On Thursday's "Morning Joe," "60 Minutes" correspondent Lesley Stahl deplored the GOP stiff-arm to Democratic lame-duck legislation, complaining that it wiped out the conciliatory tone of the Republicans' meeting with President Obama. She referred to the GOP strategy as "the maneuvering that I think is such a turnoff."
"If you're up here after the White House meeting saying 'Yes, they can be civil to each other,' and it's just a tone. We know it's a tone. And then it's dashed," she mourned. "After the meeting with the President, everybody – I think, I think – in the country said this is great, this is what we want, we want that tone," she gushed of the GOP leadership's meeting with Obama.
Stahl then lamented the GOP's ensuing opposition to Democratic legislation until extending the Bush tax cuts is made a top priority.
"And then Mitch McConnell comes out with his letter saying 'We're not going to do anything. Anything.' I wonder how that plays, I wonder what he thinks he's accomplishing when everybody is applauding just the tone of the meeting with the President," she questioned.
Joe Scarborough meanwhile flashed a provocative headline for the camera and warned that Republicans will face staunch criticism for refusing to extend unemployment benefits in its stand-off. The co-host held Thursday's copy of the New York Daily News, with a cover that read "GOP to City Jobless: Drop Dead."
Rather than condemning the title as extreme, in the vein of his recent pleading for calmer rhetoric throughout the nation under the slogan "Keep Calm and Carry On," Scarborough said that such headlines will be common now that Republicans will ascend to the House majority. "You would not have seen this a month ago," he commented.
Time's Mark Halperin remarked that what Republicans are doing is actually working. "All the things that worked for Republicans in the election are still working now," he stated. "The country hasn't changed. Saying 'we're against taxes,' saying the President's a liberal, saying Democrats aren't focused on what the American people care about – all those talking points continue to work, and Republicans aren't giving them up"
A transcript of the segment, which aired on December 2 at 8:04 a.m. EDT, is as follows:
LESLEY STAHL, '60 Minutes' correspondent: I think what you were talking about, with Coburn this morning, it was such a relief to hear him say something nice about the President. And the whole table here said "Isn't that wonderful." And after the meeting with the President, everybody – I think, I think – in the country said this is great, this is what we want, we want that tone.
That's all. And he comes in with this harsh letter saying basically "Forget it. We're not going to do anything." What do you think the public is feeling when they see that their mood of the day before is completely crashed? You said it was a negotiation, but I'm asking about the tone.
JOE SCARBOROUGH: I think it is. I think that in the end, the deal's going to get done, because the President needs the tax cuts to help him with independents, and Republicans don't need to cut off unemployment benefits at Christmas because they don't want to see this headline in their hometown newspaper –
(Camera Zooms to Headline)
HEADLINE, NY Daily News: "GOP to City Jobless: Drop Dead!"
STAHL: We have to see the sausage-making. I'm just talking about the maneuvering that I think is such a turnoff.
SCARBOROUGH: But see, I don't think Mitch McConnell is playing to middle America. Mitch McConnell has his own problems, and that's inside his own caucus. He's far more moderate on spending than all of the Tea Party people that came to Washington, DC, and he's already given in on the earmark ban. I think he's trying to show his troops "Hey, I can be tough." But he's in the minority.
STAHL: But how does it play out there? What is the public – you know, I just look at that, and if you're up here after the White House meeting saying "Yes, they can be civil to each other," and it's just a tone. We know it's a tone. And then it's dashed.
SCARBOROUGH: You know I always found, that as far as middle America goes, for the most part, you've got the President, and then you've got everybody else. And as long as the President's talking this way, I think he's helping himself with independent voters, and if Republicans don't strike a deal that helps both sides, then the President can leverage that against them and – that was always my take with Bill Clinton, that it was always about Bill Clinton. Or it was always about Ronald Reagan, and how people responded to them.
STAHL: Yeah, but they're larger-than-life. Obama, I'm not sure has that same sway and influence over the –
SCARBOROUGH: Oh, things have changed!
STAHL: Do you think he does? Do you think that he captures the public's attention to the same degree that Clinton and Reagan did?
SCARBOROUGH: I think he's where Bill Clinton was in '94. I mean the big key is where we go two years from now.
MARK HALPERIN, Time magazine senior political analyst: It's a very complicated time that requires the President to be bigger-than-life – and it's just not the way his relationship with the American people exists right now. I think that the moment we're in right now is extraordinarily important, and the White House is acting like they can be patient rather than seize the initiative. It's extraordinarily important that the economy be strong as it finishes the year and goes into next year where people have confidence that things can get done. The danger – the liability that I think the Democrats have now and the President has now is the election was a month ago – all the things that worked for Republicans in the election are still working now. The country hasn't changed. Saying "we're against taxes," saying the President's a liberal, saying Democrats aren't focused on what the American people care about – all those talking points continue to work, and Republicans aren't giving them up.
STAHL: I don't agree with you.
SCARBOROUGH: I'll show this again, though. I'm sorry. You would not have seen this – and it's not just about this issue. You would not have seen this a month ago. (Shows the NY Daily News Headline: "GOP to City Jobless: Drop Dead!") Now that Republicans are in power in the House of Representatives, you're going to be seeing more things like that–
HALPERIN: But they're not yet –
SCARBOROUGH: Most of America thinks they are. I'm telling you – the big headline this week politically is the fact that Barack Obama and Robert Gibbs started sounding like the Barack Obama and Robert Gibbs that America met in Iowa in 2008.
SCARBOROUGH: The Republicans can't get the tax cuts they want without the President, and the President can't get the unemployment benefits that he wants without Republicans. That's how Washington works.