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From the Mueller investigation's end to renewed debate about health care, it's been a busy week in Washington. But how are these political issues resonating outside the nation's capital? Judy Woodruff talks to Kent State University professor and columnist Connie Schultz and Chris Buskirk, editor of conservative journal and website American Greatness, about what the Americans they talk to think.
From the Mueller investigation to health care, it has been another busy week in Washington. But how are these political debates resonating outside the nation's capital?
For some clues, we turn to Connie Schultz. She is a Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist and journalism professor at Kent State University in Ohio. And Chris Buskirk, editor of the conservative journal and Web site American Greatness, he's based in Phoenix.
Hello to both of you, and welcome.
Let me just first ask you, so our audience knows, how do you hear from Americans? How do you communicate? How do you run into ordinary people?
Well, I will tell you, the way a lot of people do, I guess.
I mean, as you know, Judy, I'm on the road a lot, so I see people all over the country just in the ordinary course of doing business, talking to people, interpersonal relationships, that sort of thing.
But I also get a tremendous amount of e-mail every day, which I try very hard to answer all of it. But between Twitter and social media and e-mail, especially e-mail still, which is, actually, I think great, I hear from a lot of people every day, and it just — it's helpful to keep — you know, kind of keep me listening to what other people are saying who are not doing politics for a living.
And, Connie, what about you?
Pretty much the same.
I live in the city of Cleveland. And I do my own groceries, go to the drugstore, stand in line a lot, run into people everywhere. I do get a lot of e-mail. I'm afraid I can't possibly respond to all of it.
And I also — my Facebook page is a personal page, but it's open to the public, and we have a lot of public discussions there virtually every day. So that's one of the ways I keep in touch with the rest of America.
I think it's really important for us to hear that as we have these conversations.
But let's talk about the Mueller report. As you know, it was released this past weekend, or at least a very brief summary of it, Chris Buskirk, from the attorney general.
The White House, the president is saying he's been vindicated. Democrats are saying, wait a minute, I want to see the whole thing.
Where do we stand on this?
The president's been vindicated.
I mean, for two years, we have been hearing the constant drumbeat, Donald Trump — Donald Trump is the puppet of Putin and all the sort of things that spin out from that. There's been all sorts of irresponsible talk about how the president's going to be — wind up in jail, he's going to be impeached because he — because he does the bidding of the Kremlin.
And Mueller, with a team of — he took a lot of — he took a lot of flak because his team of lawyers was mostly Democrats, was mostly people who had donated a lot of money to Hillary Clinton. And these were people who spent almost two years, and they just couldn't find any evidence of that.
And so now some of the rhetoric we're hearing, well, we haven't seen the whole report. Look, this is people who are just trying to figure out what they can say to try and — to try and keep the egg off their face.
Connie Schultz, what does it look like to you from Cleveland?
Well, I don't think that partisan response is very helpful. I'm a journalist. So I really want to see the full report. I think we should be asking for that. And I think the public deserves to see it.
I will say that most people who are reaching out to me are not talking about Mueller. This is something activists on both sides care about. The number one issue I'm hearing about — well, it's been ongoing, but especially this week, again, it's health care.
Well, that raises the question, Chris Buskirk — and you touched on this — because you're now hearing from the president, from Republicans today in the Congress that journalists, that any elected officials who are out there talking about this for the last few years, making suggestions that there was some sort of conspiracy, should be punished for it.
I mean, is that what you think voters want?
Well, it depends very much on the voters you're talking about.
There are certainly some voters who do want it. I think what people want is for journalists to uphold the standards that they have told everybody that they adhere to. And that is to not just to repeat things, stories that they hear from operatives at Fusion GPS, or from operatives of a political campaign.
In other words, go do the digging. And that's how you build trust with people. And I think — I think what would go a long way is the people who got this story wrong is just to do what a normal person would do and just say, you know what, I think I got this wrong. Maybe I got out over ahead of my skis, and, sorry, I missed that one. And I'm going to try and do better.
And I think that would go a long way to restoring trust in the media in general.
Connie, is there a moment for accountability, or what?
I think there's always a moment for reflection in our reporting. And I think it — I see it every day in our journalists.
I think it's really dismissive to suggest that the number of journalists who've been working on this story for a long time, investigating it at great length, who go through check and double-check and recheck, all the while being demonized by this president, who is calling them the enemy of the people and putting them in potential peril and physical danger — I have talked to more than one editor of major news organizations who has told me that some of their more prominent journalists have had to have security because of viable threats against them.
So, if we're going to talk about the role of journalists, let's start with that, because this is unprecedented in our country. And I'm really proud to be a journalist. Couldn't be prouder of the profession right now.
There are always times for us to be reflective. We make mistakes. And I don't know any other profession in the country that so publicly admits them quickly and responds to them and corrects them, as journalists do.
Well, there's so much to ask about this. And we're going to have you all back to continue that conversation.
But I do quickly want to pivot, Chris, to health care, because that's what the president did this week. He came right out of the gate early in the week and said, we're going to — we're going to make the Republican Party the party of health care.
His Justice Department is now seeking to completely overturn the Affordable Care Act. Is this a good move, a smart move on the part of the administration?
Well, I guess I would characterize it this way. It might be.
I look at this as an opportunity for the president to really do something that is substantive on the policy front and something that speaks directly to the middle and working class and some of the pressure, the economic pressure that they have come under.
And if he does more than just tweet about this — and I hope he does — if he really turns this into a part of his reelection campaign and says, look, we didn't like — we didn't like Obamacare, we didn't like the Affordable Care Act, we overturned it, but we didn't — we didn't just do that, here's how we're going to make health care better, here's how we're going to make it more accessible, more affordable, more dependable, that could be a winning issue for him.
And I hope he does it.
Well, his own Republican leadership in Congress wishes he wouldn't do this again.
What I found so instructive last year, Judy — as you know, I'm married to U.S. Senator Sherrod Brown. And, last year, during his reelection campaign, there were a number of focus groups with Trump voters. And it was broken into men and women. And I sat in on a number of them.
And what I found interesting is the movement we saw by the time it got very close to Election Day. The men were pretty much entrenched. But women were starting to peel off over two issues, family separations, because they're mothers and grandmothers — not suggesting you have to be that, but that was a number of them — but also health care.
Health care was number one. Many of them were health care workers. Many of them were the primary caregivers for family members who need health care. And they were scared to death about what was going to happen to the health care of their families and people they care about.
And interesting too, I just want to remind all journalists always, not a single Trump voter that we asked throughout the campaign year was on Twitter.
Again, a subject we're going to come back to. It's a big one, health care.
Connie Schultz, Chris Buskirk, we will be having both of you back. We thank you.
Thanks a lot.
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