Transcript for Roundtable II: This Week in Politics
gutless on this issue. The time is now. You must act. Be bold. Be courageous. Americans are counting on you. Thank you. Echoes of jim brady from gabby giffords more than 20 years later in that hearing before the senate judiciary committee. We're back with the roundtable, and, matthew, I come to you but before I come to you, I want to put out that new salvo in the debate from president obama. You saw that picture they released of the president's skeet shooting at camp david back in august after he said it was something he did all the time up in camp david, and david plouffe, his former senior adviser puts out a tweet saying "attention skeet birthers, make our day, let the photoshop conspiracies begin" answering skepticism about whether president obama was really a shooter. Was it smart to put out that photo? I think they had to put out the photo. If you go back a few days i don't think it was smart for him to make that announcement in "the n republic," I shoot skeet all the time. It reminds me of marga thatcher, which is being a skeet shooter, being a hunter is a lot like being a lady. If you have to tell people, you're probably not. Nobody is going to believe him because of the picture and that makes him look like he's pandering, and as carly said on the break, he is pandering in that and I think that's the problem with it. It's sort of a distraction from the debate. I don't think they should have ever said that. Nobody believes that. You heard, carly fiorina, from harry reid right there that the president is going to have a fairly tough time with his own democrats in getting what he wants through the senate. Yeah, well, I think that's clearly true. This is a very emotional issue. I honestly think both sides have overplayed it. I think personally the nra has overplayed it. We're gun owners at home. Coming out against background checks. Yes, I mean I think there's widespread support for universal background checks, however, universal background checks won't work unless we deal with our mental health system and actually untie the knot of privacy rules so the right information can be given to people, but universal background checks, dealing with the mental health system, personally i would even support banning high-capacity magazines. I think banning assault weapons we've proved doesn't work so instead of just doing something for show, let's actually focus on solving the problem. But what really strikes me -- I don't know how this plays, you know, what will happen. What strikes me is we've gotten a glimpse into the mind-set of the pro-gun people and seen CERTAINLY wayne LaPierre and some of these others, it's bizarre, they have this vision that we're living in a "mad max" movie and the idea that we have a police force that provides public safety is somehow totally impractical despite the fact that is, in fact, the way we live, so I think that the terms of the debate have shifted. Now the craziness of the extreme pro-gun lobby has been revealed and that has got to move the debate -- it's got to move the legislation at least some degree. Are you comfortable with where the nra has been on this? I am. This is a perfect example why people believe washington is broke. This horrific incident in newtown, and here what is our debate? It's focusing on guns when there is not one person at this table who really believes that that's the root of what happened there and -- when we have people that get into the mind-set that they want to harm people, as a former mayor, I know people will get guns no matter what laws we pass, just like the illegal drug -- I caught you on a false statement there because at least I do believe that guns are the root. There are crazy people everywhere, but mass murderers are a lot more common here than -- you believe guns are more important than dealing with mental health and our culture. Is our culture lending itself that we're raising children that are desensitized to murder, to killing people. I love that the international differences -- countries that have effective gun control have a lot fewer -- would banning -- would banning spoons stop obesity? Banning large soda drinks has helped. There's high tolerance for violence in this country. After columbine, after virginia tech, after aurora, we should have done something and we haven't. Sometimes it seems that it's only minor changes that we're talking about, even a ban on assault weapons or background checks when we're talking about high-capacity magazines, I mean, we know what works. I mean, in japan it works. But as a country, I don't think we are willing to even raise the second amendment. The pulse said something that is -- we don't want to do that. We have to recognize that. Paul said something illustrative. What paul just did alump everybody together as a crazy, radical gun owner. Not so. Yes, so you're condemning people -- no, the problem with gun owners is fine, but the lobbying groups, the nra is revealed as an insane organization and matters quite a lot. I said at the outset I think the nra overplayed its hand. More than that. More than just overplaying its hand. Universal background checks, on the other hand, we need to say -- let's just say dianne feinstein's bill passed banning assault weapons, it won't do anything to solve the problem. But after the last assault weapons ban, I'll bring this to matthew dowd, there was some evidence by independent experts who looked at it and said, listen, it didn't solve the problem completely, but when the ban was in place, fewer people were killed by assault weapons and when it was lifted, more were killed by assault weapons. George, the problem -- it said more people bought assault weapons right before that ban went into place, and as soon as it was lifted, they bought more and now have 300 million of them. Part of the problem is and i think the congressman said this, but part of the problem is all the facts on both sides get left on the table and get into this thing where everybody says this is what we need to do and many of the facts get left on the table. We all know that if you only do something on assault weapons, it's not going to solve the problem that happened. If you only doing on if you only do something on high-capacity, it will not solve the problem. If you only do something and the idea that a gun in the home will make someone safer, all the facts say it's not true. E likelihood of someone in a domestic violence with a gun available, a woman is eight times more likely to get killed. If a woman -- a gun in the home, three times more likely she'll get murdered. Everybody believes the facts. I don't think it's a bad thing. Most that own guns, I'm a gun owner like carly thinks people are unwilling to say let's get rid of the second amendment. Maybe we should have a debate about that. That is a huge debate. I want to move on to the economy. A lot to cover and paul krugman, I want to come to you. The dow hit 14,000. Right. On friday. Capping just a torrid january. Five straight weeks of gains, this comes on top of some encouraging news on jobs. Right. Some encouraging news on housing and manufacturing, and i was struck by a line in "the washington post" that said "the biggest threat now to the recovery may be washington, d.C." That's been true all along. What we've actually been seeing is -- let me put it this way, we've seen falling government, spending particularly, spending, purchases are good, services and government -- an unprecedented decline in that that's the biggest threat to the recovery. And caused slippage in the fourth quarter. Partly statistical illusion but partly defense spending which for some reason had a big negative blip. I've been doing a study of this. If spending had grown in this business cycle the way it did in the last one under bush or under reagan, we would probably have an unemployment rate that was not much above 6% right now so it's this washington craziness and, of course, the threat of the sequester that is the biggest threat. This recovery is actually -- it should be much, much faster. We still have more than 3 million people who have been out of work for more than a year. That's terrible. But we are, in fact, gaining momentum. Housing is recovering, the labor market is slowly recovering. Yeah, washington may mess it up. Do you agree? I think it's important to remember when we talk about the economy, that a private sector job and a public sector job are not the same things. They're not equivalent. I'm not saying public sector jobs aren't important. But a private sector job pays for itself. A private sector job creates other jobs. A public sector job is paid for by taxpayers. The government does not spend and invest money as efficiently as the private sector. There's all kinds of data to support that. So it isn't simply a matter of saying, well, whatever job is created out there, if it's a bureaucrat or in washington, d.C. Or a small business owner hiring another employee, those are not -- but public sector jobs, it is now a bureaucrat in washington, d.C. Oh, it is. When we talk about public sector jobs, we look at the ones that have been lost in large numbers in this, it's basically school teachers. Don't think about bureaucrats. It's school teachers. We've laid off hundreds of thousands of school teachers and we talk about the cuts in public spending that have happened. They are not, you know, some god awful who knows what. It's actually public investment, it's largely fixing potholes and repairing bridges so, you know, you have this image of these wasteful bureaucrats doing god knows what, and what we've seen is an incredible drought of basic infrastructure and laying off hundreds of thousands of school teachers. It is a fact that virtually every department in every organization in washington, d.C. Has seen its budget increase for the last 40 years. That money is being paid to hire people. The number of people who are -- of course there are some -- almost no -- of course there are some police officers. I'm not saying that. But that bulk of public sector employees are at the state and local level, largely school teachers plus police officers plus firefighters and your notiong that it's all these bureaucrats is a myth that's used. It's not a myth. It's a fact. It's not a myth. It's a fact. We don't have -- we heard from harry reid he's hoping that the sequester doesn't kick in. But, congressman, I noticed from top republican leaders seem to be accepting the fact that we're going to have these across-the-board budget cuts and talking to white house officials you get the sense they are prepared to go through with it, as well. That could be a big hit on the economy. I do believe my sense the sequester is going to go through. It was put in place to -- we didn't get to this point but it is and it's a law and I believe we understand it's not what we want on our side. I know the defense cuts are very hard for many of us to swallow, but at the end of the day, washington needs to do something about its spending. We are spiraling out of control. This country can't survive. We can't sustain the spending that's going on. Matthew, what's your sense of what the public reaction is going to be because it does appear that the sequester is going to hit for at least a period of time, these across-the-board cuts and maybe at the end of march. I think the problem that exists long before all this is that the public looks at washington as completely out of sync of where they are in their life. They think washington is totally dysfunctional and don't trust what is out of washington. They do not trust washington. And until that trust is rebuilt part of it has to do with the fiscal mess. Part of it has to do with the lack of leadership, but as they watch washington day in and day out, you look at the number of trust in washington, fdr understood there. If you go back and look at fdr and john f. Kennedy and all the folks that basically said we want government to be even more involved, they understood people have to trust government before you get government more involved. And that's a huge part of the problem. That might lead to another recession. I don't know. You know much more that about but that's the important thing. Another important thing to say here is that sequester is not nearly as scary as the debt ceiling debate was. We thought the whole financial system might collapse. If we go a month into the sequester, it's not a big deal. It's going to be painful. It's going to be a big debate. It'll slow growth in that quarter, but this is something where actually my understanding is the white house thinks that this -- they will win this. That if it happens, that, you know, everybody will look back but the republicans will look worse and in the end they will fold. I'm hearing the same things, carly. They believe in the end you'll see the same thing happen that happened on the debt limit that the republicans will have to accept some new revenues even though they say they're not going to do it now. Well, you know, first of all, I think this white house spends way too much time thinking about political wins and not enough time thinking about actually solving the problem. Tax reform is a way to get more revenues. If we would close loopholes, lower rates, simplify the tax code, there is broad bipartisan support for that. It would increase revenues. It would help small business owners. But you're for tax reform that increases revenues. A lot of republican leaders are saying they would only do neutral revenue tax reform. In my particular opinion what we need to be competitive, what we need to help small business owners is to lower all the rates, close all the loopholes, which, frankly, benefit big business, not small business, vastly simplify the code, but going back to matthew's point, there was an interesting poll in "the washington post," 53% of the american people believe the federal government is a threat in their lives. That's an incredible figure, and what it says is that people truly believe that they can't trust the federal government. And, george, part of that -- it's something that peopl have to deal with. A big part of the problem is leaders are now left with this pie. What you basically had republicans say, don't touch defense, we don't want to cut defense, not all of them but so many say don't touch defense. Democrats say do not touch entitlement programs. Do not touch entitlement programs. In a year that will be -- those two things will be 85% add interest on the debt, 85% of the total budget which leaves only 15% looking forward, what are we going to do? How will we create an economy and neither side is willing to have that debate. Both sides in my view are willing to basically deficit spend and run us into a fiscal problem. Republicans are unwilling to touch revenue so say let -- let's deficit spend and democrats are unwilling to address government spending so they deficit spend. Both sides which is why this country does not trust washington. I want to get quickly to another issue, chuck hagel's confirmation hearing this week. Not even the white house would defend his performance. Here's a piece of it. I support the president's strong position on containment, as I said. If I said that, meant to say that I -- obviously his position on containment, we don't have a position on containment. We do have a position on containment, which is that we do not favor containment. He was kind of a surprise there from chuck hagel, probably not going to hurt his chances of confirmation, is even getting some republicans -- I think he's going to make it but if you have to clarify your clarification, you're in trouble, no. I mean if we compare, for instance, what he went through with what hillary clinton did with the benghazi hearings, he had two different perspectives. Hillary clinton was strong and solid and getting ready for 2016. At the same time, chuck hagel, he seemed timid, sensitive and -- you're in the house. You don't want that. You're in the house. Some republican senators considering whether to filibuster or not. Do you think that would be wise? I'm not certain if it will be wise or not. I know there's some concerns with his positions about israel and whether or not that will carry water at the end of the day but, you know, again, it will be a decision that the senate is going to make and really not in the house. George, I mean I think obviously he could have done better, but to me there's a couple of things about that. First, it would be unfortunate that this first time we'd have an enlisted person -- someone who's an enlisted man, average military guy to run the department of defense that will make decisions on -- first time that will evpen in our history is important for many soldiers who feel disconnected from the process because of somebody's never really understood that. The other thing is you watch the hearing. I watched most of the hearing and what you come away with is nobody is willing to ask questions in any of these to actually elicit information that might be helpful. All theater. It's all theater, and all how do I put points on the board. john McCain or senator graham is how do I put a point against him. The democrats make a long speech and how do I put a point for him. These used to be a long time ago let's find out how he would manage the defense department. Let's find out what his values are that might be important for us to know. None of that happens. It's all about making points. What's clear is that president obama miscalculated a bit thinking if I put forward someone with an "r" next to their name, I'll have an easier time here. Clearly that's not the case. But I also think that, you know, john McCain certainly did his bit for his country and languished in a prison of war camp for 5 1/2 years. I THINK john McCain and lindsey graham's concerns are real. In the end they probably will not carry the day, but in a critical time with the threats we face, it's totally legitimate, whoever the nominee was, to be grilled on what their point of. One final issue before we go. Big night, the super bowl, the ads have already been sold, $3.8 million to $4 million for a 30-second ad. This year a little something different. We've seen so many before the game. My favorite is going to nominate it first, the volkswagen come on be happy ad. Yeah. Wicked cup, mr. James. Julia, turn the frown the other way around. Hey, you're from minnesota, right? Yes, the land of 10,000 lakes. Jorge, your pick? Godaddy.Com. That between the model and the nerd went on and on and on. I think it was really raw and will be a great commercial. There's bar rafaeli and she's going to lip-lock with that young man that you see right there. You cut it. All right. Well, the mercedes ad with the devil, willem dafoe as the devil caught my attention mostly because of the background music. Because I remember when the rolling stones sang about, you know, making fun of ads which say it can't be a manic, don't smoke cigarettes like me and now sympathy for the devil in a mercedes ad. Age of aquarius. Mine is one we haven't seen which is the chrysler ad. They bought an ad in this. I thought last year's chrysler ad was the clint eastwood narrated halftime in america ad. They've done great ads. All from detroit. Paul and I have a different piece. We have a different piece, imported, I have the chrysler car but looking forward to the chrysler ad. I like the allstate man ad and it's probably based on some of their ads before. It just strikes me -- goes all the way back to the garden of eden. Pretty great ad, it really was. Thanks for your contributions today. Jorge ramos will stick around to answer your facebook questions for our web extra and coming up
This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.