tv Hardball Weekend MSNBC December 29, 2013 4:00am-4:31am PST
the aca is here to stay and republicans don't know what to do about it. let's play "hardball." ♪ good evening. i'm michael smerconish in for chris matthews. leading off tonight, the republican vision to kill the affordable care act is itself on life support. after a defeat in october, when republicans followed the cruz wing into a kamikaze mission to shut down the government, there appears little appetite to try anything as brash as full repeal again, at least for now. on top of that the chaos of the law's initial rollout is at least dying down.
healthcare.gov is faring better. millions of people are signing up, including some who previously could not get coverage under this old broken system. success stories are starting to reverse what first looked like an unstoppable flood of bad news. even senator ron johnson, a tea partier from wisconsin is warning his party. he told "the new york times" that the affordable care act is, quote, no longer just a piece of paper you can repeal and it goes away. there's something there. we have to recognize that reality. before today, it was far easier for the far right to use the battle cry of repeal to drown out the fact that they didn't have any vision to replace it. but now they're faced with actually having to come up with some real ideas. and that's a daunting task. especially for a party in the midst of a civil war. why do you think they've avoided the issue all this time? as warren buffett is fond of saying, you never know who's swimming naked until the tide goes out. so now they face an internal battle. how to position itself via message, argument and tactics for the most important issue in
2014. health care. rick tyler is a republican strategist. jonathan allen is politico's white house bureau chief. rick, if i were to come to you as a perspective republican candidate, now that the affordable care act has been put into effect and people are getting insurance who heretofore couldn't get insurance, would your advice be to argue for repeal or reform? >> well, what i've been saying to all my candidates is the affordable care act, it can't work. it's a lead airplane. though people claim there are good things in it, i don't think it can be reformed. i think it has to be repealed. but what's going to happen is the republicans got ahead of themselves. the country needs to want to repeal it first. and we're getting closer to that. the affordable care act, despite the cold open here is as unpopular as ever. president obama is as unpopular as ever because of the affordable care act.
and the democrats lost their majority in the house in 2010 because of the affordable care act. i'm advising my clients run on the affordable care act and hope your opponent does too. >> but i'm confused. am i as your candidate, am i arguing for repeal, get rid of the whole thing or am i saying there are elements here that we should be reforming? >> well, there's two parts. you can't get to the nice elements people like which is portability, which is so-called affordability but it's not affordable. people like to keep their doctor. not going to be able to do that. they said you could keep your plan. so anything this administration tells you about this plan, i think you have to look at with a great deal of suspicion. what i've been saying on this network and others for three years now is republicans have got to have an alternative plan to obama care so people know what they're moving forward. yes, they want to repeal obama care, but they also want to know what they want to replace it with. and that's not -- >> jonathan allen, even if we
concede that republicans are wanting to reform the affordable care act, what would reform look like? to the question i was asking of rick, there are a handful of proposals floating around that "the new york times" looks at in a great article by jonathan weissman. called gop debates next move. but here's the thing. if you add them all up, you get a health care law that looks strangely familiar. here are the examples. senator ron johnson, a tea party republican from wisconsin, wants to keep the insurance exchanges. congressman tom price's plan wants to keep the provision that prevents health insurers from denying patients that have pre-existing conditions. a version of paul ryan's plan has a mandate by another name called automatic enrollments. and extend tax credits to help people subsidize their insurance costs. together they basically form the foundation of the affordable care act. hence my question to rick as a republican strategist of are they arguing for repeal or arguing for reform. what's your assessment,
jonathan? >> look, there are two huge problems for the republicans here in forming a battle plan to create an alternative. one is that the democrats took the big republican ideas and put them into obama care as you just noted. and then the second one is there's no agreement among republicans as to what replace would look like. what would you stand up in the place of obama care. and if you, in fact, got to that point where you started to detail it, i think you'd see a huge fracture in the republican party. right now from a political standpoint, the gop is doing well to stay together in terms of being in opposition to obama care. if it gets to the point where they have to be for something, i think you'll see the tensions and fractures come into the open. >> rick tyler, i'm again your candidate. and by the way, so far i don't feel like i'm getting elected. which of those proposals that we put on the screen would you advise me i should be supportive of? >> look, i'm not sure you have to pick any one particular proposal.
you have to articulate an alternative that people like. and so obama care -- look. obama care is not working. it's like a lead airplane. even though you have millions of people, all the people who are going to draw more out of the system than they'll put in. the whole way that obama care was to work in the first place is all these people didn't need health care. in other words, they wouldn't draw out of the system as much as the others. meaning they wouldn't draw out of the system as much as the others. they would put money in and it would be sustainable. that hasn't happened. and the president has removed all the requirements that would require them to be in the plan in the first place. so the whole thing is going to fail. there are lots of things you can do. you can put tax credits on the market. you can make sure that people can buy insurance from cross-state purchases. why should people in new jersey not buy a plan in iowa where they pay the least? there are things to do to bring down costs on health care. but it has to be -- >> i guess the point i want to make is -- and i personally
having enrolled through the affordable care act by the way within the last ten days -- i have concerns as to where the costs all end up. because if the young invincibles don't get into the pool. if that pool doesn't have a good mix of people. people are thinking it's the raw count that matters. it's the mix of the pool that's created. >> that's right. >> yeah. i have concerns about where this thing heads on a cost basis. that's why i'd like to see as many get in as possible. the criticism is a valid one of the gop plans. when you get beyond the sound byte, what have you got, what they say and most often sounds like elements of the affordable care act. rick, you can respond to that. >> but here's the problem. look, the affordable care act tries to put people in four different plans. i think they're iron, aluminum, tin, and rust. you can't put 300 million people into four plans. that's saying people can only live in four kinds of houses, four kinds of cars, four kinds of restaurants. only have four types of potato chips. look, that's never going to work. why not have --
>> i don't think that's fair. i don't think that's fair because my four categories actually entailed 24 different plans. i have a 25-year-old daughter who enrolled through new york. she had 77 different options. >> and if you live in new hampshire, you have one. >> jonathan, i want to ask you this. is there a credibility problem here on the part of the gop? lindsey graham told "the new york times" that this is the raging policy debate going on behind closed doors. is there a credibility issue here where they can't coalesce around a single plan and say this is the gop alternative? >> yes, and i'll tell you how they may be able to get around that credibility problem. the first part of that is there's a credibility issue because all the republicans voted against obama care. so if they try to say there's another health care plan they want, they will be saying that they're for some things they were against previously. the way you get around that is you try to find some folks who
have credibility on reform in general to come out and say, look. i've got a background on reforming government programs. let me come out here and give you suggestions for how to make this law better. but what we haven't heard from the republican party at all is how do we make it better. what we've heard is how do we repeal it, replace it. it's a lead airplane as rick said before. i think republicans have to figure out what they can coalesce around as a plan and then pick some leaders who can help bridge the gap and now saying there's a better way to do this. we don't like what the democrats have done in areas "x," "y," "z." but the idea that suddenly, after you put this law into place you're going to repeal it and before it's gotten to the place where the public is ready to repeal it. that's just not going to happen. 80% of the american wants to repeal it at some point, it will happen quickly. i just don't see that happening overnight. >> rick tyler, is this debate going to be heightened or focused upon those high profile
races where a tea party type opposes one of the more pragmatic republicans in a primary process just like has happened in the last couple of cycles but this time focused on this repeal versus reform? >> i think obama care will dictate the 2014 elections more so than consultants advising candidates will. i think obama care is so bad and so catastrophic i think it actually effectively ended the president's presidency. he'll never get anything done in congress because he'll have no ability to move the congress. i think that people will demand the repeal of obama care. it remains to be seen, it could be 50 different state plans. we don't know. it remains to see what the alternative is. but i think obama care is the defining issue of the 2013 election. and i think it will be cataclysmic and catastrophic for the democratic party. >> gentlemen, we appreciate you both being here. jonathan allen, rick tyler. thanks very much. coming up, call it the last taboo. why it may be harder in america to come out as an atheist
politician than as a gay one. plus the debate over e-cigarettes. they're increasingly popular and many say they're less harmful, but with e-cigarette companies selling their cigarettes on television, are we to see a new generation of nicotine users? and remember that guy? that's cubicle guy, the guy who photobombed an anthony weiner campaign event. he's on the list of people who earned their 15 minutes of fame in 2013. and what could these two men possibly have in common? yes, that's snoop dogg and john kerry at the white house, no less. and we'll have some answers in the sideshow. this is "hardball," the place for politics. r ] no matter what city you're playing tomorrow. [ coughs ] ♪ [ male announcer ] you can't let a cold keep you up tonight. vicks nyquil -- powerful nighttime 6-symptom cold & flu relief. ♪
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welcome back to "hardball." president barack obama made history back in 2008 when he was elected as the first african-american president. looking ahead to 2016, it's undeniable the democratic favorite and front runner is a woman. former secretary of state hillary clinton who could very well make history as the first female nominee or first female president. we also have a record number of hispanics and openly gay members of congress. but out of 535 members of congress, not a single one is a self-described atheist. a 2012 pew report revealed 7% of americans don't believe in a higher power. which leaves 15 million americans underrepresented in government. a gallup poll found 68% of americans would vote for a well-qualified, openly gay candidate, only 54% said they could vote for a well-qualified atheist.
indeed atheism appears to be a poison pill for politics. in 2007 pete stark a democrat from california was the first admitting to atheist. even he officially identified himself as quote, a unitarian who does not believe in a supreme being. and listen carefully to this clip from hbo's realtime with bill maher. it was last august with retired congressman barney frank on this subject. >> okay. barney frank, do you feel more liberated being out of congress? you must. >> absolutely. i don't have to worry that when the phone rings it's somebody who's screwed something up and said it's my responsibility to unscrew it. >> although you were in a fairly safe district. you were not one of those congress people who have to worry about every little thing. you could come on this show and sit next to a pot smoking atheist and it wouldn't bother you. >> which pot smoking atheist were you talking about? [ laughter ] >> ron reagan is an msnbc political analyst.
jennifer michael hecht is a professor at the new school. she just wrote a new article in politico magazine about the last taboo. jennifer, you were on your sofa watching bill maher that night. you saw that exchange and you said what to yourself? >> well, i was glad, but i was disappointed he hadn't done it while he was still in office. i think it makes a big difference if you imagine a room full of 100 white men and one black or latino man or woman walking into the room. the conversation changes. it matters if you stand up for what you believe. >> and the point is barney frank had no problem coming out as a gay man and people were accepting of that. but the atheism he saved until he was already out the door. ron reagan, let me ask you this. if people tell a pollster and the totality is that 7% are atheist, i say there's a hidden vote there. if they admit, it's probably in double digits. what's your hunch?
>> yeah. i would guess that that's probably true. i think there are probably many atheist members of congress. they simply can't admit to that. let's be honest, michael, we're all atheists in a way. you don't believe in the divinity of zues, do you? i guess you're an atheist then. gods come and go. it's a measure what god you don't believe in? yeah, i imagine there are a lot of atheists in congress right now. >> out of the 535, it's not they aren't there, it's that they don't feel comfortable admitting it. >> exactly. >> i wonder if it's because no one has challenged the hypothesis. maybe it's because no one who's otherwise credible stands up and says these are my beliefs. i do indeed have a moral compass and i'm running. and then we would see once and for all what would happen. ron, what do you think the outcome would be? >> yeah, i think that would be very helpful. i agree with jennifer. i read her excellent article. i know she feels members of congress who are atheist should
come out. i agree with that. there are two things here when you talk about atheism in politics. one is the idea of the moral compass that you brought up. there are people who are religionists who believe without reference to some theology, you can't tell right from wrong. how does an atheist know what's the good and evil thing to do, if you will. beyond that, though, there's an implicit threat to the religionist with atheist. if you organize your entire life around some man's divinity and there's someone looking at you as if you're crazy to think that, that's a real rebuke to what is in a sense the core of your life and your beliefs. and that's very threatening to people. >> jennifer, in your piece in politico magazine, you said that there's a much richer tradition in american atheism among our past presidents than people realize. and here are a few of the presidents that you mentioned as having atheistic tendencies. adams, jefferson, monroe,
abraham lincoln, william howard taft. is america ready for an official atheist to be president? pick out your favorite on that list and tell me what justifies you to say they had atheistic tendencies? >> we have a wonderful letter from jefferson to a favorite nephew in which he says question everything, even the existence of god. and if you come to not believe in him, you will do virtuous things for the good feelings it gives you and for the affection you get from other people. taft was called an atheist right at the turn of the 20th century. and he didn't deny it. he just kept going to unitarian church which was a pretty agnostic place. lincoln after he died, several of his closest companions including his wife said he had no faith or hope in any of the meanings that we think of today, that he never let it pass his lips he believed in anything
about the christian theology. so really overall, i wrote a book called "doubt a history." which tells about a religion all over the world throughout history. and it shocked me how much this stuff comes and goes. there are periods of time where it seems impossible for atheists to coexist with religionists. but there have been many times when it's not. and for us we're just getting out of the cold war. it was much easier to be an american atheist out loud and proud in the first part of the 20th century. but with communist atheism, there began to be a treasonist sense to the idea of atheism. everything got kind of shut down, and that's when in the '50s god went on the money and god went in the pledge. but ever since the soviet union fell and then 9/11 and now our most murderous tensions are with
people who consider us secular and themselves much more rabidly religious, it's time for a change. clearly the politics and the mood of the country is changing because of these political differences. >> i agree with you. i'm anxious to see someone test the hypothesis. for what it's worth, i aired this with you on the radio and i was overwhelmed with callers who said i want to know that a politician can distinguish right from wrong. it's not important to me that they're pointing at a particular book in order to come to that judgment. anyway, thank you both ron reagan and jennifer hecht. >> thank you. up next, what brought together snoop dogg and john kerry. that's next in the sideshow. and don't forget, you can follow me on twitter so long as you can spell smerconish. this is "hardball," the place for politics. ♪ [ male announcer ] we all deserve a good night's sleep. thankfully, there's zzzquil. it's not for colds, it's not for pain, it's just for sleep. ♪
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time now for the sideshow. first up, a an odd meeting between a very odd couple. that's rapper snoop dogg with secretary of state john kerry at the white house. snoop posted the picture to his instagram feed along with the tweet boss life, me and john kerry at the white house. the pair bonded over their love of jazz and were caught on camera talking about herbie hancock. >> that's why it makes sense. >> you gave me a pound. >> for his part, kerry tweeted back at snoop, between us, we've sold 30 million. from dogs to horses and what politico is calling a strange political brawl over new york city's famous carriage horses. they're the ones that carry tourists through central park. well, animal rights activists have wanted them banned for years citing the welfare of the horses. and they have a powerful ally in incoming mayor bill de blasio. but the carriage drivers are fighting back and they're doing so with the help of the teamsters.
it has the makes of a battle royale. it's not clear whether de blasio will push for an all-out ban once he takes office next week. that's "hardball" for now. coming up next, "your business" with jj ramberg. some are giant. some not so giant. when managing your weight, bigger is always better. ♪ ho ho ho ♪ green giant the day building a play set begins with a surprise twinge of back pain... and a choice. take up to 4 advil in a day or 2 aleve for all day relief. [ male announcer ] that's handy. ♪
. they are called preppers. people who are ready for any kind of disaster, natural or manmade. how entrepreneurs are marketing to them. and she had a great business plan for a new shoe company, until someone ripped off the idea. protecting yourself. coming up next on "your business." small businesses are revitalizing the economy and american express open is