Guest: Michael Waldman, Robert Reich
JOE SCARBOROUGH, HOST: Tonight, as the president and his White House staff put the finishing touches on an inaugural address the administration hopes will unite a divided country, Americans from Scarborough, Maine, to San Diego, California, are screaming into the nation‘s capital to take part in the 55th inauguration of a chief executive in the history of these United States.
The ghosts of Roosevelt and Reagan, Kennedy and Lincoln will be summoned in a speech that White House insiders say will be short on specifics, but strong on what another Bush once called the vision thing.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
FRANKLIN DELANO ROOSEVELT, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I,
Franklin Delano Roosevelt, do solemnly swear.
JOHN F. KENNEDY, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: That I will faithfully execute the office of president of the United States.
RONALD REAGAN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: And will to the best of my ability.
WILLIAM J. CLINTON, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States.
ROOSEVELT: Let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself.
KENNEDY: Let us go forth to lead the land we love, asking his blessing and his help, but knowing that, here on Earth, God‘s work must truly be our own.
REAGAN: My fellow citizens, our nation is poised for greatness. We must do what we know is right and do it with all our might. Let history say of us, these were golden years, when the American revolution was reborn, when freedom gained new life and America reached for her best.
KENNEDY: So help me God.
REAGAN: So help me God.
GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: So help me God.
SCARBOROUGH: Remarkable moments.
Good evening from the nation‘s capital, where the celebration is actually well under way. Just a few minutes ago, the president arrived at Black Tie and Boots Ball here in Washington. And he spoke to supporters, and this is what he said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BUSH: I am looking forward to tomorrow.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
BUSH: And if you get to bed early enough, you will be looking forward to it, too.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We love you!
BUSH: I am looking forward to talking to the country and really speaking to the world. And here‘s what I am going to say. I say, we love freedom in America. And everybody deserves to be free.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SCARBOROUGH: I will tell you what, not exactly a Kennedy type figure, where we hear Kennedy was up almost the entire night, nervous about delivering what really went down as one of the great speeches in presidential history the next day in his inauguration.
But let‘s go live right now to that scene. MSNBC‘s own Ron Reagan is standing by live for us at the ball where the president just spoke.
Ron, tell us, how is it going there? Is it chaos?
RON REAGAN, NBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, I don‘t know if it‘s chaotic. People are starting to file out a little bit now.
It was a very enthusiastic welcome, as you might imagine, to the president. He arrived here with Laura and his daughters and the Cheneys as well. He told the crowd that the best decision he ever made was asking Laura Bush to marry him. I can‘t say I disagree with that. He also previewed the speech tomorrow, which you showed there. The theme obviously is going to be freedom. He said that everybody deserves freedom, no disagreeing with that either.
No word as to whether that will involve the ousting of the Saudi royal family, of course, but freedom will be the theme. Now, there are a lot of people here still. There was a total, I think, of 12,000 people on hand, not all of whom could get into the ballroom. Only 4,000 could get in here. I know that there are 12,000 people here because they ordered 48,000 beers, mostly Lone Stars and Shiner Bocks. They figured four beers per person, so that comes out to 12,000 folks.
They all seemed to have a good time. The president looked loose, looked relaxed, is going to go home and get a good night‘s sleep and give a thematic speech tomorrow.
SCARBOROUGH: All right, thanks so much, Ron Reagan. We greatly appreciate it.
And here to talk about the speech, a distinguished panel. We have got Larry Kudlow of CNBC‘s “Kudlow & Kramer.” And finally, finally, he dressed for the part.
SCARBOROUGH: We have got Mike Barnicle, who obviously did not get the black tie ball invitation from “The Boston Herald.” We‘ve got Howard Fineman of “Newsweek,” and Monica Crowley, MSNBC political analyst and radio talk show host.
Howard, let‘s talk about tomorrow. The president tipped his hand. I know we both talked to insiders at the White House that tell us that it is going to be a speech about freedom, but talk about what the president wants to accomplish tomorrow, what he has to accomplish tomorrow.
HOWARD FINEMAN, NBC CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, I think what he has to accomplish is to create buzz and to create a sea of confidence that begins with his own people in front of him out there on this mall and radiates out through the Republican Party, to the Democrats, to all the country and indeed all the world., confidence about where we go from here, the first inauguration after 9/11.
SCARBOROUGH: Monica, I ask you the same question, obviously a student of presidential history. What does he have to accomplish tomorrow in a country that may not be 50-50, but if it‘s not 50-50, it‘s 51-49?
MONICA CROWLEY, NBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, if you remember, one of the first statements he made after winning that election back in November was, I have earned a lot of political capital, and I am prepared to spend it.
That‘s the kind of confidence that Howard just referred to that I think you are going to see come out tomorrow in spades. This is a guy who is going to touch on the big themes. We have heard about some of the big themes that he is going to touch on today, the idea of freedom and not just expanding freedom abroad, but freedom here at home, particularly economic freedom, Social Security reform, tax reform, all of the things that he wants to expand here at home that he actually touched on in his first inaugural address four years ago that sort of got put off to the sidelines by the war on terror. Now he is ready to resurrect those themes.
SCARBOROUGH: But, you know, Larry Kudlow, this president is talking about political capital. I have got bad news for him. I have been talking to Republicans on Capitol Hill for the past two weeks. You talk about Social Security. He does not even have political capital with his own party. Last night, I predicted Social Security would be dead on arrival. This morning, I wake up, read “The Washington Post,” and what does the chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee say? He says the president‘s Social Security plan is—quote—“a dead horse. Let‘s stop beating it.”
The guy hasn‘t even delivered the first line of his speech and his own party members are saying he is a lame duck.
LAWRENCE KUDLOW, CO-HOST, “KUDLOW & CRAMER”: I don‘t buy that for a second. That may be sort of conventional wisdom here.
SCARBOROUGH: You are just in the party spirit.
KUDLOW: I am. I am a real party animal. It took me 50 minutes to go one mile in Washington, D.C. It‘s darndest thing I have ever seen.
But I want to say this. I agree with what a lot of Monica has just said. And I think message is really important. And, secondly, I think he has to show not just confidence, although Howard is right. He has to show he is unyielding, unwavering in his belief that his vision of economic freedom at home and freedom and democratization abroad in the Middle East, he isn‘t going to budge one inch.
And as regards Bill Thomas, who I think is a wonderful guy, who rescued Bush‘s tax cut plan in early 2003, Thomas didn‘t rule it out. Some things were taken out of context in that interview. Bill Thomas is trying to figure out ways, as everyone in this town is, to merge the payroll tax, which is a punitive anti-jobs tax, with possible long-run budget cuts in order to cover the transition costs and get us to personal savings accounts.
SCARBOROUGH: Well, you know what, though.
KUDLOW: This is the biggest reform. Let me tell you something.
For years, you could say 40 years, the liberal entitlement welfare state has been financed by Social Security tax surpluses. And what President Bush is trying to do is redirect them, so government won‘t get their paws on it. Individuals will use it to save and invest and grow the economy.
KUDLOW: Don‘t expect him to waver.
SCARBOROUGH: He may not waver, but I will tell you what, the Republicans on the Hill aren‘t going to waver either. And I want to talk about what Bill Thomas said. You said he was misquoted.
Mike Barnicle, listen to these words and tell me whether you think he was misquoted.
“Every breath that is spent on discussing that plan is attempt to lay a political ground war for the next election. Save those breaths. Talk about what we need to do now that the president‘s plan is on the table. I am looking forward to those discussions, not a continual beating of what will soon be a dead horse of their proposal,” speaking of the president‘s proposal.
Sounds dead on arrival to me. Doesn‘t it to you, Mike Barnicle?
MIKE BARNICLE, NBC ANALYST: Well, Joe, you know, Bill Thomas is a member of the House of Representatives. He‘s a congressman. He runs for office every two years.
Visually, the observations of this president since Election Day I think have been fairly interesting. Most Americans know this president visually through this medium, television. And if you look at him, I think it‘s a fairly safe assumption to observe that this is a much more confident guy since Election Day, much more confident.
In a sense, he is a free man politically. He is no longer addicted to the politics of reelection, although he does have politics obviously every day because of his occupation. Tomorrow, I would bet that he will drop a lot of the F-bombs, a lot of the F-words, freedom, faith, future, because he is a free man and because he has charted his own course, his own course in conjunction with the country.
No presidency, I think you can make the argument, has been so impacted by a single event during the course of a first term other than Pearl Harbor than this presidency was by September 11. It changed the country. It changed the president. And I think his reelection changed him too.
SCARBOROUGH: Howard Fineman, is the president in trouble?
SCARBOROUGH: On Social Security?
FINEMAN: Not necessarily.
I mean, we like a good drama here in Washington, and we are going to have one. The interesting thing to me is, his immediate audience, aside from the whole world when he is speaking out there tomorrow, are Republican members of Congress, especially the House, not just Bill Thomas. I have been talking to a lot of them. Some of them have a distant folk memory of early 1980s, when Larry Kudlow was helping them understand the nature of the world.
And that was a great theory, and it made a lot of sense. But the way those guys see it, a lot of them lost when they were up for reelection after the Reagan...
SCARBOROUGH: Big Reagan victory in 1980.
FINEMAN: And then he talked about entitlement reform.
FINEMAN: And they remember that. They remember that.
SCARBOROUGH: We will talk about that in a minute.
We‘ll be right back. Larry Kudlow is pointing his penalty.
Despite all the talk of the troubles facing the president, this president always seems to beat the odds. Larry Kudlow is going to tell you that when we come back.
Going to have a debate on it when SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY‘s returns lives from the Capitol next.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BUSH: Americans are generous and strong and decent, not because we believe in ourselves, but because we hold beliefs beyond ourselves. When this spirit of citizenship is missing, no government program can replace it. When this spirit is present, no wrong can stand against it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SCARBOROUGH: What does President Bush have to do tomorrow to win over the other 50 percent of the voters? Maybe walk on water. But my panel tackles that question when this special edition of SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY returns.
SCARBOROUGH: We are back with our panel, Larry Kudlow of CNBC‘s “Kudlow & Cramer,” Mike Barnicle of “The Boston Herald,” Howard Fineman of “Newsweek,” and MSNBC‘s Monica Crowley.
You know, Howard Fineman, you have been covering this president quite some time. Late-night comics continue to have fun at his expense. I want to play you a clip from David Letterman last night. Do we have Letterman? Well, I will tell you what, we will play it in a second, trust me. Letterman made fun of him last night. “Saturday Night Live” made fun of him this past week. They do it every week.
And yet this guy, I think Karl Rove has to be celebrating, because this guy, after all, got more votes than anybody else. Everybody always underestimates him.
FINEMAN: All the way to the bank, baby. I mean, I have been covering him since he organized his gubernatorial campaign in Texas in ‘93. People underestimated him in that first race against Ann Richards. They underestimated him all the way along. They thought he was just a guy with a lot of money a and name, all hat, no cattle and all that.
Ran a superb campaign in 2000, ran a superb campaign in 2004, responded to 9/11 in a way that united the country. Did he make some mistakes? Sure. But he had enough support for his war leadership that, even though he won a fairly narrow victory for an incumbent, he became the first president since Franklin Roosevelt to increase his party‘s majorities in the House and Senate.
See, he put himself in the same orbit with Roosevelt, while everybody is making fun of him all the way along. And it‘s going to happen again potentially on the Social Security battle, which we will follow all year, but which, you know, I think still has a chance.
SCARBOROUGH: And, Monica, now we have got David Letterman‘s clip ready.
CROWLEY: All right. Good.
SCARBOROUGH: Now take a watch from “Letterman” from last night.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, “THE LATE SHOW WITH DAVID LETTERMAN”)
DAVID LETTERMAN, HOST: It‘s time now for a segment called George W.
Bush, economic expert. Watch this.
BUSH: A personal savings account which can‘t be used to bet on the lottery or on a dice game or track. In other words, there will be guidelines. There will be certain—you won‘t be allowed just to take that money and dump it somewhere.
LETTERMAN: A regular Alan Greenspan, isn‘t he?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SCARBOROUGH: Monica, is that an act?
CROWLEY: you know what?
SCARBOROUGH: That‘s—amazing thing is, but tomorrow he will speak to the world and he will move people.
CROWLEY: You know what? It‘s amazing. We are all sitting on the set. We‘re all chuckling. And you know what? They can laugh all day long, but this is a very savvy politician.
SCARBOROUGH: Well, sure he is.
CROWLEY: This has been a very savvy president. And, as Howard pointed out, this is a guy who beat an incumbent very popular governor in Texas in Ann Richards. He beat an incumbent sitting vice president in Al Gore, and he won the second time around just back in November.
So, every single time, he is underestimated. And you know what? Frankly, Joe, I think he enjoys being underestimated the way Reagan was underestimated.
SCARBOROUGH: Well, you know, I...
CROWLEY: Because he turns around and he gets his policies right through.
SCARBOROUGH: And I will tell you this, too, Larry Kudlow. And you‘re dressed like a resident of SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY.
SCARBOROUGH: I can tell you people in flyover space absolutely love watching “Saturday Night Live.” They can laugh at their president.
SCARBOROUGH: They can laugh at their president on “David Letterman,” because they know he always gets the last laugh. Why is that?
KUDLOW: Listen, George Bush won 85 percent of the counties in this country. And he is a very powerful—indeed, I believe, today, he is the most powerful and dominant politician on the face of the Earth because of the impact of his policies domestically and overseas.
Having said that, I want to go back to this business about Bill Thomas. Thomas is...
SCARBOROUGH: No, no, no, I am not going to let you.
Mike Barnicle, I am cutting him off right now, all right?
SCARBOROUGH: No more water for you. Talk about beating a dead horse.
SCARBOROUGH: Mike Barnicle, let‘s stay on topic and talk about the president being underestimated.
BARNICLE: Joe, first of all, I have to tell you and Howard and Monica, I love Larry Kudlow. I have known him for years.
But, Larry, with the tuxedo, you‘re taking the job kind of seriously, aren‘t you?
BARNICLE: You know, with regard to President...
KUDLOW: It took me an hour to get here.
BARNICLE: It took me several years to get here.
BARNICLE: With regard to President Bush being underestimated, Joe, you have raised the question with Howard and Monica and Larry at least twice this evening that I have heard, what does he have to do tomorrow? He doesn‘t have to do anything tomorrow. He is president of the United States.
What he has to do in the larger sense—and I agree with everyone. He has always been underestimated. What he has to do in a larger sense has less to do with Social Security than it has to do with our national security. He has got to figure out a way to get us out of this mess in Iraq. I think that‘s priority No. 1 for this guy. And Social Security is way down the track. He will probably get something done on it, because he is the kind of a guy who can get something done on it.
No matter what you think of the war—I think the war is a mess—no matter how polarized people feel the country might be—I don‘t think it‘s as polarized as the pollsters tell us—people kind of like this guy. He is a likable guy, and he has got that in the bank. And I think it helps him a long way with both the public, as well as the Congress.
KUDLOW: Yes, he is a likable man, but he has a strong message. Can we just think content for one second, instead of politics and horse races?
The country has resonated with tax cuts and tax reform. The country is resonating. Young people want to have a good deal at retirement, not a raw deal. And they smell a fish when they see Democrats defending Social Security as it is today. Bill Thomas just wants to combine tax reform, Social Security.
SCARBOROUGH: OK, I am going to you, Howard Fineman. He‘s staying on message.
KUDLOW: Dennis Hastert—come on. Dennis Hastert...
SCARBOROUGH: You know what? It took you an hour to get here, and you wrote the damn speech for an hour, and I am not going to let you deliver an hour speech.
KUDLOW: Dennis Hastert is in favor of these tax and Social Security reforms, and he is going to dominate the House position.
SCARBOROUGH: All right. We are going to invite Kudlow back, but in the minute that we have left remaining, Howard Fineman.
SCARBOROUGH: Talk about Iraq. Does the president have to give us a road map out of Iraq tomorrow, over the next few weeks, or is that why people elected him, because they say, we trust this guy?
FINEMAN: Well, he needs to remind us of the larger and deeper reasons why we are there and why it‘s worth being there, despite the mistakes and despite the tragic deaths of our soldiers, that they are fighting for a greater cause that is one that is going to make us safer and make the future of the world a better one.
So, he needs to give us confidence that, despite the problems, it‘s worth continuing, because whatever happens on January 30 in the elections over there, it ain‘t over. And it‘s going to be a long slog, and he has got to explain to people why it‘s worth it. And that is why he is on the 21st draft of that speech and why he is going to bed early to get up...
FINEMAN: ... tomorrow.
SCARBOROUGH: All right, thanks so much, everybody.
Thank you, Monica. Thank you, Howard.
SCARBOROUGH: Larry, I love you. I really love you.
SCARBOROUGH: You‘re on message. If I ever get in politics again....
KUDLOW: Content. Content. Content.
SCARBOROUGH: ... you are going to be my communications guy.
SCARBOROUGH: And, Mike Barnicle, he is telling you content. It‘s content.
SCARBOROUGH: Thanks so much for being with us, Mike. You know how much we love you and how much we appreciate you. God bless you, Mike Barnicle.
BARNICLE: Oh, Joe, thanks.
SCARBOROUGH: And God bless the Boston Red Sox.
SCARBOROUGH: Now, coming up next, the president says he has a mandate to lead, but is his capital political—political capital already spent? We are going to be debating that without Larry Kudlow when this inauguration eve SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY special returns live from the National Mall in Washington, D.C.
SCARBOROUGH: We are live from the National Mall in Washington, D.C., on the eve of President Bush‘s second inauguration.
This special SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY is going to continue in 60 seconds, but, first, let‘s get you up to date on the latest news.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BUSH: I, George Walker Bush, do solemnly swear.
The enemies of liberty and our country should make no mistake.
America remains engaged in the world by history and by choice.
CHIEF JUSTICE WILLIAM REHNQUIST, U.S. SUPREME COURT: So help me God.
BUSH: So help me God.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SCARBOROUGH: Welcome back to our special inaugural edition of
We are on the National Mall, just steps from where the president will be sworn in for his second term tomorrow. President Bush received 60 million votes in the 2004 election. And this is what he said about it two days later.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BUSH: I earned capital in the campaign, political capital, and now I intend to spend it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SCARBOROUGH: But does he have a mandate for his second term?
With me now, former presidential candidate Pat Buchanan and former Clinton labor secretary Robert Reich, the author of “Reason.”
Robert Reich, I begin with you.
Does George W. Bush, on the eve of this inauguration, have a mandate to govern over the next four years?
ROBERT REICH, FORMER LABOR SECRETARY: Well, Joe, certainly he has a mandate to govern. A president has a mandate to govern.
The question is, how much political capital does he really have to do things that the public may not be too agreeable with, such as radically redesigning Social Security? And, you know, I don‘t think there‘s much of a mandate; 48 percent of the public did not vote for George Bush. And a lot of them were not motivated because they loved John Kerry. They were motivated because they didn‘t like the policies of the Bush administration the first time around.
Social Security privatization almost didn‘t figure at all in the campaign, the same with radical restructuring of the tax code or anything else that George Bush has now been talking about. So I don‘t think—I think there‘s a danger of overreaching here in the administration.
SCARBOROUGH: But, Robert Reich, you could also say, in 1992, when Bill Clinton stepped in, stepped up to the podium and said, now is our time, that he didn‘t get 57 percent of the vote in 1992, and yet he moved very aggressively on a tax package, a budget package, very controversial. And, obviously, as you know, he moved to nationalize health care insurance.
REICH: But he didn‘t get there, Joe.
SCARBOROUGH: And so you are saying that George W. Bush risks the same backlash as Bill Clinton got in 1994?
REICH: Well, not only the same backlash, but George Bush is playing with the third rail of American politics. And that‘s Social Security.
And I bet you, and we can make a public bet if you want, that a lot of Republicans who vote, if they do vote for privatizing Social Security, are going to be booted out in 2006 in the midterms. That‘s a—you know, wait and see.
SCARBOROUGH: Well, you know, Pat Buchanan, last night, I actually said on this show that I was getting a lot of phone calls from Republicans on the Hill that were talking about—and we talked about this before—talking about not supporting the president‘s Social Security package.
This morning, in “The Washington Post,” Bill Thomas said the same thing. So here you have bickering from Republicans before the president even delivers his inaugural address tomorrow. So I ask you the same question. Does the president really have any type of mandate to govern moving forward to make big changes to Social Security, to continue the war in Iraq, to go after some of these social issues that Americans say are very important to them?
PAT BUCHANAN, NBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Look, Joe, the election was a triumph of Christian values over Hollywood values.
The American people are really fed up with Hollywood turning our popular culture into love canal. They said, we don‘t want homosexual marriage; 85 percent of the voters in Mississippi said that, which means huge numbers of African-Americans came out and said, none of this nonsense. The president has got a mandate in the war on terror, clearly, supported 4-1 on that issue.
On Iraq, he has got a mandate to wrap it up. They say, we want Mr. Bush to deal with it, not John Kerry, but they are not happy with Iraq. On Social Security, which the president has chosen as the No. 1 issue, I think he could have a real problem here, Joe. That is an easy issue to demagogue. I think it‘s a courageous thing the president is doing, but you put all your chips in that basket and you could drop that basket.
SCARBOROUGH: Pat Buchanan, I want to talk about overreaching with you first, and then we will go back to Robert Reich about this.
You know, in 1980 -- and people forget, forget very quickly in Washington, D.C., these lessons; 1980, Ronald Reagan and the Republican Party swept into power, two years later, a colossal defeat in the midterm elections; 1984, Ronald Reagan wins 49 states. Two years later, Republicans lose the Senate. What is the biggest risk for George W. Bush? What will cause the great unraveling of this Republican majority moving forward over the next two years?
BUCHANAN: A couple of things.
I was with Ronald Reagan right after that 49-state victory. He had a tremendous two years. He didn‘t lose a single battle. We got contra aid, the MX missile, two summits with Gorbachev. He rolled Gorbachev in the second summit at Reykjavik, walked out of it.
What happened, Joe, was a couple of things. One is the second-term mid-year elections, which every president, even FDR, was wiped out. Every president loses those elections. Secondly, Mr. Reich is right. Social Security, the Senate tried to reform it a little bit. Tip O‘Neill in the House wouldn‘t let them do it. It was a major issue. The economy was in the doldrums, and we lost 10 Senate seats.
That‘s what the president faces. If I were the president—as I say, he is courageous in going after Social Security—I would make the tax cuts permanent, do tort reform, do the things you can do, re-change that Supreme Court, get our guys out of Iraq, focus on the things you can do. He is walking up this Social Security hill, I will tell you, and that is really—due respect, that‘s like Cemetery Ridge.
SCARBOROUGH: That is a steep hill. And I will tell you what. It is a hill that a lot of his Republican allies on Capitol Hill are not going to follow him up on.
Now, Robert Reich, let‘s talk about history. Let‘s talk recent history, 12 years ago. Again, Bill Clinton, inaugurated, says now is our time. There were a lot of people that believed this was the beginning of a new Democratic majority. Two years later, in effect, the torch is passed to Newt Gingrich. Again, Bill Clinton got in trouble because of overreaching. Newt Gingrich got in trouble because of overreaching in ‘94. That‘s why Bill Clinton was reelected in 1996.
And I was part of that overreaching, I must say, a little caveat there. If you have to give advice to the president tonight—I know it‘s hard to do, but if he called you up and he said, Mr. Secretary, how do I stop from repeating the mistakes of Bill Clinton in 1992 and Ronald Reagan in 1980, what do you tell him?
REICH: Well, Joe, he has not called. I have been sitting by the phone and he has not called for weeks or months.
SCARBOROUGH: It‘s shocking.
REICH: But let me just say that, if he did call, I would say, go incrementally. Don‘t overreach. Don‘t think just because you have a Republican Congress that you can get anything you want done. Don‘t talk so broadly about having a mandate.
SCARBOROUGH: This guy doesn‘t think that way, though, does he?
REICH: ... really can be done. Maybe you want to reform Social Security a little bit. Actually, by the way, I don‘t think Social Security is a problem at all.
Medicare is a big problem. If I were him, I would shift my focus on to Medicare. I would not go after major tax reform. I don‘t think the public wants it. I think it‘s too complicated. And, by the way, the tax code is still right now, in terms of income taxes every other kind of tax, tilted much, much more in favor of the rich than it‘s ever been. I think that is just a loser in terms of the middle class.
SCARBOROUGH: Joe, this is the counsel of timidity. It is the counsel of, don‘t do it. Don‘t go out. Don‘t be bold. Don‘t lead.
Look, Ronald Reagan was bold in that second term. He went to that first summit in Geneva even though he was skeptical. He was called up two weeks before, and—by Gorbachev, said, meet me in Reykjavik. I was concerned about him going there. He went. He was bold. That is why he won the Cold War. That‘s why he cut taxes from 70 percent to 28 percent. He was a great leader.
REICH: There‘s such a thing as smart boldness and stupid boldness.
You yourself said that Social Security was much too high a road to climb.
BUCHANAN: I would not have chosen that one.
REICH: I think that would be crazy for him to do.
BUCHANAN: I agree. But, look...
REICH: Social Security is not a problem.
BUCHANAN: But remaking the U.S. Supreme Court, which Nixon failed to do, Reagan failed to do, and Bush I failed to do and Ford failed to do, that is a tremendous achievement. I do believe he has got to get us out of Iraq and try to leave something standing there, but justify going in.
BUCHANAN: Pat, let‘s talk about timidity.
SCARBOROUGH: Hold on a second, Robert, if I will—Robert, if I can follow up with Pat, now, because you say that Robert is counseling timidity.
SCARBOROUGH: But let‘s compare—let‘s compare Ronald Reagan‘s last four years with Bill Clinton‘s last four years. Obviously, Bill Clinton had a scandal. Bill Clinton didn‘t have a lot of things that he accomplished domestically. Ronald Reagan swung for the fences, did well on foreign policy, but, at the same time, he got slaughtered in the midterms. And then, the last two years, he was tied up with Iran-Contra.
And didn‘t he have trouble passing a lot of measures in his final two years domestically?
BUCHANAN: No, Joe—Joe, take the four years. What he got through, he got the MX missile. He got contra aid. He got the second great tax reform, which took the rates from 50 percent to 28 percent. He got two summits. Then he did get the Iran-Contra thing, which tore him apart for six months. But then he got the first major arms reduction agreement in all of history.
SCARBOROUGH: All right.
BUCHANAN: He was walking through Moscow, Joe, arm in arm with Gorbachev.
SCARBOROUGH: All right, Robert Reich, I will give you the last word.
REICH: Well, look, in terms of all of the major issues domestically -
· now, foreign policy is something different. The public defers to the president. The public doesn‘t really understand a lot of foreign policy.
But in terms of domestic policy, the president has got to be very, very careful if he wants to hold on to his political capital. And if Democrats are smart, on Social Security, they are going to say, there is no problem. Don‘t fix something that ain‘t broken.
SCARBOROUGH: All right, you know what, Robert Reich? We don‘t always agree with each other, but I will tell you this. Just by studying Washington for as long as I have and being on the Hill over the past 10 years, I have found presidents in their second term are able to succeed on foreign policy issues. Again, the American people defer to them.
But you talk about domestic issues, it is very, very difficult to push that rock up the hill. And right now, the president is trying to push up a boulder with his Social Security reform. We will see if he can break the historical trends.
Hey, Pat Buchanan, Robert Reich, as always, thanks a lot for being with us tonight.
Now, coming up next, what is going on inside of the White House the night before the inaugural speech? We are going to be asking a former presidential speechwriter how the angels in the whirlwind pull together an address that defines an administration. You‘re not going to want to miss that inside story coming up next.
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JOHN F. KENNEDY, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Let every nation know, whether it wishes us well or ill, that we shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe, to assure the survival and the success of liberty.
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(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
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RONALD REAGAN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We are a nation that has a government, not the other way around. And this makes us special among the nations of the Earth. Our government has no power except that granted it by the people. It is time to check and reverse the growth of government, which shows signs of having grown beyond the consent of the governed.
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SCARBOROUGH: You know, there are many lessons to be learned from the great communicator.
So, how important is tomorrow‘s inaugural address and how are they pulling it all together tonight at the White House? Former chief speechwriter to President Clinton Michael Waldman is here. He‘s also the author of “My Fellow Americans,” an anthology of presidential addresses from Washington to Bush.
Thank you so much for being with us, Michael.
And, obviously, you wrote for somebody that, like Ronald Reagan, knew how to deliver a speech. What I want you to do for us tonight is take us behind the scenes in the White House. What are they doing to make final preparations to deliver what, for the history books, at least, will be one of the president‘s most important speeches?
MICHAEL WALDMAN, FORMER CLINTON SPEECHWRITER: Well, it‘s true with an inaugural address that any president, anybody giving one of these speeches knows it‘s one of the only speeches that they know people are going to look back at years into the future.
We used to talk about not wanting to write as though you‘re thinking the words are going to get carved on the wall of the presidential library. But the fact is, that is what happens. Now, each president is different in how they prepare. I know some of the speechwriters in this White House. And this president is—almost has a fetish about getting the speeches done early and not having changes at the last minute.
I am guessing he has probably spent a little bit of time today rehearsing, because, of course, a speech is not just the words on the paper, but how it comes out of the speaker‘s mouth and how much the speaker can inhabit it.
Now, in terms of Bill Clinton, he was very personally involved in the writing of these speeches, including the inaugural address. And, as we all know, he liked to work and tinker and have his ideas and rewrite up until the last minute. So, I worked with Clinton on both his inaugural addresses. And, for the first one, the night before, we were sitting in Blair House working and rewriting. And he had just come from a speech where he talked about Martin Luther King, and said, I want to have this new ending to the speech.
And we were in the library in Blair House at about 1:00 or 2:00 in the morning, and the military personnel were there who had worked for President Bush. And they were basically looking in a panic at those of us who were Clinton staff, saying, is it going to be like this? And we said, get used to it. It will be.
SCARBOROUGH: And, of course, we always heard, with Bill Clinton, that when he gave speeches, there would always be a group of people around him, and they would be throwing in a lot of different information. He would take it in. And, again, like you said, he would just—he would mix it all up in a pot.
And sometimes it was a very, very chaotic scene. But that is not happening tonight at the White House, is it?
WALDMAN: I would be...
SCARBOROUGH: I mean, this is an extraordinarily disciplined White House when it comes to matters such as this.
WALDMAN: I think that‘s right.
And I think that President Bush, one of the things that he does which I think has helped him is that he has a respect for the formal rhetoric of an occasion like this. He is not embarrassed to stand up there and talk in big terms and big themes about the country and its ideals. And that is what—we want a president to do that.
SCARBOROUGH: Was Bill Clinton a little self-conscious about doing that?
WALDMAN: He did it, but not in an old-fashioned rhetorical way.
I think that, sometimes—when the time came—I think his first inaugural address, for example, was very good and stands the test of time. And he could deliver eulogies with the best of them. But I think that he was much more concerned about kind of persuading people, winning people over, often with a very concrete policy goal in mind.
And sometimes with President Bush, I think that what he conveys more than anything else is not so much persuading people about his policies, but conveying to people how much he believes in them. It‘s his personal conviction that comes through. And that has its strength as well.
SCARBOROUGH: Well, what‘s the—if you will, you obviously have studied presidential speeches. You have written a book about it. What is the key to a great inaugural speech?
WALDMAN: There haven‘t been that many.
SCARBOROUGH: There really haven‘t.
WALDMAN: These speeches—as you know, these speeches tend to—over the sweep of history, they tend to lean toward the bromides. It‘s almost—it‘s a time when cliches are not only acceptable, but welcome.
The greatest speeches are at a time of crisis, whether it‘s Jefferson coming in, in the middle of a very contested election or Roosevelt in the Depression. And they summon action. They are not just pretty rhetoric. There really is a policy core behind them.
But the other thing they do, which I do think we will likely hear tomorrow and we would have heard if John Kerry had been giving the inaugural address, is drawing the string from America‘s earliest days, from the Declaration of Independence forward, finding a way to show how, whatever the current policy is, really is part of that great sweep of American history.
WALDMAN: That is what they will try to do, anyway.
SCARBOROUGH: Yes. And, you know, again, from at least comparing Bill Clinton‘s ‘92 speech to his ‘96 speech, I think he proved, looking at both of those speeches, the more general you are, the better the speech is remembered. The more specific and the more you tinker with facts and figures and numbers, the less pervasive it is in the long run.
So—well, Michael, thanks so much for being with us tonight and giving us your insight. We greatly appreciate it.
And I will be back in just a minute and take you behind the scenes of tomorrow‘s inaugural. You know, I have been up there on the stage for a few inaugurations. And I am going to give you my thoughts and insights on why it‘s such a great day for all Americans, whether you are swearing in a Republican or a Democrat.
Stick around. That‘s next.
SCARBOROUGH: We are at the National Mall on the eve of President Bush‘s second inauguration.
Now, for more on the importance of the presidential inauguration in American history, log on to our Web site, Joe.MSNBC.com.
We‘ll be right back.
SCARBOROUGH: As you know, I have been up on the stage of inaugurations, once for a Democratic president, once for a Republican president, standing just yards away from where they were sworn in.
But, you know, the inaugural memory that affects me the most when I think about these celebrations goes back to 1993, when Bill Clinton was sworn in. Now, as you know, I was never a big fan of Bill Clinton. But, on that day, as a conservative Republican, watching him in this unique American celebration, I said, you know what? I am going to give this guy a chance. He deserves a chance, because I‘m not a Republican first. I‘m an American first.
I expect a lot of people tomorrow to feel the same way about a president they didn‘t vote for and a president that they don‘t personally like.
We‘ll see you tomorrow night here on SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY, when we have a big inauguration wrap-up. Have a great night.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REAGAN: We are creating a nation once again vibrant, robust and alive. But there are many mountains yet to climb. We will not rest until every American enjoys the fullness of freedom, dignity and opportunity as our birthright. It is our birthright as citizens of this great republic.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
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