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The Political Fallout Of Sequestration


This is TALK OF THE NATION. I'm Lynn Neary in Washington. Jeb Bush switches his views, Romney remarks on his regrets, and the president says he can't call on the force. It's Wednesday and time for...


NEARY: Edition of the political junkie.


PRESIDENT RONALD REAGAN: There you go again.

VICE PRESIDENT WALTER MONDALE: When I hear your new ideas, I'm reminded of that ad: Where's the beef?

SENATOR BARRY GOLDWATER: Extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice.

SENATOR LLOYD BENTSEN: Senator, you're no Jack Kennedy.

PRESIDENT RICHARD NIXON: You don't have Nixon to kick around anymore.

SARAH PALIN: Lipstick.


PRESIDENT GEORGE BUSH: But I'm the decider.


NEARY: Every Wednesday, political junkie Ken Rudin joins us to review the week in politics. No resolution to avoid sequestration, so the government takes its cuts. Jeb Bush says no path to citizenship as he eyes a run in 2016. Mark Sanford asks for campaign help from his ex-wife; the Conservative Political Action Conference snubbed Chris Christie but extended an invite to Donald Trump. And Obama rounds out his Cabinet with three new picks.

Later in the program, we will remember Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez with Jon Lee Anderson, who met him many times. Political junkie Ken Rudin joins us as usual here in Studio 3A, and we begin as usual, Ken, good to see you, and we begin as usual with your trivia question.

KEN RUDIN, BYLINE: Hi Lynn, well, you know, Neal Conan of course is away. He feared the snow; there's 1/1,000th of an inch of snow in Washington. So he drove all the way to Hawaii.


NEARY: Washington closes with one...

RUDIN: I hope he's doing well. Anyway, there's a lot of talk about Jeb Bush in 2016. We'll talk about that in a bit. Of course Jeb is not his first real name. It's a composite of John Ellis Bush, that's how you get Jeb. So that fake intro leads to this question: Who was the last president who is better known by his middle name than his given first name at birth.

NEARY: All right, and if you think you know the answer, and if you haven't won in the last six months, give us a call. The number is 800-989-8255. The email address, talk@npr.org. The winner gets that fabulous no-prize T-shirt in exchange for a promise to send us a digital image for our Wall of Shame.

All right, and so let's talk about Jeb Bush. He made some comments this week that seemed to conflict with earlier statements he's made about immigration.

RUDIN: Well, it's not so much the comments he's made this week, it's the new book he called "The Immigration Wars." And that basically is - it sounds like a little much of a flip-flop. It's not clear what he's saying exactly. In the past, unlike Mitt Romney, unlike many of the Republicans who were running for president in 2012, he said that a path to citizenship ultimately is the way, is the preferred way for the 11 million people who are here illegally in the country. But now this new book talks about that maybe it's not a path to citizenship, it's really about legal residency.

NEARY: Well, he spoke with NPR's Steve Inskeep on MORNING EDITION. Let's hear about his book. So let's hear what he had to say.

JEB BUSH: After there is a recognition that if people come here illegally they have to pay a fine or do community service, make sure they don't commit any serious crimes, and over a period of time they can have legalized status that allows them to live a life of dignity but not necessarily a path to citizenship.

NEARY: So you think it's a kind of subtle change, you're saying?

RUDIN: Well, it is a complete change given the fact that what he said so many times over and over about the path to citizenship. He says in his book, he says a grant of citizenship is an undeserving reward for conduct we cannot afford to encourage. And while that is not as drastic as Mitt Romney's self-deportation, it still seems to be that he's moving more and more towards I guess maybe what the Republican Party seems to stand for on immigration.

And of course everybody's now saying what does this mean for 2016. He says 2016 is a long way off, and it is but not for political junkies, they have to - they need to know immediately whether he's running or not. But a lot of people are saying that this is part of the calculation that Jeb Bush is taking for 2016.

NEARY: Well, let's talk about another candidate for president, past candidate for president. Mitt Romney gave his first real post-election interview with Fox News. What did we learn there?

RUDIN: Well, you know, I guess we learned that he's sorry he lost. It seems like it's interesting, you know, we've seen that with some presidential candidates. Once they're defeated, people don't want to hear from them anymore. Of course Mitt Romney has been invited to CPAC, the Conservative Political Action Conference, later this month in - near Washington.

But he just seems to regret it, and obviously he would have loved to have done - been in the White House and done things differently than President Obama.

NEARY: Of course one of the very interesting parts of that campaign was that video of him where he spoke about the 47 percent of Americans. And he spoke about that with Fox's Chris Wallace on Sunday. Let's listen to that tape.

MITT ROMNEY: Yeah, it was a very unfortunate statement that I made. It's not what I meant. I didn't express myself as I wished I would have.

RUDIN: Well, you know, the presidential campaign is - you know, the history of it is littered with candidates who said, you know, I didn't really mean what I said. We've seen that over and over again. George McGovern talking about he's supporting his vice presidential running mate Tom Eagleton 1,000 percent.

I mean, there's fake quotes like that that will haunt you throughout your campaign, and certainly the 47 percent comment haunted Mitt Romney. But Romney lost for more reasons than just that, of course.

NEARY: Obviously. All right, I think we have some people who think they might know the answer to the trivia question. Uh oh. All right. Let's go to Thomas(ph) in Oklahoma. Thomas, what do you think?

THOMAS: Yes, would it be Hiram Ulysses Grant?

RUDIN: Well, Hiram Ulysses Grant is a great answer, but he is not the most recent person who we know more for the middle name more than the first name. But that's a good one. And you know, to answer the question who is buried Hiram Ulysses Grant's tomb, which nobody seems to ask because...

NEARY: Wasn't it Hiram Ulysses Grant?

RUDIN: That's correct, but we don't talk about Hiram that much.

NEARY: OK, thanks for your call, Thomas. All right, we're going to go to John(ph) in Illinois. Hi John.


NEARY: Hi, what do you think?

JOHN: That would be Jeffrey Woodrow Wilson(ph).

RUDIN: I don't remember - Woodrow Wilson - Woodrow is definitely his middle name. I don't remember Jeffrey being his first name. But I do know that he's not...

JOHN: I could be wrong on that.

RUDIN: No, Woodrow Wilson is his middle name. I think it's Thomas Woodrow Wilson, but I'm not sure. But the point is that is not the most recent, either. But that's a good guess, too. I was thinking of that when I came up with the question.

NEARY: That's not our right answer.

RUDIN: No, it is Thomas, but it's not the most recent president.


JOHN: OK, thanks.

NEARY: All right, John, thanks for calling. All right, we're going to try to go with Laurie(ph) in California. Hi Laurie.


NEARY: Hi, what do you think?

LAURIE: Hi, is it Gerald Ford?

RUDIN: Well that's a great guess in the sense that Gerald Ford, of course Gerald Rudolph Ford Jr. is not his real name. He was born as Leslie Lynch King Jr. But he was adopted I guess eight days after birth or something or three years after birth or something, and he became Gerald Ford. But of course his middle name, Rudolph, I don't think he went by that name, either.


RUDIN: There was this reindeer, I forgot, he was known by that.


NEARY: Thanks for calling, Laurie.

LAURIE: Thank you.

NEARY: All right, let's go to Dave(ph), he's calling from Grand Rapids, Michigan. Hi Dave.

DAVE: Hi, actually Gerald Ford is a great guess; he is from Grand Rapids. But it's actually somebody who shares a name with a college here, John Calvin Coolidge.

RUDIN: John Calvin Coolidge is again a great guess but not the most recent. No, not the most recent. I'm looking for somebody more recent than Johnny.

NEARY: All right, Dave, sorry about that. Thanks for calling in. Let's see if we can get it from Pat(ph) in Stamford, Connecticut. Pat...

PAT: Hi, is it Eisenhower?

RUDIN: That is the correct answer. Of course everybody knows him as Dwight David Eisenhower, but when he was born, it was David Dwight Eisenhower. Lynn, you didn't hang up on him, did you?

NEARY: No, I didn't.

RUDIN: OK, but anyway, shortly after he was born his family reversed the two names. And then of course Ike later married Tina Turner, and a lot of things changed after that.

NEARY: OK, Pat, I think I properly put you on hold, I hope I did, in which case you can give your information to our operators.

RUDIN: Pat wins the T-shirt and the very important button.

NEARY: And we also have an email winner, Patrick Dengate(ph) from - let's see, he is from Ferndale, Michigan, and he also guessed Eisenhower.

RUDIN: Well, then you have two T-shirts. And actually, his name isn't really Patrick Dengate, it's Dengate Patrick. But his parents reversed it when he was young.

NEARY: All right, let's go back to the week in politics. I want to talk about that CPAC meeting that you mentioned earlier because interesting, they're snubbing Chris Christie, but they invited Donald Trump to speak there. What does that say?

RUDIN: Makes complete sense. Now the reason - a lot of people think we might be making this up. We spoke last week that Chris Christie is not invited to the CPAC conference, which is conservatives meeting, you know, where they meet in Washington every year. And one of the problems with Christie is that he embraced Barack Obama prior - you know, right in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy.

He called for the $60 billion in federal funds to repair the damage, which was horrific, which really hurt the state. And of course he also bought into the Obama Medicaid provisions, which some other Republican governors have done, even though he's an opponent of Obamacare.

So a lot of conservatives say, well, he's not truly a conservative. So Chris Christie is not coming to the conference, not invited. Bob McDonnell, the outgoing governor of Virginia, also not invited. But Donald Trump is, and they say - Al Cardenas, who's the head of the American Conservative Union, which sponsors CPAC, he called Donald Trump an American patriot and a success story with a massive following among conservatives.

Nobody has really addressed the real issue: what planet Donald Trump is from. But he said some crazy things about birtherism, and yet there's - Donald Trump seems to be this self-promoter that just won't go away. The thought of Chris Christie, the most popular governor of the country, being shunned and Donald Trump being invited is just pretty remarkable. But that's part of the infighting that's going on in the Republican Party in the wake of their presidential defeat.

NEARY: Well, let's talk about another New Jersey politician. This is Democrat, Democratic Senator Robert Menendez, in the news not for a particularly good reason.

RUDIN: Well, ultimately - I mean, he is in trouble but not for the reason, perhaps, that the Daily Caller decided. The Daily Caller is a conservative website who announced last - several months ago, I think right before the election, that he frequented prostitutes in the Dominican Republic. And some prostitutes came forward and said yes, Senator Menendez paid them money to have sex with them. And as it turned out, at least one of the three said that the whole thing is a setup, it's not real.

They were convinced, they were urged to make up these stories. But so Menendez says this is absolutely not a story at all. We haven't talked about that much on TALK OF THE NATION. But there is still an ethics scandal or at least an ethics inquiry into Menendez, that he's - he paid - you know, he did things for a political donor that may have helped him make money.

So Menendez is not out of the woods yet, but the prostitution story seems to be discredited.

NEARY: And just really briefly before the break, my favorite story of the week: former South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford asking his wife Jenny for help on his campaign - ex-wife...

RUDIN: His ex-wife. And she said no.


NEARY: Very wisely, I would say. Ken Rudin is our political junkie. He's with me here in Studio 3A. And stay with us all you political junkies out there because we're going to have more with Ken Rudin in a minute. I'm Lynn Neary, and this is TALK OF THE NATION from NPR News.


NEARY: This is TALK OF THE NATION from NPR News. I'm Lynn Neary. It's Wednesday, and of course that means political junkie Ken Rudin is here. And Ken, do we have a ScuttleButton winner this week?

RUDIN: We actually do, Lynn. I'm very pleased that you asked that. The button puzzle, last week there was a Michael Steele for Senate button; there was a John Roberts Supreme Court Roe versus Wade button; there was a button of a sailboat; and there was a button that said the shore wants Lockhart for Congress. And when you add them all together, you have Michael rowed the boat ashore.

NEARY: Of course we do.

RUDIN: Hallelujah. And the winner is Maureen Holder(ph) of St. Louis, Missouri. She gets the T-shirt and the sailboat, no, and the button.

NEARY: All right, very good. Congratulations, Maureen, because I can never figure those things out. So I'm always impressed. And what about a new column?

RUDIN: The new column is up, and it's talking about, basically, it is the CPAC versus Chris Christie contretemps, as they say in French, contretemps.

NEARY: OK, great.

RUDIN: Yeah, I got speak French today.

NEARY: Now when Congress failed to act last week, a series of automatic government spending cuts went into effect, and members of both parties are now pointing fingers and laying blame. So what will the political fallout be from sequestration? Rob Levinson joins us in just a minute to help with that question, and we want to hear from you. What do you want your party to do differently? Give us a call. Our number is 800-989-8255. You can email us at talk@npr.org. Or you can also join the conversation at our website. Go to npr.org, and click on TALK OF THE NATION.

Rob Levinson is a senior analyst with Bloomberg Government, who has been looking at the sequestration cuts, and he joins us now, also in Studio 3A. Welcome, Rob, good to have you with us.

ROB LEVINSON: Thanks, Lynn, great to be here.

NEARY: So are we beginning to see effects yet of the sequestration?

LEVINSON: Not a whole lot of effects right away. I mean, the money has been cut, but I think a lot of the agencies are still figuring out where they're going to trim the money from. Things like furloughs for federal employees haven't really started yet.

NEARY: And what about - I mean, I read a lot about the fact that this part of the country, the one that we're in at the moment, the Washington, D.C., area, Northern Virginia, areas like that, are the ones that are going to be most affected. But what about the rest - and why? Why will they be the most affected?

LEVINSON: Well, of course you've got a couple of things going on here. You've got of course the tremendous amount of federal employees that are in the area that work at everything from the Pentagon to the Department of Interior and everything else. Also you've got a lot of the major defense contractors that have a lot of their business in this area.

Jim Moran's district, for example, Virginia Eight, in Alexandria and that area, has about $11 billion worth of defense contracting using 2012 dollars coming into his district. So there's a lot of money that flows into the Northern Virginia and Maryland area, as well as the District of Columbia. So that money gets cut, and it will be felt here, pretty hard.

NEARY: OK, then throughout the rest of the country are people really going to feel it? Who's going to be feeling it the most?

LEVINSON: Well, again areas where there's a lot of military spending, for example Fort Worth, Texas, where Lockheed has huge operations building the F-35 fighter jet. Other places around military bases are going to feel it. And then, other services are going to be cut. I think a lot of Americans may feel it when they go to the airport if the TSA employees are furloughed, and the lines get longer, and also the people who process the passports, you know, those things will happen.

The air traffic controllers could get furloughed, and that'll slow down flights. So all Americans could feel it in different ways.

NEARY: When do you think politicians are going to start feeling some heat from this? It's not happening yet, I don't think, but is it?

RUDIN: No, I think that's sort of the big question. I think the president is sort of banking on the American people really getting upset about this and feeling the heat. And the Republicans in the House, particularly, are thinking, well, you know, this maybe is not such a big deal, and they're not going to feel the heat. And so everybody's sort of playing a waiting game to see, you know, when the screws really start to get turned and if the American people respond and start screaming at Congress to do something about it.

NEARY: So, do you think anybody here made a miscalculation? I mean, we're waiting to see what's going to happen, but did the president, for instance, possibly miscalculate in overplaying how difficult this was going to be or...?

LEVINSON: It remains to be seen whether he overplayed how difficult it's going to be because it could wind up being somewhat difficult. You just have to play a waiting game. Where he may have miscalculated is really on the defense cuts. I think the natural assumption was that the Republicans would never let this level of defense cuts go through.

There's some - you know, a total of about $46 billion may get pulled out of the Department of Defense, and Republicans with their traditional, sort of, pro-Pentagon position, I think the president may have calculated that that would be enough of a hammer to prevent them from ever letting this go through. And apparently it wasn't so much. They were willing to let this go through.

NEARY: But couldn't this hurt the Republicans politically, these really deep defense cuts, I mean if this goes on...?

LEVINSON: Oh sure, I mean, you know, it's a little bit similar to what happened back in the '90s with the government shutdown, and that really didn't play well for the Republicans, I think. And President Clinton, at the time, sort of, seemed to have won that battle. There is the potential - there's a real risk out there for the Republicans in Congress, I think.

NEARY: What do you think, Ken, in terms of the political fallout?

RUDIN: Well, that's the kind of question I'm asking. I mean, prior to the actual date of the sequestration beginning, President Obama and the Republicans were basically going around the country blaming each other of this catastrophic event that's about to occur.

And yet the week before this happened, Congress was on their spring break. President Obama did not lock them up, not that he could lock them up, because he says he's not a dictator, you remember, but he said - but now of course he's meeting with some senators, weather permitting. He's going to meet with about seven or eight senators for dinner - Republican senators tonight.

What can he accomplish that he hasn't accomplished so far? And how important is a deal here? If he wants to get Congress behind him on guns and immigration, how important is working with Congress on sequestration?

LEVINSON: Well, I think, you know, you've got two sort of events coming up. You've got the expiration of the continuing resolution, which is on March 27, which is funding the government. Now both sides have said they don't want a government shutdown. So they're going to try and work something out on that. And then probably in May you've got another debt ceiling fight. You recall that they postponed the expiration of the debt ceiling for a few months back at the end of last year. So you've got that fight.

And I think, yeah, the president may be concerned because, you know, sort of these budget fights sort of suck all the oxygen out of the room. He wants to talk about guns and immigration and some other issues, and it's kind of hard to get to those things if you're still fighting all these budget fights and worried about the next sort of government shutdown or people getting laid off.

So I think it does behoove, sort of, both sides to try and get something done and at least get past all of these budget crises. I think, my sense is that the Republicans have decided that they don't like going from sort of crisis to crisis, and they do want to sort of move on because they have some ideas about some other issues, as well.

RUDIN: Although it seems like Speaker Boehner's standing among his fellow Republicans seems to be enhanced with the sequestration, given the fact that he acquiesced on the tax increases for the wealth in the fiscal cliff deal, and he got a lot of heat from his fellow Republicans on that. But he's standing firm and said look, we already gave you the tax hikes. Now it's time for spending cuts.

LEVINSON: Right, I think you're exactly right. I mean, Speaker Boehner took a lot of heat. He agreed to some tax increases that he didn't like, a lot of the real conservatives in the party didn't like. And his standing firm is sort of shoring him up with sort of that very conservative faction within his own party, and I think that helps him, you know, increase his stature and give him, maybe, some more political capital.

And then of course if the pressure increases, you know, from the American people if these sequestration cuts go into effect, Boehner can say to his own caucus, hey look, I tried, I stood tall, I didn't sit there and get into a game of negotiations with the president, but not the American people are crying for some action.

RUDIN: I was going to say there's a new CBS poll that had 38 percent of the people blaming the congressional Republicans, 33 percent blaming President Obama. And so it doesn't seem like the Democrats are winning this argument hands-down.

LEVINSON: No, I mean, there's certainly enough fingerprints on both sides for this, you know. I mean, apparently, you know, according to Bob Woodward's book, the president's staff, sort of, came up with this idea. But of course the Republicans were demanding something in exchange for the debt ceiling. And, you know, they passed a bill, he signed a bill. They've both got their fingerprints on it. And I think the American people are seeing that they're just sort of - I think the attitude is, you know, sort of a pox on both their houses.

NEARY: And in some sense, haven't the Republicans done exactly what they wanted? I mean, they're getting the cuts that they - you know, maybe they're deeper than they wanted them to be, but we're getting a chance to see what happens if you really cut back.

LEVINSON: Right, I mean, you know, there is the potential, if the American people don't feel this, then it sort of shores up the Republican argument of see, we've told you, government is too big, and if you cut it a little bit, it's not a big deal. Of course none of this gets at the real government spending issue, which is the entitlement programs, and sequestration doesn't really attack those.

There's some small cuts to Medicare, but for the most part, Medicare, Social Security, Medicaid, those are the big-dollar programs. Those are the ones that are causing the most concern about long-term budget instability and imbalances. And those are still issues to be worked.

NEARY: All right, let's see what some listeners may have to say about what they think their party should be doing here. Mike(ph) in La Grande, Oregon, hi Mike.

MIKE: Well good morning, how are you?

NEARY: I'm good, thanks.

MIKE: Let me first say that I am - I am Ken's biggest fan in La Grande, Oregon, surely not the only one, but I am the biggest fan. So let me bring up the issue, and this is what I'd like to ask of the Democrats. Let me generalize first. They need to instead of generalizing about what the sequester will do, bring it down to the community or individual level, and let me give you an example.

We're in a rural area here. We get forest fires here. We have an air base here. We have students that depend on the federal government, the BLM and the Forest Service to get part-time and temporary work seasonally so they can pay for their schooling. So what happens if we start getting the forest fires in Northeast Oregon and Northern California and the Southwest, and there's not enough money to pay for the part-time people that fight the fires, for the airplanes that put the fires out or help knock them down.

We need those things itemized so we understand exactly how it hits us. Does that make any sense to you guys?

LEVINSON: I think there has been some effort. You know, the president has put out this report about state by state, and I think Senator Harkin of Iowa put out reports like that and tried to talk about these things. But I still don't think they're real until they actually happen, unfortunately. I don't think, you know, people really appreciate it. It's all sort of abstraction. And it's going to take some of these kind of events. And again, I think that is what the president is banking on, certainly not on anybody being harmed in anyway. But, you know, some of these impacts really being actually felt by the real American people. And until that actually happens as opposed to being talked about, I'm just not sure it's going to resonate very much.

NEARY: All right. Thanks for your call, Mike.

RUDIN: Rob, when the government let - there were some people in detention - people here illegally, they were released prior to the sequestration. Republicans thought that was just a gimmick to scare people. Was that a legitimate response?

LEVINSON: I'm not sure that the government really had to do that. I think there was some sort of political gaming going on there with doing that, you know? A few weeks ago, the Pentagon didn't deploy an aircraft carrier, delayed the deployment of an aircraft carrier. I think there, too, you know, these were decisions that were made and there probably were alternatives, but they wanted to, you know, have some impact and see if they could sort of, you know, sort of goose the American people, if you could, into responding to these things.

NEARY: All right. Let's see what - we're going to go to Melanie(ph). She's in Georgia. Hi, Melanie. Have I got you there, Melanie? I don't think so. Sorry. Let's try getting Paul in Syracuse, New York. I'm having trouble with the lines at the moment. So where were we in this discussion?

RUDIN: We were trying to get Melanie and Paul, if I recall.


RUDIN: You know, Rob, another question about Republican - the politics part of it because I'm very shallow. I care about the political aspects and not how it affects Americans. But there has always been, as you said earlier in the program, that President Obama always counted on the fact that the Republicans would never accept the Pentagon cuts and the military cuts. But there's other Republicans who say we're not so much pro-Pentagon as we are pro-cuts and pro - streamlining of the government. Is that a conflict going on in the Republican Party right now?

LEVINSON: Absolutely. I think that one really significant item in here from a political perspective is I think there has been a kind of sea change certainly in an element of the Republican Party in that you have these guys who say, yeah, I'm against big government and big government includes the Pentagon, and I want to see it all cut. And I think that's really new. You even have guys like, you know, Rand Paul from the Senate is all for this kind of stuff. And there's a growing element there that, you know, really see all government spending are really concerned about the Pentagon.

It's an opportune moment, you know, where - traditionally, when the United States ends a war, Pentagon spending comes down as might be expected. And we've gotten out of Iraq. We're getting out of Afghanistan. So it's a time for Pentagon spending to probably naturally come down anyway. But, yeah, I think this conflict within the sort of the old line establishment Republican Party and some of these newer folks, if you want to call them Tea Party folks, but people who are really concerned about the size and scope of government, want to see it all pared back. That's a real new phenomena I think in the Republican Party.

NEARY: Rob Levinson is a senior analyst with Bloomberg Government, and he joins us here in Studio 3A with our political junkie Ken Rudin. And you are listening to TALK OF THE NATION from NPR News. And we've got Melanie on the line, I hope. Melanie, are you there?

MELANIE: I am here.

NEARY: Go ahead.

MELANIE: I just wanted to say I think that Congress needs to take that same 20 percent pay cut that my family is going to take when my husband is furloughed. You know, you mentioned Eisenhower just a few minutes ago, and he was a phenomenal president. One of the terms that he coined was the military-industrial complex, and that's what this nation has now. I don't disagree that there's a lot of fat in the military, but the last thing I think you want to do is gut it.

NEARY: That's a good point that Melanie is making about - I think people really will respond to something like that when they know that Congress has protected themselves from any financial fallout from this.

LEVINSON: Well, the members of Congress' salaries can't be cut by sequestration. There's some constitutional issues for that. However, the staff and the...

MELANIE: Of course there are.

LEVINSON: The - but the staffs of Congress, the members of, you know, the people who support them and their various agencies, the Government Accounting Office, Government Accountability Office and the Congressional Budget Office, they get cut the same as everybody else. So there is some impact on Congress, even the Capitol Hill Police and folks like that, but the members themselves, no, their salaries won't be cut. As to the military issues, you know, I think one of the challenges here is - several military officers have said, you know, if it was just the number, just the amount, and you could do it in a sensible way, the military could probably absorb these cuts without, you know, sort of harming itself or national security.

The problem is this across-the-board mechanism, and that's what really bothers the military. They don't have the opportunity to really make choices, but it just sort of across-the-board, the same percentage...

MELANIE: But they do have an opportunity. They have the - the QDR, which is coming up, which is due this year, which is the quadrennial defense review, but yet, the Pentagon has already calling for a BRAC in 2015 and 2017. So why not wait to see what this QDR comes up with to see what the actual people who are using the military assets say we don't need this anymore, we can do without this, we can move this over here, as opposed to having people who are probably never even been in the military decide what needs to go and let some of their special pork programs go. Let those be the ones that get the cuts. I'm a libertarian through and through, but I truly support some sort of pathway to citizenship because we need those people to start paying into the Social Security system.

LEVINSON: All right, Melanie, I'm going to let Rob respond to your call. Thanks so much for calling in.

Interesting point you bring out about the QDR. The QDR is what's known as the quadrennial defense review. It's a thing that's mandated by law where every four years, military leaders get together and sort of try and decide, you know, what is appropriate for the United States in terms of the military. One problem with the QDR is because the legislation which actually mandates that they do the QDR actually tells them that they can't consider resource requirements.

In other words, they don't have to make hard choices. They don't sort of limit themselves and they - what happens - what a lot of times comes out of the QDR is just everything is a priority, and here's all the stuff we need to buy. And it doesn't really say, you know, we only have so much money. Everybody knows that you have to think of national security, you know, and you have to think of ends, but there's also a question of means. And the QDR really doesn't help you with that because it doesn't sort of involve how much money we actually spend. It's just sort of what we think is important, and sort of a lot of everything winds up being important in the QDR.

So I'm not sure how much the QDR informs it, but I do agree with you that, you know, some real hard choices have to be made and people need to think through these kinds of choices.

NEARY: You know, just one last question. I think a lot of people are just - they're hearing the word sequestration, and their minds are just going off. I mean, are they just - they don't even want to hear it anymore, and they may not even understand what it means yet. And I - so it's very hard to tell when people are going to start really caring about this and when - and that I think is what's going to force Congress to do something eventually.

LEVINSON: Well, yeah, I think you're absolutely right, Lynn. It's when and if people feel the impact. You know, it's sort of like they've always said about, you know, it's a recession when your friend loses a job. It's a depression when you lose a job. When you know somebody that's been furloughed, if you're a federal employee, as the one of the caller has mentioned, you know, they're going to see a 20 percent pay cut basically for the rest of the year. And that can really bite into people. And so, you know, as these cuts sort of come into play, I think that's when you're going to feel it.

NEARY: Thanks a lot for joining us.

LEVINSON: Thanks a lot, Lynn.

NEARY: Rob Levinson is a senior defense analyst with Bloomberg Government. And, Ken Rudin, our political junkie, thanks for joining us as well.

RUDIN: Thank you, Lynn.

NEARY: I'm Lynn Neary. It's TALK OF THE NATION from NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.