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Obama's Look At 2013; What's Ahead for Obama in 2014?

Aired December 20, 2013 - 18:28   ET



ANNOUNCER: Tonight on CROSSFIRE. He's at an all-time low in the polls.

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: My polls have gone up and down a lot.

ANNOUNCER: His agenda has stalled in Congress.

OBAMA: I'm going to keep at it.

ANNOUNCER: So what about next year?

OBAMA: I think 2014 needs to be a year of action.

ANNOUNCER: On the left, Van Jones. On the right Newt Gingrich. In the CROSSFIRE, Penny Lee, a Democratic strategist, and John Feehery, a Republican strategist.

Has the president bottomed out? What's ahead in 2014? Tonight, in CROSSFIRE.


NEWT GINGRICH, CO-HOST: Welcome to CROSSFIRE. I'm Newt Gingrich on the right.

VAN JONES, CO-HOST: And I'm Van Jones on the left. In the CROSSFIRE tonight, we've got two political strategists from both political parties.

Now look, tough year for the president, but he sure picked a great day to hold a press conference. Today we learned that the economy is actually coming back stronger a than anybody thought. It turns out in the third quarter, the U.S. economy grew by a smoking hot four percentage points. Consumer spending way up, housing construction way up, business investment is way up, unemployment is down, and so are the gas prices. And the stock market closed at all-time high just this afternoon.

Now, the president has taken his lumps, especially over Obama care, but today is a good day to give him his due. He's brought us back sis his predecessor wrecked the economy. And if these numbers hold up, I think Santa Claus is going to bring President Obama a wonderful 2014.

GINGRICH: Wonderful to see the spirit of Christmas descend over you and hope that the president will now receive this.

Now, the biggest thing happening good in the economy is the explosion in oil and gas capability, all of it on private land, despite cutting back on federal production. And the fact is that that breakthrough is lowering the cost of centering for manufacturing. So all of the things the private sector is doing, despite the Obama policies, are actually helping the president. It's a comment on how great the American people are, that they can rise above all this.

JONES: We will discuss this, I'm sure, as the show goes on. I have a very different view. I'm sure you can imagine.

GINGRICH: Shocking.

In the CROSSFIRE, Democratic strategist Penny Lee and Republican strategist John Feehery. And Penny, let me start with you.

I watched the president's press conference today with great interest. Obviously, he's now at 41 percent, dramatically below either President Reagan or, for that matter, President Clinton at this stage.

He's going to Hawaii, really, I think to -- I hope he's going there both to rest with his family, but also to think about what are the lessons, how does he come back and try to make this coming year the kind of year that Van wants.

GINGRICH: If he were to call you, what are the two or three biggest things you would represent to the president in 2014?

PENNY LEE, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Well, first of all, I don't know necessarily that we need to go so big. I think what you saw was really an appreciation -- the stock market rally and other things -- when you actually got a small budget passed. Just little, incremental things right now I think is what we need to be done just to show the American people that Washington can actually work.

First and foremost, first on his agenda is going to have to be the health care. It is out there. It is going to be from January to March. Everybody's still going to be focused on it and focused on the numbers. Whether or not that's the right indication of how it will be successfullong-term, don't know, but that's what everyone is going to be focused on.

He does need to be able to come back and show that something is working, that something that he has said will be -- actually come true, as far as it's related to health care. Because right now every day you hear a new story.

Last night, there were some changes to make sure that you could get catastrophic change. That's a difference. That's when people think maybe it's not all that I want it to be. He needs to have some points on the board and win, especially on health care.

GINGRICH: I know you just expressed earlier real concern for Senator Reid. You might want to take a minute to express. LEE: Sure. And I just want to say hearts and prayers are out to Senator Reid for a speedy recovery. I think he's doing well. It was a temporary lapse he has, but he is a strong fighter, and someone that continues to fight every day. And I know will be in the Senate going forward. So just my thoughts and prayers are with him. Thank you.

JONES: Very good. Thank you for raising that.

Now, we're talking about 2014. Everybody wants to talk about Obama care. Everybody wants to talk about the president. But the Republicans actually have some choices to make, too. And I'm curious from your point of view, they have to make a decision. Do they want to go in the direction that Paul Ryan has opened up: more bipartisanship, showing they can govern or do they want to be more obstructionist, more belligerent. What would you advise the Republican Party to do in 2014?

JOHN FEEHERY, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: They accomplished a big thing by having this budget agreement. So the government is not going to close down. I thought it was good for the House Republicans especially, which is a huge victory for Republicans. I thought this Ryan budget was good for the House, Republicans especially. And that's why so many House Republicans voted for it.

I think on the debt ceiling, I think what they've really got to push for is a year delay on Obama care, the whole thing. The reason they haven't pushed for it is I think it's something that the president is going to accept. The is the one thing. The person -- the best thing for the president to have is have Obama care not happen for another year.

JONES: So you think the president -- you think the president will accept the year? This is an interesting theory.

LEE: First of all, I think the president was emphatically clear. Again, there's going to be no negotiations on the debt ceiling once again.

FEEHERY: Listen, that is the single -- that is the one thing that polls the worst, when you say, "I will not negotiate on something."

LEE: John, we have been through this debate time and time again on the health care, on the repeal. There is no replacement the Republicans have put out there. And what the American people don't want -- what they don' to go back to what we had.

FEEHERY: The health care plan is collapsing. We've got the president going willy-nilly, changing things all over the place. It's so confusing. The best thing right now: give it a year, let them sort it out, and hope that -- for the Democrats, that's the best thing to do.

GINGRICH: Can we just play the president for a minute? Because I was fascinated, and I thought it was so different from how Bill Clinton would have handled it. And if we could look at Brianna Keilar asked him a question, and the intensity of his response I thought was very telling. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Will you negotiate with House Republicans on the debt ceiling?

OBAMA: Oh, Brianna, you know the answer to this question. Why should I? No, we're not going to negotiate for Congress to pay bills that it has accrued.


GINGRICH: What I was struck by was two things: one, as John just said, not going to negotiate is not exactly the signal you want to send.

But second, Clinton would have said something like "I'm confident coming off this recent Patty Murray/Paul Ryan deal, we're going to find a positive way to work together, and I don't even want to think negative thoughts."

I was just very struck that it was very blunt, very direct, and I think very negative. Don't you think that's sort of a mistake?

LEE: This is something that -- nothing that is not new. This is a position that he has taken from his first time, the first time the debt ceiling has ever come up. So this has just been his position. I don't -- I don't wonder why it isn't a surprise to anybody, because this is not something that he has ever backed down from. Now, has there been negotiations that have been done between the House and the Senate...

FEEHERY: The problem with that, Penny, is...

LEE: The president has made emphatically clear he is not going to negotiate.

FEEHERY: But the problem is that he did negotiate. He has negotiated. He negotiated last time. They got a deal. Last time there was a debt limit. There's always negotiations.

Newt, you know this. When you're a speaker, you negotiate to get the votes. Every time you have a debt limit, you have to get the votes.

JONES: Let me ask you, though, I think he answered the question the way he answered it the way -- for a reason.

FEEHERY: I get that. I agree.

JONES: And I'm curious, from your point of view. In some ways wouldn't the best thing in the world would be for there to be a huge fight and for Republicans to get back into a posture of threatening to shut down the government? Doesn't that -- I mean, give the president some credit here. Do you think the Republicans will take the bait and actually fight him?

FEEHERY: I think... JONES: Please give us another shutdown. Please.

FEEHERY: I think the president -- I think the president is trying to provoke the Republicans. And I hope that -- Listen, I think that you have to stay to your principles and I think you've got to find common ground for the idea that you're never going to negotiate is completely false.

JONES: You say -- more than that, you're talking about the debt ceiling? Full faith and credit, right?

LEE: And full faith and credit of the United States. So people even really -- Republicans even realize that is a risky proposition.

JONES: Do you think Republicans -- do you think Republicans will be good enough to us to threaten the full faith and credit for us in this quarter?

LEE: Sure. Sure. Absolutely. Look what Ted Cruz did the last time. He threatened to shut down over the complete repeal...

GINGRICH: Let me make John's point for the second. The fact is in the end, after saying, "No, no, never, never," the president last time accepted a package out of the Senate that reopened the government by tying it all together.

Now, I'm just curious, this is sort of the president's red line No. 600. I mean, you know, how often does -- in your mind, how often does the president -- remember we're never going to budge on the mandate, except yesterday, which we'll get to later on, we budged all over the place. And you go down this list of things: We're not going to budge on Syria, but we're not going to bunch on Iran. Isn't there a point when people start shrugging and going, this is all posturing?

LEE: They do, but at the same time there are some read deadlines that do come up. I mean, there are some real consequences without action, and so that's what the president has been playing to, is the fact that whether or not you negotiate and you put together -- and the Senate and House end up putting together a package to actually get the economy moving or avoiding shutdowns or not putting the full faith, that occurs.

But the president's point is to make sure that he has a very strong stance, and he's not -- you know, the threat of not being able to back away from it actually makes the House moot.

JONES: You agree with that?

FEEHERY: The president is in a far different spot than six months ago or four months ago. Fact of the matter is, his credibility has been compromised, because he said," You can keep your health care if you want it. Everyone knows that was the biggest lie of the year. So he's got to be able to say, listen, I need to reach a deal here.

JONES: We're going to fight about that after the break, I think. GINGRICH: Let me just say, it's December 20. You may need to finish your Christmas shopping and sign up for Obama care. But don't worry. The administration just put out 14 excuses you can use to not sign up. I'll share my favorite brand-new excuse, next.


GINGRICH: Welcome back. In the CROSSFIRE tonight, Perry [SIC] lee and John Feehery -- Penny Lee and John Feehery.

This afternoon President Obama summarized the roll-out of his biggest domestic program, the Obama care Web site. Listen to the president.


OBAMA: The fact is that it didn't happen in the first month, first six weeks, in a way that was at all acceptable. And since I'm in charge, obviously, we screwed it up.


GINGRICH: For those of you who couldn't sign up, the Obama administration is giving you a last-minute Christmas gift. The government's list of 14 excuses to avoid Obama care for one more year.

Here's my favorite. It's so vague it could cover anything. Quote, "You experienced another hardship in obtaining health insurance," unquote. Now I'll let you figure out how they're going to audit that.

We were wondering how big a truck you could drive through Obama care. With that excuse, the whole just got even bigger, and an entire convoy of trucks could go through.

Now, Penny, I know you're a loyalist, and you're an optimist, and you're positive, but isn't it a fact that around January 1, we're just going to be in the middle of a giant mess? You're going to have lawyers advertising if you went to the hospital and you didn't have insurance and it wasn't your fault, call us for a free consultation. You're going to have members of Congress getting calls.

The whole thing is just -- and there are constitutional questions about whether or not you can capriciously lift this mandate for group A, but not group B? Isn't this just a practical, non-ideological mess?

LEE: I don't think the staff around the White House today wanted the headline coming out of that press conference to be "We screwed it up." That is definitely not something that they wanted and not something anybody as a loyalist wanted to see happen, either.

At the same time, I do think that we are in a long game here, and we are just now still in the first inning. And the president, as I said earlier, the president does need to get some runs. He needs to score some hits. He needs to make this some impact and actually have something that he said come true. And so for that, they need some stabilization. They need something to really actually start to function. A lot of it is functioning. You have half a million people that -- I mean, 500,000 people have signed up for it now, and you have a lot of people benefit. Eighty-five percent -- the president said 85 percent of the American people have benefited from some type of form of Obama care.

JONES: Doesn't this -- I mean, part of my problem with this -- I'll take this to you, John -- is this year we go more rooting for failure. It seems that the Republicans just can't say enough bad things about this bill.

But I don't know how long the American people are going to stay with this story when the economy is really where people's hearts are. I'm going to change the subject for once to something you guys don't have a thousand talking points cued on. And I want to get your best listen (ph) on this. What about the minimum wage? I think you guys in 2014 are going to be in deep trouble, because it's a very popular idea now to raise the minimum wage among conservatives and Tea Party members. What will happen to your party and your root-for-failure strategy on Obama care when the country follows this president on minimum wage?

FEEHERY: Well, let me tell you how the Republicans will respond. It wasn't rooting for failure on Obamacare. It was warning of failure on Obamacare.

JONES: Great talking point. You got it in there. You got it in there. You got it in there.

FEEHERY: Listen, you know, I remember when Newt was speaker and he was kind of talking about minimum wage. It can be very, very popular.

The fact is, it actually hurts job creation for people who most need it, which are kids, getting kids --


JONES: Got louder, louder. Keep saying it. It's not true and it's not popular.

FEEHERY: Well, it is true. But, politically, it's a dangerous thing. And I understand that.

I think for the Republicans, they have to talk about a poverty agenda, which Paul Ryan has been talking about. They also have to broadly talk about trying to get the economy growing yet, which the president never talks about. And then they also have to talk about -- they also have to talk about how Obamacare is hurting job creation --

JONES: But let me narrow down back on minimum wage. I thought that was great, what you just did. But with minimum wage in particular, when this president steps forward and says he wants to give America a race, because you guys don't want to help Americans who aren't working, he's going to say fine, how about the ones who are. Aren't you in a trap here? Because if you say no in Congress, guess what we do? We go to the states in the middle of the midterm. We put it on ballot measures across the country. We win either way on minimum wage. What are you guys going to do?

FEEHERY: Well, I think the single easiest way you can screw up job creation is by putting a lot more mandates that's been proven. And, listen, I know that it polls well, but what polls even better is to get jobs created. And the president needs to focus on that.

GINGRICH: Let me, I mean, I don't want to distort your wonderful moment here, but I am curious, you know, Penny, when you -- the president was talking about in a positive way, certainly the numbers in the last quarter are moderately encouraging. We also have a record number of people on food stamps. The president himself in the middle of telling us how great the economy was, whether or not we need a 1,200,000 people who need unemployment compensation that wasn't extended, you have a record number of people on disabilities.

Isn't it a fact that the depth of this problem was so real and so deep that it's going to take a long time at the pace we're currently on to get anywhere near a full employment --

LEE: Nobody ever promised that we're going to be in a hockey stick recovery. No one ever did. And we always knew that it was going to be slow and steady. Would we all look to see it like the last quarter, the economic growth continue like it did last quarter? Absolutely.

And as the president alluded to, he feels like 2014, we're on to something that the economy actually could get chugging at a greater pace. So, I agree with you in the fact that we do need -- John's point, that we do need to continue to grow on the jobs front. But I don't think in study after study has shown that minimum wage increases, and we're only talking just a little -- you know, $2, up to $10 right now, and most of the states are already at that level if not above.

And it doesn't decrease the job security, but it allows people to not having to be so reliant on public welfare. Public welfare means the safety needs, food stamps, unemployment benefits and the things (ph). So, they can expand it. So, that I think is something as Van was alluding to was good policy.

JONES: Let me tell you one more, I know you're going to get in, I can feel you. But let me just get one more good thing in here. Since Newt was beating up on my president about the gas prices now --

GINGRICH: Our president.


GINGRICH: The president of the United States. Come on, Van.

JONES: Fair enough.

FEEHERY: All of our president.

JONES: Bipartisanship and the Christmas spirit.

But I don't understand why, if gas prices were going up right now, you guys would be screaming, and yelling, saying, here we are, gas prices are coming down. Under this president, we're producing more energy. We're also more importantly on the green side, we're more efficient, we're actually wasting less, and we're seeing what happens when you get the supply up, the demand down.

Why are you cheerleading to this president with the gas exemption tax?

FEEHERY: What we're cheerleading for is the unbelievable help that the private sector has done. They are the ones who created this. It hasn't been the president.

The president has thrown every obstacle in the way.

JONES: I'm going to poke this little balloon right here. You know why fracking is taking off? Because America's government was smart enough to invest -- and you help on this -- smart enough to invest in the research and development to create that technology. It's been a public/private thing all the way in every advanced country, energy is public and private. And in this country, we don't have to drill on the White House lawn to bring gas.

FEEHERY: Why don't we all claim credit for the fact that the energy prices have gone down and we have energy security, which I think is a remarkable thing?

JONES: Good.

FEEHERY: But this is not the president's problem. The president's problem is, A, the stupid law he passed on Obamacare, which has really been killing jobs, and, B, the fact that he has not focused singlehandedly focused on job creation.

And with this thing, this economy is a disaster for so many people.


LEE: -- that there was a stimulus package that actually that did create job. We were losing at rate of 800,000 prior and you're now continuing to grow to 200,000 (ph).

So, to say that he is not about job creation is completely false.

FEEHERY: He is not focused --

JONES: What can he propose that you would vote for? He tried -- he went with all Republican ideas and you guys tried to down (ph) with his last jobs bill.

GINGRICH: The Keystone Pipeline.

(CROSSTALK) FEEHERY: How about corporate tax reform that brings money from overseas and really invest in jobs? Will he do that?


JONES: Hey, here's what we know --

GINGRICH: The Canadians just announced that they are going to build the pipeline to Vancouver and they are going to ship the oil to China because they're sick and tired of the U.S. government --

JONES: But the provinces are going to oppose it. It's going to be held up in court there because Canadians know what tar sand is. They know it's pipe eating, water fouling, planet cooking goo, and they don't want it and we shouldn't want it either. It is only going to China. We should have a show about that. However --


GINGRICH: Wait a second. Let me ask you for a second --

LEE: Yes.

JONES: I think we have to do it on the way back out. Stay here.

Next, we're going to have the final question for both of our guests. We want to hear their New Year's resolutions for President Obama.

We also want you at home to weigh in on today's "Fireback" question. Will 2014 be better or worse for President Obama? You can tweet better or worse using #crossfire.

We're going to give you those results after this break.


GINGRICH: We're back with Penny Lee and John Feehery.

Now, it's time for the final question.

At today's news conference, CNN's Brianna Keilar asked President Obama for his New Year's resolution. Here is his not-so-serious answer.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: My New Year's resolution is to be nicer to the White House press corps.



GINGRICH: So our final question for both of you is, what New Year's resolution do you think the president should be making? And we'll give you as a strong supporter a first shot at this. LEE: Unlike me who will be about the diet and health, he does not need to lose any more weight. I would say, for the peace and tranquility of the Obama household, I would say no more selfies with world leaders on a state funeral.


JONES: I think that's pretty good.

GINGRICH: That's pretty good.

FEEHERY: I think he should resolve to appear at least once on "Duck Dynasty" if it is not canceled by A&E. Show himself as a bipartisan --

LEE: Happy, happy, happy.

JONES: Somebody finally raised "Duck Dynasty."



GINGRICH: I like that. There will be an immediate spike.

And his suggestion for the president to go on "Duck Dynasty" will suddenly go out on the tweet and Facebook resolutions.

JONES: Absolutely.

GINGRICH: But what's your resolution for the president?

JONES: I think somebody once told me where there's life, there is hope.


JONES: I think you should just keep hope alive. And hang in there.

No, honestly, I think you should be focusing on the minimum wage. And there's a growing sense in the country that the people who are working hard and falling behind and that America deserves a raise. I think if he picks that fight, it's a good fight for him and it's a good fight for the country.

What do you think?

GINGRICH: Look, I hope that he will slow down for the next few days, focus on his daughters and his wife, unwind. This is a killing job. It's a terribly hard job and I think it is very hard for presidents occasionally to let loose. Rejuvenate. Think and then come back with a new sense.

I really do think the most important thing the president could do in the next week is nothing. Just focus on his family. The country will still be here. And then come back with fresh energy and fresh ideas. That would be my point.

JONES: Well put, well put. The holiday season is already breaking out.

I want to thank Penny Lee and John Feehery.

Listen, you can go to Facebook or Twitter to weigh in on our "Fireback" question, will 2014 be a better or worse year for President Obama? Right now, 66 percent of you say better. 34 percent say worse. The debate will continue online at, as well as on Facebook and Twitter.

And I want you to be sure to join CROSSFIRE host S.E. Cupp tonight at 9:00 Eastern. She's going to be interviewing Glenn Beck. And they talk about Chris Christie. Only Glenn Beck would give this answer. Take a listen.


GLENN BECK, RADIO HOST: Libertarianism is the future.


BECK: And that is everybody be cool to each other. Everybody live responsibly. And live free.

CUPP: Well, that sounds really good. But let me ask you about -- let me ask you about the real world. Chris Christie is the real world.

BECK: That is the real world.

CUPP: Chris Christie is almost --

BECKEL: No, Chris Christie is a fat nightmare.


JONES: OK. So you can watch S.E.'s entire interview with Glenn Beck tonight at 9:00 Eastern on "PIERS MORGAN LIVE."

From the left, I'm Van Jones.

GINGRICH: From the right, I'm Newt Gingrich.

Join us Monday for another edition of CROSSFIRE.

"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.