'This Week': Powerhouse Roundtable

James Carville, Mary Matalin, Peggy Noonan, David Remnick and Tavis Smiley on the week's politics.
3:00 | 01/19/14

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Transcript for 'This Week': Powerhouse Roundtable
Critics are right to point out that without proper safeguards this. Type of program could be used to yield more information about our private lives. And opened the door to more intrusive. Small collection programs. For all these reasons I believe we need a new approach. That as President Obama facing this NSA program as we know it now will and called for a lot of reforms let's talk about it now on our roundtable. Joined by James Carville and Mary Matlin -- of the new book love and war. -- this twenty years three presidents two daughters and one Louisiana home. David Remnick editor of the New Yorker Magazine and -- about your profile a pres Obama spent many hours -- coming up in this week's new Yorker Peggy Noonan. Of the Wall Street Journal. And have a smell -- the Travis smiley show and -- big let's begin. With the city's NSA reforms. The president said he wanted some reforms -- also defended the program said they've been valuable did he strike the right down. Oh I think he. I think he sounded like gay political figure attempting. To strike. The right balance to deal with a political problem he has among his base and among some others. -- an essay in the past six months or so since Snowden. The president has come under criticism he's had various responses to that from there's nothing wrong with the NSA to well I guess we ought to be thinking about venison. I think the speech ultimately was unsatisfying. Because it did not say. The president said essentially he's handling a problem but it didn't say we are rethinking this national securities -- -- had been in since nonetheless. That's what I wanna get to because he -- has said the state has been kind of valuable he'd said it is in in the speech -- -- one of the things. We saw there is even though he called. For the reforms he didn't really get specific and the attorney general so -- to come up with a plan a veritable collection programs the courts are supposed to look at this coalition -- Privacy advocates these -- shows how complex these problems -- The truth of the matter is -- -- program is effective. And it's a little bit of a political football though he had a -- a press conference and put some things -- -- what you gotta -- some private -- -- -- -- -- put some decent stuff that was put -- -- And I kind of English position. I meant nothing fumbled a Democrat would have a -- -- this stuff if some think there's people -- -- and the world. And if he can make this stuff a little bit cycle which is apparently he's trying to do made it. That's a good thing and didn't -- thinks he dressed in even in the speeches that. His own evolution on these issues. As commander -- when when he was since the senate he is highly against this kind of thing and he spoke out against it as a as a Democrat in the senate. And I think the responsibilities. From the perspective. The president he's trying to impress upon -- -- radically different because he's responsible for something completely. Completely other which is the security. Of the United States. But he's he's in a tough position how did this information come out -- came out through leaker -- -- within the NSA to Edwards Snowden. He is in no position -- not gonna just defend the court and quotes in there. But the actual -- if you want to call that. The actual information has undeniably. Change the conversation. About national security and the NSA in general. And I think there's a lot of good -- that a lot of good in that. -- Obama but grudgingly has to say the same so he's walking a very fine but I said -- Manley says it doesn't justify whatever -- -- No it doesn't it but I -- I love. What you just said that he was against it before he was -- Now Barack Obama is Dick Cheney we need these policies they are necessary for security the reason he's having a political from the white. Investors is because of one trust. Just didn't the nation hasn't -- trusting this government with personal data on account of the IRS tracking opponent to the president. Health care rollout in confidence. Forward just in general identity theft over Christmas is we don't think we have control over the technology that's gonna protect our privacy that's why this is the are politically status -- -- he doesn't mean that Barack Obama this did you. It's. Radical -- already got her head but here's what I do believe that tomorrow. -- it's worth reminding the audience that we will celebrate the life and legacy of the person -- regard as the greatest American this country's ever produced as my assessment. Martin Luther King Jr. he used -- quintessential example. Of what it means to be forced to live under a survey president talked about that in his speech exactly and saw what I. New the president was want to give a speech on Friday I start to wonder what that bust of Doctor King in the Oval Office. Might be whispering to the president as he was fine tuning his speech Thursday night I saw -- Friday speech. Spotlight -- I was somewhat underwhelmed. I understand David what he's up against but I sometimes wonder that this president sometimes -- rather he -- too cautious when he ought to be a bit more but contrary. Particularly -- a federal judges say -- part of this -- collection. Is unconstitutional and secondly you can't convince me how the dots connect to make us safer I think very quickly that in the long run. It what's known -- joking earlier it would -- might be on a postage stamp somewhere down the road. It was snow is going to be acknowledge one day he's gonna be appreciated how history is -- -- regard to mr. Obama has done in this moment is an open question. But there's nobody. -- -- historical analogy between Dick Cheney and with respect and and Barack Obama is -- is absurd. I mean this is this is. It's a president is withdrawn from two wars this of president who is constantly talking about the balance between. What you agreeing with them or not between a security state could which came after 9/11. And keeping the country secure and civil liberties and he's struggled with -- -- flagrantly maybe even ostentatiously. On the subject of drones in the rest and things have have changed the may be too much on the margins were referred for me or for -- Maybe not enough for others but but this is to call -- Dick Cheney I -- and. -- -- fact you know he'd he'd demonized Dick Cheney he opposed all of these security policies and he's now making the same -- that Dick Cheney. Made repeatedly which is the bad guys have to be read only 1% of the time -- could be right a 100%. Of the time this is not so. Only policy -- -- they're not Dick Cheney policies of post nine elevenths security policies that he opposed and now supports. -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- But it is the case. -- present Obama for too many of us has continued the bush Cheney policies. On a lot of issues particularly -- -- policy and this is. Much more about marginal retrenchment that it is about major reform of debt the debt they have a piece coming out of new republic later that day -- on the left. And Eric Gagne coming at you think he might be on a policy I -- -- thinking like getting a post office. But yeah. Yeah I don't know Hulu C -- Yeah have played into what is obvious -- -- yeah. It would be -- that's an evidence about him I need to get to see members of congress now has an estimated -- Snowden was a tool of Russia from the get -- that that this was all Russian operation. I worry -- congressman getting on the air and and saying this without presenting any evidence whatsoever that I think happened twice in the last several days here is actually right. At this point in the whole NSA thing when it started to break a former US senator and very sober and serious man called -- happen he said. If what we are reading is true about. What the US government can do to you how it can and has the ability to invade your privacy said. People are gonna know this they're gonna get used to it and we're gonna become a nation and sullen. Paranoid it's. Then big un answered question is. Have we. How many keep America safe after 9/11 not have another nine elevenths without not -- coming. Not America without becoming un American and not the thing you want to protect you know and -- -- isn't a big question I don't think the president seriously addressed it. Maybe -- doesn't clearly. They showed do you think he was struggling with just that question yet I just not even if he does have run answers just yet it does bring it gave its big piece we've spent several hours of the president. Over the last few months for this -- new -- this week called. Going the distance there's a lot to chew on here they're what it seems that I was struck that you go back to -- time and think it's his 2007 and December. He's meeting with the -- Doris Kearns Goodwin and her husband Richard Goodwin and he tells them. He doesn't want to just be one of those presidents with his picture up on the wall -- -- Miller's film Fillmore Franklin Pierce and you -- -- in the piece that that's really the test isn't gonna meet. His own stand. Well his own standard and and Chavis and I'll argue about this too but I I I think that -- He's got. William Daley told my colleague. Ryan Elizabeth after 2014. No one cares -- Obama does because -- the race for the successor begins to consume all the media air time in an all our energies maybe to a grateful to the media. And that's. Partly true I mean things can happen a lot after that those mid term elections but this -- crucial and last year was awful awful. And the health care rollout was a self inflicted wounds. And and I you know I traveled with the president on one of these fund racing towards the West Coast and at each stop he had to kind of perform his anger. About what it happened she had to show how very and that's not easy for him anger is not one of his said go to emotions. And he's got a lot that he wants to get done whether it's about income inequality. Or about foreign policy is three huge foreign policy initiatives that have a less than 5050 chance of succeeding even administer an and that's what it seems like in the in the piece he seems aware of that aware of the limits. This -- was seen analogy uses he just to Michael presence to relay runner. In the -- Well it's an unusual thing to hear president sitting in office. Admit to the limits of power and this is a habit of mind that Barack Obama whether it has to do with the limits of power of the United States in the Middle East. Which were not used to hearing we we really we usually -- talking grandiose terms. Or whether it's limits of power the president -- James how much is the talk about the limits of power actually reduces. On the bow out how that move would we can't -- -- Middle East and can do the things we do we can't we -- that was not it was a day when Germany and Japan our two greatest. Threat whom. Vanquished I didn't you know automating and we had we had a much more to say it will -- on the world. I don't think the American people -- very anxious to go and start dictating to people around the world what they should do. I think that data to an elevated say -- don't you don't -- -- stuff out all -- there went apple didn't know a lot. And so I eat. I think it also is not just in the wall but I think in the United States there's a realization that there's some things that we can do -- some things we can't do and let's recap -- have I don't know won't we want to return to of like running an oral. I really every give us peace lasts about as good piece David but I think that I'm that the the ultimate question he's going to be here how did he measure up as a leader. Did he get accomplished the things that he -- -- to get done my grandfather always said you need to have -- it's not about the work you do it's about the work you get done. And I just don't know that. The historical narrative that he wants is that it could have been worse I don't think that's a winning story line. And ultimately it's about. And downs I think that's an open question Peggy Noonan if health care works he did. OK well -- settles it because. -- -- Against them when Tim over at least the next two years certainly in in the coming year for the ten reasons people like us always -- On talk shows -- -- -- the question of David. I found. I was fascinated by your piece I found. The president in the peace to be. Somewhat passive somewhat. Full full Smart but going through the motions your -- for I think three days is at fundraisers. Where he's handling rich people. And -- billion cards on the plane. I'll tell you the portraits struck me as. What we don't have enough problems for this man to be doing active and serious things while -- -- -- -- women right. And that's. They're not -- can. I think all modern presidents raise funds for their party that happened -- George Bush did kill Clinton did as -- mid term election in the off -- -- just didn't know if not are not valid. In the -- a government shutdown by the Republicans canceled an essential trip to Asia that had to be rescheduled an essential trip. To -- the important. Nations in Asia which was canceled completely by Republicans shut down I think today I think. And I think that's -- -- -- is cents on the I don't know solidly accepting of -- success and I -- I think what I what I fickle as revelatory I'd take take East Point and because you -- as much time who felt like that. But he does not ever convey a sense of urgency given the problems that the whole world. Is facing in what I loved about the peace and now -- are great writers the revelation. That we all knew from the outset that should -- denying the tea I'm gonna come to Washington meet Barack Obama and make fundamental transformation. And that in Santa everything is lighting of the iris was. Taking my opponents I didn't know my affordable health -- it was -- north I don't know anything about fast and furious I don't know anything about anything fundamental transformation that's. -- goes to the lack of -- on the cutting -- lives. UnitedHealth -- obviously warriors Taco -- Barack Obama -- have -- -- -- -- brain activity I'm Chris Christie and you know it's turning trying to turn the corner from scandals. This -- started out this week with a Mea culpa in his state of the state address. The fact is that the lieutenant governor. Came to Hoboken she pulled me aside in the hockey and she -- I know it's -- right -- know this thing should not be connected. But they -- mentioned Tony went home -- my. It was the wrong clip right there but that was we're gonna get to that's mayor Don Zimmer of Hoboken, New Jersey made a pretty serious charge yesterday she said. The dead two Christie -- Mary Matalin told her that if she did not back up. Development projects supported by Chris Christie. Her city Hoboken will not -- kind of hurricane -- me they were looking for pretty serious charge when she did not make. Earlier in the week. When she said she didn't she couldn't back it up she back it up with some diary entries at the time after these. Conversations. How serious is this in -- -- over all these -- -- Crisco. Essentially what's the accusation here is that Chris Christie is doing New York is doing -- Chicago politics. Fish cut about six had Jersey politics has always been -- -- it's true or it's not true traveling. Isn't true way is fascinating though is the obsession. By everybody over the Republican establishment and media. On Chris Christie in what he should be doing and James -- -- been -- for weaken our our back on our poultry should dress have been a tollbooth outfitting go -- -- -- -- he's a genius given -- what can nine me percent of American can give a hoot about as Vincent interesting about this. In out of that this just isn't what -- -- the -- -- scandalous huge scandal and the hundreds of millions maybe billions of dollars it never goes -- why because people can understand. -- it just as the most understandable thing -- -- don't like the mayor we closed off flames we left partners for traffic for four days I'm sorry when you think about it it shall be eighty -- would be getting any -- as a politician who is thinking about running for president. We're trying to -- a measure of the temperament behavior. And corruption and on corruption. Under Chris Christie somebody who very clearly wants to be present -- to see no reason at all not -- not to anybody not to be looking at this. And doing the journalism and see what he knew what he didn't know what he was responsible formally wasn't responsible -- I do think you can say in fairness that the New York based media. Which has. Certain political -- -- elections or sympathies. Is pounding this guy every day in a way deserved or not in a way. That they did not apply to. IRS. And the Ben Ghazi on this one that one. It's true that was not front page every day that having been said look Chris Christie is trying to stabilizes operation. Up -- two days ago it looked like it was -- become a stable now do we have the new Hoboken mayor. A Democrat a -- person who -- a long interview on MSNBC seems like a sincere person we'll see where that goes. If that's a serious story and holds water. It's got to be a serious story. -- actually out of trying to handicap presidential race is two years out because eight years ago nobody saw Barack Hussein Obama common -- one. Having said that though I have no defender Chris Christie he didn't need my help. Com but it is the case as we -- here this morning George we still don't know what he knew. We don't know what he did -- David to your point is worth remembering that and ultimately I think no matter how this bridge gay thing turns out. If he can't build a bridge married to the conservative base of his party he's our -- didn't -- anyway. I hope I don't disagree with that completely don't disagree with that and the point is why everybody's obsessed with that is because minority moved to 2016 which goes -- your point we have finished 24 remaining -- -- -- But I -- and Chris Christie's not his defense couldn't you look at his polls this -- yet she strengthened his position. In New Hampshire -- of course this --

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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