is who's going to get out the vote, who's going to get their constituency out.
CONAN: Well, why don't we ask Mike Thys about that, the so-called ground campaign. How is it working out for the different candidates, and it's basically an issue of money, isn't it?
THYS: You see three - it is to some extent an issue of money, but I've got to tell you, three of the four campaigns really have a very good ground game. They all do expect this to be what determines the election. The one exception seems to be Mitt Romney's partner, Steve Pagliuca. He has, however, hired a very good field director, but we've not seen exactly how he's organized himself in the field, although he did hire somebody very good to run his field organization.
But the other three candidates are really banking a lot on organization. Capuano is doing something that's new to Massachusetts. And he's doing a lot of these telephone town hall meetings, from Washington most of the time, calling out to voters on their answering machines and asking them to call back if they want to ask him questions. That's how he's doing his outreach.
Khazei is doing traditional, grassroots, door-to-door knocking, and Coakley is focusing on phone canvassing, identifying voters, her voters, and making sure that they'll get their voters out to the polls.
RUSSELL: Well, my experience - you don't mind me�
CONAN: If you'll keep it short, Russell.
RUSSELL: Yeah, I think we have a little bit more people out there doing caller IDs than Coakley's got. She's hiring professionals to do it. We've got labor unions, and we have volunteers from all over the state.
CONAN: And Russell, we're somehow not surprised that you think you have unsuspected strength for the campaign you're working for. So anyway, thanks very much for the phone call.
RUSSELL: And thank you very much for a great show.
CONAN: Bye-bye. Ken, you have a question for Fred?
RUDIN: Well, I was just going to say to Fred also, the fact is Martha Coakley is the only woman in the race. She's a statewide elected official, and she's far better known than any of the other candidates.
THYS: Indeed, she's - yeah, because she's the only statewide official, exactly right, Ken.
CONAN: Email question from Randy(ph) in San Francisco. Could the election of Niki Tsongas in 2007 be a possible warning sign for Massachusetts Democrats?
RUDIN: I suspect that question means because Niki Tsongas barely won that election. It was a very, very close race in a solidly Democratic seat, and I guess what some people are thinking, that if it is a divided - and Fred could correct me if I'm wrong - but if it's a divided Democratic field and somebody wins with a narrow plurality, the likely Republican winner, Scott Brown, could take advantage of that in January 19th.
CONAN: Let's get another caller in, Ellen(ph), Ellen with us from Somerville, Massachusetts.
ELLEN (Caller): Yeah, I'm supporting Martha Coakley, and I've been working for her. And it's actually not true that she's paying people to make phone calls or do anything else. She's got a boatload of volunteers working for her and is very well-organized.
But I'm supporting her for a number of reasons, and one is that she stands up for her constituents, that is the people of Massachusetts. She stood up for them on the issue of the Wall Street gangsters. She stood up for them on consumer issues. She wrote a very interesting article with Elizabeth Warren on consumer affairs that appeared in The New Republic. She is thoughtful. She's intelligent. I like her positions.
I think, you know, the fact that she's a woman is important to me, but it's important because, for her, women's issues matter. And while it's true that the others are all giving lip service to it, she will be an advocate for women. She will be an advocate for gays. She's the only attorney general in the country who filed suit against DOMA.
CONAN: The Defense of Marriage Act. Ken, you had a quick question?
RUDIN: Ellen, the only criticism I've seen of Martha Coakley is that she's playing it too cautious, too safe because of the front runner. Do you see that at all?
ELLEN: I don't see it at all. I mean, she wasn't cautious when she was the only one who didn't cower in the background, waiting for the Kennedys to decide. She wasn't cautious when she filed suit on DOMA. She wasn't cautious when she made her statement about the health care bill and the prohibition on abortion. None of that is cautious.
CONAN: All right, Ellen. Thanks very much for the phone call. And our thanks, too, to Fred Thys, a reporter for WBUR, a member station in Boston, who joined us today from the studio there. Thanks, Fred.
THYS: Thanks for having me, Neal.
CONAN: And we'll have more on the results of the messages this primary next week on the Political Junkie. Stay tuned for that.
But now, we return to South Carolina, where Senator Lindsey Graham has lost support of some Republicans. Shaila Dewan of the New York Times wrote about their dissatisfaction with the senior senator in Sunday's paper. You can find the link to her article on our Web site at npr.org. And Shaila Dewan joins us now by phone from the Times bureau in Atlanta. Nice to have you with us.
Ms. SHAILA DEWAN (Reporter, New York Times): Thanks. Thanks for having me.
CONAN: And what has Senator Graham done to rile some of his previous supporters in South Carolina?
Ms. DEWAN: Well, one thing they said is that they did not like it that he made a priority out of being relevant. That was one thing that really struck me. That was in a resolution that the Charleston County Republican Party passed in censure of Senator Graham.
CONAN: And one of the things that he has done to be, quote, unquote, "relevant" was to support President Obama's nominee for the United States Supreme Court.
Ms. DEWAN: That's right. He's done a lot of things to really anger hard-right Republicans in South Carolina. That's one of them. He had the temerity to remind Republicans that they had lost the election and that President Obama had the, you know, the option to appoint who he wanted.
CONAN: And there is also, you point out in your piece, a difficult comparison between the two senators in South Carolina. Conservatives adore Jim DeMint, the junior senator from South Carolina.
Ms. DEWAN: That's right. DeMint has positioned himself as the sort of go-to guy nationally for hard-right candidates, and it's placed him and Senator Graham on the opposite sides on a lot of races in Florida, in California and places like that where the national party is supporting a more moderate candidate than DeMint would like to see in the Senate.
CONAN: And has - and they back different candidates in - for example, in Florida, where Lindsey Graham is backing Charlie Crist and Jim DeMint is backing Mark Rubio, the more conservative of the two candidates. And Jim DeMint has said he would prefer fewer but more ideologically pure Republicans in the Congress, the House and the Senate. Has he said whether those would include Lindsey Graham?
Ms. DEWAN: He hasn't said that. He has not attacked Lindsey Graham directly at all and, you know, the two of them claim to be friends, but they could not have more different views of how the party should proceed in the future.
I had one person say to me, you know, that South Carolina is used to having two very different senators. They had, first, Hollings(ph) and Strom Thurmond for a long time. And one historian I talked to put Graham in the Strom Thurmond mold, saying, you know, he's pragmatic. He's conservative, but he's willing to compromise to get what he wants. But then the historian said, you know, I'm not sure that Strom Thurmond could make it in the South Carolina Republican Party today.
CONAN: Wow. We're talking with Shaila Dewan of the New York Times. You're listening to TALK OF THE NATION from NPR News. Ken?
RUDIN: Quick question: If the South Carolina Republicans are having to decide between the Jim DeMint kind of Republicanism and the Lindsey Graham kind of Republicanism at the same time their Republican governor is perhaps about to be impeached by Republican state legislature, what does that say about the Republican Party's control over the state?
Ms. DEWAN: Well, it's - that's really interesting, because what you see is this sort of purist hard right versus pragmatic right, playing out all over the state in all kinds of races and in the state house, where you have fairly moderate Republican to control the legislature and, of course, Mark Sanford, who is almost a Libertarian.
So you see this playing out. And I think a lot of analysts say that the Republican Party is sort of discombobulated in South Carolina, and they're grappling firsthand with this debate that is, you know, you see through the Republican Party across the country, but it's just very, very sharply defined in South Carolina because it's such a conservative state to begin with.
CONAN: More on Mark Sanford in just a minute. But how much trouble is Lindsey Graham in? He's not up for election anytime soon.
Ms. DEWAN: I don't think he's really in trouble because he has a broader base across South Carolina. He's one of the highest vote getters statewide ever in the state. And, you know, he's got a large campaign chest. So does DeMint. I don't think this bodes ill for either of them in - at the polls.
CONAN: Meantime, getting back to Mark Sanford, of course, he was the - well, he's in all sorts of political hot water and, of course, his personal life is a mess, as well. Nevertheless, there are now 37 ethics charges that have been laid to his door about misuse of public funds. And, well, this isn't about his dalliance with the - woman in Argentina. This is about misusing the taxpayers' money.
Ms. DEWAN: That's right. There's two parallel things going on. The legislature is looking at impeaching him, and they're looking primarily at his trip to Argentina where left the state without telling anyone and without explicitly placing someone else in control.
They've also included these ethics charges, which are, on the whole, probably fairly minor in the grand scheme of ethics charges, and his lawyers have maintained that they will show that they are minor. In fact, they argued yesterday at another hearing that, you know, for example, his trip to get a haircut on a state plane was really just his returning home to Columbia and then going to get a haircut. So they may yet show that these are exaggerated.
CONAN: At least some of these are exaggerations of it. Nevertheless, the larger question of the state legislature, well, there is a big problem of credibility of the governor at this point.
Ms. DEWAN: That's right. And, I mean, that the bad blood runs so deep between the legislature and the governor that they are just enjoying tormenting him. I mean, they couldn't stand him for a long time before the affair came out. And it's just been, you know, political revelry for them ever since.
CONAN: Quick question from Ken.
RUDIN: And conversely, it seems like Jenny Sanford may be the most popular person in the state.
Ms. DEWAN: She may be. She may be. I was looking for her to run for office, but apparently, that's not in her cards right now.
CONAN: Shaila Dewan, thanks very much for your time today.
Ms. DEWAN: Sure. Thank you.
CONAN: Shaila Dewan covers the South for the New York Times, joined us today from the Times bureau in Atlanta. And again, you can find a link to her article about South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham on our Web site. It's at npr.org.
We're not quite done with Ken yet. Up next, the politics of the escalation in Afghanistan. What effect will the president's new strategy have, well, in the short term, in Congress, and in the 2010 elections? NPR's Don Gonyea will join us from the White House. We'll also talk about the Climate Gate email scandal, which made its way up on Capitol Hill today. Richard Harris will join us, NPR's science correspondent. So stay with us. I'm Neal Conan. It's the TALK OF THE NATION from NPR News.
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CONAN: In a few minutes, NPR science correspondent Richard Harris on the hacked climate emails, and the latest controversy over climate change. How will this change the debate?
Right now, we're going into overtime with the Political Junkie. Ken Rudin is with us, as always. Now that President Obama outlined his strategy for the war in Afghanistan, he and members of his cabinet have to sell it. NPR White House correspondent Don Gonyea covers political strategy around the war, joins us now from our booth at the White House. Don, always good to have you on the program.
DON GONYEA: I'm happy to be here. Thanks.
CONAN: And was either side, the Democrats or the Republicans, particularly entirely thrilled with this speech?
GONYEA: The answer is no. In fact, President Obama is getting as much criticism, perhaps more criticism today from Democrats who are concerned about the size of the troop buildup, the speed of it, what those troops will be doing, and whether or not they will be able to accomplish this mission of actually training Afghan police and security forces that will actually be able to then step up to the Taliban insurgency.
CONAN: Meanwhile, Republicans say, well, I support the president's decision to back his commander and send more soldiers, but they have reservations about the exit plan.
GONYEA: Exactly. And the Republicans have had to look a little harder than they typically do to find something to complain about when the president unveils a new policy or some new way forward on this issue or that. Normally, it's just a blanket rejection of whatever he says. This time, there is that pressure that Republicans feel to support the troops, to support the Pentagon.
So, they're praising the decision to send more troops in, but they are really focusing in on that July 2011 date, where the president says they will begin at that date, they will begin to transfer the security to Afghan forces.
CONAN: Well, is that going to translate - some progressives, in particular, Democrats on the left are pressing for a vote soon on this - on Capitol Hill. They're going to have to call for a supplemental bill to pay for this, about $40 billion, I think, is what they're talking about. Is that going to cost - is the president in danger of losing that vote?
GONYEA: You know, I'm not going to predict the vote, but they do know that they have to keep talking to these Democrats, that they have to keep making the case to them in a way that he attempted to do with the American people last night. And we'll ultimately see how that shakes out, as well. But there is going to be a great deal of selling going on to Democrats and Republicans, I should say. The president is having some Republicans over to the White House here, today, in the mix of those he's meeting with. But they know that there's going to be a lot of heavy lifting yet to get to - be done on this in terms of getting what they need from the Congress.
RUDIN: Don, Republicans obviously know that they are probably in the driver's seat when it comes to Afghanistan policy, vis-a-vis what the - how the Democrats feel. Do you think this gives the Republicans any bargaining power when it comes to negotiating health care stuff with the president?
GONYEA: That's going to be interesting to see. You don't feel that yet. It may be the first issue that's really come along where there has been meaningful engagement between the White House and Republicans up on the Hill. But I think it would be premature at this point to say that it could bleed over into those other issues. But, as you know - and this gets to your question - I mean, deals are cut, and you never know what's going to be put on the table. So it's going to be very fascinating to watch for that.
CONAN: And then - a little bit down the road, obviously - the president is not up in 2010, but all of the Democrats in the House are, and a lot of them in the United States Senate, too. There could be a backlash if there are more U.S. troops in Afghanistan next summer. There could be a lot more U.S. casualties, as well. Could Democrats suffer from a policy many of them oppose and Republicans benefit from a policy many of them support?
RUDIN: The answer is yes. I'm not saying they will suffer, but they certainly could suffer. And this is already, all, you know, entwined with the other big issue that's out there that Democrats were already worried about for next year, which is the economy and the jobs picture. And as they start debating how much money and where it's going to come from and how it will be dispersed to pay for the war, you know there are going to be many, many, many Democrats talking about how this money could be better spent on job creation or health care, or pick a domestic issue.
CONAN: Sure. And Ken, this is one thing that everybody agreed on the president did last night - this is now Obama's war.
RUDIN: It is. And it's very possible that it's a decision that will define his presidency and perhaps decide whether he's a two-term president or not. But that's exactly right, this is Obama's war. We could talk about the problems he inherited from President Bush, and certainly this war has been around for eight years and Obama has not been in the White House for eight years. But with this decision to send 30,000 more troops, it becomes the Obama war.
CONAN: And is there any hesitancy about that conclusion at the White House?
GONYEA: No. They say this is the president's decision to make. You do not get to choose what lands on the desk in the Oval Office. The White House is defending the process the president went through. He did say over the course of the past several months that there really is no good ideal option in Afghanistan. But they do feel that, you know, as the public looks at how he deliberated in all seriousness and how he laid out his case in the speech last night, that the American public will certainly understand why he has done what he has done. And they know, they know that he ultimately takes responsibility for how this plays out.
RUDIN: And don't forget, also during the presidential campaign in 2007, 2008, from the beginning Obama would say that the Iraq war was the bad war, Afghanistan war was the good war.
CONAN: All right. We're going to have to leave it there. Don Gonyea at the White House, thanks very much.
GONYEA: Okay. Glad to be here.
CONAN: NPR White House correspondent Don Gonyea. And of course, Political Junkie Ken Rudin. Ken, as always, thanks for your time.
RUDIN: Thank you, Neal.
CONAN: And Ken will join us again next Wednesday as he always does.
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