tv Charlie Rose Bloomberg January 21, 2015 10:00pm-11:01pm EST
tonight, barack obama delivered the sixth state of the union address. high approval ratings have created a wave of optimism since elections in november. he highlighted that progress and laid out a vision for his last two years in office. >> at this moment, with a growing economy and shrinking deficits, bustling industry, we have risen from recession freer to write our own future than any other nation on earth. it is up to us to choose
who we want to be for decades to come. middle class economics works. these policies will continue to work as long as politics do not get any way. in iraq and syria, american
leadership including our
military power is stopping isil's in advance. we are leading a broad coalition including arab nations. tonight, i call on this congress to show the world we are united in this mission by passing a resolution to authorize the use of force against isil. i urge this congress to better meet the threat of cyber attacks and protect our children's information. >> joining me from washington is david sanger. walter isaacson, president of the aspen institute. doris kearns goodwin. john dickerson.
al hunt of bloomberg news. also joining me from the set mark halperin and john heilemann. david brooks will join us later. i am pleased to have all of you here. an assessment of what the president calls the final quarter of his presidency. al hunt, reaction to the state of the union? >> charlie, this was a guy 11 weeks ago who suffered a disastrous electoral defeat. and yet tonight, i think he gave one of the best speeches of his presidency. i think he was confident, he did not give a laundry list of 28 different programs. he struck a good balance between a populist rhetoric and also
stressed values. i think he did it remarkably -- it was remarkably effective. >> even if his intent is to get things done. >> at of the there is much he will get done career that is always the case in this cycle. bill clinton, george w. bush andrew jackson -- i will defer to john on that. this is not a cycle where you get much done. >> the point is to reassert the debate. >> the debate will take place over the next two years. i think he set the predicates that is very advantageous for democrats. this is a 15 round fight and this is only round one. >> i think there has been a vacuum of leadership.
i think he reasserted himself into the leadership role and inserted himself into the debate. he seemed to have fun tonight, which we have not seen him do for a while. the cadence of his voice went up and down, he smiled a few times. he made spontaneous gestures. he was at the center of attention. everybody's watching him. you are that when you are president. he filled that role more than he has at other times. it means without leadership exercise back -- people were complaining, where is the leader -- he may have a greater chance to shape what happens rhetorically. for the 2016 campaign and for his legacy. >> john dickerson in iowa? >> charlie, the state of the
union is a perfect example of the constraints of the presidency on a president who thought he would come in and to be a little bit more freewheeling. lighter on his feet. if you just look at the speech he gave, he took care of the compulsory stuff in the previous two weeks. the laundry lists. his new programs. he mentioned them tonight but he did not have to freight his speech with that. he had a narrative arc to his speech. he returned to the storytelling that was part of his 2008 campaign. this was an attempt for the president with all the constraints, the lame-duck facing a congress that for the first time his republican in the house and senate, for all the constraints, this was him trying to show his freewheeling side. he probably did as best as he could.
the republicans, many of them in the house for the first time are there because they think the voters sent them to repudiate the president's policies. the president was saying the verdict was in and the policies had succeeded. >> jon meacham? >> one reason he told stories is because he cannot get anything past. >> it was the first time he has faced a congress controlled by the republicans. >> most in the house since hoover. much more like the first bush than anybody. there are two visions of the presidency. one, a communicator in chief. he very much played that role. an interesting conversation about a lot of the issues that matter most to people. then there is the legislator in chief which is going to be difficult.
he spoke incredibly well. the question is how much rhetoric becomes action. >> walter? >> he confidently captured the historic narrative. it was a clear and compelling narrative which we have come out of the devastating greatly stress and -- great recession and a great way, but it has mainly benefited the top earners. you have to help the middle class and we all have to share any prosperity. it was very historic. you can go back to what doris kearns goodwin wrote about a century ago, when went from agricultural to an industrial economy. we made it free. or land grant colleges. that is what the speech was about.
>> what struck me, the cadence of the speech was more like what you have heard on the campaign trail in 2008. an optimistic view of america. if you think back to the previous state of the union speeches, many of them were to extort the united states to get its competitive edge back. i looked back at the 2011 speech. he talked about our sputnik moment, where he thought the u.s. had a moment to compete with the chinese. in rail and energy and so forth. instead, this time, he said, we are ahead. we are producing more oil and gas than we have before. we are freer of foreign imports. manufacturing jobs are back.
he is saying, this is the moment that you have been waiting for. how do you build on it? the only false note i thought i detected was in his description of the islamic state. he portrayed the islamic state as on the run from the american attacks that started last summer. i think there is a fair bit of reason to question whether the attacks have been as effective as you might have thought listening to the speech. >> mark halperin and john heilemann. >> go back to .5 months ago. the president, coming off the midterms, was neither liked or respected enough in washington to get anything done. somewhat through luck, but i
think mostly by design, the president comes and tonight or out of tonight with an improved economy, higher approval. some executive action that showed forward momentum. an agenda that is significantly more popular with the american people than the republican congress and presidential candidates are offering. he is not better liked. i thought some of the things he said would not do anything to improve his relationship with republicans. but he is more powerful. he has more political capital than he had 2.5 months ago. that could lead to republicans doing business with him in the last two years. >> mark? >> the thing about this speech is how surprising it was. it was a triumphal speech in a
lot of ways. the idea that a president heading into his seventh year, would have been triumphal, is shocking. so much has to do with the economy. this is the first time he has been able to stand up in a state wage growth is too slow, there is still income inequality. but many things are soaring right now. he was able to come in with the wind at his back to a degree no one could have anticipated. we talk all the time about narrative and the power of narrative. i saw more than anything, people want to to write a story about him in november and december. he has moved with forced to say, i may not be the only author of my story, but i am still the
author of my story and i'm going to try to write this thing the way i want it written. i'm not going to become irrelevant and controlled by republicans in congress or the larger forces around me. i am still here to play. >> let me ask all of you this. how does this set up the debate we will see? asking for tax increases on the financial community and wealthy individuals. on the capital gains tax. and asking for tax cuts that will benefit the middle income who have been suffering. who is on what part of the debate? >> i will be stunned if he gets any of that. but he has put republicans on the defensive on that. i said it was a more popular speech in turn with the times. >> in tune with elizabeth warren? >> there were focus groups in
denver colorado. the populist outpouring -- people think the economic recovery has been unfair. there is an anti-wall street sentiment. he captured some of that. i think he does put republicans on the defensive. they are not going to have a capital gains increase or some of the tax proposals he offered. they may get some things on education and a few things on childcare. he has taken control of the debate. >> he speaks with one voice. >> he is not a popular figure among a lot of congressional democrats. they say he was a different barack obama. he stuck it right back to them. they thought that the attitude and confidence was different than before.
he feels a bit liberated by the election. this is a culmination of the last 60 days. bill clinton sulked after losing. >> harry truman said of andrew jackson, he looked after the little fellow who had no poll. one question about all of this to spin ahead two years, to what extent will the democratic
victory in 2016 be attached to how the president conducts himself? >> is there anything that might happen in the remaining quarter, as he characterizes it, that offers the possibility of enhancing his legacy? >> i think his legacy is going to depend on taking an economic recovery and save, i get up every morning and care about people like you. i think he can get a lot done not just by persuading republicans but by persuading most voters and americans that this is fair. even to say that a guy or gal who earns a biweekly paycheck should not pay higher tax rates than people who get it through dividends or capital gains. that is something you can sell at a time of great growing prosperity, where it has not been fairly shared. people always say, he says he is best in the fourth quarter of his basketball games.
the fact that he is coming out shooting is wonderful. >> you are going to say? >> he is feeling a sense this is the marker for the beginning of the legacy. churchill said history will teach me well because i intend to write it. he knows he has talked about economic justice. this was not a new theme tonight. it is something he has argued every time you look back at the past state of the unions. with the economy strong. he has the chance to make that argument. if he can keep hammering that home, that should be the theme of the democrats in 2016. he can say he brought around a recession, almost the worsens the depression. we ended up at a time when many people were doing well. economy is not a word. it means they wake up in the morning and have a purpose, hope
for their future. their kid might be going to the community college. people know those are the presidents we know well upon that somehow expended social or economic justice. i don't think that it is just he is feeling the economy per se, he is feeling his sense of the future might be more engraved than it has seemed in these last couple of years. >> the greatest thing he can have for legacy is the implementation of obamacare successfully. what is good for him now is if the economy gets better, the republicans lose their strongest argument against the affordable care act which is it is ruining the economy. he is on the offense on tax issues. he is proposing things that favor 70-30 in favor. he is on offense and tax reform,
paying for community college. it is harder for republicans to undermine the affordable care act. that is where his legacy will be. >> i will add one thing. i think there is no question who succeeds him in 2016 is going to matter a lot. it is very hard for any party to hold the presidency for three terms. i don't think this is primary motivation in inventing some of these economic proposals that have very little chance of being enacted. at least part of his motivation is, he is putting republicans in a terrible position where they have to, in many cases they are going to be voicing opposition to programs that as mark said probably hold very much like 70-30, 80-20. that lays down a good path for
hillary clinton or the democratic nominee. he will advance the cause of his democratic potential successor in this way. getting that successor would mean a lot to preserving whatever legacy he has. >> david sanger, on foreign policy. with isis and isil, iran, where is the public and where is he in wanting to do this? he made a point he got us out of iraq and is slated to get us out of afghanistan. all of a sudden, we have him asking to engage in another middle east war. >> i thought one of the most artful parts of the speech was how he connected america's economic strength to its
strength abroad. he made the case that america would naturally be in the lead. you did not hear any hint of leading from behind. he built that on his argument that because we are producing our own oil, because we have our troops out of iraq and afghanistan, we are in a much better position to exercise power. he said to exercise it smartly. which meant not responding militarily to every provocation. isil does get in the way of that narrative to some degree. he made an argument that congress needed to authorize this use of force. only months after authorizing this was within the powers of the commander of chief.
where he had a much harder edge was in the discussion of iran. where he basically told congress to but out. >> on the sanctions. >> his biggest fear is a sanctions resolution, even sections going into effect after the deadline for these negotiations, would effectively give the hard-liners in iran who want to scuttle in negotiations the opportunity to do just that. this is a place where opponents of the negotiation in the congress and in iran have common ground. the president recognizes if he is going to have one big legacy beyond the cuba issue, it is going to have to be in trying to reach an agreement with iran. which he recognizes himself is less than a 50-50 shot. >> everybody here is come
lamenting the president and saying he is not going to get legislation out of this but he is going to be able to frame a debate. the question i have, it is obviously propelled because the economy is doing better. unemployment is down. we have had a good growth in the gdp last year for one quarter. could he have been this president earlier? did it take the midterm thumping, an economy that was beginning to show some force before he could be the person he was tonight? walter? >> i was big about doris's book about the bully pulpit. which teddy roosevelt -- he talks about the square deal for
the american people and goes on a whistle stop tour fighting for it. what you have now is obama unleashed. unleashed from a debilitating recession, unleashed from having to run for office again. ready to do things along the lines of the square deal that teddy roosevelt proposed a century ago. >> john dickerson, you are in iowa. >> a wonderful place to be. be. [laughter]they are all out here trying to figure that out even though the caucuses are a year away. when you talk to white house aides, they use the word liberated to talk about the president.
he does not have another election but he does not have to worry about democrat getting reelected. having said that, of course he cares about who the nominee is in 2016 and he wants that person to be the next president because that ensures his legacy. he feels liberated right now and the use that term all the time. on the economy, it is not just that it has improved. they see that the permafrost is thawing. people who have been suspicious of good economic news, that finally seems to be thawing a bit. 53% said the economy was good, up 13 point since october. the highest that number has been since 2007. people's feelings about their own income, the highest since 2007. there is some purchase for the argument that things have gotten better.
the president in his pitch was not only pitching items that would appeal to middle-class voters. 70-30 programs that are popular. they are inroads to that conversation. he's not only saying, i'm going to give you something you like i know enough to know you need help with childcare. you have two workers at home and you need a break for that. that community college can help you get that job you want. the argument is not just about policies but whether i understand has a politician what you are going through. he is trying to put republicans in a box by saying, i understand what they are going through. who do you understand? >> i think what was smart -- >> go ahead. >> i think what was smart about rolling up the policies beforehand and continuing after the speech, he said he is going to crisscross the country, is there is the media environment
he has to break through. or the fact that the world is on fire, there are terrorist things, shift our attention away? and the speech will just stand on its own? his speech is how to keep the fire, drive, within him and the administration. when people are thinking, where are we going next? we will be drawn like moths to light whoever the next nominees are. it cannot be a one night stand it has to be a continuing courting. >> i want to pick up on what jon meacham describes as a constrained populism. there are two elements in it. one is the improved economy. the second is a stunning piece
of data that larry summers who has never been accused of being a left wing radical published. if you take 1979, the same allocation of income in 2014. we did not redistribute at all the bottom 20% would have one trillion more dollars. the top 1% would have $1 trillion less. there has been an economic war in this country and the middle-class and poor have been losing. i think that is what produces this constrained populism and why the environment is different than it was 10-15 years ago. >> i think we change more. our angles of vision change. >> you think he is now who he was? >> i think he is a man who talks in narrative terms, turning the
page and writing a chapter. he lectured us on the pitfalls of politics. i think quoted himself approvingly, which was always a good sign. i wonder what the secretary of state was thinking. whenever you approvingly quote yourself, it is a sign of something. [laughter] as a great man once said. i think he is the man we elected. >> he is now the man we elected? we saw the man we elected? >> yes. i think there is a clintonian sense of finding issues that will work, and an immense amount of pride about what he has
accomplished and frustration about what the system will not let him do. >> that is what is interesting about the last 60 days. rather than saying the system will not let me do this, he has taken executive actions. >> this is a man that became president at age 44. he is a skillful . >> the question you asked before, could he have done this earlier, is an interesting one. one would have expected this kind of optimism and action coming right out of his reelection in 2012. it did not happen. he played small ball for two years. people were wondering why. that was the moment that he would seem to have something of
a mandate and he had one house in congress. one of the interesting historical questions about president obama will be whether this kind of optimistic approach, more populist approach, greater assertion of american leadership is something he could have done coming off of his reelection. instead, that time after his reelection will be defined more by drawing a redline about syria and then backing away from it. >> looking back at what happened after the second election, he put a lot of his hopes and passion into gun control. it is because the moment called for it. it seemed like he had the bully pulpit. and it got nowhere. starting out that second inaugural time, the second four years, feeling like i can't even begin something that 80% of the people want and i have all the
>> david brooks joins us from washington. everybody seems to believe that the president was in good form and sounded themes, which well not produce legislation to sign, was an effort to get to the forefront of the debate that right take place in the country and have something in his own arsenal to start the conversation. what did you think? >> i thought it was a good speech, one of the better state
of the union speeches thematically. the policy proposals were balanced. we have had this problem of wage stagnation dropped in our laps. for a long time, i thought neither party had an agenda commiserate with the problem. the democrats were just talking about hiking the minimum wage. they are beginning to have a phrase, middle class economics. there was a security part, a competitive part, and a skills part. there were policies can if you add them up, you get an agenda. i think it leads us straight to the french economy, but it is an agenda. i thought it was a good speech and interesting. psychologically, is how competitive the guy is. for those of us hanging around the white house, they could have picked the six things they kind of agree on with republicans. they picked the eight things where they are pulling strongly and said let's hammer the
republicans. the revealing moment when the republicans applauded. and he said, i beat you guys twice. that was basketball court trash talk. [laughter] that is also who he is. the bipartisanship, that is part of him. but the trash talk is part of him. >> you have also said he does not lack confidence. >> or competitiveness. he is probably the most competitive person on the earth outside of michael jordan. that was there. >> it was interesting, the wistfulness he quoted from 10 years ago. we are not a red nation or a blue nation. that plays into what david brooks is saying. that is the failure of his presidency and his reelection. he thought maybe he could
overcome that. the partisan divide. which has actually become worse. ezra klein has an interesting piece where he says we are not like a family or business and government. we are kind of like football teams and we just keep -- and each other to we just keep -- and we just keep bashing each other to score points. he was wistful that that was not something he could of congress to get out of that. >> you wrote that he has given up on this idea. that he could somehow, after winning in 2008, that he could somehow finding the common
ground. do all of this. he was so discouraged that he had gone back to maybe were his roots where and competitiveness was. i add to that this notion that he was enormously depressed not to be able to participate in the midterm elections and carry forward things he believed in. he was left to be the person nobody wanted to talk about except the republicans were running against him. >> i didn't mean to say he would not want to do bipartisan -- i think he is kind of wistful and would like to do it. >> i'm not suggesting he does not believe it is possible. >> i think it is possible but i am an optimist. i know people around the president think, it is possible. there's a lot of common ground we could find.
>> he gave a very shrewd diagnosis of partisan america circa 2015. he dubbed about the base fundraising, the environment. cable shows talking at each other. he spoke to me, he had a full on intellectual appreciation of the problem. the solution has eluded him as it has eluded all of us. the truly great president will be the one that can break out of the tired pattern. >> i'm not sure you can do that. what doris said it earlier. some of this is timing. he began his second term with gun control and immigration. they had a chance, getting it through the senate. he could not have taken his executive action two years earlier because he had not give the system a chance. he gave it a chance and found it could not work. he was naive and think suddenly the system was going to change.
it is not just under obama. it had not worked in this sense for a while. >> he believed he could. >> he did. it was naive. >> doris first. >> if the system itself has hardened, which i think the political culture has, maybe it is possible to ask for an individual. that is where you need pressure coming from the outside into force action. if you think about where real social change has taken place, it is not when the guy at the top says let's do great things. it is when you have a civil rights movement or an antislavery movement. it is that failure that we have not cut pushing up. he is a community organizer and he knows that. that is not mean the group is there.
without the outside groups mobilizing to push in on both parties from the outside, i am not sure what anybody could do until that gets stronger. he mentioned strengthening unions. that still remains a real problem for the left, until the unions get stronger. >> i think it has been a while since any white house they have believed they have willing partners on the other side. now when he president talks about those wistful days in boston when he talked about unity, i think that is a trap. if you look at this page, there was a lot of stuff where he might have been calling us all to our better natures but he was also kneeing republicans in the stomach. he put them in the box as being protectors of lobbyists. he said they were hypocrites on the minimum wage.
he threatened them with more vetoes, perhaps doris will fix me on this, than in any other state of the union. there was a lot of aggression and it was hidden under the veneer. the moment he was challenged, he boasted about beating the republicans twice. he did everything except refer to his rock hard abs. when he talks about, let's all get us together, that is to make the point it is the republicans who will not let us. >> i think you saw tonight what president obama is like with the strong economy. why did he not do this after the election? because the economy hemmed him in.
when the economy is weak, it is hard to make a proposal like that. arguing unions should be more powerful is a hard argument to make when the economy is weak. some of the arguments he has made to work with republicans, go out the window. just as we have never seen obama give a state of the union with an all republican congress, we have never seen him be president with a strong economy. >> walter and john and doris looking at presidents in the past, does obama remind you of anybody? are there lessons he could take as instructive for him as he pursues the last two years?
>> let doris start. >> i think the important thing to realize that two years is a long time. you look at reagan and what he was able to accomplish in his last two years. or franklin roosevelt, when he gave his 1939 state of the union address. it looked like he was not going to run for a third term any depression had not ended. everything changes with world war ii and he becomes the allied leader. his whole legacy is assured. not only could something happen and foreign policy, is a longer time than we think except for the ridiculous concentration on the election.
i think he can take solace from the thought that he has given himself -- maybe he has stretched out those two years. >> what he has done tonight is reframe the debate in a way that will be historically significant. the debate is now about, how can we help the middle class? how can we help people whose wages have stagnated? help the economy moving ahead where everyone gets to participate? once you make that the field of discussion, i will be dr. franklin sitting between the jeffersonians and hamiltonian's. what he did was start a college. it may not be perfect. more importantly, what that says is we are not going to be
talking about deficits which was the frame of the debate before. or how are we going to get out of the economic crisis? what we are going to have a battle on, and paul ryan and jeb bush and mitt romney are starting to join it, is how do we make sure the working person participates in the booming economy. by reframing the debate to be about that issue, that changes the historic landscape for the next two years and for the next 6 years. >> that seem to be obvious to me for a while. he said to david, he wanted to be remembered most for what he did for the middle class. the people he opened up to the middle class. this was said several years ago. the idea that developed in the
midterms was somehow people felt left behind by what was going on in washington. we saw a bit of that about what happened coming out of the recession of 2008. the way wall street was treated. they felt there was not enough earnest. that issue has been waiting for somebody to define a narrative. >> i would say i agree. the issue has been there. the agenda has not been there. i was asking obama, what are you going to do next term? give me a piece of your agenda. they did not have an answer. parties think slowly. the party has come up with an agenda or the republicans are behind because they do not have the presidency. you look at the speeches that marco rubio is giving, they are coming up with their own agenda. we are seeing the agendas harden.
this is the debate. i would liken it to the president doris wrote about. there are areas where there is a structural problem in the economy and people have a debate about it. 1900 was that debate. and the debate in the late 18th century. between hamilton and jefferson. >> at least my guy did not get shot. [laughter] >> i think you are right. senator obama talked about the middle class in 2008. mark halperin was right when he said, what we are talking about is the change in the economy. he had lots of proposals. the american jobs act. they were swallowed the minute he said them.
some of the things he said before now have more solid structure underneath. the second part is republicans can no longer say, his policies have led to a bad economy. they have to offer proposals that are going to be turned into legislation that has to pass of houses of congress. they have to write in pen instead of pencil. that sharpens the debate. brings it into actual policies that can be measured. while doris is right that we are too early talking about 2016 that does provide an external pressure for republicans. they have to prove they can govern. that is going to put pressure on them to get things past.
that is one -- >> david? >> i was going to make a quick point, building on that, the absence of discussion about deficits which walter referred to before changes the landscape. this is a president that has spent the last two years dealing with a defense budget that is shrinking. he can make the case, yes, we have some breathing room. >> suppose hillary clinton is watching the state of the union tonight. what is she gleaning from it? don't all speak at once. >> she tweeted to say how good she thought the speech was. >> i don't think historically we had to go back very far to find
the model obama would be happy to follow which is clinton. if you would like to lead with bill clinton's approval rating, yes. if you take george w. bush out of it, eisenhower, reagan -- in reagan's second term, iran-contra was a life and boiling issue. let's not get too nostalgic. >> we talked about the deficit. the idea of entitlements and tax cuts, is that still at the
forefront of the debate? or will we be looking for a more creative narrative? >> i certainly hope so. you have to hope there will be some larger debate on the role of government, private enterprise. and how to deal with the problem that the republicans themselves have said the middle class struggling is a problem. one of the things, i kept looking at the various people in the audience. not just hillary clinton. so many saying, i hope that is me. that desire must fill the audience. to say, i want to be where he is. >> i want to thank you. john dickerson. walter isaacson. thank you for being here. the debate begins. thank you very much.