By Mark Green
We were concluding our three-part series on whither/wither GOP after November losses and declining white base...when the news broke about the Newtown massacre. We discuss both, as well as the impact on the two parties if Hillary Clinton runs in 2016. And Eliot Spitzer and Mary Matalin answer the question of whether Obama can be a transformational president and rise to the top-tier.
*On GOP and Immigration. We listen to Presidents Obama and Bush43 agree, at least semantically, on immigration reform. Question: to avoid political suicide as happened to Republicans in California after their anti-immigrant Prop 14, doesn't the GOP have to change its tone and policies?
Mary lauds Bush's approach and thinks the country's coming to a consensus here that's more open to immigration...but she still warns against treating people as a group instead of emphasizing her party's core philosophy on individual rights and freedom. Eliot agrees that there's a shift occurring that he hopes ends with newer arrivals "being treated fairly, which includes amnesty, which I don't think is a dirty word."
Host: Neither did President Reagan who can give cover to future conservative candidates so that a future Romney doesn't have to do a "self-deporting" pander. They'll need it to contend with the 2016 versions of the anti-immigrant audiences during this year's primary debates (ask Rick Perry).
Last on "Grand New Party": Joel Benenson, Obama's pollster, said in the Washington Post that the GOP problem wasn't so much this or that particular position but that their brand was coming across as "angry and intolerant" across a broad range of issues. Mary doesn't disagree, urging that party leaders "quell hateful voices."
*On Hillary for President. We can't not discuss a decision that'll affect our politics and country for years to come. As she leaves being Secretary of State, HRC has a 57 percent-37 percent favorable-unfavorable as a prospective candidate, Eisenhower-level numbers four years out.
There's a consensus that she will eventually decide to run and that "today" she's largely unbeatable for the reasons that Newt Gingrich articulated this week -- she and her husband are just too formidable, smart, connected, financed and popular.
Mary likes her, dismissing any concerns about her age (69 in January, 2017). But she doubts that Clinton could run unopposed in the primaries. "What about Warner or Cuomo?" Says Eliot: "They're in different leagues, like comparing the NFL and pop football." Especially having served with her for several years in state-wide office, he agrees with Gingrich's and Matalin's assessment of her skills and experience, adding this advice: "Republicans should focus on what the country will be like in 2020 and aim for that, not 2016."
*Is Obama a routine or transformational POTUS? Last week Ron Reagan and Wayne Barrett took their cracks at this premise: since Obama is the first Democrat since Roosevelt to win majorities twice for president -- and given that he's brainy, personable, communicates well and is scandal-free -- is he poised for greatness? That relevant or ridiculous? How can he get there?
Mary pooh-poohs whether 'personable' matters, questions his EQ while lauding the emotional intelligence of both Roosevelts and admits that she's never been a big fan of 44. In any event, it turns on "what your view of a virtuous society is." Eliot argues that Obama "has the intellect but not the emotive side. But he's done one big thing that's great, Obamacare, and if he economically turns around falling middle-class income," he'd get to be a top-ranked POTUS.
Host: on EQ and "emotive," coincidentally later the day of the show's taping, the president teared up at the White House press room (called the "Brady Room" for Jim Brady) when discussing the slaughter of children in Connecticut and had to cut short his prepared remarks.)
*On Violence Control after Newtown -- Will this Time be Different? Eliot and Mary both react as anguished parents, as the President did. What about the eventual politics? Eliot wonders whether this slaughter of children will prove a tipping point, a game-changing event, to produce a ban on assault weapons and clips, tracing bullets, barring sales from the back of pick-up trucks without background checks, stricter laws on screening for mental illness, smart guns, etc.
Mary at first focuses on the insanity and evil of such a murderer, then agrees that at the least there's no reason a hunter needs AK-47s or AR-15s.
Host: from Kennedy to Aurora, it's always the same -- shock and then inertia because of NRA-cowed politicians. It's all about America's religious gun culture and consequent politics. It's not really about reasoned arguments since no rational person can believe that "militias" in 1787 have any relevance to a century of drones and assault weapons (of the kind that Adam Lanza did use) and no one with a child believes that a bad person can do as much damage with a knife as a gun with a large clip, as the knifing of 20 students in China last week -- with no fatalities -- gruesomely indicated.
This time there are only three questions: Will a re-elected President Obama follow-up his eloquent eulogy at Sandy Hook to push for significant new laws to protect our kids from guns? Will Wayne LaPierre decide that he can't hide behind a second amendment right to kill children, as drugs companies couldn't hold back the strengthening of the FDA after thalidomide babies in 1962. Third, will someone lose his/her seat because they oppose reasonable "violence control" measures?
Quick Takes: Books 2012. Mary recalls our several shows on her favorite book of 2012, Jonathan Haidt's The Righteous Mind, which explained how most of us come to intuitive decisions and then search for rationalizations so we don't have to listen to people on the other side... which is a foundational premise of the need for a Both Sides Now. Eliot lauds how Simon Johnson's and Robert Reich's books -- White House Burning and Beyond Outrage -- help us understand how to react to an economy that squeezes and shrinks the middle class, and how to escape it.
Mark Green is the creator and host of Both Sides Now, which is powered by the American Federation of Teachers.
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