NOW with Alex Wagner | May 31, 2012
>>> george h.w. bush , george w. bush , and president obama walk into a room. this is not the beginning of a joke, but something that is happening right at this very moment. our 43rd president is at the white house for the unveiling of his oil port hosted by our 44th president. our 41st president presumably tries to mediate the awkwardness of this moment with his best dan quayle jokes? it's thursday, may 31st , and this is "now."
>>> joining me today is david corn of mother jones , new york daily news columnist s.e. cupp, mort zuckerman , and the publisher of the new york daily news and se cupp's boss, and former senior adviser to the obama /biden 2008 campaign, patty doyle. when you are bad mouthing someone for months what do you serve when they come for lunch? george w. bush and his father and the former first ladies will sit down to eat with president obama and mrs. obama . the former presidents are at the white house for the unveiling of bush 43 's portraits. adding tension to the lunch is the fact that while the president is running against mitt romney , he's never quite stopped campaigning against former president bush .
>> i will oppose any effort to return to the very same policies that brought on this economic crisis in the first place. somehow he and his friends in congress think that the same bad ideas will lead to a different result.
>> when you hear somebody say we should cut more taxes especially for the wealthiest american , well, we did that, 2000 , 2001 , 2003 . we tried a lot of these ideas for nearly a decade. it did not work.
>> mr. zuckerman, these days how divisive of a figure is george w. bush ? he hasn't appeared a lot with mitt romney hasn't been mentioned a lot by the republicans of late.
>> i really don't think he is very decisive. i do feel i have to correct one thing. i work for s.e. krp.
>> i am his boss. i like that better.
>> i like that. we know she runs things.
>> i really don't think that's going to be a winning argument for the president. the public and the american public elects a president to solve problems, not to blame it on his predecessor. he had four years to solve the problems. they are going to decide once again that it's the ronald reagan once said are you better off today than you were four years ago and will they rehire him. i don't think george bush is going to be the decisive -- you know, there will be some people who will sort of hang onto that old sort of a charge. i don't think it's decisive today.
>> david , when we talk about the legacy of george w. bush i think it's interesting insofar as dick cheney and karl rove have not been quiet with criticisms of this president. george w. bush , former presidents sit out a couple terms or a few years or whatever. george bush has really made every effort to stay out of the limelight. the last we heard --
>> he found dick cheney 's undisclosed location. this is not a beer summit. we know that. my guess it's not that awkward because i think presidents do feel a bond and they can always talk about sports. if you watch the clips you showed, the president is not naming bush by name. what he's trying to do is say basically use what happened in the ots to tag mitt romney as a backward looking candidate. you look at policy, took us into this reckless war in iraq , the tax policies, we've done this before. i think he's sensitive to a point that looking like he's blaming his problems on somebody else's but it is a convenient, you know, point for him to say that mitt romney really has no new ideas except what we did do already as he tries to convince people we'll be better off in the future with obama rather than with mitt romney .
>> it's interesting because we have polling that echoes that point. overwhelmingly voters in iowa, colorado and nevada are blaming the inherited -- basically blaming the bush era policies for the reason the economy is the way it is. and people say again to that point, romney is better at handling by 5% in iowa, 3% in colorado. but s.e., it would seem that the president's attempt to say look, this isn't all my fault is carrying some water or carries weight among voters in key states.
>> yeah. i think the obama 's bush/ romney narrative probably works a little for voters in some respect. i think certainly we in the media like to imagine the weirdness of bush and obama being in the same room.
>> i think it is weird.
>> when you're in the pc, when you're in the president's club --
>> you clearly have more -- the pc.
>> you're part of the pc, i think that goes away. these guys aren't adversaries. bush knows that what obama is doing is campaigning. and obama i think recognizes he's in the white house because of president bush . he's in the white house because he could run against a president bush two-term economic policy and foreign policy . so i think these guys are both statesmen, above this kind of stuff and they are going to kick back and have a nice time .
>> patty, you are a campaign strategist extraordinare. i want to talk about the president in addition to the talking about the failed policies of president bush , a new peg shall we say in this presidential re-election bid, mitt romney 's record as governor of massachusetts . david axelrod or the team obama put up a five-page memo describing in detail how bad mitt romney 's record was as he served as governor of massachusetts and a few moments ago david axelrod was standing on the steps of the state capitol in massachusetts . let's listen to what he was saying about that time.
>> the message massachusetts seems to be sending as they listen to romney reprice his familiar pitch is fool me once, shame on me. fool me twice, shame on you. romney economics didn't work then, and it won't work now.
>> fool me once, shame on you. fool me twice, shame on me. what do you make of this latest bid which is to say moving away from bain and into the record of massachusetts .
>> i think it's a pretty good segway from bain to his record as governor. you know, romney 's entire thesis for running for president is that he came from the private sector , he's a businessman and that pretty much, he says, will make me better for the u.s. economy than president obama .
>> now, what he did at bain and so many of us have discussed this, it's not about -- i don't think the obama campaign was criticizing making money or private equity because don't we all want to make money. i aspire to making a lot of money and i hope my children will too. but it was basically you know, the bottom line was making money for him and his investors regardless what if that did to working class . so now he says when he ran for governor in 2001 , he said that his experience as a business person was going to make the economy better in massachusetts . what david has just pointed out is that's not the case. 47th in the country for jobs. debt increased by 16%. raise taxes on the middle class .
>> a number of points.
>> let's start with the first one, okay. yes, they were 47th but the reason is because massachusetts had already such a low unemployment rate that there was very little progress to be made in that area so it's really a distortion of what the facts are. which of course is going to be typical of both sides in this thing. secondly, since i lived in massachusetts to a large degree when he was governor, and i didn't vote for him, don't get me wrong because i've been a democratic, he did a good job. give at any fact that both the house and the senate were controlled by the democrats. and he was a republican and has to find a way to work with them and by and large did that. so i thought he was bipartisan in his approach. and made a good deal of progress. so i think he'll be able to stand well on his massachusetts record.
>> that's the interesting thing. mort made a better case for his tenure in massachusetts than we've ever heard mitt romney say or we're likely to hear because it leads to romneycare. but he won't talk about that record. that's been so --
>> today he said he left the state with 4.6% unemployment.
>> he addressed this today, and has been addressing this. i agree he's been focusing more on --
>> listen to his speeches and barely talks --
>> his executive experience. he has been addressing his record in massachusetts and i think has laid out the case substantially and said look, i think obama would like to have the kind of record in the country that i had in the state.
>> but i do think david 's right in so far as you talk about massachusetts and all roads lead to romneycare which he is terrified of talking about. but the obama strategy, though, i do wonder. we talked a little about this this week. is this a signal, david axelrod on the steps of the state capit capitol, the bain thing didn't work out as well as we wanted it to. it's too questionable. we don't want to alienate wall street . we need to shift to massachusetts .
>> this is an all of the above. i think you're going to see them cycled over and over . we'll come back to bain , we'll come back to massachusetts . health care .
>> talking to people in the obama campaign , what they are concerned most about is that we're kind of in this -- the nothing much is happening in washington, the republican primary is over and you know, once the summit comes people don't pay attention. the last moments of spring before we all hit the beach is a time to start registering negative impressions but take up space so he can't redefine himself in a more positive way. that's why you do bain , massachusetts , you just keep throwing things at him so he's forced to release a statement.
>> it's time to end the segment when david corn and s.e. cupp are in agreement.