UYGUR: President Obama kicked the budget battle up a notch today by making it clear that he would not accept the short-term stop-gap bill. And by emphasizing that Republicans have gotten everything they wanted, Obama may have thrown House Speaker John Boehner off his game a little bit.
After the president spoke, Boehner could only manage a vague, sweaty, nervous-sounding press conference where he had this bizarre admission —
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BOEHNER: The White House is proposing cuts that are far beyond things that we would imagine. And so we want to get an agreement and we want to keep the government open.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
UYGUR: Why did he just admit that the White House has given them more than they wanted? But he‘s right. They have given in over and over again.
I mean, I‘m—I don‘t get it. Like, if you‘re a Republican at this point, not like a Tea Partier, who‘s like, I want a billion, a trillion, a gazillion, a Brazilian, I‘m out of cuts. If you were a real Republican—
I mean, if somebody hands you the queen (ph), why don‘t you take it? At this point shouldn‘t you be frustrated at Boehner? What‘s his real motivation?
We‘re going to talk about that in a second.
But even though it‘s the Republicans who are obviously holding up the budget, the American people apparently are split on who to blame if the government shuts down on Friday. A Pew poll found that 39 percent of people would blame Republicans and 36 percent would blame the Obama administration, while 16 percent would blame both.
It was even closer in a “Washington Post” poll, where Republicans and the Obama administration each got 37 percent. I‘m stunned by that. How could you—how can you look at those things and go, oh, yes, they are being as obstinate?
Look, I have told you over and over again, we had at first, $40 billion given in by the Obama administration, got no credit for it. And then $4 billion, and then $6 billion, and then $20 billion, and then another $3 billion. And then Republicans haven‘t moved at all.
How could it possibly be even? Well, there is a second answer to that. But, look, let me give you some perspective.
Democrats appear to be in much worse shape than they were leading up to the last government shutdown in 1995. Back then, 46 percent of people said they blamed the Republicans and only 27 percent said the Clinton administration would be at fault.
So, what happened here? Why is it so much different today than it was back then?
I‘ve got to be honest with you, it‘s because one side isn‘t making its case. We showed you the clips in the first segment. The Republicans come out and they‘re, like, it‘s their fault, their fault, they‘re being unreasonable, and they are shutting the government down. You ask the president, and he is, like, I don‘t know, I don‘t want to blame anybody.
But you‘re in politics. You‘ve he got to make your case. Otherwise, how do people know?
And it turns out, look at the polls. They don‘t know. They‘re like, I don‘t know who is at fault. Now, that‘s crazy. Somebody‘s got to change that dynamic, and that somebody is the president.
All right. Now joining me is David Sirota. He‘s a syndicated columnist and author of the book “Back to Our Future.” And also with us is Ryan Grim, congressional correspondent for “The Huffington Post.”
Ryan, I want to start with you. I mean, look, I keep saying it‘s crazy. Boehner, you give him exactly what he wanted back in February, and he says, no, I want more. You give him a little more, and he says, no, I want $7 billion more today.
Does he not want a deal?
RYAN GRIM, “THE HUFFINGTON POST”: Well, first of all, he‘s obviously been paying attention to this White House over the past couple of years, and he knows that he can keep getting more and more and more as long as he drags this out. But, fundamentally, what he‘s doing is he‘s crafting his budget with the audience in mind of his Tea Party caucus. And as long as he is doing that, as long as he is trying to pass a bill through the House with only Republican votes, he‘s not going to get it through the Senate.
And this isn‘t a serious negotiation until he decides that he is going to have to pick up, say, 40, 50 Democratic votes and then start whipping Republicans hard. Because I just don‘t see how there is a path that goes from 218 Republicans, and then over to the Senate, and gets enough Democratic support to also be able to pass there and then get to the White House, because the Tea Party is going to want too many cuts in order to—so—and the Senate Democrats aren‘t going to go along with that.
UYGUR: Well, Ryan —
GRIM: So, until he abandons that, this is just strange.
UYGUR: Right. But does that mean, like—is there some chance he actually wants to shut down? Does he want to say to the Tea Party, look at this, I shut it down for however long, two days, a week, two weeks, two months? I don‘t know. Then he goes back and negotiates, but gets his bona fides with the Tea Party?
GRIM: Yes, I don‘t know exactly what‘s in his mind, but that would make sense tactically, because then he can say, look, I did everything I could. Senate Democrats wouldn‘t go for it, and we shut the government down. So, that‘s some read meat for the Tea Party.
Then, after a couple of days of that, they see the ramification, and then he comes back, cuts a deal with some House Democrats. It goes to the Senate, goes to the White House. And then perhaps the Tea Party wing of his conference will kind of give him a pass for negotiating with Democrats.
They‘ll say, well, the guy did shut the government down, we‘ve got to give
UYGUR: All right.
David, I want to go to you. I mean, when you see the president here, and he comes out—and this was a big deal. He wasn‘t supposed to come out, he comes out, and he says, look, $33 billion and that‘s it.
Do you believe him? Do you think he is going to stand his ground at $33 billion, or do you think he‘ll give in more?
DAVID SIROTA, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: Well, I don‘t understand why we should believe him. I mean, this is a president who started out the budget debate by conceding the very terms of the debate by saying—the first position the administration took was saying we need to freeze domestic spending entirely. So he has been giving and giving and giving and not drawing a line in the sand.
And I think the Republicans, frankly, as a negotiating tactic, why should they stop? Right?
The Tea Party folks are probably saying, why should we stop? We‘ll pass the farthest right bill possible through the House, we‘ll ram it through the House. It will go over to the Senate, it will get amended. He‘ll go into conference committee, and they will be starting on the House side with the most extreme conservative position possible.
So, in many ways, I think what we are seeing is that the Republicans really understand negotiation 101, and the Obama administration either doesn‘t understand negotiation 101, or is actually ideologically with some of the more hard-core conservative policies and ideologies of the Tea Party that is controlling the House of Representatives.
UYGUR: Let me build on David‘s point a little bit and give this question to you, Ryan. I mean, this is the first time the president has come out in public and said, this is where I stand. He didn‘t say that in the beginning where he—like, if he had come out and gave a big speech, I am giving away $40 billion in cuts, now the Republicans have to come to me, it would have been very public, right?
And then when the Republicans didn‘t come to him, well, then they would have seemed unreasonable. But he didn‘t do that in public and he didn‘t do that until now.
And now that he‘s done this in public, if he doesn‘t concede anything more going forward, isn‘t he—I mean, look, I wouldn‘t concede a nickel, right? But you know how President Obama is. Isn‘t he going to feel like, well, in order to seem reasonable, we should give them at least a couple more billion?
GRIM: Yes. I mean, whatever the administration has been doing for the past couple of months clearly hasn‘t worked, because we‘re now in a situation where we have, you know, almost nine percent unemployment, with a lot of economists saying that what we need is to stimulate the economy. And instead, Congress is doing the exact opposite.
So something isn‘t working.
The administration has accepted the argument, as David said, that what we need are cuts now. Just a few months ago, people were still acknowledging the fact that the economy could use more stimulus. And the administration was saying, while we are for long-term cuts, we want to get the budget in order in the long term, in the short term we don‘t want to damage this fragile recovery.
Now here we are, all of a sudden, talking about cutting billions and billions of dollars from programs that really do actually cut deep into what‘s happening, and they are—and it‘s not a controversial thing to say that these cuts will cost thousands of jobs.
Mark Zandi, I think his figure was 700,000 jobs. He was an adviser to John McCain. So, this is like basic economics here.
UYGUR: No. But, look, the thing is they are holding the economy hostage, because if the economy loses jobs, Republicans then turn around and say, oh, look, it‘s all Obama‘s fault, he couldn‘t create jobs. And they try to get their guy into the White House, whereas Obama thinks he is desperate to create jobs, he can‘t risk a shutdown. So, they have all the advantage.
Given that, David, last question to you, you know, you see how this has developed. You see what Ryan pointed out there, which is a great point.
What does that tell us about what might come in 2012? Because now we have got the giant battle, the $4 trillion, $6 trillion battle, coming up for that budget. Is that a sign of terrible things to come in terms of concessions from the Democrats in that battle?
SIROTA: I absolutely think so. I think that it‘s really tragic. And I keep going back to the terms of the debate.
We are not having a discussion about how to stimulate the economy. We are having a discussion about how to cut, cut, cut, at a cost of what most economists think are going to be at least tens of thousand, if not hundreds of thousands, of jobs.
Put that rhetorical frame into the super-heated cauldron of presidential politics, where the Republican nominee is going to be saying even more cuts, more cuts, more cuts. And President Obama, who has said yes, yes, yes, I will give up these cuts, I will continue to give up these cuts, and we are in a political downward spiral that I think is going to have tragic ramifications for the budget and for the economy in the country in 2012.
UYGUR: All right.
David Sirota and Ryan Grim, thank you both for joining us tonight. I really appreciate it.
GRIM: Thanks, Cenk.