This Monday, Meet The Press, This Week, and State of the Union.
On Meet The Press, host David Gregory interviewed United States Secretary of the Treasury Timothy Geithner, and Geithner had the following to say about President Obama’s governing style:
The President governs this way: You focus on doing the right thing. You let the politics take care of themselves. Now it’s not always gonna be popular. People are gonna fight you on these kind of things. But we’re gonna focus on doing the right thing.
Sure, President Obama – being the savvy politician that he is – isn’t really worried about the politics as long as he does the right thing in a midterm election year. More likely, Obama is focusing on doing what’s right in the eyes of the voters – and Wall Street reform is certainly such an issue.
Focusing on the raw politics, Gregory asked National Journal’s Ron Brownstein:
Who is winning? Politically? On the economy? Whether its regulation, whether it’s jobs, whether it’s stimulus, who’s winning? Republicans or Democrats in this election year?
And Brownstein answered:
Well, by and large, it feels as though Republicans are driving the argument. And, the construct that Republicans have made, is that what is impeding recovery is primarily big government. And to a large extent, they have succeeded in it.
You look at all the trend lines, Democratic advantage over Republicans on the economy, Obama approval on the economy, those are all declining. And this is rather striking after the largest failure of the market economy in 2008, probably since the Great Depression. Democrats I think have been losing control of the macro argument here, … and this financial regulation is a place where these two contending visions collide.
I think the Republican argument primarily is that more government intervention is the problem. And Democrats, I think, want to make the case that what led to this disaster was the hands off approach that the Republican Administration took, the Bush Administration, the low tax, low regulation approach that their agenda was built around, led to this. And I think you’re gonna see these contending both policy and political visions very clearly on display – if this bill comes to the Senate floor next week.
Turning to Congresswoman Marsha Blackburn (R-TN), Gregory prompted Blackburn to “make the case for why, as Ron suggests, the Republican Party is on the right side of this economic debate in this election year”, and Blackburn answered:
The reason the Republican Party is on the right side of this economic debate is simply this. The election is going to be about freedom, and the American People know that being dependent on the federal government for home loans, for your health care, for your education, for your jobs, even for the kind of light bulb that you want to put in the fixture, is not the aspirations of a free people. And because of that, we are on the right side of this argument.
The following exchange followed:
DAVID GREGORY: What did– hold on, Congresswoman. … What did freedom get the American People during … the financial collapse? Is that not a fair question about the limits of the free, capitalist system?
REP. MARSHA BLACKBURN: We know that if you let free markets work, there is no expiration date on the free market. There is no expiration date on the American economy. What the American People do not like is the overreach of government–
DAVID GREGORY: I’m sorry, Congresswoman, my question was what did the free market get us, what did freedom get us in the economic collapse? You had an absence of government regulation, and you had the free market running wild. Look what the result was.
REP. MARSHA BLACKBURN: And you need more oversight. We all agree with that. And the financial bill that Senator Corker and them are working on would lead to more oversight. The Goldman charges that have come forward now, David, they have come forward under existing SEC rules. More oversight, which I have always been a proponent of–
DAVID GREGORY: Well, let me just move on for a sec….
Later in the discussion, Ron Brownstein focused on Blackburn’s statement that the midterm election “is going to be about freedom”:
When the Congresswoman said this election is going to be about liberty, there is probably about 40 percent of the electorate for whom this election is about liberty. And one of the things we know is that there is going to be a big turnout of conservatives, who are antagonized and animated by what the Obama Administration has been doing. But for most of the electorate, this election is going to be about results.
And that’s why even though I said that the Republicans have won the economic debate, I think over the past year there are more rounds left in this fight. What the Administration is hoping is that there will be enough good news of the sort that Secretary Geithner was talking about that by November they can make the case that, “Look, things have been tough, but we are beginning to move the economy in the right direction and do you want to go back?”
Because there is a tremendous amount of overlap between the policies that Republicans are advocating now and those that were implemented by George W. Bush, during his two terms that produced, you know, one quarter as many jobs as over the eight years as Clinton, and a decline in the median income over two terms of a President, which we haven’t seen for any other two-term President in modern times.
So, even though I think Republicans have … had the upper hand, the argument isn’t over. And there are beginning to be some positive economic signs that I think Obama is going to be able to marshal to argue that even if times are still tough, at least he has begun to turn the corner.
Focusing on the Tea Party movement, Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell (D) had the following to say:
[The] first thing that we have to define is what’s the Tea Party itself? If you say it’s the anger that people feel about the economy, et cetera, that’s giving the Tea Party too much credit. We had two recent Tea Party demonstrations in Washington. One a week before a health care vote, drew about 1,000 people. The tax day rally by the organizer’s own estimate was 1,500 people. If I organized a rally for stronger laws to protect puppies, I would get 100,000 people to Washington. So, I think the media has blown the Tea Party themselves out of proportion.
Has Governor Rendell been watching “Legally Blonde 2” lately?
On This Week, host Jake Tapper interviewed former President Bill Clinton, and large segments of the interview came across as an infomercial for the Clinton Global Initiative.
During the Roundtable, Tapper focused on a memo written in January by Republican message strategist Frank Luntz:
Republican pollster and message guru, Frank Luntz, wrote a memo in January in which he advised Republicans on how to tackle financial regulatory reform by saying, quote, “Public outrage about the bailout of the banks and Wall Street is a simmering time bomb set to go off on election day. To put it mildly, the public dislikes taxpayer bailouts of private companies. Actually, they hate it. Frankly, the single best way to kill any legislation is to link it to the big bank bailout.”
And here’s a montage of Republican Senate Leader Mitch McConnell.
MCCONNELL: Endless taxpayer-funded bailouts… Bailout… Bailout… Bailout… Bailout… … endless taxpayer bailouts… Bailouts… Bailout Wall Street… Bailout… Bailout… Endless bailouts… Bailouts… Backdoor bailouts… Bailouts… Bailouts… Potential future bailouts…
Picking up the sword of truth – so to speak – Tapper stated that the $50 billion fund would not be funded by the taxpayers, but by the big banks, and Bloomberg News’ Al Hunt took it from there:
I’m amused by Mitch McConnell being this great anti-Wall Street populist. He was just up shaking the Wall Street money trees last week. You know, Mitch McConnell as an anti-Wall Street populist is about as credible as John Edwards heading a family values conference. I mean, this is a guy who’s voted with Wall Street every step of the way. This is just a Frank Luntz memo talking point.
On the same issue, Democratic strategist Donna Brazile had the following to say about Wall Street:
Wall Street is as popular as a root canal. And I think the Democrats can go out there and fight for transparency, accountability, and they can win this debate and pass this bill. And if the Republicans decide once again to delay and to put up more tactics to cherry-pick through the bill like health care, they will find themselves on the wrong side of history.
Turning to foreign policy, Tapper paraphrased Secretary Robert Gates – saying the United States does not have a long-term strategy for how to deal with Iran, and George Will had the following to say:
Our strategy is to hope that something that does not exist will do something unprecedented. What does not exist is the international community about which we talk, which is fiction, a rhetorical bewitcher of our intelligence. What it is supposed to do, this non-existent thing, is come up with sanctions that bite, that are going to change history and make nations come to heel. I don’t know when that has ever happened before. Furthermore, as you point out, it’s not even clear what we are saying is unacceptable. Is it unacceptable for them to test a nuclear weapon? What if they come a screwdriver turn away from assembling a weapon, as some other nations in the world probably are? So there’s a complete lack of clarity and realism.
Lastly, on State of the Union, host Candy Crowley interviewed Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY). Talking about reforming Wall Street, McConnell turned to a phrase he’s been using a lot lately:
What we ought to do is get back to the table and have a bipartisan bill, which is what we don’t have at the moment. … I think we need to get back to the table and get it fixed.
On the same topic, Crowley played a video clip of President Obama attacking McConnell:
The leader of the Senate Republicans and the chair of the Republican Senate Campaign Committee met with two dozen top Wall Street executives to talk about how to block progress on this issue. Lo and behold, when he returned to Washington, the Senate Republican leader came out against common-sense reforms that we have proposed.
In the exchange that followed, Crowley wanted to know about McConnell’s meeting with Wall Street executives, and why McConnell had been accompanied by Senator John Cornyn (R-TX) – chair of the Republican Senate Campaign Committee. McConnell, however, didn’t feel like answering the question, and so he consistently talked about small Kentucky bankers and main street instead:
I also met recently with the Kentucky bankers who are also opposed to this bill. The community banks, the little guys on main street. We’re all meeting with a lot of people.
Crowley tried to cut through:
Well, if the president is playing politics, you have to admit that it raises suspicions when you are meeting with Wall Street executives, as I take it you did, with Senator Cornyn, who raises money for Republican races. Doesn’t that sort of set you up for this sort of accusation? That you went in there with the fund-raiser to talk about, you know, we’ve got to fight this bill.
Candy, Candy, he is the one who is trying to politicize this issue. We are the ones who are trying to get it right. When the Kentucky bankers tell that this bill is a long way from being what we ought to pass, then it raises some concerns with me. And I think it does with all of our colleagues across the country who are hearing the same thing.
Evade, evade, evade.
In the end, who had the most memorable phrase this Sunday? Rendell’s ridicule of the number of people showing up at tea party rallies was good, and so was Hunt’s statement that “Mitch McConnell as an anti-Wall Street populist is about as credible as John Edwards heading a family values conference”, but once again, George Will had the best one:
Our strategy is to hope that something that does not exist will do something unprecedented. What does not exist is the international community about which we talk, which is fiction, a rhetorical bewitcher of our intelligence.
If it’s Monday, it’s Sunday talk show highlight time.