NOW with Alex Wagner | March 06, 2013
>>> despite the fact that washington usually relishes any excuse for inaction, snow quester may actually result in some post-sequester movement to break the fiscal deadlock. it will most certainly result in a lot of corny weather-related puns. example a, amid the icy temperatures, president obama is ushering a thaw in relations. the new york times reports, the legacy-minded president is forcing him to do something he has largely avoided, personally reaching out to rank and file members of congress . gop senators including roy blunt , tom coburn , susan collins , bob porker, lindsey graham , and rob portman . he'll also dine tonight with 11 republican senators at the jefferson hotel and will travel to capitol hill next week to meet with caucuses in both the house and the senate. so far, the good will is being reciprocated. according to senator lindsey graham , what i see from the president is probably the most encouraging engagement on a big issue since the early days of his presidency. senator majority leader mitch mcconnell is all for daytont.
>> frankly, i wish he'd done more of that over the years. we've had, all of us, very limited interaction with the president. he's certainly doesn't have to go through me to call on my members, and i'm sure he will, and i encourage him to do so.
>> of course, necessity is usually the grandmother of change. despite several weeks of bully pulpit pressure, even the president acknowledged that his hands are tied unless congress decides to cooperate.
>> this idea that somehow there's a secret formula or secret sauce to get speaker boehner or mitch mcconnell to say, you know what, mr. president, you're right. we should close some tax loopholes for the well off and well connected in exchange for some serious entitlement reform and spending cuts in programs we don't need. you know, i think if there was a secret way to do that, i would have tried it. i would have done it.
>> and if the mealtime diplomacy fails, there's always a backup to the back-up plan, win back the house in 2014 . as the new yorker notes, a fundamental pact of modern political life is the only way to advance a coherent agenda in washington is through partisan dominance. the boring fact of our system is congressional math is the best predictor of a president's success. lyndon johnson 's achievements were in reality only a function of the congressional election results. in 1967 and 1968 , after he lost 48 democrats in the house, he was a midget. joining the panel now, what an intro there. msnbc contributor and queen bee of the guru.com, joy reid. let's start with the lunch and dinner. bipartisan rose chicken, answer to our dreams, or is this just an optical illusion ?
>> i don't get it. this is the reason people hate washington . is it really the case only thing members of congress , period, all they need is a hug and a lunch? you know, feed me dinner, treat me like i'm special. president obama 's not their mom. why do they need all this love and affection to do their job? i find this story so infuriating and annoying. politics is supposed to be adversarial. we have two parties for a reason. i think this narrative and it's partly because it's a processed story we in the media love it too, whether they hate each other, golf together, friends, bffs, look who's christie's friend and not these senators. i find it all annoying.
>> okay, shutting the door on compromise, joy reid, ladies and gentlemen .
>> do it in a snow metaphor.
>> they could shovel snow together maybe.
>> robert, let's talk bluntly in so far as we can on camera at how successful the white house strategy around sequester has been. there's some thinking that they sort of overinflated or inflated the effects, the immediate effects of the sequester and this sort of represents, not a 180, but a backing down on the initial strategy, which is to play hardball. now it's about making phone calls to senate republicans and house republicans.
>> i think this has less to do with the p.r. campaign around sequester and more to do with how do you break the gridlock that has frozen anything that happens in washington .
>> totally unwittingly, but how do you break this gridlock so the new normal isn't what we've seen over the past sort of few months? look, i would put an hour on the president's schedule every day, call members of congress , call every member of congress . have a conversation with them. call business leaders. you don't just have to call members of congress , but i think there's nothing that is going to hurt by having these conversations. nothing is going to back this up and maybe what happens is we find a way based on these conversations to break out of this. because i will say, i think betting on an electoral strategy two years from now to break this gridlock is a bit of a deep throw, because we just had congressional redistricting, right? most of the states have redistricted to the point where a huge percentage of congress are in wildly safe districts. so, unless there's a big wave election, the new normal that we've seen in sequestration will be what happens for four years, and i think the president realizes that has to be broken.
>> and michael steele , to that point, i mean, because of the gerrymandered districts, both parts are implicated in that. mitch mcconnell is going to face a primary challenge , so in reality --
>> it's all good.
>> well, i mean, there's not going to be any deal making until 2014 is over.
>> you're right. to joy's point there, they are shoveling something this week, and i don't think it's snow. it is something, and it's the usual stuff that they shovel. although i have to admit, i'm glad, to your point, to see the president doing these things, these very overt efforts to bring some cohesion or common sense to this conversation. at least he can then, if republicans go back and go, you know, we just don't want to play, don't want to deal with you. look, i tried. i had a mandate coming out of 2012 , i sat down, i held my nose, picked up the phone and made the phone calls . i did everything you told me to do, and you still won't find that way around the curve. i don't care if you get to yes. can you get to maybe? can we get to returning the phone call ? i take note of what mcconnell says that, you know, you don't have to come to me. mr. president, go to those individual senators. go to the people --
>> please, don't involve me. i have a primary challenge .
>> that's a fair point. look at the initial target. i think that's a good starting working group of republicans in the senate who can then take a message back to the rest of the caucus. we'll see how it plays out. i applaud the effort.
>> howard, you know, this is armchair prognostication, but that's what we specialize in here. how do you think this plays out for the republicans? jonathan chait makes the point this glee around the sequester and supposed win on this is going to be -- they are going to change their tune a few months down the road when the cuts actually start to set in.
>> two points. to your first question, this sort of apocalypse now strategy the administration was pursuing on sequester was not successful. people didn't see anything happen so terrible when the sequester began. they've abandoned that. that's a good thing. to joy's point, i couldn't disagree more on that. i think there's every reason if you are negotiating with people across the table, regardless of your ideological differences, to get to know them, what motivates them, have some kind of human relationship that's beyond just what you read about them in the newspaper or what you know about them from what somebody tells you in a briefing paper. i give the president a lot of credit. this is overdue. it would be great if he could spend an hour every day just sort of dialing through and talking to people. there's absolutely no downside in getting to know people who you are going to be dealing with and negotiating with. i hope he does more of it.
>> i think the country likes to see it. i do think there's something sort of weirdly reassuring.
>> very much so.
>> like the end of the shawshank redemption . it can all maybe work out. more importantly, i'd like to know what they are eating. if anybody has intel on that, tweet at me.
>>> coming up, what's worse than draconian? ask budget man paul ryan . we'll talk mathematical impossibilities and the social safety net just ahead. ent, presented with