Mara Liasson

Mara Liasson is the national political correspondent for NPR. Her reports can be heard regularly on NPR's award-winning newsmagazines All Things Considered and Morning Edition. Liasson provides extensive coverage of politics and policy from Washington, DC — focusing on the White House and Congress — and also reports on political trends beyond the Beltway.

Each election year, Liasson provides key coverage of the candidates and issues in both presidential and congressional races. During her tenure she has covered six presidential elections — in 1992, 1996, 2000, 2004, 2008, and 2012. Prior to her current assignment, Liasson was NPR's White House correspondent for all eight years of the Clinton administration. She has won the White House Correspondents Association's Merriman Smith Award for daily news coverage in 1994, 1995, and again in 1997. From 1989-1992 Liasson was NPR's congressional correspondent.

Liasson joined NPR in 1985 as a general assignment reporter and newscaster. From September 1988 to June 1989 she took a leave of absence from NPR to attend Columbia University in New York as a recipient of a Knight-Bagehot Fellowship in Economics and Business Journalism.

Prior to joining NPR, Liasson was a freelance radio and television reporter in San Francisco. She was also managing editor and anchor of California Edition, a California Public Radio nightly news program, and a print journalist for The Vineyard Gazette in Martha's Vineyard, Mass.

Liasson is a graduate of Brown University where she earned a bachelor's degree in American history.

Transcript

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

Now, for more on the president's speech, we're joined by NPR national political correspondent Mara Liasson. Hi, Mara.

MARA LIASSON, BYLINE: Hello, Audie.

CORNISH: So listening to Jay Carney just now, what do you think is the president's overriding goal tonight?

Tuesday night is the State of the Union Address — the biggest opportunity President Obama gets all year to speak to the American people about his priorities. There's also another speech that night — the GOP response. On Thursday, House Speaker John Boehner announced Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers from Washington State would deliver the official rebuttal.

It's not big enough to be called a shakeup, but the new hire announced this week at the White House is important: John Podesta will come on board in January as a counselor to the president.

Podesta is a Democratic wise man, the founder of the Center for American Progress, a policy and personnel incubator for Democratic administrations, and he just started a new think tank on income inequality — the problem President Obama says will animate his second term.

American politics is having a populist moment, with voters angry and frustrated with all big institutions in American life.

The backlash against big government found its expression on the right with the Tea Party. The tensions between that movement and the Republican establishment have been on full display.

Several states are trying to do something about so-called hyperpartisanship by changing the way congressional districts are drawn and the way elections are held.

Their goal: force members of Congress to pay more attention to general election voters than to their base voters on the right or left.

John Fortier, the director of the Democracy Project at the Bipartisan Policy Center, which is working on ways to make politics less dysfunctional, says U.S. political parties have become more polarized.

Here's an email that caught my eye Thursday. It's from Republican Bill McInturff, one of the best pollsters around and not someone known to hyperbolize. He was discussing the results of this month's NBC News/Wall Street Journal survey, which he conducts with Democrat Peter Hart.

Transcript

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

It's MORNING EDITION from NPR News. Good morning. I'm Renee Montagne.

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

And I'm Steve Inskeep. More hearings come today on the messy rollout of the Affordable Care Act. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius will face questions from the House, Energy and Commerce Committee. Now, yesterday, the head of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid testified before a different committee. Marilyn Tavenner offered consumers an apology for the problems at the health care.gov website.

On Thursday, President Obama met with Senate Democrats. Then he met with House Republicans. And White House staff members continued talks with their counterparts from the House GOP leadership. All that talking just a day after there was radio silence between the two parties. One strong possibility for the change in attitudes is a new NBC/Wall Street Journal poll that shows that the majority of Americans blame Republicans for the ongoing government shutdown and just 20 percent of people approve of the Republican party.

The standoff over the debt ceiling and the government shutdown showed signs of softening Thursday.

House Speaker John Boehner said he would bring a temporary hike in the debt ceiling to the House floor in exchange for negotiations on government spending and taxes. Democrats say if the House votes to raise the debt ceiling and reopen the government, they will negotiate.

Day two of the government shutdown is nearing its finish, with no end in sight. And that's in spite of talks at the White House late today. President Obama met with House Speaker John Boehner for over an hour Wednesday evening. The meeting failed to produce a deal that would end the federal government shutdown.

Pages