Hardball | March 06, 2013
>>> there is a caucus of common sense up on capitol hill . it's just it's a silent group right now, and we want to make sure their voices start getting heard. in the coming days and weeks, i'm going to keep on reaching out to them. 3.
>> welcome back to "hardball." tonight president obama attempts to form that common sense caucus. at a neutral location. it's the jefferson hotel . looks pretty swanky here in washington. there's the senators up there. all part of an effort to work around mitch mcconnell and john boehner who are committed and have said so to not making any deal involved in not raising revenue. but to no avail. and this time he'll skip them out of the whole thing and riech into the rank and file for compromise. at least that's what it looks like. lindsey graham commented on putting the group together. let's listen to lindsey graham .
>> how do you say no to the president of the united states who would like to have dinner with some of your colleagues? you don't. when the president asked that i get together a group , i willingly and i was honored to try to do that. where this goes, i don't know.
>> see how to explain the whole thing. almost apologizing for meeting with the president. the president will meet separately with the democratic and republican caucuses in both the house and the senate. joining me right now nia-malika henderson who covers all this. and former mayor willie brown . thank you for joining us. i want to talk about the appearance of this and the reality of this, which is more important?
>> it is the appearance of it. for all reasons fall beyond anything we can ever fathom, this is the kind of thing that should have been done from the first day that the president was elected. he should have been able to develop a relationship with every person holding office one on one by first name. many times you get better results out of those relationships than you do out of substantive merit. he's attempting to do that, and that's proper.
>> nia, i think there's a part of this that bugs me a bit which is sort of the staging of it. if you want to make friends with somebody, you have to say let's meet for a drink after work or however it's done. i don't do this anymore. let's meet and have a hamburger somewhere. do you stage it with such pretense, such ruffles and flourishes? it reminds me of the henry gates beer time. it was so choreographed you wonder how they can speak without being ratted out. don't they want to talk off the record? it seems to me they would.
>> that's true. and the white house is the sort of background, off the record conversations the president has been having with people behind the scenes . not necessarily of the press getting readouts of the meetings. this is much more formal and close to what he did in the first months of his presidency. this isn't something the president has been good at. let's just face it. he isn't good at it in terms of reaching out to members of his own party let alone to republicans. i think this group , it's significant he left graham take the lead on this. and he has taken people that i think represent this common sense caucus. and also these are people who were left over from that gang of six in 2011 who wanted to move towards a bargain.
>> before we start doing the -- what do you call it? the pollyanna gifts here, let me get a few things straight. mr. mayor, oun one of the people you would not include on a caucus on ploou toe. he's wisconsin senator ron john. john voted to filibuster chuck hagel . and last month he called the president's re-election a body blow to americans. a body blow to freedom. and in a fox interview johnson said they're in trouble.
>> i don't quite honestly believe speaker boehner would be speaker if that happens. i think he would lose the speakership.
>> so does that guy belong in the common sense caucus where he basically threatened the speaker with his job for sitting down with the president. what he's doing tonight to sit down at a restaurant. it's a nice restaurant. it's a nice dining room . i don't know who's paying the bill tonight, but you expect anything to come out of this guy ron johnson ?
>> not at all. as a matter of fact, if you're going to deal with somebody as far away from the president as this ron johnson , you do so literally one on one and you do so in the darkness of night. because let me tell you. in that meeting, in that dinner, he is going to be the guy who becomes the leak. he's going to be the guy that leads the identification of the so-called traitors. he's going to be the guy that places bad blood among everybody.
>> thank you. this is why i love you. you are so good. nooe wra, this is what's going to happen tonight. you and the other beat reporters have nailed out the people you think you can get a call from or answer from at 10:15 tonight when they're out of the room. you probably got corker ready and lindsey graham 's ready. you'll say who was the friendliest? who talked revenues? right?
>> nia. you're going to try to catch somebody.
>> yes, yes. i'll be staking it out. i got to leave in a couple minutes, as a matter of fact, to start staking out the territory. but yeah. i mean, i think people like johnson , that's why this group has credibility. it does represent all of the wings of the party. somebody like johnson , somebody like kelly ayotte , somebody like coburn who's got i think both moderate tendencies but also some leverage on the right side of the party. so you know, maybe it's because i'm a good southern baptist . hope springs eternal . i'm someone with some faith. maybe something will come out of this.
>> you're the southern baptist . you're the hopeful one. let me go to the more secular fella here, mayor. let me go to a couple names here. i think i know why some of these guys are showing up. pat toomey will have a tough re-election no matter who runs against him. bob corker has a serious race. he will have one. kelly ayotte is from a real state which is always purple, that's new hampshire. there are some people that want to know what a general election looks like. it'll be good for them to sit down with the president?
>> it will be very good for them to sit down with the president. but the environment, the jefferson is not the place you want to develop relationships. he should have taken them to the white house . taken them on a tour of the white house .
>> they are so neutral territory .
>> this is the way you look at things, the new journalists today. what in the world besides metaphor does neutral territory mean? it's a metaphor. what does it mean neutral? how is a hotel more neutral than meeting at the white house ?
>> i think there are a lot of neutral things going on here. number one, graham is the one who assembled this group . and the other being the white house extended the invitations. it's away from the white house . it's in d.c. obviously this is a really swanky hotel.
>> i would invite a guy -- i would invite another member of the senate if i were the president, i would invite them to go bowling in the executive building. he's not that great at the game. he'd have some fun. at the end of the night you can laugh about their bowling scores for the rest of their lives. this thing looks like a setup. it looks like the henry gates beer outside with joe biden .
>> it's a total setup. there's no way you call lindsey graham up and said put together a caucus and bring some friends over. i'm going to try to create inside of the republican operation a group that's going to be able to be helpful to me the president.
>> somebody like corker is somebody who's reached across the aisle. somebody like him was on the gang of six trying to make a grand bargain. that's what the president wants to do. these are the people that could possibly --
>> hope springs eternal from the southern baptist lady. thank you.
>>> up next congressional republicans are just finding about -- they're just fine with these indiscriminate spending cuts unless they're the ones that have to explain to their constituents that they can't tour the white house anymore. those are all canceled. this is "hardball," the place