Today, George Stephanopoulos, who describes the sequester as a "new cliff" (it's not), will run down all of this week's political crap, with -- I don't know? They don't do that thing where they run it all down for us at the beginning, introduce the "powerhouse roundtable" and show people storming, with purpose, all over the Newseum, as if to say, "The American people need me cough up this thought-tumor that's wedged by my larynx!" Instead, I guess I have to be surprised. I don't like surprises, or change, or being awake!
Stephanopoulos at least, correctly describes our current crisis as a "doomsday plan" that both the White House and Congress agreed to mutually. Perhaps we'll not suffer my poor head to continue last week's "but he started it!" debate? I doubt it. That's all anyone's got right now, to talk about.
Can Congress not just pass a bill that says "do over" or "backsies?"
Well, there are apparently going to be multiple roundtable blather-cons today, beginning with the opening act: Representative Mike Rogers (R-Mich.), Representative Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.) (also possessor of Congress' fiercest mustache), George Will, and Christiane Amanpour.
Rogers says that the threats that the looming cuts pose are real and scary, and naturally, he only thinks the cuts on the military side of the sequester are dire, when in fact it's the domestic discretionary cuts that are more severe. He also says that the "best way" to avert the problem is to "allow flexibility," with the exception of raising revenues, where you must be inflexible. If only President Obama would be "flexible" enough to embrace Paul Ryan's budget plan! (Then Paul Ryan would say, "This plan isn't serious, we need MOAR CUTZ."
But sure, "flexibility," ha-ha.
Engel says that the sequester is stupid, he voted against us, and that the budget should be attacked with something other than a meat cleaver. He is advancing an interesting notion -- that "Congress" is a body that could, if they wanted to, "pass laws" that affected the budget. As opposed to passing the buck and pawning off their responsibility to a shifting array of idiot committees.
Amanpour tsk-tsks the whole "government by crisis" approach. I just wish that the next time they hang a huge sword of Damocles over the budget debate, it doesn't imperil ordinary Americans. I hope it imperils actual Congresscritters. Like, they lose their office operating budgets or their car services or their interns have to all go home. Alternatively, we could just imperil them with actual swords. So what if the next "sequester" requires several scores of lawmakers to retire from service by means of seppuku? Can't they just be replaced by other idiots?
We now shift to cyberattacks, from China.
Rogers says that we are "losing" this war, and we are being attacked every day by criminals and governments, and that China is definitely the worst of everyone, because they straight up steal intellectual property from everyone. "It's as bad as I've ever seen, and exponentially getting worse," he says, "because there are no consequences." Will refers to China as "a gangster regime." He goes on, however, to point out that we participate in cybe sabotage all the time as well. Amanpour notes that this is China's justification for their own skullduggery.
Will suggests that China's thinking cost-benefit, here. Why build a huge military infrastructure to compete with the United States when you can just disable it?
Rogers insists that we don't conduct economic espionage in the same way as China. (Not that we don't commit other kinds of espionage.) Engel says that China can't continue to act this way in a consequence free environment. Rogers says that you have to start punishing actors, sanctioning them, and engaging in bilateral talks over the matter.
Will adds that the international community has to start filling up the "blank slate" with rules and laws that govern cyberattacks and set limits on what's allowed. He returns to the fact that the U.S. has used such attacks on Iran's nuclear infrastructure -- "I take your point," he says to Rogers, "It's different." Rogers says that we shouldn't believe every thing we read in the paper. Ha! Okay, but I'm going to continue believing that we have a hand in hacking Iran's nuclear infrastructure, sorry!
Will asks if there is a way to bring deterrence to the cyberwar theater, and Rogers says it's an issue, first, of catching up. "If you want to go punch your neighbor in the nose, best to spend three months at the weight room."
Moving on, now, to Syria, where the "situation is deterioriating," because why would it suddenly start trending in some other direction, seeing as now the Assad regime hasn't been forced to anything resembling the woodshed? Engel says that he'll be introducing legislation to arm the rebels in Syria. So let's hope that THIS TIME, the people we give guns to are completely on board with being our pals.
Stephanopoulos says that the White House keeps saying that they don't want these rebels to have "shoulder fired missiles" (ha, you mean we can't trust them with our commercial-airlines-destroying shoulder fired missiles? I wonder why?) and that the rebels are already getting enough support from other Gulf states. Engel says that he nevertheless thinks we can get them weapons that will help depose Assad -- even if we don't give them shoulder-mounted deathbringers.
Rogers says that "the best we can hope for now is the best of the worst outcomes" and that the U.S. doesn't have the faith of the opposition in Syria. He says that every rebel fighting force counts on Islamic radicals to fill out their battalions, and he doesn't want to see weapons in their hands necessarily. Instead, he calls for an imposed "no fly zone" and coordinated weapons systems that are going in from other nations.
Amanpour says that all the reasons to not intervene have only come true because we've not intervened. "Beyond that," she says, "Do we want Syria to become Somalia?" She says that the U.S. needs to gain some "credibility on the ground" and turn an inevitable war into a shorter war.
Will says that we have two objectives -- a humanitarian need to "economize the violence" and a strategic obvjective of "controlling the outcome" and that the "two may be in conflict." We suggests that we may be at the point in Syria where we are stuck with two bad choices -- likening it to the Spanish Civil War that would have resulted in either Spain being controlled by the Communists or Spain being controlled by Franco. Engel says that "it's a blow to Iran if Assad falls," so that's where he thinks the finger should be placed on the scale.
Moving to Iran. This has actually been a pretty quality roundtable discussion! Iranian sanctions are the cause of continuing angst in Iran, with the Iranian government saying that they won't sit at the negotiating table "with a gun to their heads," despite that being a pretty entertaining part of the movie "The Deerhunter." Amanpour says that the sanctions have negatively impacted the Iranian people, but the effect on the regime itself is less clear -- they've definitely cause further "militarization":
AMANPOUR: So this is why the revolutionary guard in Iran are taking over -- it's yet another excuse -- for them to take over so many of the institutions. Everything from the press, to information, to everything is being looked at through the parameter of war. But I think what's interesting is that there was a very interesting conversation with the Iranian ambassador here, the only senior Iranian ambassador or official here, who said that we can have talks, we don't want to with a gun to our heads, that's what they always say, but we don't have red lines except that the United States has to accept our rights under the NPT, the nuclear nonproliferation treaty, which is to enrich. So the question really is, will the congress, will the political sphere here in the United States allow real diplomacy, allow the administration to conduct a diplomacy which is not just sticks and has some painful, maybe, but carrots, to have a real diplomatic negotiation.
Rogers says that the only thing talks have achieved are agreements for more talks, which he deems to be a delaying tactics. Stephanopoulos points out that Iran has also agreed to "limit the enriched uranium." Rogers won't have it, because Iran is not a "rational actor" that can be allowed to go nuclear like a France or Great Britain.
Will says, "If the president means what he has said repeatedly and clearly, nuclear Iran means war with the United States. The president has said that he does not endorse containment of Iran. They will not have, he said, nuclear weapons. So if they can cross that threshold, there must be some red line somewhere that means not a nuclear Iran, but war with Iran."
Rogers insists that there are "other options to war" but Engel insists, "I think the worst possible scenario would be a nuclear-armed Iran. I think that has to be stopped by any and all measures."
Of the Iranians, Engel says, "They're not negotiating in my opinion in good faith." Ha, you think?
Amanpour wants to know what is supposed to be done about it? And she and Rogers fight over whether Iran can be a "rational actor" or not. Roger seems to be saying that if Iran were to get into a conventional war (which they would lose, at great cost to all sides) with the United States, that would be "rational." But if Iran continues to fund acts of terror and used hacking to get at out financial institutions, then this is "not rational." I guess the less Iran wants to get killed with Hellfire missiles, the crazier they are being.
Rogers nevertheless says that "there are other ways to block" Iran's nuclear program and that "we should pursue them vigorously." So, Engel was sort of the hawk today and Rogers is playing peacenik -- nice upsetting of norms, at least.
Another panel has broken out and I've a good feeling this will be a vastly dumber one, if only because they may actually talk about the Oscars today. George Will is there, again, with Donna Brazile and Steven Brill and Steven Rattner and Kim Strassel, who has wandered off the set of Fox News Sunday to annoy American in a new venue.
Brill is here on the heels of a Time cover story that would have been a New Republic cover story except that TNR got an interview with the President, and while I wouldn't call that interview the most incisive thing in the world, the simple fact of the matter is that you always put your interview with the President on the cover of your magazine in lieu of your epic story on American health care. Of course, my understanding is that TNR would have gladly proffered the cover of their next issue to Brill, but he figured it would be smarter to burn a bridge with TNR and let every other magazine in the country know that he's a difficult diva by flouncing off and giving it to Time. So there's all that. Also, Brill probably should swap out his conclusion with Matt Yglesias' conclusion which makes a whole lot more sense:
I can see two reasonable policy conclusions to draw from this, neither of which Brill embraces. One is that Medicare should cover everyone, just as Canadian Medicare does. Taxes would be higher, but overall health care spending would be much lower since universal Medicare could push the unit cost of services way down. The other would be to adopt all-payer rate setting rules—aka price controls—keeping the insurance market largely private, but simply pushing the prices down. Most European countries aren't single-payer, but do use price controls. Even Singapore, which is often touted by U.S. conservatives as a market-oriented forced-savings alternative to a universal health insurance system, relies heavily on price controls to keep costs down.
For reasons I do not understand after having read the conclusion twice, Brill rejects both of these ideas in favor of meaningless tinkering around the edges. He wants to alter medical malpractice law, tax hospital operating profits, and try to mandate extra price transparency. That's all fine, but it's odd. His article could not be more clear about this—health care prices are high in America because, by law, we typically allow them to be high. When foreigners force prices to be lower, they get lower prices. When Americans force prices to be lower (via Medicare), we get lower prices. If we want lower prices through new legislation, the way to get them is to write laws mandating that the prices be lowered.
But first, sequester. Polls show that most Americans want the cuts to be delayed and they blame the GOP by a wide margin. Nevertheless, Strassel says that the sequester cuts puts the GOP in a strong position because it's a pro-active method of cutting government spending. The big distinction here is that the point of the super-committee -- all the commissions, really -- is not to "cut spending." It's to "reduce deficits." Which means you "bring in revenues." Which the GOP, perversely, won't allow. At any rate, if this was truly a strong hand for the GOP, they wouldn't be trying to pin its existence on the White House.
Will points out that the first year of the sequester is no great game-changing about of spending cuts, anyway. Rattner says that he wants to talk about a "scalpel versus meat-axe" cuts.
Strassel, who is by some combination staggeringly uninformed and also an inveterate liar, says that the President's plan, in this case, are "tax hikes." In the first place, there are no plans to hike tax rates, just to do the loophole closing tax reform stuff that Romney and Ryan ran on the last election cycle. Also, the President's agreed to balancing it with cuts. Rattner points out that the proposal has a lot of spending cuts. Strassel should probably avail herself of the White House's website, and also reflect on what it means to be showing up on a Sunday after a Friday where David Brooks got clowned for saying similar things. "Dumber/less informed then David Brooks," is not something you should want on your epitaph.
Brill bails Strassel out by being the next guy to say, "I haven't seen anything specific," with an emphasis on entitlement reforms. Stephanopoulos immediately tells him that he is wrong, and basically starts he offered to raise the eligibility age to 67. He's since backed away from that. Rattner knows all of this, and tells Brill what's what, adding that there is still a lot of entitlement reforms in the president's plan. He is actually now waving around the summary sheet from the White House's website, just to demonstrate that it exists. He should have made copies for the whole family.
This is a whole weird discussion. I can sum up their positions thusly:
STEVEN BRILL: I was invited on this panel to talk about my article, which I at least understand 2/3rds of, I have nothing to contribute to a sequester discussion than some blather, based on how the world was back in 2010.
STEVEN RATTNER: I have a huge forehead, to which you can staple the President's plan, which exists, you sodding idiots. We should follow this plan and avoid devastating cuts, but the GOP won't bent on revenues.
KIM STRASSEL: The devastating cuts are awesome, and the GOP should just embrace them.
GEORGE WILL: I don't think these cuts are all that devastating.
DONNA BRAZILE: I am a Democratic Party consultant.
Stephanopoulos suggests that what will happen is that in a few months the GOP will just break and that will be that. Strassel says, no, the sequester cuts are the GOP's position, it's what they want to do. But that makes no sense. The GOP spent all week saying that the coming sequester was Obama's fault, and now they are fully in favor of it? Which is it? Does it get to change again?
Brazile points out that the government shutdown doesn't come until the debate over the continuing resolution breaks down into a knife fight, later in March.
And the panel takes a few minutes restating their own positions. And finally, we get to Brill's article, that describes the way Americans are being elaborately gouged at hospitals for all sorts of things. Brill cites Medicare as a fairly efficient system of price control, until you get to those parts of the system where lobbyists hold the most sway and undercut Medicare's bargaining power. More lobbyists need to be deprogrammed, certainly. (But how will we pay for it?)
Rattner says that there need to be more Medicare reforms beyond what Brill proposes. And now, Brill is getting strange looks because a few minutes after yammering angrily about Obama not putting a plan on the table to raise the Medicare eligibility age, he's calling for the age to be lowered to 60. Which I can get with? But it makes me wonder what all his previous fussing was about. Maybe the wind changed directions in the room, or something. (Also, I guess Brill read Matt Yglesias' piece?)
"Well that becomes an argument for a single payer system," says Stephanopoulos. Yes, hooray!
Will will argue against it, though, suggesting that consumers should do more shopping around -- finding out who is charging what for what test and stuff like that. Which is great when you are shopping for produce. But now, imagine trying to price kale at numerous grocery stores while, say, bleeding from a hole in your head? Brill points out that there are millions of uninsured people, who are utterly powerless consumers in any setting.
Strassel retakes up the whole "shop around" argument. Why don't we shop for health care the same way we shop for toasters? Well, a few reasons:
1. When we shop for toasters, we are not in ambulances, dying.
2. When we shop for toasters, we have only one question: "Will this heat bread?"
3. When we shop for toasters, the issues surrounding efficient and effective bread heating aren't so manifestly complicated that the sellers of toasters can pray on the elderly or infirm.
Most of the people on the panel have no real world awareness of what it's like to be without insurance and have to make choices that involve things like, "Well, what series of decisions can I make today that will put off my eventual death the longest," and then hope they don't end up in a car accident. They can't relate to anything other than getting immediate health care.
Moving on to guns, and Wayne LaPierre, yelling about background checks. Stephanopoulos asks if the effort behind gun safety legislation has slowed, and Brazile assures him that it hasn't -- activity is being spurred in the federal and state level. Strassel insists it's slowed down because the Democrats are divided on the issues. Brazile insists that's overstated.
George Will would just like to see "stop and frisk" exported everywhere in America, which is easy to say until you've been stopped and frisked.
The panel then moves to a discussion of their Oscar picks. I couldn't be less interested in that.
THE CHRIS MATTHEWS SHOW
Today, Chris Matthews offer chattery and flattery and tangentially-related late-night comedy clips on matters pertaining to politics with Katty Kay, Kelly O'Donnell, Errol Louis (the host of "Inside City Hall" on NY1), and our own Howard Fineman.
Matthews says that we are careening from crisis to crisis in the same way as that "movie where the guy wakes up every day and it's the same day." He means, "Groundhog Day." Isn't it weird that we now associate mindless repetition with Groundhog Day -- I mean, the actual day, not the movie? Bill Murray is the one true disruptor of our culture.
Howard says that the current crises aren't "funny," and that the escalation is quite dangerous. He points out that polls indicate that most Americans support to President's programs, but there's nevertheless a strong portion of the populace that legitimately wants the government to be curtailed or shut down. Howard goes down a laundry list of things that the people who cheer a crippled government may be taking for granted -- "the world will not stop, but there will be problems with air travel, there will be problems with meat inspection, on reasearch...head start...it's going to be real and it's just the beginning."
Matt Cooper, by the way, has a great piece explaining that if the sequester has a silver linings playbook, it's that once and for all, people might be able to see what it is that they are getting from their investment in government:
At a time when Americans are convinced that foreign aid is a significant part or the budget—the median answer in one survey in 2010 was 25 percent of the budget—it’ll be a good object lesson for people to see that government means planes landing safely, meat being inspected, Yellowstone being kept open. Yes, most of what the government does is write checks and defend us, “an insurance company with an Army,” so the saying goes. But it does a lot more.
Sure, the agencies and departments could juggle accounts for a while to prevent the most egregious cuts to discretionary spending. I outline that here. We should be wary of the "firemen first" principle, where agencies cut or threaten to cut their most popular programs first.
But if agencies and departments can’t or won’t juggle their books, hey, let people see what government really means. As with sanitation or teacher strikes in big cities, it won’t necessarily endear taxpayers to feds, although being furloughed is more likely to prompt sympathy than going on strike. But it would at least be a teachable moment. There’s something sobering about aircraft carriers that won’t sail and forest rangers who won’t be paid to protect.
Matthews points out that the lion's share of the blame falls on the GOP, and that the President "relatively gets off on it." And I am just not sure that "gets off on it" is the best way to phrase that? Kay, however, notes that if the economy starts to decline, "at that point the President could suffer."
Louis says that most people understand that bills can be paid, but that ordinary people don't have any more an "all cuts" approach to running their households than the government does -- sometimes you get a second job, or "you borrow money from your brother." (Any sibling of Louis' who owes him scratch just got put on blast!)
O'Donnell says that the sequester, to a significant portion of the GOP, represents a looming opportunity to do the radical government cutting they've always wanted. The more mainstream approach is the go at it with a scalpel, give budget discretion to agencies.
Who will "win?" Kay says that the Tea Party caucus is seemingly willing to go over the edge. And the public may want a balanced approach of revenues and cuts like Obama proposes, or they may want compromise, more generically. But Kay says that the salient fact is that there are fifty Tea Party representatives in safe seats that can do as they please and don't have any incentive to compromise.
O'Donnell insists that when the "pain begins" there will be a shift in attitude. Louis reckons that once people read about what is happening to their local government offices, local military bases, local infrastructure needs, they are going to pitch a fit about the sequester, regardless of whether they are in a district that provides a safe haven to a member of the Bath Salts Caucus. Howard adds that the Pentagon is a mighty industry of message force multiplication, and if the word doesn't get out about the sequester in the newspapers, you can count on the Defense Department to bray about it.
O'Donnell asks if the president will "go to entitlement reform." GO READ THE WHITE HOUSE WEBSITE, KELLY.
Howard reckons that between now and later fights over the continuing resolution and the budget will force a "big conversation," but I'm not so sure! I think we are more than capable of having a long, annoying series of tiny, petty discussions and chip-away deals, until we are all hopefully put out of our misery by a meteor.
Chris Matthews wants "Silver Linings Playbook" to win lots of awards tonight at the Oscars. This year, I did a terrible job going to the movies, seeing almost nothing, because I suck at moviegoing, I guess? Anyway, I did manage to see "Silver Linings Playbook" and it was great, so I guess I'm going to be "Silver Linings Playbook" or GTFO tonight. Don't forget to read Twitter tonight, because the Oscars is like, Twitter's Super Bowl. (The Super Bowl is Twitter's Golden Globes.)
Now, for fun, we are going to have a special Moot Court Sunday Funtime where Howard gets to present the arguments of various Southern states seeking relief from Voting Act requirements that they get guidance from the Federal government before changing voter laws in the states, and Errol Louis gets to argue the civil right argument. This is all coming to a head Wednesday in the Supreme Court.
Howard says that the argument the Southern states will make is that black voters in the affected states are not registered to vote and are voting at roughly the same rates as anywhere else, so the Southern states have clearly move past the "overt discrimination" of the pre-Civil Rights era. In some cases, it's a higher rate. And, they contend, that the problems once felt in the South have moved to states like Pennsylvania and New York, so it's no longer "fair to the South."
Louis says that the countering argument is that there is a "history of mischief" in these states that has no ended and still deserves oversight (though by bringing up conditions for voters at Sioux reservations in the Southwest, seems to be acceding, at least, to the argument that this "mischief" is not solely found in the South. He does go on to mention that between 1992 and 2006, there were thousands of instances of mischief, brought up in application of the law that dictates greater oversight on these Southern states. (Including an election that was just canceled in Mississippi, when it because clear that the inevitable winner was going to be black.) [CORRECTION: Not "just cancelled." It happened on 2001. Too recently for my taste, but not, happened yesterday. Here's the story, much thanks to reader Jeff for bringing this to my attention!]
Fineman says that the challengers' argument is that all the states should be subject to these laws. Kay reminds everyone that the lady that Obama brought to the State of the Union as the face of needed voter reform was an African-American woman from Florida, which is not one of the states that's part of this challenge. Howard adds that similar hurdles were faced by voters in Ohio. I guess that voters should just assume widespread attempts at mucking with their franchise are the norm no matter where they go.
Here are the things that Chris Matthews doesn't know. First, Howard tells him that "research universities are going to get clobbered" by the sequester, and universities may give up on the government, and that the widespread understanding of basic science is squarely at stake. Next, Kay says the one good piece of news on health care is that the CBO says health care costs are now growing at a slower rate. Then, O'Donnell says that Boehner plans on "being around for a long time," so belay that notion of Eric Cantor taking him on in an insurgency. Louis says, of the current Papal Chase happening in Vatican City, that the Cardinals are looking for someone who fully embraces Popedom. Apparently, Ratzinger signed his books under his own name. Not a Cardinal, not yet a Pontiff.
Speaking of Popes, Matthews wants to know if there should be an "age cut off" to work. Fineman says "it's something we should consider" but technology is helping people age better and live longer, and so it's a "case by case" thing. Rupert Murdoch, he notes, is still going strong in his 80s, but I don't know, Howard should read Rupert's Twitter account. Kay says that lots of people are contributing great things to society at advanced ages, now, so why cut them off? O'Donnell says that 80 years old seems like an arbitrary age, considering how vibrant life at 80 can be now. Louis says that no matter how old someone gets, we should do more to harness their knowledge and experience.
Speaking about putting things out to pasture...
MEET THE PRESS
We begin, of course, with fester of sequester, it's dire consequences, and the concomitant "blame game" that's become more important than actually solving the problem. Gregory begins the discussion with Ray LaHood, the Greatest Secretary of Transportation in the history of the universe (GSOTITHOTU).
What's going on with all the coming sequester calamities? Gregory lists a whole ton of coming closures and stoppages and furloughs and asks Ray LaHood (GSOTITHOTU) if it is still "going to be safe to fly." Ray LaHood (GSOTITHOTU) says that "we never take a backseat to safety" and it will be safe to travel. Ray LaHood (GSOTITHOTU) says that the sequester will be felt more in terms of convenience then safety, but there's still time to reach a compromise.
But does he really think a compromise can be made? Ray LaHood (GSOTITHOTU) believes that y'all. He has faith. He will never give up on you America. You will have a great birthday this year, if Ray LaHood (GSOTITHOTU) has anything to do with it.
What about security? Isn't that the same as safety? Ray LaHood (GSOTITHOTU) says that the TSA is something that you actually have to talk to the Department of Homeland Security about, but that "we will never take a backseat to safety" even is safety is like, totally carsick, and could really benefit from riding shotgun.
But why not sit down and start coming up with replacement cuts? Ray LaHood (GSOTITHOTU) says that the department is looking at "all of its contracts" -- though most of their budget is tied up in personnel -- but the larger point is that the sequester "doesn't allow you to move money around," which they would do, if they were allowed. Ray LaHood (GSOTITHOTU) says that if both sides can simply come back, meet, compromise, and they can solve the problem.
Representatives Bill Shuster (R-Pa.), John Thune (R-S.D.), and Frank LoBiondo (R-N.Y.) object to the contentions of Ray LaHood (GSOTITHOTU), saying that Ray LaHood (GSOTITHOTU)'s warnings are "exaggerations" that are "not backed up by any real financial data." Ray LaHood (GSOTITHOTU) says that "this is not your father's FAA" and that the FAA has obligations that they are neither making up, or doing to force the American people to feel pain.
Ray LaHood (GSOTITHOTU) says that people should go see the movie LINCOLN, reflect on the movie, and solve problems. No, no, go see Silver Linings Playbook and understand that everyone can figure out their lives with ballroom dancing! Gregory uses this is a venue to do the whole, "both sides are equally to blame thing," and if he weren't talking to Ray LaHood (GSOTITHOTU), I would penalize this show by fast-forwarding the TiVo.
Anyway, Ray LaHood (GSOTITHOTU) is eternally optimistic.
Gregory says, doesn't the President have an obligation to break the impasse? Ray LaHood (GSOTITHOTU) points out, he's done that. David Gregory could be a big help of he spent the rest of the show pounding away at the actual reason there is an impasse -- the GOP's unwillingness to support the very tax reform stuff they ran on in 2012. But that would be good for the country, and as a general rule, David Gregory isn't on teevee to help the country. He's here to pointlessly mystify the world of politics.
Gregory asks if there will even be meaningful deficit reduction. Again, "meaningful deficit reduction" is you are at all serious, involves raising revenues, so he should really put that question to the side of the debate that's imperiling "meaningful deficit reduction."
Also, is it too much to ask that Gregory keep up with current events? It is a material fact that the "federal budget deficit is shrinking far faster than at any time since demobilization from World War II."
And that's it from Ray LaHood (GSOTITHOTU), so it's all downhill from here.
Okay, now, Bobby Jindal and Deval Patrick are going to yell at each other for a few minutes.
Jindal says that the President must show "leadership" by caving to the demands of no new revenue, and also he should put out a plan of his own, which he's done, but he knows that in this setting, he's neither going to get called out for not being aware of the sequester replacement plan on the White House website or for how dumb it is for the GOP to keep demanding cuts, only to say, "But you guys have to do the cuts for us" everytime the White House asks what they have in mind. He then approvingly cites the Bob Woodward column that's already been been vaporized.
Patrick counters: "We've actually seen some $2.5 trillion of budget cuts from this president. And the only plan on the table right now to avoid sequester is the President's plan. So this notion about not having leadership, this is about leadership. And the president has shown that a balanced approach, which is about cuts and closing loopholes, that enables us to invest in the things and grow jobs, is more important and appropriate for us at this time."
Absent the ability to make an obvious set of argument, Gregory at least has polls he can turn to that demonstrate widespread support for the President's position. Jindal simply digs into the whole "no revenue ever," suggesting that wanting revenue to responsibly bring down deficits constitutes "greed." "We are for a balanced approach," he says, calling for an unbalanced approach.
Patrick points out the obvious: "First of all, this isn't about whether there are or are not going to be cuts. The President's plan has cuts. In fact, to some extent, deeper cuts than the sequester provides. It also has the closing of loopholes, some of the same loopholes that Speaker Boehner favored only a little while ago." Patrick is basically doing the job you would want the host of this show to do.
Jindal says he wants the "President to stop campaigning," because it's not fair the way he keeps and maintains public approval for his policies.
"We're actually trying to get rid of the income tax in Louisiana," Jindal says, describing his balanced approach for soaking the poor to pay for tax breaks on the wealthy.
Gregory asks Patrick if Peggy Noonan, who is on the show later, has a point when she says that Obama is all about "government by freak out." Last time I checked, this freak out happened because the GOP's Bath Salts Caucus decided to stage a hostage crisis over the debt ceiling and threaten to destroy the global economy. So I'd say his governing style is more about "fending off constant threats from the Morlocks."
Patrick responds: You know this president didn't campaign, and hasn't wanted to govern by constantly being in conflict with Congressional Republicans. But from the very beginning, remember, it was a leadership of the Republicans and the Senate who said that their number one agenda was to make this president a one-term president. And having won a second term, their number one agenda is to slow down the recovery of our economy. And that needs to be called out."
Gregory says, "Just one thing for the record, as I think the White House stipulates, it was the President's idea, the sequester formulation. And of course Republicans agreed to it, 174 agreeing to it." Good call. I'd add that no one in Washington loved the sequester with a greater intensity than Paul Ryan. Paul Ryan and the sequester really should have gotten a room. For all I know they did.
Moving to the Affordable Care Act, Gregory notes that Jindal is "bucking the implementation trend." Jindal says that the Federal government hasn't reformed the program to his liking, and the President won't meet with him to discuss it. Patrick just says, "National health care reform is based on our own experiment in Massachusetts. It's been wildly successful."
On gun control, Jindal thinks that the states can move the ball in bipartisan fashion. In Louisiana, for example, they might be able to do something to "fix the current background system" and prevent guns from "getting in the hands of those with serious mental illnesses."
There is a discussion about taxes, that is simultaneously vapid, whilst pretending to be wonky. Jindal says that Louisiana is coming a long way, from the past. Patrick says, basically, LOL it must be nice to have oil underneath your soil. Be careful what you wish for, Deval! You guys also don't have oil spills.
Anyway, this is like a five minute crotch-measuring contest, between Louisiana and Massachusetts.
Will Bobby Jindal run for President, even though, as Greg Sargent says, Jindal is representative of the way the GOP's self-reforming are "all cosmetic." Jindal gives a stump speech-sounding oration, so...maybe?
Jindal does not support marriage equality, in case that was something you were not clear on. Still, he says that the GOP is "an aspirational party" so long as you aspire to a government that denies you rights based upon who you'd spend your life with.
Okay the panel is coming and it's a real barren wasteland: Peggy Noonan, Harold Ford, Maria Bartiromo, and Jim Cramer. Also, Steve Inskeep is on it, and I feel really bad for him.
Let's get on with this. David Gregory cites some Ron Fournier dreck about how the President is totally right on the merits in the debate, but if he doesn't keep compromising (in the direction of that Fournier considers to be bad policy) then Obama is a failure at leadership. Honest to God, Fournier's continued employment is proof that America loves welfare programs.
Speaking of, Noonan says that the President has "failed" though she can't figure out how it is that he's failed -- probably it's the way he's gone out and said that the sequester would be bad and the GOP is unreasonable. Gregory at least tries to suggest that leadership means you draw the line and hold firm to principles, but Bartiromo disagrees and says that leadership really means caving to the fitful demand of vampires.
Says the wealthy Bartiromo, "For me it's a national security issue, not an economic one." Which makes sense, as she's several millions of intellectual miles away from all the people for whom economic issues even exist.
Inskeep says that the President has added drama by pulling back the deployment of an aircraft carrier. Maybe so! But then Inskeep adds unnecessary drama by suggesting that what needs to happen is that all the basic crises should be synced up into one mega-crisis, against which a "grand bargain" can be forged. There's really nothing more terrifying than that notion. There will be no "grand bargain" with the Bath Salts Caucus, I'm afraid. It's not possible as long as the GOP clings to this opposition to raising revenues. The "leadership" required to fix that is not going to come from Obama. Remember, Old Yeller had to be put down by Travis Coates.
David Gregory actually got the memo that Bob Woodward's "Obama moved the goalposts" column is bogus. Hooray! Harold Ford, hilariously says that he doesn't want to litigate the matter between the White House and Woodward, but Ford, you can just shut your piehole because the litigation is over, Woodward got KOed in the decision, and no one is calling you up to settle these matters anyway. Anyway, Ford also thinks that Obama is not showing enough leadership by giving the Bath Salts Caucus what they want, anyway. (He also wants to approve the Keystone Pipeline!)
"Peggy, I'm going to agree with you probably more than you might think," says Ford. Oh, honey, if Peggy isn't aware, like the rest of the world, that you are a miniature version of her, then she needs to see a neurologist.
This is really some dreary horse manure. The next five minutes is the same nonsensical stuff as the first, though Ford is going to get some calls from lobbyists for briefly suggesting that we do away with the carried interest loophole. Bartiromo and Cramer talk abour the wisdom of their favorite hedge fund managers, and the bond market vigilantes who are always lurking around every darkened corner. It's literally CNBC's "Seances With The Gods Of The Market," transported to this show. One of the few ways you can make Meet The Press worse than it is.
There is no conversation about something that Steve Case said to David Gregory that's worth recapping, so I'm skipping that.
For whatever reason, we are talking about 2016. Ford says that the one benefit that Hilary Clinton gives a future race is that she's serious enough to keep the GOP's fringey candidates on the sidelines. Noonan says that there may be an opportunity down the line for a non-Washington candidate to emerge, which is what I'm sure she says about every election cycle. She also doesn't seem to think we're currently at a loss for politicians promising growth.