Roberts: Resistance to 'Stimulus' Bill 'Irresponsible,' Stephanopoulos Pushes Bank Nationalization

ABC's Cokie Roberts denounced as “irresponsible” conservative opposition to the “stimulus” bill and suggested those who voted against it should be punished, declaring on Sunday's This Week: “I just think that when you're in a situation like this, to do nothing is so irresponsible that you can't, you can't get away with it.”

Earlier on the show, host George Stephanopoulos pressed Congresswoman Maxine Waters to agree banks must be nationalized: “A lot of economists now saying that what is really -- could be needed is bite the bullet nationalization.” Citing a professor's op-ed, “Nationalize the Banks! We're all Swedes Now,” Stephanopoulos recited the argument “we should just do what they did when they faced their crisis. They nationalized the banks and they came out of it okay.” When the far-left House member resisted -- “I don't think that we're ready to move to the point of a formalized, nationalized banking program yet” -- Stephanopoulos pleaded: “Even if it's the only thing that would work?”

George Will criticized the Roberts formulation as “the fallacy of a false alternative” since “there are lots of things that could have been done that weren't and lots of things that are done in this bill that shouldn't be done.” Sam Donaldson then jumped in to support Roberts' take: “So the big rolling stone following Indiana Jones is coming down. And somebody says 'let's go to the left and escape it.' And someone says, 'that's the wrong direction, let's go to the right.' Do you just sit there? No, you go to the left if that's what the majority wants to do.” Yes, let's all jump off the cliff in bipartisan harmony.

Roberts, however, despite her castigation of Republican opponents as people who shouldn't be allowed to “get away” with their “irresponsible” vote, conceded: “There's no reason for Republicans who feel that they ideologically, philosophically are against this kind of spending to go along with it just in the name of bipartisanship. That would be voting against their principles.”  

The February 15 Washington Post “Outlook” section piece, “Nationalize the Banks! We're all Swedes Now,” by Matthew Richardson and Nouriel Roubini, “professors at New York University's Stern School of Business, contributed to the upcoming book Restoring Financial Stability: How to Repair a Failed System.”

From the February 15 This Week on ABC, a panel with Waters, Senators Lindsey Graham and Chuck Schumer, plus Congressman Peter King:
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: A lot of economists now saying that what is really -- could be needed is bite the bullet nationalization. Nouriel Roubini, one of the men who saw the crisis coming said nationalization's the answer in today's Washington Post. President Obama says no.

PRESIDENT OBAMA ON ABC ON TUESDAY: Sweden has a different set of cultures in terms of how the government relates to markets and America's different. And we want to retain a strong sense of private capital fulfilling the core investment needs of this country.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Congresswoman Waters, Mr. Roubini and others say we're all Swedes now, that we should just do what they did when they faced their crisis. They nationalized the banks and they came out of it okay.

CONGRESSWOMAN MAXINE WATERS: George, as you know, the word "nationalization" scares the hell out of people. And so the debate has ben opened up now and that's good. Let's talk about it, we know that as we have this capital infusion into these banks, we're owning more and more of them. Citibank, it's probably almost nationalized with the amount of money that we've put in it, but I don't think that we're ready to move to the point of a formalized, nationalized banking program yet.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Even if it's the only thing that would work?

WATERS: Well we may get to that point and I'm not opposed to that. But I think the discussion is just opening up. This is new for America.
(Obama's comment on nationalizing banks was prompted by ABC reporter Terry Moran's question: “There are a lot of economists who look at these banks and they say all that garbage that's in them renders them essentially insolvent. Why not just nationalize the banks?” That exchange aired on Tuesday's Nightline. More in the NB item, “ABC's Moran: Obama 'Too Nice,' Empathizes: 'You Got No Honeymoon.'”)

From the roundtable:
COKIE ROBERTS: And the extension of unemployment benefits. The extension of health care for the unemployed. The addition to Medicaid for the states. All of that is just money on the table immediately. And I just think that when you're in a situation like this, to do nothing is so irresponsible that you can't, you can't get away with it.

GEORGE WILL: But that is the fallacy of a false alternative and the President's been wielding it promiscuously, frankly. He says it's either this or nothing. That's just not true. There are lots of things that could have been done that weren't and lots of things that are done in this bill that shouldn't be done. And we're having a healthy argument.

SAM DONALDSON: Yeah but George you're right, no doubt, but that's the bill we had. So the question was, do you at the end of the day vote for the bill?

WILL: Of course not.

DONALDSON: Oh, of course not. Let me just say. So the big rolling stone following Indiana Jones is coming down. And somebody says “let's go to the left and escape it.” And someone says, “that's the wrong direction, let's go to the right.” Do you just sit there? No, you go to the left if that's what the majority wants to do.

STEPHANOPOULOS: George, you bring up the point where you call it a healthy argument and Peter King was making a similar point. Let me bring this to you, Cokie, for all the civility in the world, for all the cocktail parties in the world, these differences are just too big to bridge?

ROBERTS: Absolutely, that's right. There's no reason for Republicans who feel that they ideologically, philosophically are against this kind of spending to go along with it just in the name of bipartisanship. That would be voting against their principles and voting against what they think is right for the country. So I think that's where you are. You've got parties that really do disagree...
Brent Baker
Brent Baker
Brent Baker is the Steven P.J. Wood Senior Fellow and VP for Research and Publications at the Media Research Center