UP with STEVE KORNACKI
October 6, 2013
Guest: Garance Franke-Ruta, Dave Weigel, Juana Summers, Bob Franken,
Hakeem Jeffries, Tom Davis, Charlie Rangel, Eleanor Clift, Ann Lewis, Jim
Manley, Jon Ralston
STEVE KORNACKI, MSNBC ANCHOR: If we say everyone will get paid when the
shutdown is over, does that mean the shutdown is closer to being over?
Maybe it is all the caffeine we have been drinking, but at the start of
this Sunday morning, we find ourselves trying to read the tea leaves.
Yesterday brought a small bit of good news in the federal shutdown fight.
But is it good enough? And does it do anything to change the congressional
math that landed us in this mess in the first place? Also, the schoolhouse
Rock Guys might not be around anymore to help us understand exactly what`s
going on behind the scenes, with the Republicans in the House, I`m going to
try to explain it all with one story from one day three years ago. We`ll
get to that a little bit later in the show. And it was this time last year
that the presidential race suddenly got a lot closer after Barack Obama
laid an egg in the first presidential debate, and Mitt Romney had everyone
talking about big bird. Remember that? Well, this weekend also marks a
milestone anniversary for our pick of the best debate moment of all time,
ever. And I am adamant about this and I think you might agree. We`re
going to show it to you later in the show.
But first, six days of a shuttered federal government has given way to an
active bipartisanship, a unanimous act of bipartisanship, the vote was 407
to nothing in the House yesterday. And that issue was the Federal Employee
Retroactive Pay Fairness Act. To translate, it says that more than a
million federal workers who have been staying home without pay since the
government closed down should be paid anyway. After all, they didn`t ask
for the time off, they`re just the victims of a political stalemate. It
sounds like a perfectly fair and reasonable thing to do. It sounds like
the right thing to do. But it might actually present a bit of a trap for
Democrats in the Senate, where the bill now goes. Take a listen. This is
how Harry Reid talked about it on the Senate floor yesterday.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. HARRY REID (D-NA), SENATE MAJORITY LEADER: And now we`re saying to
the federal employees we`re going to pay you when this is all over with,
but right now you just stay home. You thousand mathematicians, you 940
Ph.D.s, 2400 computer scientists working for the National Security Agency,
stay home, watch TV, play chess, whatever you want to do, because we won`t
let you work, but look ahead, you`re going to get paid. So right now, the
absurdity of this -- we heard today that number of federal employees are
applying for unemployment benefits. So it is really cruel to tell workers
they`ll receive back pay once the government opens and then refuse to open
the government. Mr. President, let`s open the government.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KORNACKI: Let`s be clear, there is every indication that Harry Reid will
end up putting that House bill to pay furloughed workers on the floor, that
the bill will then pass easily and that President Obama who has already
said he wants the furloughed workers to get paid, that he will then sign
it. But Reid doesn`t exactly seem enthusiastic about it and there`s a
reason for that. This is forcing him, it`s also forcing Democrats to make
an exception to what has been their posture since the government shutdown,
to alter very slightly what they believe is a strong bargaining position,
their best chance to end the shutdown without giving ground to the GOP.
The bill to pay furloughed workers is an example of a strategy that House
Republicans have stumbled on. It`s the piecemeal strategy. The idea that
they can pick out small popular pieces of the government, shame Democrats
into funding them, all while leaving the rest of the government closed
down. The effect, if they succeed, would be to lessen the political impact
of the shutdown and to remove some of the pressure on Republicans to give
up and to extend maybe significantly the bulk of the time -- the bulk of
the government -- the time that the bulk of the government is closed for.
This is probably just -- excuse me, this is probably why just as they were
voting with the GOP on paying furloughed workers, House Democrats yesterday
released a letter that was signed by all but five of their members
demanding that Republicans put a simple, clean bill to fund all of the
government on the floor.
And Harry Reid made the same demand on the Senate floor yesterday. And so
did President Obama in his weekly address.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: The American
people don`t get to demand ransom in exchange for doing their job. Neither
does Congress. They don`t get to hold our democracy or our economy hostage
over a settled law. They don`t get to kick a child out of Head Start if
they don`t agree to take her parents health insurance away. That`s not how
democracy is supposed to work. That`s why I won`t pay a ransom in exchange
for reopening the government.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KORNACKI: The Democrats think this is a winning posture, it`s the best way
to maximize pressure on Republicans. The polling so far is encouraging
them. Nearly three-quarters of Americans don`t like the shutdown and more
blame Republicans than President Obama and the Democrats. The Democratic
hunch is that it is the impact of a full shutdown sinks in, Republican
unity will disintegrate until GOP leaders finally have no choice, but to
post that clean bill. There is at least one fresh sign of that
disintegrating unity, Democrats are counting on. As the House met
yesterday, a Tea Party Republican from Florida, Dennis Ross, sounded like
he was ready to cut his losses, saying, quote, "Republicans have to realize
how many significant gains we`ve made over the last three years. We can`t
lose all that when there is no connection now between the shutdown and the
funding of Obamacare. I think now it is a lot about pride."
But it is going to take a lot more Republicans thinking and talking like
Dennis Ross for this to all end on the Democrats` terms. The House and the
Senate will be back in session tomorrow when the shutdown will turn one
week old. Well, the next seven days produced the breakthrough or the
breakup that hasn`t materialized yet? Well, here to talk about that, we
have Garance Franke-Ruta, she is the senior editor of "The Atlantic,"
former Congressman Tom Davis, Republican of Virginia, Dave Weigel, a
political reporter for "Slate," and Juana Summers, a defense reporter at
Politico. And thanks for joining us, guys, and let me just do that.
Because I`ve been meaning to cough for the last two minutes. Little
trouble getting through that one there, but let`s start to talk about where
we are right now. And Juana, I think, we`ll start with you, because
another piece of news yesterday, we did not get into that intro, is that
the Department of Defense yesterday said it`s going to recall basically
350,000 civilian workers who had been furloughed, the Department of Defense
is now saying they`re coming back to work. The shutdown is basically over
for them. Can you just talk about a little bit about what was behind that
decision and what that means?
JUANA SUMMERS, POLITICO: The Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel`s decision to
bring back those workers is rooted in that true pay bill that you saw
President Obama sign into law about a week ago, just hours before the
shutdown actually took effect. The Department of Justice and the
Department of Defense`s lawyers figured out that the bill gave enough
flexibility to bring certain workers back, those are people who perhaps
work in commissaries, who have essential functions to the Department of
Defense`s working. So, that`s bringing back roughly half of the workforce
that has been furloughed. So it takes a big chunk out of the shutdown.
I believe (inaudible) very interesting, Republicans after this decision was
made yesterday said this has been politicized, you know, if these workers
could be called back now, why were they ever sent home in the first place?
So it will be very interesting to see what the appetite is on Capitol Hill
for that argument, how that plays out in the next couple of days.
KORNACKI: Also, and Dave, pick up on that point. So, Republicans were
putting a lot of pressure on the Department of Defense to bring these
workers back. Now they are coming back. So, you`re going to have 350,000
furloughed Defense Department workers, they are going to be back on the
job. You have this bill yesterday that we just talked about, it`s probably
going to be signed, that`s going to; you know, pay all of the workers --
other government workers who are off right now. You had last week the pay
for military -- for the troops, that went through, that was signed. Is the
effect of all of this, everything that we`re seeing last week on that
front, does that lessen any of the pressure on Republicans, does that allow
them to extend this fight a little bit, does it ease the political pressure
on them a little bit.
DAVE WEIGEL, SLATE: Marginally it does. But not many of the Republicans
in this strategy right now, in Congress right now remember 1995, and
remember that the real pain started to come in week two and week three of
that shutdown when the story stopped being about monuments -- remember,
they passed by unanimous consent in `95 something to keep a lot of what we
just talked about open, keep them funded. Once things that Republicans
don`t want to fund started getting in the news like the EPA not being able
to inspect, the FDA, the HUD -- elements of the government that they don`t
want to pass, unpopular, it is more complicated. And I don`t think that
they won themselves much positive media coverage. I`m in kind of the meta-
position to say that because I`m in the media and I can cover it more
policy that I wanted to, but if you just look at the papers back home, they
haven`t given the House a ton of credit for trying (inaudible) impact.
They still cover it as what it is, which is the House making a demand at
the White House can`t give anything on, so marginally this week, I don`t
think in the long-term they`re ready for other functions of the government
to be unfunded.
KORNACKI: Well, so, and, Tom, you know a lot of the players here on the
Republican side in the House who are sort of trying to figure out -- I
think we`re watching them before our eyes try to figure out what their
strategy is. It doesn`t seem like they`re executing something they`d come
up with behind closed doors. But when you see, you know, Dennis Ross, a
Tea Party Republican from Florida maybe breaking away saying maybe it is
time to cut our losses, do you have a sense of what the endgame here is for
the Republicans in the House, what strategically they`re going to end up
doing this week?
FORMER REP. TOM DAVIS (R ) VIRGINIA: They have got to mold this into the
debt ceiling. I mean why would you open it up and then start the
renegotiations on the debt ceiling? There will be negotiations. American
public doesn`t want to see the debt ceiling just raised willy-nilly. They
don`t understand how this works, but they recognize you`re spending too
much and there has to be some concessions there.
KORNACKI: So, you say it has to be now, it`s going to have to be reopening
the government and lifting the debt ceiling, raising the debt ceiling, are
going to have to be one?
DAVIS: I think it makes all the sense in the world. Where do Republicans
want to be in the first place? It allows them to change the narrative a
little bit. This takes the pressure off to the Republicans who represent
tide water in northern Virginia, in those areas, the employees now know
they`re going to get paid, that takes a lot of pressure off them, they are
not going to get paid on time, but they are going to get paid. Putting
these Pentagon workers back. I mean that`s half the problem. Half the
federal employees in those area. It takes some pressure off Republicans.
And Congress in general to get this settled by doing this piece.
KORNACKI: But so, and then you`re talking about rolling that into one
KORNACKI: . that would address both of those issues. What realistically
is it that Republicans could ask for that - because, you know, we have the
whole thing, let`s delay Obamacare by -- not going to happen. Let`s defund
Obamacare. What realistically do you think Republicans could ask for and
it would be acceptable to the Republican Party based on what Boehner could
get away with?
DAVIS: They were never going to delay Obama are. This just was a funded
appeasement, this was more symbolic than anything else. But I think
they`re taking what they wanted all along is to get into entitlement
spending and let`s see if we can do chained CPI or something like that, and
they would like -- some of them would like to get the sequester off. But
some kind of a deal where they get together and can move forward over the
KORNACKI: And Garance, what is your sense on the Democratic side, first of
all, just that idea of rolling together, reopening the government and the
debt ceiling. Do you sense from Democrats that they think that`s where it
is going to end up too?
GARANCE FRANKE-RUTA, THE ATLANTIC: Oh, absolutely. I think it`s already
occurred that`s where this is going for a protracted shutdown and the
negotiation is already about the conversations -- already going to be about
the debt ceiling because the Republicans have lost on defunding Obamacare.
You know, it is enrolling people, or at least it`s trying to, and, you
know, it`s just - it`s - going forward, we`re going to be seeing
Republicans making a different enrolling series of demands. And I think
this makes it very difficult for Democrats, because Republican demands keep
shifting. And the Democrats are basically just taking the position, look,
we`re having the same position as we had on the shutdown, which is no
KORNACKI: Right. And when, you know, when Tom raises the idea, and I`ve
heard -- I`ve seen some reporting in the last few days, too, about this
idea of a grand bargain or a grand bargain-like thing, being back on the
table. I guess my reaction to that is, you know, this is the thing that`s
been elusive for years, right? This is the thing -- they couldn`t come up
with that in 2011. We got the sequester, because they couldn`t come up
with any kind of grand bargain. And now this is going to be back on the
table and resolved before October 17th.
DAVIS: I think when you`re talking about a grand bargain, now you`re just
talking about keeping the lights on.
DAVIS: This isn`t about any global solution.
KORNACKI: You start talking about like, you know, chained CPI or
something, these are sort of the elements that Republicans were looking for
in this so-called grand bargain. For Democrats to give ground on something
like chained CPI, they would be asking for a lot on their end and I`m
trying to imagine the two parties coming together on that.
DAVIS: You get some - and some Republicans on that, you get the medical
device tax, you`ve got some things you can tack on back and forth. So, at
least you get some discussion. And there have been really no discussions
going in the last six months between - you kind of wonder we elect adults
and they don`t talk to each other and then up in the end they`re still not
talking to each other.
FRANKE-RUTA: But the medical device tax is not particularly popular with
either party, and it seems somewhat absurd to threaten the health of the
international economy over the repeal of a bill that neither party is
particularly interested in. You can delink these things and have this
conversation in a rational manner. I mean, Social Security and Medicare,
these are long-term programs, long-term problems in terms of how do we fund
them, and to have all that rolled into this crisis environment, where the
negotiation is under the gun, it just seems like a recipe for .
KORNACKI: Democratic .
DAVIS: See, there`s a - in some way, anything gets done is under a crisis
environment in this town if you watched this over the last decade, you get
from crisis to crisis and that gets people to move off their comfort
WEIGEL: You can begin the crisis in a stronger position, I think, what --
Republicans effectively did by making this about Obamacare, the thing that
Democrats would never give in on was for -- move the conversation away from
entitlements where they had Obama on the record in favor of various deals
at the end of 2012 during 2011, when they come back and talk about chained
CPI, talk about Social Security, talk about Medicare spending, as they want
to, and Ryan hinted at this, they will have done so in an environment of a
month of Democrats holding strong, voting them down, going on the record,
that they`re not going to support that. I think we`re further from a grand
bargain because they started negotiation here. I`m not sure what they move
closer to. If you want to bring up social security and Medicare, you
should bring - I mean you can bring that up first.
You know you can bring Barack Obama to account because he said he`s for
chained CPI and when they do bring it up, it is going to be the context of,
well, we`d lost on everything. Do you mind if you go back to this deal?
KORNACKI: Yeah, and the bet that Democrats are making here, and we had
Congressman Jerry Nadler from New York was on yesterday, and I asked him, I
said are you basically - is your belief that you can just -- you`ll hold
out, say, the job of the Republicans is to raise the debt ceiling, the job
of the Republicans is to reopen the government and the pressure will
ultimately mount on Republicans and they`ll have to give in and just do
that without any strings attached. And he said, yes, that`s the strategy.
Juana, do you see it possibly working out that way.
SUMMERS: I`m not sure if it will work out that way, I`m hearing the same
thing from a lot of members as they`re approaching this. I`ve also heard
the idea floated that the idea of rolling this into a grand bargain gives
Republicans some political cover for voting for things that might kind of
(inaudible) the base back when they`re looking at those `14 and `16 races,
which are obviously incredibly important.
WEIGEL: But they told the base they can repeal Obamacare and not just that
they can cut Democratic entitlement - Social Security and Medicare. So,
the base isn`t going to be happy if they get a great deal represent the
biggest Republican victory over the welfare state in a generation. They`ve
already - They`ve already made them so angry over Obamacare. And a lot of
the guys you talk to who go on the record bashing Ted Cruz, that`s what
they`re irritated about. They thought there was a better deal in the long-
term for Republicans that they can`t even sell to the base anymore because
they were told on TV that, yeah, believe Ted Cruz, believe Mike Lee, we can
totally repeal Obamacare.
KORNACKI: And the other question I have is so we mentioned Dennis Ross, a
Tea Party Republican from Florida who sounds like he maybe`s had enough of
this. The other one of - Ted Yoho, another Republican congressman, talking
about the prospect of a debt default. He said it would bring stability to
the world markets. The default would, not raising the debt ceiling, but
the default would. I`m just wondering, within the Republican ranks, Tom,
is there -- it sounds like last week John Boehner was sort of sending
signals that, hey, look, I get it, we have to raise the debt ceiling. Is
that how many Republicans don`t share that basic view, though?
DAVIS: Cruz, he`s just messed this whole thing up for the Republicans in
terms of their strategy. Because now they have overrepresented to their
base what they can get, they have not managed news expectations, that`s
tough to put back together. That`s number one. I think the speaker would
have liked to put a clean debt ceiling on the floor of the House, see it
voted down by Republicans and Democrats and then come back with something
that has some conditions on it and negotiate from there. That would have
been negotiating from a position of strength. Now it looks a little more
desperate to some people. But there will be conditions. If you think
you`re going to get a clean debt ceiling out of this and they just say you
win, that`s not the way it works. But the president and Democrats have to
try to make this a win-win. That`s the only way this thing gets resolved.
KORNACKI: Well, we will talk to a Democratic member of Congress who was
down there for the vote yesterday. And he`ll also say about that, too, I`m
sure, it`s Congressman Kim Jefferson of New York. He will join us at this
table when we come back.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. ERIC CANTOR, (R-VA), MARJORITY LEADER: This shutdown has been brought
about by the president`s unwillingness to sit down and talk with members of
Congress on the Hill. This administration has been almost absent when it
comes to discussions and working out our differences and we`re going to
stay focused on trying to ease the pain of this shutdown while we continue
to ask both the president and the Senate majority leader to sit down and
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KORNACKI: That`s Eric Cantor, the second ranking Republican in the House
yesterday, after these votes we were talking about in the last segment.
We`re joined now at the table by Congressman Hakeem Jeffries, the Democrat
from New York, a member of the budget committee. And Congressman, we had
Tom Davis, a former Republican congressman sitting in your seat in the last
segment. And he was basically saying if the Democrats think that at the
end of the day there is just going to be -- the debt ceiling is just going
to be raised, the government is just going to be reopened and there`s not
going to be some kind of negotiations, some kind of bargaining, some kind
of concessions on the Democratic side, they`re wrong. What do you say to
REP. HAKEEM JEFFRIES (D-NY) BUDGET COMMITTEE: Well, it`s important to
understand I think the Democrats have been ready to talk since the early
spring. As part of the regular budgetary process. What is supposed to
have occurred in the Congress, the House passed the budget in March, the
Senate passed the budget shortly thereafter. The next step in the process
is for both sides to appoint members of a conference committee to sit down
together, try and find common ground and work out the differences. Since
the early spring, the Republicans have refused to appoint members of a
And so essentially for the last six or seven months, the Republicans have
been the ones who have declined steadfastly to negotiate. So then we
arrive at a point in time where we have to pass a continuing resolution in
order to keep the government open. And what the Democrats have said as
well as the president is clearly we`re not going to govern as a result of
your extortion demands. They sent over a series of ransom notes that were
all designed to either defund, delay or destroy the Affordable Care Act,
which was clearly the law of the land.
Once we reopen the government, and move toward a situation where we`re
confronting the debt ceiling, and hopefully lift the debt ceiling to avoid
a default, then I think we`ll be back in a situation where we can discuss
the future of the American economy and how to best move forward.
KORNACKI: So the position is, you seem to be articulating there, is raise
the debt ceiling, reopen the government, then you talk about anything, but
there should be no conditions on those first two?
JEFFRIES: Well, it`s also important to note that Democrats have already
agreed to compromise in a meaningful way as it relates to keeping the
government open at a certain funding level.
KORNACKI: You accept the sequester level of spending, the Republican level
of spending much lower level of spending. But is there - I wonder, too, is
there a sense, do you have a sense, or is there a sense among Democrats in
Washington that there is a bigger principle at stake here in terms of, you
know, maybe President Obama in 2011 when we walked right up to that debt
ceiling deadline made a mistake in having these negotiations with
Republicans and in setting a precedent that, you know, when the debt
ceiling comes up this is something you can bargain over, and this is now a
moment when that has to be corrected, when that precedent has to be sort of
taken off the books, is that part of what is motivating Democrats here?
JEFFRIES: Well, from my perspective, I certainly think there is a bigger
perspective or principle that`s at stake. There are three ways in which
you can change law. One, through the legislative process, the Democrats
were successful in 2010 in passing the Affordable Care Act by duly elected
Congress. And also change law jurisprudentially through the court system
when something has been declared unconstitutional in this particular
incidence, 2012, the Affordable Care Act was declared constitutional and
the opinion written by Chief Justice John Roberts, Bush nominee. And then
you can change things as a result of the election process. That also
occurred in 2012 when the president was re-elected in Electoral College
landslide. And so, there has got to be a principle that threatening a
shutdown or threatening the default on our debt and plunging the world back
into a recession is not an acceptable form of negotiating.
KORNACKI: So, how do you think this is going to -- this is all going to
end? I mean I understand what the Democratic position on this is. We also
have the reality if now we`re entering the second week of the shutdown and
there are a lot of these, you know, Republicans, at least members of the
House who come from - we talk about it all the time, these safely
Republican districts, they don`t really have to worry about general
Realistically, I mean when we get close, if we start getting close to that
debt default deadline, it is one thing to have the principle of, you know,
we shouldn`t be negotiating over this, another to say, we`re staring at a
default here. We can`t have that happen either. So, how do you expect
ultimately this is going to end?
JEFFRIES: Well, I don`t think that we`re going to confront a default. The
forces within the Republican Party as well as the Wall Street, finance
community based, that understand the implications of defaulting on our
debt. And John Boehner as you indicated earlier, Steve, has already sent
the signals that he understands the catastrophic consequences that will be
brought about if we were to default on our debt. I do think that
reasonable minds will prevail, the closer that we get to that October 17th
deadline, and hopefully moving forward from that point, we can then sit
down at the table through the regular process and negotiate items related
to our future.
FRANKE-RUTA: Well, I mean I think the thing with the -- we have to -- this
is being driven by this very small group of Republicans within the House
and, you know, people like Ted Yoho and Michele Bachmann would probably win
fewer votes than Anthony Weiner if they ran here in New York City.
FRANKE-RUTA: These are people who could not even win state elections,
these are people who could not even win the Iowa straw poll in some
instances. And I mean, the Iowa caucuses and it just -- it is a group of
people who I think in the end will find themselves a little bit isolated as
Republican donors and the business lobby comes on board and says, look,
we`re getting down to the wire here. This is not good for our candidates
who are running at the state level, the governors aren`t very happy with
the strategy. It is terrible for Democrat -- I mean for Republicans long
term in terms of presidential prospects. And I think there will be a
certain amount of pressure coming to bear on the more reasonable members of
the Republican Party.
KORNACKI: And Congressman Jeffries mentioned this, is that something in
your reporting you`re picking up on, is that - that sort of external
pressure on Republican, the business community, or something - is that real
WEIGEL: You know, it`s very weak. The business community still has not
learned how to lobby Republicans in a way that forces them away from the
conservative base. We saw it with multiple debt negotiations in 2011. We
saw it in 2012. They spend money on lobbyists. I mean Fix the Debt -
remember that group could raise 30 million odd dollars and get famous
spokespeople and they just don`t know how to bend the ear of - bend
Republicans who make the difference. So, I talked to some of the moderates
on Thursday who were on record saying they were for clean CR. Moderate
Republican from swing state Scott Rigell who represents Norfolk -- not
Norfolk and tide water, part of the government contractor utopia that is
really hurt by the shutdown, he was saying, you know, well, there is a lot
of momentum on the side, the guys who just want to say no and he wasn`t
going to buck from the party until then. So you see whip counts where
there are 22 Republicans ready to break or that have pressure put on them
by the financial industry, and they`re not breaking because that`s not as
effective as Heritage Action telling people to call their offices.
KORNACKI: And very quickly, and Congressman, before we go, I just want to
ask, I mean, let`s say we get through all of this, let`s say we get through
the shutdown, let`s say we get through the debt ceiling. It`s all the
deals that I`m seeing potentially to talk about like December 15th, that we
would fund the government through December 15TH. Are we just about to go
through this again in two months when this is all over?
JEFFRIES: Well, I certainly hope not. In some iterations, at least, the
Senate Democratic perspective is that we should fund the government through
November 15th, which place us even closer in the .
KORNACKI: We do it in a month.
JEFFRIES: Renew the negotiation. But I do think that, you know, at the
end of the day, reasonable minds will prevail, hopefully, in the House
Republican caucus. Initially Peter King was the only one who had sort of
come out and said this is madness. Now we`re up to over 20 Republicans.
We`ve all gone back to our districts this weekend. Hopefully we`re hearing
an earful from the American public about getting our acts together, go back
down to the Congress, get back to doing a business for the American people.
KORNACKI: OK. My thanks to Congressman Hakeem Jeffries in New York.
It`s only been three years. But you remember Christine O`Donnell, the
Delaware Senate candidate who told everyone in a TV ad out of apparent
necessity that she is not a witch. Well, she`s not a witch, but she`s part
of a -- a very crucial part of understanding what is now happening on
Capitol Hill. I will explain that next.
KORNACKI: Try to imagine the world of presidential campaigning before the
internet. No Twitter feeds for candidates to promote their messages, no
Facebook pages to corral friends, no e-mail lists to bombard with
solicitations, most importantly - no simple easy to find website for any
person who for whatever reason might be inspired to donate money. That was
the world the Democratic candidates for president in 1992 were living in.
Raising money was harder back then. And when they gathered for their first
nationally televised debate, one of them, then former and now current
California Governor Jerry Brown had what was then a revolutionary idea for
how to attract small dollar donors.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
FMR. GOV. JERRY BROWN (D-CA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We have an 800
number. We asked people, if you want to join it, then you call it.
TOM BROKAW: No .
BROWN: No, wait a minute, don`t censor. This is the First Amendment, Tom.
You are on - I`m a presidential candidate. And let the people -- these
airwaves -- these airwaves belong to the people. Let them judge whether it
is appropriate or not --
BROKAW: That`s true, but it`s also .
BROWN: And let them join this campaign through the number 1-800-426-1112.
If you want to join, call us. And if you think it is inappropriate, then
you make that judgment. But that is not for a media outlet to censor a
BROKAW: It was not censorship at all, former Governor Jerry Brown, it was
in the issue of fairness to everyone here tonight.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KORNACKI: The 1-800 number, Jerry Brown survived that reprimand. Well, he
didn`t go on to win the Democratic nomination, he did raise a lot of money
through that phone number. He flogged it in every debate, every speech,
every television appearance and he made it famous. 1-800-426-1112 became
something of a cultural sensation in 1992. No presidential candidate had
ever done this before and his opponents were kicking themselves for not
thinking of it on their own. Well, here is the kicker. Here is why I`m
talking about this. Because this week, 21 years later, the "San Francisco
Chronicle" decided to call that old Jerry Brown hot line and guess what -
it still works. If you call it today, it goes to his political office in
California. A spokesman told the paper that about one person a day still
calls it. Gee, I wonder who that one person might be.
KORNACKI: When you`re living through momentous events in real time, it can
be really hard to predict or even to imagine how history will end up
remembering them. When Harry Truman left office in 1952, the headlines
were about cronyism and corruption, the hopeless stalemate in Korea, a
president who would lost the faith of the people. And the public that was
happy to see him heading back to Missouri. No one back then would have
guessed that all these years later history would end up focusing not on any
of that, but on Truman`s pluck, his populous spirit. That his legacy would
be revisited, his image refurbished and that he would re-emerge in the
pages of history as an uncommonly plain spoken truth teller, a president
for the common man. Harry Truman was a liberal Democrat, but these days
you`re just as likely to hear Republicans wistfully invoke his name. Gee,
they`ll say, it is a shame they don`t make them like Harry Truman anymore.
So, yeah, history has a funny way of being written and rewritten.
But even knowing that, I`m going to go ahead and make a prediction, because
I think we have seen enough evidence already and the prediction is that a
few decades from now, when enough years have passed and the historians are
able to put this era of political history into some meaningful context, my
prediction is that the chapter on the Obama presidency will begin with
something that happened on September 14th, 2010 in the state of Delaware.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ANNOUNCER: Christine O`Donnell, virtually unknown just a few weeks ago,
but this morning she`s officially the GOP`s candidate for the Senate seat
vacated by Vice President Joe Biden.
ANNOUNCER: O`Donnell defeated nine term Representative Mike Castle in
Delaware`s Republican Senate primary .
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KORNACKI: I really think that will be the perfect place for history to
start the story of what we`re living through right now. Not just the
shutdown, not just the debt ceiling craziness, but the whole political
stalemate that has basically defined Washington for the last few years and
it promises to do so all the way through to the end of Barack Obama`s
presidency at least. It is the perfect place to start the story of this
period of political history. And the perfect place is to -- excuse me, is
that Republican primary in Delaware because it really does explain
everything. It explains the basic nature of the Tea Party movement. It
was a conservative uprising that began when Barack Obama became president.
But it was an uprising that wasn`t just directed at Obama and the
Democrats, it was an uprising that was also aimed at Republicans. It`s
because of how the conservative base, how the Tea Party base, chose to
explain Obama`s election in 2008.
They didn`t want to tell themselves that their ideology has been repudiated
by the rest of the country, that Americans had rejected conservatism and
embraced the left or center philosophy. So, instead, they came up with a
story that blamed Bush and that blamed the Republicans in Washington who
had supported him. And they`re telling Bush had betrayed the conservative
cause as president. He`d spent too much, he`d (inaudible) government too
little, he bailed out the banks. He had given conservatism a bad name.
And that left voters in 2008 desperately searching for a new direction,
which led them to Obama.
That`s how the Tea Party retroactively assessed the Bush years and how it
explained Obama`s victory and it`s how the Tea Party became something of a
purification movement, to cleanse the Republican Party of all of the
sellouts who`d helped Bush, who`d spoiled conservatism and helped elect
Obama. And Mike Castle, that`s the guy who lost to Christine O`Donnell, he
was a textbook example of that kind of Republican. He`d been in Washington
for 16 years, he`d been in politics a lot longer. He was a moderate
Republican, he worked with Democrats, he voted for No Child Left Behind,
the Medicare prescription drug plan, he voted for TARP. Mike Castle was
exactly the kind of Republican the Tea Party rose up to fight.
The 2010 Delaware Senate primary also explains the depth of the base`s
desire to purge Republicans like Castle. It was a former Lieutenant
Governor, a former governor, an eight-term congressman from the state`s
lone district, he was impeccably credentialed and he was opposed by a gad
fly with no name recognition, no money, no experience and some incredible
obvious political baggage. And the gad fly won.
O`Donnell`s primary win showed that as far as the base was concerned,
literally anyone was better than someone like Mike Castle. That primary
also explains how little the Tea Party cares about actually winning general
elections. Outside of the GOP base, Castle was immensely popular in
Delaware, a general election shoo-in, a guaranteed Senate seat pickup for
the GOP if he was their candidate. And O`Donnell was a guaranteed loser, a
fringe far-right figure in a blue state. This was obvious on primary day,
but the base picked O`Donnell anyway and, of course, she was crushed in
November and Democrats won a Senate race they were otherwise going to lose.
So that whole story, the story of how Castle was targeted, how Castle was
beaten, whom Castle was beaten by, it`s the Rosetta Stone of Tea Party era
politics. If you understand what happened to him, why it happened to him,
then you understand everything that is going on in Washington since then.
And why we`re stuck in the shutdown and why we`re staring down the barrel
of a dead default right now, because the story of Mike Castle and Christine
O`Donnell sums up the threat that every Republican member of Congress lives
with every day now. If they`re judged to be insufficiently conservative,
if they`re judged to be disloyal to the cause, if they give even an inch of
space on their right, then they could become the next target of the Tea
If the Tea Party targets you in a Republican primary, as they showed, they
can literally beat you with anybody. That is the lesson of Delaware.
That`s the lesson that lives in the office of every Republican member of
The news Friday was that Democrats thought they might have a way out of the
shutdown, a discharge petition. About 20 House Republicans had said,
usually quietly, usually to the local press, sometimes through
spokespeople, but about 20 of them had said they would be fine passing a
clean government funding bill. In other words, they would give in to what
Democrats want in the shutdown. So, the Democrats are circulating what is
called a discharge petition, it means that every Democrat signs it, and
those 20 Republicans do too, then the clean bill would go straight to the
floor for a vote and the government would be able to open up again.
But now think about Delaware and think about 2010, because it is one thing
for those 20 Republicans to hint that they would be fine with a clean bill.
But actually putting their names on a Democratic petition, it looks a lot -
it took a lot less than that, for Mike Castle to lose his career.
September 14th, 2010, we`re still living with what happened that day. And
as long as we are, there is no obvious way out of the shutdown, where the
bigger mess that is Washington these days.
KORNACKI: So, we here at "UP," often dip into the metaphor, well probably
too often I`d say, but TV hosts and politicians and pundits depend on
metaphors to communicate in language that is colorful and easily
digestible. This week in Washington was especially colorful as the
metaphors flew. And members of Congress calling each other everything from
lemmings to arsonists, even cicadas.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. LLOYD DOGGETT, (D) TEXAS: They come every 17 years and make a strange
and unpleasant noise, and then they shut down. Like those periodic cicadas
that trouble different parts of the country, an irresponsible segment of
the Republican House caucus has reverted to the old GOP shenanigan of a
government shutdown that they`d left in some borough for the last 17 years.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KORNACKI: So, back at table with us now, we have former Republican
Congressman Tom Davis of Virginia. Dave Weigel, Juana Summers and Garance
Franke-Ruta. So I -- you know, we talk in metaphors probably almost a
crush sometimes, but I think when the situation is like this, where it is
so easy to get lost in legislative, you know, all the parliamentary
procedure, legislative language, it can be really helpful, a good metaphor,
I think can be really helpful, a really good way of understanding it. At
the same time, I`m actually not good at coming up with metaphors. I rely
on other people that come up with them or I can criticize them.
And one that I heard this week that jumped out was Devin Nunes, he is a
Republican congressman from California, he made headlines by talking about,
you know, basically calling his fellow Republicans a bunch of lemmings and
he was saying, lemmings with suicide vests strapped to them, I think was
the term he used. And as one of our producers pointed out to me, actually,
this whole idea of lemmings is a myth. It was a documentary from Disney
like in 1958 or something where I think they were literally like throwing
lemmings off the clip and they videotaped this and everybody said, oh,
lemmings they all commit massive suicides. They are always talking about
lemmings, but actually we`re giving lemmings a bad rap. That`s it. I just
wanted to get that out of my system, but how would you - how would you,
guys, you know, trying to explain what is going on in Washington, how to
get out of this, you know, what the situation is and how to get out of it
with the metaphor or some other colorful way, how would you explain it to
people? That`s what I`m kind of curious about.
SUMMERS: So, look, I`m not - I`m in a Brad Wenstrup camp. He`s a
Republican congressman, Iraq war veteran. He`s at the House floor and says
look, I`ve seen jihads, I`ve seen terrorism, I`ve seen guys with bombs
strapped to their chests; this is not what that is. I think if our
lawmakers maybe stop trying to compete for the BuzzFeed list of top
(inaudible), lawmakers would hear each other, (inaudible) government
shutdown. We might maybe get something done, maybe, I don`t know.
WEIGEL: I think when it comes to the way to negotiate, I think of the kid
or sometimes an adult who loses a game and says, OK, best two out of three
and then loses two games, and then says best three out of five. And that`s
the way I`ve looked at the last - this and -- in the context, the last two
years of negotiation. Every negotiation has ended in failure with mostly
the Republicans saying, OK, well, but the next time we`re going to try this
again and we`re going to play by a slightly different rule, OK, next time
we`re going. And I keep -- it is -- I think -- I can`t think of anything
overarching, animal metaphor for the entire thing.
WEIGEL: But it does - it`s exact same gaming play - people who lose just
want two more rounds, then two more rounds, then two more rounds.
KORNACKI: Yeah, and I was definitely that kid that was always saying three
out of five now, you know, four of seven.
WEIGEL: Because I`m still going to do it.
KORNACKI: But Barack Obama, actually, got into the metaphor game on
Friday, too. This is - let`s just - this is Barack Obama and offering his
metaphor up for this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: I`ve said, I`m happy to have negotiations with the Republicans and
Speaker Boehner on a whole range of issues. But we can`t do it with the
gun held to the head of the American people.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KORNACKI: So there it is, the whole hostage thing, the gun held to the
head, Tom, what`s your way of explaining it?
DAVIS: Without basically what has happened is 80 percent of each caucus
are in absolutely safe districts. Safe Democratic districts, safe
Republican districts, so 80 percent of each caucus. Their members go home,
and all they worry about is their primary, because the primary voters don`t
like them to compromise. And that`s the problem. And they drive the
KORNACKI: That`s it. It gets Christine O`Donnell as we`re just talking
about. Garance, what would you -- somebody says explain this to me,
Garance, make me understand this, because I - it is too complicated. What
would you - how would you narrow it down?
FRANKE-RUTA: You know, honestly? I just think telling people what is
actually happening explains it pretty well.
FRANKE-RUTA: We`re paying, you know, 350,000 people to not work in order
to try and prevent initially maybe best case scenario, 7 million people
from getting health insurance. That was the starting position of all of
this thing. And if you look at those facts, it just doesn`t make any
sense, and now, you know, the position is adding other different things
into it. And I think people can understand what is happening.
KORNACKI: Yes. I`m kind of curious about that too. We had some of the
polling that has been taken at the top of the show here. I think the
numbers -- I don`t have them right in front of me, but I think it was do
you blame President Obama and the Democrats or do you blame, you know,
Republicans and Congress? I think it was 44 percent, this is CBS Poll, 44
KORNACKI: . the Democrats - and 35 - for the Republicans. So, an
advantage there for Democrats. I wonder if that`s the -- if that number is
big enough for what Democrats are hoping to sort of -- in terms of trying
to get Republicans to fold a little bit, to give in here, is that a big
enough margin for them? Do they need to expand that more?
WEIGEL: I think it is less that and what they`re able to do in terms of
resetting the clock of politics. I mean a month ago, less than a month
ago, remember Syria? Less than a month ago, Barack Obama was reeling from
the Syrian situation, which, remember, ended without us sending missiles
anyway that actually saved more money than the shutdown is saving. He was
in a weak position, heading into a negotiation where maybe entitlements
would be on the table. And even if people don`t blame the -- if people
don`t blame the Republicans by margin of 40 points, it`s just changed what
Washington`s going to be able to discuss. And I think that`s why Democrats
aren`t sweating it and they`re actually - they`re not enjoying this really,
but the reason they`ve remained so united, is they think they`re just
keeping politics kind of frozen in a place where they`re ahead, more than -
People are going to blame Republicans for shutdown anyway, because more
Republicans are on record favoring this if it is what it takes to cut
spending. They know they`re not really going to get blamed and it changes
the conversation from something they were worried about to something they
know they can stand fast on.
KORNACKI: And I wonder too, you know, Tom, you start to get into it there,
excuse me, with the issue of the primary challenge being the biggest sort
of the source of fear for the average Republican lawmaker.
DAVIS: And Democrat. And Democrat.
KORNACKI: But it is much more real on the Republican side. As we said
with like Christine O`Donnell, I mean when that starts happening, that`s
just got to get into the heads of Republican .
DAVIS: Well, Democrats have a president that makes a huge difference.
Just like with Bush who was kind of mask the problems within the Republican
Party, but two things I`d note. One is a year is a long time in politics.
So, however bad the Republicans get beat up on this, and they`re not
getting beaten up as badly as they were 15 years ago or 17 years ago or
whenever this happened before, it is nowhere near those kind of margins
because the country is so stratified. But a year is an eternity in
politics. And secondly, neither side can just cave without getting
something. If Republicans were to just surrender at this point, what
happens when they go back to their districts and these primaries?
KORNACKI: All, right, well, I got out of the segment, too, without doing
my own metaphor, which is good, because like I said, I`m not good at them.
KORNACKI: But anyway, we`ll be right back after this.
KORNACKI: We`re coming up against the top of the hour here. So, I guess I
just want to close out this particular panel just by kind of going around
quickly and seeing looking ahead to the next week and what we think is
going to play out in Washington this week, if we`re sitting at this table a
week from now, do you think we`ll be talking about significant progress
being made in this and if so, how?
SUMMERS: Not a chance. We`re going to be still status quo. I would agree
with Dave and everyone else, this is going to bleed into the October 17th
debt ceiling, deadline. Next week is going to be kind of holding pattern.
I don`t think the messaging is really solid quite yet next week.
KORNACKI: And Garance?
FRANKE-RUTA: No, absolutely. I think the shutdown is going to continue.
And I think the interesting thing will be, you know, the Republicans doing
these mini CRs, every time somebody squeals, somebody they don`t recognize
that one of these agencies actually is -- plays an important role in
American life, to see how many of these Republicans put forward and how
many different institutions they formally support finally.
KORNACKI: That`s what I`m kind of wondering, are you going to get to the
point where they basically fund - put the whole government on the table and
Democrats say, OK, we`ll take your 6200 mini CRs and the government`s all
WEIGEL: Employees of HUD just need to convince World War II veterans that
they really, really need to visit these offices .
WEIGEL: Just get a bunch of World War II veterans and say look, it`s -
it`s all I can think of to visit the chamber -- the Department of Commerce
right now and occupy their - then the problem is solved. And people will
fund the government.
KORNACKI: The greatest generation has one more mission left. Dave Weigel
just (inaudible). Anyway, I want to say thanks to Garance Franke-Ruta of
"The Atlantic", Dave Weigel of "Slade," Juana Summers of Politico. When we
come back, we`re going to party like it is 1995. I`ve been looking forward
to this. Stay with us.
KORNACKI: Lauren McGregor, who`s otherwise known as #blondwonk on Twitter,
tweeted something the other day that sets up our next segment very nicely.
She wrote, "Those who don`t study history are doomed to repeat it, those
who do, are doomed to watch others repeat it." And this week we saw a
congressional Republican shut down the government, something they haven`t
done since this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TOM BROKAW: This is NBC "Nightly News" with Tom Brokaw.
Good evening. Neither the president nor the speaker nor Senator Dole will
give. So tonight much of the government remains shut down.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KORNACKI: It`s Tom Brokaw, he`s all over our show today. It`s really fun.
Anyway, the government shutdown of 1995 and 1996 was a 21-day standoff over
Republican plans to cut Medicare spending. Some Republicans like Senator
Ted Cruz of Texas have long been arguing that Republicans didn`t actually
pay a political price for that back then. In this week they got some
support. Gallup put a bunch of polling data from 1995 and 1996 together,
they found that Bill Clinton`s approval rating didn`t actually spike in the
months after the shutdown. They also found that Newt Gingrich`s numbers
didn`t really get much worse than they already were. And House Republicans
only lost a net total of three seats in the 1996 election. So the
shutdown, they argue, was basically a wash. But that misses the bigger
picture. The shutdown of 1995 was actually the most dramatic in a series
of events that reshaped American politics that created clear and deep
geographic and cultural divisions between the parties. It helped give us
the red states and the blue states that we know today, it helped give us
the near total lack of swing states that we know today. Started with Bill
Clinton`s election in 1992. There was a conservative backlash to that, and
there were states, particularly in the South where conservative leaning
voters stopped voting Democratic and started going Republican across the
board. And that helped give us the Newt Gingrich-led Republican revolution
of 1994, which gave us the shutdown in 1995, and it led to another
This time in what today are the blue states. And take New Jersey, Bill
Clinton won by a margin of just two points in 1992, and where Republicans
had won six straight presidential elections before that. But in 1996,
after the shutdown, Clinton`s margins soared to 18 points. New Jersey was
a swing state before that, but it has been a blue state ever since.
Similar story played out elsewhere, Connecticut, Maine, Vermont, Delaware,
California, Washington, Oregon, Illinois, Michigan, states that were
previously up for grabs that were winnable for Republicans in elections
became safe Democratic territory, they became the blue states.
`95 shutdown is far from the only reason this happened. But it was one of
the most vivid and dramatic reasons. It synced conservative voters with
Republicans and moderate and liberal voters with Democrats. It helped --
excuse me, it helped turn the split ticket voting into a thing of the past.
For example in 1995, 79 House members were from districts that President
Clinton won in the previous presidential election. Today, the number of
Republicans from Obama districts is 17. It raises the question, 1995 is
the obvious point of comparison for the shutdown today. But are there any
lessons from it that still apply today?
Here to discuss that are Congressman Charlie Rangel, a Democrat from New
York, Eleanor Clift, the contributing editor at "The Daily Beast" Ann
Lewis, former White House communications director for President Bill
Clinton and former Congressman Tom Davis again, with a Republican of
Virginia. So I`ve been looking forward to this panel for a week. You were
all there in important ways in 1995, the last time the government was shut
down. And I want to get to the lessons and I want to get to - you know,
what has and hasn`t changed in the world of politics since then. But
first, I want to just sort of - go back and set the stage to remind people
exactly what was at stake, exactly what brought about the 1995 shutdown and
you were in the White House for us, just remind everybody what that
shutdown was about and what the White House was trying to achieve.
ANN LEWIS, FMR. WHITE HOUSE COMMUNICATIONS DIR.: Actually, in 1995, `96,
I was in the campaign. So, I was sitting in a campaign office watching
this and thinking, they must have a plan. There must be a reason why they
think this is good for them, the Republicans. I`m waiting to see what it
is. And when I see those polls that say that Newt`s numbers, for example,
do not go down, I will tell you that every commercial we ran, which showed
Newt Gingrich and Bob Dole arm in arm, went down like this. I mean Newt
became radioactive in the American public.
KORNACKI: Newt Gingrich was -- in the Clinton re-election campaign and all
the Democratic congressional campaigns in `96, Gingrich was the star,
LEWIS: And Bob Dole was, in fact, the nominee and we learned later that
Dole`s people really wished they didn`t have to stand so close to him in
his press conferences but, of course, they did. And so that was the clip
we used. We never used Bob Dole alone because there was suspicion, too, he
was a reasonable person. But we used Bob Dole with Newt Gingrich right
there and that`s what people saw. This wasn`t what they wanted in their
KORNACKI: So, Eleanor, take us to the nuts and bolts of - it was about
Medicare spending and what was the 1995 shutdown about?
ELEANOR CLIFT, "THE DAILY BEAST": Well, the president had endorsed a
balanced budget in the spring of that year, and so the debate was not about
whether the budget would be balanced, but how and the Republicans had cut
backs in Medicare, and so it became a confrontation over whose values do
you support. The Republicans versus the White House. And so in
retrospect, it looks look a pretty nice setup for President Clinton. I was
at the breakfast three days into the shutdown when Speaker Gingrich
confessed that one of the reasons behind the shutdown was that he and
Senator Dole felt snubbed because they were on this long plane flight to
Israel for prime minister Yitzhak Rabin`s funeral, he`d been assassinated
and the president stayed upfront with Presidents Carter and George H.W.
Bush and never summoned them to the front for negotiations. And they had
to exit the plane by the back ramp.
CLIFT: Tony Blankley, who was Gingrich`s press secretary, was sitting
there, kind of waving and doing all this, trying to get Newt to stop, and
he wouldn`t. And so the front page of the "New York Post" had Newt
Gingrich in diapers waving a bottle, saying, cry baby. And when I looked
back to that period, I think it is -- that really helped tilt the political
playing field toward the White House.
KORNACKI: Well, Congressman Rangel, you think of - Gingrich himself was
such, I guess, radioactive political figure at the time and Eleanor has
that anecdote in the tabloid cover here in New York, absent Gingrich,
though, did you - when that shutdown began as a Democrat in Congress, did
you feel like, you know, we`re going to have the upper hand in this, we`re
going to be OK, or how are you feeling in the shutdown?
REP. CHARLES RANGEL (D) NEW YORK: I guess we were optimistic that this was
so negative, that people would be concerned that it would be causing more
damage. We knew that when Eleanor talked about Gingrich, I actually teased
him about what had happened, he was the first speaker for my African Trade
Bill, Dole was the one that helped me out with the earned income tax
credit, and all I could think about at that time was the quest for
political power. And Gingrich was the first one to break all of the rules
in terms of censuring and punishing Republicans, unfortunately Democrats
picked up a lot of that. But he broke all the liberals in order to be a
speaker. And when he broke down the government, Republicans felt
embarrassed. The difference today is that when Republicans -- I don`t know
whether to call this info for people, Republicans, because they had glee,
they were happy when the government fell.
And in other words, they don`t -- Gingrich is for party. They don`t care
about themselves. They don`t care about the party. And closing down the
government and threatening not to raise the debt ceiling is not normal
political behavior as I have seen it over the years.
KORNACKI: Well, we have a Republican here who was - you, Tom, you`re a
freshman Republican in 1995. You`ve been elected in that Republican wave
in 1994. Take us back, what are you thinking? You`re watching your fellow
freshman Republicans, Newt Gingrich, the new speaker, sort of leading the
party into this shutdown, were you saying let`s do this or what were you
DAVIS: Well, I had a district across the river from Washington with 56,000
federal employees and 100,000 contractors. So, I was -- I thought it was
the dumbest thing I had ever heard. You know, I got up in the conference
and I gave this roaring speech and Connie Morella applauded for me and
Frank Wolf and that was .
LEWIS: All right.
DAVIS: That was it.
DAVIS: A few days into it, I remember going up to Dick Armey, and said
Dick, this thing, it can`t be going very well. Have you done any polling?
And he said, Tom, I`ll you the truth, we`re flying blind on this. So, I
don`t think they had any idea. Remember, they hadn`t had Congress in 40
years. They were flexing their muscles. We`d had shutdowns before, but
never of this duration. A number of us went to Gingrich after he was --
after this plane incident, he had to leave the back of the plane .
DAVIS: And said we`re promoting you to chief petty officer.
KORNACKI: So what was the way out in, you know, we`re a week into this
shutdown right now, in 1995, it lasted -- it was a series of shutdowns,
actually, it wasn`t just one shutdown, it stretched into early `96, the
first days of 1996, totaling 21 days of shutdown. But what was the way
out, what was the resolution?
LEWIS: You know, I think one of the biggest differences, and for me, one
most depressing differences, where we are now and where we were then is,
look, as we have discussed, Newt was a character. He was needy. He was
erratic. He wanted more love and attention than maybe the universe could
give him. But eventually, when you can make a deal with him, he could
deliver his caucus.
He was a leader of the Republican caucus. Now, I`m prepared to say right
now that John Boehner is probably a nicer person, more balanced, more
normal, but he can`t deliver his caucus, he can`t lead. So, the question
is, yes, you could negotiate with Newt because at the end of the day, if
you reach an agreement, you could reasonably be sure that that would mean
the government would reopen. You negotiate with John Boehner. I don`t
know what happens next, but I`m pretty sure it is not constructive.
KORNACKI: And what were - Congressman Rangel, the negotiations in terms of
getting the government reopened in 1995 and 1996, when you look back at how
it was ultimately resolved, in terms of what - what concessions were made
on the Democratic side, did you look back then and say I`m happy with the
way this turned out, did you think Democrats gave too much, did you .
RANGEL: We always - you know, you have your liberal side, which I`m proud
to enjoy and the conservative, so that the best deal is one when the
moderates either Republicans or Democrats, they don`t like it at all.
But wanting the country to go forward supersedes any political gains that
you can have. But, you know, we play roles as politicians and no matter
what you think of John Boehner, I think of the opportunity for him to be
able to say my fellow Americans, I have tried hard to deal with this part
of my party. I thank them for making me speaker. But I`m an American
first, I`m a good Republican. And I love this Congress and my country.
And so therefore I release all of the Republicans, vote your conscience,
vote the flag, vote for your country.
KORNACKI: And I think that`s the moment he becomes former Speaker John
Boehner, probably .
RANGEL: But he becomes an international person of dignity and pride. I
agree with you.
KORNACKI: Interesting way of putting it. Well, let`s - let`s pick after
the break, because I want to get into as well what we`re looking at the
similarities and differences and also, what the political impact was in the
1996 elections and what the political impact of this could be next year in
the midterm elections. So, we`ll get into that right after this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ANNOUNCER: The president in recent polls is winning almost twice as many
people blame Republicans for the mess as Mr. Clinton. The more he resists,
the better Democratic pollsters argue.
GEOFFREY GARIN, DEMOCRATIC POLLSTER: People worry about how far the
Republicans are going. There is a sense that this is going to hurt middle
class people, hurt working families, and they don`t -- they want a
solution, but they don`t want a solution at the expense of working
ANNOUNCER: For now, though, the sentiment grows that the only thing
working are the political games.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KORNACKI: And there is that Newt Gingrich tabloid cover that Eleanor, you
were talking about a few minutes ago. So, Eleanor, let`s look ahead to
2014 and maybe trying to use 1996 as a reference point. So, in the Senate
piece for this a few minutes ago, I gave my take on it, which is that my
reading of 1996 is, yeah, the Republicans did not suffer huge losses in the
House, there was a net loss of three, but if you look closer at those House
results in `96, there were 18 Republican incumbents who lost in the general
election. And they were primarily from what we now call the blue states.
And so, it was, what I think happened in 1996, was there was sort of a
sorting out where the blue states really became blue states and the red
state got a lot redder and we kind of got stuck with this map we`ve had
It leaves me with the question, is there any damage left that could be done
to either party politically, or are we so sorted out that there just isn`t?
CLIFT: Well, in that setup piece that you just did of the clip from `95,
the pollster that is shown is Jeff Garin, Democratic pollster. Well, he
did a call with reporters last week saying that his data shows that this is
perhaps the only thing that could shake up 2014. And I think Democrats
have been pretty well reconciled that they couldn`t get the 17 seats to get
the majority that everything is so gerrymandered. But if you start calling
around, admittedly, Democrats, but William Galston who is at Brookings, he
was in the Clinton White House, he said there is research that shows you
can overcome that structural barrier if Democrats overall can pick up five
more percentage points for the House. And as you know, Democrats won more
votes collectively for the House than Republicans, but Republicans maintain
But that`s a kind of a magic number, if you can achieve that, and the
distaste for the Republican management of the House is now very great. The
elections a year from now, I don`t know if that will maintain, but right
now you see an energy among Democrats saying that if the generic difference
and it is now measured at nine points and the Quinnipiac and Pew polls, if
that holds, Nancy Pelosi is the next speaker.
KORNACKI: You know, how do you look at it, comparing `96 to 2014 with the
LEWIS: Well, that`s what I`m looking at is what is the difference -- why
are off-year elections, again, if you`re looking at - `96 was the
presidential year. We have gotten pretty good at presidential elections,
I`m glad to say, I would like to think it is because we`re talking about
the policies that make a difference in people`s lives, but what is
happening off-year elections is too many voters stay home.
Well, if I were trying to plan in secret a plot to make sure that
Democratic voters were so angry, that they would turn out, it just might be
a Republican Congress, you know, shuts down the government, shuts down the
Food and Drug Administration, stops the well-baby, or WIC, women, infants
and children feeding programs, a deliberate sign of how far Republicans are
willing to go to get political strength at the expense of the most
vulnerable. That`s where we are right now. I think we have a real
opportunity to increase our turnout. And the second thing I would look at
is who then would be the most vulnerable Republicans? I would look at
Republican members from the northeast. I don`t think it is a coincidence
that some of the people who are saying, hey, we`ll vote for a clean CR and
give us a chance, happened to be Republicans from the northeast. And I
would look at some of those southwestern states, in which Hispanic voters
are just a growing potential majority.
KORNACKI: Tom, you know, one of the other differences that sort of jumps
out at me between 1996 and today, `95, `96, the "New York Times had this
piece, and they pointed out, in `95, in `96, there was no such thing as the
Fox News Channel until the end of 1996. The Breitbart, you know,
conservative news information empire did not exist. Breitbart was - he
(inaudible) a lowly assistant at E online. "Drudge Report," basically
nobody knew about the Drudge Report. So, all the ways that`s sort of
conservative today, that`s sort of the conservative world gets its
information, processes its information, sort of -- this sort of
conservative media bubble didn`t exist back then. And I wonder if that
makes it harder for the party today to get out of a mess like this.
DAVIS: Well, there are three factors. And that`s certainly one of them.
The media models, both left and right in terms of how people get their news
and sort it out, they`re not even agreeing on the same set of facts,
they`re in parallel universes. But I would add to that the redistricting
that Charlie had mentioned earlier that these folks are from safe
districts, so it`s the primaries are the main concerns and then reinforcing
that is campaign finance reform, which I voted against and it was Citizens
United, basically the money moved away from the parties now, it is out on
these interest groups can ambush somebody in the primary and there`s nobody
to rescue them in terms of compromise and those kinds of things. That has
polarized us, it`s made it combustible at this point, makes it much harder
to get agreements.
CLIFT: Yeah, the parties are weak, the so-called special interests are in
control, and if you look at who is calling the shots on the Republican
side, you have Heritage Action, which is a relatively new outgrowth of
Heritage Foundation, which former Senator Vitter who has got more power now
than he ever had when he was in the Senate. And you`ve got Club for Growth
and Americans for Prosperity. And so, you have, you know, two kinds of
Republicans, the Tea Party Republicans, and then the ones that are
terrified of the Tea Party Republicans. And so, they`re all making these
concessions to try to avoid primaries. And if you look at all the
contested states around the country, I think there is seven Republican
races. They`re all, you know, crawling all over each other, trying to say
who could be most conservative and they are leaving a lot of running room
KORNACKI: And that`s another - I guess it could be another difference, I
think, Heritage in the mid-1990s was pushing individual mandates because --
anyway, we`re out of time for this segment unfortunately, but I want to
thank Congressman Charlie Rangel for joining us. When we come back, we`ll
be taking a peek at the man behind the curtain who is driving the agenda
for the Democrats during this shutdown fight.
KORNACKI: If there is a Democrat anywhere who could give Barack Obama a
run for his money, when it comes to attracting venomous seizing animosity
from the right, at the mere mention of his name - that might just be Harry
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. TED CRUZ (R-NEVADA): Majority Leader Harry Reid has essentially told
the House of Representatives and the American people, go jump in a lake.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Harry Reid spilled the beans today, what they`re
willing to do, risk the lives of children and such.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We`re not the ones punishing people. It is actually
Harry Reid who is punishing people.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I`m glad now to invite to the microphone, our
distinguished Majority Leader in the Senate, Harry Reid.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I`m sorry, Harry`s not here today. Maybe he`ll show up
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KORNACKI: (inaudible) is generally portrayed as a showdown between
President Obama and congressional Republicans, but the hidden strong man
for the Democrats in this fight is the Senate Majority Leader, he is the
one using every legislative tool he knows to stop everything that comes out
of the Republican House. He`s the one driving the Democrats` hardline
strategy at both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue, and he`s the one chewing them
out daily on national television.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REID: We are not going to mess around with Obamacare, no matter what they
do. They have got to get a life. And it is embarrassing that these people
who are elected to represent the country are representing the Tea Party,
the anarchists of the country. It is time for my Republican friends to
defy your Tea Party overlords.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KORNACKI: So, who is Harry Reid? What is his strategy? And is it going
to work? Joining us to talk about that is our favorite Harryreidologist,
that`s Jon Ralston, host of "Ralston Report", which airs on 3 NBC
affiliates in Nevada, and here in the studio with us is Jim Manley, a 21-
year veteran of the Senate who spent much of that time working for Senator
Reid and knows him very well.
Jim, I`ll start with you, because you know him so well. We just played all
of these Republicans bashing him. He gets under their skin like few others
do on Capitol Hill. Is he enjoying this on some level? Does he enjoy what
he evokes from Republicans?
JIM MANLEY, FORMER HARRY REID SPOKESMANT: Well, look, the fact of the
matter is he once said, by that, he would rather dance than fight. To
that, I`d simply say, however, while he preferred a dance, he`s one hell of
a fighter. So, if the Republicans want to fight, you know, he`s going to
take it to him. I must admit watching that clip brought back a lot of
great memories. Part of me after watching some of those Republicans says I
wish I was back there going after him. Because not one word of what they
just said is correct.
KORNACKI: Also, what is it, also, like, in terms of just legislative
tactics and in terms of the role he`s playing right now in the shutdown
what is it in particular that he`s doing that is getting under their skin
MANLEY: Well, the first thing is, is that he`s keeping his caucus
together. And when you have the caucus together standing up with the White
House against what the Republicans are proposing, you know, you got a
united front that at some point is going to get them to back down. He
learned -- he learned a long time ago that the Republicans want to do
nothing more than to undermine the president`s agenda. It has taken the
president a little bit of time to figure that out, but now everyone is on
the same page and they recognize this threat for what it is. And they`re
trying to overturn the last two elections in `28 and 2012 to try to advance
KORNACKI: Jon, I want to bring you in here from Nevada. You were quoted,
there was the best-selling book here on the "New York Times" list called,
you know, "This Town," that Mark Leibovich wrote, he did a whole section on
Harry Reid, a really interesting character portrait of Harry Reid. And you
were sort of, you know, talking about the Harry Reid that the public sees
and you were quoted as saying, that, quote, the -- excuse me, "Reid is a
master of that practices pale-faced bumpkin from search light act." "The
practice pale-faced bumpkin from search light act." Excuse me, I got that
right now. And it masks a ruthless and Machiavellian politician. What -
explain what you mean by that?
JON RALSTON, "RALSTON REPORT" HOST: Well, I think just because of his
appearance, Steve, Harry Reid is easy to underestimate. He isn`t - he
doesn`t have a booming voice, he`s not a charismatic guy. But as Jim
Manley well knows, even though he might not tell all, today Harry Reid
behind the scenes is exactly as I described him. And one of the reasons
he`s able to hold his caucus together is he`s willing to go out and say all
kinds of sometimes crazy stuff, and so his caucus doesn`t have to take the
bullets, he`ll absorb all of the criticism. I mean every day saying Tea
Party anarchists, saying that the Republicans have lost their minds, as he
said the other day, saying he feels sorry for John Boehner. This is Harry
Reid just essentially not caring as most politicians do whether or not the
Republicans are going to hate him, whether he`s going to engender all kinds
of venom in the country. He just, unlike most politicians, doesn`t care
about that kind of stuff.
KORNACKI: Well, let me ask you about that, Jonathan? Is that a new thing
in some way, because he had such a difficult re-election race in 2010, it
was sort of a miracle, he got really lucky, he got one of these Tea Party`s
opponents and he was able to survive. Is he, maybe, liberated and thinking
is -- is the thinking maybe he`s not going to run in 2016, therefore he
doesn`t have to worry about, you know, offending the home stake
constituency at all? Are you pitting up on any of that or is this is just
RALSTON: I think it really is just Harry Reid. I think he probably
intends to run in 2016. I think as I`ve said before, people who
underestimate Harry Reid are littered in graveyards across Nevada. So I
don`t think that you should think that he`s just doing -- he`s unfettered
because he`s not going to run again. And you mentioned the Tea Party
opponent, that is the Machiavellian ruthless side of Harry Reid who meddled
in a primary, so that a better candidate would not come out, got Sharron
Angle, helped Sharron Angle to win that primary and then defeated her.
This is a guy, Steve, who had a 50 percent negative rating who won the
race. He doesn`t like campaigning. He has no taste for it. He doesn`t
like being out on the stump, but he puts very good people around him and so
then he can get back to what he loves to do, which is to make deals, which
is to have a goal, legislatively, and get to it. Let`s not forget, he
keeps talking about Obamacare and Republicans criticize that. Barack Obama
did not get Obamacare passed, Harry Reid did, by making the kind of deals
that he`s become famous for in Washington, D.C.
KORNACKI: All right, Jon, Tom Davis, former Congressman Tom Davis has a
question for you.
DAVIS: Yeah, I mean the fact that they`re going after the Republican
lieutenant governor this time around, they can`t beat Sandoval, who would
be a very strong opponent to Reid next time, tells you he`s thinking two
steps ahead, do you think, toward 2016?
RALSTON: That`s exactly what`s going on. No, I don`t think Brian Sandoval
is committed to run for the U.S. Senate, but he`s a very popular governor,
as you mentioned, congressman. He doesn`t have much of a race next year.
So, he`s going to win. So he`s actually handpicked a lieutenant governor`s
candidate that don`t run as a ticket in Nevada. So someone will be there
in case he decides to run against Harry Reid. Meanwhile, Team Reid, which
is the most formidable Democratic operation this state has ever seen, and
probably comparable to any other state, is trying to find a candidate
because they want to stop Sandoval. They leave nothing to chance, that`s
what Harry Reid has done his entire career.
KORNACKI: Jim, I want to ask you a little bit about the Harry Reid, sort
of the perceptions of Harry Reid. Because he`s sort of, I think, a
mysterious figure a little way that people watch him through television.
Some of the details that come out about him make me scratch my head. For
instance, I mean, there is apparently, I think this is from this town as
well, he has this habit where he`ll just hang up the phone.
KORNACKI: Is that true? Like you could be on the phone and he just hung
up, he never says good-bye.
MANLEY: Never says good-bye. Never says good-bye. He actually even does
it to the president of the United States as well. So, it is just one of
the quirks of .
KORNACKI: Ever asked him why he does that? And what`s that .
MANLEY: He said, repeatedly, he says - he just after he`s done, he just
basically hangs up the phone. He assumes that the other person wants to do
the same as well, to get on to the next call.
MANLEY: So, it`s just one of the little quirks about him that I love. I
got to tell you. But let me go back to what you just said about whether
this is Senator Reid freed up. You see these gray hairs on my head? A lot
of them came because of Senator Reid. He has a refreshing habit of
speaking what is on his mind, which is -- can be a very dangerous thing for
a politician. I worked for Ted Kennedy for 12 years. Say what you will
about the man, but he was -- he rarely made rhetorical slips, if you will.
Always stays on message, everything was carefully prepared. Senator Reid,
as Jon said, he just honestly doesn`t care. He says what he means and he
means what he says.
KORNACKI: And does he - does he - we talk so much about, I mean, this
whole story of the shutdown is the story of the stalemate in Washington
KORNACKI: Does he - do you think he enjoys being in the Senate right now?
MANLEY: Oh, sure. He`s made for the Senate.
KORNACKI: Even when it is just sort of ground to a halt like it is.
MANLEY: Well, but that`s why he`s doing what he`s doing right now. He`s
had enough. I mean, from his perspective, from the first day President
Obama came into office, he saw Republican Party prepared to undermine
everything that the president was proposing. It took him 60 votes to get
the economic stimulus. It took him 60 votes to get health care reform.
And then so he`s had to fight for everything. And so - and he`s had --
basically he and his caucus have had enough. He sees a bunch of Tea Party
types that are trying to undermine what this country stands for and with
the support of his caucus and with the alliance of the president he`s going
to do what he can.
KORNACKI: Yeah, you know, and he`s - like I said, he`s fascinating
character, we can get into this and all, but another anecdote here was, I
guess, when he had a meeting with George W. Bush, in the Oval Office,
George W. Bush`s presidency, this is from - this is from this town, Reid
promptly insulted the president dog`s Barney, your dog is fat.
MANLEY: I was there.
KORNACKI: How did George W. Bush respond to that?
MANLEY: He laughed a little bit. But I was sitting in the corner going,
oh, I can`t believe he just said that.
MANLEY: He hangs up on presidents, he insults their dogs. That`s your
Senate majority leader. My thanks to Jon Ralston and Jim Manley, those
politicians who stray from there prepare to immerse by themselves in big
trouble. But it is the ones you can think on their feet that make it into
the sound bite hall of fame. We will induct a new member, straight ahead.
KORNACKI: Every Saturday we play our game show "Up Against the Clock," we
call it "The ultimate test of your knowledge of the week that was in
politics," and sometimes we`ll throw in a question from the week that was a
long time ago.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KORNACKI: At a vice presidential debate held 25 years ago today, which
candidate uttered the famous put-down, senator, you`re no Jack Kennedy?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Lloyd Bentsen.
KORNACKI: Lloyd Bentsen is correct.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KORNACKI: Lloyd Bentsen in the greatest political insult of all time, the
art of political insults. We will talk about it next.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The question you`re asking is what kind of
qualifications does Dan Quayle have to be president?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KORNACKI: That is Dan Quayle, 25 years ago, last night in the 1988 vice
presidential debate at the Omaha Civic Center, walking right smack into the
most devastating political put-down ever.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. DAN QUAYLE, (R ) VICE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I have far more
experience than many others that sought the office of vice president of
this country. I have as much experience in the Congress as Jack Kennedy
did when he sought the presidency. I will be prepared to deal with the
people in the Bush administration if that unfortunate event would ever
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Senator Bentsen?
SEN. Lloyd Bentsen (D-INDIANA): Senator, I served with Jack Kennedy. I
knew Jack Kennedy. Jack Kennedy was a friend of mine. Senator, you`re no
(LAUGHTER AND APPLAUSE)
BENTSEN: What has to be done, in a situation like that - in a situation
like that .
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Please, please, once again, you`re only taking time
right from your own candidate .
BENTSEN: . is to call in the .
QUAYLE: That was really uncalled for, Senator.
BENTSEN: You`re the one that was making the comparison, senator. And I`m
one who knew him well.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KORNACKI: So those 23 words Lloyd Bentsen uttered were all anyone could
talk about the next day. "The New York Times" reporter, some guy named
E.J. Deon led with it the next morning. "The Washington Post" asked about
JFK`s ghost and the Quayle factor.
And as the "Today" show correspondent put it 25 years ago this morning .
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TOM PETTIT: If this had been a boxing match last night, Bentsen would have
won a TKO. As one Independent said here in Omaha this morning, if it had
been a botching match, the referee would have stopped the fight.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KORNACKI: Of course, Bentsen`s anger did nothing to stop the Bush/Quayle
ticket in 1988, but it did set the standard for political insults and it
has lived on in popular and political cultures since then. To this day,
the words that Lloyd Bentsen spoke to Dan Quayle that night in Omaha are
the words that define both men.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BROKAW: In1988 then, Quayle had the most to lose and it appeared that he
did lose the most the night that he debated the vice presidential candidate
for the Democrats, Sen. Lloyd Bentsen
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And the only thing we remember about a vice
presidential debate is probably that zinger that Lloyd Bentsen got off at
Dan Quayle, saying, you know, you`re no Jack Kennedy.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: One of the biggest knockouts in a VP debate ever was
Lloyd Bentsen over Dan Quayle.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I saw Senator Bentsen go from someone who wasn`t that
good to being a great debater on the night he met Dan Quayle.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You`re no Jack Kennedy moment Lloyd Bentsen would be
(END VIDEO CLIP)
We will keep talking about this for a long time. I think to look closer at
Lloyd Bentsen`s most celebrated moment and the art of the political insult,
we`re joined now at the table by syndicated columnist Bob Franken. So, Bob
let`s talk about - I`m setting this up, I`m selling this as I think it was
the most devastating, you know, put-down ever, at least sort of in modern
American politics, maybe I`ll put that qualifier on it. But I think so
because it seemed spontaneous, it seemed like Quayle walked into something
and Bentsen just hit him with it and that it was also that he did it to his
face. Because it`s easy to say something on the stump, you know, at your
campaign speech that gets picked up by the news, but to say it to his face
like that and the reaction from the crowd, I know there are Democrats in
the crowd cheering, but, boy, he really tapped into something like that.
FRANKEN: Well, you know, there is an old George Burns line that the key to
success in show business is sincerity. If you can fake that, you`ve got it
made. Similarly, in debates, the key to success is looking spontaneous and
you achieve that by being very well rehearsed. And I think there is little
doubt that he was well rehearsed as was Ronald Reagan with another
devastating put-down, which was there you go again when Jimmy Carter was
attacking him. Reagan was able to do it, and looked genial at the same
time. So, that is the most effective kind. I would say that I`d like to
expand on the competition to the world. And I was doing a little research
for this. And, by the way, I`ve stolen this idea for a column I`m going to
write. So, there is no plagiarism, but at anyway, Benjamin Disraeli may
have been the champ, he was 19th century England, of course, and he said
about Irish politician, he said, he`s committed every crime that does not
require courage. Now, that is an insult.
KORNACKI: That is - although, I`ll tell you, when I think of the Dan
Quayle one, it was - it`s a great line no matter what. But it also --
there was, if you can take us back to 1988, there was so much concern about
Dan Quayle`s basic preparation to be the president, his basic lack of
experience. What Bentsen was articulating there was something that I think
people across the country had been feeling for so long. And somebody put
it into words.
LEWIS: That was the success of it. When you get that kind of -- remember,
Dan Quayle, when he`s introduced to us, he looks look a deer in the
headlights. That`s what we first started seeing that simile, was this
image of Dan Quayle on the day he`s introduced as potentially the next vice
president. And he does not look ready. So when Lloyd Bentsen used that
line, and you saw the audience erupt, he was speaking for a whole lot of
people. So it is an insult that is sort of short enough to remember, it is
funny enough to repeat, most importantly it has resonance with the public.
KORNACKI: And that`s, you know, Eleanor, that`s the amazing thing to me
when you think of Lloyd Bentsen passed away, I think, six or seven years
ago, he was 85 years old, he served in the Senate, he served three terms in
the Senate, he was a secretary of the Treasury, he was - people forget too,
as Democrats go, that a lot of people on the Democratic base didn`t like
him that much, he was very conservative, he belonged to this all-white
country club, until, like, the `88 campaign. But that one line now
basically defines Lloyd -- you say the name Lloyd Bentsen - the first thing
I think his obituary, you say the name Lloyd Bentsen, it is what people
think of, and he`s sort of a hero to Democrats because of it.
CLIFT: Right. But it didn`t win the presidential race for the ticket.
There is that minor detail. And when you look back at the simplistic
thinking that prompted President George H.W. Bush, then Vice President
George H.W. Bush to choose Quayle, he was going for the baby boomer vote,
he was going for glamour. And they thought that the good looks and the
charm of Dan Quayle and he was a very charming and if he had stayed in the
Senate, we might have come to think of him as an accomplished politician.
It really -- his time in public office doesn`t leave him with a very good
first line in his eventual obituary.
KORNACKI: And yeah, he was 40 years old, he was very young when he was
added to the ticket. But Thomas, it`s the same thing about Lloyd Bentsen
with Dan Quayle. I mean again, like his introduction to the American
people a few months before that debate had gotten very rocky. But hat line
still, I think, defines people`s impressions of him to this day. He can
never escape the trap of what that line expressed.
DAVIS: Nothing of significance you can accomplish that overcomes that, or
that he did. That`s hard to overcome. My favorite, though, is another
Disraeli quote, I wish I knew - that as he said of Gladstone, he`s
(inaudible) rhetorician who was intoxicated with the exuberance of his own
FRANKEN: They had such a rivalry.
KORNACKI: That gets to so much more intellectual sounding, I think, but it
gets to the great political insult. I think in 1988, it shows us, though,
is what a powerful political weapon that is. I mean, yeah, it didn`t win
CLIFT: Dan Quayle, everything he did was viewed through the prism that he
- that he could not live down that quote. If he had responded, maybe
laughed it off, and said, maybe, you know, you got me there or something,
and moved on, we would think of it differently. But then when he corrected
a grade schooler on the spelling of potato, saying there needs to be an e
on the end of it, you know, these are moments that live on in politics.
KORNACKI: Two iconic .
CLIFT: I think Dan Quayle to his credit today does laugh these moments
FRANKEN: Well, did you know - I mean calling somebody inexperienced, so,
let`s be honest about it, stupid, doesn`t seem to make much difference in
election. I mean Ann Lewis famously said that George W. Bush was born with
a silver spoon .
KORNACKI: Ann Richards.
LEWIS: Ann Richards.
FRANKEN: Ann Richards. Yeah.
FRANKEN: But you wish you said it.
LEWIS: Yeah, exactly.
FRANKEN: But anyway, Ann Lewis -- Ann Richards said he was born with a
silver spoon in his mouth and people in Texas called him a shrub, and yet,
he won the presidency twice.
KORNACKI: Oh, he was able to win the governorship the first time in 1988.
I`ve got a feeling if they had had a separate election in 1988 for vice
president and president, we would have had the Bush/Bentsen, you know,
ticket in the White House. But here`s another - we have another example, I
just say - I`m trying to think of other examples of these insults that
really have political implications. 1984, this might have changed the
outcome of the Democratic presidential race. This is Walter Mondale and
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What`s new about coming on for entrepreneurs, you know,
when I hear -- when I hear -- when I hear your new ideas, I`m reminded of
that ad, where`s the beef?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yeah.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KORNACKI: So that was the Wendy`s add. Wendy`s had the big, you know,
"Where`s the beef?" campaign in 1984, but the context of that was Gary Hart
had won in New Hampshire primary, he`d come out of nowhere, Walter Mondale
is the former vice president. It looked like Hart was going to actually,
you know, pick off the nomination and then Mondale delivered that line. I
don`t know if that`s the line that did it, but the momentum of the race
kind of changed. The people remember that 30 years later.
LEWIS: And we do know that line is not, shall we say, spontaneous. Not
only was that line suggested to him by his campaign manager, but when it
was first suggested, Walter Mondale didn`t know what the ad was and the
(inaudible) had to go through, and walk it through - he was saying, you
know, you`re busy, you`re running for president. You don`t have time to
keep up with popular culture, if you will. But once he got it and knew it
would work, again, short, funny, repeatable.
And not that offensive.
FRANKEN: And not that offensive. I mean .
FRANKEN: I mean not that offensive. When here we are now, where, in fact,
they are being offensive. They`re being juvenile. You have a congressman
yelling at the president during the State of the Union, "Liar." You have
DAVIS: He raises $1 million in the next week.
FRANKEN: And he did. And you have all the back and forth now that`s going
on in the current debate and all that type of stuff. What made these
things so lasting and so funny, in my opinion, was the appearance that they
were civilized. They weren`t, of course, but there was that appearance.
KORNACKI: And we can return to (inaudible) Eleanor made the point when
Ronald Reagan delivered that, I won`t exploit my opponent`s youth and
inexperience line to Walter Mondale. Mondale laughed, there was nothing to
do in that situation but laugh. Anyway, what should we know for today, our
answers coming up after this.
KORNACKI: OK. We`ve reached the end of the hour. So, time to ask our
guests what they think we should know today. Ann, we`ll start with you.
LEWIS: Well, we`ve talked a lot about the differences between now and the
last time the government shut down. One of those differences is this high-
tech right-wing echo chamber where people keep telling each other they`re
winning. Last night in Virginia, the conservative Republican candidate for
governor, speaking at a conservative event, actually sneaked out early so
he could avoid being photographed with Ted Cruz. It doesn`t sound like
winning to me.
KORNACKI: Speaking of Virginia, Tom Davis.
DAVIS: After he said, we need more Ted Cruzes in the Senate, in a
different time. I think a year from now, this will be basically on the
back burner. I think we`ll have another set of issues, assuming we don`t
go over the debt ceiling. The debt ceiling is something that could be a
travesty for the party and the country.
KORNACKI: Absolutely. Bob?
FRANKEN: Well, next year, of course, none of the issues is going to be
resolved, because it`s an election year. What we should know, people are
saying that nobody is talking in the current crisis, yes, they are. There
is communication going on. So when they finally decide it`s time to save
face, they`ll have something to save face with.
KORNACKI: OK, and Eleanor?
CLIFT: Al Gore was in Washington a weekend ago, he spoke at Brookings and
he attended a reunion of his 1988 presidential campaign. The first time he
ran, he`d just turned 40 years old. He`s lost a lot of weight, he is in
fighting trim, says he`s changed his diet. And there`s buzz among
Democrats. If Hillary doesn`t run, Al Gore, maybe?
KORNACKI: The Al Gore rumors are back. There it is. Eleanor Clift has
just dropped a bombshell. Al Gore, `16. There we go. It`s not that
CLIFT: No, I laughed at first, but I`m not laughing anymore.
KORNACKI: He`s definitely qualified. Anyway, I want to thank Ann Lewis,
former White House communications director for President Bill Clinton,
former Congressman Tom Davis, Republican of Virginia, syndicate columnist
Bob Franken and Eleanor Clift, the contributing editor at "The Daily
Beast." Thanks for getting up. And thank you at home for getting up as
well. We`ll be back here next Saturday morning at 8:00 A.M., Sunday as
well, when our guests will include former "New York Times" columnist, Bob
Herbert. Stick around now for a special edition of Melissa Harris-Perry,
it`s the second annual student town hall for education nation from the New
York Public Library. We`d hope to see you next week here on "UP." Have a
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