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tv   [untitled]  CSPAN  June 15, 2009 11:30am-12:00pm EDT

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>> people like to have books. you know, it's a very sticky medium. you've seen this medium, obviously, be sticky since about the, you know, 15th, 16th centuries. >> tonight on "the communicators," the co-chairman
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of bertelsmann, owner of random house, on how the publishing industry is changing. >> when you read something great, you want it to be a kind of heirloom product for you personally, and when you have digital media, it's harder for that to be true. you can't actually be proud of a book shelf that is a memory stick. >> the future of publishing tonight at 8 eastern on "the communicators" on c-span2. >> and now abc news cheefer washington correspondent george stephanopoulos talks about the political challenges president obama faces in his attempt to pass comprehensive health care legislation. he spoke friday at a conference lasting about 45 minutes. >> and we've had a nice meal, i hope you enjoyed the food that you've had, and now we're going to sort of change gears a little bit and provide you with some brain food. this is going to be a very special session. earlier today we had several
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panels of folks who really did a great job, i think, of talking to us about public opinion on health care, current health care reform efforts and what we in the mental health community need to do. and i hope that we were all kind of taking notes, because i heard some really terrific messages this morning that were very practical and focused. but now we're going to get a very special perspective from one of america's top political journalists who knows the lay of the land and can really provide us with some sort of inside baseball on the obama administration, the congress, and where we're headed on the issues that affect our community and nation. and it is really an honor and a pleasure for me to have won the toss to make the introductions today. i'll talk a minute about mr. stephanopoulos, but i had not met bob boorstin before today, but these two guys
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represent very important parts of my life. i cannot imagine what i did before google. [laughter] i mean, i go to google all the time, and as a political junkie, i am a great fan of george stephanopoulos' reporting. so it's a real personal thrill to get to do this. so our moderator for this afternoon will be a repeat moderator, it's bob boorstin, who's the directer of corporate and policy communications in the d.c. office of google where he helps design and implement the company's strategies on a wide range of both domestic and international policy issues. he has more than 25 years of experience in political communications. national security, public opinion research and journalism. he served for more than seven years in the clinton administration where he held positions as the president's chief speech writer at the national security council and as senior adviser to the secretary of treasury and the secretary of
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state. bob helped establish the washington-based think tank, the center for american progress. and he has served as communications and political adviser to party leaders in leading governments, government officials in both the united states and europe. since 1987 when he was diagnosed with bipolar disorder, mr. boorstin has been an outspoken activist and advocate on behalf of people with mental health conditions. now, our very special keynote speaker, george stephanopoulos, is the chief washington correspondent for abc news, an anchor or abc's sunday morning political affairs program, this week with george stephanopoulos. and i was actually given permission by klein who is not -- colleen who has not allowed david or me to get off script even once, but she said it's okay, you can talk about it, because our kids know that
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on sunday morning in columbia this week comes on from 10:30 to 11:30. and they have to be in the hospital before they call during that hour. [laughter] and with just friends and other family, we just ignore it if the phone rings, and most people know us well enough to know not to call. but going back even to the time of the great film, the war room, which if you haven't seen it, go to blockbuster or get it on netflix, it's one of the best movies about political campaign, i think, ever made, so i just feel like it's a particular thrill to do this, and it caused me some real struggle as recently as last week because i'm a big roger federer fan too. [laughter] and the french open ran at the same time as the war room. i really wish that -- i mean, not -- it was this week. so i had to wait for the ads on
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this week to switch over to see how federer was doing. and it was a huge relief when it got over and it was just in time for the round table. [laughter] so i got there just in time to see george wills' comforting bow tie come on the screen. [laughter] it was a great moment, and it really is -- if you're not a fan, i recommend it to you. it's great the way the show is organized, it's fast moving, it's got balance, and the round table is just a terrific political conversation. so without further ado, let's get to the main event, bob boorstin and george stephanopoulos. [cheers and applause] >> that was very funny. thank you. >> that was great. thanks, man. [applause] you can tell who's on television and who's not, i've already
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dropped this thing. [laughter] >> i just want to thank john for having his priorities straight, you were watching this week and switching over to the french open. but i don't want to pick up your kids' therapy bills in 20 years. [laughter] >> well, i want to thank george for being here. it's nice to have a conversation without various children running around causing havoc. [laughter] and thank the mha for allowing us to come together to do this. it's quite a crowd here and appreciate you being here. let me start with the simple question, how's obama doing? [laughter] >> in 20 words or less. listen, you look back at it, and i think, you know, this is the very beginning. we're not even six months in, but he's had the best start, i think, of any president since lyndon johnson who came in under very different circumstances, obviously. if you just look at the big
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things that president obama's done politically, first of all, you know, we're more than five months in, he's got the support of almost two-thirds of the public, probably even more important when he came in, as you all know, the country was very pessimistic. about where we were going. and he's turned that around. i mean, back in october of last year the number of people who thawlg the country was going in the right direction was about 9 percent. the last time we checked which was about two weeks ago on our abc/washington post poll it was about 50 percent for the first time in eight years. that is a huge political accomplishment, you know, and a great vote of confidence in the president. he's gotten his number one legislative priority through so far, and as veterans of the early days in the clinton white house where we couldn't pass a $16 billion stimulus, for someone to come in in the first three weeks and pass 800
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billion? not bad. his first couple of foreign trips both to europe and to the middle east just last week were, again, and first impression undeniable successes. who knows how it's going to play out over time. and in his first set of foreign policy decisions working with the military to unwind or begin to unwind our deployment in iraq and to intensify our deployment in afghanistan, he did -- that also came off very smoothly. so we're only phi months -- five months in, and there are huge questions. what is going to happen with the huge building blocks of his dmes k a-- domestic agenda going forward, health care, energy, will we be able to get out of iraq on the timetable that the president has suggested? will this new deployment in afghanistan work? and will this whole new outreach to the muslim world really for
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the long term reorient america's relationship with that world? those are all open questions but just if you look at the beginning, it's a pretty remarkable start. and to me the most amazing thing is four years ago this guy was a state senator. african-american, his name is barack hussein obama, and when he walked into the oval office on that first day after the inaugural address and i don't know if you agree with this but it certainly was my sense from watching people in the country, there was no cog cognitive dissonance. no sense at all that this person doesn't belong there, and that in and of itself is a pretty amazing achievement. >> yeah. it is rather amazing to think how far we've come in just the last few months. >> yeah. >> and how everybody was certain what was going to happen in the election and then what happened happened. we were talking a little bit this morning about the changes
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in the way that people see things, and bill mcintyre who's heavily on the republican side had much the same observation that you just did about that. let me ask you about obama. you've met him, and you've talked to him and interviewed him. how do you compare him -- i know it's not been the same kind of close relationship, but how do you compare him with the way that bill clinton acted as president? [laughter] >> well, as you know we have a lot of mutual friends who have served for both of them. >> right. >> they have, they have great similarities and great differences. both men have very high intelligence. i guess i could argue without knowing that clinton probably has a more creative intelligence and is able to -- knew more
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coming into the office about policy, about people than obama did just based on his network of relationships at the top levels of american government for more than 20 years before he became president. they -- i think there's no question that obama is a more -- well, let me think of one other similarity first. and they both take great pride and i think are quite skilled at making their opponents both feel like they've been heard and also driving their opponents crazy at exactly the same time. [laughter] i think they're both pretty good at that, but i think that is one of their skills as policymakers is being able to understand the arguments of those who they disagree with and making them feel like they can be brought into the process. obama's a much more disciplined thinker and decision maker, i
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think, than bill clinton is. now, so far that's worked for him, and i can say again from talking to our friends who've worked for both there's a bit of a relief in that, you know, they have the meetings, it goes on for -- the meeting's scheduled for an hour, 1:57 obama says, okay, thank you all very much, i'm going to go back and think about it and then either makes the decision right there or calls in rahm or whatever, ten minutes later the decision is made. that's a little different from the way it was. [laughter] in our white house which makes for, you know, it is, it does make life a little bit easier on the staff, but in defense of president clinton some, i would say two things. number one, when clinton had the most consequential and difficult decisions, he was more like that as well. i think of when he on his own nickel had to basically bail out
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the entire mexican government on his own. he had been abandoned by the entire rest of the congress, he had no support in the country, and he took what was a very risky gamble without breaking half a sweat. and so i, you know, you don't really know this, but i imagine if clinton were facing the magnitude of the challenges that obama's facing, he might end up handling them in similar ways as well. but then on the other side i do think that we don't know yet and all presidents learn this, but sometimes it is better to leave a decision open. sometimes it is better, you know, just to kind of let the, let the decision ferment for a while, let people get used to the idea of where you're taking them. if you look back and have any criticism of president obama in these first six months, his decision on closing guantanamo probably was a bit hasty and to announce that he was closing it without having any kind of a plan in place which they're
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quickly catching up on right now probably was a minimal political error. >> we certainly in the clinton white house carried fermentation to a new level. [laughter] >> yes. >> let's turn to the economic crisis. how's he doing in that area, and, you know, what are the insiders feel right now that's happening? do we think there really is some chance of recovery in 2010? >> i think the one thing everyone i talk to, just about everyone i talk to now will agree if nothing else, it does appear that we ajerted -- aaccelerated disaster. the economic collapse that could have hit either in late september of last year or again in late february, early march of this year does seem to have been avoided. and it seems to have been avoided without having to take some of the drastic action that a lot of people felt was
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necessary. you had people like paul krugman, other economists saying the only way we're going to get out of this is if we have some sort of temporary custodianship of the banks, and that turns out to have been -- for the moment -- a knee jerk reaction. it does not appear that the financial system is in danger of freezing or collapsing like back in september. that's an accomplishment. it also there's a lot of evidence that we may have hit the bottom of the recession right around now. it could be happening as we speak. now, even if that's true, that doesn't mean that we're going to, the country's going to feel that much better for a long time. i think it's very likely that you're going to see between 9-11 percent unemployment even into next year, and that's even assuming some kind of a recovery beginning in the next quarter by
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the end of this year because to actually get the unemployment rate down, you need to be growing 2, 3, 4 percent for several quarters in a row, and we're nowhere near that right now, and there still are some outstanding economic, looming economic problems out there. i mean, i'm not an expert by any means, if i had a nickel for every time in the last month someone's told me about the tremendous crisis in commercial real estate coming, i'd be, i could buy some commercial real estate. [laughter] but people say that is the next series of potential defaults, and then secondly, you know, our deficit now is at levels we haven't seen since world world . you know, it's approaching 12, 13 percent of gross domestic product. bob will remember when we came in in 1993 and had to basically rewrite the campaign plan and move towards reducing the
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deficit as opposed to a lot of the investments the president wanted to make, the deficit was about 6 percent of gdp and we wanted to get it to 3 or 4. now we're talking it's up at 13, and that could cause any one of a number of problems. at some point the chinese could decide to stop financing it, interest rates could start to rise again which would hamper the recovery, so we're not out of the woods by any means, but there have been a lot of good signs lately. >> let me ask about the media's coverage of the crisis. this is kind of a personal question, obviously. how's the media doing, and who's kind of providing the best coverage both in terms of the institutional impact that we've seen and also the impact on regular people? >> you know, i think we've done a fairly good job overall. i think that i can only speak for my own show and my own network, we were pretty focused on this going back to september
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and didn't really let up the crisis, and we come back to it often. now, my own show we don't end up doing too much of looking at the actual impact on individuals. we don't tell those stories in the same way. i think world news tries to. i think cnbc for all of the problems i have -- even though i love them like anybody else, sometimes i'll watch them during the day and watch them either cheerlead or driving the market down, but i think when they tend to take a step back and do more analytical pieces and documentaries, i think they've done a good job explaining the roots of the crisis. i think both "the wall street journal" and the new york times have done a tremendous job of covering the crisis overall. >> did anybody see it coming? did anybody in the media really write this story? >> business week wrote a cover story back in 2007. it wasn't followed up on too
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much. but they did have one solid cover story suggesting it was coming. you did have people like nouriel rabinny saying it was coming, and their views were heard but not necessarily. it's like the run-up to iraq where you did have people saying before we went in, oh, wait a second, this nuclear story doesn't really hold together, and it was written once, but it wasn't, you know, it didn't hit the echo chamber. similar things happened with the economic crisis. there were people telling you it was a problem, but it wasn't the prevailing storyline, and part of the reason for that, i think, frankly, was politics was taking up an awful lot of space in the media world from 2007-2008 when this was hitting. >> let's turn back to the white house just for a second. as you said earlier and we know very well, a lot of the same people who worked with us in the clinton white house are now back
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in the schwarzenegger term. [laughter] do you think we're watching kind of a do-over here, a chance for some of these folks to advance the policies that may have gotten lost under clinton? >> it's a great question. yes and no. i mean, yes in the sense that, listen, on health care and this is one of the reasons -- i took some criticism during the campaign because after the 23rd debate where we heard about the difference between hillary and obama on whether or not to have an individual mandate for health care, i moderated a debate where i didn't ask about that because basically a lot of my feeling was, you know what? if either one of these two wins, they're going to end up creating something like what has become the consensus democratic health care plan over the last 15 years, and sure enough that's exactly what's happeningment --
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happening. so i think there is a real sense on health care in particular this is a moment where what wasn't achieved back in '96, '95 at least is possible, the stars may be aligning this time around. on the other hand, times have changed a great deal since the early 1990s. i mean, can you imagine if, you know, in 199 be and 1994 on top of what he was dealing with president clinton was dealing with a war in iraq and a war in afghanistan? energy hadn't reached the critical mass, energy and climate change hadn't reached the critical mass that i think it's reaching today, so in that sense it's a much more ambitious agenda, and the world is more ready to hear and adopt a more ambitious agenda than they were in the early 1990s. the scale of the economic challenges, again, i mean, and this is only made possible
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because of the magnitude of the problem, but if you would have just come up to any one of us in 1994 and say, well, you're in the white house and you have to be a steward of more than 50 percent ownership in general motors, 35 percent ownership in citigroup, you own the largest insurance company in the world, you own the largest mortgage company in america, and you guys are responsible for all that? in some ways i would have been grateful because i wouldn't have had to have been dealing with haircuts on air force one. [laughter] but, i mean, it's been a huge sea change in that respect. i mean, the scale of the challenges and the scale of the responsibilities that this white house is facing is unlike anything that we saw in the early 1990s. >> and it is this kind of crisis that can, if history turns right and the individual reacts correctly and does the right things, can make a great
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president. >> you can only be a great president if you're facing great crises. i think that is likely one of the things president clinton is envious about. >> right. >> no, seriously, that you do have a chance. [laughter] i think president clinton was a very good steward of the economy. he made the right economic decisions, we had eight years of basically peace and prosperity under president clinton. now, you could make an argument about could more have been achieved with that peace and prosperity, but he, the difficulty of the decision making wasn't as great as what's being faced right now. on the other hand, that's also very liberating. not only do you have the chance to be great, but when you're facing problems like this, the other little mistakes, little stories, they just exnt -- can't, you know, so bill richardson doesn't become secretary of commerce, it's a personal tragedy for them. it might hurt the cause, but it doesn't become a metaphor for
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the administration the way similar things that happened in the early days of lin clinton did. >> speaking of such things, you and i lived through the wildly successful clinton health care reform effort. [laughter] and i want to get back to the question of, i guess, aside from the main characters what's different this time around? what do you see is really -- >> there's a lot of big differences. number one, we're 15 years farther along, and even though you had this period in the late '90s where health care costs actually did start to go down or didn't grow at the same rate that they had been growing, that went away and for this entire decade you've had costs continuing. so people feel the problem. number two, and i think it's a huge difference, when we came in, we were dealing with democratic majorities in both the house and senate, but entrenched democratic majorities who had been in power for more than 40 years who hadn't felt
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and lived defeat. and defeat can concentrate your mind, and it does concentrate your mind, and it makes, it can become a real motivational force. and make people more willing to work together. and i don't think we, i think that's what obama has now that clinton didn't have as well. it's a much more unified group up on capitol hill. on the democratic side. i think he is also facing a much weaker and fractured opposition than clinton faced in '94. i mean, part of that is because of what's happened in the economy. this agreement wasn't all that it was cracked up to be, but the fact that you had the insurance companies, the hospitals, the doctors all come, all feel the need to come together and at least pay lip service to the idea that they're going to work with the president is a big change. in and of itself.
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and it's partly because of the pressure they're under, it's partly because of the mitt call strength of -- political strength of president obama right now. we'll see how it works out. i think the, what we don't know yet and this is where the similarities could still end up coming back, the obama team has played the runup, i think, just about perfectly. clearly learning from mistakes that we made, you know, he's not going to put up a bill, he's going to put up principal. he's going to let congress work it out. but the difficulty is when you actually have to put the proposal on paper. and, you know, there are still very, very big questions outstanding on this, you know, what is the public plan going to look like? is there a compromise that will not drive away all but two of the republicans and also maybe
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some of the democrats? the president did, to his credit, come forward with an idea for how to pay for it, and he was willing to say that, you know, we would shave the deductions of wealthier americans. there's just zero support in the congress for that. none. so you have a big hole. and it now appears that, you know -- and this is, you know, just one of the ironies of elections is that probably the best way to pay for it is the idea that obama attacked the hardest during the campaign which was, you know, taxing health care, health care benefits or people who have them. >> that's what bill was saying this morning, he was pointing out the exact irony of that having been the one who was at least the consultant recipient of said attack. >> well, and it's true, and, you know, successful presidents are judged not by whether they break their promises, it's by whether the plans they call for work, and i think that's why the white
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house probably will be willing to bite this bullet because i think it's the only idea out there that can get them the money they need to finance this. the liftty is i don't know -- difficulty is i don't know yet whether there is, and i don't think there's an equivalent on health care, but whether there's an equivalent of a tip o'neill in 1981 on social security. and, you know, under ronald reagan when o'neill and greenspan and a whole bunch of people came together it was a much smaller problem, but they came together and had a bipartisan solution to social security that basically bought us 30, 40 years on social security. you know, maybe chuck grassley. i think he's very torn. i think he is working very hard with baucus right now. i just don't know if he can agree to what the majority of democrats in the house will demand. andt


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