This Week, March 28, 2010: The Roundtable with Paul Krugman, Jake Tapper, George Will, Donna Brazile, and Peggy Noonan

Watch this broadcast on Video: Part 1, Part 2, Green Room (not transcribed)


REPRESENTATIVE JOHN BOEHNER (REPUBLICAN): Violence and threats are unacceptable. They have no place in a political debate.

REPRESENTATIVE NANCY PELOSI (SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE): Some of the actions that took place must be rejected.


CONSTITUENT (MALE): You turncoat son of a (censored by network), I hope you die.

REPRESENTATIVE ERIC CANTOR (MINORITY WHIP):Enough is enough. It has to stop. We need to move forward and get back to addressing the important issues facing our nation and let law enforcement handle these situations.

JAKE TAPPER (ABC NEWS): Some of the uglier repercussions from the health care reform vote. And joining us to talk about that and all the week's politics, as always, is George Will. Peggy Noonan of the 'Wall Street Journal." Paul Krugman of "The New York Times" and Democratic strategist Donna Brazile. Everyone, thank you so much for joining us. George, I'm gonna start with you. This is a big win for President Obama, isn't it?

GEORGE WILL (ABC NEWS): Huge. It expands the dependency network in the country, which is, I think, the Democrats vocation, certainly changes the relations between the citizen and the state, more than anything since Medicare 45 years ago. But it also reminds Americans of why they more often than not produce divided government, because they like to see the government take not such giant steps. Furthermore, it comes after the stimulus, it comes after TARP, after General Motors and Chrysler, so it's part of a pattern that is worrying a lot of people. And furthermore, now that insurance companies are going to be essentially public utilities, now that the Obama administration owns the health care system, every disappointment with that system, and they're constant in a complex system, is going to be laid at their doorstep. So I think this will be a poisoned chalice.


JAKE TAPPER (ABC NEWS): Boy, Donna, that's not what I had in mind when I said this is a big victory for President Obama. What's - your take?

DONNA BRAZILE (DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST): Well, it is a victory for the American people. It's a victory for the uninsured, the underinsured, and those with insurance. It saves lives, - saves money, and will extend the life of Medicare. So I think this is a victory for the President. It's also a victory for the House Democrats, as well as the Senate, and demonstrating that they can govern, they can get something big, and something complicated done.

JAKE TAPPER (ABC NEWS): Peggy, Republicans are talking about repealing it, they're talking about challenging it in court. How realistic are these as, as both as campaign slogans and as actual lines of attack?

PEGGY NOONAN ('WALL STREET JOURNAL"): I don't know. I think it is very interesting that we have debated this bill every day for one year. The President has put forward his case again and again. He just won. It was very close, but he won, and yet, the American people still, according to the polls, don't like this bill. The President, just after his great victory, is forced to come forward and speak now and tell the American people, no, it was really good, you're really going to like this thing. So I, I do think he's in a difficult position, it seems to me, positions are hardened and they have over the past year. The Republican Party and the Democratic Party will be looking at the country and saying, experience now the wonder of this bill. Is it more burden or more benefit? They'll be talking to the center, and trying to convince the center of their case...

JAKE TAPPER (ABC NEWS): Well, oh, I'm sorry.


JAKE TAPPER (ABC NEWS): I was just gonna, Paul, you heard Governor Barbour say that this is not going to reduce the deficit. And you're the only person I know with a Nobel Prize in economics. And I want to put up something that the former director of the Congressional Budget Office wrote in your newspaper, Doug Holtz-Eakin. 'In reality, if you strip out all of the gimmicks and budgetary games and rework the calculus, a wholly different picture emerges. The health care reform legislation would raise, not lower, federal deficits by $562 billion."



PAUL KRUGMAN ('NEW YORK TIMES"): That was a shameful column on the part of Doug Holtz-Eakin. You can just go through it and you see that he made assertions. They're just not true. Just, 'cause he's not commenting on the reality. He's commenting on what the Congressional Budget Office estimate was based on. And if you look at the things he said. He says, you know, it's ten years of taxes for six years of benefits. That's just not true. Most of the taxes don't start up until the time the benefits do. And so that's just wrong. I mean, and the odds are this is gonna actually be better than the CBO numbers say, because there are things that are uncertain and the CBO scores them as zero, because we don't know if they work, but some of them will work. Above all, you know, it's amazing, actually, if you think about people on the right. They're simultaneously screaming, they're gonna send all the old people to death panels, and it's not going to save any money. That's, that's a contradictory point of view...

JAKE TAPPER (ABC NEWS): Death panels would save money, I mean, theoretically.

PAUL KRUGMAN ("NEW YORK TIMES"): Well, if they, they, the medic, the advisory panel, which has the ability to make more or less binding judgments on saying this particular expensive treatment actually doesn't do any good medically, so we're not going to pay for it. That is actually going to save quite a lot of money. We don't know how much yet. The CBO gives it very little credit. But, but most of the health care economists I talked to think that it's going to be a really, a really major cost saving. And - you know, I have to say, you know, if people tend to see, I'm wearing an FDR tie in honor of the fact that we have gone from the New Deal to the big Biden deal, I guess we're allowed to say.

JAKE TAPPER (ABC NEWS): Big "bleeping" deal?



PEGGY NOONAN ("WALL STREET JOURNAL"): Two things, one is I think execution, the ability of a government already too busy, involved, overburdened, to successfully execute this huge 2,300 page thing that nobody seems still to know fully what is in it. It is interesting to me that the American people now are getting it off the internet. I'm getting lots of emails saying, what is heck is this and what the heck is that. We have been talking about this bill for a year. But right now we're in the stage where everybody starts to read it and question it. Which I cannot think is good for the passers.

PAUL KRUGMAN ("NEW YORK TIMES"): It's not really that complicated. I mean this, you know, a lot of the people I talk to are saying this is...

PEGGY NOONAN ("WALL STREET JOURNAL"): Oh my goodness, try to read this on your computer. That's complicated.

PAUL KRUGMAN ("NEW YORK TIMES"): A lot of people have been saying Romneycare has just passed. This is essentially identical to the Massachusetts health reform. There are really no significant differences. We know it can be worked. Massachusetts, you know, there are problems with it, but it's not an unworkable system. This is, this is, you know, this is what legislation looks like. And - somebody should look, I do international trade stuff. Somebody should look at a trade agreement, which typically runs at 23,000 pages, right? This is nothing much.


GEORGE WILL (ABC NEWS): Well, first of all, Paul's prize is in economics, not practical Washington wisdom. No one that I know, Paul, thinks the Cadillac tax that's been kicked down the road to, on the expensive health care plans until 2018 will ever be enacted. No one thinks the Medicare cuts are ever going to be enacted. One of the ways this simple, workable legislation is going to be made to work is the IRS is going to hire about 16,000 new agents to chase the American people around, to make sure they pay their, their mandatory fees. One half, approximately one half of the 35 million or so people who, previously uninsured who will now be insured, are going to go on the Medicaid rolls of our overburdened state governments. All of that cost will be pushed down into property taxes. This is going to have unintended consequences that will boggle your mind.

DONNA BRAZILE (DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST): Well again, I think we're going to spend the next six months once again trying to debunk all of these myths and these lies and this misinformation that's been, you know, pillared around on the internet over the last couple of years. The truth is, is that this is a strong bill that will provide relief, not just to those individuals without insurance, but those individuals with insurance who are now seeing their - premiums rise by 25, 39%. They're also concerned that they're one flu away or one sickness away from losing their health insurance. And yes, for small businesses, this will give many individuals an opportunity to finally be able to afford health care. There are so many good benefits. If we start cherry picking apart all of the bad things and then exploit some of the anger and frustration out there, then we'll continue to have another six months of conversation to put out all of the lies and all of the rumors.

JAKE TAPPER (ABC NEWS): But - let's dig a little deeper into what George said, because it's not, it's not a completely insane point. George's point is that part of this health care bill, you like that I said it's not a completely insane point.


PAUL KRUGMAN ("NEW YORK TIMES"): George Will, not completely insane.

JAKE TAPPER (ABC NEWS): It's better than not completely insane. It's an astute point. If you look at Washington politics, these tough decisions often do get kicked down the road until they're kicked away completely. If you look at the Medicaid - Medicare doc fix. How much doctors are supposed to be reimbursed, that was done as cost saving, and then they keep undoing it. And the question is, if these Medicare cuts to Medicare advantage, and if this tax on these high so-called Cadillac tax, if these will actually be enacted or not. And Paul and Donna, do you think that that will actually happen?

PAUL KRUGMAN ("NEW YORK TIMES"): Let me say, the, you know, the actual history, most Medicare cost-saving measures have in fact gone through as planned. So if people cherry pick a few that have not and say, oh, you can't actually do anything. But the history is in fact that most of them have in fact been implemented and not reversed. So the history is actually on our side here. And look, the, the fact is that these things, like the - you know, the Cadillac tax, they are going to be coming up at a time when we'll be very much in, now we need to get the budget under control mode. The fact of the matter is the timing is such that just about the time that we're saying, okay, we ran up big debts to deal with the great recession, now we have to do something about getting the fiscal balance under control. That's exactly when the Cadillac tax is gonna come along. And people are gonna say, oh, we're not going do that, you know, then they'll be forced to come up with something else. So I actually think this is all going to happen. I think it's - if anything, there are gonna be more cost-saving measures down the road, because, look, we are, we do know that, that by 2018, 2020, fiscal issues are gonna be at the forefront. So I don't think this is at all implausible. The logic of the situation says that the petty politics is actually going to be pushed into the background.

JAKE TAPPER (ABC NEWS): George and Peggy, let me ask you a question. One of your all, all of your fellow pundits, David Frum, was summarily dismissed from his position at the American Enterprise Institute. Why he was, we're not going to get into. But it occurred after he wrote a column that I want to ask you about. He said that the passage of this bill was actually a Waterloo for Republicans. And he wrote, quote, 'No illusions please. This will bill not be repealed even if Republicans scored a 1994 style landslide in November. How many votes could we muster to reopen the doughnut hole and charge seniors more for prescription drugs? How many votes to re-allow insurers to rescind policies when they discover a preexisting condition? How many votes to banish 25-year-olds from their parents' insurance coverage? We followed the most radical voices in the party and the movement, and they led us to abject and irreversible defeat."


JAKE TAPPER (ABC NEWS): Peggy, did Republicans squander an opportunity here, whether or not you look at the short-term political gains that could happen. This bill is likely not going anywhere. Should Republicans have gotten up to the table and actually tried to contribute ideas?

PEGGY NOONAN ("WALL STREET JOURNAL"): A lot of Republicans feel they did go to the table and were not so terribly welcomed there. You all know the stories. Olympia Snowe tried it. Paul Ryan tried it, Tom Coburn, Bob Bennett. There are a million names of people. Bennett had a Bennett-Wyden bill that was so good. Had the support of Republicans and Democrats, covered so many people. The administration and the Democratic-controlled Congress just stiffed it.

PEGGY NOONAN ("WALL STREET JOURNAL"): Republicans were there until they came to realize that they could not get anything that they felt was reasonable. That the bill was being tugged, I'm sorry...

PAUL KRUGMAN ("NEW YORK TIMES"): I wish I (inaudible) Peggy's planet here.

PEGGY NOONAN ("WALL STREET JOURNAL"): ...too far in directions that they didn't want to go. They didn't want public option, etcetera. Wyden-Bennett was good.

GEORGE WILL (ABC NEWS): The Wyden-Bennett bill, if the President had come out right after his inauguration and said I want to do two things, I want to change the tone in Washington and I want to insure the uninsured, by last August, he could have had that passed. And the Wyden-Bennett bill was 70 votes. It's 1/19 the length of the bill that was passed. It's less intrusive and less coercive, which are virtues, to some of us, and vices to the Obama administration.

PAUL KRUGMAN ("NEW YORK TIMES") (Inaudible): Wyden-Bennett, and this, we're gonna lose the audience here totally. Wyden-Bennett was a much more far-reaching transformation of the whole way health care works...


PAUL KRUGMAN ("NEW YORK TIMES"): ...which means that whatever people said about supporting it, as it came closer to the floor, it would have had mass defections. The Obama, Obamacare is conservative, not in a political sense, but in a sort of ordinary life sense. It leaves the system that most Americans have pretty much in tact, and that was what made it possible. You can say in the abstract, oh, people were in favor of the ideas behind a radical transformation of the whole system. It wasn't going to happen. This was going to happen, and it did.

GEORGE WILL (ABC NEWS): Well, I agree with Paul to this extent. The Obama bill is fundamentally timid in that it did not attack what everyone knows is the source of our main problem, which is employer-provided health insurance which tangles up a high inflationary product, health insurance, health care, with the wage system in this country.

PAUL KRUGMAN ("NEW YORK TIMES"): I guess - I'm not everyone, 'cause I don't agree. I mean, the, the fundamental problem we have is, is third-party payment, which is necessary. You can't run health care unless somebody pays, else pays the bills in extreme cases, which is where most of the money is. But we don't have a system that is very good at providing incentives to limit costs. And this bill takes some important steps in that direction.

JAKE TAPPER (ABC NEWS): I want, I want to move on to another topic.


JAKE TAPPER (ABC NEWS): Donna, do, yes, go ahead.

DONNA BRAZILE (DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST): The David Frum, because Dave is a good person. It once again shows that this, the Republican Party has a small chance, that they are not diverse and they are not welcoming. And I think it's bad for the parties. Good for Democrats, though.

PEGGY NOONAN ("WALL STREET JOURNAL"): Can I say, I don't see...

JAKE TAPPER (ABC NEWS): I want, I just want to, I want to switch topics for one second, Peggy, 'cause this is a lot on health care, and we have a lot to talk about today. But I do want to make one point, and that is, the Wyden-Bennett bill included an individual mandate, that - which is what all these states are suing the Obama administration over. It, it included an individual mandate. But moving on...


JAKE TAPPER (ABC NEWS): There, 'cause there's some good politics going on right now, over the weekend. Former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin was out there, stumping for her former boss, Senator John McCain, in Arizona. We talked to some of the people who attended these two rallies. And here's what they had to say.

RALLY ATTENDEE (MALE): I came here to see Sarah Palin, because she totally rocks.

RALLY ATTENDEE (FEMALE): I am supporting JD Hayworth.

RALLY ATTENDEE (FEMALE): I wanted to see Sarah. I heard most of her speech in there. I didn't agree with a lot of it, because we don't support John McCain. I'm supporting JD Hayworth.

JAKE TAPPER (ABC NEWS): JD Hayworth is of course the Republican - Republican challenger to incumbent Senator John McCain. George, you were out in Arizona with JD Hayworth a few weeks ago. What did you see?


GEORGE WILL (ABC NEWS): He's a large, loud former sportscaster with a flair for rousing the rabble. And, and he's a former congressman, so he's not new at this business. In January, the Republican Central Committee of the state of Arizona voted to close the primary, which is their right to do, associational right, you can say Republicans, only Republicans will pick Republican leaders, but that was a fundamentally hostile act to John McCain, whose strength is not with the Republican Party, but with independents. So this is going to be a race.

JAKE TAPPER (ABC NEWS): Peggy, is Sarah Palin doing any good for John McCain out there?

PEGGY NOONAN ("WALL STREET JOURNAL"): I think she is there for a number of reasons. - Her strategic purpose, I guess, is to give him right-wing street cred, that, that over 30 years...

JAKE TAPPER (ABC NEWS): Interesting term.

PEGGY NOONAN ("WALL STREET JOURNAL"): Yes, that over 30 years he has lost. However, the very Tea Party itself, this is a rising up of people who have not always previously been in politics, there are a lot of women in it, and a lot of activists. They are going - they are perhaps part of a reconstituted and changing, ever-changing big tent. I don't happen to see the conservative movement as becoming a smaller tent, but I do see, I think, sometimes a tendency to forget that conservatism, apart from being a great political philosophy, has within it the spirit of a rebellion. Sometimes lately it seems to take on the spirit of an orthodoxy. Do you know what I mean? And of, of a strict ideology. That is not a good thing. Let a thousand flowers bloom.

PAUL KRUGMAN ("NEW YORK TIMES"): I would have said, not lately. It's been pretty much a rigid orthodoxy for quite a long time. But you know, the interesting thing is this is John McCain. Who, you know, built his reputation, became beloved of talk shows like this one as the great maverick, now being forced to do a pretty good imitation of a doctrinaire, die-hard, no flexibility right-wing Republican, because that's the only way he can survive. And that's telling you something has happened to the party. There is no room in this party for the John McCain of ten years ago. No room for people who express a different point of view.

JAKE TAPPER (ABC NEWS): Donna, does the fact that McCain is in trouble show that the maverick positions he did take in the past, not ten years ago, but even a few years ago, such as immigration reform, or even last year or 2008 on the Wall Street bailout, that he is no longer representative of the Republican Party or is it just, or is he just an old, is he an anachronism, something - a more moderate Republican?

DONNA BRAZILE (DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST): Well, I think John McCain is being John McCain, and that is, he is trying to survive a very heated, difficult and perhaps, you know, energized Republican primaries. I was at the Republican Convention and what struck me when Sarah Palin came to the floor is that she energized a four car funeral. She's trying to bring some energy and some life to John McCain. And I don't think that's, for her, I mean, and for him, it's a good thing, but for the Democrats, I don't think it hurts us at all to have Sarah Palin out there, whipping up the base, whipping up the Tea Party. Stir up as much tea as you want.

PEGGY NOONAN ("WALL STREET JOURNAL"): Sometimes I feel like...

DONNA BRAZILE (DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST): It's producing a lot of coffee drinkers within the Democratic Party.

PEGGY NOONAN ("WALL STREET JOURNAL"): Sometimes I feel that we all forget the big center, that doesn't show up and talk politics all the time. And Isn't always that politically engaged, but is watching and shows up to vote.

JAKE TAPPER (ABC NEWS): We only have time for one more topic. And I want to throw out the fact that this has not been the greatest month in the history of US-Israel relations. Paul, was this conflict, the showdown with Netanyahu, was this inevitable?


PAUL KRUGMAN ("NEW YORK TIMES"): I think so. Actually, my colleague Tom Friedman had a good thing to say about that. He said that, that it used to be that making peace was a, you know, was an important job for Israel and sort of a hobby for the United States. Now it seems to be the other way around. United States has huge interests in reaching some kind of solution to the Israel-Palestinian problem. Israel no longer seems particularly interested in it, or at least the current governing coalition in Israel doesn't seem interested. So sure, there's a big tension, and this is a problem. And, and, you know, I think Netanyahu isn't in control of his own collision. I mean, I don't think it was deliberate top down decision to start new housing develops in Jerusalem right at that most sensitive moment. It's his own, it's his own junior partners who are out of control there. And this is a problem for Obama. It's a problem for America.

GEORGE WILL (ABC NEWS): US-Israeli relations are worse now than they have been in the 62 years that Israel has existed. It's the only nation in the world with which we have worse relations. What - nation is that? It's the only democracy in the Middle East. The only saline of our values in that inhospitable region. The only reliable ally there. And we are treating it as a problem because the Jews, in a Jewish section of Jerusalem, decided to build 1600 housing units. It is the law of the land, expressed in the 1995 Jerusalem Embassy Act, that Jerusalem shall be the united capital of the state of Israel, period.


DONNA BRAZILE (DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST): Well, our bond is still strong between the Israeli people and Americans. I think the relationship is rocky now, but long term, the Obama administration is clearly committed to a safe and secured Israel, but they also would like to see the Palestinians and Israelis come back to the table.

GEORGE WILL (ABC NEWS): (Inaudible) out of the way, the Obama administration's position is that we will be used by the Palestinians as the intermediaries in proximity talks. Make the Palestinians talk to the Israelites.

JAKE TAPPER (ABC NEWS): All right, well, we're gonna have to continue this discussion in the green room.


JAKE TAPPER (ABC NEWS): The "Roundtable" will continue that on And for political updates all week long, follow me on Facebook and Twitter. Coming up here, the 'Sunday Funnies."

Originally broadcast, 3.28.10