Martin Bashir | February 18, 2013
>>> it is president's day, an extra day of rest for millions of americans and count the president among those who could use it. in the next hour he's scheduled to board air force one and return from florida to washington and when he gets there, it's certain he'll be met with the same republican hysteria and overreaction to any policy that bears his name. and this afternoon it's immigration. yes, this comes after " usa today " obtained a draft of the policy that the white house has been working on in order to plot a pathway to citizenship for the 11 million undocumented immigrants currently living in the united states . the white house called it a backup plan just in case congress fails to produce a compromise on immigration reform that could pass both houses. apparently there's this rumor going around that congress couldn't tie its own shoelaces, let alone pass something as large and complex as immigration reform . at least not without another committee hearing on benghazi and so the president has decided to plan for that possibility. much as he said he would last month. let me repeat that, much as he said he would last month. so cue the republican frenzy.
>> leaking this out does set things in the wrong direction.
>> this is the president torpedoing his own plan and shows me he's really not serious.
>> does the president really want a result or does he want another cudgel to beat up republicans so he can get political advantage in the next election?
>> no wonder if the man needed to play golf with tiger woods if these were your co-workers. don't just take my word for it. even newt gingrich has begrudgingly come to a similar conclusion.
>> an obama plan led and driven by obama in this atmosphere with the level of hostility towards the president and the way he goads the hostility, i think it's hard to imagine that his bill is going to pass the house.
>> nice haircut, newt. let's go et to our panel. julian epstein is a democratic strategist and steve kornacki is in his second hour of broadcasting. he comes as the co-host of "the cycle." . "the new york times" says the white house is considering a decade long plan to map the human brain much like they did with the human genome . does that mean that republicans are now going to be against brains? even more than they have been already?
>> i mean, look -- seriously. when is the opposition to this research going to be published?
>> i think there is sort of an optimistic/machiavellian way of reading the dance we saw over the weekend with the white house kind of leaking this and republicans showing their reflex reflexive opposition. i think there is genuine will on the part of marco rubio and other republicans in an understanding they have to get to comprehensive immigration reform this year. the problem is there's tremendous resistance on the base both to the concept of immigration reform and to the idea of working couldn't tioperatively with obama . what this does in a way is it allows rubio and allows some of the others who will have to cut a deal with obama or could have to cut a deal with obama to have that moment where, oh, no, this is presidential overreach, this is king obama , we're walking away and it can bring them back and it can in a round about way make it easier to eventually let them sell a compromise to their base. that's the optimistic way of looking at this.
>> we're forgetting the greatest nonscandal of all time, benghazi . shouldn't congress xhond that tiger woods and his caddie appear before a committee because he might now know something about benghazi ?
>> this would be typical of the republicans . as we discussed the other day, this is a party that has lost three out of the last four elections starting with 2006 , and at some point they're going to have to figure out how they can choose issue where is they can win the argument, and it's hard to think of in the last year or even the last couple years where they have won the argument on a particular issue, and i think, you know, just to segway back to what steve said on immigration, i think at the end of the day this is an excuse a lot of republicans are looking for to walk away from the legislation. i think the leak was probably a mistake. at the same time the refrain you have heard from republicans constantly about this white house is where is their plan? where is their plan? it seems like crocodile tears now that they're complaining about a plan being leaked, but i think steve hits it on the nose here. the republicans are -- have forced themselves into this hobs hobson's choice where they have to cater to their base which represents 20% to 25% of the electorate at most or the rest of voters, the rest of the 75%, and it's very, very difficult for them to try to do those of two things at the same time. and at the end of the day they understand that florida is becoming a blue state . texas is on its way to becoming a blue state . they understand that if they're going to keep catering to the base, that they are going to become a permanent minority party , and immigration is the perfect place to showcase this dilemma that they have no way how to kind of get their way out of this box they've put themselves into the corner of. what they're doing with complaining about the leak is they're just looking for some opportunity to walk away from this process.
>> how about chuck hagel ? i think we can confidently say that he will be confirmed as secretary of defense and that's not me saying it, that's republicans who are blocking him. here they are.
>> we will have a vote when we get back, and i'm confident that senator hagel will probably have the votes necessary to be confirmed as the secretary of defense.
>> but you're not a yes vote for your old friend?
>> no. i don't believe he is qualified, but i don't believe that we should hold up his nomination any further.
>> so steve , does that mean that hagel is not the most leftist, iran-loving, israel-hating, possibly terrorist-linked candidate ever to be nominated as defense secretary ?
>> well --
>> can one interpret that in that way.
>> it's interesting when he says not qualified. i'm curious what mccain means by not qualified because when you look at generally speaking when it comes to cabinet nominations, advise and consent, the idea is to ask tough questions but generally confirm unless there's a conclusion that the nominee is uniquely unqualified. you think of the only secretary of defense to go down, john to youer in 1989 . there was talk that heavy drinking, womanizing. he was unqualified and unfit for the job. i'm tocurious what mccain means. that is grounds to vote against a nominee. it's not i disagree with him on this position. that is not grounds to vote against a cabinet nominee at least historically but unqualified, unfit for the office is. that's a little bit of a strange statement.
>> this is just a fabricated series of blockages and obstructions which have no substance in any kind of truth. if he's not qualified for defense, who is?
>> yes. this is i think the cartoonization of john mccain if you will. this is the guy who believed sarah palin was qualified to be president of the united states , and so the attack on chuck hagel , who is a decorated veteran who served in the senate for many years, most senates think just the fact you held that office makes you qualified. there's always been a deference to fellow colleagues. again, i think this is the republicans grasping for issues and arguments so they can satisfy the base in a way that is offensive to i would say certainly all the democrats and many, many independents, and again it goes to the central point i make. the republicans at some point are going to have to pick an issue that they can win a fight on. here not only are they going to lose the fight, but they have lost the argument in large part because the argument has consistently shifted. first it was about benghazi . then they conceded they had the information on benghazi . then it was this ludicrous argument that hagel is taking money from foreign enemies that has no support from any of his colleagues. finally as mccain said last week, it's a personal grudge. this is the gang who can't shoot straight in terms of prosecuting a set of arguments on a political issue that they will lose on, and this is a consistent pattern we've seen from republicans over the last year.
>> what a way to mark president's day. julian and steve , gentlemen, thanks so much.