06/10/2012 10:09 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Both Sides : U.S. 'Exceptional' or in 'Decline'? Will Dems Exploit Gillespie's Blunder?

By Mark Green

Spitzer and Clarke discuss topics in their wheelhouses -- the military sequester as part of the debt deal, whether America can be both "exceptional" and in "decline", who gets blame for the job losses from noon January 20, 2009 through June 2009 -- and Gov. Jindal's proposal for compassionate release (think Morgan Freeman in Shawshank Redemption).

*On Defense Spending and Debt Deal. We hear Barney Frank explain his decade of losing battles to shrink the Pentagon... until the issue became military spending versus all other spending. In this zero sum game, he concludes, the Pentagon loses.

After a blank-check decade post-9/11, there's consensus that military spending should and will come down significantly in a lame-duck session... though Torie defines Sequestration as "cop-out" because Congress did it with a cudgel. OK, what then should be cut -- one less aircraft carrier, fewer F-35 Strike Fighters, a smaller fighting force, with more spending on intelligence, special ops, satellites, cruises, drones?


Eliot lauds the move from "hardware to software"; Torie lauds Joint Chief Chair Gen. Cartwright for advocating a strategy-based budget rather than a budget-based strategy, adding however that the amount of money isn't all that great since it's "only" five percent of GDP.

Two GOP-related questions: how can Mitt Romney get away with asserting that our debt is a calamity and then the next day imply that we can't touch military spending -- can one be a deficit hawk and a military hawk? "It's very hard," she candidly acknowledges. Then, how can Republicans keep maintaining we're an "exceptional" country but also in "decline"?

Torie explains that we have surely been exceptional but there's now uncertainty in the American public sector and some regions can question our judgment, i.e. watching the slaughters in Syria. Eliot rejects "declinists," noting that the U.S. spends nearly as much militarily as all other nations combined, not to mention Zakaria's the "rise of the rest" and successes such as Libya, bin Laden.

*On Walker's Wisconsin Win and "The Gillespie Rule." We hear Karl Rove et. al. on Fox herald Scott Walker's recall victory as "putting Wisconsin in play this fall and a blow to organized labor which may embolden other states."

Torie and Eliot doubt that this vote -- given the unusual 6-1 GOP spending disparity and the recall aspect -- is predictive for the fall. As for organized labor, it was a big blow concludes Torie, referring to how much effort they poured into it, how other states are rebelling against public employee pensions and how "unions are simply not adapting to the 21st century." But then, labor and Democrats did win back the Wisconsin State Senate and did prevail 60-40 percent three months ago in an Ohio referendum on the right to collectively bargain.

The name of Ed Gillespie is mentioned in the same breathe as Scott Walker. This prominent Romney surrogate last week explained away the governor's first year jobs record in Massachusetts since he "inherited" an economic mess. Question: why can't Democrats now blame the two million jobs lost from January 20, 2009 through June 2009 on Bush's "inherited" Great Recession since June is when the Obama stimulus program began taking hold?

Ms. Clarke ridicules the premise, doubting anyone will remember in days, much less by November, what some spokesman said. Gov. Spitzer gleefully urges his party to cite the "Gillespie Rule" to repudiate the talking points that unemployment rose and net jobs lost under Obama.

Adds the Host: The issue is not mere "hypocrisy," which all sides indulge in. "This is a test of whether Democrats are as message disciplined as Republicans." When Obama aide Christine Romer incautiously said in January 2009 that a stimulus program would lower unemployment to under 8 percent, the GOP pounced and has been incessantly using that benchmark ever since to attack 44 for joblessness. Still over 8 percent! Can Gillespie = Roemer? Using the "Gillespie Rule", will ObamaforAmerica ads and surrogates just assert that the president has reduced the unemployment rate (7.9 percent January 2009; 9.4 percent June, 2009; 8.2 percent now) and netted 4.7 million private sector jobs since his policies went into effect?

If Romney serially fibs about Obama "apologizing for America", why can't the incumbent tell the economic truth about four million lost jobs January-June '09 being on W's ledger as a way of wondering why the country would want to go back to those policies?

*On Maraniss's new book, Barack Obama -- the Story. This biography describes a brainy, charming, pot-smoking, emotionally remote Columbia student -- except for the pot part, sound familiar? Torie believes that none of us should be blamed for the passions of our youth, chiding a 22 year-old boy friend in a racially mixed romance as a "risk averse, self-absorbed... belly-button gazer." Eliot urges listeners to cut the young, searching intellectual "some slack," guessing that he wrote pretentious love letters while watching football games. They each think young Barack was cool, using different definitions of the word.

Assuming that Obama's still charming and personable -- and Romney, well, isn't according to conventional wisdom -- will that matter much this fall? Consensus alert: Eliot thinks it could be a big deal based on the "living room test" that a president is not just a politician but "a priest, minister, rabbi too." While Torie thinks that the economy will be predominant, she apparently likes the adult version of Obama better, personality-wise, citing the Reagan advisor Bob Teeter's wisdom that, in close elections, the more likable candidate usually wins.

*Quick Legal Takes: "Digital-tapping". Compassionate Release. Supreme Unppopularity. Obamacare Decision. They agree that a) since wiretapping is legal under court supervision, so will "back-door" access to social media communications, and b) Gov. Jindal's release of aging criminals is just and fiscally smart (with Bernie Madoff being a "unique exception" says the Sheriff of Wall Street).

As for the Supreme Court's fall in popularity from nearly 70 percent to 44 percent over the past 25 years, Torie blames the familarity of seeing justices in the media like other political figures while Eliot notes the Court's involvement in so many partisan issues like abortion, Bush-Gore, Citizens United.

Speaking of hot-button partisan cases, both anticipate that the Court this month will rule on the Affordable Health Care Act in a way that will significantly affect health care and the fall elections. Which way? Torie says that it might rile young people to come out to vote if they lose their ability to stay on their parents' health plan until age 26 -- Eliot, on the other hand, worries that if the economy stays sluggish and Obamacare is knocked out by a narrow conservative majority, that would bolster Romney's political case that the Obama administration has been a "failure."

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

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


Both Sides Now is available
Sat. 5-6 PM EST From Lifestyle TalkRadio Network
& Sun. 8-9 AM EST from Business RadioTalk Network.