Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Windy City White House, Sept. 10, 2012

Three years ago, my brother Davis was visiting from California.  He, Griffin and I wanted to go to see an event, Windy City White House - a review of Obama's first year in office.  We left work early, got on the train, and were on our way to the talk when we were informed of an accident on the tracks.  Nobody could tell us how long it would take to clear the way so, instead of paying, we got off in Hinsdale and had dinner.  Last night, Griffin and I finally made it to see Windy City White House and it was well worth the wait.

The night was split into two sections.  The first part featured Bruce Dold interviewing OpEd contributors Jonah Goldberg and Leonard Pitts.
Leonard Pitts

Jonah Goldberg

Bruce Dold

The second part had Bruce Dold interviewing Rep Aaron Schock, Gov. Jim Edgar (what? you didn't know IL had a governor not currently serving time in prison?), Bill Daley, and Christie Hefner. 

Aaron Schock
Jim Edgar

Bill Daley
Christie Hefner

Aaron Schock was difficult to handle (fyi Schock - if you don't want people to ask if you're willing to increase taxes, don't sign the Grover Norquist pledge), but I found both Jim Edgar and Bill Daley to be really respectful, able to rise above the fray and to view things with an eye on the long term implications. Not knowing much about Christie Hefner, I didn't know what to expect but man did I like her.  So full of ammunition and yet classy at the same time.  My favorite part was her conclusion which, fittingly enough, was also the conclusion of the event:

"It behooves us to remember the difference between what people campaign on and hope to accomplish, and what the circumstances and system allow them to accomplish.  This is true for both sides.  Do they have the character that I want in office?  For me, Obama has that.  He’s a pragmatist who is willing to compromise and seeks expert opinion and that’s what I hope for in this complicated world."

*update: if you are interested in seeing VIDEO (!) of the talk, check it out at: http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/tribnation/chi-windy-city-white-house-2012-20120912,0,3529594.story

On to the notes:

1.     Gerould Kern Introduction
a.     Busy news day – first teachers strike in Chicago in 25 years
b.     Trib Nation’s goal is to raise the awareness of challenges to the city / state/ nation.
c.      This is a crucial moment for our nation.
2.     Never have there been so many Chicagoans in the White House.
a.     Fear that politicians look at it as a sporting event rather than a serious issue.
b.     Policies have impact.
c.      Don’t get diverted by noise and posturing on the sidelines
3.     Tonight’s forum represents democracy in action
a.     Two parts
                                               i.     OpEd
                                              ii.     Politicians
4.     Bruce Dold (BD) with Leonard Pitts  (LP) and Jonah Goldberg (JG)
a.     JG looks affable
b.     LP looks cool
c.      BD – I like you both because I never have to guess what you’re thinking
d.     Unemployment above 8% for 43 months in a row, FOX poll – 57% of Americans say we’re on a decline.  After the conventions, did you hear anyone that convinced you they can change the gridlock?
                                               i.     JG – no.  Was at both conventions, if old rules still apply, one of those was an unmitigated disaster and one was a raging success – which one is which?  (At local level, dems have advantage, nationally – repubs do).  Conservative’s strategy has worked for them so far.  Changed in 2008 – because of Bush, McCain old guy, Obama so exciting as a candidate.  The conservatives are pro-life away from cameras, but they didn’t say “liberal” in any prime time speech. DEMS were more upfront about abortion than ever before, proud to be liberal. 
                                              ii.     LP – identifies himself as a social observer.  When talking about American decline – social dislocation.  There are no white Protestants on Supreme Court.  Pretty soon there will be no racial majority in America – we will all be part of a racial minority.  Nobody is addressing that. 
e.     BD – are we seeing a white party and an everyone else party?
                                               i.     LP – we already do!  Except “everyone else” party has some white people
1.     Clint Eastwood referenced the “new republican party” as the angry old white guy.
2.     You need two functioning parties – and we’re losing that. 
3.     LP- there are large swaths of conservatives in African American (AA) and Hispanic (H) communities.  Why aren’t they republicans? 
                                              ii.     JG – Repub party definitely has a complexion problem. 
1.     A lot of assumptions based on racial issues
2.     H tend to be liberal when low income.  When more affluent, they split between liberal and conservative the same way as a non-Hispanic voter
3.     Black historical experience – very much like Jewish – they identify with the state. 
4.     Grew up on upper-west side of Manhattan
5.     One of the reasons minorities have a problem with the repubs as an all-white party is because mainstream media says they’re racist. – ludicrous! 
                                            iii.     LP  -
1.     Don’t buy the argument that AA because of their special history (with the government) are locked into that mindset of looking for govt’ help. 
2.     Issues that face AA now are less about laws that need to be on the books (civil rights, voting rights, etc.)
3.     Repubs don’t come to the AA communities- but they go everywhere else.  LP ssks them to come to the communities to compete for the votes and they still don’t go.
4.     AA loyalty to dems isn’t because of any real reason other than repubs take themselves off the table
f.      Voting Rights
                                               i.     LP - Historically – when the intention was to deny AA voting rights, they came up with all other means and measures that had the same affect  (grandfather clause, reading/writing) – disenfranchise AA voters
1.     87 cases of voter fraud in 10 years
2.     Voting is a constitutional right – unlike buying liquor or going to an R-rated movie.
3.     No coincidence that the people most impacted are AA, H, poor, elderly, more likely to vote for a democrat.
                                              ii.     JG – as a general proposition – it’s too easy to vote for everyone in this country.  Doesn’t like absentee ballots, lowering voting age to 18 was a bad idea, etc.
1.     No problem with people having to have ID when they vote
2.     Dems disingenuous
3.     Majority of Americans approve of having ID when you vote (70/30)
4.     When you think about all f the things you need ID for (credit card, plane ticket, drivers license), it’s hard to imagine how anyone could not have an ID.
5.     If you believe some of the numbers coming out of leftwing places, where is the crisis that we’re not getting these people photo IDs.  You cant’ do so many things w/o photo ID. (Nat’s note: consider Maslow’s triangle.  A photo ID is not even on some people’s list of priorities – it’s just not important to them if they’re worried about getting dinner on the table.)
                                            iii.     LP – if you are one of the 46.2M Americans living below poverty level, you don’t have a need for flying, credit card, etc.
1.     Certain myopia.  There’s a tendency to be unable to look at the world through any perspective other than your own.
2.     These are things that people on the margins of society can’t take advantage of.
3.     Because they don’t have ID doesn’t make them any less American.  Doesn’t mean they don't’ have the right to have a say in the future of the country
                                            iv.     JG – that’s not what I said
1.     If voting is a sign of citizenship, you should make it more difficult.
2.     There is a staggering amount of ignorance in the American electorate.  No expectation that this will ever be picked up.  It would be a richer democracy if, in order to vote, you had to take the same test as immigrants have to take to become citizens.
                                              v.     LP – I know there is a staggering amount of ignorance in the electorate.  All you have to do is watch Leno’s “Jaywalking” segment.
1.     “JG- “yeah.  And you’re thinking ‘gosh I hope that person votes’”
                                            vi.     LP - If stupidity is your concern, there are some people with IDs and lots of money who “couldn’t pour water out of the bucket if the instructions were on the bottom”
                                           vii.     LP – can you understand how I, as an AA voter, having seen two centuries and then some of con games with my vote and with other elements of my American rights, would be a little upset about something that 1) proposed to fix a problem that doesn't exist and 2) disproportionately affects my vote?
1.     A degradation of AA’s abilities to make their voice heard in the polls
                                         viii.     JG – understand and appreciate your perspective.  Most people disagree with you (and cited the 70/30 poll again)
                                            ix.     LP – but should we decide everything by taking a poll?  I understand your position but I am not coming from racial animus.  Doesn’t think people are doing it because they’re racist.
g.     BD – in each of your pieces after the conventions, there were mentions of “cults” and “con jobs” – what’s the chance of coming together after the election?
                                               i.     JG: “Stein’s Law” – anything that can’t go on forever eventually must stop.  Fiscally in this countsy can’t go on forever.  Repubs – little to no acknowledgement of serious problems that we have
                                              ii.     LP – took the word “cult” from a repub lawmaker who was upset with the direction of the R party (might have been Schwarzenegger but isn’t sure)
1.     For me, this election is not so much small v. large govt.  It’s reason v. unreason, coherence v. incoherence. 
2.     Repubs seem to make decisions based on belief rather than empirical evidence
3.     Wish both parties (or a viable third party) could find it in themselves to tackle the very serious problems that impact this country. 
h.     BD -Why no 3rd party this time?
                                               i.     JG - If Tom Friedman thinks something is a good idea, it’s not
                                              ii.     JG - Politics is driven by personalities. – you’d need someone that people want to galvanize around.
i.       BD - Is Obama asking for the mother of all mulligans?
                                               i.     LP – fair to say 4 years wasn’t enough to turn it around.  Not an economic expert but it seems like we’ve been pulled back from the edge.  We are in the midst of recovery.
j.       BD – to each columnist: What’s the best thing you can say about the other party?
                                               i.     JG – I’m a patriotic guy and I love my country.  I can pick on my brother but you can’t.  They’re still Americans.  They’re good and decent people but the best I can say is “I think they have the capacity to come to their senses eventually”
                                              ii.     LP – They carry it to the extremes, which are unhealthy and ludicrous, but at bottom I like the republican insistence on reliance, and doing things that you can do for yourselves.  The middle ground would be ‘we believe in self-reliance but we’re not going to leave you stranded on the moon’. 
Part Two: BD with Aaron Schock (AS), Jim Edgar (JE), Bill Daley (B. Daley) and Christie Hefner (CH)
1.     Conventions  - did you hear anything at either convention that makes you think there’s someone who can be a game changer / break the gridlock / restore confidence?
a.     CH – the point that Clinton made about politics needing compromise is at the heart of what any of us would hope for.  At the end of the day, especially if we’re going to continue to vote with a 60-vote filibuster, that’s what we need.
b.     BD – both conventions spoke to a fairly narrow swath of the electorate.  This is down to 10-12 states.  A small slice of America is still undecided.  Both did what they needed to do minimally. 
c.      JE – agrees with B. Daley.  There was passing mention of conciliation but that wasn’t the main focus. 
d.     AS – the end of August is a bad time to have a convention for either party (my constituents were more concerned with getting their kids back to school).  Both bases are who tuned in.  That’s why there’s been a lackluster bounce on either side. 
2.     BD to B. Daley – before you left, you were criticized for saying both D and R made it tough to carry out executive authority.  Tough relationship with Harry Reid?  Inner-circle too inclusive?  What was it? How tough was it?
a.     Called Jim Baker (Reagan’s Chief of Staff) when I got the job.  He’s an example of what you’re supposed to do.  “Congrats you’ve got the worst job in America” – but you’ll enjoy it (and it was fun – if you’re sick).  This is a tough time to lead anything.  All leadership is under siege.  When Clinton was there, it was unbelievable the difference in that town.  It was nastier and meaner when I came back this time around. 
                                                                 i.     When I helped Clinton do NAFTA in the 90s, we were all in a meeting and someone thought Clinton should address congress on why NAFTA was important.  Clinton was obviously thrilled with the idea of addressing Congress on national TV.  But before he could say “yes”, Newt Gingrich interjected and said “Mr. President before you commit, let me suggest something.  I don’t think that’s a good idea.  If you do this and you lose, it’ll hurt the presidency”.  Newt Gingrich!  Can you imagine him saying something like that today?  
b.     Spent a lot of time with the speaker and his staff and we were making good progress.  Then speaker began it again with congressman Tanner.  Then the gang of 6 that had been working on a deal came out with their deal and that blew the whole thing up.  We were working on $800B, they came up with a $1.2T.  There was no deal – but we were really close.  The economy would have been fundamentally different today if we had reached that.  There was a lot of spending that would have taken place immediately.  B.Daley thinks that repubs realized that and didn’t want government to be too successful.
3.     When Jamie Dimon was called before congress, he was irate with Congress for letting our credit rating go down.  For waiting until the last minute and then still refusing to compromise.  J.Dimon said we’re still feeling the hangover from that today.  Has the repub party been dangerously obstructive in it’s approach?
a.     AS – thinks American people voted for this by who they voted into Congress in 2010. 
                                                                 i.     AS – we would not have passed the debt limit deal we did had there not been the showdown that there was. 
                                                                ii.     I’ll be the first to say – I don’t like congress waiting to the last minute.  But I also believe that if the president continued with his stated goal (with no offsetting cuts) – along with his inability to bring his party with him  -his failure to lead in his own party.  But for the republicans in the house, we would have made no progress
b.     BD– but you got us to the fiscal cliff – which will trigger a deeper recession
                                                                 i.     Congressional repubs didn’t give us the fiscal cliff
c.      BD- How’d you vote on the budget control act of 2011?
                                                                 i.     AS: I voted for it. 
                                                                ii.     BD: Didn’t that lead us to the fiscal cliff? 
                                                              iii.     AS: It was the failure of leadership through many administrations and congresses – not dealing with debt and spending habits.  Rather than tax reform, we’ve continued with extension after extension of the debt limit
d.     AS – The President deserves credit / blame has had 4 years and he’s not lived up to it.  We are here through multiple administrations – through multiple terms of congress. Pres has shown an inability to get things done
e.     JE- thought Obama was going to bring people together.  Stimulus bill that Dems ran through congress – the first thing they did.  Thinks American people do want to see the two parties work together – but it’s not just the repubs. 
f.      CH – stimulus bill allocated 1/3 of the stimulus bill to tax cuts because that’s what repubs wanted.  It wasn’t over $800B because it’s what the repubs wanted.   Pres has worked with repubs on traditionally republican ideas.  Statistics – most moderate repub in congress is more conservative than the most conservative member of Congress30 years ago.  It’s Even Worse Than You Think.  Lets face facts: the republicans are the problem.
4.     BD -  There was no clearer message than what voters showed in 2010
a.     CH – Obama took too long to get the message that people weren’t going to cross the aisle.  Healthcare bill took so long because he tried to get repubs to come over.  At the end of the day, the compromise was all within the democratic party
b.     BD – thought 2010 was tailor made for Obama – having Boehner and Obama work together.  Thinks it was more an acknowledgement at the end of the process that this is really dysfunctional.  It was shocking when Mitch McConnell said “my number one goal here is to make sure Obama doesn’t get a second term”.  We all know that’s the unstated goal.  But for the repub leader to say that really set the tone.  The speaker (Boehner) went WAY beyond any republican leadership from the senate in trying to do something.  Senate leaders wouldn’t even talk to us.  Boehner was willing to put himself out there.  Senate republican leadership wouldn’t even get near the president.
c.      AS – 1) as someone who came to office in 2008 too, as a republican in Illinois, you don’t have to tell me that you have to work with people on both sides to get things done.  Many of us came with every intention and best effort to try to work together.  From my perspective, the pres started out with rockstar status and a huge opportunity to do what he campaigned to do – work with both sides.  But every major policy initiative was rammed through.  The day before the stiumulus bill was submitted, AS was traveling with the President in Peoria.  They landed at 11 pm, and that’s when it was submitted. It was over 1,000 pages long and not a single amendment was made.  Nancy (Pelosi) said “up or down”, and as a legislator, he felt shut out.. 
                                                                 i.     Looking at trade agreements, extension of 2010 tax rates – all of them were passed with both parties working together.  Pres has been AWOL on those issues.  Highway bill. 
5.     BD: what do you expect will happen to the fiscal cliff on Nov. 6?
                                                                 i.     AS – house repubs have already passed a bill – it’s sitting in the Senate
                                                                ii.     BD: Any prospect for agreement that would actually become law?
1.     AS - Guesses that senate hasn’t taken a position because there are 23 people up for reelection.
2.     AS - If Pres is re-elected, there will be a big push before Jan 1 for a grand bargain.  There are already 40 members in house that are going to resign and others who will lose.  You have a decent amount that will probably lose because of redistricting.  There’s no benefit of waiting until after Jan. 1
3.     If Romney is elected, adjourn congress until new year because there’s no incentive
b.     BD – if Boehner would have presented a debt deal to you that included tax increases, would you have signed it?.  You’ve signed Norquist pledge.
                                                                 i.     AS: I’ve told the Speaker that I would be his first vote for revenue – but we have to bend the cost curve on entitlement spending.  I cannot vote for revenue if it’s only cuts to providers or some kind of minor tweaks to the overall system.  You have to fundamentally change Medicare to save it. 
6.     BD to JE: You were the tax candidate.  How much has changed?  Could you win today?
a.     Think I was the only one who was for making that tax permanent. 
b.     If you can show a balanced approach, you can do it.  You can’t just raise taxes without cutting spending.
c.      BD – last year, when this economic crisis was dealt with, when we started that in the late spring, all the research showed was that people wanted spending cuts.  Press spent 3.5 months to talk about a balanced approach.  Right before it collapsed, a majority of Americans were for a balanced approach.   People understand!
d.     CH – we used to be having the debate about whether or not it would be acceptable for the higher income earners to go back to the Clinton years.  Found myself talking to a lot of my repub friends who said they could live with those tax rates – those were pretty good years.  But now we’re in a situation where the financial crisis is arguably worse than anyone thought it’d be a few years ago and yet Romney is promoting a policy of cutting those rates 20% and doing away with estate taxes. Going to be difficult to move forward in a balanced approach.  I fear we’re going backwards when we’re at a point where we need it.  (As Simpson-Bowles recommended). 
e.     AS – We (House republicans) are the only ones who have laid out a budget that puts us on balance, makes things solvent without raising taxes.  You can think we’re cold and heartless, but we’ve laid it out there.  And it’s passed the house with more votes than any bill that’s passed under Clinton, Bush, and any other President in the past 30 years.  Contrast that with the president.  How can I negotiate with nothing?  Ask congressional democrats where their plan is. 
7.     President’s plan – is it balanced?
a.     B. Daley – nothing is going to move in Washington right now.  The Pres did put budgets forward that got us on a path to a balanced budget.  But the primary thing they’ve tried to do is not step on this economy even further.  I think this fiscal cliff we’re at in Jan. – if that town doesn’t get it’s act together – if this one term fiscal problem is not addressed, this economy will never get better.
                                                                 i.     Remember when Clinton made adjustments in 1993 – raised the rates on the upper income and the economy took off, and everyone took credit for it.  Lots of dems lost because of that.  It was a tough vote for Dems to do – they literally lost the house because of that.  Scared the hell out of them. 
b.     B.Daley to AS: you knew that budget will never pass the Senate – you knew it.  I get it.  Everyone does it.
c.      CH – I think it’ really important for the electorate to protect and support the people in their party who work with the other side to achieve the solutions needed.  The fact that we have fewer than 50% turnout in elections, that we’re redistricting (egregiously), trying to keep people from voting – there is an ability to impact this on the constituents on a primary basis.  The party has left him because the people who vote in republican primaries are selecting more extreme candidates.  We need Dick Lugars and Olympia Snowes.  We need them!  Dems were willing to run against their base.  Obama has clearly demonstrated his ability to take on his base.
d.     JE- the extremes dominate.  More people would be wiling to compromise if they weren’t worried about people voting them out of office. Look at Mexico – you have one six-year term – then they’re actually getting work done – not campaigning.  Think we should also have a popular vote so that 4/5 of the country isn’t ignored.
e.     B.Daley – if you believe that there’s got to be a potential third party, you can never have that with the electoral college.  “Al Gore woul love you for that”
                                                                 i.     CH: “President Gore you mean”.
8.     BD to JE: Could you win a primary today pushing for an extension of a tax?
a.     It’d be tougher.  If the repubs want to win in Nov., you can’t go too far to the right.  We saw that two years ago.  While someone with my views might have a difficult time in the primary, it’s important in the general election.  To be successful as a party, we have to remain moderate.
b.     CH – the democ party is running on social issues because repubs have moved too far to the right.  You have this huge gender gap with women, with the LGBT community, they’re out of step and it creates an opportunity for dems to vote on social issues when traditionally they have not.  Again, it’s about calibrating the majority. 
                                                                 i.     Defund planned parenthood.
c.      AS – this issue of a gender gap is real and it’s been there for decades.  The last 4 repubs to win president lost the women vote.  (Nat’s note: that’s not something to be proud of!).  The notion that female voters are running from the repubs is wrong – the fact of the matter is women have historically favored dems.  The number one issue right now for females is economic issues and domestic issues like gas prices and the cost of living.
                                                                 i.     War on women is being fabricated by the administration. 
                                                                ii.     Administration tried to find wedge issues to attract women.  President has a youth vote problem because of difficulty in getting a job. 
d.     CH – In referencing Lily Ledbetter – Paul Ryan voted against it.  Dems don’t have to look for issues.  The leadership is handing them issues that they shouldn’t be – those aren’t the issues that should be debated.
9.     BD: CTU on strike.  Does it become an issue in the campaign?
a.     B.Daley – Romney tried to make it an issue.  Everything becomes an issue.  This is pretty local so it’s hard to believe that someone in VA or CO is going to care about it
b.     JE – could impact it in IL – but if polls are ½ way accurate, it’s not going to have an impact on the electoral college.
10. BD – are you running for Gov?
a.     B.Daley – not answering it.  Because (and this really ticks me off) the main problem with our politics (the division and dysfunction) is because we do campaigns all year round.  Therefore you govern in this campaign mentality.  And I get it – but because cable tv, or the media, or whoever you want to blame want to constantly get into this, I think it’s really screwing up the system.  Let things breathe.  I have no plans right now to do anything but sit here and talk to you.
b.     JE – Christie ought to think about it – or running for mayor. 
                                                                 i.     CH: “ I think we did pretty well on Mayor”
11. What grade would you give the Pres?
a.     AS: D.
b.     JE: somewhat disappointed.  Both parties have been at fault.  C
c.      B.Daley: I agree with the president’s designation of his average (B+).  Pleasure and honor of going through the Osama thing with him. Saw him grapple with the fundamental decision of sending people to war.  It was a very tough decision.  When Bob Gates says don’t do it, and you have the courage to do it (he’d give him an A for that).  Remarkable amount of courage when a lot of serious people were telling him to take a pass on it.
d.     CH: It behooves us to remember the difference between what people campaign on and hope to accomplish, and what the circumstances and system allow them to accomplish.  True for both sides.  Do they have the character that I want in office?  For me, Obama has that.  He’s a pragmatist who is willing to compromise and seeks expert opinion and that’s what I hope for in this complicated world.
   *pictures are originally from: cltampa.com, wikipedia, the chicago tribune, moniquestuart.com, news.illinois.edu, life, and businessweek. -->

1 comment:

  1. It was a very thought-provoking talk. Thanks for transcribing everything to jog my memory! -GMD