Martin Bashir | February 20, 2013
>>> counting until tens of billions of dollars are slashed from military and domestic spending. individually, hundreds of thousands could lose their jobs. nationally, the economy could fall back into recession. yet the contrast between how each party is playing its hand could not be more stark. the president is taking his message of a balanced approach to eight local affiliates from different geographic regions of the country. this comes after his speech tuesday, where he laid out what the sequester cuts will mean to the average american .
>> so these cuts are not smart, they are not fair, they will hurt our economy, they will add hundreds of thousands of americans to the unemployment roles. this is not an abstraction. do you want to protect some special interest loophole?
>> in other words, this is deadly serious and the president is arguing his case before the entire nation. so what has speaker boehner been doing for the last 24 hours ? well, he did manage to pen an opinion piece for "the wall street journal " presumely between lying on a sun tanning bed. i won't bore you with the details but it says the sequester is ugly and dangerous but it's up to democrats to present a plan that can pass. and then he returned to darkening his complexion. yet that message is leaving some conservatives deeply frustrated with the speaker's lack of leadership. the " washington examiner 's" byron york writes the effect of boehner 's argument is to make obama seem reasonable in comparison. i'm sorry, mr. york, but didn't you read mr. boehner 's editorial? he said he wanted democrats to get serious about the sequester cuts. in fact he said it twice. which frankly for him is well below par.
>> replace the president's sequester, we need our democrat colleagues to get serious.
>> get serious.
>> get serious.
>> get serious.
>> get serious.
>> yes, let's serious. i'm joined by kristen welker who's live at the white house . kristen, these cuts are no laughing matter, but how does the white house get house republicans to agree to additional revenue? what are you hearing?
>> reporter: well, martin, i'm not sure that they're going to be able to in terms of strategy. we've seen president obama taking his case to the american people . you saw him do that yesterday in that clip that you aired with the president joined by first responders making the case that their jobs could be at risk if the sequester kicks in. of course today he's granting interviews to local affiliates across the country. i expect him to hit the road next week to take his message on the road. but from all accounts talking to people on both sides of pennsylvania avenue , it looks like this sequester by all likelihood will kick in. that is what a lot of people believe at this point in time, just nine days left for congress and the white house to avert those deep spending cuts that are scheduled to kick in on march 1st . both sides still deeply entrenched. the president calling for new revenues, as you pointing out, and republicans said they are not going to do that because they just gave president obama new revenues in that last fiscal fight a few months ago. so that is where both sides stand right now. that is the president's strategy. martin, it doesn't look like anything is going to get done by march 1st . you might see the sequester kick in and then see lawmakers deal with it in the coming weeks perhaps with the budget deal.
>>> let's get right to our panel, professor michael eric dyson is a university professor and jonathan alter is a columnist. both are msnbc annualists. jonathan, a new report says that these cuts could cost the country 700,000 jobs through the next year. do republicans understand that they are to blame for this if it occurs? because i'm not sure they do.
>> well, they're trying to put the onus on the president. they're saying it's obama 's sequest sequester, obama 's budget. this whole thing was designed was because they were putting a gun to the head of the american people in the summer of 2011 and basically holding the full faith and credit of the united states hostage to their narrow agenda. so they're the one that created the straitjacket that we're in right now and they're trying to blame obama . we'll see if they can get away with it. right now their popularity is a lot lower than his. so he has the upper hand. but when he said it's not an abstraction, he's actually not right, it is an abstraction. and so the real question will be --
>> what do you mean?
>> the notion of the cuts for most people don't hit home. so the question is --
>> hang on a second, john. the director of national intelligence who oversees 16 separate intelligence organizations has already warned that this sequester could provoke some kind of national security price.
>> that's not my point. you're talking about the world of facts and reality.
>> i'm talking about the world of perception.
>> as perceived by most people as just more washington gobble gobbledy-gook. after the 1st of march as these cuts start to hit, and it won't be all at once, as they start to hit over march and april --
>> and you can't get a flight.
>> suddenly the airports are jammed, food safety is compromised. at that point the republicans will really feel the full weight of public opinion on this.
>> professor dyson, why is it always the case that when there is a deal to be made, speaker boehner can't corral his caucus or is it that they simply refuse to reach any agreement with this president, regardless of how serious the situation is?
>> well, i think it's a both and not an either/or. i think he's trying to hut on the one hand and on the other hand he can't generate the consensus necessary with his party because they have made a decision that we will not break bread symbolically or metaphorically with barack obama . he will not receive the fundamental respect due to him as the person wielding the bully pulpit . they are still smarting from their rejection at the voting booth and as a result of that, the american people , as jonathan alter has pointed out, don't quite get the fact perceptually that this is about the very fundamental reality of politics. politics is about the distribution of critical resources at a time of crisis to vulnerable populations. when the crisis, although it's you and me it's swelling, we understand the proportions of what looms ahead here.
>> no doubt.
>> the average american sees this as beltway punditry that has nothing to do with their bottom line . but when it hits their bottom line , by the time it hits their bottom line , we're going to be in a deep hole here. i think at that level the republicans are going to have to bear a lot of the weight.
>> jonathan, mr. boehner likes to say these cuts are the president's cuts as you pointed out earlier, and yet the" daily beast " dug up a slide show boehner presented to republicans . at the top of it we can read that this deal sets up a new sequestration process to cut spending across the board. and whose name is at the bottom surrounded by stars? none other than our first speaker, john boehner . tell me, isn't this the best argument they have? is that all they have?
>> yeah. they're playing the same kind of games that they have been playing for the last two years.
>> we don't have youtube, we don't have libraries, news information libraries we can get the things that they have said.
>> they don't care. they don't care what the liberal media says.
>> i'm not talking about liberal media --
>> they're playing to their base.
>> i'm talking about things by the speaker.
>> here's the problem, martin. their base doesn' members of been elected in districts, you know, with 55%, 60% of the vote. they are impervious to facts. they are impervious to reason. they may even be impervious to public opinion . and that's what we're going to finding out this spring, if the people in their districts start to go crazy when these cuts kick in. if they don't, it's going to be very problematic for democrats because then a lot of people in those districts might say, see, we can handle these cuts. so we're into uncharted territory here. it's not as terrifying as, you know, default would have been, as it was in 2011 . but a lot of people are going to get hurt because the republicans refuse to recognize that we just had an election. the people are supposed to be able to decide. they made a choice. they chose president obama and his balanced approach. they did not choose republican obstructionism but our system is now in paralysis essentially.
>> indeed. professor dyson, senator rand paul, the official responder of the tea party , calls this all histrionics. he says when the sequester happens, it will be a big yawn. frankly, i think rand paul is all histrionics. what do you think?
>> i think you're absolutely right. it's a yawn, all right. a yawning abyss. what we see here is a chasm between two sides that can't reconcile their vision of what america is about. the american people are going to be forced into a choice as to whether or not this kind of assault on the values and sensibilities of working class poor and middle class people is going to suffice or whether or not people believe in what president obama is suggesting here, that hundreds of thousands of people are going to lose their jobs. we can't even get the minimum wage put on the table because the ostensible protection of the small businessman and woman is there to ward off any concern for the poor and the working poor . and as a result of that, we can't even get a word in edgewise about the middle class because elite republicans don't want the american people to have what they take for granted every day. health insurance , a job that they can turn to that will have a paycheck ready and the ability to exercise their talents without the fear that people like them, the republican kabal here, will step in and interrupt the process. until we come to that kind of sensibility, we're not going to have much progress. unfortunately, barack obama is going -- president obama will have to continue to use that bully pulpit to hammer away at these republicans .
>> and we should remind our viewers that the house and the senate are still on recess. thank you so much.