By Mark Green
Sitting in for Arianna Huffington and Mary Matalin, respectively, Hilary Rosen and Kellyanne Conway respond to three "Resolveds" as if formally debating on three big topics of the week: do May's weak economic numbers tilt the odds against Obama? does a Republican party saying loopy things hurt the eventual nominee? did Obama thread the needle on Afghanistan? Click below to hear both-sides in real time sharpening differences or bridging them.
*Resolved: Because of the weak recovery in "Obama's economy," the odds are now against his reelection. Kellyanne agrees, noting that bad economic numbers invariably hurt incumbents and the chronically unemployed losing benefits will diminish Obama -- not to mention that the President seems driven by focus groups when he talks more about the past and future rather than the present. Hilary disagrees, observing a) the irony of Republicans opposing extension of unemployment benefits now complaining that they're running out and b) the reality that there have been more new jobs created in the past 15 months of Obama than 8 years of Bush.
Kellyanne contends that Obama's dour, pessimistic economic statements also hurt him politically. But what about his positive "win the future" slogan and policy proposals? She rebuts by noting that Obama's no Reagan (all agree, though for different reasons). Hilary acknowledges that the President has a delicate balancing act -- not to seem an out-of-touch pollyanna yet sticking to his smart approach of investing in education, infrastructure and energy for long-term growth.
Speaking of political motivations, are Republicans trying to tank the economy to gain politically by refusing new payroll tax cuts and a debt ceiling increase? Kellyanne dismisses such charges out of hand.
*Resolved: prominent GOP voices making far-right statements will Goldwaterize and marginalize the party and nominee in 2012. We listen to Michele Bachmann urge the abolition of the EPA, Newt Gingrich compare Muslims to Nazis and Communists, and Rush Limbaugh call climate change a "hoax."
Ms. Conway argues that such assertions are selective and misleading. The Host notes that polling shows strong support for Medicare, public unions, tax increases on the rich, the science of climate change, contrary to more extreme Republican hopefuls. Ms. Rosen, while believing that the "clown show" does involve GOP'ers making weird, base-pleasing assertions, concludes that it may not hurt the nominee who, in the end, will seem reasonable compared to the Palin-Bachmann-Santorum Tea Party wing.
Also, she emphasizes that when the field narrows, serious candidates will have to say what they stand for beyond merely wanting to get rid of Obama.
*Resolved, the President in effect announced an Obama Doctrine by saying that the U.S., unlike in Vietnam and Iraq, will no longer expend scarce resources disproportionate to our national security goals.
Hilary agreed with the Obama policy of building up initially in Afghanistan to chase down al Qaeda and bin Laden and to train the Afghans, which have happened. Kellyanne focuses on the politics of the 2008 anti-war candidate still sending more troops to Afghanistan. Hilary interrupts to assert that Obama is doing what he ran on, getting out of Iraq and concentrating on the country that harbored al Qaeda before 9/11.
With neo-cons and Fox urging higher troops levels "to win" and the Pelosi-Frank Democratic wing saying the withdrawal is too slow -- and Speaker Boehner even largely supporting the President -- will this be an issue in the 2012 elections? Our Democratic panelist implies not because the President struck the right balance, especially in Libya with no troops and playing only a support role in NATO. Our Republican panelist thinks it still will be an issue because, since his generals did ask that fewer troops be withdrawn, "Republicans will have the luxury of saying in the Fall of 2012 what Obama has done wrong."
The Host here recalls a private conversation he had last summer with the late Richard Holbrooke, special ambassador to AF-Pak. "So who will in effect make the decision to reduce, keep or grow the troops in Afghanistan in a year," he's asked, "the very popular general on the ground named Petraeus or the constitutionally elected commander-in-chief?" After an incredulous pause, Holbrooke said, "The President, of course." And so it was.
*Quick Takes & Takeaways: War Powers Act. Smoking Pictures. An Incendiary McCain. Is Diamond a Gem? The women largely agree that, however apt and nuanced the White House position on Libya, the President, though an attorney, should not have overruled several administration lawyers and refused to go to Congress for a War Powers Act resolution in Libya. They also agree that, while teen smoking is awful, forcing tobacco firms to put gruesome graphics on cigarette boxes goes too far.
As for John McCain's false claim that illegal immigrants may have started the record Arizona wildfires, there's a split: Hilary thinks Reform to "demon immigrants"; while Kellyanne can't explain what McCain meant, she explains that politicians change their stripes often, citing Obama's "evolution" on gay marriage.
Last, how can Sen. Richard Shelby single-handedly hold up and defeat the nomination of Peter Diamond - a Nobel Prize winner in Economics -- to the Federal Reserve Board? Kellyanne says that award alone doesn't qualify him and Democrats did the same to Bush's nominees. Hilary replies that there was nothing comparable then and that it's simply wrong for the opposition party to refuse to allow an administration to fill so many important positions, especially judicial.
Mark Green is the creator and host of Both Sides Now, which is powered by the American Federation of Teachers.
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