02/16/2014 09:40 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

"President" Boehner Calls Shots on Debt & Immigration as Erickson/Alter Clash & Concur


By: Mark Green


Erick Erickson and Jonathan Alter butt heads on the issues of the Debt Ceiling and Immigration. "No path to citizenship -- no GOP path to the White House." But the two then find consensus on NFL gay play, ex-felons voting, and blaming Hillary for Bill.

On Debt Ceiling Vote. After the Tea Party "played a losing game of Russian Roulette with the Fall federal shut-down," argues Alter, Boehner is getting unduly lionized for "merely not being insane. You just don't put a gun to the head of the world economy."

Erick makes two points: he objects to how the congressional GOP leadership misled conservatives to believe they'd fight on the CR and debt ceiling when it was all for show; and he was rooting for the Cruz-Coburn GOP wing because "there are enough funds coming in daily to pay essential debt and avoid default."

Alter wonders whether Erickson is enough of an economist to be so certain that refusing to raise the ceiling, which has never happened, would be no big deal. "This is a little like Climate Change in that you can always find some scientist or economist to talk trash when the overwhelming number of experts on both sides agree that they are big problems." Erick concludes that "this is all politicized" since each party has taken different positions based on who's president. (That's true. Senator Obama voted no under Bush43...but while that was obviously a symbolic vote, those who now refuse to raise the ceiling actually want that result and are close to obtaining it.)

One consensus: since the country spent over a century without a debt ceiling and the 14th Amendment declares that the US Government will pay its bills -- not to mention there's already a appropriations process where all this gets worked out -- Alter & Erickson agree this vestigial vote should be dropped. Also, with the annual deficit falling 2/3 in Obama's five years, the urgency about debt has lessened to point where both parties can escape this periodic pseudo-drama...although both think longer term deficits will come back..

Has the Tea Party's power peaked given their failures on the Shut-down and now Debt Ceiling? Erick says "not at all" noting that the Debt vote "gives ammunition to Tea Party candidates in upcoming primaries." But he does add that he no longer uses the term to describe himself (which, thinks the Host, is shrewd since the phrase has plummeted from 50% favorable in 2010 to 20% nationally today).

On Immigration Bill. We listen to Boehner and Rubio declare in 2013 that the time is right to deal with 11 million undocumented immigrants...and then back down this month when talk show hosts and Caucus hard-liners raised a stink.

Erick applauds pulling Immigration from House consideration. Why not wait until the Senate goes Republican this Fall so the GOP has more leverage in any conference committee, he argues. Citing Rove and O'Reilly, Alter scoffs: "that's cutting off your nose to spite your face" since Republicans can't win the White House if they keep losing the growing Latino vote 3-1. Says Host: "No Florida and mabe no Texas, no presidency. No path to citizenship, no path to the White House."

Erick replies that "demography is not destiny...though they both agree that, in fact, a) borders are no longer porous, b) deportations have been at record levels, and c) Boehner's argument that the House can't trust the president to enforce the law is silly since it logically should leads the 113th to adjourn or impeach.

On Ex-Felons Voting. We listen to Eric Holder and Rand Paul agree that mass incarceration is a problem, especially for young black men. Should one in three be disqualified from voting in many southern states?

Consensus: once a felon has paid his/her debt to society, they should be allowed to vote because it's a fundamental right and because it reduces the likelihood of recidivism. Erick is asked, how do you square that principle with the political reality that it would add millions of black Democrats to the rolls? "I was a lawyer for the indigent for five years and saw what mass incarceration was doing. Not every position should be taken based on how it affects your party. They have a right to vote and [Republicans] who are opposed to that, screw them!"

Alter goes on to discuss how there is a growing bi-partisan and popular movement -- including Bernie Kerik, "Orange is the New Black", Michelle Alexander's The New Jim Crow, The Brennan Center's campaign on voting, the Marshall Project -- because

'it's crazy that 20,000 people are in jail today for marijuana possession. And there are plenty of Rs who religiously believe in redemption or worry about exploding state deficits due to prison costs, or both.

Quick-Takes: On Michael Sam & Hillary Clinton. We listen to Rush Limbaugh complain about the "homosexual agenda" imposing its will on the other 95% of heterosexuals (presumably a gay version of the "War on Xmas" where huge majorities become rhetorical victims). And we hear Dallas sportscaster Dale Hansen observe how rapists and felons are welcomed into locker rooms but not gay men because that would be "uncomfortable."

An L/R consensus again: "who cares about a player's private sex life?", asks Erick. Jonathan thinks Sam's courageous admission should not and will not affect his draft status since most (not all) teams will care only about his skills not his sex life.

Ditto Bill Clinton/Monica Lewinsky/2016. Alter and Erickson agree that Rand Paul may have pushed some religious right buttons by snarkily saying that if Hillary benefits from Bill generally, she should also be blamed for his misconduct with Monica 20 years before. Historian Alter recalls that, when the GOP overplayed its hand with impeachment in 1998, it backfired in those mid-terms when, for the first time since FDR, the party of the White House gained seats in Congress.

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

You can follow him on Twitter @markjgreen

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