Posts Tagged ‘David Brooks’

Sunday talk show highlights, May 9, 2010

May 10, 2010

This Monday, Meet the Press, This Week and State of the Union.

On Meet the Press, host David Gregory interviewed Attorney General Eric Holder, and asked him about the Times Square bomb plot in the context of racial profiling:

MR. GREGORY:  When, in this context, when is racial profiling illegal?

MR. HOLDER:  Well, I’m not sure–I don’t even talk about whether or not racial profiling is legal, I just don’t think racial profiling is a particularly good law enforcement tool.  If one focuses on particular groups, that necessarily means you’re taking law enforcement away from places where they probably ought to be. …

MR. GREGORY:  But what happened in this case?

MR. HOLDER:  Well…

MR. GREGORY:  Wasn’t it racial profiling that led us to ultimately get the most important piece of information from this guy, which was a telephone number that he uses in the plot because he was held aside from for a second screening earlier this year?

MR. HOLDER:  No.  What led us to him was good normal law enforcement. …

MR. GREGORY:  But where is the line, Mr. Attorney General?  Because, I mean, this is very complicated.  If you have U.S. citizens who are being used who are going back and forth to Pakistan–we are tracking people from Pakistan and Yemen for reasons that are relevant, that are germane to law enforcement not because they just happen to be Pakistani.  So where is the line when you talk about profiling?

MR. HOLDER:  Again, I don’t think that profiling is good law enforcement.

On a related topic, Gregory focused on the case of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed – the alleged mastermind behind 9/11:

MR. GREGORY:  … You announced that he would be in a civilian trial in New York.  And when you made that announcement back in November, this is what you said.

(Videotape, November 13, 2009) MR. HOLDER:  For over 200 years our nation has relied on a faithful adherence to the rule of law to bring criminals to justice and provide accountability to victims.  Once again, we will ask our legal system in two venues to rise to that challenge.  I am confident that it will answer the call with fairness and with justice (End videotape).

MR. GREGORY:  Fairness and justice.  That same month you were asked what happens if Khalid Sheikh Mohammed is acquitted, and this is what you said.

(Videotape, November 18, 2009) MR. HOLDER:  If there were the possibility that a trial was not successful, that would not mean that that person would be released into, into our country. That would–that is not a possibility (End videotape).

MR. GREGORY:  You said failure is not an option.  You said he will not be released.  And the broader criticism is, of you, that you say you believe in our civilian justice system.  And you said when you became attorney general that “I’m going to stick to those principles even when it’s hard.” And yet, with all the political pressure to be tough on terrorists, you said “I believe in the system” at the same time you appear to be rewriting the rules of that system, which, ultimately, critics say, can undermine the system.  Even with Shahzad, before he was charged, you held a press conference announcing that he had confessed.  Shouldn’t that be a concern to those who work with you and others who believe, as you say you do, in our civilian justice system?

MR. HOLDER:  Well, I believe in the civilian justice system.  I have certainly worked all my life in the civilian justice system.  I have confidence in the civilian justice system’s ability to handle these new threats that our country faces with regard to Shahzad, with regard to Khalid Sheikh Mohammed.  I think that we have conducted ourselves in a way that’s consistent with the best that is about our civilian justice system.  I don’t think that I have to take back anything that I have said in the past.  One of the things that we did with regard to that press conference was to get out there early to assure the American people generally and people in New York specifically that the person we thought was responsible for that attempted bombing was, in fact, in custody.

During the roundtable discussion, Washington Post columnist E. J. Dionne, Jr. picked up on the issue:

This is a hard problem.  How do we protect ourselves and, at the same time, remain a nation rooted in liberty and law?  And we have faced this problem many times in our history going back to the Civil War, the two world wars, particularly World War I, the Cold War, and we haven’t always privileged liberty as a country.  And I think what you’re seeing in this debate is a kind of choice between a muddled approach–and I think the Obama administration has been muddled because it’s very complicated–vs. demagoguery, where anytime they seem to lean in any way toward civil liberties, somebody jumps on them.  But I tell you what scares me is the rise of less sophisticated forms of terror.  A car bomb is not flying a plane into a building, yet–you know, I spent time in Lebanon during the civil war there–car bombs are frightening.  We are very lucky, a combination of luck and skill of our police forces that we’ve stopped things so far.  But this would portend–I just pray these things don’t succeed because this really is terrorism by every definition.

Still on the topic of civil liberties, Dionne talked about the term “lawyered up”:

I just want to say I just hate this term “lawyered up.” Because if you are accused of a crime and you are innocent, you want a lawyer to defend your innocence.  And we totally forget that we have civil liberties protections not only to protect the guilty but to protect innocent people.  … “lawyered up” … is used over and over again to imply that any kind of use of normal judicial process, which is designed to protect innocence, sort of pushes us so far down the line that we forget why we have these protections in the first place. … I said right at the outset, protecting liberty and protecting ourselves, this is a tough matter when it comes to terrorism.  But we should not throw out our rights with … a term like “lawyered up.”

On the issue of President Obama’s Supreme Court nominee (announced today, May 10: Elena Kagan), BBC World News’ Katty Kay had the following to say about Elena Kagan:

I think Elena Kagan is known as somebody who can lead and I think that is important to the White House as well at the moment.  She can sway opinions of other judges.  And, of course, Justice Kennedy as a swing judge is particularly important.  She has a fierce intellect.  She’s known actually, curiously, people from Harvard describe her similar terms to the way they described Obama that she’s known as a consensualist, somebody who can listen to different points of view and bring people together.  And I think in this divided court, that might be important for the White House as well.  The other thing is, if he is looking down the road and, perhaps, one of the women was to go, if he appointed another woman now, that still leaves him with two women on the court further down the road.

Turning to the upcoming midterm elections, Gregory focused on the Republican “primary” in Utah:

MR. GREGORY: We had a development yesterday that really makes you stand up and take notice.  Senator Bennett of Utah, a well-known conservative, been in the Senate for a number of years, is out in a primary in Utah.  He spoke to reporters afterward and was obviously emotional about it.

(Videotape, May 8, 2010) SEN. BOB BENNETT (R-UT):  The political atmosphere obviously has been toxic, and it’s very clear that some of the votes that I have cast have added to the toxic environment.  …  I offer my congratulations, as I say, to whoever wins.  But I assure him he will not have any more loyal, dedicated, or efficient staff than I’ve had (End videotape).

MR. GREGORY:  David Brooks, a reliable conservative for 18 years, yet he proposed an alternative on health care and he voted for the bank bailout.

MR. BROOKS:  Right.  It is a damn outrage, to be honest.  I mean, this is a guy who was a very good senator, and he was a good senator for–and a good conservative, but a good conservative who was trying to get things done.  The Wyden-Bennett Bill, which he co-sponsored, if you took the healthcare economists in the country, they would probably be for that bill ideally.  It was a substantive, serious bill, a bipartisan bill, but with strong conservative and some liberal support.  So he did something sort of brave by working with Democrats, which more senators should do, and now they’ve been sent a big message, “Don’t do that.” The second thing is the TARP.  Nobody liked the TARP, but we were in a complete economic meltdown and sometimes you have to do terrible things.  And we’re in a much better economic place because of the TARP.  So he bravely cast a vote that nobody wanted to really cast, and now he’s losing his career over that.  And it’s just a damn outrage.

On This Week, host Jake Tapper also focused on the Times Square bomb plot, and played a video clip of Senator Lieberman’s (D-CT) reaction:

LIEBERMAN: If the president can authorize the killing of a United States citizen because he is fighting for a foreign terrorist organization, we can also have a law that allows the U.S. government to revoke … citizenship … of … American citizens who have cast their lot with terrorist organizations.

Terror scare + Lieberman = Politicization, much like former Senator Joe Biden’s characteristic of former N.Y. Governor Rudy Giuliani during a Democratic presidential primary debate in 2007: “Rudy Giuliani, I mean think about him, … there’s only three things he mentions in a sentence: a noun and a word and 9/11. I mean there’s nothing else.”

On the topic of the Arizona immigration law, Tapper asked whether Attorney General Eric Holder thinks “Racist the Arizona immigration law is racist?”

HOLDER: Well, I don’t think it’s necessarily a good idea. I mean, I think we have to understand that the immigration problem that we have, illegal immigration problem that we have, is a national one, and a state-by-state solution to it is not the way in which we ought to go.

TAPPER: But your issue with it is not that it’s state-by-state. Your issue with it is that there are concerns that there might be racial profiling that takes place, right?

HOLDER: That is certainly one of the concerns that you have, that you’ll end up in a situation where people are racially profiled, and that could lead to a wedge drawn between certain communities and law enforcement, which leads to the problem of people in those communities not willing to interact with people in law enforcement, not willing to share information, not willing to be witnesses where law enforcement needs them. I think you have to think about the collateral consequences of such a law, understanding the frustration that people feel in Arizona. It’s one of the reasons why I think we have to have a national solution to this immigration problem.

TAPPER: Do you think it’s racist?

HOLDER: I don’t think it’s racist in its motivation. But I think the concern I have is how it will be perceived and how it perhaps could be enacted, how it could be carried out. I think we could potentially get on a slippery slope where people will be picked on because of how they look as opposed to what they have done, and that is I think something that we have to try to avoid at all costs.

Tapper then interviewed the already mentioned Giuliani, not surprisingly since he’s the man who pops up when the issue of terror and New York City is on the agenda.

TAPPER: Now, you’re a former U.S. attorney. If you had been in charge of this investigation, what would you do differently, if anything?

GIULIANI: Well, I would not have given him Miranda warnings after just a couple of hours of questioning. I would have instead declared him an enemy combatant, asked the president to do that, and at the same time, that would have given us the opportunity to question him for a much longer period of time. Whether it works in the case of Shahzad or it doesn’t, the reality is, the better policy is to give the intelligence agents who are going to question him the maximum amount of time to question him, to check out the credibility of what he’s saying.

I mean, I don’t know yet what the truth is here. We shouldn’t. I mean, I think too much has been leaked about this, and the administration has talked too much about it, because the more you talk about it, the more you warn people in the Taliban to go hide somewhere.

When I was a prosecutor and associate attorney general, the last thing in the world I wanted to do is to have the other side figure out, you know, the information we had before we had a chance to act on it. So the reality is just to get these guys to tell the truth and then to corroborate how much they’re saying and for them to remember, it’s going to take three, four, five days of questioning.

“America’s mayor”: Miranda rights isn’t the way to go. Wouldn’t think twice about declaring U.S. citizens as enemy combatants. The truth should be concealed. It’s okay to interrogate suspects for three, four, five days without reading them their rights. Bumper-sticker it up!

In a more measured tone, the Hoover Institute’s Shelby Steele talked about the ideology of “jihadism”:

TAPPER: Shelby, the ideology of Islamism still seems to be powerful even if the quality, the candidates of terrorists that the Pakistani Taliban and others are getting are not as good. The ideology seems just as strong. This guy, Faisal Shahzad, who we should say is innocent until proven guilty, lived in the United States and had not a bad life here.

STEELE: I think the ideology is the story. There’s a larger clash, I think in the world, between the third world, people who were formally oppressed and so forth, who coming into freedom experience that as shame and came in, really, into a sort of confrontation with their own inferiority, their sense of inferiority. And I think jihadism is an ideology that compensates for a sense of inferiority.

And that’s really its appeal. It has no real religious connection. These are not particularly religious people. But they’re people who, as they sort of move into modernity, fail or having a rough time making that kind of transition, and so therefore there’s this wonderful ideology based in the idea of killing people, of death, you know, if I put on the gun on the table now, I’m the most powerful man in the room. I’m not inferior anymore.

And … the grandiosity of administering death randomly is extremely attractive to people who had this inner sense that I’m just never going to make that move into modernity.

On the issue of the upcoming midterms, Tapper focused the last minutes of the show on the fate of Senator Bennett (R-UT):

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) BENNETT: The political atmosphere, obviously, has been toxic. And it’s very clear that some of the votes that I have cast have added to the toxic environment. Looking back on them, with one or two very minor exceptions, I wouldn’t have cast any of them any differently, even if I had known at the time they were going to cost me my career (END VIDEO CLIP).

George Will’s reaction:

This is an anti-Washington year. How do you get more Washington than a three-term senator who occupies the seat once held by his father, a four-term senator, who before that worked on the Senate staff and then as a lobbyist in Washington? He’s a wonderful man and a terrific senator, but the fact is, he’s going against terrific headwinds this year, and he cast three votes, TARP, stimulus, and an individual mandate for health care.

Now, you might like one, two or all three of those, but being opposed to them is not outside the mainstream of American political argument.

On State of the Union, host Candy Crowley started off by playing a video clip of Republicans’ reaction to the Times Square bomb plot:

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Number one, for the second time, we were lucky. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Being lucky can’t be our national security strategy. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You know, we were lucky and I think it was good police work. It was a combination of them both. REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R), OHIO: Yes, we’ve been lucky but luck is not an effective strategy for fighting the terrorist threat (END VIDEO CLIP).

Just for fun, I conducted a word count of the number of times the word ”luck” was uttered in the three shows: 22 times (Meet the Press 2, This Week 7, and State of the Union 13).

In her interview with Assistant to the President for Homeland Security John Brennan, Crowley surprised me with her phrasing of this question:

Motivation; has Shahzad talked about that? Was it indeed drone attacks, the loss of civilian life as they seem to think some of these drones have done?

Wow. Just to be clear: Drone attacks DO KILL CIVILIANS. That’s a FACT. The question, however, is whether or not such attacks are warranted on a notion of achieving “the greater good.”

I also thought Crowley was sloppy in her questioning of Senator Bill Nelson (D-FL) and Richard Shelby (R-AL). As previously mentioned, the GOP talking point is that the Obama Administration was “lucky” in stopping the Times Square bomb plot suspect from leaving the country. One would thus think that Crowley wouldn’t play into this framing, but she certainly did:

Well Senator Shelby, that to me is the problem. It’s one thing if you have a grand conspiracy involving 12 people and three planes. It is another thing if you can get a single person and fund them and bring them into the U.S. and send them to a random mall or Times Square or whatever. Isn’t it really now down to a matter of luck or is there something in U.S. policy that can change, that will protect against this new threat?

In his reply, Shelby uttered the word “luck” or “lucky” 5 times. Crowley, on the other hand, actually uttered the word “luck” or “lucky” 3 times during the show…

On the topic of the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, Crowley wanted to know why Congress hasn’t done more to regulate the industry:

CROWLEY: First, to Senator Shelby, since you brought it up. It always gets down to this. Whether it is Wall Street or oil companies, Capitol Hill says, where were the regulators and why wasn’t there a regulation? But you all are in charge of the regulators, aren’t you? So can’t we ask, where was the U.S. Senate, where was the House of Representatives? Why didn’t they see this coming?

SHELBY: Well, we are not in charge of the regulators. We have oversight of the regulators. The Executive Branch is in charge of the regulators.

CROWLEY: But, you know, it doesn’t take much to see that it is possible that oil could leak when you’ve got an oil rig in the ocean. Couldn’t there have been hearings saying well exactly what sort of safety measures do you have? How do you know they are working? I mean, there weren’t those kind of hearings? Now we have 12 hearings coming up. But it is after the fact.

SHELBY: Candy, you make a good point.

Senator Nelson, in his response, said the following:

NELSON: Big oil wants its way. … Big oil has had its way among the regulators. There has been a cozy relationship between the regulators and MMS. You remember all those stories back in the mid part of this past decade. Sex parties, all kinds of trips.

CROWLEY: But shouldn’t Congress have some responsibility?

NELSON: You are doggone right, Candy. You are doggone right. That’s exactly right. And that’s what a number of us have been calling for. And we could never get to first base, because big oil would flex its muscle and call in its votes, and we could never get anything done. And tragically, it is going to take this disastrous oil spill to finally clamp down on them.

First mentioning lobbying and sex parties, and then saying Congress can never get to first base. Senator Nelson: New analogy please.

Lastly, in her interview with Chris Cillizza (Washington Post, author of The Fix blog) and Amy Walter (Editor-in-Chief of The Hotline blog), Crowley focused on the fate of Senator Bennett and the upcoming midterms:

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) SEN. ROBERT BENNETT (R), UTAH: The political atmosphere obviously has been toxic. And it’s very clear that some of the votes that I have cast have added to the toxic environment (END VIDEO CLIP).

CROWLEY: In particular, his vote for TARP, his bank bailout.

CILLIZZA: You know, TARP, the Troubled Asset Relief Program – That one I think is what kind of crystallized it. There were a lot of other things. Health care, immigration, his seat on the Senate Appropriations Committee. None of those things sat well with conservative voters, but TARP has really become a touchstone. We can talk about in some of the other races too, Candy, but Kentucky, it is a touchstone. In Texas, the governor’s race, Rick Perry labeled Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison “Kay Bailout,” because she supported TARP. So it’s really, for fiscal conservatives, for the Tea Party movement, that’s become the rallying cry that the establishment — even the Republican establishment is broken.

WALTER: This wasn’t necessarily an ideological issue as much as it was a Washington issue, which goes to the TARP piece, number one. And number two, that Bennett was known as somebody who actually could work with the other side. The fact that he actually reached out to Ron Wyden on health care was considered by many of the folks in this room, you know, really a traitorous act.

And we also have to remember that this was 3,500 delegates. This was not the broad electorate here, and I think that really — when we sort of go through all the rubble of this election, what we’re going to come to the conclusion is that the primary process itself is responsible for all this polarization we see in politics. You cannot run, not even as a moderate, but even as somebody who is willing to say, you know what, maybe somebody has a good idea that’s on the other side. For that, you will lose.

On a related topic:

CROWLEY: So I mean with the polarization, are we looking at a Tea Party problem? Are we looking at a policy problem or are we looking at an incumbent problem?

WALTER: I think it is absolutely an incumbent problem. I sat down with a Democratic pollster the other day and said that’s really the issue. You cannot even underestimate the disgust that voters have with anything Washington.

CILLIZZA: There is a level of unrest that exists. They always say if you have rep, sen or gov before your name, regardless of what the latter is after, you are probably in trouble.

On the topic of President Obama’s Supreme Court nominee, Cillizza had the following to say:

I would argue that everything that happens in politics has to do with campaigns. Some people would say that is a myopic view. I can assure you however in an even-numbered year like this one, this will be freighted with politics.

In the end, who had this Sunday’s most memorable phrase? Walter’s perspective on the primary process was good, and so was Cillizza’s “everything in politics has to do with campaigns.” Chris Cillizza also had the best one:

They always say if you have rep, sen or gov before your name, regardless of what the latter is after, you are probably in trouble.

If it’s Monday, it’s Sunday talk show highlight time.

Sunday talk show highlights, April 25, 2010

April 26, 2010

This Monday, Meet The Press and This Week.

On Meet The Press, David Gregory hosted a debate between the chairman and the ranking member of the Senate Banking Committee, Senators Chris Dodd (D-CT) and Richard Shelby (R-AL). On the topic of financial reform, Gregory posed the following question to Dodd: “So, Senator Dodd, the big question is do you have a deal?” And towards the end of his answer, Dodd stated the following:

Here we are 17 months after someone broke into our house, in effect, and robbed us; and we still haven’t even changed the locks on the doors, and we need to get it done.

On the prospects of passing the Dodd bill, Senator Shelby stated

not yet, but we’re getting there.

Focusing on the bill’s complicated and multilayered details, Gregory stated that people on Wall Street think that “a lot of senators and congressmen and women don’t understand … and yet they’re willing to just, because of this political atmosphere, pass sweeping regulation that could hurt competitiveness, that could send jobs overseas and all the, all the rest.” In short, Congress doesn’t know what’s in this bill, and they’re pushing it ahead just to score political points. Not surprisingly, Senator Dodd didn’t accept the premise:

David, I was born at night but not last night. With all due respect to those arguments, those are red herrings. We understand the complexity of it, that’s why we spent so long at this. Richard and I have spent the last two years basically, 39 months, going through hearings, working at this, listening to people, countless conversations with experts in the field. And there are some disagreements here. Not on “too big to fail.” We’re going to shut that down forever. We want consumers to get some protection. We’d like an early warning system so we don’t end up getting into trouble in the first place. And then making sure that no financial institution’s going to be unregulated in our country.

PolitiFact: Was Chris Dodd indeed born at night? Bring it on!

On the issue of immigration reform, Gregory focused on the newly passed and highly controversial Arizona immigration law and stated that immigration has now become “a front burner issue.” The New York Times’ David Brooks had the following to say:

First of all, I think this bill in Arizona is an invitation to abuse. You’re going to have the government making decisions on the basis of race. And at what level are they making these decisions? At the cop level, in the worst possible circumstances, when people are angry? It’s an invitation to sort of racial profiling and abuse. So I think it’s terrible. But the worst effect is happening back here because now we have the Democrats promising to have a comprehensive immigration bill before any of the preparatory work has been done, pushing aside a lot of other stuff, like cap and trade and energy. And why are they doing it? For purely political reasons because a lot of Democrats, including Harry Reid who is trying to get re-elected in Nevada, need to really fire up Latino voters to get them to come out to the polls.

On the same topic, Gregory mentioned the fact that Senator John McCain (who is in the middle of a tough primary campaign against former Congressman J.D. Hayworth) has voiced his support for the bill, leading to an exchange  between Gregory and Newsweek’s Editor-at-large Evan Thomas:

MR. GREGORY: And, Evan, look at the politics of this, Senator John McCain came out in support of the governor’s bill. This was the same Senator McCain who with Senator Kennedy fought for comprehensive immigration reform. It says something about the political mood and the landscape politically of the country.

MR. THOMAS: It makes me sad. I mean, McCain…

MR. GREGORY: He’s facing a tough primary fight, I understand.

MR. THOMAS: And I’m sympathetic for that, a politician’s got to get re-elected. But this was a guy who really knew how to get to the center and to reach across the aisle, and he came close a few years ago in getting this done. Now here he is pandering like crazy to get himself re-elected and endorsing a bad bill. People who know McCain are disappointed by him. I mean, you understand, he’s a politician, but really.

David Gregory then raised the issue of the growing anti-Washington mentality found across the country:

MR. GREGORY: A big question that I’ve been thinking about this week, whether it’s health care and its intervention into the economy, whether it’s economic stimulus or whether it’s financial regulation, it is about this debate between the role of government in society, in the economy, in our lives generally.

David Brooks, you have been thinking about this a lot and you wrote this in your column on Friday: “In the first year of the Obama administration, the Democrats, either wittingly or unwittingly, decided to put the big government-versus-small government debate at the center of American life.” How’s that playing out?

MR. BROOKS: Not well, I don’t think. I don’t think it’s good for the country. You know, we had a bitterly divisive culture war for a bunch of years, then we had a bitterly divisive debate about Iraq. And I think a lot of people, including President Obama, were hoping we could get to other debates about opportunity, about productivity, about fiscal problems. And those would have been debates, which would have structured some bipartisan cooperation. But for whatever reason, we fall into a big government vs. small government debate. And this is like a social script that puts all the Republicans on the anti-government mode, very polarized; strengthens the libertarian, more polarized part of that party; puts the Democrats on a more “let’s use government to do this and that” mode. And so you get this intense polarization which we’ve seen over the past year. It also tends to help Republicans, by the way. But it’s created, not only an end to the polarization, but it’s magnified it, I think.

MR. GREGORY:  And in fact, you saw this week, Evan Thomas, Pew Research Center comes out with a poll that says just 25 percent expressed a favorable opinion of Congress, virtually unchanged from March, prior to the passage of the healthcare reform bill. And there was this from the Pew’s analysis: “Rather than an activist government to deal with the nation’s top problems, the public now wants government reformed and growing numbers want its power curtailed. With the exception of greater regulation of major financial institutions, there is less of an appetite for government solutions to the nation’s problems–including more government control over the economy–than there was when Barack Obama first took office. A lot of people think, “Government can’t get it done.  They’re broke and they can’t do things well.”

MR. THOMAS: And Obama, you would think he’d get some points for first he passes health care, looks like he’ll finance–pass financial reform. But he doesn’t. He sort of floats around low in the polls. People are really down on government. To me, it’s a deflection from the real issue, which is how we’re going to pay for government. That’s the big thing looming out there. That’s what we ought to be talking about. And, unfortunately, both sides have got to give on something because we’re going to–you can’t deal with it unless, one, you raise taxes, which people don’t like; and, two, you cut benefits. Both sides got to give. That’s what Obama needs to be talking about because that is the real challenge facing us.

On the topic of the future of the Republican Party, David Brooks had the following to say:

MR. BROOKS: Can I just say something about the Republican mounting strategy, which is people like me would like there to be centrist, like Governor Crist, people like that. But the center has so far proved unprincipled, and people like Marco Rubio and Paul Ryan have shown they’re principled. And when you’re disgusted by government, you congregate toward people like that. And so the evidence shows overwhelmingly, so far, that the further right the party gets, as long as they’re principled, the better they do. Has any party had a worse year than the Democrats have had politically this year? Democratic favorability rating has dropped 22 points in a year. The Democrats a year ago had an 11 point party idea advantage over the Republicans. All that’s gone. So the Republicans are surging at the point they’re moving to the right with people like Rubio. And so that’s where the data is. People like me would wish, you know, go for the middle. But the data supports the idea that people like Rubio are driving the party to victory.

Gregory jumped in:

Well, OK, but if your desire is for the center, where, to come back to your original point, is there a more centrist big government argument to make? In other words, does President Obama have to win the argument that government is actually helpful?

Gregory’s question led to the following exchange:

MR. BROOKS: Yeah. Well, he won election because he won independents. The tea party movement is like really big and sort of interesting, but the core movement in politics has been in the center. He’s lost independents. And so he has to go being sort of the way he was on Wall Street this week, which is a pragmatic intelligent guy who talks about the things Evan talked about, that we need to have these things on both sides. And if he can embody that, he personally will be able to recapture the suburban voter. Whether the Democratic Party in the House can do it I’m really doubtful.

MS. NORRIS: If the party moves, if the Republican Party, though, moves farther to the right, do they capture those voters that are in the middle?

MR. BROOKS: Well, I, personally I’m dubious.  But I’d love to see some evidence to suggest that the Republicans I sort of like would do well.  I don’t see any evidence of that.  I see the Rubios doing really well.

MR. THOMAS: But can the Rubio people ever get the 51 percent?

MR. BROOKS: Right.  I, I think the Republicans will do phenomenally well this year.

MR. THOMAS: Mm-hmm.

MR. BROOKS: But it would be tough to see a Rubio-type candidate winning in 2012.

MS. NORRIS: Mm-hmm.

MR. BROOKS: But remember, the politics of the country are unprecedented, the disgust is amazing, and so I think we’d be hesitant to predict something like that.

On This Week, the Roundtable dealt with the same set of issues. Focusing on the Dodd bill and whether or not it would end too-big-to-fail, George Will had the following to say:

No [it will not end too-big-to-fail], because that’s not the problem. We all sort of sympathize with Sherrod Brown and Senator Kaufman’s idea that if it’s too big to fail, it’s too big to exist. The problem is it’s not scale, it’s connectedness that poses so-called system risk. And what people are arguing about is whether or not they have accurately located risk to the entire system.

This is an unusual argument. Usually in Washington when there’s controversy about a bill, the two sides agree about what the bill does but not whether it ought to be done. In this case, there’s an argument about whether or not the bill will actually do what it sets out to do.

Both sides want to guarantee the obliteration of certain kinds of failed firms. They want the management to go and they want shareholder equity to disappear. So it’s a competition to see who can be most beastly to these bad companies. And the question is whether or not this happens.

On the topic of financial reform, host Jake Tapper put some numbers up on the screen showing the large donations given to Democrats and Republicans from the same sector that they’re now trying to reform:

TAPPER: The Center for Responsive Politics did a study of campaign contributions, and in this cycle, the finance, insurance and real estate sectors are giving much more to Democrats than to Republicans. $65 million to $51 million. Paul, do you think the Democratic Party is too close to Wall Street?

KRUGMAN: Well, it has been in the past for sure. No question that in the late ’90s, the Clinton team — some of whom are now in the administration — were way too close to Wall Street. They believed that these were wise men who knew what they were doing. And no, at this point, it’s the party in power, of course, is going to be getting a lot more contributions. It’s kind of — that’s not too surprising.

Let me say a couple of things here. Anyone who says we need to be bipartisan should bear in mind that for the last several weeks, Mitch McConnell, the Senate minority leader, has been trying to stop reform with possibly the most dishonest argument ever made in the history of politics, which is the claim that having regulation of the banks is actually bailing out the banks. And basically, the argument boils down to saying that what we really need to do to deal with fires is abolish the fire department. Because then people will know that they can’t let their buildings burn in the first place, right? It’s incredible.

So anyone who says bipartisan, should say, you know, bipartisan doesn’t include the Senate minority leader. But, you know, I agree with George, actually, believe it or not. Too big to fail per se is not the problem. The Great Depression was made possible by the failure of the Bank of the United States, which despite its name, was a Bronx-based institution that was the 28th largest financial institution in the United States at the time, and yet brought the whole system down.

But what we are getting now in this bill is a way to have graceful failure of big institutions, right? We know how to deal with small banks. The FDIC seized seven banks last week that were on the verge of failing and let them, you know, liquidated them gracefully, but we don’t have a way of dealing with complex, you know, what we call shadow banking institutions like Lehman or Citigroup. And this bill would give you that.

So it would give you the ability to do for big, complicated financial institutions what we’ve been doing routinely for small ones, and that does — so it doesn’t end the too big, but it may deal with the fail bit.

On the topic of immigration reform, Tapper elaborated on the previously mentioned Arizona immigration law:

Let me start before we discuss this bill and what it actually does by going into one of the most controversial provisions in this new law, Arizona Senate bill 1070. “For any lawful contact made by a law enforcement official, where reasonable suspicion exists that the person is an alien who is unlawfully present in the United States, s reasonable attempt shall be made when practicable to determine the immigration status of the person.”

Paul Krugman’s perspective:

We have never put in enough money is basically what it comes down to enforce the border control. It’s not a deep issue of principle, it’s just a question of resources. People have been willing to talk tough about it but actually not willing to do reasonable stuff in terms of enforcement. And it’s going to be a problem. But what I want to go back to here is not just apartheid issues, but think about a different way.

We have these massive protests in this country about alleged authoritarian tendencies that we are going to have some kind of — inside the Obama/Hitler stuff — the idea that the government is encroaching too much in our lives.

And now all of the sudden, we have by pretty much the same people, demanding that we set up a system that will turn us into one of those apocryphal foreign authoritarian regimes where the police are saying hand over your papers, right? A world where you constantly have to prove who you are. And yes, it will be racial profiling but who knows what else? I mean, some people take me I look like President Lula of Brazil, so I might end up being pulled over when I’m on my morning walk, right?

Discussing the same topic, George Will, surprisingly, and in a slightly surreal moment, stated the following:

What the Arizona law does is make a state crime out of something that already is a crime, a federal crime. Now, the Arizona police — and I’ve spent time with the Phoenix Police Department — these are not bad people. These are professionals who are used to making the kind of difficult judgments. Suspicion of intoxicated driving, all kinds of judgments are constantly made by policemen. And I wouldn’t despair altogether their ability to do this in a professional way.

Comparing the upcoming immigration reform debate to the health care debate, Cynthia Tucker of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution stated the following:

Let me say this about immigration reform, though. If we thought health care reform was divisive, this is going to be an all-out battle, and will even create fissures in the Democratic Party. That’s why Speaker Pelosi has said we will act, but only if the Senate acts first.

Tapper jumped in:

President Obama has been saying — pointing out that there were 11 Republican senators who supported immigration reform in 2007 when it failed, and suggesting that they need to support it now. I don’t think they’re going to support it, though.

… to which Krugman had the following to say:

Well, politically, though, this is one of those issues that cuts right through the middle of both parties. The Democrats, on the one hand, tend to be pro-labor, which means they are worried about immigration; on the other hand, it is the party that now gets most of the Hispanic votes, it’s the party that generally is for inclusiveness. So the Democrats are divided. Many of them divided within their own hearts. It’s an interesting thing, it’s not so much different wings of the party as each individual Democrat tends to be kind of torn about this.

Republicans are divided between the sort of cultural conservative wing, the preserve America as the way it is, and the business wing, which likes having inexpensive immigrant labor. So this is one heck of an issue. It’s deeply divisive among both parties, which is one reason not to rush it, to push it at the top of the agenda right now.

In the end, who had the most memorable phrase this Sunday? Evan Thomas’ “pandering like crazy” was good, but Paul Krugman had the best one:

Mitch McConnell, the Senate minority leader, has been trying to stop reform with possibly the most dishonest argument ever made in the history of politics, which is the claim that having regulation of the banks is actually bailing out the banks.

If it’s Monday, it’s Sunday talk show highlight time.

Sunday talk show highlights, April 11, 2010

April 12, 2010

This Monday, Meet The Press and This Week. In short: The White House’s defend-President-Obama’s-Nuclear-posture-review-effort was headed by Secretaries Clinton and Gates, and the roundtables’ focused on the upcoming replacement of Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens.

On Meet The Press, host David Gregory played a videotape of President Obama talking about the desired qualities of his future Supreme Court nominee:

It will … be someone who, like Justice Stevens, knows that in a democracy powerful interests must not be allowed to drown out the voices of ordinary citizens.

My first reaction was that Obama was talking about a nominee who would oppose the Supreme Court’s ruling in the Citizens’ United case since President Obama framed his opposition to that ruling in strikingly similar terms.

Now, who will Obama pick?

The shortlist includes about ten names, including the following: Judge Diane Wood (7th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals), Elena Kagan (the solicitor general of the United States), Judge Merrick Garland (judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals in the D.C. Circuit) and Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano.

My view? Take it away Tony Blankley (the conservative voice on KCRW’s “Left, Right & Center”): “I’m not sufficiently familiar to really discuss that intelligently.”

On the issue of Hamid Karzai’s latest statements, Gregory posed the following question to syndicated Washington Post columnist Kathleen Parker:

Kathleen, you write in a column this morning about this complicated relationship with allies like Hamid Karzai in Afghanistan. And, again, you saw that exchange. What was noteworthy is a shift in the administration. Here you had the secretary of Defense and the secretary of State saying, “We’re not going to react to some of these things. We’re going to be more sympathetic toward Hamid Karzai. He’s the guy that we have to deal with.” That was, that was a significant change.

Parker answered:

Yeah, that was a shift as of right this minute, right? We’ve been pretty hard on him, and he is the guy that was elected and he is our man. We, we created Karzai. And he’s been under siege from everyone. I mean, Obama pretty much came out swinging during his campaign, and he’s had, you know, every European parliamentarian coming after him. Everybody is on Karzai’s back. And, and naturally, he’s going to react. This is the testosterone axis of the world, and you don’t insult a leader in public and then expect him to just sit back and take it.

David Gregory then turned the roundtable’s focus to the Southern Republican Leadership Conference held in New Orleans last week:

MR. GREGORY: Well, let me go a little bit larger here and talk about presidential leadership and put it in the political context, because there is an opposition party, the Republicans, and they’re trying to figure out how to mount that opposition, as we are in an election year. And there was a gathering of Republicans that got a lot of attention, the Southern Republican Leadership Conference. And you heard two prominent Republican voices, Newt Gingrich and Sarah Palin, talking about how, again, Republicans position themselves to counter President Obama (videotape):

MR. NEWT GINGRICH (R-GA): What the left wants to do is say we’re the party of “no.” …  And so here’s what I want to ask you to encourage every candidate you know, every incumbent you know, every staff person you know, every consultant you know, I think we should decide that we’re going to be the party of “yes.”

MRS. SARAH PALIN: There is no shame in being the party of no if they’re proposing, the other side, proposing an idea that violates our values, violates our conscience, violates our Constitution. What’s wrong with being the party of no.  …  Or better said by the good governor of this state, he said, “The party of `no’? Nah, we’re the party of `Hell, no!'”

Gregory then asked The New York Times’ David Brooks to assess the GOP right now in terms “of mounting this challenge, figuring out where it’s going to be in 2010 and 2012”:

MR. BROOKS: You’re turning to the party of “maybe” over here. So this is a bad move for you. Listen, Palin is great TV. She’s really attractive. Gingrich is sort of great TV. He’s got a billion ideas, 600 of which are really good. But the fact is the, the Republican Party is not Palin and it’s not Gingrich. The Republican Party is Rob Portman, who’s running for senator in Ohio. It’s Mark Kirk, who’s running for, for senator in Illinois. It’s Governor Christie in New Jersey. These are the people who are actually governing. And I happen to feel we pay a little too much attention to people like Palin, who’s sort of a sub reality figure on some TV show. But these are the people that are actually running, and they’ve actually got it figured out.They’re against a lot of what Obama’s doing, but they’re the party of “yes.” They’ve got a whole series of policies.  Paul Ryan from Wisconsin has–can wonk your ear off. And so that’s the real party. Palin, the tea parties–listen, the tea party movement is a movement without a structure, without an organization. No, no party, no movement like that lasts.

On This Week, the Roundtable focused on Justice John Paul Stevens’ retirement, and George Will’s opening remarks emphasized the fact that the confirmations of Supreme Court nominees were much smoother and went much faster back in the good old days. Furthermore, and as host Jake Tapper pointed out, the confirmation of Justice Stevens was the last one that wasn’t televised.

Perhaps it was easier to be bipartisan when the voters weren’t watching?

In the end, who had the most memorable phrase this Sunday? Tip of the hat to David Brooks for his description of Sarah Palin:

I happen to feel we pay a little too much attention to people like Palin, who’s sort of a sub reality figure on some TV show.

If it’s Monday, it’s Sunday talk show highlight time.

Postscript: Cokie Roberts mentioned the cartoon we picked as “Political Cartoon of the Week, April 4-10” when she described the upcoming debate on President Obama’s Supreme Court nominee.

Sunday talk show highlights, March 14, 2010

March 15, 2010

This Monday, Meet The Press, This Week, and State of the Union.

As I pointed out last Sunday, when the White House wants a certain message out there, one of their representatives headline Meet The Press and This Week. Last week it was Health & Human Services Secreteary Kathleen Sebelius. This week it was Obama’s Senior Adviser David Axelrod – who also headlined State of the Union.

Axelrod certainly had his talking points down, and his most repeated phrase was that the American people ”deserves an up or down vote on health care”, a line repeated on This Week by former Obama White House communications director Anita Dunn.

On Meet The Press, Tom Brokaw – the man with the deepest voice in television news – was sitting in for David Gregory. Brokaw started the interview with Axelrod by laying out the road ahead for passing health care reform:

First, the House will be voting on the Senate bill, which was approved in December.

The House will then also vote on a package of changes via reconciliation. That’s a procedure that they can get passed on a majority vote mostly to do with budget items.

The president then would sign the Senate health bill if it gets passed.

The Senate passes the House’s package of changes from reconciliation with a simple majority vote.

And then the president would sign the reconciliation bill.

In his interview with Karl Rove, Brokaw asked the following question on Rove’s perception of media bias:

You describe a Washington Post columnist as “snarky.” You complain kind of consistently–and people in your position have done this for a long, long time–about the press coverage. You’re now at Fox News. Do you think that Fox News is fair to President Obama?

Mr. Rove answered:

I think they–on the news side, absolutely. I think they’ve got first-rate individuals at the White House who do their job in as an objective, fair and balanced way.  Yeah, absolutely.

On a related topic, Brokaw’s discussion with New York Times’ columnists David Brooks and Tom Friedman focused on the phenomenon of so-called ”information cocoons”:

MR. BROKAW:  Let’s talk about this country and what’s going on here right now. You said to me over the weekend that you’re going to be spending more time looking at America because there’s so much going on at this time. Let’s share with our audience what David had to say recently about the political climate. “In a sensible country, Obama would be able to clearly define [his modern brand of moderate progressivism] without fear of offending the people he needs to get legislation passed. But we don’t live in that country. We live in a country in which many people live in information cocoons in which they only talk to members of their own party and read blogs of their own sect.” Has the political culture been hijacked by the mechanics of the information technology?

MR. BROOKS: Well, I do think everything–everybody gets to pick their own reality these days. The–a lot of liberals think Obama’s been very weak and he’s not forceful enough. I think he’s been amazingly tenacious on Afghanistan, on health care, on education. Pretty tough guy, I think. A lot of conservatives think he’s a socialist, trying to turn us into Sweden. Give me a break! Is that what this health care is about? But people like that because they want all differences to be 180 degrees rather than 30 degrees. And so they get to pick that reality because it makes them feel good.

Brooks’ “information cocoons” can certainly be viewed as another product of The Opinionated Decade.

Switching shows, This Week was once again hosted by Jake Tapper, and he interviewed Senator Lindsey Graham (SC-R) after his interview with Axelrod. Commenting on that interview, Graham stated:

MR. GRAHAM: … The interview I just heard is spin, campaigning. I thought the campaigning was over. Are you trying to tell me and the American people that Scott Brown got elected campaigning against a Washington bill that really is just like the Massachusetts bill?

The American people are getting tired of this crap. No way in the world is what they did in Massachusetts like what we’re about to do in Washington. We didn’t cut Medicare — they didn’t cut Medicare when they passed the bill in Massachusetts. They didn’t raise $500 billion on the American people when they passed the bill in Massachusetts.

To suggest that Scott Brown is basically campaigning against the bill in Washington that is like the one in Massachusetts is complete spin. I’ve been in bipartisan deals, I was in the “gang of 14” to stop the Senate from blowing up when the Republicans wanted to change the rules and use the majority vote to get judges through.

If they do this, it’s going to poison the well for anything else they would like to achieve this year or thereafter.

On a lighter note, Tapper hinted at the Massa-saga by stating that he couldn’t “promise any tickle fights” in the introduction of the Roundtable.

During the Roundtable discussion, Tapper posed the following question to George Will:

George, Congressman, former Congressman Ray LaHood, who is now the transportation secretary, but was a Republican member of Congress, he has an op-ed in the Chicago Tribune saying — talking about why, as a member of the House, he would have voted for this bill, because this bill reduces the deficit and also brings down health care costs, and it will make insurance more affordable. Do you believe he would have voted for it as a Republican congressman?

Will responded:

Not a bit. It reduces the deficit because you have ten years of taxes and six years of benefits and other accounting gimmicks. You have said a moment ago essentially what Mr. Axelrod said there, which is, gosh, the American people like elements of this bill so let’s pass this bill. I like sauerkraut and I like ice cream. I don’t like sauerkraut ice cream. When you put this mish-mash together — the public has looked at it. Now, Nancy Pelosi said this week, we have to pass this bill so we can find out what’s in it. I think the American people already know what’s in it.

Anita Dunn and Jake Tapper responded to the sauerkraut ice cream comment:

DUNN: I’m not actually sure you ever tried sauerkraut ice cream and I’m not sure anybody has.

TAPPER: It is quite scrumptious.

DUNN: It could be very good.

One last thing stood out on This Week. It was on the topic of the so-called palace intrigue in the White House:

TAPPER: Speaking of the process argument, in the last few weeks, this town has been obsessed with this palace intrigue story of whether or not the fact that the bill has had such troubles getting passed, is the fault of the president’s advisers, whether David Axelrod, who was here earlier, or White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel. In fact, Rahm, if you look at the covers of the New York Times magazine and the New Republic, he is quite the cover boy. And Anita, having worked with these two men, Axelrod portrayed as something of the president’s liberal conscience, Emanuel portrayed as the pragmatic deal maker. Is this story of in-fighting and palace intrigue, is it fair?

DUNN: It’s a very overblown story. Are there disagreements among the president’s advisers? Of course. They’re human beings and everybody brings different things to the table.

But you know, David and Rahm, who are very old friends, are kind of like the Oscar and Felix of the White House. Right? They are different stylistically, but they’re not all that different when it comes to their approach. And where they are totally united is in their commitment to the president and what he wants to get done. So I think these stories, you know, when things — when White Houses hit a rough patch in this town, people go from being smart to being stupid in about a nanosecond. And I think that’s kind of where we are right now. I’ll put myself in the realms of the stupid right now, but the reality is that I think this is one of the more overblown stories you’re going to see.

ABC News’ Cokie Roberts joined in:

ROBERTS: You have White House intrigue stories when things are going badly. When things are going well, it’s a well-oiled machine and everything is, you know, and everyone is behaving well and all that. When things start to fall apart, you get these stories.

On State of the Union, host Candy Crawley’s interview with David Axelrod was followed by an interview with House Minority Leader John Boehner (OH-R). The majority of the interview focused on health care, and the essentials of Boehner’s approach are layed out in the following exchange:

CROWLEY: What’s the Republican role now on the House side? What is there left for you all to do?

BOEHNER: I’m doing everything I can to prevent this bill from becoming law. Plain and simple. We have offered our ideas.

CROWLEY: And what do you do?

BOEHNER: We’ve asked the president to sit down and work with us. They have refused all the way through the process. And–

CROWLEY: You had the summit.

BOEHNER: Oh, they had the summit. We offered our ideas.

CROWLEY: And he incorporated some, did he not?

BOEHNER: That — and — and took a couple of Republican bread crumbs and put them on top of their 2,700 page bill. That’s not good enough. And so while — what I’m doing is working with my colleagues to keep the American people engaged in this fight. I don’t have enough votes on my side of the aisle to stop the bill. But I, along with a majority of the American people who are opposed to this, can stop this bill. And we’re going to do everything we can to make it difficult for them, if not impossible to pass the bill.

In the end, who had the most memorable phrase this Sunday? Unlike most other Sunday’s, there weren’t many rhetorical flourishes to speak of (well, Boehner’s “Republican bread crumbs” was actually kind of good). However, George Will once again pulled one out of the hat:

You have said a moment ago essentially what Mr. Axelrod said there, which is, gosh, the American people like elements of this bill so let’s pass this bill. I like sauerkraut and I like ice cream. I don’t like sauerkraut ice cream.

If it’s Monday, it’s Sunday talk show highlight time.


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