Naive Piers Morgan: Obama 'Wanted to Work With the Opposition'

On Tuesday, CNN's Piers Morgan claimed that President Obama wanted to work with Republicans when he entered office, but was forced to play hardball because of their intransigence.

According to Morgan, Obama wanted to be inclusive because "that's exactly what he said when he came in." The naive host added that the President "wanted to work with the opposition. But when he's tried, the Republicans have stamped on his head."

Morgan's guest, Indiana governor Mitch Daniels, wondered if he has even seen enough of American politics to know what he's talking about. "Piers, you've joined us fairly recently. And maybe you missed a few twists and turns in the road," he observed, adding that Obama "gives as good as he gets."

As Daniels explained, with the Democratic majorities in Congress Obama "had his way completely for two years, ignored – ignored reservations that Republicans had. And my gosh, the – what a divisive speech he gave this week."

Morgan not only gave Obama a pass for the country's political problems, but threw blame the way of Republicans for the Bush years and their recent "intransigence" over the debt ceiling. Pointing to Daniels' time as director of the Office of Management and Budget under Bush, Morgan accused him of helping cause the country's fiscal troubles and asked just how much Obama is to blame for the deficit given what he inherited.

"So far from being the one who keeps the republic, you're the one that stuck the republic in the mire. How do you respond to that?" he asked Daniels point-blank. Of course, like any good liberal, Morgan ignored that President Obama increased the rate of deficit spending when he entered office, instead of cutting spending.

And the former British tabloid editor didn't forget to press Daniels about his re-marriage to his wife after they had divorced, asking if it was an asset or a burden politically. However, Morgan divorced his wife of almost 20 years in 2008 and married another woman, so he perhaps could be pressed to explain his personal life on prime-time cable news, and note whether it is a burden or an asset for his career.

A transcript of the segment, which aired on September 21 at 9:25 p.m. EDT, is as follows:

PIERS MORGAN: How are you going to keep the republic?

Gov. MITCH DANIELS (R-Ind.): I hope we're going to do it by, first of all, placing the future ahead of the present, which is to say matching long-term means with ends. We're badly out of whack as we all know. We have huge debts today, like so many other developed countries. And worse still, we've made unfundable commitments for tomorrow. So it has to start with that. We have to commit the nation to the growth of the private sector.

You know what's troubling me most, Piers, is that it's not just our economy at stake. I think it's the whole American prospect, the American promise of upward mobility for all. And I go so far as to suggest really the whole – the project of govern by the consent of the governed is on trial here, as many philosophers through time always predicted it would be.

MORGAN: I mean what your critics say, you're known as these fantastic nicknames – "Mitch the knife," and the "blade" when you worked for President Bush, because you were so aggressive with spending cuts. But they also say, look, this is a guy that brought in the Bush tax cuts. And that has been partly responsible, along with going into wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, for the financial mess the country has got itself into.

So far from being the one who keeps the republic, you're the one that stuck the republic in the mire. How do you respond to that?


DANIELS: Well, I think it's a little overstated. You know – maybe it's the testimony of those years to my poor powers of persuasion. I was always arguing with a Republican Congress, it's fair to say, it wasn't the Democratic Party in charge in those days.

I gave speeches at the National Press Club and other places, pointed out they didn't pass conflicts of the America. Harry Truman at the time of Korea is a great example, had really reduced spending at least temporarily on other things. That's what might – that's what you do if you take on new obligations or wars. Didn't get very far with that. We did have guns and butter, and that was part of it. But you know –

MORGAN: You know (Unintelligible) today that it's only a tiny part of it and shouldn't really be considered. I mean it's a trillion dollars. I mean that's not a tiny part of the budget, is it? A trillion dollars on wars?

DANIELS: Well, it didn't sound as big as it used to now that we're running $1.4 trillion every year. I mean the biggest deficit under George Bush was one-third the size of the ones we're running today. You know, I'm not here to argue or defend anything that happened back then. If you've wanted to know what I really think about spending, it's probably better to look at the seven years I've actually been in charge of something.

MORGAN: Well, your record in Indiana is very good. And you got reelected there and it's coming to an end in 2012. And it's very good in many, many areas. No question. But what I would put to you, I say that even someone like you who's got a great fiscal record in your state, you still struggle with unemployment. It's up to 8.2 percent. National average is 9.2. So a little below that, but it's rising. And you're clearly – despite having all the answers – having similar problems to the President.

DANIELS: First let me say I try to be very explicit in this book that I don't claim to have all of the answers. I take the respon–

MORGAN: Some of the answers?

DANIELS: I take the responsibility for offering what I think are the best answers. But I say many times that this situation I believe, is so urgent that no one can afford to be totally doctrinaire. And I say in there that if it comes to the second or third best set of answers as opposed to inaction and the disaster that would bring, then you could count me in for one. You know –

MORGAN: How much – how much of President Obama's problem is down to the Republican eight years running the White House? In other words, the financial crisis, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, tax cuts and so on. How much of what he inherited percentagewise is to blame for the current malaise? And be fair minded about it.

DANIELS: Oh some percentage, you know the biggest problems by far –

MORGAN: Where would you put it?

DANIELS: Statistically if you were to repeal the tax cuts, you'd solve less than 10 percent of the problem we have today. So –

MORGAN: You wouldn't honestly look me in the eye and say that only 10 percent of the financial problems America has today are down to the Republicans, would you?

DANIELS: Well, that's a different question. Because, listen. The problems that we're really facing, the ones that are – I think ought to absorb our attention are far bigger than any one year's deficit. Last – the previous ones even the enormous ones, the unprecedented ones we're running right this minute.

The unfunded liabilities we have stacked up for ourselves compounded by debts at the state and local level, not to mention private debt, is an enormous overhang on the American future. And a major theme of what I've tried to say in this book is that whatever got us into this, to debate it endlessly now is a waste of precious time. I believe a clock is ticking and that the need for change – big change is urgent.

We need to reform the safety net programs, not for those in the now but for the future. We need a pro-growth tax plan, tax reform. We ought to be wholeheartedly supportive of domestic energy production in every form, absolutely every form.

MORGAN: One of the main themes of the book is also – it's civilized. You're not ripping into your opponents.

DANIELS: I sure try not to.

MORGAN: But here's my big problem with what's going on with some of the Republicans – and it's a big problem that many Americans feel, is that up in Washington, they made it absolutely clear, some of them on the record, we want Barack Obama to be a one-term president. And they're doing everything they can to do him in. And they're being as intransigent as they can. They're causing huge riles over the debt ceiling when there shouldn't have been any and everyone knew that.

And there's a real disconnect between what's going on there and what the public wants, which is just sort the mess out, you lot, together. Now you seem much more unifying in your tone in this book than many of your colleagues in the party. What is your message to them as they continue to tear into Obama and make it all very partisan?

DANIELS: Yes, well, I have found in – we have found in our state – and I had to learn this the hard way, honestly –  that if you're interested in results, then you must always strive to bring people together. Big change requires big majorities. And we need big change to avoid becoming the Greece of the future. So, yes I do –

MORGAN: But Barack Obama has tried to do that. That's exactly what he said when he came in. He wanted to be inclusive.

DANIELS: Oh he has said it, but –

MORGAN: He wanted to work with the opposition. But when he's tried, the Republicans have stamped on his head.

DANIELS: Piers, you've joined us fairly recently. And maybe you missed a few twists and turns in the road. He ran over, with the help of big majorities – I mean, they were entitled to. They won the election. But he had his way completely for two years, ignored – ignored reservations that Republicans had. And my gosh, the – what a divisive speech he gave this week.

MORGAN: You can't blame him, can you?

DANIELS: Let me just say –

MORGAN: Having been trashed all summer, he's finally come out and went, OK, if this is the way you're going to play it, I'm going to get dirty too. I mean, you can't blame him.

DANIELS: He gives as good as he gets. I mention in the book, he's a self-avowed acolyte of Saul Alinsky, who believed – who started his advice, you know, to radicals with personalize and condemn your opposition.

(...)

MORGAN: Tell me about your marriage. Do you ever think that might be a problem for you politically? Or is it an asset that you split up from your wife. You get divorced. And then you get back together and get remarried. It's an unusual state of affairs.

DANIELS: Well, it's – I always say, if you like happy endings, you'll love our story. So I have no idea. I have never presumed to tell a voter what's important and what isn't. And everybody's entitled to decide for themselves. And, but I – you know, I think I'm the most fortunate person you'll interview this year, in terms of both the family I have and the good things that have come along in life. And so I don't spend a minute worrying about it.

Matt Hadro
Matt Hadro
Matt Hadro was a News Analyst for the Media Research Center's News Analysis Division from 2010 through early 2014