Mitchell Reports | December 07, 2012
>>> egypt, syria, potential crisis in north korea , in fact, and that's even before we get to all the domestic politics, the fiscal cliff. are we ever going to be able to enjoy a holiday season in washington ? joining me for a look at the week that was, susan page , " usa today 's" washington bureau craze, chris freights, congressional correspondent for the national journal and the white house correspondent for npr. thanks to all of you. susan , first to you, you've been watching all the body language from the speaker and the president. now at least they're in direct talks. could we get the grand bargain that was aborted a year ago?
>> i'm not sure we're going to get the grand bargain, the one with the big pieces that kind of get us on a path so we don't have to revisit these issues in this way, but i think it looks more likely we're going to get a deal that will prevent us from going off the fiscal cliff and probably going to be a deal that the white house will be happy with. i think it's increasingly clear that the white house has the upper hand, they're better off if -- they're better off than republicans if we go over the fiscal cliff. they have leverage from the campaign. that's the directionion -- speaker boehner today kept the door open to raising rates on the wealthy as part of a negotiating plan.
>> at the white house , what are you hearing as to how much flexibility the president thinks he has?
>> it's interesting. i had an interesting conversation yesterday with senator sheldon, white house democrat from rhode island , on the senate budget committee , he said look if we go through january 1st without a deal, it's not the end of the world . it will be the end of the world if they never get resolved. if they don't get resolved until mid january or february we'll be okay. from the white house and democrats we want a deal but not afraid to go past this deadline without a deal as susan said, they know they have the upper hand and waiting for republicans to bend.
>> you've been looking at this from the per spective the wise men who used to be in leadership and take a look at what happened you wrote about mitch mcconnell and his attempt basically calling for a filibuster of his own debt ceiling bill. how does that happen?
>> big misstep by the senate republican leader on the floor. republicans have often brought up pieces of legislation that they know democrats won't vote for. the president's budget is an example. the day before mcconnell brought up the president's plan that secretary quiter in brought to republicans and harry would have put it on the floor. he took the debt limit and put that on the floor and harry reid said i'm going to take a look at it and get back to you. few hours he said hey, mitch, let's do it. and we have the votes let's put it on the floor and mitch mcconnell said only if there's a 60 vote thresh hold and republicans lost a lot of leverage there. this -- remember the debt ceiling limit was something republicans thought they could deal on going forward and that they could maybe get some spending cuts and agreement to raise the debt limit.
>> they thought they had the upper hand. mitch mcconnell sort of blew his own leverage. dick gephardt and the others you've spoken to say about the way the current leadership is handling this.
>> they're optimistic. when i talk to the former house majority leader gephardt yesterday, he said i feel like there's a rhythm to these things and we're in a rhythm now where the principles, the president and speaker are talking and not leaking those calls. if you saw both the white house was very cagey about the call yesterday between the two men, speaker boehner wouldn't talk about the -- what the conversation was, and so there's some feelings and progress but what gephardt did say was this is really hard because people are going to lose their seats if they vote for this and that, when you that kind of self-preservation it's very difficult and the public needs to get on board and support any kind of deal, not their preferred deal, but any kind of deal to help the leaders get there.
>> i want to ask all of you, ari and susan and chris , about the cabinet decisions. we're told the president's still not decided about susan rice versus john kerry , and now there are a number of other players because this is a domino bit of business, where if susan rice goes to the senate department instead of john kerry , it would mean that someone else , probably tom donna lin will remain as chief of -- as national security adviser. it would open up the u.n. ambassador's job for samantha power . look at some of the players in play here. you have a team being weighed and balanced. susan , what are you hearing as to which way the president might go?
>> you know, i think that you would have to talk -- the true answer is i don't know which way the president is going to go. i think he's in a box. he's gotten himself in a pickle here. it seems clear his preference is susan rice for state and that's buying an argument he knows that's buying a fight with the senate for confirmation. if he goes with her he's going to spend political capital there. if he doesn't go for her now, does it indicate he's backing off in the face of opposition which might send a signal. i think this was handled in a way that has put him -- made the situation harder for him.
>> you've also got the -- the deputy national security adviser, dennis mcdonna and the possibility he might step up and become chief of staff.
>> chief of staff.
>> if jack lew goes to treasury. jack lew by all accounts the frontrunner for treasury?
>> that's what i've heard. i think what we see in the balloon floated about, dennis going up to possibly be chief of staff is a shift in focus in president obama 's second term. you know, bringing jack lew on as chief of staff, showed a strong emphasis on economic issues. if he were to bring dennis mcdonna on it would affirm that in this second term, issues from syria to egypt to the middle east conflict between the israelis and palestinians will be on the front burner. he may want someone whose expertise is national security instead of economic issues.
>> when he makes the decisions among these players, what's remarkable is they're all inside players. these are all the people who helped elect him four years ago. he's not reaching out as far as we know to business leaders and other foreign policy experts. talk of chuck hagel . we believe he's been vetted. possibly for the pentagon or cia. we don't know how serious that is. so far, it's all the same circle.
>> that's right.
>> musical chairs.
>> musical chairs. the knock a lot of people in washington give to the obama white house it is too insular and he doesn't pull the kinds of expertise he needs into this white house . there's an opportunity in this second term for him to shake things up a little bit. you know, maybe to bring in new players, new faces who have been there from the clinton white house , and kind of help the dynamic and help the governing because a lot of people on capitol hill even democrats will tell you, he's not good at governing and building coalitions. maybe if he brought some folks in who knew how to do that there would be more give and take on the fiscal cliff issue, on the tax reform and entitlement reforms that we get next year, and there is a sense he really could use a bit of some fresh blood to make things a little easier going forward.
>> chris , susan , and ari, thank you very much for all