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Cokie Roberts Analyzes A Dramatic Week In Politics


And let's continue this conversation now with Cokie Roberts. She's on the line. She joins us most Mondays.

Cokie, good morning.


GREENE: You know, I'm still thinking about that scene that Steve was talking to Marco Rubio about when Rubio announced that Boehner was resigning and there was that applause from this Republican crowd. I mean, what can Republican leaders do about this frustration out there from people in their party?

ROBERTS: Basically nothing. And the numbers are high. Seventy-two percent of likely Republican voters said in a recent poll that they disapprove of their congressional leaders, and they don't think they're doing enough. But as John Boehner, the out - now outgoing speaker, said yesterday on CBS, they're unrealistic. He says the Bible said beware of false prophets.

And there are people out there spreading noise about how much we can get done. And, of course, what he means by that is all of the talk radio people, all of the people in outside groups and some people inside the institution of Congress who are saying, you know, shutdown the government and then we can repeal Obamacare. And, as he says, you know, that's just totally unrealistic.

GREENE: One thing that Boehner said, Cokie, on Friday was that he was stepping down for the good of the House, for the institution. I mean, you have been covering him since he came to Congress 25 years ago.

ROBERTS: Yes (laughter).

GREENE: What do you make of this message from him, you know - if we're to believe what he's saying - as putting the institution ahead of politics?

ROBERTS: Well, the truth is he did come in as a young upstart, part of what was called a Gang of Seven, to shake things up in the House. But even then, it was because they thought - or at least he thought - that he wanted to improve the institution of the House. So he is an institutionalist. He does care about the institution. And, of course, as he has raise - gone up in power, he's cared about it more. But, look, it was also a political decision.

Anybody who voted for him for speaker, if it came back to another vote for speaker, was going to get in trouble at home, and he said that. He said, why would I put my Republican members through that, make them walk the plank? Because they're going to get criticized at home by some who think they ought to be more aggressive. So it was just better to quit than to make them have to take that vote.

GREENE: So short-term question - who takes over in his job? But long-term is sort of what happens to the legislative agenda now, right?

ROBERTS: Well, first, the government does not shut down this week, which is a relief for a lot of people, and probably California Kevin McCarthy takes over for the speakership. But there will be a leadership fight in the House of Representatives. And there is nothing worse than a leadership fight. People hold grudges from those fights for years and years and years. And whether it's for speaker or for majority leader or for whip, that can go on for a very long time.

And in terms of legislation, I think you're going to see the conservatives feeling very, very feisty. They think they've got a win here in forcing Boehner out. And I think that they're going to fight on every piece of legislation that comes up, and that's going to make it much harder to get things done.

GREENE: You know, Pope Francis visited Congress, was in the United States. You know, so much sort of warmth and goodwill, it seemed like, in his visit.


GREENE: Can that have some kind of impact on American politics?

ROBERTS: (Laughter) Well...

GREENE: You're laughing.

ROBERTS: They did cheer for the golden rule in Congress. That was a plus (laughter). But then they went directly to the Value Voters Summit and cheered Boehner's decision to step down, which isn't exactly the golden rule in practice. On the plane ride home last night, Pope Francis said, power is here today, gone tomorrow. And when you have it, you have to use it to do good for other people. Now, he was talking about himself, but it might be something that you can apply to members of Congress as well. I wouldn't hold my breath on that, though, David.

GREENE: All right, Cokie, have a good week.

ROBERTS: You, too.

GREENE: Always good to talk to you. It's Cokie Roberts. She joins us on the program most Mondays. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

David Greene is an award-winning journalist and New York Times best-selling author. He is a host of NPR's Morning Edition, the most listened-to radio news program in the United States, and also of NPR's popular morning news podcast, Up First.
Cokie Roberts was one of the 'Founding Mothers' of NPR who helped make that network one of the premier sources of news and information in this country. She served as a congressional correspondent at NPR for more than 10 years and later appeared as a commentator on Morning Edition. In addition to her work for NPR, Roberts was a political commentator for ABC News, providing analysis for all network news programming.
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