Morning Joe | February 12, 2013
>> her we go. that's the question. can he do it? we'll start with chris matthews , can he bridge the debate.
>> he has to be a second term democratic president and focus on jobs and pick a fight you can win. immigration you can win. you ain't going to win on guns. do something on background checks and says the liberals will like it ain't going to happen. he can get republicans to put the teeth in immigration and nice stuff on path to citizenship and put the focus back on stimulating jobs and find infrastructure and education and find things that will stimulate our ability or he will not be a successful president.
>> i think tonight you will see that, joe . he will talk primarily not only about domestic issues but economic jobs and middle class opposed to domestic production and have four buckets, infrastructure, clean energy and education. it will set a predicate. i'm not sure how important it will be come march or april. i still think he has a real challenge, can get immigration through. this fiscal situation we face a sequester everybody thinks is awful in only two weeks. i don't see anything happening to avoid that right now. i think he'll get blamed for that ultimately. they say the republicans will. if the defense department is in real trouble, the president gets blamed.
>> by the way, six months from now when the job numbers are still sputtering along, not like they're going to look at john boehner and say, this is john boehner 's fault because 80% of americans don't know who john boehner is.
>> he has one great asset, joe , the republicans .
>> one asset the republicans have.
>> there is that.
>> the democrats . it's the circle of life .
>> the circle of life .
>> every time a party seems to be moving towards total domination they overreach. now, you have democrats in the strongest position they've been in quite some time. you have nancy pelosi going on the air this weekend, chris , we don't have a spending problem and other democrats talking about medicare is not a problem. basically, like republicans denying science, you know have democrats denying math and talking about more tax increases and plays into a type that helps republicans .
>> let me phrase that differently. each party that its reason to exist. if we didn't have the democratic party , we wouldn't have social security , medicare and medicaid . the republican party is into debt reduction, "law & order" in the old days, defense. democrats really don't focus on that. that's not the reason they get elected. nobody runs for office as a democrat saying i want to run for office to reduce the national debt . they have to share things. i think they can work together. the republican party has to do enforcement and say, we will make sure no more people will come hopping across the border next week. wilt stop. everybody will get papered, all on the books, straight up. no more this game of who can get across the border tonight. i think the democrats will never do that, in a million years will they get serious about the border or background -- what do you call them, work permits. e verification. they can work together. republicans be the tough cop and republicans be the republicans -- democrats be the good cops and they can work together. i'm asking president obama to lead the way. do it. we'll back you up.
>> asking about entitlement programs , republicans can make sure the math adds up over time and democrats make sure there's not a radical change in the way people receive their benefits. 92 that sounds easy to talk about. obviously it can't be done. i wonder, michael steele , when you look at for example lindsey graham on "face the nation" and some republicans really the front lines, especially on a pr level in terms of speaking for the republican party , what could this president say they would say, okay, i want to accept his invitation and go to the white house right now and work on a temporary deal or even a big deal ? is there anything? i can't think of anything.
>> i don't know what this president can say. i think the president framed the answer to that question very well, how come they can never say yes. i think getting to that point where republicans feel they can actually say yes in the context of getting something done, as chris has outlined is very difficult. i think the well is so poisoned and so polarized at this point.
>> why is it?
>> i think it goes back to couple things. one, the lack of any real relationship between the white house and the leadership on the hill. i think the early days of the administration, one of the first meetings when the president says to the leadership, well, i won, deal with it, kind of attitude, really set the tone. i think also on the day of the inauguration in 2009 you have republicans in their little kabals saying we will make this guy a one time president. everybody started from their extreme polar position with no idea or direction to move to a consensus around the big issues whether it's the economy, it was then and still is, and now we have these other sub-stories that rolled into the scene, whether, you know, welfare reform , education reform , the like. no one really knows what the consensus point is. what's the sweet spot to get to this.
>> al, a speaker can't change that culture himself. a majority leader can't do that. minority leader can't do that. i think we would all assume growing up the president is the indispensable man who could do that but can even the president, any president, this president change the culture of washington in this climate with 3 1/2 years to go?
>> i think it's very difficult. you do it selectively, joe . you do the best you can do. poor john boehner 's problems are illustrated by the fact there are two responses tonight to the president's state of the union , not just marco rubio .
>> i was asking michael. is that because the republican party is right now hopelessly divided?
>> i think it happened a couple years ago when michele bachmann and paul ryan did it. this is a continuation of that. clearly, it's divided. half of john boehner 's caucus' never j into denial, into nullification about elections and about obama and i think probably half the caucus would say if we could come up with something we'd do it. that's awful tough for him.
>> chris , can you imagine a member of the house trying tip o'neill, hey, listen, i tell you what, you have your democratic respon response, the progressives really, we'll get up there. tip, we really need -- try passion that by jack murphy .
>> let me go back to this. no parties have common interests with other parties but they have dual interests. republicans want this monkey off their back being the bad guy to immigration, want the path to citizenship. they don't want to do it but want it done so people don't keep vote iing democrat because they're hispanic. you have to stop this. you can't keep losing to hispanic growing in population and win general elections . you can't. all they want to do is get a situation where they get partial credit putting this in the past, allow people to become citizens. why don't they want a bill? why don't they work together?
>> they're going to.
>> i think it will happen.
>> what about guns?
>> i am a skeptic. gun owners , they're great vote, vote consistently, vote on one issue, everybody else , i think i'll do climate change , education tonight, people's minds topic shifts from one topic to the other, gun owner's minds don't shift, stay on one issu issue.
>> what about background check .
>> that can happen. 90-10.
>> and i don't know why they're talking about assault weapons . i don't know what manchin is doing talking about it. they can't vote for it.
>> you talk to michael bloomberg and other people focusing on this issue, they will tell you assault weapons is more symbolic than anything. if you get the your honouniversal background checks or stop trafficking, you take care of a lot of the handguns. if you can get magazines, there is a possibility of a consensus.
>> i don't think bloomberg would sell well out west. a big state guy with 16 ounce drinks, saying get out of my face.
>> but you do understand all those guns end up in his city and he does have a leg to stand on.
>> one thing that always happened in the past, once gun control was joined, everybody was for gun control and then the other side dominated. this time a little bit different whether michael bloomberg and gabby giffords but money matters. you may not think 16 ounce drinks do but --
>> you know what else matters. newtown matters. tonight will matter. kids will matter.
>> what will get passed?
>> universal background checks will get passed. if it doesn't get passed now, republicans will lose, a lot of republicans will lose in 2014 . it's a 90-10 issue and i think trafficking will get passed.
>> i think 16 ounce drinks will kill you, too, thank you, mayor bloomberg .
>> i'll take my chance with a slurpee.
>> look at chris . he doesn't believe me. you keep drinking them.
>> you know, i think we reached agreement here with all this scuffling. background checks , trafficking, probably not assault weapons .
>> probably not assault weapons . so, al, let me ask you, " washington post " wrote an article this morning and reminded me what you said before the debate bess gas began. you said presidential debates don't matter. i don't know if you still believe that after the president's first debate this year. do you still think presidential debates don't matter?
>> i think they matter but conventions matter more than debates.
>> this one really mattered.
>> really, in both instances. showing that first debate mattered that was so dreadful. he recovered from it. his lead in the polls at the end --
>> state of the union , do they matter. the " washington post " has a great article says unless you're bill clinton in the middle of a sex scandal . for bill clinton , he goes up 10 points and republicans found out he could rob a bank and go up.
>> the last time a state of the yunion when george bush made a catastrophic mistake that was negative so they can be negativ negative.
>> chuck todd joins the conversation. what do you think the big take away will be tonight and will he be able to move the meter with republicans and work with them.
>> reporter: to answer your question first, this is the last shot he has to move the needle. second terms domestically 18 months in recent history shows that's the case, whether you look at reagan or clinton or bush, they only had a small window to get anything done and their second terms domestically came to an abrupt end, scandal with reagan and clinton and katrina with bush. under that circumstance, that's why there's a little more pressure on the fraugpresident to have an effective window. this is the window if he's ever going to motivate congress to do it. his whole second term on the economy is determined how march goes. not legislative fight with bush about selling social security . for obama, it's simply, can he get past the march and budget he can get immigration done and a few other things done. if he doesn't, everything else gets stopped up. like a drain. he's trying to snake the drain and the budget impasse is this big ball of hair.
>> reporter: how's that for a visual at 7:00. people are getting ready in the morning and their sink is filling up.
>> hairballs. quite an image. but a great point made before that unfortunate image. this really may be his last great shot. this time next year, peel will be gearing up for the off-year election and after the off-year election, i remember after the off-year election in '98, i said, okay, that esit for two years, we won't get anything done here. for the most part, that's right. everybody starts waiting for the next guy or woman. this may be the last clean shot he has at changing the dynamic in a dramatic way.
>> it is.
>> i even asked, is this going to feel like a clinton state of the union , remember the clinton state of the union , you had to sit there, joe , it would be a laundry list, issue after issue.
>> and i'm told there will be more focus but not one that goes nuclear. goes everywhere.
>> the president is very self confident obviously for his benefit and liability at certain times. i think his problem is underreaching right now. you think of the cheapness of capital right now, inexpensive to borrow money, why not major effort in infrastructure. i know it's a boring word but major rebuilding of america.
>> i agree with you.
>> it could be transportation and sewers and everything where there's real construction to be done, brick and mow tartar. i was talking to dick, dianne feinstein 's husband, you can basically borrow a trillion dollars, $30 trillion, huge amounts of money up and put it in huge construction, not big city leaders and to the system that wastes itself but actual construction that really is a capital budget . i think he missed a chance. maybe you need a lockbox. this is only going go construction. unions will love it, especially the construction trades and you really do something. this president is a democrat and not doing what democrats normally do, create jobs. i think it's a big underreach. nite goes back to something cokie said before, forever the president takes care of entitlement programs , if he takes care of the big issues with republicans over the next 20 years or so, that frees up so much capital to worry about infrastructure, education, r&d, the poor. you're talking about 10, 11, 12% of the budget tops. if you talk about discretionary domestic spending, taking care of medicare , preserving medicare , social security over the long hall frees the president up to do some pretty great things.
>> it does. first, i think he will do something on infrastructure. it may not be quite as big as you like. i think there will be. it brings together labor, not just jobs, business. the chamber of commerce and alco does agree about business. whether you do it one year or 10 years, what's awful about this sequester all of it comes out of discretionary spending . that's crazy, whether defense or domestic. the major part ought to bes and discretion ary, a teeny bit.
>> our republican leader said it yesterday, it was great to hear him say that. what's happening, we have both sides raiding 12% of the budget because they're afraid to touch the other 88%.
>> chuck todd .
>> reporter: yes, ma'am.
>> final thoughts. we're wrapping up the segment and try and leave it away from here.
>> reporter: coughing it up. one thing i'm told tonight that he's going to do, he will present all the economics through the prism of three questions, how do you create jobs? how do you educate for those jobs and how do you keep folks in those jobs, how do you get them to make a decent living? that's what i'm told will make it a more organized version of state of the union and unlike the laundry list state of the union s, i had been getting this feeling over the past couple of weeks, various leaks this will feel like a '90s flashback, the whole everything will get thrown into there but there is a focus of this state of the union unlike a clinton one.
>> thank you, chuck and chris matthews as well. watching the state of the union on msnbc. it will be a long one for you. al hunt up and valerie jarrett joins us live from the white house . and the moderator of "meet the press," david gregory and moderator of the "washington pos post", eugene robinson .