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Is Compromise Good Politics?

Aired February 03, 2014 - 18:28   ET



ANNOUNCER: Tonight on CROSSFIRE, is compromise good politics or a dirty word?


In reaching across the aisle, are both parties selling out their most loyal supporters?

On the left, Van Jones. On the right, S.E. Cupp. In the CROSSFIRE, Maria Cardona, a Democratic strategist, and Ralph Reed, chairman of the Faith and Freedom Coalition. When our leaders find the middle, will they lose their base? Tonight on CROSSFIRE.


S.E. CUPP, CO-HOST: Welcome to CROSSFIRE. I'm S.E. Cupp on the right.

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

Now a few hours ago, President Obama met with the top Democratic senators to start planning the strategy for the midterm elections. Here's a little tip. Think Seattle, not Denver. OK? These midterm elections are about playing defense. That means keep your base happy.

Here's my playbook. First, reject the Keystone Pipeline. You've got a brand-new report out that reveals it creates -- get this -- 35 permanent jobs. Now Seattle scored more points than that last night.


JONES: Next, demand the path to citizenship for immigration reform. Don't let the Republicans push you around like the Seahawks did Peyton Manning last night. Stand your ground on that.

And third, get rid of this terrible, awful sellout trade deal with the Pacific Rim (ph). Nobody in your base wants that. You are already polling, Mr. President, at 45 percent. If you want to get to 35 percent, abandon your base in the middle of the midterm election.

CUPP: You worked a lot of football into that. I liked it.

JONES: I got skills.

Cupp: And I hope the president's listening. We know he watches CROSSFIRE. I hope he takes your advice.

In the CROSSFIRE tonight, Democratic strategist Maria Cardona and Faith and Freedom Coalition president Ralph Reed. We've got a lot to talk about tonight.

Let's start with the Democrats. We're going to get to the Republicans. But for now let's focus on the Democrats.

Maria, Van clearly wants to push the president to the left. He wants the president to reach out to those progressives. But look at the president's approval ratings in the most competition states for the Senate this year. He is not doing well in red states where Democrats are vulnerable. Wouldn't it be suicide for the president to take Van's advice, which is why I want him to?

MARIA CARDONA, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: No, I don't think it would be suicide. And I think the reason is because a lot of the issues that Van mentioned and a lot of the issues that the president talked about when he was inaugurated for the second time, in his inauguration speech, which so many people talked about, how it was such a lefty liberal speech, if you look at each one of those issues -- immigration reform, climate change, minimum wage, even he's talking about income inequality right now -- the majority of the American people, the mainstream of America are there. They are with him.

Now, there's no question that it will be a tight rope because, as we know, in midterm elections, it is not a national electorate. You have to look at what's going on in the states. That's why you see some of these red state Democrats are doing their own thing. And that's OK.

CUPP: They don't want to be seen with him in public.

CARDONA: That's OK. Because they know what they need to do in order to get elected. It actually means that the president can do all of the things that Van Jones talked about.

CUPP: Oh good, I feel better.

CARDONA: And gives them an opportunity to show the difference.

JONES: Let's bring you in here. Wouldn't you concede on some of this stuff? Maybe you don't like everything I just said. But there's a lot of stuff this president has led on, the public is with him on, and even Republicans are moving. Immigration, minimum wage, unemployment insurance, the debt ceiling -- clean debt ceiling, all these things where Obama's stuck the pole in the ground, and now Republicans are moving his way. Isn't that a vindication of his leadership?


CUPP: I am shocked.

REED: I think the problem is -- and S.E. showed the president's plummeting approval ratings in the key red states where the -- where the key Senate races will take place.

But this is an approval rating that has plummeted from the high 50s to mid-50s down to the low 40s. And I really think, Van, you're making it more complicated and more political than it really needs to be. This is really largely because of a policy failure.

The central domestic legislative achievement of this president, the domestic legislative achievement that will define his presidency in the same way that the Great Society did for LBJ and the New Deal --

JONES: Are you going to say Obama care? The Republican's talking about Obama care.

REED: And even he has acknowledged that. The broken Web site, the 5 to 6 million people who had their policies canceled. And all that catastrophe, to use Baucus -- Senator Baucus' term, a train wreck. So instead of focusing on the politics, the key is to get the policy right.

Now, if you look at immigration reform, for example, let's -- I know this is hard in Washington, but let's set the politics aside for a minute and ask ourselves a simple question. Is it a good idea, is it sound policy to tell millions of people who have been waiting in line for years to obey our laws, to play by the rules, and to wait for a legal visa before they enter, to watch millions of people be given a green light to a special path to citizenship when they obeyed the law?

CUPP: Well, we're going to get into --

REED: And the answer is it's not.

CUPP: You can go ahead, Maria.

CARDONA: OK. So first of all, on Obama care, Ralph, you're just wrong on that, because it's way too early to say one way or the other what his legacy is going to be. But the numbers show, now that the Web site is working, that it actually will be, on average, very good for the American people.

You have millions of people who could not get health care before, who are now getting it. And a lot of the people that you talk about whose plans were canceled are now able to get them perhaps at cheaper rates and perhaps at different plans that are better for them.

You talk about the coalition of voters that, A, any Republican who has -- who wants to be in the White House any time soon, they have to look at women. They have to look at Latinos; they have to look at African- Americans. That coalition of voters, they are absolutely doing well by Obama care. And will continue to do well, because they're the ones who didn't have health care before.


CUPP: Not if -- not if enough young people sign up to actually make Obama care affordable and workable. I mean, you might have some good polling results right now from the folks who actually got Obama care, but we don't have the numbers to actually support this system. Doesn't that worry you?

CARDONA: Yes, and it is a worry, and that's why you see all of the groups that are allied with the president making sure that they go out and they sign up those young people. But even -- even the early numbers are higher than what was expected.

REED: Well, actually, actually, what the early -- what the early numbers -- what the early numbers show, Maria, and this is both in a "New York Times" report and a "Wall Street Journal" report in which they surveyed private insurers who were signing up people on the exchanges, between 80 and 85 percent of the people who are getting policies are people who had their policies canceled.

So Obama care is not succeeding in covering the uninsured. All it's doing is churning through, canceling people's policies. Then they're driven to the exchanges, and now they're having to get a new policy. That's not what this Obama care was supposed to do.

CUPP: I think -- I think in addition to Obama care, which a lot of voters care about, they also care about jobs. And if we're serious about jobs, I think that the president has got to approve the Keystone Pipeline. You've got major union -- labor union folks backing this. President Clinton said we've got to embrace Keystone. It just got a clean bill of health in this report.

Haven't the opponents to Keystone already lost? I bet -- I bet the president approves this. You want to make a bet?

CARDONA: Absolutely not. I will bet you.

CUPP: OK, great, let's do it.

CARDONA: I won't bet you my retirement, but I will bet you.

CUPP: Let's stay away from $10,000 bets.

CARDONA: That's right.

CUPP: But we'll just shake on it. How about that?

CARDONA: Good. If you look at the report, the report doesn't actually say that this is going to be good for the country. What the report actually says is that, in and of itself, you cannot make a determination on the impact of what this one project by, itself without any other factor coming into play, will have on carbon emissions.

What it does say, though, is it plays out scenarios which are very feasible that will play out: for example, the price of oil goes down. Everyone speculated the price of oil will go down. If that happens, then tar sands expands and carbon emissions will go up.

And so I actually think taking that, along with everything else a the president wants to do on climate change, can give him a green light to say no. JONES: I really want to get your opinion on this. Now, I don't understand why Republicans have made this project the centerpiece of their entire economic philosophy.

CUPP: I think that's overstated quite a bit.

JONES: Every time we have a show, somebody says something. Somebody says -- somebody says something about Keystone, and somehow Keystone is going to create all these jobs. Then it turns out -- look at the actual numbers. It turns out the actually numbers are 3,900 temporary jobs in the construction sector and 35 permanent jobs.

Why is this obsession that you guys have when you have a foreign corporation, TransCanada, who's going to be seizing American farmland, putting a dangerous, toxic chemical through so they can send it over to China and create 35 permanent jobs? Why is this your talking point?

REED: Well, I don't think that's a fair reading of the report. First of all, the report says there will be 42,000 jobs created.

JONES: No, no, no, it says -- let's be very clear. Forty-two thousand jobs direct, indirect and induced.

REED: Yes, that's right.

JONES: Which is basically the secretary --

REED: That's an econometric model that shows the spending of people who get jobs and so forth. It isn't fair to just limit it.

JONES: But it's 3,900 construction jobs. I can give you --

REED: By definition -- by definition, construction jobs are temporary. OK? When you build a building, guess what? When the building's built, move on to next project. It's ridiculous to say you shouldn't build a pipeline for that reason. That's No. 1.

No. 2, the main argument for why the pipeline should not have been green-lighted was its potential effect on the environment. And what the report shows, Van -- and this is irrefutable; the science is clear -- is that the alternatives to the pipeline are worse.

If you use primarily tanker trucks to transport this shale gas, climate emissions will be 28 percent higher than the pipeline. If you use primarily rail, they'll be 40 to 42 percent higher.

JONES: Very good --

REED: So if you're protecting the environment, you should build the pipeline.

JONES: All that's a very good reason to leave this toxic sludge in the ground. We can talk about that later.

CUPP: All right. So Democrats have their own little feuds, but Republicans have their own share of divides, too. When it comes to immigration, I'm convinced we're having the wrong debate. I've got some numbers that will surprise you, next.



CUPP: Welcome back. In the CROSSFIRE tonight, Maria Cardona and Ralph Reed.

Today President Obama huddled behind closed doors to plot strategy for 2014. Immigration reform is sure to figure into that, even though Paul Ryan now is clearly expressing some doubts.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Bottom line, can you put something on the president's desk this year that he can sign?

REP. PAUL RYAN (R), WISCONSIN: I really don't know the answer to that question. That is clearly in doubt.


CUPP: OK. Well, here's my question. Are we having the wrong debate? When it comes to pathways to citizenship, does anyone bother to look at the numbers?


According to a Pew poll conducted in 2012, nearly two-thirds of the 5.4 million legal Mexican immigrants who are eligible to become citizens of the United States have decided not to pursue that. Why? Many say they're simply not interested.

So, Maria, I've got some more polling, this one from Pew. When asked what's more important among Hispanic legal immigrants, they say legalization is more important, 36 percent say citizenship.

So, if the main priority is legalization, and we've got a Republican proposal on the table that allows for legal status, why are we obsessing over this pathway to citizenship that some immigrants don't even want?

CARDONA: Well, I think the reason why the pathway to citizenship is important, and it is important to a lot of immigrants is because we don't want to have in this country a second class citizenry. So, it's one thing to give them the choice and if they choose not to become citizens, you know, that's fine. There are a lot of legal immigrants right now that are not citizens and they continue to work and raise their families and that's fine.

CUPP: And send money home.

CARDONA: And send money home, exactly.

CUPP: And maybe intend on returning home.


CARDONA: Correct. That's exactly correct.

But if they want to, they've been here long enough, they can start the process and they become citizens.

CUPP: I understand. But isn't that a political roadblock that is unnecessary?

CARDONA: Well, I don't think so. I think --

CUPP: It's real immigration reform.

CARDONA: I think it's more of a road block for Republicans, frankly, because I would tell you today, yes, if the pathway to legalization is something that is real and that is on the table for Republican, Democrats would have to really think long and hard about accepting that because, if you put that choice in front of an immigrant, between a pathway to legalization and nothing, of course, they're going to choose a pathway to legalization.

CUPP: Many of them prioritize that.

CARDONA: Well, but guess what, S.E., there is nothing on the table right now. And in fact, Paul Ryan and Raul Labrador said on Telemundo, to the whole Hispanic community in the country, that he didn't think this was going to happen.

CUPP: And it might not.

JONES: I think that will be a tragedy.

Now, I'm really curious about you on this one. You have actually been a big fighter, from my point of view, the good side of the immigration reform, trying to get families unified, all that kind of stuff. And yet it seems to be a very tough pill for the Republican Party to swallow.

And for some people, it seems like there may be an elephant in the room. There may be some either ethnic or racial or cultural chauvinism here.

You know, you've got people saying stuff like this, you know, Steve King is famous for doing this to you guys -- for every valedictorian, there's a hundred other Dreamer kids that weigh 130 pounds, they've got calves the size of cantaloupes because they're hauling 75 pounds of marijuana across the desert.

Doesn't that kind of rhetoric from the Republican Party offend you or bother you? And why don't you speak out more strongly against those kinds of almost intolerance-sounding comments?

RALPH REED, CONSERVATIVE STRATEGIST: Well, I think the most important thing I can do in Faith and Freedom is talk about what we're for and not what we're against. And I think what's interesting about the debate, Van, is there are a lot of things that we can agree on.

JONES: Yes, but aren't you against comments like that?

REED: Well, that doesn't reflect my views. I've never said anything like that.

I don't think -- I don't think -- look, Steve King is a friend of mine. I think the world of him. I think he's a great representative for the state of Iowa and he's a conservative.


JONES: But you're a top political strategist. I'm asking you a tough question here.

REED: Mm-hmm.

JONES: You just said, on the one hand, we all know that you've been a good champion on some of this stuff, at the same time, you say your friend says stuff like that.

If I'm just a regular person and I'm trying to figure out what party should I be a part of. I know that you have your heart in the right place but your friends says terrible stuff. Doesn't that hurt the Republican Party? And why don't you do more about it?

REED: No, look, I think there are -- look, there are bad actors and people who say things they shouldn't say that are inartful and hurtful in both parties. I don't think that's not confined to either party.

And it gets back to what I said earlier, Van, if this is not, you know, just a bunch of carnival barkers and this isn't just a reality show, if we're really going to try to arrive at public policy that changes people's lives for the better, then let's focus on getting the policy right.

And what caused this system to get broken with the 65 immigration reform under Johnson was to move through chain migration. So, now in our country, 80 percent of everybody who enters the country comes because they're related by blood or familial connection to somebody who is already here. So, we can't get people based on their economic needs or anything like that. And spouses and children have no priority.

So what I've said is I'm against amnesty, but I'm for fixing what's broken.

CARDONA: No one's for amnesty.

REED: That's not true.

CUPP: Yes, that's not true.

REED: There are plenty of people who are for amnesty.

(CROSSTALK) CARDONA: -- Democrats that are serious about this position.

CUPP: Well, that's a different --

CARDONA: Republicans love to say that we're for amnesty but that is --

REED: No, we did amnesty in '86, it was a bipartisan process. There are plenty of people --

CARDONA: But that's not what this is.

JONES: You are also a top strategist. Doesn't this perception problem for Republicans -- for Democrats, we don't have a problem on this issue. Republicans have a lot of dyspepsia on this issue.

Is this an issue for them? And why do you think it's a case that they choke on it so hard?


CARDONA: I think it's a huge issue for Republicans. But I actually want to commend people like you, Ralph, because you have led on this. I think --

REED: Sure.

CARDONA: -- the faith community, I think the law enforcement community, I think even the Chamber of Commerce, the business community that are mostly conservatives are Republicans have led on this.

So, there are a lot of Republican leaders in the right place. But I think they really need to push a little bit more like Van was saying because there are still a lot of Republicans in the House. And let's face it, this is up to the House now in terms of what is going to be presented, whether those principles are going to be able to become a reality.

And I do think it is a huge issue from a perception standpoint and from a future political survival standpoint, if you will. And you guys have heard this. Latinos are going to be one of three in terms of dissent in 2016 --


REED: You are saying it is a problem for us, but the reality is Barack Obama ran for president in 2008 and promised in his first term he would get this done. He controlled both chambers of Congress, one of them by a margin large enough to pass a constitutional amendment.

He did nothing. He didn't get it done. He has failed to lead.

And that's a reality.

(CROSSTALK) CUPP: I want to get --

REED: And it didn't move at all. And then he did it by executive order before an election.

CUPP: I want to get one other question in here about Chris Christie because he's been in the news. I'm sure we can argue about him a little bit.

It seems to me the giddiness with which the media and Democrats are just, you know, delighting in his troubles is having an unintended consequence. It is winning him sympathy and support from the very people who trusted him the least, the far right. And proof, the latest proof is that CPAC which snubbed him last year for being too liberal on certain issues has suddenly decided he is perfectly conservative enough, even though his opinions have not changed on those issues.

Aren't Democrats and the media risking shoring up his support over the next year by overreaching on some of these stories and not just letting the investigation play out?

CARDONA: I don't think so and here is why. I actually have a different theory or an alternate theory as to why CPAC invited him. It wasn't because they are suddenly so in love with him. I think it's because they do see that he even with bridge-gate and everything that he does have the potential path to become a big leader in the Republican Party and they don't want to be left out of it.

They want to have a say in that. They want to have a say in that.

CUPP: I think they also really --


JONES: Stay here, stay here. We're going to come back.

But, listen, before we go, I want -- when we come back, we're going to talk about our biggest outrages of the day. We've got a few.

CUPP: Oh, fun.

JONES: Mine has to do with people who were offended by Coke's Super Bowl commercial. Now, what is wrong with singing "America The Beautiful" in different languages?

CUPP: Nothing.

JONES: I have no idea.

But you may have an opinion. If you, here's today's "Fireback" question: Do you find Coca-Cola's Super Bowl ad offensive? If you do, tweet yes. If you don't, tweet no, using #crossfire. We'll give you the results when we get back.


CUPP: We're back with Maria Cardona and Ralph Reed.

And our outrages of the day -- I am outraged over something that happened during the Super Bowl, and I don't mean Peyton blowing it. Legendary NFL quarterback Joe Namath made an appearance last night at the Super Bowl in a very stylish Fur coat. It looks pretty warm, too.

Predictably, the animal rights extremists at PETA are outraged at Broadway Joe's attire, taking to Twitter to post graphic images of dead rabbits meant to shame fur wearers out of their clothes.

But more offensive than Joe's coat, that time he posed in panty hose for Hanes. Where was PETA then? Thousands of nylons had to die for that photo shoot.

Look, PETA is so boring and predictable these days, I might not actually be outraged by this. But what did you think of targeting Broadway Joe during Super Bowl?

CARDONA: I think that is a little much. I mean, I think -- it just -- it went a little overboard.

CUPP: Dead animals at the Super Bowl? I don't think so, Van.

REED: Unfortunately, the game was such that this was all anybody --

CUPP: That's right.


JONES: Well, look, I was outraged by all the crazy attacks on Coca- Cola's "America is Beautiful" ad during the Super Bowl. You know, for me, it was very powerful. America is every color, every faith, every kind of human being that lives in this country.

And for the people who look at that ad and who said, well, it has to be sung in English, it's the only language -- get over it. Just get over it. American songs, patriotic songs are powerful in any language. That's my wife.

CUPP: I totally agree.

CARDONA: But you know what? It's not surprising when you have Marc Anthony singing the national anthem and you get haters going on Twitter saying, why do you have a foreigner singing the national anthem? The man was born in the United States.

REED: I don't think that is where the heart of the country is. I mean, you can go into any major city, you got into ethnic neighborhoods where there's Polish parts of Chicago or the Hispanic parts of Miami and L.A., I think people understand that.

CARDONA: I think that's right.

JONES: I think that's right.

Look, I want to thank both of you, Maria Cardona and Ralph Reed.

You can go to Facebook or Twitter to weigh in on this "Fireback" question. Did you find the Coca-Cola super bowl ad offensive? Right now, only 14 percent said yes, 86 percent said no.

CUPP: There you go.

JONES: The debate can continue online at, as well as Facebook and Twitter.

From the left, I'm Van Jones.

CUPP: From the right, I'm S.E. Cupp.

Join us tomorrow for another edition of CROSSFIRE.

"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.