Live Coverage of the Washington Ideas Forum, Day 1

Notes, quotes, and big thoughts from newsmakers 
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Walter Isaacson and Susan Rice at the 2013 Washington Ideas Forum (The Atlantic)

Welcome to live coverage of the Washington Ideas Forum, presented by The Atlantic, the Aspen Institute, and the Newseum. We'll have live updates on all the speakers at the Newseum in Washington throughout the day right here, so stay with us or check back frequently. This page will automatically refresh with updates. You can also watch the events here.

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6:01 p.m. That's a wrap, folks! We'll be back tomorrow morning around 8:40 for the second day of the Washington Ideas Forum. See you then.

6 p.m. Stein: I frequently hear from young scientists who say they're giving up on the field. Are you worried about brain drain out of the field? Collins: This is maybe the most important question facing my field. He says many native-born American scientists in surveys have said they're considering leaving the U.S. for other countries with better research prospects. Even if you don't notice when you go to your doctor today, he says, you will in 10 years.

5:58 p.m. Stein: What is the future of medical-marijuana-research funding? Collins: NIH has studied drugs for some time, and it has tried to provide real evidence about benefits and risks of marijuana in both medical and non-medical situations. We're in that space, but we're not trying to make a political or moral judgment. Stein: Are you concerned about states legalizing in small doses? Collins refuses to take a stand.

5:56 p.m Stein: You're famously religious. Has your opinion on human cloning evolved? Collins: I think we simply should not do human reproductive cloning. There's not good reason, and there's no way to tell it's safe.

5:54 p.m. Stein: Obama rescinded research bans on stem cells. What sort of progress has that created? Collins: There's been a lot. But the realization that you can derive stem cells from any cells, not just fetuses, was an even bigger deal.

5:51 p.m. Collins: All three Nobel Prize winners this year were NIH-funded; all three said they weren't sure they could have gotten funding for their prize-winning projects in the current climate.

5:48 p.m. Stein: The U.S. still spends an incredible amount on health research. Why is this so bad? Collins says the U.S. is losing ground not only on per capita spending but even in absolute dollars—China will soon pass the U.S. by that measure too. He says other countries see American successes of the past as a model and are baffled by why we would be cutting.

5:47 p.m. Collins says fiscal year 2013 is the worst in NIH history: 640 research grants had to be killed because of the sequester—projects in cancer, infectious diseases, chronic diseases, rare diseases, etc.

5:45 p.m. Now up: Dr. Francis Collins, head of the National Institutes of Health, with the Huffington Post's Sam Stein.

5:43 p.m. Robinson: Paint me a picture of the ideal, transformed health-care system. Emanuel: First, more people will be in the exchanges, with fewer and fewer people getting employer-based insurance. Second, more and more health care will come from clinics and not from hospitals and physicians offices—it will be far more convenient. Third, there will be more "VIP care" focused on patients with chronic illnesses. They're the folks who use the system most and cost the most. The greater attention on them will help save money by preventing them from getting sick.

5:40 p.m. Robinson is asking Emanuel some pretty technical questions, but it's not clear he's in any position to answer them. But he says it doesn't matter yet whether insurance companies are getting data from the exchange website—that only takes weeks.

5:37 p.m. Robinson asks about the push by some Democrats to keep existing plans. Emanuel: No one forced any insurance company to cancel a plan. The insurance companies are canceling plans—and before Obamacare they changed plans, killed plans, excluded coverage, too. It's easy for them to blame Obamacare. "I believe we kept the president's promise because we grandfathered every plan." The blame goes to the insurance companies, not the law or the administration. Many people disagree, but "if the website were working, this would be a tempest in a teapot." And Emanuel is very skeptical of plans to keep all the old plans. He mocks Republicans for pretending to protect patients by going back to the old system.

5:36 p.m. Emanuel: This law is going to be a good thing in the long run.

5:35 p.m. Robinson: How far does this set Obamacare back from its final goal? Emanuel: Assuming the website gets fixed, people are going to shop at the last minute. He says it's very difficult to extrapolate from the early numbers, and it's absolutely possible to get to the 7 million new insured goal.

5:31 p.m. Emanuel: The ACA is the law, so the big thing is getting the exchanges running adequately in the next few weeks, then ironing things out over time. Jeff Zients is great, but he's temporary—there needs to be a permanent chief.

5:29 p.m. Robinson: "What the hell happened?" Emanuel pleads ignorance. He says what the law needed was a great CEO who understood health insurance and enough of the IT to make it work. That was key, but no one got appointed to do it. Giving care of the law to CMS was a mistake.

5:28 p.m. Now up: Ezekiel Emanuel of the University of Pennsylvania, former White House health-policy adviser, with Eugene Robinson of the Washington Post. Get ready for some more Obamacare discussion!

5:27 p.m. Manchin: "If we don't fix the finances of this country, you can forget about everything else."

5:26 p.m. Manchin: All Obama needs to do is apologize and say he wanted to fix things, and he's working on it.

5:22 p.m. Wagner: What's your proudest moment in Congress? Manchin points to the FDA cracking down on prescription painkillers, which are a serious problem in West Virginia. Hoeven says he's proud of work to help veterans getting work.

5:21 p.m. Manchin says a group of former governors in Congress has just formed a caucus—he clearly misses being in a statehouse where he's the executive, and he thinks that group could make a difference.

5:20 p.m. Hoeven: "If one party or the other tries to do something unilaterally, I don't think it's going to command the support of the American people it needs to succeed." He says the House, Senate, and administration must join on deficit reform. "The president needs to lead."

5:18 p.m. Wagner talks about fury among red-state Democrats at the Obama Administration over the botched Obamacare rollout. Should the administration be doing more for the party, she asks? Manchin says it's our president, regardless of party, and he wants the president to do well. "The president has said some things I'm sure he wishes he hadn't said." He said working with Mary Landrieu to help people keep insurance has nothing to do with opposing Obama—it's about helping people. Wagner pushes Manchin: Health wonks have suggested that letting people keep coverage will break the exchanges irrevocably. Manchin's answer is a bit gauzy, a mix of platitudes about pragmatism.

5:14 p.m. Wagner suggests Hoeven doesn't have "the zeal to repeal." Hoeven insists, no, we all share the same goal—it's a difference of tactics. 

5:12 p.m. Manchin says too often Washington doesn't understand the way state governments work. "I'm not worried about the website glitch. That's mechanical. They've got a product problem." He sees a one-year delay as a way to make sure people aren't paying higher premiums.

5:10 p.m. Wagner points out that Republicans used to request that Obamacare be repealed and replaced, but there's not really a clear GOP replacement. She asks if there's any movement on that. Hoeven: This really is a law that doesn't work because it takes us to government-run health care (it's not clear what he means here, since Obamacare gets people to buy insurance). Wagner presses: What's the alternative? Hoeven delivers a familiar laundry list of disparate policies: tort reform, insurance that crosses state lines, state high-risk health-care pools, though nothing that looks like a comprehensive reform package.

5:06 p.m. Manchin notes some people want to fully repeal the law. But he rejects that approach: "I just think we can do better as a nation that people being one illness away from being bankrupt." He doesn't want to delay the law, but wants to forestall any fines for not having coverage. (And Hoeven arrives.)

5:04 p.m. Now up: Bresch's father Joe Manchin, senator from West Virginia with Alex Wagner of MSNBC. North Dakota Senator John Hoeven, a Republican, is expected but running a bit late.

5:03 p.m. Clemons: As a female executive, do you think women can have it all? Bresch says men can't have it all, either, but they're not concerned about having it all. The question isn't really that gendered, she says.

5:01 p.m. Clemons asks Bresch is she supports Obamacare. She hems and haws but ultimately sidesteps the question, saying she knows surprisingly little about her own personal care, despite working in pharma. It's unclear what exactly she thinks ought to be done to reform the market for individuals.

5 p.m. Bresch complains that in Europe, domestic companies get a free pass but U.S. companies have overly strict scrutiny. In the U.S., everyone faces strict scrutiny. That's not a level playing field, she says.

4:58 p.m. Bresch: Average CEO tenure is two years; Wall Street wants immediate profits. But tax reform may bring slightly worse taxes in the short term for many companies, even if the long-term result is better. That creates a barrier.

4:57 p.m. Clemons: You can't find anyone who opposes having competitive corporate tax rates; the trick is the tradeoffs. Why can't CEOs, this powerful group, organize to solve this? Bresch seems taken aback by the question. She says it's about the approach, not the end solution. And thanks to various carveouts over the decades, every company has a different tax rate, she says.

4:54 p.m. Bresch says companies like Mylan aren't looking for a protectionist regime—they just want a level playing field with the rest of the world.

4:51 p.m. Bresch: U.S. regulatory agencies aren't prepared for a global market—they can't provide adequate inspections.

4:48 p.m. Clemons points out that Bresch is actually Senator Joe Manchin's daughter. The West Virginia Democrat is up next on the schedule.

4:47 p.m. Now up: Heather Bresch, CEO of the pharmaceutical company Mylan, with Steve Clemons of The Atlantic.

4:46 p.m. McAfee: "The geeks shall inherit the earth."

4:43 p.m. McAfee: There are three stages of riding in an automatic car: First, abject terror (you're in a car that's driving itself!); then, passionate interest (you're in a car that's driving itself!); and finally ennui (you're in a car that's driving itself.).

4:40 p.m. McAfee says if he had to choose between a human medical diagnostician and Watson, he'd choose Watson—in the same way that if he had to win a chess game, he'd want a computer and not Garry Kasparov on his side.

4:38 p.m. McAfee: What's new today is that automation is reaching even high-skill occupations and tasks.

4:35 p.m. McAfee: There are two tectonic forces reshaping economies around the world: globalization and automation. It's unclear which is bigger, but he says "offshoring is really just a waystation on the road to automation."

4:34 p.m. But McAfee says perhaps he's not giving enough credit to new tech and isn't seeing the ways they'll drive employment in the longer term.

4:34 p.m. McAfee: There have been panics about technology since the industrial revolution, from the Luddites 200 years ago to Marx. Time and again, we've seen that new industries create a demand for labor, people go back to work, and everyone benefits. The question is whether that pattern still holds—and there's evidence there might be a new pattern. For the first time, machines can do things like write clean prose and win Jeopardy.

4:31 p.m. Now up: Andrew McAfee, principal research scientist at MIT, with Matt Cooper of National Journal, talking about robots.

4:30 p.m. Karl asks Klobuchar about a letter Senate Democratic women signed asking Hillary Clinton to run. "How hard was it getting Elizabeth Warren to sign?" Karl jokes, referring to rumors the Massachusetts senator might run against Clinton.

4:30 p.m. Collins: Women span the ideological spectrum, just like men do. But the women in the Senate are more likely to collaborate, to find common ground even when they disagree.

4:27 p.m. Karl: Why are women able to make more progress? Are more of you moderate? Klobuchar says it's a trust issue: They know each other and understand where they can find common ground. But she also cracks that women "can't get elected by walking around in a flight suit." Klobuchar says she modeled herself on Janet Napolitano during her first run. 

4:21 p.m. Karl is presenting the idea that female senators coming together was what helped to bring the government shutdown to an end (although it's worth noting that it was Mitch McConnell who ultimately delivered a deal).

4:18 p.m. Klobuchar: To pull back on exchanges now, when folks are just starting to get insurance, is a bad idea. We need to work together to improve the bill, not just try to repeal it. Collins says, well, we should have been bipartisan in the first place. Now the two senators are blaming each other's side for not reaching out when the bill was in process.

4:17 p.m. Collins complains that Obamacare does too little to bring down the cost of health care.

4:16 p.m. Karl asks Klobuchar if she'll join with Mary Landrieu and other Dems trying to let people keep insurance. Klobuchar says she continues to oppose the medical device tax (Medtronic is in her state), but she praises the parts of the law that let people with preexisting conditions get insurance and let kids stay on parents' insurance until they're 26.

4:14 p.m. Collins, naturally, takes the chance to disagree. "I think we're going to find that the problems with the website are the least of the problems with the Affordable Care Act."

4:13 p.m. Karl asks Klobuchar how worried she is about the Obamacare numbers that just came out. Klobuchar, a Minnesota Democrat, dutifully says it's not acceptable while defending the law and the president.

4:12 p.m. Next up: Senators Susan Collins and Amy Klobuchar, chatting with ABC's Jon Karl.

4 p.m. Brooks: Too much spirituality is hidden from view: People attend to matters of religion, but you don't know unless you get to know them well. They tend to handle it very privately.

3:59 p.m. Brooks describes "a charity model based on the Ivy League admissions process: You choose the stars and raise them up." But he says that fails the test of pretty much every major religion.

3:58 p.m. Brooks is sounding a warning against upper-middle-class exclusivity, where high-minded and well-intentioned people get together and talk only to each other. It's a message that seems to cut awfully close to home for this audience. He mocks the tendency of highly successful people to talk about the importance of failing.

3:55 p.m. Brooks is riffing on the dangers of thinking too strategically about your life. He notes a sociologist who asked college students when they last faced a moral dilemma; many couldn't identify one. They simply don't have the vocabulary for it.

3:51 p.m. Now up: David Brooks. He's going to talk about souls—but quips "I can't even see your faces, let alone your souls."

3:50 p.m. Kennicott: Who or what should the next Smithsonian director be? Cuno says there are three crucial criteria: First, the character of the person; second, experience administrating a large organization; third, a curiosity about the world.

3:47 p.m. Are museums to blame for encouraging black markets in antiquities? Cuno: "Looting is a very complicated thing." Not acquiring antiquities won't discourage looting, he says—looters aren't choosing between being a looter and a lawyer. The universe of circumstances that encourage looting are way outside the museum system, and the best museums can do is to determine the provenance as carefully possible.

3:41 p.m. Cuno: Museums are serious about determining provenance of artwork because they don't want to be burned and have to return a piece that turns out to have been wrongly acquired.

3:36 p.m. Kennicott asks about the recent discovery of a trove of art in Munich, apparently confiscated or sold under duress during the Nazi era. Both men are somewhat perplexed at how secret the German government has kept on the seizure, and say it's out of character with typical German handling of stolen-art issues.

3:35 p.m. Next up: James Cuno, president of the Getty Trust, and Washington Post architecture critic Philip Kennicott.

3:32 p.m. Harwood: Will Republican donors take Paul seriously? Todd thinks it's an uphill battle.

3:31 p.m. Todd says Ted Cruz is "on a Palin track" to burn out; Rand Paul seems to be more built for the long haul. But while Todd thinks Paul could win the nomination, Harwood is skeptical. Cook is somewhat bullish on Paul, too.

3:30 p.m. Todd: Jeb Bush is more serious about running than people think; he can only win against a Clinton; and he has a better chance than Chris Christie to win the White House.

3:27 p.m. Is Hillary a slam dunk for the Democratic nomination? Cook says it's 2:1 she runs, and if she runs she's the likely nomination. If Hillary doesn't run, "I don't see how [Biden] could make himself not run," Cook quips.

3:23 p.m. Cook: Millennials aren't anti-government like conservatives or pro-government like liberals. But looking at recent administrations they've seen ineffective government, which has made them skeptical of government.

3:21 p.m. Todd: I don't understand why Republicans haven't just introduced Obama's budget. They could split the Democrats that way.

3:20 p.m. Charlie Cook says Republicans must do immigration reform. End of story.

3:18 p.m. Todd on third parties: "The public wants it. That we know." But it's not new that folks don't like the major parties. If there's such an appetite for third parties, why was Americans Elect such a flop in 2012?

3:14 p.m. Charlie Cook throws cold water on the idea that any third-party candidate can win a presidential election: Even if they won a plurality of votes, it would go to the Democrat-and-Republican dominated House. Independent reformers should run for the House and Senate, he says.

3:12 p.m. Todd: "Americans are angry that Republicans don't want to govern and Democrats don't know how to govern." He sounds a note of caution about panic: Just weeks ago, the shutdown was doom for the GOP; now pundits say Obamacare is doom for Democrats.

3:11 p.m. Cook: The GOP has a lock on the House majority for quite some time. But if they want to win anything else, it's going to have to make some major changes.

3:10 p.m. Cook points out that states like North Carolina, Colorado, and Virginia have largely swung left because of transplants from elsewhere to suburban areas. He repeats a joke about the Raleigh suburb of Cary standing for "Containment Area for Relocated Yankees."

3:08 p.m. Todd: "If I were the Republican Party, I wouldn't be worried about Virginia or Florida, I'd be just living in Colorado." There's no big black population; if you can solve the GOP problem with upper-income white suburban voters there, you can solve it elsewhere.

3:05 p.m. Cook: "If you told me five years ago that Mitt Romney would win the independent vote by 5 percentage point, I would have guessed he'd win the election." The problem for Republicans is that there are simply more Democrats now. Plus, he adds, "independents" aren't moderates.

3:04 p.m. The consensus on stage from all three right is very clear: Nothing is permanent, but it sure looks like the GOP is generally in bad shape for the foreseeable future.

3:03 p.m. Todd: "To me what was interesting about Virginia governor was it essentially played out like a federal election." He talks about his Northern Virginia neighbors rejecting Cuccinnelli because of his stands on social issues.

3 p.m. Harwood says coming out of the 2012 election, it looks like Democrats have a demographic advantage. Is that true? Cook says if the GOP doesn't fix its problems with women, young voters, and minorities, that's true. The business model is unsustainable.

2:58 p.m. Next up: Charlie Cook of National Journal and the Cook Political Report, NBC's Chuck Todd (due to arrive late), and John Harwood of The New York Times.

2:56 p.m. It's amazing that Grover Norquist, the bombthrower of yore (meaning, say, a year ago), is now sitting on stage as the epitome of the Republican establishment. Clemons is asking him how to save the soul and core of the GOP!

2:54 p.m. Norquist's 2016 A-list: Scott Walker, Chris Christie, Jeb Bush, Rick Perry, Bobby Jindal (he refuses to pin his allegiance to any, saying he's cheerfully agnostic as long as they all oppose tax increases). He says senators are weaker candidates than governors, but praises Rand Paul and Marco Rubio. He mentions Cruz, though tepidly.

2:51 p.m. Norquist implicitly admits no GOP candidate for 2016 looks like a Reagan. But he says the good news is they're all running as Reagan Republicans. In 2012, only Romney, Perry, and Pawlenty were serious candidates, Norquist says; Pawlenty dropped out after losing Iowa because he was a serious candidate, but the others didn't because they were never serious. The upcoming crop looks much more serious, he says.

2:50 p.m. Norquist's offer: The Republicans will "loosen the choke collar" of sequestration in exchange for trillions in cuts to entitlements but no revenues Phrased that way, it sure makes the White House's tentative backdown from revenue demands look like complete surrender.

2:48 p.m. Clemons points out that no one is talking about Norquist's tax pledge these days, and implies that maybe Cruz has overshadowed him. Norquist says this what winning looks like: Even the liberal Ezra Klein isn't talking about raising taxes anymore! (Of course, that's not quite true: Most Democrats still say new revenues are essential to any big spending deal.)

2:46 p.m. Norquist is asked about recent comments saying it's fine to tax marijuana. He says that's true, but that it should be (1) a sales tax and (2) once it's in place, it ought not to be increased.

2:45 p.m. Earlier today, OMB chief Sylvia Mathews Burwell said Republicans broadly agree with Democrats that sequestration is a bad way to cut the budget. Just now, Norquist said there's a unified GOP strategy to keep sequestration in place. Somebody's wrong!

2:45 p.m. Norquist says the shutdown "may have" cost the GOP the Virginia governor's race.

2:43 p.m. Norquist says it was always a pipe dream that Obama would sign away Obamacare. "It wasn't a bad strategy—it wasn't a strategy."

2:40 p.m. Clemons asks Norquist about his comments slamming Ted Cruz and the "defund" movement that shut the government down for two weeks. Norquist complained that Cruz and Co. had done nothing to advance the cause of smaller government. Norquist: There was a GOP strategy going into the continuing-resolution debate to try to get budget cuts. "Instead, some people jumped up, and Ted Cruz got most of the attention." He likens it to "We're going to invade Iraq, and it will turn into Kansas .... It didn't take into account that the other team gets to move as well."

2:39 p.m. Norquist, who not long ago won a Washington comedy contest,  is telling jokes. I can't do them justice—you'll have to check the video.

2:37 p.m. Up next: Grover Norquist chats with The Atlantic's Steve Clemons.

2:35 p.m. Silicon Valley is often seen as a bastion of libertarianism, but interestingly, Kalanick says he wishes there was more federal involvement in his sector: The patchwork of local regulations makes it harder for Uber to expand quickly across the country.

2:34 p.m. Fallows: What disruption do you most fear? "I'm not going to tell you."

2:30 p.m. What Uber is doing is more about logistics than about transportation, Kalanick says. "Once you're delivering cars in five minutes, there's a lot of things you can deliver in five minutes." He notes that Uber has been delivering on-demand roses on Valentine's Day for a couple years.

2:29 p.m. Kalanick is presenting Uber as essentially the same as any other disrupting technology: They found an ossified sector and have shaken it up. "Uber's model is not 'Let's mess with city governments.'" It's more about improving lifestyle.

2:27 p.m. Fallows suggests Uber has been more politically adept than many startups. Kalanick begs ignorance and naivete. It seems like it's mostly a product of necessity.

2:25 p.m. Fallows, an Uber fan, says Uber seems to be a proxy battle for class warfare: It's seen as a yuppie indulgence. Kalanick says it's true that it starts out with the upper classes, but tends to then spread out. He also says drivers make more from each fare than with cabs, and helps to create a wider and cheaper range of transportation options.

2:23 p.m. Kalanick says D.C. was the first place where Uber encountered staunch local resistance. When the city tried to block Ubers by setting rates high, he turned to customers and used social media to get riders to flood the D.C. cab commission with response. In response, regulators pulled back and let Uber be.

2:21 p.m. Kalanick on Uber's occasional battles with local authorities over licensing: "Phoenix is awesome. D.C. is a real pain in my butt .... There's been protectionism ingrained in cities that has really limited people's choice."

2:20 p.m. Now up: Travis Kalanick, founder of Uber, with The Atlantic's James Fallows.

2:16 p.m. Landrieu says state government isn't yet doing enough for New Orleans.

2:14 p.m. Landrieu isn't saying it this way, but he's delivering an implicit rebuke to Washington and boosting the role of mayors as folks doing real work on the ground: "As Washington has the macro discussion about job creation, Mitch Landrieu is taking the kid" and connecting him with employers."

2:09 p.m. Landrieu: "We don't have to have a historical fight about whose fault it is." I'd be curious to hear my colleague Ta-Nehisi Coates' thoughts on this.

2:06 p.m. Landrieu: "People call these young men thugs. But they weren't born thugs."

2:04 p.m. Finney: How did you stop the shooting? Landrieu: We didn't yet. Federal funding is down; he criticizes the federal government for being too focused on terrorism since 9/11 and not focused enough on bread-and-butter law-enforcement issues.

2:02 p.m. Landrieu: "It's not OK for young African American men to be killed at this rate. Not many people have said that." He says the first thing to do is stop the shooting, not ask why it happened.

2 p.m. Landrieu: On the ground, we're not talking about whether we should ban assault weapons and so on. It's about the cultural fabric.

1:59 p.m. Landrieu: "There is a theory that the U.S.A. cannot be strong overseas if it's not strong at home. There's a lot of truth to that."

1:57 p.m. Now up: New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu, with MSNBC's Karen Finney.

1:55 p.m. Rice: "It was the credible threat of force" that forced the Russian to force the Syrians to the negotiating table over chemical weapons.

1:54 p.m. Isaacson: "Are we more aligned or more apart on Syria with Russia?" Rice: "Both, frankly."

1:53 p.m. Isaacson is skeptical that the Russians will back a negotiated settlement in Syria. Rice says they're agreed in principle, but they are in no hurry.

1:52 p.m. Isaacson finally turns to Syria. (Remember that?) There's not much going on new here, but Rice says negotiation is still the best way to end the civil war, saying it's essential to keep the institutions of the state in place but that Bashar al-Assad must leave.

1:49 p.m. Rice says negotiations on a two-state solution are "progressing," but acknowledges there have been "bumps." She says there have been disagreements between the U.S. and Israel for decades over settlements, and she calls the illegitimate and a barrier to peace. She says, unconvincingly, that the U.S.-Israel relationship is stronger than it's ever been.

1:47 p.m. "Our relationship with Egypt goes far beyond" military aid, Rice says.

1:46 p.m. This is fast turning into Susan Rice Scolds U.S. Allies: Israel, France, Saudi Arabia, and now Egypt.

1:45 p.m. Rice acknowledges that the Americans and Saudis have had some recent disagreements, particularly on Egypt and Iran, recently. But she says the relationship remains strong.

1:44 p.m. Isaacson tries to pin Rice down on Netanyahu's objections, and she dodges, saying everyone wants to prevent an Iranian nuke, and saying that a peaceful solution is what the American people "and the people of the region" want. 

1:43 p.m. Contra widespread reports, Rice says there's the France and the U.S. are in sync on Iranian negotiations. "The French are fully on board," she says, and says Obama spoke with Francois Hollande today.

1:42 p.m. Rice takes a swipe at Benjamin Netanyahu, saying any criticism of the deal is premature, since it's not final and agreed to yet. She also insists the U.S. won't be rolled and that America will be prepared, and better situated, to ratchet up sanctions if the deal fails.

1:39 p.m. Isaacson loses patience with Rice's meandering answer. "So what happened last week?" Rice says that there's a real, finished offer on the table but the Iranians won't take it, and she still hopes they will. But she won't say what exactly they don't like. Deal is in two phases: First, a six-month halt and partial rollback of the Iranian nuclear program with "unprecedented transparency"; in exchange, there would limited, temporary, and reversible economic relief, leaving sanctions mechanism in place. The goal is to prevent the Iranians from stalling while they get closer. Second will be the comprehensive solution. She says the Iranians haven't agreed to either part yet.

1:36 p.m. Isaacson: What happens next with Iran? Rice says the approach is the same: preventing Iran from getting nuclear weapons, but to do so through diplomacy. She trumpets the current sanctions regime as the toughest ever.

1:31 p.m. Welcome back! Susan Rice is about to go on with Walter Isaacson of the Aspen Institute.

12:32 p.m. That discussion is a nice segue into lunch. We're going to take a break and we'll be back around 1:25 p.m. for the afternoon session—starting off with National Security Adviser Susan Rice. See you then!

12:31 p.m. Between Kass and Tom Vilsack, the idea that a great deal of every SNAP dollar ends up going back to farmers is shaping up as a major Obama Administration talking point on the Farm Bill. That provides a justification for tying SNAP to farm subsidies, and for keeping SNAP funding.

12:29 p.m. Kass blasts the House GOP's proposal to cut SNAP benefits. "As a proud American, I think it is unpatriotic ... to try to balance the budget on the backs of people who can barely put food on the table. SNAP is an investment in our productivity, it is a health program."

12:25 p.m. Kass on why changing to healthier food is tough: "These are deep, culturally complicated issues. We define who we are by what we consume."

12:23 p.m. Kummer asks about the new trans-fat ban. Kass: "This is one of those stories where industry deserves a lot of credit" for reformulating recipes.

12:21 p.m. Kummer: What about the gender divide? Do we need to make sure men see cooking as a socially acceptable task? Kass, a trained chef, says there are really only a few crucial skills, and once you get those, you can cook anything.

12:19 p.m. Kummer: What about parents? It's good to get kids to pick healthy options, but parents need to know how to cook healthier foods, too. Kass agrees, and says that's a crucial area of focus and a "tool of empowerment." He notes that the same food is much cheaper when bought as raw ingredients and cooked than when bought ready-to-eat.

12:17 p.m. Kass: "Most Americans are being exposed to an incredible amount of marketing for beverages that are not healthy for them."

12:15 p.m. Kass says young children can't be seen as marketing opportunities for junk food. Let's Move is working with (and, one senses, putting pressure on) industry to get that message across.

12:13 p.m. Kummer: What is Let's Move doing these days? Kass says there are real shifts that are empirically detectable. Fruit and veggie consumption went up 6 percent last year, despite continued economic drag. Consumption of water is up, while high-calorie beverages are down. Obesity among preschoolers in the WIC population are down or flatlined in many circles. Kummer: This was huge news in public-health circles, but hasn't filtered out to the general public.

12:11 p.m. Next up: Sam Kass, executive director of Let's Move and senior White House policy adviser for nutrition policy, with The Atlantic's Corby Kummer.

12:08 p.m. "I think Pope Francis actually has the greatest effect on non-Catholics."

12:06 p.m. Dickerson asks Jenkins what he makes of Pope Francis. "I think his style ... it's a powerful message in itself. It's not manufactured. It's who he is, it's what he does." He says Francis clearly wants to engage Catholics, especially lay Catholics, in a discussion about the Gospel.

12:04 p.m. Dickerson: What is students' view of the world? Jenkins says their perspective is more international, but they're nervous.

12:02 p.m. Jenkins: "My greatest fear is that education becomes just another commodity."

12 p.m. Jenkins: "Don't think you can get rid of traditional campuses with the digital." He says education is "so much more" than just collecting information—it's about environment, maturation, relationships. But of course Jenkins is here speaking to a highly educated audience and coming from an elite institution—how this affects the broader educational landscape is a clearly different though connected question.

11:57 a.m. Jenkins is skeptical of Obama's plan for ranking colleges based on outcomes, saying government hasn't always excelled at transparency. Dickerson: "Was it a brushback pitch—'figure it out yourself, or else we will?'" Jenkins says he believe it is. While acknowledging the importance of value, he also suggests you get what you pay for. "Be careful of trying to get that on the cheap." Naturally, that skepticism extends to MOOCs.

11:56 a.m. Why is college expensive? "It's always been expensive .... People know that education is valuable." But he notes that half of Notre Dame students are on financial aid, often aid covering a great deal of the sticker price.

11:55 a.m. Jenkins: "I don't know if you can change things by pushing them. There's too much pushing now. What you need is space for reflection."

11:54 a.m. Dickerson starts off with a political question: Is government an impediment? An emergency new grads need to fix? What is it? Jenkins says there's a problem with the "quality of rhetoric, the quality of discussion" in the U.S. Universities need to help change that.

11:53 a.m. Now up: Father John Jenkins, the president of the University of Notre Dame, with Slate and CBS's John Dickerson.

11:50 a.m. Teller: "We're letting our children down by not helping get them to their full potential" despite best efforts of education system. But he says the bigger problem is that America is becoming less and less tolerant of the inventive spirit and "pioneer attitude" that created the country.

11:48 a.m. HS: Aren't terrorists and criminal networks moving faster than we are? Teller: Yes; they don't have to follow the rules. But we have the ability of being able to work out in the open and collaborate.

11:44 a.m. Teller: Small companies say only big companies can do moonshots; big companies say only startups can do that. Government says we can't take moonshots; we're out of money these days. Academics say they write and talk about moonshots, but we can't implement them. "Everybody's got a reason, but it actually isn't mainly about the money. It's about bravery and persistence."

11:41 a.m. HS: What have you learned from the Google Glass testers? Teller: "We have to find a way to interact with digital information in a way that makes us feel more human, not less human."

11:40 a.m. HS: You're very secretive and try to keep things under wraps. Why is that important? Teller: It's important to kill projects quickly. You try something, and if it doesn't work you move on. But once it's in the public sphere, people are attached and don't want to let things die for fear that they will look like failures. But Teller insists a project that's killed isn't failure.

11:39 a.m. Teller: It's important to get the rest of the world's 5 billion people online because the Internet has been shown to reduce poverty.

11:38 a.m. Teller says it's often easier to make something 10 times better than to make it 10 percent better. You've got to go big—just trying harder on the current path often lends itself to diminishing returns. That's the best way to get over existing assumptions.

11:36 a.m. Teller: "A time machine wouldn't count" as a moonshot, because there's no real path to fruition. (Sorry, sci-fi fans!)

11:35 a.m. Now up: Astro Teller, who oversees Google[x], the company's moonshot lab, with PBS's Hari Sreenivasan. HS's first question: "What's a moonshot?" Teller explains that he goes looking for problems the world has, then solving them, rather than fixing problems that are already identified.

11:32 a.m. Marcus: The Iowa caucus is sooner than people think. How does Iowa deal with a, say, Chris Christie candidacy, and will it become Clinton Country for the first time if Hillary runs? Vilsack: The Iowa GOP appears to be more conservative than it was four or eight years ago. That creates a challenge for Christie, but he could learn from Obama's 2008 campaign: Create the caucus you want, don't accept it as it is. If Clinton runs, he says plenty of Iowans would be excited to support her and she'd do well.

11:28 a.m. By the end of the year, if we don't have a farm bill, the USDA has to revert to old law. That will immediately send milk up to $5 to 6 per gallon, he predicts. And if we're really so concerned about "work," let's demand that states do better with the money they receive to put people to work. There are efficiencies to be found, but it's not going to be anywhere near $40 or even $20 billion.

11:27 a.m. Vilsack: People are already required to work when they're on SNAP. In a time of high unemployment, he says, it's silly to handcuff states and reduce their flexibility to waive certain requirements.

11:25 a.m. Marcus: Is it good that so many people are on food stamps? Vilsack says, in essence, of course not, but it's a product of the recession, not a culture that's indulgent of indolence or something. "It's about creating an economy where folks have better opportunities," and he says it's up to states to connect people with jobs, noting that they also run the SNAP programs.

11:23 a.m. Vilsack says the House farm bill, which has more stringent work requirements, will throw 2 to 3 million people who ought to be on SNAP off rolls, push them to food banks, and put a strain on emergency systems for feeding people.

11:21 a.m. "We take agriculture for granted, we assume people are always going to farm in this country. That's not the case." Vilsack says farm-safety programs is people get fixated on numbers and don't understand the risks. We need to get the right policy first and then move on to the number.

11:20 a.m. Vilsack: Without a farm bill, you'll never get a budget.

11:18 a.m. Vilsack: Most people don't know we've helped 744,000 folks get homes in the last year. They don't know what we do infrastructure.

11:18 a.m. Despite what you've heard, Vilsack sees the farm bill as a good place to revitalize bipartisanship. 

11:16 a.m. Now up: Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack with Ruth Marcus of the Washington Post. Her first question: Why should people care more about the Department of Agriculture? Ouch!

11:14 a.m. Rattner: You were here during the Clinton years. In light of all the handwringing about gridlock, is it really any worse than it was in the Clinton years? SMB: Well, sure: The magnitude of the problem is greater; just look at the size of the deficit. And she says the division among Republicans really does create serious problems. It's also scary that people would risk the nation's full faith and credit for political gain, she says.

11:12 a.m. Rattner cites Summers and asks whether we really need to cut the deficit in the short term or if we can just grow our way out of it. SMB says there's a lot of drag on the economy from political uncertainty as well as the sequester. "One has to keep ones eyes on long-term balls." She says Summers' fundamental point is we need to focus on growth, and she agrees.

11:11 a.m. SMB says that furloughs and sequestration will have more dire effects down the road as scientists flee away from essential government work due to uncertainty.

11:10 a.m. Rattner wants to see real examples of how the sequester is hurting the country; it's probably SMB's first softball. She starts off with government furloughs and 50,000 kids kicked off HeadStart; also cites readiness for national security and research funding from NSF and NIH.

11:07 a.m. SMB won't say whether she expects a big deal, a small deal, or no deal at all on the budget. "I probably would not have predicted a shutdown, to be honest." She's focused on creating the right environment for a deal—making principles clear ahead of negotiations, for example.

11:05 a.m. Rattner: Does any deal have to include new revenue? SMB gives a meandering answer that boils down to: We're willing to do some entitlement reforms, but we want some revenues and sequester unwinding in return.

11:03 a.m. Rattner is giving SMB no respite at all. Why should anyone believe Congress will actually pass a budget, he asks? She says the fact that the House and Senate are going to conference is a good sign. Plus she says both Democrats and Republicans think sequestration is a bad way to approach discretionary spending.

11:02 a.m. Rattner: Even if it works as planned, some people are going to pay more for insurance, right? SMB: I think that depends. SMB says you need to stop comparing premiums alone and look at them with deductibles, out-of-pockets, co-pays ... to say nothing of annual limits!

11:01 a.m. Watching SMB, we can get a good idea of the Obama Administration spin on Obamacare. Asked to answer on specifics and policy mechanics, she scopes out and tries to set the stakes broader: about the problem of uninsurance, and the failures of the status quo ante in health insurance.

11 a.m. Rattner wants to know if there's a real risk of an Obamacare "death spiral." Will the pools look right in two to three years? SMB says she's confident. 

10:58 a.m. Rattner goes right to Obamacare and Bill Clinton's statement that people should be allowed to keep their coverage. Mathews Burwell argues that Clinton was just agreeing with Obama's idea that administrative solutions ought to be found to fix cancellations. Rattner pins her down: No, Clinton wanted legislative fixes.

10:57 a.m. Up now: OMB Director Sylvia Mathews Burwell, with Steven Rattner.

10:55 a.m. Weingarten: Set aside the stakes; parents need to actually understand what the Common Core is actually about. Ryan says the problem with No Child Left Behind was that the accountability system became the an end rather than a means. He's worried that could happen again with Common Core.

10:54 a.m. Isaacson: When I was a kid, neighborhood schools was a codeword for segregation. Is it becoming that again? (Was it ever not?)

10:52 a.m. Weingarten is having none of this. Charter schools are just as un-diverse as neighborhood schools are becoming, thanks for neighborhood segregation, she says.

10:50 a.m. Ryan: To get good neighborhood schools, we need to show what's possible. Charter schools can help create those models.

10:48 a.m. Weingarten insists that the answer is reinforcing the public-school system. Isaacson argues that schools have become obstacles to social mobility; Weingarten disagrees, citing (though not by name) the Gatsby Curve: the idea that social mobility is being suffocated by income inequality. A decent educational shot can help to rectify that, she says. "Choice" has resulted in a bloodletting in the public schools, she says.

10:47 a.m. Ryan: The line between "public" and "private" is a little artificial. Is Scarsdale High School really public? He cites Warren Buffett's idea of a lottery for all students.

10:45 a.m. Ryan: If you believe in equity, supporting school choice is essential. But you also need racial and socioeconomic integration, too. I think I'm one of the few people in the nation who believes that. And given neighborhood segregation, school choice is one of the only ways to guarantee that sort of integration.

10:43 a.m. Ryan: Ed school should be a place for honest answers for what is and isn't working on the education-technology scene.

10:41 a.m. Ryan: HGSE should focus on training principals—there's a need for trained and skilled principals.

10:40 a.m. Isaacson: What percentage should graduate from HGSE and become teachers, and what should it be? Ryan: It's minuscule; I'd like to see it as high as possible. "I'd like to see all those who are interested be able to come to the ed school." That's a pretty vague response.

10:37 a.m. Ryan: One of the criticisms of TFA is that corps members don't stay in the classroom, but they do stay engaged in education issues. Weingarten: "I just want people to stay in teaching and have careers as teachers. Public schools should really be the center of communities again." It's essential that people treat it as a career, she says.

10:35 a.m. Ryan: As compared to Northern European countries, the U.S. doesn't tend to draw teachers from the top ranks of graduating students. Weingarten somewhat grudgingly lauds TFA for elevating the importance of teaching among young elites.

10:33 a.m. Isaacson: Cornell just eliminated education for undergrads. Weingarten is outraged. "We say we value education ..." but the actions don't bear that out. Isaacson: "Is it almost beneath the dignity of an Ivy League school to teach that?" Ryan (unsurprisingly) says it's not.

10:31 a.m. Isaacson points out that Ryan was a constitutional-law scholar before becoming Harvard's dean. What should ed schools do? Ryan says the Harvard ed-school hasn't focused enough on new teachers recently. There's a big demand for Harvard seniors to go into teaching, but they tend to have no outlet except for Teach for America. 

10:30 a.m.: Up next: Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, and James Ryan, dean of the Harvard Graduate School of Education (HGSE), with the Aspen Institute's Walter Isaacson.

10:29 a.m. Slaughter on the newfound interest in aiding women around the world to drive development: "Whenever you read 'women,' replace it with 'the majority of the population." So-called "women's issues" are not separate from the "real" work of foreign policy and development.

10:27 a.m. Slaughter jokes that her son was baffled that John Kerry could take over Foggy Bottom: "You mean a man can be secretary of state?"

10:25 a.m. There's a certain irony here: Slaughter came to her new fame writing about work-life balance, and now she's more noted for the "life" than the "work."

10:23 a.m. AMS: Life expectancy for 20-somethings is 86. If we continue to expect careers to peak in the early 50s, what are people going to do for the next 30 years? "Are they going to knit?" We need a much more flexible career trajectory. "Instead of a ladder, it's interval training."

10:21 a.m. AMS: Scandinavia has the most competitive economies in the world, and it also has the best infrastructure for care. That's not a coincidence.

10:17 a.m. AMS: We still need more equal distribution of women at the top, but we need to stop thinking of that as a women's issue.

10:15 a.m. Myers: Is there a "biology gap"? Are women drawn to home in a way men aren't? AMS: I used to think so, when I wrote the article, but I no longer feel that way. For me, the hard thing was not putting my name back "in" when I left the State Department, even though my party was in power, and to take a job at New America that allowed her a more robust home life. That's an even harder thing for men to do, because "the way we value men is entirely based on how much they own." It's not biology—the socialization is just so strong.

10:14 a.m. AMS: We need to understand not just that women can compete, but that men can care—and to make sure both can do that, we need culture change on the level of, say, anti-smoking efforts.

10:13 a.m. AMS: Many men feel, at the end of their lives, that they didn't have the right work-life balance—they impoverished their private lives—just as many women wish they'd had more fulfilling professional careers.

10:11 a.m. Slaughter seems chagrined that "Why Can't Women Have It All" seems to have overshadowed her work in foreign policy—now wherever she goes, it's what people want to talk about. 

10:10 a.m. Next up: Anne-Marie Slaughter, president and CEO of the New America Foundation and author of the July/August 2012 Atlantic cover story "Why Women Still Can't Have It All," with Dee Dee Myers, former White House press secretary.

10:08 a.m. Fallows: How do you negotiate and make the case for American viability against the background of the shutdown? Froman: It was a self-inflicted wound, but we kept negotiations going.

10:06 a.m. What legitimate gripes do other countries have about the U.S. in global trade? Froman won't take the bait: He praises low U.S. tariffs and low regulation.

10:03 a.m. Fallows: What has the U.S. learned from NAFTA and the WTO, and what do you say to the folks who say they were a disaster and TPP will be another? Froman: Sure, we've learned some lessons. The WTO has proven to be an important organization for, e.g., resolving trade disputes. But it's not perfect. Fallows: Is the world better off for having China inside the WTO tent? Froman: It's hard to argue the counterfactual, but if China continues on the path of market-oriented reforms, the answer will clearly be yes.

10:02 a.m. Froman: For the first time, environmental issues like animal trafficking are on the agenda for trade agreements.

10 a.m. Fallows: Everywhere around the world, income inequality is growing, the middle is under stress, and the environment is endangered. Is anyone able to address these pressures, through TPP or anything else? Froman seems to hedge—that's certainly the goal of current American trade policy. But perhaps unsurprisingly, it's tough for Froman or anyone else to say what the prospects are for that.

9:58 a.m.  "The question is, are we going to have access to the fastest-growing markets in the world for our products, American products? That's the choice we face." Will America set the standards, or will we cede the standard-setting to other countries? Froman says that's what the TPP is about.

9:56 a.m. China is the elephant in the TPP room: It's not included, and it's upset about it. But Froman insists TPP isn't a swipe at China—it's a parallel process. 

9:54 a.m. What does the U.S. want, and what will it get, out of trade agreements today? Froman: "These trade agreements ... paint a very bullish picture going forward." Once agreements are wrapped across the Pacific and Atlantic, we will have free trade with 65 to 70 percent of the world, which makes the U.S. the leading global platform for manufacturing—and consequently the world's leading exporter.

9:52 a.m. Fallows: Can the TPP really pass Congress? Froman: It can aid job creation in every district, so I'm hopeful there's space for bipartisan agreement here.

9:50 a.m. Fallows: Based on my inbox, the left and right both seem to be panicked about the Trans-Pacific Partnership. What's the deal? Froman: The point here is to have a 21st century trade partnership that deals with new issues like intellectual property. This is the end game, and it makes sense and is good that there's a debate going on ... but it doesn't exist yet! "Nothing is agreed to until everything is agreed to." 

9:40 a.m. Welcome! First up this morning is Michael Froman, the U.S. trade representative, in conversation with The Atlantic's James Fallows. 

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David A. Graham

David Graham is a senior associate editor at The Atlantic, where he oversees the Politics Channel. He previously reported for Newsweek, The Wall Street Journal, and The National.

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