The Last Word | February 20, 2013
>>> john boehner now claims he had nothing to do with the dreaded sequester, even though he voted for it. even some republicans are not letting him get away with that little fib.
>> repetition, is it the mother of all yearning as spending cuts loom.
>> are the republicans willing to compromise?
>> finger pointing?
>> we're still knee-deep in the blame game.
>> who thought of this idea?
>> i made it perfectly clear i don't like the sequester.
>> that the sequester was leverage to extract entitlement cuts.
>> i got 90% of what i wanted, i'm pretty happy.
>> congress is out this week.
>> they're taking this week off.
>> which says something, i suppose.
>> this all began in 2011 .
>> both sides did agree to the sequester.
>> it is a very dumb thing, just stupid.
>> the way it is structured?
>> it is like a situation of dumb and dumber, moving on.
>> things are still moving forward on immigration.
>> john mccain really took some heat.
>> just ask john mccain.
>> you're a senator with the federal government .
>> question after angry question.
>> you said build a dang fence, where is the fence?
>> why didn't the army go down this and stop them?
>> this is not john mccain 's first rodeo.
>> john mccain was on "meet the press," questioning president obama 's judgment.
>> he has had no communications with republicans on the issue.
>> let me see if you have this correct, when you select sarah palin are you allowed to question anyone's judgment?
>> just nine days until the federal government faces yet another one of those dramatic deadlines that it never faced before, just before they took control of the white house . president obama took part of today doing local television interviews for markets in oklahoma and south carolina and texas and five other states about the consequences of the sequester spending cuts and how they can be stopped.
>> we had the good folks of oklahoma write in the questions that they wanted me to ask you. oklahoma has a large number of federal employees. why will federal employees have to suffer furloughs because congress and the president can't reach an agreement on the budget?
>> well, they shouldn't. and we should be able to reach an agreement. for those who have not been paying as close attention as kevin, we have automatic spending cuts coming up in nine days that will lay off hundreds of thousands of folks across the country, or furlough them across the country. they are not necessary, they will hurt the economy and cause unemployment. and the reason is that congress has not been able to come forth with a balanced deficit package. the majority of people want that kind of balanced package, the deficit reduction. now i need congress to act, they have nine days to do it.
>> john boehner spent today on recess, but his writing staff published a piece in "the wall street journal " accusing the president of raging against the budget he created. he led the republican house in voting for it, which some conservatives have not forgotten. byron york , chief political conservative columnist, wrote, john boehner describes the sequester as a policy that threatens the security, leads to the question, why would republicans support the measure that threatens national security and thousands of jobs. byron york continues the effect of the argument is to make obama seem reasonable. after all, the president certainly agrees with boehner that the cuts threaten national security and jobs. the difference is obama wants to avoid them. could the gop message on the sequester be anymore self-defeating. it made rush limbaugh uncharacteristically humble today. he had to admit there is something even he doesn't understand.
>> boehner , echoing obama , in "the wall street journal ," in answer to a question, the republicans support the sequester. they're on record as supporting it, even though it is obama 's idea. they support it. it is the only way we're going to get budget cuts. the question is why would republicans support something that does what boehner says it is going to do? threatens u.s. national security ? thousands of jobs could be lost. boehner is calling the cuts deep, when they're not. no, i do not have an explanation. i don't think that there is a reasonable explanation. i don't understand it. don't have an answer for you. it is too simple to chalk this up to incompetent. it may be that, but i don't have an answer, i can't explain it to you. all i know is that it doesn't make any sense.
>> and since we are once again in a political and governing territory where we have never been before, those of us who use political models of the past to predict what will happen in our political future are of course, totally lost . there is now only one person who seems to know how this is going to end.
>> obama knows that all he has got to do is go out there and make a couple of really tough speeches like he did yesterday, and the republicans will cave. i mean, that is the history of this.
>> krystal ball, i wish i could share rush limbaugh 's confidence --
>> he is always right, so --
>> of yeah, how this works, i don't really have a counter-theory of how this works out. we've never been here before , so we're just guessing.
>> well, and the problem is here for republicans , they don't want to agree to any tax increases in this deal. so they feel like the cuts that are on the table are better than having to agree to tax increases. and the democrats feel like the cuts that are on the table are better than agreeing to different cuts in an equal amount that would just fall more heavily on social programs. so it is hard to see how they get out of this impasse by the particular sequester deadline.
>> but ari, do all republicans think that? i mean, if john boehner is out there saying look, this is bad for national defense , these cuts. bad for the economy, he is even willing to say. that seems to me to demand that you do something to avoid them. and if that means closing some loopholes, that would be a reasonable outcome. i just don't see how boehner can continue to say how bad these cuts are and then not be willing to do some sort of compromise to avoid them.
>> yes, the sequester was supposed to be the solution. and the premise of boehner 's article today is that the sequester is the problem. so if the sequester is the problem, he pointed out, many others were really confounded by that article in "the wall street journal ." i looked at it, the words that talked about the concept of the narrator, boehner has really confused them. for those of us who spent a lot of time on it, he confused us too. as we said, he can't say this is bad for jobs, things that every politician is for, jobs and security. i don't think he has a message, he has a panic button, he realizes just like before the one thing that has repeated is his inability to get his caucus united. now he is saying look, i'll say it is bad, as bad as it is i don't want to be blamed for it.
>> let's listen to what john boehner said on the origins of it.
>> if they had nothing to do with it and never liked it in the first place, why did they vote for it? every republican in the house voted, including speaker boehner , he said i got 90% of what i wanted and i'm pretty pleased. this is a ridiculous argument. we should focus on solutions and resolving this so people don't lose their jobs.
>> the 98% of what i wanted, coming back to haunt him.
>> it is pretty damaging. i don't think the american people are interested in all of this who started it, where did it come from debate? that boehner clearly wants to have. and they're acting very guilty about it. in my house if there is a cookie missing, and i say there is a cookie missing, and my daughter says i didn't eat it. i know right away she took the cookie, but she is only four, it is okay. i give her a pass. they're acting like they took the cookie and it is obvious. they're spending so much time saying the president is not serious about cutting the budget, he doesn't want to make cuts. on the other hand he is responsible for the draconian cuts, the republicans know they are the ones talking so much about budget cutting that this definitely falls on their shoulders.
>> can i get on the cookie analogy?
>> that is why you're here, jump on every analogy that comes along.
>> i am not a parent like krystal , but i think it is a bit like you have a kid who is not getting the grades, right? so you threaten them, you say if you don't get your grades up i'm going to home school you, that is supposed to be worse. the child probably wants to be home -- not home schooled . if the grades stay down, what happens? you undermine your parental authority, i believe.
>> yeah, that is my understanding.
>> and you are basically in a situation saying well, neither of us wanted that. we all know it was a threat. and the real answer, beyond the cookies and analogy, the spending reduction that the republicans passed raised fiscal spending by the year 2013 . that is something john boehner pointed to saying we have looked to cutting. and then you actually look at the numbers, and they were called out on it today. it doesn't cut. so the plan and threat doesn't involve something they want to do. and the so-called cutting doesn't cut, because they can't shrink the government this way.
>> so are we headed for another time-buying maneuver at the last minute that creates another 30-day window in which to decide this this?
>> well, it looks like the sequester cuts will take some amount of time. maybe there is a solution there. it is hard to see, nobody is negotiating, nobody is working with each other. everybody is trying to figure out the best political position.
>> and nothing until 11:00 p.m ., until the sequester hits.
>> it doesn't even seem like there are the movements towards negotiations. and it is hard for me to see, i think both sides feel like they prefer the sequester than to any deal that the other side is offering at this point.
>> krystal ball and ari melber, thank you for joining us.
>>> and we'll see more on john mccain 's arizona constituents attacking him on the reform.
>>> and getting invited to speak at the conservative political action conference this year. one, be a wicked big loser like sarah palin , and the biggest loser of all, mitt romney , who got himself invited to speak today.
>>> and later, stephen colbert 's sister is running for congress. and is choosing this platform as a candidate. the cross examination of elizabeth colbert busch is coming up. there is still time to help me out by tweeting your questions for her. or post them on facebook. priority, of course, will be given to those questions that come from the first congressional district of south carolina . and please don't lie about being in the district. we know how easy that is to do on twitter, on line, but it would be wrong. we're going to use the honor system here tonight on "the last word," because