Dunn, who just recently stepped down as communications director to the Obama White House, disregarded Smith’s challenge:
Harry, I disagree with that, mostly because I was working at the White House for most of this time. And I saw how many meetings with Republicans, how many attempts to reach out, how much time was spent listening to their concerns. An entire summer spent giving a lot of room to a bipartisan process which ultimately Republicans walked away from, even as their leaders from day one announced that they were going to kill health care no matter what was in the bill.
Earlier in the broadcast, Smith asked White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs about the possibility of working with Republicans in the year ahead: “You’re losing the super majority in the Senate. Do you have a sense that Republicans want to work with this president in this year to come?”
In part, Gibbs replied: “We don’t have 60 votes in the Senate anymore, which means the Republican Party is now responsible for helping to govern this country.” Smith pressed him on that statement: “you said now they’re responsible. Were they not partly responsible before, when you had a super majority?” Gibbs added: “When Democrats had 60 votes and Republicans required 60 votes for virtually everything that they wanted to pass, they didn’t have to play a role in that 60 votes. Democrats now have 59 votes. So if Republicans are going to insist on 60 votes for everything, they’ve got to be partners in this.”
Immediately following his interview with Gibbs, Smith talked to Republican Tennessee Senator Lamar Alexander, wondering: “Do you, as a Republican, feel like you were cut out of the process in the last couple of months?” Alexander agreed with that assessment: “Yes, is the answer to that. I mean, for 25 consecutive days the Democrats met. They wrote their health care bill in secret....We were completely cut out of the health care debate.”
Smith went on to skeptically ask Alexander about the proposed spending freeze by the administration: “Some people suggest that’s like putting a band-aid on somebody who’s bleeding to death. Is that – does that seem real to you? Or does that just look prophylactic?” Alexander replied: “Well, a band-aid’s a start. But it’s 17% of the budget and it’s not the real problem. I mean, the real problem is the automatic entitlement spending and that’s what the President needs to address.”
During his exchange with Dunn, Smith also spoke with Republican strategist Kevin Madden and wondered if the President would scale back his agenda: “Is this White House chagrined? Have they learned a lesson through this past year? In terms of ‘well alright, we’ve got our super-majority. We’re going to shove health care through no matter Hell or high water.’ Have they taken a step back and said, ‘you know what? Maybe we need to recalibrate’?” Madden observed: “I think the initial answer after the results from Massachusetts was no. But I there’s a sense of dawning awareness on this White House that their political prospects are tied to again, reaching out to America and unifying it again....Washington looks very divided, it looks very dysfunctional.” That comment from Madden sent Dunn into her rant.