Anderson Cooper 360, October 5, 2009: Paul Krugman debates Mary Matalin

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COOPER: Wow, pretty cool. Coming up, "Raw Politics" President Obama's conservative critics applauded when President Obama's bid to get the Olympics failed. Are they rooting for anything that hurts President Obama, even if it's good for America? Mary Matalin and Paul Krugman square-off. And David Letterman: making another apology tonight, this one much closer to home. Find out who he is saying sorry to now ahead on the program. In "Raw Politics" tonight, the mounting pressure on President Obama under attack from his critics and on the defense about his policies. The shots are not just coming from the right anymore. And check out who "Saturday Night Live" chose as their newest target over the weekend.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: On my first day in office, I said I would close Guantanamo Bay. It is closed yet? No. I said we would be out of Iraq. Are we? Not the last time I checked. I said I'd make improvements in the war in Afghanistan. Is it better? No. I think it's actually worse. How about health care? Hell no.


COOPER: The sketch then went on to lampoon Mr. Obama for Chicago losing the 2016 Olympic Games. Now, some of the president's conservative critics literally broke out in applause when the news broke that Chicago had been rejected. Today, "The New York Times" Paul Krugman said the GOP has become a party ruled by spite eager to see the president fail even if it's on something that's good for America. His latest book is "The Return of Depression Economics and the Crisis of 2008." Paul Krugman and political contributor Mary Matalin, who's a - who was a counselor to Vice President Dick Cheney, joined me earlier.


COOPER: And there is a narrative right now that President Obama has lost his mojo; there's a couple of people saying that the last couple days, "Saturday Night Live." Do you buy that?

KRUGMAN: No. I mean I think there are a lot of problems. And he, you know, it's very difficult to be a strong successful president when the employment picture is still worsening and the employment picture is still worsening. And the stimulus while it has helped isn't big enough to turn that around any time soon. So he's got some problems. But look, health care, the mood I get from the people who are really working on health care legislation is that this thing is now going to happen. A few weeks ago, there were real doubts about whether it was going to happen. But now it looks like it is going to happen. And that's going to be a huge thing. Regardless of exactly what happens in the midterm elections, if we come out with legislation establishing universal health care by the end of this year which I now believe we will, my God that's transformational. We will be a different country. So that mojo in the space that matters.

COOPER: Mary, do you believe that he has lost his mojo? I mean, there are people saying, look, health care has not worked out. He's been weak on that. He hasn't been out in front of it enough. The situation in Afghanistan certainly another issue as the Olympic thing is just the latest.

MATALIN: I don't know if he lost his mojo. I never drank the Kool aid in the first place. I always thought and I think there's increasing illustrations of he's being a political Potemkin village. There is just not a lot there, there is certainly wasn't everything there that everybody fused him within. He saw this himself. He said many times, I'm a vessel. People fill me up. So I don't know if it's a mojo saying, but when you get to whatever he said in the campaign and whatever celestial aura he had, when you get down to the details of forging this very difficult policy, it is not -- I know Paul and others want to blame this on Republicans as obstructionist or spiteful or whatever. But what has stopped health care so far and what is going to be transformational for the Democratic Party if it passes are the Blue Dogs, the centrists, whatever you want to call them. There are 74 of them in the House. And there's over a dozen of them in the Senate and they're representing real people.

COOPER: Paul, you wrote today that "The modern conservative movement which dominates the moderate Republican Party has the emotional maturity of a bratty 13-year-old." Do you think the opposition that the Republicans are throwing up now is different than what the Democrats threw up against President Bush?

KRUGMAN: Yes. You wouldn't find the same kind of -- at least, you wouldn't find major media organizations with the liberal slant going, making triumphant, you know, shouts of triumph. Bush loses. Bush loses for minor things that were actually bad for America.

COOPER: You're talking about when the Weekly Standard, or someone blogged that they cheered when the Olympics went to Rio.

KRUGMAN: Yes, I mean, it's a -- this is a really dumb stuff. It was puerile. I don't think -- of course, you can always find somebody on the other side who is immature. But you didn't find that at the level of what were in effect House journals of the conservative movement.

COOPER: Mary, what about that? Paul also wrote today, that he said that "at this point, the guiding principle of one of our nation's two great political parties is spite pure and simple. If Republicans think something might be good for the president, they're against it whether or not it's good for America."

MATALIN: Well, maybe Mr. Krugman who is otherwise a really smart guy was asleep for the last eight years when the senate leaders, I mean the Democratic leaders in both chambers called Bush everything from a liar to a loser, we're losing the war on really big issues, making false claims. But let me take my conservative hat-off here and ask a strategic question. Because I do think Paul is smart. And I do think my husband is a smart strategist. I don't know why you would relentlessly and repeatedly employ a tactic that not only doesn't work, it works against you. The liberals and the Democrats have been demonizing Rush Limbaugh for over two decades. And they've just made him stronger. And they've expanded his audience.

KRUGMAN: Let me weigh in, first of all, just on the issue of Rush Limbaugh. He actually is over the top and in away that no major figure on the left is. No one with -- with that kind of influence -- that kind of respectability and they are just giving the respectability he has. And well, as for the strategy who knows. But I would say that to some extent, yes, the people are flocking to listen to them but they're also pulling the Republican Party further and further out of the mainstream of this country.

MATALIN: I love when Paul does this. It's great. I don't just respect Rush, I revere Rush. And I'll say again, every time he's attacked, this not just makes him bigger, it has spawned a lot of Rush knockoffs some of whom are out there. But when you drive people to these shows and they're hearing a lot of data and it makes sense and it comports with their life and it's not demonizing them or calling them anti-American or angry mobs, well, it just expands what this country is anyway, it's a center right country. The data supports this.

KRUGMAN: This is not a column about how Rush Limbaugh is a really bad guy. I write that column now and then. But this was a column about the strategic decision of Republicans, the Republican Party to be the party that opposes anything that Obama proposes even if it's something that by bipartisan agreement we thought was something the country had to do not very long ago.

COOPER: We have to leave it there. Paul Krugman, I appreciate you being on. Mary Matalin, thank you very much.

MATALIN: Thanks, Paul. Thanks Anderson.


COOPER: And for those who may not know or have forgotten, Mary Matalin is married to Democratic strategist James Carville. She mentioned her husband several times. He managed the Clinton-Gore presidential campaign. The first vaccines against the H1N1 virus are being distributed. Are they safe? Should you get one? Will you be able to? We'll let ask you the expert. Dr. Oz joins us to answer your questions about the flu, coming up. You can send them to us by going to, twitter@Andersoncooper or Also tonight, stalking and spying; this is just creepier and creepier. The man accused of secretly videotaping sportscaster Erin Andrews, there's been an arrest made. We have the details on the case against him and how he was caught, ahead.

Originally broadcast, 10.5.09