Congressman Anthony Weiner appeared on CNN's Parker Spitzer to discuss the deal made between the Obama administration and Republicans on the extension of the Bush tax cuts and expressed a lot of the same frustrations that many of us have had with President Obama. Instead of taking the case to the public and trying to move public opinion to get legislation passed, he's acting like those vote counts are static.
SPITZER: So, let me ask this question. The president is negotiating against himself on the tax issue. Has he caved? Or is this a meaningful compromise where the wealthy are going to get all their tax cuts and the Democratic Party gets nothing back?
WEINER: Well, we'll see. And, by the way, you know, compromise is a device. Somehow, I have no problem with it -- I mean, we often have to do it. That's why we go to Washington and govern about.
But it seems almost as if I missed the part of the fight, like where was the fight where he said what he believed in, campaigned on it hard, tried to get people? You know, the problem with the president -- and I think he's trying to do the right thing -- he believes that these vote counts are static things.
You know, he's the president of the United States. He can move the meter on these things. Considering how many people agree with his fundamental position that we should extend tax cuts for the middle class and those struggling to make it, and even people doing fairly well, he hasn't really made the full-throated fight for it.
Now, what I'm hearing is this deal is being worked out. It's more than just unemployment assurance. Other things are going to be put in there. But whatever it is, I think that to some degree he underplays his hand. As I said today, it's almost as if he wants to punt sometimes on third down.
PARKER: I saw that you were tweeting. I was reading your tweet this morning.
WEINER: Are you impressed that I do that?
PARKER: Yes, I am. And you don't mind my saying that publicly.
WEINER: Apparently, all the kids are doing it.
PARKER: Yes. I want to read what you wrote. You said, "Memo to our president: why are we always punting on third down? Let's get our offense on the field."
So, what does offense look like for you?
WEINER: Well, what it means is -- first of all, when you have a popular position, you know, remember what we're talking about here. The Republicans and Democrats and the president all agree on the fundamental premise that everyone making south of $250,000 should have their tax cuts continue. That's a very popular position. The other side is holding up a whole bunch of stuff because they want tax cuts for everyone else.
PARKER: But you know what else is popular is $1 million and down. Why not -- why didn't you all go there? You could have --
WEINER: Well, it's funny, when I just campaigned for re- election, that's the number I talked about as well. And Chuck Schumer talked about it.
WEINER: Look, I think that -- there are some things we can do differently. I think we should that all businesses are off of the table. All of them should also have their tax cuts extended. There are things to talk about.
But I got to tell you, I must have missed the part where the president goes out and makes his case -- and that's what I think a lot of people are frustrated about.
SPITZER: It's been over four weeks since the midterm elections. He's not given a speech to the nation. He has not said, here are the principles I believe. And here's I know what you voted for. But I'm going to fight for "don't ask, don't tell," middle class tax cuts, START Treaty, pick the unemployment insurance extension.
SPITZER: -- spoken to the public, why hasn't he stood up? Not too much. He's the president of the United States -- he hasn't explained what he believes in.
WEINER: I think there's something to that. I think it's not the outcomes, and we're going to see whatever the deal winds up being, and again, I don't mind deal-making. That's part of the package.
The problem is, he's getting beaten like a rented mule by the Republicans who are going to say, I refuse to give on A, B and C. And the president doesn't seem to do that. He doesn't seem to realize he has a lot of arrows in his quiver if he would just go ahead and use them.
SPITZER: But who's going to stand up in Congress and say, we're going to act like the Republicans did when they were in opposition and actually take a stand? Whether you call it a revolt, there were, you know, rumors flying around today of a Democratic revolt. Filibuster against the Republican proposals, show some backbone in Congress, and stand up to them, why not?
WEINER: Well, I think -- well, first of all, there's no one who can do that, who can fill that position better than the president of the United States. We can all do it as --
SPITZER: Yes. But he's not one to do it, though?
WEINER: No, no. Hold on a second. But -- the first thing we're trying to do is bolster the president to kind of say to him, listen, if you lead us into this fight, we're going to follow you.
I think the Senate is inching in that direction. I think they're doing some smart things, making them take some of these votes, make them filibuster in these things they're going to be against.
But I have to tell you, it's very difficult to do it when the president -- when we in the House of Representatives say, this is our position, (INAUDIBLE), this is our position and we're sticking in there -- and then the president says, OK, we're ready to deal.
SPITZER: You have seen two devastating articles about the president's strategy, by Paul Krugman and by Frank Rick in "The New York Times." This is the intellectual foundation for progressive politics having deserted the president, saying, you're spineless. Frank Rich saying, you're basically a hostage subject to Stockholm syndrome where you begin to sympathize you're your captor.
He has lost his capacity to fight, why don't you stand up and lead that charge?
WEINER: Well, what am I chopped liver? I'm doing that here, you know?
SPITZER: That's what we're saying.
WEINER: Fight when you're on "PARKER SPITZER," right? Isn't that what you guys are known for?
WEINER: But look, in seriousness, the president, I think, is -- he's animated by the right things. He wants to try to govern -- he wants to try to govern, he thinks this is the best way to do it. And I think that what he still believes is that bipartisanship is an ends rather than a means. He's going to keep getting spanked.
Remember Mitch McConnell, four days after the election, says his singular objective now is to stop the president from being re-elected. I don't know how many negotiations are going to go very far if you're already know that that's their position.
SPITZER: You said something important a couple moments ago. You said that he views bipartisanship as the end rather than the means. It seems to me, and I am 100 percent behind him in terms of what he's articulated as his objectives, but he doesn't get there because he's always negotiating against himself and immediately, reflexively, so desperate for bipartisanship that he doesn't put up the fight that gets you to the right compromise. And somebody's got to teach them how to negotiate.
WEINER: And, by the way, look at the lessons, they did it in the stimulus bill. They shaved it down to smaller -- because they thought Republican votes, got none. We accepted 40 Republican amendments on the health care bill. We wound up getting zero votes back in favor of it.
Just about every single one of them complains about the auto bailout, and now, they're all going and bragging about how it worked.
The fact is, I don't think they quite -- the White House quite understands it's not good intentions. You need to show them that you're willing to give and take a punch in order to be able to make the next fight and the next fight.
PARKER: Are you the guy who elbowed him, the president?
WEINER: No, no, no.
SPITZER: The other thing is that they need to understand that it is rarely bipartisanship that is transformative. If you're going to be transformative, as this president wants to be, when FDR was transformative, when Teddy Roosevelt was transformative, even when Ronald Reagan was transformative, it was because they have a linear focus.
WEINER: Yes. But now -- but now you're not giving him enough credit. Remember, health care reform happened without a Republican vote, but it's pretty transformative. The bailout of the auto industry, which he got nothing but trouble for, frankly turned out to be a pretty good thing.
SPITZER: But it wasn't bipartisan, that's my point.
WEINER: No. But --
SPITZER: It would have been better to drive it through with a party that was unified and not give away so much. This was certainly --
WEINER: But in fairness, yes, we did that during health care. But then his inability to kind of make the fight after health care meant that we lost a lot of seats here. Well, you still have to have -- look, I think the president is not by constitution, a very combative guy. He probably looks at me and says, you know what, Weiner, you're all about fight and bluster, but we still have to get things done.
And my argument to him is that the two things have to work together. You have to have some fight in our party. Otherwise, each fight is going to be less and less successful.
PARKER: Can we jump ahead to January? What's it going to be like in the House with John Boehner leading the way?
WEINER: There will be a lot more room in the Democratic cloak room. That's for sure.
WEINER: Look, I happen to think that he is going to be have a very difficult time. They ran a campaign that was devoid of any real affirmative agenda. They know what they're against. They're going to try -- I mean, how many votes in a row can you try to undo health care? How many votes in a row can you try to turn back the clock on the stimulus bill?
Sooner or later, they're going to have to say what their affirmative two-year agenda is going to be. And he's going to have a very tough time.
PARKER: But to you, as a member of the House, feel that he reaches across and is he a deal maker? Is he someone that will work with Democrats?
WEINER: I like him. I don't believe his membership is in a deal-making mode at all. I just think that they came to town with such a sense of being against Obama, against the Democratic ideals that they're going to try to burn the place down. It's going to be tough for him because I think he's a fairly decent guy. Constitutionally and institutionally, I think he's going to be given no room by his caucus.
PARKER: Are the Tea Party people going to be a problem for him? Or for the more established Republicans?
WEINER: I don't know because I don't know what they believe either. You know, they're a diverse group. They believe a lot of different things. I mean, we'll see.
But I think he's going to be more so than usual, and being a leader of the majority party is never easy, Nancy Pelosi learned that. But I think he's going to be herding cats that are running in all kinds of different directions.
SPITZER: Anyway, Congressman Weiner, thanks so much for coming in.