03/27/2011 09:17 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Both Sides Now w/ Huffington and Matalin : The Fog of Wars, Education in America, Palin in Israel

By Mark Green

Mary Matalin and Wayne Barrett (sitting in for Arianna until her return in two weeks) focus on two big issues: first, after the quicksands of Iraq and Afghanistan, can America intervene militarily in the Libyan civil war in a proportionate and successful way? And how should Washington best intervene in local classrooms to improve education? From the Situation Room to the classroom. (To hear entire show, click podcast below.)

*Getting a Little Bit Pregnant in Libya. Mary acknowledges changing her mind on the right role in Libya, first opposing it, then supporting it, now opposing it. (She took cover behind a for-it-before-against-it joke at John Kerry's expense.) She worries about the confusion of goals -- Saving civilians? Regime change? -- and wonders what is the doctrine that allows this intervention but not others in Yemen, Bahrain, Syria. Wayne was and is in favor what America's done so far because "Obama had little choice with a slaughter days or hours away." Also, he teases how Gingrich favored a Libyan no-fly zone and then switched once Obama did it. "Newt thought that Gaddafi was one of his wives," Wayne observes.

Warming to the topic, Mary contrasts Obama's political and confusing decision-making with Bush's clarity of purpose in advancing freedom and democracy in the Middle East. Wayne in response denounces Bush's deal with Gaddafi in 2007 that suspended sanctions for stopping his nuclear program and wonders why anyone would hold up America's flawed wars there as exemplars. Nor does Obama get home free, as our sit-in guest taunts the president for "picking 15 of 16 correct in the NCAAs but also early picking Mubarak." So, rebels all the way?

*Grading Education in America Why have our student test scores slipped in math and science? Mary emphasizes the lack of any correlation between more spending and results, holding up charter schools -- because of merit standards -- as a model of success. Wayne too likes what charters are doing, especially Bloomberg's version in Harlem, but concludes that it's not the answer federally to failed schools. "That we spend a lot now doesn't mean that we should not spend more," especially given the disparities in spending between city and suburban schools.

The most recent manifestation of this policy fight is occurring in states with new GOP governors, like Wisconsin and Ohio. Will the anti-public union successes there produce a backlash that could result in recall elections and ripple throughout the country? Neither will speculate about the longer-term political impact, with Mary noting that Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels did a version of teacher cuts, lost popularity and then easily won reelection - and Wayne emphasizing that GOP hostility to public employees in these states misread public opinion and "went too far.' The Host wonders whether a huge labor backlash could move Reagan Democrats to vote against GOP local electeds in recalls which could then, ironically, become the 2012 equivalent of what Prop 13 anti-property tax vote was on the 1980 election of Reagan.

*Quick Takes: Executions? Immigration? Smoking? Settlements?
There's a beyond Left-Right consensus on two Quick Takes: Wayne and Mary agree with Illinois's abolition of capital punishment and with the New York Times criticism of Mayor Bloomberg for his law banning smoking in parks and beaches ("a nanny state on steroids" says Mary: "more about garbage than health" says Wayne.) As for the way that the Arizona legislature dropped more anti-illegal immigrant measures due to business pressure, Wayne applauds it as a way to stop far-right positions in the states (like budget and climate issues also), while Mary thinks the business pressure premature because all should wait for a definitive Supreme Court ruling on the earlier SB 1070 so-called "papers please" law.

What to make of Sarah Palin's comment that President Obama should not be criticizing Israeli settlements policy since it was a local "zoning issue"? The host asks whether that was so untenably "dumb as to be disqualifying for president"? Mary thinks the question to be dumb, teasing "the obsession of liberal men," like her husband, with Palin, focusing instead on the last week's murderous attack on a Jewish family in the West Bank. Wayne thinks that Palin's comment on the millennial struggle for a Jewish homeland to be "ridiculous."

*On the Radar: Locally Speaking: Mary tells the audience to watch for the lobbying on Tuesday of a new group -- "Women of the Storm' -- seeking to shift monies to New Orleans for post-Katrina relief. And Wayne anticipates that in days New York State will close its budget gap without resorting to Walker-like attacks on the rights of public employees.

Mark Green is the creator and host of Both Sides Now, which is powered by the American Federation of Teachers.

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