tv Tavis Smiley PBS September 6, 2012 12:00am-12:30am EDT
>> charlie:thank you. >> charlie:we continue this even with john poa did he say tow chief of staff transition team 4 years ago. currently the chair of center for american progress. al hunt yoins you for this discussion as well as a number of others as we explore what is happening to the democrats in charlotte. so welcome to both of you. it's great to have you here. we congratulated mr. hunt last night. >> 40 years in 0 covering conventions. a number of people thought it was my birthday so i accepted congratulations for my frt birth at a. >> charlie:what i want to know what was your age the first convention. >> i was 29. >> charlie:40 years ago, was it. >> yes it was. >> i got you beat. >> charlie:how has it changed? >> well, it's changed first of all in the media. in the old days television covered it gavel to gavel.
in one of two there was some suspense going in 1966 you didn't know if ford or reagan was going to win. wasn't tightly scripted as they are now. i still love it. this is a gathering of mitt co-s all over the america. >> plumbers with have their convention. >> exactly why shouldn't politicians. you meet interesting people. i'm sure they can trade notes. a state rep from oregon and alabama have interesting things to talk about. >> charlie:john what do you get out of this. >> i have al beat mother of all conventions 1968 chicago convention. >> that's where i started runner for new york times driving a car back and forth. >> predictable results '72 wasn't much better with mcgovern 2:38 a.m. >> let's start with this idea.
you have seen bill clinton today. >> yeah. >> charlie:what's it like to watch him prepare a speech and how does he approach this process. >> i think he's been thinking about it for a very long time, reading a lot thinking about what he needs to do. i think he's -- he prepared a draft of his speech and he's working on it through the day. >> charlie:he wrote it himself? >> yes. >> charlie:did he start with someone else's and add to it. >> wrote it himself. working with a few of his advisors try to trim it and make heur it gets close to the time allotted for the. >> charlie:between the time start to trim and end up with teleprompter. >> i remember i was with him in 2004, we were editing speeches, driving from the hotel he was saying in cambridge to boston gardens in boston with his now
key aid justin sit you go on the back of the suv with computer on his lap way back of the suv doing the changes. but he gave one of the great speeches at that convention. i think tonight he's going to thrifer a really great performance -- >> charlie:by the time my audience sees this he will have made that. we're typing in the after it is noon so i can be at the speech. what is it important for him to do? >> what's really critical is for him to frame the choice about what this election is about, two very, very different views and approaches to the us economy. he has credibility about what works and what doesn't. i think he can remind people about what has worked for them in the past and set a path for the future. i think one of the things he will do is spend his time
talking about the challenges that president obama faced, the way he responded to them, why those were the right choices for the american people and why we need to stick with an economic program that builds on again what he tried to do in office with success and i think what president obama is trying to do equally. we haven't felt it as much as we need to but i think it will build success. >> charlie, let's think about four years ago today. 4 years ago today bill clinton was a con troa verse yal and i would say somewhat discredited figure within the democratic party. difficult primary struggle between barack obama and hillary clinton. there was really animosity between the obama camp and clinton camp and he was not a happy person at that time, at least he wasn't meap politically. you talk about resilience. you talk about -- i mean this is remarkable.
he really was down and four years later he is critical, he's a validate tor for barack obama. let's go back tor where i was. republicans weren't quite as generous in the '90s in their support for bill clinton nowl saying let's go back to the clinton years. >> one thing i disagree i don't think he was discredited. remember when he came into the hall in denver, i think the democratic party enl e embraced him. they remembered he had been successful two term president brought the democratic party back, created a strategy that eliminated some of the problems that the democratic party had can -- 1980s and i think they embraced him. there was obviously tension and sore feelings between the obama and the -- >> charlie:i think you're right. >> it was an unhappy time for
him freur years ago. a moment of great triumph. >> important for the united states was elect barack obama. >> charlie:how would you define the relationship other than they need each other. >> i think they have genuine respect for each other. they talk more than you think. i think that was a process that built up after what was a contentious set of primaries. but i think from the moment that president obama got into office, president clinton really tried to do his best to support him when they reached out he always helped. >> charlie:that's not necessarily the story you hear, john. people say that the president has said -- former president he got more phone calls from george bush than he did from barack obama in the first year or 2. >> i think if you asked him that question today he would say they have a very serious, respectful relationship and they talk and they. >> charlie:but the point is what people around him say and
people who know his thoughts said. >> a lot of people like to trade in that kind of gossip. but i know the reality. the reality is, you know, barack obama picked hillary clinton to be secretary of state of the united states. she has done a wonderful job. president clinton respects that relationship between secretary clinton and the president and i think they've warmed up to each other. they not only get along but i think they really do share ideas and try to talk about strategies. >> charlie:do you think if hillary clinton had been in the senate tanned not joined the obama administration that she might have considered challenging him? >> no. i don't think there was room in the party in 20 wurn 2 to challenge him. saw nothing develop in that way. it was not like 1980 where democrats felt that a wide swath
of democrats felt hike we had to change horses. that wasn't true this time. there was some tis appoint by some elements of the party. early on obama rallied hem beginning last fall and through the course of the spring and i think you see the entheuz yasm in the convention hall. compare it to has you saul in tampa for governor romney where you would think they would come in pumped up thinking they could win this thing and that was the flattest convention i witnessed. >> charlie:is there strategy if he wins re-election ma yort make it work this time that he could not make it work. ram emmanuel said at election results will change dynamics. >> i think that's right. mandate you get will change things the with the fighting gingrich congress shutting the government down. budget framework teal in 1997
after the president was re-elected. there's something else at issue this year that wasn't true in that period under clinton, which is that you have all these expiration tion of the tax cuts, sequester, et cetera gives the president enormous power because the outcome of the just say no strategy of the house republicans to do anything to try to defeat him results in a an outcome they don't want, which is tax cuts going up across the board. i might argue that what that would be would be restoration to the clinton tax code which was pretty good in the beginning. in the short term that will be a major hit on the us economy and something they don't want. deep cuts in defense which they claim not to want although they voted in august of 2011. i think they don't want that outcome. they're in a very different position than 2011. they're going to have to negotiate with him.
he has the upper hand and leverage. >> charlie:how will people define this election as they leave these conventions. >> i think this has been a good convention so far for the democrats. i expect barack obama will have a good speech thursday night. the country is evenly divided. stronger democratic candidate. maybe a slight edge to obama that way until november 6. i want to pick up on what john said. model of 1996 is an interesting one. i think it was a different republican party even than it was 16 years ago which complicates the matter the on obama's part if he should be re-elected, he has to reach out more. roosevelt had he was re-elected in 1940, granted he was going into a war, brought republicans into that cabinet. he have has got to put together a cabinet base of the democratic party is going to be a little bit edgy about.
>> charlie:why didn't he do that in the first term, john. >> he made some choices. he kept gaits in secretary of defense for. >> charlie:he pt. >> he tried to get jed greg. >> secretary of the army was republican. he tried to do that. he tried to get jud greg. i don't know if ron is still taking credit for that. >> a thousand feet fathers --sk. i think he tried -- he tried to put together balance in the cabinet. i think one of the things that happened with the result of the -- some people kind of falling by the wayside during the course of the con fir may go process was we did end up people with not strong business experience in the cabinet. and i think he's tried to rectify that. >> charlie:that was a
no-brainer at the time. >> a no-brainer to do that? >> charlie:yeah. >> i think he was looking for the best people who could solve what was really. >> charlie:he has such a resounding victory and a whole range of people could have chosen. he knew a lot of people well judged in the business community. >> yeah. >> charlie:so -- >> lousy transiks director. >> i blame it all on that.charlu have and your experience as transition director, what would you do differently? >> well, i think that when we were preparing for the transition, we ksh and i think really if you look at it from the outgoing administration's perspective as well, in the early part of that process, the focus was on to some extent the transition with wars in iraq and afghanistan. we quickly got on to the
economy. the process of building the work for building the recovery act was monumental and it occurred quite rapidly and i think the one question that i still wrestle with in my mind is, did -- we were in the process of doing a lot of different things and the repeat idaholy with which the recovery act went through and sort of getting away from it i think didn't really help educate the public about what they were likely to experience and what the story line and narrative was. so we kind of -- the administration kind of moved on quickly to other priorities which we had prepared in the administration particularly the health care. in retrospect we didn't have good answers to the housing crisis and we didn't stay on
that economic argument about job creation long enough really. >> charlie:back in a moment. stay with us krsmght we continuel analysis. john harris of politico and jeff disel any of the new york times. i'm meesed to of them here. where are we in terms of democratic party having a remarkable speech by the first lady and also mayor castro, bill clinton will speak tonight before we do this. we can expect him to do what he always does, to lay out the choices and make the case for barack obama and tomorrow night the president speaks. someone said today if the rest of this convention as successful as the first lady's speech, the democrats come out of this on the march. >> that make sense to you? >> it does within limits.
let's face it, there's really only two speeches sat these conventions that matter a lot, the nominee speeches. keynote addresses are useful. bill clinton is going to be entertaining probably helpful in making the kales. this is obama's convention. i do think it has been effective tort democrats they are only giving their answer to the charge we have been heard again and again speakers in tam tampa. president obama gaf you didn't build t his point was everybody we built this together any successful person is successful because it's in the context of opportunity. republicans hammered him on that. i think what we're hearing from the first lady, from mayor castro. we're going to hear it from bill clinton they're answer. we believe in success, we also believe in prosperity, we are in
favor of everybody getting rich but rerve has to together krrchght someone that was in the first lady's speech, if we are lucky and successful by hard work -- >> all these have been out there have been more owe fecttive than president obama often is in making this case. i think he often falls into language that sets him up for this character that really he is hostile to free enterprise, not in favor of success or people having the opportunity to get rich. that's a widespread belief in the republican party, widespread belief of many businessment those who backed him in 2008. bill clinton never really faced that. he had a different language a-different way of making arguments that allowed him to favor progressive policies but not be seen as hostile to private success.
>> charlie:why do you think that is, jim, if you agree with it. >> i'm not sure he's hostiles''s perfect soafd. if you talk to business people even those who supported him in 2008 and there is a long roster of people who gave money to him, inspired by him in 208 now are not with him, they think his background does not have anything in it that comes from the entrepreneurial side. he's largely been in the academic world and government world. i'm not sure he is as antibusiness but allowed himself to be branded like that. one thing that's interesting about former president bill clinton i think john is absolutely right. he just has never had to face anything like that. he's able to -- his argument about the middle class is probably going to be the most effective sales pitch that this president can use for the next 60 days. if he was ahead or if he was
sort of comfortable in this race, i don't think we would see bill clinton in such a marqued position. his argument he says it better than anyone else and aagree with john also. i think the first lady's speech was tw good as any like that could be. the hall absolutely loved t i think the president's speech on thursday night is really the only one that matters here. something would have to go terribly wrong with president clintons for it. >> charlie:what are the obama people including the president and his campaign staff in chicago worried about? what is their fear at the end of the day? >> i think they're worried about what's going to happen friday morning. 9 hours after he finishes giving his acceptance speech, the latest job report comes out. there are things outside their immediate control that's one of them the three jobs reports that come out before election day. they're worried about the economy getting away from them
and them not being able to keep this race stable. their main plan from here to the next 60 days is to cope things as stable as possible, keep hammering mitt romney on trying to win over this middle class argument. but if there's bad jobs report no. on friday, if things get worse in that respect, gas prices go up, these things out of the president's control that's a problem. if that race turns psychologically and mitt romney gets in the driver's seat it will be hard to get back krrchlt how would you define what the choice the voters want to make. >> i think what voters who are unhappy with things right now are trying to think -- all the voter interviews we do they're not sure how big of a risk they want to take. they sort of know what president oa bama means for them and has done for them but they're not sure if they want to take a leap over to someone new, starting all over again at this.
the obama. >> charlie:bird in hand thing. >> right the obama campaign would say that's risky. the romney would say not risky at all. if taw talk range of motion nim advise rors the convention last week was improving the connection with voters making him look for how many an real. now they have to go the next step and say what he would do. john is right. it's to fire him, hire him. i think everyone got the fire part. the hire part is still in progress. >> charlie:they couldn't do it at their convention because they had to humanize him, they had to introduce him, which is remarkable because you saw that very good biography film of him which many people said should have been on the air a long time ago. >> right. >> charlie:that whole convention was more about him except for ryan's speech, introducing him -- >> i thought it was surprising
omissioning, it's not my job to say whether it's a missed opportunity or not, there was not much policy -- >> charlie:is this election row mind you of any other? is it 2004? >> it's either 1980 or 2004. >> charlie:80 would be reagan. >> in many ways it's different than 2004 because national security is something we have not heard anything about. that's one of the things that's the most strike to go me. we're still not that far after 9-11 and it was absent from the republican convention. you can say if governor romney should have mentioned in his speech. beside that, it's not being discussed. if president obama wins, i think it looks like 2004. if he loses it locks like 1980. >> charlie:2004 was about towrnout. >> it was bush campaign maximummed their turn outeverywhere. similar strains obama is trying
do organizing early states like ohio maximize and find new voters. 204 -- the ways. expand their voting pool over 2000. a lot of their supporters didn't show up. this is exactly about expanding the base. that's why you see so much voter registration going on. they're trying to draw new voters on to the obama side, african americans, latinos. they're trying to make it like 2004. >> charlie:the romney people think they can minimize where the levels of women for obama is today? >> i don't think that they feel they can change that a lot but i do think -- this election isn't about moving large numbers of voters. >> charlie:is that where they think they have to change it? >> i think it is. they feel and i think the obama people wouldn't argue with this that the critical group of older
white men are simply lost to obama. >> to romney. >> older white men. >> lost to the president. >> by the president. >> wives and daughters are willing still to entertain a vote for the president. >> charlie:i would assume the president would talk about foreign policy, wouldn't you. >> i would be stunned if he didn't. >> charlie:me too. not oam because of the contrast but they believe they are run ong a record of success. >> he's the president of the united states. i think it would be irresponsible not to. >> i think it was shocking omission for romney. i thought fred hide's column in washington post was right on. we have a hot war going on right now in the month of august. i think close to 60 people, 60 americans died in afghanistan. >> charlie:did they have an explanation for that? >> the oam explanation he talked about it the day before in a
speech in minneapolis. no one saw t most reporters didn't see. >> charlie:someone said one mention of afghanistan. >> i think that's right. it's not a popular topic even in that room con vengs with these delegates. spending is such a concern. too much money isn't spent on the war. it wouldn't have been a upon lar thing. i still think he could have thanked the troops for their service. that's not controversial. that's a patriotic thing to do. i think it's one of those mysteries of the convention almost as mysterious as clint eastwood he's the only one that mentioned afghanistan on that final evening. >> charlie:how does that the obama team feel about rekindling of 2008. i heard we don't expect to weunder stand. it's much tougher race than 208
and they had a lot of things going for them in 208 they don't have in 2012 including the tenure in office. do they believe somehow they will be able to come out of this convention with a bit of a remembrance of that? >> i think jeff put it well, or phrase you used remembrance, oh yeah i remember why i like this guy. i don't think they're overly obsessed with rekindling 2008. last couple of years there was internal dea bait and disagreement within the obama camp. how do we preserve obama brand. are we doing things that might risk it by being negative or super pac money those debates are put to rest. forget about the obama brand. do what'sness necessary to rin. a. >> a point we're make inning
political, when you come to permanent attacks both campaigns responsible for negativity of the campaign. both equally to blame. when you talk about personal criticisms, basically trying to tear down the viability of the other candidate in the way that george w. bush inventory down john kerry's credibility, really it's pretty one one sided. the obama campaign does much more than that than the romney campaign. >> charlie:successfully? >> i think fair suck set. >> charlie:primarily bain capital. >> bain capital with romney's. >> charlie:the theme i saw so much coming out of the speeches so far is that he's not like you. >> well he's not seen dramatically in the polls, 20 percent gap. krrchlt he doesn't care about you. he's not of you have. he doesn't understand you. that's the thing they hammer.
>> it's a wide gap. if thre a hammering at it that means it's getting traction. >> try to close in tampa and i think we will see you in the polls next few weeks or so what success they have had. >> i think they're trying niek people por frightened about the prospect of romney presidency. some months ago democrats and he wouldn't do anything dramatic. trying to scare people in the sense he wouldn't have your back, economic interest at heart. i was struck on the first night of the convention of the relentless attacks on his wealth. almost in every speech that was sort of a subtext. class warfare to a high tee gree. >> charlie:even though welt thy democrats on the stage. >> figment in the sky boxes. >> if you ask what the obama people are afraid of.
i've been struck what they're not afraid of. issues that obama and democrats used to treat very defensively like an unexploded bomb. tossing the bomb back and forth. doesn't bother tomorrow talk openly for equal rights. several speeches have mentioned. abortion issues used to be very under the table. they have been very explicit in saying one of the dividing lines is willingness to fight for women's reproductive rights. >> charlie:because they think those issues their time as come? >> i'm not sure it's that or the election is so divided and really the question of this election is, which side are you on? on the side of people like us or people like them? >> but democrats used to think they succeeded by sort of blurring those lines. that's what bill clinton did
effectively. >> even barack obama. >> in 2008. this is not a 2008 style election but 2004, which side are you on. >> charlie:can you make an argument that they have a very different idea of where america is and where it's going, that the president believes and his team when they look at the reality of america today the increasing numbers of hispanics, increasing, the demographic picture of america, it's on their side? >> they think that. >> and a lot republicans. a lot of smartest republicans extra teejist not this one but long term worry about that. >> charlie:republican party ends up a party of reflection of white america essentially. >> older whiter male america. you cannot put together a long-term winning party on that coalition. >> and mathematically they're