Morning Joe | February 22, 2013
>>> to do, biden, you and the president, you're going to deny law-abiding citizens their rights under the second amendment. not true. they say assault weapons -- they say assault weapons like the ar-15 are needed for self-protection and recreation. they are not. there's plenty of ways you can protect yourself. and recreate without an ar-15. they say it isn't about guns. they're wrong. it is about guns. no law-abiding citizen in the united states of america has any fear that their constitutional rights will be infringed in any way. none, zero.
>> welcome back to " morning joe ." a live look at the white house on this friday morning. time to get going, everybody. mike barnicle , ed rendell and al sharpton are still with us. sorry about that. i hear it was kind of worse than just bumping the deer. tell her i'm sorry. that's horrible. and joining us from washington , moderator of "meet the press," david gregory . hello, david .
>> hey, good morning.
>> what a handsome man.
>> he is a good-looking guy.
>> that was the vice president in connecticut yesterday.
>> to our top story now, we're just one week away from those automatic cuts that will slash $85 billion from government spending . the congressional budget office estimates the sequester, as it's called, will cost 750,000 jobs and lower economic growth by 0.6%. it could mean longer lines at the airport, less funding for teachers, and cuts at the pentagon that officials say could hurt national security . still, the white house and republicans remain locked in a stalemate over how to deal with it. yesterday president obama called house speaker john boehner and senate minority leader mitch mcconnell , but neither republican leader has any appetite for new taxes, something the president says should be a part of the deal. the president spoke with reverend al sharpton yesterday. take a listen.
>> my sense is that their basic view is that nothing is important enough to raise taxes on wealthy individuals or corporations, and they would prefer to see these kinds of cuts that could slow down a recovery over closing tax loopholes. and that's the thing that binds their party together at this point. this is a major argument, obviously, we've been having for the last three years. unfortunately, i think republicans right now have been so dug in on this notion of never raising taxes , that it becomes difficult for them to see an obvious answer right in front of them.
>> i'm confused. because the president says republicans can't see obvious answers in front of them. we raised taxes, didn't we? i'm confused because he said republicans are so dead set on never raising taxes . the president -- what was it, a month ago? two months ago? david gregory , help me out here. we already raised taxes, right?
>> hold on, david . we did raise taxes, but the republicans walked away from the spending cuts that they were offered. so it was their choice to only raise taxes.
>> no, no. harry reid specifically said -- and we all remember -- regardless of how the white house spends this, harry reid said that chain cpi was dead. the president backed off. proving that harry reid is more powerful than washington , d.c., than the president.
>> david , is that how it happened?
>> look, i think what's remarkable about this process is, as the president said over the last three years, at various points both sides were willing to do more. the president wanted more revenue at various points than he's now asking for. john boehner was willing to offer more in revenue than he's willing to do now. the president offered chain cpi at some point and is not backing it now. i mean, that's the folly. that's what's absurd about the process is at various other points, they were willing to do more. you played that vice president biden clip. i think the president's in a position where he's saying i have not only won re-election, i have won this argument over fiscal policy and over the economy, and republicans , if you want to hurt the economy, the blame is going to go on you. when he was with the reverend al yesterday, that's all he was doing, making the political argument about how to blame the republicans for this. i don't see where the break comes from right now, honestly, except get right up to it and find some way to do it, maybe more flexibility to make the cuts but do it in a more flexible way. that's the only break i see.
>> so you agree, i think, with me, if you don't, tell me. and david brooks this morning is talking about this president is not acting the way presidents usually act. you said traditional presidents go through a normal set of motions. they identify a problem. they come up with a proposal to address the problem, they try to convince the country it's the best approach. but under the permanent's permanent campaign shimmy, he declines to come up with a proposal to address the problem. then he comes up with a vague but politically convenient concept that doesn't address a problem. let's raise taxes on the rich. then he goes around the country blasting the opposition for not having as politically popular a concept. then he returns to washington and congratulates himself for being the only serious and substantive person in town. david --
>> yeah, so here's what i believe. i believe that what the president has done is sort of incomplete. he wants to take on republicans to do what's very difficult for them when it comes to taxes. but had it comes to entitlements, he's much more limited. he's not going to push democrats on retirement age , on -- he's introduced chain cpi , you know, basically a downslope for benefits over time . in the last battle, but he's not doing this here. so right now his feeling is i'm going to keep up a permanent campaign . i'm going to go to the american people because i don't trust republicans as partners.
>> in this discussion.
>> and that is maybe in part because, david , the president did put out a plan back in december that involved cuts and $4 trillion in deficit reduction, if you go on the website. that plan's still on the table. and it doesn't seem to be taken seriously. in fact, they're accusing him of having no cuts. and that's just not true.
>> but mika, i think --
>> but i think that is also true, mika, that there was a plan out there. some republicans say there wasn't any plan at all. but this is what, you know, the fact is that the argument kind of keeps shifting. and this is where, i think, the white house has completely lost faith that they've got somebody to really negotiate with.
>> but david , i think that a political executive, whether it be a mayor, county chairman, county commissioner or a governor or a president, has to sell to his base first. if the president had his base lined up to do chain cpi and some gradual over 30 years increase in the medicare age limit, boy, i think it would be easy to get revenue out of the republicans . infinitely easier, and i think we could have a big deal which mike and i agree, the big deal if we announced it would cause the economy to explode.
>> it would explode. but the president doesn't stand up to his base. he attacks republicans who have been so dumb politically over the past four years that they're perfect straw men. and that's fine. it's great for him politically, but it doesn't get us any closer to a deal.
>> let me ask you a question, governor. before you were governor, you had another executive position, your first executive position, you were mayor of philadelphia. you came into the mayoralty, and the city was in tough shape as a lot of cities are today. what did you do when you got in there? was one of your first things not that you didn't tell people the truth about the existing condition?
>> the very first thing i did it, and i did it for a solid year, in fact, six months going back into the campaign is tell people just how bad the situation was, that we had to cut everything, that if we did it right over the course of time, we could replenish those cuts and grow and grow and grow. and fortunately that's exactly what happened. but the first thing you've got to do is convince your supporters to get on board. and i think he could do it. he's popular now.
>> so are you saying he should be talking about cuts and different things that he's offered to the republicans to his base?
>> first he should talk to harry and nancy. he should bring them in and say, you were there --
>> come on, guys.
>> you were with me on health care . you've got to lead on this.
>> pelosi certainly didn't sound like she agreed with really being realistic.
>> he's got to get the two of them on board first.
>> i think that's fair.
>> i think it's important we, again, let's deal in the context of where we are. the sequester was set up saying that we'll never -- we'll never get here.
>> we'll never have to do this.
>> this will never happen. we'll do such drastic cuts --
>> this would force us to work together.
>> right. now we're acting like the sequester was some arrangement that the president and the republicans was supposed to negotiate on. secondly, the president put major cuts on the table. and when we went through this in the beginning of the year, cuts in health care . he put cpi on the table. all of which is still on the table. he cannot negotiate with himself. all the republicans do on their way out the door for vacation or recess is say revenues cannot be discussed. he never got all of the revenues we needed. so i think that we've taken the whole thing out of context. we're acting like the sequester was a negotiation when it was something we were supposed to be avoiding, and they will not in good faith deal with the cuts the president has put on the table. some his base, including me, disagree with in terms of cpi . and they're saying oh, don't talk about the rich. the rich never really paid its full share in the first place that he was asking for. we're talking about loopholes. we're talking about yachts and jets here.
>> i mean, what's -- loopholes, i mean, is that so difficult?
>> right. and republicans have been for them before.
>> so, you know, whether it was on the campaign trail, paul ryan and mitt romney or whether it's boehner. so i don't understand why that's such a big problem. but again, both things are true. if the president's having a hard time negotiating with house republicans , house conservatives over taxes, you know, it's because they're dug in. they don't feel like they can move for a variety of reasons. but he's not trying to negotiate with his own base over raising the retirement age for medicare.
>> i hear all the time, david , the president doesn't trust the republicans . why should the republicans trust the president? i mean, again --
>> and they don't. they absolutely don't.
>> they did something that is so hard to do. a lot of them voted for tax increases for the first time in a quarter century. and they thought by doing that, they would take this tax-the-rich argument off the table. and you've seen the president barnstorming like he's in the middle of a presidential campaign talking about the rich. talking about those big old mean corporations. we've got to get more money out of them. and if you're a republican --
>> there was a lot more revenue on the table before.
>> simpson-bowles had a lot more revenue on the table. it wasn't $600 billion.
>> i've got absolutely no problem with closing loopholes. in fact, i'm more aggressive on closing loopholes, i would guess, than a lot of democrats that are running for election in 2014 . but if you're president of the united states , as david brooks says, you've got a responsibility to do more than just barnstorm around the country in a permanent presidential campaign . that's why i'd say okay, even knowing that i support aggressive closing of loopholes for rich people that are paying 15% rates, which i think is immoral, when their secretaries are paying 28%, even having that position, if i'm negotiating with the president, i don't move on that until he shows a little good faith. like you said, to go to nancy pelosi and harry reid and at least let me know that i've got a partner that's going to negotiate in good faith. i just don't see it with this president that's running around, you know, talking more about taxing the rich, taxing the rich.
>> and joe, isn't it the reality that we are not really headed -- i mean, somehow this is going to be resolved, whether it's by next week or, you know, how they fund the government next month. there's going to be some way to resolve this. but aren't we headed on a path where we're really not going to make meaningful gains on reducing either the deficit or the debt? because we can't come to any agreement in washington about the role of government to spur economic growth , how much it should spend, or, you know, the balance between taxes and spending.
>> you know, the frustrating -- the depressing part about this, perhaps the most depressing part about it -- and david just pointed out part of it -- is that all of this in the minds of i think a lot of people, it's a game. it's a political game . it's part of a constant campaign being played in washington . your base, my base. and at the end of the day , the president of the united states , his base is the country. it's not just the democrats. it's not just nancy pelosi and harry reid . it's the country. and the country has endured pain. the country has endured sacrifice. middle-class families, they know what it is. i mean, the payroll tax being eliminated. cost of gasoline, cost of groceries. they know what pain and sacrifice is. and apparently people in washington don't recognize that fact. accept it.
>> reverend al, you talked to the president yesterday. do you get a sense that he is in search of a deal? that he really will meet republicans halfway?
>> i honestly get the sense that he will meet them halfway. and he is in search of a deal. he's won his re-election. i really don't think this is about, with him, 2014 . i think this is about 2012 . i think he feels he's obligated to people that voted for a certain way to move forward. but he wants to try and meet halfway with the republicans because we're going to see people suffer. we're talking about people losing jobs, being furloughed. national security . i don't think he wants to see that happen, but he can't negotiate with himself. and i think the cuts are on the table, cuts that he told us straight out, a lot of you are not going to like, but i'm putting them on the table. where are the republicans ? and i think that we don't need them to come in the night before. we need to deal with this and get this off the table of america. do you realize that if we have meat inspector that are laid off here, joe, that will raise the price of meat. not the price of republican meat or democratic meat. everybody will suffer here. and i think that we need responsible leadership on both sides.
>> so, okay. when you spoke with him, did he bring up chain cpi ? because i know he had been for it before, and then he backed off of it, took it off the table when harry reid said that they weren't going to support that.
>> he said, when he had put on the table remains on the table. this is his meeting he had with civil rights leaders . remains on the table. cpi was among those things that he had put on the table. and he said that some of us were going to be opposed to it. he does not back down when he's meeting with those of us that are considered his base. he was very clear. he said, i'm for the going to paint a rosy picture for you. but at the same time, when he gets beat up by some of us that say how can you do that, he's beat up on the other side as saying he's not being reasonable. some of us feel he's being too reasonable. nothing is enough.
>> al, sometimes if you're an executive, you know you're doing your job when you're getting beat up by both sides.
>> but the problem is that the other side at least should come to the table and say, let's talk about this.
>> i agree.
>> all right. so --
>> i want to find this table that everything's on.
>> yeah. i'd like to see. because i get the feeling it's two different tables.
>> come next friday your neck will be on that table.
>> david gregory , thank you. who do you have coming up on "meet the press"?
>> we'll be talking to governor deval patrick and bobby jindal and the state of politics in their respective parties. and we'll offer the latest on where this is headed with just a few days left by sunday.
>>> still ahead on " morning joe ," it was one of the hardest times in american history . now a newly unearthed novel gives us a clear picture of the men and women who lived through the dust bowl through the 1930s . historian douglas brinkley joins us in just a few minutes.
>>> and up next, secretary of housing and urban development , shaun donovan. plus bill dare inkarins will have an update on the nasty weather bearing down on the east coast . you're watching " morning joe " brewed by starbucks. [ jen garner ]