The Cycle | November 29, 2012
>> this is not a game. jobs are on the line. the american economy is on the line. and this is a moment for adult leadership.
>> to talk all things politics, we bring in nick from the "new york times." politico is reporting today boehner and the president had a curt phone call . that's curt with a "c." should we be reading something into that?
>> you almost can't tell what's happening by looking at the president and jay carney and speaker boehner are saying. you have to look further out and see where the ripples are. really when boehner 's talking and when the president is talking, they are talking to their members in congress. so it's members you have to look at. obviously, there are teams of economists and policy experts behind the scenes that are crafting all kinds of compromises. it really comes down to the members, i think.
>> let's talk about one of those members, representative tom cole , republican from oklahoma came out and said he thinks republicans should go ahead and pass what the president has proposed, basically extend the tax cuts for the middle class up to $250,000. then deal with that other piece. speaker boehner came out and sort of chastised him. but tom cole went on to continue to go on about 18 different shows and reiterated the same position he was actually on with our chuck todd this morning. let's take a listen.
>> that advice was given in private. but you guys have a way of figuring out what is said in private. somebody leaked it out. that's fine. because i'm not going to --
>> you didn't intend for this to go public?
>> no, no. i absolutely didn't.
>> again, it is what i said. it's not an inaccurate report. and, again, i don't think it changes where we're going. our chief negotiator is the speaker. he can deliver the republican votes for a deal that he thinks is the right one. i always support him in that. i'm sure i would again.
>> nick, like i said, he's saying this leaked out, he didn't send it to go public but he felt perfectly comfortable going on, like, every show possible yesterday and not backing off of it. do you think this is actually a sort of strategy from the republicans by him taking a stance to the left of boehner ? is he gives boehner more room to negotiate?
>> maybe he's giving boehner a chance to actually kind of calm the other troops in the republican caucus who are more against a compromise than he is. it's always hard to tell with legislative politics. these guys will go out on their own, get on camera and get in the papers. what's really interesting here, i think if you pull back a little bit, both parties are facing in the fiscal cliff this incredible, like, once in a generation test of their core principles. and kind of a political test for the whole country. this is one of the few times in recent history where the discussion on taxes has really changed and where the political playing field has kind of tilted for the democrats on this question. it hasn't been that way since they controlled all of congress probably in the clinton years. really what we're seeing is if democrats are worried, are they can't sort of change the conversation and move the needle on taxes with all the things they have going for them right now in this political moment, when can they?
>> nick, let's talk about the other side of this fiscal cliff negotiations and those are cuts. bowles told reporters yesterday it seemed as though republicans were clear there's a need for revenue and democrats need to recognize the need for entitlement reform. what exactly do you think, if you can peer into your crystal ball , what's exactly on the table here. you know, are we going to get --
>> i can't see the crystal ball . it's in the studio.
>> are we going to get significant entitlement reform or are we probably going to be left with at best maybe raising the retirement age for social security or raising the eligibility age for medicare?
>> you know, i'd be very surprised to see social security be a part of the discussion here.
>> at all?
>> because it's not really kind of a huge driver of the deficit we're talking about right now. it's really the health care programs. but i think if you just pull back and make it really simple for a second, what you see are the democrats are saying, wait a second. increasing taxes a little bit on the rich or significantly on the rich, however you want to look at it, is pretty popular with the public or at least has broad public support. cutting entitlements is not very popular. it could be the right thing to do. perhaps there's a way to do it. but it's not very popular. you're asking us to not do the thing and say that you want to help us do the thing that is popular. and you want us the democrats to go on the table and lay out the details of the thing that is really unpopular. are you crazy?
>> your short answer is no, we will not get any significant entitlement reform?
>> not now. i think what the democrats want to do is kind of box those tax hikes up and get them agreed to in principle. kind of break the republicans' back a little on that. then, okay, maybe we can have a discussion on entitlements. ok, there will be incredible resistance among democrats on the left to having that discussion at all. we'll have to see.
>> nick, i feel like the president -- i know the president won based on campaigning for raising taxes on the rich. i know that a significant portion of america, 60%, said they agree with raising taxes on the rich. even some romney voters said hey, yeah, we should raise taxes on the rich. it seems there's a passionate fwrup of far right conservatives who are saying we don't want to raise taxes on the rich. and they seem to have an outsized amount of power in this discussion. because they are against compromise. they are super passionate. they will primary people who go against them and vote them out of office. is it that we have this passionate small minority that is kind of holding the whole process hostage to use a word from last term?
>> i'm not sure it's a passionate small minority. i mean, it's the majority of the party. it's a core principle for the gop. it's one of the -- really one of the few core principles in kind of the post- cold war and post social issues kind of part of politics right now that brings them all together. it's very important for them to not have high taxes. what we're seeing right now is sort of, i think, and it's been a conjecture, but the orthodoxy on taxes which is very well enforced and policed by groups that, as you say, will primary republicans. the kind of core on that is it's hitting up against the fact that the tax hikes we're talking about for the wealthy are not really enormous. we've had them before. they weren't disastrous. even their own, like, intellectual elite and their own donors and many business leaders, although not all, are telling them, guys, it's okay. we'll take 2% or 3% more. it's fine. it's almost like an autopilot. of course, it comes out of a deeply held conviction on the right. we're seeing that collision still.
>> so, nick, who are we going to see from the right or the left such as -- like tom cole who's going to say something, do something, that would basically show the outlines of a deal, whether it's on tax reform or entitlements or on social? who's going to be that next person?
>> i think you have to look a little bit at the "meet the press" gang and the people who have already sort of bucked the grover norquist pledge a little bit. saxby chambliss , marco rubio , lindsey graham . patty murray . a leader of the party's left wing . she's saying, basically, look, the cliff to me for politics and substance is not the worst deal in the world. it's a terrible deal if we can't get those tax hikes. again, if we can't win this fight now and change that discussion, let's go over the cliff. i'm kind of watching her to see what she says. because it kind of tells you how the president and his team are communicating with the democrats and what the negotiating room is going to be on entitlements.
>> nick, thanks so much for that insight.
>> thank you guys.
>>> next, mitt at the white house ? don't be alarmed. he's just having lunch with the president. too bad the president already ate his lunch.
>> how we think that conversation went as "the cycle" rolls on for thursday, november 29th .