Rep. Weiner: Obama More ‘Negotiator-in-Chief’ Than ‘Leader of Our Country’

By Kate McCarthy

Dec 9, 2010 9:00am

After his behind closed doors sparring match with Vice President Biden last night, Congressman Anthony Weiner still had some fight in him this morning on "GMA."

“Unfortunately I think that President Obama sees the job more as negotiator-in-chief than really the leader of our country and the leader of our party,” said the New York Democrat.

Weiner conceded that there are “some good things” in the tax cut deal, but he believes it could have been better if the Obama had put up more of a fight.

We had a sparring match of our own this morning.  Here’s the transcript:

George Stephanopoulos: So what did you say to the Vice President and what did he say to you?

Rep. Anthony Weiner: Well, it was a closed door caucus but apparently some information leaked out. Look what it basically came down to is I urged the vice president and president to, to fight a little harder. You know we can’t see these arguments as static things, both counts don’t stand still. Presidents of the Untied States like no one else can has the ability to move the needle and I don’t think this administration understands that. And I told the vice president a memory that I had of Ronald Reagan saying to Tip O’Neil in the United States Congress ‘You guys may have a strong Democratic majority but I want tax reform.’ And he traveled the country and got it done. That’s what presidents do. And unfortunately I think that President Obama sees the job more as negotiator- in-chief than really the leader of our country and the leader of our party.

George Stephanopoulos: But Congressman as you know he has been fighting for this since September. And back in September he was pushing for the House to vote on extending these tax cuts and you wouldn’t do it.

Rep. Anthony Weiner: Well I’m not sure I saw much of the fight that you did. I didn’t see him travel around to the different states and say ‘Call your Congressman, call your Senator.’ —

George Stephanopoulos: I was in Cleveland when he did it, with him.

Rep. Anthony Weiner: Well, I saw the Cleveland speech as well and there was a lot of stuff about hope and change and getting the car out of the rut but not a lot of talking about this specific issue. Look I have to tell you something, when past presidents have traveled around the country and really made cases about things they moved the needle. It is not just a matter of a negotiation. And I have to say something else about this, you know the President of the United States has to realize that, that we will back him up. We want him to succeed. This isn’t the same critique he’s getting from Republicans who want him to fail. We want him to be a success and frankly sometimes I think he doesn’t drive a hard enough bargain.

George Stephanopoulos: But Congressman as you know the clock is ticking. Everyone’s taxes would go up on…Jan. 1. When Congress comes back next year there will be more Republicans not fewer, why would it get any better in January?

Rep. Anthony Weiner: Well a couple of things happen in January, first he made this estate tax deal and the estate tax hand for the president actually gets stronger because a lot of the old rates would come back into place. And I think that the president has yet to really make the point of the decision very clear for the American people in that the things that we are fighting for, we Democrats, are the popular things.  He has the support of the American people overwhelmingly on the idea that billionaires and millionaires don’t need tax cuts that middle class people do. And yet he never really engaged that fight. I want him to be able to do this better.  And now basically what we have is a deal that is very, very expensive and winds up doing a lot of things he didn’t want to do and I’m not really sure that he didn’t have more leverage than he played.

George Stephanopoulos: But as you know independent economists like Mark Zandi also say this will add 1% to economic growth next year. You’ve got progressives, some of the most prominent progressives in Washington like Bob Greenstein saying this deal will help lower income and working Americans. Just look at the polls as well. Gallup poll yesterday – 66% of adults support extending the tax cuts for everyone, including a majority of Democrats.

Rep. Anthony Weiner:  Well that – first of all that poll is fascinating in that if shows that if the president goes out and sells an idea it can be pretty persuasive. But if you looked at before this deal was even done it was two-thirds of the American people believed he should extend tax cuts for people in the middle class and let the other tax cuts goes for deficit reduction or other programs. That’s exactly the point I’m making. With two speeches and a press conference the president was able to move the American people.  He didn’t do that before this deal was struck to try to get a much better deal to try to line up the American people behind him. That’s the regret I have. Not that there aren’t good things in the deal George, there are some good things. The question is whether we got the deal we could have. 

George Stephanopoulos:  So bottom line can you block it, will you block it?

Rep. Anthony Weiner: Our objective isn’t to necessarily block it. We’re trying to improve it. We’re trying to get some things included in the deal that aren’t. We’re trying to get some things taken out. If the idea is that, that this is a take it or leave it deal I think the president is going to realize that there are going to be a lot of Democrats who are going to be voting no.
 
George Stephanopoulos: Well isn’t that what the Vice President told you, that this is a take it or leave it deal?

Rep. Anthony Weiner:  Well I think what…the vice president said is ‘I’m here to explain the transaction, explain the deal but I’m not here to tell you that we can change it.’ You know look, I mean it depends on whether or not you believe that the legislature here is here just to back up a deal good or bad. We want the president to be a success, there’s no doubt about that. And that’s what separates us from the Republicans. But I have to tell you something it’s only going to get worse for the president if he allows himself to be pushed around by this with deals like this.

Watch the interview here:

George Stephanopoulos

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