UYGUR: With just hours until a possible government shutdown, one of the GOP`s top strategists is warning that Republicans will pay a price if they fail to compromise. In a memo on his website, Karl Rove reminds his party that the shutdowns benefited President Clinton in 1995 and 1996, and it could do the same for Obama.
He writes, quote, “The shutdowns helped improve Clinton`s political standing, boosting both his approval rating and perceptions of him as a strong leader. President Obama`s ratings as a strong leader have slipped this year. Republicans should be careful not to let him recover as he gears up for his 2012 election campaign.”
Now, look, I think he`s right in this case, which is already enough of a surprise, but think about what Rove just said there. Did you get it? He says, look, if they shut down the government, Obama will look strong. When he keeps negotiating and giving away more and more and more, he looks weak. You see that? The Republicans actually love that, but on the other hand, the Republicans also need to be careful because no matter what the fringe element of their party may want, most Americans want to avoid a shutdown.
A Gallup Poll out this week finds that 58 percent of Americans want leaders to reach a compromise compared to just 33 percent who said they should hold their position even if it means a shutdown. Now, ironically, even the man behind the 1995 shutdown thinks a compromise should be reached, but speaking at an event today, Newt Gingrich couldn`t help but take the opportunity to slam President Obama on the negotiations.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
NEWT GINGRICH, (R) FMR. HOUSE SPEAKER: At some point, he has to actually be the president. First of all, I would try to involve like a month ago, two months ago, I tried to work it out long before you get to this mess. Second, I`d try to — I would try to find a compromise to keep the government open.
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UYGUR: I think he`s missing an irony gene. You were the one who shut down the government last time. How can you possibly claim that you would make sure the government wasn`t shut down this time around? It`s unbelievable the stuff that he says without, you know, feeling any irony or hypocrisy at all.
Now, to find out what effect this will have politically on the GOP, the Democrats and President Obama, let`s bring in my next guest. Joining me now “Washington Post” columnist and senior fellow for the Brookings Institution, E.J. Dionne. First, I`m going to ask you a funny question, do you agree with Karl Rove that a shutdown helps the Democrats and hurts the Republicans?
E.J. DIONNE, THE WASHINGTON POST: I guess, it pains me to say, yes as well. I think he`s right. And I think if I can engage (ph) a little bit of Washingtonology here, Karl Rove is very close to Barry Jackson who is John Boehner`s chief of staff. I think one can interpret this as an indication of what most of us, I think, suspect, which is John Boehner does not want a shutdown because he knows they will pay.
Let`s look at two paths.
If they don`t shut down the government but get, you know, depending on how you want to count it, 38 or 79 billion in cuts, that`s a great victory for Boehner. The Republicans only control one-third of this process. Democrats have the presidency in the Senate, yet they will end up with somewhere between three-fifths and two-thirds of what they wanted, in the first place. And I do think that`s part of the cost of the president choosing not to be involved in this fight until the very end.
If there is a shutdown, then, the fact that the Democrats went all this way to give in to the Republicans and they still shut down the government, I think that begins to hurt the Republicans. So, as of this moment, I think a shutdown would be catastrophic for them keeping the government open with these cuts would be a great victory for them.
UYGUR: I mean, at this point, when you look at the numbers, it seems to be, if you ask me, just like you said, if they do the deal right now, it`d be a stunning loss for Democrats. I mean, how much could they have possibly — even me who is incredibly cynical about the Democrats` negotiation strategy, I still can`t believe how much they gave away. So, I think you hit it on the head, but here`s the trick, right, and here`s the problem for President Obama, to be fair to him.
He`s got to look reasonable. Most of the country wants compromise, so he` going for compromise. On the other hand, if you do too much compromise, as Rove pointed out, you look weak. So, how does he thread that needle? What`s the right answer?
DIONNE: Well, I think the right answer was to catch on to what the Republicans were doing early on. When they did those early extensions, they already pocketed a whole lot of cuts, so they`d already moved the discussion away from the Democrats. So, that`s the first thing they should have done. And you know, if I — I`ve said many times, I would not want the administration to negotiate for me on a new car or a new house because they have this strategy of preemptive concession.
And I just think if they had taken a harder line at the beginning, the middle wouldn`t be where the middle is right now, but I think this Planned Parenthood issue has been harmful to the Republicans. I mean, I think the best speech on this was actually given by a right to lifer, an anti- abortion Democrat, Steven Lynch, from Massachusetts who said, what you pointed out earlier, which is this can only increase the number of abortions in the country.
And what I heard — I was talking to somebody who was very close to this on the way here, that Boehner is now trying to negotiate a sort of fig leaf solution where they either have something in the bill that restates current law, that this money can`t go for abortions, or perhaps, he agrees to a separate vote in the House. He`s trying to end this thing and hold on to his social conservatives at the same time, which is why he`s doing a lot of public dancing right now.
UYGUR: All right. E.J. Dionne, thank you for your time tonight. I totally agree with you. You call it preemptive concessions, I call it preemptive surrender. And for the love of God, at some point, draw a line.
And in fact, that point should be at the beginning, not at the very end. It`s — you know, look, I know I`m being harsh, but I think they`re the world`s worst negotiators. I would love to play poker with them. All right.
Now, we got to go. Just ahead, our Con Job of the day, Paul Ryan backed in his 2012 budget with items that have nothing to do with the deficit, as always. Seems like a common theme for the Republicans these days.