'Up with Steve Kornacki' for Sunday, October 13th, 2013
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UP with STEVE KORNACKI
October 13, 2013
Guest: Kasie Hunt, Bob Herbert, Alex Seitz-Wald, Robert Costa, Joan Walsh,
James Moore, Robert George, Sam Tanenhaus, Philip F. Johnston, Kathleen
STEVE KORNACKI, MSNBC ANCHOR: It`s a new day, a beautiful day here
on the East Coast, and what maybe a brand new day for Democrats in
Washington, the height of autumn there is the certain spring in their step
we haven`t seen in a long time, we`ll explain that in just a minute. Also
we have known for a while that George W. Bush and Dick Cheney weren`t
exactly best buddies, especially in the final days of Bush`s presidency, we
did know their relationship before that was a close one. A new book
excerpted in today`s "New York Times" magazine, though, shows us it might
have been a lot more complicated than any of us realized. The details of
that in a discussion is ahead. And last week, we inducted Lloyd Benson
into the debate hall of fame. This week, on another big anniversary,
there`s another presidential debate question I want to bring before the
Hall of Fame Committee, maybe the hall of shame committee for this one.
Either way, it`s a moment that`s had a ripple effect we`re still feeling
and we`ll talk about it. But first, once again, it is a Sunday morning in
October. It is a holiday weekend in fact. So, happy early Columbus Day to
all of you. It`s also an NFL Sunday. But it`s still eight hours before
the marquis game of the day that the Saints and the Patriots before that
kicks off. So we will pass some of the hours between now and then with
politics. And some pastries too, on the table over there.
It`s also not too early to talk about playbooks and you don`t have
to follow the NFL to get the concept of a playbook. It is the notebook,
where a team keeps all the diagrams of its plays, how it hopes to fake out
and beat the other team. And for a few years now in Washington, the fiscal
negotiation playbook for John Boehner and congressional Republicans has
gone something like this, threaten to do something extreme or to allow
something extreme to happen, something that makes the political world say
they wouldn`t seriously do that, would they?
And the prospect of a debt default is a perfect example of this.
This isn`t actually the first time we have been down this road, since
Republicans took back the House in 2011. And it isn`t the first time
because when they did try it for the first time, two summers ago, it pretty
much worked. President Obama negotiated with Republicans over the debt
ceiling back then. And he sent a message to them that they could dangle
the prospect of the catastrophic default and extract real meaningful
concessions by doing that. That same basic Republican playbook has now led
us into a government shutdown and, once again, to the brink of default.
There are five days we are told now until the U.S. will no longer be able
to pay its bills. That date is maybe not an exact date, there are some
tricks that the treasury could do, there are some juggling of accounts,
that can move some T-bills around or something like that. I don`t really
know the details. But this isn`t CNBC.
But the damage that a debt default would do is very real, that much
I am clear on. It can send the dollar crashing, it could cause interest
rates to soar, it could freeze credit markets around the world, stock
markets would almost definitely crash. In short, it could send the U.S.
economy into a recession even worse than the one that we are still
struggling to crawl out from. That is the Republican bet that precipitated
this standoff, that in the face of another default threat, Democrats would
agree to give away the store. And a lot has happened in the two-plus years
since that last debt ceiling showdown. And Obama was willing to negotiate
and make concessions in the name of averting a threat to drive the U.S.
economy off a cliff. A lot has happened. In fact, just since yesterday.
The weekend began with let`s make a deal worthy promise, behind door number
one we had Paul Ryan trying to broker a deal, he is the budget guru of
Republicans in the House, a conservative with deep ties to the Republican
establishment, but also just as much clout with the Tea Party wing of his
And behind door number two, in the Senate, we had Republican Susan
Collins, a moderate from Maine. She`s been trying to broach a deal in her
chamber that everyone could find acceptable. And the very fact that the
Senate or the Tea Party`s influence is strong, but not nearly as strong, as
it is in the House, the fact the Senate is engaged in trying to reach a
deal is significant. The deal that Susan Collins proposed would raise the
debt ceiling until the end of January. He also asked for so-called minor
adjustments to Obamacare, the president`s signature achievement. The
Democrats own playbook calls for changing the Republican playbook, for
putting an end to the constant parade of cataclysmic deadlines that have
guided Washington for the last few years. And so, they said yesterday that
what Collins was calling for simply isn`t enough.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. HARRY REID (D-NV) MAJORITY LEADER: Susan Collins is one of my
favorite senators, Democrat or Republican. I appreciate her efforts as
always to find a consensus. But the plan that she suggested and I`ve seen
hence in writing is not going to go anyplace at this stage. Two good
things in it. Number one, it opens the government. Number two, it extends
the debt ceiling. But other than that, there`s little disagreement -
little agreement with us. As I explained to Senator McConnell and Senator
Alexander this morning, they`re not doing us a favor by opening the --
reopening the government. They`re not doing us a favor by extending the
debt ceiling. Those are -- that`s part of our jobs. That`s why we have
said open the government, let us pay our bills, and we need to do that
before we have any agreement on what goes after that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KORNACKI: So what is now day 13 of the shutdown, we`re not just
right back where we started. We`re at a point where Democrats are feeling
more emboldened. They want to raise the debt ceiling for more than 14
weeks because they don`t want to turn around and just do this all over
again in January. And there is also this. Democrats` main concern
according to reporting in the "Washington Post" is scaling back sequester
cuts, making sure that once the government is open and running again, it is
not at the drastically reduced funding levels we have been operating at
because of the deal that was struck the last time there was a debt ceiling
There are -- these are sure signs that Democrats think they are in a
strong bargaining position here. And bargaining is apparently what Harry
Reid and Mitch McConnell are now doing with each other. In poker, Reid`s
move is called a raise, which makes the question now, is he, is his party,
are they bluffing? I want to bring in NBC News Capitol Hill reporter and
producer Kasie Hunt to talk about this along with Bob Herbert, former "New
York Times" columnist, distinguished senior fellow at Demos.org. Alex
Seitz, reporter with "National Journal" and MSNBC political analyst Joan
Walsh. Also, editor at large of Salon.com. I`m with Salon. You`re with
Salon. Alex is with salon. Sorry, you guys are left out - we`re going to
just talk about Salon stuff in the next hour.
But let`s, actually, Kasie, let`s start with you, I think, just sort
of set the stage for what is happening right now and what`s going to happen
in the next few days in Washington. Because yesterday on the show we were
talking about, it looked like at this hour yesterday morning that there was
maybe this emerging deal with Susan Collins that maybe would be forced on
the House. Since then, John Boehner told Republicans in the House he`s
done negotiating with the White House or the White House has done
negotiating with him. And Senate Democrats said the Susan Collins plan is
no good with them. Can you just take us through what happened yesterday?
KASIE HUNT, NBC NEWS: Sure, well, the Susan Collins plan is something
that`s been bubbling along for the past few days on Capitol Hill. And I
will say that Senate Democratic leadership has always been pushing people
off of that plan. They haven`t really liked it from the beginning. There
were some initial conversations, they sort of sat down around the table,
realized it wasn`t going to go where they wanted it to go. So, Harry Reid
has never really been fully on board with that. And while she was selling
it really hard after coming out of that meeting on Friday, from my
perspective, I never really saw it actually coming to fruition. But what
you`re going to see now with Reid and McConnell and my understanding is
they`ll probably speak today. There is a Senate session starting at 1:00.
They`ll probably speak again on Monday as they try to sort of hash this
out, but Reid clearly wants to take a strong sort of position. He doesn`t
want to give up any ground to either John Boehner or to these other
moderate Republicans. So him and McConnell in a room is something that,
you know, we haven`t seen thus far.
But, of course, one thing that we learned after the Friday meeting
with Republicans at the White House was that Senate Republicans and House
Republicans were not communicating about their two plans. There just
wasn`t a lot of understanding. Senate Republicans actually came out and
came to the White House and said, hey, look, can you explain what it is
that the House has offered to us? So, but on the flip side of that, the
plan after -- excuse me, after House Republicans came out of their meeting
yesterday, saying the Senate needs to stand strong, keep in mind, the plan
we were talking about then was whatever Collins was offering and that
wasn`t good enough for Reid. So, imagine how House Republicans will react
to whatever Reid and McConnell manage to .
KORNACKI: Right, yeah, I mean that`s -- I want to pick up, because
the whole House piece, this is fascinating, but let`s just -- I want to
make sure we understand exactly what it is that Harry Reid and the
Democrats are looking for here. Because this Susan Collins plan we were
all talking about yesterday morning, it would have extended the debt
ceiling until the end of next January.
KORNACKI: Right. It would have put in this, like, process, where
supposedly the House and Senate would agree on a long-term budget plan
before -- between now and January or I get - you know, otherwise, the debt
ceiling wouldn`t be raised then. It looks like the other stumbling block,
though, now, is the Susan Collins` plan called for a six months - funding
the government for six months. Reopening for six months. And Harry Reid
is actually saying that`s too long. He wants a shorter deal because he
wants pressure on Republicans to get rid of the sequester or some of the
JOAN WALSH, SALON.COM: Well, this is what is so great about what
Harry Reid is doing, is that he`s reminding everybody that the Democrats
already compromised. He thought he had a deal at some point with John
Boehner. That they were just going to bake in the sequester cuts and the
continuing resolution and the Democrats were going to eat that. They were
going to eat this budget level that was close to the Paul - the horrible
Paul Ryan budget. And that was their compromise. So by doing this, Harry
Reid is at last focusing on the fact that, yes, we compromise already and
it was terrible. So now we`re going to up the ante. What he does with it
is we don`t know, but at least it gives them something to bargain away,
that Democrats are always bargaining away their power before they start
KORNACKI: Alex, where did this come from? Because I think a lot of
people seeing the news reports yesterday, wow, suddenly the Democrats are
going to make a stand here on the sequester at this moment, but I don`t
think people saw that coming. Is there a back story here that brought this
ALEX SEITZ-WALD, NATIONAL JOURNAL: Yeah, I mean the playbook that
they`re playing now could not be more different from the 2011 playbook when
they basically caved immediately. And I think Obama has just had enough of
this. You know, he said the 2012 election would hopefully break the fever
of the Tea Party. That clearly proved to not be true. So, he`s making a
stand now. He`s saying no more extortion, no more hostage taking, and I
think he`s just trying to set a precedent for any future president, that
this is not the way to run a government. So, he is drawing a hard line
now. It`s more than just about this particular fight, it`s about setting a
precedent that he can`t be extorted in the future. So, I think he has to
draw a tough line. And, you know, talk about overplaying your hand, the
poker analogy. The sequester levels were going to be baked in. That was
taken for granted, Democrats said they were not going to fight on it, and
now not only are they not going to get any serious extractions from
Obamacare, but they might lose some of the sequester cuts as well.
KORNACKI: That`s - maybe you can clarify this quickly, because we are
getting yesterday morning we were talking about maybe Democrats would be
willing to go along with this. I think it was a two-year delay in the
medical device tax with Obamacare. Is Harry Reid saying that`s not part of
the deal for him?
HUNT: He said it`s still something that`s on the table. Some sort of
alteration to the medical device tax. I mean Democrats don`t like it
either. There are several Democrats with major device manufacturers in
their home states who really want Reid to repeal it. So, I think you could
potentially see that one thing on the sequester, one idea that had been on
the table that had Democrats very unhappy was, replacing the sequester cuts
with cuts to mandatory spending. So, cutting benefits, but returning that
money over to the discretionary spending side. And there was some interest
among Republicans like Senator Lamar Alexander who I spoke with, last
weekend who was in the room for this meeting yesterday morning, he was open
to it. But Reid has basically said no way.
KORNACKI: What about this? And Alex is talking about sort of the
attempt by Democrats, the attempt by the White House, to sort of establish
or re-establish the precedent that, you know, you`re not going to use the
threat of a default. You`re not going to use a shutdown to extract this
big policy concessions. When you hear about like the idea of maybe the
medical device tax on the table, if that`s part of his deal, are Democrats
still effectively enforcing that precedent or is that .
BOB HERBERT, DEMOS.ORG: Oh, I think so. There is a lot of
Democrats that are on board with the medical device tax issue anyhow. I
don`t think that`s a big problem. I think what the Democrats have done,
they are, in fact, making a stand. I think that they have, one, someone
has stiffened Obama spine to some extent to say, hey, we can`t just do the
same thing we did the last time. It was actually disastrous in terms of
our policies and priorities. Two, I think that the Republicans to start it
off from such a terrible point when they were demanding, you know, changes
to Obamacare or delaying Obamacare or giving -- or defunding Obamacare,
none of which was going to happen, even Obama couldn`t negotiate on that.
And then I think also, the Democrats, the president, Harry Reid and
everybody else, are looking at the polls. The Republicans are killing
themselves now and in terms of public opinion, they have essentially zero
leverage here. So, you know, all the chips are on the Democratic side of
the table for the time being.
KORNACKI: That`s what I`m wondering, if Harry Reid and the
Democrats took a look at these - the Republicans at 28 percent favorable
rating, everything and said, you know what, maybe the compromise here could
be a little more, you know, slanted to our side or less slanted against us.
But I want to pick up what happened on the Republican side, what happened
in this closed door Republican House meeting yesterday. We have the best
reporter to explain this, Robert Costa from "The National Journal." He`s
coming up right after this.
KORNACKI: All right, joining us now live from Capitol Hill, we have
Robert Costa, he`s the Washington, D.C. editor at "National Review" and the
contributor with CNBC`s "Kudlow Report." And Robert, thanks for joining
us. And you`re the best source reporter in Washington on congressional
Republicans. There`s no one I would rather be talking to right now about
this. And I just wonder, there is so much happening on the Senate side,
and on the House side yesterday, maybe we could just sort of start in the
Senate on the Republican side of the Senate where Susan Collins, you know,
from Maine, was putting together what she thought was going to be the big
compromise that would get through the Senate yesterday. Can you take us
through how that fell apart, and what Republicans in the Senate and what
Mitch McConnell is now sort of doing these negotiations with Harry Reid,
what they`re thinking is right now?
ROBERT COSTA, NATIONAL REVIEW: Good morning, Steve. From the U.S.
Senate, and it is just a fascinating fluid situation right now here in the
Senate and in the House. What you saw with Susan Collins, when they
floated her proposal to have the six-month extension, plus the medical
device tax repealed. But I think your introduction really captured the
scene right now. Senate Democrats feel like they can push Republicans, they
see a disarray in the House and they see some unease among Senate
Republicans. So they`re really pushing now to get sequester cuts. So the
Collins plan was floated. It got a lot of coverage, but it was never
really -- never had political capital behind it. So, it started to fade
away. And so, what you`re seeing Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell
do right now behind the scenes is very quiet publicly, but he`s very
worried now that as Senate Democrats assert themselves, maybe those BCA
levels from the 2011 sequester deal, maybe Democrats start to go at them
and try to adjust the level, he`s very worried about that. Politically,
why? Because in any future fiscal talks, if McConnell doesn`t want to put
revenue on the table, he needs to deal with the sequester. Sequester
trades for entitlement reform, that`s always been his plan. And if
Democrats can make a dent now on sequester, that`s a huge political victory
for them, and he`s very worried about that.
KORNACKI: And can you talk for a minute about McConnell`s ability
right now to bargain with Reid? Because we`re always talking about how
Mitch McConnell has to watch his back in Kentucky, he`s got Rand Paul, he`s
got a Tea Party challenge in the primary next year. He`s not that popular
in Kentucky to begin with. How much leverage does he have? If the hopes
of getting a deal right now are in Reid and McConnell hammering something
out, how much leeway does McConnell have to actually hammer out a deal
COSTA: Not so much. The only argument I`m hearing from Senate
Republicans. They`re going to Democrats to Chuck Schumer and Harry Reid
and saying, look, maybe if you push us too hard on sequester, you push us
too hard on these BCA levels, you only get, perhaps, four or five
Republicans, that`s not going to be helpful to you once you send this
volley back to the House. You really should be looking, Harry Reid and
Chuck Schumer, for, let`s say, seven to 15 Republicans, don`t touch the BCA
levels, if you don`t touch those levels, maybe we`ll have a lot of people
come along and that will put real pressure on Boehner to take up the
Senate`s bill. So it is really an argument not only about not touching the
BCA levels, but about avoiding default, to make Boehner pass something by
getting some Republican support in the Senate.
KORNACKI: And that`s the other piece of it, is so the strategy that
seems to be taking shape here, the pathway that seems to be taking shape
here, is the deal comes together in the Senate and like you say, the House
is sort of forced -- Boehner is sort of forced to put this on the floor,
even if a lot of Republicans vote against it. But a lot of the reporting
I`m seeing about this closed door House meeting yesterday, House Republican
meeting yesterday, was that Boehner seemed maybe to be sort of trying to
prepare his ranks for that eventuality, for that to happen, and Paul Ryan
and others in this meeting basically riled up the troops against this idea
and the conservatives in the House right now are ready for a fight with the
Senate. Is that what you`re hearing? Can you take us through that a
COSTA: Sure. Boehner is in a very delicate position right now.
Because he`s not ready to fully push his conference in a certain direction.
He`s kind of sitting back and that`s what he did on Saturday morning at the
conference meeting. He said, look, guys, it is in the Senate`s hands now,
let`s ask them to, quote, stand strong. That`s what Eric Cantor told the
group. And it`s really -- the ball is in the Senate`s court. But the
problem is, now that they have almost thrown it over to the Senate, a lot
of House conservatives including Paul Ryan, who`s very influential in the
House, they feel like they`re disengaged from the process. And so,
whatever the Senate cooks up, even if not on bipartisan basis, when that
comes back to the House, it`s not going to have a lot of support, at least
And Democrats, who knows where they`re going to be on that. So,
House Republicans, they don`t feel like the Senate - they`re helping the
Senate to build the product and at the same time, they don`t feel like
Boehner is really leading them in a certain direction. So, as much as
there may be pressure for Boehner to take up whatever the Senate passes,
there is no real guarantee at this time that the House really knows what it
is going to do.
HERBERT: Bob Herbert here. You know, we know that there are some
members of the House and the GOP who feel that the default would not be
that big a deal. Is there a way to characterize a general sense of how
House Republicans feel about default? Do they think that this would be
COSTA: It is a great question, Bob. And I think politically when you
talk to them privately they`re very much aware that this would be a bad
thing for the party if Republicans are blamed in any way for default. What
they have done, perhaps too much, according to some leadership aides, has
talked too much publicly about the technical aspects of default but how the
treasury can still make its payments. And they`re trying to make an
argument almost to the conservative base that hey, it is not that bad,
we`re going to go to the deadline, don`t worry about it. But I don`t think
Boehner wants to default. The leadership certainly doesn`t want to be on
And so that`s really where the House is right now. Can they usher
some of these conservative members along to avoid default by coming
together in a Senate deal. But right now, it is so fluid, I`m just not
sure where Boehner has the votes on almost anything.
WALSH: Hey, Robert, it`s Joan Walsh. How delusional is Paul Ryan
that he thought that he was going to be the person who was going to come
through this and cut, you know, between the left and the right and broker a
deal that was based largely, not fully, but largely on Ryan budget levels?
COSTA: I don`t think it is the word delusional. Because there was a
moment last week where Ryan published that "Wall Street Journal" op-ed and
the House was really leading the talks. They were at the White House.
Ryan was engaging directly with the president. And for a brief moment, it
seemed like Paul Ryan could be the one to get Boehner, to get his right
flank to come along and support some kind of clean debt limit extension.
Clean CR that was lead to further budget talks. That was always Ryan`s
goal. But the problem for Ryan is he still is Paul Ryan, just the budget
committee chairman and once Harry Reid really stepped into the fray, Ryan`s
whole influence over the process kind of evaporated.
HUNT: Hey, Bob, it is Kasie Hunt. It`s nice to see you. I wanted to
ask, there was a lot of talk about how the longer this went on, the worse
it would look for Republicans in polling and they would start to come
around. And we`ve obviously seen that polling. My question is, for you,
as somebody who talks to especially this House conservatives, how much has
that moved them, if at all?
COSTA: Not -- I think the polling hasn`t been important, and I think
that some of the major polls last week have had an impact, but two things
that are really having an impact are the constituent calls. A lot of
Republicans publicly aren`t very candid about how many negative calls
they`re getting about the shutdown. And that`s really bothering them. And
long-term they don`t think the shutdown is going to be that much of a
political problem for them in 2014. But they`re really nervous about their
home districts, about the shutdown and about how business people in their
district are looking at default.
KORNACKI: All right, Robert Costa with "National Review." Thank you.
What a great information there. And we`ll pick it up in a second and talk
about a lot of what we just heard right after this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D) NEW YORK: This is playing with fire. We
don`t know when the markets will react to this. You can`t say it will be
no sooner than next Thursday. I worry on Monday that when the American
markets open, maybe because of this vote, that they will start worrying and
not only will the stock market go down, but interest rates go up, and the
value of the -- the value of U.S. Treasury is decline, it is very serious.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KORNACKI: At least Chuck Schumer is talking about the looming debt
default deadline. And Alex, sort of pick up on what we`re hearing from
Robert Costa there, because we have this deadline coming up and obviously
we`re seeing it is this blueprint for getting something done, which will
require something to come out of the Senate that deadline to sort of
pressure the House and pressure John Boehner to put whatever comes out of
the Senate on to the floor, but I think a lot of what we`re hearing from
Robert Costa there is, still effective, is a Republican controlled House,
the Tea Party influence in the House is very pronounced, and the House --
the Tea Party just does not seem to be on the same page when it comes to
the idea of like the debt - even the debt ceiling, even being a threat.
SEITZ-WALD: Yeah, I mean, this has been the question all along, is
how you get anything to raise the debt ceiling or to reopen the government
through the conservative wing of the House. And I don`t know if you do.
And as we might end up with John Boehner having to, you know, break the
House rule or at least take some Democratic votes to get something passed,
like he did with the, you know, fiscal cliff deal in January. But at least
if he has McConnell`s blessing and he has, you know, five, seven
Republicans in the Senate, that makes it may be politically a little bit
more palatable, but I think, basically, all he`s been doing up to now is
trying to find some way to avoid that eventuality. And once it comes
Thursday, you know, at midnight, he may just say he`s going to have to go
KORNACKI: Yeah, it almost feels like his whole speakership for almost
two years has been building to the moment where he just finally has to put
something on the floor that really -- the membership - this is the whole
thing where the members for the fiscal cliff, it was like they voted no but
they were secretly for it.
There might come a point where they are just really against it.
HERBERT: Well, you know, history is looking at this and speaker of
the House is very big deal in the United States government, and if it gets
to the point where it is up to Boehner. I mean there is the deal in the
Senate, it has gone to the House, it seems clear that it would pass the
House. And Boehner is the one who says, you know, absolutely not and
causes the U.S. to default.
HERBERT: It would be blamed on him specifically, one man, and I
can`t see him being willing to do that.
WALSH: In my - oh, I`m sorry.
HUNT: No, no, go ahead.
WALSH: In my charitable moments toward John Boehner, I think maybe
he`s just - his strategy is let the babies cry it out. And, you know, just
take it to the wire and give them every chance that they can possibly take
to broker a deal, to torpedo a deal everything else, and then at the end of
the day, you know, whether it`s the 16th or the 17th, you have to go to
Democrats, you have to go to Nancy Pelosi and say, all right, we`re going
to do this. I just can`t see any other way around it at this point.
HUNT: Well, that was one of the initial theories when this all
started was that part of Boehner`s overall strategy was, so let these guys
sort of dig their own graves. I mean there were not aides who would say
that, you know, on the record, of course, but .
HUNT: You know, there was this sense, that if they took it too far
and damaged their brand so much that they would have to go back to him and
say, OK, actually we need to cut a deal and to move forward, because - and
Boehner has always been known as kind of an institutionalist, you know,
he`s somebody who actually -- who has said, you know, I came to Washington
to govern, and so to have it in this state is just not tenable for him in
the long-term, it`s not what Boehner wants to see .
KORNACKI: And the other thing that is really interesting to me about
this, too is the idea that right now the Senate negotiations -- the
negotiations are taking place in the Senate between McConnell and Reid, and
the story of the last few years has been when it gets to this point,
McConnell has gone around Reid and he`s going to Joe Biden .
KORNACKI: . the vice president, and there has been some reporting
about, you know, Reid and a lot of Democrats in the Senate, don`t like the
deals that Joe Biden has cut. He caught the fiscal cliff deal. He cut the
deal, the debt ceiling deal two years ago, they gave us the sequester, they
gave us the super committee, so the fact that he`s renegotiating this
instead of Biden maybe also shows the Democrats feel they have more
HUNT: Well, and don`t underestimate the reality that Reid felt just
cut out, plain old cut out in that deal with Biden and McConnell. And Reid
doesn`t - and we were talking earlier about somebody having stiffened
Obama`s spine, that person is probably best identified as Harry Reid.
KORNACKI: But those deals don`t hold - here from a Democratic
standpoint, those deals don`t .
WALSH: They don`t.
KORNACKI: You`re stuck with a sequester now that was supposed to be
this worst case thing that would .
WALSH: That no one would ever go for.
KORNACKI: Never happen and here it is --
WALSH: No, I talked to Nancy Pelosi on Thursday and I was kind of
amazed at how candid she was. I mean she didn`t take anything off the
table, and I tried to and finally, I realized I was putting words in her
mouth, and I apologized.
WALSH: But the words that came out of her mouth were pretty
interesting. Because she said, look, we have been enablers. We have been
enablers, we`ve been - we`re the responsible party and they know it, so
they can act irresponsibly. We`re not going to enable that anymore. And I
thought that was really interesting.
SEITZ-WALD: Well, I think Obama`s plan for years had been I`ll cut a
deal, I`ll look reasonable and the American people will reward me for it
and that just hasn`t proven to be true. The fever never broke. The
Republicans are still doing the same thing, saying, no more, I`m drawing a
HERBERT: And I also think Obama never realized how intransigent the
Republicans would be. He always thought ultimately reasonable people would
prevail. And that has not been the case.
KORNACKI: Right. And that contrast is so interesting too. Because
he tried so hard in 2011 to get that grand bargain to get to that moment.
KORNACKI: And it wasn`t just the Republicans who paid the political
price back then. That was the lowest point of Obama`s presidency.
KORNACKI: We`re seeing a little bit of a different dynamic here, at
least from the polling we`ve had so far. Anyway, I want to say thanks to
Alex Seitz-Wald with "National Journal" now, formerly with Salon, and they
have been out of office for almost five years now, but the George W. Bush
and Dick Cheney storyline still fascinates. There`s new details about the
(inaudible) very free relationship between two man are featured in "The New
York Times" magazine today. We`ll revisit their time in the White House
together. We will take a closer look at what went wrong. That`s next.
KORNACKI: On "Up Against the Clock," that`s our weekly current game
show, we like to test our contestants` knowledge of American political
history. That`s one of my favorite subjects. And yesterday I asked our
contestants this doozy.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KORNACKI: 40 years ago this past week, this man became the second
vice president in U.S. history to resign.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What?
KORNACKI: 40 years ago this week . Todd.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Spiro T. Agnew, Steve.
KORNACKI: Spiro T. Agnew is correct.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KORNACKI: That was Todd Wilkin (ph). While he didn`t win the game,
he did win our respect for identifying Spiro T. Agnew as Richard Nixon`s
first vice president. But there is another vice president we want to talk
about today, one who didn`t resign. But who did manage to shoot his friend
in the face while in office. I wonder who we`re talking about. We`ll
discuss that man in new details about his relationship with the president
he served under. That`s next.
KORNACKI: Every four years there is a brief window of time, a period
of weeks, really, when every political journalist in the country spends
every waking minute trying to figure out the running mates of the
presidential tickets. VIP stakes season, maybe you love it, maybe it
drives you nuts. But somehow all of the names in the air end up getting
reduced to a mere handful, it`s the short list. Until finally one day word
leaks and announcement is made and the ticket is set. And we all say,
well, of course Obama went with Biden. What was he going to do, pick Tim
Kaine? So, let`s go back 13 years, to the summer of 2000, when it was
George W. Bush`s turn to pick a running mate. Republican convention in
Philadelphia was days away and a short list of two names came into focus.
And this was one of them.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ANNOUNCER: There is new speculation today over the identity of
Republican presidential candidate George W. Bush`s running mate. Former
Missouri Senator John Danforth has emerged as a possible vice presidential
candidate this after reports of Danforth and Bush who met secretly last
KORNACKI: And then there was the other name on that short list, the
name of the man who Bush had deputized to lead his vice presidential
search. Dick Cheney. He put John Danforth`s name on the list and he put
his own name on the list. And we know which of those two names Bush ended
up choosing. This is one of those great what ifs in history. We know what
a fateful pick Cheney was, how different America might be, how different
the world might be right now if Bush had simply gone with the other name on
his short list. If, say, John Danforth, a moderate Republican, whose
reputation, whose style, whose governing philosophy couldn`t be more
different than Cheney`s, really, if he landed on the ticket and in the vice
presidency instead of Dick Cheney. In his upcoming book, excerpted in
today`s "New York Times" magazine, Peter Baker revisits the Bush-Cheney
relationship and argues that maybe we have got it a bit wrong that Cheney
wasn`t quite the puppet master he`s been pegged as. Baker details how
severely damaged the relationship was by the end of the Bush presidency.
He says it had been following apart for most of the president`s second
term. The president felt burned by the deteriorating situation in Iraq,
and lack of any WMD, the reason Cheney and his neocons gave as the reason
for invading in the first place.
Cheney was marginalized, Donald Rumsfeld was fired and Condoleezza
Rice became the president`s new favorite confident. But the biggest
betrayal, Peter Baker writes, was Bush`s decision not to pardon "Scooter"
Libby, convicted of lying to federal officials who were investigating the
leak of CIA officer Valerie Plame. Bush commuted Libby`s sentence, he
served zero days in jail, but for Cheney, this was not enough. Conviction
was a deep scar, Cheney said. "He has to live with that stigma for the
rest of his life. That was wrong and the president had it within his power
to fix it, and he chose not to. It is obviously a place where we
fundamentally disagree. He knows how I felt about it." Cheney suggested
the president did not want to take the heat. "I am sure it meant some
criticism of him, he said, but it was a huge disappointment for me." Well,
here to talk about that, and where else things went wrong for the two of
them, we have Robert George, columnist from "The New York Post" and aide to
former House Speaker Newt Gingrich. James Moore, co-author of the book
"Bush`s Brain" and director of the PAC Progress Texas. Still with us, we
have NBC News Kasie Hunt and Bob Herbert with Demos.org.
And James, I`ll start with you. Because you`ve written about -
there are sort of these two relationships, these two personal alliances
that sort of define George W. Bush in the public eye, at least, and the one
was Karl Rove and George W. Bush. And the other was Dick Cheney and George
W. Bush. Can you talk a little bit about which of those relationships was
maybe more significant to his presidency and how specifically that Cheney
one evolved over the course of the Bush presidency?
JAMES MOORE: Well, obviously, Rove was the political guy, the guy who
came up with the strategies based upon what he thought would be effective
policies. But I think context is important in this whole thing, Chris,
because Bush, the way he governed in Texas was with a more of a macro
approach to -- he`s not a details guy. And I think what Cheney saw, the
reason Cheney -- when Cheney was brought in and Cheney was asked to find a
vice president, and he found himself, Cheney saw the opportunity and Bush`s
sort of naivete that Bush did not have the insider Washington expertise and
understanding of policy and Cheney saw an opportunity. And when Cheney
became vice president, you will remember the first thing he did was he
arranged a secret meeting with members of the energy industry to try to
begin to immediately affect the things that mattered to him most. I think
what happened over the course of time is that Bush, and Bush is very good
about letting people go and do what they need to do to run the government.
It`s what he did in Texas. I think it is what he planned to do in
Washington, but over the course of time, what happened was he saw Cheney
doing things and going to extremes that he probably was uncomfortable with
and he called him off. He said, stop it. He had done that, I mean, he is
known for being in meetings and telling people, like, Karl Rove, and Dick
Cheney as we, saying, wait a minute, I`m the guy in charge here. This is
the - I`m the guy whose name is out front here. So, I think this thing
sort of devolved with Cheney to the point where Bush got to where he was,
regarding "Scooter" Libby. And I don`t think Bush was ever comfortable
accepting the notion that it was "Scooter" Libby that leaked, but if you
begin to dig deeper and deeper into this whole thing, there is always a
chance that it turns out that Karl Rove is the guy who orchestrated this
whole thing and used Cheney`s office to make it happen.
ROBERT GEORGE, NEW YORK POST: Yeah, as we actually found out, that
the actual leak came from Richard Armitage who actually sort of, you know,
was not really -- was still kind of agreed with the policy. I mean that
was -- which was kind of ironic here. I mean it`s - Peter Baker`s piece is
really excellent because it does sort of demystify this whole image of Bush
being controlled by Dick Cheney, the Svengalian and so forth. And it is
true that President Bush, you know, was in charge, people may disagree with
a lot of the decisions that came out, but he was -- he was in charge and he
gave Dick Cheney a certain amount of liberty to do what had to be done.
But ultimately it came down to it actually came down to Bush`s taking
charge. What the "Scooter" Libby aspect, I thought, was rather
interesting, because it seemed to be what could be considered two other
admirable traits that were sort of intentioned with one another. On the
one hand, Bush believed in the idea of the rule of law. On the other hand,
he also believed in loyalty from everybody. And he basically fell down the
side of the rule of law by not giving Libby the complete pardon that Cheney
KORNACKI: When we look at Cheney`s role in the administration, we can
point to the "Scooter" Libby thing, it really comes at the very end of the
administration, so a lot of consequential decisions, you know, happening
before then. I`ve always looked at Cheney`s role as being particularly
outside for the vice president`s, Bob, for a couple of reasons. One was,
he sort of had no interest from the beginning in running to succeed, you
know, his boss, running to succeed the president. He wanted to do
something in the office of the vice president. And this was a guy who had
a long history in Washington, he had a history in the executive branch with
Gerald Ford, he knew how the White House worked, came in with that kind of
knowledge. So, you can sort of combine -- he had a sort of insider savvy,
he didn`t have the personal and political ambition and he had a President,
George W. Bush, who I think for her better or worse, you can certainly
argue it was worse, more laid back than most. He had a sort an NBA style
we always kind of talked about and he created this environment where Dick
Cheney was being able to be a lot more consequential (inaudible) vice
HERBERT: Exactly. I mean I think that gets to the point, excuse me,
of the Bush/Cheney relationship. Bush was disengaged and no one was more
engaged in what was going on in government and politics in Washington than
Dick Cheney. So they were a good fit there. And I had always thought that
it was a mistake to suggest -- I thought that Bush`s problem was that he
was disengaged, not that he was unintelligent. I always thought that it
was always a mistake for people to - and some people even wrote that Bush
was in some sense like this Bozo who had become president and was, you
know, the puppet to Dick Cheney. Bush was an intelligent guy, anyone who
covered him or interviewed him could tell that. But he didn`t -- he was
not engaged. And that was the real problem here and that is how Cheney was
able to amass such power and then, of course, you wake up one morning if
you`re George W. Bush and suddenly, you know, everything has gone to pot.
But on the "Scooter" Libby thing, I thought that that was really
interesting because I don`t think -- Libby was convicted of lying to
federal investigators, I guess. And I think that`s a bad law. I mean, I
don`t understand why that should be felonious to lie to a federal
investigator. So, I thought that Bush, when he`s listening to the lawyers
and other advisers trying to decide whether to pardon this guy, he wants to
follow the law, but I wondered how he felt about the law itself. So, for
example, if you lie to the police or if you lie to state troopers or
something like that, that`s not a criminal offense. But it is a criminal
offense if you lie to federal investigators.
GEORGE: Yeah, of course, you are going down a really slippery slope
if you start, you know, opting to decide which laws you want to follow and
which ones you don`t.
HERBERT: No, no, I`m not saying that he should have pardoned him, I
actually don`t think he should have pardoned him. He would have pardoned
him only because of the influence that "Scooter" Libby .
KORNACKI: About the person -- I want to get Kasie a sneaky, a quick
break in. We`ll come back. We`ll get Kasie and we`ll also play a classic
piece of video you may remember, you probably want to enjoin this trip down
memory lane. That`s right after this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (inaudible)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (EXPLETIVE DELETED) (inaudible)
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KORNACKI: Campaign 2000, Bush and Cheney on the stump. I remember
when that moment happened.
GEORGE: Please, notice, - it was George Bush who made the
observation and Dick Cheney who agreed. Not the other way around. So,
once again, we know who is number one.
KORNACKI: That`s the first time I`ve heard that interpretation of
it. But, James, you were just saying something during the break, I think
it is kind of interesting, because we talked a little bit about how Cheney
ended up on the ticket, maybe you take us a little further back and just
talk about George W. Bush as a national political figure, as a presidential
- you know, how he ended up in the presidency, in the first place, you`re
saying, the idea went all the way back to 1989 with George W. Bush
eventually becoming president someday, running for it.
MOORE: Bush was running the Texas Rangers baseball team at the
MOORE: And Karl Rove, that was when he traded (inaudible)
MOORE: Sosa. Sammy Sosa.
GEORGE: Which in retrospect, was not a bad idea .
MOORE: It`s a good move.
GEORGE: It wasn`t a bad idea, given all the steroids.
MOORE: I think that was -- but he was running the rangers and Rove
told another Texas political operative who later told me when I was writing
my initial book that he had had this conversation in 1989, saying if I can
get George W. elected governor in Texas, I can make him a presidential
candidate. Now, given the size of Texas and the diversity and the economy,
as soon as you`re elected governor of Texas, you`re automatically into the
national discussion. And, Bob, you asked why not Jeb? Well, it was W. who
got elected to the state office first. And he had Karl behind him. And
so, with Karl behind him, and the things that were
GEORGE: And there is another interesting what if for you, Steve.
They both ran in `94. Jeb ended up making this critical mistake in the --
close to the end of the `94 race, he ended up narrowly losing and then had
to run again.
KORNACKI: He lost to Lawton Chiles, right.
GEORGE: If Jeb and George had both won in `94, it is very
interesting to see, you know, within the discussions of the Bush family to
who would be running in 2000, because Jeb was definitely the more policy .
KORNACKI: It always looked like Jeb and Jeb ran against Lawton
Chiles, who is this classic Florida political character who had this slogan
he adopted in 2000, I guess in the debate, he was talking about like the
hecoon (ph) always walks at midnight or something. Made sense in Florida.
GEORGE: And Jeb Bush negative ad back fired on him. That was .
HUNT: Just the one thing I would add about this book. I know we
talked about Bush and Cheney, but this seems to tell the arc of the
difference between the first term and the second term. As Bush sort of
came into his own, he came in with, first of all, 9/11 and he relied very
heavily on Cheney`s advice during that period. But then as he sort of
spent more time in the presidency, he became closer and closer to
Condoleezza Rice, which is something that we have seen in the really
excerpts from Peter`s book. And just the shift in trust, and one of the
things she told him was Cheney was still willing to break the china and I
had decided that we needed to stop breaking so many things, we need to
focus on our alliances, we needed to maintain some things in the Middle
East. So I think that evolution helps to describe, you know, what we saw
from this relationship between these two men that shaped so much. And the
Cheney family, by the way, still breaking china in Wyoming with Liz
Cheney`s run against .
KORNACKI: Bob, that`s an interesting point.
MOORE: At least they`re not shooting.
KORNACKI: As early in the campaign.
HUNT: Fishing this time.
KORNACKI: Do you look back at the Bush presidency and the story of
his relationship with Cheney and how it deteriorated, it almost sounds to
me like it took eight years, but after eight years, George W. Bush maybe
learned how to be president?
HERBERT: I think that`s true. But he learned how too late. I mean,
you know, we have seen a lot of presidents who are learning on the job,
including the current president. But the fact that Bush was so disengaged
and really was not interested in the nuts and bolts in policy meant that he
was a slower learner in that sense. And you had these tremendous things
going on, you know, September 11th and wars and that sort of thing. And he
almost had no choice, but to defer to Rumsfeld and to Cheney. And, yes, I
think that by this second term, you know, he was catching on to this, that
and the other thing. And finally saying these fellows just haven`t served
me well. And he probably had a sense that he hadn`t served the nation
MOORE: But it should be pointed out very quickly that it was -- it
was Cheney`s plan all along to have Bush defer to them. That`s how they
got to that place. And as you suggest, Bush then figured it out and
evolved as the president. But all along, Cheney chose himself for that
KORNACKI: And as we say, not before an awful lot of consequential
stuff. It`s a relationship we`ll be talking about for years, I don`t think
this is the last we`ll hear of it-anyway, I want to thank Kasie Hunt of NBC
News and James Moore, co-author of "Bush`s Brain."
You have seen the dire polling for Republicans this week. And
you`ve seen how little it seems to be worrying the Tea Party crowd. How
this moment has been 50 years in the making. We`ll show you next.
KORNACKI: If you want to find the root of the adamants of the urgency
of the thirst for confrontation that animates today`s Republican Party, the
spirit that has led the GOP to shut down the government and threaten a
default in the name of fighting the president`s health care law, if you
want to find the root of all of this, you can do worse than to look to the
night of November 4th, 2008, when Barack Obama won his job. The simple
reality of a Democrat being elected president of the United States,
triggered on the right, reflexive, relentless, and at times way over the
top opposition to pretty everything that Barack Obama did, said or tried to
do from that point forward. And this wasn`t exactly new.
A knee jerk opposition and obstruction that Obama has contended with
is very similar to what Bill Clinton came up against when he took office 20
years ago. In the way, this is just how the right reacts when Democrats
win the White House. But there is a key difference. Back in the 1990s,
Clinton beat the GOP in a series of confrontation, the government shutdown,
the 1996 election impeachment. The Republicans responded by changing. At
least a little. That`s how we got George W. Bush and what he called
compassionate conservatism. It was response to Clinton`s successes. The
political victories he`d scored by painting himself as the last line of
defense between the safety net and those heartless extreme congressional
Republicans. If they were going to start winning national elections again,
Republicans had to show they weren`t just trying to dismantle the
government, they had to prove they had a heart. That`s what George W. Bush
told them and they got behind him and he got the presidency. But his
presidency didn`t exactly work out that well.
There is a familiar story we all know, when Bush decided to invade
Iraq, it divided America, and when violence spun out of control and FEMA
botched Katrina he lost the country for good. After that, the economic
meltdown of 2008 only reinforced the intensely negative feelings Americans
had developed toward their president. But the other story of Bush`s
presidency is how much it offended the right. How the compassionate
conservatism they embraced in the name of winning the White House morphed
into what they came to derisively call big government conservatism. No
Child Left Behind, the Medicare prescription drug plan, the bailout, the
federal government George W. Bush left behind at the end of his presidency
was bigger than the one he inherited.
This is another crucial source of the energy that is propelled the
right into one confrontation after another with President Obama. The
conviction of conservatives that they essentially let themselves get duped
by Bush, that they set back, bit their tongues and watched him grow the
government all in the name of winning elections only to emerge after eight
years of his presidency with the Republican Party in horrible political
shape. So, when Obama came to office, the right didn`t just set out to
fight him, they set out to purify the Republican Party. To purge those who
would have baited Bush and to insist that Republicans in Washington embark
on a real all out full front door assault on government. That`s what the
Tea Party is.
And really, it was more than just the accumulated and in some cases
delayed disappointment in the Bush years that the Tea Party grew out of.
It is a lot more than that. It is a half century of similar
disappointments, of the conservative movement scoring some kind of big
electoral breakthrough only to conclude that Republican leaders aren`t
really as committed to dismantling government as their rhetoric suggests.
The modern right announced its arrival by nominating Barry Goldwater
for president in 1964. But he endured one of the worst general election
beatings in history that fall. Four years later, Richard Nixon created a
winning coalition that came to define the modern conservative movement in
the Republican Party. So, white southerners, blue color, white ethnics in
the north and what he called the silent majority, the predominantly white
middle class. Nixon appealed to this coalition social conservatism, he
channeled their cultural angst, but when it came to governing, he fell far
short of the right`s Goldwater ideal. Wage and price controls, the EPA, a
universal health care plan, a call for a living wage, Nixon is the
president who said that we`re all Keynesians now.
No wonder why on the occasion of his 100th birthday this year,
"National Review" asked of Nixon, was he America`s last liberal? And there
was Ronald Reagan, a more authentic Goldwater Republican, his election in
1980 was supposed to be impossible, there is no way America would ever
choose a president so far to the right. Reagan did slash taxes, but when
his eight years were up, the federal government had actually grown bigger
and more expensive. It happened again in the 1990s. But by Newt Gingrich,
Republicans scored a stunning midterm triumph in 1994. They won the House
for the first time in 40 years, finally conservatives believed their moment
was here. The Gingrich Republicans forced an immediate confrontation with
Bill Clinton, but it was a PR nightmare. Clinton accused the GOP of
targeting Medicare and the GOP backed off. This is the backdrop to keep in
mind as the current drama plays out. The polling data is clear, this
shutdown, the threat of the default, all of this is killing the Republican
Party. It is hurting the party`s prospects of being anything more than a
minority party that happens to control the House. But this doesn`t seem to
bother the Tea Party that much. And maybe it makes sense, because as we`re
now seeing, they can do an awful lot of damage even if they only control
That seems to be the point we`ve reached, a conservative movement
that is tired of false starts, that is tired of waiting for all the stars
to align, and it now just wants that all-out assault on government, the
electoral consequences be dammed. Here to talk about how it came to be
this way for the right and what it means for this moment of history and for
the future, we have Robert George of "The New York Post," also a former
staffer to the House Speaker Newt Gingrich, MSNBC political analyst Joan
Walsh, and editor at large at Salon.com, Sam Tanenhaus, the writer at large
for the "New York Times," biographer of conservative icon William Buckley
Jr. and Bob Herbert of Demos.org. And we will not introduce, he was a
KORNACKI: But Sam, let me start with you on this. I`m just curious
what you kind of make of the history I just laid out there. Because one of
the interpretations I`ve sort of had for this moment, it is not just a
reaction to sort of the immediate politics, it is the conservative movement
looking around and saying, look at all -- look at the big government that
LBJ and FDR gave us generations ago, and we still largely have that
consensus intact. And we`re just sick of it. Is that a part of this?
SAM TANENHAUSE, THE NEW YORK TIMES: Well, it actually goes back
farther than that. It goes back to 1952 when Dwight Eisenhower was
elected. He was a Republican. He was a very moderate Republican. And
that conservative movement was to some extent formed in opposition to this
moderate Republican president. It was in Eisenhower`s term, as first term,
really, that the seeds of "National Review" were formed, and then it was
created in 1955 by Bill Buckley and colleagues in essence to challenge
Eisenhower in 1956. Bill Buckley said in a letter to a recruit, I plan to
read Dwight Eisenhower out of the conservative movement. And it wasn`t
just the intellectuals. The Senate was controlled by Robert Taft during
the first term until 1954. And Taft had the same problem that someone like
McConnell or Boehner has now. He could not hold his right wing in check.
They were challenging Eisenhower from the beginning. Joe McCarthy was
trying to hold up essential Cold War appointments in Russia for the United
Nations. There was the Bricker Amendment that came out of Ohio that
actually tried to stop any president from having treaty making power, even
the smallest kind. That was the hard right, fighting against a moderate
Republican. So it actually goes back 60 years.
KORNACKI: In the context, in the `50s, the new deal was still new,
back in the 1950s and the great society hadn`t happened. Actually, to give
you a taste of .
GEORGE: And Eisenhower in a sense sort of consolidated the new deal
GEORGE: And a sort of a bipartisan framework and that was another
one of the reasons why conservatives reacted, people like .
That`s when Buckley said, you know, we`re standing, yelling stop.
WALSH: Famously said, you know, you would be crazy to go after Social
Security and totally solidify Social Security and then also wound up, you
know, putting federal troops behind integration in 1957.
KORNACKI: And it was the highways under Eisenhower. Here is, to put
this in context too, this conservative movement in that era that Sam is
talking about, here is Ronald Reagan who -- this is before he was the
governor of California, long before he was the president, he was speaking
out, he said that the context is Harry Truman as president had pushed for
national health care plan, it hadn`t worked, Democrats were starting to
talk now and then liberal Republicans about what became Medicare. This is
in 1961. Medicare doesn`t even exist, though. And this is Ronald Reagan,
sort of the voice of the conservative movement, one of the voices of it
talking about Medicare, 1961.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RONALD REAGAN: Write those letters now, call your friends and tell
them to write them. If you don`t, this program I promise you will pass
just as surely as the sun will come up tomorrow. And behind it will come
other federal programs that will invade every area of freedom as we have
known it in this country. Until one day as Norman Thomas said, we will
awake to find that we have socialism, and if you don`t do this, and if I
don`t do it, one of these days you and I are going to spend our sunset
years telling our children and our children`s children what it once was
like in America when men were free.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KORNACKI: Again, he was -- it became Medicare.
GEORGE: And I mean, I wouldn`t -- I wouldn`t say we wouldn`t go as so
far as Ronald Reagan did that we`re living in this kind of socialist
America, but conceptually he was right in terms of how the programs would
expand and, you`re right, he kind of in sense anticipated the entire great
society and expansion of federal power, and he was .
HERBERT: He equated that with a loss of freedom. Where does that
GEORGE: Well, there is a sense among conservatives that the larger
that the federal government gets, there`s less freedom both for the
individual, and at the state level. And that`s part -- that`s part of the
HERBERT: Freedom, it seems to me, if you`re free people and you
decide that you want a program like Social Security or you want a program
like Medicare and you vote for it, you know, then you have the freedom to
establish those programs and that`s what the United States had.
TANENHAUSE: That`s the paradox you have, is that you have the
Republican Party, which wants to be a major party in a two-party system and
realizes it has to attract people who essentially do want the government to
take care of them to some extent, and a conservative movement, which is
aligned with the Republican Party, but is not identical.
GEORGE: And this is one of the, I think, one of the frustrations
that happened with the conservative movement, and they often see these
polls that show that the average voter by two to one tends to be more right
of center than left, at least identifies it as conservative versus liberal.
And I think there is a confusion between the idea of being ideologically
conservative and temperamentally conservative. And so, what you have is,
you have people who are - we saw a couple of those signs of Tea Party
rallies saying, you know, government, keep your hands off my Medicare. And
so those people who see Medicare and make use of it, it is sort of baked --
it is baked in the cake now as part of the -- as part of the structure, so
for them, it is conservative to not want to have any changes to it, such as
paying for parts of Medicare, to pay for Obamacare.
Meanwhile, the more ideological conservatives, you know, want to
remove a lot of these programs and that`s some of the tension you see.
KORNACKI: Well, and that`s - when you look at the basic appeal of
conservatism as a political message, the idea of attacking big government,
big bloated wasteful inefficient government, always polls well and it`s
sort of - it`s a good selling point for conservatism, the problem that I
think conservatives come up against when they get into office and they try
to really attack big government, you look at like Newt Gingrich and the
Republicans in the `90s, when it was Medicare, you look at the early days
of Social Security and the Reagan administration in 1980s, when you
actually go after what is big government, the social safety net, a program
like Social Security and Medicare you find out that`s popular.
WALSH: And Bush in the second term .
KORNACKI: Right. Privatization.
HERBERT: The problem with right wing conservatives is they have
been on the wrong side of history ever since World War II and, you know,
they`re not dealing with the real world. And it is a mistake to equate the
right wing ideologues with the idea of conservative government in general,
or until now with the Republican Party in general. So what the right wing
ideologues have wanted ever since the new deal is a country that Americans
do not want. They are on the wrong side of history there, and it`s a fight
that they can .
KORNACKI: Why is it so - When I listen to that Reagan clip we
played, I remember in the fight over health care reform in 2010,
conservatives sort of recycled that and they were using that and they were,
oh, it`s Ronald Reagan speaking out from beyond the grave against
Obamacare. But the persistence of sort of this basic conservative vision
of not just expanding the social safety net, but in a lot of ways
dismantling it, what accounts for that? Given the popularity of these
TANENHAUSE: Well, it`s - I think everyone here has touched on it.
And the word we haven`t brought up, though, is libertarianism. This is a
fascinating moment for us in American history. This is the strongest
upsurge of the libertarian argument we have seen, certainly in my lifetime.
The closest would have been Barry Goldwater. If you look closely at
libertarian texts, going back to the great founder who is Ludwig von Mises,
the Austrian economist, through people like Mary Ralphbart (ph) and Ron
Paul himself. Ron Paul is a political godfather of a lot of what we`re
seeing now, it is a moral crusade to strip away as much government as you
can for the reason Bob mentioned. It will impugn your freedom as
government gets bigger, you become smaller. You lose your American values.
You know, Garry Wills, you know, may be the greatest political thinker of
our time, has a book called "Necessary Evil," which published during the
Clinton years of the time of the militias, all the rest. He goes back to
the founding and says you will see powerful anti-governmental strands, the
foundation of American democracy. Remember, too, the figures who gave us
what we think of as the nullification politics, which is what we`re seeing
in action now, the two figures who founded it were the two authors of our
greatest documents. James Madison and Thomas Jefferson. It is wound into
our DNA as a people, to think that government is the enemy, even when we
depend on .
KORNACKI: Robert, once again here, and I want to, and we have to
squeeze a break in first.
KORNACKI: All right, Robert I rudely cut you off. Go right ahead
GEORGE: Well, Sam was talking about the kind of a libertarian moment,
and ironically, I mean President Obama has helped enhance this with issues
such as NSA and so forth. That perfectly feeds into the viewpoint of many
in the Tea Party and many of those who are more libertarian that there
really are consequences for large government. And then when you add to
that, even those people who may be in support of Obamacare, when you see
the rollouts and the screw ups on the government Website and so forth, a
lot of what has been obscured because of the foolishness of the shutdown,
but that is why there is a really strong libertarian moment. And I think
there is going to be -- there is going to be even more tension within the
Republican Party because of that. You saw a couple of votes against the
NSA where the Tea Party and libertarian Republicans combined with many
among the Democrats, and it was - I think they got well over 200 votes to
basically not deconstruct parts of the NSA program.
KORNACKI: But Justin Amash.
TANENHAUS: This is the libertarian...
KORNACKI: Libertarian congressman from Michigan. \
GEORGE: And, I mean, Rand Paul`s filibuster, which was a real
filibuster as opposed to Ted Cruz, I mean he got a lot of support, and I
think he resonated even among many on the left because of -- on the issue
of drones. So, there are --
WALSH: There is absolutely real concern about this on the left. But
I think we would be remiss if we`re talking about the dears of
conservatism, not to talk about race, and not to talk about the way that
they -- that people make conscious choices to diffuse the idea of
government, turning into welfare, welfare was all about we know who and,
you know, I mean I was thinking the other day, is it -- Obamacare rhymes
with welfare? You know. I really think Democrats have to stop calling it
GEORGE: There has been this personalizing of health, quote, and
reform going back with Hillary care.
KORNACKI: But John`s bigger point, I think, historically, and it`s
worth talking about here a little bit, the rise of the modern conservative
movement and the growth of the appeal of conservatism is sort of directly
tied to the white southern backlash. The roots is in the 1960s, it was the
Goldwater voters in the south, it was the old white conservative Democrats
who became part of the coalition.
WALSH: And Barry Goldwater consciously cultivated those people, even
though he didn`t necessarily come out of that.
HERBERT: As the raise of (INAUDIBLE) of the Republican Party, I`ve
been saying for the longest time that for now it is close to half a
century, the Republican Party has been a safe house for racism, it has been
the fundamental basis of their support going back, you know, at least to
Nixon`s southern strategy, and then probably before that.
WALSH: Which has a northern component.
KORNACKI: How do you -- being somebody more on the right here, how do
you think of that history. Because it sort of -- where we are right now,
we can talk about, but the roots of sort of, you know, the rise of the
Nixon coalition, it really was appealing to that backlash over civil
GEORGE: Well, there is an aspect to that. I mean there was a
backlash on the civil rights, but there was also -- there was also a feel
that -- in the urban north where you have a lot of these large cities and
you got riots and things like that, Richard Nixon was running not a pure
racial strategy, but more of a law and order, which appealed to those .
KORNACKI: And that`s always the great mystery, that we would say law
and order, was that a code word in some way? Because I think one of the
lessons that we sort of learned from that era too, is like we always talked
about racism in the south, there was sort of white ethnic backlash.
GEORGE: We can call it code words if we want to, but it was a
reaction to things that -- where people were seeing on their television.
It looked like -- not looked like, cities were burning, and Nixon - and
Nixon felt that that kind of an approach is going to resonate. But, I
mean, it is not racist if there is -- if you actually are seeing these
things -- you feel the need to respond to those.
HERBERT: Let`s go back before the riots. I mean you were talking
about Bill Buckley. Bill Buckley was a racist. He believed that white
people were superior to black people, and he said that white people --
whites had a right to discriminate against blacks in the United States.
KORNACKI: He retracted that .
HERBERT: We`re talking about the conservative ideology and it is
growing out of that. It`s Goldwater, it`s the opposition to civil rights.
It is Lee Atwater. I mean, Lee, you know, I wrote about what Lee Atwater
said, you know, you can`t say the n word, he said, you know, three times,
boom, boom, boom, you can`t say that anymore. So then you have to - you
turn to the code words. But the point is that this is what the Republican
Party has stood for. And when Ronald Reagan .
KORNACKI: I want to make sure .
HERBERT: When Ronald Reagan kicked off his general campaign, he did
it in Philadelphia, Mississippi, what is the message that he`s sending out
there? Where the three civil rights workers .
KORNACKI: In 1964.
HERBERT: have been murdered in 1964.
TANENHAUS: Well, here is what you see again this odd tangle and mess
between conservative ideology on the one hand and Republican Party on the
other. The very first modern civil rights bill, very watered down, but the
first one since reconstruction was passed in 1957. You know how many
Republican senators opposed it? Zero.
TANENHAUS: All the votes against it came from the Dixiecrats.
KORNACKI: And the other Republicans replaced it.
GEORGE: The other irony of that was Richard Nixon circa 1960 was
actually running to the left of Kennedy on racial issues. Even .
KORNACKI: Still, Kennedy made the phone call .
GEORGE: Even as - even as late as the early 1970s, who actually
instituted affirmative action?
WALSH: But Philadelphia .
GEORGE: It was Richard Nixon. So, I mean just to say that it is --
it is purely Richard Nixon`s southern strategy and it`s built on racism, it
HERBERT: No, I didn`t say - I never said it was purely Richard
Nixon strategy, because I don`t think that it was. Richard Nixon was
actually a pretty liberal president, and very liberal compared to the
present day. But I`m saying that it has been a foundation of the
Republican Party politics ever since the 1950s.
KORNACKI: Well, and so, there we go. I`m just trying to condense 50
years of history into two blocks of television. And we left a lot
uncovered. I hope we will return to it at some point. I hope. I want to
thank Sam Tanenhaus of "The New York Times" for joining us, and Robert
George, the columnist of "The New York Post." How a reaction or a non-
reaction from Michael Dukakis 25 years ago tonight helped create Bill
Clinton. That`s next.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KORNACKI: 25 years ago tonight, Michael Dukakis had just wrapped up
debating George H.W. Bush for the second time, it was their final scheduled
debate for the 1988 campaign. And if you judged it by the post-debate
rally Dukakis held at the Beverly Hills Hilton, things went really well for
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GOV. MICHAEL DUKAKIS (D) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I think we ought
to have that third debate, don`t you?
(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)
DUKAKIS: I don`t know what Mr. Bush is worried about.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KORNACKI: Except, well, it was only one thing anyone was talking
about after that debate. It`s a moment people are still talking about
today. It helped sink Dukakis back then. It also helped lay the
groundwork for Bill Clinton and Clintonisms. That`s next.
KORNACKI: It can be hard to believe today, but as these eight years
as president were winding down, there was real Reagan fatigue in America.
There was a lot of it. Which is why the smart money in the summer of 1988
had the Democrats winning back the White House that fall.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ANNOUNCER: Michael Dukakis got the boost he wanted from last week`s
Democratic National Convention. A new NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll
conducted right after the convention shows Dukakis leading George Bush by
50 to 32 percent. An 18-point margin.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KORNACKI: An 18-point lead for Michael Dukakis over Reagan`s Vice
President George H.W. Bush. Others polls had the Duke up by similar
margins. That summer, Dukakis remarked to an aide, look, I`m going to beat
this guy. This may be a blowout. You start thinking about the first 100
days. But it only took about 30 days for Bush to claw back into contention
and then in early September, the Bush campaign brought down the hammer.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ANNOUNCER: Bush and Dukakis on crime. Bush supports the death
penalty for first degree murderers. Dukakis, not only opposes the death
penalty, he allowed first degree murderers to have weekend passes from
prison. One was Willie Horton who murdered a boy in a robbery stabbing him
19 times. Despite a life sentence, Horton received ten weekend passes from
prison. Horton fled, kidnapped a young couple, stabbing the man and
repeatedly raping his girlfriend. Weekend prison passes, Dukakis on crime.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KORNACKI: That ad aired on cable in just two New England markets,
but he received massive national media coverage amplifying Bush`s message
in elevating crime. And Dukakis`s record on crime to the top of many
voters priorities list. Context is important here. Generation ago, back in
1988, violent crime rates were soaring. There was an intense public
clamoring for the death penalty, something Dukakis had long opposed. All
of this led to October 13th, 1988, that`s 25 years ago tonight, Dukakis and
Bush squared off for their final debate at UCLA`s Pauley Pavilion. The
moderator, CNN`s Bernard Shaw, introduced the panel, welcomed the
candidates, explained the rules and then asked this as his opening
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BERNARD SHAW, DEBATE MODERATOR: Governor, if Kitty Dukakis were
raped and murdered, would you favor an irrevocable death penalty for the
DUKAKIS: No, I don`t, Bernard. And I think you know that I`ve
opposed the death penalty during all of my life. I don`t see any evidence
that it is a deterrent and I think there are better and more effective ways
to deal with violent crime. We have done so in my own state and it`s one
of the reasons why we have had the biggest drop in crime of any industrial
state in America, why we have the lowest murder rate of any industrial
state in America.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KORNACKI: This is one of the most famous or infamous flubs in
presidential debate history, presented with a ghastly scenario involving
his wife, Dukakis responded with a bloodless, technocratic articulation of
his policy position. He played right into the caricature that his opponent
had been drawing, he didn`t even wince. As "Los Angeles Times" headline
reported the next morning, GOP gloats over debate, Dukakis admits it is
tough. There are a lot of reasons Dukakis lost in 1988, but this one
debate moment and the reaction it generated had a ripple effect. In many
ways you could argue that the next Democratic presidential candidate, that
was Bill Clinton in 1992, designed his message around avoiding this kind of
caricature, that his center right positions on death penalties on crime and
other issues were a response to the perceived failures of Dukakis that in a
way that moment 25 years ago helped make the Clinton presidency.
Here to discuss that moment, its legacy, all this stuff, we have
Phil Johnston, who is the secretary of human services under Governor
Dukakis. He is the former chairman of the Massachusetts Democratic Party,
Joan Walsh of Salon.com is still here, Kathleen Hall Jamieson, the prolific
author on politics and the media, now professor at the Annenberg School at
the University of Pennsylvania and Bob Herbert of Demos.org. And Kathleen,
I`ll start with you. There is a lot to get at here. But I think the basic
question that I think people still ask whenever they watch this moment is
the question itself, should that question have been asked at a presidential
KATHLEEN HALL JAMIESON, UNIVERSITY OF PENNSYLVANIA: This is the first
question in the second debate. It frames your understanding of the entire
rest of the debate, and no it should not have been asked. Crime is a
serious issue. But it is generally not a federal issue. The death penalty
is about to be put back in place at the federal level. It`s actually been
in the ban since the early `70s. And there is a drug bill that is going to
put it in place that is moving through Congress. Reagan won`t sign it
until after the election is over. And so, the issue is, should there be
the death penalty for drug kingpins. But the first response should have
been in terms of that specific question on Dukakis` part, bad question; bad
answer. The rest of the answer, by the way, for Dukakis, reads like a
textbook rebuttal of the issues at play.
KORNACKI: Right. And but that gets to the point, in terms of the
actual policy of the federal level, there weren`t many implications here in
1988. It really was an emotional test. How -- we see this sort of
bloodless answer, how about should he have handled it, should any candidate
ever be confronted with a question like that, handle something like that?
HERBERT: The first thing, you know, and I sympathize with them a
little bit in the sense that it comes out of nowhere and you`re almost like
you`re in shock to hear the question. But as soon as he`s talking about --
as soon as it is framed in terms of his wife, then you respond with some
emotion, you know, and something like, well, you know, of course I would
want retribution for such a horrendous issue, you know, coming into my
family, and this is why we have the rule of law. Because not - it wouldn`t
be up to me in this case, and then move on. Or however. Some variation of
that. But, you know, it was well known how emotional an issue of the death
penalty was. I mean way back, I guess it was in 1977, in New York City, Ed
Koch ran on the death penalty issue in a mayoral race.
KORNACKI: A municipal race.
HERBERT: And nothing, you know, this thing has nothing to do with the
KORNACKI: Public hangings at city hall.
KORNACKI: Phil, I mean, obviously, you know Governor Dukakis really
well. I`ve always believed he gets sort of a bad rap in terms of his image
and the image that came out of the campaign, the image in a lot of ways
that came out of the campaign because of this question. I just wonder if
you could talk a little bit about just knowing him so well, how he managed
to basically flub it like this and what does he think about it when you
talked to him about it afterwards.
PHILIP W. JOHNSTON, GOV. DUKAKIS APPOINTEE: He talked about it many
times, and he`s apologized to Democrats around the country for having done
that. And then allowed Bush Sr. to be elected which paved the way for Bush
Jr., which was an even worse disaster. So, he gets, you know, totally that
he flubbed it. What is poignant about it in particular, I think, for those
of us who know him and Kitty very well is that they have a very tight bond.
One of best marriages I`ve ever seen. And prior to that in the campaign,
in the primary campaigns, and in the general election up to that point, I
think the public got some sense of that, you know, and appreciated the fact
that they had such a good marriage. And I think as Bob says, the word
shock is really an appropriate word in this case. I think he was shocked,
shell shocked by the mention of his wife being raped and murdered.
And, you know, I remember being with him after the -- right after
the Gore/Bush debate, which was held at the Kennedy Library in 2000, and I
was complaining to him about how I thought Gore hadn`t done as well as he
should have. And he said, listen, Philip, he said, if you haven`t been in
the room, in a situation like that, don`t, you know .
JOHNSTON: OK. Fair point.
KORNACKI: It`s interesting. I saw him last summer, summer of 2012,
at the Democratic convention in Charlotte and it was one of - like the
third night of the convention, I think, and he was sitting with the
Massachusetts delegation and he`s nearly 80 years old now, I think he`s
turning 80, maybe, next months, his wife, Kitty, is next to him, and there
is no cameras on them or anything and they`re just sitting there watching
it and they are holding hands and this is just as very sort of - it was a
nice scene and you think, again, so unfortunate it was to the image of
Dukakis that came out of the campaign, but, Joan, maybe you could just talk
a little bit about the context of that moment too in terms of the politics
of crime, the politics of crime and race in the 1980s, and how that -
because I don`t think people appreciate it now necessarily looking back,
what a dominant role crime played in the presidential election.
WALSH: Well, you know, it played a dominant role and there was
polling that showed that once people responded to the Willie Horton ad, but
once they were told or somehow telegraphed, it`s kind of racist, they
didn`t like it anymore. So then you have an African-American man, I`ve
always thought it was interesting that he happens to be black, asking this
loaded question about the death penalty. So, that`s weird. It insulates
them from any fear that their reaction is racist. That`s one thing. The
other thing that we haven`t talked about is crime is a big issue, but there
is also anxiety about the family. And there is also anxiety about the role
of women. And there is this notion that, you know, people called the --
the Democrats are the mommy party, the Republicans are the daddy party.
And Michael Dukakis will not even stand up for his own wife. He`s not a
real man. I mean at worst he`s not a real man. At best, he`s a robot who
doesn`t have any, you know, authentic human feelings. When in fact,
watching it now, what I see in hindsight, it`s easy, right? But I just see
a man shutdown because he`s just been told something so horrible that he
can`t even let himself access his feelings and he just goes into public
JOHNSTON: By the way, all three of the other panelists told Bernard
Shaw before the show, not to ask that question, and he said, I disagree
with you, I`m going to ask the question anyway.
KORNACKI: Well, indeed, and Kathleen, what is - I`m curious, you
know, Bernie Shaw left CNN now, I think, more than ten years ago and we
tried to track him down for the show, I don`t know if we even could find
him, he`s sort of fallen off the grid a little bit, but in terms of his
legacy, I mean we talk about Dukakis` legacy, Bernie Shaw`s legacy as a
journalist in a lot of ways, it was made by this moment. What is -- what
did that do for his legacy and is it for his place in journalism?
HALL JAMIESON: Well, it means the defining element for the rest of
his life and anytime one talks about the history of the presidential
politics, there`s going to be that moment. And it`s going to raise a
larger question, and that is, what did that answer, as given, actually tell
us that was relevant to the presidency? Do you actually want a president
in the Oval Office to react in highly personalized terms to that kind of
information? Or do you want the person to act analytically and
dispassionately? We don`t ask very often what are the criteria as we are
evaluating the answers of candidates. I actually think the answer that
Michael Dukakis gave, which is the crime rate was down in Massachusetts,
the murder rate was low for an industrial state, and he had a good strong
drug plan that was dealing with the issue well in Massachusetts was more
relevant to the presidency than any of these answers we fabricated that
would be the appropriate response so we contextualize a bad question.
KORNACKI: We talked a little bit in the setup, too, about the longer
term implications of this, in terms of the next election, in terms of Bill
Clinton, in terms of everything that Bill Clinton meant for the country.
So, we`re going to explain that in a little bit right after this.
KORNACKI: So, we are talking about the legacy of that 1988 debate
moment in terms of Bill Clinton. So, Bill Clinton is the next Democrat to
run for president four years later in 1992. And in a lot of things that
campaign did, in a lot of ways, Bill Clinton positioned himself to avoid
falling into that caricature that Dukakis fell into. One of the things
Clinton did as a candidate in 1982 is he left the campaign trail to
oversee, to sign off on the execution of a mentally retarded man in
Arkansas. It was to me the ultimate statement of I am not Dukakis, I`m not
the guy who stood there for that question, and that in the debate, in the
general election debate in 1980, one of them against George Bush Sr., Ross
Perot, the issue of crime came up, and you can just see how Clinton handled
this in sort of the -- he personalized it, he was happy to in a way that
Dukakis wasn`t. Let`s see look how Clinton handled it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BILL CLINTON: I know more about this, I think, than anybody else up
here because I have a brother who is a recovering drug addict, I`m very
proud of him. But I can tell you this, if drugs were legal, I don`t think
he would be alive today. I am adamantly opposed to legalizing drugs. He
is alive today because of the criminal justice system.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KORNACKI: And, Kathleen, I guess one of the stories about Bill
Clinton`s success in 1992, his success in politics in general, is I mean
you`re talking about in the last segment how sort of from a policy
standpoint Dukakis` answers were very strong in 1988, but Clinton, you can
see it there, brought that emotional bit to it. You see, I think Clinton
sort of is a testament to the power of emotion in politics.
HALL JAMIESON: It is difficult to go back to the Dukakis campaign and
find any comparable moments to that kind of Clinton moment and those
Clinton moments pervaded the campaign. But there is also something
important to note about the Clinton history. Clinton lost his second run
for the governorship, his re-election campaign was soft on crime as an
attack against him, even though at that point he was supporting the death
penalty. He had signed off on a clemency for about 70 people and it was
used against him. So, he was acutely aware as he was running for president
that this was a long lived attack and then that it`d been used successfully
in presidential campaign in the previous run.
HERBERT: You know, excuse me, Clinton had the benefit of seeing what
had happened with Dukakis. He`s a brilliant guy, quick study, and
obviously he learned a great deal. But when you look at a candidate`s
personality, the two personalities were so different, and Clinton almost
sort of instinctively connects with -- he has that human touch and he
connects with constituents -- constituencies, audiences and that sort of
thing. And, you know, it just seems that Dukakis is a more reserved
fellow, that doesn`t naturally connect in the same way, and I don`t think
that that`s the kind of stuff, excuse me, that Dukakis could learn.
JOHNSTON: But he did beat two incumbent governors. He was elected
governor three times, and came from nowhere to win primaries, the
Democratic Party in `88 against some very strong opponents including Al
Gore and Paul Simon and Dick Gephardt. And so he connected at some
important levels and I think -- but I`m with Bob on what he said in the
last segment, which is a lot of these Republican campaigns going back to at
least Nixon have been racially tinged and that`s what most of these
Republican presidential campaigns have really been all about. And I think
the ironically was Bernard Shaw`s question that played into that whole
bush, Lee Atwater strategy and, of course, it was followed by the Willie
Horton ad, which was directly racial. And, by the way, and Lee - as Lee
Atwater was on his deathbed, he called John Sasso, who was Michael Dukakis`
campaign manager, to apologize to him for what he had done around the
racially tinged .
KORNACKI: Has Governor Dukakis talked to you about how that
conversation went with him and Lee Atwater?
JOHNSTON: Well, it was with John Sasso, Atwater`s counterpart. And
he remember, you might recall, that as he was dying, he had a terrible
JOHNSTON: He made a round of calls to people that he had damaged
unfairly, because his whole strategy in all of his campaigns was to pound
on people personally.
WALSH: And you know, people don`t remember, I did not remember this,
but Bill Clinton got in trouble racially for some of his, whether it was
Ricky Ray Rector, or the Sister Souljah moment, which was really perceived
as a slam of Jessie Jackson, not .
Because it happened at push, and he did it right to his face.
Clinton got less of the black vote than Dukakis did. Clinton,
actually, it dips down to like 84 percent, which is really a low number in
the modern Democratic Party. And there`s still people on the left, they
are not just, not on the left, there`s still people who distrust Bill
Clinton, because he learned a little bit of that, of how to sort of sing to
KORNACKI: Again, the derisive name for Clinton was like Bubba, but he
did get the Bubba vote the Democrats had not been getting in the 1980s.
That was sort of .
HERBERT: But I think Joan brings up an important point. We were
talking about the Republicans in the prior segment. And I had wanted to
make the point that it`s not like the Democrats come into the arena with
clean hands here. Clinton has had his problems and even Hillary during the
primary campaign against Obama made the reference to .
WALSH: hard-working Americans.
HERBERT: Hard working.
WALSH: white Americans.
HERBERT: white Americans, and when the question Obama becoming a
Muslim came up, she said, you know why I take him at his word, that kind of
thing. You know, and so the Democrats have had their problems with the
race issue, as well. And what that tells us, with both parties, is that
race is still a very, very big issue in this country, even though a lot of
people want to talk about, we`ve come to a post-racial moment.
KORNACKI: No, no, and, I think Joan is right, that`s part of the sort
of complicated legacy of the Clinton years. We`ve talked about before and
we`ll talk about it again, it was like looking at the failures of Dukakis
as a candidate in `88 and Mondale in `84 of the Democratic party as a whole
in the 1980s and compensating for it in a way that I think did provoke a
lot of ire and left the (inaudible).
Anyway, what should we know for today? Our answers right after
KORNACKI: All right, let`s find out what our guests think we should
know. We`ll start with you, Kathleen?
HALL JAMIESON: Sometime in the coming weeks, the nomination of a new
secretary for Department of Homeland Security.
KORNACKI: That`s right.
HERBERT: We`re going to go past the debt ceiling deadline, but we`re
not going to default.
KORNACKI: Let`s hope not.
JOHNSTON: State Senator Katherine Clark will win the congressional
nomination to succeed Ed Markey in Massachusetts on Tuesday.
KORNACKI: That`s the Carl Sciortino race, by the way.
JOHNSTON: We love him too. But Katherine`s going to win.
KORNACKI: Katherine Clark. OK. Joan.
WALSH: Progressives have had their spines strengthened. It`s going
to be a very interesting week in terms of continuing to negotiate around
opening the government and lifting the debt ceiling.
KORNACKI: It is going to be an interesting week. My prediction,
Patriots 30, Saints 27.
KORNACKI: Kathleen, (inaudible) at the University of Pennsylvania,
Bob Herbert at Demos.org, Melissa didn`t like that one. She gave a
rebuttal. Phil Johnston, we have Joan Walsh of Salon.com, thanks for
getting up. Thank you for joining us. We`ll see you next weekend, same
time, same place. Don`t go anywhere, Melissa Harris-Perry is up next.
She`s up fired up now. Today on "MHP," the GOP and their values. That and
the latest on the government shutdown coming up next in "Nerdland." We`ll
see you next week here on "UP."
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