Guest: Chris Kofinis, Susan Molinari, Chrystia Freeland, Roger Simon,
Daniel Gross, Lori Wallach, Mayor Adrian Fenty
DAVID SHUSTER, HOST: Tonight, President-elect Obama says the tax problems with his nominee for treasury secretary are an embarrassment, but he adds that Tim Geithner is still the best pick for the job.
Plus, Obama has jumped into the job of cozying up to some conservative columnists in trying to tamp down potential criticism. Will his effort pay off, and for how long?
Also, it‘s “Mythbuster Wednesday.” Today, Newsweek‘s Daniel Gross will tackle the government‘s unemployment rate. It‘s misleading, and the real figure is even more frightening.
Later, the inauguration stretch run. As Washington, D.C., prepares for one of the most crowded and complicated events in city history, we will talk live with Mayor Adrian Fenty.
And the newest presidential limousine is about to roll into service.
We will give you the specs.
Finally, irony alert. Today, the impeached governor of Illinois helped swear in state lawmakers who will be voting on his possible removal.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GOV. ROD BLAGOJEVICH (D), ILLINOIS: I hereby appoint the following persons as temporary Senate officers.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SHUSTER: All tonight on 1600 PENNSYLVANIA AVENUE.
Just six days until the inauguration of President-elect Barack Obama.
Welcome to the show, everyone. I‘m David Shuster.
In less than a week, Barack Obama will be inheriting the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression. But it‘s now clear his top economic guy will not be confirmed and on the job by day one.
The Senate had been looking for a speedy confirmation for Tim Geithner, Mr. Obama‘s pick for treasury secretary, but with new revelations about underpaid taxes and a former immigrant housekeeper‘s work status, the Senate Finance Committee has delayed his hearing until after the inauguration.
Today, Obama called the tax discrepancy an innocent mistake that does not hurt Geithner‘s credibility.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENT-ELECT: Look, is this an embarrassment for him? Yes. He said so himself. But it was an innocent mistake.
It is a mistake that is commonly made for people who working internationally or for international institutions. It has been corrected. He paid the penalties.
My expectation is that Tim Geithner will be confirmed, and my expectation is that he‘s going to do an outstanding job.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SHUSTER: Let‘s bring in Democratic strategist and former Edwards communications director, Chris Kofinis, as well as Republican strategist and former Republican congresswoman, Susan Molinari.
Chris, let‘s start with you. Whose fault is it that Geithner will not be confirmed and on the job on day one next week?
CHRIS KOFINIS, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Well, I mean, according to the press reports, it looks like one senator, Senator Jon Kyl, is the one that‘s holding this up. I mean, if you look at the news reports, there are other Republican senators that clearly don‘t think this is a problem. Obviously the Democrats don‘t think it‘s a problem.
The part that I find troubling about this, you know, as you said, in the midst of probably the most serious economic crisis this country has faced since the Great Depression, instead of President-elect Obama having his treasury secretary on day one, you have apparently one Republican Senator choosing to play politics instead of putting the country first, if you will. And that‘s unfortunate, but, you know, some people continue to play the political games.
SHUSTER: Susan, is that what is going on here?
SUSAN MOLINARI, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Well, listen, I‘m going to take Senator Kyl, who is one of the highest ranking Republicans, at his word when he said that he had asked that this be put over until next week, which is just one week, because it is at the same time that hearings are going to be going on with Eric Holder, which is also causing some eyebrow-raising. And so, as one of the leading Republicans, he feels like he needs to be at, at least, one hearing all the time to get to the bottom of these questions.
If for nothing else, so there‘s an appropriate vetting, so when these gentlemen take their position, the country feels united in their confidence. I don‘t think at the end there‘s going to be any problem with the Geithner nomination. I think Republicans are going to be very careful about the ultimate battle that they choose with Barack Obama, as well they should be. So I think this is just a minor delay in timing because of questions that were raised at the last minute.
SHUSTER: Chris, here‘s what NBC‘s “First Read” said this morning about Geithner. “There is just no political will out there from either Democrats or Republicans to kill Geithner‘s nomination in this current economic climate. But the margin of error for Obama is starting to get smaller. He can‘t expect to have Congress to continue to roll over this often. Also, make no mistake, it‘s embarrassing that the guy being put in charge of the IRS can‘t follow the tax code.”
KOFINIS: Well, listen, as President-elect Obama said, you know, it is embarrassing for Tim Geithner, but at the end of the day, I think he is a solid choice, and he clearly is President-elect Obama‘s choice. And when you‘re—again, when you‘re talking about a serious financial crisis, when you have to have your team ready to go on day one, even a minor delay—and the problem I have with this is, we all know he‘s going to get confirmed.
The questions that are going be asked next week would have been asked on Friday. It‘s—again, it‘s unfortunate political games that are being played by apparently one Republican senator. And if that‘s the case, it‘s unfortunate, because I think the American people, particularly right now, in the midst of such a serious crisis, want us to go beyond partisan politics.
SHUSTER: And Susan, here‘s what Senator Lindsey Graham said about Geithner today.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM ®, SOUTH CAROLINA: I don‘t see any desire by the Republican Party to play “gotcha” on something like this. We need a new secretary of Treasury that understands where this country is at financially and has a game plan to move forward. I think he‘s the right guy.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SHUSTER: Susan, you think he‘s the right guy, too; right?
MOLINARI: Listen, he‘s done a great job in New York. There are a lot of Republican conservatives who were very happy when he was nominated by President Obama—President-elect Obama.
Senator Greg, in addition to Senator Hatch, have said they think this will be a nomination that will sail through. So the Republicans couldn‘t stop it anyway, and they have no desire to do this. And this is a guy that makes Republican conservatives from his economic credentials, quite frankly, pretty comfortable.
SHUSTER: Now, you mentioned Eric Holder, who‘s Barack Obama‘s nominee to be attorney general. That does seem to be a fairly contentious hearing that‘s shaping up for tomorrow.
Here‘s what Barack Obama said about Holder on ABC‘s “This Week” this past weekend.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS, ABC NEWS: Are you confident he‘s going to be confirmed?
STEPHANOPOULOS: And are you worried at all, troubled at all by the questions that are being asked about his independence, also question about his involvement in the Marc Rich case?
OBAMA: Well, I think most of the criticism has evolved around the Marc Rich pardon. And he has publicly acknowledged that it was a mistake. I think this is a man of unimpeachable integrity. I every confidence that he will be confirmed.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SHUSTER: Susan, Arlen Specter, who‘s running the committee, doesn‘t seem to think he‘s got unimpeachable integrity. He‘s lined up a series of witnesses who are going to get into the Marc Rich pardon and some other controversies.
What is Specter up to?
MOLINARI: Well, I think this is one that the Republicans have said, you know, they‘ve kind of drawn a line in the sand. It‘s going to be an interesting hearing, because he‘s got an awful lot of Republican support from people outside the United States Senate who have sent letters and will testify on his behalf.
Part of it is the Marc Rich pardon. I think something that has caused more concern among Republicans that I‘ve talked about is the dealing with the Puerto Rican terrorist, the FALN, prior, where we took a much more aggressive role. So I think those are questions he just has to answer before he becomes confirmed as attorney general.
SHUSTER: And Chris, on the Marc Rich pardon, it was Eric Holder, essentially, who moved the paperwork through the Clinton Justice Department to make sure that Marc Rich got the pardon.
Is this just sort of a temporary hurdle that he is going to have to clear tomorrow, or is there a more serious problem with the Holder nomination that you see brewing?
KOFINIS: No, it‘s a temporary thing. I mean, listen, he said publicly that he regrets that pardon, and if he could do it again, he probably wouldn‘t have done it. So he‘s going to be asked the questions, Republicans are going to take their shots. But at the end of the day, he‘s going to sail through.
I don‘t think even the Republicans, for the most part, understand the country‘s tolerance for partisan gamesmanship in this period of real turmoil. There really isn‘t a lot of tolerance for that. So I think they‘re going to hit him a little bit, but at the end of the day, he‘s going to sail through.
SHUSTER: And yet, Chris, any problem with Republicans essentially poking the Democrats a little bit right now, trying to figure out where they may be soft?
KOFINIS: Well, you know, when you—when the new president-elect gets sworn in, I think the honeymoon will last probably for a few more months. But, you know, they‘ve been throwing a little bit of hardballs at him, but, you know, that‘s to be expected.
But I think what you‘ve seen from President-elect Obama over the last couple months is a real effort to reach out to the Republicans. It‘s a very smart political strategy, and it boxes them in. I don‘t think—if they really want to go against that, I think they‘re going to feel the wrath of the American people. It‘s not a smart at least short-term political strategy for them.
SHUSTER: Democratic strategist Chris Kofinis and former Republican lawmaker and strategist, Susan Molinari.
Thank you both for coming in. We appreciate it.
Up next, the Obama courtesy call. Last night, the president-elect went to a dinner at the house of conservative columnist George Will. Dozens of other conservative pundits and writers were there as well.
What was it like? And will the charm offensive work? We will take a closer look.
And later, the inauguration festivities are closing in fast. Two million spectators, dozens of government agencies, incredible security in a city that wants everybody to enjoy everything and have things run smoothly.
We‘ll talk to Washington, D.C, Mayor Adrian Fenty, right here on 1600
SHUSTER: Welcome back.
You know that old saying, “Keep your friends close and your enemies closer”? Well, President-elect Obama is taking that to heart, and then some.
Last night, he went to a dinner hosted by conservative columnist George Will. Those in attendance included Bill Kristol, Charles Krauthammer, Peggy Noonan, Paul Gigot and CNBC‘s Lawrence Kudlow. An enterprising “New York Times” photographer got a shot of the very chummy scene. The purpose of the confab was for Obama to make nice with the conservative pundits and scribes.
Did it work?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He is charming, he is terribly smart, bright, well informed, intelligent. He has a great sense of humor.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What did you eat?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You know, I can‘t remember. I was so focused on him. I was sitting across from him.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You probably didn‘t eat. Maybe you didn‘t touch anything.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The food was excellent. I probably didn‘t eat a whole lot. It was all very interesting.
And he‘s a good man and we will see how he does. That‘s all I can say.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SHUSTER: “He‘s a good man and that‘s all I can say.”
Well, there was also a wide variety of reaction today among progressives. We will get to that in a second.
But first, joining us is Roger Simon of Politico and Chrystia Freeland, managing editor for “The Financial Times.”
Chrystia, let‘s start with you. Smart move for Obama last night, or a waste of time?
CHRYSTIA FREELAND, MANAGING EDITOR, “THE FINANCIAL TIMES”: Definitely a smart move. I think that it‘s a really good idea for him to not only be talking to people on the other side, but to be seen to be talking to people on the other side. And as you and I know, David, journalists are incredibly susceptible to charm from people in power.
SHUSTER: Roger, are you susceptible to that charm?
ROGER SIMON, POLITICO: Yes. I‘m just waiting for my dinner invitation. I mean, anyone who thinks reporters can‘t be bought by the price of a hot meal has never tried it before.
You know, this was smart. And don‘t forget, he addressed a group of conservative columnists and writers who were not, however, his worst enemies. You didn‘t see anybody from Fox News in that room.
These are people who are susceptible to reasonable argument and his charm. But Obama‘s charm is not a glad hander type. It‘s not an obsequious type.
This is still a very cool guy. I am sure that he did not condescend to the people in that room. I‘m sure he treated them almost as equals, which is more than they could hope for.
SHUSTER: Here was the view on the progressive blogosphere. And I found the reaction today on the Net simply fascinating.
Andrew Sullivan seemed to complaint in “The Atlantic.” “Establishment opinion matters to the Obama communications team.”
But Michael Crowley wrote in “The New Republic,” A little personal charm is sure to buy him (Obama) a few pulled punches among the columns and punditry of these men.”
And on Daily Kos, “There‘s no outrage or anger. What I feel is more like pity. Could you imagine wasting a perfectly good evening with that company?”
Not too much disappointment, in part because Obama is also reaching out to the progressive pundits.
Is that right, Roger? I mean, look, everyone‘s going to get their time with Obama. Maybe not us.
SIMON: Yes, maybe not us. But yes, he‘s already done some time with the progressive pundits. But, I mean, he knows the old saying, “If you don‘t make friends out of your enemies, who do you make friends with?”
He is a big tent guy. He knows this will buy him a pass in the weeks and months ahead.
But what‘s the point of stiffing these people? He‘s got to work with them, just like he‘s got to work with members of Congress on the opposite aisle. He‘s got to work with everybody.
SHUSTER: He‘s also going to have somebody going to the Supreme Court arguing cases on his behalf. There was a fascinating scene today—for both of you.
Well, there was Barack Obama and Joe Biden. They went to the Supreme Court. Their motorcades pulled up. No cameras were allowed inside the court building.
But we know that Obama and Biden had a one-on-one with the chief justice, John Roberts. They went into the conference room where the nine justices vote on the cases, they got something of a tour.
Chrystia, what‘s this all about?
FREELAND: Well, I think it‘s really interesting, because, actually, the area of Barack Obama‘s most specific expertise is the law, and specifically constitutional law. It‘s something that he taught. And I think some of the things that we saw him standing for that have the greatest moral significance are positions he‘s taken about the moral decline of American government actions.
So I think him going into the Supreme Court, speaking to the chief justice, a Republican choice, is really significant.
SHUSTER: Roger, do you detect among some Democratic and progressive circles still some anger at the Supreme Court because of what happened in 2000?
SIMON: Oh, yes.
SHUSTER: And should there have been—or is it ever appropriate for Democrats to go to the Supreme Court and not acknowledge that sort of controversy?
SIMON: Progressives will never get over the ruling of 2000. It was, in their opinion, and many people‘s opinion, the most nakedly political act that the Supreme Court has taken in modern history, where the Supreme Court, to some thinking, certainly to progressive thinking, let down the mantle of not being partisan and said, look, we‘re making a partisan decision. We want George Bush to be president, and we‘re going to make this very odd ruling about counting ballots in Florida.
They‘re never going to forget that.
SHUSTER: Chrystia, is it possible that all of this is just sort of the Obama-mania? I mean, this is such a historic time, whether you‘re a conservative columnist, a Supreme Court justice who is never really going to take Obama necessarily into account, it‘s just going to the Constitution. You still want to feel like you‘re part of it, that these courtesy calls mean something, that you‘re part of history if you get an opportunity to have some face time with him right now.
FREELAND: I think that‘s absolutely right. And I think the Obama mania is bigger than Obama and bigger than this specific election.
I think people are conscious that America and the world are at a really historic moment, and at sort of a dangerous hinge of history. So I do think it‘s a moment when Obama‘s bipartisan schtick might have a little bit more staying power than it would in a more ordinary time.
SHUSTER: Chrystia Freeland and Roger Simon, thank you both so much.
Good to see you.
Tonight we are starting a new segment we‘re going to call “Hypocrisy Watch.” Every now and then as the stories emerge, we will focus on an organization or person who clearly seems to be doing something that makes the term appropriate.
This evening‘s edition starts with the news today that prosecutors with the U.S. Justice Department are now investigating baseball pitcher Roger Clemens for potentially lying under oath to Congress. The “Los Angeles Times” reports that a federal grand jury in Washington is now collecting evidence that Clemens may have misled lawmakers when he denied steroid use. According to Congressman Henry Waxman, Clemens made statements in a deposition to Congress that were untrue.
Lying to Congress or the appearance of doing that is something that should not be taken lightly or ignored. The problem is that the Justice Department seems to be selective on the issue of lying to Congress.
Consider the DOJ‘s former civil rights division deputy, Brad Schlozman. According to the department‘s own inspector-general, Glenn Fine, Schlozman made false statements to Congress when he testified that political or ideological leanings were not part of his personnel decisions. But Schlozman is the same official who allegedly called Democrats in the department “libs,” “pinkos,” “disloyal,” “not on the team,” and “treacherous.”
And his hiring statistics suggest his Republican viewpoints factored into personnel decisions. For example, he hired a tiny percentage of Democrats or Independents as compared to the department overall.
Schlozman denies it, but on the heels of the Clemens grand jury investigation, where is the grand jury investigation into Schlozman? Nowhere.
And that‘s hypocrisy.
Ahead, busting a major unemployment rate myth. We‘ll talk to a journalist who says the unemployment rate is not really 7 percent, like the government says it is, but it‘s actually much higher.
And we just can‘t get away from embattled Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich. This afternoon, the governor swore in the new class of state lawmakers, the very ones who will decide his political future.
Blagojevich was impeached by the House Friday after being arrested in connection with a pay-to-play scandal. And some of the guys he swore in today will have to vote at the end of a Senate impeachment trial on whether Blago should be removed from office.
SHUSTER: Welcome back.
It is now time for the segment we like to call “Mythbuster Wednesday.”
And on this edition, we‘re going to take a closer look at the unemployment figure and why the government number understates the problem many of you know all too well.
First, we‘ve been hearing the jobless numbers from Hilda Solis, Barack Obama‘s choice to be labor secretary, and from Congress.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HILDA SOLIS, LABOR SECRETARY NOMINEE: Data released this morning, as you know, shows that unemployment has risen to 7.2 percent.
SEN. BARBARA BOXER (D), CALIFORNIA: Unemployed Americans are now 11.1 million.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SHUSTER: Well, our next guest points out that some of these numbers are a myth compared to the real problem. And here to bust a myth, Dan Gross, senior editor at “Newsweek.”
Dan, what‘s wrong with the 7.2 percent that the Labor Department puts out?
DANIEL GROSS, SR. EDITOR, “NEWSWEEK”: Well, the Labor Department collects all sorts of data. They ask people, “Do you have a job or not?” And depending on the answers, that‘s where they get that rate.
They also say—ask, “Are you working part time, but you‘d really rather work full time?” “Are you so discouraged that you‘ve given up looking?”
And when they add all those together, all these measures of employment frustration, it‘s up to 14 percent. So basically, 14 percent of American workers want to be working full time, want to be on the job every day. And there‘s not enough work to go around.
SHUSTER: Why, then, are we paying so much attention, does our government pay so much attention to the 7.2 percent figure that‘s out there?
GROSS: Well, look, this is one of two headline numbers. Every month, the Bureau of Labor Statistics tells us first how many jobs have been created or lost. That‘s the big payroll number. And second, what the unemployment rate is based on this survey.
And, again, it‘s this kind of historical vestige where we just say, “Do you have a job or not?” As if that‘s all that matters. These days, when so many people work on contracts, when they‘re temps, when people are self-employed, what really matters is, are you working as much as you want or need to be?
SHUSTER: Now, that 14 percent figure a lot of people will find stunning, although maybe they‘re not surprised because I think a lot of people feel like everyone seems to know somebody who is not employed or is looking for work.
Doesn‘t that argue for faster action?
GROSS: Oh, absolutely. You know, the gap is in the amount that people are willing to work and the amount that our economy can produce if we have the capital to do it. And that‘s what lacking right now.
So the people who are arguing for a big fiscal stimulus, for the government to come in with—you know, whether it‘s job programs, tax rebates, tax cuts, are saying there‘s a lot of people who would like to be working who are not working to their full potential. And since the capital isn‘t coming from the private sector, there‘s one other source. That‘s the government.
SHUSTER: So, again, when people say, oh, you know, employment is not too bad, it‘s only 7.3 percent compared to 21, 22 percent during the depression, the real figure is actually more about 14 percent?
GROSS: Well, when you look at the 7.2 percent rate, it‘s lower than it has been. You know, back in the ‘80s, it was up to 10 or 11 percent. Those were the people who had factory jobs who didn‘t have them anymore and said we don‘t have jobs.
But when you‘re asking today, do you want to be working full time, have you given up looking, do you not have a job? That number is at 14 percent, 13.8, and it is the highest it‘s been since they started calculating this number in 1994.
SHUSTER: Daniel Gross, senior editor from “Newsweek.”
“Mythbuster Wednesday.” This is Dan‘s franchise.
And thanks for coming in to do it, Dan. We appreciate it.
GROSS: Happy to do it.
SHUSTER: Up next, as President Bush transitions out of office, what does the nation think of him? Results of the latest NBC News/”Wall Street Journal” poll and the final one of the Bush presidency, ahead on 1600.
SHUSTER: Still ahead tonight, the final NBC News/”Wall Street Journal” poll of the Bush presidency. Where does our nation‘s 43rd president stand as he prepares to leave office? What does the public think of Barack Obama and his economic stimulus plan? Some intriguing numbers next coming up here on 1600 PENNSYLVANIA AVENUE.
Welcome back to 1600 PENNSYLVANIA AVENUE. As Richard Nixon once said, “you won‘t have me to kick around anymore.” Today, George W. Bush got his final report card from the American people and it‘s worse than many supporters feared. Our final NBC News/”Wall Street Journal” poll of the Bush era shows the president‘s approval rating at 27 percent, with 67 percent disapproving. That‘s the same as it was last month, the highest disapproval number of his presidency.
Presidents usually get a goodwill bump as they prepare to leave office. This president has taken some major bipartisan actions these last few weeks, including hosting a lunch for his successor and all the living presidents, delivering unprecedented cooperation with the incoming administration, even speaking openly about mistakes in his final news conference.
But nothing has improve President Bush‘s standing with the American people. Back with us are Democratic Chris Kofinis, Republican strategists Susan Molinari, Rogers Simon of “Politico,” and Chrystia Freeland of the “Financial Times.” Susan, how come Bush‘s numbers haven‘t improved at all?
MOLINARI: Well, gee, I don‘t know. Could you go to somebody else first. I think this has been—I mean, obviously, let‘s be serious. This has been a historically difficult time economically for just about every American of every income group. I think that, you know—so I think that he‘s bearing the brunt of that, of the situation in Israel, and the instability in the Middle East, of Osama bin Laden sending out a videotape.
I used to say that George Bush, in his earlier days, was one of the luckiest politicians I had ever met. In his final days, I think he is one of the unluckiest. So I think it‘s too early to conclude that this is the final judgment of the American people. I think as time wears on, I think as Barack Obama, when he becomes president, reports on the efforts that President Bush made and maintained to keep us safe and terrorist free here in the United States, I think those poll numbers are going to go up.
SHUSTER: Chris Kofinis, fair point, that even if you really appreciate what George W. Bush has done these last couple weeks, if you don‘t have a job, if you don‘t have health insurance, if you know somebody who has had to serve in Iraq and who has got wounded, none of that really matters, right?
KOFINIS: No, it doesn‘t necessarily doesn‘t matter. I think the reason why George Bush‘s numbers are so low are obvious. I mean, you‘re talking about, I think, a level of mismanagement over the last eight years that is really hard to argue with. At the end of the day, every presidency, doesn‘t matter if it‘s Democratic or Republican, is going to be measured by metrics. When you look at the metrics of unemployment, job growth, job losses, poverty, surplus, deficits, it‘s almost every single one of those metrics overwhelmingly is in the negative.
So it‘s not surprising he‘s at that low point. It‘s almost surprising he‘s not lower.
SHUSTER: Chrystia, I want to show you some numbers, in terms of what consumers have high confidence in right now: the auto industry, only 13 percent have high confidence in the industry. Only 13 percent have high confidence in large corporations, 13 percent Wall Street, 10 percent for the financial industry. Now, look at the poll numbers in terms of how President-Elect Obama is handling the transition; 71 percent approve, 14 percent disapprove. Explain what is going on there.
FREELAND: Did you ask them how much confidence they have in us, in the media? No, I do think the point that was just made about the competence of the Bush administration or the incompetence of the Bush administration is actually really helping Barack Obama. And the transition so far has been handled with real grace, with real thoughtfulness, with real thoroughness, also if you contrast it with the Bill Clinton transition.
I think people like that. If you remember during the primary, some people said, Barack Obama is too cerebral, too intellectual. People don‘t want a nerdy guy as president. I think right now people actually want a calm, nerdy person who feels like he gets his homework done, who gets things right. So far, Obama seems to be that person.
SHUSTER: Roger, given that the American people feel like they‘ve been burned by so many institutions or by George W. Bush, is there a danger for Barack Obama that maybe the patience of the American people may not be as long or as lengthy as he and supporters like?
SIMON: Certainly. People are expecting great things from Barack Obama. This poll shows it. He does great in almost every category. To answer Chrystia‘s question, the news media came in at eight percent approval, which is slightly ahead, I think, of used car salesman.
There‘s only one trouble spot I saw in this poll. It comes on question 17, where people are asked where they think Barack Obama will go too far. And the number one response, 52 percent, is providing financial aid and loans to corporations that are facing bankruptcy. Well, this is what Barack Obama intends to do. He wants to release the next 350 billion dollars that‘s already been committed, then he wants to spend another 718 billion to stimulate the economy.
But what these figures show is that even though Barack Obama is immensely popular right now, one of his signature issues, stimulating the economy, is not very popular with the American people.
SHUSTER: And, Chris Kofinis, as a Democratic strategist, if you were advising this White House, you take that number Roger just cited, and you also take a look at the one, is the stimulus plan a good idea or a bad idea? The numbers are tighter than perhaps some Democrats would want, good idea 43 percent, bad idea 27, no opinion 24.
How do you manage those numbers? How do you try to shape them?
KOFINIS: I think what they‘re going to do, and you‘re going to probably see this in a very aggressive way—they‘re already talking about it. They‘re going to go out there and sell it. Listen, part of this is a reflection of an incredible amount of anger at corporate America, particularly the financial industry, how did they get us into this mess.
So at the end of the day, everyone realizes we need to do something. Obviously, the stimulus package is seen by a lot of smart people as an evil, but an unnecessary evil. I think for President Elect Obama, it‘s going to be really about selling it and going out to convince the American people how important this is.
At the end of the day—this is another interesting insight in the poll. When you look at one of the questions, it‘s which matters more, domestic or foreign policy, overwhelmingly the American are talking about domestic policy. That‘s what I think you‘re going to see the Obama folks and President-Elect Obama focus on almost every single day in the coming months.
SHUSTER: Susan, is there a possible problem for Republicans if they over-reach? When you look at the polling, Americans seem to think that this recession is going to be around for a long time. When they are asked, when will the recession end, one to three years, 57 percent say one to three years; six months to a year is only 20 percent; more than three years, 17 percent.
In other words, you‘ve got, by my calculation, 74 percent who say this recession is going to go on at least a year, possibly three years. That would seem to suggest that the public thinks this is a really deep problem that needs very serious, big solutions. Right?
MOLINARI: Oh, I think that‘s right. But, I mean, I think we all have a determine what we consider over-reaching by the Republicans. For the Republicans to play the loyal adversary and to engage in a debate that hasn‘t really taken place in this nation since the bottom fell out about what is the best way to get this economy long term sustainable and functioning? I think that is the job of the Republican party and Democrats. Bring new ideas and different ideas to the table.
Let‘s finally have a debate as to what we really understand and don‘t understand about what went wrong in this economy and how to fix it. I wouldn‘t define challenging parts of the stimulus package or adding more tax cuts as over-reaching. I think that‘s constructive.
SHUSTER: Great point. Susan, Chris, Roger, Chrystia, thank you all very much. That‘s a great transition to the idea that not everyone believes that spending money is the way to generate money, especially not government spending. Critics of Obama‘s stimulus proposal say it will prolong the recession.
Joining us now is one of those critic, from Capitol Hill, Republican Congressman from Georgia Tom Price. Congressman Price is the chair of the Republican Study Group, which released its economic stimulus proposal today. Congressman Price, take us through it. What is the highlight of your stimulus plan?
REP. TOM PRICE ®, GEORGIA: David, great to be with you tonight. We take the president-elect at his word. He said that what he wanted was all sorts of great ideas. What we put on the table is the Economic Stimulative Act—Recovery Act and Middle Class Tax Relief Act. We believe firmly that if spending and borrowing would have solved this problem, it would have solved it a long time ago.
So what we propose is significant tax reduction for 100 percent of American tax payers, decreased by five percent across the board, repealing AMT taxes, so that we help families have that kind of money in their back pockets, so they can get through, weather this storm, tax relief for businesses, so that we decrease corporate taxes, small and large businesses, so that they become competitive with the rest of the world.
As you likely know, David, we have the second highest business tax rate in the world, in the industrialized world. That means the businesses not only think twice, but three or four times, before they create jobs in America.
Finally, beginning to bring down the spending, decreasing the spending so that we decrease the debt burden on our children and our grand children. We believe that‘s the kind of thing that will stimulate this economy, create growth and create jobs.
SHUSTER: Yet, Barack Obama takes the direct opposite view. He says “we cannot depend on government alone to create jobs or long term growth. But at this particular moment, only government can provide the short-term boost necessary.” How do you argue with that when you have so many even Republican governors who are providing their proposal, saying, look, we‘ve got shovel ready projects that will create tens of thousands of jobs, building a new bridge, building a new tunnel. Why are all of them wrong?
PRICE: Well, the fact of the matter is that we would like to create jobs that around there to fix the pot holes that are created once those projects end. In fact, if you just want evidence, all you have to do is look at the last year. Again, if government borrowing and government spending would have solved this problem, we would have been there a long time ago.
And we kind of act like this 350 billion dollars or the next 1.2 trillion dollars is money that we have, that it‘s right there waiting to be spent. In fact, it‘s not money that we have. It‘s money that we have to print and we do it on the backs of our children and our grand children and now our great grand children.
So the tried and true way, the American principled with way, with American values and American vision, is to create jobs through incentivizing businesses to create jobs and allowing the American tax payer to keep more of their hard earned money.
SHUSTER: It‘s such a good point. Congressman, as we close here and say thank you, I want to put up the full screen, which indicates why this is going to be an interesting battle that you‘re going to wage. When Americans were asked, should the stimulus priority be government spending to create jobs, 63 percent, tax cuts to allow people to spend, as Congressman Price wants, 33 percent. So Congressman Price, you‘ve got your work cut off for you.
PRICE: We do.
SHUSTER: We appreciate you coming on this show. We look forward to talking to you again.
PRICE: Thank you so much. American values.
SHUSTER: One of the final acts of Mr. Bush‘s presidency has absolutely infuriated some people, including our Muckraker of the day. We‘ll talk to her up next.
Also ahead, more than two million people are about to descend on the nation‘s capital for the biggest party around. We‘ll talk to the man who runs the city, D.C. Mayor Adrian Fenty. 1600 will be right back after this.
SHUSTER: Welcome back to 1600. It‘s time for our Muckraker of the day. You should know the Medal of Freedom is our nation‘s highest civilian honor. This week, in a White House ceremony, President Bush awarded the medal to the Colombian President Alvaro Uribe.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BUSH: President Uribe‘s fellow citizens know him as someone who speaks forthrightly, and follows through on his commitments. With his lifelong interest in public policy, he has a phenomenal grasp of the details of governing. At the same time, he has formed a powerful bond with his people.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SHUSTER: The Medal of Honor, which President Bush awarded a few years ago to George Tenet, Tommy Franks and Paul Bremer, is once again stirring controversy. That‘s because Colombian President Uribe has been linked with right wing paramilitaries in South America and human rights abuses of political opponents, including unionists.
Joining us from Washington, DC is Lori Wallach, director of Public Citizen‘s Global Trade Watch division. Lori has been detailing what she calls the outrage of President Bush‘s award to Uribe. She is our Muckraker of the day. Lori, why is the Uribe human rights record a significant one?
LORI WALLACH, PUBLIC CITIZEN‘S GLOBAL TRADE WATCH: Well, under the Uribe administration, 460 unionists, not just leaders, but just folks signing up to a union, have been assassinated. Almost none of the cases have been prosecuted. The military‘s often been implicated. At the same time, the Uribe administration has had an on-going campaign of violence again Afro-Colombians, who comprise almost a quarter of the population, and the indigenous population.
So here you have our highest civilian honor being awarded to the head of a government that is a worldwide pariah for its horrific abuses of the most fundamental human rights.
SHUSTER: We know that Colombia supported the president and the war in Iraq. And as far as domestic issues in Colombia, President Bush said yesterday that Uribe has demonstrated a deep commitment to Colombia‘s prosperity, and said that his bold policies have spread Democratic values. What‘s wrong with that?
WALLACH: Yes, well the horror of that is, for instance, in the specifics. So, for instance, President Bush has pushed a NAFTA style free-trade agreement with Colombia, and the President Uribe loves that idea. He signed up. The majority in his country are against that agreement. The majority here are against that agreement.
But during that negotiation, you can imagine Congress was really closely scrutinizing Colombia. Yet, even with that extra scrutiny, the number of unionists assassinated in 2008 increased from 2007. It is in Colombia the most dangerous place to be a member of a union. Simply for trying to have your basic rights, you get killed and the government doesn‘t do anything about it. Maybe they‘re involved.
SHUSTER: Lastly, the Capital Hill news service, “Roll Call,” also wrote about the Uribe administration‘s approach to political opponents. It quoted the US ambassador to Colombia, William Brownfield. He said, quote, “I have heard enough from enough sources, including government of Colombia sources, that the number of internally displaced people in Colombia is in fact continuing to rise.” Does that displacement continue today?
WALLACH: Well, that‘s another of the horror stories of human rights abuses. Colombia has the second largest population of internally displaced people, second only to what‘s been going on in the Sudan. And that is coming from several sources. One is Afro-Colombians fought very hard to get land rights. They have the right to title of land, of ancestral land. The military, sometimes working with paramilitaries, has been forcefully displacing the Afro-Colombian communities to take over the land.
So last year, for instance, and the year before, several hundred thousand Afro-Colombian communities were displaced off their land.
SHUSTER: Lori, we‘ve got to leave it there. But it‘s a fascinating look at Colombian, and a fascinating controversy. Lori Wallach, our Muckraker of the day. Lori, thanks for coming on tonight.
WALLACH: Thank you.
SHUSTER: Coming up, he is the man with the plan, literally. Washington, D.C. Mayor Adrian Fenty takes time out of his busy schedule coordinating the inauguration to sit down with us. I‘ll ask him why President Bush just announced an emergency in D.C.
But first, take a look at this. This is the new armored presidential limousine that will make its debut on inauguration day. Secret Service will not talk about the specific security features. But they say with all of its technology, it is one of the most advanced cars in the entire world. But we do know it‘s American made, a Cadillac, with larger windows and better visibility for the president. More 1600 after this.
SHUSTER: Welcome back. In just six days, Barack Obama moves into 1600 PENNSYLVANIA AVENUE. Today, we‘re learning that this inauguration is the most expensive in history at 160 million dollars. The president-elect‘s inaugural committee has raised 35 million dollars to help off-set the cost. Meantime, the U.S. Senate has passed legislation to make it a federal crime to scalp inaugural tickets. The bill will now go to the House.
An unprecedented two million people are expected in town. Roads and bridges will be closed. The Metro is going to be jammed. Security will be tighter than anything D.C. has ever seen. Dozens of different agencies will be trying to work together to make the historic event a smooth one, as well.
Joining us now to talk about the massive inauguration undertaking is Adrian Fenty, the mayor of Washington, D.C. Mayor, thanks for joining us. I wonder if you could start right off the bat, clarify for us, President Bush declared something of an emergency exists in D.C. Is it simply to try to free up federal money for the District of Columbia?
MAY. ADRIAN FENTY (D), WASHINGTON, DC: That‘s precisely right. A lot of what we do is precautionary in nature, just in case something went wrong. The Stafford Act allows us to be reimbursed for those. Thanks to the Bush administration for quickly getting that approval through.
SHUSTER: Mayor, I know there‘s been some criticism of, for example, the Metro, that the Metro simply cannot handle as many people as may want to ride it. How are you going about dealing with something like that?
FENTY: A couple different ways. We have actually, if you can imagine, secured 10,000 spaces in the city for buses, for coaches to come from all over the country and the region. So hopefully a lot of bus operators will register on our website, DC.gov, and come in that way. That will relieve some of the transportation.
Hopefully, people will stay a little bit longer in some of the hotels, come earlier. And that will relieve it and stagger themselves. It is opening at 4:00 in the morning. Hopefully, that will help as well.
SHUSTER: What‘s been your biggest disappointment, if there is one, in terms of putting this together? Anything that hasn‘t worked as well as you thought? And also what‘s your biggest fear?
FENTY: Really just the opposite. The point of all this planning and preparation is because we‘re going to have huge crowds. It will definitely be larger than the previous 1.5 million people who have been to an inauguration and a parade. How much over that, we don‘t know.
In terms of fears, you know, we‘re working closely with Secret Security, Homeland Security, and all of our local police agencies to prepare for just about anything. And hopefully we won‘t have a need to do anything.
SHUSTER: I understand the technology, it sounds incredible. I read in the Post about so sort of sonar technology so you can actually deliver message to people on the mall, all across the mall, in case there is some emergency direction that they need?
FENTY: Yes, we have got six loud speakers, which you can pretty much hear almost anywhere in the city. The Jumbo-trons, which there will be 22 on the Mall, will have the capability to give messages if necessary. Again, the hope is that everyone just has a peaceful, uneventful, except for hearing a great speech and seeing a great president sworn in, day here in Washington, D.C.
SHUSTER: Speaking of the president-elect, you went to Ben‘s Chili Bowl on Saturday with him. Tell us about that experience. What did he say about the inauguration? How did that conversation go?
FENTY: Yes, we had a great conversation. I spent somewhere between an hour, hour an a half with the president-elect. He is a president to be who likes to be amongst regular Americans. Ben‘s Chili Bowl is our Main Street diner, if you will. He just kind of mingled with the regular folk, talked about their lives.
I asked him about how he‘s doing, how his family‘s doing. Having known him for a couple years, I got to be honest with you, I had the most enthusiastic response. He‘s high energy, ready to take on the great challenges of running this country.
SHUSTER: How did you describe the inauguration sort of process from your perspective to him?
FENTY: Well, he‘s pretty in touch. He knew that—he‘s been pretty well briefed. I told him that his team has been working very closely with the current administration and our local police and fire departments. And we‘re prepared as humanly possible. He was grateful for all the work that‘s been done by the first responders in advance. And that shows how appreciative he is, I think, of what it really takes to run the government and that‘s the front line worker.
SHUSTER: Mr. Mayor, tell us where you‘re going to be on inauguration day. Putting aside your official duties, what are you thinking about personally? I think you‘re going to have a pretty close view, from very close up, about this whole thing, right?
FENTY: Yes, I‘ll be right in the main stage area, and it will be awesome. Just seeing any president sworn in is great, but Barack Obama, by virtue of his background and where he came from, really does show that any American, with hard work, can achieve their dreams. So I‘ll be there and participating in the parade and at the viewing stands, but also as mayor, be closely monitoring the radio, just to make sure all is going smooth.
SHUSTER: Mayor Adrian Fenty, you have done a wonderful job, at least according to all of us in Ward Two, when it comes to the DMV or voting early, some of the other projects. So good luck with the inauguration. We appreciate the hard work that you and your staff have put into this.
FENTY: Thanks, David. We‘ll stay in touch.
SHUSTER: Sounds great. That‘s the view from 1600 PENNSYLVANIA AVENUE tonight. I‘m David Shuster. Thank you for watching. We‘ll see you back here tomorrow night, same time, 6:00 p.m. Eastern. Remember, you can get the latest political news and a sneak peek at what‘s coming up. Go to Shuster.MSNBC.com. Sign up for the daily briefing. It‘s great. I‘m David Shuster. “HARDBALL” starts right now.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
Transcription Copyright 2009 CQ Transcriptions, LLC ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.
No license is granted to the user of this material other than for research.
User may not reproduce or redistribute the material except for user‘s
personal or internal use and, in such case, only one copy may be printed,
nor shall user use any material for commercial purposes or in any fashion
that may infringe upon NBC and CQ Transcriptions, LLC‘s copyright or other
proprietary rights or interests in the material. This is not a legal
transcript for purposes of litigation.>