Martin Bashir | October 31, 2012
>>> we are now awaiting remarks from the president and governor chris christie after their tour of storm -ravaged southern new jersey . the president took in the damage from a chopper, then visiting with new jerseyians at a storm shelter near atlantic city , accompanied by governor chris christie . the jersey shore , once home to the frivolous activities of a reality show, now marked as the area hardest hit by the storm . whole towns, swallowed by the storm . communities and lives left in disarray. and with six days to go until the presidential election, there were no overt politics in new jersey today. with the commander in chief seizing the moment to work with a republican governor, offering leadership and comfort in a moment of crisis and catastrophe. and while the president has canceled several days of campaigning to respond to the disaster, mitt romney is carrying on the campaign trail in florida today . mr. romney faces the challenge of pivoting a campaign based almost entirely on criticizing the president as a failure and facing dreaded questions on his statement that he'd cut fema and return it to the states. the campaign has a clear media strategy on that front, and many others, of course. it's three weeks since mr. romney took a question from any reporter. let's get rate to our panel, as we await the president. richard wolffe is with me, the vp and executive editor of msnbc.com. and in washington, msnbc analyst eugene robinson , a pulitzer prize -winning columnist for "the washington post ." richard , if i can start with you. with all due respect to romney and ryan , this is a big government moment, isn't it? this is a moment when, for all that they've said throughout this campaign, mr. ryan , mr. romney , about how they want to eviscera eviscerate government, this is actually a moment when we need government.
>> it's a time when pieces of government come together, state, local, and federal. it's a moment when you move beyond party. they're not republicans and democrats in new jersey, they're just americans in need. and those messages, of course, resonate with americans in general. they also happen to be part of what the president and what governor christie is talking about. you know, this is the kind of politics that independent voters, moderates, the gettable, undecided --
>> that tiny number.
>> that's what they want to see. they want to see a system that works. and when you have frankly, someone who is brash and outspoken and conservative, working with a president who's supposed to be polarizing, christie and obama working together with a single focus, i think it actually encourages people about politics, about government, and about these two individuals. because it does take leaders, it does take individuals, full credit to the two men involved.
>> indeed. i would say a hearty amen to that. eugene , the president has been pretty evenhanded in the way he's responded to this storm . he tells fema, no bureaucracy, no red tape . he tells the governors to call him directly if they're not getting the help they need. he's not delegating responsibility, he is taking it, isn't he?
>> he is. and that's what you would want a president to do in this sort of situation. it's, frankly, what george w. bush did not do in hurricane katrina and we saw the result as well as the political price. so, i think it's fascinating, for people to watch, as chris christie , as pugnacious as he is, on the republican side , for republican ideas and values, to see where that ends for him. to see him say, essentially, but, yes, there is a big role for government in our society, and thank god we have it.
>> indeed. richard , mr. romney has spent, as you know, each of the debates repeatedly suggesting, and in florida, i was just listening to him, and he was saying again, i'm the man for bipartisanship. i'm the person who can bring both sides of the aisle together. and what do we have in front of our very eyes, but the president embodying the very thing that this man can only talk about.
>> right. and that's, of course, what challenges are left with. they're left with a promise and a speech and a microphone and a stage, where presidents can actually do stuff. the interest thing is that for four years, the republican party has had an organized effort to say that this president is not a bipartisan figure. he could not deliver on his fundamental promise, because they were going to deny him any republican cooperation. we know that they met on inaugural night, congressional leaders did, we know that mitch mcconnell 's strategy through health care was to deny any semblance of bipartisanship. so he created this very disciplined approach, which can be very successful, to say no republican support whatsoever. governor chris christie , in the last 48 to 72 hours , has single handedly destroyed that image. because, although they've got lots of differences and lots of different policy areas, if a conservative like christie can work with a president like obama, that means president obama is not actually some socialist radical, where there is no common ground that republicans can find. there is common ground , if the republicans stop campaigning and start dealing with the problems in front of thisrichard's point, eugene , do you not think that this now exposes mr. eric cantor , mitch mcconnell , and the congressional republicans for what they have been doing? and it seems almost cyclical, as richard was saying, at the beginning of this presidency, they say they're going to oppose him. at the end, he finds one republican in the form of chris christie , who's willing to work with him.
>> it is amazing, one. one in there. in fact, there's more than one. and there would have been, frankly, a lot more, had there not been this organized effort to deny president obama any republican votes on anything. which was sort of brutally enforced. i mean, there are republican senators whom i know of, who i voted in health care , for example, against ideas that they hads espoused on the floor of the senate. but they vote against them. and at one point, the president asked one senator in particular, you know, what can i do? what can i put into this bill that will get your vote? and the answer was, you know, frankly, mr. president, there is nothing, because i simply cannot expose myself politically and vote for even things that i support. i mean, that's the lunacy that has passed for congress, under the republicans in the past four years.
>> indeed. richard , stop press. we have breaking news. mitt romney , although refusing to answer personal questions of any kind, three-week anniversary today from the last time he answered a question, he has now issued a statement, supporting fema. he says, i'm quoting, as president, i will ensure fema has the funding it needs to fulfill its mission. so once again, here's mitt romney , finger in the air, wind blowing, oh, it's a heavy storm , i support fema. this is embarrassing.
>> it only took him 48 hours to support fema. you would hope that president romney could respond to a storm faster than he did about fema. but it's very hard to square with what he's saying about fema now with the very morality-laden approach that he took in the republican debates . remember, what he's describing in the statement is actually status quo, it's not big change. but it is a big change from what he said before. which is, you know, fema funding, if it comes from debt, which every extra dollar does --
>> is a moral problem for this nation.
>> is a moral problem.
>> it's not just an issue of money.
>> it's a moral problem. more than the moral problem of dealing with people in need in a disaster zone. now that has been jettisoned, because hep wants to appear moderate. it's very hard to know who the real mitt romney is, but at least he could speed up his response time .
>> and martin, by the way, it does not square with what we know of the romney / ryan budget plan. because if, indeed, you cut income tax rates by 20%, and you boost defense spending , you've got to -- essentially, you've got to cut discretionary sending, if you're not going to add to the deficit, by a draconian level. you've got to cut it by like 40%, including fema. so, it's impossible to square what we -- again, what we know of his budget plan, since he won't lay them out in detail, and this new statement that, oh, well, of course i'm going to fully fund fema. well, gee, what's he going to say today. of course he loves fema now. but he didn't love it when they were coming up with a budget plan.
>> and to eugene 's point, if mitt romney thinks he might get some solace from ryan , there's the paul ryan budget, which also slashes any amount, what is it, $23 million from the budget from fema? i mean, again, their actual plans would eviscerate provisions for the kind of plastic surge emergency that this nation is facing today.
>> and very shortly, we're going to be discussing whether or not to raise the debt ceiling again. and debt ceilings get pushed out by these kinds of disasters. you know, the new york subway has to be cleared out. the new york subway is not going to pay for that on its own. they're going to need federal support across this area. that's going to run right up against this debt ceiling. let's see if the republicans remember that their nominee, maybe their president-elect, says fema should be fully federally funded.
>> and we look forward too hearing if bain capital will provide the funding. eugene wolffe -- sorry, richard wolffe and eugene robinson , gentleman, thank you.