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Obama Faces Tough Road With GOP-Controlled Congress


Now speaking of these killings, yesterday President Obama released a statement. In it he said, quote, "I unconditionally condemn today's murder of two police officers in New York City. Two brave men won't be going home to their loved ones tonight, and for that, there is no justification." Let's bring in another voice now as we do most Mondays. It's Cokie Roberts. Cokie, good morning.


GREENE: You know, regarding these killings that we were just talking about, former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani laid the blame squarely on the president. He was on Fox News Sunday, and he said, we've had four months of propaganda, starting with the president, that everybody should hate the police. Those are tough words.

ROBERTS: Very tough words. And he went on to say that Mayor de Blasio, Attorney General Holder, President Obama had stirred up intense anti-police hatred. Look, this was a horrible act. These men were shot just because they wore the uniform, and so there is tremendous outrage and obviously it's justified.

But it's also true the Republicans have used, for many years, the issue of crime as a political issue - Rudy Giuliani prime among them. And for a long time, Democrats were blind to it. They didn't understand how important an issue it was. But it seemed, in recent years, to have abated. And that's partly because both the crime rate and the incarceration rate have gone down for the first time in a long time. And there's been talk both on the Republican side of the aisle in Congress and in the White House about changing sentencing guidelines and being more rational in terms of the criminal justice system. So I hope we don't now have yet another partisan political issue that everybody's screaming about.

GREENE: Well, we'll certainly be talking about those killings in New York elsewhere on the program. But I want to try and capture this moment for the president and in Washington if we can, Cokie, as the year comes to a close. I mean, President Obama's already facing a really rough road with a Congress controlled by Republicans, a Democratic party at a historically low point in terms of office holders and in the polls. I mean, how do you see all this playing out in the coming year?

ROBERTS: No, well, it is true. I mean, in our ABC poll this week, the Democrats were at their lowest point since ABC started polling in 18 - in 1981.


ROBERTS: It was 26 percent identified as Democrats, but only 23 percent as Republicans - not great there either - 41 percent saying they're Independents. So those are people saying to both parties show me, and I think that's a challenge for both of them. Now, in this poll Republicans are trusted more to handle the problems the nation faces as a whole. They're specifically trusted more to handle the economy and immigration. But we've just come off an election where the Republicans have done very well, and it's normal for the party that wins to go up in the polls. But still, they need to show the voters that they can actually handle those things. That's going to be a challenge for them.

GREENE: We only have a few seconds left. I just wanted to ask you about the press conference that the president held before he left for vacation. What's your reaction seeing him call only on women? That was a first.

ROBERTS: Well, certainly it was well beyond a first. I mean, we - it was remarkable to see. Eleanor Roosevelt used to only have women correspondents. But most of the time, we've seen decades and decades and decades of presidents calling only on men. Obviously, there have been exceptions - the famous Helen Thomas, our own Mara Liasson. But the president was making the point about people who toil covering the White House day after day and don't get any recognition. The president also seemed to really enjoy that press conference, David...


ROBERTS: ...Which is the first time we've seen that in a long time. But he was not just personally upbeat, he was upbeat about the country. And he kept that up in his radio address on Saturday. That's something that he's been hesitant to do because people are still hurting, but he's ready to sound a trumpet.

GREENE: We'll have to stop there. Cokie, have a wonderful holiday.

ROBERTS: You too, David.

GREENE: Thanks a lot. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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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