Morning Joe | January 25, 2013
>>> welcome back to " morning joe ." we've got harold ford jr . and steve rattner with us along with richard wolffe in d.c. and joining us at the table, "fortune" magazine's assistant managing editor, leigh gallagher. and with us from new orleans , home of the -- what are they called, the watches? wasps?
>> the pelicans.
>> the pelicans.
>> mary matalin , and she's even wearing the gear, man. this is huge!
>> very huge. good morning. look what i got. " morning joe ."
>> you've got to show the other side. is that the " morning joe " mug?
>> no, you haven't given me one, but it's kind of a knock-off " morning joe " mug.
>> we need to give you one. mary , we were just reading peggy noonan , talking about conservatives not quite getting it, the rnc is trying to figure out how to turn things around. bobby jindal yesterday had a speech saying that the republicans had to stop being the stupid party . what's your take on how we turn things around as we move forward?
>> well, just as it happens, governor jindal was at james ' class -- he teaches a class at tulane this week and gave an expanded version of that commentary to these kids. and most of them are liberals, but they're all big thinkers , good thinkers, there's conservatives in the class. anyway, the point of the stupid party is, we're against rape, okay? we should make that clear. but we shouldn't -- we should find a way to connect the principles that are at the foundation of this country and its success and its exceptionalism and it goes to families. we who live by that philosophy, live by that daily code understand it. we somehow are not conveying it. we're not conveying what the role and scope of government should be, and more precisely, for some reason, i think we say this till we're blue in the face , we can't sustain this scope and this role of government that we're currently on the trajectory for. but i'm not worried. i'm very optimistic.
>> well, i'm glad one of us is. why don't you tell me, in just a really quick overview, why is it that not so long ago, when you and i were growing up following politics, republicans were the party that we won elections. we won by 40 -- you know, we won 49 states. we would laugh at democrats because they were always on defense. they were always out of the mainstream. and we won five out of six elections. democrats now have won five out of the last six elections and the popular vote. what's the difference? why is that?
>> well, as you noted, i'm in new orleans as part of the real world . and i would take issue with when we were growing up. i think we're still growing up, joe . what's going on in the real world , not just new orleans , but starting here, we've had -- we were down on our knees in some combination of good government, good leadership, not profligate spending with the private sector. we've had number one education gains in the country. we're the number one brain game, the number one entrepreneurial start- start-up. the principles are winning. there are 30 republican governors out there. scott walker just won his fight, in those 30 states that are being governed with economic principles and good government principles, reform government , modern government. their economies are growing at twice the rate of the national government . so that's why i'm optimistic. it's not -- there are principles at work. there are economics that work. it doesn't work. so my long-term view is that the states will soon be bailing out the feds.
>> we shall see. leigh , you're writing a book right now talking about the demographic changes that are basically putting an end to the suburbs as we know it. these same demographic changes present a tremendous challenge for the republican party on one side. but on the other side presents a tremendous challenge to the party of big government . we are going to spend the next 30 years, at some point -- now, this president is ignoring the reality. his inaugural speech could not have been any more disconnected from the reality that we now face economically. but at some point those demographics could actually help small-government conservatives because we're going to have to figure out how to scale back in a smart way.
>> it's true. and the demographics are happening -- it's not just the ethnic makeup of our country, it's the birth rate falling that's going to affect all of us. it's changed in the marriage rate. this country is changing, and it's changing pretty quickly and quite dramatically. so these things are going to affect everybody. one thing i think is interesting about the republican party , the changes that it's seen over the past several years play out in its relationship to business, in particular. and if you look at, for example, you know, the tea party has seen the rise -- or more people in the party from smaller rural communities, small towns which actually you could argue goes against the thesis of my book, but, you know, it's no longer aligned with big business . and that's a very big deal . in many ways, many people in the republican party are becoming suspicious of big business . and the republican party used to be the party of big cities , big corporate interests, and that's kind of changed as well. and i think that's something that's not going totally noticed here.
>> harold, that's one of the things that bobby jindal talked about. it's ironic, we've become the party of big. during george w. bush 's years, we were the party of big government . we became the party of big business . republicans weren't always the party of big business . ronald reagan , he went after big government , big business and big unions. somehow republicans have become wed to defending big businesses no matter how big they are and big billionaires regardless of how few taxes they pay percentagewise. that ain't a winning combination.
>> they've become defenders and they've become aligned with that group whether they are or they aren't. i agree with leigh 's premise that you find remaking of politics across the board. democrats more and more are even aligned with larger business interests. and it makes sense in a lot of ways when you talk about the democrats ' success in national elections, business in america looks to government to be supportive and to be helpful, and it should. i'm a pro-business, pro-markets democrat that believes we've got to figure out how, to bobby jindal 's point, recal bakacalibrate the compass of politics. today the politics in washington is broken and dysfunctional and not producing results with the magnitude of challenges the country is facing.
>> steve rattner.
>> one of the things that republicans have managed to do in the course of this self-emulation, is they've alienated themselves from big business not so much on their policies but on just their way of doing business . big business looks at them and says, how do you run a country with debt-ceiling debacles, fiscal cliffs with no decisions being made? and so it's a little bit like that old line, i didn't leave my heart. my party left me. i think a lot of big businessmen feel republicans have just gone a little bit crazy, and they are sort of now a group without a home because they're not democrats either. but it's another problem area for republicans .
>> you saw that during the fiscal cliff. you know, when you had this parade of these big ceos going down to washington , more engaged arguably than any time in the last several years, but yet it didn't really have an impact at all. and i think part of that is because their message was, you've got to compromise, but part of that is because they weren't really saying anything specifically. they weren't hyper-engaged in a way they were calling them up and said there's what you have to compromise on. it was appealing to the mass populous.
>> that group which i'm involved with left really disappointed/disgusted with what goes on in washington .
>> as we all were.
>> and that's true.
>> both sides. so mary , what's the difference between now and, say, 1994 , '93/'94? we were in the minority. but we had newt leading the charge along with trent lott and others in the minority. connie mack back in '93/'94, and you had haley barbour running the rnc. there was a mplan moving forward. who's that strong republican leader now or leaders that can bring us together even when we're wandering through the wilderness? trying to figure out how to get to israel?
>> i happen to live in paradise here, so i'm not quite as pessimistic as y'all are up there. and i'm not -- the world's not anti- big business or pro- big business , it's just the reality of economics is that the greatest number of jobs, which is what everybody out in the real world is concerned about, are created by start-ups, and they're created by small businesses . and the way to jump start that is our principles, which are the same as you go up the ladder to big business . we need regulation that doesn't strangle us but that cements the kind of rules of the road for all businesses. and we need tax reform . we need energy reform. we need all those kinds of reforms that have only been espoused by republicans . so we're saying we're not winning, but i'll say again, we're winning at the states. we're rinwinning at the legislative level, and change comes from the ground up, which is a concept in conservatism, it's a concept in catholicism, it's called subsidiary. the closer to the effort, the better the outcome. so i'm not pessimistic. i don't want to hurt anybody's feelings up there, but everyone thinks, as always thought, it's been dysfunctional, and they're kind of throwing their hands up. no one in this last election, i have a word for this president, it's delusional. if he thinks people voted for climate change , cap and trade or they voted for some of the things he talked about in his inaugural, they did not. they still do not support his signature policy. they do not support the way in which this government is growing. i don't care if it's business or if it's states. it's certainly citizens do not think they voted for what they heard on inauguration day .
>> mary , good morning, harold ford . congratulations. i hope y'all have a good super bowl down there. in light of what you said, and i can appreciate living in the real world . and we being a little disconnected.
>> we actually have to -- you know, when we walk out of here, we walk out of our homes, we actually have to put on like a space helmet . because this is not -- this is not the real world . and i know that this is shocking to mary matalin who was never, ever, ever an occupant of washington , d.c., or new york city .
>> there's no convert -- yeah, that's why i can say it, joe . i'm not trying to hurt anybody's feelings.
>> nobody's feelings are hurt.
>> i'm messing with you a bit. tell james i said hello.
>> tell james i said hello.
>> why is it if the president is so disconnected -- i happen to disagree, but let's take you at your word -- why can't republicans find success against him? why have republicans been so unsuccessf unsuccessful? if they're doing great things at the state and local level, which i'll grant you some of that for the sake of the conversation, why can't republicans muster or configure a national message that resonates with the majority of voters?
>> i think they can. i think they have. the rubios and the ryans and the cruzes are more connected to where people really live. i'm not saying this president is unattractive and people want to continue watching believe that he could unite, but at every turn, he does not unite. he does divide. we're going backwards in the sense of we're identifying by our color and our gender and our income and our region. and it's just -- i would argue that the democrats have moved away from the mainstream way more than the republicans have. and i keep coming back to the state argument. they will -- we are coming up on a midterm. we have a number of democrats that have won in states. the majority of them that mitt romney won by double digitses. with the possible exception of north carolina . those democrats that are in the senate, the senate's not done its job. the house republicans have passed a budget. the senate has not passed a budget since obamacare was passed. those senate democrats that were just elected like heidi heitkamp or claire mccaskill , they're not going to support this president's agenda. those up for re-election cannot support it. i continue to believe we're winning on principles because those principles are winning.
>> mary , do you support the gun reforms that the president's putting forward?
>> mary 's optimistic.
>> i'm totally optimistic. i have no objection to background checks.
>> i was just curious.
>> i have a gun. i don't have an uzi. i have a ladies' gun. i have a .357, and i think people -- and i respect the second amendment. but more importantly, don't be offended, again, i understand that i am of that world, i still have a foot in that world. i still have a home up there. i'm still active in politics, in the rnc reform. but this is a -- it's not what people sit around at their kitchen table and talk about. we still have too few jobs or we're underemployed out here. i love -- you guys keep paying attention, this is very, very important what you're doing. i didn't mean to in any way suggest that it isn't. but i'm optimistic because i see real reform and real growth outside.
>> mary , we love you, mary . and thank you for being on our show. and we will all -- we will all be wearing our helmets today. speaking of helmets, mary --
>> go, new orleans !
>> go, new orleans ! speaking of helmets, ravens or 49ers?
>> i'm for the saints. you know what? we love all the teams. let me just say this. we'll have a culinary cook-off because we have three culinary cities. they don't know this yet. we want the mayors of baltimore and san francisco to see if they can match us in culinary ep epicurian delights.
>> that's not going to happen. mary matalin , please say hello to james . we hope to see him very soon. so steve rattner, she's optimist optimistic. it's good to hear. we've lost 5 out of the last 6 elections, and things aren't looking good. but i love optimism.
>> yeah, but just one little data point, in order to get those house republicans to go along with the debt ceiling change, they had to promise that paul ryan was going to produce a budget in a week that would balance the budget in ten years with no revenue increases.
>> now, when you see what is going to happen to spending in order to meet those numbers, i'd like to see her go out there and say, this is the kind of thing the republican party should get behind and run behind because it's going to be ugly.
>> richard wolffe , mary matalin is positive. there aren't a lot of republicans right now who are given what's happened. but again, we see shifts in party allegiances fairly quickly. it just does seem like my party is suffering a long-term letdown. to say the least.
>> yeah. look, mary has a strong character, as we all know. the truth is that the president actually won and he won pretty big for his ideas. i didn't -- by the way, the president talking about cap and trade in his inaugural. he didn't say how he would address climate change . he said we have to address the impact of it. the question for republicans , i think, is what's the big idea ? and it is what you keep advocating, about controlling deficits. you have to look in the short term, at least, of the experience of a conservative government , in my old country in london, where they're now after several years of trying to deal with deficits and cutting spending, they're looking now at a triple-dip recession. triple-dip recession. that is not a path to political survival. it's certainly not a path to economic survival.
>> and i feel the need to underline this, again, because i say it all the time. and i will say it one more time. when i talk about addressing the debt, i'm talking about addressing the long-term debt. i'm talking about addressing medicare , social security , medicaid , defense spending , long-term outlays. and the only reason i'm slowing down here is because i get this an awful lot. people keep talking about austerity and slashing and burning the next year or two. listen, pete peterson and some of the most respected minds on this issue of long-term debt and the crisis that we face will say that it's not the deficits in the short run that kill us as a country. it's the long-term debt. that's what i'm talking about. and i say time and again, you can have a balanced approach. you can do the responsible thing on medicare , medicaid , social security , defense spending , even though it's not going to be easy, but you can take care of long-term debt while still investing in education, r&d, infrastructure, the sort of things that actually help us grow out of this slow economy over the next two, three, four years. i'm not talking about slashing or burning. the republicans don't have to talk about slashing and burning, but we've all got to talk about, leigh , about taking care of medicare and medicaid , taking care of social security . you know, stop being defenders of the world, policemen of the world. it's just an extraordinarily high defense budget . and we've got to reform the tax code . it's too complex.
>> i think everyone agrees that we do need to fix the debt. that that is a problem, and that is a long-term problem. you know, we also have these short-term problems. like if you look at wage growth, wages are at a record low of gdp, and that's happened pretty recently. real household income has declined. there's urgent problems, as mary mentioned, that many people are feeling. so, you know, steve 's point is great. i mean, when this new budget comes out, it's self-defeating because it's going to -- it's really going to -- it's going to make the party look like the party that wants to destroy medicare . and that's not going to win either.
>> steve , how long, though, can we ignore -- forget republicans . let's talk about erskine bowles . erskine will be the first to tell you, we just can't keep ignoring the debt. we can't keep doing what the president's been doing for four years saying we'll worry about it next year. we'll worry about medicare next year, we'll worry about medicaid next year, social security , defense spending . we can't keep pushing these things off, can we? how long can we?
>> nobody who has taken third grade math thinks we can push this off. this is not complicated. there's no doubt about it. the question is how and when? so to get to your point, when might be today because we are still in a weak economy, and that's okay, but you've got to get to the long-term problem, but it's got to be balanced, joe . it's got to be revenues, cutting entitlements, dealing with defense spending , a package. right now you've got one group that says i'm willing to do it but only this part. another group says i'm willing but only this part of it. and those two groups are just too far apart for the country's good.
>> didn't we already raise taxes taxes?
>> we also cut a lot of spending, $2.4 trillion of spending.
>> democrats are going to come back and want more tax increases.
>> the president has been very clear, he'll cut spending, but you have to have some revenues with it.
>> more. he wants to tax more.
>> look, the republicans want to cut --
>> it's sort of addictive, isn't it?
>> the republicans want to cut $1.2 trillion of spending. and this tax increase that happened at the end of the year that affected 0.4% of americans was $64 billion.
>> you're not going to take care of medicare and medicaid by taxes.
>> i agree.
>> it's just not even close.
>> i agree, but you're not going to take care of it without taxes.
>> we'll see.
>>> all right. still ahead, a preview of "meet the press" with david gregory and " washington post " columnist eugene robinson . you're watching " morning joe " brewed by starbucks.