NOW with Alex Wagner | October 03, 2012
>>> many times will the 47% be mentioned? can mitt romney make a joke that people laugh at. will the president sing? who is bill clinton 's best friend ? can you win a debate. it's wednesday, october 3rd and this is "now."
>>> joining me today, host of "studio 360" and author of "true believers" kurt andersen , msnbc political analyst and newly minted vice president and executive editor of msnbc, clasp, richard wolffe , msnbc political analyst and former dnc communications director karen finney and deputy washington bureau chief from "time" michael crowley . last night conservative pundits whipped themselves into a frenzy of expectation, previewing a video of president obama they predicted would change this election as we know it. the daily caller which eventually posted the tape tweeted, obama bombshell video coming soon. check back here at 9:00 p.m . for the full story. the drudge report ran the massive headline obama 's other race speech. and just before air time , sean hannity teed up the earth-shattering discovery.
>> bombshell is about to be dropped on the 2012 race for the white house because tonight you will hear from barack obama like you have never heard from him before, a video has been uncovered. it contains some of the most divisive class war fair and racially charged rhetoric used by barack obama .
>> what piece of sonds pulled from the deepest archives would instantly dismantle president obama 's campaign, his entire presidency and forever change the course of the country? a 5-year-old video that everybody saw five years ago. the bombshell of the widely covered speech at hampton university features senator obama talking about the federal government 's response to hurricane katrina .
>> when hurricane andrew struck in florida, people said look at this devastation. we didn't expect you to come up with the almighty hand. down in new orleans, where's your dollar? makes no sense. tells me the bullet hasn't been taken out.
>> conservative pundits defined this as racial rhetoric obama makes the point that problem's actions were not racial bias.
>> look at what happened in new orleans and the gulf coast when katrina hit. people asked me if they thought race was the reason the response was so slow. no, this administration was color-blind in its incompetence, but everyone here knows that the disaster and the poverty happened long before the hurricane hit.
>> while the video does, perhaps, notding the president's chances at re-election, dusting off the vintage tape does return the focus to the man the gop wishes would actually disappear or shape shift into a nonhuman form. president george w. bush .
>> if the republicans want to defend the bush administration 's response to katrina i'm sure the president would give them his time during the debate.
>> as long as we're talking about troublesome videos this clip of congressman paul ryan weighing in on the makers and the takers rose to the surface last night as well.
>> before too long we could become a society we were never ever intended to be. we could become a society where the net majority of americans are takers not makers. 70% of americans get more benefits from the federal government in dollar value than they pay back in taxes. so you could argue that we're already passed that tipping point. the good news is, survey after survey, poll after poll, still shows that we are a center right 70/30 country. 70% of americans want the american dream . they believe in the american idea. only 30% want the welfare state .
>> which video is more sensation sensational? more of a game-changing contest modifier. joining us from the site of tonight's debate in denver is the man who knows from game change, emmy darling, "time" magazine and msnbc senior political analyst whose publication is out with an issue today, who's telling the truth, the fact wars. mark halperin , i've been trying to find appropriate terms that would be substitutes for the phrase game change. i can't. you coined it, you own it. which of these videos, is either one of these videos a game changer in terms of tonight's debate?
>> alex, any student of political tv and cable news who didn't watch hannity last night i pity the fool. it was an awesome episode of the show and i mean, if there was some mastermind trying to figure out how to change the game with that video, i think they kind of failed. some people are talking about it as simply for the base to energize the base. mitt romney is no longer running for the republican nomination, he's trying to win a general election . the things that might energize the base, that help to undermine the credibility of his effort with the mainstream media , if i may use that phrase, i think just aren't helping him out. that was a wasted day and lost yesterday after tie org wying or winning news psy cycles in a row. whoever was doing that on his behalf, ridiculous.
>> the nipping at the heels, we've talked about the offense versus defense. mitt romney was maybe getting back on his feet a little bit and then this comes along and not only is it not an effective tool, it's sort of -- in some ways, makes romney look like a chump, the fact that his own party thinks this is what they need to do.
>> well, they need to be -- to win the election it's pretty clear. the president's advisors would tell you they need to be talking about the economy. they went after joe biden for his gaffe on saying the middle class has done poorly under the president, but i think, again, they're trying to do things in this tactical way that just hasn't worked for them so far and i think every day they're not having mitt romney out forcefully explaining what the president has done on the economy, is not a great day for them. now, he's in a better place than a lot of the pundits have suggested but i don't really think they have days to waste on things like this and the backlash against it was so strong. when drudge tees something up, even though he tilts right and even though a lot of people denigrate him, it gives the republicans an opportunity to dominate a news cycle. when they cry wolf with a 5-year-old video, it undermineds something so effective as a delivery mechanism over the years.
>> i want to open this up to our panel here. karen, the debate, structure of the debate tonight, three segments on the economy, one segment on health care , one segment on the role of economy. no question on vintage youtube clips which is a total bummer to those on the right hoping for more of this. it is teed up to be a debate about big ideas . is mitt romney going to deliver?
>> i am sure that part of the reason this video is out there, just the day before, is to give romney the opportunity to, perhaps, reference it when you talk about the role of government, when you talk about the economy, he's got some phrases he likes to use about more people being on welfare and all of that, so i would imagine we'll hear some of that. i actually disagree with something mark said. i think this was very much a play for the base. even our nbc news poll, 23% of people said, that 47% comment made them like mitt romney better. so there are people out there who agree with those comments.
>> aren't they locked up already? that's a question --
>> no. because remember we've also seen reuters has had the polling and a lot of polling that show some low-income southern whites are thinking he's too richy rich. what it shows is he's still in trouble with his own base and now, you know, obviously the way the white house is trying to set this up, the president is going to talk about vision and specifics and specific plans and really trying to, you know, make it such in the same way we did with the conventions that, you know, president obama was specific and governor romney just attacked. i mean that's the frame they're trying to deliver going in.
>> i do want to spend some time on that paul ryan 70/30 clip, richard, because that, if anything, cements that narrative more. writing in the times today, journalists have found working-class voters who believe that obama is a secret muslim and intend to vote for him anyway because, as one virginia put it, at least he wasn't brought up filthy rich . this assumption that the wealthy republican candidate is inevitably a candidate for the wealthy as well is a big part of what's been killing romney 's campaign.
>> right. let's be clear the kinds of people that paul ryan was talking about include seniors, people who are drawing social security .
>> those takers. they just take.
>> taking more from the freg than they are -- federal government than they are paying in. they happen to be the numbers that vote in large numbers . if you're a republican and deficits with minorities and women, you need those white seniors to show up in large numbers for you. maybe they won't really understand that they fit into this category. there is a fair number of people who think this other people who are drawing on government subsidy in one way or another. but that vision part of this debate is going to be interesting because mitt romney has set himself up for some pretty difficult territory. are people on social security the kinds of voters that you are talking about, mr. romney , in this debate tonight, when you say government is paying too big a role in people's lives. that's a tricky one for him to walk out of.
>> are the elderly moochers? he's going to have to answer that question.
>> service members on disability? i mean same thing.
>> coming on the heels of the romney campaign trying to use joe biden 's biden-esque turn of phrase the middle class has been buried and you know, biden has walked that back, you know, is it an indictment of the president? look if you're going to fight for the ground on the middle class i don't know that joe biden is the person you want to be sparring against.
>> he is by far the best middle class , working-class figure in this race. but to me, the hannity, drudge, obama thing, the ryan thing, i mean, really? this is all they got? i mean, i found the -- i found nothing that obama said in that speech objectionable or disagreeable, similarly, i find ryan's thing not -- i mean there's a sophisticated and legitimate argument to be made about, you know, entitlement and size of government and all that and i didn't find his version of it, so provocative --
>> i will say 30% of the country wants the welfare state this notion that there are people at the bottom of the income ladder that want to stay there because they're lazy --
>> the value judgment . the same kind of value judgment that romney made, perhaps. why they're birds of a feather . those people are just lazy moochers and they're happy to be that way.
>> he didn't conflate the people as badly as romney did, who are getting government welfare -- government benefits with people who believe in the welfare state . 30% of americans probable dloi believe in a strong welfare state . fine. but -- and that's, you know, legitimate. so -- and again, i just think we're getting to the dredges of shocker videos and should perhaps move on to an interesting subject like romney 's suggestion that we should cap all income tax deductions. that was an interesting thing he said the other day and it got buried in this junk.
>> michael, in terms of the big issues and actual policy prescriptions, kurt does make a fair point, romney has been dropping these kind of little hints about specifics about whether it's a $17,000 income deduction or maybe continuing the president's policies executive order on amnesty for the children of illegal immigrants, how much of that do you think we're going to see this evening?
>> i think particularly on the tax plan, i would expect him to float out specifics like that cap on deductions, but i'm not sure it's really a solution to the problem he has. in other words, it's not clear to me that this cap on deductions solves the problem with his tax plan which is that it has to be revenue neutral, allow a lowering -- and allow a lowering of the rates, the math doesn't add up. the romney campaign says the analysis that claims this is flawed and done by left wingers but that's actually kind of a silly response. what i think he's doing now is offering little bits of specificity to create a sense that the plan is all worked out, it's solid, we've run the numbers, and he's concealing this big problem with it, which is that he either will have to raise taxes on the middle class or increase the deficit. i don't think that this exemption piece he's spelling out solves that problem but it creates an appearance of specificity and you might see them do that in other ways because they are on the defensive. i thought it was striking that paul ryan was asked by a voter in the crowd the other day, can you please be more specific about your plans. this was clearly a supporter. and i think they are clearly feeling the heat . after stepping back, realizing a lot of the specifics of their plans don't test that well in the polls or not what people want apart from a larger vision to fix the economy i think they are going to be throwing out bits and pieces but again, i think some of it will be a smoke screen .
>> i think the operative word there is smoke screen , going to the spelling bee and saying i don't have time to finish this word but i win. our prime time coverage of the debate begins at 8:00 p.m . on msnbc, a 9:00 p.m . tip-off. first i will see you on hardball at 7:00 p.m . president obama calls him the president of explaining stuff. where bill clinton is expected to speak in a moment. we will bring you some of clinton's remarks and ask obama press secretary ben thirnds bolt labolt to give us a preview of the president's strategy ahead