It would be nice to see a few more segments like this one where gasbag Bill Bennett gets some push back on his empty rhetoric for once instead of steam rolling over Donna Brazile or whoever they have him up against. From CNN's State of the Union, the panel is asked what went wrong in the Massachusetts Senate race and Martha Coakley's pollster Celinda Lake says the Democrats need to produce on jobs and Wall Street reform and get some things done or the Republicans are going to continue to seize on their "change" message.
When Bill Bennett tries to claim that the voters of Massachusetts didn't like what was in the health care bill and that the President has moved too far to the left, Lake and Brazile do a pretty good job of knocking down his talking points.
KING: He's not a rhetorical dynamo, but Mitch McConnell has been pretty disciplined in keeping the Republicans together, has he not? I know you're a Democrat, but as somebody who has to organize, he get points?
BRAZILE: For being an obstructionist? Absolutely. For not giving the American people any alternatives? When President Obama took the oath of office, we were hemorrhaging 20,000 jobs a day. Now no one is satisfied with 85 -- losing 85,000 jobs and now -- in the past month. But the truth is, s that the president inherited an economy that was on the brink. And with the policies that he has put forward, this economy is now moving along.
I agree that the president needs to go back to the basics. He needs to go back to the campaigning mode, not the campaign itself, but he promised the American people change. He promised to bring us together, to heal this country, and to move us forward.
And what we have seen from the Republicans is no agenda, no alternative. Yes, you benefited from a political environment that is anti-incumbent. It is bad out there. But I do believe at the end of the day that the Republicans need to put up. We need to vet the Republican policies once they put them forward. And they need to be held accountable for those policies. They had a free pass in 2009.
NEWHOUSE: You sound exactly like I sounded for the last four years when Republicans had miserable years where we were trying to defend George Bush's policies and Democrats were beating the pants off our guys in race after race after race. This is -- it's not politics you're doing wrong, it's policy.
BENNETT: Yes, this is -- look, you can say the Republicans need to put up. Sure, let's go make a deal. Let's make a deal on health care. We Republicans favor health care. But not this policy. Look, two things about Barack Obama, promised to be a transformational presidency. If do you that, you had better transform.
Could he transform? They have the White House -- anybody notice what the advantage is in the House of Representatives? Seventy-eight people advantage, 19 now in the Senate, and they can't get it done. Why can't they get it done? Because they're weighted down by the policy, the policy, according to the American people.
The more they looked at the policy, the more they said no, this is not what we want, a government takeover. They want health care reform. They don't want this health care reform.
LAKE: They have no idea what's in this health care reform, I mean...
BENNETT: Sure they do.
LAKE: No, they don't.
BENNETT: Oh, they absolutely.
LAKE: No, in Massachusetts, when we tested the health care reform bill, you're absolutely right, it was split. When they looked at the health care reform bill, the Massachusetts plan itself, which is very similar to the national plan, 68 percent in favor.
When we tested the specifics of pre-existing conditions and solving Medicare and closing the donut hole, one of the best attacks against Scott Brown and one of the best defenses for Martha Coakley. Our problem is we need to pass these policies. The critique of the president is not that he's done too much. The critique of the president is that he's done too little. Democrats need to pass these policies.
BENNETT: He's done too little, but when the issues came to the floor, the more discussion there was of health care on a national level, the more the public was disenchanted with this provision or that provision or any provision.
BRAZILE: We lost a message war.
KING: This side of the table is going to be leaving us in a minute so I want to stay on this side of the table. These guys are going to stay with us, but you guys are going to be leaving after this so I want to ask you each a question.
BRAZILE: You're getting rid of us?
KING: To Bill first. Ronald Reagan went through this in his first year in office. And in the age of midterms, Republicans lost seats but not as badly as many people thought. His message to the people was stay the course. Can President Obama -- should President Obama use that same message or does he have to say go to the middle?
BENNETT: Well I think he needs to go to the middle if he wants to have success. But if he wants to give more success to my party and conservatives, he can just keeping hanging out on the left corner. Look, it was a disappointment to me how far left he went. When he was elected, I didn't say like some other talk show hosts, I hope he fails. I said I hope he succeeds and I hope he has moderate and sensible policies. The night of the election on CNN, I said but he better be careful, he better not push too far to the left. James Carville said that we're not going to take advice from Republicans tonight. Fair enough, but look at what's happened.
BRAZILE: He's not been on my corner. He's not been on my corner because he's kept the Bush tax cuts in tact. That's $4 trillion of the deficit. He kept the TARP program. He kept the bailout program. He kept two expensive wars. That's not sitting on the left. That's governing with pragmatism, something the Republicans fail to get is that this president has kept in place many of those policies.
BENNETT: Do you want him further left?
BRAZILE: That's a false choice -- $1.3 trillion of that deficit that you're complaining -- look, if he governs as a pragmatist and somebody who understands the reality of what we're facing -- we got two expensive wars, a guy hell bent on killing all of us, bin Laden, and we have an economy on the brink. And so what are we supposed to do, sit here and wait for the Republicans to regain power?
NEWHOUSE: We disagree on many things here. But there's one thing we do agree on, right? Go Saints!
BRAZILE: Go Saints.
KING: On that bipartisan note, we're going to take a quick break.
Transcript via CNN.