Morning Joe | December 21, 2012
>> what happens next, mr. cantor?
>> all right. it's a little bit of a contrast there. a live look at the white house . welcome back to " morning joe ." harold ford jr . still with us. and joining the table is former treasury official and " morning joe " economic analyst, steve rattner. also with us from chicago, former senior adviser to president obama , now the director of the institute of politics at the university of chicago , david axelrod . good to have you all at the table this morning. all right.
>> david axelrod , putting on your hat as institute of politics guy and not barack obama communication guy, what the hell happened last night?
>> well, a whole lot of nothing, obviously.
>> we're trying to figure out how john boehner botched this the way he did and caused further damage to my party .
>> yeah. no, they went from plan "b" to plan see you later is what happens. and i really don't know the answer to what happened. obviously, you saw eric cantor . they had confidence. they had votes. and you know, it was largely a symbolic vote anyway. because that plan wasn't going to fly, wasn't going to fly in the senate. the president wouldn't accept it. but the fact that they couldn't even pass that was an embarrassment. i mean, this is the longest day of the year, and certainly true for john boehner . i'm sure he's scratching his head right now. but the bottom line is that we need to fashion a plan, and the president's offered one where you can get bipartisan support and move forward. this is not about -- this shouldn't be about caucus politics. it should be about solving a big problem for the country. and hopefully over the weekend, the speaker, the leadership, will think that through and come back and be ready to negotiate seriously and move forward.
>> i wonder if at this point there is anything that john boehner , whose leadership is being questioned in all this, steve rattner, anything he could sell. to -- i mean, there's -- it seems like even the cnn poll that we were showing last hour about how people feel about the republican party 's policies, it just seems like the party has too many extreme factions in it, and the people that john boehner is trying to bring together will not agree on anything. they will not give him anything he can lead on.
>> i disagree with that.
>> well, what is it? what could it be?
>> leadership. it comes with leadership. if you're going to ask me to march into battle , into unknown territory, steve rattner, i've got to know that you're going to get me out alive, asking republicans to vote for a plan to raise taxes for the first time in a quarter century.
>> people earning over $1 million.
>> but hold on a second, though. okay? i know this is shocking to a lot of people, but, you know, i mean, a tax increase is a tax increase. and so i'm making a bigger point here, which is if you're going to march me into that battle, you've got to convince me that you know how to get me out on the other side of that battle. and john boehner proved last night, he didn't. he didn't even know how to get on the battlefield.
>> well, but i think there is a way they could have gotten out the other side. i actually thought it was not a stupid idea. given that you don't have a deal at the bottom that the republicans can accept, you do plan "b." you get the monkey off your back and you put it on obama's back. are you really going to veto -- you can look at this either way . you can look at it as tax increase or as a massive tax cut from what would have happened on january 1st if they did nothing.
>> the president wouldn't have a chance to veto it because harry reid would have vetoed it in the tsfat. senate.
>> i'm just telling you, the politics -- this is what we called the btu'ed them, voting for a tax --
>> but you've got to get to the end of the story. you stick the monkey back on the democrats' back. harry reid doesn't let it out of the senate if you follow your scenario. taxes go up, the democrats get blamed. meanwhile, two other things are happening. sequestration goes into effect. so you get $1.2 trillion of spending cuts. you may not like it because a lot of them are on the military, but you get your spending cuts. and this is the game i thought boehner was trying to play, you get to the debt ceiling, in february or march. and republicans have another lever to force a package that they like. so i think there is an end game -- i think there was, i should use the past tense , an end game for boehner here other than passing this symbolic tax increase which, as you said, might cause them a lot of political problems.
>> david , this is willie . you said this should be about more than caucus politics. this is not about who's winning and who's losing in washington . this is a big and serious problem that could hit us on january 1st . given the fact that congress has said they're going home for christmas now, boy, that leaves about five or six days to get this done. do you have any hope from people you've talked to or what you're hearing at the white house that we'll get some kind of a deal before the sequestration goes into effect?
>> well, obviously, it's tough. i don't have any -- i don't have any inside information that would cause me to say impossible or would cause me to say optimistic, but the calendar is the calendar, so it's tough. the main thing is whether the speaker reorients himself towards solving the problem. and you know, he has a speaker's election on january 3rd . perhaps that's on his mind. but joe started the conversation with a good question, which is how does this help the republican party in the long run? and of course, it doesn't. the country's watching this spectacle, and they're saying this party is a mess. it won't put the national interests ahead of its own dogm dogmatic fashions. that's been true on other issues. we'll see what happens on the gun issue that you guys have been talking about so much and so effectively over the last week. but, you know, this is a problem -- a larger problem than john boehner 's leadership from the republican standpoint. it's a question of whether they want to be a national party and assume leadership or a factional party and never challenge for real leadership.
>> well, and talking about a national party , harold, i'm going to put this poll up again. and this is very instructive, by the way, for my republican friends at home. when i put unfortunate facts out, there are people that will say in the republican party oh, you're a rhino. that's like telling your doctor he's not a real doctor because he tells you you've got cancer that's going to kill you unless you take care of it. and that's what i've been doing on this show for years now. harold ford jr . right now 53% of americans believe my republican party is too extreme. 53%. two years ago, only two years ago, that number was at 36%. this is a party that is heading towards just absolute catastrophe, and they'd better --
>> highlighted by what happened in the past week.
>> highlighted by what happened in the past week. one of the most traumatic events --
>> in american history .
>> -- in this nation's -- in my lifetime, over 49 years. was met with complete and utter silence by one political party . complete utter silence.
>> silence. waiting for the nra .
>> because they're afraid that a small fragment of nra members that believe the federal government is coming to kick down the door and kill them and seize their property, because they're afraid of that contingent! it makes me so angry that they are destroying their party because of these extremists. and they cannot speak out to the extremists! they want to negotiate. they want to bargain. they want to fight about contraception! this was taken care of in 1965 . they want to debate on assault weapons and these high magazine clips! instead of talking about cutting taxes, creating jobs for middle-class americans , making sure that kids have a chance to go to safe schools, making sure that even though they're struggling, their older kids have a chance to go to a good college, that they've got a chance to at least get a job, as good as the job that their dad had 20 years ago! what's wrong with the extremists in this party ? what's wrong with our party leadership?
>> i don't know what's wrong with the republican party leadership. i can say two things. the myopia of republicans when it comes to tax policy is mind boggling. to david 's point, the president campaigned ferociously and consistently around the message of republicans only want to protect the rich. what they did last night, republicans rebuffing their entire leadership including paul ryan , again, was astonishing and would only reinforce the message that steve raised. two, here in new york, governor cuomo is proposing the most stringent gun control -- or i should say assault weapon control legislation in the country including limiting the size of a gun magazine where it won't -- you can't sell anything in this state that would shoot more than seven bullets at one point. the fact that republicans nationally in the state of new york are rallying around it, the fact that nationally they're not talking about this is even more telling. and finally, what this says about leadership in washington , if you're a pedestrian watching this over the next several days, that republicans -- and to some extent democrats -- but largely republicans are unable to agree to what seems to be a reasonable package to protect middle-class americans from seeing their taxes go up, i think will do more to hurt washington 's standing in the eyes of everyday businesspeople and everyday people .
>> i actually think it's the party .
>> and republicans are going to now, after what they did yesterday, will bear even more of the blame.
>> much more. much more.
>> mika , business leaders that were harshly critical of barack obama over the past four years --
>> -- they're now sitting down with him in the white house saying, what do we do to get our party -- these are republican ceos saying how can we get our party to come to the table and stop an economic catastrophe that will devastate the middle class if this continues?
>> right. and they want, at this point, the word that i find annoying to an extent, but at this point, certainty. give us something. let's move on. let's now understand what our reality is going to be. david .
>> joe, you say the businesspeople are saying -- there's no doubt the business community has been strongly supportive. i think the signal that needs to be sent is we're not going to support you. the business community has been a font of support for the republican party and for those republican legislators. and i think they need to make clear this is a red-line issue, and we're not going to support you if you behave irresponsibly, if you take the country off the cliff. the president's made a reasonable compromise. you ought to accept that compromise. we ought to move forward as a country. and if you don't, if you play caucus politics, if you listen to the most strident voices and fail to solve this problem, then we're not going to fund your campaigns. and that would be a powerful message.
>> you know what's so crazy, willie , is the fact that everybody in washington knew, the president jumped to $400,000, that wasn't his last number. we would have gone up to 50 $0,000, $600,000, he was ready to go higher. and it blew up in negotiations. to do this last night and devastate the party .
>> well, right. but i think the core issue that boehner is pushing, when you get to substance, you get away from all this crazy politics, what boehner is saying is he wants $1 in cuts for increases. there was a gap. the president wanted $1.2 trillion in tax increases. it was a bit less than $1 trillion in spending cuts.
>> what what do you do? walk away from the table?
>> no, i'm with you. there was a deal to be done and boehner could have gotten that deal done, but we have this problem we've been talking about for the last 15 minutes on his hard right.
>> is there still a way for a deal to be done?
>> there's definitely a deal to be done that could pass the house and senate. i think the key question is whether boehner is prepared to do a deal without a majority of the majority. in other words, whether he's prepared to do a deal in the house where he loses a lot larger -- republicans , we all know what the potential consequences of that are for him. possibly losing his speakership. to there's definitely a deal that could pass those two houses. whether boehner will allow it is questionable.
>> he's got to go back to the caucus and say you had a 3-1 ratio, spending cuts to tax increases. now you're at best going to have a 1-1. i would call them what we said during the first segment and say guys, this is just math here. we are in a weaker position. if you're a republican, and if you're the president, you sit back and you watch politically and say, i can't believe these guys are conducting themselves this way.
>> you know, so much of this, though, mika , is about leadership. i know there's ideology. we're talking about extreme ideology. so much of it -- and it starts with the republicans that ran for president. it starts with mitt romney . when you've got prominent conservative voices calling the president of the united states a racist that hates all white people , and mitt romney says nothing --
>> or that he's not a citizen.
>> or that he's not a citizen of the united states and mitt romney says nothing. and other leaders say nothing. and the same thing -- we talked about assault weapon control. they say nothing. talk about the leadership here with john boehner . so you know, if you're john boehner , we all know, david knows, what's john boehner 's problem? john boehner 's problem is going to be his conservative base. the guys like me that gave gingrich all the problems, because we weren't going to raise taxes unless we got a lot of spending cuts. instead of going to those people, which is what i'd do first, okay. you 25, right here. i'm going to tell you right up front, you're running this thing. it's up to you. either this country goes off the cliff economically, or you guys figure out what you can live with. so we're going to sit in this room until we figure out what you guys are going to do. what does john boehner do instead? he kicks them off of committees! this is a leadership issue. this is just shortsighted, i am sorry, stupid leadership, a lack of management that led him to where he got last night.
>> so you have this cluster going on in washington to the backdrop of something much bigger for all americans looking in, and that is not just leadership, it's a party that seems to lack moral conviction. you have a party waiting for the nra to speak first, literally on guns. and you have everyone seeing their silence on this matter. nobody stepping up and saying, you know what? here's how i feel. one way or another. so you've got this backdrop now that literally reveals them to have no soul, no moral conviction, quite frankly no co- co-cojones, none. they've got none.
>> david , one week ago today, this beast was preparing to kill his mother, assault a school, go into first grade classes, line little children up and do the unspeakable. the things that unfortunately i have heard those little 6 and 7-year-olds went through in the final moments of their life, kept me awake more nights than not. the details. i'm sure you know the details. they're just -- you can't sleep after hearing what these little children went through. it has scarred the soul of americans that i know. not republicans . not democrats. not liberals or conservatives or independents. all americans , judging from my friends and relatives and loved ones and former constituents calling me, e-mailing me all the time. and yet there is one political party , as mika said, that has refused to speak out on this issue, have refused to come on news programs, to have their voices heard because they're waiting for the national rifle association .
>> and if you don't think that's true --
>> to hold a press conference.
>> -- we've reached out -- and i won't say his name, but there are some that said we can't talk to you till friday.
>> i reached out on tuesday to a guy i've known for 20 years who's a republican leader, and he said i'm sorry, i can't talk to you until after the nra has their press conference on friday.
>> till friday.
>> yeah. but you guys, you know, let's face up to the fundamental issue here, and it defines all of these things. the fundamental instinct of politicians generally -- and this is certainly true, members of congress, self-preservation, and these guys fear, in their primaries, the nra . they fear grover norquist and the strident voices on taxes because they think it threatens their tenure. and there are certain questions on which you have to -- if you're going to be a leader, if you're going to live up to your oath, you have to step up. driving the country over the cliff is one of those issues. certainly this issue of guns, i flew into laguardia airport on monday. i saw a children's choir, 7 and 8-year-olds, angelic faces and voices. and i watched and everybody there watched as they sang. and we all had the same thought in our heads, which is it could have been these kids. it could have been anyone's kids. and any reasonable person would say, we have to do something. agree, on a t. whole range of fronts, not just on guns, although guns is certainly a major part of it.
>> and so the question is, in these situations, are you willing to step up and put yourself at risk, or is your job more important to you as an elected official than the lives of those children than the welfare of our country, and these are the choices people are going to have to make.
>> and by the way, willie , for those that say democrats want to take assault weapons out of people's hands, david axelrod was incensed about a violent video game that the nfl allowed to be showed right after the president's speech a couple of nights ago.
>> yeah. three hours after his speech.
>> what was the name of the video game ?
>> i think it was called hitman absolution. there was an ad and there was this lifelike cartoon character spraying the screen with bullets.
>> are you kidding?
>> it was unbelievable. it's unbelievable.
>> it's sickening. and willie , again, talking to the republicans , one of the great things about having you on this show and that we love so much is people always ask me the same question. first of all, is he really that good-looking? but the second question they ask is, i can't figure out, is he a republican? is he a democrat? what is he? and i say, i have no idea. i have no -- i said, i think willie is a what a lot of voters are, and that is just somebody looking at both parties going okay, who's going to do best for the country? you're not ideological. how stupid does it look for one party to be completely silent to independent swing voters right now in this moral crisis?
>> what you just said is one of the most depressing things i've heard in politics in a long time, which is that a leader, supposed leader, of the republican party in this country told you he cannot speak until the nra speaks, that he takes a back seat to the nra .
>> 20 children dead.
>> 20 babies.
>> 20 babies dead. he can't speak until after the nra allows him to.
>> makes grover norquist 's pledge --
>> pathetic. and the nra will speak at 10:45 today. we'll see what they say. we'll see how far they're willing to go, if they're willing to meet the president somewhere, come down on military-style weapons, come down on those high-ammunition clips. the fact that we have leaders, i put in quotes for the moment, in washington who wait for third- party groups before they can speak from their own guts and give their feelings and give their convictions is pathetic.
>> let me just say this. while the nra is polishing off their statement today and preparing for the press conference, let me be very clear. you can be the association that protects gun owners that want to protect their children and protect their families in their home and that want to hunt with their children and grandchildren, or you could be an association who decides you want to protect survivalists and people that have assault weapons and want to have a gun that can spray down and mow down people in malls and movie theaters and in first grade classes. if you choose the latter, you're going to lose. you're going to embarrass yourself. and your organization's going to be broken in half. it's your choice. it's your choice. you can do the right thing, or you can keep doing what you've been doing since 1994 . make the choice. but i guarantee you, if you choose wrong, you're going to pay. you're going to pay a tough political price.
>> i think it's awful.
>> good luck. good luck at your press conference today. good luck. go mainstream again. be the organization you once were.
>> david axelrod , thank you very much. it's very good to see you.
>> thanks, david .
>> don't forget, slash the 'stache, mika .
>> how is slash the 'stache doing? before we go. because you're still raising money for cure.
>> you guys got my mustache. now i'm going after alex castellano's. we're a little more than halfway there. anybody watching, go to slashthestache.com.