Okay. Political stories often come from the White House and they often take our political correspondents, say, to Iowa. That's where three of them are right now. But not for an election cycle, but actually to cycle. NPR's Don Gonyea, Scott Horsley and Brian Naylor are all on vacation together, pedaling across the state of Iowa, hundreds of miles with thousands of other cyclists. It's an annual summertime ritual known as RAGBRAI.
In Washington, D.C. the next election always seems just around the corner, even in the middle of summer when it seems a long way away to everyone else. Republicans are in the Senate minority today, but about now they're feeling confident about their prospects to pick up seats and maybe even regain the majority in 2014. NPR national political correspondent Mara Liasson reports.
It appears that it's just a matter of days before it becomes official that Sen. Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the Senate's top Republican, will be forced into a primary by a Louisville businessman with Tea Party backing.
The news that Matthew Bevin, owner of a bell-manufacturing company and an investment company executive, intends to soon announce his effort to oust McConnell is interesting because it appears to place McConnell in something of a bind.
I'm Michel Martin and this is TELL ME MORE from NPR News. Later this hour, we will take a moment to remember a pioneering journalist and mentor, the irreplaceable Helen Thomas, who died over the weekend at the age of 92. Helen had a lifelong passion for politics and policy and for asking the political leaders the tough questions. But these days, many people have tough questions for our leaders in Washington, or one in particular, and that is, why can't the two political parties in Washington work together? Why can't they get anything done?
While the GOP autopsy on the 2012 election talks explicitly about reaching out to women and minorities to expand the party, it does not get into detail about its Iowa problem. Specifically, the state GOP that begins the presidential nominating season is dominated by religious conservatives most resistant to a broader, more inclusive party message.
In these dog days of summer, a ceiling fan still offers an inexpensive way to cool down - except maybe in the nation's capital, Washington, D.C., where a partisan battle is heating up over efficiency standards proposed by the Obama administration. The Energy Department is in the early stages of crafting new rules to encourage the spread of ceiling fans that use less electricity, but House Republicans want to put that idea on ice. NPR's Scott Horsley reports.
Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand speaks to reporters Tuesday. With her Sens. Rand Paul, R-Ky., Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., Ted Cruz, R-Texas, Barbara Boxer, D-Calif. and Mazie Hirono, D-Hawaii, all of whom have endorsed her bill on military sexual assault.
Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., is fighting for her bill to curb sexual assaults in the military. Her measure would give independent military prosecutors, rather than commanders, the power to decide which cases should be tried in military court.
Military leaders fiercely oppose moving that authority outside the chain of command, arguing that commanders are responsible for the health and welfare of their soldiers. Removing their authority would undermine their ability to lead, they say.
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's ruling coalition has won a decisive election victory, extending its control to the upper house of parliament and setting the stage for the country's first stable government in years.
Based on exit polls, national broadcaster NHK predicts that Abe's Liberal Democratic Party and its coalition partner, New Komeito, will take 71 seats, giving them a total of 130 seats, eight more than needed for a majority in the chamber.
Another American who listened intently to President Obama's remarks Friday was linguist and commentator John McWhorter. He's written several books about race in America, including "Authentically Black: Essays for the Black Silent Majority." McWhorter says Mr. Obama's emphasis on the police and criminal justice hit an essential problem of black inequality in America.
As soon as he made his remarks on race Friday, President Obama was part of an intense conversation around the nation.
In dozens of cities across the country on Saturday, protesters held coordinated rallies and vigils over the not-guilty verdict in the shooting death of unarmed 17-year-old Trayvon Martin in Sanford, Fla. Many African-Americans insist that understanding the context for black distress over the Zimmerman verdict is key to honest discussions about race.
On Friday, President Obama spoke from the White House press briefing room about how George Zimmerman's acquittal is being seen through the lens of the African-American experience. Host Jacki Lyden speaks with James Fallows of The Atlantic about how unusual that moment was for a sitting U.S. president.
Since the acquittal of George Zimmerman on July 13 for the murder of Trayvon Martin, protesters around the country have been chanting, "No justice no peace," and carrying signs that say, "I am Trayvon Martin." On Friday, the president made a surprise appearance in the White House press briefing room and said Trayvon could have been him 35 years ago.
Former Detroit Mayor Dennis Archer, right, and former Gov. John Engler shake hands with Marian and Mike Ilitch during groundbreaking ceremonies at the site of the new Tigers stadium in Oct. 1997. At the time, Archer and Detroit were basking in favorable news coverage.
Detroit was supposed to be a showplace of the urban renaissance.
A little more than a decade ago, Detroit was widely touted as one of the great comeback stories in the country. It was a common theme in the mid-to-late-1990s, with a generation of successful mayors leading their cities back from the brink — which, in cases such as New York, Philadelphia and Cleveland, included near-collapses into bankruptcy.
Martin Van Buren, the eighth president of the United States.
President Ulysses S. Grant, former Civil War general.
An undated portrait by Mathew Brady of Rutherford B. Hayes, 19th president of the United States.
Credit Mathew Brady / AP
Arlen Specter, then a Republican member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, questions witnesses in a 1991 hearing on Anita Hill's allegations that Clarence Thomas sexually harassed her. Specter's handling of his questioning of Hill outraged many women.
Credit John Duricka / AP
President Bill Clinton, with Vice President Al Gore and Hillary Clinton, is applauded outside the Oval Office after the House of Representatives voted to impeach him, in 1998.
The race for governor in Virginia is attracting national attention for several reasons. It pits a former Democratic National Committee chairman against a conservative attorney general who helped lead the charge against President Obama's health care law. It's also one of the few high-profile statewide races happening this year, which means it will be closely watched for insights into the national mood ahead of the congressional midterm elections of 2014.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., speaks Tuesday on Capitol Hill. After a compromise, Reid stepped back from a threat to strip the Senate GOP minority of its right to filibuster executive branch nominees.
It was the eve of a series of votes to end GOP filibusters of seven presidential appointees, and Democrats had vowed they would resort to the "nuclear option" and get rid of such filibusters altogether should any of those stalled nominees remain blocked.
All but two of the Senate's 100 members squeezed into the camera-free old chamber that the Senate used until just before the Civil War. Behind closed doors, they talked for more than three hours.
I buttonholed West Virginia Democrat Jay Rockefeller as he stepped out of that Monday night meeting.
The days are few and far between when President Obama has intentionally reminded us that he is the first African-American president.
Friday was one.
The president did something no other holder of his office has ever had the life experience to do: He used the bully pulpit to, as an African-American, explain black America to white America in the wake of last week's acquittal of George Zimmerman in the shooting death of unarmed teenager Trayvon Martin.
And it's with the president's comments that we begin our conversation with our Friday political commentators, E.J. Dionne of the Washington Post and David Brooks of the New York Times. Good to see you both again.
President Obama gave an unexpected news conference Friday. He spoke for nearly 17 minutes about law enforcement, race and the African-American experience in the U.S. Audie Cornish speaks with Angelo Henderson, who speaks about things like that ever day as host of Your Voice with Angelo Henderson, a daily program on Radio One Detroit.