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Roundtable II: Obama's Second Term

The "This Week" roundtable on President Obama's second term challenges.
19:56 | 01/20/13

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Transcript for Roundtable II: Obama's Second Term
you solve it. We knew that we must find practical controls over blind economic forces and blindly selfish men. We have been warned by the power of modern weapons that peace may be the only climate possible for human life itself. Fdr in 1937, ike in 1957. We're told that president obama studying both tnaugural addresses as he prepares for his own. Let's talk about that on our roundtable and bring you in, george will. One of the reasons he might be reaching back into history is that if you look at recent second inaugurals, not all that memorable, and recent second terms, not great records. I would guess he would reach back not to '57 but to '37 to fdr's very combative speech. In march 4th when we inaugurated back then 1801, thomas jefferson gave a speech saying "we are all republicans, we are all federalists, we're all of one common principle." Well, I don't expect to hear that from this president because he is combative, and he does feel the will of the world. The 1800 election may have been the most important election in world history because it was the first time power had been peacefully transferred after an election and this great healing moment. I think this president feels the way roosevelt did in '37. Well, of course, nobody believes thomas jefferson and john adams snuck out of town ahead of time because he didn't want to be there to witness his defeater making that speech. So it wasn't exactly a healthy time but second terms have been rough. If I were obama, I wouldn't be paying attention to either of those speeching. I would be paying attention to the man on whose holiday this inauguration falls. Martin luther king. Martin luther king, because that is really what can make obama stand out. It was what made people excited about him in the first inauguration was this moment in history. It's yet another moment in history, and it comes on the 50th anniversary of the march on washington, the 150th anniversary of the emancipation proclamation. It's interesting, he's going to be taking the oath on lincoln's bible and martin luther king's bible. If I were him I would pay attention to one of the best inaugural speeches at the time which is I think not exactly the same but most similar was 1865. Lincoln's second term. Lincoln's speech used the word "i" one time. Setting the bar very high. But ihink we are at probably in this country at one of the most divisive polarized times we've had since the civil war and in that speech lincoln talked about we both pray to the same god, malice towards none, charity for all, and all of that, and I think this president, which I don't think will do, should come with a sense of humbleness, a sense of humility and a sense that basically the biggest problem he has in this country is the divisions that exist in this country that have only been made worse in the course of his presidency. Age divisions, sex divisions, church divisions, all the divisions that exist in this country, he has to figure out a way to bring people together and solve some of the problems. Which is why I think ping is a good example. He takes that and talks about inclusion. All well and good as long as you're talking about the broad values -- that's what an inaugural is. The state of the union is the policy. What do you expect to hear? Oh, I think you'll hear more of the same. I think you're right, more '37 than 1860. This is a president who very clearly since the election has decided he won and he's going to drive it, and he's not interested in compromise. I don't know. I don't think this speech frankly matters that much. I think what matters is what the president pushes, and from what I hear, it's going to be guns, it's going to be climate change, both of which are nonstarters up on capitol hill, and he knows it instead of -- you want to see if the president really wants to make a difference, he'll lead with immigration, because there's not a single republican up on capitol hill who believes he wants to get it done. They all believe he wants that -- he will put -- he will put -- measure that the republicans can't accept and blame republicans and then continue to drive a wedge between republicans and hispanics, and if he changes that, if he changes that and says, no, I'm willing to actually work together and get something we can all agree on, he will change the tone on capitol hill. Don't expect it, but that's what -- if republicans think that he has said that he doesn't want to work on immigration, they have not been country is right in capitol hill. The division in this country was brought together by the president who has formed these unbelievable coalitis of people, which is exactly what is going to carry forward with this organizing for action, and i think his inaugural address is going to speak to that unity. He's not going to be speaking to a congress that has an approval rating less than cockroaches and lice cording to a poll last week, but he is going to speak to the humanity out there who want to see action happen, and he is going to remind people, i think, that we are all in this together, and that is his strength, it's not from inside washington but outside. The problem the president has had -- I hope he does that -- he ran a campaign in 2008 and many of us had this great hope and people -- he was going to bring the country together. He's going to change washington. He's going to do all that and in the course of his presidency, we all want him to succeed because if he succeeds, the country succeeds. It's only gotten worse and he has said the words -- but why -- some of that. Because of the no, no, no -- but the only person responsible, he is responsible to himself. I don't think -- he hasn't held dinners with congressmen. He's avoiding meetings with congressmen. He hasn't used the social power of the president -- he claims that they've avoided meetings with him, as well, he said, in his last press conference, but the truth is, we are dealing with a systemic problem in congress, as you well know, which is, you know, we used -- and we had 105 districts a few years ago. This election we had 35. So people are absolutely dug in to their positions, and it is very, very difficult to get -- given that reality, george will, what could the president do if he wanted to to kind of bridge those divides? Well, it's extremely easy. These splittable differences on whether or not -- how and whether we're going to pay for the welfare state. You've heard me before, george, I'll say it again, I disagree with all four of you. I don't think this division is what characterizes this town. It's a vast, deep consensus we're going to have a large generous welfare state and not pay for it. Everyone is agreed on that, and until the arithmetic forces us to change on that, we're going to -- these other issues are small potatoes. And, you know, rick santorum, house republicans certainly seem to feel some of the pressure on those issues this week. They announced at the end of the week that they're not going to hold up this debt limit and seek a three-month extension on the debt limit to give some breathing space for negotiations. You know, you heard david plouffe right there say that is a cave by house republicans. Well, listen to that language.Mean, republicans extend an olive branch, ah, they're caving. Ah, we got them. That's not how a leader acts. The governor didn't get things done in michigan because every time she won she rubbed it in their nose, and i always said there's one thing worse than a sore loser and that's a sore winner and the president is a sore winner and republicans understand that and this president could get immigration done. He could get something done on deficits and entitlements, but he's got to move his people to do that instead of forcing republicans always to come his way and that is the problem. I just -- I mean, the reality from the lens on the left, and truly if you ask people out there, I think they would agree is that when the house republican caucus sent all those -- that made it impassable for john boehner to move, who were sent there for the purpose of not compromising, for the purpose of saying no, that made compromise virtually impossible. The president has indicated he's willing to compromise. He has angered his base, but on the right that caucus is dragging the country down. I'm going to agree with something that george said, which I think the fundamental problem is nobody is willing to do anything about the fiscal mess. Nobody. Republicans aren't willing to do it and democrats aren't willing to do it. They're both interested in blowing up the balance sheet. Republicans want to blow up the balance sheet because they're unwilling to raise taxes. They want to do it to keep tacks low. Democrats are willing to blow up the balance sheet because they want to continue government spending and increase the size of the government. We are -- you've seen a trillion and a half dollars in spending cuts and saw $600 billion in new revenue. They have been taking -- george, if you take a look at what really was done is they dealt with the easiest 3% or 4% of the problem. The first mile of a marathon and want to celebrate at the half marathon mark when they've 25 miles more to run. That's why what the republicans did was smart. First of all, they took the debt limit and default and shutting down the government off the plate. But they also said, we want because this is the one place where they are getting through to people. We want the senate to pass a budget, and they are correct -- which they haven't in four years. But the senate hasn't done it because the democrats don't want to say where they would cut and that is a smart political move to make. Instead of fighting the president, they're fighting democrats in the senate. That's right, and the two big occasions coming up are march 1st, WHICH IS WHEN THE SEQUESTER Kicks in, and there are a large number of republicans who have concluded that there will be no spending cuts other than by the sequester, so the question -- which is across-the-board cuts across domestic and -- half from defense, which is 17% of the budget, so the question is, do republicans hate defense cuts less than they would like to see the spending cuts on the domestic side? My -- after that comes march 27th, WHICH IS WHEN THE CURRENT Ng resolution on -- that funds the government expires, so we're going to have real debates about real splittable differences. The other thing, george, that's going to happen, and i think that this is going to begin the process of it, is that every day that goes past the inauguration is a loss of power day for the president. And you have -- you basically now have a party, the democratic party will function with him but it's been a cult of personal. Fundamentally a cult of personality around the president. O figure out where they go from here and what's going to happen. The republicans are a cult of no personality and no people and they're going to have to figure out so each day goes forward i think we're going to have an increasing inability for somebody to stand up and say I represent what the republicans are. Right now the republicans, the governor is right, they're lower than cockroaches. I think cockroaches are happy about the republicans and democrats, as soon as this personality and days fade and cult of personality begin s to go, they'll be in search of somebody. Is this a problem with a second term because of term You know, term limits mean that you can't ever run again. And so the minute you have, you know, gone through this nice exercise, then they stop paying attention to you because they're worrying about who they're going to run with. Nk the second term is the curse of the second term that everybody refers to -- has a potential of being damaging for the president, but if the republicans continue to take very unpopular positions on issues that the public really wants to see movement on, then in the second half of his second term, if he's able to pick up more members of the house and of the senate, could finish with a -- that's going to be very difficult in 2014 but let me pick up on that because I think you're right, the clock is ticking. Speed matters on all of these issues, and let me ask you, governor granholm, immigration, marco rubio clearly coming forward with proposals that are certainly similar to what the president has called for, yet no phone calls from the president, no move to actually, you know, create some kind of united front that will get something done quickly. But I think that is going to happen. I mean, he's just getting inaugurated tomorrow. Immigration is going to be first up. That's his top priority. Obviously he's got to reach out to the senate. The real question is will there be a consensus on a path to citizenship? That's the toughest issue for i think republicans and the question of the time frame for that. So if there is a consensus on that, I think -- I mean, I think immigration is going to be the biggest area of momentum -- when you look back, governor, there are 20 issues on immigration, and you just nailed the hardest one. Right. And you're saying, okay - you're only serious about doing something on immigration if you concede on the one that is the most difficult to occur. That won't be part of it? I think it is the toughest issue for republicans. You mean dealing with the 11 million -- is citizenship. Okay, fine. That's the toughest issue and this is what -- this is how the white house works. You give us the touchdown and then, you know, we'll -- then maybe we'll worry -- if you concede failure, if you concede capitulations, we'll give you everything you want then we are okay. That's not the way you negotiate. But here's where the republicans are already setting themselves up for defeat. The president offers "x," the rubio example is "x" minus "y". All anyone will notice is the "y," that is, the failure to reach citizenship. If the republicans want to do it they have to get to the left, if you will. They have to be more generous on immigration than the president. But republicans have -- but the problem comes -- a huge political problem for the republicans because if -- the republicans will become and remain a minority party unless they deal with the latino and hispanic issue in this country and they will remain -- it's the fastest growing group in the country, it's growing in every sector of the country and that's a problem. To me if you look back at president bush's second inaugural in 2005 and what he did in the aftermath, it was the biggest mistake he made, which many of us talked to him about, was choosing to do social security instead of immigration. If he had done immigration, the end of that presidency would have been different. He actually se, because he invited me to ride with him to go greet the pope at andrews, it was quite a moment and I cleared my calendar so i could do it and we -- he said to me, I tried and tried and tried to get my party to do immigration, and the reason i couldn't do it was because of the drawing of district lines making it just too hard for republicans -- are republicans ready now, rick santorum? I think the republicans are ready to do something on immigration. You saw marco rubio explain, which is pretty far down the road. Looks a lot like what president bush put forward four years ago, yes, they're willing to do it but they're not willing to give the president everything he wants because I think they believe the rule still matters in this country and that we have to respect those who did it the right way, who waited in line and did -- and made sacrifices and that they shouldn't be treated the same as people who broke the law and came here and get the same -- I want to get another subject in. We saw this remarkable -- i guess we call it a confession from lance armstrong this week. 2 1/2 hours with oprah winfrey. Here's a part of it. Did it feel wrong? No. Scary. Did you feel bad about it? No. Even scarier. Did you feel in any way that you were cheating? No. The scariest. Not a lot of contrition there. The rewards of athletic excellence in this country are astonishingly high and, therefore, the temptation to cheat is astonishingly high, and we see it throughout -- we've seen it in track and field probably more than any other. Baseball has had its problem. You can't tell me the people in football don't look that way without human growth and hormones and steroids. It's a pandemic problem, and the country is wide awake to it now. Every time this happens someone says, ah, the loss of innocence. Who is innocent? I mean -- except he was such a bully about it. I mean all those years of saying, no, no, no and suing people and all of that. No, it's just -- it's so outrageous. It's sort of another whole level of outrageousness. You know, I know lance. I've been to lance's house. I've been out to dinner with lance. I live in austin, you know, the whole sort of cult of lance and all that. To me there's a couple of fundamental things about this. It's first is this is what happens I think as a society when we elevate celebrity, fame, fortune above many other values in society, that integrity and telling the truth, and so we think we can consider heroes not the person, the average person out there paying their bills on time, telling the truth, raising a family, loving their partner, all of that stuff, the cult of personality takes over. The other thing about this, there's been so many people harmed in this, I feel really bad for his kids, especially his boy. It's the one place he broke up talking about his boy. I feel very bad, but this is what happens, bullies and all of this happens, we see it before. These are people that operate because they're very scared. Very insecure and operate from a place of fear. Much of what hap on capitol hill, when people operate from that place, they're unwilling to confront the truth. Fear would also -- when people have this kind of power, rick santorum, this other piece of so many politicians think they can outrun the truth and they never can. Right. But he did. For awhile. Well, but he did. Ultimately -- he's worth hundreds of millions of dollars. I mean, he's got a life that, you know, people would -- you know that -- what's the lesson? The lesson is you make a confession on oprah and you're shamed and but -- look at the life he's lived. I mean he made -- he did it. Can he -- that's the problem. What's the lesson that's really being learned? I agree. I don't think he feels -- i mean I thi- I think if you go in there and maybe over time and maybe over the next year and sometimes when people have to speak that they started with a first step and the first step doesn't feel awkward and then maybe a year from now the steps feel awkward, I don't think he feels good about himself. I don't think he feels good t his life actually and if he reflects on it and what he's done to his children and what's happened to that. His cancer foundation did a great deal of good and now it's going to be -- he treats everybody badly. He treats waiters badly. He treats waitresses badly. HE TREATS WIVES OF TOUR de France winners badly. That's not a life I would want be to living. Can he be redeemed? I don't want to. I don't know about others. It's cheating on big and small levels. It's such a terrible message for young people, for anybody in the sports world, for anybody in the political world, for anybody anywhere. It's a terrible message. And I'm not ready to forgive him. Look, I'm not -- obviously I'm not condoning anything. I'm just saying from his perspective, what I saw in that interview, I don't think he would have changed a thing, number one. Number two, the organizations who run these, whether major league baseball or the olympics, they turn a blind eye to this and have for a long time, you know, and they don't -- they -- money. It's all about money, these organizations and that is much to blame as lance armstrong. And that is the last word today. Thank you all for a terrific roundtable. George will will stick around to answer your facebook questions for our web extra. From the front page of t"the wall street journal", eva longoria is here live. Higher office, is that in her future? Who do you want to see?

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

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