THE BLOG
01/20/2013 10:15 pm ET Updated Jan 20, 2013

BOTH SIDES NOW : Huffington and Matalin Clash Over the New Obama

By Mark Green

It's Obama's gauntlet week -- on guns, on debt ceiling, on talking more to the public rather than to Congress. Something's working: in favorable/unfavorable polls, he's at +14 points while Congressional Republicans are at -40. As a matter of math, Boehner doesn't have a whole lot of leverage.

LISTEN HERE:

*On Obama's Gun Violence Agenda. Are the sands shifting? It was telling that the New York Post, no friend of the president's, had the headline "Obama Declares a War on Violence" which seems kinder than a Fox like header of, say, "Obama Attacks Second Amendment."

Mary quickly agrees with the content of the president's proposals on background checks and assault weapons but then has a lot of buts: he's being exploitative; his proposals won't make much of a difference; and they ignore the more fundamental issue of "what's going on in our culture and where's this violence coming from?" She adds that his executive orders are "imperial" and there's little data showing that more guns equal more violence.

Arianna completely disagrees. She argues that the gun death rate in America is astronomically higher than other countries and "we need to use this teachable moment of great tragedy to make a fundamental change." To her, Sandy Hook was seminal. "This is how change happens, as with slavery and the civil rights movements. Leaders have to be bold, as Lincoln and King were, by using passion, imagery, language. That's not demagoguery but leadership in a great cause."

*On Obama Calling GOP Bluff on Debt Ceiling. We listen to the president declare that "America is not a dead beat nation" that won't pay its bills -- so he effectively burns the bridges of retreat and announces that he won't negotiate the debt ceiling and pay any ransom to the House. Is this the right strategy? "Yes, if he means it," says Arianna.

Mary -- along with Gingrich and Limbaugh -- reluctantly acknowledges that this is not the issue where the GOP should plant its flag [and the House GOP Caucus apparently agrees after the show's taping late Friday].But adds Mary: Obama's adamancy on spending forces Republicans into this posture, and the real issue is not the ceiling but spending and entitlements... Arianna strongly disagrees. The real driver of more spending is heath care costs and the real issue is jobs -- "I'm shocked that so many commentators are now ignoring this."

*On Obama's Inaugural. Will his sequel be more like Godfather II or Hangover Il?

Will the bi-partisan, mellow approach of his first term yield to more decisive leadership in the second? "Absolutely yes," says Ms. Huffington, citing his stronger approach to such divisive issues as guns, debt and Hagel. She considers significant the president's pushback to those neo-cons who mislead us into "disastrous" wars. "The omens are very good that the second term will be better than the first."

Ms. Matalin agrees that he sounds more aggressive but also more "distracting." What people liked in his first Inaugural was his unifying themes but now he's becoming more divisive and megalomoniacal. The only way he'll get anything done in this term is 'to find consensus with the other side," which he's not doing. (Host asks: so how culpable for Washington's divisiveness is the relentless, daily, ad hominem partisan abuse directed at our Muslim, Kenyan President? She doesn't buy it -- it's his fault.)

Any guesses or hopes what he might focus on? Mary wants him to return to the unifying themes of his first campaign and Inaugural -- Arianna is looking forward to a discussion of what happened to the American Dream and how to help the middle class

*Quick Takes: Armstrong on Lying & Redemption. Obama's Binders of Women.

Finally, a consensus alert! They concur that Lance Armstrong's confession on Oprah was late but welcome and, says Arianna, "we all believe in redemption. I don't care whether it comes in 14 minutes or 14 years, isn't it better than lying until his death?" A less charitable Host wonders whether apologizing after 14 years of lying about something so fundamental to his life and career -- and bullying and suing critics he knew were truthful -- can be cleansed with a "ne-ver mind." Mary notes that he does have to make amends to those he trashed and then devote himself to good deeds, "like Chuck Colson and Michael Milken did."

Speaking of steroids, was Cooperstown right to exclude the greatest home run hitter and greatest modern pitcher because of alleged steroid use? Mary cheekily suggests a Steroids Hall of Shame where they're admitted perhaps but with a giant asterisk.

Both agree that the New York Times photo of a president advised by nine men (and Valerie Jarrett's leg) was embarrassing. Mary says that while she doesn't like racial and gender "bean-counting," chiding Obama for "hypocrisy" proved irresistible. "You're telling me he can't find other than white men for the top jobs" at State, Defense and Treasury?

Arianna acknowledges that the president is keeping Janet Napolitano at Homeland Security and had chosen Hillary Clinton and two women to the Court. But he has to be careful of the "self-perpetuating reality of white men recommending other white men while he chooses from among them. Also, there's no question that that photo will make it more likely that more women will now be chosen."

Can she recommend any now that Obama rejected the Host's advice to name her Secretary of the Treasury? "Sheryl Sandberg of Facebook! He should read her new book in March, Lean In: Women, Work and the Will to Lead.

Mark Green is the creator and host of Both Sides Now.

Send all comments to Bothsidesradio.com, where you can also listen to prior shows.

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