December 1, 2013

You didn't need to be watching Fox "news" this Sunday to hear one Randite, TeaBircher, right-wing talking point after another repeated over and over. You could have just tuned on NBC and listened to the Beltway Villager cocktail circuit gang up on the one lonely Democrat on the panel this week, the Mayor of Baltimore, Stephanie Rawlings-Blake.

The pundits in the media were dying to change the conversation to the rollout of The Affordable Care Act from the very first day the Republicans shut down the government, and constantly reminding their audiences that November is a long way away for anyone to be reading too much into the polls when the Republicans found themselves in the tank not so long ago. Now that the government has reopened, it's been nothing but one long relentless assault on the rollout of the web site and predictions about whether this means the end of Obama's presidency, or as they were "lamenting" here, whether this has been a "lost year" for his administration.

Rawlings-Blake did her best to push back at the nonsense being spouted by the rest of the panel during her appearance on Meet the Press, but a lot was left unchallenged given the fact they had her outnumbered four to one.

David Brooks admitted that government can somehow manage to handle sending out Social Security checks, but refused to acknowledge that it manages to run Medicare and the VA as well. Last time I checked, those were health care programs, David. And his buddy Chuck Todd got away with pretending that the web site was being run by the government instead of a private contractor.

And then there was Mrs. Greenspan spouting the nonsense that the problems with the web site rollout is going to "risk of losing the credibility of government as an agent of change for a generation." She didn't offer any proof as to why, but just threw it out there as the conventional wisdom everyone is supposed to swallow. Who wants to take dibs she never said the same thing about the rollout of Bush's prescription drug program, or the invasion of Iraq for that matter?

Transcript below the fold for those that can't watch the clip.

DAVID GREGORY: Here's something to throw out there from this morning's paper in The Washington Post, to political correspondent Dan Balz writes about the lost year. "By almost any measure--


DAVID GREGORY: --this has been a lost year for Obama on the domestic front. The flawed rollout of the health care law, the most important initiative of his tenure, has been a huge setback, hardly what Obama could have envisioned as he looked toward his second term in the weeks after his reelection." Mayor?

STEPHANIE RAWLINGS-BLAKE: I think that's a bit of an overstatement, "The lost year?" Focusing on trying to get more people affordable quality health care? In Baltimore, over 80,000 people are without health care. In the state of Maryland, over 80,000. At the end of the day, everyone knows, we can all agree, the rollout could have been, should have been, better.

But underneath all of that is Democrats and the president trying to make sure the people have health care. You know, that is the side that we should be on, not, you, this sort of, "Is it right? Is it wrong? Should he be mad about it? Should he not be mad about it?" This is about making sure people can live.

DAVID BROOKS: I have to say, people are appraising whether this government can work. Can government be nimble? Can it learn from its mistakes? And I would say the website is just a small symptom that is not nimble. Government is like an offensive lineman. It can do something really well. It can do blocking. It can create order. But when you ask government to be a wide receiver, then you're asking two things it can't do. And I think we're in a situation like that. We're asking it to do things it can't do. Republicans win elections when Democrats overreach by asking government to do things it can't do.

CHUCK TODD: David, the most interesting thing in this report, right, page one-- it's page three of the report, it says here that, "The team is operating with private sector velocity and effectiveness."


CHUCK TODD: Okay, that is an acknowledgement that, "You know what? If this was a government operation for a long time and it failed, now we're bringing in the private sector folks." I mean that is an indictment on the whole idea of government as a solution, frankly, when you look at--


DAVID GREGORY: And the president, as a manager, and people around him, who can get the bureaucracy to move in a particular direction, which is not easy. But this is your point about our nimble government.

ANDREA MITCHELL: And the challenge is, I think the goals are laudable, Mayor. And in fact, it's something that the president articulated brilliantly as an election and a reelection mantra. But this was a very tough bet. And he had an obligation, I think, to make sure that the rollout was not this disastrous, in order to achieve those goals. Because now they are at risk of losing the credibility of government as an agent of change for a generation--

STEPHANIE RAWLINGS-BLAKE: Republicans are insistent, relentless pursuit of failure, standing on the sidelines, cheering for failure. You know, at the Conference of Mayors, I was just saying earlier, we have Democrats, we had Republicans, nobody's rooting against each other. We're trying to make sure that we all, we know that when cities--


STEPHANIE RAWLINGS-BLAKE: --succeed, the country succeeds. And in Congress, we have people that are standing on the sidelines, rooting for failure. We know that the rollout was botched. But Democrats are focused on trying to build and trying to fix it.

ANDREA MITCHELL: I'm just saying that--


ANDREA MITCHELL: --the president gave his opponents--


ANDREA MITCHELL: --and can certainly make the argument that he has had this monolithic Republican opposition in Congress. I mean that's a good and valid excuse. But he gave them a weapon against them.

DAVID GREGORY: All right. But David, your--


DAVID GREGORY: --your point, too, I mean conservatives are saying, "Look, you had a big idea. You have to execute."

DAVID BROOKS: Yeah. Well--

DAVID GREGORY: "You can't have one without the other."

DAVID BROOKS: People said that about President Bush with Iraq, too.


DAVID BROOKS: So he's got a couple of--


DAVID GREGORY: Well, and he was--


DAVID BROOKS: And I won't say as a predecessor to President Obama, "What'd you learn being president that you didn't know before?" He said there's a lot of passive aggressive behavior in government. (LAUGHTER) And I think that-- "I give an order, and just nothing happens." (LAUGHTER) And that's just the nature of things. It's very hard to fire people. It's very hard to give them economic incentives.

Government can do some things, as I say, really well. Social Security, move checks here, there, really well. Do the sort of nimbleness that this requires, lot tougher. And adjusting to failure, a lot tougher. And so it's a question of what you ask government to do. It doesn't mean you're hating government all the time, but understanding limits and roles. And I do think, with the complexity of this thing, they probably overstepped.

DAVID GREGORY: So isn't it really interesting, I've been doing a lot of reading about early America and this fierce independent, the idea of natural law. And in the enlightenment period of the individual liberty as a real source of the American government experience. And yet, in more modern times, the idea that government should, as you were saying, Mayor, play a role to do good, that it should use its power to actually fix big, societal problems. But we do have this in conflict because the goal to do good, and to a lot of people, feels like telling them what to do.

CHUCK TODD: Well, that's right. There is-- it's always been this retrenchment of collectivism. Right? On one hand, and especially, you know, you're bringing up the early period, you know, this country was divided. Sort of the northern part, you had the initial settlers were okay with collectivism. But the folks that immigrated and migrated to the south weren't so much that way.

But let's go back to the lost year. I mean health care is just the icing on the cake. Where's immigration, his initial push for guns, this feeling of, frankly, rebuilding trust in government, breaking the fever that he thought-- ? There were all these things that he thought the second term, that his election to a second term, the validation of a second term--


CHUCK TODD: --was going to do. And it's not just a lost year, it's a setback.

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