Transcript for Roundtable I: This Week in Politics
I'm filled with admiration for you and deep gratitude for you for the deep contributions you made. I seriously considered calling you and asking you to do a portrait of me, those bathroom sketches were wonderful, but at my age, I think I should keep my suit. We're glad to be here, god bless america, and thank you very much. Good job. Too long? What I know is true about president bush and I hope my successor will say about me is that we love this country and we do our best. Whatever challenges come before us, I will always believe our nation's best days lie ahead. God bless. All of the living presidents joining the opening of the bush library. He's given everyone a chance to reassess the bush legacy. Let me introduce everybody right now. Joined by george will as always, donna brazile. Former house speaker newt gingrich. Outgoing governor of los angeles, antonio villaraigosa and matthew dowd. The furloughs on created a debate on the floor of the house over how to fix it. We're here because of a colossal failure of leadership and the ability to manage resources. How can we sit there and say 4 million meals on wheels for seniors gone? But that's not important. George, the president and democrats insisted that there had to be a comprehensive solution to lift the sequester. But congress acted in record pass. The furloughs at the beginning of the week. By friday, a fix had been passed. The comedian lily tomlin has the character, bag lady, who says no matter how cynical you get, you can't keep up. 2 million americans fly every day, so you -- in a very few days, you got the irritated out there. More important, 535 members of congress fly regularly and this was going to inconvenience them which was unthinkable. So the faa, having said this was all necessary because the sequester required it to live on the money that it had in 2010, now it was chaos to live on 2010 appropriations. Whistle blowers within the faa began sending out e-mails that they were instructed this was as painful as possible on the theory, the government give more money, but the long and the short of this is, george, the sequester is now going to be here for a very long time, because they're going to find ways to make it administered more rational. That means it will be a swiss cheese sequester? Yes. Absolutely, george. This sequester will have real impact on real people in real time. Not only members of the congress, but people who work for the park services, medical research, they begin to make those cuts. It's impacting meals on wheels. Kids who are in kindergarten. So, I really do think that congress has to take a second look at this, otherwise every month, we'll be faced with another -- it seems that the incentive to have these rifle-shot fixes going forward. When something seems perilous. We'll fix that one by one. This was a real victory for fiscal conservatism. They didn't give the money back. What they said is, here's another pot of money that doesn't affect people nearly as much. You had the attorney general announcing that not a single one of his 60,000 employees would be furloughed. Not a single one. Now, the average american, this is just stupid management. I think what you'll see is a rolling series of fixes. None of which back off on the total amount of the sequester, which makes more sense out of how to save the money. It may mean that the most corrupt are going to bear the biggest burden. I mean, when you look at a $4 trillion government, you can find lots of really stupid things to quit paying for. A victory for fiscal conservatism? I don't think so. I think it's a failure in leadership. We have balanced budgets and dealt with deficits in our cities. We have done it in a balanced way. You can make the efficiencies and find the savings that you need and that's what the government needs to do here. I mean, the problem with the congress is, they're both so fixated on ideology or orthodoxy that they can't work together. I think for most of us, we look at them and we say, what planet are they from? Why can't they work together? Why can't they fix what's broken? They did work together here. We constantly ask for bipartisanship out of this congress and this administration, and the only way they are bipartisanship is with something -- we can't pass gun control legislation. By the way, you're about to get delayed at the airports, everyone knows there's a fiscal crisis in this country. Everybody knows that we don't have the revenue to meet the expenses in this country. Somebody has to bear pain. We act in washington like nobody has to bear any pain. As soon as somebody bears pain, we're going to take it back from them. You asked the question, isn't it the case in showdowns like this, the articulate, the well organized, the affluent, the complaining middle class benefits, of course, big government is always the servant of the strong enough to organize and make its levers work. The 2 million people who fly every day are middle-class and upper middle-class. They know how to complain, they know how to organize and they know how to contact their congressmen. They'll see their benefit checks cut. Those on medicare will see their benefits reduced. And of course, this is going to have a real impact on gdp and job growth. Let's talk about the broader questions about the president's agenda, especially in the wake of the boston marathon bombings. There were some suggestions early on after the bombing that immigration reform should be slowed down. Paul ryan pushed back on that notion this week. We have a broken immigration system and, if anything, what we see in boston is that we have to modernize our immigration system for lots of reasons. For economic reasons. What is going on here? You have seen the gang of eight in the senate to build up momentum, yet in touse, you got the chairman of the house judiciary committee, saying i want to move with single bills that fix portions of the problems. What does that mean for the legislation going forward? I think the more people who study the comprehensive bill the harder it's going to be. Remember, we did this under bush. WE HAD the McCain/kennedy breakthrough. 800-some pages. Terrific press conference. And then someone actually starts reading the 800 pages. You would vastly better off to take one piece at a time. I think it ought to be fixed, one piece at a time. Out in the open. With amendments when you know what it means. I distrust deeply 800-page bills crafted by staff and launched with great publicity. Where no senators have read the bill. Maybe the eight have? Maybe. 844 pages to be exact. We do not do comprehensive well, comprehensive energy plans, comprehensive health care, comprehensive immigration. It winds up like a rubik's cube. You jiggle something here and things start jiggling all over there. You can take employee verification in a separate bill. You can take visas for the talented in a separate bill. You can take border security. You can take guest worker program and break it up. We can see the mayor jumping out of his seat there. If that happens, the pathway to citizenship will never happen. That's right. Well, just last year, we had every republican candidate call for the self-deportation of 11 million people. Whoa, whoa, that's not true. Let me finish. And the fact of the matter is, for a city like mine, 1 out of 10 people is undocumented. 42% foreign-born. 57% of the people in my city have at least one immigrant at the head of household. More importantly, 44% of all of the new businesses started are started by immigrants. E to fix this broken system. They don't do comprehensive very well. The fact of the matter is, we're not going to have an immigration bill that doesn't have a pathway to citizenship. Look, even, this bill says, 13 years, it's going to take, a vast majority of polling has said people think five years is an appropriate period of time. This is very tough on border security. It's very tough on the hurdles that you have to overcome. To become a citizen. You have to pay back your taxes. You have to have a background check. If we do it piecemeal, we'll have people shoot it like swiss cheese and you'll never get a bill. First, I want to give the speaker some credit for -- during a hard primary, spoke out compassionately -- and then got beaten up for it in the primary. I think there's consensus on the politics on both sides of this. Democrats know they want to do and have to do, good public policy. Republicans know if they're going to be a party that goes into the next generation, a minority party, they'll have to do something that feels like outreach. Republican leadership. I'm not sure rank and file house members -- I think we'll have immigration reform. It's going to happen this year. It's not going to be slowed down. We have a consensus on both sides of the aisle. The president wants it. The leadership in congress wants it. It's going to happen. What elements? It's going to happen this year. It's still a split between the national republican party, that would like to see immigration reform passed this year, and the congressional republicans, who want to slow it down, who want to analyze it. Pull it apart. I mean, it's just like watching obama care disintegrate. They make great press conferences. They become law, laws actually ought to be in the open, whether they're going to work. Every single thing that the mayor wants to get done, can get done in a series of specific bills. This channel is, if you have an idea so bad that you have to hide it in a comprehensive bill, why should we pass it. The question going forward. Lots of questions about the present's leadership as he pushes all of these, especially after the failure during the bombings of the background checks in the senate, it's created a whole bunch of comparisons. Especially in the "new york times." Saying he's not a lot like lbj. Front-page story this week, went on and said, if he cannot translate the support of 90% of public for background checks into a victory on capitol hill, what can he expect to accomplish legislatively for his remaining three and a half years? Office? Of course, george will, if ople remember, it was mostly democrats that lyndon b. Johnson it was democrats that he was backing up against the wall. Yeah, he carried 44 states in the previous election. The "new york times" diffused with nostalgia of lyndon b. Johnson, but beyond that, he understood that politics as a transactional business, you give something you get something. This president has faith in the power of his rhetoric. He campaigned against scott brown, against chris christie, AGAINST bob McDonald, he campaigned hard for the democrat candidates in 2010 and they got shellacked. He campaigned for obama care. It's still overrated. No basis for government. Donna? Still, this is a president, congress is broken. It's very difficult to have a they are worried about their next primary and not worried about what they're going to accomplish. I think this president is trying to do the right things in terms of outreach, putting together sensible policies, but there are no dance partners to start a relationship with. I think the president, he's had a lot of great speeches that he's given. But I think they made a mistake by not having a relationship in congress and saying we're going to go out and talk to the country and not worry about washington, d.C. This president has never build relationships outside of saying I need your vote tomorrow, it's all been photo ops with congress. He hasn't reached out. He hasn't said come to camp david, let's sit down and talk. If he has that ability. I'm going to the failure of leadership again. First, he doesn't have a vote in congress. I'm not suggesting that he couldn't work harder. He's the president of the united states. He should be able to work the congressional numbers. I think the democrats and the republicans, by the way, there were a number of democrats that didn't vote for universal background checks. 90% of america, the vast majority of nra members support universal background checks. There has to be a middle ground somewhere we can all agree. You put a little on the president. I put a lot more on the senate. You have been in the middle of countless negotiations in the house, would this kind of personal politicking make a difference on an issue when people are facing such pressure at home? Sure. It makes a huge difference, in part because you begin to learn what you and you can't do. You don't set up goals that are hopeless. The voting pattern on gun control has been extraordinarily clear for the last 50 years, with very rare exceptions. In the end, the people who cared deeply about the right to bear arms, view that as a central issue in their lives. People who vaguely say yes in position, don't vote on it. People actually do go home and they actually listen to the folks back home and the folks back home say, don't do that. Background checks. This is an issue that the nra supported. IN THE LATE '90s. I'm sorry. I'm just reporting, if you looked at someone like max baucus, in montana, the way he voted was overwhelming approve -- I think they have bought into a myth that doesn't exist anymore. I think what's going on in gun control, there's not this huge vehement group of people out there saying, I'm going to defeat if you vote for background checks. I live in texas. I'm around a lot of people who shoot guns. I own five guns. But there's a group of folks in washington that are scared of their shadow on this issue. Some democrats and lot of republicans. The myth doesn't exist anymore. They're afraid to do something about it. Whatever happened to courage and doing the right thing? First of all, what you're saying is, minority stood up an overwhelming majority and lacked courage? I thought that was the definition of courage. The gun control measures would have passed if they had any discernible connection that prevented something like newtown. They never connected the measures with the problems. That could be the biggest challenge going forward. We saw all of the presidents come together this week, living presidents, they opened up the bush library. We had a new poll this week that showed, since he left office, president bush's approval ratings went up to 47% today. Sort of climbing back into respectable territory. George will? The american people want to think well of presidents and ex-presidents. The problem with the bush legacy is the tensions within it. Arguably his greatest decision was the surge, but the surge was to correct for the disastrous of immre implementation of the iraq war. Two supreme court nominees, now justices, on the other hand, one came after a disastrous suggestion harriet myers, in afghanistan, you had an invasion you had to take. We got into the business of nation-building. The prescription drugs entitlement. If first major entitlement he passed without a dedicated funding source. Aggravated the welfare state and his favorite piece of legislation, no child left behind, nationalizing a state and local responsibility. Matthew dowd, you worked for the president for several years. Yeah, I was there for the first five years of the iraq war. I think it was a great moment, always great moments with the five living presidents. They pay respects regardless of parties. The library, presidential institutions are an important part. I think the president, you know, reflecting back on what he had done a number of good things. The aid for africa and in the aftermath of katrina and a number of things. What you saw, everyone thinks this is a good man. The problem is, we had that day and everyone focused on it. It's as if the people who got off the titanic, you ask, other than that, how was the trip? The iraq war was a disaster. We lost thousands of lives. I had a son that served there. We lost thousands of u.S. Lives. And the iraq war for at least 20 years is going to affect us. It's already affecting our foreign policy in syria. It's affected our domestic policy, because of the lack of funds and lack of ability. We pause for a moment, yes, he's a good man. In the end, the iraq war was such a disastrous decision and affected this country so dramatically. Mr. Speaker? Well, I think the thing you saw for a brief moment there with his father captured the heart of george w. Bush, this is a person who tried very hard to do what was right. Has enormous sense of decency. As he said in his closing thing, he really loves america. I agree with the critique, and i think people are going to be pretty tough about the record, but I don't think they'll be very tough about the man. I think there's a real difference between the two. He got off the stage in 2009 and said, you know what, good-bye, so long, I'm not going to inject myself in the day-to-day politics. I think that was for the good not just for his legacy but something future presidents do, let the other one govern. He would not touch a policy issue in interviews this week. I actually did like to see for once democrats and republicans together, acknowledge the man and not just his policies. I'm with you, matt, I think his biggest mistake was getting into that war, and I didn't vote for him either time. But you have to respect the presidency, I do, I think it's important for us in a democracy, and I thought it was a good moment for a respite from the kind of partisanship that you see here. We'll take a quick break.
This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.