updated 2/20/2009 11:38:32 AM ET 2009-02-20T16:38:32

Guest: Peter Mansbridge, Jesselyn Radack, Heather Bennett, Amanda

Carpenter, Michael Smerconish, Michael Crowley, David Frum, John Yang

DAVID SHUSTER, HOST:  Oh, Canada!  In his first international trip in office, President Obama stands on guard for thee, on this, his 31st day of the administration. 

Hello, everybody, and welcome to our show.  I‘m David Shuster. 

At this hour, President Obama is en route back to Washington, D.C., following his first international visit since taking office.  By many accounts, the president‘s trip to Canada was a rather unorthodox one. 

This afternoon, Mr. Obama was seen hunting in an Ontario‘s farmer market in search of a snow globe, a key chain, and a beaver tail to bring back as gifts.  And at a local bakery, he got a surprise—a Canadian dessert that now bears his name.  The impromptu stops were the last on the president‘s trip to Ottawa, where he met with several Canadian leaders and held a news conference on Parliament Hill with Prime Minister Stephen Harper. 


BARACK H. OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  Well, it is a great pleasure to be here in Ottawa.  I am extraordinarily grateful to Prime Minister Harper for his hospitality.  I‘m a little biased here because I‘ve got a brother-in-law who‘s Canadian, and I have two of my key staff people who hail from Canada.  And I love this country. 

We‘re joined together by the world‘s largest trading relationship and countless daily interactions. 


OBAMA:  Please. 

HARPER:  Trade agreements between our two countries have been nothing but beneficial for these two countries. 

OBAMA:  A NAFTA agreement that has labor provisions and environmental provisions as side agreements.  It strikes me if those side agreements mean anything, then they might as well be incorporated into the main body. 

I want to grow trade and not contract it.  The clean energy dialogue is an extraordinarily beginning. 

I want to also, by the way, thank some of the Canadians that came over the border to campaign for me during the election.  It was much appreciated.  And I‘m looking forward to coming back to Canada as soon as it warms up. 


SHUSTER:  Again, late this afternoon, the president made quite a stir with the locals when he stopped by a farmer‘s market.  We‘ll have more on that later in the show. 

But first, we want to look at the substance of his meeting with Canadian Prime Minister Harper and their joint news conference. 

And for that we turn to NBC News White House Correspondent John Yang, live on the north lawn. 

John, this was the first time President Obama had ever met Prime Minister Harper, a conservative who was very close with President Bush.  Plus, Harper government‘s was concerned, as he reported, about President Obama‘s campaign rhetoric about NAFTA. 

Any reports of any tension today? 

JOHN YANG, NBC NEWS WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT:  Well, of course, David, at these meetings, you don‘t have tension, you have free and frank exchange of views.  But I think that you did see some of the tension actually come out during those news conferences.  It was one of the wonderful moments where sort of the leaders are sort of talking to each other through the reporters, sort of like in the Senate, where they speak to each other—members speak to each other through the presiding officer. 

You heard in that little montage you had that President Obama saying that he would like to see NAFTA change, that the environmental and labor standards, if they‘re good enough to be in a side agreement, they‘re good enough to be in the agreement itself.  Now, this is already a little bit of a more measured statement from the campaign, when he said that the effects of NAFTA were devastating, then said that it had been a mistake. 

But then you heard Prime Minister Harper sort of say, well, you know, you‘ve got to be careful.  You don‘t want to go up ripping these things open, and talking about this very carefully balanced agreement that he referred to as NAFTA and said, you don‘t want to go unraveling it. 

The bottom line is that they‘ve asked aides and staff to look at this, to see if how they can work to some sort of accommodation.  But just listening to the two positions in the news conference, it‘s hard to see how you can sort of bridge those.  One‘s saying, let‘s open it up.  Another‘s saying, no, you don‘t want to do that.  You don‘t want to sort of unravel the whole thing and risk this delicate balance. 

SHUSTER:  And John, the president said he did not ask Prime Minister Harper to add more troops to Afghanistan.  What‘s the back-story, if there is, on that one? 

YANG:  Well, he said going in, he told the anchor from the CBC who I think will be on a little bit later, saying that he did not have that in his pocket as he went in.  And quite frankly, it‘s hard for the president to make a request now, to ask someone, the leader of another country, to send more troops, or to commit to stay in Afghanistan—Canada, of course, has said they‘re going to pull their troops out of Afghanistan by 2011 -- to ask them to stay when they don‘t have—the United States doesn‘t have a policy itself. 

They are in the process of this policy review, trying to come up with a strategy and a game plan for Afghanistan.  They want to have it ready by the time of the NATO summit in April, by which time you can bet he will be asking other leaders for commitments. 

SHUSTER:  NBC News White House Correspondent John Yang. 

John, thanks for the report.  We appreciate it.

YANG:  Thanks, David.

The president‘s visit to Canada today prompted an outpouring of excitement and celebration on the streets of Ottawa.  Thousands of people jammed Parliament Hill to try and get a glimpse of Mr. Obama and his motorcade. 

Canada‘s relationship with the United States was perhaps best articulated several years ago by former prime minister Pierre Trudeau.  He said, “Living next to you is in some ways like sleeping with an elephant.  No matter how friendly and even tempered is the beast, one is affected by every twitch and grunt.”

So what were the twitches, if any, today in Canada? 

We‘re joined now by the Canadian Broadcast Corporation‘s chief correspondent, Peter Mansbridge. 

Peter, first, tell us about the Canadian‘s view of President Obama.  And what was the atmosphere like across Canada today? 

PETER MANSBRIDGE, CBC CORRESPONDENT:  Oh, Obama-mania has struck here, David, as well, and I think it did during the campaign last year.  The last poll I saw was 80 percent of Canadians favor his presidency.  So that‘s pretty good support.  And you saw it on the streets and on Parliament Hill today, although the weather wasn‘t very nice here today.  And the crowds have been told over and over again, you‘re not really going to get to see him.

But nevertheless, there were still, as you said, thousands out to catch a glimpse.  And then he took this impromptu walk through the marketplace area, as you mentioned earlier, just before he headed to the airport to head home. 

SHUSTER:  Peter, I understand that late this afternoon you were going to interview Prime Minister Harper.  What did he say about the meeting today, and any anecdotes about the viewpoint of the Canadian government? 

MANSBRIDGE:  Well, you know, I listened to what John had to say.  He‘s right about NAFTA.  I mean, there is a fundamental difference there. 

The Afghanistan one is a little more involved than John was suggesting.  I mean, Canadian combat troops are coming out at the end of 2011, if the Canadian parliament continues on that way.  But troops themselves will stay in the various other roles beyond combat. 

And what did Stephen Harper say?  Well, I think he‘s a little caught up with the Obama-mania thing too. 

He told me that, look, “I‘ve got problems here in Canada in terms of the economy, troubles with various sectors and lots of unemployment.”  Stephen Harper has just put in a big stimulus package.  He said, “But when I look at what problems Barack Obama‘s got, mine pale in comparison.”

And what struck him, I think, was the kind of—the no-drama Obama thing.  And while you play it over and over again—everybody says it—when you actually meet him, you see it. 

And for Stephen Harper, that was the important part of today in the one-on-one meetings, where, you know, a relationship has developed.  You know, when there are close neighbors, leaders who are going to have to play off each other quite a bit, there has to be kind of a personal chemistry there.  And they seem to have established that today, and if that is all that‘s taken out of this day, then it‘s probably a pretty good advance. 

SHUSTER:  Peter, you interviewed President Obama just a couple of days ago.  I want to play for you what our president said when you asked him about NAFTA, the key issue you were talking about just a moment ago. 

Here‘s President Obama. 


OBAMA:  My expectation is, is that, you know, where you have strong U.S.  competitors who can sell products and services, that a lot of governors and mayors are going to want to try to find U.S. equipment or services, but that we are going to abide by our World Trade Organization and NAFTA obligations, just as we always have. 


SHUSTER:  Peter, how well did President Obama seem to articulate some of these key issues for Canadians? 

MANSBRIDGE:  It was pretty impressive.  You know, David, when you consider how much traveling he‘s doing and has been doing in the last 10 days, first selling the stimulus package and then signing it, when I talked to him in the White House on Tuesday, he was just about ready to head out west to sign the bill, yet he was totally up to speed on the issues that Canadians worry about. 

You know, those interviews, as you know, they‘re not long, 10, 12 minutes.  But I tried to make some headway on all the fronts—NAFTA, the stimulus package, the “Buy America” clause, which is a great deal of concern here, energy issues, the environment.  And he knew the Canadian position on all of them and articulated not only Canada‘s position, but obviously where there was a fine line of difference between that and the American position. 

So it was pretty impressive.  You know, we‘re not always used to seeing that from an American president, and especially lately.  We haven‘t seen that before Barack Obama, but we‘ve seen it this week. 

SHUSTER:  Peter Mansbridge from the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. 

Peter, thanks so much for joining us.  Good of you to be with us on our program.  We appreciate it. 

MANSBRIDGE:  My pleasure, David.  Take care. 

SHUSTER:  Up next, the calls are growing for a truth commission to investigate possibly illegal actions by the Bush administration.  We will talk with a Justice Department whistleblower about what she knows and about the Obama team‘s reluctance to review it. 

Later, the Republican Party appears to be coming apart at the seams.  You will hear from former Bush speechwriter David Frum.  He‘s calling the GOP brain dead. 

And we are taking your questions during this hour over Twitter.  Just go to Twitter.com/shuster1600.

All of that and “Hypocrisy Watch” ahead on 1600.


SHUSTER:  Welcome back to 1600.

One of the Obama administration‘s first legal tests is now playing out in the Justice Department, and it offers a clue as to how much President Obama intends to push back on Bush-era torture and rendition policies.

The Justice Department‘s Office of Professional Responsibility, its ethics watchdog, is preparing a report on the integrity of Bush-era legal opinions that justified waterboarding and torture.  The report, which is in its final stages, focuses on whether Bush lawyers John Yoo, Jay Bybee and Steven Bradbury violated legal and professional ethics when they crafted memos which scrapped the Geneva Conventions and redefined torture, limiting it to organ failure or death.

Someone who knows something about internal investigations is Jesselyn Radack.  Ms. Radack was dismissed from the Justice Department after objecting to the government‘s treatment of the American Taliban John Walker Lindh.  Senator Edward Kennedy later said, “ It appears she was effectively fired for providing legal advice that the department didn‘t agree with.”

Jesselyn Radack is the homeland security director for the Government Accountability Project and a blogger at DailyKos.com.  And she joins us now. 

Welcome to the show. 

First of all, what is the status of the OPR investigation that seemed to be dragging along under the Bush administration?  Has it picked up speed now with the Obama Justice Department? 

JESSELYN RADACK, DAILYKOS.COM:  I wonder if you‘re talking about the investigation against me or against Yoo and Bybee.  The one against Yoo and Bybee has only picked up speed.  In fact, it is unclear to me why Attorney General Mukasey deliberately delayed release of the report until now. 

SHUSTER:  Well, Jesselyn, the Bradbury memos, let‘s start there.  Those still, of course, have not been made public.  The Bush administration refused to release them on national security grounds. 

The ACLU first requested those in a request something like five years ago, and just a day ago, the Obama administration received a 30-day grace period to decide what it will do. 

Are you disappointed that the Obama administration has not been more immediately transparent? 

RADACK:  I am disappointed, because part of President Obama‘s—his quest has been accountability and transparency, and he promised that.  And certainly as candidate Obama and as Senator Obama, he pledged transparency and accountability.  So I think it would be a big victory in that regard if Eric Holder, the attorney general, would move on this current report that‘s being done by the Office of Professional Responsibility. 

SHUSTER:  If it is found that pressure was put on White House lawyers by senior officials at the Justice Department, how could the Justice Department hold those officials who have left?  How could they hold them accountable, and what do you think would be reasonable? 

RADACK:  I think they can hold them accountable in a number of ways.  The Office of Professional Responsibility is able to make both criminal referrals and referrals to the state bar disciplinary authorities. 

It boggles my mind why, right now, according to the “Newsweek” article by Isikoff, they are only considering bar charges.  Both criminal and bar referrals were made against me for a lot lesser conduct than what Yoo and Bybee engaged in.  I think it would be entirely appropriate for criminal referrals to ensue and for bar referrals to ensue against the people who wrote these memos and who ordered this conduct. 

SHUSTER:  Aside from your sort of professional view of Yoo and Bybee, do you have any personal animosity towards them? 

RADACK:  No, not at all.  I don‘t know them. 

John Yoo had been at Yale Law School around the same time that I was, but no, I have no personal animosity against them.  And in fact, the full force of the entire executive branch that was unleashed against me actually occurred during Ashcroft and Gonzales. 

SHUSTER:  Well, finally, Jesselyn, the Congress jettisoned the whistleblower protections that had been in an earlier version of the stimulus bill.  What‘s the loss and who do you hold responsible for that? 

RADACK:  You know, we were really happy that the House voted in favor of whistleblower protections in the stimulus bill.  Certainly when you‘re about to spend $1 trillion, it seems logical to have them.  But apparently they got stripped out during conference.  And I really think it would be helpful if President Obama would step up and say that he endorses having whistleblower protection when it comes back up again, which it will. 

Meanwhile, in terms of the Office of Professional Responsibility, they referred me to the bar back in 2003, and it was based on a secret report I didn‘t have access to.  And that referral is still pending after more than five years. 

SHUSTER:  Unbelievable.  Jesselyn Radack, Government Accountability Project.

Jesselyn, thanks so much for coming in.  We appreciate it.  And good luck to you. 

RADACK:  Thank you so much, David.

SHUSTER:  Coming up, in our “Call for Change,” an early and unexpected foreign policy test for the Obama administration.  Zimbabwe is starving, its rural is a tyrant, and this man, a key opposition leader, has been thrown in jail. 

We will talk with Roy Bennett‘s wife and get her take on what President Obama should do. 

Plus, the new chairman of the Republican Party has just unveiled his plan to attract young minority voters, but in the process, did he alienate the disabled? 

We‘ll explain when we return on 1600. 


SHUSTER:  Welcome back. 

The debate is still raging over that $789 billion economic recovery plan President Obama signed this week, and that takes us to tonight‘s “Hypocrisy Watch.”

Seven days ago, not a single House Republican voted for the bill.  Many described the measure as awful.  New Jersey Republican Leonard Lance said it will “explode our national debt without providing meaningful job growth.”

But here is Congressman Lance this week.  That‘s him on the right, touring a flood control construction site in his district that will benefit from stimulus bill funds.  He boasted about the impact on jobs and said, “This is a classic example of a shovel-ready project.”

Michigan‘s Pete Hoekstra voted against the economic recovery bill too, and hammered the majority in Congress for “continuously throwing more and more of Washington spending at the problem.”

This week, Congressman Hoekstra encouraged his constituents to embrace that spending.  Here‘s the congressman‘s Twitter page.  “If you know of someone thinking of buying their first home, now may be the time.  The stimulus incentive is very generous, up to 8k.  Check it out.”

As we noted earlier this week, several Republicans who were promoting the bill‘s benefits also are hiding the fact that they voted the against the measure. 

So let me repeat.  Congressmen, when you brag about projects in a bill you opposed, that‘s hypocrisy.  And it‘s wrong. 

Now, moving on to a segment that we like to call “Call for Change.”

For the last seven days, we‘ve been telling you about the growing policy

challenge facing the Obama administration and the African nation of

Zimbabwe.  The people of that country are literally being starved to death

by President Robert Mugabe. 

He lost an election last year, refused to step down, but agreed to share power with members of the opposition party known as the MDC.  The coalition has been a sham, as evidenced by the arrest a week ago of this man, Roy Bennett, a top MDC party leader. 

En route to be sworn in to the coalition cabinet, Mugabe forces threw Bennett in jail.  Bennett has long been considered one of Zimbabwe‘s most courageous advocates of democracy.  His lawyers have been unable to get the insurgency charges dropped, and he has now been in a prison notorious for torture for seven days and accounting. 

We are now joined over the phone by Roy Bennett‘s wife, Heather Bennett. 

And first, Heather, how is your husband doing?  Do you know? 


I spoke to Roy‘s lawyers today.  They say he‘s trying to keep his spirits up, but obviously, being in prison in Zimbabwe is almost like a death threat because of the cholera, the filth.  They don‘t have any food to feed you.  It‘s a nightmare. 

SHUSTER:  I know, Heather, that members of the Obama administration are watching this broadcast.  What is your message to them?  What would you like the United States government to do? 

BENNETT:  Well, basically to try—well, to pressure the Zimbabwe government, the South African government and (INAUDIBLE) to release Roy and the other political detainees.  These charges are completely politically motivated.  And also to force the government to respect the rule of law and to not to support them in any way until such time that they respect the rule of law. 

SHUSTER:  It does appear that there are nearly seven million citizens of Zimbabwe who are starving.  A lot of western governments want to give aid to Zimbabwe, but they don‘t want to reward Mugabe, they don‘t want to reward this coalition government, given that it appears to be a sham. 

It‘s a difficult call for a lot of governments, but explain your view. 

BENNETT:  Very simply, we have to make sure that the aid that goes into Zimbabwe is only humanitarian relief.  That‘s already going in.  And that it‘s properly handled.  Otherwise, it‘s abused by Mugabe. 

And when we were there three years ago, aid that came in was used by the government.  You would only be able to receive aid and food if you had a (INAUDIBLE) card. 

SHUSTER:  Well, Heather, good luck to you.  And also, pass along to your husband, there are so many people here in the United States that are thinking of him, who see the outrage here and are trying to pressure Congress and the Obama administration to step up and do the right thing, and somehow figure out a way to remove Mugabe from office, and make sure that your husband and his party can take full control and do the right thing for Zimbabwe, as I know they want to do. 

And again, Heather Bennett, thanks so much for joining us, and we appreciate you calling in. 

BENNETT:  Thank you very much, David. 

SHUSTER:  Coming up, when a former speechwriter for President Bush calls the Republican Party irrelevant, clueless and silly, it‘s a big deal.  Just ahead, we‘ll talk with David Frum about the civil war he helped spark in the GOP. 

Plus, Japan is changing the face of sushi, literally. 

More 1600 after this.


SHUSTER:  We‘re back on 1600.  President Obama got his nearly $800 trillion -- $800 billion stimulus package passed and the lack of Republican support doesn‘t appear to have hurt his popularity.  But in the stimulus debate, there was only one clear unequivocal winner, the marsh mouse, who will benefit from a flood control project in California and who for a brief time last week became the most famous mouse in America.  Watch.


REP. STEVE KING, ® IA:  Here we have a pet.  A mouse, a pet project.  A pet project of the speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi.  This little mouse here, a desert mouse, I don‘t know what he is, a sand mouse, and I might say also, that if you take a look at the mouse real closely, there‘s got to be an earmark right there in that mouse.

REP. JACK KINGSTON, ® GA:  And I‘m looking forward to seeing these $30 million rats one day, if I can get out to San Francisco, because they must be some fine-looking animals.  They probably walk around, they got some nice-looking clothes on, San Francisco stuff.  They probably wear flip-flops and sunglasses as they go there to Sausalito for lunch.

REP. TOM PRICE, ® GA:  We found $30 million for mice.  What a joke.


SHUSTER:  But former Bush insider David Frum is not laughing.  He blogged, “Could we possibly act more inadequate to the challenge, more futile, more brain dead?  If we‘re to make progress in 2010, we have to look serious.  In this debate, we looked not only irrelevant but clueless and silly.”

We‘ve got a great panel tonight, Michael Crowley, Michael Smerconish, and Amanda Carpenter who I‘m sure have a lot to say about this.  First, let‘s go to the author of that blog post, David Frum, editor of thenewmajority.com and resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute.  David, “brain dead.”  I mean, putting aside the mouse, the GOP did advocate for more tax cuts.

DAVID FRUM, NEWMAJORITY.COM:  Yes, but they didn‘t make the argument for the right kind of tax cuts and they didn‘t put them at the center.  We‘re in the middle of one of the steepest downturns, at least since 1958, maybe since the Depression.  People are losing their jobs, there‘s a mood of real fear in the country.  Now, if you‘re a party out of power and you want to get back in, you have to say, we take these problems seriously and we have answers.

And as it happened, Republicans have a much better answer than the Obama spending plan.  The problem with the Obama spending plan is that it‘s really slow.  Most of that money is not going to arrive until next year.  Republican policy leaders converged on a plan of a payroll tax holiday.  Today‘s Thursday, payday for a lot of people.  That could be, in effect, right now, up to $120 per week, per worker of relief.  Bang, immediate effect.

You need, when you are out of power, to put solutions first and say, we have better answers, better ideas.  And when you play these parliamentary games, people will remember the mouse, yes, and that will hurt Obama a little bit.  But what they will also remember is that the Republicans were negative.  That they didn‘t have answer or they didn‘t seem to have an answer to the problem of the moment, when in fact all the while in the back room the party had a better answer than Obama has ever offered.

SHUSTER:  David, what about the issue of credibility?  We‘ve heard some lawmakers decry the $5 billion for ACORN or the $1 billion for health care digital records that will allegedly control what doctors can do.  Both claims are flat out false.  Doesn‘t the GOP have a credibility problem in all of this as well?

FRUM:  Well, I think the marsh mouse story is unclear whether it‘s true or not.  It‘s something that might be true, that this was one of the projects that might be on the list and was fairly far advanced.

SHUSTER:  Right.  But what we hear Republican lawmakers say, $5 billion for ACORN, we know that is simply false.  When we hear them say, oh, the government‘s going to control every medical decision you make, no, the government isn‘t going to control any medical decisions.  And again, doesn‘t this get to a credibility problem that may stay with the Republicans longer than the lack of ideas that you point out?

FRUM:  I think the lack of ideas is the core problem.  What parties compete to do is to solve problems for people.  The Obama stimulus plan is not going to be very effective.  It‘s going to be very expensive and a lot of these projects—I mean, I‘m not necessarily opposed to say, improving high-speed rail in the Northeast.  But you know how long that‘s going to take.  They are not going to be laying that track for years.  The crisis is now.  And Republicans could be saying, we have a plan by temporarily lifting the payroll tax to put up to $120 per week, per worker starting this very Thursday.  It could be in effect today.  And that would be a more powerful message, a more attractive message, a reason for an affirmative vote in a way that denouncing a marsh mouse—I mean, people might then feel more cynical about the Obama administration, but it doesn‘t motivate them to vote for the Republican Party.

SHUSTER:  David Frum, a terrific blog.  Very provocative.  And David, good of you to come on tonight and share your thoughts.  We appreciate you coming in.

FRUM:  Pleasure.

So was the GOP‘s campaign against the stimulus brain dead?  And what‘s their way out of the political wilderness?  Is it the way David Frum just articulated?  For more on that let‘s turn to our panel.  Michael Crowley is a senior editor for “The New Republic”.  Michael Smerconish is a nationally syndicated radio talk show host and columnist for the “Philadelphia Inquirer and Daily News”.  And Amanda Carpenter is a blogger at townhall.com.

And while we have all of you here, we are getting a picture of Air Force One landing at Andrews Air Force Base.  We‘ll put that up and talk over some of the pictures.

But Amanda, to David Frum‘s point, that the GOP in this debate was brain dead, your reaction?

AMANDA CARPENTER, TOWNHALL.COM:  Well, I don‘t think—I‘m not as harsh as David was, but I want to revisit some of the points he made earlier about the $1.1 billion for comparative research.  You can‘t say the Republican Party had no basis in fact for this.  There was $1.1 billion allocated to the Health and Human Services Department to establish a comparative research center, which the argument that the Republicans were making .

SHUSTER:  Amanda, I‘ve got to correct you.  Amanda, that office was created by President Bush in 2004.  And furthermore, yes, it does give them more money to collect research, but it‘s so that doctors and patients can get the latest information.  Doctors and patients are under no mandates in any of this to follow what the government suggests.

CARPENTER:  David, I‘m trying to explain to you what the Republicans were arguing.  They were arguing that $1.1 billion in the stimulus bill will be used for comparative research, which they believe would be used to ration health care under a universal health care system.  They‘ve used information from Tom Daschle‘s book, who I realize is not going to be the secretary right now, but people thought was going to be.  And he laid out this plan to establish a federal health care reserve that would do this.  So that‘s where it came from.  So I think it‘s unfair to say that this has no basis in reality.

And the same thing with ACORN funding.  $4.2 billion goes to the neighborhood stabilization fund.  Which ACORN can apply for money from.

SHUSTER:  Right, except ACORN has never applied—Amanda, ACORN has never -- sure, ACORN could apply for that, but they never have in the past applied for those funds.

CARPENTER:  But they‘re eligible too.

SHUSTER:  OK, fair enough.  They are eligible to apply for something they‘ve never applied to before.  Michael Smerconish, your view about David Frum‘s argument.

MICHAEL SMERCONISH, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST:  I think his argument is a little bit harsh.  I think the Republican Party needs to be for something.  Because the only thing we know about the Republican House members in particular is that which they stood against.  And it‘s all on the line, David.  And this is hard for me to articulate, but I think that the box that they‘ve put themselves in, is that on one hand, as party members, they‘re opposed to the stimulus package.  And yet they‘ve got to convince the American people that at the same time they are hoping that their votes were cast in error.  In other words, do you really want to be praying for the demise of the republic and for the economy to continue to go into a tailspin?  I don‘t think so.

I listen to some of these folks who offer opinions and say they hope he fails.  I wonder if they are putting their party ahead of their status of citizenship.  I want the man to succeed even in those areas I disagree with him.  And I think the Republicans need to echo that message.

SHUSTER:  Michael Crowley, your view?

MICHAEL CROWLEY, “THE NEW REPUBLIC”:  I actually strongly agree with what David said.  And I think his diagnosis is just right.  I think the Republican Party seems deeply unserious in this debate over the stimulus bill.  I mean America is facing a national emergency.  The prospect that our economy is going to completely fall apart, and I feel like Obama was surrounded by extremely smart, scholarly, learned economists who are presenting were serious, complex arguments and Republicans were there talking about mice and ticky-tack programs.  It‘s true that $1 billion is a lot of money and if you don‘t like what it‘s going to do, you can debate it and criticize it, but the uniformity of their opposition to the bill and by and large the tenor of their criticisms of the bill really just did not seem to be matching the urgency of the situation we face, the seriousness.  And there really was not a sense that these are people who really understand the economy, the American economy and the global economy.

I mean, Eric Cantor, John Boehner, Mitch McConnell, these were not guys who came across as really having a nuanced understanding of economic issues.  And I think it was a total wipeout for them as a result.

SHUSTER:  Michael Smerconish, on that point, when you hear economists say, a dollar of government spending is a dollar of government stimulus regardless of whether you like the priority or not and then you hear the Republicans, say, oh, no, one dollar is better than another dollar, depending on the program, it doesn‘t really seem to make a lot of sense.

SMERCONISH:  I think that the Republicans have done an awfully poor job explaining themselves in terms of why they stand in opposition.  And so they play the sound bites, like the field mouse.  There is, however, a legitimate, philosophical divide in this country.  They just haven‘t given it voice.  Frankly, on the editorial—pardon me, on the advertising pages of major newspapers, the Cato Institute, I thought, with an ad that was signed by 200 economists, I think three of whom were Nobel laureates.  They did a better job than the GOP in saying, wait a minute, there are differences in terms of the road on which we ought to now travel.  The GOP needs to do that.

SHUSTER:  Michael Smerconish, Amanda Carpenter, Michael Crowley are all standing by and we will come back to them in our next block.

And coming up, President Obama, despite all this, he‘s inviting more Republicans to his residence at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, including his one-time nominee for commerce secretary, Judd Gregg.  Is the president making a mistake?

Plus, Hillary Clinton got caught singing on camera once before.


HILLARY CLINTON, SECRETARY OF STATE:  And the home of the brave.


SHUSTER:  Uh-oh! Did it happen again?

And coming up, we‘ll be taking your questions over twitter.  Just go to twitter.com/shuster1600.


SHUSTER:  Welcome back to 1600 PENNSYLVANIA AVENUE.  President Obama intends to try and reach out to Republicans again on Monday with a, quote, fiscal responsibility summit in Washington.  Though the guest list has not been announced, commerce no-go Judd Gregg and Republican leaders in the House and Senate are among those expected to attend.  If President Obama is doing the bipartisan thing again after being handed the proverbial goose egg by the House over his economic recovery bill, it must be because Republicans have had a change of heart about bipartisanship.  Right?


REP. JOHN BOEHNER, ® MINORITY LEADER:  If somebody who is a real reformer here in Washington and somebody who knows who he, isn‘t shy about standing up and fighting on your behalf.

SEN. LAMAR ALEXANDER, ® TN:  I‘m doing everything I can to help him.

SEN. BOB CORKER, ® TN:  I hope that you‘ll do everything you can to help him and help us get our country back on the path towards prosperity.


SHUSTER:  Hmm.  Well, actually, that GOP parade was endorsing the guy they hope will add another no vote in the Senate, cash-strapped Minnesota wannabe Senator Norm Coleman.  So what‘s the White House strategy?  Back with us now to weigh in are Michael Crowley, Michael Smerconish, and Amanda Carpenter.  Michael Crowley, let‘s start with you.  The president reaching out to the Republicans again on Monday.  A lot of Democrats don‘t like that he‘s doing this, but it seems like it‘s still smart politics, right?

CROWLEY:  I think it is, David.  There was some debate over the vote on the stimulus when he got virtually no Republican votes in either chamber that he had reached out and failed to get Republicans and that somehow was an embarrassment or a defeat.  I don‘t think that‘s how the White House ended up seeing it.  I think what they saw, their calculation was that they got credit for extending their hand and that they were refused and the public feels like Obama is trying to reach across and make a connection and make a deal with Republicans and they‘re not willing to play along.  And if you believe that many people are tired of partisanship and want to see more cooperation, that‘s bad for Republicans.  There‘s no reason why Obama wouldn‘t keep trying it, even if he really doesn‘t get the numbers in the end.  The important thing is the gesture and to show that he‘s trying.

SHUSTER:  Amanda Carpenter, you would agree it‘s a wise gesture, right, whether they have policy disagreements or not?

CARPENTER:  Yeah.  And I‘m happy to see that Obama is doing something more in the realm of policy.  A fiscal responsibility summit is a lot more serious than just having Super Bowl cocktail hours and this sort of thing.  If Obama wants to extend his hand and be bipartisan, let‘s do it in the policy spoke.  Let‘s not do it in the socializing circles.

SHUSTER:  Michael Smerconish, I want to change gears a little bit to something we were just talking about in our previous segment.  I think we‘re all in agreement that this is the right thing for Washington and everybody in the country to get together, despite any hard feelings.  A number of governors, including Mark Sanford of South Carolina are in a bit of a pickle after their opposition to the economic stimulus.

A lot of people are saying, you know what, if you want to be consistent they should not take the money.  Governor Sanford was asked about this earlier this morning on the CBS morning show.  I want to play a clip for you of that and then get your reaction.

Here‘s Governor Sanford from this morning.  He, again, had been saying, the past couple of days that he was going to look at this economic recovery bill, try to determine whether or not the details are something he would support.  And again, that raised a lot of questions for a lot of people as to whether or not, if in fact he would and other governors would take the money.  Some governors have said, you know what, we should take the money.  And we don‘t have the tape, but here‘s what he said.

He said, “Being against it does not preclude taking the money.  So, again, we‘re going to look at it.”  He‘s asked, “If you‘re against it, why take the money.”

He said, “I represented almost 5 million people in South Carolina.  Now that I‘ve tried to sprinkle as many tacks on the road to try to slow this freight train.  We did not stop it.  It passed.  We‘re going to take a judicious look.”  Does that work?

SMERCONISH:  In the end, he‘s got to take the money.  So too does Sarah Palin, so too does Governor Perry.  I read all of their comments and said, there‘s no way that their constituencies, even if their constituencies believe that the stimulus package is a mistake would stand for them passing up the opportunity to bring home the bacon.  It‘s just not going to happen.  They will take the money, but this is more of what I was trying to explain earlier, where the Republicans have put themselves in this box by trying to say on one hand that they oppose the stimulus package and then setting themselves up for, what, are they praying for it to work or praying for it to fail?  I think we all need to hope that it works.

SHUSTER:  Amanda, what is the answer to that?

CARPENTER:  Well, whether the governors should take the money or not or whether this will work?

SHUSTER:  Whether Republicans—what Republicans want out of this?  Are Republicans hoping that this fails?  I can‘t believe they really think that.  But, again, if they do think, if they‘re convinced that this will fail and it will cause a depression, as some governors have suggested, why should they contribute to it by taking some of the money in their own states and spending it?

CARPENTER:  Sure, well, I don‘t think anybody wants it to fail.  Just because no one wants to see the country go into a bad economic downturn.

But that said, people like Mark Sanford are fiscal conservatives.  And I personally would like to see them draw a line in the sand and see if they can get their own states out of these problem rather than rely on a government bailout.  I think if our fiscal conservative, you are a conservative that way when times are tough and when times are good.  And I think there‘s an opportunity for someone with a lot of courage to do this.  There‘s a provision that says that the state legislator can override a governor who doesn‘t take the money.  There‘s a states right case where you can challenge this on a constitutional basis, which I think would be good, because we‘re getting into this big government central planning, which a lot of people are fearful of.

CROWLEY:  I don‘t think it‘s a situation where the states have the ability to get themselves out of it.  They need a massive infusion from Washington.  And actually from the perspective of conservatives who have worries of waste in the bill, it seems to me that the grants to states to get construction projects started pronto is actually some of the most efficient money in the bill.  And if there is anything they would be OK with, that‘s what they should be signing up with.

SHUSTER:  We‘ve got a lot more ahead.  Michael Smerconish, Michael Crowley, Amanda Carpenter, stay with us.  Coming up on 1600, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton does some diplomacy work on behalf of the Obama administration on a variety show, but no singing for the secretary.  Maybe that‘s why it‘s called mark diplomacy.


SHUSTER:  Welcome back to 1600.  Here‘s a look at what‘s on our radar tonight.  Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is in South Korea tonight.  Before that he had a very awesome TV experience on the set of “Awesome”, a local youth-oriented variety show.  Watch.


CLINTON:  I was told I was going to be on an awesome show.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  But the question is, what is your favorite music and artist?

CLINTON:  It‘s really the old standbys like the Beatles and the Rolling Stones.


CLINTON:  Good, good!


CLINTON:  I don‘t feel so old!


SHUSTER:  At the end of the show, Secretary Clinton was asked to sing for the camera.  She politely refused and maybe that‘s a good thing.  Remember when a microphone picked up her singing the national anthem while on the campaign trail?


CLINTON:  Oh, say does our star-spangled banner yet wave o‘er the land of the free and the home brave.


SHUSTER:  Believe it or not, that clip of Hillary Clinton singing has received more than 2 million hits on YouTube.

We have seen a butter bust in the shape of Barack Obama.  There‘s also Obama-themed chocolate, but this next Obama food takes the cake.  It‘s a sushi roll shaped like President Obama‘s head, made of rice and fish and seaweed like your typical sushi.  We found this on the MSN Japan site which of course is written in Japanese but if you happen to know how to read it, you can get the instructions and make your very own Obama sushi.

Well, let‘s bring back our panel again for a segment we call Twitter time.  Michael Crowley, Michael Smerconish, and Amanda Carpenter.  We love the sound effects.  First, many of you have been twittering to all of us and pointed out I nearly said $800 trillion as far as the size of the stimulus.  It‘s actually $800 billion.  I know that.  I misspoke.  Michael Smerconish, a lot of people have been twittering about something Michael Steele said about how to fix the GOP said.  This is what Michael Steele, the chairman said.  “Apply conservative principles to urban/suburban hiphop settings.  Uptick our image with everyone including one armed midgets.  The P.R.  portion will be avant garde, technically will come to table with things that will surprise everything, off the hook.  Democrats are doing cutting edge, we‘re going beyond cutting edge.”

You‘re reaction for all the twitterers out there?

SMERCONISH:  My reaction is get rid of all the litmus tests, grow the tent, stop relying on social issues to grow the base, because the base alone cannot win a republican election.  That‘s the bottom line.

SHUSTER:  Amanda Carpenter, a lot of people have written in wanting to know about sort of how much Republicans know about simple economics.  Some of the comments have been harsh.  A lot of comments supportive of the tax cut idea, but the general thrust of the question is, have Republicans not had the basic fundamentals of economics that they should have had in this debate?

CARPENTER:  I think what you‘re seeing right now is them actually returning to principle.  I mean, really, under the Bush administration, they were doing a lot of the spend, spend, spend.  So I think now they‘re coming back down to earth and realizing that we need to rein this back in.  So I actually think they‘re returning back to economic principles and maybe we can twitter about that later with some of your listeners.

Shuster:  Michael Smerconish, I got a twitter about the issue if governors can turn the stimulus down.  The twitter, “If Bobby Jindal and others pass up the cash, can we get some?”  How much authority do the states have to turn down the money and what happens to it?

SMERCONISH:  They have no political authority.  Despite what they have in the end, there would be a hue and cry, no matter what the relative economic position of their state.  I don‘t know a state that‘s thriving among the 50.  So the political reality is, they‘re all taking the money in the end.  And if not, you can send it to Pennsylvania.

SHUSTER:  Michael Crowley?

CROWLEY:  My question is, if ACORN is eligible to apply for that $4.2 billion, am I eligible?  Can I apply for it?  Can I walk away with it at the end of this whole process?

SHUSTER:  You are channeling our twitters, because we‘ve had a couple of questions about that very issue.  That is the view from 1600 PENNSYLVIANIA.  Michael Smerconish, Michael Crowley, Amanda Carpenter, they‘re all wonderful people, even if you don‘t like them on TV, everybody, they‘re great people off camera, I promise you.  They‘re terrific.  Thank you all very much.  I‘ll see you back here tomorrow night, same time, 6:00 p.m.  Eastern on MSNBC.  Remember, you can get the latest political news and a sneak peek of what‘s coming up on the show sent straight to your inbox with the 1600 daily briefing.  Plus we‘ve got some fun content and Shusterian stories that aren‘t available anywhere else.  Just log on to shuster.msnbc.com and if you‘re into twittering, I‘ll be online after the show, so follow me on twitter.com/shuster1600.  Love the sound.  I‘m David Shuster.  HARDBALL WITH CHRIS MATTHEWS is up next.



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