UYGUR: Now, let‘s take a look at the big picture coming out of budget battle. Who won and who lost? And what does it mean for the next showdown? Now, think about this, Republicans ended up getting $78.5 billion in cuts, but back in February they were pushing for just $72 billion in cuts. And at the time, Harry Reid called that extreme.
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SEN. HARRY REID (D), NEVADA: The chairman of the Budget Committee today, today, send us something even more draconian than we had originally anticipated.
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UYGUR: So, Harry Reid and the Democrats ended up giving away $6.5 billion more than the initial draconian republican plan even called for. And that sounds like a pretty big loss, right? But Senator Reid declared victory yesterday, saying that they were proud to have gotten this deal, and that the cuts were historical. And once again, this weekend, President Obama Senior Advisor David Plouffe conceded that, yes, the cuts that the Republicans forced Democrats to swallow were brutal.
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DAVID PLOUFFE, PRESIDENT OBAMA SENIOR ADVISOR: Well, some of the cuts were draconian. Because it‘s not just the number. It‘s what composes the number.
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UYGUR: But the Obama administration argues the cuts could have been even worse. They say Democrats were able to save some programs that Republicans tried to put on the chopping block. Meantime, there are also big questions on the republican side. True, they got even more than the $72 billion that they originally wanted, but some other riders especially Tea Partier say, it‘s still not good enough.
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UNIDENTIFIED MAN: From what I know, it sounds like John Boehner got a good deal, probably not good enough for me to support it.
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UYGUR: And Michele Bachmann wrote on Friday, quote, “the deal that was reached tonight is a disappointment for me and for millions of Americans who expected $100 billion in cuts.” And sure enough, republican leaders are already bending to that pressure from the far right, and positioning themselves for a much bigger fight ahead.
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REP. JOHN BOEHNER ®, HOUSE SPEAKER: This is just the first step, the first step is what has to be a lot of steps. And if the president won‘t lead, we will.
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UYGUR: In other words, Republicans are getting ready to seriously target what they call entitlements, just as Paul Ryan called for. But that‘s a move that could backfire on them.
I want to bring in two people to talk about that, Paul Waldman, he‘s a senior correspondent from “The American Prospect.” In his new article, he warns Democrats should brace for pain in the upcoming spending fights, also, with me is MSNBC political analyst, Karen Finney, former spokesperson for the democratic national committee. All right. First, let me start with you, Paul. I get the sense that you didn‘t think that what Obama and the Democrats accomplished in this fight was really a victory.
PAUL WALDMAN, “THE AMERICAN PROSPECT”: Well, we still don‘t know all the details of exactly what is being cut. But the thing that was disconcerting to a lot of people was when, afterwards on Friday night, President Obama came out and hailed the cuts as historic, the largest budget cuts in history. The problem with that is, that it then sets the context for the next battles, the battle over the debt ceiling and the battle over the 2012 budget, and what it‘s saying is essentially that cutting government spending is what we ought to be doing even in a shaky recovery.
And the problem with that is that most liberals, including most economists believe it, that‘s not what we ought to be doing, we ought to be actually be spending more when we‘re in the economic situation we‘re in now. But, it‘s a case where the president has kind of accepted the presumption that the Republicans are working from, and the problem could then be when we get to the next battle once again, we‘re not going to be arguing over whether we should cut, but just how much we should cut.
UYGUR: Karen, is that a problem in framing, or are we missing something about the Obama strategy?
KAREN FINNEY, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Now, well, I don‘t yet know if we‘re missing about the Obama strategy, now I was trying to sort of take that back and think about the bigger picture and see if there‘s some angle that the rest of us are quite seeing here. Certainly, with regard of framing, the battle should have been, look, we all agree that cuts need to be made, but where and how is really what we‘re fighting over. They tried to make that argument but they didn‘t stand up for that argument. I think it‘s strongly as they could have, and then at the end, they kind of came in and really made it a tough argument.
That being said, if you take a step back, I suppose there‘s one school of thought that says, there will be implications of these cuts that we can then point to and say, this is what the Republicans will do. If you give them the White House, if they get full control back of the House and Senate, this is the kind of thing they will do versus what we want to do, which is, yes, we need to rein in the debt, but we don‘t want to do it on the backs of poor people in the middle class. Hey, but that‘s the best I can come up with.
UYGUR: OK. I appreciate you trying, but isn‘t it tough to make that argument when you agree with them on the cuts, you know, whether it‘s a spending cuts they disagreed to or the cuts that they agreed to earlier?
FINNEY: Well, sure, I mean, look, I think what‘s important though is that coming up to the next set of battles, Democrats need to very clearly, let‘s take a lesson from Wisconsin, let‘s take a lesson from even last week where people in America were enraged that the idea of cutting women‘s health care and clean water, make it simple, make it straightforward and really delineate what it is that we stand for and that Democrats are opposed to, versus the Republicans and stop letting the Republicans get ahead of the game on it.
UYGUR: You know, Paul, no matter what you think of the democratic strategy, the Republican Strategy may have some significant problems. I want to give you a quote from Charlie Cook, he wrote for the National Journal, quote, “Most voters want to see the federal budget balanced and spending cut. However, they don‘t want Social Security or Medicare or Medicaid touched. House Republicans are not just pushing the envelope, they‘re soaking it with lighter fluid and waving a match at it. So, he thinks the Republicans might be in a lot of trouble with their strategy.” So, did the president set them up to be in this kind of trouble by overreaching?
WALDMAN: Well, possibly. It‘s important for Democrats when they talk about this to make it concrete, to talk about what‘s really going to happen. And I think that the outcome of the debt ceiling argument is one that is really, really important. Today, this afternoon, the White House came out and made what was essentially their opening bid, saying, they wanted a clean bill on the debt ceiling, one not loaded down with more cuts and policy riders, which is what Republicans want to do. It‘s really important for them to hold to that position. Because, you know, we‘re going to have to raise the debt ceiling, everybody understands it, the budget deficit is not going to go to zero this year, and what Republicans are engaged in when they‘re saying that we‘re going to allow the United States government to default on its loans unless we get the things we want.
I mean, you know, this may sound extreme, but that‘s almost economic terrorism. And so, it‘s really important for the White House to say, you know, we‘re not going to negotiate about that, we‘re not going to, you know, potentially send the entire global economy into a tailspin. If you want to have an argument about the budget, we can do it in the fall over the 2012 budget, but it will be really telling as to whether or not the White House stands firm on this idea that the debt ceiling should be a vote in and of itself up or down without anything that passed to it.
UYGUR: Yes. All right. Paul Waldman and Karen Finney, great conversation. Thank you so much both.
UYGUR: All right. We‘re going to come right back, and tell you what it means to be a liberal.
UYGUR: We‘ve been talking a lot about the budget battle today, and I know what the president‘s strategy was. He wanted to stay above the fray. And look, that makes some sense in certain contexts. You have a president that says, all right, Democrats want this, Republicans want that, and I‘m going to bring them together, I‘m going to bring the country together. But sometimes we need a leader who is in the middle of the fray, who is a strong leader that says, this is what I stand for. And I want to tell you a quick story of someone who was on my show, “The Young Turks,” sometime back, he‘s an actor and comedian named Rick Overton. And he told him an amazing story about his dad. He said, his dad fought the Nazis, and was a really proud and strong liberal and told them what a real liberal does.
And he said, you know, his dad—he said, you put the women and children behind you, and if you‘re in a war, you put the weak and the wounded behind you, and you say, you grab a gun, and you stand a post and you say, I will protect you. That‘s what it means to be a liberal. And I was blown away by that. I love that definition. Now, that was in the context of war, in the context of this political battle, we still need someone to stand a post and be a strong leader and say, these are cuts I am not willing to make for the most disadvantaged or for the middle class. And it‘s refreshing to have that kind of strong leader from time to time.
And that is what we believe we elected in President Obama. So, I think of Rick Overton and his dad every once in a while and what it means to be a liberal and what it means to be a strong leader. And I hope the president knows that, because what we‘ve got next is a really important battle, that‘s the battle we‘ve been telling you about all day today. It‘s about trillions of dollars, it‘s about our values. And I really hope the president hears that story and thinks, I‘m ready to stand that post.