Roundtable I: This Week in Politics

Matthew Dowd, Cokie Roberts, James Carville, Paul Gigot, and Mia Love.
22:36 | 03/03/13

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Transcript for Roundtable I: This Week in Politics
rosa parks' singular act of disobedience launched a movement. With the simplest of gestures, she helped change america and changed the world. This statue speaks for itself and today we speak for a nation committed to remembering and, more importantly, emulating rosa parks. That brings to mind lady liberty herself with a promise of america clear for all to see. A rare bipartisan moment in the capitol this weekend unveiling the rosa parks statue and we're going to talk about all the week's liticians on our roundtable. Joined by cokie roberts, republican mayor of sarasota springs, utah, mia love. Thanks for coming in in morning. Matt dowd from abc. Paul gigot and james carville, democratic strategist, there's too many candidates to name at this point. I can safely say none of you thought you would follow dennis rodman on a roundtable. And never seen anybody dressed like in the studio. May be the last time. But let's talk about what happened this week in washington. Cokie, when this sequester, across-the-board spending cuts was devised, it was supposed to pack a powerful punch, seemed to be accepted with an air of resignation. And more of a whimper than a bang and I think that's something of a problem for the president, which he indicated in his press conference where he said it's not going to be armageddon. Well, up until then it was armageddon, and the administration saying terrible things are going to happen, and children school and ar duncan, the secretary of education, saying, teachers are getting pink slips, which "the washington post" says is just a straight lie, four pinocchios on the lie test. So, you know, they really oversold it, I think and now we're going to have -- oversold it or premature? Something I don't normally do, give mitt romney and the republicans some credit. They told the truth in the last election. They said if you re-elect obama, we'll have european-style policies in the united states and that's just what we're getting. Europe-style austerity, the thing that brought britain to its knees three times, the thing that brought spain and italy both to its knees, we are copying the very policies that are failing. Now, is it armageddon? Macroeconomic advisers at goldman sachs say half a point off the gdp. I don't know if that's armageddon but it's a lot, 750,000 jobs lost. If you're 1 of those 750,000 people, that's armageddon. It's not good. Were they the same economists who said if you spend 830 billion on the stimulus you'll get unemployment down below 6%? Macro at goldman that said that. But how about the point that even, you know, republicans have looked to say what might have been smarter is to lock in long-term debt reduction but t take money out of the economy. Oh, sure, but leave aside the economic argument. Everybody knows most of the spending you have to fix is in the entitlement section. No question. This is not a smart way to do it. On the other hand it at least shows we can cut some spending. It's at least some spending that the president actually has been saying he supports, right? This is part of his 2.5 trillion in spending cuts. So this is something that i think the president could make it less onerous if he would say I'll take the flexibility the republicans are offering him. He could do that, but he's insisting on using this as a club to get them to agree to another tax increase. And he thought it would work. To me this is really not about -- this is about a leadership problem. This is a huge leadership problem I think on both sides of the aisle, and I think both sides are completely unwilling to tell the american public the truth. I think the democrats are unwilling to actually tell the american public that we cannot fix this unless we deal with entitlements in a real substantive way, and republicans unwilling to be truthful to the american public. Hasn't the president been willing to do that in his negotiations? I think the president speaks loudly and then he says these things and then does anything. Never has a meeting. Shows up, he calls a meeting two hours before the sequester is about to expire. I don't think the president has actually reached out and tried to do this, but I don't think they've been receptive from the republicans either. Republicans are unwilling to say there's waste in the defense budget and we need to make cuts there. You're going to implement budgets on the ground. I want you to weigh in but also your town? No, we're not going to feel this at all. This is why I advocate for being independent and not being so subjective to federal funding or not being dependent on federal funding. We're going to be absolutely fine. We do not -- we're not -- our budgets aren't based on how much money comes in from the federal government, so as a city we're going to be fine. I think you'll find most states and most cities that are self-sufficient are going to do just -- are going to do fine. One of the things I think that's important here, I think this is not about a right/left issue because they're the ones -- both sighs got us into this mess. This is a showdown between washington and the american people and watching this ping-pong game. That's a really good point. Where I live in the washington suburbs, people will be affected, but the fact is that people are -- they see these two men going out after each other and basically say, fix it. Just fix it. Stop doing these washington games. I'm sorry, but I just saw -- senator ayotte, I hope I'm pronouncing the name correct, this is having an adverse affect on the military. A republican senator from new hampshire. You're delaying ship maintenance and cutting training missions down. You're doing all of these things and, yes, if you don't do ship maintenance this year and you do it next year, when do you start feeling it? You start feeling it at some point. She wants to change it. She's saying the same thing senator McCain was saying. Again, we don't half a point of gdp to lose and same people saying said there would be weapons of mass destruction, it would be a cakewalk that housing is going to bring the economy down, that interest rates were going up and inflation was around the corner. I think the problem is somebody needs to tell the person public in a broad way there is going to be pain. If we care about the budget, if we care about the fiscal mess either we have to make substantial cuts or we have to raise taxes on the middle class. You can't do it without either one of those. What I would say is this, in pain. Incomes are down. The idea that there's no pain in this country, there's been pain in this country for a long time. The tax increase won't help the economy. We just had two months ago the biggest tax increase in 20 years. This is the problem, the president is insisting that republicans raise taxes. And that is not -- they can't do that politically and they're not going to do it. We're going to have a stalemate until he takes it off the table. I think you're right the stalemate will be in place but is the white house correct over time and clearly hasn't happened yet, but over time the pressure will build because these cuts going to start to kick in. There will be some pressure built up and in n sections of the economy, certainly where the government has expanded the most, certainly in some parts of the country where defense matters. There will. There's no question. This is not the most intelligent way to do it but I don't think it's armageddon. The president oversold it as cokie suggested, and now he's got a credibility problem that is going to hurt him for the next few months. The credibility problem doesn't stop there. Yes, there is pain. There's a lot of pain. I see it out there. I mean I've got family members that live in inner cities, and i can tell you right now that this president is doing nothing to eliminate those pains. But you both talk about the credibility problem but cokie roberts, our own polling shows that right now at least the president's approval ratings on handling spending, on handling this issue far outpace the republicans. Absolutely. Our polling shows it and so does everybody else's so he's got the strong hand here, and he's obviously using it. The real -- what was somewhat encouraging in senator ayotte's interview was the idea of coming to the grand bargain because that -- I heard an opening there, as well. It's the only way you can do it. The president did say in his press conference the other day that the big problem in spending was health care. Now we all know that but for him to say it counts. And so if he -- and he said I'm willing to take on my own party on these entitlement issues. If that's true, and then the republicans are willing to take on their own party on taxes, there is probably -- there's just no winners in this. I mean, there's somebody who loses less if you look at the polling. The president loses less but he doesn't win in this. Everybody gets mud on them. The interesting thing to pay attention to is the markets which is a telling sign, which is the markets have not changed. They continue to rise. What they basically decided is dysfunction in washington, inability to do anything is now standard and so therefore we're going to discount everything in washington. Not only standard but maybe it's being done in the wrong way but the amount of deficit reduction that most economists said is about what we should do over the next ten years, about 4 trillion is actually happening. Three years deficit turned gdp -- best years since world war ii and best three years of health care costs than we've had in the last 40 years. There are things that are happening out there. The last thing that we need right now is some kind of austerity. This economy is nowhere near where it is. We're going to do what they did in britain. James, can we put 2.4% out of a 4 -- why did senator ayotte say it's hurting the military? Why? Republicans -- they were unwilling to say the military has waste in it and it's unwilling -- the military should be -- it should be cut. Maintenance, that's not -- I want to move on to another issue. Big development on gay marriage. The supreme court will hear the case on proposition 8 outlawing gay marriage in california. The president and the administration weighed in. What we've said is that same-sex couples are a group, a class that deserves heightened scrutiny, that the supreme court needs to ask the state why it's doing it, and if the state doesn't have a good reason, it should be struck down. If I were on the court, that would probably be the view that I'd put forward, but I'm not a judge. I'm the president. Now, the brief didn't go quite that far. The president did not argue that marriage is a federally guaranteed right for gays and lesbians, but, paul gigot, you saw top republicans, dozens of top republicans weighing in with a friend of the court brief and corporate america stepping up in a big way, as well, in support of gay marriage. Not elected officials yet, but these are -- I think what you're seeing is that on gay marriage, this used to be an issue. Up to a year ago the president was against gay marriage and divided democrats and seeing after the results of this last election where young people really move to the democrats substantially in part on some of these cultural issues you'll see this issue begin to divide republicans more and I think that depending on what the court does, you'll see more republicans instead of saying some did, we need a constindment banning gay marriage they'll start to say let's have the states decide this. Are you saying perhaps some republicans may want the court to get them ofthe hook? I don't think they want the court to basically say that gay marriage is a constitutional right. I think they might be happy if the court said, you know what the defense of marriage act signed by bill clinton is unconstitutional because it imposes a federal solution on the states and just let new york do what it wants. How about for you? I think that the federal government has its hands full with the fiscal issues and so either way, I tend to take it at a different angle at this. I know what I believe in my home and I certainly don't want the federal government defining anything for me. I think that we should just -- i take the approach that we should leave it to the states. The march of history is already moving and republicans know if they stand in the way of this, this is like civil right, women's rights now at the point this is an amazing thing that happened in a short time period. Used to be if you were talking about social issues like this you were losing as a democrat. Now if you're talking about social issues like this, you're losing as a republican and history is now moving -- this issue is done. Republicans have to come face to face with the idea that this issue is over. I must say it is mind boggling how fast it moves and public opinion really turns very, very quickly on this, and you really have to give credit to very courageous people in the gay community who came forward and said, look, you're talking about me. I'm your brother, I'm your friend, I'm your sister, and it really did change and young people -- our colleague, last november said it best, george will, the proposition is literally dying off every month. George always says that the young people being gay is about as interesting as being left-handed. Only one that's dividing republicans right now, you saw this with the sea pac conservative committee conference did not invite chris christie. One of the republican leaders in the country, governor of new jersey. Here was his response. They don't want to invite me, that's their call. It's -- you know, it's their organization. It's their business. And they get to decide who they want to have come or not come. It's not like I'm lacking for invitations to speak both here and around the country. And he's loving his 74% approval rating right now but, james, this is only one manifestation. You've also got karl rove's group on one hand trying to support candidate s who defend them against primary challengers from tea party candidates and you've got the club for growth targeting what they call republicans in name only. We've lost elections before, democrats have, republicans have before. I think this one is somehow another instances that's particularly hard for the republicans and are mad at each other right now to me in an amusing way, but if I was a republican, almost an unhealthy way and lashing out at The club was kind of my idea for a significant story that they're really going after -- they're naming the people they're going after right now which, of course, will have a chilling effect on other republicans who think they may be up. Any way to stop it, paul gigot? I would welcome it. I think we need a big debate. If I were sea pac, I would have invited christie and let him say what he wanted on guns. If you disagreed with him, boo him. We need to have a debate, a pretty rus debate. I disagree with james. I don't remember it being any meaner than in 1988 and lost the third election in a row. The republicans need to have this out. They need to sort it out and need to debate. Don't blackball any candidates or any republicans, come on in. Let's mix it up. Sea pac to me totally diminishes their credibility when chris christie and explanation about why -- it's like an all-star game. He didn't have a good year and invite sarah palin who wasn't competent enough to keep a fox news contract but she's invited to a sea pac meeting. To me they basically -- they decided the voters don't know what they're doing. That the voters who like chris christie and other candidates like they're really mixed up and we'll tell them what the truth is and whenever that's a strategy on either side when you're trying to tell the voters they're wrong it's a bad move. Are you going to stand up for sea pac here? This is probably where the debate comes in a little bit. I am going to say this, sea pac is an independent, you know, they're their organization. They can go in and ask whoever they want to. I'm sure chris christie is not hurting for speaking events. I listened to the man. I've met the man. I think he's a great leader but he's also going to be loyal to new jersey and follow the things that new jersey wants him to follow. And that might not fall in line with what sea pac wants. Expand its reach in the northeast in order to be credible in a national election. I think we need to have a debate. I don't like the fact that republicans are eating each other. If you think about this, democrats tend to stick together on one issue, and we tend to divide based on many different issues. Many different issues. And so we have to have a debate and a healthy debate is good and we have to know we're not going to agree on everything. Yeah, but, you know, mia, the republicans -- for republicans to have lost senate seats in the lawas political malpractice. Everything was in place for them to gain senate seats, and the reason they lost senate seats was because of their candidates and the reason the candidates were a problem is they were too out there for a statewide election. That's one -- true in some places, your'rright, in missouri but not true in north dakota and montana. Absolutely. Just bad candidates. Right. Any day that you have more sarah palin and less chris christie is a good day for james carville. I'm all for it. They had the right to do what they want, but me, I'm just going to sit back and enjoy it a little. I want to move on. The other big story this week, we all saw it in rome. You have to watch pope benedict retire. Cokie, you were there with me, as well. Remarkable pageantry in his final hours but it does now come at a time after this remarkably bold move in retiring where the catholic church is going to have to make a lot of big decisions going forward. And it was striking to me when you and I were talking with cardinal wuerl of washington, how little they know of what they'll do next. They know formally they'll go into a meeting and then they'll talk -- because everything here is new. Brand new. For 600 years. And they also, more than half of them, have never been in a conclave where you elect a pope and there's no front-runner. You know, with the last election, we all knew joseph ratzinger and so did they, but there's nobody like that now, and with the scandals that are there, the first thing they have to do is make absolutely sure in every way that whomever they pick i. Exactly. And they don't know how to do that. They don't know how. I mean what are they going to do, call the head of the knights of columbus? They don't know how to do it. To me it's one of the most crucial moments in the church's history right now if you look at what happened with this huge scandal with pedophiles in the church. It's gone through every diocese and you're stacked with catholics. I'm catholic, I was an altar boy. I went to catholic university. All of that. I think we're at that moment in time where they have to make a decision, actually similar to the republican party in the same exact thing, they could either retrench and become a minority institution or they can expand. Youth are leaving the church. Minorities in the developed world are leaving church. There's no role -- women don't feel a real role in the church at this time and dominated by mostly older white men. A letter from e.J. Dionne, to say, fanciful kind of proposal too. They should pick a nun for pope. I think they need to go to a church apart as opposed to -- I'm a cradle catholic. I pull for the church but i don't deny the problems they have. I'm just praying that if the holy spirit ever does intervene that he comes down -- she. Or she. My daughter will correct me also and we go, wow, we got this guy is really a humble, neat guy that people can look up to and can make some of the necessary changes. They're not going to change doctrine but they can certainly change what they emphasize. I think it's great actually. You know, that here's a pope that, you know, holds a very big position in the catholic church and saying, I'm unhealthy. Onger do this any longer and actually says I'm going to step down. You know, I'm going to be really interested in seeing what happens with the conclave. I mean, everything I know i learned from dan brown. Along with -- speaking of that, I just read everything about it. I just think one of the things, it is fascinating now for the first time you're actually hearing some american names being talked about as pope, cardinal timothy dolan here in new york, sean o'malley from boston but historically there's been a real reluctance to have an american because of the association with the superpower. Right, america is so strong otherwise why have a pope religious leader also an american. Although timothy dolan is a great, great leader and very charismatic, those of us who know him would be thrilled, frankly, to see him as pope but I thk it's unlikely. I think what would be most exciting even to catholics in the western world is to get a pope from the developing world where the church is going. Where the catholics are. Asia. That's where it's most -- one of the biggest growth opportunities for the catholic is in china which persecutes the church, and you have to the next pope in addition to that kind of pastoral role, you have to have somebody who can clean out that bureaucracy. They'll have to open the windows, undermine -- that's a huge part of the problem. I think that -- then it's a church you question whether or not it's imbued with the holy spirit. If they don't think they have to keep the doors shut and everything in the dark. There are a lot of reports that the pope has turned over the dossier on all the corruption scandals inside the vatican that only the cardinals are going to be able to see that but it certainly sounds like it's explosive information. Of course they have problems over there. How explosive it is, the answers probably vary. I would be surprised if it's anything else. I think what people want, they want a humble guy, you know, who -- who can like straighten out, you know, make the vatican not a place of intrigue but a place that people can look up to and this guy from the philippines, what about him? Young man. You know, the idea of the vatican not being a place of intrigue is like saying the political party -- there was some feeling talking to a lot of cardinals that the boldness of pope benedict's move in resigning and doing something that hadn't been done in 600 years might inspire them to make a bold move, as well. But they differ on what that is, of course, and, of course, they have different constituencies just as you were talking about in this country. There are different issues facing them, so in africa, the aids crisis has been something that the church has had to deal with enormously. In other parts of the world, in europe it's the rise of islam and the defection of young people. I mean all over the world there are different issues, and so each onef these cardinals comes in with a different set of criteria of what -- the biggest problem is -- and they all know this. If they go the wrong way they'll become irrelevant and that's one thing they can't take and they have to change. You know, they're still relevant but they need to be more relevant. They're losing their authority as all the things that matthew talked about keep eroding and for the church to regain its authority, we need a pope that the world can look up, not just catholics and I think -- this is a moment I think in said we're going to go back to the church as established as the sermon on the mount and went back to that in dire need of where we are in the world to basically go back to that, what christ did back then they would

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