11/17/2013 08:23 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

BOTH SIDES NOW: FDR and Machiavelli on Obamacare's Stumbles

By Mark Green

Mary Matalin, Ronald Reagan and Mark Green debate Obamacare's failed rollout and the GOP's flawless inaction. The panel also discusses how CBS turned Benghazi from a tragedy into a hoax as well as "Harvard on the Potomac" -- Warren/Franken & Cruz/Cotton.

Benghazi and Obamacare are the gifts that the GOP hopes will keep giving well after these holidays...atlhough CBS/60 Minutes showed how the first can blow in your face. Then success -- Williams/Gregory/Raddatz and of course Fox went into full pitch-fork mode mouthing GOP Talking Points about "Obama's, Obama's Iraq!"

Of course, Obama-haters had used the Katrina analogy in eight previous controversies in a 2 for 1 move to destroy 44 and rehabilitate 43. But to be fair, they showed their famous MSM liberal bias by not saying that it was his 9/11, Watergate, Vietnam, Edsel, Pearl Harbor, Dunkirk, Dresden, Depression, Reichstag Fire, Maine, Appomattox, Waterloo, Yorktown, Pompeii... think of the possibilities!


On Harvard on the Potomac. Ron and Mary assess the influence and potential of four Harvard graduates all getting star attention as first term Members.

Elizabeth Warren: The Grandma with Teeth and Brains? Ron loves how this ex-Harvard Law professor "holds both Wall Street and bank regulators' feet to the fire. I'm not sure how she'd play nationally but I'd vote for her in a heartbeat."

Mary thinks "she's a great story that's obsessed the liberal media. But she's basically a symbol of the base of the base and known for the waning issue of [fiscal regulation]. But if you think that a Boston liberal can play in Peoria, ask President Dukakis."

Ron, however, thinks that her robust economic populism does have appeal beyond the traditional left to include the middle class. In the words of the Host, "she is in a very popular tradition from TR to Brandeis to Nader... and remember that she grew up in Oklahoma."

Consensus: she's more likely to grow into the next Ted Kennedy of the Senate (whose seat she holds) than become the first woman president, i.e. she has a potent message though others may be the messenger.

Ted Cruz: Messiah? McCarthy? Mary's smitten by his smarts and skills, agreeing with her husband that the Texas senator via Cuba and Canada is one of the most talented politicians they've ever met. But is he like a pencil, sharp but narrow? What about his federal Shutdown and resulting 25-40 percent fav/unfav ratings? Mary dismisses his current numbers and the WSJ-Rove-MCain attacks on him, noting that the Shutdown raised questions about Obamacare that are now in the headlines.

We hear Cruz tell Leno that he's not on the margins but in the Reagan tradition of 1976 when the Gipper rallied grass roots Republicans against the GOP establishment. A panelist with that very name doubts that his father would shut down the government or not repay the debt.

Al Franken: The Un-Cruz? Franken has taken an opposite tack -- sticking to local issues, shunning the national media, leading on issues like sexual assault in the military and credit rating agencies' role in the fiscal crisis. Ron worked with Al when he did his (in)famous SNL Tom Cruise-Risky Business sketch and then at Air America. He regards the Minnesota freshman (Harvard '73) as "smart, decent, funny."

Mary too regards him as "the life of the party" and lauds how he's focusing on Minnesota interests like getting rid of the Medical Device Tax... all smart given his several hundred vote margin in a six month recount in his 2008 election.

The Host notes that Franken is a very big- and soft-hearted person who's a liberal Boehner, often crying over people in distress. He also he uses his performance skills to joke and sing with several R senators in bonding ways. He's Mr. Inside to Cruz's Mr. Outside and could be a respected authority in the Senate for years to come.

Tom Cotton. A GOP dreamboat - 6'5", combat veteran, Harvard Law, businessman, now in a tie-race against incumbent Arkansas Senator Mark Pryor.

On 60 Minutes and Benghazi. Was this 60 Minutes takedown the mirror image of what Republicans assert it did to W. over his National Guard commitment -- a biased piece based on a falsehood?

Mary defends her guy by saying that the W segment was false in both its evidence and conclusion while Benghazi, on the other hand, was both a tragedy and a scandal since "the families still don't know what happened." But Ron counters that we do know that anti-American terrorists, whether reacting to a film or a plan, killed four Americans. He adds that the network appeared to want to please the conservative media and erred in hyping a Simon & Schuster imprint (where Mary used to work and is owned by CBS).

Host: For days before the 60 minutes piece, Fox News, Jonah Goldberg etc. were chortling about how they were about to be vindicated... Ooops. After Fox did scores of hysterical Benghazi pieces over the past months, The Five devoted all of one minute to the controversy on the next day's show.

I don't recall Democrats spending as much time blaming Bush-Cheney for 2700 dead after 9/11 as Republicans are now devoting to arguing that Obama is to blame and doesn't care for 4 dead. Everyone doesn't do it.

On Political Spouses -- On Tap or On Top? Is having a spouse as your top adviser a plus or minus for executive office-holders - like Anne Brown in California, Chirlane [de Blasio] in NYC, Michele Obama this week arguing for working class kids to go to college as she did? Consensus: It's good if the spouse is capable and doesn't a) have a formal title, which got Hillary in trouble or b) turns into Evita.

Then one of our panelists doubts that anyone ever said "clear it with Nancy" during the Reagan years. But he acknowledges that some sniped about her invisible but key influence over personnel.

On Obamacare vs. WeDontCare. Did Obama's second apology and proposed fix of "you can keep your plan" work to defuse the crisis?

Mary repeats the litany of fumbles -- the website, the pledge, examples of people saying their rates are up. "Okay but isn't it a good thing to cover 50 million uninsured also -- how come your folks ignore that side of the ledger?" She says that would be good but there are other ways to do it. Ron scoffs that it hadn't happened for the past 100 years. Time's up!

Two political masters centuries apart made comments that seemed to presage the current Obamacare scrap:

Franklin Delano Roosevelt, 1933 Inaugural Address: 'Governments can err, presidents do make mistakes, but... divine Justice weighs the sins of the coldblooded the warmhearted in a different scale. Better the occasional faults of a government living in the spirit of charity than the consistent omissions of a government frozen in the ice of its own indifference. '

Niccolo Machiavelli, in The Prince: "...there is nothing more difficult and dangerous, or more doubtful of success, than an attempt to introduce a new order of things ... Opponents will attack it with the zeal of partisans, whilst the others defend it but feebly."

Change is hard -- the status quo not so much. First, it's very difficult to provide a huge service due to market failure when the opposing party is trying to knee-cap you in Congress, in the Supreme Court, with enrollees. For one example, it's odd that the GOP is now so upset with enrollees losing their (junk) plans but said nothing previously when enrollees were dropped just when they became sick.

Second, it's far easier to criticize acts of commission than if you do nothing and allow 50 million go without health insurance due to pre-existing conditions, etc. Fumbling the ACA was inexcusable. Keeping millions uninsured for a necessity of life is immoral.

With his two apologies over, a question remains -- will the Obama administration re-launch this product on December 1 emphasizing that a) the web site is repaired, b) 97 percent benefit, c) the Shutdown Party will only talk about the 3 percent?

On Kennedy and Lincoln. Mary and Ron discuss whether Kennedy was merely a charming work-in-progress or a President learning on the job and becoming a great if not progressive President on such issues as civil rights and arms control.

Last, because of a suggestion from documentarian Ken Burns, Ron and Mary join many others around the country in reciting Lincoln's Gettysburg Address on this its 150th anniversary. It was the greatest speech about our greatest tragedy by our greatest president... one whose definition of democracy -- of, by and for the people -- is still the best summary of the American aspiration.

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

You can follow him on Twitter @markjgreen

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