Sounding more like a Democratic strategist on Sunday's Meet the Press than NBC's political director, Chuck Todd urged President Obama to force congressional Republicans into a corner on the fiscal cliff: "...go do it with 65-70 members of the Senate, cut the deal, bring it over to the House....box Boehner in....did the President learn anything from his first term about how to deal with congressional Republicans? Which is don't do it through the leadership."
Moments later, liberal pundit and historian Doris Kearns-Goodwin described how Obama could "build his mandate": "...he has to mobilize that base. That base was energized on election nigh....It's there to bring pressure on obstructionists if they don't get a deal done from the outside in....The Tea Party pressured everybody that summer, why can't his coalition, which is bigger, pressure people from the outside in?"
Here is a transcript of the November 11 exchange:
CHUCK TODD: Well, look, this going to be the – the challenge is going to be this. And I know you're going to bring in Cramer on this, because I think Wall Street's going to end up playing the biggest role here. John Boehner, can he get a – a majority of his Republicans in the House to go along with whatever deal he cuts with the President? It's unclear to me. It's clear that the Republican strategy is they want to try to drag out the negotiations because, you know, do some short-term compromises, drag it out, see if the political – political space is better for Republicans, say, in six months.
The President's capital and leverage is in this small window, in the next, I'd say two months, particularly before the end of the year. I – I think – I'll be curious to see, does the President realize that the best way to do this, go find ten Republicans in the Senate, go cut the deal with Tom Coburn, with Bob Corker, with Lamar Alexander, keep McConnell out of it, go do it with 65-70 members of the Senate, cut the deal, bring it over to the House, box – which Boehner secretly might want to be boxed in, by the way…
TODD: …box Boehner in.
TODD: Maybe it goes down the first time, a la TARP, and then they have to come back again, but I’ll be curious to see, did the President learn anything from his first term about how to deal with congressional Republicans?
TODD: Which is don't do it through the leadership.
GREGORY: Doris, your – your point about this, as you look at it?
DORIS KEARNS-GOODWIN: Well, I think, what the President has to do to build his mandate is to play both an inside game and an outside game. He should use that political White House as an asset, more than he's done before. I would have the – I'd have a cocktail hour every night, have forty Republicans there, forty Democrats there, night after night after night, do what LBJ did, do that more than he's done. But the outside game means he has to mobilize that base. That base was energized on election night. He said to them, "Your job's not done. It's not just voting." It's there to bring pressure on obstructionists if they don't get a deal done from the outside in. And I think he signaled that, as I say, that night, because he said, "I've learned from you, I'm going to be a better president because of you."
GREGORY: A better president.
KEARNS-GOOWIN: That was an amazing statement and I think he's learned that he needs to use the White House as a political asset more inside and he's got to get those people. The Tea Party pressured everybody that summer, why can't his coalition, which is bigger, pressure people from the outside in?