Thursday, December 31, 2009

Meet the Press discusses the past & future decades

There was a lot of really good analysis this week on Meet the Press with David Gregory. Guests included: NBC Chief Foreign Affairs Correspondent Andrea Mitchell, Gov. Deval Patrick (D), Mayor Michael Bloomberg (I), former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich (R). They mostly covered the past decade and what is ahead for the United States in the next.

Some highlights below::

When asked, "How are we thinking about this new decade compared to where we were a decade ago?", Andrea Mitchel responded:
"I think 9/11 so transformed our sense of ourselves.  It made us feel vulnerable.  We lost privacy.  We gave up a lot of privacy over the years.  We don't even know to the extent how much our privacy was invaded by government.  We can debate the merits of that.  But we also lost a lot of the sense of American possibilities.  And we were then wrapped in, in a decade of war, two wars."
... "And I think as we proceed and look at this next decade, we have less to spend.  We have fewer opportunities, really, abroad and at home, and bigger responsibilities.  And I think that's the sense of limitations that has been imposed upon us by the obligations of the last decade."
When asked what the political mood is in this country right now, Gov. Deval Patrick responded:
Sour and angry, as everyone here has acknowledged. [...] I don't think it's [President Obama's] fault.  I think it has an awful lot to do with a global economic collapse and the, and the hurt that has caused so many individuals and families and businesses and so forth, and the anxiety it's caused everybody else.  And that's out there. And I think what we need right now is leadership that is about the greater good and is about the long term, because that, you know, get it now, all about, you know, you're on your own, every man and woman for him or herself, that kind of underpinning of so much of our policy for the last decade, I think, has run its course and hurt us.  And that's part of the course correction I think that this president brings."
When asked how the Republican party will take advantage of this "sour mood" in the country, former speaker Newt Gingrich responded:
"Well, let me say, first of all, I think that the president had an enormous opportunity.  If you look at his last campaign stop in Manassas, Virginia, and then you look at the Grant Park speech the night he was elected, there was a, an openness, there was a bipartisanship, there was a transparency.  If he had wanted to be an Eisenhower, I think the country would be fundamentally different today.  So I think a great deal of the sourness is a function of secret deals, ramming through stimulus with--in a, in a secret way, basically bribing senators, going from "The Audacity of Hope" to the audacity of raw power.  And I, I think this has been an enormous problem."

Mayor Michael Bloomberg followed this up when asked what President Obama has to look for in re-election and accomplishing over this term:
"I would argue that Congress, Newt, is fundamentally different today.  Because of redistricting, nobody gets challenged from across the aisle. Fundamental--their challenges are from their flank, so they can't pull together.
"You also have this, this instant news cycle, where everybody's got to have an opinion on everything; don't have time to get the facts, don't have time to analyze.  And then you have the blogs and the economics of the news business, which if it bleeds, it leads; and if it doesn't bleed, get a knife, because it's the only ways you're going to keep you job or keep your newspaper going. And so we've gone to a sensationalist, instant analysis, unwilling to be subtle and make compromises kind of government, which is very, very dangerous.
"Also, incidentally, I think there's still this focus on these ideological issues.  We talked around this table, not once did anybody talk about those ideological issues that are so polarizing Congress and keeping them from coming together.  We talked about the public wants jobs, the public wants their homes, we, we want an education for our kids, we need to have jobs down the--economy down the future.  We didn't talk about those value things that, unfortunately, seem to take over the dialogue from both the left and the right."
When asked about the "leading edge of conservatism at the moment", Andrea Mitchell responded:
"What I noticed when I was out covering Sarah Palin when she was out on the book tour, at 4 and 5 and 6 in the morning on freezing days, when people had been out for hours, camped out with their kids because they wanted to see her, they are so hungry for a symbol for anyone who can give them answers.  And in this case, she was just signing books.  But there's an anger out there, and I have not seen it since my very first campaign, which was 1968 and George Wallace.  And that is the angry populism which is not fact-based, it's just furious at everybody; angry at Democrats, at Republicans.  The tea party has higher numbers in our last NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll than either of the other traditional parties.  And that is what I think this news cycle which you referred to is feeding into, and that is what does frighten me.  This spirit of America is so large and embracing, but there is an angry subtext because of economic dislocation that is very, very worrisome."
Newt Gingrich was asked why there was no support for the healthcare reform bills among Republicans:
"you've got $513 billion in tax increases, $470 billion in Medicare cuts. You have a scale of, I think, bribery in the Senate we have not seen in our lifetime, with various senators getting all sorts of special deals in a way that I think the public is just appalled by. I suspect every Republican running in '10 and again in '12 will run on an absolute pledge to repeal this bill. The bill -- most of the bill does not go into effect until '13 or '14, except on the tax increase side; and therefore, I think there won't be any great constituency for it. And I think it'll be a major campaign theme. This is a bad bill, written in a horrible way, and the most, the most corrupt legislation I've seen in my lifetime."
I actually believe that is a pretty good assessment of the situation with the healthcare reform bill. It's been a give away to insurance companies (not because of no public option but for many other reasons) and a giveaway to select congressional members who had particular bargaining power, like Sen. Ben Nelson.

When asked if the Republicans "could face some real political trouble ahead" for not being more supportive of healthcare reform efforts, former speaker Newt Gingrich responded:
"I think the more important this is, as [Mayor Michael Bloomberg] said, the country faces real trouble.  The country is going to face deficits it can't sustain, debt it can't fund, an economy that's noncompetitive and, and I think--I believe everything we're doing right now will be fundamentally revisited.  But, but I, I want to emphasize what the mayor said, because it's so important.  When you start writing 2,000-page bills, you guarantee that no elected official knows what's in the legislation.  It is a fundamentally flawed way of running this country.  It's flawed in both parties.  And I think part of why you're seeing the tea party movement and other behavior is, is that people are just angry about an irresponsible government imposing change that no elected official can understand."
The threats from terrorism and Islamic extremism were discussed:
"pragmatism assumes you know what the facts are.  I mean, to be pragmatic is to be in touch with reality. [...] the president has two enormous challenges--and this goes back to self-deception.  The first is Iran.  I mean, it's very clear the Iranians have been lying consistently. It's very clear the Iranians want to get nuclear weapons. It's pretty clear the Iranians--this current dictatorship will use them.  This is a much deeper crisis than anything that happened in the last decade.
"The second is the very nature of the threat we--we don't even have a language that'll--you know, I, I would describe the irreconcilable wing of Islam, some of my friends would describe Islamists, in large parts of our current culture that's politically incorrect.  So if I said to you normally, "Tell me what, what, what distinguishes the murderer at Fort Hood, the people we arrested in Denver and Detroit and New York, and the five people who were just picked up in Pakistan?" You could say, "Well, they weren't Rotarians." But, but, but it would be politically incorrect to describe the one common characteristic they have, which is they all belong to an irreconcilable wing of Islam which wants to destroy our civilization.  Now, until we can have an honest conversation and not be self-deceptive about our enemies, it's pretty hard to design a strategy." ~ former speaker Newt Gingrich
True. But then while Mr. Gingrich is accurate and specific in his wording "an irreconcilable wing of Islam", many of his colleagues are not. Like those who attempt to implicate the entire Muslim population in terrorism, those who insinuate that the Islamic countries of the Middle-East do not have moderates, or folks like conservative radio host Mike Gallagher who suggest we have two lines at the airport, one for Muslims and people from Middle-Eastern countries, and one for the rest of us. These are not at all reasonable or accurate, and I think it is this sort of irrationality and fear-mongering that has some of us concerned, not misguided fears about not being politically-correct enough.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg picked up on this:
"[former speaker Newt Gingrich] made a point of carving out there is a wing of Islam that is violently anti-American and does not have the same values we do. But most Muslims around the world are God-fearing people just like you and me. Their religion may be different than yours or mine.  And I've tried to reach out in New York City; we have a quarter million Muslims in New York City, practicing Muslims, and they certainly aren't anti-America, anti-New York."
"...what's missing here [in dealing with the threats of terrorism and Islamic extremism] is a discussion, believe it or not, of the environment.  And it has nothing to do with global warming down the road, it is today.  We are transferring our wealth to countries around the world who don't agree with us and, in many cases, are funding the very terrorists that we're sending our young men and women out to fight.  And sometimes they don't come back or they don't come back alive.  And we can't keep doing this.  We've got to get, somehow or other, energy independence.  And so regardless of whether you're a greenie or not, the bottom line is we cannot keep funding our enemies."
Well said! And one of those enemies is our "friends" the Saudis.

Gov. Deval Patrick closed the discussion when asked what President Obama can do to really lead in an era when there is so much anti-government, and anti-establishmentarianism:
"I have agreed, surprisingly, with a lot of what [former speaker Newt Gingrich] has had to say today.  But I, I, I will say that, that the notion of nonpartisanship or bipartisanship goes both ways. And we have not seen the Congress willing, at least as I perceive it, from the, from the right to reach out and make compromise or even necessarily to engage in the discussion.  The president has to lead that, no doubt about it. But when he extends his hand, others have to reach back."

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