'This Week' Transcript: Sens Lieberman, Conrad and Hutchison

Transcript: Sens Lieberman, Conrad and Hutchison

WASHINGTON, Jan 23, 2011 — -- (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

AMANPOUR (voice-over): This morning on "This Week."

(UNKNOWN): Madam Speaker...

AMANPOUR: On the eve of the State of the Union...

(UNKNOWN): ... the president of the United States.

AMANPOUR: ... we assess the state of the presidency. For BarackObama, it's been a year of highs...

OBAMA: We are done.

AMANPOUR: ... and lows.

OBAMA: ... take a shellacking like I did last night.

AMANPOUR: And this week is another defining moment for him, ashe talks to the country.

OBAMA: Jobs must be our number-one focus in 2010.

AMANPOUR: But what will he say? And what should he say? Thisweek, the state of the presidency, starts right now.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

AMANPOUR: Good morning. As President Obama enters the secondhalf of his term, he's grappling with making the economy grow andcreating jobs. Americans are overwhelmingly demanding in poll afterpoll that the president and Congress work together on the big issues.

Today, we'll hear from three top retiring senators with recordsof working across party lines, independent Joe Lieberman, DemocratKent Conrad, and Republican Kay Bailey Hutchison. We'll get theirperspective on the state of the country and the state of thispresident.

We begin with ABC news senior White House correspondent JakeTapper and our "This Week" cover story.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

TAPPER (voice-over): We all know what the president will sayabout the state of the Union. It's what presidents always say aboutthe state of the union.

OBAMA: Our union is strong.

GEORGE W. BUSH: Our union is strong.

CLINTON: ... is strong.

GEORGE H.W. BUSH: ... is strong.

REAGAN: The state of our union is strong.

TAPPER: But what about the state of the Obama presidency? Whatabout the state of Obama? Just two-plus months ago, after what hecalled a shellacking in the midterm elections, it seemed as thoughPresident Obama might now be in a crouched posture as the RepublicanHouse of Representatives takes office.

OBAMA: It feels bad.

TAPPER: But he's not feeling bad now. His poll numbers are up.Job approval is 54 percent, up 5 points from last month and 8 pointsfrom his career low in September. Perhaps even more striking, whilein September Americans split 50 percent to 48 percent on whetherPresident Obama understands the problems of people like you, thatnumber is now overwhelmingly positive for the president by an 18-pointmargin, 58 percent to 40 percent.

What changed?

AXELROD: The economy is growing. It is beginning to create jobsat a steadier and steadier clip. And I think the cumulative effect ofall of that is positive and people are feeling better.

GIBBS: The American people would like to see Democrats andRepublicans sit down at a table, be it here, be it there, and workthrough important solutions to the problems that face the Americanpeople. I think that's what the president wants to continue to do.

TAPPER: So more bipartisanship in action and tone.

GERGEN: Much of his bounce has come among independents. Theyare up the most sharply, and that's the group that was sort of souredon him. I think turning back toward the center, the kind of thingshe's done, working with Republicans across the aisle in the lame duck,you know, bringing -- sending signals that he really does want to workwith the business community, and then the Tucson speech was judged tobe extremely effective and resonated so well with the public.

TAPPER: But how much bipartisanship is truly possible? TheTucson shooting seems to have just delayed the fighting. HouseRepublicans voted to repeal the health care law just one week later.

(UNKNOWN): And a motion to reconsider is laid upon the table.

TAPPER: The White House suggests the smart politics will bethose who reach across the aisle.

AXELROD: I think those who make the honest effort to do thatwill have support, public support. Those who don't, won't. Andthat's a great motivator in this town.

TAPPER: And the White House seems to be clearly signaling a newday, especially for the business community, part of which may comefrom the appointment of centrist Democrat and former JPMorgan Chaseexecutive Bill Daley as new White House chief of staff.

So out with the old rhetoric, as seen on "60 Minutes" in 2009...

OBAMA: I did not run for office be helping out a bunch of, youknow, fat-cat bankers on Wall Street.

TAPPER: ... and in with the new tone, a business-friendly tone.

(on-screen): On Tuesday, you'll hear the president talk aboutwhat he calls his competitiveness agenda and the importance ofincreasing exports.

(voice-over): As he discussed with Chinese President Hu Jintaolast week, with a touch of the late-night cable TV pitchman.

OBAMA: We want to sell you all kinds of stuff. We want to sellyou planes; we want to sell you cars; we want to sell you software.

TAPPER: That was accompanied by a Wall Street Journal op-ed bythe president talking about getting rid of dumb government regulationsthat have stifled innovation and have had a chilling effect on growthand jobs.

On Friday, the president announced a new presidential council onjobs and competitiveness to be chaired by the CEO of GE, RepublicanJeffrey Immelt.

GERGEN: The State of the Union is an enormous opportunity forhim to continue this -- this rebound, this comeback, because he's --he's got chance now to really provide a theme for his presidency forthe last two years. He's in one heck of a lot better shape than hewas only a few weeks ago, but no one should underestimate the barriersthat are still in his way.

TAPPER: The unemployment rate is stubbornly high. Toughdecisions need to come about the national debt. And the new Congressis full of Tea Partiers who are wary of any new spending.

(on-screen): Where does President Obama think the state of hispresidency is?

GIBBS: Jake, I -- I don't know that he spends a lot of timeseparating the state of the country and where he is in his presidency,because his task is -- the task that he has before him and the taskthat he'll bring to -- to the next two years is helping our economycontinue to recover. Obviously, there are aides inside of here andoutside of here that spend time worrying about the president'spolitical standing.

TAPPER (voice-over): Indeed. Aides to the president havealready started the process of preparing the paperwork for thepresident's re-election campaign. And White House senior advisersRobert Gibbs and David Axelrod are leaving the Casa Blanca to work onthe campaign.

AXELROD: It feels right to me. This feels like the right time.

TAPPER: And for President Obama, this feels like a pivotal time.For "This Week," I'm Jake Tapper at the White House.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

AMANPOUR: And the question remains: Will the president findbipartisan cooperation on Capitol Hill? Joining me now, Senators JoeLieberman, Kent Conrad, and from Texas, Kay Bailey Hutchison. Allthree have recently declared they will not be seeking re-election.

So thank you all for joining us this morning. Let me ask you,Senator Lieberman, what will you be listening to from the president atthe State of the Union? What does he need to say?

LIEBERMAN: Well, the president listened to the results of theelection in November, and that's -- that's the right thing to do inAmerica. Elections have consequences. And since then, he has reallyreconnected to the vital center of American politics and, I think, tothe American people.

And the way he reconnected was through the remarkableaccomplishments of the lame-duck session and then an extraordinaryunifying speech in Tucson. I think he's got to keep that going.

So I think the mood of the State of the Union has to be bothunifying and confident, optimistic that we can do things if we worktogether. I think the main focus really has to be on, how do you keepgrowing jobs and at the same time deal with the biggest long-termthreat to America's strength and our economy, and that is the debt?

And I hope the president will really be hands-on and say he'sready to take political risks if we are to get America's books back inbalance for the sake of our children and grandchildren.

AMANPOUR: Senator Hutchison, do you think the president canconvey that -- that message of unity and confidence to move forward?

HUTCHISON: I think he can convey the message. But I think thequestion, Christiane, is, will there be a follow-through? Will hereally get his regulatory commissions to cut back on the regulationsthat are hurting the growth of business? Will he agree to somechanges in the Obamacare which is keeping people from hiring?

I can tell you, I'm all over my state. That's what I hear.They're not going to hire people if they are looking at these bigfines and big expenses in the health care bill.

So I think he's -- if he really is going to follow through with amessage that I'm sure will be good, with action that shows that hereally means it, that's when we will have a -- a true way forward.

AMANPOUR: Senator Conrad, what does he need to say?

CONRAD: Well, I think three things that are at the top of mylist and I think on the tops of the lists of many Americans. Numberone, growing the economy and jobs. Number two, as Senator Liebermanreferenced, the debt threat. That's got to be taken on. And, numberthree, I believe reducing our dependence on foreign energy, because Ithink all three of these are deeply related. And I hope that he willcome out and be specific about what his plans are in each of theseareas.

AMANPOUR: We talked a lot about bipartisanship. And clearly,that is the will of the American people. Everywhere you look,everywhere I go in the country, people say that they want theirleaders to work together. You three senators have records of workingacross party lines, and yet you're retiring.

Let me ask you why you're doing that. First of all, SenatorLieberman, why are you retiring? Is it because it's too tough abattle to win re-election again?

LIEBERMAN: No. It's really because, for me, it's time for achange. At the end of this term, I will have served 24 years in theU.S. Senate, 40 years in elective office. I've run 15 campaigns inConnecticut. I want to try something different. I want to begin anew chapter of my life.

I've loved service in the Senate. I feel good about what I'vebeen able to accomplish working across party lines. But I must say,I'm excited about a new chapter and new opportunities. I'll alwayswant to be involved in public service in whole or in part, working onthe causes to which I've devoted a lot of my public life, includingparticularly national security.

AMANPOUR: If you think you could have won, why not -- now thebattle is being joined for issues that you care deeply about, like theeconomy -- why not stay and fight this battle...

(CROSSTALK)

LIEBERMAN: You can always find a reason to continue, you know?But I think you've got to know when it's time to -- to move on.

I was not -- I believed I would have won re-election. Obviously,it would have been a tough campaign. But, you know, as I said, sowhat else is new? I've run -- almost all my campaigns have beentough. That's not the reason why I didn't run. I didn't run becauseI want to try something different.

AMANPOUR: Let me ask you -- before we were talking about a senseof contentment that you all three felt, so let's get beyond that and Iwant to ask you, Senator Conrad, you know, in your state, Democrats inCongress are becoming an endangered species. They may, in fact,become extinct in the next round of elections. What is it about theDemocratic message that seems not to be selling or not to be beingbought in the heartland?

CONRAD: You know, it's very interesting. What I hear all acrossmy state are three words: Enough is enough. When you put togetherTARP, of course, which was done under the Bush administration, but itsort of all runs into the same reaction by people, and you addstimulus, and the auto bailout, and the health care bill, it juststruck people that there was too much coming from the federalgovernment, and so people wanted to make a change. AMANPOUR: Let me turn to you, Senator Hutchison. First of all,in a new report today in the New York Times, they say that, in fact,TARP will cost maybe $28 billion to the taxpayer, instead of the $700billion. They say that bailing out the auto industry will cost maybein the end about $15 billion, rather than the many tens of billionswere put in.

What about you? You yourself have been facing -- even thoughyou're a reliable conservative -- Tea Party competition in Texas. Arethey outflanking you?

HUTCHISON: You know, I -- I think the Tea Party has done a goodthing in awakening America to the problems that we are facing andsaying we can do something about it. And I appreciate that.

I think that, if I had run, I would have won. It would have beena tough race, for sure, but I thing I would have won, because I thinkmy record is good, and it is to be effective and get things done.

But I do think there is such a strong feeling that America hasnot been going in the right direction, and I think people are lookingfor a change. That's not why I didn't run; it was a personal decisionfor me. I commute every week. I have two young children. And thetime was right for me.

I'm excited about a new future, and I'm excited about turning itover to someone else. But I think that the Tea Party, all if all, hasdone a good thing for America.

AMANPOUR: And yet they say that -- I said, you're a reliableconservative, by all indicators -- they said that you personallysignify everything that the Tea Party is fighting. What on Earth dothey mean by that, particularly when it comes to issues such asspending cuts and the things that everybody's talking about right now?

HUTCHISON: Well, I think that's a misrepresentation of myrecord. I am a reliable conservative. There are some people who saythat, of course. I mean, I read the blogs, and it gets kind ofdepressing, frankly, to read those blogs.

But, all in all, I have support of Tea Party people. I do havethe support of many of the leaders of the Tea Party. And I don'tthink there is a Tea Party spokesman that speaks for everyone, but Ihave a good relationship with the Tea Party.

And, yes, there are people who think that maybe I fought too hardfor Texas in spending areas, but I think I'm elected to support mystate, and I have supported every spending cut, every overall spendingcut. And I think we're going to have to be doing a lot more of thatin the next few weeks because we all agree.

And I didn't support the stimulus. So I think that was a -- waytoo much spending. But we all agree now, it must be cut.

AMANPOUR: Let me ask you again about this idea of centrists ormoderates or at least people who can work across party lines. LIEBERMAN: Yeah.

AMANPOUR: There was a collective wail of -- of -- of sadnesswhen all of you three decided that you wouldn't seek re-election. Isthat idea of working across party lines also endangered and possiblyextinct, particularly with you leaving? How many more will be left?

LIEBERMAN: Well, I hope it's not extinct. In fact, I think partof the reason why the president is doing better is that he reached outacross party lines in the lame-duck session and the Republicansreached back to him. And as a result, we passed a very strong taxcut. We repealed "don't ask/don't tell." We did the START treaty.

So, look, I think part of the reason why the American people havelost some of their -- our characteristic confidence in recent years isnot just the terrible recession, but the fact that, when they turnedto their government in Washington, what they saw is people havingpartisan mud fights, not thinking about what they could do for them,the American people.

And I think when we begin to act in that way, working acrossparty lines, coming to the center to get things done, then it not onlygets things done, but it increases the characteristic Americanoptimism and confidence.

To raise the GDP, I've been saying, we've got to raise the GDC,the gross domestic confidence. And I think we've done that. Thepresident has led the way, and Republicans have partnered with him. Ihope we can keep it going.

AMANPOUR: Let me ask a little bit about these spending cuts.The Republicans have talked about $100 billion in -- in the firstfiscal year alone. Some of the Tea Party's candidates have beensaying just this past week that they want even deeper cuts, much, muchbigger cuts, putting them at odds, it seems, with their ownleadership. How is that going to resolve itself, Senator Conrad, doyou think?

CONRAD: You know, I was part of the president's fiscalcommission that made a proposal, really, a very sweeping proposal, toreduce the debt by $4 trillion over the next 10 years and much morethan that over an extended period of time. I think that's what'srequired, a balanced plan that does, yes, have spending cuts. We had$1.5 trillion of spending cuts in the fiscal commission's plan, butyou're going to also have to deal with the entitlements, SocialSecurity and Medicare, and the American people right now...

AMANPOUR: And the military?

CONRAD: ... the American people reject all of those. TheAmerican people say, don't touch Social Security, don't touchMedicare, don't cut defense. That's 84 percent of the federal budget.If you can't touch 84 percent of the federal budget -- and, by theway, they also don't want to touch revenue -- you're down to 16percent of the budget at a time we're borrowing 40 cents of everydollar we spend. So, you know, there needs to be leadership to helpthe American people understand how serious this problem is and thatit's going to take a lot more than cutting foreign aid and taxing therich. You're not going to solve the problem that way.

AMANPOUR: And one last issue I want to talk about, the tone,civility, a huge amount of speculation and attention on the seatingplan for the State of the Union. Apparently, some senators andcongressmen already choosing their seating mate. So all of you --Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison, who are you going to be sitting next to?

HUTCHISON: I do not know.

AMANPOUR: Who's your date?

HUTCHISON: I have -- I haven't been there. I don't have a date.

CONRAD: Kate, I'm available.

(CROSSTALK)

HUTCHISON: ... find a place to sit -- sit down.

(LAUGHTER)

AMANPOUR: Senator Conrad says he is available.

And you?

LIEBERMAN: You know, when I was in high school, I always waitedtoo long before the prom to ask for a date, so I haven't done thatyet, but...

AMANPOUR: You've got two days. Tell us now.

LIEBERMAN: I'm going to be on the phone today. Incidentally, inour committee, the Homeland Security Committee, Susan Collins and Ihave been having our members sit without regard to party. In otherwords, we're not just -- we're not two warring camps facing eachother.

And this is -- this is symbolic, but it -- but it sends a goodmessage. We've really got to do more of this.

AMANPOUR: Have you picked a date?

CONRAD: I just asked Kay.

AMANPOUR: I know. All right. Well, we'll see you two sittingtogether. And you with Senator Collins.

LIEBERMAN: I hope so.

AMANPOUR: All right. Thank you so much.

And up next, I'll take an inside look at some of the newRepublicans in Congress, their agenda, and how they view the new callsfor civility in Washington. And later, our roundtable, with George Will, Paul Krugman,Matthew Dowd, and Donna Brazile, so stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

AMANPOUR: Welcome back.

As the new right came to Washington and took the reins of powerin the House, we were with them. We followed two new Republican Housemembers and a freshman senator, all swept to power by the Tea Party.

This week, we -- will President Obama's opposition -- that's whatthey'll be -- and we talked to them about the changes they're lookingfor and the unexpected shift in tone they've encountered since theyarrived.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

AMANPOUR (voice-over): As President Obama arrived inSchenectady, New York, this week for a speech at a General Electricplanet, coming down the steps of Air Force One behind him was the newRepublican congressman from nearby Kinderhook, Chris Gibson. Justover two weeks in office...

OBAMA: Chris Gibson...

AMANPOUR: ... and Gibson, a former Army colonel, was getting ashoutout from the commander-in-chief.

GIBSON: As we go forward, I'm looking for more from thepresident that he listens to the will of the American people.

AMANPOUR: That will swept Gibson and a sizable band of what youcould call citizen legislators into office last November, men andwomen with little or no political experience, dentists, ranchers, evena reality TV star and a restaurateur, all intent on shaking uppolitics as usual.

SCHILLING: You can just call my Bobby Schilling. That's -- I'mthe pizza guy.

AMANPOUR: The president now must work with a Congress offreshman members, like Bobby Schilling, the new representative fromRock Island, Illinois. A Tea Party candidate and a father of 10,Schilling beat out a Democratic incumbent, winning over voters whoshared his frustration with Washington.

SCHILLING: Washington has lost complete touch with us, thelittle guy. Bobby Schilling, running for Congress. AMANPOUR: One of his primary targets: the president's healthcare bill.

(on-screen): The health reform bill?

SCHILLING: Yeah, the health care takeover, the job-crushinghealth care...

AMANPOUR: But you call it the job-crushing health care takeover.

SCHILLING: The job-crushing health care takeover.

AMANPOUR (voice-over): On the Senate side, the president nowfaces competition from the likes of the gentleman wielding a bowlingball.

LEE: You're cramping my lateral (ph).

AMANPOUR: He's the new junior senator from Utah, Mike Lee.

LEE: That's how it's done.

AMANPOUR: The Tea Party upstart who fired the shot heard aroundthe Republican establishment when he bowled over the GOP incumbent inthe primaries last June.

(on-screen): Tea Partiers have been described asrevolutionaries, as rabble-rousers, as those who have come to upturnand upend the current system. Is that what you've come to do?

LEE: I don't think it should be thought of as particularlyrevolutionary for an American to say, let's require our Congress tobalance its budget. If that's revolutionary, then call me that.

AMANPOUR (voice-over): When Lee, Schilling and Gibson arrived inWashington to take office at the start of the month, they hadmomentum.

SCHILLING: We're here to get this thing back on track.

AMANPOUR: Even though they were still learning about the otherside of the aisle...

SCHILLING: What's really amazing is the fact at just how normalthe people you see, you know, like even Nancy Pelosi, just -- youknow, just a regular person when you see...

AMANPOUR (on-screen): What did you think, she was the devil withhorns?

SCHILLING: Well, you know, no, but, I mean, you see a totallydifferent person, kind of like when we see you on TV.

AMANPOUR (voice-over): Some were still learning theircolleagues' names...

LEE: That's Patty Murray, Democrat from Washington.

AMANPOUR: ... and figuring out where they were going to live.

(on-screen): Because I think you're going to be sleeping righthere.

GIBSON: Yes, this is the air mattress.

AMANPOUR: That's a pretty good one, right?

GIBSON: Yeah, and there's the sleeping bag back there.

AMANPOUR: You've got your clothes.

GIBSON: Yeah. Thirty seconds, I can be right down there, and Ican get the rest I need, and I'm back to work.

AMANPOUR (voice-over): Work was what they came to town to do,and they were getting down to it.

LEE: I've staked out a pretty clear path for what I want toaccomplish this year. It's a plan to get a balanced budget amendment.

GIBSON: I co-sponsored a couple bills already.

AMANPOUR: Even the hoopla surrounding their taking office -- theoaths...

(UNKNOWN): I do.

AMANPOUR: ... the photo-ops, the receptions -- barely slowedtheir stride as they ran off to cast their first votes.

GIBSON: Thanks. I'll be back.

AMANPOUR (on-screen): What vote is this one?

SCHILLING: This is for the congressional offices to take a 5percent budget cut.

AMANPOUR: Right. Now, it's nice. It's symbolic. It's notgoing to make a big dent where you need to, right, to we reduce thedeficit, the debt, all of that?

SCHILLING: Well, you know, but it's called leading by example.

AMANPOUR (voice-over): But just days later, on a sunny Saturdaymorning, their energy and enthusiasm was stolen by a gunman in Tucson.Their colleague, Democratic Congressman Gabrielle Giffords of Arizona,was shot in the head; 13 people were wounded; 6 were dead. And whileno one wanted to believe politics motivated the shooter, theramifications rippled throughout government.

GIBSON: I think it was very appropriate for us to pause for thatweek and to really take measure of the event.

AMANPOUR (on-screen): How has that affected the atmosphere here?

SCHILLING: It changed things, the tone a little bit here.

AMANPOUR: Will it increase any civility between the differentparties?

SCHILLING: Yeah, you know, I think the -- the one thing that'sbeen missing the last couple years is the -- there's been really notrue debate. It's been, you know, one side kind of pushes throughwhatever they want.

LEE: Everyone involved in the process would rather see a morecivil discourse, one that focuses on the issues and the policies atplay, the things that affect the American people.

AMANPOUR: One small example of that new tone, the Job-KillingHealth Care bill...

BOEHNER: Job-killing...

... job-killing...

... their job-killing government takeover of health care.

AMANPOUR: ... is now at least referred to differently.

BOEHNER: ... destroy jobs in America.

AMANPOUR: But Congressman Schilling isn't backing down.

SCHILLING: You know, it's still a job-killing bill. It's a job-crusher. You know, call it what you will.

AMANPOUR: And neither is Senator Lee.

LEE: The sure wins (ph) if we who have been elected change whatwe do just because of what he did.

AMANPOUR: Events in Tucson delayed the House vote on repealingthe president's health care bill, but this week, it passed.

SCHILLING: I think what we have to do is start over, and that'swhat we're doing now.

AMANPOUR: The repeal is unlikely to make it through the Senate,so for now, the law is safe. But what about those deficit-reducingdeep cuts Republicans are talking about?

(on-screen): So tell me where the big cuts are going come.

SCHILLING: The big thing is, is we have to look at everything.I'm not the expert yet.

GIBSON: Nothing should be off the table.

AMANPOUR (voice-over): And the Republicans now face a presidentwhose approval ratings are on the rise, thanks in part to bettereconomic numbers and the speech he gave at the memorial in Tucson.

OBAMA: The hopes of a nation are here tonight.

AMANPOUR (on-screen): You guys came in raring to go, raring topush back. Is it going to be more difficult for you now, given thathis standing is -- is being raised dramatically in the country?

SCHILLING: As long as President Obama is doing what's good forthe United States of America, I hope his -- his -- his favorables goto 100 percent.

LEE: I certainly don't think it changes my agenda or the agendasof those who are elected along with me this year. Presidentialpolling numbers wax and wane over time, and that doesn't change theway we push forward.

AMANPOUR (voice-over): And those improved ratings are also dueto continuing tax cuts, a plan the president initially resisted.

GIBSON: He listened to the American people, and he compromisedon something that was very important so that our economy was able tomove forward.

SCHILLING: He's starting to have to shift to become more of amoderate, which is good.

AMANPOUR: But just how much the president will have to shift inorder to work with this new Congress remains to be seen.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

AMANPOUR: For now, a shift to the center. And when we return,our roundtable takes up the presidential pivot to job creation.George Will, Paul Krugman, Matthew Dowd, and Donna Brazile, after thebreak.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MARCUS: Absolutely they are going to pivot on job -- to jobs,jobs, jobs.

(UNKNOWN): They thought that they could pivot onto the economy.

TAPPER: President Obama would make a hard pivot.

STEPHANOPOULOS: ... hard pivot to fixing the economy.

KURTZ: ... president tried to pivot from the cost of war torebuilding the economy...

(UNKNOWN): ... which is a very awkward pivot.

(UNKNOWN): ... questioning, wondering whether or not PresidentObama can pivot.

OBAMA: We now have to pivot and focus on jobs and growth.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

AMANPOUR: Now that the pivot has arrived, joining me to discussit, our powerhouse roundtable, with George Will, economist PaulKrugman, political strategist Matthew Dowd, and Donna Brazile.

So, it's happened. And President Obama has named Jeffrey Immeltas head of a new council on jobs and competitiveness. Impressed?

WILL: With the Immelt appointment?

AMANPOUR: With the whole pivot and the appointment particularly,in fact.

WILL: Well, yes. Yes, it's paid off in the following number.The percent of the American population that identifies the presidentas a liberal has declined 10 points in two months. That'sastonishing. And it's a response to his big political problem thatwas revealed in 2010 elections, that is, Democrats have been losingblue-collar white voters since the 1960s. That's white voters with nocollege education, basically. In 2010, he lost them 2 to 1, and therewas no gender gap, men and women alike, a record loss, and this is theway to get them back. AMANPOUR: You're seeing red, frankly, aren't you, Paul, overthis?

KRUGMAN: Not exactly. It's kind of sad. I mean, it's -- thewhole competitiveness thing is a bad metaphor.

AMANPOUR: Why? America is all about competition.

KRUGMAN: Because -- no, it isn't. The country is not acorporation. You know, a CEO who manages to lay off a large part ofhis workforce and increase profits is a success. Well, America hasmanaged to lay off a large part of its workforce and profits arehitting new records, and that is not a success. So these are notsimilar.

The idea that we are reassuring blue-collar workers by appointingto a not very important, but still a symbolic government post the CEOof a company which has most of its workers outside the United States,earns most of its profits outside the United States, and is now thesedays more of a financial firm than it is a manufacturing firm, inreality, was a major recipient of bailout funds -- you know, it's --now, all of this may be a way for Obama to find a more business-friendly way to sell more public investment, which is a good thing.

AMANPOUR: But is it more than just symbolism and lookingbusiness-friendly? I mean, Immelt, in a -- in an interview with theFT before he was named, talked specifically about manufacturing, howyou just couldn't rely on services industry to -- to continue thisbubble and burst sort of economy, that you really needed to makethings in order to be competitive and to create jobs.

DOWD: Presidencies primarily are about perceptions of theAmerican public and what you do with those perceptions communications-wise. This president, I think, has probably had the best 45 days ofhis presidency, his entire presidency. This is the only time in hispresidency where he's actually been on the rise. Every other part,from Inauguration Day, he was falling. He's on the rise.

He's done a number of things that I think have told the businesscommunity and the economic community and people that make jobs he'sgoing to be consistent, which he did with the tax cuts in signing(inaudible) extended them, and he's going to provide confidence.

And I think whether you like Immelt or not or whether you likeBill Daley or not as chief of staff, it did send a message to thebusiness community that I'm going to give some level of competence onthe economy. And what you do today -- he's done all the regulatorystuff. He's done all the policy stuff. It hasn't really moved theeconomy. What the country needs now is a sense of confidence thathe's willing to do that, and I think that's what he's done.

BRAZILE: But the economy has shown some improvements. And Ithink what the president can do on Tuesday is to take us beyond thecrisis that he inherited. We've heard for two years that the economywas going off the cliff. Now with have an opportunity -- the president has an opportunityto talk about the road to revival, to rebuilding America'sinfrastructure. It will take private investment, as well as some morepublic investments, I believe. But this is a great opportunity toshow that he can bring diverging opinions together, people who mighthave different beliefs and different backgrounds, but he has onesingle goal, and that is to create jobs for the American people.

WILL: But, Donna, now, you say the economy is improving, and itis, and that's what's depressing. That is, the recover began 20months ago in June 2009, and unemployment seems extremely resistant tothis.

(CROSSTALK)

AMANPOUR: ... where they're trying to actually kick-start fromemergency rescue of the economy to doing -- putting...

(CROSSTALK)

KRUGMAN: I think that's all symbolism. The reality is -- thestrategy is to hope that the natural forces of recovery finally startto kick in on the job market, as well as on industrial production andprofits, which has been happening for a while, and then to try and getsome longer-term things that will help the economy. There reallyisn't a job strategy here at all.

DOWD: Well, and I don't think we can underestimate the power andthe need of the president to focus and to resonate on symbols.Symbols are important. It's what he talked about big time in Tucson.It wasn't just about, "Here's what I want to do" or "This is whathappened, this tragedy that happened." It was symbolic. It wasAmerican values.

And I think today -- we've lowered the tax rates as far as theyprobably can be lowered. He's done -- he's put as much money as hecan -- I know Paul would like him to put more money -- I think that hecan reasonably with the deficit in order. And now it's time to focuson the symbols and the confidence in the American public.

AMANPOUR: But beyond symbols, isn't -- aren't Americancorporations sitting on something like $2 trillion of cash? Doesn't-- doesn't he need to coax that out of them? And won't that createhiring?

KRUGMAN: They're sitting on no more cash than you would expectthem to, given weak demand. I mean, consumers aren't spending.Corporations are not saying -- you know, if you actually look at whatthey really say when you ask them about their prospects as opposed towhen they're lobbying, they're not sitting on that cash becausethey're afraid of government regulations or because they're afraid oftaxes. They're saying, why should I expand my plant when I can't evensell the capacity, you know, that I've got right now? So it's not...

AMANPOUR: So what's the solution, then? KRUGMAN: Well, the solution would have been a new New Deal orwould have been a really big -- or quantitative easing from the Fed orall these various things or, you know, stuff turns up. And basicallythe solution right now is, we're waiting for this gradual naturalhealing process to take place.

WILL: Twenty-four months ago, they thought there was going to bea New Deal. The assumption going in was that there had been a crisisof confidence in capitalism that would open the way for government tohave much more latitude for activism. It turns out what happened wasa crisis of confidence in government, which was in no small measureblamed for the recession, so that...

(CROSSTALK)

KRUGMAN: I agree. That's how it played out. It's not clear...

(CROSSTALK)

KRUGMAN: ... was right, but that's how it played out.

BRAZILE: But without that public investment, without simulatingthe economy, more Americans would have been in poverty, more state andlocal governments would have had to lay off teachers, andfirefighters, and policemen.

So I think the president and the Democrats, who once controlledhalf that Capitol, they had the right priorities at the right time,but this is a different era and the president has to show he has aplan to create jobs for the future.

DOWD: Well, what I think is interesting is, the presidencies arefounded on the idea that you have the power and the ability tocommunicate to the vast majority of the American public. When yournumbers drop, you no longer have that power, and you no longer havethe ability to fashion policy when you don't.

This president, I think, has finally learned that he is not goingto be judged on a number of liberal or progressive legislativeaccomplishments, which he had a ton, more than any president in recentmemory. He had health care. He had a number of things on investmentpackages. He had all that. And his numbers didn't move; theyactually fell.

Until he shifted -- elections have consequences, and he shiftedto a set of policies that was more in tune with where the Americanpublic was. His numbers have risen. Now he has the power of thepulpit again.

KRUGMAN: Yeah, I mean, look, I think the model is something likeClinton, who, in fact, mostly was just riding on a successful economy,which was successful mostly for reasons that had nothing much to dowith him, but he was able to -- to be a very popular president bypresiding over that, by providing competent management on those thingsyou could control. I think that is Obama's model now. It's -- I'm not sure it'll beenough, because this -- we're in much deeper economic trouble than wewere in the '90s. But given the realistic of political limits, youcan't expect him to do too much.

AMANPOUR: We talk about symbolism, what the president needs todo. Politically, he's moved to the -- to the center. He's heeded thecall of the people, so to speak. But when it comes to real solutions,how do you kick start and how do you make a dent in that 9.4 figure?

WILL: You don't. I had lunch this week with Austan Goolsbee,who was your guest a few weeks ago, and he said, look, people seem tofeel that in the basement of the White House somewhere think there'san enormous switch, you go down and throw it, and jobs are created.

The fact is the terrible frustration in the White House must bethat everything that really matters is beyond their control, which ishow to create jobs. It's not going to happen because of thegovernment.

AMANPOUR: We will pick that up in -- in a moment. When we comeback, we'll have more with our roundtable on the state of the Obamapresident and what we expect in the State of the Union address, whenwe return.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: While the people who sent us here have differentbackgrounds, different stories, different beliefs, the anxieties theyface are the same. You know what else they share? They share astubborn resilience in the face of adversity.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

AMANPOUR: That was President Obama delivering last year's Stateof the Union address. Welcome back. Joined again by our roundtable.

George, I know that you have a great, great regard for watchingthe State of the Union on television.

WILL: A, they're overrated. The next morning, the country isstill a complex continental country with muscular interests (ph) andpolitics is its own momentum.

Between Jefferson and Woodrow Wilson, no one delivered this inperson. They sent their report to Congress in writing. But now we'veturned this into this panorama in which -- in an interminable speech,every president, regardless of party, tries to stroke every erogenouszone in electorate.

AMANPOUR: Oh, my goodness.

WILL: And it becomes a political pep rally, to use the phrase ofChief Justice Roberts last year. If it's going to be a pep rally,with the president's supporters or whatever party standing up andbraying approval, and histrionic pouting on the part of the other,then it's no place for the judiciary, it's no place for the uniformedmilitary, and it's no place for non-adolescent legislators.

BRAZILE: It's a once-a-year opportunity to talk to the Americanpeople to remind us who we are and where we're going. This is anopportunity for the president to use scripture to give us a vision,because the Bible says, without a vision, a people will perish, and wedidn't have that over the last...

(CROSSTALK)

AMANPOUR: So what is the vision? Because now or never.

BRAZILE: It's about jobs. It's about rebuilding America, makingAmerica competitive and strong again, and taking care of all ourissues, both on the domestic front, as well as international.

DOWD: To me, the State of the Union -- and I'll agree in partwith George and disagree in part with George on this -- they don'taffect the American public. If you look at like approval numbersgoing into State of the Unions over the last 35 years and coming out,they do not move the numbers. Even Ronald Reagan, who was lauded asone of the best communicators in the history of this country, nevermoved the American public.

Barack Obama, another great speaker, did very well in Tucson. Inlast year's State of the Union, didn't move the numbers. But what isimportant I think in this is for him to continue to connect the dotswith the audience in the Capitol and the people that surround peoplein the Capitol that he is going to keep doing what he's been doingsince Election Day.

It's not the event in itself that matters, but it's how -- thecumulative effect of it. And if he continues to, one, talk about jobsand the economy, and then tie to it an increase in making ourdiscourse better and talking to each other across party lines, if hedoes those two things, he will continue to rise in the polls.

AMANPOUR: There's been some preview of what he's going to say.What does he need to say to inspire confidence in the economy?

KRUGMAN: Oh, I don't think there's anything much he can do thatwill inspire confidence. I mean, what he's doing in the lead in is,is using this competitiveness, which is actually a tired old buzzword.But it's -- what he appears to be doing is signaling that he's notgoing to go for the full-out Republican agenda of slashing spending.He's actually going to make a case for more public investment.

And we're just -- you know, I think the main thing right now iswhat we're not hearing. We're not hearing him signing on to cuts inSocial Security, which was something that was being floated for awhile.

But, you know, and actually the whole thing -- that is --political event, actually, doesn't matter. But it's an event thatforces the president to signal what he's -- where he's going.

AMANPOUR: George, you talked about the braying and the pouting.And, obviously, there's been a huge amount of -- of -- of attention tothe seating plan. Do you think the seating plan, which Democrats sitnext to which Republican, and the new tone of civility is going tomake a difference, going to last?

WILL: Well, if it, again, drains the pep rally aspect out of it,this will be fine. But as Matt says, the whole event does not matter.

AMANPOUR: Expect that...

KRUGMAN: I've got to say...

AMANPOUR: OK.

KRUGMAN: ... the juvenility of U.S. politics in this past yearor so has just been amazing. And -- and, you know, I think about thefact that so much of this talk about Obama having an anti-businessagenda has been just because, "Well, he doesn't treat us with enoughrespect." I never thought that "Ma, he's looking at me funny" wouldbe a political rallying cry.

AMANPOUR: Well, when you say that -- but, look, and I keeprepeating this, because I find it extraordinary, given thepolarization of the debate. The vast majority of the American peoplesay that they want -- the vast majority, Democrats and Republicans, upto 83 percent, that they want the president and the White House andthe Congress to work together on these big issues. Is that -- willthey heed the voice of the people?

DOWD: Well, it's interesting, Christiane, because the Americanpublic's been sending that signal for many years in a row. They sentit during Clinton's presidency...

AMANPOUR: So why doesn't anybody listen?

DOWD: They said it -- because it's much easier in the polarizednature of a lot of the -- of Congress and how it operates and themedia, which sort of has a tendency to cede it to the people on thefar left and the far right that can yell at each other. I do thinkit's a good thing that maybe some of them are going to sit together,though it kind of reminds me of my daughter's second-grade class. Shedoesn't like somebody this; we're going to seat them together andmaybe they're going to get along. But in the end, I think it's a goodstep.

BRAZILE: Look, senators represent their states, representativestheir districts. The president represents the entire country. An --this is an opportunity to talk above the heads of the politicians tothe American people to give them some confidence about the future.

AMANPOUR: Thank you all very much. We're out of time. And theroundtable will continue in the green room at abcnews.com/thisweek,where you can also find our fact checks in conjunction withPolitiFact. And when we return, ABC's John Donvan on the challenge of sayingsomething new in the State of the Union.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

AMANPOUR: Welcome back. As President Obama makes his finaledits to the State of the Union address, he faces many challenges, asyou've heard, the economy, war, and defending his signatureachievement, health care reform.

But, as ABC's John Donvan tells us, one of his biggest challengemay be originality.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

(UNKNOWN): Madam Speaker, the president of the United States.

DONVAN (voice-over): So they announce him by title, and everyonestands up, and they applaud, and he gets to have that lookout ateveryone from on high moment, and that's got to be, you know, for aguy with any sort of ego, gratifying. You've arrived.

But then, the speech part, a tradition started by GeorgeWashington and then skipped by all intervening presidents who sent upwritten messages until 98 years ago Woodrow Wilson went back to onceagain delivering the State of the Union message by saying out loud,which all presidents have done nearly every year since then.

The speech part, really, doesn't it seem a little bit likehomework to us and to him? Why is he preparing this particular speechright now? Because it's mandatory. It's expected by a certain date.It's an exam paper.

And it's as though for decades they've been sitting in the samestudy circle, carouseling around the same answers or non-answers,because after Nixon said...

NIXON: The United States will not be department on any othercountry for the energy we need to provide our jobs, to heat our homes,and to keep our transportation moving.

(APPLAUSE)

DONVAN: ... then Ford said...

FORD: These proposals and actions can reduce our dependence onforeign energy supplies.

DONVAN: ... then Carter said...

CARTER: Our excessive dependence on foreign oil is a clear andpresent danger to our nation's security.

DONVAN: ... and, at every stop, the same thing, as the spin hasspun. OK, one more ride to show it's not just about oil. Ready?Reagan said... REAGAN: We must bring federal deficits down.

DONVAN: ... and Bush said...

GEORGE H.W BUSH: We must get the federal deficit under control.

DONVAN: ... another Bush said...

GEORGE W. BUSH: First, we must balance the federal budget.

DONVAN: And look who only last year said...

OBAMA: We do what it takes to bring this deficit down.

DONVAN: The challenge for him now is to say something new and tosay it in a House that has just been handed to the party of hisopponents. Traditionally, this is where presidents get all bipartisanall of a sudden in their State of the Union message.

Clinton in '95, when Republicans had just won the House in alandslide...

CLINTON: Now all of us, Republicans and Democrats alike, mustsay we hear you. We will work together to earn the jobs you havegiven us.

DONVAN: Bush in 2007, when the landslide went the other way.

GEORGE W. BUSH: Our citizens don't much care which side of theaisle we sit on, as long as we're willing to cross that aisle whenthere's work to be done.

DONVAN: Maybe, too, citizens don't care very much what is saidin these speeches because the phrasings, the gestures, the theatricsare so very recycled, from naming the heroes in the high seats to theborrowings from scripture.

CLINTON: Reverend Robert Schuller suggested that I read Isaiah58:12.

DONVAN: And if it's scripture that inspires, well, maybe weshould take on this verse to temper expectations when he gets up thereTuesday night, Ecclesiastes 1:9, "There is nothing new under the sun."If he proves that one wrong, then it just might be one heck of aspeech.

I'm John Donvan for "This Week."

(END VIDEOTAPE)

AMANPOUR: And I'll be back with a special word on the passing ofa statesman for peace and a warrior for the poor.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

AMANPOUR: This week, the nation and the world bid farewell to aman President Obama called one of the brightest lights of the greatestgeneration. Sargent Shriver, the first head of the Peace Corps, diedat 95 after a long battle with Alzheimer's.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: His legacy is written in the villages around the worldthat have clean water or a new school through the Peace Corps...

SARGENT SHRIVER: We're making an effort to improve education andthe health services and the housing of people who are suffering underpoverty conditions.

MARIA SHRIVER: For me, as his only daughter, perhaps hisgreatest achievement was showing us in our family how to show up inother people's lives and how to love unconditionally.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

AMANPOUR: And the Pentagon released the names of 18servicemembers killed in Iraq and Afghanistan in the past two weeks.

That's our program for today. Thank you for watching. ABC willhave special coverage of the president's State of the Union addressTuesday evening. See you then.

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