Roundtable II: This Week in Politics

George Will, Donna Brazile, Chris Hughes, Steve Inskeep, and Rep. David Schweikert.
16:47 | 01/27/13

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Transcript for Roundtable II: This Week in Politics
an ongoing scandal, lipgate, beyoncegate, the crisis in lipia, beyonce-gazi. Was there a second singer on the grassy knoll? We'll get to that scandal in a moment but we're back with the roundtable, george will, editor and publisher of "the new republic" and co-founder of facebook, chris hughes, arizona republican senator david schweikert and host of npr's "morning edition," steve inskeep. I want -- even though I want to talk about beyonce like right now because I just saw that. Really important. We'll get to that in a moment, but so many were also struck in the inaugural, which now seems months back, doesn't it? It actually just happened this week -- by the tone that president obama took. It was very different. In fact, speaker boehner said this week -- this is it. We're expecting over the next 22 months to be the focus of this administration as they attempt to annihilate the republican party, and let me just tell you, I do believe that is their goal, to just shove us into the dust bin of history. Donna, is that the plan? Well, first of all, they've done a great job at basically annihilating themselves, you, young man. But the truth of the matter is, I thought the president's speech had a perfect -- had a strategy. It was to really motivate the country that we still have work to do, to seize the moment so long as we seize the moment together. It's one of the first speeches that the president has given over the last two years that i could actually read and recite and memorize and really feel inspired by. I thought it was great to use seneca and selma and stonewall, to talk about the progress, the history, the common thing we share as americans, our struggle for freedom and equality for all people. It was a great speech. It was a great speech. But he wasn't exactly reaching out to republicans. He wasn't exactly reaching out to the middle. I know you're -- I appreciate you referring to me as young man, but the speech I heard was -- actually seemed to be to incite the left side of the base. Look, where is the speech from 2008? Which president obama do we get? Do we get the post-partisan, post-racial, the new embracing president, or do we get a president that's pandering to the left? When you read second inaugural speeches, they tend to be historically a little more combative. They're the story of a president who's been in the middle of a fight for awhile, so I wasn't too surprised by the tone, but i thought that the boehner comment was revealing the president trying to put us in the dust bin of history. That may very well be the president's intent for some ideas but it's also a clue to what boehner is thinking. I think there are republicans concerned they are on the wrong side of history which is why there is talk about changing immigration law, for example, and you have republicans pushing to find new ways to reach new constituencies and deal with the demographic problems that the republican party has. Should he have been reaching out to the republicans, george will? Well, the post-partisan obama of 2008 gave his inaugural speech in 2009 and a couple weeks later passed the stimulus bill with no republican votes because it was simply a wish list of 30 years of democratic longing, so I think it was a fairly perishable moment. To me, martha, the emblematic sentence from the speech was this "we reject the belief that america must choose between caring for the generation that built this country and investing in the generation that will build its future." The president lives in a parallel universe where a dollar spent on "a" can also be spent on "b." There's no scarcity. No choices involved. And for all the solicitude he express, we're not investing in them, we're borrowing from them because conveniently they're not here and can't object. Well, it wasn't just president obama who changed his tone and changed his style. The republicans, it appears are trying to reboot, as well. The republicans met this week in charlotte to plot a new strategy going forward. Louisiana governor bobby jindal saying the gop needed to stop being the stupid party, and he also said this. The republican party does not need to change our principles. What we might need to change is just about everything else we are doing. Do you need to change everything you're doing? Well, first of all, what I -- you're not the change guy. Yeah, no, look, we may need to change the way we tell our story. But we seem to go through this every two years. In 2010 it was the democrats that were having a -- reflecting on what has happened with the huge majority that came back in the u.S. House and the republican side. In 2006 and 2008 the republicans went through this. That's actually one of the beauties of our system is every two years there's this reflection of where we're going, what we're saying. The fact of the matter is, we have a problem as a party. I believe we tell the truth. I actually believe we're much more analytical. We're accountants. Sometimes though being an accountant doesn't pull the heart strings. That explains why the math has been so awful. We're truthful. What's wrong with we the people? The speeches with a declaration of the sentiments expressed by our framers. It was a narrative of our past. Our present, our future. The problem with the republican party there's only a path. There's no present, there's no future. But, donna, I strongly disagree with you. It was a speech of how we're going to bankrupt young people. How we're going to destroy the future. What program? I want to bring chris hughes in here because, chris, you had a pretty extraordinary interview with president obama. He pointed out something that he thought was a problem with republicans. He said in the interview that "certain members of the media are hurting the republican party too." He said, "if a republican member of congress is not punished on fox news or by rush limbaugh for working with a democrat on a bill of common interest then you'll see more of them doing it. I think john boehner genuinely wanted to get a deal done, but it was hard to do in part because his caucus is more conservative probably than most republican leaders are." This was one of the most fascinating interviews or pieces of the interview because it was clear the president thinks the american people are on his side when it comes to immigration, when it comes to gun control, when it comes to fiscal issues, and he thinks the republican party is increasingly extreme. The question is is his capacity to lead the country and organize people behind that, and whether or not he'le to do so is a difficult one, which we'll only answer in time. Another piece of the interview that I thought was really, really fascinating was we asked him about the new kind of politics, the obama of 2008 and where that had gone, and he mentioned two things that have been a real challenge, one was institutional reforms, specific referee filibuster and, secondly, the media environment, the world in which we live where we only really listen to the people that we AGREE WITH, MSNBCs OR FOXES OF The world and there's a sense of -- sarah palin even said something, and she did not specifically talk about fox, is that we're preaching to the choir is what she said. Amen. I think there's a growing sense that there's a need for a media -- for media outlets and opportunities that are not necessarily centrist but have different perspectives to make it easy for us to hear people who we disagree with and actually engage on the merits and not recycling old ideas. There's a specific problem, as well, in that we have all trained ourselves or many of us have trained ourselves to go ctly past anyone's argument to their motivations and that actually is what you hear a lot on the more partisan media networks. You don't actually hear the arguments being engaged, you actually don't hear a lot of analysis. You hear a lot say, remember, whatever he says, don't believe him. Don't trust him and that's a danger. That's a difficulty. We face it when we're interviewing people on npr. Why are you talking to that person on the extreme right? Why are you talking to that person on the extreme left? We hear that from listeners. Why are you putting on this person who makes absolutely no sense? And at some point you have to get a variety of voices out there and trust people to carefully listen to them and their arguments. Well, being one of those people on the conservative side, I think often you get painted as you don't love and care for people. I desperately love people, but even in your article, chris, there was a section there where the president is talking about sort of stabilizing debt. Well, if you actually look at what's really going on in the charts, medicare, the medicare trust fund may be empty in 40 months. That loving and saving people dealing with really uncomfortable issues like that instead of living in a world of rhetorical, you know -- but, congressman, the problem is in washington, d.C. Is your way or the highway. I mean the republicans won't touch taxes and the democrats -- but that is to the true. We just touched taxes. The sequestration is touching the fence. At some point it's great rhetoric, but it's not reality. Also discretionary spending is at its lowest since 1953 and under this president we have addressed spending cuts. No, we have touched -- let's talk about -- we've touched discretionary because mandatory, medicare, medicaid, veterans' benefits are where the explosion is. Aging population. The administration, the president particularly has gone to the table for a grand bargain several times and seems that much of the republican caucus in the house has not accepted some of the sacred cows that the administration has put on the table. The president talks about this in the interview in detail. I come back to the rule of life. A dollar spent on "a," cannot be spent on "b." You wonder why discretionary spending is so low, because nondiscretionary spending is crowding out the marine corps, scientific -- we'll be in an assisted living home with an army. You've given me the perfect segue with army rines to talk about what happened this week lifting the ban on women in combat. There were all sorts of headlines this week, lauding what happened, supporting what happened rather openly, george will, you think it's a good idea? Well, it depends on how it's implemented. They say the physical standards will not change. Well, that's what they always say. Let me give you an example. No child left behind said we're going to have 100% proficiency by 2014 in reading and math, and the scary thing is we might because the only way we'll get there is by dumbing down the standards, which is actually under way. The question was -- is, will we change the physical fitness requirements so that we don't have a disparate impact? Are we going to gender norm the requirements? Give you an example. You've been out, martha -- a few times. -- In these combat zones. You're a 6'4", 240-pound marine and you're injured and you need a marine next to you to carry you back to safety, and the marine next to you is 5'4", a woman who weighs 115 pounds. It's relevant. Okay, can I tell you something, george? You know, I've met a lot of combat medics who are women who rappel down and pick up big 6'4" marines and take them to safety. I just interviewed a woman. That's fine, and pilots, we know 152 women have been killed and iraq in afghanistan and now serving on submarines and all good for the military but there are certain anatomical facts about upper body strength and stamina. If I may, though. Very quickly here. Anatomical facts are average. The average woman may not be fit for the army, but the average man is probably not either. The question is whether they're going to deal with individuals and there are surely individual women who could pick you or I up wounded and carry us off a battlefield. It probably would not be me but there may be lots of them. I want to look way ahead to 2016. Perhaps four years from now we will see joe biden who we saw this week out on the parade route. That man loves a parade, running around shaking hands with everybody like no one else. He says, he is not ruling out a run in 2016, and then there is hillary clinton. President obama and secretary clinton did a joint interview airing tonight. Take a look at that. I just wanted to have a chance to publicly say thank you because I think hillary will go down as one of the finest secretary of states we've had. President obama asked me to be secretary of state, and i said yes, and why did I ask me and why did I say yes, because we both love our country. Donna, what was that really? Was that a little preview for this is the woman who I want to be president? Well, I still believe it's too early to think about 2016. After all, we have to figure out who is going to win the super bowl next week, but the truth of the matter is joe biden is a natural like bill clinton, he is a natural. He loves politics, reaching out but I do believe that this -- that president obama and secretary clinton have become real good, close friends. He's relied on her, her judgment. He trusts her advice. This is a relationship that i think has been forged during the four years that they've worked very closely together. I want to go something in the immediate future, which is the super bowl and transition to football and, again, talk about something I thought was quite extraordinary in your interview, chris hughes. President obama was asked, I'm wondering if you as a fan take less pleasure in watching football knowing the impact the game takes on its players. "I'm a big football fan," he said, "but I have to tell you if I had a son I'd have to think long and hard before I let him play football." I happen to be the mother of a college football player, so i read that especially carefully. I want your reaction to that, george. The kinetic energy in the football program at kenyon college where your son is a football player is different than the nfl. Yes, he seemed more concern about college football than the nfl. Well, the most important letters in football are not nfl, they're now cte, chronic traumatic encephalopathy, which is the cumulative impact in brain damage of small unrecognized, unrecorded impacts in aame that is inherently dangerous. We have parents today in this bubble-wrapped childhood that we now have, parents that put when -- they put their child on a tricycle they put a crash helmet on them. Are those parents really apt to let them play football? This is going to be a rebellion like the president is speaking as a president from the bottom up that is going to say, this game is just not suited to the human body. Steve, does it get nicer football, do you think? If the rules change and if there is this kind of upswell but there's something deeply american about the violence of this sport, and this is what i mean by this. I think that there is a tendency, there is a very american tendency to sacrifice for the team, for the group, for the military unit or even for the job. I read a book of short stories once that one of the main characters of one of the stories was an industrial worker whose face was disfigured by his work in the foundry, and he thought that was just part of the deal. I think that that is a deeply american tendency. I think if you put players out there, they're going to tend to want to sacrifice for the team, and that's what makes it hard. The next time we hear a sportscaster say of a football player prostrate on the field, he got his bell rung, let's say he got a concussion. That would change it. This week -- okay, I got to quickly here, george, move on. All right. Because this is so important, what I have to move on to, beyonce, it is passion from george will. It gets sports and passion. Finally beyonce's anthem. Does it matter whether she lip-synced or not, and, by the way, the marine corps band wasn't playing live either. Does it matter? Look, it gives you some sense of how absurd our politics is when there's probably been as much press on beyonce, still looks great, but that's what we're talking about. Quickly, donna, you got 15 seconds. She sounded wonderful. It was -- it was great. I loved it. I miss aretha, though. Thanks to you all. A reminder, chris hughes will be sticking around to answer your facebook questions for this week's web extra.

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

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