Morning Joe | February 18, 2013
>>> it doesn't happen in washington by accident. this raises the question many of us continue to wonder about. does the president really want a result, or does he want another opportunity to the beat up republicans so he can get political advantage in the next election?
>> 25 past the hour. look at the sun up over washington . beautiful morning . republicans are not happy after a new immigration proposal drafted by the white house was leaked to the press over the weekend, including the details of the plan. after eight years, people who learn english and u.s. history and pay a fine could qualify for legal permanent status. later, citizenship. the plan calls for more money toward border security and requires businesses to check the immigration status of potential workers. republican senator marco rubio , who's involved in the senate discussion, says the white house legislation is, quote, half baked and seriously flawed, calling the plan dead on arrival . here with us now from washington , nbc news chief white house correspondent and political the daily rundown, chuck todd . is the plan doa?
>> well, you heard it's an incomplete plan. we know they had come up with a plan. they were going to unveil a plan. they were going to do that in las vegas about two weeks ago. about 48 hours before that speech, the bipartisan senate group came out with their set of principles and the white house backed off. the president decided not to unveil his plan. it's always been sort of held out there as a if you guys fail, then we'll unveil ours and we'll push this. this is where mccain is half right in his analysis, i think, which is, look, i think the president wants an immigration plan. the idea that he doesn't want an immigration plan, i think they're playing with fire with their own hispanic supporters. but it is a threat from the white house by saying, hey, if you don't do it, the politics on this get really bad for you very quickly, so hurry up and get something done.
>> it's interesting, chuck. we hear the white house pushing back on the guest worker program . i guess unions don't like guest worker programs. is that right?
>> they don't. they're not thrilled about it. it's interesting to me to watch. unions are pushing back only a little bit. they're sort of backing off some. don't forget, there's a split in the labor movement on this. the service unions are on one side of the immigration debate , seiu, those folks, and the old brick and mortar unions are on another side.
>> let's talk about -- i thought the biggest news that came out yesterday. that was john mccain talking about the possibility of a universal background check passing the united states senate with broad bipartisan support. we have come a long way in a short period of time. i guess even republicans who are angry that barack obama got elected can read those polls that say 92% of americans support universal background checks . perhaps, perhaps, i don't know, maybe we shouldn't align ourselves with the 7% survivalist faction.
>> by the way, joe, this is an example of presidential leadership. would this issue be as -- would we be hearing republicans talking about universal background checks may pass the senate if the president wasn't about every three days doing some event to bring more attention to this issue of guns? you know, there's always a lot of debate. where should the president use his bully pulpit ? where shouldn't he? you hear some republicans saying stay out of the immigration debate . the fact of the matter is, we wouldn't be where we are on this gun issue, we wouldn't be as close as we are on universal background checks without the white house pushing so hard.
>> the highlight of president's speech was when he started talking about newtown. it was, i thought, a very, very moving part of that speech. soon after that, following up on chuck's point and one poll after another poll showing nine out of ten americans support universal back ground checks. we may have a big deal there.
>> i think this is something that's going to work. chuck is right. the president has been hammering this, and you can see it's not just a political position. he really believes it. i think there is a ground swell moving in that direction. something should be done. the same on immigration. those are opportunities. if you look at it from the republican side , they realize in recalibrating what the republican party is, they're going to have to move to a more sensible, moderate center. the issue of guns and immigration provide that opportunity.
>> and obviously to be able to go back in and say in your district, if you're a republican, no, going vote against the assault weapon ban, they can even vote against the very rational legislation to stop these high-capacity magazines. but if they vote for universal background checks , if they vote for tough gun trafficking laws, there are gun advocates who say those are two of the most important things they can do, as far as stopping widespread killing from chicago to sandy hook .
>> it's a real step. it's an important step. politically, it means a lot. if you think about the control, the iron grip that the gun lobbyists had over the gun debate since 1994 , anything that's substantial that goes in the face of the nra and breaks their back and you get a victory for sensible gun legislation, just one piece of it, that's an important piece, but it's a symbolic piece. now it's not the gun lobby runs the show anymore. it shows that you can make these votes and not necessarily lose in your district.
>> did you say it was a symbolic vote?
>> it's both.
>> it's something.
>> it's substance and it could matter on the substance, but also in the politics. it's politically -- it's massively symbolic, the notion that the gun lobby no longer has a veto, complete fiat over what we can't and can do.
>> the nra then take the money away?
>> does the nra take the money away from the republicans who vote for that?
>> no, not for the universal background check they don't.
>> they stand by?
>> that's why they have four bills. this is part of the -- right, joe? if you voted, you were running actively, running for congress, running for the senate in a state like florida, for pro-gun state, and you came, you could defend. you could say, hey, i voted against the assault weapons ban . i voted against the magazine clip. the fact of the matter is we want responsible gun owners , and that's why voted for universal background checks . you can see how you can make that case and still be pro-gun.
>> if i were debating somebody in a florida primary , very pro-gun state, and it got to assault weapons , i would have to admit, that's more of a symbolic vote. after sandy hook , i understand it's more of a symbolic vote. it's not going to save a lot of lives.
>> that's what i stand for. but universal background checks , my opponent in the most conservative part of my district would get hammered nonstop by me. really? so you want to make sure that a felon can walk in to a gun store -- i mean, a gun show and pick up a gun? do you really want that? i mean, there is no defending that. i'm just saying politically, chuck, i think a republican can very easily vote for a universal background check and put his opponent on the defensive if his opponent decides he wants felons or people who are mentally ill to be able to get guns without a background check . that's just rational. so i think, though, chuck, this is very, very big news. obviously, wayne lapierre , who's a guy that i -- i support the second amendment. i think maybe they should ship him to france for a couple years.
>> i think he hurt the movement. i think it's made it easier to sit there and say, wait a minute, whose side do you want to be on? they've been bad spokespeople on this front. it has made it easier for a tom coburn , who by the way is probably going to be the lynch pin here. schumer has been negotiating with him. they want to get coburn as a co-spon ssor on the background check .
>> diane feinstein , chuck schumer . these people, they cannot push the republicans in any direction whatsoever. but wayne lapierre 's mistakes, mika, week after week after week, his horrific performance on fox --
>> every single one was a cringer.
>> the stupid thing they did with their gun app that little kids could play. on the month anniversary of the sandy hook slaughter. the commercial going after the president's kids. wayne lapierre did more to damage the nra than any democrat or liberal could ever do.
>> he totally did. i can't imagine anybody who would look at his performance and say, well, that was product productive for the nra . it just wasn't. he hurt himself and his organization.
>> again, i saw david kaine last week on, i think, "anderson." did a very good job. very rational explanation.
>> there is a debate there.
>> there's a real debate over universal background checks . there's a real debate over all these issues, but the nra hasn't had it because wayne lapierre has been so extreme.
>> all right. chuck todd , thank you very much. bob woodward , thank you so much as well.
>>> coming up, tens of thousands gather on washington 's national mall to call on president obama to reject the keystone pipeline oil deal, but will this president choose climate change over jobs? also, newt gingrich will be joining us. more " morning joe " when we return. [