Morning Joe | February 13, 2013
>> a powerful moment of the evening. good morning, it's wednesday, february 13th . welcome to " morning joe ." we have msnbc contributor mike barnicle , analyst and former democratic congressman, harold ford jr . and president of the council on foreign relations , richard haass . in washington , national affairs editor for "new york" magazine and msnbc political analyst , john heilemann, and nbc news capitol hill correspondent, kelly o'donnell.
>> what did you think?
>> i thought it was a good speech. it was a laundry list. a lot of different things. i thought that was one of the more powerful moments that we ended on there. he also called for raising the minimum wage , which i would agree with. what did you think?
>> richard haass , what did you think? you know --
>> that's a rhetorical question .
>> a lot there were a lot of missed opportunities. it's unfortunate. i think the part that you showed at the end there talking about a vote on some of this gun legislation was without a doubt the high point of it. i thought that was very moving. but so many missed opportunities, talking about -- well, just maybe we have to tweak medicare. just maybe we have to tackle debt. it was, again, richard haass , unfortunately for this president, it was more of the same of what we saw during the state of the union , i believe, a guy that was playing to his base more than trying to figure out how to make washington work.
>> it was a direct appeal to the quote, unquote, middle class . and particularly what government programs could do to help. i thought the most positive thing i would have said was the call on immigration reform . i thought that was good. i also thought the initiative on a u.s./ european free trade area . it's not a sexy thing, but ultimately the united states and europe represent half the world 's economy. if that actually were to happen, that's a big deal strategically and economically. so i think those things were good. the call for climate change for something on that was incredibly vague and quite honestly the biggest problem's not going to necessarily be here at home. it's going to be the fact that the rest of the world , the chinese, the indians and all that, they're not going to support what it is we want to do on climate change .
>> what do you think, mike? what were your takeaways from last night? what was the high point for you?
>> well, i was struck -- i thought the speech was much more moderate than a lot of people probably expected going in, speaking about entitlements -- he mentioned entitlement reform. obviously, he didn't get into specifics about it. immigration reform . nearly everyone is in favor of immigration reform . refinancing your mortgage. that's a real middle-class pitch right there. but i was struck by the fact, i think, he soared right past the congress . right to the country. that's where he's going. he figures, i think correctly, that they have not gone along with anything that he wants to do for the past four years. and he's going to take this right to the country. and i think he probably has a stronger hand to play with the country, obviously, than he does with the congress .
>> i thought that was strategically smart.
>> it's strategically smart if you want democrats to win the 2014 election. and certainly, harold ford , that's his prerogative. he's president of the united states . but that speech last night told me, harold, that he just doesn't think he can get anything done in washington , d.c., unless he has a democratic house and nancy pelosi is speaker because he sure as heck wasn't trying to bring both sides together which, again, that's his prerogative.
>> i'm not criticizing him, but his political calculation clearly last night was, i'm never going to get the republicans to work with me. let's just start running nancy pelosi as speaker tonight.
>> it was big. it was brawny. it was ambitious. it was a checklist of things. and in terms of being an organized set of policy proposals, coherent set of policy proposals, i agree with mike and haass's analysis of it as well. this video is one being set up as an extension of the campaign. this will be the face of the web page for it, saying this is what this effort is all about to convince congress on a number of things we want to get done. we'll throw it all at the wall and see if anything can happen. i was pleased by one thing. you talk about the big thing. two things. he talked about the middle class i thought to an extent that was more specific than in the past. and his calls for increase to the minimum wage is something that many democrats and even some republicans particularly in the south and midwest discussed during their campaigns as well. i would agree with mike and richard on their analysis as well.
>> john heilemann.
>> a lot of swagger in that speech last night, joe. i think, you know, you saw the president's -- in much the same way as you pointed out as the inaugural, he's got a lot of confidence right now and a lot of boldness and a lot of attitude. there's no question it was implicitly -- the tone wasn't hostile or aggressive, but it was confrontational in a way. the basic message of the speech to my ears was, speaking over the heads of congress and to congress saying, do your job.
>> almost fed up.
>> and there was an institutional kind of challenge there that kind of said look, there's a lot of great ideas here. you guys have been falling down institutionally, and i'm going to challenge you directly to do what i want you to do. i thought the economics part of the speech was relatively uninspired. the first half of it was very traditional state of the union fare and laundry listy. but the two things that really stand out are the big section of the speech on climate change . i agree with richard. it was vague. but it's something he hasn't talked about for four years. and both in the inaugural and in this speech he devoted a lot of time to it. and then at the end of the speech which was unusually passionate and rousing and emotional for a state of the union address devoted to guns. there's never been a state of the union where the president has stood up, devoted that kind of time and emotional energy to gun eviolence. i think it shows he wants to fight on that issue.
>> kelly o'donnell, you were there. were you able to gauge any reaction in the chamber among members of congress ?
>> it was interesting. i've been in the chamber for a number of this president's addresses and president bush before. and i think early in the evening, there was more of a sense of a flat energy. i don't know if that's because we've just come off the inaugural address . it seemed to take a while for the room to sort of ignite. when you got to the point where there was the discussion of guns, i was about five feet or so in front of gabby giffords and her family. so i was able to see how people around them looked as they stood first quietly and then applauding. and then i also could see how some of the other family members had brought photos of loved ones . i was also struck by when sort of the kind of emotion of the moment had faded, there was one woman, i presume a mother, who shouted out kind of picking up on the president's cadence, the name of her loved one and then repeated his phrase, "deserves a vote." she was actually quietly removed from the chamber. i think the emotion of that time was certainly significant. it was a high point. it sort of got people who might have been even, you know, a little low energy throughout to perk up. they deserve a vote is a long way from let's get this passed. so i think that's an important distinction about guns. on immigration, i thought it was much more bipartisan. i kept sort of kind of an informal tally. i think there were about 15 times when people of both parties stood for some of the things the president was talking about. and then another 11 times when it was just democrats. so there was some bipartisan energy in the room. not the moist boisterous or most alive speech i've seen the president give in person, but it had some key moments.
>> isn't it terrible, mike barnicle , you know, using politics and policy as sport. we always talk about people standing up and not -- john boehner didn't stand up for the 102-year-old woman. he didn't stand up for the line, "they deserve a vote." he's in the position, i guess, where that's what he has to do as leader of the party. but it's just -- and democrats look silly when they sit down when the president says something that's so obviously unifying.
>> it looks like a day-care class.
>> behind the president, applaud when he comes in, and then we're going to sit down because it just makes us look silly.
>> they look like children in a day-care class. they hop up and applaud, and they'll sit and sit on their hands depending on party affiliation. one of the points in his speech where i think he really scored among people standing in line to get cups of coffee and put gas in their cars today is when he urged the congress to stop drifting from one crisis to another. that's the sense that's in the country. that these people do nothing. they just bump along from one crisis to another.
>> who's captain of the ship? i'm sorry, but that's what struck me. he said that, the buck stops with the president of the united states . he went out and gave that speech, richard haass . you know, i wish marco rubio would have said, you want to know what the state of the union is? let me tell you what the state of the union is. average income of americans has dropped 5%. not since barack obama became president of the united states , but since the recession ended. our economy's in transition. more americans are being left behind. senior citizens aren't going to be assured of these entitlement programs for long. we're $6 trillion deeper in debt today than we were when barack obama became president. barack obama 's allowed the national debt to go up by 60% himself since he was president. 4 million more americans are out of work today than were working when barack obama became president. we've got the weakest recovery in over 70 years with barack obama as president of the united states . it is time to think big. it is time to go long. it is time to come together. why couldn't anybody in washington say that last night?
>> and there was a lack of urgency to it. there was a sense that -- it was a little bit -- so much depends on what the baseline is. and the president was almost saying things are improving. and he could have -- a very different approach would have been, yeah, things are maybe improving, but let's not kid ourselves. we face urgent problems, massive problems, and unless we get serious, among other things, about dealing with the budget, about dealing with infrastructure and all these other issues, and yes, he mentioned them, but i don't think he tied it together on the idea that this is a major national challenge facing the united states . and we've got to change fundamentally the way we do business in washington . and you, the american people , have to think differently , among other things, you've got to be prepared for changes about the way we do entitlements. and there was a hint at it -- there was a nod in that direction, but i don't think anyone came away from the speech saying things have really got to change, and i've got to change.