03/11/2012 11:51 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Both Sides : Obama's GOP SmackDown and Mitt's Mutt

By Mark Green

Eliot Spitzer and Mary Matalin civilly clash on a range of hot topics from war to comedy to jobs...and then the program goes to the dogs to discuss whether Romney's dog-on-roof incident is reaching the iconic status of Jimmy Carter's killer-rabbit fable.

*On Obama's Press Conference re Iran-Israel. In light of Obama's White House press conference on Iran-Israel -- and meeting with Netanyahu -- Eliot and Mary continue the debate between Arianna and Mary last week on America's role in this theater of diplomacy and possible war.

Mary regards it as "all politics" when Obama belittles the "bluster" of GOP presidential candidates since they're not "commander-in-chief". She notes that the U.S. is in a "buying time situation" given the uncertainty of intelligence and the post-Arab Spring turmoil. Eliot, however, thinks that Obama had to respond to all the political attacks on his approach, especially since "there's no real difference in what any of them would be doing."


The Host seeks comment on a) Obama's explanation that he favors not "containment" but "prevention" because of the risk of nuclear proliferation in the region (the subject of 44's college thesis) and b) his mix of patient diplomacy, crippling sanctions and, presumably, covert actions to produce a peaceful result. And what about the déjà vu of Senator McConnell's proposing an "Authorization of the Use of Force" resolution?

Mary cites bi-partisan confusion on Capitol Hill about where the president's real "red lines" are. Eliot lauds Obama's overall approach but asks whether it could have begun three years ago, an argument Romney has made as well. As for another cart-before-war-horse authorization, the former governor argues that "this president won't make the same mistake as the prior one" by jumping on bad intel for a preemptive war.

(Right after taping, Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Khamenei, said, "Two days ago, we heard the president of America say: 'We are not thinking of war with Iran.' This is good. Very good. These are wise words. This is an exit from illusion.")

Then: do you agree A.G. Eric Holder's conclusion that the administration is allowed to target people who work with al Qaeda even though American born? Consensus: Mary says that critics like Ralph Nader and Ron Paul have a point but agrees with Obama/Holder for commander-in-chief reasons; Eliot says ideally there would be some review by a special judicial tribunal but "if we're at war with an enemy clever enough to enlist an American citizen, we can't have a court hearing" before every military action.

*On Romney Staggering While Winning. All pundits said Super-Tuesday would be key and Ohio the most key. But when Romney prevailed 6-3 over Santorum and won Ohio narrowly, he's still treated like a combination Rodney Dangerfield and Prince Charles... a presumed heir who can't get there. Why?

Mary chides Republican commentators like Will and Erickson who seem to be presidentially throwing in the towel since "they've never been in a campaign. Today's template won't be the same as this Fall... Republican enthusiasm is high and swing House races have seen no change even though Obama's numbers are slightly up." She acknowledges that Obamacare/Romneycare "is an albatross for Romney" and that it's likely someone will be shoved out of the primary contest pre-convention, the likeliest being Gingrich.

Eliot notes that Mitt is having a hard time explaining his repeated denial that he ever suggested a federal health care mandate vs. videotape making that exact argument as late as 2008-09. On Santorum arguing that "Obamacare is the death knell of freedom and [Romney] is the worst person to make that case," Eliot concludes that he'll keep it up on the chance he gets lucky or gets in position for 2016.

*On Limbaugh's Gaffe or Blunder. On the now well-known exchange between him and Sandra Fluke -- attack, reply, apology, apology not accepted -- Mary counters that Bill Maher's nasty jokes (he being a $1 million donor to Obama's Super PAC) about Palin/Bachmann are just as bad: "So this is a draw."

Eliot replies that Maher/Stewart are comedians whose parodies are legally and politically different from a personal attack by a political commentator if not de facto political spokesman.

Does Limbaugh have a gaffe problem or Republicans a women problem? During an exchange about state laws man-dating either transvaginal probes or ultrasounds plus description pre-abortion, the panel disagree whether Limbaugh's language will contribute to a gender gap in the Fall. [Congressional polls show women splitting evenly between the parties last summer but Democrats now 15 points ahead.] Mary argues that "no one's reproductive rights are in danger since Ms. Fluke can buy contraceptives for 30 cents a day... but the law is endangering my religious liberties."

[The Host unchivalrously jumps in to note that a) low-income women will be priced out of contraceptive services if not included as part of their health insurance and b) Justice Scalia, in the majority, ruled in an earlier case that there's no constitutional problem if government issues a law affecting everyone even though it has an impact on a particular religious belief, e.g., polygamy; gender segregation by Orthodox Jews.]

*Quick Takes: Jobs Numbers mean glass half-full or half-empty? HBO's Game Change changing anyone's minds about Sarah Palin? Romney's dog-on-roof controversy? On the latter -- on the cover of New Yorker this week and mentioned 25 times by columnist Gail Collins -- our two dog-owners split: Eliot thinks it might say something bad about him as a heartless get-it-done guy; Mary, however, says that it's simply being used by people who hate Romney.

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

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