Time's Halperin Dismisses GOP Response to Oval Office Speech as 'Childish' and 'Churlish'

Appearing on Charlie Rose's PBS program, Time magazine's Mark Halperin dismissed the GOP responses to President Obama's Oval Office speech as "childish" and "churlish" adding that the GOP "mocked" the President on Tuesday night, instead of seeking common ground with him on new energy legislation.

The Time reporter thinks the present Gulf disaster constitutes a "national crisis," but also posited that another crisis exists -- "not having a national energy policy," as he framed it.

"I think everything they do must go towards trying to solve the generation's-long crisis of a lack of energy policy," Halperin said of the Obama administration. And of course in Halperin's view, "the biggest barrier to that now is there are no Republicans on board."

Kevin Sheekey, former Deputy Mayor of New York City, countered that it is the job of those in Congress to fight their opponents on issues like these, even in times of national crises. The President's job, he said, is to govern, managing the federal response and ensuring the Gulf is cleaned up.

New York Magazine's John Heilemann then came to Halperin's defense, launching a blistering critique of Sheekey's argument. "This is the kind of narrow, managerialist, incrementalist vision that brought low the Bloomberg merilty, right here with Kevin," he snapped.

Heilemann said that the majority of the American people–65 percent–favor the President focusing on energy legislation for America's future, rather than focusing everything on making BP pay for and clean up the oil spill.

The transcript of the segment, which aired on June 16 at 1:27 a.m. EDT, is as follows:

MARK HALPERIN, Time Magazine senior political analyst: I don't want to minimize the crisis that's going on in the Gulf right now–both stopping the spill and the cleanup. But we're dealing with a generations-long crisis of not having a national energy policy. The business talked–John talked about it–the energy companies would like one, the business community would like one, just as some people in the business community wanted a more rational and predictable health care policy, instead of health care costs. This is–this is–Rahm is mocked all the time for the not wasting the crisis thing. But they must use tomorrow's meeting, the hearings on Thursday, everything they do now–  they must rationally and competently clean up the current short-term crisis. But I think everything they do must go towards trying to solve the generations-long crisis of a lack of energy policy. And the biggest barrier to that now is there are no Republicans on board. Rahm told you that there's going to be a big meeting next week with Republicans who've come forward in the Senate with ideas. The President on Wednesday is meeting with Scott Brown alone in the Oval Office. They need to get business back on board. And to the extent they attack BP–and that turns off business, to say this White House is anti-business–that's a mistake. Everything, I think, must go towards Republicans in the Senate feeling either pressure from the public, if that can exist, or appealing to them to say "What can we work together on that we agree on to solve the national crisis?"

KEVIN SHEEKEY, Former Deputy Mayor, New York City: Yeah, but Charlie, listen. Mark's right, and I haven't written a book that sold half-a-million copies, and going to a million, by the way. But this is like that movie where the asteroid is coming towards us, right, and you got the President, you know, that guy you really feel good about. He's the good President, he gets the good guys to go out there. The asteroid is coming, right?  The most important thing the President said tonight is we're going to cap this thing, next week, or within a month, we're going to get ninety percent of it, and within a month after that, we're basically going to get it all. That's the most important thing, and that's actually the only thing that Americans want right now. It's great that we have a plan to take care of all the asteroids that are coming at us in the future, but I gotta tell you, if they can't deal with that up front. Two storylines are developing here, right? One is a fight, by the way we've got oil on one side, and we have the likes of Mark, who's become quite enlightened about the need for a national energy policy on the other side. There's going to be a fight about that, right?

MARK HALPERIN: If this were really being treated like a crisis, wouldn't the statements that came from Republicans tonight look for common ground, rather than being childish and churlish, and mocking the President?

KEVIN SHEEKEY: No, no, no–people in Congress are made to fight. That's what they do, and they get re-elected by fighting. Executives don't.

MARK HALPERIN: Not in times of national crisis.

KEVIN SHEEKEY: In modern times, absolutely, right? And what Presidents get re-elected with is governing, with ending those fights, and not getting involved in them, but actually going out there and governing. But you can absolutely go in as a 20 percent institution, which Congress is, or 18, and get re-elected. You cannot, as a President, fight with a 20 percent institution, and actually look good.

(...)

JOHN HEILEMANN: This is the kind of narrow, managerialist, incrementalist vision that brought low the Bloomberg merilty, right here with kevin. With all due respect, I think it's just not true that the country is only looking for those kinds of narrow solutions. You've got the President's pollster Joel Bennanson, who's been circulating a 17-page memo around among Democrats saying that–not only among Democrats, but among swing voters. You've got a country that is presented with a choice between make BP pay and clean up the spill on one hand, or take on, even  pass a reform bill that has substantial costs involved that brings us to a better energy future. You've got about 65 percent of the country who is on the latter one of those choices.
Matt Hadro
Matt Hadro
Matt Hadro was a News Analyst for the Media Research Center's News Analysis Division from 2010 through early 2014