UP with STEVE KORNACKI
September 8, 2013
Guests: Dave Weigel, Todd Zwillich, Rebecca Sinderbrand, Kasie Hunt, Steve Israel, Rick Palacio, Dick Wadhams, Kurtis Lee, John Morse, Ryan Williams, Jane Hall
STEVE KORNACKI, MSNBC ANCHOR: The President Obama, the week since he
announced he would be seeking congressional approval for a U.S. military
strike against Syria has been a long one.
The math right now is not on his side. We`ll have more on those numbers in
just a moment. But to understand just how important it is to the president
to wrangle all of the support he can for military intervention, we first
need to understand how he is trying to win those votes. The Obama
administration`s desire to retaliate against the Assad regime began with
gruesome images of Syrian civilians suffering from what appeared to be the
effects of a chemical attack. And there are new disturbing images that
(inaudible) to convince America ns to act. There are a dozen or so videos
that the Obama administration showed earlier this week to a select group of
senators behind closed doors and they were obtained just yesterday by NBC
News. You may not have even had your coffee yet this morning so we should
warn you that these images are very graphic. And we`re not going to show
them on the screen for that long. But you can see rows of bodies, many of
them children, seeming to gasp for air. People with dilated eyes, watery
and dazed. The administration saying the symptoms are consistent with
exposure to nerve agents. We should also tell you that NBC News has not
been able to independently verify the authenticity of these videos. The
chair of the intelligence committee in the Senate, Senator Dianne Feinstein
of California requested the videos from the CIA. And on Thursday, she
described them as horrendous. We already know that Senator Feinstein plans
to vote in favor of military action against the Syrian government. Then
how might these videos compel other undecided members of Congress?
There are a lot of different whip counts floating around right now. They
are all inexact, and that is putting it very mildly, and they all have
different ways of counting up the votes. But they`re all pretty much
finding the same bottom line right now. So, let`s use "The Washington
Post." And here`s how they have it in the Senate at this moment. For
military action, you could see there 23, against, they are leaning against,
27 undecided 50. Now, member Harry Reid has filed the motion to authorize
an attack on Syria in the full Senate -on course to vote on it late this
Let`s look at the House, you can see a dramatically different story. There
are four military action, just 25 against, they are leaning against. 226
undecided. 182. You look at that and all you can say is, wow. Those
numbers point to a huge challenge for the Obama White House. Getting the
Senate to say yes in a military strike is no sure thing, but at least it
looks doable, but the situation in the House looks daunting. The House
normally has 435 members, but right now there are two vacancies, it means
there are 433 members, which means the magic number for majority is 217.
And right now, at this hour, you can see it there, you have 226 members.
Nine more than you need for majority who say they are voting no or that
they are leaning that way. And there are only 25 who say they are voting
yes. There`s a catch and it`s a big one. There is really no incentive for
members of Congress to say right now that they`re for an attack. Public
opinion is against it. And apparently, the calls that they`re getting in
their offices are extra against it. This is a tough sell to the public, so
even for members of Congress who are open to voting for it, or who might be
persuaded, they have every reason right now to express concerns and
reservations into sound like they`re about to vote against it. That
doesn`t mean that they will. There is still room, there is still time for
the White House to win over the votes it needs, which is why the president,
after speaking Monday with all of the major news networks, will address the
country on Tuesday. Why the briefings and pleadings and arm-twistings will
accelerate behind the scenes.
But let`s look even closer at the obstacle course, that is, the House of
Representatives. To get to that magic member, to get to 217, Obama is
going to need at least some Republican votes. They are, after all, the
majority party. And how does the whip count look right now among
Republicans? For military action, you can see it right there, there are
eight Republicans right now in the entire House who say they are for it.
There are 164 who have indicated they`re against it or leaning against it.
There are 62 who are undecided. That`s a 20 to one margin right now. By a
20 to one margin, House Republicans are more likely to say they are against
- or leaning against an attack than to say they are for it. That a bare
minimum if every Democrat in the chamber votes with Obama, he would still
need 17 Republicans on board to get the attack against Syria. And right
now he`s not even halfway there. But in reality, he`s going to need a lot
more than 17 Republicans, because there are going to be a whole bunch of
Democrats who also vote no on this. Consider Democratic numbers right
there, for an attack, you have 17 right now who are saying they`re for it
in the House. Against it or leaning against it, 62, undecided 120.
Remember, for every Democrat who breaks with the White House on this, that
makes one more Republican the president is going to need if he`s going to
get his resolution through. As we said, Obama still has time here. But
how can Obama convince Republicans?
These are the same Republicans who spent the last four years reflexively
opposing just about everything with his name on it, the same Republicans
whose party base is ready to punish any member of the tribe who so much as
makes eye contact with the president. How can President Obama convince
those Republicans to suddenly side with him on this? And how many
Democrats remain traumatized by Iraq? How many of them are in office
because of Iraq? Can an appeal to party loyalty, to supporting a
Democratic president on a crucial vote, possibly be enough to win over
members of the party base that lived through Iraq and vowed never again?
Let`s talk about why Congress is where it is right now and whether there`s
anything President Obama can do to win this fight. To do that we have NBC
News, Capitol Hill reporter and producer Kasie Hunt, Todd Zwillich, he is
the Washington correspondent for Public Radio International`s, "The
Takeaway," MSNBC contributor Dave Weigel, he is a political reporter at
Slate.com, Rebecca Sinderbrand, she is the White House Deputy editor,
excuse me, of Politico.com. And thanks to all of you for joining us. So,
I want to go through sort of the politics of this on the House and the
Senate side. I think we have some time for this. So, you know, loosely
speaking, we`ll sort of start with the Democrats and we`ll make our way to
the Republicans. So, looking at the Democrats. And we have the videos, we
showed a little bit of the video earlier. It moved Dianne Feinstein. The
question is, you know, Kasie - does - does the video being released to do
more Democrats seeing this video, does the American public seeing these
videos, does that, do you think, do anything, to loosen up some Democratic
votes for this?
KASIE HUNT, NBC NEWS: Feinstein certainly thinks so. She came out of the
- I was outside of that intelligence committee meeting on Thursday and she
came out saying that she wants a DVD made for other members of Congress.
Keep in mind, the intelligence committee is always allowed to see more than
many other members of Congress are, at least initially. So, members of the
House where this fight ultimately is moving, haven`t had the opportunity to
see those kinds of graphic images. And this is sort of the first half of
the battle in the minds of many who have been sort of listening to members
of Congress start to examine this question. Is how can we convince people
that this is something that is so horrific that we absolutely cannot afford
to not respond? But the second question is the political question, and
that comes in where President Obama is essentially asking, as you`re sort
of outlying in your intro, some of these members, especially in this own
party, to put their jobs on the line for this vote. I mean these are
people who could risk primaries, who - some of them have only been in the
Congress -- maybe they are freshmen members, they are vulnerable, they are
on the frontline and they want some more reassurance from the president,
the people that I have talked to, have said, you know, hey, we need to be
convinced that doing this is actually worth it.
KORNACKI: I wonder, and Dave, when we - we put all the whip counts up
there right now, we put one of the whip counts up there right now. And I
know you can be - take this with a huge grain of salt with these numbers.
There`s no such thing when they actually have to vote in Congress as lean
against or lean for. But that said, it does seem striking to me that there
aren`t that many Democrats. There is such a small number of Democrats out
there right now who are actually willing to say they`re for this thing.
When you look at that, realistically speaking, how many Democrats does the
White House need to get into this and how many are we going to play on
DAVE WEIGEL, SLATE.COM: In the House it needs - it needs almost all of
them. I mean it`s just - kept this back the last time a Democratic
president said there`s a humanitarian need to go and drop some bombs in
another country. There are 30 Republicans who voted to intervene in Kosovo
and that was after a NATO campaign that was with the - I think a lot of
rationale that convinced a lot of people. Certainly, in retrospect, they
will brag about the fact they voted against that. 30 Republicans voted for
that. So, they`re going to need every single Democrat, basically in the
House to get in line. And the Senate is easier to massage, of course.
I don`t think the timing and the way the president used his power this week
was helpful to them. Maybe they couldn`t do (ph) anything else, the
president and (inaudible) has argued that this will be a very limited
strike. This is not the start of a war. It would have been maybe
incoherent for them to bring back Congress immediately to debate something
that they are saying is not going to be a wider war. But because they
didn`t, the only response and responsibility people have had, Democrats and
Republicans, is to local papers and town halls. And they`ve gotten on the
record very early, earlier than if it would have been if was just a bunch
of reporters irritating them in Congress, like I like to do. They`ve
gotten on the record to their constituencies are not going to vote for it.
So, they need to pull off them back with a new rationale. And I guess
that`s the point of the new video and that`s the point of the new speech.
They need, basically, every Democrat in the House so that`s going to work.
KORNACKI: So, what Rebecca -what is - we have, you know, this - you`re
going to be talking to all the major news networks tomorrow and Monday,
he`s going to give his speech on Tuesday. What is the plan from the White
House to stay (inaudible). Now, OK, Congress is going to be back, they are
no longer just talking to the local papers. What is the plan? Do we have
a sense of that for how the White House is going to basically get Democrats
in line on this this week?
REBECCA SINDERBRAND, POLITICO.COM: Well, the question from the White House
perspective is whether this dynamic is already baked in the cake. I mean,
Dave nodded to timing. And timing has been against the White House from
the beginning on this. First of all, when you have an attack that occurs
in August, then, of course, that famous Bush administration line, you don`t
roll out new products in August. Well, they rolled out a new product.
They rolled out a new presidential approach over Labor Day weekend. They
rolled out the president`s new push while he`s overseas. And so, they`ve
had time for this kind of dynamic as intense opposition to gain steam. And
so, that`s the trend line they`re working against here and that`s the
difficulty now is reversing a trend line, is always more difficult than
KORNACKI: So, Todd, just looking at it from, again, we know that a lot of
members were in their districts this week. There were in a long - but
there were hearings. There were Senate and House hearings this week. John
Kerry made his case as strongly as he could, you had Chuck Hagel, you had
Dempsey there. What effect, do you think, what happened this week,
especially with the hearings and with the public statements from the
administration and the president, what affect do you think that had on
Democrats? What actually has happened so far?
ZWILLICH: Well, it certainly had some in hearings. And the Foreign
Relations Committee accomplished something very important. They got it
passed out of that committee. They had two Democrats who voted against it.
And you had them airing out of this issues. You know, there is a lot of
body language reading from the Foreign Relations Committee in the Senate
and the hearings in the House about, you know, Dempsey`s doesn`t -- he`s
not leaning forward physically, he doesn`t look like he`s into this. I
think it`s a little silly to try to read the body language of the chairman
of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. He`s a soldier and he`s going to take
orders. I understand that people who are opposed to a strike, would try to
read his body language in that way. I think what`s going on in the intel
committee and these videos that have been posted and obtained or leaked to
news outlets as Kasie mentioned, is doing something important. This is
definitely a strategy aimed at Democrats. The videos, the horrific scenes
of people suffering the effects of chemical warfare is aimed at the liberal
intervention of strain of the Democratic Party.
Think of it as a dove tailing on the speech that Sam Powers gave at the
Center for American Progress on Friday, that we all watched, which was the
strongest case the administration, in my mind, has made yet. Stronger than
John Kerry`s even before the Foreign Relations Committee, about the
imperatives, a liberal interventionist imperative of using American might
at the times when people need us. Clinton going into Kosovo was the right
thing to do. We should have gone into Rwanda. Sam Powers is one of the
chief proponents of that, at the White House, along with Susan Rice, of
course. We know that there are the two really strong voices and the
president`s here on that. This videos coming out that give you that
visceral response, how terrible that is. There are other - there`s
multifaceted strategy that you`re going to see in the lobbying. On this
Hill, it`s going to intensify. The videos that you`re leading to show is
we`re talking about. That`s a Democratic strategy. And maybe when we talk
about Republicans, you can talk about the other - Republicans are not
heartless. It`s not that they don`t care about people suffering, but when
you look at sort of the motivations that we think motivate these different
labeled factions that we have in the House, they want Democrats to see .
KORNACKI: So, let`s pick that up in a minute because you can look back to
the 1990s, the interventions of the 1990s with President Clinton and
Rwanda, where he didn`t intervene, but you have that sort of that instinct
for liberal intervention from the 1990s and then you have - you have Iraq.
And I want to talk about how the Democratic base, Democratic, you know,
voters, are sorting those things out right now. We`ll pick it up after
KORNACKI: So, one of the few Democrats in the House who is absolutely out
front in favor of this is Nancy Pelosi, the leader of the Democrats in the
House, the former speaker. Nancy Pelosi, also you can think back to 2002,
in the run-up to the Iraq vote, she was against it. She was one of the
leading Democrats in Washington who was actually against it. It looks like
she`s moved back to a place where she`s OK with intervention, at least
under certain circumstances, but it feels like the rest of the party, Iraq
is still sort of hovering over this.
HUNT: That`s absolutely true. And at this point, you also have to look at
the president`s key allies. Groups that are typically all in for him, the
Congressional Black Caucus, for example, has typically been very supportive
of the president. You`ve seen none of them come out and say, hey, this is
where we really want to be.
KORNACKI: Well, actually, and we have a quote - this is Eli Cummings, the
member of the Congressional Black Caucus and this was on Andrea Mitchell on
Thursday, we can play, this was Eli Cummings talking about the dilemma on
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. ELIJAY CUMMINGS, (D) MARYLAND: When I have gotten 95 percent of the
calls coming into my office saying no, Andrea, it makes it very difficult.
And that`s why the president has got to address my constituents. And by
the way, I have a constituency that voted 80 percent for the president so
they`re just not like they`re not his friends.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KORNACKI: So, that also gets in the - he sort of sets up, maybe there`s an
opening here for the White House, for members like Cummings who come from
districts they are overwhelmingly pro-Obama, which is a very strong pro-
Obama sentiment, it almost - is there a potential opening there for the
White House to sort of make - make this a more personal appeal, loyalty to
the president. This is something I want, this is something I need, you
have got to stand with me. You`ve got to trust me. Is there an opening
win over Democrats on those grounds?
WEIGEL: Well, they certainly think so. And if they`re reading any
reporting that`s made on the street focus. It`s not clear that people
actually know what the stakes are in Syria. I mean (inaudible) about the
states, people still think of it in terms of Iraq. They are not - they
have forgotten Rwanda, they have forgotten Kosovo, they have forgotten
other interventions we mentioned, because Iraq has such a titanic,
(inaudible) hangover over every aspect of foreign policy. And - if they
think that there are progressives who can be convinced that that actually
is a humanitarian intervention, I think they are right. Progressives used
to be for that. Progressives were for those interventions. Progressives
were -- to the extent there was a progressive support for Iraq, I mean,
Peter Beinart, and people like that, it was because there were people
dying, and I don`t - you know, from sanctions, there have been people
killed (inaudible) weapons? How many of the voters calling in to,
actually, are aware there are refugee camps in Syria? I don`t know that
many are. I mean it`s sort of percolating as an issue. And that`s the one
thing maybe bolstering the White House argument that did build up in this
week, so that - the rest of the media is noticing the actual scale of what
was happening in Syria. Not that they weren`t, it just wasn`t a one on one
every day. So, that is the way they might pull the people over, and
certainly they can - I don`t think there are many Democrats who would lose
a primary in nine months, ten months because of the vote on this. There
were how many - Joe Lieberman lost state primary because of Iraq. This is
not going to be as apocalyptic an issue for their party.
ZWILLICH: So, I think - that Dave makes a key point about a primary, about
Democrats voting for - or even a Republican who wants to support it. It is
very understandable in this moment, as the nation and the world is
contemplating a strike, the president didn`t just push a button and do it.
We have a couple of weeks to mull this over politically and militarily,
philosophically. In the moment you can say, oh, gosh, if the Democrat goes
against public opinion and votes for this, they`re going to get primaried.
There`s really no reason to believe that right now. We`re in the moment
and it seems like this is going to be the issue that drives 2014 .
KORNACKI: But that fear - like .
KORNACKI: . that fear is real for that - like. Like .
KORNACKI: It does, yeah.
ZWILLICH: The fear is real. The fear is real. But if you`re McDonough or
Obama or somebody else in the White House going to one of these members,
you say, this is going to be limited. And nine months from now it will not
seem like it seems now. This is going to last six days. Nothing succeeds
like success. We`re going to be in and out. And believe me, people won`t
be thinking about this, you will have voted for it, it`s not going to be a
nine-year engagement the way that Iraq upended our policy.
KORNACKI: Will they buy that?
HUNT: The problem with that is that the administration doesn`t yet have a
good explanation for these members about what actually happens after we
strike. They are .
KORNACKI: And they`re worried about that.
HUNT: The rebel groups are fractured, you know. There is a group of
secular rebels who, say, John McCain meets with on a regular basis.
There`s no guarantee that if we strike with cruise missiles, or however
else, you know, you got to the Pentagon to come up with potentially more
and different options for how we could strike, you know, the signs that
you`re seeing of service members holding up saying, you know, I didn`t join
the U.S. Navy to be an al-Qaeda`s - to fight for al Qaeda. Because a very
real concern that whatever we do is going to help people who ultimately are
going to be fighting against us. And for these members who are looking
ahead and worried about, hey, like, we`re still pretty early in the cycle.
There`s no way to know how this is going to turn out. And if it goes
badly, it could very well be a big problem.
KORNACKI: You know, what I`m trying to think of here, too, is so we - the
Obama`s speech is coming on Tuesday. And this is - you look at all those
undecided Democrats, all those leaning against Democrats. I`m trying to
think, is there an example, is there a precedent for a president making a
direct appeal to the country and then it triggering not just a few, but
dozens, maybe even 100, 120 members of his party to basically change their
minds or basically to all line up at once? Is there a precedent for this?
Is there a reason to believe this speech can trigger anything like that?
SINDERBRAND: Well, when you`re looking at the presidential speech,
essentially, what the members have been saying, what Boehner has been
saying, what everyone`s been saying, is that they want the president to
make the case to the public do some - anything to reverse this tide.
You`re seeing 100 to one calls to members` offices against the war instead
of for it. But the interesting thing right now is, you know, there`s kind
of two legacies of Iraq that the White House has had to grapple with. On
the one hand, there`s the legacy of, you know, the evidence and pushing
back on, have you made the case? Is the evidence out there supporting your
story line, your narrative, your version of events? And the White House is
focused very much on that because they feel like that`s something they can
do, that`s a battle they can win. On the other hand, the other legacy of
Iraq, this incredible war-weariness and this skepticism of going into a
situation without a clear goal, without a clear exit strategy. I know
there is - you know, this is talked out as a limited strike, but you`ve had
that moment when Kerry was speaking to the Foreign Relations Committee,
when he kind of left open that hypothetical I don`t want to rule out .
KORNACKI: Absolutely right.
KORNACKI: And then he said, let`s close that door right now.
SINDERBRAND: React .
KORNACKI: Yeah, I know that. That`s absolutely - well, we`re going to - in
an effort to win support for action in Syria the president needs the House
Democratic leadership behind him. We`re going to talk to one of the
lawmakers from the Democratic leadership, and that is next.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. NANCY PELOSI, (D-CA), MINORITY LEADER: I am hopeful as the American
people are persuaded that this action happened, that Assad did it, that
hundreds -- hundreds of children were killed. This is behavior outside the
circle of civilized human behavior. And we must respond.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KORNACKI: That was House leader, a Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi this
Tuesday outside the White House making her case for U.S. action against
Syria. She and other congressional leaders in her party have been working
hard this past week to gather support among their members for President
Obama`s proposed intervention. We`re now going to bring in one of those
Democratic leaders, he is Congressman Steve Israel, he`s also the chairman
of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, he joins us now from
West Babylon, New York. Congressman, thanks for taking the time this
Look, you know that the members, the membership of the House Democratic
caucus personally as well as anybody down there or anybody in D.C. Your
conversations from them in the past week. We put the numbers up on the
board. There aren`t a lot of public "Yes" votes out there right now. What
are they telling you in this conversations? What is holding them back?
REP. STEVE ISRAEL, (D) NEW YORK: Well, first, thanks for having me on.
Look, it`s still very early. Members of Congress have been in their
congressional districts for August. Bashir al-Assad used chemical weapons,
slaughtered over 400 children in August. Members have been listening to
their constituents. I think the dynamic does shift to a certain extent on
Monday when the House goes back into session, the president addresses
Congress on Tuesday. We do have another classified briefing on Monday
night. As members begin to speak with one another, experience and learn
more about the classified intelligence, they`ll come to a decision. The
bottom line right now is, there are still far too many undecided members to
predict with any accuracy whether there are going to be 217 votes, 219
votes or 218 votes.
KORNACKI: I understand that. I guess what I`m kind of curious about is we
have all these members of Congress, from both sides of the aisle, we played
Elijah Cummings earlier, I`ve heard Republicans saying the same thing,
saying look, the calls coming into my office on this are just
overwhelmingly against it, 95 to one, 200 to one, whatever it is.
Overwhelmingly against it, and the public opinion polls we`re seeing right
now, not a lot of support there either. At what level is this a battle for
public opinion? I guess what I`m asking is, if the president this week
does not turn public opinion around and get those calls going in the other
direction, get the polls going the other direction, is there realistically
any way to get to a majority in the House?
ISRAEL: Well, there is no question that the president has to educate the
American people and continue to educate members of Congress. There has
been some pretty robust outreach by the White House with many of my
colleagues. But that piece of it, that educational piece is critically
important. I will say this -- there`s a difference between members of
Congress who are reflecting on this issue and members of Congress who are
being reflexive on this issue. Reflecting means listening to your
constituents, talking to the president, looking at the intel. Being
reflexive means that you`re going to vote against this, just because the
president of - this president of the United States has sought it. Does
anybody truly believe, anybody on your panel truly believe that if Mitt
Romney had won the presidential election and asked House Republicans for
the exact authority that President Obama is requesting, that any of them
would truly hesitate? I mean there would be a stampede on the Florida
House to support the exact resolution that President Obama has offered.
And so, what we need to do is get beyond the politics of this and focus on
the urgency of sending a message to the world that you cannot use chemical
weapons. If you do it in Syria, you can do it, Hezbollah can do it in
southern Lebanon, Iran can do it, North Korea can do it. This is very
important for our own security and should not be politicized reflexively.
KORNACKI: Well, you mentioned that sort of hypothetical Romney sneer. I
wonder about that, too. Would President Romney have, you know,
overwhelming support from Republicans right now? I expect he`d have a lot
more than we`re seeing, at least, at the very least. But I want to ask you
about the flipside of that, because "The New York Times," they sort of
looked at the congressional battle over this. And they said in their story
today, this is the pitch that the White House is going to be making to
Democrats. They said, "After all the arguments are exhausted, aides said,
it will come down to a personal pitch. The president needs you to save him
from a debilitating public defeat." How much of the message to Democrats
is ultimately going to be that? This is our president, he needs this, and
he needs you, and we need you on board?
ISRAEL: You know, I think on questions like this, Steve, when you`re
talking about a resolution authorizing a military strike, without combat --
without boots on the ground, without combat forces, even a carefully
(inaudible) resolution, rises to a level above, what does this mean for the
president? What does this mean for me? I`m more interested in what does
this mean for Iran? What does this mean for North Korea? What does this
mean for our long-term security interests? I think most of my colleagues
stay focused on those questions and kind of factor out the more political
and personal dimension of this, as they should.
HUNT: Congressman, Kacie Hunt with NBC News. I just wondered, there are
significant groups of members of the House on both sides of the aisle who
would list Israel security sort of at the top of list of issues they care
about. I wondered, are we going to be seeing them in the short term coming
out and saying that this is something that members need to get on board
with? I mean what kind of public push are we going to be seeing from those
ISRAEL: Well, I think from a substantive perspective, most members of
Congress on both sides of the aisle realized, and most Americans realized
that Israel is a key Democratic ally of the United States. And Israel`s
strength is America`s security. So, that is a very important public policy
component and argument that, I think, will weigh on members.
HUNT: And, second, just to follow up. Do you wish that the president had
never asked you to do this at all?
ISRAEL: No, I think the president made the right move, quite honestly. I
mean, you know, I have to say that the level of hypocrisy that I`m
listening to from -- mostly from House Republicans who say that the
president was not consulting Congress. And now that he consults Congress
are saying that he shouldn`t have consulted Congress or that the president
has been too weak, and now that he wants to show strength, it`s too strong.
It`s rather frustrating. So, I think the president did what the
Constitution requires him to do. I am, I do believe that we need to take a
look at the war powers act in general, maybe a different debate for another
day, but that`s one of the focuses that I`m bringing to this. The War
Powers Act is very cloudy, very ambivalent and I think we need to take a
very close look at it and refine it and modernize it.
KORNACKI: Well, Congressman Steve Israel from New York, the chairman of
the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, member of the House
leadership. We thank you for joining us this morning.
ISRAEL: Thank you.
KORNACKI: When President Obama isn`t trying to sell Congressman Israel,
and the rest of the Democratic Party, he`s also got to convince some
Republicans. A party that`s spent the last four plus years obstructing
anything and everything with his name attached to it and now they`re
supposed to team up with him. We`ll see about that. Next.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: For the American people who have been through over a decade of war
now, with enormous sacrifice and blood and treasure, any hint of further
military entanglements in the Middle East are going to be viewed with
suspicion. And that suspicion will probably be even stronger in my party
than in the Republican Party. Yeah, since a lot of people who supported me
remember that I opposed the war in Iraq.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KORNACKI: It`s President Obama during his news conference Friday at the G-
20 summit in Russia, this is going to be always an economic summit, but
this week, the topic of Syria was more often than not center stage. He
talks about the differences there between how Republican are going to view
this, how Democrats are going to view this. I want to sort of turn to
Republicans a little bit here, and I think the best way to set this up is
to look at this is from Gallup. This is - they are basically saying now
that under President Obama they have never seen this much polarization
between average Republicans` view with the president and the average
Democrats` view. The Obama`s approval rating among Democrats, 86 percent,
his approval rating among Republicans ten percent. A 76 point gap, which
is apparently the most ever seen for any president. There are a lot of
things that I think that speaks to, but the basic one that`s relevant for
this conversation is, if he has a ten percent approval rating among
Republicans and we have seen what the name Obama does to Republicans, you
know, right or wrong, you know, it`s not a popular name. And you`ve got to
get support from Republicans in the House. Is it even possible to get - I
don`t know, two dozen - two dozen House members, House Republicans?
ZWILLICH: Anti-Obamaism is the currency of the Republican Party going into
2014 right now. That`s not a criticism. That`s what it is. That`s what
they`re going to be running on largely in their midterms. On the other
hand, this is why we have one commander-in-chief. This is why presidents
sometimes don`t go to Congress because ten percent or eight, or 94 percent
isn`t supposed to matter for the commander-in-chief. So, we`re in, I
think, a really, really sort of surrealistic point here, with the president
who didn`t have to going to Congress with a party who hates him so very
much. Israel - Congressman Israel`s point that Republicans would have been
completely opposite on this had President Romney introduced the same
resolution on the House floor is an interesting point. I think it`s
probably point taken, of course, the Congress is also true, to the extent
that the president does have Democratic support, it probably will be close
to zero. If this were - if this were a President Romney, but for this
president to convince Republicans to give him at least the stamp to do
this, even though he could probably do it himself, requires a couple of
things. You have John McCain and Lindsey Graham, the classic Republican,
traditional, military hawks who are at the president`s side on this. They
have got to (inaudible) this in stronger language out of the Senate Foreign
Relations resolution that came out.
The problem, an McCain will tell come on and tell you this. He calls his
party increasingly isolationists. He looks over at the House for this.
That there`s a rising sentiment in his party that is isolationist. I think
it`s difficult to tease that out from anti-Obamaism.
KORNACKI: Well, let`s try, because I think - I want to play something
here. This was in the House - the House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing
this week. This is some of the Republicans in their questioning to Kerry
and Hagel and Dempsey. This is a theme that we heard from several
Republicans during this hearing. Let`s play it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. JOE WILSON, (R ), SOUTH CAROLINA: With the president`s red line, why
was there no call for a military response in April? Was it delayed to
divert attention today from the Benghazi, IRS, NSA scandals?
REP. JEFF DUNCAN, (R ), SOUTH CAROLINA: The administration has a serious
credibility issue with the American people. (inaudible) the questions
surrounding the terrorist attack in Benghazi.
REP. RON DESANTIS, (R ) FLORIDA: That same minor reasoning should have
applied to Benghazi. The assassination of a diplomat breaches norms that
were recognized probably far longer than norms against use of sarin gas.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KORNACKI: Dave, you have a really good sense of the Republican universe.
And when you hear Benghazi, IRS, somebody invoked "Fast and Furious" at
this, too. When I hear that being invoked in this committee, I`m - to me,
I`m hearing Republicans who are just against this because it`s Obama. But
I know there is also a strain of sort of just in a mush, you know that the
Republican congressman from Michigan. There is this sort of, you know,
genuine strain of noninterventionist libertarian Republicanism. What`s
your sense of the Republican Party of how that balances is out on this?
WEIGEL: I think a lot of that sentiment is real. It`s not - it`s not
entirely cynical. Remember, in 2000, Ron Paul had to point this out, when
George Bush was running for president, and we had just gotten through a
presidency that did humanitarian interventions, he was asked in, I think,
the second debate with Al Gore whether he would have intervened in Somalia.
And he said, well, no, because that turned into humanitarian nation
building exercise, I wouldn`t have done that. He won the election. And he
changed because of 9/11, but without the something like 9/11, you don`t see
the force of the Republican Party, apart from the neoconservatives, behind
humanitarian intervention. You simply don`t. The Benghazi answer, I think
that`s actually been limited compared to what you heard in the `90s. That
was the -- the going theory for every intervention in `90s he was doing to
distract from something or other. All these scandals that -- one led to
impeachment. But not really any of that important, I don`t think .
KORNACKI: That`s what I`m kind accused (ph) about, too, when you look at
the Republican Party. You can look back at the Clinton years.
KORNACKI: And you also have Republicans opposing the interventions, and as
you say, it was - because of Lewinsky or something, that he`s doing this.
And then George W. Bush, you`re right, in 2000 said, we needed to have
humility on the international stage. He wasn`t in favor of nation
building. McCain was the hawk in the primary right here.
KORNACKI: And then 9/11. But I`m looking at that, and I`m saying, so, is
this a Republican Party that this sort of non-interventionism really has
been a pronounced thing for the last, you know, couple of decades or was it
just rabid anti-Clintonism that defined it in the 1990s and rabid anti-
Obamaism that`s defining it now.
HUNT: I think one thing you have to remember also with the Republican
Party, especially in the House, and I was talking to one top Republican
aide the other day who made a smart point on it, you know, this is not the
same Republican Party that was supporting Bush as he took the steps that he
took. This is the Republican Party who, you know, Democrats cut this deal
on the sequester where they thought - you know, we`ll match defense cuts
with domestic cuts and the Republicans will find that to be totally
abhorrent, and then we won`t have to deal with it. Well, this is the
Republican Party for whom the Defense Department is no longer the sacred
cow. So, it`s just - it sets up a dynamic that is strikingly different
from during the Bush presidency.
KORNACKI: And a lot of us who were - who sort of geek out on Congress,
were looking forward to a vote on this resolution to say, you know what,
the number of Republican votes on a war resolution is going to tell you a
lot about the sequester fight later on. How many Republicans are going to
sort of -- are going to demand a replacement of sequester. All those who
vote for resolution will be sort of a good proxy of sequestration. That
may not actually be true anymore given what Kasie has said.
KORNACKI: Well, there are - and Rebecca wants to get in here. And we
will, after the break. There are also longer term implications to this
that you`re sort of teasing there. I want to get to it after this as well.
We`ll pick it up right after this.
KORNACKI: OK, we`ll take you right back up and Rebecca, you`re about to
SINDERBRAND: Well, I was going to say, you know, everyone is talking about
how this would have played out if this was a President Romney. But you
have to believe that even if there were a President Romney in office, we
would still be seeing some version of this debate in the Republican Party,
the split between the conservatives who favor intervention of any kind, if
there`s national security at risk. And that`s one of the pitches that the
administration has been making, they have been trying to make a national
security pitch here and there. And the group in the Republican Party,
large and growing libertarian wing, who opposes this sort of very vocal,
opposes these sorts of moves. And so, you would be seeing some version of
this debate, whether or not there was a President Romney in office. But,
of course, that`s one dynamic. And the other dynamic, both of which work
against the White House, is the fact that, again, we saw at the very
beginning, Boehner and Cantor came out. It was a huge - Seen as a huge win
for the White House. This is going to give some sort of momentum. Minutes
later, we get a statement from Boehner`s office saying, wait a minute,
we`re out here, we`re supporting it. He`s going to say he urges his
colleagues to support it. We`re expecting the president to actually do the
hard work of gathering the votes, making the sale, the pitch.
KORNACKI: So, what do we - what do we know about Boehner and Cantor on
this about - in terms of why did they then decide to come out for it, if
it`s not something they are going to be, you know, making a rallying cry
for the next two weeks? Why did they decide to come out for it? And what
are they doing - what are they going to ultimately do anything to persuade
Republican members to vote for this?
HUNT: For Boehner, he walked into that White House meeting and came away
with the impression that, you know, it`s really important to support the
president when he`s asking for something like this. It`s setting a
precedent of not backing up the president when he`s asking to use U.S.
forces would be the wrong thing to do. For Cantor, I think the calculus is
different. Cantor is very interested in Iran, in particular. When you
talk to sort of his aides behind the scenes, those are the kinds of
arguments that you`re hearing, this is something that Jewish groups on both
sides of the spectrum, kind of across the board, including the Republican
Jewish coalition, have said, you know, this is really important and have
tied it into Israel`s security. That`s something else that`s really
important to Eric Cantor.
ZWILLICH: And John Boehner has always been the guy as speaker, despite his
many, many and strong clashes with President Obama, he is a believer our
fights stop at the shore. When the president is overseas, you don`t hear
Boehner criticizing him. You generally don`t hear Boehner criticizing the
president very strongly on these commander in chief, national security
issues. Certainly there are criticisms, but when the president came out
and asked for this, I think -- and when you talk to some of Boehner`s
people as well, his position as speaker, he has always been the guy who
believes domestic fights are fine. The entire country and the presidency
benefits from a united front. I think he sees that as part of his role.
KORNACKI: The other thing the other member of the Republican leadership
we`re not talking about yet is the one who has been silent on this, and
that`s Mitch McConnell, the Republican leader in the Senate. And I think
that illustrates perfectly the divide we`re talking about here in the
Republican Party. Because Mitch McConnell, rather than joining up with
Boehner and Cantor on this, is worrying about a Republican primary next
year in Kentucky. His opponent in that Republican primary next year came
out against the attack this week. He`s got Rand Paul, he sort of needs
this alliance with Rand Paul in Kentucky. Is Mitch McConnell, is he ever
going to say anything on this?
WEIGEL: (inaudible), the people who are more safe and more worried about
the future, because they are guaranteed a future in the party, like Cantor,
have a different position than the guys who have to answer to the
Republican base. It`s actually in Arkansas, striking that Mark Pryor,
Democrat, an incumbent, is trying to box out Tom Cotton, who three weeks
ago was (inaudible) Republicans favorite-
KORNACKI: Tom Cotton is a House member who is going to be challenging
Senator Pryor next year in Arkansas. This is where you have -- it`s upside
down. You have Cotton who is way out front saying, we want to go and we
want to do --
WEIGEL: But I would say -- to add on Cantor, too. The people who are
thinking ahead. I`m sure Eric Cantor remembers 1973, when Richard Nixon
can - ignore Congress and help Israel out and refueled the Yom Kippur War.
You don`t want to set the precedent that there is something not directly
that second related to, you know, if it doesn`t involve a country sending
missiles into New York or something, we can`t intervene. You don`t want to
set that precedent. I don`t think McConnell can think that far ahead.
McConnell just needs to worry about what the libertarians are saying now.
Cantor can see into the future. We may be asked to intervene in something
more directly dangerous to Israel but not to us. You don`t want to have
Rand Paul and Justin Amash winning those arguments next time. Mitch
McConnell, you need him to win this so he can win reelection.
ZWILICH: Fascinating. You would think that Eric Cantor is in the Senate
and Mitch McConnell is in the House in this dynamic. One is thinking far
into the future and one is thinking about tomorrow.
KORNACKI: We apparently have some new video also. This is John Kerry
responding to the videos we showed you at the beginning of the gas attack.
That`s going to be after the break. We`ll play it as soon as we come back.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KERRY: Those videos make it clear that this is not something abstract.
This is not something just reported in the news, which you can discard and
say, it doesn`t matter what`s happening over there. Those videos make it
clear to people that these are real human beings, real children, parents
being affected in ways that are unacceptable to anybody, anywhere, by any
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KORNACKI: Secretary of State John Kerry just moments ago in Paris. He`s
talking, weighing in very forcefully on those videos we showed you clips
from at the start of the show. Clearly, this is going to be a big part of
the administration`s push this week, to try to change that math in
Congress. But I want to take the last few minutes here and just talk about
-- it`s a daunting challenge. We laid it out earlier. If these numbers
aren`t moving, if, say, we get to the middle of the week, the president`s
done these interviews, these videos have been out there, the president does
his address to the country. If these numbers in the House aren`t moving or
even if the Senate starts moving against this, do you see any way the
administration backs off this? Is there a way out at this point besides
going through a vote they might lose?
ZWILLICH: Welcome to the useless vagaries of the War Powers Act. I mean,
this is the Swiss cheese law that hovers over all of us, the one that
President Obama used to not go to Congress for Libya, the one he sort of
used in the auspices to go in this case. Does the White House have to back
off? Honestly, Steve, only they know. They have answered that question in
four different ways.
HUNT: Or not answered it.
KORNACKI: One thing that came out, there`s this new proposal from Heidi
Heitkamp and from Joe Manchin, two conservative Democratic senators, who
are talking about, like, the way they are suggesting is to put the onus on
Assad to say you have to sign the chemical weapons treaty, you have 45 days
to do that, then you`d face some kind of consequences if you don`t.
ZWILLICH: One more brief point, and I`ll let others speak. Also remember,
this is a resolution, a sense of the Congress. It won`t be a law. It
won`t be a bill. There is nothing Congress is going to do, whether Assad
has to sign, whether they get a Chris Smith war crimes tribunal. Chris
Smith from New Jersey wants to have a war crimes tribunal instead of an
attack. There`s nothing they will do which will be binding in law. The
white House will do what it feels it can and wants to do regardless of
whether the Congress gives them their stamp or they don`t. And they don`t
have to abide by anything.
KORNACKI: They don`t, but it`s hard to believe if you go through a House
vote and there`s an overwhelming vote against this, any kind of vote
against this, they would go forward with it. I`m wondering, the longer
term implications here, we`ve talked about, it`s in "The New York Times"
today, the White House aides are talking about the pitch to Democratic
members of Congress. The president needs you on this. Be there for him.
I`m wondering about the flipside of this, if those Democrats aren`t there
for him, if there is a vote, if he loses the vote, what are the longer-term
implications, are there longer-term implications for the president?
WEIGEL: I wonder if that`s enough for them to win something in the Senate
and say, that`s the rationale. Maybe they couldn`t do it this time, but
there has -- there`s been a discussion, we lost the House. This
administration has gotten pretty good at blaming the House`s dysfunction
for quite a number of problems. They aren`t going to lead with that. I
would love for somebody to say on the record they`re considering that. But
if you have the Senate and John McCain backing something, you could make a
bipartisan argument. Look, one of the themes of the recess before this was
Republicans saying, it`s time to impeach the guy. So how much worse can
they do it with the House-
SINDERBRAND: Right now you have the administration making this impossible
set of arguments. On the one hand, congressional approval is important
enough to delay military action to this horrific attack, to wait several
weeks, to have this incredibly long, drawn out process. To have members
taking incredibly risky votes for the president`s behalf, for the
president`s proposal. On the other hand, if they in fact weigh in, and say
no, this is not something the United States should do, how do you then say,
well, you know, bygones, this wasn`t important enough, I guess we could
just ignore it. You can`t make both arguments at once. And that`s what
the administration is essentially trying to do now. You saw the president
and other aides this week have been trying to have it both ways in the
sense of when they`re asked, again and again, what do you do if Congress
fails to act, they try to avoid answering that question. The president
finally coming out at his press conference and saying, look, you`re not
going to get me to answer that and for very good reasons.
KORNACKI: Far be it for me to say we take our cues from the House of
Commons, but I look at what happened in Britain with David Cameron a few
weeks ago, and I have a hard time to believe it wouldn`t play out the same
way here, that if the House votes no, if the Senate votes no, the president
doesn`t say the people are against this and we are not going to go forward.
Anyway, I want to thank Todd Zwillich from Public Radio International`s the
Takeaway, Rebecca Sinderbrand with Politico.com.
In just two days, gun control faces its biggest test yet, that`s next.
KORNACKI: Children in Newtown, Connecticut are about to start their third
week of school. A brand new school year, an attempt to return to normalcy.
That`s only nine months after 20 students and six staff members were
massacred at the Sandy Hook elementary school. Only nine months since we
collectively as a country said never again. Yet in that nine months, there
has been no national response on gun reform. Congress has effectively done
nothing. In the Senate, a comprehensive gun reform bill failed to make it
to the floor for a full vote. Could not reach a 60-vote threshold.
Connecticut Senator Richard Blumenthal called the day that happened a day
of shame. President Obama hugged victims` families in the Rose Garden
promising not to give up. So far, the only meaningful action has come at
the state level.
Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland and Colorado, which
may be one of the last places you`d expect to pass tough gun reform
legislation. But that state, having experienced its own mass shooting in
2012, passed universal background checks and a limit on high-capacity
ammunition clips to 15 bullets. Those laws in Colorado, those new laws in
Colorado, are now facing a fierce and unprecedented roll-back effort. An
effort that will come to a head in just two days. Two Democrats there,
state Senate President John Morse of Colorado Springs and State Senator
Angela Giron of Pueblo, they both voted for those gun control, and they are
now fighting for their lives, fighting for their seats in recall elections
These may be local races in two small state legislative districts, but
there are clear national implications here. Outside money is pouring in
from both sides. New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg spending hundreds
of thousands against the recall. National Rifle Association pouring in
hundreds of thousands for the recall. Political activity has been so high
that one county clerk extended early voting hours last week. Polls are
closed for the day in Colorado Springs, but they are open in Pueblo, and
again, in just two days, this election could send a shudder down the spines
of gun control advocates everywhere, or it could serve as a sign that even
in small-town Colorado, Americans are OK with tighter gun laws.
Still with us at the table is Dave Weigel of Slate. He`s joined now also
by Rick Palacio. He is the chairman of the Colorado Democratic Party.
Dick Wadhams, he is the former chairman of the Colorado Republican Party,
and our friend Kurtis Lee, he`s a political reporter at the Denver Post.
Thank you for joining us. Dave, I`ve already thanked you, but thanks for
staying with us.
Kurtis, I`ll start with you. We have these two state senators facing
recalls on Tuesday. If you could just tell a national audience that
doesn`t know much about Giron, does not know much about Morse, what the
basic dynamics in these districts are, is one more vulnerable than the
other, how are these things looking right now, two days out?
KURTIS LEE, DENVER POST: Well, Senator John Morse is the Senate president
in Colorado, and he is in a district in southern Colorado, in El Paso
County, which leans -- it`s divided evenly among Democrats, Republicans and
unaffiliated voters. It`s a very competitive seat. That`s why he was
targeted in these recall efforts. In Pueblo, Senator Angela Giron, she is
in a much more Democrat-leaning district, but also these are different
kinds of Democrats. They`re not your Denver or Boulder liberals. They`re
more kind of Blue Dog kind of Democrats, per se. So they`re both facing
recalls. Millions of dollars have been poured into these recall efforts
from the national level, like you said in your setup piece. And Tuesday it
comes to a head. Colorado is really a kind of a litmus test of sorts for
the national gun debate. Outside of New York, Maryland, and Connecticut,
Colorado is the only other state to pass tougher gun laws.
KORNACKI: And that`s part of the story here. John Hickenlooper, he is the
Democratic governor, he was reelected by a pretty wide margin, but then in
the wake of Newtown, he kind of turned around on gun control, and he got
new laws through. The recall effort, though, tell us about the roots of
that. Where did it come from? When did it start? Was this something that
began in state? Is this a case of national groups looking at Colorado and
saying, we`re going to make an example here? Where did the recall come
LEE: It really started toward the end of the legislative session, when it
ended in May, and organizers -- there were grassroots organizers in Pueblo,
in Senator Angela Giron`s district, who organized and got enough signatures
to get this on the recall ballot. Then it really did start in the
districts, in Morse`s and in Giron`s districts, but obviously it`s grown to
much more, much more attention, once these recalls came to the forefront
and were actually certified and on the ballot.
Now we`ll -- now we see groups like the NRA getting involved heavily. We
see groups like the 1630 Fund out of Washington, D.C., which is a 501-c-4
getting involved, and just thousands, hundreds of thousands of dollars
pouring into the race. But really, it did start off at the grassroots
level, but it`s become much more, it`s about much more than the voters in
El Paso County and in Pueblo, where it`s really just a small group of
voters who are going to decide these recall elections.
KORNACKI: Dick, from the Republican standpoint here, Colorado, how engaged
is your party sort of at the statewide level in Colorado? How engaged are
you in this process?
DICK WADHAMS, FORMER CHAIRMAN, COLORADO GOP: I think Kurtis makes a great
point. This did not start because of Republican efforts or even outside
efforts by the NRA, or whatever national organization you want to talk
about. The fact is, this was started by a couple of plumbers in Pueblo,
who got very sophisticated in their petition drive. And the same thing
happened in Colorado Springs. And it also is -- is a symptom of what
happened in the state legislature going back in January. Governor
Hickenlooper came into that legislative session with astronomical approval
ratings, 70 percent or more. Over the course of that session, the
legislature passed a huge tax increase on rural Colorado, energy tax
increase. It passed these gun laws. And there are a lot of culturally
conservative Democrats, especially in these two districts, as Kurtis said.
And I think as a result of all these things contributed to the atmosphere
of initiating these recalls. And in the case of Governor Hickenlooper, the
guy who a year ago right now was being talked about as the presidential
candidate, huge approval ratings, is now -- his approval rating is upside
down. It`s actually - his disapproval is slightly higher than his
approval. And I think, so I think this has repercussions in Colorado and
the nation what happens this week.
KORNACKI: Well, I want to pick up that point. First of all, this is -- we
have -- this is a head to head poll, I think, from next year, prospective
gubernatorial, Tom Tancredo could be the Republican candidate. We can talk
about that a little bit. But this is him matched up against John
Hickenlooper, this was the PIF, Quinnipiac poll a couple of weeks ago, that
shows you the sort of predicament that John Hickenlooper is in. But also,
in this same poll, voters were asked, you know, should voters wait for the
next election or force special recall elections when they don`t agree with
House state legislatures vote. And by a two to one margin they`re saying
no, you know, wait for the next election. There is - so, I guess my
question to you, Dick, is, you have these objections with these gun laws.
You have these objections with other things that happen in the state
legislature. This is an extraordinary step to take to try to recall
sitting legislators who really -- you may disagree with them, but they`re
simply guilty of doing the job of a legislator, they are voting, they are
voting their consciences here. Is it right to be recalling them?
WADHAMS: Well, I think a lot of us had questions whether recall was a wise
political decision. Because I firmly believe that we ought to have the
election serve the purpose of determining if an elected official is
representing their districts. But it`s important to go back to who
initiated these recall petitions. They were not Republican activists or
the Republican Party of Colorado or even the Pueblo or El Paso County
Republican parties. These were citizens. And many Democrats within these
districts that just couldn`t take this gun control legislation. They feel
like it`s an assault on their Second Amendment rights.
KORNACKI: Well, Rick, I`d like you to respond this, you know, with the
State Democratic Party. First of all, how engaged are you in these fights?
How important is it for to you win these fights and what are you doing to
make sure you part does win these fights on Tuesday?
RICK PALACIO, CHAIRMAN, COLORADO DEMOCRATIC PARTY: We`re very engaged,
we`ve been engaged since day one and we`re going to do everything that we
can to make sure that both Senator Giron and John Morse prevail. And I,
you know, I think Dick and I agree on a couple of things. This is a
cultural issue. Guns are very cultural, especially in these two districts.
But this goes beyond culture in emotion. This is a temper tantrum now that
these folks have turned in and made the people of Colorado pay for it. We
are talking about things that - that have cost probably close to half a
million dollars for both of these races to be put on. And the point that
you made is a fair point. John Morse is termed out in one year. Angela
Giron is at the end of her first term in one year. So, why make the people
of Colorado pay for these temper tantrums that some of these folks are
putting on right now. It doesn`t make any sense.
KORNACKI: Has it surprised you? Because we, you know, my knowledge of
Hickenlooper -- I`m an outsider, I`m thousands of miles from Colorado, but
I always thought of Hickenlooper as one of these - it was a Democrat in a
purple state, maybe a state is trending a little bit towards the Democrats.
I always think of him as a very popular governor. And I`m looking at where
his poll numbers are right now, and I`m looking at the gun issue, and I`m
saying, it surprises me as an outsider looking at Colorado saying the maybe
the gun issue had just pursuing what to me seems like very basic, common
sense, you know, gun reforms here. He`s paid a real political price for
it, hasn`t he?
PALACIO: Well, these are very basic and they are very common sense pieces
of legislation. Expanding background checks to make sure that rapists and
criminals can`t get guns. It makes perfect sense. And a vast majority of
people in Colorado agree with it. And those are the steps that these
lawmakers took. And this is the law that Governor Hickenlooper signed into
-- signed. So, you know, I think it`s important to point out that of all
of the accusations that are going on out there, these are responses that
are uniquely Colorado, to Colorado tragedies. Everyone in Colorado knows
exactly where they were when Columbine happened. They know exactly where
they were when the Aurora theater shootings happened. And our lawmakers
took action. And it may not have been the most politically correct thing
to do, but it was the right thing to do.
KORNACKI: And that`s what - we`ll pick this up after this because we`re
going to be joined by somebody remote, this is John Morse. He is the state
senate president, he is one of the two Democrats who is facing a recall,
whose political future will be decided in 48 hours. He`s going to join us
KORNACKI: OK, we`re going to bring in the president of the Colorado State
Senate, that`s Democrat John Morse, who is taking a few minutes from the
campaign trail to join us live from Colorado Springs. Thank you, senator,
for being a part of the show this morning. So, you find yourself in this
situation. In 48 hours the voters in your district are going to decide
whether to recall you or not. How is your feeling going into this
election? Are you confident you`re going to win this thing? Because I know
you`re in a district that`s fairly conservative. How is your feeling right
now 48 hours away?
STATE SEN. JOHN MORSE, (D) COLORADO: Well, I am feeling good. I mean,
we`re doing the work. We`ve got a great plan. And we are putting the
execution together and staying focused on what we need to do to win, which
is focus on our district and the voters in our district, which we were
great at in 2010 and great at in 2006. So, there is no question it`s going
to be close. The other side has poured an awful lot of money in this,
right from the start. And so, it`s been an uphill climb the whole time
but, you know, we`re doing the very best we can. And by Wednesday morning
we won`t feel like, you know, gee, if we had only done x, y or z may be it
would have been different. We like where we - our position right this
KORNACKI: If you`re not successful, though, if this recall works and
you`re removed from office, what message do you think that will send?
There are going to be a lot of people in your same shoes and state
legislators across the country over the next few years who are faced with
gun control votes. The state legislators in any number of states. What
message do you think it would send to them if you are recalled on Tuesday?
MORSE: Well, I think what it sends is you can lie, cheat and steal, force
a recall election and get people out of office. I mean I take exception
with part of the show to begin with where this is a grassroots effort in
Pueblo and Colorado Springs. In Pueblo, you know, it was an unemployed
plumber who all of a sudden had $20,000 to spend on this effort. Here in
Colorado Springs they bought the signatures. They didn`t come anywhere
close to getting enough signatures. That money came from outside the
district. They paid three bucks a signature, there were signatures that
were forged, there were signatures that were perjured. There was a woman
that signed and then died almost two years before she signed. So, you
know, I mean, this has been just despicable to get us to this point. And
so, I think if that ends up winning, and I tell people - you know, but
that`s all now in the past and we just have to win. And to win, we have to
vote no, and so we have to put this behind us. But if we`re unable to, I
don`t think it sends a very good message about how we have done politics
here in El Paso County.
KORNACKI: And another reason, I think national people are really
interested in this race is that Michael Bloomberg, the outgoing mayor of
the New York City, has sort of set himself up as the chief protector, at
least financially, of people like you across the country who are willing to
cast difficult votes for gun control. And he`s come through and, you know,
friends of his have come through, with money to support your campaign. I
know that`s been turned against you by your opponents saying, it`s the
billionaire, you know, billionaire New Yorker coming in and trying to, you
know trying to buy our election, or whatever it is. How is that message
that they`ve - that they have used against you, saying this is an outsider
coming in trying to prop up John Morse? How has that affected this race?
Has that been a problem for you?
MORSE: I really don`t think it has. I mean I haven`t heard - there hasn`t
been a single voter at the door that has brought up that issue. I mean not
a single one. And, of course, we`re prepared when they do to make sure
they understand they started collecting signatures the 1st of April, and
the outside money on the other side started the 1st of April. Mayor
Bloomberg sent us a check with barely 30 days left to go in the election
cycle. I mean so he was very late entering this and we had to do this from
a grassroots perspective with over 10,000 donors from Colorado Springs,
from Colorado, from the entire country long before Mayor Bloomberg got
involved. We`re thankful to have him at this point, because, you know,
campaigns are definitely expensive and they get more expensive towards the
end. And you want to spend every dollar that you can. And invest it in
getting your message out. So, I`m thankful for that, but at the same time,
you know, when you really balance what happened here, there was lots of
money for a long time from the other side and some money very much at the
end on the other side, but I don`t think the average voter at the door
KORNACKI: And Senator, we have Dick Wadhams here, former chairman of the
Republican Party. He wants to talk to you. I`ll give him a chance right
WADHAMS: Senator Morse, I would agree. I think both sides are amply
funded from the outside, but I think with all due respect to you, I think
that`s one of the -- we`ve seen this morning one of the reasons why you are
being recalled is the demeaning of the opponents of your gun control
legislation. As -- I think you described them as liars and cheaters and I
think that`s one of the reasons you`re in the predicament you are today.
PALACIO: And, Senator .
KORNACKI: I`ll give the senator a chance to respond to that.
MORSE: Well, and, you know, everyone - when you .
KORNACKI: Go ahead, senator.
MORSE: When you - when you have petitions and we turned into the district
attorney, I mean, over 30 incidents where there are forgeries, perjuries,
and again there`s the woman that died two years before signing. I mean, as
you know, Dick, I mean I was a police officer for years. So, I mean, when
people commit crimes, you accuse them of crimes and you prove that they`ve
done those crimes and that`s exactly what we`ve done in this case.
KORNACKI: Kurtis, I want to - you`re a reporter covering this, can you
shed some light, we`re having this back and forth .
PALACIO: And Senator Morse, we talk about outside money. Opponents to
this recall effort have raised almost $3 million from - in this recall
effort whereas proponents of the recall, the folks who are political
grassroots effort - these grassroots efforts have raised about $500,000.
So, they`ve been significantly outraised in this recall effort. You have
big money checks coming in, obviously, from the NRA for $360,000, which is
the most money that`s come in for the opponents of this recall. But the
proponents, I mean, you have Los Angeles philanthropist donating 250,000
here and New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, 350,000.
KORNACKI: But it`s also - and there`s also an imbalance, though, in small
dollar donations, isn`t there? There`re a lot of small dollars donations
coming in against the recall, and that so much - if I read that right.
PALACIO: Absolutely. There is - against the recall there`s been almost
17,000 plus small donations coming in from all across the country and
within Colorado as well. Senator Morse, I had a question for you. You
have 13,000 basically - sorry.
MORSE: No, go ahead. Go ahead.
PALACIO: OK. So, in 2010 - in 2010 you won the district by less than 350
votes. 9,000 - 28,000 people came out to vote in the election that year.
This year you basically -- in early voting there is about 9400 people have
come out. Is there a turnout number that you all are pinpointing to get
people out to vote? And Republicans have come out in stronger numbers
early on in this recall.
MORSE: Sure. And that`s a great question. We`re not targeting a specific
number because this is a special election in an off year for an issue of
yes or no on a recall. And so, we`re working as best we can to get as much
voter turnout as we can. We think that more turnout we have, the better is
for us. But no, there`s no real models or anything to say what this is
really going to look like. So, we just have to get every no vote we
possibly can and hope that number exceeds the number of the yes votes. And
in terms of the Republicans turning out more than the Democrats, I mean
that`s always true in the early voting. Republicans do get that their vote
counts and it is important to get it done. But this really isn`t a
partisan issue. There are plenty of Republicans that are going to be
voting no because they don`t agree with this process. So I`m not worried .
KORNACKI: Is that .
MORSE: . about the fact that there are more Republicans than there are
KORNACKI: Yes. Senator, I just want to finish quickly with this. Is that
the best argument for you because you represent, you know, a district with
a lot of sort of conservative tendencies? Is it that argument of, hey, you
know, you may not agree with what I did, but I did my job as a state
legislator. And I, you know, let me face the voters again, or let me have
another election, but I should not be recalled just for voting my
conscience. Is that the best argument you have at this point?
MORSE: You know, and it`s hard to say. There are really three arguments
that are working. One, it`s very expensive and why are we doing this with
a year left to go in my term? Second is, you know, that you are just
recalling me for policy disagreements. And third, once they actually
figure out the gun bills that we pass, they`re like, but wait, that`s all
just common sense. It`s like, yes. I mean that`s not how the other side
talks about it and with their talking points this looks very much like, you
know, we`re taking people`s guns away. But all we did was they`ve got to
reload after cranking out 15 rounds, you get a background check, you`ve got
to pay for the background check yourself, your concealed weapons permanent
training has to be in person instead of over the Internet and we move some
federal law into state law, giving judges jurisdiction over domestic
violence cases to sequester the guns if the need to in the interest of the
parties while they are under the court`s auspices.
So, it`s like, well, I actually don`t disagree with any of that. It`s
like, I understand. I mean the NRA does, but many of the NRA members do
not. And so, all three of those arguments really are working in our favor.
MORSE: Not one in particular, I don`t think.
KORNACKI: OK, I want to thank John Morse, he is the president of the
Colorado State Senate, he is up for a vote on Tuesday in Colorado. We will
keep you update on that one, and thank you for taking the time this
morning. Also I want to say thanks to Dick Wadhams, Colorado Republican
strategist, we have Kurtis Lee of "The Denver Post" and thank you, Rick
Palacio of the Colorado Democratic Party.
How technology is changing the way we chose the leader of the free world
140 characters at a time. That`s next.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you, Mr. President.
JOHN F. KENNEDY: There is one of two places we`re a little ragged. I
thought we might do - almost think about doing them over.
If you ask three somewhat difficult questions about South Vietnam and
(inaudible) war, then I`m afraid my answers are off.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So, you want to do it again?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Let`s take them again.
KENNEDY: OK, let`s try to do it again and we`ll see what it comes out this
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KORNACKI: It`s amazing. That was President John F. Kennedy 50 years ago
in 1963 asking for and getting a do-over with two major news anchors, Chet
Huntley and David Brinkley. Could the same thing happen today? Probably
not. But we`re going to talk about how journalism has changed. That`s
coming up next.
KORNACKI: It wasn`t all that long ago that all of the country`s top
political reporters packed their bags and boarded a campaign bus for months
at a time to develop and intimate and behind the scenes knowledge of the
presidential contenders. Their tools were notebooks and cassette tapes and
the quarters in their pockets to pay for the payphones they used to file
their stories along the way. Just one a day. And they were paid in
excess, getting to know the candidates up close, who they were, what made
them tick, maybe even their favorite brands of whiskey.
And the best up - so, there was unscripted moments, that inform and drive
reporting. Of course, they didn`t always pass those scoops along to their
rears, as we sort of just saw in that Huntley-Brinley moment. Decades
later, the buses remain, but everything else about the way reporters cover
campaigns is dramatically different. Lap tops, smartphones, digital video
cameras. All the file - live - excuse me, live stream and tweet, a never-
ending series of news to viewers and readers around the world. And that
evolving technology has up-ended what, when and how when we learn about
Meeting CNN`s Peter Hamby asking this week, did Twitter kill the boys on
the bus? Hamby writes, "With Instagram and twitter-primed iPhones, an ever
more youthful press corps and a journalistic reward structure in Washington
that often prizes speed and scoops over context, campaigns are increasingly
fearful of the reporters who cover them. Candidates and their aides, wary
of young reporters and private conversations finding their way into the
digital space are fencing themselves off from reporters. That`s having an
acute impact on the American political process." Now, with that
(inaudible), exemplifies this new dynamic and Mitt Romney`s trip to Europe
and the Middle East last summer. He spent only three minutes answering
questions from the press during the entire week. Reporters logged
thousands of miles, their outlet spent thousands of dollars on travel, yet
they have little from the campaign to actually report. The tension between
media and the Romney campaign boiled over in this expletive-laced exchange.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Governor Romney, do you have a statement for the
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What about your gaffes?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Governor Romney, do you feel that your gaffes have
overshadowed your foreign trip?
MITT ROMNEY: (INAUDIBLE) to the point people show some respect.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Governor Romney, just a .
ROMNEY: Show some respect.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We haven`t had another chance to ask him questions.
ROMNEY: This is a holy site for the Polish people. Show some respect.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KORNACKI: Here to discuss all these are veterans of the campaign trail.
WE have an NBC political reporter Kasie Hunt who covered Mitt Romney`s
campaign for the Associated Press, we have Ryan Williams who served as
Romney`s deputy national press secretary, and (inaudible) to Dave Weigel
who covered the 2012 elections for - and Jane Hall, a former Los Angeles
"Times" media reporter, who is now a professor of journalism at the
American University School of Communication.
So, the basic proposition here from Peter Hamby in this piece, that we
quoted, is that the working relationship between the press that is out
there every day covering these campaigns and the campaigns themselves has
basically been broken. And he`s pointing to Twitter as one of the main
culprits in the breakdown of that relationship. And I guess, Ryan, I`ll
start with you. As a veteran of the Romney campaign, we just played that -
you know, exchange from a year go, the - what about your gaffes, that was
my favorite? Favorite line out of there, but I mean that`s sort of
symbolized that breakdown. What is your take on this, though, from the
standpoint of somebody who is on a campaign working with the media, how do
you look at that relationship and where it stands right now?
RYAN WILLIAMS, ROMNEY`S SPOKESPERSON: Well, I think the premise of Peter`s
paper is right. Twitter has dramatically changed the relationship between
campaigns and reporters. Everything you say, everything you do, whether
it`s at a public event, private, on a plane, it is all out there, it`s out
there quickly without any edits. It is very problematic for dealing with
reporters because you have to be on your guard at all times. You can`t
have a moment like we saw with Kennedy, where if you make a small mistake,
you can have a do-over. Or they`ll let you go down for a second, because
everything you do will be out within a second from any reporter. Looking
at you and then tweeted around by other reporters. Picked up by your
opponents and editors back at the bureau, and it becomes a major story.
Small things become big stories very quickly. It`s very problematic for
access and for dealing with reporters.
KORNACKI: So, Kasie, now, let`s put if from your standpoint. You were a
reporter covering the Romney campaign every day. You heard what Ryan just
described. How would you describe the relationship from your standpoint?
HUNT: Well, first of all I would say to Peter`s wonderful paper, there
were also girls on the bus, many more this time than previous. So, some of
the - I think advances or changes we`ve seen over, of course, the past
couple of decades in campaign reporting have been for the better. But
Twitter did dramatically changed the way campaigns were covered, it changed
sort of how we interacted day to day. And I think part of it is, that we
didn`t really as a - sort of - as media institutions have a thoughtful
discussion about how we are going to use this new media tool. And one of
the things that it did, was free reporters from editing, if you will. So,
it gave every reporter on the bus the ability to post something quickly in
real time without necessarily checking back it at headquarters, which is
how, you know, stories would have gotten out there in the past.
And also there`s a big difference now because it used to be when the old
school boys on the bus were filing their one story a day, every word that
they put out there cost money. It cost money to print words on the page
and it took up air time to put some of these stories out there. And with
Twitter there is no -- you know, it`s a low-cost way of distributing things
immediately. So, you no longer have to make these sort of decisions about
what you`re going to put in versus what you aren`t.
KORNACKI: And one of the concerns that`s raised from some of the Romney
people and then others who were quoted in this paper, this paper from Peter
Hamby that we`re talking about here, one of the concerns that`s raised,
they say that I think anything that goes on Twitter can affect how other
reporters are thinking about the race, how they`re reporting on the race,
how they are talking about the race on television. And so, here, like for
an example, this is a tweet from McCay Coppins, he is with Buzzfeed, and
this is tweet from him that came up as this - I want - this is from the
campaign trail last year. "I wonder if at moments like this when Romney is
stranded on the tarmac and press is blasting Kanye on the plane, he
questions his life choices." What are the - what are the themes? That was
- tweets like this, Dave, bother the campaign, bother the press people who
reports - more than things that reporters are actually writing in their
WEIGEL: Yeah, I think it bothers them rightfully. Because there`s a lot
of fulmination about what the media might be conspiring behind the scenes.
Probably, more dangerous for our - the way that we interpret democracy is
public collaboration, and public agreement and a high mind that forms
because everyone is talking about the same stuff. Twitter has sped that
up. It`s also - it`s brought instant affirmation to the process. Where if
you have a funny tweet from the trail, of if you`re a voter or reflect or
something (inaudible) funny tweet, that can dominate not just the cycle,
but just normal human psychology. And you start to notice the rewards for
saying the same thing everyone else is saying. And this actually affected
Rick Perry, who did not run a great campaign. There is one incident where
he and his imbeds were the only people on the bed, he joked he called a
mannequin as a joke and reporter tweeted that with another ton of context.
It became a joke on Twitter that (inaudible) was so dumb, he called the
mannequin by accident. And all the imbeds there, this happened a number of
time, the imbeds were trying to explain back home that, no, everyone
tweeting was wrong about a story. Here, an hour later is what actually
happened. Far too late. And it was the incentive for like people on the
media - and on the Obama - this is, you know, I guess at that point of
Romney campaign later, the Obama campaign versus Romney, the incentive was
just to play with it and have them, and, you know, basically burn the week
of the narrative and ignore what happened afterward, whether it was true.
KORNACKI: What I`m trying to figure out here, Jane, too, is like, is the
problem Twitter itself? And then there`s a tweeting culture that Dave is
describing where there`s a reward for blasting out something like this, or
is that a symptom of a bigger problem, which is that if you`re imbedded on
one of these campaigns, if you`re living on the road, you almost have
nothing to report on a day to day basis and it encourages exactly this?
JANE HALL, AMERICAN UNIVERSITY: Well, you have nothing to report and you
are supposed to be sure to capture any macaca moment.
HALL: I mean that`s what I`ve been told by people who are former imbeds.
They were told we need you there in case something terrible happens, or in
case there`s a gaffe. And I think, that from what I gather from talking to
people who covered the Romney campaign, the Obama people were better at
feeding the beast, and the snarkiness, you know, sort of got melded into
the -- look for gaffes. At least that`s the impression that I have. The
Obama people were better, even though they were equally as controlling or
trying to control. I think it`s a fear climate, sadly, where you don`t get
a journalist actually having access the way they used to. You know,
McCain, when he ran said that the media were his base when he ran that 24/7
access. I think people forget that. I think access is what really is
missing and it would be helpful and maybe have less of this Twitter
KORNACKI: One - you know, that McCain thing seems like so long ago.
HALL: It does, it seems like 100 years ago.
KORNACKI: It was 13 years ago, but that was when people still had dial-up
KORNACKI: And nobody was walking around with the iPhone or anything like
that, Twitter didn`t exist. YouTube didn`t exist, all of these things
didn`t exist. In this new culture, though, Kasie, as a reporter, where,
you know, a campaign views you as somebody who is looking for the next
macaca moment. Any moment that is going to record something, that`s going
to go on Twitter and just - is going to cause all sorts of the nightmares
for the campaign? What is your approach to the sort of building trust with
a campaign? And doesn`t it you could have a functional working
relationship and get valuable information covering the campaign?
HUNT: I was always pretty careful in my approach to Twitter, or at least I
tried to be. A couple of things, first of all, it`s always been true that
the journalists are not the story. And that has been true no matter what
medium we`ve been using to publish, no matter what technology is out there.
And if you try to live by that, it goes a long way towards maintaining your
relationship. Second of all, especially when you cover things from the
bubble, it`s the relationships that you have with the staff who are on the
road and with the candidate and with their family members, whoever is out
there with you. Those are the things that give you an advantage over other
reporters who are also covering the campaign. I know, Hamby was a little
bit critical in some ways of the coverage that came out of the bubble. I
do think that there were a number of strong stories and things that we all
relied on that came off of the road.
KORNACKI: Can you think like a concrete, can you think of an example of
something that being there that, you know, you were able to get or, you
know, reporters on the road were able to get .
KORNACKI: That really informed the campaign like that?
HUNT: There was a great story by Ashley Parker and Michael Barbaro of "The
New York Times" during the New Hampshire primary. Sort of explaining Mitt
Romney the man. It was sort of - looked - and I`m sure Ryan remembers this
piece. Sort of his foibles on the campaign trail, his struggles to connect
with voters, that I really I thought gave people a great sense of who this
candidate was. A story that I did that I thought, you know, I benefitted
from as far as being out there every single day. I was actually the first
person who went to church with Mitt Romney while he was on vacation in New
Hampshire. And it was one of the things where the church is open. I just
- I had covered Bush going to church during his presidency. I thought I
would stop by and check it out. And, you know, I was able to go. And
while I don`t think that they were necessarily thrilled to see me there,
but the candidate and his wife knew who I was, so did a number of their
sons, because that`s been a long time building those relationships, and we
ended up with what I thought was, you know, a nice sort of portrait of this
man and his religious life. Something that Americans hadn`t really had a
chance to see. And the feedback that I got, you know, afterwards from
members of the family was very nice. Like they thought that it was sort of
a gracious portrayal.
So, and those are the kind of stories I think that you wouldn`t see if you
didn`t have people who were building those kinds of relationships day to
day and who weren`t just stepping in. And while, on the one hand, you have
people who are there to just - you know, or who have been told that they`re
there just to catch the gaffe, there are sometimes people who come in or
would, you know, parachute into the bubble and see something that was
happening as news or as a big deal that, you know, those of us who were on
the road every day understood wasn`t actually something that ....
KORNACKI: Well, let me - I`m going to - I`m going to pick up the other
side of that with Ryan when we go to a break here, but I`ll tease you. I`m
going to ask Ryan, when we come back, what drove him -- was there one
story, was there one incident that his mind personifies the problem here
from the campaign standpoint, was there one story that drove you nuts like
nothing else that came off the road. We`re going to ask you about that
when we come back.
KORNACKI: So, I always love talking to press people from campaigns after
the campaign. Because maybe they are free to say certain things that they
were at the time. So, with that setup, Ryan, and I teased this a little
bit before the break, but we`re talking about it from the standpoint of
your campaign, of the Romney campaign, and looking at your relationship
with the press, the press that was sort of there day to day covering you,
the trackers, the - whatever you want to call them. Was there a moment
that just sort of crystalized for you, this is my problem with how the
press is treating us, this is my problem with how the press world works
today in the relationship with campaigns, was there the moment that
crystalized that for you?
WILLIAMS: Well, there were many, but one in particular, that sticks out
was during the primary. It was a day when Governor Romney was in New
Hampshire. Newt Gingrich went earlier in the day, and he had talked about
his mother and it was a very touching moment, he teared up his mother, of
course, who passed away. And it was broadcast on TV before our events
start. So, Governor Romney did an evening of that (inaudible) New
Hampshire at a town hall where he spoke to voters, and he began to talked
about his father, which is, Kasie knows, he would bring up his father very
frequently on the campaign trail. In the middle of talking about his
father, a man in the audience just shouted out, don`t cry in response to
what he`d seen earlier in the day with Newt Gingrich. And Mitt said, I`m
not going to cry. There is nothing wrong with that. He went on and did
the rest of the event. And a reporter who had been just parachuted in for
one event, had been there - not been on the campaign trail with us, a very
young reporter, tweeted, "Romney zings Newt, not going to cry." And that
one tweet that portrayed Governor Romney is mocking Newt Gingrich for
crying about his mother, which, of course, (inaudible) look very
insensitive. It took off. And it went viral. We had, you know, opposing
campaigns pushing that conservative commentators like Eric Erickson started
to attack Governor Romney for being a jerk, basically, and that was in no
way what had happened.
And we had -- we noticed that, you know, in the middle of the event taking
off. When the event ended, we tried to get it corrected. The reporter was
out of pocket for while, so we couldn`t get .
KORNACKI: Were you ever able to talk to her?
WILLIAMS: Yes, her phone had actually been shot off for a while. So, by
the time we got to her, with Twitter, at the speed it operates, it had just
taken off. And we were knocking it down, trying to knock it down, we
couldn`t get a correction, and it was about "We are afraid of Gingrich"
campaign was going to respond. That point - it`s just guess and fire. So,
what actually happened, is a more seasoned reporter who had been there, had
seen an entire exchange, didn`t tweet anything. Waited until the end of
the speech, spoke to the man in the audience who had shouted up the line.
And then wrote a blog post that accurately laid out what had happened. And
we used - we tweeted out that story to try to shut it down, but it was
almost a major problem. And it underscores the fact that really, one tweet
can ruin your day, and ruin an event.
KORNACKI: Well, yes, to see one tweet and David, another theme that I`m
hearing from (inaudible) a couple of times so far in this discussion is,
really, really young, unseasoned reporters who are -- maybe don`t have much
experience reporting on anything, whether it`s - you know, used to be you
had to sort of track where you started at the local paper, you know, maybe
you work your way up to a metro paper and eventually, you know, the big
thing was, you know, I`m covering the presidential campaign. Now, you
know, Ryan`s talking about somebody coming in very young, unseasoned, goes
and covers it for a day, and has a Twitter feed and it takes off like that.
How big of a problem is that? Is that a problem to you that or are we
overstating that the reporters are too young covering these things, they
are too unseasoned?
WEIGEL: No. I think the talent that ends up being displayed by a lot of
these reporters is real and it would have been discovered -- 30 years ago
would have been discovered at the paper in Oshkosh, Wisconsin, paper in
Columbia, South Carolina. Those papers have downsized in the way that
political media (inaudible), so they start there first. No, I just think
it`s the - the pace of - and the - a group thing. That those are the
problems. I remember hanging out with one reporter from "Wall Street
Journal" at one point in South Carolina and he was talking enviously to
this "Huffington Post" reporter because the "Huffington Post" is letting
him write a long piece very week, a couple of week. The "Wall Street
Journal" was never asking their live reporter to file constant blog
updates. And you`re just not going to get the contacts when you see that.
You`re going to - and the way that skewed that election, I mean every
election is driven by gas. But in retrospect, remember, a lot of
Republicans, Rick Santorum, Ted Cruz, have talked about how - the way that
the Republican convention focused on, what it - on you didn`t build that --
Obama saying, you didn`t build that, was a mistake. They laid too much
into this one gaffe. That wasn`t the young reporters who decided that was
a gaffe. That was kind of the mind of the political press corps on the
campaigns saying that these gaffes are going to change a narrative, change
And that`s not because they`re 23-year-olds doing it. 30-year olds can do
that perfectly well, 50-year-olds can do it. It`s just about the way that
that stream of information takes away from what could be more localized,
could be more based on talking to voters. I think it`s more - if the
network said, hey, you`re 23 years old, maybe instead of covering the
event, talk to 20 voters. That would completely change the event.
KORNACKI: So, we talk about the gaffes, and that word annoys me so much,
but I don`t have better one to use right now.
KORNACKI: So, we talk about the role of gaffes in campaigns. And I mean
you could say they were completely inconsequential when you look back at
the whole, you know, suite of the campaign. But I wonder about that, like
one that comes to mind, everybody has probably forgotten this, maybe you
remember like around Mother`s Day last year, Hilary Rosen, you know, a
Democratic lobbyist says about Ann Romney hadn`t worked a day in her life,
there was a huge thing for like 24 hours. Everybody is talking about it on
Twitter. I don`t really think that anybody even remembers it right now.
So, I`m tended to say, gaffes just don`t matter at all, because of this
Twitter-based eruptions, that go nowhere, but the other thing I wonder is,
over time, though, does the noise that they generate have some kind of
cumulative affect that shapes people`s judgments about the candidate? If
they`ve heard 20 stories about Mitt Romney gaffes? You know, they don`t
remember the individual gaffes, does that shape - does that shape their
judgment in that way?
HALL: Well, you know, I think - I think there`s several things there. I
mean from what I recall the Romney campaign put Ann Romney out there in a
rare tweet who said, you know, thank you very much, I raised several
wonderful boys and I made this choice. That one resonated. It probably
was unfair to the woman who said it because it was said in context. But I
think there are a couple of issues. If you`re a young reporter, I mean I
have a lot of former students who are doing excellent jobs at this. I
don`t think you have to be old. And some of the old guys didn`t report
things as you pointed out. But if you`re required to file all the time and
if the campaigns start to go with the line of the day, I mean I think you
didn`t go is a very good point. They are looking for the line of the day
to put out. And if you have to file and tweet and be sure to capture
everything you`re not going to be able to get away and go talk to voters.
And so, there`s a lot of different issues there.
But I think that the problem I see is, most Americans, I think, are not
following Twitter the way journalists are following each other. So, we`re
seeing - I think it increases the sense of they are talking to each other.
They have no relevance to my life. I don`t think it makes journalism look
KORNACKI: We - Ryan Williams and Kasie, you know, had the experience of
being on the road last year. You lived it. You know it. Is it something
you would do again and is it something you would tell a young reporter is
HUNT: 100 percent absolutely. I would do it again, and I would tell young
reporters that it is absolutely an experience that is like no other and
that is 100 percent worth doing. And two things sort of to close. First,
I would say we have to remember to Mitt Romney`s campaign, and we`re
talking about gaffes. It was a very unique campaign. I mean he has a
personal sort of experience with that type of political misstep, if you
will, that goes all the way back to an experience that his father had when
he was running for president and it was very important to him.
And then, the second thing that I would say is that Twitter is here to
stay. And so, the imperative, I think, for young reporters who are up and
coming, is to spend some time, some critical thinking time on this
particular subject. You can destroy the relationships that you build, that
you spent months building with a single tweet and it`s just not worth it.
So, if we are going to be operating in this environment for years to come,
and we are, we just have to make sure that we`re approaching it with the
same standards of rigor, transparency and accuracy that we do all the rest
of our reporting.
KORNACKI: And as Anthony Weiner shows the lesson of how being careful in
Twitter applies to politicians as well.
Anyway, what should we know today? Our answers after this.
KORNACKI: OK, it`s time to find out what our guests think we should know.
I`ll start with you, Kasie.
HUNT: Back to Syria. I know we talked about this earlier in the show.
But the overall message for the week that I`m hearing from members up on
Hill, that the administration really has not yet begun to fight. Most of
these members are still back home in their districts. They are only
hearing all these negative things. So, as the week begins, and I think
you`re already starting to hear it from Dennis McDonough on some of the
other Sunday programs, you`re going to hear their humanitarian argument for
why the United States needs to intervene. And I would also say, look for
on Monday some House members who believe that Israel security should be
very important to the U.S. to come out in favor of the president`s plan.
KORNACKI: OK, Ryan.
WILLIAMS: Well, I actually think we should know about Syria with regards
to my home state senator Ed Markey, my former congressman who has spent 37
years getting to the Senate, took John Kerry`s seat on this first big vote
in the Senate Foreign Relations committee, voted present, they are pretty
gutless, and no courage, obviously there. I think voters deserve to know
where he stands, and I think as the president lays his case up this week,
he should be pretty clear about that.
KORNACKI: All right, Dave.
WEIGEL: You should know that Australia has a new government, the Labor
Party was ousted after six years, replaced with liberals. And American -
Liberal Party is the conservative one in Australia. And American
conservatives who have noticed that this weekend, I think will keep talking
about it. Because the conservatives won in part by taking a mining tax,
the carbon taxes. Basically policies that have left the Democratic Party
(inaudible) in this country, that they accused that Barack Obama warning.
They say that`s proof that this is going to be, you know, you can destroy
that liberal sort of anywhere they it in the country. Worked in Canada,
too. So, listen, you`re probably going to hear some conservatives point
out what happened in Australia.
KORNACKI: OK. And Jane.
HALL: I think we`re going to be looking to see what the technology
companies do about, what - how they were portrayed. I think this NSA
revelations in the "New York Times" were sort of lost in Syria and Google
is trying to figure out how to re-encrypt. They are portrayed as compliant
with the government and that`s really bad for business. So, I think if
we`re interesting to see how they respond and tried to fix it.
KORNACKI: OK, Excellent. I want to thank, Kasie Hunt, Ryan Williams, Dave
Weigel and Jane Hall, thank you for getting up and thank you for joining us
today. We`ll be back next weekend, our guests will include Congressman
Alan Grayson. Stick around, Melissa Harris-Perry is next.
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