AMANPOUR: President Obama igniting a national conversation about which Americans should feel the pain of the budget axe. With pitched battles going on right now here in Washington and in statehouses from Florida to Wisconsin to California, with me now, our roundtable, George Will, Congressman Steve Southerland, a Republican freshman from Florida, he was elected to public office for the very first time last November and sent here to Washington on a mission to cut spending. Also with us, ABC senior political correspondent Jonathan Karl and political strategist Donna Brazile, who calls herself a labor Democrat.
Thank you all for being here. So, George, Wisconsin. Is this the sort of battle that we're going to see shaping up around the country? Is this really the sort of political and philosophical debate that's going on right now about what these cuts are going to mean?
WILL: It would have been even if the president hadn't intervened. But in the span of three days, Christiane, he first submits a budget that would increase the federal deficit and, two days later, he mobilizes his party, his own political machine, and organized labor, which is an appendage to his party, to sabotage Wisconsin's attempt to do what he will not do, which is deal with the insolvency of their government. In doing so, he has set the stage for 2012 by saying the Democratic Party is the party of government, not just in having an exaggerated view of the scope and competence of government, but because its base is in public employees.
AMANPOUR: So, Donna, mobilizing his troops, sabotaging the effort to cut the budget, he did use the word "assault," the president. Is that too much? I mean, what is going on here? BRAZILE: Well, first of all, they're entering day seven of the protests. And my recollection is that President Obama commented on it in day four of the protest. So the fact is, is that this is a grassroots movement that had nothing to do with people or politicians in Washington, D.C. This has everything to do with the workers there in Wisconsin and all across the country who are feeling the effects of these draconian budget cuts.
Look, state and local workers have taken the brunt of a lot of these cuts. And they're willing to come to the table to talk to the governor to put forward more wage cuts, more pension -- pay up more money for their pension, more for their health care. Why won't the government sit down with them? That's all they want. They want the governor to sit down with them, to talk about these items, but they want their collective bargaining right, their voice at the table removed from the discussion.
AMANPOUR: Is this a defining moment for -- for the labor movement?
BRAZILE: Absolutely. Look, union membership is at an all-time low over the previous 20-year high. This is an assault on workers across the country. And people believe that they're using the pretense of a budget battle to destroy collective bargaining rights.
AMANPOUR: So, Representative Southerland, a freshman to this process, is this about fiscal responsibility? Or what is happening? Because it's happening in your state, as well.
SOUTHERLAND: It is. And as you know, with nearly all of the states requiring a balanced budget amendment, they don't have any choice. The governors have to balance their budget. I know our own governor, Governor Scott, we see similar measures being taken in the state of Florida.