Monday, November 29, 2004
MONICA CROWLEY, GUEST HOST: I’m Monica Crowley, in tonight for Joe Scarborough.
The presidential inaugural is still weeks away, but the president has wasted no time becoming a second-term president. It’s time for tonight’s “Real Deal.”
First-term presidents are consumed with policy and politics. But they’re really driven by only one thing, reelection. Once they have reelection under their belts their focus changes. Every president as he heads into his second term turns his attention to something else, legacy. That’s legacy with a capital L. And the kind of legacy all second-term presidents covets is that of peacemaker.
Let’s take a look at all recent second termers. Richard Nixon, a great old cold warrior before Watergate forced him from office, had detente with the Soviet Union, the opening to China and Middle East diplomacy. Most former enemies were now on the table as potential partners in spite of or maybe because of the shadow of the Vietnam War. Nixon was thinking legacy.
Ronald Reagan, another great cold warrior, in his second term, he approached the Soviet Union giving up all nuclear weapons on both sides, unheard of, yes, but Reagan was thinking legacy. In his second term, Bill Clinton continued to try to bring the Israelis and the Palestinians to the table and he also had the Northern Ireland peace deal solidified. Bill Clinton was also thinking legacy.
In each and every case, the second term president is thinking about his legacy and he wants it above all to be one of peacemaker.
So, what does this mean for president Bush and his second term? He spent his first term waging war, bringing the fight directly to the world’s terrorists. In Afghanistan, in Iraq and on and on down the terrorist line. He will continue to do just that. And that’s tonight’s “Real Deal.”
So, with one eye on the legacy, is President Bush going to pair fighting the war on terror with some attempts at peacemaking both at home and abroad?
Joining us now, Mort Zuckerman of “U.S. News & World Report” and Amy Goodman, the host of the radio program “Democracy Now.”
Amy and Mort, welcome. Nice to see you tonight.
CROWLEY: Well, Mort, I want to start with you, because, since winning reelection, President Bush has replaced no fewer than seven Cabinet members. Let’s take a look at the changes he’s made so far. And, of course, these are in most cases subject to confirmation.
Colin mail is out as secretary of state, with National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice ready to step in. John Ashcroft will be replaced Alberto Gonzales. Donald Evans, the outgoing commerce secretary, was today replaced by Carlos Gutierrez, the CEO of Kellogg.
Meanwhile, over at the department education, Margaret Spellings will be the new secretary there. Still others expected to be confirmed—or leaving, rather—the administration include Tom Ridge, the first ever directed of Homeland Security, and U.S. Trade Representative Bob Zoellick.
So, Mort, a lot of new faces coming in to the Bush Cabinet? What do you think of these names, good choices?
MORT ZUCKERMAN, EDITOR IN CHIEF, “U.S. NEWS & WORLD REPORT”: Yes, I think they are good choices.
And I think the president clearly wants to reinvigorate his administration by getting fresh leadership to the top, which will have new energy, new ideas and hopefully a more compatible administration. particularly in foreign policy. You really had a dysfunctional administration with the State Department, to put it mildly, being completely unenthusiastic about most of the president’s programs, particularly vis-a-vis Iraq, but going beyond that.
And I think now he wants to have an administration that can work together and therefore more effectively around the world. And I think he’s right.
CROWLEY: Now, along those lines, Mort, the president has also indicated a desire to possibly shake up his economic team. Is that also a good idea?
Yes, I think it is. To be candid, his economic team, particularly his secretary of the treasury, who is a very fine man, is simply not up to the kind of task that we in this country are now facing, particularly with the potential of a lot of countries losing confidence the dollar and crashing the dollar. Somebody’s got to have real confidence in the economic stewardship of this country. And I think we need new leadership in that regard.
And the president has very ambitious programs, both with the Social Security reform and tax reform that is going to need extraordinary political leadership, people who have a great deal of credibility with the Congress. And so he’s going to have find somebody really unique and important in the position of secretary of the treasury.
CROWLEY: Amy Goodman, let me go to you, because you see some of the same names here that we’ve been bandying about here with Mort. What direction do you think President Bush is going to move in, in his second term based on the new personnel?
AMY GOODMAN, HOST, “DEMOCRACY NOW”: First of all, he is surrounding himself with yes men and women, moving to his inner most circle, appointing them to be his Cabinet members. Very concerned about Alberto Gonzales. Here is a man who has been nominated to be the attorney general who was really laying the legal groundwork for what we saw at Abu Ghraib, the torture scandal, the detainees at Guantanamo Bay, saying that the Geneva Conventions are irrelevant or quaint.
This is a very sad comment, certainly not going in the direction of peace.
GOODMAN: Awarding those who were involved with these egregious human rights violations.
CROWLEY: The names that I read to you of those that the president is putting up in the second term here include a lot of women and a lot of minorities. So you have to admit that there’s a lot of positive diversity in this second term Cabinet.
GOODMAN: I’m looking at whether they represent a diversity of opinion. They represent a consolidation of the drumbeat for war and violations of human rights, because what we saw at Abu Ghraib, what we’re seeing in Guantanamo, these are very serious violations.
And Alberto Gonzales was at the heart of them. Then you take someone like Condoleezza Rice as secretary of state, and replacing her, Stephen Hadley, her deputy, as national security adviser. These were people who involved from the beginning in misleading the American people, in lying about the weapons of mass destruction.
CROWLEY: I have to stop you there, Amy, because I’ve heard this over and over again. The American people rejected that argument on November 2. They do not believe that the president or his administration lied to them about of weapons of mass destruction and a number of other issues that you raise.
Mort, let me go to you, because lot of the critics of President Bush say that—just what Amy says, that he’s choosing yes men in his Cabinet. And I say, well, why not? Karl Rove had a great quote about this. See—by the way, Karl Rove is the man that President Bush refers to as the architect. He sees it differently. He said—quote—“We’re people who go at other all the time and hard. The president likes advisers who are comfortable enough in their own skin to do that. And we do.”
What is wrong with the president choosing a Cabinet, being surrounded by people he trusts, great advisers who are going those come to him with competing viewpoints? Isn’t that what the president needs? And also doesn’t he need Cabinet support for his own policies?
ZUCKERMAN: You know, I’m reminded of President Kennedy, who selected his brother for attorney general, saying, basically, he needs legal experience.
I mean, we are always talking about presidents who want to have people who are compatible with them. I don’t believe for a second that people like Stephen Hadley or Condi Rice are just going to be yes men to this president. It’s nonsense if you know these people. There’s no doubt but that there is consensus that emerged. What happened was that, when the consensus emerged within the administration, the State Department people, who, frankly, didn’t share that view, but they were—part of their job was to go out and persuade other countries.
And you can’t persuade other countries when you don’t believe in those programs or, as Tom Friedman said about Colin Powell, he goes around selling these programs with raised eyebrows, basically saying, this isn’t what I really believe in, but it’s what I have to do. You can’t work effectively that way. So I understand why the president is doing it.
And I don’t think these people will hesitate to express contrasting views. Whether their views are the right views, what they ultimately come to, will have to stand the test of time and indeed the test of you say his legacy. But these are all very competent people. And I have no doubt but that they will give all the contrary views that are necessary to formulate policy.
CROWLEY: Well, Mort, I want to address the question of the president’s legacy heading into the second term. It’s sort of two-pronged approach here.
One is the war on terror. And one is something that Karl Rove and the president refer to as the ownership society theme. What do you think will be seeing in terms of both the war on terror and ownership society?
ZUCKERMAN: Well, certainly with respect to the war on terror, I think this president absolutely believes that this is his primary mission as president of the United States, which he would define literally as protecting the American public, because if we do have several more mega-terrorist attacks in this country, this country will go through a transformation that I wouldn’t like my daughter to grow up in.
So I do think this is something that is really critical. And he’s absolutely committed to it. And it’s not only something that he believes in. He believes that the fight on the war on terror and the fight for democracy is inherently just. So I think he’s got a double sort of ambition and motivation.
And, frankly, I think this was probably the single most important issue on which he was elected. Now, with respect to the—quote, unquote “ownership society,” that is very different kettle of fish, because we are in a position in my judgment where we are facing huge fiscal deficits. And if the ownership society means that you drain the fiscal side of the federal government and deepen the fiscal hole, then I think we’re building ourselves into a huge problem that is going to explode some time in the next half dozen years. And that is something I think we have to look at very, very carefully.
CROWLEY: Amy Goodman, part of what the president means by an ownership society, he’s talking about making the tax cuts permanent, tax reform, as well as Social Security reform, giving folks the opportunity to take some of their own money, be responsible for it, not let the government have total control over their money.
Do you think—and the president had some success in getting two waves of tax cuts through in his first term. Do you expect that the Democrats might support some of these initiatives?
GOODMAN: Well, first of all, I agree with Mort Zuckerman that he’s going to need some pretty extraordinary people when it comes to his economic team, when we’re talking about some of the greatest disparities between wealth, those who have money and those who don’t, increasing, and the president having to convince the American people that the richest people in our society deserve to get even richer.
Yes, he’s going to need some pretty extraordinary people to convince the American people of that.
CROWLEY: Well, the Democrats went along for the most part in the Congress with the first wave of tax cuts.
GOODMAN: I agree with you there.
CROWLEY: So I think the Democrats may in fact go along with making the tax cuts permanent.
GOODMAN: I agree with you there.
CROWLEY: All right.
GOODMAN: And I think the real problem there on the Democrats is that we really need an opposition party and not Democrats who will also be yes men for the Republicans.
CROWLEY: Well, I’m sure a lot of Democrats are saying amen to that, Amy. Thank you very much for being with us tonight.
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