06/03/2012 08:16 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Both Sides : Consensus on Bain, Trump, Syria, Frisks & Edwards

Sitting in for Huffington and Matalin, Eliot Spitzer and ex-Rummy deputy Torie Clarke find consensus on nearly everything. The debate over debating Bain has shifted, at least among some hedge-money Dems while no one doesn't think Trump's a "bloviating ignoramus." But while Eliot is adamant that Edwards should never have been tried, Torie's not so sure.

On Romney-Bain: Torie agrees that it's kosher to scrutinize his record at Bain Capital since it's at the heart of Romney's businessman-as-president candidacy. "But it hasn't been working for Obama" and especially won't in light of Friday's bad jobs numbers. While Eliot agrees that so far it's been dividing Democrats, a better framework would be to compare Obama's GM investment with many of Bain's "parasitic, overleveraged Wall Street investments which would outsource the risk and internalize the gain. And then Obama could ask, 'which model do you prefer?'"

Predicts the Host: Despite kvetching from several Marquis of Queensbury Democrats and commentators, Obama will and should continue to define Romney as a Gekko-Gault more interested in profits than jobs. True, "FDR and JFK were rich," as Romney explains, but at least they spent their careers watching the "malefactors" and "SOB's", not raking it in with them.


On Romney-Trump: Obama did break with Rev. Wright in 2008 and even with non-endorser Hilary Rosen for one verbal gaffe, So rather than dine with him, why didn't Romney break with Trump after another bout with Birtherism?

On Obama's Pugnacity: Torie admits that she likes Obama so much personally that "if he sings Al Greene one more time I may vote for him!", he risks tarnishing his likeability advantage by being so pugnacious toward Romney. The Host scoffs: After three years of incoming calumny, 44 is not supposed to factually return fire in the era of Twitter and Swift Boat? Eliot proposes a compromise to only singing the blues or going ballistic -- POTUS stays positive while surrogates, "if they can ever stay on message, go negative."

On Syria: Recalling her years at the Pentagon, Torie empathizes with decision-makers trying to work through Syria in light of imperfect precedents in Rwanda, Iraq, Libya, Yemen. She and Eliot stress that surely there are intermediate steps between futile attempts with the U.N. or Russia and the military option, citing a Washington Post editorial and the conclusions of Clinton Ambassador Marc Ginsberg. Ideas included arming some rebels, economic sanctions, cooperating more with Turkey and the Arab League.

Is Romney playing with fire though when, as with the blind Chinese dissident incident, he immediately attacks Obama during international crises with boilerplate ("he's leading from behind") when Obama has a strong record in crises abroad (bin Laden, Iraq, Libya... )?
Mr. Spitzer believes that if Romney argues that Obama hasn't done enough, he should have specific alternatives. Romney specific? "True" replies the governor. "He's been a know-nothing, do-nothing candidate" who just attacks whatever Obama does or say. Ms. Clarke sighs. "Ten years ago I would have said a nominee shouldn't say anything. But in our global, information technology world, politics no longer stops at the water's edge."

On Stop-and-Frisk: The former governor criticizes the current mayor over his trade-offs on crime and race. Despite Bloomberg's very fuzzy math concluding that he's saved 5,600 lives based an a spike in the murder rate in the '90s compared to now, Spitzer notes that a highly regarded federal judge just ruled that his NYPD had "wantonly and egregiously violated the constitution" by increasing seven-fold the number of stop-and-frisks, usually of young minority males, without probable cause. "Where does he find the police to conduct 700,000 frisks?", Torie wonders as a practical matter; she also concludes that his argument about fewer murders doesn't wash since other jurisdictions which don't stop-and-frisk nearly to the same degree have had sharper declines in murder this past decade than NYC. And then to beat up the media, as he did with the New York Times, shows a politician not confidant of his arguments

Quick Takes: Personal Bloopers; John Edwards Re-trial. This week Obama mistakenly referred to "Polish camps" when he meant to say "Nazi death camps," while the Romney campaign unveiled its slogan, "Believe in Americia (sic!)." Ok, have the panelists made such embarrassing though not disqualifying mistakes? Eliot groans recalling saying in Plattsburgh, when he thought he was off the record, that Howard Dean couldn't win the presidency, and had to eat crow when national headlines followed... and Torie, when thinking she was off the record, said the Bush41 campaign would let Pat Buchanan speak at the '92 Convention when "he crawled on his hands and knees across broken glass and his tongue hung out." Lots of apologies on that one, both to a sitting president and Buchanan too.

Last, should John Edwards be retried after a jury failed to reach a verdict on five counts of failing to report as a campaign contribution money spent to cover up his pregnant mistress? "The case never should have been brought and was a black eye to the Justice Department," said the former prosecutor, noting that the FEC itself said it wasn't a crime. Torie had agreed with that view during the trial but notes that some jurors post-verdict thought he was guilty but couldn't find sufficient evidence. Sure, concludes Eliot, some people might be swayed by emotion because of his behavior, but "that's all the more reason that Justice should resist bringing the case because it wasn't a crime as a matter of law."

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

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