NOW with Alex Wagner | November 29, 2012
>>> the turkey sandwich . it is thursday, november 29th and this is "now." joining me today, senior national correspondent for bloomberg "business week," josh green , politico's senior white house reporter, wearing his hat, i might add, glenn thrush, and msnbc political analyst and former dnc communications director karen finnney, and washington bureau chief for "the huffington post ," ryan grim. a gradual inching away from the edge of the fiscal cliff , depends on who you believe. even with the clock ticking it's almost two week since president obama and john boehner met in person. nbc news confirms two leaders spoke by phone for 15 minutes last night a call described by politico as short and curt. boehner gave his state on the current talks a moment ago.
>> no substancetive progress has been made in the talks between the white house and the house over past two weeks. all eyes are on the white house . the country doesn't need a vac victory lap it needs leader.
>> behind the scenes of the contours of a deal are starting to take shape, a trillion plus dollars in tax heights, entitlements of $400 billion and 1.2 trillion in spending cuts to offset the dreaded sequester. if the phoners haven't been gabfests the president is chatting up other folks including small business owners, middle class americans and mitt romney -loving ceos . if awkward meetings are par for the course in washington , the president's one today takes the cake. later this hour, president obama will sit down for a post-election chitchat with the prince of awkward, the king of tilted conversation and uncomfortabled one-liners, mitt romney . is there a role for mittens in obama world?
>> the president noted that governor romney did a terrific job running the olympics and that skill set lends itself to ideas that could make the federal government work better which is a passion of the president's which he's requested reorganization authority from the congress do just that.
>> translation, mitt romney may oversee the installation of a new color coded filing system in the white house . thanks for play, governor. and anyway, charm offenses aside the president knows that his real audience is with the american people . according to most recent "the washington post "/abc news poll 60% support his position on taxes while only 37% oppose it. and when you're up 23 points with the public, maybe out in public is the place to be. glenn , before we focus on the turkey sandwiches that will bring the party together, the two parties together later this hour, i want to talk about what is going on actually with the fiscal cliff . or the fiscal curve or molehill, depending how you characterize this thing. seem likes we're going to hear bad news, bad news, bad news until we hear good news which is to say everybody's in their corners but it sounds like, according to your libelist publication, there may be --
>> i'm not an attorney.
>> i just play one on tv. there may be the outlines of a real deal with actual numbers.
>> yeah, sort of. but we knew that. you know, i think what's going on, and ryan having covered shoulder to shoulder this wonderful show we call congress, the more pessimistic and the more you see the top of john boehner 's head in the press conference, and you try to strain to hear his grumbling, the more of a sense you get they're moving closer. nastier the stuff gets, the closer you know you are to a resolution.
>> don't take a victory lap , we need serious leadership from the white house would bear out glenn 's point.
>> right. when a fish show starts, the crowd --
>> wow! i hope nobody actually catches that reference.
>> the crowd starts yelling. no, there's nothing there. the crowd starts yelling, stand up, look up on stage, no, nobody's there. you have to go through three or four of those. you have to have three or four walkouts and get closer to real crisis levels and then the band finally cops on stage.
>> the tailgating outside fiscal cliff deals is incredible.
>> and the sad part, for the american people who are watching from the outside, is they don't realize how much of this theater getting to the deal. we know we have to have -- boehner 's going to have to talk tough because it seem likes he's holding firm and the white house is holding firm and the left groups are going to flip and right groups are going to flip and it's going to be this dance, and then we'll get to a deal somehow. if you're saying okay, am i -- are my taxes going up on the 1st or not?
>> they are.
>> they are, one way or the other. people in the country the way they pay for christmas, focus groups heard this over and over , take out a loan to buy presents, against what they think they'll get back in tax returns to pay back that loan. for those people, all of this dance, we joke, and it is funny and ridiculously childish and high school , maybe junior high , it's scary for people on outside saying --
>> the personal approval rating is 9%, up to 11% now.
>> let's also keep in mind, optics are part of this. person who has all of the leverage here is president obama . i think everybody's acknowledges that. boehner asked in the press conference at 11:30 , are you starting at same place you were at in 2011 and he sidestepped the question because they know they don't have the same arrows in their quiver.
>> the answer's no. the thing obama couldn't get last time and can get this time is more revenue even if congress refuses to ask. we go over the fiscal cliff rates reset under bill clinton and you're negotiating a tax cut not a tax increase. other thing the way weight of public opinion since that level has moved strongly against republicans . look who the public says they're going to blame if we go over the cliff , it's republicans because they see them as having forced the issue last time around, been willing to do this this time around. one reason boehner is grumbly and nervous because he doesn't have any leverage.
>> i want to point this out. this is interesting in terms of the smoke and mirrors how this will play out for the republicans . in the " wall street journal " they write obama 's flexible on highest tax rates . white house 's flexibility, described by bowls, confirmed by the administration officials, could envision tax rates -- tax rate increase from the current level but was less than clinton era levels. if the republicans can say, we cut taxes from where they were under clinton it gives them cover though rates may go up. a weird, if there is an act of kabuki theater that would be it, right.
>> i see a parallel between the two news story the palestinian vote and the congressional stuff because boehner 's --
>> be careful here, my friend, please.
>> let me do my caveats first. i still have a job when i walk out of the studio. i sort of see a boehner in the role of a boss here. you know he has got, you know, he's got still a very hard core group of people on right who are not still -- still not terribly afraid and are not taking lessons out of election so he really does have a fundamental concern about how he's going to put together a coalition to do this. and i really do think, for all joking aside, this bit of theater, doesn't bother the white house and doesn't bother congressional democrats because they know he's tempting to see how far he can push these guys.
>> boehner , they accept him and embrace as the negotiator from the right. talking about theater, we have to talk about the mitt romney meeting here, which is -- actually we know the president has been engaged in a certain amount of political theater , meeting small business owners, going out to country, selling this to the american people . i think it's interesting he's choosing this week to meet with mitt romney and yesterday meeting with the money bags that maxed out donations to the romney campaign in a bid to seem like the guy that is above the fray and is you know the great uniter in chief. what do you make of it?
>> a way to come bean both of them, the fiscal cliff and mitt romney . here's job for mitt romney . first, you allow medicare to negotiate drug prices, that's your give on entitlements. and then you put mitt romney in charge of it. make him --
>> you think mitt romney would do that?
>> when bain was on the ropes, and he was brought in to kind of save the company, he -- he was able to get, you know, bailouts from pension funds, he was able to dole with creditors and get them to lower those prices. he's an incredible negotiator. he's steely, he's tough. so you know let him deal with fizer and the rest of the guys and push drug prices down, everybody wins .
>> that's a nicer job for him than i envisioned which is saying you guys are using too much copy ing paper, let's do this digitally.
>> romney 's amoral, here's your goal, lower drug prices across the board, do it. no, here are your charts, here's your quant, go for it.
>> amoral or apolitical, you know, i wonder, it is telling, karen, that mitt romney 's gotten a warmer embrace from president obama than his own party.
>> how about that?
>> maybe will be the thing that pushes him over. i thought, for a while during this election cycle, there was no love loss between the two and it wasn't about party but personal distaste for one another, especially towards the end. it's surprising me romney took him up on the offer and the present would appropriate him with a role.
>> who knows he's going to present him with anything. it's a good thing to say election's over, we're going to come together. the problem is i don't think the meeting with mitt romney gets the president much of anything other than to get him in a room and be like, dude, free stuff, really? you know what i mean ? beyond that you don't --
>> reaching out to the rival --
>> i think it plays well into the larger narrative of the week, which is, and last week, trying to talk to everybody, get everybody in to say their piece about what they should or shouldn't do, what their concerns are. it's very smart the president's going to jump over my colleagues here from washington and go right to the people, because that is a lot of power that he holds in his hand with his connection with the people and that database and he did not use last time.
>> twitter feed oop. the business community , right? he had ceos , romney supporters, regular ceos who may have voted democratic. seeking reconciliation with the president, president obama 's meeting with business leaders repairing a troubled relationship known more for conflict than partnership. when the private sector tycoons gather he'll feet as much as pressure to make it right. making aminutes with the president isn't good publicity, it might be a necessity for the bottom line .
>> what obama can get and needs from the business community . it's easy to use him as a punching bag , they foolishly lined up behind the wrong guy. they can be a valuable ally in the fiscal cliff push because they're an important component of the republican party . if business leaders come out and recognizing, we've been through the experience of the debt crisis in 2011 , business leaders who care about this, have a lot of money on the line, recognize house republicans are willing to go nuts and wreck the economy if you enlist them, you've put additional pressure on republicans to come to the table and agree to a deal that's more along the lines of what democrats and president obama would like to happen. i think there's -- there's something in it for president obama .
>> maybe form a daisy chain with the ceo of caterpillar and pepsico and walk around.
>> not touching that one.
>> interesting optical political kabuki theater . as moderate republicans join the critical corous over susan rice , we'll look at rice resume on "now." so anyway, i've been to a lot of