Martin Bashir | November 27, 2012
>> with frantic and frenetic behind-the-scenes negotiations as both sides work against the clock trying to reach an agreement on the fiscal cliff that is fast approaching. the president is trying to ramp up public pressure on congress to accept his ideas for debt reduction in. in the coming days he meets with small business owners, middle class taxpayers, around corporate leaders. friday he tried to recapture his winning spirit in pennsylvania touring a toy manufacturing plant . i don't think the event is in whoville but the republicans as grinch playbook is probably evident enough. to hear some of the president's team, they see this christmas going their way.
>> i think we're going to get this done. i'm more positive than most. i'm heartened by many ever my senate republican colleagues who have stepped forward and basically said that their real oath is to america and not to a washington loppiest named grover norquist .
>> it's actually true. some republicans have signaled a willingness to buck grover norquist and his anti-tax pledge and raise some new revenue. "the wall street journal " weighed in with a reasonable argument. president obama 's re-election means the taxes for upper income earners are going up one way or another. speaker john boehner deserves some leeway to try to mitigate the damage by negotiating a larger tax reform . leeway to negotiate sounds pretty sane to me. for some, of course, that's a great big lump of coal wrapped up as an early christmas present.
>> revenue that happens to be the democratic code word for tax increases. that is simply not an acceptable position for any true conservative. republicans were not elected to rubber stamp obama's agenda.
>> seems some news personalities may be taking a tax increase on the highest earners somewhat personally. anyway, republicans didn't win the white house or the senate. i wonder what other conservatives have to say about that.
>> the republicans are in a shocking amount of disarray right now. the republican party has not developed an alternative idea set other than what mitt romney and paul ryan were campaigning on and sort of by default it has become their opening negotiation position.
>> i see. so their opening position is the one that was vigorously debated and comprehensively defeated just three weeks ago. i guess the only question now is, who will play naughty and who will play nice ? let's get in our panel now. in a special new york appearance, msnbc political analyst david corn , author of too many books to mention. and in philadelphia, lehigh university professor james peterson . david , if i can start with you, as we approach the final tally, it appears that mitt romney will indeed receive 47% of the national vote. he is mr. 47%, and some republicans are saying that the president should start his negotiations with mitt romney 's policies. does that make sense to you?
>> well, no. one thing that i think was refreshing about the election that we just went through, all of us in this country, was it was one of the most ideological policy driven elections in a number of years. the president very clearly made his case for raising taxes in fairness and using money to invest in infrastructure, innovation, education while paying down the debt. mitt romney and paul ryan -- don't forget paul ryan is still out there lurking about somewhere.
>> speaker boehner says he will be involved in the discussions with the president.
>> and they made a very strong ideological case on their side that you got to, you know, lower tax rates for all, don't worry as much about the deficit, the revenues will come in, and we have to get rid of the social safety net the way it's been, and cut spending, slash spending dramatically. it was very divided policywise and barack obama won pretty handily.
>> a week after the election john boehner , speaker boehner , does a press statement and he says we're not going to raise revenues. we should look at loopholes and deductions.
>> one thing that hasn't changed and you can put on as many senate republicans as you want looking reasonable. what hasn't changed is the tea party caucus in the house. they've lost a few members, but they're still a majority and john boehner has to find some way to get something past them. that's why i doubt there will be a christmastime deal. i think the president is going to have to let these tax cuts end and then boehner may have a chance of convincing them to pass tax cuts for the bottom 98% without the top 2%.
>> do you agree with that, dr. peterson ? that the president will be forced to allow these to run their course simply so that republicans in the house won't have to face the wroth, or the wrath as you like to say, of grover norquist ?
>> i think it's a distinct possibility and it's more about forcing republicans in the house to face the wrath of the american people when the president puts on the table he wants to cut taxes for 98% of americans after we sort of go over the fiscal cliff or the fiscal slope. and this is a really interesting thing though, martin, and i think progressives have it right here, which is when we're talking about this grand bargain or we're talking about cuts in tax cuts and revenue, we need to talk about what these things mean. when we're talking about getting more revenue through tax cuts , we're asking the top 2% of people in america who can afford to do so to pay a little more in taxes. but when you start talking about some kind of grand bargain where you're cutting medicare and medicaid , we're talking about people's lives and health care . this is part of the reason why the president doesn't want social security to be part of it. why folk on the left are still angry that something like medicare or medicaid are sort of used as false equivalencies with tax increases. we have to think about people's real lives and health care really addresses those issues versus wealthy folk paying a little more.
>> david , if that's the case, if professor peterson is right, why then did the president when he was in the process of negotiating a grand bargain with speaker boehner , agree to suggest or even imply that, for example, the age of qualification for certain of these entitlements would go up?
>> the president has decided that the way to deal with this overall, i'm not saying this is right or wrong, is that we have divided government which means we're going to try to take care of the deficit and the tax cut and also the debt ceiling issue all at once. he tried to do that two summers ago and came close and he felt you had to give up something in terms of -- not social security as much as on medicare and medicaid which do have some fiscal challenges in the next 12 years. now, if you talk to people around the president, they all say, listen, it's better if we take care of this and we fix it than if 4, 8, 12 years from now you have a republican in the white house and a republican congress and they get rid of these programs and eviscerate them. they're looking at a long-term plan and it is something that's going to make some progressives mad and it's going to depend on what the details are and i think dr. peterson is right here that you don't have a false equivalence but sometimes to get a deal through you have to yield a little bit. the question is how much.
>> the president has been talking about that compromise. dr. peterson , while the president met with small business owners today, speaker boehner got a visit from some nude protesters decrying budget cuts to aids funding. so i guess the negotiations are quite lively, are they not?
>> they are. and these protesters are raising the real issues of humanity that we -- we need to have more humanity in these discourses. i'll concede the point that it's not a false equivalency but the way we are talking about the fiscal cliff is we're not acknowledging what our priorities need to be. so, for instance, if we cut military spending the way the fiscal cliff will, that is not quite as detrimental as eradicating or irrevocably changing medicare and medicaid . they're just not equal --
>> and i think, professor peterson , all of us agree when people talk about medicare and social security , they do it with a callousness which is unconscionable and that's what you're talking about.
>> okay. well, we've heard some optimism that republicans , as we were saying earlier, are about to divorce grover norquist . take a listen to senator chuck schumer this afternoon. here he is.
>> republicans are saying they want a divorce from grover norquist , but with each new republican disavowing grover norquist , the chances of a deal rises sharply.
>> david , you're a historian of these things. is the ring actually going to come off or are these just impure thoughts that grover has said some republicans are having?
>> i think grover norquist is probably one of the happiest guys in washington this week. it seems as if he is the big 800- pound gorilla who dictates policy. i have to bleach that t -- believe that the 80 or so tea party members of the caucus, they don't give a damn about grover norquist . what they worry about is what happens in their own gerrymander districts where they have to worry about primary challenges and the like. you know, breaking a pledge is not a big deal for any politician, we all know that. what really matters, all politics being local s whether you got these extreme diehard tea party republicans who feel they can be true to whatever they want to be true to and get re-elected by following boehner towards a deal. i still question whether there are enough tea party republicans who will make that calculation. grover norquist being not a part of this at all.
>> professor peterson ?
>> the republicans here have got to make the case to their constituencies that raising taxes on the 2% is not somehow indicting or challenging or messing with the economies of most of their base. i mean, we've got to disassociate the lobbyists and different wealthy interests that support and fund someone like grover norquist and which kind of the money and politics theme we always talk about here. we've got to -- the republicans have got to divorce that from their actual constituency. those folks in the red state who actually use a lot of federal support to exist and subsist. and the republicans have got to articulate that message to their constituents. otherwise, they're still going to have monied interests dominating the platform of their party.
>> professor james peterson , david corn , thank you both.