Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Officer With Crowley Black Not Hispanic Health Care Bill Non-Existent

Interview on Lou Dobbs Tonight

This controversy is the subject of our "Face-Off debate." Now joining me, radio talk show host, Joe Madison, WOL in Washington of SIRIUS/XM Radio. Radio talk show host Andrew Wilkow, also SIRIUS/XM.

Gentlemen, great to have you with us.

Andrew, let me start with you. It sounds like the president, who, I don't think anyone would argue, misspoke. Let's keep it as gentle as we can, misspoke. But, it sounds like he's trying to reconcile a mess to which he acknowledges today that he contributed to. That's a positive, isn't it?

ANDREW WILKOW, SIRIUS/XM RADIO: I'm kind of shocked that a guy with such great oratory skills, being a congressional law professors would claim guilty until proven innocent. I mean, "I don' t have all the facts, but the police acted stupidly?" Come on. There's not enough minutia for the president to deal with that he had to step into this one?

DOBBS: Joe Madison, your thoughts? We're sitting here -- the president, today, acknowledging -- he said it sort of interestingly. He continues to believe that Professor Gates did not effectively behave well. I didn't hear him say that the first time. Did you?

JOE MADISON, WOL IN WASHINGTON, D.C.: No, he didn't say it the first time. He clarified it, I think, in Cleveland. But, I think your notes will show when I talked to your produce earlier today, even before the president went into the press room, that this is a learning moment.

The president clearly blew it. Gates probably overreacted. I may have done the same if I had a cold and had gotten off a long flight from China. I think, for example, when I looked at the law in Massachusetts, the police really would not have had a case if he -- if they had not dropped the case on disorderly conduct, because according to a '76 decision, no matter how verbally abusive a person might be, you cannot find them guilty of disorderly conduct.

So, all the way around, three people made mistakes. And the one thing I do applaud the president, is that he now has come forth and says, let's defuse it. So the question is, where do we go as a people, as a country from here. And don't let this one incident -- and I'll conclude with this, absolve the problem of racial profiling, nationwide.

DOBBS: Yeah, you know, Joe's just gone to an issue that is difficult here, because on its face, Andrew, is this racial profiling and what debt do we owe the president of the United States for there being a very close national media examination of the events that happened in Cambridge, Massachusetts?

WILKOW: You know -- we hear the Democrats saying that the stimulus money is going to keep cops on the streets during Election Day. They talked about cops this and cops that. And his immediate reaction is to throw the cops under the bus. To me, this sounds like a way of, you know, boosting the stock of "Race Baiting Incorporated."

I mean, we elected the first Black president. The NAACP is passing climate change resolutions. And you know, it seems like we're -- for some people, they're never going to get -- as long as there is money and attention and votes invested in race baiting, the race baiting is going to continue. This seems to be the natural instinct of a community organizer that, well, it's got to be the cops, got to be the cops, they acted stupidly. I don't know what really happened, but I know the cops are the bad guys, here.

MADISON: Well, I am one who has been profiled probably more times than you have, Andrew, and so has my son. And the point I'm making is that we're not baiting anybody. What we're asking is that we stop the profiling... WILKOW: Well, wait a second. Come on, you're shouting...

MADISON: And I'm not -- excuse me, I didn't interrupt you.

WILKOW: OK, yes, sir.

MADISON: And with all due respect, and I'm not suggesting that this was profiling. What I am suggesting is that two grown men probably got overanxious and excited at each other and neither could find the way to step back. And I think that's really what happened here, and I applaud the president for trying to defuse it. And that's what we've got to do...

WILKOW: But, why did he get involved in the first place? Why was the president of the United States even involved in the first place?

MADISON: Well, because he was -- look, because he was asked a direct question. And I agree, and the president obviously went back the next day in the Oval Office and said, uh-oh, I didn't use the right words. But, you know, if he had been asked a question about Afghanistan or a question about something else and if he didn't answer it directly, we would have criticized him for avoiding it. So, you're damned if you do, damned if you don't.

WILKOW: No, no, Afghanistan is not a question of innocent until proven guilty. He could have clearly said, you know, that's for the mayor of Cambridge to deal with or the police chief of Cambridge to deal with. There was no reason for him to step into this. This has nothing to do with the president of the United States. For him to forwardly admit that he doesn't know and then lay guilt at the feet of a police officer, to me, seems ridiculous for a constitutional law professor.

MADISON: Well, look Andrew, if that's the case, then neither the sergeant nor Professor Gates ought to accept an invitation to the White House.

WILKOW: Well, I mean...

MADISON: So, I mean, come one man.

DOBBS: I don't understand how that follow, Joe.

MADISON: Well, what I'm trying to say, if Andrew is saying, he shouldn't get in it, then maybe the president should come back on and say, you know, I saw Andrew on Lou Dobbs' show, and he's right, I should ought to stay out of it. I'm sorry, I even invited them to the White House. What he's trying to do is defuse a debate -- and quite honestly, we know in part for political purposes so we can start talking about health care.

DOBBS: By the way, and I'm not sure he wants us talking about health care, either, but maybe something else.

(LAUGHTER) WILKOW: I'll talk about health care.

DOBBS: Let's stick with this, if we may, because he talked about a teachable experience, which to me, frankly, sounds like an arrogant piece of condescension to all parties involved, on the part of the White House. I understand they got to spin this out. But, the teachable moment is here for a president who, you know, Andrew put it eloquently, he through the police under the bus.

It was a teachable moment for Professor Gates, who was arrogant, and frankly, aggressive with a police officer, and for Sergeant Crowley, who, teaching as he does, racial profiling with a tremendous record and as you articulated it, Joe, couldn't p find a way out of this mess. So, those are the teachable moments. For the nation, it should be -- I'm sorry, go ahead.

MADISON: No, the only reason I'm interrupting...

DOBBS: And by the way, you're interrupting me as you shamed Andrew for doing.

MADISON: I know, I know, I know.

DOBBS: Say you're sorry, Joe.

MADISON: Go ahead.

DOBBS: No, you go ahead.

MADISON: No, I was going to say, we don't know, because when I interviewed Professor Gates -- and I'll take him for his word, like you are taking the police officer for his word -- Professor Gates told my audience that Sergeant Crowley was arrogant and that's what started it.

DOBBS: Oh yeah, by the way, however you want to characterize Sergeant Crowley, what I didn't take one person's word over the other. But, what I did listen to was telling us, here on CNN, that sergeant Crowley was a rogue officer, which on its face is not borne out by the eyewitnesses there, including a Black sergeant, who was there at the house, nor a Hispanic officer, who was there at the house, at the same time.

But I want to say this, Andrew, I'm delighted to spend some time with you.

WILKOW: I had fun.

DOBBS: Joe, I am delighted to spend more time with you, even if you interrupt me.

MADISON: Well, thank you. We share in that responsibility.


DOBBS: Don't interrupt me, don't interrupt me. Joe Madison, Andrew Wilkow, thank you both for being with here.

Up next, we'll have more one the Gates arrest controversy. Also, an open and bitter battle between the White House and Congress over health care. Is it failing health care? We'll be talking about that with three of the country's best political thinkers.

And a U.S. Border Patrol agent has shot and killed, murdered on patrol, protecting the people and the border of the United States.


DOBBS: Joining me now, three of my favorite political analyst, columnist, "New York Daily News," CNN contributor, Errol Louis; editor-at-large, CNN political analyst, "Time" magazine, Mark Halperin; former special assistant to former President George Bush, and former Vice President Dick Cheney, Ron Christie.

Thank you all for being here. Let me start, if I may, with you, Ron. The president seems to be bringing a teachable moment out of what was a controversy, up until about an hour ago -- or is it, in fact, a controversy that will continue beyond the teachable moment, so called?

RON CHRISTIE, CHRISTIE STRATEGIES: Well, I think this is going to be a story that's going to live on for a little while. I think in the short term, it's going to die down, but for the first time, people have looked at President Obama and the Teflon seems to be a little bit removed from him. And I think the president, I think, was very arrogant in the way that he said that the police department acted stupidly. The first thing you learn in law school is that you should never assume fact's not in evidence. The president made an assumption, he shouldn't have done it. He's the president of the United States...

DOBBS: He knew better than that, right? He said he didn't know the facts, but here's the judgment.

CHRISTIE: It's going to be something. And the last thing I would say is that for a president who campaigned to be post-racial and he wanted to move beyond race, he said he was too busy to wade into Tehran, when the Iranian students were protesting, but he immediately jumped in and said, oh, I have an opinion, here. I think it's going to follow him.

DOBBS: Errol?

ERROL LOUIS, NEW YORK DAILY NEWS: A mistake, I think, no doubt as he, himself, acknowledged. I would have loved to have been there he walked into the briefing room to sort of dial himself back...

DOBBS: I would have wanted to be in the room before...

LOUIS: Yeah. Well, apparently he realized he had made a serious mistake and the distraction of it, really, was crippling almost, in a way. I mean, because we're not talking about the previous hour that preceded that had remark where he was laying out his hopes and his agenda and his rationale for health care reform, which is very much in danger and he needed and wants the nation's focus on...

DOBBS: And how was this day any different from any previous day, and in that respect?

LOUIS: Well, you know, I mean, if he can get himself back on track, he'll have a chance at his health care reform, but right now, a very unwelcome distraction. He cannot be the explainer-in-chief on race. I mean, that has been clear all along and he really put us right in the middle of it.

DOBBS: He confirmed it this week.

LOUIS: Indeed.

DOBBS: Mark?

MARK HALPERIN, TIME MAGAZINE: I think the teachable moment and the person who's going to learn the first lesson, if he's lucky, is the president, because he cannot do all the things that Ron said, in particular. He cannot go out in front of reporters and wade in on an issue when he admits he doesn't know the facts, whether it involves race or not. This is a huge distraction for them. It will continue into next week. This president does not like what I call the freak show. He does not like the talk radio, 24-hour cable dynamic.

DOBBS: Tell me about it.

HALPERIN: He likes to say he can rise above it and he often does. This was a case, sometime between this morning, when Robert Gibbs said "we're done talking about this," and the afternoon when the president come out and talked about it, when the president had to realize, you can't always transcend it, sometimes you have to give. And that's what he did. I think it probably dies, unless there are new facts, by early next week.

DOBBS: Dying along with it, Ron Christie, his health care initiative, which, by the way, the national media, much of it liberal, styles his reform, which last I looked, was a positive and supportive description, rather than an objective and neutral word.

CHRISTIE: Sure, well, I think the president's health care initiative is on major life support, right now. The president has gone out and campaigned to the American people and said, we're going to have a bill that is not going to raise the deficit by one penny. The Congressional Budget Office has proven that's not true.

The president said he was very much for reforming the system, but the bill making its way through Congress, right now, has very little in the way of systematic and structural reform, doesn't reduce the cost of the health care delivery system and again, it doesn't ensure all American, which he said was his goal. So, I think he's in deep trouble on this one.

LOUIS: Well see, I mean, one thing about the current situation is you have a detailed critique of a nonexistent bill and so the president, it has...

DOBBS: Why in the world are they trying to pass a nonexistent bill?

LOUIS: Well, he's trying to get a bill so that they can get something done. I mean, look, the real dynamic here, I think, is he wants something passed before the end of the year, but really what that means is not so much the calendar year, but the midterm election season, when it heats up in earnest, will be very difficult to get anybody to take any chances.


DOBBS: ...pushing this into the middle of next year?

LOUIS: Well no, I mean, listen, I've been saying, I don't know other people, I've been saying all along, what he doesn't get in the way of major reform on climate, on health care, what he doesn't get before the 2010 elections really heat up, he very possibly won't get it all, because 2011 signals the re-election season.

HALPERIN: There's two parts to his challenge: the inside game, Congress, and particularly within his own party, and the outside game of public opinion.

In the press conference, he did not make progress, as best I could tell, with either of those two audit dens. He is -- got to get, I think, past the point by saying, I'm -- sort of like that provision, I sort of don't like this provision or that provision. He's got to, I think, if he has a chance, he's going to have to get people in a room and say this is now what I'm for, can we pass this?

DOBBS: For the first time, two polls today, that is, Zogby's interactive poll and Rasmussen Reports poll, shows the president's approval rating below 50 percent. With the incident in -- with the Cambridge police department, he's facing some interesting headwinds, I think is the expression.

HALPERIN: I don't think those polls have him at the right place. I think he's higher. But the trend is certainly down and particularly people looking to him in terms of health care. He is going to have to succeed, I think, again, first in Washington in the inside game to get public opinion back up. I don't think he can rally public opinion, right now, just from a standing start.

CHRISTIE: I think Mark's right on that and I think the president's numbers are going down because he has so personally involved himself in the health care debate. He's made this health care issue about him. People always liked the president for his outstanding personality for what they perceive. Now, they're looking at the president in a policy issue area, and they don't like it.

LOUIS: As it heats up, he's already put out the call to Obama supporters to get a million names on a signature on a petition and so forth, and start putting pressure, the way Reagan used to do, on a recalcitrant Congress. That will, I predict, include Democrats as well as Republicans. The word is he's going into anybody's district he needs to. The battle hasn't really yet been joined on this, but he's going to have to whip his own party into line.

DOBBS: We'll see what happens starting, well, about Monday, I guess. Thanks very much, we appreciate it.


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